Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The powerful attraction between goodness and Godliness - a college professor's experience with Sri Sathya Sai PART 1

God always stays with Good because 'Good' without 'God' is a big 0 (zero)!

Goodness and Godliness

The divine perspective is often beyond human comprehension. Divine logic seems so illogical and completely un-understandable. On the face of it, it appears as though God has different rules for different people. However, a little experience will show that God’s differing treatment to different devotees is akin to a doctor’s differing treatment to different patients. Ailments vary though the symptoms seem the same. As Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, my dear Swami, puts it, the doctor advises dietary restrictions for a patient, a few tablets for another and an appendicitis surgery for the third though all three came to him with the same stomach pain. And so, it would be best that the devotee simply accepts with faith what the Lord does and simply enjoy His beautiful leelas (Divine play).

However, one rule definitely applies to even God - He is always attracted to goodness. In fact, when it came to the question of marriage, a student held Swami’s feet and said that he wasn’t interested in marriage. Swami told him that marriage would do him good.
“Then Swami, let the girl whom I marry be a Sai-devotee. Otherwise, I don’t want marriage.”
“Your parents will find a good girl. If the girl is good, that is enough. Get married to her”, advised Swami.
“But Swami! If she doesn’t accept you, how can I accept her. I definitely want a devotee girl”, the student insisted.
“Don’t worry about that. Just ensure that the girl is a good girl. Her ‘goodness’ will naturally get attracted to my ‘Godliness’. Have no doubt in that.”
That student indeed got married to a good girl who had no clue about Swami.
“Today, I feel that she is a better devotee of God compared to me”, the student admits!

Godliness and Goodness always attract each other, reinforce each other and sustain each other. And that is Swami’s word. Swami’s attraction to goodness holds true even if that goodness is wrapped up and covered in multiple sheaths of ignorance and imprudence, impatience and impudence.  He delves into the depths of the heart and installs Himself there even if He finds the tiniest grain of goodness therein. And that has been the life-journey of Dr. Gangadhar Shastry, currently the joint-director of the Prasanthi Nilayam campus of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. He has been a lecturer in history and political science for nearly 35 years now and the story of his introduction to Swami is as fascinating as it is interesting and inspiring.

And without wasting another sentence in introduction, I shall dive into this gripping story, in exactly the same manner as I heard it from him.

An unsought blessing

Gangadhar Shastry was another Indian youth in the prime of his energies and abilities in the early 1970s. He was a good sportsman, a good academic, an excellent chess player and a huge Marxist at heart. He always felt deeply for the working classes and always wanted to do something to improve their lot. However, he had his list of negatives too. He was a chain smoker with an angry temperament. Any disagreement would lead him into fistfights which he often won, literally pummelling his opposition into submission. He was also outspoken and frank which led him to speak many times even to the elders in their face. It also made it tough for him to get a job on completion of the Master’s degree in political science.

It was indeed a day of rejoicing for his worried parents when he finally landed a 2-year contractual job as lecturer in the Andhra Loyola College at Vijaywada. Gangadhar packed his bags the college campus in Vijaywada. The two years breezed by and soon, it was the 31st of March, 1979, a day when college holidays were declared and he was discharged with a summer salary in hand. It was at this time that his parents decided to hitch him to the queen of his life, Ms. Rani (name translates into queen). Gangadhar felt that this was cruelty on his parents part, thrusting on him the responsibilities of marriage when he was losing his job! He had no idea that his Lord, Bhagawan Baba, had taken the first few steps into his life. Rani’s family were devout followers of Baba.

Immediately following the wedding, Gangadhar started his job hunt with renewed fervour. Two months later, he seemed to have made no progress. That was when his eyes fell upon an ad in the THE HINDU newspaper. It stated that the newly inaugurated Sathya Sai Arts and Science college was looking out for lecturers in several subjects, including political science. Gangadhar’s wife and inlaws told him to apply immediately. Knowing that this college had something to do with the ‘Swami’ of his wife’s family, Gangadhar felt that it would not be a good idea to apply. In fact, after his marriage, he had been forced to accompany his wife to many ‘bhajan sessions’. Of course, he did not enter the bhajan halls. He would sit out and enjoy his smoke. But, he did not like being forced to do something which he did not want.

Unless Swami wills, one cannot come to Him. That has been the experience of many including a disciple of Swami Sivananda. At the same time, when Swami decides to enter someone’s life, nothing can stop Him. That too has been the experience of many including a Christian lawyer from Pune. The 6 brothers in law that Gangadhar had, plotted against him and booked his ticket to Bangalore via the train, Sarkar Express which ran from Kakinada to Madras (present day Chennai) and passed through Bangalore (present day Bengaluru). They took him with them to their hometown Tanaku in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh and readied him for what they considered would be the most important journey of his life.

That was when the a cyclone swept the state in early May, killing 700 people, 3 lakh animals and damaging 7 lakh homes. The railway lines were affected badly and Gangadhar convinced everyone at his in-laws place that he should not be attending the job interview at Bangalore since there was no way to travel there. 3 days before the date of journey, the Indian Railways announced that normal train service would resume. The in-laws’ plan came back on track and soon Gangadhar found himself in a crammed railway compartment, on his way to Whitefield, Bangalore.

The college building in Brindavan, Whitefield, Bangalore.
Taken by surprise

The mere sight of the college building and premises took Gangadhar’s breath away. He marvelled at the size and cleanliness of the place. Dr. Suri Bhagawantham, former scientific adviser to Govt. of India conducted the job interview for Gangadhar and was mightily impressed with his subject knowledge and language skills. Gangadhar feared that he might actually get the job! In middle of the formalities, his urge for a puff made him leave the campus. He returned after a coffee and two cigarettes. As soon as he came, the other candidates accosted him and told him,
“You are indeed unlucky. You missed a great chance...”
“And pray what was that?” asked a curious Gangadhar.
“Swami had just walked in here. He spoke to all the candidates. It was simply wonderful.”

Gangadhar felt that the people were making much ado about nothing. He didn’t feel deprived in any way. That was when he noticed that he was the only moustached candidate. All others were clean shaven. That observation also struck him as funny. As the interviews concluded, all the candidates were invited for a sumptuous meal. Again, Gangadhar was shocked. He had attended several interviews after which not even water had been offered. Here, a banquet was being offered! He enquired into the reason for the hospitality. He was told that was the command of “Swami”. He was touched by this “Swami” whom he had not yet seen.

As they sat down for lunch, the food prayer (Brahmaarpanam) began. The students of the college dressed in impeccable whites were serving all the candidates with great love and reverence. All this added to Gangadhar’s awe of the place.
“There is definitely something magical about this place”, he thought.

Even as he was walking out after lunch, a person dressed in whites came to him and told him that a 15-day summer course in Indian Culture and Spirituality was on in the college premises. Swami would be addressing the students and front seats had been reserved for the interviewed candidates. But Gangadhar was not interested in attending the ‘spiritual summer course’.
“What is the need for it? Let me go home instead”, he thought not realizing that in the future he would be addressing several such summer courses at Brindavan!

Dr. Gangadhar Shastry addressing the students during the Summer Course in Indian Culture and Spirituality

“No thank you. I have my train reservations for Tanaku where my wife and in-laws await me”, said Gangadhar, politely declining the offer. He went to his room, packed up his bag, returned the keys of the room and began to move towards the railway station.

First darshan

Suddenly, the road became crowded and people gathered in front of the building. There was a hush and everyone was whispering that Swami was coming. Gangadhar’s escort told him,
“Sir, why don’t you have one darshan before you leave? Swami seems to be coming all the way to grant you this blessing.”
Gangadhar nodded and stood still. He kept his bag on the ground and waited for Swami to arrive. The beautiful red Benz car drove into the portico of the college auditorium. The door opened and the little figure of Swami stepped out. The crowd went mad in excitement. Swami walked out and raised his hands in blessings to all of them.

Without realizing, Gangadhar too folded his hands in respect and salutation. When he realized that, he did not feel the least embarrassed. Folding one’s hands seemed to be the natural thing to do in Swami’s presence. Swami then walked into the college building and disappeared from sight. A thought crossed Gangadhar’s mind,
“Ok Swami. I have seen you now. If all goes well, we shall maybe meet again. Otherwise, accept my heartfelt goodbye. It was a nice experience seeing you and your place.”

With that, he went to the railway station, boarded the train and returned home. The journey was complete. Gangadhar had no idea that the journey was just beginning.

A 25-year old Gangadhar with his 55-year old Swami. Swami accepted his moustache and the smoking habit
for the sake of the goodness in his heart. The story of transformation is indeed a lovely one.

...to be continued in part 2 which is posted at the link below: The powerful attraction between goodness and Godliness - PART 2

If you liked this, you might also enjoy the following complete stories:

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  1. Sai Ram !
    Your stories are most captivating ! Eager to read further...
    This story like any other story makes us aware that Baba qualifies us all.
    In His mercy He gives us the opportunity to take part in His divine plan. You and Gangadharbhai are one of the most fortunate to be a part of His larger Plan!

  2. Prof Gangadhar Shastry was our political science lecturer and his way of teaching was a bench mark in the institute, he spoke about few of his beginning experiences during the lectures which were as enticing as the one you have put on words
    Thanks brother

  3. Sai ram....thank u brother Arvindji.....very touching story....we also feel the proximity of the divinity. I am also a teacher and now i can say how swami loves teachings and teachers....superb and salutes ...awaiting for for....


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