From Disciple of Shri Satya Sai Baba – Edited & Simplified by Saju Bhaskar.
With Pranams at the Lotus Feet of Bhagavan
What’s its inner significance?
Onam is a festival which is observed every year in India. It is an important, gala festival in the state of Kerala, and is celebrated in a grand way by Malayali (people from Kerala) all over the world. It is an occasion for them to meet and exchange greetings.
EMPEROR BALI EMBODIES THE QUALITY OF SACRIFICE
Emperor Maha Bali was the emperor of that land we now know as Kerala. The name ‘Bali’ has two meanings.
One meaning is ‘the one with bala or strength’. Bala is ‘physical strength’. He can easily handle all of us. Maha Bali is a gigantic, well-built, hefty personality.
The second meaning of bali is ‘sacrifice’. These are the two meanings of that name.
Surprisingly, Bali was a demon. Demons in Sanskrit are known as asuras. Sura means ‘that which is good’, while ‘a’ preceding ‘sura’ means ‘without’.
Bali, being an emperor, a demonic king, wanted to occupy the highest of positions–the highest position in the plane of angels, gods, or deities. The highest position that of Lord Indra. Indra is the leader, the head of all deities or devatas. Bali wanted to occupy Indra’s position.
What is the way to do that? He began performing yajnas (rituals).
MIND CONTROLS ALL OUR SENSES
Let us understand the spiritual aspects of these names. What does ‘Indra’ mean?
There are several parts of the body. There are the limbs of the body and there are the senses of the body. In Sanskrit they are called indriyas. Indriyas are the different limbs and senses of the body. Indra is the head of the indriyas: the head of all the senses, of the whole body. I think you understand.
For example, I cannot see unless the mind decides to see. I don’t hear unless the mind decides to hear. That is why some people are absent-minded: their mind is elsewhere.
MIND FILLED WITH DIVINITY ATTAINS GODHOOD
So, Emperor Bali wanted to be that, meaning the mind. When the mind is fully occupied with God, the mind is transformed into godliness or total Divinity.
When the mind is full of the world, it is totally worldly. When the mind is filled with thoughts of God, that mind is completely Divine.
Emperor Bali wanted to occupy that Brahmatma, the Divine state of awareness of the mind, the state of realisation, the experience of consciousness. The procedure he had chosen to use in order to achieve that was to perform yajnas.
What is the inner meaning of yajna?
Yajnas and yagas (sacrifices) are spiritual rituals. Their performance affords us particular comforts and conveniences. By performing yajna and yaga, we achieve that state which is temporary, which is conditioned, by the three gunas or attributes.
This state is limited by the trigunas—tri meaning ‘three’:
- thamo guna, which is the animal instinct;
- rajo guna, which is the emotions or passions; and
- sathwa guna or piousness.
WORLDLY COMFORTS ARE TEMPORARY
Anything you achieve by performing yajna for worldly and materialistic desires is conditioned by time and controlled by the three gunas. Therefore, yajnas and yagas if done with intention for materialistic intentions, will give you only temporary gain, not permanent benefit. When Emperor Bali tried to perform the yajnas, it gave him only a temporary gain of occupying the place of authority, the place of Indra.
So it was time for Bali to realise that yajna was not the proper avenue.
STOP DESIRING AND BE DESERVING
When Bali was performing the yajnas with the thought of occupying Indra’s position, it was time for God to teach the emperor a lesson. Why? Why did God not teach a lesson to others? Why only to Emperor Bali?
Emperor Bali had reached a point in his life where he deserved that kind of teaching; he can learn from God.
He earned that deservedness. How did he earn that?
He earned it by being good, by being kind and compassionate, by being an ideal king and ruler who had endeared himself to all, who was popular throughout the entire kingdom. He was ready to sacrifice anything to please his people. This made him deserve a teaching from God.
Some say, “Well, I am not getting this and that.” Then, we should understand we are desiring, not deserving.
We do not deserve because we go on desiring. There are only two options here: either we stop desiring, or we deserve first and then desire. Two options, that is all.
Note Bali was a great Devotee of Lord Vishnu- Because he was the Great Grand Son of Hiranyakashipu and the Son of Prahalad- for whom the Great Lord had come to Earth to take the Shri Narasimha Avatar.
GOD IS OMNISCIENT IN THE MICROCOSM AND MACROCOSM
Emperor Bali deserved this gift from God; he deserved a beautiful, everlasting teaching. So God himself appeared in the form of Vamana.
Vamana was an Incarnation of Lord Vishnu, like Rama and Krishna. Vamana was a dwarf, having a very short stature.
“Where is God?” Bhagavan asked one time, quoting the Upanishads:
Anoraneeyan Mahatho Maheeyan
God is present in the microcosm and the macrocosm—in the smallest of the small and the biggest of the big. God is present in both. Vamana, representing Divinity in the smallest form, comes to Bali and asks the emperor to give him just three feet of land. That is all.
“Yes, why not! You can take it!” said Emperor Bali, in spite of warning from his Guru Sukhracharaya, who was the GURU of the Asuras.
Then Vamana, the dwarf, begins to grow. He goes on increasing in size till He becomes gigantic. Yes! Such a gigantic personality! What does it mean? As a dwarf, Vamana was Divine. As he increased his body size to gigantic, well-built proportions, he was totally Divine:
Anoraneeyan Mahatho Maheeyan
In microcosm and macrocosm, God is present in both.
He came as a dwarf (the microcosm) or Vamana, and then grew to someone gigantic (the macrocosm).
EVERYTHING IS UNITY AND ONENESS
When you are in deep meditation, you don’t find any multiplicity, any plurality. When you are in deep meditation, everything is oneness. Everything is total. Everything is complete.
Dwarf Vamana asks for His three feet of land, and His request is granted. He then grows to a gigantic size. As the story goes, with one stride, with one footstep, Vamana occupies the entire earth. With the second footstep, He occupies all of space. Finished! There is no place for the third footstep! Then, what is to be done?
Emperor Bali says, “My Lord, my head is available. You can put Your foot on my head. You have occupied both heaven and earth, so there is no other place left now. But my head is free, so please put Your Feet there.”
This is the story, but it has important spiritual implications. Unless we realise the inner meaning and depth of these stories, there is no meaning for a festival’s celebration.
THE THREE STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS
So now, what does the measurement of three feet—the three footsteps—represent?
There are three states of consciousness for each one of us. One state is the waking state or jagrat.
The second is the dreaming state or swapna.
The third is the deep sleep state or sushupthi. These three states exist; no one has anything extra, only these 3 exists as states of Consiousness.
In the waking state, I am able to see and experience. Everything we experience in the waking state is with our perception, with the body, the mind and Atma (one’s inner Divinity) or consciousness. This is the waking state. The Self in me in the waking state is called vishwa. Vishwa is the name of the Self who experiences in the waking state.
The second state, dreaming state, is swapna. In dreamland, I dream many things. Those things may not be possible in the waking state. But everything is possible in a dream. In dreamland, I go on dreaming. That dreamer (not the dream) is the same Self; it is the same consciousness. Only now it is called thaijasa. The Self is called thaijasa in the dreaming state, even though it is the same Self.
The third state is the deep sleep state or sushupthi, where we have sound sleep, snoring and all that! In that deep, dreamless sleep, the Self is known as prajna,meaning ‘witness’. That is all there is. So, three names are given to the Self: vishwa, thaijasa, prajna.
SURRENDER PHYSICAL, MENTAL AND CAUSAL BODIES TO GOD
At home, you are the head of the family. On the street, you are a citizen. In the office, you are a boss. You cannot say, “I am the boss at home.” It is better you consult your wife before you declare that! You cannot say you are a boss on the street. No, no, no! There are a thousand bosses passing by there! Nobody cares if you are a boss or not. But there in the office, yes, you are the boss. All this is the same man.
Similarly, the Self in the waking state is called vishwa, while the same Self in the dreaming state is called thaijasa. The same Self in deep sleep is called prajna. So there are three different roles for the one Self.
Therefore, Vamana asks for these three states of consciousness or awareness.
First footstep is vishwa – the waking state. Come on, surrender to God! How do you experience this waking state? In what way do you experience it? It is with this gross body or sthula. Sthula means ‘gross’. With the sthula deha, this gross body, the Self as vishwa will have all the experiences.
So, the first state of surrender means the sthula deha or gross body is to be offered to God. The Self, functioning in the role of vishwa in this gross body, is to surrender to God. Body is offered to God. Clear? This is what our role should be in the waking state.
Then comes the second state: the dreaming state where the Self is called thaijasa. There my body is not in the dream; my body is on the bed. But my mind creates, builds and imagines all sorts of things. It creates you also. The mind creates others and the mind creates you. The dreaming state is a subtle body or sukshma. Sukshma means ‘subtle body’, where the mind and the Self are there, but the body is not there. Therefore when Vamana asks for the second footstep, it represents the subtle body: the sukshma deha, the thaijasa, or the mind, is to be surrendered to God.
So in the first state, sthula deha, the body with consciousness (vishwa) is to be surrendered to God.
In the second state, the dreaming state, the thaijasa Self, which is the subtle state or sukshma deha, is to be surrendered to God. Mentally, you are ready to surrender. First, physically and then mentally, we surrender.
Then comes the third state—that of the witness. The third state is what we call deep sleep, sushupthi, where the Self remains as a witness, what is termed prajna. That also is to be surrendered to God.
That is what is meant by the three steps of Vamana. Gross body, subtle body and the causal body are to be surrendered. The body, the mind and the spirit are to be surrendered. Vishwa, thaijasa and prajna are the three levels of consciousness to be surrendered and offered to God.
INDIVIDUAL SELF SHOULD BECOME THE COSMIC SELF
Then comes the third state, deep sleep, where the consciousness, called prajna, is also surrendered to God. What remains now? What remains after this? Something is still lurking there; a sort of ‘hangover’ still remains. The ‘I’-ness still remains. The ‘I am consciousness’ feeling is still here, so a little ego is still there. Little self still remains.
The individual self should now become the cosmic Self. The individual self and universal Self are one and the same. The individual self is conditioned by these three levels: the gross, the subtle, and the causal. These are controlled by the senses, body, mind, intellect and ego. When these are all gone, only then will the individual self find its identity with the universal or cosmic Self. What is that? That is the fourth state, called thuriya or the ‘ultimate’.
Baba explains thuriya, the ultimate state, in this way. A person has taken upon himself to play three roles in a drama. In one scene, he acts in one role. In another scene, he acts in a different role; in a third scene, yet another role. But he is the same man. Similarly, same Self has all these three states: vishwa, thaijasa, prajna. But it is not limited only to those three states. It is beyond these three also.
The real you, the real Self, is none of these three. The real Self is neither gross nor subtle. The real Self is neither the ‘you’ in the waking state nor the ‘you’ in the dreaming state nor the ‘you’ in deep sleep. The real Self is beyond these three. And that is thuriya, the real Self. On the top, is what we call Vaiswanara or the real cosmic Self. So, from the individual self, you pass on to the cosmic Self.
This kind of journey—from the individual self to the cosmic Self—is possible only if we surrender these three states. So that is what is meant by the three footsteps or three feet that Vamana asked for from Bali.
So my friends, it is not the matter of Bali alone that is relevant here. It is not just the matter of Vamana to ask for these three feet. The matter applies to every one of us. Every one of us here is a Bali emperor. But, just like that emperor, we want to do yajnas, yagas, and pujas because we have got our business matters to attend to, which we want to be very successful. We have our own family problems that must be solved. We have professional obligations and professional prospects, where we should get some promotions. So, we do pujas, yajnas and yagas.
LOVE ALL AND SERVE ALL TO DRAW YOUR self to cosmic Supreme being.
Therefore, just as Emperor Bali was performing yajnas to attain the state of Indra, we are also in the state of Bali, aspiring for worldly, physical comforts, gains and benefits. But poor Bali, in spite of all these aspirations, still deserved the attention of God. It was because he was very kind and compassionate, the very personification of sacrifice.
This means we have to develop the same good qualities Bali possessed. He endeared himself to everyone in his country. In our case, we are very close to some, yet distant to others. Some are dear to us, while some don’t ‘belong’ to us. Here there is this kind of classification. There is class conflict amongst us. Therefore my friends, just as Bali was a friend to all, loved by all, we should also love all and serve all. The emperor’s qualities made him deserve the attention of Vamana, and were the cause of God Himself visiting him.
Therefore, each one of us symbolises Emperor Bali, certainly drawing the attention of God.
Sacrificing our three feet to the Lord alone takes us to a state of liberation or moksha. This is the inner significance of Onam, which I wanted to share with you this morning.