White Man's Burden

"At this supremely dangerous moment in human history, the only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way," says Arnold Toynbee, well nigh the wisest of modern historians. This is the age of frustration, fear, fixation and fantasy. The sociological diseases - crime, delinquency, divorce, suicide, gambling and drug-addiction - are in the ascendant everywhere. The political diseases of turncoatism, hypocrisy, faction, corruption and jingoism are spreading from one nation to another. The economic diseases of poverty and luxury, exploitation and excessivism are also becoming world-wide. The root cause for all this chronic morbidity is, according to Baba, man's lack of faith in himself. "Man has lost faith in himself, he has put on the cloak of weakness and vacillation, doubt and dissatisfaction, and hidden from his own cognition, the vast potentiality for goodness, beauty, strength and content, lying dormant in his nature." [See also: SB: Canto 1, Ch. 17]

Ayn Rand says, "In order to live, man must act; in order to act, he must make choices; in order to make choices, he must define a code of values [see: Human values]; in order to define a code of values, he must know what he is and where he is - that is, he needs metaphysics, epistemology and ethics, which means, philosophy." And, Toynbee declares, "Indian Philosophy." For, in India, philosophy has never been entombed in tombs; it has ever been the current coin of the business of living, the very bloodstream of family, society, community and nation. It is even termed as Sathya Darshan, that is, experience of wisdom. In other words, it is more a way of life than a view of life. It tends to emphasize Dharma - moral conduct, based upon unchanging Sathya-Metaphysics.

No wonder, then, that Baba has become the solace and strength of a multitude of forlorn seekers-after-peace-and-bliss, arriving in His Presence from lands beyond the seas like the United States, Great Britain and other countries, suffering from the glut of glitter and gadgets. Baba told a group of 'foreigners' (to Baba it is a misnomer to call them so; instead, He calls them 'for-nears', because they have come for somebody and something they can clasp as 'near' and 'dear'). "You would not have come to Me unless I called you; I know the past and the future of every one of you, what you are yearning for at present, and how and when your yearning will be fulfilled." [see also BG, 7-26]

John Hislop writes, "Most of us hear of Sai Baba from someone else. One starts to learn who Baba is, hearing someone tell about Him. The first wave of information here in California, came from Bob Raymer and his friends. The second wave came from Indra Devi and her associates. Indra Devi heard from Mr. Murphet in Madras. Mr. Murphet first heard from Bob Raymer. Bob heard from a friend of his who later became his wife! She, in turn, had heard about Baba from a friend. But the first original link in this chain is Baba Himself!"

Listen how Elsie Cowan first contacted Baba: "Myself and my husband have been searchers of truth during our many years of marital life. We followed one belief after another; each step gave some little wisdom, but no security, no actual knowing how to reach the goal. Like all truth-students, we were also told that Christ is within us, and so on. At last, when we heard of a Guru who could help us, we followed him and his teachings. The truth He taught us was the same that all the Great Masters have taught. We learned meditation and silence. But the spiritual revolt was still going on within us.

Why can't we know God? If we must have self-realization, why don't we? We asked. He had no answer. We felt discouraged. We talked it over and made an important decision: pray loud and sincerely for the Highest Living Master to come and take us to our goal.

And the Highest Living Master knew our plight and answered our cry, for He has come for such as we. The second day, a friend came to our house and gave us a book. It was a book on the life of Sathya Sai Baba! We read it, from cover to cover; a great serene peace filled us. We knew our prayers were answered!

Further steps in Baba's 'Operation Salvage' followed fast. We contacted the friend who had brought the book and we found other books by Baba; we read them and lost ourselves in His simple truths. The following Sunday, we went to the temple where we worship. A friend we hadn't seen for weeks came and sat by us. She took from her purse a little folder paper; we watched her unfold it; we were surprised that it contained some ashes! She said, a friend brought them from Sai Baba (Baba's Grace!) and she said she had such a compelling desire to give them to us (Baba's Infinite Mercy!), and she had to seek us out for the purpose. She said (Baba's words) that we were to put some on our tongue each night. This was the start of the Blessings and Miracles that began to happen in our lives; although we were unable to see Him with our eyes, He made Himself known to us in various ways. Then, one day, we suddenly had a desire to see Him physically, and we journeyed to Prasanthi Nilayam.

John Hislop's wife Magdalena was drawn towards Sai Baba quite early in her life. Baba had to appear in Havana, Cuba, years ago, concretely before her, to imprint on the immaculate mind of the child, just a year old, the shining splendor. She was just learning to walk, says Hislop, when she saw the Sai Baba of Shirdi (Baba assumes that form too to bless and confer grace) standing in the corner of the garden! She started to toddle towards Him, saying, 'Dada! Dada!'; then, confused, she stopped. For her real daddy was standing at the entrance to the house. "Wonder of Wonders," Hislop writes, "last year while we were in India, Baba confirmed to Magdalena her experience was a fact; He described the costume He wore then and how He was standing in the corner of that garden, 35 years ago!"

Indra Devi, 'the First Lady of Yoga in America', is a Russian born American citizen, with an Indian name, having her Yoga Institute astride the boundary between the United States and Mexico. She learnt Yoga in Mysore (India) and taught it in Shanghai, London and Moscow. She was in Bombay, within an eye's throw from the Gwalior Palace where Baba was surrounded by tens of thousands of adoring aspirants for grace, for over a week in 1966. She missed seeing Him then, but she encountered the traffic jams in the vicinity which the Bhajan sessions and Baba's discourses brought about, while she was hurrying to fulfill her engagements in the  city! Later, when she was on her way to Saigon (You can never take Sai as gone I told her; it is always 'Sai won') she peeped in at the Theosophical Society Headquarters at Madras to meet a friend, and ran into the Murphets. Mr. Murphet and his wife were bubbling over with the exhilarating news of Baba and his love, His power and His wisdom. She came back from Saigon, for, the call was clear and convincing. On her way to the tiny village that has been immortalized by the advent, she met the Hon'ble Dr. Triguna Sen, Minister in the Government of India, who was returning from the holy place, after a long inspiring conversation with Baba. Dr. Sen warned her that she might stay on at Prasanthi Nilayam itself, feeling that she had reached the destination. That was what practically happened, for, her heart is invested in Baba as a life deposit, while she is breathing Sai, talking Sai, dreaming Sai, and resting in Sai, wherever she may wander!

Hilda Charlton of New York spent many years in Ceylon, and later moved on to Delhi, where she was initiated in the worship of the Mother and in meditating on Her. She chanced to visit Shirdi, where she heard that Baba was living and available, 500 miles off, at Puttaparthi!

Another 'for-near' who was drawn by Baba from Shirdi, the arena of His previous life, is Alf Tideman Johanessan of Oslo, Norway. Head of a prosperous company doing business at Bombay harbor as shipping agents, His rivals attempted to ruin his reputation and income, by every foul means that could be devised, including black magic! Some friends of his and a Parsi priest took him to (of all places!) the shrine of Shirdi, to invoke grace to ward off the calamity.

During one of his visits, in February 1966, while Alf was sitting disconsolate before the tomb of the 'Previous Body', the present body took over his problems in His inimitable way! A short man in a blue shirt patted him on the back and asked, "Have you ever met Sathya Sai Baba?" Alf had not heard the name before. The short man whispered in his ear, "If God ever came upon the earth, this is He," and placed in his hand a small locket studded with an enameled oval piece containing a portrait of a person wearing a robe and having a mop of hair. "This is Sathya Sai Baba," the short man said, "You can see Him at Bombay on March 14th," and then left.

Alf asked all those he knew for more details about this 'God on Earth', but none of them had heard about Him, nor did they know where He could be found on March 14th. In fact, as he came to know later, it was only a week after the short man in blue shirt announced the date at Shirdi did the Sathya Sai Seva Samithi of Bombay receive information about the date of Baba's arrival with directions to look for and engage a suitable place in any easily accessible part of the city with plenty of open space around for devotees to gather.

Let it be said that Baba reached Bombay in the small hours of the night on 13th March, and gave Alf the smile of recognition on the 14th, during the Bhajan session in the morning at Gwalior Palace! In the very first interview that Alf gained, consequent on this divinely arranged contact, Baba said to him, "Do you remember the black magician? I helped you then." Relating to him his triumphs and trials, both in his business and in his efforts at bridging the gap between despair and delight in the realm of the spirit, Baba told him, "From now on, I shall be your guide, in all matters."

Arnold Schulman, a screenwriter and playwright of repute, favorite of Hollywood and New York, met Baba once at Whitefield and returned to America. "One-day," he says, "for no reason I could discover, I realized that I had somehow developed a compulsion of my own, which I could not suppress or shake off or overcome or rationalize; I wanted to write a book about Baba!" Later, when he came to India and Baba called him into His room, He told him, "When the time comes, I call all those who need Me, to Me. It was I who told you to write the book, because I wanted you. Understand! I wanted you, not the book."

Thus they come, from all the quarters! Many like Hislop have to their credit long years of Sadhana guided by adepts in their own countries, in Japan (Zen teachers), in Burma (Buddhist monasteries), in Nepal (Saivite Gurus), in Ceylon (Vihars), and in India (Yoga adepts). In many cases, their appetite for spiritual achievement had been whetted through contacts with the Ramakrishna Mission, the Self-Realization Fellowship, the Hare-Krishna Movement, the Kriya-Yoga Conference, and various other inducements for self-examination, self-mastery, and self-realization. Others who feel the thirst for Light come to Baba, mauled and maimed by quacks and crooks who promise quick results against tidy rewards. And some others come desperate and sick of catering to pride and greed and the hardy brood of impulses, in search of a way out, in search of peace. And many have arrived, dazed and confused by the conflicting dialectics of those whose eloquence served at best to veil their vanity and vapidity; now, at last, to hear the Truth in straight and simple words, to see the Truth in its unadorned beauty, and to know it from Him who knows All.

"Not all the buds on a tree blossom," says Baba, "Nor do all the blossoms turn into fruit, or later ripen and enrich the world with sweetness." The shallow, the supine, the scholastic, the supercilious - these fall off from the race. There are different levels of readiness among those who come for the precious gifts that Baba grants. But whatever their level, none can escape from or deny the profoundly purifying effect the heart receives from the contact.

Dr. Judith M. Tyberg of the East West Cultural Centre, Los Angeles, writes, "It is now almost three years that I was in Puttaparthi, and had the Divine Blessings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. His help to me on all planes of being is still evident, and I am very grateful." Jack Hakimzadeh of Teheran writes, "When my heart was quite heavy, and retrievement of equipoise was well nigh impossible, I did see Baba. As a result, my life is no longer the same." Jnani Greene who has been at Prasanthi Nilayam since ten months, writes, "Baba has instructed me, 'No more doctors, no more medicine; let go; give up; let Me be your doctor!" And he has proven His efficiency and readiness many times since. One day, my foot was broken, caught in a narrow ditch in the dark. I was carried to my room in excruciating pain. Two hours passed and, suddenly, sensation went dead; I attended Bhajans at Whitefield, sitting in a perambulator! Then, I noticed absent-mindedly that my foot seemed rather warm; I put it on the ground; it was entirely repaired! The repercussion on me was even more dramatic. For, it gradually dawned on me to turn to Him for every form of pain, for all sense of limitation, mental and physical alike; I discovered that His recipe worked equally well for everything. I am a slow student, and I still forget to ask! But, in His boundless compassion, He keeps reminding me."

Many seekers have found solace and strength, help and guidance, from the books written by Baba, from the Discourses given by Him, from the Bhajans sung by Him, and from the pictures and photographs of Him which they use for worship or meditation. John Eversole writes to me from Santa Barbara on the Pacific Coast of America, "Thank you for attracting my attention to Him, so that His pictures might grace the wall in my home, that the taste of His Vibhuti might remain, for ever sweet, in my being; that my family might have their feet set on the Path of Truth that is Him; that my tears of joy might wash His Feet from the other side of the earth."

Hilda Charlton wrote to a student of hers who came over to India to be with Baba for some months. "Baba wants us all to harmonize, for, to be out of love for anyone is to be out of love with Him. Of what use is it to love Him, if we can't be kind and considerate with His many aspects in the world? The best way to overcome reaction to people and things is to think that Baba is giving you a test, when someone is not properly adjusted to you. In your travels you will find many who cry 'Baba', and yet do not do what He says and wants of them. Baba knows the inner thoughts and feelings of all. Yes, Baba is God, incarnate upon earth."

Hilda wrote to me, once, "Baba's Presence is always felt in our meditation classes. One new boy saw Baba filling the room; a student experienced Him as the Infinite. Some of them cannot contain the Ananda; they laugh with supreme joy during the meditation. Baba comes to them in visions and dreams, He cures many of their illnesses. The young kids are turning away from drugs, and recovering sanity and strength." In another letter she wrote, "I look back on those glorious days at Prasanthi Nilayam when I was in His personal Presence, as days of opportunity. Yet I now realize, more and more, since I returned to the west, that He is omnipresent. I have concrete proofs of this, over and over again. When I left Prasanthi Nilayam Baba told me, "Beyond Name! Beyond Form!"

Diane Marquier of France saw someone having a portrait of Baba in her room. Underneath the portrait were the words "Why Fear When I am Here?" Her reaction was an "Umph! What? Who does he think he is ?" she exclaimed. But when she heard more about Him, she developed curiosity, which turned into inquiry, discovery and devotion. She writes, "One day, I asked my husband for 300 dollars, and when he pleaded inability, I ventured to say, having faith in Baba, 'If you give me the 300, Baba will give you ten times more!' I got the 300. That very evening, for the first time after a year, in the Restaurant where we are still, he made 3000 dollars, to the surprise of everyone except me."

Murial J. Engle of Santa Barbara, writes, 'Never have I stood so close to God. Will you believe me if I tell you this Man is Christ? He knows what we are at a glance, and why we are seeking Him, without a word from us; but in His great kindness, He forbears from embarrassing us by not revealing all He sees and knows!"

Howard Murphet quotes a 'woman of Germany', a devout and earnest seeker on the path, telling him, "Baba is the incarnation of Purity and Love." She wrote to him, "I get more and more convinced from within that Jesus has come again, in the fullness of Christ, as Sathya Sai Baba."

June Schuyler writes, "How can one who has lived 41 years with a good share of frustration describe the joy of finding the Lord in human form - utterly good, absolute Love itself? I had experienced a great deal of love in my life through all the normal human relationships - parents, child, friends, marriage. Nothing could compare to the purity of the Love which Baba gave and evoked. This was Holy Love!"

"For 17 years before I met Baba, life's problems had been so intense that I had come to feel barren inside. In Baba's Presence, the dry inner desert was flooded with life-giving water. In His Presence, the fragile tenderness which seemed totally dehydrated, became fertile."

"On 9th December, 1970, Annalisa Rajagopal, Indra Devi and I went under His direction into the magnificent Catholic Cathedral of Pom Jesus, the burial place of St. Francis Xavier, at Goa, India. As usual, in a place where Jesus is worshipped, He touched me with His Love. I knelt before His statue with mixed emotions. Here I was a devout Christian unmistakably guided for years by Jesus the Christ - now, with my heart utterly captured by Sathya Sai Baba."

"Jesus! What is this?" - I suddenly asked. "Am I trying to serve two masters? You told us this cannot be done. Baba too says the same. You know I love you; yet, my heart is full of Baba. I am absolutely determined to accept and follow His guidance. Please, please help me!"

"In a flash I remembered the day when Baba was speaking to a group of overseas seekers. He used an interpreter that day, although He very often speaks directly in excellent English! When Baba referred to Jesus during the lesson, the interpreter started, "Your Jesus..." "No," Baba came down upon him, and lovingly added, "Our Jesus," emphasizing the word "Our"! The thought flowed into my heart that it was Jesus who had guided me to Baba. I felt that, although I was too blind to see, Baba and Jesus weren't two Masters, but One. Baba was teaching us the love, the humility, the reverence, the charity, the soul's exaltation that emanates from the breath of all faiths. Intellectually I had agreed; the understanding was slowly taking roots in my heart."

"During some of my earlier experiences with Baba my mind tried to raise, at times, storms of doubt; but, in each such mental turmoil, a deep inner Peace asserted itself. I had long ago learnt to know and trust this inflow of peace. It was the God within saying, "All is well."

"Kneeling, that day, before the statue of Jesus, I realized that all is well. I am so richly blest. I left the Cathedral feeling loved and loving."

Howard Murphet, too, speaks of a similar revealing experience. Writing in his book, "Sai Baba - Man of Miracles," he says, "Sai Baba has many similarities to Christ, not only in the miracles, but in the style of presentation of the teaching. Baba is far beyond the measure of man. Apart from the miracles, which show His command of Nature, His power to be anywhere and know what His devotees are thinking and doing ("I am a radio, and can tune in your wave," Baba says), and His ability to bring protection and help - apart from all these superhuman qualities, there is the pure egoless Love. This, above all, stands as a sign of Christ-like Divinity."

I remember a few evenings I spent with a group of seven 'foreigners' when they read between the lines of the "Revelation of St. John the Divine." Some of them had the intuitive perception of importance to interpret and understand the Advent of Baba; this was reinforced by their study of Edgar Cayce's remarkable adventures into Biblical realms. They read the description therein, of New Jerusalem as a place where "I saw no temple therein, for the Lord God Almighty was the temple in it. And they shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. They shall in no way enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever that bringeth abomination. Let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let him drink the water of life free." They read this and wondered at the aptness. Then they read of the Advent of the Master on a white horse (Kalki?) with eyes like a flame of fire, clothed in a robe of red, as if soaked in blood, with the name 'King of Kings, Lord of Lords' woven in it. (Baba wears red silken gowns: in one, golden letters are woven indicating He is Sai Baba, that is Lord-Father). His name is Truth, they noted with surprise, as they read the text, for Sathya means Truth! Christian seekers who come to Baba find many such parallels in the signs and signals of Divinity, and they are grateful.

"Many of you come to Me because you have not known a mother's love," said Baba one day, addressing the Americans with Him. One of them had written a song which was in His hands at that time. "Awaken us, to our oneness with You! Dear Mother! Lead us home, into You!" Of course, all who grope for the meaning of life, for principles, ideals, values, self-understanding and self-expression, are children, and whosoever raises them up in loving sympathy, and guides them through the faltering steps, the stuttering tongues, the wondering eyes, the wavering minds, is verily the Mother. A great Andhra Poet, septuagenarian scholar, yogi and mystic, Velury Sivarama Sastry, who spent years with Baba, wrote, "Weigh on one scale the quantity of love that all the mothers of the world offer to their children, and on the other, place the Love that Baba showers on fearsome, forlorn, feeble beings; you will find that the scale with the weight of Baba's Love will sink lower!" Christ said, "Allow the children to come up to Me." Baba moves amongst the children of all ages, for, He alone can give each the Love they are pining for.

The love of Christ is so overpowering that He took upon Himself the sins of others. Baba, in His Love, takes upon Himself the illness of others. On Christmas Day, 1970, referring to the travail that He passed through gladly to relieve the pain of a helpless devotee who could not survive the agony of an inflamed appendix, Baba spoke to a huge gathering at Bombay, thus, 

"To take upon Myself the sufferings of those who have surrendered to Me is My duty. I have no suffering and you have no reason to suffer too when I do this duty of Mine. The entire give-and-take is the Play of Love. It is taken over by Me in Love; so how can I suffer? Christ sacrificed His life for the sake of those who put their faith in Him. He propagated the truth that service is God, sacrifice is God."

When asked by someone why he dined with sinners, Christ said, "It is the sinner for whom I have come; it is not the healthy that need a physician!" Baba has come for the erring child, the pilgrims gone astray. He says, "To say that you have to be pure in order to win My grace, is as foolish as to say that you have to be healthy to receive the ministrations of a doctor! The pure do not need a Master! The tough do not need a doctor." Christ said to his Apostles, "As lambs I send you forth among wild beasts, but the sacred name of God shall be your buckler and your shield, and the air was filled with song and every living creature seemed to say, Praise God! Amen!" Baba calls upon His devotees to act thus: "Tell every one what you have experienced here. Tell them that you have found that source and spring of joy and peace. Tell them that not one will be left out; all will be saved."

When M. Trudeau, the brother of the Prime Minister of Canada, along with his wife, came to Puttaparthi with the High Commissioner of Canada in India, Baba gave him a cross with the figure of Christ on it, materialized on the spot. At Ngorongoro in Tanzania, He materialized for the British pilot of the plane in which He went there, a lovely little cross, but finding the recipient not quite pleased, He asked him, "Why? Do you want My portrait?" and, with another wave of the hand, the portrait was created and given. Baba does not divert or dilute the faith which provides sustenance already. He does not insist that people must revere His present Name alone, or adore His present Form alone, No! Be true, be just, be aware, be alert, be pure, be full of love, that is enough 'religion', He declares. [see also: The crucifix, by John Hislop

John Moffitt from New York (a member of the Ramakrishna Monastic Order for over twenty years) sought out Baba at Prasanthi Nilayam. After meeting Baba, he wrote to me from Bangalore, 'I can never forget that talk - infinitely profound, infinitely playful, infinitely simple. I was reminded of what it must have been like to sit at Sri Ramakrishna's Feet... I just drank in His sweet, loving, playful Self. When I asked for His Blessings so that I could come there again, He said spiritedly, "Why here? There's no need. I am always with you. I will be in your heart." If ever there was proof that Christ is working outside Christianity, it is in Babaji, and, before Him, Sri Ramakrishna. My mind is clear now; my doubts are resolved; I want to do His Will.'

Baba knows how deeply each aspirant who comes to Him has striven, whom he has served and adored, what he has imbibed from each, and when and by which path he will ultimately win his escape from this absurd but attractive maze. To a young American who was boasting too demonstratively of his loyalty to Him, Baba said one day, "Your Guru is in Bangalore. Go!" The exuberant admirer was flabbergasted. He protested, "No! He is right here!" but Baba insisted that He was right, and then light dawned in the youth's head. He had taken initiation in Transcendental Meditation from the renowned Mahesh Yogi, and Baba was telling him that the Yogi had then come to Bangalore. Baba knew that the old roots were green and could be vitalized, with no extra effort.

"Sai Baba, Sai Baba; so kind, so kind! You are father, mother, sister, brother, every one" is the refrain of a song on Him composed by a group of 'foreign' devotees, and sung in chorus many times at Prasanthi Nilayam and other places. Baba is the multifaceted Avatar - Rama, Krishna, Christ, Buddha, Sankara, Gauranga, Ramakrishna, Zarathustra - all in one.

Coming to Puttaparthi presents its own problems, especially to those who are accustomed to comfort and conveniences; yet, they brave vagaries of the weather, the idiosyncrasies of food, the absence of apartments to stay in, the confusion and complication of communication and various other discomforts, and cling on, snatching every chance to see Him, hear Him, meet Him and stay with Him, as long as they can, for His presence is so enchanting, so near, so intimate, that discomforts and lack of facilities recede beyond cognition.

Mrs. Michael Schultz says, "What merit have we won, that You call all of us so lovingly and sweetly?" Eddie Fleur writes, "I have prayed, and do pray long each day to have pure love for Him, and total surrender to His Will. Also to be with Him, as Hanuman with Ram." Gabriella Steyer writes, "His Love removed from our minds all the disruptions and discomforts of the place, all the unwelcome austerities forced upon one by Nature." "I am a bubble; make me the sea," is the prayer of Georgiana. Michele Melvin says, "Here is a consciousness where love feels no bounds; there is a space free from narrow measurements. There is a truth beyond this delusion where Myself is known. I pray to the Divine Mother, Baba, May I come Home." For, according to another of these earnest seekers, Baba has come to take His children home!

Another Sadhaka, who has named himself as Raman and wiped off his past from attention, writes, "Most of us have come hoping to accomplish something definite in the way of self-improving, to take at least a few steps up the spiritual pathway with Baba's help. Baba helps us to progress in Sadhana by means of tests of which we alone are cognizant! One of His ways is to ignore us completely! Yes! For weeks on end. He will act as if He was totally unaware of our existence. He would smile at the person on our left, and give a pat on the head of the person on our right! His glance will pass high over you, and He will behave as if he is completely oblivious of your existence. As a result, your ego shrinks to the size of a pea! When you are just about the right size, He would all of a sudden give you one of His looks and a big smile - and all is well again, and even better."

"You have had a shot in the arm that should keep you high for several weeks. When He gives you one of those look-cum-smiles, you feel the eternally close bond; tears fill your eyes; you are left high up in the clouds. You know in a flash that He had been aware of you all the time, that He has known every word you had whispered to yourself in your despair, every thought you had, everything you have done or left undone, and best of all, that He understands all your weaknesses, and has forgiven them already!" Raman adds, "If I ever reach the desireless state, I'm sure the desire to be on the receiving end of one of Babaji's looks-and-smiles will be the very last one to go."

For Westerners, the first chance usually to be close to Baba, says John Hislop, is when He calls them together, either at Prasanthi Nilayam or at Whitefield: 




"He sits on the floor with us and invites us to express our spiritual doubts. Then we see before us what appears to be an Indian man (Baba told Arnold Schulman: "I am not a man, I am not a woman, I am not old, I am not young; I am all of these."), of dark brown skin (Rama and Krishna are described in the epics as having dark (brown) skins), slight in build, with a mass of brown hair with golden highlights framing His face. We are, naturally, as observant as possible when we meet this extraordinary being; all our senses are alert. Our mind and intelligence are wide awake. We note that His features are sensitive, and reflect at once all changes of mood and thought. He has a sweet and loving smile, like that of an innocent and affectionate child. His eyes are dark brown, soft and melting, and sparkle with intelligence and humor. His voice is sweet and tender, like that of a mother, sometimes gay with laughter and lilting wit like that of a companion, at other times stern and serious like the voice of a father. The movement of His body, as He sits, arises and walks, is graceful, flowing and extremely light. His hands are expressive. There is a faint perfume in the air, which Magdalena says is jasmine! On our way home from India in March, I awoke in Honolulu to that same perfume which lasted some 10 or 12 seconds. Another time, in Bombay, at Dharmakshetra while Baba was narrating a story to illustrate a point, I was amazed to find a circular blaze of halo around His head. Baba noticed my wondering eyes and explained that I was indeed fortunate to have that vision!"

Let us listen to more of Hislop's intimate description of how Baba presents Himself to those who seek him:

"As we sit close to Him, we quickly realize that He is far more than an elegant and charming Indian man! Our perception deepens beyond the senses; we become aware of a subtle yet total beauty that has quietly filled the room. At that subtle level where we have awakened, we feel a current of Compassion, Love and Light, and we know that the source is Baba. Suddenly our mind is at peace and we sense an upflow of happiness in the heart! All care drops away; our ordinary world has fallen out of sight into the past."

Arnold Schulman describes the feelings which came upon him thus: "In less than a minute, I had become a displaced person!" "Only our happy blissful state with Him in the present is real." This experience is so genuine that tears fill the eyes and some find themselves crying.

This ecstasy felt in Baba's Presence is heightened when He answers questions and speaks on spiritual matters. The delight and depth of His words of wisdom carry such a thrill of truth that it almost seems that one cannot bear the joy that fills the hearts.

Baba gathers people from far and near and speaks to them, in stories and parables, on the age-old remedies for the disease of desire and distress, which He has come again to re-install in the estimation of the human community. Hislop writes, 

"Let me glean a few sheaves from the harvest stored in the memories of these brothers and sisters: Don't waste time moaning over the past, dwelling on the negative, injurious, tragic, morbid experiences. Every fleeting moment of time can be a lifetime for the spirit! Discard trivialities. Be steady as the stars. Be on the lookout to discover new ways to express your love to all. Do not talk too much, to too many, your real Friend and Companion is God. Act as you perceive: when you see distinction between rich and poor, healthy and sickly, act accordingly; help the poor and the sickly. Ridding the mind of impurities, delusions, egotisms, vices, sensual impressions, karmic imprints, is the same, in effect, as "Die-mind"; but, the more you do it, the brighter and clearer becomes the effulgence of what remains; it is like the diamond; you have to cut off bits and flakes to make it really precious. "Baba" means the Super-Soul which is Existence-Knowledge-Bliss, Sath Chith Ananda. 'B' is Being Sath; 'A' is Awareness - Chith; 'B' is Bliss - Ananda; and the final 'A' is Atma - inner core of Reality. You can also become Me when you throw off the coils of delusion and desire."

Baba declares that His Life is His Message. So, being in His presence, observing His compassion, His simplicity, His earnestness, His insight, His love, is itself a valuable opportunity for the aspirant to gain fullness and freedom. Every word of His is fraught with significance to the person He addresses. And He deals with each one as a separate, special problem. He does not vend cheap panaceas for the multifarious deficiencies of man; the goal is within you; the cure is in your hands; where the illness is, there the remedy is provided. To achieve the goal is to open the eye, to awake, to light a lamp, to deny a nightmare. It is all so simple; seeing the truth is as simple as speaking it, He says. Why make the road long and then earn gratitude by recommending shortcuts? "The darkness of centuries will disappear when a lamp is lit; you need no gun to shoot it off, no book to argue it off, no tears to wash it off, no pugilistic prowess to push it off," He says.

For each, Baba has the remedy most suited, in an easily portable form, and He dispenses it with affection and sympathy. "Baba makes each one realize," says Hislop "that he is a reflection of His Reality. It is our Dharma, our duty to reflect and express His Nature, which is Truth and Love, for, that is our real nature also. And it is our primary duty to free ourselves from the illusion of separateness from God, to merge into God, just as the droplets of spray flung into the air by wind and storm fall back and are no longer separate from the sea."

Hilda Charlton, in a letter to her pupils, delineates the modus operandi for meditation in her own way, thus: "In the heart center, visualize a still lake of water. See a lotus arising. See a flame in the lotus. See Sai Baba in the flame. Install Sai Baba in the heart. With each breath, feel you are breathing in Baba's Divine Love through the heart center. Let this Love spread to all parts of the body and overflow all around into all beings." In another letter she advises, "You ask, how can I merge in Baba? Well, just keep loving Him. Think of Him as the whole world and universe. His hair the sky, His body the earth, and all of us little atoms in it. Baba is God and God is in everything and in every one; we have to be atone with all in our heart, and then we are atone with Baba." And a pupil replied after a few months, "I feel like talking to the trees and leaves, and the sands, for He is in all these." Baba sometimes transfers spiritual power by a touch or an exercise of His Will, to aspirants who deserve it. One young Sadhaka wrote to me, "...And then, before I knew it, the Master reached over and pinched me right between the eyes, in the region of the 'third eye,' and I felt something nearing Bliss, and immense ecstasy, that lasted nearly five hours."

Other Sadhakas were guided through dreams, which, to them, were as real as lessons granted face to face. One Sadhaka in bed with intestinal illness, came to me asking what Visuddhi meant! It seems Baba had told him in a dream to concentrate there! I had to give him a long lesson on Chakras. I found that Visuddhichakra has profound curative influences!

I have glanced through the notes taken of 'dreams' such as these, and found the directions concise and precise, consistent with what Baba gives to others in the wakeful stage. Look at this, for example: Freedom or liberation is not gained by the perfection of the small self, but by indifference (Upeksha) to both perfection and imperfection. If you are not ready to relinquish the relative limited identity, then, spend your energy well in perfecting it; that way time will be best utilized. But that is not the ultimate. In God, perfection or imperfection do not exist. Vibhakthi or division, divergence, confrontation of opposites, is not Bhakthi (Union, Atonement). Again, let us listen to this: "Do not want to understand. Do not ask to understand. Relinquish the imperative that demands understanding. Silence is not a matter of resolve! It is always there. Silence is the endless flow of pure God into you, into the world."

This type of instruction, clear before the eye and resonant in the ear, is given by Baba to many all over the world. For, Baba is ever eager to solve doubts and plant the seed of faith in the furrow of inquiry. To get His lessons, across the oceans, around the world, you don't have to be someone special, or an expert in some unusual Sadhana taken from a prestigious textbook. Cherish the doubt sincerely. Pray intensely. Call out from the heart for the Supreme Preceptor; that is enough. Baba once asked Charles Penn, "How many times, Charles, have you called! And have I not answered, every time?"

One day, Charles Penn in Dhyana (meditation) sank into the silent depths of Baba's Vahini (Stream), asking Baba, "East is East, and West is West, and Never the twain shall meet! Why twain, Baba? If this saying be true, then, why do I yearn for You, who are in the East? What of the wall that stands between the West and the East - is it unscalable?"

And Baba answered, 

"From early childhood, the mind is filled with half-truth (like, for example, this misconception), seemingly sound ideas and even deliberate fabrications. Babies are sometimes isolated from the adults, to avoid contact with adult suffering from contagious diseases; I wish they were isolated from the adults, for My sake, that they may get to know Me better! The sun knows no East or West. Tyrants prefer not to let the hot coals in man's mind cool down; they fan them white-hot and create easts and wests and put them against each other for pride and profit. Everyone must fight such truthlessness with truthfulness, fight misconception with the factual, hate with love, temper with understanding. Man must fight with these things in himself. When anger arises, quieten down; when in fear and doubt, pray to Me. Tune in to My mighty Power which, compared to the power of the sun which I have placed in the heavens, is what a baby's breathing is to a typhoon. Tune in, Charles, to this soothing, gentle breeze you are enjoying now!"

The urge within the seekers who come to Baba for guidance and grace is an agonizing thirst, arising when they traverse the waste land with an incipient awareness, and not just blindly, as most people do. As Norman Mailer writes, "They suffer from that corrosive sensation in the chest and the gut, so much of the time, that they sense the body going empty within, the sensation of psyche pierced by a wound whose dimensions keep opening, that unendurable conviction that one is hollow, displaced, without a single identity at one's center."

One of the Westerners described a few of his compatriots to me thus: "Kerry has spent a year of exile in the Canadian woods, and another in a little island in the Aegean Sea. Janet has been a clairvoyant, telepathic to a great extent, but consistently keeping it a secret under every conceivable circumstance - which is an amazing thing indeed! When they saw Baba, Janet cried, "He is God; I know it." Her sister got sick of the civilization of the West, and has come over. Martin Stamp, this boy here in his teens, denied Himself both Oxford and Cambridge, although representatives from both tried to bag him, for even while he was in the preparatory school, he proved a precocious mathematician; he is hankering after God so that he may immerse himself in Him. Raman was a teacher of Yoga, carrying the message of the East into the prisons of America. He receives letters from his 'pupils' behind the walls."

Like Indra Devi, whose Yoga Classes always center around the teaching and glories of Baba, Raman too has given Baba to these temporary misfits, along with his lessons on Yoga. One of them, Steve Win, writes from Lomfoc in gratitude, "The vibrations here seem to be strongly negative. Without a strong positive guide to help me and the others along, we just sort of flow along and pray for the best. When I do get out, I am going to discipline myself more rigorously and work towards self-awareness. It seems to me that Sri Sai Baba is laughing at the cosmic joke we are all seriously living, and He is patiently waiting to guide us. I am really hoping and praying that, very soon, I shall be able to meet Baba and learn of life at His blessed Feet! I am convinced, He will take me through the hazy veils of worldly thoughts, to the pure light of Samadhi and Brahma-Consciousness. I am spending hours, looking at Sai Baba's picture, so that I may be released from the real imprisonment I suffer, at the hands of worldly thoughts, desires and senses."

Baba is announcing His Advent through signs and wonders all over the world. When Penn was high up in the sky encountering inexplicable problems in the petrol tank of his plane, Baba appeared by his side in the cockpit and directed him to the defect spot with instructions for the repair! When terrible forest fires broke out in the Chunchuma Ranch, Tecate (Mexico) where Indra Devi has her Yoga Institute and a place of retreat called 'Sai Nilayam,' Baba responded to her prayer and turned the flaming conflagration back, right on itself, in a trice and saved the men and property! The Cowans were disappointed because they could not get, while in India, a copy of a particular photograph of His. It had on it the impression of the symbolic clock at Dharmakshetra, the 'hands' moving from one spiritual discipline to another until "12" is indicated by "Total Surrender" at the Lotus Feet. When a photographer casually clicked, he got the picture of Baba, with the picture of this clock, as if He wore a badge. When asked the meaning of the appearance of this impression, Baba said, it meant that "I shall press on My Heart in Love the Sadhaka who accomplishes the steps indicated on this clock!" Moved by their genuine disappointment, Baba placed one under the clock in their room at Santa Ana California, behind the chest of drawers. As the Cowans didn't notice it, the clock in their room banged itself on the wall to draw their attention to His gift, lying below it unclaimed: They prayed that Vibhuti might appear from His picture in their shrine; instead a Star Sapphire with eight rays formed itself on the picture, looking as if Baba was wearing a necklace with the gem at His throat center! To Indra Devi, He created a rosary of pearls, with the assurance that she can heal, in extreme cases, the sickness of sufferers by prayers, with its help. He has given her also a jar of Vibhuti which could be given as a curative for sick people and the jar has been blessed by Him so that it will never be rendered empty. And thus, the cures, the healings, the cleansing of hearts, the refining of character, the amelioration of habits, the rescue from drug-addiction, the winning of internal peace through the discipline of Japa and Dhyana, and other Acts of Divine Grace go on, minute after minute, from the minute to the manifold; for Baba is determined to lift up all Sadhakas, into the Supreme Bliss.

I shall conclude this array of outpourings of the heart, with the first fruits of that teaching and guidance as garnered by Jerry, one of the many sharers of His Grace: "I have been with Sai Baba for one year now. During this time, I have seen many with little faith, much disease and discomfort, come to Him. By the time they leave, they have more faith, ease and comfort and peace of mind. For me, Baba has worked His miracles. As I stay longer and longer, I face, as in a mirror, all my Samskars. They strike me as intangible and unreal. The mental impressions fade into powerlessness, first the more recent ones, and then gradually those that stretch back to early childhood. Then as they tend to finish, there are increasingly long periods of entering into the Eternal Bliss of living in the Present! Baba burns the ego, with its innumerable potencies for mischief. Being in the Presence, the present is experienced by me as living in the Bliss of Love, when the mind is at complete rest, free from all thoughts of the past and future. The only impressions coming across the screen of the mind are the overtones of God, or the outpourings of Love and Peace to all. With some efforts, we can still the mind and empty our cups, so that Baba may pour into them the nectar of His Grace!"

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