The other day, I asked Swami Raghvananda or Raghu Swami as I call him normally (one of the most devoted disciples I’ve ever known, full of life and detachment) if I could share one of his tales on my blog. A beautiful story of faith and grace, of simplicity and morality. With a broad smile, he readily agreed. If you have read my memoir, you already know Raghu Swami. He is the erstwhile Pradeep Brahmachari who took care of me when I meditated in the Himalayan woods.
Nearly 33 years ago when Raghu Swami was barely 7 years old, his father had not received his salary for nearly six months. The reason was simple: he had been transferred to a far-off location and if he joined the new place he wouldn’t be transferred back for a long time. Reporting at the new venue would mean he would have to rent a house (whereas he already owned one where he stayed currently), change the kids’ schools and move everything and all that. It was not financially viable given his meager government salary. So, everyone advised him not to join and instead apply for a cancellation of the transfer order. He followed the advice.
Six months, however, is a long time and the family ran out of their little savings. The electricity was disconnected within the first three months due to the non-payment of the bill. There was no money to buy candles or oil for the lamps. So much so, there came a day when there was absolutely nothing left in the kitchen to cook or eat. Not even rice or salt. The family of five had no clue how they would get their food the next day or even that evening. The corrupt government officials extended no help and continually asked for more money to escalate his request. Raghu Swami’s father had already mortgaged his wife’s gold earrings and chain (her only jewelry other than her mangalsutra and a nose pin).
Looking at the empty vessels in the kitchen and no nest egg to tap into, he contemplated joining the new location but even there he wouldn’t get his salary for at least another month. Only a miracle could put food on the table that evening.
It was on this day, a Sunday, that they were invited to a Ram-charit-manas paath (a religious function singing the glories of Lord Rama). His elder sister was too shy to go, she said. Especially since the parents were not going. And they had chosen to stay back because there was absolutely nothing to offer in the pooja thali (small monetary or other gifts are offered to the orator). Finally, 7-yr-old Raghu Swami and his 13-year-old brother decided to go because Raghu Swami had been devoted to Lord Rama ever since he could recall. Plus, of course, a yummy feast would be served there.
On the way to the function, when the two were walking casually, though eagerly, a man on a scooter zipped past them. At a bit of a distance, they saw something falling out from his side pocket. Raghu Swami and his brother dashed toward the man but he was already far ahead. Their eyes nearly popped out when they saw what lay on the road. It was a neat sum of money with a red rubber band around it. Having turned into one of the streets, the man was already out of sight. They still ran to the corner of the street but the guy on the scooter was nowhere to be seen.
Not to be late for the feast, they pocketed the little bundle and rushed to the function. They were served salad, rice, lentils, potato curry, pumpkin sabzi, puris, pickle, yogurt, rice pudding and halwa. After eating to their hearts’ content, they went to the rooftop (where there was no one around) and counted the money. It was a whole sum of 1500 rupees.
They galloped down to the nearest grocery store and bought 700 kilograms of rice and 10 packets of salt with that money. A small cart carried their groceries home. If nothing else, Raghu Swami told me, at least they could boil rice with salt and eat that for a good few months. Everyone in the home rejoiced as if they had won the jackpot. His mother cried tears of gratitude. No one would sleep hungry that night.
One week later, Raghu Swami and his 10-year-old sister bunked off from school and went to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) — the man responsible for granting their father’s plea. They waited outside his office and insisted that they wouldn’t leave without seeing him. A kind clerk let them in. They cried before the officer and narrated the whole story. Immediately, the CMO asked for the file and approved the request by canceling the transfer. He also ordered that six months’ pending salary be released within the next two hours.
His father joined the very next day and came back home with six months’ salary. Before stocking the kitchen or taking back the pledged jewelry or paying the electricity bill so power could be restored, he put the entire sum at the altar and prayed. Then he called Raghu Swami and gave him 1500 rupees.
“Go and put this in any temple donation box,” he said teary-eyed. “God helped us when we needed it, now we must return it.”
I’m always overwhelmed every time I recall this story. Who says that faith doesn’t help? Grace may take time but it most certainly comes. Our world may have terrible people who harm and hurt others but it also has some beautiful people who are always eager to help others. To the one who is truthful, patient and faithful, Nature does not disappoint. The whole universe conspires to pave way for such a person. It connects you with the right person at the right time.
The most beautiful part of the story is Raghu Swami’s father returning the money. This is truth and morality of the highest form, because this is sheer honesty. For the record, here’s the definition of honest according to the Oxford English Dictionary: free of deceit; truthful and sincere.
The one who leads a life of honesty is never outside the orbit of grace. Things may not always fall into place for that person, but they won’t fall apart either. If your intentions, words and actions are honest, you will radiate a divine glow, I promise. Your very glance will bestow peace upon people.
At any rate, rather than burning your heart with jealousy, envy and covetousness, it’s far more rewarding to ignite the fire of truth and compassion. It burns all afflictions.
The lamp of bliss lights most gloriously in the heart of an honest person.