"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|