Wednesday, 26 November 2014

God's plans are the best for us - the story of Siddhartha's enlightenment_ Part 1

A Gratitude Programme in the offing

The students in the final year postgraduate class in the Prasanthi Nilayam campus of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning (SSSIHL) were an excited lot. The day was going to be a very special and memorable one for them. The 16th of March in 2009 had been chosen by destiny for them to express their feelings towards their Chancellor and their Swami, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The ‘Gratitude Programme’ had become an annual opportunity wherein every batch which was passing out (School students from Grade 12, 3rd year Undergraduates and 2nd year Postgraduates) would, via skits, songs and speaking, convey their gratitude to Swami. On His part, Swami would often make this into the most memorable session for all the students. It was therefore natural that Siddhartha’s heart was bursting at the seams with excitement.

However, mixed with that excitement was also a tinge of nervousness regarding his participation in this programme. Every year, the students try to get increasingly innovative in the portrayal of their gratitude to Swami and Siddhartha (aka Sid), with a few of his classmates, had evolved a novel idea.  The plan was to play a game of pass-the-parcel in its classic version in Swami’s presence where a ‘punishment’ lay hidden within each layer of wrapping over a ‘gift’. Each of these punishments would be something interesting which Swami enjoyed seeing. For instance, one of the participants in the game was a mimicry artist and he was ‘fixed’ as the second boy to get ‘punished’ with the task of performing mimicry. Sid had got this idea while seeing an old tape of Swami’s visit to Kodaikanal where Baba had thoroughly enjoyed the game which the students played. But this was not the cause of Sid’s nervousness.

An evening when Swami gave great joy to Sid and Sid gave great joy to Swami...
A particular punishment had been fixed for Sid - to sing the verse which Swami composed as a teenager to market a wonder medicine called Bala Bhaskara. The rationale behind the punishment was twofold - that Sid was a good singer and that the verse seemed very dear to Swami’s heart. To add Swami’s involvement in this, Sid was to act as if he had forgotten a few lines of the verse hoping that Swami would ‘help’ him with the lines. It was a nice and sweet plot to involve Swami but the warden had his own worries,
“See, the plan can backfire if Swami chooses to remain stoic. So, don’t overact. In case you do not get any reaction within a few moments, act as if you have suddenly remembered and complete the verse...”
Sid had agreed to it But secretly, he actually memorised only the first two lines of the verse:
Dorike Dorike Bala Bhaskara, Balan Lara Balaku Lara

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

What makes the Sri Sathya Sai institute of Higher Learning so special?

An attraction like never before

Navaneeth Kumar* hails from the Indian state of Kerala. (*All the names used here are original and refer to actual individuals. This has been done to lend authenticity.) In the early 2000’s, he completed high schooling and reached that point in life when he had to decide the college he would attend and, in turn, the career that he would choose. Not a student with excellent academic credentials, Navaneeth decided to pursue a course in nursing in the city of Bangalore. He got admitted in a college there and, though his heart was not in it, began a new phase of his academic life.

The motto of the University is "Speak Truth; Follow Dharma".
Navaneeth’s heart was in Cricket and that was the primary reason why he had picked a college in Bangalore - so that he could attend matches whenever possible and also try his hand at some bowling if circumstances favoured. Cricket was the only love of his life and it seemed as though it would be the only love of his life.

That was when the Sri Sathya Sai Institute ofHigher Learning (SSSIHL) came into his life and changed it forever. Navaneeth actually discontinued his nursing course midway to enrol in the SSSIHL. He did this knowing mighty well that the 1.5 lakh rupees his father had invested for his nursing education would go down the drain. And he did this without even informing his father! How could he have because fate struck a fatal blow that took his father away from his life forever? Navaneeth did this because he found the true love of his life at the SSSIHL.

What was it that he studied there? What drew him so powerfully that he was ready to make several sacrifices without a second thought?

Navaneeth graduated with a diploma degree in the Mrindangam (an Indian percussion instrument) from the Sri Sathya Sai Mirpuri College of Music affiliated to the SSSIHL. Before the reader concludes that music is Navaneeth’s love of life, let me state music and Navaneeth are now worlds apart and he works as a cameraman and video editor at the Prasanthi Digital Studios in Prasanthi Nilayam.

Navaneeth’s story is a very detailed and lengthy one but it is sure to make one draw breaths of awe and wonder. However, his story is not unique in that sense because thousands of students have passed through the portals of the SSSIHL, having found the love of their lives here. And like every other student, the love of his life that Navaneeth found at the Institute in Puttaparthi is Swami, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. It was not as if Navaneeth gave his Swami a special place in his heart - he gave Him his entire heart.

Everything about the University Administrative block is symbolic. It is located on top to signify 'Higher Learning'. It sits beside the museum of Sanathana Samskruti (Eternal culture and heritage). It sits amidst nature and overlooks the stadium which is symbolic of Life being a Game which needs to be played... 

Friday, 14 November 2014

Achieving Work-Life balance through the Ultimate Experience - experience of Prof. H.J.Bhagia Part 2

Summer Course 1990 - unexpected bounty

Bhagia sir seemed to be growing more and more disinterested and detached from the ‘mundane’ daily activities which he performed on auto-pilot. His whole being seemed to burn in eager expectation for the eternal Ultimate Experience alone. The summer of 1990 arrived and, as was the practice, Swami shifted from the Puttaparthi ashram of Prasanthi Nilayam to the Bangalore ashram of Brindavan. (The devotees would find it very hot and exhausting, sitting for darshan in the hot Parthi summer. To provide respite for them, Swami would shift to Bangalore which would be cooler on account of its greater geographical altitude.)

{This is actually the second part of a beautiful and message-filled story. To enjoy it in its entirety and immensity, it is recommended that the reader completes Part 1 from the link given below and then proceeds with this Part 2.

Achieving Work-Life balance through the Ultimate Experience - experience of Prof. H.J.Bhagia Part 1}

While Swami went to Brindavan in March, Bhagia sir followed in April after the academic year had concluded. There were some industrial visits and field trips in Bangalore that the MBA students had to undertake as part of the course and Bhagia sir accompanied them. It was during this summer that Swami decided to resurrect a special course that had been discontinued for more than a decade now - the Summer Course in Indian Culture and Spirituality. This course had been Swami’s initiative in the early seventies with an objective to expose students of the University to the rich cultural and spiritual heritage of Bharath.

(The course continues on an annual basis to this day. It is always a memorable experience for participants, especially newly admitted students. It orients new students into Bhagawan Baba’s educational philosophy and gives them deep first hand insights into how they can directly benefit from this unique institution. This prepares them well to make the best of the rare opportunities that lie ahead of them.)

Bhagia sir has been blessed with the Ultimate Experience which shows that true happiness lies only in Union with God.
What thrilled Bhagia sir was the subject that Bhagawan Baba took up for the Summer Showers in Brindavan, 1990. It dealt entirely with the why, how and what of Self-Enquiry with Swami unravelling the mystery in stages. Swami dilated in great detail about the mind, the senses, the ego, the Gunas and the Atma. It was definitely a big boon for any aspirant seeking the Ultimate Experience in life.

(The summer course of 1990 is so monumental that it has been taken up for detailed discussion in the Radiosai series entitled Shravanam Mananam Nidhidhyasanam. Bhagia sir too was invited as a guest during one of the discussions which was first aired on 28th May 2014 - a discussion on the discourse that Bhagawan delivered on 30th May 1990. The whole series can be obtained via the Radiosai Audio Search, typing the phrase;


Needless to say, Bhagia sir got increasingly inspired as the days passed by. The ‘kick’ came on the last day of the Summer Course. On the 3rd of June, 1990, Swami delivered a lengthy concluding discourse of the Summer Course. He concluded by saying,
“Your entire life must become one continuous meditation.” Bhagia sir’s eyes opened wide as he drank in each and every word from Swami. He internally resolved that spending anything less than 24 hours a day in spiritual pursuit would be unacceptable. Since he had not yet mastered hunger and sleep, it would be physically impossible to spend 24 hours in seeking the Ultimate Experience. But he would definitely spend as much time as possible on that.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Achieving Work-Life balance through the Ultimate Experience - experience of Prof. H.J.Bhagia Part 1

No place to Live

In a discourse delivered on Maha Shivarathri in 1955, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba narrated an anecdote from the life of Dr. Samuel Johnson, English thinker and writer.

He was approached by a person who told him,
“Sir, I would love to lead a spiritual life in pursuit of God. But I have a problem...”
“Aha! I see... Pray what is your problem?”
“My day, sir, is filled with activities from morning till night. I have a family to tend to and a job to attend. Amidst my hobbies, social life and professional life, I don’t seem to find any time even after nightfall to dedicate to God. Time is my problem. I don’t know when to think about God...”
With a smile and his characteristic shaking gestures, Dr.Johnson replied with another question,
“My friend, I too have a problem. If you help me solve mine, I shall help you solve yours...”
“Pray what is your problem sir?”
“You see, 3/4ths of the face of earth is covered by waters.The remaining space is too full of mountains, deserts, forests, icy regions, river beds, marshes and moors. With such impossible areas abounding, space is my problem. I don’t know where to live...”

When the sky is my roof and the earth is my floor, will I ever lack in living space? But that expansive Truth dawns only
when I drape myself in the Orange of sacrifice,,,
“You certainly must be joking doctor. When millions of people (the World population hit the billion mark only in 1800) have found space to live on the earth, surely you will be able to do so... “The man laughed aloud.
Dr. Johnson now smiled broadly.
“Now, what was your question sir?”
The person was smart and he understood that him complaining of not having time for God was as absurd as Dr.Johnson complaining of the lack of living space on earth.

A flaw in the story?

This was a story that often came to my mind whenever anyone asked,
“How do we find time for God? How to achieve a balance between worldly life and spiritual life?”

While the story as such seems to answer the first question, it does not go into specifics of finding time for God. Nor does it answer the second question. While there are billions of people finding living space on earth today, I really don’t know whether there are at least thousands of people who have time for God! I mean, nobody can really say how many people on earth find time for God. So, its not as if the scarcity of time is just my problem. If I had been the person in the 18th century speaking with Dr.Johnson, i would have possibly pointed out this flaw in his argument,
“But sir, are there so many people who actually spend time for God? Your comparison makes it appear as though I am an exception whereas I am more like the general case here!”