Thursday, 18 May 2017

Dating and Marriage - insights from a divine drama staged by Sri Sathya Sai Baba

By the love and grace of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, many opportunities have come my way to address the youth from many countries. It is a great privilege to be able to share thoughts, ideas and ideals with this reservoir of great potential - the reservoir that will be sustaining the society and world in the future days to come. My observation has been that though the themes of the different conferences, meets, study circles and satsanghs may vary greatly, the questions and problems that the youth face fall broadly into just 3 themes. These are:
  1. Relationships
  2. Money and career
  3. Practical Spirituality


Here, in this piece, the idea is to deal with ONLY the first theme - relationships (and that too dating and marriage).
When it comes to relationships (in the youth), the focus is invariably on friendships, dating and marriage. The other relations either are not given that much attention or they come into picture only because they too have a role to play in the “friendship, dating and marriage” theme.


"I shall direct My own drama to leave behind a message for posterity", that is what the Divine Thought seems to be
as He gazes into the future with a smile... 


Imagine my joy when, while flipping through the pages of my personal diary, I came across an unexpected episode that happened on the 2nd of March, 2010, in the direct physical presence of Swami, which provides many insights on this very sensitive theme of dating and marriage! I felt a thrill in my heart because I realized this was Swami’s way of helping me and, in turn, all those that have questions and doubts in this regard. So, with deep gratitude and prayers, I shall take this nostalgic ride down memory lane, to the day when Swami amazed the whole of Sai Kulwant hall with His seemingly childlike actions. Though it is very tempting to fast forward and rush to the Divine delight that drenched the devotees, it is only fair that everyone be allowed to participate in the day as it unfolded. And so, we begin from the beginning.




In the beginning, there was nothing...


That is how the history of the universe begins; that is how the Parthi Yatra (Parthi Pilgrimage) began for the devotees from the Indian states of Bihar and Jharkhand began. They had come prepared with multiple cultural programmes to be put up the Divine Presence on the occasion of the festival of Holi. Holi was on March 1st but to the great disappointment of the pilgrims, even as the clock showed 06:30 pm and the bhajans were on in full swing, there was no sign of Swami coming. It was a sort of anti-climax because on the previous 5 days, Swami had granted darshan in the mornings as well as evenings. The day ended without even a single darshan. Holi didn’t turn out to be so holy after all!


The Lord has His reasons and those are beyond the comprehension of us mortals. On the morning of the 2nd of March, Swami told the pilgrims that He would see their programme in the evening. The devotees from Bihar and Jharkhand began preparations in right earnest and with sincere prayers. Many cancelled their return tickets to stay an extra day in Prasanthi. Soon, the backdrop was in place and the children were ready in costumes. As was the practice, Veda chanting began at 4:30 pm and concluded at 5:00 pm. But well, as said earlier, in the beginning there was nothing! Nothing in terms of signs of Swami's arrival.


Then there was the Word! The word was with God; the word was God! It was at 6:30pm that there was word of Swami's arrival. And then He came!


A colourful welcome on the Holi day...


A happy and colourful Holi programme


There was a garland of dances in celebration of the colorful festival of Holi. It began with a traditional dance by little girls seeking Swami's blessings by way of a visit to Bihar! The next one was by the boys and was tuned to the famous song from the Bollywood movie, Chak De India, "Maula Mere Le Le Meri Jaan." The boys sought Swami with all their heart as the lilting melody filled the air. As Swami started keeping rhythm to the song, one could not help but think of the good fortune of the singer and composer. It was a song to the Lord and it had found fulfillment today. The singer and composer were possibly unaware that the Avatar was listening to them! It only goes to show that anything done with the heart ultimately reaches Him - in one way or the other.


The next dance was done by girls dressed in multi-coloured lehangas as they brought of the various hues of feelings on the Holi day. The fourth dance was a piece in Bhangra and the song had been specially composed for the occasion of Holi. The culminating dance depicted the Holi celebrations in Brij, the childhood place of Lord Sri Krishna. It was a beautiful sight to imagine the Lord playing with water and colours with his beloved devotees, the gopikas and the gopalas.


As the dances concluded, a drama titled Sita Kalyanam (the wedding of Sita) was announced. Swami's eyes seemed to light up even at the announcement. This was where He had planned His gift for everyone assembled (and the whole of humanity too).


The drama opened at the hermitage of sage Vishwamitra whose sacrifice had been protected by the brothers Rama and Lakshmana. The invitation to attend the Svayamvara of Sita comes and the brothers head towards Mithila at the command of sage Vishwamitra. There, Lord Rama breaks the great Shivadhanush (bow of Lord Shiva) and then wins Sita's hand in marriage. However, just before Rama broke the bow, Swami turned to the side and told the student there that He wanted to leave! As per His command, He was taken in as the drama went on.


Within the next 5 minutes, the holy wedding of Lord Rama and Mother Sita took place and the drama concluded. A few minutes after that, Swami came out of the interview room and a drama of an entirely different nature began.


The unforgettable Sita Kalyanam


Swami summoned the State President (SP) of the SSSO (Bihar and Jharkhand) and asked whether the ‘wedding was over’. He replied that the drama had been completed. Swami said that He wanted to witness the wedding and so, the SP rushed to re-play the drama CD from the point where the wedding would begin. Even as he left, Swami looked and called me. Then began a series of unforgettable instructions which I got the opportunity to convey, running down and then back up to Swami!

An unforgettable day for me as I got the chance to be one of the 'organizers' of Swami's Sita Kalyanam that day.


The Veda chanting was restarted and was going on in full force. Veda Narayan sir, Praveena sir and the other stalwart student chanters opened up their hearts and throats! Swami wanted Rama and his entourage to be on one side while Sita and her entourage was to be on the other side. It was made clear that the CD should not be played and this drama would be directed by Swami. The father of the bride, the emperor Janaka, was asked to bring in the bride from behind, away from the sight of Rama. Rama stood seeing Swami and nobody else. All the elders (who were not part of the original drama) were asked to assemble on the stage to shower blessings on the couple! Thus, the SP and other elders from the states of Bihar and Jharkhand became participants. I was personally on cloud nine because I knew that I had been chosen as the ‘organiser’ for the Sita Kalyanam!


Now, Swami began to supervise the rituals of the wedding. The bride and groom were seated next to each other as the Vedic chants in Kulwant Hall pronounced blessings of a long and peaceful life on them. All the elders were made to shower Akshatha grains on the couple as their blessings. Then, holding fistfuls of these grains, Rama and Sita poured them on each others head as per the custom. Then, Swami asked for one end of Sita's saree to be tied to one end of Rama's dhoti. That was done and then the couple were asked to move thrice around the bow of Lord Shiva which seemed to take the place of the holy fire! The whole hall watched in spiritual rapture as this grand spectacle was conducted by Swami.


Swami then asked the Vedam group to chant the "Mangalyam" - the holy chants which are sung during the marriages. The Sita Kalyanam is the reminiscence of a sacred event of the distant past which celebrates the day Sri Rama and Sita entered into matrimony. It is considered highly auspicious and one need hardly say that the auspiciousness had been multiplied infinitely once Swami took charge. Swami asked for the thrones to be placed in the center and asked Rama and Sita to be seated. Swami now asked for the bhajans to begin and bhajans celebrating the union of Rama and Sita, of Prakruti and Paramatma, the individual soul and the Supreme soul, were sung. At this point, Swami moved down from the stage and then posed for photographs with Rama and Sita.


Personal learnings and insights


On that day, I was lost in the bliss of being a participant of the glorious event going on. Today, looking back at that episode, so many thoughts are inspired within.

Swami also interacted with the "elders" of the drama first, seemingly setting an example of the reverence one must have.

  1. Seek the parents’ (and elders’) blessings

    I am often asked whether Swami always wanted ‘arranged marriage’ or would He be fine with ‘love marriage’. I don’t know the direct answer for that but this much is certain that in any marriage, Swami wants the blessings of the elders concerned to be sought. This makes so much sense because a marriage is not just the union of two individuals. It is the coming together of two families. If the elders (especially the parents) in (any) family are unhappy or neutral, the marriage is bound to be difficult. So, however hard it might seem, efforts must be made to ensure that one’s parents are happy or at least not hurt because of the marriage. Swami emphatically states this in the discourse on the 18th of December, 1995. "The antecedents of families were fully examined in the past, before marital alliances were concluded. But today these factors are ignored. People are indifferent to family backgrounds, while they are concerned about the pedigrees of dogs in dog show! This indifference to lineage accounts for the breakup of many marriages after a short time. This should not happen. Marriage should be a life-long partnership."
  2. Get to know the partner spiritually and intellectually - not physically

    Swami strongly criticises the different movies, serials and dramas that depict scenes of a romance between Rama and Sita before the wedding. Swami also states emphatically in multiple discourses about how Rama and Sita never saw each other before the wedding. He ensured the same when He conducted the Sita Kalyanam on this day. One might be tempted to think that this is an impossibility in the modern times. In fact, I have been asked questions by the youth on what is Swami’s take on dating before the marriage, just to get to know one’s future partner.

    It is not as if Rama and Sita (and the elders) had no knowledge about the bride/groom. However, this knowledge pertained to the character and qualities of the person. It was not about looks, talking style, hobbies etc. The answer to the question of dating becomes evident when we read what Swami beautifully puts across in the Birthday Discourse on 23rd November 1973,
    When one chooses a life-partner now-a-days, the first consideration is paid to external beauty and charm. Next, the economic position is taken as the basis. How rich is he or she? How much does he or she earn? Questions like, how far they are educated, what is the social status of the families to which they belong are asked later. Carried off by mere external frills and foppery, people enter into wedlock, and get entangled in misery or a destructive 'family life. The family cannot be stable if it is built on such slender foundation. Prime importance has to be paid to the fundamental requisites of a good character, high ideals of tolerance and forbearance, love and service. When beauty fades or wealth wanes, the bond too becomes less strong.

    Swami says that marriage is a training ground for trans-sensual love - that love that is beyond the senses and permanent. When we are seeking something to last a lifetime, we need to look for things like character, service and forbearance that also last a lifetime and not prettiness, wealth, career etc. which can come to an end at any time. For this purpose, a ‘date’ is definitely not a necessity. When we honestly enquire, a date often is an excuse to indulge in those sensual pleasures that can easily wait till the wedding gets over. Even in a date, why a private date? Why not a ‘date’ in the presence of all well-wishers concerned if the intention is truly to discover the character, goodness and nobility of the other? Will these not be better expressed in others’ presence? These are points to ponder.
  3. Remember that marriage is for life

    It is very interesting how Swami wanted the end of Sita’s saree tied to the end of Rama’s dhoti. He ensured that they were never separated. This is a powerful message in times when separations, divorces and splits are commonplace between partners. According to Swami, these choices must not even be considered and if they happen, it has to be the force of destiny which takes one towards it in spite of one’s best efforts. Neither husband nor wife is complete without the other after marriage. As Swami puts it to the author of the book ‘Divine Memories of Sathya Sai Baba’,
    Before marriage, he is half body. Before marriage, she is half body. Lady is always left side. Right side is gent's. The gent's body is always the right side of the wife. Now you have only one body. In Indian philosophy or custom, this is called ardhangi. (Ardha means half.) Wife before marriage is only ardhangi, half body. Now the left side is joined with the right side and you are full body.”

    If this aspect that a marriage is for life is kept in mind even before the marriage, I feel we would automatically look for those qualities in our spouses that will keep the harmony permanent. We will then look for ‘beauty’ rather than ‘prettiness’ or ‘handsomeness’ that are bound to fade with time.
  4. The atmosphere of the marriage is important

    I couldn’t help but notice how insistent Swami was on having the Vedic chants fill the air throughout the Sita Kalyanam. Many marriages nowadays have film songs, romantic themes and peppy numbers playing as the couple take their holy vows. When a holy union is happening, all the sights and sounds should inspire holy things in the couple and the witnesses. Swami has always insisted on the purity of the composition that is rendered in His presence. I remember an episode of how upset He became even when a bhajan (which was not composed with the right purity according to a teacher who was told the same by Swami) was sung in His presence. There have been many such compositions that Swami has frowned upon. These are never sung by the singers of the Prasanthi Bhajan group even to this day.

    I think the best thought for us Sai devotees (who would love to have Swami grace our weddings) is this - “Would this be the ambiance if Swami were to be physically present here? Does this atmosphere stand for what Swami stands for?” If this is the focus, everything else will automatically fall in place.
Swami asked the SP and other elders to bless the couple amid Vedic chants and Bhajans. After that, Rama's dhoti and
Sita's saree were tied at the ends. 

A beautiful “parting” message


Those were the thoughts regarding marriage that arose in me as I travelled to that beautiful day in 2010. They are in no way comprehensive but they definitely give us a lot of food for thought. We haven’t covered what Bhagawan says on how one should live harmoniously with one’s partner. That will possibly be the subject of a separate piece.


In conclusion, I shall possibly recount one more interesting happening that day. In the end, Swami came down the dais and posed for photographs with everyone. He wanted ‘Rama’ to stand on side and ‘Sita’ to stand on the other. They were unable to do it because they had been ‘tied’ to each other. But since this was Swami’s wish, they quickly untied the knot and stood by His sides. Everyone smiled as the photos were taken.

The ultimate goal of every earthly union - the DIVINE UNION.
Looking back to that day, I first thought that the only justified reason for a ‘breakup’ is when it is for God and God alone. I thought that should be the 'part'ing message when a loving Sai-uncle sent me a message that thrilled me. He said,
"If married couples keep Swami as the centre of their lives, then they don't need the knot also to keep them together."

Now, that is a fitting finale I feel, for, after all, isn't Union with Him the ultimate goal of every earthly union?

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38 comments:

  1. Very well said bhaiya! It is really necessary for us to know what is right and what is wrong! By Swami's grace, we have well wishers like you to guide us in the right path. Sairam

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    1. Oh, I am no guide! I too am a seeker like yourself and we have the greatest well-wisher in the Universe to help us - our beloved Swami...

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    2. A seeker is one who seeks. One can only seek something one does not have. Unlike us most unfortunate ones, you have had direct experience of the indescribable bliss and love of the Lord of the Universe. You have achieved that, now what else do you seek??

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    3. There is a difference between experiencing something in life and living one's life in that experience forever. :)

      I definitely have tasted the love of the Lord of the Universe. :)
      I seek to live in that experience forever... In fact, my blog writing is also an effort in that direction.

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  2. Quirky yet so insightful. Loved reading this piece. Kept on laughing when Swami took over the wedding rituals and directed the entire drama. Meaning within meaning. Too good! Thank you for this. SaiRam

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    1. Quirky indeed. On that day, it was such an unexpected happening. All of us simply enjoyed this childlike indulgence of Swami... It is only in retrospect that the beauty of that day in multiple aspects is getting revealed...

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  3. sairam brother..cant tell u wat dis article means to me.only yday night faced dis situation. i am a father...and here dis morning are all the answers..anthr reason for both us to rejoice dat swami listens to us(he does all d time),to me for giving d answers and to u for d prompt to write..lagey raho...sairam

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    1. It is also my hope that this brings some clarity and joy to the troubled youth as well. Fathers and mothers will surely be happy. :) Being a father of a baby daughter myself, I am happy with this.

      All gratitude to Swami...

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  4. From few days my mind was somehow concentrated on the above concept,suddenly I get this message in my inbox,It's a beautiful Subtle connect

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    1. Glad it helped you brother... Happy that you rely on your inner connect.

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  5. And about the photo where swami sits in between rama n sita...or husband n wife, i always believe in that..there cant be any healthy human relationship without placing the God in between..here is a thought i wrote last year regarding it..

    For 2 players to compete,we need a referee in between..

    For 2 lawyers to argue,we need a judge in between

    For 2 mobiles to connect,we need a service provider in between

    For 2 humans to connect, we need God in between..

    He takes care to give a protective layer around us so we are unharmed and remain 'happy'

    He helps maintain the right distance so we dont take any relationship for granted and maintain 'respect'..

    He helps ease communication by using language of the heart otherwise called 'love'

    He stays as a witness for all our activities so we are compelled to follow 'truth and righteousness'.

    Ultimately he sees to that we are at 'peace'..

    So involve God and stay connected in "constant integrated awareness "..

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    1. Beautiful thoughts... Thank you for sharing. :)

      Sairam

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    2. on hindsight, I think Swami wanted to show this. First he mentioned how signified marriage is and how each is one half and inseparable. Yet towards the end when the curtains are drawn Swami said now untie even that knot and come to me. :-)

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  6. Amazing write up..we are thankful that you remembered this episode..and more thankful you were able to think and quote the inner meaning of swami's actions and lessons learnt. I am so happy that i am on the same track and agree with all the points you quoted..24 years ago, i wrote a letter to swami saying i will agree for my marriage only if he accepts my letter.. He walked all the way to me, smiled, took my letter, took the chocalates from my plate and threw to all the audience around..thats when i was convinced. Being 23 years into married life, i see his blessing every minute in solving every small n big obstacles in life.

    Sairam..Arvind..thanks for all this nostalgia..4 more days for my wedding anniversary and its worth remembering n thanking swami

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  7. Sai Ram Arvind, I just came across this post on Dating and Marriage. Would you consider also mentioning the "Bad Sight" Aspect. I remember hearing a discourse of Swami where He said that the Dharmapurusha that Rama was, He refused to even look at the Sita while she sat next to him during the wedding rituals. King Janaka, said to Rama - Iyam Sita! Iyam Sita!"(meaning here is Sita Here is Sita) and Rama looked elsewhere. He replied that until the priest declares them as husband and wife , she remains a stranger lady to him and He refuses to develop a bad sight for unrelated womenfolk.
    find this particularly important since everybody is about "checking the other one out" these days. It is appalling. Besides, if one ever mentions it to friends, the person is considered too self righteous. I feel the need to educate the young adults about this behaviour. If you could find the discourse where Swami talks about bad sight, that would help sum this up very well.
    Thankyou and Jai Sai Ram

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    1. I empathise with you when you say about the "self righteous" part. That is the reason I had to carefully choose words and I have made use of Swami's words directly.

      Yes, "Samyak Drishti" is also a recurring theme in Swami's discourses.

      I feel this aspect is subtly hinted at when Swami says that consideration should not be paid to external factors but to the internal ones.
      As already said in the blog, I haven’t covered what Bhagawan says on how one should live harmoniously with one’s partner. Maybe that would be a good place to include this aspect . I shall definitely keep in mind.

      Sairam

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    2. I came across an incident narrated in Shirdi Baba's Life. Once while Baba was holding his durbar, Nana was pressing His feet, a couple of young Muslim women arrived to have His darshan. They lifted their veil on face in order to do pranam. Nana had a glimpse of their youthful faces. When they stood up again, and covered their faces, Nana wished see them again. After they left, Baba said, "Nana, it is not wrong to appreciate beauty, for it is created by God. But you should look at beauty as the Art of God, not as attractive women faces. Then you will see it as God's face, and it will help your bhakti". Therefore Swami asks us to prctise seeing God in everything. This has to be started early in life. Parents at home, and teachers at school must teach the children the right way to wholesome life. But who does?

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    3. What a beautiful incident sir! :)

      Thank you for sharing your wisdom here... Am sure many will benefit from it.

      Sairam

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  8. Sairam.. Beautifully explained!Every act of SwAmi is so meaningful and you being the organiser was not a coincidence..a Sai incidene, because He wanted you to look back n write about it at the right time!

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  9. Sairam Aravind!! A slightly different version is tht ONLY WHEN U ATTAIN GOD SHALL THIS "KNOT"BE UNTIED!!!wherein also THE COUPLE SHOULD HV SWAMI IN THEIR HEART FOR THE HEART BECOMES ONE AFTER MARRIAGE... :-)

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  10. Very interesting and thought provoking narrative of Bihar Jharkhand Parti yatra 2010.Thanks for sharing dear Aravind. Sairam.

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  11. Even in a date, why a private date? Why not a ‘date’ in the presence of all well-wishers concerned if the intention is truly to discover the character, goodness and nobility of the other? Will these not be better expressed in others’ presence? ........

    There have been many incidences where the boy or girl were forced to engage / marriage by their parents. I have heard in many cases where a private chat has helped avoid a forced Unhappy marriage.

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    1. Those were questions one needs to ask because there are also multiple instances where a private date results in sensual indulgences. The true INTENTIONS are very important. That is all that is being attempted to be communicated.

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    2. I feel this message from Swami tends to get neglected when, in Swami's own words, "individual discrimination overpowers fundamental discrimination". Society seems to be moving towards high individualism where "my rights" overpower "my responsibilities".

      This is something that has to be kept in mind both - by the youth and by the parents.

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  12. Sairam. Inspiring.. extracts from your article are the best summary or litmus test :

    " I think the best thought for us Sai devotees (who would love to have Swami grace our weddings) is this - “Would this be the ambiance if Swami were to be physically present here? Does this atmosphere stand for what Swami stands for?” If this is the focus, everything else will automatically fall in place. "

    Having Sai and pleasing Him as the focus would be the best answer for any situation.

    Enjoyed a true study circle on Swamy and His teachings

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  13. I think the best thought for us Sai devotees (who would love to have Swami grace our weddings) is this - “Would this be the ambiance if Swami were to be physically present here? Does this atmosphere stand for what Swami stands for?” If this is the focus, everything else will automatically fall in place.

    Enjoyed this study circle .

    Breath Sai; Examine each act and thought if it would please Swamy. That is the best litmus test for life.


    Thanks arvind sairam. These articles are important to revalidate our understanding and affirm our commitment and realize how Sai world and fraternity are alike in our Sai consciousness and experience. We are lucky to read and exchange these views. Jai Sairam.

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  14. Excellant piece of writing. Be it arranged or love if parents are not happy and bless the couple ,the marital life would be miserable, no doubt about it.

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    1. I feel this message from Swami tends to get neglected when, in Swami's own words, "individual discrimination overpowers fundamental discrimination". Society seems to be moving towards high individualism where "my rights" overpower "my responsibilities".

      Delete
  15. Brother,

    Beautiful piece! This was especially relevant for me as a 20-year old. I have one more question that you may be able to answer based on your experiences:

    What if you do NOT want to marry? I think marriage adds additional "bandham" or attachment to this world; I would rather spend my life removing such attachments to get closer to God. But I also know Swami encourages students to get married or at least obey their parents. Yet I'm not sure marriage is appropriate for the ideal spiritual life...

    Sairam

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    1. This is a very interesting question and can possibly be a blog on its own. However, here are my thoughts which are based on my understanding of Swami's teachings.

      The sole goal of one's life is "expansion love". We become selfish creatures with only me and mine filling our time and energy. Like Swami, we should be able to see God in all and love all, serve all. Marriage is one step in this expansion love where we start thinking at least about one other person.

      Nobody can escape this process of expanding one's love. Of course, there are heroes that give up marriage for a greater good - like serving society! Swami gives the hierarchy where the individual is a part of society, society a part of nature and nature a part of God just like cells form tissues which form organs which form the body. One cannot claim to love and serve God without loving and serving society. This is the process of expansion love.

      So, if you choose to give up marriage as an escapist - not wanting to expand love and not wanting to take up responsibilities - it is not good. But, if you choose not to marry a spouse so that you get married to society, it is good. The yogis go for a higher expansion. They take the whole creation as their family. So, there is no need to get married to a spouse or society. They are taking on a greater responsibility.

      I hope this makes it clear. Running away from responsibilities as a human and therefore not marrying is not good. But if it is for taking up additional and higher responsibilities, (like Swami Vivekananda), you are most welcome.

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    2. Brother,

      That's certainly an interesting and reasonable way to think about it. Thank you for your input!

      Sairam

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  16. I was contemplating on this article again this morning..and got this thought i would like to share here..

    All couples know swami is with us all the time and he would want love and harmony in relationship..but why then ego pops up, love fades away and unhealthy arguments happen even though we know swami is watching ? We need something that our physical eyes can see. Thats why swami makes us a parent..we 'behave' and throw out our 'ego' in front of our child..the physical 'sakshi bhootham' employed by swami 😂❤

    i am remembering our scriptures where even Lord srinivasa of Tirupathi had these arguments with his consort ..that is when his ardent devotee started this 'nithya kalyanotsavam seva' to make them feel as good as they were when newly married..

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  17. Sairam Sir. Your blog is insightful and inspiring, and I must thank you for writing.

    This particular post deals with a rather sensitive topic, as you pointed out, and I agree with what you have said 100%.

    I would like to add something, though. These points, especially point 4, are equally important when it comes to day-to-day friendships and choosing which social circle to be a part of.

    When it comes to any situation, the one question to always ask is:
    Would I do this/say this/think XYZ in Swami’s physical presence?

    Most social “activities” at the university/ young adult level involve, to some level: playing film/pop music with profane themes, boy/girl dancing, non-veg, alcohol, group dates, etc.

    I have refused, refuse, and will always refuse to be a part of any of this.

    In the young adult NRI population, even within our Sai community, there is a push to be “MODERN” that forsakes everything Swami teaches. This certainly isn’t to say EVERY SINGLE person, but a sizable majority.

    Kids I’ve grown up with AND graduated Balavikas with, now in college, do not bat an eye about standing at KFC or holding hands with someone of the opposite gender. Even when the center president suggested a dress code of white and white, as he was tired of seeing the young adult boys wear shorts and jeans to BHAJANS, a father of one of these boys literally shouted and argued with the president to “stop trying to make this into Puttparthi.”

    I’m not here to judge—everyone is on a unique path.

    However, at some point, it takes immense courage to follow Swami’s teachings to the best of your abilities and take the road less taken by avoiding bad company. It takes enormous patience to tolerate minor and major harassment on a daily basis. It takes a lot of resolve to be willing to be the odd one out.

    From the few friendships I have managed to sustain there is a huge commitment to spirituality from all of us, even if there is a difference in particular faith. When everyone is “out,” we all get together; it is a forum for innocent fun like sketching designs but also to talk about ourselves without judgement—whether a personal or academic struggle. One of these girls was harassed for wearing a hijab and in tears one day; however, we were able to discuss what it means to her and give her the courage to not give in.

    We volunteer, study, and work as a group, and have similar professional goals to earn our doctorates in a field with few women.

    The four of us “friends” but almost “sisters” in this group, have all held on to more or less our core religious values.

    If you think about Swami being your physical proximity 24/7, then it is impossible to do the wrong thing.

    The Sai path requires strength and determination, as there will always be people to judge negatively.

    I prefer to company of 3 amazing, devoted girls who will allow me to pursue my sadhana to the company of people who will only bring me down.

    In many ways, I think this is the guiding logic for the topic of the article--to prefer the company of an individual who is dedicated to sadhana and dharma. Like my elder brother, I have agreed to an arranged marriage for the near future after finishing my doctorate. Many suggest that for an educated woman, these traditions are backwards. I believe, though, that my mother, father, and family elders who know me best, have more experience and can correctly discern a true Sai family.


    Sorry for such a long read. To give a summary of all my rambling, I just want to say:
    1) Always ask if you would do/say/think something if Swami were physically proximate
    2) Don't lose heart if you find yourself excluded from mainstream society because you chose Swami's teachings over societal expectations
    3) It's better to have a couple good friends who are spiritually on the same page as you, than 10 friends you feel you have to tolerate for the sake of old ties (childhood friends, for instance).
    4) Choosing to be more traditional doesn't make a person less educated.

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    1. Sairam sister,

      Don't apologise when you are writing from the heart. There is great wisdom in what you write.

      On first glance, these 'sacrifices' made to adhere to what Swami likes may appear and feel difficult. But it is the wise one who realizes that these are not installments of sacrifice but installments of investments! The investments will pay rich dividends in terms of peace of mind, contentment and joy. (It is just like investing money when all around you are splurging on the latest gadgets. The investment will stand good stead long after all gadgets are broken and gone.

      As you said, it requires great courage to follow what Swami says which in turn requires faith in His words.

      In 1968, when Bhagawan had gone to Africa, he was asked the question,
      "We know what is good but are unable to follow. We know what is bad but are unable to refrain. What to do?"
      Swami's reply was straight and simple - "That only means you are not convinced about the good or bad. If you see a poisonous snake, you will not go to it even if 4 people push you towards it."

      This lack of conviction in good and bad is a reflection of lack of faith in Swami.

      Coming to friends, Swami's definition if friend is this . - "one who leads you Godward, however cruel and harsh he/she may appear, is a friend. One who leads you away from God, however pleasant he/she may be, is not a friend." So, it's not about quantity at all. It is all about that ONE QUALITY of leading TOWARDS God.

      As for the traditional life, Swami says that there are many rituals followed. They should not be rubbished. One should enquire into the spirit of these rituals. The spirit of the ritual makes it spiritual.

      Thank you for your thoughts. Am sure they add to the theme of the article.

      In Sai love

      Delete
  18. Inspiring indeed. Remain blessed and be the chosen instrument of Swami.
    With love and blessings

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    Replies
    1. Thank you uncle for your love and blessings.

      Delete
  19. Very nice from-the-heart write up sister. I share with you the same feelings and disappointments. Weddings of our time which was just before the Y2K boom took over India, were predominantly Vedic chants Vedic chants and Vedic chants all thru the day and then a dinner / reception for colleagues in the evening. The officiating priests used to patiently explain the purpose of every ritual of the wedding proceddings. Nowadays, the wedding invitation kept even in the basket in the Sai Kulwant Hall to invite Swami has words like "booze/dance/food". I was so appalled by this complete lack of understanding of the Sai path by such Sai Devotees..

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