The Summer Course in Indian Culture and Spirituality held under Bhagavan’s divine guidance for many years has helped thousands of students gain insight into the vast subject. The courses also helped change the attitudes and aspirations of many. This is the story of a young man, Ajay Pant, who came to attend the Course with deep doubts and left completely transformed by his experience. Before Mr. Pant left Lucknow, his friend had a scooter accident and was admitted to hospital. This was two days before he and his sister were to leave for Brindavan. Des-pite the efforts of the doctors and his own prayers to Baba, the young man died. Pant continues his story:
All the time, somewhere in my subconscious, I blamed Swami for all the happenings. The journey to Bangalore started with a built-in prejudice against Swami. The picture of the boy haunted me throughout the trip.
I reached Whitefield on the day the Sum-mer Course was to be inaugurated. My sister was with me since she, too, had been selected for the Course. My first reaction to the whole setup was strange. I liked it, in spite of having a grudge against Swami.
I met all the boys selected from Uttar Pradesh (India). What I could not understand then was their eagerness to see Swami, which I more or less pretended not to have.
At last, we stood outside the gate of Swami’s residence, waiting for Him to come out. My reaction at confronting Swami was least expected. When I saw the saffron-clad, magnificent figure gliding closer, I was quite taken aback. “No one can be rude to this personality,” I thought. But the “intellect” prevailed and I stubbornly put my hands behind my back, while everyone else had them folded respectfully. Swami smiled at all others and acknowledged their greetings. He just whizzed past me. I felt, only felt, as if He looked at me strangely, as if to say, “Wait! I’ll show you!!”
I took the challenge. I was stubborn, headstrong. My campaign against Baba was somehow to make fun of Him. I remember a boy telling me that I weakened his faith with my talking rubbish. I even went to the extent of distorting the words of the bhajans [devotional songs].
But how long can one resist His charm? I slowly found myself doing what He told all the students to do. The explanation I gave myself for this was that since Swami was feeding me and would be doing so for a month, it was my duty.
The day came when Swami was giving in-terviews to students of our state. I was eager to see Him to have my queri-es answered. We went into the interview room. Half the boys rushed forward to be seated where Swami would come and sit, but I chose a back seat, almost next to the wall. When at last Swami came in, the boys rushed to touch His feet. Good sense prevailed and I, too, touched His feet. I was surprised at what I had done.
Swami very sweetly started the conver-sation asking us how the food was, how the classes were going on, and so on. He answered some philosophical queries. The boys were all eager to gulp down everything that He spoke. I found that my turn would not come, nor would Swami say anything to me. Then He started asking all the students what their names were and what classes were they in. My turn also came and I mumbled the information.
To my utter surprise, I found myself de-sperate—desperate to ask: “Swami, why did you kill the boy so young? Why did you not listen to me?” Suddenly Swami’s conversation turned to life and death. He glanced knowingly at me and said, “The body experiences age, the atma [individualized soul] has no age.” The others took the statement as a casual remark, but I knew what He meant.
He continued illustrating, “You buy a suit–length cloth and keep it in the cupboard for 10 years. After that you have it stitch-ed and are under the illusion that the suit is new. When you wear the suit and bend, it gets torn. Then why do you cry that the new suit is torn? You forget it is the stitching that was new and not the cloth. Similarly, the body is the new stitching and the atma is the ageless cloth.”
I listened and stared in disbelief. Was life and death as simple as He made it out to be? Whatever it was, my head was throbbing with excitement. Above all, it was clear of all doubts. Had it been any-one else, I would have refuted, doubted, but the explicit, loving, knowing, and earnest manner in which He explained put it way beyond doubt.
After that I watched Him sorrowfully as the interview came to an end. Swami walked to each one of us and distributed vibhuti [sacred ash] packets. Giving a heap to me, He asked in a slow melodious whisper, “Kya mangta?” (What do you want?). The only words He inspired me to speak out were, “Bless all.” He seemed happy and said, “Yes, yes,” and went to the other boys.
When I came out of the hall, I was almost in a new world. Everything explain-ed so easily—the mind was so free. This was the greatest sort of miracle for me.
After that I felt closer to Swami. I got a chance to go on the dais one evening, garland Him, touch His feet, and even manage to speak to Him.
On the day when the Course was being concluded, I was sitting on the floor of the over-full auditorium listening to Swami’s discourse. He was telling us about the chal-lenge that we would have to face when we went back. He said that the actual Summer Course was only beginning. He concluded with bhajans in His captivating voice and the ever-enthusiastic devotees (and I, too) joined in.
After arati [ritual waving of the flame], Swami left the auditorium. I saw an empty step on the passage through which Swami walked. I rushed and stood there, watching tensely as Swami approach-ed closer. I folded my hands.
Swami stopped before me, yes, stopped amidst all the fanfare and excitement. I was floating in the air, to say the least. The opportunity was too rare to be missed. I said, “Swami, help me to be good.” He smiled, “Yes! Yes! I am always with you.” I touched His feet and felt His hands on my back blessing me. Then He asked me in Hindi, “Are you not coming to Puttaparthi?” I replied “No.” He raised His hand; His sleeve went up, and He circled it thrice. My palm stretched out automati-cally and vibhuti came pouring onto my hand. He said, “Eat it” and sailed away before I could think or say anything.
I stood still, dazed. As I came to I gulped down the vibhuti and walked back to the hostel, still excited. I felt miserable after that—miserable because Swami was leav-ing the next day with most of the students for Puttaparthi.
The next morning, the few students who stayed back sorrow-fully waved good-bye to Swami. The hostel seemed empty without Him, and my sister and I decided to leave for Bangalore that very day.
Now when I sit here and write my con-fession, I feel not ashamed but proud to have lost my ego battle with Swami. He made me face reality, bitter reality, in a sweet, soothing manner. The name of the boy who died was “Ananda Mohan” (which literally means ‘enchanting joy’). Now when I weigh the scales, I find that I have lost “ananda [joy]”, but I have gained the “Ananda Swaroopa (embodiment of joy).”
Source: Sanathana Sarathi, March 1981