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Chapter 2 / parts 16 - 20

Workshop on Spirituality - Part 1
16  Prayers

    He gave us some prayers to do for the morning and for the evening. He said in the morning you do this prayer:

    Dear Lord, I am born again from the womb of sleep. And I am determined to carry out all tasks this day as offerings to you, with you ever present before my mind's eye. Let all my words, thoughts, and deeds be sacred and pure. Let me not harm anyone. Let no one harm me. Please guide me and direct me this day.

   And for the evening He gave us a prayer on a slightly higher level. It is not going out into the world, to a new morning, a new day. It is the return home at night. And so that prayer is:

   Dearest Lord. The tasks of this day are now done. It was you who made me walk, and talk, and think, and act as I did. Now I lay all my words, thoughts, and deeds at your lotus feet. Please receive me. I'm coming back to you.

Then one birthday, Swami told us to repeat the following mantras every day. These are at a still higher level:

   I am God. I am God. I am no different from God. I am the supreme reality. I am pure being, awareness and bliss. Everything has arisen from me. Fear or grief can never touch me.

And then there is the level which he gave us in this interview:

I am the immortal self. I was never born. I will never die.

There's a little song that I would like to sing to you:

'There is no birth, there is no death, there is no you or I.
There is only Sathya Sai, beloved Sathya Sai,
Sathya Sai, Sathya Sai, beloved Sathya Sai.
There is no sun, there is no moon, there is no earth or sky.
There is only Sathya Sai, beloved Sathya Sai,
Sathya Sai, Sathya Sai, beloved Sathya Sai.'

 So, that tells the story. Look behind all the phenomena of this world and you will find the one divinity. Look into your own reality and you find the one divinity. I was never born. I will never die. I am the immortal self.

   Now, do I say that because I know it directly? No. Then should I not say it? No. I say it because Swami says "Do!" But he also says, "Don't tell others; do it inside." It is an affirmation: "I am God. I am God." You don't tell that to everybody else. You don't go out and yell into the street that Swami said to say "I am God." You do it inside and with the conviction born of faith, because Swami said it is the truth. Then, in time, it will be directly experienced as your truth.

   If you have chosen yourself to hear all this, then you are ready 'to do'. Then when you get up in the morning and face the world you can say, "I am born again from the womb of sleep. I am an instrument. I am determined to carry out the tasks of this day. I will do my duty, sweet Lord, with you ever present in my mind's eye..." And then, in the evening you can say, "It was you who made me do everything. It was all done by you."  And inwardly I have the conviction that that 'you' is really 'I'; not this changeful mind associated with this personality which I've been calling 'I', but the universal 'I'. I am not the limited but the unlimited; and so, as Swami tells me, I can proclaim my truth: "I am God. I am God. I am no different from God." These then, are all the different levels. You must be careful not to get the levels confused. Are there any questions?

17    Incarnation

   Question: "The question is about incarnation. If we are perfect, why have we come into these bodies?"
   Answer: "Yes, there are many 'why' questions like that and they have answers that will satisfy you for awhile. For instance, Swami asks, "Why do you dream?" And he answers, "Because you are asleep!" "Why are you alive?" "Because you were born!" "Why were you born?" "Because you died, but you died incorrectly. You were not finished. So you were born again." "What causes birth?" "Actions from a previous birth that have not been completed." "Why did you engage in action?" "Because you had some unfilfilled desire." "Why did you desire?" "Because you thought the world was real and it had the means to fulfill your desires." "Why did you think the world was real?" "Because of duality." "Why duality?" "Because of ignorance of the truth that all is one." "Why ignorance?" "Because of illusion." Like this it goes, questions and answers, causes and effects. But there are no causes and there are no effects. It is all inexplicable.

   When you speak of illusion, it can never be understood. It can never be explained. We can talk about these things. They will satisfy us up to a point. But ultimately, the only answer is 'divine play.' And if we are the divinity why do we play? Why not? It is our nature. But does the absolute, the infinite perfection need to separate itself from itself and play with itself? Well, it just cannot be understood, at least not through our linear rational mind.

   There is one thing, though, that you can know about illusion and that is, that it will come to an end. It will be finished. How does it end? Think of God and there is no illusion. Think of illusion and there is no God. So when you have the question about birth and death, you are thinking of illusion. Then there will be answers. Think of God and all these questions do not arise."

18  Jewish Interview

   Question: "We have been doing some translation work on the Hislop book, My Baba and I, and something struck me. When Hislop questioned Swami, he brought forward the question of American devotees of Jewish origin. Why isn't the Jewish star in Swami's symbol depicting the different faiths? And then Baba gives an answer which to my mind seems as if Swami doesn't know anything about the Jewish religion. He seems to avoid the question. But one chapter after that, there is a condensed report of a discourse of Baba about the common things in all religions and he starts from the Jewish religion. Then, suddenly, he seems to be a perfect expert in the old Jewish traditions. Well, this seemed very strange to me. Maybe you can explain some more about this. Maybe you were there in that discourse."

   Answer: Swami says love my uncertainty. Love my inconsistency. Swami says many things that at different times may appear inconsistent. They may confuse. When the Lord is born illusion is born with him. Sometimes he seems like a South-Indian personality who doesn't know many things outside of his immediate field of interest. But then he will reveal himself to be the master of all knowledge. We have seen it happen many times and been caught by him with our doubts. The best advice when you get into this kind of dilemma is to follow the voice of conscience, the inner voice of the master and there will be no conflicts, only some joyful playfulness at times.

   When Swami teaches the highest teaching, there is no confusion. In this interview for Western devotees that I just read to you, there was no confusion. The questions did not come out of a place of confusion. They came out of a place of sincere yearning for illumination, and also out of an almost overwhelmed surprise... "You mean that I am God!? I am not an individual, but God?" You see, the questions came out of the sudden realizaton... "Can this really be true? If it is really true, then what does it really mean?

   Let me try to gain a further understanding of this." and the answers given elevate us to a higher level. But confusion happens when there is inconsistency at different levels. There will be much of that. Don't pay too much attention to it. That is the way of all great teachers. Through their apparent inconsistencies, they push you into seeking shelter at the higher levels.

   And then you must also remember that Swami likes cream. He likes butter. He is always churning. He takes you to the heights and then he plummets you down into the depths until you give up all this body consciousness and all this false self-importance and interest in worldly things, in historical things, in words. "Go inside. Go inside." That is the consistent message of Swami. Since we want to hear some stories he gives us stories. And tomorrow he may give us a different story and it will go another way. But don't remain outside, involved in the story and its apparent contradictions. Go inside and there will be no confusion.

   As far as Judaism is concerned, Swami gave an interview to Jewish devotees to answer questions about the Jewish faith. I was there in that interview and what I remember Swami saying was: "The Jewish religion and the Christian religion are essentially the same. In India there are very few Jews, so we have not shown the Jewish star on the symbol of the different faiths, but you may add it. Both Jews and Christians have the same basic Bible. The Christian Bible was added to the Jewish Bible. The Bible is Veda. Veda means the voice of God. It has come from God. But there have been many commentaries added to it by priests and scribes. Jesus taught the same Veda.

   So, there is really no difference between the basic Jewish and Christian teachings." And of course Swami is completely right. As I mentioned earlier, when Jesus was asked what was the most important commandment, he quoted the mantra given by Moses, the shemaa, which is sacred to Jews and repeated by them many times daily. And when asked about the second most important commandment, he also quoted Moses, that you should love your fellow man as you love yourself - which is the Golden Rule. Then where is the difference? Only in some of the details of the rituals added on later and in the basic acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah, the Saviour. But the heart of the teaching, our relationship to God and our fellow man, is the same.

   On the subject of the Messiah, I had a chance to ask Swami this question: "Swami, Moses led the people out of slavery to the promised land 3000 years ago. Then 2000 years ago Jesus was believed by his followers to be the Saviour who would lead them into the Kingdom of Heaven. But the Jews are still waiting for the Messiah to come. Swamiji, are you that Messiah who has come to deliver us all?" Swami answered: "No, it's not like that. Not one Messiah. In truth, you are all Messiah. Here and now you have the strength to save yourself and to help others also. Live in God. Think God. Be God. You are God. Realize it! Realize it!" So, this has been Swami's consistent message to us.

19   Predestination

   Question: "In the interview you shared with us, there was a question that said, 'Is it imprinted on everyone's forehead when you will achieve realization?' And the answer that you gave wasn't very clear for me. Could you repeat it again and could we discuss it a little bit?"
   Answer: The question related to what is predetermined. Is everything already predetermined? As Swami was teaching the highest teaching, he was talking of the supreme self, the immortal self. It is never born. It is never reborn. That is what Swami said. But now you are speaking from the point of view of this personality, this individual. Remember that one of the questions was, "Is there any individual anything?" And Swami said, "For the immortal self there is no individual. Individuals are like light bulbs. They will be different, but you are the current, you are not the light bulb."

   But still we want to know. After all, I am sitting here and I'm not sitting there. What I do with this life, the trajectory through the world that I take with this body, is that all predetermined? Well, if you want to climb down to this individual level, then Swami will answer that. He did not answer that in the interview, because there Swami was teaching at the highest level of truth, the unchanging truth.

   The most consistent answer that I have heard Swami give is that when you are born, there is a chain around your neck. It is the chain put there by the lord of creation. You cannot see that chain but it will certainly be there. And the beads strung on that chain are all the actions that you have to engage in during this life, and the knowledge also, when and how you will finish this life. He says it is just like railroad carriages that have a number stamped on them giving the date when they must be returned to the shop. In the same way, there is a date already written on you when this body/mind has to return to the shop, when it has to go back to the five elements. That's already determined.

    That is the answer Swami usually gives. And that means, yes, it is all predetermined. But Swami also says that by our efforts we can earn God's grace, and thereby change our destiny. It is we who have written on our foreheads and it is we who can erase it by evoking God's grace. What is required is the marriage of personal effort and God's grace.

  The deeper message behind this is that the consequences of previous actions that are waiting to fructify, waiting to come into life, are like a big warehouse filled with thousands of lives to come. There are so many things we have willfully done in other lives that cannot possibly be completed in this life. I may have hurt my parents, which may require me to come back and suffer like that as a parent. As a male, I may have abused someone in a female body, which would require me to come back in a female form to compensate. I may have been rich and done something wrong, and now I must come back poor. There are also positive results that require their completion in future lives. It adds up to so many lives that are still waiting for fruition. From this huge warehouse, we take out a little tiny pushcart, that is this life. There are thousands of lives behind us, but there are also thousands of lives still waiting.

   Then what is truly important? Is it this present life that is so important? No. What is important is that that warehouse of future lives be burned down. We have to fry the seeds of all those lives to come. We must do whatever it takes to make this the last life... that is what is important. As long as we think that we have a choice in anything, then that must be our priority-number-one. For that we need to gain knowledge. Only self-knowledge will fry those seeds of future births and make them impotent. The whole illusion of birth and death must be dispelled. And that, Swami says, can only happen after we have purified our hearts of all the negative influences that are there.

  Now, is all this written on our foreheads? Again we must ask from what level the question is being asked? From the highest level it is a meaningless question, since the whole issue disappears when we ask a previous question which is: "Who is the 'I' that wants to know?" When we seek out the seeker, all we will find is the unity, and then there is no question of mergence. On the dualistic level we will find answers, but they will satisfy for only a short time, because we will constantly outgrow them. But why bother ourselves with these concerns? Why not just live as if this is our last life. That means one-pointed, sincere yearning for the highest truth. It means filling ourself with the virtues that please the Lord, so that more and more he showers us with his grace.

  Finally, we will discover the truth that all along we have been one with the Lord. We are he. "Man minus desires is God", Swami says. When that warehouse of seeds is gone, only God remains. That is the wisdom teaching. But that wisdom can only come through love, through devotion. And before there can be this devotion, there has to be some service. You have to turn ordinary actions, into sacred actions. You have to turn sacred actions into actions devoid of all desire for the fruits. Then you have to turn desireless action into an offering to the Lord, a sacrifice. Then your actions become worship and your path automatically evolves into devotion. These are the steps along the way.

   So the answer is, "Yes, it is all predetermined." But at the same time, at the phenomenal level, you have a choice. Turn towards God, God turns towards you, and the shadow is behind you. It no longer affects you. But if you choose to turn towards the world, then God leaves you alone and you are in the world of the shadow or the writing on the forehead. So in that sense it is up to you. When you consider yourself to be in the world of relativity separate from God, and you think you have a will separate from God, then you are required to exercise it correctly.

20   Three States

   There is much more to be said on this subject. You see, we have only just opened Pandora's box. We have only spoken of one state. We have only considered the waking state. Presumably right now we are all awake. That is only one state. There are three states of experience. There is also the dream state and there is the deep sleep state. These are equally important. In the wisdom teachings of India, they are considered very important. We haven't made any references to these states in our discussions. And when it comes to this question of predetermination, we have to examine what we learn from the other states. I'm sorry we won't have much time for that today, but let me mention just a few thoughts on this subject.

   What we have been talking about here has to do with waking up from the dream that makes up our life, as we experience it. Well, let us consider, when does a dream end? From within the dream can we direct its conclusion? It may matter very much to the dream character for the dream to end, but does it matter to the one who is dreaming? Dreaming is his nature. It goes with being asleep. The way Swami explains it, maya or illusion, has two very powerful shaktis or powers. One is the veiling power which covers and conceals the truth. The other is the projecting power wherein the mind superimposes imaginary creations and objects on the unchanging basis.

   The traditional example that illustrates these two shaktis is the snake and the rope. In the dusk we come across a rope lying on the road in front of us, but we mistake it for a snake and become very troubled. But there is no snake there. Due to the inexplicable power of illusion, the rope became totally hidden from our sight. Instead of seeing a harmless rope, our mind projected the terrifying image of a snake onto the rope. When we shine a light, the two powers of illusion instantly disappear and we see what was always there, namely, the rope.

   When we dream, both the veiling power and the projecting power are active. We experience ourselves as characters in the dream caught up in the illusion. But between dreams, in deep sleep, the projecting power is absent. There is only the veiling power of sleep. No imaginary stories of a separate 'I' and 'they', of an individual 'body', an individual 'mind' and a 'world' are present to disturb our peace. And so we are quite happy in that state. When we wake up from deep sleep there is nothing to be remembered, for nothing imagined 'happened'. We just know that the experience of an individual self was totally absent and that we feel very refreshed.

   The waking state is just another form of dream. It is a waking dream in which both powers of illusion are very much present. At death, the projecting power comes to an end and the current dream is finished; but then new dreams follow. Between lives there is the veiling power continuing to obscure the truth. When, through the grace of the guru, we come into the light of wisdom, the mind becomes purified and both powers of illusion totally disappear. Then we are totally awake and established in the unchanging unity of the atma. When the illusion disappears, all aspects of the story, including the waking-up process disappear with it. For there was never an individual who was asleep. It was all just a silly dream.

   I would like to say something else in this regard. It is very important in the higher stages of the spiritual trek to give up our need to understand rationally with our thinking mind. We have just broached these two other states of experience, dreaming and deep sleep, and we see that in these states our rational faculties are of no avail. On the spiritual path, the principal process is not mental understanding, but intuitive apprehension. The intuitive faculty has to be developed; then something happens in the heart. That higher faculty of immediate, comprehensive cognition is what Swami calls the CIA, the constant integrated awareness. Its instrument is the buddhi, the intuitive faculty, which in most of us is still just an undeveloped spring. Swami says it must be made to flow like the Ganges. Then truth reveals itself to us in a flash of immediate apprehension, without the intermediary of the mind soiling that truth with its conceptualization and web-spinning imagination.

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