Sathya Sai - The Eternal Companion (Volume 1, Issue 6, August 2022)
Surrender Completely and Only to the Lord
We celebrate August 19 as the Birthday of Sri Krishna, the Paripoorna Avatar (incarnation with the fullest manifestation of divine attributes and glory), who declared that He has no birth and no death, no beginning, and no end. This day is celebrated to study the glory, message, life, and sports (leelas) of the Avatar. Swami has declared that Lord Krishna came with all the powers, the sixteen divine attributes (Kalas), to promote the values of love and peace. Sri Rama came to promote the values of Sathya and Dharma. Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has come to propagate all five human values – Sathya, Dharma, Shanti, Prema, and Ahimsa – truth, right conduct, peace, love, and nonviolence, with love being the undercurrent of all five human values.
Pay Homage to Lord Krishna
There is only one God who is omnipresent, and He is all names and forms, and also beyond all names, forms, and attributes. Swami declared on May 17, 1968, in the Divine discourse at the First World Conference, “This is a human form in which every Divine entity, every Divine principle, that is to say, all names and forms ascribed by man to God are manifest. Do not allow doubt to distract you.” Swami has given the vision of Lord Krishna to Dr. Hislop and other devotees, the vision of Lord Rama to Mother Easwaramma and the Raja of Venkatagiri, and the vision of several deities to many devotees. Swami has said that how we pay homage to the Avatar is important; we should study and reflect on His life, His story, His Divine sports (leelas), His Divine works, and His message. In the Bhagavad Geeta, Lord Krishna said that whosoever comprehends the Divine nature of His life and works will be verily liberated from the cycle of birth and death (Bhagavad Geeta, Chapter 4, Sloka 9).
Swami, in His infinite love and compassion, has given many discourses on the life and message of Lord Krishna, and His teachings. Swami also wrote two historic, inspiring Vahinis, namely, the Bhagavata Vahini which describes the life and Divine sports of Lord Krishna, and the Geeta Vahini which expounds on Krishna’s eternal and universal message based on the Bhagavad Geeta. One of the best ways to pay homage to the Lord is to dwell on a few aspects of these two Vahinis.
Bhagavata Vahini – His Story
Swami said that the Bhagavata Vahini is without beginning and end because it describes the story of the Lord who has no beginning and no end. Swami also beautifully said that the letters, Bha, ga, va, ta, and mu (Bhagavatamu) summarize all our spiritual practices. Bha stands for Bhakti, devotion. Ga stands for Gnana, wisdom. Va stands for Vairagya, detachment or dispassion, Ta stands for Tatwam, the real nature or philosophy, and finally, Mu stands for Mukti, liberation. When we study and practice the message of this holy text, it leads to liberation which is the goal of all spiritual seekers.
Bhagavata Vahini is verily a Divine elixir, by drinking which one can become immortal. That is the beauty of listening to and reading the Divine sports of Lord Krishna.
Scriptures prescribe four goals (Purushaarthas) for human life: Dharma, right conduct; Artha, earning by righteous means; Kama, fulfilling righteous desires; and finally, Moksha, liberation from the cycle of birth and death. But the Bhagavatam also describes Panchama Purushaartha, the fifth goal of life, supreme devotion (Para-bhakti), which is love for love’s sake, exemplified by the Gopikas (cowherd girls of Brindavan), who had pure love for Lord Krishna.
Nine Forms of Devotion
Swami often talked about the nine forms of devotion, Nava-vidha Bhakti, in His discourses, to nurture the love for God and finally merge in God. These nine types of devotion are described in the Bhagavatam (Skanda 7, Chapter 5, Sloka 23). There was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu called Prahlada. He conveyed to his father (the demon king Hiranyakasyapu) that the purpose of life is to practice these nine types of devotion. Swami beautifully narrates these nine paths: Sravanam (hearing His glories), Keertanam (singing His praises), Vishnu-smaranam (constantly remembering Him), Pada-sevanam (serving Him), Archanam (worshipping Him), Vandanam (saluting Him), Daasyam (being His loyal servant), Sakhyam (friendship with Him), and Atma-nivedanam (surrendering completely to Him). Practicing any of these nine forms of devotion or a combination thereof will lead us to the goal supreme.
Let us first consider Sravanam or listening to the glories of God. The greatest example in the Bhagavatam is King Parikshit who was cursed to die in seven days. He was blessed with the boon of listening to the stories of Lord Krishna related by Sage Suka (son of sage Vyasa) and was liberated from the cycle of birth and death in only seven days. This reveals the power of listening to the stories of God. In His previous Avatar as Shirdi Sai, Baba said that listening to the stories of God and narrating them is the greatest sadhana for Self-realization.
Listening to the divine sports of God can give us insight into the highest truth. Sri Krishna was born in a dark prison, where His parents were held in shackles. But the minute He was born, the shackles fell off spontaneously. The prison was flooded by Divine light and the doors of the cell opened so that His father could take Krishna to Brindavan for safety. Similarly, when the Divine takes birth in us, the shackles of worldly bondage disappear, our hearts open up, and divine light shines in us.
The second beautiful Leela of Lord Krishna is about the villagers who used to worship Lord Indra, the head of the gods. He told them to worship the living God, giving them sustenance, like the cows, the trees, and the Govardhana Giri (mountain). Thus, Lord Krishna showed people to worship Mother Nature, the environment, as God. Indra, in his ignorance, got infuriated and sent a rain of stones to punish the villagers. But when God is with someone, how can harm befall that person? Lord Krishna then lifted the mountain Govardhana with His little finger and held it like an umbrella. All the villagers and animals took shelter under it safely. Indra was ashamed and asked for forgiveness from Lord Krishna.
Second in the nine types of devotion is Keertanam, singing the glories of God, which by itself will lead us to the goal of life. But it needs to be done with bhava (feeling), raga (melody), and tala (rhythm), which brings us into union with God. There are many great devotees like Mirabai, Suradas, and the great sage Narada who merged with God just by singing His name. There are several forms of devotional singing, but Swami emphasized Nama-sankeertana, singing the Lord’s name which sanctifies our body, mind, and even our surroundings. Swami also emphasized Nagara-sankeertana where the devotees walk around the neighborhood while singing aloud, praising the Lord – this not only benefits the singers but also sanctifies the community, the environment, and the surroundings with Divine vibrations.
The third notable form of devotion is the remembrance of God’s name, Vishnu-smaranam. Constantly remembering God’s name will take us to our goal. A shining example of this devotional path was the five-year-old boy Prahlada who constantly remembered Lord Vishnu, all the time in all his activities. Amazingly, even when he was subjected to punishment and torture, like being poisoned, being thrown off a mountain cliff, and being trampled by an elephant, he cheerfully and joyfully chanted the Lord’s name, and nothing could affect him. This is the benefit of constant remembrance of God’s name. In a wonderful letter to the teachers and students at Brindavan, Swami wrote that a person who has the name ‘Sai’ on his lips all the time will be a Jeevan-mukta, liberated while alive.
In addition, three other practices like Padasevanam, serving Him; Archanam, ritualistic worship with flowers, garlands, etc.; and Vandanam, saluting or prostrating at His feet are also ways to express our love for God.
Next are the final three important paths, starting with Daasyam, being a servant of God. One of the greatest examples of this form of devotion is Hanuman who was always eager to serve his Lord Sri Rama. When he was in search of Mother Sita in Sri Lanka, his only goal was to do the Lord’s work, and no adversity or distraction could stop him. For us, participating in the Sri Sathya Sai International Organization, which bears Swami’s sacred name which He kindly lent to the Organization, provides the opportunity for selfless service. This is a wonderful gift of His love and grace, and we should serve in the Divine mission with our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
The next form of devotion is Sakhyam, friendship with the Lord. The only true friend is God. We need to develop intimate friendship and kinship with God. Notable examples in the scriptures are Arjuna who had such friendship with Lord Krishna, and Sudama (Kuchela), a childhood friend of Lord Krishna. When we see God as our friend, we share our joys and sorrows with Him, wherein we feel a kinship, a one-on-one personal relationship with God.
Finally, as we progress in our spiritual journey, the last stage is total surrender to God (Atmanivedanam) – “Lord, Thy will be done, not mine. I don’t exist. The only One who exists is You and only You.” At this stage, we surrender our body, mind, intellect, and all possessions to God. Then we come to realize that nothing belongs to us. The ultimate word in spirituality is surrender when we realize that there exists only God and God alone. Then there is no difference between the devotee and God.
The greatest example of complete surrender Swami has given in Bhagavata Vahini is Emperor Bali, who gave up his kingdom and property and his own life to serve the Lord.
When we practice any or all of these nine forms of devotion, we live in the thoughts of God.
Bhagavad Geeta – Message of Lord Krishna
Now we will focus on the Bhagavad Geeta, which is the universal and eternal message of Lord Krishna. The message of Bhagavad Geeta, given by Lord Krishna to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, applies to all of us as we too are engaged in war between good and evil forces within ourselves. Sometimes we may have conflicts in the family, at work, in society, in the community, in the Organization, or in the nation. The Lord has shown us how to face these day-to-day challenges with detachment, strength, and courage through various Yogas, including Bhakti Yoga (path of devotion), Jnana Yoga (path of wisdom), and Karma Yoga (path of selfless service). Swami has given a series of 34 discourses on the Bhagavad Geeta in the year 1984. He also wrote the Geeta Vahini, elaborating the message of Lord Krishna. These Vahinis are essential reading for all spiritual seekers who want to study the life and message of Lord Krishna, as they were written by Swami, who is none other than Lord Krishna come again as Sai Krishna.
In the Bhagavad Geeta, Lord Krishna has given three assurances:
First, in Chapter 4, Sloka 8, He says, “Paritrāṇāya sādhūnāṃ vināśāya ca duṣkṛtām; Dharma-saṃsthāpanārthāya sambhavāmi yuge yuge” – I incarnate from age to age to establish Dharma, uplift the good, and destroy the wicked. It applies not only to the good and bad people, but it also refers to our inner qualities of good and bad, so that we nurture our good qualities and get rid of our bad traits.
Second, in Chapter 9, Sloka 22, Lord Krishna assures, “Ananyāścintayanto māṃ ye janāḥ paryupāsate; Teṣāṃ nityābhiyuktānāṃ yogakṣemaṃ vahāmyaham” – I will take care of those who constantly contemplate on Me. I will take care of their welfare here and hereafter. I will protect what they have and provide what they do not have, and ultimately give them liberation.
The third assurance is given in Chapter 18, Sloka 66, “Sarvadharmān-parityajya māmekaṃ śaraṇaṃ vraja; Ahaṃ tvā sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ” – Giving up all your obligations, surrender to Me alone. I will remove all your sins, all your grief, and give you liberation.
Let us remember these three assurances, and surrender completely and only to the Lord.
Jai Sai Ram.