The way a Master deals with our strengths and weaknesses - a story and experience

Facing your fears head on is indeed a 'strengthening' exercise...
Facing your fears head on is indeed a 'strengthening' exercise...

Strengths and weaknesses

Everyone of us have our strengths and our weaknesses. The popular conviction among all the action-oriented people is that we have to intelligently make use of our strengths to cover up our weaknesses if not to overcome them completely. This phenomenon is seen everywhere from academics, where a student tries to score well in subjects of his/her liking so that the low marks in other subjects do not have too great a negative effect, to sports where an individual/team plays according to its strengths in an attempt to hide the weak points. However, at times, this ploy does not work. That happens when either the weakness if very big or when the strength is not that great. It also happens if the strength and corresponding weakness are not complementary to each other. How does one respond in such situations?

To make the above statement clear, let us consider an example. If I am a football player with a powerful kick which is highly inaccurate, a good way to use my strength to cover up my weakness would be this - to play as a defender in those matches where one needs to stall the opposition by wasting time. In that case my powerful kicks, which take the ball AWAY from my side of the field to either the other side or even outside the field, will be useful. But what if I don’t possess a leg? What do I do on field then? No strength of mine can ever cover that weakness right?

But that is what only humans do and inspire others to do - use strengths to cover weaknesses. A Master though, has different plans. The way a Master deals with a weakness is both simply magnificent and magnificently simple. Rather than give away in a sentence what the Master does with one’s weakness, I choose to tell a story and, along with that, narrate a powerful personal experience with my Master, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, an experience that spanned several years. That way, the message gets transmitted better I believe.

A martial artist’s woes

There was this lad, Wei Wong in China (no prizes for guessing that!) who was constantly teased and bullied by his friends. They told him that he was a loser and could never be as good as them in anything. And that was because the lad had only his left arm! He had been born without the right arm. No doubt his left arm and hand performed better than any of his friends’ left hands, but that was never compensation for having only a single hand.

“Wei Wong does everything ve(r)y w(r)ong”, jeered his friends.
They never understood how sad and hurt he was.

As part of the school curricula, the children joined martial arts classes. Wong also enlisted, but as expected, he was at the bottom of the class when it came to duels and performances. Life had been unfair to him and there was no way he walk arm-in-arm with his friends! Dejected and depressed, Wong pulled out of the martial arts. He was convinced that he had no future in Kung Fu. None of his teachers could tell him anything because what else could they do? It was a fact that Wong lacked the right arm and hand. That was when Wong met the Master.

The Master had an air of tranquility and great wisdom about him. He walked up to Wong as he was returning home without going for the Kung Fu classes.
“Hey boy! Do you want to learn real Kung Fu?”, asked Master Chang.
“Its clear that you don’t know me”, said Wong as he turned to face the stranger, allowing him to see that he had only one arm, “you definitely would not want to teach me Kung Fu.”
“Kung Fu is not about arms and legs you see. Its about you.”
Wong stopped in his tracks.
“What do you mean?”

“I mean, if you are sincere with me, you will collect the trophy for this year’s best martial artist in the annual competition.”
“You must be joking!”, muttered Wong.

“Pay attention boy. Many times what you consider as great truths in life, turn out to be jokes while what appears as a joke turns out to be the ultimate truth.”
Wong did not get completely the import of what Master Chang said.
“Ha! You are speaking like Master Oogway! But I am no Kung Fu Panda! These words are good in movies - in reel life - not in real life!”
“I am Chang and I see in you a potential Kung-Fu champion.Just shut up and come to me.”

The command in his voice was so compelling and the smile on his face was so spontaneous that Wong was soon with Master Chang.

Master Chang started Wong on an intense regimen to strengthen his left arm. He also had a detailed plan to strengthen Wong’s strategies for fighting with his left hand only. Wong, though sincere in his practice, always wondered how Master Chang would make him a champ. He was doing His best, but that would still not be enough.

My weakness woes

Wong’s story reminds me always of my own weakness too. Though I had never noticed it, I had always one weakness right from my childhood that caused me to often get distressed and depressed. If I state that weakness, it might not appear as one and, like Wong’s friends, the reader might laugh at me. But I am sure that anyone who has faced this same problem like me will empathise with me 100%. Now that that is out of the way, the weakness I am talking about is attachment!

I would (and sometimes do even now) get very attached to people. Family and friends were the primary substratum on which I would strongly nourish my attachment roots. What is wrong in that, one might ask.

Attachment is a terrible thing. It builds in the individual such heavy and strong expectations that the object of attachment is unable to fulfill them in a satisfactory manner. The non-fulfillment of expectations leads to a powerful hit to the ‘heart’ and I often felt that nobody ever knew how to take care of my heart even though I had gifted it to them with all goodness of intention.

The solution offered by those few that felt my pain was - “Don’t get attached to people. Let go of them. Then you won’t have expectations and thus no disappointments too!”

Though that solution seems foolproof, it is not easy to implement because attachment happened so naturally for me - and expectation too. Isn’t it the nature of the roots to cling on to the soil? How could somebody advise the root to stop clinging on? Now THAT, was my problem.

I have elaborated into a little more detail on this problem of mine in an article entitled, When God teaches you to walk - Footprints in the sand, and so, I shall not go deeper into it here. I always knew that Love is the ultimate. My Master, my Swami, always stresses that Love is God. But my weakness arose from my inability to know the difference between Infatuation and Love. And I was unable to help it.

Wong was about to get a revelation of his life thanks to Master Chang.
Wong was about to get a revelation of his life thanks to Master Chang.

Master Chang’s masterstroke

The day of the championship drew close and Wong had almost perfected the art of fighting with his left arm. His defence was perfect and he did not need the right hand at all to ward off any attack. But, he still had his doubts because nobody wins a Kung Fu championship just by defending. The knockout strikes had to be made and Wong had no clue as to how he would do that. He was quite nervous about the impending tournament.

Master Chang, on the other hand, was so serene as ever. Nothing seemed to ever disturb his calm.
“Don’t worry Wong”, he assured him,”one day before the tournament, I shall teach you a move which will win you the competition. All these days, I have just prepared you to be worthy to receive the move.”
“Why don’t you teach it to me now itself so that I can practice it?”
“You needn’t waste time and energy on that. Right now, focus on perfecting your left-arm defence more completely.”

That gave some courage to Wong but try as he might, he could not think of the move that Master Wong would be teaching him.

The day before the tournament, Master Chang called Wong to him. Wong had almost not slept the previous night in excitement to receive this master move. As Master Chang showed him the ‘master’ move and hold, Wong was really disappointed. It was one of the most basic moves and holds in Kung Fu! Everyone would surely know that and counter that! But Master Chang insisted on it and Wong learnt it out of respect to his mentor.

At the end of the tournament, it was Wong who stood on the winner’s podium and took the gold medal. It was a shock to everyone else except for the master-disciple duo of Chang and Wong! It was during his first fight that Wong realized the brilliance of his master. The basic hold he was taught turned out to be like the Wuxi finger hold or the touch of death of Kung-Fu Panda! How was that?

The basic move and hold that Master Chang taught had only ONE defence - holding and striking the right arm of the attacker - which was not possible against a right-armless Wong! In his masterstroke, Master Chang had converted Wong’s greatest weakness into his greatest strength!

Today, there are thousands of 'handicapped' martial artists around the globe. Better not cross swords with them! :)
Today, there are thousands of 'handicapped' martial artists around the globe. Better not cross swords with them! :)

My Master’s masterstroke

While everyone discouraged me from getting attached, Swami never did that to me. I was waiting for that one day when Swami would tell me to give up attachment. I felt that would give me the strength to do it also because of my faith that when God gives a task, he also gives the strength to accomplish it. But that never happened. Instead, in a subtle way, I felt that Swami encouraged me to ‘develop’ my ‘ability to attach’ myself!

I never understood His logic and methods till the day when He ‘chained’ me to Himself. Having always indicated to me that I should grow stronger attachment roots, He advised me to turn my attention and attachment towards God. Ah! What a masterstroke! Instead of telling me to chop my roots, He fostered them and then simply changed the soil!

My greatest weakness had turned into my greatest strength! Strong attachment to God automatically made all other attachments weak! I was now firmly tethered to God and I know for that His love is pure for sure - no more dejection; no more depression. Simply marvellous and marvellously simple isn’t it?

On the 9th of February 2003, Swami visited the students’ hostel in Prasanthi Nilayam. In the discourse there, He said,
“Your attachment to God is like a cheque on which you put your signature of love. That enables you to withdraw infinite cash reserves of God’s Grace. But for that, you have to make deposits of devotion and sadhana.”

God is the only bank who will offer infinite reserves for the deposits made. God is the only one who will not condemn or mock you for your weaknesses. While humans try to use strengths to cover up weaknesses, the Master converts our weaknesses into our strengths!

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© 2014 Aravind Balasubramanya

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Comments 11 comments

Chaitra 2 years ago

Sai Ram brother.. I always follow your blog & hub. It gives me immense strength when I feel low & reminds me that no matter what..Swami is always there for me.

Very beautiful message swami has given. I also have the same weakness. I get attached to people. And I can see why you stated it as "Weakness" .True..you never understand swami's logic. I'm new to swami's world. I'm here because he made a grand entry to my life through such an attachment. though I never understood it really. I'm still having the problem. I'm trying to change the soil now. And swami approves of it. Getting rid of other attachments was difficult to even think of, because I didn't know how to. Getting rid of it always meant letting go of my extra curricular activities in college as the person is my best friend and is also involved in college activities. All that I could think of is, how to avoid that person if I continued my activities. But now I realize that its not about avoiding that soil. its about replacing it with the Best soil.. Swami.. I've understood this now. Indeed, he his the ultimate love in this world which makes all the attachments weak..


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Vellur 2 years ago from Dubai

A brilliant, inspirational write.


Chandni Kripalani 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

Thanks to you and radio sai, my attachment to swami is growing day by day. Thank you!


saisarannaga 2 years ago from Chennai in Tamilnadu, India.

Yes, Aravind! We all have this attachment for the perishable objects, persons and relationships. It took me more than three decades to understand the fundamental lesson of spirituality. Though I am not attached to Swami as He expects his children to do, my hold on the family is slowly loosening. A great insight through the one handed warior.


Radha 2 years ago

Sairam brother,

Superb article.swami has been helping and guiding me through attachments since a long time now.Sometimes to accomplish His work and for reasons best known to Him plus to learn necessary lessons to strengthen us,He lets us get attached to people we help or interact.Until we connect to the form of people,we will associate pain/disappointments/expectations with them.the moment we delink to the firm and look at ppl we are attached to,at the soul level and as just light,the attachment magically disappears to be replaced by a peace n serenity,hard to imagine.

Then even attachment to swami gets transformed to a deep connect to our personal swami who is within and our very own.

When we move beyond that too,we reach the state of oneness.just sharing my thoughts bro.you are a pro at this,and I love reading your articles.many times it comes as an answer to a pertinent situation of mine.

May swami bless you in this journey where you are also helping thousands of others on the same path.sairam


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aravindb1982 2 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

@Sandhya Devi - Glad that you enjoyed the article.

@Sravan PVSR - Will await your mail. :)


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aravindb1982 2 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

@Meghali - Glad that you enjoyed the article. That is a lesson that has been so deeply interred in me that I cannot forget it.

@Shiva Reddy108 - "It is impossible to practice detachment" - I will agree to the difficulty of the proposition! You have reinforced my faith with your comment. Thank you for the detailed comment which I am sure will help other readers as well.

May our attachment for God grow stronger every moment...


Sravan PVSR 2 years ago

Nice one. Completely emphatize about the emotions being a fellow cancerian. But, with Swami, all these do not matter. Like your blog, Anugraha vs Navagraha.

Will mail you my personal experience.

Sairam,

Sravan


sandhya devi 2 years ago

Sairam brother...excellent article..Thanks to swami for the wonderful message.

sairam


ShivaReddy108 2 years ago

Sai Ram Bro

Loved your kung fu story.

In one of the spiritual talks I was listening to they said that it is impossible to practice detachment. We can only practice attached because the nature of the mind is to get attached. Attention equals attachment. If you give it attention expect the mind to get attached.

So now I ignore instructions to practice detachment & know the secret is to practice attachment.

Swami said Bhakti (Devotion) is mind on God. How cool is it that Swami allows us to love Him by practicing attachment! I think it's so cool how we can lose ourselves completely in Him & find it next to impossible to concentrate on all our other so called responsibilities and Dharmas, but for some reason He seems to miraculously fulfill all those other Dharmas without any effort on our part. In fact it always works out way better than I could ever do it.

I think when I stop thinking about Him and try to concentrate on these other so called responsibilities life becomes a grind and everything gets so messed up and I have to come back to just giving up and just refocus on what's most important, undivided attention on Him!

On the weekend I was listening to a talk where Swami's student said we don't have to do anything. Just sit there like Sita did intensely pining for God. Rama was the one who did all the work, arranged all the resources to reunite with Mother Sita. If we try to do things for ourselves, God who is the most humble of all, steps out of our way and lets us try to do and doesn't want to interfere.

BTW watched your souljourns video today as well and loved it.

Thanks for always inspiring me to get so extremely attached : ).

Loving Sai Rams

Shiva Reddy


Meghali 2 years ago

SaiRam Aravind, wonderful article. thank you so much for sharing the thoughts and reminding the ultimate truth "...He advised me to turn my attention and attachment towards God..." so true!!

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