- Published on 17 February 2013
Has Swami Gone Anywhere? I have been confronted with this question many a time when I speak of or write about Swami’s return. In other words, the questioners are suggesting whether there is any need to even talk about Swami's return when He hasn't left at all.
Every Sai devotee, at the minimum, would know that Swami is God and hence eternal and omnipresent. It was so even before He assumed the Sathya Sai form. So is there any need to remind anyone of His omnipresence? Why has the talk about His return become so repelling to a few? What is so wrong about it? Some people ask why you limit Him to a form. The answer is another question; why do we think He had to take a form at all? If we understand the basic principles of Avatarhood and the "coming" and "going" of Avatars, such questions would never arise. In one of the earlier Avatar declarations, Swami said “Sadhus prayed and I HAVE COME”. Did anyone dare ask at that time: “Why is Swami saying He has come? We thought He was always here”. Now why then are we asking “where has He gone for Him to return?”.
Once a foreigner visited Puttaparthi from half way across the globe to have his first ever Darshan of the Lord. As he reached the Ashram, much to his dismay, learnt that Swami was away in Kodaikanal. So he enquired with a Sevadal how to get to Kodaikanal. The Sevadal replied thus: “Sir, why would you want to go there? Swami is omnipresent and He is here right now. You should try and experience Him here”. The foreigner did not reply, but with a wry smile said "Sairam", quickly gathered his belongings and boarded the next taxi straight to Kodaikanal!
The above story is purely imaginary but can we imagine the reaction of a person who has not yet received the Divine Darshan before, if you tell him or her to experience the omnipresence? For the same reason, it hurts me when a few people take out from their pockets and toss around the now-so familiar clichés of “Swami has not gone anywhere”, “Swami is omnipresent”, “Form to formless” and so on without understanding the real reason why devotees talk about His return.
Importance of Darshan
Once addressing the Hyderabad youth group, Swami said: “You are all busy people! Dears! You never wait! you boys come, work in the canteen and leave! You never come for Darshan too! “Your focus is on Seva but you should also have Darshan". (http://www.theprasanthireporter.org/2013/01/walk-towards-me-and-leave-maya-behind/).
We know the story of Sage Sharabhanga from Ramayana. The Devas (Gods) offered Him liberation but he replied "I know Lord Rama is coming soon and will wait until I can see Him atleast once". Years later he met Lord Rama and soon after that he entered the sacrificial fire and attained liberation. Swami had mentioned once that the sages in the Himalayas are yearning for His Darshan but He is temporarily holding them off for a reason. From these stories we know that even Jeevan mukthas (ones who have attained liberation even while alive) yearn for His Divine Darshan and it teaches us the importance of the Avatar’s physical form.
I feel it is selfish to think that since we had enough opportunities to have the Darshan of the Lord, now it doesn’t matter whether He returns or not. Well what about the rest of the world who missed the Darshan of His beautiful form and a chance to experience His physical presence? Especially since Swami's earlier statements point to such a golden chance that is available to the entire world and not just "us"?
"Baba has often said that being in this body, as distinct from the 'Shirdi' body, He feels it is not enough if a few needy humans get spiritual guidance from Him: "It is necessary to draw all and sundry and provide them with succour and sustenance. I must give them what they want until they begin to want what the Avatar has come to give". -Sathyam Shivam Sundaram IV, p.103
“For, this Sai has come in order to achieve the supreme task of uniting the entire mankind, as one family through the bond of brotherhood, of affirming and illumining the Atmic Reality of each being in order to reveal the Divine which is the Basis on which the entire Cosmos rests, and of instructing all to recognize the common Divine Heritage that binds man to man, so that man can rid himself of the animal, and rise into the Divine which is his goal.” -Sathya Sai Speaks Vol.12 Ch.38
So, don't we care about the rest of the world?
It is because I saw in Swami's words, such a world-scale transformation He would bring about while still in His body that I care and I pray for it to happen.
Form to Formless?
I am really surprised to hear some say: "Swami has left the body, so NOW we need to go beyond His form and realize Him in each and everything". Since the Avatarhood declaration, countless times in His discourses, Swami has urged devotees to transcend the form. So why do some think that it has become important ONLY now? I believe, we should always try to go beyond His form whether Swami is physically present or not. And in my humble opinion, that has nothing to do with His return.
It is another matter that the term "Form to Formless" is being used incorrectly these days as Dr. Sara Pavan points out in "The Prasanthi Reporter":
"The usage of the term ‘Form & Formless’ has been of concern to many devotees since Bhagawan’s physical departure. Since the Name and Form are inseparable, it is inappropriate, if not irrelevant, if we continue referring to Swami as “Formless”. He is always within us and around us in His ‘Subtle Form’, let alone manifesting Himself in real form to those so blessed even today! Swami has not forsaken His devotees; only His physical Darshan is no longer available to everybody. [...] Since Swami continues to be with us in His subtle form it is preferable that we use the term ‘Subtle’ instead of saying ‘formless’. He has only moved “From the Physical to the Subtle Form”.
At the same time, Swami has urged us not to be attached to His form or limit Him to one body but to try and realize Him in everyone and everything. In other words, "going beyond His form" does not mean not having His Darshan or not meditating or thinking of His form. Guided by the form, the formlessness will certainly come at some stage in our spiritual journey if we strive hard by practicing “Love All and Serve All”, the simplest formula to liberation. It holds true whether Swami is physically present or not!
Living in harmony with the Divine Will
There is a popular misconception that devotees who believe in His return are at a lower level in their spiritual journey. However, one thing I would like to insist is that to believe in Swami’s return is not a weakness. In fact, having unflinching faith in Guru’s words is considered the strength of a disciple or a devotee. Whatever Swami does, He alone knows the meaning of or reason for. We are not to question that. But it is our right to have complete faith in His words. The weakness is if we tend to lose faith after Swami’s departure. If we wait idly for His return. My faith in Swami does not depend on His return. And my spiritual quest has taken a new dimension after His departure from physical. The thought of His return has only helped to fuel that inner journey and to do it with much more rigor and enthusiasm.
In other words it is not about getting His physical Darshan again. It is not about challenging Him to show His powers once again as some suppose it to be. It is about believing in His words completely.
Swami once said “My word will never fail”. He followed it up with the statement “It must happen as I will”. It is quite obvious that Swami’s Will is expressed through His words. So to live in accordance with His Divine Will, it is important to have full faith in His Words. And His will is "vajra sankalpa", an indomitable Will. It will not change in any circumstance. Whatever Swami has said about the future arose out of His Divine Will to make those happen. Believing in Swami’s words and their fulfillment is also a part of living in accordance with the Divine will.
Are we looking for one more miracle?
The irony lies in the fact that it is because Swami cannot be limited to anything that devotees believe in His return. If an ordinary person claims that he or she would live to a certain age but dies early, will anyone expect that person to come back? Never! It is because we know with Swami anything is possible. There have been many instances in the human history where great masters have demonstrated their control over the nature by returning after their death. In yoga, a special name itself has been attributed to such souls which is “Nirmana Kaya” or the ability to recreate their body after death. So what is wrong in believing that Swami who is the grantor of all powers can come back? If such a thing was not possible against the laws of nature, how then did the term (Niramana Kaya) even come into existence?
In my humble opinion, there is no need for anyone to feel offended when devotees talk about His return. Knowing that Swami can do anything makes it easier to digest that these devotees are not talking nonsense. Those who believe in His return believe He has the power to do anything, so He could return. It is also because when we examine some of Swami's statements carefully, we can clearly see that many things are yet to happen in the Sathya Sai Avatar. Not that I am looking for one more miracle to reaffirm my faith. In fact, it is the other way around. It is because of such unflinching faith in His words and His omnipotence that I believe it will happen!