|Shivashanker with Sri Sathya Sai|
It was the year 2007. I was a shy 16 year old boy who had just left the comforts of his home to lead the life of a Sai student. It did not take me more than a couple of days to realise that our school Hostel was nothing less than a home away from home – a home where each lives for the other and all live for God! Little did I miss my home in Chennai and my heart yearned for an interaction with Swami. As I sat in the Sai Kulwant Hall eagerly awaiting His Darshan, I made a silent prayer to Him to speak something to me. But at the end of the day, nothing exceptional transpired. All I could cherish for the day was His Darshan and His Padanamaskar. As if that was not a blessing enough, I stormed out of the Mandir with disappointment written all over my face.
While treading across the Ganesh courtyard, I was greeted by my father, who along with his friend had accompanied me on this trip to leave me at the Hostel. On being questioned by my father, I realised that I was not very good at hiding my emotions. I explained how I was battling with the feelings that entail an unanswered prayer. I was ignorant at that time that God’s delays are never His denials. As I described the day’s happenings, my father’s friend, whom I fondly call ‘uncle’ was an alert witness to all this. He then shared a personal experience which turned out to be very relevant to my context. He went on to narrate how he was once blessed with an interaction with Swami many years ago. The blessing was the result of a humble letter which he had offered to Swami. He gladly revealed the contents of the letter when I expressed my curiosity. What were those blessed words which could move the very Lord of the universe to speak to him?
I was under the impression that the words would be something Divinely exotic, if it had to attract Swami’s attention. But on the contrary, I was puzzled by the simplicity of the contents of the letter. All my uncle had written in the letter was a simple sketch of Swami’s feet with a few sentences beneath – “Swami, You are my mother; Swami, You are my father; Swami, you are my Guru; Swami, You are my best friend; Swami, You are the Divine Avatar. Accept me at Your Lotus Feet”. I was deeply intrigued by those sentences. In my mundane, human understanding, it seemed to me that flattery was an easy way to get Swami’s attention. I didn’t have the slightest idea that Swami seeks the true feelings and intent behind each word and never the word itself! My uncle’s immediate suggestion needed no guessing. He prompted me to try and offer a similar letter to Swami on my own. Although I was not very convinced of this path of ‘flattery’, I still wanted to give it a sincere try. My only purpose was to have an interaction with Swami. I wasted no time running back to the Hostel to begin my endeavour.
I skipped my dinner that evening and spent the rest of the time, putting all my enthusiasm, making the letter for Swami. I mentioned in it exactly the same things as my uncle had said. A simple sketch of Swami’s feet and the same sentences beneath. All that differed in my letter was the name that signed it off. I managed to get it ready before I retired for the day. The next evening in Sai Kulwant Hall, I sat exactly in the same place where I had sat the previous day. Secretly hoping that Swami would read my letter then and there, I did not cover it with an envelope. Soon after the Vedam chanting and the music started as Swami entered the Hall. When I saw Him from a distance, I could sense that He was in the mood for some Divine mischief. My eyes closely followed every movement of His.
I noticed Swami doing something pleasantly unusual – He was accepting every letter within His reach! By the time Swami crossed the ladies’ side, He had accepted hundreds of letters! That was when my human mind began to doubt Swami’s ways. Does Swami really read all these letters? If He says that He knows everything, then why take letters at all? Will not my letter, among those thousand others, become just another letter to Him? Will my letter be special enough to attract His attention? Will He even look at it?
As I experienced this raging battle of doubt and faith, Swami reached the place where I was seated. By then He had collected several more letters and I felt the letter in my hand becoming more and more insignificant. When Swami came near me, I stretched out my letter with such brimming hope that I almost toppled over. Swami gently pulled it from my grasp and simply stowed it amongst the countless others on His lap. My heart broke an instant later as I watched Him slowly moving away. He continued accepting more letters and I felt that mine must have got lost in the pile on His lap. The chances of His reading my letter had become very bleak. After Swami retired for the day, I was so heartbroken that I avoided my father who was waiting for me outside the Mandir. I walked back straight to the Hostel filled with grief and found myself a corner to sulk in. Eventually with time, the turbulence within me subsided and I regained calm. It was only then that I began hearing a voice deep inside me which was persuading me to try again.
Although very disappointed, I relented and decided to rewrite the same letter to Swami. I skipped dinner – this time more out of frustration – and started writing the same letter again. At the end of the day, an exact replica of the earlier letter lay before me – an identical sketch of Swami’s feet and the same sentences beneath. I silently prayed to Swami to make my effort worthwhile. The next day after school, I refreshed myself quickly and rushed to Mandir to ensure that I occupied the same place in the Sai Kulwant Hall. The ‘replicated letter’ was folded in my hands – once again without an envelope. This time I had something different in mind. I prayed to Swami to ask me for the letter since I decided not to stretch it out to Him if He was not intent on reading it. After a short while, Swami arrived.
Soon, I realised that my situation was perfectly poised for another Divine play! And so He started on another spree of taking every letter within His reach. I could feel my spirits plunging lower and lower with each letter He accepted along the way. He finally arrived at the place where I was sitting. I reluctantly held my letter back remembering my prayer to Him. But the moment that thought crossed my mind, Swami locked me in His gaze and held out His hand, asking for my letter! Filled with joy and excitement, I stretched it out to Him. As He gently took my letter, I realised that now it hardly mattered to me whether He was really going to read it. I was more than content as He answered my prayer by asking for my letter.
But little did I realise to what extent our Lord goes to shower His love and compassion. To my amazement, He paused right there and slowly unfolded my letter. He intently looked into it for a while before He lovingly asked me in Telugu, “Ninna Idi Icchavu Kada?” (“Didn’t you give this yesterday?”) A whole gamut of emotions came crashing down as a beautiful lesson was revealed through those compassionate words. I was too choked to reply. All I could see was His loving gaze and a playful smile curling up His lips. This simple act of the Lord was worth a lifetimes endeavour and effort! When I was feeling sad the previous day that my letter was not going to be read, Swami in His inimitable style made me understand that every letter He takes is unique and special to Him in its own way.
He then placed my letter on His lap and glided forward leaving behind an upsurge of pure elation. In His limitless benevolence, I was rewarded with more than what I craved for. It later dawned on me that Swami not only dispelled my doubts, but also answered a prayer I had myself forgotten about – a prayer asking Him to speak something to me! The walk back to the Hostel after Darshan was like a waking dream! But to top it all, the episode did not end here. Once I reached the Hostel, I walked into one of our senior teachers who had summoned me. Preordained as it was, I was asked to pass on a book to another teacher in our Hostel who resided on the upper floor. While I was carrying out the request, I could not keep myself from looking at the book in my hand. It was one of the many volumes from “Sathya Sai Speaks”. Out of innate curiosity, I randomly opened a page to glance through and what caught my attention is something which I refuse to call a mere coincidence. I had a look at a discourse in which Swami spoke about the significance behind His taking letters!
With a humble prayer to our beloved Swami, I share the excerpt from that discourse and sincerely hope that it bestows an answer. The excerpt reads thus:
“...I eat as you do, move about as you do, talk in your language, and behave as you can recognize and understand, for Your sake – not for My sake!... I am active and busy all the twenty-four hours of the day. Every day, the mail brings Me thousands of letters, and you hand over to Me personally hundreds more. Yet, I do not take the help of anyone else, even to open the envelopes. For, you write to Me intimate details of your personal problems, with implicit faith in Me that I alone will read them. You write each one only a single letter; that makes for Me a huge bundle a day; and I have to go through all of them. You may ask, how I manage it? Well, I do not waste a single moment. And, all this I do, not for personal gain, but only because I have come for your sake. I never seek another’s help; I offer help, never receive it. My hand always gives; it never takes. Conclude from this that this must be Divine, not human power...”
- Dussera Discourse, Prasanthi Nilayam, October 11, 1970
- Shivashanker Krishnan
Student (2012-14), Department of Management Studies
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Prasanthi Nilayam Campus
Currently, Research Analyst, Frost & Sullivan, Chennai