Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Always have a direct connection to God - Nikhil Koushik learns his lessons from Baba _Part 2

God sees only the efforts

Nikhil dialled his mother and sought her advice,
“Mother, Swami tells me that I need to do my sadhana before I can sing in His presence. Could you tell me what sadhana you did? What did aunt do... what did granny do?”
The mother was both surprised and happy at her son’s question. She replied,
“My child, I really don’t know what sadhana I have done. It has just been Swami’s love and grace...”
Nikhil already knew that this would be the answer. Every true devotee of the Lord credited Him for everything. She never claimed to have done anything special for she felt that it was Swami alone who is all special.
“Yes mother! Swami’s love and grace is infinite indeed... But... there must be something that you people did right. Tell me what you would do when you were not in Swami’s presence?”
“Your granny and aunt had deep love for Swami. From that sprung a commitment to put in daily efforts. They are talented of course but their efforts were so relentless that Swami would have been pleased with them even without their skill!”

{This is the concluding part of a story which will definitely make better sense and grant more joy if read after the first part. The first part is located at the link below:

Nikhil had his answer with crystal clarity. It was not as if some sadhana was better than the other. What mattered to Swami was sincere effort alone. That was probably the reason why it everyone is said to be equal in the eyes of God - because everyone is equally capable of putting in 100% efforts though their capabilities to produce results vary. Since God did not judge based on results but only based on efforts, each one has the equal capability to please God.

"If you look to me, I look to you."
Look at this beautiful picture. Do you think that there is a need for any intermediary between the devotee and God? Why don't
we strive for that direct connection? Why do we always want shortcuts? All it needs is effort
“Thank you mother. You are wonderful... Sairam.”, Nikhil said before putting down the phone. Now, he knew what he had to do - put in efforts, in whatever way he could.

The next morning, Nikhil was up and ready by 4:30am. Armed with a harmonium in the music room of the hostel, he began to practice chanting the Aumkaar (the ‘Om’ chant). He practiced till 5 am after which he went to attend the Suprabhatam. This effort did not remain as a one-day wonder. It became part of his daily schedule. He also put in supreme efforts to swallow his pride and ego. As suggested by Shailesh sir, he approached other singers in the bhajan group and sought their help to improve his singing. Having put in these efforts, he left the results to Swami and just prayed for an opportunity.

Within a week, Nikhil got that opportunity. With all love and humility, he sang a simple bhajan in the presence of the in-charges. What Shailesh sir told him that day has remained etched in his heart.
“What have you done? You have transformed completely the way you sing. You are fading out the ending of each line in the bhajan so perfectly. I suggest that you teach the exercises you have done to some of the other aspiring singers. I am sure they will benefit a lot from it.”
“Thank you sir... So... I can try singing in the mandir?”
“Yes, you can. Seek permission from Swami before that.”

A couple of days later, Swami called Nikhil to take his letter in the bhajan hall. As he handed the letter to Him, Nikhil sought permission to sing in His presence. Swami nodded with a smile and wholeheartedly permitted him. Nikhil’s joy knew no bounds. He knew his efforts had paid off.

Pride and Ego - not easy f(r)iends to subdue

That was how Nikhil achieved his dream of becoming a mandir singer - a dream that he had once taken so much for granted that it had almost turned into a nightmare. Reaching the top is one thing; staying there is a totally different game. While reaching the top requires intensity of effort, staying there needs persistence in the same efforts. While Nikhil had passed the test of intensity, it was probably the time for the test of his persistence.

Every year, the second Saturday of November is dedicated to the Global Akhanda Bhajans(GAB), the start of a 24-hour bhajan session around the world.  Though devotees conduct bhajans worldwide, a good number of them come to the spiritual headquarters of the Avatar of the age at Prasanthi Nilayam. Several alumni singers, bhajan composers, bhajan-singing greats and “golden oldies” of Sai-bhajans make their way to Puttaparthi to participate in the GAB. It is therefore a highlight in any mandir singer’s resume to be able to sing in a GAB. Added to this, the GAB of 2005 held special significance since 2005 was also the 80th year of Advent of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. And Nikhil was very eager to sing during GAB 2005.

That did not happen.

Nikhil now knew that GAB 2006 was his last opportunity to sing as a student because he would be passing out in March 2007. He continued with his efforts in singing and hoped desperately for a chance to sing in GAB 2006. That was when his pride and ego returned.

“My family members were the singers in the first ever Akhanda Bhajan held on the face of this earth.  When they sang for Swami, possibly none of these current singers were even born! That is the legacy I descend from and there is no way I should be denied the only opportunity to sing in a GAB as a student. I shall directly tell this to Shailesh sir and get the chance to sing at least one bhajan...”
Those were Nikhil’s thoughts on the eve of the GAB 2006. There was no doubts about his persistence in efforts to improve bhajan singing; but his efforts to keep the hood of his ego subdued had apparently not been so persistent!

And when the message gets forgotten, the messenger has to come again, right? That was what happened with Nikhil too.

A forgettable bhajan session

It was the eve of GAB 2006, the Friday of the 10th of November to be precise. Nikhil was given the chance to sing a bhajan and he had chosen to sing a decently long and complicated one - Hara Hara Hara Hara Mahadeva Shiva Shiva Shiva Shiva Sadashiva.
That day, something happened. As the key for the bhajan was played on the harmonium, Nikhil was unable to catch the correct pitch. He began on a wrong note! Everyone seemed shocked and another singer tried to immediately help him with it. None of this escaped Swami’s keen ear and eye. A frown came upon his face and turned into a sort of grimace as Nikhil struggled to catch the key. Swami then closed His eyes as if to be blind to the mess that was happening. In the meanwhile, Nikhil got the situation under control and sang the bhajan. But the damage had been done.

After the Arati, Nikhil slunk away silently, without catching the eye of Shailesh sir. Though he had originally planned to meet him in the evening and seek the opportunity to sing in Swami’s presence the next day during Akhanda bhajan, he decided against it. He thought that it was best to allow a night’s sleep to erase bad memories from the in-charge’s mind. He therefore approached him on Saturday morning.

“Sairam sir...”
“Sairam Nikhil. What is it?”
“Sir, the Akhanda bhajans begin today...”
“And this is my final year...”
“I would be grateful if I get a chance to sing just one bhajan...”
“After what happened yesterday? Are you crazy?”
“Sir, yesterday was a mistake. It will not happen again. I am not asking for a prime slot. Even a fast bhajan would be fine, possibly half an hour after Swami has arrived...”

Dr. Shailesh Srivastava had a mortified look on his face. Nikhil wondered what was so outrageous in what he had said. The teacher smiled in disbelief and said,
“Nikhil, what are you speaking. I am not ready to permit you to sing during the Akhanda bhajan itself, forget doing so when Swami is physically present! Students and singers from across all of Swami’s institutions will be here. Forget it. It’s not going to happen... You better practice and pray more.”

Along with the room door, the door of opportunity to sing during a GAB also shut firmly on Nikhil’s face. Dejected, he made his way back to his room.

Message received! Roger!

He was almost in tears. He knew that he would never be able to sing in a GAB all his life. He sat in front of Swami’s picture and poured out his heart. Of all the days, why did he have to goof up a bhajan just before the GAB? It was all too much to be a stroke of ill-luck! And what if it was not? What if it was planned that way to give him a message?

Nikhil realized that once again he had fallen prey to reveling in his glorious ancestry. He had again assumed that his lineage would gift him an opportunity to sing in the GAB as his birthright. He had forgotten that Swami does not pay heed to anyone claiming to be born with a silver spoon in the mouth. He does not care for silver at all. He values gold and that too not the normal gold of us mortals. He seeks the pure gold of Divine Love. That is why He calls us bangaroo (gold).
That is the only qualification that one needs to get God. Nothing else needed... nothing else will ever suffice. Only if you need Him, you deserve Him. That is the single and sufficient condition to get God. It is absolute foolishness to think that one can achieve God ‘through’ or ‘via’ someone else - Swami needs no mediums; the only medium is Love!

"If you need me, you deserve me", says Baba. Do we need Him strongly enough?
Another beautiful moment of a heart-to-heart between Nikhil and his Lord. (Look at that tender yet strong foot on the
tiger head... Ah! I hope that my vision is always on those feet!!) 

Nikhil got the message. Naturally, it was time for the ‘messenger’ to disappear. But how that happened is a beautiful story on love in itself!

An unforgettable bhajan session

The GAB 2006 began at 6 pm sharp that Saturday. Nikhil did not even get a chance to act as a follow-singer for all the GAB ‘rejects’ were striving for that opportunity. Nikhil’s failure the previous day weakened his case there as well. Swami left after an hour of bhajans. Nikhil stayed for some more time before retiring to the hostel. Praying to Swami with all his heart and seeking forgiveness for the repeated mistake, he slept.

The next morning, Nikhil was in mandir by 8 am. By 8:30, the top notch singers of the bhajan group had all filed in. Nikhil got pushed a dozen rows back. He was about 13-14 rows away from Swami’s chair. Destiny ensured that he sat right behind Shailesh sir. Soon, Swami came and sat in the bhajan hall and the energy levels for singing shot up by several notches. After half a dozen bhajans, Swami made some comment. The volume levels were lowered and Swami communicated something to the teacher who was playing the tabla. The teacher nodded, got up and walked straight to Shailesh sir. He spoke loudly, over the bhajans and Nikhil could easily hear him,
“Swami says that only the main singers have been singing thus far. But, the others also should get an opportunity.  The next bhajan should be sung by a new singer.”

He walked back to his place as Shailesh sir turned to look at which ‘new singer’ was present. There was Nikhil.
“Nikhil, which bhajan will you sing.”
“You are singing next. Which bhajan?”
Nikhil’s mind went blank. He could not believe what he was hearing. He saw Swami at a distance and He seemed to be looking at him saying,
“Even the in-charge is just my messenger. He too is not a medium between us. There is a direct connection - ALWAYS.”
In that charged and emotional moment, Nikhil remembered only one bhajan; that which had been his very first one in Swami’s presence.
“Sir, Rama Rama Ravikula Soma...”

The key was placed and Nikhil began to sing. He sang not with his lungs and mouth but his heart and soul. At the end of his bhajan, Swami got up from the chair, smiled at him and walked out of the bhajan hall! Shailesh sir immediately turned to Nikhil and said with a smile,
“Looks like He wanted you to sing today...”

That was the story of how Nikhil sang a bhajan in Swami's presence after learning an important lesson and again sang the same bhajan after re-learning the same lesson - that when it comes to Swami, there is only a direct, heart-to-heart connection. Making use of names, intermediaries and mediums to make the connection ‘easier’ and ‘faster’ is not only useless but positively foolish as well!

“So, Seshagiri Rao’s great-grandson, Sundaramma’s son and Sucharita’s nephew indeed continued the family honour and tradition of singing for God eh?” I asked Nikhil with a teasing smile.

“You can’t get me to commit the same mistake a third time brother”, he replied with a broader smile, “none of that matters now. What matters is that I am Swami’s child - just as you are.”

For all readers:

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  1. thanks that was a good article. It had a wonderful ending and showed us Swami's eternal Love.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. excellent demo to crush our Ego and be In pure golden love with Our beloved Bhagwan !!
    Tons of love to all athma andhoos . thns sri aravind sairam ! <3 <3

  4. Swami gave me the chance to read this at this time when I actually needed to. Thank you so much for sharing this miracle. Sairam!

  5. Nikhil might surely have more experiences. Aravind, would you please publish Part-3 ?

  6. Lovely article! Nikhil bro happens to be my first year room leader so have heard many of these experiences first hand. I just would like to share that he was one of the inspirations for me to attend Suprabatham regularly in my first year MBA. I still vividly recall his advice "Just try to follow the routine without questioning too much and am sure you will benefit it". He did not insist or urge and it was a friendly advice and that somehow made me follow it. a very warm and gentle person - am sure he deserves all of swami's love and grace. Reading this article made me remember all the nice discussions / fun talk with Nikhil during hostel days!

  7. Inspiring! Swami's is Omnipresent and we to practice the same

  8. Sairam Aravind. Thanks a lot for this 2 part narrative bringing out clearly meaning of Sharanagati and crossing out one's ego. Best wishes and Love.

  9. Sairam brother Aravind... beautiful lesson for all... thanks for sharing...


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