Volume 15 - Issue 12
December 2017
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Posted on: Dec 23, 2017

The Messenger and His Message

Part 01


Bhagawan would often remind us that it is not enough to celebrate Christmas with gaiety, fanfare and mirth. We must also take the opportunity to delve into His teachings and His exemplary life. Even as we celebrate yet another beautiful Christmas at the lotus feet of our beloved Lord, we invite you to join us in this rumination over the message that He was here to teach during His earthly sojourn. This is an edited transcript of a talk delivered on Christmas Day 2015 at the Satsang Hall in Prasanthi Nilayam by Radio Sai Team's Prem Anosh.

Many years ago Bhagawan was sitting in the interview room with a devotee and conversing about the Supreme Truth. Anyone with a fair bit of spiritual knowledge will be aware that Truth is nothing but Oneness; there is no difference between Unity and Truth. So Bhagawan was talking to this devotee about how everything is one and there is no duality.

The person being an eager aspirant kept asking questions and Bhagawan kept giving clarifications. At one point he said, “Swami, all this is merely theory. I need to experience it.” A twinkle came in Bhagawan's eyes and He said, “Oh! You want an experience?” The devotee said, “Yes Swami. Otherwise it is all just intellectual and textual. How do we know that there is only Oneness?”

Swami said, “Come here” and drew the devotee close. Swami whispered something in his ear and the next moment he could see nothing but Swami everywhere. He looked in front of him and there was Swami; he looked at himself and saw Swami; even when he looked at the objects around in the room, it was all Swami. He saw only Swami everywhere! He walked out of the interview room and in every person he encountered, he saw only Swami. This state lasted for more than three days.

The devotee was in a completely different world. He was not able to feel the duality. Slowly after a few days the state started fading away. So he went back to Swami and asked, “Swami, why did You take it away?” Swami replied, “You are not yet ready for it. You have to do your duties of this body that you have taken up.”

Now the question is what did Swami tell the person in his ear? If we were to know that, probably for the next few days we do not have to come for any satsang like this!

Swami told him, “Tat Twam Asi (That Thou Art)”, the Mahavakya from the Chandogya Upanishad, Sama Veda. We have heard Swami standing at the discourse table and thundering, “Tat Twam Asi” so many times. Why has nothing happened to us? The Truth was uttered and the experience of Truth was granted to that devotee. But why are we not able to have a similar experience when we hear the same Truth?

It is because Truth cannot be bartered, bought or even given. Truth has to be grown into! Swami gave that devotee a glimpse of that Truth, but he still had to grow into that Truth.

A profound philosopher would always say this before his lectures: “Do not take my words for Truth. I never speak or write the Truth, because the Truth cannot be spoken or transferred through words. All that is said by me, the people who came before me, all the people who are going to come after me and by the scriptures of every land and religion are only pointers to Truth.”

Every spiritual text or a philosophy at best can only be a 'pointer to the Truth'. The truth has to be grown into by each individual through his or her own effort.

Truth is only one - Ekam Sat. It cannot be differentiated or transformed. Viprah Bahuda Vadanti - the learned speak of it in different ways. Why do they speak of it in different ways? That is because as individuals, as cultures, as countries and as races we are all different. But there is unity in the essence. Let us not forget that! But there is diversity in the exterior and hence the Truth has to be spoken about in different ways.

Reacting to the Messenger without Reading the Message

That is why time and again a learned one comes and describes the same Truth in a beautiful way. Bhagawan would say that this is exactly what happened when every prophet came. Prophets would come and give a description of Truth and a pointer to that same Truth. With that they gave traditions that represent these pointers - traditions which govern the way we pray, perform worship and ceremonies, conduct marriages, honour our dead and so on.

But as Bhagawan would point out, over a period of time the purpose is lost, the essence is forgotten and all are merely enamoured with the beauty that surrounds the Truth. That is why every now and then a messenger is sent and the message is carried and given to mankind.

A few years ago in India we finally said good bye to the telegrams which we used for many decades. On Radio Sai we did an Afternoon Satsang episode only on experiences of devotees related to the telegram because Bhagawan used telegrams very frequently in the early days. (Afternoon Sathsang - A tribute to the 'Telegram')

In the olden days people would write letters when they had a lot to say but they would send a telegram when they had something urgent to communicate. A telegram always meant something urgent or that something critical had happened and this used to be the cause of a funny scene, especially when somebody in the family was in the military or lived very far off in a place like Burma or Sri Lanka where there was a conflict.

The moment a telegram came, there would be panic in the house and people would start wailing and crying, “Oh God! Telegram has come! Telegram has come!”

People would not even read the message but just the fact that a telegram had come would be enough to make them start mourning. They believed that a telegram always meant something serious.

This is a typical example of responding to the messenger without reading the message, isn't it? When a messenger comes, we start reacting to him without paying attention to his message. The telegram example may be an instance of reacting in a negative way to the messenger. But there is another way of reacting to the messenger too, the apparently positive one, which is also equally wrong.

There is a beautiful story of a saint who used to walk from town to town. He would never settle anywhere. This saint goes into a village and is surprised to see that it is very backward and people are still living in mud huts. They are eating roots and fruits and do not cook food. They do not have any implements and are living like prehistoric people.

The saint is surprised but he realises that the tribe in the village has not learnt the art of making fire. Everything starts from there because once you start making fire, you can cook food, you can make implements and tools and your agriculture improves.

So the saint teaches the villagers how to use two stones, strike them against each other and use dried leaves to light a fire. They are in awe and say, “My God! This man has magic in his hands. He can create the fire we are so scared of!”

When you do not know to make and manipulate fire, you are in awe of fire. This is another aspect of spirituality and religion. We always tend to worship that which we are scared of. And we are scared of the unknown.

So as we start progressing scientifically we start knowing and explaining the unknown more; we have lesser things and phenomena to be scared of and hence lesser reverence. As long as we could not explain thunder and lightning, we worshipped them. Now we know the science behind them and so are not in reverential awe of them any more.

Going back to the story, after teaching the tribe how to make fire the saint moves on. A couple of towns later he comes across another tribe and he is surprised to see the same plight with them. He again discovers that they have not learnt the art of making fire and so he teaches them too. They are again grateful and in awe of the saint.

The saint carries on with his travels but comes back to the same region after several decades. Many generations have come and gone but he being a saint, time hasn't waned his body much.

When he comes to the first village, he is in for a shock. He is surprised to see that the village has not changed at all! It is absolutely the same, as he'd seen it several decades ago. He finds that in the middle of the village there is a new temple made with clay and sand and roof made of leaves. The saint walks into the temple and is more surprised to see an image which is quite similar to his own.

He looks at the people around and asks, “Who is this temple meant for?” This is the new generation and they say, “Oh! He is a great master. He had the magic of fire in his hand. He would strike two stones and create fire. He was a great man.”

The saint slaps his forehead and says, “Oh! You have forgotten the technique I taught, but you are worshipping me instead!”

The saint moves on and enters the other village where he had taught the art of making fire. He is welcomed by a huge statue, again of himself, but made of metal. He goes closer to the statue and sees a plaque on which is written, “This is an image of a great master. He came to us as a saviour. He taught us to make fire. With that fire we cooked and with the cooked food we nourished ourselves. We became more intelligent and with the fire we made tools and metal. To celebrate the great technique that he taught us, we have made an image of him in metal, which is the pinnacle of what we have learned from him.”

What is the difference between the two tribes? There was one tribe which forgot the message and celebrated the messenger. There was another tribe which celebrated the messenger through the message.

So when the Lord every now and then out of pity or maybe even out of disgust says, “Here, I am sending a messenger”, how many of us celebrate the message and how many of us stop at celebrating the messenger?

Three ways of Responding to the Message

But before I come to the message that God sends, I would like to speak a little about how to receive and respond to the message in general.
There is a concept which Bhagawan speaks about often, but it is not in this context exactly. I am extrapolating it to give a new understanding.
Bhagawan says, “When you learn something from the master, you go through a three-step process: Shravanam, Mananam and Nidhidhyasanam. Shravanam is listening; Mananam is recapitulation or rolling it over in your mind; Nidhidhyasanam is allowing it to sink into you so that it becomes a part of you.”

He says, “When you listen to My discourse, do not think but just listen. After you have listened, think over it and ensure that it has gone in. But do not stop with that. Allow it to become a part of you.”

The message that any master gives - be it Jesus, our own Swami, Shirdi Baba, Rama or Krishna - can be treated in three ways.

Some part of every master's message is meant only for shravanam. What I mean by that is we should listen to it and just follow! A certain percentage of every master's message is meant to be treated that way - blindly followed. In the relationship between the master and the disciple, what really benefits an aspirant more than anything else is surrender - when he or she is able to accept the master's message without any kind of reservations.

During one of His landmark birthdays, Bhagawan said, “If you are a Sai devotee, you have to do three things: stop drinking, smoking and eating non-vegetarian food.” If we want we can reason out but this is what Swami wants and there is no question about it! Some people might say, “Shirdi Baba used to cook non-vegetarian food.” Well, but Swami says, “This is what I want.” and so this is what we as Sai devotees must follow. It is not for us to rationalise, compare His instruction with what another master said or what Swami Himself has said in an earlier incarnation.

Thus there are always some aspects of the message which are meant only to be received and followed. We do not have to think about them or ruminate on them!

Then comes mananam or contemplation. Many times in Radio Sai we receive mails where a person says, “I am going through this situation in life; this is the issue I am facing. Has Swami said how we must deal with it?” The issue could be so specific that it is impossible to find Swami's discourse addressing just that issue or even saying anything close.

In each of our lives we will come across many such situations where we do not have a readymade message from Swami to deal with the issue. So what do we do? We should take the general message and roll it over in the mind. Then we will know what exactly we are supposed to do for that moment.

Mahatma Gandhi was once asked, “You keep swearing by the Bhagawad Gita and you say that it is your guide book. After about 18 chapters of explanation what did Krishna tell Arjuna? He told him, 'Take your Gandiva (Arjuna's bow) and go and fight. Kill and finish them.' But you are reading the same Bhagawad Gita and advocating non-violence! How is that so?”

How did Gandhi pick up non-violence from the Bhagawad Gita? He would say, “My message of non-violence is not picked up from the Bhagawad Gita. I have taken the Gita inside and the message of non-violence comes from within me.”

When we take the message of the Lord and ruminate over it, we will definitely know what to do in a particular situation. That is the second way of treating the message.

In the Ramayana there is a canto called ‘Sundara Kandam’ - the part where Lord Hanuman goes to Lanka in search of Sita. A few years back a speaker in the mandir who is a scholar in Ramayana remarked, “It might seem very weird that Valmiki chose to call this part of the Ramayana as Sundara Kandam or the 'beautiful canto'. That's because this is the only part of the Ramayana where the character of Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, is absent. The hero of the Sundara Kandam is actually Hanuman.”

The speaker went on to explain that there is one thing that Hanuman did which is a great message for all of us. He said, “When Hanuman goes into Lanka, he is lost and he does not know who Sita is as he has never seen her before. He does not know what to do. But every moment he stops and thinks, 'If Rama was in this place, what would He have done? If Rama encountered this same problem, what decision would He have taken?'”

The speaker said this is why in the Sundara Kandam though there is no mention of Rama, the entire canto is filled with Rama because of this trait of Hanuman. He made himself vanish and made Rama stand in his place! That is why it is the most beautiful part of the Ramayana.

That is what will happen in mananam. Every time a situation comes, we will stop and think, “What would Swami want me to do?” We could still end up doing the wrong thing but the first and the most important step is to sincerely ask and to selflessly seek the answer to that question.

We might still mess up the situation. Most of us do that. But still, do we have the sincerity to stop and ask, “What would Swami want me to do in this situation? How does Swami want me to react to this person? How does Swami want me to react to this opportunity?” That is the mananam part.

A major part of Bhagawan's or any prophet's message is meant for mananam or contemplation. That is why from one discourse, different people get different important messages for their life.

Once there was an aspirant who came to Prasanthi Nilayam and kept waiting for months on end for Bhagawan to speak to him. For a very long time Bhagawan did not speak to him. Finally he lost his patience and one day during darshan he got up and said, “Swami, please speak to me.” Bhagawan just said, “Kurcho (sit down).”

The aspirant sat down. He closed his eyes and he was in bliss. People around him asked, “What happened?” He said, “Swami has given me a message. Swami said 'Sit down' and that is the message to my mind - do not keep jumping and do not be restless. That is the message Swami has given me.”

This can happen only when we take the message which is probably not obvious and roll it over in our minds without any of our own prejudices imposed on the message. This is mananam.

The third is nidhidhyasanam. What is nidhidhyasanam? When we ponder over the question “In what way was Jesus special?”, we will understand what nidhidhyasanam is.

Go to Part 02

- Radio Sai Team

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