Thursday, 11 February 2016

Being Good and Appearing Good, both are important_Part 1

Not being good; not appearing good - bad but honest, the reckless
Being good; not appearing good - good but vulnerable, the foolish
Being good; appearing good  - good and honest, the ideal
Not being good; appearing good - bad and evil, the devil
  • Wise Man’s saying

Well, the wise man there is me and I gained that wisdom based generally on several experiences in life and specifically on one unforgettable and painful experience with my Master and best friend, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. This incident spanning a couple of months began on a nice note but soon developed into proportions that I had never imagined. But as is the case always with Swami, the ‘messenger’ ceased to exist once the ‘message’ had been received. It took me several years to digest the experience and, even to this day, I cannot claim to have completely digested and understood it. But I surely have learned a very important lesson. I shall open my heart about the same now.

A memorable flight back home

The story begins on the 2nd of November 2009 as we returned with Swami to Puttaparthi after a memorable visit to Hadshi and Mumbai. Swami had blessed everyone with an opportunity to take a picture alongside Him during the chartered flight and I was the photographer there. Beside me was my colleague, Sai Prakash, with the video camera. As the session progressed, the crew members began to serve food and beverages to the passengers. The food cart blocked the aisle temporarily and it was just the two of us with Swami. We simply sat looking at each other for a while.

A beautiful moment with my Swami that I shall treasure forever - dated 2nd November, 2009. 
After a silent wait, I felt an irrepressible urge in me to speak to Him. I made a slight movement towards Him and as He looked kindly, so I felt encouraged to go ahead. I said,
“Swami, my parents had Your darshan; they were very happy.”
Swami asked, "When are they coming here?"
“Swami, after father's retirement in May, they will come and settle down here itself.”
Swami nodded saying, “Santosham (Very happy)”. I continued,
“One more thing, Swami. Mother keeps crying out ‘Swami’, ‘Swami’, ... Please grant her namaskar once when she comes to Puttaparthi. Once You speak to her, she will be so happy.”
He nodded in agreement. But then He responded with a question of His own,
"She keeps telling ‘Swami’, ‘Swami’... What about you?"
I was dumbstruck. I mumbled and fumbled a bit and said,
"Swami, You know what I feel. You are most important for me."

It was then that Swami said ever so softly,
"You are taking a girl and going on your bike."
Wow! Was I taken aback at this omniscience! I remembered that I had, a few weeks before, indeed taken a high-school girl to the Super Specialty hospital in Puttaparthi for ophthalmology treatment. This girl’s parents were family friends and I was doing them a favour by taking her for her treatment. I said,
"Swami that was... er...a sister."
He said,
"If it's sister, it's alright... But not sister... You made her sister.”
It was true. She was not my biological sister. I just nodded. I was not sure whether Swami was upset with me being with her or going on the bike with her. Then, I told Him,
"Swami if you say, I shall give up using the bike itself."

I had purchased the bike because it had become difficult to follow Swami with my camera on my bicycle when He made visits to the hospital, grounds etc. Even when I succeeded in keeping pace with Him, I would end up sweaty and panting for breath. I had tried to get the bike blessed by Swami, trying to show Him the keys. That had not happened so far. But now, I wanted to stress that for me He was the most important and that I would gladly give up bike riding itself if He had the slightest problem with it.
Swami said,
"No. Just do not take any girl along with you on the bike."
I nervously nodded. I never thought that taking someone of the opposite gender who was 12 years younger than me could land me in trouble with the greatest love of my life. But when Swami tells something, it is surely with great wisdom. When I do not have complete control over the mind, how can I assure Him that I might not err at least at the thought level? 

There were a few moments of tensed silence. And then He smiled. After that, He spoke to Sai Prakash and then, the photo session resumed.

Something more than omniscience

After we had landed at Puttaparthi, I narrated this whole episode to an elder ‘brother’. I must say that though I do not have my own brother, I have been blessed with a few elder brothers who care for me as any elder brother would. I trust and treasure these few brothers that Swami has gifted me through the common bond of devotion to Him. I concluded by saying,
“And thus, Swami revealed His omniscience while advising me...”

There was silence again. Then, the brother told me.
“Aravind, there is no doubt that Swami knows everything. He knows our deepest feelings and innermost thoughts. But does he tell us every time when we get dirty thoughts or bad feelings?”
“What do you mean?” I was curious because this person had a wealth of experiences with Swami and I totally trusted him.
“From my limited experience, the way Swami has told you - firmly yet lovingly - it means that someone has complained to Him about you taking that little girl on your bike.”
A look of worry came on my face.
“When you get a chance to speak to Swami, why would you want to use that to complain something false about others?” I asked.
He laughed out and remarked,
“Many people, instead of doing their own sadhana in Swami’s presence, seem keen on ensuring other’s sadhana! You have to definitely be careful... Apart from that, sometimes Swami Himself asks people about what they have seen in and around the Ashram. You also have to be careful because though we start something with good intent, our monkey mind does some foolish things very quickly. But don’t worry, Swami knows the Truth. He will take care...”

I felt disappointed on two counts. This revelation had taken away from me one experience of Swami’s omniscience. It had also exposed me to the bitter truth of the cheap things that man could do even in the Divine presence.

Confirmation of the ‘complaint theory’

I began to think about who the ‘person’ was. Had someone seen me that day as I rode the bike? Or in my usual loud-mouth fashion, had I told anyone about it?

In a flash I remembered. I had indeed mentioned this to a person. In fact, I had told him,
“I was going on the road towards Mammilakunta...”
Had he told Swami? Had Swami asked him about me? Both were clear possibilities. I remembered what Swami had exhorted time and again,
“Love all but trust nobody. When you trust man, you will get cheated.”

The next day, 3rd of November 2009, after the evening bhajans, a few of us moved towards Swami’s residence, Yajur Mandir, to convey gratitude for allowing us all to be part of the visit to Hadshi and Mumbai. As we sat around His chair, He looked at me and said,
Maavudi pandu...” (that is what I thought I heard)
I did not understand. I asked again whether He referred to the mango fruit or to some uncle (Mava in Kannada).
Maavudi Kadu ra... Mammilakunta...” (Not Mango but Mammilakunta).
He smiled. Instantly I realized that Swami had given me a hint by using the exact word I had used in my conversation. It was His way of showing me that 'appearing good' was as important as 'being good'. Then, Swami looked at everyone and said,
“You need not express any gratitude for I am yours and you are mine...”
It was so thrilling to hear that.

I had expected Swami to be upset with me. But the next few days turned out to be surprisingly serene and beautiful in the sense that there was no change in Swami’s interactions with me. Evidently, He had forgiven my little lapse of not being careful of how people in society perceive me. I had forgotten the ABC of life  - Always Be Careful.

The next time I forgot that, Swami ensured that I would never ever forget it again! That’s the painful episode that was sadly necessary for me to learn my lesson. And that happened just a month after this episode.

The night time blunder

The devotees from Singapore had come for their annual pilgrimage to Puttaparthi. They put up a programme entitled “Bank Balance” in the Physical Presence and Swami blessed all of them profusely. Naturally, they were all thrilled and happy. My Sai brother Amey’s elder sister (Indrayani) and her family had also come as part of this group. Since I consider Amey as my own brother, it is natural that our families almost stay together in Puttaparthi.

This is the way Swami would usually pose with the elderly devotee for the photo.
The night before Indrayani and her family left Puttaparthi, we all gathered in her parents room at N1 building and had a satsangh till almost 10pm. Indrayani had a leg problem which made it difficult for her to walk. So, at 10 pm, I offered to drop her along with her two sons (4 year old and 7 year old) on my bike to her room in N5 building. As I motored along the 100-meter distance, I saw a couple of senior alumni taking a walk in the Ashram. I even greeted them with a ‘Sairam’ and they reciprocated my greeting. I dropped off the trio and then returned home.

I had no idea that this little ‘favour’ I had done would chuck me out of favour with Swami!

The nightmare begins

It was the 13th of December. These were days when Swami had decided to confer a special blessing on all those who had served for more than 5 years at the Ashram. Everyday, one such person would get the opportunity to offer a rose to Swami and take padanamaskar during the Arati. Not only that, Swami had graciously allowed the photographers to take a picture of that golden moment as well. In fact, Swami would pose and smile for the photograph on many occasions. I felt that this was such a golden chance for Ranjit and myself to alternately take photos of these devotees.

This is how Swami looked away from me on that fateful day.
This day was my turn to take the photograph. As Swami signalled for Arati to begin, the elderly devotee walked to Him with a rose. Swami accepted his rose and letter. However, when it came to the photograph, His demeanour changed suddenly. He saw that I was standing opposite to Him with the camera. His smile immediately was replaced with a look of irritation and He turned away from the camera. He did not turn to the front at all. He was looking at the side all the while.

It was a strange experience for me and I did not understand what He was doing. Smiling to myself, I returned to my place after taking the photo.
“Unlucky person”, I thought, “he will not be having a good ‘posing’ picture with Swami!”
Swami left after the Arati and I returned to my room.

I began to get dressed and ready because a few of us had decided to cook and dine together in a room. Just before I set out, I got a message that my director, Prof.G.Venkatraman had asked me to meet him. Wondering what it might be about, I went to his room.
“May I come in sir?”
“Yes. What other choice have you left me with?”
I was puzzled as I presented myself before him.
“What have you been doing? Taking girls on your bike and that too late in the night?!”
He was visibly upset and I started to shiver in fear.
“S..S...Sir, what are you talking about...sir...”
“Shut up and don’t act innocent. Swami told everything. When He had clearly instructed you not to do something, you had to go and do exactly that?”
“Sir, it was Amey’s sister and...”
“Because of you”, he cut me, “the whole of Radiosai is getting a bad name. We have taken so much time and made so much efforts to build a good name for our team and you have single-handedly brought that crashing down! Swami is very upset with you.”

I was already in tears by now. I remembered what Swami had told me and I was guilty of violating it. I felt a premonition of something bad going to happen. Swami had told me not to take any ‘girls’ on my bike. However, I had not realised that my definition of ‘girl’ was totally different from the world’s definition of ‘girl’. Maybe I should have stopped and explained to those two brothers who Indrayani was and why she was on my bike. Therein lay my mistake.

“Sir.... I am so sorry...”
“Keep your sorrys to yourself. The damage is done. I am so upset but I can’t even scold you...”
I was feeling so low and down that I missed the last part of his statement. It was natural that he was upset. He had been lambasted by Swami for something that he was totally oblivious of. He just dismissed me from his room after doing his duty of informing me of my mistake.

I walked out, totally devastated. My phone rang. It was Sai Krishna.
“Aravind... Come fast man! We are waiting for the feast.”
“I am not coming”, I said, “an emergency situation has developed.”
I cut the call. I was in no mood to eat. The worst had happened as far as I was concerned. Little did I know that it would go bad even further.

to be continued in Part 2 which is at the link given below:

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  1. Sairam, waiting for the next episode .. :)

  2. Now I have the divine suspense, much intense than "prison break". So many thoughts filled up mind, please don't take too long for the second part. Sairam!

  3. Sai Ram Brother. The suspense of the story is well built. Judging by all the Afternoon Sathsangs, I'm sure that the ending will be super good. Eagerly waiting for part-II. Sai Ram

  4. Sairam brother Aravind, eagerly waiting for next episode as you have created lot of suspense and anticipation about how things will turn up after Swami was very upset about it. My dear Swami is Omnipresent and he knows every thing and he never lets down a true devotee even in their dreams.
    My only request is, kindly post the next episode as soon as you can.

    1. Thank you. I shall try my best to publish the next part either on Saturday morning or Monday morning. :)

    2. Please try for Saturday morning please!


  5. Sairam brother, it was certainly a juicy read... you know how to keep us in our toes. pls post the remainder soon.

  6. SaiRam, May I ask your permission to share this in our whatsapp group? please please please say yes.

    1. Absolutely do so... :)

      If you can also paste the link at the end of the message, it will help many others also to discover this blog.

      Thank you.

  7. Sairam Barru, your article is super good. It pushed me into a deep thought. I read your article many times. Below are my limited and subjective views.
    In my limited observation, your article is an insightful description of different roles played by Swami. Even though much lesser in intensity and ramifications, I cannot stop relating it to the incident of Sri Rama being informed by his men of the lewd comments by a dhobhi about Sita.

    The two incidents that you quoted were very similar in basic characteristics. Your innocent intentions to help someone, a third party informing Swami and his reaction.

    The first incident:
    Swami had beautifully played two roles in this incident. One was being a leader of a huge organization and another was being an omniscient Lord. It was the responsibility of the senior alumni to keep Swami updated about happenings in the ashram. They seemed to have done their job. Their role is extremely inconsequential compared to the wealth of insights that lie in this incident. In the capacity of the leader he had the responsibility to shape the culture of the organization. He didn't thus choose to ignore when informed. Your action though innocent by intention, had the potential to disrupt the culture. Swami thus chose to make a very mild reminder. A reminder that the responsibility of up- keeping the culture of the organization needs to be delicately balanced with the intentions to help someone. But why mild? Because the actions were not willing violations.
    But the selfless trait of helping someone (that too a devotee) earns you a right of moving closer to the omniscient Lord. Hence a rare privilege of peeping into his role of being the leader was conferred. In this capacity of being a leader he instituted a channel to receive a continuous update of the happenings in his organisation. You were made aware of channel through the comment “Mamillakunta.” It is a rare privilege because only the “inner circle” consisting of chosen and trusted few would have been privy to this. Effectively you were made a part of the circle!
    He could have chosen to mention about Mamillakunta earlier too .But he deliberately brought up your action first, reminding of your responsibility and then followed it with honoring your right to be rewarded for being selfless. A very subtle but powerful way of reinforcing that responsibilities come before rights.
    In the second incident, Swami’s reaction was severe. When you repeated a similar action, it very clearly showed two things. A willful violation of the earlier guidance(no girl on bike) and continued imbalance between selfless intentions and organizational responsibilities. As a leader of the organization he resorted to reprimanding you through ‘organizational’ channels (your boss GV). But why did he not choose this channel in the earlier instance. As a benign leader he gave you the benefit of doubt that you weren’t taught the organizational culture by your superiors. Hence he chose to taught you by himself. But when the incident repeated it also very clearly reinforced that your organisation failed in ingraining you the culture. Hence Swami chose to comment upon the entire team and not just you.

    1. That is such a thoughtful analysis. Thank you... I loved it and the way you connected things Raju...

  8. People were gossiping after seeing you transport the girl. That was what Swami meant. It was not that it was wrong of you to help the girl, but people were creating problems without your knowledge. And eventually that gossip could escalate into major problems for you and even get you thrown out of school, even if everything was innocent and you were only helping her. That is what he was referring to. Always be cautious. Our environment is not as well intended as we wish it was.
    Swami was protecting you from future problems. He did this to me many times, protecting and warning me about problems other people were creating. Eventually you learn to keep very low key and not engage too much with people.

  9. Discipline,discipline, discipline to the core....what swamy want from us.
    Thank you Sai Ram

  10. Sairam aravindji. I could integrate a lot with your experiences as I continue to commit mistakes and learn in my spiritual occasion I clearly recall bhagwan in Brindavan in his discourse said "love all but trust none other than God". I was puzzled when these words emanated from Prema incarnate. But nevertheless He knows best for us. We always try to act smart not rigorously following his words and get into a mess and seek Him for help. Secondly He says "My life is my message. Also Your life is my message" . This clearly spells out the path to be taken by us as his devotees. We just need to listen to Him.

  11. But brother,in shirdisai is said that there should be no gender difference shown when people are in need of help..and then a lady offers to comfort the old man by pressing his legs who visits shirdi Sai mother's house for a brief stay..

  12. Sairam sir.. I also want to join sssihl.. I have read that you were allowed to have a camera in the hostel.. But the instructions manual says prohibited.. Is there any formal procedure to take a camera along with me.. I am so much interested in photography.. Pls help me out

    1. Sairam,

      There are several exceptions made. You are allowed to have a camera. PLease share your email id as a comment. I will not publish it but will use it to reply to you directly.

  13. Sairam sir.. I also want to join sssihl.. I have read that you were allowed to have a camera in the hostel.. But the instructions manual says prohibited.. Is there any formal procedure to take a camera along with me.. I am so much interested in photography.. Pls help me out


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