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.

It was only when the money order that he sent to the given address returned THRICE with the message - ‘non existent address’ - that Ram Mohan realized that possibly the Masulipatnam gentleman was not ‘godsent’ but ‘God Himself’.  Looking back at the whole episode right from the point when he demanded in his letter to Swami to ‘demonstrate His divinity’, Ram Mohan was thrilled. The ‘coincidences’ of the ‘tall and short gentlemen’ when he prayed to both Babas, the seeking of Dakshina, the timely gift of money and his safe arrival home were all overwhelming.

The call

In the July of 1979, Ram Mohan received a postal envelope that thrilled his heart. It was a call-letter to appear for the selection of teachers for the Sri Sathya Sai Junior College at Puttaparthi! His daily routine of hugging his pillow at night, visualizing it as Swami’s feet and shedding tears of pining seemed to have borne fruit. The envelope had originally been addressed to Ram Mohan, the resident of the tin shed beside the Ganesha temple at the entrance of Prasanthi Nilayam. Some good soul had put in efforts to find out his whereabouts and had redirected the invaluable letter to his home! Ram Mohan felt indebted and grateful.

He once again made the now-familiar journey to Puttaparthi and, on the 4th of August, 1979, he found himself seated in one of the classrooms of the newly constructed Easwaramma School building (The building was inaugurated in 1975 though the school came into existence in 1972, the year of passing of Smt. Easwaramma, the chosen 'mother' of the Avatar.). He came to know that there was ten candidates in total who had applied for the post of the English teacher and he seemed like the least qualified because he was a second-class candidate (in terms of marks). Still, Ram Mohan kept the flame of hope steady in his heart and geared up for the impending interview.

The Easwaramma High School stood alone along the Vidyagiri road for quite some time, being one of the first-ever
educational buildings to be constructed in Puttaparthi.
As minutes ticked away, Ram Mohan felt weak and nervous. He wanted to reinforce himself by eating vibhuti - lots of it. For that, he needed some water. He walked up to the clerk who was seated there, Mohan Kumar, and asked for a glass of water.
“Shhhh sir! Don’t speak so loudly! Don’t you know Swami is there in the next room?”
That was news for him. He immediately lowered his voice to a whisper and went back to his seat. A few minutes later, Ram Mohan beheld a most beautiful sight. Swami came walking gracefully, holding up His robe ever so gently between His fingers so that the hem did not brush against the floor. He came straight to Ram Mohan and said,
“What happened? You look weak...”
Ram Mohan only blushed and smiled in response. His heart was throbbing with joy and excitement. Swami gently waved His palm and materialised Vibhuti! Imagine the irony when Swami called the same clerk and told him to fetch water for Ram Mohan! Ram Mohan was thrilled at this special gesture of love and omniscience. Swami then walked out of the room. A few minutes later, Ram Mohan was told to go into a classroom on the upper floor where he would have to give a practical demonstration of his teaching abilities. He followed the instruction and went up. Even as he entered the classroom, he was stunned into devotion and awe.

Right up front, in the first row, sat Swami!

The Teacher of Teachers sat like a sincere student, brimming with energy, enthusiasm and excitement. His large eyes seemed to be oozing love and radiating joy. His thick mop of hair was blacker than the blackboard.
“Please come in and start...”
It was Dr. Bhagawantham. Ram Mohan was woken out of his love-filled reverie and he noticed that the front benches were filled with two other distinguished personalities too -  Dr. Sudarshan and Mr. Narendra - whom he had missed seeing when he entered. But he could be forgiven. When God is present before you, where is the need to notice anyone else? In fact, everyone and everything seem to melt away into nothingness in that Presence.

The Presence in which everything else melts away into nothingness!
Ram Mohan walked up to the blackboard and began speaking. He lectured on the importance of the English language and how one should improve it. His lecture was reinforced by the years of his experience in taking special tuitions for the weakest students in his college. Ram Mohan had done that for years as a service and that Seva seemed to stand him in good stead in the presence of God. Fifteen minutes flew by and Ram Mohan was flattered by the one-pointed attention that he managed to procure from Swami. After that, he was led out of the class and the other candidates lined up for their interview. As instructed by the clerk, Ram Mohan returned to the shed in the mandir, waiting for the results.

Early in the evening, he made his way to the golden, sun-kissed sands of the Nilayam for Swami’s darshan. He procured a seat near the ‘Dashavataram Gate’ which depicted the ten different forms taken up by Lord Vishnu out of supreme compassion on his devotees. Ram Mohan waited for his Avatar to arrive. Minutes later, Swami walked out of the interview room for the darshan rounds. When He came near Ram Mohan, He smiled and said,
“You are selected...”
Blessing him with a touch on the head, Swami moved on.

There were fireworks of joy in Ram Mohan’s heart. He knew that he was possibly the weakest among the ten candidates academically but then, God does not call the qualified alone; He qualifies the called! He was sure that his ‘yearning sadhana’ every night had melted his Swami’s heart. Thus came the happy conclusion of one story but it was only the beginning of another sweet one - one that would fill Ram Mohan with the greatest fulfillment in life!

“I have a task for you”

Ram Mohan had to report within a fortnight at Prasanthi Nilayam as the newly appointed teacher. But he had important tasks to be completed before that. He had to resign from the college at Chattrapur. That was easily done. What was difficult was convincing the principal about the sanity of his decision.
“You must have lost your mind Ram Mohan”, he said, “to give up the UGC scale of remuneration that is soon going to be introduced. Instead, you are opting for the paltry salary of a village school teacher?”
“Sir, what I receive there is immeasurable in the worldly terms. I will be working in God’s mission...”
“What about your special team of students here? Will you desert them?”

The ‘special team’ that the Principal referred to was the group of the academically weakest students which Ram Mohan was specially coaching. Many members of that team had failed in English ten and even fifteen times! Some of them were the worst trouble-makers in town, often indulging in anti-social activities after dropping out of studies.
“They are in better care now sir”, he replied. “The Lord who is taking care of me will take care of them in a much better manner than I ever did or could.”

Having tendered his resignation, Ram Mohan landed in Puttaparthi on the 14th of August 1979, the day of Krishna Janmashtami. He was given accommodation in the 2nd floor of East Prasanthi building, right next to the space designated as a hostel for the students who weren’t day scholars (pupils who attend daily classes at a boarding school, but go home in the evenings). That was the building known as the ‘old hostel’ today (at the northern end of the East Prasanthi block). Swami blessed him with an advice that would serve as a guiding principle.
“The English language has a great future in this country and in the world. Teach it well to My children. Take extra pains for the weak students especially...”
In all energy and enthusiasm, Ram Mohan began his career as a teacher in Swami’s school (junior college then).

The Divine Teacher wanted His teacher to mould the students and train them especially well in English. Ram Mohan gladly
signed up for the task. 
He soon discovered that the students here were not much different from the ones he had taught so far. They shared all the positives and negatives of the students he had taught in Orissa (Odisha today). Many of the students in Swami’s educational institution then were raw and also hailed from rural backgrounds. The mighty Sri Sathya Sai Educare was in its infancy. In fact, within a few weeks of joining, Ram Mohan bared his heart to Dr. Ramakrishna, the son of Dr. Bhagawantham.
“These students do not seem to be any more disciplined or intelligent than the ones I have taught so far...”
“Hahahaha! Ram Mohan! That is why you have been called by Swami - to shape and mould them. In the process, you will also get shaped and moulded.”
That was a piece of wisdom which Ram Mohan would treasure. He realized that though these seemed like ordinary students, Swami called them as His property - His own. And that was a difference which was as big as big could get!

Within a month of enrolling, Ram Mohan had again assembled a ‘special team’ that would receive added attention from him every Sunday! On the Sunday mornings, Ram Mohan’s classroom was the only one that would be open as he put his heart and soul into teaching English to the boys. One day, as he was going on with his lessons, the half-closed door of the classroom slowly creaked open. Ram Mohan thought that it was possibly a latecomer and continued to teach. Imagine his surprise when Swami walked into the classroom!

“Sairam! Swami...”
“What is going on here?” Swami asked.
“Swami, as per your command, I am taking special classes to teach the students English...”
Swami seemed extremely pleased. So were all the students who were up on their feet now.
Dandaalu Swami (Salutations to you Swami)...” they chorused.
Swami raised His hand in blessing as they all rushed to touch His feet. Ram Mohan waited for his turn and then, rushed to grab those lovely feet, the succour of the entire Universe. Swami patted him lovingly on the head and headed out of the classroom. Ram Mohan knew that Swami had just crowned his efforts with success. As if to confirm his thoughts, Ram Mohan received news from Orissa that barring one or two students, his ‘special team’ in Odisha had made it across the turbulent sea called the examinations! He informed this to Swami also in great joy and received added blessings.

Slowly but surely, Ram Mohan realized that the task Swami had given him did not stop at teaching English and disciplining the students. It is said that the mother points out the father to the child and the father, in turn points out the teacher. The teacher is supposed to point out God for the child. Ram Mohan felt that his role was would be a combination of all - be a mother and father to the students in the hostel and lead them towards God! Thus, his daily schedule was packed to the hilt. Apart from teaching, he would tend to the sick boys, taking them to the hospital on his bicycle and also be available to solve any and all the problems that arose in the hostel which was lacking a warden for a few years.

The word of God is God

Bhagawan, on multiple occasions, has mentioned to different people that living in Prasanthi Nilayam, in the presence of the Divine brings ten times the benefits for the same efforts put in any other place or time. This is something significant that all devotees must remember and be vigilant about the thoughts, words and deeds in the Divine Presence. Do good and reap ten times the good effects. But if you do bad, be prepared to reap ten times the negative effects too! Therefore, Daiva Preeti (Love for God) and Paapa Bheeti (Fear of Sin) should automatically be the principles the devotee adheres to.

Ram Mohan had arrived to Prasanthi Nilayam as a Sadhaka (spiritual aspirant). He had deep interest in spirituality and in achieving the ultimate goal in life. This interest made him seek the ultimate not only for himself but also for all those he held dear - his family and students. He convinced his mother and sisters to let go of the world and come to serve at Swami’s feet. He ensured that his brothers applied and secured seats in Swami’s educational institutions. Swami recognised this and, in a family interview, had told the entire family,
“This Ram Mohan is interested in Adhyatmikam (spiritual)...”

That being his goal, Ram Mohan maintained a personal diary where he made elaborate entries about his experiences, insights and, most importantly, Swami’s discourses. His first ever desire in Bhagawan’s physical presence had been to hear His voice. Was it any surprise that he treasured every word from Bhagawan as the Veda Vakya. Thus, whenever there was a discourse, he carried a small tape recorder and recorded the entire discourse. Later, he would hear it through again, transcribing it into his diary in Telugu. His handwriting was very neat and Swami too had acknowledged how beautiful the Telugu letters appeared when written by his hand! Ram Mohan would send a copy of his transcript to Prof. Kasturi was the editor of the monthly magazine - Sanathana Sarathi. The editor was delighted as this made it possible for him to provide the ‘original word of God’ to the devotees. (Till that time, Prof. Kasturi would write a discourse summary for record only based on the translator’s notes.)

Ram Mohan had sought the Divine voice and Bhagawan gifted it to him in a manner that he hadn’t imagined. It was the prize-distribution ceremony for which Bhagawan had arrived as the ‘chief guest’ to the school building. (By 1983, the junior college had been converted into a high school.) Swami walked in and was at perfect ease. This was possibly one example where the chief guest was also the chief host for He had arrived home to His children! As everyone assembled eagerly for the function, Swami called out,
“Ram Mohan...”
Ram Mohan rushed to his beloved. To his thrill and amazement, Swami asked him to stand beside Him and translate the discourse! Beaming with joy, Ram Mohan put in his best efforts for the divine task. The experience of years of intent listening and transcribing Bhagawan’s discourses came handy as Ram Mohan didn’t have the slightest discomfort in translating. In fact, at the end of the the session, Swami congratulated him on his excellent job. He also praised Ram Mohan’s voice quality! Then, picking up His own silver tumbler, Swami asked Ram Mohan to drink water from it. Ram Mohan was thirsty no doubt but the water slaked more than the physical thirst!

That was just the beginning.

Ram Mohan served as a translator for nearly 200 private and public discourses that Bhagawan delivered at Kodaikanal
and Puttaparthi. Here, he is seen translating a discourse at Sai Shruti in Kodaikanal. 
Swami would call Ram Mohan regularly for translations. In fact, during the summer visits to Kodaikanal in 1987, 1988 and 1994, Ram Mohan had the privilege of translating all the formal and informal discourses almost thrice a day! That in itself constituted more than a hundred discourses. That apart, he was also the translator for many of the functions in the hostel and school. He loved this new ‘job’ and was not ready to miss it for anything in the world. One year, Ram Mohan was down with severe diarrhoea just before the prize-distribution ceremony. He was admitted into the general hospital and was put on drips. However, hours before the Divine visit, he got himself discharged, ate some vibhuti for reinforcement and presented himself in front of Swami as His translator. Swami acknowledged his sincerity and effort by ensuring that he had the strength and energy to do the whole translation (for almost an hour) without any difficulty. Indeed, when you take one step towards God, He takes a hundred towards you.

The technique to increase devotion

It was evident that Swami was the top priority for Ram Mohan. Therefore, Darshan was something he could never miss - even if he was sick. On one such low occasion, he was feeling very weak in his room. As the time for the evening Darshan neared, he egged his body on, got up from bed, had a wash and was getting ready. There was a knock on the door. Opening it, Ram Mohan saw a student.
“Sir, I am feeling weak. I would like to take rest in my room in the hostel...”
“Harish! Both of us are in the same boat... But let us sail towards God and not miss Darshan...”
“But I am feeling so tired sir...”
“There is a magical power powder with me. It is called glucose! Let us say ‘Sairam’, eat some glucose and carry on.”

That was precisely what they did. Even as they neared the Mandir, Harish was beginning to feel better. Sitting in the Sai Kulwant Hall, he wrote a letter of gratitude to Swami.
“Swami, thank you for enabling me to come for darshan.”
Swami’s response was interesting and beautiful. He came near Harish and accepted his letter. Then, with a twinkle in the eye, told him,
“You should thank your glucose teacher.”

When Ram Mohan got to know of Swami’s acknowledgement, he was happy. He felt that it was an reinforcement of the advice Swami had given him regarding Bhakti or devotion.

Swami has stated on many occasions that devotion is the easiest and most enjoyable path to God.

"To realize the Supreme, the path of devotion is the only Royal road. It is the panacea for all worldly ailments and for the disease of birth and death. Devotion is the most effective means for awakening the spiritual urge."
- Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Swami had told the same to Ram Mohan as well. In fact, making a reference to his Gopika-like devotion, Swami would often address him as ‘Mohini’! He would also call him as the ‘mother-in-law’ of the students; a mother not by birth but by Divine Law! Ram Mohan did not mind it one bit. He felt special to be referred by his dear Swami in some unique manner. One day, he asked his Lord,
“Swami, I want to increase my devotion for You. How to increase devotion?”
Swami smiled and said,
“Express it.”

“Express it”

The answer from Swami was so simple and straight. Ram Mohan did not know at then that one day, humanity would be grateful to him for eliciting a response from God about increasing devotion. Indeed we are eternally grateful to Swami for having given us the technique of loving Him more in such simple terms. Whatever we do (think, say and do actually), it must be an expression of our love for God, our devotion. After all, isn’t devotion the word to denote love for God?

Swami indicated to Ram Mohan that whatever he thinks, speaks or does, he must do it for Swami. Ram Mohan took this message very seriously and it dictated the course of the rest of his life. He took up multiple endeavours in the hostel and the classroom with the single aim of making Swami happy. Not only did he do everything as an expression of love for Swami, he inspired all the boys to do the same. Many have been the students who have won a place in the heart of Swami due to Ram Mohan’s inspiration and enthusiasm. Ram Mohan’s heart throbbed in joy whenever his student did well. But more than academic success, his heart rejoiced when they achieved success in making Swami happy.

How Ram Mohan went about making everything as an expression of devotion is a lovely tale and it will be the subject of the next and final part of this article which is at the link below:
For all the readers:

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  1. Thank you, so much Aravind Anna!!

  2. So beautiful; can't wait for the next part. Jai Sairam

  3. Sairam Aravind. Yes doing acts,taking them as SWAMI's tasks, and offering them to SWAMI with devotion is Expression of Divine Love. This dictum of SWAMI must become our guiding principle for increasing devotion and leading on path of merging in HIM either in this life or some future life. Thanks for sharing this part of Ram Mohan garu's experiences with SWAMI. Waiting eagerly for next and concluding part of this narrative.
    Best wishes and love.
    Madhusudanvithal Nori

  4. Dear Brother - My Loving Sairam.
    Thank you so much for this most valuable lesson. My prayers to Swami are answered through this article. My gifted learning through this loving article and experience - The easiest and the most sacred way to increase our devotion to Swami is to "Express" our Devotion in all our actions (to do everything better and the best) to make Swami happy.
    Thank you Brother for this blessing and love.

    With gratitude and love,

  5. Thank you Brother Aravind for always inspiring us with these wonderful personal stories from Devotees - that offer such beautiful insights from Swami as well! Sai Ram!
    ~ Kerry, Canada

  6. I express my gratitude here to all of you for sharing these experiences with us.

  7. Beautiful as always. And your selection are quite special one.

  8. Express devotion to swami each moment, all ways this is what we should achieve, but luckily many have achieved it by their sheer dedication, determination and efforts.Thanks Brother Aravind, so pure, perfect is these articles, it is good medicine for all of us, food for many

  9. Dear brother Arvind,
    Sai Ram ! As usal your write ups captures the heart, mind and the soul!
    We are truly fortunate to read your articles. The story of brother Rama Mohan made me plead to Bhagwan Baba, ‘ may I be also have so much devotion for THEE O’ Lord. May I be able to serve THEE with that enthusiasm and dedication. May I always remain aware that THOU are always with us.’
    Once again thank you very much. Looking forward to read the next part.

    My loving Sai Ram to all.

  10. This story is ridiculous. There are simple explanations for things, it does'nt have to be Baba's "divinity" all the time. Ex: when the money order he sent (to the man who had lent him money) came back, the address was wrong is a more likely explanation.

    And pray why does "GOD" need a translator?

    1. It is not 'God' that needs a translator. It is humans that need a translator! :)

      When you lack faith, everything can be 'explained' or said to be 'coincidence'. You are entitled to your way of seeing as I am entitled to mine.

      If you are not here simply as a cynic or a critic and are genuinely interested in what makes people take these mundane things are miracles, please let me know and I shall share more stories.

      Better still, if you like, you can read the other posts in this blog.

  11. Dear Aravind,

    Ram Mohan's experience is really heart warming. It emphasises what Swami says" Don't try to understand my love, just experience it" JAI SAIRAM

  12. Sairam dear Arvind,
    Ever grateful to you for being a window to Swami's divinity. You indeed are blessed and chosen one and am grateful to you for your seva of reaching Swami to His devotees and to Swami for providing His devotees a winow to him through you.
    This moring I read a part of your serial on Mr Ram Mohan and later I read this part. The exerience i have had is not possible to pen. I am in awe and overwhelmed.
    Please pray for me to Swami to make me focused on to Him and be able earn His grace.
    Look forward to meet you during my next visit to PN . This year I did not get a chance to meet you.
    With fodest love andgratitude.


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