Sai Avatar And Mysticism
I would like here to draw an interesting comparison between the teachings and missions of Sai Baba Avatar, who walks the earth today and those of Mysticism. Mysticism began as a powerful spiritual movement about one millennium ago affecting all the monotheistic religions. Whatever the founders of these religions may have taught, the ordinary members of Church, Synagogue, Mosque and Temple worship a God ‘out there’ somewhere, somewhere beyond the bright blue sky. The Mystics however, arising from the membership of the various religions found a God within themselves, deep within, seeming closer to them than breathing, nearer than hands and feet.
It may be that the fathers of the Mystic movement in each religion had an intuitive sense of the inward divinity; or it may be that the movement was born with those who had meditated deeply and discovered the inner presence. In any case, the movement grew in some religions rapidly, in some slowly. In most of the religions it was not welcomed, in some it was condemned as blasphemy to bring the austere, judgmental God from his pure throne far beyond the earth, into the intimacy of one’s personal body, into the body of sin, as thought many. This was not acceptable to a large number of the orthodox religionists, yet in spite of this opposition, the Mystical movement grew apace and eventually had a good influence on each of the monotheistic religions.
For some reason, it grew most strongly and rapidly in the Muslim religion and a good proportion of the followers of Allah became Mystics or Sufis as they were called. In the Jewish religion also, Mysticism was, and is, a strong movement; it is known as the Cabala. It had no particular name in the Christian religion but those individuals who followed the mystical path of close inner union with God were often called Saints. Some who responded to the divine voice within themselves, such as Joan of Arc, were martyred and then later canonised as Saints.
There was, moreover, a vast difference between the God of the ordinary religionist as taught in the religious institutions and the inner God of Mysticism. The former was a judgmental God giving the heavenly rewards to those who kept his Commandments; and terrible punishments, often everlasting, to those who disobeyed his laws; whereas the inner God of the Mystics seems to have been a close and loving friend, leading his human children along the pathways of love and deep understanding back to their spiritual home. It seems strange that a greater proportion of people is not attracted to the intimate God of the Mystics away from the judgmental tyrant resident in the remote skies. Perhaps it is because it is not easy for most people to find the inner divinity, maybe many more would, if they were given leadership.
When, in my student days, I was researching all the churches of every denomination to find the one that appealed to me most, I heard no mention from the pulpit of the God who resides within the heart of man. Indeed, I had to live through many decades and travel through many countries before I met the One who revealed to me the great secret, which is the secret of life itself and is so simple that it should be made known to every child.
The time was the mid sixties of last century. The place was a small garden at Brindavan, near Whitefield. I was strolling in that garden with a few men of varying ages; we were waiting for Sri Sathya Sai Baba to appear through a doorway. When he did appear, one who must have been the youngest among us, accosted him with the pointed and important question, “Are you God?” It was then that we received from the divine lips of Sathya Sai Baba, the great revelation. Perhaps it was the matter-of-fact tone of the stupendous statements that made me accept them immediately without question. He told us that we were all Gods, we were, indeed, Avatars of God, having brought God to earth within us, each one of us, when we were born, but we had forgotten this great truth long, long ago. The purpose of our lifetimes on earth, he said, was in order to remember the great truth of our own divinity. It took many lifetimes to re-discover and experience this one great truth of our identity. To help mankind in this task, Avatars with full memory of their divine identity come to earth from time to time. He, himself was one of those; he had known it from his early childhood in the remote village of Puttaparthi. “God is everywhere,” he said, “But the easiest place to find Him is within yourself.”
At later times through the years I spent with him, he frequently reminded me in many different ways of that God within, who is our true identity. Once he said, “My job as your Guru is to lead you to your inner Guru.” Then many years later he said, “I have brought you to your inner Guru or God and there is no spiritual reason why you have to come to me again.” Then he added as an afterthought, “But in a human way I always like to see you, of course.” So here was Sathya Sai Baba revealing to me, very soon after I had come to him, the reality of the inner God discovered by the Mystics through inner search, but never mentioned in Sunday School or Church. Surely every child should be told this magnificent truth about themselves.
So it is that I see Sai Avatar as a super Mystic and I ask myself what is the difference between an Avatar and a Mystic are their teachings different or the same? Is their mission on earth different or the same? Considering their earthly mission first, I see that of the Avatar today, as of all former Avatars, to be vaster, more expansive than that of a Mystic. Sai Baba, Sai Avatar, has the charisma necessary to attract huge crowds from all parts of the world and the teachings to change the consciousness of millions. He has said that he is the Avatar of the masses, whereas one such as Aurobindo is the Avatar of individuals. Unlike Aurobindo, Sai Baba’s teachings are put in simple language that does not require a philosophical bent of mind to appreciate and understand.
To all people of deep spiritual perception, the signs in the world today are not those of doom and destruction as might appear on the surface, but of a great change. A change that could be described as the death of the old world, or of the old world order and the birth of something that is entirely new, stupendous, wonderful, in fact what has been termed the Golden Age. The present Avatar has said, and I have often heard him say it, that the Golden Age will be born before he leaves his present body in the year 2021. In support of this, two of the leading ascended Masters have predicted that this new age will begin in a little over a decade from now, from this time of writing; it is now early in the year 2001. Other great workers in what Sir George Trevelyan called the ‘Force field of Light’ are working for this new age and know that it is not far distant.
No Mystic, be he Christian, Sufi, or Jewish, ever came to the world with such a mighty mission as this. The Mystic’s aim, in whatever century he was born, was to teach as many people and change the lives of as many people as he could in his lifetime. But he thinks in terms of individuals, or perhaps hundreds, and eventually maybe thousands of individuals, but his mission is not to raise in a few decades, the level of the consciousness of the whole of mankind.
One of them whom I feel to be among the greatest, that is, Rumi of the Sufi order of Mysticism must have brought many to the light through the Dervish Dancing he started in Turkey, through his poetic teaching and his great influence on the world of art, but his ambitions fell far short of bringing a quantum leap upward to the world consciousness. So, while the Avataric mission and that of the Mystics is different, their teachings in general are much the same. The differences are few, mostly a matter of degree and can be related to their missions.
While I have through the years read something of the writings of the Mystics, particularly of the Sufis, and some of the Christian Saints, the one I have studied more thoroughly is a modern Christian Mystic named Joel Goldsmith. Although he would be classed as a Christian Mystic because the Master he followed was Jesus the Christ, he was Jewish by birth and lived in our modern age from approximately 1890 to 1964. To what might appear to be a coincidence, though I believe when on the spiritual path, there is no such thing as a coincidence, most of his books and a large quantity of his audio teaching tapes, suddenly became available to Sai friends of mine. Together we studied his books and his tapes. The most remarkable thing about them is the way they fit into the Avataric teachings. Put in different words and language, style, they make an excellent supplement to what Sathya Sai Baba has taught about the relationship of man and God and, while giving a different reason for the great illusion of separateness, teach the truths of Adwaitha or the essential oneness of all mankind beneath the veil of illusion. The only difference in the teachings of the Mystic and the Avatar that I have noted, is in the matter of prayer or man’s verbal communications with God.
The Mystic, Goldsmith, follows closely his understanding of the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament which says such things as, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all the rest will be added unto you.” His Master, Jesus, also says in other places that the Kingdom of God is within you and that God himself is within you and in prayer we should ask, he says, for further understanding and enlightenment and for help in living the Spiritual life of compassion, forgiveness and so on. If we do that, Joel Goldsmith points out, there is no need to ask God for any material advantages, such as a better job, a higher salary or anything else of a worldly nature, because God has said through Jesus, that all such things will be given to you if you concentrate on using prayer for the advancement of your spiritual evolution. Sai Baba, on the other hand, encourages his devotees to ask for whatever they want, whether it is material or spiritual. He says that he will give people what they want if it will not bring them any harm, in order that they will, in time, ask for the things he wants to give them. Those things are of course the spiritual treasures. So Sai devotees happily petition God for material things that will help them in their daily living. Many even ask for simple things like a parking place for the car and believe that Sathya Sai Baba helps them.
Perhaps this wider latitude granted by Sai Baba is that he calls people to him at an earlier stage in their spiritual development, earlier in their spiritual journey homeward, than those who would be attracted to the Goldsmith teachings. People have to be ready, Sathya Sai Baba says, before he calls them unto him, but they are ready at an earlier stage than they would be for the Mystic’s teachings. And so, they have analogically, the easier kindergarten or primary school privileges. Furthermore, by giving them the material trinkets they love, he establishes more firmly, their love for the living Avatar, placing their feet more firmly on the spiritual path. Interestingly I discovered, when much later he told me that he was now in my heart and visits to him physically were no longer necessary, that the material things such as rings and watches and the many other trinkets, do work as a kind of talisman in helping to bring the student to his inner God.
In speaking about the Vedic chant, the Gayathri, I have heard Sathya Sai Baba praise it because it contains only one petitional prayer and that is the request for spiritual Light. As our footsteps advance along the pathway home, our petitions to God will automatically become spiritual requests and not those of a worldly nature.
The other types of communication between man and God, those we generally call meditation or contemplation, Joel Goldsmith teaches that they should be carried out at least twice a day for a period of a quarter of an hour or more each time, and then throughout the day whenever possible, if it be only for a minute or more. This, in a sense, is like the ‘receiving’ practice in Subud, by the Master, Pak Subuh, who said that we should endeavour to receive the spirit and grace of God while we are occupied in our daily task, particularly when cooking or preparing food. Such divine blessings, he said, would be tasted by those eating the food.
Joel, like Sathya Sai Baba, gave specific instructions in different forms of meditation and said that each student would, in time, discover the best form and the most fruitful technique suitable to himself. These teachings are really no different in essence from those of Sai Avatar, except that the latter perhaps adapts the instructions for the type, manner and periods of meditation to the needs of the individual, but he does encourage all of his devotees to interweave in their daily lives, communications with God such as repetition of the divine name, quiet moments of meditation and sweet loving interchanges with the divinity. Whatever can be fitted into the necessary worldly tasks of one’s life, helps to increase the strength of one’s divine life along the pathway home.
It is interesting to note that the modern American Mystic gives as much emphasis to love or prema in the development of the divine life as does Sai Avatar. Joel is sterner than Sathya Sai Baba in condemnation of human love as being too tainted with selfishness or the element of self-interest, to equal the selfless purity of divine love. Man must be satisfied with nothing less than the attainment of this pure, selfless love. Sathya Sai Baba, while saying the same thing in principle, is a little more tolerant and understanding towards certain kinds of human love. Mother love, or more correctly, parental love, is closest to the pure love of God and in some cases where a parent is prepared to give his own life to save that of the child, love reaches its highest level. As Sathya Sai Baba said when he was on earth as Jesus the Christ, “No greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.” And there have been examples among world explorers, among warriors on the battlefields, and among members of families, of those whose love has been so great that they have willingly given their lives to save that of others. Here, the greatest of all human values reaches its zenith in the pure Divine Prema.
It is, indeed, heartwarming to know through study and experience that the stupendous mission of the world Avatar is being supported, if in a humbler and relatively modest way, by the Mystics of the world both present and past.
I would like to conclude this chapter by stating that I personally have found great joy in the realisation that Mysticism is giving its unqualified support to the work of Sai Avatar, as we workers on the divinely human path must strive to do.
Reference:: “The Lights of Home” by Howard Murphet