The day Swami blessed me by telling me to join the mental hospital...
There seems to be a fine line between the coincidental and the miraculous for the ‘scientific’ critic as well as the religious zealot. And both use this line variably, as per convenience, to see the miraculous as coincidental or the coincidental as miraculous! The truth however is that no such line exists! Coincidences are miracles where God simply chooses to be anonymous. Before I dive and delve into one such powerful yet funny ‘coincidental’ experience in my life, I must say that there are parts to this experience which I understood much later.
It was during my student days in Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School that this episode occurred. Bubbling with energy and enthusiasm, I used to strive at every opportunity to get Swami to talk to me, touch me or look at me. I felt that if a day passed with Swami doing any of the above, it would be a waste of a valuable day. Praying was one aspect, jumping around and trying hard to come into His line of sight was another! I indulged whole-heartedly and completely in both.
One thing that is true with Swami is that our plans and His plans do not always match! Our’s are plans based on very limited knowledge and infinite selfishness! His plans are part of the Masterplan - based on complete knowledge and infinite selflessness. And so, as the devotee would have certainly discovered in life, one’s plan and God’s plan seems to go out of sync on many occasions. Thus, though I thought that Swami should speak or interact with me in some manner on a daily basis, it rarely happened so. Days would pass when He would not even look at me!
And so, I was pleasantly shocked when He spoke to me on the 2nd of January, 2000. It was a ‘normal’ Sunday. (The normal is in quotes because in reality, no day with the divine can be considered normal. Everyday is special if we spend it seeing, hearing, talking about and thinking of the divine.) Sunday was the day when we would have two darshan sessions since there were no classes in the morning.
I was seated along the lines of the school students. When Swami came for darshan, gently gliding on the hem of His robe, I stretched out a letter that I had written to Him. In the letter, I had sought Him to be in my life forever. Swami looked at me and then said,
“Mental hospital ko join karna better.” ( It is better if you go and get admitted in a mental hospital)
And then He walked on.
I rejoiced! There is the story of a villager’s son who came running and told his father that the king had spoken to him. The father heard him out and jubilantly summoned the whole village to announce the glad tidings. It turned out that the lad had been lazing in the middle of the road. The king who was moving on his chariot shouted out,
“Oh! You lazy fool! Get out of this highway and do something useful in life.”
Despite the content of what the king said, the fact that he spoke was enough to thrill the lad.
My condition was something similar! I was so thrilled that Swami spoke to me. The evening darshan turned out to be memorable too.
As Swami came gliding past during darshan, I stretched out my hand with the letter. Swami stopped, turned and looked at me. He smiled and told the people around me,
“This boy has come from mental hospital. He must be sent back there.”
And so it continued for a couple more times in the next two days. Swami would look at me and make references to the mental hospital. As long as nobody took it literally and made efforts to get me enrolled into one, I was happy at these interactions. Swami was SPEAKING WITH ME!
Then, suddenly, Swami seemed to forget about my need to get enrolled in a mental hospital. It went back to Him not ‘recognising’ me and I went back to my jumpy self making all efforts to attract His attention!
The Sports and Cultural Meet of the Sri Sathya Sai Institutions took place. The Sankranthi festival along with prize distribution was complete. It was now time for the preparatory exams before the much feared Board Examinations,( held by the central CBSE at an all-India level), that every 12th grade student has to pass through. The schedule for the preparatory exams had been put up and we were all busy studying.
The final part of the ‘mental hospital’ episode took place in this situation. It was the day before the biology exam. I was sitting on the lawns in front of the hostel and studying when I noticed some boys playing with the garden hose pipe. They were spraying and squirting water on each other in a playful manner. I got tempted to join them and gladly yielded to my temptations too!
After about 15 minutes, I realized that I had lot to study and so, though wet, returned to my books. But my determination to study lasted only about 10 minutes after which I went again to playing with the water pipe. Once again, my conscience pricked me and I returned to study. This to and fro between studies and water-sports went on for a while after which I felt frustrated. I took a step that I felt would prevent me from any further distraction. I closed my eyes and told Swami,
“Swami, I will read two chapters before I have food. If I do not do so, I shall not have my lunch.”
That promise, I thought, would stop me from indulging in the water-war that was happening on the lawns. It did not! I was soon back to spraying water when I heard the lunch gong.
I was definitely hungry and there was no time to read two chapters before lunch. The hostel is strict about timings and naturally so. (One cannot deal with 300 students if there is no strict adherence to discipline and timings.) In case I went 10-15 minutes late for lunch, I was sure to be told that I had arrived too early for dinner!
Caught in that predicament, my mind impishly schemed a plan.
“I promised Swami that I would ‘read’ two chapters and not ‘study’ two chapters. That I can accomplish in fifteen minutes!”
Consoling myself thus, I simply read through the two chapters at lightning speed. Having finished doing that, I smiled to myself and went for lunch.
The evening darshan saw me seated in the first row along the path through which Swami would walk. Seated next to me was a staff member of the Central Trust. As Swami came gliding through the path, he told this senior brother next to me,
“Take this fellow to the mental hospital and get him admitted there.”
I was happy that the good old days had come back. Swami moved on. Taking a few steps, He suddenly stopped, turned back and delivered an unforgettable line,
“And when you admit him there, do not give him food to eat!”
I had goosebumps! I was so thrilled and lost in awe at the same time. Oh my God! My promise!
And here is the punch. The staff member to whom Swami spoke was also smiling. What Swami said was special for him too. This was because, Swami had used the Telugu term ‘Annam’ to refer to food and his name happened to be Annam!
Talk about Swami’s omnifelicity where he can make multiple people feel special with a single act of His! We should add it to His standard qualities of omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience.
Was that a coincidence? I beg to differ. Though it is said that coincidences are miracles where God chooses to remain anonymous, here was case where He had not remained so.
It was much later that I came across what Swami says,
“Of all the madnesses that afflict man, God-madness is the least harmful and the most beneficial.”
The complete statement of Swami is on the Radiosai page.
Some people talk caustically to Sai devotees saying: "You have gone crazy over Sai Baba". This craziness is sublime madness. There are all kinds of lunatics in the mental hospital, many of whom pose difficult problems for the doctors. If some God-mad devotee sits in a corner chanting God's name, what a relief he would be to the doctors! If you develop this kind of sublime madness, you will be supremely fortunate indeed! Everyone should be crazy about God. Only then they will get rid of the mad craving for wealth and the things of the world.
I wished that Swami’s statements of me joining the mental hospital came true and I was admitted there with God-madness.
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