Volume 11 - Issue 02
February 2013
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Posted on: Feb 19, 2013


A Life of Servitude

- an exclusive conversation with Mr. K. Chakravarthi


Part 01 - Conversation with Mr. Chakravarthi Part 02 - Conversation with Mr. Chakravarthi Part 03 - Conversation with Mr. Chakravarthi

The Privilege of Reporting to Boss Divine


KM: In your position as a Registrar or as the Secretary of the Trust, while Bhagawan was in the form, you reported directly to a being that millions believed to be Divine and your boss was God for all practical purposes. What does it take to report every morning to a Being who is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent for millions?

K. Chakravarthi: Well, I think it was the personality of Swami which made us believe that He is a human being, that made us, I suppose work in a way in which we could work as human beings.

KM: Otherwise, you would be petrified?

K. Chakravarthi: Yes, many of us would have seen, the way in which Swami interacts. You would get an immediate feeling that there is someone who is so totally aware of you and knows everything, all right, but He still wants you to do, to learn and to report. In fact, on an occasion when I said “Swami knows everything”, He used to say “Swami knows everything but I want to know whether you know everything about our institute.” (Laughs!)

So one can't say that Swami knows everything and keep quiet. Then on another occasion, He said, “Well, if I know everything, why did I keep you?” You ought to know yourself.

It is not as though Swami knows and you do not need to know anything. So, I think all these things made you feel that you have to work in a way which I think fills the role and He never gave an impression that you are in the company of someone who is not open to your submissions or your understanding of the problem and seeking some degree, some light from Him whether the one which we are suggesting is the right one, and number of times I think we used to go and say “Swami, this is one way of doing it; this is another way of doing it” and we leave at that. He says “Do this or don't do that” or something.

So, over a period of time, you know that you are getting all the support, all the guidance but at the same time, you do not treat Him as a human being who knows more than you. It is something beyond that. There is some force, and therefore you treat Him as something far, far above a human being even in the normal course of things but we have come to believe from the beginning that here is a Divine Being with us. Prof. Gokak used to say, “I roar like a lion when I am outside but I become a lamb in His presence.”

I think that summed up the attitude. You know you may be anything but in His presence… it was always a question of learning to submit or trying to do what pleases Him and avoid what doesn’t please Him and He could be very forceful in rejecting things which possibly we have even unknowingly done.

That's why you talk of perfection. What is perfection? How do you define perfection? So it is only in adherence to the right thing in the small matters that builds up a capacity to do the right things in the right way.

Early years of interaction with Bhagawan, during his weekly trips from Anantapur

Until it becomes a part of our nature to eschew the things which should not be done, to do things which need to be done...it has to become a part of our own personality and I think many, many people who have had occasion to be with Swami would have felt like that.

Balancing Family within a Life of Servitude

KM: Mr. Chakravarthi, the kind of commitment you have demonstrated while serving in these positions required you to spend many hours on the job. I don't think you travelled outside the ashram for decades at a stretch and you were always available to run this place and do whatever Bhagawan wanted you to. This must have taken a toll on your family life?

K. Chakravarthi: Luckily, I suppose, when the children finished studying here, Swami blessed them to go and have their education abroad and we knew that that is a part of life. The children had to grow, like the birds, and leave the nest, that's all right.

So far as my wife and I are concerned, I supposed she was committed to Swami more than me. Therefore I didn't have any problem to convince her that we have to stay here because of this commitment or that commitment.

Secondly, the air of peace and tranquillity here which she enjoyed, in those earlier days … she was so keen to have the morning darshan, evening darshan and in those days Swami used to come right on time. So, I used to come at 6:30, see Swami, go back and drop her before I go to the college and we did it for some time.

Then Swami said, “Now he has lot of work; so come only in the evenings.” And she was quite upset because, you were losing one darshan. But she knew that time was precious because everything has to be cut very fine. So in the afternoons, in those days Swami used to come down by 3:30 or 3:45. I used to come again in the afternoon to see Swami around 1:15 or 1:30, go back by 2:30, pick her up, drop her before 3:30 and go to the college.

Offering a bouquet to Bhagawan as the Secretary of the Centeral Trust, during the Trust Anniversary Day

And by the evening if you come Swami would ask you “Have you done this work?” He would have told me at 2:30 perhaps; He would expect me to meet Him at 5:20 or something like that. So, sometimes, you can do but sometimes people are not available to talk to and things like that. So, it is always a question of having to do things which need to be done in a very specific rigorous time frame.

KM: Did you feel stressed at times?

K. Chakravarthi: This is one of the great things or the blessings of Swami not only for me, but for many, many people who would have worked with Him, as the strain perhaps was taken away by Him because I don't think at other places people would have been able to work, continuously for a long time.

KM: And no weekends, no holidays?

K. Chakravarthi: No, in fact the weekends were busier because most people used to come on Saturdays and Sundays to have His darshan.

Very often we didn’t know whether it was a Monday or Wednesday, and also it didn't matter because each day was a fine morning and each evening was a fine evening. I mean you are with Swami. So the artificial calendar you know Sunday to Saturday or October, November, etc. hardly mattered... every day was a day full of promise and full of joy and I think that is the way in which I think I felt that there is no strain or anything on me as far as I could recollect.

Walking a Tightrope as the Face of the Trust

Mr. Chakravarthi during the inauguration of Sri Sathya Sai Gokulam, 1975  

KM: Your position was very sensitive, you were many times the person between people trying to approach Bhagawan and Bhagawan Himself. Did you have to take some tough decisions and did it affect your relationship with people?

K. Chakravarthi: Most people perhaps would have known what Swami is and therefore they would have known the limitations of anyone when it came to taking any information to Swami or take instructions from Swami, etc.

I think very many people who also had to have access through the office would have also known the nature of the way in which Swami expects them to function. I don’t think I had any difficulty with anyone because I think the moment you tell I think Swami said that he would talk to you directly let us say for instance often times He will say “Vaaditho nenu maatlaaduthaanu” (I will talk with the person concerned)”. That shows that well, they know Swami would not have said when He would talk to them! So, people used to stay for another day or two or more - they plan to come for three days and then end up staying for 13 days.

It used to happen for many of them. So, they knew of the limited role anyone could play in terms of their ability to get things done in a way in which normally people expect in the conventional organisations. I think they knew that there is something that they can possibly try to convey to Swami through someone who perhaps meets Swami morning, afternoon and evening but they also know that there are severe limitations to what a person in that position can take to Swami or can bring back from Swami.


His Will, His Way - the Only Way Forward

KM: Now, given your deep commitment to the mission 24/7 for over three decades, what are your dreams for the future?

K. Chakravarthi: I wouldn't say I have dreams. I will say that I have a certain strong feeling that whatever has been set up by Swami would really bring great response from people all over the world. Although in the immediate future, people having been with Him, having talked to Him and having been blessed by Him even in personal matters are going to find it extremely difficult or are already finding it difficult and they may feel a great sense of void.

But future generations who have not seen Him would feel Him in ways in which I think contemporaries might not be feeling. Even one minute or 5 minutes staying here, will give them a sense of connection with Him, which I think is going to be a reality for many, many people.

When people visit the place and see what is happening, they will be inspired deeply and I do believe that many people who are working here in these institutions are also equally committed. In any other place, there would have been a sense of loss, leading to paralysis of action. But here, yes, a sense of loss…

KM: Yet, there's a greater drive.

K. Chakravarthi: Everyone here is saying “This is not sufficient, we must do more, we must do more.” You can't ascribe it to ordinary human feelings, you know, of loss, etc. So it's a paradox, that you feel the sense of loss but you still want to do more than what you have been blessed to do earlier.

KM: The motivation is heightened.

  One of Mr. Chakravarthi's early visits as District Collector of Anantapur

K. Chakravarthi: So, this is what is going to be the defining feeling amidst a lot of people working, here in these institutions and the people who are going to come and be moved by seeing that. And in their own life elsewhere also, I have a feeling wherever they are, they are going to feel that connect between themselves and Swami. That is a lasting relationship that is going to really define their lives in the context of Swami's stay here. So, I will say these are dreams. These are my strong feelings that just as He had brought people like me, who wouldn't have even dreamt of coming here... if somebody had told me when I came to Anantapur that my life is going to be in Anantapur, I wouldn't have believed myself.

So, this is what is going to happen to many people. You do not know what type of a destiny will really bring you close to Him. Well, that's what He wills... it's written somewhere.

My posting to Anantapur in itself was an accident of administration and we know administration is full of accidents. I was posted to Hyderabad, I'd asked for a little leave and then, it was granted and during that period, something happened and they said, “All right, you go there (to Anantapur).”

Now, looking back, if I'd joined Hyderabad, where would I've met Swami? Would I've come here? What would have been my life in the service?

So, I don't think that we really decide for ourselves. Apparently, yes, we take our decisions, there is something, but if you go on thinking, even that takes place because of a certain decision being made by some other force, I think in a manner in which Swami has really been bringing people to Him - a way which we wouldn't have thought possible – His ability to create relationships with Him is not limited to His physical frame.

Sai Will Versus Free Will – What Determines our Destiny?

KM: But I have a question here. You said we are not really responsible for our posting, but in your own case, there was a time when as a District Collector, you came to Puttaparthi and every single instance prior to that, Swami had met with you and spoken to you. But that particular day, He was very busy and He sent Sri Kutumba Rao to see you a number of times, to tell you how busy He was and to tell you that you could leave for Anantapur if you had work. But the message that you sent back was that you were free enough to wait.

And you consciously and specifically chose to wait and later, Dr. Bhagavantham revealed that he was with Swami the entire day and the whole drama was a test for you because Swami said if you chose that day to go back, your life would take a certain route and if you chose to stay back to see Him, your destiny would take you elsewhere. So, there was a fork in the road and you made a choice and the consequence laid out before you.

K. Chakravarthi: This is again part of the wider philosophical question of free will versus determinism. We do not know. Free will is something like a cow tied to a stick. It is given, a certain range of freedom within the lawn you have but beyond that it hasn't. Similarly, our lives are also, you know, given little freedom.

KM: Did you have no work in Anantapur that day?

Mr. Chakaravarthi inaugurating Sai Colony (a settlement in Puttaparthi) as the District Collector of Anantapur District

K. Chakravarthi: It is lucky, I suppose. Looking back, I didn't give any engagement to anyone and it was a holiday. As usual, I was expecting to have darshan and get back and did not expect to stay back the whole day. But, I somehow did not provide for myself any work, any engagement, etc. So, I could send word to Swami that I'm staying here because I have no work which requires my presence there. So, how do you ascribe it? I mean, a man would have normally given some time to somebody for that day. I did not even have to call off a meeting with anyone. It just so happened that the whole day was free. So, when I look back at these things, these are the small pointers... where did I exercise my will? Where has Swami taken over? I think each one will possibly raise this question within himself or herself and then come to their own conclusion.

Influence of Mentors & Role Models

KM: While growing up, who were the people who influenced you? Who were your role models?

K. Chakravarthi: In my case, I think two people really made a lot of difference.

One was my maternal uncle. He was a professor of Philosophy in Venkateswara University and later on, Madras University. Again, we do not know whether it was destiny or my choice but when I completed my schooling, I could have continued in Madras to study my Intermediate as it was called in those days; it was part of the university setup. But somehow, it so happened that he came on that day and he met my father and he said, “Why don't you allow me to take him and be with me for two years? After that, he can come back to Madras and he can do his graduation here.”

I didn't know. I was young, I didn't want to but in those days, students did not say “I won't go”. Father said, “All right. Go with him.” And it so happened that that two years, I accelerated in maturity because he had a very wonderful library. He was himself a very good professor of Philosophy. He did his Doctorate in Christian College in those days when Professor Hogg was there. He had a very distinguished career.

He used to ask me, “Take any book and read.” And I didn't really know.... Epicurus, Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. Then, he had modern books – Hegel, Karl Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies ... lots of books used to be there and he used to ask me to randomly pick a book and start reading and three days later he would sit with me and ask, “What did you understand about this book? Can you say a few words on what you have read and what you have understood?”

  Mr. Chakravarthi at the age of 24, when he was inducted in the IAS

I think it was a training. I was not conscious of that at that time. But looking back, later on, I found that it was easy for me to take any book which is apparently unintelligible and read it. I wouldn't say struggle with it, but at least read it and try to understand it as much as I can. The training of the mind was possible because I was trying to grapple with ideas of a complex nature, of a logic which has been worked out so tightly. So, it was something like a new journey in a mental sphere. And that stood in great stead, later on, when I had to really study much more when I came to my Honours degree and other courses.

The other one is my own granduncle Sir S. Varadachariar who was at that time a Chief Justice of the Federal Court of India, which was the predecessor to the Supreme Court.

Sir Varadachariar was a great jurist and my paternal grandfather's elder brother; we used to call him also grandfather. He was a man of great integrity, great knowledge, great wisdom and a temperament which I think made him accessible to people of all ages and at the same time, he maintained a certain distance. It is easy to become overly friendly. It is also easy to have a put off attitude, but it was a combination of ease with which he could receive people and at the same time, maintain a certain distance with the person.

I learned how you can be informal, you can be accessible but at the same time, you can maintain your own dignity and distance.

Over a period of time, I may have absorbed these lessons, mostly unconsciously. I might have possibly done the same with the students at the university, even if unconsciously. I was informal, accessible but I never gave an impression that I was to be taken advantage of.

So, I think both of them were deeply involved in Visishtadwaita – people who had really taken to study of philosophy in a very serious way. One was a professional philosopher; the other was a great jurist but had studied all the Sanskrit classics and literature.

KM: Sri Ramanujacharya?

K. Chakravarthi: Of course, that is that tradition we were born into. There was a great degree of devotion which I could see in people who were thoroughly Western-educated, had made mark in their own professions but there was something essentially humble, simple about them. Those things I suppose must have shaped my mind.

The Moment of Truth, So Unexpected, So Ecstatic

K. Chakravarthi: Therefore, when I saw Swami, it must have in some way led me to believe that this is the place I must really settle down in and work for… it was not a very conscious decision. It was something so very spontaneous.

I never looked back because I never had to struggle with a decision. It was something, as free as air blowing. That's what I felt when I came here. I told Swami that I'd like to come but at that time, there was no university, there was no thought of it, nothing was there except that I wanted to be with Swami. And then, He said, “Choostaamu.” (I'll see) and “later, later, later” He went on. And suddenly when He decided about the university, He sent word … Kutumba Rao phoned up and said, “Swami wants you to come 10 days earlier than what is normally scheduled.” That is how I came for the Dasara of 1981. And 10 days I stayed with Him, and at the end of the day, on the Vijayadasami day, after that lunch I was about to leave, and Swami called me in and said, “ Haan, come around now.”

KM: What a special moment it must have been in your life!

K. Chakravarthi: Yes, I think at a time when you don't expect from Swami, suddenly a blessing of that nature is given. So we don't know, we go on asking and the answer is “Wait, wait.” And then suddenly He says, “You don’t wait any longer.” You see that is a moment that is so very difficult to capture.

KM: So overwhelming. Yes.

K. Chakravarthi: And to sort of give expression to that.

KM: Yeah. Seems like the unattainable suddenly becomes so easy that you don't know how to react to it.

K. Chakravarthi: Yes, exactly. When you feel that “Well, there's no point in asking” and suddenly without asking it's given, and that is where you start looking at it. This is the thing “Whatsoever thou pray believing, that you will receive.” That is the way in which Jesus said and that's what I think. If you pray, believing, you will receive it. But when and how are matters I suppose which are purely in the realm of the divine.

KM: If you look back and see the dots connecting, it appears as though all the forces came together to prepare you for this very important role you had to play in your life.

K. Chakravarthi: Well, I think possibly one could say that, as in the lives of many, we do not understand, you know how you are a decision maker, at many points of time. But those decisions themselves are supposedly not your decisions but something else guides you. This is a thing which you can analyze but you will never be able to find a sufficient, conclusive answer for that. So I think to receive the blessing, in great joy is itself a blessing. You must have the joy. So to have that joy which is not communicable in terms of words, and it stays with you, and that glow and that feeling persists, over a period of time. That I think is a special blessing.

KM: I agree. Final question. Sir how would you like history to remember you?

K. Chakravarthi: I don't think I make history…

KM: That’s being awfully humble.

K. Chakravarthi: Kahlil Gibran writes, in the book ‘Jesus the Son of Man,’ ‘But those who crossed Him in mid-stream shall be remembered for crossing Him in mid-stream.' That's how I feel.

KM: Profound words. Thank you so very much for coming for this conversation Sir. Sai Ram.

K. Chakravarthi: Thank you very much. Sai Ram

Part 01 - Conversation with Mr. Chakravarthi Part 02 - Conversation with Mr. Chakravarthi Part 03 - Conversation with Mr. Chakravarthi


~ Radio Sai Team

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