God should be the first resort; not the last one

The old Brindavan was a haven of divine proximity for Swami's students.
The old Brindavan was a haven of divine proximity for Swami's students. | Source

The setting

We rewind the beautiful story of the sweet relationship between Swami (Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) and His students right to the very beginning. It was in the late sixties and Swami would spend most of the year at His ashram in Bengaluru (Bangalore then), in Brindavan, Whitefield. The reason for that was obvious - on 9th June 1969, a men's’ college had been started at Brindavan and Swami had decided to spend more than 75 percent of His time with the students in whom He placed His faith for the building of the golden Sai era.

Like the spring which is the beginning of every great river, the Sathya Sai educational mission too began in a small and humble manner. The classrooms were small and cramped and the shed beside Swami’s bungalow served as the hostel for the boys. Swami lived so close by that He would often walk into the ‘hostel’ on surprise visits and spend time shaping and chiseling the heart and minds of the boys. On many occasions, He would Himself walk amidst the sleeping boys and wake them up for Suprabhatam (early morning prayers) and guide them in everything - from tending to cows and rolling chapaties in the kitchen to gardening and taking care of the deer in the compound.

The number of boys enrolled was very small but it began to grow soon. Who would not want to live with the Master of masters? The classrooms and hostel became woefully inadequate and Swami decided to get a college building built. Once Swami makes a will, nothing ever changes it. Soon, a magnificent edifice shaped like a gigantic dam, probably symbolic of the potential it held within its walls, came up in months. It was late Col. Joga Rao, an ardent devotee and a retired civil engineer, who supervised the construction.

This is the setting for our current story.

The magnificent, dam-shaped, college building that was constructed to serve the students at Brindavan.
The magnificent, dam-shaped, college building that was constructed to serve the students at Brindavan. | Source

The common refrain

A little detour from our main story in order to delve on the theme of this essay!

When a patient is in admitted to the hospital, the doctor examines him, finds out the problem, offers a solution and even gives a timeframe for the recovery. But then, things always do not go along the timeline - they go awry. How often have we come across situations where the same doctors raise their hands helplessly and say,
“We have done everything possible. Now its all left to God!”

A wise doctor knows from the beginning that he only gives medicines while it is God who heals. That humility makes him turn to God right in the beginning and he himself functions simply as an instrument. He chooses God as the first resort rather than the last one! While it is easy to understand the doctors’ example in terms of how they turn to God as the last resort, we do not realize that we often commit the same blunder in our lives too.

Whether it is the decision of making a financial investment or choosing a relationship; picking the right career or dealing with an illness we consider it as a sign of strength to march ahead without seeking help. We do this without realizing that when we seek God’s help, we are actually tapping into an infinite resource within ourselves. Prayer is definitely not a sign of weakness. It need not be the last resort. And yet, time and again, we turn to God after every effort made has failed. It is akin to offering the leftovers of a feast to the Lord where the food is comparable to our skills, talents, energies and finances. No wonder then that Swami always has taught us to do Brahmaarpanam (food prayer) before partaking any meal.

Please do not mistake me. I am not in the least suggesting that we do not put in our effort. The focus is on the attitude behind the effort rather!

The letter that changed the course of 'His'tory!
The letter that changed the course of 'His'tory! | Source

The story of the boy who turned to Swami as the first resort

Ah! Now I continue the thread where I had left it off. Swami got the college building constructed and instructed the same engineer to come up with a proposal for a hostel building also. Col. Joga Rao implicitly obeyed the instructions and drew up all the plans for the construction of the hostel building. The shed in which the boys were staying was too small and right next to it was a huge water tank. The only possible place where the hostel could be constructed was in an empty plot of land adjacent to the new college building. Having made all the plans, he approached Swami and sought a date for the laying of the foundation stone.

The evening before the actual ‘ground-breaking’ ceremony could take place, Swami arrived at the shed where the boys were staying. He informed them about a new hostel coming up with all the comforts and conveniences. There would now be ample space to stay for each student. Even as Swami told all this with sparkling eyes and a heart that rejoiced at the fact that the boys would become comfortable, the boys themselves were downcast - a new hostel near the college building would mean that they would be staying at least 300 meters away from the beloved Swami. That would reduce the frequency of all the sudden Divine visits they now enjoyed.

But what could be done? There was no other space available for construction and the shed was indeed getting crowded. One of the boys promptly wrote a letter to Swami, pouring out his heart. Swami accepted the letter from him and even as He read it, He looked at the boy and asked him,
“Shall I read out this letter to the boys assembled here?”
“Swami it is all your wish.”
And so, Bhagawan read out the letter. The spirit of the letter is outlined below:

Swami, we do not want any new hostel. We can always adjust in this space as long as we are assured of proximity to you. If we go to the new Hostel, we would be far away from Swami’s home. We just do not want to go away from Swami! If Swami is so particular about the new hostel building planned next to the College, then Swami should have a new home constructed right next to the proposed new hostel.

Swami looked at the principal, Sri Narendar and asked him what he thought about the letter. He replied that Swami knows the hearts of the boys. They had left their parents and had come only to be with Swami.

A decision was then made on the spot. Swami sent for Col. Joga Rao. He then asked him,
“Joga Rao! The boys want to stay near Swami. They do not want to go away. Can the new hostel be built next to the mandir here?”
“That is impossible Swami! There is a huge ground tank here. How can we build anything here?”

God, though allergic to the word ‘impossible’, merely smiles at those who use it. Swami simply said that a hostel could easily be built in place of the tank that existed there! He then went on to explain to an amazed Joga Rao as to how the construction should proceed.

And today, the hostel stands over the same land where a huge tank existed. And Swami has visited the boys at the Brindavan hostel on a number of times!

With God as the first resort, there is no need to resort to anyone or anything else!

An aerial view of the hostel that stands right next to the darshan hall in Brindavan. The hostel has a huge basement floor, a reminder of the tank on which it has been built.
An aerial view of the hostel that stands right next to the darshan hall in Brindavan. The hostel has a huge basement floor, a reminder of the tank on which it has been built. | Source
A markerTrayee Brindavan -
Sri Sathya Sai Baba Ashram,Whitefield, Bangalore, Karnataka 560067, India
[get directions]

As can be seen from the satellite photograph, Swami's residence is located right next to the Sri Sathya Sai Boys Hostel.

The Sai Ramesh hall in it's penultimate form was right next to the boys' hostel. Swami thus remained near and dear to the boys.
The Sai Ramesh hall in it's penultimate form was right next to the boys' hostel. Swami thus remained near and dear to the boys.

The captain’s story

Prayer is not something that is to be made only in times of trouble or distress. There is the story of a ship captain who used to pray daily as he steered his ship. Everyone often wondered as to why the captain used to pray so much when the sailing was so smooth. The captain said nothing but continued his practice of regular prayer.

And then, one day, there was a huge storm at sea. So terrifying and deadly it was that everyone on the ship got on their knees to pray. In the middle of all this chaos, the only person not praying was the captain! The surprised passengers on the ship asked him to join them in their prayers. The captain’s reply was,
“This is not my time to pray. I have a job at hand. The prayers I make when the sailing is smooth gives me the strength and mental calm to steer the ship in these times.”

A person who has got the priorities right prays in times of joy, comfort and peace. The prayer then gives the same joy, comfort and peace in troubled times. This is what the message of Kabirdas is when he asks the rhetorical question:

Dukh Mein Sumiran Sab Karein; Sukh Mein Karein Na Koi.
Jo Sukh Mein Sumiran Karein; Dukh Kahe Ko Hoi?

(Everyone thinks of the Lord in difficult times while none think of Him in time of joy. Those that think of Him in times of joy, why will they ever have difficult times?)

Making God the first resort is possible only through humility and surrender. And this is because though things seem to be under our control, in life everything is ultimately in God’s hands. Why don’t we follow what Swami tells us in this most beautiful ‘Prayer of Surrender’?

“Remember that thinking of the consequences of a thing is contrary to surrender. That is to say, when you worry that a situation has not had the desired outcome, you thus demonstrate that you do not believe in My love for you. You will prove that you do not consider your life to be under My control and that nothing escapes Me.”

Is it not the easier option to make God our first resort rather than the last?

Praying in times of calm so that one remains calm in the eye of a storm!
Praying in times of calm so that one remains calm in the eye of a storm!

Have you had experiences where you turned to God as your first resort along with your efforts?

  • No. Not yet.
  • Yes.
  • Yes. And I shall share that experience in the comments below for all to read and enjoy.
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Comments 20 comments

anon 22 months ago

I believe that none of us readers have stumbled upon this blog by chance. Swami directs each one of us here for a specific lesson or reminder, and through your articles he speaks to us.

My deepest gratitude to you dear brother.

Thank you


Sudha Narayanan 3 years ago

Sairam. Its very true we should turn to God first when there is a problem. Every day, every moment God throws a challenge at us to prioritize, whether its Him or the World ,though in a very subtle way. But it is also true that difficulties also brings us closer to God. when our family shifted from Chennai to Delhi in '84, we had almost packed almost all the things except for one photo of Swami. It was a big one. We didn't know what to do. So I opted to carry it all the way in hand. That day it poured cats & dogs, and our flight got into an air pocket. Swamis photo was there next to my seat, however did n't have the wisdom to hug it (by experience we learn) and pray. However, He saved us. In May 2000 there was a major crisis at the home front. Too much of Delhi got into me!!! When I came to Chennai on leave, Swami came in my dream and said "Come to me , I shall sort it out!" Such AhetukaDayaSindho He is, even when I forgot, He saved me. Fortunately he was in Brindavan that time. We had a very blissful darshan. Again another crisis brought me to Chennai to our Sweet Lord.

He saw to it that His difficult child 'boarded the Ship' and not missed out! Swami, Swami, my sweet Lord.


KokilaVaidyanathan 3 years ago

This is very thought provoking...I know for all practical purpose that all I need to do is surrender totally to Him and have that unshakeable faith. Yet most of the times I fail to practice in daily life...recent experience in life has taught me to surrender more than before on a verbal level however I am still unable to practice it.... Any tips??


aravindb1982 profile image

aravindb1982 3 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

@ saip -All living beings have something within them...a strong power or life force that science has not been able to explain. That energy is what makes a man different from a corpse. The innate power that exists in everyone is verily divine energy. And it is this energy that is present everywhere in the Universe. So when we say we have a problem at hand or we are wishful about something, we just need to concentrate on telling this source within us.

You will see that the solution for your problem will come from within you. That is called intuition or a sixth sense. Believing in what you want and strongly re-iterating it to yourself is what will attract that into your life and eventually you will get what you want. We say we pray to God and if He is happy with us He answers our prayers.

I believe God is not a third person seated in the heavens above. He is that divine energy that is present in each one of us. That's the power that heals us & helps us grow! So when we pray to God we are actually seeking help from that source of divine energy within us. That is why the statement "when we seek God’s help, we are actually tapping into an infinite resource within ourselves."


aravindb1982 profile image

aravindb1982 3 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

@ Mr.Happy - This is a very delayed response. But it is a response nevertheless! :)

I think of all individual wills like the orientations of magnetic material. When all the little fields are randomly oriented, the material is not magnetic. But there is potential to be a magnet. When a magnet is brought close, all the little field align in a single direction and a piece of iron too becomes a magnet. When the huge magnet is kept close for long, the iron piece too becomes a magnet.

The huge magnet too was actually an iron piece before! So, in the presence of one who has realized the unity, it becomes easier for all individual wills to align in the proper direction. :)


saip 3 years ago

Brother Arvind please elaborate on the statement"when we seek God’s help, we are actually tapping into an infinite resource within ourselves."


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

LOL I forgot something else I wanted to mention. I for the most part do not attribute specific forms to the Gods. Wakan Tanka is not depicted in any specific way - the people of the First Nations explain Wakan Tanka as "The Great Mystery" - that is it: we can not explain it because we do not have a full understanding of it (that is the explanation). Gebeleizis has no shape or form for me either, nor does Apollo. And from the little I know, Narayana and Shiva could take different shapes/forms as well. Therefore, I really try not to indulge in bodies, shapes and forms - I see them as tools.

Alrighty ... I should be done for now ... lol

Thank You. : )


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

"After that, it has been a gradual and positive progress of reminding myself to leave it to Him." - I read this sentence here and I thought: "leave myself to Him"? You mean, to Him to You? Since "He is God, just as everyone is" - so we pray to ourselves? And You leave yourself to yourself? Haha ... You know ... in many cases this is a futile exercise: we do not have the words/means to explain the Spirit World ... yet we keep trying ...

Well, thank You again for all the conversations - I really enjoy them! : )

Cheers!


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Greetings Mr. Aravind,

I am back to leave a comment because I found your comment quite interesting.

"There is only ONE and that manifests as many." - I do agree with this but this sentence here is a great paradox. As we understand language, "one" does not equal or define itself as "many". I suppose I see this as: we are All One in Spirit and through Spirit, yet there are "many". How many Wills are out there? Is there one Will or are there many Wills? What I mean by will is "the power to be", the manifestation of the Spirit. As You have said: the one manifests "as many".

With that in mind, through prayer (in my individual opinion) one "will" can unite with other "wills", through time, space, etc. Sort of like tapping into channels of Power. I wish I could express myself better - it is not easy though, I do not see everything completely clear.

So, the Man in Orange never prayed? Did He ever meditate or anything of those sorts? Did He talk to Trees or ... I guess my actual question would be: how did He connect with Power and with the ability of Being within this three dimensional perspective but also Being outside this three-dimensional perspective (at the same time).

Haha ... I think I just knotted my brain around ... I do not expect You to make any sense of what I wrote here but if You do and think there may be something to be said here, please let me know what You think.

All the very best!! (Always fun to talk to You - Thank You.)


Poor Joker 3 years ago

Dear Aravind, It would be better to have few photographs of the hostel built on the tank, to understand how the Divine Architecture made Col.Jogarao's 'impossible', possible!


aravindb1982 profile image

aravindb1982 3 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

@ Mark Aspa - Wonderful has been the message from within for you! :) All the very best!

@ Mr.Happy - Totally true - "We are all one" - That is why the greatest sin is the sin of Ignorance. Once we realize the unity of the whole universe, there is no sin, no blessing, not birth, no death - just existence.

The Healers, Shamans and Sorcerors that you refer to would be called Gurus or Masters here in India!

As for Swami, the Man in Orange, He prayed to none - for He said that there is no 'other'. There is only ONE and that manifests as many. In fact, He even corrected the interpretations of the great Indian Mahavakyas as they are called. There is one that says, "Tat Twam Asi". It is commonly interpreted as "Thou art That" - which is a way of telling "Oh man! You are God." Swami corrected this saying, "When one says 'thou' and 'that' there is separation again being introduced in the unity of divinity. The statement is actually Tatwam Asi which translates into 'You are essence'"

Actually, the Sanskrit here does not even hold the word "you". It just speaks of 'essence' and 'being' or 'existence'. But English is a woefully inadequate language to translate Sanskrit into.

So, coming back, Swami never prayed to anyone. It is like, "Whom does Wakan Tanka pray to?"

Swami proclaimed the Truth that He is God, just as everyone is. And anyone has to just realize this!

Blessed are you for you "dance for the Gods". I read about your experiences during the Occupy Toronto movement. I came to know about the movement because of you. You are indeed like the captain of the ship talked about in this article.

Thank you a lot for your beautiful questions. I feel so happy answering them.

May Wakan Tanka guide you forever and may your life continue to speak to the world in this manner!


aravindb1982 profile image

aravindb1982 3 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

@ C.V. Rajan - thank you for the visit. :)

@ Anonymous - My feeling is that 'surrender' is not a process along which we progress. At times in life, I have been able to completely surrender while at other times, I hold on so much! The same 'me' has been capable of doing 100% and at times getting stuck at 0% too when it comes to surrender.

There seemed no progress for me till this awareness came in an instant. After that, it has been a gradual and positive progress of reminding myself to leave it to Him. And let me assure you, it has not been difficult. Holding is difficult - letting it into his hands is so easy and comfortable. Each experience has only made the process of surrender much easier.


saisarannaga 3 years ago from Chennai in Tamilnadu, India.

Swami is the source and we are the conduits.


santhiratan 3 years ago

Brother, Swami shot an arrow right through my heart when I read the words, " leftovers of a feast to the Lord".

"Looking for desired outcome".... WOW


lrao 3 years ago

Good ol' Brindavan! I miss going there these days. I never visited Parthi until 1991 because Swami was in B'lore so much in those days and we would go for darshan under the darlin' tree in Brindavan. "Crowded" was if people spilled over onto the sands outside of the cemented area under the canopy!!

That Kabir Doha you wrote is my favorite and I have used it often.....

I never tire of reading the story about the student who wrote to Swami about the location of the hostel...and how Swami listened to the plea. Same with the story of the young student who saved up money to give Him 100 rupees.


P Naik 3 years ago

Great write-up about the hostel and the lessons therin! I remember every nook and corner of the hostel and the Divine Footprints there.


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

"Swami had decided to spend more than 75 percent of His time with the students in whom He placed His faith" - I think this is a magnificent sentence and holds much wisdom. Gods, Faith, Mortals ... We are All One.

"A wise doctor" ... Haha!! In my mind, that is an oxymoron because doctors are generally not Spiritual Beings. They rely more on science, pills, drugs, etc. A wise doctor would be a Healer, a Sorcerer, Shaman, Medicine Man/Woman - I am not sure what You would call them in your region/culture: Avatars, Gurus of sorts perhaps? Such people do not necessarily have a Doctorate from Harvard or Yale, in my opinion and hence I am not really seeing them as "doctors" - this is just a matter of linguistics here.

"Prayer is definitely not a sign of weakness." - Indeed it is not. Prayer is just good ... good for the Soul or Atma was it?

Before, I forget (I am still reading through your article now): did the Man in Orange pray? And whom did he pray to? I am so curious about this ... lol

God, though allergic to the word ‘impossible’ - Yes, indeed: "Anything is possible, it just costs more" - Here cost may be anything from resources to energy, etc.

"Everyone thinks of the Lord in difficult times while none think of Him in time of joy." - I often dance for the Gods. : )

Thank You for the smiles/writing: beautiful and full of wisdom as always.

May Light always guide You.

P.S. May Light guide You as well Anonymous. I pray to that.


Mark Aspa 3 years ago

thank you...the last part is just what i felt Swami was telling me this morning: have confidence and trust in God's Ways, not in the ego's ways, which fashion a world of illusion.


anonymous 3 years ago

Thanks for the article. Despite knowing that all we need to do is to surrender to Swami, i am unable to practice it in my daily life. Thoughts about potential/possible outcomes of future course of life consumes a good part of my daily thought process. In fact this has made me slightly more pessimistic in nature .

One question: Has it been a smooth sailing for wrt to surrendering to Swami or has been a gradual progress?

Sairam


C.V.Rajan profile image

C.V.Rajan 3 years ago from Kerala, India

Oh!So inspiring and thought provoking.

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