Seeing With God Glasses

Swami once told a story of a wealthy man who had spent his life indulging himself in sensual enjoyments, doing everything in excess. Sooner or later he was bound to get sick, and when he got sick he got very sick. He went from doctor to doctor seeking some relief; eventually, he went to see every famous doctor in the world. But no doctor could cure him. In the end he came back to his palatial mansion, and just sat there, helpless, hopeless and miserable.

One day a Sanyasin was making the rounds of houses to beg for his food. As he came by this particular mansion, the owner saw him and sent one of the servants out to call him in. When the Sanyasin entered the house, the owner reverently welcomed him, gave him a seat and spoke to him. He said, "Dear Swami, you are a Sanyasin. That means that you are a wise man, so you must surely know how to treat people who are sick. I have one continuous headache all the time. My stomach is always upset. I see double and my ears are ringing. Everything is wrong. I feel just awful. I have gone all over the world looking for help but I've not been able to get any relief at all. What can I do? Please tell me. I will follow whatever direction you give me."

The Sanyasin looked around the house at all the expensive furnishings, the garish art works and knickknacks, all the unnecessary stuff that was cluttering every inch of space, and he said, "Dear Sir, if you wish to bring some peace into your life then surround yourself with the color green. Wherever you look there should only be green... a nice, warm pastel green. If you bring green into your life it will take the pain out of your life."

Some six months later this Sanyasin returned to that place again, but he hardly recognized it. Everything had been painted green... the fence, the gate, the walk going into the house, the house itself... everywhere one looked there was only green. Even the trunks of the trees had been painted green. As he saw all this with great amazement, a watchman dressed in green came out and threw a green cloth over the Sanyasin.

Just at that moment the master appeared, dressed head to toe in green. He recognized the Sanyasin and called him in. The Sanyasin said to him, "What is happening here? What have you done?" The man said, "Look Swami, you said that I should only be seeing the color green, and so I have been spending lakhs and lakhs of Rupies converting everything to green. But I feel as miserable as ever. In fact, I feel even worse because I worry so much that somebody will come who is not in green, which would upset me terribly."

The Sanyasin told him, "What a thoroughly foolish man you are! Yes, I did say that it would be very good for you to see only the color green wherever you look, but I didn't say that you should spend a fortune and create so much commotion in your life. For 4 Rupies you could have bought some green glasses. Then the whole world would have been green for you and you would have enjoyed real peace in your life.

Baba concluded this story by saying, "You cannot paint the world green. It is not possible. You can only change your own vision. Put on your green glasses and the whole world will look green." We can exhaust ourselves trying to make the world green... trying to make all evil and pain disappear. But we will not succeed. As long as we see the world as world, it will always be a mixture of both good and bad. Swami reminds us that in the bathroom where we find a tap of pure water flowing, we will also find a drainage pipe next to it. The two naturally go together. It is only after we undergo a dramatic transformation in our vision that our experience of the world will change; and that, in turn, requires a profound change in our thinking.


Baba teaches us that how we think so we will see and so we will be. It is our thoughts which shape our vision, and ultimately our destiny. Doing good, seeing good, and being good, all starts with thinking good... which is another way of saying, thinking God. As long as we think that this world, which is so near, is real... and that God, who seems to be so far away, is not real... then this outlook becomes our day-to-day reality and determines what we perceive and experience in our lives. The world is exactly as we define it for ourselves in our thoughts. Thought determines our seeing, which in turn, again reinforces and strengthens that very thought. So when we think of the world as an objective reality and put our faith in the perception of our senses, then the world will indeed appear as separate and objective, and fill our thoughts with its changing forms, including all the discordant elements that jar and disturb our equanimity.

The conclusion is this: If we see the world as world, then we will necessarily suffer all its ups and downs, constantly cycling from pleasure to pain. But when we transform our vision and see the whole world as God, then wherever we look we will see only God, and remain in unbroken Ananda. Swami says, "Dust if you think, dust you are. God if you think, God you are. THINK GOD! And God you surely will be!" Swami assures us, with all the power of His wisdom, that we are no different from God. The truth is that in essence we are exactly the same as the Avatar of the Age... the same one, undivided Divine Principle. The world also is no different from God. The one Paramatma is everywhere. That is all there is and ever was. All this so-called multiplicity and variety is nothing but the imagination of the mind. If we think God, then God is all we will see, and soon we will realize that God is all there is. This is the eternal truth that Baba teaches.

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 blackguard 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 the Lord 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.

Perhaps we have been making a habit of spending a little time each day in spiritual practice and going to 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'. 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'.

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 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... oh, it was so nice to play with, making a little boat out of it and then a hat and then a house. 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 now, even a little boy knows what a human being looks like. So 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 whole thing over, to his delight 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.


Letting Go of Illusion

Because the illusion of world as reality has been so strongly reinforced in countless lives, Swami speaks to us in a number of different ways in order to plant the seeds of awakening at many different levels within us. He teaches the highest truth of Advaita, the imperishable Atma which is the Supreme Reality, beyond world, beyond body, beyond mind and intellect, beyond all understandings. But to satisfy our yearnings at other levels of our being, He also teaches the ways of worship and the ways of loving service, by which the individual can reach God. Yet, the ultimate truth which He emphasizes over and over again, is that there is no such thing as an individual separate from God. The truth, He says, is that we were never born and we will never die. The individual has no existence except in the imagination of the mind. There is neither incarnation nor reincarnation.

The rope, He says, always remains as rope, no matter what we project onto it with our mind when we first see it lying on the ground in the twilight, and mistake it for a snake. As long as we are terrified of the snake, which we ourselves have created, and which we are so very sure is there, then some comforting reassurance is necessary to calm our anxiety, before the highest truth can be revealed to us. And so, Swami will come and take us by the hand and protect us from the snake, and reassure us with His sweet, boundless love, until we are sufficiently calm and our vision is sufficiently clear to see what He has to show us. Only then does He turn on His torch, and in the splendor of the light reveals to us the rope which was always there. We are God, He tells us; fear or grief can never touch us. The world of multiplicity seen as the varicolored snake was only a trick played on us by the mind. In truth, all there is is the Unity. And that Unity is who we are, the eternal unchanging consciousness, ever pure and unaffected by the play of the mind.

Consider another example. When we are on a road in the desert and we see the palm trees and lake of a lovely oasis in the distance across the sands, then no matter how many others may also be seeing the same vision, once we have heard about the possibility of a mirage, we will first look on a map to determine if an oasis is indeed there, before setting off across the hot sands to slake our thirst from its waters. No matter how much confirmation we get of our perception from our fellow travelers, we put our faith in the higher wisdom which has gone ahead and mapped out the territory before us, and who will only direct us to the real spring of pure, inexhaustible water, which will quench our thirst forever.

That spring, ofcourse, is within us. Or more correctly, it is us... it is our very Self. It is all goodness, all sweetness, flowing unendingly, forever unchanging. It is our very core, behind and deep to the mirage-making play of the mind. There is no place where we can seek for it. No matter how much we search for it with our mind, it will not be found. Why? Because it is us, already. It is That by which the mind thinks and by which the eyes see. Swami chides us that with the spectacles sitting right on our nose, we are using those very spectacles to look for the spectacles that we think we have lost. In that case how can we ever find them, He asks. We cannot. We can only give up the mistaken idea that we have lost them. Swami says there is neither liberation nor bondage. There is only cessation of the false notion that there is something we call world and something we call the personal self which are different from God.

No guru, not even the Avatar, will give us knowledge of the true Self, Swami said. He will only give us knowledge of the not-Self... He points out to us that which is transient and imaginary. When the illusion of world and personal self is seen for what it is, and thereby becomes separated from its basis on which it had been projected, it automatically disappears. That is when we wake up from our long sleep and realize who we already are and always have been... the One Divine Principle.

We believe that the guru will always shower his boundless love on 'us', but his real objective and his real love is to help us destroy this 'us', or perhaps more correctly, to help us purify it and to transform it. The true guru, Swami says, puts our mind through real torture until it gives up its thieving ways. It has stolen the jewel of our enlightenment and it must relinquish it. Letting go of attachment involves pain, letting go of ignorance involves pain. To return the cloth to its pure white state, the washerman must beat it. Without pain there will be no true spiritual path, Swami says. But the pain is never unbearable, for the same God who doles out the pain also gives us the strength to bear it. The extremely sweet personal affection that He shows towards us initially is a little like fondling a newly-arrived child. Soon enough, He puts us through the washing process and churns us until no dross remains. He is the dispeller of all false illusions, and as Swami told, His object is to help us 'cut the I-feeling clean across and nail the ego up on the cross, so that we can be endowed with eternity and realize our Divinity'.

To nail the ego up on the cross is really just a way of speaking; when we look for it in earnest to nail it up, we discover it never existed in the first place. It is a noisy ghost, a shadowy image, that disappears as soon as we turn our torchlight on it. There never was a separate self except in the imagination of our mind. But as long as it seems to exist it makes us miserable through feelings of separation. There is a lovely story that shows a way to return to one's native state of unity consciousness.


The Inward Journey

This story relates to Lord Shiva and Parvarti. As we know, Shiva roams freely about the Universe, never feeling separate from it. But often on these sojourns He would leave Parvarti behind on Kailas mountain. Once she confessed to the great Lord that she gets lonely when He's gone and misses Him very much. Shiva said to her, "My dear, let me take you on a special journey inside yourself. Here you'll be able to discover the means by which you will never feel lonely or feel any separation again. From then on you will be forever united with Me. But in this process, your individual nature may be entirely lost. Are you willing to undertake this journey?" "O yes, my Lord", she answered, "I am ready to go wherever You will take me. I am completely Yours. Please guide me as You see fit."

"Alright, my dear, this is what you do. Sit in asana and make yourself comfortable. Make sure your seat is level and smooth, that you are neither too warm nor too cold, that all your bodily needs and your various duties have been attended to, and that there is nothing to disturb you. Let yourself be at peace with the world, setting all thoughts aside and quietly remain with yourself. Now, slowly let your eyes close; go deeper and deeper within yourself. Whenever you become aware of any experience, kindly tell me what you feel. Just report whatever is coming into your awareness. Take your time and be at ease. Whatever may happen will surely unfold on its own, in due course.

She sat quietly, breathing slowly, completely contented within herself. After a while she spoke, "My Lord, I'm aware of all the parts of my body letting go of every strain. A wave of relaxation is flowing over me, giving me a wonderful feeling of peacefulness. I'm very happy sitting here so contentedly with You, my dear Lord, at my side. My whole being is at rest."

Shiva waited for some time as her mind sank inwards, deeper and deeper into herself. After some time had elapsed, and she had reached a new level of awareness, Shiva asked her, "Dear One, what do you feel now?" She said, "My Lord, I'm aware of the cool breath coming in and the warm breath going out. It feels like the pure, fresh mountain air of all the higher regions is coming into my body and coursing through my whole being, bringing life and vitality to every part. Everywhere there is a fine, shimmering energy and an awakening to life... a tossing aside of all lethargy. Yet, I feel wonderfully relaxed and peaceful. The breath comes in and the breath goes out... it is all so perfect. O, I am very happy."

Again Shiva waited as she delved more deeply inside herself and settled even further into her innermost being. After a long time, He softly asked her, "Dear, what are you aware of now?" She took considerable time before she could answer, and then she said, "My Lord, now an indescribable peacefulness is settling over me. In my mind's eye there is only the one. steady, beautiful image of You, my Lord. It is most pleasing to see Your sweet form. With Your soft, doe-like eyes You are looking at me with so much tenderness and caring. Your expression is so very loving. It fills my heart and brings tears of joy to my eyes. O, I am most happy to see You thus, my Lord."

He allowed her to dwell in that joyful state for a very long time, but He knew that she would transcend even this and go deeper still. And so, after much time had elapsed, He said to her, "My dearest One, what are you experiencing now?" And even as He spoke, she found herself entering another, even finer dimension of awareness, and she said quietly, "My Lord, Your lovely form is now dissolving. It is turning into a brilliant light, radiant and bright, and yet soft and comforting. What a marvellous light it is, effulgent beyond compare. It bathes all of space with its golden sheen, filling every corner with its luminescence. It seems to come from everywhere, splendrous and warm, dazzling and lovely. It saturates every part of my being with its glow. Everything is light... golden, wondrous light. O, I am very, very happy, my Lord."

The great Lord sat beside her and joined in her experience, basking in the warm glow of that golden radiance. But He knew that she would go further still. When that time had come, and she was entering the last stage of her journey, He softly spoke to her yet once again, "My sweet One, what are you aware of now?" It seemed it took forever for her to answer, but then finally her voice stirred as if coming from a very deep place inside herself, and she said slowly and measurably, "My Lord, the whole universe has become filled with the one pure sound. That wonderful golden light has become transformed into the ringing resonance of the OM. It is pealing like a bell throughout all the worlds. It fills everything with its sacred vibration. So exquisitely fine and pure and clear it is. Everywhere, in all of space and beyond, there is only OM... OM... OM.

Then, when it seemed that this was all there could ever be, the Pranava filling the whole of space, she spoke again, in whispering tones, "And now, my beloved Lord, it is slowly dying down and there remains such a deep and profound Silence. It is the most peaceful calm imaginable. It is beyond all words. The mind cannot reach to describe it. It is Ananda itself." Then her voice faded out and she fell silent. She too had gone beyond.

Shiva saw a beautiful, beatific smile fill her face. She looked like the Madonna, a warm glow of serenity emanating from her whole being. But then once more a sound emerged from her. It came from the deepest recesses of her heart and He heard her say, "... I AM... I... " And then there was nothing more. Shiva was very pleased. He got up to make preparations for His own journey. Before He left, He came very close to her one more time, and whispered in her ear, "My sweet love, I go now. Let me take leave of you." He waited but there was no response. "Parvarti, my beloved, I go." She didn't stir.

For her there was no longer any Shiva or Parvarti, any going or coming, any parting or reunion. There was only that unfathomable silence, that ineffable peace. She was united at last with her Lord. She was one with her immortal Self. When Shiva returned from roaming the worlds He found her still sitting there with the same beatific smile on her face and the same radiant glow surrounding her form. He touched her most gently and lovingly. She opened her eyes and seeing Him, her beloved Lord, her heart filled with the sweetest feelings of love and thankfulness. She knew her journey was over; she was now complete. She would never be lonely again. And so, they lived happily ever after.


Sheaths Within Sheaths

Swami tells us that it is only in the depths of silence that the voice of God can be heard. There is another story that speaks of this profound silence that is the Divinity. Rama, Sita and Lakshmana, while in the forest, came into an Ashram where there were many rishis and their wives assembled. Rama and Lakshmana joined the men, Sita sat with the ladies. As all the men were sanyasins, they all looked pretty much the same. Even Rama and Lakshmana wore the same simple bark dress as these forest dwellers, and they had their hair in matted locks, as did most of the men there. Sita was of a royal family, brought up in a secluded atmosphere; she was the very embodiment of modesty and morality. In the presence of these sages, Sita bowed her head in humility and did not look up.

One of the rishis' wives asked Sita, "Did you come alone or with your husband?" Sita indicated that her husband was there and that he was seated among the sanyasins; then she remained silent. When Sita gave no further information, the lady asked her, "Is that one with the knot of hair on his head your husband?" Sita only moved her head a little from side to side to intimate that, no, that was not her husband. "Then is it the one with the long beard?" Again Sita discretely motioned her head to indicate a negative answer. "Is it the one with the long whiskers?" Again a negative movement of the head. "Is it the one with the long nails?" One by one, she was saying 'no' with a little movement of her head. When finally the question clearly pointed to Rama, the splendorous one with the bow and the blue skin, Sita remained motionless and silent. Paramatma can be known only in silence.

We are born as human beings. Are we the body? Are we the life-force? Are we the mind? Are we the intelligence? Swami reminds us of the Vedantic answer, 'Not this, not this, not this.' When every question, one after the other, has been answered like this in the negative, then at the end one last question alone remains, 'Are we the Atma?' Then there will be no answer, only the silent recognition of the great truth. So, the meaning of Sita's response, Swami says, is to reveal the True Self; and when that Atmic Truth was pointed out she confirmed it by answering 'yes' through her silence.

Swami often speaks of the five sheaths, each of which is successively more subtle, fitting one within the other:

     First, there is the Annamaya or food sheath, the most outward sheath, which makes up the grossest aspect of the being and relates to the physical body.

     Secondly, there is the Pranamaya or vital sheath, sometimes also called the astral body, which accounts for the coursing of the life energy and makes up the densest part of the subtle body of the being.

     Thirdly, there is the Manomaya or mental sheath which is associated with the projecting power of the mind, and is also included in the subtle body of the being.

     Fourthly, there is the Vignanamaya or the intellectual sheath, associated with the Buddhi, the intuitive and deliberating faculty, and which makes up the finest aspect of the subtle body.

     Fifthly, there is the Anandamaya or bliss sheath, the most subtle aspect of being, which makes up the causal body and is associated with the veiling power of the mind.


The gross, the subtle and the causal bodies, made up of these five sheaths, are each associated with one of the three states of consciousness, the waking, the dream and the deep sleep states. They also correspond to each of the three letters making up the AUM, the primal sound, out of which the mind has projected the universe. All these sheaths within sheaths, make up the Upadhis, the limiting physical and mental equipment of the individual soul, the Jiva. They also make up the physical and subtle aspects of the world. They are the stuff of Maya, the illusory fabrications of the illusory mind. Beyond all these is the basis for all these; that is what is called the fourth, the Turiya, and what is also called the Mahakarana, the primal cause. It is the Atmic Principle which is the one true reality... the one unchanging existence on which all these illusory projections come and go.

The five sheaths making up the three states of experience, the five gross and subtle elements, the five senses of perception, the three gunas, and the various aspects of mind, are all different ways of speaking of Maya, and different ways of accounting for the grand illusion of names and forms that make up the multitude of beings and things in the world. Maya is another name for mind, which in turn is born of ignorance. Vedanta teaches us that ignorance is the grand delusion that gives rise to the grand illusion of world. All the names and forms making up this illusion of world, play on their basis, the infinite ocean of Sat-chit-ananda, just like the ever-changing waves and bubbles play on the surface of the deep unchanging sea.

The story of Shiva and Parvarti, as also the wonderful story of the enlightenment of Brighu, which is given in the Taittariya Upanishad, illustrate the successive removal of these sheaths, one overlaying the other, as soon as the spiritual aspirant is ready for the highest wisdom. The presence of the guru catalyzes this process of penetrating deeper and deeper through one's levels of illusion, until one reaches the very source, the unchanging truth of the Self. In the story given, the clear, pure breath was associated with the vital plane, the beautiful image of the Lord was associated with the purified mental plane, the splendorous light was associated with the effulgent Sun of the Gayatri, which wakes up the intuitive intellect, and is related to the plane of Buddhi, and the OM, the pure sound of creation was associated with the causal plane. Beyond all these is the silence of reality, the eternal Divine Principle, the Immortal Self.

When the sishya, the student, is ready for the final beatitude, the guru instructs him to search out That which, when known, all else will be known... That, by which all is seen but which itself can never be seen... That, by which all is heard but which itself can never be heard... That, out of which everything arises, in which everything exists, and into which everything again dissolves. As he discovers for himself these layers within layers, the guru urges him to go on, not to remain stuck in any place, but to go deeper and deeper.

When all the sheaths are stripped away the answer reveals itself in the silence of reality. The guru doesn't instruct on what truth is; he points out what is not truth, and goads the sishya on. If the sishya bogs down at some level and strays away, the guru will seek him out to keep him moving on the path, until he reaches the highest wisdom..


Catch the World and It Catches You

There is a story told by Ramana Maharshi that beautifully illustrates the point of how the guru will not abandon the sishya, even after the sishya has abandoned the guru. There was a spiritual preceptor who had a very apt student who took to meditation and was about to reach the highest levels of unity-consciousness, when he decided to return to his native place and follow the path of ritual worship. Periodically the guru would inquire about the welfare of his student and would get various reports of the Tapas he had done, the various Yagnas he had performed and other rituals he was engaged in. The guru decided to go there himself and see how far his sishya was progressing on the spiritual path.

He dressed himself as a poor, simple peasant and went to the student's native place. He arrived there during a major festival, just when the king with his army and all their regalia were moving in procession along the main road. The populace was lined up along both sides of the road and were in a joyful and festive mood. Among them the guru spotted his sishya, who also seemed very much to be enjoying the parade. The old man in his simple peasant clothes made his way over to where the sishya was standing. He asked innocently, "Tell me, what is going on?" The sishya said, "Can't you see, the king is coming in procession."

"The king?", asked the old mendicant, "Which one is the king?" "The king is the one sitting on the royal elephant. See over there?", replied the sishya. "The king and the elephant?", repeated the old man incredulously, "But which is the king and which is the elephant?" "What kind of simpleton are you? You mean to say that there can still be a person in the world who is so dumb that he doesn't even know that the king is the one above, and he is riding on the elephant who is below?", shouted the sishya at him. The old man replied, "The king is above and the elephant is below? Please excuse an old man who doesn't understand much. But what is meant by 'above' and 'below'?"

"What's the use of talking to a stupid person like you.", the sishya said impatiently. "Here, I'll show you directly so you won't ever forget. Bend over!" When the old bent his back, the sishya climbed up on him, then hitting him on the rump he said, "Now do you get it? I am above, I am the king! And you are below, you are the elephant!" "Ah!", said the old man, "The king above and the elephant below... that's all very clear now. But there is still a difficulty. Some other words are not understood. Pray, what is the meaning of 'I' and 'you'?"

Suddenly the sishya realized his error and fell at the feet of his old guru, and asked for forgiveness, and pleaded to be rescued from the low state he had gotten himself into. As the guru had demonstrated to him, his whole outlook had become narrowed to one of classifying and separating and seeing only differences. His worship also was completely steeped in dualism and, as a result, his character had degenerated.

Swami reminds us that the body is inert. How can an inert thing worship anything? The mind is like the moon; it functions only by borrowed light. And with its narrow vision, it cares only about its individual self. Of what use is worship performed by the selfish mind? For Atma to worship another Atma is absurd. Therefore, all these activities steeped in dualism, Swami says, are the result of ignorance. They are all just the imaginative fabrications created by the mind. During the early stages, if these rituals are expanded beyond the narrow compass of praying for the personal self to praying for the welfare of the whole world, then they will help to clarify the mind and move the aspirant to the higher levels. But at the later stages, all differences of 'I' and 'thou', 'he' and 'we', are inadmissible. A mind which creates separation and admits to differences cannot love. Only a pure heart can love, and it does so by resting in itself, for the heart is love itself. We can only be who we really are. In that beingness the mind is absent, and we are who we are, pure eternal love.

When God comes as guru, out of His great compassion, He uses every means to free the aspirant from his own self-imposed shackles. He will not rest until all false boundaries are dissolved and all separateness is destroyed. Swami tells a story of Indra, the Lord of the Celestials.

One time, as the result of a curse pronounced on him by a Rishi, Indra was forced to be born on the Earth as a pig. Having come into birth he totally forgot his divine nature. He lived the life of a pig. He found himself a wife and soon he had a nice pig family; they spent their days wallowing in the dirt and foraging for garbage and refuse. Sage Narada happened to be coming by that way and recognized Indra in the form of the pig. He said to him, "O Indra, look at the low state you have gotten yourself into. But don't worry, I will use all the power of my accumulated penance to free you from this terrible existence."

Indra, as the pig, replied to Narada, "Narada, please go on your way and don't interfere with my life. I'm very happy here with my wife and children, and don't need any rescuing from you. Please leave me be and go about your business." But Narada commanded Indra's own thunderbolt to come and split the pig in two, thereby releasing a much-relieved Indra from his own self-willed delusion and prison. That, Swami says, is the state of man today. He prefers to wallow in the dirt of Samsara rather than rise to the high levels of his own noble nature. Then the Lord must come and shatter  body-consciousness, in order to permit the divinity hidden within to reveal itself.

We think we can take the world or leave it. We think we can play in the world for some time and then always let go of it when we want to. But once we catch hold of it, it catches hold of us. Some young men were prevented from crossing a river and returning to their homes because the river was in spate. It was winter time and they were cold, and so they huddled together on the bank. Just then they spotted a nice big fur rug floating down the river. The most adventurous among them waded out into the water to retrieve the rug.

His friends saw that he had gotten hold of it, but then he couldn't seem to make it back to the bank with the rug. Since he was getting deeper and deeper out into the river they shouted to him to let the rug go and come back. He replied, "I'm trying to let go. But it won't let go of me!" He had gotten hold of a bear, and now the bear had him. That, Swami says, is how it is in the world. First you possess the objects but then the objects possess you; first you enjoy them, but then they enjoy you. Very quickly you lose all your strength and you become completely lost. Then only God's Grace can save you.


The Three Zeroes

Let us again remind ourselves where this world of objects and individual selves has come from. Swami affirms, that all this is the result of ignorance. The whole world has been projected most convincingly by the impure mind; and once it has been projected, it is believed in ever so firmly by the same mind. But, this projected world can have no existence whatsoever separate from the pure consciousness which is its basis, just as the snake can have no existence independent of the rope. It is ignorance that makes us think otherwise. To set aside this veil of ignorance that covers us, woven by the machinations of the mind, God comes as guru to help us rent the veil and reveal our truth.

'How do you convince a lion who has been brought up among sheep and who has learned to baaa like a sheep that he is a lion?', a sage in an ancient story asks. The answer given is, 'Another lion must come and pick him up by the scruff of his neck and drag him to the pond, so that he can see his reflection in the water to be no different from the one who drug him there.' Then he realizes that he's a lion and not a sheep, and he rediscovers his lion's roar. And the one who drug him to the pond turns out to be not his destroyer, but his benefactor, destroying only his self-delusion.

Swami said, "For many years it is sweetness, kindness and soft persuasion, but afterwards it is different. I drag you, place you on the table and operate. It is My love that prompts Me to save you, to open your eyes, before you get deeper into the morass." Another time, Swami spoke of the highest Grace He bestows. He said, "I lay before you the three zeroes. First I cut you off from your kith and kin. Then I deprive you of the basic necessities of life, food, clothing and shelter. Then I strip you of your most cherished possession, your reputation. If you can withstand these and remain steady in your faith, turning to Me and crying out only for Me, then I will bless you with the greatest of all gifts, Myself."

But first, He says, it is all sweetness and soft-persuasion. He doesn't destroy our illusions all at once. He doesn't turn on the torch until we have eyes to see and are ready to handle the impact of His Truth. As long we think that we are limited individuals and that we are the doers of all our actions... that we have free will to choose our course through life... then we will be led to believe that we must exercise the free choice we have to turn towards God. Baba speaks often of the effort required by aspirants to move towards God. Even as He prompts us from within, He urges us from without to make the proper choice. "Come onto my train!" He says, "Come, take the baggage off your head and put it down. I will carry you and your baggage." That is our apparent free will. That is the first step we must choose to make... "Come onto my train!"... then He will take care of the rest.

To turn our desires towards God necessarily means turning our desires away from the things of the world. The two cannot coexist together; the one precludes the other. In the Ramayana there is an episode of Hanuman fighting the Rakshasas in the Ashoka garden, after he left Sita. The Rakshasas sent army after army to subdue him, but every force that came up against him was vanquished and scattered by Hanuman. Finally, Ravana sent his eldest son, Indrajit, into battle to kill or capture Hanuman. Through his penance, Indrajit had won a number of divine weapons; now, he launched the most powerful of them, the Brahmastra at Hanuman. When Hanuman saw the divine missile coming he prostrated before it and did nothing to counteract it. The Brahmastra would not harm Hanuman, a great devotee of God, but it incapacitated him and tied him up.

The divine missile was not visible to demon eyes. Therefore, the Rakshasas were surprised to see their enemy lying there on the ground, very much alive but seemingly unable to fight. They got some ropes to tie Hanuman up. As soon as the ropes touched Hanuman the Brahmastra departed. In the presence of the lower energy the higher withdraws. And since ordinary ropes could not hold Hanuman, he eventually freed himself and burned down Lanka. The point of the story is that when the worldy aspect comes in, the divine aspect disappears from view. If we believe we have the power to choose, then we must choose one or the other. We cannot have it both ways.

But, in truth, as we shall see, there is no freedom of choice at all. For us to turn towards God can only happen when God wills it so. It is all a natural ripening process. The first major stage is the devotee saying, "Lord, I am Thine." That is the stage of dualism; the devotee becomes the messenger or instrument of God and waits in the outer court. In the next stage God says, "Dear one, you are Mine." Now, the devotee is the son of God; the prince, and sits at the Lord's Feet. Finally, it is, "You and I are One." That is the truth of Advaita, complete non-dualism. In this stage, all sense of individuality and ego and differences have come to an end. Only the Bliss Self remains.


God's Wonderful Love

Swami has said that when the devotee loves God it still comes from the place of ego and selfishness. The devotee loves God for himself, but God's love for the devotee is completely selfless and wholly for the sake of the devotee. Therefore, it is not enough to love God, we must know that God loves us. God loves those who eschew all selfishness, and pray and work for the good of the whole world.

Swami has quoted the 18th Century English poem, Abou Ben Adam, in which an angel of God came to visit Abou, and sitting at Abou's desk, wrote in a golden book the names of those who loved the Lord. 'And is my name there?', asked Abou. 'Nay, not so.', replied the angel. Abou said, 'I ask you then, write me as one who loves his fellow men.' The angel came back the next night and showed the names of those whom the love of God had blessed, and Abou's name led all the rest. Be they theists or atheists, Swami says, God loves those who love and serve their fellow men and fellow creatures. In the Gita, also, the Lord says show no hatred towards any being, be friendly and compassionate to all, and you will be very dear to Me.

God's love extends into every nook of the creation. Swami says that everything done by God is impelled only by love. Swami tells a story of a young man who had just finished engineering school. He was a first rank student but he had developed a bit of ego. He was sure that he understood everything in the world. Right after school he found a good position, and one day he was sent to a small village to perform a survey. He happened to arrive there during the heat of the day and since he had been journeying all morning, he thought it best to take a little lunch and a little rest before going about his business. He saw a beautiful, big banyan tree and sat down under it, and proceeded to have his lunch.

While he was eating he looked around and noticed that this huge tree had some seed pods hanging from it. They were little things which could just barely be seen between the leaves. A few had fallen on the ground, and he opened one and saw the tiny little seeds inside, hardly visible to the naked eye. Then, looking around some more, his gaze fell on a farmer's field, nearby. And there, at the edge of the field was a creeper growing along the ground. Growing from that creeper and resting on the ground were a number of big pumpkins.

The young engineer shook his head back and forth and said to himself, "God is a very poor engineer. He has no sense of proportion. Look at this little creeper which can hardly support itself, yet it has these large pumpkins growing from it, and here is this huge tree with only these tiny little seeds. These big pumpkins should be hanging from this huge tree and the little seed pods should be hanging from the vine." Having thus passed judgment on God's creation, he decided to take a little nap.

While he was asleep, a wind storm came up and many of the little seedpods from the tree were shaken loose and fell down on him. When he got up he found himself covered with these pods. Although quite a few had fallen on him, they had not even awakened him. Then he thought again about his previous conclusions. What if pumpkins had been hanging from that tree? Where would he be now? Then he realized that in designing that tree, God had something else in mind then his kind of engineering; God surely knows that a big tree like that would make a very fine shade tree and people would come to take rest under it.

God is all love, and out of His love He will certainly see to it that no one taking shelter under that tree would come to harm from anything that might fall down from the tree. Swami said that whatever God decides is always for the good of mankind. We must have a broad mind and realize God's love in everything we see. For that is our own true nature too. Just as we see in the example of Swami, who wants nothing for Himself, and is constantly working for the good of mankind, these bodies that we have taken on, are also only for the sake of serving others. When that becomes our life, then we will know God's love. Swami often says, "Bliss is My food." It is our bliss, our joy, that is His food. Our happiness is His happiness. That is the example we must live. It comes from seeing all as God, loving all as God, constantly thinking only of God.

I once had the chance to ask Swami about God's Love. I said to Him, "Swamiji, you once said that more important than our loving God is having the positive assurance that God loves us. What can we do moment-to-moment to draw down onto us this sweet love of God?" Swami said, "It is very simple. All you need to do is to repeat the Name of God with love. God is pure Love. When you look to God in your heart, He looks to you, and showers you with His Love." "But Swami," I said, "If the most important thing we can ever hope to gain in our lives is the unbroken Love of God, and it is as simple as constantly repeating the Name of God, then why don't we do that all the time? Why do we forget?" And Swami answered, "It is all a matter of Grace. To remember the Holy Name is also God's Grace."

So, even in the simple practice of remembering the Name of God, which we know to be most efficacious for spiritual progress, we seem unable to keep up the practice without some special Grace from God. From the higher point of view, when we remember the sacred Name, it is the Divinity remembering Itself, loving Itself, enjoying Itself; but from the human point of view, it is a gift bestowed, a blessing given, an opportunity awarded to evoke God's Love and earn His Grace.


The Illusion of Choice

The Vedanta teaches that all activities of men from the beginning of time have been guided by Niyati, the law of cosmic evolution. Man's fate is inextricably controlled by Niyati; even the gods cannot free themselves from it. If one were to reason that he might as well remain idle since everything has already been ordained by Niyati, then even this attitude is pre-determined by Niyati. Sage Vashishta said to Rama, "A wise man never shuns self-exertion, but at the same time he remains ever aware of Niyati, knowing that even the activities which appear in the guise of self-exertion, are themselves under the control of Niyati.

Swami has said that he makes not a single movement and says not a single word, but that it has already been pre-determined and has a function in the mission for which He has come. So it must also be with us. In the face of that, how do we carry on our work? Swami has given a formula for doing one's work in the world. It is to always do one's duty sincerely, doing everything with full concentration and full commitment, to the very limits of the human capacity for excellence, but, at the same time, being totally impersonal, remaining unattached to the work and completely indifferent to the results. One offers everything to the Lord, feels that one is doing the Lord's work, and leaves the results to Him. In the Gita He said, "Arjuna! Do your duty! Think of Me and fight!" When we play that part and play it well, we have become a fit instrument in His hand


A few years ago at Christmas time, Swami came backstage at the Poornachandra Auditorium. The Western children were there dressed up as Shiva, Parvarti, Brahma, Vishnu, Lakshmi, Hamsa, Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Shirdi, Gabriel and other angels, all getting ready to put on their Sarva-dharma Christmas play. Swami showered His incomparable love and blessings on all the children, and then He called one of us over and asked, "Are you the director of this play?" "Swamiji," the devotee answered, "You are the director. I'm only the assistant." "No! That is not right!" Swami replied, "The director has no assistant! You can call yourself an instrument."

Swami has called this phase Daasoham, when we are servants or instruments or messengers, doing the work and bidding of the Lord. As previously mentioned, this is a stage in the cosmic drama, the first major stage. Swami will not allow us to remain in that stage forever, because it is still filled with ego and duality. It speaks of choice. We choose to be servants. We are proud to be devotees and followers. It is merely a mind thing, creating separation between the worshipped and the worshipper, and choosing to identify with the latter. We like to be children being loved and fondled by our mother-father-God. But we must grow up into our manhood, our lionhood, and drop the Daa, which connotes the servant role. The lion's roar is 'Soham!'... 'Shivoham!'... 'I am He!'... 'I am Shiva!'... 'I am everything!'... 'I am God!' How can worshipper and worshipped ever be separate? The Divine Principle is one and impartible. 'Tat Tvam Asi - That thou art, Svetaketu', the sage told his young student in the Upanishad, and 'That thou art', Swami announces to us. 'You are no different from God. You are the Infinite Supreme, the One Reality. Sorrow and fear can never touch you, for you are the very embodiment of eternal love and bliss.'

In holy places like Rishikesh or Hardwar or Benares one finds worshippers standing waist-deep in the Ganges, picking up some water in the cup of their hands, and then pronouncing some incantations, emptying their hands and offering the water back to the Ganges. For a brief moment there was the seeming separation of the Ganges from the Ganges; but then, Ganges returned to Ganges, and merged again into itself. It was just a momentary play of time. Even, were the water kept in the hand until it evaporated, in time, the vapor would have joined a cloud, rained down, coursed over hills and dales, perhaps evaporated again and again coming down here and there, but eventually it would have rejoined the Ganges and returned to itself.

The apparent separation of the individual from its source is all just a flick in time. It is but a momentary illusion created by the mind. At once the mind veils the truth and projects the illusion of the world. It plays with the three Gunas, the various temperaments, and the whole phantasmagoria of worldly activities follows from that. Swami says that all of life is nothing but the play of the mind, which, through the Gunas, pulls the strings of the puppet dolls and makes them dance; when we realize this, and are ever aware in our thoughts, in our words and in our deeds of the ongoing play, then we are established in wisdom. Everything else, Swami says, is sheer ignorance. In this is there any individual choice? In truth, there is neither individual nor choice.


Detaching from the World, Attaching to God

So long as we, in our delusion, believe that we have choice, then the Divinity makes itself known to us when the time is propitious, and encourages us to free ourselves through our own efforts. The choice we have to make, Swami says, is to give up chasing after shadows and put our sights squarely on attaining the reality. Swami says that our life so far has been like chasing after shadow coconuts. The shadow of the tall coconut tree laden with fruit falls on the ground. We run after those shadow fruits and cross fence and ditch and brambles and stones and field to get there. But even as we reach that place the shadow shifts and we face more difficulties. All our effort goes into pursuing these shadow fruits which cannot give real joy. Swami tells us to learn to climb the tree, instead. We must persist and persist until we get to the top. Then we will have the real coconuts and they will not leave our grasp. What's more, when we look down we see that with our shadow on the ground we have a firm hold of the shadow coconuts as well, and no matter what obstacles the shadow may traverse on the ground we will not be in the least disturbed.

To illustrate this important teaching of letting go attachment to the shadow things and turning our desires towards God, Swami tells another story. This story is of a great king of ancient times who owned a fabulously rich kingdom that encompassed the whole of the then-known world. This king held a grand exhibition to which he invited all the citizens of the realm. Everyone was to come and partake and enjoy, and the citizens were urged to take home with them any objects that they saw in the exhibition that pleased them. It was the king's gracious offer to gift to everyone who came something that their hearts desired.

One beautiful lady came, walked all through the exhibition, but left without taking anything with her. The king sent for her to find out just what it was about the exhibition that she didn't like, because she must have been displeased not to accept something as a gift from the generous monarch. Upon questioning, she softly answered that she very much liked the exhibition, that she thought it was a particularly fine show, and that she admired many things that were there and, in fact, had enjoyed herself very much. But, the king asked, if she had indeed seen many nice things that she liked, then why hadn't she taken at least one thing with her, as was the king's expressed wish? The lady humbly excused herself and said that it was certainly not her intention to displease the king, but she felt that once she had accepted one thing she would soon be wanting something else, and knowing that this desire for more would have no end and would give her no peace of mind, she had elected not to take anything and keep her mind undisturbed.

The king was pleased with her answer, but nevertheless, out of his unbounded kindness, he was most anxious to gift something to her, so he requested her to reconsider and kindly express a wish, some one desire that he could fulfil, because it would would give him much happiness to do so. The lady said, "If I ask for something, will you be sure to grant me my wish?" The king promised to give her whatever she asked for. The beautiful lady said to him, "Then I confess to you that the only thing I really want is YOU, my Lord!" The king was overjoyed to hear this and he made her his queen. And so, she got not only the king, which was what she truly wanted, but, as his queen, she also got the whole exhibition. Everything was now hers. The name of that lady, Swami said, was Detachment.

We all like to receive His gifts, but instead of His gifts we must want Him, the giver, instead of His creation we must want Him, the Creator, instead of what's in His hand we must want to take His hand, hold on to it, and never let go. The moral of the story is that when we detach ourselves from the things of the world and attach ourselves firmly to God, and are accepted by Him, then everything that is of lasting value becomes ours.

One time, when sitting on the Verandah, Swami came by and asked me, "Drucker what do you want?" I had been in a very peaceful place inside and I responded to Swami very naturally, telling Him that I was very content, that I was quite satisfied. Baba looked at me with great surprise and said, "You mean you want nothing?", He asked. I folded my hands over my heart and said, "O Swamiji, I only want You!" Immediately Swami responded by throwing His arms wide apart and said, "That's NOT nothing!! That's EVERYTHING!!... Mukti, Yukti, Santrupti, health, wealth... EVERYTHING!!" After that, He looked  towards the world outside and then pointed to my heart, and added, "Nothing is out there! Everything is here! Everything is here!" That is the choice He wants us to make: First God, then the world, lastly our individual selves. If we make God our first priority all will be given to us, He told us in one of His Christmas Discourses.


We Get What We Ask For

In the Gita, Lord Krishna mentions the four types of devotees that come to Him... the afflicted, the needy, the aspirants for knowledge, and the wise. Swami tells a story which clearly shows which type He particularly favours. The story is about a prosperous man who had four wives. He went abroad on an extensive business trip, leaving the wives at home, in their respective bungalows. As his work was coming to a close, he wrote to each of his wives telling them that he will be coming home soon, and if they would like him to bring them something from abroad, they could write to him, and he would be most happy to bring them back whatever they asked for. The youngest wrote that she would like some beautiful silk saris, some gold jewelry, and various other items of apparel that reflect the latest in fashions.

The next wife wrote that she was not keeping in very good health, and would the husband kindly bring her some good medicines from abroad. The third wife had a strong interest in spiritual teachings so she asked the husband to please bring her some good spiritual books from abroad, that would help her in her Sadhana. The last wife didn't ask for anything for herself. She just sent the husband a sweet message of love and asked that he come home soon, sound and safe. When the husband came home he brought with him a bundle of presents for his wives. Each got exactly what she had asked for.

The youngest got costly clothes and jewelry, the next one got the best medicines from abroad, the third got some very fine spiritual books, and then he went to live with the fourth one. She only wanted him and so she got him. So it is with the Lord and His devotees. Swami says you must be careful what you ask for; the world is like a wish-fulfilling tree and the Lord will give you just what you ask for. He says, instead of asking for the Lord Himself, most of us waste our chances and with it our lives, by asking for meaningless coffee-powder, or the equivalent.

He tells of the weary traveler who rested under a tree during the heat of the day. The traveler said to himself, "Wouldn't it be good if I could just have a nice cool drink?' Immediately the cool drink appeared. He thought, 'Now, if I could only have a nice soft bed and a pillow.' In a flash they also appeared. Then he thought, 'Well, wouldn't it be absolutely perfect if my wife was here with me to enjoy this nice bed?' Immediately she showed up. But now he began to have some doubts, 'What if she's a demon and eats me up?' In a wink she turned into a demon, pounced on him, and ate him up.

He was under a wish-fulfilling tree and he didn't know it. That is the way it is in the world, Swami says. As we think so it turns out to be... every wish eventually comes true. It has been said that when the Lord wants to punish us He gives us what we ask for. If we want the world He will give us that, but then He will withhold Himself. Swami says that, at first, He gives us what we want; but a time will come when we will only want what He wants to give.


Surrendering to His Will

One Christmas Day some years ago, Baba assembled all the Westerners in the Mandir, and after making a number of rings and medallions and giving some personal joy to every individual assembled there, He gave a little talk in which He said, "You see the power of this hand. It can turn dust into gold, it can turn rocks into diamonds, it can turn earth into heaven and heaven into earth. But it cannot turn man's heart to God. That choice has been given to man. If man chooses to turn towards the world then God withdraws and leaves him to fend for himself. But if man chooses God, and makes just one step towards God, God makes ten steps, a hundred steps towards him." Baba was telling us that as long as we identified ourselves with these minds and bodies and believed ourselves possessed of choice, then we must exercise that choice moment-to-moment by turning towards God.

Swami says that we cannot ever hope to please the whole world, but if we turn towards the Lord and just please Him a little, the whole world will be happy and pleased. He tells the story of the Pandavas in the forest being visited by the Sage Durvasa and his ten thousand followers. The Pandavas had a sacred vessel which could feed any number of guests, but when Durvasa came they had already finished their meal and the vessel had been cleaned for the day, and would not again provide food until the morrow. While Durvasa and his followers were at the river taking their bath, Draupadi fervently prayed to the Lord to save the Pandavas from their predicament.

Immediately Lord Krishna came and said, "I was about to sit down for my meal when you called me. Before you make your request please give me some food!" Draupadi was plunged into grief. She said, "Lord, the vessel has already been cleaned. If You put us to further trial, then where else can we turn for help?" But Krishna insisted on having some food and asked for the vessel. He ran His finger around the edge of it and found a little scrap of vegetable. He put it into His mouth and said, "You seem to have had a nice leafy dish for lunch. It tastes very good, indeed. My hunger is now thoroughly appeased. Now please tell Me how I can help you."

In the meantime, down at the river, Durvasa and his followers smacked their bellies and felt completely full; their appetite was satisfied. But then, how would they be able to sit down with the Pandavas for the upcoming meal? Now they were the ones in a quandary. They were full and couldn't take another morsel in. They solved their problem by quietly continuing on across the river and disappearing out of sight. Swami is teaching us with this story that when we turn Godwards, not only will the world be satisfied but it will leave us alone; it will not cause us any undue distress.

What does it mean to turn Godwards? What does Baba mean by 'come onto My train'? Ultimately, it must mean surrendering the claim that we are separate entities... that we are anything other than God. Eventually, we must completely surrender this ego and with it our mistaken ideas about free choice. One time Baba spoke of the three promises given by each of the Avatara of ages gone by. It was then that He mentioned the vows which He Himself has promised to fulfill. He said, "I have come for the sake of all living. I never receive, I know only giving. I will always protect those who are Mine, those who surrender and say, 'Lord, I am Thine!'" In Sanskrit the word for ego is Ahamkara... Aham with akara, or I with form. Surrender means giving up that akara... remaining with the pure I, the Ekam, the One, without any qualifications. That, Swami says, is the true state, the highest state, in which there is neither I-ness nor myness.


Ego, the False 'I'

Swami tells a story about the ego. He says you needn't try to bring God and man together, they are already together naturally. Without God there can be no man and without man there will be no God. But then, why don't we always experience them together? It is because the false 'I' gets in-between. This 'I' is the ego. Ego imposes itself between God and man.

In the story, the marriage is between Atma who is the bridegroom and Jiva or life, who is the bride. The wedding ceremony was to take place in the bride's village, at the house of the bride's father. The bridegroom, that is, the son-in-law-to-be and his party, were put up in a separate bungalow. Soon after they arrived and settled down in their quarters, a very important-looking and boldly-acting person appeared at the bride's house, and began to order that family around, asking for better accommodations for the groom, asking for a better dowry, asking for a greater number of invitations for the wedding, stating various conditions and demands. Since this person appeared shortly after the bridegrooms family had come into the village, the bride's family naturally thought that he represented the bridegroom, and was their spokesman. As the demands went on and on without end, all on the bride's party soon became totally miserable.

But then, this same forceful, self-assured spokesman appeared at the bridegroom's bungalow, and there also began ordering people around, asking for so many things and making so many special demands that they too were soon feeling thoroughly miserable. As a result of the machinations of this character, both parties began to lose the natural joy that accompanies such a happy occasion. Both sides got very disturbed and irritated. They got so unhappy and discouraged, they didn't even want to go ahead with the wedding arrangements.

As this person continued his visits to both parties, making more and more demands, each side began to realize that it was the same person going back and forth between them. In each case they thought he had represented the other side, but now they had some doubts. They finally got together to inquire about this person. The party of the Atma said, "Who is he?" The party of the Jiva said, "Who is he?" As soon as this enquiry was made, the meddlesome trouble-maker vanished from the scene and was not heard from again. He was a complete impostor; he had no credentials at all to be there and no authority to make demands, no less to order anyone around. He was the false 'I', the ego, who comes between Paramatma and Jiva inside our minds.

Even in the spiritual field this ego gets in-between and makes life miserable. For instance, the ego will claim to represent the side of the Atma, the bridegroom, and make such statements as, 'O, You must be perfect before you can talk to me. You must do continuous Sadhana. You must perform daily pujas, morning and evening. You must read all the scriptures. You must fast and go on pilgrimages.' It is all just ego talking, making demands on the one side. But then it will switch over to the other side, the side of Jiva, the bride; and there it will make statements like, 'O, You are my Swami. You must talk to me every day. You must give me an interview. You must tell me my past and future. You must make me a ring. You must take care of my visa. You must whisper a mantra to me and give me liberation.' Like this the dialogue goes on... demands from both sides, made by the same questionable character. When the sun of knowledge shines, he disappears like a passing cloud; then only the pure 'I' remains, which merges into the silent depths of the Universal Absolute, which is our true Reality.


Our Will is His Will

As we progress through the different levels in our spiritual journey and the ego-personality begins to dissolve, one day we find ourselves having made the choice of giving up the notion of choice, itself. It is then that we discover that independent choice is no longer ours; we realize that all is but the will of God. Not a leaf can fall, not an ant can move, not a thought can be thought but the Divinity wills it so. Swami said, "Nothing happens without My will. Be still. Do not want to understand. Do not ask to understand. Be free not only from fear but from hope and expectation. Relinquish the need to understand. Trust completely in my wisdom. I do not make mistakes. Love my uncertainty. It is My intent and will." Truly, there is only His will, because our will is His will.

Baba spoke of the verse in the 18th Chapter of Gita in which Krishna concluded His teaching by telling Arjuna, 'Now I have given you My highest wisdom. Think it over and do as you wish.' It would seem that this is an invitation for Arjuna to make a choice, but Swami explained that by the time Lord Krishna had finished His teaching in the 18th Chapter, Arjuna was fully surrendered and committed to following every direction the Lord gave. He had become a perfect instrument. At that point there was no longer any question of choice or free will. 'Do as you wish', meant, 'Arjuna, whatever you do will be My will. I am acting through you. You need not consult Me about every move. Your wish is My wish.' This is the higher truth we become aware of when the ego subsides in self-surrender, and body consciousness gives way to God-consciousness.

The first step in reaching that awareness is faith... complete faith in the personal protection and guidance given by the Lord, surrendering all sense of doership to Him and turning towards Him in all aspects of our lives. At the end of the 1976 Summer Course at Ooty, Baba materialized a very powerful medallion which had inscribed on it 100 verses describing the whole history of His Avatarhood. There was a great deal of commotion in the room regarding this object, and then Baba said, "Why do you hanker so much after this thing when you already have its creator? You have Me and I have you. Wherever you go there I will be in many manifestations of My form. You are all sacred souls and you all have a role to play in the mission for which this Avatar has come." In that way, step by step, Baba builds up our confidence until that confidence turns into Self-confidence, an unshakeable conviction in ourselves as Self, the Atmic Reality.

We all love to hear stories of the divine lilas of Baba, because we continually seek to reinforce our belief in the patent presence of the Divinity here on Earth. After so many lives and so many dreams in so many illusory bodies, it is still a novelty for us to realize that God is truly here. But, we must move on to the next step. Baba's divinity is a given fact; now we must realize our own divinity. That is His Will for us. We have also come on a divine mission. When asked if He was the Messiah come on Earth to relieve suffering mankind, Baba replied, "No, it isn't like that. Not one Messiah. You are all Messiah. You all have the strength to save yourselves." This is the truth that impels thousands to come to Baba from abroad. It is the Vedantic message that cannot be found in our Western philosophy; it is the fulfillment of all religions.

Once Baba said, "Do not go behind Me! But do not go in front of Me, either! Always go by My side... hand in hand. For you and I are ever One!" Another time He said, "I am not seeking devotees of this form. I appreciate those who are devotees of My teaching." What is that teaching? It is to live a life of pure, selfless love. It is to serve all as He, to see all as He, to know all as He... it means giving up the little self in order to know oneself as the real Self, the One which is the Unity in all the apparent diversity. We follow that teaching when we put on our God glasses.


Everything is God

When we look through God-colored glasses all we will see is God. Body, too, is God, mind is God, all the illusions are nothing but God. Everything we have called not-Self, what up to this point we have considered unreal and different from God, also turns out to be God. Only the unity consciousness prevails. Even body consciousness is one with unity consciousness. Once Swami gave me a new insight into body consciousness. He said, "I will give you a very important job. From now on I put you in charge of Swamiji's body. You are to take care of Swamiji's own body." Then he clarified what He meant by that. He told me, pointing to my body, that instead of thinking of this body as my body, I should think of Swami's body as my body, complete with the shock of hair, the eyes, the nose, the mouth, the birthmark, the large neck and the small frame, the delicate hands, the robe, the holy feet... everything. Daily I was to wash it, clothe it, give it food, give it sleep, and in every way take good care of it, using it only for the highest good and treating it always in a most sacred manner, for I was never to forget that this was a holy body come on a most sacred mission.

With this injunction Swami was teaching a very profound lesson. First of all, we must take the very best care of this vehicle through which we have been given the blessed opportunity to serve others and through which alone we can realize our divinity. The human being, Swami says, is the greatest treasure in the world and to take a human birth is the rarest, most precious gift that can be earned. We should not regard this extremely rare chance lightly and fritter it away. Health is wealth, Swami says. Look after your body, treat it with utmost respect, and use it for the high purpose for which it has incarnated.

At the same time, do not attach yourself to the body and become identified with it. It is the lower which helps us to realize the higher, but we need not especially favour the body we call our body, over any other body. For practical purposes in the world, we carry on our lives as before, but in our hearts we make no hierarchical distinctions; we raise all up to the God level. We spiritualize everything. We consider our body as the Lord's own sacred body. But when we see another body, we consider that also as the Lord's own sacred body. Everything is elevated to the highest plane; ordinary body consciousness based on ego is transformed into God consciousness based on love.

The body may be inert and only a temporary thing we use; it may be nothing more than a clay pot or a water bubble or a rented house; it may be just an instrument and a servant. But, He says, 'While you have this servant, be the servant of the servant... give it your love, take good care of it, treat it in a sacred manner. Not only the body, but treat everything in a sacred manner, for everything is divinity.' Krishna took the role of a charioteer and washed and tended the horses. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. And in this age we have endless examples of Swami serving and showering His love on everyone and everything in a limitless stream; even saris cried for His love. These are all teachings in unity consciousness.

In the earlier stages we considered everything as nothing... as just false illusions. Now we realize that nothing is everything. Nothing can be spoken of, or thought of, which is not God. Superficially there will be variations of name and form, or there may be the complete absence of all name and form, as we believe is true in empty space or in an empty mind or in deep sleep. But the real truth is that nothing is empty; everywhere there is only fullness without distinction or diminution, for everywhere there is only God. 'Out of the full comes the full; what remains is ever full', the Upanishad says. There is no essential difference between the world and God... all is one.

Sri Ramakrishna told the story of a man who went to the dyer to have his cloth dyed. He stood in the shop and watched person after person come in. Each one asked for a different color, but when he looked behind the partition, he noticed that the dyer was dipping each one's cloth into the same vat; yet the cloths came out the color that each person had asked for. When he was asked by the dyer what color he would like, the man answered, "Just dye my cloth the color of the dye that is in your vat."

What would that color be? It would be crystal clear... no color at all; for then it takes on the color of the desire of each person, and reflects that color back to him. Being no color, being nothing, so to speak, it is everything, it is all colors. The whole world is based on this principle of reflection, reaction and resound, Swami says. If you sow neem seeds you will get a neem tree; you will not get a mango tree. But if we let Him plant the garden and sow the seeds, we will get what He wants to give and then we get everything. Why nurture desires in our heart and make distinctions when we know the truth, that beyond all surface appearances, everything is one and the same. Better to accept whatever He wants to give. Gratitude and acceptance of whatever comes are very important virtues for progressing on the spiritual path, Swami said. The best attitude is to constantly say to the Lord, "For all that has been... 'Thanks!' For all that will be... 'Yes!'" Everything is equally precious, for all is His loving gift... all is He... all is the One Self. This is what is meant by seeing with God-colored glasses.

Returning to the original story. There are different levels of understanding to be gleaned from the story of the green glasses. The wealthy man is wealthy because of the good deeds he performed in previous lives. He is suffering because of his uncontrolled desires in the present life. But in a deeper sense, he is suffering because he is being readied to receive the most profound teachings. The Sanyasin, the messenger of God, comes and teaches the man through his own foolishness and suffering, how to get on God's train. In this deeper context, we can see all as God's plan, all as God's Grace. The Lord gives His gifts of suffering and joy, just as we give ourselves sweet dreams and sometimes nightmares, whenever we forget ourselves and drop off into sleep. A nightmare can be a most effective way of waking up. Swami asks us to trust in His wisdom. He never makes mistakes. We must welcome even the suffering He sends as His gift of love to us, to help us wake up from this illusion of ego and world and see everything as God.


Life is a Dream

If our essential nature is Divinity, and we are, and always have been, pure undiminished Ananda, then how is it that we don't know this as our truth? How can there be such a huge disparity between our perception of both the world and the limited beings we think we are, and what Baba is teaching us? Baba gives us the answer. He says, in the same way that the illusion of dream comes about because we fall asleep, the illusion of life comes about because we fall into birth, which is another kind of sleep, a sleep of ignorance. Just as the matter making up our dreams comes out of the thoughts and actions and desires engaging us in a previous state, so also birth and the illusion of life that follows, comes out of the Karma we were engaged in, in previous births.

Swami says that what is important in this illusion of life is not to enjoy but to end in joy… we must end our lives with joy. At death there must be complete immersion in God-consciousness, becoming merged with the Ananda that we truly are. All Karmas must be burnt up in the knowledge of God-realization. Then the bubble of illusion is pricked forever and there is no more birth. But, obviously, we finished the last life without completing our Karma; and it is Karma which has given rise to another birth. Even now we are pregnant with the seed of our next birth growing within us. But why should that birth take place? Swami says, once you have read a newspaper why would you want to read it again? 'One day newspaper, next day waste-paper'. Why not finish this illusion for good? When the Avatar leaves His body He sweeps out tens of thousands with Him. Will we be one of them? To book a seat on that glory trip requires a total shift in consciousness. Swami says, 'Spiritual path is not information but transformation.' The total store of Karma must be burned up. The thinking process and the actions that result from it must be radically transformed.

Why do we perform Karma at all? We engage ourselves in actions because of desire... because we think the world is real... because we think we are limited beings who need things from the world in order to survive, and also, because we think we must protect ourselves from the hostile elements in the world that may do us harm. In other words, it is because of Raga and Dvesha or Kama and Krodha, the duality of attraction and repulsion or desire and hatred, that we feel compelled to act. But why do we believe that we are limited and that our joys are only to be found in the world? Because we are asleep; we are covered by a veil of darkness that hides our truth... we are ignorant of our own unlimited divine essence. In truth we are immortal; we are all knowledge; we are pure Ananda; we are self-shining and self-sufficient; we are all there is and can ever be; we are eternal beingness itself. But we have forgotten all this. Why? Because, Swami says, this is how we play. This is our sport.

One time Swami described Himself as a serene, lonesome child who projects for himself a room full of mirrors, and then entering it, amuses himself by playing with all his reflections, painting a beard and a mustache on one and a Sari on another, bending one mirror lengthwise another sideways, enjoying himself seeing all these seemingly different images of his own form. Another time He said, "I have separated Myself from Myself so that I can love Myself." He is the Self who, through His instrument the mind, plays with Himself... it is the sport of the divine child, fantasizing for Itself a stage which we call the world, and projecting for Itself a bevy of companions, reflections of Itself, to love and play with on that stage.


Eternal Beingness, Eternal Knowledge, Eternal Bliss

The divine play becomes fully enjoyable only when the player forgets that he is playing the part, in other words, when the divine child forgets that he is posing in different forms. This playfulness and forgetfulness is our very nature, our delightful, joyous, divine nature. 'Life is lost in dreaming, being is lost in becoming', Swami tells us. We forget ourselves, we forget the truth of our pure eternal beingness, the Sat, and immediately the world and the personal self come into play, projected by the inexplicable power of the mind. Then we remember ourselves, we remember our truth, and immediately world and personal self disappear, and we are what we have always been, without mind, without illusion, pure consciousness, pure being, pure delight.

Swami is an example of our truth. He is forever unchanging, always happy. One time I had the temerity to ask Swami, "Swamiji, what do you think about during the day?" He answered. "I don't think. When I will, I act!" No thoughts. No Samskaras. No ripening Karma-consequences. No desires bubbling up from hidden Vasanas. He is the master. The body, the senses, the mind and intellect are His servants, doing His bidding. His Sankalpa is to enact the mission for which He has taken birth. The only desire He has, Swami says, is to make us completely desireless. His Will must succeed. He once told us that there is no power on Earth or in all the worlds that can delay His mission by even one second.

For us to become totally desireless is to become like to have a heart that is totally pure and crystal clear. He says, "When I'm with men, I am a man, when I'm with women, I'm a woman, when I'm with children, I'm a child, when I'm with Myself, I am God."  He is immortal, He plays in the body, He enters it and leaves it at will, unaffected by the play of the gunas; He is the master of all phenomena. And that is our true nature as well. Our roles in the world are different, the illusion takes many forms, but our truth is the same... we are immortal, we are forever happy, we are the knowers of all illusions. Everyone feels this in the very depths of their hearts; no one is satisfied identifying themselves with this narrow existence, being limited by this mortal frame, with its pains and sufferings and ephemeral joys.

How do we know that this is really true? What is the proof that convinces us that we are immortal, that in truth, we are eternally pure Ananda? We have two major clues that point to this realization. One indirect clue is the universal attitude we find in all ages and among all people concerning the three banes of mortal existence... death, ignorance and misery. And one direct clue is the daily experience we have of forgetting ourselves and subsequently again remembering ourselves; in-between we witness the appearance and disappearance of illusory world of our own creation, in which we go through experiences of joy and pain, not unlike the experiences we have in this world. Let us take each of these clues up, in turn.

In the Mahabharata, Yudhishtra, when asked what was the most wonderful thing in the world, replied that every day men see other men dying but no one truly believes that he himself will die. Death is natural to life, yet we refuse to admit it. Everyone wants to continue living; even someone who knows that he is about to die wants to live just a little longer. But no matter how much we insist on our immortality, death keeps its appointment. The date is already stamped on our foreheads, Swami says. What is more ludicrous than the dying, the almost dead, mourning the dead? As long as we think of ourselves as having been born, then we must  think of ourselves as the dying; yet, we prefer to think of ourselves only as the living. But death is a sure thing for one who is born, so it is only when we are sure that we were never born, can we be sure that we will never die. This is the immortality paradox, the first great paradox.

The second paradox is the knowledge paradox. Every human being seeks knowledge and shuns being called ignorant; there is always a premium on gaining new information. The designation given to the human race is homo sapien, the knowledgeable man. Swami says that even death is better than the blindness of ignorance. If we have not dispelled our ignorance and realized who we truly are, our whole life has been a waste. Swami says that the very word 'man' stands for (m)aya removed, (a)tma realized, and (n)irvana achieved. He also tells us that the three Sanskrit letters, ma, na, va, which make up the Sanskrit word for man, stand for the one who conducts himself without ignorance... one who is not new but is an old soul that has been through countless births. And so, innately, we are all tired of this constant round of eating, sleeping, dying and being reborn, and we yearn to gain the knowledge that will free us from the darkness of ignorance forever. But this search for the liberating knowledge is a futile search. It is also a paradox.

The third paradox is that every human being wants to be unfettered and ever happy. No one wants to suffer, no one wants to have his freedom curtailed. Swami says that we are all looking for the charmed shirt, which when worn, will confer on us lasting joy; but it is something we can never find in the world. He tells the story of a very wealthy man who has been able to get any thing in the world that he wants. Yet, he finds that his heart is dry; there is never any abiding joy there. More and more he feels this pinching emptiness and, finally, he goes to a guru and asks him where he can find lasting happiness. The guru tells him to launch a search all over the earth for the world's happiest man; and when he finds him to put on his shirt for a day. Then he will be permanently happy.

The rich man went all over the world and found a number of happy people. But when he asked each one if they were the happiest of all, each felt that surely there was someone else somewheres, who was even happier than they. And so the rich man continued his search and eventually found himself back at the gate of his own palatial mansion, without having found the happiest man in the world. As he entered his estate he heard a loud, happy laughter coming from the grove. There he found a sweet-looking, joyful old man laughing to himself, who seemed to be genuinely happy. The rich man asked him if he was always so happy, and the man said, oh yes, he was ever happy. Then the rich man asked him if he thought he was the happiest man in the world, and the old man replied, yes, he surely must be the happiest man in the whole world. The rich man then explained to him what the guru had said, and asked the happy old man if he would let him wear his shirt for a day. The man answered, "But, I don't own a shirt!"

Swami says the richest man, who is also the happiest man in the world, is the one who has no desires. Yet, we all seem to have these three desires, not to die, to know everything, and to be ever happy. They are universally sought after in the human condition, but, no matter how hard we try we cannot reach them. They are illegitimate pursuits, impossible goals, that can never be achieved. Why? Because we are there already. We already are them. We are trying to gain a thing, unaware that we already have it. If a cloth that is naturally pure white, becomes filthy and stained, we may try to dye it white, or bleach it white, or paint it white, or go to many other difficulties adding this or that to it, trying to bring it to a state of absolute whiteness; but we won't succeed. On the other hand, if we beat it until all of the filth gets dislodged and everything that is foreign to it lets go of its hold and leaves, in other words, when we thoroughly wash it, then the cloth will shine again in its own pristine whiteness. This is why Swami says, the only way to immortality is the removal of immorality.

All our efforts in life to gain knowledge, to gain happiness, to live forever will be of no avail to us when the inevitable end comes for our mortal frame. But, Swami says, if we cleanse our hearts and remove the thieves who have taken residence there, then in a flash the truth will be revealed. In the brilliant light of that truth we realize that underneath the experiences of worldly life in these bodies, we are, and forever have been, pure existence, that we are knowledge itself, and that we are eternal joy... we are Sat-Chit-Ananda. In the deepest recesses of every human being there is this awareness of his grand reality. We do not need to achieve this immortality, this all-knowingness, this bliss. No one can give this to us. We need only to have a purified heart free from all desire and illusion; then our divine nature will shine on its own, and reveal who we really are. Once the clouds are dispelled, nothing else needs to happen for the Sun to shine forth.


Day Dreams and Night Dreams

Let us examine the other great clue that reveals our truth. Every day we cycle through the waking, dream and deep sleep states. Right now, presumably, we are awake.  Underlying our present experience of wakefulness is the implied statement, 'I'm aware of myself being awake'. It is the basis of every other thought and feeling I may have in this state. But later I seem to get tired and fall asleep. Then I forget myself; that is, I'm no longer aware of my waking self, as I was before. As soon as this transition from being aware of myself to forgetting myself occurs, a whole new world appears of my own creation; a new 'me' also appears in that world, and I go through numerous experiences in that world. Later when I wake up, I call it a dream; but while I am in it, it grips me with its reality and I undergo the pains and pleasures of life in that world.

Looking at it in retrospect, this whole dream world seemed to come in a flash out of nowheres. It is inexplicable. It has its own unique, but totally believable space and time frame, its own laws of physics, its own criteria and reasons for actions, which seem totally self-consistent in that world, although they may appear completely nonsensical to us from the waking point of view. Do all those characters that appear in that world grow up from childhood, do they have parents and grandparents and great-grandparents? Did all the furnishings in that world, the houses and cities, have carpenters and masons and builders to make them? Did that whole world of things and people have an evolution, a historical development, like we believe our waking world had?

To the 'me' in that world, living and experiencing and immersed in it, there is no question at all that it is real and has been around long before I entered the scene. But looking at it from the waking state, there is no sign of any prior evolutionary history at all. All the symbols seem to have been borrowed from another state, usually from the waking state or perhaps from a prior birth or from some sort of pool of collective experiences. The movie starts all at once, seemingly in the middle of the reel, but wherever it starts, immediately  the action is off and running, as if it had been going forever.

To myself in the dream, all the other characters and furnishings of that world are clearly separate from me, but when I wake up and know it only to have been a dream, I realize that all of it, that whole world of people and things and myself, was all made up of exactly the same stuff... it was all just mind stuff... different images projected onto the same screen of the mind. It was all unreal, and unless we feel it contains some special message for us in the waking state, such as happens when Baba appears in our dream, we don't take it too seriously and it soon vanishes like a ghost of the night. From the standpoint of the dream, it is real and the waking state is unreal or doesn't exist. From the standpoint of the waking state, the waking state is real and the dream is unreal. But both are equally unreal, Swami says. One is a day dream, the other is a night dream. They are both the fantastic but believable, creations of the mind. Swami tells a story that illustrates this.

It was evening and King Janaka had spent a long day attending to administrative affairs; now he was relaxing in the chamber of his queen. She was sitting by the foot of the sofa, massaging his feet; some attendants were fanning him and others were standing by to serve his every wish. A sumptuous repast, with many fine delicacies beautifully arranged on crystal and silver platters, had been set out on the table by the sofa. King Janaka dozed off into sleep. A few minutes later he suddenly woke up.

He looked around startled. Here he was in a palace with attendants attired in costly brocades, he was reclining on a silk couch and the queen was sitting by his side rubbing his feet, and here was all this fine food arrayed on the table... totally bewildered by the scene around him, he exclaimed, "Is this real? Or is that real? Is this the truth or is that the truth?" He seemed to have lost his bearings, he could not speak coherently. He kept repeating the same question. The queen became very much worried and sent for the Sage Vashishta to try to find out what was troubling the king.

When the sage spoke to him, the king would give only the same response, "Is this real or is that real? Is this true or is that true?" Then the sage turned his mind inwards and in his yogic vision saw what had happened to the king. As soon as the king had dozed off, he had a dream. There he found himself dazed, bleeding and in tatters, wandering through a jungle. His kingdom had been snatched away from him and he had barely managed to escape with his life. Now he was desperately hungry, and he cried out in pain, "Please somebody come and give me some food!". A gang of dacoits were in a glade nearby sitting down for their meal, when they heard his cry. One of the robbers got a banana leaf and took some food to the starving man. But just then a tiger came and everybody started running for their lives, leaving the food behind.

The tiger ate up all the food, and again Janaka was staggering through the jungle, starving, crying out for food... it was at this point that he woke up. Then he saw the delicious dainties on the table by the sofa and the queen massaging his feet, and he was completely bewildered. "Am I a king in a palace or am I a beggar begging food from robbers? Is this real or is that real?" Sage Vashishta said to him, "Neither that is real nor this is real. One is a waking dream, the other is a sleeping dream. Both are equally unreal. You alone are real. You, the pure unchanging awareness that is witnessing both dreams is real; everything else is unreal."

Day dreams and night dreams are but the musings of the mind, which is itself unreal, the product of ignorance. Sometimes when Swami creates a diamond ring for a devotee, He says, "I'm giving you a die-mind. Mind is always moving here and there. It is just a bundle of thoughts. Thoughts are nothing but desires. Be free of all desires, think only of Atma, and you will no longer be bothered by mind. A still mind is no mind at all. Without mind you will be one with the Paramatma."


Beyond Maya

As has previously been mentioned, mind or Maya, gets in the way between Paramatma and the individual life. Swami tells a story that shows how we should deal with this Maya. He says that at the bungalows of very rich people there will often be a dog staying in the grounds outside. It is not a street dog but a very well-kept and well-trained watchdog. Normally it is quiet, but if anyone comes to the gate it will start barking fiercely. If a person tries to enter without having any business there, the dog will confront him ferociously and threaten to bite him; that is usually enough to make the intruder take to his heels and go away. But if someone has an urgent need to enter and to see the master of the house, he will remain standing at the gate. The dog will continue barking from the other side of the fence and try to chase him away, but the person just keeps waiting patiently at the gate, calling out the master's name.

The combination of the person calling out his name and the persistent barking of the dog, alerts the master of the house and he looks out to see who is at the gate wanting entry. If the person waiting there is a friend, then the master will come down, open the gate, let the friend in, and take him upstairs. Seeing that he is a friend of the master, the dog stops barking and becomes friendly, licking the very hand he was ready to bite a few minutes earlier. That dog, Swami says, is Maya, and the master is the Lord. The friend is the bhakta, the devotee, who must patiently yearn and wait despite all the difficulties presented by Maya, until the Lord comes down, opens the door, and takes him upstairs.

But there is still another way to get inside that never elicits any suspicious behavior from the dog. That is to learn to be so perfectly like the master, speaking, acting and even thinking just like him, that the dog believes that the person coming in through the gate is the master himself. Then the dog will do as he is told, exactly as if the instructions were coming from the true master. That is the Jnani path. It is more difficult and much more dangerous; but it is permanent. To the dog, who cannot distinguish one from the other, both are always the one master, whom he loves and obeys. As far as the individual is concerned, in both cases he gives all his attention to the master, not to the dog. Maya is under the control of the Lord. Once, either through our devotion we come in the good graces of the Lord, or through our wisdom we become like the Lord, Maya will do our bidding.

At any rate, God and His Maya always go together; they are inseparable. Maya means that which is not; it is unreal, it is illusion, and yet it seems so real. God who is real, cannot be easily seen and seems so unreal. The illusion that is Maya emerges out of the very concept of God; and God, the creative principle, takes on meaning only in respect to the illusion of world and limited selves. So the two, God and Maya (illusion), or what is equivalent, Jiva and ignorance (mind), complement each other and define each other. One cannot be conceived of without the other. What is the meaning of knowledge unless there is ignorance? What is the meaning of joy if there is no contrasting pain? Yet, for all these complementary opposites there is a single principle that represents both.

Being used to artificially splitting everything into subject and object, we speak of the seer seeing the objects; here the objects are considered the seen. There is no limit to the number of objects that have been seen, but can they ever be distinguished from the process of seeing? Has anyone ever even seen the seer? No. No one has ever seen the seer because there isn't a separate seer; it is an illusory concept. There is only the process of seeing or, in the general sense, we can say the process of perceiving, or the process of knowing. For these various complementarities such as light and darkness and hot and cold, there is only the one process of perceiving or knowing. It is the same for joy and pain and for knowledge and ignorance; here, also, there is only the one process of knowing. And for God and His Maya, or Jiva and his mind, there is also only this one process of knowing.

Pure perceiving without a separate perceiver and perceived, or what is the same, pure knowing without a separate knower and known, is what is called pure awareness or pure consciousness. It is the one reality. It is the basis onto which all else has become projected and has become bifurcated into complementary opposites. That reality is something beyond the dual concept of God and His Maya or Jiva and mind; in fact, it is something beyond all concepts. It has been called Atma, it has also been called Brahman, and it has been called the Tao and the ONE and the 'I AM'. That reality is us, the real us. And on that screen of pure consciousness that is us, the illusory us and all the worlds and complementary opposites seem to play. And yet, in truth, these also are really us. There is only the One.

But the 'why' question persists. Why do we dream? Swami says it is because we are asleep. Beyond that, it is inexplicable. But we are not satisfied with inexplicables. To satisfy our need for an answer, the Vedanta says that it is for our own sport; that it is the play of the mind. This veiling quality which hides the truth and this projecting quality, which appears to create illusory worlds, is the very nature of the mind. It is the way the Jiva plays with itself, becoming a dreamer, a dream self and a dream world. Then, when it finally tires of the play, it abides in itself, in the ananda of mindlessness. That is the blissful state of Sushupti, deep sleep, where there is no body and no mind. In that way, every day we cycle through a model of the whole cosmic play.

If this whole world is but an illusory projection of the mind, a dream as it were, then what can be accomplished in such a dream? What goals does one pursue in a dream? The only thing that is worth pursuing from the point of view of the dream-character is to wake up, to merge again with the dreamer and terminate the illusion of separateness. What other achievements can last beyond the dream? Can there be any meaning in free-will for the characters in a dream? Can any dream-character even blink its eye without the dreamer willing it so? Can Mickey Mouse move its mouth without Walt Disney, the cartoonist, drawing it so? It is the dreamer who develops the dream-character's love until it expands outward to include the whole dream world, and until it finally transcends even that and merges with the source of love...and then the dream is over.


The Different I's

There is a curious way in which we seem to mix up the different I's which represent the subjects in our waking and dream states. For example, in conversation we have no difficulty in relating this statement to someone: "I want to tell you a dream. I dreamed that I was flying through the air...etc."

    First there is the personal self of the waking state, which is represented by the first 'I' in the statement above. This personal self of the waking state is there to make the statement recounting the remembered dream, but it was totally gone during the dream itself. It returns after awakening from the dream and tells the story of what happened in the dream.

     The second 'I' in the statement speaks of the dreamer, the designer and author of the dream. This dreamer 'I' is not there in the waking state but appears as the artist that dreams up the dream, the one who has the facility for instantly creating the dream. He arises with the dream and again disappears when the dream is finished.

     The third 'I' in the statement is the dream-I, the ego-self of the dream story, to whom the dream is happening. This dream-I which disappears when the dream is finished. is usually not aware that the world in which it is immersed is just a dream. Nor is this dream self aware of the existence of a dreamer who is projecting the whole fantasy. And it is also not aware of the possibility of a transcendent state, into which all three, the dreamer, the dream world and the dream ego, merge when the dream is over.

     The dreamer who is really one withe dream world he created and the dream ego, can be likened to the common conception of God, the world, and the subjective individual who is the experiencer of the dream happenings. All three arise together in the mind when a dream arises and disappear again when the dream ends.

This common human experience of going into unconsciousness at the end of a day, ie., falling asleep, and then dreaming, is a metaphor for the larger cosmic story of the Atma, which seems to be veiled by the darkness of ignorance, and dreams the cosmic dream. It appears to be a separate individual self in a world outside of itself. Things appear to happen to it outside of its direct control, and it turns to pray for relief from an unseen God who it believes to be the creator of itself and the world it perceives. But later, during the great awakening when realization of the truth dawns, all three disappear together, and God, world and individual merge back into the Atma from which they appeared.

So, in our daily experience of waking and dream, we find three apparently different I's, which are the subjects, and two different worlds, the dream world and the waking world, which are the objects. But how can they be different? In our common speech we have no trouble in equating the three I's as one, identifying each with ourselves. And after we wake up we also have no difficulty in equating the dream world with the dreamer and the I of the dream; they all emerged out of the same place, the mind, and are made up of the same mind stuff


What would it be like if the one experienced as the self in the dream, whom we call the dream-ego, knew that in essence he was no different from the dreamer, and that he was also no different from the characters and furnishings of the dream world; in other words, he knew that all three had emerged from the mind at the same moment, as for example, the moment of falling asleep? Once he was established in the full truth, having realized the unity of all these seemingly disparate aspects of being, then, as dream-character he would be privy to the whole play. As dreamer he would be the creator of the play. As dream world with all its characters and objects, he would be the instrumentality in which the play is being enacted. And as waking-self he would be the enjoyer of the play and the Reality on which all is being superimposed as an illusory play. And aware of its coming and going he would realize that it is all illusion and none of it is real.

For such a one there can be no question of liberation. No matter what is conjured up, he is never bound by the dream; he is always free. In the context of this discussion, who are we really? Are we the dream-self, the cartoon character, 'the dummy doll', as Swami spoke of it? Are we the dreamer, the creator, the source of all this? Are we one with this world of dream characters and things? Or are we the transcendent consciousness beyond all notion of dream and world? Surely, we are all these. We are the One in the disguise of the many. We are the One in whom the many appear. We are the One in whom the many disappear. Beyond all qualifiers, we are the One... the One who has no second.


The Wisdom Path

The Gita has given three principal paths that lead, one after the other, to the highest realization. They are the paths of Karma Yoga (service), Bhakti Yoga (devotion) and Jnana Yoga (wisdom). They are not different, Swami says, they are fully interwoven one with the other and cannot be separated. Swami has likened them to a clock. A clock has a second hand, a minute hand and an hour hand. The second hand can be likened to Karma Yoga and the minute hand to Bhakti Yoga. Much service must be done to help others before the second hand can go around one complete revolution and the minute hand can advance one small division; in other words, so much good work must be done before we can feel some genuine stirrings in our heart and are given an initial glimpse of the Divinity.

As our devotion increases and the minute hand advances there will be some beginning movements of the hour hand, which represents Jnana Yoga, or the path of wisdom. It takes the deepest experience of devotion and love to develop the spiritual awareness to transcend the feelings of duality, and gain a vision of the Unity, of the one Atmic Reality. All three paths are interrelated and important, but, Swami points out that when you want to know the time, what really counts, first of all, is the position of the hour hand, and only secondarily that of the minute and second hands.

Ultimately, all paths merge into Jnana, into Advaita, the non-duality which is the unchanging truth. A man with a dual mind is half-blind...  all must undertake the path of inner inquiry, Swami says. It is the only spiritual practice that leads directly to the permanent truth. Swami tells us that ignorance is very deep. It covers our inner truth, and whatever efforts we might make to face this thick ignorance head on and try to combat it, we will not be able to remove it. Swami likens it to the early morning hours when, 'though we may be only 5 feet tall, our shadow will be 50 feet long. If we want to reduce this long shadow, which represents our deep ignorance, we cannot do so by facing it and admonishing it or fighting with it or running over it. But even though the Sun might be quite low on the horizon, if we turn our face towards the Sun, then the shadow will be behind us, and however big it is it will not affect us, for it will remain out of sight.

As we develop our inner inquiry, this Sun of Wisdom rises, and the length of the shadow diminishes automatically. When the Sun is overhead the shadow will have come down to our feet and merged itself in them, disappearing from view. Therefore, Baba tells us to always think of the sun of wisdom, instead of thinking of this duality which is our ignorance. This means always turning our vision towards God; and at the same time, using our intelligence through inner-inquiry to increase our wisdom. Then, wherever we turn, the light of wisdom will shine unimpeded by the clouds or shadows of ignorance. However, Swami warns, if we don't go on increasing our wisdom, but continue in duality, then as with the shadow and the setting sun, our ignorance will go on increasing and we will be lost. Therefore, enquiry, Vicharana, is most important for it destroys the ignorance of body-consciousness which is the cause of all sorrow.

Swami has repeatedly emphasized that whereas Bhajans, Japa, Pujas, meditation are all helpful in purifying the mind, it is only Vicharana, only continuous self-inquiry, that can lead us beyond mind to the Eternal Reality. Swami says there are four gates to the mansion of liberation. One is the extinction of the mind, another is abiding in unshakeable inner-peace, a third is the inner practice of keeping company only with the holy, and the fourth is self-inquiry, vicharana. These gates point the way home. Of these, self-inquiry is most important because it leads to the other three. We must know the truth of this world and ourselves... that both world and self are but the One Divine Principle, playing as the 'I' in the playground of the mind.

Unity Consciousness

In one of His talks, Swami asked  the question: 'Who created all this variety?' And He continued, 'The answer is that there is no variety at all. The question makes no sense. No person or force or urge or accident produced this multiplicity. The truth is that there is no multiplicity! The One always remains as One. Brahman alone is... the One without a second. You mistake It as many. The fault is in you; correct your vision, remove your delusion. Brahman did not change into world; the rope does not change into a snake. Only you mistook it to be a snake. Brahman is Brahman for ever and ever. Your ignorance of this fact makes you see It as world. You are just pestering yourself with creatures and things of your own fancies. The world stands on one leg, delusion. Cut down that leg and it falls. I very often tell you not to identify even Me with this particular physical build-up. But you do not understand. You call Me by one name only and believe I have one form only. But there is no name I do not bear, there is no form which is not Mine."

Baba is aking us to make a leap in consciousness. He is asking us to come with Him on a grand journey of transcendance, where we give up all our mistaken notions of separation and put on our God-glasses. "Yes, I am God," says Baba, "but you are also God. Realize it! Realize it!" That is the great teaching of the Sanathana Dharma that the Avatar has come to sow in the hearts of all the peoples of the world.

The Avatar gives the clarion call, thundering the ancient message, "Arise and rest not until the goal is reached!" Then, for those who hear the call and are ready to respond, what is to be done? But first, we must ask ourselves who will do the doing? If we think of ourselves as limited individuals immersed in worldly consciousness then we must exert every effort to lift ourselves and our societies out of the morass and turn our hearts Godwards. But from the highest point of view, there is nothing to be done... truly, nothing can be done. Our deliberate doings will only get in the way. The river flows by itself; it needs no pushing. If anything is to be done, He will do it. He who has come to plant the seed will surely pour the water, and pull the weeds, and nurture the young plant, and protect it from all harm. The seedling can only carry on and be what it is, and do what it does, by its own nature. So, also, Jivas can carry on their prescribed duties; we can be who we are. We can live in our Buddha nature. Any doings will have already been pre-determined by the law of destiny and cosmic evolution.

The Vedanta tells us that nothing which can be said or done or thought, nothing which can be seen or heard or touched, nothing which can be experienced or felt or known, can have anything to do with the ultimate truth. These are all concepts and activities arising from the mind, the fantastic musings and spinnings of the gunas, the busy-making of imaginary snakes, coming and going, writhing and twisting on the unchanging, unsullied basis which is the rope. The truth, all sages say, can never be reached by the mind or its experiences and thoughts and worlds. Truth forever remains as it is. I play and worlds come, I play and worlds go...but I remain as I am. How can I ever be known? How can I ever be not known? Who is there who can know Me? There is only I...I am as I am. All goodness am I. All beauty am I. All purity, all sweetness, all love, all peace and serenity, all bliss and delight, all perfection and I. The mind, with all its worlds within worlds, am I. Everything am I. I am as I am.

The screen is pure white. It is always so; it has never been something else... never colored with moving, changing things... with fire, earth, water, air or space. These are but appearances projected onto its unchanging whiteness... apparitions that come and go in a wink of time. When the film ends, the whiteness again shines forth. The whiteness was always there. It never left; but for it to be known, the film must come to an end. Swami says, you cannot attain what you already are... the bitter fruit, the sour fruit, ripens of its own accord into the nectarine sweetness that is its very nature. The film comes to an end. The play is over. I remain as I am.

Hiranyakashipu, the demon king, asked his son, Prahlada, the great devotee of the Lord, "Where is your Narayana? Show him to me." "He is everywhere, Daddy!" "Is he here in this pillar? I will smash it with my sword and see if your Narayana is here." Yes, He was there. He was already in the demon's heart. He was already in his hand, He was in his sword, He was in his son, He was in his mouth and in his world, and He was also there in the pillar. He was in everything because everything is in Him...all is He, and only He. When the pillar of limited ego-consciousness is smashed the Divinity stands revealed, and the play is done. What remains is what always is...I am as I am.

Patience and forbearance are the keys that unlock the secret to the great treasure, Swami says. The play plays itself out until it is finished.  And in the process, work transforms itself into worship, faith turns into love, purity sweetens into Unity, and Jiva knows itself as Divinity. Immortality comes and immorality goes...immorality, in this context, means separation from God; it is from separation that all desires spring. Swami's equation is: Man without desire is God; God with desire is man. These are the stages, the acts in the play. Whose play? My play. All there is is only I. In the first act I forget my Self... the outgoing path comes into swing, selfishness takes hold, desires rush in and immorality reigns. In a later act I remember my Self... the setting turns to the homeward path, selflessness returns, desires fade away, and morality holds sway. In all these changing scenes I remain unchanged... I am as I am.

The Divine Play

How exquisitely sweet and delightful this play is! What incomparable joy the finale gives... so wonderful it is... I find myself, I love myself, I become myself and discover I already am my Self... I am as I am. Swami tells many wonderful short stories that relate to every stage of the spiritual path.  Occasionally He surprises us with a longer story that summarizes the whole spiritual journey.  Here is one of the most exquisite of Bhagavan's longer stories, that shows how the Divinity plays Its incomparable play and moves the Jivas along on their way, as they knowingly or unkowingly, journey towards His Lotus Feet:

There was a young boy who came to a guru in the time-honored way, carrying fire-wood, making his obeisance and asking for Upadesh, because he felt ready to be enlightened in the knowledge of Brahman. He said, "Swami, I am ready to surrender myself and come to God. Please give me your Upadesh." Upadesh traditionally means giving a mantra that is directed especially to the disciple, which upon constant repetition will lead him to his final goal of Moksha.

The guru said to the boy, "It cannot happen so easily and quickly. Before you can sow the seeds you have to prepare the ground. You have to take out all the rocks and pull up all the weeds. You have to plow the field and give manure and water. Then you can sow the seeds, and in due time the crop will come up. Even after you harvest it, you have to shake it back and forth and throw it up in the air to remove the husk, and let the wind come and take the chaff away. Only after the good kernels have come down and are gathered up, can the cultivation be considered complete. If you are ready for all that, then you can come into my service.

The boy said, "Swami, whatever you say I will do. All I want is to reach God. So, from that day onwards, he served that Mahatma with all his love. Like this, 12 years went by, and the day came for this Swami to leave his body. Still the Upadesh had not been given. Seeing how the boy's heart had become soft and sweet and utterly selfless serving his guru, the teacher knew that the boy was ready to receive the Upadesh; so he said to him, "I will give you your mantra now. I do not know how long I will remain in this body to guide you, therefore I will write it down for you so that there's no chance of it being forgotten or lost. Go across the river and get a leaf from the palm tree over there; I will write it on the palm leaf."

It was the season of the year when the river was full and it took some time for the boy to reach the other side. When he got to the palm tree he realized that he didn't know how to climb it. He went to a nearby village to find a person who could climb it and get him a leaf from the tree. All this took time. In the meantime, the bird flew away; the guru left his mortal frame. But just shortly before appointed moment, the guru with his fingernail scratched the mantra on the ground.

Not far from the guru's house there lived a low-caste woman who was a circus performer . She kept trained donkeys and used them in her act, dancing and doing somersaults on the backs of the donkeys. For years she had been watching this boy working so hard serving the old man; the boy was obviously not a relation nor did he seem to work for pay. She noticed that he was always so poor, he didn't even have adequate cloth to cover himself. Now, on this particular day, she saw how the old man had sent the boy away across the river, then had scratched something on the sand with his finger, and died. Suspecting that this was something very auspicious and important, she decided to preserve those markings. In those days, among the poorer classes, the earrings worn by women were made from rolled-up palm leaves, brightly painted and suspended in loops from the ears. She took off her earrings, unrolled them, and with a small twig she carefully copied the scratchings on the ground in front of the guru's body. Then she erased these markings on the ground and went back to her place.

The boy returned with the palm leaf from across the river, full of sweet anticipation of getting the long-awaited Upadesh, when to his horror, he saw what for him was a most terrible tragedy, his guru's lifeless body. He realized that he had tarried so long that he had missed even the chance to be with his beloved guru during his last moments, and now he had neither his guru nor his Upadesh. He was deeply grief-stricken. As he went about preparing the final rites for the body, he thought of throwing himself on the funeral pyre. Just then, a child that had been playing in the sand nearby and had watched the whole scene, came up to him and told him all that had transpired... how the guru before he died had written something on the ground, how the circus lady had come there and copied it onto her earrings, and then how she had wiped out the markings on the ground.

The boy completed the final rites for the guru and then went with great humility to see the lady, who in all those years he had never spoken to or even looked at. Now he said to her, "Mother, I beg of you, please be so kind and give me my guru's Upadesh." The lady asked, "What do you mean?" And he answered, I know that my guru has written something on the ground which you copied. It was my guru's Upadesh for me. Please, Mother, please give me that. In all my life this is the only thing that matters to me, because with it I can reach God. The lady said, "I have watched you slaving so many years for this old man, and if all that work was done only for these few scratchings that I've put on my earring, then this must be really valuable. Such a valuable thing cannot be given so easily. If you come and work for me for 12 years I will give you the earring." The boy replied, "Mother, I will do whatever you tell me to do and wait as long as you say, if you will surely give me my guru's Upadesh." And so he went into service for this lady. He remained outside her house and took charge of the donkeys, feeding them, cleaning them, exercising them and putting them through their paces. In this way, some years went by.

The Finale

Now, it happened that the king of that area was without an heir. The years were passing by, he and his queen were getting older, and no son had been born. The whole kingdom was plunged into sorrow, because he was a very good and popular king, and all the subjects sympathized with his plight. The king would call in every Saddhu and every great Pundit who came into the kingdom, and ask them if they knew of any ancient rites fo propitiate the gods, which would give him the much-desired son and heir. One great teacher came and gave the king a positive answer. He said, "Yes, there is an ancient Yajna that can be performed which will fulfil all your desires. It must be done faithfully every day following all the prescribed Vedic injunctions. The most important part of this Yajna is that you must feed all the poor people who come to you. Even if they come from all over your kingdom in great numbers you must not allow anyone to remain unfed and unsatisfied. Then one fine day some person will come to eat your food, and the temple bell will ring. When you hear the bell ring you will know that the heir to your kingdom has arrived."

From that day on, the king performed the Yajna and fed the multitudes who came to partake of his food. Soon all his wealth was getting exhausted, the treasury was becoming empty, and still the temple bell had not rung, and no heir was in sight. The king thought to himself, 'If I continue these mass feedings I'll soon be completely bankrupt. Then if the heir comes what will I be able to leave him... a kingdom in debt? No, this will not do.' So, he stopped the poor feeding. As it happened, on that particular day the circus lady had no food in the house, so she said to the boy, "I have no food to give you and no feed for the donkeys, but the king is feeding all who come to him, so go there for your meal and take the donkeys with you."

When the boy got to the city he discovered that the king had stopped the daily feedings. The donkeys were hungry and thirsty, so the boy took them down to the river. The palace inmates had finished their luncheon meal and the palace vessels were being cleaned by the river. There were many left overs and dogs were devouring the discarded food. When the dogs were full, the donkeys ate what the dogs had left. And after the donkeys had their fill, the boy found a few scraps and put them in his mouth. As soon as the food touched his mouth the temple bell began to ring in loud, clear tones that alerted the whole palace.

The king heard the bell and got very excited. He said, "The temple bell is ringing! The heir has come! Guards! Search the palace and the square outside. Go to the river. Go in every direction and find the person who, at this very moment, is eating the king's food. Treat him with all respect and bring him here." The guards fanned out in all directions and soon came down to the river and found the boy eating the scraps left over from the palace plates. When they brought the boy to the king, the king elatedly threw his arms around the boy, and hugged him as if he was his long-lost son. The king said, "O, I am so happy! You are the prince I have been waiting for. Even now the temple bell is proclaiming to the world that the royal heir has come. This whole kingdom is yours!"

The boy humbly asked the king's forgiveness and said, "Please Sir! Please don't misunderstand! But I don't want your kingdom! I don't even want a meal. I only want my guru's Upadesh. Please let me go and return to my donkeys." The king was dumbfounded. He said, "What do you mean, son... Upadesh... donkeys... refusing the royal crown? Explain yourself." The boy told the whole story of how he had served his guru, how the guru had written the mantra on the ground before he left his body, how the circus lady had copied it onto her earrings, and how, for several years now, he had been looking after the donkeys, waiting for the day when she would unroll the earrings and give him his guru's Upadesh.

The king called out to the guards, "Bring the horses! Get the chariot ready!" Then he said to the boy, "Come son, get into the chariot. We will go to that lady and get your guru's Upadesh right now, right off her ear!" The boy pleaded with him; he said, "O, No! Please Sir, it mustn't happen like that. O, I should not have told you the story! There must be no force; it must only happen through love. Please Sir, let me go and be with my donkeys. When it is God's will, the Upadesh will surely be given to me freely." The king let him go and the boy went away with the donkeys.

Several months later it became known that the queen was expecting a child. The news spread like wildfire and there was great jubilation throughout the kingdom. A day of national celebration was proclaimed and the whole populace was invited to come to the city and take part in the festivities. There would be dramas and singing and tumbling acts and all kinds of entertainments and amusements. All the people gathered in the vast public square in front of the palace, and jugglers, minstrels, musicians, dancers, actors, comedians, acrobats, magicians and circus performers all displayed their talents and put on their various acts. It was a colorful and happy scene. Included among the performers was the circus lady with her donkeys. The boy also came, wearing a shiny, sparkling silk costume, playing a drum, and leading the line of donkeys, who were gaily apparelled in festive colors.

During the years that had past since the boy came to her, there had been a steady transformation in the circus lady. The boy had remained outside; he never went inside her house. Yet, the mere proximity of such a noble soul had brought on a significant change in her, which was now reflected in her performance. It was as if a divine spirit had come into her and was dancing her dance. She would swirl and twirl and do somersaults and sing, while balancing on the donkeys. The intricacy and gracefulness of her movements and the harmonious interaction between herself and the donkeys, whose eyes were fixed on her like the gaze of the cows on Sri Krishna's enchanting form, had all the people entranced. When her show was over, the whole square broke into wild applause.

Up above, on the royal balcony, the queen was also very much delighted by the lady's fine performance. The queen decided that she wanted to gift her own earrings to this marvellous dancer who had made all the people so happy. So she took off her diamond earrings and threw them down to the lady. The boy caught the queen's earrings on his drum. Without a moment's hesitation he held them out to her, and said, "Here, Mother. This is a gift to you from the queen. The queen is very, very happy with you." She was overjoyed. "From the queen? For Me?", she said. Immediately she took off her own earrings and handed them to the boy, and took the diamond earrings from him.

The Enlightenment

The greatest of all treasures, the only thing in the whole world that the boy had ever truly wanted, had now been given to him. His heart started pounding and his eyes filled with tears, as he remembered his beloved guru, and knew that at last, what he had asked for so many years back when he first came carrying the fire-sticks and asking for Upadesh, had now been put in his hand. While the lady was surrounded by admirers, he backed away from the crowd and went into a deserted side-street. There he unwound the palm-leaf earrings and saw the mantra inscribed on them. This was the culminating moment of his life; this was what he had prepared himself for through countless births. As soon as he repeated the sacred words the boy was filled with the divine light, and he left his mortal body right there on the spot.

Swami said, "My Grace comes like a flash. When you least expect I act. You must always be ready." The boy was ready and Grace had descended; he instantly achieved enlightenment. "But", Swami said when He told the story, "see how many things had to happen in the master plan of God, before that boy could get Moksha. The guru had to be served, the lady's consciousness had to be lifted, the donkeys had to be taken care of, and the king had to get a son." Men are given the little switches, but God always holds the master switch, Swami said. Whenever God does something, He does it to benefit many people.

God is like the engine that waits until many cars are connected, before He pulls the whole train towards its destination. Rama, Swami said, could have gone right off to Lanka and brought Sita back, but then there would have been no chance for Hanuman to show his valor and great devotion, there would have been no chance for Vibhishana, the brother of Ravana, the demon king, to surrender to Rama and pledge his loyalty to Him, and there would have been no chance for so many others to serve the Lord during the intervening months before Ravana was killed and Sita was freed.

The devotee is always in a hurry to merge with the Lord, but the Lord, Swami tells us, is in no such hurry. Swami likens it to the river rushing pell-mell to join the ocean, but when it gets there, it is pushed back by the high waves, so that it has to wait and form a flood-plain or a delta. The river is longing to empty itself in the ocean, but the ocean seems not to want it, and pushes it back. But when the river persists and will not give up, the ocean must relent and allow it in. The river dives deep and mixes with the deep waters of the sea. On the surface, it is being pushed away, but in the depths it merges freely and returns to its source. Such is also the way of spiritual illumination, Swami says.

The main point of this long story of the boy and his guru's Upadesh, is that the Divinity has Its own time-table. Through the medium of what we claim to be our own minds, the Divinity dreams Its dream; and in that dream events follow events in a natural order and the story line progressively unfolds itself. We can all see the unfoldment of a grand drama in the life of the Avatar. And if we look carefully we can see a similar high drama unfolding in the lives of these very souls and bodies which we call our own and which daily go through their assigned parts. As long as we play the role of thinking of ourselves as individuals, there will be many ups and downs, and bumps and jumps, Swami says. But in the end we surely will get our guru's Upadesh; our spiritual illumination is guaranteed.

In the meantime, there is the ongoing drama; and in that drama there are very few of us and there is a big, wide world, and that whole world must become infected by our love and transformed by our example. So, we continue to fetch wood and haul water, or take care of the donkeys, or do whatever else it is we do, but at the same time, we allow our God-nature to blossom forth and our emerging light to kindle the lights of others, whose lives intertwine with ours. That is the process of going back the way we have come; we have come from pure love and goodness, and we return to the same. Once someone came from the far-corner of India for Swami's Darshan. He asked for some spiritual guidance. The answer given was go back from whence you have come. The man felt rejected; he should have felt enlightened. He just didn't understand that he'd been given the key to the highest wisdom. Do not bother too much with the world. Just do your work and allow your natural goodness to flow. Then one day, the master switch will be thrown and the dream will disappear, and you return home to what you have always been, your ever-blissful Self.

Once I asked Swami, "What about this world, Swamiji? It is deteriorating so rapidly. What will happen?" Swami's answer was, "The world is not your business. It is God's business. You do your work and leave the world to Him." In the context of the story it is, 'You take care of the donkeys and let Me arrange for the celebration.' What we do is not so important; but how we do whatever we do... the attitude with which we do it... is all important. Swami said that happiness comes not in doing what we like, but in liking what we have to do. When we have that attitude there will be peace in our hearts.

A great soul always harmonizes his thoughts, his words and his deeds and remains unaffected by the vicissitudes of life. Make the one you think you are, (the body-mind), the one that others think you are, (this personality with its many roles), and the one you really are, (the Atma), one and the same; then you are a Mahatma, Swami says. In other words, since Atma can never come to a lower level, raise everything else, body-mind-personality, to the Atmic level. Remain in unity-consciousness, even while carrying on your work in the world. The world will change positively of its own, when minds become purified and divine love blooms in people's hearts. Swami says that the world is not in peace but in pieces, and nobody can put it back together again. But reform the man, raise his consciousness, and the world will automatically come together again. He tells a lovely story to illustrate this.

A young boy found the door open to his father's study, and for the first time, found himself in there alone. On the desk was a most important map of the world. The wind blew it onto the floor where the boy saw it, and started playing with it. He bent it this way and that, and pretty soon he had it in pieces. At this point the father came in and was horrified to see that his son had torn the world into pieces. The father said to the son, "You shouldn't have done that. You shouldn't have played with the world without getting my permission. Now it's in pieces. Since you tore it up, you will have to paste it back together again. I will be very angry with you if you don't give it back to me in one piece."

Try as he could he didn't know how to put the world back together again. He could tear it apart, but he didn't know all the intricate ways in which one piece fit together with another to make the whole thing one again. He was very much worried about making his father unhappy and so he kept at it and at it, but he didn't succeed. Just then a breeze blowing through the room, turned one of the pieces over, and there he saw what unmistakably was a hand. He turned another piece over and saw a foot. Other pieces on their backside showed a nose and then an ear and then another foot and then a mouth and then a shoulder, and so on. He realized that on the back of the map of the world there had been a picture of a man, and he certainly knew what a man looked like and how to put the pieces of a man together. So, he turned all the pieces over, and soon was able to fit them all together to form the figure of a man. Now he was happy, because he had been able to solve the problem and rectify his mistake, and he knew that his father would also be happy. When all the pieces were together he easily glued them into one whole, and then turned the whole thing over. There was the world all properly put together again. Put the man together and the world automatically comes together again; and then both father and son will be happy.

How to put the man back together again? By removing all the divisive elements that have kept him apart. Survival of the fittest is the law of the jungle. But man is not an animal, he has not come into life in order to fight the struggle for survival. He is not a conglomeration of the five elements that constantly cycle through change; he is God, he is the unchanging divine principle, he is the unity that is the basis which stands behind this world. It is ignorance, the impurity of the mind that makes us see duality and separation, and tears apart the unity of man. Then, when man is apart the world is apart. Cleanse the mind and return to unity-consciousness and the man comes back together. This impurity of the mind is perhaps the last thing that goes. Swami told how even Jesus was feeling some difference and duality, and consequently harbored some ill feelings towards his executioners, when he was on the cross. Then he heard a voice from up high, saying, "All are One, my dear Son. Be alike to everyone!".

Swami says that in this Kali Yuga, the key to purifying the mind is the constant remembrance of God, by repeating the Holy Name. How powerful that Name can be, was shown by the effect of the mantra, in the story of the boy and his Upadesh. There is a story that Swami tells that gives an insight into the awesome power of the Name.

Narada once asked Lord Narayana about the power of the Name. The blessed Lord told Narada, "If I tell you the truth about the power of the Name you won't believe Me. You will think I'm exaggerating. So let me give you a little project in which you can find out directly for yourself what the power is in the Name. Over yonder, in that large tree there is a bird's nest in which you will see a little fledgling that was just newly hatched out of its egg. It has the power of speech, so ask it your question about the power of the Name and it will enlighten you.

Narada went to the tree and found the nest with the little bird in it, just as the Lord had said. The mother bird had left and the little one was playing with itself, looking here and there, cocking its head from side to side and peeping a little song. Narada was so enchanted with the sight of the little one, in pure delight he exclaimed, "Om Namo Narayana!" At the sound of the Holy Name, the little one opened its eyes wide and looked at Narada, it beat its little wings and stretched itself to its full length, and then closing its eyes it fell out of the nest and landed at Narada's feet. Narada was dumbfounded. He picked up the little bird but it was lifeless; its soul had left the body. Narada was very much saddened by the death of this sweet little bird and he returned to Lord Narayana with a heavy heart. He told the Lord about his unfortunate experience and how troubled he was by it. He felt personally responsible because it was only after he called out, "Om Namo Narayana!" that the little bird began to act so strangely and then keeled over dead.

The Lord told Narada to forget about the incident, that it was not very important. But Narada continued to grieve over it and wonder about it, and a number of times Lord Narayana had to console him and tell him not to worry. Soon Narada felt better and forgot about it. After some time, he again began wondering about the power of the Holy Name, and so he again asked the Lord to reveal to him the true meaning of repeating the Name. Narayana told Narada that merely hearing an explanation would not leave a lasting impression; the Lord said the power of the Name must be experienced directly, then Narada would never forget it. The Lord told Narada to go to a nearby garden and there he would find a new-born calf. This calf had the power of speech and would be able to clarify for him the secret power of the Name. Narada went to the place and found a sweet little calf that had just been born. The mother cow left when Narada approached, and the little calf got up on its spindly legs, looked curiously at Narada, and made its first mooing sound. Narada felt great happiness in his heart seeing this innocent little calf, so sweetly looking at him and coming towards him; it was a totally entrancing scene. Out of sheer joy, Narada cried out, "Om Namo Narayana!"

The little thing stopped in its tracks, its eyes rolled up, it tottered for a moment, and then it fell over dead. Narada was shocked to the core. Again he was responsible for the death of an innocent new-born being. But this time his words did not just cause the death of a lowly bird, but that of a young cow, an animal that is to be worshipped and revered. Now he was guilty of the great sin of cow-slaughter. Narada was deeply affected by this incident and, quite crestfallen, he returned to Lord Narayana and sadly told the Lord all that had transpired. The Lord tried to dismiss the incident and wave it off as not very important or serious. In many ways the Lord tried to console Narada, but Narada remained inconsolable. Yet, time is a great healer, and in due time this heavy load too became lighter and stopped pressing on Narada's heart. One day he remembered his earlier query regarding the power of the Name, which had still not been answered to his satisfaction. Once again he asked the Lord to clarify for him the deeper meaning of repeating the Name. What is the power, he wanted to know, that lies hidden in the sound of the Holy Name?

Lord Narayana said to him, "If you want to know the real power of the Name, you must go over to yonder city where the king is just now celebrating the birth of his first son, the crown-prince. Although that baby has only just been born, it can speak, and if you ask it your question, it will be able to enlighten you and tell you about the power of the Name." Narada became chalk-white. He had never before disputed with the Lord or hesitated in following His command once it had been given, but remembering the previous incidents, he asked to be excused from this latest assignment. Killing a little bird and a new-born calf was bad enough, but to have the same thing happen to the king's son was too much for him to contemplate.

Narada said, "Lord, please forgive me for speaking out like this, but I was terribly saddened by the little bird's death, I was shattered by the calf's death, and now if I were to cause something to happen to a human child, which is the highest and most valuable thing in the world, the rarest birth in the Creation, I would be totally destroyed. And this is not an ordinary child but a noble birth, the much-awaited prince of the realm! I would rot in hell forever if anything were to happen to this innocent babe because of me. Please Lord, why can't You directly enlighten me about the Name? Why do I need to go there and take the risk of having some terrible harm come to that little child?" But Lord Narayana gave short shrift to Narada's protest. He would not hear of it. He said to Narada, "I am the teacher and you are the student. I know what is the best means for teaching you a most important lesson, that cannot properly be learned in any other way. So, stop your complaining and go off to see that newly-born child lying in its crib in the king's palace. Ask him your question and listen to what he says." Having no other choice open to him, Narada went with a heart full of misgivings, to the city of the king whose newly-born child was to enlighten him about the Holy Name.

As Narada came to the gate of the city he was instantly recognized by the officer there as the great sage Narada, and word was immediately sent to the king. The king personally came and with great reverence welcomed the sage, bowing before him and telling him how very blessed he felt to have such a great spiritual light grace his kingdom with a visit. Narada was delighted with this warm reception and he quickly forgot the anxiety he had been feeling when he first set out to go there. After he had been given the seat of honor and duly feasted, the king asked Narada what brought him to this kingdom, and would there be anything the king could do to make Narada's stay more pleasant and the purpose of his visit successful? Narada answered that he had heard a prince had been born, and that this was a most unusual child who had come into the world knowing the highest wisdom. Narada said he would very much like to see the babe. The king was quite surprised and delighted to hear this, and he immediately made arrangements for Narada to be escorted to the queen's chamber where the infant prince was lying in its crib.

When Narada saw this beautiful babe he could hardly contain his joy. He picked it up and nestled it in his arms. On being held by Narada the infant prince made the most delightful cooing sounds, and all the while a big smile lit up its sweet little face. Narada completely forgot the reason why he had come and the question he wanted to ask of the child. It was so precious, he just kept playing with it, and it reciprocated in the most delightful way. When the baby stretched out its little hand and put its tiny fingers in Narada's mouth, its little blue eyes twinkling with delight, Narada felt such great joy, he spontaneously exclaimed, "Om Namo Narayana!" Before he could catch himself, the Holy Name had burst forth from the very seat of Ananda deep in his heart. It had an immediate and dramatic effect on the babe in his arms.

The child took on a luminous glow, its eyes became very deep, it looked straight at Narada and spoke, "I was born as a bird, and when I was only a few hours old you came along, and out of the purity of your heart you called out the Holy Name. Hearing that sacred sound I gave up my body right then and there, and was shortly reborn as a calf. Here again I had the great good fortune of having you come to see me when I was just opening my eyes and rising up on my legs for the first time. Out of the love in your heart you again called out the Holy Name, and upon hearing its resonant vibrations, I immediately felt freed from the bonds of that calf body and I left it, though it was not even a day old. And then, hardly a few hours ago, I was reborn a prince, and it has been my incredible good fortune to have you come here and again pronounce the sacred Name from the very core of your pure heart. Now the purpose of all my lives is fulfilled, my goal is reached." And he closed his eyes and drew his last breath.

This time there was no remorse. Narada was overcome with a mystical feeling of intense wonder and reverence, and his heart filled with divine joy. He kept repeating, 'Om Namo Narayana! Om Namo Narayana!' with great fervor. A luminous form of exceptional splendor was seen to depart from the infant body cradled in his arms and ascend to the heavens. Narada returned to Lord Narayana, who questioned him about his experience. "Now I know," said Narada, "what awesome power resides in the Name. It can sever even the seemingly unbreakable shackles of illusion, and release one from the cage of mortal life, itself. With Your permission, Lord, let me go through all the worlds singing Your sweet Name and thereby help all beings to free themselves from their self-imposed bondage of worldly life." The Lord agreed, and it was from that time on that Sage Narada became the great wandering minstrel roaming through the worlds, spreading the sweet nectar of devotion by constantly singing and repeating the Holy Name.



Bhakti - The Path of Devotion

One must let go completely before the Lord comes to rescue.

my plane, draupadi, gajendra


Spiritual path so easy - Let go what's in the hand.


Krishna's flute and Rama's sandals.


Brindavan house. My house in your heart.


The Path of Service - Padmapada and the stone lotuses.


Markandeya and Maya


Only seven Rishis knew the worth of Rama


Janaka's enlightenment


gajendra with his trunk around the coconut tree.


Prarabdha Karma. All already determined. Cannot change that. Therefore even saints appear different in world.


A thousand things 1 percent better, not one thing extraordinary, but ordinary


The story of the sweeper


The Shivaratri story of the hunter


Rama and Ravana...waited until Sita left his heart.