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Sathya Sai Speaks - But who listens?


When Swami's message in one discourse contradicts His message in another...

There was a question that was once asked in a spiritual discussion. It was something like this, “Swami speaks different things in His discourses. Sometimes, one thing that He speaks seems to contradict another that He had previously spoken! For instance He says,

‘Whatever you desire, ask God. If not God, whom else can you turn to?’

But on another occasion He has said,
‘Shut up and do not ask anything of God. Don’t you think He knows everything and loves you enough to provide all that you need?’

What should I accept as the take home lesson when such contradicting advice is given?”

Pondering, praying and discussing over this led me to an answer from within. The answer is so appropriate and reassuring. Before sharing that, let me take a little detour.

Sri.N.Kasturi was one of the foremost devotees of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He is Swami’s biographer, the first editor of the magazine Sanathana Sarathi, one of the longest serving postmasters for Puttaparthi and, most importantly, the one whom Swami entrusted His valuable personal writings of the various Vahinis. Swami would personally pen articles for Sanathana Sarathi and also write the chapters of the Vahini series of books. His autobiography entitled, “Loving God” is a masterpiece that arouses in the reader love for God, joy, laughter and a sense of awe and wonder.

Radiosai carried a comprehensive article on this glorious soul and I feel everyone must go through it once at least

Swami sharing an intimate moment with Sri Kasturi

Swami sharing an intimate moment with Sri Kasturi

Sathya Sai Speaks...

That introduction to Sri Kasturi was to quote a poem of His that appears in the volumes of the Sathya Sai Speaks - a collection of discourses by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba available in 42 volumes! The poem is so beautiful and wonderful and I quote :

Sathya Sai Speaks.

But, who among us do listen
and plant them in well-ploughed hearts?
And when they cleave the cold, and greenly grow
who among us shed tears of joy?
His words are for the inner ear;
they have drummed us, along the valleys of night
and led us, through smiles and sobs,
into the shore of the vastness, basking in His love,

Sathya Sai Speaks.

I do not wish to ruin the beauty of his poetry with my commentary. But I would love to share my thoughts and feelings on the question posed in the beginning.

The Master’s ‘difficulty’ during a discourse

Just consider for a moment, Swami’s situation when He rises to address a gathering. It can be likened to that of a teacher trying to teach in a class filled with students from kindergarten to doctoral research! And there are kindergarten children and research scholars (literally and figuratively) in the audience that hears to Swami. What makes sense to the ‘child’ is not enjoyed by the ‘researcher’ and what is juicy for the ‘researcher’ is gibberish for the child. And so, with His mellifluous voice, the Lord weaves stories, dicta, aphorisms and statements to produce a masterclass Master’s Class lecture that needs to satisfy all.

A simple example further illustrates this difficulty that Swami faces as He speaks. Imagine the two children of a mother walk to her and ask her,

“Mom, where do babies come from?”

One child is 5 years old and the other is 12 years old. What does the mother do? She refrains from answering them together. Calling the younger one to a side, the mother tells a story, probably about how a stork brings babies. Then, calling the elder one, the mother makes a revelation of the biological processes involved. This is natural because the 5 year old is not grown enough to be exposed to the higher truth.

Imagine now, if the mother had to explain these to the children together. Worse still, how hard it would be if she had to explain this to several children of different ages - say a 3 year old, 5 year old, 12 year old and 14 year old? Anything she says will seem like nonsense for someone younger than whom it is intended to and will seem like lies for someone older than whom it is intended to. Now imagine, Swami’s difficulty when He addresses a gathering filled with ‘kindergarten children’ and ‘research scholars’ in spirituality! Only the ‘grown ups’ will empathise with the mother and know that she is neither lying nor speaking non-sense.

An example of modern day teaching will amplify what is being stated above and present another aspect of it too. Even to this day, in either 6th or 7th grade, one is taught the Bohr’s model of the atom. The children learn the equations involved and use them to solve problems. Coming to university, the teenager learns that the Bohr’s theory has many shortcomings and the real way to explain the atomic world is via the Quantum Mechanical model of the atom. Later, the teenager becomes a doctoral scholar and then a lecturer. However, he/she continues to teach the children, the Bohr’s theory as a precursor to the quantum theory. Why? That is simply because the Bohr’s theory, though not ‘right’ absolutely, is an absolute must to help the understanding of the children. It also works for all the ‘problems’ that the children get at ‘their level’. Once the children are ready for the ‘quantum leap’ they are told to discard the former theory and taught the new one!

Now, Swami has to do the teaching of the spiritual ‘Bohr’s theory’ and spiritual ‘Quantum theory’ simultaneously to the audience. The ‘grown ups’ of course know that Swami is neither confusing nor lying. However, confusion may arise among the ‘children’ like me!

So, the answer lies in me being able to know my grade and accept only that which applies to me.


The grade solution

How do I know which grade I belong to? How do I recognise what part of the discourse is meant for me?

The kid in the class will never appreciate anything else but A,B,C and D. The researcher feels absolutely no inspiration in the alphabets but is thrilled by ‘complex’ concepts. The teacher is happy if at the end of the class the kid has learnt the alphabet and the researcher has grasped the concept. He does not wish that the kid follow the concept and the researcher appreciate the alphabet.

So too, when one reads or hears to Swami speaking, based on the grade one is in, the perfect statement or subject thrills the heart. The mind tries to seek solace in company while the heart seeks it in the Truth. The Truth remains the Truth even if all alone. When any statement inspires you or strikes you as profound, know that it was meant for you. That is your lesson for the session. As said in the article on the mind and the heart, the mind will now jump into the fray and try reasoning. Remember it is the heart alone that can grasp the lesson from the Master.

At times, a statement that had formerly inspired you inspires you in a new way now. Something else strikes you as profound. Know that your grade has changed - you have either been promoted or demoted! ( I am sorry! The demotion part was the mind speaking. Swami has said that once someone has come to Him, his/her progress is entirely in His hands and He would definitely only promote us!)

That was the answer to the posed question that struck me and cheered me. Hope it is the same for the reader too.

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From Sathya Sai Speaks Directly

"Likewise, in the Bhagavad Gita or other scriptures, statements might appear which seem to contradict each other. These differences relate to differences in circumstances and requirements of the person concerned. You should not contrast one statement of the Swami with another and ask why them is a contradiction between the different statements. In the Gita itself, in one place, Krishna stresses the need for action, at another the adherence to Dharma, and in another place commends renunciation of all Dharma and urges complete surrender to the Lord. These apparent contradictions are not contradictions. The teaching varies according to the state of spiritual development of the person concerned and the situation in which he is placed."

- Discourse at Trayee Brindavan, July 1988

So, what do I do?

Today, whenever I switch on a discourse, I try to be as empty in my mind and heart as possible. I try to be thought-free, providing the divine gardener Swami with a fertile ground to plant the saplings that He wishes. And I must say that depending on what I need, Swami seems to tailor-make His discourses for me, even now, when it is said that He has 'left'! That is the magic of Sathya Sai speaking! His message is eternal and so are His discourses. Even after a 1,000 years, they will continue to inspire, guide, console, enthuse and divinize people all around the world.

How blessed are we that we have more than a thousand discourses to hear and a few thousands to read? I pray that I utilize this great opportunity by hearing to or reading at least a part of a discourse daily...

If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also enjoy:

1. The difference between knowing what is good and doing what is good...

2. Heart vs Mind -1 - A matter of choice

3. Heart vs Mind - 2 - How to distinguish between them?

4. The Divine drama at Ooty and Chennai_8th July 2012 - Part 1

5. Should you share your most personal spiritual experiences?

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Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on October 20, 2015:

@Chandan aunty - Thank you for your thoughts so wonderfully expressed...

As you said, its hard not to fall in love with that voice. To encourage you in your endeavour, let me confess that all the Telugu I know today, I picked up only to understand directly what He spoke. Am also trying to learn that alphabet now. :)

So, you are perfectly on the right track.

chandan aunty on October 16, 2015:

Sai Ram Aravind, such understanding in one so young! This article was written 4 years ago when you were but 29. My son born 07/81 sometimes comes up with some gems. Once in his teens when I accused him of thinking something he told me to stop putting my thoughts in his mind without realising the fullness of the meaning ( Reflection). That stuck in my mind that so often I found myself apologising. This actually helped my to cut down on being judgemental. I had to understand that kids don't think the same way as adults and neither did females thought the same as males. I also had to realise that everyone sees the world differently. The underlying principles at the end of each article are Sathya, Dharma, Shanti, Prema and Ahimsa or a mixture of them. I too have great problems with Swami's discourses. Because of a couple of dreams way in the past that I have had of Swami I realised that I would understand when the time was right. My problem is I love Swami's voice so when he is speaking it's extremely difficult to pull yourself away from it. What's wrong with that ? I probably only understand 2 or 3 words he says. He's also so fast that that before you can finishing hearing the translation He starts speaking again. Sill I bide my time and wait for surely seeds from his discourses have stuck in my mind so that when the tie is right it will blossom fully.

Hari on February 04, 2014:

Sai Ram Aravind,

Beautifully written. This reminds me of an incident in Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa's time which I read in the Amar Chitra Katha.

There was a very quiet disciple of Ramakrishna who was on a boat with a group of people who were talking meanly about the saint. However, the disciple remained very quiet throughout the boat journey, and conveyed the happenings to Ramakrishna, who admonished him "What! These men were saying so many things, and you didn't have the courage to stand up for me?"

A similar incident happened with an angry disciple of Ramakrishna who argued and fought back with people who spoke ill of Ramakrishna, who heard of this and told him "You need to learn to control your anger! Do you think them talking about me affects me in the least?"

2 contradictory messages for 2 different people who's inner nature was different and needed correction! Sorry this was written in a rush and hence it's not the most coherent.

Kokila Vaidyanathan on March 05, 2013:

Sairam Brother, a perfect explaination to the doubt that I often have in my mind with HIS discourses.. and wondered what should I do, which one is meant for me?? You really put it so simply and beautifully - from now depending I will read/listen to HIS disourses with a perspective - depending on which grade I am in at that time :-) You are Swami's true messenger. Thank you

Aj on March 05, 2013:

Thank you :) God bless

Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on January 17, 2013:

@Sundaram -

please visit the audio search at

the link for that is -

Type in "Discourse" there and see the results...

Sundaram on January 17, 2013:

Where do you find the thousand audio or video discourses? When I go to the bookstore, I don't see so many. Thanks,

Sai Ram

Maria on January 10, 2013:

Personal’ refers to your freedom about doing what you want with the experience!”

that sentence is so important for the self questioner, am I relating this from ego

do I expose myself as a wishful thinker, is there genuine desire to help other's believe or validate them - each has to decide for themselves. The complex make up of His audience, whose needs or perceptions varied widely. Yours is the perfect explanation for my own speculations Aravind !~ Thanks so much for simplifying with such clarity

Teekay63 on June 11, 2012:

I love this line: "Remember it is the heart alone that can grasp the lesson from the Master."

The mind is a silly thing that wavers and wanders...but it is the heart that truly "knows".

Thanks, Brother!

Mark Aspa from Berlin, Germany on June 11, 2012:

a perfect explanation to a common query - so simply enunciated and so helpful.

Madhavi Alapaty on March 29, 2012:

Sairam dear Aravind,

Thank you very much for sharing this article with us. It is so profound to read this article. I started listening to my heart and now know the difference between my thought and conscience. But after reading your article, i now know how to practise this everyday..for everything.

I want to say GOD BLESS YOU but i know that SWAMI already blessed you so be happy all the time.


Darshi on October 19, 2011:

Always late in reading your writings Anna :P

Thank you. This struck a chord with me :) God bless! Sairam Anna.

Arpita Mallajosyula on October 07, 2011:

wonderfully explained anna..!! i have experienced dis 'n' no.of times...weneva i hear 2 any discourse by Swami or speeches by anybody else...all of a sudden one point strikes me and its like somebody is shaking me n telling me "listen dis is 4 u" ... and there r thngs i hav 2 newly learn..and sometimes on hearing 2 some points i find the similarity with what i actually keep practising at dat point of time.... and then like u said i knw which 'grade' i belong to...!!! thnks a lot 4 dis lovely article..!! :)

Hema B on September 11, 2011:

You have put it rightly.... I remember Swami saying " relationships are like clouds " n number of times, [ in so many discourses ] when I was going through a painful phase in life. Now as I am typing same is giving different understanding. Love you Swami.

Jayanthi on September 11, 2011:

Sairam.What a wonderful way to put it.In fact I was talking about God's grace in my BV class this Thu.Telepathy.

Akshay Acharya on September 11, 2011:

Sairam Arvind, in fact this was a serious kind of doubt with most of us..Thanks for sharing..Jai Sai Arm

padmashree on September 11, 2011:

Sairam! Lovely ambiguity:) The power of the Avatar is beyond comprehension. When He speaks, it is He who makes us understand it. It is He who gives us the take-away lesson from it. It is He who makes us appreciate one particular aspect of His discourse. It is He who makes us miss listening to something in between. He alone decides since He alone knows what is best for each of His listeners. So where is the ambiguity? The confusion that is created in our minds and makes us argue is also perhaps His could just be another path of the several paths that will ultimately lead us out of the confusion:)

Simi on September 09, 2011:

Sai Ram!!!!!

OMG I was just thinking the same thing....I was sitting with my friend yesterday we were talking about group discussions and how things that are said can be taken in many ways depending on "how" a person is thinking at the moment or reacting to what's going on in their life. I come from only experiencing Swami....nothing else. I know kids for example, that can recite a verse from the vahini's and give dates on when Swami said this or that in a particular discourse. Recently, I have found myself also asking then why the contradictory statements? Like "Everyone is God see God in everyone, love everyone" but then "don't be in bad company." My thinking is if I actually love everyone and think they are God then bad company does not exisit. There is only Love! My friend's father told her many years ago that "the grass is always green, but there are many shades of green." I kind of like that so I wanted to share. I choose to live in love and can't wait for the next Sai keeps me going:):)

Xavier Nathan from Isle of Man on September 09, 2011:

This is another excellent hub and you answer the question beautifully. There are probably as many answers as there are people in the world because one thing we all share is the ability to perceive. Perception is what the ego makes up whereas truth and knowledge are synonymous with God and imperceptible. No two people perceive anything in exactly the same way because perception occurs internally in the head and has little to do with what is being perceived externally. Contradiction is a perception and God is consistent because He is Truth.

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