Sanathana Sarathi – Eternal Charioteer

On Shivaratri day in 1958 the monthly magazine designed to communicate the message of Bhagavan to the world was inaugurated. He named it Sanathana Sarathi. These two words taken together spell the function that Baba has taken upon Himself. Sanathana denotes His being the very source of all this ‘becoming’. In a written message to Shri. R.R. Chatterji of the Sathya Sai Seva Samithi, Calcutta, announcing the mission for which He has assumed this human form, Baba made a declaration which nobody since the days of Lord Krishna had the good fortune to listen to: 

“There was no one to know who I am till I created the world, at My pleasure, with one word. Immediately earth and sky were formed, mountains rose up, rivers started flowing, sun, moon and stars sprang out of nowhere to prove My existence. Came all forms of life – plants, insects, beasts, birds and men. Various powers were bestowed upon them under My orders. The first place was granted to man, and My knowledge was placed in man’s mind.” 

creation of worldSanathana means ‘timeless, eternal’. Baba has said that He always was, is, and ever will be. He is Sanathana, not limited in time and space, so that He can be availed of by us any time any where. The Upanishads speak of embodied beings as chariots which are drawn along by the senses (horses) through the objective world. Safety lies in choosing a knowledgeable Sarathi (charioteer) and installing him with unimpeded authority in the chariot.  – Sathyam Sivam Sundaram IV

Chariot Analogy From Katha Upanishad

Chariot Analogy From Katha Upanishad

Know that the Atman is the rider in the chariot, and the body is the chariot, Know that the Buddhi (intelligence, ability to reason) is the charioteer, and Manas (mind) is the reins. The senses are called the horses, the objects of the senses are their paths, Formed out of the union of the Atman, the senses and the mind, him they call the “enjoyer“.  – Katha Upanishad, 1.3.3-1.3.4

By taking upon Himself the role of the Sanathana Sarathi, Baba has revealed that He is the eternal Inner Motivator in all-recognized or unrecognized, acknowledged or ignored, respected or slandered. “My knowledge was placed in man’s mind,” He says. But the mind allows itself to be covered by veils, so that pure knowledge becomes warped or is denied. 
In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna asks Krishna about the mind: Chancalam hi manah Krishna pramadi balavadrudham, meaning ‘Oh! Krishna, the mind is so fickle. How can it be controlled?’ Krishna says in another verse: Abhyasa yogena tato mamicchaptum Dhananjaya; meaning, through practice, the vacillation of this mind can be controlled. 
“God cannot be realized by a mind that is hypocritical, calculating, or argumentative. one must have faith and sincerity. hypocrisy will not do. to the sincere, God is very near; but he is far, far away from the hypocrite.” – Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Body is like a water bubble. Mind is like a mad monkey. Don’t follow the body, don’t follow the mind. Follow the conscience. Your conscience is your witness.

There is this story in the Mahabharata when Arjuna accepts whatever Krishna says regarding the bird sitting on the tree. Krishna asks Arjuna, “Don’t you have your own discrimination? You say it is a pigeon, and then change it to a crow when I say it.” Arjuna says, “O! Krishna, I have more faith in your words than in my own wisdom.”

divine sankalpa

divine sankalpa

On one occasion Swami sang another poem which had spontaneously blossomed on His lips:

“Why does the sun rise and set everyday without delay or disruption? Why do the stars that light the sky to the delight of all eyes, hide their splendorous faces when the day dawns, and never even slyly peer to tell us where they are? Why does air always be around, giving us the breath of life? Why do these streams and rivers roar, murmur, gurgle and gossip over rock, pebble and sand, as they meander along towards the parent sea? How is it that the billions that constitute mankind, though they are caskets treasuring images of the same entity, remain distinct from each other in appearance, achievement, aspiration and attitude? This is the answer: Know that I am the One who has ordained that these be such and shall behave so.”


From the Form to the Formless

“You commence your journey from the stage of dualism and finally end up in the stage of non-dualism. You start your spiritual practice with the very ordinary type of devotion, worshipping God with form and attributes and using rituals and external forms of worship. But then you quickly progress onto the formless, the absolute aspect of the Divinity. In this way, you initially develop yourself spiritually by being a servant of God, but eventually you become fully identified with God. Consider, for a moment, a very big circle, and consider that just by its side and separate from it there is another circle, one which is very much smaller. The big circle may be thought of as God, the small one as the individual soul. Here the individual is different and distinct from God; this is dualism. When you bring the smaller circle in so that it lies within the bigger circle, you have qualified non-dualism; now the individual is part of the Divinity, he exists in God. What then is the meaning of the individual becoming totally merged in God? The small circle has to broaden itself and grow bigger and bigger until it has fully expanded to the size of the big circle. At that point the two circles are indistinguishable and man has merged himself into God. This is complete non-dualism.” – Sai Gita Compiled and edited by Al Drucker

“God is formless and attributeless, but He also assumes a form with attributes. There is sakara (with form) in nirakara (formless) and nirakara in sakara. Likewise, there is saguna (attributes) in nirguna (attributeless) and viceversa. A block of ice has a form, but it is not different from water. There can be no ice without water. When drops of water freeze, they form ice. The difference between sakara and nirakara is the same as the difference between ice and water.” – From Bhagavan’s Discourse in Sai Kulwant Hall, Prasanthi Nilayam on 17 July 1996

“You cannot discard Name and Form until you transmute yourself into the Nameless and Formless; just as the fish needed water and could not come up into the atmosphere, so long as they did not transmute themselves into land animals, giving up their aquatic nature. That is the reason why the Nameless and Formless has often to assume Name and Form, and come before humanity with limitations imposed by its own Will, so that it may be loved, respected, worshipped, listened to and followed; so that the purpose of humanity may be fulfilled.” – From Bhagawan’s Discourse on 4th March 1962

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subtle form

What is Sookshma Shareera (also known as Subtle Body, Astral Body, Light Body)

Gross Body - Sthoola Shareera

Gross Body – Sthoola Shareera

“Everyone in this world has four types of bodies – Sthoola Shareera – the physical body; Sookshma Shareera – the subtle body; Ati Sookshma Shareera – the higher subtle body; and Para Sookshma Shareera – the omnipresent supersubtle body.

Sthoola Shareera is the physical body which anyone can see. Right now, I am not in my physical body, but in the Sookshma Shareera (subtle body) which is beyond the physical.

In My Sookshma Shareera, I can move to any part of the world without taking any time. In My Ati Sookshma Shareera, I enter the dreams and meditations of people and guide them. In Para Sookshma Shareera, I am present in every atom. At this point of time, you are in your physical body and if you are in a room, you cannot

Subtle Body - Sookshma Shareera

Subtle Body – Sookshma Shareera

see what is outside, since there is a wall in between. But Sookshma Shareera is not bound by Desha, Kala and Paristhiti (space, time and circumstances) and therefore cannot be seen with physical eyes.”

Swami revealed this to Madhusudhan “I will be in this Subtle Form, which is just like the physical form, without flesh and bones.” He declared that “My mission is not yet over, Keep yourself selfless and pure so I may use you all as my instruments, I do not have a body but I shall use your bodies to do My work. Your hands shall be My hands, your feet shall be My feet, your words shall be My words and your actions shall be My actions. Be selfless. Glorious times are ahead when the whole world will become Saimayam (filled with Sai). Soon I will be back in another Physical form as Prema Sai who will further guide you all and continue the work.”  Download PDF

“One has to understand the implications of oneness with the Divine. One desires to merge in God and achieve liberation. How is this to be secured? God is formless. He is the source of all energy. He is effulgent. Eight kinds of potencies have been attributed to God. He is the source of all sound, all motion, all light, all speech, all bliss, all excellence, all illusion, and all prosperity. How is one to realize such an omnipotent Divinity? Water can integrate with water. Air can combine with air. Fire can merge with fire. As God is formless, to become one with God we have to become formless. What does this imply? It means that we have to get rid of the attachment to the body. This is achieved through meditation. While retaining attachment to the body one cannot hope to achieve oneness with God merely by praying for it. You have to become formless to realize the formless Divine.” – SS August 1997 P 199

Source: quote from A Compendium of the Teachings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Swami has already answered some of these spiritual questions put forth to him by earnest seekers in the form of Q&A Series known as Sathya Sai Baba Prashnottara Vahini

Q. Instead of considering this human body, constituted in this manner by the elements as a single unit, the Vedanthins say there are many units in it! Is that true?
A. There are not “many”, but three. Some say, there are four!

Q. Oh! What are they? What are they called? The third and the fourth?
A. Sthula deha (the gross body), Sukshma deha (the subtle body) and Kaarana deha (the causal body). Some aver that there is a fourth called, Maha Kaaranadeha (the Super-Causal Body) also.

Q. What exactly is meant by Sthula deha, the gross body?
A. It means the body constituted of the 25 elemental principles mentioned by me already.

Q. What then is the Sukshma body?
A. The 5 Jnanendriyas, the 5 Than-Maathras, the 5 Praanas, the Manas and the Buddhi – these 17 categories combine to constitute the subtle body.

Q. Is this called Sukshma deha only or has it any other appellation too?
A. Why should it not have? It has. It is known also as Thaijasa.

Q. And is it marked off as belonging to any state or Avastha?
A. Yes, it is.

Q. And what is the name of that?
A. The Dream State.

Q. Do you mean to say that the Gross Body has no state assigned to it?
A. Of course, it has.

Q. Tell me the name of that state.
A. That is the wakeful state, the Jaagrath.

Q. What is the Causal, the Kaarana deha?
A. There, the Chiththam or Consciousness is in association with the Knower, the Knowing Principle, the Jnaatha.

Q. What is it known as?
A. The Praajna.

Q. And the state?
A. The state is Sushupthi, Deep Sleep.

Q. Tell me also, what they mean by the Super-Causal Body, the fourth.
A. The Pure Consciousness unmixed with any Thathwa or elemental principle, the Witness Eternal, the Self Luminous. They refer to it as the Maha Kaarana Deha.

Q. Has it a name, like the rest?
A. It is known as Hiranyagarbha.

Q. And the state?
A. It is stateless, it is beyond all states of consciousness and so it is described as A-kshara Purusha.



Consciousness does not conform to scientific principles or human perceptions of physical space, time and matter.

The external world termed as Prapancha is made of five elements e.g. Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Sound (in order from gross to subtle) and cognised by the five human senses comprising of sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. Sookshma Prapancha termed as ‘subtle world’ or ‘subtle dimension’ is beyond the understanding of the five senses, mind and intellect. In my humble opinion, Swami gave us a hint to think and grow beyond physical dimension by changing the universal Vedic prayer from ‘Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavanthu‘ to ‘Samastha Loka Sukhino Bhavanthu‘ some time back. No one questioned Swami (including those who doubt the Subtle form now) about why we are praying for those Lokas (other planes of existence) which can’t be seen with our physical eyes.

Just as we need to tune in our TV antenna to receive both audio and video, we need to tune in our inner faculties through meditation and other spiritual practices to develop our receptiveness (often described as sixth sense, the creative faculty of the mind dealing with intuition).

Tuning into God

Tuning into God

Lot of people question that how come we believe the subtle form, when it is only seen by one person or possibly a few individuals occasionally? When Krishna saved Draupadi from the humiliation of being disrobed, no one saw Krishna’s physical form. All everyone present there could watch and marvel at, was the endless supply of Sarees. When Krishna showed his Viraat Swaroopa to Arjuna in the battlefield, only Arjuna and Sanjaya were given the Divya Drishti (divine vision) to visualise that form. Do we question this incidents and call Veda Vyasa a liar? Most people who ask these questions do not listen with the intent to understand; They listen with the intent to counter it with another question in order to defend their chosen belief. This is why Swami says that too much mind is not good for spirituality. Seva (Selfless Service) and Prema (Selfless Love) is the only way to feel the presence of Sai in our heart.

The conceit that one knows everything. Doubt whether it is or is not.These are the two chief enemies of the Sadhaka – Prema Vahini

Virat Swaroopa - Para Sookshma Shareera

You cannot see Me, but I am the Light you see by.
You cannot hear Me, but I am the Sound you hear by.
You cannot know Me, but I am the Truth by which you live. – Sri Sathya Sai Baba

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Unseen Hand of God

Sathya Sai Baba on Mediums, Intermediaries and Channeling

We all know that Swami has warned us in many of His past discourses about the fraudulent activities carried out by many unscrupulous people claiming to be a medium, intermediary or channeling Swami’s message. When I researched a bit more on this, I found this interesting quote of Swami on Page 79 listed right under the ‘Channeling‘ category published in the book “A Compendium of the Teachings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba” compiled by Charlene Leslie Chaden.


A Compendium of the Teachings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba

“Bhagavan Baba Himself has on many occasions urged devotees not to be taken up by mediums and others. However, after my experiences and research, I decided to ask Him about it. On one occasion when I had the opportunity I raised this subject and made specific reference to the experiences I had undergone and He replied: ‘Yes! These are true – but the reason why Swami discourages is because for every truth there are a hundred false!’.” – J. Jagadeesan, Journey To God Part III P 152 Source: For those who do not know, J. Jagadeesan or bro. Jaga (as he is popularly known in Sai circles) is an inspiring public speaker and a long time devotee of Swami from Malaysia. He has written many books on Swami including ‘fourth dimension‘, Part 4 in the Journey to God Series where he discusses the issue of mediums and channels in depth based on his many interviews with Swami and his own personal experiences in Malaysia. While this particular quote from Swami does not necessarily prove that Swami is speaking through Madhusudhan Rao Naidu, it does explain why Swami was so concerned about not endorsing any such claims openly. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Once you let the channeling genie out of the bottle, it is very hard to get it back. So the question remains. How to validate such claims? I guess, the proof of pudding is in the eating. Instead of instantly believing each and every claim made by all and sundry about being a medium, intermediary or channeling Swami’s message, we should carefully examine who is making such claims, their background, their character and integrity, their motives and most importantly the message itself. In my humble opinion, people associated with the Subtle Form in Muddenahalli are well known in the Sai community for selflessly serving Swami for a very long time during His physical presence. Some of them have sacrificed their whole lives to serve Swami’s mission. Sri Narasimha Murthy narrated this incident in one of his talks. When Krishna rescued Draupadi from being disrobed and humiliated in front of everyone by the wicked Dushasana, no one saw Him. Swami mentioned that most movies and TV serials depict this scene with a smiling Krishna watching from the sky with his hand raised, churning out limitless supply of Saris to protect Draupadi’s honour. In reality no one actually saw Krishna, not even Draupadi. What everyone witnessed and marvelled at was endless supply of Saris for Draupadi in response to her prayers by the unseen Krishna in the subtle form. Since Maha Samadhi, one super speciality Hospital has come up in Raipur in record time (less than 10 months) along with six new educational institutes in various parts of Karnataka. Swami mentioned in numerous discourses that He is going to live till He turns 96. He also declared in 2009 that he will be going on a world tour. He even mentioned the names of the countries, he was going to visit. He also mentioned that he was going to live on a hilltop abode during his last years. Many times in His discourses he mentioned that he is not limited to the 5 foot 3 inch physical frame that we see but His true nature is inscrutable and beyond comprehension for the human mind. Swami mentioned that in His Ati Sookshma Shareera (the higher subtle body), He enters into people’s dreams and meditations. Watch the following video to understand how Swami communicated with bro. Jaga in his meditation giving him specific instructions about conducting a Yagna to invoke rains during a severe drought situation in Malaysia.

Here is another example of channeling. In this video Dr. PV Shankar shared his amazing experience of receiving this beautiful message (Sai Upanishad) from Swami. While wondering about the meaning of Asatoma Sadgamaya (an ancient Vedic hymn from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad), Swami guided him to an entirely new version. Dwaitoma Adwaitomaya Gamaya Lead me from duality to non-dual (oneness of God in you) Drishotoma Adrishtomaya Gamaya Lead me from seen to unseen (reality behind the seen) Srishtoma Premam Gamaya Lead me to you through the path of love (by loving everyone in this creation)

It is not uncommon to receive such great insights about complex things in life. We all know how the law of gravity was discovered by Isaac Newton while he was sitting under a tree, watching an apple fall from the tree. Ramanujan said that the Hindu goddess Namagiri would appear in his dreams, showing him mathematical proofs, which he would write down when he awoke. There are many such amazing discoveries made by Scientists who have been able to channel through their subconscious mind. The Vedas (universal eternal truths) contain the collective wisdom of seers and sages of the yore who in their deep meditation were able to receive the higher knowledge about the creation and the creator which was later compiled and passed on from one generation to another in the form of Shrutis (that which is heard) and Smritis (that which is remembered). Sage Kaushika discovered the Gayatri Mantra in his deep meditation and shared the secrets and potency of this Mantra for self illumination most selflessly with the rest of humanity, earning him the title VishwaMitra (friend of the world). A very famous example of Channeling comes from the great Indian epic Mahabharata. King Dhritarashtra’s charioteer Sanjaya was able to see and hear the Kurukshetra Battle and narrate it to the King verbatim,what was happening miles away in real time. When Krishna showed his Virata Swaroopa (Para Sookshma Shareera – the omnipresent super subtle body) to Arjuna, He granted Divya Drishti (divine vision) to Arjuna and Sanjaya temporarily to envision that form as they were not able to see Him through their physical eyes.

You have to look at this objective world with Jnana Chakshu (the eye of wisdom), not with the Charma Chakshu (physical eye). – Baba

Just as there are physical laws (relating to Gravity, Motion, Energy) that govern this gross universe, there are many subtle spiritual laws (relating to Dharma, Karma, Morality) that govern our lives. These cosmic laws are immutable and universally applicable irrespective of time and place. Whether we are aware of them or believe in them is inconsequential. For example, you may not believe in gravity and argue long and hard that it does not exist. However if you try to jump off from a cliff to make your point, in all probability it would be your last attempt. Some of these cosmic laws are yet to be discovered or understood fully by mankind. Science with its usual fascination with the gross physical world (seen) is slowly waking up to the immense potential of the subtle inner world (unseen reality behind the seen). See this video Jeff Lieberman, an MIT-trained artist, scientist and engineer, makes a scientific argument for mystical experience.

Sathya Sai Baba says, “We are trying to discover GOD, searching for Him throughout the Universe. But we omit to investigate His existence within ourselves as the very core and keystone of our Being. When you discover yourself – your Self – all wailing ceases and you attain supreme happiness. This is real self-knowledge.”

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