Seek God and the rest will be conferred upon thee
The story of the Dharma Programme
Swami ( Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) often gives us the example of a fruit hanging on a tree. Man sees the shadow of the fruit and attempts to grasp it. He obviously does not get the fruit. But if he makes an effort to climb the tree and pluck the fruit, the shadow too will automatically be in his grasp. With that, Swami says when one seeks the Lord, the world, which is merely the Lord’s shadow, is also obtained. Seek the Lord and everything will be yours. Please the Lord and the whole world will be pleased with you. I experienced this aspect through a very flustering yet educative experience. The episode dates back to the 10th of June in 2004.
It was the beginning of a new academic year and we were all thrilled to be back in Swami’s physical presence. The previous year, Swami had encouraged the senior students to put up programmes in His divine presence. We had the opportunity to put up a few programmes and were very thrilled at this opportunity. We hoped that the new academic year could begin with a programme so that the fest could continue and many students would get a chance to imbibe Swami’s teachings and also get the chance of interacting with Him at a physical level.
Okay. So who is this ‘we’ that am referring to so constantly? ‘We’ were the students of the final year postgraduate class.
Swami had just returned from Brindavan, Bangalore. During His 2-month-long stay at Whitefield ashram, He had granted many Trayee sessions to the students. Some of us were present during those sessions. Towards the end of the holidays, we noticed that Swami seemed to lay a lot of emphasis on ‘Dharma’ in all His talks and interactions at Trayee Brindavan. And so, when we sat together to think of preparing a programme, we felt that we should do something that focuses on Dharma.
There were two problems with this proposition:
1. Dharma is not an easy topic to discuss. It is universal yet very intricate. The way it is understood varies from person to person.
2. Since it was just the beginning of the academic year, the various ‘self-reliance’ departments that are run by the students had not yet started. This meant that there would not be much help when it came to costumes, sets and making a card for the programme.
We solved these problems as follows:
1. We would read Swami’s book, “Dharma Vahini” and stick to the meanings and interpretations present in it.
2. Our programme would be mostly talk based which would not require sets or costumes. We would have about 5-6 speakers conducting the whole programme.
And so, we began reading the Dharma Vahini in right earnest and tried to digest the profound message that lay in it. Within a day, we had prepared something substantial and it was on the 10th of June when we went to the warden to inform him that we had a programme ready to be presented before Swami. Immediately, he said,
“Today is the day of Ashtami. We usually do not begin anything on such a day. Why don’t we wait for another good day to begin the mandir programmes for the year?”
We did not debate that for we knew it was true. We all went to the mandir without any expectation or any prayer too! We had got inspired and put in efforts. Well, if God’s plans were otherwise, so be it. That was our attitude.
The happenings on that day...
Swami granted darshan in the golf -car those days. The Veda chanting was on and Swami took a complete round of the ladies’ and gents’ areas. The ‘wheel-sofa’ on which Swami sat was brought to the stage. Swami was smiling when He came. The six of us were sitting in the front (just in case) and seeing Swami smile, we felt so happy.
Within 15 minutes of His arrival, Swami looked to His left where the vice-chancellor, Sri S.V. Giri was seated. He called him and asked him whether there was any programme by the students!! Were we surprised! Swami had not been ‘told’ about our preparations. But does anyone need to tell Swami anything?
The vice-chancellor looked at the warden because he was not aware of any programme. The warden went to Swami and said,
“Swami, today is Ashtami. Not a good day to start programmes.”
Swami seemed to agree to him and continued sitting. However, after a while, He called the warden again and posed the same question,
“Is there a programme today?”
Going by his previous experience with Swami, the warden repeated his answer,
“Swami today is Ashtami.”
Swami nodded and sent him back. After a few minutes, Swami directly asked us,
“Is there a programme today?”
The warden understood that there seemed to be some change in plans. He went to Swami and told Him,
“Swami there is a programme ready. Only that, since it is Ashtami, I was hesitant to say.”
Swami now called us to Him. He asked us what was our programme about.
“Swami, it is about Atma Dharma and Para Dharma.”
( We did not tell Him that it was not exactly a programme of songs, dramas, skits and dances but a programme of speeches alone!)
Swami seemed so eager. He said,
“Go ahead! Start your programme.”
"Why fear when I am here."
Swami often tells us,
“When you have the Lord’s anugraha (Grace) what can the navagraha (planetary influences) ever do to you?”
That seemed the case now. The day might have been a ‘bad one’ to begin endeavors. But once Swami says, what can ever affect?
The common belief is that God is the eternal witness of our actions. We keep doing things which He keeps watching. But these are times when I have felt the opposite - that God is the only doer and all of us are mere witnesses! He does. We can only witness and marvel! :)
And thus, we took the two mics of the Veda chanting group and began the programme. As I said before, it was only talk, talk and more talk!
20 minutes through the programme, as I stood up to speak for a second time, I saw that the whole audience seemed to be getting bored. It was as if the audience was simply waiting for the programme to finish. As I spoke, I turned to either side. I realized that it was a case of people tolerating me simply because Swami was tolerating me. I felt so foolish. Words that were flowing out of my mouth got stuck! I began to stammer a bit. Even as I ‘heard’ what I was speaking, I wondered whether there was even the slightest conviction in my voice. It was as if I was parroting in public. I felt my legs go a bit wobbly and a steep drop in confidence.
I turned to see Swami sitting behind. Ah! What a reassuring smile He gave! It was wonderful to know that Swami was ‘behind’ me! :)
And this experience of mine was common across the other speakers too. Everyone felt that the audience was only tolerating us. We were feeling that Swami had so eagerly and graciously given an opportunity and we had let Him down so badly. We wanted to just stop the programme there and, like the little fish going to the feet of the fisherman, we wanted to simply rush to Swami’s feet.
“This must be the negative effect of Ashtami acting on us.”
“Maybe we should have agreed to warden and just shut up.”
“Swami placed so much faith in us. We have let Him down.”
“Only Swami is smiling. Everyone else is frowning. Our teachers too look so disappointed. What are we doing??”
These were the hushed whispers going on between us participants. 40 minutes later, I got the chance to end our agony with the final module of the programme. On the spot, I concluded with a prayer,
“Swami. Dharma is a very glorious concept. We know nothing of it. Please enlighten us so that we can imbibe it in our daily life.”
With that, I sat down and all of us were looking at Swami alone. There was no applause. A few claps here and there, mostly out of charity for the efforts made! There was absolute silence and as we looked at Swami for solace, He smiled at us. He called the six of us to Him and asked,
“What did you speak?”
This was something that we had been waiting for.
“Swami, we do not know what we spoke. We tried our best and spoke whatever little we understood.”
Swami smiled. He seemed so happy! Swami always places emphasis and gives importance to the efforts over the results. That is the nature of God.
Swami then did something beyond our wildest imagination. He waved His hand and created vibhuti for all of us, in full public view! Immediately, there was a resounding applause. That was not all. He called the vice-chancellor and told him,
“These boys have so beautifully understood Dharma. If everyone understands it like them, it will be good.”
That statement immediately redeemed us in the eyes of all the teachers too! In fact, we got many congratulatory messages for the ‘wonderful programme’ done. But we were wise enough to know that all the credit was to Swami alone. Swami was happy with our programme and the whole world was happy with us! We wanted to please Swami and unknowingly, we had got our priority right. By His Grace, we had gone for the fruit instead of its shadow!
We felt such gratitude to Swami. We had been saved exactly like that little fish! The message we learnt that day was so straight and simple -
Do everything to please God. And realize that whatever you are doing, when offered to God, becomes His responsibility. So do not get elated by praise or get depressed with blame. Offer it wholeheartedly to Him. It keeps one karma-free as any offering made to God becomes perfect simply because it has been offered wholeheartedly to Him!
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© 2012 Aravind Balasubramanya