With the arrival of simmering summer it is holiday time for the students from Bhagawan’s esteemed educational institutions after another hectic, but most rewarding academic year in His Divine Presence. Branded as future ambassadors, these students do have a definite task with them when they move out of Prasanthi Nilayam, to be role models in the society, in letter and spirit. It is no pressure situation for these students if they put into practice what they have learnt at the Divine Lotus Feet. Sai students need not get panicky at the thought of holidays. Of course, we should remember to have an iron control over ourselves when we go home for holidays, writes M. Sainath, 3rd B.Sc., Prasanthi Nilayam Campus as published in Sanathana Sarathi April, 1988.
"So, you are from Puttaparthi, are you?" For the hundredth time I winced and inwardly I was making a mental note to tell my mother not to tell everyone that I was from Parthi. I told the gentleman, "Yes, Sir, I am." "Well, then, you would like to tell us something about the place, how it runs…" And so it went on.
The conversation might sound insignificant to some. But to Sathya Sai students, this is an 'Agni Pariksha' or an ordeal by fire, the test to determine his moral standard as shaped by the Lord. Of course, one cannot engage in the unholy duty of categorizing those who fail in this test as "untrue" Sathya Sai students. There might be several reasons for a person's failure to live up to Sai ideals at a crucial moment. Sai's ideals are the highest and considering the world from which we all have come to Parthi, it is obvious that time and patience are needed to see the day when a student can proudly say that he is a Sathya Sai student without being afraid of behaving otherwise.
Holidays are one thing which several students look forward to so that they can go back to their parents. At the same time they are not happy at the prospect of leaving Parthi. The moment the bus leaves Parthi, it is as if some part of our being is left behind. This feeling invariably has an effect on our behaviour, the extent of which depends directly upon how far one has been able to grasp and absorb our Lord's teachings. For some, holidays are not just a stretch of days to enjoy, but a period of severe trial in which their degree of absorption of the Lord's ideals is tested.
There are three types of people one is likely to come across in the world outside, viz., (i) those who seem genuinely interested in us and wish to know all about Bhagawan Baba, (ii) those who are just not bothered, and (iii) those who want to know more for the purpose of criticism and ridicule. Most of us, students, would undoubtedly like to move with people belonging to the first category and would not mind meeting a few of the second. But, we definitely would prefer to keep away from the third. But with all the three types of people one will undergo the above mentioned 'Agni Pariksha'.
How does this work? The people in the first category have some regard for us and at any word of disparagement from us, they begin to revise their opinions about us. Hence, one has to succeed in the test with them.
Regarding the second category of persons who are uncommitted in their opinion, it is just enough if one speaks the right words that will tilt their opinion more to the brighter side. As for the third category, most of us cannot do anything. If they refuse to acknowledge the Lord's presence, then we should remember that they are to be pitied rather than shunned.
Most of us have seen Swami constantly urging us to go home for the holidays. But, how many of us readily realize that He is sending us into the testing crucible—the place where we are tested for the qualities we have imbibed at Prasanthi Nilayam. But, there is nothing to worry. If we just think about Swami and call on His help at such times of test, we may be sure He is there. This is my personal experience.
I have an uncle who is very much of a cynic and casts doubts on everything. I was always dreading the prospect of encountering him and be the target of his bombardment. One day what I feared happened. That day he dropped in at our home and said, "Ah! How is your Puttaparthi?" I muttered within myself "Hey Bhagawan!" and said, "Fine, uncle.” Then followed a fusillade of questions and I answered them all in monosyllables, until I met my mother's disapproving frown. And then? I saw Swami frowning that way. I knew then that I must stop my uncle's tirade. I fervently prayed to Bhagawan and then started answering my uncle's questions with more fire and punch in them. I even found myself plunging him into thoughtful silence now and again. I felt very proud of this achievement, though I never took the credit for myself. It was only later that I realised that Swami had been with me at that time. I knew this when I heard my uncle tell my father "Sai (referring to me) has matured quite a lot! I have never heard such an argument from him!" It was four weeks later that I got a letter from him in which he expressed his desire to come to Parthi!
Hence, Sai students need not get panicky at the thought of holidays. Of course, we should remember to have an iron control over ourselves when we go home for holidays. Knowingly or unknowingly, there are a thousand eyes watching every move, and as many mouths to spread the word. Let us bravely go forward and face our Agni Pariksha with the same zest and zeal that we show to the "enjoying part" of our holidays. Let us remember the joy that we would give our Lord if we come out with flying colours in this test. Let that joy in His eyes and our satisfaction at that, be our guiding light to our goal.