Grace and Gratitude
Grace and Gratitude
June of 2001 I was doing my summer internship (as part of MBA) in a NGO called Seva Mandir in Udaipur. I had made the unusual choice of interning in a NGO on a topic pertaining to Micro Finance and Self Help Groups to empower women in the villages. All my batchmates were either placed in Banks or Brands.
During these 2 months, I stayed with my family which included my grandfather, grandfather’s sister who was always a grandmother to me and dad’s elder brother’s family.
One morning while reading the newspaper I chanced upon an advertisement of Art of living. They were offering meditation courses ,close to where I was living. I was tempted to check it out because I had time on myself. And maybe it was time for me explore a new dimension of life.
Following Tuesday I land up sharp at 5:45am at the center to start the course. A lot of people showed up ,mostly dressed in white and excited as me to start the program.
The course went on for 5 days right up till Sunday. And by the time it ended, two things were clear to me- I wasn’t going to stop what I learnt in these 5 days and I wanted as many people to experience the joy and abundance as I did.
2 weeks later we got to know that the founder of the Art of Living Foundation- Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was coming to Agra on a 2 day visit. And the center was organizing for people to go there. I decided that I wanted to go and meet this person because I had heard so many people in the last two weeks talking about him. I also could not relate to the extreme emotions that his followers would exhibit during a Satsang or a Guru Pooja. It was all so alien to me. But there was something about these people which was incredible to observe. They always seemed happy, did so much service and always operated from a point of abundance. And here was a place where I got to meet many diverse people- affluent/not so affluent; educated/not so educated; young and old/ men and women- it was a great set of people.
We land in Agra after an overnight bus trip and reached our accommodation which had people from all over India. It was absolutely crazy and chaotic and yet everyone seemed happy and content. That evening at 4pm we were to meet HIM which was to be followed by a mega Satsang to be attended by thousands.
It almost seemed like Diwali in July when everyone was dressed up in their best attire ready to meet the Master. Some 80 of us landed up at the house where HE was staying. We were all comfortably seated in a huge lawn -I chose a corner so I could escape if I wanted to. We all started meditating which is a normal practice to keep ourselves calm and serene — a few minutes later- I hear a voice guiding us through the meditation and around me I could sense a palpable excitement -HE had arrived and he was leading us.
I opened my eyes when told to, to see a man dressed in all whites with a long black beard, slight naughtiness in the eyes and the most amazing smile. Yet I couldn’t feel the way the others around me were…people were crying,dancing,longing to touch his feet. I was simply watching HIM ,trying to feel a similar kind of excitement but just could not.
I came back to Udaipur still wondering about Sri Sri and what about HIM was so magical.It took me almost a year to develop the faith that I did which never has left me till date.
It was Holi time and I decided to pursue my second level course- a silence meditation course in Rishikesh under Sri Sri’s presence. And this was happening around Holi so we were to celebrate it with HIM. During this course , the participants have to stay silent over 5 days and in these 5 days, Gurudev would come and deliver a few knowledge sessions.
One that struck to me and I still strongly believe in- was on “Grace and Gratitude.”HE said that for grace to flow in your life , you must have a sense of gratitude. Both go hand in hand. He also said that if we surrender all our problems to the Divine during our morning meditation ritual, they will all will be taken care of. All this seemed hard to believe and especially when one is going through the low moments but I can tell you from the last 19 years of my association with the foundation, the teachers and the Master himself, it is the truest that it can be and also it is unique to each person.
I’ve had so many experiences where I know the divine grace was flowing on me and I will share a few:
In March 2002, we had to go to Kerala on an emergency trip for my father’s major surgery. We had no one we knew in Trivandrum where the hospital was but we decided to go there because of the doctor- the only surgeon in India who specialized in Aneurysm Surgeries. On the side table in dad’s hospital. Room, I had put Sri Sri’s picture. When the doctor saw it that evening, he was pleasantly surprised and told my father that his wife was an active AOL follower. And instantly there was some connection, we all knew. My dad’s condition was critical and a few hours before he was to be taken into surgery, the doctor got us (mom, my brother and myself) into his cabin. He put all facts before us- his blood circulation would be stopped for 45 minutes, the aneurysm had swollen beyond expectation, he is a heart patient and stopping blood flow is risky but there is no option. His last sentence before taking dad into the OT was- there’s a 50:50 chance of survival.
I had been praying and meditating very regularly while all this was going on and everyday used to pray to the divine for my father.
A surgery that was to continue for 5 hours actually went on for 8 and we were all waiting outside and coping with the situation in our own way. My mother was cool like a cucumber though there must be a storm brewing inside. The doctor came out and said- it was a miracle because the condition that came across through all tests and reports seemed worse than what they actually saw in the OT. He had actually improved and no one knew how — the doc said that its unusual and it’s probably divine grace.
I knew we had grace in our life and it was flowing when we needed it the most. My dad recovered and was on his feet 5 days from the surgery and 3 weeks later we were back home.
I had developed a cavity in my tooth around this time and was suitably irritated (and in pain) because I was completely off sweets and brushed my teeth twice daily. So there was no reason for me to get it. My mum saw it ,there was a big black spot in one of the molars and advised me to visit a dentist asap. Next morning, I was meditating and remembered about surrendering your troubles to the master which I did. While eating my breakfast that morning and by mistake I started chewing from the cavity side but strangely I felt no pain. I was surprised. I rinsed my mouth and showed to my mother — the cavity had gone !!!
I can share so many such stories of grace and gratitude but all I want you to know is that our own actions determine the course of life we lead but if we were to embellish this with gratitude ,we will see how grace flows and makes our life beautiful inspite of all its ups and downs.
I was at the AOL Bangalore Ashram in August last year (after a gap of 15 years) to do my silence course again. 5 days of pure bliss and introspection and I came back never to stop meditating and never to forget that gratitude is a divine quality and never should I let go of it.