My First Experience with Sri Sathya Sai Baba
I had introduced the concept of ‘form’ in the hostel when I wrote about my first interaction with Sathya Sai. I got so enamored by this that I wanted to become a ‘form boy’. I used to see how Swami would speak to some of the students. It felt so wonderful. I also came to know of a few students who had spent almost ten years in the hostel without Swami speaking even a word with them! The way the Master ‘treats’ depends totally on the illness. As Swami put it, “When a patient goes to a doctor with a tummy ache, he prescribes medications in some cases, advises a diet in some others and in some cases, even recommends surgery. The problem may be the ‘same’ but the doctor knows best.” I was hoping to be a ‘patient’ for whom form or physical nearness would be the therapy!
I was desperate to get an opportunity to speak with Him. I would treasure and cherish every little movement He made, every word that I heard Him speak. Every small thing that happened, I would note down in my personal diary. I would sit every night writing my diary for the day. I was convinced about the importance of this habit for I was living with God and one day, I felt, my writing would be read like the writings of Jesus' apostles! I was serious and I was deeply convinced about it. But somehow, the delusion existed that physical proximity alone ensured spiritual proximity. Well, it has taken Swami years to get me to understand the difference between nearness to Him and dearness to Him. Anyway, one evening, He did speak to me!
In the darshan lines, I got up on my knees, wanting to offer a letter to Him. I was a schoolboy and the contents of the letter just reflected that. I wanted to study well and make my parents happy. However, there was also another line - Swami keep me forever with you. Knowingly or unknowingly, this statement somehow embedded itself into every letter I wrote to Him. That day, as I rose on my knees, Swami looked at me and in a somewhat serious tone said, “Ay! I shall send you to the mental hospital.” He moved on.
I do not know how to describe my feelings that day. I was on top of the world! When anyone asked me the reason for my extra happiness and dash of energy, I told them that Swami had spoken to me. When they heard the content of the ‘conversation’ they smiled (I don’t know whether they smiled with me or at me!). I was reminded of the farmer who who gathered everyone in the village because the king had spoken to his son. The whole village came to the square wanting to know what words the boy had received from the monarch of the land. The boy then revealed, “The king said, ‘You fool! Get out of my way!’ “. What was spoken did not seem to matter as much as the fact the something had been spoken!
The next day, I was seated in the third line. I stretched out my hand with the same letter and Swami gave the same response - “I shall send you away to the mental hospital!” My joy knew no bounds. Being spoken to twice in two days! I felt that I was well entrenched on the path to formhood. I even began to test the ‘strength’ of the ‘form signal’. Let me explain. The next day, I sat further away - the 4th line - and showed Swami the letter when He came. He noticed me and told a boy nearby, “Take that fellow and admit him into the mental hospital.” I felt that my ‘form’ had a range of 4 lines now! The next few days, I spent in experimenting this range and then, one day, when I sat in the 8th line, Swami did not look at me. I felt that my ‘form range’ extended till the 7th line. Such were my thoughts! I never understood what He was conveying by that statement which He had told me more than 5 times till now. I still do not know the meaning and I know that when the right time comes, it will dawn upon me!
Getting back to the story, I was happy with the happenings of the last week. It had been fruitful for me with Swami speaking to me about 4-5 times. In the meanwhile, the monthly academic tests came up. It was the Biology test and I was studying for the subject, sitting on the lawns in front of the hostel. As I studied, I saw that there were a few students playing with a water hose. They were squirting each other with water and it seemed so much fun. I too left my books and rushed to indulge in that harmless pleasure.
After about 15 minutes, I realized that I had to study and so I rushed back to my books. However, after reading for about 10 minutes, I was again tempted and I went back to the water games. I thus moved to and fro from my books to the hose pipe and back about 2-3 times. Then, I felt that I had wasted too much time in games and I had to seriously study. So I closed my eyes and said, “Swami, I promise you that if I don’t read two chapters, I shall not have my lunch.” Some seriousness returned and I began to study.
But the mind’s pull is so great. Soon, I found myself, once again, among the playful band of boys squirting water! And as I played, I heard the tolling of the bell that beckoned everyone in the hostel for lunch. I was shocked and time seemed to have passed so fast. What was I to do? The rules and discipline in the hostel were so strict that if one turned up late for lunch, he would be sent off with the statement, “You are too early for dinner!” I was hungry but I had a promise to keep. I decided upon a solution.
I said to myself, “Aravind! You did not promise Swami that you would study two chapters. You said that you would only read two chapters! Do that and rush for your lunch.” I listened to the devil that gave me the cunning ‘solution’. I quickly browsed through the pages of my text book and within 8-10 minutes, I had finished ‘reading’ two chapters! Happy at my intelligence, I went for lunch.
That evening, I was seated in the second line during the darshan session. Swami came gliding by and I had my letter with me. In one corner of my heart, I did not want Him to accept that letter for it had given me 4-5 opportunities of a conversation with Him! The letter did not fail me today also. When Swami saw me, He turned to one of the staff members seated there and said, “Take this boy and admit him into the mental hospital.” My heart was again rejoicing. Swami moved on. After taking 3-4 steps, He suddenly stopped and turned around.
Both, me and the staff member, became alert. Was He wanting to tell us something? He looked at me momentarily and then turned to the staff member. He simply told him
“When you admit him in the the mental hospital, ensure that he does not get food to eat!”
He then moved on.
I had goosebumps on my skin. What is the need to communicate with one who knows your thoughts even as they arise
Mind vs Conscience (This story enacted and narrated in a video)
© 2012 Aravind Balasubramanya