Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Femininity and Masculinity Re-Defined

There is this common notion that femininity has to do with women ONLY and masculinity to do with men ONLY. Now, there are both negative and positive traits of both femininity and masculinity. The following table lists those traits. 

Courtesy: Pinterest 
The above listed traits of masculinity does not exist in men alone. They exist in women too. For example, women can be protective and dominant too. However, they are listed under masculine traits because it is a belief that men predominantly posses such traits. The same happens with feminine traits. While men can also be compassionate and fragile, such traits are believed to be found mostly in women. Therefore, they are listed under traits of femininity. 

This definition has always intrigued me. My life at Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning gave me clarity in this subject. 

My dissertation work that I carried out as a course requirement for M.A. English involved a study  of an African-American playwright named Lorraine Hansberry. (I recommend reading Hansberry's plays, especially 'A Raisin in the Sun' to connoisseurs of  English literature. Such a powerful writer, though her output was scanty owing to a short lifespan.)  While doing an in-depth character study of the characters Hansberry has painted in her plays, I chanced upon a point that Hansberry was a feminist with a difference. While she fought for women's rights, she also brought out the different emotions a man goes through and what makes them hard-hearted towards the women in their lives. She painted pictures of  real men who possess certain traits that are "undesirable" in men and appropriate for women, therefore being called feminine traits. She did not stop at that. She transformed these men using women characters who possess traits desirable in a man and therefore called masculine traits. She created masculine women and feminine men, if I may say so. She is studied as a realist writer because she showed the possibility that masculinity and femininity can converge in one person, regardless of gender. 

While I was trying to validate this character study, I got reminded of what I once heard my teacher say during my undergrad days. It was a class when one of my classmates who had been missing Bhagawan came up with a question. This question was also inspired by the fact that we had not been to Prasanthi Nilayam for almost a month and a half. She asked the teacher, "Ma'am, why is it that Swami placed us very far away from Him, here at Anantapur and the boys very close to Him, at Prasanthi Nilayam? They get darshan every single day!" 

Her innocent question was only about the distance in physical terms. I am sure she was also convinced like many of us that nearness is not always proportional to dearness. However, Prasanthi Nilayam is the Abode of Peace and to live there beside the Love of our life is something anyone would crave for. 

Now, all of us, the girl students at Anantapur always had this question in our minds.We had conveniently left considering the Brindavan Campus, (they are physically distant from Bhagawan too) because Swami at least visited Brindavan very frequently. The teacher, who herself was a student of  the Anantapur Campus smiled at this question and said, "If I were to give you my reasons I am sure you will never be convinced. So I would like to give you an answer given by Swami Himself." Swami had told them that He kept the boys very close to Him because they by default lacked the ability to express love latent in them and He was teaching them to express this  love. However, they possessed abundant strength and could be independent.  On the other hand, women who are designed to be mothers have love in-built in them, but could not express and exercise their strength enough.  So He kept us far so that we could become strong and independent women. Therefore, by keeping men close to Him and women far from Him (physically), He was making us, His children strong and love-filled. He taught us to be hard and soft at once. 

I had never heard such a reason ever before! I was inspired and touched on listening to it. 

So here was Bhagawan validating the point that masculinity and femininity can find confluence in an individual. Every student passing out of the portals of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning is a proof of this point. In a world where boys are taught not to cry because they are "boys", the boy-students shed tears of love and pining for their Lord. Girl-students climb over buses to arrange the luggage on the carrier and perform daredevil bike-stunts to make their Lord proud. 

               Couldn't find a better video to illustrate how Swami makes
                  men express  pure, unsullied love, just like the love He gives!

 Bhagawan Baba and Hansberry re-defined femininity and masculinity by over-stretching it to accommodate the forms of femininity and masculinity that can be spotted in reality among men and women but never considered desirable in them. 

Photos Courtesy: Quora and The Prasanthi Reporter

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Why is being young and spiritual hard to some?

"Man! Being young and spiritual is hard", said my batch mate G. 

Being someone who was brought up in a family that was more spiritual than religious, and being only benefited by that, I couldn't quite agree that being young and spiritual is hard. Therefore, I was keen about hearing her experience that led her to come to a conclusion such as this. 

She then went about telling me how she was someone who accepted Swami as her God almost as soon as her parents showed Him to her. She was into the practice of Jyothi Meditation and very often felt and heard voices of Swami. However, there came a time in her 10th grade when she was emotionally battered. Her relationship with her friends worsened, she went down in her academics despite working very hard, financial problems created havoc in her family and above all, she felt a deep sense of lack of love. She looked up to Swami to help her, when she stopped getting dreams of Swami or hearing any voices. To add to it, Swami was no more in His physical form. Consequently, she lost the faith and confidence with which she spoke for Swami when her relatives and friends questioned her about Him.

She carried forward the same feeling that spirituality means giving up on the world, when she came to Anantapur. The phone-call system back in my undergraduate days were ones that involved taking a phone call, twice in a month,  from a teacher who will be in-charge for giving phone calls. (This system is, however changed now. We have phone booths from where we can make phone calls till our balances get exhausted.) This system made her feel like Swami was asking her to detach herself from her family. In all exasperation, she made a remark that spirituality which the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning thrusts upon its students is meant for the old and not for the young. I was infuriated and remember saying her, "No one invited you here. You came here on your own." 

Many were instances when I tried to actually explain to her that her concept of spirituality was wrong and that made her feel it was hard. I tried hard to make her understand that Swami's concept of knowing God does not involve giving up on the world but only striking the right balance. There were many times I tried explaining how the Sri Sathya Sai System of Integral Education itself was one huge and perfect example for spirituality in the right sense. There was also a point of time, when I gave up on her prayed to Swami to do the needful. 

However, Bhagawan's timing is perfect. He just knew the right time to re-enter her life and change the course in such a way that there's no looking back. And thus the day arrived...

It was 13th November 2015, the last day of her Dussehra holidays,  a day she was to leave home and come back to report at Prasanthi Nilayam for the Akhanda Bhajan and most importantly, Swami's 90th Birthday Celebrations. The first thing her mother told her the morning she was to leave was, "Kanna, Swami appeared in my dream today and told me that He misses you a lot. What happened? Hold on to Him no matter what."  
G, however, did not take the dream seriously, for she had by now stopped believing in the fact that dreams of Sathya Sai Baba are real. Moreover, she had almost nil faith in Swami and His abilities to guide and guard her. 

I always wondered how Swami would manage to communicate to people who had kept all means of communicating to them closed. This girl was one example. But Swami always shows that His will is stronger than any other power. 

A means of communicating with Swami, for students at Sri Sathya Sai Hostel is picking chits containing numbers and reading out the corresponding message to that number from a booklet kept at every altar one can find inside the campus, both college and hostel. G, like any other student picks these chits as a matter of practice and not with any real belief that Swami is talking to her. In fact, her mother loved this so much that she got a set of chits and a message booklet made for her altar at home too.  On this particular day, G got a message that read, “I am missing you.” She brushed it off as mere coincidence, knowing well that coincidences are instances when God chooses to be anonymous. 

Swami had decided 13th November as a day to pull her back to Him, He would certainly do it, even if it meant that she would be travelling. 

She narrated to me what happened at the railway station. 

That afternoon, as she decided to get down at a station to buy a water bottle for herself, she saw a bearded man in dirty, white clothes who said to her, "Bhagawan ke bacchi ho. Un se door nahin jaana, haan!" 

I got goosepimples as soon as she narrated this. "Only a girl as foolish and ignorant as her could have brushed it aside", I thought.  G ignored this incident thinking she was recognized as a student of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning and that made the old man consider her to be a blessed kid. 

That night as she kept tossing on her upper berth unable to sleep, her junior called her down to listen to some songs. They eventually ended up talking about Swami and the junior was the only one doing all the talking. That night G felt miserable for the first time in the four years since her 'separation' from Swami that she did not love Swami as the others. She cried out and reasoned it and tried convincing herself thus, "Stop feeling bad. You were a good child that spoke to Swami and shared everything with Him since you were a kid. But Swami never guarded you when you actually needed Him the most. It is not as if you don't miss Him. It is just that you feel it is pointless because He doesn't miss you. All that happens is you end up becoming a laughing stock in front of your friends and the world thinks you are a BONDA" (Bonda is a slang word used very often to describe someone who seems excessively studious and pious)

Finally, Swami decided to appear in her dream. His opening statement was this,

 "Being young and spiritual is not hard if you want to be like that for yourself and not for the world. Stop looking up to the world for approval. If YOU need Me, YOU deserve Me. But remember, YOU and only YOU should need Me, to for YOU to deserve Me." 

All the memories when she had played with Swami and talked to Him came to her mind. She then remembered times when she quarreled with Swami for not acknowledging her goodness because mockery and unpopularity was all that she received for adoring Him. In those moments of reflection, she realized how Swami, through His silence was helping her grow mature in her attitude towards God. It was she, who had completely stopped receiving the grace though she was being bestowed those, in a subtle manner. If only she held on to Him even during the battering teenage years...

The next day as she reported back at the dormitory at Prasanthi Nilayam, our then Warden, Kiran Ma'am wished her, "Happy Children's Day Bete." G smiled to herself because she realized how priceless a gift was coming to God early and how losing it can mean loss of peace and so much more. However, she also realized that loving God as purely and innocently as a child is the best way to adore Him. She was happy being a child again. 
Courtesy: Google Images

Today, summing up the entire thing, she tells how she chose world over God because everyone she loved told her she was crazy because she loved God. She tells that she regrets not being stronger. She tells when she actually thought she was turning her back on Swami, she was turning her back on herself. What she realizes was her mistake was that she sought approval of the world for her relationship with Swami, as she grew older. She was sure to face disappointment, for everyone's relationship with God is different. As she grew tired about people not taking the same path that she was taking, she also thought she was taking a wrong path. 

Now, I asked her, "What do you think was Swami's role in it? Why do you think He kept mum? You had all the reasons to be angry." (For a change I pretended to support her only to know what meaning Swami's silence held, according to her now) 

She replied, "He kept mum because He was helping me grow. He was trying to teach me how to attribute everything that happens to His will. He was teaching me how I should love Him like a child at any point of time in life. His lesson was to a teenager. However, the lesson was to love Him with the innocence of a child." 

Thinking about the experience of G, I understand how turning to God in your childhood, through your youth is a way you make God your first resort, never having to turn to the world. It is not that one may not face disappointments with God, because all of us have expectations from God as well. If only we expected the unexpected as Swami says....

But according to G, developing love for God early is a sort of investment, guaranteeing lifelong return of love and grace. 

I have a different opinion in this case. There have been number of people who have been touched and transformed by Swami later in their lives and turned to be such ardent devotees. So developing love for God at an early age is not the only means of earning God's grace. Nothing is greater than the other. Whichever stage one gets pulled to Him, the intensity of one's hold onto Him is all that matters.

The lesson that I got from G's experiences was that it is sometimes really okay not to be okay. But that also requires moderation. One important thing to note is that never through her cold war with Swami did she ever talk ill of Swami. She never let bitterness creep in. 

Another important take home message is that no matter what, Swami loves everyone. He can never hate. His silence has deep meanings which will unfold itself at right times. One must be patient, for if one cannot understand His silence, how can one understand His words? 

Above all, the need for God in our lives is as important as one's need for air, water and food. Do we seek approval of people around us for these things? If no, then never do the mistake of seeking approval from the world for your relationship with God. 

Being young and spiritual is not hard if and only if one does not look for the world to approve and appreciate it. If one seeks the world's approval, then it isn’t spirituality, but only a mere pretension. Hold on to God at all times, through rain and shine. However, holding on to Him is only for one's own feeling of security. It does not mean God will leave you if you do not hold on to Him. 

Finally, answering youngsters, who think being young and spiritual is hard – It is hard only because you are constantly in fear of what the world would say. Spirituality is not wearing ochre clothes  and meditating in dense forests. Love God, establish a relationship with Him, walk the path He wants you to walk while performing responsibilities your age demands from you. Make friends, inspire them through your character, but expect not to see them walk the same path as you. Enjoy life of a teenager but always hold on to God. Through the emotional roller-coaster ride that you experience as a teenager, keep assuring yourself that God loves you, no matter what. 
Courtesy: Ayushi Kapoor

Monday, 16 May 2016

ATP Diaries 1 - God waits for you ever so patiently

Date: 29th March 2016
Setting: Hostel Terrace overlooking the 'Lion Mountain' at Sri Sathya Sai Hostel for Women

V - Hey! Close your book ya, enough of acting like studying!
S - How did you make out? Well, what are you driving at? You mean to say, you want to do my favourite thing?
V - Go on! I give you the license to talk :P
S - You do the talking today, because you started it. I am in a mood to listen today.
V - (Out of the blue) I feel very new ever since I came here. I never thought I will fall in love God!
S - Not 'fall', but 'rise' with love for God! Phew, how many times to tell you V?
V - Okies, sorry. I never thought I will rise with love for God. Imagine a girl who hardly cared about God's existence in her life, now has God being the center of her life.
S - Well, I am not surprised for that is the way our Lord operates. But every time He operates in a different manner, giving different lessons. That is what I am waiting to listen to.
V - Do you remember telling me that God waits for His children and there is no patient mother like God. Didn't understand what it meant until it hit me on its own.
S - Uff!! V, will you stop building the suspense and tell me what is your's and Swami's love story?
V - It was our 1st semester and I was just not used to sitting for long hours. Sitting for something like Vedas and bhajans was still far from imagination. You know it well. It was one one morning darshan and I was trying hard not to be restless when I realized I was thirsty. Since I spotted a cooler in the Sai Kulwant Hall, I thought I could ask any of the LICs (Line-in-charges) to take me to drink some water. When I requested her to take me to drink some water, she bluntly refused and gestured to me to wait till Darshan got over. The worst thing was the grumpy face she made at me! My impatience coupled with thirst, anger and embarrassment made me shed hot tears. I did not want to cry but I just did! Trust me, I was so thirsty that I was ready to do anything to get a glass of water. Just anything!
In a fit of rage, I looked up at a photograph of Swami nearest to me and screamed inside, "People extol You so much and come from far and wide to seek Your grace. I have left my family and come here, which my roommate S calls Home, only to be refused something as petty as a glass of water. What Home is this? What Mother are You?
Even as I screamed these words inside my head, I heard a voice from that photograph which said, "You are grumbling because you were refused a glass of water and you are being made to wait for something as simple as quenching your thirst. Have you any earthly idea of how many times you have refused Me and for how long I have been waiting for you?"
My tears of anger and thirst now turned into one of gratitude, regret and happiness at the same time. The profundity of the statement hit me and I no more felt anger but love, not just love for Swami but for everything around me. I continued sitting and yes, by then I stopped throwing those rebellious looks at that particular senior. I sat closing my eyes, trying to just allow the sudden transformation to take place in me, I felt a pat. Guess who was it. The same senior who refused to give me water was right in front of me with a glass of water! I was in tears again..........
S - Tell me, do you even need a reason to cry? One cry baby only you are! Jokes apart, wow V! I remember seeing a changed you after that particular Parthi trip. Had no clue what had cooked then. Very glad you told me!
V - Since then the love story has continued and I hope and pray I will never have to keep Him waiting. (Looking at a lost S) Can we get back to our books now?
S - Sure, we shall. But wait a minute, did Swami speak to you in Telugu or English? I mean, did He really use the word 'earthly'? That's like wow!
V - (Throwing that you-will-never-change look) Understood! You are going to make a diary entry of this aren't you? By the way, yes, Swami spoke in English!
S - You made my day. Thank you V.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

A day when our Lord swung joyously on the jhoola of our hearts..............

The dawning of 23rd November 2015 was what I had been looking forward to, ever since I joined the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Anantapur Campus. The day was a dream come true and how I wish time froze.

The evening proceedings of 90th Birthday Celebrations at the Sai Kulwant Hall concluded at around 7 pm and all of us looked forward to rush towards the Hill View Stadium to witness the fitting finale to our Lord's 90th Birthday Celebrations - Music Programme by the Prashanti Mandir Bhajan Group and the 'Special Event' as was announced the previous day. However Lord Varuna, the Rain God's participation in Swami's Birthday Celebrations deprived us of the magical evening we wanted to celebrate with our Lord. The Jhoola Mahotsavam was postponed to the next day evening, i.e, 24th November 2015. But the Anantapur Campus was to leave the next day morning after the morning proceedings in the Kulwant Hall. Now with such an announcement being made about the rescheduling of the Jhoola Mahotsavam, we waited eagerly to know of the change in plans of travelling back to ATP. Sadly, on reaching our dormitory, we were instructed to pack our bags and get ready to board our buses immediately after the morning Darshan.

And then it all started - What? My cribbing and grumbling! "How can people be very heartless and not let us watch Swami's Jhoola Mahotsavam?" Isn't the Birthday Celebration incomplete without the Jhoola Mahotsavam. How then can we leave our Lord to celebrate His big day all alone?" Eventually, I went on to say, "Let us see how Swami can peacefully swing away without us, His daughters!" I grumbled thus in font of a picture of Swami's in the dormitory where the music group of ATP stays. A few sisters joined me in the grumbling, if I may say so. Even as I spoke I realized I was grumbling too much like some grannies of the past. But what could I do? We were in so much pain and anger. Who else could we vent it on except on Swami? Two of us then declared, "We aren't packing our bags, come what may!" 
We grumbled like nobody's business! How else to pour out our agony? 

The rains had surely dampened the grounds of the Hill View Stadium and we had no control over it. But we wouldn't let the rains dampen our spirits. We firmly believed the Swami wanted us to stay back and that no human-made rules could come in between us and Swami. No other force could stop us from staying back for the next day evening except Swami Himself. 

We thus slept praying that we wake up to a miraculous announcement  that we could stay back for the Jhoola Mahotsavam. From the time we got up till the morning proceedings got over, we spent all our time in restlessness trying to get a clue of what might happen after we move out of Kulwant Hall. Should we pack our bags and get out? 

As I placed my head on the Mahasamadhi, I just had one thing  to tell Swami, "Swami! Please....Please really do something." and a drop of tear trickled down my cheek. Just as I packed the harmonium with a heavy heart (Girls too sang bhajans in the Mandir on 24th morning, so I had to pack the harmonium) and was about step out of Sai Kulwant Hall, few sisters asked the Music Group girls not to move out. To my shock, the whole of the Anantapur Campus sat down glued to the floor. Nobody budged. I quickly realized that we were doing a silent protest! All of it to demand permission to stay back for Jhoola Mahotsavam (My mind screamed in fury, "Who should give us permission to see our Lord? My heart cried, "We are very sorry Swami, but this wouldn't have happened if You were physically here. Your permission would be the ultimate. We have no option but to do this." A little later after all negotiations we got reprimanded for this 'mass indiscipline' (Well, I will never agree that it was indiscipline nor do I claim that what we did was right. However, 'indiscipline' was not the right term to be used.)

We dragged our way to the dormitory, not in sorrow but in contemplation as to what will be our next move! We are groomed saying that we are Swami's lionesses. How then can we give up and start crying! If we cry, then let those tears be only for Swami. With these thoughts as we arrived at the dormitory building, my heart sank when I saw the buses lined up to part us from our beloved Swami. 

Our only respite was prayers.
As soon as I entered my dorm, the music group's dorm, my senior who joined me in the cribbing the previous night looked at me and asked what was happening. Since we were in the ground floor, we stopped some sisters from coming down from upstairs with their bags. You know what that meant? We simply refused to board our buses! We knew it was a tense situation outside the dormitory building, with parents waiting without an idea of what was happening inside and teachers all confused, whether to support us or to go about doing their duty of asking us to board our buses. But nothing deterred us.  We called all the students into the music group's dorm and started doing bhajans.  A Ganesh bhajan, Araj Suno Mere Param Kripalu, Tere Siva Prabhu Koi Nahin Hai, Almost the whole dorm broke down as we sang Murali Manohar Asha Na Todo, Dukh Bhanjan Mera Saath Na Chodo. I almost ran out of breath while singing Dwar Khadi Hoon Main Dukhiyari.(Literally felt like a 'Dukhiyari' that day!) Unlike every other bhajan session, we meant every word we sang. We literally spoke out. Just as we were singing Sahara Do Bhagawan, our teacher who was in-charge of the bus arrangements, came in. I could make out that she too was teary eyed. She said, "I am sorry to interrupt you all like this. But girls, what are you all doing?" She couldn't speak further. I knew she resonated our feelings because she too was a student like us but she had no option because she was asked to persuade us to get into our buses. When all her coaxing and pleading were in vain she left our dorm. We continued bhajans. Just then another teacher comes in and encourages us to pray on because things seemed bleak as permission was still not being granted, instead our action only angered them. Again my heart screamed, "What is the big deal here? Is it a thing to be argued at all? Obviously, between classes and  Swami's Jhoola Mahotsavam, that too 90th Birthday, the latter is more important. Duh! Do we even need permission to seek out to our Lord? If only You were here....Sheeks!

My eyes were flooded. Hot streams of tears poured down. It was a mixture of pining,sorrow, anger, fear, anxiety, pangs of separation. Our prayers intensified in the next 25 minutes and so did the momentum of the bhajans and the tears.As we were singing Premamrita Barsao Baba..........

"You take 1 step towards Me, I will take a 100 steps towards you. But the 1st step should be yours." 

The miracle happened. Another teacher enters the dorm and says that we were now permitted to stay back for the evening provided we board our buses quickly as soon as we come back from the Sai Kulwant Hall and that on reaching the hostel, we should hit our beds fast and be on time to the College the next day morning. 

And then we broke down into tears again, this time out of gratitude and started the 'I Love You' song, Humko Tumse Pyar Kitna. 

After all that had happened, I was called out because my father was waiting for me all the while. That was when my classmate's mother tells me in Tamil, "Nice dharna, kids" ('Dharna' is a non-violent sit-in protest) What I told her is not just something I intended to tell her but something I intend to tell all the readers too. Let me make it absolutely clear that we were not against anyone here. We were not doing a sit-in protest against anyone. Instead, it was mass prayers that was all addressed to Swami. We did not do bhajans to protest against anyone in particular. We were demanding and pleading at the same time to Swami and Swami alone, because, it is only Swami's permission that we needed, to be there in His presence. 

That evening I did not sit on the ground of Sai Kulwant Hall, but I was flying.(Just like Ustad Zakir Hussainji said about his experience of performing before Swami.) I was not performing, but I knew we had earned that chance to be sitting there. He made us work for it. Even as I sat lost in the beauty of the Sai Kulwant Hall, a teacher who sat next to me said, "All of your devotion has been rewarded." 

All of us around the globe planned to offer many many things as His 90th Birthday gift - 90 hours bhajans, 90 spiritual sessions, Narayan Seva, Giving up certain ill habits, Taking up different projects etc etc. For example, we at Anantapur, had done Parayanam of Shirdi Sai Satcharitra, Tapovanam and many other sadhana, at an individual level, class-wise, room-wise etc. Definitely He was happy with all that. However, that last drop of devotion is what He wanted to squeeze out of us and I think that is one reason why He staged all that drama. He got His birthday gift - moments when He joyfully swung on the jhoola of our hearts, more so because every heartbeat cried out to Him, for Him.  In retrospection, I can feel some amount of gratitude to the people who played roles to perfection in  His drama. I learnt that day that pining for the Lord and making Him feel wanted is the best gift that one can give God. In fact, it is also the best gift one can give oneself!

Nextly, it may seem like we get chances to go to Prasanthi Nilayam just by the virtue of being a student of SSSIHL Trust me, if He wishes to throw you out, no force in the world can stop that but if He wishes to keep you with Him, no Tom, Dick or Harry can take you away from Him. It was a reminder that we had to yearn, earn and value every chance we got to be at Prasanthi Nilayam because Swami lived here, lives here and will forever live here. 

My Fairyland Forever! :)

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Love of a Thousand Mothers

As a kid when I was introduced to Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba as God, I accepted and embraced Him as my only God. Very soon He showed me how He alone is our Best Friend. Now something I always looked forward to was to see and experience Swami's love of a thousand mothers that has been described by many devotees and students. 

As a kid of Class 4, when I came across a book entitled, 'Ananta Prematarangini' (A book of experiences of the staff and students of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Anantapur Campus), I had decided and prayed that I be a recipient of His motherly love whilst being a student in His institution. 

Little did I know that my desire to experience Swami as my mother would come true when my 9 year old prayer to study in His institution bore fruition. .

In this blog post, I would like to narrate two incidents wherein He proved to be a 'Mother' to me. I would call these two incidents 'The Sinus Incident' and 'The Pani Puri Incident' 

Without further ado, over to the narratives...

The Sinus Incident

It was soon after a "Miracle Season' at Anantapur, that I was down with heavy cold and cough. It got all the more problematic when I suffered severe sinus headache. Let me tell you here that for people without sinusitis, a common cold is, "Ah! Its just a common cold." However, for people with sinusitis, "It is COMMON COLD!!!" These 'sinus attacks' as I call them, are at their peak in the mornings, making it very difficult to get up from the bed. One is unable to even open one's eyes due to heaviness around the face and head area. Thus on 12th September 2014, I decided to write my first leave application at SSSIHL (Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning) However, the teacher-in-charge for signing the leave applications of students gave me only a half day's leave, which meant that I would have to drag myself to college for the post-lunch session.It was on that day for the first time since my entering SSSIHL, I missed my family. I missed my mother. I thought, "If I was at home, Amma wouldn't have questioned me a gazillion times before permitting me to take an off from school. One look at me and she would know I was feeling so unwell."

My very loving and caring seniors and co-junior helped me so much by feeding me breakfast and getting me relevant medicines.  I still did not feel any better throughout morning.Soon it was time for lunch. I had no hunger. In fact, due to nausea I had thrown up all that I had eaten. I still took medicines and went to college for the post-lunch session. I am a person who hates to be noticed by anyone except my mother as being sick. That day everyone made out that I was sick, thanks to my swollen face.  It was the Quantitative Techniques hour and I was just not able to concentrate and got most my sums wrong, when I ran to the washroom for throwing up the third time since morning. Looking at my condition, our QT teacher asked me to go back to hostel and rest.

 I came back to hostel but could not sleep due to severe pain. I finally slept after so much of crying. Within a few minutes I woke up to the sound of the door banging open. I then realized that it was my senior who had come to take something from the room. I then resumed my sleep after latching the door this time.I slept facing the wall. Again the latched door banged open. But I was too weak to get up and close it. So I left it to be the way it was. I then felt a warm and soft hand patting me on my head and cheek, soothing and healing me. I was at bliss. Suddenly, I turned around and got up to see whose hands were those and I knew for sure that it was Swami's hands that put me to sleep. I still wanted a confirmation. Praying for a confirmation I went back to sleep. There I had a dream of Swami standing at a height and putting something that looked similar to honey into my mouth. The dream ended with Swami giving a smile of assurance. It was 3:30 pm and my co-junior came to the room all excited to tell me about the room next to us, A-17 that had nectar coming from a photo. But I was fast asleep and in my sleep, I told her, "I know.". She now shook me more to ask me how I knew there was nectar coming from the photos in the next room when I was asleep in my room. I then told her of my dream and how that heavenly taste of the nectar lingered on my tongue. Even as we spoke all this, I realized that my temperature had gone down, I could move my head freely without heaviness, the pain on my face had vanished completely, there was absolutely no swelling, leaving no sign of having been sick. The best of all was that I didn't feel weak at all. I felt strong enough to go running around the whole campus! 

Ah! I wouldn't mind getting such sinus headaches any number of times if Sai Maa were to come and sit by my side to put me to sleep with those tender hands of Hers!

The Pani Puri Incident

It was one of those hectic days at ATP (Anantapur) and probably only one of the very few days I remember studying. Not that we never studied otherwise. It is just that on other days, studying was fun and time just flew.Studying was never something that was being forced into us. But that day, every 40 minute period seemed like 40 days.However, even in those tiring circumstances, I developed craving for Pani Puri so randomly! I thought to myself, "If I were at home, I would just have to voice out my orders and Amma would treat me like a princess with not just Pani Puri but all sorts of Chaat items. I can only dream of it here. Pani Puri at Anantapur. No way! Forget it, Sreenidhi!" 

If that was one disappointing and tiring day, a week after that was such a big day. Big day, not because of any celebrations but because the day didn't seem to end and it felt like it was going bad, I had been coughing throughout the previous night, felt sleep-deprived that morning, got late for the Auditorium session which meant I could not meet our Ganesha of ATP , forgot my Veda book in the room, Balance Sheet was not getting tallied, lost my Economics notes and to top it all the craving for Pani Puri hadn't ceased.Trust me, at certain points of time, the disappointment of an unfulfilled craving for food is more than any other sorts of disappointment. I still wanted it knowing I will never get it. I was badly waiting for the day to get over and thought of treating myself with a nap spanning 20 minutes after College and before I am off for music practice. So I had decided to bunk evening snacks that day. 

As I  entered my room in the Hostel, put my bag in place and landed 'thud' on the bed, I heard an announcement being made on the PA system, "All the students are requested to come to the Dining Hall immediately. EVEN THOSE PLANNING TO BUNK SNACKS MUST COME. There is something special awaiting you." Now my ears picked only the second sentence. I thought, "Let us see what is so special" Even as I was going to the Dining Hall, I could see the door closed and all the students waiting outside. We waited and waited for 12 minutes (Yes, I was counting! Just so that I could go back to the room and sleep if they were to delay serving snacks further) Suddenly the doors flung open with Sharada Ma'am (Deputy Warden, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Anantapur Campus) welcoming us inside with her wide and warm smile. I was wondering what was so special about an evening snack? I go the counter and my jaw dropped at what I saw! We were being served Pani Puri! When I asked a 3rd Year Senior about how often they got Pani Puri for snacks, what she said blew me off. She said, "Ever since my 1st Year, we have never had Pani Puri for snacks. Don't know whose prayer is being fulfilled!" Even as I sat down to eat my heart, there were tears rolling down my cheeks, not because of the spiciness of the Pani Puri but the sweetness of His love. My eyes then fell on this photograph of Swami and I could feel Him tell me, "Now, how is that? That's my timing!" 
"Now, how is that? That's my timing!" 
Thinking back now, I cannot but help marvel at Swami's timing. He knew when to give me what. There was a day when I did crave for Pani Puri but then, He foresaw that I would meet an even more tiring day and decided to give me Pani Puri as a surprise on that day. 

Also, this is something that struck me - Even if I were at home, I would have had to voice out my desire to eat Pani Puri to my parents so that they fulfill my wish. But here, I hadn't even asked Swami for Pani Puri.I just wished for it in my mind and there it was in front of me, for doesn't Swami know our thoughts even before they arise out of our minds? 

I know these incidents are too small to describe His love that is not just that of a thousand mothers but equal to and more than that of a thousand mothers. But these are just to drive home a point that none should ever feel left out and not loved by Swami. A mother's love never gets diluted, how many ever children she may beget. Similarly, Swami's love is so abundant and equally spread that none can claim to not have been its recipient. It is just that one has to keep their hearts and minds pure and be alert to receive one's share of that Love of a thousand mothers. 

Thursday, 21 May 2015

I 'SAW' Swami, but was it the way He wanted me to 'SEE' Him?

I thought with SH's experience, everyone would learn the lesson that Swami is not partial and that He pours His grace on everyone equally and just that each of us should keep our hearts and minds open and alert to receive a Divine experience. I thought my faith got strengthened that day. 

Who is SH? What was her experience? These were the contents of Did I SEE Swami  - Part 2 of which I strongly recommend a read before you go on to read the following so that the message this 3-part article wishes to convey is clear to every reader. 

So done with reading Part 1 and Part 2? Welcome to Part 3. 

Questions continued to be raised. The "Why SH" attitude made people get depressed, angered some and turned some pessimists. Back to the same old story of telling "I am not blessed" , "Swami has decided to reject me." (As if they could read Swami's mind!) All this ruined my peace (first sign of dwindling faith) I felt bad seeing some turning pessimistic about Swami's grace on them and angry on some for blaming poor Swami for not blessing them. I thought I should go and ask them to define 'blessing'! It was thus that I started praying that Swami blesses the entire ATP Campus with His Darshan! Mega Prayer! Wasn't it? Even I knew it was too much to ask. But that is what I prayed back then. Every day I prayed and prayed, in fact, I was ordering Him. Days passed and there were a couple of experiences that happened in my life (These will form a part of another blogpost) the sweetness of which I completely or partially ignored because I was so lost in Mega Prayers. In fact the months of June and July could aptly be called the "Miracle Season 2014" at ATP. 

You see, this is a situation most of us come across in our lives. God's grace is constantly with us and miracles are happening all around us. However, we fail to notice them because they do not come in a manner we expect them to come in. All of us fail to realize this - The Lord who is powerful enough to bless us with miracles, isn't He also powerful enough to decide when and how He should bless us? It is like going to a doctor to get an illness cured and advising him on what medicines to prescribe! 

Sadly, in spite of knowing all these also I did not want to give up and leave it to Swami.This was one more instance of me being a 'platform hero' (heroine actually) but a 'practical zero' like Swami says.  

I did not want to give up. When in Part 1, I said retracing one's steps is not a sign of true devotee, I didn't mean dictating what, when and how God has to do something. It meant holding on to Him strongly and asking of Him to do that something. While pining is in your hands, dictating means of grace is nowhere close to our business. And I was dictating terms to Swami which was not my business at all. I thus spent the rest of my First Semester and Second Semester at ATP in Mega Prayer. Nothing else mattered to me. But if I was stubborn, Swami was more stubborn. He kept mum. I cannot even adequately describe in words how miserable I felt everyday, though Swami was not ignoring me but my Mega Prayer. I continued to miss out on those sweet incidences He gave me to cherish. Basically I did not live in the PRESENT. 
My desperation to see the my MEGA PRAYER get fulfilled knew no bounds.

I waited for every trip to Prasanthi Nilayam from Anantapur, every bhajan session in the Prayer Hall and every Auditorium prayer session before College. Nothing happened. I began thinking, "Swami just 2 months in the beginning was all so smooth and nice. You took me to heights of blissfulness. I currently feel like you have dropped me from those heights! What exactly is happening? Have you gone on a 'Sleep' Mode? " Forget about telling others to stop feeling pessimistic, I too started becoming a pessimist. I waited till 15th April 2015! (The day all of us left for our homes for Summer Vacations)  A wait from August 2014 to 22nd April 2015. That seems like a long wait, wasn't it? It indeed was. While I sat wondering what happened to Swami, He would have been wondering what was wrong with me!

But wait, why only till 22nd April? Was there something that happened on 23rd April 2015? Let me come to that. Swami was not only sad, He was angry too. In the early hours of 23rd April, Swami appeared in my dream:

The setting was that of the dormitory allotted to the Music Group in the dormitory building (opposite the Gayatri Mandir at Prasanthi Nilayam)  the students and staff of Anantapur Campus stay when we come to Prasanthi Nilayam. Swami tells me "Good Night" and falls asleep on a bed. In the dream, the bed was ith place, where we originally keep our altar in the dorm. I too sleep on a mat below His bed. The next morning I wake up to the voice of teachers trying to wake up Swami. Strangely enough, Swami has a mosquito net around His bed and none of the teachers removed the mosquito net to wake Swami. I then gathered courage to remove the mosquito net and gently shook Swami to wake up. Even after 4-5 times of calling out to Him, Swami did not wake up. During the course of the dream itself, I got reminded of how the next day was 24th April which meant that it was the Aradhana Mahotsavam day. I became all the more worried about Swami not waking up.The fear of losing Him gripped me tight and I almost screamed into His ears, breaking into tears, "Swami, please do not leave us go. Please get up. We don't have a life without You. Get up Swami! Get up!" Suddenly, Swami wakes up and glares at me looking deep into me. All my tears dried up instantaneously and I now feared that look of His for I had never seen this face of Swami ever. 

With that I woke up to find myself sweating profusely in spite of the air conditioner that was switched on throughout the night. All I knew was that He was angry with me but I did not know why. I therefore went to my altar immediately and sat silently, asking Swami what that dream and that glare meant. It was then I heard words so loud and clear which still ring in my ears, "Don't wake Me up. Instead, you wake up. Remember that I am always there, whether you SEE Me physically or not. Just have FAITH."  Swami clarified things further when I narrated the dream to my father without mentioning a word of my conversation with Swami. I then asked him, "Appa, what could that dream be all about? " My father in his usual way of speaking said, "Swami also knows you sleep more than anyone else. That is why He asked you to wake up instead of waking Him up." Though the 'sleep' my father referred to was so trivial compared to the 'sleep' Swami mentioned, both of them told the same and I knew it was Swami who again spoke through my father to calm my monkey mind. The words I had spoken to Swami when in utter desolation hit me hard, "Swami just 2 months in the beginning was all so happy. You took me to heights of blissfulness. I currently feel like you have dropped me from those heights! What exactly is happening? Have you gone on a 'Sleep' Mode? " I understood why He was angry with me. And all the dawning arrived. 

All the while He gave me experiences to show that I could  'SEE' (physically) Him and He placed so much hopes on me and went to the next level to teach me to "SEE' Him within and I had so hopelessly ruined His lessons while doing my Mega Prayers.My faith had been fragile all the while. Rather I had failed His tests after nodding my head when the Swami in my  Balvikas teachers told me, "Swami is Omnipresent". When Swami was physically present at Prasanthi Nilayam, I had no hesitation in telling my people at Muscat, "Swami is Omnipresent" It was as if Swami was telling, "Now what? Now also Omnipresent?" and instead of telling "Yes, Swami. Omnipresent even now." I began scratching my head and waiting for Him to appear. So what does that imply? I had only nodded but not understood what His Omnipresence really is. The Lord to whom I had promised to be that someone He can depend on, I had ruthlessly, put Him down once again. Hence, He decided that He had to show His love in another form and that He showed in the form of the glare. 
"Will she ever realize the grandeur and richness latent in her?"

On further introspection, it struck me how the teaching of the lesson began almost one year back on 24th April 2014 when I saw Swami physically on His blue throne in the Sai Kulwant Hall and concluded on the 23rd April 2015 when He appeared in my dream and told me that He is there always and that we should have faith. His lesson plan never ceases to amaze me. Our Swami is such a systematic teacher. 

He first taught me that it was possible to SEE Him if we pined and then He went on to teach the way He wanted us to SEE Him. At this juncture, I am reminded of what Swami says, " I have come to give you what you seek so that one day you will seek what I have come to give." Swami is here to give us Himself and we always look up to what Swami has to give us. We ask Swami, "Give me Your Darshan, Give me this. Give me that." Let us stop and think for a point of time when we asked Him, "Swami I want You." This 'You' is not the the body we seek, but Swami in us. It is this way, Swami wants to give Himself to us.  When that is the case, why not move to the next level and look for Him within, for it is only the Hridaya Nivasi Sai who is permanent and ever closer to us. Why attach to a form and come down to Level 1. I strongly believe Swami had decided to take us to Level 2 when He decided to give up His form.Remember every body that takes birth has an expiry date. Then why limit yourself to a form when you know another 24th April is inevitable. Then why not simply sit back like good students, cooperate with what our Teacher has to teach us. 

 In my case, I was so used to seeing Swami (Twice only could I see Swami but that was enough to spoil me. In fact, what attracted me also distracted me, if I may say so), that when after my Mega Prayers started, I never saw Swami. I went mad. Even in visualizations, I visualized Him coming and sitting on His throne in the Prayer hall. However, I had almost stopped listening to voices I heard from within. If not for my habit of diary writing, I would have missed those heart-to-heart conversations with Swami.  I kept day dreaming of that day when Swami would give a grand entry into the Prayer hall. I was not wrong but Swami was wanting to give something greater and my prayers were a barrier to it. I was growing dependent when Swami was trying to make me independent. Why depend on a form outside when there is Swami you can reach out to within you, with a little effort? Trying to find a form outside is easy but is not long lasting. However, getting God is not easy. It requires some serious Sadhana. But once you get Him, there is no looking back. He is permanently there to stay. So it is up to us to choose an easy path or a tough path, nay, not up to us. We have to choose the tough path, because Swami is waiting for us there, because He wants us to grow beyond the form, He wants to make us independent. This was always His mission. 

Move ahead. Grow up. Realize that Swami is within you. Then there is no need to point out on a an exact date when you actually saw Swami, for every day you will SEE Him. 

In conclusion, Yes, I indeed SAW Swami. You too can SEE Swami but that is not a big deal. Do you SEE Swami the way He wants you to see Him, within you? Well, finally, that is all that matters. 
"Hey, you there! Where are you looking? I am right there within you :) "

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Did I SEE Swami? - Part II

SH is my batchmate and also my neighbour in the Hostel. One evening after bhajans, she came over to me and asked me to narrate my experience of seeing Swami in the Sai Kulwant Hall. I then narrated the whole thing to her.

Dearest Readers. What I narrated to SH forms the Part 1 of this series. If you haven't read it, please go back and read it in order to appreciate the happenings of this Part 2 better.

And once your are done with that, you may proceed further to know what happened next. 

After she heard all that I had to say, she said this , "You know what? I guess you could see Swami because you come from a family that worships Swami as God. I do not have a Sai background. In fact I joined this Institute only because of the free and good quality education given here. I am slowly  beginning to pray to Swami. Can such things happen to me also? Can I see Swami too?"

Now what I liked in her was her attitude towards my experience. While there were people who came with the question of  "Why you?" all over their faces, here was a girl who came to me with the question of "Why not me?" on her face. In fact, that should be our attitude when we hear of anyone being blessed with an exhilarating experience of the Divine, for such an attitude is free of jealousy and will attract Divine love and grace. Also when the question "Why any XYZ?" is asked, there is no introspection involved. Hence, no corrective measure is taken by an individual who asks such a question, thereby his/her effort is at zero level. When the question "Why not me?" is posed, it is a question to oneself and involves self-introspection. Hence, deviations if any from the right path can be corrected by taking up corrective measures , thereby putting in efforts to seek God.

Getting back to what SH asked me, I replied to her in the affirmative and told her how it did not matter to Swami whether someone came from a Sai background or no. If He has decided to touch her life, then no factor in the Universe could stop Him from doing so and the first step was that she was already in His Institute. I encouraged her to pray harder and asked her to visualize Swami the way she wanted to see Swami. 

The picture of Swami in this photo is the picture referred to in this blog post
A few days passed and it was 19th July 2014, a Saturday and like every Saturday we were to have bhajans in the Dining Hall after the video show. For that day's video show, we were shown the Convocation Discourse of 2009, at the end of which Swami asks all the students to sing the "I love You" song (Humko Tumse Pyar Kitna) Even as we saw and heard the song being sung, all of us watching the video too sang along. All of us but could not stop ourselves from breaking down as we sang, "We love You, Dearest Sai,We love You" 

But then, amidst us was a girl who ran back to her room creating a commotion and Warden Ma'am had to send a few sisters to bring her back.What surprised me even more was that it was SH. What happened to her? Why was she doing what she was doing? She looked so drained of energy crying and didn't have any stamina to even walk. She was made to sit in front of the altar. Almost a few minutes after that she starts speaking to herself (at least that is what we thought looking at her) and cries out telling that Swami's knees were getting burnt and that it was hurting Him. (There is a photo of Swami in the Dining Hall, wherein He is squatting and looking down) And then it was realized that the lamp was kept too close to the photo, so much so that it touched the knee of Swami in the photo. Immediately, the lamp was moved a little away from the photo. At the end of bhajans that day, a video of Swami singing a bhajan was played. Just then, SH again exclaimed that Swami was getting choked and that water had to be brought and kept. Just when some eyes  looked at her skeptically, the CD that was playing smoothly all the while, created some problems and Swami's voice began cracking as if He was really choking. Immediately, a glass of water was kept for Swami. It could be coincidence as well, one might say. But aren't coincidences instances when God chooses to be anonymous? 

Normally after bhajans, a song and a stotram is sung everyday. Accordingly, we sang O Maa O Maa at the end of which SH whose eyes are still closed, tells that Swami wants us to sing the "I love You" song again. We thus sang it again. It was then time for Mangala Aarthi, during the course of which, SH with her eyes still closed was speaking to Swami in Telugu. The Senior who was seated next to her said how SH kept taking Padanamaskar and kept telling her how Swami was standing right in front of them. She says, "It seems He was standing right in front of me. Sadly, I could not even see Him." 

SH was taken to her room and she slept in peace after that. I remember her coming to my room before night prayers at 9:30 pm and narrating all of the above mentioned details. She was so weak (That is how she looked) but she said she did not feel so. So without feeling guilty of grabbing away her time to rest, I went on to ask her how it all began. That is when she said, "When all of us were singing Humko Tumse Pyar Kitna, I looked at the jhoola that was swinging and I saw Swami there. Since I had never seen Swami all my life and I know that He is physically no more, I got scared and ran to my room. However, seniors got me back here and I started crying more when I did not find Him on the jhoola. The rest then followed as all of you saw and heard. You know what Sreenidhi? People are not ready to believe me. But please trust me. It was all true.Swami did speak to me. "  She was about to break down. Her tears brought tears in my eyes because I believed her. 

SH was otherwise a very bubbly and talkative girl and none could imagine to see the form of SH that all of us saw that day. When she cried telling people thought that she was lying and acting, I got angry. I then quickly realized that it is not easy for everyone to believe in something they haven't seen and when there are some who haven't even heard or seen Swami, it is natural that they find it hard to believe in anything SH said or experienced. However, no amount of realization brought down my anger because SH was in tears and she cried pitiably. I don't know what made me make the statement I made next. I told her, "If you are right and Swami indeed gave you this experience, you needn't prove its validity to anyone. Swami has His ways. If at all He wants to prove. He will do it. Just leave the matter here and don't ruin your bliss. Go and sleep well." 

A mantra to keep oneself humbled about one's experience. 

There were people who asked me how I could believe all the she said. When I asked why not, I was given many adjectives about SH saying she was talkative etc etc. Basically, people had decided that she didn't deserve such an experience. Once again it was "Why her" mentality which made them make such comments.I remember Warden Ma'am tell us in one of our Hindi classes, "Of all kinds of jealousy, spiritual jealousy is the most harmful"  Like mentioned before, one should always have the question of "Why not me" in their minds and never "Why some XYZ" It is also equally important to understand and say to oneself, "If God can speak to me, work through me and show Himself before me, He can speak to anyone, work through anyone and show Himself to anyone."  

It was the 22nd July and there was an Alumni Meet at Anantapur. The 1992 Batch had arrived. SH was still being viewed by some as an actress, some as a blessed one, some as a saint and some people simply ignored her. She told me that morning how she yearned for a similar Darshan like she had a few days back. In the evening during bhajans in the Prayer Hall and when the batch of 1992 shared their experiences, she again broke down and prayed and prayed. I saw her from a distance and was happy at the change that had come over SH from the first day I had seen her in ATP (Anantapur).After a blissful day of listening about Swami and partaking of yummilicious dinner in the company of the Alumni, I was to get back to my room, when I saw a crowd outside A-17 (That was SH''s room)  and A-16 (that's my room). While I checked out what the issue was, I realized A-17 was crowded because there was vibhuti on almost all the photographs of Swami in the altar of their room. Everyone were busy congratulating SH. At 10:30 pm, she same to my room again and told me so happily, "See, you told na that Swami will prove it if He has to? I was worrying and praying for that only today during bhajans and He proved it today. All those who didn't believe me too came to my room to see the vibhuti appear on the photos. What can I say? I am so happy." 

So there it is  Hence proved anyone can see Swami. Anyone can experience Him. But all that one needs to do is pine for Him for a happening becomes an experience depending on the value one gives to it. Please trust me when I say that everyone sees Swami everyday. Swami happens in every minute and every second of everyone's lives. It is just that pining that makes the happening an experience to cherish. And let us remember these happenings are waiting to be transformed into experiences. 

In fact, the feelings that arise when in the process of pining are so beautiful. I used to feel it was like an incomplete love story that gives so much bliss waiting to experience the love.Now, I understand that With Swami, the love story can neither be limited to an experience nor can it be said incomplete when you are still pining for experiencing His love. The love story is complete in its own way, because Swami features it while pining as well as experiencing.

So SEEING Swami alone does not mean everything. There is more to it. Swami taught that too. 

Read Part 3 ,the link for which is given below. This speaks about what Swami taught me through this experience. This is also the concluding part of this 3-part series  - 

I 'SAW' Swami, but in the way He wanted me to 'SEE' Him?