Wednesday, 21 January 2015

God is always the first priority in life_ the life story of Bal Vikas student Raja

A story of devotion at first sight

Raja was born as Arun Patra in Koraput, Odisha to middle-class parents. He had several siblings who had graced the world before him and so, he felt that he was part of a joint family though technically it was a nuclear one. Mischief seemed to be deeply ingrained in his genes and the mother found it very hard to contain it. At her wit’s end, not knowing how to discipline her Raja, she enrolled him into a bi-weekly class which aimed to inculcate discipline, duty and devotion in children. She did not have the slightest idea about the origin and inspiration behind the ‘Bal Vikas’ classes but was happy that there was some creative outlet for the tremendous physical and mental energies that her child possessed. No doubt, her life changed after that. However, even in her wildest imagination she had not dreamed about the way it would change her Raja’s life.

Raja's life changed forever because of the Bal Vikas classes. It got him close to the goal of his life, his love and his Lord,
Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
The Bal Vikas classes struck a magical chord in young Raja’s heart. The ten-year old was fascinated by the stories that his Guru Matha (teacher-mother) at Bal Vikas told them. His heart seemed to be soothed by the Sanskrit chants that resonated in these classes while his mind was filled with deep questions about the meaning of life. These were questions that even his mother would have never imagined, let alone Raja; but then, his mother was not a student at Bal Vikas! More than anything, Raja developed a keen interest in the fuzzy-haired, oranged-clad ‘Baba’ who was his Guru Matha’s god. Though she always encouraged the children to pray to the God that they had been told to pray to at home, she was devoted to Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

“Mother, why does she worship a living person as God?” Raja asked one day.
His parents were devoted to another Guru and the mother felt that the time was ripe to pull little Raja also into line.
“God is the only one who always lives and never dies. We also worship our Guru as God...”
“Is there a difference between Gurus?”
“Er... I don’t know... but our Guru is a great one. You should meet him...”
“That is what Guru Matha says about Baba. In fact all the children are going to Puttaparthi in South India for a holiday with her to Baba... Can I also go?”
The mother was silent now.
“Please mother. All my friends are going. I also want to go.”

Thus it was in 1983 that Raja made his first trip to Prasanthi Nilayam in Puttaparthi. He had his first darshan of Bhagawan Baba. By the end of the trip, Baba had become Swami for him. He was delighted and was certain that he would be setting foot on Prasanthi soil many more times in his life. His parents back in Odisha, however, were dismayed. They felt that their Raja had strayed from the path.

God gives what we want so that we want what He has come to give

The parents were determined to pluck Raja out of the clutches of “some Baba” and they took him out of Bal Vikas. But they were unable to take the Bal Vikas out of him! Raja kept in touch with all his Bal Vikas mates and he found himself falling deeply in love with Swami. By the time he reached the age of 18 when he could legally decide for himself, he had enlisted himself as a youth member in the Seva Dal (Volunteer) brigade of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation.

With all sincerity and devoted hardwork, Raja became popular with many of the people administering the ashram. He spent a couple of years working directly under the Karma Yogi Colonel Jogarao. In 1994, he was one among a trio to get posted at Bhagawan’s new residence in the Poornachandra Auditorium. Though he was very happy at this opportunity, it was not meant to be! Sri Chiranjeevi Rao, another able administrator, asked him to be at his beck and call. Sri Chiranjeevi Rao was always at the beck and call of Swami and he wanted someone sincere and well-acquainted with people in the ashram to assist him. Sri Rao was known to be a very strict person and everybody feared working with him. But not Raja! He was ready to do anything for Swami. So, he gave up his posting at Bhagawan’s residence to assist Sri Chiranjeevi Rao.
A few days later, Swami granted an interview to the other two. When Raja came to know of this, he was devastated. He cursed his bad luck because of which he had missed out on the chance of a lifetime. The Odisha Seva Dal service ended on the evening of 14th of August. The next day being the Independence Day, was a national holiday. Raja was going for lunch, having packed his bags to leave for Odisha, with a heavy heart. That was when the call came. It was Dilip bhaiya (elder brother) who used to serve Swami at His residence.
“Raja, Swami has sent word for you...”
“Yes! He asked me, ‘Where is Raja?’ and I immediately set out to search for you...”
“He knew my name?” Raja asked incredulously.
“Hurry up! He is waiting for you.”

The greatest joy in one's life is when one gets a call from the Lord. But to hear that call, one needs to still the mind.
It is only in the depths of silence that the voice of God is heard. 
Raja rushed to the back entrance of the Poornachandra Auditorium which led him to a small interview room. Swami was there smiling at him. Raja’s heart erupted in joy as he rushed and knelt before his Swami.
“What do you want?” The question was terse and straight.
“I want your Angavastram ( clothes worn on the body),” the answer was equally terse and straight.
Swami smiled and asked for His robe and dhoti to be brought. Presenting it to Raja, He asked,
“What else do you want?”
Raja was not expecting a second boon. He thought for a while and asked,
“Swami give me white clothes...”
Again there was a divine smile and Swami asked for a Safari cloth piece to be brought. He presented that also to Raja and once again asked,
“What else do you want?”
Raja’s mind was blank now. He had nothing else left to ask, it seemed!
“Swami, I want you.”
Immediately, Swami’s eyes lit up.
“Ah! That is good.”
Saying so, Swami dipped His hands into a basket of vibhuti packets. He dug out dozens of them and poured them into Raja’s hands.
“Always seek God,” seemed to be the message that He silently transmitted with that gift! Raja bent forward and kissed Swami’s feet. The interview was complete. Raja walked out, his hands brimming with vibhuti packets, his face brimming with smiles and his heart brimming with supreme joy. That was a joy he had felt never before in his life and he was ready to do anything for experiencing it over and over again. He wanted nothing else and he understood better the meaning of Swami’s statement,
“I give you what you want, so that one day you will want what I have come to give.”

With God by the side

By now, Raja had become an outcast in his family. His parents were just short of disowning him for having committed the travesty of pledging his loyalty to some South Indian guru! They tried their best to wrench him out of the ‘Parthi madness’, but Raja only pitied them. He realized that they were simply unable to understand his heart. He was convinced and though he never spoke harshly or strongly against his family, he silently and determinedly plunged into the various service activities of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation.

The strongest point of contention for Raja’s parents came when Raja began to cough out and vomit blood after returning from a service activity at a hospital. The doctors diagnosed him with a drug-resistant kind of tuberculosis and prescribed 6 months of injections along with 9 months of medicines to beat the dreaded disease! This was in September, 1996.
“This is what happens when you blindly and madly follow that Sai Baba. You could have died!”
“I will die if I do not follow my Swami, mother,” replied Raja, “it will all be fine with the medications. You don’t worry.”
The father was visibly upset at Raja’s stubbornness, but there was little that he could do. Raja came to know that within weeks, he would no longer be contagious. With joy, he packed all his medicines and made his way to Puttaparthi in November, to participate in the service during Baba’s 71st Birthday Celebrations.

Towards the end of that visit, Swami was blessing all the volunteers with padanamaskar and clothes. Raja was also in the lines. When Swami neared him, He began to wave His palm in a circular fashion. He created a small vibhuti pellet and, gave it to Raja, and told him to swallow it immediately. Raja was surprised to find the pill to be very spicy and red hot.
“You will be fine.”
Swami just made that statement and walked ahead. Raja was overjoyed! He returned to his resting shed and immediately discarded all the medicines which he had brought from Odisha. He also refused to take any more injections for tuberculosis.

“You are crazy”, everyone at home cried out. But Raja did not budge from his decision. What seemed like an adamant boy for everyone else, was just Raja’s solid faith in his Swami. The worried parents consulted the doctor, who warned them that even death was a strong possibility if Raja discontinued the medication after just 2 months. That was too much for the family to hear! They forced Raja with all their might - physical, emotional and logical. Instead of budging, Raja proclaimed,
“You will see the might of my Swami. Then you will also believe in Him.”
“In order to prove some phony God to us, don’t kill yourself,” was the response.

In June 1997 when the tests were done, all the reports came out clean. Raja felt vindicated and therefore elated. His face had the I-told-you-so look on it. But he was in for a shock. The family did not feel that it was a miracle. They wrote it off as fluke and this angered Raja.
“You have eyes and yet you are blind! Even God cannot help you,” he told them and got ready to leave to Puttaparthi as part of the Seva Dal in August. He now knew the answer to the question whether faith comes first or experience. It is faith that gives you the ability to experience God. Without faith, even an experience gets written off as fluke, a stroke of luck or chance!

With Swami by his side, Raja started an independent cloth business. He no longer wanted to depend on or be with his biological family. Swami had gifted him a huge family in Odisha.
“I know that there are so many people in the family that Sai has gifted me who will be ready to do anything for me. I was born into a large family but thanks to Swami, I am now part of a Universal family!”

Goal in life

Today, Raja is the Zonal Communication Coordinator managing the districts of Malkangiri, Koraput and Rayagada. He is a regular to Prasanthi Seva and he performs his duties at Sai Kulwant Hall every year.

“So, what are your plans for the future? Marriage?” I ask him.
“I am past 40 now. If I wanted to marry, I would have done so already. By Swami’s grace, I have been freed of all worldly ties. I don’t want to develop them again. My parents still insist on me getting married but their craze will soon pass, I am sure. I will hold out till then,” says Raja with a smile.
“You have told me what you will not do. But what are your plans? How do you see yourself in the future? Don’t you think you will get lonely in your old age?” I provoke him further.
“Hahahahaha... Were you there to witness the drama we put up from Odisha in Swami’s presence in August 2009?”
“Oh yes! I remember it very well.”

That drama is an unforgettable one and I still remember the thrill, excitement and inspiration with which I had written a detailed article about it. The introduction went like this:

A word here about one special genre of dramas that are enacted in the divine presence: these are dramas that are based on incidents in real life, and where the names of the characters are not changed in order to enforce the authenticity! They are plays where the drama behind the drama is so much more thrilling than the actual presentation itself. No wonder they say that Truth is stranger than fiction! And on August 27, the youth from Orissa had brought such a drama to present before Him. It would have been more of a "highlights" show for Him, for wasn't it He who directed the whole version?

Raja had acted as the villain in the drama who gets transformed by the love and service of the youth. That results in him letting go of the illegally grabbed land on which is built “Sai Karunalayam”, an orphanage in Ambadola district. At the end of the drama, Swami called Raja and spoke to him at length.

Swami started asking them about the details of Sai Karunalayam.
“How many children are currently there?”
“Ten, Swami.”
“Where are these children studying?”
“Swami, they are studying at a nearby school.”
“You do not have a school?”
“No, Swami.”
“I will build one for you. I will do everything. Whenever you need anything, I will make the arrangements. I will look after everything.”
Needless to say, Raja and the youth were on cloud nine; they were overwhelmed with these divine assurances that flowed from the Lord so spontaneously and lovingly.

Raja wipes the tears from his Sai-brother's eyes as the youth soak in the magnitude of Swami's love and grace on them.
“Swami, when You are with us, we can achieve anything, we can take up any project, however mighty it might be,” they blurted out.
Now, Swami was overwhelmed, and instantly clasped the hands of the youth. You can imagine the exchange of Pure Love that was transpiring at this point between Swami and His dearest instruments; everyone who was watching this was truly in ecstasy!
“How many more children do you want to add?”
“We want to have 40-50, Swami,” they responded enthusiastically.
“No, have 20.” Then, He Himself said that He would guide them about the plan and in fact, would do everything.

This statement “I will do everything” of Swami became their talisman, which has been enabling them to perform a miracle of Love; it is their source of eternal strength and inspiration.

“And so,” concludes Raja, “I wish to settle at the orphanage some time in the future, taking care of all these children. When my time to go comes, I know Swami will come for me. And I also know that my death will happen in an instant. I will be spared of all the suffering and dependency.”

Priority in life

I could only admire the steadfastness with which Raja had held on to Swami’s feet. Without a sliver of doubt or an iota of hesitation, he had taken up a life of service, because Swami had told him that the best way to love God was to love all and serve all.

What I learned from him was that God should always be the top priority in our life. If we give God even second priority, we give Him no priority.

The children from Sai Karunalayam and the youth strike a pose with the genial Prof. Anil Kumar after the drama.

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  1. Beautiful! Really touching.

  2. Sairam Aravind,

    I don't remember reading an article as touching as this. His love for Swami flowed straight to my heart. What a wonderful article this is . I am just wondering how much good he would have done in his past lives, that he got this Grace straightaway. May Swami's grace always be there. Thank you for sharing.

  3. inspiring Aravind! What a blessed life. Such devotion, steadfastness..that is what Swami likes. Your last lines are very apt. Please tell Mr Raja Bhaiyya that he has inspired us immensely.
    lrao [Hemalata Rao]

  4. Sairam! Strong devotion and determination against all odds in the family and he won Bhagawan's love.

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  6. It is articles like this that trully inspire me to do Swami's work. what a joy to read and from the words you have written, i can feel Swami's love

  7. Sairam Aravind, thanks a lot for one more irresistible article from your pen to guide us on to right path. Blessings and Love,
    Madhusudanvithal Nori

  8. Aravind,
    Are Raja's family member Swami's devotee now?

  9. Sooo touching!And the picture of Raja bhayya wiping tears of the Sai's so moving!

  10. ah... back in tears again... Raja brother is really blessed and so do all who have read this... Something really to reflect upon... Thank you brother Aravind for brining this experience for us...

  11. That's the God's abode from where you are listening the voice,spiritually you have upgraded yourself , you have come up a level high,keep it up , so that we will follow.

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  13. All are not so Raja.very few who adore completely (saranagati)...will get swamy's bliss

    1. Truly inspiring,soul awakening,there is no love like swami's love completely unconditional


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