Last updated on 1st April 2014
A couple or so days ago I saw a couple of videos of a Sai devotee's recent talks in the USA, on saicast, http://www.saicast.org/2014/2014FebSatyajit.html. IMHO, both of them are very good and will help in Bhagawan's mission. Thanks to the Sai devotee speaker for the talks and thanks to saicast for making the videos available.
Some particular points:
In the Boston talk (Part 1), (at around 36 min. 36 secs), the speaker-devotee, who served Sathya Sai Baba at a close personal level for many years, mentions about Sai Baba (paraphrased) correcting the view that atheists who are great social workers, have strong ethics and morality (but who don't believe in God) will not get self-realization in this birth but will be blessed by a next birth in a good devotional family with a smooth path to self-realization. (At around 38:42)The speaker said that Sai Baba categorically stated that atheists too most certainly can achieve self-realization (in this birth itself) and that anyone (including atheists and agnostics, I guess) who gives up body consciousness - for them, self-realization is inevitable.
I think this is a very important aspect of Sathya Sai Baba's teachings about self-realization that does not seem to be well known. Perhaps such teachings would get appreciated by leading atheists of the world today like Sam Harris, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Harris_(author), who seems to be quite a popular writer and speaker in the USA (and elsewhere) especially among scientists, technologists and intellectuals.
A relevant extract from a blog post, http://iami1.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/sam-harris-vs-reza-aslan-2007-debate-on-religion-and-reason-part-transcript/ :
I think Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are perhaps the most prominent anti-religion scientist-atheists in the world today.
However Harris does acknowledge the reality of spiritual experiences. An interesting extract of Harris from the part-transcript is given below:
“The reality is, it is possible for a person to close their eyes and use their attention in a certain way such that they no longer feel separate from the universe, say. You know, they felt it was just me a moment ago and then all of a sudden there’s just the world. Okay. That is an experience that is replicable, that we can all have, that many of us I’m sure have had. Most people, most of the time have had these experiences in the context of a religious tradition and they have interpreted them by the light of their religious tradition. The problem with this process is that it is not in the scientific spirit encouraging of rigorous honesty. It is encouraging of dogmatism and metaphysical speculation and … Yes, there are diamonds in the (---abusive word snipped---) of religion. You know, Rumi and Meister Eckhart are attesting to a kind of experience that I think we should all be desperate to have. The problem is we need to talk about it honestly …”
So Sam Harris may well agree with the philosophy of Advaita. But he may not believe that intense prayer can result in miracles that break laws of material sciences like physics & chemistry (materialization miracles) or knowledge of medical science (healing miracles).
--- end extract ---
I (Ravi) also wanted to share Sai Baba's words to a long-term devotee and servitor, which the latter kindly shared with me - Dehaabhimaanamu undinanthavaraku sakala saadhanamu avasarame. i.e. So long as the body consciousness continues (in other words, identification of oneself as (only) one's body-mind complex) all the saadhana(s) (spiritual/religious practice(s)) are necessary. Which implies that once one gives up/loses body consciousness (in other words, directly experiences that one, at the core of one's being, is a separate entity/reality from one's body-mind complex) then one does not need to do any saadhana(s) (spiritual/religious practice(s)).
In the Santa Ana talk (at around 40 min, 18 sec) the devotee shares his vivid experiences of Sathya Sai Baba strongly rejecting the claims of people who said they were mediators between Bhagawan and the devotee. One devotee tells Swami about claims of a young boy that Swami speaks through him, and asks Swami (Sai Baba) whether it is true (the devotee almost presumes that it is true). Sai Baba then intensely rebukes this devotee saying (according to the speaker-devotee):
You have been here close to me for so many years. How could you even bring this up in my presence? Don't you have any common sense or not? Buddhi Unda Leda Neeku? Naaka em pattindi vaadu paada shariramulo cheradaniki? What business (need) do I have to enter that dirty body? If I want to talk to somebody else I can figure out a way. Nenu mataladadante nenu mataladathanu. Neerega mataladathanu. If I need to speak to somebody I can (will) speak directly.
This was the rebuke - the strong reaction - from Swami at that point of time (when Swami was in His physical body).
The speaker-devotee continues: But somehow these kinds of things are so enamouring - you normally tend to feel that okay this is an easy way out. People tend to believe these kinds of things and want to believe these kinds of things. ... The speaker-devotee then goes on to say that one should not get caught up in these things and instead go for a direct relationship with God.
Ravi: In this post-Mahasamadhi phase of Bhagawan's mission I think the above warning about Sai-Baba-speaking-through-somebody-else claims is a very important one. Of course, Swami appearing in the dream of a devotee and advising the devotee could be a very genuine spiritual experience - but that is a personal matter between Swami and the devotee. The problem crops up when somebody tells others that Swami has appeared in a dream and given instructions for other people to follow - that is when that somebody takes on a role of almost a prophet-like person acting as an intermediary between Sai Baba and the devotees. IMHO, from whatever I have heard in Swami's discourses and read in Swami's writings, Swami has strongly discouraged belief in such prophet-like intermediaries between Swami and the devotee. Instead, Swami has advised intense prayer to Swami/other forms of God/formless God/one's-inner-self-as-God to get a direct response from God without any intermediaries clouding the matter.
Another small point. Perhaps the reader is already aware of the term 'intercessory prayer'. But just in case the reader does not know about it, intercessory prayer is a common term in English language religious literature. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intercession, http://www.christlife.org/resources/articles/IntercessoryPrayer.html for some descriptions and background on it. I think one must clearly distinguish between the mediator types that the speaker-devotee referred to in his Santa Ana talk mentioned above, which Swami strongly disapproved of, and intercessory prayer, which, IMHO, Swami encouraged. As an example of the latter, the prayer Samastha Loka Sukhino Bhavantu can be viewed as a broad universal kind of intercessory prayer where we pray to God for the well being of all worlds (as Swami instructed/explained, if I recall correctly) or all the world, if one wants to put it that way.