Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Begging for change

Caught between the horns of a dilemma

It was a fine day, the 21st of February, 2008, to be precise. It had been nearly eight months since I had been employed at Radiosai Global harmony (at Prasanthi Nilayam, Puttaparthi) through an amazing sequence of events. I was happy and contented, enjoying the transition from a student’s life to working man’s life. Completing my work that morning, I set out for lunch in the South Indian canteen. I bought some coupons and was about to enter the canteen, when I was accosted by a blind person.

“Sairam sir. Could you help me?”
I told the others who were with me to continue without me and then held the hand of this person.
“Tell me, how can I help you?”
“My name is Raju. Here are all my certificates that prove it...”
So saying, he began to dig into the shoulder bag to pull out several sheets of paper. I was taken aback. Why was he showing me proof for his name? Why didn’t he just state what he wanted?

“Raju, please, I do not need proof for your name. Is there someplace where I can drop you off at?”
“Sir, I have to go to Karimnagar. I am a poor person and I have completed my high schooling. I cannot afford university education though I have a strong passion for academics. I was told that there is a free University in Puttaparthi. So, I have come here with all my certificates. But people here say that I cannot join the University because admissions do not open till April and they do not have facilities to serve my special needs.”
“ I am very sorry to hear that, but I am afraid that is the case.”
“So, I want to return home now. But I have no money with me... I am stuck here. Can you help me?” Raju trailed off.

And in an instant, I was between the horns of a dilemma.

Should it be "Guilty till proven innocent"or
"Innocent till proven guilty"?
“Either Raju is really in trouble or he is a wonderful actor and con artist who plans to swindle me”, was my first thought. The subsequent thoughts too were all along those lines. I did not know what to do. Should I walk away and risk being a heartless person? Should I help Raju and risk getting swindled? My mind was a whirlpool of such thoughts.

For those that are a little lost at my predicament, let me take you through the reasons behind these thoughts.

The problem of beggary in India

Begging and beggars are rampant in many countries of the world. India, my motherland, boasts of being home to the maximum number of beggars in the world. That is definitely not a statistic that I am proud of. It pains my heart and I want to do something for them. However, beggary is not a straightforward problem which can be eradicated. Please allow me to present a few points which highlight the ‘controversy’ in the problem.

1. When people are not willing to work hard, ‘help’ rendered to the beggars might be actually encouraging people to be lazy! In fact, in the tenfold path to divinity, Bhagawan Baba stresses,

“Do not throw coins when beggars stretch their hands for alms; help them to become self-reliant. Provide food and shelter, love and care, for the sick and aged.”

2. There are studies which show that in many cases, beggars earn more than workaholics! Beggary is a lucrative and easy ‘profession’ which is being forced upon many children too. It is run like a business with many mafias being the stakeholders.

3. Swami has often stressed that apart from the person who actually does the sin, there are four others who also share the burden of the sin - one who is the cause, one who encourages the act of sin, one who shows the ways and means to commit the sin and one who witnesses it. I have myself observed how a lady with a starving child pleaded for some milk powder in Puttaparthi. One person’s heart melted and she purchased a box of milk powder from a medical store. Once she left, the begging ‘mother’ returned the box to the story in return for a few rupees. Both the beggar and the shopkeeper had made a neat swindle!

So, you see, when it comes to serving beggars, it is not a simple issue. One has to be diligent and vigilant like the devotees in Chikmagalur (Karnataka) are.

And now, you will also understand the cause of doubt in my mind and my hesitation when it came to helping Raju.

My solution

My first thoughts were to take Raju to the security office or the PRO (Public Relations Officer) office and let him seek help there. I suggested this to him and even accompanied him to those offices. But there was nothing they could do. I told Raju to sit on a bench and told him that I would be back soon. I went to the other end of the bench and sat down. I closed my eyes in my attempt to shut down my mind which was speaking both ways - for and against Raju. I tried to get in touch with my Swami in my heart.

My experience has been that Swami always answers when one seeks. I got the answer almost instantaneously and I ‘knew’ that this was Swami speaking. I ‘knew’ because my thumb rule in distinguishing between the voice of the mind and the voice of the heart never fails me. I got up with a smile in my heart and went to Raju. I told him,
“Shall we go to the bus station?”
“Whatever you say...”
“I will buy you a ticket to Karimnagar.”
“Will you? Really? Wow...” Raju was so happy.
We went to the APSRTC bus stand in Puttaparthi. I made Raju sit on a bench there and went to the counter. There was a bus for Karimnagar in a few hours time. I asked how much the ticket would cost. The reply was that it would be about Rs 350. I shuddered for a moment. That was almost 8% of my monthly salary! The mind immediately jumped into play,
“I think that Raju guy is a fraud. Don’t simply give away your hard-earned money!”
But then, the soothing yet firm voice from deep within seemed to speak through my mouth,
“One ticket for today evening’s bus please.”

Within moments, I was with a beaming Raju who was thanking me. Seeing his joy, I was sure that he was not any kind of scamster. I took his hand and placed a 100 rupees note in it. I told him,
“Here. This is 100 rupees okay? I am telling you so that you should not get cheated by anyone. Use it for your food during the long journey.”

Quickly, I bid him goodbye and returned to the South Indian canteen for lunch. I somehow felt so full without even eating.

The doubts come tumbling back
I don’t know how it happened or why it happened, but, my doubts about Raju came rushing back in the darshan that evening. Maybe it was because Swami did not even look at me and I had felt that I would receive a special blessing because of my ‘good deed’. Today, thanks to Swami’s love and grace, I know a few things about the way karma works which I did not know then. So, I felt a bit discouraged. A sad and confused mind is a fertile breeding ground for the devils called doubt, disillusionment, disappointment, discouragement and ‘dis’ease.

Within moments, I was feeling terrible that I had not only bought Raju a ticket but I had also paid him an extra 100 rupees.
“10% of my salary down the drain because of my stupid sentimentality”, I thought and felt more horrible. Such thoughts ruined my whole day and Swami, on His part, did not do anything to assuage me of my doubts or reassure me in any way.

Isn’t it funny how fast we forget the wonderful experiences and get mired in doubt? I had experienced joy that had made me almost give up my lunch and yet, here I was, hours later, brooding and repenting!

The dream

That night I had a dream. And that changed everything. My doubts melted and the joy returned to my heart because I know that dreams of Swami are always true. The dream was like this:

Swami came in the car and He stopped it in the porch of the and He wanted me and me alone to help Him come out of the car to sit on a wheelchair. However, when I went near Him, I felt that He needed no help. So, I just stood, waiting and watching. He proceeded to get up but then, all of a sudden, He collapsed back into the seat of the car!That shocked me and with both my hands, I plunged into the car. I helped Him up like I would help a baby. Then, the wheelchair was brought in by somebody. As I was going to seat Him on the chair, I again had a thought that my help was not needed. I just let go and again, He  fell down next to the chair. I was horrified this time. More than me, Swami seemed horrified and there was pain in His eyes. That pain was surely due to my doubting mind that had made me ‘let Him down’ for a second time! I rushed on to my knees and then the way I held Him, it was to ensure that He would never fall again. I was hugging Him and I helped Him sit. As He sat, I went to His ear and apologised. He seemed to say that it didn't matter.

As I woke at 4:00 am, the first thought in my head was, "Oh my God, Swami needed help yesterday and I made Him suffer only because I kept doubting whether He really and genuinely needed my help or not."

Due to some hard experiences, somehow I do not trust people that easy. They are under suspicion till they prove to be good. That is not good, I learnt. I should give everyone my love like I give it to Swami. He will take care of me to ensure I do not suffer for He is always there with me, guiding me from within.  All I need is the courage to follow the guidance from within.

And so, when it comes to people begging or seeking anything from me, I seek an answer from my heart. It may seem unbelievable, but every time, the answer is there. After that, I pray for the courage to follow what the heart is saying and go ahead.

That, I feel, is what we must do when someone begs for change. ‘Beg for a change’ in them! And then be ready to assist them in that change. For, every time we beg for a change and achieve it, Swami’s face will light up in joy. He will know that He can rely on us. Isn’t that fantastic? Trusting in God is one thing, but God trusting us! Amazing right? Those are my two cents on the topic of begging and beggars.

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  1. thank you - now I understand your e mail. Its perfect, when you get a sudden tought toact- follow it as HE is the thinker and when we do what he says there is joy without regret wether we know why or not- we followed that innver voice

  2. "I should give everyone my love like I give it to Swami. He will take care of me to ensure I do not suffer for He is always there with me, guiding me from within. All I need is the courage to follow the guidance from within." -- Very true, Aravind. Nice reflective blog post. :)

  3. This is my experience with a beggar inside Prashanthi Nilayam! Once on our visit to the stores, we saw one old lady sitting opposite to the bakery. As we passed, she asked us for something to eat. My daughter wanted to give her a biscuit packet, so we purchased a packet and gave it to her. Then she asked us twenty rupees saying that she wanted to go to her house near Eshwara temple. She said she will take a cycle rickshaw with the money. She said somebody had dropped her there and she didn't know how to go back. We didn't want to give her money. Since we had our car, my husband agreed to drop her near the temple. She didn't seem very happy with our idea, but she had to agree. My husband dropped her near the temple and we were quite happy with ourselves. Only during our subsequent visits I came to know that she begs everyday near the Radio Sai studio and bakery area. Now, every time we see her, we can only laugh thinking how much she would have cursed us that day for loosing a day's 'business'. I feel very very sad when they beg in the name of Swami or any other name and form God. Now, every time I am confronted by a beggar, I can ask Swami to help me. Thank you brother. GOOD Day!

  4. Even if Raju had been a cheat the way you helped him was good for your heart and was an expression of the goodness in you.
    Swami loves everyone no matter how they think of Him.

  5. on 19 November 2000 - Swami was distributing saries to the ladies inside the Sai Kulwant Hall. There was an old lady there begging, when she approached me my thoughts were that I was not indifferent to this woman, I too was a beggar in the house of God, I was begging for Grace, hoping for a glance.
    It pained me greatly that anyone could be begging in the house of God, when God was giving with so much love and in such abundance

    1. Who else can one ask or beg as a child, if not to his or her Divine parents? Once you stop thinking of Swami in this manner, but, you are part of Him, the begging stops!

  6. Nice brother. Again got the answer, never doubt Him. :)

    I am so lucky to come under His umbrella.


  7. Sairam Aravind, very very nice and touching this episode, really we have to wake up and destroy the bad doubts, Good work Aravind, thank you

  8. Valuable information to all the devotees visiting Puttaparthi and many other pilgrimage spots. Thanks Aravind!

  9. I guess that I have read this story in your hubpage. South Africa and mugging is so synonymous but the pity is they even mug poor people. My helper was mugged and she was stranded on the road without anything to go home. It seems she explained her situation to someone who passed by in a car and he helped her with R 20 with which she managed to go home. My husband and I were thinking if we would believe somebody like that and wondered how God showed her the right person to whom she can ask help for! The guidance not only comes for the person helping but for the seeker too was evident in my helper's case. The most spiritual statement she gave about the muggers stunned me! She said she prayed all night that they must never cheat anyone else. She also added that "If I fight God will stand. If I stand God will fight". She was least worried about losing material objects like her money, cell phone etc., She exhibited great faith in God!

  10. Wow nice article what stuck me was your generosity, wow 8% of your salary in one act of charity. Lets all work to give as you did. The world would be a better place. Thanks for Sharing Aravind beautiful.


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