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By Dr. Sara Pavan

“Brahma Sathyam – Jagam Mithyam”

(God is Truth – World is unreal)Adi Shankara

“Man returns to earth again and again until he has perfected his acting.” - Yogananda

“All the world’s a stage, and all men and women are merely players” - Shakespeare

“The soul is never born and never dies; it was not born and will not be born; without birth,
without end, eternal, ancient; it is not killed when the body in which it lives is killed. Just as one casts off old clothes,
so the soul casts off bodies in order to take on new ones.”
- Lord Krishna, Bhagavad Gita


As the apparel is to the body, the body is to the soul,
a mere superficial, illusory covering. I have no affiliations based on this transitory body and am bound only by the permanent relationship arising out of pure Love

“Life is a dream; Realise it.” – Baba

“Man has no free-will whatsoever” – Baba

“Nature is your Preacher; your life is your Teacher.” – Baba

“Each of you has struggled upwards from stone to plant, from plant to animal, from animal to man! You have earned the human body by accumulated merit of many lives. Do not expect to find happiness in the ‘other world;’ that world too is impermanent! Once you have exhausted your merit there, you will have to return to earthly life once again.” – Baba

“I separated Myself from Myself so that I can become Myself”

“The inescapable destiny of every living being is the attainment of Fullness.” Baba

From The Womb…To The Tomb…‘Life’ Is One Big School…

All of the above revelations from great personages and Avatars imply that life on earth is nothing but an evolutionary process towards a higher consciousness, one incarnation after another. So, our earthly sojourn is like a school of learning. We are exposed to a wide spectrum of experiences from all the outer and apparent imperfections and inconsistencies that are transient and unreal, but beheld from a human perspective as real.


Indeed, earthly life is a school of wisdom, where souls learn from direct and personal experiences and evolve from lesser truth to greater truth, and finally to fullness or enlightenment. No event ever happens on earth without a reason, and each soul learns its unique lessons while embodied in the human form. Bhagavan Baba had reminded the writer on several occasions during personal interviews: “There is nothing bad whatsoever in My entire creation.” Hence, even what we refer to as bad is also a good experience, at least from an evolutionary standpoint.

‘Self-realisation is the awakening of the spirit to its highest potential (fullness, perfection), wherein one is in constant awareness of the perfection within, in the midst of outer imperfections and chaos.’ This was an inspirational thought that had kept haunting the writer a few years ago. During a personal interview this statement was written on a piece of paper and handed to Bhagavan Baba to ascertain if He was the source of these forceful words. Bhagavan graciously took the piece of paper, read it and returned it to the writer without any comment! “Mounam Angeekara Soochakam,” is an ancient wisdom in Sanskrit, which means: “Silence is indication of acceptance.” Otherwise, Swami would have refuted the same. Also, by not making any comment Bhagavan may have dampened the writer’s ego.

Vedas, the Word of God, perceived by ancient sages, as well as the sacred scriptures God had given through the various Messiahs of the past, reveal the truth as to what earthly life is about. Truth is multidimensional, eternal and universal and cannot change from any perspective. A surgeon cannot be a surgeon if he is not thorough with his knowledge of the human anatomy. Operating on a patient without a sound knowledge of anatomy is tantamount to butchery! Likewise, we have to dissect the truth about ourselves under a ‘spiritual microscope’ to know who we are and what we are made of.

Are We Just the Body?

A human being is not just the body, the manifested physical aspect, but much larger than what meets the senses. The body is merely an instrument to perform action. It is a vehicle for the ‘person within,’ the ‘Persona,’ to manifest and express. Every person deep within is God, but this Divinity is shrouded in the personality, the body consciousness, with a feeling of separateness as an individual human being. Our physical or gross body is only made of earthly material, consisting of the five elements – space, air, fire, water and earth - from the food consumed and therefore referred to as the ‘food-sheath’ (annamaya-kosha). The physical body is like a costume, tailor-made for us, which is ‘ what we think we are.’

At a deeper level we will see the subtle and causal bodies, which are the non-material and invisible aspects of our being, beyond the senses. The subtle body consists of the mind, intellect, memory and ego (manas, buddhi, chitta and ahamkara) correspondingly in association with the next three sheaths (pranamaya, manomaya and vijnayamaya koshas). The mind is the cause of all aberrations, and the subject of ‘what others think we are.’ Beyond the subtle body is the causal body forming the bliss sheath (anandamaya-kosh), ‘what we really are.’ The body is merely a temporary dwelling for the resident within, the Atma, the Immortal and Eternal Self.

What Holds Man’s Evolution?

The soul (Jivatma) is a minute fragment of the over-soul, the totality of the all pervading Consciousness (Paramatma). Manifesting itself through a physical form, the soul continues to evolve through eons of earthly time on the worldly stage as a separate entity until it finally awakens to its own Reality, God or Total Consciousness. The soul, in association with the physical body on its earthly sojourn, had identified itself with the body, giving an illusory feeling of separateness, and yet, in reality, has never ever been separate from the One Totality. In fact, the soul or the Atma is beyond the bounds of time and space, which exists only in the realm of the created.

At the time of death, when the soul is released from the physical body, it accepts the inevitable reality that its association with its temporal body is impermanent. It overcomes the desire to return to the body it had occupied, after an initial period of ‘confusion’ and ‘mental exhaustion’. Freed from its incarceration in the physical body the soul sees the larger picture of the Cosmic Drama with its expanded awareness. After some ‘rest’ and adapting to its ‘new surroundings’ the soul begins a totally different life in the astral plane. The writer knows of such experiences a few of his close friends have had after their death, through responsible mediums.

The causal body draws all its past impressions from the subtle body and carries them forward into several future lives on earth until all such impressions of separateness or ego of the soul dissolve in the vastness of the oneness. Because it carries the causes (impressions) of the past it is also termed the causal body, where the individual soul, now in the matrix of total consciousness, is preparing itself for another sojourn on earth. We can compare this to a driver who, not only identifies himself with his car, but even carries with him all his bad driving habits with him onto his new car, long after vacating the old car! Unless an actor remembers that he is just an actor on stage and has to act his role perfectly, he will get caught up with his momentary role and the costume he dons while on stage. Past memories and attachments hinder man’s evolution and hold him back in his ascent to Godhood.

‘Cause and Effect’ – The Supreme Clause of Creation

Adi Shankara states so eloquently in one of his stanzas in Bhaja Govindam about the recurring cycles of birth and death (Punarapi Jananam, Punarapi Maranam). There is no effect without a cause and there is no cause that goes without creating an effect. Now, let us consider the nature of the world.

From what we see around us, from information gathered from other’s experiences, by inference from scientific investigation and theories, we know that the Universe is a vast, complex entity; the human body itself is a miraculous mechanism; the vegetable and animal kingdoms, the planets, the stars, the galaxies, the black holes, the particles, the waves, matter, antimatter and what not – are all miracles. There is no effect without a cause. So, we cannot but postulate the existence of an Omniscient and Omnipotent creator or Divine Intelligence beyond our limited understanding.


The cause is the effect concealed and the effect is the cause revealed and the time between the two can be extremes. According to Newton’s third law: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. When the reaction of an action is immediate and we are able to see it or measure it at the sensory level we call it scientific. However, if the reaction time is immense, perhaps after several lifetimes, when one has no recollection of the cause, the effect may appear to stand alone! Just because the cause is not visible at the mundane plane one cannot deny this principle of causation. The cause is like a seedling waiting for the opportune moment to sprout. This ‘seedling’ is deep in the sub-conscious mind. Mind and matter are interconnected as well as interdependent. For those familiar with computer jargon, it is not unrealistic to compare the conscious mind to RAM (Random Access Memory) and the subconscious mind to the HDD (Hard Disk Drive). All manifestations are projections of the mind and sustained by it.

All Action is God and all Reaction is Man!

We study the life-cycles of various parasites in biological sciences. Most parasites have more than two hosts in their life-cycle. For example the malarial parasite has two hosts – the mosquito and the human. When it infests the human host it causes the disease called malaria. To prevent the spread of the disease in the human we have to break the life-cycle of the parasite by killing the other host, the mosquito. By eradicating mosquitoes we will have succeeded in stopping the spread of malaria. In biochemistry too we could end the cyclic chemical events by enzyme antagonists. Similarly, the prospect of interrupting the recurring cycles of birth and death will rest on eliminating the deficits in the ‘balance-sheet,’ that are ‘carried-forward’ from one life into another. The solution is in surrendering whatever outcome to the Supreme Will, having played our ‘pre-ordained’ role well; that is to act our respective roles whole-heartedly and without resistance – just action without reaction. With proper understanding and acceptance we develop equanimity over whatever happens in our life. With this realisation we would experience ‘Non-Duality’ and will incur no future karma (Agami-karma). It is said, “Advaita darshanam jnanam,” meaning ‘Experiencing Oneness with the Totality is Wisdom.’ All action is God and all reaction is man. In other words, as we surrender more and more, we begin to react less and less, and finally live in perfect equanimity.

The Soul’s Preparation for a New Advent…

Now, let us attempt to study the movement of the soul, the ‘life-cycle’ of man, from one birth to another, both in the worldly material plane as well as in the subtle astral plane beyond. The writer requests readers to permit some degree of indulgence in constructive and explicable imagination. Let us imagine there are two ‘hosts’ in the recurring human cycle - the worldly and the astral planes. We shall enquire into where we came from, what we are doing here now and where we do proceed hereon? We need to imagine some point in the cycle the soul goes through to start with and trace the path until a circle is completed. Since all births have a cause, and so are all our experiences, we shall attempt to trace the cycle starting from the point of entry in the astral plane after death.

Before plunging back to earthly life and entering a new body in another mother’s womb each individual soul has to go through the various stages of preparation in the astral world. Freed from the limitation of the gross body and gaining full awareness of its own reality, the soul is able to take stock of the ‘cargo’ of karma it carries - gains and losses, the missed opportunities and failed lessons of past incarnations. With the help of astral guides, the soul is able to determine impartially the course it should take in the next birth, even several future births, to get rid of the ‘cargo.’ Earthly life is akin to a school where each individual learns to evolve. The earthly role of each individual is thus predetermined as per the soul’s needs, and in accordance with its past life experiences, strengths and weaknesses, to include new lessons to learn and to revise some past lessons as the case may be. Hence, events to follow in the ensuing incarnations on earth are ‘worked-out,’ as if a new ‘syllabus’ (destiny) is ‘written’ in the astral dimension, for souls to experience in each earthly life for their onward journey towards fullness.

The Drama That is Life

The life of an individual on earth now and where he had been prior to this birth can be prudently illustrated by using a drama theatre as a model. The stage, the back-stage and actors represent the world, the astral plane and the souls respectively and the actors are preparing in the back-stage to enter the stage. These days we are able to follow the movement of many species of animal life on earth, like ‘tagging’ whales and tracking their movements in the oceans using satellites. Just imagine the roof of the drama theatre has been removed and one could see from above the full view of the stage as well as the back-stage at the same time, even the several partitions ‘back-stage’ while those on the floor cannot see beyond the limitation of barriers. They would only see everything within the confines of the partition and not beyond. Seen from above we are able to see in one sweep the entire drama theatre, the ‘back-stage’ where the actors at various stages of preparation prior to their entry onto the front-stage. In reality, none of these partitions are separate arenas, but they are multiple dimensions of one’s own subconscious mind.


As long as the mind clings on to the ephemeral and fleeting worldly things, the soul of the individual is trapped in the earthly realm, and keeps returning to earthly life over and over again. In other words all unfinished business in the earthly life can only be cleared in a subsequent incarnation on earth. So, let us begin the cycle from the moment a soul enters the astral plane, after shedding the physical body. It is analogous to an actor returning to the back-stage at the end of his stage performance. On entering the astral plane the departed soul is received by other souls. After a brief period of rest, the soul is refreshed to the change from the dense vibrations of the earth to the subtle and fine vibrations of the astral and moves from the ‘receiving area’ to the adjoining ‘sorting area.’

This is a very critical phase when decisions have to be made as to what kind of earthly life should each one of the returning souls lead in its next birth. There is a ‘log-book’ for each soul that has a complete record of all the past earthly experiences and lessons, which is comparable to a warehouse of accumulated karma, which we call sanchitakarma. It is a reservoir of stored experiences and tendencies, karmas and vasanas, good as well as bad within the relative plane of earthly experience, deep down the subconscious. With the help and guidance available in abundance there, the soul would gather onto itself the best possible combination of unresolved karmas from this storehouse and package it, prarabdhakarma. This will provide the soul with opportunities to dispose of some karmic deficits in the next incarnation. Helped by astral guides, the souls make wise choices for the ensuing earthly life, be it new lessons or revisions, another opportunity given to free itself from ignorance and bondage.

Just as a director of a theatre production would assign different roles to different actors, appropriate to their experience and attributes, souls too get channelled in the ‘back-stage’ of their astral interlude to take up befitting roles for their next earthly sojourn, as if tailor-made for their own spiritual needs. For example, if a man is extremely cruel to his wife in this life, he could possibly be born as a woman in the next life to suffer in the hands of a cruel man! Such ‘eye for an eye’ and ‘tooth for a tooth’ kind of reaction need not happen to every soul, as there are many other ways and opportunities given to neutralise past karmas. Christ too has said, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” Souls undergo streaming according to their needs at the ‘curriculum zone,’ getting another chance to get things right. Therefore, no soul is damned, but opportunities are given repeatedly for mastering these lessons until fullness of enlightenment or true freedom is attained. Armed with the ‘script’ for their next incarnation, the souls move on to the ‘practicing and ‘rehearsing’ zone and begin to memorise and accept the assignment for the next life, fully aware that it is for their highest good. As the time nears for the souls to reincarnate they move to the penultimate stage of finding a suitable body, which is merely a costume.

The Body – A Suitable Vehicle


Where do these souls pick their ‘costumes’ from? They have already chosen their mothers while in the astral plane. The soul enters a developing foetus at around the 20th week of pregnancy. We may compare the womb to a closet. Just as the actor picks his costume from the closet, the soul would find its matching apparel in the developing foetus in a mother’s womb, and several weeks later make its final entry onto the stage of the world as a new born baby. The body of the foetus is entirely made of earthly material from the food consumed by the mother, right from the single fertilised egg cell to a fully grown newborn. The infant passes through many stages until old age, continuing its physical growth from the earthly food consumed. That is why the body is referred to as the ‘food-sheath.’

We may also compare the human body to a motor car or vehicle for the earthly journey and the individual soul, its driver. So long as the car is in the production line or in the dealer’s yard it carries no registration number plate. It has to bear the registration plate the moment it is driven away from the show-room. The foetus too bears no name and has to be registered at birth, with a name, which is its ‘number-plate,’ to function in the world! One thing comes absolutely clear out of this illustration - just as the driver is not the car, man must realise he is not his body. As the driver discards the old car and drives a new car until the journey is completed, the soul too keeps discarding old tattered bodies to take new ones in its journey to freedom and enlightenment.


He Alone Is!

The foetus chosen by the soul has its own DNA coding, which will determine the uniqueness of the physical aspects of the body for the rest of the life. The subtle body, consisting of the mind, intellect, memory and ego, also has its own uniqueness and inimitable nature. This kind of perfect ‘match-making’ between the subtle and the gross body, or the actor and his costume, could only be possible by God, the All-knowing and All-pervading Supreme Consciousness that is producing this grand drama of life on the stage of the earth. Everything in life is pre-ordained – gender, role to be played, achievements and failures, gains and losses, health and sickness, and a whole heap of opposites in worldly expressions and activities.

We have to act our roles perfectly and remember that we are on the earthly stage doing His Will alone. Complete surrender is impossible as long as man is influenced by his mind, with all its waywardness. To free oneself from recurring cycles of birth and death man must have a perfect understanding of non-duality and experience his life as being completely in God’s Hands. This is true surrender.

There is no other, but He alone in the entire Universe, in many names, forms and situations!

The play is His; the role is His gift;

The lines are written by Him; He directs;

He decides the dress and décor; the gesture and the tone;

The entrance and the exit.

Is There Such a Thing as ‘Free Will’?

Does this mean man has no free will or choices to make in his life on earth? A pre-destined life is comparable to a dog’s leash and the dog is free to move within its limits. Man too has chosen his own limitations prior to birth, and we call it his Prapthi (Prarabdha karma), which is already determined in the astral plane. It is the writer’s firm belief that man has some choice as to how he could play his role on earth, and with what kind of attitude; but he has neither a choice over his role he plays nor over the events that surround him. He is born with his script, and this cannot be altered on the stage of the earth, except when the Avatar intervenes. With what attitude one plays his role is influenced by his tendencies (vasanas) from past lives as well as the conditioning since birth. If human life will unfold according to a pre-destined path, one may cleverly argue why on earth should anyone bother to work or strive for anything?

Lord Krishna Himself gives the answer to this question. Arjuna, the great warrior, was in a quandary and his ego got the better of him. Arjuna wanted to walk away from the battlefield, as if he was the one to decide whether he was to fight or not. He turned to the Lord in such a confused state, but Bhagavan Krishna emphatically told Arjuna, “In spite of you, you will do what you are destined to do. You are a warrior and your role is to fight injustice.” Here Lord Krishna hinted that the outcome of the war and Arjuna’s role in it were already pre-determined, long before the event was to occur. Arjuna’s choice was limited to his understanding as to how he would fight and with what kind of attitude he would face the situation. It also implied that Arjuna had no free-will to decide upon his role in the war, whether to fight or walk away, neither its outcome.


Arjuna had the choice of destroying the enemies with hatred, anger and doership, which would have added to his karmic load, or, become an instrument of the Lord and surrender to His Supreme Will, thereby absolving himself from incurring any karma to be carried forward, but fight he must. Both ways, the outcome would have remained unchanged. Christians pray to the Heavenly Father: “…. Thy kingdom come; Thy Will be done on Earth, as it is in heaven.” It means, our life has already been ‘landscaped’ in the astral life before taking birth and events in our life are inevitable. It is like a movie film already containing what is being projected. So, where is the question of Free-Will?

The Golden Path – Unconditional Surrender

By God’s grace alone man can overcome attachment, bondage and ignorance. First man has to surrender to the Supreme Will, with peace in his mind and love in his heart and make every effort himself to be a worthy recipient of His grace. Our Lord, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, has among His 108 names, ‘Om Sri Sai Karma Dwamsine Namaha’, meaning the Sai who has come wipe out all our karma and free us from the karmic web that brings us again and again to the worldly stage.

Let us remember Bhagavan Baba’s first ever bhajan – “Manasa Bhajare Guru Charanam, Dustara Bhava Sagara Taranam.” (O man! Without worshipping the Lotus Feet of the Guru [Lord Sai] it is not possible to cross the ocean of life and death.)


“I separated Myself from Myself so that I can become Myself,” says Bhagavan. Only by one’s awareness, attitude and deeds, that is, seeing God in everything, everywhere and all the time, can one experience this oneness to the full and feel: “Having realised who I am Lord,I have become Yourself again, ‘I am I,’ just as the waves merge back with the ocean."

The writer offers his heartfelt gratitude to Bhagavan Baba for His inspiration and boundless Grace for the intuitive understanding of the drama of life, with love, humility and dedication. Jai Sai Ram

“If our present is but the result of our past, the habits formed are over a long period. But, whatever be the nature of the character one has come by, it can certainly be modified by modifying the accustomed processes of thought and imagination. No one is incorrigible. By conscious effort, habits can be changed and the character refined. By selfless service, by renunciation, by devotion, by prayer and by methodical reasoning and logic, old habits can be discarded and new one’s acquired for taking us along the divine path.” – Baba. (Sai Inspires - 26th August 2005, H2H)

Dear Reader, did you find this article helpful? Do you have any experiences that you would like to share with us? Please contact us at [email protected] mentioning your name and country.  Thank you for your time.



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Vol 5 Issue 06 - JUNE 2007
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