Friday, 21 October 2016

Choose God Choose Light - Dr.Raghunath Sarma's life experiences_Part 2

Sri Sathya Sai in Pamidi

It was in the September of 1944 that Swami first visited Pamidi in the Gooty taluk. In those days, Pamidi was a little town on the northern bank of the Penna river. It was known as a commercial centre but was very much grounded in the Bharatiya culture and heritage. Swami actually visited the little towns of Illuru and Kallur which lie very close to Pamidi. At Illuru, He stayed at the home of the Karanam (government accounts officer in the British Raj), Adi Narayana Rao who was related to the Karanam at Puttaparthi. So many amazing things happened during this visit and it is beyond the scope of this story to capture all of them. We will be sticking to the story to which Swami had referred to while speaking with Raghu - the Divine visit to his home!

Swami was granting interviews to many people in Pamidi at the home of a merchant, Ramathulasi. While speaking to Raghu in 1987, Swami had asked him,
“Do you know Ramathulasi?”
The connect came because it was at this home that Raghu’s paternal grandfather, Rachakonda Venkataramiah, a renowned scholar, had darshan. He observed that the people who had gathered at Ramathulasi’s house were asking Swami for ‘petty worldly things’. He chastised them saying that they should ask only for spiritual wisdom. Even as he was speaking to them, word came that Swami was asking for a certain Venkataramiah!

This is how Swami looked when He visited Pamidi. This is a picture taken at Anantapur,
at the residence of Sri Chidambaraiah (reference in story).

Venkataramiah was surprised. But then, his name was always taken in respect in that region. In fact, out of respect for the knowledge he embodied and the orthodox rituals he observed, while passing in front of his house, people would stop, take out their slippers and walk barefoot carrying the slippers in their hands. It was possible that Swami had heard about him.
“Please repeat what you were speaking outside respected Venkataramaniah”, Swami asked.
“Swami, I would prefer a spiritual discourse to any material gift or interview. That is what I expressed.”
“I shall come to your home for lunch and fulfill your wish,” Swami promised.
That was what had led to the Divine visit to his ancestral home. Raghu’s father had been barely 10 years of age when Swami came home and discoursed on the early life of Shirdi Baba. No wonder that Swami told Raghu that his mother was not there when He visited the house.

{Came here directly without reading Part 1? Maybe it would be a good idea to read that first before reading this.

PART 1: Choose God Choose Life - Dr.Raghunath Sarma's life experiences_Part 1 }

Baba then took devotees to the Penna riverbed and materialized several idols from the sands there. The devotees were excited when he pulled out hot jalebis from the sand and distributed them as prasadam. When they examined the jalebis to ensure that there was no sand sticking, Swami seemed to exasperatedly ask,
“When I can elicit fresh jalebis from the sand, you think I wouldn’t have ensured that there are no sand particles sticking to them?”
He also pointed to a region of the river and said that a bridge connecting Pamidi to Kallur would come up there. People did not believe him because there was already a bridge existing across the river. Why would anyone want a second bridge for the same purpose?
“I am telling you honestly. I won’t lie. My words will always come true”, Swami cajoled and tried to convince them before returning from the sands.

The bridge actually came up in the 1980s as Swami had predicted. This bridge is now the highway connecting Pamidi which Swami had seen four decades earlier!

(The wonderful experiences of the members of the family of Chadambariah, a famous lawyer at Anantapur, have been recorded in the book ‘50 years at the Lotus Feet’ published by Sree Prasanthi Publication Trust, Hyderabad. It includes the incidents at Pamidi, Illuru and Kallur.  Raghunath Sarma’s paternal aunt has been married to Chidambaraiah’s son. Thus Venkataramiah and Chidambaraiah are parents-in-law.)

Brindavan days - Trayee days

The students’ hostel in Prasanthi Nilayam was crowded because all the first year undergraduate students who were supposed to go to Brindavan had stayed back on Swami’s command. During the vacations, Raghu and his classmates received a notice that they would have to report at the Brindavan campus of the Institute for the second semester. Raghu readied himself for life in Brindavan.

Sai’s Brindavan, like Krishna’s Vrindavan, is a place where pining and yearning for the Lord intensifies due to His physical absence. That was exactly what happened to all the first years who were used to daily darshan during the first semester at Puttaparthi. They waited for the day when they could get to see and interact with their Swami. One fine morning, the 6th of October 1987, Mr. Rajkumar Jain, lecturer in physics at Brindavan, walked into the dining hall during breakfast time and announced,
“Boys, Swami is coming to Brindavan!”
There was an instantaneous mad rush and all the boys stopped eating and rushed out. The morsels of food that had managed to get into the stomachs of the boys must have rejoiced for they would be going to the Lord. Those morsels left in the plate must have surely shed tears! Ah! The thoughts of Brindavan itself brings forth such rich emotions. That is the magic of Brindavan.

Swami stayed for almost 20 days at Brindavan, making a 3 day visit to Ooty in between. Those days were the most memorable ones for Raghu and the most important contributing factor for that was the Trayee sessions. One particular episode is etched in Raghu’s heart and it concerns the heart.

When Bhagawan was at Brindavan, the boys enjoyed what the Gopalas of Mathura Vrindavan enjoyed with Krishna.
(Raghu is seen seated with folded hands in the first row to Swami's left.)
During a Trayee session, Swami called out to one of the students. Turning to the warden, He said,
“See, this boy looks so weak and sickly. You are not aware but he has a heart problem.”
This was indeed a revelation for the boy himself. Swami continued in a stentorian voice,
“You must do a thorough medical check before enrolling the students. Else, they will find it hard to adjust to hostel life when they have special needs. Now, shift this boy from the 2nd floor to a room in the ground floor.”
The warden nodded in all seriousness. (In fact, from that year on, a medical check-up became mandatory for all new students.)

Swami now turned to the student in all compassion. There was fear writ on his face. Swami circled his palm and materialized a beautiful, transparent lingam. He pointed to the interior of the lingam. There was a heart embedded in it! The heart was connected by blue and red curvy lines.
“This is your heart and this is how it is supplied with blood”, Swami said.
Then, He pointed to a few black specks near the heart.
“These are the blocks. Don’t worry. Do abhishekam to the lingam everyday and drink that water. You will see that these black specks will gradually vanish and, with that, your heart problems will also vanish.”

The student received the lingam reverentially. He was overwhelmed. So was Raghu who was seated in the front. He was witnessed the gushing of compassion from the Divine heart to the human heart.
Abhishekam is also not a complex ritual”, Swami continued, “just pour water gently on the lingam chanting ‘Sai Ram Sai Ram’. That is sufficient.”
The student nodded, tears in his eyes. Swami continued with the session as if nothing had happened.

Befriending and celebrating English

Raghu had his own ‘heart-throbbing’ moment in another Trayee session. Swami called him and told him to address in English all the teachers and students who had assembled! Raghu’s mind became numb. How was he to think now? And how was he to transmit those thoughts in a language that had been his nemesis so far?

He stood up, prayed to Swami and began. He remembered a story that his mother had told him about a king who wanted to know what the greatest sin on earth was.
“The greatest sin on earth is forgetting God”, Raghu said in Trayee Brindavan. Swami gave a broad smile as he heard this statement and that was powerful encouragement for Raghu. He now began to speak from his heart, undeterred by the grammar or rules of English. He spoke on how grace of God may not be evident all the time but it manifests at the correct time and sets everything fine.
“It is like in a titration experiment. You keep adding a little chemical hoping to bring about a colour change in the solution. Hundreds of drops later, the solution seems unchanged. But at the correct concentration, even one drop is enough to change the colour of the entire solution. In the same way, at the correct ‘concentration’ even a drop of grace from God is enough to change our entire life.”

Swami seemed so happy with this analogy and the students seemed bowled over by Raghu’s creativity. As Raghu took namaskar, he felt that with Swami by his side, he could do anything - even speak in English! Once he had chosen God, he had chosen light and no darkness would ever cloud his confidence again.

As if to reinforce this realization, Raghu did what he had never thought would be possible for him. That came about in an interesting manner.

From Ratnakara to Valmiki - hunter to saint

Raghu’s next big opportunity happened in an unusual manner. Prof. K.L.N.Swamy, the English teacher at Brindavan campus scripted a Telugu play depicting the transformation of the highway robber Ratnakara into Valmiki. Dr.Devsen from the Mathematics department was directing it. Auditions were on for the different roles in the drama. Raghu hoped to get an opportunity to play some little role in the same. The preliminary selections were done and, since Raghu was a junior, he was allotted an insignificant role. Thus, he would find himself sitting simply for long hours during the practice sessions.

Raghu was the perfect fit in every sense for the role of Ratnakara's transformation
into Valmiki.
One day, one of the hopefuls to play the role of Ratnakara was practicing in a room that Raghu happened to be in. Walking up to him, Raghu said,
“Brother, there should be more evil in your laughter... Then only it suits the role of Ratnakara... See, something like this...”
Raghu let out a bellowing guffaw that seemed to resound in the whole room. He pranced up and down the room, as if on lookout for a victim.
“That should be the way it is done...”

“Sairam brother, who was the one laughing here?” It was a senior at the door. “Sir wants that boy to come to the main practice area right now.”
Raghu followed him and reached the practice area. Prof. Swamy handed him a script in Telugu and told him to read it out. To Raghu’s pleasant surprise, they were the lines of Ratnakara, the protagonist! The way he read it out coupled with his evil laughter convinced the teacher about his abilities.
“Will you be able to deliver in the same way without looking at the paper?” he asked
“Sir, give me one day and I will do it”, Raghu answered.

A junior being shortlisted for the protagonist’s role was a big deal and Raghu spent hours memorising each and every word on the page. The next day, he infused life into those words with his acting. Before he could himself realize it, he had been selected as the hero of the drama! Weeks later, the drama was performed and it moved the audience so much that it was decided to stage it in Swami’s presence during the Sports Meet!

It was a magical opportunity for Raghu and it added to his ‘form’. The drama was so well-received in Prasanthi Nilayam that Swami began to call Raghu as ‘hunter’. His performance had earned him a new epithet from his Swami! That, for him, was the greatest recognition. He also felt that his role in the drama had been symbolic for him. In the process of practicing and preparing for it, his self-confidence had also evolved the way Ratnakara (the crude hunter) had into Valmiki (the poet). It was another step into the light because, as Swami says, self-confidence is the foundation for the mansion of self-realization.

Ratnakara the hunter found light and enlightenment with the repetition of the holy name of Rama. 
When Swami gets upset...

Among the different ‘kinds’ of experiences that a Sai-student goes through, the ‘upset Swami’ phase is a compulsory one. As the name suggests, in this phase, Swami seems to be upset with the students in general and seems to completely avoid them. It is considered worse than receiving scoldings from Swami because some interaction (even an apparently ‘negative’ one) is better than no interaction! Raghu got the hint of this phase coming for the Brindavan students during the Ratnakara drama itself.

When Swami arrived at Brindavan after the sports and cultural meet at Puttaparthi, He refused to talk to the students. The interactions during darshan dried up and the Trayee sessions became non-existent. The teachers became collateral damage and Swami stopped interacting with them too.

Raghu realized that these were opportunities that Swami gave each student to introspect and evolve. When Swami cut-off like this, He became the sole focus of all the students. Academics, games and schedules did not mean anything to them. Room-wise bhajans and other sadhana began on a daily basis. Many students even lost interest in eating and sleeping and chose to spend that time in thinking about Swami and introspecting.

Raghu fondly recollects,
“Swami had told us many times that His heart is like butter. If there is some warmth of devotion it melts. But if there is no warmth, how much ever you act or do mental gymnastics, He won’t yield. If He doesn’t yield, it only means that we have to introspect deeper and strive harder.”

As days passed, the intensity of the students’ sadhana grew. Such was the intensity that they began to feel the proximity of Swami in their Hrudaya Brindavan, in their own hearts, though they were being ignored by the Swami residing the Trayee Brindavan! Once that connect is made, can Swami keep Himself away? It was only a matter of time before Swami’s heart would melt and He would rush to shower His grace on His children.

When we develop dearness to Swami, nearness is bound to happen sometime or the other. And when there is dearness, even if nearness does not happen, it does not matter! That is probably the message Swami attempts to teach us through these phases. (And these ‘upset-Swami’ phases are experienced by devotees even today, in the physical absence of Bhagawan. The only remedy is to grow in intensity of our sadhana to cultivate dearness.)

As the second year of Raghu’s undergraduation came to a close, he came to know that the BSc course in the University had now become an Honours course. As a result of this, he would have extra papers in Mathematics. More importantly, he would no longer have English as a subject. Most importantly, since the computer lab was at Puttaparthi alone, he would have to change campus once again.

“You are lucky man! Swami is upset with Brindavan boys and you get a chance to become a Parthi boy!” his friends told him.

He smiled within himself. He was happy to be near Swami again but he would never forget the lessons in self-confidence, yearning and sadhana that Brindavan had given him. He readied himself for the divine adventure that awaited him in Puttaparthi. Little did he know the many things (beautiful and testing) in store for him there.

For that, we will have to wait for the next part which will be posted on Tuesday, the 25th October 2016.

Choose Heart over Head; God over world - Dr.Raghunath Sarma's life experiences_Part 3

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  1. Sairam Aravind, Very nice, very inspiring and touching story. Your narratives bringing out the stories and life experiences of students, alumni and devotees have really been a spiritual tonic and faith-reinforcing agent. Please continue this great service and bring us more such sparks of Swami's Love, Grace and Mahima.

    1. Thank you Sethu... It is my privilege and pleasure as well. Keep me in your prayers. :)


  2. Dear Aravind, these experiences you pen here are amazing! I know its asking for too much but please publish the complete story rather than in parts, as after reading such a soul stirring story its almost impossible for me to wait for the next part to be published :). While reading the experiences of the students who enjoyed such close proximity with the Lord it feels blissful when one replays, imagines and introspects about these. I also feel how unfortunate are those who never realized the value of Swami and now can no longer enjoy the beauty of his magnificent physical form even though they want to. Thank you for bringing out such beautiful gems from your infinite reservoir of experiences being a Swami's student. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

    1. Sairam Jango,

      I can understand that eagerness to read. Trust me, it is not as if I publish in parts. I write it in parts as well. It takes time and lot of effort. If I were to follow your advice, it may result in just 1 story a month in some cases(4-parters). Majority of readers wish to have a weekly dose of something new. That's why this is the method chosen.

      You could actually go to the archives of this blog and read up many of the fully completed stories - from 2013, 2014 or 2015. :) And , like some of the readers do, wait for the publishing of all the parts before starting to read the 1st part.

      Thank you for your kind words.

  3. Sairam,

    Firstly, Kudos to you for posting on your promised date.
    You know, I have experienced people promising dates and time but never keeping up to it and making excuses. And sadly, even I'm one of them so its actually enriching to see how you kept your promise. Given me something to change!

    Lovely description as always. I'm too speechless to even write anything.
    Thank you once again for sharing these DIVINE experiences through your books and blogs.



    1. Sairam Pooja,

      Glad that you enjoyed reading it and were benefitted by it. Actually, I also have only a 60-70% success rate in keeping up promises... So your message is also a gentle reminder for me. :)

      Thank you...

  4. Very very very.... sweet, too good as usual u keep us waiting to get next morsel of the dish

    1. Hahahaha.... It's like this you know - I see my parents and wife cooking... It takes them about 2-3 hours to do it. Then I arrive and consume it all in about 15-20 mins. :)

      Am getting a taste of that here... Not that I mind it... It's a a pleasure to satiate 'hunger' and am in the 'kitchen' now for the next dish...

  5. Thank you Arvind!
    Beautifully written as always! - a clear visual depiction that transports us to live the events!
    Sai Ram and Sai blessings Uma

  6. Sai Ram Aravind, thank you very very much for sharing all these amazing stories. There are no words to express my gratitude. Swami bless you!

  7. Sairam! The experiences by itself are so touching and you pen them down so beautifully. Thank you so much.
    Like someone here mentioned it sure keeps us connected to Swami and is a means of spiritual upliftment!
    Sairam n thanks


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