Divine Opportunities - By Dr. Shailesh Srivastava

Dr. Shailesh Srivastava with Sri Sathya Sai in Prasanthi Nilayam

Way back in 1982, I joined as a student of Bhagavan’s Pre-University College at Brindavan-Whitefield. During these twenty eight years I have had the opportunity of living and growing up in Bhagavan’s love and care. There have been numerous occasions where we have had the opportunity to get glimpses of His Divinity.  In this article I would like to recollect a few incidents that relate to the opportunities that He has bestowed on us, as part of the Bhajan group.

They say God’s omnipotence is proved when the dumb begin to speak and the lame dance. Then why not some music through musical illiterates! In fact that’s what I was as a child. My parents tell me that I used to sing all songs in the same tune!

Sri Sathya Sai with Institute Students after a Qawalli Programme (2001)

It was April 1990, the first summer after I became a teacher. I was staying almost alone in East Prashanti. Swami was in ‘Brindavan’- Whitefield, and the summer vacation had just begun. I suddenly got a strange desire to compose a Qawwali, something which I had never done before. I began to write some lines and tune them. I had almost finished doing something, when a teacher colleague returned from ‘Brindavan’ and told me that there was going to be a music programme for the coming Summer Course. Swami had said that Shailesh knew how to make Qawwalis! He had also told that I should write and tune one for the programme. I was thrilled at this Divine command, and understood that He had already sent me the instructions in His Own Divine way!

Sometime later, Swami heard the first rehearsal of the Qawwali in the college auditorium in Whitefield. He was very happy and had brought a guest with Him. Swami said, “See, I told them to make a Qawwali and they have done it so soon!” He added, 'Shraddhavaan Labhate Jnaanam’ (Care and Diligence earns wisdom)

As though I had not understood the depth and potency of His message, during the Convocation drama of 1990, Swami told something similar to the then director of the drama, “Shailesh knows how to tune songs. He can tune even Telugu songs! Tell him to make the final song for the drama.” Since it was the Divine command, I began to sit, write and tune. Thus began a new chapter in my life.

Looking back at the years that have gone by, there have been excellent musicians and composers amongst the students. I never thought that I would get the opportunity to compose so many songs. It is only Swami, who literally made me do all of it. Like a loving mother, He has been with me each step of the way. I do not know whether I have ever done anything in past births to deserve this blessing, but I certainly know that Swami-The Supreme Lord Almighty, is the only one who can shower blessings and bestow boons, without requiring any cause! While humans are bound by the law of cause and effect, the Lord can transcend it at His Will.

Shri Krishna Chaitanya with his disciples
The first group-interview that I got in connection with a convocation drama was in 1993. It was the ‘Sri Krishna Chaitanya’ drama. I was suddenly called to the interview room on a Sunday morning. Swami asked me, what songs I had written for the drama. He then asked me to sing. I was totally taken by surprise. I sang a simple ‘Namavali’ Bhajan which I had made for the ‘Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra’ scene, during the previous sports meet. He was apparently happy and asked me to sing the next song. Not knowing what to do, I sang two lines of another obscure Bhajan ‘Hey Govind Hey Gopal, Avo Prabhu Avo’. He became very involved and started telling me to repeat the ‘Avo Prabhu’ line with more feeling. “It should be such that it attracts God to you,” He said. He then chided me that it was taken from Meera and that I had not written it on my own. To my relief, He spent five to ten minutes on the same two lines and never asked for the third line! The fact is that I knew only two lines at that time! The same evening Swami called all the staff and students to the Poorna Chandra Auditorium for a private session. He called me from the back and introduced me to some guests. He asked me to sing the same song again. I repeated the ‘Namavali’ Bhajan and He patiently allowed me to sing the whole Bhajan and then said, “Not this one, Sing the Meera song.” I thought I had escaped with two lines in the morning and now I would be exposed. Most compassionately and lovingly, Swami repeated exactly what happened in the interview room and kept telling that it should attract the Lord. He never asked for the third line! That is yet another Glimpse of His Omniscience, love and concern.

Meerabai
During an interview before Krishnashtami, Swami was listening to the songs that we had selected. One of the students sang ‘Do Din Ka Jag Mein Mela...’ meaning that the world is a ‘two-day fair’.  Swami immediately commented, “The programme is for Krishna’s Birthday. It is a happy joyous occasion. Don’t sing such songs!” How interesting that the Lord, who is above all joy and sorrows, reminded us that we still needed to keep the differences. We were singing in public after all. Even though the tune was fast and catchy, Swami went to the real substance that the song contained!

It was November 1996 and a group from Greece was preparing for presenting a drama before Swami, on 18th November 1996. Swami graciously gave them permission to practice on the stage, in Poornachandra Auditorium, where He was residing at that time.  Swami also sent word for four of us to provide background music for the drama. Those were the days when the convocation dramas, put up by the students, used to be live, accompanied by live background music.

During the very first forenoon practice session, we were surprised to find that the entire drama, including the background music, was pre-recorded! The man who had done the recording and music for the Greek drama was also present, and must have really wondered, what we were going to do with our strange instruments! Each day Bhagavan would come and sit and watch the practice sessions, and the four of us used to sit around Him, and play some music here and there, over the pre-recorded tape music.

The recording was absolutely non-existent, as far as Bhagavan was concerned. For Him it was only us, who were playing the whole music. He would only look at us, and nod in appreciation, even when the tape was playing! In spite of the fact that our music was at times, a disturbance and nuisance, over the well balanced recorded version, the Greek people never questioned us, or Bhagavan. Such was their complete sense of surrender to Bhagavan!

We had 12 such beautiful sessions with Swami. He would give us things to eat, during the intervals, and sometimes we would just sit, watch and enjoy the nectarine sweetness of His Physical Presence.  It was after the last practice session on the stage that Swami looked at me so sweetly, innocently and yet so firmly, and said, “You need not play any music! It is already recorded! You can play in between scenes to fill in the gaps for changing the drama sets!”

Needless to say, we and the Greeks were equally happy! In fact, they had not prepared any music for the ‘sets-changes’ and we were ready. We felt so ever grateful to Swami for giving us the wonderful opportunity of His Company! An opportunity that would otherwise have been impossible, was converted into a reality that we will cherish forever. Swami keeps showing us time and again that we can never comprehend His ways. We can only experience and enjoy His pure love.

During another occasion for the convocation drama of 1995, as a few of us were sitting at His feet, He allowed us to ask Him questions. One student raised a doubt, “Swami, if everything happens only by God’s will, then why does ‘good’ and ‘bad’ exist?” Swami very simply and beautifully said, “True, if you have total belief that everything is God’s will, then there is no ‘good and ‘bad’. However if you take credit for some things and blame God for some things, then you are differentiating good and bad. In that case you have to face the consequences of the ‘good and bad’.  To experience that everything is God’s Will, you must have 100% belief in it, at all times, and under all conditions.”

Very true indeed! For the one who has reached the goal, everything is ‘one’, while for the one who is on His way, there is definitely a direction. At the very end of the journey however, one realises that there was indeed no need to travel. The traveller, the path, and the destination, were all one and the same!!  

During one interview, a student started crying and literally wept and told Swami that he wanted to be with Swami forever and that he did not want to go elsewhere. At that time he was finishing his under-graduation and there was no suitable post-graduate course for him at Swami’s University. Any other human being would have melted at the sight, and we too felt bad. However, Swami often says that His reaction can be very different, since He knows the past, present and future. Even as we thought that Swami would console the boy, Swami said, mysteriously pointing to His hair, “I have seen these many who have told the same thing, and then gone away!” The next moment, as though moved by the student’s plea, He very lovingly added, “Do not worry; I will give you a post-graduate seat!” The boy did get a seat in a new post-graduate course which was introduced that year. After finishing his post-graduation, the same student felt that he needed to take care of his parents and left all of a sudden, even though he could have continued for research. We are reminded that none can come or go without His Will.  Let us thank the Lord for giving us the opportunity to be with Him!

Sri Sathya Sai with students after the Bhaja Govindam Drama (1988)
Swami had given us the opportunity to stage the ‘Bhaja Govindam’ drama at Mumbai in 1988. We all went by train a day earlier, and Bhagavan came by flight, the next day. As we reached the ‘Sathya Deep’ complex, we were informed that Bhagavan was waiting for us. When we sat in front of Bhagavan in the central Hall inside Sathya Deep, Swami told us that He had been with us in the train, listening to our singing! He then pointed out that while singing a particular song, the lead singer went out of sync with the rhythm. We were overjoyed and awed as this was indeed the case. Within a few minutes Swami started telling that He had never gone in a train and that He wanted to come with the boys in the train, while returning. “I don’t know how it is inside a train. I have never gone by train. I very much want to see!” He said.


Dr. Shailesh Srivastava with Sri Sathya Sai in Trayee Brindavan (2001)

Yes, this is what the Avatar does all the time. In His Divine drama, on one hand He gives us glimpses of His Omnipresence, Omnipotence and Omniscience, and on the other, He moves with us, as humanly as possible, as one amongst us, so that we can have the opportunity and joy of interacting with the Divine, and in the process elevate ourselves to become one with Him. That is indeed the purpose of all dramas, and that is where all dramas end.


-          Dr. Shailesh Srivastava
Student (1984-1989), Department of Physics
Currently, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Prasanthi Nilayam Campus
Coordinator, Prasanthi Mandir Music Group, Prasanthi Nilayam


20 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this from Shailesh Sir. Pages can be written about Sir himself and books can be written about the wonderful Sai experiences he had shared with us. A true teacher in all respects. He is as good in Physics as he is in music and as a person he is a true Gentleman. Thank you Swami!

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  2. "Pyar ki geherayi mein, tere pyar ki geherayi mein, itna kho jaata hoon mein...ki bhool jaatha hoon tere paas hoon yaa door hoon....
    Teri har baat, yaad aaye din raat; teri hi yaad, khoob sataaye din raat... tere bina jaaon kahaan'
    Who can forget these beautiful (and currently so apt) words penned by you in this qawwali, Dr. Shrivastava? You are so blessed to have this divine grace upon you that gave rise to such talent.
    And, we are blessed to listen to such beautiful lyrics and music, and be lost in the remembrance of our Lord's deep Love - itna gehera pyaar! Thank you. Sairam.

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  3. Thanks for sharing...
    Music boys are very special to Bhagwan.
    Indeed, we are most fortunate to have been touched by the Divine and given the glimpse of His Omnipresence.
    Swami's Grace...

    Blissfully!
    CV Subash

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    Replies
    1. All his students are fortunate

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  4. "If you have total belief that everything is God’s will, then there is no ‘good and ‘bad’. However if you take credit for some things and blame God for some things, then you are differentiating good and bad. In that case you have to face the consequences of the ‘good and bad’. To experience that everything is God’s Will, you must have 100% belief in it, at all times, and under all conditions."

    Such a beautiful saying sir.. Answered some of my questions in the right context.

    Sairam.
    Vijay

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  5. Nice article. It reminded me of complete surrender to the lord. Do your Duty and leave the results to the lord

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  6. amazing article...
    sailesh sir is a treasure troove of experiences
    hope sir writes more & more articles like this.

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  7. Beautiful!!! Thanks for sharing. Would like to hear more from Sir...

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  8. Wonderful. I am not sure if Sailesh sir would ever see this message of mine . . . But if at all he did, I would want to tell him that he was one of the most adored and respected teachers I have ever met. I have had a few interactions with him and none to personal. In fact, given my competency (or lack of it) in music, we have had heated arguments.

    However, I would take this space to thank him. I havent studied under him, neither have I apprenticed under him, but to me, he was one of the most significant teachers who shaped up my personality and brought to my awareness things about myself which I didnt know!!!

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  9. One person who stood for Swami's words on Karmanyevadhikarasthe - is Shailesh Srivasthava - Never did he expect appreciation from anyone including Swami but whatever he created in his life be it students or songs or prorgams or an event- All of them are truly slefless "GEMS" to be offered at His Lotus feet - The work given by Bhagwan is the happiness for him - Truly a saint - a STAR in Swami's mission - Thanks Shailesh for posting one such article that covers the decades of our stay at the lotus feet. - S.Kumar Washington DC USA

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  10. One person who works for Swami so selflessly without expecting any appreciation from anyone ( true to the words Karman ye Vadhikarasthe) is Shailesh Srivastava. whatever he created in his life - high Quality Students or high quality songs or high quality music whatever - he looks at the work given by Swami as the best thing ever happened to his life...He truly lives for this Bhajan Swami is his Path and Goal. I am so happy to read an article from the Selfless Shailesh - Yes as Ranga said earlier we can write volumes about him too. he has touched so many student lives - this by itself is a Salvation. Music is the soul for Swmi's colleges and Shailesh is the one who has been carrying this soul in him. Million thanks to Shailesh Srivasthava - S.Kumar

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  11. Shailesh and I were together in the old hostel from 1990-91 and he is such a simple person at heart. I have never seen him take any credit for his compositions. He is equally at ease with Quawallis as he is with Christmas carols for which he has composed unimaginable and everlasting tunes. When Swami wanted a lilting tune for Christmas Carols he composed the intro bit for "Jesus is Alive today" which is so original and creative. Realized his actual value long after leaving the campus during the production of "A Bridge Across Time" 85th birthday volume. The best of the senior classical harmonium players could not play some of the pieces on the harmonium as well as the Accordian. We changed artistes in the studio and got hold of some of the best artistes paying very high prices for them. However, none of us who had heard the original pieces at Parthi were satisfied with the imperfect "copy" of the same. Finally, we had to get Shailesh to punch the tracks at the Radio Sai studio. The accordian for Dil Chahtha Hai Yeh Din Baar Baar Aaye and the the harmonium for various Quawalli's were now fit to be offered to Bhagavan.

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    Replies
    1. Sai Ram Sir,

      Thanks a lot for sharing your experience of Dr. Shailesh. He is indeed a wonderful instrument of Bhagavan and an inspiration to many generations of students.

      Warm Regards
      SSwS Team

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  12. Shailesh and I were together in the old hostel from 1990-91 and he is such a simple person at heart. I have never seen him take any credit for his compositions. He is equally at ease with Quawallis as he is with Christmas carols for which he has composed unimaginable and everlasting tunes. When Swami wanted a lilting tune for Christmas Carols he composed the intro bit for "Jesus is Alive today" which is so original and creative. Realized his actual value long after leaving the campus during the production of "A Bridge Across Time" 85th birthday volume. The best of the senior classical harmonium players could not play some of the pieces on the harmonium as well as the Accordian. We changed artistes in the studio and got hold of some of the best artistes paying very high prices for them. However, none of us who had heard the original pieces at Parthi were satisfied with the imperfect "copy" of the same. Finally, we had to get Shailesh to punch the tracks at the Radio Sai studio. The accordian for Dil Chahtha Hai Yeh Din Baar Baar Aaye and the the harmonium for various Quawalli's were now fit to be offered to Bhagavan.

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  13. I do not think this is the right forum to express my personal thanks to Shailesh Sir. But to put in one sentence - Shailesh Sir, you were \ are my role model. Have learnt so much from you. Thank you very much for everything sir !!

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  14. thank u sir i was very blessed to be ur student

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  15. Sir u were someone so absorbed in Baba's work that sleep meant nothing and all was Baba's work for u .

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  16. Sir never seen more wonderful a personality as you and doubt if I would ever do! You are the inevitable inspiration to all the budding musicians and scientists at the hostel...A as ahuman being, you are truly beyond human limits, with so huge a bowl of nectarine experiences with Lord which you selflessly serve to all of us...I keep thanking Swami for gifting us such profound a teacher, in all respects. #respect

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  17. Never seen a lucky soul like him!!!!So many experiences......Really a true inspiration for us in the hostel...Missing him .....I feel I can never get a teacher like him in future!!!

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  18. Shailesh is a very sweet, soft and well disciplined musical person. Words are insufficient to speak about him. Still cherish the time spent with him as batch mate. Rangarajan V, Chennai.

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