Monday, 18 December 2017

Jnana and Dhyana also need Bhakti - Ram Mohan's life experience_Part 3

The magazine of God, for God, with God

It was almost instantly that Ram Mohan decided to make everything he did as an expression of his love to Swami. In 1984, he encouraged the students to produce a hostel magazine as an offering to Bhagawan on His Birthday on 23rd November. A number of hand-written articles, hand-drawn sketches and original poems landed up in his room in the weeks leading to the birthday. With the permission of the Controller of Examinations, Prof. Nanjundiah, Ram Mohan got multiple copies made from the University cyclostyle machine. Then, getting all the pages bound, Ram Mohan offered the magazine to Swami for His birthday.

Swami placed the bulky book on His lap and leafed through all its contents. He was visibly happy and He blessed the effort. From then on, there was no looking back for Ram Mohan. He ensured that a copy of the magazine which was released for every major festival - Guru Poornima, Krishna Janmashtami, Dusshera, Christmas etc. - made its way to Bhagawan. After that, a copy of the magazine was also delivered to each and every room in the hostel for the students to read. Swami would go through the magazine and send His feedback on different articles, poems, sketches and paintings. Even when Swami had suffered a fall and a fracture, He went through the magazine, sending feedback via the editor of the Sanathana Sarathi, Sri V.K.Narasimhan. Swami conveyed to Ram Mohan,
“Why has the boy drawn Garuda’s nose so long? Tell him to shorten it...”

Ram Mohan offering the initial version of the hostel magazine, Sai Chandana, to his Swami in the Mandir portico. 
Years later, in 1989, Swami Himself christened the magazine as ‘Chandana’. The next issue onwards, the magazine carried the name ‘Sai Chandana’ in bold letters on the front. Ram Mohan could not think of Chandana without the ‘Sai’ coming first! Thus, not only did Ram Mohan make the hostel magazine a vehicle for his devotion, he made it the carrier of all the students’ love too. In the later years, the magazine grew in size and significance and had multiple editors. Even then, when Swami referred to it, He always fondly remembered Ram Mohan. In fact, going through the 60th Birthday issue, Swami looked at Ram Mohan and told him,
“I know that you only have written all the articles in here.”
That thrilled the devoted heart.

{This is the concluding part of the 3-part story of Ram Mohan. To ensure you get the best of the story, read this part only after reading the first two parts at the links below:
1. How to get devotion and increase it? - Life experience of Ram Mohan Rao - Part 1
2. The easiest way to increase devotion to God - Life experience of Ram Mohan Rao - Part 2 }

Sai Chandana became a passion and obsession with Ram Mohan. He fervently worked for it with the feeling that this magazine of God should record the heartbeats of His students. The contributions were from students as young as 12 years of age right up till the research scholars in their mid twenties. Ram Mohan considered Sai Chandana as a legacy of the present to the future, a gift and treasure trove of Divine Love.

The lines of dedication from the first issue of the hostel magazine (that Swami named as Chandana) says it all.
When the revered Sri Gandikota Subrahmanya Sastry passed away, a list of names was taken to Swami to name his substitute on the board of reviewers of the Sri Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust alongside Prof. Anil Kumar, Sri Ramana Rao and Sri Prahlad. It was possibly as a reward for his purity, patience and perseverance that Swami selected Ram Mohan as a member of the book-review board.

When God waits for the devotee

This attitude of doing everything as an offering to Swami began to pervade Ram Mohan’s ‘translator-abilities’ too. In the 1990s, Swami brought Prof. Anil Kumar from the Brindavan campus of the SSSIHL to its Prasanthi Nilayam campus. That was when Ram Mohan’s opportunities as a translator declined drastically as Prof. Anil Kumar took over that divine task. However, that did not sadden Ram Mohan or dampen his enthusiasm for Swami’s voice and words. He would sit in his spot behind the Ganesha idol in the Mandir portico, recording Bhagawan’s discourse on tape, in his diary and his heart. Then, he would transcribe the entire discourse in his beautiful Telugu handwriting after which, he would add his comments and appreciation of the different points made by Swami in the discourse. Having done that, he would make copies of his work and send the originals to Swami in a sealed envelope!

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The easiest way to increase devotion to God - Life experience of Ram Mohan Rao - Part 2

"Test is the taste of the Lord"

The Lord always encourages the devotees’ test. But then, repeated testing is harmful for the devotee! If the mind is allowed to tug at the sapling of faith on a daily basis to check whether the root - God - is there, the sapling may never grow into a mighty tree. Swami had already faced the ‘Hyderabad test’. Now, he had been thrown the ‘Bangalore test’. His love is such that He would definitely respond. But this time, it would involve a ‘Madras test’ for the devotee.

The route to his destination in Odisha involved travelling via the city of Madras (Chennai today). In the Madras railway station, Ram Mohan discovered to his horror that he had lost his tickets! He did not have sufficient money to purchase the tickets afresh. Soon enough, the TC (ticket collector) came and evicted him from the train. Stranded and stuck, he was at his wits end. He closed his eyes and prayed to both the Babas he knew - Shirdi Sai and Sathya Sai. The train would be leaving soon and he wondered why had he got into such a predicament. But wait, hadn’t he himself prayed to Swami to demonstrate His divinity?

[If you are wondering when did Ram Mohan make such a prayer, it becomes evident that you missed reading the first part of this article. For better understanding and greater enjoyment, read ahead only after having read the first part which is at the link below:

God recognizes us irrespective of the 'costume' we put on outside. Are we able to recognize when God comes to us in
His many costumes? (Sri Ram Mohan Rao with Swami in Kodaikanal, 1987)
“Ram Mohan Rao... Who is Ram Mohan Rao?”
He turned around to see a couple of gentlemen walking towards him. One was tall, about six and a half feet, while the other was short, about five feet.
“I am Ram Mohan Rao...”
“Ah! There you are. Does this belong to you?”
It was his ticket!
“Thank you so much. You are lifesavers!”
“Words will not suffice sir... Give us our dakshina (an offering made usually to one’s Guru or God only)...”
Ram Mohan had only a few Rupees left on him. He gave them ten and they seemed happy with whatever he gave. Taking his ticket, he managed to board the train just before it’s scheduled departure. But still, making the 3-day journey with barely a few Rupees in pocket was a tough ask.

That was when a gentleman from Masulipatnam, who was sharing the same compartment offered to help. Handing over 30 Rupees (the amount that Ram Mohan said would suffice), the gentleman said,
“You can take this now. But please return the money to me. Here is my address.”
Ram Mohan thanked his godsent saviour and promised to send the money as soon as he was at his destination.

Monday, 4 December 2017

How to get devotion and increase it? - Life experience of Ram Mohan Rao - Part 1

A persistent Presence

The first time that Ram Mohan Rao heard the name of Sathya Sai Baba was in the coastal city of Vishakpatnam. The schoolboy was passing by a photo-framing shop when he chanced upon the image of a man in a saffron robe sporting a thick, curly mop of black hair.
“Who is that?”, he asked the shopkeeper in curiosity.
“That is Sai Baba... He is the living God”, answered the shopkeeper casually.
“God!” Ram Mohan’s jaw dropped down in disbelief. He paused for a moment to take a second look at the ‘Sai Baba’ and then returned home.

Sri Ram Mohan Rao with the love of his life, the meaning of his life and the goal of his life
- his God and Guru, Sri Sathya Sai.

After that day, however, there were at least a dozen occasions before he graduated with honours in English literature when he came across the name and form of Sathya Sai Baba. The most bizarre experience occurred when he left for the sleepy town of Jaleshwar in Odisha, in search of a job as a lecturer in English. When he met Mr. Chittaranjan Sahu, the Principal of the Deena Krishna College, for the interview, the first question almost took Ram Mohan’s breath away.
“Do you know Sathya Sai Baba?” the Principal asked.
“I have heard the name sir and have also seen pictures of him...”
“Have you been to Puttaparthi?”
“I haven’t even heard that name in my life...”
The Principal smiled and said,
“It is He that has prompted you to come here. I am certain of that because today is the 23rd of November - His birthday! You are appointed. Congratulations...”

Ram Mohan was in a daze. What he was hearing seemed so strange. It was as if Sathya Sai Baba was following him ever since he saw Him in that picture-framer’s shop!

During the one year he spent at the DK College in 1971, Ram Mohan learned many things about Baba from the Principal. Mr.Chittaranjan would speak very highly of the discipline and devotion that ‘Swami’ demanded from His students in the newly opened colleges at Bangalore, and Anantapur (The Puttaparthi college had not yet come into existence then). He would want the same kind of discipline at DK College as well.

In 1972, Ram Mohan Rao took up a job as a lecturer at the Science College in the large town of Chhatrapur, in the state of Odisha. Swami followed him there too in an almost shocking manner. Ram Mohan had a very jovial colleague, Prasanna Misra, in the college. He was a happy-go-lucky person whose easygoing nature bordered on the recklessly casual. He was deep into the smoking habit. Thus, though he was a pleasant conversationalist, nobody would want to visit his reeking room. However, Ram Mohan, who was the antithesis of Prasanna Misra, developed a liking for him. That is why they probably say - ‘opposites attract’.

One day in the winter of 1975, Ram Mohan was shocked to see Prasanna early in the morning in the staff room without a cigarette in his mouth for the first time ever!
“Didn’t you sleep at all last night Prasanna?” Ram Mohan could not accept the fact that he had woken up so early.
“I slept like a baby Ram Mohan”, he responded with a serene smile.
What had happened to his colleague? He seemed to exude some ethereal happiness and peace. The thought expressed itself directly.
“What happened to you man?”
“I saw God”, he answered simply.
“You?”, Ram Mohan stared at him in disbelief.
“Yes! Me... With these eyes of mine...” , Prasanna said, “Come home in the evening and I shall tell you everything about it.”

That evening, when Ram Mohan went to Prasanna’s room, he was pleasantly shocked to find it pervaded with the fragrant smoke from incense sticks instead of the usual tobacco smoke. Prasanna was dressed in a silk dhoti and he welcomed Ram Mohan to join him in the evening worship. The altar was filled with pictures of Sathya Sai. It was Swami again!

After the worship, Prasanna explained how he visited Puttaparthi for the golden jubilee Birthday Celebrations of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. What he experienced within was an insatiable thirst for God which was slaked only when Swami gave him two vibhuti packets. From that day, he lost all urge to even pick a cigarette. After narrating his incredible tale of transformation, Prasanna took a tiny pinch of vibhuti from the packet and giving it to Ram Mohan said,
“God has given this to me with His own hands. You eat it. It will surely do you good.”

Holding the pinch of ash gingerly in his palm, Ram Mohan returned to his room. As prescribed by his friend, he ate it and applied a bit to his forehead as Prasanna had done. Then, he went to sleep. The next morning, he made his way to the well in the backyard to draw water for his ablutions. His eyes fell on something shiny beside the well. He picked it up and it was a pair of cymbals! Not knowing what to do with it, he placed it in the room and promptly informed Prasanna about it.

“Ram Mohan, you will surely become a devotee of Swami”, said Prasanna, “because Swami wants you. He sent you these cymbals which are symbolic of Bhakti or devotion. These are His visiting cards.”