Monday, 29 July 2013

A real 'God of small things'

The God of small things

“Why is Sathya Sai Baba God for you?”


This is a question that people are often asked when it is discovered that they have placed their faith in a contemporary ‘God’, a being who seems as human as any of them. The answers the issue forth range from a grateful silence to a verbose chatter where the devotee seems to credit everything in life to his/her ‘Swami’ (as Sri Sathya Sai Baba is called lovingly). For a ‘rational’ mind and heart that has not yet been touched by the divine alchemy, any answer seems incomplete. While the stories of cancers being healed miraculously raise interest and curiosity, the narratives of Swami’s hand in the day-to-day affairs of His devotees seem to just be brushed off as figments of the devout’s imagination.


But those little instances; those small things are what make Him the personal deity for millions. If I am allowed to modify the statement of Henry Royce, an English engineer who is believed to have said,
“Small things make perfection but perfection is no small thing”, I would say,
“Small things make Divinity but Divinity is no small thing.”


Mr. Royce sure knew what he was talking about. He went on to become the co-founder of the Rolls-Royce company along with Charles Stewart Rolls. I sure know what I am talking about because I have met at least a hundred people who have their faith firmly entrenched in God and in Swami as their god because of the small things He does for them. These acts might mean nothing for the world but they mean the world to the people who experience them!


Henry Royce and his 'perfection' - the 1929 Rolls Royce Phantom
This conviction of mine got added strength when good fortune made my path cross that of Mrs. Poongody Ratnam from Canada (originally a native of Sri Lanka). She is a regular reader of my blogs and, out of motherly affection, took time out to visit me at my workplace, Radiosai studios. It was captivating to listen to her narrative of how Baba was and is her God because of the small things He did and continues to do for her.


Strength to brave a tsunami


The 26th of December, 2004 saw a major disaster strike several nations lying on the Indian ocean. The tsunami that hit the Sumatra-Andaman region was of such historic proportions that, as far as I remember, it was for the first time in my life that I heard the word ‘tsunami’! Though the ocean waves from the earthquake did not directly affect Mrs.Ratnam’s family house in Sri Lanka, the havoc wreaked all around was sufficient to cause a massive heart attack to her father.


It was at her home in Canada that she received the news of her father’s passing away. She was halfway across the globe and it was near impossible for her to be at her home in Sri Lanka for the funeral ceremony. But suddenly, she had a wishful thought.

Mrs.Poongody Ratnam at Prasanthi Nilayam
July 2013
She regularly sent greeting cards to her father, and that too ones which she procured specially from Prasanthi NIlayam, bearing Swami’s picture and message on it. Since these cards had Swami on them, her father had preserved each and every one she had sent. She had sent a card on the 23rd of December, just 3 days before. Since it usually took the mailman at least 15-20 days for delivery, there was no way that the card had reached its destination.
“If only the card reaches my father, it could be given to him. That would be like an assurance that Swami is ‘traveling’ with him. That would also give me solace because, as a daughter, am not physically there for the ceremony.”
That was her wishful thought.


Since she had not used a courier service, there was no way to track the card or hurry it to its recipient. Mrs. Ratnam did the only thing she knew for such times - she prayed to her Swami,
“Swami, please reach in time for my father’s ‘journey’. And let me know that you have reached via this card!”
We not only pray to God to grant our desires, but also pray for the desires to be granted in a way want!


What happened was simply unbelievable according to her.
“Just as the ceremonies were completed and the coffin was being moved out of the home for the funeral, the mailman arrived at the door in Sri Lanka! He had just one post for that address that day - it was my card... Swami’s card rather! The card was placed beside my father before the final cremation rites.”


That ‘small’ act by Swami, gave her the strength to bear the force of the emotional tsunami that hit her when she lost her father. She knew, he was ‘safe, happy and peaceful with Swami’.


The mother’s journey


The 27th of April, 2013 saw Mrs.Ratnam facing another emotional storm in Canada as her beloved mother in Sri Lanka breathed her last. Once again, she was not in a position to make it for the final ceremonies. In fact, she told me that she was on her way to her ancestral home in Sri Lanka having had the darshan of her Lord at Puttaparthi.


“Whenever I travel, it is only to India, to Puttaparthi and to my parent’s place. I am at home at these places and that is why I always wish to be here. Few months before, when my mother passed away, I could not travel to Sri Lanka. I felt very bad about it.”
Once again, she just prayed to her God.
“Swami, you showed me that you are with my father. In some way, you have to show me that you are with my mother too. You must.”
This time, she gave freedom to Swami regarding the way to show the same!


Nothing happened for a week after the funeral but she held on. Her prayers did not cease, nor did her determination. On the morning of the 5th of May, she had a dream.


In the dream, she walked into her ancestral home and saw her mother lying down on a platform. She was ‘dying’. Then, before her eyes, her mother’s body vanished and it was Swami lying down there. He spoke to her and though she was seeing Swami, she was hearing her mother. Swami said,
“I have completed all my duties. I am happy and satisfied. I feel free and am ready to go.”
“Yes Swami”, she said because she was seeing Swami in her mother’s place.
Then, her mother told a strange thing. She pointed out to a bell in a temple and said,
“That is broken. Replace it.”
The dream concluded with that.


When Mrs.Ratnam woke up, she contacted her sister in Sri Lanka. She knew that her mother always worshipped the ‘Mother’ aspect of God in the nearby temple of a local goddess. She wanted her sister to go to the temple and see the bell in there. Though intrigued by this request, the sister did as she was asked nevertheless. She visited the temple and then called up her sister in Canada.


Mrs. Poon Ratnam just had tears in her eyes as she heard her sister say,
“I visited the temple. There is indeed a bell where you said it would be. It is broken.”

A broken bell at the temple indeed did ring bells for Mrs. Ratnam
She managed to say,
“Please tell the concerned people there that I would be grateful for the opportunity to replace the bell.”


She had purchased a special brass bell from India and when she met me, she told that she would be taking it to that temple in Sri Lanka.


Thanking the God of small things for the small things


Well, replacing a bell in a small temple tucked away in a corner of Sri Lanka may not mean anything at all to the world. It definitely means a world to Mrs.Poon Ratnam. She did not stop with these incidents. She went on to narrate a few more. I too can go on writing about them.


However, that is not the intention of the post. The intention was to provoke in each and every one of us, memories of the many times when God showed that He was always there, taking care of us and loving us. Did we express our gratitude to Him/Her on all those occasions? If we start expressing our gratitude to God for every small thing that we are blessed with, will we ever have time in this life to complain? These ‘small things’ stand in good stead in our lives when we are faced with tough times. It will do us good to remember these ‘small things’ during the hard times.


After all, life is always made up of ups and downs. If it was a flat line, any doctor would call that as ‘death’ and not ‘life’! 

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Thursday, 25 July 2013

Vibhuti manifestations: Sathya Sai keeps up His word and His divine pranks too

The promise kept

I have always worked on the hypothesis that the more I give, the more I shall receive. And every time that I have tried it out, I have seen it to be true. Each successful trial strengthened my faith in the statement and, therefore, I try to give as much as I can, of all that I can. You can call this selfish selflessness if you wish but that is the truth as the Dalai Lama put it - “Be selfish. Be generous.” In that sense, there is no difference between selfishness and selflessness. When one is ‘wisely selfish’ one is automatically selfless because one realizes that the greatest good comes out of being selfless.

Forgive that little detour of mine. What I intended to say was that, even when it came to the matter of me sharing my experiences with my Master and God, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, I followed the same hypothesis. I felt that the more I shared my experiences, the more I would receive experiences. That is one of the reasons why I believe in sharing my spiritual experiences. Briefly, I did see this happening - the more I shared what Swami gave me or spoke to me, the more Swami, as Baba is lovingly called, seemed to give me and speak to me.


(Disclaimer: On the spiritual path, it is each man for himself; or a woman for herself. This is not a general rule but my observations in my experiences.)


Thrilled by this, I began to speak and share more. I received more. And then, all of a sudden, on the 24th of April, 2011, He left the physical. I was devastated. Among the several things that I asked Him and prayed, was this question.
“Swami, now, I shall share even more. I shall do so via the internet on a much larger scale. How will you keep your end of the promise and give me more? Is this the end?”


Today, I place my hand on my heart and say that Swami has kept His end of the promise. Hey! Wait a minute! He never made that promise in the first place. I just thrust my hypothesis on Him. But loving that He is and knowing how much my hypothesis means for me, He chose to make it ‘His promise’ and also ‘keep it up’ without fail.


Several instances after the ‘Mahasamadhi’ (That word refers to Baba’s leaving of the physical. It also represents the space where His earthly remains have been enshrined. come to mind. There are the vibhuti manifestation miracles, the miracles at the Mahasamadhi and so on. Each instance shows a different facet of my beloved Swami. Here, I would like to recount a couple of instances where His beautiful playfulness is seen, even today.


Sankaranthi leela - His divine mischief

The 14th of January every year is celebrated as Sankranthi - a harvest festival which also coincides with the transmigration of the sun from one zodiac to the other. It is the day of the prize distribution for the students of the Sri Sathya Sai institutions. In the evening, the students put up a cultural programme. So, on 14/01/2013, when the prize distribution programme was on, I was in the Sai Kulwant hall in Prasanthi Nilayam, covering the event as a photographer. My cell phone vibrated and I saw that my father was trying to contact me. Since, it is not allowed to use cellphones in the premises (we are allowed to carry them for emergencies, just like the FBI is allowed guns even aboard aircraft!), I walked into a room. My father’s voice was very excited,
”Aravind! Vibhuti (holy ash) has appeared at home!”
“Where?” I asked.
“On the silver Ganesha pendant. It has formed as a small heap on it. The best thing is that the vibhuti is sweet in taste. Both me and Pooja (my wife) tasted it.”
“Wow! Let it be that way. I will come home and have a look at it.”


Needless to say, I rushed home even as the programme concluded. I went straight to the altar, to that little silver plate in which the silver pendant of Ganesha rested. There was not a pinch of vibhuti there. I was disappointed with my father. What was his hurry in clearing up the vibhuti?
“Dad! Why did you clear the vibhuti into a box. I told you to leave it as it is.”
“I did not clear it. Nor did Pooja. It should be there.”
It wasn’t there definitely. Pooja and dad came into the room. They swore that they had tasted it. As proof, my dad also showed me the picture taken a few hours before. Indeed there was vibhuti

This was what my dad and my wife saw at 10:30am on the 14th of January 2013.

This is what I saw at 11:30 am on the 14th of January, 2013. 
As it became clear that the vibhuti had disappeared as mysteriously as it appeared, my father rejoiced. For him, this was like two miracles on the same day. I was not happy. I would have been happier with only one miracle instead of two! I kept pouting and complaining to everyone at home for the rest of the day about how unfair Swami had been towards me. The sense of injustice was magnified by the fact that I was doing my duty in the temple while people who sat at home enjoyed a sweet snack!


Even as I went to bed, I kept complaining. The last thought before I slept was,
“Swami, you have been unfair to me.”
The next morning, my first thought too was the same! I continued to grumble and complain. I wanted Swami to feel guilty and so, I did all the morning worship - placing flowers in the altar, lighting lamps and the incense sticks. Having done that, I told a bye to Swami and was leaving for office. As I reached the main door, something stopped me. I felt an irresistible urge to go back to the altar. And as I reached the altar, the sight simply stunned me.


The vibhuti heap that appeared on the morning on the 15th of January, 2013, was similar to the
one on the previous day - only that it had cardamom flavoring!
EXACTLY LIKE THE PREVIOUS DAY (the way I had seen in the photo), there was a little heap of vibhuti on the Ganesha pendant! I quickly took a pinch of it and put it on my tongue. Not only was it sweet, it also had an elaichi (cardamom) flavor! I immediately summoned everyone. As he put the vibhuti on his tongue, dad remarked,
“Swami forgot the elaichi flavoring yesterday. That is why He withdrew the stocks and sent us fresh stock today morning!” We all laughed out aloud. I was simply happy and thrilled.


As I looked into His eyes in the picture, did I see a gleam of mischief in them?


Telegram mischief

Swami, on several occasions has done such mischief - taking away something and then returning it again. One interesting episode was what I read in a Radiosai article about Mr. Joga Rao. It brought out exactly this kind of leela of Swami.


When the document of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust was to be registered at Hyderabad in 1972, Baba asked Joga Rao to coordinate all the related work apart from organising Swami’s visit to the city. It was obligatory that the members of the Trust be present at the time of registration. Therefore Joga Rao called up the Rajamata (Queen Mother) of Nawanagar (a princely state in India) who was at Bombay, to come to Hyderabad along with Sri Nani Palkhiwala (the renowned jurist and economist) and Sri Indulal Shah.


The Rajamata conveyed to Joga Rao the same evening by telephone that she would be coming to Hyderabad with Sri Indulal Shah. She also informed him that Palkhiwala who had gone out of station would not be able to make it to Hyderabad. Since Bhagavan had had already retired by that time, Joga Rao could not convey the message to Him.

Col.Joga Rao with Bhagawan Baba. Photo courtesy - www.radiosai.org


When Joga Rao went to the post office next morning along with Sri Prasada Rao, then the State President of Sri Sathya Sai Organisations of Andhra Pradesh, he found a telegram sent by the Rajamata to Bhagavan confirming her arrival. When they met Swami and handed over the telegram to Him, He read it and said,
“Joga Rao, they are not coming!”
Puzzled and bewildered, Joga Rao read the telegram again and again. According to the telegram, what Baba had said was perfectly right! Joga Rao showed the telegram to Prasada Rao. They looked at each other in wonder and could not believe how they had bothe mistaken the telegram when they read it at the post office.


During their lunch with Swami, He laughed and gave them the telegram again. This time, it bore the same words they had read at the post office!


So, the disappearing and appearing is a common leela - done sometimes to words; sometimes to vibhuti!


Vibhuti manifestation in phases


I cannot help but recollect the most recent vibhuti prank, if I may call it so.  During my student days, I got several opportunities to witness the handkerchief mischief of my sweet Lord. And now, vibhuti pranks seem to be the new genre! This happened on the morning of the 24th of July, 2013.


As is my practice, I woke up at 6am and put on the lights in the altar. I wished my Swami a ‘Good Morning’ and I then moved into the bathroom for my morning ablutions. I came to the computer to do some typing when my wife, Pooja, called out to me.
“Come here fast....”
I did go there ‘fast’.
“I just bent down to clear these flowers. When I stood up, this had happened!”
The ‘this’ in her statement referred to the copious amounts of vibhuti that had appeared from two photographs of Swami. I was happy.


As we called my dad to the altar, in the few moments we were not at the altar, a fresh vibhuti shower had taken place! We were simply thrilled.







In joy, we called out to our dear neighbors, the Deshpandes. (Amey, about whom i have written several articles, is the son of Deshpande uncle.) By the time uncle came to the altar, some more vibhuti had manifested. This was simply getting thrilling. I just tapped on a silver container up front (which contains a Shiva linga) and said,
“This is the only container that has not been touched by the vibhuti.”


Even as I said that and all of us walked with uncle to the door, vibhuti had manifested on that silver box too.



I once again looked at Swami’s eyes in the main picture. There was so much of mischief in them. But there was so much of love too pouring from them. I just closed my eyes in gratitude and told Him,
“Swami, you continue to keep your promise! I shall keep up my end of the deal too! I will share this with all.”



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Friday, 19 July 2013

Unforgettable interview with Sri Sathya Sai - Beautiful insights on prayer, love and on seeking Him

The Lord speaking is a privilege that was enjoyed by Moses, Jesus and the Prophet. How lucky that we too
enjoyed that rare privilege!
Though this article can be a stand-alone piece, it would be a nice continuation to read after the first two parts entitled:


Having read those, welcome to the concluding part of that memorable interview.

A personal interview


From this point on, the interview took a very personal flavour in the sense that many boys asked Swami different things that were bothering them. Leaving out all the questions that are irrelevant here because of their very ‘personal’ nature, I shall present the ones that hold great relevance for all of us today and for all times to come as well.


Swami looked at Abhijeet and asked him,
“Boy, what is your name?”
Abhijit was simply overawed and overwhelmed that Swami spoke to him. No words seemed to be dropping out of his mouth! Somehow, he gathered his wits and replied,
“Er... Abhijeet...Sir... Abhijit Swami!”
Even as he said that, he took off the Muslim skull cap.
All of us smiled at how he had addressed Swami as if He was some military general and acted in that way too!
“Put back the cap on your head...put it on.” Swami said quite sternly. Abhijit wore the cap back on his head. Swami then asked him,
“What is the meaning of Abhijeet?”
“I don’t know Swami.”
I knelt up and Swami looked at me. “Swami, Abhi stands for Abhimaanam (body-attachment or ego). Jit is to win over. A person who has won over body attachment is Abhijit.”
As I completed saying this, Swami looked at me. He bore deep into my eyes and I was lost in His eyes. A smile played on HIs lips. I wished that moment could be frozen for eternity. The flow of love was so palpable that I placed my hands on His knees very gently. Then, I began to massage His calves and feet. He did not protest. I was so happy.


Jahpanah Akbar hopefully passed on to his son 
what hisfather had told him!
Akbar-Humayun conversation

Then, Swami looked at Karthik who was dressed as an emperor and pointing to the kingly robe he was wearing, asked,
“Where did you get that from?”
“Swami, this is from our costumes department...” said the warden.
“Oh! You have all these in your costumes department?”
“Yes Swami! This is Akbar’s robe.” (That robe had been stitched specially for the role of Akbar in a drama staged for the Convocation 3 years before).


Swami then made some revelations,
“Akbar was a great king. His father once wrote a letter to him.”
“Humayun Swami?” I asked.
“Yes. He wrote to him telling him that it was indeed a great blessing and privilege that he had become the ruler of India. India is a land of Sheelam. Sheelam means character. To rule this SheelaBhoomi (land of character), you are indeed blessed.”
Even as Swami made this statement, His eyes became glassy, as if He was reliving something within.


Prayer and Love


Ramakrishnan asked a question that seemed very simple on the face of it. However, today when I think of it, it was a very pertinent question and holds great relevance in life. It was a question on prayer. Ramakrishnan asked,
“Swami, how should one pray?”
There was silence for a few moments. Swami then said,
“Whenever you pray, you must always do so with the feeling of ‘You and I are one’.”


Thinking about it, if prayer is done that way, none of us will ever ask for anything, complain about anything or even think about anything. Isn’t it?


Abhishek asked now,
“Swami what is pure love?”
“Pure love is possible only with God. It is possible only towards God.”
This statement immediately triggered my thoughts. I ventured to ask Him a question that had bothered me for a very long time.
“Swami, when I love anyone...”
Immediately He turned to me and was fully focused on me. encouraged, I continued,
“When I love anyone, I do good to them. But is it not basic goodness that they too do the same to me?”
“That is not love at all. That is selfishness.”
I had to agree. “Yes Swami... that is expectation.”
“It is bad”, said Swami.
“But Swami, it happens so automatically...”
“Only love happens automatically. Expectation is what you foster. One must have love and love is possible only with God, for God. Yes, to a certain extent, parents’ love is there. But ultimately, only God’s love is true.”


Power of Love rather than Love of Power


Suddenly, Swami began to cough. The cough was quite violent. A few boys offered HIm a glass of water and He declined it. Santosh told Swami,
“Swami, please take care. You are coughing a lot.”
“Ah! It is because of these regular visits to the indoor stadium. There is a lot of dust there.”
(The Sri Sathya Sai International Centre for Sports is a marvel which has hosted international basketball, volleyball and shuttle badminton matches. The surfaces there have been approved by the ITF, IBF, ITTF and IHF. Any visitor to Puttaparthi must make a visit to this stadium to understand what a magical monument it is.)
Swami continued,
“The Larsen & Toubro people asked for five years to build it. Not even three months have passed and so much of it has already come up.”


All the boys began to ‘praise’ Swami,
“Swami, this is possible only for God.”
“If not for you Swami, this would never have happened.”
“Swami’s love makes the workers toil so hard day and night.”


Swami made a very important point here which any employer or business owner should note.
“What is important is not that they are doing hard work, but they are happy doing that hard work! If you give them love, they too will give love. You know how they express their love? When I go there, they spend 2 minutes having my darshan. But then, they work for an extra four minutes to make up for it.”


As Swami explained this, I was lost wondering about the great power inherent in love. Today, instead of a craze for the power of love, there seems to be a craze for the love of power! If only we could take a few lines from the pages of His-Story, we can make the world a much better place to live in.


Since the topic was about the indoor stadium, I told Swami,
“Swami, when you come to the indoor stadium, please come to our hostel also. It stands just opposite to the stadium being constructed.”
Swami’s face seemed a little disappointed. The next statement He made was a great assurance and one filled with Divine love,
“Che Che! Why do you say, ‘just nearby’ is the hostel? Will I not come if it is far? If you call, that is enough. Distance does not matter.”
Immediately all of us chorused,
“Swami, please come to the hostel.”
“In the hostel you Padutavu (sing). In the stadium you will Aadutavu (play). What is the difference where I come? All these are being built for you children. Everything belongs to you.”


Of Course! I do not agree with him smoking... 
but the quote is awesome! :)
I feel so touched when I think of this statement today. Really, no university in the world will have such facilities offered free to every student who wishes to use it! No skill needed, no fees needed. Only a ‘need’ needed. If the student wishes to pick up any of the sports - cricket, football, volleyball, basketball, shuttle badminton, table tennis, lawn tennis or squash - there are world class facilities that Swami has set up ONLY for the students. These facilities are not let out for any commercial events. They earn nothing for the Trust but the gratitude and joy of the students. For Swami, that is the greatest earning!



All good things come to an end


Swami looked at the little Iranian boy and asked,
“What is your name?”
“Swami, Sathya.”
“If everyone lives up to his/her name, it is enough. Living up to one’s name and keeping up one’s word are very important. If a promise is made, it should be held dearer than one’s life. Also, treat everyone equally.”
Elaborating, Swami said,
“Ornaments are of different kinds - ring, earring and bangle- depending on where it is worn. So too, though there are many sweets - laddoo, gulab jamun, mysorepak - the sugar is the same in them. All are one, be alike to everyone.”


All good things in life come to an end. That is the inevitable Truth. The corollary of that Truth is that all ‘bad’ things in life also come to an end. We just have to hold on to the Lord. Sensing that the interview was drawing to a close, many boys began to offer letters to Swami. Swami collected lovingly from everyone. He opened and read a few of them. Then, He commented,
“Dear Swami... dear brother... dear sister... All are dear. What should Swami be?”
Karthik answered, “Dearest Swami.”
“Why rest? People write anything that comes to the mind. Before writing letters boys must contemplate and dive within. When festivals come, one must understand what the ancients have said and written about them. People today, simply say and write what they wish. They should write and talk only what they have experienced.”


Karthik again told Swami,
“Swami I want to surrender totally to you...”
“Surrender... surrender! Easy words to say.”


That was a take-home lesson for all of us. Understand what you seek from God. Let prayers and words not be mere lip-service.


In conclusion, Swami said,
“Treasure and cherish all that you have received now. Keep contemplating on these moments and derive joy from them always. Be happy. Now, c’mon, sing a Hindi song.”

Treasure and cherish every moment with the Lord - Be blissful always. 
Spontaneously, we began to sing the eternal classic, “Humko Tumse Pyar Kitna.” There were no accompanying instruments or clapping. Yet, it was so harmonic and wonderful. We were all in tears of joy. As the song was completed, Swami blessed all of us with His Abhayahasta. Many boys fell at His feet and took Padanamaskar.


“Now go! The bhajan singers will be coming.”


We saw the time. There were just minutes left for bhajans to start. When we prepared for a Ramadan programme, we had no idea that it would become this! But we were not complaining.

The longest and most beautiful interview of my life with my master and best-friend had just concluded.
For all readers:
(If you enjoyed this and wish to subscribe to this blog, please go to the right hand side and choose the last 'box' which says subscribe. Another blog which I maintain with more than 200 articles on it is at http://aravindb1982.hubpages.com. If you wish to be added to my mailing list, please email me via this page with the subject "ADD ME TO MAILING LIST".

Also, use the Tweet and FB buttons below here liberally to share with your friends and family!
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