Aravind Balasubramanya has spent more than 2 decades with Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He has studied under Baba and been His photographer.
Confusion About Dreams of Swami
One of the most common ways in which Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba communicates is via dreams. Swami has time and again exhorted that nobody can dream of Him without Him willing so. For instance, during a discourse on the 24th of November, 1998, during the Valedictory function of the first Overseas Convention of Chairs of Sai Centres, when the question of dreams was posed to Swami, He answered, (quoting from Sathya Sai Speaks)
"Sometimes you experience nightmares and sometimes you experience dreams that fill you with happiness. All these dreams occur because they are accumulated in your subconscious mind. It is good that they find expression in dreams. Dreams are reaction, reflection and resound of things which are within you. The same does not appear to dreams in which Swami appears. Swami appears in dreams only when He wills it and not when you want."
He continued to say that day,
"There are certain confusing dreams in which your feelings play an active role. You may see Swami but you have a lot of your feelings get mixed up and cause confusion. you may see yourself in Puttaparthi in one point in time and in America in the very next, so on and so forth. These dreams are not willed by Swami and are cause by indigestion. Dreams willed by me are very clear and give no room for doubt. I come to you and convey what I want in the most direct manner. However, remember that Swami's grace is there on one and all whether He comes in dreams or not."
While that clears up so many doubts, what about people coming to us with commands, messages and requests that Swami made in their dreams? Swami has clarified about that also. For instance in a discourse on March 26, 1965, Swami says,
" People say that Baba appeared to me in a dream and commanded me to do this and that, to you, to collect so much from you etc. etc. Do not give heed to such cheats; punish them in the way they deserve. That is the advice I have to give you."
Finally, there is the Truth about Swami coming in dreams. It is based on the divine unity that Swami always emphasizes. When He is asked,
"Are you God?"
His response has always been,
"Yes I am. And if you enquire within, you will realize that you too are God. The only difference between you and me is that I know am God while you do not."
At this level of understanding, the Advaitic level, the dreamer, the dream and Swami - all become one. That is what Swami says during a discourse on the 25th of October 2004.
"When you intensely desire that Swami must appear in your dream and constantly think of the same, that intense desire will assume a form in your dream. God does not assume a form or change into another form."
It is important to read these excerpts in context else it could seriously do more bad than good for us!
When I wrote an article about the fruits of action in three parts, I got a few responses that stated this sentiment in spirit, “Wow! This experience shows that Swami in dreams is as ‘real’ as Swami in ‘reality’.” That triggered off so many thoughts and memories in me. Two episodes in particular, stood out by their uniqueness and ‘bizarreness’ if I could say so. To relive one of them, we move down memory lane to the 18th of September, 2008.
It was a day like any other at Prashanti Nilayam. Thousands had arrived from the Northern states of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh in India. It had, by now, become a kind of timetable schedule with devotees from the different places arriving in such a way that their pilgrimage dates do not clash. Thus all were assured of the precious proximity to Swami. Any group that was visiting Prashanti Nilayam would come prepared with a programme and seek Swami’s approval to put it up. At times, it would be late in the afternoon when the group would get to know that they would have to put up their programme in the evening on the same day.
That put me on a high alert. Being a photographer, I would have to be ready for programmes on any day, at any time. I also had a set of ‘informers’ who would sound me in case of any ‘rumors’ of a programme. With this background, we can now ease into the actual happenings of the day.
I returned to the studio after a heavy lunch and was feeling very drowsy. I do not even remember when I dozed off. As I slept, I had a dream. I reproduce the diary entry for the dream that day.
“When I slept at 2:50pm , I had a dream. Swami was seated on a sofa and He seemed to be very pleased with two people who had done well in a drama. He was calling them from over my head and I saw that He was about to materialize something. I had my camera with me but I decided that I would watch the creation about to happen and study the process. So I kept the camera aside. I felt that Swami was going to create two chains at the same time. I was watching when I was suddenly woken up. The time was 3:10pm.”
In the 20 minutes I had slept, I had Swami’s dream. I had been woken up by a phone call. It was my colleague who was on his way to the studio. He was one of my ‘informers’ that I mentioned in the beginning and he told me that he saw a backdrop being shifted into the Sai Kulwant hall and guessed that there might be a programme. I got up and got my camera equipment ready for the evening’s programme.
The drama was by the devotees from Uttaranchal and Uttarakhand and was based on the secret behind the Sai Avatars. It was entitled "Sai Avataran Rahasya". It showed a modern youth very disturbed, coming up to his saintly uncle with doubts. The uncle offers him sage counsel along with the teachings of Sathya Sai Baba. The main part of the drama was the story of sage Bharadwaja that Swami narrated in His epochal 1963 Guru Purnima discourse, after curing Himself of paralysis of several days by merely sprinkling water:
"You all know that I declared on the very day when I decided to disclose My Identity, My Mission and My Advent, that I belong to the Apasthamba Suthra (Vedic ritual system) and the Bharadhwaja Gothra (lineage). This Bharadhwaja was a great sage, who studied the Vedas for a full one hundred years; but, finding that the Vedas were anantha (endless) he did thapas (penance) for prolonging his lifespan, and from Lord Indra he got two extensions of a century each. Even then, the study of the Vedas could not be completed, so he asked Indra again for another hundred years. Indra showed him three huge mountain ranges and said, "What you have learned in three centuries form only three handfuls from out of the three ranges, which the Vedas are. So, give up the attempt to exhaust the Vedas. Do a Yaaga (sacrifice), instead, which I shall teach you: that will give you the fruit of Vedic study, full and complete."
Sage Bharadhwaja decided on performing the Yaaga as per Indra’s instructions and made all preparations. The sage wanted that Shakthi (the consort of Lord Shiva) must preside and bless the Yaaga, and so he went to Kailasha (the abode of Lord Shiva). But, the time was not opportune for presenting his petition, for Shiva and Shakthi were engaged in a competition, trying to find out who could dance longer. Eight days passed thus, before Shakthi noticed Bharadhwaja standing in the cold. She just cast a smile at him and danced along as before! The sage mistook the smile as a cynical refusal to notice him; so he turned his back on Kailasha and started to descend. To his dismay, he found his left leg, hand and eye put out of action by a stroke. Seeing the sage collapse, Shiva came up to him and consoled him and assured him that Shakthi had indeed blessed him and his Yaaga. Then, Shiva revived him and cured him, sprinkling water from the Kamandalu (a kettle-shaped container used by ascetics). Both Shiva and Shakthi presided over the Yaaga.
After the Yaaga was over, they were so pleased that they conferred more boons on the sage. Shiva said that they would take human form and be born in the Bharadhwaja Gothra (lineage) thrice: Shiva alone as Shirdi Sai Baba, Shiva and Shakthi together at Puttaparthi as Sathya Sai Baba and Shakthi alone as Prema Sai, later. Then Shiva remembered the illness that had suddenly come upon Bharadhwaja at Kailasha. He gave another assurance, "As expiation for the neglect which Shakthi showed you at Kailasha for eight days, this Shakthi will suffer the stroke for eight days, when we both take birth as Sathya Sai. On the eighth day, I shall relieve her from all signs of the disease by sprinkling water, just as I did to cure your illness." It was the working out of this assurance that you witnessed today, just now. This had to happen, this stroke and the cure. The assurance given in the Thretha Yuga had to be honoured. I may tell you now that the Bhaktha who had to suffer the stroke which I took upon myself, was a convenient excuse which was utilised."
Lord Shiva and Mother Parvati
As the drama was on, I felt that it was not a good presentation. I fell victim to the weakness of judging! And I also saw that it was not only I who was indulging in it. Most of the members of the audience seemed to be laughing silently at what seemed like a below average programme. For instance, the Shiva-Parvati dance is often depicted with great awe and wonder. When the divine couple danced in the drama, it looked bad. But one glance at Swami, and He was engrossed in the presentation. Immediately, I felt like kicking myself. How could I be so naïve and egoistic? The programme happening in front of me was one that was being watched by the divine. That fact alone was enough to say that the presentation was very special. At that moment of repentance, something flashed in me - the dream that I had a few hours ago!
I turned to my right and saw my physics teacher sitting there. I said, “Sir, though people are laughing at the drama, Swami is very happy. In fact, after the programme, He will manifest two gold chains for the participants!” My teacher looked at me with curiosity and I wondered as to what made me blurt out something like that.
Soon, the drama concluded and Swami asked so sweetly, "Drama over?" He makes such a perfect audience. He always asks, "Is it over already?" because He is so engrossed in the programme.
Many times, we humans do not enjoy things because we have expectations and we keep judging the performance. As someone beautifully put it, "if you judge, you just do not have time to Love." We can also safely add the corollary that when you Love, there is not a moment free where you can judge. Swami is always so engrossed because He sees the sincerity and effort. And that is the vital difference between God and man. God sees only the efforts and so whether it's a fantastic performance or an average one, they are the same for Him as long as the efforts have been put in. Not so for humans. We judge everything by results forgetting the fact that many things that we ourselves have learnt in our lives are because of the encouragement and support that our efforts (and not our results) received!
And then, it happened.
Swami called over the dancers and began encircling His right palm. In a flash, there were two gold chains! I exchanged glances with my teacher and I began to get goosebumps. This was exactly what I had seen in the dream ( or was about to see had not the call woken me!) I remembered that in the dream I put down my camera to witness the creation. I was wondering whether that was what I was supposed to do. I had not even completed my thought when Swami called me. I went to Him and He says, “Take pictures! I shall also come down with the children there and pose with them. Take pictures of that also.”
I actually had a video camera in my hand. But I was totally lost in the magic of that moment. He not only had shown me the whole sequence of events in my dream, He was here also confirming it by advising me not to stop shooting ( as I had done in the dream).
It was a very poignant and important day for me. I learnt two important lessons.
1. Swami’s dreams do not happen without His will. His dreams are as true as reality.
2. Never be a judge. It is very hard to do that but abstaining from doing so helps us take baby steps towards realizing our divinity.
© 2012 Aravind Balasubramanya