Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Choose heart over head, God over world - Dr. Raghunath Sarma's life experience - Part 3

Overcoming the dilemma at Puttaparthi

Raghu reported at the Prasanthi Nilayam campus of the University to pursue his final year of BSc(Hons) in Mathematics. He was pleased to be in the physical presence of Swami. Swami continued to refer to him as the ‘hunter’ and spoke to him every now and then. Raghu’s form seemed to continue. However, the demon of doubt was soon coming at his doorstep.

Midway through the year, many students began to discuss matters regarding their future and careers.  It is usually the ‘privilege’ of brighter students in the class that get into such discussions because they feel that it is their right to do so. The academically weaker ones seem ‘content’ in taking up whatever comes their way. Raghu was also among the ‘academically ahead’ because he had been freed from English as a subject and he scored well in all the other Mathematics papers.

From a spiritual perspective, greater aspirations and desires can often be disadvantageous. For, after all, isn’t ‘contentment’ (whatever be the reason for it) a measure of spiritual advancement and ‘desire’, a spiritual lacking?

Raghu found himself in the horns of a dilemma - should he pursue the MSc degree like an ‘academically-average’ student or, like the ‘academically advanced’ student pursue professional degrees in institutions like the IITs? It was a battle between the mind and the heart. His mind told him that he should not restrict the glory he could achieve by choosing to do MSc while his heart told him that he shouldn’t give up the greatest good fortune of his life for the sake of some paltry glory. He was troubled a lot between the two opposite extremes.

{This is the third part of this beautiful life-experience. It would be a good idea to continue reading it after completing the first two parts at the links below.
PART 1:- Choose God Choose Life - Dr.Raghunath Sarma's life experiences_Part 1

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

Raghu applied to about half a dozen professional courses in various institutions. However, every time he got the call-letter, his heart couldn’t bear going away from Swami. So, without thinking much, he would tear up the call letter and not go to write the entrance examination. He reached the shores of MSc in Puttaparthi not by confidently walking across the bridge but by burning the bridge behind him so that he has no other option. During his first darshan in the MSc days, Swami looked at Raghu and said,
Dunnapota... Dunnapota... Dunnapota” (Buffalo... buffalo... buffalo)
The twinkle of mischief with which Swami used this term of endearment convinced Raghu that He knew all the mental agony he had gone through to arrive at the decision to continue MSc in Puttaparthi. Raghu was happy that he had pleased Swami with his choice.

Being wedded to God

It appears as though God is not happy if one ‘burns bridges’ to get to the right shore because it shows the ‘suppression of desires’. God wants the ‘separation of desires’ instead. He does not like someone choosing Him by being in a position of no choice. God should be the conscious choice of a devotee.  And God gives multiple opportunities for the devotee to make that choice.

One day, Swami came to Raghu and asked,
“Who is your Bharta (husband)? Tell me... Enquire and tell me...”
Raghu was taken aback. He had seen Swami cracking jokes with a few students asking them who their wife was. But this was a strange question. He simply kept quiet at first. But Swami did not move on and it was evident that He expected an answer. Raghu began to ponder on it because he knew that Swami does not say anything without a meaning.

Folklore informs us of a particular incident in the life of the saint Meerabai where she wanted to engage in a spiritual discussion with Rupa Goswami.He was a direct disciple of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and one of the foremost saints of Mathura Vrindavan that time. He was also a renunciate celibate and therefore, refused to meet a woman. Meera is said to have retorted,
"Everybody in Vrindavan is a woman. Only Giridhar Gopala is Purusha. Today I have come to know that there is another Purusha besides Krishna in Vrindavan." Rupa Goswami was put to shame. He at once went to see Meera and paid her due respects.

The concept of the Purusha (Male) and Prakriti (Female) in the Samkhya Yoga is different from the worldly male and female. At a physical level, Prakriti is the body and mind while Purusha is the indwelling spirit or Atma. Thus, one who discriminates based on the body-mind complex cannot be a Purusha.

As Bhagawan Baba clarifies in His discourse on the 9th of April 1996 at Kodaikanal,
“God is the only male or Purusha, though not in the worldly sense. The body is the Pura and the Divinity residing inside the human body as Awareness is the Purusha. So man's reality is awareness. Based on that Awareness, all are Purushas.”
However not everyone is able to identify with the Atma. Therefore, Swami also says in the same discourse,
“Every human being has the three feminine attributes, satwic, rajasic and thamasic. Thus, from the worldly, physical point of view, everyone is both masculine and feminine.”

In that sense, all of us usually are Prakriti because we identify with the body-mind complex alone. Therefore, we need to be wedded to a ‘husband’ while the Purusha, God, needs to be wedded to a ‘wife’.

Raghu realized this and he replied confidently,
“Swami, meere (You only)...”
It might have brought a shocked look on the faces of people nearby, but it brought a broad smile on Swami’s face. He seemed happy that His student had learned an important lesson.
“Correct answer. Remember that always...”

When we look at the Telugu meaning of Bhartha, it says “Bharinchevadu Bhartha”. (One who bears, sustains and protects is husband.) who else but the Lord can fit this bill so perfectly?

Swami reinforced this lesson with a statement that He made to Raghu during an interview.
““Yenta punyam ra needi? Oorike vachanani anukunnava? Janma janmala punyamu kadu!  janma janma janma janma janma janmala bandham idi...””
(What good fortune you have! Do you think that you have simply come to me? This is the result of association over many lifetimes...No! Many many many many many lifetimes!)

It was the dream of every student to be in the entourage
that accompanied Swami to Kodaikanal. Seeing the Lord
in the lap of nature was an altogether different experience. 
Kodaikanal blessing

The dinner session had been completed and Raghu was buried in his books, studying for the final year MSc exams. The door of his room opened and Sri Chakravarthi, the registrar of the University, beckoned him. He began to shiver internally. Had he done something wrong? He got and walked out of the door. But then, he saw that Chakravarthi sir was speaking to other students in the room. He thought that maybe the registrar forgot why he called him. So, he slowly sneaked away and exited the hostel. He then sprinted in full speed to the library to continue his studies there.

Ten minutes later, the librarian, Mr. Jogiraju (an alumnus of SSSIHL and a singer par excellence) came to him and said,
“Chakravarthi sir has sent for you. He is waiting at his car outside.”
“Oh my God!” Raghu thought, “what have I done? He is pursuing me till here! It must be something serious.”
He was literally shivering as he walked up to the registrar.
“What happened? I told you to wait and you ran away?”
Raghu kept his lips zipped. Chakravarthi sir continued,
“Swami has decided to take you to Kodaikanal after the exams. Make all necessary preparations and don’t breathe a word of this to anybody else. Good night.”

With that, he got into the car and zoomed away. Raghu stood transfixed on the spot. He could not believe the good fortune that had come his way.
“Hey man! What’s the news? Going to Kodaikanal eh?”
It was a couple of his friends.
“Err no...”, Raghu replied, “nothing like that...”
His friends burst out laughing.
“You take us to be fools? Look at your thopda (colloquial way of referring to the face). It says everything... Congratulations.”

Raghu’s personality and nature were as open and readable as his face. That would be one of the discoveries during the memorable Kodaikanal visit with Bhagawan Baba in the summer of 1992.

Kodaikanal memoirs

Raghu knew that this was his final year as a student with Swami and he wanted to make the best use of whatever opportunities came his way. In that perspective, Kodaikanal was a HUGE opportunity. Raghu ensured that whatever happened, he was always in the front, as close to Swami as possible. It was during one such time, when he was sitting close to Swami, that a humorous episode took place. The episode has become quite popular today and it is nice that we are able to pinpoint the exact time, place and scenario when it happened.

Though the usual procedure in Kodaikanal was for Swami to drive ahead in the car and the boys to follow in the bus, there would be times when Swami would change this protocol. He would alight from the car and get into the bus with the boys. These were moments that the boys yearned for - to literally travel with God as your travelling companion. Raghu was seated near Swami in the bus as Swami told His driver to go ahead in the car as usual.

There was not a single soul in Kodaikanal that didn’t recognise Bhagawan’s car. So, everyone came rushing to the car with their hands folded and heads bent in reverence. Obviously, they were thinking that Swami was in the car. In the meanwhile, Swami in the bus behind was telling the boys,
“See, my car is getting all the prostrations...That is the effect of the company it keeps. If you use a newspaper to wrap fish, it gets the smell of the fish. If it is used to cover jasmine flowers, it gets the fragrance of jasmine. Tell me your company and I shall tell you what you are!”

Some time passed, kilometres were covered and the car continued to receive prostrations. However, once the people saw that Swami wasn’t in the car, they were turning their backs and walking back in disappointment.
Ayyo! Na Namaskaralu Anni Pothunnayi...(Oh! I am losing all my namaskars)!”, Swami exclaimed in consternation. Then, turning to the boys He said,
“The car keeps my company and it receives namaskar. I keep your company and I lose my namaskar!”

Everyone roared with laughter at the sweet joke and the beautiful message.

On rare occasions, Swami gave in to the students' requests that he wear sunglasses. Here, as Swami travels in the bus, Raghu
sits right behind Him, eager not to miss even a single opportunity of interaction.
On another occasion, Swami was again seated with the students in the bus. Unfortunately, they got stuck in a traffic jam and the people got to know that Swami was in the bus. This led to massive crowding and confusion. The situation in the bus was also a bit tense and everyone was trying to see how to extract themselves out of the situation. Swami also seemed tense. Raghu smiled to himself and said,
“Swami... Swami...”
“What?” Swami asked as if He expected Raghu to be having a brilliant idea.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if the bus could grow a pair of wings and fly away now?” Raghu said, smiling at his genius.
Everyone in the bus was shocked at Raghu’s apparent audacity and wrong sense of timing.
“Just keep quiet and sit”, Swami said tersely.

After a few minutes, Raghu again called out,
“Swami... Swami...”
Swami seemed to look at him with horror. What was he going to say now?
“Swami, does the Rajahamsa (the emperor swan which is supposed to have the ability to separate milk from water) really exist?”
Swami seemed exasperated. But he knew the transparency of Raghu’s heart. So, He also sincerely answered that question, leading to a discourse. That was how everyone sanctified their time till the traffic jam cleared.

Appreciation from Swami for frankness

In Kodaikanal, the students spent most of the day with Swami and, naturally, they were on their best behaviour. They would relax only in those few hours when they were not in the physical presence of Swami.

(It is indeed a revelation that it is not easy to live in the Lord’s presence - 24 hours a day. It requires great Sadhana and purity to be able to do so. Those of us who have not experienced it feel that it is the best possible thing to happen to us to live with God all day, all life. It is indeed a blessing but are we ready for that blessing? No TV, no mobile phones, no movies, no social gatherings, no social media... etc)

But even in those hours of relaxation, the boys would actively avoid Raghu. They feared him - he would inadvertently tell Swami anything and everything! However such was Raghu’s innocence (or naivety as some others may call it) that he did not even realize that he was being avoided!

It was a Kodaikanal visit filled with materializations galore. Here, Swami manifests
a necklace. 
One day, Swami opened a letter that had arrived from Puttaparthi. He read it out to the boys. The devotee had expressed gratitude to Swami for everything and had conveyed how lucky the boys (with Swami in Kodaikanal) were because they were getting to witness so many manifestations - the creation of Lord Rama’s ring, Mother Seeta’s necklace - and so on. Swami turned to the boys and asked,
“How did he come to know of all this? I am materializing all these for you behind closed doors. How did the news reach him?”
Everyone was quiet hoping that these were rhetorical questions by Swami. Raghu popped up and said,
“Swami, I see people passing walkmans to some boys here to record whatever you are saying. After recording, they pass it back to them. That is how all these things that you did must have got out.”

Everyone was shell shocked. Swami jumped up.
“Aha! So that is what is happening. Who is doing these things?”
“I don’t know exactly Swami. I shall find out if you wish.”
All the boys swore that they would increase their level of “Raghu-avoidance” to the peak.
Swami then turned to the teacher-in-charge of the students and gave him a sound scolding. The teacher was dumbfounded. He could not believe that Raghu had said all that without even being asked for it. Swami looked at Raghu and said with surprise and admiration,
Veedante naku chala nammakam. Unnadi unnatlu cheptadu...(I trust this boy a lot. He states things as they are!)”

It took Raghu 2 years to understand what a situation he had given rise to with his innocent talk!

There were some moments that Swami wanted the students to
treasure only in their hearts and not take photographs. Dining sessions
were such moments. 
The perfect diner

Swami’s dinner is always frugal. He eats for a few minutes and rises. He continues to stay in the dining hall so that the others can eat to their fill. Thus, it is indeed a privilege to get to see Him eating or, even better, photograph Him eating. However, Swami would get embarrassed if someone kept looking at Him as He ate or someone kept shooting videos or photos during that time. In variably, this would happen sometimes in Kodaikanal.

When Swami saw that one student was more intent on observing Him rather than minding his own plate, He told him to get up and sit elsewhere. Swami then called Raghu and told him to sit bang opposite to Him.
“This boy minds his own business and does not even look up while having food”, He said.
Raghu indeed had legendary love for food. Such was this love that he wouldn’t notice Swami even when He came and stood beside him as he ate! One day, that is precisely what happened.

Swami, in his rounds of the dining hall, came and stood beside Raghu. Raghu was busy lapping up what was in his plate. In order to draw his attention, Swami made a sound and asked,
“Is there anything else that you want?”
Raghu, without raising his head, cooly answered,
“Swami, I want a little more rasam (a kind of soup).”
Once again, everyone in the dining hall was shocked at Raghu’s apparent temerity. But Swami simply said,
“Ay Radhakrishna! This boy wants more rasam. Please get him some”, and moved on.

Today Raghu recollects these episodes with great fondness and nostalgia.
“How loving Swami is! He never looks at our exterior. He is concerned only with what we are within!”

Swami had validated that statement too during a dining session at Kodaikanal. Raghu had got a bit delayed and when he came to the dining hall, he got to know that Swami had served the sweet to the students and he had missed it. He felt very bad. Sensing his feelings, the teacher-in-charge told him,
“If Swami asks, you can go and offer the sweet (Obbattu) to Him.”

Raghu's sights were always on Swami and he did all he could to be as near
to Swami as possible throughout the Kodaikanal visit. 
That was all Raghu needed. He took the sweet and marched right away to Swami’s table. Showing it to Swami, he said,
“Swami, holiga (another name for Obbattu)...”
Swami was surprised at this sudden offer. He said,
Bangaru, I do not eat holiga...
Raghu did not know what to do now. As he was contemplating going back, Swami smiled and said,
Neekosam teesukunta (For your sake, I shall accept)...
Raghu was thrilled and he served Swami with great joy.

That episode taught Raghu another great lesson,
“It is indeed a blessing and joy to be served by the Lord. But it is a greater blessing and joy to serve the Lord!”

The memorable Kodaikanal visit had many more incidents of course. Apart from being full of love and fun, the incidents also taught Raghu a lot. However, some more poignant moments in Raghu’s life were yet to come. And they would come in circumstances that weren’t as happy as the ones in Kodaikanal.

But for that, we will have to wait for the concluding part which is posted at the link below:

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

For all the readers:

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  1. brother... it is really unfair... you have pressed the pause button again... I am completely speechless... beautiful narration... child like devotion of brother Raghu, the love of mother sai... ah... hope tomorrow as 28th Oct :-) Love you brother Aravind.... May swami shower his special blessing on you always and you continue to inspire us...

  2. Thanks a lot dear Aravind. Sharing this valuable blog post on flipboard

  3. Somehow brother Raghu reminds me of my aunt who was very straight forward and innocent. double like these experiences of his !! :)
    i wish there were more incidents from the kodai trip.

    What i really appreciate in Swami are His amazing mannerisms. How truly well behaved Swami is at all times. Even when He does not eat something, He accepts, because it is offered with love. He always Honors love.. That is what makes Him 'the only' Purusha.

    *bows low to the greatest Lover - Sai *

  4. For once I am beginning to understand more of Swamy......how great Swamy is : that what we know of Swamy is just not even the tip of a needle.....whereas Swamy is the entire CREATION......all galaxies in infinity.......Swamy is beyond everything......The great Parabrahman phhysically came to me on 24.05.2008 at Whitefield, and accepting a humble compilation, granted me a few seconds of silent gaze [deeksha].....reading your words, brings to mind the glorious seconds.......how fortunate is Raghu and how much of penance he would have done in earlier births.....there is nothing more precious than Swamy....Jai Sairam.....eagerly awaiting your concluding part....later this month.....

  5. Sairam Aravind, enjoyed reading part 3 episode, was preoccupied and hence did not read part 2 (it is there in my inbox and waiting for me to find time), and now wait for part 4 starts. You are blessed to be SWAMI's instrument to spread his leelas and make us understand inner meanings in those happenings.

  6. Thank you Aravind! These kinds of Swami's stories keep us engaged in Swami and keeps reviving our connection with Swami. Sai Ram.

  7. Brother, i really hate that you are stopping right when we want to read more... I know Swami told all of us "dont stop until you yourself become Saibaba" but that does not mean but you have to inherit this quality of swami :-) Swami does this to perfection, he will stop right at the moment and walk away, you are doing the same thing with you writings. Jus joking :-) Good read !!
    Jai Sairam


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