"I do not encourage adoration of just one name and one form, particularly my present name and present form. I have no wish to draw people toward Me, away from the worship of my other names and forms. You may infer from what you call my miracles that I am attracting people and causing attachments to Me and Me alone. But that is not so. These so-called miracles are merely spontaneous proofs of Divine Majesty. There is no need to change your chosen God to adopt a new one when you have seen me or heard me. Continue your worship of your chosen God along the lines already familiar to you and you will find you are coming nearer and nearer to me, for all names are mine and all forms are mine."
- Sathya Sai Baba -
Where shall my story start
when I wish to tell of my
love for Sathya Sai Baba and
how he has changed my life?
Since our lives are so woven
into time and space, so much
a part of our experiences,
of people we know and of
those whom we do not realize
we know - since there is so
much more to our God story -
let me write that which my
heart is telling.
I know that through my youth, I searched for that source from which I would do good and see good. I believed it to be my mind, for never would I call it God, whose image was that of a bearded old man in a heavenly sky.
I later discovered that many were searching just as I was, but they pictured a form, a God that could and would do all for them. My belief was that man had to do for himself, and my search was in how, on Earth, I could improve. In time this ego was to be transformed.
Gradually, through my first teacher, Hilda Charlton, did I begin to understand the meaning of God and spirituality. It was through Hilda that I was led to God incarnate, Sathya Sai. My heart was captured slowly, for mine is such that works slowly, but surely. Once having grasped the love, it hangs on tenaciously in the face of all adversity, for its foundation is strong.
In 1974, when I first set out upon this path of glory, I wrote the following poem:
A child - middle aged
Looks for a love,
An adult - child-like
Seeking her light,
I remember wondering why I wrote it - what did it really mean? It was a week later that my confusion took the form of a lament:
Love, breathe it in
Love, breathe it out
Poor Bea, wants to believe
and ended with:
Love, breathe it in
Love, breathe it out
Poor girl, yearns to have faith
I did try to believe, but I
had so much difficulty.
Those of us who have lived
for many years without an
awareness of God in our
hearts, who have led a life
devoid of belief in miracles
or the power of prayer and
healing, may only be
awakened by LOVE, pure
unconditional love - and
some part of me knew this
even as I lamented.
As I progressed along the path, meditating many hours, determined to solve the questions, "Who is God?" "What is God?", my narrow mind began to be aware of a new world. I saw people getting healed; I heard stories that boggled my mind; I saw vibhuti manifest on pictures and statues in my house.
But the mind is a demon! No matter what wondrous events I witnessed or heard of, there was the doubting mind, ever present, conjuring up worldly reasons for everything.
"Everything is within you," Baba says. I did not understand this truth; I had no atma, soul consciousness; it was all my mind, my intellect that was the creator. (I laugh as I write this, for indeed the mind does create - it is the creator of this maya in which we live, the illusion that takes us in cycles from the heights of joy to the depths of despair.)
But God is ever patient, ever gracious. Hilda continued to share her love with me along with her stories of an 18 year stay in India. She told me of the wonders of Sai Baba. They sounded fantastic, but I just could not believe them. And then, Swami's face began to appear more and more in my meditations. "Imagination, mind pictures," I thought to myself. But my heart was, at last, beginning to stir.
I have a small theory about our path to God. When things are rough and we're not advancing the way we want to, when we are almost about to give up, something happens to blow our mind, something which gives us a taste of GOD, and we're hooked! We know that we must go on, never giving up the search for another God vision, another experience of euphoria in the sea of bliss.
I tell the following story because it has kept me on the path all these years despite the many hours of despair. It turned the key to another plane of consciousness, and its recollection continues to remind me of what true love is. In truth, what else is worthy of our aspirations?
It was in 1975, I was spending hours meditating - before work, during work, after work, in the middle of the night. It seemed beyond my control. I would end each meditation with, "God, reveal yourself to me." Nothing seemed to satisfy me, not the touch of peace, nor the spurts of love, nor the images that cam, for doubt was always rearing its disconcerting self. I felt unfulfilled.
I remember that night so well. My husband brought home a statue of Ganesha. The moment he showed it to me, I could feel an attraction. It was something I could not understand, but I felt a warmth creep into me. I felt a sense of energy hit me between the eyes as I touched it. After dinner when I went into the bedroom where we had left the statue, I noticed that vibhuti had formed.
"Meditate, meditate," my body cried. I picked up the statue, went into the puja room and sat down in front of the altar. With Ganesha still in my hand, I repeated my mantra and moved the beads of my rosary. I was filled with such a strong desire to know what the sages were telling, to experience the glory of which the saints spoke. I could feel every part of me crying out to understand, to be a child of God. I called every name I could think of - every saint, every holy name, but never did I call on Sai Baba. I cannot tell you why, but I did not call his name.
And as I called and pleaded, I became plagued with doubts. Evil thoughts began to attack me - pricks in my mind and body. "Fool, there is no God... You can't trust them... Don't you know it's all a lie..." On and on it went, nasty ideas about God, about my path, about people I believed in, all coming at me. I knew not what it was all about, or how it came on. I was an onlooker, observing a terrifying scene. I could sense fear growing, and then I saw myself stiffen and with great determination I heard myself say, "Get away. I don't want to hear you. Go away, I don't believe you. You don't know what you are talking about. I want GOD!" I remember that part. I remember the determination. I also know that something happened, that there was an unaccountable space of time and the next thing I could recall was an opening above me and I was propelled into a sea of expanse, a universe of stars, expanding, expanding... and exstasy started pouring through me, washing me, loving me - and I heard a voice, somewhere far off in the distance, a voice that I recognized as being me but not me, I could hear it saying, "I GIVE MYSELF TO THEE, SAI BABA."
Sai Baba! Sai Baba, a name I hadn't even called! Sai Baba, God who had reached my soul!
That night I slept and dreamed. I dreamed that I was being buried in a grave, and all around me people were dancing merrily. I felt no fear or remorse. When I awoke the next morning, the dream was still vividly with me. I felt that it was connected to my meditation experience, that it marked the death of my old self and a rebirth. That summer I made plans for my first visit to India, to see Swami in his physical form.
I wish I could say that I had been truly reborn, and that my thoughts, words and deeds were always pure. No. Although I had been blessed by God, I had still to earn that kingdom, if it were to be mine forever!
My first visit to Swami was amazing on all accounts. I will not delve into all the stories at this time, but by now you know all the layers which he had to uncover. There was an instant interview that resulted in great awe and pain. After that, in between a period of being totally ignored, there was the thrill of being his presence at a wedding, and, finally, the bliss of another interview before leaving for home.
Still, much remained unanswered. I was so involved with my own advancement toward God, that I did not see God in front of me, nor could I see my own God-self. Oh, I did see Baba's poetic step, his smile that brought warmth to all, the changes that he brought about in some of the handicapped people he had taken in for interviews - but these did not linger with me.
"Swami, talk to me, teach me directly, solve all my problems," were my cries, my worldly ego overtaking the glimpse of divinity I had been given.
And so the years moved on. I returned to India, to his lotus feet, received the interviews, the blessings, the materializations, and still I cried out. God always seemed one step beyond my reach. I was not a student of Theosophy; my knowledge of the Bible and other holy books was negligible. I was not in touch with psychic phenomena, or third eye vision. However, my thoughts did start to change, for I began to say to myself, "Surely, somewhere on this path, I must be useful. In some way, I might be of concrete service to the spirit of God."
The awareness of how I was to serve as his instrument also progressed slowly. At one point I read Swami's declaration, "The end of education is character." Here at last was my message! Was I not a teacher? Then why not put these ideas into the classroom? I delved deeper into the Bal Vikas program and how I might use it with my students in the public school system. The results were amazing. It could work! Where once I would go to sleep with the worry of how to face another day of classroom feuds, of children's disrespect for one another, of their lack of self-worth, and would wake up with the same fears, I now began to feel a change, a glimmer of hope, a realization that working with values would change the children. God was offering me another chance, a chance to rectify the mistakes I had made in bringing up my own children, a chance to be of use in this lifetime.
And changes did begin. The changes were not only occurring in the children, but I, too, was changing. I became lighter, freer, happier. That which had borne upon me so heavily began to wash away. I knew what my future would have to be. I had to explore what Swami was now calling Education in Human Values.
And so I applied for a sabbatical to write a values curriculum for use in my district public schools. Another great transformation was about to take place. I had always been worried about money; and now I was faced with a cut in salary and with many plans for travel, yet I was not at all concerned. I'm not sure how there was enough money - but there we were that year, my husband and I, traveling to Canada, Israel, France and India. And as we traveled, I researched the many values programs that were in existence.
In the summer of 1983, I once again arrived in India, this time to participate in the International Conference on EHV. I knew my answer would be found here. Little did I know that I would find more than just my role in EHV.
Baba was as beautiful and gracious as ever. On the darshan line, he would tell the New York participants, "Yes, yes. I will see you." He would often repeat this to my husband and others on the men's side. It never happened! It was the first time I had not had an interview. But I was not the same person either. I found myself listening to every word Baba was saying in his discourses in the Poornachandra. Every sound that came from him was a gem for me. He served us well, showering us with unconditional love and showing us his true form. For the first time, I came to realize that I was indeed in the presence of God. I knew what it meant.
He came to our small meetings promising, "No one shall leave without their questions answered." And so it came to be. We were permitted to submit written questions which he proceeded to answer. We were in his presence for hours. Invariably when a new problem crossed my mind, I would hear him give me the solution, even as he spoke on another topic. This went on for days, and his magnanimity overwhelmed me. I had to begin thinking seriously about how I could serve.
Baba fed our minds, our hearts, our souls and even our bodies. When we were served lunch in the canteen, it was so beautiful to watch him as he went down the aisles, asking if we had enough, if we were happy... ever GIVING, GIVING. "How much can one take," I thought, "without giving in return?"
This is my new birth, my new work. I have been granted faith and belief. I know what love can really be. As long as Baba lets me help in his task of Education in Human Values, I shall be there. I don't think he expects us to be specialists in teaching EHV, but rather to be specialists in life, meeting its challenges with equanimity and love.
As I conclude this story, I flash upon the day my mother died. I recall the pledge I made as a young 15-year-old confused by my loss. "When I grow up, I'm going to do something for this world. I'm going to help cure cancer."
It is now 45 years down the road, and God has granted me my wish. In my final surrender to him, I have become his instrument. The cancer that is eating away at our character, the cancer that is wiping out righteousness in this world, the cancer that is shattering our peace and causing our physical cancer - that is the cancer which Sathya Sai Baba is now transforming. Thus, shall he bring to all mankind TRUTH, RIGHT ACTION, PEACE, LOVE and NON-VIOLENCE.