From a discourse given in Kodaikanal:
There was once a student who wanted to do well in his exams.
He decided to pray to the God Rama for help. After decorating the Rama statue with flowers and offering numerous salutations to Him, the student felt he had earned enough grace to achieve success.
The next day he took his exam, but unfortunately he did badly. He became so distraught by the results that he returned home, threw away the flowers and put the Rama deity in the cupboard.
He mulled over what deity had the most power. He decided upon Krishna, he bought a shiny new statue of the deity and placed it in his puja room, and prayed fervently to it for help and guidance in his next exam. After some time, the student felt Krishna had received enough salutations, and therefore, he would attain the much needed grace.
He attended the exam with confidence that Krishna would help him, but unfortunately he again did badly in the exam. The angry student rushed home, took the Krishna deity out of the puja room and with disgust, threw it in the cupboard.
He thought long and hard on who could give him grace, and decided on the Goddess Lakshmi, of course, she would help him. He then bought a brand new statue of Goddess Lakshmi, placed her in the centre of his puja room, and offered abeyance, prayers and pleaded for her help in the next exam.
Again, the student took the exam fully expecting to pass, but he failed.
He was heart broken, how could Lakshmi fail him? He returned home took the Lakshmi deity out of the puja room, and threw it in the cupboard.
Not completely disillusioned, he decided to pray to the Goddess Lalita.
He gave her gracious salutations and lit incense sticks to please her. But, while he was praying, he noticed the sweet aroma from the incense sticks, drifting towards the cupboard where the discarded deities were kept. He thought to himself, “The incense is only for Lolita, not for the others,” and he took string and tied it around the noses of Rama, Krishna, and Lakshmi to stop them from smelling the heavenly perfume.
At that very moment the God Rama, Krishna and the Goddess Lakshmi appeared to him and said, “We heard your prayers before, but you treated us like statues and not as living Gods, so we could not help you.
But now you believe we are real, we can offer you guidance and help with your exams.”
The nonplussed student did not know what to do. He offered salutations to them, and expressed his delight in seeing all three in his puja room, but said he now would pray ONLY to Lolita, and they could return to the cupboard. But they explained to the student, that it didn’t matter to whom he prayed, as long as he treated the ishta (form) as living, God would definitely help him.
The Lesson. “Always Treat God as your Best Friend.
– from a Kodaikanal discourse, 1996
by Sai Baba
Photo taken on my visit there. It is the view from The Carlton Hotel over the lake.