“Let us be God’s own. Let us join Swami on the other side of the table. Rise up and become the host.”
I remember the first time I came to Muddenahalli to teach students some English. This was around 2008 or 2009. I used to come from Bangalore on some of the days to teach the PU college students. The moment I reached, first thing, our Jayaram Shetty Anna, would run and get me a cup of tea. It was done with so much of love that it felt so amazing. I would think that I must have the tea, not because it’s tea, but because it is liquid love, tangible love! Any elder here in Muddenahalli would receive us with so much love. And that was always the reason why people were attracted to this place even when Swami was not here this way, which I have seen for myself. Nobody would let you go out from the Ashram without you having had your food. First thing they would ask, ‘Oota?’!! They would ask if you had your food. And if you say No, that’s it! They will move heaven and earth to ensure that some food appears in front of you. They would do whatever was in their best capacity. If not, they would even go to the stores and purchase something to put in your hand.
Mahendra Anna is here and I had been to Alike in 2009. And I returned with a full tummy. All the time he was feeding me. ‘Come, we will have tea. We will have Pakoda’, all the time. And I was thinking, how much love is that? I have seen Mahendra Anna run around and do this. This is not some duty that he had to perform. But still he took personal care. This was what touched me in the first place.
Today, as we are growing, obviously few people, those who are – so to say – the original residents over here, would not have the capacity to go and do this to everyone. So each one of us has to rise up and become the host.
I must share with you an incident that happened in Trayee Brindavan when I was a student in 2003. We had done a beautiful decoration on Trayee lawns for the Trayee anniversary day. Swami was so pleased. He cut the cake, stood with us, and clicked photos. That itself was a great reward. We all thought we were blessed and fulfilled. So we all went back to the hostel when someone came running and said, ‘Swami is calling all the decoration boys to Trayee’. Swami had organized snacks for all of us, His favourite items from Bangalore. Tumbler Idli, Rasam Vada, Mini Dosa, Ras Malai etc. By the time I reached Trayee, all the guests, teachers and students had arrived. I was perhaps the last. Everybody was asked to sit in the circular hall in Trayee. I also, like a guest went and sat. Then Swami looked at me and said, ‘Sombheri’ (lazy fellow)! I realized Swami didn’t want me to sit and eat. He wanted me to serve. I ran into the kitchen. They gave me some water to serve. As I was slowly and carefully pouring the water in to plastic cups so that nothing spills, He looked at me and again said ‘Sombheri’, how slowly you are pouring water! (laughter) When I finished the whole round of pouring water, Swami asked me to go and sit in my place and eat. We finished the brunch. Swami then went into the Jhoola room. All the boys ran desperately to be with Swami, and why not after all it was a life time opportunity. Swami was giving Himself away so easily and freely. Who doesn’t want Him? Everybody ran. But I knew my lessons. I started picking the plates, cleared everything, put it in the kitchen and finally I went there, but there was no place to sit. So I stood leaning on the door watching Swami on the Jhoola from a distance. Swami was talking to them. I thought Swami did not notice me but He had noticed. He looked at me in the eyes and shook His head with a gesture to say ‘Good’. The look said He was satisfied. I felt so honoured that day because He did not consider me as an outsider who had to be fed and looked after. He considered me as His own who was supposed to be on His side and serve others and not run behind chances. I was to wait in a corner and watch whatever Swami was doing, just in case He needed anything. And I thought I belong to God! I was God’s own. He did not allow me to sit like guests. He made me stand up and run around, serve and help and only when everybody was served did He allow me to eat.
This was a great lesson for me. That’s exactly what we all can do. Instead of expecting to be guests, wanting to be served, this is a great opportunity for us to join Swami on the other side of the table. You may not get a strategic red carpet place, but Swami will be far more happy because He will say, ‘Here are My people doing My work. They are not guests whom I have to look after rather they will be with Me and look after all those who are coming.’
This is the culture we must create. It is the vision with which Swami sets up any Ashram, be it Prasanthi Nilayam, Whitefield or Kodaikanal. He had His own people. He expected them to look after the other. Swami said, ‘Once you taste the joy of service, every other joy will be tasteless.’ Let us not strive to be looked after. Let us work to look after each other as His very own.
— Sri Madhusudan Naidu at ‘Tattva Sameeksha’ (March 19, 2018), Sathya Sai Grama, Muddenahalli