Missing what we want because of how we want it
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!”
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 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,
“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.”
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!
“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!
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?
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© 2012 Aravind Balasubramanya