Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Destiny or Freewill - the third option by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Debate Classics 
With God, there is always a third option which is completely different
from the available two options. 

There are some debate topics that are considered timeless because they seem to rage on in the hearts and minds of people with no apparent solution at hand. Like the famous question on whether the hen came first or the egg, such debate topics have no provable answer. That is the reason why they are picked for debates - because they showcase the debating skills of the participants without actually concluding anything. I remember one such debate in my college days on whether the means justify the ends or whether the ends justify the means. After an hour of grueling and intense debate, the moderator walked up to the lectern and said,
"The debate appears to have come to an end today as the allotted 1 hour is up. However, in reality, the debate has not ended. It has just begun in the minds of all that have assembled here and that should rage on till we find answers for ourselves."

I must confess that living with my Master, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, and experiencing His divinity, I have got my answers to several such debates which rage in the inner recesses of one's being. The question of means v/s ends has been amicably resolved with the experience of Mr.Pushkaraj Gumaste. Another debate that raged on within me till recent times was the timeless classic on whether one is governed by destiny or by one's efforts. The destiny v/s freewill debate has been battled out in many bustling classrooms, on daises and stages of different levels and even on television shows. However, while everyone has a point of view and fiercely argues for it, even to this day not many can claim clarity on the subject. Nobody is convincing enough for us to accept completely, without reservations.

Would it raise eyebrows if I were to claim that this debate too has been resolved in a beautiful manner for me by my Swami? The answer arrives via the experience of Prof.Raghunath.N.Safaya in the early 1980s with 1983 being the most probable year of happening. It was narrated to me by one of the first students of the revered professor, Sunam Gyamtso. Sunam's account gave me a very unique answer for this question of freewill v/s destiny and, more importantly, filled my heart with a lot of cheer. Without further ado, let me spread and share that same cheer to all the readers.

A very different teacher in the class

That eventful day in the spring of 1983 is unforgettable for Sunam. He was sitting along with his classmates, awaiting the beginning of the Philosophy class. The lecture was to be delivered by Prof. Raghunath Safaya. He was a stickler for time and was never late for class. Today, however, seemed to be a rare exception. He walked into the class after a good five minutes of the bell being rung. And even as he walked in, he seemed to be quivering and quaking. The students looked at each other. They knew that something was amiss. Did they spot a few tears behind those thickset glasses that the professor wore? Was there a faint quiver in his voice when he wished the whole class 'Good Morning' and 'Sairam'?

Prof.Raghunath Safaya in a group photograph with Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and other teachers in the foyer
of the college building. He is seated to the extreme right of Bhagawan. To his left is Gangadhar Shastry. To Swami's

left is Kirti Ravel (Hindi) and to his left is CLN Murthy. To extreme left of Swami is Kuppuswamy beside whom 
Sandeep Shastri is kneeling. 
A brief history of the revered professor is in order here. Prof.Safaya was well-versed in his subjects and was a master in philosophy and history. His hometown was Chandigarh in North India and he had traversed hundreds of miles to serve as a teacher in the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. Previously, he worked at the Teachers' Training Institute at Chandigarh. His greatest passion, hobby and love in life were astrology and palmistry. That was something that he had inherited from his ancestors, all of whom had been respected for their knowledge of the way in which the planets and stars in the skies along with the lines on one's palm influence one's life.
And so, Prof.Safaya was the owner of a set of heavy books on astrology and palmistry which had arrived into his hands like an heirloom. He often fascinated his students with his knowledge of these sciences which seemed to be far greater than his knowledge of history and philosophy too. In fact, his faith and confidence in these sciences was also far greater than his faith in Swami.

According to him, Swami was a very wonderful and evolved human being who was spreading goodness in society - nothing more, nothing less. That was what had attracted him to Him and he tried to imbibe as much goodness from Him as he could. Swami, on His part, seemed very happy with the professor's efforts. He appreciated them and Prof.Safaya often got interviews.
Sunam and his classmates knew that today was another such day when the professor had received an interview with Swami. But never before had they seen him in such a state of overwhelming emotion. What had transpired today?

A ruler of lines falls in line with the rules of the ruler

Prof. Safaya himself narrated the powerful happenings of the morning. Swami had called him in for an interview. He entered the interview room and for the first few minutes, the interview went along the lines of the previous interviews. Swami asked him how things were going, how the students were and so on. Then, out of the blue, Swami told him,
"You seem to have great faith in the predictive sciences of your forefathers. That overpowers even your faith in God's strength! Do you believe that commensurate to your surrender, I will take care of everything for you?"

The professor was taken aback. The question was direct and almost in his face. However, it was not easy for him to instantly transform his reverence for Swami into implicit faith. He had heard about the power and grace of God, but wasn't it this very Swami who had gifted him with an emerald ring to wear? Emerald was his lucky stone and green, his lucky color. Having adhered to such talismans of luck Himself, how could Swami ask him to give up all that he had learnt as ancestral wisdom? Little did Prof.Safaya realize then that with God by his side, even misfortune could become a good-luck talisman - that is the capacity of Divine power.

Swami continued to taunt,
"Professor, your sciences can only predict. Can they help you intervene if something is unfavourable?"

Prof. Safaya knew this to be the truth. Though astrology and palmistry suggested some remedial measures for impending 'disasters', he knew that none of these remedies were foolproof.
Swami now did something that he had never imagined. Calling him closer, He held both his hands. Slowly, Swami brushed His palms over the professor's upturned palms. Then He told him,
"Tell me, what does life hold for you?"

The professor looked down at his palms. Having seen them every day of his life, he actually had no need to do that. He knew the contours on his palm by heart. The lines were etched in his memory stronger than they were on his palm. It was only out of respect for Swami that he looked at his palms. He was in for a shock.
Amid tears, the professor told his philosophy class students,
"When I looked, I did not find a single line on my palms. They had been wiped clean - no trace of even the faintest etch!"

The power of surrender

As the class listened with bated breath, the professor continued his narrative. Swami stood smiling in front of him, apparently enjoying the professor's discomfiture and shock. Prof. Safaya just broke down and Swami lovingly patted him.
"Don't worry about anything. Once you surrender to me, I shall take care of everything."

The professor fell to his knees and touched Swami's feet. What he had thought as impossible had actually happened - his reverence for Swami had transformed into implicit faith in a moment!
"Yes Swami! Yes Swami! I believe that commensurate to our surrender, you take care. Complete surrender means a life completely taken care of!"

Swami smiled at him again and touched his palms again. The lines were all back again - to the last detail! The professor was overwhelmed at the presence of this Master who could wipe out and re-draw the lines on his palm at will.

"You have nothing to worry when I am shouldering your lives. Just surrender, that is enough."
The interview was complete after that. Swami opened the door and let the professor out. It was time for his class in the Institute and Swami knew that he was a stickler for time. However, the dialogue on surrender had been so powerful that the professor decided to temporarily suspend his punctuality.

Instead of walking to the Institute, he walked straight to his room. He gathered his precious heirloom - all the thick books on astrology and palmistry. He bundled them all up in a big cloth and carried the bundle out of the room. He walked to the large ground-level well that was located behind the planetarium beside the Institute building. Without further thought, he just dumped all the books into the well. Then, wiping his tears, he walked to the waiting class.

Destiny or Freewill

"Dear students", he told them, "trust me, the science of astrology and palmistry are nothing compared to Swami's grace and power. I feel so redeemed today."
As I heard Sunam recounting the greatest philosophy lesson of the professor, I got my answer to the destiny and freewill debate. So, is it destiny of self-effort finally? My answer is - Who cares? I know for sure that Swami's grace is more powerful than my destiny, more effective than my efforts. And so, when presented with the choices, I go for the third option. As martial artist David Carradine says,
"There's always a third way, and it's not a combination of the other two ways. It's a different way."
And that way, for me is surrender. Swami has also given an elegant, practical way to practice surrender. If I can just follow that, it will be enough. The debate will cease and it will not matter to me whether it is destiny or my effort that is affecting me because I will have something far more powerful taking care of me. That is the way I shall go about in life now. And now, Swami's quote on destiny and self-effort gains greater meaning for me

"What you meet in life is destiny. How you meet it is self-effort."

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Monday, 6 January 2014

Desirelessness is fearlessness - an experience with Sri Sathya Sai that left an indelible mark on me.

An irresistible invite
The Root Cause for all fear!!!

It was sometime in the March of 2009 that my Sai-brother Amey came to me with a proposal.(I am using that term Sai-brother for two reasons -
1. to show that Amey and me are not related directly.
2. to make it clear that in spite of being from different families, we are near-siblings, definitely brothers in some previous birth!)
“Aravind, this summer I will be going to Singapore to spend a few days with my sister and her family. Would you like to come along with me?”
Having never stepped out of Indian shores in my life before, I was instantly tempted at this invitation. It got me excited and Amey immediately saw the gleam in my eyes. To further goad me along the invitation, he said,
“See, it is not just like a ‘fun vacation’. There is a nice Sai Center and the devotees there always look forward to any student who visits Singapore. Since you have promised Swami that you will share all your experiences, it would be very nice if you can do the same there...”

I still had not spoken any word. My conscience did not seem to say anything against the proposal. But my mind was protesting furiously.
“You have no idea of the costs involved Aravind. You will not be able to afford even the ticket to get there. Don’t get over-excited...”
I think that either my face is very transparent or Amey is a very good ‘Aravind-reader’ because his next statement was,
“I already have a booked ticket for you. Don’t worry about it at all. It is really nothing. I am very eager that you should speak to the people there. It will also be fun for my nephews to play with two uncles rather than one!”

Finally, I spoke,
“Wow Amey! This is exciting. But, I am not sure...”
“You ask Swami”, he interrupted, “and then take a decision based on what He says. Then it will be fine right?”
That was real good advice from a big brother. I had a smile on my face. I agreed to his idea and then tried hard to suppress the thrill and joy that was coursing in every sinew of my body.

A desire gets overwhelming

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, my dear Swami, says that everyone must place a ceiling on desires. Desire is the root cause of all worries and troubles. In the Bhagwad Gita, in the 62nd and 63rd verse of Chapter 2, Lord Krishna says:
“While concentrating on the objects of the sense (sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing), a person develops attachment to these sense objects. Such attachment gives rise to desires. (Non-fulfillment of) These desires lead to anger. From anger arises delusion which leads one into confusion. In that confusion, one loses one’s ability to discriminate after which it is total ruin.”

The desire to go to Singapore in the summer became overwhelmingly dominant within me. I thought of seeking Swami’s permission for the same but how was I to do it? I wrote a letter to Swami saying that I had got a chance to go for a ‘nice vacation’ in a few months time and that I sought His blessings for the same. The wordings were purposely vague because I felt that Swami may not like me taking up ‘foreign travel’. The 2nd of April, 2009 witnessed a very emotional and love-filled programme by the devotees of Odisha. Such was the atmosphere of love that was created that I felt it to be the appropriate moment to hand over my letter to Swami. I felt that Swami would accept anything offered to Him when such an ambiance had been created!
(Isn’t it funny that the mind continues to delude even when one is aware of Swami’s reality? That is possibly the power of Maya!)

I was shooting with a video camera on stage that day. As Swami received Aarthi and was being wheeled out from the dais, I gently offered the letter to Him. Much to my joy, He accepted the letter and went on. I was so happy. Immediately after the programme, I called up Amey and told him that Swami seemed to be fine with the Singapore trip. He was also happy as I was. However, he did not share my secret worry and sorrow - that I had hidden some things about the trip from Swami because I was fearful about His response for the same.

Cause for my fear

On several occasions, Swami has exhorted on the importance of being loyal to one’s own country instead of running away to some foreign country and seeking asylum there.
“A seed must sprout and grow into a tree wherever it is planted” - and so, Swami even resolved that come what may, He would never leave Puttaparthi. He would always reside in Puttaparthi which is His home. The Lord’s word holds good for all ages because it is beyond the limits of time. And so, even to this day, in spite of the physical departure, I am convinced that He is present in Puttaparthi. One just has to visit the shrine in the holy hamlet to feel the Presence. That is not an ordinary presence; it is the Omnipresence! Of course water is available wherever we dig deep but one can get sweet water at the surface itself when one is at a lake or pond. The Avatar’s place of physical residence is one huge ocean of such sweet water. Why spend hard efforts digging when it can be easily obtained at certain places? Thus the need to visit Puttaparthi I feel.

Anyway, coming back to the point, Swami has always been a strong proponent of staying within the boundaries of one’s nation and working for it.
“When there is so much work to be done in your country, why do you think of going to others’ countries?” He would often ask.

One part of me was saying,
“It is not as if there are no people in India who would love to listen to experiences of Swami. Why then do you want to go to Singapore?”
Another part of me was saying,
“If there was a need for you to speak in India, Swami would have brought that proposal to you. It is Swami who has brought the Singapore proposal to you and you should accept it right?”
I did not know which voice I should listen to. This much was true that I definitely wanted to go to Singapore. That is why I thought I would get permission from Swami. Though I had got it, it was only for a ‘nice vacation’ and not for a ‘trip to Singapore’. That guilt ate into me.

It was more of a conscience-easing exercise when I handed over a letter about a 'nice vacation' to Him.

Desirelessness is fearlessness

My ticket to Singapore was booked for the 15th of May 2009. The 13th day of the month dawned. I was definitely excited but somewhere deep in me was that gnawing feeling that I had tried to ‘hoodwink’ Swami. Of course He knows everything. He was aware of my trip to Singapore and my attempted ‘camouflage’. The gnawing feeling asked me,
“Why then do you not tell facts as they are to Swami?”
I had no answer. My condition was like that of the narrator of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tell-tale Heart. In an attempt to assuage this feeling, I wrote another letter to Swami. But even as I was writing this letter to Swami, the thoughts of Swami saying ‘No’ for the trip came up. I got a bit fearful and, once again, avoided mention of any ‘foreign’ terms in the letter. I just wrote that it would be an 8-day break near the sea-shore. I sat with a nervous prayer for darshan that day.

As Swami came on the gents’ side of the hall, my heart began beating more and more rapidly. A few feet before reaching near me, Swami accepted two wedding cards from a student. He seemed to be studying them when He came right in front of me. I offered my letter to Him. Now, instead of taking my letter, Swami dropped one of those wedding cards into my hands. I did not understand what that meant. But that was it. He just moved on. The boy who had offered the cards to Swami came to me immediately after the darshan and asked me to return his ‘blessed’ card. I was in a confused state and so I just returned the card to him. Nothing else happened on that day.

I carried the same letter on the next day too, fully aware that I had only about 24 hours to get the permission. I was desperate that Swami accept the letter from me on that day. I had no idea about the little drama that would ensue that day. Swami completed the ladies’ side and moved into the gents’ side and within minutes, was near me. As He neared me, He looked at me and flashed a beautiful smile. I was so happy. Things seemed to be taking a positive turn finally. Presently, He picked a small packet of vibhuti from His lap. I was sure that He would throw that to me as a sign of His blessings. Now my heart became light. However, as He threw that packet, the direction went ‘awry’ according to me. The lad seated beside me thrust out his hand and caught it in mid-air, inches away from my palm. Swami passed by us.

I looked with surprise as the lad. It was a teacher from the Higher Secondary School. He was so happy. He told me that a wedding proposal had come for him and he had prayed to Swami to guide him. This vibhuti packet, he felt, was Swami’s way of showering His blessings on him. That story was so moving that I did not have the heart to tell him,
“Hey! But that packet was meant for me. You hijacked it midway.”
Though he was happy and I let him remain so, I was in deep desperation now. I did not know what to make of this whole episode. Swami had definitely smiled at me and, I was sure, wanted to give a vibhuti packet to me. But ultimately, the packet had ended up in someone else’s possession. Was that a blessing given or a blessing withdrawn at the last moment? I wasn’t able to comprehend. The session in the mandir was soon complete and I was back in my room.

My last hope now was to get a dream in which Swami would indicate to me whether I had His blessings or not because I am convinced that dreams about Swami are 100% true. That, however, did not happen and I woke up to the sunrise on 15th May with a feeling of dense darkness within me. I went about my morning ablutions in a mechanical fashion wondering what I should do. A taxi had been booked for the afternoon and there was no guarantee of morning darshan. It was only on some days that Swami would arrive in the morning for darshan. The only way now was to wait till evening darshan I felt. But that would surely mean missing my flight. I had not confided my dilemma to even Amey and so, I felt very lonely.

As I was completing my bath, my roommate Dhananjay knocked hurriedly on the door.
“Aravind, Swami is about to arrive for darshan.
That was such a welcome message. I hurried through the motions of getting ready. The tension of the past few days was so much that it had reached breaking point. And at that breaking point, came the insight.

I pondered as to why I felt so nervous in telling Swami about my trip to Singapore. Simply because He might get upset and tell me not to go. But if Swami tells me not to go, is that not for my good? Then, why was I feeling so fearful? It was because I had already ‘decided’ that I wanted to go. I was so desirous of my trip to Singapore that I did not seem to care about what Swami felt. I wanted my desire fulfilled at any cost and did not want any obstacle to even. I had begun considering Swami as an obstacle instead of my guide! That is what desire does - destruction of one’s discrimination as Lord Krishna puts it. And it arouses the fear of non-fulfillment of the desire. All that one has to do to become fearless is to give up the desire.

“So what if Swami tells me not to go to Singapore? It is for my good and I will accept it.” I thought to myself and immediately felt the darkness lift from in front of my eyes. With a light heart I seemed to be even able to run faster towards the mandir. I went into the bhajan hall and wrote a fresh letter. This time, I wrote everything as it were - that I was going to Singapore on a paid ticket for eight days.

Keeping an eye on one's desire is a always a cause for fear.

Fearlessness and joy - gifts of Swami’s Abhayahasta

After a few interviews in the morning, Swami was moving towards the dais outside for the bhajans. He saw me at the bhajan hall entrance and asked me what was up.
Me: Swami, this evening, I am supposed to leave...
Swami: To where?
Me: Singapore Swami....
Swami’s eyes opened up wide and He exclaimed, “Singapore?”
He opened my letter and began to read. I was surprisingly calm. I was ready for anything He said.
“How many days?” He asked.
“Swami, 8 days”, I replied.
He pointed out to the same thing that I had written in the letter also. Then, He looked at me questioningly. I felt He was asking me,
“Do you want to go?”
This was the test of the learning I had received just minutes before. I went close to Him and said,
“Swami, if you tell me to go, I shall go. Otherwise, I shall stay here.”
Swami went back to reading the letter. He then looked at me and nodded.
“Go and return soon.”
“Swami please give me prasadam (A devotional offering made to God that is later shared among devotees as a sign of Divine benediction. But in Swami’s case, it was vibhuti which seemed to be the deal-sealer for any question!)”, I said.
Swami nodded gently. Usually, when He did that, an attendant student would get the basket of vibhuti packets from the interview room from which Swami would give a few to the person seeking prasadam. The attendant student did not notice Swami nodding and so, I told him,
“Get vibhuti.”

He was shocked at me giving him an instruction. He looked at Swami who now smiled and told him to get the same. A few moments later, Swami was giving me 3 vibhuti packets and also a lovely padanamaskar. I had joy in my heart and in a few hours, was on my way to the Bangalore airport to catch my flight to Singapore.

Swami asking me how the trip to Singapore was on my return after 8 days. 

That was how my first ever overseas trip materialized with a very important lesson for me - desires are the root cause for fear. Be desireless; be fearless. That is the message of Swami’s Abhayahasta (literally translates into ‘the hand the confers fearlessness’) blessings. That is the blessing we must seek when Swami raises His hands to bless us:
“Lord, grant me fearlessness. Grant me desirelessness.”

And when we think deep, we will realize that we are asking for the same thing, twice!

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

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Thursday, 2 January 2014

It is only in the depths of silence that the voice of God is heard - experience of Amitabh Das Gupta

The depths of silence
Clearly shows that an enforced quiet
is different from 'silence'...

There is something very powerful and magical about refraining from speech and maintaining silence. Every spiritual master has, in one way or the other, exhorted on silence. My master and best friend, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba or Swami as we lovingly call Him, is no exception to this. In fact, He says that it is ONLY in the depths of silence that one can hear the voice of God. And when one maintains silence, Swami says that he/she come under the ‘Sai-lens’!

Silence, in its perfection refers to the thoughtless state of the mind - a state when everything is is still in perfect serenity. The mind is often likened to a crystal-clear pool of water in which ripples arise every time a pebble called thought is dropped. When there are absolutely no pebbles being dropped, the waters are so still and clear that one may even miss its very presence! So too, when there are no thoughts, the mind too seems to vanish into non-existence. Swami explains the same concept with the famous example of the threads and cloth. Mind, He says, is the cloth made up of the threads called thoughts. Pull out all the threads, one-by-one, and sure enough, there will be no cloth. Eliminate thoughts and the mind is eliminated!

However, this internal silence is not so easily attainable. One has to be in absolute equanimity, equipoise and peace to ensure that no thoughts arise in one’s being. Helping the aspirant in the path Divine, Swami advises external silence as a precursor to true silence/internal silence. By restraining from speech, one is definitely able to reduce the number of ‘pebbles’ that strike against the bobbing ‘waters’ of the mind. Swami says,

“Before you speak, think:
1. Is it necessary?
2. Is it true?
3. Will it hurt anyone?
4. Will it improve upon the silence?”

Reading and thinking about the above questions make it clear that Swami considers silence as a better option to speech in many cases. No wonder that the a wise Swiss/German Inscription says,
Sprechen ist silbern, Schweigen ist golden
Speech is silver, Silence is golden. Speech is of time, Silence is of eternity.

It was with great nostalgia that Amitabh Das Gupta recollected a lesson in silence that he will never forget for lifetimes.
“More than anything else, Swami taught me that silence is very rewarding - even the external silence itself. It gives you the experience where you can actually ‘hear’ the voice of God because it takes you close to God or rather, gets God close to you.”

That introduction definitely had me interested and Amitabh Das Gupta, who is nicknamed Dasta, began his beautiful story.

Another lovely student-story. Amitabh Das Gupta with his Swami in Kodaikanal. 

Resolution as New Year approaches

It was the December of 1993. An eventful year was coming to a close and Dasta was keen to sign off the final year of his school days with something memorable and momentous. He was in XII grade and Swami had been speaking to him off and on. Most of the times, it had been advice and even reprimands to reduce his talk and keep silence (Mounam). Having received so much from Swami, Dasta wanted to express his gratitude to Him. But keeping silent was definitely not his cup of tea. First of all, he loved talking and was incessant in his communication with friends. Added to this, he was unable to perceive any benefit in keeping silent. How was he to adopt the practice of mounam all of a sudden?

The ancient wise people of India recognised the fact that man needs an incentive for any effort he makes. They decided to make use of this even in spiritual pursuit. Thus, every single Stotram (song of praise and worship for the Lord), Ashtakam (set of eight verses in praise of a deity) or any other prayerful composition has at its end, what is called the Phalashruti (benefits of hearing). This is the final stanza which states the benefits that would accrue to a person who hears the composition regularly. Now that is incentive-based encouragement - rewarding a good deed which in this case is listening to the glories and stories of God.

Dasta too needed some incentive to silence his tongue which seemed to have an infinite capacity to flex itself in company of others. He decided that he would decide upon the incentive himself and Swami better reward him with it if He was keen that he keep Mounam. Thinking really hard to come up with something really preposterous (so that Swami would fail in giving him that incentive and he cannot be blamed for giving up the practice of Mounam), Dasta held a picture of Swami and said,
“Swami, since you have repeatedly told me to keep silent, I shall keep Mounam for the next 15 days. It is a very challenging proposition for me and so, if I succeed in it, you must give me a ride in your car! If you fail to do so, I shall consider this Mounam as something that is no good for me!”

Having made his stance clear to Swami, Dasta prepared himself for the toughest challenge till date in his life - to maintain Mounam for 15 days! That experience would tell him whether it was worth it to have ‘silence’ as part of his New Year resolution.

A commendable effort with minor violations

It was with superhuman efforts that Dasta kept up his end of the ‘deal’ which he had brokered with Swami. A week seemed like almost half a year when it came to keeping silence. Somehow Dasta maintained silence till the morning of Christmas. On the morning of December 25th, in a state of divine thrill after the beautiful ‘Balcony Darshan’, Dasta found himself indulging in excited talk with all his friends. By the time he realized that he had violated his promise, it was too late. He felt disappointed that his week-long effort had gone waste. However he told himself,
“It was a mistake that I spoke today. Having kept Mounam for a week, I shall continue with it for another week as promised. I know it is not my ‘stipulated’ 15 days, but it is definitely my best efforts.”

Subplots in the story

The Lord is an expert in ‘blessing’ two ‘birds’ in one stroke. Dasta did not have the slightest idea that a Divine plan had been set in motion wherein the Lord had decided to bless three ‘birds’! Dasta’s classmate, Pavan, had been sick for almost ten days now. Such had been the virulence of the illness that the doctors had confined him within the walls of the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital. He had not gone to school or hostel. More devastatingly, he had not been allowed to go for darshan as well. That hurt him a lot.

As New Year’s day approached, Pavan sat on the hospital bed, tears coursing down his cheeks. He prayed,
“Swami, what an unfortunate soul am I that I am starting the new year without seeing you though I am in Puttaparthi and I am a student. This must be the result of my sins accumulated over several births! I cannot think of starting the new year without seeing you... Please do something. Let the doctors declare me fit for at least one darshan.”
With huge blobs of tears dropping on the sheets, Pavan let his eyes complete the communication which his heart had started with the Lord.

Dasta knew about the illness of this boy but had no idea about his miserable plight. That was when, one day, Swami told him,
“Go to the hospital. There is a sick boy there whom I have to visit.”
Dasta did as he was told without the slightest idea that Pavan’s heart would explode with joy and fulfillment when he came to know about Swami’s proposed visit. In a few minutes, the familiar silver Benz car drove into the General Hospital premises. Out stepped the Lord and He walked up the stairs to where Pavan was. Ah! What a sight it was! All of Pavan’s pining and pain seemed akin to the struggle the river goes through before meeting with the ocean. Swami spent ten minutes with Pavan before walking out of the ward.

A doctor walked up to Swami and requested Him to bless a girl who had been very sick. Swami agreed instantly. It almost seemed like Swami had already decided to go to the girl as well. Now this was the second ‘bird’ receiving blessings. The girl had woken up that morning and narrated her dream to her parents.
“Swami told me to be ready for He will come to bless me today.”
The incredulous parents had thought that sickness had played tricks with their daughter’s mind. But now, they rubbed their eyes in disbelief to make sure that they were not playing tricks on their minds! Swami stepped into the girl’s ward and reinforced her faith in Him by blessing her and speaking loving words of consolation. A twinkle in the eyes of the devotee and the Lord  indicated the inner understanding that existed between them!  Swami then walked out of this ward and had to pass through the maternity ward on His way to the hospital exit.

Swami has His own Divine ways of blessing many 'birds' with one 'stone'! :)
The third bird is blessed

He turned and looked at Dasta and said,
“Come, follow me.”
It was with his eyes on the floor and heart filled with embarrassment that Dasta walked across the maternity ward along with Swami. In a few moments, they were out of the hospital. Swami sat in His car and looking at Dasta said,
“Cmon. Get into the car.”

His 15 days of Mounam were complete but then, had he not violated his silence on Christmas day? Had Swami decided to forgive that lapse to confer this huge blessing on him? Even as he thought thus, Sri V.K.Narasimhan, the fantastic editor of Sanathana Sarathi, rushed to the car. Dasta realized that Swami was calling Sri Narasimhan.
“Sit in the front”, Swami told the editor. Then, He looked at Dasta and said,
“You get into the back seat.”

Dasta could not believe his ears. This was the Phalashruti that he had sought! Swami said,
“I want to take you for a drive.”
Oh my god! That means Swami listens even when one talks to His photograph! This was the predominant thought in an otherwise stunned Dasta’s mind. Swami told the driver to head towards the Super Speciality Hospital.
“I will show you my big hospital.”
The 5 kilometer drive was an unforgettable for Dasta. Swami spoke several things with him like a friend and the venerable Narasimhan added more humor to the conversation in his inimitable style. Since this was an unscheduled visit, the massive main doors to the hospital central dome area were closed. Swami said with a measure of false sorrow,
“Let’s go back. The doors are not open.”

It became evident to Datsa that this whole thing was Swami’s setup for giving him a ride. The Super Specialty Hospital visit was merely an excuse. Not wanting to adhere to silence, Dasta had thought of taking the Lord for a ride by seeking a reward  which he was sure that Swami would not be able to deliver. Even when he had decided to take the Lord for a ride, Swami had taken him for an actual ride!


Dasta’s attitude towards silence has undergone a dramatic transformation since then. So deep is his commitment towards silence that it required some prying to actually have him open up on this incident as well! Again, it happened with Swami’s prodding.

In a few days after the ride of his life, Dasta was asked by Swami to give a speech. He had flatly refused, not having the courage to speak and feeling that he was a ‘nobody’ to speak. 20 years later, on the eve of the Alumni Meet on 1st January 2014, he sat reminiscing that car ride with Swami. Somehow the memory of him refusing to speak also popped up. At the precise moment, a coordinator for the January 1st programme walks up to him. It is 8:30pm and he says,
“Amitabh! There is a slight problem. The announcement today after bhajans was that there is a speech in the morning tomorrow. That announcement was a mistake as we have no speakers. Can you speak?”

Ah! The Lord’s timing! So perfect it was that Dasta agreed on the spot, not wanting to repeat his disobedience of Swami 20 years back. The coordinator also realized that there is nothing like a ‘mistake’ when it comes to the Lord!

Dasta definitely broke his silence about this episode. He also speaks and shares about Swami. However, he now maintains the deeper inner silence. A silence that keeps him serene and joyful amidst all the uncertainties of life.

“Keeping the physical silence is definitely the first step towards inculcating the actual silence - a silence in which the voice of God is heard always. I am blessed to have learn’t this from Swami who actually rewarded me with a ride and divine talk for 5-10 minutes before dropping me at my hostel. My silence had actually made me ‘listen to God’s voice’ in His Benz car for a full 10 minutes!”

Rewarded by the Lord for his silence!

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