Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sai Baba's advice: Study the Mind

On the occasion of the 1st anniversary of Sathya Sai Baba’s Mahaparinirvana, referred to as Maha Samadhi in the Sai organizations, during the puja session, these are the essence of the teachings by Sai Baba given through a video message. The video was of him giving a talk to a group of students during Shivarathri festival in 2009. Firstly he stressed the teachings on impermanence of the body, giving referring to the physical bodies of avatars from Rama’s time until now, they are all impermanent. Their bodies were only an illusion. In actual fact, he stressed that the true form of avatars are formless. Similarly our bodies are also impermanent but our mind is that of Atma - formless. But the formlessness manifest as forms throughout the ages. He is trying to tell his students that similarly his own body is also impermanent and not to be too attached to it.  He also talked a bit on concentration, contemplation and meditation, distinguishing distinctly these 3 terms. He said when we focus on the god form, it is an example of concentration. And when the form moves about, or when there is movement, it becomes contemplation. What he is saying, I think, is that when there is thinking or analysis involved, then it becomes contemplation. It is something like the Buddhist Vipassana meditation. Also, during tantric visualizations, when you visualize the light shining, or visualizing making mandala offerings, then it involves some movements. It becomes “contemplation” according to Bhagavan Baba. When we are developed in these 2 aspects, then only it becomes “meditation”. He said true meditation is when we could see the god-form whether we close or open our eyes. His words reminded me that this is exactly what is stated by the Vajrayana Masters on meditation of yidam. Otherwise it is not “meditation”. Most often, Baba said, people are only engaging in either concentration or contemplation. The sequence of concentration, contemplation and meditation reminded me of the Buddhist way fo samtha, vipassana and then a union of samatha and vipassana. He also added that we should not just meditate, but meditate with love. After that he talked a little on the composition of what constitutes “us”. He said a person is made of body, mind, the intellect and inner senses. I am not sure if the translation is accurate but these are the terms used in the English translation in the video. He said the body is gone when the other components leave it. Lastly, he stressed the need for students to study their textbooks. Note that he was speaking to school-going students. But, he also made a point, and this was the “bomb”. I did not expect it coming. He said they should also study the mind. He paused to let the audience absorb that, and added that, to get their priorities right, if they are in a class, they should only study the textbooks. Although he ventured on to urge the students (mostly Hindus) to study the Upanishads, I was thinking that as Buddhists, he was spot-on to urge his devotees to study the mind. As I understand it, in Hinduism, not many people really study the mind. Therefore Baba advocated them to study it first. Then only they can purify the mind and understand the nature of the mind.  In Buddhism, there are many texts and scriptures devoted to studying the mind, its workings and compositions. Hence Baba’s advice to study the mind is very much in line with the Buddha’s teachings. In my mind, I was thinking, “Yes, Baba… I will continue to study the mind.” With Baba’s explanation of the 3 meditation terms, I feel I am clearer now in terms of the meditation I am doing. At least, now I can understand his simple explanation of these 3 terms. So, that teaching and bhajan session, ended with a queue to make offerings of flowers to Baba. On the way out after offering flowers, each person is to take a pinch of the vibuthi (holy ashes) and a small teaspoon of water to drink and sprinkle on the head. I thought that is very similar to the Tibetan Buddhist practice during empowerments, except that in Buddhism we don’t use vibuthi. We use biscuits or candies instead. Then we all adjourned to take the prasadam (food/meal after the puja, just like Tibetan tshok). In short, I am glad I went. Oh- and I have to add that they did not announce that each person must contribute a certain sum of money for the event. They are silent on that and let individuals donate as they wish. Or, we could purchase the items on sale at the souvenir/gift corner.  One more thing, in the video clip, there were scenes of the funeral and one scene clearly showed several Arabs (in their traditional headgear and long white dress) paying their last respects to Sathya Sai Baba. Looks like there are Arabs who do believe in him. Hmmm...this was quite a discovery. Om Sai Ram.   

No comments: