Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam. Everyday, each and everyone of you [over 15,000 in fact], receives a picture post card from us, the Sai Inspires Card. Many have written to us about how wonderful these messages of Swami are, how they were faced with a particular problem and the message that they got that morning sorted it all out almost instantly, etc. We are happy to learn all this but we wonder nevertheless how many reflect on the profundity of the messages. For example, the Sai Inspires message of 23 rd September 2006 said the following:
Today, people think that Spirituality has no relation to mundane life and vice versa. This is a big mistake. True Divinity is a combination of Spirituality and social obligations. National unity and social harmony are founded upon Spirituality. It is the Divine that links Spirituality and social existence. The Creator and Prakriti [Cosmos] are inextricably associated with each other. Hence, God should not be regarded as separate from Creation. See God in the Cosmos.
If we have to see God in the Cosmos, then we must actively cultivate what Swami refers to as Vishaala Bhavam or broadmindedness. This Sunday, we want to touch upon the topic of Divinity, social obligations and mundane life, because they too are connected with Vishaala Bhavam. We shall try to explain the linkage by first bringing to your notice a heart-warming story of a young man born into poverty, his struggle to come up, and how when he finally turned the corner, he began to serve Society even though there was a lot to be done at home.
The young man in question is Sarat Babu, born in a slum in Madras/Chennai into a family of five children, who were solely dependent on their mother, the sole breadwinner. Sarat Babu has two sisters elder to him and two brothers younger to him. His mother, who had studied up to the tenth standard, was able to get a small job in a Government school connected with the Government Mid-day Meal Scheme. Her salary was thirty rupees a month – believe it or not that is less than a dollar for an entire month! And she had to support all her children and herself on that! So she had to earn extra money and that she did by making idlis [a breakfast item] at home and selling them. Even that was not enough and so in the evenings she participated in an adult-education programme that fetched a little bit more; thus three different jobs, and still the earning was far from sufficient – that is what poverty is all about.
Sarat Babu felt deep anguish to see his mother struggle so hard and firmly resolved to do all he could to come up in life and lift his family out of dire poverty. He studied hard, got good grades and worked his way up to the tenth standard. There were two more years of school but for studying in those classes, he had to pay a special fee of two thousand rupees. Imagine that! His mother was making just thirty rupees a month in her main job and had to take on two more jobs to feed her five children. Where was this young boy going to produce two thousand rupees from?
This is where firm determination comes into the picture. Sarat Babu was determined, come hell or high water, to pull himself and his family out of the rut. So during the summer vacation he did book-binding work and managed to earn some money. In fact, at times business was good and he was able to employ 20 other kids and give them employment too! As he now says, “That was my first real job as an entrepreneur.”
Hard work always pays, and Sarat Babu was not only able to complete school but come out as a topper. He now began to set his sight higher. A classmate told him about an Engineering University named Birla Institute of Technology and Science [BITS] in Pilani in the State of Rajasthan in North India . BITS is a well-known institute and entry is tough even as the fees are high. Thanks to his high marks, Sarat Babu managed to get into BITS but fees? The tuition fee alone was Rs. 28,000/- per year; added to that was the hostel and other fees. In all it came to Rs. 40,000 /- an astronomical sum really, for a boy, whose mother’s main income came through the sale of idlis.
But nothing would stop Sarat Babu. He applied for a Government scholarship, which he secured, and that helped some. However, it was not enough. His sister pitched in by pawning some of her jewels [in India , even poor families manage to invest in jewels; it is a kind of bank!]. Sarat Babu felt very bad about it but he needed money; and since what his sister gave was not enough, he borrowed heavily at a high rate of interest.
Money was one part of the problem; living and studying amidst fellow students who were all from either rich or well-off middle class families was another. To make matters worse, Sarat Babu was not good in English when he entered the University. But Sarat Babu kept on, propelled by his unquenchable determination. His subject was Chemical Engineering but in his spare time, Babu worked as a welder and metal cutter. This fetched some money and in fact he was even able to pay some of his debt and redeem the pawned jewels of his sister.
Engineering work was tough but it had its rewards. Firstly, people began to respect him for his hard work. Next, he began to get experience in teamwork and leadership as well. After four years, Babu was an Engineering graduate, and his mother was dreaming that her problems would soon be over. However, friends who admired his management and entrepreneurial talents said, “Listen, you should do MBA. That is what you are destined for. And you must do it in one of the best Management Institutes in the country.” Babu too felt that was his calling and not a mere job.
Getting into a brand Management Institute is not easy. It requires hard work, intense study and concentrated preparation. At the same time, there were urgent family obligations. So Sarat Babu took a job in a software company, earned some money, paid off some debts and at the same time prepared as best as he could for the national competitive exam that selects candidates for the six prestigious Management Schools in the country. Babu’s mother was not too happy about what her son was doing; she wanted him to quickly earn as much money as possible, and improve the family’s finances. However, Babu’s mind was made up. He did not clear the entrance exam in his first two tries but he persisted. Third time he was successful and he studied Business Administration in the country’s top Management School in Ahmedabad.
In Business School , Babu served as the Mess Secretary and this not only gave him managerial experience but also taught him how to feed a large number of people. Even before he graduated, Babu received many attractive employment offers – one employer even offered Rs. 800,000 as annual salary - but he rejected them all. He was set on becoming an entrepreneur; his mother was not happy but she had to yield. Recalling that his mother made idlis and sold them to educate him, Sarat Babu decided he too would run a kitchen that prepared food and distributed to clients.
He started on a very small scale but hard work paid off. Today he is rapidly expanding his business and soon expects to have a chain all over the country. He even hopes to have franchises overseas. Why this obsession to be an entrepreneur? Babu says that comes from the fact an entrepreneur creates jobs for others and thus serves Society. He has always admired big industrialists and in the next five years, he wants to create 15,000 jobs!
At last, Babu is tasting success. He still has a few debts to pay back but he is definitely round the corner. Has success gone to his head? This is what he says and you can judge for yourself. “Luxuries like a car or a bungalow do not matter to me. Even money does not matter to me. I feel bad if I have to have food in a five-star hotel. I feel guilty. I have no ambition but I do want to give a house and a car to my mother.”
One cannot help recalling the glorious example set decades back by our beloved Swami. When He was young, Sathya Narayana Raju as He was known as a boy was super brilliant in school. The entire family pinned its hope on Him; no surprise in that because the Raju family was very poor. And Sathya sure could have got a good Government job [the highest in achievement those days when the British ruled India ], and climbed to the very top; no question about that. But what did young Raju do? At the age of fourteen, He quit school and started serving Society.
Just look around Puttaparthi today. Swami did not personally turn into an entrepreneur, but there cannot be any question that He is literally a “one-man industry,” as a professor in our Institute once described Him. Not only is Bhagavan making the entire economy of Puttaparthi tick but, thanks to Him, airlines are getting tens of thousands of passengers every year, tour operators round the world are getting business, taxi drivers are getting business, hotels in Bangalore and Bombay are getting business and so on! So Swami is literally a very efficient engine of economy and He has become one simply by investing Love and the Spirit of Service! And don’t forget the massive projects He has done, all of which have brought employment to so many in so many places.
We are here reminded of a story involving Mother Teresa, a story recorded by late J. R. D Tata, a doyen of Indian Industry. Once, Mother was invited to Jamshedpur where there is a big steel plant established by the Tatas. Mother had gone there on JRD’s invitation. After the function, JRD and Mother travelled in the Company aircraft to Calcutta where Mother lived. It was evening and as the aircraft rose in the air, Mother took out her rosary and started praying. Down below were the slums of Jamshedpur . Looking at them JRD turned to Mother and said, “Mother, while you are praying, please tell God to do something about all these poor people.” Mother looked at JRD and sternly replied, “Mr. Tata, God knows His business and we do not have to tell Him what to do. On the other hand you would be serving God, if you concentrate on creating employment and help these poor people to earn some money.”
So you see, creating jobs need not be regarded merely as an economic activity. It might appear a “mundane” and worldly activity but as Swami points out if the intentions are noble, even the mundane can be raised to the level of the Divine. That is how Work is elevated to Worship.
The Gita, it is said, is essentially three Yogas telescoped into each other, the KarmaYoga, the BhaktiYoga and the JnanaYoga. What Swami is telling us is: “Start with ordinary Karma [work]. Do it with sincerity and without any selfishness. Then good work becomes God’s work. That is the essence of Bhakti. And in due course, Bhakti would help you to become one with God and experience Ananda, and that is the end point of Jnana.” In other words, discharging social obligations is a path to God, and one recommended by Swami.
That makes sense, does it not? And it is not very difficult to understand either. Sarat Babu and many others like him may not have heard of Bhagavan Baba or read the Gita, but they intuitively know what it contains, and that is all that matters. This young man remembers his humble origin and now simply wants to help others. Isn’t that what Swami tells us: HELP EVER?
Once again, every message of Swami that comes via Sai Inspires is very deep, if only we think about it for a few minutes. By the way, do you know of examples like that of Sarat Babu, even if they are not identical? Stories of people who are not well-off themselves but have an unquenchable urge to serve? Why don’t you tell us about them so that we can share with the entire world?
See you again next Sunday!
Jai Sai Ram.