in a BBC Radio Programme, there was the news that within a
few months China was going to send a man into space. The broadcaster
then contacted on the phone a leading official in China [rich
radio stations can do such things!] and asked that official
many questions about China's plans to send a man into space.
In the process the broadcaster asked a question, a provocative
one of course, because that is the way broadcasting is these
days [except of course on Radio Sai!]. He said, "Sir,
it is going to cost a lot of money to send a man into space.
Is it really necessary when this is not going to be the first
time? What will be gained from it, and why spend money on
this venture when China needs to do so much for the rural
poor? Why not spend this money on poverty alleviation?"
the face of it, one cannot take exception to this question,
except that the Western media persons do not ask such questions
of their own politicians and planners. In this connection,
I recall what late Prof. Sampath used to say about the First
Gulf War. [For those of you who do not know, Prof. Sampath
was the Third Vice Chancellor of Swami's University. But more
important, he was a most lovable man, a great devotee of the
Lord, most witty and ever full of humorous stories.]. Prof.
Sampath often used to point out that with the money spent
in that war fought in the early nineties, THREE HUNDRED Super
Speciality Hospitals of the type founded by Bhagavan Baba
in Puttaparthi could be set up.
Yes, today money is not only misused but also often used
for atrocious purposes. Recently, there was an Arms Bazaar
in London at which leading arms peddlers gathered to exhibit
and sell their wares. On the one hand, there is a lot of hue
and cry about weapons of mass destruction and on the other,
the very same countries that cry hoarse on such matters put
up an exhibition enticing all and sundry, including people
from the impoverished countries of Africa to shop for arms.
I mean, will people buy arms and then go for a picnic? Arms
promote conflict; conflict in turn leads to brutality, death,
massacre, and millions of innocent people suffering.
My intention is not to point an accusing finger at others.
Rather, I would like to use this opening so that we do some
introspection ourselves. All of us spend money. Some of it
is for absolutely necessary purposes while at other times
it is for pleasure and enjoyment. One cannot complain against
having some fun occasionally. But, if the money spent on it
can be set apart for something else, why not?
Here I am reminded of a touching incident that happened more
than ten years ago. The Puttaparthi Super Speciality Hospital
was just coming up, and in those days, Swami was deeply involved
day in and day out on the Project. In the afternoons, after
Darshan, Swami would be in the Interview Room, conferring
with people involved in the Project. For students, this was
very difficult to bear because earlier, Baba would spend so
much time in the veranda, talking to them. But the boys understood
the reason behind the change. And whatever they wanted to
tell Swami, they now put it into letters, which Bhagavan received
at Darshan time.
One afternoon, Swami came for Darshan, received
letters from the public and the students, and then went into
His room. A while later, the door opened and Swami came out
holding a letter in His hand saying, "Who wrote this
letter? Which boy wrote it?" The boy who had given the
letter recognised it to be his. He was scared but slowly got
up. Swami asked, "You wrote this letter?" Fearing
the worst, the boy just nodded. Swami then said, "Come
here." Legs shaking and body trembling, the boy went
to Swami. Swami then said to the people on the veranda, "You
know what this boy has written and done? He says, 'Swami,
I am very anxious to do something for the Hospital Project.
If I were a rich man, I could have written a cheque. If I
were a contractor, I could have contributed building materials.
If I were an engineer, I could have helped with the construction.
If I were a doctor, I could have opted to serve here. I cannot
do any of these things because I am still a student here.
Yet I want to do something. So Bhagavan, out of Love for You,
I decided to save money, money that I would otherwise have
spent on soft drinks, snacks and various personal conveniences.
For example, I now wash my clothes instead of giving it to
the Dhobi [washerman]. This way, I have been able to save
a hundred rupees. Please allow me to offer this with Love
at Your Lotus Feet. If this money could get even a litte brick
for the Hospital, I would consider myself Blessed!'"
After saying all this, Swami held opened the envelope and
held up a hundred rupee currency note for all to see. Bhagavan
then slowly said, "For Me, this hundred rupee note is
more valuable than the biggest of cheques". Yes, that
was the same God who [as Krishna] accepted puff rice, speaking!
So what is the point? The point is just that we gain so much
more by giving to others than in giving to ourselves [in the
form of pleasure that is]. One is not compelled to give to
others. But it makes one's life so much better and sweeter.
I shall end with another story that came out in one of my
classes while we were discussing spiritual matters. Some months
ago when it was a bit rainy and slightly cold here, one afternoon,
as the boys were coming for Darshan, one boy noticed an old
woman sitting near the wall of the Primary School and crying.
He saw her dress was wet and that she was shivering. Without
a second thought, this boy just quietly peeled off from the
line, and ran back to his room in the hostel while the others
marched to the Mandir. Once in his room, this boy picked up
a thick bed-sheet of his, rolled it, packed it, and started
walking back towards the Mandir. When he came to the old woman,
he quickly opened the package and wrapped the sheet around
the shivering woman. The old lady was taken aback. The boy
then said, "Amma, don't worry. This is for you."
The lady could not speak. She looked into the eyes of the
boy, with tears in her eyes. Tears they were but they were
tears of joy and gratitude. For this boy, his day was made.
He had come face to face with Love. With God.
Next time we want to have a ball, why don't we stop for a
moment and think of some old woman somewhere, who could be
helped with that money? Gandhi put it nicely and told Government
officers, "When you want to spend money, think of the
face of the poorest person you know and ask, 'Will this expenditure
benefit that person?'" Remember a Bhajan that starts
with a line about the serving the poor? Can you recall that
Bhajan? If you do, write to us, and we shall announce the
names of all who got it right! Write to [email protected]
When you write, don't forget to write your full name, and
the name of the place and the country from where you are writing.