Monday, 16 November 2015

The story of 'Living with God' - experiences of eighteen Sai students and teachers

90th birthday gift

Ever since the 89th Birthday celebrations of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, my dearest Swami, I was contemplating on a gift that I could give Him for His 90th birthday. With my little understanding of my Swami, I knew that something that would make the others happy is the only gift He seeks. It was this very understanding that had inspired me to write two books detailing my experiences and learning at His lotus feet. While ‘Memoirs of a Sai Student’ had been my gift to Him in 2013, ‘Capturing Divinity’ was gifted to Him in 2014. (Today, I know that these books have actually been His gifts to me rather than the other way round. But coming to think of it, can we ever gift anything to the Master when everything already belongs to Him?)

The first book - capturing stories as His student.
I had noticed that the joy derived from experiences with Swami increases when it is shared with humility and love. In fact, the listener/reader also partially experiences the same joy that you had experienced. The joy that so many loving members of the Sai-family (the global family that we have been gifted because of the common bond of love for Swami) conveyed to me, convinced me that my gifts to Swami had been appreciated by Him.

For the 90th birthday, I wanted to gift something more special. I was thinking on what I should do throughout the year because, unlike usual birthday gifts, one cannot ‘buy’ a ‘gift’ for Swami a few days prior to the D-Day. Since the Lord sees the purity, intent and effort behind the gift, in my humble opinion, the gift must be a persevering effort culminating on the Birthday. I had already offered two books. Wouldn't He be bored receiving the same gifts year after year? What else could I do to make Him happy? These were my prayers and thoughts.

Before I could think of anything else, it seemed as if Swami wanted to reinforce the idea that I must do something to make others happy in order to make Him happy. That happened in a very ‘coincidental’ manner via the Birthday theme audio created by Radiosai. The theme starts with Swami’s sweet voice saying,

Prema Swaroopulara,

Happy Happy Happy; Be happy.
Happy Happy Happy; Make others happy
All will be happy, then God will be happy.

So that was decided. The question remained - what should I do to make others happy which would in turn make my Swami happy?

A moment of silent introspection later I got my answer.

The second book - experiences and stories while working as His photographer (after graduation).
Living with God

My strength, ability and experience was definitely in writing. Instead of putting ‘old wine in a new bottle’ I thought of putting ‘new wine in an old bottle’, so to speak! Only here, I would be using the Di’vine’!

The first two books had an unexpected side-effect - people would come up to me and say that I was the most blessed Swami’s student. While that is something that I strive to be in Swami’s eyes, this adulation from people was a mistake. Swami’s blessings on someone only highlight the greatness of His love and grace; not the ‘greatness’ of the recipient! But the world often confuses the glory of God’s grace as the glory of the recipient and thus, loses focus from God to the recipient. This should be avoided at any cost. The only hero was, is and will be Swami, God!

I decided to compile the experiences of several devotees. That would be ample proof that there are hundreds, thousands - actually millions - who have received Swami’s grace. The inspiration that Swami gave for a starting point was the lives of students and teachers - whom He considered as His ‘sole property’. That was the genesis of the book - Living with God.

The third book that relives the life-experiences of eighteen Sai students and teachers. As one reader beautifully summed it
"The cover describes the book perfectly. It is exactly how life with Him feels - He is the only vibrant reality in an
otherwise monochrome world."
The interesting and insightful life-experiences of these Sai-students are but leaves in the mighty banyan that the Sri Sathya Sai Educational System is. What then to say about the stories of the teachers there? They are the branches, upon which these leaves blossom and grow. They are the substratum, through which the roots of spirituality, deeply embedded in the soil of virtues and values, nourish the leaves. Is it any wonder that the students of the educational institutions set up by Swami are considered greatly blessed for they have a shot at real 'Higher Learning'?
This book thus became a sampling of the lives of some of these 'leaves' and 'branches'. The experiences enshrined clearly indicate that education is meant for life and not merely for earning a living.If I had to summarize the book, I would do it in 18 sentences like this:
"Everyone gets a chance for Educare, because Swami does not call the qualified; He qualifies the called. The only qualification He possibly looks for is genuine goodness, because that is what attracts His Godliness. Having come under His divine umbrella, we just need to totally surrender to Him, because commensurate with our surrender, He takes care of us. His grace makes everything possible. It even turns misfortune into a great fortune!
Soon enough, we begin to understand that God's presence in our lives has become an irresistible addiction. The realization that there is someone above loving us and guiding us, becomes our greatest strength. The fact that He is underneath us, as the wind beneath our wings, makes us soar. The awareness of Him standing by our side becomes our greatest support. Most importantly, His presence within us, aware of our every little thought and feeling, brings us absolute reassurance.
God is Omnipresent - not only in all of space, but in all of time as well. God is Omniscient - not only to the happenings in the lives of His devotees, but also to happenings in the lives of those who are not even aware of Him. God is Omnipotent - capable of conferring anything on anyone at any time; even to those that 'hate' Him.
However, this spiritual journey is not without its ups and downs and sometimes, things seem to go horribly 'wrong' before they can go 'right'. It is at such times that we understand that true surrender comes from the conviction that God's plans are best for us always. Such surrender requires humility, which is the true trademark of an educated soul. However, surrender should not be mistaken as 'giving up of one's duties and responsibilities', because Swami always advocates spirituality as a way of life.
When each one gets a personalized path to the ultimate goal of human life, is it any surprise that anyone who experiences Him, cries out, “Sai Bin Raha Na Jaaye (There is no life without Sai)”?
Those are the eighteen sentences that summarize this book, because each of those sentences is the title of a chapter! With prayers that these eighteen chapters in the Sai Bhagavatam be the beginning of an inspired life for each and every one of us, I submitted myself humbly at His Lotus Feet.

Seeking His approval and blessings

The first book - Memoirs of a Sai Student - had received Swami’s approval and blessings in multiple ways and there is a separate blog about that whole story. Then came the second book which apparently did not receive any such physical manifestations of His blessings. There were no dreams, no vibhuti materializations, no messages through a book - nothing whatsoever even after many weeks of book-release. Needless to say I was disappointed. I was sure that my effort had been polluted by ego. Why else would the compassionate Lord not bless an endeavour?

So, when the Author’s sample copy of the third book was given to me a couple of days before the release of ‘Living with God’, I was both excited and nervous. I prayed desperately to Swami to bless the book to assure me that I wasn’t straying into ego-indulgence via authorship. I also asked my wife and mother to pray as I placed the book at Swami’s altar at home.

The next day, I woke up with anticipative energy and went to the altar. Absolutely nothing! I remembered the college days when students would take ‘birthday trays’ for darshan hoping to get an interaction with Swami on their special day. If they were ignored, they would take the tray on the next day too. Sometimes, this would happen for more than a week till the student himself decided not to take the tray any more that year and risk greater disappointment. At such times, the student would feel bad about persisting because multiple ‘rejections’ were more painful than a single one. The student would wish he had stopped taking the tray after Day 1.

It was this memory that made me pick up the book from the altar and tell myself,
“Swami blessed the first book with vibhuti, signatures and even an idol of Goddess Saraswati. When multiple blessings were bestowed on a single book to encourage you, why are you trying to seek single blessings for multiple books?”

The morning passed normally and I didn’t show the book to many people. The excitement was not yet there. I had my lunch in the afternoon and took a quick siesta. Before heading to work, I peeped into the altar again. Nothing! I walked to my wife and asked her,
“Why didn’t you pray enough? See, Swami is not blessing the book.”
“It’s not like that. Swami knows the best for us na? We should accept that and be happy.”
There was wisdom in what she said. That is the attitude to have when we claim to have surrendered to Him.

His blessings in three neat heaps
His love is always there - even if we do not see it

I walked back to the altar. Was it a little heap of vibhuti that I noticed? I rushed in for a closer look and realized that I was only partially right.

Right before my eyes were three small heaps - vibhuti, kumkum and haldi!
“Pooja”, I called out, “look at this.”

“This is definitely blessings for the book that you asked for”, she said.
“How can you be so sure? This might be consolation for me...”
“Is that different from blessing the book? Look here, Swami always sends vibhuti showers from photographs or idols. Why do you think He has sent it as three independent heaps away from the photograph?”

That was when the realization hit me with the force of military truck - the three heaps were exactly in the same spot where I had placed the book the previous day! It was as if Swami was saying,
“Here I am sending blessings for the book... Er... Wait a minute? Where is the book?”

I stood in the altar, gratitude in my heart and joy coursing through every cell in my body. I had done it again - questioning and doubting my Swami for the nth time in my life. Swami had done it again - reassuring  and gracing me with love for the nth time in my life.

I later placed the book back in its old spot and took a picture for my own memory. 
As another signal of His love, Swami ensured that the book was released minutes before the opening of the Global Akhanda Bhajan 2015. As I held the released book in my hand, I prayed,
“Swami, wishing you happy birthday in advance. May this book be a small brick in the magnificent mansion of the Sai Bhagawatham and bring Your love to all its readers.”

{If you wish to get the book, please proceed to the book shop in Prasanthi Nilayam. If you are not in Puttaparthi, you could write to Soon, it will be made available as an ebook on Amazon as well. In the meanwhile, you could pick up the older two books if you wish to. (all books are priced at Rs.70/- and all proceeds go to Swami's Trust.)

1. Memoirs of a Sai Student on Amazon
Memoirs of a Sai Student on SSSST ecommerce site.
2. Capturing Divinity on Amazon.
Capturing Divinity on SSSST ecommerce site. }

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  1. Sairam Aravind. Just this evening I finished watching the bhajan team performance at Manglore and your excellent compering in Kannada. Immediately after that i listened again to Ravi Sairam's Pranasakha interview and then here comes your release of yet another treasure chest for Swami's devotees. The manifestation of Vibhuthi, kumkum and turmeric was the ultimate blessing Swami could bestow by way of His acceptance . And guess what, after listening to Ravi's Pranasakha, I was hoping you would compile whatever you have gathered from the blessed Sai students past and present.I consider the Saistudents as my beacons because as you said, they all had to go wrong many times before they could get it right!
    Thank you. Visalakshy Swamy . US.

  2. Excellent - Sairam - very happy to read this.

  3. Sai Ram Aravind, I'm Happy. Dare I say very very Happy to read this? It's only been a few months since I started reading you blogs in earnest, August in fact. I feel as if i have known you a lifetime and travelled along with you on many of your journeys through it. As I've been through your experiences I found myself relating to some but for different reasons. I also had a revision course and learnt new lessons. It's all down to Swami as He sends me where He wills and when the time is right. I'm hoping that he blessed my copies of His/your book. Loving Sai Ram Chandan aunty.

  4. Sairam, my suggestion would be that you can be abig motivational speaker too. So you can start with schools in and around parthi and move on to senior colleges across India. Especially where there is no exposure to such teachings. You can just talk on Swami s teachings only instead of taking about swamy himself as there will be controversies.

  5. Sairam brother Aravind, don't know why, i had tears of happiness when I read this... I will definitely take the copies of these books when am in Parthi this weekend... A request... I will be even more happy if you could sign on them... Will you please? Jai Sai Ram....

    1. Sairam... Sure! It will be good to meet you. Sunday is a holiday for me. Any other day you could meet me at Radiosai studio between 9:30 am and 12:30pm OR 3:30 pm and 6:00 pm.


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