My efforts to get out of a 'spiritual' stagnation...
From childhood, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has been my Lord and Master. All my spiritual growth has been nurtured and cared for by Him. Today, when I look back at my student days, I remember one incident very vividly. That was the incident that gave me an insight on how my future sadhana should be to see God in all - see my master, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba in all. Before I launch into how I have understood it, I must narrate that special experience.
During my post-graduate days, I felt a sort of ‘spiritual stagnation’ envelop me. Of course I was privileged to be a student in Swami’s Institute and I had darshan from close quarters on a daily basis. I also participated in the prayers and bhajans on a regular basis. And yet, I felt that I must do more Sadhana. I often wondered as to what would be the best Sadhana to do. It was at that time when I happened to read about the experience of the great Ramana Maharshi. The Master has spoken about this experience of his and I present it in his own words:
The shock and fear of death drove my mind inward and I said to myself mentally
“Now death has come. What does it mean? Who is it that dies'? The body dies.”
And at once I dramatized the occurrence of death. I lay with my limbs stretched out and imitated a corpse to give more reality to the enquiry.
"Well then,” I said to myself, 'this body is dead. It will be carried to the burning ground and then burnt and reduced to ashes. But with the death of the body, am I dead? Am I this body? It is silent and inert but I feel the full force of my personality and even the voice of 'I’ within me apart from it. So I am the spirit transcending the body. The body dies but the spirit transcending it cannot be touched by death. That means I am the deathless spirit.”
All this was not dull thought; it flashed through me as a vivid living Truth which I perceived directly, almost without thought process. ... From that moment onwards the 'I’ or Self focussed attention on itself by a powerful fascination.
After that experience, Ramana was a totally changed person. I too thought of going through the same ‘exercise’ or ‘drama’ so that my then ‘stagnant’ spiritual life would spring alive with vitality and vibrancy. And so, every night, as I slept in the massive prayer hall of the hostel, I would tell myself that I was not the body. With intense thought, I would picture myself as ‘residing’ in my body and tell myself that I was a soul with a body and not a body with a soul. This was definitely the Jnana Marga, or the path of wisdom and I felt that I must take to it.
Then, I began a new venture. I figured that since only the body needs air and I was not the body, I did not need air to breathe! So, I would simply hold my breath thinking that nothing should happen to me as I was the ‘indweller’ and not the body.
The reader needn’t get carried away because I did not advance much if i advanced at all! Each day, I would be successful in increasing the time I held my breath. I would add a few more seconds to the previous figure. Thus, apart from developing a better lung capacity, I did not progress much spiritually.
The Divine clarification ... and a new Sadhana
And then came the Dasara of 2005. As per the tradition, on a daily basis during the dasara yajnam, Swami’s divine discourse was scheduled. I can never forget the discourse that day - the 9th of October, 2005. Swami began his introductory verse. It was about how people misunderstand sadhana. Swami said,
“Without sleeping at night and talking a lot during day considering it as sadhana! This is foolishness!”
I was stunned. I felt Swami was mocking me in full public view. But as I looked around, I realized that it was only me feeling so. Everyone else was simply absorbed in the discourse that had begun. I too began to listen carefully. And Swami revealed a ‘secret’ in public. He explained the way to salvation for everyone. He said,
“I often reiterate that I am God. But, I also remind you that you are verily God. You should not give scope for any confusion and difference of opinion in this regard. Everyone of you are embodiments of divinity in reality. When you develop such a firm conviction, you can visualise God in every human being. It is only in keeping with this concept that the expression Yad bhavam tad bhavati (as is the feeling, so is the result) asserted in the scriptures. Since people are not aware of the real nature of divinity, they refer to certain individuals as father, mother, uncle, etc., keeping in view their physical forms and the relationships with them. If people are so deluded on the basis of physical relationships, they are bound to get confused about the real nature of divinity. Lord Krishna declared once while revealing His omnipresent divinity that there was none other than Him in the entire universe. The same truth is contained in the declaration Ekam Sath viprah bahudha vadanti (truth is one, but the wise refer to it by various names).”
It was here that I seriously considered what Swami said was the best Sadhana - to see God in everyone; to love God in everyone.
Here is another amazing thing which I realized many years later!
On that day, in that discourse, Swami actually never said, "Without sleeping at night...". He actually said, "Pani Leka" meaning, "without working" which I somehow distinctly heard as "Panko Leka". If you hear the audio of that discourse, Swami's voice is quite shaky. And you will agree that one can make a mistake of hearing 'Pani' as 'Panko'. But I do not think it was a 'mistake'. As explained in the secret of Sathya Sai speaking, each one hears what one is supposed to! Even my 'misunderstanding' of what Swami lead to the proper understanding of Sadhana!
The practical problem with that Sadhana...the beginnings
Proceeding with that story, I decided that my Sadhana should be to see God in all. Here is a practical difficulty - How do I actually see God in the people whom I interact with on a daily basis? It may seem easy to see God in my mother, father and siblings but what about doing the same with my boss, my maid, the driver or the beggar on the street? I can imagine worshiping my mother, pressing the feet of my father but doing the same for my maid or having showing that kind of love to my boss - never!
If there is someone that I don't like or positively detest, how can I see my dear Lord in him/her? What did it mean to see God in someone?
As I sat pondering about this, one of Swami’s most famous aphorisms transformed itself and appeared to my mind’s eye. Swami says,
“Life is a Game; Play it.”
This aphorism transformed itself to,
“Life is a Play; Be game for it.”
And suddenly, there was a solution.
The whole world is one big stage and all of us are merely actors. This has been indicated numerous times in our history and literature. In fact, William Shakespeare said,
“All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players”
Though he said the same in a slightly different context, he seems to have hit the nail on the head.
The 'Sholay' example
Just imagine the sets of a movie. That is what this world is. Each one of us have been given our roles – some are ‘big’ while some are ‘small’; some are ‘positive’ while some are ‘negative’; some are ‘happy’ while some are ‘tragic’. However, these roles remain only as roles - nothing more, nothing less.
For instance, consider the all-time Bollywood classic, Sholay. When the heroes of the movie, Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra pounce upon and bash up the villain, Amjad Khan, it feels so great. We are so absorbed in the movie and we hate Amjad Khan (the notorious Gabbar Singh) for all the ‘evil’ he has done. We even celebrate his death as the victory of the good over the bad.
For a moment now, step out of the shoes of a viewer and step into the actors’ shoes. Though both Amitabh and Dharmendra show anger and hate towards Amjad Khan in the movie, once the shooting is done, they sit together on the sets for a cup of coffee. They talk nicely to each other and have nothing against the other! All their ‘animosity’ ends on the scene. In fact, if one actually sees into their hearts during the scene as well, there is no animosity. Of course, there is anger on the face and venom in the words – but there is no such thing in their hearts. They are fully aware that they are only playing a role – nothing more, nothing less.
Ah! That is the secret to seeing God in everyone!
Juxtaposing the Sholay example in our lives...
It is not as if I should worship my maid or press the feet of my boss (though there are a few who consider that very lucrative and career-advancing) because I see God in them. Seeing God in a person means - carrying no ‘feelings’ in the heart towards him/her because of the ‘role’ that he/she has been put into.
Of course, we have to abide by the rules and guidelines for each role - I have to respect my boss and be a boss to my maid. But this is done only because the roles demand it. In our hearts, we know that all are equal – actors doing their roles as ordained by the Director. In that sense there is nothing special about the President of a country for that is the role which the Director ordained for him/her. In the same vein, there is nothing low or debasing about a beggar on the street for that is the role which the Director ordained for him/her! Simple isn’t it?
If we can lead our lives with this equanimity and equality, we will learn to respect and love everyone for all are but roles. At the same time, we continue to play our roles. If our role demands us to scold/rebuke someone, we do it only for that reason. We carry no actual animosity for the person. If our role demands us to express affection towards someone, we do it only for that reason. We feel no actual attachment or longing for the person!
And now if we examine the lives of saints and men of God, they have lived it this way. That is why we say,
“When Swami gets angry, it is only to correct us. He is never angry!”
He simply is playing His role to perfection and hoping that we too do it without getting lost in our roles! We are so involved in the ‘character’ we are playing that we forget the ‘actor’ that we actually are - and for that matter, the ‘actor’ that everyone else is. This is in fact the Inconvenient Truth that we must realize.
And that, in my opinion, is the way to see God in all - involvement without attachment!
Secret to living life...
Kishore Raviprolu on January 12, 2018:
I have a small confusion and would be grateful if you can help solve it. If we consider ourselves to be the actors in this play of life and deal with the people around accordingly, then i feel that we will be always faking our relationships..For example, if i act as if all physcial relationships are impermanent, then how my transactions with those people would be real? Also, i will be feeling guilty for not being real. Since, i am not established in the feeling that iam GOD then how i would go about seeing GOD in all?? Kindly help brother..
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on July 13, 2014:
Thank you Eric. That was a very relevant and beautiful post that you linked us too...
Very nice point about the observer being free of the Ego. When you say the "breath technique", I must share this too. My Master, Swami, says, that the breathing process consists of "Soooooooo (inhale)" and "Hummmmmmmm (exhale)". The whole breathing exercise is "SoHum" meaning, "I am He(God)." He has always encouraged one to discover one's inherent divinity via one's breathing! :)
Eric on July 12, 2014:
Loved the insight on how the the actors shared coffee together after a scene, even a fight scene.
When practicing seeing God in everyone, I've found using a simple breath technique ("Love Breathing") helps tremendously. It's described at:
It also helps to imagine God wonderfully enjoying Himself playing the part of the person you see or are thinking about.
Prakash Chittaranjan on July 09, 2013:
In Humble Submission, would like to point out a small correction.. "Seeing God in a person means - carrying no ‘feelings’ in the heart towards him/her because of the ‘role’ that he/she has been put into".
In my viewpoint..."Seeing God in Person means - Recognizing the Indweller in everyone as God and respecting the other person without being too attached the role that the person is playing in this Divine Drama"
Shruthi on July 09, 2013:
Thanks for sharing, just theanswer to a question I was pondering earlier today!
Madhusudanvithal on July 09, 2013:
An excellent article dear Arvind. You showed the way How to see SWAMI in all and play our assigned roles without getting attached to the role itself. Sairam and thanks for Navigation on Spiritual path.
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on July 08, 2013:
@ d.william - Sorry for this very delayed response. :)
Thank you for dropping by. each one of us being embodiments of the divine is the ultimate Truth. We are all actors who have forgotten we are actors and are so completely involved in our roles. :)
Getting the broader picture is so important. :)
d.william from Somewhere in the south on February 10, 2013:
What a great post. I have never had any formal training in philosophy, but what i write about comes from my inner self. Reading this wonderful hub, makes me feel like i am not on the wrong track after all.
You have shown me that my "role" in life is to try to enlighten those who are so brainwashed that they are missing out on what life is truly about. If we see ourselves as playing a role in life ( on a global stage, or in a video game) and we are all part of one universal whole existence, it makes us more acutely aware of the sense that we all contribute something to this earthly existence after all, no matter how small, it is still somehow significant in the greater picture.
The best quote that summarizes things up for me is: "Everyone of you are embodiments of divinity in reality".
Anonymous on February 08, 2013:
When we go to Sai centres or when we are at Prasanthi or when we are surrounded in the 'SAI' atmosphere, it seems to be easier to be close with Swami, thinking about Him at all times and practice His teachings. But once we step our foot to the outside world, where there are non-devotees and the 'grasp' of Swami, it seems to be difficult to feel all the 'bliss' and 'joy' and also practice His teachings. How to overcome this problem? Can this method be used?
Deepa Venkitesh on February 08, 2013:
Sairam Aravind, you make it sound so simple. I will try to follow Swamys words and you have helped me grasp the idea
Sandhya on September 30, 2012:
good post but i don't know how to " practicalise" it.... even if i treat all the happenings of a day as a short play and wish to maintain my feelings of harmony and love towards the other actors with whom i interact thruout the day, i find that their reactions are not so pleasant after the act! In short Gabbar Singh keeps his anger intact and is not friendly anymore even tho' he deserved to get the treatment that he got bcoz of his role in the play !
I hv even prayed hard n long to SWAMI to help heal hearts and dissipate the negative vibrations around... but it seldom works...what more can i do, i wonder !
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on September 02, 2012:
Wow! Mr.Happy. I can totally appreciate the Tonal and Nagual. The terms and names vary, but the concepts are the same. Thank you so much for that information.
And YES! I loved that video you sent over.... It is so beautiful and profound.... Actually, I had written a hub along exactly the same lines - called it The Inconvenient Truth. Would love your thoughts on that.
I have added this video you sent at the end of it for it seemed just the perfect piece to make the experience complete....
Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on September 01, 2012:
Each day, I would be successful in increasing the time I held my breath. I would add a few more seconds to the previous figure. - So, You must be a pretty good swimmer (lol). I should not be laughing because if I had learned this story a few years ago, I may have tried holding my breath too ... I have tried a lot of things (lol).
"Of course, we have to abide by the rules and guidelines for each role - I have to respect my boss and be a boss to my maid." - As I learned from some teachings, the Yaqui Indian (Mexican Natives) sorcerers called these roles we have: "the tonal". And as explained, we each have a tonal and it is advisable to work at our tonal and build it to be strong. At the same time though, a sorcerer knows how to go beyond the tonal to the spirit world and they call that the Nagual. To be complete would mean to be able to shift between the two: the tonal and the nagual.
Haha ... I just went on a serious tangent. I suppose now I can go a little further and say that this article reminded me of a clip which I thought about sending You a couple of days ago or so. It does go hand-in-hand with your piece of writing here. Well, the part about people being actors and that we should just have fun with it. Here is the short clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KQaWxUI-g8
Thank You for the fun read Mr. Aravind! It shot-up an entire array of thoughts in my mind.
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on August 27, 2012:
@MsDora - This is a philosophy that has been expounded by many Masters - Adwaitha. It is the knowledge that there is only ONE GOD - and nothing else exists because everything is an embodiment of that God. The only problem is that this awareness of one's divinity is not present in man.
For example, when one says, "This is my car." It means that he/she is not that car. The car is separate from him/her. In the similar way, when we say, "this is my body" or "this is my mind", it actually means we are neither the body nor the mind. But we often mistake ourselves to be our body.
When we look into the Bible also, Jesus teaches us this in a subtle manner. He began by stating that he was the messenger of God. Then he said that he was the son of god. Finally, he said, "I and my father are one."
That is the evolution that all of us must undertake - that is the evolution that Jesus pointed out to us through his life. We have to ascend from body-consciousness to divine-consciousness.
And as a final display of the Truth, Jesus showed that he was not the body that 'he wore'. On Easter Sunday, Jesus was alive though his body had been brutally mutilated!
We have to learn that we are the soul wearing a body and not the body containing a soul.
Hope that helps.
Thank you for stopping by...
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on August 27, 2012:
Thanks aravindb1982 and readers for sharing these views and experiences. Being a Christian, some of it is above my head, but it is always interesting to hear what other people believe and why.
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on August 25, 2012:
@ Rajashekar - Thank you for that beautiful concluding statement - Seeing God in others is sadhana; others seeing God in us is the goal. It evokes and kindles so many thoughts and feelings.
I feel Self Realization is like learning to balance on a bicycle. We can only keep trying and keep falling. Suddenly, one day, we realize that we know 'cycling'! :)
Rajasekhar Polapragada on August 25, 2012:
so many thoughts, so many experiences. but self realisation has to come from within as the bolt to the door has to be opened from inside. I did learn from you brother Arvind. thanks. it is better we do sadhana along with other sai devotees which will make it faster than doing alone. seeing God in others is sadhana. others seeing God in us is the goal.
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on August 25, 2012:
Thank you Radha...
And thank you Niranjan for that lovely quote...
Radha on August 25, 2012:
Wonderful article brother.very happy to read it.May swami bless you abundantly for the excellent service you are doing.very well written and a great message for all...
Niranjan on August 24, 2012:
Excellent one! The last line of this post, is what Swami has said time and again - "be 'in' the world and not 'of' the world" ...
Sai Santosh from knoxville, USA on August 24, 2012:
Here is an enriching quote from Swami with respect to the 'drama'. BE part of the drama and respect your and others role. Do your best(by following the MASTER).
"You must use your intelligence to discover what is best under the circumstances and in the situation, considering the status and the profession which you have won. The barber should not treat all things equal and use his razor to peel vegetables, cut pencils and paper, bamboos and beards alike. Each instrument has its own special use and purpose; every individual has some skills and responsibilities. The king should be treated as a king and the farmer as a farmer. But make sure your activities leave no scar on your faith in Unity. Though in principle all is Brahmam, in dealing with them in day-to-day activity, you cannot follow the non-dual approach. There should be Bhaava-adhwaitha, not Karma-adhwaitha, that is to say, the underlying faith should be in the Unity of all, though the outer activity may be different for varied entities."
- Divine Discourse, May 23, 1965
poornimasrinath from Midrand, Johannesburg, RSA on August 24, 2012:
@impressed reader: I completely agree with your last point. I have seen few who wantingly talk / act in totally unpleasing way. In such people I only would feel Swami in hibernate mode! The reason for such behaviour is either insecurity feeling or superiority complex. May be not hurting them back and ignoring them will testify our consciousness.
@aravind: Agree with your point that corrective measures need to be taken. My observation is if we could do it under complete control overcoming our emotions once, such situations won't arise in future.
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on August 24, 2012:
@ Rajesh M - Your efforts are laudable and impressive. The best thing about the Lord is that He sees the efforts only - since the results are anyway in His hands! You have inspired me with the story of your efforts. Thank you...
An Impressed Reader on August 24, 2012:
That was real good thinking .. My questions are clarified .. I'd write a mini post if I were to start on what I got from it .. So I shall stop with a big thanks :)
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on August 24, 2012:
@ An Impressed Reader - It is not that we have to tolerate 'bad'. It is like this. To decide whether someone has done right or wrong, we have to sublimate our emotions. I don't mean control them, but sublimate them - they should not arise. It is in that silence of emotions alone that one is able to judge properly about right and wrong. If someone is found wrong in such an analysis, corrective action should be taken. But even while the action is being meted out, one should be 'aware' that it is being done as a corrective measure- just as a nut is tightened in a machine.
Instead, we commit two errors. First, our judgement is in emotion. Secondly, even our corrective action is in emotion.
Can we, for example, do what Lord Krishna did to Shishupala?
(read in detail at
Though he annihilated him, Krishna gave him the highest good at the end of it. That shows that though Krishna took corrective action, He was not doing it in emotion or passion but as His 'duty'.
That is the concept of "Karma Phala Thyaga" that He speaks about...
poornimasrinath from Midrand, Johannesburg, RSA on August 24, 2012:
I burst into laughter imagining you closing your nostrils etc., had someone around you noticed, it would have been a great entertainment for them ;)..The thought "See God in all" often used to trouble me as well. Even yesterday I was thinking about my attitude towards my little one and questioned myself if I really showed love to him as in the recent times I find myself often being impatient with him. I was convinced that I am doing my duty(dharma) as a mom and knew this attitude is the result of immense love I have for him. There are times when I even used to feel bad looking at my pregnant maid. This feeling prompted me to chant Gayathri, vedas and play bhajan or discourse while she is around. This thought was prompted by Swami to show love in a different manner for the maid and baby inside. By showing love / care towards someone I feel that I have respected God within that person and made him happy.
Prof G.V had spoken about this very beautifully giving the example of an ant. Seeing God in such a small insect is the greatest thought one can ever have. We can hardly believe it has a brain and has 250,000 brain cells! If it not for God who can carry 20 times heavier object than its own weight?
Himanshu on August 24, 2012:
good one simple and very practical
An Impressed Reader on August 24, 2012:
This post has set me thinking ..
Does it then mean that we are all free from responsibility towards the negative thoughts, words and deeds that we may sometimes indulge in? Since we are just actors.. Or is this applicable only when I look at others?
Because I still feel that we all have free will when it comes to the way we react to a situation .. When I am angry with someone, I can certainly restrain that look on my face and the words that are waiting to tumble out and stab the other .. I cannot simply allow my emotions to take control of me and then rid myself of the responsibility, can I? Similarly if I were to wilfully deceive someone, it is done with complete knowledge of right and wrong ..
Continuing in that vein, when I see that someone has done negative actions in spite of having the capability to act otherwise, it makes me feel a certain bitterness towards them .. In such cases, I somehow find it impossible to believe that the script was written that way .. The only thing I find doable to get rid of that bitterness is to pray to Swami to give me the ability and heart to forgive them and get rid of the animosity that is seething inside ..
Subramani on August 24, 2012:
Excellent stuff brother. The movie example really clinches it for me. Thank you for this great service.
Rajesh M on August 23, 2012:
What a timely post!
I, for the last 6 months or more have been asking Swami to show me a way so that I don't need to sleep. Idea is to put that time into productive use for learning and for spiritual progress by reading scriptures, meditation etc. Of course i cannot do all these during day as "I am busy and don't have time" :).
I prayed to Him in letting me know the Bala Atibala mantra. After sometime i got it and used to chant but i used to run to my sleep everyday. I was still tired and sleepy. Then i started searching in net for Yogic postures that might help. The ones I saw scared me. I want my spine to be intact without injury.
Then some days back i opened the Gita to see if there is any message for me. I can't recollect the exact verse in sanskrit, but the translation was something like this 'The one who doesn't sleep and is always interested in eating food will not reach me ' (i might be wrong with some part of translation). It was a shocker for me. And now I see this post. I am clear now. Thanks !
I have every reason to believe that Swami used 'sleep' that day :)
Aside, I am trying my best waking up early in the morning and trying my meditations. Earlier i used to feel that Swami is not supporting me by making me feel sleepy etc. Now I am able to understand it in a different perspective called small 'tests' to me