Monday, 12 August 2013

How Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba helped me make my career choice (Part 1 of 4)

Tell God about your plans for life - it is sure to make Him laugh!
A problematic transition

One of the most challenging transitions in life is from a student to a working professional. Everything changes in a span of few days - teachers change into bosses, friends change into colleagues, marks change into money, exams change into deadlines, vacations change into overtime and, worst of all, freedom changes into responsibility. It is, therefore, no wonder that a lot of thought and discussion goes on before one makes this transition. As is inevitable for everyone, I too had to make this transition in life as I completed my MBA from the Business School at Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. However, I had one little ‘problem’ - I was deeply in love with my Master, my god, my best friend in life - Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

People use different terms to describe their love for God - adoration, devotion and dedication. It may seem funny that I was calling it a ‘problem’. Well, my love for my Swami (as Baba is known reverentially) was not a problem. The problem was that I wanted to stay in His presence and build my ‘career’ in Puttaparthi itself. In fact, it was only the strong urge to be with Him that had made me take up an MBA at the Institute after completing a Masters in Chemistry. There was not much correlation between the two fields but that did not deter me. I knew that the Institute is special because it conferred ‘Higher’ learning thanks to Sri Sathya Sai and that higher learning attracted me.

But ‘higher’ learning is a lifelong process and it is a rare few that are able to graduate with good grades within a single birth. And so, I wanted to stay near to my Master who is my only succour when it comes to grades in this field! That was my career choice - to be with and work for my Master. Without doubt it was a choice that He helped me make by bewitching me with His divine love - a Love, which I promise, experiencing which one will not find anything else more joyful in life. (That is why I use capital ‘L’ to denote it.)

The phenomenon of waiting

For those that are not familiar with the term, let me introduce the ‘waiting boys’. The waiting boys were students who had completed their studies from the University and sought to spend their life with their master and Lord, Bhagawan Baba. Sometimes, Swami would grant salaried jobs in the ashram itself to such waiting boys. Thus, some joined the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, some joined as teachers in His educational institutions, some joined as technical staff and managers at His hospitals and so on. However, in some other cases, Swami did not say anything at all to those who had completed their studies and wanted to be with Him. The students, on their part would continue to wait patiently for His instructions.

And I know a few of them who have spent seven full years awaiting His command! They would come in the morning to the mandir and participate in the Veda chanting, darshan and bhajans. Following that, they would spend time in satsangh, reading spiritual literature, service and doing their personal chores like washing clothes, cleaning etc. That would be followed by the evening session in the Prasanthi mandir after which would be dinner, satsangh and sleep. This schedule would repeat day after day. The waiting boys would go wherever Swami went - Brindavan or Kodaikanal. Their whole lives would literally ‘center’ around Swami.

They also serve who only stand and wait. - John Milton
(The waiting boys gave new meaning to this line.)
Now that you know the life of the waiting boys, you will be able to imagine the difficulties they faced. The fact that they were not earning a livelihood was the least of the problems. They faced tremendous emotional and psychological pressure from their peers, family, relatives and even random people.
“How long will you remain jobless in this manner?”
“Is it not your duty to take care of your family at home?”
“Why don’t you tell Swami what your problem is? Why do you not ask for anything when He passes by you in the darshan lines?”

Little did the questioning people understand the rich feelings of love that these waiting boys fostered for Swami in their hearts. That did not bother the waiting boys. They knew that He knew and that was enough for them.

My fear

In spite of knowing all this, I entertained a secret fear. I felt that I would not have the strength and patience to ‘wait’ in this manner for Swami though I wanted to spend all my life with Him! Paradoxical isn’t it? That was why I wrote letters to Him saying,
“Swami, I am ready for any test of yours except for the one of being a waiting boy.” You can understand how fearful I was.

This fear became more profound as I neared the completion of my education at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. I was in my final year of MSc (Chemistry) and I knew that when I passed out, within months I would lose my student badge. And with the badge would be gone my ‘privilege’ of walking into the darshan grounds ( Sai Kulwant hall or Sai Ramesh Hall) and occupying the prime seats. That was something I was very attached to and did not want to lose. So, my idea was, to get a ‘Staff’ badge even before I would lose the ‘Student’ badge.

But for that, I would need Swami to ‘notice’ me, give me attention and talk to me. In other words, I needed to get into ‘FORM’. (For those readers who are wondering what ‘form’ is, it would be a good idea to read the article on my first memorable interaction with Sathya Sai as His student.) And that ‘form’ seemed elusive to me.

A crazy idea but a solution nevertheless

A few months were left for me to complete my education and I had no idea of what I should do to quell my fears. That is when I came up with a crazy idea. As always, my idea stemmed from my observations.

I had noticed that a couple of years ago, when Swami built the magnificent Super Specialty Hospital in Whitefield, Bangalore, He had absorbed about a dozen students to act as technical staff and managers in that massive humanitarian project where thousands have been given tertiary medical care with love, totally free of cost. Those students who got jobs in the hospital had been ‘waiting boys’. Those waiting boys had a few ‘leaders’ in the sense that Swami regularly spoke to and interacted with a few of them. Those ‘leader’ students (alumni actually) always spoke to Swami on behalf of all the students. And therefore, when Swami gave jobs, He gave not only to those ‘form’ boys but to everyone as well. In fact, Vemula Praveen, whose story has been covered in three detailed parts, was also one among those boys.
My idea was to be a free rider!

Here was my idea. There was one student who was in heavy ‘form’ in my batch too. I was sure that Swami would definitely give Him a job in His institutions. (My assumption proved to be totally wrong as this alumnus is currently not even on Indian shores. The mind, when it tries to comprehend the Master, always turns out to be a fool!) So, I thought, I too would be in the group of students waiting for jobs along with him and he would surely represent our case to Swami. (Another mistake here because, as Swami says, He needs no agents between Him and the seeker. It is always a direct connection.) And my conviction was that when he represented our case, we would all get jobs!

Today, I look back at the stupidity of the idea. But I must confess that back then, it gave me lot of comfort and solace. I thus let go of my fear and was happy that a solution was at hand.

Unexpected twist in the plan

This apparently foolproof plan of mine was cut rather abruptly. Here is what happened - the student on whom I had pinned all my hopes of getting me to my job at Swami’s institutions, got into ‘super form’. Swami gave him the opportunity of dining at His residence. Many interviews followed through which Swami guided him to take up a job in the corporate world. Profusely blessed thus by Bhagawan, this boy went ahead with life. And I was stuck, without a plan!

That was when I decided to join for the MBA course in the Sri Sathya Sai University. If I succeeded in that, I thought, I would be able to extend my ‘Student’ badge for two more years during which I could plot to stay on with Swami throughout my life. While it was an easy decision to make, executing the same was no easy task. I knew that having been in the science-line all through my academic career, I would require some serious studying and preparations if I was to get an MBA seat in Swami’s college.

I put in my best efforts and even took a national examination, the MAT - Management Aptitude Test - and scored high there. By God’s grace, I did well in the entrance examinations also. The toughest challenge came when the no-nonsense-type vice chancellor, Sri A.V.Gokak, asked me,
“Why are you changing from a science stream, chemistry, to management?”
I knew that the true answer - So that I can extend my stay with Bhagawan for two more years - would simply be shot down. I quickly prayed and out popped the answer,
“Sir, I feel that rather than guide a few chemicals to a product, I should guide a few chemistry workers towards a societal goal. For that I need to learn man-management which is what our MBA is as Swami stresses. So, I am doing this as an augmentation rather than a career-changer.”
He was convinced and I got my seat.

But that was only step 1 of my ultimate plan. I had no idea about how I would be able to execute the rest of it.

A spark of hope

The two years as a student in MBA also seemed to fly by. Few months before I would pass out with the degree, came a ray of hope - an unexpected group interview during Ramzan in 2006! That was when Swami asked different students about where they came from. The various cities, towns and villages in India were named. I was also hoping to be asked. But Swami did not. Instead, He gave me a sort of ‘opening’. He said,
“Are there none from Puttaparthi here?”
Immediately, my hand shot up. I said,
“Swami, I am from Puttaparthi.” Swami smiled. He told everyone,
“This boy was born in Puttaparthi. He studied in Puttaparthi and he grew up in Puttaparthi.”
(On first look, that statement looks like it is filled with errors. But then, I can cross my heart and say that my ‘life’ truly began only after I came to know of Swami and came to Puttaparthi. What a difference He has made in my life! As for my ‘growth’ who can know better than Him?)
I was not satisfied with what Swami said. I added,
“Swami, I want to be in Puttaparthi always.”
Swami nodded to say yes.
“You will be in Puttaparthi always.”
The group interview during Ramzan which gave me hope to latch on to.
That statement gave me energy and enthusiasm to continue keeping my fingers crossed about getting a ‘Staff’ badge from Swami. Any time my mind gave rise to fearful thoughts and my heart palpitated about my future and career, I reminded myself of that single statement from Swami. Just meditating on that statement, I would feel so much at ease.

I must say that the Master’s words to us are like that. Let it be ANY word - it turns into a mantra because it has dropped from the divine lips. That is why, when anybody asks me as to which is the best teaching of Swami to follow to please Him, I tell them to follow anything that He said which resonates in our hearts. That will become a mantra for us without doubt!

Coming back to the story, I did not have the slightest idea that what I was considering as a very difficult situation to be in would be resolved so simply and superbly. That is the beauty of the Masterplan; when it unfolds you know that things just could not have gone better!

... Proceed to Part 2... Click on the title below God's masterplan works subtly and silently for each of us.
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  1. Terrific brother Aravind

    But you have this bad habit of stopping at crucial/important junctures!!!!

    Eagerly awaiting the follow-up to this post.

    1. :)

      Its a good habit for me because it gives time to ponder, reflect and write better! :)

      Will complete very soon brother.

  2. I simply loved your line 'When anybody asks me as to which is the best teaching of Swami to follow to please Him, I tell them to follow anything that He said which resonates in our hearts. That will become a mantra for us without doubt!'

    Even if Swami hasn't said anything to us physically, if we truly believe it is He who sends us messages in the form of sms or lines from His discourses or something we come across after praying and opening a book or something we listen to from Radio Sai, it is as good as His spoken word to us. And we have to simply hold on to it, I feel. This is my conviction.

    Thanks so much Aravind for this beautiful post. I do share a lot of your sentiments and feelings expressed in this article. :) Waiting for the next part...

    1. Of course - Physical communication is only one of the ways He communicates. The heart is the best 'receiving station' for His messages, however He chooses to broadcast them.

      Thank you for your loving comment. :)

  3. Awww! You love to maske us wait too? Beautiful story and what a blessing!

    1. :)
      Well, the story is about waiting right.... ;)

      Am publishing as I finish writing... Thank you for the comment and patience...

  4. Sairam Bro., as always filled with gems. Please release part II ASAP :-)

  5. Dear Aravind, I could absolutely relate to these lines -- "Little did the questioning people understand the rich feelings of love that these waiting boys fostered for Swami in their hearts. That did not bother the waiting boys. They knew that He knew and that was enough for them."

    Many of us even now continue to 'wait' for various things in our life because of faith in Swami and the strong signals that He has given us in the past. Even though His physical form isn't there, He does respond to sincere prayers made with love for Him. I have experienced it. As you say, the world outside might term us mad and ask all sorts of questions. But each of us and Swami knows what we are going through.

    If possible, please do share more experiences of brothers who have gone through intense and long waiting periods before Swami blessed them and guided them on various aspects in their life. Pls request brothers to share their exps. for people like us who can take inspiration and hold on to Swami with faith. I'm sure their experiences will be moving and reassuring for us.

  6. Brother Aravind,

    It would be great if you could pen some instances where Swami 'communicated' with you through 'signals'.. like the one who have wrote before, you prayed something and if Swami puts His elbow to the left side, you would do something. Hope you have got it. Refer this link..

    And waiting for the second part. :)


  7. How engrossing! Cant wait to read what happens next! Jai sai ram

  8. How engrossing! Cant wait to read what happens next!! Jai sai ram

  9. We all know where you ended up, but still your account is written so captivatingly...

    1. Thank you! :)
      Part 2 is ready for consumption now...

  10. Wonderful article dear brother....Baba bless you

  11. Also wanted to share how i ended up at Radio Sai.
    I was on a train in Kerala and when I mentioned I was on my way to Parthi, the man opposite mentioned he knew Prof Venkataraman from his atomic energy work, (he was a physicist)and could I pass on his greetings.
    I met the Professor in the next few days and passed on the man's name and warm wishes but Prof was unaware of this person.
    However he did ask me to help out at Radio Sai where i was blissfully happy the next 6 years! Sai Ram and thank You a million times Swami!

  12. truly inspiring.... i still remember ur show where you shared this moment... the way ur voice gleams with joy when u ask swami PROMISE... all the best bro.... feels even more enthralling when u have put it down in words... thank you ! :) :)

  13. hi: i have not got opportunity to worship Swamy when Swamy was alive, but once went to see Swamy, but just without hope or trust, but now by this time i started to believe Swamy, because of hardship, the main thing iam not able to stick to a job, because i never took a right career, yet need to work good and take care of my people, i have read your topics some how, wish Swamy takes care of me and my dependents, because i have never got success during studies or during jobs, but now i have to take care of my people, so i need a good happy job, and should work good, earn well , hope Swamy helps me

    1. Please start with the faith that whatever happens is for the best and Swami divine plan for you. By faith I mean you should be happy genuinely and not just think, "This is good for me" and cry. Because when we truly believe something is good for us, we will be happy inspite of the near term pain. The pain will not cause suffering.

      Start with that faith. 100% Swami will take care because that attitude and thinking is surrender. ONe who surrender is ALWAYS taken care of.

  14. After MEMOIRS OF A SAI STUDENT,there was a big demand for the second part CAPTURING DIVINITY in the hostel publications. I too picked up the book with lot of enthusiasm and finished it within 2 days. Reading the article yesterday reminded of my hostel days 3 years back. The best part about all your articles is the beauty with which the love of Sai and His students is brought out. It brings a smile or gives tears, makes you feel connected altogether. It stands as an example, the extent His students can go for the sake of His love.Or else who would prioritize God over the world? The article served both the purposes yesterday, came as a succor to my dilemma stricken mind and reminiscence of my hostel days. Thank you for re sharing this lovely article Brother. Sairam

    1. Sairam sister,
      You write so well! You should pen down your experiences as a student too in some form. :)
      You may not get time to do that once you become a doc! :)

      Glad that the story helped you. It helps me too to recollect and reminisce. May our love for Swami grow stronger every moment.


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