Thursday, 20 June 2013

Talent-Search : The experience of a student who achieved talent by loving God


That is what we generally think! Swami gave a new definition altogether!

It was a very special evening. The students and staff of the Sri Sathya Sai Educational Institutions had gathered at the lotus feet of their Master, God and guide, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba in the Trayee Brindavan premises. They were grateful to be enjoying this privilege of being a part of a Trayee Session. Swami, as Baba is reverentially and lovingly called, was seated on the jhoola (indoor swing) and all the students were seated at His feet. A talk was in progress.


The speaker was Sri Sanjay Sahni and he was talking about how one should make use of one’s skills and talents for God. In the process, he made a very interesting revelation. He said,
“On one occasion, a speaker said in Swami’s presence that talent is a gift of God. Swami immediately corrected him saying that talent was not merely a ‘gift’ of God. Talent is God!”


Even as Sri Sahni made the statement, Swami, seated on the jhoola, smiled and nodded.


In Mathematics, one of the basic rules that we learn is called the symmetric property of equality. This is represented by a simple statement -
If a=b, then b=a.
It is so simple that one often wonders whether there is any need for it to be stated. There is a reason why this basic Mathematical principle was evoked. When it is said that ‘Talent is God’, it automatically means that ‘God is talent’. And that has been the discovery in life for Aravind Sai! From here on, we shall journey along with him, down memory lane and rediscover what he discovered...

Burning aspiration in the heart

Aravind Sai began his narrative by stating, “Brother, people may consider me as talented today. But let me make it clear, I was nothing. If at all there is anything which I can say that I have, it is love for Swami. That is what I hold most dear in my heart. Swami has conferred everything upon me. All credit to Him.”

Even as I heard that, I remembered the mathematical principle. So, even if one is ‘not talented’, one’s love for God is sufficient to create talent! I was all the more eager to hear his story. It turned out to be a very unique and insightful one indeed.

Aravind Sai joined the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning for his undergraduate studies for the academic year 2004. When he joined, he had one burning aspiration in his heart - to sing for Swami in His presence. That is what drove him to do most of the things that he did. And so, all the boys having their bath or in their morning ablutions were treated to free public singing as Aravind Sai took bath. The corridors in the hostel which he walked constantly resonated with bhajans which he sang. Everyone in his class knew that he was on his way to become a singer just like his elder brother, Sai Krishna, had. But there was one thing that they did not know -

Aravind Sai did not have the ability to sing on pitch! He could surely reel out a bhajan, but introduce a harmonium and a specific pitch, he was not sure of singing on key. While most singers get this ability by instinct, it was all a mystery for Aravind Sai. Thus, his burning aspirations could never materialize into something concrete for he lacked the ‘basic ability’ any singer should possess.

It is no surprise that he failed the auditions to get into the coveted Mandir Bhajan Group.

God steps in

Months passed this way and Aravind Sai continued singing in the corridors and bathrooms. It was not that he was ‘determined’ and ‘practicing’. It was just his passion being expressed. One day, he got a break. His classmate, Prabhakar, blessed with a sweet voice and an excellent music sense, came to him with a proposal,

“There is a Burrakatha  (click on that to learn what Burrakatha is) teacher who has come to train students. The warden says that Swami likes Burrakatha and has encouraged it a lot in the past. Three students are needed for this traditional art form. I am enrolling. Why don’t you also come along? If it works out well, we can sing and dance in Swami’s presence.”

The last statement were music to Aravind Sai ears.
“But, I may not be able to sing...”
All of a sudden, Aravind Sai thought that he better keep quiet about his ‘key-catching’ inability.
“What?” Prabhakar asked, “you won't be able to sing? Why?”
“...because I have just woken up”, he said with a smile, “let me get ready and then let us go and enroll.”

That was how Prabhakar got selected as the main singer for the Burrakatha while Aravind Sai got the role of the Hasyaka (a co-performer who cracks jokes throughout the performance). A third student, Raghuram, became the lead narrator. While the main singer and Hasyaka were expected to be good singers, the narrator just had be good at speaking.

The team practiced day and night for 2 months after which the teacher informed the warden that the team was ready to perform in front of Swami.

Mission Impossible?

Aravind Sai had made up in sincerity and effort what he lacked in talent and ability. Nobody even noticed that he was unable to sing exactly on key. He overcame that disability by simply memorizing the scale along with the tunes to be sung!

The three students decked up in the costume and, with their hearts beating hard, waited in the mandir for Swami’s arrival during darshan (sighting of the Master/Divine one). Swami arrived; everyone had darshan. But that was about it! Though He saw the three lads dressed in costumes, He did not show even the slightest interest in them. After the Aarthi was taken, Swami left and the boys returned to the hostel, crestfallen.

“Success does not lie in not falling but bouncing every time you fall down.”
Deriving inspiration from that quote, the lads prepared for another show. But when Swami did not pay attention or make any inquiries for 5 such occasions, they got completely disheartened. They went to the warden and said,

“Sir, maybe we are not good enough. Or maybe, we are not good boys. That is why we are not getting this opportunity to sing and perform in front of Swami. You should look out for replacements.”

The warden who was well-versed with Swami’s methods, said,
“Don’t give up! Every effort you put in has been noted by Swami I am sure. Continue your efforts. Redouble them if necessary.”

The next two months saw the boys do just that. Aravind Sai began to put those efforts in everything he did - studies, sports and even ‘mundane’ activities like eating, sleeping, bathing - doing them perfectly as an offering to his Swami. Such was the joy in just putting effort, that Aravind Sai began to get an excited anticipation that something nice was about to happen.

The shower of blessings

And it did happen! On the 4th of November, 2004, Swami Himself asked for the Burrakatha boys and blessed the trio to perform on stage. The performance was based on Swami’s life and teachings. The continuous efforts of the boys over the last few months showed and it turned out to be a performance brilliant beyond anybody’s expectations. Everyone was thrilled and overjoyed, the boys included.

As Aravind Sai narrated this, I remembered a powerful message that Swami had given to a bhajan composer and singer,
“When you want to sing a bhajan, the first 25 times you do it, all your attention will be on the notes and beats. Practicing it 25 times frees you from that. The next 25 times you practice, you can sing confidently but you have to work on developing the bhava or feeling. At the end of 75 times of practice, your singing will be effortless and, as you sing, you will see your beloved Lord in your mind’s eye. After another 25 times of practice, when you sing, not only you but everyone in the audience will also be able to see the Lord in the mind’s eye.”
That sums up everything about the importance of practice for a bhajan singer right? One must practice a bhajan for at least a 100 times before singing it in public. Do we do that?

As the trio completed their performance, Swami called them and spoke to them. He granted padanamaskar (chance to touch the feet in reverence) and a group picture with Him. Then, He told them to change into ‘normal’ clothes and come back for the bhajans. As they left, Swami too moved into the interview room. On His way, He told a few people,
“See! How beautifully they are able to summarize my teachings in just a few minutes! That is the ability of my boys!”

Aravind Sai is seen to Swami's immediate right. This was a photograph chance that Baba gave the three
Burrakatha artistes and their support music team. 


The beginning of a journey

Even as Aravind Sai was about to change into his whites, a call came for the trio.
“Swami is calling you three to the interview room.”

They rushed. Swami was waiting for them with a broad smile. He gave them white safari pieces and told them that He was very happy. It was such a joyful session lasting almost half an hour. During that session, Aravind Sai made bold to ask,
“Swami, can I sing for you.”
“That is what you did right?”
“Swami, I want to sing bhajans for you...”
“Are you not singing now?”
“No Swami...”
“Then, sing a bhajan today. Go, change and quickly come to the front in the bhajan hall. I will definitely listen to your bhajan today.”

An excited Aravind Sai was in the bhajan hall moments later, excitedly planning out his bhajan-singing debut in front of Swami. A few minutes later Swami arrived. During the bhajans, Swami indicated to him to sing.

While Aravind Sai had definitely practiced a lot for the Burrakatha, the same cannot be said about bhajans. And so, as was his problem, he wasn’t able to catch the key. He just started off a bhajan on some key. The expert harmonium player quickly made the necessary changes to ensure that Aravind’s singing was on key. Swami just smiled and blessed the boy.

But deep inside, Aravind Sai realized how hopelessly equipped he was to be Swami’s bhajan singer. He walked courageously to the teacher-in-charge of the bhajan group and told him,
“Sir! I will never sing in front of Swami like this. Let me practice.”
“Swami allowed you to sing yesterday. That is why you sang. He has given us guidelines about bhajan singers. I will never allow you to sing again, unless Swami specifically asks again”, was the reply.
For the reader, this might seem like the end of Aravind Sai. But Aravind Sai knew that this was just the beginning - the beginning of his long journey into becoming Swami’s bhajan singer.

Watch out! Lots more to come....



9 comments:

  1. Wonderful to know how the love for Swami made bro. Aravind Sai sing for Swami and acquire the required talent. :) Hearing his 'Partheeshwari' in Nadabrahmam vol. 1, one would never know his initial shaky start. :)

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  2. Lesson for all on Commitment and Determination.... that's what Arvind Sai's experience tells us....are we listening?

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  3. As a baby, Prashanti Mandir bhajans was my lullaby and as I grew up and began learning music, I went up to my dad and asked him,"How do all of them sing so well? My dad used to say that they practise so much because they want to give their best to Swami and Swami too makes them sing so well as a reward for their love for Swami. As I grew up, my parents made me understand for whom I was learning music and to whom I must offer it. Thanks to them and all the singers of the Prashanti Mandir, I now know what I must do. I should just love, love and love Him so much, put in efforts and practice and He will take care of the rest. I am so happy I got to read this sooner than I expected to.

    My lil sis always has to come up to me when I'm reading your blog posts, read the same and comment on it and walk off. Sometimes, what she tells hits me. This time she said this, " See, Aravind Sai anna hadn't learnt music. From the very beginning itself it is that love for Swami he had and when he indeed became talented, he knew it was Swami's gift. Absolutely no ego. But see our case, we started learning music and once in a while we get this ego. We forget that what we are today is because of Appa and Amma and of course, Swami. So more than praying to Swami that we sing well or blah blah, let us pray to Swami that we love Him to our heart's content and continue practising with that aim to offer our everything to Swami. That would be the best gratitude gift we could give to Swami and also as we read in the Secrets book, when we have gratitude, we get more which means we will be able to sing better."

    I did not know what to say to her words. Thanks to the Swami in you, anna for elliciitng those words of wisdom from my lil sis My day is made :)

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  4. Awesome article brother..he is really blessed and choosenflower by swami. Awaiting for the next writeup..... sairam

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  5. As a baby, Prashanti Mandir bhajans was my lullaby and as I grew up and began learning music, I went up to my dad and asked him,"How do all of them sing so well? My dad used to say that they practise so much because they want to give their best to Swami and Swami too makes them sing so well as a reward for their love for Swami. As I grew up, my parents made me understand for whom I was learning music and to whom I must offer it. Thanks to them and all the singers of the Prashanti Mandir, I now know what I must do. I should just love, love and love Him so much, put in efforts and practice and He will take care of the rest. I am so happy I got to read this sooner than I expected to.

    My lil sis always has to come up to me when I'm reading your blog posts, read the same and comment on it and walk off. Sometimes, what she tells hits me. This time she said this, " See, Aravind Sai anna hadn't learnt music. From the very beginning itself it is that love for Swami he had and when he indeed became talented, he knew it was Swami's gift. Absolutely no ego. But see our case, we started learning music and once in a while we get this ego. We forget that what we are today is because of Appa and Amma and of course, Swami. So more than praying to Swami that we sing well or blah blah, let us pray to Swami that we love Him to our heart's content and continue practising with that aim to offer our everything to Swami. That would be the best gratitude gift we could give to Swami and also as we read in the Secrets book, when we have gratitude, we get more ;)which means we will be able to sing better."

    I did not know what to say to her words. Thanks to the Swami in you, anna for elliciitng those words of wisdom from my lil sis My day is made :)

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  6. All Aravindas are great, good,gentle.......Needless to say they are HIS property. But I don't like the way you stop your soul stirring articles at the climax....be quick ....hope I don't need to ait for long. Facebook for me is your articles on bhagwan. ...keep us blessed always like that.....

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  7. Sai Ram Aravind,

    There is a typo in the third paragraph of the 'Mission Impossible?' section. I thought you might like to know so that you can change it.

    Thank you very much for all your service.

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    Replies
    1. Sairam. Its a pleasure. Please point out the typo for me because I couldn't still locate it. :)

      In Sai love

      Delete
    2. You have written, "But when Swam did not pay attention" It should be 'Swami'

      Delete

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