When the Guru Is Gone – Sathya Sai Baba

Offering of Flowers To Sathya Sai Baba

What happens, then, when the guru dies or goes away? How do disciples cope with the absence of the one whose living and loving presence has opened for them the door to their own heart, the one through whom all reality has been filtered, and their own self understood? The disciples of Jesus, Palestinian Jews living at the beginning of the Common Era, and the disciples of the Indian Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba, both Indians and Americans in 1970’s India, were both forced to negotiate the absence of the guru. These two groups of devotees,  separated by almost 2,000 years in time and more than 2,500 miles, in land mass, inhabited very different cultures. They told stories about their gurus that help us understand the evolving meaning of the body of the guru—both in its presence and its absence. It is an interesting tale of sameness.

In looking at what devotees have chosen to recall we come to see what the disciple community finds destabilizing in the guru’s physical absence as well as how that absence can be overcome; how the pain of loss of the “non-dual reciprocity” of guru and disciple is eventually transcended through a new understanding of the body of the guru. A process that many people face today while  recovering from the loss of Sathya Sai Baba, who many worshipped and adored.

In the Absence of the Body: Discipleship When the Guru Has Gone

 

An ancient axiom holds that when the disciple is ready, the guru will appear.  Much less is said about what happens when the guru disappears—and for this, disciples are rarely ready.  It is often a more traumatic event than the death of a parent or spouse or child, because the relationship between disciple and guru is of a different nature than relationships with parents, lovers, friends, or one’s own children.  While all these relationships can involve deep and selfless love, the love of the guru (in both the genitive and objective sense) becomes the lens through which the disciple understands the self, the other, and the world. And at least initially, the locus of this love is the bodily presence of the guru.

The guru not only shows the way, but is that very way.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” is how Jesus’ disciples remembered him.

Abhishiktānanda, a modern Roman Catholic monk initiated into Indian advaita by his guru, Gnānānanda, writes that “Guru and disciple form a dyad, a pair, whose two components call for each other and belong together.  No more than the two poles (of a magnet) can they exist without being related to each other.  On the way towards unity they are a dyad.  In the ultimate realization they are a non-dual reciprocity.”

 

How and Why We Remember

Gospel scholars talk about the “messianic secret” that describes how Jesus in the Gospels tells his disciples not to talk about his deeds of power or identity as the Christ, but to keep these things silent. Scholars often interpret this “secret” as a literary device (especially in Mark) employed to explain why, if Jesus was working all the wonders reported in the narrative, all of Israel did not come to believe in him, or at least know of him in his lifetime.3

In collecting the early stories of Neem Karoli Baba, Ram Dass encountered a modern corollary of the messianic secret. He writes that it took a number of years for Neem Karoli Baba’s Indian disciples to openly share their stories of Maharajji (as Neem Karoli Baba was known) due to his own directive that he should not be spoken about to others. There are stories of Maharajji ordering the burning of a collection of stories about him and of his tearing up a manuscript of an article on him. Neem Karoli, much like Jesus, ordered those who witnessed miracles effected by or through him never to speak of them. In the case of Neem Karoli Baba, this reticence is certainly not a literary device. Can it be that for Jesus, too, the “messianic secret” was real—and not a device of the Gospel authors?

We have similar instances of both teachers rebuking those who would compliment or draw attention to them. When his contemporary, Deoria Baba, said that Neem Karoli was an incarnation of love, Maharaji responded, “Why, that wicked man! What does he know? Who does he think he is?” Jesus, when called “good teacher” by an inquiring outsider, answered, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” Both of them were opposed having their deeds recorded, and yet their disciples felt the need to do so when they were gone.

Both maharaj and Jesus often complained that their disciples did not truly understand their message, or even who they were. Yet, in spite of the guru’s admonitions, the community of disciples feels responsible for interpreting him to one another after his disappearance, and for preserving/creating a body of material through which the guru will become known by others. The gathering together of such stories offers those who experienced them a way to process the events of the past and gives new generations the possibility of experiencing an awakening similar to that of those who lived in the presence of the guru. In theological language this is called anamnesis, a remembering that makes real in the present the being or event that is being recalled. Anamnesis is one attempt at making the disappeared body of the guru present again.

Now we have the same with Sathya Sai Baba, while alive he complained that his followers failed to understand him. He called himself an enigma, one who could not be known. His passing six years ago, came as a surprise to his community and left them in shock. How did they deal with his passing? On the surface, not very well. While some carried on just as before, holding on to their past habits and routines they had build up during their time with the guru, others floundered. Many left to find another guru or to find solace in a former student and imposter.  Although, I feel that a certain Anamnesis has taken place and the steadfast following will overcome the humbug following, in making  the guru’s Temple and Ashram, the guru himself.

 

Excerpted from Parabola: Where Spiritual Traditions Meet, Vol. 37, No. 3 (2012).

 By James H. Reho 

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The key is in understanding that the physical body is only an instrument of the divine. It is not forever. What was it that Sathya Sai Baba said so well ? “You are not the body.” “Drop all attachments to the body and its desires.”  I feel that includes all physical attachment to Sai Baba’s form also. ~  More importantly He said and I quote:  “At first, name and form are essential, that is the reason why Avatars come, so that God can be loved, adored, worshiped, listened to and followed, and finally realized as nameless and formless.” And to end on a happy note, a beautiful video of darshan with Swami to the huanting music of Secret Garden.  

Nisargadatta Maharaj Speaks On Wisdom – Faith

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Nisargadatta  Maharaj once said:

“Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. Between these two, my life flows.” ‘I am nothing’ does not mean there  is a void or a wasteland within. What it means is that with constant awareness we open to a clear, unimpeded space, without centre or boundaries, there is nothing separate.  Being nothing in this way, we are also, inevitably, everything there is. “Everything” does not mean self- importance or the egotistical idea that self-aggrandisement is everything,  but a decisive recognition of interconnection; we are not separate. Both the clear open space of ‘nothing’ and the interconnectedness of ‘everything;’ awakens us to our true nature.”

 

abuddha

 

 

Here is a story about a powerful emperor who found that owning nothing gave him more happiness that owning everything.

Ashoka was an emperor in northern India who lived around two hundred years after the time of the Buddha. In the early years of his reign, he was a bloody tyrant. He wanted everything for himself. Land, riches, gems, jewels, he was greedy for them all. Ashoka might have been emperor but inside he was a very unhappy man. A man who could not find happiness even though he had conquered all the lands.

One day, after a particularly terrible battle that he had launched in order to acquire more land and wealth, he walked on to the battlefield amid the appalling spectacle of corpses of men and animals strewn everywhere, already rotting in the warmth of the sun. He watched as the carrion-eating birds devoured the bodies. Ashoka was aghast at the carnage he had reaped. He sat down and cried.

Just then a Buddhist monk came walking across the battlefield. The monk did not say a word, but his being was quite radiant with peace and happiness. Seeing the monk, Ashoka thought, “Why is it that I, having everything in the world, feel so miserable? Whereas the monk has nothing to call his own, other than the robes he wears and the bowl he carries,  looks so serene and happy, even in this terrible place?”

Ashoka made a momentous decision on that day. He pursued the monk and asked him, “Are you happy? If so, how did this come to be? How can you be happy with nothing?” In response, the monk who had nothing, introduced the emperor, who had everything, to the Buddha’s teachings. The consequence of this chance meeting, was Ashoka changed from that day onward. Ashoka devoted himself to the practice and study of Buddhism and changed the entire nature of his reign. He stopped waging wars. He fed the poor and gave them homes.  He transformed himself from a terrible tyrant into one of history’s most respected rulers, acclaimed for thousands of years after as just and benevolent.

“Experiences Of Nothingness” – Children Of Light

Style of teaching

According to Sri Nisargadatta the purpose of spirituality is to know who you are, a viewpoint he expounded in the talks he gave at his humble dwelling in Bombay, where a mezzanine room was created for him to receive disciples and visitors. This room was also used for daily bhajans (devotional songs), meditation sessions, and discourses.

He talked about the ‘direct way’ of knowing the Final Reality, in which one becomes aware of one’s original nature through mental discrimination, a method which is common to the teachers of the  Navnath sampradya. This mental discrimination or the Bird’s way (‘Vihangam Marg’) was also presented by Nisargadatta’s co-disciple, Sri Ranjit Maharaj; wherein Self-Knowledge is gained just as a bird flying in the sky goes easily from branch to branch, instead of slowly crawling its way up the tree like an ant, as in the ‘Pipilika Marg’. Here the disciple reaches straight to truth, without wasting time in long drawn out practices that would take him to the ‘fruit’ no doubt, only slowly. He proposed to use one’s mental faculty to break from the unreal to the real, and the mind’s false identification with the ego, simply by listening to and constantly thinking over what the master has said, and knowing that “You are already That”.

The common teaching style of teaching of the Inchgiri Sampradaya masters (beginning with Shri Bhauseheb Maharaj) to Indian devotees was for the Master to select a passage from a traditional text on Advaita Vedanta, most commonly Dashodh of Saint Shri Ramdass as well as the “Yoga Vasishtha”, “Saachara” of Shri Shankaracharya, and the “Ecknati Bhagwat” of Saint Ecknath), and to expound upon the meaning and import of that selected passage. Nisargadatta Maharaj and Ranjit Maharaj both deviated from this formal format by giving informal discourses for the benefit of western devotees who did not have access to Dasbodh or the other texts, and who were not familiar with Indian traditions and customs.Many of Nisargadatta Maharaj’s talks were recorded, and these recordings form the basis of I Am That and all of his other books. His words are free from cultural and religious trappings, and the knowledge he expounds is stripped bare of all that is unnecessary.

Summed up in the words of  Advaita scholar and a disciple, Dr. Robert Powell, “Like the Zen masters of old, Nisargadatta’s style is abrupt, provocative, and immensely profound — cutting to the core and wasting little effort on inessentials. His terse but potent sayings are known for their ability to trigger shifts in consciousness, just by hearing, or even reading them.”

source: Wikipedia

“Suppose a man is rich, he is wearing a lot of ornaments and expensive clothes; when he leaves his house there is always danger lurking. This is on account of the fact that he represents so many ideas, concepts, and because of his reputation that he is somebody, that he is a rich man. He is afraid of going into the street. A naked beggar who goes into the street has nothing to lose. Similarly, having lost everything, I have nothing more to lose; I can encounter any situation and fit into anything.”

— N.M., from “Experience of Nothingness”

“Eventually, you will find shelter and peace in no other ashram except your very own. That visranti — it means: ultimate relaxation — final abidance, will be available only in your ashram and nowhere else. The road is inward into your ashram.” — N.M., from “Experience of Nothingness”