Wednesday, 30 May 2018

When Sri Sathya Sai Bled to Keep His Children Safe and Happy...

He rose after the fall as though nothing had happened. It was 3 days later that the actual damage was made public.
"Jesus Christ, the saviour, bled to save mankind from its sins."
I have heard this story many times when I studied in a Christian school as a child. Though I knew the story by heart, it never touched my heart because it remained only in the realms of the head. I understood the meaning and significance of Christ bleeding for His children when I experienced the supreme love behind such an act on the 11th of January, 1999. That is a day etched in my heart coupled with mixed emotions. It is a day whose memory makes me smile and cry at the same time. It is a day when my dear Swami, my God and Master Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, bled so that one college student could be safe and all the students of the educational institutions could be happy!

The Annual Sports and Cultural Meet

I had joined as a student of the XI class in 1998 and I was very excited about participating in my first ever Sports and Cultural Meet of the Sri Sathya Sai Institutions. Each passing day, my relationship with Swami was growing in different dimensions. Ever since that first memorable experience where He accepted my love, I looked forward to each day for events to add to my experience-bank with Him. The Annual Sports and Cultural Meet is a time when the students from all the different campuses of the Institute - the Prasanthi Nilayam Campus and Puttaparthi, the Brindavan campus at Bangalore and the women’s campus at Anantapur - and the schools at Puttaparthi - Primary school and Higher secondary school - join together in a mass effort to please their dear Swami with a display of physical prowess and mental magnificence.

The significance of the timing of the Sports Meet, 11th January, is very profound. It is the time of the Uttarayana or the northward movement of the sun. This is considered as a very auspicious time for contemplating on the Lord and it is said that such contemplation leads to oneness with the Lord. In fact, the grandsire in the Mahabharatha, Bheeshma, who had a boon that he could die only when he willed, decided to do so in this period of the Uttarayana. For the students studying in Swami’s schools, thinking of the Lord becomes an automatic affair as they plan and prepare in full gusto for the Sports Meet. As Sami puts it, this is a time when the students bend the body in an attempt to mend the mind and end the senses.

Well, delving into the Sports Meet would be a matter of an entire article. It would suffice here to say this much that students do all sorts of activities - dangerous stunts, dances, drills, displays and, at times, death-defying acrobatics. And they do it with full faith in Swami. It is their way of showing how much they love Him and all that they are ready to do for Him. It is not that Swami ever asks for these expressions of their love. In fact, He is always concerned about their safety and well-being. And that is why He chose to bleed for them...

"This body has come for the sake of devotees and shall be utilised for doing anything and everything for their welfare." 
The Sports Meet of 1999

I remember that day very vividly. As soon as Swami arrived at the Sri Sathya Sai Vidyagiri stadium, a beautiful music theme filled the stadium. (This was a theme song from a famous movie that had been just released then.) I was seated near the Shanti Vedika, the stage on which Swami would ascend. When Swami’s chariot entered the ground, 150 metres away from the Shanti Vedika, I could feel the electric waves of excitement flowing through the atmosphere.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Coping with the physical absence of Sri Sathya Sai Baba - two stories and an experience

The day after which everything changed

For the followers of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, the 24th of April 2011 marks the end of an era and (naturally so), the beginning of another. It is a day on which everything changed forever because the Swami that they so dearly loved discarded the lovely form that He had donned for nearly 86 years. Having painstakingly taught them for decades that He would always be in them, around them, beside them and with them, He decided that it was the time for the practical examination. 

When my mind goes back to the period after that, it just becomes numb. It is hard to remember anything 'memorable' after that 24th. Yet, His word can never fail. It is possibly with this faith or maybe hope that I stay on, doing the things that I feel will please my Swami. It is this faith (or hope) that keeps the millions of His devotees going. Lucky are those with that hope; luckier still are those with that faith. But for those like me, who have bouts of doubts and sadness at missing His lovely form, here are a couple of stories that Swami would narrate which give us a solution and thus solace. 

It was the 22nd of August, 2011 - the first Krishnashtami (birthday of Lord Krishna) that we would be celebrating at Prasanthi Nilayam in the physical absence of Swami. I suddenly felt a pinch of emptiness in my heart. My mind raced to the years before when He would feed the animals so lovingly. It especially raced to the the most memorable Krishna Janmashtami of my life when Swami showed me that though He seems to be absent, He knows everything that goes on everywhere and at every time! And soon, there were tears in my eyes. 

This is the irony of life - we laugh remembering the moments we have cried in the past and we cry remembering the moments that we have laughed and been happy in the past!

The form of God can be matched by ONLY one thing

I closed my eyes visualising that beautiful form of Swami. It was so hard to stop the tears. Possibly in a bid to bring some solace to my heart, I began chanting His name - the Sai Gayatri. The solace actually came! Why would it not? Hadn't Swami Himself promised it? Here is the story that He would often narrate to emphasize on remembrance of the Lord's name. It is popularly known as Krishna Tulabhaaram.

Monday, 14 May 2018

The Newsweek (1969) editorial article on Sri Sathya Sai Baba

The picture that accompanied the article on Sri Sathya Sai Baba in the Newsweek,
November 1969. 
Published in New York City from 1933 to 2012, the Newsweek, (according to info on Wikipedia) was a weekly magazine with the second-largest print-edition circulation, only behind the iconic TIME magazine. During its prime, it had a worldwide circulation of over 4 million and it published in Japanese, Korean, Polish, Spanish, Rioplatense Spanish, Arabic and Turkish other than English. (By the way, December 2012 was the last print-edition of the Newsweek.)

Imagine my joy when somebody forwarded by email, a scanned page of the 'religion' section of this magazine which carried a story about my dear Lord, Master, Best Friend and Guide - Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba! I searched for the soft copy of that article everywhere on the world wide web but, sadly, it wasn't there. That is why I decided that I must type out from the image and post it for all to read. The original image of the scanned page is also posted in its full resolution in the article.

The article has been presented below after its scanned image.

Sathya Sai Baba: The God Possessed
When Sathyanarayana Raju was born, his mother recalls, the family tambura twanged of its own accord and a cobra appeared mysteriously beneath his crib.As a child, he showed mystic powers and a love of sacred verse. And one day when he was 13 years old, he returned home from school and told his mother, a well-to-do matron in the village of Puttaparthi: “I am no longer your Sathya, I am Sai Baba. I do not consider myself related to you. My work is waiting. My Bhaktas(devotees) are waiting. Good-by. Worship me every Thursday.”
With that, Baba left home to begin the life of a god-possessed holy man. His mother pleaded with him to come back, but it was too late: throngs of Hindus were already crowding around the youth calling him “tiny prophet”, “mysterious prodigy” and “God on earth.”
Such events are not unusual in India, where thousands of self-proclaimed gurus and holy men roam, begging for a living and teaching their faithful. But Baba, the god-possessed is unique. He claims to be “the Lord come in human form,” a reincarnation of Krishna, one of the major Hindu gods. And thousands of devout Hindus believe that the 42-year-old, bushy-haired holy man with flashing eyes, and a voice “like the sound of a bell” can perform miracles, heal the sick and project his mind through time and space. Each November, 50000 Indians trek to Puttaparthi to celebrate his birthday. The former chief scientist in the government’s Ministry of Defence insists that Baba is “beyond the laws of physics and chemistry, a divine phenomenon, an incarnation.”
Since he began leading the life of a holy man, Baba’s miracles have become legend throughout India. A leading lawyer swears that Baba cured him of Parkinson’s disease with a wave of his hand, and Baba is said to have walked along the seashore at Cape Comorin in South India with prayer beads forming magically at his feet after each step. He reportedly produces the Bhagavad-Gita and sandalwood statuettes of Krishna from the sand by magic, and once, when traveling in a car that ran out of gas, is said to have turned a bucketful of water into gasoline. When a murderer appeared at his religious school disguised in a holy garb, the story goes, Baba detected the villain immediately and told him:“Confess your crime. There is no escape.” And Charles Penn, an American pilot insists that Baba miraculously appeared at his side during a crash landing in India.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

How God helps in our Karma - the fruits of action.

Fluctuating fortunes

It was the summer of 2002. Like some of the special summers before that, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba had decided to conduct the Summer Course in Indian Culture and Spirituality. The venue, as in most cases, was the Whitefield Ashram in Bangalore. It turned out to be a most unforgettable one for me because of an experience it gifted me. Swami used that period to teach me a powerful lesson about Karma and the way Guru/God deals with it. 

For those that are unaware of what a Summer Course with Sri Sathya Sai Baba is, here is a brief description. It had started off as a study of the Indian scriptures and value systems for a period of 15-20 days for the youth from various parts of India. Swami would take active interest in it and would address the students on a daily basis. The students were also blessed to hear talks by many scholars and erudite speakers. As years passed by, attending a Summer Course was made a special privilege of only the students studying in the various educational institutions started by Swami. The format and schedule remained the same. 

It was the 26th of May, 2002 to be precise. The Buddha Poornima celebrations overlapped with the concluding days of the Summer Course that year. The programme was by devotees from Nepal who had filled the Brindavan Ashram. I was part of the audio team that controls and takes care of the sound system during the programmes in Sai Ramesh Hall. As part of my duty, I was seated right in the front of the hall, walkie-talkie in hand, with the bhajan group. I had to give real-time updates and feedback about the microphone volumes to the team.

I also was assigned another job. This was a time when Swami had suffered a fall and had difficulty walking up the stairs. As a result, two lifts had been erected - one on the ladies’ side and one on the gents’ side - for Swami to move up and down.

Those were the days when Swami, at times, would come for Darshan in the golf-car and return by walk...Some days, He chose to walk both ways...
I was told that if Swami used the lift on the gents’ side of the hall to go up the stage, I should send the ladies’ side lift also up, so that both lifts are available for Swami in case He wishes to descend. It had to be done manually as this synchronicity of the lifts had not yet been automated. Swami, on that day, completed His darshan rounds and moved up the lift from the ladies’ side. The lift on the gents’ side stayed down. Over the walkie-talkie I got an instruction,
“Move to the gents’ side and raise the lift up.” 

I was in a dilemma because, as Swami sat on the dais, I was right in front of Him. I also had my Nikon SLR camera in hand. Would it not be conspicuous if I got up and went over to the lift? Would not Swami get upset at my ‘indiscipline’ of moving about during a programme?

Even as I was lost in thoughts, I got another message,
“The warden is here. He says that you better go and raise the lift up. Otherwise, in case Swami wants to go down the gents’ side, He will be made to wait.” Now, the warden of our hostel in Brindavan also happened to be sort of an administrative head of the Brindavan Ashram. He was considered as Swami’s ‘right hand’ to execute various activities. If he was saying, I better do it, I thought. (That is a fatal mistake. To allow anyone, however high or powerful he might be, to come between you and your Guru/God). So, I just got up and walked to the lift. I pressed the green button that took the lift up.

Immediately, I felt a hand pull me down. It was a teacher and he seemed upset. He said, “You fool! Why did you get up and move? Swami was going on seeing you. He does not like such indiscipline. Now, just sit here and don’t do anything foolish.” I sat down at the lift, a little scared about facing Swami’s ‘irritation’. But my attention was on my Nikon 801s camera that was on the floor, right in front of Swami. The bhajans were on and everyone were singing out loud. The Buddhist devotees sitting there were lost in the ecstasy of devotion and I was worried. One swipe of an excited limb and my camera would be history! I sat with bated breath, waiting for the programme to conclude.

One of the few pictures I took before I went over to the lift on the gents' side of Sai Ramesh Hall. 
About half an hour later, Swami gently rose and received Aarthi. Then, He again moved towards the lift on the ladies’ side. As He moved down, in accordance to the policy, I lowered the lift on the gents’ side also. Swami began to walk in the opposite direction towards the ladies’ side exit of the hall. At this time, I got up and rushed back to my placein order to safeguard the camera. 

And then, it happened...

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Lucid dreaming about Sathya Sai Baba? What does it mean?

Lucid Dreams

I met a person in Singapore (let us call her Lakshmi because she doesn’t want her identity revealed) who had a very interesting experience with lucid dreaming. For those that are wondering, in a lucid dream, the dreamer is aware that he/she is dreaming! In many cases, the dreamer may be able to exert some degree of control over the dream characters, narrative, and environment. Thus, the dreamer is not just a participant of the dream but also, to an extent,  the controller and decider of the destinies of everyone and everything in the dream. In short, the dreamer is almost the God of the dream!

A lucid dream can allow you to control and also shape your dreams because you 'know' that
you are sleeping!
(Artwork by Johnson Tsang)
I was very keen to know more about her experiences because I felt that lucid dreaming is such a spiritual phenomenon. Vedanta says that life itself is a dream - just that one isn’t aware of it. “What better analogy to find in ‘real life’ about awakening and awareness than lucid dreaming?” I thought.
There were many interesting insights that I got from her but the most striking one was about visiting Prasanthi Nilayam and seeing Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, who we lovingly call Swami.

Dream or a nightmare?

Lucid dreaming is something that one can train oneself to do and there are lots of resources on the internet on how to become a lucid dreamer. Lakshmi however, discovered that she had a natural ability to lucid-dream. (Statistics show that about 10-12% of the population has this ability naturally.) The discovery came late in life in an interesting manner.

Lakshmi would dream that she was lying on her bed with her head in the opposite direction of which she had actually slept. She would be paralyzed and stuck. And she would know that it was a dream!
“All that I have to do”, she would tell herself in her dream, “is wake up. Then this paralysis will be gone.”
A normal dreamer can only wonder at how such an experience feels. But for Lakshmi, it was very frustrating. Though she knew that the solution to her paralysis was waking up, she did not know how to wake up!

She discussed her strange plight with her family and close friends. She also received a very interesting solution.
“Lakshmi, you are getting frustrated because you don’t know how to ‘wake up’ though you are aware that you are in a dream. Don’t try to wake up. Just exploit your awareness...”
“What do you mean by that?” asked Lakshmi, a bit confused.
“Well, you know that it is a dream. Thus, you can easily convince yourself that you can walk in it. Spend time walking till you are able to wake up!”