God is the best friend forever...
This is actually the second part of an interesting story...
So, if you have come here directly, I would highly advise you to visit the first part of this episode by moving your mouse over the link given below and clicking on it! :)
Getting the complete picture and story always makes way for more understanding and entertainment. If you have already read the above, the please proceed. :)
The preparation for my own ‘Award-ceremony’ for my best friend
Having decided to offer the post of my best-friend to Swami, I tore up the cover of the greeting card and got a new one for it. The letter that I had previously addressed to Amey detailing the history of the greeting card also met with the same fate as the cover of the card. I now wrote a fresh letter to Swami. I told Him that the card I was giving Him was a very very special one. I also detailed the history of the card and now, Amey, too was part of that history! (To read the actual contents of the card click on the link here).
The journey so far had been a quite long one. Thus, it was my desire that Swami accept this card from me the first time I offer it to Him itself. And I decided that I would offer it to Him immediately, viz. on the 24th of December 2008. I prayed to Swami and told Him that I had been foolish. In spite of knowing the Truth that God alone could be one’s best friend, I had tried to seek the same from so many others. And today, I had planned to offer the most cherished card of my life to Him. I did not want Him to disappoint me.
24th December, 2008 - Christmas Eve
The choice of a day to give the card to Swami could not have been more wrong! It was the eve of Christmas and a huge gathering of overseas devotees filled the Sai Kulwant darshan hall at Prasanthi Nilayam. This was the day when the overseas devotees sang carols and songs in praise of Christ as the morning programme on the 25th of December, Christmas, was always reserved for the students of Swami’s educational institutions. And usually, during such huge gathering times, Swami did not accept letters. He would often spend all the time granting darshan to devotees who had filled every nook and cranny in the hall.
This Christmas Eve too was no different. Even as Swami came out of His residence, Yajur Mandir, into the Sai Kulwant Hall, I saw that He told the devotees to keep their letters with themselves. He was gently telling them that He knew what was in their hearts and there was no need for Him to accept the letters. I, sitting on the steps in front of the dais, was hoping that this was only a temporary phase in the evening. But that was not to be. Swami completed His rounds on the ladies side and He had not accepted any letters. I was feeling bad. I told to Swami within myself,
“Swami, the best possible conclusion for this episode which has been running for 6 years in my life now is for you to accept the card from me. But I see that chances of that are getting very slim. Please do not disappoint me.”
The gents’ side darshan was now complete and there were still no letters taken. The only area between me and Swami now was the ‘birthday boys’ block’. Swami usually took all the birthday boys’ letters for it was their special day - but not today! He passed by all the birthday boys and took letters from none! However, at the last minute, he took one letter - the first letter of the whole darshan session! And the next was me.
“Ay! Marriage eh?”
He asked me and pointed to the card I was holding. Wow! What a drama He created at that moment. He had asked me whether the card I was holding in my hand was my marriage invitation card. I knelt and showing the card to Him said,
“Swami, it is friendship card.”
He smiled and so casually picked the card from my hand and moved on. I was so thrilled. Swami then moved through the block of Primary School children and then all the guests and VIPs seated in the veranda of the mandir. When He finally came on stage, I saw that He had four letters in His hand and out of that, one was my card!
As Swami gently brought the Veda chanting to a close and enquired into the programme for the day, the big card of carols and songs was presented to Him. He blessed the programme to begin. As the carolers and choristers went about the hills and dales of their first song, Swami opened the letters in His hand. Within the first song, he quickly read through the three ‘other’ letters which He had collected. The first song ended and a carol began. Swami now was turning the cover with my card in His hands.
He tried to open it but I had sealed the cover firmly with adhesive tape. He tried gently and could not open it. He seemed to give up and hand over the cover to one of the boys who was sitting by His side. I felt like such an idiot. I wished that I had not sealed the card so firmly. Then, Swami would have gone through my card too. Even as I was feeling like kicking myself, Swami turned to the boy to whom He had given my card and told him,
“Open that cover and give it back to me.”
I had goosebumps now.
Every sentence in the card was meant for God
As the opened cover was given to Him, Swami pulled the card right out from the cover. Along with card came out the ‘covering’ letter that I had written about the history of the card as well. Swami began to read the card, line by line, sentence by sentence. I was watching Him intently and it seemed that He was reading each ‘reason’ in the card intently. (The card was about 101 reasons why He was my best friend.) The carol that was on concluded and Swami looked up at the singing devotees only at that point. He smiled at them, blessed them to start the next song and buried Himself in the card again!
This went on, over and over again. The devotees had sung more than 5-6 songs and Swami had not let go of the card. He was reading it slowly from top to bottom, going through all the four pages that opened out. My heart was now oozing with gratitude and joy. I am sure many devotees would have wondered on that occasion as to what was so engrossing in the card that Swami was looking into it all the while as they were singing carols - it held the friendship of a soul. And the Lord is ready to do anything for the sake of a single soul even. Be it His only foreign tour to Africa, the mammoth service projects undertaken, the thousands of interviews given or the billions of letters accepted, they were all done only for individual people. Swami has always done things for the individual at a very personal level.
After about 6 songs, Swami asked to be taken to the interview room. As He was wheeled in, I smiled to myself. I felt so happy that Swami had accepted my hand of friendship in so comprehensive a manner. In about 5 minutes, Swami arrived on stage again. What shall I say - He still was carrying the card I had given! He continued to read through the card and I pulled out my camera and took a few snaps as ‘evidence’ and ‘memory’ of this most beautiful episode. I cherish these photos today.
Friendship with God
Swami had the card with Him throughout the programme. In fact, even after the Christmas Eve programme, when He received Aarthi and went to the car, He was still carrying the card with Him. Usually, He hands over the letters to a person when He is leaving. But that was not the case today. He had decided to show me how much He would treasure me as a friend.
Today when I look back at my friendship with Swami, I realize one aspect that only God can fulfill - keeping the friendship timeless and beyond birth and death. Even after His physical passing on the 24th of April 2011, Swami has been guiding, loving, caring and helping me as my best friend. When something confounds me, He comes in dreams and gives the solutions. When I feel lonely, I suddenly get a whiff of His fragrance along with a cool breeze that brushes across my face. When I am looking out for some support and strength, vibhuti pours out of His picture - sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter - just like medicine from a doctor. And more than anything else, when I seem to stagnate in my spiritual efforts, He ensures that I do not forget the purpose of life.
Ah! That is the nature of Divine Friendship. Worldly friendship and love cares only for the body and mind. But divine love sacrifices the body and mind, if need be, at the altar of the soul/spirit. The bonding is much beyond a bond which binds. It liberates instead!
And the best thing is God’s love is so infinite that He guides each and every person according to his/her needs to seek friendship with God alone. It was He who prevented me in various ways from seeking the ultimate friendship from flesh. It was He who inspired to seek the spirit. And finally, it was He who responded so beautifully too. Though I never thought of asking His friendship, He had already chosen me as His best friend and was patiently waiting for me. What patience and perseverance! And when He finally got me to understand and realize, He did not mock my years of struggle saying,
“I told you so.”
Instead, He embraces me in all love. A best friend is He who is with me even when I tell Him to leave me alone. He is one who walks in for me when the world walks out. He is an extension of me and treats me like an extension of Himself. He neither walks ahead of me nor behind me, but with me, side by side. My best friend is my Swami. And is it any surprise that ‘me’ is an integral part of ‘Swami’?
With that in mind, why don't we make friendship with God as the first resort rather than the last one?
If you enjoyed reading this, you might also enjoy the following:
1. And the best friend award goes to... (This is part 1 of the above article; Hope you read that before reading this!)
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