4 - Issue 03
THE MOST PRECIOUS GIFT…THE AVATAR’S TIME
By Sri Sanjay Sahani
I offer my loving salutations at the Lotus Feet of Our Beloved Bhagavan.
There are many Names by which the Lord is adored. The Vedas describe Him as Kalaya Namaha. Kala-Kalaya Namaha. Kala-Atitaya Namaha - He is the Embodiment of Time. He is the Master of Time. He Transcends Time. He is the Timeless Principle. It has been the tradition in India to adore this facet of divinity through the celebration of the New Year.
What is it that we do when we adore time? God Who is time and also transcends time teaches us that as an adoration of the time principle, we must make the best use of this gift of life. How can we make the best use of Time? Swami says: “Time waste, is Life waste!” What is the purpose of life? Paropkarat Kam Idam Shariram – The body is meant to serve others.
Jantu Naam Narjanam Durlabam said Adi Shankara in his Viveka Chudamani. ‘The gift of human life is something, which is very, very special.’ Through life times, man has evolved from the beast to the human. And an Avatar comes to remind man, to make man aware of his true destiny that is to realize that he is none other than Divinity Itself!
From Mercenary to Missionary
There are different categories of people that we can find in society. At one end of the spectrum, is what one would call a Mercenary. He is one, who for the sake of money will do anything. If you’ll pay him the right price, he is ready to do anything.
A little better than him is a Careerist who is totally obsessed by the three P’s: Pay, Prospects and Promotion.
A little better than the Careerist, is the Professional. He looks at the return that he is getting, and to that extent puts in the commensurate effort.
A notch higher than the Professional is the Service Minded person. He is not looking at how much return he is going to get. He is looking at how much self-satisfaction he derives from doing good to others. But there is a trace of selfishness in him also.
At the top end of the spectrum, is the Missionary. We use this word in many contexts. But the true Missionary is none other than the Lord Himself! Right from the time an Avatar is born, He is always aware of His Advent and the purpose: Why that Advent has taken place? Swami says: “I have come to inscribe a golden chapter in the history of humanity; where falsehood will fail, truth will triumph, and virtue will reign!” It is to foster and nourish those seeds of goodness in the heart of man, which will ultimately lead him to Godliness that we have the Avatar amidst us.
Swami’s Concern for All, Hawkers Included
At this juncture, I am reminded of an incident, which happened many years ago. There are a thousand and one ways in which Bhagavan teaches us, nudges us and prompts us to take to the path of goodness. It was the year 1989 and we had accompanied Bhagavan to Kodaikanal. Even at that point of time, the little Bhajan hall was too small for the devotees. And it was Bhagavan’s plan that the adjacent hill should be cut so that a spacious Bhajan hall could be constructed. And so, He instructed all the devotees, students and teachers who were with Him to take to this seva.
In the morning, after we had our breakfast, all devotees and students would take up various tools, implements and start doing the service activities. And of course, Swami would go around and give His Darshan from the top of the building amidst us - it was a very beautiful time that we had.
Wherever Swami goes, whether it is Brindavan, or Prashanti Nilayam, or Kodaikanal there are groups of hawkers who sell small photographs and trinkets to make their meager livelihood. So, these hawkers had laid out their wares on the Kodaikanal Lake road, outside Sai Shruti. One day, a police inspector came there and he thought that they were obstructing the traffic and therefore he confiscated all their wares. This event was intimated to Swami.
Next morning, the devotees had come for Darshan and this police inspector was also sitting in some corner. Swami went amidst the devotees. He went up to this gentleman and from a distance we saw there was a brief conversation that took place between them. We do not know what transformation took place in the mind of that police inspector. The next thing that happened was that when he went back, he returned all the wares of these hawkers!
When we were in Sai Shruti with Swami, these hawkers had made a prayer to Bhagavan through somebody. And this was a very special prayer. They prayed: “Swami, when your devotees and students are doing this seva, we are busy in our own work, and are not able to do these service activities. But when the devotees retire for lunch, at that point of time, we are free. If you permit us, we pray for your permission and blessings, that during that interval when your students and the devotees are taking rest we may be given the chance to help with the construction, so that this seva activity can continue continuously from morning to evening.”
Swami was so touched by this prayer of these vendors that not only did He bless them with that opportunity, but put that as an ideal before all of us, saying “See, look at that feeling with which they have come forward to do this service activity!”
I reflected on this experience thinking that these people are lost in the world. People have come to Bhagavan for His Darshan but they are wondering “How can we make a few rupees more now these devotees have come?” That is their livelihood. But through a chain of circumstances, Swami provoked and inspired them to take up this seva and sanctified their lives!
No One is Too Young for Service
And I see it in any number of situations! Once here in Prashanti Nilayam it was the period before Grama Seva started. Those days in the Hill View Stadium we used to have a day where all the students and teachers along with seva dal would be carrying out the feeding of the Narayanas. It was a great blessing that Swami had conferred on the staff and students of the university and it was very meticulously planned. We had distributed all the work to the students but there was this group of 8 th class students, 13 years olds, who we thought too young and therefore they were left out.
On that eventful morn Swami came out of the interview room while we were all busy with the arrangements at the stadium. When Swami came out of the interview room, He saw these 8 th class students seated in the Mandir. And He expressed surprise! “What is this? Do you not know that it is Narayan Seva day today? What are you doing here?” And the boys very vociferously informed Swami “Swami all these senior boys have taken up the work. They have not left any work for us!” And this is what Swami told these small children:
“If nothing else go and take water and serve the Narayanas. And earn some punyam (merit)!” From the youngest, to the eldest, there is none whom Swami feels is ineligible for this path of seva!
And No One is Too Old…
I remember in this context what one of our elders was once telling me. After retirement he settled down in the ashram and Swami asked him to go to our canteen and serve water to the devotees who come there for meals. And after some time Swami verified his work. “Do the devotees come to you for water, or do you go with your jug, table to table serving the water?” And he said: “Swami, I go to each devotee and serve the water.” And Swami was so delighted that he mentioned this in a discourse and said: “See, this is how seva should be done!” So from the youngest to the eldest nobody is unqualified for this!
Look at Bhagavan! Even at this age, how much He is doing for humanity! How much joy He is giving to thousands of people; and not only doing it Himself, but inspiring others to do likewise! His sensitivity to people’s feelings, His personal motivation, His sense of commitment to set an ideal. He comes to set an ideal for humanity!
The Avatar is like a drill inspector. He says, “I am the Teacher of teachers! And as a Teacher I am like a drill inspector. It’s not for Me to simply say it - I do it!” The drill inspector has to raise his hands up and down and not just speak! And that’s how his pupils follow. That is how Swami has been personally training humanity, with His personal example!
Sai Shares Our Pain
I cannot ever forget that eventful day before the starting of the Grama Seva some 4 or 5 years ago. Swami had sent word to all the teachers to assemble in the Bhajan hall. He had come out a little early to the Bhajan hall and He waited for almost half an hour till everybody had come and assembled. And then a couple of teachers spoke. And then Swami Himself addressed the gathering. And what He said was the seed for the entire Grama Seva movement! He referred to an incident, which was reported in a newspaper, which He had an occasion to read.
There was this mother, too poor and unable to feed her children, unable to see them crying of starvation. And unable to bear that kind of situation, she had given them poison and then had eaten the same poison and killed herself! When Swami had narrated that particular incident, I cannot forget that His frame was trembling!
At that point of time we realized that God is not an entity somewhere in the blue skies leaving humanity in the lurch saying, “Okay, this is your karma, and you bear with it! You suffer for what you do!” God feels! He suffers! He feels the suffering of each individual soul more than that soul himself maybe going through, because He feels that sense of Oneness with His entire Creation! He has created the world but He is also there to nourish it, to sustain it!
In spite of all the foolish things that man is doing today God has not lost hope of man! Rabindranath Tagore, our Nobel Laureate, very beautifully said, “Every time a child is born, he brings a message from God that God has not despaired of man!” If God had lost hope for mankind, no new child would have been born! He has that kind of affection for the crown jewel of His creation.
At that point of time Swami said
And with that started from the next day the Grama Seva which has continued every year. It is a great blessing for the students and the staff in the university - and a great example for humanity.
Spirit of Swami - Empathy with All Creation
How should we do Seva? We have Swami’s small story or Chinna Katha on this subject. A holy man was once passing by a village where a calf, had been caught in marshy land. It was struggling to get out of it and was not able to. And seeing that the village urchins were having a good laugh. This holy man saw all this and rushed into the marshy spot, picked up the calf and brought it to safe land.
Swami says that when you do Seva do not think that you are serving somebody else – you are serving yourself! We should have that sense of Oneness!
I still recall some years ago when Swami had our Brindavan hostel renovated and also had the bathrooms done up. The warden of the hostel expressed gratitude to Swami on behalf of all the students. Swami said: “I have not done it for the students, I have done it for Myself!” That is the Spirit of Swami!
If we can imbibe that spirit in our lives and if we can make that spirit the breath of our lives wherever we go in the world, when people meet us, when people talk to us, they will feel that they are not meeting us, they have met and seen Swami Himself! That is how Time has to be Sanctified!
If we live in this feeling we will be able to fulfill what the great poet Kabirdas observed in one of his famous couplets Kabira, Jab Hum Paida Huye, Jag Hasey Hum Roye. Aisi Karni Kar Chalo, Hum Hasey Jag Roye. [When we are born, the whole world laughs and we cry; we should do such acts that when we depart, we laugh and the whole world cries]. The beauty of his poetry is that he will take truths from daily life and derive great lessons and insights from it.
He says when every child is born the first sign of life is the baby’s cry! The whole world rejoices; parents, relatives and well-wishers. ‘Oh, our new child is born!’ Jag Hasey Hum Roye [The whole world laughs, we cry]. Kabirdas thinks to himself ‘Why did we cry? My God! I did not learn the lessons of my life properly the last time! I failed in my examinations last time! I have come back again to make one more attempt, to write a supplementary exam. I have to attempt to pass this examination again!’ So the child is crying!
At the end of the life - Aisi Karni Kar Chalo. Live your life in such a way that when your last moments come, everybody else should be crying! ‘Oh he was such a good person. He is leaving us and going. We will not get a chance to see him again.’ People should be crying, you should be rejoicing. Why should you be rejoicing? Because you are going back to the Source! You are going back to the Lord Who sent you into the world to spread His Word to spread His Message! So that is the spirit in which we should conduct our lives; and our great example is Swami!
The Ideal Idol
I came to Swami’s Lotus Feet as a schoolboy. At that age it is very important to have idols - and not merely idols but ideals! Swami was not only my Idol, but also my Ideal! If we can only emulate even a fraction of what Swami stands for, if we can only give joy to another human being to the extent of even a minute fraction of what Swami Himself does!
A few days ago, in Brindavan the outgoing bachelors were passing out and I just happened to ask them“This is the last class that you’re going to be together; would you like to share a few thoughts with each other?” One boy came forward and after that there was a line of students! Amazing - we cannot imagine how Swami has impacted on their lives!
A Heart Healed
The first boy who spoke said “When I joined the primary school in Ooty, I was very sickly - you name a disease, I had it! My father took me to the AIIMS Hospital in Delhi and it was discovered that I have a hole in the heart that was causing all my illnesses. My teachers, my warden, my headmistress - everybody was so worried about me. And they told Swami about it and Swami came all the way to the Primary school (by that time the Ooty children had shifted to the Primary school here in Prashanti Nilayam).
He came all the way to the dormitory and asked: ‘Who is that boy?’ They said: ‘Swami, this is the boy.’ And Swami touched my heart and said ‘There is nothing wrong with him!’ When I went back to AIIMS and had more tests, the hole in the heart was found to have closed!”
The Sensitivity of Sai
Another boy narrated this incident. It was the Primary school prize distribution and one student from each class would go up and receive the prize from Swami’s hand. Whoever received the maximum number of prizes would represent that class.
At the last class one small boy’s name was called out and it so happened that two boys had the same name in that class! Now the boy who was to receive the prize apparently didn’t get up immediately so the other classmates started nudging the second boy “See, there is nobody going, so you go!” So, innocently he got up and went up to Swami. By that time, the boy who was to receive the prize had already gone to Swami, received his prize and come back.
So when he went up to Swami the poor boy was highly embarrassed! There was no prize left to receive. And he realized that the prize had already been given by Swami, so he ran back to the edge of the hall and started crying. Swami noticed that the boy was crying amongst the thousand plus children and called the boy. He made him sit on His lap, and taking His handkerchief, wiped the boy’s tears. He called the warden and asked her to get some prize for the child and personally gave it to the child!
When I hear such experiences of our students - and they are legion - I contemplate how sensitive He is even to a child’s feelings! How sensitive He is to every sentient being in His creation!
Once He was coming out of the Trayee Brindavan Mandir and people observed that Swami’s walk was very cautious. And somebody took courage to ask: “Swami, why are You walking like this?” And He said: “The ants are crossing my path. I am taking care that I don’t step on them.” He has so much Love and sensitivity for even an ant of His creation!
The Most Precious Gift
I started with the principal of time. There are many things precious in the world. There are many resources but the most precious resource is of time. If we do not use the time that we get today properly that moment is lost forever! It is true for each and every one of us! So precious is this resource of time.
But even more precious is the Time of the Avatar! We call today Yugadi (New Era). The Avatar comes only once in a Millennium and at such a point of time, we are His contemporaries! Do we realize how special and truly blessed we are to be basking in His proximity? And to be enjoying His Darshan, Sparshan, and Sambashan!
The Time of the Avatar is being gifted to us and it is such a precious resource! Just to see Him is the boon of a lifetime! How blessed we are if we realize the purpose for which Bhagavan has made His Advent amidst us, and make the best use of it.
On last Krishna Janamashtami, Swami said “When Krishna came, so many souls were liberated!” The indirect hint that I received was “What about you all? I have come; what about you all? Do you have any plans?” Yes! If we walk the path which He has shown us, the goal is certain! Past is past! Don’t worry about the past! The future is uncertain. Don’t worry about the future! The given moment is Now! That is the present. And this present is not the ordinary present - it is the Omnipresent!
If we realize, what a precious moment this is to be now, here, in the presence of God! Face to face with God! To imbibe that spirit and inspiration, to translate it into action, we would be the most fortunate people in the entire human race.
With these few words, I once again offer my Loving Pranaams at Bhagavan’s Lotus Feet and close.
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Vol 4 Issue 03 - March 2006
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