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Editorial

God is the True Guru

 

Guru Poornima is a holy and blessed day when spiritual seekers offer their love and gratitude, with reverence, to their Guru for showing them the way to God and the goal of life. As Sai devotees, we are blessed that we have God Himself as our Guru. On May 17, 1968, during the First World Conference of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations in Mumbai, Swami shares the profound revelation,
Your good fortune that provides you this chance is greater than what was available for anchorites, monks, sages, saints, and even personalities embodying facets of Divine Glory!” In the same discourse, He further says, “This is a human form in which every Divine entity, every Divine Principle, that is to say, all the Names and Forms ascribed by man to God, are manifest. Do not allow doubt to distract you.”

The Greatest Gifts that Only God’s Grace Can Confer

In the great scripture, the Viveka Chudamani (Crest Jewel of Discrimination), Sri Adi Sankaracharya states that one gets three things only by divine grace and not by human effort–Manushyatwam (human birth), Mumukshatwam (yearning for God) and Mahapurusha Samshrayam (company of a great and holy person).

There are millions of species of life on earth, and the pinnacle is human birth (Manushyatwam). The scriptures say that even the angels and celestial beings yearn to be born as human because only through human birth can  one realize the supreme goal of liberation or union with God. That is the only distinguishing feature of human beings, as Swami enlightens us in the discourse delivered on July 4, 1968, in Nairobi, Kenya, during His only travel outside India. This beautiful discourse, ‘The Message I Bring,’ has been included in this issue.

There are more than 8 billion people on this planet earth, but most of them are interested in eating, drinking, sleeping, and making merry with sense pleasures. Very few people are interested in knowing the ultimate purpose of human life. But as Swami makes it clear in His discourse, ‘The Message I Bring’, it is the ONLY desire that man should have! He says, “The Vedas teach that man should have only one kama (desire), namely, for moksha (liberation); this too is not respected; man is drowning himself in the maelstrom of desire, the fulfillment of that desire can never quench his deeper thirsts. How can a prisoner have any other desire than liberation?” So, to have this longing or hunger for God (Mumukshatwam), one needs God’s grace.

As the great saint of Dakshineshwar, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, says, “People shed a jugful of tears for their wives, children, or money, but who weeps for God? He who longs for Him will certainly find Him. Cry to Him. Call on Him with a longing heart. You will see Him.”

Mahapurusha Samshrayam Happens Within

To come in contact with a holy person, a saint or sage (Mahapurusha Samshrayam), who follows the teachings of God is also a sign of divine grace. Bhagawan Ramana Maharshi, Paramahamsa Yogananda, and Swami Vivekananda are examples of such great souls. But there are many fake Gurus who “whisper a mantra in the ear and stretch their hand for money.” They are like the blind leading the blind. From that perspective, we are the most blessed to have the Lord of the Universe, our beloved Swami, as our Guru and God!

His descent to the human plane is to inspire our ascent to the divine plane. To fulfill that mission, He lived among us as one of us, especially during the early stages of His avatarhood. Some of the unbelievable mystical leelas (divine sport) and mahimas (grand miracles) of that phase have been presented in this month’s issue of Eternal Companion magazine, such as the experiences of Sri Kamineni Rajeshwar Rao and his family. These stories arouse inspiration, devotion, and wisdom in us. They are eternal because they are the stories of the Lord, the eternal companion.

The name SAI BABA itself reflects Swami’s reality–See Always Inside (to find) Being Awareness Bliss Atma. Swami clearly reveals that not only is He that supreme reality (Brahman/Atma/Love), but each one of us is that too if we follow ‘SAI BABA!’ He also refers to the declaration of Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (Bhagavad Gita, 18:61):

ishvarah sarva-bhutanam hrid-deshe arjuna tishthati

(The Supreme Lord dwells in the hearts of all living beings, O Arjuna.)

In 1996, during Sri Krishna Janmashtami celebration, Swami called on me to give a talk. As I bowed to take padanamaskar,
I prayed to Swami to speak through me. To my surprise, Swami said, “I will not speak through you.” As I looked on in shock, Swami clarified, pointing to Himself and then to my heart, “This Swami will not interfere with that Swami.” Swami Himself gives more importance to the indweller, who is our true Guru. The physical form has a beginning and an end, whereas the indweller is always with us as consciousness, above, below, around, and within.

Dr. Mike Congleton from the USA had the blessing to see Swami and witness His miracles in the early 1980s. The interviews he was granted by Swami and the miracles he experienced are narrated in this month’s issue, but his greatest learning is reflected in the short poem he wrote,

“Father, Although I am far from home

I never feel alone.

You are the Dweller in my heart

And we will never part.”

Sai Teachings are Our Best Recourse to Achieve Realization

Every word of Swami is a mantra (sacredformula), contemplating which one is protected. Every statement of His is a sutra (aphorism), and every discourse is a Veda (scripture), the source of all knowledge. Every conversation with Him is a Gita (celestial song), a message about the right action and the right way to live. Swami compassionately says that if we follow any of His teachings sincerely with love and absolute faith, it is sufficient to lead us to reach the supreme goal of life.

Giving the beautiful example of a matchbox, Swami says that just a single good matchstick is enough to light a lamp. So is the case of lighting the lamp of wisdom as well. But the matchsticks, even though many, will not light a lamp if they are damp and defective. So also, even if one knows all the teachings but does not practice them, one will still languish in the darkness of ignorance.

Swami established the Sri Sathya Sai International Organization (SSSIO) with the sole objective of realization of one’s innate divinity through the practice of His teachings. All three wings of the organization - education, service, and devotion - function with this goal at heart. That is why each project the organization undertakes becomes a lighthouse for humanity. One such example described in this issue is the Sathya Sai School in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This issue also includes the chronology of the spread of SSSIO's footprint around the world, spreading the divine legacy through a wide range of humanitarian services over six decades.

Let us delve a little deeper into one of Swami’s teachings that has inspired me personally and many others on the spiritual path. Swami refers to the ‘4-Fs’ that one must adhere to in life: Follow the Master, Face the Devil, Fight till the End, and Finish the Game.

Follow The Master

The scriptures exhort that one should have only one Guru or Master–God. And there is only one God who is omnipresent. Swami says that once one has a Guru, one should have a one-pointed focus on the Guru. One should not go on changing the Gurus like changing seats in a musical chairs game. Jesus also emphasizes that one cannot serve two masters–God and mammon. It is only because of an unstable mind, doubts, and lack of faith that one goes on changing Gurus at one’s whim. This is unchaste devotion (Vyabhichari Bhakti) where there are many ‘masters’. Instead, one must have Ekanta Bhakti or Pativrata Bhakti (faithful, one-pointed devotion with loyalty to one ‘master’).

Swami gives an analogy of digging a well for water in His discourse on January 22, 1967, “As Ramakrishna said, do not dig a few feet in several different places and moan that you could not strike water. Dig in one place steadily and with faith. The boring drill goes down into the very underground spring of water.” But some people do not have such perseverance. They keep digging in many places and end up with many holes and no water instead of a functional well. So, it is important to stick to one Master. In a discourse given on April 4, 1998, Swami says, “The spiritual heart is a single-seat sofa, and not a double-seat sofa or musical chairs.” He wants us to love Him with one-pointed devotion and with all our mind, heart, and soul.

Some people follow the Master physically. There are always people running behind Swami’s car, eager to get a glimpse of Him. While that is good, Swami says that it is more important to follow His teachings because that is what grants redemption. As Jesus says, “What is the use of calling me ‘Lord, Lord’ when you do not follow what I say?” In other words, vyakti prachara (promoting the individual name and form) is not as important as promoting the teachings (tatva prachara). In the Bhagavad Gita too, Lord Krishna proclaims that the devotee who is engaged in spreading His message is dearest to Him. (Bhagavad Gita, 18:68)

The best way to spread His message is to practice it and live it in our daily lives. “Hands that serve are holier than lips that pray,” says our dear Swami. Service to man truly becomes service to God. That was the recent experience of the 64-member team of SSSIO doctors and volunteers that served more than 5,500 patients across several specialties. This issue gives a glimpse of this loving service that was rendered in just eight days at six medical camps in three countries in East Africa, the very same countries graced by the visit of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba in 1968: Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania!

Face the Devil

Where is the devil? Swami says that the devil is within, present as the inner enemies kama (desire), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), moha (attachment), mada (pride), and matsarya (envy). One may be a great scholar and perform many austerities, but if one does not conquer these inner enemies, one cannot realize the Truth.

Ravana is a good case in point. He is represented as a person with ten heads, representative of his mastery over the four Vedas and the six shastras (major fields of knowledge). He was also an expert in various fine arts. He was a great man but not a good man. He had the weakness of kama or desire, which was enough to bring his downfall. Another example from Srimad Bhagavatam is Hiranyakashipu, the demon king who had control over the five elements and could also travel to the sun and other planets. Yet, he was miserable and did not have peace of mind because of his anger. His own five-year-old wise son Prahlada says to his father, “What is the use of conquering all the worlds without conquering yourself? Once you conquer the inner enemies, there are no enemies outside.”

This is a lesson for all of us. We need to be ever-vigilant. Swami would often distribute watches to His students and devotees and explain His expectations in discourses and private conversations, “That is why, I say, WATCH! W is for Watch your Words; A is for Watch your Actions; T is for Watch your Thoughts; C is for Watch your Character; H is for Watch your Heart. If the watch reminds you every second of the need to watch these five, you can be quite happy.”

This is the way to face the devil.

Fight Till the End

Once we recognize the devil, we need to continue the fight for the path is not going to be easy. There will be ups and downs but we need to strive patiently with perseverance to reach the goal. Swami’s ABCs are useful for the ‘fight till the end’ and emerge victorious. ABC stands for ‘Always Be Careful,’ ‘Always Be Cheerful,’ and ‘Avoid Bad Company.’ When we strive with determination to conquer the evil tendencies lurking within us, acquired over many lifetimes, we can successfully uproot them completely by God’s grace.

Once, I had the privilege of being with Swami on a drive in His car. I prayed to Swami to ensure that I do not get deluded by maya or delusion, which is the main obstacle to one’s Self-realization. Swami lovingly retorted, “Are you greater than the sages Vishwamitra, Vashishta, and Jamadagni?” Sage Vasishta was the Guru of Lord Sri Rama and a Brahmarshi (enlightened sage of the highest order). Sage Vishwamitra, also a Brahmarshi by penance, is the one who envisioned and gave the world the sacred Gayatri Mantra. Sage Jamadagni is the father of Lord Parashurama and one of the renowned Saptarishis (seven sages). Even such sages get deluded by the bewitching maya of the Lord. Who are we then to be immune to it? So powerful is the Lord’s maya!

It is God’s maya. God and His maya are inseparable. But Lord Krishna declares that by completely surrendering to God, one can transcend Maya. (Bhagavad Gita, 7:14)

Perseverance is very important for spiritual seekers. It is one of the 3-P’s that Swami says are essential for reaching the ultimate goal–Purity, Patience, and Perseverance. The Kathopanishad exhorts, “Arise! awake! stop not till the goal Is reached (Uttisthata Jagrata Prapya Varannibodhata).” There are many who do not even begin this journey because of the fear of failure. They belong to a low cadre. Then, there are middlings that abandon the struggle in the middle when confronted with obstacles. But the real heroes are those who surmount all obstacles, persevere in the spiritual journey, and reach the goal by divine grace. Swami says, “Take one step toward me, and I shall take a hundred toward you.” So, it is our duty to keep making the effort and fighting till the end, with devotion, dedication, discrimination, and determination until we attain the goal.

Finish the Game

Love is the source, love is the path, and love is the goal. This love is pure divine love that is eternal, unconditional, and selfless, in contrast to worldly love, which is selfish, conditional, ephemeral, and changing based on circumstances. It is love for love’s sake, as Baba writes to His devotees in London in a long and special letter during special Guru Poornima of 1969. This loving and profound letter is also featured in this Guru Poornima special issue.

Swami says, “I have separated Myself from Myself so that I may love Myself. My beloved ones, You are my own Self.” The ‘game’ ends when we attain this oneness with Swami. For that, purity is the most important. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”, says the Bible. Swami says, “Purity is Enlightenment.”

When we practice this purity and love, we reach the goal. When we reach that goal, we will attain permanent bliss. Once, when I asked Swami how we could serve Him and please Him, He replied, “Be Happy. Be Happy. Be Happy.” I thought it was a simple directive but I soon realized it is not easy! Swami is not referring to pleasure, which is an interval between two pains, but true happiness or unalloyed, everlasting bliss, which is verily, union with God!

According to the Taittiriya Upanishad, this supreme bliss is the fifth and ultimate sheath, which is covered by four other sheaths or envelopes in humans. The first is the annamaya kosha (food sheath) in which most people dwell. This is the sheath of body attachment and sense pleasures. Going beyond this first sheath and by constant practice of pranayama (the practice of breath control) and mind control, one can experience the second sheath–pranamaya kosha (vital air sheath). The next is the manomaya kosha (mind sheath). If we turn the mind toward the world, it binds us. If we direct the mind toward God, we move toward liberation.

Most people are unable to go beyond the first three sheaths. A blessed few cross them and reach the vijnanamaya kosha (knowledge sheath). Here, one uses fundamental discrimination, which is all about helping the world and pleasing God as opposed to individual discrimination, which is self-centered and selfish. Once we cross this level, we reach the final anandamaya kosha (bliss sheath). For this, we need constant, disciplined practice or sadhana.

Bliss Supreme

While most of us are stuck in the first level and feel, “Food is bliss,” Swami says, “Bliss is my food.” This permanent bliss cannot be explained or expressed–it can only be experienced.

We have forgotten our reality, which is bliss, and our Guru and God came to awaken us to our true reality. Should we all not awake, arise, and stop not till the goal is reached? May Swami bless us with the strength and determination to follow the ‘4-Fs,’ especially ‘Follow the Master’ because that automatically guides us to implement the remaining ‘3 Fs’ to reach the ultimate goal.

Jai Sai Ram!