The Rain Cloud


raincloud.jpg (23027 bytes)Those who have had the good fortune of listening to a discourse by Baba at a public gathering will always cherish the thrill and the inspiration of the experience. Nothing will ever diminish the exhilaration of that occasion. Baba speaks generally in Telugu, though He converses with devotees in several languages including Tamil, Kannada, Hindi, Sindhi, and English. His omniscience finds expression in any medium. His diction and style are simple and direct, full of proverbs, parables and illustrations taken from the actual experience of the people around Him. His words become engraved in the hearts of the listeners. 

He refuses to name His discourses "speeches", for they are never prepared in advance or delivered over the heads of the people or directed to the masses. He prefers to describe them as "conversation". His way of probing into personal problems and answering individual doubts make that appellation very apt. The effect of His discourse is always as if He is speaking only to an individual. Within a minute or two He has one's attention to a point that he forgets he is one among thousands and yields himself to Baba's diagnosis and treatment. The face that enchants, the voice that endears, the smile that illumines, the gesture that clarifies, all become one's personal possessions. His advice and His appeal are so intimate and imbued with love that one's entire self is surrendered to Him by the time He finishes. He is not just an orator, or evangelist, or a teacher. He is the Rain Cloud come to nourish parched lives.

Baba declared when a boy that He would undertake His task of teaching in His thirty-second year. Until that age He discoursed only occasionally, either at Prasanthi Nilayam or on the sands of the Chitravatri River when devotees gathered around Him and sought His Guidance. At times he spoke at the Sathya Sai Baba District Board High School at Bukkapatnam where He presided over functions such as the "School Day". At the Nilayam or on the sands, the discourse usually commenced with a question posed by a devotee on a general problem affecting social conduct or spiritual endeavor. Baba would shed light not only on the main question but also on all related topics. A chance question on life after death once brought forth from Baba a very illuminating discourse on the journey of the disembodied soul, the inner significance of the funeral rites of the different communities, the existence of ghosts, the chances of communicating with the dead, and even the custom of naming the grandchild after the grandfather. Such discussions arise informally on almost every occasion. Baba is ever willing to impart the courage born of conviction. He is the superb educator.

Once a few devotees had the opportunity to be with Baba at Horsley Hills for a week. Every morning and evening Baba sat with the devotees and introduced new problems of spiritual discipline. He asked everyone to reveal to Him his spiritual practice, ideals and ideas, the name and form of the Godhead which appealed to him, the spiritual text having the greatest influence in shaping his life, the picture each had formed of the Ultimate Reality, and the goal of each one's spiritual discipline. He poured light on the dark corners of each heart. This He has been doing, even as a child. Was He not named the "Little Master" by His grandfather, Kondama Raju? The old man would swell with pride and joy when he sat listening to a discourse given by Baba a few days before his passing in 1950. 

At school He dissuaded His playmates from smoking cigarettes; He evinced disgust at spiced, rich, and stale food. He warned His friends to stay away from cinemas. He encouraged them all to sing songs in praise of God, to wear the Holy Ash and observe habits of personal cleanliness. 

At Kamalapuram, as a schoolboy, He composed songs warning against the evil of drink, the dangerous consequences of illiteracy, on the abject condition of the untouchables, and on the degradation of village factions. He wrote a social play named the "Changed Times", which contained many folk tunes depicting the tricks used to catch peoples' attention by seekers of power. It further depicts the piteous plight of a great poet and seer whose warnings go unheeded. He is neglected by everyone, except a poor peasant; his children become destitute. Men of straw take vengeance upon the children for the words of wisdom their father dared utter. Times change. The children win power and re-establish the Golden Age when the immortal words of the poet are sung again and put into practice. 

Baba was entreated by actors in village plays to write dialogues for their roles. Whenever He acted a role, He composed the songs and speeches for Himself. Invariably these compositions breathed a high moral note and stood out above the rest of the drama, attracting attention by their superior style, diction, and appeal. 

The role of the teacher is fundamental to Sai Baba. "I never utter a word that does not have significance, or do a deed without beneficial consequence", He once declared. Even the most casual remark is filled with valuable advice. Addressing a lady who was struggling to keep her child quiet, He said, "See! Sitting astride your hip, the child cries, 'Mother, Mother', not realizing that he is being held in her clasp by Mother herself. This is what everyone here is doing. They do not know that the Lord is the Mother who clasps them; they simply cry, 'Mother, Mother' ". 

Once seeing the item "Welcome Speech" in the program of a meeting, Baba said, "I am in you and so you need not welcome Me. I shall not come because you call, or go because you deny". He is always and everywhere the teacher, the friend, philosopher and guide. He slowly and steadily moulds the character and outlook of everyone who offers himself for His guidance or of those He selects for such training. 

When, at Prasanthi Nilayam or elsewhere, someone is reciting or explaining a text such as the Gita, the Ramayana, the Bhagavatha or Upanishad, He watches the audience for a while, and taking His cue from a word or phrase, explains to the delight of the learned and the unlearned alike, the obscurity which worries them. In this way He has unraveled many mysteries of the sacred scriptures. 

In the discourses Baba gives at Prasanthi Nilayam, He often expounds highly philosophical subjects. He once cautioned, "You are all no longer 'young'; you must go from the lower class to the next higher one". By means of stories and parables, proverbs and metaphors, He simplifies the most complex philosophical theory. One day He spoke on the topic of the inspiring company of the good and described how it can lead man on to the disinclination to be in company, that is to say, how the companionship of the good leads one to the giving up of attachment itself. Baba made these observations on a Festival Night of Siva: "Mind is presided over by the moon, and every month the moon is almost worn out on the fourteenth night after the full moon. One's ambition should be to destroy the mind's whims, fancies and vagaries and to strive his utmost on that night to increase his discipline to achieve victory of the forces of goodness, of the pure Self over the downward impulses. That night has to be dedicated to God". 

The summer solstice begins the divine half-year when the sun, which presides over illumined mind of man, is proceeding on the northward divine path. "Swim with the current", Baba says. "The sun itself is journeying northward toward Kailasa, the lofty mountain peak of Self-realization, the Paradise of Siva. This is the best time for spiritual initiation and practice." 

On the special "Day for Honoring the Teacher," Baba reminds devotees and aspirants to revere the teachers and the wisdom they embody. He describes the essential characteristics of teachers and explains the criteria by which they can distinguish the true from the false. Every discourse of Baba has a novelty of its own, a thrill, a joy which is its unique mark! 

Baba says that in His discourses He serves "medicinal food", not "festival food". Therefore He appeals to the listeners not to miss a fragment of the meal or carelessly throw away even a morsel of a word. He is the "Great Physician" come to heal. No two discourses are the same in tone or content. He says, "Mine is not a lecture; it is a mixture!" He has no one prescription for all! 

Speaking to high school students at Chittoor, He gave detailed instructions regarding preparation for examinations and the systematic way in which they have to be tackled in the hall. "Mark all the questions which you feel you can successfully answer; answer them; then tackle the rest; you will then be in a better and a more confident mood," He said. He discussed problems of the classroom and the football field with an intimacy that was very remarkable. 

Sai at Chitravatri with kids

Presiding over the Prize-giving Ceremony of the District Sports at Penukonda, He spoke on the emphasis wrongly placed on competition and on winning, pitting school against school, boy against boy. He then pointed out that the spirit in which victory or defeat is taken is much more important than the actual result of the event. 

At Madakasira, on a similar occasion, He punned upon the word Bahumati, meaning both "prize" and "many-mindedness," and declared, "I always distribute single-mindedness, never Bahumati or many-mindedness"! He then asked the winners to thank the losers, for if the losers had put forth a little more effort, they might have won and deprived the others of carrying away the prizes! 

Inaugurating the Girls' High School at Venkatagiri, He expounded the good habits that students should develop: "Be ever careful about your books, for your parents have sacrificed much to get them for you. Do not quarrel with your brothers and sisters and thus make the home a nest of discontent. Do not envy classmates who are richer. Be content. Do not show off. Speak the truth always, for falsehood is the result of cowardice. Get up early in the morning at five, and after bathing, sit alone quietly and meditate on the Lord. Go to sleep at nine in the evening, and before lying down, pray to the Lord. Tell Him to accept all that you have done during the day, because it has been done truthfully and dutifully, and ask Him to give you strength to serve Him and His children, your brothers and sisters. In the morning thank Him for the day dawning before you, and ask that it may be given to you to spend usefully for yourself and for others." 

Addressing the villagers of Mirthipadu, Baba spoke on topics within their knowledge: "By the sweat of your brow, you transform dirt and dust into nourishing, relishing food for man and beast. What a holy task you perform daily! I am very happy to be in your midst today. You bear innumerable troubles and toils and place firm reliance on your own selves. You move about these green fields, wafted by the cool breeze beneath the blue sky. How nice it would be if, when you walk along the edges of these fields, you sing the glory of the Lord who is immanent in all this beauty, all this plenty, and all this grandeur! Do not contaminate the atmosphere by words of anger against one another; purify it by repeating the name of the Lord". 

So, too, at Budili village, on the banks of the Chitravatri, He spoke of the sweetness and purity of the peasant's life and of the village being the foundation of the culture of the country. He also spoke of the need of gratitude for benefits received, the dangers of faction, and the value of traditional religious-like singing and temple worship. He said He had noticed that someone had dumped a broken cart on the temple porch, an act demonstrating disregard for the sacred precincts. He exhorted the young men of the village to serve it with all their intelligence and devotion. 

If it is a function connected with a hospital, Baba has valuable advice for the organizers as well as the gathering. At the Sathya Sai Hospital, He once deplored that the doctors should, in their report, write about the "progress" achieved when actually the number of inpatients and outpatients had increased. He said that He would be happy only when there was full health for everyone. This could be achieved - mostly by the gaining of peace. "Worry, greed, needless agitation, and anxiety - these cause even bodily disease. Disease is want of ease; the contented mind is the best drug. The body must be well looked after, since it is the boat which helps us to cross the sea of experiences. So it should not be weakened either by habits which sap the strength or by overdoing of disciplines such as fasting. Learning Yogic practices from books and practicing them with the aid of leaflets and charts is also a fertile source of illness, both physical and mental. Be good, be joyful, be bold, be honest, be temperate, be patient. These are all rules of health. Good character is the most valuable source of health." Such is His practical advice. 

In many places the devotees conduct regular prayers on the pattern of the prayers at Prasanthi Nilayam. Once a year on a selected day, they carry on the sessions for twenty- four hours without interruption. At the conclusion of one such entire period of singing of holy songs at Bangalore, Baba gave a discourse in which He pointed out that one's life must itself become an unbroken session of devotion to God. For devotees of Sathya Sai Baba the practice of the constant presence of the Lord is comparatively easy, for by experience they know that Baba is ever behind them, beside them, with them, and in them. Baba accosts all of them with questions concerning aspects of their behavior or thinking, which they considered most secret and known only to themselves. Once when a student from Rajahmundry told Him that he had prepared single-mindedly for the examination, giving up all other activities, Baba turned to him, asking, "What? Did you not go one night to a dinner at the hostel and come home very late? Did you not go another day with some relatives who had come from your village to the bazaar to purchase some clothes for them?" 

At a Bangalore prayer session, Baba said that one should try to discover why, in spite of the multiplicity of societies organizing prayer gatherings and religious discourses, there is no corresponding increase in the moral standard of the people. "Singing prayers has become a ritual, a routine, a rigmarole. What is spoken by the tongue is not put into practice," He admonished. 

By faith Baba does not mean blind faith. He insists on inquiry as an essential requisite for spiritual progress. "Follow the discipline and test yourself," He says. "Come and stay at Prasanthi Nilayam; move with Me and experience My company and conversation. Listen to Me and watch Me and then form your conclusions; get in and know the depth; eat and know the taste. Discipline and spiritual practice are necessary to know God, patient sincere discipline. If the spark of faith must grow into a raging fire, build carefully. Take refuge occasionally in the depths of your own mind, in silence, and loneliness." This is He advices. 

At Trivandrum Baba posed a question: "How is it that, in spite of advance in education and literacy in this State, the enthusiasm shown by parents, teachers and children in imparting and acquiring learning gives people no peace of mind?" He then spoke of the mind as having the double nature of wind, the wind that gathers the rain clouds and also scatters them. He explained the means and methods of controlling vagaries of the mind. He said, " I refuse to call anyone an atheist or an unbeliever, for all are the creations of the Lord and repositories of His Grace. In everyone's heart there is a spring of love, a rock of truth. That Love is God; that Truth is God. Divinity is there in the depths of everyone's Inner Being. By systematic and continuous boring, the uninterrupted dig, dig, dig, of Ram, Ram, Ram - God, God, God - the name repeated with every breath - the spring can be touched and the waters of Divinity can be made to gush forth to the joy and satisfaction of all." 

At Nuzvid Baba emphasized the religious factions and partisanship rampant in India. He said that the Lord is above and beyond all limits of caste and color, wealth and poverty; that it is foolish to believe that the Lord asks for gifts or is angry when they are not offered. He warned His listeners against religious leaders who go about with lists of donors and subscribers, teachers who have an eye on one's purse and money, who keep the vow of silence by resorting to all other means of communication except the easy, natural and convenient way of talking! At Arkonam village, when the Secretary of the Divine Life Society read in his report that those who paid an annual fee of four annas could become members, Baba said that He would allow anyone who had, not four annas, but four virtues, to become members of the Society of Divine Life! 

At Madras, while speaking to the members of the Young Men's Indian Association, He pleaded with the elders present to become for the young men of today, better examples of integrity, efficiency, and selfless service. "Prominent personages claiming to be great, declaim about freely quoting the similes and metaphors in the sacred scriptures. But by their conduct, their conceit, and their conflicts, they only diminish the luster of those treasures. There is no coordination between the speaker, the subject, and the subsequent conduct," He said. At the Gokhale Hall, He said that man must seek the answers to four fundamental questions: "Who am I? Where have I come from? Whither am I going? How long will I stay?" He said that the ancient Indian scriptural texts are devoted to the discovery of the answers to these queries. He showed how the answers can be realized through Science, but He said that the Lord's Grace, if won through constant contemplation and introspection, will reveal the answers to the aspirant in an instant. 

Analyzing the causes of the present crisis in the moral life of the community, He pointed out that cynicism and the urge to satirize are two main diseases of the age, and these lead to irreverence and the spread of disbelief. A life lived in the constant presence of God is the most secure and happy, for the shafts of social criticism will not penetrate it and cause it pain. Religion and belief in God are being challenged now from all quarters. It is therefore the duty of all good men to meet this challenge by demonstrating to the critics how their lives have been made sweeter by religion; how the realization of the constant presence of the Lord has made them more efficient, more earnest, and more courageous for the task of living. 

At the All-India Sai Samaj, He declared, "You take up the dictionary to find out the meaning of a certain word, but as you turn the pages in order to spot it, other words attract your attention and you are drawn toward them and their meanings. So, too, you might come to Me with an immediate purpose, but while doing so, you come to know that you can use Me to solve deeper dilemmas, assuage more poignant pains, and secure greater spiritual peace." Baba uses every opportunity to bring home to His listeners that their effort, their discrimination, their sacrifice, their steadiness alone can give them what they need, namely, poise. 

At the Santi Kuteeram, Royapuram, He spoke once on Srî Krishna and another time on the Bhagavad Gita. He gave a number of incidents from the life of Srî Krishna which are not found in the books and made His discourse most instructive and illuminating. He formed a pun on the word Gita, which, when the syllables are read from the other end, becomes a Telugu word meaning "drink!" He said that unless the nectar of the Gita is drunk and assimilated, one cannot get any result. Mere panditry or pompous scholarship on the Gita and its thousand commentaries is all a waste of precious time. 

He once told an audience at Puttaparthi, that there are two paths; one relating to the physical world, the social world and the community to which one belongs, and the other relating to one's self alone, the Soul, and the disciplines connected with its fulfillment. Man must grasp God with the right hand and the world with the left. Gradually the left will lose its hold. "Do not worry about this; it has to be so; that is why it is called 'left!' But the right hand must not be allowed to loosen its grip, for it is right that it should grip tightly; that is why it is called 'right' !" Statements of Baba such as these remain in the memory, and listeners will long ponder them, deriving sustenance and joy. 

At Venkatagiri, inaugurating the spiritual seminar, He declared that the bane of the Indian has been the absence of cordiality and brotherliness. At Nellore, addressing an audience of fifty thousand, He enthralled the listeners for over an hour. He spoke of discrimination and the need for faith based on inquiry and reason. At Gudur, speaking of the magic influence of love, He declared, "You will not be wrong if you characterize Me as the Personification of Love." 

At Peddapuram He exhorted everyone to have muscles of iron and nerves of steel to become heroes with no trace of weakness, cowardice, or sense of inferiority. "Do not call yourselves the children of sin; there is no sin worse than that you are inheritors of immortality, every one of you; you have the Lord residing in your hearts. He is the Inner Motivation of everything in creation. How then can you be a child of sin?" He asked. 

Often during His discourses, Baba illustrates His teachings by stories of miracles of superhuman faculties. He relates events and incidents not found in the current books on sages and saints but which have the hallmark of authenticity. He knows the details of the lives of all the saints of India and even of Western and Middle Eastern countries, and illustrates incidents from the lives of Christian, Muslim, and Parsi saints. Hasan and Husain, Moses, Jerome, and Paul are for Him as useful as the Indian saints Tyagaraja or Pavharibaba to emphasize His points. Baba is, has been, and will be; He is the Eternal Witness. 

Indeed He reveals this aspect of His Reality very often in His discourses in more or less direct declaration. As flashes of lightning, they bring to one's consciousness, suddenly and with a thrill, the splendor of His personality. He instructs, "Do not try to measure Me; you will only fail; try rather to discover your own measure. Then you will better succeed in discovering My measure. I engage in no asceticism; I do not meditate on anything at all; I do not study; I am no aspirant, seeker, student, or even sage. I have come to guide and bless all spiritual disciples. I am neither man nor woman, old nor young; I am all these. Do not praise Me. I like you to approach Me without fear, as a right; you do not extol your father, do you? You ask for something from him as a right, do you not? I did not come uninvited to this world; good men of all creeds and climes called out and entreated; so I have come. You may be seeing Me today for the first time, but you are all old acquaintances for Me; I know you through and through. I have no characteristics; I am not bound by the law of cause and effect. How then can illusion affect Me? If I had come down with Weapon, Wheel, Mace or Lotus, the traditional symbols of a beneficent God, you would have run away or put me into an exhibition. If I were just like any one of you, you would not have cared at all. That is why I have to take up this human form and show you now and then these miracles and superhuman faculties. My task is the spiritual regeneration of humanity through truth and love. I have come to show you how to live usefully and die profitably! If you approach one step nearer to Me, I shall advance three steps toward you. I am happiest when a person carrying a heavy load of misery comes to Me, for he is most in need of what I have. All are Mine, in the relationship. So those who worship Me are not nearer to Me than others who do not." These are some of the illuminating flashes Baba has presented in His discourses. "It is My Will that has brought every single one of you to this place to listen to Me," He once said. That is the measure of His Grace and Might! 

These proclamations heighten the innate value and appeal of the message Baba brings. He embraces everyone in his overwhelming love, and when He announces to a gathering - "I do not discard anyone, I cannot; it is not My Nature to do so; have no fear; I am yours, you are Mine"- an other-worldly intimacy is immediately established between Him and the seeker. As a result, His words sink deep into the consciousness, and striking root, slowly grow into good conduct and uplifting character. He addresses the gathering as one. His primary purpose is to awaken man from the sleep of ignorance and point out to him his real nature, the imperishable, immortal Divine Self. 

He inspires with: "You are the invincible, unaffected by the ups and downs of life; the shadow which you cast while trudging along the road falls on dirt and dust, bush and briar, stone and sand, but you are not worried at all, for you walk unscathed. So, too, as the spiritual substance, you have no reason to be worried over the fate of the shadow, the body." Baba makes this point very clear by many examples and thus infuses an unshakable courage. 

"My mission is to grant you courage and joy, to drive away weakness and fear." He has said on many occasions. "Do not condemn yourselves as sinners; sin is a misnomer for what are really errors. I shall pardon all your errors, provided you repent sincerely and resolve not to follow evil again. Pray to the Lord to give you strength to overcome the habits which had enticed you when you were ignorant." Thus He kindles the flame of hope and health in every heart. By His sweetness, His overpowering mercy, and His words of wisdom, He has corrected the steps of hundreds and turned them toward the path of serving and striving. 

A very touching incident happened the morning after a discourse He gave at Nellore. A middle-aged man rushed into His room and fell at His Feet, rolling on the ground and sobbing as a child. Baba knew the reason why. He turned to those in His Presence, commenting, "Yesterday's story of Ramu," and asked them to leave the room. The previous evening Baba had related the story of a little boy, Ramu, who begged for food from door to door; his mother was very ill; he called out in front of a house, enraging the master, who rushed toward him and hit him on the head, causing him to fall with the pot which contained his earnings. The blow killed him, and he died with the words, "Mother! Mother! Who will give you food now ?" on his lips. That story and Baba's advice, that everyone must be grateful first to the father and the mother to whom he owes his very existence, had struck remorse in the heart of this man who, because of a small matter, had quarreled with his mother and remained apart. Now he craved Baba's pardon to rehabilitate himself under His auspices and with His blessing. Baba knew all of that without being told. He patted him lovingly on the back. The sobs continued. Baba said, "Repentence is enough expiation in itself! Come, come. Stop weeping. I shall be at your village; bring your mother there and you shall get My blessings together. Go and fetch her there before I arrive." 

Many dramatic incidents of loans being repaid happen as a result of the Grace-filled discourses of Baba. An aged father was thus helped. Neglected wives were welcomed again, and men of deep-rooted habits of gambling or drinking gave them up permanently. Baba's campaign of spreading the message of love has only just begun, and all who have heard His message can clearly visualize the significance of the declaration He made on the opening page of Sanathana Sarathi, the monthly magazine He inaugurated on February 16, 1958, the thirty-second year of His earthly career. On that day, the Sanathana Sarathi, the charioteer, started out on the campaign against falsehood, injustice, wickedness and evil - the minions of the spirit of egoism. The victory to be won is the welfare of the entire world. When the triumphant drums are beaten in the joy of success, humanity will have achieved happiness and peace, prosperity and bliss. 

Already the outlines of the plan of campaign are clear on the horizon. The clarion call for the great task is Baba's fourfold program of "Be True, Be Just, Be Quiet, Be Love." His Plan is for all humanity, for He says, "It is not mentioned anywhere that the Grace of God is available only for certain classes or races or grades of people. From the smallest to the biggest, throughout the world, all are entitled to it. The Lord is everywhere, everything. He can be realized by steady practice of truth and love. Truth is the highest justice and love is the only path to peace." 

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Baba has also taken up the task of educating seekers and aspirants and correcting the teachers and guides who are largely led astray by greed for name and fame, for success in the competition for public support, and for the evanescent glory of international fame or newspaper renown. 

"Test everyone on the touchstone of sincerity; see how far each has renounced, not merely in words, but in actual deed; then accept their advice and bring it into your daily conduct and behavior. It is the practice that matters, not the puffed pomp of scholarship," He insists.

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Written by N. Kasturi M.A., B.L.