Tuesday, 30 June 2015

What does God seek from us? A messiah's story

Are we really ready to do anything for God? Ready to be like this sheep that has climbed
on to the
Kjeragbolten in Norway?
This is probably one of my favourite stories. It is so full of intrigue and suspense in the beginning; yet so simple and profound in its ending. I have heard it only once but I have narrated it a hundred times at least. And each time I narrate it, it fills me with new vigour, enthusiasm and direction. It is the a story about a messiah - a messiah who wanted to retire!

The first time I narrated this story was in Swami’s presence on the 29th of July, 2005. I keep narrating this story many times. And that is to keep reminding myself more than anybody else of what Swami wants from me.

Without further ado, here is that story. 

A messiah who wanted to retire

There was this messiah who lived in a village. He was a tremendous source of help and inspiration for the villagers who sought his wise counsel for almost every problem. He sought nothing himself and selflessly gave of himself to the people, whenever they needed him. Everything seemed to be going well when, out of the blue, the Messiah made a startling revelation.

“I am ready to announce my retirement now,” he said much to the shock of all the assembled villagers, “I have been preparing for this moment and ultimately, it has arrived.”

“No! You cannot do this. Please do not leave us...”
“What will we do without you? Whom shall we turn to for succour and solace?”
“How can a messiah retire? What do you mean!”
“Why do you want to retire? Have we failed you or disappointed you in any way?”

The messiah smiled within himself. As usual, men made their own audacious assumptions and theories. The assumptions may vary in nature and scope, but they all are tinged to varying degrees with selfishness. Everyone wanted him to stay for reasons that meant a lot to them - not him directly! 

“Every person in every occupation enjoys a retirement. I am only seeking mine! Is that not fair enough?” asked the messiah with a smile. 

That was an argument that none could refute. But still, how could they live without the services of their messiah? Looking at the whole situation objectively, the people realized that their domestic problems could be solved through discussions with each other. Financial advice could be sought from some money-lender who still had scruples left. Health matters could be taken up with a doctor. But what about matters relating to the spirit? Spirituality, though very ‘important’, is never ‘urgent’ and thus gets neglected till times such as these. Now that the messiah was about to retire, spirituality seemed to gain urgency too along with importance. 

And so, they all pleaded with him,
“How will we remain in touch with God if you retire?”
“Please, if you must retire, then ensure that we will be in touch with God in some way at least.”
“Tell us what we must do so that God is happy with us always...”
“Yes! Tell us the one ‘most important’ thing that God wants us to do...”

“Yes! Yes! Tell us that ‘one thing’ which God wants from us”, everyone chorused.

Friday, 26 June 2015

The Inconvenient Truth - Are we ready to accept and live by it?

If I 'declare' my oneness with God...
It has been quite some time now that I have been writing articles based on the inspiration in my heart. I have received a lot of love and gratitude for the same. People thank me for providing many solutions and I write back to them telling that it is the Lord they must thank and not me for He is the inspiration. They are happy with my response and I am happy with their response. There is a reason why I am bringing this up now.

Just imagine, if today, I were to proclaim,
“I am God. What I speak is the Truth and what I do is Dharma. And that is why you find solace and solutions in what I write, for what I write is Absolute.” 
I would be considered as pompous and as someone at the zenith of ego and blasphemy. People would get ticked off and maybe even stop reading what I write. What I write is the same but whether I put it in ‘humility’ or ‘pride’ makes a lot of difference apparently! I too, therefore, choose to write in ‘humility’ for I seek my readers support and agreement. And this is where I face the Inconvenient Truth.

Please allow me to elaborate.
It was on the 20th of October 1940 that a young boy in a village that had been described as ‘a stone’s throw from Stone Age’ sat on a rock and proclaimed himself to be God. He said,
“Oh mind (people)! Incessantly meditate on the feet of your Master. That alone will aid you across the ocean of worldly existence.”

Manasa Bhajare Guru Charanam
Dusthara Bhavasaagara Tharanam

That was how Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba began what He called His mission. And the followers and devotees started flowing. Along with these followers and devotees also came the critics. The critics could not simply stand the ‘fact’ that a human is God! They felt that it was a pompous boast.

Looking back at the life of Baba, I feel that if only He had called Himself a saint or a man in touch with God, the critics would not be so many in number or so vehement in their venom. Even if He had said that He is one with God for He realized the Divine, people would have been less critical. But that was not to be so! In fact, Swami went a step ahead to say,
“I am God. And if you seek within you will realize that you too are Divine.”
Not much attention is paid to the second sentence though it is the 'longer' of the two. That’s because that is the Inconvenient Truth which demands too much if we accept it. The first sentence however is scrutinized and criticized, often quoted in isolation and, again, is not accepted for that too is the Inconvenient Truth!
This has been the case from times immemorial...

Even Jesus was not spared from stoning because
of 'blasphemy'. 
Jesus' experience stating the 'inconvenient truth'
Jesus was in the Temple walking up and down the Portico of Solomon. It was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem. Someone among the crowd asked him, “Are you the Christ (The Lord)?”
Jesus replied, “The Father and I are one.” (John 10:30)
Hearing this, some of the people picked up stones to throw at him. Jesus asked them,
“I have shown many good works from my Father; for which of these are you stoning me?”
(John 10:32)
“We are stoning you not for doing a good work”, they replied,“but for blasphemy; though you are only a man, you claim to be God.” ( John 10:33)
Jesus answered them,
"Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods'? (John 10:34) If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside (John 10:35)
Why then do you say, ‘You are blaspheming’ because I said, ‘I am God’? Truly, I am God and you too are God.”

Friday, 19 June 2015

The story behind the 'Memoirs of a Sai Student' - Part 2

Time and tide wait for none

The blessing (or rather the lack of it) for the manuscript on my birthday was a powerful prodding for me to not give up on the idea of a book of student-experiences. By this time, Swami had blessed my parents also to come and settle down in Puttaparthi after my father’s retirement. Thanks to my parents’ presence, I was relatively freed from my daily ‘maintenance’ chores. In the free time thus obtained, I made a humble beginning for the book of my life. I had no previous experience in writing a book. I did not know where to begin and how to proceed. I knew that when God gives a task, He also gives the strength needed to achieve it. I only had to start making the efforts and things would evolve as per His plan. Thus, I opened my first-ever personal diary and read through the first twenty pages. Then, I began to write whatever I felt. The beginning had been made!

{This is the concluding part of a story that is midway through its revelation. If you wish to enjoy the full story, please start from the beginning at Part 1 in the link below:

The story behind the 'Memoirs of a Sai Student' - Part 1 }

But then, the inspiration was soon put on hold because I got pulled into writing another book. Recency effect made me start writing about the recently concluded trip to Delhi and Simla. The desire to publish a book had gotten so strong in me that my mind was offering easy avenues to complete a book. I had elaborate notes and hundreds of photos from the recent trip. So, I thought I would make a ‘quick book’ out of it! At the same time, a plethora of activities began at Radiosai for the upcoming 85th Birthday celebrations of Bhagawan Baba. I got fully immersed in the making of the “Message of the Lord” - a 30-part video-serial on the life and teachings of Swami. There was also a lot of activity on the production of the grand musical - Prema Pravaham. Added to these, a plethora of cultural programmes at Sai Kulwant hall by devotees from all over the world, kept me on my toes and I literally had no time to sitting calmly and writing a book.

A screen-shot of the second episode in the Message of  the Lord serial. The 30-part serial
has been received very well the world over and can be accessed from the Radiosai site. 
2010 was over in no time and in flowed 2011. Before I could understand the implications of the grand drama that the Lord played, Swami had left the physical. It is impossible to describe what I went through and I am sure that most readers will be able to empathise with me. My world seemed to have come to an end. Everything that I held most dear, seemed to have been cruelly snatched away from me. No amount of tears shed seemed to assuage the pain my heart was reeling under. I did not know what to do. I just cried more.

Pain-soothing balm

Swami is the most loving and compassionate one. He will Himself bear great pain but He is unable to bear the pain of those that love Him and miss Him. In His own special way, He reminded me of what I should do to get rid of the pain and vacuum that had enveloped my heart. The answer came in the form of a memory...

It was something that Swami had told us at the conclusion of an unforgettable group interview during Ramadan in 2006. It had been a very warm and lovely session and so, it was not surprising that at the end, all of us prayed to Swami that we should always be close to Him. He had smiled and said that ‘nearness’ might not be possible all the time. But He also added,
Treasure and cherish all that you have received now. Keep contemplating on these moments and derive joy from them always. Be happy always.”

A memorable moment from the interview on Ramadan in 2006 where Swami advised us on how to be happy always
irrespective of His physical proximity.
‘Receiving’ from Swami is only one part of the blessing. Living and reliving what I have received is the way to be happy always. I had got my answer! Thus I started my blogging journey.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

The story behind the 'Memoirs of a Sai Student' - Part 1

The ultimate author is God alone

The epitaph of Benjamin Franklin, the inventor who was
a printer by profession speaks of God
as the Ultimate Author!
It is almost impossible to understand how events will unfold in the future. The future is a deep mystery. It is also impossible to change the way things have happened in the past. The past is history. The present is something that I can influence. It is a gift from God. That is why it is called ‘the present’. However, it is not as if the ‘present’ is any less unfathomable than the ‘future’ or the ‘past’. Many times, I come across situations in day to day life that I do not understand; that frustrate me, irritate me, depress me and anger me. And I don’t understand why or how they are happening. While it is true that we have to focus on the present, that focus must be backed by a keen eye on the lessons from the past and a strong faith in the hope for the future. The present is, after all, the seed which has arrived from the tree of the past and is the precursor for the tree of the future.

The present serves as a very good point in time to look back in retrospect.  Thus, any time is a good retrospection time! When done honestly and sincerely, such retrospection leads one towards recognizing the immense blessings received. It also makes one humble and grateful. More than anything else, it makes one understand that the mind is too tiny an instrument to fathom the mysterious workings of the universe, let alone God!

I say all this because today, I am introduced to people as a ‘writer’ or an ‘author’. When that happens,  I smile within myself because becoming that was not in the wildest imagination of my most distant dreams. And yet, there are two ‘successful’ books along with two ‘popular’ blogs to my credit. The ego is a very subtle and silent fellow. He has the ability to disguise even selfishness as selflessness. Then, what can I say about the easier task of disguising pride and a swollen head as gratitude and a broad mind? Many have been the occasions when a pat on my back has resulted in my head swelling up! What modern science can explain this connection between the head and the back?

The "Memoirs of a Sai Student" about which this story is all about is available on Amazon also now. Just scan the
QR code in the right-hand corner of this image to go directly and buy it!
It is at such moments that I sit back and look at my life in retrospect, to realize that it has solely been the working of my best friend, master and God rolled into one, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, all through. I am a zero without Him; but a hero when I have Him by my side. That is why, I decided to write this story - as a reminder of that truth to myself and to anyone else who might mistake me for an ‘author’ or ‘writer’.

The source of all writing content

It all started when I joined the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School in 1998. I was convinced that I would be enjoying a rare privilege - of studying under the direct guidance of Divinity. I resolved to treasure each moment that I spend in Swami’s presence. As an expression of this cherishment, I started to maintain a diary in which I would record my thoughts, feelings and experiences almost on a daily basis. I imagined how it would have been had the cowherds of Krishna’s time, the apostles of Jesus or the disciples of the Buddha had maintained daily records of the happenings with Divinity. I felt that these diary entries would be of no less significance for they concerned the Avatar of the age, my Swami. In the nine years as a student, I accumulated more than half a dozen diaries after which I shifted to virtual version of the diary in Google Docs. When Swami granted me a job at Radiosai, I got the opportunity to maintain the Prasanthi Diary section of the site, which seemed just like an extension of my diary-writing habit. Thus I had two virtual diaries to maintain - the Prasanthi Diary for public consumption and my own personal diary for my record.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

What is the greatest gift in life? Life experiences of Kishore Madhamshettiwar_Part 3

The fall of 1988

Kishore’s first year as a student in MBA at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of HIgher Learning had turned out to be magnificently eventful but, as one would say in Hindi, “Picture Abhi Baki Hain (The movie remains to be completed).” His final year began in quite a dramatic fashion.

News reached the hostel that Bhagawan had sustained a mild hairline fracture in His hip. All the students were shocked to hear of this. How had it happened? Apparently, while having bath, Swami had slipped on a piece of soap. The slip had resulted in the fall, which had in turn caused the fracture. The whole hostel heard this announcement and immediately there was sorrow. Kishore wished that it was his hip that had got fractured instead of his beloved Swami’s. Naturally, there was no darshan for a couple of days. That only increased the sorrow because when one’s beloved is not well, one wishes to be close to the beloved. Distance, in such times, exponentially increases worry and sorrow.

On Cloud Nine with his Lord! In the hills of Kodaikanal with Swami, Kishore was
beginning to receive the greatest gifts of life...
When His children are sad, Swami too is unhappy. He immediately summoned all the students to the mandir. The instructions were that all of them should gather under the silver-door balcony. Once everyone had assembled, Swami arrived to the balcony on a wheelchair. Oh! What a sad sight it was and all the children let out groans of sorrow. They had never seen their beloved Swami like this. On hearing the sounds of agony, Swami also seemed to feel bad. So, what did He do? He rose up from the wheelchair and stood up with assistance from a student, Radhakrishna, who was serving Him in the residence. Slightly leaning on a pillar and placing all His weight on one of His legs, Swami stood in the balcony and blessed the gathered children below with smiles and Abhayahasta. He also asked Radhakrishna to bring a bag from which He began to pull out biscuit packets. He started to throw these biscuit packets for the children who had gathered below the balcony! The excitement and joy of His children seemed to give Him great joy too.

It was a memorable session which ended happily for everyone. Having granted cheer and showered blessings, Swami went back to His room on the first floor.

A day later, Swami left for Whitefield, Bangalore, to take complete rest as ‘advised’ by the doctors. Puttaparthi had lost its greatest charm and Kishore seemed to have lost the very purpose of becoming a student in the Lord’s university. Every activity at Puttaparthi used to be like a sweet dish. All those sweets had become insipid because the sugar was missing. And all because of a ‘piece of soap’!

Kishore’s heart was heavy with sorrow as he set out for jogging and morning exercises. Sometimes, all that the perseverance of faith requires, is the intensity of emotion to fructify it. Kishore’s emotion coupled with Swami’s will was about to grant him a gift greater than any that he had received so far.

{This is the concluding part of a thrilling story. In case you have arrived here directly, it is strongly recommended that you read the first two parts before proceeding here:

Fury and fire

As he completed his jogging, he circumambulated the huge Ganesha statue in front of the Higher Secondary School building. Then, he stood in front of it, offering his salutations. That was when his emotions broke all barriers and came surging out. What happened next is so drastic and dramatic that we need to pause here.