How to connect to God or one's Guru - by taking the first step
It was a casual conversation that I was having with a friend, brother, neighbor, classmate and spiritual-fellow traveller. No! These are not five separate people but refer to a single entity which goes by the name of Amey Deshpande. Having spent years with him discussing and debating with each other, seeking and providing spiritual solutions to each other, I asked him,
“What is your first memory with Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba?”
Amey has known Swami since his birth and so, I wanted to know how far back his memory went. The question I asked proved to be a very good one for it elicited a lovely experience out of Amey. He replied,
“I do recollect seeing Swami many times as a child. I did not feel any ‘feeling of peace’ or ‘ glowing happiness’ as such. But I was impressed by Him and I always prayed to Him at the altar in my home. However, the first memorable episode which I had with Him was when I was a 5-year old.”
“That must have been in 1984 then! Prasanthi Nilayam was so different then.”
“Yes! Not only Prasanthi Nilayam, my understanding of Him was also so different. That is how the interesting experience happened. It occurred through an act of indiscipline and shouting.”
My curiosity was aroused to great levels. I have always known Amey to have lived a very disciplined life. I prodded him to tell his story. Hearing it, I felt like sharing it with the whole world. And so, here it is; in his own words.
“I had developed great love and reverence for Swami even as a child. I was enrolled into the Bal Vikas classes by my parents and I was a role model for all the children who came to the class. I used to sit straight for hours, chant all the slokas and mantras and also participate in bhajans. I used to play the tabla. In short, I was considered as a very model child of Swami.”
“That you are even today”, I interrupted his narrative.
“Oh! You flatter me. However, I was very proud of the ‘respect’ and ‘awe’ I had won among the kids and adults alike. And then, that trip to Puttaparthi happened.”
Amey continued his narration.
“You know how there are token lines to get into the Darshan hall. The only difference then was that there was no hall! Darshan was on the sands in front of the Prasanthi Mandir. My luck seemed so bad and everyday, the line I would sit in would get a bad draw - number 13, 15, 12 and so on - all two digit numbers. I never got the chance to go in early and thus, never could sit in the front lines.”
A funny and embarrassing situation...
“And then, one day, my luck seemed to strike out! My father picked up the draw and our line got the token #1! Both of us, my father and I, were so excited and we ran inside to occupy a prominent position. At last, I was in the first line.”
“Ah! That must have felt like a great relief for you”, I offered.
“It was. But it did not last long. Soon, a Seva Dal volunteer came and told that I would have to get up since I was a child!”
There had been many cases where children had rushed and run towards Swami for blessings or offering a letter. Worse were cases where the adults would ‘train’ the children to do so because Swami the volunteers and everyone around would have a ‘soft corner’ for children as far as discipline was concerned. So, as a policy, the volunteers (with Swami’s approval) had created a rule that no child should be seated in the first line. The parent would be in the first line and the child would be behind him/her.
“When I was told to get up, I just told the man that I was very disciplined and that I would not jump at Swami’s feet for padanamaskar. Nor would I get up and run to Him. But the Seva Dal volunteer was in no mood to listen to me. He told me to get up again and when I refused, he began to ask around as to whose child I was. He began to request the parent to get up and take his child out.”
“So, did your father get up then?”
“No! He did not want to give up his vantage position. So, he was trying to silently indicate to me to go out without disturbing him. He did not want to lose his place in taking me out!”
“Oh! Then what happened?”
“The volunteer just made me get up and made another person sit in my place. I got very sad and angry. I began to run screaming out,
‘This is not good. This is not Swami’s place. These people are all false people. This is not Swami’s place.’ “
“Oh my God! That must have created quite a scene right?” I asked.
“Oh Yes! And soon, both me and my father found ourselves outside the compound gate from where we were told to have darshan. My father was also upset that he too lost his vantage position from where he could have had a close darshan. However, he embraced me and consoled me.”
“Poor you! The ultra-disciplined boy from Abu Dhabi was evicted from Prasanthi mandir due to indiscipline! What a play of fate...” I could not help exclaiming.
The story moves to a touching climax...
Amey then continued to take the story towards its climax.
“After the darshan session, all the devotees rose to go for breakfast. Swami had gone in for interviews and He would mostly be coming out only after an hour or so. Then the bhajans would begin. I was in no mood to eat breakfast and so was my father. We walked into the premises and sat in the first line again. The volunteer came again and said that now I could sit as long as I wanted since the darshan was already over.”
“Ah! Salt on your wounds...”
“I was screaming within. I just sat closing my eyes. Within 10 minutes, my father tapped me on my lap. Swami had walked out of the interview room!”
“The grounds must have been quite deserted by then right?” I asked
“There were only a hundred devotees or so on the gents’ side. Swami stood at a distance and kept looking at me. Then, in a sudden movement, He began to walk straight towards me! IN a few moments, He was standing right in front of me. I had never seen Him from such close quarters and His thick mop of hair overwhelmed me. What He asked me in Hindi, simply dumbfounded me,
‘Kaiko Chillata Hain? ( Why do you shout like that?)’
I had no answer to give. I was stammering even in my thoughts.
‘Bolo... Kaiko Chillata Hain? (Tell me, why do you scream like that?)’
And then, with all the love exuding from His eyes, He said,
‘Padanamaskar lelo (Take namaskar).’
I bowed at His feet and touched them tenderly. In a moment, my screams within had been pacified and had been replaced with love and joy. As I rose, He just turned around and simply walked away, back to the interview room. Everyone around looked at me, amazed at how Swami had come specially for me.”
“Wow! That is some story Amey.”
“No Aravind! This is the story of every devotee who has come to Swami. If they call out to Him and take one step towards Him, He responds and takes ten steps towards them!”
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