Friday 2 June 2023

Who Is Sathya Sai Baba?

"Who is Mr.Swami?"

An interesting thing happened some years ago. As I was furiously plodding away at the keyboard, reliving my beautiful memories with Swami, I got a gentle prod. The prod came in as a message from Mr.Happy. He wrote in all sincerity and love - “Thank you for writing this. It was interesting and I can certainly appreciate your devotion for the Man in Orange. He does seem to command power.This was a great blog. I am not sure who Mr. Swami is - that is why I wanted to read more because I keep seeing his photo around lately …”

I was very touched with his interest. And I stopped typing, pausing to think. “I keep writing about the object of my love, adoration and worship. I bring Him completely into my conversations with my readers. But I do the error of not introducing Him! Many do not require an introduction and still many do need one. I must write about who Mr.Swami ( Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) is.” And thus this venture. It is really so easy to say who He is - God. And yet so difficult, for the term “God” has different meanings for different people.

Before I begin, let me tell the readers that due to a wealth of information that can be provided, I stick to a skeleton framework providing links wherever necessary. You can, of your own volition choose to dive to the depths you want! Happy diving and splashing! Now, let me begin.

Sathya Sai Baba was born as Sathyanarayana Raju as the eighth child in a poor family in the village of Puttaparthi, Andhra pradesh, India on the 23rd of November 1926. (He shed the mortal coil on the 24th of April, 2011.) His early life was one that was filled with miracles and experiences galore.

Sri Sathya Sai Baba at His Brindavan residence ( Bangalore) in the 1960s

The two voices waiting to talk aloud...

In the 86 years on earth, what He has achieved is monumental to say the least, Divine to say the Truth. And as I start to write about Him, I witness two voices within me. Both want to be heard. And I shall give them both an opportunity. The first voice is that of the head and the second is that of the heart.

Over to the head now.

Swami believes in the unity of all religions. He says that He has come not to start a new religion but to make a Hindu a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, a Christian a better Christian and so on. He says that there is only one caste, the caste of humanity; only one religion, the religion of Love; only one language, the language of the heart and only one God though God responds to whatever name you call or form you ascribe.

He says that the summation of all the scriptures is contained in the phrases, “Love All, Serve All” and “Help ever, Hurt never”. And so, He exhorts one and all to serve for service to man is service to God. In accordance with these, He has pioneered some breathtaking service projects.

1) Starting small with a free general hospital, Swami has started two general hospitals and two super speciality hospitals which are absolutely free. The super specialty hospitals in Puttaparthi and Bangalore provide tertiary care to one and all - absolutely free of cost! And the response, especially from the poorest sections that earn less than a dollar a day has been one of unimaginable gratitude.

This has inspired medical service activities in over 120 countries of the world and healthcare is being provided to millions around the world. Some of the most amazing service has been carried out in the poor African continent! It has brought light to the dark continent!

But as I said, this is only a drop in the ocean. There is magnificent service going on in all countries. I have personally witnessed some, like this mind-blowing and heart-touching one in Trinidad and Tobago.

A view of the edifice of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences in Bengaluru. 

A view of the edifice of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences in Puttaparthi 

2) Swami has always defined education as something that brings out from within what is latent in a person. He says that education is not simply stuffing things external into a person! To achieve this, Swami has built schools and a university. And again, from the nursery to post graduation, the education is offered wholly free of cost! Mind boggling isn’t it? But Swami says, “When one has the pure intention to do good, there will be no shortage of men, materials, resources, money and good wishes. This is not miracle of God, but the miracle of Love. After all, Love is god and God is Love!”

The various temples of Education that He has started have inspired many others to do the same in His name and with His principles. A primary and higher secondary school also have begun at Puttaparthi. But that is not all!

The philosophy has inspired schools and educational institutions the world over like in Fiji
and Canada.

There are many more and I feel a sample should suffice.

The Puttaparthi Campus of the Sri Sathya Institute of Higher Learning

3) India is a huge country with many places lacking access to good drinking water. Swami built massive water projects to provide safe drinking water to over 700 villages in Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh, spending about 300 crores Indian rupees to millions of people in Medak & Mahboobnagar, to millions in the E and W Godavari districts and drinking water to the entire city of Chennai in India for which all the citizens and politicians came forward to express gratitude to Swami.

The pipelines being laid. ( More than 2000 kms of pipes were laid)

Water flowing out of the Kandaleru reservoir towards the city of Chennai.

The grateful villagers - beneficiaries of the massive Sathya Sai Drinking Water project

4) Service to the villages in making them self sustaining and happy has been another major effort from Swami. As in the other projects, starting small, He has achieved tremendous results. Among the hundreds of success stories, a sample would suffice to understand this.

That is quite a lot of talk from the head. I request the head to stop here and allow the heart too a fair share of talk time. So dear heart, start speaking now...

Talking of Sathya Sai Baba as a great humanitarian is like calling Lord Krishna a cowherd, Lord Jesus a Shepherd, the Buddha a prince and Prophet Muhammad a trader! Of course, He is a humanitarian, but He is much more.

He has taught me the greatest lesson of my life - the purpose of human life! I went to Swami seeking God. And then I heard him say, “Yes, I am God and so are you. The only difference between you and I is that while I am aware of this fact, you are not. 

I saw Him perform miracles - heal cancer, tuberculosis and blindness with a mere glance or a touch; create objects from thin air and heard about how He brought the dead back to life. But as I pondered on all these, I heard Him say that His greatest miracle was Love and that if one imbibed pure selfless love, anyone can do these so called miracles. And he said that truly everyone is nothing but love. Whenever He speaks, He addresses all as the embodiments of Love!

I stayed with Him and saw Him daily. It's more than 2 decades now and I cross my heart and say that He is my best friend who has showered on me the love of a mother, father and teacher, all rolled into one. He taught me that the individual is a part of society. Society is a part of nature and nature is the part of God! So if one claims to love God then one must love one’s fellow beings, serve the society and preserve nature. Reading what Swami has said about Himself tells us a lot about who He is.

Whenever I felt alone and lost, He came to me, not only physically but even metaphysically too! I have seen so many coincidences in my life and I know that a coincidence is also a miracle; just that God chose to remain anonymous! He found for me the love of my life and He has made me love life to the fullest. He taught me that Joy and Bliss is the nature of every soul and so we must be happy always. He made me realize that whatever is happening to me is for my good alone and therefore there is never the need for me to be sad. He has filled my life with love and taught me that everything I encounter in life is nothing but a reaction, reflection and resound of me. He has taught me to love me and therefore the whole world along with that! He is my world, nay my Universe. He embodies the most powerful force ever - that of Love - and so He is the most powerful. If you call that God, yes, He is my God!

How much ever I write on what He means to me, I shall never be satisfied for how can paltry words ever substitute an experience? But yet, like the salt doll that went to measure the depths of the ocean, I try to describe who He is with the hope that like that salt doll, I too shall dissolve in Him.

Millions are the ones who have experienced Him. And a few eminent people described Him variously. That should be an inspiring read in itself!

Wednesday 31 March 2021

His Boys His Voice - Part 1 - Parting the veil of Maya

 “In this Avatar (Divine Incarnation), the wicked will not be destroyed; they will be corrected and reformed and educated and led back to the path from which they have strayed. The white-ant infested tree will not be cut; it will be saved.” 

Sri Sathya Sai Baba (Mahashivarathri 1955)

Ever since the start of the colleges at Anantapur, Brindavan and Prasanthi Nilayam, Swami started spending increasing amounts of time with His students. On many occasions, He remarked to different people that seventy five percent of His time would be spent for the students. That was evident as Swami poured His time on His students, be it in the interview room, the bhajan hall, the hostel, the institute auditorium, the Trayee sessions or the ‘PC sessions’ (private sessions in the Poornachandra auditorium). Every visionary needs good succession planning to carry on the envisioned mission. Swami’s succession planning can be understood from His shift in emphasis from “My Life is My Message” to “Your Life is My Message”. 

Sri Sathya Sai pulling the cheeks of a little boy
The students were both near and dear to Him.

It appears as if Swami chose the students as the working sample to signal this shift in emphasis

In many private interviews and interactions, Swami told the devotees that His life was His message. It was during the First World Conference, on the 17th of May 1968, that Bhagawan decided to probably publicly announce the same.

“Many of you plead for a 'Message' from Me, to take to the Samithi of which you are members. Well. My life is My message. You will be adhering to My message if you so live that your lives are evidence of the dispassionate quiet, the courage, the confidence, the eagerness to serve those who are in distress, that My life inspires you with.”

And that is why, all His life, He ate as we do, moved about like us, spoke in our languages, behaved in a manner that we recognise and understand - so that we feel kinship with Him and submit ourselves to His alchemical love. His plan is to transmute the seeker of the world into a seeker of Sathya (Truth). However, even as He sang along, spoke and engaged with everyone, He would part the clouds of Maya to reveal His divinity and ultimate objective.

Lord Rama's actual birthplace

The students were blessed with a number of such opportunities of spotting the Divine behind the veil and, at the same time, developing a kinship and friendship with the Universal Sakha. This would happen after the darshan and interview sessions when Swami would come ambling towards the students and interact with them, the teachers and others. These interactions could be casual or formal, jocular or serious but they would always contain profound lessons and insights. For instance, one morning, Swami was speaking to a group of high-ranking officials from the Ministry of Education from the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. In the full view of the students, Swami said,

“All parties have their eyes only on votes but are not genuinely concerned about the welfare of the nation. Everybody wants to be a leader today but no one wants to accept the responsibilities. A leader must lead and not push. But today’s leaders simply push from the back.”

When the torrent of Truth seemed to have subsided, one of the officials mustered the courage to ask Swami about a burning social issue.

“Bhagawan, You must be knowing where Rama Janma Bhoomi (birthplace of Lord Rama) really is, don’t You?”

“Yes! I do”, was the reply. With great excitement and anticipation, the official asked,

“Please tell us then - where is Rama Janma Bhoomi?”

“Where else - it is the womb of Kausalya!” Swami replied with a smile. 

Everyone including the questioner had a smile. It was evident that a nation had forgotten this important Truth and was bickering and fighting over a piece of land. Swami also showed the students that speaking with tact was as important as speaking the Truth. 

Sri Sathya Sai Baba carries a bow like Lord Rama
Who better than Sai Rama to reveal about Rama!

Truth in moments

On another occasion, Swami was speaking to a professor from the MBA department. Then, He turned His attention towards the students and began to speak to them. As He did so, He held the professor’s hand and was playing with the ring he wore. After a few minutes, Swami looked at the professor who said,

“Swami, You only gave that.” (An obvious reference to the ring.)

Pointing to the professor’s body, Swami asked instantly,

“And what about this?”

He then walked off to allow the profundity of what He had casually remarked to seep into the witnesses. Being the embodiment of Sathya, it is hardly surprising that Truth came so naturally to Him. And He used that Truth to constantly chisel the devotee. 

One day, the boys prayed that Swami bless the hostel with His visit. Swami asked,

“Why? What will you give me?”

“We will give ourselves Swami...”

“That you can do here itself. Why go to the hostel?”

“Swami, we will give you whatever you want...”

“Is that so? Then, I want fish sambar!”

All the students started laughing. Swami added,

“Yes! I want ‘fish’ and not ‘selfish’. Fish can at least clear the dirt in water. But selfishness only adds to impurities.”

Many were the ‘excuses’ Swami would give for not going to the hostel. They were only to increase the pining in the students and also shower wisdom through His words. On another occasion when students prayed for the same, Swami said that there was no need for the additional burden of His visit to the hostel when the students had exams. But when the students persisted, Swami called an elderly devotee and told him to drive some sense into the boys.

“Boys! You are now having exams and it will not be right for Swami to come to the hostel now.” Instead of stopping at that, the devotee continued,

“Anyhow, you must develop the feeling that Swami is with you wherever you are.  Else, what is the use?”

Swami now stopped him and asked,

“These boys want to know that if you have already developed that feeling, then why have you come here at all?” 

There was a mild laughter and the devotee presented his defence,

“Swami, what I meant was that I discharge my responsibilities wherever I am with full knowledge of Swami in my heart.”

The Lord doesn’t need clarification on what one meant. He always understands and replies to only what one means irrespective of the language or choice of words. Isn’t He the Bhavapriya? Swami’s reply was meant for everyone.

“Is Swami in your heart or are you in Swami? If I am holding this kerchief in My hand, My hand is bigger than the kerchief. In the same way, if i am in your heart, you are big and I am small.” 

The travel beyond everyone's imagination

There were many such gentle reminders of who He is so that the students remain focussed. On the 13th of October 1992, Swami came to the students and said,

“This afternoon, we got a phone call from Bangalore. Col. Joga Rao has been admitted in the ICU of Apollo Hospital. He is serious and they want Swami to come. Actually, I need not go there to save him. I can do it from here itself. But I am going there to teach you all how to show gratitude. Joga Rao is 86 years old and yet works like a young man. It is My duty to go and see him.”

The students asked when He would return.

“After one year!” 

As the students stared incredulously, Swami smiled and said,

“I will go and come back immediately.”

The next day, rumours ran high regarding Swami’s expected time of departure to Bangalore. But Swami appeared least perturbed as He granted morning and evening darshans as usual. During the bhajans, He revealed,

“Poor boys! They thought that I was going to Bangalore in the morning. They thought that the car would be brought and they would come for morning darshan. But I went to Bangalore last night itself. Within five minutes, I was inside Joga Rao’s room in Apollo. Joga Rao was excited and he said,

“Swami has come - get a chair!” But nobody else could see me. I sat with him the whole night. His blood pressure was fluctuating wildly and so was his pulse. Soon, his pulse stopped and his body became cold. But I revived him though the doctors said he was gone. Good man! He works a lot. He is a Karma Yogi. By morning, he had recovered completely. By 4 am, he started eating normally and wanted to come back to Puttaparthi at once. But I advised him to rest for a couple more days and then return. Swami has cured him.”

Sri Sathya Sai Baba and Colonel Jogarao
Col Jogarao's life was indeed a blessed one

God walking and talking spreads such a magical world of sweetness around, that the devotee hardly bothers about the inner world. Swami’s extended tours, His ever increasing personal involvement in the lives of devotees through many service projects and individual ministrations, His eloquent talks, and of course the incredible miracles flowing from His Presence opened a new era of faith and devotion which mankind had lost in building up a material civilisation. His purity, His simplicity and universality created such an aura around Him that whoever was touched by it felt blessed. He gently showed the scientists and intellectuals that there is a more humbling dimension to human understanding, that omniscience and omnifelicity is a reality, that all the religions have a much greater universal face than we wanted to believe, that the globe can become a single home for the Homo sapiens if we dare to take God’s hand and walk with Him. 

All this He achieved by just being what He was, a very loving, caring, unpretentious God who loved to share our lives. Humanity needed a palpable God, and He was that.

to be continued in Part 2

Thursday 18 March 2021

Prasanthi Nilayam Is In The Heart

 Another day in the office?

I completed my second day at my new workplace. The 'Dwitiya Vighnam' (obstacle that arises because of not doing something newly started on the second consecutive day) had been cleared in that sense. However, I had a feeling of slight sorrow in my heart. I was missing Puttaparthi. I was missing my Radiosai days which had come to an end on my birthday, the 24th June 2020, when that divine name that Swami (Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) had bestowed was replaced with a more corporate 'Sri Sathya Sai Media Centre'. It had taken me 9 months after that day to bid goodbye and the indications which Swami gave me during those months to take the ultimate step can be the subject of another separate post. 

"I will miss you Radiosai"
I will miss you Radiosai. It was divine while it lasted.

My mind wandered to the beautiful days spent in contemplation of Swami and sharing His message and love in the digital dimension to the world at large. I remembered my dear brothers and the wonderful time we spent together under the fatherhood of our Swami.
"It was such a beautiful 13 years Swami. Why did it have to end like this?" I wondered.

I picked up my phone and called a few of my former colleagues. So happy they were for me, encouraging the blogging and vlogging which I had restarted, that I myself wondered what I was feeling bad about!
"It's just your attachment", I told myself, "the very fact that something has happened is proof that Swami wants it that way. Why do you associate Swami with Puttaparthi alone?"

It was 10 pm. It was time to hit the sack. The past few nights before sleeping, I had been reading a chapter from 'God in Action' which is a collection of talks delivered by the revered Prof. Kasturi, Swami's biographer. Today, I thought of a change and had kept aside the book 'Sri Sathya Sai Anandadayi' to read at night. Strangely, the book was missing and was nowhere to be found. That seemed to add to the general low that I was feeling and I decided to go back to just reading another talk by Prof. Kasturi.

He is everywhere

I flipped open the book and went to my bookmark. I turned the page to the next chapter and it read, "He is Everywhere."

The chapter that opened up perfectly for me...

Wow! That little phrase used as the heading was itself enough to make me feel better. As I read on, I realised that this was the perfect antidote for my sad disposition. Prof Kasturi emphasized on the truth that every country in the world and every part of every country was His Prasanthi Nilayam. Just reading that portion made a fraction of Prasanthi (supreme peace) descend in my being. Then, to elucidate further, Prof Kasturi narrated an incident of a lady devotee from Kerala. Most probably, the incident is set in the 1980s. 

Though she was devoted to Swami, her son wasn't and he often made fun of Swami. In due course, he got married to a girl who was also devoted to Swami and the couple shifted to Calcutta (Kolkata today) where the husband's workplace was. Over time, the son was frustrated with his job. Piling on his misery was the accusation of fund-misappropriation that was cast on him by the office. Totally defeated and dejected, he left a message for his wife,
"Please don't wait for me. I shall not be coming home."

Then, he decided to commit suicide. The worried wife immediately called up her mother-in-law, the boy's mother and informed her of the bizarre message. Not knowing what else to do, the mother wrote a letter, unburdening all her fears and worries to Swami. She placed the letter under Swami's photograph which was on her altar. Her faith and feelings instantly converted her home into Prasanthi Nilayam and the photograph into Swami! 

Back in Calcutta, the son was simply not able to take his life. He lacked the courage to attempt a few methods and always had a worry at the back of his head that in case his attempt failed, he would be jailed by the police as an attempt to take one's own life would be considered a crime. Thus, he spent the whole day trying to die but was simply 'not allowed to'. When he climbed the Howrah Bridge to jump into the gushing waters below, he clearly heard a voice which said,

"Don’t jump. Don’t die. Come to me. Come to Puttaparthi."

The perfect sync of the lad's story with mine

The son was now convinced that going to Puttaparthi alone would solve his problem. His focus on Puttaparthi was much greater than his focus on Swami Himself! He later told Prof. Kasturi that he could not sleep in the train nor think of anything else except Puttaparthi. In fact, when the wheels of the train were moving, he could hear, “Puttaparthi! Puttaparthi! Puttaparthi!” 

He got down from the train at Bangalore and went to the ticket clerk and asked for a ticket to Penukonda (from where he would take a bus to travel to Puttaparthi). The clerk asked him, "Why are you going to Puttaparthi? Sathya Sai Baba is here in Whitefield." This was because the Summer Course was on and Swami was in the Bangalore Ashram. But the lad insisted on going to Puttaparthi only! Realizing it was futile to reason with him, the clerk issued him a ticket to Penukonda. 

I paused reading the story at this point because something hit me in my face. I began to relate strongly with this son and my situation was no different from his. I was so obsessed with Puttaparthi that it seemed to have become a greater focus than Swami Himself! By divine 'coincidence' my new workplace was just beside Swami's Ashram at Whitefield! AND the company employing me was 'Sai Lakshmi Industries'. That is not all. Swami had physically visited the office premises more than a dozen times.

Swami then delivered the 'knockout punch' when Prof Kasturi suddenly revealed that the son's name was - hold your breath - Arvind

I froze. Indeed, why was Arvind more obsessed with Puttaparthi than Swami? 

The name of the lad in the story!

Swami's compassion

Prof Kasturi chronicles the Lord's compassion on Arvind. Exactly on the same day that Arvind travelled to Puttaparthi, Swami, who was in Whitefield, suddenly travelled to Puttaparthi (where Prof. Kasturi was), reaching there at 6:30 pm. Everyone, including Prof. Kasturi and Sri Kutumba Rao rushed up to Him and sought the reason for Swami’s unscheduled arrival. Swami said that He had come to take a few bags of rice to Bangalore for the Summer Course. Musing on this, the professor states that there was no reason why this little task couldn't have been assigned to anyone else. But then, it was not for the ‘rice’ that Swami was going; it was for Arvind's ‘rise’! 

The next morning, this man, Arvind, was in the darshan lines. Swami walked up to him and said, 

“Ay Calcutta! Go in!”

In the interview room, Swami chided him.

“What is this foolish thing you have done? Do you know the feeling of your mother and wife? I will see that nothing happens to you. I will get you transferred. You need not go back.”

Swami then told him that He would be going back to Whitefield. 

“But you stay back for 9 days before travelling out of Puttaparthi”, He instructed.

Swami’s Divine plan was wonderful. Arvind had very little money and so, he sent a telegram to his friend in Delhi asking for money, giving his address as “Arvind, Big Shed, Prasanthi Nilayam, Puttaparthi.” In the meanwhile, the mother and wife were in anxiety and gloom and had called all known friends to enquire about Arvind’s whereabouts. The friend in Delhi who received the telegram immediately called and informed the mother and wife who travelled as soon as possible to Puttaparthi. In 9 days time, Arvind was happy, his family was happy and everything had transformed for the better. 

The collection of Prof. Kasturi's talks.
His love for Ar(a)vind

It became difficult to read any more with the tears blurring my vision. I have experienced Swami strike 2 birds with one stone of grace. This was yet another such occasion where the ‘birds’ had the same name and were separated by decades. That is Swami’s infinite love and omnipotence. 

My wife and mother too had gone through so much anxiety and gloom on account of me being low for 9 months in a row. And I felt Swami was directly telling me, an Aravind from 3 decades later, the same thing He had told Arvind,

““What is this foolish thing you have done? Do you know the feeling of your mother and wife? I will see that nothing happens to you. I will get you transferred. You need not go back.”

With joy and gratitude oozing from my heart, I looked forward to my third day in my new workplace gifted by Swami. 

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Tuesday 19 February 2019

Making God our first resort - an experience with Sri Sathya Sai

The first resort - God

We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but I think God wants it to be our first line of defense. To better understand that, we rewind the beautiful story of the sweet relationship between Swami (Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) and His students right to the very beginning. It was in the late sixties and Swami would spend most of the year at His ashram in Bengaluru (Bangalore then), in Brindavan, Whitefield. The reason for that was obvious - on 9th June 1969, a men's’ college had been started at Brindavan and Swami had decided to spend more than 75 percent of His time with the students in whom He placed His faith for the building of the golden Sai era.

The old Brindavan was a haven of divine proximity for Swami's students. 
Like the spring which is the beginning of every great river, the Sathya Sai educational mission too began in a small and humble manner. The classrooms were small and cramped and the shed beside Swami’s bungalow served as the hostel for the boys. Swami lived so close by that He would often walk into the ‘hostel’ on surprise visits and spend time shaping and chiseling the heart and minds of the boys. On many occasions, He would Himself walk amidst the sleeping boys and wake them up for Suprabhatam (early morning prayers) and guide them in everything - from tending to cows and rolling chapaties in the kitchen to gardening and taking care of the deer in the compound.

The number of boys enrolled was very small but it began to grow soon. Who would not want to live with the Master of masters? The classrooms and hostel became woefully inadequate and Swami decided to get a college building built. Once Swami makes a will, nothing ever changes it. Soon, a magnificent edifice shaped like a gigantic dam, probably symbolic of the potential it held within its walls, came up in months. It was late Col. Joga Rao, an ardent devotee and a retired civil engineer, who supervised the construction.

This is the setting for our current story.

Prayer is NOT a sign of weakness

A little detour from our main story in order to delve on the theme of this essay!

When a patient is in admitted to the hospital, the doctor examines him, finds out the problem, offers a solution and even gives a timeframe for the recovery. But then, things always do not go along the timeline - they go awry. How often have we come across situations where the same doctors raise their hands helplessly and say,
“We have done everything possible. Now its all left to God!”

A wise doctor knows from the beginning that he only gives medicines while it is God who heals. That humility makes him turn to God right in the beginning and he himself functions simply as an instrument. He chooses God as the first resort rather than the last one! While it is easy to understand the doctors’ example in terms of how they turn to God as the last resort, we do not realize that we often commit the same blunder in our lives too.

Whether it is the decision of making a financial investment or choosing a relationship; picking the right career or dealing with an illness we consider it as a sign of strength to march ahead without seeking help. We do this without realizing that when we seek God’s help, we are actually tapping into an infinite resource within ourselves. Prayer is definitely not a sign of weakness. It need not be the last resort. And yet, time and again, we turn to God after every effort made has failed. It is akin to offering the leftovers of a feast to the Lord where the food is comparable to our skills, talents, energies and finances. No wonder then that Swami always has taught us to do Brahmaarpanam (food prayer) before partaking any meal.

Please do not mistake me. I am not in the least suggesting that we do not put in our effort. Rather, the focus is on the attitude behind the effort!

The magnificent, dam-shaped, college building that was constructed to serve the students at Brindavan.
A heartfelt plea from a student

Now I continue where I had left off. Swami got the college building constructed and instructed the same engineer to come up with a proposal for a hostel building also. Col. Joga Rao implicitly obeyed the instructions and drew up all the plans for the construction of the hostel building. The shed in which the boys were staying was too small and right next to it was a huge water tank. The only possible place where the hostel could be constructed was in an empty plot of land adjacent to the new college building. Having made all the plans, he approached Swami and sought a date for the laying of the foundation stone.

The evening before the actual ‘ground-breaking’ ceremony could take place, Swami arrived at the shed where the boys were staying. He informed them about a new hostel coming up with all the comforts and conveniences. There would now be ample space to stay for each student. Even as Swami told all this with sparkling eyes and a heart that rejoiced at the fact that the boys would become comfortable, the boys themselves were downcast - a new hostel near the college building would mean that they would be staying at least 300 meters away from the beloved Swami. That would reduce the frequency of all the sudden Divine visits they now enjoyed.

But what could be done? There was no other space available for construction and the shed was indeed getting crowded. One of the boys promptly wrote a letter to Swami, pouring out his heart. Swami accepted the letter from him and even as He read it, He looked at the boy and asked him,
“Shall I read out this letter to the boys assembled here?”
“Swami it is all your wish.”
And so, Bhagawan read out the letter. The spirit of the letter is outlined below:

Swami, we do not want any new hostel. We can always adjust in this space as long as we are assured of proximity to you. If we go to the new Hostel, we would be far away from Swami’s home. We just do not want to go away from Swami! If Swami is so particular about the new hostel building planned next to the College, then Swami should have a new home constructed right next to the proposed new hostel.

Among the thousands of letters Swami receives, there are a few that have changed the course of 'His'tory! 
Swami looked at the principal, Sri Narendar and asked him what he thought about the letter. He replied that Swami knows the hearts of the boys. They had left their parents and had come only to be with Swami.

A decision was then made on the spot. Swami sent for Col. Joga Rao. He then asked him,
“Joga Rao! The boys want to stay near Swami. They do not want to go away. Can the new hostel be built next to the mandir here?”
“That is impossible Swami! There is a huge ground tank here. How can we build anything here?”

God, though allergic to the word ‘impossible’, merely smiles at those who use it. Swami simply said that a hostel could easily be built in place of the tank that existed there! He then went on to explain to an amazed Joga Rao as to how the construction should proceed.

And today, the hostel stands over the same land where a huge tank existed. And Swami has visited the boys at the Brindavan hostel on a number of times!

With God as the first resort, there is no need to resort to anyone or anything else!

An aerial view of the hostel that stands right next to the darshan hall in Brindavan. The hostel has a huge basement floor, a reminder of the tank on which it has been built. 

Concluding thoughts

Prayer is not something that is to be made only in times of trouble or distress. There is the story of a ship captain who used to pray daily as he steered his ship. Everyone often wondered as to why the captain used to pray so much when the sailing was so smooth. The captain said nothing but continued his practice of regular prayer.

And then, one day, there was a huge storm at sea. So terrifying and deadly it was that everyone on the ship got on their knees to pray. In the middle of all this chaos, the only person not praying was the captain! The surprised passengers on the ship asked him to join them in their prayers. The captain’s reply was,
“This is not my time to pray. I have a job at hand. The prayers I make when the sailing is smooth gives me the strength and mental calm to steer the ship in these times.”

A person who has got the priorities right prays in times of joy, comfort and peace. The prayer then gives the same joy, comfort and peace in troubled times. This is what the message of Kabir Das is when he asks the rhetorical question:

Dukh Mein Sumiran Sab Karein; Sukh Mein Karein Na Koi.
Jo Sukh Mein Sumiran Karein; Dukh Kahe Ko Hoi?

(Everyone thinks of the Lord in difficult times while none think of Him in time of joy. Those that think of Him in times of joy, why will they ever have difficult times?)

Making God the first resort is possible only through humility and surrender. And this is because though things seem to be under our control, in life everything is ultimately in God’s hands. Why don’t we follow what Swami tells us in this most beautiful ‘Prayer of Surrender’? (See video below.)

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