Friday, 27 December 2013

The powerful attraction between goodness and Godliness - a college professor's experience with Sri Sathya Sai PART 3

Dr.Gangadhar Shastry with his Swami for life after a storm...
The calm before the storm

Life had suddenly become a smooth ride for Gangadhar. He was well-settled in Prasanthi Nilayam along with his wife. He had a stable job and, most importantly, had become an apple of the eye to someone that he considered to be the almighty God - his beloved Swami. Like millions of people before and after him, Gangadhar had fallen (nay risen) in love with Bhagawan Baba and felt that becoming a teacher at Swami’s University was the greatest blessing he could have aspired for.

(Dear reader, in case you have come here directly, please follow my advice and read the first two parts so that this grand finale part gives you the greatest joy and thrill. The other two parts are at the links below:

It was not as if the greatest comforts of life had been bestowed on him. Life continued to have its ups and downs but the knowledge that his Swami was with him, guiding him and guarding him always, ensured that he had a smooth sailing. Out of sheer love and respect for Baba, Gangadhar gave up his long hair and moustache. With a clean shaven face and neatly combed head he began looking ten years younger than his actual age. However, his smoking habit simply refused to let go of him. He had got addicted to the terrible nicotine roll and try as hard as he might, he was simply not able to kick away the habit. Many people had tried advising him against the ills of smoking. This irritated Gangadhar. It was not as if he was unaware of those ills. He was simply not able to kick away the habit. The other people did not seem to understand that problem of his. And so, whenever they came to him with advice, he rebuked and rebuffed them in a trice.

Swami Karunyananda with Swami on top of
Vidyagiri Hill

In fact, on one occasion, he was summoned to the Principal’s office. Swami Karunyananda had come to meet him.

(For those that might be unaware and not have the patience to click on the link above, it must be told that Swami Karunyananda was almost a companion of Baba for more than  two decades. He had first seen Swami in 1936 at Bhadrachalam and came to Him in 1976. He would often be the first to greet Swami in the morning and continued to do this religiously till his death in 1997. In course of His divine discourse on the 8th of October, 1997, Swami showered love and praise for the glorious life that Swami Karunyananda lead before merging into Him on that day. Swami Karunyananda’s Samadhi exists to this day on the banks of river Chitravati.)

Swami Karunyananda approached Gangadhar and asked him,
“Are you the political science lecturer here?”
“Yes sir, I am Gangadhar Shastry.”
“Ah Gangadhar Shastry, can you walk along with me? I need to talk something to you”, said Swami Karunyananda.

Holding sunshade over his 'Sun' - Swami Karunyananda
in Prasanthi Nilayam.

 And as they both began to walk, Swami Karunyananda said,
“See, you should give up this smoking. It is such a terrible habit and you seem blissfully oblivious of the fact. Don’t you feel ashamed to do it even though you are with Swami?”
“May I know who you are sir?” asked Gangadhar in all sincerity
“You don’t know me?” smiled Swami Karunyananda, “I am Swami Karunyananda.”
“So, what do you want me to do if you are some Swami? There is only one orange-robed figure in this place that I respect. I don’t care about any other. And by the way, I do not smoke in college or mandir and what I do in private is none of your business. The money I earn, I spend in a manner of my liking. Please do not interfere into my personal life.”
With that, he walked away leaving Swami Karunyananda gaping in shock.  He knew that he had to give up smoking before Swami lost His patience with him. But how?

The actual storm

March in 1980 arrived like a massive tsunami, consuming many in its wake. A little background about this is in order before the actual description of the storm. The University, in its infancy, was Swami’s bold experiment with education. Well, not exactly an experiment to check His hypothesis for He was quite assured about its success. It was an experiment to prove to the world that education or ‘educare’ as He terms it is all about ‘bringing out from within the individual what is latent’ rather than ‘stuffing the individual with matters from outside’ through rote learning and memorisation. And for this, He needed teachers who shared His vision and passion. It was this ‘need’ that had made Him ‘accept’ Gangadhar in spite of his negatives - Gangadhar burnt with passion to bring a change in the country through the youth and was a strict disciplinarian. He was noble at heart and had now realized that Swami’s method of education was the way to go about in bringing global transformation.

Sadly, the same could not be said about several of the other teachers who had been appointed by the ‘committee’ which Swami had empowered. Many of them, though ‘devotees’, did not turn up to the mandir for darshan sessions while Gangadhar, who started off as a ‘non-devotee’ was as regular as the sunrise and sunset. One day, Swami walked up to Gangadhar and asked,
“Where are all these other teachers?”
“Swami, they must have gone to have tea...”
“You do not want to have tea?”
“No Swami. How can I miss darshan?”
Swami’s eyes opened in rage,
“They are not having tea! You have no idea about the discussions they are holding. The content of those discussions will put to shame any person, let alone a ‘devotee’.”
Gangadhar was silent. He had not seen such righteous anger burn in the divine eyes.

A few days passed and there was a circular that stated that all the teachers would have to gather in the Easwaramma School building for Swami wanted to speak to them. Everyone wondered what it was all about. Even Sri. Kutumba Rao did not seem to know what exactly Swami had in mind. He just knew that Swami was upset over something. Well, in that sense, Omniscience is indeed a difficult thing to live with – when you know the intentions and feelings of everyone. When we get to know about the evil or bad feelings of someone who is associated with us, we are shocked and keep away. How then must be the condition of the Lord who, for more than a year now, had calmly tolerated so many nonsensical happenings which the perpetrators felt that He was unaware about? He had shown great Shraddha and Saburi (faith and perseverance) towards these people and had finally decided that things had gone too far now.
When all the teachers had gathered, Swami began to speak and Gangadhar still remembers with a certain awe and fear, the words He spoke.

“Is not Swami taking care of you and your families in the best way possible? Have I not gifted you with good education and medical facilities for all of you with your near and dear ones? Do I not bless you in abundance during your birthdays and other important days of your life? And yet, this is the way you conduct yourselves??”

The last statement was delivered in such power and ire that everyone was immediately lost in self-introspection. Gangadhar felt so guilty about his smoking habit. He knew it was bad and also knew that he had no moral authority to advise students to have good habits till he himself had given up his bad habits.

Swami now began to thunder,
“Enough is enough. There is a limit for divine tolerance too. You do not realize that it is indeed My gift that you are all able to breathe air. You do not realize God’s bounties and are not able to take advantage of the great blessing being conferred on you. Vinasha Kale Vipareetha Buddhi (the intellect gets clouded and develops destructive tendencies when the end is near). I do not want such teachers in My University. All of you tender your resignations. I have not asked you to come here. Having come of your own volition, you have to stick to ideals. Else you have leave. I gave you a chance to play your roles and sanctify your lives. But don’t seem interested and so you can all get out. I want the resignations in by tomorrow.”

It was evident that Swami could not show His ‘experimental proof’ to the world through bad and faulty ‘instruments’. Everyone, including Gangadhar tendered resignations. Gangadhar was feeling very bad and sad. This had been one of the happiest and most fulfilling years of his life and the whole experience was getting terminated so abruptly.

Would this be the end of Gangadhar's place at the Lotus Feet?
A divine calm after the storm

Since they would be the last few days with his Swami, Gangadhar decided to make optimum use of the available chances. He was very repentant about all the missed chances to give up his only bad habit of smoking. He remembered all the rude and angry things he had spoken to so many people because of the habit. He had tears in his eyes. But what could he do? It was no longer a case of him holding the cigarette - cigarettes were holding him and he was helpless.

As he sat in the mandir portico, heart filled with repentance and great sorrow, Swami came to him. Landing a gently slap on his back, Swami said,
“Gangadhar, smoking does not suit anyone in your family. Your father will die because of it. Your brother will die because of it. So will you if you don’t stop it now. It is enough, give up smoking.”
Now the tears were flowing. Didn’t his Swami understand that it was no longer his choice to smoke? He was so deeply caught in the habit and had no idea on how to escape addiction.
“You will stop smoking okay?”, Swami asked.
“Yes Swami”, answered Gangadhar with all sincerity but the least confidence.

(Swami’s words proved prophetic in a few years after this. Gangadhar’s father, who kicked the habit was spared and had a natural death but later his brother succumbed to cancer. When his brother passed away, he felt very sad for Sr.R.Sitaramiah, his sibling, who could have dominated the world of mathematics had not his career been cut short by the dreaded disease brought on by the terrible addiction to the pipe. In fact, Swami materialized vibhuti for the ailing Sitaramiah and sent it via Gangadhar to the hospital in Hyderabad. Gangadhar’s brother passed away with sorrow that he wasn’t able to follow Swami’s advice.)

What we often don’t realize is that when God gives us a word, He also gives the strength to accomplish it. A remorse-filled and desperate Gangadhar returned home only to realize that magically, his craving for the tobacco-tube was gone! COMPLETELY! When he felt that he would not be able to spend a single day without at least 2 packs of cigarettes, his tears of repentance and Swami’s blessings seemed to have washed away the habit completely. Since that pat on the back from Swami, Gangadhar has not smoked even once again in his life!

Within a day of giving up smoking, Gangadhar had an inspired idea. Though he had tendered his resignation, he would re-apply to the University! Sure enough, within a week, vacancies for all the teaching positions were announced. Swami had told Sri Kutumba Rao and Dr.Bhagawantham that He would personally oversee the selection process this time!

A 'word' from Swami was all that was needed for Gangadhar to give up smoking forever. He now hoped that
he would be able to stay with his Saviour forever.

The attraction between goodness and Godliness

As Gangadhar Shastry sir narrated this part, I had goosebumps. I realized that when the statement is made, “Each teacher in this Institute is chosen by the Divine”, it is literally the case. Each teacher had been personally hand-picked by the Lord.

Following his heart, Gangadhar reapplied for the post of political-science lecturer at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. And to his greatest joy, Sri Kutumba Rao came to him one day and said,
“I hope you have applied for the lecturer post in our University. Swami told me to advise you so.”
His happiness knew no bounds. He realized that an inspiration from deep within is nothing but Swami’s voice!

The interview dates had been announced and Gangadhar prepared for a much tougher test this time. Swami had given him a second chance and he would not want to make a hash of it. He prepared in right earnest, this time smoke-free and moustache-free. The smoke and moustache leaving him seemed to be symbolic of selfishness and ego leaving him completely. A week later, just before the interview, there was a knock on his door at about 5:30 in the morning. It was Sri.Nityananda Menon, a close companion of Swami.

Gangadhar was pleasantly surprised to see him. NItyananda Menon would not even speak to anyone without Swami having told him to do so.
“Sir, I have come here to tell you that Swami is happy with you. Swami wants me to assure you that you will be with Him.”
Having delivered that statement, Nityananda Menon left.

On the day of the interview, he went to seek Swami’s blessings during darshan. Swami came straight to him and asked,
“Did Nityanand come to your room?”
“Yes Swami.”
“Good. Today is your interview. Don’t worry.”
Swami then walked away.

The only answer Swami sought from him was
whether he was happy!
Gangadhar was soon facing an elite interview panel. Even as the first question was posed by Dr.Jayaram Reddy, Dr.Bhagawantham interjected,
“Mr. Gangadhar Shastry, please do not answer that question. I have specific instructions from Swami to ask you only one question. Can I pose that question now?”
“Yes sir. Please”, said Gangadhar readying himself with the answer - that he was ready for any strict discipline and regimen if it meant that he could continue as a teacher in Swami’s University. But the question simply floored him and filled his eyes with tears.

“Swami asks whether you are happy with us and would like to continue with us?”
Gangadhar could not speak. With tear-filled eyes, he just nodded in reply.
“Swami is very happy with you. You can go. You are appointed.”

And that was the episode after which Gangadhar realized that he was with the most powerful yet most loving force in the Universe. He realized that God would never let go of the good and that made him resolve to never let go of goodness all his life.

Today, with deepest love and sincerest gratitude to Swami, he serves as the joint-director of the Prasanthi Nilayam campus of Swami’s University.

For all readers:
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Thursday, 26 December 2013

The powerful attraction between goodness and Godliness - a college professor's experience with Sri Sathya Sai PART 2

Godliness is always attracted to goodness, no matter how disguised or buried that goodness is
within an individual. Gangadhar bows down to his Lord in love and gratitude. 

A postponed appointment?

Within a few days, a letter arrived for Gangadhar from Puttaparthi. They were orders for him to report on the 7th of July at Prasanthi Nilayam as a lecturer in political science. The journey to be undertaken now was to a tiny hamlet in his own state instead of Bangalore. Once again Gangadhar landed up at his in-laws place in Tanaku because all his brothers-in-law told him that they would help him out with the details of the journey and the ‘how to’ of making it.. It was indeed an arduous journey featuring four breaks and bus changes in between. Gangadhar arrived to Puttaparthi by a dusty bus and got off at the Smt.Easwaramma High School. As guided by his father-in-law, he sought a certain Ammanashastry, the headmaster at the school.

(Have you read the first part of this story? If not, it is highly advisable that you read it to have complete enjoyment and fulfillment of a tale of unmatched grace. Read the first part of the story at the link below:

Ammanashastry received him warmly after getting to know that he was his friend’s son in law. He however warned him,
“You better have a haircut right away. Long hair is not good.”
“Not good for what or whom?”, Gangadhar protested, “I have been called here as a teacher and my hair should not be a matter of concern to anyone here.”
“Oh! You don’t understand. Just do as I say please”, requested the headmaster, surprised at Gangadhar’s strong response.  

It was only out of reverence for an elder and with intense grumbling under the breath that Gangadhar had a haircut before meeting with the principal of the Arts and Science College, Mr. Amarendra. The principal was a very principled man and had been blessed on several occasions to serve as the translator for Bhagawan Baba. Principal Amarendra escorted Gangadhar to the portico of the mandir where he was seated along with several other VIPs. Gangadhar was almost frightened with the pin-drop silence that existed in the premises. Everyone seemed to be lost in themselves and didn’t seem to have the slightest inclination to carry on even a casual conversation.

Suddenly there was a hush as the door right up in the front gently opened. Everyone in the mandir portico seemed to stiffen in anticipation and out walked the orange-robed form of Swami. With a finger, He beckoned to Principal Amarendra who got up in a jiffy and rushed to him. Gangadhar was surprised to see such a rapid response from the principal of a college! Swami spoke almost into the principal’s ears and Amarendra, on his part, seemed to be hanging on to every word that was being spoken. Again, Gangadhar found this extremely different from whatever he had seen in life. Swami then moved on and walked into the sandy grounds that surrounded the mandir. The principal informed Gangadhar that Swami was going on His darshan rounds.

Gangadhar learnt to always keep Swami in the
front in his life...
Seeing the adoration and devotion in the eyes of the assembled people, Gangadhar realized that Swami was not just the Chancellor of a University - He was more, much much more. He wondered as to what could attract so many people so powerfully towards one being. His reverie was broken by Principal Amarendra after the darshan session. He called him aside and told him,
“Swami was enquiring about you. I told Him that you have reported today so that you can join for duty from tomorrow. He however said that you should not report tomorrow but on the 14th of July.”
“So, are you going to rescind the old order and issue a fresh joining order?”, was the question that Gangadhar posed immediately.
“No! There is no need for that...”
“What do you mean? What about this previous communication?”
“Swami has said 14th. That is enough. That is official and the final authority.”
Gangadhar learnt something new about this “Swami” - His Word was the necessary and sufficient authority in this part of the world. He would soon be learning that His Word is the necessary and sufficient authority in any part of the universe itself!

Though Principal Amarendra and headmaster Ammanashastry advised Gangadhar to stay on till 14th, he decided to go back to Tanaku and return on the 13th of July.

The first conversation

On the 13th of July, when Gangadhar came back to Puttaparthi, he was once again seated in the portico of the mandir. This time, Swami came straight to him and asked,
“When did you come?”
“I came yesterday sir”, was his reply.
Swami smiled and asked, “How are you sir?”
“I am fine thank you sir. How about you?”
“I am fine”, Swami replied, “Where are you put up?”
“Do you know the Easwaramma High School sir?”
“Do you know that headmaster from Tanaku, Ammanashastry?”
“Yes, I know him.”
“I have been graciously accommodated by him near his room sir.”
“Will you come inside if I give you a room?” Swami asked.
“What do you mean by ‘inside’?” asked a puzzled Gangadhar.
“Inside the ashram premises, inside Prasanthi Nilayam”, answered Swami.
“I will be very happy then”, beamed Gangadhar.

Swami now looked the other side and, with a finger, beckoned to Sri Kutumba Rao, the secretary of the Prasanthi Nilayam ashram. He too, in a jiffy, rushed to Swami.
“What is with all these people running as if they are on fire whenever He beckons?” wondered Gangadhar.
That would be another thing that Gangadhar would soon learn - the reason why everyone are on their toes when it comes to Swami.
“Take this gentleman and allot him room C11 in East Prasanthi”, commanded Swami.
“Swami, the owner might be arriving shortly”, said Kutumba Rao. (All rooms in Prasanthi Nilayam are let out as accommodation quarters when the owners are not in station. The rooms become the property of Prasanthi Nilayam after the current owner passes on. They are not passed on as heirloom.)
“Tell them to stay in a shed for a while. Let that room be given to this teacher.” As always, Swami’s word was the final say in the matter.

Several thousands of conversations followed that memorable first one for Dr.Gangadhar Shastry. Here, Swami
instructs him to silently evict a person who had stealthily got into the college auditorium in guise of a
student! Gangadhar completed the task and reported to Swami that it was silently and efficiently done
without any ruckus being raised. Swami was happy. 
Graduation from Sir to Swami

The happenings that Gangadhar began to observe on a daily basis amazed him. Every day in the mandir, Swami would devote at least a few minutes without fail to speak and interact with him. Everyone around told him that he was blessed and lucky and he too began to feel that this was a wonderful period in life. However, he continued to have his long hair and moustache. He also continued to be the chain smoker that he was. His wife, Rani, joined him at Prasanthi Nilayam and they began to live in the room allotted to them by Swami.

One day, as he was teaching a chapter in Civics, Swami came to his classroom. Swami said that he wanted to see how well he was teaching.
“Please come in and take a seat... Swami”, said Gangadhar.
Calling this Chancellor as “Sir” somehow did not seem fine and so he chose the now familiar term - Swami. Swami told him to continue teaching and stood observing him. Gangadhar was telling his students about “Svechcha”. This term doesn’t have a comprehensive translation in English but in context of Civics, it means “self-determination” or “according to one’s will”. As Gangadhar finished his explanation, Swami told him,
“It is fine that you talk to them about Svechcha in the worldly context. But you must also tell them about Adhyatmika Svechcha (spiritual Svechcha).”
Then, Swami left.

That triggered Gangadhar into the spiritual quest - an education for life rather for just living. Today, he understands the true import of Svechha. Sva means the ‘Self’ and Ichcha means ‘Desire’. Svechcha refers to the ‘desire of the Self’ which is actually nothing but the precursor to seeing Unity in the apparent diversity of the universe - seeing God in all. Such trysts with divinity made their impact on Gangadhar and slowly but surely, he fell in love with the form in orange and began to refer to Him as Swami.

He saw the miracles that He performed; the transformation that He effected. During the occasion of the inauguration of the college, as Dr. Suri Bhagawantham had translated His discourse, Swami had said,
“In a few years time, there will be a University here.”
Dr.Bhagawantham had been shocked. What Swami had said was technically not feasible because the Sri Krishnadevaraya University (also referred to as SKU) was at Anantapur and the government didn’t permit the commissioning of a new University within a 100-mile radius of an existing one. Swami had told him to simply translate then.
Gangadhar was present to see the University being inaugurated at Puttaparthi. During His discourse, again it was Dr.Bhagawantham who was translating. Swami said,
“When I announced that a University would be coming in Puttaparthi, this very Bhagawantham said that it was not possible. Today, he is able to see the concretisation of my will.”

In fact, a special act passed by the then prime minister of India, Smt.Indira Gandhi, allowed Swami’s University to also have campuses in any state of India.

A moustache-trimmed Gangadhar sits beside Swami to His right in the college foyer. He weathered a
great storm to continue as 'Swami's teacher', a responsibility greater than that of a 'Swami's student'.
That is a story for another day, another blog - Part 3 of this story.

Gangadhar was convinced beyond doubt that he had been specially blessed. He was in the presence of the supreme power in the Universe. And yet, he was unable to give up his smoking habit. He continued to find moments of solitude, away from his students, to enjoy long puffs. However, out of respect to Swami, he trimmed his hair and his long moustache too. How much longer would it be before he would give up his smoking which Swami had seemed to tolerate for more than a year now? Gangadhar had no idea. That was when a dramatic and drastic episode took place where he was forced to tender his resignation - was it to be the end of his spiritual journey?
I am sure that the answer is obvious to the reader. But the story of how that came about is a sure thrilling one to read and follow. be concluded in part 3 which is present at the link below ...

(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. Also explore the 40-odd 'previous articles' listed monthwise. that have 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".

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