Monday, 6 January 2014

Desirelessness is fearlessness - an experience with Sri Sathya Sai that left an indelible mark on me.

An irresistible invite
The Root Cause for all fear!!!

It was sometime in the March of 2009 that my Sai-brother Amey came to me with a proposal.(I am using that term Sai-brother for two reasons -
1. to show that Amey and me are not related directly.
2. to make it clear that in spite of being from different families, we are near-siblings, definitely brothers in some previous birth!)
“Aravind, this summer I will be going to Singapore to spend a few days with my sister and her family. Would you like to come along with me?”
Having never stepped out of Indian shores in my life before, I was instantly tempted at this invitation. It got me excited and Amey immediately saw the gleam in my eyes. To further goad me along the invitation, he said,
“See, it is not just like a ‘fun vacation’. There is a nice Sai Center and the devotees there always look forward to any student who visits Singapore. Since you have promised Swami that you will share all your experiences, it would be very nice if you can do the same there...”

I still had not spoken any word. My conscience did not seem to say anything against the proposal. But my mind was protesting furiously.
“You have no idea of the costs involved Aravind. You will not be able to afford even the ticket to get there. Don’t get over-excited...”
I think that either my face is very transparent or Amey is a very good ‘Aravind-reader’ because his next statement was,
“I already have a booked ticket for you. Don’t worry about it at all. It is really nothing. I am very eager that you should speak to the people there. It will also be fun for my nephews to play with two uncles rather than one!”

Finally, I spoke,
“Wow Amey! This is exciting. But, I am not sure...”
“You ask Swami”, he interrupted, “and then take a decision based on what He says. Then it will be fine right?”
That was real good advice from a big brother. I had a smile on my face. I agreed to his idea and then tried hard to suppress the thrill and joy that was coursing in every sinew of my body.

A desire gets overwhelming

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, my dear Swami, says that everyone must place a ceiling on desires. Desire is the root cause of all worries and troubles. In the Bhagwad Gita, in the 62nd and 63rd verse of Chapter 2, Lord Krishna says:
“While concentrating on the objects of the sense (sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing), a person develops attachment to these sense objects. Such attachment gives rise to desires. (Non-fulfillment of) These desires lead to anger. From anger arises delusion which leads one into confusion. In that confusion, one loses one’s ability to discriminate after which it is total ruin.”

The desire to go to Singapore in the summer became overwhelmingly dominant within me. I thought of seeking Swami’s permission for the same but how was I to do it? I wrote a letter to Swami saying that I had got a chance to go for a ‘nice vacation’ in a few months time and that I sought His blessings for the same. The wordings were purposely vague because I felt that Swami may not like me taking up ‘foreign travel’. The 2nd of April, 2009 witnessed a very emotional and love-filled programme by the devotees of Odisha. Such was the atmosphere of love that was created that I felt it to be the appropriate moment to hand over my letter to Swami. I felt that Swami would accept anything offered to Him when such an ambiance had been created!
(Isn’t it funny that the mind continues to delude even when one is aware of Swami’s reality? That is possibly the power of Maya!)

I was shooting with a video camera on stage that day. As Swami received Aarthi and was being wheeled out from the dais, I gently offered the letter to Him. Much to my joy, He accepted the letter and went on. I was so happy. Immediately after the programme, I called up Amey and told him that Swami seemed to be fine with the Singapore trip. He was also happy as I was. However, he did not share my secret worry and sorrow - that I had hidden some things about the trip from Swami because I was fearful about His response for the same.

Cause for my fear

On several occasions, Swami has exhorted on the importance of being loyal to one’s own country instead of running away to some foreign country and seeking asylum there.
“A seed must sprout and grow into a tree wherever it is planted” - and so, Swami even resolved that come what may, He would never leave Puttaparthi. He would always reside in Puttaparthi which is His home. The Lord’s word holds good for all ages because it is beyond the limits of time. And so, even to this day, in spite of the physical departure, I am convinced that He is present in Puttaparthi. One just has to visit the shrine in the holy hamlet to feel the Presence. That is not an ordinary presence; it is the Omnipresence! Of course water is available wherever we dig deep but one can get sweet water at the surface itself when one is at a lake or pond. The Avatar’s place of physical residence is one huge ocean of such sweet water. Why spend hard efforts digging when it can be easily obtained at certain places? Thus the need to visit Puttaparthi I feel.

Anyway, coming back to the point, Swami has always been a strong proponent of staying within the boundaries of one’s nation and working for it.
“When there is so much work to be done in your country, why do you think of going to others’ countries?” He would often ask.

One part of me was saying,
“It is not as if there are no people in India who would love to listen to experiences of Swami. Why then do you want to go to Singapore?”
Another part of me was saying,
“If there was a need for you to speak in India, Swami would have brought that proposal to you. It is Swami who has brought the Singapore proposal to you and you should accept it right?”
I did not know which voice I should listen to. This much was true that I definitely wanted to go to Singapore. That is why I thought I would get permission from Swami. Though I had got it, it was only for a ‘nice vacation’ and not for a ‘trip to Singapore’. That guilt ate into me.

It was more of a conscience-easing exercise when I handed over a letter about a 'nice vacation' to Him.

Desirelessness is fearlessness

My ticket to Singapore was booked for the 15th of May 2009. The 13th day of the month dawned. I was definitely excited but somewhere deep in me was that gnawing feeling that I had tried to ‘hoodwink’ Swami. Of course He knows everything. He was aware of my trip to Singapore and my attempted ‘camouflage’. The gnawing feeling asked me,
“Why then do you not tell facts as they are to Swami?”
I had no answer. My condition was like that of the narrator of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tell-tale Heart. In an attempt to assuage this feeling, I wrote another letter to Swami. But even as I was writing this letter to Swami, the thoughts of Swami saying ‘No’ for the trip came up. I got a bit fearful and, once again, avoided mention of any ‘foreign’ terms in the letter. I just wrote that it would be an 8-day break near the sea-shore. I sat with a nervous prayer for darshan that day.

As Swami came on the gents’ side of the hall, my heart began beating more and more rapidly. A few feet before reaching near me, Swami accepted two wedding cards from a student. He seemed to be studying them when He came right in front of me. I offered my letter to Him. Now, instead of taking my letter, Swami dropped one of those wedding cards into my hands. I did not understand what that meant. But that was it. He just moved on. The boy who had offered the cards to Swami came to me immediately after the darshan and asked me to return his ‘blessed’ card. I was in a confused state and so I just returned the card to him. Nothing else happened on that day.

I carried the same letter on the next day too, fully aware that I had only about 24 hours to get the permission. I was desperate that Swami accept the letter from me on that day. I had no idea about the little drama that would ensue that day. Swami completed the ladies’ side and moved into the gents’ side and within minutes, was near me. As He neared me, He looked at me and flashed a beautiful smile. I was so happy. Things seemed to be taking a positive turn finally. Presently, He picked a small packet of vibhuti from His lap. I was sure that He would throw that to me as a sign of His blessings. Now my heart became light. However, as He threw that packet, the direction went ‘awry’ according to me. The lad seated beside me thrust out his hand and caught it in mid-air, inches away from my palm. Swami passed by us.

I looked with surprise as the lad. It was a teacher from the Higher Secondary School. He was so happy. He told me that a wedding proposal had come for him and he had prayed to Swami to guide him. This vibhuti packet, he felt, was Swami’s way of showering His blessings on him. That story was so moving that I did not have the heart to tell him,
“Hey! But that packet was meant for me. You hijacked it midway.”
Though he was happy and I let him remain so, I was in deep desperation now. I did not know what to make of this whole episode. Swami had definitely smiled at me and, I was sure, wanted to give a vibhuti packet to me. But ultimately, the packet had ended up in someone else’s possession. Was that a blessing given or a blessing withdrawn at the last moment? I wasn’t able to comprehend. The session in the mandir was soon complete and I was back in my room.

My last hope now was to get a dream in which Swami would indicate to me whether I had His blessings or not because I am convinced that dreams about Swami are 100% true. That, however, did not happen and I woke up to the sunrise on 15th May with a feeling of dense darkness within me. I went about my morning ablutions in a mechanical fashion wondering what I should do. A taxi had been booked for the afternoon and there was no guarantee of morning darshan. It was only on some days that Swami would arrive in the morning for darshan. The only way now was to wait till evening darshan I felt. But that would surely mean missing my flight. I had not confided my dilemma to even Amey and so, I felt very lonely.

As I was completing my bath, my roommate Dhananjay knocked hurriedly on the door.
“Aravind, Swami is about to arrive for darshan.
That was such a welcome message. I hurried through the motions of getting ready. The tension of the past few days was so much that it had reached breaking point. And at that breaking point, came the insight.

I pondered as to why I felt so nervous in telling Swami about my trip to Singapore. Simply because He might get upset and tell me not to go. But if Swami tells me not to go, is that not for my good? Then, why was I feeling so fearful? It was because I had already ‘decided’ that I wanted to go. I was so desirous of my trip to Singapore that I did not seem to care about what Swami felt. I wanted my desire fulfilled at any cost and did not want any obstacle to even. I had begun considering Swami as an obstacle instead of my guide! That is what desire does - destruction of one’s discrimination as Lord Krishna puts it. And it arouses the fear of non-fulfillment of the desire. All that one has to do to become fearless is to give up the desire.

“So what if Swami tells me not to go to Singapore? It is for my good and I will accept it.” I thought to myself and immediately felt the darkness lift from in front of my eyes. With a light heart I seemed to be even able to run faster towards the mandir. I went into the bhajan hall and wrote a fresh letter. This time, I wrote everything as it were - that I was going to Singapore on a paid ticket for eight days.

Keeping an eye on one's desire is a always a cause for fear.

Fearlessness and joy - gifts of Swami’s Abhayahasta

After a few interviews in the morning, Swami was moving towards the dais outside for the bhajans. He saw me at the bhajan hall entrance and asked me what was up.
Me: Swami, this evening, I am supposed to leave...
Swami: To where?
Me: Singapore Swami....
Swami’s eyes opened up wide and He exclaimed, “Singapore?”
He opened my letter and began to read. I was surprisingly calm. I was ready for anything He said.
“How many days?” He asked.
“Swami, 8 days”, I replied.
He pointed out to the same thing that I had written in the letter also. Then, He looked at me questioningly. I felt He was asking me,
“Do you want to go?”
This was the test of the learning I had received just minutes before. I went close to Him and said,
“Swami, if you tell me to go, I shall go. Otherwise, I shall stay here.”
Swami went back to reading the letter. He then looked at me and nodded.
“Go and return soon.”
“Swami please give me prasadam (A devotional offering made to God that is later shared among devotees as a sign of Divine benediction. But in Swami’s case, it was vibhuti which seemed to be the deal-sealer for any question!)”, I said.
Swami nodded gently. Usually, when He did that, an attendant student would get the basket of vibhuti packets from the interview room from which Swami would give a few to the person seeking prasadam. The attendant student did not notice Swami nodding and so, I told him,
“Get vibhuti.”

He was shocked at me giving him an instruction. He looked at Swami who now smiled and told him to get the same. A few moments later, Swami was giving me 3 vibhuti packets and also a lovely padanamaskar. I had joy in my heart and in a few hours, was on my way to the Bangalore airport to catch my flight to Singapore.

Swami asking me how the trip to Singapore was on my return after 8 days. 

That was how my first ever overseas trip materialized with a very important lesson for me - desires are the root cause for fear. Be desireless; be fearless. That is the message of Swami’s Abhayahasta (literally translates into ‘the hand the confers fearlessness’) blessings. That is the blessing we must seek when Swami raises His hands to bless us:
“Lord, grant me fearlessness. Grant me desirelessness.”

And when we think deep, we will realize that we are asking for the same thing, twice!

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  1. Aravind, you have a gift for bringing clarity to all the vague intangible workings of the mind that for most of us passes as the sub-conscious. Thanks for sharing this penetrating and profound insight, as always. In the everyday human context of samsara we live in, some legitimate right desires do come up. What is not good is the compulsive attachment to the attainment of those which case the desire itself becomes a god we start to worship - we forget that "thou shalt have no other gods before Me".

    But we should also remember, such is the strength of the mind-intellect process that it can over-analyze a simple desire which Swami in the form of the "still small voice" may be perfectly okay with, and cause us to self-sabotage in various ways. Balance is the key.

    As Swami says, "Man is endowed with knowledge, skill, balance and insight, but balance of man is upset today. The cause can be traced to the fact that man is killing knowledge instead of skilling it. As soon as balance is lost, man's insight suffers a setback."

    1. Wonderful thoughts Mangala! Thank you for those additions which complement the theme very well. Sairam

  2. "And when we think deep, we will realize that we are asking for the same thing, twice!" Beautiful!!

  3. Wonderful Bro. Helps me to get clarity in an issue bothering me. Thanks for the timely message.

  4. SaiRam Aravind! 'Be desireless; be fearless", such an important lesson for our lives, conveyed so beautifully by you, couldn't have understood it better, thank yo so much!

  5. Sairam Barru

    Awesome and nice experience of driving home the point of being straight forward and fearless.

    I liked this analogy so much

    "Of course water is available wherever we dig deep but one can get sweet water at the surface itself when one is at a lake or pond. The Avatar’s place of physical residence is one huge ocean of such sweet water. Why spend hard efforts digging when it can be easily obtained at certain places? Thus the need to visit Puttaparthi I feel."

    As someone said "Air is present everywhere but still we need a fan to feel it. All Holy Pilgrimage places are like fans making us feel His Presence."

    Once Anilkumar Sir asked Swami about what is the necessity of having temples and going around pilgrim places etc if God is Omnipresent ? Swami very beautifully replied that we can draw milk from a cow only from the udder and not from ears or mouth or tail etc. In the same way the Omnipresent God can be felt and experienced more in a holy shrine or in a pilgrim centre.

    Saint Augustine said "Faith is to believe in what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe". If we have the faith in His Omnipresence then we can surely experience the same.

    Thanks for writing and sharing such wonderful experiences.


  6. Asking for d same thing twice??meaning desire-less n fear - less since both R same or interchangeable? Still confused!! :(

  7. Bit confused...desire less ness n fearless ness same but R they desire no fear alrite but no fear still desires can remain no? Asking for d same thing twice also foggy area:( pl elucidate...

  8. Sairam bro,
    Superb message and an eye opener too.had a dream of swami once when he said I was free from desires of any kind..I certainly hope it grants me fearlessness as an added incentive:)because that's what He indicated I needed to work on.much much better now due to His grace.thanks again

  9. Thank you Arvind..this made a timely and valuable read

  10. SaiRam!

    That i read this article at a very crucial moment is all His Grace.... Even as i am personally going through a point of time waiting for His permission and Go Ahead, and wondering why
    He slows something down after whetting one's appetite for an outcome... this article gave me the answer.. Thank you very very much....SaiRam!!

  11. Sairam Brother... Superb Message... The best thing about all your articles is Truthfulness .. Each and every word is Genuine in its feelings, emotions and expressions... Great.. SAIRAM...

  12. Sai Ram Aravind, "And when we think deep, we will realize that we are asking for the same thing, twice!" Yes you are correct. Thinking about it very deeply didn't take me long to understand this: Your facing your fears and answering truthfully that the reason for your fears was because Swami may say no. I have now read all you main articles up to this date and quite a few of your smaller ones as well as listening to you on mixcloud all in the last month, and so I know that when you said that if Swami told you not to go you knew it would be for your own good. That is when you became fear-less and at the same time desire -less. You knew you would trust Swami and not go. I think that others may along the way come across your articles just like me and my comment may help someone. So deep is your faith in Swami beta. Loving regards, Chandan aunty.

  13. It isn't only the case of journey Arvind Bhaiyaa but in most of the cases on different circumstances in our daily life like friendship,decision making,service or job,replying at certain conditions,etc we become deluded whether to proceed or not & later on our conscience prevents us to tell that He(Swami) knows what is best for us & let's wait for his approval...Sairam

  14. Fascinating episode in your experiences with Swami, and a tricky one too. As spiritual seekers, we tend to strongly take on certain concepts like desire is bad - if I want something very much, it must be wrong because desire is bad. This is where we can get misled because we are just believing a thought generated by a mind concept rather than truly receiving and discerning the reality of what is happening.

    At one point, in one of the last verses of the Gita, Krishna said: "Arjuna, I have given you the highest wisdom. Now, think it over and do as you wish." Think it over and do as you wish ..... that gives a choice, doesn't it? "No," said Swami, "there was no question of any choice. At that point Arjuna was totally surrendered to the Lord. And 'do as you wish' meant, whatever you wish, know that it is my will. You do not need to check with me every moment and ask: 'Is this what you want? Is this what I should be doing?' Just do! Whatever you do is my wish, my will." (taken from

    As long as one is a truly sincere devotee, God-seeking rather than self-seeking, and seeing whatever arises as a gift of God, that statement holds true - "whatever you wish, know that it is My will". That is where self-confidence comes in, atma-vishvasa. The trust in one's own self in following through a desire (after discerning that it is beneficial for oneself and others) rather than self-sabotaging oneself in the mistaken belief that all desires are bad.

    Of course, there is a lot of scope for the ego-mind to hijack any situation and justify any desire, but that is where the fun of sadhana comes in. You live and learn. As long as one's main priority in life is God, one can't go too far wrong, and even mistakes are fodder for evolution.

    1. Sairam sister Mangala, Thank you for ur valuable comment. But I just want to ask -- did Swami really say these lines? "There was no question of any choice. At that point Arjuna was totally surrendered to the Lord. And 'do as you wish' meant, whatever you wish, know that it is my will. You do not need to check with me every moment and ask: 'Is this what you want? Is this what I should be doing?' Just do! Whatever you do is my wish, my will."

      I did check the link you have provided but apart from that where can we get the original place where Swami has explained this? Would be great to read more in detail on this.

    2. Sairam Aarthi,
      It looks like Swami said this to Al Drucker, which he then shared in his talks/writings. I'm not aware of any other source which has this particular quote of Swami's.

      However, there is a quote that touches upon a similar idea in the book "Conversations with Bhagavan Sathya Sai Baba" by John Hislop:


      H: The mind has a tendency to plan ahead. No doubt this is a wrong activity?"

      Sai: In ordinary life, one makes plans and carries them out. This has to continue, with purity, and without harm to others. At length, a spontaneous divine thought will arise without planning. Such divine impulses will continue.

      A Visitor: How can I tell what is right thought?

      Sai: Here, in the ashram, you can ask Swami. In America, pray for the answer, then make inquiry in an impersonal way, and in half an hour you will have the answer. Is the work right, regardless of who is involved? If you know what is right, don't ask. Do it. That is confidence, God power. Put aside all relationships.


      Of course, Swami gave different advice to different people based on their level of evolution and maturity. To find out what applies to us from the myriad advice out there, we have to be realistic as to our actual, as opposed to our idealized, nature. No one can act beyond their level of consciousness. Best to go with whatever teaching of Swami's resonates most strongly with us.

    3. Thank you very much sis. Mangala. :)

  15. Indeed very well put Bhaiya, Sairam

  16. Sairam.. Third option has really opened my eye.i was caught up in the whirlpool of all such things as grahas n destiny Thank u I got to choose the right option Swami has made me read this at the most optimim time
    Total surrender at his lotus feet
    Thank u sir


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