Volume 10 - Issue 02
February 2012
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Posted on : Feb 19, 2012



WHAT should we do this shivarathri?


PArt 2


Bhagawan Ramana - The Sterling Saint of Arunachala

Prem: That is Swami! He will do anything for the sake of His devotees, for the sake of Love. In fact that is how it has been whenever God or godly beings have incarnated on this earth.

  Bhagawan Sri Ramana Maharishi

Take for instance Sri Ramana Maharishi of Thiruvannamalai, who attained mahasamadhi in 1950. About two years before this, an innocuous looking lump appeared in his left arm. This was promptly removed surgically, by the local doctor.

But when it reappeared after several such attempts, the devotees realised that it was a cancerous growth; it was actually a case of osteosarcoma, an extremely painful form of bone cancer.

Bishu: It must’ve indeed been very difficult for those around him to see their beloved Guru suffer.

Prem: Yes, but for Maharishi Ramana it was a lesson in detachment that he was imparting to the world.

He endured that pain the last two years of His life. When devotees used to ask him, “Bhagawan, does it hurt a lot?”, he would reply, “The body feels the pain, not me.”

He sacrificed his body, endured intense suffering to teach the world the lesson that we are not the body. He too refused to comply when the doctors suggested that he take rest and not see devotees. In spite of all physical discomfort he continued to grant darshan till the very end.

Bishu: I feel there are two reasons why such holy beings and Avatars willingly endure pain. One, as you pointed out, is to teach mankind, that they are not the body. The second is to teach man that one should put oneself and one’s comforts behind the welfare of others.

Prem: Exactly. We should always think of ourselves last and God first. In fact that message is there in Swami’s name itself. In SAI means S stands for Sai - so, Sai first, A means - ‘All others’ next and finally I means - ‘I’ last.

Inspired by Jesus, Father Damien Turns into Saint Damien

Bishu: We can say the same about the word JOY - Jesus first, Others next, You last.

Prem: Yes, I remember Swami mentioning this so many times.

Bishu: And Jesus was another mind-boggling example of the spirit of sacrifice, isn’t it? A sacrifice that sprung from pure love.

"Forgive them for they know not what they do" - Christ  

Prem: So true Bishu. In fact when you look at the life of Jesus, especially the last few days, what is documented as the ‘Passion of Christ’, we see that He in fact told apostle Peter, that he would deny Him thrice before the cock crows twice; it just shows Jesus knew what was coming, still He accepted it and stood witness to the crimes against Himself.

Bishu: … and at the end of it all, He prayed to God to forgive the perpetrators of the crime.

But Prem, it is not Avatars and Prophets alone who have taught us sacrifice, history has shown us many great men and women who have elevated themselves to this level. Father Damien is one such inspiring personality. I don’t know if you have heard about him?

Prem: Yes, the name is very familiar. He is known for his service to the lepers, right?

Bishu: Yes. But it was not just an act of service, it was an example of willing and joyful sacrifice. For in the end, he himself contracted leprosy and even succumbed to it.

Prem: Oh, that’s so unfortunate. How did that happen?

Bishu: Well, this is his story. He was sent to the Hawaiian settlement in Molokai, a small island to which lepers were quarantined off to. When the bishop of the Hawaiian kingdom wanted to send a priest to the settlement, Father Damien volunteered. He was sent there by the bishop for a few months with instructions not to go too close to the diseased. But soon he found himself one with those people. He just could not hold himself back.

  Father Damien

So from being a priest he went about helping them turn to dignified living. He built houses with them, set up a school, and nursed and treated those who were too sick to take care of themselves. It is said, he would often pray to Jesus saying, “You gave Your life for all mankind, how can I call myself a follower of Christ, if I am not willing to give myself away in service”.

Prem: What a great man!

Bishu: He is a perfect example of a devotee who rose himself to the altar of the divine, through his life of sacrifice. He elevated himself from being Father Damien to Saint Damien. He was canonised by the Church in 2009.

Prem: That’s so inspiring. Even as I muse over those words, that prayer in Father Damien’s heart - how can I call myself a follower if I am not willing to give myself away in service - I can’t help but ask myself the same question. How can I call myself a devotee, or claim to be a student of Bhagawan, if I don’t in my life reflect that love and selflessness that Baba embodied?

Bishu: Yes Prem, I too feel the same. And when we look at the life of these great men who have endured much pain, with no inhibitions whatsoever, one thing is very clear. The inspiration that is born out of one’s love for god is so incredible, it's simply inextinguishable. The strength that faith instils is far greater than any power on earth.

Guru Arjan Devji – Scaling the Lofty Height of True Selflessness

Prem: That is really powerful Bishu. You have in fact summed in one sentence the lesson that Guru Arjan Dev Ji wished to teach mankind.

Bishu: Guru Arjan Devji? Isn’t he one of the Sikh Gurus?

Prem: Yes. He is the fifth of the ten Gurus of the Sikh faith. A pious messiah of true spirituality, this Guru embraced martyrdom to drive home exactly this message of faith and sacrifice.

I first heard about him from one of our lecturers and was really inspired by his life. He stood for equality of mankind and the unity of religions.

Bishu: I too have heard in general about the Sikh Gurus, but which is the episode you are referring to Prem?

Guru Arjan Devji - a messiah of sacrifice and service

Prem: As I just told you, the Gurus of the Sikh faith always stood for unity of all faiths. They strongly advocated that no man is lower or higher than the others. That was the principle behind their concept of langar too.

Bishu: Langar… community kitchen, right? Where people of all communities, religions and social classes sit together and dine?

Prem: Yes exactly. In fact when Akbar, the Great, was the emperor of India, he is said to have had a meal at the langar of Guru Arjan Devji, seated on the floor with common people.

But the things were different after Akbar’s death. The new emperor, Jehangir was bent upon forcing Islam on the people of the land. He was ill advised by his ministers to arrest Guru Arjan Dev.

And so one day Guru Arjan Devji was summoned to the court of the emperor. People around him advised him against going. But he knew better than the others what was waiting for him in the royal court, still he went.

Guru Arjan Devji was the fifth sikh guru who lead the sikhs by his sterling example  

And as many had guessed, once he reached there, he was arrested and imprisoned. Not only that, He was brutally tortured; but he bore it all with amazing equanimity.

Now Guru Arjan Devji had a very good friend in a Sufi saint of Lahore, Pir Mian Mir. He was a great saint of super human powers. On hearing of the arrest of the pious Sikh Guru, he came to see him in the prison.

Bishu: He was allowed to enter the prison to see Guruji?

Prem: Yes Bishu that is because Pir Main Mir was revered even in the Moghul court. So he had no problem in acquiring permission to meet the Guru. In the prison he saw how Guru Arjan Devji was being put through inhuman torture. He was deeply moved. What also touched him equally strongly was the serenity of Guru Arjan Devji.

Now Pir Mian Mir definitely wanted to do stop this cruelty. So he offered to intercede with the emperor on Guruji's behalf. But the Guru refused saying, “Let the will of God prevail”.

Then Pir Mian Mir told him, “Why do you endure this torture? If you wish you can destroy this empire with your powers. If you don’t wish to use your powers, I will with mine raze to dust this Moghul house.”

Bishu: He said that? So what was Arjan Devji’s reply? I know he would not have agreed. But what reasons did he give? You know that was a chance to teach a fitting lesson to those evil men.

Prem: Yes, I too feel the same. But look at the greatness of Guru Arjan Devji! He said, “I might have the power to do so, and I even have you, who can do it for me. But what about the common man whose only weapon is faith and surrender? I want to counter my pain only with these weapons that everyone has; I want to set an example for a humble devotee.”

Bishu: What a fantastic soul! Prem... this has stirred some thoughts in my mind.

Prem: What is it Bishu?

The Golden Temple in Amritsar - the mecca of every sikh. This temple was built in the time of Guru Arjan Dev Ji. It is believed that Pir Mian Mir layed the foundation stone for this holy shrine.

Bishu: We always relate the word sacrifice with pain, self-abnegation, endurance and so on.

Prem: Yes that is true. Even when pain is the obvious result of an act, a person willingly performs it because it benefits someone else... I think that’s what sacrifice is all about.

Bishu: Maybe that is the most obvious. But there could be something more to it.

Prem: I don’t get the point you are trying to make Bishu.

Mausoleum of Mian Mir, Sufi Pir of Lahore

Bishu: Take the examples we have discussed. If pain was the overpowering emotion how is it that Pir Mian Mir found Guru Arjan Devji in a peaceful state in the prison? Seeing people with leprosy suffer, Father Damien was moved to help them. But how is it that when he contracted the same disease, he still died a satisfied and contented man? Though it is the pain and deprivation that catches our attention, the joy and satisfaction, I feel, is far greater than the suffering.

Prem: Yes right. I get it now. That explains Swami’s statement... “Idhi Shrama kaadu bangaru, idhi prema.” And that also explains the joy of a mother. When a mother prepares a dish, she always gives the best share of it to her children. And it is so easy for her to do so. We as children may see it as sacrifice, but for her, true joy lies in seeing her children enjoy it.

Bishu: How often we have noticed Swami’s face glow with joy when He is giving, be it prasadam, clothes or other gifts or even when He is giving photographs to a group after their performance.

The Sai Kulwant Hall full to the brim during Shivarathri 2011



- Radio Sai Team

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