Wednesday, 20 August 2014

PART 2_Destroyed in seconds but rebuilt over years - the love story of Vijaya Sunder with his Swami

First trip to Puttaparthi

Vijay informed his parents about the chance he had got to go to Puttaparthi and be part of a drama to be staged there. They were happy. The past few years had seemed to really improve their son and his positive outlook towards Swami delighted them.

Vijay performed his role behind the scenes to the best of his ability and sincerity. As instructed, he made sure that he did not peep to get a darshan of Swami during the drama and, when the time came, he showered ‘Adi Sankaracharya’ with gold. When the drama concluded, Swami moved down the dais, amidst the children. He blessed all the actors with clothes. He also materialized vibhuti for some of the actors. Having done this, as He sat on the stage, the supreme Lord of the Universe seemed unsatisfied! He is never satisfied when it comes to giving.

He said something to the attendant boy by his side. A tray was brought from within and Swami beckoned to the actors. He handed over a wristwatch to each and every one of them. The line of actors ended but not Swami’s enthusiasm to give. He looked beyond, at the sets’ boys seated behind. Sathya Sai is a silent worker - always acting behind the scenes and giving credit to others. He definitely knows what it is to be a background worker! He beckoned to the sets’ boys too and Vijay was one among the first few to go to Him.

Swami blessing Vijay with gold chain that He materialised with a wave of His hand. This was in 2008. 

(This is the second part of an interesting story. You will get maximum joy by reading it in the proper chronology. In case you have missed it, read the first part at the link below before returning to this part.

Vijay knelt before Swami. It was for the first time in his life that he was seeing Swami from such close quarters. Swami held out a wristwatch for him. But Vijay’s attention was not on the watch. He was drinking deep into the fountain of beauty that Swami is. That momentary experience was enough to make Vijay desire madly for a seat in Swami’s college. He remembered Shyam’s words that one got admission in Swami’s college only when He wills. So, he told Swami,
“Please give me admission in your college. I want a seat.”
“Ok. Take”, said Swami, handing him the watch.
Vijay did not understand whether Swami was asking him to ‘take’ the watch or the seat. He did not know then that Swami has the ability to bless two birds with the same stone! He felt that Swami wanted to get ‘rid’ of his pestering presence. He took the watch and walked back to his place.

Thus concluded the Parthi trip which triggered an insatiable thirst in Vijay to become a student of Swami.

Entrance ‘exam’

Vijay had gone ahead with his plan and applied for the BSc-MSc course, M.Tech course and MBA course at the SSSIHL. He received invites to write the entrance exams for the M.Tech and MBA courses only because being a B.Tech disqualified him from the BSc course. (B.Tech is a higher if not equal-ranking course with BSc and the MSc courses at SSSIHL are integrated with BSc.) But he did not complain. He had two shots at becoming a ‘Sai Student’.

‘Man proposes; God disposes’ and this is a common thing that happens in Swami’s presence. But it always happens for the greater good. The entrance exams for both the courses were on the same day at the same time! When Vijay informed his plight to the officials, he was told to choose one and give up the other. He felt that he was better equipped to crack the M.Tech entrance exam as he had an engineering background. But his destiny was not that and Swami seemed to prod him towards MBA using ‘logic’ which always appealed to him. The official told him,
“Are you sure you want to pick M.Tech and give up MBA? There are only a dozen seats for M.Tech but about 40 seats for MBA...”

Vijay cleared the entrance examination for MBA and was chosen for the next stage - the group discussion. The topic for his group was - Are SEZs good for corporate India?

Vijay did not know what SEZ (Special Economic Zone) stood for. He hoped to learn along the discussion. Much to his consternation, while everyone spoke of the many advantages and disadvantages of SEZs, nobody ever expanded the abbreviation! Towards the end of 15 minutes, Vijay got up and said,
“The SEZ has its advantages and disadvantages that should be carefully considered. In conclusion...”, and Vijay summarised all that he had heard so far. Everyone applauded him and before he knew it, he had cleared the interview and had obtained the prized badge of being a Sai Student.

Thus it was that Vijay became a student of the SSSIHL in June 2007. He did not know that there was a distinction between being a student of SSSIHL and being a Sai Student! He was about to discover and learn soon.

First darshan

All the newcomers were allowed to occupy the front lines for darshan as per the practice every year. This would be Vijay’s second opportunity to have a close darshan. He wrote a letter to Swami. ‘Respected Sri Sathya Sai Baba’, he began. Then, he wrote everything that had happened in his life thus far.
‘... I threw the Aarthi plate and broke your framed photograph...’
‘ came in my dream...’
‘ told me to take the watch when I came here last year...’
He signed off the letter as ‘Vijaya Sunder (1st year MBA).

The joy of speaking to the Lord is incomparable indeed!

That was the first and last formal letter that he ever wrote to Swami. Swami’s interaction during the darshan just swept him off his feet and made him enshrine the Supreme Chancellor of the Universe in his heart. As Swami moved towards him during darshan, He looked into his eyes and smiled. Accepting the latter He asked,
“Are you happy?”

“Yes Swami...”, Vijay wanted to tell Him a million things.
“Be happy”, Swami said and moved on.

Displaying implicit obedience, a flush of happiness flooded Vijay’s being and a broad smile blossomed on his face. He had experienced a joy that he had rarely felt before. And he craved for more of that joy. Tasting that joy just once had made him into a raving addict. That is the mesmerising power of the Lord’s love - He often makes you pledge your heart to Him at first sight. The sight of Divine Love results in love at first sight!

“I will try to speak to Him daily”, Vijay decided.

Another fish baited

Dr.Alreja who had the privilege of being Swami’s personal physician had once given an insight about the ways of the Lord,
“He is an expert fisherman. He offers us fish a juicy bait and we bite. Then He fishes us out of the water and puts us in His basket, angling for more fish. Not used to be out of our comfort zone, we struggle in the basket. When the struggle seems to become unbearable, he sprinkles a few drops of water, providing relief. But that relief is just temporary.”

He does this because He wants us to realize that we are not meant to be ‘fish’ wallowing in the Bhavasagara (the ocean of life). He wants us to break out of our little egos (body-attachment) and obtain true freedom.

Disclaimer: This is not the only way that the Lord operates. But this is definitely one of the ways!

Apparently, this was the case with Vijay too. Vijay had taken the bait and was now in the basket. His struggles began. After that lovely interaction on day one, Vijay faced a drought of physical proximity to Swami. He never got a chance to speak to Him. He began to pine for Swami more than ever before. He got to hear so many stories of so many students that he regretted not having come to Swami earlier. Once again, he felt upset that his father had not even tried to introduce Swami to him. How strange that he had to struggle for life’s bounties all by himself without any support even from his own parents!

Vijay begins his sadhana

The first semester of Vijay’s MBA life was the most forgettable. He wanted to count the days and weeks by his interactions with Swami but the counter seemed stuck at 1 though months passed by. He wondered what he should do to become the apple of Swami’s eyes. He had noticed that Swami seemed to show keen interest in the bhajan singers. So, he decided to try his luck with bhajan singing. His approached a few senior singers for help in honing his singing ‘skill’. He soon realised that his efforts to sing were as foolish as the efforts of a fish to climb a tree! He slunk out of the music room before further embarrassment.

He decided to embrace music in another manner - by learning to play the flute. Vijay approached the master flutist at the mandir and asked him to be his teacher. The teacher agreed only on the condition that there were at least half a dozen students wanting to learn. This person, Mr.Ravi Teja, takes care of the Sri Sathya Sai Bhakta Sahayak Sangh and he wanted to ensure that his efforts were well utilized. Vijay returned to the hostel and inspired almost a dozen other students to learn the flute. Ravi Teja began to conduct classes early in the morning for these aspiring flutists.

Vijay realized that a fish could neither run fast on land! Ironically, several months later, all the students except Vijay gave a flute performance in front of Swami in the Sai Kulwant hall! But that happened months after Vijay had given up attempts to master the hollow reed.

As the end semester exams neared, a dejected and frustrated Vijay decided,
“After the vacations, I shall not come back here. What is the use of being here if I cannot get Swami? It only makes me burn more that I am so close yet so far.”

The Divine Fisherman sprinkles water on the fish

Vijay felt that it was courtesy to inform Swami of his plans. He wrote everything in a letter and hoped that Swami would accept it during darshan. That day, something unexpected happened. Swami accepted the letter and asked,
“Ay, Em Chestunnav Ra? (Hey! What are you doing?)”
“Swami... MBA Swami...”
“MBA Kaadu. Inka emi chestunnavu? (Not MBA. What else are you doing?)”
This was the opening that Vijay wanted. He poured out his heart to Swami. He said that he had tried doing so many things. He had put in his best efforts but they had been grossly insufficient. He felt like a failure.
Swami smiled and said half-jokingly,
“Aithe bommalu veyi. (Then make sketches.)”

Radha-Krishna was one of Vijay's earliest sketches...

There was laughter all around. Vijay also smiled. For him, this was manna from heaven. Finally his Lord had given him some task. When he returned to the hostel, he began to paint. He sat for long hours and completed a painting of Lord Rama and a prayerful Hanuman. It was no masterpiece but he had definitely spent hours on it. All his roommates laughed at him. The general import of what they advised him was this -
“Swami was just joking man! Take it easy.”
But Vijay was deaf to their wisdom.

The day the painting was completed, Swami keenly observed it. He asked Vijay several things about it -  what Hanuman was doing; what Rama was saying. He gave tips on depicting Lord Rama better. Vijay was elated. These were the precious seconds of interaction for which he was ready to do anything.

That evening, he began another painting. Once again, Swami saw it, spoke to him, gave tips and blessed him. The second semester was turning to be a bonanza for Vijay as he made several other paintings. He painted Buddha, Ganesha, Shiva, Venkateshwara and Krishna. He also painted people of God like Mother Theresa. Swami appreciated his efforts in all these paintings and conferred great joy to him. Vijay now began to  make his paintings secretly. He did not want to offer a painting to the Lord after it had been ‘tainted’ by the judgemental looks of others. The first one to cast eyes on the painting must be his Swami.

 How wonderful it would be if we incorporated this for our lives too! Instead of offering life (which is so precious) for any other pursuit, why not offer it for the pursuit of God? 

(Actually, this was Swami’s lament to a student in the interview room as mentioned in the second story at that link.)

A father’s gift to his son

One day, totally out of the blue, Swami asked Vijay,
“How is your father?”
“My father? Swami he must be fine...”
Swami waved his palm and materialized vibhuti. Pouring it completely into Vijay’s palm, He told him to give it to his father. Vijay nodded and took namaskar.
That evening, Vijay called up home. His first question was,
“Mother, how is father?”
“Oh! He is fine now. You know, yesterday, during the Satyanarayana Puja, your faither fainted suddenly. We did not inform you because we felt that you would get agitated...”
“Swami asked about him and has given vibhuti for him!”
“Ah! He knows everything. Blessed indeed are we...”

Vijay’s mother had shed profuse tears when he was leaving to enroll in Puttaparthi. She would be missing her only son. But then, listening to him about how Swami was fostering him, she felt calmed. Now, with His latest act of grace, Swami had not only assured the parents that their son was in good hands but had also comforted Vijay that He was taking care of his parents.

Vijay was now peaceful. He was now getting the physical proximity of Swami and he felt that finally he was happy. After all, didn’t Swami Himself say that true happiness comes only in union with God?

He felt grateful that his painting abilities were being appreciated so much by Swami. In order to produce these pieces of art at a more rapid pace, Vijay let go of colours and decided to create sketches with the pencil. This way, he could create a sketch overnight. After the night prayer in the hostel, he slipped out to the Mirpuri College of Music. In the silence of the night, he sketched on for hours. At the end of five hours, at 3 a.m., he looked at the sketch of Sri.N.Kasturi. It had come out pretty well. He thanked Swami for the patience and strength. He also thanked Him for the skill.

Suddenly, he had goosebumps. He also had tears in his eyes for he realised that he had been so unfair to his father. He had thought that his father had given him nothing in life. But Vijay had acquired the rudiments of his skill in painting and sketching from his father, watching him at work as a cartoonist for Indian Express. It was this skill that was giving him his heart’s desire today - not the intelligence and marks that he possessed. He thought that his father had deprived him by not assisting him financially and by not telling him about Swami as a child. But unknown to both, the father and son, Swami had gifted Vijay via his father in such a way that he would be grateful to his parents throughout life.

With Swami’s entry, the bond of love between the son and parents strengthened. The love between them grew and Vijay developed deep reverence for his parents. He understood better the meaning of the dictum ‘Mathru Devo Bhava; Pitru Devo Bhava’ (Revere the mother as God; Revere the father as God).

The time was now ripe for Vijay to pay for his sin of demolishing a picture of God. All said and done, one good deed does not negate a bad deed done. One will enjoy the fruits of the good deeds no doubt; but one has to pay for the bad deeds as well. In fact, Swami has said,
“The good that is done in the Divine Presence comes back to you a hundredfold. But remember, the bad done in the Divine Presence too comes back to you a hundredfold.”
Vijay wasn’t aware that Swami would not simply forgive him for the act of destroying a picture of God in anger. He would have to pay - a hundredfold!

For all readers:

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  1. Very poignant indeed! Eagerly waiting for part 3. The sketches are beautiful!

    1. Thank you sis. You will get a flavour of many more sketches in the next part...

  2. Awesome....we always look forward for Fridays. more eagerly

    1. Hahahaha... I too look forward for Fridays because that is when Swami gets me to meet gems! :)

  3. Raghu Ketharam Iyer20 August 2014 at 11:02

    "...(which will be published within 48 hours..." ;-) shows that you really know your reader's pulse.
    well, would have liked to see Vijay's sketch of Sri. N.Kasturi.
    your style of presenting/writing is mesmerising.
    may SAI bless you...always.

    1. I promise that I shall put up Kasturi sir's sketch. It has a little story of its own and so the postponement. The next part will reveal so many little stories.... and a lovely message. :)

      Hold on...

  4. Dear aravind superb, tears filled our eyes, thank you so much beloved aravind for such master writings

    1. It is definitely the 'Master's' writing. Am grateful for the chance to be a pen... :)

  5. Very good. Nice experience...nice to know Vijay is the same boy who used to show the sketches to swami. Blessed...

  6. Sairam Bro. Aravind, wonderful...please post the next part quickly...the suspense of love is too much to bear. Can you post some of these sketches? Thanks.

  7. Lovely!!!!!! every article manages to bring tears in my eyes

  8. Bit worried now Mate! Never knew that Bad done in the divine presence comes back "100" fold. That's crazy!

    ...all the bad things I did with Him x100. Guess it's time to reap the whirlwind...

    1. Hold on till Friday.... That is all I can say at this point! :)

      And don't get terrified.... :)

  9. Ah! Drilled into ecstacy reading Vijay's experience. Looking forward for the next part. Are you concluding in next part. If yes please do not. Looking forward for continuation in further parts to come. Very interesting to know what else happened in vijay's life after swami entered it.

  10. Superb !thank you for sharing all these!i look forward to your mails.its food for my soul.May Swami bless you always!!!!


  12. Sai Ram Brother,
    Superb, excellent, excieting, enriching... words are not enough to describe how much I enjoyed this story and the way you write it ! Brother Vijay Sunder´s story is very captivating. He is very good artist. Is he painting still ? All the Sai students were/ are soooo lucky !
    Friday seems very we have to wait so long ?
    Baba´s blessings- Grace are with you.

  13. Deeply in love with this article. I am sure Vijay has lot of good karma for him to get the heavenly answers and guidance from Swami when he is really in need. The beauty is that Swami waiting still till Vijay reaching peak of hill every time and then when he is jumping....holding him in HIS hands....superb! Yet to hear in coming part what allVijay is blessed with in His physical presence...drinking the nectar of Swami' love...Sairam

  14. Aravind - This is just amazing article. You made me cry.
    VIjay should be really blessed. Sairam


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