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Premabandham North America Alumni Meet July 2011

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An offering of Divine experiences by the Alumni of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning and their families on July 31, 2011 at the Mahasamdhi in Sai Kulwant Hall

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PremabandhamNorth America Alumni Meet July 2011

A Premabandham Moment

Think of MeDearest Loved One You ask, How will you know when I am near you? When on a sultry night Everything is hot and still, The first cool breeze Brushes your cheeks Think of Me When the pangs of hunger are satisfied And lonesome is pierced by happiness Think of Me. When your mouth is parched And you can hardly speak, The first sip of cool water I am soothing you Think of Me. When I sprinkle your face with cold rain And wash the earth, the dry brown leaves, The first smell of clear rain I am cleansing you Think of Me. When pain dissolves And tears disappear Think of Me. When steadfast eyes are horrified By the cruelties of life, The first glance of the silent setting sun I am comforting you Think of Me.

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Then you ask How will you know when you are near Me? When the burning sun Has scorched you and the earth, The Sand and dust fill your eyes Not a sliver of shade about And you love Me. When loneliness is accompanied by Hunger and not one can be satisfied And you love Me. When your lips are cracked Your tongue feels like clay Your throat seals up There is no water about Not even a mirage in sight And you love Me. When pain becomes unbearable, you smile And you love Me. When I take from you Your most cherished possession, On the first loss of sight Darkness envelopes And you love Me. For everything that you see, hear, smell, taste or touch belongs to Me. So how can you give to me what I already own but your love. And that, I gave you before time began as your souls possession. When you return it to Me then I will know you are truly Mine and I will dissolve your sorrow and happiness into Methat one being Me, I will place you in bliss forever. For, I love and think of you constantly. From Your Most Loving Father

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ContentsEditorial Preface 1. Sai - Mother Of The Universe 2. Think Of The Lord And He Thinks Of You 3. Footprints In The Sand 4. A Bond Of Everlasting And Endless Love 5. Swamis Compassion 6. SwamiMy Music Teacher 7. Hey! I Know God And God Knows Me 8. The All-Knowing Divine Mother 9. The Call 10. From Darkness Unto Light 11. I Am Always With You 12. The Divine Master Of Ceremony 13. From Army Boy To Swami Boy 14. Love Story 1949 15. Swami From The Word Go 16. Shower Of Grace 17. Swamis Copious Concern And Love 18. Swamis Ways Are Unique And Incredible 19. Is The Food Spicy? And How Is The Rasam? 20. I Give You More Than What You Deserve 21. I Will Take Care of Your Children 22. I Love Swami 23. Divine Mothers Love Is Absolutely Selfless 24. Swami Is Present In Every Aspect Of Our Lives 25. Reminiscences And Experiences With Bhagawan 26. Mother SaiThe Eternal Source Of Confidence 27. Swami For Me G. S. Srirangarajan Srinivas Eyyunni Saroj Pradhan Arun Uthayan Gopi Krishna Polavarapu Shanti Polavarapu Aditya Kalvagunta Abhimanyu Kaul Sridharan Hariharan Gopal Coimbatore Sritulasi Karri Sai Latha Shankar Sankara and Ramaa Loganathan Bharat Datt Padmaja Nandini Datt Gunika Datt Bala Swaminathan Mahesh Kumar Karwa S. Lakshminarayan Gayathri Narayan Sankara Kailasam Nirmala Kailasam Sahana Sai Narayan Mohan Kumar HG Sunitha Gangappa Niranjan Ramji S. Chandrasekhar Vishudhi Chandrasekhar 08 09 10 11 12 14 15 16 20 23 24 25 26 27 29 30 31 32 34 36 37 39 40 40 41 42 45 47 48

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28. In The Sunshine Of Sais Love 29. Down Divine Memory Lane 30. In The Footsteps Of Sai 31. Close To My Heart 32. Divine Mother Sai 33. Omnipresent Sai 34. I Am Always With You, In You, Around You 35. Swamis Love For His Children 36. An Important Lesson Learnt At The Lotus Feet 37. Swamis Assurance That He Is Always With Me 38. Swami = Love 39. Swami And I 40. The Ever-Caring One 41. Life Through Swamis Eyes 42. SwamiMy Beloved 43. Divine Parent 44. My All-Knowing Sai 45. Thank You, Swami 46. My Gratitude To Swami 47. When Alone, I Am God 48. Prema Bhakti Se Bhajana Sunao 49. Om Sri Sai Aapad Bandhavaaya Namaha 50. A Letter To My Sweet Swami 51. Swami Is My True Mother And Father 52. The Loving Touch Of Mother Sais Hand 53. Home Is Where The Heart Is 54. Namah Kritsnaveethaya Dhavate Satvanam Pataye Namaha 55. Our Pledge Renewed

Mayur Pandya Anuradha Pandya Maansi Pandya Anuj Pandya Balasubramanyam Karanam Deepa Devarakonda Raj Patel Sri Kotti Krishnan Shankar Mangala Shankar Sunil Paladugu Lui Muniz Sai Sravan Cherukuri Sai Saketh Cherukuri Sai Keerthana Cherukuri Venkatesh Iyer Srinivasan Nikhil Venkatesh Vijaya Venkatesh Sathya Sankar Gopalan Sowmya Sankar Gopalan Bhanumathy Gopalan Shreya Sankar Gopalan Karthik Srinivas Kushala Yedatore Vikas Lama Venkata Ramana Kotamraju Gopi Krishna Polavarapu

50 51 52 53 54 55 58 60 62 63 65 68 70 71 72 73 75 75 78 79 80 81 82 83 86 88 90

Sai Siva Kumar Dakshinamurthy 66

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EditorialDear Readers, Everything is suffused with Prema (Divine Love), so we can unhesitatingly call the Paramatma as Premaswarupa, said Swami. As students of His educational system, we were blessed to be recipients of Swamis bountiful, divine and pure Love on a daily basis. Thus developed the Premabandham or the unique bond of Love between Swami and each of His students. After completing our studies at the Lotus Feet of our most beloved Bhagawan, Swami directed us to pursue our professional careers always keeping Him in our minds. We sharpened our skills, got higher degrees, made our careers in various walks of life and spread across the world. Some of us assumed the responsibilities of a householder. Many joined the Sai organizational activities at the local or regional levels. Last year during the January 1st, 2010 Alumni meet, Swami had expressed a wish to spend more time with smaller groups of students. This triggered the birth of Premabandham visits by groups of alumni to spend exclusive time with our Dearest Lord. The alumni settled in North America sought Swamis permission in early 2011 to come to Parthi for our Premabandham with Swami in July 2011. Swami in His infinite grace and Love gave His blessings. Although we alumni will deeply feel the absence of Swamis physical Presence during this Premabandham visit to Parthi, Swami is with us in our hearts and we will be with our Hridaya Sai. We will always be guided by His everlasting Prema. As an offering of gratitude to our beloved Swami, the North American alumni comprising of alumni from USA, Canada and Mexico have put together this booklet describing our individual interactions with Swami and how those unique Premabandham moments have transformed our lives. Alumni of Prasanthi Nilayam and Brindavan campuses have contributed articles that show the amazing individual and personal attention that Swami had given to each alumnus during the course of their education at Swamis temples of higher learning. These experiences leave us speechless, bring joy-filled tears to our eyes and above all encapsulate the magnificent majesty and infinite love of our merciful Lord. In addition to the alumni articles, the spouses, children and parents of alumni have also eagerly contributed heartfelt articles capturing the impact of Swami in their lives. Together, these articles illustrate the presence and the light of Swami brightly lit in the alumni homes and hearts, and reinforce that Swami is always with us guiding us each step of the way. Working together as an editorial team was enriching, illuminating and a rewarding experience for all of us. We are deeply grateful to all the contributors of articles that make up this booklet and we are sure it was a heart-filling experience for each of them, penned with love for Swami. We would also like to express our sincere thanks to Mr. G.S. Srirangarajan, Controller of Examinations, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning for graciously agreeing to write the Preface. We hope that this offering would inspire the alumni spread across the globe to similarly express their love for Sai and come together to chronicle the endless individual stories of how the Lord had touched each of us during His earthly sojourn. With Sincere Gratitude and Love to Swami, The Editorial Team

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PrefaceDivine Love cannot be described in words or encapsulated in definitions. God is Love. Love is God. Just as God transcends mental comprehension, Divine Love too transcends worldly understanding. Bhagawan Baba says, I separated Myself from Myself to Love Myself. Love is the Cosmic Glue that manifests in this process of Self-separation, to ensure ultimate union. If God is like the Super Magnet, Divine Love is like the magnetic force that does not allow the separated particles to move beyond its bounds. As students of Swami, we got, not just a glimpse of this phenomenon of Love but were literally subsumed by it. Heres one short anecdote to just have a dip into the ocean of Love. It was the month of May 1992. My first personal interview with Bhagawan found me sitting face to face with the Lord. He asked, What do you want and my eyes replied with a downpour! The small dynamo could not withstand the powerful energy of the Cosmic generator. What could I say, when the heart was full. I wondered how He would respond. Instantly, as a loving mother, He took His own handkerchief and started wiping my tears! I was overwhelmed. Ask, He said, time is short! What an irony! The Timeless chose to bind itself within the limits of time. And as the clock kept ticking away mercilessly, He was always looking out for spreading His Love every second. Having tasted the nectar of Divine Love, the Alumni of the Institute keep coming back to His Lotus Feet, like bees swarming to the flower. The first organized meet of the alumni, in significantly large numbers, aptly called Reconnect took place in the year 2005. Thereafter, Swami, very compassionately, permitted all gents alumni to gather at His Feet every year end, ushering them into a new year in His Divine Presence. Like the soaring river that rushes out to engulf everything in its way, Swami next chose to bless the parents and the family members of the alumni. He asked them to come in small numbers so that He could shower undivided attention on them. Thus was born the Premabandham. The first such meet took place from 14th to 16th August 2010. Today this saga goes on and alumni in year-wise or region-wise batches visit Parthi to bask in His Divine Omnipresence. Bhagawan used His form as an instrument only to delight us, but His Love knew no such bounds. Today, although the beautiful Form is not amongst us, His overpowering Love and Presence is felt everywhere by everyone. In January 2011, the SSSIHL Alumni settled in North America sought blessings and permission from Bhagawan to come to His Lotus Feet on the 30th and 31st of July. Bhagawan lovingly blessed them. This offering is a compilation of experiences by North America Alumni and their family members, that can be aptly called the 'Premabandham moment'; a moment that each student had with Swami - a moment where Swami's intense Love transformed them, forever. I am sure as we read these, we will relive those wonderful moments and lose ourselves in His Love.

G.S. SrirangarajanController of Examinations Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning Prasanthinilayam

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Sai - Mother of the UniverseSrinivas Eyyunni

We call our Divine Lord as Mother and Father, because it is from our parents that we begin to recognize Love. Mother Sais Love folds around us as protectively as the arms that used to comfort us as children, wiping away tears and applying healing balms. In November of 2002, my mother was ailing with the last stages of cancer. She had always believed in the concept of abject surrender to God. She was my Guru, from the beginning to the very end and remains my example of the ideal devotee. By placing me with Swami, her duties as a mother and as my Guru found their ultimate fulfillment, and she merged in Swami on November 16 t h leaving me with the reminiscences of her noble teachings forever. After finishing the traditional rites and ablutions, I had the great opportunity to be part of the Annual Alumni meet. The Music Program by Students Alumni was scheduled for Jan 1st 2003. Around noon on that first day of 2003, a group of students were rehearsing our music. We received word from Swami that Swami had pruned the eighteen musical offering numbers to a final list of only six. To my astonishment, I was most humbly placed among the six! After his divine discourse he advised the boys to begin the Music Program. I sang the song in Telugu: Nee Vanti Talli Verekkadaina Kanduma, Neevanti Daivamu Verevvaraina Undura, Leru Leru Leru Nee Saati Evaru Leru, Talli Maa paali Kalpavalli

As the pace of the tablas and our racing hearts stilled, Swami glided (for what we do with our feet is very different to how Swami moves!) towards me and inquired about me. He commended my voice and encouraged me to practice and improve my breath-control. The Jaganmaata then blessed me with a golden chain and placed it around my neck. Only Swami can give care to each minute detail. He opened the hook of the chain and adorned the chain round my neck. Gesturing for me remove my spectacles, He draped the chain round my neck and then again asked me to put my spectacles back on. It was my Poorvajanma Sukruta that I was indeed doubly blessed that I could get the Paadanamaskaar (touching the Divine Lotus Feet) from Swami. When I touched Swamis feet, I could see and feel my mothers feet instead of Swami!!! I was very surprised. Maybe this was another reassurance from Swami that she had merged with him and that I was safe under the umbrella of his divine Grace. This was the most memorable moment in my life which reiterated my conviction, faith and reinforced my mothers words that SAI is the Mother of Mothers, the LokaMaata, the Kalpataruvu (wish fulfilling Tree). Swami wholly confirmed to me that He would keep me forever in the palm of His Hands as the Jaganmaata. (Srinivas studied in the Parthi campus from 1987 to 1990 completing his B.Sc. Degree. He currently lives in Irving, Texas, USA)

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Think of the Lord and He Thinks of YouSaroj Pradhan

I was one of the fortunate students to join Swami during the summer of 1992 for the most cherished trip to Kodaikanal. I was in a state of trance from the time I was chosen as one of the students to accompany Swami till the trip actually began. When the D-day finally arrived, we all left Brindavan early in the morning in a long caravan of vehicles. There was vedam chanting by the boys to see Swami off on His long trip. Swami left in His car first, followed by another car and then the Institute bus carrying all His boys. The bus ride from Brindavan to Kodaikanal itself was a lifetime experience. Every now and then, Swami used to pull over for devotees waiting and singing bhajans for His darshan. And for the boys, our bus used to get loaded with more fresh food which meant that we went on eating. We had lunch at one of Swami's very devout devotees home near Salem. There was so much food served, we just could not resist any. The fun began when our bus had a flat tire near Palani. Swami's caravan had to go ahead as there were programs scheduled for Him in Coimbato re. Sw ami is so th o ugh tf ul of everybody in His caravan that, when He went ahead, He had stopped at a garage and sent them back to fix our bus. By the time we reached Coimbatore, Swami was already at the host's house for dinner and waiting for us. It was a lovely dinner and then off we went to Kodaikanal. We reached Swamis residence, Sai Shruti, late at night. Swami showed all of us where we would be spending a month with Him in Kodaikanal. He showed our bedrooms and then our rest rooms. By that time, all the eating I had done the whole day, from the time we left

Brindavan till we reached Kodaikanal started taking a toll on my stomach. I badly wanted to go to the restroom. Since it was late, and it was our first evening with Swami in Kodaikanal, Swami graciously agreed to spend couple of minutes with us before retiring for the night. But first, He asked all of us to freshen up and gather downstairs. I thought I will take this opportunity to relive my stomach of its pain. By the time I was done and wanted to go inside the house, I was saddened to find the door leading inside the house was locked. I could hear a lot of laughter and understood that everyone was having so much fun inside. I just could not believe I had to spend my first evening in Kodaikanal with Swami like this, locked out of the room. After around 10 minutes, brother Dilip (fellow-student) came upstairs to open the door and find out what I was doing for so long. I told him how much I missed my first evening, but not after what he told me. He explained that somebody had to close the door because there was smoke from the kitchen coming into the room. Dilip told me that Swami was all the time talking about me and joking about my situation. Thats why everybody was laughing till their stomachs ached. And then Dilip made this comment, You were thinking about Swami from here and He was thinking about you all the time, though we were around Him. This made me realize Swamis love for us and how He thinks of us every moment. (Saroj studied in the Brindavan and Parthi campuses from 1990 to 1997 completing his B.Sc., M.Sc. and M.Tech. Degrees. He currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA)

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Footprints in the SandArun Uthayan

In January of 2010, I was able to attend the New Year reunion of the alumni of Sathya Sai Students, for the first time. The short stay brought back memories of my student days, a quarter century ago, with more poignancy than any of the other visits to Puttaparthi. It was the beginning of the celebration of Swamis 85th Birthday and the sense of love and gratitude emanating from the large number of students who had assembled, elevated the levels of positive energy that I felt around me. After two glorious days, Swami was expected to have a private meeting with the alumni on 2nd January. The day dawned and all the alumni were going about arrangements with great anticipation. The excitement was quite palpable. I could not help imagining how I would recollect this visit in the future. However, that train of thought did not go very far. On the contrary, it turned out to be a train wreck. As I was imagining myself recounting the experiences to family and friends, I was reminded of the condition of my twin sons. All the joy that I had been experiencing till then drained away. My sons were entering their teenage years. When they were very young, it was my hope that they turn out to be ardent devotees of Swami. In keeping with this dream, they were taught to chant the Gayathri, when they turned two. Their daily play which comprised of singing bhajans, waving arathi and distributing vibhuthi, gave joy to all of us at home. But, around their third birthday, things took a turn for the worse. Slowly, they stopped paying attention to their surroundings and to anyone around them. They were lost in their own world. Subsequently, they were diagnosed with autism. The ten years since

the diagnosis, brought our family many challenges and trials. My wife and I muddled through them falteringly. Solutions to most of the problems, we faced, showed up after long struggles and agonizing waits. There were multiple challenges to deal with at any given time. We clung desperately to prayer and were somehow trudging through life. So, on that day, while looking forward to the evening with Swami, the thought that I will never be able to communicate my joy to my sons, put a stop to my exhilaration. From then on, my state of mind spiraled downward. A cloud of melancholy settled on me and seemed to gain weight as time passed. I was not looking forward to the evening anymore. In my mental mirror the most painful events of the preceding ten years flashed continuously. Life ahead seemed too barren. I somehow managed to bring myself to attend the evening session. As I entered the Poornachandra Auditorium, I was informed that I had been assigned a small chore. It was to be my privilege to welcome Swami along with another alumnus by offering flowers at the entrance. I cannot say that I was overjoyed at the opportunity. I was not confident that my state of mind will allow me to do a good job. The inability to even muster a smile would seriously handicap me from providing a joyous welcome the occasion demanded. Half heartedly, I sat down and wondered what I should do. The other alumnus, who was to offer the flowers showed up with two bouquets of roses. In order to show some interest in getting to know him, I asked him about his profession. The

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answer and the ensuing exchange gave me a jolt. He turned out to be a developmental psychiatrist, who was familiar with autism and was working with a renowned developmental specialist in London, UK. The reason for my surprise is that in the past ten years I had made several attempts at contacting doctors and developmental specialists, who may have been able to help us with any number of issues related to our sons. But, I had never been successful. The ones I had encountered turned out to be either ignorant or dismissive. Some were even out to exploit the situation. To put it mildly, there had never been a positive encounter with anyone from the medical establishment. I had given up the quest and solely relied on common sense to deal with issues that surfaced. But, here I was half way around the world and to be meeting

someone so familiar with the topic among the thousands of alumni gathered there was surreal. There was a hush in the hall. I sprang to my feet and was ready to welcome. When Swami entered, I extended the flowers with the smile of a lifetime. His loving glance seemed to pass through me and his hands caressed the flowers gently. The procession passed me and I turned to follow it with my eyes. In my heart, I saw a bed of sand stretching as far as eyes could see, with a long trail of foot prints, left by a pair of feet of my Beloved Sai. (Arun studied in the Parthi campus from 1979 to 1986 completing his High School, B.Com. and M.Com. Degrees . He currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

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A Bond of Everlasting and Endless LoveGopi Krishna Polavarapu

December 1980: As a 7-year old kid when I was asked by my parents and aunts if I would like to study in a hostel, I immediately said Yes, not even knowing what the implications of a hostel meant. Shocked at my apparent spontaneity, when mom asked Are you sure? It would mean that you will have to stay away from me, I still nodded a yes although I still do not understand what made me say that. Even my aunts, who had just passed out of the Anantapur college and brought with them an application form for admission into the newly open ed P rimary School at P arth i, were pleasantly surprised as it seemed so much easier than expected. No convincing was needed, no cajoling was required. And so they started off on the two-day long journey to Puttaparthi, with this 7-year old who had not heard such a name before. I vaguely remember them mentioning Sai Baba, Swami and words like that which did not mean anything to me then. Having settled into the room in East Prashanti, we all freshened up and that evening I was whisked away to the building that looked like a temple right opposite to the room we stayed. We sat on the soft sand. I recall looking around wondering why there are so many people sitting there and whats going to happen next. A sudden hush, a pin drop silence and everyone staring towards the veranda in the temple like building. I heard a very soft humming sound AUM and before it faded away into the light evening breeze, an orangerobed person glided out from the veranda onto the sands, walking straight towards us. As He approached us, I just sat there watching like everyone else until He came closer, standing

right in front of me. The gaze of His eyes into mine as I looked back innocently is an indelible memory etched in my mind and heart forever. It was a few seconds of intense bonding that made even the 7 year old feel that he belonged there. It was a homecoming. What followed was 10 years of growing up under His watchful eye. Growing up physically, mentally, spiritually. No special interviews or conversations, but innumerable moments of experiencing His love, sometimes motherly, sometimes fatherly, always Godly. Having grown up to be a 17-year old, like any adolescent son, I felt I needed to see the world, I needed to leave home. And so I did, not returning for many years. Yet, every step of my way, He was there, watching over me with the same intensity of His love, just as He did during all my growing-up yearsa Love that I almost took for granted. Fast forward twenty long years to August 2010. Realizing what I had done or rather not done during these 20 years, full of remorse, I immersed myself into the activities of the local Sai Center in Phoenix. And on one such day of service activity, after having donated blood, I sat in the hall playing videos of Swami to all the devotees and non-devotees who had gathered there for the blood drive. Seeing those videos took me back through time to the golden age of my life, my growing-up years at His feet. After a long day in the desert sun, I returned home with the satisfaction of having participated in a wonderful service activity. As the tiredness took over and put me into a deep sleep, He appeared. Walking and giving Darshan, just as He had done thirty years ago as the 7-year old watched. He beckoned me to come to Him and the

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emotions burst. I hugged Him tight, pleading forgiveness for having left home and at times even having forsaken Him and silently thanking Him for still being there every moment, picking me up when I fell, patting me on my back when I did well. As I hugged and wept, He caressed me ever so lovingly and said in His soft voice, Dont worry. Just be good to everyone. I looked into His eyes then. It was the same intense gaze that He had given me 30 years ago.

He had not changed a bit, no matter how much I had changed, no matter that I hadnt returned home to see Him. It was a moment of truth; a moment that reiterated the strength of the bond the bond of His everlasting and endless love a moment of Premabandham. (Gopi studied in the Parthi campus from 1981 to 1991 completing his High School . He currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Swamis CompassionShanti Polavarapu Spouse of Gopi Krishna Polavarapu I knew Swami for all the wrong reasons before I got married. I never believed in people who wore orange robes. After I got married, I came to know that my husband and his side of the family and most of his relatives were Swamis devotees. I pitied them for being very gullible and was very proud that I did not fall into such things. I asked him as to what he thought about Swami, his simple reply was GOD. I was surprised and even felt pity that he believed anybody to be GOD. I am inherently a very spiritual person but just did not believe in the so-called Swamis. However, I was surprised when I found that six months into my marriage, I still could not catch my husband telling a lie. Further, he was calm, always smiling and never got angry. I was always thinking, How can there be such a person. Then there was this BBC video about Swami. I could not wait to show it to my husband and question his belief. When I actually showed it to him, he just smiled it away calmly. He never argued about Swamis Godliness or forced me to believe in Him. My curiosity increased and I first started with all the negative things that were circulating around on the internet about Swami. Every now and then I used to go to my husband with lots of doubts and he always cleared every doubt with very good reasoning. I am normally very difficult to convince but he always convinced me calmly. This went on for a while and it took almost a year for me to have an open mind. I then earnestly started reading about Swami, His service activities and all the books written by Swami. For the next two years I read everything I could about Swami. Surprisingly, I always found myself to be happy and peaceful during these times. His books had such a calming effect and brought so much peace into my mind. I used to always think that all the Babas who wore orange robes only talked about God. But here was Swami, leading by example everything He taught. And His teachings were so profound, yet so easy to understand, so easy to practice. I asked my husband to take me to Parthi. I made my first trip in 2009 to see Swami and had a wonderful darshan. I always used to search for different meanings of GOD and now, all my questions are answered. I feel Swami sent His student as my husband, to answer all my questions and bring me closer to Him. Now, I am completely immersed in the Sai way of life. It is the greatest transformation to have occurred to me.

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SwamiMy Music TeacherAditya Kalvagunta

I am grateful for a great many things from Swami. Without His invisible hand my life would have been very different. But the biggest gift He bestowed on me was the gift of music. Through music He taught me lifes lessons of hard work and patience and the importance of humility. These lessons will always be with me. As a child I was never interested in bhajans or singing in general. In fact, I used to be of the opinion that singing and music is for girls, and boys are meant to play sports and do other more a d v e n t u r o u s t h in g s. C o m i n g f r o m t h i s viewpoint to eventually singing in the Mandir for him was quite a turnaround. As Surdas says: Jaake kripa Pangu Giri Langhe, Andhe Ko Sab Kuch Darsaye-God can make a lame man leap a mountain and will make a blind man see. He taught me how to sing bhajans. As a family, we had known about Swami for many years but did not become serious devotees till the year 1992. This was the year my father went to Prasanthi Nilayam as a sevadal for the first time. He was a career army officer and invariably he would get security detail either in the Mandir or at the boys hostel. While at the boys hostel, he saw that the students were a disciplined lot, were groomed well and most importantly Swami and His teachers trained them really well. He was sold; he wanted me and my brother to be students as well. He applied for me to join the 11th grade. We went to Prasanthi Nilayam for the entrance test and the only questions I remember the school teachers asking me in the interview were whether I attend bhajans and if I could sing a bhajan for them. The bhajan I sang was Manasa Bhajare Guru Charanam. In retrospect it was a

very poor rendition of the Bhajan. But Swami is very patient and I found myself a student in grade 11 in the Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School. During those first few months, the highlight of the day was the bhajans in the evening, sung by the students. The moment the bhajans started, the atmosphere would change and I would be transported to a different world. This was divine music. I believed that only God could create this kind of music and this made me want to sing for Him. I, however, did not know where to start. I had no previous interest in music. I needed guidance. My desire was intense and I started praying to Swami. I wrote letters to Him and would ask other senior students for tips to improve. The Music teacher in the Boys Hostel, Dr. Shailesh Shrivastava encouraged me a lot. His constant advice was that I needed to practice. To concentrate on singing and on improving myself, I decided to not go home for the Diwali vacation that year. This was the year 1996. During the vacation the added bonus was that there were fewer students in Parthi and this meant more interaction with Swami. I was also a part of the University Brass band and played the cymbals. During this time Swami called a few of us band members and Dr.Shailesh Srivastava for an interview. A famous Italian conductor Professor Giuseppe Savazzi was teaching us Western music at that time and he was called for the interview as well. During the interview Swami repeatedly told Dr Savazzi to train the boys to be the best musicians. Swamis expectations for His students are very high, nothing less than the best is acceptable. As the interview was ending,

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I picked up my courage and asked Swami (in Telugu) if I could sing in the mandir. Swami agreed right away. I was very excited since this was a great opportunity. We exited the interview room. Once outside, I was jubilant. This feeling however quickly turned into panic. I knew I was not very good. It is one thing to sing in a small music room all alone with just Swamis picture in front of you. It is an entirely different challenge when you sing in front of Swami in the mandir. The bhajan has to be flawless. The bhajan singer is representing Swami and that is a big responsibility. That year I sang only one bhajan in the mandir in the following six months. There was not much improvement in my singing. My confidence level was extremely low and instead of working to improve myself, I would pray to Swami for a miracle to make me a better singer overnight. Over this period I was practicing but I wasnt very regular. I was too lazy. I felt that my will was lacking and so was the improvement in the singing. The next year, Swami was in Brindavan for almost the first 6 months of the academic year. It was dry and hot in Parthi. It was during one of these dreary days, we were all singing in the evening bhajans in the hostel. One of the senior boys who was singing at that time was Ajnish Rai. The singing was incredible and moving. It was almost as if Swami had appeared in the hostel dining hall. At the end of the bhajan it dawned on me that singing in the mandir for Swami was an opportunity of a lifetime and it should not be taken lightly. I had to put in everything that I had and become better. From then on, my motivation level for practice was very high. It had become an obsession. Incredibly enough, with every practice I would get a signal from inside to concentrate on certain exercises in the morning and slightly different ones in the evening. Also, I was completely ignorant about the harmonium and I knew that it was absolutely necessary to use it to practice well. With every

passing day the instrument revealed its secrets to me. It was as if Swami was teaching me music himself. My singing improved slowly and there were a few more opportunities to sing in front of Swami that year. The lesson of hard work was coming through. By the end of my 3rd year I had many more opportunities to sing in the mandir. My singing had improved greatly. The summer vacation back at home was also dedicated to a lot of practice. As we started the 1st year of our postgraduation , my singing in mandir bhajans became a regular event. There was some amount of praise from other bhajan group members as well. I realized that my ego was rising up. There was a sense of entitlement. This belief changed very quickly as one fine day, one of the senior teachers told me that it would be better if I stopped singing for a while. No explanation was given for this command. I wasnt able to sing in the mandir for 6 months from that day. I had an incredibly hard time. I was practicing hard but there was no response from Swami. I gave letters to him regularly but this came to no avail. My studies suffered and my self-confidence was at an all time low. Typically, as humans we want to believe that there is a direct relationship between the work we put in and the eventual result. This is deemed fair. Anything contrary to this is very hard to accept. Patience is a great virtue in these situations. I had not learnt that lesson yet. The academic year in Parthi had ended and Swami had left for Brindavan. This was the end of my studies in Parthi. Instead of going home, I decided to follow Swami to Brindavan. The Darshans were amazing and Swami would spend a lot of time with us during Trayee sessions. During one of these sessions there was talk of Swamis wish to hear a few good devotional songs. The program would be in one of the Trayee sessions. As it turned out, my name was not in the list of boys singing in the program. This was absolutely devastating. I wanted to sing a Marathi Abhang for Swami

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and had been practicing it for one year but it looked like there would not be an occasion to sing it for him. On the day of the program, as planned all the boys were seated in Trayee Brindavan waiting for Swami. The boys singing the devotional songs were sitting in the front, closer to Swamis Jhoola. There were a few speeches by senior devotees and then Swami asked for the music program to begin. All the boys sang beautifully. The program ended and Swami was very pleased. I was sitting at the back quite a distance away from Swami. Swami enquired if the program was done, he asked again if there was anything else. There were no more songs that were planned. At that moment, something possessed me and I got up and from the back of the room said to Swami that I have a song for him. This was all very bizarre. Swami looked at me and asked me to start singing. There was a lot of confusion, the harmonium and the other instruments were very far away

from me and we had no way of communicating. I collected myself and started singing as loud as I could. Swami appeared very happy and during the Abhang, asked for the Manjira, at some point during the song He started playing as well. Swami himself was playing during my song, I felt really blessed. The lesson of patience had come through. As I think back on the years I spent as a student with Swami, these events stand out more than anything else. He taught me the importance of hard work, patience and humility. Hard work and patience allow us to polish our skills and humility keeps us open to learning. These are keys towards achieving any goal that one aspires for. Thank you Swami. (Aditya studied in the Parthi and Brindavan campuses from 1993 to 2000 completing his High School, B.Sc. Degree, and M.Sc. Degrees. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California, USA)

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Hey! I Know God and God Knows MeAbhimanyu Kaul

In times when in the name of love people engage in violence; in the name of peace, might is promoted; and in the name of friendship, selfishness is bartered; the word God is most confused and misused. Still, God remains the only resort, the source of strength, the eternal friend, a persistent guide, and the most admired entity worthy of being worshiped. The God who has been worshiped by millions since the beginning of time; God, on whom countless epics have been penned down; God, who has been searched for countless times via countless ways, God, who has been visualized by every soul in their unique manner; I, like many of my brothers & sisters, have the pleasure of KNOWING HIM. How many in the world can say that, and say it with confidence, that they know God and God knows them? We are amongst the few blessed ones who the Avatar of the age Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, chose to bestow this grace upon. How did it happen? Did we do anything to deserve this? I wonder if I can ever get a right answer to these questions. Once a person sitting in the august presence of the Master said, Bhagawan, it must be the good karma done in my past lives and the good merits of my ancestors for many lives that I have this privilege of knowing You and enjoying your proximity. Bhagwan heard him patiently. After a brief pause He replied, No. It is neither you nor your ancestors that have done any such deed to deserve this proximity. In fact none of you in this room have done anything to be close to me. Even today there are sages who are

meditating in Himalayas for hundreds of years. When I appear to them for few minutes they find fulfillment. Here you all are easily managing few hours with me. No amount of merit is sufficient to deserve this chance. It is only by my grace that you are able to enjoy this proximity. As I go about in th e journey of lif e, experiencing the ups and downs, realizing my weaknesses and the unconditional love and grace of my God, I am humbled. Even to acknowledge my gratitude seems artificial and too small. As this understanding grows, I realize how small I am. The more I comprehend His loving care and personal attention in every aspect of my life, the quieter I get. It is strange to experience a state where prayer is no words but a continuous state; where life is not a series of events but a miracle of His love; where gratitude is not just an expression for few things in life but an attempt to live a life in His service. Each time we recall our days at the lotus feet we experience the same, nay, even more joy. The words spoken by Him seem to have more meaning now. Each time His words, His expressions, and His examples bring out newer dimensions in our life. How I wish we could live again as His student with the present understanding and acceptance! I wonder if we could have made better use of our time and the gift that was so generously bestowed on us. He cared for us like no one could ever do, and continues to do so till this day. Even though we fail to keep our side of the promise, He has never failed us. Once I have held your hand I

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would never let it go, promised the Lord. In spite of all our faults and slips, He continues to keep His word. Maybe with a hope that one day we would be as He wants us to be; someone He can be proud of. Allow me to share one such incident of His ever protective grace and love. Following destiny, I became an Indo Canadian living in Toronto, Canada. Once, for work, I moved to Kentucky, USA for some time. Everything seemed to be going fine, when one night I complained of fever. At that time, I shared an apartment with a fellow brother, S. Kumar. He promptly came to help. I was feeling very cold and had started shivering. Kumar put as many blankets we had on me. My shivering did not stop. Fearing any further consequences he called another friend, Mr. Mahendran, who was local to that place, for help. Seeing my deteriorating condition, Mr. Mahendran consulted his wife who was a doctor. She immediately recommended for me to be taken to the hospital. As I reached the emergency department, doctors moved me to ICU without any further delay. Later I got to know that they had asked my family to be contacted as I was very serious and an ythin g could h ave happened. Being in a new country and in a new place, without any family close by, could be a reason for concern. But I had my Lord. It was very gratifying to know how His devotees took the best care for me. I was fortunate to experience their love for Bhagawan. My family was contacted. They were received and hosted with much love. His people felt that hospital food was not good enough for me. They volunteered to take turns in bringing food for me and took every care to make me feel at home. Even today I am filled with gratitude for them for their selfless love. I received the best treatment possible. After being discharged I went to Miami to rest with family. As luck would have it America faced its

worst time 9/11. This horrifying attack changed the way we lived. Business declined. I decided to move back to Toronto. During that time we had planned for celebrating our Lords birthday in Kentucky. We had called many youths and Sai Students from nearby states to participate. I decided to leave after the celebrations. As I was still recovering, it was recommended that I should not drive all the way from Kentucky to Toronto on my own. I requested some young brothers who were coming from Cleveland to drive me from Kentucky to Cleveland. The plan was to stay overnight at Cleveland, then drive up to Buffalo, NY and stay there for a night before heading to our final destination, Toronto, Canada. Brother Kumar offered to help in packing. On the day of departure, as the car was being packed I realized my passport was missing! All the friends there started looking. The apartment was searched thoroughly. The car and all the bags were relooked at. The passport was still missing. At that time I was not a Canadian citizen. All the relevant documents relating to my status were attached with the passport. It was not a pleasant feeling. Somehow He kept me calm. I was not worried. Something in me was prompting that He is there. We decided to start our journey. Kumar was to search the apartment again and ship it to Cleveland or Buffalo, if found. By the time we reached Cleveland, Kumar confirmed that the passport was not there. I was still calm. A small satsang was organized in Cleveland where I shared the stories of our Lord. After that blissful evening I requested some of the brothers there to relook at the bags for the passport. They went through the bags and the car again fully. But found nothing. Now I had 2 options. One was to go to New York, where we have the main office of Indian Embassy and apply for a new passport. Second, was to go to Buffalo and present the case to the officers at the border. If allowed, I could go to Canada and organize all

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the formalities. I decided to opt for the 2nd option. That night I requested a few young brothers to search the car and bags for the passport one more time. They repacked the bags and checked the car but did not find anything. Next morning I drove to Buffalo. There also I had the pleasure of having a nice satsang, sharing the leelas of our Lord. After the satsang, I again requested some youth to check the bags one last time. After exhausting all the options I started preparing for the last lap. With an FIR report from the police station and a photocopy of my passport (which I found in the bags), I drove towards Canada. On reaching the b o rd e r, I w a s a sk ed to d ri ve in t o th e immigration section for the inspection. As I drove into the indicated spot an officer came out. Rolling my windows down I said, Officer, I have lost my passport and here is the FIR and the photocopy of my passport. He took the papers and asked me to open the trunk. I was not allowed to come out of the car (security issues). He walked towards the back of the car as I pressed the button to open the trunk. Hardly 30 seconds would have elapsed I heard him say, Are you kidding with me? I turned to see what the matter was. Is this your passport? I saw him flashing my passport. I hopped out and enquired as to where he found it. He stated very casually that it was on top of the suitcase. I started laughing and took the passport from his hand. Noticing his confusion I said to

him, Why would I give you a photocopy of my passport and go to the police station and get an FIR done if the passport was on top of my suitcase. That did make sense to him but I could see that he was not convinced. He started searching my car thoroughly. I had kept my blankets and rugs on the back seat. On top was seated a beautiful picture of the Lord. He could not resist and enquired, Who is this afro? He is the one who did all this drama. I responded immediately. We ended up talking about Bhagawan for the next ten minutes. The surprised officer, eventually let me go with good wishes. It is purely His training and His grace that we live a life of fullness. Adversities of life come to provide us with some exclusive time with Him. We walk with a strange confidence that drives us to a higher cause. The faith, so generously bestowed by Him, that we are His and nothing untoward can happen to us. The realization that happiness is our innate nature and our birth-right is one of the boons given by Him, unasked. All this comes with the confidence arising from the fact that God is ours and we belong to God. Yes, I know HIM. And GOD knows me too (Abhimanyu studied in the Parthi campus from 1983 to 1990 completing his High School, B.Com. and M.Com. Degrees. He currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

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The All-Knowing Divine MotherSridharan Hariharan

It was a bright sunny day in the beginning of March 1985. I sat for the evening Darshan in the mandir heavy with headache and fever due to the climate change. I thought of writing a letter to Swami but my mind prompted me not to write and said to me that 'Hey, He is Omniscient and there is no need to give a letter'. Swami came out from the interview room for Darshan and made a complete round in the ladies side in few minutes. After making a quick round on mens side, He was coming towards the curve in the portico where I was seated. He asked the registration number of the CBSE examination of a high school student and the boy was frantically tried to open the envelope in which he had safely kept his 'Examination Hall Ticket'. Before he could read the number, Swami spelt all the digits in the number and said 'I know the number of everyone here'. I said to myself, 'Swami, then you must be knowing my fever, cold and headache also! I am having tough time in teaching the students in the college with this headache'. At that moment, he came very close to me and bending towards me asked in sweet Telugu 'Headache undhi kada, Pada namaskaram theesko'.

I was trying to correct Swami adding 'Fever Also'. Swami said 'Headache pothundhi, Pada Namaskaram theesuko'. He was standing in front of me so close that I could not even bend to place my head on his feet. I had to use my hands to touch His Feet and kept my fingers on my eyes. By then, Swami had moved and gone to the interview room. I was closing my eyes and tried to recollect His words during the Bhajans; I was amazed to observe that my headache had vanished into thin air as the Aarathi was sung on that day. After that day, I never felt any headache due to cold, fever or any climate change till date. The power of His word was enough to stop the headache for my life time. From that day onwards, my mind always takes me to that Blissful state, whenever I have to face difficult situations in my life. I felt He was nearer to me than anyone else in my life as He could respond to my thought and solve my problem on the spot simply with His Word. (Sridharan studied in the Parthi Campus from 1985 to 1999 completing his Ph.D. Degree . He currently lives in Missouri City, Texas, USA.)

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The CallGopal Coimbatore

Everyone has a story of how Swami called them to His presence. Some fortunate ones get called directly by Him, while some receive their call through subtler tugs. Some less fortunate ones believe it is they who discovered Swami. I belong to the last category. . It was November 22, 1989. Unbeknownst to me, I had been drawn to Parthi. I was not a Swamis student then, not even a devotee. In my min d, I w as th ere to scien tif ically investigate and unravel the miracles of Sai Baba. Through a strange set of circumstances, I became friendly with a temple priest from Madurai. Like a loving parent he took care of every need that I had during my unplanned visit to Parthi. This, as I realized later, was in addition to his regular seva-dal activity during the hectic Birthday celebrations. Another eq ually strange co -incidence made th e Registrar of Madurai-Kamraj University sit next to me on the floor outside Poornachandra Auditorium. I was might impressed at his humility, for a person of such high stature would never be sitting on the floor, let alone several hundred feet away from the center stage where Swami was. The registrar and I started having a conversation on education. He spoke more about the Sri Satya Sai Institute of Higher Learning (SSSIHL), than about Madurai Kamraj University and told me of the lofty ideals to which the University holds its students. I was, as always, skeptical and sneering. Late in the evening I spoke with my only friend, the temple priest, about the University and how I could obtain admission there. This was more to make the priest happy than with

any real intentions. In response, he grabbed my hand we quickly walked out of ashram and towards the hostel. Soon, the neat lines of sch ool studen ts arrived back af ter the convocation events. The priest approached one student and requested him to provide me guidance on the admission process. The student told me about the entrance exam conducted every summer and promised to send me the information when the Institute releases admission notice. I scribbled my address on oily piece of biscuit wrapper that I had found lying nearby. The address was not very visible for the ink did not stick well on the paper. I too did not think it mattered because I was sure this student would forget all about this incident in a few days. In the next couple of months, several other coincidences and some reading had slowly transformed my view of Sai Baba from one of curiosity to one of reverence. I wanted to be close to Him, spend more time in His presence. I started praying everyday for an opportunity to study in His college. I had heard that the college charged no fees, it would be an added blessing as I would no longer be a burden to my recently retired father. And finally, what better excuse to be in His presence. Then I recalled my hastily scribbled handover of address and sorely regretted. Would that student remember? Will he be able to read from the dirty oily paper? I should have requested his address, instead of writing down mine. Now I did not even remember his name and I did not know anyone else at Parthi. How will I ever know if admissions are open?

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One day in February of 1990, an unexpected post-card was waiting for me when I returned home from college and had me in tears. It was from this 11th class student, who had kept his hastily made promise. This student had remembered to send me information on admission and asked me if I was still interested in the application form and booklet? My parents were highly impressed that the student had kept his promise. It was a post-card that changed my life. Looking back, it was Swamis calling card for me. Yes, it was a small, perhaps insignificant incident, yet it changed my life for ever. As I reflect upon the incident today I deeply appreciate what Swami means when He says

that it is not dramatic life-saving acts, but it is the character molding that shows through such tiny acts that are His real miracle. Act of kindness, words of love and promises kept that are signatures of spiritual growth and of human transformation. Simple acts that one is expected to fulfill but lack the strength of character to carry through. This strength needs to be fostered early before our ways get set. Ironically, it is also the age when the mind is truly like a monkey, agile and agitated. And the only language it understands and obeys is the language of Love. (Gopal studied in the Parthi campus from 1990 to 1992 completing his M.Sc. Degree . He currently lives in Lubbock, Texas, USA.)

From Darkness Unto LightSritulasi Karri Spouse of Gopal Coimbatore The following episode is my Spiritual Experience with our beloved Swami on March 4th 2011. Swami often has mentioned in His discourses that you are not one but three different personalities or Self. The one You think you are, the one Other (s) think you are and the one you REALLY are. Often my Self pondered over who I Really am? This quest led me to ask Swami The question who am I? My journey began when the compassionate mother smiled at me, touched my head, held my hand and walked me across many life times and into those depths of Self life. Standing in deep golden silence next to the mother watching the early morning sunrise, the answer to my question revealed itself. As an observer of my Self in several life times with the Lord walking me through and enlightening the specifics of this Self, was a magnanimous experience. The silence in facing this virtuous Upadesham from the Divine Mother led me to ask yet another question, aithe amma naa kadha yemi leda? (Mother, so the story was never about me?). Kindhearted mother glanced at me with a smile and said NO. Reading the expression on my face, mother continued, you are just an actor in my drama. And went on to explain; Prarabdha is what makes people go over the cycle of birth and death. The desire and thought forms make them to choose what they want to be in each birth. I am only a director; each one chooses the role to fulfill their Prarabdha. Nonetheless, I chose the special ch aracter role to fit in to the drama of Prarabdha of people and their story and You are one such special character role actor, Ardhamayinda? (Did you understand?). I fell on my knees and touched the feet of the Divine mother who led me From the Darkness Unto Light!

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I Am Always With YouSai Latha Shankar When I gather my thoughts to write on a Prema Bandham moment with Swami, my heart reminds me that all the seven years spent in Swamis presence in Prasanthi Nilayam and Brindavan were truly Prema Bandham filled moments. I am deeply thankful and eternally grateful to Swami and my parents for bestowing me with this opportunity and I strive everyday to be worthy of His Divine Love. Swami has described Prema, the fourth human value, to have nine qualities. Prema or Divine Love is pure, steady, effulgent, attributeless, formless, ancient, eternal, immortal and nectarine. My mind races to a moment in 1984 when He taught me the nature of Divine Love. When I first joined Swamis high school in 84, I was a teenager who had left the comfortable cocoon of my parents home and moved to the hostel in Prasanthi Nilayam. On Sundays, the hostel students used to rise early as Swami would give darshan at around 5:45 6:15AM. One such Sunday morning I had woken up at 3:15AM and went through my morning rituals. I dressed in clean white attire and with study books in my hand joined the student line to proceed for Swamis darshan. Upon reaching the mandir, I found a seat at the lowest side portico level near the sands. Everyday, Swami would walk back into the Mandir through the area where I was seated and I had the opportunity to touch His feet, give Him a letter or a photograph for His signature. Swami came for darshan promptly at 6:00AM, interacted with students and devotees till 6:20AM and proceeded to the interview room where He spoke with groups of people from different parts of the world. Those days the morning bhajans commenced at 11:00AM and the students were expected to stay seated in the mandir until Swami retired to His residence. I studied my text books for around three hours. Around 9:00AM, I felt extremely sleepy and decided to take a nap. I inserted my foot into the warm sand, bent my head, placed it on one knee and went to sleep. When I was fast asleep, Swami had come out of the interview room and asked all the students to move forward and be seated near the front p a r t of th e man di r . I h ad n o t m ov e d. Meanwhile, Swami had returned back to the interview room. Some time had elapsed and I was blissfully unaware of my surroundings. Suddenly, I woke up with a startle to the sound of whispers. I raised my head and looked to my left only to see rows of students seated on the upper left portico facing me. The students were anxiously gesturing to look to my right. I slowly moved my head to the right side and at first sight saw a wall of orange. Since I was still a little groggy, nothing made sense. Then, I felt a soft hand on my right shoulder. I looked up and there was Swami, looking at me with a beautiful smile that was non-judgemental, motherly, attributeless and indeed nectarine. I was honestly terrified that Swami would reprimand me for falling asleep in the mandir. So I gathered myself, folded my hands, looked at Swami and said nothing. Swami in His infinite grace said, You are tired so you fell asleep, you woke up at 3:15 in the morning. Swami is not angry. Swami loves you. I am always with you and I know everything. I was touched, a swirl of emotions was going through me and I did not know how to respond. I kept my hands folded and looked into His deep eyes. Swami looked at

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me again, pointed to a photograph in my pocket and asked for it. I gave Him the photograph. He was silent all the while smiling. Showing infinite patience, He asked for a pen to sign the photograph. I then gave Him a pen. He signed, With love, Baba and put the photograph back into my pocket and asked me to take padanamaskar, which I promptly did. Swami then patted my shoulder again and said, Good boy, now go and join the students seated in the front.

This photograph of Swamis Abhaya Hasta signed by Him, now sits in a frame on my bedside table. Every night before I go to sleep, I look at the photograph and I am reminded of His words, I am always with you. (Sai Shankar studied in the Parthi and Brindavan Campuses from 1984 to 1991 completing his High School, B.Sc. And M.Sc. Degrees. He currently lives in Springfield, New Jersey, USA)

The Divine Master of CeremonySankara and Ramaa Loganathan Parents of Sai Latha Shankar

In the year 1956, Swamis infinite grace brought our family into His Divine fold. Swami has blessed us with many Pada pujas and interviews apart from His guidance in all walks of life. One of the golden glorious moments with Swami that we recall is the Sashtiabdhapoorthi (60th birthday) of my father performed by Swami Himself at Parthi on January 8th, 1964. During an earlier interview, Swami told our family that He would perform the Sashtiabdhapoorthi of my parents. He asked my mother whether the ceremony should be conducted in the Mandir Hall in a grand scale or in the interview room. My mother gratefully responded that it was Swami's wish. Swami decided to hold the event in the interview room saying, Why have Adambara (pomp and show). Swami turned towards my brother and myself and asked us to apply for time off from work in advance, to attend the ceremony. Following Swamis command, we assembled in the interview room for the auspicious occasion. Swami asked the eldest in our family,

my Periamma (mother's elder sister), as to how the ceremony is conducted according to our custom. She said, We begin with Ganesha puja, Navagraha Homa followed by Mangalya Dharana. Meanwhile, my sister had lit a bunch of incense sticks. Swami suddenly turned towards her saying, No, No and took the fully lit bunch and put off all, except one. Through this action, Swami taught us that we should not waste and use only what is necessary. Swami then took some flowers and placed it on my mother's hair. While explaining the spiritual significance of Sashtiabdhapoorthi, Swami said Children are the witness for Deha Kalyana" and God is the witness for "Atma Kalyana", pointing both his hands towards Himself. He continued that, the 60th birthday heralds the spiritual sojourn towards "Vanaprastha". Then Swami materialized a "Bottu" (Golden Mangalyam). Next, He materialized a yellow thread (nine thin threads twisted into one) that emanated celestial fragrance. He said, the yellow thread symbolizes Navagraha" and comes directly

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from "Sakhshat MahaLakshmi. He inserted the thread into the mangalyam and gave it to my father to tie around my mothers neck. During Mangalya Dharanam, Swami kept His Hands above them blessing the couple with yellow and vermilion rice flowing from His extended palms. Out of the many photographs taken by my elder brother, only one photo could be printed. Swami said, It is enough if we keep the memories in our hearts.

In the "Aarthi" plate with vermilion water, two lit silver lamps were kept. Swami placed a small piece of camphor in between the lamps and asked for Aarthi. My parents were standing on either side of Swami. During "Aarthi", Swami said, those two jyothis will merge with Him, pointing towards Himself. Swami even arranged a grand lunch for fifty of us in the canteen. These Divine memories are deeply engrained in our hearts.

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From Army Boy to Swami BoyBharat Datt

It was 1981 and we were sitting on the sands for the Darshan of a holy man who went by the name of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. A few months prior, Sai Baba had visited Delhi and stayed at one of my father's friends home. My father was in the army and so was Colonel Beriwhose house Swami was staying in. When my mother and brother went to see him there-the first words Sai Baba spoke to her was- "Where is your other son Ma-get both your sons and come to Puttaparthi-Swami will give them admission in his college" As a direct consequence, there I was, as a fifteen year old boy who did not know what to make of this. I do remember my mother being very religious and taking me to Mandirs, Masjids, Gurudwaras and Churches. Soon I espied a red robed figure walking towards me. He came straight towards me and said-what is your name bangaru ? I was tongue tied and my father replied for me. Swami motioned for me to go inside along with my dad. His first glimpse was overwhelming and His personality created lots of joy within me. During our first visit to Parthi we got a spate of about two dozen interviews. In one of the interviews Swami looked at me and said"Bharat thinks he has too many bad habits- but inside his heart is pure gold. He also thinks that if he stays close to swami-he will be able to get rid of all his bad habits". " Swami is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent ". As a first step towards my transformation Swami

instructed me to avoid contact with all my old friends. As soon as I stepped out of the interview room-my old demons came back to haunt me. My brain cajoled me to write a letter to my best friend-with whom I sometimes played pranks with from school. With that intention I walked to the post office to purchase a postcard. I thought I would write the letter while waiting for Swami's evening Darshan. My mother came to know of my intentions and tried to chase me down. I was able to evade her, obtain the postcard and enter the men's side so she couldn't follow me. Since we had the interview that very morning I didn't believe we would be called again that day. While waiting I completed the letter right on time and placed it in my shirt's front pocket as the Darshan music started. As usual I was enthralled by His presence and totally forgot about the letter as He motioned for us to go inside. After talking to all families present, Swami started taking us all inside to the private interview room. As soon as I entered, SWAMI REACHED UP AND REMOVED THE POSTCARD FROM MY POCKET. I realized I was in deep trouble. Swami looked deep in my eyes and said "Swami is also postman raSwami is also postman". "Mother running behind and you not listening to her". I understood immediately how powerful this person was and His intent to transform my heart and soul.

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This was the beginning of my incredible journey with our Lord Sri Sathya Sai Baba and the realization of his omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence. Thus began my journey from army boy to Swami's boy.

(Bharat studied in the Parthi campus from 1982 to 1990 completing his High School, B.Sc. And M.Sc. Degrees . He currently lives in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada)

Love Story 1949Padmaja Nandini Datt Spouse of Bharat Datt

It was way back in late 1940's when my grandfather a retired engineer from Bagalkot moved to coastal area of Andhra Pradesh with his family of nine daughters and two sons. He was a staunch devotee of Lord Sri Venkateswara. He would go on a pilgrimage to Tirupathi once a year with his family and parents. It was during one of these train trips to Tirupathi when he first heard bhajans and miracles of Baba. He fell in love instantly when he heard the sweet melodies /tunes of Baba's bhajans. So when he reached home Visakhapatnam, he tried to get in touch with devotees who had been to Puttaparthi to gather more information about this "holy curly haired man". Few weeks later, there was a parcel in the mail for him. He was so stunned and astonished. It was addressed to my grandfather with no postage on it and no "from" address. When he opened the parcel, my grandfather was astounded to find a packet of Vibuthi and a picture of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Baba quotes "You take one step towards me and I will take a hundred steps towards you" So here was my grandf ather, some 5'11in man trying to understand who sent him this parcel and why. Later that night, my grandfather had a dream

where he saw Baba telling him to come to Puttaparthi. This was the turning point for him as well as the rest of the Desetty clan. My grandparents left to Puttaparthi the following week leaving the children under the care of his parents. So here he was in Puttaparthi, waiting for Baba in the sands. During those times Baba would come out at any time and walk around devotees, take letters, create vibuthi and talk to devotees. When Baba saw my grandfather with folded hands he said "Did you get my parcel". My grandfather was so surprised and he could not say a word. A few seconds later Baba smiled and asked, "Pillallu ekkada" meaning ''Where are the children". By now my grandfather had mustered enough courage to say "Vizag, Baba". Baba smiled and threw something into my grandfather's folded hands. Lo and behold, there were 11 candies in my grandfather's hands. Later that evening my grandparents were reminiscing the days events and at the same time were also planning the very next trip with their children. A few months passed and my grandparents managed to pool up the finances for the battalion to visit Puttaparthi. After a long

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journey in the blazing heat, the Desetty clan were back in the presence of the Divine Holy man. The very next day, my grandmother took the nine girls for morning Darshan while my grandfather took the boys with him and were waiting patiently for Baba. Baba, now all too familiar with these faces from Vizag, smiled and took the letter from my grandmother while looking at my mother and aunt and said, "Naa Bangaru "meaning "My gold". My mother and aunt were amazed and were all smiles and glowing, very eager to touch his Feet. Baba looked at them again and said 'Be Good Do Good". P eople in th e crowd i n c l u d in g m y g r an d m o t h e r c o u l d n ot understand what Baba had said to these two girls because they were the only ones educated

in English medium schools at that time and were the only ones who got to understand what Baba had said to them. Fast forward in time to half a century later. I visited Puttaparthi after I got married and I was back at the same place like my mother and aunt waiting for Darshan of the Divine Lord. Baba walked through the ladies side, looked at me and said ''Be Good Do Good". And then looking at the little girl sitting on my lap, He said "Naa Bangaru " meaning "my gold". For me, it is like history repeating itself again in the presence of the Lord. These are some of the experiences we had with Swami and how we were brought together into the Sai fold.

Swami From The Word GoGunika Datt Daughter of Bharat Datt

My birth was one to remember, something unique and different. My birth was all thanks to Swami. My parents told me stories since the day I understood and sometimes even before that. Ill skip back to the time when I heard nothing but the voice of my parents. My mothers cooing and lovely, and my fathers gentle and low, is a memory to remember. My father asked my grandmother to come and see me because soon I would be in this world. My grandma could not because Swami had not given permission to leave Parthi. Unbeknownst to us He was already taking care of the situation. My dad couldnt understand why my grandparents were not coming for my anticipated birth. He was getting frustrated and calling his parents every day.

The doctors had said that to give birth, my mother would have to have a Cesarean section. My mom was very scared and the night before my birth, she had a dream. A dream, in which Swami had come to us, put his hand out and created Vibhuti. Then Swami rubbed his palm on my moms stomach and softly spread the Vibhuti on it. Probably during that moment, I was turned around in moms stomach. He withdrew his hand and my mother drifted off into a peaceful sleep. The next day, to doctors surprise, my mother was able to give birth to me normally. And that was how I was brought into the world safely, thanks to the ever -lasting devotion of my parents, grandparents and last but not the least, our beloved Swamis grace.

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Shower of GraceBala Swaminathan

Back in early 2010, I was given the opportunity to be part of the cultural program committee in the North American zonal pilgrimage. The pilgrimage was 6 months in the making - several conference calls with devotees from various regions and other senior officials from the Sai organization; trips to other cities to teach the songs and arrange the music. Swami gave me a huge learning experience that many situations exist that we cannot control or influence. We just have to let events unfold and understand how Swami directs them. I did not have much personal expectation out of the trip; I looked upon it more as a duty to ensure the program executed well and devotees felt happy participating in the event. Additionally, I saw it as an opportunity for my daughter to be in Prashanthi Nilayam, see Swami and relate to Him in His physical form. My wife and I, both being Swami's students, have had the Blessing to interact with Swami; we want our daughter to relate to Swami in a similar way as much as possible. To my surprise, few hours before the program, I was unexpectedly asked to present a

card to Swami along with another member of the committee. Swami asked for the program sheet and this gave us an opportunity to interact closely with Swami. At the end of this, Swami permitted us to have Padanamaskar - something I had not dreamt about in the past 17 years. On the subsequent day, we presented a letter of Thanks to Swami for giving us the opportunity to perform in front of Him. Swami picked a small conversation with us and at the end of it, picked up a vibhuti packet from His lap for each of us. This would definitely be the highlight of my trip - hardly anticipated but definitely filled me with joy; my Premabandham moment, if you will. I do not know why I was the recipient of such Grace, but definitely hope that I reminisce on those golden fleeting moments of interaction for a long time to come and feel inspired enough to continue to serve in His mission. (Bala studied in the Parthi Campus from 1986 to 1994 completing his M.Tech. Degree . He currently lives in Sunrise, Florida, USA)

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Swamis Copious Concern and LoveMahesh Kumar Karwa

My family and I were introduced to Sathya Sai Baba, whom we fondly call as Swami, and the ever expanding Sai-Family, when I secured an admission into His Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School at Puttaparthi in 1991. In retrospect, this event had unfolded, without seemingly much effort or th ought. The opportunity just opened up, as our family acquaintance had recommended this school to my father. He was in high praise about the schools competitive and higher standards of education which was imparted free without having to pay a a fee. The prospect sounded to me like a double benefit and I did not need any more prodding. Quickly, all the formalities to the school admission were completed and I soon became a Sai-Student for the next seven years. Little did I realize then, that this would be an event that would impact my life a great deal and influence my outlook towards living life with a positive attitude. Being a Sai-Student, one has countless number of opportunities to experience Swamis love, as we had the chance to see Him daily during His darshan. Despite the surging sea of humanity coming from far off lands, cultures and diverse religions, the multitudes of ordinary men and women, engineers, doctors, educators, scientists, politicians and all VIPs to seek His guidance and blessings, Swami used to spend a lot of time with His studen ts. Sometimes, He would give away fruits and sweets, and would make sure that we had received them. Often, He would enquire about very trivial information like menu for daily

breakfast or lunch we had, the size and the quantities of idlis that we were served, etc. During exams, He would advice us on how to prepare for the examinations and after the exam, that day He would sweetly enquire if we had answered all the questions properly. He would constantly advice us on personality development and various social etiquettes, counsel about the students personal problems or medical issues tormenting their families and clarify on spiritual matters. He always gave more and more of Himself and in return He just had one request - lead noble and ideal lives. All along, one common undercurrent that we, the student fraternity, had experienced was His copious concern, compassion and love. I recall an incident in December 1991, where I had the opportunity to experience His love first hand. It was Christmas time and we were busy practicing Christmas carols to sing in Swamis presence on Christmas. One day, after practicing, we were returning to our rooms and in the excitement, I hit my forehead onto the wooden beam of the door frame above and, blood started gushing out. I was immediately rushed to the general hospital by my friends and I had a few stitches at the interface of my forehead and head and a big bandage was plastered on my head. The next day being Sunday, we were heading for morning darshan. I had seen in the past that students when afflicted with a bodily injury or any physical condition, although they may not be any kind of life threatening injuries, received abundant love and attention from Swami. That way, students

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never actually felt a void of love of their parents when living in the hostel. So that day, I took permission from our hostel warden, to sit in the front row in darshan to draw some special attention from Swami. I very vividly recall, that day, Swami opened the interview room door and walked down to the portico approaching the front row and he looked at me compassionately and enquired What happened, why do you have the bandage mark like NTR indicating with His finger at His forehead. I got up and said Swami, I bumped my head onto the door frame above. Swami said careless, careless with an expression showing that He was unhappy. A mothers love was very evident in His expression and words. He started to wave His hand in circular motion and created vibhuti and gave it to me. I was ecstatic, as this was the first time that Swami spoke to me. Needless to say, all the pain and misery of that wound simply vanished away with His caring and loving words. To youngsters, Swami is and will ever be a pillar of great inspiration, because He is a perfect role model. He would constantly advice us on the need for conservation of resources and the avoidance of wasting electricity, water,

food, money, time and more importantly speech. In His own words, He used to say this headdu (head/brain), blooddu (blood), fooddu (food) and duddu (clothes) are the gift of your parents and do not ever waste them. Be ever grateful to your parents for what they have provided you. True to His proclamation my life is my message, Swami lived and followed every dictum of what He s advised. These instances have been mentioned in the Sai literature by a multitude of Him first hand. I would like to recount one small observation that I had witnessed for at least 7 years during my stay there. Every day, when He would come for darshan, from the interview room He would make sure that He would turn off the lights of the interview room. This is a very small act, but it is these small acts that provide a rare glimpse into an individuals larger than life persona. With this, I would like to offer my gratitude to Swami f or givin g me this opportunity. (Mahesh studied in the Parthi and Brindavan campuses from 1991 to 1998 completing his High School, B.Sc., and M.Sc. Degrees . He currently lives in Columbus, Ohio, USA)

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Swamis Ways are Unique and IncredibleS. Lakshminarayan

As part of the Young Adult pilgrimage from our region, I went to Parthi in July 2009. Swami graciously allowed the YA to offer a music program on July 30th. With Swami's grace, I was given an opportunity to sit close to Swami while He was watching the program. During the program, Swami asked me my name and also asked me a few things related to the program itself. Frankly, at the time I did not know why I was the recipient of such Grace. Only later did I realize that by keeping me close, Swami was giving me the strength and courage I would need, for the testing times that I was to undergo after my return from India. A few weeks later I had to undergo an appendectomy, which is normally a simple surgery, but turned out to be very complicated for me. I was hospitalized for twenty plus days, and had to undergo two surgeries. Though it was a very difficult period, with His grace, I did not feel the pain. It felt like I was under anesthesia. My visits to the doctors had not ended though, even after the two surgeries. There was still an open wound, and my surgeon had recommended another minor surgery. I was concerned, and I wanted to have Swami's darshan before I had the surgery. With Swami's grace, I was able to make it to Parthi in January 2010 for the Alumni Meet. On January 2nd, I, along with a few other alumni, had an opportunity to offer an album to Swami. After Swami went through the album, He spoke to each of us. He asked me, "Where are you from?" I replied, "From CaliforniaAmerica Swami." Swami then asked, "Do you know Walter

Cowan?" (Walter Cowan is an elderly American devotee who Swami miraculously revived after he had died of a massive heart attack in Madras in 1971.). Since I was not aware of all the details, I said, "No, Swami." Swami then went to mention how He had performed Walter Cowan's marriage in Madras. I shared this wonderful experience with my parents that evening. My mom then asked me if I had told Swami about my surgery, and I said no. To be honest, when I was talking to Swami, the hospital saga had completely slipped out of my mind. I went to sleep that night feeling a little upset with myself, about how I had missed an opportunity to mention to Swami about my health. Swami's ways are unique and incredible. When I got up the next day, I was thinking about the previous days happenings, and suddenly everything made sense to me. Amazingly, wisdom dawned on me on January 3rd which was my birthday! When Swami asked about Walter Cowan, He was not having an idle conversation with me. He was telling me that He had given me a second life, just like He had done for Walter Cowan several years ago. Everything He does or says has so much value. We sometimes fail to understand, or it takes us a few days, months or even years before it makes sense to us. Also, I did not have to tell Him about my health. Even b e f o re th e s u r g e r y H e h a d c re a t e d an opportunity for me to sit close to Him, while He gave me the needed strength and courage. After the incident, He called me again to tell me in a subtle manner how He had saved my life. On January 2nd, Swami had blessed me and others saying, "Very happy." I sincerely hope

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and pray, that I will always follow His path, that I will always make Swami very happy, and that my Premabandham (bond of love) with Swami will remain strong and last forever.

(Lakshminarayan studied in the Parthi campus from 1983 to 1988 completing his M.Sc. Degree . He currently lives in Fremont, California, USA)

Is The Food Spicy?... And How is The Rasam?Gayathri Narayan Spouse of S. Lakshminarayan My parents came to know of Swami when I was 10 years of age. They were so impressed with the Balvikas classes and I started attending these classes. Once when we went to Abbotsbury, a locality in Chennai during Swamis visit, the Balvikas teacher announced that they were conducting an audition for a dance programme that would be performed in front of Swami for Swamis 60th birthday and Balvikas conference in Puttaparthi. I decided to try the audition. They wanted dancers and although I was not trained in dance I was selected and given a part. It was called a COSMOS dance where the girls did a dance and boys were dressed as the planets. Finally the day came to leave for Parthi. This was the first time I was leaving my parents. Being out of home for the first time, it was very difficult to adjust to the food which was very spicy and I was missing rasam (south Indian soup) much more than even missing my parents. The food always was Sambar rice and Curd rice. Some times when we were eating food Swami used to come and talk to us. One of those days, Swami was standing very close to me and was asking everyone Is everything ok? Are you getting treated properly? I was very home sick and out of blue I told Swami, they are serving only Sambar rice which is very spicy and could You arrange for Rasam also to be served? Being from south, I was really craving for rasam. I have no idea where I got this boldness from. I am not an outgoing person. I could see all the Balvikas teachers staring at me each with different expressions. I know I was in lot of trouble for asking this. But Swami so sweetly said Oh is that so? From tomorrow onwards, I will ask them not to make it spicy and also give rasam. Next day Swami came to me directly and asked me Is the food spicy and how is the rasam? I told Swami thank you so much for arranging this. I was so emotional and cried almost the whole day thinking of his love. That was my first and last interaction with Swami in real world. I feel my connection with Swami is "Nidra Prema Bandham" since Swami always comes in my dreams and is guiding and supporting me. I sincerely hope and pray this becomes a "Niranthra Prema Bandham" (Niranthara meaning always) and Swami always protects us and guide us.

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I Give You More than What You DeserveG. Sankara Kailasam Father of S. Lakshminarayan

I had a darshan of Sri Sathya Sai Baba during his visit to Hyderabad for a function of Three Linga Abishekam at Vidya Nagar where Swamis mandir Sivam was later built. From then onwards (1965), our family came into the fold of Swami. I and my wife joined as Seva Dal in 1967. Later, my wife was selected for service as Bala Vikas teacher. In the last three decades we were blessed to participate in the service activities of Sri Sathya Sai Organizations. In the early years, we, as Seva Dal/Bala Vikas teacher, were blessed with the good fortune of attending group interviews at Hyderabad and at Prasanthi Nilayam and enjoyed His darshan, sparshan and sambashan on many occasions. The private interviews given by Swami to me and my family members (sons and granddaughters) in different periods were significant events to be cherished forever. Swami blessed us with materializations such as Lingam, the idol of Mahalakshmi, His photo and watches for my sons during interviews. On many occasions we faced several serious health problems and Swami always came to our rescue. Baba is always guarding us, guiding us and protecting us in person, endowing us with visions in dreams. His grace manifested in the form of Vibuthi and honey in His photos. The fragrance emanating from His photos in

advance assured us of our safety under his Divine Care. All the love showered on us from time to time on various occasions is equivalent to the love of million mothers. It is in accordance with his assurance to devotees, I give you not only what you desire but more than what you deserve. He repeated the assurance that He would take care of my children and that I should look after my health. At one of the samithi annual meetings at Hyderabad I was suddenly asked to give a talk on the activities connected with the Bal Vikas wing. I intensively prayed for Swamis help. I felt some power from Swamis photo kept at the altar entering my body. I did not know what I spoke for the next 30 minutes. At the end, I was applauded for the speech. It is all Swamis love which saved me from an embarrassing situation. During a group interview to alumni in January 2011 at the Mandir, Swami asked my son,How is your mother? At that time I was unwell at Hyderabad and was airlifted to Trivandrum for care and treatment. Swami gave him prasadam when my son expressed his concern about my health. This is the allknowing Swami and His love for me, for which I have no words to express.

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I Will Take Care of Your ChildrenNirmala KailasamMother of S. Lakshminarayan

I was fortunate to come into the fold of Swami and for being chosen by Him to participate in the organizational activities as Seva Dal and Bala Vikas teacher for more than three decades. Among the various blessings conferred on our family, the most significant one that I always cherish is the upanayanam of my son done by Swami in 1983 and his admission to Swamis college for the integrated M Sc course during 1983-1988. During an interview given to my family in 1989, Swami highlighted the importance of Bala Vikas and the service connected with that.

Swami asked me who I was worshipping. My reply was that I always worshipped Him. Swami said, I know, I know. Then he created an idol of Mahalakshmi and gave it to me. You are always worried about your children. Your children are Gods children. You look after your health. I will look after your childre