This is an old article from ” Man Of Miracles” but I feel it is an important one. I have republished it here for those people who wish to re-read the interesting lessons revealed.
“Baba does not teach that the only way to reach this spiritual goal is to go away and live in caves, forest hermitages or walled-in monasteries. It is right for the majority of us to live the ordinary life of the world, but we must not become bond slaves to the world’s allurements. A boat, he says, is meant to go into water, but the water must not get into the boat. In the same way we are meant to be in the world, but the world must not get into us. He adds another illustration: “Man must grasp God with the right hand and the world with the left. Gradually the left will lose its hold. Do not worry about this; it has to be so; that’s maybe why the hand is called ‘left’ – the world will be left behind. But the right hand must not loosen its grip. Being called ‘right’, it is right for it to grip right and hold on.”
How to do this? We must realise that the great drama of this world in which we are now playing a part is no more than a passing show. We must not identify ourselves with the drama, or become attached to its vestures and “properties” which we will soon be leaving behind anyway. In other words we must learn to discriminate between the permanent and the transitory, the substance and the shadow.
The shadow is the great illusion that we are our bodies and that the physical world around us is the ultimate and only reality. The way to correct that error is to keep our thoughts and aspirations towards God, our faces towards the divine light. Baba gives this analogy: “Move forward towards the light and the shadow falls behind, but if you move away from the light, you have to follow your own shadow. Go every moment one step nearer to the Lord and then the great illusion, the shadow, will fall back and will not delude you at all.”
Actually, what we all seek is happiness, but through the deluding shadow of our own ignorance, we seek it in the wrong places. “Once you turn towards the path of worldly happiness,” says Baba, “you will be led on and on to greater and greater discontent, competition, pride, jealousy. Just stop for a moment and examine your own experience. Are you happier when you grow richer, do you find more peace when your wants are satisfied? You will yourself be witness to the truth that an improved standard of living is no guarantee of happiness.”
When we seek happiness through the pleasures of this world, we always find as much pain as pleasure, as much sorrow as joy. The pairs of opposites, the black and white twins, are ever near to each other. But let them come; the pleasures and the pains, the joys and the sorrows, they are part of the divine Leela or play. Beyond them, and in spite of them, we will find a great peace and abiding joy once we turn our faces towards the light and understand that we are a part of the divine substance, the Atma, and that our real existence lies beyond this shadow-show on the space-time stage.
But is there any special guidance and yogic training that will help men break the grip of the world’s allurements; help them make that difficult about-turn from the tinsel glitter to the greater light? Baba often discourses on the three classical yoga pathways to enlightenment. He points out that all of these – karma (action), jnana (knowledge) and bhakti (devotion) – must be used. They are three lanes on the one great highway to God.
Baba says: “Base your action on knowledge, the knowledge that all is one. Let the action be suffused with bhakti; that is to say, humility, love, mercy and non-violence. Let bhakti be filled with knowledge, otherwise it will be as light as a balloon which drifts along any current of air, or gust of wind. Mere knowledge will make the heart dry; bhakti makes it soft with sympathy, and karma gives the hands something to do, something which will sanctify every one of the minutes that have fallen to your lot to live.”
I once heard Baba talk in other terms of these three lanes to Self-realisation. He called them “the three Ws”, work, worship and wisdom. Work (karma) alone is, he said, the slow passenger train, with long stops and some changes at junctions before you reach the end of the journey. But if you add worship (bhakti) to the work, you will have an express coach, and get to your destination more quickly and easily. Work and worship together will furthermore develop Wisdom, or knowledge of the real (jnana). With this you will then be on a non-stop express train right to your journey’s end. So worship while you work, and strive meanwhile for the self-knowledge that will help these two to bring the true wisdom.
Speaking of the spiritual books, he says, that they are only like maps and guide-books. “Scanning a map or turning over a guide-book will not give you the thrill of the actual visit, nor will it give you a fraction of the knowledge and joy of journey through that land.”
“In fact,” he says in another place, “you need not even read the scriptures, the Gita or the Upanishads. You will hear a Gita (divine song) specially designed for you, if only you call upon the Lord in your own heart. He is there, installed as your own charioteer.”
So the great scriptures of the world are guide-books, taking us as far but only as far, as the written word can. The real knowledge must come from our own inner experience. We must ourselves travel to that land that lies within. But it is very difficult, well-nigh impossible, to find one’s own way through the forests, though life’s dense jungle encircling that divine land. So it is by far the best to have a guide who has been there, who from personal experience knows the route. In other words, the surest, easiest, swiftest way to self-realisation is to have a spiritual guru – a Sadguru who is himself fully self-realised. If in ordinary life you have an experienced guide who is taking you through strange forests or deserts or the intricate ways of an unknown city, you don’t stop to argue and debate with him about the route. You put your trust in him and submit to his guidance. Likewise with your Sadguru; you must put yourself completely in his hands. Your own foolish ego and pride and self-will will only lead you astray. Your spiritual guide knows how to take you where you want to go, so the first thing you must learn is the difficult science of self-surrender.
Of course, you are greatly helped in this by the love you inevitably feel towards your Sadguru, who has your true welfare at heart, and helps you onwards, with no other motive than that of his selfless love. It is taught in the Hindu spiritual philosophy that there is no difference, between the Sadguru and God, and in this bhakti love the Sadguru expresses the love of God. “When God loves,” wrote St. Bernard of Clairvaux, “he wants nothing else than to be loved; for he loves for no other purpose than that he may be loved, knowing that those who love him are blessed by that love.” This selfless love of the Sadguru for the disciple, and the responsive, ever-growing love of the disciple for the Sadguru is the heart of the bhakti marga, the way of devotion.
So while the other yogic lanes must not be forgotten, and must be utilised as required, bhakti is pre-eminently the lane-way for the great journey. Or – to change the metaphor – though bhakti is not the only ingredient in the alchemical formula for transmuting man’s base elements to spiritual gold, it is the most important ingredient. Baba has often said that for this age the bhakti marga is the easiest and surest way to the goal, and many great teachers, from Lord Krishna onwards, have said exactly the same thing. Baba uses many stories and similes to point the value of the bhakti marga. Here is one:
A bhakta and a jnani (a follower of the jnana marga) were walking through a forest and became very thirsty. They came to a deep well with water far down and the sides overgrown with bush and briar. There was no way of obtaining water. The jnani overcame the difficulty by expending great psychic force to assume the form of a bird. Then he flew down through the bushes and briars, losing many feathers on the way. On the other hand, the bhakta yearned for the Lord’s grace and called fervently on his name. The Lord hearing and responding, the waters rose to the level of the bhakta who was thus able to slake his thirst completely.
Sometimes Baba likens God to a magnet and says, “Remember that the magnet cannot draw to itself a bit of iron that is rusty and covered with dust. You cannot be drawn by God when your mind is laden with the rust of material desires, and the dust of sensual craving sits heavily upon it.”
There is on record a story of how a rich man came to Sai Baba when he was in his Shirdi body and asked to be shown the way to God realisation. Baba first put the man through several tests, and then gave a dissertation on the qualifications necessary before any person can hope to realise God in his lifetime. A number of Baba’s disciples were there along with the rich man, listening to this dissertation.
I have at various times, and in various places, heard Satya Sai Baba give the same instructions concerning the self-disciplines, training and austerities necessary in order to make progress along the Sai way, which is, the bhakti way as taught by Sai Baba. So I will give the substance of that memorable Shirdi discourse here. In it Baba elaborated ten points.
- The aspirant must realise the absolute triviality and unimportance of the things of this world and of the next. He must in fact feel a disgust for the honours, emoluments and other fruits that his action will bring in both this world and also in the one to follow, for his aim is higher than that.
- He must fully realise that he is in bondage to the lower worlds and have an intense aspiration to get free. He must work earnestly and resolutely to that end, and care for nothing else.
- Our senses have been created with a tendency to move outwards and so Man always looks outside himself. But he who wants self-realisation, and the immortal life, must turn his gaze inwards, and look to his inner self.
- Unless a man has turned away from wrong-doing and composed himself so that his mind is at rest, he cannot gain self-realisation even though he has great knowledge.
- The candidate to the spiritual life must lead a life of truth, penance, insight and right conduct.
- Two classes of things constantly present themselves to man for acceptance – the good and the pleasant. A would-be disciple has to think and choose between them. The wise person chooses the good; the unwise, through greed and attachment, chooses the pleasant.
- The aspirant must control his mind and senses. If his mind is unrestrained and senses unmanageable, like wild and vicious horses drawing a chariot, he cannot reach his destination. But when the intellect and enlightened will exercise the control, like the hands of a good driver manipulating the reins (the mind) expertly to guide the horses (the senses) steadily along the right road, then the true self who is the master of the chariot reaches his journey’s end – the supreme abode of the all-pervading God. Sometimes, using another simile, Baba likens the mind to an electric cable. “Do not establish contact with the mind; that is as bad as contacting the cable! Watch it from a distance; then only can you derive bliss.” That is to say, becoming too closely identified and involved with the mind incapacitates one for seeing the real that lies beyond the mind.
- As well as controlling the mind a man must purify it. To do this he must discharge satisfactorily, and at the same time in a non-attached way, the duties of his station in life (his dharma). He must get rid of the great delusion: “I am the body”, or “I am the mind”; this will help him to lose egoism, get rid of avarice and purify the mind of all lower desires.
- The aspirant must have a guru. The knowledge of the self is so subtle that no one by his own effort could ever hope to attain it. The help of a great teacher, who has walked the path himself and attained self-realisation, is absolutely necessary. There is no difficulty about finding a guru; when the pupil has done all he can in self-enquiry and self-training the guru will come, either in the body or unseen. Baba sometimes says, “If necessary God himself will come down and be your guru.”
- Last, but not least – in fact the most important of all – is the Lord’s grace. When the pupil goes on trying and failing over and over again, when all seems quite hopeless, and he fully realises his own utter helplessness, then the divine grace comes, the light shines, the joy flows through him, the miraculous happens. He takes another step forward on the spiritual way.
After the Shirdi dissertation was over, Baba said to the rich man, “Well, sir, in your pocket there is God in the form of two hundred and fifty rupees; please take that out.” The man took out his bundle of currency notes and, counting the money, found to his great surprise that there were twenty-five notes of ten rupees each. He had not known previously the exact amount of money in his pocket and so, feeling Baba’s omniscience, he fell at the holy feet, and asked for blessings.
Baba said: “Roll up your bundle of God. Unless you completely get rid of greed you will never get the real God … The love of money is a deep whirlpool of pain, full of crocodiles in the form of conceit and jealousy … Greed and God are as poles apart; they are eternally opposed to each other … For a greedy man there is no peace, contentment, nor steadiness. If there is even a little trace of greed in the mind, all the spiritual endeavours are of no avail … The teachings of a guru are of no use to a man who is full of egoism, and who always thinks about the sense-objects. Purification of the mind is absolutely necessary; without it all spiritual endeavours are nothing but useless show and pomp. It is, therefore, better for one to take only what he can digest and assimilate. My treasury is full and I can give anyone that he wants but I have first to see whether he is qualified to receive what I give. If you listen to me carefully you will be certainly benefited “
Baba knew that the rich man to whom he spoke was mean and greedy. His preliminary tests had demonstrated this fact to all present. Having wealth is not in itself a crime. It is our attitude to the wealth that matters. If we are “poor in spirit”, that is, unattached to our possessions, understanding that they are held in trust from God and must be used properly, then it does not matter how much or how little we own.
This wealthy man, unlike the rich young man who came to Christ and asked for salvation, apparently did not go sorrowfully away. The chronicler states that, on the contrary, after getting Baba’s blessings, he left the place quite happy and contented. He like the others present, had enjoyed the spiritual feast served by Baba and perhaps he felt some hopes that the insights thus gained would eventually enable him to reduce the size of the camel of his attachments, so that it might pass through the eye of the spiritual needle.
Whether we seek self-realisation via the bhakti marga or one of the other lanes, it is necessary to purify the heart of greed, desire, hatred, falsehood and the other vices. One of the great purifiers, for those who can practise it, is that inward-looking self-raising exercise known as dhyana or meditation. As taught by Baba, meditation can be on God with form or the formless God – or on one leading to the other.”
Man Of Miracles – Howard Muffet