Nanasaheb Chandorkar and Nimonkar, both Sai devotees, once went to Shirdi for Baba’s darshan. Nanasaheb fell at Baba’s feet and said: “O Sai Maharaj, I am sick and tired of this mundane life. The Shastras say that this world of ours is meaningless, an illusion. Help me. Oh, brother of the helpless, to break the fetters that bind me to this mundane life, the more one looks for happiness in this world, the less one finds it. Misery seems to be man’s lot. Wretched hope that springs eternally in us sends us from place to place.. I am sick and tired of it. I do not want to get involved in it.”
Baba laughed at this and said:” Where do you get these crazy ideas from, Nana? You really are a simpleton. What you said about mundane life is true but you can not escape it as long as the body exists. Nobody can escape it, not even I”. Our mundane life affects the body in various ways,” continued Sai Maharaj.
“Desire, envy, avarice, pride, hatred and anger are part of our mundane life; so are the senses of sight, hearing and taste. So are our imagination and our bodily needs. They are all inextricably mixed: they are like a mixture of the parts which are inseparable, like a knot that nobody can untie. People say that one’s wife and progeny are also of one’s mundane life. You too believe so and find it difficult to get on with them. What with one’s wife and children and other relatives like brothers, nephews, etc, life is full of problems but you cannot get rid of these.”
problems of life
Nana said, “My previous lives were evidently ordained by the Lord but my concern is with my present one. I want no more of it bedeviled, as it is by too many problems, too many woes. Help me rid myself of this.”
Baba laughed at these words of Nanasaheb and said. “You are responsible for this life. You are the one who caused it. Now can you get rid of it? This body of yours is the fruit of the accumulated karma of the past. Karma is the root cause of all our miseries. All those that are born – whether men, birds or beasts -suffer from the effects of their previous karma.
Unless one burns down the effects of one’s previous karma, one cannot be rid of the body. All people, rich and poor, and married ones, sannyasins and vanaprastha exist because of the life force running through them; so do different animals like horses, bulls, jackals, tigers, rhinos, hyenas, dogs, pigs, scorpions, snakes, ants, fleas and kites. The same life force runs through all of them. Why do these entities look different? Did you ever ponder this, Nana? If you do, you will realize that the reason lies in their past karma.
The animals are different because of their previous karma, their innate characteristics depending on the species they belong to. Thus, tigers eat flesh and pigs eat excreta while hyenas dig out buried bodies and devour them. Kites and vultures feed on rotten bodies while swans eat the tender leaves of lotus plants.
Karma determines not only the species-specific characteristics of animals but also what happens to some members of the species as distinct from some others of the species in their life-span. Thus, some tigers are lucky to roam free in the forest whereas others are destined to move from door to door at the bidding of their gypsy masters, chained and shackled. The dogs kept by the rich sit on soft mattresses while others roam about in the streets, lingering around houses for a piece of bread. Some cows are treated to good grains, oil cakes and special fodder; some do not get even a straw to nibble and some others have to hang around refuse dumps for food.
Coming to men, some are rich, some poor, some lucky and some mere destitute reduced to begging. Some have vehicles and horses and some have large houses or palaces to live in while some have to sleep naked in the open. Some have children, some remain childless, some are unlucky to see their children die young and some get heartily sick of their children.”
Pain and pleasure
Nana folded his hands and said, “I understand that but what puzzles me is this: why should there be pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow? There cannot be these if one gets rid of worldly affairs.”
To this Baba said, “Pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow are illusions. They are not real, although people think of them to be real. Thanks to his previous karma, one man feeds on delicacies; another feeds on dry bread; a third gets only stale food or worthless leftovers. Those who feed on stale food or worthless leftovers consider themselves unhappy, while those eating good food say that they have everything they need. The purpose of eating is to quench the fire in the stomach, no matter what one eats delicacies or leftovers.
Similarly, the purpose of covering one’s body, whether with delicate fabrics woven with gold thread or with rough garments made from the inner bark of trees, is to protect the body; nothing more. Thus, joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure are simple ways of looking at things. They are illusions, and you should not be deceived by them. Illusory as they are, these feelings cannot exist without a cause just as waves cannot exist without water or light without a lamp.
The six enemies like desire, avarice, etc. are the underlying causes. These make one believe that the unreal is the real. When a poor man sees a gold bracelet on the wrist of a rich man, he feels angry. The anger gives rise to envy, the desire to own something belonging to another. One must, therefore, defeat the six enemies. Once they are subdued they cannot disturb you with joy or sorrow. You need not destroy these enemies completely; you need only to learn to use them as your slaves, keeping them in check through knowledge or rational thinking.
There is, however, one real joy and one real sorrow. Being caught up in the cycle of births and deaths is the real sorrow; getting liberated from the cycle is a real joy. All the rest is an illusion.
HOW TO LIVE IN THIS WORLD
How then, should one conduct oneself in the world? Listen to what I say carefully. One must be contented with one’s lot in life; one must not keep worrying over it. If riches come to you, accept them but be humble, like the trees which bend on being loaded with fruit. It is good to be humble, to be kind and polite but not to everyone. You should learn to tell rogues, who take advantage of the kindness of the rich and be stern with them. Do not forget, however, that wealth is but the noonday shadow. Do not get puffed up with the power of wealth and harass others. Instead, give in charity according to your capacity. One should never borrow and be extravagant. The world may be an illusion but your destiny is not: it is real. You need wealth to conduct your worldly affairs.
Wealth is essential but one should not get entangled in it. Do not be a miser. Be generous but not over-generous. Remember, no one will care for you once your wealth is spent. Generosity combined with extravagance is dangerous; avoid it by all means.
While giving in charity, consider how suitable is the recipient. The sick and the disabled are worthy of your charity; so are orphans. All public welfare projects deserve of financial help: so are scholars of merit. Try to help, if you can, poor and deserving women in labor.
There are three types of feedings: mass feeding, regular feeding and occasional feeding. Mass feeding is feeding people in thousands. You may do this if you are very wealthy and your intentions good. When you feed masses, you need not differentiate between caste or between good and bad people; all are worthy. Feeding in the name of the Lord also falls into this category.
However, you should not undertake some feeding if you have to borrow and get into debt.
Regular feeding, on the other hand, calls for discrimination. Only wayfarers, mendicants, the worthy poor among students who live by begging their bread, and the hungry deserve to be fed regularly. “Then there is occasional feeding – feeding on occasions like weddings, festivals and the completion of the observance of religious vows. On such occasions, you may invite your good friends and relations and feed them.
These are the three types of feeding and the reasons behind them. The same holds good for the offering of clothing. Try to help those in distress whenever your purse permits.
When in power, do not misuse it. Do not take a bribe while sitting in judgment on a case. Whatever responsibility is given to you, carry it out well and with due care. Do not dress overly and show off. Do not, without proper reason, insult anyone. Know the bad and the wicked and deal carefully with them. If you are blessed with sons, daughters, servants, and maids, treat them all affectionately but do not take pride in these blessings, for such pride causes the cycle of births and deaths. We must finish up with our past store of karma so that nothing is left for us to carry forward. Blessings like sons, daughters, etc. are meant for this life only.
Where, for instance, are the friends and relatives we had in our past lives? They ceased to be when the lives for which they were meant ceased to be. Desires bind us from birth to birth and bring about the next birth. Do not, therefore, take false pride in your progeny, relations or friends. Only then will you get everlasting bliss. We go to a hotel to take shelter there for a short while. We do not get attached to such a temporary dwelling. The world too is but a temporary abode for us. “Everybody should perform his duties and remember the Lord, who is full of bliss.
All children on earth were created by the one God but your own child is your responsibility. You must bring him up properly, educate him, give him some money and leave some wealth for him. Do not, however, take pride in his upbringing or education or the wealth you have left him. Do your duty and give the Lord the credit for doing it. Give the Lord the fruits of your duty too. This will help you remain aloof and detached from worldly activities. Use your intelligence and knowledge to differentiate the good from the bad, accept the good and discard the bad. Take up good projects and make all efforts to complete them. You must not be apathetic towards the affairs of this world.
body of this life
Do your duties proudly but cast off this pride as soon as they bear fruit. “As long as life exists, one must take good care of one’s body but one should not weep over death. After death, nothing exists for you to cry over. Wise men are unmoved by death; it is only the foolish who give vent to their feelings in times of death. The body until its death is a loan from the five elements, which the life force repays. On full and final repayment of the loan, air mixes with air, fire with fire. Thus, the five elements go back to their respective places.
The body belongs to the earth, and its loss is not a matter for mourning. Similarly, the birth of a child need not be a cause for rejoicing, birth being as natural a phenomenon as death. One must stay calm, unmoved by birth and death, Oh Narayan! The earth bears the seed, the cloud waters it and the sun helps the seed to germinate. When the seed germinates, do the earth, the cloud and the sun rejoice and start dancing? Whether the sprout turns into a big tree or it dries up and withers is something that should cause neither rejoicing nor sorrow. If we act in this manner, how can there be any misery or cause for lamentation? The state of absolution is the absence of misery and lamentation.
Baba then told Nanasaheb that we would receive from him more ‘upadesh” later. Nanasaheb was very pleased to hear this. His eyes moist with tears of joy and his body full of goose pimples, he caught hold of Baba’s feet and said in a voice overwhelmed with emotion. “O generous Sai: you have redeemed me. Your “upadesh” has washed away the dust of nescience that had gathered over me. I am deeply grateful to you.” Nimonkar was equally overwhelmed. They both fell at Baba’s foot and left for their respective homes.