As long as I remember, I have loved the Divine Music of Bharat Ratna Smt.MS Subbulakshmi, a devout and supremely proficient exponent of Carnatic music. It is said of her that her music takes one to God. I grew up loving the deep devotion in her music and attempting to absorb as much of it as I could in the process of listening. I would unrelentingly seek her concerts on radio and TV, as if they were drops of water to pacify an unquenchable thirst.
Through most of this time, though I was devoted to God as His Rama and Krishna forms, I was not aware of Swami’s Divinity.
I considered Him another Swamiji, just like Swami Vivekananda, whose works I had come across. Time went by, and in 1995, I was in the senior year of high school, when an excursion for 3 or 4 days was planned to a hill station. My health was not great then, so it was a delight that I had secured permission from home to go on this trip with the class in my final year of school.
On the Sunday that we were to leave, however, the school principal asked my Mother to come over, and told her that she had cancelled my ticket as she did not want to risk my traveling to the hill station. My Mother came back and gave me this news and I was Furious! I thought it was so unfair that I should be told at this time, rather than having simply been told before the planning was done.
Even though my family told me that we could make it up by going there later, or do something else, I would have nothing, Absolutely Nothing. In my mind, I was having a furious dialogue with God, asking what is all this about? There was a very, very quiet voice deep within which said, “It is about nothing, nothing has happened; why are you making a big deal of this? Calm down.” But I wouldn’t calm down even if I felt like it, because my sister had just returned that morning from the same hill station to which she had gone with her class on their excursion. So, I had a Right to be angry!
Still fuming, I realized that it was time for the “Spirit of Unity Concerts for National Integration” a weekly telecast of dance and music programs conducted in Swami’s Divine presence. At that time, I was only interested in the music that I liked, and did not pay much attention to Swami, though I was awed at the crowds that were present. I went upstairs to my Aunt and Uncle’s home, sat in the single seater couch close to the TV, and to my amazement, it was MS Subbulakshmi’s concert (which I think was rendered at Swami’s birthday in 1994).
I was wide –eyed, unbelieving and amazed more than I can say, for it seemed that God was giving me what I really wanted, what really meant a Lot to me! It was as if He was showing me what He had in store. I was all the while thinking, there is some meaning in this coincidence, what could it be. My heart answered, “It is that I should seek that which is worth having, and that shall be given to me. “ Right then MS began to sing this bhajan that goes
“Naam Japan Kyon Chod Diya? Krodha Na Choda Jhoot Na Choda Satya Vachana Kyon Chod Diya? Jhoote Jag Mein Dil Lalchakara Asala Vatan Kyon Chod Diya? Kaudi Ko To Khub Sambhala, Lal Ratan Kyon Chod Diya? Jihi Sumiran Te Ati Sukh Paave So Sumiran Kyon Chod Diya? Khalas Ek Bhagawan Bharose Tan Man Dhan Kyon Na Chod Diya? ”
Meaning, “Why are you giving up chanting the Divine name? You haven’t given up greed nor anger, why have you not sought the Word of Truth? You have fostered desires and temptations of this false world, why have you not sought the One thing that is worth keeping? You have picked up so many shells, why have you not picked up the Red Gem (Ruby)? Knowing that the Divine name is the panacea and the giver of all that you can ever want, why have you not sought that Name? Khalas (the composer) asks why not surrender your Body, Mind, Wealth and your All to His Divine Lotus Feet and give up all your cares to Him? [ 1:35 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGUyA-ZMAU8 ]
This bhajan went straight to my heart and took me to heights of Bliss and I was able to understand it remarkably well though the language was only somewhat familiar to me then; I felt as if God was talking to me…. Little did I realize it was His calling card. At the same time, I felt a great surge of something beyond definition, which I now know as Divine Love that overcame me whenever I saw Swami during the concert.
At these times I felt an immense desire and a deep longing to simply Let Go and Let God whenever I saw Swami and wanting to accept Him, though I still did not know Swami as God. Though the concert was over in half an hour, the feeling of deep peace stayed with me long, and though I still did not think of Swami, I was sure that God had made me aware of what I ought to be seeking. The fury slowly slipped away and over the next few days I realized that a new sense of balance and of Divine planning in everything became and remained prominent in my life.
Years went by, and in 2002 I moved to Oklahoma City as a student. My roommate was Lakshmi - such a warm, loving and caring person and I had never seen anyone care and share as she did. She and her Mother were devotees of Bhagawan and she would tell me about the miracles in their home, and sometimes sing a few lines from Hari Bhajana Bina Sukh Shanti Nahin. It struck me that she was otherwise not very interested in religious matters, but very devoted to Swami and all she would say in prayer was, “Sai Rama please take care.” She hardly chanted slokas or sang bhajans or songs even on festival days, and I was amazed at her way of prayer. I began to wonder about Swami.
Some years later, she got married and her husband Venkat and I would talk a lot about Swami, me mainly listening in amazement. I was thrilled at the prospect of God really being on earth in human form, for I had asked myself innumerable times, while listening to Surdas bhajans, “What was I doing then? Why couldn’t I have gone there when Surdas was singing and had a darshan of Krishna? Oh how I would have loved that!” It was not only the prospect of seeing God, but that of seeing God in the presence of His Devotees singing to Him which was more enchanting. At this time, we had started going to Sai bhajans every Thursday at Lubbock.
Initially, I could not accept ‘Sai’ being a part of every bhajan, yet I found I couldn’t do without them! Although my heart resonated with Swami being God for I was able to accept Swami’s message that only Love mattered in all of the world, my mind didn’t know what to think of it. This was because at the time, I also did not know how to relate to all the forms being One – even Rama, Krishna and all other forms were distinct for me then, and so my mind didn’t know where Swami fit! Besides, my family had never taught me anything about Swami. But deep within was an urgent whisper that said, “What if this is Rama and Krishna and you let this chance slip? If it is the other way, it doesn’t matter that you made a mistake, but if you do miss God, how will you forgive yourself?” So I allowed my mind to stay open and prayed to the forms of God that I knew saying, “Lord, if you have come as Sai Baba, then please show me that you have.”
After this point, I started enjoying bhajans a lot. One Thursday evening, I was still in lab and my friends were going to pick me up and we would all go to bhajans. I was getting very hungry so I went over to the vending machine with 75 cents for a candy bar. At this time, some thoughts were in my mind and somehow a thought arose that if He is listening to this (by He, I meant God, not particularly Baba at this time) then let me get a free candy. I put in the 75 cents, pushed #D5 for a Hershey’s almond bar and the machine rolled it out… I glanced at the change slot waiting to see if the 75 cents would fall out (as they sometimes did) and I would get my candy free…. No, that didn’t happen, but the next instant, another candy rolled out and landed next to the first one! My free candy! He who listened, answered me perfectly…. I had asked for a free candy, not my money back! After bhajans that evening, as if in confirmation to my question whether this was His miracle, a devotee suddenly said, “If anyone would like to share any miraculous experiences, please do….” Although some others did, I was too shy then to speak about or share the delicious candy Prasad that I had with me.
I was in raptures within. Swami also began to come in my dreams although He did not speak. I would just see Him and that was enough to keep me elated for days. Sometime later, my friends moved and I wasn’t going to bhajans for a while as I didn’t drive. However, at that time I heard about Mrs. Geetha Mohan Ram from my friend, and found an audio of her talk on the internet. In that talk, Mrs. Geetha Ram spoke about an incident where as a young girl, she wanted to listen to a concert of MS Subbulakshmi and the Lord of the Universe arranged for MS to come and sing right there!
That did it! I knew that I had indeed found God. I had come full circle, from listening to MS, longing to see God, Swami coming into my life through that first concert, then through my friends, then showing me His presence so Sweetly and finally affirming for me that He is who He says He is, through Mrs. Geetha Ram’s incident relating to my own beloved MS Subbulakshmi! Indeed, her music had brought me to God! From then, it has been a free fall to His Lotus Feet, along with my Mother and Sister who were even more eager than I was to see Him who is the One without a second!
Jai Sai Ram