Friday, 24 October 2014

An addiction called God - experiences of Navaneeth Kumar_ Part 3

God qualifies the called

The rules by which man judges man and the rules by which God judges man definitely vary. For instance, while man judges man based on the results produced, God judges man based on the efforts put in. While man checks a man’s qualifications before giving him a call, God calls the man who needs Him and then bestows the necessary qualifications on him! That was what Navaneeth realized with goosebumps after he joined the hostel as a student in the Sri Sathya Sai Mirpuri College of Music.

It was the first week of June and Swami was in Brindavan, Bangalore. He was expected to arrive to Puttaparthi somewhere in the middle of the month. Navaneeth was among the senior-most students who had enrolled for the Foundation course. He saw that all his classmates were between 12 and 16 years of age. He was 22. That was when it struck him hard. He clearly remembered reading the statement in the prospectus:
The foundation course in these subjects is for two years and is open to boys of the age group 13-20. The diploma course is of three-year duration and is for boys of the age group 16-23.

How on earth had he secured the seat even though he was ‘overaged’? He also remembered another miracle that had played out during the final interview. Thrilled at ‘doing well’ in the entrance test and excited at the prospects of being a student in Bhagawan Baba’s college, Navaneeth had written a letter of gratitude to Swami. The icing on his cake of excitement was Swami’s acceptance of his letter. The cherry on the icing was the manner of His acceptance. As Swami took the letter from Navaneeth’s hand, their little fingers touched and Navaneeth felt electrified. He looked into Swami’s eyes and felt a warm surge within as Swami bestowed a gentle smile. Ah! Swami was fulfilling every little desire of his. It was in this happy mood that Navaneeth had gone to attend the interview.

The only qualification that the Lord requires from His devotee is that he need Him.
{This is part 3 of a riveting story. Enjoy it fully after completing the first two parts at:


Among other questions, the Vice Chancellor had asked him,
“Are you a Bal Vikas student?” (The Bal Vikas movement is a unique concept where the child is educated with the goal of inculcating character. This is done via love for God.)
Navaneeth had not attended any Bal Vikas classes and was about to answer the same, but his eyes fell on his application form that the Vice Chancellor had placed before him. To his utter amazement, the tiny box next to the statement, “Have you been a Bal Vikas student?”, had been ticked. He had definitely not ticked it, and so, in response to the VC’s question, Navaneeth just presented an awe-struck face. The question was repeated to him,
“Are you a Bal Vikas student?”
“Er... Yes sir...”, he replied.

Navaneeth recalled that episode and realized that him getting a seat in the Music College would have involved quite some work for Swami. But then, the Lord never considers it as ‘work’. On one occasion when a devotee thanked Swami for the ‘Shrama’ (efforts) He had made for him, Swami replied,
Bangaroo, idi Shrama Kaadu; Prema” (Dear one, this is not ‘effort’ but ‘love’.)

Days of darshan bliss

Navaneeth waited for Swami to arrive from Brindavan. In the meanwhile, he got reunited with his other love - cricket. Cricket seemed to be the official game in the hostel and he got opportunities to bat and bowl to his heart’s content. It is like a ‘buy one get one free’ offer when one desires for the Lord alone. The desires of the world that the individual nourished previously also get fulfilled automatically.

It was almost July by the time Swami arrived and Navaneeth now began to enjoy darshans. The Sai Kulwant hall felt like home for him because he had spent hours on the end here. He was happiest here and he seemed to know every pillar and tile that constituted the hall. It was but natural that he also knew the vantage points and vital spots to sit for a good darshan.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

An addiction called God - experiences of Navaneeth Kumar_ Part 2

Pleasure is an interval between pains (and vice versa)

The February of 2008 began in quite an eventful and wonderful fashion for Navaneeth. It seemed as though God had arranged a bumper bonanza for him. Everyday, Navaneeth would speak at length with his two ‘friends’ at the shed, trying to convince them to come into the bhajan hall for morning bhajans. He told them that seeing Swami during bhajans was an altogether different experience. However, inertia prevented his friends from rushing for bhajan hall seats after morning darshan.

On the 5th of February, Navaneeth had the blessed opportunity to take padanamaskar as Swami moved through the hall during bhajans. With great joy and enthusiasm, he described the joy that coursed through him to his shed-mates. (One of the friends was an outpatient at the SSSIHMS and the other was in Parthi for a fortnight of seva  and sadhana.) The next day, the same story repeated and the day after that too, it happened again. Now, the two friends were spurred into giving up breakfast to go into the bhajan hall for the bhajans. Thus, Navaneeth again proved to be a true friend, guiding people ‘closer’ to God. Swami seemed to be rewarding him for that as for the fourth day in a row, Navaneeth enjoyed a padanamaskar. He was in seventh heaven (or any other higher heaven that exists).

Bhagawan Baba often stresses that pleasure is an interval between pains. When one enjoys a pleasure, one can be sure that some pain lies ahead and when one is in pain, one can be sure that brighter days lie ahead. No one is exempt from this - even the one who is seeking God. It appears as though the world is designed this way to help man develop equanimity and the thirst to seek a way out of this endless cycle. When the seeking is done intensely, like Siddartha did, one indeed finds a way out of this endless cycle, like the Buddha did.

{This is actually the second part of a very interesting story. In case you have come here directly, you are advised to read the first part and then continue. The 1st part is located at the link below:

As Navaneeth was discussing his ascent to the seventh heaven, one of his friends asked, pointing to his face,
“What is this boil?”
Navaneeth tenderly touched a boil on his face.
“There is one more here...”
“... and another here...”
“This is definitely chickenpox...”
He was taken to the General Hospital and the doctor there gave him the requisite medicines and a topical gel for regular application. Navaneeth called and told his mother about his affliction and she wanted him to return home immediately. Navaneeth shared his two fears with her:
  1. There was the risk of him infecting others during his journey.
  2. There was the risk of his father getting to know that he was no longer attending nursing college.
Navaneeth reassured his mother that he would be well taken care of because he was with Swami. The mother was not fully satisfied but she reminded herself to have faith.

Monday, 20 October 2014

An addiction called God - experiences of Navaneeth Kumar_Part 1

"Of all the insanities that harass man, God-madness is the least harmful, the most beneficial.  The world has suffered untold damage due to its "mad" rulers and "mad" guides; however, nothing but harmony, peace, brotherliness and love have come out of the 'God-madness' of man!”
- Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, Prasanthi Nilayam, MahaSivarathri 1955

The earliest memory Navaneeth Kumar has of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is as a 4-year old child in 1990. His mother had brought him along with her for darshan at Prasanthi Nilayam. He had been patiently sitting by her side waiting for ‘Swami’ to come. His mother was gently whispering things in his ears,
“He is God... Pray to Him... When he comes close, take this letter, go to Him and offer it... Life will be set after that... Sit silent till then... “

Soon, the orange-robed form of Baba was in the darshan hall. As He came close, Navaneeth’s mother gave him the letter and a pat on the back. Like an adrenaline-loaded Olympic runner who receives a baton in a relay race, Navaneeth clutched the letter in his hand and rushed towards Swami. It appeared as if Swami was gently gliding towards Navaneeth who was running madly towards Him. His mother had told him to be careful of volunteers who would enforce discipline and pull him back to his seat. As he reached his goal and came face to face with Swami, the little boy was struck dumb. He was overwhelmed at the huge halo of black hair and the majestic presence of the ‘person’ in front of him. He stood transfixed for a while and Swami gently passed by him. Navaneeth then returned to his mother, the letter still clutched in his hand.

That was it for the next 15 years or so. As Navaneeth got into school and pursued academics (which he was the least fond of), Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba became his God no doubt, but He was not more than a venerated photograph at home. Though a born Hindu, Navaneeth was more keen about another religion that is opium to the teenaged masses in India - cricket! He loved the game ever since he was a 5-year old and he developed into an all-rounder, bowling and batting well against seniors double or triple his age. Cricket is what Navaneeth remembers most about his childhood and teenage years.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Nobody ever makes a sacrifice for God - an epiphany at Dubai airport

Sacrificing for Swami

It was after a roller-coaster journey that my dream of working for Swami came true when He blessed me to join Radiosai. No doubt that I was happy and thrilled to get this opportunity of a lifetime. In fact, I could barely sleep after my first official day at office (I had unofficially worked for several days at Radiosai). I lay on my bed contemplating on the great good fortune that had been bestowed on me. That got me excited enough to prevent me from sleeping and I began to think of the future that lay ahead of me. That got me even more thrilled and I just kept tossing from side to side in my bed.

And then, the mind struck.

The mind has this ability to release a little worm into the dessert plate of happiness that our heart enjoys. It puts in one little “if” and another little “but” which takes all the peace and joy of the heart away. That is exactly what the mind did to me at that moment. It brought up what seemed like a very valid point.

“Aravind... you are getting excited because you are thinking of all the things that you have gained... Have you thought about all the things that you will be losing? Every decision has its pluses and minuses. I just hope you have thought this out well enough...”

In an instant, my chest which was heaving with excitement, began gasping in worry and serious thought. I continued tossing around on my bed as I realized that by saying ‘Yes’ to Swami, I had kissed goodbye to all my aspirations and ambitions. I would no longer be climbing up a career-ladder nor would I be focusing on making lots of money. There would always be enough for my needs but my wants would always remain unfulfilled. I would also have to give up on my desire to travel extensively in the world. Finally, because of meager finances, I might be forced to choose a life of a bachelor...

I cursed the mind for having ruined my party but I could not help but fret and fume. Finally, unable to take it anymore, I got up and sat up on my bed. I looked at Swami in the eye in the picture that hung in the room. Summoning all my devotion, determination and dedication, I said,
“Swami, I know that I have ambitions and desires. I would love to have money, roam the world, get married and raise a family. But, none of those are as important as You are for me. And so, for Your sake, I am sacrificing all of them. I shall not care for them and in case they happen to bother me in the future, You please take care...”
Never even dreamt that I would be seeing places like this because I foolishly thought I had "sacrificed" it all for Swami...
That single prayer made me feel much better. (Isn’t that what prayers are for - to make us feel good? Foolishly, we think that prayers are for pleading with God, informing God or thanking God. Prayers are healing medicines, balms for our crying souls.) From feeling like a victim, I began feeling like a martyr at worst! I was glad that I spoke to Swami and then, sleep overpowered me.

Landing in the 'middle of a desert' - October 2014

The Grand Mosque at Abu Dhabi with its golden towers is an impressive sight.

".... مرحبا بكم في دبي. درجة الحرارة في الخارج 40 درجة.الوقت هو الساعة 13:00. شكرا للطيران الإمارات ..."

“.... Welcome to Dubai... The temperature outside is 40 degrees... The time is 1 pm. Thank you for flying Emirates...”

Those were the announcements that I woke up to in the Boeing-777 that landed in Dubai from Manama. As the four of us - mom, dad and my wife Pooja, and I - walked into the Terminal 3, we were hit by a blast of opulence. The might of money and the ingenuity of intelligence had created a magic fairyland in the middle of a desert; at least that is what appears on the face of it. All of us were silent in awe and wonder as we stood on the dozens of escalators and moving walkways that took us through alleys and thoroughfares of ultimate luxury.

We were in the second leg of our holidays to the Middle-East having completed the first part in Bahrain. Beautiful Bahrain had thrilled us and filled us with delights galore. The impressive sight of the Grand Mosque, the peaceful walk along the corniche, the drives through the southern desert and the tasty Arabian cuisine (especially with the spice Zator) had made our days there memorable. However, what really clinched our hearts was something deeper - the warmth, love and affection that we received from the ever-welcoming Sai family there.