- Religion and Philosophy
Yearning for God Is More Important Than Experiences with God
Why are some people more blessed than others?
It is an extremely rare opportunity that one gets to be a contemporary of an Avatar or God in human form. Going by the Hindu scriptures, in the Treta Yuga, very few people got the chance to be contemporaries of Lord Rama and interact with Him. A few more got such privileged chances when the Lord descended to the earth as Krishna in the Dwapara Yuga. In the Kali Yuga, the current age, however, thousands, nay millions, got the opportunity to interact with Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Therefore, there are thousands of stories of His grace and glory and the more one seeks, the more one seems to find.
I have been one such seeker digging through people’s lives to enjoy the unique and beautiful ways in which Swami, (as Baba is affectionately called), has touched them. It has been a wonderful journey to date and it promises to grow more wondrous with each passing narrative. However, I must confess, that I have often been plagued by one doubt. And that is this -
What is it that makes one person more special than the other for God ? In other words, what was special about a few people that they received so many chances - interactions, interviews, darshans, padanamaskars - from Swami which others did not enjoy to that extent?
There are many explanations which range from just being lucky to being destined because of the good deeds and merits of several previous births. Some even state that the chances received from Swami are because of the cumulative good done not only by the individual in different lifetimes but also of the good done in several lifetimes by all the forefathers of that individual.
Hypotheses are fine but which one is true that it can be called theory?
Narrowing down the hypotheses
Looking back at my life, I must confess that I am uncomfortable with the “karmic goodness” and “forefather-goodness-repayment” hypotheses. I mean the child Dhruva did such intense penance for years, sacrificing eating, drinking, sleeping and finally, even breathing to just win a single glimpse of the Lord. Wasn’t I being preposterous to assume that I had done so much good (at least a million times more than Dhruva) that I received about a thousand hours of His darshan?
I got a confirmation that this thinking was right when I heard from Sri. Gopal Indreshwar, the grandson of the erstwhile Rajamata of Jamnagar. There was a time when Swami asked a group of college students of which he was a part, the very same question about deservedness of a devotee. The students had rattled out the standard variety of answers which Swami had simply pooh-poohed away. Then, He answered, (the gist is given here)
“You think that it is the good of your forefathers and your own deeds that have earned you these chances with Swami? The cumulative good of all your forefathers will not measure up even to an infinitesimally small amount of the chances you are receiving from me. Everything that you are getting is simply because of My Grace.”
This “Swami’s-Grace-Alone” hypothesis was much more comfortable and logical to accept compared to thinking that I had done more good that Dhruva. However, even that explanation gave rise to more doubts and questions.
“If all chances and interactions with Swami were sheerly due to His Grace, why doesn't everyone receive it equally? God is impartial right?”
An answer in Kodaikanal
It was the summer of 2006 and, as was the usual tradition, Swami had taken a group of students along with him to Kodaikanal. It would be days of privileged joys for this group as they stayed with Swami, dined with Him and spent almost the whole day with Him. This trip had an added bonus chance - holding Swami’s hand and walking Him in the residence.
Swami had suffered a hip-breaking fall in 2003 and ever since, took increasing support of a helper to walk around. (This was before He began to use a wheeled sofa from 2007 onwards.) So, every time Swami rose after a session, a student would get the chance to hold His hand and help Him to His destination.
One day, as a student helped Swami to walk, Swami looked around at the seated students. Clicking His tongue, He said,
“All of you are thinking that this boy is so lucky to hold Swami’s hand right?”
The students did not reply. They continued to look at Swami, waiting for Him to respond to His own query.
Swami smiled and said,
“Holding the hand is not important... pining and seeking to hold it will redeem you.”
Swami walked on as the students sat in stunned silence trying to digest what He had just said.
I too sat in stunned silence when my brother Amey narrated this incident to me. It was precisely the answer that I was seeking - God cannot be called partial because he seems to give more to a few ‘special ones’ because what He gives does not matter. What matters is how we pine for it!
Now, that changes everything. It shifts the chance of redeeming from God to the individual. Such is the power of pining that even without an opportunity of physical interaction with God, it can confer what a physical interaction alone cannot! This I realized as I read the powerful experience of Krishnamurthy in the the first part of the 4-part biography of Sri Sathya Sai Baba (written by his dear chosen biographer, Sri. N. Kasturi) - Satyam Shivam Sundaram.
A 7-part video series on the 2006 Kodaikanal visit
The pining of Krishnamurthy
Swami was a lad of 17 or 18 when this episode recorded by the revered Sri.N.Kasturi happened. Within a of year after the declaration itself, Swami had begun to move out from Puttaparthi to various villages, towns and cities in South India. During such visits, He gave many devotees the coveted opportunity to host Him at their homes. The darshan and bhajan sessions would then be conducted at that devotee’s home itself.
Once when He was at a devotee’s home in Bangalore, a Civil Service clerk at the then Mysore Secretariat (the state of Karnataka was then called the state of Mysore and it included parts of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu), Krishnamurthy, came to have darshan. Being a singer, he was a very enthusiastic participant in the bhajans and other chants. Within a few days itself, he realized that Swami was someone out of the ordinary. His heart was thrilled with the possibility of Swami being the highest divinity that it had sought all throughout life.
One day, at about 8 in the morning, he accosted Swami and said vehemently,
“I know that you are no ordinary one. You are God! Show me your true form.”
The greatest of blessings is not given that easily. Ask God for money, power, influence and standing - they will be given. But ask Him for the highest and it is not granted immediately because one’s worthiness has to be evaluated before it is gifted.
Swami tried to avoid Krishnamurthy but it was not an easy task at a time when there were just a dozen or so devotees. So, He gave Krishnamurthy a picture of Shirdi Baba and told him to keep looking at the picture, meditating on it. Saying so, Swami left to visit the homes of some other devotees. By the time He was back at noon, Krishnamurthy had spent hours looking at the picture. Swami passed by the room in which he was concentrating on the picture and he cried out aloud!
Everyone was surprised as to what was happening. Krishnamurthy had fainted! When he revived, he seemed to be quivering and quaking; shivering and shaking with joy and excitement. He simply got up without opening his eyes and said,
“Let me touch Baba’s feet... Let me touch Baba’s feet.”
He was seeking Swami’s feet with a kind of possessed madness. He refused to even open his eyes because he wanted to see Swami’s feet and nothing else. In fact, he was locating Swami by smelling Him out like a dog! But Swami also seemed to behave strangely. He just did not allow the clerk the opportunity to see His feet! This continued for hours which turned into days. Swami’s heart did not seem to melt but the devotees felt for Krishnamurthy. They pleaded to Swami on his behalf. Swami silenced them with a statement,
“He will pass away with the joy if he sees and touches my feet.”
So saying, he made the devotees take away Krishnamurthy to his home. He promised to grant him what he desired at his home itself. It was nearly a week now since Krishnamurthy had opened his eyes. Though he was taken away, he did not give up. He slipped out of the house and summoned a horse-cart. He directed the cart to where Swami was staying by simply ‘smelling out’! He reached the building where Baba was and besieged the place. He kept going around the building, knocking on all the windows, seeking Swami. Again, the hearts of the people assembled there melted. But Swami did not relent. He said that Krishnamurthy’s life was still in danger due to overwhelming joy.
Now, the clerk began to fast, giving up food and water. When a day passed this way, the devotees took him to a hospital. But he still did not open his eyes. When Swami was informed of this, He had His feet bathed in scented water and sent a bit of that water to Krishnamurthy in the hospital. The minute he drank this, he regained all his energy and vigor. He asked to be taken home. Reaching home, with his eyes still closed, he started to sing bhajans. The others too joined him. Even as he kept singing, tears of joy kept coursing down his cheeks. At the end of the session, he lay down with a beatific smile playing on his face. He did not rise after that.
The power of pining
As I read this story, so many things suddenly became clear. Swami’s statement to a devotee years ago flashed across my heart,
“More important than the chances that you get from Swami is the pining for those chances. Even without the chances, pining is sufficient to get you the ultimate. However, getting chances without the pining is of no use.”
Here was Krishnamurthy who wanted to just see His feet. And he pined for it with all his heart. I recollected the hundreds of times when I had touched His lotus feet. If chances alone were enough to liberate, then I should have been liberated thousand times over right? But no! Here I am, still living my life and surviving in this bhavasagara while Krishnamurthy flowed like a river into the ocean of infinite bliss with just the washings of Swami’s feet! True padasevanam is much more than simply touching His feet - it is following in His footsteps!
That is when I felt that all the interviews, interactions, talks, namaskars and other chances with Swami do not count if I do not have the pining for Him. Similarly, if I have the pining, then all those simply do not matter. Thus, all of us are equal because all of us have the equal opportunity and ability to pine for God! For, in the ultimate analysis, pining alone matters.
“If you need me, you deserve me.” That is all. No terms or conditions. The question now is whether I ‘need’ Him and pine for Him?
Getting God through pining
When a disciple complained to his Master that how much ever he sought and pined for God, he was not finding Him, the Master took him to a river. He told him that he would see God if he stood praying in the river. As the excited disciple stood in the river in excited prayer, the Master came from behind and simply submerged him under the water. The disciple was shocked. When he said that he wanted to meet God, he meant that God should come to him - not the other way round!
He began flailing his hands and legs to escape the vice-like grip of his master but to no avail. After a few minutes of battling, when it seemed like he would die without breath, he felt a strange strength within. When death stares in the face, one seems to get superhuman courage and strength. With that surge of strength, he lashed out. The Master fell away and the disciple torpedoed out of the water. With a huge suction, he gulped gallons of air into his starved lungs. Then, he looked accusingly at his Master.
The Master simply asked,
“When I tried to drown you, what did you want?”
“I was shocked and was blank.”
“After a few moments, what did you want?”
“I just wanted to come out and kill you!”
“After a few minutes, what did you want?”
"Air... just air..."
“When you seek the Lord with the same intensity with which you sought air, you will get Him the same way you got strength to get the air.”
Pining for God is more important than the experiences with God because it is pining that completes the experience. Otherwise, the “experience” becomes tasteless and empty. Pining and Grace are like the the two polarities of an electrical circuit. When both are present alone is there a current and, thus, en’light’enment!
© 2013 Aravind Balasubramanya