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!

However hard he tried, he was not able to even give a letter to Swami. He would see Swami take letters from almost all his classmates, talk to many of them and even grant an interview to a few. He just could not understand why he was unable to win an interaction of any sort from Swami. This exacerbated his feeling of homesickness. BRC had been the first ever from his family to leave the comfort of the hometown, Thrissur, and go not only to another town but another state for studies. The pampered and protected grandchild of the joint family missed the warmth of his large household. BRC thought that it would be made up by Swami but that was not to be. Finally, he was unable to take refuge in his talent as well because he was not given permission to sing in Swami’s presence.

It is not as if he did not try. On several occasions, BRC held out his plea to sing to Swami in the form of a letter. Swami did not pay any attention most of the time. Even during those rare occasions when He did pay attention, He would just joke it away asking,
“What? Do you want an interview?” OR
“Are you seeking a marriage alliance already?”

BRC was at his wits end and his emotion’s limit. He missed the warmth and love of his home. he missed singing. He missed the portrait of Swami that he had mentally painted for himself before joining the college. That was when he came across the bhajan that would define his relationship with Swami - and with that his life itself.

A bhajan vacillating between sorrow and joy

It was around this time that BRC’s heart latched on to a particular bhajan:
Antaranga Sai Anatha Natha Sai
Deenabandhu Sai Karuna Sindhu Sai
Antaranga Sai Anatha Natha Sai
Rama Krishna Shiva Shakti Prema Roopa Sai
Yuga Avatar Baba Sri Sathya Sai.

The bhajan translates into the following:

“Sai is the indweller of the heart, the parent of all orphans.
Sai is the friend of the helpless, the ocean of compassion.
Sai is Rama, Krishna, Shiva and Shakti - the form of Love.
Baba, Sathya Sai, is the Avatar of the age.”

BRC noticed that the bhajan resonated perfectly with his heart when it came to its tune. Each line of the bhajan alternated between joy and sorrow; between a distraught heart and a serene soul; between a placating plea and a firm faith. More than anything else, it addressed the Antaranga Sai - the Sai who is the indweller of the heart. BRC was instantly in love with the bhajan and he began to practice singing it.

At this point, we must visit the story behind this bhajan, Antaranga Sai. That story will make it very clear why the bhajan is how it is. This is the story shared by Sri Sunam Gyamtso Tenzin and it dates to the late 1970s, most probably 1978 or 1979.

Nagaraj hailed from Shimoga in Karnataka and had joined as Swami’s student in one of the earliest batches. One day he noticed strange patches on his skin. To his utmost horror, it turned out to be leprosy! Since leprosy is highly contagious, he was asked to leave college and go home. That was all the students knew of Nagaraj. They felt that destiny had dealt him a cruel blow, a blow from which he might never recover.

A couple of years later, Sunam was accosted by a completely cured and healthy Nagaraj. Even as his jaw dropped to the ground, he congratulated him on his recovery. That was when Nagaraj narrated a most amazing story.

Apparently, he had reached his home in Shimoga, crestfallen at the prospects of being a leper. His mother opened the door and was shocked to see her son, 300 kms away from where he was supposed to be. When she enquired what had happened, he said,
“Mother, I have been sent out of the hostel and college. That is why I have come home...”
“Oh my God! You have been sent out of Swami’s college... but why?”
“...because I have become a leper mother.... I have leprosy.”
He fell on to his mother’s shoulder and began to sob.

Nagaraj’s mother did not know what to say. Deep within she knew that Swami would always take care of her but a mother’s heart gets shattered when anything happens to the child. Her heart was now a boiling cauldron of faith and desperateness, of prayer and sorrow. Tears streamed down her eyes. She wiped them away and just focused her thoughts on Swami. In that moment, unconsciously and spontaneously, a bhajan emanated from within. It called out to her Lord who was the indweller of the heart - Antaranga Sai.

The indweller, the Anatha Natha, the Karuna Sindhu, had indeed answered that mother’s prayer. Nagaraj had been completely cured and the world had been gifted a beautiful bhajan for centuries to come!

That was the bhajan that BRC picked up and practiced. Along with that he continued to write letters, desperately seeking permission from Swami to sing in His presence. All that was to no avail and BRC wondered what it was that he was doing wrong.

Sound advice for a seeking mind

He got his answer pretty soon. It came via a discourse during a Trayee Session. As Swami poured His love and grace on the students via His nectarous words, He gave a profound advice via a Telugu poem.

“Adugakuve o Manasa
Adugu Koladi Adi Adugunu Padunani
Adugakunna Pani Vadigaanagunani
Adugani Sabarini Aadarincheade.”

{Do not ask, o mind;
The more you ask, the lower it is placed on God’s priority.
Without asking, the task will be made to proceed quickly.
Remember that Sabari, who never asked, was showered with grace! }

Even as he heard this, a realization struck BRC. Though he had learned the lyrics of the bhajan Antaranga Sai perfectly, he had totally missed out on its bhava (spirit). It seemed to him that Swami was singing this Telugu poem specifically for him, advising him not to seek outside. He had to seek from his Antaranga Sai. Instantly BRC made a decision. No more letters... no more seeking externally. He would strive to develop a connect with his Antaranga Sai.

That is precisely what he did. While he practiced singing more and more each day, he never got up to ask Swami permission to sing in Mandir, nor did he write any letters regarding that. BRC never voiced out his prayers or feelings. Wasn’t his Swami the Antaranga Sai? Didn’t He know?

He definitely knew! That is the only possible explanation for what happened about 3 days later.

Bhajan singer finally

Swami suddenly summoned the warden and asked him,
“Aren’t there any new boys to sing bhajans? The same old ones are singing daily...”
The warden promised Swami that he would scout for new singers. That is how BRC found himself auditioning in front of the warden that evening. He sang a relatively simple bhajan,
Sai Hamara Hum Sai Ke. The warden liked it and told him to be ready to sing the same in Swami’s presence.

BRC recollected the lines of Swami’s Telugu poem. “Without asking, the task will be made to proceed quickly” kept popping up in his mind.

The next day, during the Trayee session, Swami took the brass cymbals in His hand and asked for new singers. BRC was foremost among them and he enjoyed the privilege of having the Lord of the Universe keeping rhythm on the talam (cymbals) as he sang! At the end of the bhajan, Swami also spoke to Him.

Swami playing the cymbals in a Trayee session, seated on the beautiful swing. Seen in the foreground are the heads of the students. 

“Where did you come from?”
“Thrissur Swami...”
“Madras boy... right?”
BRC resisted the urge to ‘correct’ Swami. He assumed that Swami had confused Thrissur with Trichy which was located in the same state as Madras (Chennai today). Little did he know that this was another assumption that he had wrongly made. Only time would make him realize this.

It was possibly just to show BRC His omniscience that Swami granted him another experience. It was a few days later, during another Trayee session. Swami asked whether any student was ready to deliver a speech. Instantly, a dozen or so hands went up. Among them was BRC’s hand too. He also raised himself slightly on his knees because he felt that Swami didn’t know him that well yet. Swami reinforced his belief when He picked him for the speech saying,
“This boy.... Madras boy... is a singer...”
“Oh no! Again the Trichy-Thrissur confusion”, BRC thought.

“Swami can I narrate mother’s incident?” BRC asked.
“Anything you want sir!” Swami replied.
BRC went on to narrate how Swami had miraculously appeared to his mother and had told her,
“Swami has removed your cyst. You don’t need laparoscopy.”.
Nobody believed her the next morning. She herself did not believe it because she had no feelings whatsoever towards Swami as God. But when the doctors who were to perform the surgery told that the cyst was “missing” and there was a fresh scar in its place, the whole family was thrilled into elation.  

BRC was just happy that he had got both - the opportunity to sing and to speak in front of Swami. Swami’s response to his bhajan earlier had ensured that he was made a permanent fixture in the bhajan group as well.  His response to the speech convinced BRC that Swami was getting to know him better! He began to practice harder. He knew that he could use bhajan-singing as a route to get near and dear to Swami. This time, for a change, his assumption was partially right and partially wrong.

His singing would not take him nearer to Swami the way BRC thought though it would certainly make him dearer to Swami. More than that, it would make Swami dearer to him. It would also make the bhajan Antaranga Sai an inseparable part of BRC’s life forever.

But that will be the story in the next part which is published in the link below: Antaranga Sai - 
The innermost experiences of Sai student Balaramchandra_Part 2

In the meanwhile, you could also download this inspiring talk delivered by Balaramchandra in Prasanthi Nilayam on Tamil New Year day, 2014. (The talk is about 20 minutes long.)

For all readers:

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  1. Sairam! My brother's family and father's family in chennai know BRC's family well, because of their involvement in Sundaram's bhajan / Pooja group. How "well" we know an individual is not clear until we know their story with "Swami". Thanks for sharing. Awaiting the next one!

  2. The mp3 link of the talk in this page seems broken, pls check

    1. Thank you for bringing it to my notice. I have now rectified it. Please download the file now.


  3. Beautiful!and soulful!Thank you Arvind!

  4. Panama to swamy. It is because of him that my son from the same family had a chance to study in puttaparthy. We still have the robe presented by swami himself to him


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