Friday, 28 October 2016

Choose God and God chooses you - Dr. Raghunath Sarma's life experience -Part 4

The interview

Bhagawan returned to Brindavan from Kodaikanal with the entourage of students. Raghu was among the few students blessed to stay in the special accommodation beside Swami’s residence, Trayee Brindavan. The ‘Summer Course in Indian Culture and Spirituality’ would be starting soon and this ‘privileged accommodation’ served to smoothen the transition from the Kodai life to normal life.

Raghu was in for a surprise as his entire family landed in Brindavan one fine day.
“We felt like having darshan and also seeing you. So, we came. Please tell Swami to grant us an interview...”
“Woah! Do you think it is that simple?” Raghu asked incredulously. There was no answer but Raghu realized that his going to Kodaikanal had raised the hopes of his parents who had several worries which, according to them, only Swami could solve.
“Okay, I shall ask”, Raghu said. He had nothing to lose.
The next day, during darshan Raghu got up on his knees and told Swami that his parents had come to Brindavan. Swami casually told him to go in for an interview! It had indeed turned out to be quite simple.

It was a special thrill for Raghu’s father who was speaking to Swami after nearly 3 decades. But the way Swami spoke with love and trust, it felt as though they had been in touch on a daily basis. (Isn’t that the truth anyway? We are always in touch with God directly. It’s just that we refuse to acknowledge or try some roundabout way of seeking him.) Swami assured the parents on all the different issues that were bothering them. They seemed comforted and had just one more issue. Raghu’s brother had not fared well in the undergraduate exams and it was doubtful whether he would get a seat for post graduation in Swami’s University.
“Swami”, the mother prayed about Raghu’s brother Vishwanath Sarma, “what about his younger brother?”
“The University is meant for you”, Swami assured, “but then, there are some rules and regulations that have to be followed.”

Everyone understood what Swami was saying. He didn’t want people to mix issues of admission in the University and relationship with Him. But the mother persisted,
“What about his future Swami? What will happen to him?”
That was when Swami made a statement that all of us ought to enshrine in our hearts.
“See, he has acted in several dramas. He has donned the roles of Ravana and Yama and given me great joy. When someone gives me even the minutest of joys (showing the tip of His fingernail), can his life be anything other than good and prosperous?”

In that question, Swami had given a beautiful assurance and a powerful message. All that one has to do is please God. Then, goodness and success are bound to come. (It is interesting to note that Vishwanath Sarma went on to complete MBA and was the first among his siblings to get a job. After working successfully in several MNCs, he is currently working as a senior manager in Capgemini,  a global leader in consulting, technology and outsourcing services.)

{This is the final part of a 4-part story. Enjoy it to the fullest after reading the first three parts.

The parents were overjoyed. That was when Swami asked pointing to Raghu,
Veedi katha emi? (What about this fellow?)”
The mother spontaneously replied,
"We do not think about him anymore as we have given him away to You. He is Yours as he has been so far."
It is a practice in many families in India where one child is offered to God. This usually is the child with the maximum spiritual aptitude. As the mother stated this, a broad smile came on Swami’s face. He seemed very thrilled to accept Raghu as his own. For Raghu, things seemed moving too fast. He had not anticipated any of these things happening. At every stage of his life he had made great efforts to choose God. Finally, it felt like God had embraced and accepted him completely.  
“What will you do?” Swami asked Raghu.

Raghu remembered the many interactions he had throughout the two years when he was doing MSc when Swami had asked him the exact same question. The first time He had asked, Swami had Himself ‘suggested’ the answer - “Do PhD”. Since then, that had been Raghu’s answer whenever Swami asked that question. So, in his parents’ presence, towards the end of the 45-minute interview, Raghu said,
“Swami, I will do PhD.”
“Good. We shall take up this matter when I return to Puttaparthi.”

The wait for a PhD enrollment

After the Summer Course, Swami returned to Puttaparthi. Raghu religiously followed him. His education was now complete and he awaited further instructions. Swami seemed very pleased about Raghu. He would make it a point to mention to many devotees,
“See that boy! He is mine. His parents said so. They have offered him to me.”
Raghu was also very happy seeing his Swami so happy. Soon, Swami told Raghu to go ahead with his PhD. Raghu approached the registrar, Chakravarthi sir, with his application.
“Go speak with the HOD (head of department) and discuss what you would work on”, Chakravarthi sir advised.

Raghu sincerely did as he was told. He also chose ‘Cybernetics’ as a subject for his future study and doctorate. But after all this was done, he continued to wait for the formal letter of selection from the University. That never arrived even after weeks passed. Raghu was enjoying the daily darshans and regular interactions with Swami. He was staying at his uncle’s home in Puttaparthi. (His uncle, Prof.G.V.Prabhakar Rao was a faculty member in SSSIHL.)

Months had elapsed now and Raghu was slowly losing patience. He began to wonder when he would actually get enrolled into the PhD programme. It was at this critical juncture that he had an important dream.

Raghu is able to see Swami in a far away land giving darshan to thousands who had gathered. He is several mountains away from that place. He jumps with all his might and, to his amazement, crosses a mountain in a single leap. Then, he clears the second mountain in another leap. A few leaps later, he is near the darshan area. However, he is disappointed to see that the whole area has been fenced and the gate is locked. There is a muscular moustached guard at the gate. There is no way Raghu can get in.

He feels frustrated to have travelled from so far over such obstacles to get stopped at the last point. Much to Raghu’s relief however, Swami tells the guard to open the lock and let Raghu in. With glee, Raghu rushes to Swami. Swami then put on a serious face and tells him to sit and wait. Raghu immediately obeys thinking,
“Doesn’t matter if I have to wait. What matters is that I am in now! I am inside the fence.”

Waking up from the dream, Raghu repeated the last statement,
“Doesn’t matter if I have to wait. What matters is I am in now... I am inside the fence.”
That gave him the patience and strength to hold on.

Raghu was 'inside the fence' and that was an empowering thought for him. (Here, Raghu is seated to the extreme right
of Swami as part of the Veda-chanting group.)
Temporary respite

Raghu was no longer a student. Officially, he was neither a teacher nor a research scholar. He was a ‘waiting-boy’. But he would go regularly to the Institute and consult with the lecturers in the Mathematics department as advised by Swami. In appreciation of his enthusiasm and out of respect for Swami’s words, Raghu was also allowed to teach certain portions of the syllabus in certain classes. He was also given a ‘temporary’ identity card so that he could go along with the students and teachers to Trayee sessions and Poornachandra sessions. But, on paper, officially, he was a nobody. He name was not on any payroll or attendance register. This went on for almost two years.

In the meantime, Raghu had a couple more dreams that gave him the strength to hold on. Life took on a predictable pattern with daily darshans and bhajans. Every now and then, Swami continued to ask Raghu what he would do and every time his reply was the same - PhD. Raghu was happy with everything and was hoping that he would soon get enrolled for the doctorate. That was when Swami decided to raise the heat.

Plucking out the props

After two years of waiting, Raghu decided to try another route to the PhD. He went to the new registrar, Dr.Lakshmi Narasimham and pleaded,
“Sir, please push my case. Kindly see if there is any opening for me to join the Institute.”
The registrar promised to try his best and consoled Raghu. Raghu returned home hoping for the best. However, nothing changed.

Several weeks passed. One morning, his aunt shared with him a dream she had. In the dream, Swami had pointed out to Raghu and said,
Dongatanam Chestunnadu. (He is cheating/committing robbery.)
Instantly Raghu realized his mistake. He should not have gone crying to the registrar because his dealing should have been with Swami ALONE. When it comes to Swami, one has to have a direct connect ONLY because God is the closest friend for anyone. If one tries to bring an intermediary, it is akin to cheating or committing a robbery!

But then, why didn’t Swami tell this to him directly? Why did he have to use his aunt as an intermediary? As days passed, Raghu realized that Swami had paid him back in his own coin. Since he chose to go to Swami ‘indirectly’ Swami seemed to sever His connection with Raghu! That is the worst punishment one can get. Once Raghu realized this, Swami came and interacted directly with him. And what a thunderous interaction it turned out to be!

That day, in the portico, Swami came towards Raghu, almost charging. He seemed angry.
“See, you are living such an indulgent life. You eat like a pig. See your stomach! How bloated it is.”
Years of waiting without doing any work had indeed made Raghu put on weight. The ‘waiting-boy’ was meant to be a sincere sadhak (spiritual aspirant) sacrificing everything to achieve the ultimate. When Raghu forgot this, Swami decided to remind him of it.
“Why have you to stay in your aunt’s house? You are shameless - living like a parasite. Don’t you understand what you are doing?”
Swami was so upset and Raghu was deeply saddened and hurt. He began to cry. But Swami didn’t relent.
“You have become worse than an animal. Simply eating and sleeping... Why can’t you stay in the old hostel I have provided instead?”
Then, Swami walked away.

That day, Raghu left his aunt’s home. He packed his bags and went straight to the hostel to the room of his teacher, Dr.Nageshwar Rao. But his trial by fire was not complete yet.

Within a week, he was summoned by the vice chancellor, Dr. Hanumanthappa.
“How are you staying in the hostel?”
“Sir, Swami told me to stay there...”
“Is it? As far as I know, only students are teachers stay in the hostel. What are you? Is your name in any attendance register?”
“No Sir. But I teach a few classes...”
The vice chancellor seemed to get wild.
“Then let me know who allowed you to do so. I will kick him also out. By today evening, you shouldn’t be in the hostel...”

A wedding without the divorce option

Raghu was now out on the road with his baggage. He did not know what to do. He decided to return home to Pamidi and pursue some career. He had been foolish in thinking that he would be with Swami. He wrote a letter to Swami informing Him of the decision. He went in the afternoon and offered it at Swami’s residence - a privilege that had been afforded to the staff and students in case of emergencies. Little did he realize that Swami would not give up someone who had relentlessly chosen Him and who had been offered to Him by his parents.

As he sat in the darshan lines, Raghu was complaining inwardly.
“Swami, you only did all this. You only must have instructed the vice chancellor to treat me so harshly.”
Soon, darshan began. Swami completed the rounds and came near Raghu. When Raghu was face to face with his Swami, no words emanated from his lips. He simply placed his head down on His feet. When he rose, Swami told him,
Ay! Nenu Emi Cheyaledhu. (Ay! I did not do anything.) I did not say anything. Don’t blame me.”
Raghu sat stupefied as Swami continued.
“I told you to stay in the old hostel (which is just across the darshan hall). You went to the hostel. Do you need any permission to stay near me?”

When Swami moved on, Raghu realized how stupid he had been. He had clearly heard Swami and yet misunderstood Him. He had also wrongly blamed Him. But Swami had not left him! He understood now that the Divine Wedding does not have a divorce ever!

That evening, after the session in the mandir, Raghu settled in the old hostel with his baggage. Once again, life continued in its flow with the darshans and bhajans. Bodily and mentally Raghu was the same but spiritually he was a totally different person after the experiences of the past two years. As he puts it,
“The snake of ego had been hammered brutally and it was dead by now...”

God’s doctorate degree

PhD in the SSSIHL is the doctorate awarded by the University. It is different from Swami’s doctorate! Today Raghu realizes that he was being evaluated for Swami’s doctorate degree. Once that is cleared, the University PhD is no big deal.
Swami had called some of the waiting boys inside for an interview and Raghu was among them. As always, Swami asked Raghu,
“What will you do?”
The snake was dead. In all humility, Raghu replied,
“Swami, whatever you say, I will do...”
Swami’s eyes lit up. He seemed so happy. He said,
“No no. You do PhD. Start teaching also.”
“As you say Swami...” Raghu replied again in all humility.

Swami immediately sent word to the registrar and told him that Raghu must be on the rolls from July 1st. The registrar nodded. Raghu neither celebrated nor got excited. He had reached a level of acceptance with equanimity.

An interesting development ensued. This was a period when the vice chancellor of the University was being chiselled by the Divine Master. As part of that treatment, Swami refused to communicate with the vice chancellor. The vice chancellor thought that he had checkmated Swami when he told the registrar,
“Swami has not told me anything. I cannot issue a letter for Raghunath Sarma till I am told by the chancellor...”

The registrar was helpless. July 1 dawned and Raghu was still not on the rolls. Swami called and reminded the registrar. July 2. Then July 3. Raghu was still not appointed. On the 4th of July, Swami called the registrar and told him prophetically,
“The Pandavas were victorious because they implicitly obeyed Lord Krishna. Once the command is given it must be obeyed at all costs. Else, ruin alone can follow...”
The registrar easily understood what Swami was saying. He was a changed personality now. Instead of a mewing cat, the vice chancellor now faced a roaring lion.
“Sir, with all due respect let me request you to issue the letter of confirmation to Raghunath Sarma right away. Heed to my words else you will repent not having done so all your life.”

You can never checkmate the one who decides the rules of the game!

Gradually, Raghu had moved closer to Swami. From nearness, he achieved dearness. (From being to the right extreme in
the previous photograph, Raghu can be seen here immediately to Swami's right - holding on to Him firmly.
That is symbolic too from the point of view of his life experience.)
The next day, Raghu was in his daily meditation in the bhajan hall. (He would meditate for a couple of hours everyday.) He was jolted by a person patting him on his back. It was Sri Sivakumar, a member of the administrative staff of the University.
“Raghu, what are you meditating here when the house is on fire. Take this letter and go sit right in front of the interview room door.”

That was precisely what Raghu did. He kept the letter that confirmed him as a research scholar and teacher of the SSSIHL from the July of 1995 on his lap. Within minutes, Swami opened the interview room door and His gaze fell directly on the letter.
“Ah! They gave you the letter?”
“Yes Swami...”
Swami was so happy. He blessed Raghu and granted him padanamaskar.

Many more incidents and experience dotted Raghu’s life before he became Dr. Raghunath Sarma. But it is never possible to adequately capture all the divine experiences in any devotee’s life.

One final episode

It might appear strange for the reader that Swami seemed obsessed with the date - July 1. Like everything that Swami speaks or does, this too has a special reason. This reason was revealed by Raghu’s father. He had written a letter to Swami a few months before stating that he would be retiring at the end of June. He was worried that his son Raghu had not yet got any job in spite of waiting for three years. A parent’s prayer for the child is possibly the most selfless one in the world and selflessness instantly attracts the Lord. It seemed as if Swami had decided then and there that by the time the father retired, Raghu would have a job.

And that is exactly what He ensured. The Divine timing is always perfect.


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  1. thank you brother. sairam :)

  2. Sairam brother, the snake of ego is dead...the darkness of ignorance is Vanished and a ray of light fills the heart. Personally I feel The inner essence of this beautiful narration is the best message swami gave me for this deepavali.. Thanks for lighting my heart.. Sairam

    1. When I started writing, I had no idea that it would be 4-parts and that it would conclude on Diwali... Thank you for highlighting that and thrilling me too...

  3. No words brother... just in tears... a big thank you for giving the best Diwali gift ever... My Diwali wishes to you, your family and to all my brothers and sisters out there in the universe... Let us resolve to be an able instrument in his divine hands... love you brother Aravind...

    1. Aw! Happy Diwali and lots of love to you too brother... That's a wonderful resolve to make...

  4. Penned whole experience very well....thank you for the time, efforts spent to write and share this article with all..
    Happy Diwali in advance Sairam!!

  5. Lovely!
    Happy and prosperous Diwali !

    Would be following Radio Sai on FB to check out Diwali pics!

  6. Tears rolled down, PhD in Sathya Sai Institute is PhD from GOD, As Swami beautifully used to say when we ask him as"Patient Humble Devotee". I see that in my friend Raghu's life. Nice to see myself holding Swami's other hand in the Vedam photo. Wonderful writing brother Aravind, Sairam

    1. Ah! Nice that you are also in the picture. Glad that you enjoyed...

  7. Thank you so much dear for giving us the experience of reading this. Swamy is everything to those who have been chosen by him

  8. What I give in life may not always be tasty to your liking... But I know this much that whatever I give you is definitely nutritious for your soul. Soul progress is the sole progress...

    How do you get such words? And the most appropriate photo to go with it!!! Magical.

    1. Now that you point it out, I also wonder... The answer is clear - Swami inspires from within and allows me to take credit! ;)

  9. Sairam Aravind....another episode to prove that SWAMI does everything in HIS time that is right time, but we aspire for things in our time frame...a mistake we often make... need to learn complete sharanagati......Thanks a lot for all your articles. Best wishes and love for Naraka Chaturdasi and Deepavali to you, your family and everyone else at all places.

  10. Dear Brother Aravind, SaiRam. We are all smitten by Swami's Love and you touch our hearts so deeply too with every word and article you post. What a privilege for us to know of Swami's Gems like Raghunath Sir. THANK YOU for this wonderful "Deepavali Gift" like the others above have mentioned. Wishing You A Happy Deepavali!

    1. Thank you for the wishes... Wish you a Happy Deepavali too

  11. "he was being evaluated for Swami’s doctorate degree. Once that is cleared, the University PhD is no big deal". NO WORDS TO SAY, ONLY TEARS OF GRATITUDE, WONDERFUL WRITING. JAI SAIRAM

  12. SaiRam. How blessed were you all as students! Like the CHOSEN MOTHER, students were his CHOSEN RUSHIS! As a member waiting for HIS darshan, often I would envy the students at Parthi and Brundavan and would wonder could I also be one among you all!

  13. Sairam Aravind,
    As usual you did the magical way of writing and make us to enjoy in an ecstasy. The way you narrating the life experiences of Sai Students is simply amazing and make us to travel back along with the story and the period at which these incidents happened. We wish you to continue the stream of these stories ever by the grace of our Swami who had chosen you as true devotee among millions.

  14. Thank you for your inspiring article.

  15. Sairam Brother, Thank you for the wonderful article.

  16. Dearest Brother Aravind,

    Thank you so much! Absolutely soul stirring. Sairam!

  17. Felt like reading Srimadbhagavatham.The stories of the Lord and His devotees are always inspiring.Many thanks for such a nice narration. Sairam


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