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.

An important life-decision

The twelfth grade in India is considered by many as a turning point in life. It is at this point in life that a teenager makes career choices. 2005 was the turning-point-year for Navaneeth and, after discussions and deliberations, he decided to pursue a course in nursing at the SJES Nursing College in Bangalore. The multiple points supporting that decision were as follows:
  1. Bangalore was home to some excellent cricketers and excellent cricketing facilities. Being in that city could help Navaneeth hone his cricketing skills.
  2. A course in nursing seemed easy to complete and also guaranteed some kind of a job for an academics-averse lad.
  3. Bangalore was less than 150 kilometers away from Puttaparthi, the home of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

The third point was a last minute addition to the list and it happened because of the darshan opportunity that Navaneeth enjoyed in April 2005. A distant cousin enthused Navaneeth to join him in visiting Prasanthi Nilayam for Vishu. Thousands of people from Kerala visit Puttaparthi every year for Vishu. This is probably due to the most important event in Vishu - the Vishukkani - which literally means "the first thing seen on the day of Vishu after waking up". The Vishukkani usually consists of a ritual arrangement of auspicious articles intended to signify prosperity. However, for the visiting thousands, Swami is the Vishukanni and they seek the Vishukanni Kazhcha (viewing) with great ardour and devotion. Navaneeth did not have the slightest idea that the beginning of the new year would be the beginning of a new life for him.

As he sat for darshan, he met up with another lad from Kerala who delighted in offering letters to Swami. Offering a letter, that too on a daily basis, to ‘a Swamiji’ was something that Navaneeth considered odd and interesting.
“Actually, I do not have much to write in the letter. When Swami accepts it from me, I touch His finger with my finger. It is for that Divine touch that I write daily letters...”, the lad confessed to Navaneeth.
Within a few minutes, Swami arrived for darshan. He came in a specially modified golf-cart in which Swami was sitting all by Himself in the back seat. 

That was Navaneeth’s Vishukanni and how overwhelming it was!

In an instant, he was transported back to his boyhood when he had stood mesmerised in His presence. The feeling had not changed one bit and Navaneeth sat frozen. As Swami came gently towards him, Navaneeth could feel himself running towards Him like he had done as a 4-year old. The only difference was that in 1990, his body had rushed towards Swami while in 2005, his heart was galloping towards Him. In fact, he felt a strong tinge of jealousy as Swami accepted the letter from his neighbour and even touched him, finger to finger.

Swami moved ahead and completed the darshan round. Though he had not come in physical contact with Him, Navaneeth felt deeply touched. Little wonder that proximity to Puttaparthi became a deciding factor in picking a college because Navaneeth decided that he would be a frequent visitor here.

Unconscious addiction

Puttaparthi turned to be a haven of peace, joy and comfort for Navaneeth. The rigmarole of the nursing degree with its many practical and hands-on sessions had left him with almost no time to even hold a ball or a bat. He did not get opportunities to even ‘see’ cricket - a far cry from his desire to initiate himself at least into the ‘C’ of cricket! Navaneeth also realised very soon that he could not even imagine a career in nursing for himself. He felt so out of place in his class. That is why the last-minute-addition-point was the only saving grace.

Every two or three months saw Navaneeth make a journey to Puttaparthi to bask in awe and darshan of Swami. Just seeing Him filled Navaneeth with inexplicable thrill and joy. Soon, he was addicted. He couldn’t think of life without seeing Swami. His friends found it strange that he kept going to a hamlet in the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh to see ‘some Baba’, but Navaneeth never felt the need to explain or justify anything to them. In fact, he did not feel the need to explain anything that he was experiencing to anyone. He was listening to his heart and did not listen to anyone else - even the police!

It was vacation time everywhere and Swami had gone out for a drive in Puttaparthi. Navaneeth was on the road and he was running with Swami’s car, enjoying darshan. After about 5-10 minutes, the police escort behind Swami’s car commanded Navaneeth to stop. He turned a deaf ear to them. The situation seemed so symbolic of what his life had become - running behind Swami, being with him not ready to listen to anyone who told him to do anything else. A second warning was followed by a third warning, but Navaneeth’s feet continued to run, his eyes focused on his Lord. That was when a cop got down from the jeep and pulled him in.
“You do not understand when you are spoken to with good words its it? Now shut up and sit here. You will be taken to the police station.”

Navaneeth was happy now; without any effort, he was traveling behind his Lord in the comfort of a vehicle. Ah! The perspectives of a God-crazed person are so different from the world-crazed ones. After the ride, he was detained for an hour at the police station after which one of the police constables told him,
“Crazy boy... Go on. Go home. Don’t run like that behind Swami’s car.”
You could bet that Navaneeth was not going to listen to him.

As his addiction to Swami grew stronger, he began to bunk college to have darshan. Classes did not matter one bit for him. His friends tried to counsel and guide him,
“Navaneeth! This is bad for you... What are you doing to your life? What do you see in that Swami?”
“Why don’t you come with me and see what I see?” Navaneeth’s reply was also a challenge. A few friends actually accompanied Navaneeth to Brindavan (at Whitefield in Bangalore) and had darshan. Navaneeth who was otherwise a silent guy, spoke to them at length about his joys, thrills and experiences. Many of his friends also became interested in the Sathya Sai phenomenon and, on a few occasions, accompanied Navaneeth for darshan. Unknowingly, Navaneeth had become a true friend to many of his classmates, leading them closer to God.

2006 marked another important milestone in Navaneeth’s addiction. He began to volunteer as a Seva Dal member every January and July along with the devotees from Kerala. To his great good fortune, he was allocated to the ‘Residence Sector’ which meant that he could be in and around all the darshan spots and areas. Navaneeth had made a mental note of all the critical and good spots in the Sai Kulwant Hall for darshan. Soon, he became a pro at picking spots where he could be easily spotted by Swami. Swami too, from His side, began to bless Navaneeth with smiles and looks which only made him more resolved to pledge his heart to Swami alone.

Navaneeth realized that however 'golden' it might appear, the world is just a railing between the Jeevatma and Paramatma.
The secret lies in going beyond the 'railing', close to God...

A reassurance or a command?

The January of 2007 saw Navaneeth in Parthi again. By now, he had learnt the art and science of being present at every place that Swami would be during the public sessions. So, in the mornings, he would be inside the bhajan hall attending bhajans and enjoying darshan of Swami seated on the throne. One day, Swami moved through the length of the bhajan hall. When He came near Navaneeth, he got up and asked,
“Swami, what should I do?”
Swami looked at him in the eye and replied but Navaneeth did not understand a word of what He said. Swami repeated but again, it was of no use. That night, Navaneeth had a dream. It was deja vu as the morning’s episode played out itself again. The only difference was that, this time, Navaneeth was able to hear and understand Swami.
“Be here! I shall take care of you...”, Swami said.
When he woke up, Navaneeth realized that those were Swami’s words to him even in the bhajan hall the previous morning. He felt greatly reassured that day.

A few days passed and it was time for him to return to Bangalore and his college. He came to know that the college had got into some affiliation problems. He was not interested in the least in college matters and even as he was leaving, he was wondering when his next trip to Prasanthi would be. That was when the thought struck him,
“Swami told me to be here. He also said that he would take care of me. While the second statement was a reassurance, wasn’t the first one a command?”

It was with great joy that a decision hardened itself in Navaneeth’s heart. He walked back to the ashram, away from the bus. He had decided to reverse his staying pattern. Till now, he was staying most of the while in Bangalore with occasional visits to Puttaparthi. From now on, he would stay most of the while in Puttaparthi, making occasional visits to Bangalore!

What about the college then?
Navaneeth decided that nothing was more important in his life than having Swami’s darshan. The nursing college and nursing degree could just be jettisoned for the only quest of life! That was his decision as he spread a sheet and lay down on the floor in shed #5, the most austere accommodation available in the ashram.

He spent weeks and months at Puttaparthi, going to Bangalore only when it was absolutely essential. His absence from college was first noticed by his friends, then by his classmates and finally by the teachers as well. His attendance was at an all-time low. By the end of 2007, Navaneeth did not have sufficient attendance to allow him sit for the exams. That did not bother him in the least. He gave up college altogether. He informed his mother of his decision, though he did not have the courage and inclination to tell his father of the same.

His mother was supportive and she told him,
“Swami has said he will take care of you. You should have faith in him. I am sure something will work out...”

Navaneeth reported for voluntary duties even in the January of 2008. He did his duties joyfully and continued enjoying darshan and bhajan. He also continued to share his thrill and experiences of love with a couple of devotees from Kerala who stayed with him for more than a fortnight in the shed #5. The three of them became fast friends, bound magically by the thread of love to Swami.

That was when February arrived and struck Navaneeth down with chickenpox. Alone, sick and away from his nursing college, Navaneeth faced an immense challenge. However, more than the physical pain, it was the pangs of separation from his Swami that threatened to tear his heart apart.

to be continued in Part 2 which is at the link below:

An addiction called God - experiences of Navaneeth Kumar_Part 2

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  1. Even as I type this out, my eyes are clouded with tears. This resonates so much with my heart, Aravind! Just last night I cried so much asking Swami "Why have you made me so mad about you? What am I to do? How much to cry for you, Swami?" Truly, God-madness is indescribable. Even though it pains in one way, it is sweet in another. That is the paradox, I guess. Waiting eagerly for part 2, bro.

    1. I can empathise with you sis.... I have also shed many such tears (and continue to do so). Swami has this ability to make everything seem so insipid and tasteless.... But it is a privilege and joy to be able to shed those tears of pining as you do...

  2. thank u so much sairam

  3. Thank you so much for this nectarine article. It fills me with tears. Waiting eagerly for the joyous part of his love story.

  4. very interesting for an young man like him, eager to know the 2nd part

  5. Aravind Bro., why did you stop !! I wish I am in Parthi this moment to get the remainder of this beautiful event.

    1. Hahahahaha.... I will not reveal it even if you meet me personally. :)

      Will be ready by Wednesday morning...

  6. Sai Ram Aravind. You have such a fantastic flair for writing and expressing experiences. Reading your articles gives me the feeling like going through these experiences myself. Looking forward to reading more. an unconscious addiction. keep writing.

    1. Sairam Kalyani,

      Thank you for your kind and loving words of appreciation. Glad to have been a cause for your addiction... Am also addicted to writing about Him... So, you can be sure that I will look forward to writing many more... We can feed on each other's addictions! :)

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  8. Sairam Aravind, waiting eagerly for part 2 of the narrative. Enjoyed reading every word of it. Best wishes and love.......Madhusudanvithal Nori

  9. Reading the experiences with Swami, makes the readers also experience HIS presence. That the charisma of our beloved Swami. No words to explain his grace ... only can experience & enjoy.
    : Udayasankar :


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