Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, His message of Dharma, His social works are a byword in every part of the world..!!!

Two Moments of Wonder
November 20, 2010, 7:01 pm

by Raji Ratnam

I have lived many years in Prashanti Nilayam. I long to add my voice to the chorus that would arise on the eve of His 85th birthday but what, I wondered, shall I write about? Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, His message of Dharma, His social works are a byword in every part of the world. The only thing that could be new would be of my private life. I will write then of two most precious times in human experience when, not my hands but my inner being touched the feet of God.

My first visit was not a pilgrimage to Bhagavan for we had no interest in Him, we had only gone to meet an uncle who had had a serious accident while living in the Caribbean and had heard of Bhagvan's miraculous cures. Bhagavan glided out of the gates of Brindhavan (His Ashram in Bangalore). Many have been transfixed by their first sight of that unearthly grace, many deeply shaken by the first impact of Divinity. I only thought, "Gosh, how small He is!"

But it was to me that He first came that day-and proffered a card.

"What Swami?"

"Summer Course Guest Card," he murmured.

I had never heard of the Summer Course. "Swami we will not be staying that long."

"How long will you be staying?" "Three days."

"Oh!", He said, eyebrows raised a faint smile. Only He knew how long I would be staying soon. Ever after.

It was just six months later that I was back for the second time. On my return from India, Anuradhapura where my home then was exploded in riots and I had to return to Colombo. While moping around my family made the comforting suggestion that I spend my Christmas holidays with my uncle and aunt who were staying on at Prashanti Nilayam for a while.

That first visit had been prosaic – the second so dramatic. In May I had swirled into the Ashram in profuse handloom skirts when a volunteer fluttered that I had to 'cover up'. "Tell me, please tell me, what inch is there left of me uncovered?" I snapped. But now, shapelessly smothered in a thick shawl I had learnt was compulsory, with a heart full of the fires that have burst out in my life with eyes pouring tears (my contact lenses had bestowed a cut) I was led by the hand while my unseen sight gropingly held out a letter to Swami whom I had to be told was standing before me.

Well, days went by and a holiday visit was growing into a tense vigil, the tension creeping into me from the hundreds around who were all desperately awaiting that Call for a private interview. And how could it be otherwise? Bhagwan doesn't just walk by you at darshan day after day. There is a magical response given to every concentrated mind and eye.

Here is one such time. He was not taking a letter of mine, He deliberately avoided seeing it outstretched every day. Finally, without hope I stuck it before a small picture of His in our room, though I kept reminding Him of it every now and then.

It was twilight one evening and bhajans were going on with Swami sauntering around. He stopped right in front of me but a few yards away from the edge of the crowd and gazed enraptured at the first stars coming out. He began talking, apparently to Himself. His words were audible but indistinct and every one began calling out "Who Swami?, What Swami? Who Swami? What Swami?" (Our relationship with Him in those days was so easy and free).

Everyone was puzzled but I. I was in the 4th row hidden by someone's tall tower of hair, but I was peeping from the side and squarely met His eye that had now brought it’s gaze down from the skies and penetrated into the crowd. Only I had heard His mumble listing all my demands in that letter now in the room, the one He had declined to touch for days. His look met mine and unheard by all the others through the general clamour, unseen through the falling night and that pile of hair, He said, to me, "You know who!" and drifted away.

No one thing I had asked for in that letter was ever given, but what I did get a hidden word, a hidden look, a secret shared.... I was filled with tears.

How could such a fugitive relationship, of enchantment, of uncertainty, not built to a violent longing in me for a few minutes of tangible reality too, a few minutes of a private interview? Those were the days when the queues to go in for early morning darshan began at midnight and for evening darshan at noon. We grimly sat on and on.

My last days came, and all my pleas, "Swami, interview, please," at every darshan remained unheard. Seeing my trembling face my anxious aunt said, "Why don't we try a little more? Stay on another week."

But that week came to an end too. On that last evening, I was the last one at the very end of the last line. From this point Swami would turn and go back to the Mandir, darshan over for the day. At five o' clock the next morning I would be on my way to Bangalore.

Swami came up to me now. "Swami, please, interview." He did not hear me as always, and stern, distant, turned away. Then He - swung back!

"How many?"

"F-f-four," I stammered.

"GO!" (for the interview)

The very last day, the very last darshan, the very last moment that I could speak to him. My very last chance. "Swami, how did you know, how did you know?" A boneless mass of sobbing had to be dragged to its feet and to the Mandir verandah, where everyone gaped at this sodden heap of wild emotion. Everyone, except Swami. He saw nothing, heard nothing, only came up to us a few minutes later and briskly motioned us inside His room.

But once that door closed, "Don’t cry! Don't cry! Don't cry!" The figure I had looked upon with such awe was now someone who begged "Don’t cry!" He had eyes only for me (so it seemed) in those first moments and He was liquid with love. Oh yes, such a platitude-liquid love. I had never imagined it could be true. Bringing me back to earth He casually said, "Something is wrong with your left eye. It was the eye that had been cut by my lenses exactly six weeks ago!

He was talking more and it was all about me. In my bewitched mind there was only He and I in those few minutes. No other, no other, then. This is the eternal mystery of Bhakthi, the reason the Formless takes Form, this relationship between the Divine and the individual, of He and I, alone - which one day, in some supreme moment is given a man to experience-experience what is his own mystery.

Swami went on talking a long time about my problems, my grievances, even before we uttered a single word. I accepted His omniscience then without question but late that night I jerked up to realise why His language had seemed so formal, so literary. He had been repeating, word by word, the carefully written letter I had given that first day of darshan when my eyes had been streaming and I could not even see Him as He stood before me!

Here in the interview room He suddenly, abruptly, crossed the little distance between us and with a look so intense, gave a blessing I never in my wildest hopes believed could be - and it still remains wordless, ever unspoken, within me.

The private interview was over for the family. We came out of the small inner room into the outer one. When we had gone in, I had been the last of the group and I had held the curtain open for Him to step through. Coming out, I was again the last and He held the curtain open for me! Even that even that, the smallest gesture I had made for Hima.... radiant smile broke out on His face as I gasped.

We trickled out, not into the world beyond, but into heavenly realms! Everyone it seemed friends and strangers, were beaming, hugging, bursting with their own joy too. What had happened to the quite considerable number of foes I had made in our struggles to get into the front places for darshan? No one could find a flaw in me, I could see no speck of fault in another. And through all that overwhelming warmth I was seeing the world through a faint golden mist. This was literally true. The harsh clear outlines of things and people were now a fluid golden beauty.

Years later I learned that such golden translucence, like a light veil of gold dust, is an indication of a higher state of consciousness than the normal one we live in. I had had a moment of closeness to God, hadn't I?

These are His miracles. Swift flashes when a person realises that his whole lifetime past was - such a triviality.

The next day dawned - and that golden mist over my eyes had now become a curious unbelievable certainty that nothing in the course of the day could go wrong for me. Whatever I wanted to door wished to happen would be - and yet, through that strength of sureness what could I want so very much? In that certainty was completion too. When everything could be mine, what could I wish? What a contradiction, but what a glorious contradiction.

Now I was boarding the plane. Clutching Samuel Sandweiss' book, 'The Holy Man and the Psychiatrist', I was boring into the picture on the cover for it had that exact dark hard hard look with which Bhagawan had suddenly come up to me in the interview with that blessing beyond all telling even now. I stared at that picture while tripping and stumbling over every step of the plane's ladder and uttered the most fervent words of my life. "I am leaving you now Swami, - but don't you-leave-me-ever."

Back home I became an instant vegetarian and thoughts of the many opportunities possible in life gradually melted away. The Centre of Gravity of my life had utterly changed.

A little more than a year later there was another visit, another interview, by which time I knew just what to say.

"Swami, can I come to stay here?"

Part II

My eyes were like stars

In the early 1980s'the crowds at Prashanti Nilayam were still limited and the ashram roads deserted once darshan was over. I was wandering down to the post office at about 11AM one morning and no one was in sight. A tinny rattle behind made me step on to the side of the road expecting a truck with building materials to pass on. But what came by was the well-used Benz of Bhagawan's and He was there at the back. No guests or officials were accompanying Him today. He was alone, all alone. As I stared unbelievingly at such unexpected darshan, He turned His head and gave me a look. A long, long almost fierce stare.

That look crazed me. I began to race behind it in defiance of the strictest orders against indiscipline. The car reached the last of the West Block of apartments and taking a wide turn continued right to the back of the ashram where some small tin–roofed sheds stood.

Between the West Blocks and the sheds was a broad empty patch on which construction was going on for what is today the row of Round Houses. Right now building had just begun and that stretch of uneven stone - filled ground was thickly littered with broken bits of concrete and barbed wire. I was barefoot, yet that stretch of rocky soil was softest sea sand for me. I ran as I never had before. I had to go behind that car no matter what, no matter where it was going. And as it was obviously curving round to reach the road that went past the sheds, the building site in between was going to be no obstacle to me.

Mindless, I went over barbed wire and jagged chunks of concrete. By now the car had stopped at one of the sheds and Swami had gone in. I reached there with almost my last breath. There was a window. Swami was just four or five feet away from it, in front of a crowd of less than a hundred seated on the floor. Later I learnt that they were a group from a Sai Samiti in Madras and the meeting with Swami was being kept strictly secret.

Swami started on His discourse. He talked for more than half an hour, probably in Telugu which I do not understand but anyway I never heard a thing. All I was aware of was what I was seeing. Was it really possible that He was only a few feet away from me and standing unmoving for so long?

In the meantime, some passing person walking by must have seen His car, come up, and then joined me at the window. And little by little so did others. By the time Swami had finished His discourse there were twenty or more of us piled one on top of the other in a pyramid by that one window for it was the closest to where He stood. There was no thought of being men or women among us. We were welded into just a mass of palpitating anxiety that not an instant of this unbelievable darshan should escape our eyes.

It was not just darshan. It was that He was so near for so long and in absolutely no hurry to move away while at regular darshan His nearness is only for a few seconds or a minute at the most.

Not another thought stirred in us and Swami did not stir to glance at us either, at this terrible breach of the strictest of all ashram rules, that male and female remain a clear distance apart. For, we were not men and women then nor even human beings, but eyes eyes eyes. That sight of unbroken darshan had done what lifetimes of effort could never do. We were not an "I" anymore, only eyes and its sight.

The discourse ended. Swami began to give padanamaskar, walking down each row of the crowd. At one point He was within inches of us as He came upto the nearest lines. In all that while His glance never once flickered our way. When Swami had gone on down the lines those who had received padlanamaskar began to stand to see Him better. We at the window pulled them down with ferocious hands and yells. Not even this was noticed by Swami today, that strictest of disciplinarians at all other times.

Padanamaskar over, He came out of the hall. In those days no sevadal or security men accompanied Him. He was unimaginably alone as He slowly got into the car, His glance never seeing this milling heap hovering by either. Ecstatic, still virtually unconscious of each other, we drifted away one by one.

My mother's first words to me as I came into our room were," What has happened to you? Your eyes look like stars!" I sat down to relate it all and only at the end did I remember my bare feet. While running over that construction site it was as if I had been running on air and when I examined my soles now there was not the slightest scratch. They were muddy and dirty of course but not the least of a prick, a wound.

The Divine Magnet of His eyes. That one piercing look He had given from the car had lifted me above the world for that while. Not only had I gone over rusty iron and blocks of concrete but I had not been conscious of anyone else around me just when I was being smothered by a mass of humanity. In that pile of mankind on my shoulders, there had only been one, my own self.

To be 'philosophical', was it a moment of mystery when multifarious Creation proved its ultimate Truth, that of Advaita, the One Source, alone? In simpler English, there had been a moment when there was neither I nor the crowd around me. When the 'Many 'that we were lost our minds completely and were drowned in the nearness of the Lord, there was left only Drishti, Sight. No more Srishti, (Creation, the Many). It was a flash of understanding every single one of us in that crowd shared.

How they explained it to themselves I do not of course know. As for me, I knew it was because of that moment when I had lost my earth-bound humanness and literally flew behind His car, pulled, magnetised, by one deep look of His.'

Nayana Diksha maybe – the word of our scriptures that describes the Guru's teaching given only through a mere look of His eyes.

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