Experiencing the Divine – From the Form to the Formless

Dr. Samuel Sandweiss, a familiar name among Sai Fraternity gave an exposition of his version of Bhagawan’s omnipresence, speaking as a participant in the colloquium on the theme, “Experiencing the Divine – From the Form to the Formless”. Here is the full transcript of the speech.

Dearest Beloved Swami who is omnipresent and always with us, pranams at Your divine lotus feet. I pray that Your love comes through these words so that we have your darshan.

Respected members of revered ashrams of sacred India, esteemed elders, brothers and sisters, how happy I am to be here with you today – gathered as a family with Swami, aware of His presence, feeling as one in His love. Swami has told us that although we all look different – “I say ‘I,’ you say ‘I,’ he says ‘I,’ she says ‘I,’ all seem different in physical appearance – we all are one in the experience of ‘I.’” Yes, we are all one in the ‘I’ of Sai!

This is a very auspicious time, as we reflect on a passing: a passing of something that does not come or go. What brings us here is a form that is formless, a light that dissolves differences and unites us in love.

Today’s topic gives me the opportunity to reflect on Swami’s omnipresence. Omnipresence means that He is always with us, ever providing and protecting – and that we can be with Him, in His various forms, or formless, whenever we turn to Him. He can appear to us in any way He wills.

Swami has left His physical body, but He is still with us in many forms: in dreams, visions, vibhuti, visitations, a sense of His presence. In His Universal form He can be found in all beings and is manifesting in all world religions and traditions in their forms of worship. And in the formless? My understanding of the formless is that it is infinite silence, eternal peace, emptiness of desires and attachments: pure love, which is everything.

Swami has given us what scientists have been seeking for years–the theory of everything — summed up in His seemingly simple advaitic statement, “Everything is nothing–and nothing is everything.” As I understand this inconceivable statement — there is no separation — only one–and that one is everything — that one is love. Love is the basis — the cause of all causes. This is a vision into the core of creation and the path to peace.

Swami once described this state to me–”every thing is coming out of you”–He said –and then– holding my shirt pocket open He added — “and when every thing comes out, Swami jumps in” – and Swami dove His fingers into my pocket.

Swami not only tells us that He is ever-present when we turn to Him; He also tells us why He is with us. It is to awaken us from the dream – from our attachment to the physical body and sensory world – so that consciousness soars into the region of oneness with Him. Pure love. He comes to help us realize:

“What exists is only the perceiver of both the dream and waking state. That is the “I.” Know that “I”–and know that “I” is the same as God.”

Swami comes to help us realize that Self is God, as the bhajan goes:

“I am God, I am God, I am no different from God. I am love, I am truth, I am peace eternally. I am Sath Chit Ananda Swarupa.”

And Swami not only tells us why divinity is with us in form and formless, but also how to come to Him:

“Knowing the ‘I’ – the Self – can only be achieved through intense spiritual discipline devoid of anger, envy, and greed.”

Eliminating anger, envy, and greed – the purification of the mind through upholding dharma – the practice of love: this is the highest spiritual discipline, which reveals our divine Self.

Swami once asked what I would like, and I replied, “You Swami,” not knowing exactly what I was asking for – only that being with Swami was the source of my highest happiness.

“Take me I’m yours,” He said, holding His arms out as if hugging the universe. “But who am I? I’m not this body: these feelings, thoughts, mind. I am not intellect, not bliss – then who am I?”

Yes, who am I – that is the question to consider today.

And the answer is found in Swami’s omnipresent love. By turning to Him, by practicing His teachings of love and service, we enter into Him. “Love all, as you love me,” He says, and then we realize that the answer to the question, “Who am I?” is – So Hum, So Hum, So Hum: I am He, I am He, I am He.


I personally have experienced Swami’s omnipresence most intensely when doing His work. For instance, my wife Sharon and I have hosted a Sai Baba Center in our home for over 38 years. Involvement with Swami’s devotional, educational, and service activities over these years has had a deep effect on my inner life. Developing this kind of close relationship – bringing Him into all activities, while releasing consequences and selfishness – makes the connection profoundly personal. One of my friends was so taken with Swami’s personal love that he clung to His feet and cried out, “Oh Swami, I love you so much! I want you to be my personal Swami – only for me.” And Swami replied, “I am your personal Swami. I’m everyone’s personal Swami.”

Story 1 – Swami is omnipresent, so look for Him, find Him, everywhere and in everyone – and find our real Self.

One day as a young psychiatrist, I was called to see a patient in the locked unit of a psychiatric hospital. He was a middle-aged, wasted and weathered man who had been picked up on the street in a confused state. He had not bathed for days, was incoherent, dirty, and reeked of an awful odor. What to do with such a man?

He had been burned over 70% of his body, with most of his ears, eyelids and nose burned off. You could see just the holes on the front of his face where his nose had been. Unsightly scars deformed his body and contracted his hands.

I wondered how he could stand to be in such a body. I wanted to leave.

Then I remembered: “This must be Swami,” reminding myself that if Swami were to come to me, He could do it to show me my weakness: my inability to see Him in everyone. “My God, this must be Swami,” I thought.

Not only did I think that this tortured soul was Swami, I had a strange inner feeling, much deeper than thought, that this person actually was Swami. In an instant I experienced a wonderful transformation of my feelings and thinking. I liked this man! I wanted to be in his presence.

I looked deeply into his eyes to see if I could see Swami looking back – and I thought that I could. I looked at his deformed lips, trying to make out Swami’s smile – and I thought that I could. I wanted a smile from him. I wanted to do my best for him.

Remembering Swami brought an instant awareness of His teachings about Sathya, Dharma, Shanti, Prema, and Ahimsa. I wanted this patient to have peace. I didn’t want to ignore him in any way. When I came to see him every day I felt I was having Darshan of Swami. Remembering Swami transformed me into my real Self.

How could this transformation come about? When mind turns to the Master, do we align ourselves with mere mental memory, or with an indescribable power beyond mind that is capable of turning bondage to freedom?

This story about the power of remembering the Master does not prove that we are actually connected to divine energy. But the achievements of Swami’s devotees, inspired by His love, are of such a reach and radiance that this expanded expression of love is strong evidence that we are aligning ourselves with something all-powerful and beyond mind.

We are all aware of the temples of healing, providing free care – cardiac, neurologic, orthopedic, eye and more – 11 million people in severe drought-stricken areas of India receive free clean drinking water daily — the wonderful Shri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, which provides a free education to thousands of sterling students.

Not only here in India, but worldwide, institutions of Swami’s love are blossoming. Award-winning projects like the “Miracle School” of Victor Kanu in Zambia, Africa, where disturbed children are transformed into shining examples of character and productivity…medical camps in Russia and beyond…disaster response teams dispatched to flood and earthquake areas…food and clothing distributed world-wide…values-based education programs emerging around the globe.

Swami assures us that our connection with Him is more than mortal or mental – it is a direct channel to divinity beyond time and death. We are His instruments of love.

And there’s no greater expression of Swami’s divinity then the wisdom He has showered on us. In discourses and books Swami enlightens us about the lives of Avatars like Rama and Krishna and others, told in the first person: spiritual texts like the Gita, Mahabharata, and Bhagavata, related in exciting detail and with new insights – the brilliant teachings of the vahinis, and much more. All bringing an understanding of unparalleled clarity and revealing Swami’s Divinity.

Swami can expound on the most esoteric teachings – the chakras, kundalini, mantras, meditation, pranayama – but the highest spiritual practice, He says, is virtue. It is the practice of love that upholds Dharma and brings happiness to all.

Swami clarifies how Dharma purifies mind and uplifts society. The subtlest impurities of mind are exposed when we interact together in service with an attitude of detachment from the consequences. By turning inward, identifying and then releasing selfishness, ego, lust, anger, etc., the mind enters the heart where it finds bliss and love. This is the path to perfecting culture and to world peace.

Today, miracles are still happening in abundance – and many of us sense Swami’s intimate guidance while we do His work. I personally have experienced no greater example of His omnipresent guidance than the following event that began 29 years ago and is still continuing.

Story 2 – This is a story about how Swami is always guiding and protecting, how he can manifest himself to us at any time, in any way He wills – even to me in San Diego, California, 12,000 miles from his physical form.

Early in our relationship, Sai Baba told me that He would come to me in my practice of psychiatry. I thought that perhaps He would help me understand more deeply how holding to virtues and values affects our emotional growth far more than is generally understood by Western psychiatry.

Then shortly thereafter, in 1983, something very unusual occurred. A Caucasian patient of mine, a young woman with no prior knowledge of Sanskrit – who knew nothing about Hinduism–suddenly, began speaking Sanskrit out of the blue!

I had been treating Jackie for about ten years for severe headaches and a seizure disorder. She required social support, including food and financial assistance. One day she told me that Sai Baba had come to her with a message in a strange language, while she was in a dreamlike state. I initially thought this was her imagination and an attempt to gain my attention. I told her that if she was visited again, and could remember the strange words, to call my answering machine and record them for me.

I was dumbfounded when, two days later, I heard my young patient speaking Sanskrit like a scholar on my answering machine. What was the meaning of this occurrence, outside the understanding of modern science? Jackie said that it was Sai Baba who was visiting her with messages for believers.

VIDEO 1Here is a video clip showing how I first heard the messages on my answering machine. In this clip we are in my office; Jackie was in pain, with right facial weakness. I was about to admit her to a psychiatric hospital, and played the tape to see what she could recall.

Not only was she able to recall the Sanskrit, Jackie was able to write it down phonetically – and, even more surprisingly, to translate it. As the event unfolded, vibuthi and amrita began appearing on her pictures, in her Christian Bible, and on her body. I picked up a video camera and began recording.

Years later, when I had time to deal with the video material, a student of Sanskrit helped me decipher the “messages.” Jackie identified Swami as the speaker and said that He referred to Himself as Parabrahman: the Boundless, the Imperishable. Profound insights of Vedanta flowed from the mouth of a disabled naïve Western patient – a leala of the highest order! A refrain in almost all the messages was: “Whatever form a divine being wills to be, that form the divine being becomes.” Swami had literally and concretely appeared in my practice of psychiatry.

VIDEO 2 – Swami refers to Himself as Parabrahman and the director of our Yajna to bring heaven on earth.

Following, translated from the Sanskrit, are excerpts from the video describing various forms of Swami. I believe the messages are for all believers.

“Believer, I am the boundless – a non-beating sound: anahata sabda – I am Sai Baba.

“I am Daivi Prakriti: the electrical energy in the universe of manifestations.

“Charity of LOVE immortal: Dana.

“I am Buddha of light.

“I am Truth – there is no religion higher than truth.

“I am Sai Baba, your director in our Yajna.

“I am your director for gaining heaven on earth.”

At one point Jackie said, “He told me that I am He – and He is me. I don’t know what that means – he just told me that.”

When I asked her if Sai Baba would cure her, Jackie said He had told her that He is not here to cure everyone; we ourselves must take part in the healing.

“Why is He here,” I asked.

She replied: “Bottom line, for love.”

As the event unfolded, I felt strongly that this poor suffering patient somehow represented the suffering of mother Earth due to our mindless selfish behavior that is causing great harm.

And our role? We must take responsibility in healing — to relieve the suffering of Mother Earth.

It’s important to remember that we are in a holy yajna with Swami, surrendering selfishness and narrow-mindedness, through the power of love, to establish a better world.

Where do we go from here? I described the case of my Sanskrit-speaking patient as a concrete example of Swami being beyond time and place, and because I think it has relevance to science and to our understanding of consciousness and love. I encourage all scientists to likewise describe in the literature their experiences of miracles of love – and all brothers and sisters to propagate the teaching of love and truth – aligned with local customs and traditions—knowing that we are instruments of our common Master of love.

We can sing in a variety of tunes, from various traditions, as we are doing here today – and with a clear vision of the unity in the apparent diversity. That unity is love.

Swami has described the greatness of the spiritual giants from all the different traditions.

Jnana, or the ultimate wisdom, can be won from and through elders who have experienced the absolute. Serve them and win their love. Then can this precious Jnana be won.

Here Swami embraces all great teachers who have experienced the absolute. His is not exclusive love; it is all-inclusive love. Experiencing divinity from form to formlessness – the theme of this colloquium – is to experience and celebrate Swami’s all-embracing love that brings us together as one family.

On a personal note, I deeply miss Swami’s physical body. For many of us, just resting our eyes on that glorious form revealed all of creation and beyond – like what mother Yashoda saw in young Krishna’s mouth. I miss His personality, His smile – and I have shed tears. But as I serve, I have felt Swami’s presence even stronger since He left His physical body. I visualize Him in my mind’s eye more easily, feel His presence more intensely, see Him as light, feel His protective guidance in my efforts to propagate His message of love in my writing and in the video.

I feel Him in the people with whom I serve, and in the opportunities that have opened – such as being invited to speak to you today at this auspicious event. And, most importantly, I feel Swami’s grace in allowing me to release fear, anxiety, suffering, and obstacles into His infinite peace.

My wife once asked Swami if He would save the world. He answered, “Half save – half seva (love in action).” We have work to do!

In closing, I embrace all of you, and call on Swami:

Let Your glory shine on our hearts like a million suns, setting our love aflame –

Until You and I become the same.

Let us walk with Your love in our hearts,

Your name on our lips,

Your hand in ours.

And hand in hand – half save, half seva –

Let us bring honor to Your sacred name

and radiate love to the world, so that…


The mountains ring with love

The heavens sing with love

The stars shine with love

The poets rhyme with love

And all the beings

Of all the worlds are happy

II Samasta Lokaaha Sukhino Bhavantu II