“In this Avatar (Divine Incarnation), the wicked will not be destroyed; they will be corrected and reformed and educated and led back to the path from which they have strayed. The white-ant infested tree will not be cut; it will be saved.”
Sri Sathya Sai Baba (Mahashivarathri 1955)
Ever since the start of the colleges at Anantapur, Brindavan and Prasanthi Nilayam, Swami started spending increasing amounts of time with His students. On many occasions, He remarked to different people that seventy five percent of His time would be spent for the students. That was evident as Swami poured His time on His students, be it in the interview room, the bhajan hall, the hostel, the institute auditorium, the Trayee sessions or the ‘PC sessions’ (private sessions in the Poornachandra auditorium). Every visionary needs good succession planning to carry on the envisioned mission. Swami’s succession planning can be understood from His shift in emphasis from “My Life is My Message” to “Your Life is My Message”.
|The students were both near and dear to Him.|
It appears as if Swami chose the students as the working sample to signal this shift in emphasis.
In many private interviews and interactions, Swami told the devotees that His life was His message. It was during the First World Conference, on the 17th of May 1968, that Bhagawan decided to probably publicly announce the same.
“Many of you plead for a 'Message' from Me, to take to the Samithi of which you are members. Well. My life is My message. You will be adhering to My message if you so live that your lives are evidence of the dispassionate quiet, the courage, the confidence, the eagerness to serve those who are in distress, that My life inspires you with.”
And that is why, all His life, He ate as we do, moved about like us, spoke in our languages, behaved in a manner that we recognise and understand - so that we feel kinship with Him and submit ourselves to His alchemical love. His plan is to transmute the seeker of the world into a seeker of Sathya (Truth). However, even as He sang along, spoke and engaged with everyone, He would part the clouds of Maya to reveal His divinity and ultimate objective.
Lord Rama's actual birthplace
The students were blessed with a number of such opportunities of spotting the Divine behind the veil and, at the same time, developing a kinship and friendship with the Universal Sakha. This would happen after the darshan and interview sessions when Swami would come ambling towards the students and interact with them, the teachers and others. These interactions could be casual or formal, jocular or serious but they would always contain profound lessons and insights. For instance, one morning, Swami was speaking to a group of high-ranking officials from the Ministry of Education from the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. In the full view of the students, Swami said,
“All parties have their eyes only on votes but are not genuinely concerned about the welfare of the nation. Everybody wants to be a leader today but no one wants to accept the responsibilities. A leader must lead and not push. But today’s leaders simply push from the back.”
When the torrent of Truth seemed to have subsided, one of the officials mustered the courage to ask Swami about a burning social issue.
“Bhagawan, You must be knowing where Rama Janma Bhoomi (birthplace of Lord Rama) really is, don’t You?”
“Yes! I do”, was the reply. With great excitement and anticipation, the official asked,
“Please tell us then - where is Rama Janma Bhoomi?”
“Where else - it is the womb of Kausalya!” Swami replied with a smile.
Everyone including the questioner had a smile. It was evident that a nation had forgotten this important Truth and was bickering and fighting over a piece of land. Swami also showed the students that speaking with tact was as important as speaking the Truth.
|Who better than Sai Rama to reveal about Rama!|
Truth in moments
On another occasion, Swami was speaking to a professor from the MBA department. Then, He turned His attention towards the students and began to speak to them. As He did so, He held the professor’s hand and was playing with the ring he wore. After a few minutes, Swami looked at the professor who said,
“Swami, You only gave that.” (An obvious reference to the ring.)
Pointing to the professor’s body, Swami asked instantly,
“And what about this?”
He then walked off to allow the profundity of what He had casually remarked to seep into the witnesses. Being the embodiment of Sathya, it is hardly surprising that Truth came so naturally to Him. And He used that Truth to constantly chisel the devotee.
One day, the boys prayed that Swami bless the hostel with His visit. Swami asked,
“Why? What will you give me?”
“We will give ourselves Swami...”
“That you can do here itself. Why go to the hostel?”
“Swami, we will give you whatever you want...”
“Is that so? Then, I want fish sambar!”
All the students started laughing. Swami added,
“Yes! I want ‘fish’ and not ‘selfish’. Fish can at least clear the dirt in water. But selfishness only adds to impurities.”
Many were the ‘excuses’ Swami would give for not going to the hostel. They were only to increase the pining in the students and also shower wisdom through His words. On another occasion when students prayed for the same, Swami said that there was no need for the additional burden of His visit to the hostel when the students had exams. But when the students persisted, Swami called an elderly devotee and told him to drive some sense into the boys.
“Boys! You are now having exams and it will not be right for Swami to come to the hostel now.” Instead of stopping at that, the devotee continued,
“Anyhow, you must develop the feeling that Swami is with you wherever you are. Else, what is the use?”
Swami now stopped him and asked,
“These boys want to know that if you have already developed that feeling, then why have you come here at all?”
There was a mild laughter and the devotee presented his defence,
“Swami, what I meant was that I discharge my responsibilities wherever I am with full knowledge of Swami in my heart.”
The Lord doesn’t need clarification on what one meant. He always understands and replies to only what one means irrespective of the language or choice of words. Isn’t He the Bhavapriya? Swami’s reply was meant for everyone.
“Is Swami in your heart or are you in Swami? If I am holding this kerchief in My hand, My hand is bigger than the kerchief. In the same way, if i am in your heart, you are big and I am small.”
The travel beyond everyone's imagination
There were many such gentle reminders of who He is so that the students remain focussed. On the 13th of October 1992, Swami came to the students and said,
“This afternoon, we got a phone call from Bangalore. Col. Joga Rao has been admitted in the ICU of Apollo Hospital. He is serious and they want Swami to come. Actually, I need not go there to save him. I can do it from here itself. But I am going there to teach you all how to show gratitude. Joga Rao is 86 years old and yet works like a young man. It is My duty to go and see him.”
The students asked when He would return.
“After one year!”
As the students stared incredulously, Swami smiled and said,
“I will go and come back immediately.”
The next day, rumours ran high regarding Swami’s expected time of departure to Bangalore. But Swami appeared least perturbed as He granted morning and evening darshans as usual. During the bhajans, He revealed,
“Poor boys! They thought that I was going to Bangalore in the morning. They thought that the car would be brought and they would come for morning darshan. But I went to Bangalore last night itself. Within five minutes, I was inside Joga Rao’s room in Apollo. Joga Rao was excited and he said,
“Swami has come - get a chair!” But nobody else could see me. I sat with him the whole night. His blood pressure was fluctuating wildly and so was his pulse. Soon, his pulse stopped and his body became cold. But I revived him though the doctors said he was gone. Good man! He works a lot. He is a Karma Yogi. By morning, he had recovered completely. By 4 am, he started eating normally and wanted to come back to Puttaparthi at once. But I advised him to rest for a couple more days and then return. Swami has cured him.”
|Col Jogarao's life was indeed a blessed one|
God walking and talking spreads such a magical world of sweetness around, that the devotee hardly bothers about the inner world. Swami’s extended tours, His ever increasing personal involvement in the lives of devotees through many service projects and individual ministrations, His eloquent talks, and of course the incredible miracles flowing from His Presence opened a new era of faith and devotion which mankind had lost in building up a material civilisation. His purity, His simplicity and universality created such an aura around Him that whoever was touched by it felt blessed. He gently showed the scientists and intellectuals that there is a more humbling dimension to human understanding, that omniscience and omnifelicity is a reality, that all the religions have a much greater universal face than we wanted to believe, that the globe can become a single home for the Homo sapiens if we dare to take God’s hand and walk with Him.
All this He achieved by just being what He was, a very loving, caring, unpretentious God who loved to share our lives. Humanity needed a palpable God, and He was that.
to be continued in Part 2