Wednesday, 15 June 2016

A miracle of patience - Harish's story with Sri Sathya Sai

The beautiful days of darshan in the Sai Ram shed, under the tree in Brindavan. 
A short and sweet story of a wedding

It was the summer of 1991. A group of volunteers dressed in their best whites waited in eager anticipation outside Trayee Brindavan, the beautiful lotus-shaped edifice in yellow and pink, which served as the residence of Bhagawan Baba whenever He visited His Brindavan ashram in the garden city of Bangalore. The volunteers had completed their week of service at the ashram for which their ‘Swami’ (the respectful and endearing manner in which Baba is addressed) had promised to bless them with padanamaskar (the chance to offer prostrations at the feet).

Swami returned from the Sai Ram Shed, a large canopy around a huge tree, after granting darshan and sitting through the bhajan session. He headed straight towards the seated volunteers and began to bless them. One of them got up on his knees and prayed,
“Swami, my daughter has reached marriageable age. You must find a groom for her...”
Swami smiled and accepted his prayer but told him to wait before moving on. As He neared the end of the line, one other volunteer got up on his knees and prayed,
“Swami, my son has reached marriageable age. You must find a bride for him...”
“Very happy”, said Swami and turned around. He beckoned to the devotee who had prayed for a groom. The alliance was finalised instantly in the Divine presence and both devotees were left with happy faces.

“Once Swami gives a word, He always keeps it. I never thought it would happen so fast though”, the groom’s father remarked to D.R.Harish, his son who had recently turned twenty seven. Harish was happy that his bride had been chosen by Swami. Ever since he had completed his BSc in Swami’s college at Brindavan in 1986, he had wanted to stay with and serve Swami. Thus, he followed the footsteps of his father who was a member of the Seva Dal, the volunteer force initiated by Bhagawan Baba. He considered it a great blessing to obtain Trayee duty - service within the compound wall of His Lord’s Residence.

With Swami’s blessings, the wedding was held on 2nd October, 1991. It was a happy ending to the short story of Harish’s betrothal. It was also the beginning of another story - one that would demonstrate comprehensively the power in the Lord’s word and Harish’s faith in the same.

The beginning of an epic

Early in 1992, after his wife underwent a regular medical check up, Harish was called aside by Dr. Savitriamma of the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, Whitefield.
“It is very surprising that your wife has a very atrophied uterus. It has shrunk so much that it is even theoretically not possible for you to have a child. I am telling you because I want you to break it as gently as possible to her. Such things will break any woman’s heart...”

Harish was in a daze. He did not know how he would convey this to his wife. He shared it with his parents who took it in the right spirit.
“Swami has chosen the girl for you. Swami knows everything. He will take care.”
That faith mirrored his own and so, Harish decided not to reveal this to his wife at all!

It was not long before his in-laws began to talk about a grandchild and his wife, about a child. The couple decided to have a child but Harish still did not break the news. Years passed in this manner and naturally, the couple did not get any children. That was when Harish’s wife, on the insistence of her parents, accompanied them to a fertility clinic. It was sometime in 1998 that they got to know about the uterus that had shrunk further.

“Why didn’t you tell us about this?”, they questioned Harish.
“How would it help anyway?”
“Did you tell Swami about this?”
“Why? You get so many opportunities in Trayee Brindavan almost on a daily basis...”
“So? Swami does not need to be told. He knows everything.”
“Arey! He knows you say... But what will you lose to tell Him once...”
“Ok. Let me see if Swami gives an opportunity.”

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

By giving we receive - Sai teaches me the generosity paradox

The Generosity Paradox

It is by chance that I came to know of the existence of the Generosity Paradox. By definition, a paradox is a statement that is self contradictory because it contains within itself, two parts which are both true and yet, cannot otherwise be true at the same time. The Generosity Paradox states that the more we give, the more we will receive. By spending ourselves for others’ well-being, we enhance our own well-being. In other words, this means that by holding on possessively to what we currently have, we lose out on better things that we could have gained.

Both are true... Yet both are false - A Paradox!
It is easy to understand why this is called a paradox. Logic states that when we give we lose what we are parting with. On the other hand, by holding on we continue to possess what is valuable for us. That is the cold logic of a zero sum game - when some one gains, the other has to lose. Logic does not allow for a win-win situation because the material universe is finite. How then does generosity/kindness/goodness work?

It is interesting to note that the answer is simple and it has sound logic backing it. I discovered this answer for myself by travelling through the lanes and by-lanes of my memories that have been neatly recorded in several personal diaries. Needless to say it involves an experience with my Master and best friend, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

The ‘handkerchief chance’

During the late 90’s and early years of the new millennium, Swami used to bless the students with one special kind of chance - the handkerchief chance. Unlike the years before and after, 1997-2001 saw Swami walk alone during darshan without anyone following Him. He would collect and carry all the letters which devotees offered on His own. Thus, when He materialized vibhuti (holy ash) for any devotee, any student (of the Sri Sathya Sai school or college) in possession of a handkerchief could run up to Him and offer the same for Him to wipe His hands on. Naturally, the student who was seated closest to where the materialization happened was in the best position to avail this ‘handkerchief chance’! I was a regular to leap at this chance and often carried two handkerchiefs daily to mandir. In fact, my first, memorable interaction with Him was also through this kerchief chance.

Scanning through the pages of my diary, I understand that the 21st of December, 1998 was special for me because I got this handkerchief chance with Swami. What I realize today is that it was also a chance for me to experience the generosity paradox firsthand.

As always, I reached the mandir and scoured the devotees’ sitting areas for whom I felt might get vibhuti from Swami. This was like picking a ticket for a lottery because several other students with handkerchiefs in their pockets too would be on a lookout for probable places where they could avail the ‘handkerchief chance’! I finally settled in front someone who seemed lost in meditation. I felt that Vibhuti might be gifted to him as a fruit of his sadhana. Isn’t it amazing how we are constantly evaluating and judging people!
Soon, the music filled the air and the beautiful form in orange came floating into the hall. It took about fifteen minutes for Swami to come near where I was seated. He paused for a while and looked at me. Then, moving over to the opposite side, he crossed my meditating man. A couple of feet ahead, He paused again and spoke to someone. The way He took a step behind and held out His right palm, I knew that He was about to materialize something - vibhuti mostly. I tensed my muscles, ready to sprint on confirmation of the vibhuti. The next second, I was off.

A 'handkerchief chance' that was captured by a camera. The camera was a cheap one but it
captured an invaluable memory.
Swami distributed the vibhuti He had just created to several people seated there. After that He turned to me, took the handkerchief, wiped His hand thoroughly and walked on throwing the kerchief back at me. I put the kerchief into my pocket and, from my other pocket, pulled out small sheets of paper. I distributed these to the blessed ones to safely store their gifts of grace in. That was when one of the devotees, a westerner, asked me for one more sheet of paper. I was surprised but I gave it to him nevertheless. He shook his head to say no and again asked me for something, pointing to my other pocket. I realized that he was asking me for the handkerchief! I just smiled at him and ran back to my place.