Monday, 8 July 2013

Platform heroes and practical zeroes: Two eye-opening experiences with my Swami

Don't be a platform hero

On several occasions, in several discourses, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has exhorted one and all not to be mere “platform heroes” and “practical zeroes”. For instance, in His discourse on the 14th Feb 1999 (Puttaparthi), He spoke about people who speak about doing great service activities but do not put into deed even a single word of what they speak. Once again, in the same year on the 14th March (Mumbai), He impressed on everyone that a hero uses knowledge in a practical manner. On both occasions He spoke against being only a “platform hero”.

While Swami mentions only the glaring examples of platform heroes being practical zeroes, on introspection, we find that many times, we too are guilty of being that way. The way in which we become platform heroes and practice zeroes is so subtle that it often escapes our notice. Leafing through the pages of my diary, I came across a couple of examples where, without doubt, I was shown to be a practice-zero. One of them happened on the 26th of May, 2006, during a Trayee Session that Swami had called us all in for.

A beautiful Trayee Session indeed

The flow of a Trayee session is always a mystery. It is thrilling and charming because, invariably, it is Swami who controls its flow. So it was on this day too. Swami entered the jhoola room where all the students had gathered, humming a tune. As He sat on the ornate swing, He began to sing the song as well. It was a Carnatic classical song entitled, “Rara Venu Gopabala”. It was wonderful listening to that Varnam (a category and level of Carnatic music songs). After that, Swami even sang the swaras (notes) of the same song,
Sa Re Ga Pa Da Sa Ni Da Pa Da Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa Ni Sa Ni Da Sa

Then, turning to one of the students, He asked, “Who is the leader in Mahabharatham?”
Student: Swami, Krishna
Swami : Why not Dharmaraja?
Student: Swami, one is leader at human level and the other is at divine level.
Swami: Aha! So there are two levels in Mahabharatham? Tell me then, at human level who are you; at divine level who are you? (no answer from student and so, after a while Swami asks) Krishna kabhi kabhi galti kiya nai? (Krishna made mistakes at times right?)
Student: No Swami! Whatever he did is Dharma.
Swami: Krishna jo bhi bola vo sara right! (All that Krishna said is all right) Jo kiya, jo bola vo Dharma. (Whatever he spoke or did, it was righteousness/Truth).

Having said that, Swami began to narrate an anecdote from Lord Krishna’s life.

The story of Krishna, Arjuna and the Dove

There are many variants of the story which Swami has narrated and I present one of them here. Just to bring all readers up to speed, the “famous” episode between Lord Krishna and Arjuna goes like this.

"Krishna, for me, your words are more
trustworthy than evidence of my eyes"
The two are on a stroll in the garden when they see the bird hovering in the skies. Pointing to it, Krishna says,
“See that bird Arjuna... Is it a dove?”
“Yes my Lord! It is indeed a dove”, replies Arjuna.
“But wait... I think that it is is an eagle. Isn’t it an eagle?” asks Krishna
“Yes! That is definitely an eagle”, is the answer.
“No! It does not look like an eagle”, says Krishna, “it is definitely a crow.”
“Without a doubt Krishna, it is a crow”, replies Arjuna.

At this point, Krishna laughs and chides Arjuna,
“Are you blind my friend? You do not seem to have eyes of your own! You are simply agreeing to whatever I say.”
Arjuna says, “Krishna, for me, your words are far more trustworthy than the evidence of my eyes. When you say something, you have the power to make it so – be it a crow, dove or eagle. Hence, if you said it is a crow, it must be so!”

This story is oft quoted to exemplify how faith must be. Every time I have heard it, I have felt,
“This is exactly what I would have done if I was in Arjuna’ place.” But well, it is not as simple as that.

Swami narrates the story again and shows me how am only a platform hero

As mentioned earlier, Swami began to narrate the same story during this session too. I relaxed mentally because I had heard this same story at least a dozen times over. Apart from changing the order of the ‘birds’, the story would more or less follow the same narrative lines. I was in for a surprise however! Swami, to my great consternation, seemed to make a mistake. he said,

“Krishna looked up at the skies and told Arjuna that the being there was a horse.”

A HORSE??? In the skies??? I sat up and looked at Swami. The expression on my face screamed, “This is a mistake! It should be either an eagle or a dove or crow right?”

Swami did not stop there. He continued, “Arjuna agreed that it was a horse. Then, Krishna looked up and said that it was not a horse, but a lion...”
I was completely taken aback now. I was thinking,
“Swami, animals do not fly! Shift to birds please...”

And Swami completed that story by shifting over to the familiar crow and eagle. I was relieved. That is what I have noted in my diary. Today, when I look back, I realize what a practical zero I was. I felt that there was nothing great in Arjuna’s faith for I would have done the same as he did. But when it actually came to me to demonstrate my faith, even with the same story, I failed and was eager to ‘correct’ Swami and bring ‘sanity’ into the narrative! Well, apparently, Maya (delusion) has the ability to sneak up unnoticed just like selfishness disguises itself as selflessness at times!

The Hadshi incident of being a platform hero

The next episode that reminds me of my fallibility to Maya and to being a practical zero happened in Hadshi, during Swami’s visit to this new shrine in October 2009. One morning, after breakfast, Swami graciously agreed to see through some of the photos that had been taken during the trip so far. I was sitting at His feet, with a laptop by my side and Swami was watching the giant television across as the pictures kept scrolling by. One beautiful image of the rising sun in Hadshi came on the screen.

“Ah! The Moon looks very nice,” He commented.
"Swami, that is the Sun," I corrected Him.
“If that is the Sun, why is everything dark all around?”, was His question.

The photo exposure of the camera was according to the Sun’s brightness which was why everything around was dark. How was I to explain the same to Swami? Instead of going into the details of the exposure levels in the camera, I simply said,
"Swami, it is orange in colour! It is the Sun."
Swami looked at me as if to say,
"Ok! If you say so…"

Completely igno"rant" - I explain to Swami why the picture is not of the moon but of the sun
There! Once again, I had failed. I was in a situation very similar to Arjuna and rather than saying, "Yes Swami! If you say so..." I had made Him say that very same statement to me!  I regret now but with the Lord everything is an opportunity to learn and improve. It was a second chance that He had given me, and I had failed!

Chances galore

Today, when I think of these two episodes where I realized that I failed to be a practical hero, I also think about the many occasions that might exist when I even failed to realize that I had failed!
“Not many times”, the mind tries to pacify. But the heart knows the truth.

When I think of being a practical hero, this is what
flashes in my mind's eye! :)
Swami always says that whatever happens, we should consider it is for our good - Na Manchi Kosame - in His words. But when I don’t do it in troubled or painful times, looking to Him and asking instead - “Why this Lord? How is this good for me?” - I have failed! It just means that I have had the temerity to question His “eagle” and say that it is actually a “crow” isn’t it?

Going deeper in the same line of thought, Swami has always told each one of us,
“Bangaroo, all of you are embodiments of love”. Every time I do not believe or do not act as an “embodiment of love”, I have failed. Haven’t I?

But my Swami is always encouraging and loving. He has no qualms about me being a platform hero. He wants me to be a practical hero as well! And He is ready to wait for as long as it takes, standing by me, supporting me and loving me. And I am sure, all of you to agree to this! :)

For all readers:
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  1. Wonderful post !!!! A great lesson !!! Thanks for sharing !!

  2. Poornima Srinath13 August 2014 at 12:19

    Good one brother! Indra did have a flying horse as per scriptures. So no wonder Arjuna had doubts when Lord Krishna told about horse in the sky. The sun, moon one is classic.. its exactly the situation Arjuna was into. Great you wrote down then to share how simply we can get deluded by our mind!

  3. Every incident in this blog is in itself an inspiration to take up a new sadhana to tackle the 6 vices of kama,krodha, this case it is the most stubborn of them all madha.. Ego..thank you Sairam


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