Sometimes we look back at life and wonder if there was a plan the Divine had for us and we didn’t see it. Life has it’s own plan, existence has it’s own humor, and when we learn to listen we might be lucky enough to get a glimpse of this mysterious dance!
In 2007 I had a tough situation in London en route to US, stranded with my family due to a missed connection. That was still all right, what made it worse was I forgot my laptop bag in the transit bus that dropped us to a hotel for overnight stay. And that laptop bag had all of our passport and visas, travel documents, everything! We were returning to the US with our daughter, then 7 months, and my mom was also accompanying me and my wife (Pamela). Anxiously waiting for the transit bus to complete its round and return back to the hotel, I felt like a drowning man. I had no idea what I will do if I don’t get that bag back. I can’t even get out of the country! Somehow that moment it came to my mind that I should make a promise to Sai Baba of Shiridi that if I get the bag back, then I will visit Shiridi the next time I am back in India. My father-in-law is a devotee of Sai Baba and he had urged us to visit Shiridi in the past, but I never got a chance. So I make the promise as a silent mental note. Finally after a long wait when the bus comes back, I find that the bag is in the exact same place where I had left it. Whoo! What a relief. We all celebrated our “good luck” by having a simple dinner and retiring to the comforts of our hotel room.
In 2009 when we returned to India from US, I remembered my promise and the first thing we did was to visit Shiridi. By this time I had gotten into the realm of “I need a Guru” and “I need some guidance” and “who am I and why am I here”. I still remember that sitting in Shiridi temple I was praying silently for a Guru, someone who is in the planet earth right now 🙂 If memory serves right, within about 15-30 minutes of my praying, we heard a lot of hustle bustle in the temple premises. Pamela told me that “Sri Sri Ravi Shankar” is in the temple and he is passing us by. I was not interested. I had a faint idea of Sri Sri and I knew him to be a Yoga teacher. Well, what can you say?
Two more years go by and I am still searching for a Guru. In the meanwhile I changed my 10 year old job and moved to a new company in a very different role. Things were not great, and my desperation had started dying down. I used to think “what an unfortunate time I have been born, there is no Vivekananda, no Ramakrishna – not a single enlightened Master is around”! Somewhere around June or July 2011, my mother in law was in Bangalore and she wanted to visit the “Art of Living” Ashram (a place for spiritual retreat). On a weekend, we go to the Ashram, and that was the first time I saw Sri Sri really up close.
There was a program in the Ashram that evening, its called SatSang or the company of the Truth (Sat means truth and Sang means company). This is a common practice in many spiritual lineages where people meet in the evening, sing a few songs together, do some prayer and discuss some knowledge. Whenever Sri Sri is in town he attends the SatSang. On that day, for the first time in my life I saw someone who is in BLISS! I did not know he was a spiritual Guru, I still thought he is a Yoga teacher. But when he came to SatSang he appeared so happy that I wondered “how can a man in a piece of white cloth be such exuberantly happy?” There was something in him I had never seen before, something that my mind could not comprehend but my Heart said “yes, now you listen”.
When the music stopped, Sri Sri started talking. We were sitting in the front row of the open air amphitheater. He suddenly touched upon two topics which were questions in my mind for a very long time, and no one has answered those to my satisfaction. And when he spoke of those, He looked at me and smiled. Or so I thought. Something stirred inside me and when we went back home, I looked up “Art of Living”, found they have a course called “Part 1 or Basic Course” (it’s now called Happiness Program) and I registered for the one coming up that weekend. I had no idea what Art of Living does, who Sri Sri is and I did not check “reviews” on Sri Sri or Art of Living. I did not ask anyone either. I knew somehow I have to do this!
In retrospect I wonder, may be the meeting with Sri Sri could have happened in Shiridi. Was it coincidental that within minutes of my praying for a Guru He appeared in Shiridi? It’s funny but now as I think about it, it appears to me that even if the “Truth” is in front of us, how will we know if we do not have the eyes? If one is sleeping how will that person know what it means to be “waking” at that moment? Is it possible that God proposes and man disposes and not the other way round? What if, we have never really understood life?