Lessons for Life that I learnt from Sri Sathya Sai – By T. N. Giridhar

Sri Sathya Sai
Being with Swami for a few years as His student, has served as an amazing foundation for the future – an invaluable lesson in existence and survival. Having reached the Lotus Feet under the pretext of education at the Institute, the interactions with Bhagawan have taught me several valuable lessons for life, some of which I reflect upon in this article. Many of these lessons are still being taught and being learnt. I am indeed fortunate and blessed!

Lesson 1: The Basics of Life

From a very young age, we are taught that the entire purpose of studying is to get a good job, which in turn will ‘provide’ for our lifetime. The focus, therefore, is on finding the best way to wade through a ‘living’, rather than leading one’s life above its trials and tribulations. In management terms, this is what we would call the difference between the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of things – those who remain focussed on the ‘how’ will remain workers; those who focus on the ‘why’ (i.e. the underlying rationale) become managers, because, only an understanding of the ‘why’ of things allows one to become a master.

Such a teaching, in my opinion, has implications both in the material and spiritual life. It has helped me to understand and analyse why something was either wrong or right, so that we could build on the strengths and work on the weaknesses. Once when Swami spoke to us students during a Trayee Session, He said, “people spend too much time worrying about death; what one should think about is birth, and how to avoid it.” 

Lesson 2: How do we reach Him?

Swami’s definition of what an MBA is and what one should aspire for after an MBA, has been even more insightful. This incident happened one evening after Bhagawan had finished granting interviews to His devotees. It was then a regular practice for Swami to stand in front of the students, very often for more than one hour, and shower wisdom and love into our hearts and steer our minds in the right direction. That day, an MBA student asked Swami as to what he should do after his MBA degree. Swami looked up for a few seconds, considered this question and very seriously replied, “Do MRS!” Many students who were familiar with Swami referring to marriage as “MRS” were a bit taken aback by the seriousness with which Swami said it this time. And instead of everyone laughing about it as they usually did, they were all serious, reflecting Swami’s “mood”. But it was actually His play! Within a few seconds, He had a broad grin that immediately lightened the situation. But it was no joke that He played, for what came next was a great teaching indeed. He asked, “What is MBA?”, and He Himself replied, “MBA is Mind on Baba Always”. After that you do “MRS”, which is marriage. Not marriage in the physical sense as we understand, but marriage meaning, “merger with God”. Truly, one can merge with God only after he has his Mind on Baba Always! Without doubt, this is a teaching for life that one should always remember.

Lesson 3: He is the ‘Doer’

I was fortunate to be born into a family of ‘devotees’ (as we boldly call ourselves!) but, it was only after joining the Institute that I got the opportunity to have several interactions with Bhagawan. Here I learnt another very valuable lesson – Swami is always in control of everything that happens with us and the sooner we realise this and submit ourselves at the Lotus Feet, the better it is for us.
There have been various situations in my personal and corporate life that reinforced this lesson repeatedly, although I cannot say with certainty that I have learnt the lesson. The first such situation had to do with my first job after MBA. The lesson actually started when I was still studying – Swami would ask about me or talk to me and, on many occasions during those years, would refer to me as a Research Scholar or would simply say ‘do research’. This teaching carried on from the realm of waking state into the realm of what we call the ‘dream state’. And in one of these dreams, I told Swami that I did not like doing research. To this, His rather stern response was, “You have no choice!” And in another dream, I was panting for breath and running to see Swami to tell Him, “I am happy to do research if You say so!”

However, we quite easily forget these lessons and ignore the messages. And now about six months into my first job – I was pressurised by the amount of work I had to do, the amount of learning on the job that was required, the adjustment to life in a new city and of course, the much discussed subject of organisational politics. The stress was eating into me and one evening I was lying down on my bed wondering, “Why did I make the choices that have got me into this situation.” I was looking at a small pocket sized picture of Swami and was asking Him as to why I was going through all this. In a flash, all those seemingly casual conversations, those ‘dreams’, and most importantly, His words, “Do research” and “you have no choice” were ringing loud and clear in my ears. I realised that it was not me who had made the choice; it was all a part of the Divine Play. That was my first lesson in submitting to the Lord’s Will so as to be happy. As it is said, “Allow God to operate and you cooperate; because if you try to operate, God may not cooperate!”

More recently, after I was transferred on my job to London, my first assignment was to make a presentation to the Board of Directors of one of the world’s largest media companies, on an Equity transaction that our company was bidding for. We were competing with some of the world’s leading names in this transaction and it was critical for me to “prove” myself in the new place. Although that was not the first time I was standing in front of such high-powered corporate bosses, something made me quite nervous. I sat outside, waiting to be called in, and just kept praying to Swami to speak through me. 

At that stage, I recalled a small incident in Parthi during my second year MBA. Swami came out after the interviews, headed straight to the lower portico where I was seated and asked the boy sitting in front of me, “Are you a speaker?” He gave me a quick glance as He asked that question. Before I could think of an answer, the live flute music, which used to be played before the Bhajans, began. Swami happened to be standing directly underneath the sound box (monitor) and looked up as soon as the music started. With a twinkle in His eyes, He asked, “Where is the sound coming from?” Without hesitation, the boys there answered, “From the speaker, Swami!” Pleased with that, He said, “Ah, see, the sound comes from the speaker but the source is inside”. Saying so, He pointed to the Bhajan Hall where the singer was singing. To this day, I am amazed at the simplicity with which He delivered such a potent lesson. 

As I was waiting outside the Board room for this important presentation, I recalled those words of Swami and instantly felt comforted. I then went in, made my presentation, answered their questions and walked out after almost 3 hours of gruelling. I had no clue as to how it was perceived by them, but got the answer in about two days – we were awarded the contract of several million pounds!

Lesson 4: What is ‘Karma’ in the presence of His Love!

Another very important lesson that I learnt at the Lotus Feet is that His Love indeed has no reason or season! And when He chooses to give, He does not look at the deservedness of the individual.

In August 2004, I was fortunate to go to Parthi along with a youth group from the U.K. With all our limitations, we prepared a few songs, Bhajans and a play. Without an iota of doubt, I can say that we were nowhere near a standard of singing or dramatics that could be presented in front of a serious audience, leave alone the thought of presenting it to the Lord of the Universe! Yet, day after day, Bhagawan would come to us, talk to us, enquire about us, and sit through our so-called singing for more than one hour on each occasion! He also directed the small drama which gave me the opportunity to go up to Him in the Verandah and speak to Him. I still wonder what we did to deserve all that! Some of the youth and I were talking about that, and we concluded it was just our good fortune, or “Praapthi” (Karma) as we call it. But what we classify as Praapthi is actually His Love for us. There is a very touching incident about this Karma or Praapthi which taught me that it is more important to rely on His Love. 

Swami was standing on the upper portico one morning after completing interviews and I happened to be sitting very close to Him. He was talking to the then editor of the Sanathana Sarathi, Sri. V. K. Narasimhan Garu. He started talking about a gentleman who used to sit in the portico earlier. Swami said that the particular gentleman had a desire to breathe his last in Prasanthi Nilayam and had been staying there for more than 15 years. Unfortunately, he happened to go to Bombay just two days earlier, and passed away the day after he reached Bombay from Puttaparthi. And then He added, “What to do? No Praapthi!” He then looked sharply at me, and asked, “What is Praapthi?” Closing His fist and putting it forward, still looking at me, He said, “Praapthi is all in My Hands!” By this time, I was literally trembling. He continued, “When I want, I give it; when I want, I take it!”

Today, when I look at my 5 year old son,  I feel great love for him and at times decide to buy some toys for him. At such times, I do not think about whether he deserves an expensive toy or not. I just buy it for him. If a mere human being’s love, with all its limitations, can go over the boundaries of deservedness, can Divine Love be limited by such considerations? In our ignorance, we blame it on Praapthi. The truth as I see is that deservedness or Praapthi is not the ultimate controlling force. As Swami puts it, “When you have God’s Anugraha (Grace), what can the Navagrahas (the nine planets) do to you?” God’s Will never takes us to that place where His Grace cannot reach us!

My prayer is only this – that I may have the strength and the wisdom to do what pleases Him – to conduct myself at all times, in all situations, in such a way that He is happy with me and thus be the recipient of His Love and Grace. When that happens, I know that nothing in this universe can be a hurdle.

I will follow You…
Ever since You touched my Heart I knew
There isn’t an ocean too deep
A mountain so high it can keep
Keep me away
Away from Your…Love!

- T.N. Giridhar
Student (1990-1992), Department of Management Studies
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Prasanthi Nilayam Campus
Currently, Managing Director and CEO, Lincoln International, Mumbai

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