Friday, 29 November 2013

Living in the present - sure way to avoid all sorrows

Taken from the animation movie - Kung Fu Panda

Past is past.
Future is uncertain.
Present not an ordinary present; it is the ‘omni’present.
- Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Not once or twice, I have heard my Swami state this many times. In fact, I am so accustomed to hearing it that even as He begins with the first line, I have already completed the rest in my mind. However rote learning and repetition of a phrase is no indicator of one’s understanding of it. And I must say that the power of the ‘present’ that God gifts us is overwhelmingly immense. This ‘present’, if unwrapped and lived to the fullest, has the ability to bestow great calm and peace. All the fears, worries, sorrows and the like result from us living either in the past or future. If we are able to forever ‘be’, then we are always in a state of peace. But then, as Baba beautifully puts it, being is lost in becoming. We seem to be perpetual time-travelers, restless to get out of the present and live in the past or future!

Let us understand this with one example of what anyone will consider as a tragedy - the loss of a beloved due to death.

Just imagine, if someone who is dear to you is suddenly hit by a moving car and is in death throes. What do you do? You immediately rush with first aid and summon an ambulance. Once the victim is in a doctor’s custody, you call the family and close friends. The doctor comes out and says that the patient is critical and is in need of a few pints of blood. You do your best to organize the necessary blood. The patient is put on external support and is stable, though critical. You now begin a two pronged approach - taking expert advice and opinions from different sources on one hand and praying for the recovery of your dear one on the other. Hours and days pass this way when, one day, the doctor says that its up; the patient is no more.

You reel from the shock and sit in a daze. Now, the tears well up. Without realizing it, you are already crying. The tears turn bitter and within moments you are sobbing. It is definitely a vulnerable and emotional moment.

Isn’t this a very plausible scenario that has been drawn up? Only the yogis will disagree! Yet, this very scenario, when analysed in the light of wisdom (which is unemotional), holds a great lesson for all about the power of the ‘present’ or the ‘Power of Now’ as Eckhart Tolle puts it.

When a tragedy strikes, we somehow are given all the intelligence, energies and resources needed to respond - call the ambulance, administer first aid, call the family. A tragedy transforms us into generators of energy and prayers. All this happens because, believe it or not, we are living in the present and responding to the ‘blows’ as they come. However, analysing logically in the above example of the patient’s death, a change comes over when the dear one passes away. The shock that strikes us stops us from living in the present.
Our minds immediately move into the past - recollecting the wonderful moments with the person. The mind also travels to the future - picturing the void that will exist with regards to the person. And, in no time, we get tears in our eyes. Sorrow is born the moment we stop living in the present and dwell in the past or future. I don’t know about the idle mind being a devil’s workshop but it sure is a time-traveller!

Let me share an incident, a bitter-sweet episode with my master and best-friend that taught me this lesson of living in the present.

A fool on April 1st?

Closely on the heels of the memorable trip to Hadshi and Mumbai, Bhagawan had agreed to bless the devotees from Delhi and Simla with His Divine visit. As is the case whenever Swami plans a trip, there was excitement among the staff and students to see who would get the Divine opportunity to accompany Him. I had got the privileged opportunity to travel along with Swami on the Hadshi trip. I was hoping to get a chance to accompany Him on this trip as well. It was the 1st of April and Swami, sitting on the dais after the darshan rounds, summoned the former vice-chancellor, Sri.S.V.Giri. Giri sir had a thick file with him which he began to show  Swami. Sitting on the steps of the main dais, I was sure that the file contained the profiles of ‘probables’, the candidates for the forthcoming Delhi-Simla trip. I could also see the photographs of a few staff and students as the papers in the file were flipped. My excitement was stirred and I began to crane my neck to see whether my profile would turn up and get selected.

I could see that I was not the only one with such thoughts and feelings. Almost everyone was eagerly waiting to see if they would be selected. As I was watching, Swami seemed to stop at one particular profile. He looked long at it and asked Giri sir about it. Covering his mouth, Giri sir said something into Swami’s ears (that was to ensure audibility over the Veda chanting going on rather than to have a secret conversation) after which Swami nodded. Swami then said something which thrilled me. I could not hear Him but I could clearly read from His lips that He asked,
Giri sir nodded. Swami also nodded. I felt a calm descend on me. I had been selected.

It just needed another 15 minutes for the calm to be shattered. Swami finished going through the file and moved into the interview room. He sent word for a few students and staff members to gather in the bhajan hall. This would be the group selected for the trip, I understood. As the different names were called out, I eagerly awaited mine to be called too. That, however, did not happen and a set of about 20-25 people walked into the bhajan hall. The pieces of my shattered calm began to prick and poke me.
“Oh My God! You are not there?”
“Did Giri sir forget to call you or was it somebody else that he discussed about with Swami? But then, who else could be ‘photographer’?”
“How wonderful the Hadshi trip was! And that was only for 6 days. This is a 10-day trip and you will be missing it...”
“Has Swami left you out on purpose? Is this a message for you?”

I had no idea about the number of thoughts that flooded me. I closed my eyes in an attempt to shut out the various scenarios that were forming before me. My external calm was in sharp contrast to the internal storm. The session concluded after the bhajans. As I was walking back, I could see the beaming faces of those that had been called in. That just made me burn from within. No, it wasn’t jealousy. Maybe, I wouldn’t have felt so bad had I not ‘heard’ Swami ask, “Photographer?”. But the fall from heights of expectations is a real hard one and that pained me.

I felt like I had been fooled by destiny on the 1st of April. I felt like a fool no doubt, but a like a fool with a hurting heart.

My heart longed to pray to Him to include me too in the list of 'probables' to Delhi-Simla. 

The ‘present’ lost in the past and future

I was feeling so bad that I decided to get up on my knees the next day during darshan and ask Swami to include me in the trip. I had never asked for anything worldly from Swami. My disappointment was such that I decided to make an exception this time. I was stopped in my foolish line of thinking by my colleague, C.G.Sai Prakash. He told me,
“Aravind, if Swami has decided not to choose you, will you impose yourself on Him like this? Won’t it be embarrassing for Him if you ask Him when He has decided not to take you?”
I was thinking, that it was easy for him to advise me that way as he was already in the select group. However, what he said was also sensible.
“I am not trying to embarrass Him. But what if there has been a mistake... It can be rectified when I bring it to His attention right?”
“Aravind! Mistake?! Hear yourself now. Do you think that the Lord makes mistakes? No. Keep a calm heart.”
How could I keep a calm heart? I was feeling so bad and left out.
“Okay, I will not get up and ask Him. But I will certainly write a letter about the same.” I concluded.

And that is exactly what I did - wrote a letter expressing my strong desire to accompany Him on the Delhi-Simla trip.

My diary entry for the 3rd of April reads like this.

In the evening, I had the letter where I had expressed my desire to accompany Him to Delhi. As He passed by me in the lines, He looked at me and kept looking at me. But then, He did not take my letter and I felt that maybe it was wrong to pressurise Him. So I put the letter back into my pocket. When He came on the stage, I made no efforts to even show the letter to Him. I sat doing bhajans with all enthusiasm. Swami looked at me once or twice and smiled. I felt  happy that He was smiling at me and I also felt that He was happy with me not trying to pressurize Him. He received Aarthi and left.

As I returned to my room, I saw the letter in my pocket. In an instant, all the joy that I was having after that beautiful darshan session was gone. My mind again travelled to the past and the future and, in no time, I was sad again. I sat brooding over what I would be missing in the future. My ‘being’ was surely being lost totally in ‘becoming’.

But these are retrospective thoughts. This wisdom did not dawn on me then and I spent the evening and night being morose. Anybody who had received what I had received that evening at darshan would be happy but not me. I was on my time-machine - reliving the past which I felt would never come to me again and visiting the future which I felt was one big void. The present, God’s gift to every person, was ‘sadly’ forgotten. be concluded in next part which is at the link given below:

Accepting God's Presents and Presence

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Monday, 25 November 2013

No reason or season for Love - but are we happy?

Who are you Baba?

Love is my form; Truth is my breath; Bliss is my food.

Many have been the times when my Swami, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, has been asked,
“Who are you?”
Swami’s answer to this question has been different, based on the understanding of the people who asked the question. On one occasion, He answered,
“I am God; but so are you.”
On another occasion, the answer was,
“Find out who you are and then you will realize who I am.”
On yet another occasion, to a group of westerners who asked the same question, Swami replied with a melodious song (which has today become a bhajan in itself).

Love is my form; Truth is my breath; Bliss is my food; 
My Life is my message; Expansion is my Life

No Reason for Love
No Season for Love
No Birth No Death

Satya Dharma Ananda Shanthi Prema Ananda

Shirdi Sai, Parthi Sai, Prema Sai Jai Jai
Shirdi Baba, Parthi Baba, Prema Baba Jai Jai

If one understands this little song, one understands the greatest secret of life. Elaborating further on the song, in a discourse Swami said,
“When the song says ‘My Form’ it does not refer to me alone. It refers to anyone who sings the song.”
Well, that was another way of saying, “I am God; but so are you.”

Every line in the song is a punch line - worthy of deep contemplation and full of insights. In fact, I have often lost myself in the beauty and grandeur of the ‘central’ line of the song -
“No reason for love; No season for love.” But before I share my thoughts on that line, I must share one little episode.

Party or Duty

A long and beautiful day came to an end as the Christmas celebrations concluded in the Sai Kulwant Hall. Personally, it was a very satisfying day for me and I had taken pictures in both the morning and evening sessions. I was very happy with the beautiful darshans and, as Swami returned to Yajur Mandir after the divine discourse, I decided to ‘rock the night away’ as the popular carol Jingle Bell Rock encourages.

My plan was to go to the home of a close friend and enjoy a lovely Christmas meal with some movie going on. At the end of a hard day’s work, the prospects of the dinner-movie combo was alluring to say the least. A host of other friends too had gathered at the ‘party house’.  I just reached my friend’s house and was about to settle into the night when I got a call. It was from my colleague at Radiosai.
“Aravind, listen. The Christmas decoration with lights at Swami’s residence is simply breath-taking. Only you are permitted to go near the residence. So, would you mind going there now and taking a few pictures? It would be good for our records.”
My first reaction was of disappointment. I had to change into my white dress again, pack the camera and then go and take the pictures. So I said,
“Can I not do it tomorrow? It’s quite late now anyway...”
“We are not sure that the decorations will stay tomorrow. If Swami asks for them to be taken down, we would have missed the opportunity...”
“Ok. I am going.”

The others who had arrived for ‘rocking’ away the night looked at me with their ‘do-you-want-us-to-wait-now’ eyes. Forcing myself to be sportive, I said,
“Carry on. I may join you later on.”
With that, I felt that all my party plans got washed out. Reluctantly, I made my way to the studio to pick up my camera.

How I actually ‘rocked’ the night away

My mind was complaining but I silenced it. I told the mind,
“So many times I have been thrilled with the privilege of entering the Yajur Mandir grounds. It is the same privilege that has given me this responsibility too.”
“But, you had such a beautiful night planned ahead”, my mind protested.
By now, I had become quite familiar with the dialogue between the mind and the heart.
“If things are going this way, it is because Swami has planned it this way. His plan is bound to be better than your plan”, said my heart to my mind. I also remembered many instances in my life when doing the right thing over the pleasant thing had made me a recipient of Swami’s love. There were also instances where I had sacrificed something dear to me for Swami’s sake only to receive something dearer in return. I had learnt that there is nothing like ‘sacrificing’ for the Lord.

Thus consoling myself and actually feeling very happy about my decision, I reached Yajur Mandir gate. Showing my ID card, I walked in and was truly spellbound by the beauty of the lights and decoration. Suddenly, I was no longer feeling bad about missing the ‘party’.

As I was taking pictures, I noticed that there were three seniors standing on one side of the Yajur Mandir. I immediately recognised one of them as Veda Narayan sir. I walked up to him and saw that beside him, on a stool, was a large cake.
“Oh wow! Is that a cake?” I was obviously stating the obvious!
“Yes.” That was sir’s reply with a smile.
“Is this being offered to Swami on behalf of the Central Trust boys?”
“Wow! After Swami blesses it, can I get a large piece of it?”

The three ‘yes’ answers in a row somehow cheered me. These three would ensure that someone from Swami’s residence would take the cake in and then maybe come back tomorrow morning to receive the ‘blessed’ cake. That was what I assumed and went ahead, continuing my photography.

Sai Kulwant Hall as seen from the Yajur Mandir that night.

Santa and the Christmas tree

The last image I took before the unexpected entry...

Within 10 minutes, the main entrance door of the Yajur Mandir opened and was I pleasantly shocked! That door would almost never be opened unless Swami was there. Adding to my ‘shock’ was the scene of the three people walking into the Residence with the cake!

Was Swami calling them in? I am working in Radiosai. Though that is not part of the Central Trust legally, I am also a Trust boy right? Because Swami has no distinctions based on ‘rules’...

These were my thoughts as I rushed towards the door before it could slam shut. I wedged my hand in between and a surprised ‘door-keeper’ there let me in. I entered and immediately was face to face with my Lord! Can you imagine that?

The sight which I saw on entry 
Loving Swami's uncertainty

The minute I entered, I saw that there were at least 6-7 people about Swami. Almost all of them had a look of shock and disbelief. They seemed to be wondering what on earth was I doing in there. I was suddenly confused. Had I done something terribly wrong? Had I barged in where I wasn’t supposed to? My palpitating heart was comforted when my eyes fell on Swami. He was on a chair with a knife in hand. The cake was in front of Him. He was looking directly into my eyes. When my eyes met His, He beamed a lovely smile. I now walked in and closed the door behind me. The three who had been standing now bowed to Him and took padanamaskar. I had my camera in hand and I was taking pictures (naturally). When they had completed bowing down, I went on my knees and sought namaskar. When He consented, for the first (and only) time in my life, I bowed down in a complete Sashtang namaskar (bowing down where all the eight limbs of the body are touching the ground) at His lotus feet. Swami smiled again and told me to pose for the camera. Veda Narayan sir snapped a few pictures. Swami then blessed all of us and we were let out.

He heard the little prayer that I made and then gave me the Sashtang Namaskar.
Oh! How I wish that the smile He gave was captured in a picture...
I was in a daze. It was only later that I came to know about the cake tradition. These three ‘lads’ (they were fully grown men by then) had the great privilege of sleeping outside Swami’s bedroom when Swami stayed in the small room above the bhajan hall. And so, on Christmas mornings, Swami would pass by them before entering the balcony via the ‘Silver door’ for the magnificent Christmas morning silver door darshan. The boys would then offer a cake to Him which He would cut and bless. Swami had stopped the balcony darshan from a few years now. But He had graciously permitted these ‘boys’ to continue getting their share of the ‘cake-blessings’ by allowing them to get a cake in the late evening! I had been an absolute gate-crasher!

Ah! How grateful I was to Him! If He had not smiled at me and blessed me, my gatecrashing could have landed me in serious trouble. Instead of that, now I was being given a large chunk of cake to eat and enjoy. How I love Swami’s uncertainty when it expresses itself like this! Much later, I was also told that this was the only time that the ‘three boys’ got pictures with Swami and, therefore, Vedanarayan sir personally thanked me for that. I also thanked him because I had got the chance of my lifetime.

I went straight back to my room without the slightest regret of having ‘missed’ a party. I was glad and happy that I did not flinch when it came to doing my duty or giving up something that I felt was fun and special.

No reason for love; No season for love

Here is some food for thought.

All of us love Swami’s uncertainty when, out of the blue, something nice and memorable happens. We are thrilled when we receive a blessing ‘without a reason’. We conclude that it happens because of Swami’s love which has ‘no reason; no season’. Even though we are not deserving of the good that is happening to us on the face of it, we are happy to accept and even celebrate it. But what about those instances in life when things take a sudden turn for the worse? Please allow me to elaborate.

What about those times in life when we are hanging by our necks from the tight noose of some problem but Swami does not seem to be responding to us? What happens when life that is otherwise moving smoothly is bombarded by disaster, death or disease? What if a lovely relationship suddenly sours, a business loss destroys all savings, an accident handicaps one for life or a life which was full of people suddenly turns lonely?

In my introspection, I notice that every time such a thing has happened to me, I have shouted out inwardly, asking my Lord,
“Why Swami? Why is this happening to me?” OR
“Is it fair that this is happening to me?”

Let me throw that question back at myself but seeing it from Swami’s perspective like the wonderful Krishnadasa did.
“Aravind, when something ‘wonderful’ happens to you without you ‘deserving’ it, you accept it as Swami’s benevolence. When something ‘bad’ happens too, is it not His benevolence?”

When I am deeply rooted in my faith that everything in my life is going as per a MASTERPLAN, there is no need for me to despair or celebrate for God is doing everything. Reminding myself of this always helps me to live in serenity and peace and ‘enjoy’ everything that is happening in my life. And there IS A REASON why there seems to be no reason or season for God’s love.

Unlike human love which is concerned with the body and the mind, Divine love is beyond these temporary phenomena. Divine love is concerned only with the soul. Divine love is ready to sacrifice the body and mind at the altar of the soul. Swami’s Love for us is like that - He will do anything and everything possible for our soul’s upliftment - whether we understand it or not; like it or not. Isn’t that why He often exhorts,
“Love my uncertainty.”

But instead of loving His uncertainty, we grow uncertain of His love! Is that fair to Him? We accept and celebrate His uncertainty when it benefits us but condemn and criticize the same when things don’t go our way.

As Prof.U.S.Rao, former principal of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Prasanthi Nilayam, once put it in our class,
“We have to grow into accepting Swami’s uncertainty first. Then alone can we grow to the state of loving His uncertainty.”

Yes. That is the way. Acceptance and Love. But why?

There is no reason for Love! :)

If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy the following:

1. Messenger ceases to exist once the message is delivered

For all readers:
(If you enjoyed this and wish to subscribe to this blog, please go to the right hand side and choose the last 'box' which says subscribe. Another blog which I maintain with more than 200 articles on it is at You may visit that at your leisure. If you wish to be added to my mailing list, please email me via this page with the subject "ADD ME TO MAILING LIST".

Also, use the Tweet and FB buttons below here liberally to share with your friends and family! Thank you)