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 

..

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.  

The Transfiguration of Christ And Baba’s Light Body – Cont.

Christ - The Transfiguration. pic. thanks to "Teilhard de chardin" Blog.
Christ – The Transfiguration. pic. thanks to “Teilhard de chardin” Blog.

 

Sai Baba’s “Light Body” cont.

 

For All Sai Baba devotees and followers interested in the Kodaikanal occurrences of  earlier this year, here’s more about  Sathya Sai Baba’s Light Body. I received this sweet story “Swami and his Mission,” today by email. Sadly the person who actually posted the article is unnamed. The story has a ring of truth about it, because many of us have heard similar stories over the years, when Sai Baba was alive. Many of us saw his aura, a beautiful radiant light that seemed to envelope us all in its embrace. One of my first posts on this blog was about Swami’s Aura – my experience from 1994, Whitefield, Sai Ramesh Hall. 

All great masters can reveal their true radiance when they choose to. The most famous story of this happening, is of course, that of Christ – The Transfiguration. Thanks to a friend on Facebook,  here’s a very eloquent description or interpretation of the Transfiguration from JG Bennett. (Underneath the next para.)

 

Swami to an elderly devotee about His Mission:

He said, “I am showing you My Light Body. This is who I really am. You think that this little, orange-robed Body is who I am. Not at all.” And then He explained that He could project Himself from this Light Body into this orange One and go to London, Singapore or Timbuktu or wherever, as that is His ability. He said, “You also have this Light Body, but you don’t know that this is your Self. This is My real Self. As you will be willing to visualise this, and meditate on this, you will be making more contact with your own Light Body.” […].

Later on,  when  I was giving a seminar in a big centre, not too far from Frankfurt in Germany, (they were all Baba devotees.) There was a boutique; they were selling Japa Mala [prayer beads], pictures of Baba and books. I saw at the end of the room a stand with greeting cards. I went to it and to my utter, utter surprise, I saw a card with exactly the same Light Body, not with Baba but with Jesus! It was painted by a Theosophist. This was how He gave me a verification of what I had been receiving.

Sai Ram  – posted today on Thy Kingdom Come by Anon.
https://sathyasaimemories.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/the-halo-sathya-sai-memories-cont/


 

The Transfiguration

(Thanks to Maria L. for reminding me that today is its commemoration.)

Detail of The Transfiguration by Theophan the Greek

Detail of The Transfiguration by Theophan the Greek

 


JG Bennett’s understanding of The Transfiguration of Christ

‘The key to understanding the Transfiguration is the transmission of Divine Love. If we recognise that this, and not the redemption of mankind from sin as St. Paul supposed, was the mission undertaken by Jesus we see the event in its true perspective. The obstacle to this vision is our false conception of love as a polar force of attraction, similar to the attraction between two bodies carrying opposite electric charges, or between the poles of a magnet. Attraction implies repulsion. As unlike charges attract, like charges repel. If the love between man and God were of such a character, it would imply that man and God stood – at opposite poles and could never be united without losing their love for one another. Divine Love does not derive its power from separation but from union. It is not fullness but emptiness, not Being but the Void.

The Transfiguration was an action that embraced all worlds. The three disciples belonged to the natural world, but they had already been initiated, with the rest of the twelve, into the spirit world. Moses and Elias unite the world of spirit and the world of creativity. Moses represents the covenant made by the giving of the Law, and especially the covenant of Love between Jahweh and his people (Deuteromony 27-30) and brought up-to-date in the covenant of the Essenes. Elias stands for the creative power that works miracles. Jesus goes beyond all the limitations of time and space and is in direct communication with the Father, represented by the Voice from the Cloud. I believe that there was a seventh person present, but as no such suggestion appears anywhere in the scriptures, I shall not mention his name at this stage.

…The Transfiguration was the making of the New Covenant of Love and the Revelation was that this covenant requires from man humiliation or abasement, which alone can liberate him from the egoism which keeps him prisoner of the worlds of time and death. We must remember that according to the Books of Exodus and Kings, both Moses and Elijah spoke with God and were transformed, so that they were no longer men like the rest of mankind. A similar transformation was wrought in the disciples with Jesus on the mountain. They were made aware of the presence of God and this burned up their egoism and left them completely empty. This was the very core of the mission of Jesus. Once it was accomplished what subsequently happened was the process of opening the channel of Divine Love to the other disciples and eventually to all who were capable of receiving it.

Abasement and humiliation are spontaneous when finite man finds himself in the immediate presence of the Unfathomable Truth. But it is also necessary to live through humiliation here in this world in order to be established in Love. The gospel story, from the Transfiguration on, is concerned with humiliation.’

JG Bennett ‘The Masters of Wisdom’ (Turnstone Books)   http://www.gurdjieffdominican.com/time_of_christ_Bennett.htm