Saturday, February 10, 2018

Navigating good and bad of Puttaparthi so as to maximize spiritual benefit of living in Puttaparthi

Given below are my comments (edited) from comment thread: https://www.facebook.com/terry.reiskennedy/posts/10215693858038278?comment_id=10215694182446388&reply_comment_id=10215725528190012

In response to comment that it is not so easy to 'fix' a person falsely, I wrote:

I disagree with you about the 'fixing' any man falsely part. When I lived in Mumbai and surrounding areas for the first four decades of my life, I too thought like you.

After moving to rural India (Puttaparthi which lies in one of the most economically backward districts of mainland India - Ananthapur district), I am much, much wiser about these matters. That is why in rural India, if you cross the big bosses of the area you cannot continue to live there. They, through their henchmen will ***fix*** you.

How the law is used in rural India to trap people is something terrifying! One rule that all Indians who visit Puttaparthi must know is the SC/ST atrocities act. It is draconian in favour of SC/ST and against non SC/ST persons especially so-called upper caste Hindus (perhaps due to the horrible history of exploitation of SC/ST persons by these so-called upper caste Hindus). If you are an ordinary devotee without any big influential contacts in Puttaparthi, never ever get into a physical altercation with locals in Puttaparthi. Never ever! Better to take the beating by them and then go to the police if one wants to do that.

The law, I am told, is such that if one gets into a physical altercation with an SC/ST person, and the SC/ST person approaches the police giving their version of the events which may not exactly match the truth :-) :-(, it is the so-called upper caste guy who gets arrested. Perhaps it is non-bailable.

And the SC/ST folks in Puttaparthi know these aspects well and have their community leaders who have their contacts with the police too.

I am told that people have even been threatened that a police complaint will be made against them under SC/ST atrocities act, to get them to do something or not do something.

Moral of the story is that in Puttaparthi, just don't mess around with locals (unless you have influential leaders' contacts), including local women. Be wary and scared of them unless you know them well.
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If you behave humbly with locals as a Sathya Sai devotee, don't fight with them, and never compete with them for business, then due to the good name that Sathya Sai Baba and the Sathya Sai devotee community in general have earned in Puttaparthi and surrounding areas, they won't bother you. They may even be willing to help you.

But if you dare to challenge them, then you get to see their nasty side. And that is very scary. This is a place where murders are not uncommon even today.
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I prefer to say the truth as I have seen it and experienced it. There was and there continues to be a lot of good and holy in Puttaparthi but there is fair amount of bad too. In fact, it was the advice of long-timers of Parthi who guided me about such matters when I was a newbie to living in Puttaparthi, that allowed me to identify and keep away from the bad.

My view is that it is better to be knowledgeable about good and bad of a place and be alert rather than be naive and think that anything and everything in Puttaparthi is holy, good and loving. NO. Everything in Parthi is NOT holy, good and loving. There is a mix and one should wisely choose to be with the good and avoid the bad like the plague, if one has to spiritually benefit from stay in Puttaparthi, in my considered opinion based on over 15 years of living in Puttaparthi and being part of Parthi ashram system for around 9 years.
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In response to comment that Swami Himself advised devotees to stay in the ashram, dine in the ashram, and not go out at night, I wrote:

The ashram is a protected but controlled environment (lots of rules and regulations implemented by ashram staff and Seva Dal under orders of ashram staff) with its own benefits and with its own challenges.

Outside ashram Puttaparthi is free (not controlled like ashram) but has its own challenges especially in terms of keeping a safe distance from some rough elements among the locals.
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A comment by a Western (USA & Europe) devotee mentioned that three decades ago Swami gave instructions to them (Western devotees) NOT to go outside the ashram and wander into the village. Swami "was the only perfect thing here (in Puttaparthi), everything else was subject to circumstance and change." The commenter went to say that Swami was very strict then about them attending every Darshan and was very protective of them. And that later things changed with many (Westerners) coming to Puttaparthi but staying in the town (outside ashram Puttaparthi) and not visiting the ashram much. But the comment went on to say, the ashram is the safest place for doing anything.

At least partially in response to above mentioned comment, I wrote:

I should also clarify that many locals in Puttaparthi are good people. And Puttaparthi town has many settlers from other places in Andhra Pradesh. And then there are many settlers from other places in India with me being one of them :-).

After March 2012 when I terminated my association with the Sai university, I concentrated on getting a better understanding of the lives of locals/villagers in and around Parthi. I had acquired a manageable level of spoken Telugu with which I could largely communicate effectively with them.

There is a wide disparity in earning levels among them. The poor and working classes are usually decent people unless one pushes them into a corner or tempts them with lot of money. They are also very respectful of Swami and Sai devotees.

But some of the rich people (not all of the rich, some of them) are like feudal lords and can become pretty nasty. They are the ones to be very careful in dealing with. Sometimes one is forced to deal with them - at that time one should be on one's guard.

Overall, I am very comfortable with most locals in and around Puttaparthi now. They are the people who I interact with on a regular basis in real-life (as compared to these Internet based interactions with Facebook friends, email contacts etc.) Of course, I know whom to avoid and ensure that I keep a safe distance from them. That keeps my life in outside ashram Parthi a pretty safe, comfy, quite hassle-free and enjoyable one. Of course, there are hygiene related issues on the streets in outside ashram Puttaparthi like in most small towns in India. I have got used to them. Westerners would find it more difficult to tolerate.
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Hindu society in rural India for sure, and, to a large extent in urban India too, is a male dominated society. Slowly and steadily women are entering into fields which were earlier the exclusive domain of men. But, in general, I think life in India is far more challenging for a woman than for a man. It also has to be said that life has improved significantly for women in India over the past decades but India is nowhere near USA and Western European countries in this regard.
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A recent incident in an economically backward area of Andhra Pradesh: "Under Pressure to Marry Uncle, Gutsy 15-Year-Old Made Education Her Support", https://www.thebetterindia.com/130316/15-year-old-girl-travels-distance-school-avoid-marriage-with-uncle/.

An extract from it: "The child was living with her uncle and grandmother since childhood. Refusing to put up with the constant pressure from her family to marry her 25-year-old maternal uncle, she shifted to Kondareddypalem where her parents live, in the middle of the academic year. She also refused to drop out of the Zilla Parishad School."
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In response to Terry Reis Kennedy's comment, "Ravi S. Iyer Thanks for having the guts to tell the real story about how it is dealing with the locals in Parthi and the authorities there.", I (wrote):

I have been benefited enormously from interactions with good persons both in ashram system as well as locals (there are many good locals too who especially if they are paid reasonably for their services and treated well, remain loyal and grateful to 'settlers' from outside Puttaparthi like me). They advised me about the reality of Puttaparthi both inside ashram and outside ashram. That helped me navigate Puttaparthi life where I could avoid some bad stuff and some traps of Puttaparthi and benefit ****enormously**** from a spiritual and religious Dharma point of view from the ****great**** blessing of having regular Darshans of Kali Yuga Avatar, Shiva Shakti Swarupa Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, hearing many discourses of his live in Sai Kulwant Hall, and getting ****enormously valuable**** personal spiritual directions from him via his gestures and looks at me during Darshan, and through his discourses, and through long-time good devotees of Parthi ashram who were ever willing to share what they learned from and experienced of Swami from their many opportunities of close physical proximity to Bhagavan.

Now I am in give-back mode in my role as a writer on social media on these matters. I try to help others navigate the good and bad of Puttaparthi so that they can benefit the most spiritually from Puttaparthi, like the above mentioned people of Puttaparthi so willingly and freely guided me when I was a newbie to living on a permanent basis in Puttaparthi (significantly different from my earlier week to two weeks at a time visits to Puttaparthi for Prasanthi Seva and Sai orgn. events in the ashram).

And thanks for the nice words, Terry Reis Kennedy. Jai Sairam!
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