Thursday, 8 February 2018

101 reasons why you are my best friend

These were the contents of a huge greeting card that I gave the best friend of my life! That is a lovely story in itself and you can read it at:

And here goes the 101 reasons why I tell my best friend that He is my best friend!

1. I can't spell friendship without you
2. You’re the most beautiful flower in the garden of my life.
3. You can easily tell a lie for my convenience.
4. You understand when I’m too busy.
5. You know me better than my siblings.
6. You don't necessarily support my decisions.
7. You go an extra mile when I need help.
8. You tolerate my bad moods and still speak to me when you are in one of your own such one.
9. At others expense, you make a great laughing partner.
10. You walk in when others walk out.
11. I can speak my heart out to you.
12. You openly discuss a disastrous date/crush.
13. You fall for the same junk as I do.
14. You help me to choose the right thing for my heartthrob.
15. I can throw my tantrums on you.
16. I can rely on you to post my letters.
17. I know I needn't look my best when you’re around
18. I can discuss my creepy fantasies with you.
19. You motivate me to exercise.
20. You’ve got sense of humor.
21. You hand me your handkerchief when I’ve conveniently forgotten mine

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Where to find Sri Sathya Sai Baba?

The life-changing day

The 24th of April, 2011, changed life for millions of people around the globe. It was the day when Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba took Mahasamadhi ( For those considered as Spiritual Masters, the term 'death' is never used for they are beyond birth and death. The term Mahasamadhi literally means 'Great Samadhi'. 'Samadhi' refers to the realized conscious departure from the physical frame.) Needless to say, it was an earth-shattering event for me. I seemed lost and the world seemed to come to a standstill. Considering everything in life as temporary and transient, I had held on to my God and Master. But now, He Himself was gone! What was I to hold on to now?
The earliest unveiled form of the Mahasamadhi structure of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. 
I had always delighted in my work at Radiosai, spreading Swami's message of love and selfless service. But now, I was not able to do any of my work. I was known as a person who kept cracking jokes and making people laugh. There is nothing that satisfies me more than to know that I have been the reason for someone's laughter, someone's joy. Now, I no longer felt the need to make people laugh and happy - how could I when I myself was poverty-stricken in that respect? There were no smiles on my face nor was there any joy left in my heart. The pain was so much when I saw my Master lying in state for the 'funeral' that I did not even have the guts to go again to the Sai Kulwant hall where the mortal remains of beloved Swami had been buried.

The days passed agonizingly slowly. I don't remember much about those days except the fact that I just kept breathing on when I wanted to actually let go of everything and allow my breath to travel with Swami's. However, I remember one incident that Swami seemed to have especially planned to kick me out of my stupid stupor and kick-start my life again. 

An impulse that overruled a decision

It had been just a couple of months since I had been engaged to Pooja. It now became clear that Swami would not be present for my wedding. In fact, I realized that He would not be there for any of my life-events from now on. I wasn't ready to accept that. In an attempt to forget the Mahasamadhi, I decided that I would not go anymore to the Sai Kulwant Hall, the temple where I had spent hours daily for more than a decade! Later in the day, when I mentioned this to my fiancée, she did not seem surprised but she told me that Swami would miss me if I did not go there. 
"I don't think so Pooja. I will meet Swami daily in my workplace for, thankfully by His grace, my work involves seeing Him, hearing Him and writing about Him."
"Your wish. It is your journey to Him. I can only pray and pray hard for you... Pray for me too okay?"
I realized that, lost in my sorrow, I had forgotten that it was equally sorrowful for Pooja too to have lost her Swami.
"Yes! Absolutely. I shall pray for you. Let us pray for each other..."

Monday, 29 January 2018

Power of the Gayatri Mantra is beyond imagination

The beautiful Panchamukhi Gayatri idol installed in Prasanthi Nilayam, Puttaparthi. 

Gaayantham Thraayathe Ithi Gayatri

The Gayatri mantra is considered as one of the most powerful, all-encompassing and comprehensive mantras. Commonly, it is said,

Sarva Roga Nivaarini Gayatri (Gayatri Mantra is the reliever of diseases),

Sarva Duhkha Parivaarini Gayatri (Gayatri Mantra wards off all misery),

Sarva Vaancha Phalasri Gayatri (Gayatri Mantra is the fulfiller of all desires).

Those apart, the mantra also ensures that bad thoughts do not arise in one’s mind. It filters thoughts to allow only good and noble ones. It also increases one’s focus and concentration abilities. 

The Gayatri Mantra was discovered by Sage Viswamitra. It was the same Sage Viswamitra who initiated Sri Rama. It is a Universal Mantra and can be chanted by anyone, irrespective of religion, nationality, gender, caste, creed or race. In fact, as Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba (Swami) puts it, this mantra can be chanted at any place and any time. 

There are innumerable instances, public and private, where Swami has dilated on the power and potency of the Gayatri Mantra. One thing He always says is,

“Gaayantham Thraayathe Ithi Gayatri. (Gayatri is that which protects and redeems the chanter of the mantra.)”

Though I have heard and read this multiple times, the enormity of that statement hit me when I read an incident from the book, “Avatar’s Prescription” by Dr. M. Vijai Kumar (MD, DA). This book is a collection of experiences of this venerable doctor who has done free medical service for over four decades. It is the story of his association with Swami and the guidance he has received from his Guru and God. It is on page 109 of the book that he reveals this incident which makes our jaw drop in awe about the power of the Gayatri Mantra. 

Bhagawan Baba chanting the Gayatri mantra. Play 
it as you read the article. You will get the merit of
hearing the Gayatri Mantra a few times atleast! :)

The accident in 1985 that could have a different ending

In the year 1985, Dr. Vijai Kumar and several others were with Swami in an interview. Swami was speaking to all the assembled people. However, He seemed to evince lot of interest in talking with a six year old girl seated on her mother’s lap. The girl was asking Swami many questions in rapid succession and Swami was answering all of them with great patience and love. After a while, Swami gifted her with a photograph of Himself. Now, the girl wanted to know whether to put the picture in a big frame and hang it on the wall or put it in a small table-top frame.

“Put it in a small table-top frame...” Swami answered.
“Swami, where should I keep it? Should I keep it in my bedroom or in the living room?”
“Dear one, keep it on the window sill in your house - the one where there is direct sunlight. Then you can view it from your study table and well as from the living room,” Swami revealed in His omniscience.

The conversation went on and soon, the child seemed to be the sole focus for Bhagawan. All the while, the mother was sobbing silently but uncontrollably. Swami allowed her to cry. Everyone in the interview room were amazed at this unique interaction and were wondering why the mother was crying.

As if to appease everyone’s curiosity, Swami informed them in a very soft voice that the girl’s father had traveled on board “Air India Kanishka”.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Jnana and Dhyana also need Bhakti - Ram Mohan's life experience_Part 3

The magazine of God, for God, with God

It was almost instantly that Ram Mohan decided to make everything he did as an expression of his love to Swami. In 1984, he encouraged the students to produce a hostel magazine as an offering to Bhagawan on His Birthday on 23rd November. A number of hand-written articles, hand-drawn sketches and original poems landed up in his room in the weeks leading to the birthday. With the permission of the Controller of Examinations, Prof. Nanjundiah, Ram Mohan got multiple copies made from the University cyclostyle machine. Then, getting all the pages bound, Ram Mohan offered the magazine to Swami for His birthday.

Swami placed the bulky book on His lap and leafed through all its contents. He was visibly happy and He blessed the effort. From then on, there was no looking back for Ram Mohan. He ensured that a copy of the magazine which was released for every major festival - Guru Poornima, Krishna Janmashtami, Dusshera, Christmas etc. - made its way to Bhagawan. After that, a copy of the magazine was also delivered to each and every room in the hostel for the students to read. Swami would go through the magazine and send His feedback on different articles, poems, sketches and paintings. Even when Swami had suffered a fall and a fracture, He went through the magazine, sending feedback via the editor of the Sanathana Sarathi, Sri V.K.Narasimhan. Swami conveyed to Ram Mohan,
“Why has the boy drawn Garuda’s nose so long? Tell him to shorten it...”

Ram Mohan offering the initial version of the hostel magazine, Sai Chandana, to his Swami in the Mandir portico. 
Years later, in 1989, Swami Himself christened the magazine as ‘Chandana’. The next issue onwards, the magazine carried the name ‘Sai Chandana’ in bold letters on the front. Ram Mohan could not think of Chandana without the ‘Sai’ coming first! Thus, not only did Ram Mohan make the hostel magazine a vehicle for his devotion, he made it the carrier of all the students’ love too. In the later years, the magazine grew in size and significance and had multiple editors. Even then, when Swami referred to it, He always fondly remembered Ram Mohan. In fact, going through the 60th Birthday issue, Swami looked at Ram Mohan and told him,
“I know that you only have written all the articles in here.”
That thrilled the devoted heart.

{This is the concluding part of the 3-part story of Ram Mohan. To ensure you get the best of the story, read this part only after reading the first two parts at the links below:
1. How to get devotion and increase it? - Life experience of Ram Mohan Rao - Part 1
2. The easiest way to increase devotion to God - Life experience of Ram Mohan Rao - Part 2 }

Sai Chandana became a passion and obsession with Ram Mohan. He fervently worked for it with the feeling that this magazine of God should record the heartbeats of His students. The contributions were from students as young as 12 years of age right up till the research scholars in their mid twenties. Ram Mohan considered Sai Chandana as a legacy of the present to the future, a gift and treasure trove of Divine Love.

The lines of dedication from the first issue of the hostel magazine (that Swami named as Chandana) says it all.
When the revered Sri Gandikota Subrahmanya Sastry passed away, a list of names was taken to Swami to name his substitute on the board of reviewers of the Sri Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust alongside Prof. Anil Kumar, Sri Ramana Rao and Sri Prahlad. It was possibly as a reward for his purity, patience and perseverance that Swami selected Ram Mohan as a member of the book-review board.

When God waits for the devotee

This attitude of doing everything as an offering to Swami began to pervade Ram Mohan’s ‘translator-abilities’ too. In the 1990s, Swami brought Prof. Anil Kumar from the Brindavan campus of the SSSIHL to its Prasanthi Nilayam campus. That was when Ram Mohan’s opportunities as a translator declined drastically as Prof. Anil Kumar took over that divine task. However, that did not sadden Ram Mohan or dampen his enthusiasm for Swami’s voice and words. He would sit in his spot behind the Ganesha idol in the Mandir portico, recording Bhagawan’s discourse on tape, in his diary and his heart. Then, he would transcribe the entire discourse in his beautiful Telugu handwriting after which, he would add his comments and appreciation of the different points made by Swami in the discourse. Having done that, he would make copies of his work and send the originals to Swami in a sealed envelope!

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The easiest way to increase devotion to God - Life experience of Ram Mohan Rao - Part 2

"Test is the taste of the Lord"

The Lord always encourages the devotees’ test. But then, repeated testing is harmful for the devotee! If the mind is allowed to tug at the sapling of faith on a daily basis to check whether the root - God - is there, the sapling may never grow into a mighty tree. Swami had already faced the ‘Hyderabad test’. Now, he had been thrown the ‘Bangalore test’. His love is such that He would definitely respond. But this time, it would involve a ‘Madras test’ for the devotee.

The route to his destination in Odisha involved travelling via the city of Madras (Chennai today). In the Madras railway station, Ram Mohan discovered to his horror that he had lost his tickets! He did not have sufficient money to purchase the tickets afresh. Soon enough, the TC (ticket collector) came and evicted him from the train. Stranded and stuck, he was at his wits end. He closed his eyes and prayed to both the Babas he knew - Shirdi Sai and Sathya Sai. The train would be leaving soon and he wondered why had he got into such a predicament. But wait, hadn’t he himself prayed to Swami to demonstrate His divinity?

[If you are wondering when did Ram Mohan make such a prayer, it becomes evident that you missed reading the first part of this article. For better understanding and greater enjoyment, read ahead only after having read the first part which is at the link below:

God recognizes us irrespective of the 'costume' we put on outside. Are we able to recognize when God comes to us in
His many costumes? (Sri Ram Mohan Rao with Swami in Kodaikanal, 1987)
“Ram Mohan Rao... Who is Ram Mohan Rao?”
He turned around to see a couple of gentlemen walking towards him. One was tall, about six and a half feet, while the other was short, about five feet.
“I am Ram Mohan Rao...”
“Ah! There you are. Does this belong to you?”
It was his ticket!
“Thank you so much. You are lifesavers!”
“Words will not suffice sir... Give us our dakshina (an offering made usually to one’s Guru or God only)...”
Ram Mohan had only a few Rupees left on him. He gave them ten and they seemed happy with whatever he gave. Taking his ticket, he managed to board the train just before it’s scheduled departure. But still, making the 3-day journey with barely a few Rupees in pocket was a tough ask.

That was when a gentleman from Masulipatnam, who was sharing the same compartment offered to help. Handing over 30 Rupees (the amount that Ram Mohan said would suffice), the gentleman said,
“You can take this now. But please return the money to me. Here is my address.”
Ram Mohan thanked his godsent saviour and promised to send the money as soon as he was at his destination.

Monday, 4 December 2017

How to get devotion and increase it? - Life experience of Ram Mohan Rao - Part 1

A persistent Presence

The first time that Ram Mohan Rao heard the name of Sathya Sai Baba was in the coastal city of Vishakpatnam. The schoolboy was passing by a photo-framing shop when he chanced upon the image of a man in a saffron robe sporting a thick, curly mop of black hair.
“Who is that?”, he asked the shopkeeper in curiosity.
“That is Sai Baba... He is the living God”, answered the shopkeeper casually.
“God!” Ram Mohan’s jaw dropped down in disbelief. He paused for a moment to take a second look at the ‘Sai Baba’ and then returned home.

Sri Ram Mohan Rao with the love of his life, the meaning of his life and the goal of his life
- his God and Guru, Sri Sathya Sai.

After that day, however, there were at least a dozen occasions before he graduated with honours in English literature when he came across the name and form of Sathya Sai Baba. The most bizarre experience occurred when he left for the sleepy town of Jaleshwar in Odisha, in search of a job as a lecturer in English. When he met Mr. Chittaranjan Sahu, the Principal of the Deena Krishna College, for the interview, the first question almost took Ram Mohan’s breath away.
“Do you know Sathya Sai Baba?” the Principal asked.
“I have heard the name sir and have also seen pictures of him...”
“Have you been to Puttaparthi?”
“I haven’t even heard that name in my life...”
The Principal smiled and said,
“It is He that has prompted you to come here. I am certain of that because today is the 23rd of November - His birthday! You are appointed. Congratulations...”

Ram Mohan was in a daze. What he was hearing seemed so strange. It was as if Sathya Sai Baba was following him ever since he saw Him in that picture-framer’s shop!

During the one year he spent at the DK College in 1971, Ram Mohan learned many things about Baba from the Principal. Mr.Chittaranjan would speak very highly of the discipline and devotion that ‘Swami’ demanded from His students in the newly opened colleges at Bangalore, and Anantapur (The Puttaparthi college had not yet come into existence then). He would want the same kind of discipline at DK College as well.

In 1972, Ram Mohan Rao took up a job as a lecturer at the Science College in the large town of Chhatrapur, in the state of Odisha. Swami followed him there too in an almost shocking manner. Ram Mohan had a very jovial colleague, Prasanna Misra, in the college. He was a happy-go-lucky person whose easygoing nature bordered on the recklessly casual. He was deep into the smoking habit. Thus, though he was a pleasant conversationalist, nobody would want to visit his reeking room. However, Ram Mohan, who was the antithesis of Prasanna Misra, developed a liking for him. That is why they probably say - ‘opposites attract’.

One day in the winter of 1975, Ram Mohan was shocked to see Prasanna early in the morning in the staff room without a cigarette in his mouth for the first time ever!
“Didn’t you sleep at all last night Prasanna?” Ram Mohan could not accept the fact that he had woken up so early.
“I slept like a baby Ram Mohan”, he responded with a serene smile.
What had happened to his colleague? He seemed to exude some ethereal happiness and peace. The thought expressed itself directly.
“What happened to you man?”
“I saw God”, he answered simply.
“You?”, Ram Mohan stared at him in disbelief.
“Yes! Me... With these eyes of mine...” , Prasanna said, “Come home in the evening and I shall tell you everything about it.”

That evening, when Ram Mohan went to Prasanna’s room, he was pleasantly shocked to find it pervaded with the fragrant smoke from incense sticks instead of the usual tobacco smoke. Prasanna was dressed in a silk dhoti and he welcomed Ram Mohan to join him in the evening worship. The altar was filled with pictures of Sathya Sai. It was Swami again!

After the worship, Prasanna explained how he visited Puttaparthi for the golden jubilee Birthday Celebrations of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. What he experienced within was an insatiable thirst for God which was slaked only when Swami gave him two vibhuti packets. From that day, he lost all urge to even pick a cigarette. After narrating his incredible tale of transformation, Prasanna took a tiny pinch of vibhuti from the packet and giving it to Ram Mohan said,
“God has given this to me with His own hands. You eat it. It will surely do you good.”

Holding the pinch of ash gingerly in his palm, Ram Mohan returned to his room. As prescribed by his friend, he ate it and applied a bit to his forehead as Prasanna had done. Then, he went to sleep. The next morning, he made his way to the well in the backyard to draw water for his ablutions. His eyes fell on something shiny beside the well. He picked it up and it was a pair of cymbals! Not knowing what to do with it, he placed it in the room and promptly informed Prasanna about it.

“Ram Mohan, you will surely become a devotee of Swami”, said Prasanna, “because Swami wants you. He sent you these cymbals which are symbolic of Bhakti or devotion. These are His visiting cards.”

Monday, 23 October 2017

When suicidal thoughts arise - SOS to Sai

God is always close

It was the summer of 1957. India, as a country was seeing a great many changes in its internal political map. The States Reorganisation Act of 1956 was in full force now and the boundaries of several states were being redrawn and the states were being reorganised on linguistic lines. It was a time of tremendous change especially for those people who were serving in government offices and administrative roles. A plethora of transfers, promotions, reassignments and marching orders were being issued and a lot of people were getting displaced. Among these thousands was one illustrious government servant who had served India well during the Second World War and the decade following that.

He had given his body and mind, blood and sweat in the service of his country but did not seem to be recognized for the same. Dozens of officers far below him in rank and junior to him in service had been promoted while he had been neglected and relegated to the background. He felt let down and dejected. Adding to his despondency was the fact that he was lonely in his Bhopal home as his wife was away - at her native village along with her parents. It would have been good had he remembered his God or his wife’s God - Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba - in such a scenario. But somehow, when one is drowning in a sea of sorrow, one is unable to remember anything or anyone. All one wants is for the comforting embrace of death to get away from the situation! Unable to bear his sorrow, he decided to end his woes by literally biting the bullet! Walking up to his bedroom drawer, he pulled out his service revolver and walked out into the living room. Steadying his grip on the gun, he ensured that it was loaded. Just to ensure that the weapon had the capacity to wipe out all his sorrows he even test fired it. He had no fear about the sound arousing the neighbours. It wouldn’t matter in a few moments anyway. Mentally seeking forgiveness from his wife, he placed the barrel of the gun to his head.
The division of India into states before the reorganization came into effect.

Swami shouted in His room in Kodaikanal as He collapsed and slumped on the bed. Swami Satchidananda (a monk from Swami Sivananda ashram, the Divine Life Society in Rishikesh) had accompanied Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba to Kodaikanal and was witness to this strange incident. Till then, Swami had been reclining comfortably on the bed. He had suddenly stood up and shouted in His native tongue Telugu before collapsing back on the bed. As Satchidananda rushed to His bedside, he noticed that Swami’s body had turned stiff and near-lifeless. From his experience of staying with Bhagawan, he knew that Swami was off on a ‘transcorporeal journey’. But what was the situation this time and which devotee was being saved? Had Swami taken over some calamity on to His body? Only time would tell - that too if He willed it.

The weakness of wanting to commit suicide

Atma Hatya is the Sanskrit term for suicide and it directly translates into “killing of one’s soul (Atma)”. Strange isn’t it? Lord Krishna in the Bhagawad Gita said,
“The Atma cannot be pierced by weapons, burnt by fire, moistened by water or dried by the wind ( नैनं छिन्दन्ति शस्त्राणि नैनं दहति पावकः ।
न चैनं क्लेदयन्त्यापो न शोषयति मारुतः ॥)”
Why then is suicide called Atma Hatya and not Deha Hatya? We find the answer in what Swami once told a devotee who confessed of being plagued by thoughts of committing suicide. (This is recorded by Smt. Karunamba Ramamurthy in her book, Sri Sathya Sai Anandadayi.)

However difficult life is, try to be its master and not its slave. Every human being has a preordained life span. It is like staying in a leased house. Before you actually vacate the house, you have to find another one to move in. Similarly, before leaving one body, God selects another body and a span, depending upon the karmic debts. In case death is inflicted arbitrarily, you are denying yourself a chance to work out your karma as early as possible and reach a permanent abode. In suicide, you are stranded midway. It would be a frightening state of affairs for you. There is no vacant space in nature. God has filled the space with spirits and many other invisible entities. When suicide is committed, they show up and terrorize you.