Missing what we want because of how we want it

Have you ever pondered about this very pertinent question?
Have you ever pondered about this very pertinent question?

A story to provoke thoughts

There is a popular story. Well, at least, it is a popular one for me and I hope to make it popular to the reader as well. A town gets flooded and there is water everywhere. A pious man is trapped on the roof of a building and has nowhere to go. The rising flood waters are slowly encircling the building and he has nowhere to go. But he is not at all worried. His faith in God is firm and he simply starts praying. He says,
“Dear God. All my life I have worshipped you and have had steady faith in you. Please come to my rescue.”

Within a few minutes, the waters have risen a few more meters and it is only a matter of 15 more minutes before they swallow the building completely. Presently, a boat comes by and the boatman shouts out,
“Sir! I have place for one more on my boat. Would you care to join?”
“No! You carry on and save someone else. God will save me”, is the reply.
The boat goes away.

Minutes before the building is completely submerged, a helicopter comes above and, over the megaphone, a shout is heard,
“Sir! Please hold on. We shall rescue you.”
“I DON’T WANT YOUR HELP. GOD WILL SAVE ME. YOU PLEASE CARRY ON”, the man screams back.

The story goes that the man drowns and dies. He comes face to face with God and accuses God of cheating him and letting him down (and thus drown). God smiles, pats him on his head and says,
“But my child, I sent you a boat and a helicopter. You just chose to refuse my help!”

Missing the boat and the helicopter because of our expectation on how the Lord should come to us!
Missing the boat and the helicopter because of our expectation on how the Lord should come to us!

The happenings on the 22nd February 2005

With that story in mind, let us go through the a similar situation where a group of us simply refused to see what God was doing because of the expectations we had on ‘how’ the events should unfold. When I say ‘God’ here, I am referring to my Lord, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba or Swami as He is lovingly called. At the time when the episode occurred, the wisdom of the boat and helicopter story had not yet dawned on me. But today, in retrospect, with the wisdom of that story guiding me, we can better understand the happenings of that day. And it is in the light of the wisdom from the story that I present that episode here.

It was a time when all of us, the senior post-graduate students in the hostel of Swami’s university, decided to invite Swami to visit the hostel. It is really a wonderful occasion when Swami visits the hostel. A visit brings many close interactions with Swami - Swami speaks to the boys and the boys get a chance to express their feelings for Him through talks, short skits and songs. So, it is no wonder that we wanted such a repeat of history. But Swami always has His ways of refusing to make such a visit unless the boys plead hard enough. We prepared ourselves for such excuses of the Lord, and went to the mandir armed with a large invitation card.

The wonderful time when Swami visited the girls' hostel at Anantapur.
The wonderful time when Swami visited the girls' hostel at Anantapur. | Source
A picture snapped during Swami's visit to the boys' hostel. Such visits leave impressions for lifetimes!
A picture snapped during Swami's visit to the boys' hostel. Such visits leave impressions for lifetimes!

The card had many photos of Swami with the students during many previous hostel visits and the wording was this,
“Swami, our home is empty without you. Please bless it with your loving visit.”

It was at about 4:15pm that Swami came out on His darshan rounds. As He neared us, we got up on our knees with the card and showed it to Him. He looked at the card and said out aloud,
“EMPTY.”
“Swami, it is empty because you are not there. If you visit our hostel, it will cease to be empty. t will become full”, we answered.
Swami nodded and told us to go back and sit in our places.

And this is a time for a piece of wisdom. I request to reader to take a break and think about what we were seeking and how we were seeking it.
1. WHAT we were seeking - We wanted Swami to interact with us, speak to us and give us a chance to speak to Him through our skits, speeches and songs. That is what we wanted.
2. HOW did we seek it - By making Him visit our hostel so that all the above could be achieved. Right?
Now, let us go back to the happenings of that day to realize the fact that we miss ‘what’ we want because we are obsessed with the ‘how’ we want it!

The girl students from 12th grade, the final year before University, had come to the mandir with some gratitude songs that they wanted to sing for Swami. Swami permitted them to do so and the next 20 minutes or so, Swami sat in front of the girls, listening to the outpourings from their hearts which was manifesting in the form of songs. After that, He came over to our side and told us also to sing songs if we had prepared any. Grabbing this opportunity with both hands, we began to sing some songs for Him. He sat enjoying our songs too and we were all so happy at this unexpected bounty.

Swami smiled and sensing this to be ‘vulnerable’ wish-granting moment, we all chorused aloud, “Swami, please come to the hostel.” That seemed to be a turn-off for Him. He looked away and was about to go. But He stopped, turned and asked,
“Do you have any programme to present?”
This was a golden opportunity to promise Him a programme and win a slot for ourselves. He was in a ‘granting mode’. Instead, we were in a hostel-visit-seeking mode. We went up to Him with the same card and asked Him to visit the hostel - for the THIRD time! We told Him,
“There might be many people in the hostel Swami but it is empty till you come.”

We were all bent upon ensuring that Swami comes to the hostel - nothing else mattered!
We were all bent upon ensuring that Swami comes to the hostel - nothing else mattered!

He told us that He would come and sent us back to our place. We were wondering why He was not answering us in a positive way. Today, I realize that if seen from His perspective, He too would have been wondering the same. He gave us an opportunity to sing and we stopped it midway because we wanted things to be done the way we expected. He gave us a chance to put up a programme and we scuttled it. He was also speaking to us!

He continued,
Emi Samacharam”, He asked.
This literally translates as - What news? This is the way in which Swami usually starts conversations. In the past, a single Emi Samacharam has led to 35-40 minutes conversations with the Lord. And here was Swami giving us that opportunity to converse with Him. But guess what we did?

We shouted out,
“Swami please come to hostel. Please come to hostel.”
It became uncontrollable. Swami called the priest and told him to take Aarthi. He then left. All of us were left with the feeling that we almost achieved our objective but just missed it because Swami did not fully cooperate.

I am sure that Swami would have felt that He almost answered our prayers but just missed doing so because we did not fully cooperate!

The Lessons

How many times in life have we missed ‘what’ we wanted because it did not come to us in the manner in which we expected it to? God always answers our prayers but we have to be open in our minds and, more importantly, in our hearts! So lost are we in our idea of how our prayers should be answered that we miss what is it that we are actually praying for itself!

And thus do we seek happiness by chasing money, influence and power. God smiles at us and tries to grant us happiness. But we just refuse to cooperate because for us, happiness (the ‘what’ we want) has to come through money, influence and power (the ‘how’ we want it). Similarly, we want love and we chase it via friendships and relationships. We close our minds and hearts to the Truth that all we have to do is to seek and the Lord will give it to us in the best manner possible. We become blind to the Lord’s gifts and bounty because our eyes are fixed so narrowly on ‘how’ we want them to come to us.

Let us sit back and think peacefully
“What is it that I really want?”
I say this, because so lost are we in ‘how’ we want what we want that we oftentimes forget what we want! Swami says that for God it is always “Yes, Yes, Yes.” He is ready to help us but we should be ready to receive the help in the manner in which He provides. Instead, we behave like patients who go and suggest the medicine they need to the doctor! Let the Divine Doctor decide please!

So now, let us resolve,
“If Swami were to come and ask me what I want, let me only seek what I want. It is left totally to Him to give it to me in a manner that is best for me. And let me not turn a blind eye when He is sending answers like the man on the roof did by turning away the boat and helicopter or like the students of the University did by turning down the great opportunity of interacting with Him and putting up a programme. Let me not be so preoccupied by ‘how’ I want my desire fulfilled that I completely miss out on ‘what’ my desire originally is!”

Have you also experienced moments when you got God's gifts in unexpected ways?

  • I might have... I haven't paid attention particularly.
  • I don't think so..
  • Yes, I have.
  • Yes, I have and I shall share the same in the comments below.
See results without voting

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© 2012 Aravind Balasubramanya

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Comments 27 comments

aravindb1982 profile image

aravindb1982 15 months ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

@Aarthilsbala - Thank you for sharing such a personal and profound lesson with all of us. :)

What a roller-coaster ride you have had at the end of which there is the joy of experience and peace of fulfilment.

Congrats on achieving your dreams.... and more importantly, His dreams for you too...


Kusum 15 months ago

Thanks a million for this article.

Last 3- 5 days I saw “EMPTY CHAIR.” of Baba. I was wondering whether Baba truly uses His chair.

Our Bhagwan Baba is so infinitely compassionate that He made you repost this article. .

I have tears in my eyes as I write.

It is a test for us . How often we forget and think “ Swami, it is empty because you are not there. ..”

HE is truly every where! There has never been a time when He was not here or he will not Be here.


aarthilsbala profile image

aarthilsbala 15 months ago

Contd.. from my previous comment.

The turn of events after the padanamaskaram is quite intriguing but a long one. I decided to share that too, coz i had ' tricked ' smile emoticon swami into taking the letter !! I thought I was going to join top-notch college in the city I belonged. I ended up getting admission only in 1 college, a women's college known for its discipline, the college that I never wanted to join, I didn't even get its admission form. One of my dear friend keeping my best interest in mind, brought the form, filled it up for me and got my signature and submitted to the college. I thought what harm in submitting the form, I would never join that college. Besides my best grades and marks I got admission only in that college in the city, I was heart broken!!

I was wondering how swami was going to keep up his promise of my 'professional course dream' and my lucrative job on the hand soon after my course. I thought swami had let me down, I was heart broken, i was on the brink of depression. My parents were worried! I couldn't care less about anything in life .... gosh! i was such a pain in everyone's neck!!

Then came an old man to our house, a 85 yr old man, who was a sai devotee who lived in parthi for almost 25 years post his retirement, who swami later asked to move back to his own house in chennai. He had come to hand over some sai books he had in his possession as none of his children / grand children (except one gal) believed in swami. I was so moved by a mere look into his eyes.. so much power and so full of love, i needed any spiritual guidance that was available coz my foundation of beliefs on swami was shaking or so i thought

His name was krishnamurthy, who has had many 'super human, super-natural', 'exhilirating' experiences with swami. He was realized soul, a jeevan-muktha, whom swami had said was 'Ramakrishna paramahamsa' in his previous life ( I was wondering If Ramakrishna paramahamsa himself didn't get realization in his janma,..where was I standing) . The current life that he was leading was because of a curse that he had incurred when his form as 'kala-bhairava' was born and in new found ego-power combination he tried to control 'madurai meenakshi's ' power.

I can already sense the "What ! is this true?! " question, I also had the same question then (this was in 1995-96). Now i go to him with a question and he startles me with another information which I don't know what to do with. So I prayed swami, I know you have let me down once, now tell me, should i continue to visit this old man, because am so drawn by his power, if you think otherwise, let me know, anyway you come in my dreams'

Swami showed me a very powerful dream the same night. I was roaming about in a huge, white castle, suddenly I see swami seated on the floor and eating something from a plate. I rush close to him to have his darshan, swami had just finished eating and he swabbed a minuscule chutney with his thumb and offered to me to taste. There is one side of my head saying, swami eats very frugally let me not rob his food. The other side of the head said " I will not let go off this oppurtunity" before the other side of the head could counter argue I grabbed swami's hand and sucked his thumb out swallowing all the chutney off this thumb, and then I looked up to see swami's face. Just as I was watching him, only swami's face changed to that of the old man (Krishnamoorthy), while the swami's orange robe, afro hair everything was in tact. End of dream.

After that dream, I knew that this man was a custom-made guru for me from swami. I got to spend about year and half with that old man, after which he passed away in Jan1997. He really taught to connect with swami from inside, something I was longing for so much!!! He granted me a glimpse of 'Constant integrated awarness' a.k.a. savikalpa samadhi, which swami has talked about as 'temporary realization' to Hislop, recorded in the book "Conversations with Bhagwan, by Dr. Hislop"

I thought that he had made me a gyani you know smile emoticon In my subsequent visits to parthi, I really had a 'true sharanagathi letter to swami' and was ready to give it to bhagawan. That darshan swami came so close to me, I was in first row. He looked at me and the letter and said 'Undu undu' and walked away.

I offered a letter where i was doing business with swami he took it gladly, give me that and this, now I was wanting the gift of sharanagathi, he said wait wait and went away.

Just to draw this long... tail of messages to conclusion, i did find that by the end of my course in the college, that my course in my college was selected for an experimental vocational course by UGC and my degree certificate carried a 'professional course' mark exact words I had handed to swami. And I did find that soon after my course I got a job in a reputed IT firm as a professional with an offer to pursue my post graduation as well and to work in parallel.


aarthilsbala profile image

aarthilsbala 15 months ago

I have a similar story..... it was during swami's 70th bday when I joined a party to 'see' swami coz my dad did some service activity and the families tagged on the trip to parthi. I was in grade 12 aspiring to do some professional course. I was a good / bright student, but was afraid of competition. I fancied studying at swamis college but was homesick to make an attempt. I had a golden opportunity to take swami's padanamaskaram and hand him a letter. I earlier had written a very soulful / sharanagathi representing letter. While waiting for darsan at kulwanth hall, I over wrote (yes I did) and framed sentences like how I want swami to grant my wish. Swami took my letter, I knew swami was hooked coz I had written that swamis taking the letter was a assurance that boon would be granted.

Little did I know what was in store. The turn of events and subsequent dreams of swami revealed to me that swami granted my wish and also did that in a way I dreaded the most. In the process I had definitely " learnt " my lesson.


Chandanben 15 months ago

Sai Ram,late I am reading this and your other blogs late in comparison to your writing it. What is time eh? It's still very relevant today as it was 3 years ago. Then my comment would have been a bit different. Today it goes like this. The word Empty struck me immediately and till the end kept popping up? I wondered why not a single boy noticed it at the time. Baba from the very start has said I am everything, I am everywhere and I know everything. Students had the best of times and the hardest of times spiritually compared to us who were physically thousands of miles away from him. Students learnt from Him and His discourses and we had to learn from experience, books and our elders. You lot had his form and we his picture. In the end Neither Group was better off. In His heart and eyes we are all equal. Maya strike us all equally. I have learnt that if I leave it up to him and just do, then the results are fine. Forget and the results are hit an miss. I always remember the story about Swami asking this Maharani what she was most afraid off and she replied "your Maya Swami".


VN 15 months ago

Swami has fulfilled what was really needed for us at the right moment. But there is one thing which He has not yet fulfilled for all of us. That was the very need for which we came to Him. May be the right moment hasn't come.


Keshov 15 months ago

Sai ram and thank you brother Aravind for sharing this article. I would like to share some similar experience. In my house, there is a chair that we have put for Swami to sit. I use to think, O Swami, are you really sitting in the chair we have put for you? We put chairs for you for bhajans. And sometimes despite putting the chair for Swami, people can still chit chat during bhajans. So I asked Swami in myself, Swami, are you really sitting there? If yes, pls show me during bhajans in any way such as flower falling off or what. But nothing happened during bhajans. One day, my dad told me he had a dream of Swami. Swami came in his dream angrily and asking for His old chair in our prayer room. This is because my father had changed Swami chair the week before to a better chair. But Swami insisted, No. I want the old chair. Put it back for me. Immediately , after waking up to the dream, my dad quickly put back Swami' s old chair.

This incident really hit me because. Swami had already answered by question tru my father's dream. From that day onwards, no matter where I go for bhajans, if there is a chair for Swami, I have full faith He is sitting there and listening to the bhajans. Tq and Jai Sai Ram


saisarannaga 22 months ago

Yes, Arvind, we surely miss those golden opportunities, thinking and expecting in our own ways. We need to learn the lessons in the hard way so that it will last forever. Thank you for illumining the mind.


saisarannaga 22 months ago

Yes, Arvind, we surely miss those golden opportunities, thinking and expecting in our own ways. We need to learn the lessons in the hard way so that it will last forever. Thank you for illumining the mind.


PRITHWIS kr. GOSWAMi 22 months ago

So fortunate to recap a truth and so miraculously fortunate to share the same air with you with 9 & half hours away and enjoyed it; please keep it up.SAI RAM


meetthegods profile image

meetthegods 22 months ago from Netherlands

Namasté Brother, thank you for sharing this story.

It must have also seem a bit funny to Swami to see boys who visit Him and even have the chance to speak to Him ask Him to come over to their 'house'. It's like meeting 'The Universal God' Himself in his 'house' and asking Him to come over.

I have a few questions for you, I hope you are so kind to answer them: 1) Have you ever heard Swami talk about 'the middle of all times'? Since Brahma is 50 years of his age and we live during the 1st Day of His 50th year. We also live during the 7th of 14 Manu hence - I call it - we live during 'the middle of all times'. I'm very intrigued by this fact and I'm curious if Swami has ever mentioned that.

2) Have you ever heard Swami talk about Timetravel and if it pleases or displeases the Gods. Same for taking all of the gold out of the earth.

Thank you very much.


Gayatri 3 years ago

Once again Swami gave me a beautiful and apt message through you. Thank you brother for sharing.


Saipakora 3 years ago

I'm happy... Thank you so much for those Swami's loving stories... May God bless all of us, always!


Nita 3 years ago

This is the true golden moment of being able to spend time geographically close with the Lord. Imagine having lived and interacted with Bhagavan when He came down to our level just as Krishna did! Students are so fortunate and you are totally blessed to be able to learn from Swami's words. Sai Bless!


saip 3 years ago

thought proving..What we want and how we want


Kokila vaidyanathan 3 years ago

So true... I remember reading somewhere that we are expecting God to come in 4 arms blue body ...and ignoring the fact that He can come to us in any form at any time. You have so beautifully explained it with your experience. Thank you. Sairam


aravindb1982 profile image

aravindb1982 3 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

@ DFM - :)

On the face of it, things appear as "small talk". Many such "small talks" have led to great revelations for me personally.

every word of the Master is significant... Only time will tell that...

Thank you for pulling me back to re-read this on the "8th anniversary"! :)


DFM 3 years ago

Am reading this 8 years to the day. What a coincidence. That day I was in parthi and yet underwent the worst test of my life alone. And here he was making small talk with the students .. they are so lucky.


saisarannaga 3 years ago from Chennai in Tamilnadu, India.

Sairam! Swami has reiterated several times, "Trust my wisdom". But very often we forget this and pester him with our desires. We even get angry with Swami for not granting even some simple prayers. He knows when and where and how and to whom to grant. Yes, we learn from many such experiences. It is straightforward narration from your heart. Do share many such episodes which will illumine many.


Kamal 3 years ago

This same problem I faced few weeks back. In which Swami answered my question but still i wanted the answer in the form i expected.

Bro as you said by defining "how", we tend act like we know more than Him and how stupid it is.


poornimasrinath profile image

poornimasrinath 3 years ago from Midrand, Johannesburg, RSA

Perfect! Swami always gives experiences when we least expect through unexpected source and at unexpected time. We need to "Be Aware and Be Alert".


V L Subramanian 3 years ago

Wonderful and very fundamental to our understanding of His Divinity. Keep it going Aravind. Thanks.


Lakshmi Gopal 3 years ago

U put it so beautifully Arvind. Yr stories r always so inspiring. Thank u n keep sharing.


aravindb1982 profile image

aravindb1982 3 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

@Shiven Tandon - Thank you for your kind and loving comment. :)

When it comes to positivity and good feelings, we need to have them regularly, like a bath so that we are clean of negativity always!

@ LetitiaFT - Indeed hard to keep in mind and heart! :) When I write, I first remind myself of the same... Thank you for dropping by and may God bless you always....


LetitiaFT profile image

LetitiaFT 3 years ago from Paris via California

This is so hard to keep in mind--and in heart. Thank you for reminding us of this fundamental truth.


Shiven Tandon 3 years ago

I've heard this story before and I love it, and I really like how you've used it to narrate your experience.

I want to thank you for these writings, they always leave me feeling really positive about everything.

Keep up the good work.


Shruti 3 years ago

How very true…. every step He teaches us how to love His unexpectedness!

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