Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Slow Miracles are also miracles - an experience with Sathya Sai

This is a story that has spanned nearly two decades... and it comes with a powerful message. The story seemed to culminate
on the 22nd of November, 2010, the last Convocation of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning in the
physical presence of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. 
When I think of a miracle, the words that come to mind are along these lines - unimaginable, stunning, fast, mind-blowing, unbelievable, happy, unnatural, mysterious, extraordinary. I am sure that the list is much larger but this sampling of words is sufficient for my present context.  Among these words, in my opinion, a key one is ‘fast’. A miracle has to happen suddenly and fast. Then only will it be ‘unbelievable’, ‘extraordinary’, ‘mysterious’ and ‘unimaginable’. If it does not happen fast, then I don’t consider it a miracle. Speed is of essence here.


A magician puts a seed into a pot and covers the pot with a cloth. He pulls away the cloth mumbling some abracadabra and presto! There is a flowering plant. I applaud hard for him. Yet, when the same thing happens over the span of a few months in the pot in my balcony, I hardly notice. Sometimes, I don’t even pause to admire the beauty of the multi-petalled jasmine or enjoy its rich fragrance. It is all my obsession with speed. I give so much importance to speed that I applaud its presence in a magic show though I know what is happening is false but I refuse to acknowledge a true miracle of God in my balcony!


God can do things in a trice but He is not obsessed with speed! Sometimes He does things real fast; the other times he does it slow. Do I miss out on miracles in my life just because they happen slowly? I am convinced that is the case because, looking back at my life with Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, I am slowly discovering several slow miracles that have happened. And I thought that sharing one such miracle would be my way of expressing gratitude to my Swami.


When shooting became difficult...


When I joined the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School in 1998, like many other students, my sole aim was to gain the physical proximity and blessings of Swami. One of the ways in which I intended to achieve my goal was through photography. I had been blessed with a good SLR camera thanks to my dad and I intended to put it to good use in taking me closer to my Guru and my God. However, there were multiple obstacles to this plan of mine.


  1. I was not the only one with a camera or the idea of using it as a means to get closer to Swami. Several senior students and a few teachers too were regular photographers in the Sai Kulwant hall. I was possibly the most junior among all photographers. I felt that I would have to really work my way up the ladder to catch Swami’s eye.
  2. It was necessary to get a permission slip from the warden in order to carry a camera to the Mandir. The Seva Dal volunteers at the gate would ask for this slip before allowing one to carry the camera inside. The warden would regulate the number of people carrying a camera lest they become a trigger-happy nuisance in the sacred temple. So, I could possibly take the camera once or twice a week for darshan. The competition for permission slips became more intense on festival days when there were greater chances of Swami spending time outside.
  3. The school warden had an interesting (and, in my opinion, sadistic) strategy to combat what he considered as indiscipline and reward what he felt was discipline. He would find out what was closest to the heart to different students and deny them that as punishment. For instance, when I was protested what I thought was a wrong decision on the cricket field (where the warden was the umpire), the warden didn’t issue the camera permission slip to me for more than two months! He knew that taking the camera was so important for me and strategically punished me in that manner. This was just one example. Many lesser ‘crimes’ of mine were also punished in the same manner. Therefore, I lived in constant fear of the warden coming in the way of my plan to become a regular photographer in the Mandir.


I wrote down my problems and sought to get them
solved through 'letter-giving'!
The solution - seeking Divine Intervention


One and a half years passed I was nowhere close to becoming a regular photographer. I decided to turn to Swami Himself for help. I wrote a letter in which I detailed all my difficulties. Then, I wrote to this effect:
“Swami, you know the intention behind why I want to get camera to Mandir. Why then do I face so many obstacles? Please, take this letter if you bless me to get my camera to the Mandir any time I want without having to get permission from anyone (especially the warden).”


I hoped that Swami would take my letter because if that happened, I would be a free bird as far as taking camera for darshan was concerned. That was my firm conviction because Swami can never falsify His word right? I had no idea of how immature I was being in trying to box in Swami to fit my concept of truth.


I managed to give the letter to Him the very same day during darshan. I was thrilled. I could now get my camera to mandir without having to seek a permission slip from the warden! But what about the volunteers at the gate? What about warden who would get to know that I am taking the camera for darshan without his permission?


I did not care about any of those. They were Swami’s problems to solve. He would do some ‘miracle’ by which my dream would get fulfilled. So, the next day, I simply picked up my camera bag and walked to the Mandir after the classes. As I got to the gate, I just continued to walk in without even looking at the security volunteer. The Seva Dal member, stopped me and asked,
“Do you have the permission slip?”
“Err... no... but I have been permitted to get the camera...”
“Sorry. If you don’t have the permission slip, you cannot take the camera in...”


My problem lies in seeking quick-fix miracles


I was shocked. How could Swami have let me down? I was simply stuck now. I stared blankly at the volunteer.
“Either keep the camera in the hostel and come or you can get the permission slip from your warden...”
Both were not viable options for me.
“I shall leave the camera in the security room here and take it back while going to the hostel after the session. Is that okay?”
The volunteer agreed and I entered the Kulwant Hall sans the camera bag.


At the end of the day, I was wondering what had gone wrong? Why did Swami not keep up His word? I had clearly written to Him to take the letter ONLY IF I could walk into the Kulwant Hall with my camera and nobody would ever stop me or question me. He had taken the letter but had not kept up His word. Or so I felt.


As I walked back to the hostel, I recollected the experience where Swami clearly showed me that He cannot be ‘trapped’ into promises by such letter-giving stratagems. Evidently, I had not learned from that experience! (In fact, I continued to do such promise-eliciting through letters. I had a success story too - during the Shivarathri of 2000. That’s a super miracle in itself for those that haven’t read it already!)


Just read through the last sentence once more. I am referring to the experience during Shivarathri 2000 as a miracle. Why? That is because there was an instant reciprocation from the Lord. Am sure any reader who has gone through it will be stunned in awe. But what about situations when the response is not immediate? When that is the case, I assume that God has decided not to give me a miracle. It’s almost like it has to happen immediately (or quickly at least) else God has decided not to respond!


Is it any surprise that Shirdi Baba asked for Saburi (perseverance/patience) along with Shraddha (Faith)? It is not as if God does not grant us grace or a miracle if we lack Saburi. It is just that we will miss that miracle of grace when we lack patience! This is what the dozen or so years after that letter-giving taught me.




A prime minister’s visit


The prime minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, was invited as the chief guest for the 29th Annual Convocation of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning on the 22nd of November, 2010. Two days before that, something very special happened to me.

The Chief Guest for the 29th Convocation of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning was the Prime Minister of India
Dr. Manmohan Singh. 


The 9th World Conference had begun on the 20th of November. There was an orchestra performance scheduled for the evening. However, that evening, Swami seemed to be so lost in the bhajans being sung that the orchestra did not get an opportunity at all. A few elders tried to ‘bring to Swami’s notice’ the presence of the orchestra but Swami completely avoided them too! Instead, he looked at the priest and asked him to begin the Arathi, the traditional waving of lit camphor to mark the close of a session.


After the Arathi, he beckoned to me and I moved up to Him on the dais and knelt before Him. He said that He was getting ready for the Prime Minister’s arrival.
“Yes Swami. The Prime Minister is coming for the convocation...”
“Tell all the children to be ready... They should be well-disciplined and well-dressed...”
“Swami you want me to tell all the children?”

Following His words, I visited the hostels and conveyed His message to all the children.
He nodded and continued,
“Tomorrow is the drama... Day after the Prime Minister is coming...”
That indeed was the case. The Convocation drama which is usually held on the evening of the 22nd November every year was held on the 21st evening that year.
“Day after, the Prime Minister is coming. Tell everyone.”
“Swami, you want me to tell immediately? Shall we announce it?”
“No need of announcement. You go and tell on your own.”

I nodded and then said,
“Swami, but the main day comes after that. It is the day of your Janmotsavam (festival of birth) and everyone gathered here have come to partake in that Vaibhavam (grandeur)...”
Swami smiled and seemed very moved. Sensing this as an opportunity to make a prayer, I said,
“Swami, on behalf of all your children, I have a prayer...”
“What is that?”
“Your health should always be very good Swami. That is enough...”
He seemed to get very emotional. He definitely knew the pain and suffering that all His children would undergo for the sake of their spiritual uplift in the span of a few months.

I was surprised and pleased when He gave me a dress code.

“Swami, this is not my prayer. This is everyone’s prayer. I have just got the chance to convey it to you...”


At this point, Swami seemed to abruptly change the theme back to the Prime Minister. He told me,
“When the Prime Minister comes, you wear a good suit, shirt, pant and tie...”
“Okay Swami... surely...You want me to wear a suit and tie?”
He nodded and told me to return to my place. I kissed His feet and returned. Swami retired for the day.


The miracle I had sought and the lesson I was taught


That was how I managed to become the photographer to be given an all-access pass during the Prime Minister’s visit. I was not stopped even once even by the highest level of security of the country’s Prime Minister. I felt blessed and happy and did my duty to the best of my abilities. Something else that is amazing happened that day but that will be the subject of another story.


I took a picture as memory of the episode
but I seemed to have missed the
message of the slow miracle.
As I look back at my life, I realize that Swami actually gifted me my miracle and answered my prayers. It was not just the day of the Prime Minister’s visit. That was possibly a high-point. It was possible in answer to my prayer that Swami gave me a job at Radiosai and possibly in answer to that same prayer that He took me along as a photographer when He visited Hadshi-Mumbai in 2009 and Delhi-Simla in 2010. Yet, it has taken me several years after that to realize that Swami indeed worked out a miracle. That possibly is because things ‘feel natural’. It seems as though me becoming His photographer happened in a normal manner - nothing extraordinary.


THAT is the beauty of God’s miracles. He is no show-off. He executes most of His miracles in a very ‘natural’ manner at the right time. Just because something ‘seems natural’ does it cease to be miraculous? Occasionally, God works in instantly. But this, I think, is the exception. Usually, He works over a long period of time. This doesn’t make it any less miraculous, but it is certainly less dramatic. Whether it is done in eight minutes or eight years, it still remains God’s handiwork right?


Am grateful to Swami for making me aware of this experience of a ‘slow miracle’. I am also grateful to Him for the other lesson hidden in the experience - that I must be very careful what I seek from Him. Let me not seek something which seems important today but will lose importance tomorrow. Let me seek that, seeking which I will never have to seek again.


Because God grants us what we seek...



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13 comments:

  1. Beautiful indeed....humble pranams at thy lotus feet....and entire SAI family is grateful to u sir for sharing the love u recieved from d ocean of LOVE.....please keep posting d amazing stories of DIVINE MIRACLES as u do.....Thank u n loving SAI RAM sir!!

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  2. Aum Sri Sairam. Great lesson for us devotees too. Thank you brother. Keep sharing.

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  3. wonderful and Swamy does when it is to be done

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  4. Wow, so beautiful to hear that words. Sairam.

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  5. I am finding it difficult to put my feelings into words... I was able to find an answer for my confusion in this post.. thank you very much brother...

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  6. Swami transforms a person, and plants in him the yearning for God.That too is a big miracle happening slowly?

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  7. Swami transforms a person, and plants in him the yearning for God.That too is a big miracle happening slowly?

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  8. Sairam Aravind. Another thought provoking article inspired by SWAMI and yes we are not present to innumerable miracles / graces in our lives, as you said we do not notice the changes that take place gradually, how true it is! Thanks a lot for sharing.

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  9. Sai Ram!
    Amazing!!! Your writings always bring a smile and eyes brimming with tears. Thanks brother for sharing. You continuously motivate us and give solace.

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  10. Wonderful post brother. Very true. We do not apprciate slow miracles even though they are much more profound and amazing.
    Swami also says that his biggest miracle is the transformation of hearts.
    Am also reminded of an incident you narrated in one of your speeches. About how someone told God to perform a mega miracle to make himself known. And how God responded saying everytime he does one, we find a scientific explanation!
    Keep your posts and speeches coming. They re-vitalise the connection with Swami for your readers and listners

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  11. SaiRam Aravind, please accept my regards. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful experience and it is simply amazing to see how beautifully you have put everything in words. Some extremely important lessons to be learnt here. Thank you so much for reminding us about the beauty of Swami's miracles and what we should seek from Him."He executes most of His miracles in a very ‘natural’ manner at the right time. Just because something ‘seems natural’ does it cease to be miraculous?"... that is just so true, thank you so much.

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  12. Thank you brother. Sai Ram

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  13. SaiRam. Arvind. I have only one word for you . " BANGARU. "

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