THE RAMALA CENTRE
The following talk was given by David Jevons to an audience of Sai Baba devotees who were attending the annual retreat of the Pacific Region North of the Sathya Sai Baba Organisation of the USA held at the Silver Falls State Park Conference Centre of Oregon over the weekend of October 22nd/ 24th 1999. It has been edited but only for the purpose of reproducing it in this Newsletter.
FROM THE FORM TO THE FORMLESS
I wonder if we really appreciate the many blessings that are continually being showered down upon us by our Creator. For example, not only are we privileged to be here this weekend in this beautiful mountain setting, enjoying the good company of like-minded people in a spiritual retreat, but we are also all basking in the omnipresence of our beloved Lord, Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Many of you, I know, have been to India and have had an opportunity to see, to touch and to speak to him. You have been graced to receive his physical darshan which, as Sai Baba says, is a boon that is yearned for by the gods of the highest heavens. Let us also remember that Sai Baba has declared himself to be an avatar. A declaration such as this indicates that we are living in exciting and challenging times, because the stated mission of an avatar is to restore right living upon the Earth, is to protect those who follow dharma and to punish those who oppose it. Now Sai Baba will be 74 years old next month, nevertheless, he has stated that he will inaugurate a Golden Age of peace and prosperity here on the Earth before he dies in 2022. Many of us, I know, find it hard to believe that such a transformation will indeed take place. We look at the state of the world today and to our eyes the world appears to be getting worse not better. All over the world human beings are behaving like animals rather than like divine beings. We can see, as yet, no outward signs of the promised transformation. It is therefore self-evident that some Earth shattering event will have to occur in the not too distant future if the path on which Humanity is now set is to be radically changed.
In an interview that Ann and I had with Sai Baba last February Swami told us that the Earth was sick. He said that the hole in the ozone layer was getting bigger and that as a result the Earth was heating up. He also said that the Earth had a high temperature, a fever, and that she would have to cleanse herself of this fever. What form this cleansing will take I do not know, but I believe that we are witnessing the first symptoms of this fever in the extremes of weather that we are now experiencing all over the world. Then Sai Baba warned us that Man was extracting far too many minerals and too much oil from the Earth for short term financial profit. He said that the Earth was hollow and was becoming unbalanced. He held his hand up, in the shape of a clenched fist, to look like a ball, and then he turned his hand sideways. What this portends I do not know, but it seems to me to imply that there will be a shift in the axis of rotation of the Earth. If this is indeed the case then we are all in for a testing time. Sai Baba also told us that we should not be afraid of this process as he will protect his devotees. His teaching “Why fear, when I am here” takes on a new meaning in this respect. I would also mention here that I had a very vivid dream about Sai Baba a few months ago. It was quite a long dream and at the very end of it he walked up to me, put his face right in front of mine and said “Remember my face, one day it will save you.” I feel that this message is for all devotees.
Now it is apparent, to those of us who have been following Sai Baba for many years, that he is changing the nature of his relationship with his devotees. Some amazing statements have come out of Puttaparthi in the last few months. For example, at the celebration of Dasara on October 14th Sai Baba walked out of the celebration without giving his usual discourse, announcing to stunned devotees that he would no longer give discourses on such occasions. He later said that he has been giving discourses for so many years but that devotees have not been listening to what he has been saying. They have not been putting his teachings into practice. I recall here his warning “You seek too much information and not enough transformation.” Earlier this month Indulah Shah, the president of the world Sri Sathya Sai Organisation, came to Vancouver and delivered a personal message from Swami. Firstly, Indulah Shah announced, Sai Baba had said that we should not concern ourselves with what he had said before June 1996 and that what he had taught since that time was his final instructions to us. The information age was now over and the transformation age was about to begin. Secondly, Sai Baba had said that we should not to be devotees of his form, but devotees of his teachings. The worship of his form must stop. He emphasised that we were no different from him. We were all God, we were all no different from God. We should lead our lives based on the five divine qualities that he proclaims, namely, Love, Truth, Peace, Right Action and Non-violence. The purpose of our incarnation is to realise that we are not our physical bodies, and that we are in fact eternal beings of spirit.
Indulah Shah went on to say that Sai Baba is very keen to get EHV (Education in Human Values) schools established in every country of the world. Again it is significant that Swami wants us to start EHV schools here in the West. He doesn’t want us to start a religion. He doesn’t want us to promote the worship of his form. He doesn’t want us to recruit new devotees. He doesn’t want us to talk about his miracles and ignore his teachings. I know, because of my own struggle in coming to terms with the Hindu forms of worship practised in the Sai Organisation, that this is the path that we should be walking here in the West. We should teach and exemplify the Human Values that Swami upholds so strongly. We should promote the teaching of EHV in our schools. There is an EHV program in the United Kingdom that is now being taught in more than 500 schools. This program fills a spiritual void in the school curriculum created by the removal of religious education for the sake of political correctness.
Sai Baba has asked us not only to stop worshipping his form but the form of past avatars as well. If we get attached to his form, or to any form for that matter, we are inevitably going to suffer when we are denied access to the form. As the husband of a wife who was very attached to Swami’s form I know that this is true. When Sai Baba began weaning my wife off his form he started a painful process, because my wife regarded this weaning as a form of rejection. When we go to India to see Sai Baba and the physical Sai Baba ignores us, the ego-self immediately creates feelings of rejection, of lack of self worth, of doubt and suspicion. We say that Sai Baba doesn’t love us any more, that he doesn’t know that we are there, that he doesn’t understand our wants and our needs. But Sai Baba is weaning us for a purpose, to force us to go inside and to contact the force that I call Super Sai, the omnipresent force of God which is always with us no matter where we are in the world. We don’t have to go to India to contact this force. Ann and I have found that Super Sai is so much more powerful, so much more approachable, so much more responsive than the physical Sai. Attachment to the form is in fact a limitation to our spiritual progress.
Sai Baba himself tells the story of an elderly devotee who, after his wife had died, came to live in the ashram at Puttaparthi. He was a retired army officer and he was devoted to Sai Baba. He lived in the ashram for many years but suddenly, one day, Sai Baba told him to leave the ashram and to go and live in Madras. Reluctantly he left and as he was a very old man he was looked after by some Sai devotees there. Six months later he developed cancer and died. Subsequently one of the devotees in Madras who had looked after him went to Sai Baba and said. “Swami, why where you so unkind to this man? He was devoted to you and yet you threw him out of the ashram just before he died?” Sai Baba replied “If I had not forced him to go, he would never have got liberation. He was too attached to my form.” So there is a danger in becoming too attached to the form of the guru. We should strive to release all such attachments and to rely on the omnipresent God within us, not the physical form of God in India.
In twenty-two years Sai Baba’s physical form will disappear forever, as did the forms of all past avatars. That is the nature of physical life. Nothing is permanent. So we can understand why Sai Baba is now asking us to move from the form to the formless. We are not our bodies. We are all individualised aspects of consciousness linked to a formless and nameless energy which we can call Super Consciousness. Sai Baba himself has said that he represents Super Consciousness and that we represent Collective Consciousness. We must seek to bring forth the God within us, the force of Super Consciousness. Sai Baba teaches that we are all God in human form, that we are all no different from God. Having been brought up as a Christian, I found it very difficult to accept this statement, for I had been taught that God was in Heaven, Man was on Earth, and that God had to send his only son down to Earth to save us from ourselves. I found it very difficult to accept that God could be on the Earth. For many years I struggled with this concept before, eventually, with Sai Baba’s grace, I began to understand the real meaning of what he was saying. I once asked Sai Baba “Swami, is the Christ coming on the Earth again?” Sai Baba responded most vigorously “No, No, No! There is not one Christ, but many Christs. You are all Christs.” Please note the use of the plural not the singular.
Sai Baba has asked us to use the So Hum mantra. So Hum means I am God. It is the sound of our own breathing as we breathe in - So - and breathe out - Hum - on average 21,600 times each day without our even being aware of it. We are therefore declaring every second of the day that we are God. Sai Baba asks that perhaps on just a few of those breaths we can be conscious of the fact that we are God. He says that deep breathing is especially useful in the conquering of anger, greed and lust and in handling the many negative thoughts that suddenly pop up in our conscious minds. We can do this by closing our eyes, breathing slowly and deeply, and observing the process of our breathing. Sai Baba has also asked us to do the Jyoti or light meditation each day. This is the meditation when you focus on the light in a candle, bring the light into your body and become that light and then send that light out into the world. By following these two simple procedures we will transform not just ourselves but the world as a whole. Sai Baba has also given us a vision of the Golden Age that is to come. He says that in this Golden Age there will be no need for seva or service, there will be no need for bhajans or devotional singing, there will be no formal worship, there will be no religions as we know them today. Why will this be the case? It is because they all represent duality, separation from the Godhead. They all promote separation from God and deny the omnipresence of God in each and everyone of us. Sai Baba says that this Golden Age will be a time of peace and prosperity because people will be leading lives based on the five human values. People will be aware of their birthright, they will know that they are indeed God.
I would now like to talk very briefly about the vedantic understanding of the nature of human existence. Firstly there is dvaita or dualism which holds that Man and God are quite separate, that the individual soul and the Supreme Soul are separate and distinct principles. Then there is vishishtadvaita or qualified dualism, which holds that Man is separate from God but is in a unique relationship with Him. Finally there is advaita or non-dualism, which holds that God, the soul and the Universe are all one. This latter understanding is held to be the ultimate goal for Man and when you achieve this state of being then you will attain liberation and will no longer need to return to the plane of Earth unless you choose to do so in order to lead others into this understanding. All the great gurus, of course, live in a constant state of advaita. They are at one with everything and everybody. Sai Baba has used the three stages of Jesus’ life to explain this vedantic understanding. In the beginning Jesus regarded himself as the messenger of God, that is to say he was living in dualism as he regarded himself as being separate from God. Then Jesus went into a time of retreat, his forty days in the wilderness, and he emerged saying that he was the son of God, that is to say that he was related to God. This was the state of vishishtadvaita. It was from this understanding that he carried out his ministry. However Sai Baba says that it was not until Jesus was on the cross, enduring the pain of crucifixion, and was being tormented by the soldiers who had crucified him, that Jesus entered the state of advaita. Jesus, quite naturally, was having negative thoughts about the soldiers who were tormenting him, when he heard the voice of God inside him say “All are one, my dear son, be alike to everyone.” He then realised the reality of advaita and merged with it
When you go from this retreat, if you remember nothing else, I would like you to remember those words. “All are one, my dear son, be alike to everyone.” Sai Baba says that at that point the last doubts of Jesus dropped away and Jesus was able to declare “I and my Father are one.” He had become a realised being and was one with his Creator. If you listen to the voice of God inside you it will proclaim the same fact, that there is no separation between you and God, that there never was any separation, that the separation that you perceive is only in your mind, is a figment of your imagination. To reach this highest truth, do not think that you and God are separate. Think always that God is within you, that you yourself are God, that you are an infinite and an eternal being. Throughout your many lives there has only ever been one, never two. There never was duality. You and God are one and the same. So develop self-confidence, or should I say soul-confidence, in that fact. Know that you are atma, divine spirit. Do not become body conscious, become soul conscious. Keep away from anything or anyone that leads you into body consciousness.
When you realise that God is not separate from you, then you gain immense self-confidence. You begin to manifest Love, Peace, Truth, Right Action and Non-violence as a natural part of your being. Do not think that you are your body, for the body is just a water bubble on the ocean of life. Your body is just a dress that you put on and will discard when it is worn out. Bodies are not special. Sai Baba has said that his body is not special. His body will die just like ours. Only the divine spirit is eternal. I would think that most of us here, I know that I am, are in a state of vishishtadvaita, of qualified non-dualism. Through our association with Sai Baba we have moved into the stage when we know that we are in relationship with God, that God is our true Mother and Father. Let us now take that final step, which Sai Baba is inviting us to take, and move from the form to the formless, from the finite to the infinite, from duality to the oneness of all life.
As some of you may know I was an airline a pilot for all of my working life and Sai Baba often makes jokes about this. In my very first interview he put his arm around my shoulders and said “You are my pilot, but remember, I’m your pilot!” Sai Baba also uses the analogy of a plane to describe his mission. On the occasion of his sixty-fifth birthday he said that his plane was taxiing out from the airport building in preparation for take-off. On his seventieth birthday he said that his plane was lined up at the end of the runway, with its engines revving up, ready for take-off. On our visit last February Sai Baba told us that on his seventy-fifth birthday, in November 2000, his plane will take off. Now this plane is not a physical plane, like a Boeing 747, it is a plane of consciousness. Nevertheless, to get on that plane involves a selection process, because you have to get a boarding card in order to be on that plane. I feel that this plane is the plane of liberation and that in order to catch this plane we have to lead lives that will make us worthy of liberation. We have to follow the spiritual disciplines that Sai Baba has asked us to follow. We have to make a great effort to discover that we are indeed no different from God. I feel that many of us have been waiting for this final step for many lifetimes. Now Sai Baba is offering us the chance of liberation by simply following him and his example.
I had a dream the other day in which Sai Baba told me that I would have to come and live in his ashram in India, because I simply did not have the self-discipline to follow a spiritual path whilst living in the outside world! He said that I was continually getting distracted by worldly matters and that the only way for me to get liberation was to come and be subject to the discipline of the ashram. He said that the time would soon come when I would have to release all my material possessions and concentrate on the real purpose of my life, namely, to attain liberation. Well, hopefully, some of you are more disciplined than I am and you won’t have to go to India and be subject to ashram discipline! It is a fact, though, that when Ann and I go to the ashram, we liken the experience to going to a spiritual health farm, because we recharge our spiritual batteries, we re-establish our spiritual disciplines, we get in touch with our inner selves and we always leave with an inner glow of well-being. Unfortunately, as the subsequent months pass by, we tend to slip back into our old habits, to allow the pressures of the outer world to interfere with our spiritual disciplines. So if we really want to move from the form to the formless, then, we will have to put some energy into this transition, to make this quest the most important aspect of our lives, our very reason for living, and not treat it as an intellectual pursuit.
Now Sai Baba says that there are two paths towards liberation that are available to us at this time; the path of knowledge and the path of devotion. Of these two paths, the path of knowledge is a difficult path to walk as the outer world is such a distraction for us, especially here in the West. The path of knowledge demands silence and meditation and time for the induction and the practice of knowledge. When we walk this path we unite with God through our own efforts. However the path of devotion, the path of devotional service to God, is open to all of us at this time. When we walk this path God unites with us because of the efforts that we have made. Sai Baba uses the analogy of the cat and the monkey to distinguish between the paths. The path of knowledge can be compared to the baby monkey. The baby monkey has to cling to its mother in order to stay with it. The baby monkey clings to the mother’s body through its own self effort, and the mother monkey then carries it to where she wants to go. The path of devotion can be compared to the baby kitten. The mother cat carefully picks up the baby kitten in its mouth and carries it to wherever she wants to go and then puts it down. The kitten has to make no effort save that of being in relationship with its mother. That is the path of devotion and that is the path that Sai Baba is advising us to follow. I would now like to give you an example of this mother cat principle at work, as it happened to me.
I was in India, staying in Sai Baba’s ashram at Puttaparthi, last February. After morning darshan was over six small lines used to form in the darshan area. Devotees queue in these lines in order to get into the temple for the morning bhajan session that follows a short time afterwards. Now it is difficult for devotees to get into the temple because the ashram staff and the students from Sai Baba’s school are allowed to go in first and they can take up much of the space that is available to the men. Moreover, unless you are actually sitting close to where the lines form, it is well nigh impossible even to get into these waiting lines. I tried on several mornings to join the lines but got nowhere. It was just like a rugby scrum, with some people throwing themselves into the lines in order to get a place. The situation was hopeless! I mentally said to Sai Baba that I was not going to demean myself by taking part in this scrum, and I stopped trying to get into the lines. A few days later, however, my inner voice impelled me to go and try again, but when I reached the lines they were all full. I was about to give up when an illegal seventh line began to form! Feeling very guilty, I hastily sat down in this illegal seventh line and waited for the inevitable order from the seva dals to move. To my utter amazement that morning the seva dals allowed this seventh line to stay! The usual little cosmic lottery then took place and my seventh line drew the number one token and I was the second person into the temple that morning.
As I sat down, close to the front and just to the right of the thin strip of red carpet that divides the men from the women, I was amazed to see that Ann was sitting in the exact mirror position of where I was sitting, but on the ladies side. Now Ann, unbeknownst to me, had gone through just the same process that I had had to endure, but on the ladies side. Now what are the odds, out of 40,000 or so people, all wanting to be in the temple close to Sai Baba, of a husband and wife winding up in a mirror position along side each other, close to the front. A few moments later Sai Baba entered the temple and walked down the carpet towards us. My wife, who is never shy about talking to Sai Baba, said “Swami, my husband is here.” Sai Baba smiled at her and said “Yes, yes, I know.” Then he turned and talked to me, asking me about my eldest son. Now that, to me, is the miracle of Divine Omnipresence. That, to me, is a far more striking testament to Super Sai, to God’s Omnipresence, than any interview, any manifestation, any miracle. That is the reality of God’s Omnipresence, which can impel two people to walk two separate paths in order to place them in the same position, at the same time, for a moment of destiny. That is the divine Mother Cat at work and, you know, the same thing has happened to you, if you did but know it, in getting you to be here this morning, listening to this talk.
my very first interview with Sai Baba, back in 1993, the most important thing
that he did for me was to give me a mantra that changed my perception of myself and of my role in life. He slowly recited to me -
“You are God, you are God, you are no different than God.
You are the Infinite Supreme, the One Reality.
You are Sat Chit Ananda Swarupa.
You are Om Tat Sat Om.”
He told me to say that mantra to myself every day, for that was the truth of my being. Now for a Christian this was a difficult thing for me to do. Nevertheless it started a whole process of change in me. Although, at first, the mantra was just words, and meant little to me, the fact that they are such powerful words, and the whole statement is so transformative, gradually began to imperceptibly change my understanding of my own divinity. I would like to quote to you some of Sai Baba’s own words on this very same subject.
“You are divine, that is the truth.
You and the Universal are one.
You and the Absolute are one.
You and the Eternal are one.
You are not the individual, the particular, the temporary.
this. Know this. Act in conformity with this.”
If we know this as the truth of our being then we will achieve liberation, we will attain the goal that we have been pursuing for so many lives, in so many bodies, enduring so many karmic settlements. This is why Sai Baba is in incarnation at this time, to reveal this great truth, which has been hidden from us for so many lives. We are no different from God. We are God.
I often wonder where I would have ended spiritually in this life if I had not come into contact with Sai Baba. I would probably be stuck in my Western Esoteric Philosophy and seeking too much information and not enough transformation! I would not have been introduced to the path of devotion and to the concept of ‘Love All, Serve All’. I would not have discovered that when you serve another person you are in fact serving God. I would not have been able to face someone I did not like with the thought in my mind “All are one, my dear son, be alike to everyone.” It is so difficult to understand the reality of Oneness with God if one has not experienced it personally. I always recall a description of oneness by that great teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti who Ann and I used to go and listen to every year until his death in 1986. There are some who regard him as the World Teacher. Krishnamurti was one day watching a man repairing a road in Ojai, in Southern California. Suddenly he became one with everything around him. He was the workman repairing the road, he was the pneumatic drill in the hands of the workman and he was the road. He was at one with everything. He was experiencing the feelings and emotions of everything. Few of us will have such an experience, but we can all begin to act in accord with it .
like to finish now with a quotation from Sai Baba, in fact these are the words that Sai
Baba said on Shivaratri day this year.