Friday, 18 August 2017

God seeks a devotee as intensely as the devotee seeks God - a dentist's story

The chances of Sindhuja* (name changed to preserve anonymity as wished by the devotee) coming in contact with the Avatar of the Age, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, were very remote. Of course, her paternal grandparents had made a visit to the holy hamlet of Puttaparthi in the 1960s. But that was about it. Her father was just about 5 years old then. So, he had no recollection of Swami. Her mother came from a family of devout Shirdi Baba followers. She found the concept of Sathya Sai being Shirdi Sai as weird. She couldn’t imagine how her Fakir Guru was this afro-haired Swami. In fact, she openly rebelled against the thought and had only negative feelings for Swami. It was in these circumstances that Sindhuja was born in 1978.

Call it fate or destiny, her mother’s elder sister had got married into a family of Sai devotees. The atmosphere at home and a few experiences had made the elder aunt accept Sathya Sai as her Guru. This irritated the younger sister (Sindhuja's mother) whenever she had to visit her elder sister’s home. And she visited often for two reasons:
  1. She was her elder sister.
  2. Her work as a sitting judge in the district court made such travel inevitable.
Thus, Swami seemed to have made a forceful entry into the mother’s life and, indirectly, into Sindhuja’s life as well.

The inexplicable craze

It was the time when Sindhuja was about 8 years old. Her mother was at court, adjudicating a case when she felt an irrepressible urge. She felt that she had to go to Puttaparthi. It was an inner call and an annoyingly persistent one at that! She actually adjourned the court, got up from her seat, applied for a leave of few days and returned home to pack for the travel! To this day, she has no idea why she did what she did but she soon landed in the abode of Supreme Peace. The plan was to spend a day at Prasanthi Nilayam and return to her native town in Karnataka. The plan got extended and it resulted in her staying for a week. The judge returned as a changed woman.
“You have come to believe in the divinity of Swami!”, her sister exclaimed.
“Guilty as charged”, she conceded.

After that, the mother became a regular at Prasanthi Nilayam and so did Sindhuja. For Sindhuja, accepting Swami as God was as natural as accepting Ganesha, Krishna, Shiva or Rama as God. However, this was a living God and Sindhuja seemed to develop an inexplicable craze for Him. He definitely was her first love. In 1994, the budding teenager got the opportunity to spend a dozen days at Prasanthi Nilayam, doing Seva.

Sindhuja had a unique dream darshan where she saw Swami seated in a
golf buggy. The year was 1994!
The peace and joy she experienced during those days was out of the world. She decided that she wanted to serve Swami all her life. Nothing else was as important.

She had an interesting dream in which she saw herself running into Sai Kulwant hall for darshan. When the volunteer tried to stop her, she told her that she was a staff member! She was allowed into the hall. Surprisingly, instead of walking in for darshan, Swami arrived in a vehicle, a golf buggy to be precise, sitting in the back seat. Sindhuja enjoyed the unique darshan. She woke up with an intense desire to become a ‘staff member’ at Prasanthi Nilayam. She wanted to serve Swami. It was around this time that her mother also imparted to her the importance of serving others.
“The noblest thing one can do is Seva”, she told her, “and service is the easiest way into Swami’s heart.”
That would be a life-defining advice for Sindhuja because every decision she made after that seemed to be in alignment with that message.

Amma ‘s guiding presence

Being more of a heart than a head person, Sindhuja was interested in creative arts over sciences. She decided to pursue a course in fashion designing much to the dismay of her parents.
“What service can you do with this course? Why don’t you follow the family tradition of doing medicine?”
That was a common and constant refrain that fell on Sindhuja’s ears. Finally her mother expressed her deep disappointment, summing it up in one sentence,
“I wanted you to be a doctor; you are choosing to be a tailor instead!”

Yielding to the pressure, Sindhuja decided to pursue a medical career. It was her fortune that the CET (Common Entrance Tests) had been delayed by 6 months that year. So, she appeared for the Indian medical and engineering entrance exams. But she wasn’t happy. She was a leaf drifting in the winds of change that the world around her blew. She wished to be leaf offered at the lotus feet of her Lord. But how?

That was when ‘Amma’ entered her life. Amma (the Kannada word for ‘Mother’) was a gentle, loving lady who was deeply spiritual. She was ordinary in every sense - married with children in a middle class family - but everyone who came in her ambit swore that she had an aura about her. There seemed to be a peace and love that radiated from her. Sindhuja was drawn to her and developed an instant and intense like for her when Amma addressed her as ‘God’s Radhe’. (Radha is the soulmate of Krishna, often considered as the Jivatma pining for merger with the Paramatma that Krishna stands for.)

Though Sindhuja scored a poor rank in the CET, she was happy because she would now not be forced to toe in the medical line. However, Amma told her to apply for dentistry via the BDS degree. Her reverence and love for Amma made her do it and, over the next five years, Sindhuja transformed into a dentist. But she had done the course only because she felt that listening to Amma would help her achieve her beloved. Now, it was time to get back to matters that mattered most.

Sindhuja did not look out for a job at all, once again to the dismay of her mother. She was simply not interested. Her mother was all concern for her but Sindhuja felt it was misplaced concern. She found greater solace in the presence and words of Amma in whose house she because more of a resident that a visitor. This led to many arguments and fights back home but she didn’t seem to care. She even told her mother that if she becomes an obstacle on her spiritual path, she wouldn’t be a true mother to her!

An year passed this way when Amma called Sindhuja to her side and lovingly told her,
“What you are doing is not right. You should not waste the skills and knowledge you have earned. You should use it for service of society. Don’t remain idle like this. Get into a job.”

Swami always emphasizes on ‘heads in the forest, hands in the society’. One has to be spiritual at one’s core - in one’s thoughts and feelings - but that does not mean that one runs away from responsibilities.Youthful exuberance at the promise of spiritual evolution makes one wrongly think of responsibilities as burdens. That is when the corrective guidance of a mentor is necessary. Sindhuja was lucky that her mentor was a genuine one unlike those who use their charismatic personalities for selfish ends. Amma was genuinely concerned about Sindhuja and so, she advised her to take a job even if it meant that she would no longer be there in her company.

That was how, inspired to serve the society, Sindhuja joined the medical wing of the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM) in Mysore.

The importance of mother’s blessings

The dentistry department of the SVYM hospital was non-existent when Sindhuja signed up for it. Years of relentless hard-work alone lay ahead of her. Her salary was paltry - about 3000 Rupees a month. But Sindhuja decided to lead a frugal life and smile through all the hungry days, powercuts, mosquitoes and bodily strain. Her parents were pained at her ascetic lifestyle and they wanted her daughter to be happy in comforts. But Sindhuja seemed to be happy only in the lack of comforts and her mother could not understand her one bit.

The mother was very upset. She did not want to speak to Sindhuja at all. On her part, Sindhuja did not want to care but she received a message from Amma.
“You should speak to your mother daily and update her of all that is happening in your life.”

That was a very difficult thing to do but she persisted simply because Amma had advised. Though she was happy in  all her hardships, one thought still rankled Sindhuja - where was all this leading to? Her love for Swami had initiated events that had led to her present circumstances. Today, she had no idea how these circumstances would lead her to serve Swami. One His part, Swami continued to bless her in dreams but Sindhuja wanted to be in the presence of her Krishna. Why is it that Radhe has to suffer the separation from Krishna always?

On one occasion, her mother happened to visit her in Mysore. When she saw the work that her daughter was involved in, she broke into tears.
“My child, what you are doing is so amazing and wonderful. You are truly doing service and I bless you to continue this way.”
Sindhuja too had tears in her eyes. She finally had got her mother’s blessings.

Swami has often extolled the glory of mothers. He says that there can be a bad child, but never a bad mother. The mother is the closest one can come to experiencing selfless love in the world. During the Birthday discourse in 2003, Swami said this about parents and general and mothers in particular,
“The individual child's life is greatly influenced by the qualities of the parents. The loving care of Jijabai made Shivaji a great warrior. Rama's divinity blossomed because of the noble qualities of His mother Kausalya. The twins Lava and Kusha could become powerful and famous due to their noble and virtuous mother Sita. Gandhi became a Mahatma because of his pious mother Putlibai.
The same can be said of our ancient sages and seers. They could sanctify their lives because of the noble influence of their parents. Today, people neglect their parents as they fail to recognise the impact and influence they bear on their lives. They forget the fact that they could attain exalted position in life only because of their parents. All great men have been moulded by their mothers. It is the high moral character and behaviour of the mothers that would result in the greatness of their progeny.”

He did not stop at that. He went on to attribute the glory of Puttaparthi and the Sathya Sai Avatar also to the Mother.

“It is the virtues of Kausalya that resulted in the greatness of Rama. Similarly, Sita brought up Lava and Kusa to be great. In this manner, virtuous mothers were responsible for ideal children.After I had promised Easwaramma, I never abandoned Puttaparthi. The whole world may flock here but I shall not leave Puttaparthi. Generally, the Avatars adhere to their place of birth. If you uproot a plant from here and plant it elsewhere, how long will it survive? A tree should grow where the seed sprouted. In this manner only, Sathya Sai Baba has retained his roots in Puttaparthi and has made Puttaparthi a place of pilgrimage.

The power of motherhood is indescribable. It is the righteous observances and strict adherence to moral values of the mothers that manifest in their children. They (mothers) may be unlettered. Their greatness does not depend on literacy or book learning. It is the unlettered Easwaramma's virtues that have brought about this greatness of the name and fame of Puttaparthi. It is a matter of regret that Easwaramma is forgotten, while her son is extolled. Without Easwaramma, how could there be such a phenomenal Power? Never neglect your parents.”

Mother is the child's first God - Matru Devo Bhava (Revere Mother as God). 

Swami has said many times that even God’s grace does not flow on to those that don’t make the mother happy. This was possibly the reason Sindhuja seemed to be floundering in her ultimate goal in life. Once she and her mother mother hugged in tears, magic began to happen. The joy in her mother’s heart began to propel Sindhuja towards her goal of becoming a staff member at Swami's institutions.

The ‘dream’ is realized

In the January of 2004, Sindhuja had a vivid dream. It went as follows:

Swami had come to the SVYM hospital and was watching a documentary on the same in a room. Sindhuja rushed there when she got to know that the goal of her life was in her campus. Soon, she joined Swami and saw that he asked one of the volunteers who had come with Him for some petroleum jelly to apply to His feet. The volunteer came back with the apology that they had forgotten to pack it. Swami presently turned to Sindhuja and said,
“See, there is nobody to care for me...”
Sindhuja promptly responded,
“Swami, how can you say that when you have not given me a chance? Let me come with you. I will take care of you...”
“Come along with me then...” Swami said as He began to leave and board the bus. Sindhuja followed. After the bus had travelled a little distance, Swami told Sindhuja,
“See, they gave you refuge for a whole year. It is not right on your part to leave like this. Complete all the necessary formalities of informing them that you are leaving for Puttaparthi. Then come.”

Sindhuja woke up in joy. It was a wonderful start for 2004. Years had passed since she craved to serve Swami and now, He seemed to be opening up an opportunity.

A couple of months later, her mother called and asked whether she would accompany her to Puttaparthi. It had almost been 5 years now since Sindhuja had darshan. She agreed instantly and started from Mysore. On the way, she dropped in at Bangalore at Amma’s house.
“Go and get good news”, Amma said as she blessed her spiritual daughter.
Sindhuja smiled. She thought that she would get an interview in Prasanthi Nilayam.

At Puttaparthi, even before they could have darshan, an elderly devotee said to the mother,
“Your daughter is a dentist! Excellent! Hope she joins our General Hospital here. The department is being closed down and I am going to Anantapur for the slightest tooth problem.”

Sindhuja was stunned to hear this. She had always assumed that Prasanthi Nilayam would be stacked with dentists and doctors of all kinds. She had thought that a junior dentist like her stood no chance to serve there. This piece of information actually thrilled her heart. A couple of days later, she sat with her application in the office of Dr. Alreja, the superintendent of the general hospital. (Dr. Alreja served as Swami’s personal physician for many years and is a legend in many ways. This is for the reader’s information.) What she got to know there was a surprise for Sindhuja.

“A dentist again!”, exclaimed Dr. Alreja throwing a huge file beside Sindhuja, “That file has the applications of more than 60 dentists. Swami has refused all of them over the past few years. I cannot take another application form.”
Sindhuja came to know that the Dentistry department in the hospital was locked for most part of the year except when certain doctors like Dr.Ravi Dabir visited Prasanthi Nilayam. The department would open for a few days but close after the visiting dentists left.  There were no permanent dentists in the hospital’s roster. But that was not due to the lack of applications. For some reason, Swami was not allowing anyone to serve in that capacity!
“Uncle, you have tried 60 times. Please try once more for me. Please...”
Sindhuja’s heartfelt pleas moved Dr.Alreja and he promised to make another try.

The next day, Sindhuja sat with bated breath in the darshan lines. She was praying intensely. She got to know that Dr. Alreja had been called into the interview room. Later, as Swami walked back to His residence, she desperately tried to get an indication from Him. But Swami walked as normally as normal could be. After Swami had retired, Sindhuja rushed to Dr.Alreja.

“What did you do beti (daughter)?”, asked Dr. Alreja
“Nothing uncle. I have not done anything...”
“Without the slightest hesitation, Swami agreed to take you. He said that you can join tomorrow itself!”

A special session with the staff of the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital at Prasanthi Nilayam. 

Tears of joy formed spontaneously in Sindhuja’s eyes. She now understood what Amma had meant by fetching good news!

God seeks a devotee as intensely as the devotee seeks God

All her life, Sindhuja had felt that she was desperately seeking Swami but was not getting the opportunity. She was ready to give up on her career and her own parents rather than give up her desire to be with God. But Swami too was desperately seeking her and was even ready to shut down the department rather than pick someone else! Five years Sindhuja waited and five years Swami also waited! In fact, Swami’s wait was more intense because while Sindhuja seemed to have no choices, Swami had rejected sixty different choices that had come to Him!

When she got the job, Sindhuja remembered her dream, especially what Swami had told about being grateful to those that had given her refuge. So she told Dr. Alreja,
“But I cannot join immediately uncle. I will have to formally resign from the SVYM hospital. I will come back soon, within a few months.”
She said this even as she feared that she might be losing the opportunity forever. It is complete faith that carries one through such situations and Sindhuja was absolutely clear that following her dream would never crush her dreams!

That is precisely how things happened. Sindhuja returned after resigning from the SVYM hospital. She was welcomed into the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital in 2004 as the first appointed dentist after several years. She wondered whether she had it in her to run the department with such little experience. Swami ensured that she got to work under 25 different top-class dentists within a year and gain tremendous experience.

By the way, when Sindhuja joined the hospital, she rushed for her first darshan as Swami’s staff. Being new, she was stopped by the volunteer at the VIP gate. She told the volunteer that she was a staff member and got in. Imagine her pleasant thrill when Swami came for darshan in a red golf buggy, the same one she had seen in her dream a decade ago! She knew that she had realized her dream in every sense.
The first darshan that Sindhuja had in 2004 was the same as the one she had a decade earlier! She knew that her
dreams would all come true...

(Sindhuja continues to serve as a dentist in the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital at Prasanthi Nilayam. She hopes to serve Swami in this manner till her last breath.)

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  1. The more I read such incidents,I become ecstasic.
    The Lord is always with us ,only thing that we donot realise HIS presence.

    1. I, too, feel this ecstasy. Last night Sathya Sai Baba appeared in my dream for, perhaps, the first time in my life. Reading Sai Student always brings me closer to the joy of truth and love He has for us all.

  2. Very very moving and inspiring, bro! Just one thing I want to point out -- "The joy in her mother’s heart began to propel Sindhuja at" seems incomplete. Maybe you should complete that sentence.

  3. Brilliantly written and truly inspiring. Thank u for sharing this!!

  4. A right doze at the right time for me!

  5. Sairam such incidents strengthens our faith in swami. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Brother thrilling article it is, the Way Divine works is stunning

  7. Sairam sir,
    Yet another instance proving that God does not call the qualified, for He qualifies the called!

  8. Thank you brother for this beautiful write up!

  9. Thank you brother for this beautiful write up!

  10. Sairam Aravind. Thanks for sharing Sindhuja's story, highlighting the intense direct connection between SWAMI and a Devotee. SWAMI has plans for all and leads them to their destiny, mostly unknown and unrecognised by them. It is HIS Leela.

  11. Om Sri Sai Ram. Thanks for sharing this wonderful article.

  12. Sairam Bro for this wonderful story of faith, penance and perseverance.

  13. All tasks undertaken with out any hidden agendas and done with integrity is sure way to get Swami's grace. Thank you Aravind always!

  14. Dear Brother - Sairam. Thank You so much for this wonderful article. Every staff in Swami's organization have their inner connect, deep pining and yearning to attain Swami. Thank You Brother for sharing this beautiful article, teaching the importance of pining and yearning for the Lord and the Lord's reward in bounty for lifetime.

  15. Very nice Aravind. Another tale of Faith, perseverance and Divine Grace narrated spectacularly. Jai Sairam !


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