HARNESSING THE HEART - PART 16
Living Up to the Challenge of Conscience in Daily Life
Dear Readers, in this series, we offer you real life stories from contemporary heroes who have demonstrated the courage to follow their conscience when confronted with difficult dilemmas or challenging circumstances in their daily lives. This segment is an ode to the strength of the brave-hearts who chose to listen to the voice of their conscience, thereby abiding by the values of Right Conduct, Truth, Love, Peace and Non-violence, even though the choice had appeared tough.
In our previous issues, we brought you inspiring stories from around the globe. These included the experiences of Mrs. Priya K-Alldis, Mr. Dev Taneja, Mr. C. B. S. Mani, Mr. Karthik Ramesh, Mr. Amar Vivek, Mr. Krish Venkatasubramaniam, Mr. Hiten Morarji, Mr. N. Prabhakar, Mr. Sathya Jambunathan, Mr. U. Pardha Saradhi, A courageous woman executive (Part 11), Mr. Shalabh Mittal, Mr. P. S. Kannan, Mr. Sai Mudigonda and an anonymous charity board member (Part 15).
Pledged to put into practice the most precious of Swami’s teachings, Love, with every fibre of his being, the writer of the current article takes us on a fascinating journey through rare and intense experiences which have tested his resolve to live by the principle of love, whatever be the moral or physical challenge. This account vividly illustrates the power of the conscience when it has been vivified by adherence to human values. Each one of us loves miracles, we are at awe when we hear about them or even see them, but wish if only we could do them. Well, this present author proves that it is possible, not through parables of the bygone eras, but by his own personal experiences. Read it, this is surely exciting!
MAKING MIRACLES IN LIFE…THROUGH LOVE
By Mr. Vivekananda Sahoo
An alumnus of Sri Sathya Sai University, Mr. Vivekananda Sahoo joined the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School in 1996 and went on to do his Bachelor of Commerce in the Brindavan campus of Sri Sathya Sai University in 1998. After completing his graduation there, he moved on to the Prasanthi Nilayam campus to pursue his Master of Business Administration during the years 2001-03. He has worked in leading IT Multi National Companies managing the organizations’ corporate strategic efforts. Currently he is the Head, Business Development and Strategic Initiatives at RuralShores, an organization which is a socio-economic venture to bring job opportunities to rural youth in the BPO sector. He is also a Director of a Non Government Organisation, “Prem Daan Sansthan” and Founder member of Sai Anandam Trust (an orphanage for small children), Orissa.
“Love in speech is truth. Love in action is righteousness. Love in thought is peace. Love in understanding is non-violence.
Of these five vital principles, Love is the foremost. It is Love that flows as the under-current for the other four values. How does it flow this way? When Love is associated with our thoughts, it manifests itself as Truth. When Love is associated with feelings, it produces Peace. When Love animates actions, it results in Right Action. When Love is combined with understanding, it becomes Non-violence. Therefore, whenever you feel angry, think of love, develop thoughts of love in your heart. You will have peace.”
~ Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba
What has appealed to me most about Love is its aspect of being unconditional and needing no requital. It is that aspect of the universe which connects us back to every strand and fibre of the universe; it is this unconditional state of human nature, and a form of knowledge that is always there for us. It is, in fact, inherent in every man.
Over a period of time, living with this eternal value and expressing it in my daily life has been my constant endeavor. Of course, there have been challenging and difficult times in the process of practicing this, but I have experienced that as we continue to send out love, the energy returns to us in a regenerating spiral. Be it in the workplace or home, if we can tap into this huge reservoir of energy in our day to day existence, it keeps one in perfect balance and harmony.
Love is not a mechanical force, which like a software programme, runs our life; it takes lots of effort, constant awareness of our true being and loads of practice.... The entire universe is the playground that allows this practice. Everyone we meet in our life is either a coach or a teammate presented to us to help us better the game. In this exercise, Love is the tool, and what is more, love is the end product too.
Love is not a mechanical force, which like a software programme, runs our life; it takes lots of effort, constant awareness of our true being and loads of practice. It’s just the way I learnt riding my bicycle and doing gymnastics. The entire universe is the playground that allows this practice. Everyone we meet in our life is either a coach or a teammate presented to us to help us better the game. In this exercise, Love is the tool, and what is more, love is the end product too.
Love in Speech Is Truth
Soon after my Masters in Business Administration from the Sri Sathya Sai University, Puttaparthi, I joined a UK-based IT Multi National Company as a management trainee. We were a team of 8 people responsible for providing all support to the top executives of the Company in decision making. We prepared key reports which were used by the finance department as input for billing the clients. Along with another senior colleague, I used to access a common system to communicate with the onsite client and receive the relevant documents from them.
Once, unfortunately owing to a communication gap, we missed a mail that contained vital information about the billing details of an important customer account. And as expected this had a major impact on the entire billing cycle; there was a discrepancy of Rs. 2 Million in the books.
Only a few days later when I came across the above mentioned mail, did I realize this omission. I was aghast and very nervous imagining the possible consequences it would have on all of us. I shared this with my senior colleague and his first reaction was to sweep this under the carpet and feign complete ignorance.
I was feeling very uncomfortable with the way we were dealing with the situation. I mustered all courage and told my senior that we should go and explain everything in detail to our manager and seek his guidance to address the entire issue.
He looked at me and said, “I have been working here for the past 7 years and you joined just a few months ago. It will be foolishness to go to the manager and open our mouths; we will simply lose our jobs. So, just keep quiet about this whole episode and it will all resolve by itself.”
It seemed a very logical way of survival but I knew that there was something fundamentally wrong in this approach; I was unable to bring myself to accept this suggestion. I tried reasoning it out with him but he almost threatened me emotionally, and said that I had no right to jeopardize his career along with mine. I spent a sleepless night. I was sure that if I don’t deal with this situation right now, my other team mates would be affected adversely. And the biggest impact will be on my manager. He will be held accountable for this entire mishap.
I prayed and introspected so that I have the courage to do the right thing. And at that particular moment a wave of energy flooded my being; it was a strong wish for the well being of my managers and other team mates. If I look back now, I know it was a trickle of that unconditional love which gave me inner strength and permission to be who I was and express myself without any fear. The next day the first thing I walked into my manager’s cabin and disclosed to him the entire fiasco. He was exasperated and shocked. Controlling his fury, he blurted out, “How can you all be so irresponsible? This is very disappointing.”
However, we then got into damage control mode and first communicated to the concerned authorities at all levels about this lapse. Then we started working to make sure that the data was processed and sent across to the required department. And sure enough in the next few hours what looked like an impossible task was done. All it required was a little courage, presence of mind and love.
I prayed and introspected so that I have the courage to do the right thing. And at that particular moment a wave of energy flooded my being; it was a strong wish for the well being of my managers and other team mates. If I look back now, I know it was a trickle of that unconditional love which gave me inner strength and permission to be who I was and express myself without any fear.
Later, my manager called me and said, “I was initially very disappointed with the negligence, but I am extremely happy that you had the courage to admit it and take accountability for what had happened. And the management has decided to entrust to you with one of our most important and biggest customer accounts from here on.” It was unbelievable that this most coveted customer landed on my lap despite the fact that I was the junior-most person in the entire team.
My stint in this company played a significant role in living the values that I had learnt during my stay at Sri Sathya Sai University. The entire team expressed a lot of confidence in me and my abilities. The people, who a year back were of the view that I was completely ineffective, were now freely sharing their personal and professional thoughts with me. I was their confidante partly because I believe I just listened to them without any judgment and biases in my mind. This is what I had learnt from my Master, Bhagavan Baba.
In fact, the Director of HR went on record to say “I do not know why, but the students from Sri Sathya Sai University are so unique and completely different. In my entire corporate life I have come across many professionals, but never witnessed the display of a sterling character like you boys have. Parents like me have a vision for our children and it’s a comfortable life, success and money. It’s a conglomeration of consumer durables, all comforts that modern life can offer, a great career and the citizenship of a developed country. Success, to start with is, academics: ranks, stars, medals, and the work, soon followed by career options. But after seeing the students of this University it has made me realize that I would be a proud mother if my son possesses a character like you all. “
“After seeing the students of the Sathya Sai University, it has made me realize that I would be a proud mother if my son possesses a character like you all.”
Love in Action Is Righteousness
It was during the summer holidays, of my final year Bachelors of Commerce degree in the Brindavan Campus of Sri Sathya Sai University. The exams had ended and the holidays had begun, but the majority of us had decided to stay back in Brindavan as Bhagavan Baba was there. This was until one fine evening. We were seated around Baba in Trayee Brindavan that day when He asked our warden “Why are these boys here? They should go home.” Then He looked at us and said, “All of you leave for your home towns by tomorrow.”
“One can never digest the money earned in this adharmic (or unrighteous) way.... Any money which has been earned in an unscrupulous way can never be relished; it would get spent in meeting the expenses of sudden illness, accidents of loved ones or such other unexpected circumstances. This cash will spell more troubles in the longer run for you than anything else. When you protect dharma (righteousness), dharma protects you.”
We replied prayerfully, “Swami, this is our home.” He said, “Yes, this is your home…. but you must also go and be with your parents, serve them and make them happy too.” Then He again looked at the warden and said, “Make sure all these boys leave home tomorrow.“ Later, our warden called us and said that we must leave for our home towns immediately as per Swami’s directions. “Please book your tickets immediately and make the necessary preparations,” he told us.
There were no confirmed tickets available. I boarded the train and approached the Train Ticket Examiner to confirm reservation for my ticket from the next station, since a few seats were getting vacant. The Ticket Examiner said, “Sure, but you have to pay Rs.300”. I was surprised, and asked him as to why I should pay this amount, when I already had a ticket”.
He was irked at my statement and, looking at me irritably, said, “I don’t have time to waste. Do you want a seat or not? If yes, then better pay the price and you will have your seat right now. If not, don’t bother me and ruin my time.”
I looked at him straight into his eyes and told him, “Sir, do you think your life will be wonderful with this extra money? You think you can live with many more comforts? One can never digest the money earned in this adharmic (or unrighteous) way. I am not hoping anything bad for you or your family.
"I am genuinely concerned about you, and hence I want to tell you the way nature reacts. Any money which has been earned in an unscrupulous way can never be relished; it would get spent in meeting the expenses of sudden illness, accidents of loved ones or such other unexpected circumstances. This cash will spell more troubles in the longer run for you than anything else. When you protect dharma (righteousness), dharma protects you.”
I said with confidence and no fear. For a moment, there was absolute silence. And then I don’t know what exactly happened, but this gentleman just took out the ticket receipt and gave me my confirmed seat berth. It did not stop here; he did the same for every other passenger without taking a single penny more than the official fare.
Looking back I now realize that he might have felt a glint of that love and concern that I had for him and his family, which would have clearly reflected in my eyes.
Our true identity is to love without fear and insecurity
Our true identity is to love without fear and insecurity. Our higher potential finds us when we set our course in that direction. The power of love and compassion transforms insecurity. For me, life in the Sri Sathya Sai Hostel was all about getting to know people and trusting them to be what they are. And the valuable lessons of life that were instilled in me during my stay there have brought forth beautiful virtues in my character, which were always there, but hidden. And these have now become powerful assets in my personality.
Many a time in life, we judge or form opinions about everything and everyone. And at those times, it looks like nothing else but the truth. When I was working in my second organisation, there was an individual, in my team, who had the reputation of messing any work that was allotted to him. I called him near one day and said, “You are going to play a major role in this entire session. And I genuinely feel that you are the perfect fit for this job. All the best.” That day, his performance not only surprised everyone, but was also way beyond anyone’s imagination. He excelled at the job.
There is a wonderful law of nature. The three things we crave most in life - happiness, freedom, and peace of mind – are attained by giving them to others.
Later in the evening, as I was about to leave after the program, he came over and held my hands. There were tears in his eyes, and he said, “I will never forget what you have done to me and my life. Whatever I did today was just because you had expressed your confidence in me.”
Life will have amazing and extraordinary results, provided we do things which are beyond the rationale of our views and opinions. There are miracles waiting to happen. There is a wonderful law of nature which states that the three things we crave most in our lives - happiness, freedom, and peace of mind – are attained only by giving them to others.
Love in Understanding Is Non-Violence
In my previous company, I was involved in a lot of strategic initiatives. One day, all the employees received a common mail from an anonymous email id. This letter, which can be termed as very vindictive and venomous, was directed against me and some other key people in the organization.
It clearly looked like the work of a frustrated employee whose designs and expectations were thwarted. Later, accidentally, I stumbled upon some evidence which clearly pointed towards the person who was involved in this malicious work. That individual was actually a friend and colleague with whom I shared a very good rapport and relationship.
I had the urge in me to confront this person and take him to task, but I never did that. I knew that if I brought this to the notice of the management, his career would get ruined. He would be blacklisted as our company would file a legal suit against him and no organisation would give him a job.
On this occasion, I chose love over vindictiveness.
It was not easy to overcome the feelings to humiliate him and pay him back in his coins. The only thing that I kept repeating to myself was “I am in the image of my Lord – an image of unconditional love and joy. And no matter whatever be the provocation I will allow only this possibility of love to be expressed to all around me.” Whenever I met this colleague of mine, I just allowed myself to love him without any bias or revulsion.
I think, this unexpected behavior of mine dissolved the hatred or complaints that he nurtured in his heart. On one occasion, he came and expressed his gratitude to me, and shared with me how I had shaped his career and supported him. Even though he never acknowledged or owned up his misdemeanour, he hugged me and emphasized that I should always consider him as my younger brother. We both still share a wonderful relationship based on transparency and trust.
“To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.”
It was again summer vacation time. I was waiting on platform 1 of the Bangalore Railway station waiting for my train to arrive. It was early morning, around 6 a.m. and there weren’t many passengers in the station. It wore quite a deserted look. As I was munching a sandwich, I noticed two elderly ladies walking past me. And then, I heard a sound of an anklet falling on the ground. I noticed that it was a silver anklet and looked quite expensive too; it lay behind in the trail. As I was about to rise and collect the precious belonging and give it back to the owner, I saw a railway sweeper quickly picking it up.
He looked at the two ladies and walked towards them. I thought that he was going to return them their jewel, but to my utter dismay, he slipped the anklet into the huge pocket of his overcoat, and nonchalantly walked past the ladies. Soon, another person joined him. He was very well built and looked intimidating. I got up and walked up to these two men and told them to hand over the anklet to me. The guy growled at me and looking at me menacingly, said, “What do you want?”
“What I want from you is very well known to you!” I said, without getting perturbed.
The crisis, as well as the opportunity, of our time is to surrender our ego and conditioned fear mechanisms to the primary torsion energy of unconditional love that is seeking to evolve us and is calling us, as a species, home.
“Do they belong to you?” he asked, and continued, “You better mind your own business.” Without flinching a bit, effortlessly I replied, “Yes, the anklet belongs to my mother. Hand it over right now.” The man was then taken aback and pulled out the silver from his pocket.
When I walked over and handed back the jewel to the ladies, they were surprised! Only then she realized that indeed an anklet was missing from her left leg. They thanked me profusely, and as I was about to leave, she asked me, “Are you a Sai Student?” Now, it was my turn to be taken aback! They said, “We are Sai devotees, and I just felt that you must be His student.”
The crisis, as well as the opportunity, of our time is to surrender our ego and conditioned fear mechanisms to the primary torsion energy of unconditional love that is seeking to evolve us and is calling us, as a species, home.
Love in Thought Is Peace
I was on a business trip to Munich in 2007. My company deployed me there to perform the due diligence for the acquisition of another company.
Our team would have food together, which would usually spill over to drinks. I was cordial and always had food with them, but would never indulge in liquor. One evening, the Chief Technology Officer, who had a reputation of being quite a boisterous and demanding person, joined us for dinner.
During the few days that I had worked with him, I found that he was always very dominant in every conversation. During this particular dinner, he told me, “You have come to Germany and if you don’t drink beer, it’s a personal insult to me.” He insisted that I drink as he said he cannot stand teetotalers. I replied, “I will do so, but you have to answer a question of mine.” He nodded amusingly.
“How was your relationship with your father? If I am not wrong, I feel he probably would have never allowed you to express yourself. He would have been very dominant and now, you behave with everyone around you, the same way your father used to behave with you. Is this the case?”
For a moment, he was stunned and tongue-tied. He said with surprise in his voice – “How do you know this? Yes, my father was very overriding and never allowed me to do what I wanted to do in life. And I bear a grievance against him. Whenever I interact with someone, I just am the way he was to me. And because of this I have had a failed marriage; my children don’t love me and my colleagues don’t like me. To me, my entire life has been trying to impose myself on others in every sphere of life – at office, home, be it anywhere. I am sorry I tried to force you into something that you did not want to do.”
Even today when I think of this incident I don’t think I did anything magical. All I did was relate myself completely with the person and listen to him, and allow myself to reach out to him without any preconceived notions or view points. Shouldn’t we lead a life that is lived in the joyous expression of our divinity which is absolute awareness and unconditional love? Any other life is utterly missing the point of being born in His Image."
A tranquil mind, truth-filled speech, and a body dedicated to love and service - one who has these three qualities is described as the embodiment of ‘Triputi’ (the Triple purity). Such a one is the noblest of human beings. ~ Baba
Making Life aMiracle of Love
“I separated myself from myself to love myself…” This particular declaration of Bhagavan Baba is very dear to my heart and gives me all the inspiration to strive in living a life suffused with love. Whomever I meet, I know it will be Him and Him alone – my Beloved Lord.
Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” And truly every episode of our life would turn into something absolutely fabulous if only we maintain our focus on this supreme virtue – Love.
We can love all and serve all, as Bhagavan Baba always advises us, if we are pure; if we strive to be egoless; and learn to allow the inner power within us to work for us. If we care for conscience, we can be sure we will always be pure, and our life will be a wonder - a life that is the expression of His love.
Life of my life, I shall ever try to keep my body pure,
knowing that Thy living touch is upon all my limbs.
I shall ever try to keep all untruths out from my thoughts,
knowing that Thou art that truth which has kindled the light of reason in my mind.
I shall ever try to drive all evils away from my heart and keep my love in flower, knowing that Thou hast thy seat in the inmost shrine of my heart.
And it shall be my endeavour to reveal thee in my actions,
knowing it is Thy power gives me strength to act.
~ Sri Rabindranath Tagore
Illustrations: Ms. Annapurna Shankar
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