Spirituality vs Religion

Featured


Whilst it is perfectly feasible that a religious person is able to display certain spiritual characteristics, and would also undertake some kind of spiritual practice, one who is spiritually awake has no need for a fear-based belief system. Hence, for the one who has awakened no religion is necessary.

Pic For Blog

Swami Moves In Mysterious Ways – Part Three (contd)


Here is the final section of my “saga”, Swami Moves In Mysterious Ways.

As ever, if you have missed the previous posts you will find links to them below.

Swami Moves In Mysterious Ways – Part One http://wp.me/p1qAeL-10J

Swami Moves In Mysterious Ways – Part Two http://wp.me/p1qAeL-114

Swami Moves In Mysterious Ways – Part Three, Section Onehttp://wp.me/p1qAeL-11J”

Day Two (contd)

423297_234955806591427_100002310285648_548531_1772079163_nAs you can imagine I was blown away by that. Baba was letting me know via the experience that he is the master of all; the “doer”. I really didn’t have any control over my life; and that was a frightening feeling I can tell you. But now the sun had risen in my heart and I was off inside the canteen for some food. All of a sudden I had my appetite back and I had a feast fit for a king. It was a bit more expensive than the South Indian canteen but still very cheap indeed. When I’d finished eating I went outside and sat on the long concrete bench that was built into the wall by the entrance door.

There was an Indian man sitting next to me, and I couldn’t help noticing that he was wearing western style shoes with socks. It may seem like a stupid thing to notice, but up until then, every male Indian I’d seen was either bare footed or wearing flip-flops. All of a sudden he spoke to me; he said his name was Sunil and he came from Bangalore. He explained that he was not particularly spiritual and did not stay on the ashram. He just loved coming to Prashanthi, so he visited once or twice a year and stayed in accommodation in the village. We had a really good chat; he was a very nice man and seemed to understand what I’d experienced.

Most importantly, he managed to put my mind at rest with regard to the military presence and the sub-machine guns etc. He explained that a very high-ranking government minister had been visiting the ashram in order to seek Baba’s guidance; hence there was extra security because of the threat of terrorism. It was such a relief to hear that and I realised straight away that the encounter was just another scene in Swami’s play, but Sunil REALLY was a Godsend. He asked if I’d been into the village at all, and when I said I hadn’t, he offered to show me around. I was really grateful for this. Alas, all good things must come to an end and eventually he had to get on with his day and we parted company. That was the one and only time I saw him, but from then on everything fell into place.

Evening darshan had been another incredible experience, with Swami pulling on my heart again just before he came out and my eyes welling up with tears of joy. I did miss the shop again, but it didn’t matter and I eventually sorted out my clothing on day three. After darshan, I went back to the Western canteen for my evening meal. Whilst in there I encountered a Croatian man named Goran who was looking for a room-mate. So the next day I was able to transfer from the dormitory to room C19 in one of the blocks. My second and final night in DD2 was another sleepless one, but I didn’t care. I got on really well with Goran and from day three onwards my sleep pattern returned to normal.

I met many amazing people during my time at Prashanthi and of all the things I learned there are two that stand out. Firstly, our “abode of the highest peace” is anywhere we choose to make it, and…

Swami most certainly does move in mysterious ways.

Jai Sai Ram

Swami Moves In Mysterious Ways – Part Three


As I said in the previous post, I never expected this article to be so long; and now even this third and final part is far longer than I anticipated. In view of this, and to keep the reader’s interest, I’ve decided to post Part Three in two sections. I will post the second section tomorrow.

If you missed Parts One and Two, please click on the links below to view.

Swami Moves In Mysterious Ways – Part One http://wp.me/p1qAeL-10J

Swami Moves In Mysterious Ways – Part Two http://wp.me/p1qAeL-114

Day Two

Handing out sacred ashI continued to lay there wondering if I would ever get to sleep again and gradually the other devotees in the beds near to me started to get up. We chatted and I mentioned that I still hadn’t slept; I was also starting to feel guilty that I had travelled thousands of miles to the ashram of “God in human form”, yet I’d not engaged in any meditation or reading of spiritual texts. My new friends pointed out to me that I would not be able to function without sleep and they encouraged me to remain in bed. By now it was 07:00 am and they were all going out into their day. I decided to take the advice, and to my pleasant surprise, I actually managed to drop off to sleep. I awoke again around 11:00 am and went for a shower; I decided that I needed to solve the problem of my clothing and have another go at familiarising myself with the ashram. Yes, most definitely the previous day had been nothing short of a surreal nightmare. But having said that, in amongst all the confusion and fear I’d had an incredible inner experience with my loving God man, Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

I ventured out into the ashram and immediately I was met with a continuation of the previous day. The heat, the pushing and shoving and the blisters; I was in despair. I felt more and more fearful and vulnerable as the morning turned to afternoon; I was completely lost, unable to make head or tail of what was happening to me.
There are little kiosks dotted about the ashram at various locations where you can get a coffee; tiny cardboard cups for 6 Rupees. Whenever I stood in the queue I would have someone come and blatantly stand in front of me, or simply shove me out of the way before standing in front of me. It just helped to pile on the agony. At some point I felt at rock-bottom, and I got myself one of the little cups of coffee, sat down on a wall and started to cry. I felt like I had been reduced to zero; like I had no life of my own. I felt as though I was being worked by a puppet master. Many of you reading this may be familiar with the old Thunderbirds programme, where you could actually see the strings on the puppets; well I really did feel that I was a puppet that was being controlled by strings. I felt as though I was in the grip of a power so mighty, that I had no control whatsoever of my movements. I’d tried to settle myself in to ashram life but at every turn of the corner I was met with a brick wall.

As I sat on the wall crying, my life, metaphorically, flashed before me. I felt so insignificant, so tiny and so worthless; like I had less significance than a single grain of sand in the Sahara desert. Everything I’d ever done; all my spiritual work of the previous seven years, in fact, my whole life felt worthless and completely and utterly meaningless. I just did not have a clue what I was going to do. At some point I got up and started wandering around again.

I don’t remember when exactly, but after hobbling around for a while I stumbled across the Western canteen by “accident”. I realised that I’d hardly eaten anything since the meal in the South Indian canteen the previous day. I felt ready for some food and thought it might perk me up, but I had no idea as I walked up the pathway that Swami was about to pick me up and dust me down. As I neared the entrance I could see that there was some writing etched into the stone wall just to the right of the doorway. Out of curiosity I stopped to read what it said and it was then that I realised that all my nightmares had been nothing more than Swami’s play. He’d led me along that pathway in order to bring me to this moment. As I perused the writing I just couldn’t believe what I was reading. All of a sudden the penny dropped. I had doubted Swami because I’d allowed my mind and my ego to rule me; now as I read I could see that my beloved Baba had no choice but to use “tough love” in order to help his child. What I was reading was Baba’s Surrender Prayer. If you are not familiar with it allow me to enlighten you.

Sai Baba’s Surrender Prayer

Why get agitated? Let Me take care of all your business. I shall be the one who will think about them. I am waiting for nothing else than your surrender to Me, and then you do not have to worry anymore about anything. Say farewell to all fears and discouragement. You demonstrate that you do not trust Me. On the contrary, you must rely blindly on Me. To surrender means: To turn your thoughts away from troubles, to turn them away from difficulties you encounter and from all your problems. Leave everything into My hands saying “Lord, Thy will be done, you think of it”. That is to say: “Lord I thank you for you have taken everything in your hands, and you will resolve this for my highest good”.

Remember that thinking of the consequences of a thing is contrary to surrender. That is to say, when you worry that a situation has not had the desired outcome, you thus demonstrate that you do not believe in My love for you. You will prove that you do not consider your life to be under My control and that nothing escapes Me. Never think: How is this to end? What is going to happen? If you give in to this temptation, you demonstrate that you do not trust Me. Do you want Me to deal with it…yes or no? Then you must stop being anxious about it! I shall guide you only if you completely surrender to Me and when I must lead you into a different path than the one you expect, I carry you in my arms.

What seriously upsets you is your reasoning, your worrying, your obsession, your will to provide for yourselves at any price. I can do so many things when the being, as much in his material necessities as in his spiritual ones, turns to Me saying: “You think of it”, then he closes his eyes and rests quietly. You will receive a lot but only when your prayer will rely fully upon Me. You pray to Me when in pain so that I intervene, but in the way you desire it. You do not rely on Me, but you want Me to adjust to your requests.

Don’t believe like sick ones who ask a treatment of the doctor, all the time suggesting it to him. Do not do that: But rather, even in sad circumstances, say: “Lord I praise and thank you for this problem, for this necessity. I pray you to arrange things as you please for this terrestrial and temporal life; you know very well what is best for me. Sometimes you feel that disasters increase instead of diminish. Do not get agitated. Close your eyes and tell me with faith: “Thy will be done. You think of it”, and when you speak thus, I accomplish a miracle when necessary. I only think of it when you trust me totally. I always think of you, but I can only help you completely when you fully rely on me.

Stay tuned for section two tomorrow…

Swami Moves In Mysterious Ways – Part Two


For those who missed Part One of this article please click on the link below.

Swami Moves In Mysterious Ways – Part One http://ow.ly/yFqc3

I did not realise when I started writing this post that it would be as long, so it is going to have to be in three parts and not two. Sai Ram

Day One

528005_468829299795099_657908821_nThe taxi driver directed me to the appropriate block and then off he went on his way. A rather stern and extremely efficient seva dal booked me in, and before I could blink, a coolie grabbed my bag and proceeded to lead me to my “hotel”. When I arrived at block DD2 I could not believe my eyes. It was dormitory accommodation at its most basic! Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think for one minute that it was beneath me, it’s just that I thought I’d left dormitories behind when I left the army all those years ago. The beds were the single metal-framed type and the mattresses had been used by countless devotees over the months and years; the communal facilities were down at the far end.

A rather kindly seva dal must have sensed I was feeling disorientated and confused and he helped me find a decent mattress. Another devotee gave me a spare mosquito net, so all I needed was a shower and some suitable clothing. It was such a relief to get my smelly jeans off and get in the shower. I changed into a pair of lounge pants I’d brought with me and some flip-flops and decided to go and familiarise myself with the ashram and purchase some appropriate clothing. The only problem was that the lounge pants were too big for me and they had no pockets and by the time I got to the shop I realised that it was only open at certain times and I’d missed out; I would have to carry on as I was until the next day.

I couldn’t believe how busy the ashram was; I was getting jostled everywhere I went. It seemed that every corner I turned I was getting pushed and shoved; it was like being in the crowd at a football match. I found this quite intimidating, especially with the lack of sleep; yes, it was turning out to be quite an experience. All of a sudden I was thousands of miles from home and my life seemed to have been turned completely on its head; my comfort zone had been exchanged for searing heat, pushing and shoving, no sleep, confusion, more heat, more pushing and shoving; and I was now feeling even more disorientated and vulnerable. What I also found disturbing was the massive police and military presence on the ashram. After all, was this not The Abode of The Highest Peace? What was with all the machine guns and rifles? I was getting more confused by the minute.

At some stage I wandered past the South Indian canteen, and thinking that it was about time I ate something, I purchased some food coupons from the nearby kiosk and ventured in. I couldn’t believe how cheap the food was; just very simple vegetarian food and it tasted wonderful. I then wandered out again to face another buffeting from the hoards. By this time I’d realised that my Western flip-flops were not suitable for trudging about in all day and I was now limping from all the blisters on the bottom of my feet. One good thing was that I had established where darshan was to take place and at the appropriate time I hobbled over to the Sai Kulwant Hall in the hope that I might make make some sense of all the confusion.

At this early stage I had not been educated in the practice of laying a cushion down after morning darshan in order to reserve a place in the line for evening darshan; all that was to come. Instead I hobbled up to the entrance and was amazed to find that I had to undergo a body search before being allowed in. Now I REALLY was struggling to take it all in. There was already thousands of people seated in the hall and I made my way to a spot that gave me a good view of the mandir. This bit was quite strange because on one hand I felt like a little boy lost, my feet were killing me from the blisters, and being a big softy Westerner, I didn’t get on with having to sit for ages on a hard concrete floor either; to say I was uncomfortable was an understatement. But on the other hand, the Vedic chanting was beautiful; I’d never heard it before, and then all of a sudden it happened. I felt a pulling sensation from within my chest as though someone was actually reaching inside me and pulling on my heart. Then my eyes welled up with tears of joy. I remember thinking to myself, “it must be Swami, Swami must be coming”.

A few moments later, sure enough, I saw his tiny frame appear in the distance as he was wheeled into the hall. This was my first ever sight of the Avatar and I had the most incredible feeling of love come over me; a feeling that I’d never experienced before. I was quite a distance away from Baba, but I could see him clearly and he even seemed to position himself on the mandir in such a way that I had clear sight of him. I knew that he knew I was there and I knew that he did this especially for me. I just wished that I could have made sense of all the other stuff. When darshan was over I struggled to my feet and hobbled towards the exit. As I did so, one of the many resident pigeons in Sai Kulwant Hall emptied the contents of its bowels all over my arm. “Just about sums up my day”, I thought, as I limped on my way.

The other devotees in my vicinity in DD2 were very helpful; they understood what I was experiencing, but there was a lesson to be learned here. I had been thinking that the ashram should have been called “The Abode Of The Biggest Hassle You Ever Experienced In Your Life”, and not “The Abode Of The Highest Peace”. However, in the bed next to me was an oriental man. He never spoke to anybody, although if you spoke to him he would answer but would not engage in conversation. I couldn’t help but observe his behaviour. All he did was read his spiritual texts, meditate and sleep. He would kneel on the floor and use his bed as a table and read his book of scripture, whatever book it was. He always seemed at peace regardless. That first night in the dormitory was a nightmare for me; I still never slept a wink, so how did HE do it?

My oriental friend had a pre-bedtime meditation and immediately fell asleep. It was as though I was being told that my “Abode Of The Highest Peace” was wherever I made it; and my friend certainly was at peace. I realised afterwards that Swami had engineered the whole thing and that I was being shown that it is possible to find peace wherever you are, if you are spiritually awakened enough to transcend the “nonsense” of the material world. At the time I could not understand how that man managed to find so much peace; the noise in the dormitory at night was unbelievable. There was people coughing and snoring, and getting up to use the facilities. The door into the communal toilets was on a spring, and every time someone got up to use the amenities you heard an almighty BANG as the spring door slammed shut. I tossed and turned all night, my mind dancing around all over the place and playing all kinds of tricks on me. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever sleep again as the first devotees started to get up at around 03:30. The oriental man was one of them. He awoke and immediately had a meditation before getting on with his day.

I did not think that I could sink any lower, but Swami had other ideas, and in the third and final part of this story I will tell you all about it.

You Are Your Own Bible


Every word that has ever been written is contained within you. Every answer to every question that has ever been asked is contained within you. Every emotion, every feeling that has ever been felt is contained within you. You are a walking, breathing example of the spirit expressing itself. You yourself are your own Bible.

12602677_l

Swami Moves In Mysterious Ways – Part One


ATTAAMI mentioned in a post a few months back that I was going to revisit some older writings; the reason being that in the last year or so I’ve acquired many new blog followers who will not be familiar with my earlier work. The story I’m going to share with you first appeared in my book, Astral Travelling, The Avatar and Me, which was published in 2009. That book is now out of print, but a second edition was published in early 2013 with a new title, The Amazing Journey, and an extra chapter. Obviously, the account posted here is not a word-for-word repeat of what appeared in those two books, but rather a brand new post specially written for the blog. I hope you enjoy it!

Swami first came into my life in 2001 and things have never been the same since; well you wouldn’t expect them to be, would you? In 2003 I had it in my head that I was going to go to Prashanthi Nilayam, but Swami obviously had other ideas and my life went off in another direction. However, cue 2009 and I received the inner calling from our beloved Lord; and what followed was a truly amazing and somewhat surreal experience.

I managed to get a really cheap direct flight from Heathrow to Bangalore and my Sai brother, Satyan, arranged a taxi for me at the other end. My other friend had said that I could stay at her flat in Swindon the night before my departure as it was much easier for me to travel from Swindon than where I live in Tetbury. So all was going to go swimmingly well, wasn’t it? Well wasn’t it? I think you know what is coming next. Yes, correct! My idea of a plan in no way resembled the plan of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. So, my dear readers sit back, relax, fasten your seat belts and enjoy the ride…

Swami, Sri Sathya Sai Baba blessing a devotee

Swami, Sri Sathya Sai Baba blessing a devotee

I’d had to sleep on the floor in the living room of my friend’s tiny flat, which wasn’t a problem at all, but I suppose coupled with the excitement of the journey, I had no more than two hours sleep. I had a wonderful flight; it was my first long haul and I was very pleasantly surprised how enjoyable it was, but I had no sleep on the plane either, for no particular reason; it just didn’t seem to happen. So by the time I landed in Bangalore I’d had about 2 hours sleep in the last 48, but no big deal; after all, everything was going to go swimmingly, wasn’t it?

I exited the airport at around midnight local time, and I soon realised (to my horror) that in amongst the throng of people waiting at the exit for passengers, and who were holding up signs with the passenger’s name’s on, there was no one holding up a sign with my name. My fears were soon confirmed when in a fairly short space of time I was the only person left waiting at the exit. “Billy-No-Mates Westerner” standing out like a sore thumb, thousands of miles from home! Sure enough I soon attracted attention; from airport security, because no loitering is allowed due to the constant terrorist threats in India, and from local “Del Boy” taxi staff on the lookout for gullible Westerners to overcharge for the journey to Baba’s ashram in Puttaparthi. I think I fitted that bill admirably, I couldn’t have been a better candidate; even if I’d had “mug” tattooed on my forehead! To cut a long story short, I had the mobile number for the taxi driver and the security staff phoned him on my behalf. It turned out that my dear friend Satyan had given him the wrong flight details so he wasn’t expecting me until the next day. He told the security staff that he was “on his way”, but it soon transpired that in India the phrase, “I’m on my way”, means something completely different from what it does in England. I should say before we go any further, that my account of events is quite drastically truncated; there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to add all the minute detail of everything that happened to me. But, nonetheless, I’m sure you will have a good idea by the time this article is finished.

I was told by security that I needed to wait on some benches by a kiosk that was to my left of the airport exit, and the taxi driver would meet me there. Well time ticked by, daylight broke and I was beginning to wonder if my taxi would ever turn up. It got to the point where I got fed up waiting and decided to find my own taxi. Wrong move! Cue Swami and one of his famous leelas. I was immediately accosted by intrepid folk who wanted me to take one of their taxis. Accosting quickly turned to harassment, and with my lack of sleep I soon became hot and bothered; to the extent that I nearly took up their offer until I saw the car they wanted me to travel in. My change of mind made their harassment more intense and I struggled back in the direction of the benches with my heavy bag. Just as I was approaching (taxi folk in hot pursuit) I saw a man waving at me; he was also clutching a piece of paper to his chest. As I got closer I breathed a sigh of relief when I noticed the words “Mr Richard” written on the aforementioned piece of paper. My taxi had arrived. I’d exited the airport at midnight; it was now 07:00 am!

It soon became very clear that the whole business had been engineered by Swami. Had there been no mix-up I would have travelled to Prashanthi in darkness; and thus would have missed all the wondrous sights that now unfolded before my eyes, like a play; being acted out scene by scene in accordance with a script that had been written with meticulous precision. It was my first trip to this amazing land and in the three and a half hours or so it took for us to arrive at the ashram I must have witnessed virtually every single aspect of Indian culture.

I saw Red Kites flying gracefully above; I witnessed the colour and the bustle of the small towns and villages we passed through, bullock carts sharing the roads with the cars and trucks. Unfortunately, not everything I saw was welcoming to the eye, such as the poverty; I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. However, the most distressing sight that I saw was when we passed through one small town and I saw a group of women in the back of a smallish open-backed truck. At first glance they reminded me of cattle that had been herded onto the back of the vehicle. There was a man standing on the running board at the back berating one of the women, and as we drove past he struck her. I couldn’t believe my eyes; but the look of pain on the woman’s face confirmed that I wasn’t dreaming.

After stopping for refreshment in the town of Chikkaballapur we arrived at the ashram gates at 10:30 am. Taxis are not normally allowed in but the driver explained to the seva dals (stewards) on the gate that I had never been to Prashanthi before, so he was permitted to drive me up to the accommodation office. By now, my head was in a spin, due to a combination of having had no sleep, for what seemed like a lifetime, and the incredible sights I’d seen en route from the airport. The sun was beating down now too and for the first time I was experiencing the incredibly fierce Indian heat. I’d worn jeans for the journey and spilt coffee down them on the plane; needless to say, as well as feeling as though I was being cooked in the thick denim the odour from the coffee stains wasn’t exactly pleasant on the nose either.

Little did I know that my adventure was barely beginning, and in Part Two, I will share with you how Swami reduced me to zero before picking me up again and showering me in his grace.

Sai Ram.

TAJ-Final Version-EB