Sai Labor Day Retreat 2016
Living the Sai Life
Speaker – Dr. Axay Kalathia
Dr. Kalathia grew up in the US and first heard about Sathya Sai Baba while a skeptical college student in 1985. With Swami's Grace, he was drawn into His fold and first visited Prashanti Nilayam in 1988. Over the years he has been active in the Sai organization, serving as an SSE teacher, YA advisor, service coordinator, vice president, and president at the St. Petersburg Sai Center (now the Tampa Bay Sai Center). He has also served as the Region 3 YA advisor, VP, and president, and is currently the regional devotional coordinator. Since 2000 he has been privileged to travel annually to serve in Swami's General Hospital in Puttaparthi as an ENT physician. He is married to Calice and they have four children, two graduate students, one college student, and one in high school. Born in Mumbai, the family moved to New Jersey, US. when he was 6 yrs. His mother was always very spiritual organizing special pujas for him on each birthday! These were not quite appreciated at the time! He preferred to love the sciences! However, 'He hooks, and then He cooks.' And it was not long before he was 'hooked'.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, before I start transcribing my notes on Dr. Axay's wonderful and uplifting talk, I would like to say a word about the space in which all this took place. Our officers had done an amazing job the day before, creating a simply beautiful temple, decorated to perfection, with an attention to detail that was quite stunning and that Swami can only have been very pleased with. Also present was Swami's very large upright chair, carved in some very attractive wood, and this took center stage. Behind him were magnificent drapes in dark red with many folds, each one looking quite perfect – nothing out of order. And all round beautiful flowers. Up above were all the symbols of the world's religions, and to the right Swami's usual large picture, looking so lovingly on us all. If you look at this picture long enough it seems to come alive and the kindness radiates so lovingly from Swami's eyes.
The Young Adults also gave a riveting presentation on waste and re-cycling.
Living the Sai Life, in other words, said Dr. Axay, live the way Swami wants us to live.
And that means we must deal with three very important impediments on the Path:
i. Anger. And respect others, particularly the elders. Then anger will be difficult to feel.
ii. Pride. Swami ignores me on one of my first visits. This was probably intentional
iii. Jealousy. Easy to be jealous of others who get interviews. Swami shows you your vices!
1. Puttaparthi is a workshop and I became sick. But when you suffer well you get a
2. Reward. I was depressed. Then I surrendered, let go. And Swami took my letter and invited me to do Padnamaskar.
3. To say 'surrender' is not true surrender. Surrender means you have to be ready for any result.
The story of the householder who was exceptionally thrifty. The husband was so careful, so frugal, that he always saved some bread for the following day. There always enough bread every day. Finally, he learnt that his frugality was not trusting God. Sometimes it is not necessary to be so frugal; we must learn to discriminate and enjoy the times that are good and plentiful.
4. Humility: this is the true mark of education. I went to Puttaparthi to serve as a doctor. I had planned to offer my services, which were surely needed, I thought. However, while there I learned I could not do anything without supporting staff. Lesson: we are supported by society. (Rugged individualism is an illusion – your reporter)
The physicians I worked with were wonderful role models. And Swami is the best role model. One day, seeing all the seva dals were very busy with tasks, Swami went and arranged all the shoes in neat rows. I became very impressed with how Swami could read my mind. But then I became more impressed with Swami's humility, e.g in allowing so many people to have Padnamaskar. I am reminded of the stories of Jesus, how he touched the lepers and embraced them. A humble man is not afraid to exalt others. And in certain circumstances to allow them to take the credit. Humility means strength.
5. Unity. We are strong in unity in nature, e.g. look at the formation of geese flying. Research has shown that the lead goose creates a down draught which allows the others to fly more easily. Apparently, all the geese take turns in this lead position. When together there is a synergy in their flying.
Man must study man; look at how the body works together. The body is all one entity, e.g the fingers and thumb; together they accomplish much; individually they accomplish nothing.
Process is more important than result. Always ask ourselves: am I being sensitive to my brothers and sisters, to everyone else?
In 1983 Swami visited a village. 'The villagers are very backward today,' He told His seva dals. 'The first requisite to remove this obstacle is Unity among the villagers.' (The Unity church is similar to Swami's teaching in this regard.)
In 1988 Swami said that members of the Sai organization should consider Unity as their life's breath.
6. Sacrifice – part of Love. Giving up your separation in love is Sacrifice. When you give you obtain. E.g. not being called for interview and not feeling angry, jealous, etc.
The story of Ramanaj. He begged his guru for a mantra that would liberate him. The guru steadfastly refused. However, Ramanaj was persistent. Finally, the guru gave Ramanaj a mantra that would liberate him, would make him self-realized. But he warned him that he must on no account give it to anyone else. Ramanaj practiced the mantra, and did indeed become self-realized. He was in ecstasy, and went around very happy, full of joy. Then he became sad for all other human beings not also being in the same state as himself, and so gave them all the mantra. The guru, seeing this was humbled, and realized that Ramanj had a great love and kindness and that he was doing good to the world. I give you my special mantra: Love, Smile, Now. Have love of God, fear sin, be moral and live in society. This is never enough for us; we want kundalini, the esoteric, the fancy.
Sage Narada was once with Krishna in His chambers. Krishna had a headache. No-one would give the dust of their feet, which, He said, was the only thing that would cure him. Everyone was horrified at the thought of Krishna handling the dust off their feet. Only the gopis had no fear and they offered the dust off their feet.
When Swami was a child He always demonstrated the principle of Sacrifice; he gave away the food his mother had cooked for him. He went to school and rushed home in His lunch break to cook for His grandfather. The example of Him arranging the slippers and shoes of devotees is another example. We all need to learn this if we are to develop and progress.
Sacrifice is true Spirituality.
Sacrifice is serving in the Seva programs
Sacrifice is going to Study Circle, showing up.
Sacrifice in Study Circle is being willing to listen.
7. God has a Sense of Humor. Swami is a divine comedian!
i. I have only had limited interaction with Swami. Nevertheless I have had enough to have learned much. There is a story that in the late '40s and '50s Swami picked up the old devotees and made jokes with them. One devotee was enjoying eating some dosas he had been given, and then, when he had finished, he was horrified to learn he had broken a cardinal rule - they had contained eggs! 'Swami cracked up' at the sight of this!
ii. Food preparation by a lower caste. Mr. Reddy, after inadvertently eating food prepared by a lower caste, was uncomfortable and cleaned his teeth afterwards. Swami had laughed. But it was done with love. Swami explained that value should always trump ritual and beliefs, i.e it is more important to honor another human being rather than stick rigidly to hurtful and undignified beliefs and rituals.
iii. Kasturi went with Swami to Benares. He asked Swami for a mantra, 'to make me closer to You.' Swami did not give him one. Looking at their arms which were touching one another, Swami asked Kasturi, 'how much closer to Me do you want to get?'
(If I remember correctly, this anecdote was about Swami's photo; someone very much wanted to be
iv. photographed with Swami. – your reporter) Be careful what you crave. Do not crave temporary glory.
On another occasion, Swami was with His students while they were eating. It was a merry party, with Swami playing and bantering with them.
Kasturi was a wonderful translator, but on this occasion Swami had instructed a student to tell him his translations were not very good. Kasturi was disappointed to be told this. Swami upsets people for a reason. We must learn from this.
8. Association with God makes everything easier and better. It's not what we think. Yes, we must strive for perfection (without becoming a perfectionist), but more importantly we must love God. Have love for the Atma – Infinite Bliss.
9. Role Models. I had wonderful parents. Secondly, the Sai center gave me many role models. These two were my best role models. Esther (an old lady in my Sai center) taught me so much.
Faith and Devotion are the greatest values.
'What do you want?' Swami had asked. Faith and Devotion. 'I have the whole universe in My hand!' We must have absolute faith in Swami.
Dr. Alrejeh did not do anything without consulting with Swami.
10. Appearance is very important. We must set the example, e.g. I always turn up to work clean shaven and wearing clean clothes. This is what my patients expect, and I cannot let them down.
Swami's boys must not mingle with Swami's girls. This is part of Swami's education. Thus, one day a brother and sister (both students of Swami's) set off on a long drive (perhaps to Bangalore). Since most people would not know they were brother and sister, the sister had to sit in the back out of sight.
'The smile on the face is the blooming of joy; it lifts those whom you smile on.'
Be tolerant of those you interact with.
11. Faith is an important part of the healing process. I will tell you the story of the two frogs in the well. These two frogs fell into a well. They were not able to get out, however high they jumped. Soon, some people came along and seeing how steep and high the wall of the well was, they started calling out to the two frogs to give up and accept their fate. The frogs tried a few more times. Finally, one of them gave up, stopped jumping and died. The other one, however, did not give up, even though the people were frantically calling to it to accept defeat. By some stroke of good fortune the second frog gave a tremendous leap and did make it onto dry land. The people were astonished. However, they asked him why he had not followed their advice like the first frog. It transpired that this frog was deaf, and thought that all the waving arms were encouraging him on to greater leaps! This points to the power of belief. If we believe in something then anything can be achieved.
And, further, it is the mind that cures disease. So, why have a hospital? Why does Swami build hospitals? Because of the faith of the people in this approach to treatment. It is for those who have faith in hospitals. Cure is mostly based on the faith of the patient. Doctors should love the patient, have compassion for them.
SECOND DAY - Sunday, September 4th.
The Stages of Life.
A. The Y.A. (Young Adult) stage (Brahma Charya – celibacy stage). I will tell the story of the cursed man. He was associating with some people who practiced a kind of voodoo. One of the 'magicians' took a dislike to this man and cursed him. He went home to great tribulation. He lost his job, his car, he had an accident, pictures fell off the walls of his house, etc. It was frightening havoc for the man. Rajagopam was visiting the center at that time and heard of the unfortunate, cursed man, and invited him to the center. The cursed man was reluctant to come. 'You are coming to this puja,' Rajagopam told him. He came. The puja was performed. And the curse was lifted! Again, we see the power of belief!
Service prevails in any profession. Being a doctor is not just a matter of how you do what you do. It is also the power of belief in service. I once had to treat a senior who had been depressed since Swami left the body. I advised him to read Swami literature at night time, just before sleep, and there you will find solace.
Yearning is beneficial. The anguish of separation from our nearest and dearest is the best sadhana. 'Be a lion, be courageous,' Swami said.
For long we have been riding our bicycles with the training wheels on. These have now been removed and instead Swami has supported us by hand, holding the saddles of our bikes. But now Swami has also removed His hand. We were ready for this when He left the body. 'Be joyful. Even when your relations pass on. Be happy!' Swami advised. Yearn, yearn (to change the world). Be happy!
Brahma Charya stage is the celibate stage, where you must constantly be remembering God.
The difference between a Sai student and an ordinary institute student: you have to pass My tests – the values; then you get My certificate, My Grace.
There are four basic teachings in the Brahma Charya stage:
Humility Do not talk about matters that you are not familiar with, not knowledgeable about.
It is dangerous to pretend you know something when you don't.
Strive to gain knowledge, and then impart it.
Honor the guru. What is the worth of worshipping the guru and then causing him pain, as the disciple did, when he was devotedly reciting his mantra, ignoring the knocks on his hut door of a poor old man (who was really the guru). The guru came, but the disciple was busy.
Regard Swami as our parent.
Devotion Have compassion and concern for all. Cultivate equanimity. Treat gain and loss equally. Follow Swami's teachings and examples, i.e. it is much more important to serve than to sit and worship Him.
Discipline is very important. Here is another story: a thief came to steal from Tanali's house. Tanali saw him, but carried on as though he had not and continued to the well. At the well he feigned choking and then spat at the bush behind which the thief was hiding. The aim was perfect and the spit hit the thief right in the face. The thief could not jump up, disgusted and shocked, because that would have given his game away. He remained hidden, motionless. He maintained his equanimity. This is what we have to do.
Swami saw good in Napoleon. He was disciplined, and that is the way of God. Napoleon could sleep for 10 minutes at will. He was even said to be able to cat nap on his horse. Napoleon had a conviction in God. (And actually he was more than a soldier; he did much good for France, including building a new Paris, now one of the most beautiful cities in the world, to which many people are drawn, because of its 'spiritual' architecture – your reporter.)
Service and Sacrifice. Young people must develop the spirit of sacrifice. And at all times attempt to be of service.
Here is another story. There was a poor student from Sikkim. He wanted to go to Swami's college, but he failed to get in. He rented a poor hut. At least, he thought, I am in the vicinity of God, in Swami's presence. Swami was, therefore, obliged to reward him. The poor student met a family also from Sikkim. The mother in this family encouraged him to apply again to Swami's college. But he had somewhere lost his application papers; they had fallen out of his suitcase. However, the papers were restored, he re-applied to Swami's college, and was accepted.
Real sacrifice consists in giving up jealousy, hatred, pride, etc. We get happiness in service projects. Being a regional officer has filled me with humility.
Another story: The YAs adopted a village high up in the mountains. They went into this village and asked the villagers what they most needed. 'We need water,' they told the students. They returned to P.N. and told Swami. 'Build a well,' Swami advised. But how to do that on a mountain side?
They acquired equipment and helpers and bored a hole in the ground. But hit no water, only hard rock. They were advised by the helpers to abandon the project, but they persisted and finally broke through the rock! However, the villagers did not immediately drink the water. First, they showed their gratitude to Swami, and only then did they drink the water from the new well. Lessons here: i) give what is needed; ii) have faith in Swami.
I have another story from the Kitchari Seva in the Bombay center. A YA came and watched and saw that a well-fed guy was among the guests. He wondered why he was going there for free food. So, he asked the supervisor (it is good to ask difficult questions, to be alert, if the intention is good). A seva dal shared the man's story: he had lost his job, and a choice lay before him of poverty for his family or become a thief. He started his new job and became a pick pocket. He worked on the trains, and soon discovered that his 'hours' were so inconvenient that there was no food available when he was not working. So, he started coming to the kitchari seva center. After a time he began to change, and stopped working as a pick pocket. The power of the prasad changed him. Transformation occurs in the recipients of prasad. (Presumably, the change also enabled him to secure another (moral) job, and presumably he still needed to eat at the Kitchari Seva center – your reporter.)
The story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible (Gospel of Luke) illustrates the point also. In this story a traveler is attacked and robbed by thieves; they take everything including his clothes, and he is left severely injured and naked by the side of the road. People pass him by, because they cannot identify his status in society without his clothes. No-one helps him. Finally, a samaritan (one of the tribes) passes by, and has the confidence to help him, even though the man may not be of the 'right' class. After binding his wounds he takes him to an inn, and pays the inn-keeper to look after him. The Good Samaritan comes back after some time to pay the inn-keeper the balance of what is owed. This is a good example of love in action. Do complete service.
Discipline is very important in the YA stage.
How do we control our senses?
Examine the transitory moment; then we can develop discrimination. What pleasure is this indulgence really going to give me?
Divert your senses to God. Direct every sense to God.
Exercise great control over the mind; do not let the senses control the mind.
Inquire as to the nature of your mind, then you will be able to control it. The mind is nothing but a bundle of thoughts, and desires are intertwined with the cloth of the mind.
What can we do? Think of God, think of Love from morning to night.
Do not forget God
Do not believe in this world.
Do not be afraid of death.
And we cannot acquire Love by sitting in meditation.
Don't let the body obey the undesirable thought. Immediately remove bad thoughts.
Today man is trying to get sound sleep, just as bad thoughts beset us. So sound sleep is difficult.
With our thoughts we can even cure the ills of others.
A student took on Swami in an arm-wrestling duel. We have to remember that Swami only has a slight body. However, He started to prevail over the student; another student came to his help. But even with two young students Swami's arm did not give; he prevailed over them both together. 'Well, you are using your divine powers,' they complained to him. 'No, I am not,' Swami told them. 'What you experienced was the power of purity.'
Meditation Three messages.
Cultivate love in meditation. Without this meditation is useless. Cultivate universal love. Realize the power of love.
Concern for others. Meditation can be selfish. Pray for the welfare of others.
Remember God in all places and on all occasions.
When you do all this, you will fear nothing and do no wrong.
The Light Meditation incorporates all three points.
Do Seva, Study Circle, Bhajans. These, together, are the Path. We must participate in all three simultaneously.
Its aim is control of the mind. It is not about the physical, not acrobatics – which is the understanding of many people. It is to develop Purity.
Bhakti – communing with the Divine is true yoga – not Kriya, Hatha, Raja. Not one of these can make you realize God.
Prema yoga, only, teaches you. Alright, the others can prolong your life for two years. What use is that?
You must only have love.
'Your asthma is due to improper practice of Hatha Yoga,' a Swami was told. That is the value of these other yogas! Shortcuts to liberation are concocted out of Hatha yoga, Kriya, etc. Not at all liberating.
Practice Prema yoga; only love can realize God, only the values.
Serve your parents, society, and country.
Ashtayanga (?) Yoga – the Eight-fold Path
Mukthi can be won only if the first two values are practiced:
1. Control of dealings with the external world.
2. Control of the inner world – to achieve purity.
Self-study, focus, contentment. Contemplation on God.
Very important, but especially for YAs. A mud pot cannot hold water; it quickly evaporates. Put it in another vessel where there is already water – this shows it is a good vessel.
Iron, when lying in dust, looks dull. Put it in flames, and it becomes burnished, bright.
Our environment does influence us. For example the story of Rama and Lakshmana walking through a forest, which was inhabited by demons.
Listen to good speakers who have become pure.
Where to find all these good things? The Sai organization. For example the person next to me on a plane flight opened up a Sai book. Your day gets transformed. It is wonderfully fortuitous if you are near Swami. The rings, etc. He manifests are just trinkets. Only the Sai organizations are the true gift. We must treasure this, not neglect it.
When you are a speaker, you become humble. So, if asked, accept. Ask:
Do I care about Swami and the world?
Do I understand Swami's message?
Am I willing to set aside the time for this?
'When I give you a task, I will automatically give you the strength.'
Leadership tests others' jealousy.
Swami deserves the best. Always look for the best in others. So, if you have a talent, a skill, step forward.
In 1975 the organization was formed. Seven or eight months later Hislop had doubts – there were so many difficulties, squabbling, in the centers. Swami: 'the Sai organization is vital to the world; without a Sai organization the world will be flung into chaos.' So our activities are very powerful. Our loving thoughts will last longer – beyond our deaths.
In 1985 Hislop went round the country trying to instigate English bhajans 'People are not taking the centers seriously enough. People come to socialize and eat!'
We all have our issues; we cling to our personalities.
If you are unhappy with the Sai organization, then join another organization – and you will find it just as bad! Making these discoveries is a good way to get your ego polished! We have to come together, we have to unite.
How to handle criticisms
Don't engage in argument. No need to convince or convert. You can't wake up someone who is pretending to be awake.
Do not create a new culture of worship in My name.
Demonstrate the joy of good company.
Spread the intention of spirituality in your community. It is our duty to share the blessings and joys of our inner life with our communities. We can implement Swami's message by our inner light.
The food we serve must be palatable, so spiritual food must be adapted to the needs of the receivers.
We must be genuine, have authenticity. Be consistent in your behavior.
He does not want our worship, therefore it is better not to have his picture (Aunty Bettina, of FL)
B. Householder Stage - the most important.
This stage supports all the other stages. Right Action, Dharma, and how to cope with all the difficulties. Sorrow is born out of happiness. Respect elders. Right behavior. Difficulties are part of life. Swami: gurus, saints – all have difficulties, tests. Our tests are for our sake:
i. They develop confidence
ii. They strengthen patience and devotion
iii. They give an opportunity to set an example.
iv. They help you on to the next level. All is for our benefit. It is for our benefit that He gives us difficulties. E.g. Isaac Tigrett. He had a difficult childhood; his younger brother died in his arms. Why must we so suffer? 'To soften your heart' – Swami.
i. Do not blame God for your difficulties with your devotion.
Look at the relationship between your devotion and your unfulfilled desires.
ii. Do not worry about difficulties. Set aside time in the evenings to think about, and perhaps solve, your problems with Swami. We must advance to the state of joy.
iii. Dedicate your difficulties to God.
iv. Do service. E.g. Dr. Uppadiya in the U.K. helped a suicidal man some time ago; he recruited the man to drive trucks of food to refugees through war-torn Croatia (the Balkan war). Very dangerous. The man saw the joy in the faces of the refugees, when they received the food. He was no longer depressed; he had a reason to live.
Monday, 3rd Day
Holistic medicine is of the mind, body and soul.
The purpose of the body: we are born to serve, therefore we have to be healthy. The word 'deha' (body) also means being burnt.
Moderation in everything – even in exercise. Marathons, etc. overdone (create health issues later on). The senses. Food affects the mind, e.g. Ravana. The food we eat determines our thoughts, and thus our destiny. At age 50 yrs. start eating less. Have minimal dairy, and dilute it. Be moderate with spices. Fish promotes cleverness and bad thoughts. Raw tomato and egg plant and okra– the seeds lead to kidney stones. The cause of cancer: white sugar - bone char is used in the refining process, and this is the cause of cancer. (According to the internet, this has now largely fallen out of practice in the US and Europe, because of health concerns – your reporter.)
How to eat
Twice a day – 9am and 5 pm. Drink water before eating. Do not eat food prepared over 8 hours ago. Do not overeat. Adults: 2 parts food, 1 part water, 1 part air. When ¾ full, stop eating. Rest for 10 mins. after eating. Walk after dinner. Don't waste food; food is God.
The Mind – physical health is a prerequisite for mental health. The mind is a part of the physical.
Heart Disease: causes: hurry, worry, curry.
Selfishness is the cause of disease. The greatest disease is the absence of peace. So, we must pay attention to our emotions. Thus, man's mind is the cause of all disease. 'I inspire the devotee to cure his diseases.' - Swami. We must have faith and then we will heal.
Can be powerful and helpful. You must understand why you do the rituals. Easy way: Namasmarana Laziness will pull you down relentlessly.
Meditate; read a Swami story first. Then the taste for meditation will develop. On your commute in the car, sing the Vedas, or download radio Sai (your MP3 player). Keep the passenger seat clear of things for Swami to sit there. See Swami in everyone's face. In your heart send love to everyone. Talk to Swami's picture. Chant God's name with love and devotion. Vibrational energy – tries to send light by touch.
(Being a surgeon, Dr. Axay routinely has to cut a patient's neck.) I visualize Swami when I am doing this.
Chant the Gayatri 3 times a day, e.g. in the shower.
Rituals are to make us remember God.
There are many bad vibrations in food, so we must purify the food before eating it, so take time to bless the food.
Read a Swami book at night and pray.
The validity of science is through experiment; the validity of spirituality is through experience.
Science may see the effects of spirituality. Devotion blended with Discrimination – the validity of experience.