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.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Let Go and Let God - the life experience of Dr. Vineet Basotia

When the Master decides to step into your life

It was in desperate times that Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba entered the life of Dr. Vineet Basotia. As a teenager, Vineet found it hard to focus on academics due to the pressing financial situation at home and the regular terrorism dangers in his home-state. He had completed a large part of his education in the town of Digboi, the Oil City of Assam where the first oil well in Asia was drilled. He had then moved out to the city of Guwahati for high school education. That move however had not helped him move away from the terrorist problems that Assam constantly faced in the late 1980s and early 1990s. When things appeared bleak and hopeless, Amitabh came along and told him about Swami.

"If you need me, you deserve me." Swami entered Vineet's life in the times of his greatest need...

Amitabh had been a student of the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School till grade 10. He joined Vineet’s school at Guwahati in grade 11. Amitabh was a true friend to Vineet for he introduced him to Swami and in turn, to hope and faith. One thing led to another and soon, Vineet had convinced everyone at home that it was probably worth the shot to travel 2700 kilometers from India’s far east to the tiny town of Puttaparthi in the heart of the arid Rayalaseema. The rail journey itself would take more than three days but the financial condition at home was such that Vineet had to travel all alone. It was the May of 1994.

The summer in Puttaparthi is harsh on even it’s seasoned residents. An unsuspecting outsider often gets burnt when he faces it for the first time. Vineet found the heat unbearable. Soon, he fell sick with high fever. He was alone and very far from family at a time when cellphones weren’t even a thought in India. In fact, getting through to his family via STD itself was a herculean task. Burning at 102°F, Vineet slowly trudged his way to the examination hall in the school building at Puttaparthi. He was feeling extremely weak and the continuous bouts of vomiting had made matters worse. Fifteen minutes through the written test, he began to feel giddy as well. He got up, went to the invigilator and submitted his barely-filled test paper.
“I am very sick sir. I cannot do it...”
“This is most unfortunate”, the kind teacher replied, “but I would suggest that you spend 5  minutes and finish this paper. After all, it is only multiple choice questions. Chant ‘Sairam’ and just tick away. You never know what Swami does...”
“Thank you but I am sorry. I don’t think I’ll be able to do even that”, said Vineet as he slowly walked out of the classroom and headed back towards the ashram.

It was an ordeal for Vineet to walk back. He reached the main entrance of the Prasanthi Nilayam and almost collapsed at the Ganesha temple at its entrance. He sat there wondering how he would walk till his shed. That is when something strange happened. He began to suddenly sweat profusely. The sweat also began to cool his body rapidly. In ten minutes, he was feeling the energy return. He was able to stand and start walking. However, he was feeling so strong now that instead of heading towards the shed, he turned back and walked towards the venue of the entrance examination. He reached the classroom and called out to the teacher.
“Ah! You are back?”
“Sir, I will do as you say. If you can give me my answer sheet for 15 minutes, I shall blindly tick away and leave the rest to Swami as you said.”
The teacher smiled and handed Vineet his incomplete answer sheet. The lad went through all the sections in a hurry. He randomly ticked answers without even reading the questions. Handing back the answer sheet, he returned to the shed.