The Golden Chapters of my life at His University - By Hari Shankar

It is said that God made man because God loves stories. Life with its numerous twists and turns, crests and troughs, smiles and tears must surely be an endless source of delight to the Creator. It is indeed then the rare good fortune for us, students and devotees of Bhagawan, that God Himself has chosen to descend into the pages of our lives and has become such an integral part of that story. As I thumb through those pages of that chronicle, through the most cherished moments in my life, I find the following entry:

‘Yesterday was a dark and gloomy day for me. All kinds of anxieties and fears were gnawing at my heart. So today, I decided the best thing to do would be to pour out all my troubles to Him. I wrote a letter and posted it to Him. But, later during the day, another worry seized me. Would He receive my letter, would He be able to find it among the many thousands that He receives everyday? I began to despair.

Darshan time, in the afternoon… Luckily for me, I got a place in the front row. He was standing in front of us gently swaying to the Darshan music, a smile playing on His lips. He looked towards me and said, I received your letter this morning. At first it did not sink in, for it seemed so incredible. Then, gratitude overwhelmed me as I realised that there is nothing to fear anymore, for the Lord of the Universe is with me, watching over my every step, listening to my every prayer. Can I ever thank Him enough for this gift of Grace?’

Without doubt, the experience of Bhagawan’s unconditional Love and His limitless Compassion is the greatest blessing that we students derive from our stay at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. It gives us the unshakeable conviction that God is not some abstract concept but a living and loving Presence who is constantly by our side. This is the source of our confidence and our anchor when we are buffeted by life’s travails. Of course, with the Lord we can never cease counting our blessings. There is so much more we have gained by being students of Bhagawan.

It is very common to hear that once one joins work life one has to put aside the learning acquired at the university. But, in my experience, the lessons that I have learnt as a student of Bhagawan have been lessons for life. It has broadened the horizons of my thinking and changed my perspective on a lot of issues. The very first thing that comes to my mind and the one that made a lot of impact on me when I had joined as a fresher for the MBA course, was the emphasis given to practical application. 

Sri Sathya Sai Hostel, Prasanthi Nilayam

It was astonishing for me to observe how students were involved in so many aspects of running the Hostel – maintenance, kitchen, dietary, dispensary etc. In the Hostel I had previously stayed, the common attitude was that these jobs belonged to someone else. One had to concentrate on one’s academics alone to the exclusion of all else. But, here we were expected to be self reliant and to adopt a more balanced approach to life. Even the syllabus laid great stress on practical training in aspects such as team building, conflict management and other issues that commonly arise at the workplace. It was not unusual to see boys with a wide range of interests – music, sports and dramatics. And I could see for myself that this truly integral approach made one so much more emotionally mature and self assured, qualities that are valuable any day at the workplace.

It soon became apparent to me that there were so many dimensions of my personality that I had never sought to develop and would perhaps have neglected had I not been exposed to the system at Bhagawan’s University. At times, it seemed to me that Bhagawan Himself was orchestrating events so that I could be moulded into a complete individual. I remember an interesting instance. Throughout my life I had been highly academically-oriented and sports and games were never on my priority list. Bhagawan soon took steps to correct this shortcoming, when the Annual Sports and Cultural Meet came up. Through an unlikely chain of circumstances, I was drawn willy-nilly into an item that required one to be really physically primed up. Instructors from the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun were supervising our practice sessions and in about a month’s time my physical condition had vastly improved! It was a total turnaround for me and it inculcated in me a sense of responsibility towards keeping my body fit which has stayed with me till today. In a much broader sense, it taught me to explore and introspect and thus continually improve myself. It is still work-in-progress but this experience has given me the confidence that with Bhagawan by my side, victory will not be too difficult.

But there were greater lessons that we learnt directly from Bhagawan Himself. He would spend many hours with us in the afternoon at the Mandir, giving us an opportunity to watch Him from close quarters and this was quite an educative experience. The interest He would evince, not only in the matters of the University, but also in the personal welfare of the students was a revelation. His involvement was so total; every interaction with Him was so intimate and personal and one could see that here was someone who loved with the whole of His being! 

One such session with Bhagawan is etched permanently in my mind. After the earthquake in Bhuj, Gujarat, Bhagawan had arranged for about thirty truckloads of new clothes, tents, condiments and other food supplies to be dispatched to Gujarat. Meanwhile, we students independently gathered some relief material, used clothes etc. and shipped it to Gujarat. We were quite proud of our efforts and so we were naturally thrilling with anticipation, waiting for the pat on our backs when one of our teachers mentioned this to Bhagawan. So, the chastisement that came caught us totally off guard. Bhagawan was upset with us for sending old clothes! He admonished us with pain in His voice, “When I have sent new dhotis and saris, how could you boys do something so insensitive as to send old clothes?” 

An entire village destroyed during the Gujarat Earthquake in January 2001

We were mortified at this unexpected turn of events, but we also sensed that we had been witness to something very profound, for we had just been afforded a rare glimpse into the Heart of God. To us, the victims were complete strangers, faceless people. But, not for Bhagawan; they were His own children, an integral part of His Being. He was pointing out what we had lost sight of in our enthusiasm – every human being, nay; every living being is an embodiment of the Divine Principle and hence deserving of dignity under all circumstances. This is one lesson we would all do well not to forget in a hurry. This is the golden secret of leadership taught by none other than the Leader of Leaders and Master of Masters.

Hari Shankar with His Lord

When I reminisce about these incidents, my mind rushes back to that time when I stood on the crossroads of life just after I had completed my engineering studies (at Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai). I shudder to think how my life would have turned out, if I had opted to study or work elsewhere instead of joining Bhagawan’s University. Perhaps, it would have been yet another fruitless saunter from the cradle to the grave. But now, my life, like those of so many others who have had the good fortune of calling themselves Bhagawan’s students, has a definite direction and purpose. The stories of our lives will not be for the pursuit of empty goals like money, power or fame. They will be about leading people on to the path indicated by Bhagawan – the path of service, devotion and love. They will be about transforming our lives and the lives of those around us so that we can all put into practice the timeless precept of ‘Sanathana Dharma’. They will be about realising Bhagawan’s vision of a world united in the spirit of ‘Brotherhood of Man, and Fatherhood of God’.

Hari Shankar with his physical father and the Cosmic Father

- Hari Shankar
Student (2000-2002), Department of Management Studies
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
Prasanthi Nilayam Campus
Currently, Senior Manager - Purchases and Accounts,
Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, Prasanthi Nilayam

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