|Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School, Prasanthi Nilayam|
Where should I begin? My true journey began when I was finally at the feet of Sai. It was the summer of 1993 when I visited Parthi for the fourth time in my life. As always, I stepped into the Ashram premises and rushed right to the entrance to Lord Ganesha. I stood firm, bowing my head to the remover of obstacles; the one who “ensures” success. I had always prayed to Swami in the form of Ganesha because at every stage in life, when obstacles presented themselves they needed to be removed and success begotten. Hasn’t He said “Ask and thou shalt be granted”? So I never failed to “ask”. I would ask Him every time I wanted something. In a way I felt like a child asking my mother for attention.
This time my ‘wish’ was to pass the entrance exam that would help me join the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School. I had always wanted to be there and felt that I was destined for it. Entrance into this school would change my life forever. I believed that I would be touched by Divinity and would be ‘accepted’, and that is exactly what happened.
I had wanted to be admitted into the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School ever since the second grade. I clearly remember when I was sitting with my mother at the Darshan lines and when Swami walked by, I jumped up and grabbed His hand (I was a wee bit excited at that time. Excitement for “God” is justified, I guess!) It was the festival of Diwali! I approached Swami and tugging at his robe, I asked Him for two things: Fatakas (Fire Crackers) and admission into His School. Instantly, He called me from among the crowd and handed me fire crackers. At the same time, He blessed me with a Padnamaskar. Carried away by the excitement, I did not reiterate my primordial wish, my wish to be admitted into the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School. Eight years later, my wish came to fruition. I was finally admitted to the School in the 11th grade.
Having lived in different parts of India as an Army Officer’s son, I had attended many different public schools and army schools. Discipline was always emphasised in these schools but it was not until I was in Parthi that I realised that discipline had another meaning.
During my first couple of days in Parthi, I was introduced to waking up at 5:30 a.m. (a significant change from the regular 7:00 a.m. at home). The day would begin with Suprabhatam, and then a strenuous jog coupled with other exercises would follow. Then there would be breakfast followed by classes. Initially, I thought it was very tough. But Swami has said, “Gold needs to be put through fire in order to become a beautiful ornament.” That is why He calls us ‘Bangaru’, for that is what He expects us to be.
Throughout the day, there was one thought that kept me going; that in the afternoon, we would have the Divine Darshan. It was the reward for all the hard work that each student had put forth throughout the day. In fact, for all of us students who have had the opportunity to be there, He is the driving force – the silent energy that keeps us ticking.
Life at the Hostel and at the University had its own flavour. I would often think to myself – why do I need to wake up so early, why share a room with eleven others, why not just have my own room and my freedom. Soon, I realised how shallow these thoughts were. It was in the Hostel that I learned to adjust and accommodate. The Hostel was like a ‘melting pot’. There were young men from different cultures and backgrounds who lived together under one roof as brothers. It was camaraderie, it was brotherhood and it was Divine Love, giving a glimpse of itself through the beauty of discipline.
What I learnt at the Lotus Feet has been with me all through my life. Today, living away from home in another country, I have been told repeatedly by my colleagues that they perceive something different about me. They have expressed joy working with me and I am often coined as the ‘cool guy.’ They respect the values and culture that they observe in me. These are the values that have slowly ebbed into me during my seven years at Swami’s Lotus Feet. Hard work, determination, dedication, perseverance, knowledge, humility, politeness, patience and respect for others – these are the qualities that Swami’s Educational System imparts unto us students. These qualities are what will help us be instruments of the Divine Will to carry out Swami’s Mission.
Bhagawan teaches through His own actions and we learnt by observing Him. The way he conducts Himself, His communication and His interactions with everyone – be it the Prime Minister, the biggest of industrialists or the poorest man on the street – are all worth emulating. Everyone has just one thing to say: ‘I Love Baba.’ Why does this happen? The reason is Bhagawan’s limitless Love, His Selflessness, His sense of duty, His desirelessness….everything comes together to win the hearts of one and all.
I was fortunate to accompany Bhagawan to Kodaikanal in the year 1994. It was the most exciting and delightful time of my life. We would get up in the morning to see Bhagawan amidst us, spend the entire day at His Lotus Feet and go to sleep thinking about how blessed we all were.
With Swami in the bus
When I saw the look on Bhagawan’s face, I got all the answers. His face was bright like a thousand suns. He was literally beaming with joy. The joy was because of His selfless Love. His nature is to ‘Give’ and that is the source of His endless joy. He is happy when He ‘Gives’. The corollary is that we mortals, being nothing but sparks of Divinity should follow the same route i.e. of Giving and that will lead us to happiness and fulfilment. Can we be like Him? Sure we can, but only if we try consistently to emulate and incorporate Him into our lives and our-Selves. This is something that I have kept close to my heart and have practiced at every opportunity that He has provided.
When I was in my second year B.Com, my parents had asked Swami in an interview what He had planned for me. I thought it was uncalled for – a bit too early to ask such a question. But when parents are talking to the Divine parent, the child must keep shut!
Bhagawan looked at me lovingly, smiled and said “Next year B.Com. Finish Karkey, MBA karo (Complete your B.Com next year and do MBA). Then I will send you to live with your parents for two years and then you go to America and do My work.” At that time my reaction was a simple smile. I was happy as I was. I just wanted to be with Swami for as long as He permitted. But I had the audacity to say “Swami, I will not go from here. I will be with You.” And He looked at me sharply and said “Swami’s Word is His Will.”
|Swami's Word is His Will|
I completed my MBA at SSSIHL in March 2000 and stayed in Delhi with my parents for exactly two years. And then just as Swami had said, a job along came and I found myself in USA. Swami was proving a point and now I had to ensure that I was worthy of the Divine Word.
My current job is challenging and exciting and every day I learn something new, not just professionally but as a person too. The best part of my day is when a colleague, client or supplier walks into my office and seeing Swami’s photograph on my desk, asks me who He is. When I describe Bhagawan and His teachings, it is an amazing ‘chain-reaction’ that occurs. It appears that these people have been waiting for Him to touch their lives. Swami’s books and His photographs find their way into more and more homes and families, touching their lives. This is the “Expansion-Love” that Bhagawan epitomizes, where there are no boundaries of race, origin, culture, colour, or religion. His love is limitless and without boundaries.
We are all forms of that same Divine Love. We are also messengers of His Word. Being students who have graduated from His Divine University we have a duty and a role to fulfil and He will make us fulfil it too. The only thing that we need to do is to consciously and constantly consider ourselves the instruments of His Divine Will and strive to be a part of His Mission.
I was exiting Swami’s educational system in March 2000. (I should not use the word exited – for I shall always be a part of it) As I stepped out into the ‘outside world’, I was sorrowful. Bhagawan’s education is a continuous process of evolution and all of us are continually being guided by Him at each and every step. Leaving Bhagawan’s physical proximity was like leaving the Garden of Eden. But again it was all His will. On that last day in Brindavan, I touched His feet and He blessed me. That day in the discourse He said that His Boys are His torches that will spread the Light. Having lived under His benevolent care and love for seven years, I realised that there was something that I needed to do in return. It was my duty; an eternal debt that I knew I could not repay. Yet in my actions and thoughts, I decided, there would be an eternal attempt to show my gratitude. I came back to Delhi and joined the Sai Samithi and was fully involved with the Youth Wing.
We would conduct Medical Camps, Blood Donation Camps, Narayana Seva and help out at the local Sai Schools for the under-privileged. It was there that all I had learnt was automatically being put into practice. The MBA degree at Sathya Sai School of Business Management manifested itself into life with all the skills that it had imparted. What are those skills? Swami has defined management to be Man-Management. It is about ‘touching-lives’, just like Swami does. It is about effective communication just like Swami has displayed to us many a times. It is about loving and doing things without any expectation whatsoever. Every time we were able to accomplish some task, we were satisfied feeling that Swami would be pleased.
Finally, as I cruise along this journey, I realise that I truly have felt Bhagawan’s message manifest itself in my life. Having heard Swami say to us so many times “Love All-Serve All” and “My life is My message”; I have felt His love and His message touch all the people I have met.
Bhagawan, it is my plea to You that You continue to guide us all through this path and make each of us, Your boys, a torch that shall light the world with the effulgence of your Love.
- Arjun Banarjee
Student (1995-2000), Department of Management and Commerce
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
Currently, Principal, Axxis Financial Group, LLC, Washington DC