Wednesday, November 12, 2014

In His Presence..


Our scriptures declare, that to be born in a human form is a great blessing.
Having received a human form it is a greater blessing when that human desires to know God or the Self.
But the greatest blessing that a human can receive while living is when He comes in contact with a Master, One who is all knowing, One who is awakened in the Self.

As a young boy, I came in contact with an enigmatic figure with a halo of curly hair, known to the world as Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Curious, yet with a heart full of doubts, I ventured to understand Him, to verify Him, to test Him. I acknowledge with deep gratitude that He stood by and encouraged my childish efforts to measure Him. My learning graduated from thinking Him to be a Saint, to a great Mahatma, to a Divine personality, until finally I came to the understanding that He is beyond any understanding.

What I share in this note is not from viewing Him as a Divine Figure, but I simply state what I naturally felt in the presence of His human form. 

Every time I was in the presence of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, I noticed a remarkable change in my whole state of being. My consciousness would be heightened beyond expectations. The mind would go calm as if it ceased to exist. Never before did I feel such acute awareness of that Now moment as then. And underneath it all I could feel overwhelmingly a stream of pure joy and peace flowing within me. I questioned that joy! What caused it? I have never known joy to be without a cause. It is not that Swami said anything or did anything. Merely by being in His presence that state of causeless joy would permeate my being. In no other humans’ presence do I recall feeling remotely close to the state of joyous awareness that I felt in Baba’s presence. If I could sum it all up in a single statement, I felt as if I was existing in a sea of Pure enlightening Love.

My understanding of Him was limited back then. It took me some time to notice that after my first meeting with Him, I would yearn to be close to Him always. I wasn’t the only one; every single person who knew Swami would yearn for that.  I know myself and my sense of devotion, and I couldn’t credit my devotion for being responsible for such an altered state of awareness.

The kind of natural respect and loving reverence His august presence would command is beyond compare to any other beings that I have seen. During special occasions when various world renowned dignitaries or celebrities would gather near Him, their aura of being special would simply pale away to insignificance in His presence. I would greatly delight in watching the reactions of people amongst who Swami moved. All of the thousand’s gathered would quietly and one pointedly be absorbed in Him till He left. And once He left, the vibes changed, people would become their own selves, but carrying within some energy that kept them positively abuzz.

Keeping in view the awe most naturally felt  in His presence, Swami would go out of His way to make people feel at ease, with some endearing remark or perhaps something humorous. Yet every word He uttered would hold some special message or significance.  When He spoke to anyone, He would give that person His fullest attention. For those few seconds you would feel that He existed just for you. I guess that is why the few seconds transformed into eternity, whereas when it was time to leave even if we spent an hour with Him it would feel like minutes. He was/is Timeless. Every ordinary conversation with Him remained etched in one’s memory simply because it would convey such love that it wasn’t out of place to feel emotional and teary.
And yet for someone with such a Himalayan personality, when I recall His demeanor, His words and actions, they were so sweet, so humble, so childlike. He is perfect combination of Supreme Power and Divine Pure Love, Shiva and Shakti.

Seldom have masters uttered the words ‘I Love you’ as easily as we ordinary folks do. Yet they reveal unfathomable love in all their simple actions.
One evening, the boys doing duty at Swami’s residence had vacated their positions to seek blessings from Him. This gave the other boys a bonus opportunity to do that duty and be close to Swami.  Through great fortune I got the best place outside His door from where He was bound to pass. As I was congratulating myself on my good fortune, a certain incident I was involved in a few days back sprung to mind. Deep guilt overwhelmed me. I had done something I was not proud of, and I didn’t think in my heart that I deserved to be standing there in that auspicious position. So I thought of exchanging my place with any of the other, more deserving boys standing there, who would each jump at this opportunity. But to my surprise, try as I may, I couldn’t get the attention of any of them.
And then Swami emerged. There was nothing I could do now. I just didn’t know how to face Him. He blessed the waiting boys and began making His way towards the door. At some distance I noticed Him taking a letter of a devotee from His lap and He began reading it. ‘Perfect’, I thought. It is almost that He was acknowledging my predicament and by focusing on the letter, was preventing eye contact with me, while I could look upon Him at close range. As Swami’s chair was pushed closer, at one point, He suddenly looked up and of all the directions He could look at, His eyes rested directly and deeply into my own. He had the most beautiful smile I have ever seen in this world. I heard a voice resound deep within me that said ‘You see your flaws; I see who you truly are.’ Unknown to me, tears streamed down my eyes, as I could not contain the avalanche of silent love that poured from His motherly gaze. I instantly felt cleansed and pure.
When amongst the many, I observed Swami would be like a little reserved and solemnly, dutifully taking care of all His children. 
When amongst a few, He would be personal and loving. 
When we were by ourselves, He would be like a dear friend - divine, funny, wise and caring.
His relation with each soul was unique. Every story of personal experience that I heard from those who interacted with Him, shed light on some unique sweetness or endearing quality that momentarily revealed an aspect of His cosmic Love.

I recall some rare moments that I got to spent alone with Him; He would then be like an extension of you. I felt that He and I were not separate, that He was mirroring my own higher Self back to me. It was the safest, purest, most loving place I have ever been in. It was heaven on earth. At that moment He uplifted us to His level. Our consciousness would soar high. The ego would be deflated, enjoying being in the presence of the true 'I'. I couldn't see Him as someone in His 70's talking to a boy in His early 20's. He became the same as me, and spoke as an eternal friend! During those moments the direst problem plaguing our lives would seem like child’s play; you wouldn’t care to mention it. But Swami Himself would bring them forward and with such ease and simplicity give solutions by materializing something or making a healing statement like “Don’t worry, cancer is cancelled!” You couldn’t doubt it. You knew it was done. Those miracles He performed or dictums he so simply uttered wouldn’t shock you then. In His presence everything seemed possible.
His humor was beyond compare. Many devotees will bear testimony to this truth. I remember an incident. There was a time when Swami would call me by a certain Telugu name. Once while returning from darshan, He asked me “Do you know what this word means?” 
“Yes Swami!” I replied
“Well, what does it mean?” He asked me curiously.
When I gave Him the reply, He shook with laughter.
A few days later we were standing in a disciplined order, as Swami was to emerge for darshan. Some important state level political personalities were waiting for Swami to emerge. When He came out they immediately started walking behind Him and briefing Him on some urgent matter. While walking Swami looked up briefly towards me and mouthed some words. I couldn’t understand and had a confused look on my face, so He made another attempt and more clearly mouthed those words. It was the same Telugu word that He would tease me with. Considering the solemnity of the occasion, I couldn’t take this childlike yet silent play of Swami and burst out laughing.. Swami too had a merry look in His eyes as He laughed like a little child looking at our direction. A few moments later He was giving a discourse to the thousands gathered revealing the most complex Vedic truths in the simplest manner. 

Amongst children He was a sweet child, 
amongst women He was a loving mother, 
amongst men - a dear father 
and in a crowd – He was Purely Divine.

I recall another incident that stands out in memory. There were times during evening darshans as Swami walked past us boys; He would briefly look at me for perhaps a second or two before we opened the door for Him to the darshan hall. Through that gaze, such a torrent of intense power would enter my being that upon the door closing I would staggeringly make my way to some place where I could sit down. As I was given to introspection and being a self witness, I noticed to my great distress that many long forgotten negative feelings, incidents and traits from the distant past would resurface and cause me great discomfort. I would naturally feel guilty and restless and there was an urgent desire to cleanse those traits and memories away. So I would urgently pray for the same.
This continued for a few days. One day I revealed it all to my mother and said that the next time Swami came, I would close my eyes cause I couldn’t take that immense power and then bear the emerging thoughts and yet face Him or His devotees standing close, who all felt like the embodiments of purity compared to my miserable self. My mother simply said ‘Don’t do so, He is cleansing you.’
The next day this happened again. As I sat down after His leaving, I didn’t resist but let it happen and inwardly remembered a prayer my Guru had taught us “Divine Mother, naughty or good, I am Thy child.” I surrendered and felt at peace within. Another boy from a village standing next to me during darshan also came close and sat. After a few minutes He said to me in His broken English “Brother, don’t you feel that when Swami looks into our eyes, sparks fly from His eyes into us.” I looked at him in surprise and realized that I wasn’t the only one who was receiving this cleansing. There were others too who received the ‘sparks’ of His grace.
I realized over time that most of those past negative memories left me for good, leaving behind a deep resolve to never entertain weaknesses but work always towards inner perfection. Neither did we receive the grace of the sparks again. From then on Swami’s look was the same as before, one of love, smiles and humour.
Conversing with Swami during Trayee duty
Over the years I noticed that not many were permitted by Him to be around His physical presence for long. He would eventually send His close devotees away from Him for some reason or another. We were three friends who always enjoyed and looked forward to being in His presence. He send one away to Australia, the other to Casablanca and me to Mumbai. It took me years to realize His reason behind this. He wanted us to stop relating with Him through His form and start seeking His true presence within. He would often say to us “I am in you, with you, around you always.”

My last interaction with Him took place in an interview room in 2006. But I found His presence growing deep within. The need to meet His form or write letters to Him began decreasing, as His inner voice grew stronger. I no longer rushed to Puttaparthi to seek succor but would spontaneously close my eyes and connect with His unseen presence.
And then in 2011, He gave up His form. I knew He had left but He never let me feel or succumb to the grief of His absence. I realized by and by that His sending me away was His way of preparing me for His earthly departure. Today, when I lovingly bow to His Samadhi, to that sacred form which held His essence for 85 years, I feel His living presence all along.
As I write this note, I keep looking within to seek His approval and find Him constantly smiling at me in return.
Yet sometimes, when old memories resurface and I pine for those days, pat comes His inner voice reminding me 'Seek Innerview, not interview.' Having come down in a human form, He worked on us tirelessly reminding us to connect with our own divinity. Now He has returned to His omnipresence, waiting eagerly to see who amongst us will heed His voice and look for Him deep within. 

Remember, His Mahasamadhi is not the end, it is the beginning!

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