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.  

However, there are two points to be remembered here.

  1. ‘Appearing good’ should not be confused with ‘pleasing everyone’. ‘Appearing good’ is about having the tact and ability to properly communicate one’s intent through one’s actions. When this communication is perfect, one wins even the enemy’s appreciation (though it might be given grudgingly)!  ‘Pleasing everyone’, on the other hand, might involve even false communication of one’s intent in order to look good. When such communication happens, one loses even a friend’s appreciation (though it might not be directly visible)!
  2. ‘Appearing good’ comes into question only after ‘being good’. Without ‘being good’, appearing to be good is hypocrisy and the devil’s game. Wherever the term ‘appear good’ comes, the author has assumed that one is doing so after ‘being good’.

Appearing good becomes important because we live in a society and what we do and others do influence the other. When we live in a society, it is important that we do not become overly individualistic, forgetting our responsibilities towards society which we need for our very existence. In His discourse on the occasion of Deepavali in 2002, Bhagawan Baba says,
“Man is not a vyashti jivi (individual being) at all. He is samashti jivi (societal being).”

Isn't that the reason why Swami advised a naked saint (Digambara Swami), who was falsely parading his nakedness as a sign of greatness, to wrap a towel around himself? In the early 1940s, the teenager Sathya Sai told him,
"If you have cut off relationship with Society, as your nakedness indicates you have, then why do you not go to a cave in a forest away from human society? Why are you afraid? On the other hand, if you have a craving for disciples, for name and the food available in cities and towns, why do you allow yourself to be mistaken for a man with no attachment?”

As long as man lives in society, how society sees him is important. In other words, as long as one is ‘dependent’ on society, one needs to appear good. If one has to be independent of society, one needs to be a true Sanyasi or a Yogi. Then alone is one beyond the praise and blame of society. Till that happens, one has to appear good. Swami makes it very clear in the opening verse of that same discourse:

Asthiram Jivanam Loke.
Asthiram Yavvanam Dhanam.
Asthiram Dhara Putradi.
Satyam Kirti Dwayam Sthiram.

Life in the world is impermanent.
Youth and wealth are impermanent.
Wife and children are impermanent.
Only the two - Truth and Reputation are permanent.

Truth is determined by our ‘being’. Reputation is determined by our ‘appearing’. In my humble opinion, through this verse, Swami tells us that both ‘being good’ and ‘appearing good’ are important and permanent for one is Truth and the other is Reputation.

With that, I conclude my thoughts and return to the story; the 24th of December.

Far yet near... yet far

I was definitely seated at a distance from Him. However, I was in for a pleasant surprise. Whenever I zoomed in through the lens and saw Him, I could clearly see that He was intently looking at me! Wow! Was that a relief! He was serious in His demeanour but that didn't bother me. My Lord, my Swami was looking at me and I was so relieved. In my heart I felt that the end of my turmoil was close. Emboldened by this, I began to walk around to different places in the hall to take photographs. The result was wonderful - some never-before-taken angles of the Christmas eve programme!

"God is watching us... from a distance always!"
I also decided that I would sit with my camera in the front lines for Christmas. The morning of 25th December was beautiful and the carols sung by the students of the University transported all of us to some surreal plane. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The enjoyment was more because of the feeling that things would get fine between me and Swami.

In the evening, the central block in the Sai Kulwant hall was divided into two halves by a red carpet. While the gents’ half was filled with men from Russian-speaking countries, the ladies’ side half had been left empty. (Obviously this was because Swami would not want gents and ladies sitting close together. Also, Christmas each year is allotted to a certain region. This year was the chance of the Russian speaking countries.)

So focussed was I on photography that I went and sat on the carpet itself. My thinking was that this was the exact centre and I could get the best possible angles to take pictures of Swami. What I did not realize was I had gone one row beyond the end of the gents! Though I was a good 5 meters away from the ladies, I was the closest to them from the gents’ side.

That was the first thing Swami observed when He came on stage!

Divine Love is beyond comprehension

Swami seemed to have a look of shock on His face as He looked at me intently. I was blissfully unaware of the mistake I had done yet again. I was simply basking under His glance. With His finger He beckoned me to get up. I was thrilled for a moment. Before I could go to Him, He pointed towards the gents’ side of the hall and told me to go and sit there. That was when it struck me! Oh god! Had I restarted my bad fate?

I walked those few meters, looking at Swami. He too was continuously looking at me, tracking my every movement. When I reached near the Vedam group, He told me to sit there. I had a ‘castor-oil’ face as Swami calls it (the face one will make when one is forced to drink castor oil). But when I looked up at Swami, He flashed a lovely smile to me, as if saying that He was happy. I quickly closed my eyes, prayed and repented. I had promised Him that I would not do the mistake again but had done it almost immediately after the ‘treatment’ had ended!

I moved to this place from my original space on the carpet, next to the bespectacled gentleman!
What happened after that was memorable.

There were a couple of speeches followed by Bhagawan’s divine discourse. After the discourse, Swami began to interact with the Russians. He called one of them and asking what He was working as, created a ring for him. He also spoke to a few more of them. Then He asked the boys to sing a bhajan with Alaap. He offered the Russian-speaking devotees too with the opportunity to sing for Him. They did not understand what Swami was saying. After Swami had repeated Himself a couple of times, I rushed to them and conveyed Swami’s offer. Immediately, one of them started to sing Manasa Bhajore Guru Charanam.

After that bhajan, they all asked Swami whether they could have a group picture. Swami agreed and I moved near the ramp to clear the Aarthi cup which now had huge flames in it. Swami smilingly told them that He would grant them photos the next morning as the lighting would be good! Once again, I conveyed it to them. When I looked at Swami, He seemed to be questioning me as to what they had told in response. I moved up the steps and kneeling before Him said, "Swami repu podduna vaalu ikkade kuchovala ani adugutunnaru." (Swami, they are asking if they should sit here tomorrow morning.)

Swami told that they should sit in the front and that He would come in the morning to grant them pictures. He looked at me and told me to go and tell them that. I went and explained as animatedly as possible because they were not understanding English. After a minute of my efforts, I saw that their face lit up and they nodded vigorously looking at Swami. Swami blessed them and retired for the day. 

Even as the day came to a close, I received a text message. It was from Harish, the student who had been blessed with the opportunity to assist Swami during darshan. He said,

“Hats off for your guts bro... But I am very very happy for you.”

I replied,

“Thank you. But it was not guts - just sheer ignorance and foolhardiness.”
An attempt to comprehend Divine love

After that day, Swami showered me with many chances. In fact, on the 30th of December, He called me specially and gave me chocolates in full public view. It was as if He was doing damage-control for me! Everyone felt that I must be a real gem of a person to deserve His love like that! I know myself and I also know that it is only His love that makes me whatever I seem to be. He says,
“If you need me, you deserve me.”
That is possibly the only qualification I have when it comes to my deservedness - needing Him!

It is not possible to comprehend the Master’s love. Still, when I look back, this is what I feel.
Swami made me apologise multiple times before responding because He definitely knew that my promise to never ‘make that mistake’ is not true! It is not true because I do not have 100% control over my mind. Only someone who has 100% control over the mind can make such promises to Swami. But the Lord, in His love, made me pay in advance (with multiple faxes and letters) for the mistake I would make again. In that manner, He saved me from a second ‘cold treatment’ phase. Not only that, He also resurrected my ‘reputation’ by publicly interacting with me.

Parting thoughts

I know for sure that I would not have answered all the different questions that would have possibly arisen in the reader's mind while going through the 3 parts of experience. That was not my attempt at all. I wanted to share another slice of life where Swami’s love, as always, came to the rescue. Today, when I look back at this episode, I feel overwhelmed. I feel so touched at His love and caring. It is experiences such as these that convince me, no matter what, Swami is always there to take care of me. He has never let me down; I know He never will.


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  1. inspirational.

    1. Sairam Aravind brother... no words to express what I feel... my eyes are filled with tears.... thank you for this post! Sai bless you... Jai Sai Ram

  2. Sairam Aravind. Excellent, enjoyed reading every word, thanks a lot for sharing. Best wishes and love.
    Madhusudanvithal Nori

  3. Thanks a lot brother for sharing!
    Swamy rejuvenated in me

    1. Glad. It rejuvenated me too - reliving and writing it.

  4. Such an insightful series brother. I particularly liked your pointers differentiating appearing good and pleasing others.
    And like every other experience that you narrate, this one also fills the reader with love for Swami. Keep writing!

  5. Thanks a lot for sharing. Sai Ram

  6. Sairam.... Thanks a lot for sharing this beautiful experience

  7. Sai Ram Brother Aravind. Thank you so much for sharing this story. I have learned a lot from it. I knew of the importance of being good, but wasn't aware that there was also equal importance of appearing good along with the being. I also appreciate the lesson that shows that we might continue to make mistakes but we should not worry so much as we should pray to Swami for His help & guidance that He will show us the correct way & make us understand & so that we keep trying to improve ourselves.

    Whenever I sing that song, "God is watching us...from a distance," I always change it to "God is watching us...from within us!" :)

    In Sai Love, Kerry-Canada

    1. Sairam sis Kerry,

      That's a beautiful and true modification of the song. Till we realize that Truth, it would do us good to remember that though we may think that God is not there, He is always watching - maybe from a distance. :)

      And perfecto about prayer... Prayer is our greatest strength and His greatest weakness.

  8. I never cared for society. I thought I knew myself, my parents and my Lord knew me. Today I realised the relevance of living as a social animal, as Swami says.

    1. Thank you. May we keep growing in our understanding of and love for Swami...

  9. Sairam Brother. Very well articulated.

  10. Sai Ram !

    I agree with all the readers here. Thanks a lot for sharing it so beautifully !Your story writing “is excellent.

    Through this write ups, you have allowed yourself to peal the layers of your Ego. Congratulations! I felt it was just perfect timing for you to write with a lesson for me too! Yes, it is true as someone wrote “ we should not worry so much as we should pray to Swami for His help & guidance that He will show us the correct way & make us understand & so that we keep trying to improve ourselves. “ I like to quote you, “Truth is determined by our ‘being’. Reputation is determined by our ‘appearing’.


  11. Lovely read Barru...Swami so lovingly like a grandmother wanted to correct you...but didn't want you to be hurt...

  12. Insightful! His tests are difficult to pass, but pleasant gifts of His grace! Lov&regards.


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