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.

Though that was the end of the conversation outside, it was the beginning of an intense dialogue within SB.

“Why did Swami ask me like this? Does he not know what my salary is? I do not want to publicly state what my salary is because there may be some ignoramuses who will think that I am sacrificing a great career and salary for Swami. It takes time and wisdom to realize that nobody ever makes a sacrifice for God... I mean, giving up paltry trifles for a cosmic empire of infinite peace is not a sacrifice...

Again, why did He ask me whether I am working commensurate to the salary I am drawing? I used to work far less for a much greater remuneration. I definitely think I am working commensurate to what I am currently drawing...”

These thoughts kept recurring for more than a year. Then, Swami decided that the time was ripe to bless SB with another experience - an experience that would teach him the meaning and profundity of ‘noble money’.

You cannot buy Divine grace

It was sometime in the later half of 1994. SB and GVP had, by now, grown adept at the daily performance of their ‘duties’ of assisting Swami. In fact, they would walk behind Swami, on either sides, in a state of perpetual alertness to His needs and commands. Usually, SB would walk to His left and GVP to His right.

One day, as SB walked behind Swami in the gents’ side of the darshan hall in Prasanthi Nilayam, he noticed an ‘over-enthusiastic’ devotee. He felt that this person was going to pounce on Swami in a devotional fervour. So, he moved a bit closer to Swami, to His right with the aim of preempting any such attempt. Swami seemed to be totally unaware of this person and was looking in the opposite direction. As He walked on, the devotee in the crowd also kept coming closer. SB quickened his pace and his muscles grew taut in anticipation of a possible security situation. That was when Swami did something so unexpectedly.

Though He was looking the other side, He stretched out His right hand towards this ‘advancing devotee’ exactly when he neared Him. The devotee gave an envelope which Swami received without even looking at him. He then turned and handed over that envelope to SB, continuing to look away from that devotee. It had hardly been a moment since Swami had given him that envelope when something unexpected happened.

The devotee who had given that envelope to Swami held SB’s right wrist to catch his attention. Then, in an excited whisper he said,
“Be careful. It has a draft for Rs.20 lakhs.”
SB was alarmed at the alacrity with which this devotee was speaking behind Swami’s back during darshan. The devotee sat down. Sb was about to place the envelope with the other letters when Swami swirled around. He looked at SB in the eye and took the envelope back. He simply dropped it on that devotee’s lap and walked on.

The devotee was now shocked and repentant. He tried offering the envelope to SB and pleaded with him to give it to Swami. SB simply fixed him with a stare. He knew better than anyone else that if one has to follow God, one should be deaf and blind to the attractions and distractions of the world. He continued to walk behind Swami.

To follow God always, one needs to be deaf and blind to the distractions of the world!
The price of Divine Grace

All this had happened in a matter of a few seconds. But it felt like several minutes for SB because so much had happened - so much had been conveyed. Swami had simply thrown away what billions in the world run after.
“Naturally” thought SB to himself, “when the Lord Sathyanarayana had the Lakshmi (the Goddess of Wealth) sitting at His feet to serve Him, what is a paltry draft? The Lord seeks nothing from us but our pure love and faith. Anything offered with that purity is accepted. However, the moment the offering is tainted with ego and the feeling of mine, it is rejected!”

Even as these thoughts swirled in him, SB noticed that Swami had made an apparent beeline towards one young gentleman among the devotees. This lad was holding a crumpled brown envelope which Swami accepted. Once again, He turned and handed it to SB. This time, He issued an instruction,
“Keep it carefully.”

Instead of adding it to the huge bundle of letters in the plastic cover, SB kept this envelope separately in his pocket. Soon, the darshan round was complete and Swami took some devotees for interviews, as was the practice. After the interviews, He summoned SB into the interview room and asked for the brown envelope.

SB pulled the envelope out of his pocket.
“Open it and see what it is”, Swami said.
SB did as he was commanded. There was a small piece of paper in the envelope. It was a counterfoil of a cash-deposit slip from the State Bank of India. It was evident that someone had made a donation to the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust and had offered the counterfoil of that deposit to Swami. (The counterfoil is duly stamped and issued by the bank as proof of the deposit. Once the deposit reflects in one’s account, the counterfoil may be discarded.)

What surprised SB was the deposit amount on that counterfoil. The devotee had made a deposit of Rs.10 (about one-sixth of an American dollar).
“He did not have lunch yesterday to make an offering to Swami”, Swami said.
SB had no words to say. Swami continued,
Daanakanna Naaku Idi Mukhyam (This is more important for me than that).”

When Swami said “that”, SB knew that the reference was to the draft of 20 lakhs that the other devotee had offered. Nobody else but him, Swami and the devotee would have known that! Then, Swami said something that seared itself across SB’s heart and mind forever.

“I pay all your salaries from such money. Always remember that!”

SB’s mind flashed back to that day, a year ago, when Swami had asked him whether he worked commensurate to the salary that he was drawing. Today, he understood the message. Was he working hard enough to justify someone giving up food for a day for his sake? Wasn’t the salary he was getting far greater than its numerical equivalent in ‘just money’ because of the nobility that was imbued in it?

When the world advertises in this manner, it has got the meaning of "pure" absolutely WRONG!! 
Yearn for and earn noble money

“Aravind, let me tell you one fact. The quality of money we earn is far more important than the quantity that we earn. I have seen Swami treasure such absurdly small amounts of money because He values the nobility imbued in it. At the same time, I have seen Him outrightly reject such vast sums of money if they have been tainted with ego and pride. But that is not the only reason why I make this statement. I also make it from my personal experience in life.

I definitely seemed to earn lots of money before I came here. But that money never gave me any fulfillment, peace or joy. But every penny Swami gives exudes so much grace and love. I have never known another want in life because of the ‘noble money’ that I have been paid by my God.”

Saying so, Sudhir Bhaskar sir sat back on his chair in his small room - S1-A31. The room felt like a hermitage with an aura of contentment, peace and joy around it. I could just nod my head in agreement.
“Thank you sir. People like you are an inspiration for me. I foolishly used to think that am sacrificing so much to attain Swami. Life showed me that I had been mistaken. I never sacrificed anything for Him. I always have got much, much more than what I have given. Your experiences have just reinforced that feeling of gratitude in me. Bless me that I too cultivate Swami’s serenity, love and joy.”

As I walked out from his room, I had a prayer in my heart,
“Let me yearn to earn that wealth, earning which I will never have to yearn for or earn anything else in my life.”

Here is another article about a billionaire devotee along similar lines:

For all readers:

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  1. A wonderful read indeed. Shows what importance Swami attaches to the 'feeling' behind any amount that is given to Him. It should be pure and noble. Only then He will accept it. If not, He will simply discard it, even if it is a million dollars.

    'Love can never be balanced by money' is my view. And that is what I told Swami sometime back, when something happened which made me very angry with Him. This particular episode which you have shared sure means a lot to me personally because this has reaffirmed my very strong conviction. Thanks Aravind for sharing this.

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  5. Wonderful man..Dr Sudhi Bhaskar.Taught us when i was doing MBA in Swami's university from 1988-90.He continues to be a dedicated Sai Soldeir to this day

  6. Beautiful,. touched...a learning I ve got..thank u thanks much

  7. Madhusudanvithal Nori12 April 2015 at 20:43

    Sairam Aravind. If only we could cross out our egos and see that SWAMI is in everyone / everything etc., then understand that we think is ours is actually HIS but kept temporarily with us and we think / calculate so much before agreeing to give some of HIS (temporarily with us) to HIMSELF - another person in need. A lesson for all of us.
    Best wishes and Love.

  8. I remember sir narrating this in the classroom. Was filled with a new realisation that it is such love filled offering that funded my education for 15 years at His school and college. Love you Swami.


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