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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  1. I can't wait for December 2nd. As always, suspense enough. Lived this with you. God bless you dear, sairam

  2. SaiRam Aravind,

    What a perfect timing! Just before I checked your blog, I was plunged into some hurtful moments in the past and was thinking about the uncertain future. Then I felt I must change my mind's track and clicked on your blog. Here you are talking about living in the present! This is truly Swami prodding me to surrender to Him, just like he says, He can only take things into His hands when we completely surrender to Him.

    This part was a full part in itself with a very powerful message. But, I am eargely waiting for the next part.

  3. Eagerly waiting for the second part!!! :)

  4. You always leave us in suspense! :) Waiting to read the conclusion...

  5. SAI RAM BRO...i also want to b a stdnt of SWAMI...may u tell me what is the most imp thing 4 that ?


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