Wednesday, 9 May 2018

How God helps in our Karma - the fruits of action.

Fluctuating fortunes

It was the summer of 2002. Like some of the special summers before that, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba had decided to conduct the Summer Course in Indian Culture and Spirituality. The venue, as in most cases, was the Whitefield Ashram in Bangalore. It turned out to be a most unforgettable one for me because of an experience it gifted me. Swami used that period to teach me a powerful lesson about Karma and the way Guru/God deals with it. 

For those that are unaware of what a Summer Course with Sri Sathya Sai Baba is, here is a brief description. It had started off as a study of the Indian scriptures and value systems for a period of 15-20 days for the youth from various parts of India. Swami would take active interest in it and would address the students on a daily basis. The students were also blessed to hear talks by many scholars and erudite speakers. As years passed by, attending a Summer Course was made a special privilege of only the students studying in the various educational institutions started by Swami. The format and schedule remained the same. 

It was the 26th of May, 2002 to be precise. The Buddha Poornima celebrations overlapped with the concluding days of the Summer Course that year. The programme was by devotees from Nepal who had filled the Brindavan Ashram. I was part of the audio team that controls and takes care of the sound system during the programmes in Sai Ramesh Hall. As part of my duty, I was seated right in the front of the hall, walkie-talkie in hand, with the bhajan group. I had to give real-time updates and feedback about the microphone volumes to the team.

I also was assigned another job. This was a time when Swami had suffered a fall and had difficulty walking up the stairs. As a result, two lifts had been erected - one on the ladies’ side and one on the gents’ side - for Swami to move up and down.

Those were the days when Swami, at times, would come for Darshan in the golf-car and return by walk...Some days, He chose to walk both ways...
I was told that if Swami used the lift on the gents’ side of the hall to go up the stage, I should send the ladies’ side lift also up, so that both lifts are available for Swami in case He wishes to descend. It had to be done manually as this synchronicity of the lifts had not yet been automated. Swami, on that day, completed His darshan rounds and moved up the lift from the ladies’ side. The lift on the gents’ side stayed down. Over the walkie-talkie I got an instruction,
“Move to the gents’ side and raise the lift up.” 

I was in a dilemma because, as Swami sat on the dais, I was right in front of Him. I also had my Nikon SLR camera in hand. Would it not be conspicuous if I got up and went over to the lift? Would not Swami get upset at my ‘indiscipline’ of moving about during a programme?

Even as I was lost in thoughts, I got another message,
“The warden is here. He says that you better go and raise the lift up. Otherwise, in case Swami wants to go down the gents’ side, He will be made to wait.” Now, the warden of our hostel in Brindavan also happened to be sort of an administrative head of the Brindavan Ashram. He was considered as Swami’s ‘right hand’ to execute various activities. If he was saying, I better do it, I thought. (That is a fatal mistake. To allow anyone, however high or powerful he might be, to come between you and your Guru/God). So, I just got up and walked to the lift. I pressed the green button that took the lift up.

Immediately, I felt a hand pull me down. It was a teacher and he seemed upset. He said, “You fool! Why did you get up and move? Swami was going on seeing you. He does not like such indiscipline. Now, just sit here and don’t do anything foolish.” I sat down at the lift, a little scared about facing Swami’s ‘irritation’. But my attention was on my Nikon 801s camera that was on the floor, right in front of Swami. The bhajans were on and everyone were singing out loud. The Buddhist devotees sitting there were lost in the ecstasy of devotion and I was worried. One swipe of an excited limb and my camera would be history! I sat with bated breath, waiting for the programme to conclude.

One of the few pictures I took before I went over to the lift on the gents' side of Sai Ramesh Hall. 
About half an hour later, Swami gently rose and received Aarthi. Then, He again moved towards the lift on the ladies’ side. As He moved down, in accordance to the policy, I lowered the lift on the gents’ side also. Swami began to walk in the opposite direction towards the ladies’ side exit of the hall. At this time, I got up and rushed back to my placein order to safeguard the camera. 

And then, it happened...

Facing the summer heat

Swami was a good 25 meters away. But, even from that distance, He seemed to see me. He re-entered the Sai Ramesh Hall and came walking straight towards me. (I immediately remembered the words of my teacher who had advised me to remain seated near the lift.) For the first time in my life, I had trepidation as Swami was coming near me. He was smiling and blessing the devotees who had gathered. Seeing His smiling face, I felt slightly better. But as He came two feet away from me, His expression changed. His face became red in anger almost instantly. He told me to get up and I rose on my knees. I received full ‘fury’ on my face.

“Are you a student?! Totally undisciplined! You are moving around like dogs and pigs do!”

Even as He was scolding me, I felt His saliva on my face - such was the fury. I was totally confused and I stammered, “” 
“Yes! Warden! I shall throw you out. I don’t want a student like this.”

And immediately after this, He looked at the devotees over my head and gave them a broad smile. The red face was gone and so was the fury. I am sure that none of the devotees even made out anything other than the fact that Swami had told me something. He just turned and walked away. I was trembling in fear. I was so totally shocked and I had never seen Swami in that form ever. Even as Swami was exiting the hall, all the devotees gathered around me. Not aware of what had happened, they were congratulating me.

“You are so blessed that Swami came all the way for you!”
“Can you share what was that special secret that He came to share with you?”
I was lost for words. I was in tears.
“He is so overwhelmed! Leave him for a while to absorb the beauty of the experience!”

I just rose from my place and picking up the microphones that had been mute witnesses to my trashing, took them to the green room that was backstage. From the room, I could see and even hear Swami moving towards His residence. The warden was there. As Swami neared him, he was all smiles. But I could see the smile fading into a grim expression and from that I could guess Swami’s expression.

The end of the smile and the beginning of the fury near His residence... 
Then, I heard Swami.

“That boy....About this tall.....He has a camera.....Is he a student?”
“Swami....I shall find out....”
( I knew that the warden knew who Swami was referring to but he had decided to simply play it safe.)
“Get him here this afternoon. I shall throw him out. I don’t want such boys.”
And Swami walked into the residence.

I returned to my room in a daze unable to think about what to do next. In a few minutes, I was summoned to the warden’s office. I walked to the room and saw that the warden was meeting with some ‘big’ people. The minute he saw me, he dismissed everyone else and called me in. Somehow, this kind of VIP treatment at this juncture scared me even more. 

“Boy! What did you do? How could you do such a thing?”
“Sir! You told me to go and raise the lift and I did as you said.”
“If I tell you to jump in a well, will you do it? You should have told me about your predicament and used your common sense!”
He was simply washing away his hands and holding me solely responsible for my predicament!
“What should I do now sir?”
“Swami has told me to take you to Him this afternoon and He wants to personally throw you out. Only prayer can save you. Keep praying.”

I felt like falling at warden’s feet and asking him to save me! I was like a drowning man clutching at the floating straws and I committed my next mistake. I did not fall at his feet but asked him to save me nevertheless (once again, allowing a third person between me and my Swami).
“Listen to me. Stand in a corner hidden from Swami’s view. Pray to Him that He does not notice you. Also pray that when He sees me, He does not ask about you. Only prayer can save you.” 

I accepted what he said and slowly trudged back to my room. I just had tears and was also angry in part.
“I just obeyed my elders! Does not Swami know what I was doing? Why did He scold me that way? And now, if I am thrown out after my undergraduate course, what should I do next?”

With a loud thudding of my heart, I lay down on my bed.

The misery unfolds

I had fallen asleep and the time flew by quickly. It was lunchtime. I had no appetite but still ate thinking that if it was to be my last meal in the hostel, it might as well be a good one! Soon, it was 3pm and I did not even want to go near the Trayee Brindavan (Swami’s residence) area. All my life I had been seeking His physical attention and now, when I was getting it, I seemed to be shrinking away! I decided that I would not go near the residence in any way. I would seat myself in the hall, as inconspicuously as possible. And yes! I prayed.

In the evening, after the darshan and bhajan session was complete, I wended my way back to the hostel - happy that no summons had come till then. At the same time, I was scared that the summons could come at anytime. The warden came to the hostel and sent for me first thing. He had a broad smile on his face and he told me, 
“Your prayers seem to have worked. Swami did not ask for you! Congratulations...”

I was also relived and was about to celebrate when the warden continued, “However, we should not take any chances. Do not be seen by Him anytime, anywhere. Do you agree?”
As if i had any choice! 

“If you want to be sure that you don’t get thrown out, listen to me. Be last in every line. Never bring yourself into Swami’s sight.”

This is the worst torture that any student could be punished with - to make efforts to stay away from Swami! But I seemed to be in a really tight spot. If I did not obey and comply, I might have to leave Swami forever. Thus, I agreed and special instructions were given to the ‘line leaders’ to make sure I was the last student in the last line that moved for darshan and bhajan.

Everyone enjoyed beautiful darshans....except me! :(
During the summer course, as I mentioned earlier, there are students from all the campuses. So I was the last, not among the usual 300, but among the 800 or so students! I lost the motivation and energy to get ready quickly and wait for darshan - I would anyway be the last. The loss of motivation soon turned into a deep sorrow. Salt would be rubbed into my wounds twice a day as there were two darshan sessions during Summer Course. I felt Swami was so distant from me. He would even visit the auditorium where the talks were being delivered. Since the auditorium had a limited seating capacity, there would so some students sitting out and I would be a regular there. Imagine my plight when Swami went into the auditorium and sat in between the boys and all I could get was only momentary glimpses of Him!

Every evening, there would be discourses. That was something that everyone looked forward too. I also enjoyed the discourses because that was the only time when physical proximity did not seem to matter. His voice was heard equally everywhere in the hall! Two days passed this way but I felt like it was almost a week!

Cooling summer showers in Brindavan?

It was the morning of the 29th of May. I was sitting way behind and as Swami came for darshan, I got my tears again. Suddenly, I felt that He was looking at me though He was very far. I wiped my tears and concentrated on Him. I thought that I saw a beautiful smile. That made me so happy. Immediately after the darshan was complete, I ran to the warden’s office. He was again with some ‘big’ people and this time, I did not get the VIP treatment! I waited for everyone to leave and then entered his office.

That day morning, I felt as if Swami saw me from far and gave me a smile... 
“Sir! Everything is fine!”
“What do you mean by that boy?”
“Sir! Swami will not throw me out. He is happy with me. He smiled at me...”
“Are you sure He smiled at you? He could have smiled at anyone else also?”

I was in a doubt now.

“If you are simply imagining this, then it could end up as disaster for you. You sit in front and show your face and that might be your last darshan as a student.”
I was not ready to take the risk. Unnaturally and foolishly, I again sought his ‘protection’ and decided to sit back and cool off. 

That was not an easy decision though. The pressure of sorrow in my heart would never get released by any amount of tears. In the evening, once again, I was seated somewhere at the back for Swami’s discourse. During the course of the discourse, Swami made some statements that almost wrenched my heart. Here is the gist of what He said.
“God does not know the meaning of anger. Can you tell me what anger is? See the rain - it comes as drops of water. At times however, we have hailstones. These cause pain when they strike you but remember that hailstones too are basically water. In the same way, God’s anger is also God’s love that is packaged in a different manner. God never gets angry.”

I had the habit of writing down Swami’s discourses. But that day, I stopped writing. I was crying within saying, “Swami, you got so angry on me! You say that is your love? Then, I am seeking to get back to you, but I lack courage. I am scared of getting thrown out from here and the warden has told me specifically to sit back always.”
The discourse complete, we all moved back to the hostel for dinner and study hours. Soon, it was time to sleep. 

The last straw

The next day, early in the morning, it was my duty to play devotional songs over the PA system of the hostel as everyone finished ablutions and got ready for the day. That morning, the 30th of May, when I played the cassette, the song that played was a composition of saint Surdas sung by the inimitable Anup Jalota. A brief story of the song is in order here.

The saint Surdas was blind from birth. He was always lost in the name of Lord Krishna. One day, he falls into a well and calls out to Krishna. A little boy comes up to the well and helps the saint out of the well. Then, as the two are walking together, the saint treats the little boy like a child not knowing that it is his own dear Krishna. And the minute he realizes that it is indeed His Lord, Krishna lets go of the hand and runs away. The anguished saint bursts forth into the song.

“Baah Chudaye Jaat Ho, Nibal Jaan Ke Mohe.

Hriday se Jab Javo Tho, Sabal Mein Jaanu Tohe”

“Oh Lord! You are thinking me as weak and thus you succeed in freeing yourself from my clasp. But if I am to consider you as really strong, try to leave my heart where I have bound you.”

Then he goes on to sing the complete song which praises Krishna. Set in the raag Darbari, it is such a beautiful experience to hear the song. Though the version here misses the most important opening stanza, it is worth hearing as we read on.

As I heard the song, my heart began to resonate with it. I cried out loud  to Swami. I said that I was being kept away from Him and that was such a big torture for me. I also told Him, “You just try as much as you want, you cannot escape from my heart! I hold you dearly there and shall forever hold you that way!” And I cried even more. I was weeping continuously, alone in the audio room. I drifted off into sleep and then Swami came. He came to me in a dream that gave me a hint and a solution to the situation I was in.

In the dream, I was seated in the same auditorium that was now hosting the Summer Course. Swami is distributing slices of muskmelon to everyone. Swami was soon about to come into my row of seats to distribute fruits. I then saw that I had some slices of fruit already in my hand. I tried to throw them aside so that I could get the fruits that Swami was giving. I also took out fruit that was in my mouth and tried to throw it away. Swami saw me and said, “Finish those fruits first. I shall then give you these.” Swami then saw a camera in my hand and frowned. I kept the camera down and quickly ate the fruits that He had referred to. The frown on His face disappeared. I begged Him to come near me. 
Then I told Him, “Swami I am sorry! You know everything right?”
He simply smiled broadly at me and I felt so happy. 
“I want to start getting my camera, sitting in front and shooting again.”
“No objection”, was His reply. He was now sitting beside me on the chair. I asked, “Swami, can I get the camera tomorrow itself?” He again repeated, “No objection.” Then He rose from the chair and left.

Anybody who knows the connotation of the ‘fruits’ of action will easily understand the dream! It was obvious for me that the 'fruits' referred to my karmic accumulations. 

I woke up and felt very light at heart. All that had happened was me ‘eating the fruits’ that I had gathered. Only when those fruits were eaten could my hands be free to receive the fruits Swami wanted to give me. I felt that the fruits had been consumed as indicated in the dream. So, I decided that I would not hesitate and sit back any longer. I wanted to take my camera right away and go for darshan. But how was I to get the ‘permission slip’ necessary to take my camera into the hall? The person in-charge for giving permission slips had been specially told about my ban. 

Things fall in place - the fruits of action

Not bothering too much about it, I had my bath and found myself whistling joyously too. I got ready and then went to the person in-charge for the camera chit. I told him, 
“Sir, I would like to take my camera for darshan today.” He simply nodded and signed me a permission slip! Was I amazed.

Trayee Brindavan - this is how the residence of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba in Brindavan looked in 2003.
I went to the first lines along with the ‘birthday boys’. Swami came for darshan. As He neared me, I was wondering what would happen. Nothing happened - neither a smile, nor a blast. I was happy with that and had some satisfaction welling within me. That satisfaction was only short-lived.

The teacher in-charge of the audio department called me and asked, “How come you are sitting in the front?”
“Sir! The problem got solved now”, I replied. 
“I asked the warden. He said nothing about the problem being solved.”
Wisdom sprouted for the first time in my speech. I said,
“Sir! The problem was never between me and warden. It was between me and Swami and it is solved.”

It is little wonder that I was summoned to the warden’s office.
“Boy! You were lucky today morning. It is hardly 4 days since Swami was so upset and you openly flouted what I told you.”
“Sir! These four days have felt like forty for me! Swami came in my dream and told me that He had not objection. So I will no longer stick to my ban.”
“Are you sure about this?”
“I am very sure sir. In fact, tomorrow is my duty to be in the audio room. I would like to resume that.”
“Swami is definitely going to see you there before He goes for darshan!”
“I know and I want to do it.”
“You might lose your place in the college...”
“Sir! If Swami kicks me out, I shall leave for it is His will. I am not scared anymore.”

It was a morning when I wished that Swami would walk past me,
without noticing me...
I walked out of the room. I was very sure that if any ‘mishap’ were to take place, I would get the ‘I-told-you-so’ look from warden. I began to pray to Swami about the next day morning when i would stand right next to the blue carpet on which he would go walking towards the darshan hall. I would be all alone there. But I was comforted by two things - one was the dream. The second was the fact that Swami usually walked looking at the ground and carpet in the area that I would be standing. He would look up only after the devotees came in sight. I thought that most probably Swami would pass by me without even noticing me. It was with these thoughts that I welcomed the 3rd of June, 2002.

I arrived early to Swami’s residence and set up all the microphones and readied the audio system. I picked up Swami’s handkerchief from His chair in the audio room and kept it in my pocket. I usually carried a handkerchief for Him always anyway. Then, I took my position by the side of the carpet. I was praying that everything should go on fine. Soon, Swami arrived. A hush fell over the entire place.

Swami came walking down the carpet, looking down at the carpet all the while. I was relaxing a bit for things were indeed working out exactly as I had thought. He came just three feet away from me. I could smell His wonderful fragrance even though I held my breath. But then! He stopped right in front of me. My heart skipped a beat. He looked into my eyes. I was inwardly screaming, “Swami! You said that you had no objections and so I came. Do not scold me...”
Moments before the 'face-to-face' encounter... 
“Where are the fruits?”, He asked.

I was dumbstruck. I immediately remembered my dream and was about to say, “Swami I ate them”, but I stopped. I saw far in the distance where students stood in readiness with baskets of mangoes. I realized that mangoes would be distributed as prasadam today. So I said, “Swami the fruits are there.”
He smiled. He looked at the boys and called one of them. He felt the mangoes and told me, “These should be distributed after the bhajans.” 

I nodded with an understanding smile and offered the kerchief to Him as His hands had been ‘soiled’ by the dust on the mangoes. He took it, wiped His hands and playfully threw it back at my face. He beamed another smile and walked on. Everything became so clear for me.
Once the message becomes clear, the messenger ceases to exist. His anger was simply a messenger here! He never wanted to throw me out. He wanted to expel my rotten fruits of action. He also taught me the important lesson of keeping my connect with Him direct and personal, without resorting to or listening to intermediaries. 

It is 2018 now and I still continue to be with Him and work for Him at the digital studios of Radio Sai Global Harmony in Prasanthi Nilayam. 

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  1. i remember reading this episode earlier but now it gives a totally new and better feel that shows your progress in understanding swami. i agree 100% with all your inference. i pity all those old elders who had so much physical proximity to swami all their life but never understood him.I see them all over the organisation and i could never agree when they talk about swami"s attributes(the way they understood) in their samarpan programs. May be swami purposely chose such people to be around Him so they are supposed to be in maya and not connect to Him internally. Yes...Swami has blessed each of us to connect to Him and know what He likes and dislikes. Our inner voice is the best judge and we should never listen to anyone.
    I have lived all my life away from parthi and see swami only in darshans. So its easy to see Him as God and believe He loves me. I can imagine how painful it feels when he talks in anger like an ordinary human. kudos to you who had so much physical proximity but still could connect to Him internally. Sairam

    1. All of us are works in progress. I have realized that it is no use thinking about anyone else (though it is tough to refrain from doing so:) ) My endeavour is to try and see that I keep progressing and my inner connect with Him is never dulled.

      Thank you for your insights. Please keep me in your prayers. Sairam.

  2. It is said that when God gives, it will be a such a downpour that your roof will be torn apart. Similarly when he 'gives' it 'left, right and center', it will wash out crores of janma papa. Indeed His Love. Grateful for sharing.

    1. Hahahahaha.... Interesting the way you put it. :)

  3. Thanks for sharing this again brother Aravind. I remember how you had sent this article round the first time - just 2/3 days after I had my dream about fruits (rotten and fresh and involving Shirdi Sai and Satya Sai) and didn't quite know how to interpret it. And your article had clarified what my dream had meant. Reading this article again was such a sweet reminder. Thank you for being his instrument yet again, perhaps a millionth time. Sairam.

  4. Arvind Sir your last Line - It is 2018 now and I still continue to be with Him and work for Him.
    This itself is the Biggest Sadhna and Inspiration for all youths Like me.
    Thanks for sharing Such a Beautiful and Important Lesson.
    May Swami Always Keep you Near and Dear With HIM.

  5. Awesome Brother.Thanks for sharing.. Regards, Praseed

  6. Awesome Brother.Thanks for sharing...

  7. Absolutely superb Thanks for sharing this beautiful experience with us

  8. What a powerful message and lesson for me..... Swami is never early or late he always gives the answer when you are ready... thank you brother for sharing such a wonderful experience... yes the fruit of past actions has to be eaten and praying swami to give the strength... love you brother....

    1. "God comes, not at the last minute but at the right minute"
      That is what a dear devotee - Sri Ajit Popat - would say in his talks in Swami's physical presence. :)

      Lots of love to you too...

  9. There are no intermediaries between us and HIM. What a beautiful message. It is for us to make the internal connect, the lines of which are always open...

  10. Very powerful experience for that student and lesson for all of us.One may listen to the elders but it is always between you and Swami. No intermediaries required. communicate with inner Swami by sincere prayers and He will always look after us.

  11. Beautiful message by the Lord. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Sairam it was good reading your experience and the apprehension you had when you were asked to be seated in the last for Darshan. I also have an experience of obeying our elders /teachers and sorting it out straight with swami. It was 9th of September 1997and I was fortunate of entering the coveted interview room as a B. Ed student of Swamis Atp campus. We had lovely Darshan, Sparshan and Sambashan with Swami in the morning. So promptly our Teachers told us not to show any letters or try giving one to Swami as we already received our once on a life time opportunity with the Master..our teachers wanted us to be more generous rather than being selfish. But I was carrying a letter that I very badly wanted to give Swami. So I just kept the letters inbetween my closed palms with just a small portion of the white paper to be seen over my fingers
    .iwas just praying Swami just at least look at the letter when you come for Darshan.. When Swami came for Darshan He not just looked at the letter but also pulled it out with His Hand and also remarked hindina giving me a surprise d look as I was aTamilian. That was because I had written some lines of a Hindi devotional song that we sing to Him. Iwas in Cloud nine. After swami passed our block our teacher promptly asked why I gave Him the letter but all my classmates and some sevadhal also said Swami took it. Needless to say that the praye/favourr that I asked in the letter was also answered. We have a great big wonderful Lord indeed. Sairam

    1. Thank you for sharing the sweet personal experience... :)
      It is a direct connect indeed. Sairam.

  13. Comes at a time when i am going through something and i was wondering if i have to face all this no matter what,as i presumed this is the result of past actions. Infact i thought of quitting praying,coz it would be of no use anyway,I have to have the fruits of action..swami is helpless. This article gave me so much relief. So what if I have to through tough situations. He will stay by my side and save me like a Mother. He will help me pass this. Thank you so much brother. SAIRAM.

  14. Wonderful writeup Aravind. Thank you. Wanted to share the link for this particular post. But couldn't. How do I do it?


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