Mesmerizing Moments with the Divine Master
Interview with Mrs. Rani Subramanian -
Swami has said: “Those who obey My instructions, I bless them.” But to each one of us, Swami gives a different instruction. For instance, I wanted to do namasmarana with japamala (chanting with the aid of the rosary). And Swami told me: “No! No japamala for you; Do only breath.” But, when my sister said, “Swami, I want the japamala,” He said, “Yes, you can do that!” And later when I wanted to get into some kind of an activity He said, “No need! You meditate!”
During those days - most of the time – the devotees had to do a lot of cooking during Dasara as there were no cooks then. Swami would feed hundreds of poor people during the festival and devotees from Madras and Bangalore would also help in cooking. The elderly ladies, who were well-versed in handling such situations, would dig pits like a trench in the ashram and burn firewood as there was no proper kitchen then.
Devotees from Bangalore would bring huge vessels because we needed big vessels to prepare food for hundreds of people. So, this way all these devotees would participate and each one would help according to his/her capability. While devotees in the age group of 50-60 would mostly be in charge of the real cooking, others would assist in activities such as cutting vegetables, providing spices, etc. And this was all done under bright sun as there was no roof!
On one such occasion, I had just come to the ashram. My younger sister was already there. Swami used to call her Lilly! Swami came to my sister and said, “Hey, Lilly! Go and help Savitri Amma, she is cooking for the poor feeding; go and assist her.” I was also standing there, next to my sister. Then, my sister looked at Swami and asked, “Swami, what about her? Can she also come with me to help?” He said, “No. Rani Maa will be here only.” My sister then asked, “Swami! Why do you always send me for work but don’t send Rani Maa? Please let her come, Swami.”
For this Swami replied by saying, “No, I am not sending her!” Puzzled by Swami’s response, my sister asked, “Why?” Swami then replied, “You are a brahmacharini (celibate); you need to work. Rani Maa is a gruhastha (householder), she has already done a lot of work in her house! She has been looking after her children and husband and all that! She comes here for spiritual sadhana; because she can’t do much there. She wants to meditate here, and evolve spiritually. She is seeking that from Puttaparthi and from Me. So, Rani Maa will be in the room and she will meditate.” Swami made the decision for me and told her: “I am not sending her!” It was the same with whatever activity I wanted to participate in. Whenever I talked about any activity, I don’t know why, but Swami always said, “No, not for you.”
Now what I want to convey here is that Swami is a very individual Guru! He doesn’t say, ‘Always worship Me!’ Whatever you are doing in the house, do it as if you are serving God. For a householder, that’s what He says, “Look upon the husband as God; don’t shout at the children; don’t get upset, talk nicely; whatever they say, take it with that awareness that they are Gods.” That’s the sadhana He put us on.
Speaking Up In the Family
But once, Swami told me quite a different thing. I used to put up with whatever my husband used to say for coming to Puttaparthi. My husband was not against Baba but he couldn’t understand my frequent visits to see Baba. So, once, when he was dropping me at the train station, when I was coming to Puttaparthi, he asked me: “When are you going to come back?” I said, “I don’t know.” He said, “What do you mean by you don’t know! Who will know? You should know your own program!” I said, “I am sorry to tell you that we do not make any program of when to leave Puttaparthi because it is Swami who will decide that.”
That used to be the pattern in those days – always! We couldn’t buy tickets in advance. If for example, we bought a ticket for the 24th, Swami would say, “Go on the 1st of next month.” Who would be able to come and cancel the ticket? So, I told my husband, “I cannot make any program because it is subject to Swami’s decision! So, when it is time for me to go, He will tell me. I cannot decide.”
He said, “I don’t understand why you should be like that!” I said, “Swami is our Guru! I have to obey Him!” After this, when I reached Puttaparthi, Swami sent for me. I went upstairs. What followed then was another proof of Swami’s omnipresence. Swami said, “Subramaniam said like this in the car…and you replied like this…” and He repeated the exact dialogues we had! He said, “Look! You are keeping too quiet! It is high time you started telling Subramaniam certain things about spiritual life and what is dharma (righteousness) and what is not dharma too! You must talk! Why are you being quiet?”
I said, “Swami, I don’t want any disputes – I don’t like picking up a quarrel.” He said, “No! You have to do dharma yuddha (war of righteousness)! You are not fighting for any selfish reason. This is for your Guru – Obedience to your Guru! You must tell him and educate him, because he doesn’t know - because he doesn’t have a Guru. So, don’t keep quiet. When it involves dharma, please talk. By being quiet, in a way, you are being selfish because you don’t want to start a quarrel; you want your peace at any cost! That is wrong. Why was the Geetha preached? For dharma yuddha! You are not preaching to him but when he accuses you; you have to tell him what dharma is! You don’t have to lecture! But you must educate when you are attacked!”
Several times in my life this has happened – even with my mother-in-law before that. So, soon after this, I started explaining things to my husband too. He didn’t know why Swami wrote letters and why I replied! He would ask: “What do you write?” He had no Guru-disciple concept at all! So Swami said: “You have to educate him. That is your duty! You are not doing anything wrong; you are doing what is right. If you do wrong, then of course you have to keep quiet.”
Receiving His Tender Care in Whitefield
After I had recovered from tetanus, I went to see Swami when he had come to Chennai. Swami spoke in length to my husband about my other janma (birth) and about His Andhra Pradesh trip. Swami even told him that once some naxalites wanted to kill Him and they were all sitting on tree-tops to attack. Swami said, “I went on a tour...the naxalites were there…perched on trees…nothing happened…”
Then, after He said all that, Swami came up to me and said, “Rani Maa, after that illness, you are in a very weak condition. Come to Whitefield, and stay with Me for some time. You have to pick yourself up! So don’t go back yet, come to Whitefield and stay with Me in Brindavan ashram.”
So I decided to go to stay in Brindavan ashram and also informed Swami about my tentative date of arrival. But, even before I reached the ashram Swami had instructed the lady volunteers that: “One person, Rani Maa will come and she will be sitting in the crowd. You will have to go and ask: ‘Who is Rani Maa here? Swami wants you to come inside.’”
Can you believe it? Swami had made such arrangements! So, they came and asked, “Who is Rani Maa?” But I had not reached there yet. I came a little later! In the meanwhile, the sevadal went back and told Swami, “Swami, we checked, but no Rani Maa has come!” Swami replied, “No! She is coming! Go back! She is a little late. Go and try again.” He sent them back and by that time I had already come.
So, when I reached the ashram, one sevadal was asking in the crowd, “Is anybody called Rani Maa here? Please get up. Swami wants you to come in immediately!” So I went with her to Swami. Swami gave me a room to stay, but since I had also brought my daughter along I wanted to take His permission. So I asked, “Swami, I have brought my daughter with me. Should I ask her to go back or should I keep her with me?” Swami replied, “Yes, you can keep Sheela with you; she will be helpful. You can bring her with you.” Only then I took my daughter inside because without Swami’s permission, you cannot take anybody inside.
The Ideal Devotee
Then, one morning, during my stay there, Swami came to my room at around 7 o’clock and said: “Come with Me.” My room was downstairs; it was like a suite, with a living room, a bedroom, an attached bathroom and a balcony. Swami’s room was upstairs. He came down and saw that my daughter was sleeping in the other room, and did not want to disturb her.
So, He took me to the balcony and asked, “What do you want? You ask Me and I will give it to you!” I wondered why Swami had suddenly asked me this question again! I said, “Swami, I want to be an ideal devotee.” He said, “Do you know what you have to do?” I said, “No Swami. You please tell me what I have to do.”
Then He said, “Obedience. One day, when you will come to see Me, I will receive you very nicely and talk to you; another day when you come, I might ask you, ‘Who asked you to come? Please go! I may be very curt and rude! You must treat both evenly! There should be no difference! There must be equanimity for both the treatments! You shouldn’t react. When I am kind, you are happy; and when I am not kind, you are unhappy! That is not the lakshana (characteristic) of a devotee.’”
He then said, “Some time back, you used to come here, to Whitefield, to teach somebody a bhajan. Is it not?” I said, “Yes, Swami.” I used to be with my sister in Bangalore, and would come to Whitefield to teach a foreigner a few bhajans. This lady was staying inside with Swami, when He was in Whitefield. But after Swami went to Chennai, she asked me if I could teach her a few bhajans. I happily obliged and used to come from Bangalore to teach her bhajans everyday.
This was the routine for quite some time, till Swami returned one day from Chennai. As usual I had gone to Whitefield to teach her, but she said, “Swami has come back! Today is my birthday; I am so lucky that He has returned from Chennai! Today I can’t learn bhajan.” That meant I had to return and sensing that she said, “But how can I send you back like that? I will go inside and ask Swami if you can come inside.” No one was allowed inside without Swami’s permission, so she went inside and asked Swami: “Swami, Rani Maa has come; she has been coming regularly to teach me bhajans. But today, I don’t want to learn; I want to be with you. But, since she has come all the way from Bangalore, can I bring her inside?” Swami replied, “No! Ask her to go back.”
Not expecting this response from Swami, she further quizzed, “Why Swami? Why can’t she come?” She tried to argue with Swami! Another foreigner lady, whom I knew and who was also present there at that time inside asked Swami, “She is Your devotee too! Why don’t You give her also your darshan Swami? Please let her come!” But Swami was firm. He said, “Nothing doing! I don’t want that Rani Maa inside! Ask her to go back!”
So, the lady whom I had taught bhajan came out looking very sad. She told me, “Rani Maa, you will have to go back; we tried to tell Swami that we would like to have you inside, but He said no! So you will have to go back!”
I used to catch a train to return and then some other transport from there to my house. So, when I was going back, I thought in the train: ‘Why did Swami do this? Does He have no love? He has no kindness? Swami shouldn’t do this. After all, what does He lose by giving me Darshan? I would have been so happy, but He has denied me that. How can He do this?’ This was only a thought and I did not mention it to anyone because I was traveling alone in the train. But immediately a next thought followed: ‘No! I can’t question Swami. After all, He is my Guru. And Swami says we shouldn’t question our Guru. So whatever He says, I should accept that.’ Saying this I consoled myself because I really did not understand why Swami had not let me in.
I could not believe it when Swami quoted this incident to me when I told him I wanted to be an ideal devotee! This had happened a few months ago! Swami said, “You came and when you went back, in the train, you were thinking: ‘How can Swami do this? Where is His Love? There is no Love!’ That’s how you were thinking in your mind; that was your first thought. And your second thought was: ‘Oh! He knows best! He knows what to do, how can I question Him?’ and you consoled yourself; but there was no understanding! You consoled yourself without understanding; but you were sad.”
Swami then said, “Today I have come to tell you; your first thought should not have been there. Your second thought about: ‘Swami knows everything!’ should have been first. Your first thought about questioning Me: ‘Why is He doing that’, should have been cancelled. You are nobody to ask Me! The ideal devotee shouldn’t ask. Your second, ‘Swami knows everything’ is right. Then your work is finished; you are an ideal devotee! So, to be an ideal devotee - no questioning the Guru!”
This may explain why many devotees who kept coming here for years suddenly left Swami. They were all educated and people in good positions. But they didn’t understand Swami! Swami has been constantly telling us in His lectures and in His interviews too: “Don’t try to understand Me! It’s a useless and a futile effort!”
I remember an example Swami had given years ago to make us understand why it is difficult to understand Him. He had said, “It is like counting the grains of sand on the beach!” Can we count the grains of the sand on the beach? It is an impossible task! And this is why we will never understand Him because it is a revelation and it does not come with an understanding. Who Swami is can never be known with our intellect, reasoning, questioning or reading or sadhana. Nothing will take us there! When He is pleased and happy with you, He will reveal Himself to you!
So, even if we try now and say that He is Paramatma (Supreme Being), remember we tend to forget it later and do many things that are not in harmony with His teachings. In this way, we fail Him as Paramatma! This is what Swami has been stressing here.
“I am not important. What is important is My teaching.” - Baba
My daughter once asked Swami a question: “Swami, You have been so good to our family, we want the same Grace always; how can we keep that?” He used to call us very often for interviews, and would come and talk to us in our rooms. It was very special. So, my daughter asked Him: “Swami, the way You are treating us, will we always get Your grace like this?” Swami replied, “You see, you are not getting grace by coming to Puttaparthi; or having My darshan; but, if you hold on to My teachings; you will get sampoorna kripa (complete Grace)! Hold on to My teachings and not to Me!”
If we hold on to Him, what will happen? We will try to possess Him! ‘Swami must look at me!’ That’s like possessing Him! You can’t tell Him what to do! He said, “I am not important. What is important is My teaching.” Swami told all this to my daughter in an interview.
In another interview, Swami told us that: “If you can get inspiration from coming to Puttaparthi, then you should come. If you are disturbed, and you don’t get inspiration, then don’t come! Because this path needs inspiration constantly.”
You see, if we are sad, despondent, and upset, we can’t do our best – sadhana wise. He said, “You must have a cheerful and a happy feeling all the time to do anything, and you must get inspiration to do that. When you get inspiration, you feel good. That is very necessary – always!” But the thought: “What will people think if I don’t go?” should not be taken into account. Those are not the main considerations. We must ask ourselves: “Am I inspired to go?” If the answer is ‘no’, then don’t come!
Seeking the Omnipresence of Sai
In another interview in Prashanthi Nilayam, I had asked, “Swami, I don’t do any work for the Sathya Sai Seva Samithi in Chennai; is it right or wrong? As Your devotee, should I go and offer my services?” He replied, “Sathya Sai! Sathya Sai! You have not understood Me Rani Maa! I am not just Sathya Sai! The whole world is Me! Wherever you do good work, it reaches Me! It is high time you realized it! Why do you limit Me to Sathya Sai only? If you are not inspired to go there, don’t go! Be wherever you want to be; but do good work. Wherever you are and whomsoever you do the good work for – Rama, Krishna or whatever – it doesn’t matter at all! It will reach Me only!”
So these are all very profound matters! People limit Him to His physical body which He is now trying to change. See, that is why we get disappointed that: “Oh! Swami didn’t talk to me!” He says that one who has understood that ‘He is antarayami (the indweller) is really wise.’ He says: “I am listening! Don’t you believe it?” Though you don’t hear Him talking back, but He, the antarayami, is listening alright! Swami says in the ‘Sai Darshan’ book, when you are ready for Him, He will talk back to you from inside.
So many devotees have got that experience! It’s up to you to work up to that stage of consciousness of: “Follow Me implicitly. All the time, be aware of My presence everywhere so that you will not hurt anybody. When you are aware of My presence, what will happen is, I will start working through you, and make you do the right thing.”
Suppose I feel like being rude to somebody or if I am not in the right mind, before I actually react my second thought will be: ‘No! Mind your own business; don’t say anything; be quiet!’ It will come; because you are constantly practicing what Swami teaches. It may not be spontaneous all the time, but that practice will make it spontaneous in due course of time. It has to! That is the law of God!
Swami has said: “The closer you are; the more distant I will become physically!” That is one of His signs. Baba says. “When I am close to you in the spirit, I will be very distant to you in the body. Because you have recognized My true nature. That’s what I have come for! My main Mission is to awaken the inner Guru. The inner Guru is not outside; it starts with the outside Guru, but the outside Guru leads you to the inner Guru.”
That is the purpose of Swami’s mission! Being a Guru, it’s His duty to lead you to that. Otherwise, He is not a true Guru! He has not come to give you worldly things! He is trying to remove you from the world! He is giving all that to you because you are not yet ready for what He really wants to give you. Gradually, He will bring about disappointments. And when you will get fed up, He will give you all sorts of experiences and you will say: “Oh! I don’t want these things; I am not getting anything out of all that.” That state of mind He will surely bring. He will make things very difficult for you in the world, so you will not start liking the world. You will think: ‘I better get away from all this samsaara (worldly life)!’
That is one indirect way of teaching us jnana (wisdom)! ‘The world can’t give us anything! Only sorrows, problems and disappointments! Why am I after it?’ These thoughts have to come from within! Swami will give everything we ask for, but remember the world cannot give you peace. If we think that the world can give us peace then that is ignorance! That the world cannot give us peace is jnana! That is knowledge!
If you have understood that, it is enough; then you should start to work on it. Swami had once told us: “You don’t have to read too much! Read whatever is necessary for inspiration.” He forbade us to read too many books. He instead said: “Different authors will only confuse you with their contradictions! Great philosophical and intellectual discussions are of no use. If you want to read, read the lives of saints – any saint; Christian saint, or Muslim saint, or Hindu – they have gone on the path; they have done the spiritual journey; their path is very clear; they have known the pitfalls and the obstacles. Their life will indicate all the problems to you and how they ultimately came to be a good example.”
Some time back I used to go for Darshan once a week, but now I go only twice a month. In this regard Swami has said, “It’s enough! You come, take My blessings; My Aura. Be with yourself; tell yourself: ‘Swami, You are everywhere! You are in my house.’ Then I will reveal that Truth to you! You have to practice it. If you limit Me to this hall, or this or that place, or even this Bhajan Hall, I will appear and you will be happy. But you would have limited Me and you will not be able to experience My All-pervading spirit, the Parabrahma.”
So, while Swami has been guiding us constantly, we have to practice as much as we can. But I find that this path is difficult and we have a long way to go.
(To be continued…)