Volume 8 - Issue 12
DECEMBER 2010
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RADIO SAI STUDY CIRCLE – 2

Part - 02

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Dear Reader,

In response to the positive and encouraging feedback to the first episode of Radio Sai Study Circle, H2H features this second episode that will dwell on another tiny drop from the infinite ocean of Bhagawan’s message and teachings.

As in the previous episode, the discussion will draw the participation of four former students of Bhagawan’s University. While Amey Deshpandey (AD), Sai Giridhar (SG) and K.M. Ganesh (KM) are research scholars at Swami’s college, Bishu Prusty (BP) currently serves at Radio Sai.

Mr. G. S. Srirangarajan (GSS), a long-time former faculty member at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning and presently the Controller of Examinations at the same university, is the moderator of the session.

Continued from Part-1

GSS: Talking of God’s design, here is a personal example: When I was a student at Swami’s institution, the earlier years were very tough especially when you are trying to absorb and follow Bhagawan’s teachings. I would come across a lot of challenges that required enormous mind control. During most of these times, I would shout and scream at Him. After all, He is the only person whom you can be so open with without any fear of repercussion because you know He will always love you unconditionally.

 

It so happened that in one of the first interviews I had with Bhagawan, Swami was telling the people around, “This boy! The way he shouts at Me...!” I felt extremely embarrassed because I was not prepared for the omnipresent Lord to reveal our most personal matters. But then, Swami immediately had a lovely, motherly smile on His face and the explanation He gave was even more beautiful - something that has stayed me through every phase of my life thereafter. He said, “See, do you think all these problems are without any reason in your life? Look at an orange fruit. There is sweet juice inside. But what do you find on the outside? Bitter skin. That is God’s design. To protect the sweet juice inside you need to have the bitter skin outside. What should you do if you want to drink the sweet juice? Just peel out the bitter skin.” Swami said in life when we come across difficulties and challenges – we need to remove these hurdles to ultimately reach the nectarine core of our life experience.

That, in truth, is God’s design. When we understand that, we start seeing how beautifully Bhagawan has planned everything for us with nothing in life being meaningless.

SG: Sometimes, it is very difficult to understand Swami’s designs. I am reminded of this incident that happened to Mr. Rama Brahmam who used to be the caretaker of the Brindavan Ashram. The day before his son’s marriage, Swami asked him to cancel the marriage. Although surprised, Mr. Rama Brahmam went and informed the bride’s family of this decision. On hearing this news, they were shocked and upset and poured out their anger on him. Silently, he listened to all their angst although he was sure he had done the right thing in following Swami’s instruction. The next morning, unfortunately, his son was bitten by a snake and passed away. When the bride’s family came to know of this, they literally fell at Mr. Rama Brahmam’s feet and apologised for all they had said. Swami’s big plan dawned on them and they realised that He had actually saved their daughter’s future. If Swami hadn’t stopped the marriage on time, the young girl would have become a widow on the day of her wedding itself.

GSS: Thank you Giridhar, this lead us to the next step which is positive attitude helps us develop faith when we start seeing the deeper ways in which God works. Amey, do you have anything to say about this?

AD: I am reminded of this very beautiful song that Swami often sings: “Love is My Form, Truth is My Breath” – in which He says, “My Life is My Message, Expansion is My Life.” This Vishaala Drushti (broad mindedness) is something that we all as Swami’s devotees should cultivate in life - there should be expansion in the way we look at things.

BP: In Swami’s perspective, this is the purpose of education. There should be a wider perspective of things and expansion of the horizon.

AD: There is this beautiful analogy given by a very renowned speaker. He has said, “Imagine you are standing on the ground floor of a building and watching a wonderful march past going on. The part of the march past that has gone by is the past; what you are able to see in the front is the present and the march past that is about to come is the future. Now think of a person who is standing in the twentieth storey of the building, what does he see? For him there is no past, present or future - he is able to see the entire march past.” He compared this person to Bhagawan and goes on to say that He is the One who is the architect of the entire march past.

It is important to raise ourselves every time we fall into the pit and understand and see the big picture. We must try and take stock of where we were five years ago and where we will be same number of years from then – doing so would give us deeper clarity on how to act and accept the things that are currently happening to us.

 

BP: There is one story that we published in H2H sometime back. It is about a little girl Cathy and her dream of getting an apple from God’s hands. One day, this girl sees a big queue lined up in front of God’s home in heaven. People have gathered there because God is giving everyone a sweet gift - an apple. There is a ladder from earth to heaven and she climbs on to that. She reaches the queue, which is long. She feels it is worth the wait because God was giving the apple personally. When her turn comes, God puts a shiny red apple onto her outstretched palm. She is so excited and thrilled that the fruit slips from her hand, tumbles and falls down.

Having lost the apple, she is miserable and starts crying. God takes pity on her and says, “Don’t worry! I will give you one more on condition that you join the queue again.”

The girl has no other option as she did not want to go back to earth without an apple. So she joins the long queue again and somehow keeps herself busy while awaiting her turn. Finally, the moment comes again and this time she holds the apple tight as God puts it in her hand. And now God says, “Look my dear girl! Do you know why the first time the apple actually fell out of your hands? It was because that was a rotten one. Now the apple I am giving you is actually the best apple available in heaven. You are a good girl and you deserve the best!”

I think that is how God always plans His things. He is perfect and we just have to believe that and accept whatever we experience in life – good, bad, pleasant or unpleasant - as His prasadam.

GSS: So true Bishu! So often we miss out the forest for the trees; a reason why they say we should always have the helicopter view. Here, I am reminded of a story I once read. It is about a girl who fails in an examination paper, comes back home crying and says, “Mom, I am in a very bad mood today.” Her mother, like all other mothers who try and pacify their children through the stomach, tells her daughter, “Why don’t I bake you a good cake?” The girl is excited; she loves cakes. The mother starts baking the cake and uses the opportunity to teach the girl a fine lesson. She asks her if she would like to have some wheat flour. The girl gets even more upset and asks, “Mom, you said you would make me a cake, not offer wheat flour!” The mother calmly continues, “Child, why don’t you have some oil? Or, some sugar, perhaps?” Now the girl starts howling and tells her mom to stop the fun and insists she wants a cake and nothing but a cake. The mother then tells her daughter, “Look here, you don’t want to eat sugar or oil or flour alone because in isolation you do not relish them; but when they are put together in the form of a cake you love to eat them, don’t you? The same is the way with God. Just because you fail a paper in the school, you don’t need to be so upset about it because all these difficulties we face in life when seen in isolation may not be very pleasing to us; we may even feel bad. But when put together, it all emerges as a beautiful journey.”

BP: When God’s plan emerges!

 

KM: One of the keys to see the big picture is what Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple and Pixar Animations, calls ‘Connecting the Dots’. You may wonder what these dots are all about. The dot here means the situation, the circumstances and our reaction to it because we are also a part of it. He shares out of his own experience that any situation however unjust or challenging it may be has a hidden purpose behind it. It is only in retrospect that we realise the significance of a particular event. For instance, Steve Jobs shares that he had dropped out of his college six months after joining it because it was expensive; he didn’t see any value in it nor did he know what he would do with the degree later in life. He, therefore, decided to quit even though it was a little scary at that point of time. But the minute he dropped out, he was free to do whatever interested him.

He goes on to say that much of what he stumbled into, out of his curiosity and intuition, turned out to be priceless eventually. He started attending calligraphy classes that was one of the best in the country at that time. He learnt everything about typography as an artistically subtle skill that science could never have captured. At that point of time, there was no hope of any practical application of all that he learnt. But ten years later when he was designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to him. It was the first computer in the world that was embedded with beautiful typography. If he hadn’t dropped out of college and joined those calligraphy classes, the personal computer that we see today wouldn’t have had such brilliant typography.

The moral here is that we have got to trust our gut feelings, our intuition and follow our heart at times - which requires courage to break out of old patterns. The understanding of connecting the dots in retrospect or believing in the big picture is the key. You have got to trust your moves that come from within.

GSS: Great Ganesh! From what we have discussed so far, it now emerges that once you start seeing the bigger picture of God, you begin to accept what happens in life. I am sure the wise man is one who wouldn’t want to go through this long journey and then start accepting things. But, come to think of it, is it really easy to start accepting things as they are in life? Isn’t it so Ganesh?

KM: There are times when we are tested beyond our limits. We face problems that cannot be solved or even avoided. Silent endurance with maturity seems to be the last course of action. Even Pandavas for that matter were pushed to their threshold point of patience by the innumerable injustice done to them by Kauravas. They started questioning Dharmaraja on the value of practising Dharma. They even provoked Dharmaraja into taking some actions lest their obedience to Dharma be mistaken for cowardice. Many people today feel that there is a very thin line between forbearance and cowardice. Dharmaraja had no answers to their questions, but Krishna had. Krishna gave them the antidote to all the suffering and pain. The four word formula that gives inner strength and leads to inner acceptance – “This too shall pass”.

BP: Whenever we face adversity, we just have to remember these words.

KM: Yes, we need to chant the mantra – This too shall pass. And this acceptance is not out of submissive conformity, but from the courage of observing and experiencing the situation as is. When you do that, there is no conflict and where there is no conflict there is peace. Yes, there may be pain, but the absence of conflict and the presence of acceptance will lessen if not eliminate the suffering altogether.

 

SG: I remember we had put up a drama on this particular theme when Swami placed much emphasis on this line – ‘this too shall pass’. He wanted to get across this particular message to all the devotees who were watching the drama. He made the main character Yudhishtra repeat the sentence four times in four different styles. Amey probably can share more on this.

AD: Swami told that the first time it should be said as, ‘This too shall pass’ – with more emphasis on ‘this’; the second time to be said with more emphasis on ‘too’; third time with stress on ‘shall’ and the fourth time with emphasis on ‘pass.’

BP: I guess we don’t need greater confirmation than this.

 

AD: One other very beautiful and touching episode to which I personally was a witness to happened in 2003 in the month of July. After Bhagawan returned to Puttaparthi on 3 June, He had a fall and fractured His hip. We were seeing Him after almost a month. It was soon after Guru Poornima and Swami had just come walking and there was some discomfort on His face. So our Prof. Anil Kumar Sir, translator of Bhagawan’s discourses, asked Him, “Swami, are You in pain? Swami replied, Noppi undhi, kani suffering ledhu” (Yes, it is paining. But I am not suffering).

That was such a profound statement. In our life, we are bound to experience pain. Lord Himself, in a physical form, undergoes this. But, whether to suffer or not is a choice we can make. Bhagawan chooses not to suffer and always fills our lives with bliss. Even when Bhagawan goes through so much discomfort, He comes out every single day and grants us beautiful darshan with a smiling face. We don’t understand the amount of physical pain that He undergoes because He chooses not to suffer. In fact, He says most of our suffering is psychological because we are not willing to accept our situation.

GSS: Let me give the example of a contemporary person who is not a devotee of Bhagawan so to speak, but is obviously a devotee of God; the story will make that very obvious. This is about the tennis player Arthur Ashe. He was the first African American to compete in the international sport of tennis at the highest level of the game. During his playing career, he won three Grand Slam titles in 1968, 1970 and 1975. But later, destiny took him into the jaws of death in a very strange manner. He underwent a heart surgery in 1983 followed by a brain surgery in 1988. Post this surgery, it was discovered that he was infected with HIV virus and this was unfortunately due to a blood transfusion that he had received after the heart surgery. From the world over his fans wrote a number of letters to him.

 

And one of them said this: “Dear Arthur, why does God have to select you for such a terrible disease?” To this Arthur is believed to have given a wonderful reply. Let me quote exactly from the letter. He says, “World over 50 million children start playing tennis. Of these 50 lakh learn to play tennis.

Among them 5 lakh learn professional tennis; 50,000 come to the circuit; 5000 reach the grand slam; 50 reach Wimbledon; 4 reach the semi-finals; 2 to the finals and then when I was holding the Wimbledon Cup, I never asked God, Why me? And, so, today when I am in pain, I certainly should not be asking God, Why me?”


Here was a man who had understood the subtle secret of creation and knew that there was some higher meaning in what he was going through. The same destiny which had brought him face to face with the Wimbledon championship also brought him AIDS. How could he reject one and accept the other. That is why as Swami says when we accept, we should do it in toto. This is true maturity in thought.

Press this clutch of faith that it is God who is giving both the situations for your own good. Have absolute conviction in that. Pressing this clutch of faith transit from pain to pleasure and pleasure to pain, then your change-over will be easy. Then life itself becomes smooth.”

So, this is how I think we move slowly from a stage of acceptance towards what Swami always talks about – a state of total surrender to God. Giridhar, So, what exactly is surrender? I guess Swami defined this concept on one occasion.

SG: Yes, Sir. A few of us had a wonderful session with Swami during His visit to Chennai for the Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam in 2007. One of our brothers asked, ‘Swami, Sharanagathi ante enti?’ (Telugu), which means ‘What is Surrender?’ Swami replied in Tamil, “Sharanagathila Kodukkaradhukku Onnum Illa” which means ‘In surrender there is nothing to be given’. Then He went on to say, “Nalladhu nadandhalum kettadhu nadandhalum ellam Avar dhan kodukkararnu druda nambikkai vachukko.”

GSS: You are saying this in Tamil. Did Swami say this in Tamil?

G: He said the exact same words in Tamil. What it means is, “Whether it is good or bad that happens to you, have absolute and firm conviction and faith that it is God who is giving it to you at all times. Have this faith and that is what surrender is.” This is Swami’s definition of surrender.

BP: Swami has also said that there are two ways of understanding this concept of surrender. One is the idea of ‘Dasoham’ and the other ‘Soham’. In Dasoham, the person nullifies his ego to such an extent that he doesn’t exist. He almost becomes like a flute in the hands of God.


Dasoham means “I am your servant”. Soham is contemplating on “I am that”.

One is actually the micro aspect and the other the macro. God is there in both.

Swami gives the example of Nagamahashaya, one of the disciples of Sri Rama Krishna Paramahamsa who was able to escape the chains of Samsara (the earthly existence) because he was so humble. There was absolutely no ego in him and that was one of the reasons why he was able to attain the highest state of consciousness. Similarly, Bhagavan mentions about Swami Vivekananda who always believed there is infinite potential in us. He was a lion and he inspired everyone to be one such. When you are that majestic self, you automatically break the chains of bondage and you become that, which is tantamount to another level of surrender. In fact, if we look at the life of Hanuman, He epitomised both. On the one hand He said, “Dasoham Kosalendrasya” (I am the servant of Rama), but there are other times when He says, “Me and My Lord are one.” I think that is the shift in stage from Dasoham to Soham – to reach the state of absolute surrender.

SG: In fact, Swami gives a very practical tip for life. After giving the definition of surrender, He goes on to say that our life is like a car which has four gears, each akin to pain, pleasure, pain, pleasure. On each of these gears, the car runs smoothly as long as it is within the speed limit of that gear. The same is the case with our life too - if we are in pain we get adjusted to it and if we are in a constant stage of pleasure, we get used to that as well. But the problem arises when there is a transition from pain to pleasure. In a car when we transit from first to second gear, or second to third, Swami compares it to moving in life from pain to pleasure, pleasure to pain, and so on. And this transition is what is troublesome and jerky.

To drive home the point, Swami once asked some of us what we do in a car. We said, “Swami, we press the clutch”. Swami said, “Exactly. Press this clutch of faith that it is God who is giving both the situations for your own good. Have absolute conviction in that. Pressing this clutch of faith transit from pain to pleasure and pleasure to pain, then your change-over will be easy. Then life itself becomes smooth.”

 

GSS: Very beautiful thought! Eventually what happens when you surrender to God is that your individual will merges with the Lord’s will. This can be best explained through the story of Lakshmana and Rama when they go to Panchavati. Again, Rama does this to teach a lesson to the world the true surrender of Lakshmana. He calls Lakshmana and says, “Lakshmana, why don’t you look out for a good place and build a hut for us there?” Instantly, Lakshmana starts crying profusely. Sita feels very surprised and says, “Oh Rama! What have You done? Why is Lakshmana crying?” Rama replies, “I just asked him to find a place and build a shelter.” He then asks, “Lakshmana, what happened? Why are you crying?” To this, Lakshmana replies, “Rama, You said I should go and find a place of my liking and build a hut! You should know that there is nothing in this world that I can ever say is to my liking; my will has merged with Your will.”

Swami gives us this illustration to convey to us the meaning of true surrender. According to Him, we must accept everything in life and merge our will with His will.

I think we have now come to the end of our discussion and moved up the ladder from positive thinking to surrender. But, before we conclude, let us exchange a few real-life experiences.

AD: I would like to begin with my own personal narration. I was here as a primary school student in Bhagawan’s School from 1989 for four years. In 1993, when I was really in the thick of it and enjoying every single moment of my life, I had to undergo a surgery after which Bhagawan asked me to go and stay with my parents. I had to leave the school with no choice. That particular day marked a major juncture in my life when I had to leave Swami and return. Every night I used to pray to Swami and ask Him to give me one chance to come back to the school. I would cry, “Why did You allow me to go so far away from You?”

 

I tried coming back to Swami’s school in my 11th class. Again, I tried to return for my B.Com course and later for an MBA programme - all the three times I failed to secure a seat. It was only in 2003, when I tried for the second time to enrol into the MBA programme that I finally got in. I was delighted that I could finally return after nearly 10 years.

When I look back today, I feel that my existence over here has now become so much stronger. I also believe that my will and wish to live with Bhagawan has become stronger only because He allowed me to go away from Him. If I had stayed for all of those years, complacency could have crept in and I could have come to the point where I would have felt that I have spent enough time here. But today I find myself an extremely changed person. I feel that those 10 years are what Swami gave to my parents so I could stay with them. When I look back, I do feel that everything has worked out right.

BP: God is always right! In fact, as you narrate a slice from your life, I am reminded of what happened to me about eight years ago. I was initially in the Bangalore Hospital where Swami asked me to work after I completed my post-graduation studies here.

GSS: You mean the Bangalore Super-Speciality Hospital?

BP: Yes. It was in 2001 and the hospital was then coming up. Unfortunately, after serving there for a year I fell sick and was out of work for almost two or three years. I went through a very difficult period. It is in moments such as these that you tend to pray to God every day and ask questions like, “Why me?” Even though I could cope with the trauma only because of His grace, yet thoughts such as “Why me?” used to assail me quite often. Looking back, I understood where that question came from – I was young and spending time between the hospital and home. I was absolutely like a vegetable, not able to contribute anything to myself or to my family or the society.

But now, when I look at my life, I feel those two-three years of sickness turned out to be a real blessing. I believe Swami moved me to Puttaparthi and told me not to go back to the Bangalore Hospital only because of my condition. By then, my parents had shifted to Puttaparthi and it had always been my dream to be in Puttaparthi because it is a special feeling to serve Him in His physical proximity. And that dream was fulfilled.

 

During those couple of years when I was not doing anything officially, I was busy reading books and writing articles. In the process, I developed a flair for writing. Once I joined Radio Sai - writing and editing became a part of my life. I couldn’t have really done the job if I was not given those years to develop such skills and prepare myself for a larger responsibility – a reason why I am convinced that God is always right. All we need to do is accept His will and not doubt His plan for us.

Another important aspect that comes out of my life experience is that we have to always fight without fear and follow our conscience. There is no point in trying to hasten up things. We need to wait our turn for happiness and light to eventually be ours.

GSS: Now that we have brought all our thoughts together, let us quickly sum up what we have discussed today. Let us recall the structure that we followed using the Chinna Katha. We started with the gross level of positive thinking and attitude leading to faith, moving on to understanding the deeper ways of God, perceiving the mysterious hand of God and then starting to see the bigger picture. This leads to acceptance in life which finally culminates in true surrender. Would one of you like to do a quick summing up?

BP: I would like to draw your attention to another interesting analogy that comes up in this Chinna Katha. From the thread that the king did not follow the minister, you can draw a parallel between the mind and the conscience.

The mind is like the king, it rules over you. The conscience could be compared to the minister, always offering good counsel. What most of us tend to do is lock up the conscience in a remote part within us. And, that is how we run into problems.

GSS: But, even on doing that, the conscience does not stop offering good counsel and telling us what is good for us.


BP: God in the form of our conscience is always willing to help. Ultimately, it is we who resort to making some excuse or the other. It is primarily because we lock up our conscience that we find ourselves going through a myriad trials and tribulations. We must constantly remind ourselves of what Swami keeps reiterating: “Follow the conscience always”.

GSS: It is commonly said that what we meet in life is destiny, but how we meet it is self-effort. Going back to the Chinna Katha, the lesson that we need to draw from the story of the king and the minister is about the need to surrender to God unconditionally. We must accept that whatever happens to us in our life is for our good. But that does not mean that we must not put in our own share of effort. In fact, this is the essence of Karma Yoga that Bhagavath Gita talks about - that we must do our best. In Swami’s words “Yathna Prayathnamul Manava Dharmamu Jayapa Jayamula Deivadeenamu” – it is man’s responsibility to put in the effort even if victory or defeat is ultimately in the hands of God.

BP: We can draw so many lessons from every word that Swami utters, isn’t it?

GSS: Absolutely. Thank you all for participating and contributing to this enriching discussion. Until the next time we meet for an even more thought-provoking exchange of experiences, wish you all well. Sai Ram.

Dear readers, this was an edited transcript of the radio episode of our series Radio Sai Study Circle. While we definitely enjoyed offering this to you, we would like to know what you feel about this programme. So please do send in your feedback generously to [email protected] Every line you write will help us to know what you want and give us clues to come up with more such ideas and offerings. We hope and pray to Swami that we can serve you better.

 

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