Previous      Home      Contents      Next

Chapter 1/ parts 1 - 3

All-Europe Sai Conference - Introductory Talk - What is Spirituality?


    The address that follows was given to the all-Europe Sai Conference held in Hamburg, Germany during May, 1989. Several thousand participants celebrated their national holiday during the Pentecost, by meeting together in Sai Baba's name and joining with each other to invoke the spirit of Baba to come and be present among them. I was asked to speak on spirituality. Without planning it that way, I found myself weaving together the spirit of Pentecost with Baba's profound wisdom teachings and some of my own experiences from the eight years spent living in Sai Baba's ashram. Now, more than five years later, whenever I re-read this talk I am deeply moved by it. I hope you, dear reader, will be able to savor the magic of Swami's presence that so powerfully permeated that hall in Hamburg and inspired these words:

May the Blessings of God rest upon you.
May His Peace abide with you.
May His Presence illuminate your heart.
Now and forever more.

1  Sai Ram dear Brothers and Sisters

   I started off this morning feeling very peaceful and empty inside. Then I took a little walk and came across a plaza that's only a few steps from here. It's just a little grass area with a large rectangular rock in the middle of it. That rock, taller than I can touch with my hand outstretched, is obviously a quarried rock that's been put there; but it is rough and unworked and full of drill holes. It has the appearance of the walls of a dungeon. And there it sits in this little park with nothing else around it but the grass and the birds, and the tall modern buildings encompassing it. I felt a strange sensation being there, and then I noticed a little placard just to the side of the rock, with the inscription:

During the Nazi time, thousands of our Hamburg
herded together here, and sent to their death.

   So, for these unfortunate ones, one night they were comfortable in their homes, secure with their families, and filled with some semblance of dignity and hope. Then the next morning, there were sirens and shouts and police dogs, and they were torn away from their families and packed off in cattle cars to their death.

   Having woken up in a rather serene state, without anything particular on my mind, not even being too concerned about my talk here this morning, I was quite open to the impact of this memory, which is enshrined in that little park. It affected me very deeply and I carry that feeling with me even now. And so, I want to talk to you about a most important spiritual practice, which has to do with preparing oneself, moment to moment, to be ready for death. We always think of life, but Swami teaches us to always remember death. He gave us these three directions:

Think of God.  Forget the World.  Never fear Death.

2  One Hundred Percent

   One time Swami called in the students studying for their masters in Business Administration. He told them, "No shares. I want you to remember... no shares." "Swami, we promise we won't play in the stock market and get involved with any share holdings," one of them replied. "No, no, not that," Swami said,"No shares... no sharing... do not share God with anything or anyone. You must be one hundred percent with God... only with God."

   And then he told a number of stories from the Indian epics, one of them of Draupadi who was the wife of the Pandavas. She was being forcibly dragged into the court and disgraced in front of all the elders. A villainous rogue who had grabbed her by the hair was now pulling her sari off. With one hand she tried to hold on to her sari and with the other she tried to fend off her attacker. She cried out to her husbands, the Pandavas, for help, but the husbands felt powerless to do anything. She cried out to the elders assembled there to come to their senses and stop this terrible thing, but no one lifted a finger to help her. In her distress she called out to Krishna for help. But even the Lord did not respond. Finally, in total resignation she let go of her sari and surrendered herself body and soul to the Lord, to do with as he pleased. Immediately, Krishna showered his grace on her. Her sari became longer and longer without end and her honor was preserved.

   In this story, Swami's message is:
Surrender fully to God. Turn towards him and he will turn towards you and take care of you totally. Rely on him one hundred per cent... no shares.

   Now, we are spending three days in this conference, meeting together in Swami's name. Everywhere there are reminders of Sai, and perhaps by the time this conference is over we will be filled with his loving presence and gain a little of the feeling that he is everywhere, including inside of us.
But then we will go home to our worldly life, we will do our work, we will go about our own business. Perhaps we have been making a habit of spending a little time each day in spiritual practice and getting together to chant bhajans once a week. 'That', we say to ourselves, 'is God's time; the rest is our time.'

   But this is not what Swami means by 'no shares'. He said,"There is no separate God-life and worldly-life. Do not separate your day into God's time and your time. You must make all your work God's work, all your time God's time. No shares. One hundred percent God, all day, every day and everywhere."

   Does that mean that we should neglect our worldly work? No, of course not. He says, "Do your duty in the world, engage yourself in your professions, take care of your family responsibilities, but perform all these activities in the name of God and for God's sake. Offer them all to God. That is the meaning of no shares." It is also what is meant by the great saying in the Bible... "Love God with all your heart, with all your strength and with all your mind." Subsume all your limited worldly loves in the one all-consuming love for God.

   Now, why is all this so important? It is important because at the moment of death nothing must be allowed to distract us from a total absorption in God. At that moment of death it must not be one percent or five percent or ten percent, but one hundred per cent God. All our spiritual practices have no other purpose but to prepare ourselves for that last moment when we can end in joy. That, Swami says, is the real meaning of 'enjoy'. It is to make the end one of joy, no matter what the circumstances, even under the horrid conditions brought to mind by that memory preserved in the little park.
Nothing can disturb our equanimity when we are one hundred percent immersed in God. Nothing of world remains to disturb us. Fear no longer holds any meaning, for everything will have become God for us. Death will have lost its sting. We will be merged in the ocean of eternal bliss and these kinds of dark events will be just like bad dreams of the night which have no hold on us. That is the promise contained in that little phrase, 'no shares'.

3  Education in Human Values

   How do we start this practice? Swami says, "The only way to immortality is the removal of immorality." The very act of purifying our lives evokes the divinity to reveal itself in our lives, and not only we but the whole world benefits thereby. Then these kinds of bad dreams become less and less likely to happen again. That is why education in human values is so very important. It is really the most important thing that we as devotees can do in the world today, which is to spread the message of love and peace and righteous living.

   If there is to be unity and peace in the world it will happen when there is the removal of immorality, which means when human beings live like real, whole human beings not like fractional pseudo-human beings. Now, Swami tells us, human life is not filled with peace but is broken into little pieces. There is no unity anywhere. Swami tells a story of how to bring peace and wholeness back into human existence and unity into the world.

  There is a little boy who found his way into his father's study. The little boy is not permitted in there normally because there are some very valuable papers inside, and the door is kept closed. But one day the door happened to be ajar and the window was also open a little, so that a bit of a breeze was blowing through the room. The boy saw the open door and went inside. And just then a very important paper was carried by the breeze off the desk and wafted down onto the floor. It was a very old and very rare map of the world, a very beautiful map with many colors, each representing a different country.

  The boy saw this beautiful piece of paper. He picked it up and looked at it, then he bent it this way and that, making a little boat out of it and then a hat and then a house. Oh, it was so nice to play with! But the ancient map could not stand so much bending and soon it was in two pieces and then in four and then in eight and then in lots and lots of pieces comprising many different colors. The little boy was just delighted with this new turn of events... now he had more things to play with, and so in no time at all, the whole world was in pieces

  The father came in. He saw that his boy had been playing with the world and that he had managed to tear the whole world into pieces. The father was very much disturbed. He said,  "Son, look at what you've done. You've torn the world into pieces."
But, after all, it was his son and he was just a little boy and he was really quite innocent. He just happened to wander in there and start playing; so the father couldn't really be too angry with him. But, nevertheless, the world was now in pieces, and so the father decided to teach the boy an important lesson. He said, "Son, you shouldn't have torn the world into pieces.  Here, I will give you some tape and you put it all back together again. When you paste it back together, daddy will feel better and you will also feel better."

    Try as he would, the little boy didn't know how to put the world back together again. There were just too many pieces and he just couldn't understand how they were meant to fit together. But then a gust of wind came and one of the pieces happened to be blown onto its backside.There on the back of the paper he saw a human eye. Well, that was surprising. He turned another piece over and on its backside he found a hand. And then on another piece he saw a nose, and on another a foot, and then the top of a head, and a shoulder, and pretty soon he had all the pieces over on their back and saw all the different parts of a human being.

    Well, even a little boy knows what a human being looks like. Now he had a puzzle that he could solve. Pretty soon he had the whole human put together again. When he used the tape to hold all the pieces together he found that he now had a beautiful image of a complete human being. Then, when he turned the pasted together pieces over, to his delight he discovered that the whole world was back together again.

   So, the whole world is in pieces and no one knows how to put it back together again. But put the human being back together and the whole world comes together again automatically. That is really what human values education is all about. And that is something we must foster and spread in the world. Let each put himself together and the world will come together. We don't have to go out and try to change the world, getting involved in all kinds of causes. Just allow the inner man to become whole again and one by one the message of unity will spread, and the whole world will come together again.

    Now, I was scheduled to speak to you on spirituality, and I don't know if that subject has as yet been properly broached. Spirituality is very, very simple, according to Swami. It is nothing more than being established in your own true nature. It is being home in your true self. And for that no spiritual practice is required. Sugar does not need to do any spiritual practice to be sweet. Sweetness is its unchanging nature. We always are who we are. We can never change being ourselves, which is the eternal sweetness of pure bliss. The only spiritual practice required is to remove the veil that keeps us from knowing who we really are.

   We have to give up this mistaken notion that we are limited individuals separate from God, experiencing pleasures and miseries in the world. That is a false notion, based on ignorance. First, Swami reminds us that we are human and not animal. We can control our impulses and channel our desires. We can live selfless and sacred lives. But then we discover an even higher truth. We are not really limited individuals. We are the divinity itself, in all its splendor and glory. Our essential nature is divine. When the clouds of illusion are dispelled the truth shines forth. When we remove the false, what is true
remains. To remove the false is all we ever need to do. It is all we can ever hope to do.

Previous      Home      Top     Contents      Next