A Teaching from Sri Sathya Sai Baba
You have to realise that you are not your physical body, which is both perishable and impermanent. You have to look at this objective world with the eye of wisdom, not with the physical eye. The animals, the insects, the birds and the beasts are looking at this world with their physical eyes. If you too look at this objective world with mere physical eyes, what difference is there between you and those beings? You will then simply remain an animal, a bird, a beast or an insect. You will not be able to realize your true nature, which is beyond the physical world. You have to comprehend the transcendental reality, which is beyond the body and the mind. This is possible only with the help of the eye of wisdom. The body is like a water bubble. It will disappear one day or the other. You are not the body that has birth, growth, decay and, ultimately, death. You are atma.
Then the question arises as to what is the atma, the divine spirit? The atma has no form. It is infinite, indescribable and immeasurable. It is attribute-less, pure, the final abode, eternal, unsullied, enlightened, free and the embodiment of sacredness. The atma is immanent in every individual, in every being, in the form of consciousness. Your life as a human being will acquire a meaning and a purpose only when you realise that consciousness. Enquiries relating to worldly matters are meaningless and are an exercise in futility. The physical body has birth, growth, decay and death, but the atma has no such qualities. It is the eternal witness to everything in this Universe. It is eternal, without birth or death. It has no beginning, no middle and no end. It is omnipresent.
Look, there are several electric light bulbs glowing here in this room. Though the bulbs are of different sizes, colours and capacity, the electrical energy manifesting as light through them is one and the same. Similarly, the same divine power is present in every living being and this power makes everything function. That power is the atma. I often refer to the terms Sathya (Truth), Dharma (Right Conduct), Shanthi (Peace) and Prema (Love). Sathya is the electricity, Dharma is the wire through which the electric current passes, Shanthi is the bulb and Prema is the effulgence. If you want to attain atmic bliss you have to follow Sathya and Dharma. That is why the ancient culture of Bharat exhorted Humanity to always speak the Truth and to practise Right Conduct. In contrast to this noble principle, what is happening in the world today? Truth is being killed and right conduct is being imprisoned. No, this is not humanness. So always speak the truth and observe right conduct.
The human body, which is like a water bubble, is bound to burst one day or another. Therefore it is vital that you realize the atma, which is both real and eternal, and you will recognize the atma not with your physical eye, but with the eye of wisdom. Then the question arises as to what is wisdom? Is it physical knowledge or secular knowledge or is it knowledge relating to the objects of nature? No, it is none of these. Experiencing the principle of non-dualism is true wisdom. Today, people are going mad in the search for spiritual knowledge. They are adopting umpteen numbers of practices and bodily postures and they are calling this spiritual practice, but none of these will help them to realise the atma. What is important is Prema (Love), which is the undercurrent of all forms of spiritual practice. In order to realise the perishable nature of the physical body, one has to realise the indweller of the body, which is none other than the eternal atma. The physical body is made up of five elements and is bound to perish sooner or later, but the indweller of the body experiences neither birth nor death. The indweller has no attachment whatsoever and is the eternal witness. Truly speaking, the indweller, which is in the form of the atma, is verily God Himself.
The true and eternal atma is immanent in your own physical body. You have to gradually give up attachment to this body and try to cultivate love towards the atma. Misguidedly you think you are your body and you develop attachment to it. So long as the process of inhalation and exhalation of the breath continues in the body, you consider it as yours, but once that process comes to an end, you do not know what is happening around you. The human body, though of a perishable nature, teaches one great lesson, namely, "SOHAM". When you inhale your breath, you make the sound "So", and when you exhale your breath, you make the sound "Ham". The inhaling process represents life and the exhaling process represents death. So if you wish to overcome life and death, one moment is enough! You have to give up body attachment, which I demonstrate before you day in and day out. This body, which I have taken upon myself, is undergoing several types of suffering. Just as you suffer from physical ailments, so my body suffers too, but I do not attach any importance to this suffering. I do not feel any suffering. In fact, it is only if I were to choose to identify with my body that I would undergo pain, and since I am not my body, I do not suffer any pain.
You should try to realize that you are separate from your body. You should not attach any importance to the suffering of your body. Some time back some surgeons performed a major orthopaedic operation on this body, but I did not suffer any pain. Whatever pain was there, only my body suffered, not me. If you adopt a similar attitude, and reduce your attachment to your body, you too will not feel any pain. All those objects, which you consider as yours, have to be discarded one day or another. When you do not consider something as yours, you do not feel any pain when you discard it. The body is, after all, only a conglomeration of senses. So say to yourself, "Whatever happens is happening to my body, and not to me." When you adopt such an attitude you will get peace. For example, if an ant bites you on your hand, if you try to scratch it, you will have more pain. So why should you have to suffer so much on account of a small insect like an ant biting your body? It is only because you are under the illusion that you are your body. The eyes see something, but what they see may not be real, since it is bound to undergo change after some time. The ears hear something, but what they hear may not be real, since it is bound to undergo change after some time. In just the same way, the food that you eat will also undergo change after only a few hours. There is nothing that is permanent in this world. You have to realise this truth. You have to enquire as to what it is that remains unchanged in the past, the present and the future. It is the eternal atma.
Most of you are undertaking some sort of sadhana or spiritual practice. What exactly is the real meaning of sadhana? Sadhana is not merely the acquiring of knowledge of the nature of the physical body. In fact you should forget about the physical body and concentrate on the acquiring of knowledge of atmic bliss. How do you attain this bliss? It can be attained only through Prema or Love. If you have pure love, all your suffering will be removed. Therefore cultivate pure and selfless love. Suppose you meet someone who you do not like. If you continue to dislike him and walk away from him, considering him as your enemy, the distance between you and him will increase further. On the other hand, if you greet him lovingly, saying "Hello! How are you?" naturally he will respond with love. Thus, when you both greet each other lovingly, there is no scope for dislike persisting anymore. As is your feeling towards others, so is their feeling towards you. The same idea is contained in the Vedic declaration "As is your feeling, so shall you become." Today people are directing all their negative feelings against others, but you should not bear ill will against anybody. Remember that whatever negative feelings are there, they are just passing clouds. They come and they go. The sun is not visible when you are under thick clouds, but the moment the clouds move away, the sun becomes visible. Similarly, when you move away from your negative feelings, you will experience the sunlight of pure love. You can achieve anything in this world with love. In fact you can get the entire world under your control through love. So remember, all worldly matters are like passing clouds. Therefore do not be overly concerned with them. Love is your sole refuge, wherever you may be, in the forest, in the sky, in a city or a village, on the top of a mountain or in the middle of the deep sea. Wherever you may be, divine love will always protect you. So cultivate such a type of love. That is the real meaning of sadhana or spiritual practice.
You are all embodiments of Divine Atma! The atma is divine. Never forget this fact. Some people find happiness in physical practices, but the pleasure they derive out of them is only physical and is temporary in nature. All that is associated with time is bound to disappear one day or the other. You have to attach yourself to that which is permanent, eternal and real. God's Love is beyond all description. It is supreme. On the other hand physical love is momentary and is associated with physical relationships. Whatever is associated with the body comes and goes, but pure and selfless love, which emerges from the heart, comes and grows. You have to cultivate such love. It will never diminish. You do not have to beg for this love from anyone. You cannot purchase this love from a shop, since it is not a saleable commodity. God is the only source from which love flows. It is available only in His shop. Therefore find a way to reach Him. Unfortunately, today, people do not aspire to acquire such pure love, in spite of the fact of being very near to the source of such love. They do not even realise that this invaluable gift is available right in front of them. People crave for worldly favours and objects, thinking there is great happiness in possessing them, but such things can never give real happiness. The happiness arising out of worldly things is only momentary. Only God's love is the eternal principle. Therefore always seek God's Love. You cannot get it from anywhere else except God.
God's Love is the only Truth. It will never change, so worship such changeless Truth and seek refuge in that Truth. That is the only real practice for attaining liberation. What does 'attaining liberation' mean? Does it mean living in some palatial building in heaven above? No, not at all. True liberation comes from getting rid of body attachment. Once you get rid of body attachment, you will naturally develop renunciation, which will ultimately lead you to liberation. Love is the only path that can lead you to liberation. You should have desire for God and nothing else. You should not get entangled in worldly relationships. That is true wisdom. Without people of merit and wisdom, how can there be light in the world? However wisdom cannot be acquired from individuals. It can be acquired only by developing a love for God. One may acquire a high academic qualification, one may attain an exalted position in society, one may amass wealth, perform acts of charity and attain name and fame, one may have great physical strength and enjoy a long and healthy life, one may be a great scholar studying and preaching the Vedas, but none of them can equal a true devotee of God. A worldly education may help you to eke out a good living, but it cannot impart true wisdom. Only knowledge of the Self can grant you everlasting happiness. Of course secular education is essential if you are to take care of your physical needs. You should not give it up altogether. Worldly education is negative in polarity and spiritual education is positive in polarity, like the electrical current. Both are essential for happiness here and in the hereafter. You should become masters in both forms of knowledge, both secular and spiritual, but always remember that only atmic knowledge is the true knowledge. Once you acquire it, you will have acquired everything else.