Life never tires of teaching us lessons. These are signatures of God, verily, His insignia, which declare His presence to us each time they manifest themselves. When Sri Sathya Sai Baba says 'Awareness is life’, He wants us to take note of the Almighty’s signature all around us.
Someone has said, poets are those who can perceive things that we cannot. And, therefore, poets communicate to us the experience of what we have missed: the joy of exploration and discovery. God does just that. For, He is the Timeless Poet, the Kavim Puranam. Like a true creative artist, He takes great joy in showing His poems to us.
But when we fail to comprehend the surreal beauty of His poems, He sadly turns His face away. Sometimes, God undertakes to compose special poems to remove our special ignorance or answer our special quests. And when we finally begin to understand His poetry, we realise that there is no joy better than connecting to His joy.
I was sitting in the compound of the Primary School at Prasanthi Nilayam on a visitors’ day. The whole campus was a festival of joy: children meeting their parents and relatives while the others frisked about, playing games. There were kids enjoying the caper and tumble of the see-saw, some others shrieking delightedly on a swing, a few others disgorging themselves from the mouth of a slide that resembled an elephant trunk – the entire scene looked like a fairyland. I could see a couple of teachers walking around, keeping a watch on the children.
Suddenly I discovered an interesting scene. A boy, barely in the second standard, was standing a few feet from me, rubbing his eyes, and sobbing. An older boy came up to him, and asked him why he was sobbing. One hand still rubbing his eyes, he pointed out what was happening a little distance from him. A teacher was gently reprimanding a couple of children.
Non-plussed, the older boy asked, “What? Why are you crying?”
“Teacher is scolding them,” he replied.
“She is scolding them, not you. Why do you cry?”
“They are my friends, my class,” the boy replied, whimpering.
The older boy did not know what to say.
Then the scene changed. The teacher lifted one of the boys, a tiny, cute-looking chap, and carried him on her shoulder. Surely, she did not like to draw tears from his eyes. The boy who was crying until now suddenly leapt up jubilantly.
Bewildered at this unexpected change, the other boy and asked him, “Hey, what happened? Jumping in joy!”
“See, ma’m is loving my friend, she is carrying him.”
He jumped a few steps, and ran away.
I was not only speechless, but stupefied too! What an absolute identification with another’s tears and smiles!
A few days ago I had read a cryptic message of Sri Sathya Sai Baba in which He said, ‘Love is a forgetting’. I did not really understand how love can be a forgetting. Who forgets what? How can that be love? Now, Baba in His great kindness was showing me what is forgetting. It is forgetting oneself, forgetting one’s separateness, and identifying one’s self with the other, the object of love. This boy had so identified with his friend’s tears and smiles that he forgot he was not being scolded or being loved, yet he experienced both. It was perfect self-effacement, death of ego.
According to Swami love is egolessness, and ego is lovelessnesss. ‘True love is when I live in the beloved, when I forget myself in the beloved; when a river jumps into the sea and forgets its separate identity in the identity of the sea’. Swami wrote a little poem, a visible one, and taught me the meaning of a great lesson. The joy of learning is always immense. I was floating in joy for some weeks after this incident.
But that was not all. God is never satisfied with teaching only a segment or part of a lesson. And, no lesson that He teaches can be circumscribed. The dimensions of His lessons are always cosmic, expanding, and enveloping endless situations. A few weeks after the aforesaid incident came dasara. It was during the Veda Purusha Saptaha Jnana Yajna (the holy sacrifice performed during dasara celebrations), when we spent hours in Poornachandra Hall that I was shown, one day, another interesting and, for me, elevating scene.
The ritual was going on, and people were coming and taking their place in the hall. A father arrived with his three-year-old child and sat near me. She was a chubby little girl, with a heartwarming dimpled smile. They sat down, and the father wanted the baby to sit by him on the mat. But the child refused to sit on the ground. She sat on her father’s lap, one hand around his neck. Then she looked up at the pictures on the ceiling of Poornachandra, and started to ask her father about each.
Yet, all the while, she resolutely remained on her father's lap, clinging on to his neck tenaciously. I was so amused; I could not take my eyes off this child. After a few minutes, she got probably tired of looking at the pictures, for now she held her father’s neck in both hands, and hid her face on his shoulder.
Then it came to me in a flash. The Good Lord was teaching me an extension of my previous lesson. If I could hold on to my Father like this! Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa used to tell his disciples, “Tie non-duality in a knot at the end of your dhoti, and go wherever you would, you are safe”; which means, if one is established in the knowledge of non-duality, the attractions of the samsara (world) will have no power over him.
Sri Ramakrishna was using a word-metaphor to drive home a great lesson; now Baba was using a picture-metaphor to drive home an immensely profound lesson. I realized if I could hold on to my Father like this child, and refuse to budge from His lap to give way to the attractions of the world, seeking comfort and independence, I would be quite safe.
I may get interested in the many pictures of the world, but I must have one hand firmly around my father’s neck, and listen to how He explains them to me, forever ready to hold Him in both my hands, and take my eyes away from the world, to hide myself in Him. My whole existence, then, is centred in my Father, who is far more real than all the colours and shapes of the world. Needless to say, my eyes and heart were overflowing.
This was a great lesson in surrender, an extension of true love. Love is a surrender, and to surrender is to love. Both operate in the field of faith, of implicit trust. One need not denounce the world, nor be too attached to it. “Take it as shapes in shadow”, Baba says, “for God alone is the Sun”. Truly, God indeed is the Sun that illuminates all beings, all things sensate and insensate. And when we begin to see Him, the Divine Indweller, in every human heart, how can we not but feel and radiate the Love, that selfless, unconditional, forgetting Love, which seeks no rewards but is its own reward?