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Friday, July 31, 2015

Life lessons from a ‘guru’ who I have never met – but whose presence I have always felt!

You can’t solve all your problems at the same time. Do what you can do in a given moment, do it well and let go. There is no other way to live Life. This is the only way to be happy.

This is what I have learnt from our guru, our teacher, Swami Sathya Sai Baba. Interestingly, I have never met Swami in my Life. But I have, over the last 7 years, experienced his presence every moment and his teachings have come in at all those crucial times when I have needed them the most.

I remember vividly. It was 8th May, 2009. A Friday.

Earlier that week, given that we were dealing with the bankruptcy of our Firm, and were unable to repay our creditors, including my immediate family, there had been a showdown with my mother. I had borrowed money from her and had pledged my parents’ property (an apartment in Chennai’s Gandhi Nagar/Adyar area) with a bank. With the turn of events and the eventual collapse of my Firm, and my personal insolvency, I was neither able to return the money I owed my mother nor was I able to redeem their property from the bank.
For whatever reason, best known to her, my mother, with whom I have always had a poor chemistry, imagined that my wife and I were faking a bankruptcy. She said I was a cheat and demanded how I was able to carry on living “flashily” while being unable to repay her. I have had so many arguments with my mother and several showdowns over the years of growing up, of knowing her and being her son. But this time, this showdown was gut-wrenching. The burden of the label she affixed on me, of a cheat, was unbearable. What she said was not so important but what weighed me down was that my own mother, my own biological creator, was saying it without wanting to understand me.

This showdown happened on Monday, 4th May, 2009. For the next few days I was numb. I was struck by grief. 178 other creditors were chasing me, demanding money. Many of them were harassing me and my family. But facing all of them, and the stresses of having to convince people that I did not have money to repay, I never felt so beaten, so battered. But my mother calling me a cheat, this was something I could not get out of my mind. I hardly slept those next few days. (I have recounted this experience and others in my Book - "Fall Like A Rose Petal - A father's lessons on how to be happy and content while living without money"; Westland, August 2014) That’s when, seeing my plight, a friend recommended us to a Sai Bhajan. The host of this Bhajan is a young man who is a messenger of Swami – Swami speaks through him. Given that I am a rational thinker, my friend advised me and my wife to “hang all scientific thinking and reasoning at the door” and simply go in total surrender to a higher energy. At that time, I never had any disrespect for Swami – I always believed he was a great social worker and I felt the work he was doing in the Puttaparthi area was remarkable. But I didn’t, back then, think much of Swami as a guru or even as a swami.

Swami Sathya Sai Baba
Yet, convincing myself that I didn’t have anything to lose by following our friend’s suggestion, on Friday, 8th May, 2009, I attended a Sai Bhajan for the first time in my Life, at this young “messenger’s” house. As the Bhajan was in progress, something happened within me. I simply broke down and cried inconsolably. I remember saying this to myself, “I don’t know you. I don’t know who you are. I don’t know if you are indeed a swami, swami. All I know is that I am not a cheat. And I want you to help me and my family. We don’t know what to do. There is total darkness. There is no way. Please help. If you lead, we will follow.” You can call it a prayer. You can say it was a despondent appeal. Whatever it was, on that day, I couldn’t think of anything else to say or do. My own mother had called me a cheat – it seemed like the whole world had ended for me there. At the end of the Bhajan, my wife and I were invited to ask Swami questions – through the our young host, Swami’s messenger. We went into a private ante-chamber, where we were given vibhuti as prasad in a tiny zip-lock pouch. Words failed me and my wife. This seemed very illogical. Very bizarre. Yet, strangely, it seemed real. And true. Swami spoke through the young messenger: “I am now your mother and father. Your debt is mine. Just let go and be happy.” I had not told the young messenger anything. I had not talked of the issues I had with either my mother or of our bankruptcy and insolvency. But Swami was bang-on! He had addressed the most important issues that plagued us both at that moment. We were dumbstruck by what we heard. And that’s how our journey with Swami began – we simply let him be our coach, teacher and guru.

Over the last 6 years, whenever we have had problems – and we have had huge ones, almost every single day – Swami, through the young messenger, will only reiterate this one point: “Let go! And be happy. Focus on the now. Live in the moment. Tomorrow’s problem, we will see tomorrow. Stop the worrying. Just stop it.” Yet, Swami has never advised or allow inaction. He would always say: “Do what you can, what you must, to solve the problem. Take action. But don’t worry. Worrying is useless. It kills the spirit of all your action.” To be sure, never once has Swami, through the young messenger, asked us to do a puja or say a prayer or conduct a penance – the only thing he’s asked us to quit is, well, worrying! And there’s really nothing irrational about that advice!

Over time, this consistent coaching by Swami has helped us train our mind. I can’t say we don’t worry. But when worry arises like a wave, our awareness, our training, helps us tame that wave. We let go of the worry and move on. I am personally a lot more evolved and anchored as a person, a professional, a parent, a friend, a son, a brother and husband today – than I was just 6 years ago! And that’s because of Swami’s presence in my Life – his teachings and his hand-holding. He’s the guru I have never met, but whose presence I have always felt! To that presence, I offer myself on this Guru Purnima Day and onward…


  1. I don't know why but after reading this, I too felt a sudden outburst. It is not your situation but what you talk about. The worrying nature that we human beings have kept ourselves busy with more often than not! I think the worry comes from the fear that builds within. Of how we will solve a particular problem or come out of a hard situation. Keeping the worry at bay does help. I am going to try that. May be, god will then guide me towards a better way that probably I would never have thought about before.

  2. Total surrender to him (God) will take care of things.