Getting a constant and privileged access to God - insights from Sri Sathya Sai Baba
“If only I had discovered Swami earlier, I would be so much better.” - A fallacy
It was in my XI grade that I became a student of the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School at Prasanthi Nilayam, Puttaparthi in the year 1998. Within the first few days itself, I realized the wonderful opportunities the students get when it comes to physical proximity with Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba (lovingly called as Swami). As I began to enjoy brief stints of physical proximity, one thought always nagged me - why didn't I come to Swami earlier in life?
And that, I discovered, was a constant refrain for many others too. Everybody, irrespective of when they had come to the physical presence of Sai, always wished that they had come earlier and enjoyed much more of Swami. Those that came along with me in the 1990’s wished that they had been there in the 1980’s when Swami spent the maximum time with the students. The 1980’s people felt that they had missed out on the wonderful experiences in the previous decade. Why talk of such late days? Even those that came in the 1950s felt that they had lost interacting with the charming teenager - Sathyanarayana Raju as He showed the world that He is Sathya Sai Baba.
However, the nagging thought vaporized when I got a chance to speak with a very senior alumnus of the Institute. He had been a student from the 80s and had studied for a good number of years in His physical proximity. After that, he had been given a job by Swami in His institutions and he continues to work there even now. That alumnus told me something very startling when I asked him for his experiences with Swami.
“I have nothing to share. Yes, I got a padanamaskar (chance to bow at the feet) here and there and also spoke a few words with Him on a few occasions. But I do not have anything fantastic to narrate or share.”
When I heard that, I realized that it does not matter when one comes to Swami. What one has to receive from Swami on a physical plane is decided by Him. And nobody can change that! So, in reality, it does not matter when I arrived to His physical presence because that was decided perfectly BY HIM. Moreover, coming earlier is no guarantor of greater chances or better chances as well! Nobody can come to Him unless He calls, as a disciple of Swami Sivananda discovered through a thrilling experience!
Access has always been something which is granted
Let us now step on the fast-forward button in the time machine to arrive in the later years of the first decade of the 21st century. Swami had sustained a hip fracture as a result of a fall and had confined Himself completely to a wheelchair. However, He would always be there to grant darshans on a daily basis. He would arrive for darshan in a Porte car which had within it, a portable seat wheelchair. The darshan rounds would be completed in the car after which Swami’s seat would be gently ejected out. He would then be wheeled to the stage where He would sit for the bhajan session.
Though Swami was doing everything ‘physically’ possible to make Himself completely available to the thousands seated, it was obvious that the physical proximity which everyone enjoyed when He used to walk during darshan rounds was gone. And this fact brought on a feeling of increasing distance between Swami and those that sought Him. On one occasion, when Swami called one of the students to the car window to speak to him, the student boldly told Him,
“Swami you have become distant from all of us.”
“I am the same. I have not become distant”, was the reply.
Not to be outdone, the student clarified,
“Swami, previously we all had access to you. But now, you have become so inaccessible. We do not have that kind of access to you.”
Swami’s next statement was simply stunning.
“Nobody ever had access to me. Access was something that was always given. I decide who should get access and when. You may sit right under my nose and I may not even look at you for decades. You may be in the 20th line and yet I may call you. When an avatar comes, it comes with a master plan. Even today, I am always accessible to those who seek me within.”
The student simply nodded and walked back to his place.
This episode is very significant in the current day context. Many of us feel that it would have been good only if we had known Swami earlier and had come to Him earlier. We feel that way because, today, having taken Mahasamadhi, the beautiful form of Swami is apparently not accessible to us. Whenever we get such thoughts, it would do us good to remember Swami’s statement -
Even today, I am always accessible to those who seek me within.
A pointer for us to pine for that access...
Getting that privileged access
It then comes to the question - How do I get that privileged access so that I can contact Swami always?
Swami Himself answers that question in His discourses:
Your heart is a single-seat sofa. It is not a musical chair! Offer the heart to God alone and to none else. God hungers only for your love and if you offer that love to God, He will be yours forever.
But confusing attachment for love, we go on seeking love from the dozens or hundreds of relationships and friendships in the world. Instead of grasping at and depending on earthly ties, if we spend time seeking God in our heart, we will find that access. And that is because, love is God’s only weakness and therefore, our only strength! Swami narrates the story of Draupadi’s humiliation to elaborate this. The story goes this way:
The noble Pandava brothers had been defeated by the vile Kaurava brothers in a rigged game of dice because of which the eldest brother, Yudhishtra, had to relinquish everything he had - including his wife Draupadi. Draupadi is thus considered as a slave and the Kaurava brothers ask the wicked Dushasana to drag her to open court. Then, in everyone’s presence an attempt is made to disrobe her. Not knowing what else to do, Draupadi calls out to her Lord Krishna.
Swami says that when she first begins calling out, there is no response because she calls out to Him as , “Mathuravaasi Krishna” (Krishna, the resident of Mathura), “Dwarkavaasi Krishna” (Krishna, the resident of Dwarka), “Vaikunthavaasi Krishna” (Krishna, the dweller of heavenly Vaikuntha) and so on. Swami says that when she calls thus, Krishna has to travel all the way from Mathura, Dwarka or even Vaikuntha to come to her aid.
As Draupadi gets completely lost in Krishna, she calls out,
“Hrudayavaasi Krishna” (Krishna, the in-dweller of my heart). In an instant, the Lord’s grace pours forth and her sari length is multiplied to infinity. How much ever the vile Dushasana pulls out, the sari seems endless till he gives up in exhaustion!
“When you call out to the Lord in your heart, from your heart, the response is instantaneous.”
And THAT is the way to gain privileged access to God or Swami. Make Him the sole occupant of the single-seat sofa that the heart is and always call out to the ‘Hrudayavaasi’ Lord!
An artist's depiction of Krishna's saving grace on Draupadi
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© 2013 Aravind Balasubramanya