About Mama Cat and Her Kitten
There are two paths that climb up to the spiritual heights: the path of the monkey and the path of the kitten. The monkey has to use its own limbs to cling to its mother and hold on, as she swings through the trees. But the kitten need only to meow and the mother cat will pick it up with her teeth by the scruff of its neck, and take the kitten where she decides it needs to go next. Bhakti is primarily the path of the kitten. All we need to do is to be in full surrender, helplessly in the clutches of the mama cat, and have a good strong meow that demands attention when we feel abandoned. Then the mama will come and move us to where we need to be. She is totally in charge. We live only for her. Our love is only for her. She is our entire world. We are always safe because she protects us and takes care of everything. Swami says that surrender is the easiest path to God. He says, "For everything that has been say, 'Thanks!' For everything that will be say 'Yes!' Then there is no past and no future to burden you. Then there is only the present, the omnipresent, which gives only delight."
I want to relate an experience of being a kitten taken here and there in the compassionate mouth of the divine mama cat.
Many years ago I was teaching and living at Esalen Institute on the coast of California. My group classes were finished and I had seven days free before going off on a trip to see Swami. In preparation for this sacred pilgrimage, I started doing the Gayatri mantra, a powerful vedic prayer for awakening one's limited consciousness to the universal divine consciousness, that Baba had taught us. I became so deeply absorbed in continuously repeating the Gayatri that quite inexplicably the mantra took me over and it kept going inside without stop night and day.
One day, early in the morning before dawn I went for a hike into the coastal range behind our place. Here there were hundreds of square miles of protected wilderness area without foot trails or normal access; as a coast resident living in the shadow of these beautiful mountains I had hiked there many times before, and so I knew the way in. I spent most of that day climbing up to the top of the highest mountain, where there was a dense grove of oaks, perhaps 15 or 20 of these old, wise, majestic beings immersed in deep silence. I stayed there with these oak rishis for most of the day, serenely happy to be there and sit at their feet,. Gayatri was going effortlessly all the time.
In the late afternoon, with the sun setting before me in the Pacific Ocean, I ran, or I should say, danced down the mountain, when suddenly, coming over a little promontory, I came upon a lion. It was a female, undoubtedly a hungry one, because her belly was empty and her ribs were showing. This was not a mountain lion, a panther or a puma, which are considerably smaller, but it was a full-grown African lioness. Don't ask me what an African lion was doing in those hills, but there she was right in front of me. She was huge, she must have been over 200 pounds and she was only about 10 yards away. She was looking downhill towards the ocean, no doubt also enjoying the spectacular sight of the huge golden globe dropping down into the sea. At that time of day, the wind blows in from the ocean, and so I was upwind of her and she had not detected me.
She was absolutely beautiful, with chocolate-colored markings on a glistening golden pelt. With Gayatri going, I had no fear at all. On the contrary, I immediately felt that this was Baba, and I exclaimed, "O Lord, You are here!"
The lioness turned her head in my direction and saw me above her. She was caught completely by surprise, was obviously frightened, and immediately prepared to defend herself. Her back arched sharply, the hair on her fur stood upright, her long tail became fully extended and rigid, she bared her massive fangs and gave a soul-shattering growl. She was ready to spring, eyes all ablaze. I was not at all taken in by her threatening gesture. I held out my hand towards her and softly said, " Ba - Ba - Ba - Ba" as I had seen Swami do when he calmed a skittish deer behind His mandir in Brindavan. The lioness relaxed, took a long took at me, and then slowly turned away. In a stately walk she went off into a nearby forest and was gone. Darshan was over. I took this as a sign from Swami that I was to come to India immediately, although my tickets and reservations were for a week later. That very evening I drove to San Francisco and managed to get on a flight to Bombay. I was very happy. Gayatri was continuing and I felt Swami was taking me to Him. Everything was being taken care of.
At the Bombay airport I immediately went over to the Indian Airlines counter to see if I could get on a flight to Bangalore. A flight was leaving. They added me as # 161 on the waiting list. After calling just a few of the standbys they closed the flight list. Everybody dispersed. I kept waiting at the counter, calling out in my most heartwrenching meow for Mama Sai to come and help me. Someone got sick in the waiting room, and their boarding pass was returned to the counter. None of the other 160 standbys were still around, so I got the boarding pass. There was an announcement that boarding was delayed by 15 minutes. I went to the postal counter to buy some airmail letters. While- waiting for my change I looked around the big hall and saw an Indian Tourist Counter far across the hall, and the man behind the desk was pointing towards me and insistently motioning that I come there. I didn' t have much time, but I made my way across the long waiting hall, through the masses of people that always frequent these Indian terminals, to get to his counter.
When I got there he was talking to another man. I said, "Excuse me for interrupting but I don't have much time. My flight has been called. Did you wish to say something to me. I saw that you called me, What is it about?" He answered, "No sir, I did not call you." I said, "But I saw you distinctly motioning to me to come to you; that's why I'm here. He said, "No Sir! I did not call you. I did signal for the coffee counter to send over a cup." So, as it turned out, it was just a mistake.
But then, Gayatri was still happening and I got the strong feeling that Swami was somehow behind this, I must have been called here for a reason. I said to the man, "Do you by chance know if Sathya Sai Baba is in Bombay?" He said, "You mean the Puttaparthi Baba?" He took out a newspaper and showed me an article that indeed that very day Baba was in Bombay and was holding a public meeting in the afternoon in East Andheri, not far from the airport. I said to the man, "My heavens! I've come all the way from the US to see Baba, my flight to Bangalore is leaving in seven or eight minutes and it turns out Baba is here in Bombay." The man said to me, "Well, Sir, you must go on that flight to Bangalore. If you don' t get on board, you will lose your ticket, you will lose all your luggage and you won't be able to get on another flight for 6 or 7 days. There's an international cricket match in Bangalore and all flights are booked solid." Again a heart-wailing meow. The message came clearly, internally, "Get on the flight. I will take care of everything. You will have my darshan, sparshan and sambarshan (to see, to hear and touch the guru), this very day itself."
I got on the flight and after take-off promptly fell asleep. I woke up about an hour later, looked out the window and saw the ocean. Flying from Bombay inland to Bangalore, why are we over the ocean, I wondered? Others were seeing the same thing and there was a bit of a hubbub. Then the captain's voice came over the speaker announcing that we were circling over the ocean outside of Bombay to use up fuel and we would land in Bombay in 20 minutes. No explanation given. When we landed we went to the far end of the field. Police and military jeeps descended on us, we were made to get out, have our person and luggage searched and it was clear they were looking for a bomb. None was discovered and a few hours later all got back on the plane to resume our trip to Bangalore. I was bemusedly watching how Swami was going to pull this off. Our plane lined up behind some other flights to take off, but then I noticed some planes behind us in the line-up were pulling around us and took off. Finally, the captain in a quivering voice came back on the speakers and announced that we were returning to the boarding area and the flight was cancelled. We had been delayed so long that Bangalore airport was now closed for monthly maintenance. You can imagine the collective painful sigh. coming from that whole airbus full of passengers. All except one. Gayatri was still happening and I was in perfect peace, knowing that Swami was in charge.
While they were returning tickets to the disgruntled passengers an Indian Airlines official came up to me and asked if I had been on the flight. He apologized profusely for the inconvenience and said that Indian Airlines would like to put me up in a hotel near the airport in Andheri, take care of my meals and taxis and put me on tomorrow's flight. I thanked him and he arranged for a car to take me to the hotel only about a half-mile from Dharmakshetre, where Swami would give His discourse that afternoon. When I arrived at Dharmakshetre, the place was absolutely packed to overflowing. There was no place to get in. I just waited quietly in the street for the Sai Mother to pick me up. Just then, the Governor, Chief Minister, and their party arrived. The Seva Dal cleared a way for them to go down the center aisle to the dais. In the jostling I found myself at the tail end of this party of dignitaries. The Seva Dal assumed I was with the party and did not motion me away. I got an inner directive "Go!" and I went down the middle aisle, expecting to get off at the front section. But at this point Swami had already come out, everybody had crowded in closer and there was absolutely no room anywhere for me to sit.
I was not going to go up on the dais, so in desperation I peeled off at the very front where there was a little place next to the bhajan singers. I tried to pull back into the general seating but there simply was no space. Baba crossed the ladies section and came and stood in front of the bhajan singer to my immediate right who was singing the Ganesh bhajan into the microphone. Swami was swaying gently in tune with the music, giving darshan to this great gathering, when he suddenly looked down, saw me and said, "Rowdy, what are you doing here?" I just pointed to the Divine Feet and said "Padnamaskar Swami? (my request to touch his feet)" He said, "Do!" And I embraced the Feet, as only a kitten that has been reunited with its loving mother, can do. The next day I was on the same flight as Swami, just a few seats behind Him.
This saga continued throughout that trip. There was not a hotel room in all of Bangalore. After trying about 9 hotels, in the 10th hotel, just as I came into the lobby a bellboy was calling out my name. Literally just as I stepped into the hotel! How remarkable was that? The phone call turned out to be from a lady who had studied with me years earlier in the California institute where I taught, and she had subsequently dropped out of sight. Well, it turned out that she had come to India, was living in a house near the ashram outside of the city of Bangalore. She was going off to do some service projects for several months at a school she helps support in Madras, and had a notion that I might turn up for the summer course at the ashram, and that I would probably be staying at this hotel that I had just walked into. She was calling to find out if instead of staying in a hotel in town and taking daily taxis to traverse the 20 odd miles to the ashram, I might like to use her house gratis, which is so near to the ashram, and if I wanted I could also use her bicycle to go shopping.
At Baba's ashram the summer course was just starting. That year it was very crowded and there would be no room for devotees to participate. Swami came by in darshan, staight away gave me a badge and told me to be ready to speak. And so, without asking to, I not only got to attend the summer course but also became a member of the faculty, and gave severak lectures at the 6-week course. Like that, day after day there were miraculous acts of Grace wherein I was lovingly being taken care of by the Divine Mother. It was a truly exceptional trip.
So here is a particularly dramatic example of the divine mother cat taking care of the devotee kitten. It was an exquisitely loving gift. But even much more than that, it was an important teaching. Consider, what about those undramatic everyday situations when at times doors seem to close in our faces as well as open, when it seems we are making our way alone. A true devotee quickly realizes that no matter what happens there is never a time when the Divine is absent and not taking care. Most of the time God acts subtly in our lives, we are not aware of it, but nothing escapes His attention. In every situation, all is in perfection. Apparently negative experiences or apparently positive experiences are all under Divine control. Sometimes the Sai Baba mama cat turns over her duties to a much sterner Sai Baba papa cat, and He may not seem quite so loving. And yet, whether it's the soft mother love or the stem father love, it is always the purest divine love.
Whatever happens we are fully looked after. All that is required of us is to love God with all our heart, totally surrender to Him, and trust His guiding hand to direct every last little detail and happening in our very blessed lives. And unfailingly, He will do so. That is His promise to his devotees whom He loves with the love of a thousand mothers and the love of a thousand fathers.