Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Yearning to Learn; Learning to Yearn

An evergreen song - Ek Radha Ek Meera

There is a popular Hindi song comparing the love of two devotees of Lord Krishna, Radha and Meerabai. These two are possibly among Krishna’s greatest devotees. The first few lines go like this:

Ek Radha Ek Meera, Donon Ne Shyaam Ko Chaahaa
Antar Kya Donon Ki Chaah Mein Bolo
Ek Prem Diwaani Ek Darash Diwani

{Radha and Meera, both desired for Krishna.
Tell me what is the difference in their desire?
While one longed for His (physical) love, the other sought to see Him (darshan). }

What makes the song interesting is that Radha was a contemporary of Krishna while Meera lived in an era thousands of years after Krishna’s physical passing. In fact, everything about their lives is different - totally. And yet, what is common is that both achieved their ultimate goal of union with their beloved. That should be an inspiration for us because it shows no matter how different we are in the way we love God, we all are equally capable of achieving Him. What matters is how we yearn for Him ALONE. There are many instances of yearning for God being more important than experiences with God and this post will be an extension of those thoughts.

Hear the beautiful song in the golden voice of Lata Mangeshkar.

Personally, the song brings solace to my heart that pines for and misses the physical form of my Sathya Sai Krishna, my Swami. It encourages me to keep the flame of yearning going with the oil of devotion till the wick of my body burns away. It soothes me with the assurance that though all do not get the opportunity to be a ‘Radha’, everyone can grab the opportunity to be a ‘Meera’.

Every now and then, it is not uncommon for me to feel a spiritual void, a disconnect with my Swami within. At such times, I try to focus on Swami in everything I do. Like a faithful dog, I stand barking at the door of my Master, refusing to lick the juicy tidbits He throws me because I know that when all else fails, He will surely come out of the door and pat me. It is one such experience post the ‘Mahasamadhi’ of Baba that I would like to share.

The void

It had been several weeks since Swami had come in my dreams. It had been nearly a month since vibhuti manifested in the altar at home. Of course, my work at Radiosai involved seeing videos of Him, hearing His discourses and thinking about Him. And yet, I was feeling a void. I realized that while with yearning and personal sadhana, work becomes worship, without them even worship becomes a work! Thus I felt that I need to pine more for Him.

I confided into my wife, Pooja, and told her that I was missing Swami a lot.
“It was so easy when He was here. Why did He have to leave?” I asked her rhetorically.
“Swami knows best”, she replied before encouraging me, “the very fact that you are yearning for Him is a blessing from Him. Be grateful and keep praying.”
“Sane advice indeed but it does not help my crying heart...”
“If you love Swami, instead of just feeling for Him start doing something for Him”, she egged me on.
“I am doing many things right...”
“But you still are not satisfied” she cut me, “then do more for Him. See, I am planning to do a week long Sai Satcharitra reading.”
“Where do you have the time?”, I asked wonderingly because she would have to manage our daughter Bhakti at home apart from the 7 hours she would have to put into the work-from-home job.
“I will make time...”

When one seeks God, one has to make time for Him. If God is not first priority, it is as good as Him being the last priority.

The next morning, as we woke up, Pooja told me,
“You are very lucky you know... I had a beautiful dream of Swami in which He was speaking with you and blessing you all the while.”
She then went on to relate her dream to me. It made me happy but only slightly.
“I am missing Swami and you got darshan. Swami came till you. Couldn’t He have come two more feet and reached me who was sleeping beside you?”
“But He never even spoke to me in the dream. You heard it - it was all only you and Him...”
“Still, second-hand is no substitute for first-hand darshan. He did not answer me. You felt bad and prayed for me. You did the Satcharitra. This is His answer to you. Else, He would have come in my dream...”

The feeling of void continued.

A couple of hours later, there was something special in the altar - vibhuti had materialized from a wooden idol of Lord Hanuman. I was thrilled and called out to Pooja to see it.

A beautiful sight! Vibhuti shower from an exquisitely made idol of Lord Hanuman.
“See, Swami has answered you”, she said immediately.
“Swami has shown His presence but it need not mean that it is for me. I mean, you have done the Satcharitra reading. It could be for you... If only He had sent vibhuti yesterday, I could have concluded that it is for me...”

My parents also came in with folded palms in joy. I was happy of course, but the void was very much there. I still felt that I needed to connect.

When God seems to ignore...

The first stanza of the Radha-Meera song begins with the line,
Radha Ne Madhuban Mein Dhoondha, Meera Ne Mann Mein Paayaa
{Radha searched for Krishna in the gardens of Brindavan while Meera found Him in her heart (mind).}

As I searched for Him in my heart, I was reminded of an incident from His Brindavan in Bangalore which shows why God seems to ignore a devotee.

It was the summer month of March in 1976 and Baba was in the Brindavan ashram at Whitefield. For the students, it was exam time in every sense of the word because Swami had instructed them to confine themselves to the hostel and study seriously. Studying for exams at the cost of morning darshan was a severe test indeed!
“This education has brought you to my Lotus Feet. You should express your gratitude to this education by studying well and getting a good name for your parents.” That had been His advice.

It was very difficult for the boys to confine themselves to studies when Swami was granting darshan every morning. One day, rapture exceeded restraint for a few boys and they made their way to the darshan grounds, hoping to see their Swami once before going back to studies. ‘Unfortunately’ for them, Swami saw them. Apart from telling them to go back to hostel for studies, Swami decided to leave immediately for Prasanthi Nilayam so that the students would not be distracted.

Dr. T Ravikumar narrating this very incident in Swami's presence during the Summer Course in Indian Culture
and Spirituality, 1995, at Brindavan.
Before anybody had time to react, there was a buzz of activity at Swami’s residence. His white Mercedes Benz car was being packed and it became evident that He was leaving. That is when the students realized how hot it would be at Puttaparthi at this time of the year. They would be subjecting their Swami to that heat simply because they disobeyed Him! They rushed to the residence and began to vociferously plead to Him to stay. That was to no avail because in a matter of ten minutes, Swami had simply packed and left!

All the boys went back to their study desks of course, but their hearts were weeping. They were all feeling miserable and they prayed intensely. Their eyes were on their textbooks but could read nothing through the profuse tears that were streaming out. Fifteen minutes went by like two hours. What could they do now other than pray harder and pine more intensely for Swami?

“Swami is coming... SWAMI IS COMING...”.
Somebody was tearing down the corridors with this happy scream.
Within moments, the hostel was deserted and all the students had gathered around the residence. The car door opened and a serious-looking Swami stepped out. Seeing the students, He said angrily,
“...because of the noise you all made, I forgot to even take the keys to Prasanthi Nilayam.”

As Swami headed towards the door of the residence, one of the boys got up and asked,
“Swami, shall we please unload the luggage?”
“No need”, Swami replied, “I will be leaving in the afternoon...”

A moment of absolute silence followed. Then, Swami turned around, a beautiful smile on His face.
“My dear boys! Your yearning for me did not allow me to proceed. When you are suffering the anguish of separation from me, I too am suffering the anguish of separation from you. I have come back to you... I am staying here.”

Every act of Swami is to increase our yearning for Him

Recollecting this incident spontaneously gave birth to five rhyming words which I placed in a kind of couplet form:

There are times when Swami doesn’t seem to lend His ears,
For some, this treatment is administered in spite of tears,
For some others, the message is driven in through fears,
And for yet some others, the process may take years,
But those are times He is making us His dears.

The letter 'A' in vibhuti. 
I continued to hope for the connect with Him. Honestly, I did not expect anything else to happen because so much grace had already been showered in the day. However, just before I left to the indoor stadium to play shuttle badminton, I dropped in by the altar. I saw that a little more vibhuti seemed to have appeared in front of the vibhuti that had appeared earlier in the day.
“Pooja! Pooja...” I called out,”Come here and see if some new vibhuti has come or is it some of the morning’s vibhuti that has got blown in front...”

Pooja came in and let out a gasp.
“Oh my God! Now, do you need further proof? That is conclusive...”
So, some more vibhuti had indeed materialized though it was a small extra amount. Okay. While it was a nice thing I did not understand how it was ‘conclusive’ about anything. That was when Pooja pulled me towards her. I was now viewing the vibhuti from the right instead of from the left where I was originally standing. Instantly, I understood and let out a gasp myself.
“It is the letter ‘A’!!”
“There is nobody else at home whose name begins with A”, Pooja said, “Swami is responding to you in a personalised fashion.”

The messenger disappears once the message is served!
I felt a warm gush in my heart. It was as if Swami was standing right before me. I could not see Him but could feel His overwhelming love all around me. I was like an infant in the womb which is unable to see it’s mother!

The story didn’t end there. My father called up my mother (who does ‘security duty’ at Sai Kulwant hall). He told her to come home and witness something special in the altar. When she came home, she went to the altar and asked aloud,

“What is special? It is as it was before...”

The ‘A’ was gone! Wiped clean without trace. I realized that the appearance of vibhuti is His leela, but the disappearance of vibhuti is also equally His leela!

That instant, I felt the connect coming back.

For all the readers:

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  1. Loved your experience...blessed be you..Sairam

  2. Sairam,
    Was listening to your Dharmakshethra Samarpan talk today morning and was wondering when you will have your next experience so that you write about it and I read it :)

  3. Dear Aravind, Om Sai Ram!

    Thanks for sharing and thanks for your doubts and yearning for God. You are indeed a very marvelous instrument in His hands. I thank you being so open and so natural to us. I’m pretty sure, Swami gives you all the ups and downs, all your experiences mainly for us! Because not many are able to go so deep to search, to find and to explain so good the meaning of Swamis teachings. We are all on the same path, and Swami is giving us the answers also through your personal experiences.
    This is indeed so truth what you so beautiful brought - “With yearning and personal sadhana, work becomes worship, without them even worship becomes a work!”

    Thanks and many regards from Poland! Maria

  4. Very, very beautiful post Aravind Brother. Truly admire the diligence with which you share these beautiful posts - whenever we yearn for Swami - there comes a loving post from you! I love reading about Swami's devotees and I read a lot - my favourite among all is Kasturi Sir - I just love reading his writings - I read 'Loving God' repeatedly and somewhere I find a similarity between Kasturi Sir and your writings - it must be the pure love for the Divine pouring out in such simple words that it straight touches the heart ! Thank you !

    1. Sai Ram Arvind! You are blessed and I feel blessed to read your writings. They bring me much joy! Greetings from U.K, Andrew, Serena and Ian. Sai Ram Uma

  5. You are so blessed brother. Thank you for sharing this experience with us.

  6. Sairam Aravind and many thanks for sharing and reminding that pining for SWAMI at all times is important but intensity of that pining is more important.

  7. Sairam arvindji, u made me v happy by sharing ur experience.tnku.

  8. Om Sri Sai Ram. Wonderful leelas of Swami. Always reminding the need for internal transformation and to have Nishta and Saburi. Love all Serve all.

  9. Blissful experiences....Baba is with us always....pranams

  10. keep the flame of yearning going with the oil of devotion till the wick of my body burns away - Amazing line


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