Wednesday, 8 July 2015

With great love comes great tests - lifetime experience of Sai Krishna_Part 2

The beginning of the slide

Sai Krishna spent the days after Guru Poornima in blissful contemplation of the beautiful opportunities Swami had given him. The joy he derived from thinking about those moments over and over again never seemed to decrease. On the contrary, each time he relived the moments, the joy only seemed to increase! That was the critical difference between worldly joys and divine joys, he noted. While worldly joys reduce with the passage of time, divine joy seems to increase and mature with time!

By now, the Ramakatha had got deeply embedded in Sai Krishna’s consciousness. He could sing those songs, fully immersed in them and without bothering to look at the lyrics. Each time he sang those songs, he realized the magical poetry the lyrics contained. The repeated singing had made him transcend the level of the lyrics and rhythm into the level of feeling and experience. Lost in this bliss, everything else that was part of his daily schedule felt so mundane and unimportant. But was his bliss permanent? Had Sai Krishna developed equanimity which is the surest sign of a true devotee? Only time would tell.

{This is the second part of a compelling story. If you have come here directly, it is advised that you return after reading the first part at:

With great love comes great tests - lifetime experience of Sai Krishna_Part 1 }

It was the 7th of August in 2005 and it seemed like any other day in Prasanthi Nilayam. It was a Sunday and that meant two opportunities for darshan. Swami arrived in the hybrid Porte car for darshan and, after completing a round of the Sai Kulwanth hall, drove on to the stage. From there, He looked at Sai Krishna who was seated in the first row. (Such was the regularity with which Swami interacted with Sai Krishna and Om Prasad that they would have reserved seating in the front lines. It was a win-win situation where Swami seemed to get ‘magnetically pulled’ to these boys and in that process, the other students too could enjoy darshan, sparshan and sambhashan of the Lord.)

Swami beckoned to him and Sai Krishna rushed on to the stage, to his Lord. Swami lowered the window of the car and asked,
“Where is the other? Your brother...”
Sai Krishna turned back and realized that Om Prasad had still not arrived to the mandir.
“Swami, he must be on his way...”
Swami nodded and sent him back.

Sai Krishna and Om Prasad rush to Swami when He beckons to them from the stage in Sai Kulwant hall
on the 7th of August 2005.

News travelled at the speed of light among the students. Even before Sai Krishna returned to his place, a few lads had sped out of the hall in search of Om Prasad. The Lord was waiting for him. Sure enough, in a few minutes, Om Prasad was in the mandir. As soon as he came, he was made to wriggle through the seated students to the second row. Swami saw that both the  boys were there and He called them on stage. He told them to sing some songs.

Sai Krishna was thrilled - another opportunity! The mikes were in place and the musical accompaniment was also ready in a few moments. The duo began to sing Telugu songs which Swami had enjoyed a lot on previous occasions. The tune and rhythm were perfect. The feelings in Sai Krishna’s heart were also at their pinnacle. However, there was a difference in the Divine Script today. In between a song, Swami just moved away from the stage, into the interview room!

This had never happened so far with Sai Krishna. He had not seen Swami get up and go midway when he had been singing. It was apparent that Swami was upset over something because, after a few minutes, a messenger came out of the interview room and told the two lads to stop singing. After that, the evening progressed as usual with bhajans at the stipulated time. Sai Krishna did not understand what happened that evening. But it changed everything in a moment. It reduced Sai Krishna from a ‘crown prince’ to a banished outlaw!

A fall that hit very hard

Everything came to a standstill from that day. Swami began to ignore Sai Krishna completely and he was at a loss to understand why. He continued to sincerely do all that he had been doing so far. His top priority was still Swami and he religiously practiced all songs regularly. Yet, Swami did not even acknowledge his existence, forget asking him to sing! Till that moment, Sai Krishna had almost felt that Swami belonged only to them. Now, he felt that everyone else except him belonged to Swami.

Notice that the word ‘him’ and not ‘them’ has been used in the previous statement while talking about exceptions. This is because, in what could be considered as a sprinkling of salt on love-wounds, Swami continued to speak to and interact with Om Prasad as though nothing had happened. Sai Krishna seemed to be the sole target of the cold shoulder! It was an unbearable agony for a heart that thought it had offered itself completely at the lotus feet. From that day onwards, everything seemed to slow down infinitely. The days seemed so much longer. Nothing excited nor even interested Sai Krishna. He was a big heap of sorrow and he secretly shed tears daily hoping that things would change.  

Once you enjoy a special place in your God's heart, you do not want to ever be in any other place in the Universe. 

Not knowing what to do, one day Sai Krishna opened up his heart to Prof. Anil Kumar. The professor was Swami’s translator and often served as a friend, mentor and guide to students like Sai Krishna who were in distress. He patiently heard him out and then revealed a few exquisite diamonds from the vast treasure of his experience with the divine.  He asked Sai Krishna,

“What is it that you have done that Swami started speaking to you? Is it that you are a great singer? Remember that there are hundreds out there who are much better than  you and are just yearning to sing in His presence. There is no reason for His love. There is no reason why He showers love on you. There is no reason for the seeming withdrawal of that love. God is beyond reason. The moment you try to bind Him with reason, you will find yourself woefully short of the logical rope! Surrender and prayer are the only two things that can melt Him and I suggest that you adopt those.”

It is often said that with great power comes great responsibility. With great love comes great tests! What then to say of Divine Love which is the pinnacle of love? However, it should be remembered that these tests are not ‘conducted’ with the intention to ‘fail’ or ‘demote’ a soul. Though they might appear painful, they are for the soul’s ‘promotion’ and ‘advancement’. This was Sai Krishna’s realization too as the ‘cold treatment’ progressed - that with God, the body and mind might seem to suffer but the soul is always given top priority and taken care of! But this soul wisdom came at a great cost to the body and mind.

Sai Krishna began the tough practice of surrender and prayer. It took a while to understand the true meaning of surrender which is often mistaken as offering everything of ours to Swami. He spent days in this manner which turned into weeks. The weeks turned to months and still there was no respite. The academic year came to a close in April 2006 but nothing had changed between the devotee and the Lord.

Another Kodaikanal visit - without Sai Krishna this time

The intensity of pining in Sai Krishna’s heart had grown to an all-time high and he wanted nothing else in life but Swami. The summer vacation started but he did not go home. Prasanthi Nilayam was his home and Swami was his everything now. The air was filled with news of Swami’s impending departure to Kodaikanal. Unlike the previous year, Sai Krishna had not stayed back for the vacation to get an opportunity to accompany Swami to Kodai. He did not have even the least of expectations about that. He had stayed back because that is the only thing his heart wanted to do - seek Swami.

The ‘selection’ process had begun and everyday, the list of students to accompany Swami was being changed and fine tuned. The 9th of April was the D-Day when all the selected students would be notified of their good fortune. Sai Krishna was seated at the back in the bhajan hall, his new ‘usual place’ for the last few months. A student walked and beckoned to him.
“Come, sit in the front.”
“You are talking to me?”
“Yes, Sai Krishna, you!”
He simply obeyed and went to the front.

In a few minutes, Swami came into the bhajan hall. He began to speak to the students seated in the front about Kodaikanal. It was evident that this was the group that would be accompanying Him. Swami spoke to almost all the students. The word ‘almost’ has to be used because He didn’t speak to Sai Krishna. Those sitting to his left got spoken to, those to his right got spoken to, those in front of him and behind him also got spoken to. Swami did not even look at him! Sai Krishna’s heart was ripped out of its place! He wondered why he had to be called to the front at all. He just began to cry. That was when another student came to him and said,

Nearness to Swami does not actually guarantee dearness to Him!
It is dearness that all of us must seek.
“Get ready to take off for Kodaikanal.”
“I am not going there. Swami did not select me.”
“You are selected brother. See this...”

Sai Krishna saw ‘The List’. His name was indeed there. He would be going to Kodaikanal after all!

It was the 9th of April 2006 when Sai Krishna boarded the aircraft at the Prasanthi Nilayam airport along with the other students - including Om Prasad. Soon, Swami was also in the flight. He walked up and down the aisle blessing all the students. That was when Sai Krishna had a horrible realization. He noticed that though Swami walked and talked with all students, he had been ignored. He wanted to get up and apologise to Swami for whatever had irked Him. Even as the thought entered his head, Swami turned and glared at him for two seconds. Sai Krishna slunk back into his seat. He felt that the Kodai trip would be more salt and chilli powder on his traumatised heart. He wondered whether it would have been better had he not made it to The List because though he was going to Kodai, he would not be experiencing what Kodai stood for!

The river’s struggle to find merger in the sea

His fears proved to be true and Swami’s cold shouldering continued. Sai Krishna’s heart was now refusing to beat as per norm. He felt that either Swami should accept him back or he could as well drop down dead because what was life without Sai? Every moment in the trip, his thought was only Swami. He did not join the others as they reveled in the choicest of foods that was being served. Nor did he enjoy the outings and picnics. His heart would not find solace till it could get Swami. Swami alone was the solution and the panacea for everything now. Unknown to himself, Sai Krishna had developed the equanimity of Lord Rama - the greatest of sorrows didn’t touch him; the greatest of pleasures did not interest him. And it had happened because Swami had become the whole and sole aim for him!

It was on the 11th of April that the unforgettable, magical moment took place. The bhajans had just concluded and Swami was speaking to all the boys. Sai Krishna, as usual, was seated at the back. Swami spoke looking at everyone else except him but what He spoke was meant for Sai Krishna more than anyone else. As Sai Krishna heard with bated breath and gratitude in his heart, Swami showered words of strength and consolation via an analogy. He said,

“Sometimes I do not talk to the boys. They think that it is punishment. But it is not. I never punish anyone. I only test. I do it for a purpose. I am never angry with anyone. When the river wants to merge with the sea, it struggles. The sea does not give in so easily. It wants to test the determination of the river. However, after a lot of struggle, the sea gives way and the river merges with the sea. That part of the river which gave up, eventually becomes the backwaters.”

Sai Krishna’s heart now screamed out,
“Swami, I will never be backwaters. I will lose my existence by merging with you. Please welcome me as I struggle to find that merger.”

But the struggle was not over yet. After the discourse, Swami asked for songs. Everyone began to sing, one by one. Even Om Prasad was picked by Swami to sing a song. After all but Sai Krishna had sung, Swami sat silently as if waiting for something. From deep within, Sai Krishna could hear his Lord tell him,
“Now, my child... The time is now.”

The sea does not welcome the river. The river just keeps ramming itself into the sea till the sea is touched and moves up to receive it. Swami would not be inviting Sai Krishna to sing. But by now, the currents of love and devotion had transformed into a swirling flood within Sai Krishna’s heart. He needed no invitation. He spoke aloud,
“Swami, I will sing a Telugu song.”
“A Telugu song...”
The Sea seemed to acknowledge the force of the river. What happened next is history.

The magical moment of merger

Sai Krishna began to sing. All the love pent up in his heart flowed through a beautiful song, the lyrics and meaning of which is given below. Before that, rather than describe what happened, I shall present the video of that unforgettable moment.

O nestama Priyamaina bandhama  Premaku roopama maa andari praanama
O My friend, my most cherished relation, you are the very embodiment of love and the very life

O Nestama..
Gadiche prati kshanam neetone gadapaalani
We yearn to be in your company in every moment that passes by

Memu vine padaalanni nee maatale kaavalani
And every word be yours in all that we hear

Maa loni talapulanni neeku vivarinchaalani
With a desire to express all that encompasses our thoughts

Kriyalanni kartake ankitam cheyyalani Vechi vunnamu ee rojukai    
We have been waiting to dedicate every act unto the creator
O Nestama…..
Jeevana Venuvulo mohana raagam palikinchi Prati manasulo nee prema sudhalu ponginchi
Fill our lives with your sweet divine music (To translate literally, Life here is symbolized with a flute – Jeevana Venuvu) and as every heart overflows with your love

Anandamutho divi bhuvi pulakinchaga…maataladava..
In this beautiful moment when the earth and sky rejoice …..wont you speak to me?

Even as he sang the line, “Won't you speak to me”, Sai Krishna realized that Swami had already spoken to him, several times during the song itself!

Closing thoughts

Nothing else needs to be said but Sai Krishna deserves the final word.

“Finally the sea let the river merge. And in that session Swami gave me the opportunity to sing about seven songs. All the pain, the days of suffering, the hunger, the sadness, everything had vanished. It was just that one moment.

I miss Him a lot even today. But I know that I need to yearn like I yearned then. I need to be desperate for His love. I need to be focused to connect to HIM. I am sure that one day, again, He will fill the void and fill it in such a manner that the days and months of agony of missing him would vanish. He knows how to stretch, when to stretch and exactly how much to stretch. I might think I will break. But then He will never let that happen. Either He gives more elasticity or He will embrace at once.”

If you enjoyed reading this story of Divine Romance, you will enjoy these other such stories as well:

1. Destroyed in seconds but rebuilt over years.

2. Sometimes things go horribly wring before going right.

3. Siddhartha's enlightenment - God's plans are the best for us

For all readers:

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  1. Wonderful! Thanks a ton for sharing the video as well. It was so moving to see bro. Sai Krishna sing his heart out for the Lord and to see our beautiful Lord reciprocate.

  2. Such a lovely narration and soulful taste in the life story of Sai Krishna...thank you and continue the good work Aravind. We look forward reading these pearls of wisdom and the courage that it takes to say 'yes' to Bhagavan Baba.

  3. Madhusudanvithal Nori8 July 2015 at 16:28

    Sairam Aravind the 2 part narrative of Sai Krishna's experience clearly brings out the meaning of surrender, audio clip of Sai Krishna's song filled with pathos is the icing on the cake. Thanks a lot. Looking forward to more from your pen. Best wishes.

  4. Sairam Aravind, on deeper reflection, I just want to share the 2 points which struck me deeply in this article.

    First is the title itself -- 'with great loves comes great tests'. So true indeed! I can absolutely relate to it.

    Two, the analogy of the sea and the river. I just loved that! Only Swami can give such an analogy. "The sea seemed to acknowledge the force of the river" -- beautiful words indeed. It captures the yearning, pining and intense prayers of the devotee and how the Lord finally seems to 'get captured' by us. :)

  5. I also love the way bro. Sai Krishna has written his concluding thoughts. I can totally relate to "I am sure that one day, again, He will fill the void and fill it in such a manner that the days and months of agony of missing him would vanish."

    I remember hearing the foll. words a few years ago in a talk by Prof. Anil Kumar (and also from one aunty I know) -- “You may be going through disappointments for an irritatingly and unbearably long time but take it from me, at one point, Swami will just pour His grace on you such that you get submerged in it. You will then just forget all your past disappointments.”

    I also loved the way bro. Sai Krishna perfectly summed it up by writing "He knows how to stretch, when to stretch and exactly how much to stretch. I might think I will break. But then He will never let that happen. Either He gives more elasticity or He will embrace at once."

    Swami is indeed the perfect master planner. He knows just how much pressure to apply on each of us. He will never allow us to break. In the book 'Sathyam Shivam Sundaram' vol. 5, in the chapter titled 'Deemed University, the author writes "Baba's power to withhold His love can match only His power to give it. When He tests His devotee, He does it severely. Severity of the test may take the devotee to the breaking point, but will never break him."

    Thanks once again to bro. Sai Krishna for sharing this very profound experience. And to you for writing it and sharing with all of us.

  6. Extremely moving Bhayya.
    Bhayya.had these brothers sung on 14th April,2006 that is on the Vishu day at Kodaikanal?Because I still remember two brothers singing on Rama that day.So soul stirring it was!

  7. Brother Aravind felt u were talking all this us via our afternoon satsang could relate to ur excitement while u narrate such stories

    Thank you so much for sharing this account narrating beautiful merging of river into sea

    Needless today was filled with tears of love , gratitude and awe for the brother's spirit it if love ,patience and surrender

    And thank you swami for polishing and hiding us these diamonds as ur students

    Loving Sairams

  8. No words brother.. just in tears... I had seen the video earlier but was unaware of the story behind that... really moving... Hats off to Sai Krishna for his determination and steadfastness... Thank you brother Aravind for bringing up this wonderful experience..

  9. Sairam Aravind. Thank you so much for this post.

  10. Supersai beta...may Swami always stay in ur heart


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