Monday, 4 December 2017

How to get devotion and increase it? - Life experience of Ram Mohan Rao - Part 1

A persistent Presence

The first time that Ram Mohan Rao heard the name of Sathya Sai Baba was in the coastal city of Vishakpatnam. The schoolboy was passing by a photo-framing shop when he chanced upon the image of a man in a saffron robe sporting a thick, curly mop of black hair.
“Who is that?”, he asked the shopkeeper in curiosity.
“That is Sai Baba... He is the living God”, answered the shopkeeper casually.
“God!” Ram Mohan’s jaw dropped down in disbelief. He paused for a moment to take a second look at the ‘Sai Baba’ and then returned home.

Sri Ram Mohan Rao with the love of his life, the meaning of his life and the goal of his life
- his God and Guru, Sri Sathya Sai.

After that day, however, there were at least a dozen occasions before he graduated with honours in English literature when he came across the name and form of Sathya Sai Baba. The most bizarre experience occurred when he left for the sleepy town of Jaleshwar in Odisha, in search of a job as a lecturer in English. When he met Mr. Chittaranjan Sahu, the Principal of the Deena Krishna College, for the interview, the first question almost took Ram Mohan’s breath away.
“Do you know Sathya Sai Baba?” the Principal asked.
“I have heard the name sir and have also seen pictures of him...”
“Have you been to Puttaparthi?”
“I haven’t even heard that name in my life...”
The Principal smiled and said,
“It is He that has prompted you to come here. I am certain of that because today is the 23rd of November - His birthday! You are appointed. Congratulations...”

Ram Mohan was in a daze. What he was hearing seemed so strange. It was as if Sathya Sai Baba was following him ever since he saw Him in that picture-framer’s shop!

During the one year he spent at the DK College in 1971, Ram Mohan learned many things about Baba from the Principal. Mr.Chittaranjan would speak very highly of the discipline and devotion that ‘Swami’ demanded from His students in the newly opened colleges at Bangalore, and Anantapur (The Puttaparthi college had not yet come into existence then). He would want the same kind of discipline at DK College as well.

In 1972, Ram Mohan Rao took up a job as a lecturer at the Science College in the large town of Chhatrapur, in the state of Odisha. Swami followed him there too in an almost shocking manner. Ram Mohan had a very jovial colleague, Prasanna Misra, in the college. He was a happy-go-lucky person whose easygoing nature bordered on the recklessly casual. He was deep into the smoking habit. Thus, though he was a pleasant conversationalist, nobody would want to visit his reeking room. However, Ram Mohan, who was the antithesis of Prasanna Misra, developed a liking for him. That is why they probably say - ‘opposites attract’.

One day in the winter of 1975, Ram Mohan was shocked to see Prasanna early in the morning in the staff room without a cigarette in his mouth for the first time ever!
“Didn’t you sleep at all last night Prasanna?” Ram Mohan could not accept the fact that he had woken up so early.
“I slept like a baby Ram Mohan”, he responded with a serene smile.
What had happened to his colleague? He seemed to exude some ethereal happiness and peace. The thought expressed itself directly.
“What happened to you man?”
“I saw God”, he answered simply.
“You?”, Ram Mohan stared at him in disbelief.
“Yes! Me... With these eyes of mine...” , Prasanna said, “Come home in the evening and I shall tell you everything about it.”

That evening, when Ram Mohan went to Prasanna’s room, he was pleasantly shocked to find it pervaded with the fragrant smoke from incense sticks instead of the usual tobacco smoke. Prasanna was dressed in a silk dhoti and he welcomed Ram Mohan to join him in the evening worship. The altar was filled with pictures of Sathya Sai. It was Swami again!

After the worship, Prasanna explained how he visited Puttaparthi for the golden jubilee Birthday Celebrations of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. What he experienced within was an insatiable thirst for God which was slaked only when Swami gave him two vibhuti packets. From that day, he lost all urge to even pick a cigarette. After narrating his incredible tale of transformation, Prasanna took a tiny pinch of vibhuti from the packet and giving it to Ram Mohan said,
“God has given this to me with His own hands. You eat it. It will surely do you good.”

Holding the pinch of ash gingerly in his palm, Ram Mohan returned to his room. As prescribed by his friend, he ate it and applied a bit to his forehead as Prasanna had done. Then, he went to sleep. The next morning, he made his way to the well in the backyard to draw water for his ablutions. His eyes fell on something shiny beside the well. He picked it up and it was a pair of cymbals! Not knowing what to do with it, he placed it in the room and promptly informed Prasanna about it.

“Ram Mohan, you will surely become a devotee of Swami”, said Prasanna, “because Swami wants you. He sent you these cymbals which are symbolic of Bhakti or devotion. These are His visiting cards.”

Even as a child, Ram Mohan had always been attracted to the mystical, philosophical and the beautiful. He would spend hours writing poetry on the banks of the Bahuda river at Ichachapuram, the border town between the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. He would chase the setting sun hoping to see where the flaming ball of orange retired for the night. He would wonder about the mysteries of nature with a sense of awe at the unseen power that silently seemed to control everything. His mother had told him that it was all the power of Lord Rama. That is the reason he had got his name as well. Ichachapuram translates into ‘the town that kindles desire’. It was as if the town was trying to kindle in Ram Mohan Rao the desire for the greatest in the universe. Today, holding the cymbals, he sensed the mysterious power of Sai Baba.

Another interesting fact was that Ram Mohan was born into a ‘Reddy’ family. It was the writing mistake of a partially deaf school teacher that his name became Ram Mohan Rao instead of Ram Mohan Reddy. His father did not feel it worthwhile to make a journey and submit documents to correct the ‘mistake’. But the Universe makes no mistakes. The ‘Reddy’ surname denotes a non-Brahmin while Rao is a ‘Brahmin’ surname. Bhagawan Baba says that one does not become a Brahmin by birth. He who is in quest of the eternal Brahman is a true Brahmana or Brahmin. In that sense, the Universe had definitely given an early indication to Ram Mohan Reddy about his passion and goal in life by changing his name to Ram Mohan Rao.

The first journey

The next year, in 1976, Ram Mohan had to travel to the city of Hyderabad for another job interview. Prasanna came up to him and said,
“Hyderabad is very close to Puttaparthi... You should go there and see Swami...”
Actually, the distance between the two places is about 450 kilometers. But that seems ‘very close’ to a person who has Puttaparthi close to his heart!

The words of his colleague began ringing in Ram Mohan’s ears as the train was slowly chugging into the Hyderabad railway station. A spontaneous yet casual thought arose in his mind,
“If this Sai Baba is really God, he should make me meet Prabhu.”
Prabhu was Ram Mohan’s cousin who had been living in Hyderabad for several years. Ram Mohan had no idea about where in Hyderabad he was and it had been years since they had even talked.

Walking out of the railway station, Ram Mohan hired a tonga, a horse cart, for the nearest decent hotel. Five minutes into the rickety ride, a voice startled him,
He turned to look at the other side.
His cousin was on a two-wheeler moving in the opposite direction. Paying the tonga driver, Ram Mohan got down and embraced his friendly cousin.
“How come you are here?”
“I have a job interview tomorrow. I was trying to find myself some accommodation.”
“When I am here, why do you need to go to a hotel. Come home with me...”

“This Sai Baba works superfast”, thought Ram Mohan, “and He has answered my challenge in the most comprehensive manner possible!”
The next day, Ram Mohan attended the interview. However, he had no hopes of getting the job because he overheard a discussion among the employers which oozed with nepotism. The interview had been a farce; the candidate had already been decided previously.
That made Ram Mohan feel that he had been brought to Hyderabad for some other reason. Without second thoughts, he boarded a bus to Anantapur where he spent a night before taking another bus to Puttaparthi. It was 10:30 am on the 12th of July (1976).  

As he entered the ‘abode of highest peace’, Prasanthi Nilayam, he was accosted by a young man with a blue scarf.
“You seem to be new to the place sir. Let me help you...”
He carried Ram Mohan’s luggage till the accommodation shed beside a Ganesha temple at the main gate. Gratefully Ram Mohan offered his ‘porter’ a tip.
“What are you doing sir?”, asked the puzzled and embarrassed man, “I am a Sevadal! It is my privilege to serve you. Sairam.”
The man walked away leaving behind an instantly impressed Ram Mohan who felt that it was the first time he had not been fleeced in a new place that he visited. As he explored the place, a fragrance seemed to chase him wherever he went. He was wonderstruck as he realized that it was the sweet scent of vibhuti. That was possibly another visiting card from Swami!

Though he was late for the morning darshan session, Ram Mohan ran for the evening session and found himself seated in the front lines in the ‘car-shed area’ on the gents’ side of the Mandir. As he waited for Swami to arrive, he began to converse with a neighbouring Bengali gentleman from the city of Calcutta. The man who was coming to Puttaparthi for just the second time, introduced Ram Mohan to the wonderful ways of Swami through his own personal story of grace.

He had arrived to Puttaparthi along with his wife and son during the Shivarathri of 1975. He desperately sought a cure for his seemingly incurable son who was oozing pus from his skin all over the body. Such was his desperation that he had pawned his wife’s gold to pay for the journey of a thousand miles. He was in for a disappointment because the Shivarathri crowds were swelling and he did not manage to even speak to Swami. Frustrated, he had dragged his wife and son out of the Nilayam, leaving in a huff to go to the bus stand from where he would catch transportation back to his native place. As the tired and thwarted trio had waited for a bus, a Sevadal man had come running there,
“Is there a Bengali Babu here? Swami asks for the Bengali Babu...”
Minutes later, the trio were in Swami’s presence. Bhagawan materialised some vibhuti and gave it as medication for three days. Then He said,
“A devotee must have patience. Devotion without patience is not devotion at all. You have seen how busy the times are. How could I speak to you before?”
The family gratefully offered their apologies and salutations before heading home. By the time they reached Calcutta three days later, the son had been completely cured! They had come now to offer gratitude to Swami.

Hearing this story, Ram Mohan was thrilled beyond measure. He could feel an intense love towards this being he had not yet seen. Along with that arose a strange desire,
“I would like to hear Swami speak... I want to hear His voice.”

Bhagawan is the Kalpavriksha (wish-fulfilling tree) that grants our wishes beyond measure. It was indeed fortunate that Ram Mohan wished for the right things. He had no idea how even these little wishes would be fulfilled in ways beyond his dreams. But that will have to wait for the story to unfold in due course of time. Right now, Ram Mohan beheld the most graceful form of his life - Swami had come out to grant darshan!

That intense desire to just hear Swami's voice is probably what granted Ram Mohan the future opportunity as Swami's
translator. It was a position from which he could hear The Voice from the closest quarters possible. But that chance
did not come easily - Ram Mohan put in sincere efforts for the same.

When Swami came near him, he was overawed at the Presence. Swami did not look at him but his eyes were trained on the full-moon face. Ram Mohan saw that everyone was touching Swami’s feet. He too followed the lead. The feet were so smooth and tender like those of a baby. As Ram Mohan was lost in the beauty of the lotus feet, his heart’s desire was fulfilled because Swami spoke a few words to the person behind him! It was regarding the subscription to Sanathana Sarathi - Bhagawan’s own monthly magazine - but Ram Mohan’s desire of hearing Swami speak from close quarters was fulfilled.

With joy in his heart and a lightness in his head, Ram Mohan headed back to Chattrapur.

The intense yearning and unexpected opportunities

“No one can visit Puttaparthi only once” is the old village saying. Having had a taste of the Tranquility and a peek at the Presence, one feels like coming back to Prasanthi over and over again. Ram Mohan was no exception. His visits to the heavenly hamlet became frequent. He also enrolled as a member of the local Sai Samithi, also becoming its secretary and treasurer in short time. He began to find greater joy in his work as a teacher because he began to do it as an offering to his new-found God.

It was when he visited Swami during the Dusshera of 1976 that Ram Mohan saw the students of Swami’s college from Bangalore. Instantly an intense desire burned in his heart - “How I wish I can serve Swami directly as a teacher...”

The fire that had been lit in his heart soon grew into a searing conflagration. Ram Mohan was unable to think of anything else but to serve Swami as a teacher in His college. Every morning, he would rise and think of ways in which he could serve Swami better. He became an active and enthusiastic participant in all the Samithi activities and he himself initiated many of them. Every night, as he lay his head on the pillow, he would imagine the pillow to be Swami’s feet. He would then clutch the Lord’s feet and earnestly pine to be accepted as a teacher. He would wash his Lord’s feet with his sweet tear-waters. Two years passed this way and Ram Mohan felt that he wanted nothing else in life now. He formulated a plan in addition to his daily prayers to fulfill this desire.

Ram Mohan sent his mother to stay permanently at Prasanthi Nilayam, to be his advocate in pleading for him to Swami. It was the year 1978.
“Be there and whenever you get an opportunity, ask the Lord for your son to become a teacher in His institution. Don’t worry about anything else. I shall take care of everything.”
Having done that, he himself headed to Shillong in the faraway state of Meghalaya to enroll in a 2-month intensive course of advanced English which was being conducted under the auspices of the Central Institute for English and Foreign Languages (CIEFL). Being a teacher in Swami’s school, he felt, needed one to be most competent.

Meanwhile, the mother, Smt. Varaprasadamma, was blessed with a personal interview by Swami! There, she pleaded on her son’s behalf and Swami assured her that He would grant Ram Mohan a job in His institution. Having accomplished her mission, she returned home and informed her son. Ram Mohan was overjoyed. His greatest dream was unfolding itself and he wept tears of gratitude to Swami. The next time he was in Puttaparthi, he sent an application for the post of the English teacher in the junior college. He gave his address care of the tin shed in the ashram (where he was residing temporarily) because he felt that he would be instantly appointed. He waited for a few days and nothing happened after which, he returned once again to Chattrapur.

In the summer of 1979, when the academic year concluded, Ram Mohan packed up his bags and travelled to Brindavan (Swami’s ashram in Bangalore) to beseech Swami to fulfill His promise. He was in for a double whammy when he landed there. Firstly, he was told that Bhagawan was conducting the month long Summer Course in Indian Culture and Spirituality because of which the ashram was bursting at its seams and there was no accommodation available. Secondly, he was told that Swami had stopped granting interviews temporarily for the same reason - the hectic Summer Course schedule! Ram Mohan stood petrified at the thought of no accommodation and no interviews.

Moments later, to his great relief, a young man appeared and invited Ram Mohan to stay over at his home as a paying guest. He also advised him to hurry and freshen up at home before Swami could return from the city. Ram Mohan got to know that Swami had gone out to Bangalore City and would be returning in some time soon. As advised by his benefactor, he got ready and waited for Swami’s car the railway-crossing, that gates of which were down because of a train arriving to the Whitefield railway station. At that very instant, he spotted Swami’s car which had stopped at the other end of the level crossing!

He gazed hard in an attempt to discern Swami in the car. Much to his delight, he could see the window glass rolling down. Swami put out His hand and beckoned to him! Ram Mohan ran like his life depended on it because he was convinced that his life depended on it. When he reached the car, Swami smiled. The one who knows everything donned the vesture of Maya to confer the joy of interaction to Ram Mohan.
“What is your name?”
“Swami, Ram Mohan Rao...”
“What do you want dear one?”
“Swami I want to teach Your boys.”
“Definitely... definitely...”
Swami then stretched out His right hand and lovingly patted Ram Mohan on his head. His mind went blank. His train of thoughts seemed to halt permanently. In the meanwhile, another train had also come to a halt at the Whitefield station. The gates had been raised. Swami blessed Ram Mohan and drove on.

There are no photographs of that memorable "railway crossing meeting" that Ram Mohan enjoyed with Bhagawan. But
there are several pictures of Swami lovingly blessing him in Brindavan in the years that followed.

Ram Mohan was now sure that he would achieve his dream. He walked over to the office of the Principal, Mr. Narendar and presented himself as a future teacher selected by Swami Himself. He got a rude shock when the Principal calmly told him that there were no vacancies and Ram Mohan could in no way be immediately employed! Confused about what he should do, Ram Mohan waited till the end of the summer. The vacation was over and he had to report at the Science College back home. Swami was leaving for Puttaparthi and he was not an inch closer to becoming a teacher. Disappointed, he wrote a letter to Swami saying how sad he was. He allowed his frustration also to be put into words as he concluded,

“Swami, if you are truly God, it is time to demonstrate your divinity.”

Then, Ram Mohan left.

How did Swami demonstrate His divinity? How did the future unfold? What was the vital message on increasing Devotion that Ram Mohan received?

All this and much more in the second part is at the link below:

The easiest way to increase devotion to God - Life experience of Ram Mohan Rao - Part 2

 For all the readers:

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  1. Ah.. beautiful brother... To know the lord, the thirst for lord and the desire to serve the lord... amazing... looking forward to the next episode...

  2. Dear Brother - Thank you for this very beautiful, inspiring and loving article. This clearly makes us realize - for any offering of service to the lord and to sanctify one's life - one should have the absolute pining, yearning and absolute patience. Eagerly waiting for the life rewarding second episode. With thanks and gratitude, Deva

  3. Beautiful...leaves me in Bliss

  4. Now I have to wait.NOT EASY.Thank you and more thank you.

  5. A very inspiring article. The Lord,s heart melts where there is full devotion with patience. Om Sri Sai Ram.

  6. Sairam, Such an endearing experiences of a devotee. It was well written and very enjoyable to read about our Swami's love towards His children.

  7. Wow !looking fwd to the next episode!
    What thirst for Swami!
    Amazing experience and as usual well written!

    1. Thank you... I must confess that I have been a beneficiary of Ram Mohan sir's thirst... He was the first one to encourage me to speak in Swami's presence... He made me practice regularly in his room and kept trying to get me an opportunity. This article is also my offering of gratitude to him.

  8. Sairam Aravind. Another story of SWAMI's enchanting leela of how draws a devotee and moulds him told in your inimitable manner. Waiting with bated breath for Dec 09 to come and read next part of the story.
    Best wishes and love
    Madhusudanvithal Nori

  9. Sai Ram Arvind!
    Beautiful article- thank you!
    Holding the pillow as Swami’s beautiful! Uma Andrew


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