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Who is Sathya Sai Baba?

Discourse of Sathya Sai Baba during the Summer Course in Spirituality and Indian Culture
held for College Students at Brindavan, Whitefield, Bangalore District in May/June 1974
Published by Sri Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust
Web posted at Jun 20, 2002

Giving the appearance of a shabby person, having a basket like hair on his head, showing no symptoms which indicate any particular religion or sect, with no specific mark on his face indicative of any particular caste, he appears quickly in a moment and vanishes equally quickly, then suddenly comes into your presence, wearing a robe that comes right down to his feet and sometimes covers the feet and sometimes does not cover the feet. Inherent beauty and attractiveness are obvious in his playing and in his singing. These are the aspects of Sivasakti that is contained in him. Neither his hair nor any particular mark on his body, nor the kind of robes that he wears give any indication of his birth. All these things describe the young Sathya Sai as he appears in his external form. He always smiles and in him you will find the aspects of Siva and of Sakti. How is it possible for anyone to understand the secret of Sathya Sai who answers this description?

Students, boys and girls! During the several days that have gone by, taking the aspect of the Goddess of learning and of speech, namely Saraswati and names like Bharata and Prajapati, we have understood their significance. It has been said that many people from time immemorial have been wanting to know what God is and what his qualities and attributes, if any, are. What are his special powers and strengths? This is the kind of enquiry that has been going on for many millenniums. There are replies to these questions. Maharshis in ancient days did do Tapas and get answers to these questions and they realised that the self-effulgent Lord is present within themselves in the form of Praja. They realised that what they seek to know is present within themselves in each individual in the form of Prajnana. By using one's external vision one can certainly realise this divinity in a limited external way and by using one's inner vision, one can realise Him as the very essence of Atma. This is what they understood and taught people.

The two words that are used in this connection are 'Charma' and 'Sarma'! These have been mentioned before and you have known the essential difference between these two words. Sarma stands for Ananda or bliss whereas Charma is something external and is the kind of leather coating which covers the human body. This kind of external coating has not been created to prevent you from realising the inner content of the human body. It is not a coating which hides the inner human aspects. The individual who realises or recognises that the human body is intended to understand the aspect of Sarma or the inner aspect is on the right path. We have already learnt the methods by which we can experience this bliss and happiness. Mere knowledge of how to acquire this bliss is not going to bring it to you. It is only when you are able to put such knowledge into practice that you will be able to enjoy the real bliss. If you want to find some precious stones, you will have to look for them in the midst of dust and rubble in the earth, but if you search for the precious stones in the open sky you are not going to find them. This body is equivalent to dust and in this body alone can you find the Lord.

Man's duty is to make such an attempt by which he will find the jewel of the divine aspect in this human body. If you take a gold vessel and stud the outside with precious stones and then use it to boil some ordinary liquid, what you do is similar to the situation in which we find ourselves. The human body which is containing the divine jewel is being used to fulfil the base human desires and thoughts. Will there be a fool who will take a golden plough, till a fertile land and finally put useless plants in it? Will there be a fool who will go round the city begging for food when tasty food is available to him in his own house? In the same manner while sacred peace and happiness are present in your own heart, is there any meaning in your going in search of them everywhere else except inwards into your own heart. It is foolishness to look for Paramatma everywhere except in your own heart.

While we regard God as omnipresent, in practice, we are looking for him everywhere except within our own heart. Our Puranas have been telling us that Paramatma is like this and like that, has such and such attributes and qualities and so on. All the descriptions really arise from their own internal feelings and the picture of God that they have created for themselves. There are very few people who can describe the true attributes of the Lord. While the Lord is present in everything and is responsible for everything, it is not possible for anyone to understand the full significance of the Lord. Everything is God and every aspect of creation is a facet of God. While stating and saying that God is present everywhere and looking for him in some specific place is not correct. There is no meaning for this.

All these statements by different people depend on their ideas, their strengths and weaknesses, their likes and dislikes and depending on these vagaries, they have been giving various descriptions of the Lord. What is evident to them in the world and what constitutes their own daily experience make the basis for the description they give of Paramatma as it is not possible for any of them to give a correct description of the Lord. In fact, those who had really experienced the glory of the Lord will not undertake to give a description to others. For one who has not overcome his own weakness, his desires and his qualities to describe that God is like this or like that is not correct and such a description can be treated only as a hollow description. If an individual is himself subservient to Gunas, how is he going to recognise the Lord who is above Gunas and give a description of Him? Thus, when such an individual describes God, he is not talking of his own experiences but he is talking on the basis of what he has read in the books which others have written.

The ocean is very big and broad and is infinite and from this ocean an individual can bring water in conformity with the size of the pot which he carries and no more. In a vast country, each person or each religion is bounded by such restrictions and they are grasping only one particular aspect of the Lord and they are thinking that particular aspect is the complete picture of the divine. These artificial limitations on the aspect of the divine are such that whatever can be brought within the limitations of their understanding can alone be understood. How can the unlimited aspect of God be brought into a narrow space which has set for certain specific limitations? The devotees of Vishnu proclaim that their understanding is the greatest of all. The devotees of Siva proclaim that aspect of Siva is the greatest aspect. The devotees of Ganapati say that Ganapati is the greatest of all deities. The devotees of Sarada say that she represents the best aspects of God. The devotees of Allah proclaim that he is the greatest. Some others say that all are the same. How can then anyone say who is the greatest? And what is the true picture?

I am wanting to give a nice example regarding this. Seven blind people approached a big elephant. One of them went and touched the leg and had a feeling for the leg and when describing the elephant said that the elephant is like a big pillar. Another person touched the ear of the elephant and described the elephant as one big fan. A third person touched the tail of the elephant and concluded that the elephant is like a thick big rope. Another person touched the stomach of the elephant and decided that the elephant is like a big wall. In this manner, each of the blind men touched and felt a different part of the elephant and came to the conclusion which was correct as far as he was concerned. Each one concluded that the aspect of the elephant which he examined is the total and final form of the elephant. They have been describing correctly and completely the particular organ of the elephant which each one touched but a single organ can never represent the totality of the elephant. It is the combination of all these organs that can be called an elephant. In this way, when people try to understand the universal religion, people are getting hold of some particular aspect and they are thinking that what they have got hold of is the total aspect of religion. The universal religion is really the consensus of all these differing aspects of different people. It is the common harmonised content of all different religions of the universe. In all these components, the same kind of healthy blood must flow.

It is true to say that Prema or love is the blood that is flowing through all the religions of the world. There is essentially only one religion and that is the religion of love. This love flows as a stream through all the religions and this is the essence of all the religions. Without recognising this essential stream of love that is contained in all the religions and by paying attention to only the external form and ritual, people have been quarrelling with each other about the status of each religion. Those who have for their aim only the external form cannot draw true conclusions. In the same manner, with regard to Sai as well, some people draw conclusions based only on the external appearances ad they try thus to understand the nature of Sai. They are not making any attempt to recognise the basic truth, the unchanging permanent qualities of truth that are in Sathya Sai. All powers are in the control of Sai. Unfortunately many educated people who call themselves Yogis, Mahayogis, Pandits and people who have all kinds of qualifications talk only of the miracles that I perform. They do not make an attempt to recognise the strength and the true nature of the Sai that they apparently see. Today many people who are educated and who are proud of the kind of education they possess come here and not realising the truth that is present here, they talk of their knowledge of Upanishads, Vedas and Sastras. They do not realise that the very basis of all that they talk about is present here in Brindavan. They do not make an attempt to realise this truth. Many of these people attach great importance to their own teaching and knowledge and they are anxious to exhibit their knowledge. Such people do not realise that they are going to a place which is the very basis of knowledge and that they should try and get the Darsan of this basis rather than make an exhibition of their own knowledge. When one looks at people with such an attitude it becomes clear that they do not have any experience of true divinity, and that what they have acquired is only acquaintance with several books. They do not have any wisdom or knowledge of things which matter. It is not possible to anyone to recognise the true aspect of God. From ancient time to the present times, although God appeared right amidst the people, it has not been possible for them to realise and appreciate the true aspects of God. The reason for this is that they are unfortunate.

There is no limitation to my power. There is no reason to limit or confine my power and my grace to any one place. Infinite powers and infinite grace are present in my hands. To state these things with regard to myself becomes necessary sometimes. There is no use in telling people who refuse to know. For people who know, there is no need to tell them. But for people who know and yet do not know, it becomes necessary to present what I call my visiting card. Therefore, if today I have undertaken to tell you about myself, it is with a view to present you with my visiting card and not for any other purpose which you may be having in your mind. In the whole of our spiritual history, we find that only Krishna had proclaimed his own divinity in this manner.

Even in the Avathar of Krishna, there was some superficial set back and there were some difficulties at certain times. But this is nothing unusual. It is only a put up appearance and it is part and parcel of the divine aspect. Such set backs are put up to make it known to people that an attempt has been made and that such an attempt became fruitless. During the time of Krishna Avatar, many kings came and asked Krishna as to why while he was present, the dreadful war of Mahabharata should take place and why he should not try and stop the war after some peace negotiations. To this Krishna replied that he did make an effort but it had not succeeded. This should not be interpreted as a failure for Krishna. Actually this is according to a plan which Krishna conceived. He wanted the world to see and know that he had made all possible efforts but the wicked Kauravas would not heed his advice. This way the people would also be convinced that efforts had been made but the Kauravas were wicked and so did not listen to Krishna. Thus he conducted negotiations and showed to the people that the Kauravas were wicked and were not interested in having peace.

Depending on the nature of the country, upon the people and upon the environment it becomes necessary for God to enact such situations and pretend to do certain things. In this Avatar of Sai, there is no room for such pretensions and there is no place for such set backs at all. What I have taken as a Sankalpa will surely be fructified but I need not take on a Sankalpa if I do not wish to. My own thoughts, Sankalpas and ideas depend on how the devotees conduct themselves. My grace and my duty is to be completely available for the benefit of the devotees. Because I am like an ordinary individual when I am talking with you and playing with you, many people do not understand my true nature. In this context, even people with great strength of mind cannot recognise the true nature of this Sai and the difference between the external appearance and the real internal aspect. My objective is to establish unity in mankind and to reveal to them the aspect of divinity which is Brahman, the only goal which one should look for. It is also my duty to make you realise the kind of relationship that should exist between man and man and to establish that the aspect of divinity is present and latent in all human beings.

Persons are not going to become great merely by reciting Vedas and making speeches in a very flamboyant manner and simply because I do not do such things I am not going to become small. I have the capacity to solve the most intricate of problems but simply because I pretend not to have this capacity and I talk as if I cannot solve the problem, it is very foolish for people to think that I am just a man of miracles and no more. The kind of feeling which an elephant gets when a mosquito lands on his body is exactly like what miracles are for me. These miracles have an insignificant place in my totality. Sometimes I feel like laughing at the ignorance of people when they attach importance to my miracles. People talk of only such small things and forget the much bigger aspect in me. The most sacred quality in me is Prema. This Prema is immeasurable. However much a person may try, he cannot get a measure of the extent of my Prema. It is immeasurable and unrealisable. Only such people who have recognised the existence of such Prema in me can get some idea of what I am.

Students! Realise and understand fully well that the only royal path to reach God is the path of Prema. You will be able to taste this sweet honey of Prema only at the lotus feet of the Lord. Such honey is available at the lotus and it is not as if honey is applied to the feet of the Lord. When we refer to the word Lotus, we must realise another significant meaning of the word. A lotus has its origin in the muddy waters and is born in the mud. Yet it does not assimilate in itself either the mud or the water. If there is no water, the lotus cannot survive even for a moment. The interesting thing is that even though it survives only in the presence of water, it does not assimilate water. As in this analogy, human life is born in something external to life which may be compared to mud and we live in this temporal material world which may be compared to water. Having been born out of mud and living in water and yet not attract to ourselves the mud or the water is the aspect of the feet of the Lord. That is the reason why all the different limbs of the Lord are referred to as lotus such as the lotus feet, the lotus eyes and so on.

Thus whatever Paramatma does it is done with no attachment and He is not affected by them. The path which he treads is such that the path does not leave any dire on him. He is always clean and pure. His vision is never bad and his mind is never impure. A vision which is clean and a mind which is unwavering are characteristics of the Lord. It is a common experience that if one holds anything greasy in one's palm, the palm becomes greasy and you have to wash it with soap or shampoo. But remember that while the hand acquires grease when it is used to eating greasy materials, the tongue never attracts this grease even when it is used to eat this greasy material. Because the tongue does not attract to itself any grease, the tongue is always described as a sacred organ and the tongue has to be used to utter only sacred words like Govinda, Madhava and so on. The tongue alone is entitled to utter these sacred words because all other organs let the grease to stick to them.

It is customary for women to use a dye to beautify their eyebrows. While applying this dye, no one will make the dye stick to the eyeball. Just as the eyeball will not take the paint, our Sastras have told us that our vision should always be perfectly clear and should never entertain dark ideas. Another meaning for the word Jnana is vision. Sruti has taught us that the realisation of the aspect of non-duality is itself a vision. When we use the word vision, we imply that it is only the eyes that can see because no other organ in the body has the capacity to see. It is in this context that we understand that our vision itself is the Jnana Dhristi. In addition to this, our vision has also been teaching another lesson. If any individual comes and stands in front of us, we can see our own image in his eyes and he can see his image in our eyes. In this process, we note that to enable him to see his image, the eye is being used as the reflecting mirror. In the same manner, if we want to have a vision of the Lord, we will have to use the eye of wisdom as the reflecting surface. When we want to see the worldly things we open our eyes and see very well. If we are not able to see, we use glasses to help. If however we go to a temple to have the vision of the Lord, we close our eyes and offer a Namaskar. What is the significance of this? You go to the temple, want to see God and then you close your eyes. You should examine the meaning of this. The physical eye is of no use in your attempts to get a vision of the Lord and you will have to use your wisdom eye or the Jnana Netra. Closing your eyes implies that you understand that the physical eyes are not appropriate for seeing the Lord. It follows that all that you see with your physical eyes is untrue and only those who can use the eye of wisdom can get a true picture of me.

In the court of Janaka, there used to be a practice by which he invited great scholars and conversed with them. The kind of conversations that were permitted in the court of Janaka were of three kinds. The first kind is an argument or exchange of words. The second kind is Jalpa and the third is Tarka or logic. The first kind signifies the fact that the individual pays complete attention to what he wants to say and he can adopt any method to put forward the truth. The second method Jalpa consists of using a Sastra or quoting from scripture and establishing what he wants to establish by quoting from the scripture. The third method Tarka consists of using a very deep logic by quoting from the Vedas to confirm his ideas. This method is one of deep analysis and logically establishes what one wants to, by quoting authority from the Vedas. In this manner, arrangements were made to have three kinds of presentation in Janaka's court. Many reputed scholars used to enter the court. People who had several titles to indicate their expertise used to participate and were wearing Rudraksha symbolic of their scholarship. Among them was one Ashtavakra who was very young and ambitious. When he was trying to enter the court to join the argument, the older scholars thought that it was not befitting of them to argue with this young Ashtavakra. Such an attitude indicates intellectual arrogance and pride of scholarship. They tried to prevent his participation in many ways. But Ashtavakra was very stubborn and after praying to king Janaka, he was allowed to enter the court.

As soon as Ashtavakra entered the court, all the Pundits who looked at him laughed loudly. In return Ashtavakra also laughed more loudly. The Pundits were rather surprised because they thought that there was a valid reason for their laughing but they did not see any valid reason for Ashtavakra laughing. Ashtavakra was stopped by one of the Pundits and was asked to state the reason for his laughter. One of the Pundits said that anyone who sees the crooked body of Ashtavakra cannot refrain from laughing. Then Ashtavakra offered to tell the reason for his laughter if they wish to listen to it. He said that he had come to the court of Janaka to participate in the function when he heard that several very clever and intelligent people would be present, but he was forced to laugh when he found that king Janaka had mistaken such foolish and idiotic people to be real Pundits and scholars. Ashtavakra used the word 'Mala' which connotes a community of cobblers and at this all the Pundits were enraged. Ashtavakra said that he addressed them as cobblers because only cobblers can understand the nature of leather used for making shoes and they behaved like cobblers when they attached much importance to the leather covering the external body.

Pundits will be true Pundits only if they are able to see inside the heart with their inner vision. On the other hand if people only look at the external features and give undue importance to such things, they will belong to the same class of cobblers described by Ashtavakra. To always talk of the Vibhuti which I give or to talk of the things that I materialise and of the miracles that I perform is not correct. Even educated people are not able to recognise the sacred aspects of me. Is this the result of their education? What value can we attach to their education when they are not able to see the inner and more important aspects but attach significance only to the other details. Students! You must not take such a path. You must take a path by which you can see deep in my heart and experience the various divine aspects of mine. You must understand the all-knowing power in me. Do not be led away by people who always talk of having got a locket or a watch or a ring from me. These things have no deep meaning. If you can earn my grace, it is as good as getting the entire world. Do not talk of my miracles but talk of the Prema which you can get from me by your conduct. This is what is most important and you must make an attempt to get it. When there is an invaluable diamond in me, you must try and acquire that. What is the meaning in your wanting to acquire smaller things. You must not go away from this invaluable treasure. You must be as close to it as possible. It is necessary for you to take it and treasure it. You may ask what the necessity is for us to earn such a thing as divine grace and Prema. In this context, it is useful if you know the kind of love which comes from the divinity present in me.

I would have given a protective talisman to a devotee and that individual would have worn it either in his neck or somewhere on his body. You do not have to constantly think of Swami. He will be with you and looking after you, even if you do not have such a protective talisman on your bodies. My grace is always available to all people. The purpose of this talisman however is that if the individual wearing it is in some danger or difficulty, then the talisman will immediately bring to me in a flash the news and goes back with my grace to you. This is the function which the talisman that I give performs. It constitutes a kind of link between the wearer and me in times of danger. Such material gifts have been protecting thousands of people. To give a specific example, I can cite the case of a person who is right here now.

In the month of April this year, he came with me to Bombay and took part in several programmes. However on the last day, he had to leave Bombay at midnight to go to a foreign country. He finished his work there and as he was preparing to return to India he became ill and was unconscious. He did not know anything about himself. There was no one who knew him or any friend with him. When he came to the airport to board the flight, he did not have his ticket and the relevant papers with him. If one has to come from such a far off country, it would not be possible for one to do so even if one tried to get into the place stealthily and without a ticket. He was not conscious and he did not know himself. He searched everywhere but could not find his ticket and was in great trouble. At that time, the ring which he was wearing had brought the message to me in a flash. In one moment, the airport officer came and put him on the plane even without a ticket and he does not even know how he came to India.

There is another example of this kind in the case of a devotee from Calcutta who used to stay in London and who came to this Summer School a few days ago. When I intended to give him a ring, he said that as he never wore a ring in his life, he might be excused. I insisted that he should wear the ring which I gave him. He replied that he would wear the ring as it would give him Swami's grace. He wore the ring and went to London. When giving him the ring, I told him that whatever dangers he might be in, such dangers would be passed on to Swami and he would be saved. If one looks at the terrific speed with which the cars move in London one would feel much safer in an aeroplane. It so happened that the car in which this devotee was travelling was hit by another car and his car was badly smashed up and the parts of the car were thrown helter-skelter on the road and the whole thing was broken to pieces. So far as the occupant, who was the devotee wearing the ring I gave him, is concerned, he did not know what happened as he was sitting nicely on the ground in the centre of the road in apparently good shape. While he was so sitting, another car came to take him away and he looked at the ring which I gave him and found that my photo in the ring was completely smashed to pieces. By the time he reached home, he received a telegram from me. If a telegram has to go from Brindavan to Whitefield, it takes six or seven minutes at least, but within the few minutes the devotee took to reach his home in London from the place of the accident, the telegram was already waiting for him. The telegram said 'Be happy; I am with you; do not worry about accident'. He looked at the telegram and was very much moved. He immediately returned to India.

Why I am telling this to the young people sitting here is to make them realise that my aspect is such that it relates to the heart. These external things and material gifts provide the link from heart to heart and they function when they are required to function. Such functioning and heart to heart experiences are happening not by ones or twos but by the thousands. In fact, such incidents are as many as there are hairs on my head. The purpose for which I have come is not to fulfil small desires or attend to the small incidents like what you have now heard about. There are great truths which I have to establish. There is considerable change in human outlook which I have to bring about. No one can stop me or deter me from fulfilling the tasks for which I have come namely the establishment of the one unchanging truth. In this task you have a part to play and you will have to play your part in the fulfilment of the Sai mission which remains ahead of us. Establishment of Dharma is the task to which we have to attend immediately and I hope that you will all play your part, however small it may be in completing the Sai work. Since everything depends on truth, such truth is not something which has to yield to any one. Untruth has to subordinate itself to almost every one with whom it comes into contact. Truth will never subordinate to any one with whom it comes into contact.

This form is the form of Sathya Sai or the embodiment of truth. In the name Sai Baba the word 'Sa' stands for divine and 'Ayi' stands for mother and so 'Sai' stands for divine mother. Baba means father. This name Sai Baba thus means divine mother and father. The words Sambasiva and Sai Baba mean the same thing. 'Sa Amba Siva' means divine father and mother and so does the word Sai Baba. Because there is the aspect of mother and father and because both are present, this form is rightly to be described as Siva Sakti Atma Swarupa. Like a mother, I will be tender and soft and give you happiness and like a father, I punish you, criticise you when needed and through these methods I take you to a high level. Even your own mother and father, in the worldly sense, will sometimes become selfish and may punish you in a manner which smacks of selfishness but this divine mother and father in me have no selfishness of any kind in them. They are selfless and such punishment as I give is intended only to take you to a higher place.

If a mother has two sons and if one of them is sick, she will give the sick son only bitter medicine while she may give the other son anything that he may ask for. The mother gives the sick son only bitter medicine. If she gives bitter medicine to one son and sweet to the other, it is not because the mother likes one more than the other. The mother realises that it is for the good of the sick child to take bitter medicine and so she gives him a bitter medicine but not because she likes him less. If an individual who has good qualities comes close to me, I am sweet to him. On the other hand, I am harsh to one who has bad qualities and I do not let him come close to me. It is not that I like one more than the other but I give the medicine to cure the bad qualities where they are present.

Also there are people who are believers and people who are nonbelievers. The believers are always prepared to enjoy the bliss of being near the divine. The nonbelievers feel very much disturbed even at the mention of the name of God. Here we must examine the reason for the nonbelievers disliking the name of God. It is not as if they do not like God. This is a disease in them. In functions like marriages or in congregations like this, we serve sweets to all the guests. While we offer sweets to all, some persons say that they do not want them. It is not as if they do not like the sweets but they reject them because they suffer from diabetes. Such people who do not want to go near God are like diabetic patients. They are suffering from a disease and if only that disease is cured, they will enjoy the sweet name of God as much as anyone else. When one is suffering from Malaria, anything that he eats will taste bitter to him. The bitter taste is not the quality of what he eats but arises from his sickness. After the malaria is cured, a sweet will taste sweet. In this context one should try to cure the disease where a disease exists rather than force him to take the sweet. In my view, in this entire world, there is no one who is a nonbeliever. Truly, the individual has some selfish motive like his wanting to establish an organisation of his own. His attention is diverted to the fulfilment of such a task.

Only one who cannot love himself may be called an atheist or a nonbeliever but in this world there is no one who does not love himself. There are many people who say 'I have no faith in God' but they also say 'I have confidence in myself'. But he does not think who this self of him is. The self in him is the God. He keeps on saying 'My body, my eyes, my mind, my Anthakarana' and so on but who is this I who is claiming ownership. In so saying, you are not identifying yourself with the body. You are not the body. Therefore, mind, Buddhi, Chitta and all these things really belong to the 'I' and are not the same 'I'. Thus self-confidence is synonymous with faith in God. All persons who have faith in their own self must be called believers. They cannot be called nonbelievers. The divine Atma is shining in everybody as a self-effulgent flame in the form of Prajnana. It is in this context that they have said 'Prajnana Brahma' or 'The self is identical with Brahman'. Brahman is present in everyone in the form of Prajna or divine wisdom. There is no meaning in calling anyone as being devoid of God.

Pavitratma Swarupas, students! Today I have talked at length and caused you some trouble. But our conversations are going to come to an end today and the separation from tomorrow is going to be only in the matter of discourses and talking. The closeness between our hearts is such that it is not going to come to an end. Keep the aspect of Sai in your heart. I wanted to convey to you some aspects of Sai which many people want to know although it is not possible for anyone to understand or fathom the depths of Sai. This is the background of my wanting to talk of myself. I wished to convey to you some things which others cannot convey. From tomorrow, try to put all these into practice and enjoy the divine bliss and become one with divinity. Do not fill your head with mere information and knowledge. Fill your hearts with Prema. I am hoping that you will thus fill your hearts with the essential content of my discourses and prepare yourself for meeting the future life.