Friday, 24 October 2014

An addiction called God - experiences of Navaneeth Kumar_ Part 3

God qualifies the called

The rules by which man judges man and the rules by which God judges man definitely vary. For instance, while man judges man based on the results produced, God judges man based on the efforts put in. While man checks a man’s qualifications before giving him a call, God calls the man who needs Him and then bestows the necessary qualifications on him! That was what Navaneeth realized with goosebumps after he joined the hostel as a student in the Sri Sathya Sai Mirpuri College of Music.

It was the first week of June and Swami was in Brindavan, Bangalore. He was expected to arrive to Puttaparthi somewhere in the middle of the month. Navaneeth was among the senior-most students who had enrolled for the Foundation course. He saw that all his classmates were between 12 and 16 years of age. He was 22. That was when it struck him hard. He clearly remembered reading the statement in the prospectus:
The foundation course in these subjects is for two years and is open to boys of the age group 13-20. The diploma course is of three-year duration and is for boys of the age group 16-23.

How on earth had he secured the seat even though he was ‘overaged’? He also remembered another miracle that had played out during the final interview. Thrilled at ‘doing well’ in the entrance test and excited at the prospects of being a student in Bhagawan Baba’s college, Navaneeth had written a letter of gratitude to Swami. The icing on his cake of excitement was Swami’s acceptance of his letter. The cherry on the icing was the manner of His acceptance. As Swami took the letter from Navaneeth’s hand, their little fingers touched and Navaneeth felt electrified. He looked into Swami’s eyes and felt a warm surge within as Swami bestowed a gentle smile. Ah! Swami was fulfilling every little desire of his. It was in this happy mood that Navaneeth had gone to attend the interview.

The only qualification that the Lord requires from His devotee is that he need Him.
{This is part 3 of a riveting story. Enjoy it fully after completing the first two parts at:


Among other questions, the Vice Chancellor had asked him,
“Are you a Bal Vikas student?” (The Bal Vikas movement is a unique concept where the child is educated with the goal of inculcating character. This is done via love for God.)
Navaneeth had not attended any Bal Vikas classes and was about to answer the same, but his eyes fell on his application form that the Vice Chancellor had placed before him. To his utter amazement, the tiny box next to the statement, “Have you been a Bal Vikas student?”, had been ticked. He had definitely not ticked it, and so, in response to the VC’s question, Navaneeth just presented an awe-struck face. The question was repeated to him,
“Are you a Bal Vikas student?”
“Er... Yes sir...”, he replied.

Navaneeth recalled that episode and realized that him getting a seat in the Music College would have involved quite some work for Swami. But then, the Lord never considers it as ‘work’. On one occasion when a devotee thanked Swami for the ‘Shrama’ (efforts) He had made for him, Swami replied,
Bangaroo, idi Shrama Kaadu; Prema” (Dear one, this is not ‘effort’ but ‘love’.)

Days of darshan bliss

Navaneeth waited for Swami to arrive from Brindavan. In the meanwhile, he got reunited with his other love - cricket. Cricket seemed to be the official game in the hostel and he got opportunities to bat and bowl to his heart’s content. It is like a ‘buy one get one free’ offer when one desires for the Lord alone. The desires of the world that the individual nourished previously also get fulfilled automatically.

It was almost July by the time Swami arrived and Navaneeth now began to enjoy darshans. The Sai Kulwant hall felt like home for him because he had spent hours on the end here. He was happiest here and he seemed to know every pillar and tile that constituted the hall. It was but natural that he also knew the vantage points and vital spots to sit for a good darshan.

Hey! Wait a minute! What is a ‘good darshan’? Isn’t darshan always supposed to be good?
When a darshan-crazy devotee uses the term ‘good darshan’ it is in a slightly different context. When one sees Swami, it is called darshan. But when along with that, Swami also sees the devotee, it is called ‘good darshan’ because both the devotee and the Lord have the darshan of each other!

Such was the joy Navaneeth enjoyed during darshan that another crazy idea developed in his head. It arose because the students would arrive to mandir only for the evening darshan. Morning darshan was not possible because they had to attend college.
“Why don’t I quit from the Music College now? By virtue of having studied there for a month, I will become an alumnus. Thus, my seat in Kulwant Hall will be reserved. I can then enjoy darshans morning and evening...”

These were the thoughts with which he sat for darshan that day. As he waited for Swami to arrive, his resolve grew stronger and by the time darshan began, Navaneeth had decided to quit college once again! That day, Swami did something different. He took a detour, straight to the interview room after the ladies’ section of the Kulwant hall. He did not enter the section where the students sat (in the center of the hall); nor did he venture to the gents’ side. Navaneeth did not enjoy ‘good darshan’ but since he was a student, he could go into the bhajan hall for bhajans where he finally got his ‘good darshan’.

“Oh my God! If I had been an alumnus today, I wouldn’t have had good darshan at all! Better continue to be a student...”

It was the thirst for darshan that gave birth to the idea of quitting college. The same thirst ensured that Navaneeth continued in college.

A student’s life in Swami’s college revolves around the mandir, college and hostel. The entire schedule at each of these three places has been devised and set entirely by Swami and He always likes that every student follows those schedules religiously. On many occasions He has scolded students who would turn up for darshan by bunking classes. If  one was working overtime in the hostel for an upcoming festival and missed darshan Swami would be unhappy. At the same time, if a student had not enrolled into any of the ‘Self-reliance’ departments in the hostel because of academic pressures, He would frown upon that. Navaneeth realized that the schedules at the hostel and college were as important to please Swami as the schedule in the mandir.

Working in the kitchen at the hostel. Navaneeth joined
several self-reliance departments during his student days.
There is so much significance in this. The mandir can be considered as a Bhakti Kshetra (field of devotion), the hostel as a Karma Kshetra (field of action) and the college as a Jnana Kshetra (field of knowledge). It is incorrect to separate the three just as it is incorrect to consider Bhakti, Karma  and Jnana as three mutually exclusive pathways to God. Bhakti, Karma and Jnana are intricately intertwined with each other and one loses meaning without the other. So one cannot indulge only in darshan and bhajan giving up seva and satsangh. The same holds good vice versa too - one cannot undermine the importance of bhajans saying that service is what counts for the Lord. Using multiple analogies, Swami clears all the doubts on which is the best way to God - Karma, Bhakti or Jnana.

Shock and solace

Navaneeth settled into the rhythm of attending college, hostel and mandir. He felt that the time was now ripe for him to make the long-pending confession to his father. It was on the 15th of July 2008 that he was summoned by the warden during the morning prayers at the college.
“Your father is very seriously ill. You should leave for home immediately...”
“What happened sir?”
“There is no time for that... You should leave immediately...”

In his heart, Navaneeth somehow knew that his father was no longer alive.
“Can I have morning darshan before I go?”
“Yes... do that. But leave for home immediately...”
A tear trickled down Navaneeth’s eye as he rushed towards the mandir. He stopped to make a phone call to his mother. His uncle answered the phone,
“Navaneeth, take a flight and come home ASAP.”
“Uncle, what has happened...”
“You come here... your father will need you...”
The conversation was terse and tense. Navaneeth replaced the phone on the receiver, paid the bill and continued to the mandir.

His father had gone and he had not got a chance to bid him goodbye. He had not even told him of the greatest good fortune that he had been blessed with in life. Swami was his only strength now. For some reason, Swami also did not come for darshan that day and Navaneeth witnessed the Aarthi before going to the bus stand. He took a bus to Bangalore and got off at the airport. He had just Rs.2800 with him. There were no flights to Calicut, his home town, and so he took a flight to Kochi, the nearest city. The ticket cost him Rs. 2500. With Rs. 300 in his pocket and Swami’s name on his lips, Navaneeth boarded an aircraft for only the second time in his life.

Swami had not granted darshan to Navaneeth but he had made all arrangements for his comfort and solace. Just as he sat in his seat and was about to plunge into the sorrow of losing his father, his neighbour, an advocate in the High Court, asked him where he was coming from.
“I am coming from Puttaparthi...”
“I thought so because you are dressed completely in whites. I have heard a lot about the place but have never been there. How is it like?”

Never ask a PhD student about his subject of research or Navaneeth about Swami if you don’t have time! Luckily, the advocate had all the time and inclination to enjoy Navaneeth’s satsangh for nearly an hour. Soon, they were at the baggage carousel and Navaneeth was taking his leave.
“Where are you going?”, the advocate asked.
“To Calicut...”
“How are you going there?”
“I will take a train...”
That is all Navaneeth could afford with Rs. 300 in pocket.
“The train is from Alwaye. I shall drop you there in my taxi. Please give me the pleasure of your company.”
Cutting the long story short, the advocate ended up booking the taxi for Navaneeth to travel till Calicut.
“Please... this is my card. Be in touch. You have no idea how you have impacted me...”

Navaneeth reached home and his fears were confirmed. His father was lying lifeless in the hospital mortuary. It was in silent grief and external equanimity that Navaneeth carried out the duties of a son. The warden and college principal, in the meanwhile, had granted permission for him to take leave for a fortnight to finish all rites and rituals.

On the fifth day, Navaneeth told his mother that he would leave to Puttaparthi.
“I will be able to give you better support when I am there...”
The mother agreed and said,
“You are so different when you are there. You go ahead. Be back for the 13th day...”

Within a few hours, Navaneeth was in his vantage position for darshan.
“Why have you come for morning darshan? Don’t you have classes?”
It was Vedanarayan Sir, the Sanskrit teacher and lead-chanter for the mandir Vedas.
“Sir, my father passed away. I have just returned and I want to update Swami.”
“Oh! I am so sorry! You should sit in the front in the bhajan hall...”
It was the first time Navaneeth was seeing Swami so close during bhajan. The Divine Presence was overwhelming and he was unable to look continuously at Swami. His mind went totally blank and he did not speak anything nor make an effort to offer a letter to Swami. Though Swami encourages each one to write letters to Him, it is not as if He depends on them for information! Swami knew everything and He asked Navaneeth,
Even if the world comes as a'golden barrier' between you and God, get
'over' the world and reach out to God.
Kyun Vapas Aaya? (Why did you return?)”
“I wanted to see you Swami...”
The truth dropped out easily from Navaneeth’s mouth.
Swami smiled and patted him. Then He said,
“It is okay. Go back. Finish your duty and then return...”
“Swami, I have not told father....”
“It is okay... It is okay...”, Swami reassured him.

Navaneeth returned to Calicut, finished all his duties and then went back to Parthi after seeking his mother’s blessings.

A life dedicated to God alone

The interactions that Navaneeth enjoyed with Swami during the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 are too numerous to capture in a single article. They were not ‘huge miracles’ in the eyes of the world but little magical moments that mean the world to Navaneeth. After all, isn’t Swami the God of small things?
Two moments stand out though from the perspective of the current story. The first one happened in the September of 2009. Swami called Navaneeth out of the blue and blessing him, said,
“Be here only. Tell your mother that I will take care...”
Navaneeth nodded and did as he was told.

The other moment was during Dusshera in 2010. After a bhajan session where Swami sat on the dais in Kulwant hall, everything was quiet. It was a beautiful moment where the devotees were seeing Swami and Swami was seeing the devotees in absolute silence. Looking at Navaneeth, Swami beckoned to him to come on the stage. He blessed him with a padanamaskar and spoke in Kannada,
Yelli Hoga Beda (don’t go anywhere).”

Navaneeth felt that Swami was telling him to do something that he would do anyway. There was no need for the Lord to coax His devotee to stay with Him. It is the other way round where the devotee coaxes and prays to the Lord to allow him to stay with Him. Within a few months, Navaneeth realized the import of Swami’s statement. On the 24th of April, 2011, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba left the physical and for Navaneeth, the Eternal seemed to dissolve into Eternity.

Possibly the only time he wore a formal 'colour'
dress to work. Navaneeth was to adopt
the white uniform forever.
For almost a year, Navaneeth lost interest in everything. It was as though his life was just meandering, directionless because goalless. That was when Swami’s words came back to him.
“Be here. I will take care. Don’t go anywhere.”

Navaneeth bundled away all plans of seeking a job anywhere else in the country or the world. He would stay in Prasanthi Nilayam just as his Lord had commanded. But what would he do? There are no career prospects for someone educated in the Mridangam at Prasanthi Nilayam. Added to it, Navaneeth was not a maestro in the Mridangam too for his focus in college had primarily been darshan.

When the Lord tells you to do something, He also confers the means and strength to do the same. That was what happened with Navaneeth. After he completed his Diploma in Music in 2013, he began to volunteer his time at the canteen and at Radiosai studios. He did not have the slightest idea that in a few months time, Swami would gift him employment at Radiosai Global Harmony! In the December of 2013, Navaneeth got the offer letter from Radiosai and Swami came in his dream blessing him with an appointment.

Today, Navaneeth stands at his favourite spot - right next to his Bhagawan’s chair at the Sai Sannidhi - during every festival or event at the Sai Kulwant hall. As one of the main video-cameramen working on the LIVE broadcast of the happenings at Kulwant Hall, Navaneeth always feels very close to his eternal beloved.

“Swami told me to be here and I am here waiting for Him. Waiting for Him is nothing new for me. I have done it so many times before. I hear people speaking of His return. I don’t know what will happen. But if He returns in the manner that people speak, I will be there, right by His side, videographing Him. Even if that does not happen, I know that Swami is seeing me every moment. I may not be able to see Him but He definitely sees me. And that is a ‘good darshan’ isn’t it?”

Navaneeth continues to be 'close' to his Lord as he covers every programme that takes place in Kulwant Hall.
His attention, however, is always on Swami beside him...

For all readers:

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  1. Wow! So beautiful! So this brother now works for Radio Sai. Lovely! Thanks Aravind for sharing this really touching story of bro. Navaneeth with all of us. And pls do convey my loving Sairam and best wishes to bro. Navaneeth too. I have been really touched by this story.

    1. Thank you sis Aarthi. Navaneeth has seen this blog and comment and so he would have seen your wishes.


  2. SaiRam Aravind, extremely beautiful article and extremely beautiful messages and this is for all the 3 parts. I have waited eagerly for each part on alternate days. I am very fortunate to read about such lovely experiences of devotees and to learn from them. Thank you very very much for sharing with us!

    1. Glad that you enjoyed it sister Meghali. Wishing you all the best for the wonderfully new phase of your life.


  3. Thanks Aravind, for sharing Navaneeth's story. what a roller-coaster ride. So happy that he got an appointment with Radiosai, so that he is employed AND following Swami's command to stay there. Here is hoping that he gets to videograph Swami to his heart's content! :). Thanks again for sharing. Lrao

  4. So beautiful....Thanks Bro. Navaneeth and Bro. Aravind for sharing this gem. This in itself is good darshan for me.

  5. Simply wonderful and his love to swamy is adorable. My best wishes to him. The words that Swamy is always seeing us are remarkable

    1. Absolutely. Those are words that we can live by every day.

  6. You are Sai's boon to us. Happenings which I dreamed of hearing are shared by you in this space. Thanks a lot. Keep writing frequently for our sake.

  7. sathya venugopal24 October 2014 at 15:12

    sairam. my best wishes to navneeth

  8. Aravind Bhai. Saha here from Malaysia. thank u again for the beautiful conclusion. Pls cover a story of Sai prakash bhaiya also. just a humble request brother :-D

    1. I will convey your request to him... Lets see... Its all left to the Lord.

  9. these 3 articles touched me beautifully - thanks and Sai Ram

  10. Barru, very well written! Swami definitely responded to Navneeths's mother's selfless prayers..I was only able to think of what she must have gone through as I read the entire article.
    A true guru who led her son to the Lord.

  11. Madhusudanvithal Nori26 October 2014 at 09:55

    Sairam Aravind...thanks a lot for this 3 part story of Navaneeth, enjoyed reading your narrative. SWAMI's blessings are with you always.....Love.
    Madhusudanvithal Nori

  12. Brother, I am having tears in my eyes after completing 3 parts of this article. I have been missing Swami's physical form and your article is heart touching. God bless you Brother. I feel like crying aloud sometimes for Swami. It sounds amusing but that is how I feel when I miss Swami intensely.

    1. Can totally empathise with what you are saying...


  13. Dear Aravind,

    Sri.Navaneet is a great soul and breathes our Lord Swami. Sairam.

  14. Sairam brother , all the 3 parts of Navaneeth's life is something that I have never heard of or read before.He is 'God-crazed' as u say .Lucky are we, to know this love of his and His.

  15. This is very well written narrative of a devotee of our Swami! Navaneeth reminds us of devotion of Meera's calibre and very rarely we find such devotees! I am still amazed and in tears so I am not able to express my bliss after reading this article but I will surely refer to this whenever I need to boost up my spiritual energy and devotion! I will become regular in reading your posts now! Sai Ram!

    1. Thank you.... :)

      Glad that you enjoyed this narrative...

  16. This experience just bowled me... am just amazed on Navaneeth's determination and devotion for Swami... really a blessed soul.... again thank you brother Aravind for brining the scenes in front of my eyes... sai bless you :-)

  17. Dear brother
    I saw navaneeth in radiosai 2 months back as we had hosted a program in parthi. he is also from my hometown..but i didnt realise that he had such wonderful experiences..i would like to meet him next time..he is such a calm and pleasant person ..thanks somuch for sharing this
    love and sairam


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