At a Sai Baba retreat held in Oregon in the USA last year a Sai Baba devotee gave a talk on Advaita or Non-Dualism, based on some notes that he had taken in an interview given by Sai Baba to a group of about thirty Western devotees in Kodaikanal in April 1983. I was so impressed by both the content and the quality of the talk that I went and got a copy of the notes from him after the talk was over. I reproduce them here. For me, personally, this conversation represents the highest spiritual teachings that I have encountered and I unequivocally commend them to you. In just a few words Sai Baba teaches us of the true reality of our beings and of our correct relationship with physical life on the Earth. Advaita advocates the philosophy of the absolute oneness of God, the soul and the Universe and is the spiritual understanding to which we will all eventually progress, one day, one lifetime. Advaita is the final goal of the divine spirit which is to be found in every human being
Devotee: Swami, what is the best way to relate to the world?
Sai Baba: Do not think about the world. Do not spend time thinking about the world or about your relationships to individuals. These are all impermanent. They will not last. Pay attention to that which lasts, to that which is permanent. All things involving the world and human relationships have to do only with the body. The body is like a water bubble. The mind is like a mad monkey. So do not follow the body or the mind. Follow the voice of God. It is the voice of unchanging truth inside you. It will direct you toward your highest good.
If doubts come, do not follow them. Jesus had some doubts on the cross when the soldiers were tormenting him. Then he heard the voice of God telling him, “All are one, my dear son. Be alike to everyone.” At that point the last doubt dropped away and Jesus declared “I and my Father are one.” He realised the truth of the oneness of Self and God. This is the state of Advaita, of complete Non-Dualism, where there is only unity. If you listen to the voice of God inside you, it will tell you that there is no difference between you and God. There never was a difference. It was your imagination only. The sense of difference was only in your mind. There is no separate I or God which has to become one. There never was any other. Always there was just the one, without a second. To reach this highest truth, do not think that you and God are separate. Think always “God is with me. He is inside me. He is around me. He is above me. All there is, is God. I, myself, am God. I am the infinite. I am the eternal. I am not two. I am one, only one. There is no one else besides me. I and God are one and the same.” That is called self-confidence; it is the confidence that you are atma, the one Self. You develop self-confidence by thinking all the time “God is doing everything, without God I cannot be.” When you realise that God is not outside of you and separate from you, then you gain self-confidence. Then there is love, there is peace, there is truth, there is God. So first there must be self-confidence and love of God. What are you thinking about now? You are thinking about the body, but the body is just a water bubble. The body is just a dress, only a dress.
Devotee: Swami, you say that everything is God, but isn’t the body also God? If everything is God, then the body must also be God?
Sai Baba: You are asking about the body. You are thinking about the body, not of God. If you only think of God, then, for you, there will be only God. But now you are thinking of the body. The body is an instrument; it is made of matter; and matter is always changing. The world also is always changing, but God is never changing. God is the one unchanging spirit.
Devotee: Is Swami’s body also just an instrument?
Sai Baba: Swami’s body is like all bodies. All bodies are just instruments. All bodies are only temporary. They have birth. They have death. The indweller of the body is permanent. That is the atma, the one Self. That is you. That is the real you. You are the immortal Self, not the body.
Devotee: Swami, how do we rise up to that highest level? How do we become perfect?
Sai Baba: Through love, only through love. Develop divine love or Prema. Divine love is completely selfless. Human love is mostly selfish. All the time it thinks only of this little ‘I’. This little ‘I’ is the ego. Ego is a bad quality. It sees everything as separate. It sees everything as dual. Remove this ego and you will see only unity. Where there is duality, divinity will not be present. Think only of the basis of everything. Think only of God. Now for you at present there is only desire, desire, desire: I want this! I want that! Desires are just passing clouds. They come and they go. One moment they give pleasure and the next moment they give pain. They cannot give permanent joy. Desires make up the mind. The mind is nothing but a bundle of desires. Every thought in the mind comes from desire. Don’t follow the mind. Don’t follow those passing clouds. Desire comes, desire goes, but morality comes and grows. Morality is very important. Follow morality; practise it.
Devotee: Swami, should we think of God as being both father and mother?
Sai Baba: Your physical mother is only with you for some years. She is your temporary mother. Your physical father is also only temporary. The real relationship is different. Truth is the real father. Truth is permanent. Truth has no birth; it has no death. Prema, divine love, is the real mother. Devotion is the real brother. Wisdom is the real son. Peace is the real daughter. For all of these relationships there is no change, there is no birth, there is no death. They make up your permanent relationship, your relationship with God.
Devotee: Swami, if Divinity is my permanent relationship and all these others are only temporary relationships, then do I still have to take care of my family at home?
Sai Baba (very firmly): You must! That is your duty. Do your duty. Take care of your family.
Devotee: Even if it takes me away from God?
Sai Baba: No! No! No! No! Do not abandon your family. You must take care of your husband and your children. Do your duty. Duty is God. Work is worship. Do not forsake your duty.
Devotee: But Swami, not even when God calls?
Sai Baba (laughingly): God is in you. He is with you. He is above you. He is below you. He is around you. He is not calling or sending for you. He is always with you. He is you. You, yourself, are God. Always think like that. “I am God. I am God. I am atma. I am everything.” Think like that and do your duty at home. God is not sending for you or asking you to come from somewhere. You are God. He is always with you.
Devotee: Swami, is everything predetermined? Is the time we take to merge already mapped out? When we finally merge and get realisation, is that moment already written on our foreheads?
Sai Baba: For atma there is no time and there is no space. It is beyond time and beyond form. In this Self all are one. Remember that unity. Live in that unity. Make that your goal. All are one. Be alike to everyone.
Devotee: Then Swami, what is the relationship between the Self and the individual?
Sai Baba: Where is Self? It is everywhere. How do you know? You do not know. You have no experience of it, so do some sadhana, some spiritual practice. Experience it. Practise it. Live it. Realise it.
Devotee: But Swami, what I wanted to ask is “Do I have an individual higher Self? Is there an individual higher Self that is specifically related to me?”
Sai Baba: The individual exists only in your imagination, in your mind. It is just an illusion. It is not real. When the one Self is everywhere, when it is one without a second, then where is the individual? Only in your imagination. The Self alone is real. Realise it.
Devotee: Swami, is there really no higher being related uniquely to this body, judging me or guiding me?
Sai Baba: You are still in one hundred percent body consciousness. Do not stay with this body-consciousness. Remove it. Take it away. What will remain will be God-consciousness. Then there will be no anger, no hatred, no envy, no jealousy, no desire, no ego, only pure joy, only complete bliss, only bliss, bliss, bliss.
Devotee: But then what is reborn? When we reincarnate, what is born?
Sai Baba: The body is born. Birth and death only have to do with the body. Ego relates only to the body. Reincarnation relates only to the body. Do not think of the body, think of the atma. It is one. It is unchanging. For that one Self there is no incarnation; there is no reincarnation.
Devotee: Swami, do I, as an individual, exist at all?
Sai Baba: I! I! I! Always this I. First you must ask “Who is this I? Who am I?”
Devotee (persisting): But Swami is there no individual anything?
Sai Baba: When you realise the Self, then there is no separate individual. You can think of individuals as different light bulbs. There will be differences in wattage. There will be differences in age, in colour, in form, in name. One is a tube light and another is a bulb light. There will be differences in shape, but everywhere the current that powers them is the same. That current is you. You are not a bulb which appears different from any other bulb. You are the current, the one current that is found in all the bulbs. That is who you are.
Devotee: Swami, is there any difference between me and God?
Sai Baba: You are God. You are not the ego. You are God! You are God!
Devotee (incredulously): I am God???
Sai Baba: Yes! Yes! You are atma, the one Self. You are permanent. The physical body is not permanent. The physical is not the Self, but you are the Self, not the physical. You are God. Think like this always. Do not think about the body. Think about God. The body comes and goes. For the body there is birth and death, but you are not the body. The body is just rust and dust.
Devotee: Swami, I do healing and I wanted to ask......
Sai Baba (interrupting): Healing comes from God. Think of God. God is everything. He will always do what is needed. Think only of surrendering to God. You may say “I am healing others”, but this is just your ego speaking. Healing cannot come through the ego. Thinking that you are doing healing is very harmful. You are not the one who is doing the healing. You are only the instrument. God does everything. Think only of Him. Love Him.
Devotee: Swami, how can we love something we don’t understand?
Sai Baba: Develop self-confidence, then love will follow. It will come naturally, from within. In that way the love will be pure. Your journey starts with self-confidence and ends with the realisation of the Self. That Self is you; it is God. This is who you really are. Self-confidence is unwavering love for the divinity within. What will help you to develop this confidence? Be equal-minded. Be satisfied with what you have. Don’t hanker for anything outside. Be happy! The secret of happiness lies not in doing what you like but in liking what you have to do. That is a great truth. Always have complete faith in God, Who takes care of everything. True greatness can only come from faith. Now there is no confidence in you. Without confidence your faith will be shaking and wavering. Then where is there room for grace to come in? Where is the room for the Divinity to come inside? If you shut the door, how can the spirit be revealed?
Devotee: Lord, I want to merge with you. What do I have to do? I am ready.
Sai Baba: Through love, only through love. Love is everything. Love is God. Live in love. Start the day with love, spend the day with love, fill the day with love and end the day with love. That is the way to God.
Devotee: Swami, how do we develop this selfless love?
Sai Baba: Only through God’s Grace. Prema, divine selfless love, comes only through God’s Grace. Without Grace you cannot do anything. First do your duty and think about God all day, from morning until evening. See everything as God and be happy. Think to yourself “O Lord, you are my everything. You are my goal. You are my breath.” Do not think that this is mine or that is mine or that this is not mine. Instead, think “All is you, Lord. All is yours.” Think “I am beyond the body. Mind is just a mad monkey. I am the Self. I and God are one.” Think like this “Before this body was formed, I was there. After this body goes, I will still be there. I am omnipresent. I am the all.” To reach this truth you have to do some spiritual practice.
You have to inquire: What is God? Who is God? Who am I? The first step in self-realisation is to always think of God and after some years you will know that you are one with God. Jesus spent twelve years in the desert before he realised this fact. In the beginning you can think that this whole world is just like a stage and you are only an actor. God is the director. All of Humanity are actors. God is directing everything. But do not stop there. Move on and identify only with God. Think God. Be God.
Devotee: Swami, shall we go out and tell these things to other people?
Sai Baba: Do not talk so much. Do some spiritual practice. First do. Then be. Then you can talk. But only a little. Do some meditation. Do everything with love. Be good, see good, do good. After you develop self-confidence and love for God, you can share with others, but it is a good rule not to talk too much. Talk very little, even about God. In spiritual practice there will always be internal talk with God. You will give up all attachments and attach only to God. For this, purity of the heart is very important. Where there is no purity, there is no unity. Without unity, you cannot attain divinity. Then your whole life is just a waste. First purity, next unity. Then you realise divinity.
Devotee: And purity comes from service, Swami?
Baba: Yes, purity comes
from selfless love, from doing selfless service.
All are one family, so serve all, not just the Sai family, but
the whole world family. All
are brothers and sisters. All
are one. Be alike to everyone. That
is unity, the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God.
You are divine, that is the truth.
and the Universal are one.
and the Absolute are one.
and the eternal are one.
are not the individual, the particular, the temporary.
this. Know this.
Act in conformity with this. ”