The Presence…

His Presence is The Presence…The Presence that the entire creation is indebted to…The Presence that is the source of our life and sustenance…The Presence that is the Final Destination of everything…Students are the special lot, special pick, who were given the boon to draw the best out of His physical presence…and when they let out the whiff of ‘His Presence’ to the world, it spreads around engulfing everyone with the Fragrance Of His Love…His Light…Read on ‘The Presence’ by Dr. Sunam Gyamtso Tenzin, who was conferred with a PhD in esoteric Buddhism from SSSIHL after completing his pre-university, undergraduation and Master’s in Bhagawan’s Institutions.

“How did you know about Swami?” is perhaps one of the oft repeated questions that a devotee is asked. This has a few other variants such as “How did Swami come into your life?” (Of course a wrong question because He never came from elsewhere, He was always there); or “How or why did you become His devotee?” (Of which most of us are ignorant since the answer would be as abstract as “Why did He pick me?”) One can be certain that of the teeming millions that throng the hallowed grounds of Prasanthi Nilayam, each individual has diverse and unique experiences to narrate about the way in which he or she was brought into His Divine Fold. It is astounding to note this variety and diversity of experiences created by Bhagawan, emblematic of the adage – Ekoham Bahusyam.

Despite these varied entry points, what inevitably follows the first initiation is the phenomenon of transformation. Whoever is thus brought in His Presence and proximity, begins to drift away from his age-old egocentric moorings to the yonder regions of selflessness and love. A Sai Sadhak recently made this admission in a radio interview – “The first change was in the tone and tenor of my speech. My once caustic tongue suddenly took a mellow turn. I could no longer be mordant and abusive in my newly acquired tone.” What happens thereafter in this joyride of individual transformation is something that cannot be described in words. It has to be experienced first and then understood.

In many cases such understanding dawns much later in life when one reviews the past sequence of experiences in retrospect and then realizes that the difficult times that had been then ascribed to Bhagawan’s ‘wrath’ or ‘wanton negligence’ were but shadows cast by His Hands lifted to save and liberate. Another savant put it in a cruder but matter-of-fact way – “All of us devotees in varying measures are but transformed rogues.” It is only to guide ignorant humankind along the pathway of righteousness that God has taken a tangible form and name SAI – the confluence of Service or Karma, Adoration or Bhakti and Illumination or Jnana. Transcending His Name and Form, SAI is the universal abstraction that embodies the way and the goal, Transformation and the Transcendental Awareness of His Presence.

I am presenting here a select repertoire of real-life experiences that veer round the phenomenon of Transformation. The objective of these narratives is definitely not to present another thesis on His miracles, which He often describes as His ‘visiting cards’. Miracles happen every moment in and around us. We only need ‘the eyes to see and ears to hear them’. The purpose is to juxtapose these with the phenomenon of transformation – the evolution of a devotee’s life through these miracles. We are all living testimonies of His ‘Miracle of Transformation’. But how do we know that we are transformed or undergoing the process? Well, the external symptoms are a change in one’s attitude towards others, feeling the inner pricks of one’s conscience and being able to heed those pricks, being aware of the need to be free from vices and addictions, discovering a new fillip to sing His Glory and help other fellow beings in a spirit of selfless love and compassion. The inner experience is a sublime and profound state of ‘being in charge’ again, of being pure and immaculate, of being closer to one’s own identity, of feeling His omnipresence or living all the time in His Presence.

I had a rare experience as a student in Brindavan. A number of students perhaps inspired by the array of Swami’s cars, had got the impression that Bhagawan was fond of new cars. At one time Swami sent off a small team of four senior students-turned lecturers to Singapore to receive and bring a new Mercedes Car that a devotee had offered to Swami. All four of them were given identical suits and hats and even a set of travel gear with strict instructions to receive the car and return home. From the moment they set sail for Singapore, Swami would spend a good part of the evening Bungalow (now Trayee) Session giving running commentaries on the movements of His four stalwarts.

One evening, a flushed and excited looking Swami suddenly declared – “My boys will come today”. For the votaries of the Swami’s-fondness-for-cars theory, this appeared to be the absolute confirmation of their belief. Despite a prolonged evening session, the expected harbingers didn’t arrive and Swami after remarking – “Kya Kar Sakta Hai” (What can be done?) took Aarthi and retired upstairs. This happened the next evening too. On the ensuing day, Swami ‘predicted’ that the foursome would not come and took an early Aarthi. Soon after that, around 8 pm, our dear lecturers arrived with their priceless consignment, a deep green colored sparkling car. Bhagawan virtually rushed downstairs and blessed the car describing its various contours and even went on a nocturnal test-drive till Segehalli.

The critiques cast by the boys that evening on this phenomenon could have made a fat book. The next day, Swami didn’t ride the new car as expected and in the next few days, He left for Prasanthi Nilayam in His old car. Ultimately a senior devotee prayed to Swami to reveal the mystery of this car-phenomenon. Swami said –Many people mistakenly think that I have a weakness for cars. Yad Bhavam Tad Bhavati is My answer to that. My fondest cars are – Chamat-kaar (miracles), that I perform to bring about Sams-kaar (transformation of individuals), which results in the transformed devotees taking to the path of selfless and loving service Paropa-kaar, which ultimately leads to Ishwar-Sakshat-kaar or God realization. The world had to learn two things from this phenomenon – firstly that He is the reflection, resound and reaction of our own thoughts and beliefs, uninhibited by the conventional definitions of God that we are all used to; and secondly that Bhagawan only cares about our transformation and nothing else.

Another occasion, on the brink of despondency, I fervently prayed to Him and He promptly responded. I was then a pre-university student. “Kaheko castor oil face?” (Meaning why do you look downcast) He asked in His inimitable way. I was alone with Him in the interview room at Brindavan. With a sudden lump in my throat, I told Him that I felt a void within me since the time I had seen revered monks in the Rumtek Monastery in Eastern Sikkim partaking of animal meat and liquor. Their hypocrisy had turned me into a non-believer and that I was disillusioned and confused. The next moment, as I was gazing at His Lotus Feet and the hem of His Robe, He spoke two sentences to me in chaste Tibetan that had me spell-bound. For the next 20 minutes or more, He spoke to me about Chagya-Chenpo or Mahamudra, most of which I didn’t understand. But the sum and substance of the teaching that I gathered was that, accomplished seers are never affected by the mundane attributes for they are beyond the bounds of dualities. For them, any matter is only a conglomerate of the five elements, be it meat or vegetable, stone or sand, water or liquor. It was wrong on my part to doubt and criticize the acts of such eminent potentates, instead of observing my own spiritual progress. It was as though a veil had been lifted from my clouded psyche.

The sequel to this experience continued 13 years later when He created the most conducive circumstances for me to undertake doctoral research in Esoteric Buddhism in His University. As I delved through the Tantra doctrines, realization struck me that way back on that memorable morning, He had indeed initiated in me the Mahamudra Tantra, the basic Tantra practised by the Karmapa School of the Kagyudpa Buddhist lineage of which Rumtek is the second highest seat. A misanthropist had been transformed into a persevering seeker that morning, although the fact remains that even such close revelations have made little dent into my stubborn ego. The ‘process’ is still on, and He has never given up on me.

The year was 2002 and the occasion – His Divine Birthday. We had acquired a patch of land measuring approximately 20 acres in the mountain fastnesses of south Sikkim in the vicinity of a tiny hamlet called Majitar. On the sacrosanct day, a dear brother of mine and I spent the entire day amidst the sylvan surroundings of this land along with a select group of fellow devotees, doing the Bhumi Puja for the construction of Bhagawan’s School and Divine residence in Sikkim. Late in the evening, the two of us had the opportunity to participate in the Birthday Celebrations at Namchi, the district headquarters of south Sikkim. It was almost 9 pm when we left Namchi for Gangtok. As we reached an uphill tea estate called Temi-Tarku, we came across a large gathering of devotees braving the prevailing darkness and cold.

Seated underneath a makeshift shed, they were ‘celebrating His Birthday’. The time was a little past 10 and the winding stretch of road looked desolate. This was the only time that these people most of whom were garden labourers living on the edge of poverty, could afford the time for the celebration since all the day hours are spent in bone-breaking labour to earn two morsels. We sat there enraptured and transfixed seeing them sing Bhajans around a beautifully decorated altar. Every pair of eyes sparkled with the joy of inner contentment and spiritual awakening. No one could have been richer and happier and wiser than those devotees of Swami who epitomized the biblical maxim – ‘Blessed are those who haven’t seen and yet have believed’, for almost all of them had never been to Prasanthi Nilayam and seen Swami in person.

A German devotee while trekking in Dzongu, an exclusive reserve for the Lepcha tribe in northern Sikkim, found a group of these people seated around a campfire singing folksongs and sipping swigs of chang – a country brew. What flabbergasted him was a mural painting known as Thangka that depicted Bhagawan wearing a Tibetan robe, bearing mongoloid features and seated on a throne. He learnt from the group that they regarded the persona on the Thangka, gifted to them by a fakir, as their native God of hunting.

A handsome looking kid with a gaping hole where his right eye once belonged sat with his father in the second class coach of the Madras-bound Coromandel Express. They were labourers from the Takdah Tea Estate in Darjeeling. The father told me that he was going to Prasanthi Nilayam to offer his only son to Bhagawan in gratitude. With a bit of prodding, he told me that his son had once fallen from a precipice while trying to save his sister and had his right eye impaled on a fence. Somehow he reconciled with his son’s fate. Sometime later, his son contracted some disease in his left eye which had turned red and swollen. The village witch-doctor ascribed the malady to the play of malignant spirits. He inserted tiny particles of crushed glass beads in the boy’s eyes and beat him with a stick to exorcise the spirits. As a result, the boy bled profusely and lost complete vision of the left eye too. The aggrieved father blamed God for being merciless and scooping up a handful of ash from the hearth, smeared it on his son, consigning him to the mercy of Kirateswara, their family deity. That night, the boy dreamt that Bhagawan (whom he recognized instantly since he had been attending Bhajans in the neighborhood), wearing a white gown took him in a car. At a wayside cottage, Swami ushered the boy inside a room and made him lie down on a table. Producing a sharp instrument, Swami thrust it into the boy’s eye. Pus and broken glass particles began to ooze out of the damaged eye. The boy woke up to find that the intense pain was completely gone. His shirt was sodden with the flowing matter. The next morning, he narrated this to his father who gingerly removed the bandage to find his boy’s eye intact and healed. Now dear reader, please don’t start wondering why Swami did not heal the other eye too. He alone is conversant with the karmic logbook of every individual. A miracle is but a matter of 100 percent faith in God’s Power and Mercy, verily as Jesus told the blind boy – ‘Thy faith has healed thee’.

A lieutenant colonel of the Indian army on peace keeping mission in war-torn Jaffna in Sri Lanka had a last minute ‘intuition’, a tiny call from within to stop the bomb-raiding of a house that was suspected to be a hideout of the Tigers. Instead, he asked his men to cover his flanks and went alone to the house. As he kicked open the front door, he was taken aback by the sight of a neatly framed life size photo of Bhagawan adorning the opposite wall. Hearing some shuffling noise coming from the adjoining room, he threw caution to the winds and ran inside the room to find fourteen little petrified children huddled up together. Those children were rescued and sent for rehabilitation.

Once during my college days, I was watching in silent admiration the students sprinting and jostling to gain a vantage place inside Trayee Brindavan for the evening session with the Lord. The elders normally kept a distance from the stampede lest they be knocked down by the young enthusiasts. As the youngsters settled down within the sacrosanct precincts, I too entered with the other lecturers and took a rear corner place. The Lord then took His seat on the regal swing and quite unexpectedly called out – “Where is Sikkim?” In all my vanity, I replied – “I am here Swami”. He looked at me wistfully and commanded – “Why are you there at the back? Come to the front.” The sea of humanity parted and made way for my pompous self to approach the throne. “There was no place in the front Swami”, I replied. Bhagawan disapprovingly looked at me and pointed to one of the boys seated near Him – “How did he find a place here then?” I said – “Swami he ran faster than the rest to gain that place”. At this Swami rebuked me – “Couldn’t you too have run? Did you think that you were granting chance to the juniors since you have already been emancipated?” I was speechless. I had already understood the purport.

The message in between the lines was that every sentient or insentient being is pining to find that coveted place – proximity or merger with the Creator. The quantum of inner yearning is proportional to one’s effort – figuratively projected in the present context as the act of running and hurrying to get that ‘place in the front’. The quest and effort cannot be slowed down or stopped until the goal is reached. Chastised and penitent I faced Swami with tears of gratitude when He further asked me to move from His left flank where I had found some place to stand, to His front directly facing Him and then with a chuckle, He remarked – “Yes this is the correct position – as you look into my eyes now, you can see your reflection in there as much as I am reflected in your eyes. How could that happen when you move away from My Presence?” The Lord continued – “I am the Immovable and Unchanging Principle. You are the ones who are transient, being caught in the vortex of Karma Bandhan. Thus it is for you to either come nearer or draw away from My Presence. Until you give up your ego and experience the underlying unity between Me and you, I will just be the Eternal Witness, far and distant.”

That night I had no hunger or sleep. Till day break I kept contemplating on this ethereal experience. Again and again, I was fascinated with the word ‘My Presence’. I had to capture and drum in His Presence in the very core of my being so that I would always feel Him close by wherever I would be. It was a splendid feeling of qualified nondualism Vishista-Advaita that the Master had made me aware of in those few fleeting moments in His immediate presence. What a pity it was that having spent more than a decade with Him; I was still the most consummate ignoramus, limiting His Presence only within the bounds of His Name and Form, forgetting His Omnipresence. To feel such proximity with Him, the Lord has given us the immortal mantra of CIA or Constant Integrated Awareness.

Years turned into a full decade since I left the portals of our University in Prasanthi Nilayam. Living a value-oriented life in a world of aggressive professionalism and corruption has been and continues to be a challenge. Yet He gives the strength and the courage to face challenges. There are umpteen moments when I feel a strange void within me, a feeling of being alone and left out. I was overwhelmed with such an experience one evening in the year 2003, as I was engaged in my prayers. “Have you forsaken me? Am I on my own now?” I cried out. The pages of the book Jazbaad written as a tribute to Bhagawan by Prof. B.P.Mishra was on the harmonium in front of me. The page open before me contained the beautiful song ‘Mere Sai Mai To Anaath Hoon Mujhe Daas Apna Banaiye’ – My Sai I am a destitute, make me Your Servant. In a matter of moments, a lilting tune welled up from deep within me to fit this most exquisite lyrical tribute. In utter ecstasy I sang the song which I realized was set in Raag Jhinjhothi.

What a way to reassure me that I would not be dumped. I could feel His resplendent and reassuring smile, His very presence. In the past, every time He gave me a song, I would wear out the impact of His Presence in a trice and then feel possessive and boastful about the composition thinking it to be mine. This time the feel was different. The experience simply taught me that if I want to be in His Presence, I had to dwell in His Presence – “I in You and you in Me” as He tells us quite often.

II Samasta Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu II