“What have you learnt in all you life with God?” someone asked me.
“Please do not use the present perfect tense, use present progressive”, I replied.
He looked askance.
Learning is not a rounded up thing, a finished product. It isn’t a cricket ball, tight and solid, held together by the seams. When the seams weaken, the ball is good for nothing. Learning isn’t like that. It is a brook, it starts over the hills, fed by the clouds; runs into planes at various speeds, overcomes breaking bends, yawning chasms, wanton moods, fills itself again and again in intermittent showers, never loses its song until it jumps into the sea. Learning is a ceaseless experiment, an endless experience, a daunting adventure, and a powerful song. Learning continues for ever.
We learnt ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’ in class one. During the early seventies Prof Kasturi wrote a poem and read it out in Bhagwan’s presence for a kavi sammelan during dasara, and it started ‘twinkle twinkle little star’. The twinkling stars had so much twinkle in them that they pursued him seven decades until he composed that ecstatic song for Bhagwan. People like him always keep learning new lessons from old pages, for as their awareness continues to grow, vision continues to expand, the horizon of learning keeps on expanding. The Varnabodha we studied in our pre-primary classes contained a couplet which said, all that we see, hear, do and think, is known to God. Now at sixty plus, I see it validated every day, it still writes lessons for me everyday. Can we ever say ‘have learnt’? I dare not. I whisper to myself ‘am learning every day’.
One of the greatest things that engages our attention when we meet Swami is His gentleness to a fault. He never hurts anyone, never gives up anyone, never insults anyone. That is ahimsa in practice. We know that He knows us inside out, and our insides hardly ever make us proud. Yet He walks up to one, and asks, ‘When did you come, bangaru?’ Then His fingers churn the space, produce a ring, slip it into a particular finger of the receiver, and with a contented smile He moves on. The person who receives the gift is left behind in a daze of joy. Swami has just turned his life upside down! Someone kneels up to tell him the saddest story of his life, the death of a loved one. He stands there, listens to him quietly, pats him gently, and without a word moves on. And what a relief He leaves behind ! He creates a new man not with a bang, but with a gentle smile, a little ‘ash’, and a soft pat. At that moment the person begins learning lessons in gentleness, and I assure you from personal experience, that is going to be the most arduous journey. We slip into our old ways, remember Him, come out of it with a jerk, slip back again after a while, and the journey continues. I can never say, ‘I have learnt gentleness from Him’, for I am still learning.
Another thing that hits us hard is His absolute unselfish love. Millions have come to Him across the globe, and they have been immediately sold out to His love. No one can love so many for so long with such undiminished depth. He had nothing to gain from them, but they had everything to gain from Him. There was no expectation in that love, no motive, not even a desire of publicity in it. In fact when someone, in his first visit to Swami, asked permission to write His life, He told him, ‘What do you know about me that you want to write? …First make your love steady…’ Our loves bind us, imprison us, for they are based on our selfish desires; but His love is the power of freedom. Do you ever realise what it takes to say, ‘love never asks anything for itself, while it gives away everything of itself’ ? He alone could declare, ‘Just as I love myself in you, you learn to love yourself in me’. That starts a learning process which takes us to ‘I end in you, and you in me’. I again assure you my dear readers, there is no more exciting journey than this. This game of ‘I in you, and you in me’ can teach us fresh lessons every hour, every day till eternity. I can never say, ‘I have learnt that love from Him’, for I am still learning.
The third thing that overwhelms us is His complete focus on spiritual truths. Once Swami went to the Primary school at Prasanthinilayam and spoke there to the kids between seven and seventeen. Prof. Kasturi translated His talk to them. After He came back to His room in the Mandir, Kasturi told Him, ‘Swami you spoke to them about Atma and Paramatma. What the kids would understand?’ Swami replied, ‘Kasturi, I can speak only truth, and there is no truth more than Atma and Paramatma’. His every word, every example, every deed points towards God. Once after distributing ice cream to school kids Swami pointed out to them how God is like ice cream! He wants us to learn that God is a greater reality than the world around us. And this is like eating ice cream from an endless cup! That is being tuned to God all the time. We must see the world imbued with God, ‘see not the stone in God, but God in the stone’. Does this ‘seeing’ ever cease? Seeing is becoming. So long becoming continues, seeing does, and learning too. Swami says, ‘Being is lost in becoming’. Becoming brings us closer to Being. To see God in everything we see, is to be God every moment we be. Can you ever say you have learnt seeing Him in all you see? I dare not, for I am still learning.
Being with Swami has been a constant challenge. He is within you, as well as without. To take the without within, and express the within without, that is the challenge. We divide Him in so many ways, like far and near, loving and indifferent, divine and human, and then try to integrate them! It is like the child Birbal who first asked Akbar to cut the sugar cane into pieces, and then asked him to join them to make a single piece! We have to learn to see Him as one undivided wholesome Truth. That is the challenge. As long as the challenge continues, learning continues. Living is synonymous with learning. When learning stops, becoming stops; and when becoming stops, life stops. We are as good as dead. When water stagnates, it rots; when blood stagnates it is death, when learning stagnates, ego takes over, and that is the undoing of whatever you have done over a lifetime. In the Upanishads too life is defined as a constant movement, and the student is urged by the guru to keep learning in the forefront. ‘Keep moving in the forefront, for movement is progress, movement is fulfillment, movement is achievement, movement is learning’.
You still ask me what I have learnt being with Him?
Well, I am excited about riding with Him, and learning lessons every day.