14. The Charioteer
Sathyam Shivam Sundaram, Vol 1
Lord Krishna, the sacred texts say, agreed in His mercy to be the charioteer, the inner motivator for the duration of the Kurukshetra Battle. Arjuna was caught in the coils of attachment just when duty called him to action. "My limbs droop down; my tongue dries up. The bow slips from my hold; I am unable to stand; my brain is in a swirl." He wept. [See also: The Bhagavad Gîtâ of Order, Chapter 1, verse 28 etc.] Krishna rebuked him for being overcome by weakness, unmanly. Arjuna's discrimination was overpowered by grief and delusion, pride and ignorance, a sense of I and mine. Krishna removed the veil and taught him the secret of successful living, the Yoga of surrender, of non-attachment.
It is significant that Baba named the monthly magazine of Prasanthi Nilayam "Sanathana Sarathi" meaning the "eternal charioteer." As Krishna came, Baba also has come, to rid man of grief and delusion, pride and ignorance, and to re-establish justice in the world. The word "Sarathi" is an assurance from Baba that He will guide the seeker if only he takes the initial step of inviting Him to take over the reins of his life. The word "Sanathana" is a reminder that this has been the role of Baba since the dawn of creation.
Baba's writings are from His simply and directly spoken Telugu. When one reads His articles, he can picture Baba speaking in His intimate and inspiring way. With questions between His statements, He prods a reader or listener to think for himself by injecting questions on the problems He unravels. By the use of occasional endearments such as "Child", "My dear man", "My precious", "Dear fellow", He draws Himself close to the seeker in order to instruct him in the art of Godward pilgrimage.
Baba has written, "How dejected will the farmer be if the seeds he has sown do not sprout, grow and yield a harvest! So too, if the seeds of the Words of Truth that I sow, do not sprout in your hearts and grow into fine saplings and trees yielding fruit, I am also not happy. That harvest of bliss is My sustenance, My food. This is the only adoration I need. There is nothing higher than this. By not casting away these good words and truth written for your sake, if you put them into practice and experience joy therefrom, that joy is the food on which I sustain Myself. If you thus act according to My words, and put them into daily practice, I will gladly tell you more and more, for that is the reason why I have come."
Baba has often said that He demonstrates His Divinity through miracles only to instill the faith necessary for men to listen to Him and follow His suggestions for their own spiritual realization. He declares that it is everyone's right to know this message from Him. Thus anyone may approach Him without fear or hesitation. His eagerness to remove all doubts lurking in the minds of the people who seek guidance from Him, His readiness to grant them as many interviews as necessary to discuss specific personal problems of the spiritual pilgrimage, are evidence of His Grace and Mercy.
Revealed in "Sanathana Sarathi" are the power, wisdom, and grace of Baba. He warns against neglecting the pennies in one's search for the dollars and pounds, and cautions, "Be vigilant about the small things; the myriad little things that you indulge in every moment harden into habits and warp character and personality. They shape your intelligence, outlook, ideals, and aspirations. Challenge your evil propensities even before they enslave you. If you make a sincere effort, you will certainly succeed.
"If your faults are pointed out to you by anyone, do not argue and attempt to prove he is mistaken, and do not develop a grudge against him for that. Reason out within yourself, examine your own conduct coolly, and thankfully proceed to correct yourself".
"When someone causes you mental pain, do not give room for anger; anger is enemy number one of reason and discrimination. Repeat the Name of God for awhile sitting in a lonely place, or sing hymns in a raised voice, or, if you cannot do both, spread your bed and go to sleep".
"Your own experience is the best guarantee of truth for you. Do not be led by what people tell of their experiences; nothing can be as genuine as your own".
"Develop courage, confidence, hope, and enthusiasm. These will stand you in good stead in the secular as well as the spiritual fields".
"Man is everywhere immersed in worry and trouble; is it right to increase the agony? Already the sea is rough; how can you have a mind to blow a typhoon over it? Learn rather to spread a smile from face to face. Why make the sad world sadder by your lamentation and the tales of your own woe? Adopt the course of the recitation of the Name, of contemplation on the Form, to assuage your own grief; overcome your own sorrow and be an example to the rest".
The elimination of harmful tendencies, impulses, and habits, and the building up of character, are, however, only preliminary to the practice of spiritual discipline. For more than a year His articles emphasized the contemplation of the Form and its method of operation, which He calls "the planned routine".
In His words, "Perform contemplation until your mind comes firmly under your control. When the mind starts running about, be careful; do not follow it into its vagaries, seeking to discover it and punish it. Be still, do not pursue it. Then it will return by itself when it is tired and exhausted, because it is neglected by you. The mind is like a little child; when the mother walks behind it and calls out its name and is showing an interest in its movements, the child gets the confidence to wander about a little farther on; but if the mother stands still, then reverses her steps, the child is seized with fright at this sign of neglect and runs back to her arms. So, do not care for the vagaries of the mind. Carry on the repeating of the Name and contemplation on the Form that you like best, in the manner you feel most conducive. You will realize your heart's desire".
Words of solace and encouragement such as these abound in the articles written by Baba. As He says, "In former ages, one particular group of persons or one individual who had the monopoly of the means of exploitation and enslavement, and the power needed for them, was responsible for the decline of moral behavior; hence it could be re-instilled by the destruction of that group or individual. Now the wickedness is a universal feature, and I have to bring about a revolution in human character, attitude, and behavior, and teach people certain disciplines. People have to be put back on the road to unity, harmony and peace. The realization that everything in the universe is the manifestation of the Lord, is the very basis, the entire content, the warp and the woof, the yarn and the cloth of all. This is the right of every person, whatever be his race, creed, class, or caste. You of this generation are indeed lucky that you have the fortune of contact with Me and the chance to receive the guidance I have come to give".
Baba writes strongly against teachers who compromise the ideal for the sake of name and fame. One purpose of His advent is to lead them back into rectitude. He condemns partisanship and faction in the sacred Name of God. He will not admit that God can ever be angry or jealous.
Baba writes, "Do not believe descriptions of the Lord in which He is pictured as greedy, businesslike, angry, jealous or vengeful. He is above all pettiness and bargaining. When a pot of nectar is hit by a stone, it leaks, but does the nectar turn bitter? No, it can never change its sweetness".
"When the all-pervasive, all-inclusive pure Existence is described, the matter and method depend on the outlook of the speaker and the understanding of the listener. When it is described through attributes, it gets various names and forms. When the spiritual student realizes that it is beyond all attributes which the mind can conceive, then it is referred to as Brahman". All quarrel between sects is mere secular rivalry, indulged in for the vulgar pleasure it gives to inferior minds, says Baba.
Baba has also pointed out that ascetics and monks deserve respect only if they give up all desires, even the desire to develop their hermitages or institutions. The bondage to such places becomes a burden for them. Instead of giving up all ties, they have yoked themselves more tightly to the plough; they have degraded themselves into beasts of burden. He says that people have lost faith because of the activities of such men who continuously exert pressure on society in order to earn name and fame. Religious leaders such as these, Baba says, train many disciples; so they must make a special effort to help the trainees acquire the right outlook and get fully immersed in contemplation of the Lord. Baba has also pointed out the mistake of giving the teacher a status higher than that which is due him. The teacher should be respected as the person who shows one the path, who looks after his progress and is interested in his welfare, that is all. The student should not assume that the teacher is all-inclusive and all-powerful. The Lord alone can be treated and felt as the Universal.
Baba always emphasizes moderation. He does not advocate asceticism for all. He speaks of the body as a God-given instrument, and says, "Understand it well; make it obey your will; never bow down to it and follow its whimsical demands; train it carefully to subserve your welfare. Be on the lookout for the first signs of damage or decay. Keep it in good trim by disciplined activities. Moderate food, moderate sleep, an attitude of love toward all, an outlook of fortitude in the face of pain and anxiety and in the face of success and good fortune - these are more important than drugs to cure the illness of the body. Even a capacity to discriminate, if applied to one's physical condition, will help him overcome disease".
Baba writes often against starving the body advocated by over-enthusiastic practitioners and against foolish epicures who cater to the tongue that demands seasoned food or a want on variety of dishes.
Baba calls the householder's life that of "the teacher", for it is also through the toils and turmoils of the family that people acquire the urge for the higher life of the Spirit. He says that without family troubles, many would not have come to Him at all. After once meeting and knowing Him, they cling to the Godhead whether their troubles are set right or not. They gradually begin to feel that such troubles should not be given the importance they ascribed to them; they face them with greater courage, confidence, and understanding. He has written that the sugar cane should welcome the cutting, the hacking, and the crushing to which it is subjected, because without these processes, its juice will dry up and it will not sweeten the tongue. Man must welcome trouble, for that too brings out the sweetness of the Spirit within. He says, "You desire an ornament and you go to the goldsmith and give him the required quantity of gold. But do you spend sleepless nights pining for the heating and beating, the tugging and the pulling, the cutting and the carving to which the goldsmith subjects your gold? Why then do you worry when the Lord, in order to make a lovely jewel out of you, heats and melts, cuts and carves, and removes your dross in the crucible of suffering"?
Baba is the Great Healer, the Restorer of drooping spirits, the Unique Reviver. He insists on truth, because falsehood has cowardice as its root. One hides the facts from a person only when he is afraid of him or hates him. Truth is based on strength. It is, according to Baba, against the essential nature of man to plead weakness or want of strength. He does not permit people to say, "I am sin, born of sin, a sinful soul". When a devotee with contrition masses abuse on himself, Baba immediately lifts him. "When I have come for your sake, you should not feel this way", He says.
Baba equates strength with merit and weakness with sin; that is, weakness is sin; strength is holy. Physical, mental and spiritual strength are all three essential, but the greatest source of all three is faith in one's self, in the soul within. Baba says, "Remember that and draw strength there from. My mission is to give you confidence in yourself, to give you the strength and endurance that comes out of that. Despondency is the prime cause of decline; therefore everyone should cultivate the quality of joyfulness. For the contented, life is one long festival. Envy eats the vitals, spreads like poison all over the body politic. Dedicate all, both joy and sorrow, to the Lord; that is the secret of gaining contentment, the most valuable of all treasures.
Baba instills the spirit of service among His devotees, and during Dasara, a day generally devoted to social service, He teaches the attitude of worship in which one should render service. He writes and speaks of the service to others as service ultimately to one's self, and injury to others as injury ultimately to one's self. In His words, "When the Lord comes down in human form so that He may be of service to man, how happy will He be if man engages himself in that service? Devote your time to the service of the world, irrespective of the results thereof".
Baba is very particular about the vision which must inspire the devotee who takes up the path of service: "Though the service of humanity is holy, unless it is merged in the higher ideal of the Lord, realizing the Lord immanent in all, adoring the Lord in the form of everyone, there is no profit at all. One should have full faith in the divinity of man and service should be offered in the uninterrupted contemplation of the Lord. Use the power, knowledge and attainments the Lord has endowed you with for the greater glory of the Lord, with sincerity and without any malingering. That is the service of the Lord, whatever be the field of activity or the region of duty where you are called upon to render service".
Very often Baba devotes an entire discourse to the elucidation of the need for inquiry of blind, unreasoning faith. He might begin: "You can ask Me a question without hesitation. I am always ready to answer, but I want only those people to ask who inquire earnestly with a desire to know. Without analysis and reasoning, the real worth of things cannot be grasped, and renunciation will not be possible at all. Sometimes you will have to inquire even into the process of your inquiry, for you might all the time be deceiving yourselves by arguing that your actions are all moral and pure, when an unprejudiced mind might condemn them out right".
As Lord Krishna did, He also tells people. "Think of all the pros and cons; think also of your own experience; then come to your own judgment. Do not be led away by what others might say, by what even I might say!
"At the gates of heaven there are three sentinels who will admit you inside, only if you satisfy them of the validity of your credentials which are contentment, peace and reflection. Even if one of the guards is satisfied, the others will not be very strict. So cultivate any of the three. Basically, they are all interrelated". (Inquiry brought into the realm of experience results in peace -undisturbed contentment or bliss.) "Ask Me about some discipline that you are eager to engage in or some message that you can put into immediate action. Seek something worth your while". That is what Baba demands.
There is a sense of urgency in His commands: "The time to start on the path of discipline is now. Start today the discipline that will have to be done tomorrow. Start now the discipline that has to be done today. Just as a child has to start the alphabet at a tender age, so that it may be proficient in arts and science when it later enters, so too, the spiritual child must start on the "alphabet" immediately and keep on with the studies; no one can cope with the alphabet in old age or on the deathbed. Every second, the span of life is being shortened; the moment that has gone is no longer yours; the moment that is coming may not be yours at all; so put all your efforts now, this very moment, to earn eternal joy".
Among the means to earn this eternal joy, Baba places the recollection of the Name, its repetition, first, though He speaks and writes also of the three traditional Yogas and the three traditional philosophical systems. Baba has come to end all factions and He emphasizes the harmony of these systems when He exhorts, "I won't say that the way of dedicated activity, the way of devotion, and the way of knowledge are separate, or classify them as first, second, or third in that order, or accept even a mixture of all three. Dedicated activity is devotion; devotion is wisdom. A block of candy-sugar has sweetness, shape, and weight, all three. So too, each individual deed of the Godward man must have the sweetness of devotion, the spirit of dedicated action, and the strength of wisdom.
"Wisdom is the product of devotion, and devotion is promoted by the noblest dedicated activity, being recollection and reflection of the Name of God. The Lord can give the knowledge about Himself to a devotee. He can remove the veil He Himself has cast".
"A thing and its nature are the same, not two distinct things. Is it possible to see the nature apart from the thing - sweetness apart from sugar, light apart from the sun? So also, Bhagavan has two characteristics. When we speak of them as two, they are known as Spirit and Substance, but they are really one. Substance in Bhagavan is unmanifested, inseparable, knowable only by experience, like sweetness in sugar. By mere willing, this Substance envelops Bhagavan and the cosmos is the result. That one Existence is the basis or foundation for both the Universal and the Particular, the totality as well as the apparent parts. This manifested total cosmos or Fullness arose out of the Unmanifested Indivisible Reality, yet there is no diminution".
Baba unravels the most involved philosophical problems in easily understandable ways. The listener sees the solution in a flash of illumination explained by a simile, metaphor, parable, or epigram summarizing the elaboration of an hour. In short, His advent is for everyone, for forging all into disciplined seekers. As He says, "The world can achieve prosperity and peace only through such persons whose hearts are pure and whose minds are free of prejudice and passion, lust and greed, anger and envy".