Life with Sri Sathya Sai – By Prof. Anil Kumar

Having been born as a human being contemporary to the Avatar in human form life with Bhagavan is the biggest blessing. Living in His proximity, every word, every action, the benevolent look, even His gentle avoidance is a lesson of its own kind. Everyone who calls himself a devotee should experiment and fully experience and that alone gives meaning to our existence. 

The wide acceptance of Bhagavan cuts across all sections of the society, people of different faiths and different countries. They seamlessly merge under His divine guidance. A spiritual renaissance of humanity, a (spiritual) nuclear fission in the minds of millions, unnoticed by the nuclear regulatory authorities, greening of the human minds unplanned by the United Nations- all this happens, steadily and unendingly. 

Professor Anil Kumar with Sri Sathya Sai on board flight to Chennai - January 2007

As the State President of Andhra Pradesh wing of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organizations, Baba had given me the most enviable opportunity of meeting a wide cross-section of people from both within the country and outside. I cherish the colloquy, the spiritual discussions which I have had with them. In such conversations, invariably everyone has expressed that they have had the most personal communication and guidance from Bhagavan; the modes of communication range from physical interaction through His most coveted personal audience, pointed reference to incidents in the most casual way, materialization of Vibhuti and various kinds of talismans, or through dreams: not only to cure physical and mental illness, but mainly to instil faith in their minds. Innumerable phenomena have been narrated by the devotees as we find in the ocean of Sai literature today. 

To be seated in Mandir, silently waiting for Swami is a silent sitting. To pray for His divine Darshan and being occupied with His thoughts is meditation. At the end of that waiting, to have Bhagavan’s Darshan is the fulfilment of the heart’s desire. Outside the Mandir, discussing with people who have assembled and people who like to listen to the glory of Bhagavan as to what He said, what He did; all this is Satsang. Where else on this earth, this opportunity to spend the day in complete contemplation of God is available? It is right here at the Lotus Feet of Bhagavan, I got this blessing to convert my daily life to a spiritual Sadhana. 

Prof. Anil Kumar with Sri Sathya Sai in the Brindavan Campus Auditorium - 1990s

I was asked by Bhagavan to take up assignment as the Principal of the Whitefield College, affiliated to Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. Working with Swami is like working with fire. One needs perfection of the highest order to live with the epitome of perfection. I was nowhere near that standard. I know of people who had lived with Him and were burnt, due to their inability to cope with His expectations. I hesitated a lot to take up the job. I was in no doubt that I lacked that kind of devotion to be in Swami’s divine presence. But Swami had commanded that I join. I am sure that Swami knew my predicament. I had enjoyed considerable happiness in serving the mission of Bhagavan as the State President of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organizations. That afternoon, I had my lunch and was unable to sleep even for a little while. I was rolling from side to side, unable to come to a final answer to Swami’s call. That evening, Swami, in His conversations to the chosen few at Kodai, narrated some incidents from the sacred epic Ramayana. He asked me to translate the same. 

He started recounting the conversation between Lord Rama and the vanara kings and the soldiers when Rama and Lakshmana were in search of Mother Sita. Rama was asking the vanara kings as to who was ready to accept the assignment of crossing the ocean to go to Lanka, the kingdom of Ravana and find out the whereabouts of Mother Sita. 

Hanuman taking the blessings of Lord Rama

When Lord asked Hanuman, he alone, of all the warriors there, immediately agreed to undertake the task. Then Rama asked Hanuman, “Do you have the experience of crossing the ocean? Have you seen Sita before?” Hanuman replied in the negative for both the questions. When Rama asked how he had agreed to do the job, Hanuman replied, “Lord! I have not crossed any ocean nor do I have any knowledge of Mother Sita. But I am confident that when you assign to me the task of searching Mother Sita, you would give me the strength to cross and the knowledge to find her out. Why should I have any doubt about doing the work?” As Swami was narrating this story, He looked at me with a mischievous smile. Swami’s message to me was straight and unambiguous. I accepted the Divine Mission. 

Bhagavan encourages students of the schools and colleges to develop their innate talents. He lets the students know and realize that He sees Himself in each one of them. You would have noticed that He addresses everyone as Divyatma Swaroopas. This gives the students immense self-confidence to bring forth the best in them, for the pure love of Swami. Boys who would not have had prior exposure, give enthralling solo performances in front of thousands of people, singing to their Lord. Some by their eloquent speeches praise the glory of their Lord. Actors, singers, instrumentalists, each one of them displays their best in front of Swami; all this becomes possible due to the love that they have for Swami. Everyone who watches these programs would know that all these are done to please Swami and Swami alone and not to get name and fame or get some favours political, financial or otherwise. 

Sri Sathya Sai with Students during a Kavi Sammelan Programme in the Poornachandra Auditorium

In the Sai Kulwant Hall, Swami interacts with His students in several ways. He makes pointed references to their health, their study and their progress in both academic and spiritual matters. He makes the students realize that He is watching every act of theirs and listening to every thought and every word that originate from them.  

Once, one of the boys was looking sick and tense. Baba asked the boy, “What’s wrong with you?” The boy replied, “I had asthmatic attack. Doctors have advised me to take treatment.” Baba in reply said, “No, it’s not asthma, only eosinophilia. Go and get it confirmed.” On examination, it was found to be eosinophilia as Bhagavan had said and not asthma. Swami is the doctor of doctors; tests and medical examinations can fail, but His diagnosis would not fail. 

Once, one of the boys was looking sick and tense. Baba asked the boy, “What’s wrong with you?” The boy replied, “I had asthmatic attack. Doctors have advised me to take treatment.” Baba in reply said, “No, it’s not asthma, only eosinophilia. Go and get it confirmed.” On examination, it was found to be eosinophilia as Bhagavan had said and not asthma. Swami is the doctor of doctors; tests and medical examinations can fail, but His diagnosis would not fail. 

Once, a student from Kerala was sitting in front of Swami with a long face. He was absorbed in deep thought, with his attention focused on Swami. Swami turned to him and asked, ‘Why are you sitting with a castor oil face? Why are you so serious?’ So saying, Swami materialized a pair of ear rings and gave him. Even as everyone around him was wondering, why Swami had presented earrings to a boy, Swami materialized another pair of ear rings and gave those also to the same boy. Inquisitive as I was, I exclaimed, ‘Swami! Why ear rings, and that too, two sets to a boy. I have three daughters; if you had given me this gift, it would have been useful’. Even as doubts ran in the minds of everyone around, Swami chided me saying, ‘I know whom to give what, where and when. The boy’s mother had died leaving behind her two daughters. She had desired to make earrings for both and her wish could not be fulfilled. Hence, as a Mother, I had to fulfil the wishes of that mother’. Through the gift of earrings, Swami had demonstrated that ‘truth expressed in the form of action is Love.’ The doubts of those around were dissolved through tears in their eyes at the loving gesture of benevolent Mother Sai. 

Sri Sathya Sai with Students during a Kavi Sammelan Programme in the Poornachandra Auditorium

Once in Darshan, Baba suddenly asked a boy, ‘Are you ready to become a doctor?’ The boy was just an intermediate student. The boy was puzzled at Swami’s question. He had not even written his Inter examinations, nor had he applied for the entrance examinations to join the medicine program. Later, when Swami was in Bangalore, He arranged admission for the boy in one of the private medical colleges, paying a huge sum as capitation fees, which even the members of the family could not have thought of. I asked Swami, ‘why did you pay such a big sum for admitting him in medicine? Could you not have made him study in the best of courses in your University itself?’ Swami replied, ‘Making the boy a doctor was the last wish of his mother. Unable to fulfil this wish of the mother, the father was about to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff. At that time, he heard a voice, calling out to him, “Don’t jump! Don’t jump!” I saved him from that undesirable end and I brought him here. I then reassured him that I will take care of them and make his son a doctor. That is the reason why I admitted him to a medical college.’ This boy is today a specialist with an excellent practice.

Professor Anil Kumar with Sri Sathya Sai in Kodaikanal

Swami observes even things that appear trivial to others. Swami teaches through His actions, that everything, even a small thing, done with love and care and selflessness pleases Him. It was in Kodai one day, during breakfast time, the boys were seated in the hall with their plates piled with various South Indian delicacies like idly, vada, etc. Students were waiting for Swami to come. There appeared Swami, apparently coming straight from the kitchen. He was holding a glass and a spoon. He then said, “One boy is sick and is lying down in the room. I Myself prepared porridge for him and I am going to serve him first in his room itself. I will join you later.” 

Sri Sathya Sai Serving Food To Students

When we were in Kodaikanal, Baba gave Rs.500 to each of the students and told them to buy something for their parents. He even told them where to go and what to look for and gave them significant advice: He asked them not to go to big shopping malls. He told them to go to the market place near the bus stand. He said “There are many Tibetans selling sweaters and shawls. They always feel that when Baba is here, a lot of devotees would come and they will have good sales. If you buy their items, they will be pleased.” Such is the concern of Bhagavan for the society. 

To reinforce this observation, let me narrate two more very interesting incidents that took place in Kodai. Once, when Swami was going out in Kodai, He suddenly stopped the car near a wayside hawker, selling sugar candy. To the surprise of those accompanying, Swami bought many candies and paid Rs.500. He gave them to all those who accompanied and to the boys. Looking at Swami purchasing candy, even the onlookers purchased candy from that vendor. He sold out his stock in no time. As Swami moved away from there, He started explaining, “That vendor’s parents are sick at home. It’s only when he sells his stock that he can go home early and attend to his parents. Not only that, he can also buy medicine for them. That is the reason why I purchased so many candies.” Such is His love for everyone and He had made everyone understand His omniscience even in such simple acts. 

On another occasion, Swami purchased a bamboo hat from a road-side vendor. He then bought another and put it on my head. He himself wore one of the caps. With the hats on He took a photograph with me. This photograph is one of the rarest in my collection. Swami bought hats for all the students and took photographs with each and every one of them. He himself explained why He bought those caps. He said, “These hats are made by tribesmen who live on the meagre income they get, by making such small handicraft items from forest produce. When we purchase these items, not only do they get some money, but they also get encouragement”. 

Sri Sathya Sai Selecting Sarees for Devotees

Once Swami was giving away saris to all those who had worked in the Kodai Hill resort. To one of the servant maids, who was engaged in cleaning the vessels in the kitchen, Swami presented a silk sari worth ten thousand rupees. I was wonderstruck. I jocularly remarked to Him, “Swami! A silk sari! That too such an expensive one to a servant maid! When and where she will wear such a sari?” Swami then interrupted me and told me, “They too have family functions and social gatherings. On such special occasions when she wears this sari, she can happily say that Bhagavan has gifted that to her and she will derive utmost joy. She is also My devotee. To give happiness to everyone is My job.” 

Sri Sathya Sai Darshan from Car

Once, when I was given the rare opportunity of accompanying Bhagavan from Puttaparthi to Brindavan, I witnessed an extraordinary drama; the manifestation of pure love by an ordinary man to his Lord Sai. On the journey, a little ahead of Chikballapur, I saw a man with a lungie and a long moustache, with a sickle in his hand. He was standing straight in the middle of the road, as if to stop Swami’s car. I was wondering to myself, what the man was up to. As the thoughts ran through my mind, Swami instructed the driver to stop the car. As the car stopped by, the man came near Swami’s car window and with a beaming smile, cut open a tender coconut and offered it to Swami. His face expressed his inner joy at getting an opportunity to offer something to Bhagavan. Swami accepted the tender coconut and gave him a 500-rupee note and the man happily moved aside, with hands joined in Pranams. As the car moved past the scene, Swami offered the coconut to me. I immediately said, “Swami! Do I deserve to drink this tender coconut, so expensive; moreover, it was offered to you.” Swami then said, “Don’t you know that I never take tender coconut. Do you think it was a sale and a purchase? No, no. Whenever I travel on this route, if this person knows about my going, he will stand waiting unmindful of the time, to make his humble offering. I gave him the money as a gift of My love to him and not a price for the coconut.” Like the offering of Sabari to Lord Rama. 

Once, at Bangalore, Swami entrusted a big sum of money to one of the staff and asked him to handover the money to the authorities in Puttaparthi. As the person was about to board the bus at Bangalore, his pocket was picked and he did not know what to do. The sum was so large that even if he had wanted to pay from his salary, he could not have managed the same. Not knowing what to do, he went back to Brindavan and stood in front of the gates, shedding tears at his misfortune and his carelessness. He was afraid that Swami would admonish him for his carelessness. Swami appeared at the gates, He came to him and said comfortingly, “I know everything. You should be careful in such matters.” Swami then gave money to him and entrusted him with the same responsibility again. 

Narayana Seva in Sai Sruthi Mandir - Kodaikanal

Once in Kodaikanal, a Narayana Seva was arranged by Swami. ‘Sai Sruthi’, the abode of Bhagavan in Kodai, was well away from the busy area and normally beggars do not come that side. Not many people were expected to come. The food was arranged to cater to around two hundred people. Unexpectedly, more than six hundred people turned up to take Prasad and even some of the devotees had lined up to take Prasad. Food was almost exhausted. Mrs. Ratan Lal, a senior devotee, was in-charge of the kitchen. I was assigned the task of conveying to Bhagavan the message that food was exhausted. I went up to Swami and hesitantly told Him in Telugu, “Swami! ‘Aipoindi’ (meaning, food got exhausted). Bhagavan looked at me and said in stern voice, “Never say, ‘Aipoindi’, say ‘Sari poindi’ (meaning just enough). Now, you go and serve.” What a wonder! We saw that vessels were full with food again and it was enough and more for all those who turned up that day. This reminds me of the miracle that Jesus demonstrated when He went to a disciple’s dinner. 

Yet another important lesson that Swami teaches everyone around is the secret of His calm and serene nature. It’s known to everyone, innumerable dignitaries come to Prasanthi Nilayam; from Governors to district officials. While making all arrangements for receiving them, their accommodation and other requirements, Swami is always very calm and serene. The protocol requirements do not put any pressure on His routine nor does He alter His programs for the high-profile visitor. He is seen still spending the same time with His devotees and students. When on one of the days, I asked Swami, “How are you so calm and cool, in spite of all this hectic activity?” He replied, “What has happened has happened; what is destined to happen also will happen; whereas, I live in the present and live that moment. Present is the Omni-present.”  

Professor Anil Kumar with Sri Sathya Sai

During the celebrations of Bhagavan’s 80th birthday year, Swami one day chose to bless those who were serving His various institutions, like the canteen, the Gokulam, the hospital, the stores, schools and colleges. The way Bhagavan spent that evening was a great lesson to be learned even by the great leaders of the world. Bhagavan normally sits on the dais of the Kulwant hall when programs are held. On that evening, when these staff made presentations before Swami, some speeches, songs and bhajans, Swami went down and sat with them, below the dais, took photographs with them and distributed dresses and watches to every one of them, directly from His divine hands. Lord Krishna is here again in our midst as Sai Krishna, to teach the great lesson of non-duality. This day and this lesson, I will not be able to forget in my entire life.

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