SWAMI’S DISCOURSES IN BRINDAVAN
Reflections by Dr.G.Venkataraman
Loving Sai Ram, and greetings from Prasanthi Nilayam.
In this article, I wish to present some thoughts I once aired over the radio. Prior to this particular broadcast made a couple of years ago, I had spoken regarding Ugadi and the other New Year Days that were to immediately follow. I had just got back after a brief trip to Whitefield, and during my stay there, I heard what Bhagavan Baba said in His Divine Discourses on those festival days. In this article I wish to share with you some reflections on those Discourses. I shall, of course, try not to paraphrase those Discourses, since they have been broadcast by Radio Sai. What I would like to share with you presently are my own thoughts, as they came to me while I was hearing those Discourses.
During the year, we celebrate many festivals. We do it as a matter of routine, barely seeing any connecting link between the various festivals, except perhaps at a purely superficial level. In His recent Discourses, Swami emphasised that this is not correct. The ancients of India did not fill the calendar with numerous festivals without a proper reason. One should not image that on Vinayaka Chaturthi day one propitiates Ganesha, on Krishna Jayanthi we renew our insurance with Krishna, and so on. As a matter of fact this is what most people do; notwithstanding that, such simplistic thinking is a grave mistake. All festivals are in celebration of just One God – for the simple reason there is only one God! What the different festivals seek to do is to direct our attention to the different aspects of this One God. For example, on Rama Navami day, we must reinforce our dedication to Sathya and Dharma, for that was what Rama stood for. On Vinayaka Chaturthi day, we must focus on developing our Buddhi or intellect; on Krishna Jayanthi day, we must not only recall the teachings of Krishna as given to us in the Bhagavad Gita, but also how God is the very Embodiment of Nectarine Sweetness. And so on. The life style in ancient India was so designed that every activity, every day, and indeed every moment drew one’s attention to God in some manner or the other.
On festival days, one typically wears good clothes, sometimes even new ones, and has a grand lunch, complete with a lot of sweet dishes. In fact, for many, a festival simply means a fabulous meal, and how eagerly they look forward to it! Swami is very critical of such an attitude. Thus He once said, “What is the use of wearing new clothes when the inside is dirty? The New Year, and indeed all festivals, must be celebrated not by covering up the dirt inside with new clothes but by scrubbing the inside clean.”
This raises a question: “How does the inside get dirty in the first place?” Swami has explained that on many occasions. For example, in the last of the Navarathri Discourses delivered in 2001, He said [in essence]: “You are a combination of the body, the Mind, and the Atma, Soul, or the Eternal Spirit, [call it what you like]. If your life is dictated entirely by your body, you descend to the level of an animal. If you allow your life to be guided by the Mind and the body colluding together, then you would end up as a demon. That is not how it should be. The Mind must be subservient to the Atma. Taking orders from the Atma, the Mind must control the body and the senses, directing them on the correct path.” Swami has also repeated the same message in a slightly different way. He says that true Spirituality meant first destroying the animal and demonic qualities within, next living like a human should, and finally pulling oneself up to the level of the Divine.
Shortly before these new-year day festivals to which I made a reference, Swami gave a Discourse in Whitefield on the joint-family system. Earlier that day, Baba had visited the house of a long-time devotee, who is the patriarch of a large joint-family. In the olden days, we had in India what is called the joint-family system. In a family, the daughters would get married and go off to the houses of their respective husbands, but the sons would all stay together with their father and mother in the ancestral home. Even if the sons were married and had children of their own, they would all stay together. Apparently, it was the same in China. No doubt there were problems with such a family style, but on the whole the pluses seem to have outweighed the minuses. Today, of course, the joint-family system has practically vanished – may be some tribes somewhere still follow it but in India it is all but extinct. In His Discourse, Swami praised this system lavishly, pointing out the many advantages.
There is a reason why I am bringing all this up. The human being is like a joint-family. As Swami sometimes says, the Atma is like the grandfather, the Mind is like the father, and the body is like the grandson. If the human being followed the joint-family system within, then the Mind would take orders from the Atma, and the grandson, i.e., the body would go strictly according to the wishes of the father or the Mind. In this case, guided by the Atma, the Mind would enquire properly before embarking upon any action involving the body and the senses.
These days, people behave as they want, guided entirely by the body and the Mind. They call this the exercise of FREE WILL. Swami however asks: “How can you call this free will, when the person is completely under the control of the senses and is guided entirely by animal feelings?” Elsewhere, Baba points out [effectively]: “The Atma is the Divine Light, with the Effulgence of a billion Suns. You want to shut it out and live in darkness! Is this sane?” But that precisely is what modern man is doing.
In the Discourses I alluded to earlier, Bhagavan also drew pointed attention to how we waste time. For example, we worry about the future. How does this help? Instead, should we not be doing something so that the future turns out to be the way we want? If we want a good future, then the present must be utilised properly. But is that what we do? No! Swami said that what we do is to spend a lot of time criticising others. No use at all. We spend a lot of time chasing so-called happiness. Once again, a futile exercise. Some prefer to make a fortune, often by questionable methods. Does happiness lie in money or within us? If money is happiness, then why did Ramakrishna Paramahamsa feel so uncomfortable with money? Does happiness lie in alcohol? If it did, then why do some people spurn it while others relish it? No, happiness is within. Just as we hang a coat onto a hanger, we attach happiness to the objects that we desire. Swami repeated all this once more for our benefit.
We do not give enough attention to what Swami is saying – and He is saying SO MUCH for our sake. We just do not bother to reflect on His message or even read carefully the text of His Discourses. Once when I was in Whitefield, I got a phone call from a cousin of mine in Singapore. He said that according to the information on the internet, Swami was headed for Kodaikanal on the 19th. He asked me if this was true. I was amazed when I heard this. I mean is this the way time must be spent, spreading rumours? I find that people spend an enormous amount of time speculating about Baba’s movements instead of trying to understand His teachings. As one person in Brindavan told me: “When Swami is in Puttaparthi, every one asks when is Baba coming. After He comes to Brindavan, everyone now asks, when is He going to Kodaikanal. When He returns from Kodai, the speculation now shifts to, when is He returning to Puttaparthi?” This gentleman then asked me, “If people are so busy arranging Baba’s travel, when will they find time to recall His teachings and to follow them?”
Yes, we waste a lot of time without realising the implications. As Swami told us recently – He has of course done this in the past also – once this body goes, it will not come back. The body and life come as one indivisible package. Do we fritter this opportunity? Is it for this that God has conferred the boon of human birth?
Another thing that Swami talked about was gratitude. We all proclaim that we are grateful to Swami for this, that, and so forth. But let us search our Hearts: Are we really grateful to God in the true sense of the word? Do we thank Swami for the Earth, the Sun, the Wind, the Water, and so on? We never do. We take them all for granted. This only means that we fail to see God in the Five Elements. If you have heard carefully many of the Discourses of Baba that have been broadcast by Radio Sai, you would have noticed that the Five Elements form a recurring theme. The insight He gives into the Five Elements is extra-ordinary. I am no Vedic scholar but I am prepared to bet that even in the Vedas, the insight that Swami is now giving us cannot be found.
This is constantly happening. For example, on the Tamil and the Malayalam New Year day, Swami spoke about certain events related to the life of Rama that are not to be found in any of the known versions of the Ramayana. In fact, Swami Himself has not discussed them ever before! Thus, even though the days and the years might not bring anything new, Swami’s Discourses always do. Even if He is speaking on a theme familiar to us, you can be sure He would be shedding new light on an old issue. All we must do is to keep our eyes and ears open. And when we have time on our hands, we would do well to spend it on chanting the Name so that every cell of the body gets charged with the Divine spirit. Incidentally, do not think I am giving you any advice. This is what Baba Himself said in His recent Discourse.
Far better it is to chant His Name that to send messages about His movements. This is not the message that Swami wants us to spread! Spreading rumours and mis-information in the name of service is not the type of Seva that He wants us to perform however much we might try to justify our actions. Swami says that His happiness increases when He makes others happy. I have personally seen this any number of times, especially on festival days. He would go around distributing this and that, seemingly without an end. And how His eyes would glow with Love then!
The bottom line is clear. If we want to make Swami happy, we must make others happy by seeing Swami in them. And we must make others happy not in the way we imagine; for example, we think we make people happy by keeping them informed of speculations about Swami’s movements. This type of alleged service, I can assure you, does not cut much ice with Baba. We must serve others in the way Swami would like us to. And this automatically rules out acting like self-appointed internet correspondents. Where Swami is concerned, He has clearly spelt out our priorities.
With Him, it is always the Innernet and never the Internet!
One last word, and then I am through. Some people complain: “Listen, you are saying the same thing over and over again. There is nothing new.” That is right! There is nothing new, because there is only one thing to say! What must be new is ourselves – new improved versions of ourselves. I am always wonderstruck how much effort is being made to constantly improve soap and tooth paste [just look at the ads if you do not believe me]! If we can do so much for tooth paste, why not a bit for ourselves? Disagree? Does not matter but do write to us and tell us why you do so!
JAI SAI RAM.