Antharanga Sai – Sai, the indweller. The opening words of a Bhajan that has always been so close to my heart…
Thinking about it my mind goes back to the days when I joined the Brindavan Campus of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning for the B.Com programme.
To give you a snap shot of what I was then… a boy from a small town in Kerala, born in a joint family amidst loving grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts and friends. I grew up within the four walls of a local school – a haven of safety – where I did my entire schooling right from my kindergarten to the twelfth grade.
And from this protected world where I was a little prince in my own right, I had moved to the new world of ‘Brindavan’, the Lord’s play ground or should I say the training ground; where He imparted the highest of lessons in the simplest of ways which He alone can.
The pampered little boy that I was, I missed the warmth that I used to experience while at home with my large family and friends. This, in spite of the sincere love that my teachers, senior brothers and classmates were showering upon me.
When I had left my home behind for the new world that ‘Brindavan’ was, my loving mother who knew I would miss her dearly had told me, “Dear child, I know you will miss me while you are in the Hostel. But remember that you are going to Swami who is the epitome of Love. He will bathe you in the love of a thousand mothers!”
And thus I had landed in ‘Brindavan’ with a heart pining to receive from the Mother of mothers all the love and warmth that I had left back at home and even more. Those were the days when to me, the meaning of the word love was restricted to its physical expressions: like a smile, a pat, a loving glance, a few good words… I had even believed that Swami being the embodiment of Love would talk individually to all students and that too every day!
But soon I realised that physical attention from Swami and that too on a daily basis was too much to ask for! I felt lost, to say the least. On one side I had come away from home and all the people who loved me so dearly, and on the other, the source of Love in search of whom I had come, seemed so near yet so far.
With the passage of days I grew wiser and realised that it was unreasonable to demand Swami’s constant physical attention when there were millions flocking to Him hoping to receive a glance from Him. But while the head was convinced, the heart was not. Day and night I would hope against all hopes that someday I would receive His undivided attention that He would speak to me, smile at me…the wish list was endless. On many an evening, I would sit alone in the open terrace of the Hostel, shedding profuse tears for I missed my parents dearly and the Lord too ‘seemed’ to be in no mood to take notice of my misery.
I was bent upon having some physical interaction with Bhagavan and a chance came by pretty soon. I had to seek Swami’s permission to lead the Bhajans in the Mandir. I was sitting one evening in the Darshan line awaiting His arrival, hoping with a heart which went pit a pat that He would give ear to my prayer. As he walked towards me that day, I rose nervously and managed to utter my prayer to Him when he was within hearing distance. “Swami, can I lead the Bhajans in the Mandir?” His response was a smile… I was thrilled… but my joy was short-lived.
He pretended that He had not heard me clearly and asked, “You want an interview?” Then addressing the boy seated next to me He said, “This boy wants an interview, give him one!” The entire row of boys seated around me broke into laughter as He walked away, the smile still lingering on His face. I was disappointed, even angry for a fleeting moment. How could He have ignored my desperate prayer? I had failed to recognise the invaluable gift that He had silently bestowed on me. The Lord who has come for the rejuvenation of the cosmos had taken time out of His all-important Avataric career to speak to me – however insignificant the message might have ‘appeared’ to be. And I had failed to recognise the great significance of the moment. It took me quite a while before I started relishing the sweetness of such gifts that He bestowed on me.
One evening we were sitting in Trayee Brindavan, the abode of the Lord, listening to His words of wisdom. “Oh mind, do not ask.” He said through a sweet Telugu poem, “If you ask, it will be ignored and if you cease asking it will be granted. So Oh Mind, do not ask.” The message was clear and I knew as clear as day light that it was meant for me. I told myself, “Let me stop asking Swami for physical attention, for a chance to sing in His presence and then let me see whether the unasked prayers would be answered.”
Barely a day or two had passed by and Swami told the Warden of the Hostel that He wanted to listen to the singers from amongst the ‘new boys’. Very soon I was given an opportunity to sing in His presence in Trayee Brindavan as He sat on the Jhoola listening in rapt attention. His smile greeted me when I had completed my Bhajan. “Where do you come from?” He asked, “From Trichur Swami” I said. He smiled again and I was in a daze of delight. This was really working!
It dawned on me that very silently the Lord was guiding me to the path which was to take me to Him. The physical Swami was not for me, for my attempts to approach Him at a physical level were all ‘dodged’ by Him. On the other hand He was responding even before I completed the slightest hint of a prayer addressed to the Sai within me……the Antharanga Sai. A Bhajan which began with the words ‘Antharanga Sai’, a Bhajan I had always relished, became even more meaningful to me now. It was selfish, I learnt, to ask for the constant undivided attention of the ‘physical’ Swami, since there were millions flocking to Him for solace. But I could always demand the attention of the ‘Antharanga Sai’ who has installed Himself in every single heart!
Slowly but surely, the Lord helped me to seek Him within me. I stopped praying for His attention on the physical realm and tried to increasingly turn within to make contact with Him. It was all fine till that momentous day… It was the Vijaya Dashami day and the Lord was seated amidst us, listening to a musical performance in the Sai Ramesh Hall. My mind was very disturbed that day for a long suppressed desire had raised its head in my mind. It was a long cherished desire that the Lord should bless me by placing His Abhayahastha (Divine Hand) on my head. The prayer had so far been unanswered and on that day I was once again reminded of this, I know not how… I tried telling myself that the path the Lord had shown me was to seek Him within myself and I was not to ask for His attention externally. But all my efforts were in vain and the sorrow caused by the unanswered prayer was gnawing at me. I was soon submerged in the deluge of my tears.
The musical programme ended and Swami got up from His chair to walk towards the stage where the artists stood now, awaiting His blessings. Instead of taking the path set apart for Him, He surprised us by cutting for Himself a path across the row of boys seated around Him. As His Will would have it I was seated near the ‘ad-hoc’ path that He had paved for Himself… in fact I found that I was in the inner periphery of the path He chose. My heart beat wildly as He came close to where I sat. I raised my head to look at Him when He was next to me and our eyes met. I saw in those eyes the Love of a thousand mothers that my mother had referred to, the Divine Love that He had so far kept so very expertly concealed from my view. It was very evident to me that He knew my innermost prayers. He knew how much I had pined for His Divine Sparshan (touch). His countenance had donned a smile that I would treasure for the rest of my life. Under the pretext of supporting Himself while walking, He placed his Abhayahastha on my head! He, the Indweller had heard the cry of my heart and had responded like only He can!
The Lord, they say hears everything, He listens to even the fall of an ant! As an ‘ant’ who has been ‘heard’, on not just this one, but innumerable occasions, I can vouch for the truth of the above statement. But as an ‘ant’ I also crave for the Divine sweetness that our Lord is. I know He resides within me. But wouldn’t any ‘ant’ crave for the sweetness that exists outside as the most lovable of forms?
My path still remains the same and Swami for me remains the ‘Antharanga Sai’, the Sai in my heart. But the days are plenty where inspite of the awareness that He resides within, the childlike desire to be fondled by Mother Sai, the pangs of hunger for a word, a smile, or a loving glance from the corner of Her eyes, fills my being. But I just keep adding these to a list of prayers. Although not answered in the physical realm, they are definitely answered in the subtler realms of the heart where my ‘Antharanga Sai’ resides. Maybe this is what Divine Romance is all about. So far, yet so near!
I know that my Lord has His watchful eyes always set on each little step that I take. I know His heart thrills at the slightest goodness that I evince in my actions and the smallest of my triumphs and I know that even as I write these words my Beloved Mother Sai, my Antharanga Sai is, as always, thinking about me !!!
- Balaramchandran T. S.
Student (1997-1999), Department of Management Studies
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
Prasanthi Nilayam Campus
Currently, Regional Training Manager, HDFC Bank Ltd., Chennai