THE RAMALA CENTRE
The following talk was given by David Jevons in February 1997 to an audience of Sai devotees who had gathered at the Manhattan Sai Baba Centre in New York, NY, in the USA, at one of their regular weekly meetings. It has been edited but only for the purpose of reproducing it in this Newsletter.
NATURE OF OMNIPRESENCE
Over the many years that I have been in relationship with Sai Baba, he has gradually led me into an awareness of the true nature of his being. As the avatar of the Age Sai Baba truly possesses the divine qualities of omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence and he has demonstrated these qualities for me and my family on several occasions. Tonight, however, I would like to look at just one of those qualities, omnipresence, because sometimes we fail to understand the full implication of this divine quality. I also find that many newcomers to Sai Baba and his teachings find it hard to accept the reality of this claim, that Sai Baba is omnipresent, so let us now look at the nature of omnipresence together and see if we can come to an understanding.
Sai Baba says that if, when you leave his ashram at Puttaparthi, you think that you are leaving him behind there, then, you have not even begun to understand the nature of his true reality. Sai Baba is constantly declaring “There is only one God and that God is omnipresent” and he says that word ‘omnipresent’ with such a lovely inflection in his voice. There is only one God and that God is omnipresent, not just on the physical plane of life but on every plane or level of being in the entire cosmos, in every dimension of time, indeed, in every atom of creation. In fact there is no place where God is not present. We, of course, can only relate to Sai Baba on the physical level, the level of which we are aware, and so it is on this level that Swami teaches us about the reality and nature of God. Whenever Ann and I leave him after an interview, just as we are walking out of the door, his last words to us are always “Remember, I am always with you.” Once, during an interview, my wife asked Swami if she could have his white handkerchief to take back with her to England because she had given the last one which Swami had given her, a few years earlier, to a person who was very sick, as a form of comfort. Sai Baba threw his handkerchief to Ann whilst saying, at the same time, “Yes, yes, but don’t take the handkerchief with you, take me.” It was a gentle reminder to her not only not to get too attached to his physical form but also to be aware of the true nature of his omnipresence. Now even though Sai Baba may appear to live in Puttaparthi, in India, don’t think for one minute that you have to go there in order to establish contact with him. Don’t think that Sai Baba isn’t here right now, because he is. Don’t feel that Sai Baba’s chair on the stage behind me is purely symbolic. He is not just sitting in that chair, he is everywhere; around us, above us and within us. Divinity permeates everything. There is nothing that is not permeated with the essence of God. Sai Baba is truly omnipresent in all of us. To quote Sai Baba’s own words -
“You may doubt the fact of the omnipresence of God,
but if you realise that your body is the temple of God, your own heart is the
seat of God and that the consciousness in you is simply a reflection of God,
then your meditation room is your body itself, and so He is present wherever
There are, I believe, three levels of omnipresence. Let us just look at these levels now. The first level of omnipresence is the most simple level, it is the level when Sai Baba actually appears before someone in his physical form even though his physical body is still apparently in India. Many people have been blessed by an experience of him in this way. He has physically appeared before them to talk to them, to give them advice, to heal them of some life-threatening illness, to protected them from injury in a crash, to stop them from committing suicide and, yes, even to deliver a baby. Sai Baba has appeared all over the world to help people, speaking to them in their own tongue, and this doesn’t just happen to his devotees because sometimes the people involved don’t know who he is until they discover his identity much later on in their lives. I would like to share two such instances with you now, one of which I think you will find quite amusing.
There was a young Indian boy who lived in London and his father was always saying to him “Look, when you have some spare time in you life, don’t waste it on video games but use it to chant ‘Aum Sri Sai Ram, Aum Sri Sai Ram, Aum Sri Sai Ram’ and to meditate on Sai Baba’s form.” The boy began to do this and one morning, waking up early with nothing else to do, he began meditating and quietly saying “Aum Sri Sai Ram, Aum Sri Sai Ram, Aum Sri Sai Ram.” Suddenly he looked up and was amazed to see Sai Baba’s head peering at him through the window of his bedroom even though it wasn’t on the ground floor. He rubbed his eyes in disbelief and looked again. This time Sai Baba walked through the wall of his room coming straight towards him. He looked again, to make sure it was Sai Baba and then, frightened, he dived under the bedclothes and hid there hoping that Sai Baba would go away! After a little passage of time he poked his head out of the bedclothes and was very relieved to discover that Sai Baba had indeed gone away. Later on he went down to have breakfast with his family and as he sat there eating his cornflakes his sister entered the room and sat at the table beside him. She proudly announced “Sai Baba came to visit me last night.” The young boy said “I don't believe you.” “Well he did” said his sister “And he told me that you had been having headaches and that they are now going to stop because he has cured you.” The young boy looked at her and said “How do I know that that is true?” “Oh” she said “Because Sai Baba told me that he came to you first, to talk to you, but that you hid under the blankets and so he came to me!” So a visit from Swami is truly a real event, not a figment of someone’s imagination.
Whilst we were in India this year, and I will have to abbreviate this amazing story, we met a beautiful Russian girl called Tamara. Now Tamara had left Russia during the Gorbachev era, when travelling restrictions on Russians were temporarily removed, with only one hundred US dollars in her pocket and an airline ticket to India and a burning desire to see Sai Baba. She had stayed seven years in India with Swami’s grace and eventually he even found her a husband. However the story that I want to tell you now relates to the reason why she wanted to come and see Sai Baba. Back in Russia she was searching for God and although she was shown photographs of Sai Baba she could not accept who he was. Indeed, whenever she went into a house where there was a picture of Sai Baba she would become angry and would ask for it to be taken down or covered. One night, however, Sai Baba appeared in her room in Russia in his physical form and stood right at the end of her bed and looked at her smilingly. She could not believe her eyes and got out of bed and walked towards him, but the power of the moment was just too great and she felt herself beginning to faint. As she collapsed Sai Baba quickly stepped forward, caught her physically and prevented her from falling to the floor and injuring herself. She actually felt his arms holding her before she fainted. He then carried her back to her bed and laid her out on it, where she came to a short time afterwards, but she knew that she had experienced the physical reality of Sai Baba in Russia. It wasn’t just a vision because she had felt the physical presence of his arms around her. Now there are many more stories that I could tell you about Sai Baba manifesting in his physical form but time does not permit it tonight. Sufficient to say that it happens all the time all over the world. It is not an isolated experience to a privileged few.
I would now like to relate some stories about a much more common occurrence, when Sai Baba appears but using another person’s human form. Now the implication behind this, of course, is that you never know when Sai Baba isn’t appearing before you, you never know when the person standing in front of you isn’t actually Swami in disguise! Sai Baba told us recently in an interview that he has been to our centre in England four times in physical form, one of them we do know about and I would like to tell you that story now. I might add, in passing, that we are worried about the other three times which we don’t know about! We hold a Sai Baba summer picnic each year and at the end of the picnic we finish with half an hour of bhajan singing. Ann was busy wandering around our house, supervising the final events of the day, and so she crept in a little late right at the back of the big room where the singing was taking place and sat down on a chair. As soon as she had sat down a little mongoloid girl, that is a person suffering from Down’s syndrome, just appeared and sat down on Ann’s lap and rested her head on Ann’s shoulder. Ann said that she had never in her life felt such unconditional love as poured out to her from this little mongoloid girl leaning against her. The girl sat there for the whole bhajan session and then, when the singing stopped, she got up and walked away. Ann looked at her shoulder and was amazed to see that it was covered with vibhuti. So she immediately went to find the parents of this amazing child to tell them of her experiences, but there were no parents present and the child had vanished into thin air. Moreover, no-one had seen her around at all that day. The mongoloid child, we are sure, was a manifestation of Sai Baba.
I am sure that many of you know that Sai Baba can appear as an animal. There is the lovely story of the lady who was expecting Swami to come for dinner the very next day and so she was busy in the kitchen preparing food for him. Suddenly a dog came into the kitchen and tried to seize one of the cakes which she had cooked, whereupon the lady, angry at this intrusion, picked up a stick and hit the dog very hard as she drove it out of the kitchen. On the very next day, when Sai Baba came to the house, the lady offered the cakes to Swami who politely refused them. The lady remonstrated with him “But Swami, why are you saying ‘No’ after I cooked them especially for you?” to which Swami replied “The last time I came for one of these cakes you beat me with a stick”. So Sai Baba can appear in the form of either people or animals. We should treat all sentient beings as God’s creations, indeed, as God manifesting before us. We should treat every aspect of creation with the respect that we would accord to God because, in one sense, we are standing in God’s presence.
A friend of mine was recently travelling in a taxi from Puttaparthi to Bangalore. Soon after you leave Puttaparthi the road passes through an area of arid desert where there is little human activity. It was in the middle of this area that the rickety old Indian taxi chose to break down. The driver opened the bonnet to discover that the fan belt had gone and, of course, he didn’t carry a spare. So there they were, stuck miles from anywhere, in a hot, arid landscape. The lady concerned offered up a prayer “Dear Swami, I know that you are looking after me, so please get me out of this situation. It is very hot and very unpleasant, and if I stay here too long I will miss my plane.” She had hardly finished her prayer when along the road came a gentleman on a bicycle. He drew up along side the car and asked what the problem was. Upon being told that the fan belt had broken he said “Ah, I have one” and there on the carrier on the back of his bicycle, held down by a rubber band, was one fan belt and, of course, it just happened to be the correct size for the car! The driver quickly fitted the fan belt and they proceeded on their journey. The lady looked out of the window to thank the man, but there was no-one there. As they drove along this isolated road with no turnings off it, there was no man and no bicycle to be seen, even though he had only left them a few minutes earlier. The lady just knew that the man with the fan belt was Sai Baba. So let us be aware of the omnipresence of Sai Baba in this respect, at this level.
We now come to the next level of omnipresence which is the level of omnipresence where Sai Baba is present all the time on a level higher than the physical plane of life and is aware of everything that we think, say and do. For example, if I was called for an interview the next time I was in Puttaparthi, Sai Baba would be able to repeat back to me my every thought, word and deed tonight and it would be just the same for everyone else in this room. He knows me better than I know myself. He knows my past, my present and my future. He has been omnipresent throughout my many lives, since the moment when I first came into being, aeons of time ago. When Sai Baba looks at you, for much of the time he isn’t looking at the physical you, he is looking at the soul you, he is looking at your karmic pattern, at your destiny, at the degree to which you have opened your spiritual consciousness. That is why Sai Baba is sometimes accused of doing inappropriate or irrational things to people. It is because he is not treating the present you, he is treating the eternal you. The analogy I like to make here is that of looking at a movie. When you watch a movie all that you can do is focus your attention on the screen and watch one frame of the movie at a time, but with one frame following another in quick succession you can soon get a fair idea of the plot. If, on the other hand, you were to watch only one frame of the movie you would not get a very good idea of the plot or of the characters involved in it. Now each of our lives is like a frame in a gigantic movie and although we focus on and can only see one frame of the movie, which we regard as being the most important to us, Sai Baba focuses on the whole movie, on all the frames, on all the lives of our destiny. So Sai Baba’s actions towards us are based on our whole destiny, past, present and future and that is why we sometimes find it so difficult to accept what he does or doesn’t do for us. For example, to be ignored by Sai Baba is sometimes an act of grace, not an act of punishment, an act of disapproval.
When we were last at Puttaparthi we went to a talk in the EHV building by Samuel Sandweiss, a devotee of long standing, who wrote the popular book The Holy Man and the Psychiatrist. He spoke, amongst other things, of the problems that he was experiencing because Sai Baba was completely ignoring both him and his wife even though they sit in the VIP lines in darshan. Now he has been very close to Swami, has had many interviews with him, has lectured extensively about him, and yet even he was finding it very difficult to understand why Sai Baba was cutting off the physical contact. He was saying that at first you think that you have done something wrong, that you have displeased Swami. Next you wonder if it is some kind of karmic settlement. Here, perhaps, I might relate the story about a blind man who was taken into darshan by some seva dals (the volunteer ashram helpers) who, because they control where people sit in darshan, deliberately placed the blind man in a position where Sai Baba could not miss him, because they wanted Swami to heal him. Well that day Sai Baba came out to give darshan and immediately reversed the pattern that he normally followed in darshan and walked around in a completely different way which did not bring him anywhere near the blind man. After darshan was over Sai Baba called those seva dals in for an interview and told them in no uncertain terms that the action that they had taken was very inappropriate. He warned them that if he had even so much as looked at that blind man he would have had to have suffered another ten lifetimes of blindness, another ten lives of being blind, in order to pay off his karmic debt. So let us realise that Sai Baba often does things which help us to pay off our karma more expeditiously. That is an act of grace. Everything that Sai Baba does has both reason and purpose, even if we don’t understand it. Sai Baba is the embodiment of love and everything that he does for us is born out of that love.
I would now like to give you two more amusing examples of Sai Baba’s omnipresence. I would not want you to think that all is perfection within the ashram, that it is a place of paradise. Swami is on record as saying that there are often more thieves than devotees within its walls! A lady had just arrived at the ashram and was busy carrying out the lengthy ashram registration procedures. Tired after her long flight she did not keep a very close eye on her suitcase and a passing thief quickly picked it up and walked away with it, taking it up the hill behind the ashram where he hid it, with the intention of going back later to collect it, when there was less chance of being discovered. Amazingly the thief went to darshan that afternoon and as Sai Baba walked by he stopped and told him in no uncertain terms to go and get the suitcase from where he had hidden it on the hill and to take it to the women’s room immediately! He even gave the man the women’s room number in the ashram so that he could deliver it personally. He also advised the man to change his ways and warned that he would be watching him closely in the future. Amazed and quite baffled by the turn of events the man complied. Sai Baba knows everything that goes on not only in his ashram and elsewhere in the world as well, as my next story reveals.
A lady from Los Angeles was in an American group that was called in for an interview. During the interview Sai Baba turned to her and said to her “Your husband is a very bad man. He is having an affair with a lady in Scotland!” She remonstrated with him and said that, even though their marriage had been going through a difficult patch, that was simply not possible since her husband was in Los Angeles, where she had left him, but Sai Baba ignored her comments and carried on talking to some one else. When she got home to Los Angeles some three weeks later her husband dutifully met her at the airport. As she was driving home in their car she enquired of her husband “What’s this I hear about you having an affair with someone in Scotland?” Her husband practically swerved off the freeway in a state of shock on hearing this. He had to admit that he had indeed flown across to Scotland to take part in an experience course in the Findhorn Community where he had met this lady with whom he had had a brief relationship. Sai Baba knows everything. You can hide nothing from him.
So it is apparent that Sai Baba is aware of everything that we do in thought, word and deed and not just in this life but in lives gone by. Once when I was in an interview with him, he had taken a husband and wife into his inner and more private interview room and was talking to them there. As I was feeling a little cramp in one of my legs I took the opportunity to stand up and to stretch and massage the offending leg. I sat down again, but when Sai Baba came back into the room some minutes later he looked at me and said “What’s wrong with your leg?” You can hide nothing from him. Even your thoughts are an open book to him. I have often seen him turn towards someone and say “Bad thoughts” or “Jealous thoughts”. If you are thinking about someone else he knows exactly what and why you are thinking, no matter whether it be a member of your family or a complete stranger. It is from an observation of such events that you begin to understand the nature of karma, how everything that we think, say and do is recorded and how we have to account for everything. Does not the saying in the Bible “Every hair on your head is counted” now have more meaning?
I now come to the third level of omnipresence which is the level that I really want to talk about tonight. Sai Baba says “Man extols God as omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent, but he ignores His presence in himself.” I spoke about this level in front of Sai Baba himself in Kodaikanal last year and on the very next day Sai Baba referred to my talk and reiterated the same point, so I know that it is important to him too. Sai Baba is forever telling us “You are God, you are God, you are no different from God.” He also says that although we live in his being, a little bit of him lives in us. So in one sense we are Sai Baba or, perhaps, I should say that we are all parts of Sai Baba. Sai Baba is omnipresent within us and the more we surrender our identity, our ‘ego-self’, and hand our lives over to this force of God within us, the more this force of God - sometimes called our divine spirit or atma - will operate through us and will direct everything that we think, say and do. Just as Sai Baba transforms everything and everyone who comes into his aura, so we can do exactly the same, for we are the same as Swami. We are all embodiments of love, our very nature is peace and bliss. Let me tell you a little story to illustrate this point. Now I don’t know if the lady in question is actually a member of the Manhattan Sai Centre because, although she said that she was, no-one here has been able to identify her. Of course, it could have been Sai Baba himself, but either way the story holds good.
About three weeks ago an Indian lady with an American accent came to the Ramala Centre in Glastonbury, England. She said that she was from the Manhattan Sai Centre, which stuck in my mind because we knew that we were going to give a talk here. She knocked on our front door at 9.00AM in the morning just as we were in the middle of serving breakfast to all of our guests. I was in half a mind to say that the Centre was not yet open and to ask her to come back after 10.00AM when the Centre was officially open to day visitors, but there was something so wonderful about her energy that I let her in. She had a beautiful, warm smile and even though she was a very small lady her energy was strong and loving. I told her that we were very busy with our guests and couldn’t talk to her right there and then, but that she was free to go and sit in our meditation room and read any literature to which she felt drawn. As she walked through our front door I could feel her energy, it was quite amazing, and as she stood in our hall she announced “Sai Baba is here.” Now whether she meant that the energy of Sai Baba was present in the house or was present in her I will never know. Anyway, when people start making comments like that I begin to look very closely at them! She indicated that she would like to go into our mediation room. She sat down in front of our six foot high picture of Sai Baba, said some prayers in Sanskrit and then chanted a couple of bhajans in a melodious voice. Afterwards she got up and walked around the Centre and as she passed by the kitchen door she saw Ann creating some lingam water.
Now Sai Baba has given us a healing lingam. We pour water from the tap over the lingam, and then give away the charged water for people to drink, and some wonderful cures have been brought about in this way, both of people and of matter. Ann performs this little ceremony every day of the year, chanting the name of God over the lingam as the water flows over it. Almost inevitably, when you do it every day, the ceremony can become a little perfunctory. Anyway, this lady saw Ann doing this little ceremony and said “Oh, can I do that for you please?” Ann was happy to hand over her chore and for the next five minutes this lady sang Sanskrit songs over the lingam as the water flowed over it into the jug below. Her voice was quite exquisite, uplifting and inspiring, so much so that everyone stopped what they were doing and listened in rapture. She then finished with a prayer and was gone. Her total visit had perhaps only lasted for some fifteen minutes but the energy that she left behind was with us for weeks afterwards. We were all touched and inspired by her short visit. Who she was, I will never know, it does not matter, but what is important, though, is that we are all capable of being like her. We are all Sai Baba’s messengers, embodiments of love, with a divine mission to spread joy and bliss wherever we go. Sai Baba is omnipresent in us and everywhere that we go we should make Sai Baba’s presence felt through our own right demonstration in thought, word and deed. We should be able to transform people’s lives just as Sai Baba transforms the lives of everyone who comes into his aura. It is our duty to make our lives his message. That is our supreme service or seva. Sai Baba is not only omnipresent in his own right on the higher levels of life, he is omnipresent through us. We should be able to transform the lives of everyone with whom we come in contact just as that Indian lady transformed the lives of everyone in the Ramala Centre that day. We remembered and felt her loving energy long after she had departed. Sai Baba once defined liberation as “God seeing God”, when the God in us sees only God all around us, when everything is seen as One, then, we are free from the bonds and attachments of Earth for ever.
So the omnipresence of God, of Infinite Spirit, in my own experience, can be perceived on these three levels: firstly, in the actual form of Sai Baba, secondly, in the physical form of any human being and, thirdly, within our own being and it is this last form which should be the most significant and the most meaningful to us. In a sense it corresponds to the three stages that we experience on our path towards becoming one with God, to achieving liberation. Firstly, we see ourselves as messengers of God, secondly, we see ourselves as being related to God, as His sons or daughters and, thirdly, we see ourselves as being one with God, of recognising the fact that we are God. When we went to Sai Baba’s seventy-first birthday celebration it was apparent that Swami was in his Shiva mode, that he was trying to wean people away from his form and towards the omnipresent God. He is obviously concerned that devotees are getting too attached to his form and are forgetting about the omnipresent side of his being. Sai Baba himself has announced that in another twenty-five years he will leave the physical plane of Earth, if only because he has to prepare for his return for his next life in the form of Prema Sai Baba. If you get attached to his form, in fact to any form, then, you will suffer from its loss. It is far better to be in touch with the omnipresent Sai Baba, which embraces all incarnations of the Godhead, all forms of the Godhead, which is always with you no matter on what plane of being you dwell. This omnipresent Sai Baba knows your every thought, your every wish, your every prayer, and will answer them sometimes before you have even expressed them. Sai Baba points out to us that God has been providing for us since before we were born. Our first meal at our mother’s breast was there waiting for us before we even took our first breath. If God takes care of us in this way at birth how much more does He take care of us throughout our adult life. God knows exactly what we want before we even ask for it. That is the true reality of omnipresence.
Sai Baba, the Godman, is the perfect example to us of God’s omnipresence. We have to become like him. We have to make ourselves a living example of his message. I doubt that Sai Baba will ever travel to the West now that he is in his seventy’s, but that doesn’t matter because Sai Baba travels with us, in our hearts. I once asked Sai Baba “Swami, when are you coming in your physical form, in a physical aeroplane, to put your physical feet on the shores of England?” He looked at me and smiled and said “I will come with you, I will come with you.” Now I know that he didn’t mean that I was to accompany him to England, or even fly his plane there. As a commercial pilot, what a wonderful thought that would be. No. He meant that he will come within me to England as he comes within all of you to the USA. That is the message that I want to share with you tonight. God is in us, God is omnipresent in us, and all we have to do is to release all that is not God within us, our desires, our attachments, our human side, in order to reveal the divinity that is omnipresent in all of us, in every single human being. When we do that, then, we will have evolved from the animal, through the human to the divine and will have recognised our birthright. So let us resolve tonight to go forth as Swami’s messengers, to live our lives in his image, to follow his example. A Realtor once said that the three most important things to be considered when buying a house were location, location and location. The three most important things that we have to manifest are example, example and example. Let us all remember the old adage that one good example is worth a thousand words and as Sai Baba is a living example to us, so may we be a living example to all those people whom we meet. May we truly be what he is, an embodiment of love, which is God, for love is God and God is love.