Love is God's only weakness...and our only strength - 1
Shift in the Darshan venue
As I turn the pages in the book of my life as a student of Swami, I arrive at an episode that shows both - how one should win God and how one should not! Both are important lessons and once they are learnt, why would one want anything else? The episode took place over a period of a few months but it felt as if it spanned years. Talk about relativity of time! Time seems to slow down infinitely when you are eagerly waiting for something to happen and are spending agonising time in that anticipation.
It was the year 1999. It was the year when some Italian devotees, as an expression of love for Swami, wanted to cover the roof of the Sai Kulwant hall with the thin, gold foil that now adorns the majestic hall. Swami was happy because the roof above the devotees would be covered in gold. He blessed the project and it began in right earnest. Please allow me to take a little detour here and relive a wonderful story I heard from Ms.Moiya, the famous younger twin of the Pink sisters ( the O’Brien twins from Australia), during an interview for Radiosai. She narrated an interesting experience amidst the interview and I quote her:
Well, some years ago a man came to our door and we gave him one of our books. And he came back the next day and said, “Look, you don’t even know me and you gave me that book, so I’m going to tell you a story which not many people know.” And then he said, “You know the story of the green ceiling? Baba sent for me, I come from Hyderabad.” And He said, “I have got a special project for you. The Italian people want to put gold leaf on the upper part of the ceiling. So we got to put a background, I want you to supervise it.” So they got coloured charts with all the pinks and the blues and the cream, and Baba said, “No, no I don’t want that - I want green.” “Oh no Baba, green would clash; it doesn’t go with the other colours, it must be one of these colours.” “No, I want green,” Baba said and continued, “You know those green and gold rings I give people for love, peace and healing? I can’t give everybody a green and gold ring but if I give them a green and gold ceiling, anybody who sits under that ceiling will get the benefit. The energy will fall on them even if they are not aware of it; they will get that energy.”
When the work of pasting the gold foil leaves on the ceiling began, the venue for darshan and bhajan was shifted from the Kulwant hall to the adjacent Poornachandra auditorium (PC). So, when the academic year began in June 1999, we were told that we would be going for darshan into the PC. I had a photograph with me - it was a 30” by 40” image of Swami seated on the chair on the Shivarathri morning which I had clicked a few months before. My desire was that Swami should sign this photograph so that I could keep it in my shrine at home.
Attempts at fulfilling a desire...
Being a student in Swami’s school availed some terrific privileges. One of them was the ‘birthday tray’ chance. If it was your birthday, you would get a chance to sit in the front rows with a tray filled with various goodies. These would include chocolates, dry fruits, cloves (which Swami loved and would pop into His mouth once in a while), vibhuti packets, photographs, pens, books - basically, whatever one wanted to take! Swami would bless the student and many times, even sign the photographs presented. I decided to get the photo signed on my birthday, the 24th of June, when Swami would be obliged to sign it for me!
Well, this was not the first time that I was making such assumptions. I had done it once before when it turned out to be my first memorable interaction with Him as His student. That had made me bold into making more such assumptions...
When the D-day came, I went to the warden and took a ‘chit’ - a permission slip to go to the mandir before the lines left hostel. These chits were given as special considerations for birthday boys or to those that had to urgently communicate to Swami about some matter. Leaving the hostel before the lines gave one the option of choosing the best and prime locations in the mandir which had a ‘greater chance to access Swami’! And so, on my birthday, I rushed to PC and sat in the first line, just below the stage. I was surrounded by other birthday boys. Swami arrived for darshan and I had an eager anticipation about me.
The side curtains marking the backstage area in PC would part and the beloved form in orange would arrive. Immediately, the music would begin and an enthralled hush would fall over the whole audience. There would be many people stranded outside the auditorium for the capacity of PC is only half of that of Kulwant hall.
Swami descended the stage and came straight towards us. He placed His right palm on all our trays and allowed us to bow down, touch His feet and take padanamaskar. And then came the time to get the photos signed. Swami took the picture that one of the students held and signed it. In the meanwhile, I quickly unrolled the large photograph that I had with me. Swami signed two more photos and then came to mine. I handed Him the marker pen. He took it and just placed it on the photo. And then, I got a shock! He replaced the cap on the pen, gave it to me and just walked away without signing the picture!
I felt cheated! Every birthday boy had got his picture signed and only mine had resigned. But I did not give up. The next day, I took a ‘chit’ in the ‘photos for signing’ category and again went ahead in the lines. I rushed and procured a place near the birthday boys. When Swami came near during the darshan, He signed some photos and then, looked at me and said,
“Only birthday boys!”
He moved on without signing the photo I had in hand. I was flabbergasted! Again, not a person to give up easily, I began to take permission chits to go ahead of lines till the warden himself got irritated at my frequency. He told me,
“You wait for a while and try your luck again after a few days. There are many boys who want a chance and it is not right that you go ahead daily and sit in the front.”
When this happened, I was lost in introspection. I began to wonder what was happening and why was it that my photo was not getting Swami’s sign? And then, I made a plan - my master-plan! I began prayers on a daily basis. I prayed,
“Swami, please accept a letter from me...”
My cunning plan to 'trap' Swami...
I felt that if I pleaded and prayed enough, Swami would indeed accept my letter. This prayer went on for weeks when finally I reached a state of being where I felt that Swami would never refuse a letter from me. That day, I sat in the second line behind the birthday boys, below the PC stage. This time, I had obtained that seat through dint of hard running and crafty overtaking! I began to write my letter.
I wrote asking for His love and blessings. I prayed for my family and for me to be with Him always. And then, I added a post script. I wrote-
“P.S. - Swami if you accept this letter from me, it means that when I get a photo tomorrow and sit in the first row, tomorrow itself You will sign it”
“There”, I thought, “this is an intelligently designed, fool-proof plan.”
When Swami came, I was sure that He would accept my letter and He sure did.
“Trapped you”, I thought with a triumphant smile beaming on my face.
And so, the next day, I got ready for darshan in a great hurry. Swami has ‘Sathya’ in His name itself. He always utters the truth and so, there is no way He can escape the plot that I have so intelligently weaved! Suddenly, I realized that the XII class students would be going last in the lines that day. How was I to get the photo to Swami if I do not get to sit in the front line? I had to complete my end of the deal before expecting Him to keep up His! I rushed to the warden.
“Sir, I would like to take a chit today.”
“Sir, I want to get a photo blessed and signed by Swami...”
“Oh! That same photo! Again?! Just wait a few more days...”
“No! Please sir. I have to take it today.”
“See boy, Swami has not been signing photos for the last few days.Let Him start signing and then you take it.”
I did not want Swami to escape in this manner. I tried my last card.
“Sir, I have a strong feeling He will sign the photo today. Please, give me a chit.”
“I feel, He will not do so. Wait for a few more days.”
“Sir...”, even as I began, the warden thundered,
“I told you already! Now leave! Do you know better or I?”
I had half a mind to say that I knew better but I knew better than to talk that way to an infuriated warden. And so, I returned and joined the lines. Swami seemed to have defeated me.
Allow me another little, necessary detour. Those days, Swami would often go to the Kulwant Hall before darshan in PC to supervise the gold foil pasting work that was going on. On the route that the students took to enter PC, the path connecting Kulwant hall to PC lay. Thus, when we would go for darshan, if Swami happened to be in Kulwant hall, supervising the work, we would obtain a bonus darshan. There was also an added rule - since the class arriving last to PC would not get good seating, the boys could sit along the path and enjoy a close darshan as Swami moved from Kulwant hall to PC.
The day our class was last and I was ruing my inability to sit with the photo in the front line, Swami had gone to Kulwant hall for supervision. Being last, all our class boys sat along the path on one side. On the other side sat the students from the University class that was last in the University lines. I happened to sit in the first line along Swami’s path and with great disappointment I realized that I had not brought the photo! How could I have blundered?
I was again lost in introspection. This time it was deeper. I realized my mistake. I had been so wrong in planning this ‘trap’. I decided to make amends. I took another piece of paper and began to write a letter to Swami. I came straight to the point
“ Swami, I am sorry I made a mistake in the previous letter. If you take this letter from me, it means that within the next month, you will sign the photo for me when I sit in the first line!”
That was the gist of the letter and now I felt that this was a perfectly foolproof plan. Within a month, surely I would get to sit in the first row with the photo. Now, I was fervently hoping and praying that Swami would accept my letter...
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