Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Nobody ever makes a sacrifice for God - an epiphany at Dubai airport

The Grand Mosque at Abu Dhabi with its golden towers is an impressive sight.

".... مرحبا بكم في دبي. درجة الحرارة في الخارج 40 درجة.الوقت هو الساعة 13:00. شكرا للطيران الإمارات ..."


“.... Welcome to Dubai... The temperature outside is 40 degrees... The time is 1 pm. Thank you for flying Emirates...”


Those were the announcements that I woke up to in the Boeing-777 that landed in Dubai from Manama. As the four of us, mom, dad and my wife, Pooja, along with me, walked into the Terminal 3, we were hit by a blast of opulence. The might of money and the ingenuity of intelligence had created a magic fairyland in the middle of a desert - at least that is what appears on the face of it. All of us were silent in awe and wonder as we stood on the dozens of escalators and moving walkways that took us through alleys and thoroughfares of ultimate luxury.


We were in the second leg of our holidays to the Middle-East having completed the first part in Bahrain. Beautiful Bahrain had thrilled us and filled us with delights galore. The impressive sight of the Grand Mosque, the peaceful walk along the corniche, the drives through the southern desert and the tasty Arabian cuisine (especially the Zator) had made our days there memorable. However, what really clinched our hearts was something deeper - the warmth, love and affection that we received from the ever-welcoming Sai family there.


The term “Sai-family” will be a familiar one to anyone who has been following Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. It is an instantaneously and spontaneously created family consisting of people from all races, nationalities and ages based on just one common ground - love towards Swami, Bhagawan Baba! Such was the overwhelming love that we never felt that we had left home. We were in a home away from home because though we had left Prasanthi Nilayam thousands of kilometers behind, these people recreated that exact Prasanthi Nilayam in Bahrain. (btw, Prasanthi translates to “Supreme Peace” and Nilayam translates into “Abode/Home”.)


From Bahrain we had landed in Dubai and my ‘brother’ was coming to receive us at the airport. Why the ‘quotes’ for ‘brother’? Well, because you see, he is not actually my brother in the sense that he is not a child to either my parents or their sisters or brothers. And yet, he is as loving, caring and affectionate as any other brother because of the common bond that Swami creates. He has not met us ever in his life but he meets and greets us as though he has known us for ages.


“Wow! What Swami does is magic right...” I gently told Pooja.
“Only He has the ability to conjure a family for us literally in the middle of a desert... We have known Swami and that is enough for this life...”


As Pooja made that statement, my mind rushed into a flashback - one that hit me like a truckload of bricks.

Dubai shows the power of man's intelligence. While Nature destined it to be a desert,
man had turned it into an oasis of luxury, opulence and comfort...
The image on top is a sweeping view of the city taken from the top of the Burj Al Khalifa,
the tallest building in the world.


Sacrificing for Swami


It was after a roller-coaster journey that my dream of working for Swami came true when He blessed me to join Radiosai. No doubt that I was happy and thrilled to get this opportunity of a lifetime. In fact, I could barely sleep after my first official day at office (I had unofficially worked for several days at Radiosai). I lay on my bed contemplating on the great good fortune that had been bestowed on me. That got me excited enough to prevent me from sleeping and I began to think of the future that lay ahead of me. That got me even more thrilled and I just kept tossing from side to side in my bed.


And then, the mind struck.


The mind has this ability to release a little worm into the dessert plate of happiness that our heart enjoys. It puts in one little “if” and another little “but” which takes all the peace and joy of the heart away. That is exactly what the mind did to me at that moment. It brought up what seemed like a very valid point.


“Aravind... you are getting excited because you are thinking of all the things that you have gained... Have you thought about all the things that you will be losing? Every decision has its pluses and minuses. I just hope you have thought this out well enough...”


In an instant, my chest which was heaving with excitement, began gasping in worry and serious thought. I continued tossing around on my bed as I realized that by saying ‘Yes’ to Swami, I had kissed goodbye to all my aspirations and ambitions. I would no longer be climbing up a career-ladder nor would I be focusing on making more and more money. There would always be enough for my needs but my wants would always remain unfulfilled. I would also have to give up on my desires to travel extensively in the world. Finally, I would be financially forced to choose a life of bachelorhood...


I cursed the mind for having ruined my party but I could not help but fret and fume. Finally, unable to take it anymore, I got up and sat up on my bed. I looked at Swami in the eye in the picture that hung in the room. Summoning all my devotion, determination and dedication, I said,
“Swami, I know that I have ambitions and desires. I would love to have money, roam the world, get married and raise a family. But, none of those are as important as You are for me. And so, for Your sake, I am sacrificing all of them. I shall not care for them and in case they happen to bother me in the future, You please take care...”


That single prayer made me feel much better. (Isn’t that what prayers are for - to make us feel good? Foolishly, we think that prayers are for pleading with God, informing God or thanking God. Prayers are healing medicines, balms for our crying souls.) From feeling like a victim, I began feeling like a martyr at worst! I was glad that I spoke to Swami and then, sleep overpowered me.

Never even dreamt that I would be seeing places like this because I foolishly thought I had "sacrificed" it all for Swami...
Rabindranath Tagore’s beggar


In the 50th stanza of the Nobel-Prize-winning Gitanjali, Acharya Rabindranath Tagore writes the profound autobiographical story of a beggar. Here is my prosaic rendition of what he writes:


“I had gone begging from door to door in the village path, when the Emperor’s golden chariot appeared in the distance. I wondered at the sight which was like a gorgeous dream. Such was the majesty of this King of all kings! My hopes rose high and I was convinced that my days of misery were at an end. I stood waiting for alms to be given unasked and for great wealth to be scattered on all sides.


The golden chariot stopped where I stood. The emperor’s  glance fell on me. There was a benign smile on his face and I felt that the luck of my life had come at last. Then, all of a sudden the Emperor stretched out his right hand and said,
“What have you got that you can give me?'
Ah, what a kingly jest was it to open His palm to a beggar to beg! I was confused and stood undecided, and then from my little begging bag, I slowly took out the least little grain of corn and gave it to Him. He received it with a smile and raced away. How insensitive of Him to demand even from a beggar I thought!


But how great my surprise was, when at the day's end, I emptied my bag on the floor. Among the other things, there was one corn grain of GOLD! I bitterly wept and wished that I had had the heart and intelligence to give Him my all...”


The myth about sacrificing for God...


This was the story and the flashback that came to my mind as I was received by the Sai-brother with a warm hug. I thought of that day when I told Swami that I would be ‘making sacrifices’ for Him and my situation today. I had money sufficient for a happy living in my wallet and bank account. My wife was by my side expressing gratitude to Swami and we were standing amidst the grandest opulence that money could buy in an overseas land.


The irony struck me. What had I ‘sacrificed’ for Swami? I realized that it is indeed a myth to think that one makes sacrifices for the Lord! Whatever I had thought that I had given up for Swami, I had received manifold in my life even without my knowledge.

The picture shows Swami Karuunyananda holding the umbrella over Bhagawan Baba during the Birthday Celebrations in 1975.
The same thoughts pervaded my being three days later when we were leaving for Bengaluru from Dubai. The Sai-brother came to drop us off. He stood at the gates till we crossed the immigration and security check areas. He waved to us till he could see us leave. This time I was in tears. Swami had also given me a loving family in every and any part of the world I had visited. It had been the same story in Abu Dhabi... and the same story in Bahrain. There had been so many beautiful brothers.... mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, sisters and little ones! I felt so overwhelmed at the way God gives. All one has to do is to choose Him. That is the only decision that is to be made in life. And that decision is not a ‘selfless’ one. It is a ‘selfish’ one because choosing God, one receives all that one needs in life and much, much more.


Even the Burj Al Khalifa, the tallest building in the world is an earthly toy,
isn't it??
In the 7th Chapter of his masterpiece, Autobiography of a Yogi, Sri Paramahamsa Yogananda records a very interesting conversation between a disciple of Bhaduri Mahasaya and the great master himself.


"Master, you are wonderful,” a student, taking his leave, gazed ardently at the patriarchal sage. "You have renounced riches and comforts to seek God and teach us wisdom!"


It was well-known that Bhaduri Mahasaya had forsaken great family wealth in his early childhood, when single-mindedly he entered the yogic path.


"You are reversing the case!" The saint's face held a mild rebuke. "I have left a few paltry rupees, a few petty pleasures, for a cosmic empire of endless bliss. How then have I denied myself anything? Is that a sacrifice? The shortsighted worldly folk are verily the real renunciates! They relinquish an unparalleled divine possession for a poor handful of earthly toys!"


That, I think sums it up more or less. As my flight took off towards India from the land of plenty and opulence, my heart had a prayer,
“Swami, may I never relinquish you for the sake of a poor handful of earthly toys...”


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20 comments:

  1. Sairam Brother Aravind.... Inspiring and Thought Provoking Experiences... Since I was fortunate enough to see the enthusiasm and high energy in your talks live at Abu Dhabi, I could really feel from your words, the true happiness and content for the decisions you have made in life and the in-depth love towards Swami. Thank you for the Wonderful Interaction and I must admit that certain things from you have definitely inspired me a lot. Swami will be very happy for you for the fact that, it was not just "Holidays" but "Holydays" by inspiring atleast a few people and cultivating good thoughts thereby being successful of spreading the Divine Messages. It would be unfair if I don't complement your excellence in Photography. Good Luck... SAIRAM

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    1. Sairam brother Mithun.... Your own thirst and love for Swami shows itself in your lavih praise for me....

      I was really touched that you drove down nearly 200 kms in an instantaneous decision to come for the satsangh... I was touched with your (and your wife's) spontaneous love for Swami....

      Thank you for your compliments... May our love for Swami grow stronger every passing moment...

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    2. Aren't I happy that you have started writing articles again. One week without articles felt so long. I feel like reading your articles makes my connection with Swami stronger. :)


      Thank you.
      A 18 year old from Australia

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  2. Aren't I happy that you have started writing again. That one week felt so long....through your writing, I can feel my connection with Swami getting stronger. :)


    Thank you.

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    1. Thank you.... I feel very happy that you feel that way and I pray with all love and gratitude that it remains always like this....

      Will continue at my original rate of 2 blogs a week... :)

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  3. Sai ram I am also praying to sai that I will also be blessd with a loving sai family .

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    1. you just have to open up your heart.... All hearts will open up to you. That is what Swami says about love being heart to heart.

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  4. Sairam Brother Aravind. Mind blowing Article. Could feel the touch of swami World wide. Swami gave us family worldwide. Again Thank u for the wonderful blog dear brother. Jag sairam

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    1. :)

      My pleasure and privilege too... Thank you

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  5. Sairam Aravind,
    Thanks for the reminder. We can never make any sacrifice for God. It is the ego that makes us think like that. Beautiful!

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    1. Yes... And we never know when the ego raises its hood.... so silently... :)

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  6. Thanks! We look forward to more articles on your Middle eastern trip.

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  7. Beautiful article! Touched heart and drove home a much needed message! !

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  8. Sai Ram, marvelous piece of writing as usual.
    Even though Swami is no longer with us in the physical form, I know that his presence still pervades this universe. I must say though that I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of Prema Sai Baba.

    It's was not long ago that I suddenly realized the other deeper meaning of the word "SAI"

    Baba has told us many times that the meaning of Sai means mother, I then realized that all three forms of Swami has the common word of "SAI" in their names, Shirdi "sai", Sathya "sai" and Prema "sai", I came to another realization that the "S" stands for Shiva-Shakti, the "A" stands for Allah and the "I" stands for Isa (which is the name of Jesus) , we have seen that Shirdi baba practiced both Hindu and Islamic teachings and having lived most of his life in a mosque, Sathya sai baba who himself declared that he is the embodiment of Shiva-Shakti, then lastly we have Prema Sai Baba who looks identical to Jesus. SAI, each of the three letters represent the Gods of the three major religions who have descended on earth in human form and who also highlight the unity and oneness among them :)

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    1. INteresting.... Am sure that if we have an introspection and dive deep, we will find so many more such connections...

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  9. "I realized that by saying ‘Yes’ to Swami, I had kissed goodbye to all my aspirations and ambitions." This thought has bugged me for past 8 years. Since last few months your blogs have done effective debugging. This was coup de "grace". Thank you Sai brother. Just as Arjuna's despondency brought out the song celestial from Lord Krishna, your photos and proximity has brought out this divine gift of your writing to our Sai parched souls. My pranams to the Sai in you who answers every question I ask and helps me progress in my understanding, acceptance and surrender. Thank you for being so worthy that you be his mighty instrument. Thank you for your blogs brother.

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    1. Sairam brother/sister,

      I feel so happy and grateful reading your message. The beauty of experiences with Swami is that they are personal and universal at the same time - an intensely personal experience is felt and understood by everyone else also...

      May our love for Swami grow stronger every passing moment.

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  10. Sairam Aravind and thanks for another excellent article showing us the way to trod on spiritual path. Best wishes and Love....Madhusudanvithal Nori

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  11. Sairam aravind brother, excellent article as usual. Thanks. We had an extremely reassuring presence of Swami during the recent hud hud cyclone in vizag. As the cyclone started, my musicplayer started playing the very poignant bhajan sahara do bhagawan... ( interesting because i did not choose the track). As the words sada saath raho hey bhagawan were being sung, a huge calender of Bhagawan came flying across our balcony, into our house. My husband and I were very overwhelmed.... Swami has taken care of all us during that testing time. Thanks once again. Sairam

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  12. Ah... beautiful message... what can we sacrifice when everything belongs to him.. we just have it with us for time being... All we need to be is grateful for your love and grace... solid reminder... thank you brother...

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