Monday, 6 July 2015

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

The beginnings of a divine romance

The summer vacation had just been declared for all the students of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning in 2005. Unlike any other place on earth where such a declaration is met with great cheering, Prasanthi Nilayam seemed to be witnessing an atmosphere of mixed emotions. Well, that was the case at least for a few students like S.V.B.S.Sai Krishna.

On one hand, the summer vacation promised a lot - a relief from the rigorous rigmarole of reading writing and arithmetic, a break from books and a distraction from discipline - that anyone would look forward to enjoy once in a while. Thus, it was no surprise that more than three fourths of the hostel had been emptied of the students who resided there. On the other hand, the summer vacation meant a physical separation from Swami (as the devotees endearingly call Bhagawan Baba). This was unthinkable for some of the students and, again, it was no surprise that the remaining quarter of the hostel had ‘sacrificed’ their vacation to be with Swami. (The single-quotation mark on the word ‘sacrifice’ is because of the prevailing myth that one has to sacrifice something to get God!) Sai Krishna was one amongst that quarter in the hostel.

Two weeks into the vacation, news arrived which further divided the hostel into four more quarters. This was the announcement that Swami would be leaving for Kodaikanal on the 19th of April. It was a known fact that He would definitely pick some students to accompany Him for nearly a month’s stay at the hill station. Who would be on ‘The List’ which would dynamically vary every day? Sai Krishna, like all the other students who had stayed back for the vacation, wanted to be a part of that list. He knew that if he didn’t manage that, he would have to physically miss his Swami for at least a month. He did not want to ‘suffer’ that fate.

The 17th of April saw Sai Krishna achieve boundless joy as he was informed by a teacher that his name figured on the List! It was a dream come true for him and he immediately called his parents to inform them of his great good fortune. Thus, on the 19th of April, Sai Krishna also took to the skies along with his Swami, headed southwards towards the state of Tamil Nadu. 

The bhajan-singing duo with Swami in Kodaikanal. To Swami's left is Sai Krishna and to His right is Om Prasad. 
There is an advantage of being a bhajan-singer in Swami’s entourage. It is like being a part of a select group within a select group. Sai Krishna was a singer and he got many opportunities to sing bhajans and songs in Swami’s presence. That Kodai trip in 2005 turned out to be a turning point in Sai Krishna’s bhajan-singing ‘career’ and relationship with Swami. He realized that there was nothing about him that Swami does not know and yet He loved him without any bias. This could not be anything short of pure, selfless, divine love! Swami gave him so many opportunities to sing. In fact, teaming up with Om Prasad, Sai Krishna became part of what could then have been considered as “Swami’s favourite pair”. Among the many songs they sang, Swami seemed to have a particular liking for the ‘Ramakatha’, the story of Lord Rama in song form. There is the Telugu version of Ramakatha as sung by the twin sons of Rama, Lava and Kusa. Om Prasad and Sai Krishna seemed to have become the twin sons for Sai Rama!

May 7th saw the Kodai trip conclude but it was just the beginning of the divine love-shower that Sai Krishna was about the receive from the Avatar of the age.

In the spotlight...  

Love is possibly the least understood, most misunderstood and possibly most overused of all terms. It is often confused with infatuation, attachment, lust, and liking. Let us ask ourselves of things/people we love. Ten years later, when we ask the same question of ourselves, will the answers remain same? To understand that, let us look back at things and people we felt we were in love with ten years ago. Today, do those things or people hold the same grasp over our hearts? This is the reason for cases of broken hearts,  unrequited love and pain. When the difference between infatuation/attachment and love becomes clear, we understand better what we should seek in life. We also come to know that it can only be sought from the Divine. Why this sudden emphasis on what love is? Sai Krishna’s story will explain this as it unfolds. 

Having experienced Divine Love in Kodaikanal, Sai Krishna decided that he wanted nothing else as desperately as he wanted to bask in the sunshine of Swami’s Love and Grace. On His part, Swami also continued to shower Sai Krishna with many opportunities. The biggest among them came two months after the return from Kodaikanal. On the 11th of July 2005, Swami made a surprise visit to the Institute auditorium. All the students and teachers flocked to the auditorium to enjoy this unexpected bounty. Swami seemed to be searching for someone. When He saw Sai Krishna, He beckoned to him.

“Sing the Ramakatha”, He commanded.
It had been a ‘normal’ day of classes so far and Sai Krishna was not ready. He had been blessed with the opportunity to sing for Swami in the mandir just the previous day. So, he did not expect to be singing again so soon!  He also did not have the lyrics sheet of the Ramakatha with him. The Ramakatha is fairly complicated and consists of five different songs. Sai Krishna did not know the lyrics by heart so far.
“Swami, my book is in the hostel. Can I please go and fetch that?”
“Where is your brother?”
Swami was obviously asking about Om Prasad.
“Swami, he is not feeling well. So he is resting in the hostel.”
“Okay. Go, get the book and return soon.”

Swami had arrived to the auditorium just to see the two singers sing the Ramakatha. All the other students enjoyed the
privilege of proximity to Swami as the singing went on on-stage. 
With God, one has to be ready all the time. It is like dancing on a huge stage for a movie.

Each individual dancer may feel that he/she is too insignificant to win the choreographer’s (and so, the cameraman’s) focus during the dance. But the choreographer is always seeing the bigger picture and focuses on the appropriate dancer at the perfect time. But what is that ‘perfect time’ the dancer might not know. Thus, the best thing a dancer can possibly do is continue dancing at his/her best all the while because one never knows when the spotlight will shift to oneself! Wouldn’t it be embarrassing to be caught unawares and ‘not dancing’ when the spotlight actually fell?

The ‘spotlight’ had landed on Sai Krishna and he had been caught in a semi-dancing state. His ‘dancing-partner’ was nowhere ‘onstage’! He hoped that the choreographer would not get upset and shift the ‘focus’ away from him.

It was the sprint of his life for Sai Krishna! As he ran, everything seemed like a blur for Sai Krishna because his Lord was waiting for him. He picked up the book and though he was panting, he began the return sprint. During the ‘blur’ of the return sprint, one figure came clearly in focus - Om Prasad. He was also heading towards the auditorium. When it comes to seeing God, all sickness takes a back seat and even a patient becomes impatient for darshan!

“Om P... Om P...” he screamed, catching the attention of his singing partner, “come fast... Swami wants us to sing the Ramakatha.”
It was a dual sprint now and Om Prasad’s fresher legs allowed him to reach first in Swami’s presence. Swami had been waiting patiently for almost ten minutes now. As He noticed the boys, He told them to catch their breaths, relax and then sing. To Sai Krishna’s (and Om Prasad’s) great relief, the ‘Choreographer’ had decided to wait for them to dance well and continued to focus on them!

They quickly regained their breaths, wiped away their sweat and, a few minutes later, sang the Ramakatha extempore in Swami’s divine presence in a nearly-filled auditorium. This was a great blessing. When singers (or other artistes) practice and wait for months or years to get the opportunity to perform in Swami’s presence, the duo had got the opportunity for an extemporaneous act!

From that moment on, Sai Krishna decided to never neglect the ‘dance’. His focus would always be on the Choreographer who would definitely shower His ‘focus’ on him at the perfect time. Somehow, the perfect time seemed to have arrived for Sai Krishna.

Guru Poornima finds true meaning

That surprise visit to the auditorium was only the beginning of many more visits. In fact, Swami became a daily visitor to the auditorium and He would come there only to listen to the rendering of the Ramakatha! Sai Krishna’s daily schedule delightfully changed with the entire focus on Swami alone. He would get up every morning and get ready in a hurry. He would put on his best dress and prepare himself to meet his Lord. He would be in the auditorium along with Om Prasad before 8 AM and rehearse the Ramakatha. Swami would invariably arrive as they finished one rehearsal and then sit for another rehearsal!

Swami told the boys that He wanted them to perform in public. He wanted the Ramakatha to be sung live in front of an audience. But He did not tell them when and where. That didn’t bother Sai Krishna in the least. If Swami would visit them for rehearsals daily, it was best that the programme be held after several years! What greater blessing could one ask for than having the Lord’s focus on oneself for an hour each day? In order to be worthy of that focus, Sai Krishna began to focus on Swami for the entire day. Everything that he thought, spoke or did was with a focus on Swami.

Ten days passed like this. The music programme evolved step by step. After the songs had been selected, there was a selection of the right kind of instruments to be in the orchestra, the seating arrangements, the order of songs and so on it went. Swami even advised the singers to take care of their health, not eat too much spicy food, and also avoid ice-creams and cold drinks. It was a terrific experience to see  the Avatar's management technique at work. A slight nudge here, just a teeny suggestion there, but mostly by His presence and encouragement, Swami the quintessential manager, was silently bringing the programme to life. His enthusiasm was contagious and soon the whole Institute and even the devotees were engrossed in Swami's "latest" project.

Swami was involved even in deciding the dress that the boys would wear while singing the Ramakatha. He wanted them
to look live Lava and Kusa, the sons of Rama Himself! What better way of telling them that they are His children?
(Sai Krishna on the right and Om Prasad on the left as you view the image.)
“I want you to sing the Ramakatha for Guru Poornima”, Swami told Sai Krishna.
Guru Poornima was on the 21st of July and the duo were thrilled at this privilege and grace being showered on them. Even then, they could not imagine what Swami did. On the Guru Poornima afternoon, Swami arrived early for darshan. By 2:30pm, Swami had arrived to the bhajan hall where Sai Krishna and Om Prasad were getting ready for the performance. Swami had wanted the boys to literally look like the sons of Rama - Lava and Kusa - while singing the Ramakatha. He personally supervised the makeup of the two singers paying attention to the minutest detail. He talked with all the instrumentalists and accompanying artistes too (all of them from the Prasanthi Bhajan group). He also cracked a few jokes and relieved their tension. Then, He spoke to them about the glory of Rama, putting them in a contemplative frame of mind so they could sing from the bottom of their hearts.

Needless to say, the concert was a big success in every sense. The audience were thrilled by the rendering. Swami seemed very touched and happy. Some of those who were sitting up close and watching Swami that day, had tears of divine joy, love and gratitude in their eyes. For Sai Krishna, it had truly been a “Guru Poornima” day. ‘Poornima’ means fullness or completeness. The 21st of July 2005 saw him receive the blessings and love of his Guru in all completeness. It was beyond his wildest dreams to get such a shower of love and grace.

Sai Krishna and Om Prasad offer their salutations before the performance on Guru Poornima 2005. 
(You can get a flavour of that day by listening to these four songs in Telugu which Sai Krishna and Om Prasad sang on the Guru Poornima Day of 2005. The files are offered to you courtesy the Radiosai audio search page:

Just click on the link and the file will download automatically. You could store the songs and listen to them repeatedly. It takes about 20 minutes for all the songs to play out.)

With great love comes...

Sai Krishna was on a high. He felt that he wanted nothing else in life other than being with Swami. What he did not know that the Ramakatha he had rendered several times over in the Divine Presence would unfold in his own life also. Among the several things that the Ramayana teaches, the quality of equanimity stands out. Lord Rama, on the verge of becoming the overlord of the great kingdom of Ayodhya is banished overnight into the forests. This sudden turn of events shatters and demoralizes the entire kingdom - everyone except Rama himself! Rama had not exhibited the slightest excitement when He was going to be crowned. He didn’t have the slightest sorrow or disappointment when the kingdom was snatched away and an exile gifted instead.

Sai Krishna was sure that Swami had crowned him with His love and grace. He didn’t know that all that could get snatched away in a single moment. When that happened, would Krishna be as stable and equanimous as Rama? That experience culminated in the most magical moment of Sai Krishna’s life so far. It is something that Sai Krishna cherishes today and writes in his own words,

“I thank Swami for giving the opportunity to share this precious moment that He gifted with unfathomable love. Every time a breeze blows by in the scorching sun, I remember this moment. Every time I shiver with cold, and a blanket of warmth is spread over me, I remember this moment. I remember this moment with every breath I take. For me, this moment states the purpose of my life and this moment is and will be the guiding light throughout.”

But for that you will have to visit the second part of this story which is at the link below:

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

For all readers:

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  1. Cannot forget that Guru Poornima day, when the entire audience was lost in the blissful rendition of Rama Katha. Thanks for taking us down the memory lane.

  2. So far the journey has been great... but the suspense looks like it is going to be a roller coaster ride... will be reading the next part tomorrow... Jai Sai Ram...

  3. Awesome experiences! Every journey with Swami is unique and we are so fortunate to be aware of Swami as the Avatar. Thank you Swami for this opportunity to enjoy your darshan again an again. Excellent work Arvind....may Swami continue to guide you as His instrument. Jai Sai Ram 🙏

    1. Thank you! That is a beautiful wish and prayer you have made for me. Sairam.


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