Swami clarifies our common doubts
(Compiled from various meetings with
Sri Sathya Sai Baba)
mind of man is as a blank sheet of white paper when he is born. As
soon as thinking, feeling and acting start, then the process of
tarnishing the mind also starts.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Q: Why are some people born more
beautiful, or more intelligent, than others are? Why does not God give
everyone equal beauty, abilities and talents?
Swami: It is not God's partiality or
fault. It is the human being who is responsible. His actions, thoughts
and words are responsible for all good and bad. It is the mind that
creates the differences. Pleasure is an interval between two pains.
It is the way you look at things that matters.
There is a vast ocean of talents and
qualities. All human beings have vessels to fill. Some people,
through their actions, are able to fill the vessels to the brim; some
fill only half; others can fill only a quarter, or less. They possess
intelligence, beauty, talents, and etceteras, according to how much
they can fill their vessels.
You even judge beauty these days, as
in Miss India, Miss World. But, that is all physical beauty, which is transient.
What is important is the beauty of the Atma (Self).
Q: How are good or bad actions
carried into the next birth?
Swami: Swaasha (breath) carries the
actions, for the breath stops when a person dies. The body is still
there after death and we call it a corpse and burn it as useless. So,
the body cannot carry anything with it, just as a flower cannot carry
its fragrance. It is a breeze that wafts the scent of the flower and
makes its fragrance reach you. Similarly, imagine a municipal lorry,
the breeze carries the bad odour to you again! In the same manner,
good and bad actions are carried by the breath and surround you in
the next birth like an invisible garland. The pattern of your life is
then governed by what the garland has good or bad scent.
That is why man must understand that
everything he does has a reaction, a reverberation and a reflection.
It is he who writes his own destiny by his actions. It is essential
for man to live a good life with good thoughts and good actions. Only
through such a life can he realise the divinity in him. The concept
Aham Brahmasmi (I am Brahma = God) is also incorrect, since it
indicates duality. Aham (I) and Brahma (God) become separate. The
statement ought to he Aham Aham (I am I).
Q: Many people feel that Hindus
worship countless gods. How did this happen?
Swami: India has a wonderful
religious tradition. It has something for everyone, to suit everyone’s
needs. Many people do not understand this excellent idea and make derisory
comments on our having too many gods. This tradition has evolved to suit
the needs of different people, just as we have shirts of varying types
and sizes to fit different people. With the ideal of One God, there is
only one shirt and, if it does not fit or if it is unsuitable, people
turn away from God. But, here, if someone likes Krishna, they can worship
Krishna; others can worship Rama, or Narayana, or Shiva, or even snakes
and lions! What more do you need to propagate the idea that God is in everything
everywhere? That is why I often say don't worship God as a picture, but
worship the picture as God. This will slowly lead to the realisation
of God in you. That is where the Hindu spiritual path is practical and
Q: Why does not God prevent
cruelties in the world?
Swami:: God is only a witness (saakshibhoota).
He does not act. Man acts according to the dictates of his intellect (Buddhi)
and himself suffers the consequences of his actions (karma). There is
neither good nor bad for God. Take the knife as an example. A murderer
uses a knife to kill another man, a slaughterer uses a knife to slay
animals, a surgeon uses a knife to amputate, and a cook uses a knife
to chop vegetables. If a magnet is placed among all these knives, it
will attract them all equally and not according to the kind of tasks
they perform. God is like this magnet. All knives are the same to Him.
However, the hands that wield the knives have to bear the consequences
of their actions, dependent on right and wrong.
Q: When we have troubles and are in
difficulties and we pray to God, why does He not take them away’?
Swami:: Troubles and difficulties are
part and parcel of human life. They are the results of your karmas.
There is no point in praying to God to wipe away all such troubles and
difficulties. The right type of prayer would be to ask God for courage
and strength to bear all the difficulties, problems and tragedy with
Q: What is the difference between the
politics of yesterday and those of today?
Swami: The present state of affairs
can be described as the state of jumps and bumps. Now, take the
example of your body and limbs. Each limb is important in forming
the composite whole. All the limbs joined together make up the body,
which is the Deha (body, person). Similarly, in the Desha (country,
nation), every aspect should be tended to, just as one takes care of
every part of the body.
Q: The view that women should not
take ups Brahma vidya (spiritual knowledge), nor chants the Omkara. Is
this correct? Also, in ancient times, were spiritual sadhanas (endeavors)
forbidden to women?
Swami:: Brahma vidya and chitta
shuddhi (spiritual knowledge and purity of consciousness) do not
depend on whether a person is a man or a woman. All have an equal
right to benefit from Brahma vidya provided only they are able to take
it up with discipline and dedication. At no time have there been any taboos
against women. Lord Vishnu (the Preserver) taught Bhu Devi (the
Goddess Earth) the glory of the Bhagavad- Gita. Parameswara (Shiva)
taught Parvati the Brahma tatva (divine essence) through the Guru
Gita. Iswara (Shiva) initiated Parvati into Yoga Shastras and mantra
Shastras (science of yoga and science of mantra). The Brihadaranyak Upanishad
mentions Yajnavalkya teaching Maitreyi the Brahma vidya. So, women in
ancient times were not denied the pursuit of spirituality.
The Brihadaranyak Upanishad mentions
Ciargi and Maitreyi basking in the splendour of Sanyasa (renunciation)
and Brahmacharya (celibacy, chastity). Madaalasa Chudaala and others
were able to receive Brahma Jnana (divine wisdom) while in the
Grahastha (householder, i.e. married) stage of life. Even today, there
are many that belong to this vast category. It is sheer absurdity to
deny women the right to earn Brahma Jnana. But, in worldly matters, it is
necessary for them to maintain certain limitations in the interests of
dharma (righteousness) and Loka Kalyana (the good of
the people/world). For the sake of safeguarding morality and for the
social health of the world, women have to accept some restrictions.
This is not to say that there is any fundamental inferiority in them.
Even pundits acquire their Jnana
through the reverential homage they pay to the feminine deity
Saraswati. The divine patrons of learning, prosperity and wisdom are
all feminine: Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati. This should show the reverence paid
Q: Why does Swami give gifts?
Swami: Gifts of rings and pendants are
an _expression of Swami's love... It is not that Swami wants to draw
people to him with gifts. When you wish to show affection to your son,
or if you want to make someone happy, you make him a sports shirt or
buy him a present, do you not? Swami also wants to bring happiness in
Q: Does a gift also act as a
Swami: Yes! They are also like my
visiting cards and send me instant flashes when the person is in
danger or in need of my help. Sometimes, these gifts are made for specific
reasons: for the sake of a devotee's health, or I may give someone a gem
stone so that rays from it may constantly influence him or her to
follow the right path. I want to tell you that whatever Swami does has
a purpose. He never does anything without reason.
Q: Why does Swami give vibuthi?
Swami: Flowers, leaves, fruit and
other edibles have a temporary life. Even water breeds germs if kept
in a vessel for days. Only vibuthi remains unchanged, as it is the
final result of the five elements of creation. Our desires have to be reduced
to ashes and vibuthi is symbolic of this detachment and renunciation.
One's mind has to become desireless and detached like the ashes in
which everything is burnt out. It is that kind of pure mind that has
to be offered to God.
Q: Is it necessary to perform pujas (ritual
worship) and ceremonies?
Swami: Everything depends on the
individual concerned. Whatever he or she does has to be done with
faith and sincere devotion. God cannot be fooled with mere ritual.
Q: What about ceremonies and rites
for the dead? Is it wrong not to perform them?
Swami: This again depends on one's
mental attitude. After a person leaves the body, the soul takes birth
and takes on a new body somewhere else. You must know this. Upto now
you must have had so many lives, you must have been a mother and a daughter
so very many times.
What is required really is gratitude
to one’s parents, by remembering them on the day of their death.
Though they may shed these bodies in which they are your parents, you
still owe them the debts of having given birth to you and of having
given you their blood to give you your present form.
You can express this gratitude through
the ceremonial shraddha rite, or by any other method, even by thinking of
them with sincere and loving gratitude on the death anniversary. It is heartfelt
feeling that is important.
Q: Why doesn’t God make people suffer
for their sins in the same lifetime? Why in other lives when they
cannot know why they suffer?
Swami: Then how would you account for
the Punya (good deeds) they do? They have to enjoy the benefits of
their Punya, too! All that may not always be Possible in one lifetime....
Q: Why does Swami have more
restrictions for women? They do not have easy access to Swami!
Swami: Everyone has the same kind of
access to Swami. This does not depend on their being men or women.
Everyone receives the same grace, depending on his or her devotion,
his or her need, or his or her work. Swami may say so; that nevertheless
women have more hurdles to overcome when they want to convey something
There are times when the man who stands
next to me never catches my attention, as hard as he may try; while a devotee
sitting far away in a corner amid a crowd easily catches it. It all depends
on who has to receive what and when. Everything happens according to that
will, not because of the physical form of man or woman.
differences are visible to you at your level of consciousness. For
Swami, these are not differences that count. The Atma is not different
in man or woman. The Atma is eternally conscious, pure and self
effulgent. The Atma is neither masculine nor feminine, nor yet
neutral. It is only the body that limits, deludes and wears names.
Q: What is the principal cause of all
troubles and sorrow?
Swami: Attachment and ego are the
main causes. Jealousy is another factor.
Q: How can jealousy be conquered?
Swami: By having love for everyone,
by thinking of others with love and wishing them well. More than all,
by realising that jealousy is physically most harmful. It does damage
your internal system and, later on, you will have to suffer the karma
of the bad things caused by your jealousy.
Q: Why has God created bad traits and
negative tendencies in humans?
Swami: These are results of man's own
actions. God is only a witness to events. Human beings are themselves
responsible for the good and the bad in them. Remember that the things
you do not do can never hurt you.
Q: But Swami says that there is
nothing good or bad!
Swami: Yes! This is from God's point
of view. For humans, this is a relative matter, since what is good for
one may be bad for another. What is good at one time may be bad in
another season. Good and bad are thus two states take two fruits,
phalam, which are good. Once they are eaten and digested, they become excreta,
malam, and that is bad.
Q: Scientists say that something
cannot he created out of nothing.
Swami: Yes, hut what they think of,
as nothing is really anything. There is no nothingness in the Universe.
The scientist makes such statements because, with his limited vision,
he cannot see all things or know them.
Both science and spirituality begin as
inquiry, a quest. Spirituality comes full circle, like the letter 0,
while science reaches the half circle stage, resembling a C. Science
has a lot of catching up to do, for it has only discovered a fraction
of the truth. It is like a small piece of cloth you can see protruding
from a fist: you can only conjecture about the whole, its looks and
size, for it is hidden and you cannot see it.
Q: But, science has made many
advances flights to the moon and other planets, for instance.
Whatever science has done for humanity is to be welcomed, hut it is
still a growing and advancing field. Scientists used to say that you couldn’t
split the atom and today that is no longer true. The scientist learns
as he progresses
investigations become old tomorrow and lead to new investigations,
which will become old the day after tomorrow. There is no end to this,
and so the truth lies in something that contains within it both the
old and the new. God alone envelops the old and the new and so the
best way to advance is Godward.