Sunday, June 3, 2007
Sai Baba of Shirdi explains a verse from Bhagwat Gita
Last Sunday was watching the T.V.Serial on Sai Baba on Starplus Channel on Star TV. The episode is loved probably by all Sai Baba devotees as by the writer to watch Sai Baba’s stories. However in the dramatization sometimes the real essence is missed. This time it was the speaking of NanaSaheb Chandorkar, about his ego speaking in front of Sai Baba that he was a scholar and that he did not thought that Sai Baba was a scholar and he knew anything about the scholarly language Sanskrit. As the incident had been recorded, it was not the egoistic way that he presented it.
Leave alone Nanasaheb, nobody supposed that Sai Baba knew Sanskrit, yet most devotees including Nanasaheb consider Sai Baba as the one with Infinite, Perfect and Eternal and respected him and treated Sai Baba as their Sadguru whose grace protected them and guided them to the same Infinite and Eternal.
The story is really beautiful and points to much about truth and how Sai Baba explained the Sanskrit verse, that was being murmured in undertone by Nanasaheb, while humbly massaging the feet of Sai Baba,which he felt was the Seva (Service rendered to his Guru as he understood from the Sacred book Gita and other sacred literatures).
Sai Baba asked him what he was muttering. ‘A Sanskrit verse,’ was the reply came not suspecting that Sai Baba wanted a more precise answer and that he could explain the verse to him. So Sai Baba asked, ‘What verse?’ still the answer was not what the verse was being muttered but simply, ‘A verse from Gita.’ S
Sai Baba wanted to point to the ignorance of his devotee about his understanding of the verse so he persuade ‘Say it aloud.’
Nanasaheb then recited in Sanskrit verse 34 of chapter IV: ‘know that by means of prostration, inquiry and service the Jnanis (Enlightened, seers, one with infinite and eternal) who have realized the truth will teach you Jnana(Knowledge).’
‘Do you understand this?’ was Sai Baba asked him.
‘Yes’, came the answer from Nanasaheb who was under the illusion that he understood the verse and was following it.
‘Then tell me the meaning.’
Nana gave a free rendering in the vernacular but Sai Baba was not satisfied. ‘I don’t want a paraphrase; I want the strict grammatical meaning, with case mood and tense.’
Nana obeyed and gave a gave a literal translation, with reverence still doubting whether Sai Baba knew anything of Sanskrit grammar.
‘In tatviddhi, what does tat stands for?’ Sai Baba asked him.
‘What knowledge? Knowledge of what?’
‘The knowledge referred to in the previous stanzas.’
‘What does pranipat mean?’
If they meant the same would Vyasa(the legendary author of the Mahabharata, the epic in which Bhagwat Gita is an episode) have added two unnecessary syllabus?’
‘I don’t see any difference between them.’ Nana admitted.
Sai Baba left that for a while and passed on to the next point.
‘What does prasna mean?’
‘Then if they both mean the same was Vyasa off his head to use the longer?’
‘I don’t see any difference.’
‘Next point. What does Seva means?’
‘Service such as I am doing now in massaging your feet.’ Came the reply.
‘Nothing more’, Sai Baba asked.
‘I don’t see what more can it mean.’ Was Nana’s reply suggesting that, that was the end of what he understood of the term service to Gnanis or Sadguru.
‘We’ll leave that too. Next point Krushna tells Arjuna to get Jnani (the Enlightened, one with the Eternal). Wasn’t Krishna himself a Jnani?’
‘Then why did he send Arjuna to others instead of giving him Jnana Himself?’
‘I don’t know.’ Nana replied. Again Sai Baba brought him to the point making him realize his own limitations in understanding of fragments of the verse.
‘Wasn’t Arjuna a Jiva (being) and therefore an emanation of Chatinya (Universal Consciousness)?’
‘Then how can the knowledge be given to what is already an emanation of Consciousness of Knowledge?’
Sai Baba than explained Nana that it is not Jnana (Knowledge) but ajnana (Non-Knowledge or ignorance) that Sadguru gives.
Nana now thoroughly bewildered over what had seemed to him a straightforward verse, asked Sai Baba to expound these points.
Sai Baba explained that the verse tells us how a disciple is to approach the Guru in order to attain self-realization. He must completely surrender body, mind, soul and possessions to the Guru. The inquiry must not be made for any other motive or purpose other than the search for absolute truth. Question asked out of mere curiosity or some other purpose like trapping the Guru should not be there. The purpose should be for spiritual progress and self-realization. The service to the Guru is not mere physical service such as massaging. The devotee should not have an idea that he is giving any service, that he is free to render the service or deny it. He should feel that his body and actions belongs to Guru and it exists only to do him services.
Then followed a catechism on the Guru giving ignorance,
‘Isn’t Brahma pure Knowledge or being?’
‘And everything else non-being or ignorance (non-Knowledge)?’
‘Don’t the scriptures declare that Brahma is beyond the range of speech or mind?’
‘Then the speech that the Guru says is not Brahma or Knowledge?’
‘Then you admit that what Guru says is not Knowledge but ignorance?’
‘It seems so.’
‘Then Guru’s instruction is simply a piece of ignorance used to remove the disciple’s ignorance, just as we use a thorn to remove another thorn from the foot, isn’t it?’
‘I suppose so.’
‘The disciple is a jiva (being) whose essential nature is Knowledge, isn’t he?’
‘Then there is obviously no need to give him Knowledge but simply to remove the veil of ignorance that hides the existent Knowledge. This of course, is not to be done at one stroke, since the disciple is immersed in age-old ignorance and needs repeated instruction, perhaps through life after life. And what is the nature if instruction through speech about what is beyond speech? Isn’t it like removing a cover? Ignorance conceals the pre-existent Knowledge just as water plants cover the surface of the pond. Clear away the plants and you have the water. You don’t have to create it, it is already there. Or take another example – a cataract grows on the eye and prevents the man from seeing; remove the cataract and he sees. Ignorance is the cataract. The universe is the efflorescence of the indescribable Maya, which is ignorance; yet ignorance is needed to illuminate and dissolve this ignorance’.
‘Divine Knowledge is to be realized, not taught. Prostration, inquiry and service are the methods by which to obtain the Grace of the Guru.
‘It is an illusion to suppose that phenomena are real. That is the screen of ignorance, which hides Knowledge. Tear it of and Brahma or Knowledge will shine forth’.
‘Ignorance is the seed of samsara (birth and death). Put the medicine of the Guru’s Grace on the eye and the screen of Maya lifts, leaving only Jnana (Knowledge). Jnana is not something to be attained, it is eternal and self existent. On the other hand, ignorance has a cause and an end. The root of it is the idea that the devotee is a separate being from God. Remove this and what remains is jnana.’
‘Now the question why Krishna referred Arjuna to other Gurus instead of giving him jnana himself. Did Krishna consider other Jnanis separate from himself or their teaching different from him? No. So their teaching is his and there is no difference.’
Sai Baba then told Nana to bring Bhagwad Gita and read a chapter before him each day and he would expound it. He did so sadly no record of this was kept and a book of great spiritual magnitude, one can guess from the above fragment, simply evaporated. However we do have Sai SatCharitra from which Sai Baba's grace (the most important factor and much more than the words that explains, which was also explained by Sai Baba in the above fragment) flows. And Sai Baba is very active and vigilant for the material and spiritual uplift and betterment for his devotees and humanity in general.