Aravind Balasubramanya has spent more than 2 decades with Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He has studied under Baba and been His photographer.
Why are some people more blessed than others?
It is an extremely rare opportunity that one gets to be a contemporary of an Avatar or God in human form. Going by the Hindu scriptures, in the Treta Yuga, very few people got the chance to be contemporaries of Lord Rama and interact with Him. A few more got such privileged chances when the Lord descended to the earth as Krishna in the Dwapara Yuga. In the Kali Yuga, the current age, however, thousands, nay millions, got the opportunity to interact with Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Therefore, there are thousands of stories of His grace and glory and the more one seeks, the more one seems to find.
I have been one such seeker digging through people’s lives to enjoy the unique and beautiful ways in which Swami, (as Baba is affectionately called), has touched them. It has been a wonderful journey to date and it promises to grow more wondrous with each passing narrative. However, I must confess, that I have often been plagued by one doubt. And that is this -
What is it that makes one person more special than the other for God ? In other words, what was special about a few people that they received so many chances - interactions, interviews, darshans, padanamaskars - from Swami which others did not enjoy to that extent?
There are many explanations which range from just being lucky to being destined because of the good deeds and merits of several previous births. Some even state that the chances received from Swami are because of the cumulative good done not only by the individual in different lifetimes but also of the good done in several lifetimes by all the forefathers of that individual.
Hypotheses are fine but which one is true that it can be called theory?
Narrowing down the hypotheses
Looking back at my life, I must confess that I am uncomfortable with the “karmic goodness” and “forefather-goodness-repayment” hypotheses. I mean the child Dhruva did such intense penance for years, sacrificing eating, drinking, sleeping and finally, even breathing to just win a single glimpse of the Lord. Wasn’t I being preposterous to assume that I had done so much good (at least a million times more than Dhruva) that I received about a thousand hours of His darshan?
I got a confirmation that this thinking was right when I heard from Sri. Gopal Indreshwar, the grandson of the erstwhile Rajamata of Jamnagar. There was a time when Swami asked a group of college students of which he was a part, the very same question about deservedness of a devotee. The students had rattled out the standard variety of answers which Swami had simply pooh-poohed away. Then, He answered, (the gist is given here)
“You think that it is the good of your forefathers and your own deeds that have earned you these chances with Swami? The cumulative good of all your forefathers will not measure up even to an infinitesimally small amount of the chances you are receiving from me. Everything that you are getting is simply because of My Grace.”
This “Swami’s-Grace-Alone” hypothesis was much more comfortable and logical to accept compared to thinking that I had done more good that Dhruva. However, even that explanation gave rise to more doubts and questions.
“If all chances and interactions with Swami were sheerly due to His Grace, why doesn't everyone receive it equally? God is impartial right?”
An answer in Kodaikanal
It was the summer of 2006 and, as was the usual tradition, Swami had taken a group of students along with him to Kodaikanal. It would be days of privileged joys for this group as they stayed with Swami, dined with Him and spent almost the whole day with Him. This trip had an added bonus chance - holding Swami’s hand and walking Him in the residence.
Swami had suffered a hip-breaking fall in 2003 and ever since, took increasing support of a helper to walk around. (This was before He began to use a wheeled sofa from 2007 onwards.) So, every time Swami rose after a session, a student would get the chance to hold His hand and help Him to His destination.
One day, as a student helped Swami to walk, Swami looked around at the seated students. Clicking His tongue, He said,
“All of you are thinking that this boy is so lucky to hold Swami’s hand right?”
The students did not reply. They continued to look at Swami, waiting for Him to respond to His own query.
Swami smiled and said,
“Holding the hand is not important... pining and seeking to hold it will redeem you.”
Swami walked on as the students sat in stunned silence trying to digest what He had just said.
I too sat in stunned silence when my brother Amey narrated this incident to me. It was precisely the answer that I was seeking - God cannot be called partial because he seems to give more to a few ‘special ones’ because what He gives does not matter. What matters is how we pine for it!
Now, that changes everything. It shifts the chance of redeeming from God to the individual. Such is the power of pining that even without an opportunity of physical interaction with God, it can confer what a physical interaction alone cannot! This I realized as I read the powerful experience of Krishnamurthy in the the first part of the 4-part biography of Sri Sathya Sai Baba (written by his dear chosen biographer, Sri. N. Kasturi) - Satyam Shivam Sundaram.
A 7-part video series on the 2006 Kodaikanal visit
The pining of Krishnamurthy
Swami was a lad of 17 or 18 when this episode recorded by the revered Sri.N.Kasturi happened. Within a of year after the declaration itself, Swami had begun to move out from Puttaparthi to various villages, towns and cities in South India. During such visits, He gave many devotees the coveted opportunity to host Him at their homes. The darshan and bhajan sessions would then be conducted at that devotee’s home itself.
Once when He was at a devotee’s home in Bangalore, a Civil Service clerk at the then Mysore Secretariat (the state of Karnataka was then called the state of Mysore and it included parts of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu), Krishnamurthy, came to have darshan. Being a singer, he was a very enthusiastic participant in the bhajans and other chants. Within a few days itself, he realized that Swami was someone out of the ordinary. His heart was thrilled with the possibility of Swami being the highest divinity that it had sought all throughout life.
One day, at about 8 in the morning, he accosted Swami and said vehemently,
“I know that you are no ordinary one. You are God! Show me your true form.”
The greatest of blessings is not given that easily. Ask God for money, power, influence and standing - they will be given. But ask Him for the highest and it is not granted immediately because one’s worthiness has to be evaluated before it is gifted.
Swami tried to avoid Krishnamurthy but it was not an easy task at a time when there were just a dozen or so devotees. So, He gave Krishnamurthy a picture of Shirdi Baba and told him to keep looking at the picture, meditating on it. Saying so, Swami left to visit the homes of some other devotees. By the time He was back at noon, Krishnamurthy had spent hours looking at the picture. Swami passed by the room in which he was concentrating on the picture and he cried out aloud!
Everyone was surprised as to what was happening. Krishnamurthy had fainted! When he revived, he seemed to be quivering and quaking; shivering and shaking with joy and excitement. He simply got up without opening his eyes and said,
“Let me touch Baba’s feet... Let me touch Baba’s feet.”
He was seeking Swami’s feet with a kind of possessed madness. He refused to even open his eyes because he wanted to see Swami’s feet and nothing else. In fact, he was locating Swami by smelling Him out like a dog! But Swami also seemed to behave strangely. He just did not allow the clerk the opportunity to see His feet! This continued for hours which turned into days. Swami’s heart did not seem to melt but the devotees felt for Krishnamurthy. They pleaded to Swami on his behalf. Swami silenced them with a statement,
“He will pass away with the joy if he sees and touches my feet.”
So saying, he made the devotees take away Krishnamurthy to his home. He promised to grant him what he desired at his home itself. It was nearly a week now since Krishnamurthy had opened his eyes. Though he was taken away, he did not give up. He slipped out of the house and summoned a horse-cart. He directed the cart to where Swami was staying by simply ‘smelling out’! He reached the building where Baba was and besieged the place. He kept going around the building, knocking on all the windows, seeking Swami. Again, the hearts of the people assembled there melted. But Swami did not relent. He said that Krishnamurthy’s life was still in danger due to overwhelming joy.
Now, the clerk began to fast, giving up food and water. When a day passed this way, the devotees took him to a hospital. But he still did not open his eyes. When Swami was informed of this, He had His feet bathed in scented water and sent a bit of that water to Krishnamurthy in the hospital. The minute he drank this, he regained all his energy and vigor. He asked to be taken home. Reaching home, with his eyes still closed, he started to sing bhajans. The others too joined him. Even as he kept singing, tears of joy kept coursing down his cheeks. At the end of the session, he lay down with a beatific smile playing on his face. He did not rise after that.
The power of pining
As I read this story, so many things suddenly became clear. Swami’s statement to a devotee years ago flashed across my heart,
“More important than the chances that you get from Swami is the pining for those chances. Even without the chances, pining is sufficient to get you the ultimate. However, getting chances without the pining is of no use.”
Here was Krishnamurthy who wanted to just see His feet. And he pined for it with all his heart. I recollected the hundreds of times when I had touched His lotus feet. If chances alone were enough to liberate, then I should have been liberated thousand times over right? But no! Here I am, still living my life and surviving in this bhavasagara while Krishnamurthy flowed like a river into the ocean of infinite bliss with just the washings of Swami’s feet! True padasevanam is much more than simply touching His feet - it is following in His footsteps!
That is when I felt that all the interviews, interactions, talks, namaskars and other chances with Swami do not count if I do not have the pining for Him. Similarly, if I have the pining, then all those simply do not matter. Thus, all of us are equal because all of us have the equal opportunity and ability to pine for God! For, in the ultimate analysis, pining alone matters.
“If you need me, you deserve me.” That is all. No terms or conditions. The question now is whether I ‘need’ Him and pine for Him?
Getting God through pining
When a disciple complained to his Master that how much ever he sought and pined for God, he was not finding Him, the Master took him to a river. He told him that he would see God if he stood praying in the river. As the excited disciple stood in the river in excited prayer, the Master came from behind and simply submerged him under the water. The disciple was shocked. When he said that he wanted to meet God, he meant that God should come to him - not the other way round!
He began flailing his hands and legs to escape the vice-like grip of his master but to no avail. After a few minutes of battling, when it seemed like he would die without breath, he felt a strange strength within. When death stares in the face, one seems to get superhuman courage and strength. With that surge of strength, he lashed out. The Master fell away and the disciple torpedoed out of the water. With a huge suction, he gulped gallons of air into his starved lungs. Then, he looked accusingly at his Master.
The Master simply asked,
“When I tried to drown you, what did you want?”
“I was shocked and was blank.”
“After a few moments, what did you want?”
“I just wanted to come out and kill you!”
“After a few minutes, what did you want?”
"Air... just air..."
“When you seek the Lord with the same intensity with which you sought air, you will get Him the same way you got strength to get the air.”
Pining for God is more important than the experiences with God because it is pining that completes the experience. Otherwise, the “experience” becomes tasteless and empty. Pining and Grace are like the the two polarities of an electrical circuit. When both are present alone is there a current and, thus, en’light’enment!
© 2013 Aravind Balasubramanya
Sairam on October 15, 2019:
Jaidev on January 08, 2017:
Sairam Bro Aravind, I attended your talk in the Sathsang hall on Christmas Day last month on this topic. I shared your stories about how important being aligned with God's plan is and the Kodaikanal experience about yearning for God as you shared here. You have a unique way of narrating that inspires every listener or reader. Thanks for sharing your moments with Swami.
N.Jayalakshmi on November 29, 2016:
I really want to meet you in person and share two pining experiences with SWAMY. When I was reading this this thought came to me . I am eagerly waiting for the permission from SWAMY. SAIRAM.
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on August 10, 2016:
@Arun - Actually, if you have read all the blogs here and on blogspot, there is not much new you will get in the book. :)
Surely we will meet the next time you are here. Sairam.
Arun PABARI on August 09, 2016:
Many thanks for this lovely article. It answers the many questions I had on the subject. Very happy. In fact I wanted to buy the book you have written but when I visited Puttaparthy from Switzerland, I only had a couple of hours and hence no possibility to go to the bookshop. I will buy it when Swami calls me the next time to Parthy. Sailove
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on April 15, 2016:
What we think we got and what we really got are two different things... :)
But having got, I feel its up to us to treasure it, cherish it and pine for it as much as possible...
Prashanth R on April 13, 2016:
Loved the article, but I still don't understand why we got what we got! Nothing explains that! You know what, He *is* partial :) !
Madhusudanvithal Nori on October 16, 2014:
Sairam Aravind.....if only I could resolve to pine for discovering the real self and for seeing the Supreme in everything and act sincerely on that pining...then my story would have been different. Ego or body consciousness and identifying with it is so strong that real I gets lost in maya of this world..... Thanks for trying to open my eyes!
email@example.com on October 16, 2014:
Excellent article and presentation
Mangala on February 09, 2014:
You nailed it Aravind, spot-on explanation of the impartiality of God in spite of the seeming "partiality" of appearances. Another reminder never to go by appearances but to always ask God to interpret what we are seeing through spiritual vision.
I just read the book The Thunder Of Silence by Joel Goldsmith that puts the same thing so well: "Prayer that is made up of words and thoughts cannot and does not reach God, and therefore remains unanswered. The prayers that are answered are those deep within a person when no words and no thoughts are present, but when there is a hunger, a desire, or a need that is beyond words. In that intense longing, God is reached. The absence of fruitage in prayer merely bears witness to our failure to go deep enough into consciousness to make contact with the Presence which is always there and which is ever available. God is not to be found on the surface of men's minds; God is not to be found through the intellect; God is not to be found except through deep prayer, a heart-hunger for God, a deep desire to know Him aright."
Narayanan on May 18, 2013:
When I said stories of true devotion, it was meant to have a different perspective of it where physical proximity does not matter and devotion takes a deeper and a more mystical dimension. It was not to pit one set of devotees against the other. I am sure that even devotees who had interactions with Swami have these experiences to share.
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on May 18, 2013:
@ Mr.Narayanan - As far as I know, Radiosai has been tirelessly documenting of such silent-serving devotees. Please visit the service section of www.radiosai.org and you will find a plethora of seva articles there. There are two obstacles however:
1. Such devotees are not easy to come by.
2. Even when one is able to locate such devotees, they want no interviews or articles about them.
So, while your concern to document them is appreciable, it is definitely not right to call them alone as "stories of true devotion"! We often make this mistake of black and white. There are instances of true devotion even among devotees who have received physically from Swami. :)
Narayanan on May 18, 2013:
Nicely written. This should be a clue to have more interviews in Radio Sai of devotees who have been serving Swami for decades without ever having the fortune to get an interview or any materializations from him or even the so-called experiences! What prompts them to continue to serve Swami, visit Prasanthi Nilayam regularly will be a treasure for others to hear and ruminate on. Interviews of people with interactions and experiences with Swami is now overdone. Let's us now hear stories of true devotion. Sai Ram.
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on May 17, 2013:
@ Aarthi - The book is available for purchase at Sai Towers in Puttaparthi. It has been excellently compiled by Sri Padmanabhan who won a doctorate for his effort.
It can also be bought online by ordering via:
mala Balani on May 17, 2013:
Thank you for sharing such a wonderful Explanation!! Often we think Grass is greener on the other side :-) :-)
sai Ram !!!
Aarthi on May 17, 2013:
Sairam Aravind, Reg. the book 'Love is my form', can you tell us who the author is? And where can we purchase this book from?
Shanthi on May 17, 2013:
I felt so happy reading this one article , I literally had tears in my eyes. This article answered my unanswered question for so many years , I never thought there was an answer to this question and I will get to know it. There were many instances where I always wondered why am I not so lucky to get such wonderful chances or experiences with our beloved swami and always pined for them for sometime and gave up. But, I feel so happy and blessed that it is the pining that is important and Swami has given me so many chances to pine for them.
Kokila Vaidyanathan on May 16, 2013:
What a way to enter the weekend..knowing that " Everything that your are getting is because of My Grace" wow!!!! Our Loving Swami is so kind. The experience you have narrated here is so enthralling. I always had the doubt how come so many of them get interviews and Pada namaskarams and why did I miss out?? That experience of Krishnamoorthy wiped that out. Amazing!!! What a beautiful analogy between Pining and Grace...you write so beautifully thanks to the Swami in you who can touch our hearts with these beautiful messages.. Have blissful weekend!!! Sairam
Maria on May 16, 2013:
For me personally this is the most important subject you have yet penned at least its the ultimate of those I have read.I am sure it will help may. It answers me in a way that is so profound.about pining for so long, I can't stop it from happening daily -so this is my answer, that is my way to Swami- Thank you!
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on May 16, 2013:
@ Sreenidhi - Very beautiful thoughts that you have shared here! The "love story" with God is always complete- Poornam - in itself. Glad that you enjoyed reading this. Be blessed always.
@ Aarthi - The link you gave took me to the lovely article. Thanks for sharing it here. It is so apt! The devotion of the gopikas for Krishna should stand as a beacon light for all of us.
Aarthi on May 16, 2013:
Yet again Swami answers me through your blog.
I was feeling so miserable last night wondering why Swami never gave me even one chance to interact with Him physically. I mean, no program in which I was a part of got staged in His physical presence. And I never got even one smile from Him or a word from Him or a Padanamaskar.
I cried so much this morning wondering how much merits one must have had to have those interactions in the past with Swami. Am I so lagging in my credit balance, I wondered.
But your post has answered my queries. And yes, these lines reiterate my thought -- "The greatest of blessings is not given that easily. Ask God for money, power, influence and standing - they will be given. But ask Him for the highest and it is not granted immediately because one’s worthiness has to be evaluated before it is gifted."
Indeed, Swami will easily give money, luxuries, etc, but He seems to move further away when we yearn for Him alone.
I would request you to read the article at this link. It's titled 'Delayed Grace' and it appeared in the Religion column of the printed edition of The Hindu newspaper in the Chennai version sometime back.
As I read this, I felt as if it was meant for me. I was touched by the line "Such devotion is hard to come by."
Thanks so much for this blog post, bro.
Sreenidhi on May 16, 2013:
Absolutely lovely! This topic is something that troubles and pains many and this hub could be a big big solace to those. I loved every bit of it." Everything that you are getting is simply because of My Grace.” - Such a sweet Swami we have. The Krishnamurthy's incident was so enthralling.
I loved the concluding words as well, the analogy drawn between pining and grace and the two polarities of an electric circuit. En'light'enment! Beautiful!
The feelings that arise when you are pining is beautiful. I used to feel it was like an incomplete love story that gives so much bliss waiting to experience the love.Now, I understand that With Swami, the love story can neither be limited to an experience nor can it be said incomplete when you are still pining for experiencing His love. The love story is complete in its own way, because Swami features it while pining as well as experiencing.
Thanks a lot to the Swami in you, anna, for this sumptuous breakfast for our hearts! Made my day!