Wednesday, 24 September 2014

God is content with one's good intent - Sairam's experiences with Sri Sathya Sai - Part 2

God always bestows more than what one needs

The experiences of Sairam with Chayee are so amazing and absorbing that they will be part of a separate story as promised. However, this much can be said here that Sairam indeed made Swami happy with his dedication and, in return, Swami blessed Sairam amply with grace. In fact, one such blessing from Swami taught Sairam an unforgettable lesson.

Swami and all the Chayee boys with Chayee Koh Seng in Chayee's room. Chayee is the person in blue shirt.
Sairam is kneeling to the extreme left in the picture with his hands folded in prostration. 

Pleased with the three ‘Chayee boys’ (as they were called), Swami called them in for a mini interview. He gifted all of them with white Safari suit cloth.
“Here”, He said to the two other boys, “you have big frames and hence you will need 3 meters of cloth each.”
The two boys gratefully received the divine gift and took padanamaskar. When it was Sairam’s turn to receive the cloth, Swami smiled mischievously and gave him a shorter cloth,
“For you, 2.5 meters are sufficient...”

Sairam then bent down to take padanamaskar but he was slightly disappointed. Why did Swami give him less cloth? He was smaller in frame than the other two boys but he wasn’t that small either. Anyway, there was nothing else he could do and so, he received the cloth gratefully. On returning to the hostel, he devised a plan. During the vacation, he would purchase a matching cloth that was necessary to get him a safari suit and then get it stitched. Happy with how he had solved the problem of cloth-scarcity that Swami had created, he slept at night.

The next day, Swami summoned the three boys again. Giving them money, Swami said,
“I want you three to stitch safari suits and wear them tomorrow...”
While the other two boys rejoiced at this bounty and blessing, Sairam was slightly worried. Would he actually be able to stitch a safari suit with the smaller cloth that Swami had given him? Nevertheless, the three of them went to the tailor.

“We need a safari suit each, stitched and ready to wear for tomorrow. Will you be able to do it?”, they asked the tailor.
“ If that is what Swami wants, it shall be done”, he said and took their measurements. Sairam kept a watch on the measurements and noted that he was not much less than the other two in these ‘figures’. He did not tell the tailor about the lesser cloth he had received. The three of them submitted their cloth pieces and left.

(This is Part 2 of an ongoing story. If you haven't red part 1, it is highly recommended that you do so before returning to read the concluding part here.
God is content with one's good intent - Sairam's experiences with Sri Sathya Sai - Part 1 )

The stitching was completed overnight and the next day afternoon, the three were at the shop. The tailor looked at Sairam and began,
“There was a little problem in the cloth quantity sir.”
“I thought so... the safari suit is not ready then?”
“Nothing like that sir... The cloth from the other two boys was little less and I did not know how to complete trousers for them. Thankfully, there was extra cloth in your piece. I borrowed from it and completed theirs too. Hope you don’t mind...”
Sairam was baffled to say the least.
“And, what about my suit? Will you stitch the trouser later?”
“No no sir! Your suit is ready. Its just that there was extra cloth which I used for these two boys. Please don’t mind...”

Monday, 22 September 2014

God is content with one's good intent - Sairam's experiences with Sri Sathya Sai - Part 1

Choosing a college for higher education

“Your results are quite impressive. What are your future plans?”
“Father, I definitely am happy with my results in the 12th class Board exams. But I am still undecided on which college I should seek admission  into. I have shortlisted several terrific ones... Maybe you could help me in choosing an appropriate one...”
“Have you applied for the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning?”
“Sathya Sai Baba’s college? No... Why would I apply there?”
“See Sairam, this college might not seem to be rated highly academically. But let me assure you that getting admission into this college would probably be the best thing that could happen to you in life.”
“But father... do you want me to pursue just a measly Bachelor’s degree in science? I mean... there is so much I could do and achieve...”
“And achieve you will! You will achieve things that will make all of us proud and happy if you join this college.”
Sairam’s face turned glum. He wanted to seek his father’s help in choosing a good college from what he had shortlisted. Instead, his father was vetoing all the colleges and offering a low-quality alternative.
“Father, can we not choose from the colleges I have researched and shortlisted?”
“See son, as a father, it is my duty to show you the right path. That much I can do and I will do. But following that path is left entirely to you. As they say, you can only take the horse upto the water. Drinking is left to the horse...”
The father turned and walked away.

It appeared as if Sairam was in between the horns of a dilemma now. Should he trust his intelligence and research or should he have faith in the wisdom and experience of his father? His heart was set on several colleges with academic excellence. He had envisioned a road ahead towards career glory. But, in reality, Sairam had no doubts in his mind. He had decided his future course of action - to apply for a seat in the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. Never in his life had he disobeyed his father or disrespected his wishes. Though he might have committed mistakes with respect to obeying his father, his intention had always been to be obedient. And there was no changing his intentions.

True Happiness

Within a few weeks, Sairam was walking to his cupboard in his room at the Brindavan hostel. Though it was the summer in 1989, Bangalore was cool. Brindavan was in the outskirts of the city and the environs were definitely very peaceful. The hostel and college schedule however, were not! According to Sairam, life in the hostel was like the life of Pavlov’s dog - interspersed and filled with bells. Needless to say, college life too was filled with bells. The constant ringing in his ears and the tough schedule from 5 a.m. till 10 p.m. daily made Sairam feel that enough was enough.

The brief trip to Puttaparthi towards the end of the first semester seemed to promise some meaning and joy in the otherwise taxing schedule. That was not to be for Sairam! The schedule got more taxing because he had to rise by 4am now and line up for the bathrooms and toilets. The living space got crammed even more as each student had only about 6ft x 2ft area to place his suitcase and lie down. Interactions with Swami were not many, and so, Sairam found no respite. To make matters worse, Swami told the students to stay back in Puttaparthi for the exams too. The discomforts seemed to become more intense because of the added burden of studying for the exams.  The visit to Parthi lasted a week extra after which the students returned to Brindavan via Muddenahalli.

“Amma, I am not going to go back to Brindavan for the second semester.”

Monday, 15 September 2014

God grants everything but should never be taken for granted - Amey's experience with his Swami_ Part 2

Flashback... Nostalgia... Beautiful memories...

There come times in life when one is unable to comprehend what more can one do. It was one such time in Amey’s life. Nearly a month had passed since that day when Swami had made the children from the Primary School sing bhajans and more than forty days had passed since he had sung in the Divine Presence. He had been practicing bhajan singing and he had been praying for the opportunity to sing in Swami’s presence. What more could he do? Situations like these, when the flow seems to be at its lowest ebb make one feel helpless. But there is a silver lining even in such dark clouds and that is the consolation that things cannot get any more worse.

Consoling himself that things could only get brighter and better from that point on, Amey went through the daily routine of attending college and presenting himself in the bhajan group in the mandir. Several days passed like this.

(This is actually the second part of a very gripping story. To enjoy it completely, it is recommended that you read Part 1 at the link below and then return here:

One evening, as he began to practice a bhajan in his favourite Raaga, Sindhubhairavi, his mind wandered into memory lane, filling him with nostalgia...


Amey had always been associated with bhajans in Swami's presence. Even as a Primary School kid, he used to play
the tabla, sitting right in the front. 
It had been a cloudy day in Bangalore. The sky grew dark and the afternoon seemed to have donned the robes of twilight. There was an outburst as the heavens opened up and poured water by the tonnes. Amey rushed along with the other Seva Dal members to roll up the carpets that had been spread to cushion the lotus feet of Swami as He walked from Trayee Brindavan to the Sai Ramesh Hall before darshan. In a matter of minutes, it was all rolled up and secure. Ten minutes later, the rains stopped. Once again, everyone plunged into action, rolling out the carpets. A few volunteers picked up brooms and swept away the fallen leaves and twigs. Few others washed off the mud along the path.

Amey too joined the others in readying for Swami's arrival. Then, he brushed away the dirt from himself and straightened out the sleeves of his shirt. He set his hair back in order and got ready to receive Swami. In a few minutes, the doors of Trayee Brindavan opened and out glided the Bhaktajanaposhaka, the Lord of the Universe who is the sustainer of His devotees. As Swami came near the back door of the Sai Ramesh Hall stage, Amey stood in attention, folding his hands.

Swami came near him and stopped. He seemed to be keenly observing something on the floor. Amey followed His gaze and was shocked that He was actually looking at his feet. The devotee gazes at the Lord’s feet. Here was a case in reverse! As Amey looked down at his own feet, he could see that they were dark brown and black from the slush. If only he would have washed his feet like the others...

Swami then looked at him in the eye and made an expression of disappointment. He then gently lifted His robe to reveal His tender and sparklingly clean feet. Amey almost bit his tongue as he realized his mistake. Swami walked on and went for darshan. Immediately Amey rushed to the nearby tap and washed his feet and hands thoroughly. On His return after the darshan, Swami paused once again at Amey. He looked at his feet and then into his eyes. He granted him a beautiful smile and nodded to indicate that He was happy...

Friday, 12 September 2014

God grants everything but should never be taken for granted - Amey's experience with his Swami_ Part 1

Amey Deshpande was ecstatic as held the piece of paper in his hand. He fondled it reverentially as if it was one of the greatest treasures on earth. As far as he was concerned, at that point in time, it was indeed the greatest treasure on earth. It was his ticket to the feet of his Master, his God - Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The letter intimating him about his selection into MBA (finance) at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning (Prasanthi Nilayam) had just arrived and Amey’s joy knew no bounds. This was the moment he had been waiting for many years now.

Regular readers of this blog will be well acquainted with Amey, my dear Sai-brother and neighbour who is currently an assistant professor in the same department where he acquired his MBA degree. I have lived through several of his experiences, thanks to his vivid and detailed narratives and it is a wonder that I have penned down only three of his stories so far. Amey took his ‘baby’ steps into Swami’s heart as early as 1984. After that, he had several memorable experiences in the Sri Sathya Sai Primary School. Life however, was not all rosy and he was abruptly expelled from the school. That was a defining experience in Amey’s life when he learnt that sometimes things go horribly wrong before going right and that sometimes one has to move away from God to move closer to Him!  

While that was the defining experience of his life, his days as an MBA student at Swami’s lotus feet taught him many lessons. One of the most unforgettable ones among those was that God should never be taken for granted.

A beautiful ‘honeymoon’ period as a singer

For all the readers who have not read the other narratives about Amey or have taken out time to click on the links above (yes, thats almost an ad to make you scroll back up, click on those links, read them and then continue from here), this much has to be said that he is an excellent bhajan singer. He was an integral part of the Brindavan Bhajan Group in Bangalore and would sing twice a week, on Thursdays and Sundays, in Swami’s presence at Whitefield.

The Brindavan Bhajan Group (BBG) consisted only of members of the Seva Dal (the volunteer corps of the Sri Sathya Sai Organization). It was special in the sense that it was the only unit of the Seva Dal that regularly got an opportunity to sing for Swami. That opportunity was almost entirely belonging to the students of the SSSIHL. Among the singers of the BBG, Amey was considered special.

He definitely was one of the best voices. But what made him very special was the attention, love and grace that Swami showered on him. Swami almost seemed to look forward for Amey’s bhajans! On one occasion, Amey had to miss the Thursday morning bhajans in order to write an important ‘Accountancy’ exam at his college. The next Sunday, during the bhajans, Swami came up to him and enquired why he did not attend bhajans the previous session. Amey was stunned that a thing as little as his absence had been noticed and replied,
“Swami, I had to write an accountancy exam...”
“You did not do well in it... You could have as well come for bhajans.”
Amey actually flunked that exam!

Monday, 8 September 2014

The difference between happiness and bliss as explained by Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Every moment with the Lord is a beautiful one. A moment of beauty
is a joy forever. 

An impromptu interview with Swami

It was the Indian summer of 1980 in Bangalore. T. Ravikumar, a student in the final year of his postgraduation (MSc), stood outside a bungalow in Brindavan, Whitefield. The vacation had just begun and he had done what he used to do during any holiday - rush to be with his Divine Mother, Guru and God, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He was standing in front of the bungalow where his Swami was. That was when he received a message that he was being called inside.

He entered the first room of the bungalow and saw that Swami was there with some bureaucrats and officials. Without pondering over who the others were, Ravikumar focused his eyes and attention completely on the goal of his life - Swami. A smile came on his lips and joy filled his heart to the brim. Swami’s darshan always did this to him and it was his thirst for this joy that made him rush to wherever Swami was whenever he got the opportunity. Swami looked and him and asked,
“How come you are here?”
“Swami, the vacation has started and so I came here.”
“Why did you come here?”
“To have your darshan Swami...”
“Why do you want to have darshan?”
“...because it gives me bliss Swami... “

The others in the room were silently witnessing this interaction between the Chancellor of a University and His student. It was akin to an interaction between the Chancellor of the Universe and His devotee. Swami did not stop His line of questioning. He continued,
“Is it bliss or happiness?”
“It is bliss Swami...”
“What is the difference (between happiness and bliss)?”
“Swami, happiness is temporary only. Bliss sustains and grows on me...”

There was silence all around and everyone seemed to be listening keenly to Ravikumar. Ravikumar felt the need to elaborate.
“Swami, suppose I eat a Gulab Jamun (similar to a sweet dumpling) today. Ten years later, when I am hungry and don’t have a Gulab Jamun, the memory of eating it a decade ago will not appease me. In fact, the memory will enhance my feeling of lack and make me feel sad that I don’t have a Gulab Jamun now. Today, Swami is talking to me. If ten years from now, I am in a situation where Swami is not talking to me, I can recollect these beautiful moments and feel the same joy. At such a time, the joy will, in fact, be greater. The joy will never recede and will only grow whenever I think of it. That is why it is bliss - ever growing and never declining.”

A broad smile blossomed on Swami’s face and His eyebrows raised in appreciation. He turned around to the others who had gathered in the room and said that Ravi (that is how Swami calls him) has an answer for everything.

Monday, 1 September 2014

He who humbles himself will be exalted - the experience of T.V.Hariharan

Life with God is an endless hope

Mr. T.V.Hariharan playing his very 'special' violin.
After the life-defining episode, he plays it only in
the privacy of his home during Vijayadashami.
It was summer in the city of Bangalore in 1979 (when it had not yet turned to Bengaluru). While the heart of the city sweated and toiled along its daily grind, it was cool and calm at its outskirts. The Whitefield ashram of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba was enjoying a cool respite from the blazing sun via the Summer Showers at Brindavan. The Summer Showers programme was also called the Summer Course wherein Baba would interact with hundreds of students from around the world, enlightening them on the proper way to lead a life that is moral, ethical, spiritual and practical. (The Summer Course which started as an annual programme in 1972  was the precursor to the more formal ‘Summer Course in Indian Culture and Spirituality’ which was restricted only to the students of the SSSIHL from 1990 onwards.) Although hundreds of students got the opportunity to participate in the Summer Course, there were hundreds of others who wished that they could participate. In the latter category was a lad in his late teens, T.V.Hariharan.

Hariharan was serving as a volunteer in the canteen which catered to the needs of all the devotees who gathered at Brindavan to seek Baba’s blessings. As the Summer Course progressed, he noticed that his craving to become a ‘Sai Student’ was getting stronger and stronger. There was something special about being a student under Swami’s direct care and Hariharan wanted to experience that firsthand.  Driven desperate by the desire, he approached the staff at the office of the college at Brindavan, seeking admission. That was when he discovered the peculiar condition which prevented him from joining the college there.

Hariharan had completed Grade XII in a school in the state of Tamil Nadu. The Educational System in India then had not yet been standardised. And so, while the state of Tamil Nadu followed a ‘11+1 years’ pattern of schooling, the state of Karnataka followed a ‘10+2 years’ pattern. That was causing the trouble and it disqualified Hariharan from getting a seat in the Bangalore college.

“But don’t they add up to the same thing, 11+1 and 10+2?” questioned Hariharan rhetorically.
He learnt the truth via this apparently trivial mathematical question that the means towards an end are equally important as the end itself. So, it seemed as if he was was not destined to become a student in Swami’s college. He resigned to his fate and decided to enjoy the last day of the Summer Course. And then, it happened. Swami, at the end of the discourse, made a revelation, (the gist is given here)
“Today, I have some good news to share. We have decided to start a new college in Puttaparthi. Those desirous of joining there may apply for the same.”

Hariharan jumped in his seat. Just when things had seemed bleak and fate appeared all-powerful, Swami had given him hope. Life with God is definitely an endless hope while life without is a hopeless end!  

A young Hariharan with his Swami.
Facing the all-important interview

The application had been submitted and the interview-call telegram had arrived. ( In a few years, I am sure that I will have to explain to some readers what telegraphy and telegram is all about!)
Hariharan travelled to Puttaparthi with his father via Penukonda. Unlike the developed town of today, Puttaparthi then did not have any amenities. Though there is an entire road (the Vidyagiri Road) of educational institutions today, there was only the Easwaramma Primary School building then (which had been erected in 1975). Hariharan and his father joined the crowd of devotees that had gathered for darshan. Swami picked them for an interview.