The Middle Path - the golden mean - Avoid extremes please Part-2
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I assure you that it would be a more enjoyable and wholesome experience to read the story, experience and lesson in its entirety. Come back here after reading Part 1 of The Middle Path.
If you have already read that, then read on...
The second pleasant bolt from the blue
As I stood waiting at the interview room, I could see Swami crossing the students’ sitting area. Instead of turning towards the interview room, He continued along, into the ladies’ side. I was wondering what was happening when He turned and looked at me.
“The ladies’ side”, He signaled. I saw where He was pointing and suddenly, realization dawned. The women belonging to the group which had received the interview in the bhajan hall had also gathered for a group photograph. Swami had been trying to make me understand that I should be ready to take a group photo on the ladies’ side also! Was I thrilled!
I quickly ran and began to walk beside Swami now. I felt so comfortable and good. It was like walking with my best friend. Today I realize why Swami says,
“Do not walk in front of me; I may not follow you.
Do not walk behind me; I may not lead you.
Walk by my side; Be my friend.”
The ladies’ group was seated and it seemed much larger than the gents’ group. Swami stood in front of all the seated ladies and told me to take a picture. I saw through the lens that the whole group was not getting covered. My lens was not wide enough. And I could not move back any further for all the other ladies devotees were seated there. Even as I was wondering what to do, Swami called out to me and said,
“Go more back.”
I was thinking, “I know Swami! But how??”
The minute Swami told me to move back, all the ladies behind me saw His action. They instantly parted to create a way for me! Ah! Another lesson here - when the Lord gives you a task, He also gives you the ability to complete the same. I took the picture and was happy with that. Swami then told me to move to another angle and take a picture from there also. Again, the same treatment followed - the ladies made way for me to move and take a position from where I could cover the whole group.
As the picture was taken, Swami moved back towards the interview room. I followed Him there. Just before He entered the interview room, He looked at me, smiled and asked,
“What are you still following me for? Go and sit in your place.”
Ah! What a smile it was! I floated back to my place with the students. Everyone seemed amazed at what had happened in the last 15 minutes or so. Those around me were asking me about how Swami chose me and what He spoke with me. I was feeling very special and this added attention made me feel even more elated.
The subtle working of the ego
After the mandir session in the evening, I returned to hostel. I had no idea what to do next when our mathematics teacher, Sri.Venkateswarlu, called me. He explained to me,
“This is a great chance that we in the school hostel has got to serve Swami through you. We should get those negatives developed and print photographs - as many copies as there are people in the group. I shall get it done for you.”
I accepted his loving offer. I rewound the film roll and gave it to him. I walked out of his room and soon realized that I was the talk of the hostel. All the students smiled at me as I passed them. The teachers too smiled at me. That felt so great. Unknown to me, my ego had raised its ugly hood already and I was foolishly relishing that!
The next day, Venkateswarlu sir summoned me again to his room. He handed over to me about 150 prints - one for each person in the groups - and said in all humility,
“Am grateful to Swami for having given me this chance to serve Him in a little way. If tomorrow, Swami asks you as to who paid to get the photos printed, tell Him that all the teachers did it as a mark of gratitude to Him.”
Instead of being impressed at the humility of this person and his love for Swami, I was lost in thoughts of my self!
“Surely sir. When Swami calls me today, I shall tell Him what you said.”
I had fatally assumed that I would be called!
That was not all. Another teacher, Satish Babu sir, called me to his room. He lovingly wrapped all the photographs and tied them up in very decorative ribbon.
“Am grateful to be able to play a small role in this offering to Swami”, was his statement.
I had forgotten that all this attention and love was because of Swami and I was only an instrument. I assumed a huge sense of self-importance.
I dug deeper into my ‘ego pit’ when I jocularly remarked to a classmate,
“If you want a close darshan of Swami, sit by my side. When He talks to me, you can even take padanamaskar.”
Armed with two bundles of photographs, I made my way to the mandir. I was very excited. It was the 29th of October, 1998 and I was sure that it would be a red-letter day in my life.
I was seated in the first line and was sure to be in Swami’s path when He came for darshan. Soon, the music came on and a hush fell over the hall. Swami glided in majestically into the Kulwant Hall. I quickly straightened my sleeves and adjusted my hair. I gently aligned the ribbon on the ‘gift’ that I would be presenting Him.
To my great disappointment and chagrin, Swami walked almost till me, and as He was about to come in front of me, turned away and walked towards the devotees sitting on the other side. Having passed me, He again returned to my side and stayed on the same side almost throughout the line! I was stunned. I was in a state of utter disbelief.
Adding salt on the wounds of my ego was the boy by my side,
“You know what! Had I sat anywhere else other than next to you, I would have got a padanamaskar.” He got up that instant and moved to a more ‘Swami-friendly’ spot. The amount of show I had indulged in without my knowledge made almost all the students (there were very few who had stayed back during the vacation) look at me in almost a questioning way,
“What happened to Swami taking the photos from you?”
From the peak into the nadir
I was instantly dejected. I wanted to run away, hide from all and cry. But I was in the mandir and there was no place to go. I got an idea. I got up and went to the mandir portico where only the VIPs and birthday students sat. This area was right opposite to the interview room. I sat behind a pillar there. The space was empty because this spot was completely shielded by the pillar and though one could sit there to be physically close to Swami, one could not see Swami even though He was a few feet away.
That was a perfect spot for me. I could sit there, hiding from everyone, including Swami, and mourn as much as I wanted.
The mourning turned into self-criticism and self-abasement in no time.
“You are an egoistic pig”, I told myself, “And you will never get close to the Lord. You have no virtues and even when Swami gives you a chance to get close to Him, you fritter away that opportunity with your stupid pride. You are good for nothing. You are not fit to even show your face to Swami or see Swami.”
This hammering went on. Now, the reader will know that such criticism is dangerous - akin to cursing oneself because what you hold within is what you get in life! But well, I went on and on. My face was hot and I was quivering with sorrow and dejection.
Things happened so suddenly. Swami would come often into the portico from the interview room and interact with people there. He had come out now and was speaking to the warden of the Institute hostel. I moved slightly out of my corner so that I could see Him and He could see me (“If I deserved so”, as I thought at that time.) When I moved, the plastic bag on my lap also moved and made a rustling sound.
Swami heard that, looked at me and asked,
“What is there in that cover?”
“Swami, photos... yesterday’s photos...”, I answered in a feeble tone.
Swami’s face suddenly seemed to light up. He made an expression saying,
“Oh! How could I forget!”
He called out to me.
I got up from my place and walked to Him. I offered the photos to Him and said, again in a feeble voice,
“Swami, this is the gents’ group and this is the ladies’ group.”
He gave them back to me and beckoned me to follow Him. Thus it was that I walked behind Him for the second time in 2 days. He led me out in public, on to the central dais. From there, He beckoned to the main coordinator of yesterday’s group. He came rushing to the dias.
Swami took the gents’ bundle and handing it over to him said,
“This are the photos of th gents”, and looked at me asking, “Right isn’t it?”
I just nodded. Then He did the same procedure with the ladies’ bundle too.
The coordinator thanked Swami but asked,
“Swami, can I have the negatives?”
Swami turned and looked at me. As advised by my teachers, I had cut out those negatives and had carried them in my pocket. I fished them out and gave it to Him.
“Good boy, good boy”, He said and I felt a burden lift off my heart.
He then told me to take padanamaskar in full public view. Then He told me to return to my place.
Even as I returned, a student tapped me and said,
“You are very special. Swami loves you so much.”
I smiled to myself. I was not going to go down that road again.
“We are all special. Swami loves us all very much. It is just that today He gave me an opportunity. I am grateful.”
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