Samasta Lokaha Sukhino Bhavantu: The power of praying for others
“Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu”
This was the line that used to be chanted thrice everyday, after every prayer session at Prasanthi Nilayam, in Puttaparthi. One fine day, in September 2008, Swami (Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) called one of the lead-singing students and told him to change the chant. That day onwards, the chant was changed to
“Samastha Lokaha Sukhino Bhavantu”
I am sure that the Martians, Neptunians and Saturnians, if they exist, would have rejoiced at this change! :)
Simply because, the prayer now had changed from one of a global nature into one of a universal nature.
The former means, "Let all the people in the world be happy" (since Lokah has two meanings in Sanskrit, one: people; and the other: world). The latter means “Let all the worlds be happy,” (and thereby all the beings in the worlds). The earlier mantra referred only to this world. The new mantra refers to all the worlds and is broader in outlook.
But wait! It is not as if only the ‘universal’ beings had to rejoice. We ‘earthlings’ too could rejoice because blessings on us would have definitely doubled! How is that? To answer that question, let me travel down memory lane and relive one little episode.
It was the 9th of July, 1999. (Not that the date is significant for the story. But as I write, I hope to create a timeline of sorts so that it becomes easier to stitch all stories together later, if need arises.)
The bell rang to signify the end of the 5th period and the beginning of the 6th in the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School. We, the XII standard students of the Biology specialization, were thrilled. The next period was a free period. That meant - no studies!
As we hurried to our classroom, the principal of the school arrived there. He told us,
“I know that this is a free period for you as the teacher is sick. But if you make a noise, I shall assign some other teacher. Keep quiet if you want the period to remain free.”
Needless to say, the 10 of us decided to be silent. To pass time and have fun at the same time, we began to play a word-building game. The game was fun and as it progressed, we got more and more involved in it. I was leading in the points. But the boy in second spot was close at my heels. As the game progressed, I saw that one of my classmates was secretly signalling and helping the boy in second place.
“That is cheating”, I felt and I told him not to do so.
The game progressed but this boy did not stop his ‘cheating’. As I lost my lead position in the points table, a sudden gush of anger made me swing my arm and hit the ‘cheater’.
Immediately after the blow, I expected him to turn around and hit back. I readied for a fight. But instead, that boy just held his hurting arm and sat silent. He looked at me with eyes of pain but did nothing. That was more painful for me that it would have been had he returned a blow.
To make matters worse, he did not even say anything to me and I was filled with terrible guilt and remorse.
“Forgiveness and silence are so powerful”, I thought, “they hurt more than retaliation and loudness! No wonder that the great masters preached forgiveness for the enemies. It does not destroy the ‘enemy’ but destroys the ‘enmity’.”
Immediately, I apologised to him but again, he said nothing. The period got over soon and two periods later, it was time for us to go to the mandir for darshan.
I was feeling very bad about the hitting incident. I closed my eyes and prayed with great remorse and sincerity.
“Swami, I am so sorry for what I did today. I apologized but I do not feel satisfied. I want to give him something that he will cherish so that I feel my apology is complete. Please bless my handkerchief today so that I can give it to him as my ‘sorry gift’! “
Well, whenever Swami materialized vibhuti for some fortunate devotee in the darshan lines, any student or member of the staff who had a white handkerchief with him/her, could offer the same to Swami to wipe His hand. In fact, my first memorable interaction with Swami as His student was via this ‘handkerchief chance’! I thus prayed to Swami to give me a chance to offer a handkerchief to Him. This meant that He had to materialize vibhuti somewhere near me during darshan.
I had many times prayed to Swami to bless a handkerchief thus for me. They had limited success only. I just hoped that today would be a successful attempt.
These were times when the Kulwant hall was undergoing modifications. The roof-paneling was on and so darshans were held in the Poornachandra Auditorium. ( Almost the same period of the memorable photo-signing episode. In that article, all the details of the venue and darshan sessions are provided.)
As we reached the Poornachandra auditorium, we came to know that Swami was in Kulwant hall, supervising the work going on there. In excitement, we sat along the carpet that led from the Kulwant hall to the behind of the Poornachandra Auditorium. Swami would be moving along this path before going into the auditorium for darshan. As Swami came walking down the path, all the boys were asking Him to speak to the students as a separate group in an interview.
Swami was gently nodding His head and walking till a student, about 2 feet away from me, got onto his knees. He told Swami something and Swami immediately began encircling His right palm. I was overjoyed! I rushed to Him with the handkerchief ( a new one that I had bought exactly for this purpose). He smiled at me, took the handkerchief, wiped His hand and threw it back to me.
I was so happy! My ‘apology gift’ had been blessed and I felt that Swami also had forgiven me for that rash act of anger!
The story did not end there.
We all rushed into the Poornachandra auditorium. Soon, Swami came for darshan there. As He moved along the central path, He stopped at a gentleman, spoke to him and created vibhuti for him. I was nearby but Swami’s back was turned to me. Still, I went up to Him, behind Him. I saw that there was another person offering a handkerchief to Him.
To my pleasant surprise, Swami turned around 180 degrees, looked into my eyes and took the handkerchief that I was offering. He threw it back to me and then walked on. I returned to my place overjoyed. I was in eighth heaven. (I was in seventh heaven when the handkerchief had been blessed the first time!)
As soon as we returned to the hostel, I went to that boy and gave him the handkerchief as my ‘apology gift’. Needless to say, he was overjoyed and he hugged me. As he hugged me, I felt as though Swami was hugging me. I hugged back very hard!
Looking back at that episode today, I remembered that 9th July 1999 was maybe the only time when Swami had blessed the handkerchief I was carrying twice in the same session! What had made it happen?
A prayer which I had made for someone else’s sake!
A prayer for someone else had actually benefited me more than all my prayers for myself put together! It had granted me a special experience with the ‘physical’ Swami and the Swami within another fellow-being. When we pray for others, we become selfless. When we become selfless, we tap into the most powerful force in the Universe - Love or God.
Oops! Had I known this, I would have prayed only for others all my life! In fact, that is what I do now always. I never pray for myself. I pray only for others. ( I don’t know if that is selfless or selfish! hahahahahaha)
Now, is it any surprise that Swami exhorts us to pray for the peace and well-being of all the beings in all parts of the Universe? Is it a mystery anymore that the one who prays thus is equally (if not in larger measure) benefited compared to the one for whom the prayer is made?
“Samastha Lokaha Sukhino Bhavantu”
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