Monday, 22 February 2016

Being Good and Appearing Good, both are important_Part 3

That was my feeling towards Swami as I thought about the whole thing...
Not faxes but acceptance

The fax had been received but apparently, my apology had not been accepted. During the darshan, the ignoring continued. Swami refused to look towards me and I did not feel like making any extra efforts to draw His attention. The next day, in the morning, I went to the fax shop and sent another one. This was a longer apology and I pleaded with Swami that I would not be so foolish again (as though it was totally in my control)! The evening darshan turned out to be a repeat of the previous days as far as Swami breaking the ice with me was concerned.

That night, I thought that there was nothing more that could be done in terms of ‘apologising’ or ‘explaining’ via letters. I decided that my third fax to Swami would also be the final one. In it, I wrote that Swami knew everything. He was the resident of my heart and even if my own mind and hand made mistakes in putting out what my heart held, He would not misunderstand. I surrendered to Him saying that I was ready for whatever He wished and I would not be writing any more apology letters. Having sent that, my mind felt at ease for the first time. That is the magic of acceptance and surrender. When one is ready to embrace whatever God has planned, the mind rests and all tensions/stresses vanish. Things immediately seem to improve though Swami’s behaviour towards me did not change.

{This is the third part of this story which will make better sense if read after the first two parts. In case you have missed it, the first part is at the link below:

Then came the evening of the 24th of December. It was exactly one year to the day when Swami had accepted my offer to be my best friend! It had been an unforgettable occasion. Today, one year later, it was ironical that we were not even on terms of looking each other in the eye! There was a programme by the overseas devotees celebrating Christmas Eve. And here I was wiping away my tears on the 1st anniversary of best-friendship! I was seated far away from Swami. It was good in a way because nothing is more painful than sitting under His nose and being completely ignored by Him.

Sitting far away from Him on the 1st year anniversary of my "best-friendship" day!
Before going forward with the story, I must share a few thoughts here on being good and appearing good.

Heartfelt explanation

When the question of being good or appearing good comes up, most of us tend to lean towards being good, irrespective of how we appear to the world. The argument given is that it is definitely impossible to please everyone. Aesop has given us a famous fable in his inimitable style to impress this very message.  

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Being Good and Appearing Good, both are important_Part 2

That sinking feeling...

I began to walk towards no particular direction. Possibly because I had planned to go for that dinner, my feet automatically took me towards Round Building 5 where the others had gathered. I did not know what to do. I replayed the happenings during the evening darshan. I had thought that the elderly person offering the rose to Swami did not have the good luck to get a photo with Swami where the Lord was smiling and posing. I realized that I had been a culprit who had ruined that opportunity for the devotee! My heart was racing. My emotions were on high octane and the predominant ones were those of fear and sorrow.

I pulled out my phone and dialled Sai Prakash’s number. He was several years my senior and had gone through many ups and downs in life. He would surely be able to help in some way.
“Hey tell me...” his cheerful voice came over the handset.
I almost broke down telling him all that had happened. I vented continuously and the fear in my voice was palpable for him. I felt that I might be thrown out of Puttaparthi and that was my greatest fear.
“Barru, see the bright spot. Focus only on that...”
“CG! What bright spot do you see in this man? All I see is pitch darkness...”
“Swami cares for you enough to scold and correct you... That is His love - nothing else.”
“Frankly CG, I wouldn’t mind if Swami cared a little less about me. I am really scared and ... what will my parents think about me? I will never be able to forgive myself for having thrown away such an opportunity.”
“That’s not the way to take it. I assure you that this is an opportunity. Recognize it and put in efforts.”

{This is the second part of this story which will make better sense if read after the first part. In case you have missed it, the first part is at the link below:

The call did not give me much solace though I hoped that whatever CG had told me was true. I was reminded of how Mother Sita had been banished to the forest by Lord Rama because a washerman had passed some loose comment about her. It was not as if I was anywhere as ‘chaste’ or ‘pure’ as Mother Sita. Still, I shared the similarity with her that I had appeared to society as if I was in the wrong and my Lord seemed to have punished me for it.

God’s wrongdoings?

Time has this magical way of lending maturity and wisdom to the naivest of people. Over time, I have definitely understood that God is never vengeful. He knows the past, present and future and every decision He takes is for the best from all perspectives. But my perspective is limited. So, feeling that God is not a very loving being is because of my limitations and not His!

For instance, I remember this very thoughtful extrapolation that a Sai-brother had done to the Sita situation. He wrote to me:

Mother Sita was blessed with the opportunity to focus on a spiritual
life and the upbringing of her children alone!
“What would have happened if Rama had not abandoned (if i can use that word) Sita? A simple logic (from a worldly point of view or rather a common man's perspective with sanity) shows that this washerman's evil ideas could have taken a much larger proportion which could have created terrible repercussions. Imagine, if instead of this washerman, someone inside the Ayodhya palace had said this and Mother Sita had heard it. Imagine if after Luv and Kush's birth someone had  raised similar questions.

Rama indeed cared for Sita and loved her. More importantly, to uphold the respect of woman he "isolated" her from this evil society, and provided her an opportunity to prove herself. In fact, in Ramakatha Rasavahini Swami says that Rama asks Sita for a wish and she expresses her willingness to spend time in the pious Ashram environment hearing the glories of the Lord. Rama was indeed an ideal man who used this moment as the right opportunity to save both Sita and the people's minds. It’s like uprooting the weeds before weeds destroy the whole garden. Ideally Rama and Sita both could have left Ayodhya once they realized that people did not respect them. However it was Rama's commitment to Praja that made him stop.  Ramayana could not have had a better ending than Luv & Kush themselves proving the chastity of Mother sita and everybody in Ayodhya accepting that - we need to have pure thoughts while witnessing Divinity.”

I may or may not agree 100% with that extrapolation. But I totally subscribe to this brother’s concluding statement that ONLY PURITY CAN HELP VIEW DIVINITY. Thus, God never does wrong.

With that little detour, I continue back with my story where I was left with a sinking feeling in my stomach.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Being Good and Appearing Good, both are important_Part 1

Not being good; not appearing good - bad but honest, the reckless
Being good; not appearing good - good but vulnerable, the foolish
Being good; appearing good  - good and honest, the ideal
Not being good; appearing good - bad and evil, the devil
  • Wise Man’s saying

Well, the wise man there is me and I gained that wisdom based generally on several experiences in life and specifically on one unforgettable and painful experience with my Master and best friend, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. This incident spanning a couple of months began on a nice note but soon developed into proportions that I had never imagined. But as is the case always with Swami, the ‘messenger’ ceased to exist once the ‘message’ had been received. It took me several years to digest the experience and, even to this day, I cannot claim to have completely digested and understood it. But I surely have learned a very important lesson. I shall open my heart about the same now.

A memorable flight back home

The story begins on the 2nd of November 2009 as we returned with Swami to Puttaparthi after a memorable visit to Hadshi and Mumbai. Swami had blessed everyone with an opportunity to take a picture alongside Him during the chartered flight and I was the photographer there. Beside me was my colleague, Sai Prakash, with the video camera. As the session progressed, the crew members began to serve food and beverages to the passengers. The food cart blocked the aisle temporarily and it was just the two of us with Swami. We simply sat looking at each other for a while.

A beautiful moment with my Swami that I shall treasure forever - dated 2nd November, 2009. 
After a silent wait, I felt an irrepressible urge in me to speak to Him. I made a slight movement towards Him and as He looked kindly, so I felt encouraged to go ahead. I said,
“Swami, my parents had Your darshan; they were very happy.”
Swami asked, "When are they coming here?"
“Swami, after father's retirement in May, they will come and settle down here itself.”
Swami nodded saying, “Santosham (Very happy)”. I continued,
“One more thing, Swami. Mother keeps crying out ‘Swami’, ‘Swami’, ... Please grant her namaskar once when she comes to Puttaparthi. Once You speak to her, she will be so happy.”
He nodded in agreement. But then He responded with a question of His own,
"She keeps telling ‘Swami’, ‘Swami’... What about you?"
I was dumbstruck. I mumbled and fumbled a bit and said,
"Swami, You know what I feel. You are most important for me."

It was then that Swami said ever so softly,
"You are taking a girl and going on your bike."
Wow! Was I taken aback at this omniscience! I remembered that I had, a few weeks before, indeed taken a high-school girl to the Super Specialty hospital in Puttaparthi for ophthalmology treatment. This girl’s parents were family friends and I was doing them a favour by taking her for her treatment. I said,
"Swami that was... er...a sister."
He said,
"If it's sister, it's alright... But not sister... You made her sister.”
It was true. She was not my biological sister. I just nodded. I was not sure whether Swami was upset with me being with her or going on the bike with her. Then, I told Him,
"Swami if you say, I shall give up using the bike itself."

I had purchased the bike because it had become difficult to follow Swami with my camera on my bicycle when He made visits to the hospital, grounds etc. Even when I succeeded in keeping pace with Him, I would end up sweaty and panting for breath. I had tried to get the bike blessed by Swami, trying to show Him the keys. That had not happened so far. But now, I wanted to stress that for me He was the most important and that I would gladly give up bike riding itself if He had the slightest problem with it.

Monday, 1 February 2016

The Three Zeroes - a short story on God and Devotee

A sleepless night

Prasanna sat at the altar, tears streaming from his eyes. Though the ticking clock announced the time as 2:30 in the wee hours of the morning, he was wide awake. There was a gnawing emptiness in his heart that did not seem to go away irrespective of what he did. He looked at the golden framed picture that formed the centerpiece in his altar. It was a photograph of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba taken by his great grandfather, more than hundred years ago, in 1990.

It had been almost seventy years since Baba had given up the physical frame and Prasanna had come to know Him most intimately only through the stories told to him by his grandparents. His parents too had shared many of their own experiences of Baba’s omnipresence and omniscience with him. These were incidents that occurred after the Mahasamadhi - the giving up of the Physical - of Baba on 24th April 2011. And of course, Prasanna had also had his own share of miracles in his life which had convinced him of the divinity of this being in orange. But what he sought today was something beyond all that.

Swami looked vibrant and alive in the photograph. He had that all-knowing smile on His face and His eyes followed Prasanna wherever he moved in the room. They seemed to look deep into his own eyes, into the very core of his being.
“Swami, you know the innermost recesses of my heart. You know me better than I know myself. Then, why this cruelty? Won’t you come to me and put an end to these pangs of suffering?”

He burst into loud sobs after that. Prasanna was unable to bear it any longer.

A name that perfectly reflected his life?

“The baby shall be called Sathya Sai Prasanna to indicate that his Lord, Sri Sathya Sai, is and will be, happy with him always...”
Having pronounced that, the priest had instructed the father to write the full name in a plate of uncooked rice with a golden ring. The baby thus was christened Sathya Sai Prasanna and though his parents called him ‘little Sai’, he became ‘Prasanna’ for the rest of the world. Even from his birth, Prasanna’s life seemed to perfectly mirror what his name said.

He had been a child of extraordinary skills and talents. Early in life itself, he became a delight for his parents. Apart from being a brilliant student and having a natural flair for excelling in sports and games, Prasanna also was a music maestro and learned to play almost a dozen instruments with ease. Naturally, he was the crest jewel of the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School and, later, went on to become the unrivalled all-round champion of the Sri Sathya Sai University. Today, he was the CEO of Bharat Bhagya Vidhata, India’s largest company which specialized in all matters pertaining to the creation and sustenance of renewable energy. His yeoman contribution had won him dozens of awards including the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian award.

Yet, he was an epitome of humility and service. He was among the world’s leading philanthropists and had already pledged billions of Rupees (which had replaced the Dollar as the world’s reserve currency) for the causes of Educare and Medicare which were very close to his Swami’s heart. Such was his large-heartedness that he seemed to have no enemies at all. There had not been a single article in the media that portrayed him in a negative light. Nobody in his family tree was jealous of him as he never strutted about with his power, wealth or eminence. He had married his childhood friend with whom he shared a common first priority - Swami. He was a father to two healthy children - a boy and a girl - though he indirectly fathered more than ten thousand children through a network of orphanages all over the world.

In short, Prasanna was an example for what anyone would call as ‘the dream life of happiness’. But he was not happy!