Sathya Sai Baba & Hilda Charlton
(From a talk given by Hilda on March 18, 1982)
Sathya Sai Baba was born on November 23, 1926, in the small South Indian village of Puttaparti. On the day of his birth, musical instruments in the family home played melodies and rhythms on their own, untouched by any hands, and a large cobra, a sacred sign of divinity, was found under the baby’s bed. These and other mysterious events surrounded Sai Baba’s birth and led witnesses to suspect that this was no ordinary child.
As a young boy, little Sathya would lead his playmates in devotional songs before school and would fascinate them by materializing candy and gifts from an empty bag. Even as a child, he was constantly encouraging those with whom he came in contact to live righteous and God-centered lives according to the ideals expressed in the scriptures that are his country’s ancient heritage. His boyhood years were filled with miraculous occurrences which reminded all who saw them that the material world was not ultimate, that it was dependent upon a higher spiritual reality.
At the age of thirteen, Sathya left his books and announced to his family that he was the reincarnation of a holy man named Sai Baba of Shirdi. “Yes,” he said, “I am not your son.” He told his parents that he no longer belonged to them, that his devotees were calling, and that it was time for him to go. “My work,” he said, “is waiting.” When he was twenty, he wrote to his older brother, “I have a task to foster all mankind to ensure for all lives full of bliss. I will not give up my mission or my determination. I know I will carry them out.” Now that gives you a little idea who he was.
I’m going to read a tiny bit of a letter that I received from Baba when I first started these classes. I’m just going to read a line or two. It says:
“Hilda, my blessings. I know all about the classes in jnana [knowledge] and pranayama [breathing] which you are holding in New York. Convey my blessings to all who are attending and to all devotees there. Sadhakas [spiritual aspirants] must also cultivate love and the spirit of selfless service. Success in jnana and pranayama is to be measured not only by the betterment of physical and mental health, but more by the depth of equanimity gained and the extent of sympathy that wells up from the heart. My blessings are with all those who are making such spiritual effort. I bless them that they may have steadfast faith. With blessings, Baba.”
Years ago I went seeking those who could take the cork out of me and let me merge with the Ocean of Truth. I left San Francisco on a freighter to see the holy ones of India. As Nityananda, the great saint and my teacher, said, “The mind must come to a certain point of dedication, of mindlessness, before the Masters will appear.” I went to India as a dancer and gave concerts throughout the country. I left here with a one-way ticket, with eighty dollars in cash, and with a million dollars worth of faith. I traveled all over India, and I’ve been going ever since on that eighty dollars. Right? And on the million dollars of faith.
In India I had gone to Shirdi Sai Baba’s shrine, and wonderful things had happened there. Shirdi Sai Baba had said before he passed that he would incarnate again in South India eight years later. When Sathya Sai Baba was a boy, he said that he was that incarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba.
Well, I was about to leave India on my way home after all those many, many years, almost 20 years there, and I heard somebody say, “There’s a Sathya Sai Baba who does miracles down in South India.” So I went to the stationmaster in this little town and I took that old train. Back then I used to get down to the station very early and go third class and sleep in the luggage racks. I was thinner then. The luggage racks are very narrow. I wouldn’t make it now, I’m telling you. I said to that stationmaster, “I want a ticket back in three days because I am going home to my America.” And he said, “I can’t give you a return ticket. You haven’t seen the Master yet.” The Master was Sai Baba — the stationmaster knew where I was going. I said, “You give me that ticket.” I got a little on the tough side. But he shook his head and said, “You haven’t asked for permission yet from the Master.”
I didn’t come home in three days. I stayed a long, long time over with Baba. He was very, very kind to me.
With Baba, miracles are innumerable. My first one was when I arrived. The ashram lights go out at 9:30 p.m., and my bus got there at 11:30 p.m. Somebody said, “Come, I’ll take your luggage. You sleep on the hospital veranda.” So I went up there. In the morning, I had a companion in bed with me — a mangy dog. And they could be mangy there, too, I’m telling you, thin as rails. It was cuddled up with me so sweetly. And then, it was about four o’clock in the morning, still dark, and a vibration came swooshing from what I learned later was Baba’s house. He must have been sending a wonderful vibe to the hospital, and I was in the way and I got it. I thought it was electricity going through me, and I said, “Wow! I’ve hit the jackpot here!” It was really good. And that was the start of my divine love affair with Sai Baba.
I got dressed, and I went down and stood outside. That was in 1965, you see. It’s all different now. If you go over there now, you won’t find this. You may find something better, but you won’t find what I found. You understand? Because I’m one person and you’re another. You may find something much superior to what I found. But my experience is what I would like to share with you.
That day the door opened and out came this person. He wore an orange silk robe and his hair was in a perfect Afro. When I heard he was coming to America, I thought, my God, what are people going to think about that hairdo? And about that time, that hairdo became very popular over here. It prepared the way for him to come! Unfortunately, he didn’t come. I guess our hearts weren’t calling him enough.
So anyway, he was looking at me and gesturing, and the people said, “Go in. Go in. He’s called you.” And I went in. He looked at me and he called me over to a corner. We were so close — our noses were a few inches apart. And I thought, “Gee, I didn’t think I’d get this close to this Master.” He said — his English wasn’t as good then as it is now — he said, “What you want?” And I said, “God!” I tell you, from out of my inner self came this word, ppppssssshhh. I didn’t have time to think that I’d like a ring or a necklace or a mala. This darn thing came out of me: “God!” He looked at me and he said, “You come back at four o’clock.” He turned his hand in a nice circle and he went wwwoooossshhh and he said, “Put out your hand.” I did, and he put in it some sweet raisin halvah. I looked at it, and he said, “Eat. That is heat.” He said as he turned to everybody, “She has a yogic heat from doing so much yoga.” I’m telling you I had yogic heat, all right. It used to burst out of my pores. I used to go home, open the fridge door, put my feet in the fridge and read a book. If that was yogic heat, I had it. So he said as he turned to the people. “She has yogic heat. This is sweet. You eat.” And so I ate it, and I cooled off very nicely. I didn’t have to use my fridge for my feet after that.
I went back at four o’clock and he started my training. He started a wonderful relationship that lasted until I came back here. It was a very wonderful thing.
Whenever he went somewhere, he would call me and say, “Hilda, what are your plans?” And, of course, I had none. I hadn’t had any plans for twenty years. I’d just been roaming. I said, “No plans,” and he said, “You come. Be ready at seven o’clock in the morning.” So I’d be ready at seven. By ten o’clock we would leave. He’d say, “I know about ladies and getting ready. We tell them to get ready early.”
I had the privilege that wherever he went, he took me into the home where he stayed. One day I was staying in a room that had little windows looking onto an altar on an indoor patio. And I was sitting there thinking, “Who is this guy? He’s like a star in the sky.” And he walked in. He didn’t even look at me. He just looked at the wall and he said, “Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are. Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky.” Then he walked out. Ah, he used to play these games with me. He would let me know that he knew what I was thinking all the time.
Other memories come back. Even now I can’t boil water without burning the pot. But back then somebody came up to me and said, “Should we cook something for Baba?” I had visualized Baba’s dining room as having an enormous dining table with shining bright silver and glassware, with all the VIPs sitting around it. And when the time finally came to go up with the food that we cooked, I poked my head in the door with about five Indian ladies, and I looked at this place where my Baba humbly ate. In this little, tiny room, he had a table that we wouldn’t even cut vegetables on in a village and a little old wooden chair to go with it. He looked at me and he said, “What are you doing here?” And I said, “I cooked something, Baba.” He said, “You cooked something?” He said to his sister, “What did she cook?” And she said, “Chapati.” He said, “I’ll have some of it.” You can imagine, can’t you? I danced down those stairs. I leapt two feet all over the ashram, yelling, “He ate it, he ate it, he ate it, he ate it.” Those were the early days that were crazy and fun.
A big thing in those days was black market pens. I heard him talking to someone else, and I heard him say, “Parker pen.” I got on the next train to go into Bangalore, and I went all over looking for a black market pen. I finally found one, but I could find only a silver one. So I came back. At that time I was living in the house where he was, and I stood in the room in front of him with this thing in back of me, very innocent. He said, “What do you have in back of you?” And I said, “A pen.” He said, “Let’s see.” I opened my hand and he said, “Silver. I’ve got a gold one.” So I didn’t care. I learned over there, “Praise and blame, all the same.” You didn’t pay any attention to anything Baba said. You just made a shield on yourself and you didn’t react. So I took the pen and put it down in the next room, where I was sleeping. In about five minutes, he came in. He didn’t look at me. He walked right past where we were all sitting, and he went into my room. He picked the pen up — he didn’t look at me — and he walked out, hiding this thing in his hand. You know, he was flamboyant. That’s the only word I can say for him.
Wherever he went, he took us on wonderful trips. In India everyone is so interested in your life that they would come up and say, “What is your name?” But I wanted to know about their lives, so I would say, “What is your name?” I’d put it back on them, you understand? And then they’d say, “Where are you from?” I’d say, “Where are you from?” In this way I got to hear miracle after miracle that nobody has read in books. You cannot imagine the miracles. Everybody had something wonderful to tell about what was happening to them.
I remember that he took me and about three others to this town where I met a young man who told me his story. The man said he had broken his leg on a motorcycle, and it had not mended correctly. His sisters were yakking at him to go to Baba’s and get it fixed. The doctors were yakking at him to go and have it rebroken and set with a cast. One day when he was shining his shoes with that old-fashioned polish that we don’t have here now, cake polish, he got so mad with the pain that he said, “I don’t know what to do!” He threw the polish and it hit the ceiling, and from it came down streams and streams of holy ash. It went on until it flooded the floor. The neighbors came in to take the holy ash. Finally he got on his motorcycle and went up to Baba. Baba said, “Well, did you finish shining your shoes?” His leg had been healed, you see.
Once I went with Baba to a very wealthy home, and he said, “There’s going to be a wedding.” He gave me a sari to wear. I was going to wear it here tonight, and then I decided to wear a brighter one instead. So I went to the wedding, and I saw this lady of about sixty-five or seventy come out, and then her husband, who must have been twenty years older than she. They had to carry him out in a wheelchair. The bride and groom! Baba’s going to marry these two? He’s going to marry that old lady to that old man? I was going on and on, and finally they explained to me that it was one of those weddings when you marry again on the fiftieth golden anniversary. The word of what I thought got to Baba, and I thought he would just explode with laughter. I gave him a lot of good times in my craziness.
At Whitefield, we had fun, but when we would get to Prasanthi Nilayam, his ashram, he used to bring us down and we would get serious. He became like the Krishna, the King. But one day I was sitting on the floor where we had to sit at bhajans, and when I got up, my leg was asleep, and I fell into the aisle. That’s the only time I’ve ever seen Baba laugh there. I thought he would explode with laughter. But at other times, too, he was just a lot of fun and had a lot of wonderful wisdom. One day he picked up a little piece of paper from the floor. I saw him concentrate, put it in his mouth, and the little piece of scrap paper turned into sesame candy.
I’m telling you about my relationship to him. It would not be your relationship. Your relationship might be much better. I’m sure he wouldn’t laugh at you. He just had a good time with me.
I have things here for you to see that Baba gave me. He was always calling me in and giving me wonderful things. One day he said he was going to give me a picture. So every time I’d go in for an interview, just for fun I’d say, “Where is my picture?” and he’d say, “I will give you a picture.” And the next time I’d say, “Where is my picture?” and he’d say, “I will give you one hundred pictures.” The next time I went in, he waved his hand — and there were the hundred pictures. I still have them. I haven’t given them away, so don’t you think you’re going to get any!
One day he twirled his hand and said, “Look, Hilda, there’s my picture, and there’s my address, too!” — almost as if he didn’t know what was going to happen. But of course, he did. His way of controlling his mind is what I’m trying to teach you here. Do you understand? The power of self-control, the power of the mind, the power of concentration. Perhaps we’re not going to be able to make pictures. At one time I thought I was because he said to me, “I’ll give you three siddhis.” You know what siddhis are — miracles. I thought, Wow! Three siddhis! That’s all I heard, because I had to have an interpreter at that time. Whatever he said to me, I’d get so wwwooohhh. I’d get wobbly, and he’d hit me on the head, and I’d say, “Oh, that’s worse, Baba. That’s worse.” When I’d get out of his presence, I’d start thinking about what he’d said and I couldn’t remember a darn thing — although I did remember something about the three siddhis he was going to give me. I cornered the interpreter. I said, “What did he mean?” She said, “Three siddhis.” I said, “What were they?” and she said, “Well, I don’t remember.” As the days went by, I had made statues, I had made holy ash, I had made rings, I had made just about everything you can imagine in my imagination. I said, “Wow, I’m going back to America, and I can make all these things.” I thought I had really hit it this time. Wow. So one day I finally cornered Baba. You know, even living in his house, you couldn’t get at him all the time. He would see you out of the corner of his eye and sswwoosshh, like that, he would leave. But I cornered him and I said, “Baba, what were those three siddhis that you’re going to give me?” He said, “Prema siddhi,” which is love, “Shanti siddhi,” which is peace, and “Anandam siddhi,” which is bliss. I looked at him and I said, “Those aren’t siddhis, Baba.” I’ve never seen Baba so strict in my life. He pulled up another inch, which made him then five foot three, and he said, “If you want lesser things, go to a lesser teacher.” I went away and thought about it, and I thought, “My God, he’s giving me God. God is bliss.” And that’s how I can give you bliss, kids. I can hit you on the head, and you have bliss. Somebody said to me the other day, “You hit me on the forehead, and something happened, Hilda.” You understand? Baba was giving me bliss, he was giving me peace, and he was giving me love. I went to him and I said, “Excuse me, Baba, that was my fault.” He said, “Not your fault. My fault. Swami’s fault.” How sweet and humble — such humility, such wonder he is, such love he shows for everybody.
Sometimes Baba would ask, “What do you want?” And people would say, “Liberation.” Liberation from what? From A-B-C? From an uncontrolled tongue or what? It’s a slow process. Some yogis go twenty years into the Himalayas, and only then do their teachers send them out. Twenty years goes past fast. We’ve only got seventeen years until 1999. You’ve got time to finish your yogi jobs. But you have to go at it, kids. Right?
One day he said, “How are you for money?” I said “Oh, oh….” When I got with him, I mean, I couldn’t even talk. I said, “Oh, I’ve just got the abundance of the universe.” He looked at me. He knew I didn’t. He just clapped once, and out came a bunch of rupees. “Take them,” he said. “Hide them under your sari. Jealousy out there. Jealousy.” He meant that as I went out, not to go, “Ooooh, look what Baba gave form to.” I’d have ten thousand jealous of me out there, all waiting to go in and see Baba. He said, “Take it to the American Express and get it changed into money of your country and never spend it.” I never spent it. They changed it into twenty dollars and I always kept it.
I also use a ring that he made for me when I was leaving, just took out of the air. He said, “This is for healing, Hilda, for healing.” And he said, “You will look in, and you will see sometimes Baba, sometimes you will see the infinite, and sometimes the finite.” And it has been so.
I have time to read just a little bit of something that I like here of Baba’s, because his miracles are one thing, but to me his message is another. His message is what I fell in love with — his message is what I rose in love with. Listen to this now.
“Why does man rail when he arrives in the world, whimper through life and groan out into the beyond, lamenting that his sojourn here was a waste of years? Why? Man does so because he is unaware of his glory, of his high destiny.” That’s the only reason. Week after week here, don’t I tell you who you are? That’s all I can do. All I can do each week is tell you who you are, until one day you say, “Wow, that’s who I am!”
Baba says, “Man is the divine poured into a human mold.” Take these words into yourself right now. Come on. You say “I.” Say “I am the divine poured into a human mold.”
Baba says, “Everything else, alive or inert, is also divine, but it is the privilege of man alone to be able to become aware of this precious truth.”
We’re the only ones that can understand it, do you understand? Isn’t that wonderful? So why aren’t we living better? This message is echoed by the scriptures and in the declarations of countless saints, yet man and woman turn a deaf ear to it, perhaps due to misfortunes created by misdeeds in past lives.
Baba says: “Man can derive ananda” — that’s bliss — “through the contemplation of his divinity or the divine as represented by all that he sees, hears, tastes, touches or smells outside himself. Brahman is immanent in all.” Well, then, what are we worrying about? “The Divine pours into your mold. What an inexhaustible source of ananda lies inside or outside you. Only you have to develop the mind” — that’s it! — “Only you have to develop the mind that will respond to the call, that will recognize the truth.”
Do you think that this week you could honestly keep your mind firm on who you are, day and night? Simply repeat it, saying who you are. If you have pains, say it is a lie. Say “I am in the image and likeness of God, and if God had pain, the whole world would screech. And I cannot have pain, because I am in that image and likeness.” Say it over and over and over and over and over.
Once I took on so much pain from someone that I couldn’t walk. It was so excruciating; there wasn’t a place in me that wasn’t excruciatingly painful. All at once I said, “Hey, God, I’ve had enough of this! I’m sick of this — this pain is finished!” And it got finished. What I get sick of is taking on pain from people who aren’t going to change. I’ll take anything on from you kids if you’re going to change afterwards. I’ll go along with anything. But if you get back your health and you don’t change one iota — if your mouth is still nasty, your mind is still cheap, and you’re still petty — then why don’t you just have your own pain?
It’s time you kept your mind on the truth of the matter. I would have so many people coming up next week to talk of miracles if you would keep your mind on God every moment. Say “I am made in His image and likeness.” If you want to say “Her,” you can. “I am made in the Mother’s image and likeness. I cannot have sickness, I cannot have trouble. It’s impossible, impossible, impossible. It’s a lie, it’s not true, it’s not true.” You go on all day like that, and something will break. Start doing it. I believe you could clean the water if you thought about it enough, if Baba can wave his hand and make something manifest. I swear by God Almighty that I’ve seen Baba do that over and over and over again. I’ve seen him blow like this — wwhhooohh — and the whole thing changes. It’s almost as it was in the beginning, when God went like this — wwhhooohh — and our world and we were all created. It’s a wonderful feeling to see someone do that. It opens your mind to a glory you haven’t touched yet. Open your minds and your hearts and see the things we haven’t seen yet! There are glories in the air we haven’t touched, and I’m determined to touch them. If Baba can touch them, I can touch them. If Moses can part that sea, then I too can part my troubles if I keep my mind right. Do you understand this?
Baba continues: “Misery is alien to man’s and woman’s makeup. Recognize the immanence of the Divine. One has to dedicate all acts to the Divine.” Everything we do is to the Divine. “What is an act when you analyze it deeply enough? It is the manipulation” — now listen to this — “the manipulation of the Divine by the Divine.” Isn’t that great? It is the manipulation of the Divine by the Divine. If you think positive and something happens, then who is the positive in your mind? God. And who is the thing that is manifested? God. If you pray, you take down from God’s storehouse and give back to God.
Baba says: “Dedication is to be carried out in many various ways. Take the food that we consume and offer it to God.” How many people forget to offer their food to God and change the vibratory rate of it from a stinking old nothing that’s been cooked in a hurry into something divine? Any act done for the glorification of God is thereby rendered pure and potent. It is incapable of harming the doer, the beneficiary or society, for it is saturated with love, which is God. God is the director of this puppet show, the manipulator of the strings. Go behind the scene and see Him. It is now hiding Him. You have only to peek behind a flower or peer behind a cloud to see Him pulling the strings to show us the beauty, to show us the darkness of heavy moisture. So also you have only to peek behind your thoughts, to peer behind your feelings. You will find there the Inner Motivator behind everything.
“You tell me, ‘Swami, I have been practicing intense meditation for fifty years, but I have yet to gain concentration.’ This is the shameful confession. Jnana, or meditation, is the seventh of a series of the steps leading to the eighth, samadhi, or conquest of the mind. Unless you have secured a strong foothold on the five previous steps, you will fall back from jnana.”
You want to know what the five previous steps are? We’ve been doing them in this class, and I say you’re a wonderful, wonderful class. I’m very proud of you. The first step is the control of the senses. The second is the control of the emotions and impulses. The third is the mastery of balance and equipoise. The fourth is the regulation of breathing and movements of the vital airs. The fifth is the prevention of outer influences. If you don’t practice the first steps to make the foundation, you can go off and meditate and when you come out, you’ll slide down and it will be hard to hold it, however many years you have tried to stick to it.
“Reduce the luggage you carry about when on the journey of life. Remember, all that is not you is luggage. You are not the body, so the body is an item of luggage. The mind, the senses, the intelligence, the imagination, the desires, the plans, the prejudices, the discontent, the distress are all items of luggage. Jettison them soon to make your travel lighter.”
Come back with me to Baba at Brindavan. I used to get up at 3:30 in the morning and go outside. I would look up and it would still be pitch-black, except for the stars so bright and the moon so bright. I’d walk down to this place, and I’d sit and meditate. I’d close my eyes at 3:30 and maybe at 8:30 I’d open them, and I would see the monkeys walking with their babies in their arms, picking the leaves and the figs and the fruit off the trees for their breakfast. I want you to close your eyes and feel with me, and then we’ll go into a meditation. I call this “Baba at Brindavan.”
Just feel it now. Get very quiet. Take in the essence of Baba now. You may see him in dreams after tonight. He may appear to you. He may just come for a second of darshan. I tell you this night, I tell you in all sincerity, that everyone who is here, he knows is here. He once told me, “I know everybody in the world, and those that are mine I call unto myself.” He knows you’re sitting here tonight. Don’t move your hands, your arms.
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