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Illuminating Lessons at His Lotus Feet - Part 2
By Mr. R. Venkatesh Prasad

Mr. Venkatesh Prasad is an alumnus of the Sri Sathya Sai University, Prashanti Nilayam. He joined the university in 1987 and passed out of the portals in 1992 after completing his Bachelors in Commerce and Masters in Business Administration (MBA). Venkatesh currently lives in Bangalore and works for Polyflex India Private Limited as Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

This is the transcript of an episode of the Radio Sai serial “Fleeting Moments…Lasting Memories”. To download this programme, please visit www.radiosai.org/saistudents

The lessons that I have learnt studying in the proximity of Bhagavan in the Sri Sathya Sai University are priceless. Here are two which remain ever fresh in the inner recesses of my heart. These happened when I was in Prasanthi Nilayam pursuing my Master in Business Administration (MBA).

The Major Management Test

Every Management student, as per curriculum, has to submit a project report. We usually spend two to three months on this. I was preparing my project report on an Act passed by the Indian government called the MRTP Act.

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My research was based on the impact that this Act had on the performance of many Indian companies. As stated, I had spent a couple of months on this and the day came when I had to submit my report and present myself for a viva voce before a learned panel.

Normally, vivas were conducted during the holidays and would go on for a few days. I could notice that during that year’s viva voce session, not many students had performed particularly well; in fact the entire batch that I belonged to had not made it up to the mark.

As my name starts with the alphabet ‘V’, I was the last in my class to appear for the viva session. My morale was not at its very best, especially after seeing the glum countenances of my friends. The additional knowledge that the interviewing panel consisted of very distinguished people added to my discomfiture.

My viva day dawned. I was scheduled to present myself at 9.30 a.m. at the institute. On such a day, we generally do not come to Mandir for the morning darshan; we see Him in the afternoon. So, having got up early, I went for a brisk jog on the ground and returned to the hostel in a positive mood and picked up the morning newspaper.

“I will give you Viva”

Newspapers were generally delivered in the hostel at around 6:30 a.m. I causally glanced through the headlines when I saw a headline that made my heart skip a beat: the very Act that I had studied so hard and long, and had made the subject of my project report was scrapped by the Commerce Ministry of the Government of India! I cannot forget that moment. It was 1991 and the then Commerce Minister of India, Mr. P. Chidambaram, had abolished the entire MRTP Act stating that it was detrimental to the country’s progress.

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For a minute, I did not know what to do! My entire mind went blank except for one – Swami. Lord, only You can help me now! I had a hurried shower. All my optimism on the forthcoming viva evaporated. I quickly changed into whites and rushed to Mandir. Bhagavan used to come out for darshan at about 6.00 – 6.15 in the morning. I was desperate and He was my only solution.

In those days, like it is still now, we students had the priceless privilege of referring any issue straight to Swami.

It so happened that on that particular day Bhagavan had not yet come out for darshan. It was almost 7.15 a.m. So I ran all the way to Mandir and sat in the portico, which was almost empty; the student population was small as it was the vacation period.

Swami came out for darshan and He saw me. “What happened? Why are you here?” I got up and said, “Swami, viva...” He did not allow me to complete. He directed, “I will give you viva (a popular energy drink of those days pronounced as VIVA), you go and do viva (WHYWA). Take padanamaskar.” But the fear in me was so strong, I started to open my mouth again, “Swami…” Swami’s voice adopted a stern tone. “Take padanamaskar.” So I fell at His feet never getting a chance to explain.

“Go,” He ordered. I just got up and walked away from the portico when He was standing there! My mind was still numb.

Needless to say, while walking back to the hostel, I was thinking about the issue in hand. In my report, I had said that the Act was detrimental to Indian companies. Then, it struck me: “Why don’t I look at the unforeseen turn of events from a different angle? If the Indian government has really scrapped the Act, then my stand and the Indian government’s are in agreement. So, why should I feel bad about it?

What happened after that I really do not know; only Swami answered through me. For forty five minutes, I was questioned on a number of concepts.... I had seven learned members asking me questions on everything possible, on all the subjects which they could think of. Only by Swami’s grace, I answered everything to their satisfaction.

 

In fact, the news of the Act being trashed could not have come on a better day for me!” Now I was filled with ideas. I ran to the hostel, picked up a copy of my report and other necessary documents, and headed straight to the venue of the viva, well ahead of time. When the panel had arrived and settled themselves, I was completely ready. I straight away put up the conclusion sheet. Some of the members of the panel probably thought I was acting smart by offering the conclusion first. They questioned me in this regard.

I told them point by point how the Act was affecting everybody and as a trump card, I carried the day’s newspaper edition with me. I opened the paper, kept it on the table and told them, “It has been scrapped.” For a minute, they did not believe it! Then, when the news sank in, they all burst out laughing. They said, “Since anyway the Act is now gone, there is no point in dwelling on your project report. However, as we cannot let you go without asking you anything about your project, we’ll question you to check your understanding of various concepts.”

What happened after that I really do not know; only Swami answered through me. For forty five minutes, I was questioned on a number of concepts that ranged from the meaning of Kaalatithaya (a name of Lord Shiva) to IBM clones to the leadership qualities between John Major and Margaret Thatcher, and the qualities of difference between Narasimha Rao and Rajiv Gandhi (former prime ministers of India). I had seven learned members asking me questions on everything possible, on all the subjects which they could think of. Only by Swami’s grace, I answered everything to their satisfaction.

They patted me and sent me home. I knew that I had done well. When I returned to the hostel I found all my classmates waiting for me. Naturally, they thought I would have been grilled thoroughly, especially because of the surprising news in the papers. However, I thumped myself and bragged to them about my performance, “I am going to get an O (Outstanding) grade.” But the story did not stop there.

Swami Decides to Teach...

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I enjoyed the day thoroughly. During the evening at darshan, I sat in the first row in full spirits to share the good news with Swami. Bhagavan came out, looked at me sternly and said, Kyare, naamam de diya (Hey, you have tricked me) enacting the way the naamam mark is applied on ones’ forehead.

In South India, especially in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, when you say naamam, it jocularly means that you have outwitted somebody.

Now, Swami made this statement and just walked away. I was devastated because I could not understand the import of what He just said. In the morning He gave me the spirit to do well, and now when I have come to share the news and offer my gratitude, He is ridiculing me!

He is the Doer

This made me introspect. Swami refused to look at me the entire evening. So, I returned the next morning. Only after an entire day, did the truth dawn on me! I had given ‘naamam’ to Swami Himself! He had given me the energy to perform well, but when I returned from the interview, I bragged to my classmates about my prowess. I took the entire credit for it. So, by this, I had given naamam to the Lord!

This made me introspect. Swami refused to look at me the entire evening. So, I returned the next morning. Only after an entire day, did the truth dawn on me! I had given ‘naamam’ to Swami Himself! He had given me the energy to perform well, but when I returned from the interview, I bragged to my classmates about my prowess. I took the entire credit for it. So, by this, I had given naamam to the Lord!

It was indeed a great lesson in humility. I have not forgotten the lesson to this day. Even as I write this incident, it is Swami writing through me. At the end of all my activities I pray to Him and leave the results to Him; all credit goes to Him alone as we are only instruments in His hands.

An Enlightening Lesson from a Towering Personality

Swami often teaches us through His devotees. I would like to share with you one such incident that occurred at Trayee Brindavan. This happened during a darshan session.

It so happened that on that day there was a devotee from Puttaparthi whom Swami lovingly called His ‘Hanuman’, sitting next to me. This devotee had, in Swami’s own words, achieved a different plane of living. The relationship between him and Swami was totally different. This devotee, during the strict silence that generally pervades before Bhagavan’s arrival, asked me a question, “How does Swami know everything?”

 

“If you notice, all living forms are present in His body, in fact, the entire universe. Everything is contained in Him. Everything is Him, He is everything. Now, just as you come to know of the sensation when an ant bites your hand or leg, the Lord knows whatever happens in this universe and the universes beyond, because everything is sustained in Him. They are part of the Lord. That is how Swami is Antaryami and how He knows everything.” - Sai devotee

At that point I did not want to answer this question because I did not want to talk as it was darshan time. Also, I knew that such discussions could potentially last a long time! I realized that I would be creating trouble for myself entering into such a conversation sitting right outside Swami’s main door. So, I tried to avoid the topic, but he would not let me go.

Therefore, without turning my head towards his side, I said, “Swami is antaryami (All-knowing one).” He immediately said, “That is what Swami says in His discourses, but now you tell me how does Swami know everything?” I had only one thought running through my head: stop this conversation. Again I replied tersely, “Swami is God.”

He gave me the same response, “That is what Swami says in His discourses, but how does Swami know everything?” The question-answer volley was heading in a direction in which I did not want to go. So, with all humility I asked him, “Uncle, why don’t you tell me how Swami knows everything.” I thought by making him talk I might escape. But, what followed after that was one of the greatest blessings that Swami has showered on me. What he told me is perhaps the greatest truth.

He said, “I will tell you how Swami knows everything. When an ant bites your feet or hand, how do you know?”

I said, “It is my hand and my leg, so I know.”

“Very true!” He said, “Have you seen in Hindu households a picture of a standing Vishnu with twenty arms, twenty heads, a cow in His stomach and so on? That is the Viraat Swaroop (cosmic form) of Vishnu.”

“Yes, I have seen that.”

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Mr. Venkatesh Prasad with his Divine Sai
 

“Through the art, the artist wanted to communicate the cosmic form of the Lord. If you notice, all living forms are present in His body, in fact, the entire universe. Everything is contained in Him.

Everything is Him, He is everything. Now, just as you come to know of the sensation when an ant bites your hand or leg, the Lord knows whatever happens in this universe and the universes beyond, because everything is sustained in Him. They are part of the Lord. That is how Swami is Antaryami and how He knows everything.”

I cannot describe the profound impact that simple explanation made on me. It was a very lucid, crystal clear explanation of how Swami is omnipresent. The devotee cleared once for all in my mind any ambiguity that may arise when we say Swami is watching us always. I felt how much mercy Swami had showered on me that day. I wondered in total amazement at how many years this uncle would have struggled and prayed to the Lord to arrive at this state of mind, and here he was putting everything in one small, sweet easily swallow-able capsule.

With that the devotee stopped talking and as if on this cue, Swami opened the door, walked towards us and then stood right in front of us. I had a wonderful padanamaskar. The devotee too prostrated at His feet. From that day on I never lost the thought that I am alone. He is always with me. There was never an occasion after that where I found making decisions tough, for I am in Swami and whatever happens is His will!

 


Dear Reader, did this article inspire you in any way? Would you like more such stories from former students of Sri Sathya Sai University? Please write to us at [email protected] mentioning your name and country. Thank you for your time.


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Vol 6 Issue 12 - DECEMBER 2008
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