Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Being of squirrel service to the Lord - Arun Kharidehal's experience

When Lord Rama removed His garb of Maya for a moment

Hanuman, the mighty, had returned from his adventure in Lanka and confirmed to his Lord Rama that Sita had indeed been kept prisoner in Ravana's island nation. It did not take much time for the Lord to decide on the next course of action. But, as always, He consults with his brother Lakshmana and with the chiefs of the vanara and bear forces, Sugriva and Jambavan respectively.

The collective decision is that a plea be made to the Ocean God so that He may give way for Rama's armies to get to Lanka from the tip of the Indian sub-continent.  And so, Rama prepares to worship and seek the blessings of the ocean. Really? Does Rama, the Lord incarnate, need to do that? He doesn’t but He too becomes an actor when He descends on the world stage. As an actor, He too puts on Maya.

Maya or delusion is inextricably intertwined with the world or creation. While it is not the subject of this article to delve on what Maya is, this much can certainly be stated that overcoming this Maya is what God-realization/nirvana/liberation/fulfilment of the soul is all about. Since Maya is the nature of the dual world, it is said that even God, when He/She descends to earth, comes wrapped in Maya. A practical meaning of Maya can be derived from a beautiful statement of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba,
"Man knows little but he acts as though he knows everything; God knows everything but He acts as though He knows little."

Maya is that which makes man behave all-wise and that which makes God behave all-ignorant. However there is a difference here - while Maya controls man, God controls Maya. God allows Maya to seem as if it is in control so that man can feel kinship with Him. That kinship then grows into devotion which finally leads to the realization of oneness with the Creator. Then, there is no more Maya because there is just One! And so, blessed are those moments in History when the devotee is humble and when the Lord is majestic because these are moments when the veil of Maya has been parted.

The Ocean God humbly submits to lord Rama
One such moment occurs when the ocean does not seem to relent. Rama picks up his bow and announces,
“With a single arrow, I shall dry up this entire ocean.”
The Rama that the monkey and bear hordes see now is a totally different one from what they had seen a few moments before. This is Rama, the supreme divinity, bearing the brilliance of the sun when the covering clouds have been blown away. All are in awe and are completely convinced that once the arrow leaves the Kodanda, Rama’s mighty bow, the ocean will be a thing of the past. It is precisely at this moment that the Ocean-God appears and prays to Rama,
“Oh Lord! Please do not get upset with me. I am just following the rules that you have assigned for my existence. Please cross over me by building a bridge. I shall help support that bridge to the best of my ability.”

Rama seems to calm down and He agrees that it is a good idea. But now, His army is charged up. They have got a glimpse of Rama’s capability and they are sure that with His grace, a bridge can easily be built! When God clears the veil of Maya, it is to enthuse the devotees and grant them faith by clearing doubts. That is precisely what Krishna did on the battlefield of Kurukshetra when He granted a doubting Arjuna the Vishwa Viraata Swaroopa.

Participating in the Maya with awareness

Living with God is true education it is said. That was the education that Arun Kharidehal was blessed with for several years of his life when he got the chance to serve his God, his Swami,  Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He would spend almost his entire day with Swami almost be among the privileged few who would almost live with Him in the name of security! During those few years, he had ample opportunities to witness both - Maya and it’s parting. The few moments when Swami decided to tear the veil and reveal His true identity were enough to keep Arun on his toes always. He kept reminding himself of the Being in whose presence he was spending each day.
“This is not an ordinary presence; it is an omnipresence”, he told himself regularly.
Such awareness helped him enjoy and be part of his Lord’s Maya as well.

It was the year 2003 and the then  Deputy Prime Minister of India, Sri Lal Krishna Advani, was to be visiting Prasanthi Nilayam. Swami was seated in the small hall of His Poornachandra residence just before the evening darshan session. Along with him were a few boys and a few elders, administrators of the various wings of the Trust. Swami expressed a thought,
“Today, Advani is coming. There is only one chair in the interview room. He is elderly and he cannot sit down. It would be nice if our interview room had better arrangements. What to do?”

A file photograph of Sri L.K.Advani offering his respects to Swami during Bhagawan's visit to Delhi in 1999. 

Arun was seated at Swami’s feet, doing Padaseva. He smiled to Himself for two reasons. One, he knew that this was such a trivial thing for Swami that could be solved in a trice. Actually, any task is a ‘trivial’ one for the Lord as He had mentioned a few years back in Kodaikanal to some students,
“Changing you or anything is very easy. I can do it in a trice like you turn and change the sides of a chapati while baking it. But I do not do things like that (via shortcuts). It is not in my system to do so.”
Two, he also knew that this was an opportunity that Swami was opening up for any takers.

The building of a bridge

The armies of Rama faced a problem as they began constructing the bridge with trees and boulders. The boulders would simply sink into the ocean and construction would come to a standstill. The matter was taken to Rama and He called for another meeting.
“What is to be done now? The bridge is just not happening...”
This was a question from the Lord who had previously threatened to dry up the entire ocean in a trice! It was Hanuman who made a humble suggestion,
“Lord, let us write the name ‘Rama’ on each boulder. The name that keeps us afloat in the Bhavasagara (ocean of worldly existence) will surely keep the rocks afloat in this Sagara (ocean).”

It was not as if Hanuman felt more wise than Rama to advise Him thus. It was because Hanuman was truly wise that He could advise Rama thus with humility. He too was aware of the two reasons mentioned above! Rama smiled and accepted the suggestion and the bridge building continued with renewed vigour. Now, there were a few squirrels that were also eager to participate in this divinely ordained task of building the Rama Setu (Rama’s bridge). But what could they do to help?

Lifting boulders was definitely not their cup of tea. The best they could do was pick up small stones. They came up with a lovely idea.  They decided that they were going to roll around in the sand and mud and get good and dirty. Then, they would find the cracks between the boulders in the bridge and shake the sand and mud off their bodies into the cracks to fill them up. As these little brown squirrels went about their task, Hanuman told the working army to be wary of the squirrels and ensure that nobody stepped on them. This was important because the squirrels would blend into the background and would be hard to see.

An aerial photograph of Rama Setu or Adam's Bridge connecting the landmasses of India and Sri Lanka. This is believed to be the bridge built by Rama's army. 

Arun’s solution

“Swami, in our Radiosai studio, there is a new and beautiful sofa set. It is big and comfortable too. If you permit, we can move that into the interview room and the seating problem when the deputy prime minister comes can be solved.”
Swami was thoughtful for a while.
“Can you do that really?”
“Of course Swami. I shall get the sofa moved into the interview room in a hour.”
Swami smiled and told Arun to do as he had suggested. Then, He went for darshan.

Arun, in the meanwhile, rushed to his workplace at the Prasanthi Digital Studios. He told his colleagues about the opportunity to offer the sofa set in service to Swami. Everyone was enthusiastic in helping out. A tractor with a trailer was summoned and the sofa set was loaded on to it. Arun ensured that it reached the interview room along with a couple of carpets too. He personally worked and supervised the arrangement of the sofa set in the interview room. Within moments of it being done, Swami arrived to the interview room. He saw the arrangement and was very happy. He congratulated Arun on a job well done and Arun felt happy.

The next day Sri L.K.Advani made his visit to Puttaparthi and Swami called him in for an interview. The interview was completed in some minutes after which Swami and Advani, both came out very happy. Later during the day, Swami told Arun,
“The sofa arrangement was very good. It was so comfortable. In fact, I too discarded my chair and made use of the same sofa to sit! I am grateful to you for your idea and efforts.”

Arun was tongue-tied because he was overwhelmed. What he had done was almost nothing and yet the loving Lord was expressing such rich and deep gratitude. He had been like those squirrels helping Rama to build the bridge and his Sai Rama had acknowledged and appreciated his efforts. He just had tears of gratitude in his eyes as he took back the sofa set to the studios.

Building the bridge with the Lord's name

Message from the Lord’s gratitude

Lord Rama expressed his gratitude to the little
squirrel which gets three white stripes for life.
Rama watched the squirrels run about energetically, shaking dust off their backs, on to the bridge. He was very touched and he called out to one of them. Picking up the squirrel Lord Rama lovingly fondled it. Caressing its back, He said,
“Little one. I am very grateful to you for the service that you are rendering to me. I can only offer my heartfelt gratitude to you.”
When he let go of the squirrel, it had three white stripes on its back, coinciding with the three fingers of the Lord. It is said that those stripes improved the visibility of the squirrel and thus prevented thousands of them from getting trampled upon while building the bridge. the gift of the stripes was the gift of life for the squirrels. That is what the gratitude of the Lord gives us! Even to this day, in India, the 3 white stripes on the squirrels back are considered as a sign of God’s gratitude.

Arun's Facebook post from May 17th, 2014 gives an idea about
Swami sans the Maya! 
Arun too agrees without the slightest doubt that his life itself has been transformed by Swami’s touch. He doesn’t know what exactly the gratitude of Swami gifted him but he is certain that all the blessings he enjoys in life is Swami’s grace alone.
“It was such a small thing that I did. It was Swami who gave me the chance to do it so that He finds an excuse to bless me. Otherwise, what does He, the Lord of the Universe, need from us?”

That was a powerful message. However small we are, however tiny our capacity, if we do our best, God is happy. He does not see the results; He is concerned only with the sincerity of our efforts. And that is why all of us are equal in God’s eyes - not because we are all capable of the same results but because we are all capable of the same efforts!

One task for the Lord...Blessed for life... for generations to come!
Here is an interesting side story from the bridge-building of Rama's army. This is not in the original Ramayana but is part of a poet's rendering. I am narrating it just for sake of completion and joy. I began with elucidation on Maya and wish to end on the same note. It also reminds me of how Swami 'acts' sometimes.

As the bridge was being built, Lord Rama picked up a rock and walked to the edge of the shore. He cast the rock in the water and to His utter shock, it sank! He quickly looked around hoping that nobody was watching this embarrassing situation. His ever-watchful devotee, Hanuman was there. Rama looked at him with a slight smile. Hanuman was not one to be fooled by Rama's Maya.
"Wonderful indeed my Lord", he exclaimed.
"What wonderful Hanuman? Rocks bearing my name float in the ocean but the rock I myself cast sank to the bottom. I feel so odd!"
Smiling at his Lord's efforts to delude him, Hanuman replied,
"Lord, your name keeps everyone and everything afloat in the Bhavasagara. But if you yourself let go of something from your hands, is there any hope left for it? It's as good as sunk the moment you let go of it!"

Now, there is a smile on Rama's face too. He knows that a true devotee will never get deluded, irrespective of what He does. Maya is a test for the devotee. That test is the Lord's taste!

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  1. Wow! Swamy actually gives us the chance to serve HIM in order to redeem our lives. This episode actually reminded me of the service of Mirpuri family , as to how Swamy told them how he gave them the oppurtunity to build the Music college, when there were innumerable devotees waiting to give away everything for their BELOVED SWAMY. Thank you brother. Sairam.- saraswuthi.

  2. Loved the twist at the last part.. classy :)

  3. Loved the last part... anything that the lord lets go sinks... only He never lets go ..ever

  4. Swami is always giving opportunities to serve, to do seva. He is watching us. It is for us to grab the opportunity and Swami will definitely Bless us.

  5. Whatever opportunity we get to serve if it is done with love then it is definitely approved by our lord Sai..... its again proved by the incident mentioned above.. what else we can say about the compassion of our Sai...


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