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Sri Sathya Sai Baba Articles

  Anil Kumar's Sunday Satsang at Prasanthi Nilayam
October 8, 2000

The Main Points taken from Sunday's Talk given by Anil Kumar on October 8th, 2000.



Sai Ram.

With Pranams at the Lotus Feet of Our Bhagavan,

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Among the several paths of devotion which Bhagavan was referring to in His recent Divine Discourse, the first step in the nine paths of devotion is what is called Sravanam. Sravanam, listening, is the first thing. Even in the sequence, God has a purpose behind it. Even in the sequence or order, why nine steps are indicated? Why listening is the first step? Why and how surrender (Atma Nivedanam) is the last step? Why not the surrender first and the listening at the end? Why not?

My friends, the ninth step in the ladder of devotion, the ninth path of devotion, Atma Nivedanam or self-surrender, is the culmination, is the climax, is the end, is the merger of the individual with the Divine. That is what is called surrender. Surrender is the merger of the individual with the Divine, when the individual does not exist anymore.

To give you one example, the river flows incessantly. Take for example, holy Ganges River, Ganga. People say that it will be touching eight to nine cities, flowing continuously - of course, highly polluted! The sacred Ganges, though highly polluted successfully by man, yet she continues to flow incessantly, touching all the eight cities. But the goal and the end, the final purpose of the Ganges lies in merging into the sea. Ganges becomes one with the sea. Ganges unites with the sea. That is the end, what we call self-surrender or Atma Nivedanam. When once Ganges merges in the sea, it is sea but no more Ganges.

All rivers merge into the sea. When once they become one with the sea, they lose their name, they lose their shape, they lose their form, and get the name, shape and form of the sea. All the rivers have their own names. All the rivers have their own tastes. All the rivers have their own direction of flow. When once the rivers merge in the ocean, they lose their name. They lose their form. They lose their taste. They become one with the sea. That's all. No separateness, no separate existence.

Similarly, the final step in the nine paths of devotion, the surrender, demands our non-existence, demands of us losing the separate identity. Unfortunately, we all don't want to lose our identity. We introduce ourselves whenever we meet anybody, "I am so-and-so." Right from the childhood, right from the nursery school until, with half a foot in the grave, still we want to protect the separateness, this separate identity!

We go on boasting who I am, what I am. If anyone comes here, "Sir, I have come here for the first time. Do you know what Bhagavan is going to do this time?" Instead of telling what is the program, we want to impress upon him when we came, the first visit, how senior we have been, how devoted we are, how influential we are, how powerful we are - just irreligious, non-spiritual, indifferent, nonsensical, egoistic talk! That's what we find everywhere. I don't blame anybody. The whole life is spent in this line of separate identity. The whole life, the whole personality, is built on false identity, separateness. When that is kicked, we feel it very, very painful!

If any Seva Dal asks me, "Stop! You don't go!" Yes, he can stop me. Why not. When a Seva Dal is stopping everybody, he can stop me also. Why not. But my ego will take it very seriously. "You stop me? How dare you stop me! Since when you have been coming here? Who is your boss? Where do you come from? Give me your card and I will take your card! From now onwards, you are no longer a Seva Dal!" - all treacherous actions, all revengeful actions. Why? He has not done any mistake. He's stopping everybody. He stopped me also. What is wrong there? My ego is affected so I feel the pain. I'm ready to move anything, but not my ego! I'm ready to sacrifice everything, but not my ego!

Life is full of these egoistic tendencies, egoistic manifestations, and egoistic actions. What is ego? A craving for recognition, craving for name and fame, craving separateness or separate identity, developing false imagination, false identity.

In these nine paths of devotion, the final one, Atma Nivedanam, is where the individual becomes one with the Divine, with the total annihilation of, with the total loss of, with the total destruction of, with the final killing of the ego, which has been built-up over the years. So, the loss of ego is called surrender. "I surrender my property." Easy to do it, because I have no property to surrender. "I surrender my belongings." I don't have anything. Easy to surrender everything. But to surrender the ego is no ordinary joke. Many saints and sages and seers, aspirants and seekers, could not surrender their ego totally. Whenever the ego was trying to raise its ugly hood, they were put down like anything.

Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Incarnation, the program of the Incarnation, the mission of the Incarnation is that of the role of a surgeon. Surgeon believes in cutting. Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is a surgeon. He cuts your ego at every stage. You cannot avoid that cutting. Adding to the wound, He will add some tincture also, so that you will have the burning sensation. This happens. We should get ready for this. Perhaps the benefit of it, the profit of it, the height of it, the advantage of it, would be surrender later.

The operation is conducted, sutures are also finished, and I am recovering in the hospital. After I am discharged, when there is no more pain, when I am healthy, I realize the value of the operation. During the operation, while recovering, I feel the pain. But afterwards, finally when I am totally cured, freed completely from all that which was present within me - the unwanted stuff - when all that is removed, yes, I am quite fine. But during the process, we feel the pain. It is not that easy. Please understand me. Please believe me.

If anyone says, "Sir, I have no ego," it means he is highly egoistic. How do you know that you could have ego? Something like the pride of humility and the arrogance of virtues! So it should not be like that. Being free from ego is the only thing in the spiritual path. It is the only thing that distinguishes, that differentiates, that separates the spiritual path from the worldly pursuits, from the worldly path, from the worldly endeavors. So that's why it is kept at the end. If the painful process is kept at the beginning itself, self-surrender as the first step in the nine paths of devotion, we'd say goodbye to that.

If the doctor is not prepared to test you, if the doctor is not prepared to diagnose the disease, if the doctor is not prepared to check other medical ways, if he's ready to operate on you immediately the moment you get into the room, no one would step into his office. So, first medication, begin with homeopathic pills, then 25Mg, 50Mg, 100Mg, 500Mg. Go on increasing the dosage. When the medication fails, surgery prevails.

Similarly, in the nine paths of devotion, the beginning methods are like medical treatment with tablets and antibiotics. While the final one, Atma Nivedanam, is absolutely surgical and it is total. It is total. When once the appendix is removed from my body, some parts cannot be left there. It is totally removed, is it not? Similarly, when once there is surrender, "I" don't remain any longer. "I-ness" is gone. The spirit of "I" is gone. The fundamental philosophy of "I-ness" or identity is gone. So, no answer. So that is kept till the end, the surgery. And the first, the homeopathic pills, is listening, Sravanam.

First step is listening, Sravanam; Kirtanam next, singing; Vishnusmaranam, chanting; Padasevanam, service... Like that those stages increase - 25Mg, 50Mg, 100Mg tablets, until total cure, the surrender. So let us think of the first step, listening, Sravanam, the first step in the nine paths of devotion.

"Sir, is listening devotion? If listening is devotion, we listen to everybody on the street! Many people are talking. In darshan line, many people talk necessarily when we are not supposed to. Some people talk at a place where they should not. Some people don't talk at a place where they should. So people talk, we can't help but listen. How can listening be a ritual? How can listening, Sravanam, be spiritual? How can you say that listening is a step, a path of devotion? I have been hearing, and I am even bothered, pestered, even disgusted, listening to some people. The voice itself is disturbing, but I can't help it. I am a listener. From the beginning, I am a listener. Then why do you say, listening is devotion? Why do you say listening is spiritual?" Have we ever inquired? I don't think that we have inquired in that way. Have we understood what it is? So, today I wish to say a few words, share with you a few thoughts of mine on this first act of devotion, listening, Sravanam.

What is listening? How is it spiritual? Why do you call it a religious path? Why do you say it is a sign of devotion? My friends, the first thing I want to draw your attention to is that we can hear, but we should not listen. We can hear everybody, but don't listen to everybody! I think I am clear. Hearing and listening are different. The dictionary may say they are same. People may take them as synonyms. One might use one word for the other. But the words are chameleon. The chameleon changes its color. Similarly, words also change their color. Words are colorful. Words speak. Similarly, the listening and hearing, though seemingly the same, are different. Hear everybody, but don't listen to everybody because hearing and listening are different.

Listening is spiritual. Hearing is worldly. Listening is devotion. Hearing is just allocation or profession, sometimes provocation, sometimes inspiration, sometimes instigation! Hearing may be an act of instigation, provocation, or something like that. But listening is not provocation. It is not instigation. It is not profession. It is something higher. Therefore my friends, listening is spiritual, while hearing is worldly.

Hearing requires a sort of discretion, a sort of judgment, a sort of discrimination - gives you a chance to decide whether what you heard is good or not. Somebody said, "Sir, Swami started going this side." I hear that news. After hearing, now I could decide: 'Is it the time Bhagavan usually comes out? No. It is not the time that Bhagavan comes out quite often. No. It is most unusual that Swami comes out at this time.'

So, in hearing, you can decide whether it is correct or wrong. You can decide whether it is right or wrong, true or false, good or bad. But listening is unconditional. When you listen to Bhagavan's discourse, you don't question whether it is right or wrong, good or bad, evil or good. No, no, no. Listening is unconditional, while hearing gives you a chance to distinguish, to differentiate, to decree, to inquire and to decide. But listening does not give you that. Listening is unconditional, while hearing is not so.

So, first point is: listening is spiritual, hearing is worldly. The second point: listening is unconditional, while hearing is conditional. Three: listening is different from hearing, which I may explain so in this way:

Suddenly you go on telling, "Sir, I came to Puttaparti in the year 1960. It was September 25th, 1965. I have been visiting, Sir. On August 13th what happened was..." You are giving me all your nonsensical bio-data, in which I am not interested. You don't understand that I am not interested, that I am bored, baiting somebody to call me so that I can quit this place, or waiting for the music to start - at least then you will stop speaking! But yet you go on speaking. I go on hearing you. Suddenly you put a question: "Sir, you have heard me so nicely! What did I say what happened to me in the year 1950?" "Eh? Something you said?"

In hearing there can be half-heartedness. There may be disinterestedness. It may be a process of politeness or an act of courtesy. It may be an act of etiquette or an expression of manners. But listening is never half-hearted. It is not like that. Listening is total! Listening is total, while hearing is not necessarily so.

I go on hearing you. Supposing you ask me a question. "Well, I didn't get you? What did you say please?" The other fellow should understand that you are not hearing in all sincerity. Better he stop. But he doesn't understand. That's the reason why a great prose writer in English literature said, "Common sense is a rare and an enviable thing." Therefore, my friends, hearing may be partial, but listening is total.

And then the fourth point: In hearing you have your own regulation. Supposing you say, "Sir, I had a dream. Swami appeared. He took me to paradise. He has shown me all the heaven." I feel within myself, 'Why not part of hell also?' But you go on telling, "He has shown me Kailasa, Vaikuntha, paradise, heaven." And I begin to feel within myself, 'Out of compassion, in our own interests, He would have dropped you there! Why should He bring you back?'

So, my friends, there's the benefit of doubt while hearing. When I am hearing you, it does not mean that I endorse. It does not mean that I acknowledge. It does not mean that I accept. It does not mean that I believe what all that you say, what all I hear. Not necessarily. If you say, "Sir, the airplane was flying at a terrific speed. I came out of the window. I got into the wind, air flight!" He comes out of the window, sits on the wing, and goes into the air flying! Supposing a fellow is telling a 'cock-and-bull' story, and I am thinking within myself, 'What a fool he is!' He is not only a fool, but he considers that I am also a fool because he is conveying foolish things. Foolish things are conveyed by one fool to another fool!

Therefore, hearing carries with it various doubts. I doubt whatever you say. "Sir, you know, Swami has shown me all the different forms of God in the world!" I think to myself, 'Oh-ho. Why has he chosen you of all the people? I know that you are a very dangerous fellow to the society. I know that you are a threat to the peace. How is it that He has chosen you as the medium to show all the forms of God?' But my manners require me to say, "Oh, is that so? You've been quite lucky! Yes."

Therefore, in hearing you can doubt, while listening should be doubtless. While listening, you should be doubtless. Whatever Swami says, there is no chance for doubting. When Bible Scriptures tell you, it does not give you any chance to question it. When Bhagavad Gita is read, you do not question. So, listening is unquestionable. Listening is doubtless, whereas hearing will always have the benefit of doubt, whether it is true or not.

While hearing sometimes you can say, or the one who talks to you, can say as he likes, according to his own psychology, as per his own experiences or understanding. We can hear all that nonsense. The speaker, the one who talks to you, that author, he'll be talking to you as he likes, basing on his own whims and fancy. You can hear all that. But you should listen to that which is based on the Scriptures, which has got the sanction of Vedas, which has got the approval of Bhagavad Gita. As per the standard texts, I cannot speak as I like because Sastra, the sacred text, has to approve what you say. You cannot say what you like. No. So, you have to listen to that which is approved by the sacred texts, which is approved by an Avatar, not by every Tom, Dick and Harry. You cannot give your own interpretation.

I met one friend who goes on interpreting in his own way. He was telling me, "Swami walks there, to Poornachandra Auditorium, then ladies side, gents side, verandah, and goes into the interview room, in the subtle. That is full, this is full. The whole is full." That is the interpretation of Swami's movements. That's what that fellow said. I heard him patiently. He didn't leave. After some time, he started another interpretation. "After interview, He would start from the interview room, come out, walk up to the verandah, come back here, then walk across the verandah. It is a triangle, the trigunas of the world." That's what he meant. That monkey was telling like that. How long can I take this torture? How long? It has no approval of the Sastras. Then I said, "Swami sometimes does like this, meaning all of us are passing on, all of us are transported to the other world. So this is my interpretation ordinarily. See, our days are numbered!"

So, my friends, we cannot interpret as we like. We should not. We should condemn fellows who interpret that way. There is Sastra. There is sacred text. There is evidence. People are close to you - the saints, sages, seers, seekers, aspirants, and holy texts. They are by their example, through their message, conveying the Truth. So in hearing one has every independence to talk anything. As you speak, yes, you can hear anything. But listening requires, listening imposes some responsibility on our part, to listen to that which has scriptural sanction. Listen to those who have got scriptural sanction, scriptural approval, scriptural direction, scriptural guidance. Otherwise, it is simply enough if you hear it and brush it off.

Another difference: Hearing requires patience. You know most of the psychiatrists, those who deal with the mental patients, they are telling me: What does a psychiatrist do? More than giving medicine, what they do is they hear patiently whatever the patient speaks. The fellow goes on speaking because he is suffering from depression, or some kind of psychology, some kind of a complex. So he goes on speaking. For hearing, you can charge some money! Fifty-dollars. In India, there are many people who are prepared to hear, so we don't need psychiatrists in large number, as many are unemployed for that purpose! Since there is unemployment and since we don't have any healthy allocation, since we have so many holidays, any number of people can speak for any length of time! We can hear.

Therefore, hearing requires patience. That's enough. But listening demands practice. Whatever you listen to, you should practice. Whatever you hear, you can be patient enough to hear, and then forget! My friends, my ambition is to impress upon you that listening, Sravanam, is the first step in the nine paths of devotion.

Listening is another thing than hearing. In the process of hearing, there is another person who speaks, who talks, whom I hear. There are two people: A speaks, B hears. A talks, B hears. There are two in talking and hearing. But in listening, there is only one. You find the inner voice. You find the conscience talking to you. You listen to your own Self. Sometimes I want to go to a movie, a cinema. Suddenly I listen to my inner voice: 'Don't go. Stop! There's some bhajan there. Why don't you go there instead?' Nobody spoke to me. Nobody is talking to me. But there is some inner voice that starts addressing or talking to me.

So, my friends, listening does not require two: a speaker and a listener. No. Listening is non-dual. You listen to your own Self. You listen to your own conscience. You listen to your own inner voice. Whereas in the process of hearing, there is one person who talks and another person who hears - the talker and the hearer. But in listening, the one who speaks and the one who listens are one and the same. I listen to myself. This is what we call inner voice or conscience. This is spiritual.

And hearing also requires what we call a sort of divided mind. My mind is engaged elsewhere. But you are talking and I am hearing. The mind is engaged, but still I can hear you. But listening requires 100% concentration. Listening is concentration. Hearing need not necessarily be so. Listening is meditation. Hearing need not necessarily be so. Listening is religion. Hearing is not so. Listening is practice. Hearing is not so. Listening is non-dual. Hearing is not so.

My friends, that's why Sravanam is the first step. Because we know the meaning 'hearing', we just hear that word and forget it. But this listening is something intense, something special, something with a deep meaning in life. A simple example: There was one king in the epics. This king was cursed like this: "You will die in a week's time because a snake will bite you. Because of the snake bite, you will die." That was the curse given to Parikshit the King. These seven days, he did not check up on his properties or assets, permanent properties. Nor did he bother himself regarding the distribution of properties. He immediately called on his Guru/Preceptor, "Sir, there has been a curse. I am going to die in a week's time. What do you want me to do?"

Guru said, "This week is too short a week to do anything. This week is too short a period to learn anything. This week is too short a period to do anything that is strenuous, full of stress and tension. All of this week let you spend in listening to the sacred texts. This week you may spend the time in listening to what I say." My friends, the scripture says that on listening to the saints, to the teacher or the preceptor, even Parikshit attained liberation, nirvana, moksha, the state of immortality, the state of birthlessness, the state in which he got out of bondage, free like a bird, swinging across the firmament of sky.

So, my friends, listening confers liberation. Listening confers immortality. Listening grants you nirvana. Listening will take you away from bondage to freedom. Listening sets you free, makes you free. Listening is liberation. Listening is religion. Therefore, my friends, we cannot consider listening, Sravanam, as simple as it seems. No.

In hearing, there is another point. I have got past knowledge: "I am a Hindu. I am an Orthodox Brahmin. My family has been following this mode of worship. My grandfather, my great-great-great grandfather, my father, my uncle, everybody followed this path of life. So, I have got set ideas in my mind, built-up over generations. These built-up ideas are, to say in the modern jargon, in this computer brain or in this programmed life, in this floppy of my brain or in this disc of my head, where all the previously fed information from the past generations is stored. Somebody said, "This is my experience. That is my experience. I naturally think I am a Christian. My Christianity does not agree with what he says." (Or) "I follow Islam. I am a Muslim. As a Muslim, I feel that my Koran does not say this." (Or) "I am a Hindu. My Gita does not say this."

So, the built-up framework over the years, over the generations, will settle in the form of prejudices in our mind. It will settle in the form of bias in our mind. Bias or prejudice is built up over years. That's why we have got a definite frame of thinking. A Christian, for example, he thinks of Christ only, not of Krishna. A Hindu thinks of Krishna, but not of Christ. Why? Why don't I see Jesus in my dream? Why not? Why not a Christian dreams of Krishna? Why not? No, because I have been a Hindu over generations, so I dream of, get in my dreams, only Hindu gods. A Christian dreams of only Christian faith, as per Christian idols. Muslims also the same, because these things are secured in the form of prejudices and bias.

So, while hearing, you can have your own prejudice. You can have your own bias. You can have your own ideology. You can have your own peculiar notions. You can have your own established practices of worship and that mode of life which you have had since long. But listening requires emptiness. Listening should be open. Hearing can be partial. Hearing can be done with a prejudiced mind, with a biased mind. Whereas listening should be unbiased. Listening should be unprejudiced. Listening requires emptiness. That's what Bhagavan says in a Telugu poem:

"If the brain is empty, we can stuff it with any material, with any knowledge, with any wisdom, if the head is empty. If the head is already filled with some stuff, garbage or useless stuff, what else I can tell you? You have come here with your stuffed head. Well, what is it I can put in there?"

So, in order to listen, we should make our heads empty so that we can listen in all its pristine purity, in all its sacredness, in all its beauty, with all its fragrance, with all its splendor, with all its grandeur. With all the grandeur, splendor, freshness, we can listen if I make myself empty. That's the reason why Baba says, "Don't go by what others say. Go by your own experience." Further, He says, "Come, examine and experience." These are three words used by Baba. This is done by a listener, but not by a hearer, if I am permitted to say. The one who hears, he'll simply think, 'All right, He said something. My religion, my philosophy, my mode of life, does not approve of it.' OK. But listening requires an open mind. Listening requires that you should empty yourself and collect that word of wisdom from an Avatar or from the holy text.

Sometimes whatever Baba speaks to you, what all He speaks does not get into our head. Supposing you ask anybody, "What did Baba say?"

"I think He said so many things!"

"You were there for one and a half hours! Why do you say 'so many things'?" He could not accommodate even two things out of what Baba said because he has filled his head already with too many other things!

So my friends, as we listen to Bhagavan Baba, we should have an empty head, empty brain, with no prejudices, with no bias. Be receptive, something like Niagara waterfalls; something like Ganges that jumps out of the peaks of the Himalayas. The Ganges, as it jumps from the peaks of the Himalayas, and the Niagara Falls, with all its beauty as it jumps, as it falls, they are both unpolluted, quite clean, crystal clear. Listening requires that purity, that chastity, that innocence, that child-like mind.

Call a child and tell the child all beautiful stories which are fallacies, which are nothing but absurd. But child will hear. Supposing I tell my grandson, "I used to fly in the air!" "Ah-ha Grandfather, did you? Oh, fine!" After all, after one year, he will ask, "Now you fly?" After six months, "Grandpa, why don't you repeat?" He may say that later. But the child in all innocence will start hearing what all you say because the mind is pure; the mind is immortal; the mind is Divine; the mind is empty. It is a total state of innocence. That's why children adhere to service, whereas we don't adhere to service. We don't listen to facts. We have got no time for truth. We have only got time for our own foolishness. That's why we are totally confused. We are biased. We are prejudiced. That's the reason why we are not able to listen.

Listening is an act of worship. Why? In worship you are humble. While worshipping Swami, how do you say it? You don't say "Swami, Swami" with arrogance, but with humility, reverence, respect, adoration. You feel like being humble in front of Swami. While listening, you should be humble. While hearing, "Then what happened?" you can ask. Supposing you are hearing somebody, you may say, "Next ...next....next." While listening, you cannot say, "Next." You have to be patient enough.

Another point: While hearing, you may be deserving to hear or not. No qualification is necessary to hear. Anybody can speak. Anybody can hear in this world. Particularly in a democracy, it is a birthright. That's why it is 'no-mocracy'. But it is not democracy. It is mockery. Anybody can speak, anybody can hear. But to listen, one should deserve to listen. It is deservedness. To a listener, listening is a qualification. Listening is a qualification because, "I know how to listen." It means you deserve to listen. Not everybody can listen.

Out of so many people in this world, how many people are able to come here? Out of so many people, how many people are able to listen to Bhagavan's discourses? Listening is an opportunity, while hearing is just an incident. It is just incidental. Hearing is accidental, while listening is an opportunity. Hearing is human, while listening is a blessing. You don't say, "I heard Swami's speech" if you are conscious of the process. If you are really conscious of the process, you don't say, "I heard Baba telling something...". You say, "I had an opportunity to listen to Swami's words. I had the blessing of listening to His Message. I had the great benediction of listening to His Divine Discourse." Listening is a benediction. Listening is an opportunity. Listening is a qualification.

So my friends, Sravanam, listening, is the first step on the nine paths of devotion. It is so great. It is so beautiful because it calls for an utter state of innocence. It calls for egolessness. While hearing, I can be egoistic. While listening, I have got to be non-egoistic. So, listening is a spiritual practice towards humility, towards receiving, towards knowing.

That's all, my friends. I hope I am a bit successful in explaining the difference between hearing and listening. Sravanam is not hearing. For heaven's sake, let us not say Sravanam is hearing. No. It is listening, which is the first step in the spiritual path.

May Bhagavan grant such powerful strength of listening, such mighty power of listening, that blessing of listening with intensity, with savor, that process of listening with a deep interest, that process of listening with determination to practice what all that has been heard, what all that has been listened to, that capacity to listen to our own inner voice.

May that be our prayer in the coming years.

Sai Ram.

Thank you very much.

Asato Maa Sad Gamaya
Tamaso Maa Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityormaa Amritam Gamaya
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

Loka Samastha Sukino Bhavantu
Loka Samastha Sukino Bhavantu
Loka Samastha Sukino Bhavantu

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

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