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Chapter 1 / parts 12 - 15

  12  Sai Baba's Declaration

   These are also the very words that Swami spoke in a very special talk that he gave at the end of the summer course at Ooty, in 1976. When the summer course was over, Swami had left, and therefore, everyone else had also pretty much left. Only the college boys were still there, waiting for their buses, and a few of us were still around. Suddenly, Swami came back. He told us to gather in very close around him. It was a very secretive and hush-hush thing; he had the loudspeakers and outside lights turned off. Then for two hours he told us many wonderful stories of himself as a young boy. They were every bit as magical as the stories of the young Krishna that fill the pages of the Bhagavatham.

   Towards the end of his talk, Swami related how one day he had thrown down his school books and walked out of the school assembly to commence his avataric mission. When he related this episode it was a very dramatic moment in the hall at Ooty. Before there had been much good humor and familiarity, but now he became very stern and serious. We had been sitting very close all around him for two hours, but suddenly Swami stepped back and felt very distant. It looked like he was poised to walk out on us also. We all caught our breaths.

   Just at that moment, Swami waved his hand and created a most powerful object. It had a round black onyx base and on it was a silver map of India. Surrounding the map were eighteen jewels that all glistened in the dark, apparently from some mysterious inner light. He told us that on this map of India were inscribed 100 Sanskrit verses giving the whole history of this avatar from the time it had taken birth to the time when it leaves its body. It was the first time he had ever announced when he was going to leave his body.

   He said, "All the great works that will be accomplished by this avatar and all the leaders who have already been chosen from among my students are recorded here in these verses." Now there was a big hubbub in the room. Everyone wanted to see this object more closely and read the writing on it.

   Baba took it around for all to see and touch. Spiritually it was a very powerful object and aesthetically it was very beautiful, but the writing was too small for anyone to decipher. So Swami was asked if he would read what it said, and he answered. "I will not tell the future. Be patient. Everything will be revealed to you in due time."
Then he said, "Why do you hanker after this object when you have its creator?" And he took that thing and threw it into the corner of a table, where it landed among some garlands.Then he said, "You have me and I have you. You are all sacred souls and you all have your roles to play in the mission for which this avatar has come. Know that there is no force on earth or in the cosmos which can delay this mission by even one instant. What I have willed will take place. In the years to come I will appear in many manifestations of my form. Wherever you are, there I will be."

   Of course, Swami was not just speaking to those students. He was speaking to all of us... we who are the fortunate souls whom he has gathered in. You know, it continues to be a great wonder to me how after so many years since Swami announced his avataric mission, and so many years since the Sai phenomenon has become widely-known in the world, that not only is Swami still quite easily accessible, but there are so very few who have actually made the commitment to become devotees and live his teachings.

 13  Who Is a Devotee?

   Swami said that his devotees are very, very rare. He said that among ten people you can find one truly good person. And among ten good people you will find one who has some deep feelings for God. We all know lots of good people, but how many of them have a love for God? Not just going to church on Sunday but a real yearning for the transcendental... for going beyond? And he says that among those who love God one out of ten will yearn for a direct experience, a deep communion with God. And of ten who have such a deep yearning, one will be ready to let go totally, to renounce everything he previously held dear and surrender himself completely to God, filling himself with God alone. "That is my devotee, and he is very dear to me," Swami said.

   As yet, there are not very many such committed souls, but Swami will see to it that we all reach that blessed state. One time, in the Poornachandra auditorium on a festival day, when there were fifteen to twenty thousand inside, and tens of thousands outside, Swami looked around and said, "I cannot see even one devotee here. Not one!"

   He told us, "When Swami comes around you all have your hands folded, looking very sacred. But, this is just like the lions and tigers and leopards in the circus ring when the ringmaster comes in with his whip. Then everyone sits on their haunches and displays their best behavior. But, as soon as the ringmaster leaves, they start growling and snarling at each other." "I am not interested in such so-called devotees," he said. "I have not come to gather in devotees of this Sai Baba form. I want you to be devotees of Sai's teachings," he said. "Even if out of all these Sathya Sai educational institutions only a small handful of real devotees comes forth, I will be able to complete my mission. Just a few genuine devotees is enough. I'm always interested only in quality, never in quantity." And then he explained what he meant by a devotee.

   A devotee is one who sees God wherever he looks. Not just when he turns towards this Sai Baba form, but wherever the devotee looks he sees only Sai and fills himself with that omnipresent Sai. That is the true devotee he is looking for and that is where he will surely take us, if we follow him implicitly.

Swami has told the story a number of times of Jesus walking with his disciples on a road in the Galilee. As Jesus and his followers walked along, Peter was up ahead. He came upon the remains of a dead dog. It had been lying there on the road for some time, decomposing in the hot sun. Now even the vultures and crows had left it, and all that remained was a rotting mass of sinews and bones and decomposed flesh. Peter went back and tried to guide Jesus' party around it by taking a detour across a field, so that the master would not have to see this unpleasant sight. But Jesus went straight to the carcass, looked down at it and said,"Look at those beautiful white teeth. How perfect they are. How much love and care this animal must have received during its life in order to have teeth like that."

   So Jesus saw the one thing, in that otherwise revolting scene, that was beautiful, that was a reflection of love. That is how we must be, Swami says. There will always be something good and something beautiful even in the worst situation. Even when there is a horrible stench, love will waft its subtle fragrance and can be recognized by those who are attuned to it. Seeing good everywhere is seeing God everywhere. We must live like that in the world. We must fill ourselves with that goodness. Then by themselves, the chains will fall off us and we will be free.

14  Letting Go of the Illusion of Separation

   Close to the end of the Bhagavata Vahini, Baba tells the story of the birth of Krishna. The divine child emerged from the womb in a halo of light. Immediately, it turned to the father and said, "Now, quickly take me to the home of Yashoda across the river. There a little girl has just been born. Bring that little girl baby here and put her in the cradle in my place." At that moment, the shackles fell off the parents, the prison doors opened, the guards outside fell into a deep sleep, and the father stepped out of the prison into the dark of the night, to take the little divine child across the river.

   Swami beautifully describes all the auspicious signs and portents that Vasudeva encounters along the way. It was as if all of nature had received the good news that the Lord of the universe had been born and it put on its finest dress to welcome him. Vasudeva exchanged Krishna with the little girl in Yashoda's sleeping arms, and brought her back to the dungeon cell. Then he became overwhelmed with emotions and he broke down in tears.

   There is more about this little girl in the traditional Bhagavata, relating what happened to her when the wicked Kamsa discovers that the eighth child has been born. But Swami pays no further attention to her in his book. All the stories he relates have only to do with the Lord. In the final chapter Swami writes only of the baby Krishna. Then who was that little girl? That was the yoga maya, the illusory power of the Lord. Whenever the Lord is born, this power of illusion is born with him. But Swami teaches us to focus totally on the Lord and pay no attention to the illusion.
   So it was with King Parikshith. As he heard this story being told of the divine birth, Parikshith cried out, "Krishna! Krishna! Krishna!" A snake had just bitten him on the toe and was seen slithering away. Then Suka, the great saint, said to all the sages gathered there, "The king has reached the Lord. May all humanity be immersed in eternal bliss."
   So, the book ends with the death of the human being and the birth of the Lord. The human is just a transitional stage. Parikshith's long quest and human journey were over. The Lord had been born and the human shackles had fallen off. Parikshith became one with Krishna.

   This is not just a story from the Indian scriptures. This is our own story. We are born, we seek the Lord but he is nowhere to be found. We seek the happiness that we know is our birthright, but we look for it in the world and it eludes us. Then, one blessed day, he reveals himself to us. But soon, he takes us out into the desert and we wander about, lost.

   We become totally dependent on him for everything, for our food, for our shelter, for our work, for our health, for our direction, for our very lives. He gives us what we need to sustain these bodies and minds, he grants us experiences to develop our faith, and he gives us teachings and stories to develop our love. Then finally, he fills us with himself. We become 100% immersed in the Lord. No shares. Then we end in joy. We drop off this skin and reach home.

   That is spirituality. It is nothing more than removing what is unreal and unnatural... letting go of the illusion of a separate self and being established in pure love. At that point we are home, we are one with the Lord, we are one with the blessed self.

15  Dear Brothers and Sisters:

   Let us be thankful and celebrate. The avatar has come. He is here so that we may awaken and realize who we truly are. And who are we? Let us never forget. We are divine love. Love, love, love. That is our unchanging reality.
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