Is there a way to go beyond Religion? Of course, there may be many, but one certain way is this.................
(This article was published in the All India Sai Devotees' Convention Souvenir (Golden Jubilee issue) - released by His Excellency the Governor of Karnataka on June 30, 2007 at Chennai)
For the great soul who brought out for the first time a clearly intelligible picture of Baba’s nature, his powers and the course of his life; For the great soul which discovered the divine force ‘Baba’ and made the world known; For the great soul who has let us the legacy of ‘Sai movement’ and institutionalized it; For the great soul who founded the All India Sai Samaj with a mission; For the great soul who lives in his innumerable literature which has gone in to so many reprints in many languages; For the great soul who lives in the ashtotram and sahasranaman that is chanted in Sai Mandirs; For the great soul who lives in Saimananam and the Sai Bhajans that are sung in Sai Mandirs; and For the great soul who sacrificed a lot and dedicated his life for carrying the teachings of Sai Baba, dedicated this article in his fond loving memory. This great soul, His Holiness Sri Narasimha Swamji would bless all, particularly those who make efforts however little they be, in carrying the teachings of Sai Baba to make a difference in this troublesome technology driven world.
Science and technology helps human being to a greater extent in fulfilling his materialistic needs. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see that the same science and technology could also provide insights for understanding his spirituality. Perhaps, that is the reason it is said that in today’s world, self realization and realization of God would also happen through science and technology.
Take for instance, the computers. Just an analogy between computers and human being is a wonderful and meaningful exercise to derive valuable realization. The computer hardware and software when compared with human being makes one understand and realize something interesting. The hardware of the computers can be matched to the human body. The computer software can be matched to the human mind. The interface between the software and hardware, which is the most crucial element which makes both work, is the binary pulse (electrical signal). In the case of human being it is the soul which, connects the mind and the body and operate not only the human but the whole world in turn. From this analogy realization comes just as the binary pulse (electrical signal) which is the same in all computers, irrespective of their make and model, the soul in all the human beings is also the same, with body and mind constituted differently.
In a similar way, ‘Religion’ can also be understood clearly through Science and technology with yet another analogy. Here the analogy should be made with the Satellite and its launching vehicle. The purpose of a launching vehicle is to launch the satellite in the desired orbit and then to detach itself from it. Imagine a situation where the satellite or the launching vehicle does not detach from each other after the launch. It would create a chaos. This is what exactly is happening with human being when it comes to religion. The satellite-launching vehicle model is the perfect analogy for understanding the concept of religion and its purpose. If the soul (jeevatma) is the satellite which has to be launched in to the orbit (spiritual path) to further progress and be merged with the paramathma, then the Religion is the launching vehicle. The religion must take the soul up to the spiritual path (orbit) and must detach from the soul the moment it is safely launched in the spiritual path (orbit). After reaching the orbit, the religion seizes to exist. Therefore, the purpose of any religion is only to act like a launching vehicle. But unfathomably, the bondage between the satellite and the launching vehicle is so strong that even after the launch in the orbit, the satellite continue to attach itself with the launching vehicle. This leads to a situation where the satellite is not able to advance in the orbit (spiritual path) and also be the cause for all the differences and quarrels. Such quarrels have become a universal phenomenon. All these quarrels are on the ‘externals’ forgetting the ‘internal’; in other words, on the ‘letter’ forgetting the ‘spirit’.
Shri Narasimha Swamiji aptly mentions in one of his works, “there can be no quarrel among religions so far as the essence is concerned. The quarrels are all about the externals”. Swamiji further observed that the quarrels are mostly on disagreement on the externals. He says, “You wish to go to a temple. I wish to go to a Mosque. So, we cannot agree. You put on Namam vertically. I put on sandal or sacred ashes in parallel horizontals. So we cannot agree. The Namam or the sacred ashes are absolutely externals”. The crux of our differences is due to the misunderstanding of the externals with the internal. The Namam in the forehead is not for claiming oneself as a Vaishnavite, but as a follower of Vaishnavism. Similarly, the sacred ashes in the forehead is not for claiming oneself as a Shivite, but as a follower of Saivism. The same is the case with all other ‘isms’ with their respective claims. The moment such a claim is made, the next question that come to the mind is; what is the purpose of all these Vaishnavism or Shivism or other ‘isms’? Where do they actually lead us to? Then the answer becomes obvious that all these ‘isms’ are meant to perform the job of the launching vehicle and lead one into the path of spirituality. All ‘isms’ has to end with ‘spiritualism’ from where the path to God being the same. Because, where the ‘isms’ end, the spirituality begins; the soul progress in its spiritual orbit.
Perhaps, one of the greatest Gurus who made this point is Sai Baba. Sri Sai Baba played a leading role in the history of human kind in this regard. Swamiji says in his works, “Sri Sai Baba is pre-eminent among Gurus who shook off conventional and meaningless aphorisms and shibboleths drowning people in pessimistic ideas and making them inert and unfit for life’s activities”.
This is evident from the teachings of Sai Baba which are available in numerous ways. They are depicted through different characters in Shri Sai Satcharita. Every chapter has different characters and different teachings applicable for all kind of devotees. In fact, most of them are common to all.
For instance, Chapter 21 of Shri Sai Satcharita has three such characters and as much lessons, which has universal application. In this chapter, the lessons are drawn from the stories relate to Vinayak Harishchandra Thakur, Anantrao Patankar of Poona and a pleader from Pandharpur.
In the case of V.H. Thakur, Baba teaches a lesson that book reading is just not enough and the grace of Guru is needed for self-realisation. In a way Baba indicated that for self realization, if the theory could be learnt by reading books, then the practical learning in that direction could be learnt only from the Guru. This is the first lesson from this Chapter through the story of V.H. Thakur.
Then, from the story of Anantrao Patnakar, Baba advocates the Bhakthi as the way to attain peace of mind and God realization. He gives nine forms or types of Bhakthi. They are (i) Shravan (hearing) (ii) Kirtan (praying) (3) Smaran (remembering) (4) Padasevan (resorting to the feet) (5) Archan (worship) (6) Namaskar (bowing) (7) Dasya (service) (8) Sakhaym (friendship) and (9) Atmanivedan (surrender of the self). Baba emphasizes through this story that unless accompanied by ‘bhav’ (spirit) which can also be expressed through ‘bhakthi’, any japa, tapa and yoga practice and studying and expounding them are useless. This is the second lesson through the story of Anantrao Patnakar.
Thirdly, through the story of the pleader from Pandharpur, Baba teaches the ill effect of people abusing others behind their back. He calls it as ‘very bad’ and directs not to speak ill of others. This is the third lesson that one should not indulge in any scandal or slander of others and not interfere unnecessarily in others’ affairs.
In nutshell, Baba gives a wonderful lesson; “practice the spirit with the guidance of Guru and no harm to others”. This is the same lesson which perhaps every Religion in the world preaches. The extent and depth of the teachings of Sri Sai Baba had brought people from different sections and religions to come together, which is the first pulsation of divinity. This pulsation given by Sai Baba is the reason for the billions of His devotees thronging His feet all over the world, which has lead to ‘Sai’ism and Sai kutumbham.
Ultimately, every launching vehicle (religion) is meant for the same purpose. The difference exists only in their externals. The world must now recognize that either there should be a universal ‘launching vehicle’ (religion) so that there is no difference and quarrels on externals or there should be a way to take the mass to go beyond the externals in to the internal. With the power of teachings of Sai Baba, perhaps, ‘Sai’ism could be the solution, which is beyond religion. Jai Sai Ram.