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Sunday, Nov 18 2018  

SWAMI IN MY LIFE


Each year as fall approaches, bringing with it the celebration of Swami's birthday, devotees are often prone to spending even more time than usual thinking of Sai Baba and meditating on both His form and His presence in their lives. I did the same used the time to reflect on my experiences with Sai Baba. It was very comforting to realize all the little ways that He makes His presence known to me throughout my daily life. On all occasions, when we make the right decisions and perform our duties well, and even on those occasions when we do not, Swami inevitably reveals to us His omnipresence in subtle and charming ways, encouraging us to stick to the right paths of duty and dharma. I can recall many such incidences, of which I will relate a few, when Swami has acted in His different roles of mother, comforter, and even at times, disciplinarian!

A few years back, I worked part-time as a cashier at a café, and while the work environment was friendly, the job was such that one shift took up a good chunk of time and one could not really study during this time. There was one particular week during the winter when I was extremely busy, with little sleep and lots of assignments to do. Yet it did not occur to me to skip work. On the day I was to go in to work, I was extremely tired and had an important assignment due the following day, and my friends suggested that I skip work at the last minute. Now, while I was busy, I knew that with proper time management I could complete all my work. For this reason, and also because I did not feel it was right to skip at the last minute, I merely replied that it was my duty to go to work and that I would do so.

During a slow period at work when there weren't any customers around, a woman who I have never seen before, approached me. She came me with a broad smile and handed me a fresh, fragrant jasmine in full bloom, simply saying that she "felt I would appreciate it." Jasmine is considered to be one of Swami's favorite flowers and is not common in this part of the State. Her simple spontaneous gesture of kindness left me with a very happy feeling the entire rest of that evening, and I finished all my work in high spirits. I have not seen this woman since that one winter night! I believe this little act was Swami's way of rewarding me for acting according to the dictates of dharma and to let me know He is ever watching our every single act.

Another such instance occurred just this past summer, when Swami chose to reinforce in me the importance of selfless service and sacrifice. I was in need of a small bag to essentially serve as my purse when I went out. I had a particular type of backpack-like bag in mind and happened to see one in a store display window one Thursday. At that time, I was very much tempted to buy the bag right away. However, the thought suddenly came to me that I ought to use my salary for a better purpose (which I was planning on earlier) and that I could get my bag at a later time. Thus, instead of spending the money on the bag, I decided to use it for a higher purpose and made a charitable donation. That Thursday evening, as usual, I went to attend our Sai Center in Cambridge. Afterwards, an amazing coincidence occurred. One of our members had recently moved from Massachusetts to another state, and for some reason, though we had never even brought up this topic, before she left she thought that I might find her little black backpack useful. She was leaving a few of her things behind and she felt this particular item would suit me. She sent this bag along to the Center through another member and when I saw it, I was totally amazed because it was exactly the same type of bag that I had envisioned as ideal and wanted to buy earlier that day! I could hardly believe it and I admit, I was overjoyed to see my wish fulfilled in the presence of Sai in such an unexpected manner. Considering that all this happened on the same day, I view this incident as a strong and clear message from Swami reinforcing the ideals of selfless service and sacrifice that He encourages in us and rewards with His instant Grace.

Of course, in addition to simply rewarding good actions, Swami plays many other roles, one of which is a motherly, protective role. My first dream of Sai was of Him fussing over me as a concerned mother with a tender loving touch on my forehead, chiding me for staying up late and insisting that I go to sleep (this was the night before my trip to Puttaparthi).

At another time, I had a very tough exam coming up, and although I knew I had studied a great deal and had done my best, I could not help but feel very nervous the night before the exam given that there was a lot of material to be included on the exam. I was reviewing with a friend and remarked how I was feeling afraid though I knew I had no reason to feel that way. At that very moment, I checked my email. The very first thing I read when I opened my email was the line, "Do Not Fear!"

Finally, Swami does also take up that other role of a… disciplinarian! I only became a vegetarian during college, and a few years ago, while I was 95% vegetarian, occasionally I would eat non-vegetarian food when I went out with my friends. On one such occasion, Swami certainly prevented me from eating non-vegetarian food, in a very direct manner. It was a friend's birthday party and I was the only vegetarian going. As my friends knew I sometimes rarely would forgo vegetarianism. On the way to the restaurant they were all teasing me about what delicious dishes they were going to order. As a result, on the way to the restaurant I started to think that maybe I would eat non-vegetarian food. As it turns out, I never had any choice in the matter. When I sat down in the restaurant, preparing to thumb through the menu to the non-vegetarian selections, I was surprised to see on the wall in front of me a huge picture of Swami! Needless to say, I felt very embarrassed about my thoughts and was suitably chastised.

Looking back at these instances, I find it truly amazing how subtly He can pervade life's daily activities with His loving touch. Recently, during the Christmas 2002 Divine Discourse, Swami said, "I do not attach much importance to the work. What is important to Me are your qualities…" He has taught me that it is not how many years we have known Him, but rather how well we apply His teachings in our everyday lives that is truly important.


Sis Arya Soman
Massachusetts, USA


 

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