Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Why should I serve others - an experience and guideline from Sri Sathya Sai

Divine discourse and prasadam distribution

The divine discourse came to an end and the 15,000 strong audience joined wholeheartedly in the bhajan song that the Master, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, sang. My voice too was one among those thousands and it definitely sounded energetic and enthusiastic. How many ever times I heard Swami sing the same bhajan, Prema Muditha Manase Kaho, it seemed ever fresh and fulfilling. Even as Swami lead the bhajan, He clapped and enthused every tongue to delve on the divine name while every heart was diving deep into a sea of tranquility. As the bhajan neared the conclusion, He looked to a side and beckoned to the students seated there with circular vessels containing the prasadam - eatables first offered to God and then partaken as a token of Divine benediction.

It was standard practice after every discourse that Swami would bless the prasadam to be distributed. It would
invariably be His students who would do the distribution. 

The three students walked up to Him and He blessed the prasadam in the vessels. He then told them to begin distribution to the gathered people. Suddenly, there was activity everywhere. A group of students transported dozens of such vessels to the ladies’ half of the hall where women volunteers took them to begin distribution. On the gents’ side however, the students themselves began the distribution. The initial number of three had now grown to tens of students assisting in the distribution. Unable to resist the joy in doing my Swami’s work, I too got up to join in the distribution. Soon, I was wading through people, distributing prasadam. The people on their part accepted the prasadam with great love and humility. I felt so blessed.

With that feeling of blessedness, there also arose in me a memory which added to my joy. It was the memory of a Trayee session in Brindavan, when Sri Sanjay Sahni narrated the reason behind Swami assigning this task of prasadam distribution to the students.

Prasadam serving as the premium to the grand insurance of His Grace

On one occasion, Swami asked the students and teachers whether they were aware of the reason why He insists on them serving prasadam to the devotees in any assembly. As is the case generally, nobody was able to fathom the correct reason. With a smile, Swami Himself gave the answer. He said,
“There will be times and situations in the future when you will require my help and intercession. This act of prasadam distribution done now will ensure that you are worthy of my Grace then. Then, my Grace will flow to you without limit.”

That was Sahni sir’s narrative that day.

Swami’s answer is stunning in its implications. The act of serving the Lord’s prasadam is like an insurance premium. The only difference in this case is that God’s grace is like an “infinite” insurance that helps you in your time of need beyond all limits. This means that, unlike a normal insurance, there is no limit to the multiplying factor which God applies to our ‘premiums’. As per the need He can multiply it a million times, a billion times or even a trillion times. But it is important to have made some ‘premium’ deposit else, if a big zero is multiplied with any factor, it still remains a zero. Swami’s love is such that He Himself ensures that the students make those ‘premium’ deposits!

While every ‘Sai Student’ will rejoice reading this and thinking of the many occasions when he/she was made to serve prasadam either in the darshan hall or during the Grama Seva, the same might not be the case with the world at large! It appears as though Swami is partial towards the students and is ‘ensuring’ their welfare by Himself. What about the rest of humanity who have not got the chance to serve, being directly commanded by Swami?

Well, intuition says that any service done automatically becomes a ‘premium’ paid - irrespective of whether Swami directly ‘commanded’ it or not. Just like the educational institutions and medical institutions by Bhagawan serve as models, these incidents and explanations also serve as models for all of us to emulate. Definitely, service is the way to go and ‘pay’ premiums for the insurance of our life.  However, for those that are unable to distinguish intuition from the monkey mind drawing its solace via assuring, self-made statements, here is a thrilling account of a daily-wage earner. That will prove for sure the importance and magnificence of seva or doing service.

All through His life Swami has always pointed out the importance of selfless service.

Ramesh Kumar’s world goes dark in the dark

Ramesh Kumar (name changed to protect privacy) was one among the several workers residing in the servants’ colony of the NTPC (National Thermal Power Corporation) power plant at Vindhyanagar in Singrauli district of the Indian state, Madhya Pradesh. A native from West Bengal, he used to perform his domestic duties in several homes of the officers working in the plant. One among the several homes he worked in belonged to Mr. Krishnan. Mr. Krishnan was (and is) a staunch devotee of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and was working as the Deputy General Manager at the plant.

Ramesh had seen Swami’s pictures in Krishnan’s home and had also come to know a little about Him. He respected the Master and was sincere in his duties. Life was going on smoothly for him till that fateful day when he realized that he was unable to see clearly in the fading light of the day. After that, it was a continuous decline and Ramesh feared that soon, he might become completely blind. That was when he went to his master, Krishnan, and confided in him.
“Please help me sir. I think that my eyesight is getting bad.”
“Have you gone to a doctor?”
“Yes sir. But he says that an operation is necessary within a year else I may lose sight completely. The cost of the operation is 2 lakhs (about $4000 US). How can I ever afford that? Can Sai Baba help me?”

Ramesh’s monthly salary was about 5,000 INR (about $100 US then). Krishnan knew that he would never be able to afford it. But that was an amount that even the Deputy General Manager could not afford easily! What was he to do? Krishnan decided to put to acid test the word given by Swami.
“You know, every Thursday we have bhajans and seva in our Sai Samithi. Why don’t you come next Thursday and join us. I am sure that something nice will work out for your surgery.”
Ramesh nodded hopefully and left. Krishnan, in the inner recesses of his heart, hoped fervently that Swami’s words would fructify. What were Swami’s words on which Krishnan was relying so heavily upon?

The message of the Lord

On the 22nd of November, 1991, the prime minister of India, P.V.Narasimha Rao, inaugurated the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences in Puttaparthi. The tertiary care hospital which began offering medical care TOTALLY FREE of cost to one and all is a miracle story in itself.

Watch this episode in the memorable "Message of the Lord"
series in which the miraculous hospital story is covered.

Even as the hospital started serving everyone with medical needs in cardiology, neurology, urology and ophthalmology, the waiting list of patients wanting to receive treatment grew to enormous proportions. In spite of 6-10 operations being done daily, the hospital was unable to tend to ever-increasing number of patients that arrived at its doorstep with nothing more than hope. Along with that also came an increasing number of people who walked away healthy and happy from the hospital. Endless are the stories of patients that have received this unique loving and healing touch of the hospital. Enthused by the phenomenal success of the hospital, all the Sai-fraternity began to spread news of this temple of healing in their respective hometowns.

That is how even Ramesh had heard about the hospital and he hoped that it would provide him a solution from his problem. However, it wasn’t that simple.

As stated earlier, the waiting-list of patients was ever-swelling. Many patients would come to the hospital to only learn that there was a huge queue. The doctors were doing their best but some patients would have to wait months or even years. Driven by desperation, the patients would rush to the darshan grounds with the hope that Sai Baba would cure them in an instant without the painful surgery of the hospital. That was when Swami called the active workers from most Indian states to the portico for what would be an ‘open’ interview. Among the active workers was Mr.S.K.Sachdeva, the state president for Sri Sathya Sai Organizations(SSSO) in Madhya Pradesh.

Swami addressed all of them,
“See, our super-specialty hospital in Puttaparthi is getting a large number of patients. All of you are sending patients from your respective states for treatment here. Since the hospital has a limited intake, the remaining patients come to the hall here hoping that I cure them. How can I simply cure them like that?”
Swami seemed to give a few moments for the words to sink in. He then continued.
“Instead of directly sending the patients here, advise them lovingly to do some service and sadhana. After they do the service and sadhana, send them to me. Then, I can pour my Grace on them for the service rendered and help them.” That showed that even the Lord could be ‘bought’ over - through selfless service and sadhana!

Mr. Sachdeva had conveyed this to all the members in his state and that is how Mr. Krishnan came to know of it. And that was the reason why he told Ramesh to start attending the service activities in the samithi on every Thursday. He was trying out Swami’s suggested remedy.

That was how Ramesh began to spend time in service. He began to give his time and energy to help the homeless, the aged and the orphans. He also realized that service is not like a ‘timed’ job; it is more a way of life. Kind words and prayerful thoughts were as much a service as thoughtful actions. Such was the joy he derived from service that he also started to develop love and devotion to the orange-robe clad form of the Lord. Four months passed this way. Though his eyesight had not improved, it definitely felt as if it had not deteriorated either. That in itself felt like a great blessing for Ramesh.  Krishnan was happy seeing all the positives Ramesh had gained.

One night, his wife asked Krishnan,
“You had assured Ramesh that something would work out for his surgery. Though happiness has been added to his life, his eye problem remains. Either you try to help him out or at least let him know that there is nothing more you can do. He has just another 8 months to get the surgery done.”
On the eve of his birthday, these were Krishnan’s thoughts too. As his seva, he wanted to gift something to Ramesh but he knew that the surgery was way beyond his means. With a strong thought that he should do something good, he went to sleep.

Birthday gift

“Hello, Krishnan here...”
“Happy birthday Krishna!!”
“RAGHU!! Sairam... Thank you for the wishes.”
It was a hearty conversation for the next ten minutes as both friends caught up with each other. It was in the course of the conversation that his friend Raghunath mentioned about another close friend of his who was an important doctor in Sankara Netralaya, a charitable eye hospital. The reader can easily guess what happened next. Krishnan poured out Ramesh’s optical woes and Raghunath assured him not to worry. Within the next week, Ramesh was operated and cured of his ailment, free of cost, thanks to the doctor friend!

But Ramesh did not believe that this was just a coincidence. Neither did Krishnan.
“Sir! You told me to join service and everything would be taken care of. That is exactly what has happened! This is so magical and fantastic. This secret should be shared with one and all. I feel it will help not only in solving physical ailments but also help in all kinds of problems.”

Ramesh was bustling with so much energy that Krishnan could not help smiling broadly.He was so happy today. In the inner recesses of his heart, he sent prayers of gratitude to Swami for having given him such a beautiful birthday gift. It was almost as if he himself had received the eye-treatment.

That is the beauty of service. It uplifts both the ‘receiver’ and the ‘donor’ because in reality, in service everyone is actually a ‘receiver’. We very often mistake service to be some help rendered to others.

There was once this farmer with the best watermelons in the country. After every harvest, he would distribute his seeds to all other farmers in his village. While everyone considered him to be doing a great service he said that if he did not do as he was doing, the bees may pollinate his flowers with lesser grade pollen from the flowers of other fields! Then he would no longer have the best watermelons. So to ensure perfect harvest, he did the so called service. Service benefits the recipient no doubt, but the one who serves benefits most! If we remember this, the things we think and do daily will be so much different than what we do daily!

A passer by once saw a little calf stranded in slush and was struggling to get out. He immediately dived in and rescued it. It was hailed as an act of service by some while some,laughed at it as an act of foolishness. The man simply said, "I was in great pain to see that calf suffering. I did nothing foolish nor did I render service. Whatever I did, I did it to ease my own pain." When we stand strong in this feeling alone can we render service, for in the process of service, we are truly helping ourselves.

One good deed inspires another

Ramesh took it upon himself to share this great secret of service to one and all. He began to regularly fetch different people to the Thursday seva telling them,
“Just do good and see good happening to you. Do service and you will receive God’s blessings that will solve all your problems.”
Even to this day, Ramesh continues to do this and has become a very key worker in the Sathya Sai Seva Organizations. Needless to say, Krishnan too continues to use the mantra of service whenever anyone comes to him with any problem. And it seems to work every single time to date!

Excuse me now. I want to rush and do my bit of daily service. No! Its not because I am suffering from any problem. It is because I am convinced that it will give me great happiness. Wait a minute! Is it possible that I am happy always because my little ‘premium’ payments have ensured a blissful ‘insurance’ from the troubles of the world? The only way to check would be to stop doing service (which actually I am doing for my joy) and see. But I am not ready for that risk!

Happy serving everyone!

If you enjoyed reading this, you will also like the following:

1. What is Narayan Seva and how must it be done?
2. Sathya Sai Mobile Hospital - a 'moving' miracle of love
3. When selfishness disguises itself as selflessness
4. Building homes the Sathya Sai way: An unbelievable service of love in Trinidad & Tobago

For all readers:

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  1. Very encouraging writeup, Arvind Keep up the good work, love your articles and get inspired too!
    Dheera Aunti

  2. Sairam brother Aravind Sai... another beautiful update on service... It also stresses on how Swami gives importance to Service.... Thanks brother...


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