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By Dr. John S Hislop

Dr. John Hislop, an extraordinary spiritual seeker, was one of the very first devotees to come to Swami from the West. Later, he authored many books on Baba, popular among them being “My Baba and I” and “Conversations with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.” He was also instrumental in establishing the Sai Organisation in United States in 1975 and toured the length and breadth of America giving talks on Swami. Below are extracts from a talk he delivered on August 28, 1990.

Pranams at the Lotus Feet. Sai Ram Dear Devotees!

The Bhajans were very nice; I thoroughly enjoyed them - and I am sure that Swami also enjoyed them - since He is here even more real than me; more real than you.

God Loves Giving

In my early days, Swami used to take me with Him wherever He went – wherever Swami would go in the car, I would go with Him. And one time we came from Bangalore to Puttaparthi and we stopped at the State of the Division District Chief of Police, a friend of Swami’s and a good devotee. And Swami often stopped off there for lunch on the way to Puttaparthi. We went to Puttaparthi and after 2-3 weeks we returned to Bangalore. And again we stopped at the house of the Chief of Police.

Well, as you probably know – many of you do at least – you follow Swami in your car and you’ve seen what happens! When Swami leaves Puttaparthi and starts for Bangalore, there are people lined up on the road along the way till the hill. Then He comes to a village and enters through the back of the hamlet, all the children rush to the car and usually Swami will stop and call one of the mature men and give him some money to buy sweets for the kids.

Dr. Hislop speaking in the Prasanthi mandir

Well, on this occasion, Swami gave away all the money He had; and there was still some distance to go! So I had a roll of rupees in my pocket – some small stuff like 2’s, 5’s and 10’s – so I said: “Swami, please accept this – it’s a gift from me!” So He said: “All right!” And took the money – which is all His, mind you, not mine – and gave it around until we finally passed all the people who were waiting for money.

Then, when we finished giving the notes; He said: “Put it in your pocket!” Mind you, it’s His money not my money – so I put it in my pocket. Then we came to the Police Chief’s house again and stopped.

Now, perhaps you have noticed that the protocol with Swami in the car is that when the car starts, you get in first – the guests gets in first – Swami gets in last. But when we come to the destination this reverses. Swami gets out first because the people want to see Swami and not the passengers! Later, when Swami is well clear out of the car, the passenger gets out.

So Swami got out of the car. He was in the back seat as He always was and I was in the front seat with the driver as I always was. So He gets out of the back seat and walks and there is a whole bunch of people lined up in front of the house of the police man. And Swami walks off with them. Then I see Him giving the servants fistfuls of money! We thought: “He’s giving money! He doesn’t have any money! How is He giving money?”

So I reached into my pocket – no money! He never came within ten feet of me; I never came out of the car; yet in my pocket there was no money; He handed it to give to the servant. Every time I think of that; it amuses me!


The Divine and His Deities

Today, it is Ganesha’s birthday. Do these deities really exist? First of all, according to Swami, there’s life in every place – every level of existence is just chock-a-block with life! Every level – the entire Cosmos is filled with life; filled with beings! And one time the philosophers asked Swami if these Mahatmas; these Gurus; these Masters were real. And He said: “Yes! They are just as real as you are – they are no more real!” Now what did He mean by that? They are real – as real as you are – that is they actually exist; the same as these bodies exist here!

Now, I wonder how many of you know Mr. Nakul Sen - the ex-governor of Goa, a small state in India. There is a Raj Bhavan (the Governor's Palace) in Goa, where Swami had this horrible appendicitis when all the doctors from all over India had come and Swami had said: “I am going to go down in a couple of hours and talk!” And the doctors said: “Swami we are the best doctors from all of India and we are sorry to tell you that in a half an hour You are going to be dead!” But of course, Swami did exactly what He had said – He got off the bed, walked downstairs and gave a talk!

Well, Mr. Zakir Hussein was telling me one time that he had somebody in Goa that he always invited to come to the Palace when there were visitors.

And this person could stand in a circle of 25 people and he could move his hand like that and create 25 different objects! That is – whatever was in the mind of the person in the circle; this man could create something for them - just exactly like Swami does!

But Dr. Hussein told me that he could do that only after praying to the Goddess Durga! So Swami has said that just like the executive of a big Corporation – the Chief Executive Officer – He does not deal with every sub-manager; or every customer; or every prospective customer. He has heads of departments who take care of production, distribution, advertising and so on.

So Swami said, in the same way, He has a great executive staff! And these Divinities then exist – like Durga, Ganesha and so on. And they have a function – that is they play a part in this world of Maya; this world of make-believe which doesn’t exist really at all – except in our imaginations! But we are striking for the heart of the situation, for the capital! So, what is that capital for us? Swami says: “I am always in Bliss! I never worry about anything! Nothing ever bothers me! I am always in Bliss – Ecstasy!”

Hold on to That Bliss!

So, who can say that? I don’t see a lot of hands. So, then why are we here? Why do we come to these meetings? Because if we had that fountain of Bliss; that fountain of Beauty; of Love, of Bliss and Ecstasy rising up – always new and ever-fresh as Swami says - then we would be happy; not looking for this or looking for that!

So, at the basis – that is the basis of our worldly existence - we are always looking for something. We want to enjoy, we want to be prosperous, we want to be happy; we want family, we want importance – all these things we want. Because of the vast emptiness that is within us – we want to fill that emptiness.

All these things that we have to do with the physical world – with the satisfaction of our desires and so on - all that we find is that what we are really striving for or long for is that fountain of ecstasy; that fountain of Bliss coming up from within!

One person called Swami Rama – maybe you have seen some of his books - he wrote about his life in the Himalayas – he has a big organization in the Mid-West; very nice man. And he grew up as a boy in the Himalayas Mountains – living with the yogis and the people there, wandering around as a boy.


He wrote a very interesting book about his experiences as a young man. And in one instance, I remember he came to a well-known yogi. He had somebody with him who wanted to talk to this yogi. They waited and made some noise and finally the yogi came out of where he was (meditation) and said: “What do you want?” So Swami Rama said: “This man wants to talk to you!”

And he said: “Alright; but why did you do it?” He said: “I was in such bliss with my Guru – my God – and now you called me out of that to talk.” So he found that source of Bliss when he was in deep meditation in his Samadhi.

But with Swami, there is no Samadhi necessary. He has that fountain of Bliss coming up within His heart every moment of the day and night.

It was the same with Sri Ramana Maharshi – he had that fountain of Bliss with him all the time! You remember this great sage? Ramana had cancer coming out of his arm. And the devotees wanted to operate, but he didn’t want to. So the operation wasn’t successful and the tumor kept coming out again. And someone asked him: “Swami! There must be terrible pain with that tumor pushing through your arm?”

And he stopped for a moment and said: “Yes, there is pain, but I am not in pain.” He made a clear distinction between the body and himself. He knew from his early experience as a young boy when suddenly he had felt that he was going to die and he lay down on the floor and felt his body as though he were dead! And then he realized that: “Body is dead; I am lifeless and yet I am still there!”

So he became conscious of this ‘I’ – this Self. And never for one moment for the rest of his life did he let loose that thought; that consciousness; that ‘I’. And Swami says the same thing: “Once you realize that fear of death; that reality; grasp it! Never, ever let it go! Even if you feel some temporary happiness; some temporary Bliss, grasp it! Don’t let it go! Hold on to that Bliss! That’s the only Real thing! The rest is all imagination!”

So that is what we really are striving for! And we would like everybody else to have it too, of course. But how are we going to reach that culmination; that satisfaction of that fundamental desire?

The Fundamental Steps to God

We do it according to Swami’s instructions. Now you know this already but every time we talk; before we get to other topics, we should recapitulate the basic fundamental things. So, what are the steps? How do we go about finding ourselves – that which we really are? How do we contact and be that Source from which everything comes and flowers and arises?


Swami tells us that it can be done by purifying the mind and purifying the heart. The only reason now that we are subject to this Maya is because our heart and mind are not pure – filled with desires and disappointments, hatred and anger. But if we can purify these two faculties – by seva, by prayer to God, by meditation, by watching ourselves and seeing what we are doing - because if we see ourselves doing an ugly act, that’s all that’s necessary; it will fade away and disappear!

And we can also purify our mind and heart by reciting God’s name – whichever name of God appeals to us – Sai Ram; Aum Sai Ram – because, Swami has told us that there is no separation between the Name and the Form. You say God’s name – God’s Form is there. Aum Sai Ram! Swami is here; His Form is here beside me; every moment. And likewise, with yourselves - if you repeat the name of God, Swami is with you! You can take His hand and walk through the day with Him – holding His hand.

Now, if you are walking down the street holding Swami’s hand; how are you going to let feelings of hatred, anger and cruelty arise? It’s impossible! Likewise, sitting at home – maybe Swami is sitting on your chair – part of your chair. As Swami says: “When you are home; you should imagine Mother Sai - be seated at Her feet and treat Her more lovingly, more gently, with more open affection than you would even with your own mother.”

There was a lady – she came there one time. She was in the same interview as I, and Swami told her: “Don’t hug me so tightly! You’re hurting my knees!” So then we asked the lady later on: “What did Swami mean?” Well, it turns out that at her home she would be there and imagined Swami was there and she would see Swami’s feet and she would hug Him – in her home; so far away in India! And Swami in the interview said: “You’re holding Me too tight!”

So, if we can conceive or imagine that Swami is with us every moment of the day; then the task is done! Our mind and heart will automatically be purified - hatred, anger, and all these cruelties that are going on through this world; are flowers of the dark – flowers in the night. They can’t survive in the light of the Sun! And Swami is that light of the Sun! If you have Him with you; then they can’t survive! They wither away by themselves without any effort on your part. No effort is needed; they just disappear and you never feel them again!

It is a task we set for ourselves; we have to figure it out ourselves; if we are quite satisfied with the world as it is; we, Sai devotees set ourselves a task – of finding the secret of Bliss; the secret of ecstasy; the secret of freedom!

And for that, Swami said: “So say all the scriptures - right through Ashtavakra and the other great sages - that it is extremely important to take the Form of God that you have chosen – personal God – and keep it in your mind all the time!”

Do you remember the story of the two guardians of heaven? They committed some sin and were to be expelled from heaven and God gave them a choice. He said that: “You can incarnate as My devotees and have 15 or 20 rebirths and then you can come back. Or, you can incarnate as My enemies and you only have to take two births.”

Why was that? Because how much throughout the day – those of us who Love Swami - how often do our minds wander off to this and that and memories and friends and anticipations and some even remember Swami and then the mind goes away again! So the mind is not on the Lord all the time. But how about on your enemy? “Oh! How I hate that guy! What he did to me! I’ll get even!” We are thinking all the time of the enemy.

So these two who came as enemies – as enemies of God; they were thinking of Him all the time! That was enough to dispel all the ignorance and bring them back! So, that is the heart of our task – to remember Swami all the time; dedicate every action to Him!

When you come here; instead of getting in the car, you say: “I dedicate this action to You Swami, I am not the doer Swami; You are the Doer. I am just the witness. All my life goes by like a picture – like a moving picture in front of me – all caused by karma; that which has been thought, or felt, or done – it has its effect! And here is this show that is going on in front of me Lord; but I have nothing to do with that; I am separate from that; I am I and I am my Self and therefore I dedicate everything that I do to Thee - Oh Lord!”

Swami has said that again and again: “ Krishna and His instructions to Arjuna as to how to reach liberation; and of course due to the English language, we can’t say it correctly – we say how to reach liberation – that is quite wrong! We are already liberated; we have a fear because of the language; that we are human beings striving to live up to God; to freedom, to liberation – quite untrue according to Swami and according to the sages.

Playing Our Roles in the Drama

God has come down and taken human form – it’s not that we have to ascend to God – we are God! Swami said in so many words that when somebody asks you who you are; instead of saying: “I am Hislop”; you should say: “Oh, I am God playing the role of Hislop.”

You are God playing the role of all these people. And so He says that you should always think as though you were an actor in a play. Playing your part; even picking your part; feeling your part with all your might - but you never forget who you really are; that when the play is finished you go home. You should always think of yourself as just a player in this drama of life that goes through everyday in front of us. We are just playing that part; we are on our way to go to God.

And He said that: “If this drama ever seems to become real to you, then deny its reality!” You are not his body or this mind or this personality – that is just a part that we are playing in the Divine drama of the Lord; we must play it to the best of our ability, but never forget who we really are!

A lady – millionaire, big home, lovely family - in the play she plays the part of the street lady. Too much sorrow and anguish, and when she weeps the audience weep with her. Even though she is playing her part so dramatically and so realistically; do you think she ever forgets who she really is?

But when the play is over, she will take off the paint and the wig and get in her Rolls Royce and go home! She never forgets that! Likewise it should be with us. No matter how much we get involved in this maya (illusion) of the world; we should never allow ourselves to believe that it is really we who are involved – we are God; we are the witness of all this. We are God playing a particular part on the way back to Him.


So if we wish to find this fountain of Bliss; this ecstasy ever fresh; then we must think these things through and reach the firm conclusion that we are Divine. Swami says: “This ‘I’; without anything added to it – I am a man; I am a woman; I am big; I am small; I am young; I am old – just ‘I’; that ‘I’ is God. That is God.”

So we should watch our own life. We can see that as we go through life, no matter what happens to us, ‘I’ remains the same. Day in and day out, you go back into yourself, sit back into yourself as all you can and you will see this ‘I’ hasn’t changed one iota since your earliest memory as a small child. It’s the same ‘I’ precisely – it hasn’t learnt a thing; it hasn’t forgotten a thing; hasn’t changed – exactly that ‘I’! That’s God!

So we should see that, feel that and not allow ourselves to be caught up and carried away by the rest of the events in our daily lives and get lost. That’s for us - the Sai devotees; how lucky we are to be born at this time; and know of the Lord; know our Swami; hear the wonderful teachings of Swami and be in a position to put it into practice!


The Only Real Thing is He

Q: In the light of what you said what is the point of all this knowledge that we accumulate in all our lifetime and when we die what happens to all this knowledge?

A: I said to Swami one time: “Swami I want to understand something?” He said: “Hislop; you are fine. As you get along you will be less and less interested in understanding because you see, in understanding there is he who understands and that which is understood – duality; therefore false; unreal. Only reality is God – Everything is God! Nothing else is God! So all this understanding; all this learning has to do with duality.”

When we merge in God, we lose this imaginary individuality and become God. Now, to understand God, you have to be God, because the mind with which you are thinking came after, not before; therefore the language can’t go over the mind. And God is before the mind.

So therefore Swami says: “We shouldn’t worry too much about the mind; but we should practice and practice being detached.” It is impossible to understand and realize the Divine without detachment. And detachment comes about through thinking these things through.

See, Swami says that human beings have special powers given by God. One of the special powers given to a human person by God is the ability to think things through – reason things through. That’s a God given trait to a human being. We have the ability – every person here – to sit down quietly and think these problems through and see the Truth.

Swami with Mr and Mrs Hislop

Now if we see the Truth, Swami says: “None of this sadhana is necessary.” You can forget the whole thing – forget bhajans; forget seva; forget prayers; forget meditation - forget the whole business - because all that is simply in gaining the Truth; seeing the Truth! So we can think things through.

Then we have the strength and the will-power to put them into practice in our daily lives. That will-power is Divine Will-Power – we all have it! We call upon the will-power of the Divine to change our life according to our deep understanding of the situation as it is. We stop allowing our life to be managed by our senses or even by the wanderings of the minds. But the intelligence is in charge of the mind; in charge of the senses and will operate if you call on your own will-power – call on your God.

And as far as our daily world is concerned; our actions in our daily world – What should we do? What shouldn’t we do? We can always get the answers by acting consciously. Swami tells us again and again that God resides in me; He is the only real thing there is – everything else about me is our imagination. But He resides in me as consciousness and therefore as we ask our consciousness, we ask God directly and our consciousness will give us a correct answer. Thank you very much for your time.

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Vol 5 Issue 08 - AUGUST 2007
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