Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Coping with the physical absence of Sri Sathya Sai Baba - two stories and an experience

The day after which everything changed

For the followers of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, the 24th of April 2011 marks the end of an era and (naturally so), the beginning of another. It is a day on which everything changed forever because the Swami that they so dearly loved discarded the lovely form that He had donned for nearly 86 years. Having painstakingly taught them for decades that He would always be in them, around them, beside them and with them, He decided that it was the time for the practical examination. 

When my mind goes back to the period after that, it just becomes numb. It is hard to remember anything 'memorable' after that 24th. Yet, His word can never fail. It is possibly with this faith or maybe hope that I stay on, doing the things that I feel will please my Swami. It is this faith (or hope) that keeps the millions of His devotees going. Lucky are those with that hope; luckier still are those with that faith. But for those like me, who have bouts of doubts and sadness at missing His lovely form, here are a couple of stories that Swami would narrate which give us a solution and thus solace. 

It was the 22nd of August, 2011 - the first Krishnashtami (birthday of Lord Krishna) that we would be celebrating at Prasanthi Nilayam in the physical absence of Swami. I suddenly felt a pinch of emptiness in my heart. My mind raced to the years before when He would feed the animals so lovingly. It especially raced to the the most memorable Krishna Janmashtami of my life when Swami showed me that though He seems to be absent, He knows everything that goes on everywhere and at every time! And soon, there were tears in my eyes. 

This is the irony of life - we laugh remembering the moments we have cried in the past and we cry remembering the moments that we have laughed and been happy in the past!

The form of God can be matched by ONLY one thing

I closed my eyes visualising that beautiful form of Swami. It was so hard to stop the tears. Possibly in a bid to bring some solace to my heart, I began chanting His name - the Sai Gayatri. The solace actually came! Why would it not? Hadn't Swami Himself promised it? Here is the story that He would often narrate to emphasize on remembrance of the Lord's name. It is popularly known as Krishna Tulabhaaram.

Among all His many wives, Lord Krishna seemed to have special love for Rukmini. In the eyes of the Lord, all are equal. But some appear to be more equal than the others! And this has happened in every Avatar. Even in the Sathya Sai Avatar, in our human vision, many of us felt that the Lord has His favourites. In that age, the Lord’s consort, Satyabhama was jealous of Krishna’s ‘partiality’ to Rukmini. So, she sought the help of the celestial sage, Narada, to improve her standing with Krishna. Narada realized that Satyabhama suffered from acute jealousy and it was time for her to learn her lesson. 

Narada told her, 
“Oh Queen! If you give me (a sage) in charity some offering equivalent in weight to that of Lord Krishna, then He becomes yours and yours alone forever!”
Satyabhama jumped at this opportunity and said,

” I shall offer you gold which is equivalent in weight to my dear Krishna!” 
“However be warned! If you fail to make the offering, Krishna becomes my slave!” Narada warned.

An overjoyed Satyabhama conveyed her desire to Lord Krishna.
“But my dear Bhama! I do not want to be the slave of that Narada!” 
“That will never happen my Lord! I will never let go of you. You will be mine forever.”
With a smile, Lord Krishna agreed.

It was finally a leaf that displaced the Lord.
Dehapatram - the leaf of surrender of one's
Dehabhimanana or body attachment. 
The scales were brought and the weighing began. The smile of victory on Satyabhama’s face slowly faded into a frown and then grew into a grimace as all her gold in tons did not tilt the scales in her favour! She began to borrow gold and even that was insufficient! This was a calamity now for the Lord was about to get enslaved to Narada. At this time, she rushed to Rukmini and poured out the tale of her foolishness which was about to turn into a great tragedy. Rukmini immediately responded and arrived at the scene. She plucked a leaf from the holy Thulasi (basil) plant and holding it to her heart, called out, “Krishna”. She then placed it on the scales and the leaf lifted the Lord!

Swami explains in His discourse,

Remember, its only the name of the Lord that can equal the form of the Lord. Wherever His name is, the form is automatically there!

This message is something very unique and it gives us so much hope and solace today. It definitely gave me succour on that Krishnashtami day. 

And the form appeared!

Everyone had assembled in the Sai Kulwant hall - people and animals alike waiting for their Lord. I was sure that some administrators or elders would be called to feed the animals. What a contrast it would be! Not wanting to witness it, I tried keeping my eyes closed and chanting the name. Then, there was a sudden joy. Even as we all missed the days when the Lord would feed the animals, little Krishna came out and He fed bananas to the cows! I was thrilled. Ah Swami! What a lovely idea this had been of the students to deck one little boy as the Lord to feed the animals! Only Krishna could give joy like Sai Krishna. Immediately, I swung into action, taking photos and I take a picture of Krishna feeding each of the cows, just as I would have done when Swami was feeding the cows. I was happy though the form of Swami that I loved so much was not there. 

Krishna feeding the cows...

Dear little deer!
The beautiful form of the Lord pulls me to Him no doubt, but His sweet name pulls Him to me! The form fills me with His presence; the name fills me in spite of His apparent absence! That was when the story of another great devotee of Krishna came to my mind. 

Surdas was born blind. And he also possessed a blind love for the Lord. He spent all his life in the thought of Lord Krishna, his beloved. It is believed that whenever he sang, little Krishna himself came to hear him.

Once, as Surdas was walking along the road, he fell into a well. There was nobody nearby to help him. But Surdas, in his natural manner continued to think of and chant the name of Krishna. Meanwhile, a little boy, Gopal came to his rescue. As he spoke to the boy, Surdas realized that this was none other than his beloved Krishna. But the minute he understood this, Krishna freed his hand from Surdas' clasp and ran away.

Surdas was immediately plunged into grief! The Lord whom he sought throughout his life was in his grasp but now, He was gone! And in the depth of his grief, illumination happened and he burst forth into a song:

Baaha Chudaye Jaat Ho,
Nibal Jaan Ke Mohe,
Hriday Se Jab Javo Tho,
Sabal Mein Jaano Tohe.

“Oh Krishna, you think am weak because you are able to free your hand from my grasp. But I shall consider you really strong only if you are able to leave my heart where I have enshrined you.”
{This song also has a special place in my heart for the impact it has had in my life. That is recorded at the end of the blog on Karma and the fruits of action.}
And with that story arose a resolve in my heart. 

Swami! You think that you can escape me by leaving me physically? I have bound you strongly in my heart! Try leaving my heart if you can! You will never be able to do that. And I will bind you even more firmly by incessantly chanting Your name.

With that resolve sprouted a smile on my face. Krishna, by now, had fed the cows and he seemed to have disappeared. I thanked Rukmini and Surdas for the inspiration and love they provided in my heart. Looking up at the smiling picture of Swami, I too simply smiled.

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  1. Swamis presence is felt more at His absence!
    This is true to all whom we love,adore and pay regards!
    Swami's Omnipresence is felt even in the remotest of areas,plans,thoughts where you are surprised to find the preplanned arrangements so beautifully intact!
    We are just ordinary puppets 😊

  2. Dear Brother - My Loving Sairam. Thank you so much for inspiring us & Loving us. Thank you for reminding us again & again of this truth. Than you, Deva

    1. Always a pleasure Deva! :)

      Thank you for your sincere reading and comment as always...

  3. Sairam Aravind thanks a lot for this inspiring article. Yes constant namasmarana helps us to realise HIS presence within us.

  4. Wonderful Aravind. Just to narate a very rescent incident. We were in Badrinath on 17 th May. After a wonderful Dharshan one of our friends who is also a staunch devotee of Swami started having palpitations due to high altitude. We did not know what to do. We just took out Swamis photo put this on the devotees cheat, put some vibuthi on his toungue and started chanting Sai Gayathri. From no where a person with a portable oxygen cylinder turned up. Have him Oxygen and revived him. We just did not know from where he turned up showing us that He was always with us. Aum Sairam

  5. Really very very inspiring. Nd I really needed that..thank u so much brother for sharing.loving Sairam

  6. Sai Ram _/\_ Great Start to new journey|| thank you*

  7. Very inspiring ..Thank you very much for sharing ..

  8. Once in an interview to Sunder Iyer, then first batch student, to a question by Swamy as to what did he want, Sri Iyer said he wanted Swamy only; Swamy asked "you want Swamy or Sai", and when Sri Iyer replied 'both', Swamy said, Swamy will remain with you as long as this (pointing to His own body) body is living, but Sai will remain forever with you, within your heart! And this is so relevant today.

  9. I have no words brother. Just weeping continuously while reading this


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