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When the world walks out on you, the Lord is still by your side
It is a very famous quote -
“A true friend is he who walks in when the world walks out on you.”
When I think of my Lord and Master, friend and guide, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, this statement seems so apt to describe Him. And yet, it does not feel complete, for, my Swami is always by my side. It is not as if He walks in only when the world walks out. There is no need for Him to ‘walk in’ for He is always by my side, even when the whole world has walked out. And that is all that matters because with God by my side, there is always a fulfillment and wholesomeness that I feel within - irrespective of how things go in life.
This was the subject of discussion with my brother and confidante, Amey Deshpande, a few days ago. For those who have come in late, let me quickly introduce Amey as my classmate during my postgraduation who has grown very close to me due to shared ideals, passions and most importantly, love for Swami. In fact, I planned to anoint him as my best friend before Swami took that crown, granting me an experience of true friendship in the process! He also had a very interesting and unique first-experience with Swami at Prasanthi Nilayam.
The personal experience he shared with me dated back to his days in the primary school, the year 1991 to be precise. So beautiful and poignant was the episode that I requested him to allow me to share it with the world. After a bit of hesitation, he agreed to share and my heart rejoiced. And so, with all joy and anticipatory excitement and the wonderful ways of Swami, I share Amey’s experience.
The 5 people guilty when a ‘sin’ is committed
The VII grade for a boy in primary school is a kind of peak that one can only scale in due course of time. He becomes the most senior boy of the school and all the privileges - prasadam distribution in mandir, sitting in the front lines during darshan, being the captain of various sports and cultural teams - become his automatically. All that changes when he makes the transition to VIII grade in Higher Secondary School when he becomes the most junior student in the campus where the seniormost students are the XII grade boys. The incident in 1991 happened when Amey was a student of the VII class, hoping to make it big that year.
I was pretty good at academics and used to always do well during the various tests and exams. Once, during my unit tests, as I furiously solved the problems in my Maths paper, I heard a slight whisper. I looked up and saw that it was my friend, SKP, who was trying to catch my attention. SKP was a bit weak in his studies and so, on many occasions, struggled to pass. Apparently, the Maths paper had confounded him and he was desperately ‘seeking answers’. My heart went out to him and I signaled to ask him which question he was struggling with. Once I came to know of it, I wrote the answer on a piece of paper, rolled it up and dropped it on the ground. He dropped a pencil and bent down to pick it. He picked the piece of paper along with the pencil.
And so it was, that Amey silenced the voice of his conscience to help out a friend. Though he was strongly against copying during exams, he felt that helping was not such a big mistake. He was unaware of what Swami has always said about a ‘sin’ being committed. There are 5 parties which are guilty in every sin-
“For every act of sin, five persons are mainly responsible. One who commits the sin, one who is the cause, one who encourages the act of sin, one who shows the ways and means to commit the sin, and one who witnesses it. All five will have to face the consequences.” (Discourse on 14th February, 1999, Sai Kulwant Hall)
The clean paper theory
Please allow me a small but relevant digression here. It is an easily accepted fact that even a small black spot on a white paper is easily noticed. So too, a small sin or mistake on our otherwise clean ‘Karma paper’ gets easily noticed. And Karma is inescapable. Sometimes, the ‘punishment’ for our wrong acts takes time to arrive. At other times, it arrives immediately. I feel that in the latter case, one’s Karma paper is so clean that even a single spot stands out glaringly. Thus, it is immediately ‘spotted’! And therefore, if we see that every small mistake or wrong that we commit seems to be getting ‘punished’ immediately, we should rejoice that our Karma paper is otherwise very clean! It is a point of celebration and not only one of despair.
I made that point because it appears that Amey’s Karma paper was very clean. His little act of dropping down a chit to ‘help’ a friend was noticed and brought to the attention of the class teacher.
The Copy’cat’ is out of the bag
The class teacher knew Amey to be a very good boy and so she did not pay much attention to the complaint. Amey felt that he had ‘been saved’. However, God’s universe is so loving that it always conspires to ensure that the best alone happens to every individual in it.
It was a funny sequence of events. When the teacher was correcting our papers, my class teacher happened to be there too. The maths teacher made a sudden remark,
“Hey! Look at this SKP. He has got all the steps wrong but has somehow arrived at the right answer...”
That statement triggered the class teacher’s memory. She repeated to the Maths teacher, the complaint she had heard. Quickly, I and SKP were summoned to their presence.
And then followed some of the most harrowing times of Amey’s (and maybe SKP’s) 7th grade life. They received dressing downs from the concerned teachers and the headmistress. All their test papers were annulled and they were required to sit for all the papers again. A decision was also taken that an ‘unhealthy’ friendship was developing between Amey and SKP and therefore they had to be separated. The plan was to shift one of them to another of the 3 sections of the class so that the two would not be in the same room during school hours. Their places in the hostel too were put apart so that the contact between them would be minimal.
The world walks out
What hurt me the most was the attitude of my world towards me. When the question of changing classes came, everyone in my class requested the class teacher that I should be sent away and not SKP. There was a reason behind this - SKP was an excellent football goalkeeper who would be very useful during the inter-section games. I had no such sporting abilities. For the same reason, the students of the other class also requested their teacher that SKP should be taken and not me! I felt very low, rejected and dejected.
Amey was (and is) tremendously gifted in singing and playing the tabla. But there were no competitions on those fronts and, irrespective of the section he was in, he would be playing tabla for all.
The teachers also told me that because of me they had to bear the extra burden of setting new question papers. The headmistress said that she did not like such cheaters and Swami also did not like such boys. I felt really low. I felt bad at the mistake I had made but I felt that I was not being given a chance to show that I was now reformed and had turned a new leaf.
The blessing of being in Sathya Sai Primary School is that, early in life, one is taught that God is one’s greatest and, in fact, only refuge. And so, Amey started praying to Swami. He cried and repented for what he had done and prayed for a second chance. Meanwhile, the feeling of not being wanted deepened with passing days.
The Lord is still by the side
I can never forget that Thursday morning when we went for darshan. I sat by myself in one corner of the sitting area. Swami came out after the darshan session to speak with the Primary School children. That day, He seemed angry and upset at how the students were ill-disciplined. He was saying,
“Your parents send you here with all love and care so that you grow into good boys - boys with character. But you do not have any gratitude or love? You are so undisciplined. Swami does not want bad boys. I want only good boys.”
As Swami went on thus, Amey was beginning to feel that even his God was now giving him a dressing down. Did Swami not know what was in his heart? Didn’t He realize how strongly he was repenting? Did He not know that he had turned a new leaf? The mistake he made had been immediately dealt with and punished. Why was his goodness not being rewarded with the same promptness...
Even as my head was a flurry of thoughts, something unbelievable happened. Today, when I look back, I don’t consider it as unbelievable. I know it to be the nature of God. But back then, it was something that I never felt would happen.
Swami continued to speak...
“I want only good boys. Good boys who listen to Swami and follow His word. Good boys like...”
and HE POINTED OUT TO ME!
He called me up front and put His arm over my shoulder and continued,
“See, this boy has come all the way from Abu Dhabi. And he does everything according to Swami’s wishes. He is a good boy and everyone must emulate him.”
That was it! In a single moment, Amey had been transformed into not only a class hero but a school hero as well. The same teachers came to him and told him that he was very special and they had failed to see his goodness. His class felt happy that he had remained with them and had not been shifted to the other section. From being an outcaste, he became an ideal worthy of emulation.
I know what I am. Just as I know that am not a sinner that I was painted to be, I also know that am not the ideal that Swami told others. However, the whole episode firmly planted one lesson in my heart - My Swami is always by my side whether I realize it or not. He showed that He understands my innermost thoughts and feelings. He showed that He is by my side irrespective of what happens.
Today, when anything seems to be going wrong, I recollect this incident and assure myself that Swami is by my side. He knows all that is happening and when the time is right, will step in Himself and do the needful. I also learn’t that when God is by your side, the world simply runs by your side too. So, I shall focus all my thoughts, feelings, words and actions for God. The Lord is the fruit and the world, its shadow. Chasing the shadow never yields fruit but getting hold of the fruit also brings along the gift of the shadow!
In case you did not know...
Did you know that the same Amey actually got "kicked out" of the Primary School by the same forgiving Lord? That is another magnificent story... Enjoy it at the link below...
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© 2013 Aravind Balasubramanya