1:30 P.M. November 21, 2005
At 1:30 PM Dr. Gries welcomed the group back to the fourth and final session of the conference. Dr. Goldstein made a few opening remarks:
There are many questions about education. I will make a brief statement. Professor Anil Kumar will make some further comments later this afternoon. The Prasanthi Council has convened a subcommittee to review the status of SSE, SSEHV, and their relationship to the concept of educare. Eminent Sai educators are involved, including Dr. Pal Dhall, Dr. Art-Ong Jumsai, Ronne Marantz, Bea Flaig, Victor Kanu, Thorbjorn Meyer, Tom Scovill, and Mr. Gomez. They have compiled a document, which is still under deliberations. The Prasanthi Council will act on the recommendations in a way that best serves the Sai Organization.
We will now continue with the questions.
Interactive Session 2
Q18. When can we expect the answers to the questions?
A18. Dr. Goldstein: It will take a while to put all the answers in some order. They will be sent out by the Organization. The notes from the Conference will be distributed at some point, but not in the next few days.
A question from this morning was about how to handle difficulty with officers. First talk to the officer, then go to the Regional Officer, then to the Central Council President and finally to the Central Coordinator.
Sri Anil Kumar and Sri Narasimha Murthy
Dr. Goldstein announced that Sri Anil Kumar and Sri Narasimha Murthy, Warden of Brindavan Campus, would join in the panel discussion of those questions relating to education/educare and spirituality. He said that Sai Spiritual Education and Sathya Sai Education in Human Values are ways of eliciting the human values that are intrinsic within us. Educare is drawing out that which is within, the same as bringing forth who we really are. The teacher should be an exemplar of these values. The teaching techniques used are silent sitting, group activities, group singing, quotes, and stories as components of the pedagogic formula. The only difference is that SSEHV is used in public schools and based on the Unity of Faiths, whereas SSE focuses on the teachings of the Kali Yuga Avatar, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
Sri Narasimha Murthy: Educare is all about spirituality. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna has said, “Among all types of education, I am spiritual education.” The tragedy is that now God and spirituality have no place in education in schools and colleges. Spiritual education is for cultivating faith and devotion in all hearts, which is what Swami has been doing. It is our duty that we do this. In fact, I found a young boy in school wearing a T-shirt. On the front, it said, “I was born good but spoiled by education.” On the back, “I was born smart, but made dull by education.” This is what has been going on in education. In contrast, as in Swami's Schools, it is important to implement values education in all schools from primary to college level.
Sri Anil Kumar: Yesterday, I gave a talk, 'Education to Educare'. I did not speak on all the points. Educare deals with the center of our life. It cannot be taught. It is the truth of our being. Education deals with the periphery of your life. Educare is the very being of life, it is the center. Education and educare are not contradictory. Both are necessary. Root [educare] and fruit [education] go together. Awareness, alertness, awake-ness, responsiveness, acceptance, and conviction are features of educare, not to be acquired. To be in the presence of Swami is the best form of educare. Educare is beyond religion. It is spiritual.
Q19. Is Love really necessary when the demonic personalities can also attain liberation?
A19. Sri Narasimha Murthy: Demons are symbols for gluttony, anger, jealousy, sleepiness, etc. The demon Kumbhakarna exemplifies that. But his Love for God finally overcame these to take him to the Lotus feet. Kumbhakarna and Ravana were two brothers, who were doorkeepers to Vishnu in their previous births, cursed by Sage Brighu, who was frustrated by them in his access to Vishnu. They had the choice to take either nine births as friends of the Lord and then return to the Lotus feet or three births as enemies of the Lord. They chose three births. They were born as Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashyapu, Ravana and Kumbhakarana, and Dantavakra and Sisupala, in three births. After these three lives, they went back to Vishnu. Where there is true Love, all negativities fly away. If we develop Love, we will overcome all weaknesses.
Dr. Reddy: Their Love for God was so intense that they chose to come to earth for the shortest time, as His enemies rather than wait for nine births as His friends. Thus their intense Love for God led them to attain liberation.
Q20. Discipline of seva dals on the ladies' side is severe. Can anything be done?
A20. Dr. Goldstein: Seva dals are volunteers and are not highly trained or experienced. They are doing their best. Forgive them and be patient and gracious. Clearly, if their transgressions are serious we will take up these issues if you bring them to our attention.
Sri Anil Kumar: Seva dals als are not paid or trained. They are there to enhance sadhana (spiritual discipline). It also helps our sadhana by bending to the discipline. Once, a devotee was trying to offer Swami a letter in darshan. The devotee was roughly restrained by the sadhana. Then Swami reached over and took the letter. The sadhana was looking distressed and feared. But Swami consoled her by saying, “You did your duty, and I did Mine.”
Q21. You said that Swami was not happy because we had not changed in 20 years. Are there any signs of change now?
A21. Dr. Goldstein: This is not quite what Swami said. He did say that we are not taking seriously His teachings: Our lives have not changed. We have the same habits and are not applying the teachings. Time is the body of God. We have access to the divine teachings, but do not take them seriously. Swami is never unhappy. He is encouraging us to become blissful.
Q22. Kindly elaborate on conscious, conscienc,e and consciousness.
A22. Sri Narasimha Murthy: According to Swami, Conscious refers to the body and senses. Conscience refers to the subtle body and mind, and the Divine spark that makes the body work. Consciousness is the one source from which everything emerges. In Ramayana, Rama asked Hanuman, “Who are you?” He replied, “When I have body consciousness, I am your servant. When I feel the divine spark within, I am part of You. When I realize the ultimate truth, You and I are one.”
Sri Anil Kumar: What is limited to the body and senses is conscious. God in me is Conscience. God is everywhere, that is Consciousness.
Q23. What are the aspects and milestones by which we may measure our spiritual progress?
A23. Sri Narasimha Murthy: People have misconceptions about how to assess spiritual progress. There are four yardsticks that I call, a, b, c, and d. These are based on Swami's teachings and the Bhagavad Gita. (a) awareness of inner joy and Love; (b) balance of mind, equanimity, (c) control of desires and senses (to what extent have you mastered the senses?); and (d) dedication of selfless service for the welfare of others. This contains all the essence of the scriptures. Remember that we can be egocentric even in doing Swami's work.
Q24. Is it necessary to teach mantras, slokas, and 108 names in Western countries?
A24. Sri Anil Kumar: Please do not do this. Following Baba's teachings is not a religion. Baba said all names are Mine. Teaching such slokas is conversion. Sathya Sai Organization is not a sect. We will invite animosity by doing this. Sathya Sai represents Unity of Religions. God does not speak only Sanskrit, God speaks English also. Use your mother tongue for prayers.
Q25. How to achieve Unity in thought, word, and deed.
A25. Dr. Reddy: Swami says that sincere spiritual seekers have harmony of thought, word and deed. Swami corrects us when we deviate from this. Swami says that practice of Unity in thought, word, and deed is the penance for this age. If you sincerely follow your conscience, you can achieve this Unity.
Q26. What is the difference between emotion and devotion?
A26. Sri Narasimha Murthy: It is the bhava that leads to avesha, thrill in devotion, and that leads to bhava-samadhi, ecstasy of union with God. Ramakrishna said that the power of emotion leads to experience of devotion, which leads to samadhi. Ramakrishna used to dance like a madman. His devotees started to imitate him, to show their devotion. Vivekananda said, “Do not be sentimental fools.” However, devotion is Love for God and is an emotion. But this emotion is free of attachments. We can become mad with joy. Devotion is not sentimental. It is feelings from the heart that lead to the experience of devotion, and it further leads to union with God. Once, Swami materialized a matchbox and took out a match and struck it to light it. Then He took out another match, dipped it in water, and struck it. This match did not light. He said, in devotion, if there are attachments, it will be like the wet matchstick.
Sri Anil Kumar: Distilled, crystallized, solid, and spiritual emotion is devotion.
Q27. Can a person be involved in business, i.e. in material life, and also lead a spiritual life?
A27. Sri Anil Kumar: Why not? We are all examples of this. Spiritual life is not giving up our daily routines and running away from the world and neglecting our respective duties and responsibilities. It is an attitude, it is awareness and understanding, it is what we do and how we act. If I do my job as service to God, and offer my work to God, that is a spiritual life. There is only one work — God's work. All is spiritual, whatever we do. There is no secular or sacred. All is Swami's. Begin every job with a prayer and end the day offering the fruits to the Lord. That is spiritual life. As long as there is separation of secular and spiritual, we miss the point.
The Interactive portion of the session was concluded, and Dr. Goldstein announced that Sri Narasimha Murthy, Warden, Brindavan Campus, would conclude the conference with a talk on the topic: An Ideal Sai Devotee.
Sri Narasimha Murthy
Sri Narasimha Murthy expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to participate in the program of the conference. He said:
Speaking about Jesus, Khalil Gibran, the great mystic poet said in his beautiful book, Son of Man: we shall pass with the flowing of the rivers, and we shall be nameless. But those who crossed Him in mid-stream shall be remembered for crossing Him in mid-stream. We have not only crossed the greatest divine master in our lives, we have consecrated our life to Him. We have submitted ourselves to Him. And He has taken upon Himself, the burden of our emancipation.
Some years back, in Prasanthi Nilayam, it happened that we were sitting with a few students at the feet of Bhagawan. “What is the news?” Swami asked each of them. All of the students replied one by one. Finally, He turned to me and said, “What is the news?” I had nothing in particular to say. So I replied, “By your Mercy and Grace, and the blessing of our parents, we have got this good fortune of sitting at your Lotus Feet. Please bless us so that we find fulfillment in this very life.” Swami said, “Why do you want to wait until the end of your life? I am ready to give you what you are asking for, this very moment.” “I am ready,” He said.
Then I said, “Swami, give us, I'm ready.” He looked at me and said, “You are saying that you are ready, but you don't deserve it.” Seeing the despair on my face, He said, “Some other time I will tell you why you don't deserve it.”
After a few months, Swami came to Brindavan, and one day He was sitting on the swing, the joola, in Trayee Brindavan Hall, and I was alone with Him. I thought this might be the right time to know from Swami why I did not deserve it. Even before I asked Him the question, Swami began to speak about my mother, who had passed away five years back. Swami said, “Your mother was a great devotee. Do you know what was your mother's last prayer to Me? It was about you only. Do you know what she told me about you? She said that Narasimha Murthy is a great fool. His mind is very fickle. By your mercy, he has the great opportunity to serve You. But because of his foolishness, because of his fickleness, he may commit any number of blunders and mistakes. Please don't kick him out. Swami, You are the ocean of mercy and he is a fool; don't kick him out.”
I fell at His feet and said to Swami, “What my mother said about me is correct. Also, what she said about Yourself — that You are the ocean of mercy — is correct. So, please don't kick me out.”
I remembered this episode when I was asked to speak on this topic, 'An Ideal Sai Devotee.' I don't know why I was asked to speak on this topic, because if I had any insight, Swami has already destroyed it. I have come across many great devotees. There was one whom I considered as my mentor. His name was Narayana Bhatt. When he passed away, Swami sent a telegram saying, “Don't worry; he has merged with me. Be bold.” I have aspiration of idealism even though I may not be an ideal devotee.
Swami says that most devotees come to Swami to receive things; but that there are four classes of devotees.
1. Those who are distressed by adversity and sickness and come to be relieved;
2. Those seeking money, power, wealth and position;
3. Spiritual seekers who want to realize God; and
4. The Jnani who lives in the constant awareness that, “He is with Me at all times.”
And Swami says that although most of the devotees who come to Him are at the first stage, “time will change.” I have myself seen this. More and more devotees are not asking for material things, but only for His blessing so that they can spend their time serving Him. So initially the devotee comes to Swami hoping to receive something from Him. Then he goes to the stage of wanting to serve Swami.
Regarding qualities of an ideal devotee, the a, b, c, d points that I mentioned earlier apply here also, though slightly differently. An ideal devotee will have found Swami within himself, in the form of unsullied joy and selfless Love. Once a devotee was complaining that by not being physically present at Prasanthi Nilayam, she would not be able to talk to Him if the need arose. Swami said, “My phone number is 1, I am right in your heart. I am always available to you on the hotline. I am always in your heart.”
That means any of us can contact Him at any time, by simply turning inward. Therefore, finding Swami within is the first quality of an ideal devotee. In darshan, sometimes He talks to us, sometimes He doesn't talk to us; and it leads to doubts and upsets in our mind. But we can always instantly establish contact with Him in our hearts. Wherever we may be if we develop longing, and yearning, or what is called the power of 'seeking', we will be able to establish contact with Bhagawan at any time anywhere. Jesus spoke of that power when He said, “Seek and Ye shall find.” The power of seeking in the human heart is capable of getting a Divine response in the form of a spontaneous rush of Love and joy. That power of seeking only arises in a pure heart that is cleansed of worldly attachment. That is what Jesus meant when He said you cannot worship God and mammon at the same time. An ideal devotee is aware of this; he is Aware of his true relationship with Swami and realizes that it is not physical.
This Awareness leads to Balance of Mind, which comes naturally when we enjoy that kind of spontaneous bliss at least for sometimes during the day. We are able to have that communion with God at these times, either during meditation or concentration or prayer. If we can experience this presence of Swami sometimes during the day, that makes us balanced, and we are not overcome by doubts and worries. We are not irritated. We can see Swami in everyone. But first we have to be able to see Him within ourselves. Then we can face life with a smile and see God everywhere.
Once we are able to establish that Joy and Bliss, then comes spontaneously Control over the mind and senses. This is most difficult, but very important.
Finally, we have 'D', Dedication to Sai Vision. This comes out of devotion. I dedicate my life for the erudition of the Sai Vision. And, as regards to our actions, we have to change the motivation for all our actions. Generally we are egocentric. But we have to continually remind ourselves that we are doing Swami's work, because many times we forget Swami even while we are doing His work.
I remember a small story, which illustrates this point of forgetting our motivation. There was a small farmhouse in England with a lake. A turtle used to live in the lake. The young boy who lived in the farmhouse used to go and see the turtle everyday. He became friends with the turtle. One morning, he found it lying on its back, apparently lifeless. He was very upset and was inconsolable in his grief. His father tried to console him by saying that they would have a funeral for it. Together they would make a coffin, and give him a ceremonial burial and make a nice grave, and build a tomb and install a tombstone, engraved Mr. Turtle. Together they prepared for the turtle's burial. When they went back to get the turtle, it was not dead, but was alive in the lake. Now the boy was so enthusiastic about the burial, he said to his father, “Father, father, let's kill it so we can bury it!”
Likewise, we can become so enamored of our project that we forget the original motivation for that project. It is important not to allow this to happen. Whatever we say, we should do; and we should consider that we are doing it as a dedication to Swami, to please Him. That kind of motivation will definitely purify our thoughts and will take us nearer and nearer to the goal of the Ideal Sai Devotee. Thank you very much for your patience and attention. Jai Sai Ram.
Dr. Goldstein thanked all the speakers and the delegates for their participation. In closing, he observed:
Clearly you have come to this conference with serious intentions and concerns. I have heard pressing questions and enquiries regarding administrative and management issues. It is our duty to respect and respond to all genuine concerns and we certainly will. But, the preeminent concern is Love. I ask all of you to look around the room and recognize that we are in the divine presence of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. All of us who are gathered here and, in fact, all men and women everywhere, are truly embodiments of His Divine Love.The conference was officially closed with the assembly chanting the prayer, Loka samastha, sukhino bhavantu (May all the worlds be happy!).