The influence of the Universal World Teacher in the figure of Sri Sathya Sai Babaa supremely beneficent renewer of moral life and spiritual faith has already reached the far corners of the Earth. Yet this Avatar, His miracles and teachings, are still a great mystery to even those who are acquainted with Him. Source of the Dream is thoroughly researched and gives an objective appreciation of Sai Baba's teachings about spirituality and modern science. Priddy gives an in-depth analysis of Sai Baba's miraculous actions and words. He includes investigations he made with the late professor N. Kasturi, Sai Baba's official biographer, into how Sai Baba's earlier teaching have been written or recorded, edited, translated, published, and authenticated. Some common misunderstandings about interpretation and application of the teachings, and of Baba's own words, are discussed. Priddy included color photographs of Sai Baba and some of His miraculous manifestations. Robert Priddy shares his experiences, both subtle and direct, which ultimately led him to a life transformation. He appeals to both devotees and newcomers to Sai's teaching, explaining how Sai Baba reaches out to those in need over great distances, and what it's like to visit Sai Baba's ashram and attend an interview with Him. For devotees, Priddy shares his accounts of Sai's emanation of mystery and grace with balanced reflections upon their likely purpose and meaning.
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SOURCE OF THE DREAM
My Way to Sathya Sai Baba
By ROBERT PRIDDY
Samuel Weiser, Inc.Copyright © 1998 Robert C. Priddy
All rights reserved.
MY "PASSAGE TO INDIA"
Since being brought into the sphere of Sathya Sai Baba, I have had the great benefit of meeting a number of other people who have told me how they have been drawn to him in remarkably different ways, yet often just as unfathomably as in my case. In quite a few instances, people have come to learn how Sathya Sai has been protecting them, or how he has otherwise been involved in their lives, long before they first came to him, and sometimes before they ever heard of him.
One feature that is common to many of these accounts is the combination of subtlety and intricacy of events through which Baba draws followers to him and eventually makes himself known to them. Though no two personal histories are identical, I shall recount some typical milestones on my way, hoping to convey what I now know of the underlying "drama of destiny," in which I was the player but was certainly not the director. I shall present evidence for my confirmed belief that it was Sathya Sai Baba who, unbeknown to myself, guided me on the course of my life.
The inner journey toward India began long before I realized that it was underway or where it was leading. An "internal review" of everything informs me unequivocally that it was not simply some set of chance developments. Through about forty years, the way was strewn with events that became gradually more extraordinary and more meaningfully interrelated, especially from about age 35 onward. These included the quite common fortuitous coincidences, or events, that defy all statistical laws of averages—those that C. G. Jung called "synchronicities"—wherein deeply-felt or long-held wishes of spiritual significance can be fulfilled as if by a miracle. It is interesting that Aldous Huxley's writings confirmed such things when he wrote that, "the divine mind may choose to communicate with finite minds either by manipulating the world of men and things in a way which the particular mind to be reached at that moment will find meaningful, or else there may be direct communication by something resembling thought transference."
My fascination for India began during a period of some turmoil and suffering while at an English boarding school in my boyhood, after my father had left our family for South Africa, when the make believe world of two books became a consolation to me. The first was a wartime edition of Jungle John, by John Budden, the story of a boy, told in authentic detail with the aid of pen-and-ink sketches. John was called to live with his father, a forestry officer, in the wild jungles and plains of central India, where he was looked after by a sort of guru, a most kindly elderly tribesman, wise in local lore and in the ways of animals.
The second book, My Friend Mr. Leakey, was about a fabulous magician who could transport himself (and any acquaintances he chose) across cities and continents at will. Among other fanciful flights, he took his young friend on a magic carpet tour of the Far East, including a visit to India, where he learned a Sanskrit formula as a magic mantra. He materialized whatever was wanted, even taking out-of-season fruits from a tree that grew on his table! This is the sort of impossibility all children wish to believe in, but it took about forty years to discover that this is not impossible!
The spiritual interests of the author, the once-famous genetics professor J. B. S. Haldane, are evident in that he once said that the Gayatri Mantra (into which it so happens that Sathya Sai Baba initiates young boys at the thread ceremony) ought to be carved on the doors of every laboratory in the world to save man from perdition. Haldane left Europe to live in India in his latter years, humorously commenting that "fifty years in socks is enough."
It is extremely difficult for most persons who have no direct experience of Sathya Sai Baba to credit what is, however, a well-documented fact: that he once very frequently used to produce, for the wonder and joy of those who were still in the process of becom ing his devotees, edible out-of-season fruits from the so-called "wish-fulfilling tree" on a hill in Puttaparthi. Yet, like hundreds of thousands of others before me, I have myself witnessed how he is still fully active as the wish-fulfilling tree himself, producing both material and immaterial boons for those who come to him, including my wife and I. Now and again he is reported by persons whose integrity is beyond question actually to "pick" the occasional fresh fruit out of the air in the relative privacy of the Prashanthi Nilayam interview room. Of course, I do not think of Baba as a magician, amazing as his manifestations and his many types of extrasensory and paranormal abilities are in themselves, because finding this holy, universal teacher means far more to me than the realization of childhood dreams and the longing for the miraculous to come true.
Though I never forgot those books or their titles, their effect on my conscious mind gradually wore off, of course. Yet now and again during adult life I would wish to find these books again, having left them behind somewhere long ago. Occasionally while visiting England I would search through a secondhand bookshop for them.
Not until I was 42 years old, in 1978, did I again come across Jungle John. By then, on my search for truth I had more or less emerged fairly unscathed from many years of intellectual discipline, which had burdened my mind with all kinds of science and philosophy, Marxism and philosophical anthropology, existential psychoanalysis, metascience, and so on—an almost endless list. One day, I was in a bookshop in Stratford-upon-Avon when something prompted me to think that, if I were to reach out for the very first volume I could lay hands on, it would be that book.
I reached out a hand blindly and—believe it or not—it was Jungle John! It was a fine, first-edition, hardcover volume. Its appearing just after coming to mind may seem to many to be no more than coincidence. To see it as evidence of the workings of a higher power would, for many people, be regarded as make-believe. For me, however, this instant connection of thought and its literal manifestation fitted remarkably into a larger pattern of events that were evolving in my life. At the time, such occurrences helped me to sustain some faith in the possibility of interventions in worldly affairs by supernatural agency. I never entirely lost openness to the mystical, despite all the ingenuities of scientific arguments.
That book proved to hold true-to-life descriptions of Indian life and an intensity of subtle reminiscences for me. Though the naturally inexplicable manner of its appearance was perhaps of minor significance in itself, it was one of many such incidents that began to build up, one upon another, in subsequent years. (And the moment I wrote the word "many" in the above sentence, the phone rang. It was a friend who wanted to tell me of a book called Miracles Are My Visiting Cards, by Erlendur Haraldsson. The above sentence's meaning as a whole was therefore instantly and concretely demonstrated, confirming the sentence I was writing when it occurred! Haraldsson's book deals with miracles by Sathya Sai Baba.)
Due to my parents' breakup, and so I could finish my schooling, I was taken in by an aunt and uncle because they felt a duty, being my godparents. They were Anglicans and made me attend church weekly. The grammar school environment and my own observations caused me to lose faith in much of the Christian doctrine. Once, when I was very confused and downhearted about all this, I found that all I could pray for was to not be one of those who, according to a Canon Collins who preached at Hornchurch, would be too hardhearted to recognize Jesus if he were to come again. Thereafter I had a dream that seemed to promise something so amazing that my spirits were lifted greatly. I can no longer properly recall its contents, but I have somehow been increasingly prompted to recall that I was visited by some figure who reassured me and said that he, Jesus' Father, is himself here on Earth and that I would see him one day. However, as clear and intense as the experience was, I soon realized instinctively that if I were to tell my aunt or anyone in the church, I would be corrected, possibly ridiculed, and the dream might even be taken as an evil and demonic visitation. So I never told anyone about it.
The memory of that reassuring and amazing dream faded; maybe I could not really believe in it myself—but I first recalled it decades later, some time after Sai Baba spoke to an elderly gentleman who was present with us during an interview. Turning toward us where we sat together, Baba said to him, "I have been with you for forty years." The man literally started in surprise! Baba knew that he had read about Shirdi Sai Baba forty years previously in a book, which I think was The Life and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East. Baba began to quote the title, too, whereupon the astonished man remembered and joined in to recite it together with him.
While not ostensibly addressing himself to me, Baba's words reactivated my memory. It so happened that my boyhood dream had occurred very close to forty years prior to that time. Persons have often reported how Baba says something to someone that also applies with equal meaning to another within earshot. This he has sometimes confirmed later. He even has addressed people who can make no sense whatever of his words, while someone beside them immediately sees its meaning and knows very well that it is addressed specifically to them. I have not so far had the opportunity to ask Baba personally about my boyhood dream, for the time with him is precious and only for vital matters.
The first time I heard speak of the Sai Baba avatar, to the best of my knowledge, was when I was at sea. Likewise, my first social encounter with the East came at age 17, when I joined the British Merchant Navy as an apprentice deck officer in 1953. As my mother was ill and unable to house or keep me, going to sea seemed to be the only safe option for getting board, lodging, and perhaps developing future prospects.
My first encounter with the Indian crew on this ship was felicitous! While boarding the tanker London Glory, riding at anchor in the Mersey, a traveling companion and I were helped by the assembled Indian crew in such a genuinely loving manner that I can still feel the afterglow! I think the lasting effect of that heartfelt welcome illustrates how loving friendship that springs from natural spirituality can strike an undying chord, as it did in me. The Indians' interest in us, and their blessings for our futures, was quite unprecedented in my brief experience, and it really helped to allay my misgivings and nervous anticipations about what lay ahead.
We were asked if we were Christians, to which I could reply "yes" with some truth. Though I had shunned the Anglican church once I was away from the care of my godparent aunt, I still felt at tached to the essentials of the teachings of Christ at that time, though not to very much to Christian dogma.
The stewards were Goanese Christians, and, apart from a few Muslims and Sikhs, the deck crew were mostly Hindus, all of whom bore themselves with an air of humble dignity and respectfulness for others, which I realized was not mere servility to sahibs, as the English officers still saw it in 1953, despite several years of Indian independence.
It was soon clear to me that Indians were very religiously inclined, both in worship and in daily practice. Strange as the mixture of religions aboard ship was, there were no conflicts, and I learned that Indians are extremely tolerant of others' opinions. They also made me feel at home wherever I met them on my duties about the vessel. I would be invited to "down tools" and share a rice and curry, crouching about a communal plate on the teak deck near their cooking galley—quite unlike the somewhat formal dinners in the officers' mess. I now and again visited them in my leisure hours for tea, sweetmeats, and some Indian music.
The best English-speaker among them was a young man of about 20 called Hari, with whom I became friends on account of a shared interest in Aldous Huxley. He held a B.A. in English from an Indian university. As I was in charge of the ship's library—a ragged collection by charity of "The Flying Angel Mission to Seamen"—he asked me to lend him some mind-improving literature for his leisure hours. Unfortunately, those who made the company rules assumed that all foreign crew members were potential thieves and thus banned them from the services of the lending library.
The Second Officer saw me exchanging books one day and soon ordered me to restrict lending, telling me that the service was only for officers. I explained that the borrower was above suspicion and that he had a B.A. in English. This was my mistake. The Second Officer's pride was badly wounded. He swore in anger that he might just as well be a "BF," too ("bloody fool"). He strongly for-bade me to lend out even a tattered volume.
To save Hari's feelings—and to avoid unpleasantness myself—I told him nothing and still lent to him on the quiet by taking books down to his cabin. We were not close, but there was genuine friendship. He told me once that there was a "wise man" aboard the ship, a yogi of whom he spoke with real respect. He said that this guru had spoken of me in a positive way and had said that I could meet him if I wished. As I recall it, the claim was made that this man could do things such as see people's spiritual natures, read minds, and even foresee future events. Hari would not tell me, however, which of the crew this person was. If I wished to see him, then I would find out; otherwise he would not tell me.
I was naturally curious, though quite unconvinced of the claims, the likes of which I had come across only in fiction. The matter was not pressed, but Hari mentioned it a few times casually later on. He told me about yogic breathing to the mental accompaniment of So-Ham (literally "He is I") saying So (meaning "He" or "Divinity") on the intake of breath, and Ham (meaning the individual "I") on the out-breath, as a means of reaching spiritual wisdom, if it is done nonstop. I soon objected that this would stop one from doing anything else whatever. He replied along the lines that the brain could handle its other tasks at the same time, for it has a potential double-function. This I tried, but I did not find it as easy and enjoyable as he said it was, and—since it gave no results for me other than tedium—I soon decided it was rather a "mindless" practice.
At that time I did not understand that it was supposed precisely to make one "mindless," by stilling both the rational and irrational processes of thought so that the suprarational could enter awareness. Most of this I assume he had from the supposed yogi, who may or may not have been instructing him to pass these ideas on to me.
I also recall my skepticism when Hari told me about the Indian concept of "avatars," and especially that there had been many of these supposed incarnations of God. Though I no longer accepted the likelihood of Christ having performed miracles, I could just about agree, after some argument, that he might be regarded as an incarnation of a divine spirit. The only doctrine I knew then was that Christ was the son of God, but that he was not himself God, who was essentially either the Father or the Holy Spirit.
I was quite unprepared to cope, therefore, with the sophisticated conception of avatarhood that Hari espoused. He held that both Krishna, Rama, and at least several others were actual incarnations of the Holy Spirit, having come down to Earth, as God, by voluntarily taking on various human forms. He asked me whether it were not so that Christ was born a human being and was thus a "son of God." Then he added that, although Christ's incarnation was surely similar to that of Indian avatars, the Indian avatars were actually born as God Himself in human form. Sathya Sai teaches just this, that Christ's realization of unity with the Father God was attained during his life and was thus unlike the cases of Rama and Krishna, who were born as full avatars of God.
This view provoked me, I recall, because it somehow put Hinduism above the religion with which I was familiar, despite my having already largely fallen by its wayside. It rather implied that India and Indians were better, or somehow superior or privileged spiritually. This I think I would not admit, though privately it confused me somewhat. Incidentally, his own name, Hari told me, was of one of the forms of God (of Vishnu or Narayana), which was clearly why he—a Brahmin—was offended by the English nickname of "Harry," which I found easier to recall but to which he flatly refused to answer.
Excerpted from SOURCE OF THE DREAM by ROBERT PRIDDY. Copyright © 1998 Robert C. Priddy. Excerpted by permission of Samuel Weiser, Inc..
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Table of Contents
1. My "Passage to India"
2. When the Soil is Ready
3. Lost and Found?
4. Not to Follow Blindly
5. Sai Answers a Call
6. Preparing for the Pilgrimage
7. At Prashanthi Nilayam
8. The Language of Silence
9. Leelas and Peace of Mind
10. Dreams from the Source
11. The Rat in the Drum
12. "Unusual Circumstances"
13. The Inner Sanctum
14. Be Ready! Be Ready!
15. Marching Happy
16. The Gold Watch and the Heart
17. A Glimpse of Supreme Selfless Detachment
18. Enigmas of Suffering and Healing
19. Living and Learning at the Ashram
20. Sai "Prema" is Supreme
21. The Universal World Teacher
22. Understanding Baba's Teachings
23. Science and Spiritual Knowledge
24. Education and Transformation
25. The Unfathomable Nature of the Avatar
26. Liberation: The Greatest Mystery
27. The Way Beyond
About the Author
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Readers and potential readers of this book should be aware that Robert Priddy is an anti-Sai activist.