Monday, 22 September 2014

God is content with one's good intent - Sairam's experiences with Sri Sathya Sai - Part 1

Choosing a college for higher education

“Your results are quite impressive. What are your future plans?”
“Father, I definitely am happy with my results in the 12th class Board exams. But I am still undecided on which college I should seek admission  into. I have shortlisted several terrific ones... Maybe you could help me in choosing an appropriate one...”
“Have you applied for the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning?”
“Sathya Sai Baba’s college? No... Why would I apply there?”
“See Sairam, this college might not seem to be rated highly academically. But let me assure you that getting admission into this college would probably be the best thing that could happen to you in life.”
“But father... do you want me to pursue just a measly Bachelor’s degree in science? I mean... there is so much I could do and achieve...”
“And achieve you will! You will achieve things that will make all of us proud and happy if you join this college.”
Sairam’s face turned glum. He wanted to seek his father’s help in choosing a good college from what he had shortlisted. Instead, his father was vetoing all the colleges and offering a low-quality alternative.
“Father, can we not choose from the colleges I have researched and shortlisted?”
“See son, as a father, it is my duty to show you the right path. That much I can do and I will do. But following that path is left entirely to you. As they say, you can only take the horse upto the water. Drinking is left to the horse...”
The father turned and walked away.

It appeared as if Sairam was in between the horns of a dilemma now. Should he trust his intelligence and research or should he have faith in the wisdom and experience of his father? His heart was set on several colleges with academic excellence. He had envisioned a road ahead towards career glory. But, in reality, Sairam had no doubts in his mind. He had decided his future course of action - to apply for a seat in the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. Never in his life had he disobeyed his father or disrespected his wishes. Though he might have committed mistakes with respect to obeying his father, his intention had always been to be obedient. And there was no changing his intentions.

True Happiness

Within a few weeks, Sairam was walking to his cupboard in his room at the Brindavan hostel. Though it was the summer in 1989, Bangalore was cool. Brindavan was in the outskirts of the city and the environs were definitely very peaceful. The hostel and college schedule however, were not! According to Sairam, life in the hostel was like the life of Pavlov’s dog - interspersed and filled with bells. Needless to say, college life too was filled with bells. The constant ringing in his ears and the tough schedule from 5 a.m. till 10 p.m. daily made Sairam feel that enough was enough.

The brief trip to Puttaparthi towards the end of the first semester seemed to promise some meaning and joy in the otherwise taxing schedule. That was not to be for Sairam! The schedule got more taxing because he had to rise by 4am now and line up for the bathrooms and toilets. The living space got crammed even more as each student had only about 6ft x 2ft area to place his suitcase and lie down. Interactions with Swami were not many, and so, Sairam found no respite. To make matters worse, Swami told the students to stay back in Puttaparthi for the exams too. The discomforts seemed to become more intense because of the added burden of studying for the exams.  The visit to Parthi lasted a week extra after which the students returned to Brindavan via Muddenahalli.

“Amma, I am not going to go back to Brindavan for the second semester.”
That was the first thing Sairam told his mother when he called Mettur, his hometown, just before leaving for the vacation. He did not have the courage to tell his father and he hoped that the mother would ease him from that task of informing. The mother gave the phone to the father. Sairam’s father asked him only about Swami.
“Is Swami coming to Brindavan?”
“He has just arrived today father...”
“And you are leaving?”
“The exams are over and vacation has been declared. I want to come home.”
“It is ‘Sathya Sai’ that makes the college special. Otherwise, it is just another Institute. How can you come before having a darshan atleast?”
“What do you want me to do father?”
“Stay on for another day. Have darshan. And then, if you wish, you can come home for vacation.”
Sairam felt a crushing disappointment within. The vacation was just 10 days long and his father was shortening it at least by one day. But again, he never wanted to disobey his father.
“Ok father... As you say...”
The telephonic conversation ended.

And so it was that Sairam was present in the hostel with a few others, waving goodbye to all classmates and friends. There were only about 30 of them ‘unfortunate souls’ left behind. Sairam was just waiting for 24 hours to elapse. That was when something magical happened. Swami called all the students who had stayed back, into His residence, Trayee Brindavan. The 30-35 boys sat comfortably in the Jhoola room of Trayee Brindavan. Swami walked in. The rest, as they say, is history.

We often feel disappointment and sorrow when we are separated from the world which we consider as ‘our’ world - our family, our native place, our friends, our experiences etc. Separation from this world makes us sorrowful because we think that happiness lies in union with the world. Happiness actually lies in union with God. That was something that Sairam’s father had realized and was trying his best to pass on the wisdom to his son. Though Sairam secretly rebelled at this, his intention was to always keep his parents happy. He was now about the be rewarded for his good intention.

In an inexplicable moment of bliss and beauty, Sairam pledged his heart
to Swami. 
A heart-winning experience

In the Trayee session, just seeing Swami seemed to overwhelm Sairam. It was not as if he was sitting in the front and was seeing Swami up close. He was actually in the 6th or 7th row, away from Baba. He had seen Swami closer in Puttaparthi. But this experience was so different. Among the several things that Swami did that evening, one involved Sairam.

Swami picked up a chocolate wafer which was offered to Him and blew on it. In an instant, the chocolate wafer got transformed into an emerald! As Swami held it up, all the boys watched with amazed eyes. Suddenly, the emerald slipped from Swami’s fingers and fell down. There was a loud gasp and the boys in the front began to shift and move to retrieve it. But apparently, the emerald had totally disappeared. There was no finding it.

“Ay donga (thief)”, Swami said pointing to a boy in front, “you have already passed it to your friend behind...” Swami was now pointing directly at Sairam. Everyone turned and looked at Sairam as he reeled back under the impact of the accusation. His hand struck something hard and he was utterly shocked to discover the emerald under his hand! He picked it and handed it over to Swami as everyone laughed out aloud. Now, it had again changed into a chocolate wafer which Swami gave a student to eat. The boy gratefully accepted it as prasad and began happily chomping on it. Even as he was swallowing it, Swami asked,
“Shall I change it back into an emerald now?”
Once again, everyone laughed aloud as the boy had a shocked expression at Swami’s mischievousness.

It was an unforgettable Trayee session for Sairam. He was disappointed that it got over so quickly. The disappointment only grew when he realized that he had to give up all these and go home that evening. He desperately wanted to stay with Swami.

That is the magnitude of Divine Grace - in just an instant it can transform and set right all priorities in life. When God decides to step in, everything changes for the better; actually the best. For that to happen, all we need is the intention and patience. Sairam had the intention all right and Swami’s love was such that when he seemed to be losing patience, He seemed to have waved a magic wand. Sairam did not know what about the Trayee session bowled him over. But its impact was such that even as he reached home in Mettur, he told his mother,
“Mother, I never want to leave Swami and come home, ever!”

Though Sairam’s actions - grumbling and grudgingly staying in the hostel - were not exactly noble, the intention behind his actions - to make his parents happy - was highly appreciable. That intention had forced the Supreme Lord to shower compassion on him through an experience that could just not be described. Such was the effect of the experience that Sairam’s mother could just not understand what had happened. And that was because even Sairam himself could not understand what had happened. Experiences have to be experienced. They cannot be understood by descriptions.

This is not a ‘novel’ story in the sense that hundreds and thousands have experienced this and continue to experience it even to this day when Swami is not present in the physical. I accosted a Facebook friend of mine, Ms. Paulina Armas, from Ecuador  in September 2014 at Prasanthi Nilayam. She does not speak and understand English and so a young woman in her thirties was acting as a translator. The conversation was pleasant and inspiring. The ‘pleasant’ part came from the sweetness of Mrs. Paulina while the inspiration, unexpectedly came from the younger woman. It was her first visit to Prasanthi Nilayam, in fact to India too. When I came to know that, I asked her,
“How are you feeling in Puttaparthi?”
“What shall I say? I have only been crying the last two days...”
“What?,” I was surprised by her answer, “why?”
“Oh! It is so beautiful and overwhelming here. I feel healed and cleansed. I have waited for 14 years for the opportunity to come here and today, I know that it has been worth every moment of that wait.”
She explained no more and I realized that she could, in fact, explain nothing more. I left it at that and walked on towards Radiosai.

It is not an easy decision to choose God

“It is easy to dedicate one’s life to God in Grade 12. But it is tough to continue to do so through college and career!”
  • S.N.Sairam

There are many that take to God. But only a few have the perseverance and grit to hold on beyond the
introductory 'honeymoon' phase...
The above quote had not yet occurred to Sairam as he cut short his stay at Mettur and came rushing back to Brindavan to be with Swami. Everyone at Brindavan seemed surprised at his early arrival. In fact, one student had left home for the vacation just on that day. In the Trayee session that evening, Swami said,
“God’s blessings are necessary for everything. Today, one boy has left. That is God’s Grace. One boy has arrived. That is God’s Grace.”
Though Swami did not point out to Sairam, everyone knew that Swami was referring to him because he was the only new arrival that day.  Sairam felt very special. In an instant he decided that he would dedicate all his life to making Swami happy. That was the least he could do to someone who made him so blissful and feel so special.

When God offers juicy tidbits and experiences, it becomes easy to choose God over the world. But it is not easy to continue holding on God in all circumstances. While a ‘positive’ experience reinforces one’s grit to hold on to God, a ‘negative’ experience makes one forget all that has happened so far! Sometimes, the impact of a ‘negative’ experience haunts us so much that it even ruins several ‘positive’ experiences that follow! 

Just as he was enjoying the attention and love from Swami, Sairam got what he then considered as another ‘negative’ experience. The warden summoned him to the office and told him that Swami had chosen him for a task. Sairam was excited at first. The excitement wore down as the warden made his next statement,
“Swami wants you to take care of Chayee (pronounced as Chai).”

Chayee Koh Sen was a very special inmate of the Brindavan ashram. A terrible mental shock combined with a horrible electric shock in his childhood had changed the medical student that he was into an aggressive, ‘mad’ man that he had become. Swami had assumed charge of him in 1979. The students who would take care of him were usually well-versed in martial arts which was a must for them to defend themselves. Now, the lean and simple Sairam had been divinely chosen to one among Chayee’s attenders! (The details and the life of Chayee is so excellent that a separate article is needed. It is my promise that the exciting tale shall be told soon. )

Chayee needed constant care and attention. But he also demanded constant vigilance and defence. No one could predict when he would fling a bottle of tomato ketchup nor could one predict when he would wet his bed. So, when the warden asked Sairam whether he was ready to take up the ‘Chayee duty’, he wanted to scream out against it. But again, his intention to make ‘Swami happy always’ ruled over his reluctance and he agreed to take up the dreaded and challenging duty. Again, he would discover that his good intentions were sufficient to please the Lord of his universe.

to be continued in the next part which is posted at the link below.

God is content with one's good intent - Sairam's experiences with Sri Sathya Sai - Part 2

If you enjoyed reading this, you might also try reading the following:

1. Destroyed in seconds but rebuilt over years of Divine Love

2. God's love is not bound by time and space - a devotee's experience at Sri Sathya Sai Mahasamadhi

3. Sachin Tendulkar and Sathya Sai - the story of the little master and his 'little' Master

For all readers:

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  1. Sairam Brother. Your articles are a source of energy to all Sai devotees. Waiting anxiously for the second part. Jai Sairam

  2. Sairam Brother, 'good intentions were sufficient to please the Lord of his universe'. How beautiful !! Awaiting the next part :-)

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Monika Bagchar8 March 2018 at 02:25

    Enriching experience for other Sai students as well !


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