Good Chances With Swami – Early Devotees

Good Chances

Howard Levin visited India during the 1960’s and while on  his travels, he heard about  Swami  from others who had visited his ashram in South India. Howard decided to visit Sai with a small dog that he had picked up somewhere in North India. Both he and his dog were to become part of ashram life. Howard enjoyed many interviews with Swami, also experiencing other phenomena that took place around the Ashram. I remember while reading the book, that during his time with Swami,  Howard took a short break to visit Madras. During his time away he  attended a Sai bhajan. He tells us in the book how astonished he was to see a garlands break and even more thought provoking,  a flower ‘dance’ all around Sai photos… I too had such an experience when I attended my first bhajan. A garland of flowers broke and fell from Swami’s photo that stood on the altar.

He later wrote a book called “Good Chances.” Here are several accounts from those days. The first account tells us something about how Swami taught back in those days. The first account is about the sign painting.

When I visited Puttaparthi ashram during the early 1990’s, I noticed many beautifully hand-painted signs on stone were placed around the ashram grounds. Later they were replaced with black slab signs, with carved Sai quotations. These black slabs resembled tomb stones and looked dreadfully out of place in the pretty ashram of the time. Thankfully they did not last for long.




Here is a short story from the book, about the Sign Painting:


At one point during the sign painting, Swami gathered us around in a semicircle. He took a piece of chalk and made a line on the wall.

“How do you make that line smaller without touching it?” he asked.

We stood there not knowing what to do. He took the chalk and drew a longer line about it.

“You see,” he went on to say, “never try to make yourself  bigger by finding faults. Rather, make yourself  bigger by getting rid of your own faults. That’s best. Leave others alone.”

Another small story  Swami told to Howard:

“Once a man had a dressing closet with mirror on the walls. It had six sides. When he was going away for a day, he locked his dog into the closet. The dog, seeing its reflection on all sides, mistook them to be other dogs trespassing on his territory and got angry.

He barked and saw the other dogs barking back at him. He leaped against the mirrors, smashing them into hundreds of pieces. In each piece he saw another dog. Finally he got so excited he fell down exhausted. “

Human Beings Are The Same –

“The man who sees his reflection everywhere and think it’s ‘another’ becomes full of anger and ego. He is no better than a dog.  But the man who looks in the mirror of life and sees only his own reflection, he has wisdom.”  He continued. “You must remember these days we’ve spent together. Now it is outside, next memory goes into your mind, then a permanent picture is there. When you all go back to America, if you think of these ‘good chances’ with Swami, it will be the same as meditation.

From Good Chances. Pg. 125

By Howard Levin

Mandala – Sacred Art – Sacred Geometry

The mandala above is from my small collection of Tibetan Art. I bought  it some years ago from a  Tibetan shop in Puttaparthi. This Mandala took three months to paint. Although it is  Tibetan  the painting itself comes from Nepal.
This particular mandala hung on the walls of my room in Puttaparthi for years, I have bought it home to keep it from fading. It is a very precious item and holds sentimental value.

Mandala Symbolism

In Buddhism, mandalas are rich with symbolism that evokes various aspects of Buddhist teaching and tradition. This is part of what makes the creation of a mandala a sacred act, for as they work, the monks are imparting the Buddha’s teachings.

Outside the square temple are several concentric circles. The outermost circle is usually decorated with stylized scrollwork resembling a ring of fire. This ring of fire symbolizes the process of transformation humans must undergo before being able to enter the sacred territory within. It both bars the unitiated and symbolizes the burning of ignorance.

The next circle inward is a ring of thunderbolt or diamond scepters, which stands for indestructibility and illumination. This is followed by a circle of eight graveyards, representing the eight aspects of human consciousness that bind a person to the cycle of rebirth. Finally, the innermost ring is made of lotus leaves, signifying religious rebirth.

The square structure in the middle of a mandala is a palace for the resident deities and a temple containing the essence of the Buddha. The square temple’s four elaborate gates symbolize a variety of ideas, including:

  • The four boundless thoughts: loving-kindness, compassion, sympathy and equanimity
  • The four directions: south, north, east and west

Within the square palace or temple are images of deities, which are usually the Five Dyani Buddhas (the Great Buddhas of Wisdom). The iconography of these deities is rich in symbolism in itself. Each of the Dyani Buddhas represents a direction (center, south, north, east and west), cosmic element (like form and consciousness), earthly element (ether, air, water, earth and fire), and a particular type of wisdom. Each Buddha is empowered to overcome a particular evil, such as ignorance, envy or hatred. The Five Dyani Buddhas are generally identical in appearance, but are each represented iconographically with a particular color, mudra (hand gesture), and animal. See the article on the Five Dyani Buddhas for more information.

In the center of the mandala is an image of the chief deity, who is placed over the center dot described above. Because it has no dimensions, the center dot represents the seed or center of the universe.