|With God, there is always a third option which is completely different|
from the available two options.
Wednesday, 22 January 2014
Destiny or Freewill - the third option by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba
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'?
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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