Around two decades ago, my aunt was suddenly struck by an emergency illness and all of us feared for her life. At that time I had a wonderful book with me called, 'Facets of the Divine Diamond', (out of print now) full of pithy quotations from Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, arranged alphabetically. As is my habit, I prayed for a message during that anxious period, and received through that book a powerful quote that said:
"Do not contemplate on 'death', it is merely an incident of life;
contemplate on GOD who is the MASTER of all LIFE" .
contemplate on GOD who is the MASTER of all LIFE" .
We literally did that and needless to say, my aunt came out safely through that medical emergency of a burst appendix (story some other time) and till date remains hale and hearty.
I was reminded of this quote a couple of months ago when apparent 'calamity' struck us in the form of ill-health of an elderly member of my family, who I will call BSM. The events that followed during the ensuing three weeks constitute a 'miracle', a Divine leela (play) -- seemingly simple occurrences, a string of coincidences, some inputs from other dimensions (!!) and finally the surprising climax.
It also set me thinking about the role of human effort, Divine GRACE and surrender, in spiritual life. With each step on this journey, we grow and move closer to the goal of Oneness with the Source. In the confounding events of life, we start with human effort (mental and physical) -- physical action and prayer including affirmations, rituals, mantras, bhajans, meditation and many other such mechanisms to connect with God and seek His help in the issues of life. Slowly the realisation dawns that human effort is a miniscule part of this journey; that for a devotee, it is the GRACE of God that envelopes life and all that we are. We are like the little fish who live in the ocean and one day, set out to find this great Being called the OCEAN that features in 'fish epics' and 'fish mythology', little knowing that they live in and are sustained by this very 'OCEAN'!!
Since effort is so tiny when compared to the power of Divine Grace, must we then stop praying or making various efforts? Since everything is God's Will and 'what happens will anyway happen' should we 'sit back and relax', 'stop work and enjoy the show' and go by other such platitudes of fatalistic philosophy? No, we continue with the same -- we work, we pray, we stumble, we agonize at delays, we wait for deliverance, but our intuitive awareness grows and our understanding of God deepens and so too our relationship with the Divine. We also learn to slowly detach from the outcome of effort; moving towards 'disinterested (unselfish as opposed to obsession with results) action' or 'Nishkama Karma' as espoused in the Bhagavad Gita.
Human effort, by itself cannot achieve anything ! Explosive statement in today's world. But here's the corollary: human aspiration and inspired effort set into motion 'spiritual forces of the Universe', (read GOD), which then bring about necessary outcomes. Like the positive and negative poles required to generate electricity, so too effort and Grace coalesce to bring about change, the ratio being unequal though.Whether you believe in God or not, Grace operates in life. For electric current to be generated in your home, you do not need to understand the intricacies of physics, there just needs to be the right conditions. Effort is like the switch you press. Even when people believed the earth to be 'flat', no-one fell off the Earth's surface, because the earth is in fact spherical, a fact like Grace.
Can mere 'human effort'
move this rock of life's circumstances ?
Link here for poem:
It was summer in 2013. I was in an extremely restless frame of mind, dealing with various issues at once, mentally and physically drained out. So when a friend invited me to visit her abroad, I was very enthused and later was happy when Bhagawan said in a dream, "Go and come", (though He did not look at me while saying this and sounded non-commital). I felt intuitively that this trip would change the direction of my life in some major way; so I looked forward to it, albeit cautiously. Anyhow, I wanted a 'break'; I 'needed and deserved' it! Meanwhile a neighbour's daughter arrived for an unexpected holiday from the very country I was planning to visit, so it seemed as though everything was in order. The Universe was confirming my plans . . . .
I was busy with procuring a visa etc. and I was praying (pestering, rather) to Bhagawan to give a more concrete permission and advice, something more involved from His side, that is. Well 'man proposes and God disposes'; this is a well-known saying, familiar to all. But I also experienced first-hand, though not for the first time, that God's disposition is ALWAYS for the best (though we may not admit it always!)
I was supposed to embark on my 'trip' towards the end of June. Meanwhile, BSM, who is the protagonist of this story was gearing up for his quarterly medical check-up at the Super-Specialty Hospital in Puttaparthi, He has a severe heart-valve dysfunction and is on 'medical-management' (since Bhagawan hadn't given permission for surgery in early 2011), unable to handle physical strain, including walking for long, climbing stairs, etc. However his trip to the 'Super' (as we often refer to the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences http://psg.sssihms.org.in/ ) this time around was for a routine Urology check-up, as is normal for people in their late seventies.
BSM with Swami during a Seva-Dal padanamaskar session: January 1993
My dream that morning was as follows:
I was standing somewhere in front of the mandir verandah and Bhagawan was there too, busy talking to people, collecting letters; the scene was of the 80s or early 90s darshan ground, prior to the Sai Kulwant hall days. Suddenly Swami moved forward towards where I was standing and everyone made a bee-line to make a passage for Him. I was very happy at this and readied myself to ask Bhagawan about my 'trip' and His help. As He came in front of me, He smiled bewitchingly and put something into my hands. It looked like some white, amorphous substance (not vibhuti/sacred ash). The word that came to my mind was mysterious: 'manna'. I knelt at His feet and took a namaskar and said, "Swami, BSM's health". Swami smiled at me and glided away even as I mumbled , "Swami, visa (for the 'trip')" He wasn't there any longer.
I woke up, wondering at what was coming next; His dreams always come with a message, an indication, a prior protection, a warning but with the built-in assurance that He would take care.
BSM went for his 'routine' Urology check-up and the news wasn't good. He had been looking pale the past couple of days; the blood tests confirmed the presence of a possible malignancy. The young doctor who examined him physically too, suggested a 'minor' procedure that would enable them to remove the small cyst. Nothing to worry, very common for people at this age. But here was the catch: this patient had a heart condition that made any procedure extremely risky, however minor. Heart medication included blood-thinners that could cause enormous bleeding with even a small cut. The prognosis was cancer, that deadly word, and in the present situation, there seemed not many medical options left. Even a biopsy that entailed a small cut to the body, was ruled out. The heart was really 'ruling' here! Meanwhile, I met the doctors at the General Hospital at Prasanthi Nilayam, which is where we go for BSM's monthly check-up and one of them told me that for nearly a year now, his blood-platelet count had shown a value lower than normal. However, this was not heart-related. I asked what it meant and she said there could be many reasons, one of them being, an indication of a pre-cancer stage in the body. Blood platelets also reduce when one gets dengue-fever and so on. It also causes unnatural bleeding. We needed to consult a haematologist.
We then decided to explore other options and go in for a second opinion since here the option for a ultra-sound-generated biopsy (TRUS) was also unavailable. My brother (who stays at Mumbai) got an appointment at one of the branches of Dr. Devi Shetty's Narayana Hrudayalaya at Benguluru, three weeks hence, that is for July 4th, 2013.
Meanwhile, in that intervening period, out of the blue, I met and heard of at least three people who had a brush with cancer but came out of it safely. One particularly, was a friend of mine who lives in Dubai and I just 'happened' to meet her at Prasanthi Nilayam. In a similar situation, an elderly family-member, beyond 80 yrs, had a growth in his esophagus. There was no way but to go in for surgery. Before the D-day, when the required series of pre-Op tests were done, the surgeon (who later turned out to be a Sai-devotee!) discovered that the growth had simply disappeared ! My friend had had a wonderful dream-vision, the previous night where she saw many angels and Celestial Beings along with Bhagawan guarding her home. Another case shocked me a bit. It related to someone I knew, let me call her SLKM, who was working in one of Swami's Institutions here. I was told that she had been diagnosed with cancer in the thyroid, but had gone through a successful surgery at Bhagawan's Hospital at Whitefield, Bangalore. I was in a bemused frame of mind. On one hand, there was this worry and uncertainty; on the other I had this conviction (because of the dream) that Bhagawan was totally in charge. I kept remembering His smile and the mysterious gift He gave me. Also, I briefly wondered at all these positive bits of information about miraculous cures I was getting to know.
The One who SMILES away the Karma of His devotees!
At the same time, to get some extra feed-back, we had rung up a relative who was an experienced pathologist and she suggested an intake of papaya-leaf juice to increase the platelet count. This is a traditional remedy used in dengue-fever cases, but officially, there are differing views about this. My prayer to Bhagawan was, if this remedy was harmless and useful, let us be able to give this to BSM, otherwise, 'block it'. (I have found this prayer useful in many uncertain situations! Try it! ) Papaya leaves were found and we tried this out for some days, till his stomach had an upset. Then it was back to the ENT. There finally, the doctor clarified that perhaps the continuous bleeding was due to a growth in the ear, requiring, yes you guessed it, 'minor' surgery. We were nonplussed. He gave some antibiotics to clear infection, if any, and again meet him after five days.
I woke up after a while and felt enveloped with a sense of PEACE and Bliss. This to me, whenever it happens, is Swami's concrete Presence; these waves of peace that surround you gently. I then heard this clear message: I AM REMOVING IT THROUGH THE EAR. I was fully awake now, feeling very rested and peaceful. I gazed at Bhagawan's photograph and KNEW what was actually going on. But I didn't elaborate on this to anyone much, though I dropped a few hints.
Meanwhile, the trip to Bangalore was two days away. We went back to the ENT doctor, who examined the ear, cleaned up the remaining discharge which had now stopped and to everyone's relief stated: it was not a growth, it was only an inflammation (swelling). The first piece of good news in a while. My brother arrived and off they went to Bangalore, where they met with a Cardiologist, a Urologist and a Haematologist .
On the 6th of July, I had another dream of Bhagawan in the early morning hours. BSM had returned from Bangalore. late the previous night. The dream was as follows:
I was sitting somewhere in a place from where the Prasanthi mandir bhajan-hall was visible. Near me sat SLKM, with some children near her. She looked pale but cheerful and I especially noticed how her hair had grown back. In the distance we both see that Bhagawan is inside the mandir and was waiting to sprinkle the 'holy water' from the Dassera Yagna on all of us.
I woke up to the sound of the alarm. My observation about SLKM's hair-growth was an indirect dream-message that she was CURED of cancer. (As is well known, when chemotherapy is done, one side-effect is loss of hair. A reference to hair-growth indicated that the patient was on the road to recovery.) At breakfast I heard the details of the Bangalore visit. The tests done there showed an increase in the blood-platelet levels to nearly normal. In fact someone there even commented that perhaps the machine here was defective! I just kept quiet for the moment. There was also a drop in other values and the specialist there after considering all the tests that they had done, affirmed that a slight change in medication would do for now and there was nothing to worry or fear. As simple as that !!