Satyopanishad – Upanishad Of Sri Sathya Sai – Part 26
Anil Kumar Kamaraju Questions Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Question) Anil Kumar: Swami! Radha was an ardent, intimate and ideal devotee of Krishna. She represents ananyabhakti, infinite devotion, matchless and unconditional, and as we hear you speak on Radha bhakti we get lost in the ecstasy of devotion. Would you please tell us more about Radha’s bhakti?
Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba: Textual knowledge can’t confer devotion. You can’t get it from any Guru. No friend can make a gift of devotion. It should be born in one’s own Heart. It can’t be stuffed into your heart. The devotion of the Gopis was pure and selfless. It was steady, unshakeable and unwavering. Radha was the most prominent among them. She felt herself one with Krishna, tadatmya, total identification. Radha had only Krishna trsna, thirst or desire for God, and not lokatrsna, worldly desire.
One day Krishna went to a nearby place in his vehicle along with Rukmini. All the inhabitants of the place gathered there and gave them a tumultuous welcome exceedingly jubilant. Rukmini noticed Krishna gazing intently at a person to her side. That person too was casting looks on Krishna. Krishna slowly and softly said, “Rukmini! Do you know Radha? She is an ardent devotee of mine.” Hearing this, Rukmini got down from the vehicle and rushed close to Radha and after exchanging pleasantries, invited her to spend some time with her in the palace in Dwaraka. Accordingly, on the following day, Radha went to Dwaraka. Rukmini received Radha at the main entrance and escorted her into the palace. Radha stayed with Rukmini in the palace for some time talking about Krishna and singing the glories of Krishna. They began sharing the joys of their experiences with Lord Krishna. Rukmini served hot milk to Radha so that she could be with her for some more time and talk a little longer about Krishna, as she would sip the milk slowly. But, Radha gulped the whop cup of hot milk at once. All the same, the conversation went on for some time and then Radha left the palace for her village.
Krishna returned in the evening, very much tired. He said to Rukmini “Rukmini! Look ! I am very tired and exhausted; I have a burning sensation in my feet, it is unbearable”. Rukmini noticed some blisters on His feet and wondered how and why such a thing happened to Him. Krishna then said, “Rukmini! You served very hot milk to Radha this afternoon when she came to visit you in response to your invitation, didn’t you? Radha drank the whole lot at one gulp. As my feet are located in her heart, the hot milk spilt on my feet and so you now find blisters there where I feel the burning sensation”. This was the level of Radha’s devotion.
One day to test Radha’s devotion, a Gopi gave her a pot with holes to fetch water from the river Yamuna. Radha didn’t notice that. She was constantly repeating the sacred name of Krishna as she was dipping the pot in the river. With her every utterance of Krishna’s precious name one hole after another got cemented. The pot never leaked and Radha brought home a pot full of water. That was the height of her devotion!
In the very name Radha: ‘R’ signifies ‘Radha ‘, ‘A’ is Adhar or foundation, ‘D’ signifies Dhara or continuous, uninterrupted flow and the next ‘A’ means Aradhana or worship. Her devotion was unflinching like a dhara, continuous flow like oil.
As Radha repeated the name of Krishna, Krishna also thought of Radha repeatedly. This is the link and the intimacy between a devotee and his or her personal God or Deva.
Question) Anil Kumar: Swami! We have now understood from your divine message that the Pandavas could face problems and withstand troubles and tensions because of the infinite grace of Lord Krishna. It is most gratifying to note God’s concern and love for His devotees. Kindly give us a notable instance.
Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba: Yes, Yes, and Yes. This is the truth of truths. It is not wholly correct to say that God loves. No.
God is Love,
Love is God,
Live in Love.
How? You may at the most love one or two. But, if you become love, if you are love itself, it becomes infinite and you love all. So, don’t become a lover but be love itself. You can realise God only through love, as He is the embodiment of love. You can see the moon only through moonlight. Similarly, through love, you experience God who is love and thus enjoy bliss.
The Pandavas could face all difficulties because of the blessings of Lord Krishna. It was their unconditional love for and surrender to Krishna that made them accept every dangerous situation or every challenging moment as His will and blessing. Krishna was ready to do anything to save them from all kinds of disastrous situations.
The Pandava brothers along with Draupadi and Kunti were in exile. One evening, Dharmaja and Draupadi were taking a stroll in the forest and saw a big fruit lying on the ground. They thought that its size was so big that it could be divided among all of them for their dinner. Draupadi went close to that big fruit and tried to pick it up, but in vain. Then Dharmaja assisted her in lifting the fruit, but met with the same result. Both of them were exhausted. In the meantime, finding that Dharmaja and Draupadi had not yet returned, Bhima and Arjuna, one after the other, went in search of them and located them. They too extended their helping hand in lifting the fruit and failed. Finally, after some time, Nakula and Sahadeva joined them and all of them together could not move the fruit. Then, they noticed something moving just under their feet. It was all black hair spread wide on the ground like a carpet. They lifted their heads, looked around and noticed that these long hair were those of a sage seated in penance at a distance. The sage was none other than Romarshi. (‘Roma’ means hair, and ‘Rishi’ means sage).
The sage was just about to open his eyes. He was doing penance for a long time for this fruit which would make him free from thirst and appetite: The Pandavas happened to be there near the fruit and were trying to take it home. They felt guilty and were afraid that the sage might curse them. Draupadi immediately prayed to Krishna wholeheartedly seeking His divine intervention to save them
Krishna appeared in front of her, enquired about the problem, and said, “Look Draupadi! It is true that I come to the rescue of my devotees, but am also a rshimanasasancari, dweller in the hearts of devotees. What you have done is wrong. Romarshi did great penance for this fruit which you wanted to take away. In a fit of wrath, if the Rishi curses you, how can I help you?” Then Draupadi fell at Krishna’s feet and said, “Oh Lord! We are left with none. But for you, we wouldn’t have survived like this. We admit our mistake. Please pardon us and save us from the danger of the sage’s curse.” Then Krishna said, “Alright! But, note one thing. Act strictly according to my instructions. Now, I will go and be with Romarshi and begin conversing with him. You come there exactly ten minutes later.”
Krishna went to Romarshi, who received Him with all devotion and sincerity saying, “O Lord! It is we who should come to you. All our penance and austerities are meant only to reach you. How shall I estimate my good fortune now? The Lord himself has come to see me!” Krishna started talking to him and spent ten minutes, when the Pandavas arrived there. Then Krishna prostrated in front of every one of them including Draupadi : Watching this, Romarshi concluded that these Pandavas before whom even Krishna prostrated must be Rishis of the noblest and highest order. Then Romarshi too prostrated and did namaskar to the Pandavas as Krishna did. Thus, his anger was pacified. He cooled down. He couldn’t curse those whom he had reverentially greeted.
This anecdote speaks volumes of the unfathomable love of God for His devotees and of the extent to which He would go in order to protect them. But, it is needless to say that the devotee should also be worthy of his compassion.
The Mahabharata War was going on. Bhishma took an oath that he would kill the Pandavas the next day. Draupadi was grief stricken on coming to know of this oath of Bhishma. She prayed to Lord Krishna in anguish and the Lord took pity on her. Out of compassion, He visited her that night itself. It was almost late in the night. On the battlefield, in a tent lay the aged Bhishma, greatly disturbed. He was restless and couldn’t sleep. He was feeling repentant over his vow because the Pandavas were on the side of justice and righteousness. He began pacing up and down outside the tent, engrossed in deep thoughts of regret.
Krishna walked towards the tent where Bhishma was staying. He signalled to Draupadi to fall at the feet of Bhishma. She exactly did so. Noticing that it was a woman who touched his feet, Bhishma blessed her with the words, ‘dirghasumangali bhava – May you have a long, happy married life.’ As he bent down to see who had touched his feet, he found Draupadi there. He was taken aback. A big question arose in his mind. How could he kill the Pandavas having just now blessed Draupadi with a long happy married life?
Bhishma saw Krishna standing there on one side, and said, “Lord! This is your master plan. Things happen according to your divine will. You can do and undo things. We are only instruments in Thy Hands. Lord! What is the bundle you are carrying? You have wrapped something in cloth and are carrying it. May I know, my God, what it is you are carrying?” Krishna said, “Bhishma! This is a late hour of the night. You are an aged warrior. You must have been very tired and trying to rest. I didn’t want your sleep to be disturbed by the sound of the footwear of Draupadi. Therefore, I wrapped her sandals in a piece of cloth and carried them and that is what you have seen.”
This is what bhaktaraksana, safeguarding and protecting devotees is. God will go to any extent to fulfil His promise. There is no doubt about it.
Question) Anil Kumar: Swami! The incarnation of Krishna is called the perfect incarnation. Then, how is the incarnation of Rama to be viewed? What is the difference between the Lord’s two incarnations? In offering them worship, is there a difference of rank or status? Kindly oblige us with a clarification.
Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba: Rama referred to Himself as Dasarathatmaja, son of Dasaratha, and declared Himself to be a human being. The very purpose of the Lord’s descent as Rama was to present the Ideal Man, and to demonstrate the sacredness of humanity. Even so, there were not lacking many who knew the divinity of Rama. All the great sages understood this great drama being enacted then. Vasishtha confided to Dasaratha: “O King! I have not come to your court merely to be your priest. The Lord is soon to take birth in your family. I have joined the court to enjoy to my heart’s content. His pranks, His amusements, and His sweet speech.” As for Visvamitra, he taught Rama and Lakshmana the powerful charms of bala and atibala, gave them an inexhaustible quiver, and as a benefactor of humanity initiated them into the Gayatri mantra. He knew full well the nature of the incarnation of Rama. Other great sages like Agastya, Bharadvaja, Matanga, and Sarabhanga were fully aware of Rama’s divine identity. It was Sarabhanga who directed Rama and Lakshmana to Sugriva then residing in Kishkindha, adding that he would help them in the search for Sita. Accordingly, Rama and Lakshmana proceeded to Kishkindha. Sugriva and his retinue noticed them from a distance. Sugriva who had earlier run away unable to bear Vali’s blows suspected that Vali might have sent someone to attack him again, and was terrified. He sent for Hanuman and ordered him to discover the truth. Following Sugriva’s command, Hanuman approached Rama and Lakshmana in the guise of an old Brahmin. With due respect and decorum and apt choice of words; Hanuman, indicated his true nature and background. In return, he came to know how and why Rama and Lakshmana arrived in Kishkindha. You may ask me why Hanuman had disguised himself as a Brahmin. If he appeared, he thought, as the monkey he was, they might not heed his words. However, he had given them the facts, hadn’t he? There is no hidden evil design in this. Rama often referred to himself saying. again and again, “I am a man”, “I am the son of Dasaratha”, and so on, pointing out thereby the new ideal for man.
But with Krishna, it is altogether a different story. Saying, mamanusmara yudhya ca, Thinking of me, fight; manmana bhava madbhakto madyaji mam namaskuru, Keeping me in your mind, become my devotee, offer sacrifices to me, bow down to me; yogaksemam vahamyaham, I look after their welfare; Krishna unmistakably affirmed in the Gita His divinity in a variety of contexts. These are the specific differences between the two incarnations. Men should conduct themselves in the path of Rama and lead their lives as Krishna had instructed. All names belong to the Lord as do all forms. There is no place or thing in this universe that is not divine. Therefore, you may worship in any way you wish, when you do so wholeheartedly, with a broad outlook and wide sympathy. Whatever the course of the river may be, its destination is only the sea. In this way you should understand that all forms of worship and spiritual exercise reach the one God.
Question) Anil Kumar: Swami! All your discourses are value-oriented and nectarine. We notice today ‘gratitude’ a noble value, totally missing. How do our ancient epics depict this value?
Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba: The Ramayana depicts this noblest value, gratitude, in an excellent manner. Samudrudu (Ocean God) owes his existence to Sagara, a King of the Surya dynasty. Rama was also of the same dynasty. So, Samudrudu was very eager to express his sense of gratitude to Rama by participating in the mission of rescuing Sita. The opportunity to serve Rama came his way when Hanuman was proceeding to Lanka in search of Sita across the sky and over the mighty ocean.
Samudrudu approached Mainaka and said, “Look, Mainaka! You are a mountain hiding yourself in the sea. I am sure you haven’t forgotten the old days when all the mountains had wings and could fly anywhere and everywhere till Indra had clipped their wings in response to the prayerful calls of people for help. Do you remember that you alone were saved from this disgrace because of the intervention of Vayudeva, windgod to help you out? Well, his son, Hanuman, is now passing this way to Lanka over the ocean where you are lying. Now is your opportune moment to express your gratitude to his father. Please pass on to him the secret of killing Lankini. Lankini is the female demon guarding the entrance of Lanka. The secret is that if anybody slaps her on the cheek, she will have an instantaneous death. She knows that she will die in this way when a monkey finds its entry into Lanka which will soon be followed by the fall of Lanka and the death of Ravana.”
Mainaka accordingly took the opportunity and rose from the sea and prayed to Hanuman, “Oh! Lord! Your father Vayudeva helped me, or else I would have lost my wings. Hanuman! Please take rest here. Have some fruits and then proceed. Let me also tell you how to kill Lankini, the demon guarding the gate of Lanka. Slap her on the cheek. Only then according to a curse, she will die”. Hanuman said, “Mainaka! I won’t eat, drink, or take rest even for a moment until the task assigned to me by Rama is completed. However, I appreciate your gesture of gratitude.” Thus, both Mainaka and Samudrudu expressed their gratitude. They are the ideals for everyone to emulate.
There is also another episode in the Ramayana. Vali abducted Sugriva’s wife, Ruma. Rama killed Vali and restored to Sugriva his wife and kingdom. In order to express his gratitude to Rama for all this, Sugriva offered to provide an army of vanaras, monkeys, to Rama on his march to kill Ravana and other raksasas and rescue Sita. But as ill luck would have it, he was delayed in his mission. Rama sent Lakshmana to remind Sugriva of his promise.
Full of fury Lakshmana went to Sugriva. Watching the seriousness of the situation, Sugriva sent Tara to speak to Lakshmana. She said, “This is the rainy season, and, it is coming to a close very soon. By the time you go back, you will find three crores of monkeys ready to assist you to fight the rakshasas in Lanka. My husband, Sugriva, has not forgotten the promise given to Rama. He is not ungrateful to Him. Swami Lakshmana! Don’t you know how a couple feel sad because of separation from each other! You have been seeing your brother Rama feeling sad due to separation from his consort Sita, Our position was also like that till recently. We felt miserable because of separation from each other. Only now, by the grace of Rama we are spending our time together happily. This does not mean that we have forgotten the promise made to Him. Sugriva is not of that type.” These words of Tara pacified the anger of Lakshmana.
Sugriva stands for gratitude. It is the worst of sins to forget the good done to you. A dog is a good example of gratitude. If you give a morsel of food to a dog, it will never forget you. Should you not be grateful to Swami, who is taking care of you, as we say like the eye your eyelid every moment of your life? Swami never wants or expects anything from you. These values I have spoken of are for your own good.
Question) Anil Kumar: Swami! Pardon us for misunderstanding the scriptures. We feel that certain statements are contradictory to each other, and we are at a loss to know what is to be accepted and what is to be rejected. One scripture says ‘brahma satyam jaganmithya’, ‘God is truth while the world is illusion’. You said, “There is no maya.” How are we to understand the scriptural statement in the light of what you have told us about maya? Moreover, the same scripture says; ‘sarvarn visnumayam jagat,’ ‘The whole Universe is Divine.’ Then, what and where is delusion or maya! Of the two statements, contradictory to each other, which one is true?
Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba: Both the statements are equally true though they seem opposed to each other. The whole mistake lies in your understanding or rather your misunderstanding. They apply to your own mental state; your experience determines your own level of understanding the truth.
Here is an example for you. Suppose I ask you “When did you come?” your reply would be, ‘Just now. Swami!’ Isn’t it? Analyse your answer. When you said, “I have come just now”, what is it that has come here? Your “I”: does it refers to yourself or to your body? You have identified yourself with your body. You think, you are the body. So, the one that has come now is your body (you are the body feeling). Later, you start complaining, “My leg is paining”, “My head reels” and “My hand shakes”. Examine these statements clearly. You say “my leg”, “my hand”, “my head” and so on. Now, put a question to yourself, “who is this my?” When you say, “This is my hand”, it means you are different from your hand. You are different from the limbs, senses, etc. You are the owner or master and all the rest are instruments. In these statements, you indirectly or unconsciously convey that you are not the body. Earlier, when you said, “I have come now” you meant the body and now when you say “my leg”, “my head”, you mean you are different from your body.
Similarly in sadhana when you view from body identification from the dualistic standpoint, the first statement, brahma satyam jaganmithya , is true (body identification – I have come now). But, when you speak from the atmic view, spirit, or nondualistic approach, your second statement that you are different from your body (my leg, my hand, my head, etc.) is true.
So, the truth conveyed in ‘sarvam visnumayam jagat’ holds good. You have to understand the statement in this sense. You should never consider the statements of our scriptures as contradictory to each other. They are stated to meet the needs of people of different mental levels.
Question) Anil Kumar: Swami! After listening to your divine discourses and sweet conversations, we realise that what we heard till now from other sources were distorted versions, misrepresentations, and wrong interpretations of facts concerning Lord Sri Krishna. You reveal so many inner secrets and subtleties. We pray to you to tell us some more details about our Lord Krishna.
Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba: The divine miracles of Krishna are most wonderful, mysterious and inscrutable. Each of them has a meaning and a message, conveys an ideal to uphold, and is full of nondual and absolute bliss.
You know how His foster mother, Yasoda, fondled and caressed Krishna. All the womenfolk from the neighbourhood complained of His stealthily snatching away butter from their homes. Yasoda said to Him, “Oh Krishna! Why do you eat secretly from other people’s homes? See! How they are complaining? Don’t you like the butter in our home? Why don’t you eat our own homemade butter? How is it that you find the butter of other houses tastier than ours?” Krishna said, “Mother! I never went anywhere. I never ate any butter from anybody’s house. You look into my mouth and smell it, if I have eaten any.” While he was talking like a tiny tot in all innocence, Mother Yasoda was lost in a state of bliss with beatific smiles beaming on her face. One day she couldn’t control her anger on listening to the complaints against him. So, she decided tie him up to a pole. But, is it ever possible for you or anybody else to bind God? She was frantically searching for Krishna all in vain. She noticed the footprints of Krishna with curds and butter on them. Then she decided to follow the footprints and ultimately caught hold of Him. Here is an important point for all of you to carefully note. Yasoda could trace Krishna by following His footprints. Similarly, you can be close to God if only, you follow the path of His divine command. So, I keep telling my students, “My life is My message.” Repeatedly I also tell them, “Follow the master, your God. You can reach God through love as He is love.” This was the message of Krishna.
One day in an attempt to catch Krishna, Yasoda was holding butter in one hand and a stick in the other, hiding it behind her back so that Krishna would come near her drawn by the butter giving her a chance to beat him with the stick. Similarly, I have in one hand the butter of education offered in our institutions and a stick of vigorous training in the other: As they come here for education, I train them to become the ideal youth of our society. This is my Master plan.
One day Krishna noticed a woman drawing water from a well. She filled up two pots and was trying to carry them on her head, one on top of the other: She was finding it difficult to balance one pot above the other all by herself. She said to Krishna, “Krishna! Will you please help me? I’ll lift one pot myself and place it on my head and you please put the other one on top of it. Then it will be easy for me to carry the waterpots and go home from here.” Krishna said, “No, I won’t do it”. The woman, however, managed with great difficulty to help herself and returned home. She saw Krishna standing there willing to help her. She said, “What, Krishna! When I asked you a few minutes ago to help me in putting these pots on my head to bring them home, you did not oblige me. Now, without my asking you for help, you are ready to help me. Well, I don’t understand you.” Then Krishna replied, “Look! I don’t put loads of burden on anybody at anytime. I will relieve you of the heavy weight of the load you are bearing now and make you feel light. Do you understand me?” From this illustration you can understand the secret of divinity that helps you to get relief from your burdens. That’s why I say, “Come here with head-loads of problems, difficulties and anxieties. Unload them here at My feet. Be light and go back with ananda.”
This is how every episode in the Bhagavata conveys a message. Though Sage Vyasa composed as many as eighteen puranas and the celebrated epic Mahabharata, besides compiling all the Vedas, he had no peace of mind until he wrote the Bhagavata as advised by Sage Narada. Bhagavata teaches man the nine paths of devotion. We should read and listen to the various stories narrated in this immortal book.
In fact, the very word ‘Bhagavatamu’ has an inner meaning; ‘Bh’, denotes ‘Bhakti’, ‘Ga’ denotes ‘Jnana’, or wisdom, ‘Va’ denotes ‘vairagya’ or renunciation, ‘ta’ denotes’ ‘tattva’ or Divine principle, ‘Mu’ denotes ‘Mukti’ or liberation.
Bhagavata is not merely Bhagavata Katha, story of God. It means ‘bagavatam’ (Telugu) meaning, ‘We shall become good’. You should know its inner meaning; conduct yourselves accordingly, and work for your liberation.
Question) Anil Kumar: Swami! Bhagavata, besides extolling God and His divinity, also deals with the greatness and nobility of His devotees. Watching devotees shedding tears in ecstasy on listening to your discourses on Bhagavata has been our experience. Would you kindly tell us, Bhagawan, the essence and the main principles embodied in this text to be followed by both youngsters and us adults, for our benefit?
Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba: There is always an intimate relationship between God and His devotees. God makes His devotees realise and experience His omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence through His divine miracles. The Divine and the Devotee are interdependent and one is meaningless without the other. Therefore, Bhagavata, while praising the glory of God, also speaks of the devotion, the spirit of surrender, the nature of the spiritual path and the sense of detachment of the devotees also.
Bhagavata proposes the doctrine of devotion with which action must be performed, thereby leading to wisdom. No intermediary can stand between God and the devotee. They are directly connected with each other. It is only your devotion that makes God confer grace on you. It can also be said that the culture of Bharat has these three main components, bhakta, bhagawan and bagavatam. God is the only refuge of a devotee. He is his wealth, life and everything.
The young boy Dhruva wanted to sit in the lap of his father. But his stepmother did not allow him to do so. He returned home heavy hearted and after informing his mother, decided to go to a forest and do intense penance. In the thick forest, unmindful of the heat, cold and rain, he undertook penance. God was pleased with him and manifested Himself before him saying that He would grant any boon he wanted. Dhruva then said, “I want you!” God responded thus: “Dhruva! You wanted one thing for which you did all this penance and now you are asking for another thing. Initially you wanted the boon to be granted to you so that it would entitle you to sit in the lap of your father. But, now you say a different thing, that you want Me. Have you not heard that your thought, word and deed should be one and the same manasyekam, vacasyekam , karman yekam mahatmanam. A noble man should see that there is harmony in thought, word and deed. First, get your desire fulfilled. Rule your kingdom for some period of time and discharge your duties in the years to come. Finally, I bless you such that everybody will remember you after you leave the earthly scene. You will remain the only glittering star eternally fixed in its own home in the sky.” This is what is meant by “The proper study of mankind is man”.
Prahlada, in spite of being thrown down from a mountaintop into a raging fire, or made to drink deadly poison, or trampled under the feet of a huge elephant, or drowned in a turbulent ocean, did not even for a short while stop chanting God’s name. He went on singing His glory unceasingly. He did not pay heed to the teachings of his gurus, Chanda and Amarka. He even went a step further when he said to his father, “You could conquer the whole world. You could control the movement of stars and planets, the sun and the moon and all others. You could control all the five elements, but you couldn’t conquer your inner foes!” When his father, Hiranyakasipu asked him where God was, he said, “You don’t doubt his presence at any point of time anywhere in the universe. God is everywhere!” Hiranyakasipu asked, “Prahlada! Is your God present in this pillar?” Prahlada replied, “Yes.” When Hiranyakasipu broke the pillar, as you all know, from there sprang up the Lord in the avatar of Narasimha.
Here you should know the inner meaning of this momentous event. A pillar is an upadhi, a vesture or body. ‘Breaking down the pillar’ means giving up the body attachment. So long as you have the body attachment, you will be full of ego, pride, possessiveness, jealousy, etc., which will blind you to the omnipresent Divinity. Prahlada’s unconditional love of and surrender to God was total.
Gajendra, the king of elephants, was caught by a crocodile, and couldn’t come out of the river. Gajendra struggled and exerted all his strength to come out of the jaws of the crocodile, but without any success. He came ultimately to a stage when he was left with no strength and energy of his own to continue the struggle. He cried out in a fervently prayerful voice to Govinda, his saviour, “Oh God! You are my only refuge, my only succour. I don’t know anyone and you alone can save me from this inextricable predicament. Who else can come at this hour to my rescue? Oh God! Save me, save me, save me!” It was then that he was saved from the jaws of the crocodile.
You should know the inner meaning of this whole episode. The river is your life. The crocodile represents your desires and sense indulgence. Gajendra, is the jiva, individual. He initially caught hold of a tree tightly with his trunk and prayed. God did not respond. It was only when he loosened the grip and lifted the trunk upward and prayed to God whole heartedly for his rescue that God saved him. You should take this episode as another instance of unconditional devotion or surrender. Sri Mahavishnu, the Lord sending his wheel called Sudarsana killed the crocodile and saved Gajendra. ‘Su’ means ‘Good’ and ‘darsana’ means ‘looks of grace’ (compassion). So, it is His grace that saves you and not your strength, power, wealth, etc. God reacts only when you surrender to Him absolutely.
Similar was the situation of Draupadi when she was humiliated and sought to be disrobed in the open court. She held her sari tightly with one hand and prayed to God, trying to save and protect her modesty. God did not react. It was only when she joined both her hands in namaskara later that Krishna saved her.
It means that the ten fingers of both her hands were brought together when she was praying to Krishna. The jnanendriyas, five senses of perception and the karmendriyas, five senses of action represented by the five fingers of each hand have to be surrendered to God by joining both the hands while we pray to God. God never favours partnership. He never accepts part-time devotion. A devotee should think of God and sing His glory everywhere all along and not merely when he is in distress and difficulties. A child will never leave its mother alone even if she beats it. It hugs its mother all the more strongly when it is beaten. Similarly, there is every need for you to cling to God and grow ever more in faith when you face difficulties. Man’s adversity is God’s proximity. Man’s calamity is God’s opportunity. You are not at all a devotee if you run away from God or lose faith in Him because of the difficulties you encounter in life. Like this, the entire Bhagavata is full of such episodes elucidating the sincerity, steadfastness, unflinching faith, total surrender and deep devotion of certain devotees of outstanding stature while at the same time glorifying and extolling the grandeur, love and compassion of God.
Question) Anil Kumar: Swami! Sage Vyasa composed both the Bhagavata and the Brahma Sutras. Which is superior to the other?
Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba: Look! I will give an example from your own college students. You are studying B.Sc. here. You opted for the Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry group. Of these three, which one is superior to the other two? To get the degree you must necessarily study all the three subjects, should you not? Similarly, you should study the Bhagavata for bhakti (devotion) and Brahma Sutras for jnana, wisdom. Both jnana and bhakti are equally important.
Question) Anil Kumar: Swami! There are two great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata besides the eighteen puranas. The puranas deal with various appellations and attributes of God in story form, which constitute a major part of Indian mythology. They convey to the entire humanity a universal message on all aspects of life. Kindly tell us the main principles embodied there in for us to practice in our daily life.
Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba: Sage Vyasa who composed all the eighteen puranas conveyed their essence in two sentences. ‘Paropakarah punyaya’ and ‘Papaya parapidanam.’ It is also said, ‘Paropakarardham idam sariram,’ the body is not given just to eat, sleep, drink and die. The body is not given to us just to be selfish. God has blessed you with a body to serve others. After all, what is there to be so attached to and possessive about this body? It is nothing but horribly foul and dirty faecal matter, urine and blood. It is purely temporary and with this body do you want to get everlasting results? How is it possible? How can you experience eternal bliss with the body?
Youth passes off like melting ice, clouds and mist. So, the body is like a water bubble. It is designed and gifted to render service to the poor and needy and definitely not merely for food and drink, because birds and beasts, flies and insects also secure food and drink. What is so extraordinary about you? It is enough if you don’t harm anyone else. It is the greatest help you can do. Vyasa said, serving others is punyam, or merit. It means you shouldn’t hurt anyone by thought, word and deed. Then what is papam, sin? Harming others in anyway is sin.
There is another meaning to this Paropakarah punyaya (the ordinary interpretation being service to others). Param means God. Upa means near and karah means joining. Paropakarah means coming close to God. Therefore, the greatest help you can do is to take others close to God and yourself coming close to God. This is possible through good deeds and good thoughts. Then the second statement papayapare padanam (in the ordinary sense it means that harming others is sin) also has another meaning. Param = God, Pida = One God viewed as many. The sum and substance of the statement is that it is a sin to think of one God as many. It amounts to thinking of plurality or multiplicity in the divinity.
There is only one atma spirit/soul in everyone. But if you fragment it into pieces and experience diversity, it is a sin. I very often tell my students that the essence of all the eighteen epics is “Parpakarah punyaya,” Hurt Never Help ever ‘papayapare padanam’. These two are enough for practice in your daily life, and achieving liberation.
Question) Anil Kumar: Swami! How should we view the Epics and puranas in our spiritual path and spiritual life?
Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba: Our epics and puranas teach us many aspects of life. They speak of human values, refer to the divinity within you, and teach you the way to lead an ideal life, show you the purpose and goal of life and explain in clear terms through many anecdotes the culture of Bharat. They also clearly indicate the fall of man if he doesn’t follow dharma or the basic human values. They emphasise the need to follow and uphold dharma for both the individual good and the social. They explain vividly your true nature, which is atma itself. But today, we have people who wrongly interpret them, give distorted versions and not their real inner significance. So, none of you is taking advantage of the teachings of our epics and puranas.
In fact the epics are the records of our history and culture. They are the lights of wisdom and spiritual awakening. They connect the jiva, individual with the deva, divine. Each text is a bridge for travelling from the shore of this world to the other shore of God. Each text shows how God incarnated in human form and demonstrated to the entire mankind how life could be led in an ideal way, Himself being the director and playing the roles perfectly.
For example, in Maharshi Valmiki’s epic, the Ramayana, Lord Rama knew full well that he was God. Sages like Vasishtha, and Bharadvaja knew that Lord Rama was the incarnation of God Vishnu. But he behaved all through the Ramayana like a human being. He cried for Sita because he could not bear separation from her. The Ramayana teaches how man should behave as a son; a brother, a husband and a ruler. Its teachings also include certain norms regarding friendship and teacher-student relationship. Truth, dharma, obeying father’s command and the principle of monogamy are the lessons of the Ramayana. This is the very objective of the Ramayana and the secret behind God’s incarnation as Rama. The text teaches some of the fundamental and timeless human values to the entire race of mankind. The Ramayana shows how a person like Ravana with all his excellence in scholarship and penance, with his absolute command over his people and the splendour of his wealth ruined himself as he fell a prey to kama. This is the lesson of his life.
Then the Bhagavata show’s distinctly how anger ruins atma. A person loses his self-respect and wealth and spoils all his tasks on hand because of his hot temper. He becomes physically weak and mentally agitated due to anger. Characters like Kamsa, Sisupala, Jarasandha, and Dantavaktra lost their value, name and life due to anger. They developed hatred towards God and being overpowered by their own ego, they lost their mental balance and consequently faced miserable death.
The other epic composed by Vyasa, is the Mahabharata. The Kauravas were hundred in number. They had physical prowess, large manpower, kingdom and whole divisions of army and intelligence. But what happened to them at the end? Not even one of the hundred survived the battle of Kurukshetra. They left behind their bereaved and bewailing parents. There was none left to perform their funeral rites. What a pitiable state of things it is! Why? At the root, it was greed that was responsible for such a great misfortune. The Kauravas refused to give even half the kingdom that by right belonged to the Pandavas. Later on, they refused to give even five villages to the five brothers. This was the height of their greed. The Kauravas made repeated attempt to kill the Pandavas. That was the intensity of their greed.
While the Ramayana teaches how dangerous kama, desire and anger are, the Mahabharata shows how total destruction is the result of greed. One may have umpteen virtues and merits, yet just one evil like desire or anger or greed is enough to bring about one’s fall as has been narrated in our epics. You have to draw lessons out of the episodes narrated in the epics and puranas or the itihasas of our land.
Upanishad means the “inner” or “mystic teaching”. The term Upanishad is derived from “upa” (near), “ni” (down) and “shad” (to sit), i.e., sitting down near. Groups of pupils sit near the teacher to learn from him/her the secret doctrine. In the quietude of the forest hermitages the Upanishadic thinkers pondered on the problems of deepest concerns and communicated their knowledge to fit pupils near them. The most well known Upanishads are: Aitareya, Brihadaranyaka, Taittiriya, Chandogya, Kena, Isa, Svetasvatara, Katha, Mundaka, Mandukya, Prasna, Kausitaki, Maitrayani, Muktika and Shakta. The Satyopanishad is the Upanishad of Truth (Sathya) but more specifically the Truth as revealed by Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Anil Kumar questions the illustrious Guru and provides us with Sathya Sai Baba’s answers to ponder, ruminate and derive ananda.
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