Wednesday, 31 May 2017

God's PUSH is always for the greater good of the individual

How many times do we go through something in life, wondering why that is happening to us. We are convinced that life would be much better if things proceed in the manner of our thinking. Hours, days, weeks, months or (sometimes) even years may pass. One day, suddenly, looking back on those very same episodes in life, we are grateful for them because they have made us what we are today.

In matters concerning Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, my God, Master and best friend, I always felt that I wasted those ten-odd years of my life during which I did not know Him. I used to wonder how much better life would be if only I had come to Him earlier. Today, in retrospect, I am simply happy because I am convinced of God’s perfect timing which I have experienced and understood multiple times. Of course, there are still those instances where I do not understand why something is happening. I try to tell myself in complete faith that things are happening in the best manner possible - only that I am not yet aware of the significance and beauty of the Lord’s action. That is the secret of surrender.

Let Go... Let God
A big opportunity and an even bigger challenge

In 1994, I had wanted to study in Swami’s school but was not getting admission at Puttaparthi. I was told that I could apply in the Puttaparthi school only for grade 11. Desperate to be in His school at any cost, I had got myself admitted at the Sri Sathya Sai Vidyapeeth in Calicut, Kerala. I was in 8th grade in 1995 when I was presented with an irresistible offer after I won the Hindi elocution competition.
“Would you like to deliver a speech in Hindi for the festival of Onam in Sai Kulwant hall, Prasanthi Nilayam, in Bhagawan’s divine presence?”
I was thrilled. I would have been ready to memorise and deliver a speech in French also if it was in Swami’s immediate presence! I nodded and jumped at the opportunity.

The opportunity was also a big challenge. My Hindi was (and is) at best average. The elocution competition victory was simply an ode to my memorizing skills and definitely not a confirmation of my mastery over India’s national language! So, I decided to use the same technique as the elocution competition for this speech also - I decided to learn it by-heart!

I had two months to prepare and I requested my Hindi teacher to write down the entire speech for me. Then began the act of ‘mugging’, the colloquial term at school for committing something to memory!  Weeks of labour and hundreds of rehearsals later, I had become adept in my speech. In fact, if someone woke me up in my sleep and uttered “Aum Sri Sai Ram” - the first line of my speech - I could simply rattle out in the next 7.5 minutes my entire speech with the voice modulation and body language! I was quite well prepared for Onam in the Divine presence.

In order to justify some of the feelings I went through later, I must give a brief background of the atmosphere in my school which was also called Sri Sailam.

A picture that fills me with nostalgia today - the bust of Swami welcoming everyone into Sri Sailam.

The school had been performing well academically and so, many sought admission there. However, not everyone who came there were “Sai devotees”. The strict regimen of morning prayers, food prayers, evening prayers and night prayers combined with liberal doses of moral classes and spiritual theory boiled a lot of teenage blood which was present in abundance. Thus, for no fault of His, Swami was blamed as the root for many problems. This anger and irritation found vent on some of us who were ‘Sai devotees’. A constant battle waged between us and the ‘non-devotees’.

The slightest blemish on my part was instantly attributed to Swami. (I learned quite early about this burden that those who love Swami would have to carry all life.) For instance, there would be many students who would get involved in fistfights. But if I got involved in one, many boys would say,
“He says he is a Baba-devotee. Look at him! This is what Baba teaches him!”
But that would anger me more. If someone spoke a harsh word about Swami I would speak harsh words against their parents (I knew that to be a sensitive point)! That would throw them into fits of fury and the fight would get fearsome. But how was I to make them understand that Swami was as dear as a parent for me, if not more? Today, by Swami’s grace, I have learnt to deal with critics of different kinds. But back then, I was a novice. I must say that each of those episodes have had a bearing in my changed response to the ‘critics’.

In this scenario, I felt that it was Swami’s special grace on me that He gave me the chance to speak in His divine presence. Even as the Onam vacations were declared, I rushed to Puttaparthi. The school students would be arriving to Puttaparthi after a few days. (The vacation was for 10 days but the students would wished to travel to Puttaparthi would be brought to the divine hamlet for only 3-4 days.) In the few days that I had darshan before everybody arrived, I managed to get my “speech” blessed by Swami. Let me explain.

I was reading a book, “The Babe of Brindavan” which recounted the leelas of little Krishna. As Swami came near me in the darshan lines, I stretched out both, the book and the written version of my speech, for Him to bless. Nonchalantly, He took both in His hand and walked away! I was surprised. What was I to do now? Swami had taken away the only copy of my speech. (This would be tough to imagine for the newer generations who are so used to soft copies and printouts!)

As I watched on in wonderment, Swami suddenly stopped. He turned and took the few steps towards me. With a broad smile, He handed back the book. Then He turned and walked away. It was only after the darshan session was complete did I realize that Swami had only returned the book and not the speech-page. But I was happy. I knew the whole speech by-heart anyway. So, I went back to my room and wrote down the speech again, from my memory.

The anti-climax

In a couple of days, the contingent from the school arrived. We were given a special place to sit in Kulwant hall for darshan. I was eagerly awaiting Onam and my chance to speak in His presence. I wanted to ask Swami for that one thing that I desperately craved for - admission into His school at Puttaparthi.

The D-day arrived and I found myself on the stage along with another boy who was also supposed to speak. Swami completed the darshan and sat in the center of the dais. He seemed to be waiting for someone or something. Every delayed second made my heart palpitate with anticipation and excitement. I began to rehearse - but not my speech. That I knew very well. I was rehearsing how I would ask Him for admission in His school.

Presently, an elderly gentleman was called to deliver a speech. Immediately after that, Swami asked for the students of the Vedam group. They went to the microphone and sanctified the atmosphere with their chants. My muscles tensed. Any moment now, I would be walking towards the goal of my life. As the Veda chanting concluded, Swami rose to deliver His divine discourse! It was only when he was minutes into His discourse that I realized with horror - our speeches had simply been cancelled!
No! This can’t happen. Maybe Swami will tell us to speak after His discourse”, my childish heart held on stubbornly. In the end, that never happened. After the discourse Swami received Aarthi and left. The realization of what had happened came along with tears streaming down my cheek. I was simply shattered.

Probably, one of the few discourses of Swami where I wasn't paying attention because I was writhing with
pain in my heart...
Later on, a lot of consolation was offered. And an explanation too. Apparently, Sri Karunakaran, the former chief minister of Kerala was to arrive for the Onam programme. He cancelled the visit in the last moment, as Swami waited for him. It was quite late by then and so, Swami had gone ahead with the discourse. That was hardly any consolation for me.
“Why should it be my 7.5 minutes speech that has to suffer because of somebody else’s fault?”
I was inconsolable.

My mother calmed me. She reminded me that Swami had already accepted my speech during the darshan. It had reached Him and there was no need for me to feel bad. I accepted that and somehow felt a bit better.

Matters got worse when we returned to school after the Onam celebrations in Prasanthi Nilayam.

When push comes to shove, just PUSH, PUSH and PUSH

The bullies now had a new way of taunting, teasing, troubling and tormenting me. (Those are quite a few adjectives from ‘T’!)
“This stupid fool calls Swami his father and mother. If Swami really considered him that way, He would have given him a chance to speak! Hahahaha”
“Look at him! How he fights and quarrels with us. No wonder he was not given the chance to speak. He simply does not deserve it!”
“If your Baba loves you, why did He reject you?”

I had no answers. I would simply run away from the taunts into the beautiful open-bhajan hall that the campus had. The bhajan hall stood as the symbol of Swami’s house which was always open for me - any time of the day. I would climb the stage, sit by the huge framed photograph and cry my heart out.
“Swami why did it have to happen this way? If only you had let me speak, none of this would have happened. I also missed my chance of seeking admission in your school for 9th grade. This is all wrong. And while I cry, those bullies laugh!”

The beautiful 'open' prayer hall in Sri Sathya Sai Vidyapeeth, Sri Sailam (the main altar picture was
different when I was a student there.)
Then, I did not know the PUSH story which goes like this.

A man was sleeping at night when suddenly, God appeared in his cabin.
“I have some work for you dear one...”
“What is it my Lord?”
“You see that rock over there, outside your door? I want you to push it with all yout might?”
Even as the man agreed, God disappeared.  

Thus, the man pushed the rock, day after day. For many years he toiled with his shoulders set squarely against the cold and massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all of his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain.
Finally, his weary mind decided to give up.
"I have been foolishly pushing against that rock for a long time. It hasn't even moved”, he thought, “Why should I kill ,myself over this? The rock is not going to move anyway"

He was in dilemma and decided to consult God.
"Lord," he said, "I have labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock by half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?"
God responded compassionately,
"My dear one, when I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all of your strength, which you have done. Never did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to simply push.”

The man was bewildered,
“But why did you do that?”
“You are thinking that you have failed. But, just look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back sinewy and brown, your hands are callused from constant pressure, your legs have become massive and hard. You have grown so strong and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. You haven't moved the rock. You were never meant to. I wanted you to do this only so that you grow strong.  This you have done. Now I will move the rock."

Though I was not aware, through all the trials and tribulations of teasing and being taunted, I was growing. Yet, at that time, all my concentration was on the ‘rock’ that I felt Swami’s heart was which was not being moved at all! Though I was focused on moving it, thankfully I didn’t forget to PUSH - Pray Until Something Happens!


I sought another opportunity to speak in His presence so that I could ‘redeem’ myself in the eyes of my peers and ‘friends’. The next year, during Onam, our school would be putting up a programme again. I hoped to be a part of it somehow. To my utter disappointment, I came to know that the school had a rotation policy. One year the boys would get a chance to do the programme in His presence and the next year would be the turn of the girls. So, I would have to wait another year to fulfill my hope of speaking in His presence.

My redemption would have to wait. It was in this time that I learned a very valuable lesson in friendship - I found out that I could never be ‘redeemed’ in the eyes of my ‘friends’. Those that loved me and respected me, did not need me to redeem myself. Those that wanted to tease me, would tease and taunt me anyway! Thus, I decided within myself that my endeavor would be only to please Swami. There was no need to have any other objective of speaking in His presence.

In order to ensure that I would get that coveted chance the coming year, I began to participate wholeheartedly in all the extra-curricular activities  - drama, debate, elocution, singing, recitation. In fact, I won many of those competitions and was considered a ‘star’ in my class! By the time it was Onam in 1997, I was the unanimous choice of the teachers concerned to deliver the speech in Swami’s presence. (Now when I look back, I know that those were very important years of effort for me and Swami had made put that effort with a simple speech cancellation!) All this while, I must say that my prayers continued along with the efforts.

This time, it was a speech in English. I was in my grade 10 and thought that this would be the ideal time to request Swami for admission in the school at Prashanti Nilayam (for grade 11). I prepared with all gusto and awaited, for the second time in my life, for the D-Day when I would deliver the speech.

Once again, I arrived to Puttaparthi a few days before the school did. I did not try to get my speech blessed by Swami for two reasons:
1. He might take it away again.
2. Once He ‘accepted’ the speech, He may not give me the chance to offer it to Him on stage!

Onam arrived. I was sitting in the same place that I sat two years ago. The boys who taunted and teased me were all seated in the audience. They had grown and so had the teasing. I had a burning desire to seek from Swami admission into His school. But my teachers had told me to request Swami to come and bless Sri Sailam, the school. I thought I would ask both - one before the speech and one after.

As Swami completed the darshan round and came to the dais, I had deja-vu! I broke into a cold sweat and imagined what would happen if I did not get a chance to speak again. Swami was seated on His chair when He looked to His right. But this time, instead of beckoning to some elder, He beckoned to me! I got up from my seat and walked slowly towards Swami.

I had seen Swami from close quarters before. But today, when I was the only one around Him on a big stage, I felt so overwhelmed. I went to my knees near Him and took padanamaskar (touching the feet). I rose and then decided to offer my prayer. I looked into His eyes and He looked into mine. I said,
In an instant, He was all attention. He prodded me to go on.

I don’t know what happened at that instant. In a flash I recollected all that I had gone through to get to this opportunity. And was I going to waste it by asking for something as less as an admission? I looked at Him and said,
“Swami, please keep me with you throughout my life...”
He asked me to repeat it.
“Swami please keep me with you throughout my life.” I said firmly.
He seemed so happy with my answer. He patted me lovingly on the head and nodded as if to say yes. Then, He told me to go and speak.

And I asked for the greatest boon in the Universe!

Part of me was telling me that I had done the best thing. Another part was telling me that I should have asked for my admission. I would decide about it after my speech.

The speech went off like a breeze. There were two applauses - I don’t remember for what. I was simply overwhelmed. As I concluded and walked to Him, I turned and saw all my classmates and schoolmates cheering for me. When the Lord blesses you, the world simply comes to your side! I was filled with such love and magnanimity. I prayed for all my friends as I walked to Swami. And in that happy mood, instead of asking for admission into His school, I said,
“Swami please come to Sri Sailam.”
Swami blessed me with a pat and a smile but did not reply to me. I took namaskar and returned to my place.

There was Swami’s discourse after that. I did not hear a thing. I was so lost in joy. I had no regrets about not asking for admission. I was simply glad that I had sought the right thing. I thanked Swami for making me seek the correct thing!

Looking back at this whole episode that spanned 2 years, I feel so grateful. Blobs of tears well in my eyes because I realize how Swami, in His love for me, made me evolve enough to seek the perfect thing from Him. Nothing else but God Himself should be sought from God. What else can equal that? Once we get God, there is nothing else we need.

A dream come true indeed...
A conclusion beyond my imagination

Two days later, just before all of us were to leave for Sri Sailam, we received a loving gift from Swami, unasked. Swami told that He would bless all the students of the school with padanamaskar for He was very happy with us. He began to move amidst us, collecting letters and giving namaskar and ensuring vibhuti packets for all via the Sevadal volunteers.

I had written a letter which I wanted to hand over to Him. In that letter, I had also written about the admission that I sought in His school. As Swami came close to me, I gave him the letter. Then, I bent down and kissed His lotus feet. I was satisfied. As I rose, I received an unexpected bounty - Swami looked at me and lovingly placed His hand on my head. When my eyes met His, He asked,
"You were the boy who spoke yesterday right?"
Was I thrilled at this recognition! I nodded with a beaming smile. Swami told the same to the then State President of the SSSO, Kerala.
What happened next is enshrined in my heart...
Swami was about two meters away from me when He suddenly stopped, turned to me and asked,
"What are you studying?"
"Swami class 10"
"Class 11....after class 12 what?" (in Tamil)
"Swami whatever you say."
"No...Medical or Engineering ? Which do you like"
"Swami medical."
"Medical! Study Biosciences here and get good marks."
(Dear Swami ensured that this whole conversation had got recorded by a Westerner and it reached me in very interesting circumstances. See the 1 minute video below:)

As Swami moved on, I felt that He had already granted me a seat in His school for the next academic year. Of course, I would have to go through the entrance exams and interviews, but His words to study Biosciences were responsible for me giving up mathematics and applying for the BPC (Bioscience, Physics, Chemistry) combination in Grade 12. Swami continued to guide me after that as well. But that will be the subject of another blog.

I got my admission next year. Through that,Swami gave me something far greater - the chance to be with Him throughout life.

For all the readers:

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  1. Sairam brother.. what a profound message for me at the right time... just have tears... I love every single word in this article... thank you once again brother. May Swami bless you to be an instrument in his divine hands (as always) and continue to inspire us...

    1. :)

      Thank you brother for your love and appreciation as always...

  2. Sairam dear brother. At a time when we are seeking admission for our kids in his school, this appears very timely. My first 2 visits to Parthi happened during Onam of 95 and 97. So I have definitely heard your speech then though I dont remember anything other than the Darshans. You might remember this - So it looks like I had a habit of landing in Parthi when you were speaking :)

    1. Oh wow!! :)

      What amazing coincidences... Thanks for jogging my memory about the previous interaction we had. Very happy to note it.

      All the very best for the admission.

  3. Sairam Brother Aravind, With utmost joy I would like to thank SWAMI, who has given me reply through you today morning. Thank you for this wonderful article which you shared with us today. Each article you post is an eyeopener (inspite of being known), it reminds of how much our dear SWAMI loves and that he is always listening to us. Thank you so much SWAMI. Jai Sai Ram

    1. Sairam sister... Glad that you enjoyed the article. Actually, every article I post serves first as a reminder and eye-opener for me. That is why I continue to do it. As you rightly said, it reminds us of our Swami's love.

      May that love keep growing every moment.

  4. Sairam Aravind. Kodos for having clear thoughts at an young age and asking for Being with HIM always. That wish has been granted. what we forget is that HE is with all of us at all times but unseen and not felt by us immersed in Maya of this world. Thanks a lot for this moving episode of your life.

  5. Sairam Aravind.Thank you very much.That 1 minute video is the crest jewel of this blog .Thank you once again

  6. Lovely to watch the video! :) Maybe you can add subtitles to the video itself, so that what Swami is saying is made clear.

  7. Sairam aravind anna. I need urgent favour from you. Don't know how to contact you. Can I have your email id plz.


    1. Share your email id as a comment. I will mail you and not publish your comment. :)


  8. Brother,

    What an amazing story! Beautiful to actually see the video too! I sometimes have to pinch myself when I look at Swami and realize I am looking at an Avatar. Thanks for making us feel connected to Swami through your writing.


  9. Lovely share. Loved reading every word.

  10. Sairam Brother, Thanks for sharing your experiences, The video was feather in the cap. I loved to see Swami interacting in Tamil and speaking so casually. It was bliss reading your blog as always.

  11. Sairam brother,
    I loved reading your article. I had many questions this morning but these where all answered now. First and formost thing i got that everything will happen at right time for you and the time is decided by him and only he knows.thanks for sharing your thoughts in the blog as an article.

  12. Sairam dear brother.I just loved the article. Through this article i got answers of my questions also. it was just amazing. Thanks for this blog. loving sairam

  13. very educating story of this young student who kept on trying, inspite of initial disappointment, to speak in front of Swami.Good message for all the devotees to have full faith in Swami even when things do not go the way we expected.Thanks Brother Arvind for great work you are doing in sharing to us these remarkable events in the lives of His Institute's students.


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