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.

Even four years with Swami had not altered BRC’s homesick nature too much. He would be among the first few students to leave for home as soon as vacations were declared. The college has two vacations. A short one in winter for 10 days and a long one in summer for nearly 2 months. Many students usually skip going home during the winter vacations hoping that they can utilise those holidays to get opportunities of physical proximity to Swami. But not our BRC. He happily went home even as the winter vacation was declared. When he returned after the winter vacations in October, he noticed that something was amiss.

Though he would turn up in the bhajan group, he was never offered the chance to sing a bhajan. Many days passed without him singing and he began to wonder why. That was when one of the bhajan in-charges told him that Swami had commented negatively on his voice during the vacation. It seemed as though Swami did not want him to sing. So, till He would indicate via a positive sign, BRC would have to wait. He could sit with the members of the bhajan group. Another in-charge, ‘Sailesh Sir’ advised him to pray.
“I am praying continuously sir”, BRC replied.
“Write a letter to Swami seeking His grace to sing again”, Sailesh Sir advised.

BRC was now confused. All his life, his experience had been that Swami listens to the prayers in the heart. He had long since given up writing letters. Was this advice from Sailesh Sir a new instruction from Swami to him? He thought long and deep. Finally he concluded that he should trust his own experience rather than consider someone as a medium for Swami’s instruction. He told Sailesh sir that he would write a letter but just continued to pray from within.

Days turned to weeks and there was no change in the situation. The second week of November arrived and with it came the Akhanda Bhajan of 1997. BRC was still not being allowed to sing. So, he sat at the end of the bhajan group. On Saturday evening, at 6pm, the Global Akhanda Bhajan began with Swami lighting a lamp. The bhajans would now go on for 24 hours till 6pm the next day when it would conclude with Arati to Swami. Swami was physically present in the bhajan hall for about an hour, listening to the bhajans. All the main singers got at least two opportunities to sing a bhajan in His presence. Then, Swami rose and started walking back towards His residence in the Poornachandra Auditorium.

As Swami left the bhajan hall, Sailesh sir turned and beckoned to Aditya, a singer, who was sitting behind BRC. It was now time for the upcoming singers to get a chance. BRC mistook that as a signal for him and got up. He went and sat beside Sailesh sir. Sailesh sir knew what BRC was going through for more than a month now. He also knew that BRC had a magical singing ability. Since Swami was already returning, he decided to risk allowing BRC to sing a bhajan. He did not have a heart to turn him away!

(At this point, I strongly recommend that you download this song from the Radiosai link below, turn on your speakers, hear the song and enjoy its simplicity and beauty before/as you proceed with the rest of the article. No points for guessing that it is in BRC’s golden voice.

Internalising Swami - Proof of concept

BRC knew that though Swami had left the bhajan hall, He was still within earshot of the speakers in the Kulwant Hall through which He was walking. When he sang now, Swami would definitely hear him! It was not by chance that he chose a particular bhajan to communicate his thoughts and feelings to Swami. The bhajan was ‘O Bhagawan, O Bhagawan, Araja Suno Mere Sai Bhagawan’. (O Lord! My Lord Sai! Pay heed to my pining and prayers...)

A sincere prayer from an overflowing heart is better than a mantra...
There is nobody in current knowledge who knows whether Swami physically paid heed to BRC or not. But something coincidental happened. The bhajan in-charges take turns being with the bhajan group during an Akhanda Bhajan. The next in-charge saw that Sailesh Sir had given BRC the chance to sing. So, he too took the ‘risk’ of allowing him to sing. After all Swami was not present physically right?

The Saturday night bhajan-vigil passed and it was Sunday morning. The in-charge then felt that he too could take the risk of allowing BRC to sing because Swami was scheduled to go to the Institute Auditorium to see the Convocation drama rehearsal. (This was the practice every year - Swami would see the rehearsal of the drama to be put up on 22nd November on the Sunday morning of Akhanda bhajans.) Since Sailesh Sir had also gone to the auditorium, there was no way for this in-charge to confer with him also. So, he allowed BRC to sing in the physical absence of Swami, when He was in the interview room.

BRC started singing another bhajan now - ‘Sankata Harana Sri Sai Ramana’ - which pleads to Swami as the One who obliterates one’s misery. Another ‘coincidence’ took place. Exactly as he sang the first line, the interview room door opened and Swami walked out. But instead of going towards the car that was waiting to take Him to the Institute Auditorium, Swami turned into the bhajan hall! He sat on the chair for the entire duration of BRC’s bhajan. Even as he concluded that bhajan, Swami smiled to him, got up from the chair and headed towards the car.

BRC was in bliss supreme. Tears streamed down his cheeks.
“That is the best ever response from Swami I have received in my whole life”, BRC says, “till now at least”, giving scope for Swami to bring in more magnificent responses in his life!

But the story does not end there.

When BRC returned after lunch for the final session of the Akhanda Bhajan, he was in for a pleasant surprise. In the list of names to sing bhajans when Swami arrived, ‘BRC’ was the first! Another student, Vineet Basotia, who was part of the Convocation drama cast, narrated to BRC what had happened when Swami had visited the auditorium in the morning.

The rehearsal had started and all the songs in the drama were to be sung live by the singers who had seated themselves right next to Swami’s chair. At the appropriate points during the different scenes, the singers would get prepared to sing. In order to sing in key, in shruti, they would have to hear the chord being played on the harmonium beforehand. But since the dialogues were on, the harmonium could not be played in full volume. The singers would therefore bend their heads low over the harmonium, keep the key and hum the tune in readiness to begin the song when the appropriate time came.

As He watched the drama, Swami turned and saw what the singers were doing. Sailesh sir was the person on the harmonium holding the keys for the singers. He scolded the singers for being distracted. Then He said,
“Parrot voice wrote a letter to me...In that he was pining for a chance to sing for me. He said, ‘Swami, I am not getting a chance to sing for you. Even if you don’t give me a harmonium, I am ready to sing for you!’ And here are you boys, when Swami is with you, you are bending over the harmonium!”

Swami looked at Sailesh sir and he understood that Swami was very happy with BRC. That was the reason why BRC had been slotted as the first singer for the evening session. In fact, as soon as he arrived, Sailesh sir told him,
“Swami responded immediately to your letter... He wants you to sing many bhajans I am sure...”

Here is the beautiful part.

BRC actually never wrote a letter. But Swami still acknowledged that He had received one from him! And that could mean only one thing - that a heartfelt prayer was equal to giving Him a letter personally. However, BRC never told this to Sailesh sir because Swami had also wonderfully reinforced his conviction that Swami responds when a letter is written. In fact, Swami Himself has suggested that one should regularly write letters to Him. But that was not meant to be BRC’s path. No wonder that Swami says, “Come by any path. Pray to any God. The destination is the same.”

The One destination of the Many Paths!
 That evening, as BRC sang, Swami enjoyed his bhajans. BRC was in bliss and his understanding of the Antaranga Sai had grown. He did sing that bhajan that day also.

Antaranga Sai is forever

BRC graduated from college and received a gold medal from Swami for his academic efforts. But more than that academic graduation, BRC hoped that he had graduated in his connect with the inner Swami as well. He was convinced that Swami had come on earth to teach him just that. Soon, he received another experience that convinced him that he was progressing in his spiritual graduation as well.

He joined HDFC bank and quickly rose in the ranks to become a manager for he was sincere and hard-working. For Swami, he remained a student only and made regular visits to Prasanthi Nilayam. 

The darshan of the external Swami was ONLY to reinforce the internal connect and not a substitute for the inner Swami!

One day, he had a dream. It was a conversation with Swami,
“Where do you work?” Swami asked.
“In HDFC bank Swami...”
“Do you write accounts?”
“Swami, I am a manager there... “
“You are a singer right? Sing for me...”
TO BRC’s surprise, he started to sing a song instead of his favourite bhajan, Antaranga Sai.
Teri Hain Zameen... Tera Aasamaan...
He sang one stanza of the song that goes as
Tu chahe to hame maare Tu chahe to hame rakhe” {It is entirely up to You whether You destroy me or protect me. (And I shall have no complaints whatever You choose.)}
Swami also joined him in singing that line. Then, He materialized golden sprankles of vibhuti and put it in his mouth. It was sweet.

He woke up in the morning feeling very refreshed and a sweetness lingering in his mouth! He told his wife how he had sang out to Swami that it was all His will whether He chose to keep him or destroy him. And then began the toughest times of his life - when troubles at office almost landed him behind bars for no fault of his!(I shall not go into those details here.) The emotional turmoil that he and his family went through was intense. But BRC wrote no letter to Swami. He sent no telegram to Him. He just prayed to the Antaranga Sai.

A few months later, BRC decided to go to Puttaparthi for a special Alumni Meet where all the students from his batch were assembling at Prasanthi Nilayam, at Swami's lotus feet. BRC landed in Prasanthi Nilayam just on the evening before the D-Day. Since he had been a singer, the alumni bhajan coordinator asked him whether he would like to sing. BRC said that he would love to. He was told to join a group of singers. Guess what song they were singing?

Teri Hain Zameen, Tera Aasmaan”

BRC had goosebumps. The next day, as he sang the song with his partners, Swami seemed to be enjoying it. There was a point when Swami seemed to go in a trance and smilingly reminisce something. BRC realised that they were singing the very same line -
Tu chahe to hame maare Tu chahe to hame rakhe

And then it hit him strong! He need not bother about anything because it is all His will whether he is kept or destroyed. Swami had given him another powerful and profound message - without speaking even a word as usual. The Antaranga Sai graduation was complete.

BRC was in tears. He felt very light. His surrender had become complete. By the time he returned to his workplace, the entire problem had got miraculously sorted out. Not that it mattered to BRC... Not any more!

Balaramchandra Sitaraman receiving a gold medal and his graduating certificate from the 
Divine hands of his beloved Swami. 

For all readers:

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  1. Excellent example of total surrender and an eye opener for all

  2. Sairam Aravind. Thanks a lot for another 2 part narrative of BRC's experiences from your pen. Best wishes and Love,
    Madhusudanvithal Nori

  3. Very inspiring how that all played out. It shows us that it's the pining that's most important, not the result.

  4. Very beautiful! I too have had so many experiences and continue to have experiences where Swami keeps showing me that He is the Antaranga Sai, all the time! Only He and I know how He answers so many thoughts of mine and makes me smile and feel reassured time and again that He is indeed my indweller.

    1. Wonderful to hear that!!! 😊 that must be such a beautiful feeling

  5. Well narrated Aravind.Swami answers all our prayers just like He answered mine.I had always wanted to know the experiences of His students and lo! You started this blog!

  6. BRC brother is really inspiring :) Happened to hear his speech on Human Values and was just amazing...

  7. Beautiful and Inspiring :) thank you brother for being His instrument, Thank you.

  8. Sairam very inspiring to read your experiences, especially liked swami telling the sentences, parrot voice is pining to sing for him... very nice very inspiring.....

  9. What a profound message.... fortunate BRC brother for the love and grace of Swami and needless to say the bhajan was mesmerizing...


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