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!”

And so, the question as to how one actually achieves the balance between worldly and spiritual life continued to fester my mind. The resolution came only after I heard the experience of Prof.H.J.Bhagia from the Management department of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. Bhagia sir has been a hero for me.  I remember each of his classes, not because of the academics it imparted but because of that strong and never-effacing love for Swami that he etched in our hearts. He taught us the subjects for our examinations of course; but most importantly, he taught us what Swami (Bhagawan Baba) considers as His Subject - love for God. And he did this by sharing almost all of his most personal experiences. Even to this day, students who have passed out the MBA programme decades ago come to meet him and seek counsel, solace and a recharge of love for God. And that applies to me too! His experience in the late 1980s will surely be an eye-opener for all.

In pursuit of Spirituality

Bhagia sir had always been brilliant - as a child, as a student and as an employee. He was a 1st rank chemical engineer and had worked in several countries before deciding that God had to be the top priority in one’s life. (That is an interesting and different story altogether.) He moved a step closer to realizing his objective when Swami appointed him as a teacher in the newly started School of Business Management Accounting and Finance (SBMAF) in 1986. At the same time, he seemed to be moving a step farther from his goal too because he now had to study and teach many subjects. Bhagia sir had accepted Swami as his Master and God rolled into one. So, he began to diligently perform his duties as a teacher while patiently awaiting the ultimate goal of his life. It was during a family interview in Brindavan, 1987, that Baba seemed to take up the matter of Bhagia sir’s spiritual growth.

“What are you doing?” Swami asked him.
“I am a first-class, first-rank passout from Bombay University Swami. I teach Statistics, Production Management, Operations Research, Leadership and Integrated Rural Development...”
"Don't waste your time sir! Forget your Chemistry and Chemical Engineering... Instead, Enquire who am I..."
“Swami, you the the Supreme Almighty...”
“Find out who am I... That is your Sadhana...”

"Find out who am I. That is your sadhana..." It was evident to Bhagia sir that Swami had brought him to Himself
to help him achieve the Ultimate Experience. 
That was the end of the family interview. As Bhagia sir walked out of Trayee Brindavan, he was accosted by a senior devotee who was addressed as Ratanlal uncle. Ratanlal uncle asked him whether he had read books by Ramana Maharshi. The answer was a negative. Then, Ratanlal uncle offered a little book to him. Bhagia sir was not keen on ‘following’ or ‘reading’ any other Master as Swami was his everything. Yet, out of respect to the senior devotee, he accepted it. Imagine his thrill and excitement when he opened the little booklet by Paul Brunton and saw the exact same words;

For the first time, Bhagia sir realized that, in the interview, Swami was not questioning him about His identity but was placing him on the path of Atma Vichara (Self-Enquiry). It was something very new for him but he dived into it wholeheartedly and in all sincerity. In fact, he began to spend most of his time sitting still, in silent contemplation. He was struggling to unravel what it meant to ‘realize his true self’ or ‘go within’. Whenever he found time he was lost in deep thought. In the morning, he would sit in the bhajan hall of the Prasanthi Nilayam mandir from 6am till 8:55am when he would go to the college. In the evenings too, he sat in a corner of the upper veranda of the mandir, contemplating on ‘Who am I’. Though he loved to see and interact with Swami, he never ‘chased’ the form as most students, teachers and devotees would. He always restrained himself thinking,
“If I was supposed to run behind Swami, He would have told me so. I have been advised to go within - and not rush behind the form, however bewitching it might be.”

Two years passed this way.

The Ultimate Experience

It was an evening in 1989. Bhagia sir was seated in his usual place in the veranda. The darshan and bhajan sessions had been completed. The teachers had special permission from Swami to continue their sadhana in the mandir, right next to the interview room. The time was past 7pm. After a while, the interview room door opened and out walked Swami with Colonel Jogarao. It was apparent that Swami was going out for a drive in the car. Though Swami was headed towards him, Bhagia sir was quite restrained. He was only focussing on discovering who he was.

Unnoticed by him, Swami walked by his side. Bhagia sir felt a hard tap on his head. When he turned, he realized that Swami had patted him and walked away away. Bemused at what had happened, he continued his quest. Soon, Swami returned from the late evening drive and retired for the day. Bhagia sir too wended his way back home.

The next day, he was back in the morning at 6 am sharp to continue his sadhana. The mandir was silent and peaceful as always. The silence only got deeper with Swami’s arrival. There was an air of anticipation and everyone sat up straight, alert to the Presence that would be bathing them in Love and Grace. Swami completed His darshan rounds and made His way into the interview room. Bhagia sir got up and took his place in the bhajan hall. It was then that something totally unexpected and different began to happen to him. His mind simply seemed to drop dead and his being seemed to expand beyond proportions. He was no longer sitting in the bhajan hall; far from that, the bhajan hall now seemed to be a tiny part of him!

Bhagis sir was no longer what he had thought he was. He could feel himself pervading everything. The whole darshan area was just one little section within him where scores of people were seated. Presently, the interview room door opened and out walked Swami. Swami’s body too seemed to be a tiny doll within himself! All this while, his eyes were wide open. He felt a surge of immeasurable joy well and overflow from within him. And since everything was within him, that joy flowed over and through everything - Swami included.

At the same time, it was not as if Bhagia sir was not aware of what the tiny frame which he had deluded to call as himself had to do. With perfect awareness, the body (which the whole world identified as H.J.Bhagia) rose and moved out of the bhajan hall. But ‘Bhagia’ did not move. Where could he move when he pervaded everything? That experience is something that can never be captured in words and yet, this effort has to be made for the story to proceed.
The body-Bhagia went to class, taught and returned to his room. It was lunch time but he felt no hunger. He felt no thirst nor did he feel any fatigue. He was simply blissful. Blissful at what? Blissful at being - as simple as that! The post-lunch classes also went on. The body-Bhagia was just playing the role that was playing out within the cosmic-Bhagia. As far as everyone else was concerned, Bhagia sir was radiating some special joy and peace. As far as Bhagia sir was concerned, he was just ‘be-ing’.

"The Ultimate Experience was a sample. Now, work towards it."
The body-Bhagia went to mandir in the evening - not that he needed it. He needed nothing; he wanted nothing. How could one want anything when one is everything? That evening, the body-Bhagia received another smile from the body-Swami. And that was when, something happened suddenly.

In a moment, Bhagia sir was ‘startled back to abnormalcy’ as he terms it.
“In one moment, all that bubbling bliss and surging serenity was gone. I was back to this abnormal world where I felt that I was my body!”

He saw Swami smiling at him. He could feel the message that Swami seemed to be conveying,
“You have now got a sample of the Ultimate experience. Now, its time for you to work towards it.”

Thirsting for more

It is often believed that the first taste of human blood is what makes tigers and lions into maneaters. Humans are easy targets and their warm blood is so addicting that the great cats never seem to have a liking to hunt any other animal after that. They simply craze after humans.

No analogy could have described Bhagia sir’s situation better. A man who has tasted divinity is also crazed in a similar fashion. When he realizes that Divinity is actually easy to obtain and the joy it gives is unmatched, one loses interest in anything else that the world has to offer. He simply crazes after that Ultimate Experience.

Bhagia sir was now bent upon achieving what he had been given a taste of. Once again, Ratanlal uncle came up to him with a book, again by Sri Ramana Maharshi. The book was “The Path of Sri Ramana - 1” by Sadhu Om. Again, to his pleasant surprise, the book was all about the ‘path of Self-Enquiry’! Was it a coincidence? Bhagia sir knew enough to not get fooled into such thinking.

He read that book over and over again - at the rate of one reading per day! He would go to the terrace of the Institute building in whatever free time he got and pore over the book. He knew almost every word in the book by heart. He began to meditate on those words, trying to master the technique of self-enquiry which would give him the Ultimate Experience forever.

At the same time, Bhagia sir felt a kind of disgust towards the world. He felt that he was wasting his time teaching ‘worldly’ subjects to students. How much better would it be if he could spend all his time in enquiry? He realized why Swami had brought him to Himself - to make him give up all the worldly things and focus only on the Ultimate Experience. He realized that there was no need for him to balance worldly life and spiritual life because the worldly life was not worth balancing. It just had to be given up for the infinite treasure that the Ultimate Experience is. His face illumined with the realization and a smile swept across. He seemed to be on the verge of achieving his goal.

He couldn’t have been more wrong about it! And he was about to realize the same over the next few months.

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

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

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  1. If I may quote the story of Narada and Lord Vishnu: Lord Vishnu deemed a mortal who chanted His Name just thrice in a day a greater devotee than Narada who chanted His Name always. The reason was simple--the man amidst many other commitments, had God in his heart. As Swami says Hands in the Society and Head in the Forest. My husband and I were just discussing this a few minutes ago. Sai-incidence that you had to write this story. For me, I feel if I were to treat every thing (anything--work, study, family, worship, Sai center activities) as worship, there isn't a need to worry about including God in the busy day--God is the busy day and the ultimate experience is granted! . Again, just my thought--as inspired by Bhagwan. The same message may not be applicable to others.

  2. Is it a coincident that my dream last night I was asking Swami "are you Lord Vishnu?" He smiled and say "No". "Are you Shiv Shakthi?" ----"No" . me: "Then who are you?". Swami said "I cant tell you.."
    I have been wondering who is Swami all day..and found ur article ....Hmmm...

    1. :)

      Very interesting... I think when we discover who we are, we will also learn who He is! :)

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