Faith and self-confidence - Story of the little bird
A little story on faith
The year 1995 was unprecedented in the history of the Sri Sathya Sai educational institutions at Prasanthi Nilayam, Puttaparthi. It was in that year that Swami (as Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is lovingly addressed) granted class interviews to all students - from the senior-most students who were completing their postgraduate studies to the little boys in the 8th grade. Each of those interviews is a treasure trove of wisdom, inspiration and, most importantly, Divine Love. Going through them, one realizes the Truth in Swami’s statement,
“I am a child among children.”
It is this ability of the Master that endears Him to everyone who has got the chance to experience him. He is able to be that which everyone identifies with, feels kinship with. Be it a man, a woman, a child, a poor man, a millionaire, a saint or even a sinner, everybody feels an inner attraction towards Swami - an attraction that grows into deep trust.
Here is a narrative that I heard from a very dear friend of mine - D.V.Hemanth Kumar. He had the privilege of attending one of those ‘class’ interviews as an 8th grade student. The interview is fresh in his heart even today, almost 2 decades after that day and the reason it is so is because of the unforgettable way in which Swami taught the importance of faith in God. The story was very simple - so simple that once completed, it does not feel like a story at all. But it carries a profound inspiring message for all of us.
28th September, 1995
The 23rd of November 1995 would witness the grand and magnificent 70th Birthday celebrations of Bhagawan Baba. As part of the run-up to the birthday, Swami was calling the students for interviews. 28th September 1995 was the day of interview for the 8th grade boys. All of them were excited and anticipated a wonderful opportunity to be physically close to Swami. For many of the boys, this would be the first time that they would be getting an interview with Swami. For a few of them, this would be the first time when they would be getting an opportunity to get so close to Him physically. For Hemant, it was an opportunity of great significance because he had picked the token #1 for the lines through which the 8th grade students would enter the interview room.
For those that have experienced Swami, an interview with him is something beyond the world. It is far greater than an interview with any other personality on the face of the earth! (I am not joking). There have been many (and are many) who are ready to give up anything for that one coveted chance of an interview with Swami. In this scenario, imagine what must have been going through Hemanth for he would be the first boy to enter the interview room. He had planned how he would run in to take a place as close to Swami’s chair as possible.
The moment of reckoning arrived and the boys were called into the interview room. Being at the head of the lines, Hemanth executed his plan to perfection - running straight towards Swami’s chair and obtaining a seat at His feet. He was very happy and satisfied. Soon, Swami walked to the chair and sat on it. He was smiling so beautifully and He began to talk to the boys. It was in course of His discourse that He narrated a powerful example.
The story of a little sparrow
Swami began to narrate the story of a little sparrow.
There was a huge banyan tree in a forest, spreading out its mighty branches. Each of these mighty branches bore many smaller secondary branches which in turn bore many more. This kind of repeated branching resulted in small twigs with leaves on them. On one such twig sat the little sparrow.
The sparrow was chirping away merrily. Its high-pitched notes filled the air and resonated through the forest. It was a happy song.
Suddenly, there came a strong gust of wind which soon developed into a storm. At first, the twig on which the sparrow sat, began to quiver and quake; shiver and shake. As the wind grew in its strength and intensity, the whole branch began to sway uncontrollably. soon, the huge banyan tree itself was reeling under the impact of the powerful storm. It was trembling as the furious wind began to lash at it. In a moment, the little branch on which the sparrow was sitting snapped. The branch fell to the ground.
What happened to the little sparrow?
That was the question that Swami posed to the little boys as they sat listening to Him in rapt attention. The question had popped in their minds too and each boy was wondering,
“Yes! What happened to the sparrow?”
Sitting right at the front, Hemanth looked into Swami’s eyes and mentally asked,
“Swami! Please do not stop here. Tell us what happened to the sparrow.”
There was a brief silence. All ears were trained on what Swami was about to say because nobody seemed to have an answer to His question. A sparkle came in Swami’s eyes and a they widened in a kind of joy. With a broad smile, Swami said,
“Nothing happened to the sparrow because it just flew away. It fluttered its wings even as the branch broke and it just flew away.”
That almost felt like an anticlimactic end to a suspense-filled story that seemed to be proceeding to a gripping climax. All the boys nodded at the seemingly simple answer. Hemanth too felt that that he expected something more from what Swami had begun to narrate. But Swami’s message after that changed his way of thinking completely. Such was the impact that he would, later in his life, use the same example in articles that he wrote and talks that he gave!
The lesson from the sparrow
“The sparrow was saved because it depended on its wings rather than taking support and assistance from the leaves, twigs or branches of the tree. In your life too, your will see that your perch is disturbed by the winds of change. Problems and disasters strike with all force and seem to have the capacity to uproot you. At such times, do not depend on the flimsy twigs or even the seemingly sturdy branches that the world offers to you. Depend on your wings and you will always be safe. What are these wings? They are the wings of faith and self-confidence.”
Suddenly, the story seemed so powerful now.
If one examines carefully, one realizes that faith in God leads to self-confidence too. And that happens because one’s faith that the Lord is always there to provide and take care gives one the confidence that he/she needn’t depend on anyone or anything else. God will take care of all that is necessary. That knowledge brings true ‘in’dependence and ‘self’ confidence.
On a concluding note, it must be said that there is a beautiful poem that Swami wrote in one of His letters. The poem has been produced in the book, Prema Dhara. When I read the poem for the first time, I could not make out what exactly it stated.
The bird with you, the wings with Me;
The foot with you, the way with Me;
The eye with you, the form with Me;
The thing with you, the dream with Me;
So are we free, so are we bound;
So we begin and so we end;
You in Me and I in you.
With the story of the sparrow that Swami narrated, the poem becomes so clear. Self-confidence and faith in God always go hand in hand. One without the other is not only meaningless but also impossible - just as flight needs the bird and the wings; travel needs the feet and the way; sight needs the eyes and the form. True success in life, likewise, needs both - Faith and Self-Confidence.
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© 2013 Aravind Balasubramanya
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