Aravind Balasubramanya has spent more than 2 decades with Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He has studied under Baba and been His photographer.
The setting - Venue where the SECRET was revealed
It was the 31st of August, 2008. It was a tremendously momentous day for the alumni of Swami’s Institute working in various capacities at Prasanthi Nilayam and Brindavan. That morning, however, none of them had the slightest inkling of what was in store for them. The 2nd of September marks the formation of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust and it is a day that all the students who have decided to stay in the physical proximity have chosen as their special day - the Sai Sannidhi Day.
And today, their dear Master and best friend for life, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba had decided to confer on them the Secret to Life. This Secret is so profound but so subtle that one often misses it.
When we consider something as simple and it turns out to be complex, we get stuck, unable to comprehend what’s happening. The converse is also true. When something that we consider as complex or even complicated turns out to be simple, we get stuck, unable to comprehend what’s happening!
That second case was true of what happened to me as I sat listening to Swami on the 31st of August, 2008. What He said seemed so difficult to believe. He sensed that and presented an example which made things so easy to grasp, appreciate and imbibe. Today, when I look back to that day, I feel that if I am able to keep that one discourse in my heart, for life, my life is fulfilled!
So much of a build-up but then we humans are often accustomed to a build-up before anything grand - so much so that the grandeur may get missed if not for the build-up! Isn’t that the case in any TV show/film, the Olympics, the announcement of results or even narrating a story? Well, here is what happened on that day.
The world exists because the mind exists
He started off by asking,
“Does anyone have any spiritual doubts to ask?”
Nobody spoke for quite some time. It was as if a golden opportunity was being let go of because nobody had any spiritual doubts to ask about. One among us decided that a doubt asked here would benefit not only the hundred or so of us, but the entire humanity. So, mustering courage, he asked,
“Swami, please tell us how to control the mind.”
Swami began the reply,
Mind has no death and there is none who can control it. The body dies, but not the mind which tags along with the soul. It is forever. Without this consciousness, man cannot live. Mind has to be there for the Mind is the nature of man. When you are a man, mind will exist. It is only when you become God, the mind goes and all become One.The diversity and variety you see is because of the mind. Only in Advaitic state (state of non-dualism), mind vanishes and so does the diversity. As long as the feelings of mine and thine stay the mind will exist. This is mine, that is mine - such thoughts keep the mind in existence. All this is Dvaitam, dualism. Mind will be fickle as long as duality exists. Advaitha is - “I am I”. If you think anything else, mind exists.
That was profound we knew simply because Swami was saying it. But it would surely take our entire human life to understand it. For once it was understood, our life no longer remains ‘human’! Swami had simply stated the Inconvenient Truth in a more palatable manner! But just because something is more palatable doesn’t make it easy to digest. In order to aid digestion, Swami gave a simple yet beautiful example.
The story at the hall of mirrors
“A dog once entered a hall of mirrors. Seeing so many dogs (in the mirrors) all around, it felt that it must assert its supremacy - according to the eat or be eaten philosophy. As it growled in authority, hundreds of dogs growled back at it. Now it realized that it must do something more drastic. So, it attacked one of the ‘dogs’. The mirror collapsed and broke into pieces. Now there were a thousand new dogs growling back and attacking the dog! That is how dogs behave.
But then, a human entered the same hall. He was only filled with love and admiration, because he knew the truth that it was only him being reflected everywhere. He was blissful throughout his stay in the hall of mirrors. When he noticed any defect, he immediately corrected himself. Everything became perfect again!”
And to depict this, Swami ‘set’ His hairstyle and showed that once ‘our’ fault is corrected, the reflections automatically are fine too! And that is what we should do whenever we see any faults - set ourselves right. Hasn’t Swami told us repeatedly,
“There is nothing wrong in Srishti (creation); it is all the fault of Drishti (vision)” ?
Ok. If we even theoretically accept that the world is how we see it, that our mind makes us actually see in the first place and the ‘world’ would be ‘gone’ once we shed our ‘individuality’ to become a part of the whole, how does it help us? (An interesting observation here based on Advaita - each one of us is God and the whole world is also God means that the part of the whole contains the hole in it! Science has discovered this through the phenomenon of fractals.)
The question therefore is,
“How does the theoretical knowledge that
1. everything is Divine and
2. what our mind ‘sees’ is what we ‘experience’
help us in practical life? “
The answer is simple - We should ensure that our thoughts and feelings are only those that we like. It is here that positive thinking and divine thinking come into play. The whole thing becomes clear with a single example of a mirror.
The day when my Master told me that considering "I am God" is not ego...
A practical example
Stand in front of a mirror. Take a glass in your hand and hold it out against the mirror. Say, “I want a glass.” What do you see in the mirror?
A glass no doubt.
And now, place the glass down and hold up a plate. Now say, “I don’t want a plate.” What do you see in the mirror?
The plate no doubt.
And therein lies the secret - It does not matter whether we ‘want’ or ‘don’t want’ something; it does not matter whether we ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ something. What we hold is what we see.
And that is what happens to us in daily life too. What we ‘get’ is what we ‘hold’ within us. I want to get the top rank in my class. But all the while, in my head are thoughts of how it is going to be tough; how my competitor will somehow come trumps in the crunch situation; how am not a favorite of the teacher concerned. Though I ‘want’ the first rank, I hold thoughts which reflect ‘missing the first rank’!
Again, I dislike someone and want to avoid him at any cost. But if I keep thinking that I must avoid him, I am actually holding thoughts that reflect ‘him’ into my life. It would be better instead to hold thoughts of those whom I love and like - isn’t it?
What you want in life - hold those thoughts/feelings and play them over and over again in you. What you don’t want in life, don’t give it any space in your being - thoughts or feelings. A neat secret, don’t you think so?? This very secret, our ancients pronounced as
"Yad Bhavam Tad Bhavati." (As is the feeling, so is the result.)
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Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on October 28, 2018:
@SaiPriya - If there is complete faith in Swami, there should be complete faith in His words too. He says, He is in all. So, avoid hating. If that is difficult, avoid the person. Keep away. If you HAVE TO COMPULSORILY interact, then, interact with the Swami who resides in that being.
Saipriya Ganesh on October 22, 2018:
Brother Aravind, if you have to deal with the person whom you hate and don't want to think, then how to train our mind?
Saipriya Ganesh on August 23, 2018:
Swami Sai Ram. Another teaching learnt.
vijayalaxmi on May 26, 2017:
Thank to swami and you Aravind for answering all my questions...swami always clears our doubts by some way or the other...thanks a lot Aravind
Blessing on January 08, 2015:
You know what, I'm very much incnelid to agree.
Vijaya Lkshmi on April 11, 2014:
Sai Ram Aravind...... Thank You very much for sharing such wonderful, valuable experiences of yours with swamy with Sai family. I came into Swami's fold in late 8Os[at 25yrs]. I always thank swamy for bringing me into His fold and know that I am fortunate, but at times this monkey mind is unhappy and sad and fights with Swamy for not blessing me to stay in His proximity as a student or as a sevadal in the nilayam..... But wonderful experiences which you share with Sai family lessens that unhappiness.... and this story has given enlightenment... yes ....Thanks a ton Aravind........Sai Ram
Suresh on April 11, 2014:
Thanks a lot Brother, what a wonderful and thought provoking article it is.
radha on April 11, 2014:
Padma on January 23, 2014:
Nicely explained and well written.
Nice summation of swami's "Relection reaction resound".
While it is very good to be divine and always positive to experience and only think what we want to be happy and successful, we might still subconsciously think something negative, and avoid it by trying to replace it with positive thinking to counter attack one negative thought.
After trying hard, we still do not understand the math of positive and negative thinking. After a negative thought arises we subconsciously indulge in it to counter attack it with positivity.
This is when we fail and take the next step suggested by swami,
"Just be a witness to your thoughts. Never indulge in them or even brand them as positive or negative."
The classic example our swami has told multiple times..... "This is a kerchief... No.... Threads woven vertically and horizontally..... Remove all the strands and there is no kerchief...."
So don't even brand thoughts as negative or positive...... Then there is nothing to experience.... You are divine.
Deepa on November 12, 2013:
Heard this a million times, BUT, THIS WAS an explanation like none else's. Swami explains to me in beautiful and simple ways so I can remember. I have been thinking on these lines for sometime now..and lo !! the answers are here already !! Even before these thoughts arose ! Thanks a lot Brother Aravind and thanks to SWAMI within you !
Shanti on January 04, 2013:
I loved the mirror example about seeing what you hold within and not what you like or dislike. Wonderful!!!!
Teekay63 from Singapore on December 11, 2012:
It's just lovely how Swami answers questions through the most unexpected ways. This post that I stumbled on addresses the very questions that were on my mind just this morning. Thanks Brother! Please keep writing because you never know who's heart Swami wants your words to touch! Sai Ram.
Yogesh Kamath on November 08, 2012:
Very inspirational & touching.
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on October 11, 2012:
@ Mebeth - Thank you for stopping by and visiting. Glad you enjoyed it...
Beth from Connecticut on October 11, 2012:
"What you hold is what you see." Nice.
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on October 07, 2012:
@Gingill Ashberry - In my opinion, the law of attraction is a derivative of the statement "Mana eva Manushyanaam Karanam Bandha Mokshayoho" which means that the mind alone is responsible for a person's 'bondage' or 'liberation'. And this, I learn't from my master, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba..
But I must admit that the 'Law of Attraction' inspired me to present the many examples of my master in this article for maximum impact! :)
Ashley TKL on October 06, 2012:
No doubt what you write is true in reality. And you have a good way of putting in examples. Is this the same as the Law of Attraction?
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on September 19, 2012:
Thank you Mr.Happy. That 'United' Will is absolutely necessary. Based on my own experiences, I feel that waiting for that 'united' will is endless. We just have to begin with our own 'individual' wills! :)
Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on September 18, 2012:
"Of course, when you speak of poverty, you are speaking of the terrible kind where people starve without food and die with diseases." - Yes. That is exactly what I was thinking.
"This is an opportunity to show how abundant my universe is" - And this is the thought that follows because I know the technology and resources exist, to at least provide food for everyone on this planet. We're just missing a United Will. Something to work for I guess ...
Once the 'within' is clear, the 'without' just follows - I shall keep this in mind.
Thank You for the explanation. You clarified things quite well.
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on September 18, 2012:
Ah Mr.Happy! As always you ask the most thoughtful and thought-provoking questions.
It is like this.
When I choose to hold only good, positive and powerfully reinforcing thoughts and feelings within me, that is what reflects back at me from the Universe. There is nothing like 'lack' in the Universe.
For example, we have cases of people whom the world considers 'rich' not having completeness or fulfillment in their lives. At the same time, people considered 'poor' are often very content and happy with their lives. (I have seen the tribal people in the mountains of Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh and it is amazing how happy they are with so little.)
In that sense, our lives will become wholesome and ill not have any lack.
Of course, when you speak of poverty, you are speaking of the terrible kind where people starve without food and die with diseases.
When you empathize with them and feel their pain, well, that is very good. But here comes a subtle message - If that makes you feel low or depressed (because nothing can be done), sad or upset (because they are suffering), that is what reflects back.
trust me, if you think and feel, "This is an opportunity to show how abundant my universe is" and it is reinforced by your complete faith, you WILL BE ABLE TO CORRECT THAT SITUATION!
That is the story of inspiration of Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln etc. Gandhi was a nobody. His heart was pained when he saw poverty and suffering. He was shocked at the British rulers' brutality. But that empathy did not discourage him. He felt or rather knew within, "This is an opportunity to show how righteous, just and truthful my universe is."
HE did just that and today he is revered as the Father of the Nation in India.
Once the 'within' is clear, the 'without' just follows....
Cheers my dear friend....
Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on September 18, 2012:
Thank You for putting this article together, Mr. Aravind.
I am certainly one who tries to promote positive thinking, or better say positive intent (all lies in intent in my mind).
The question for me remains: if I never think about world hunger, or pay any attention to anything that has to do with poverty and hunger, will these issues cease to exist? Will there be no more hungry children in this world if I prohibit myself from such thoughts?
I have been somewhat stuck in regard to this topic. Any ideas are appreciated.
All the best!
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on September 08, 2012:
@ Poornimasrinath - Very right - A lot of internal work has to go on to reach a stat of awareness yet mindlessness! :)
@ Spirit Whisperer - Thank you so much. Feels nice to see you after a long time! :)
Xavier Nathan from Isle of Man on September 08, 2012:
This has to be one of my favorite hubs by you. It is clear and simply explained, perfect in every way. Thank you.
Devdutt on September 05, 2012:
Good lesson learnt on teacher's day.
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on September 05, 2012:
@ Tigresosal - :)
Thank you. We all learn from each others thoughts, feelings and experiences - for after all, are we not part of the great good Lord? :)
Thank you for stopping by.
poornimasrinath from Midrand, Johannesburg, RSA on September 05, 2012:
Thanks bro for noting this profound message for the benefit of many. I am sure you would not have thought of writing it as an article at that time. Without you internalizing this concept it is impossible to explain to others and this excellent article explains the rest. Out of all the articles this stands out as best!(perhaps this is what I feel after reading every article and it keeps changing as you publish a new one)
I am reminded of a story about a student who was asked by Swami to do IAS, next day IFS and the following day the family business. When the boy felt Swami was confusing, the lesson taught was that what Swami told him what He told was the confusion in the mind of the boy isn't it?
I think of the great understanding Adi shankara had on this aspect through the bhaja govinda sloka which asks us to turn mind inwards by internal practices to achieve oneness. The day we become absolutely selfless we will become one with God and the mind may die. But we need to do lot of internal work for achieving the selfless state like Mother Teresa , brother Victor kanu etc.,
Thank you so much for writing such a thought provoking article!
tigresosal on September 04, 2012:
Thanks a lot for writing such a wonderful hub. I have no other comments to make than saying that "I learned!"
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on September 04, 2012:
@ Mark Aspa - That is the specialty when Swami teaches us - He touches the heart, invigorates the intellect and gives the practical way to practice the same! :)
@ An Impressed Reader - Both the examples are very apt here. Therefore it is reiterated that everything is 'reflection, reaction and resound.'
An Impressed Reader on September 04, 2012:
Yes indeed!! A very neat secret :)
How simply Swami has put it .. When we see something wrong, we correct it and one fine day we will be perfect !
And it is so true that what we hold in our mind comes about to happen .. This is beautifully brought out in the story of Kamsa .. He gets to know at the end that it was his constant fear of death that brought about the divine ordain of his being killed in the hands of Krishna and then his constant fear of death in the hands of Krishna that brings about his end exactly that way ..
Even in the Mahabharatha, I read that when Dhuriyodhana is about to die, he argues with Krishna that the war was fought in an adharmic manner .. Krishna then tells him that it was all a reflecion of the adharma that lay within him that was reflected aroud him .. Really profound truth ..
So let us all always think good, see good and be good so that it is reflected all around us!
Mark Aspa on September 04, 2012:
what you have posted is profound...but at the same time a practical lesson for every day life. This is the same as Swami's Life and Message through and through. Being the Whole of the Supreme Divine Profundity, still He taught us ever to be engaged in practical spirituality.