Monday, 30 March 2015

Quantity of money vs Quality of money - Prof.Sudhir Bhaskar's experiences with Sri Sathya Sai

Prof.Sudhir Bhaskar with his Swami in the Kodaikanal hills.

Noble money or noble wealth?

In a world which seems increasingly susceptible to corruption and dishonesty, the terms “tainted wealth” or “tainted money” are often encountered. These terms carry stigma and a definite negative connotation whenever and wherever they are used. In fact, the Bible has a proverb which says,
“Tainted wealth has no lasting value.”

Does that mean that ‘tainted’ money holds any less value than ‘just money’? Come on, lets face it. Whether money is ‘tainted’ or not, it’s value remains the same right? There is this famous anecdote of a college lecturer holding up an American dollar note and asking,
“Who wants this dollar bill?”
Several students raise their hand. Seeing this, the lecturer furiously crushes the bill and asks again,
“Who still wants this bill?”
The hands continue to remain raised.
“What if I do this?”
He throws the bill to the floor, stamps it, soils it and then holds it up, all dirty and crumpled.
The hands continue to be held high because irrespective of what is done to that piece of paper, the fact cannot be changed that it is worth a dollar.

However crumpled or stained, a dollar is worth a dollar! 
What we are talking about here is not the physical ‘taint’ on money, but a moral one. Therefore, quite obviously now, ‘tainted money’ refers to money or any other form of wealth that is gained through unscrupulous means. This could be earned as blatantly as demanding a bribe to do one’s duty or as subtly as pocketing a currency note lying lost and neglected on the road. Blatant or subtle, discovered or hidden, dishonesty is dishonesty because the individual indulging in it is definitely aware. Such acts ‘taint’ the money with their dishonesty.

But hey! What do you expect me to do with a currency note that I find on the road which belongs to nobody? You want me to walk away? How is picking it up being dishonest? What should I do then?  Well, those are nice questions to think about and I would definitely be enlightened by any and all the answers which the reader can post in the comments section of this article.

I shall not go into that answer here because I want to think about something that is quite the opposite of tainted money - what I would like to call as noble money!

What is noble money?
Building on the flow so far, just as ‘tainted money’ is morally inferior money, ‘noble money’ is  morally superior money. Therefore, though there is no such proverb in the Bible, intuitively there seems to be a provision for this statement,
“Noble wealth is of ever-lasting value”.

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, my best friend and master, offered tremendous insights into the nature and power of ‘noble money’. That becomes crystal clear when we understand the amazing correlation and connection between two experiences of a professor from the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning.

“Do you work commensurate to your salary?”

The blessing came out of the blue for Prof. Sudhir Bhaskar
and he began to walk behind Swami, to assist Him, during
the darshans in Prasanthi Nilayam.
It was the 10th of June in 1993. Prof. Sudhir Bhaskar was seated in the portico of the mandir in Prasanthi Nilayam. Alongside him were a couple of other senior professors from the Institute. They had all come to seek blessings from Swami to start two new courses in the University - MFM (Master of Financial Management) and MTech (Master of Technology in Computer Sciences).

Swami arrived for darshan from His new residence space at the head of the Poornachandra Auditorium. He completed the darshan rounds and walked up to the three professors seated in the portico. He saw the proposal and plans for starting the two new programmes in the University and blessed them. After that, in an unexpected shower of divine grace, He looked at Prof.Sudhir Bhaskar (SB) and Prof.G.V.Prabhakar Rao (GVP) and told them,
“You two, come behind me...”

That was the beginning of the greatest opportunity of SB’s life. He began to assist Swami, walking behind Him, carrying the letters He had taken, ensuring a smooth and disciplined darshan session, keeping the interview room ready, carrying messages from Him to several administrators/devotees and so on. He enjoyed this beautiful and bountiful seva opportunity for more than a decade! That 10th of June marked the beginning of this divine period.

That day, Swami returned to the portico and, in front of everyone in the portico, asked SB,
“How much salary are you getting?”
SB was taken aback. He did not know what to say. Should he just state his salary? Or should he tell Swami the truth that the actual salary he received was His love and his peace of mind? He just kept silent instead. Then, Swami asked another question,
“Are you working commensurate to the salary you are drawing?”
Once again, SB kept quiet.
Swami left it at that and walked away.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Antaranga Sai - The innermost experiences of Sai student Balaramchandra_Part 2

Look for Swami within

The first year of college life was wonderful for Balaramchandra (aka BRC) as he became a regular singer in the bhajan group. But, BRC also noticed that Swami did not seem to physically respond to him as regularly as He would to other students. All messages to him from Swami were delivered in a subtle manner and BRC had to be absolutely in tune with his inner Swami to get them. One place where many such messages were delivered was in Trayee Brindavan during the Trayee sessions. BRC had already received the message that he should develop an inner connect with Swami during an earlier Trayee session.
{This episode as well as many other incidents from BRC’s life have been detailed in the first part. In case you have not read it, please do read it before reading this second part. The first part is at the link below:
Antaranga Sai - The innermost experiences of Sai student Balaramchandra_Part 1}

An year later, the time seemed ripe for yet another message. And again, it happened through another Trayee session or rather, the lack of it! Those were times when a Trayee session was considered a guaranteed event everyday at Brindavan. However, in BRC’s second year as an undergraduate, Swami did not call the students in for a Trayee session one day. The same thing repeated the next day. Now, all the students and teachers were worried. Why wasn’t Swami calling them for these most intimate and wonderful sessions.
“I have a bad cold”, Swami said. But all the teachers and students knew that it was something else also. A mere cold is not strong enough to keep Swami away from bestowing His warmth on His children!

Prayers and Sadhana intensified in the hostel. Academics and other activities took a back seat as the focus of everyone’s thoughts, words and deeds was on eliciting a positive response from Swami. The efforts were a success as Swami called for a Trayee session on the fourth day. When Swami arrived, He had a solemn look. He walked silently up to the jhoola (ornate swing) and sat on it. After a few moments, He asked,
“Swami came to Brindavan 3 days back. But He did not call you in. Do you know why?”
A few more moments of silence followed after which Swami Himself gave the answer,
“Swami is teaching you to look for Him within you...”

Whatever Swami said after that were a blur for BRC. That statement had hit his heart like an arrow would strike the bulls eye.  He knew that he would have to focus more on his internal Swami - his Antaranga Sai. Little wonder that the frequency of him singing that beautiful bhajan with the same lyrics kept  increasing.

This is a magical thing I have seen about whenever Sathya Sai speaks - each statement is meant for someone on whom it makes a profound impact and each statement has a different impact on different people! That gives us a clue as to how we can understand which part of Swami’s discourse we must follow and which is meant for the others! Further dilation on this present in the article entitled - Sathya Sai Speaks but who listens?

Tough situation or an opportunity to learn?

An year later, BRC graduated with a Bachelors degree in Commerce. He applied and enrolled for the MFM (Master of Financial Management) course at the Prasanthi Nilayam campus of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. No doubt he enjoyed a few interactions with Swami and got a few chances to go near Him. He also earned a nickname from Swami - ‘Parrot Voice’. His prayer was he should actually become Swami’s parrot, parroting all that He said and did! But then, like in Brindavan, a majority of his experiences with Swami were via the Antaranga pathway - the internal pathway. It was during his stint as a student in MFM that his understanding of the Antaranga Sai went up a few more notches.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Antaranga Sai - The innermost experiences of Sai student Balaramchandra_Part 1

BRC with his beloved Swami in a rare picture. BRC does not have many
pictures with Swami and reading on will tell you why...
It was a teacher of self-defence who re-introduced a young Balaramchandra (pronounced as Baala Ramachandra) to the greatest protection of his life. As a 15-year old lad, Balaramchandra (aka BRC) joined his cousins to learn Karate from a tutor who visited his joint-family home. Though the tutor took classes for only 4 days, he taught BRC (and all his cousins) about a personality that went by the name of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He also took them all to the Sathya Sai Samithi in Thrissur and that was where BRC re-discovered the ‘Swami’ he had been introduced to as a child.

Though BRC’s grandfather, uncle and parents were devotees of this Swami, BRC had never given any special attention to Him. His was a family that had dedicated itself from several generations to Lord Sri Rama. That was why all the male members in the family - his grandfather, father, uncles, brothers - including himself had ‘Rama’ as a part of their names. When BRC was told that Swami was an Avatar, an incarnation of God, his first reaction was awe.
“I could never see Rama. How rare and wonderful it is that I have come to know of a living God!”

His second reaction could possibly be attributed to his Karma of several births because, for BRC, it was instant faith and love for this fuzzy-haired, orange-robed, moon-faced Baba. Soon, he came to know that Swami had started education institutions and he could avail the opportunity to become His student. Though it was the middle of the academic year, he tried to apply for a high-school admission. All he received was a letter of regret from the school saying that he could not be admitted in the middle.

BRC then studied with all determination and came out with flying colours in the nationwide Board Exams. He applied for the Bachelors in Commerce degree in the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning and got selected as a candidate for the course in the Brindavan campus of the University. It was the beginning of his life as a Sai Student and it was going to teach him some lessons for life!

Wrong assumptions

BRC joined the college in 1994 and the year turned out to be fortuitous for his batch. It was precisely at this time that the Sai Kulwant hall was being built at Prasanthi Nilayam, Puttaparthi, and so, Swami was at Brindavan for more than 6 months at a stretch. BRC was thrilled at this stroke of luck and he decided to utilize this opportunity to its fullest extent.

Like many of the students who join Swami’s educational institutions, BRC too had taken some things for granted. Foremost among these was the assumption that Swami talks with all the students everyday! A second thing he had assumed was that it would be all peace and comfort once he got admission because Swami was a mother, father, friend and master rolled into one. The third assumption he made was that he would start singing in front of Swami immediately. This confidence was based on the fact that BRC had a wonderful voice and was also a fine talent in music.

Very soon, BRC realised that he had been mistaken on all counts!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Always have a direct connection to God - Nikhil Koushik learns his lessons from Baba _Part 2

God sees only the efforts

Nikhil dialled his mother and sought her advice,
“Mother, Swami tells me that I need to do my sadhana before I can sing in His presence. Could you tell me what sadhana you did? What did aunt do... what did granny do?”
The mother was both surprised and happy at her son’s question. She replied,
“My child, I really don’t know what sadhana I have done. It has just been Swami’s love and grace...”
Nikhil already knew that this would be the answer. Every true devotee of the Lord credited Him for everything. She never claimed to have done anything special for she felt that it was Swami alone who is all special.
“Yes mother! Swami’s love and grace is infinite indeed... But... there must be something that you people did right. Tell me what you would do when you were not in Swami’s presence?”
“Your granny and aunt had deep love for Swami. From that sprung a commitment to put in daily efforts. They are talented of course but their efforts were so relentless that Swami would have been pleased with them even without their skill!”

{This is the concluding part of a story which will definitely make better sense and grant more joy if read after the first part. The first part is located at the link below:

Nikhil had his answer with crystal clarity. It was not as if some sadhana was better than the other. What mattered to Swami was sincere effort alone. That was probably the reason why it everyone is said to be equal in the eyes of God - because everyone is equally capable of putting in 100% efforts though their capabilities to produce results vary. Since God did not judge based on results but only based on efforts, each one has the equal capability to please God.

"If you look to me, I look to you."
Look at this beautiful picture. Do you think that there is a need for any intermediary between the devotee and God? Why don't
we strive for that direct connection? Why do we always want shortcuts? All it needs is effort
“Thank you mother. You are wonderful... Sairam.”, Nikhil said before putting down the phone. Now, he knew what he had to do - put in efforts, in whatever way he could.

The next morning, Nikhil was up and ready by 4:30am. Armed with a harmonium in the music room of the hostel, he began to practice chanting the Aumkaar (the ‘Om’ chant). He practiced till 5 am after which he went to attend the Suprabhatam. This effort did not remain as a one-day wonder. It became part of his daily schedule. He also put in supreme efforts to swallow his pride and ego. As suggested by Shailesh sir, he approached other singers in the bhajan group and sought their help to improve his singing. Having put in these efforts, he left the results to Swami and just prayed for an opportunity.

Within a week, Nikhil got that opportunity. With all love and humility, he sang a simple bhajan in the presence of the in-charges. What Shailesh sir told him that day has remained etched in his heart.
“What have you done? You have transformed completely the way you sing. You are fading out the ending of each line in the bhajan so perfectly. I suggest that you teach the exercises you have done to some of the other aspiring singers. I am sure they will benefit a lot from it.”
“Thank you sir... So... I can try singing in the mandir?”
“Yes, you can. Seek permission from Swami before that.”

A couple of days later, Swami called Nikhil to take his letter in the bhajan hall. As he handed the letter to Him, Nikhil sought permission to sing in His presence. Swami nodded with a smile and wholeheartedly permitted him. Nikhil’s joy knew no bounds. He knew his efforts had paid off.

Pride and Ego - not easy f(r)iends to subdue

That was how Nikhil achieved his dream of becoming a mandir singer - a dream that he had once taken so much for granted that it had almost turned into a nightmare. Reaching the top is one thing; staying there is a totally different game. While reaching the top requires intensity of effort, staying there needs persistence in the same efforts. While Nikhil had passed the test of intensity, it was probably the time for the test of his persistence.