Friday, 14 November 2014

Achieving Work-Life balance through the Ultimate Experience - experience of Prof. H.J.Bhagia Part 2

Summer Course 1990 - unexpected bounty

Bhagia sir seemed to be growing more and more disinterested and detached from the ‘mundane’ daily activities which he performed on auto-pilot. His whole being seemed to burn in eager expectation for the eternal Ultimate Experience alone. The summer of 1990 arrived and, as was the practice, Swami shifted from the Puttaparthi ashram of Prasanthi Nilayam to the Bangalore ashram of Brindavan. (The devotees would find it very hot and exhausting, sitting for darshan in the hot Parthi summer. To provide respite for them, Swami would shift to Bangalore which would be cooler on account of its greater geographical altitude.)

{This is actually the second part of a beautiful and message-filled story. To enjoy it in its entirety and immensity, it is recommended that the reader completes Part 1 from the link given below and then proceeds with this Part 2.

Achieving Work-Life balance through the Ultimate Experience - experience of Prof. H.J.Bhagia Part 1}

While Swami went to Brindavan in March, Bhagia sir followed in April after the academic year had concluded. There were some industrial visits and field trips in Bangalore that the MBA students had to undertake as part of the course and Bhagia sir accompanied them. It was during this summer that Swami decided to resurrect a special course that had been discontinued for more than a decade now - the Summer Course in Indian Culture and Spirituality. This course had been Swami’s initiative in the early seventies with an objective to expose students of the University to the rich cultural and spiritual heritage of Bharath.

(The course continues on an annual basis to this day. It is always a memorable experience for participants, especially newly admitted students. It orients new students into Bhagawan Baba’s educational philosophy and gives them deep first hand insights into how they can directly benefit from this unique institution. This prepares them well to make the best of the rare opportunities that lie ahead of them.)

Bhagia sir has been blessed with the Ultimate Experience which shows that true happiness lies only in Union with God.
What thrilled Bhagia sir was the subject that Bhagawan Baba took up for the Summer Showers in Brindavan, 1990. It dealt entirely with the why, how and what of Self-Enquiry with Swami unravelling the mystery in stages. Swami dilated in great detail about the mind, the senses, the ego, the Gunas and the Atma. It was definitely a big boon for any aspirant seeking the Ultimate Experience in life.

(The summer course of 1990 is so monumental that it has been taken up for detailed discussion in the Radiosai series entitled Shravanam Mananam Nidhidhyasanam. Bhagia sir too was invited as a guest during one of the discussions which was first aired on 28th May 2014 - a discussion on the discourse that Bhagawan delivered on 30th May 1990. The whole series can be obtained via the Radiosai Audio Search, typing the phrase;


Needless to say, Bhagia sir got increasingly inspired as the days passed by. The ‘kick’ came on the last day of the Summer Course. On the 3rd of June, 1990, Swami delivered a lengthy concluding discourse of the Summer Course. He concluded by saying,
“Your entire life must become one continuous meditation.” Bhagia sir’s eyes opened wide as he drank in each and every word from Swami. He internally resolved that spending anything less than 24 hours a day in spiritual pursuit would be unacceptable. Since he had not yet mastered hunger and sleep, it would be physically impossible to spend 24 hours in seeking the Ultimate Experience. But he would definitely spend as much time as possible on that.

Brave decision

It was on the 5th of June that the teachers of the Prasanthi Nilayam campus reported for duty in the new academic year. Bhagia sir made his way straight to the Principal’s office after the morning prayers. He had an envelope in hand which he reverentially offered to the Principal, Prof. U.S.Rao.
“What is this?”
“This, sir, is my resignation notice...”
“What?!” The Principal was stunned. “What happened? Why this drastic decision?”
“Sir, Swami has clearly stated that life should be a continuous meditation. I cannot afford to waste time in college now...”
“But... but don’t you think you should at least inform Swami before taking such a decision?”
“I have already got my indication from Swami...”
“Aha! I need my indication too. I cannot accept your resignation without confirming with Swami.”
“Sir, I am expected to give a 3-month notice for resignation. Please consider today to be the first day of the notice period.”
He humbly folded his hands in salutation to the Principal and walked out of the office.

He now waited for the 3 months to elapse.

Within a few days Swami arrived from Brindavan. A couple of days after that, the Registrar of the University, Sri.K.Chakravarthi, called all the college teachers for a meeting. It was the 16th of June, a Saturday. He told them that Swami was eager to speak to the teachers and clear doubts - spiritual and otherwise. He advised them to pray and seek advice from Swami. Each and every teacher knew that the Registrar would not come up with an ‘idea’ like this of his own volition. It was definitely Swami who had told him to advise the teachers thus.

Isn’t it so sweet of Swami to do this? He not only takes us under His protective umbrella but also prods and goads us into doing things that please Him and benefit us!
It was at this time that the Registrar also came to know about Bhagia sir’s decision. Now, it was only matter of time before Swami would be informed in person about the same.

A defining interview

The next day, the 17th of June was a Sunday. As instructed by the Registrar, all the teachers gathered in the veranda of the mandir. After the morning darshan, Swami saw them and asked what they were doing sitting there.
“Swami please talk to us...” the teachers chorused.
Swami smiled and nodded. He opened the interview room door and told the teachers to go in. There were nearly 60 teachers in all and they began to file into the interview room. It would surely take about 3-4 minutes for all of them to go in and be seated.

Bhagia sir was seated right at the back, lost in his contemplation of his reality. His meditation was rudely disturbed by two voices in him.
“Hey! All the teachers are going in for an interview. Will you not go?”
“Why should I? I am supposed to enquire who I am right? Is this not a distraction?”
“Arey! Just go in. You should not miss this chance to be with Swami...”
“But... but do I qualify? I have put in my resignation notice to the Principal already...”
“That means you continue to be a teacher for 3 more months right? Also, don’t forget that the Principal has not yet accepted your resignation. So, you clearly are eligible to go in.”

The last of the teachers were going and Bhagia sir had to make up his mind. He rose from his seat and began to walk towards the interview room. As he was passing by Swami into the interview room, Swami gave him a hard slap on his back and said,
“LAZY! Go in fast...”

After that "Lazy" pat, most of the pats that Bhagia sir has received
 have been congratulatory in nature...
 Bhagia sir realized that there was not an inch of space in the interview room which seemed packed to its capacity. Actually ‘packed to its capacity’ will be a wrong term to use here because the capacity of the interview room is thirty people at best. It was a miracle that sixty teachers had already been seated in there. Swami saw that Bhagia sir was not going in and so, He Himself walked in. The minute Swami walked in, a path was created from the door to His chair. Bhagia sir walked behind Swami up to His chair. As Swami sat on the chair, Bhagia sir sat on the floor right at His feet! He looked behind to see that the path which had been created for Swami had closed up just like the Red Sea closed behind Moses after he had passed through with his people.

Swami began to ask the teachers questions about the problems they faced. Several teachers told Swami about how at times they faced problems with the University administration. In fact, many of them had written letters to Swami delineating their problems.

“It is not right to directly complain to Swami when anything happens like this. There is a hierarchy that has been put in place. If you have a problem, approach the head of the department. If it is not resolved, then the Principal should be approached. Even then if it doesn’t get solved, approach the Vice Chancellor. Finally, when all else fails, come to the Chancellor. This protocol must be followed.”
While Swami the Lord did not care for any intermediaries, Swami the Chancellor respected and abided by all the rules and protocols in place in the University.

Amidst several other discussions, Swami suddenly asked,
“What is Sadhana?”
Several answers were given and Swami was not satisfied with any of them. He continued,
“In my view, neither Sadhana (spiritual endeavour) nor Sadhyam (fulfilment) exists
independently and apart from each other. Sadhana and Sadhyam are one and the same. It is a
trick of the mind to make Sadhana as the means to Sadhyam (the Goal). True Sadhana consists
in giving up the un-aatma bhava (the idea that one is not the Spirit but the physical body). To turn
the vision from the physical to the spiritual constitutes real Sadhana. One must work towards the unification of the Sadhaka (aspirant), Sadhana (endeavour) and the Sadhyam (Goal).”

(Later in the same academic year, in the New Year’s Day 1991 discourse, Swami dilated further along these same lines to explain beautifully what Sadhana is and the intricate connection between Karma, Bhakti and Jnana.)

Looking at Bhagia sir, Swami suddenly became very stern. His eyes seemed to enlarge. He asked in a very firm voice,
Ay Bhagia! Kya Sadhana Karna Chahta Hain? (Bhagia! what Sadhana would you like to do?)”
“Swami, I would like to do Atma-Vichara (Self-Enquiry). That is why I want to be freed from all worldly duties. I do not want to take classes in college. It is when I do these worldly things that the mind gets deviated from the Atma...”

Even as he was answering, Bhagia sir Swami’s face transformed. From an angry one, it became filled with rage and fury.
“Ay Bhagia! If you segregate things as worldly and spiritual, even in a thousand human births I will not give you what you seek.”
The whole room was shocked at this apparent outburst. Bhagia sir immediately understood the import of that statement. Swami had not said a thousand years but a thousand human births. One human birth came as a reward at the end of 83,99,999 creature births. A thousand human births meant a minimum of 8,400,000,000 years assuming an average of 1 year per creature-birth. Swami had also said that He would not grant his wish meaning that He was the granting authority.

Bhagia sir immediately dived to His feet and sought pardon.
“Swami! Please forgive me. I shall do whatever you say... I didn’t know the mistake I was making...”

Balancing work and spiritual life

Swami reminded Bhagia sir about what He had just said about Sadhana. He continued to say,
“True Sadhana is to sanctify your time, knowledge and senses. It does not lie in giving up your duties, but in sanctifying your duties. Living in harmony is Sadhana. Sharing experiences with others in complete humility is Sadhana. It is not enough if you seek Moksha for yourself. Be selfless and take 10 people along with you on the path. Your redemption lies in the redemption of your fellow-beings.”

After that, Swami made a jaw-dropping revelation.
“All my students are Maharishi tatvas (Maharshi principle or beings who are great sages). So are my teachers. While the students have great potential to receive, the teachers have the great potential to give. What is it that I want you to give? The students are like rice grains in a bag. They need to be husked and cleaned. I want you to do that because I will use them to nourish and cleanse Prakruthi (the material world/nature). You help me to clean their personality. I have given you charge of these students and if you do this, that will be your Sadhana. Then, I shall give you what you desire.”

That is precisely what Bhagia sir continues to do even to this day. He is definitely in pursuit of the answer to the question “Who am I?” but that does not stop him from performing all his duties - as a teacher, a husband, a father, a citizen, a human being - diligently. The Jnana Marga (path of Enquiry) is not separate from the Bhakti Marga (path of Devotion) and Karma Marga (path of Action). In several discourses, Swami has beautifully depicted the oneness of the three paths.

A picture taken from the SSSIHL website. Is it a coincidence that 'Mentoring' depicts Bhagia sir with students? 
Bhagia sir’s mind flashed back to an episode in the past year in which Swami had clearly given the same message. He had not been alert enough to latch on to it and hence a more ;dramatic’ method of delivering the same message had been adopted by Swami. Swami had asked him,
“What is the meaning of the word Bhagia?”
“Swami, it means good fortune.”
“That is taking it too literally. Bha stands for Bhakti and Gya stands for Gyana (Jnana). Bhakti and Jnana are the two banks between which the river of Karma must flow ceaselessly. There is havoc that the river can cause if it is not bounded by the banks. But if there is no river flowing, the banks are useless!”

This is a message that has been delivered to several aspirants by the Masters. Even Paramahamsa Yogananda records his experience in Cosmic Consciousness wherein his Master forced him to return to the ‘worldly’ level to continue his activities and karma. There is no question of ‘balancing’ worldy and spiritual because there exists no separate and discrete thing such as worldly and spiritual. Spirituality is not a compartment. It is a ‘part of one’s life’. It should be the center of one’s life; the basis behind all of one’s actions; the bounding banks for one’s thoughts, words and deeds.

That is why whenever we have gathered at Swami’s feet as His staff and asked,
“Swami, we wish to do something special for you this birthday. What can we do?”
Swami’s reply has always been,
“Do your duties in the best possible manner, as a gift for Swami. That is enough.”

Just imagine that you go to a person and ask,
“Hey there... What work do you do?”
“Me? I am a driver... a chauffeur.”
“Oh! He is just a car-driver”, we think almost condescendingly.
“I drive the Porte you know, Swami’s car, everyday during darshan.”
In an instant, our attitude changes. We fold our hands in respectful prostration and with admiration in our voices say,
“Ah! So you are God’s driver... Indeed blessed you are...”

Swami calling and speaking to Bhagia sir as He passes by him during darshan in the Porte car.
Imagine another scenario.
“Hey there... What work do you do?”
“Me? I am grow and tend to plants.”
“Oh! He is just a lowly gardener”, we think almost condescendingly.
“I maintain the Yajur Mandir lawns...”
In an instant, our attitude changes. We fold our hands in respect and with admiration in our voices say,
“Ah! So you are God’s gardener... Indeed blessed are you...”

That gives us a clue on how to lead a truly spiritual life. As Swami would put it,
Sarva Karmaan Bhagawath Preethyartham” (Doing everything - thoughts words and deeds - to make the Lord happy.) Can I be God’s engineer, God’s writer, God’s doctor, God’s artist, God’s accountant, God’s singer, God’s cleaner, God’s biller, God’s driver and so on? Can I do my duties with the ONLY desire of pleasing my Lord through it? Work then becomes worship. Duty then becomes God. And there will be no need to balance work life and spirituality. For then, Sadhana ceases to be a work and all work I do becomes my Sadhana.

That has been Bhagia sir’s learning. He is happy because Swami has promised him,
“That will be your Sadhana. Then, I shall give you what you desire.”


If you enjoyed reading this, you might also enjoy reading the experiences of a few other teachers:

1. The powerful attraction between Goodness and Godliness - experiences of Dr. Gangadhar Shastry

2. God is the best good-luck talisman one can have - experience of Sai Surendranath

3. Destiny or Freewill - the third option - powerful experience of Dr.Raghunath Safaya.

For all readers:

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  1. Sai Ram,Thank you for sharing!

  2. Oh My God! I don't know what to say. I truly believed that any work can be made worship but hearing that from Bhagwan is elevating. My grandmother did service only at home but Bhagwan in an interview (at Whitefield) blessed her that she was a pure hearted one and we saw her life being sanctified by "merely" doing her work--that was indeed worship.

  3. Sairam Bro. Aravind,

    Thank you so much..It helped clarify a few doubts I had.

  4. Stupified...tongue-tied. ..I can only say thank you Arvind..may God bless you for sharing such great experiences. ..Sairam

  5. Beautifully written.. God's blogger? ;)

  6. “Sarva Karmaan Bhagawath Preethyartham” - and Stay Blissful the whole Birth... Thank you for sharing the beautiful article.. SAIRAM...

  7. Sairam Aravind and thanks a lot for showing us the way ahead through this two part article. Best wishes and Love.
    Madhusudanvithal Nori

  8. Article of essence equivalent to a vedic verse. Only a true sai student can present like this as His instrument. G8 work. Please continue. Sairam

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. This post has actually cleared a few of my doubts . . . now I am re-confirmed in the path Swami has directed me to follow. Sairam Aravind, may God bless you and ensure that you continue to spread his message of divine oneness.

  11. I still remember the classes of Bhagia sir. We used to look forward for them very eagerly. Thanks Aravind for this wonderful article.

  12. Sairam Brother. A memorable clarification from Bhagawan. Nice article

  13. Bhagiya sir is a devotee beyond comprehension...a true leader inspiring many students. Great soul. Awesome

  14. I only saw Bhagia Sir briefly on visits to Parthi. He knew homeopathy and gave me medicine which helped to reduce the skin rashes I used to have, perhaps due to stress. He came across as a kind man keen on helping others. I am very happy to read about his experience and learn deep truths while doing so.

  15. Thank you so much for sharing this! I was stuck with a similar question and this helped move me forward ...... keep writing ....

  16. The best narration I have read so far on the life balance... thank you brother and thanks to Bhagia sir who is a definite inspiration... while reading I also recollected the pat swami gave me when I was waiting for his padanamaskaram in white-field after the May 1995 service... love you Swami....


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