I WAS IN MY 20'S WHEN I WAS AWAKENED BY A DEEPLY SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE. My upbringing had given me a solid moral foundation, but I knew nothing about spirituality. I had an abstract understanding that the objective world was unreal and non-existent, but I knew nothing about God or had anything else to believe in. I was carefree and content, but also rudderless.
Then, one day, while crossing a road, I had a peculiar sensation that I had stopped breathing. I stood frozen in the middle of the road yet felt no fear for my personal safety. My mind concluded I was dead. The mind, still functioning, walked the body across the road, and sat it on a bench. I recall seeing a field of grass across the road with an alley of poplar trees at a distance and felt it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. My mind stood still while my heart felt a sense of peace and utter love.
Then the breathing returned. But the mind was in a state of stillness as if its engine had stopped. For about a week, I remained in that state. The body neither needed sleep nor food, though it went through the motions out of habit rather than need. I would wake up after about 2 hours of sleep and study or listen to music until I had to leave for work. Eventually, things went back to “normal”. But I never forgot that time – a sense of “no-mind” and feeling content, peaceful, and happy. I was still able to carry out my daily routine during this period of transformed awareness. Everything went on perfectly, without my planning, control, and worry.
But alas, “normal” life no longer satisfied me. I became aware of how meaningless my life was. I felt that if I stopped existing, there would be no loss. I decided I needed a teacher who could guide me to find meaning in it all. I visited many churches; I enjoyed the peace they offered. I visited a Zen meditation center and felt at home. I received a picture of Shakyamuni Buddha and started to meditate in front of this picture daily.
I happened to visit a person who had on his wall a picture of a man with an orange robe and an Afro hairstyle. I was curious and inquired if there were any albums available by that soul man. The owner laughed and informed me that the “soul man” was Sathya Sai Baba. He invited me to visit the Sathya Sai Centre. It was a strange experience -– it seemed they were just repeating some rituals without much understanding. But I felt content, peaceful, and relaxed. I kept going back.
Then, I read ‘The Holy Man and the Psychiatrist,’ and I immediately knew everything recounted in it was true. I learned the Gayatri mantra and started reciting it before meditation and throughout the day. I still held Buddha as my teacher and guide. Until one day, while I sat in peace, enjoying the beautiful image of the Shakyamuni Buddha and having an internal conversation with him, I had a moment of insight. I could see a very clear image of a Buddha, alive at this very moment, that I could visit in Prasanthi Nilayam. I became firmly convinced that Sathya Sai was Buddha Himself. It was so absolutely clear.
Strong Scent of Jasmine
I did not have the money to go to India. I attended a Sai Youth Summer camp in south Europe instead. When the camp was over, I stayed behind to help clean up. While walking down a road leading to a parking lot, with large fields of grass on the sides of the road and an alley of majestic trees, I felt a strong scent of jasmine. It could not have come from the incense sticks in the hall, and there were no children around playing a prank on me. The smell was steady in its intensity and did not alter with the gusts of wind. I finally understood that scent was not an external stimulus, coming through the senses. It arose from within, bypassing the senses, and experienced through the heart-to-heart connection that I sought to maintain with my Sai teacher.
When I arrived in Prasanthi Nilayam later that year, I learned that it was customary to desire an interview with Sathya Sai. I tried to develop such a desire, but I just could not. After my experience of smelling jasmine directly from within, I developed my own way of connecting with Swami and communicating all my doubts and questions directly to Him. He would answer them by providing an insight immediately and a fuller understanding of the issue eventually.
Reward for Service
The daily darshans provided me with intense experiences of love and extreme bliss from being able to witness the material manifestation of my Teacher. One day, a service opportunity at the Chaitanya Jyoti Museum arose. I volunteered to help but it meant sacrificing afternoon darshans. During the first week of serving in the Museum, as a reward for sacrificing afternoon darshans with Sathya Sai, I was provided spiritual guidance and invaluable lessons through various incidents with the visitors I served. Swami granted me these experiences, navigated me through them, and became a guide in my spiritual journey. It has been like this ever since. He truly is my ‘Eternal Companion.’
My first visit lasted about a month from early December 2000 to mid-January 2001. I did not know what to ask from the Lord. I prayed for the well-being of one member of our family, and I was grateful for His guidance through my experiences. And then I realized that the way of life I had led before due to my ignorance had probably generated karmic consequences. So, I prayed fervently that He would help me leave the old life behind so I could be His instrument without the burden of my past deeds. I prayed for this intensively, not understanding what I was seeking.
The next day I was given a laddu, an Indian sweet, as prasad. Within hours of eating, I got so sick I had to leave my post at the Museum. I could barely walk and took almost 2 hours to get to the shed where I was staying. I vomited and had diarrhea all night. The next day was worse and then at night, I had a near-death experience. I felt I was at death’s doorstep. I remember all the thoughts that crossed my mind – what my mother would say, the unfinished projects at work, and so on. I had no power to suppress these thoughts. All I could do was witness the thoughts overwhelming my mind, becoming stronger and more intense each minute, and the overpowering emotions they triggered. Silly things I had done, thinking no one would notice or care, came back to haunt me, but now with a painful understanding of their adverse effect. Mostly, I could make no sense of it. I had no control. It felt like I was being pulled into a maelstrom of memories of my past. Whilst I knew we are advised to think of God during our last moments, I could not. I was a helpless passenger swept along in a flash storm of everything that had happened before. And then I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I felt like the insides of me were emptied and cleaned out, like I was just the outer skin of some object with nothing inside. Someone brought me water and I was able to build up strength over the next few days.
Everyone has to make their exit someday. That moment should not be a moment of anguish, one should depart gracefully, with a smile and a bow. In order to do that, a lot of preparation is necessary. To depart, leaving all that has been accumulated during a long lifetime, is a hard task, so prepare for it by discarding attachment to one thing after another from now on.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba, August 1, 1956
Ever since this experience, I have kept the Prince of Death as a friend and guide. Sometimes I would sit down and ask Him to sit with me while I reflected on my situation. Am I ready to go tomorrow? Am I ready to go right now? What luggage am I still hanging on to which I cannot take with me when the time comes to drop the body?
If I should sum up my interactions with Sathya Sai, he took two letters, one from me and another for which I was a messenger. His robe touched me once when he was passing by me while I was in the first row. And he looked at me. It was the first darshan where I got to sit in the first row, nearby one of the columns in the Sai Kulwant Hall. He came out from around the corner, stopped, turned his head towards me, and looked in my eyes…about 2-3 thousand years went by when I realized I was still sitting there with my mouth wide open while He had already moved on, interacting with the people sitting across.
He has taught me many lessons including one key principle - not just for me but for all.
All will be free. Every single one will be liberated or enlightened, call it what you will. The goal of the journey is guaranteed. The date of our ascension has been written down and stored in the divine archive ages ago. It is inevitable! The wise, the righteous, the devotees, those who hate God, the sinners, the ignorant, the scoundrels, the rich, the poor, the tall, the short, the obese, the psychic, the wicked…every single one will be liberated. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe in 10 years, and maybe in one of the next lives, but the goal will surely be reached. So then, why fear when He is here? While the goal is guaranteed, how we are going to spend the journey will be a reflection of our thoughts, words, and deeds – and we will reap the joy and suffering they bring.
However, if we stay in that awareness that our liberation is inevitable, it will become our reality in the now, and we can partake in glimpses of it. Yet, the liberation we can achieve in the now is temporary as the impurities will prevent it from being permanent. But even then, the impurities relate to the body and why worry about the body and its impurities when we can stay in the awareness of the impending liberation. The impurities will take care of themselves if we can hold on to our ‘Eternal Companion’ and remain firmly convinced that liberation is guaranteed.
Mr. Jiri Blazek
About the Author:
Mr. Jiri Blazek is a Centra Coordinator of Zone 7, Region 71 for Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. He has held number of positions in the SSSIO over more than 20 years. He was a designer of a Zone 7 Magazine and Zone 7 Media Coordinator. Mr. Blazek has graduated from Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, where he teaches as a guest lecturer. He works as a consultant.
First published in Eternal Companion Vol. 1, Iss. 5