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All That Remains is My Sai - Aham Brahmasmi!
By Mrs. Karuna Munshi

Mrs. Karuna Munshi, a former student of Sri Sathya Sai University, Anantapur Campus, after a small stint as a lecturer at the same college in Anantapur, served for many years in the Sathya Sai School of Toronto, Canada. In mid-2009 she moved to Puttaparthi and since then has been serving as a volunteer at Radio Sai Global Harmony, Prasanthi Nilayam.


Happiness is union with God. There is no place without God. Whatever you do, you should feel that it is God’s work. God is acting through your body. He is thinking through your mind. He is working through your hands. If you work with this feeling, there is no chance for the ego to arise. The body is lifeless, just matter. The mind is a bundle of desires. It is just imagination. You are not the body; you are not the mind; you are the Atma (soul). - Baba

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It was inevitable! I was born, embedded with the Sai chip. My genome map was carved along the Sai path. The Consciousness of the Avatar of the Kali age, Sri Sathya Sai was embedded in my DNA code. That Sai is an integral part of my genetic make-up became apparent when I took a natural plunge towards Him in my early childhood, upon seeing a picture of His. In Swami I found everything my soul was seeking in order to make sense of my existence and its purpose, including the last piece that completed my puzzle. Finally, my search had come a full circle. All seemed well with life once He came in. My quest was over and all questions had been answered.

From then on, I have pretty much lived a Sai-fi, or rather a Sai-hi life; often going through my daily routine, performing my worldly duties, while being high on the Sai awareness at the same time. There is no fiction in this experience, but only a reality that fulfils my consciousness, yet my limited vocabulary fails to describe.

Everyone has their one special moment with Swami. I clearly remember mine and it is was quite un-dramatic compared to the accounts of people where Swami emerged from a wall or made a sudden physical appearance at an off-site location. Yet, this low key but deeply personal connection has continued to characterize my relationship with the Avatar of the Kali age - my personal hero, role model, my mentor, friend, Saichiatrist and the ultimate love and aim of my life - my beloved Sai, my true Self.

When God Casts His Divine Spell…

It was in July of 1978 at Whitefield that I had my first close darshan of Swami as an impressionable teenager. All I remember is my Mom and I stood in the porch of the college auditorium, waiting for Swami to come out after delivering His summer course Discourse. The volunteer had been unfriendly with us for quite some time and we were desperately hoping for a close encounter despite all her efforts to shoo us away. Somehow, we survived and lingered long enough till He came to the porch to get into the car. There, in that porch, as He walked up towards us, perhaps to take a letter, He came very close to where we stood and looked me straight in the eyes. His powerful gaze peered through me, at something deep within me. It was my Tat Twam Asi (‘I Am That’) moment. My gaze was locked with God’s gaze. He had cast His Divine spell on me and my soul had been awakened in the most sacred and pure way.

A floodgate of emotions just welled up from within me. All I remember was feeling extreme embarrassment - as any self-conscious teenager would - at my inability to stop crying uncontrollably. It wasn’t just few drops of tears flowing down my eyes; I felt an intense need to unburden my soul of something. I had to wash it off with unstoppable tears. I wished the earth would swallow me and somewhere far away from the public gaze, I could just bury my face and cry uninhibited – forever! Strangely, the more I wept, the better I felt. In fact, not just better, but happy, indeed very happy, light and joyous. The connection had been made.

The Crests, Troughs and His Caring Touch

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The Anantapur campus of Sai University
 

My next close darshan was a ‘car darshan’ at the airport, in our hometown in North India in the summer of 1980. Our flight had just landed and we were surprised to see our entire extended family there to receive us. The welcome was somewhat overwhelming. We soon figured out that they were actually there to have Swami’s darshan as He was leaving by the same plane shortly. So we too joined the line along the road to the tarmac. As His car drove past us, we had another close darshan. A month or so later, I was in Parthi seeking admission in the Arts program at the Anantapur campus of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning.

The six years I spent at His College and hostel bore a deep impact on my character development and outlook in life. Those years had many highs and lows and the highs centered around close encounters with Bhagavan and the lows hit us when He was away in Whitefield, Kodaikanal or elsewhere, and we were not able to behold Him, hear Him and receive His direct Grace. I must however point out that the education and exposure to Sai values that I received at Anantapur was within a simulated environment where almost everyone was like-minded in their devotion to Swami and His teachings. And surprisingly, despite the conducive environment, it wasn’t that easy to stay on path, razor thin as it has been described by the Vedas.

It was only after six year's of stay in Anantapur, when I returned home and got married did I really realize how much harder it is to live up to Sai ideals in the outside world. The challenge was to live in the world without letting the world suck me in. I suddenly realized that Swami had now enrolled me in the school of some really hard knocks. Till then, I had been subconsciously programmed to view the world from the Sai lens. Needless to say, my naivety and a serious lack of worldly wisdom proved my biggest challenges. I had so much learning and growing to do. And through my many failures, I learned and continue to learn all the time.

Initially, I was shocked to find that just being a good and sincere person was not enough to get on in life. I was flooded with so many conflicting expectations, values and opinions. It was hard to make sense of the world and my place in it. At times, it felt like I was hurtling down a dark tube, like the one in amusement parks, at super speed and had no control over anything. At all such moments, I held on to Swami’s Lotus Feet in my heart and recalled His Divine Form before my mind’s eye. Chanting His name controlled the flow of my breath. Every time I took recourse in this medication, my palpitation subsided and I felt strong and courageous.

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Mrs. Karuna (far left) in a group interview
 
Inside the dinning hall in the Anantapur campus hostel

My Courage and Constant Companion - My Sai

When I got married, my parents sent me off with a beautiful picture of Swami, which He had autographed. This lovely gift came just in time from my friend in Anantapur. It was the most important item in my trousseau. I carried it as my shield and armor. Did I ever need it!

I vividly recall how I had stuck this picture of Swami, inside the back wall of my steel cupboard, which stood in a corner on the balcony of my flat. Every time I wanted a reassurance or needed to reset my internal button, I would step out into my secret corner on the balcony, part my saris on hangers to reveal the Beautiful Form of my Sai with a smile on His lips. I had my private moment with Swami right there, in that corner. My home bore no other image of my Sai at that time. I guess, as they say, the time was not right then. Everything must happen at the right moment; and the right moment continued to elude me.

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Precious moments with the lord...

Talking of time, what a strange control it has over our destinies. It is the eternal flow that defines an infinitely changing continuum - as past, present and future. When the going in my life got tough, I held on to Swami’s advise to us during our final interview where He said that as long as we live well in the present moment, the future will be take care of itself. The present had emerged from the womb of the past just as the future lies dormant in our present, He had counseled.

Embracing such consoling words and holding on to my faith that all would eventually settle down and become “normal”, I continued to pray to Swami to become a wholesome part of my family life, so that I could claim my Sai heritage fearlessly.

Nearly two decades and a million humbling lessons later, I can stand tall and claim with utmost confidence that my Sai stood by me, with me and in me throughout, at every single moment, even though I consciously forgot Him many, many times.

With time, my expectations continued to evolve and the reality set in as I matured. Swami fulfilled so many of my desires beyond my wildest expectations. Even in the most bitter of experiences, I saw His saving Grace come to my rescue. He consoled me, chided me, corrected me and held me by His hand and guided me to the right decisions. As I look at my life now, in its every twist and turn I see His caring touch. I can never forget that New Year day, nearly two decades ago.

Wonders of His Grace

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I had been married for less than a year and lived in New Delhi, India then. I woke up on January 1, 1988 totally ecstatic and proudly announced to my husband that the coming year would be a wonderful one for us because I had seen Swamiji in my dream that morning and He had clearly granted me a padnamaskar and placed His hand on my head to bless me. I knew Swamiji’s dreams were visions that conveyed deep meanings.

Soon after, my husband left for Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh on some business. He had an early morning train or flight to catch. A few hours later, on my way to my office - not too far from our flat in Mayur Vihar - on the very first day of the new year, I met with a severe road accident where I was flung off a scooter on which I was pillion riding. I only remember sensing some danger, even as I was chanting the Mahamrithyumjaya mantra and then everything went blank.

I was later told that I somersaulted across a very busy road at one of Delhi’s worst intersections at peak rush hour and landed on the other side of the road with my head hitting the curbside. By the time I gained consciousness - a kind family whose last name I still remember being Goyal - took me in their Maruti van back to my flat where my Dad was visiting us and then along with my Dad, they drove us to the Emergency ward at the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital. I was hurting everywhere and was diagnosed with multiple cuts, a dislocated shoulder and broken rib(s). And my head hurt unbearably due to a massive head concussion.

What was worse was that through all that pain, I was left to wait for a doctor to stitch the deep gash in my knee in a ward where some police officers were most callously recording the statement of a lady on a nearby bed. The dying person was burnt badly by her vicious husband and his mother because of some dowry dispute. I was traumatized by being within that poor victim’s earshot and by hearing her heart-wrenching tale. What further aggravated my pain was the apparent heartless nature of the two police officers who were recording the dying woman’s statement in such a matter-of-fact manner. I wanted to scream out of fear. My Dad knew I would just break down by the tragedy of that other person more than by my own injuries.

So we decided to forego the stitching up of my knee and instead filled the deep gash with some vibhuthi, the sacred ash that he had in his wallet. He also applied it over my face and everywhere else where I was bleeding. There in that ward, together we prayed to Swami, cleansed the wounds and did what in our minds was the best cure and the fastest route to escape from that torture chamber where no medical professional was keen to attend to either the dying burn victim or I. We collected our X-rays and fled home in a taxi.

With time, my knee healed completely and the dislocated shoulder and ribs too were on the mend. Till date my chest x-ray shows a crack or two in my ribs. However, those ghastly headaches continued to haunt me and my parents and I continued to pray to Swamiji for help and guidance as He is and has always been our only anchor in life. I was advised to go for a CAT scan and consult a neurologist. Being new to the city, I did not know where to begin but then I immediately remembered Dr. A. N. Safaya, the Director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, and currently the Director of the Sri Sathya Sai Super Specialty Hospitals in Prashanthi Nilayam, who I had met with my parents at Parthi when I was a student. I suggested to my husband that we seek his help in getting me a quick CAT scan and neurologist appointment.

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I arrived at Dr. Safaya’s office feeling a bit anxious. I wrote Aum Sai Ram on the visiting card that I sent in with his personal assistant, hoping that the sacred name on it may jog his memory and he may make the connection and somehow remember me. I was getting nervous as I did not want him to get upset at my taking the liberty of calling on him without any prior notice. He was, as he still is, such an important and busy person. It had been a while and I had not kept in touch. I was hoping he hadn’t forgotten me completely. As usual I was counting on Swami to do something.

He soon called us in to his office and was pleasantly surprised to see me. The first thing he said was that he and his wife had been remembering me just the other day as they were watching a video of Baba’s 60th birthday celebrations and the University Convocation the previous day where they had seen me receive my degree from Swamiji. They both had wondered what had become of me and where I was. And now I was in his office, seeking his help with my head concussion! Is there a detail that Swamiji ever misses? Needless to say, my CAT scan for the head concussion went off without a hitch and soon those awful headaches disappeared as well.

I have had countless experiences where Swamiji has showered His protection and Grace upon me in the face of imminent grave danger and protected me just as the lid protects the eye. Such instances were usually preceded by a dream where He granted me a padnamaskar. I later changed my prayer, seeking dreams where we could converse and avoid the padnamaskars, ominous as they proved to be. The blessing He conferred upon me in my dream on January 1, 1988 was to brace me for the big bang that awaited me later that morning.

I am happy to share this one of my many experiences to illustrate how He has watched over me for decades after I graduated from His University and continues to guide and protect my family. I am convinced that Swamji’s Love and protection gave me the gift of life and saved me that day from something far worse.

Reconnecting With Him Everywhere

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In those days, when I was still deeply attached to Him by this invisible and secret umbilical cord in my heart, I often prayed for His dreams to feel connected to Him. At times, I just pinned for Him with a broken heart. I begged for His sacred and blessed presence in my life. The pangs of separation were the hardest to bear on festival days because I was so used to celebrating them in Parthi with such devotion.

To make up for this lost inheritance, my visits to places of worship increased significantly, and I gladly seized every opportunity to visit temples, churches, gurudwaras and mosques. I felt His presence in the hallowed premises of every cathedral I set foot in and saw His Divine Face in every deity I beheld. In Goddess Durga, I beheld His compassionate and understanding gaze. In Krishna, I visualized His mischievous smile, taunting at my misery and severe separation anxiety.

I remember vividly one day when I was scared for some reason, and I found a match box with an image of some deity on it and instantly I remembered Swami and prayed hard to Him, holding the match box tight in my sweaty palm as my talisman. Even though His physical form was not visible around me, He was the unseen centre of my being, filling all my experiences with His presence.

While I joyfully shared all my dreams and visions of Baba with my husband, the experience of His endless help and love through the course of my day at home and office was entirely mine. Who in their right mind would believe that a “person” no matter how special, living in a distant village in South India could possibly be so involved in all my thoughts and actions? Each of us is destined to grow into that understanding in our own time.

The Superlative Sai-fi life

Today, nearly twenty years after graduating from His University, I continue to be His student, His child and daughter. My need to learn and grow never ends. In my newly acquired wisdom, I have chosen to hand over the responsibility of raising me upright to my Divine parent. And what a good job Swami is doing of teaching me to trust His sense of timing!

Time, the great determinator, has chosen the present moment when nearly all members of my family are directly or indirectly involved in Sai work and support my interest and enthusiasm towards the Sai movement.

His Grace has been the blissful anesthesia that has lulled my senses to any pain during bad times. His Grace has also kept me awake to His presence in all happy and good times. His Grace further makes me aware and reminds me to accept all times, good or otherwise as His prasadam and with unwavering confidence in His judgment. I keep enjoying my Sai-fi life, savoring every blissful moment and accepting every not so blissful moment as His will also. Once I surrender this sense of doership, all that remains is my Sai, my friend, my mentor, my hero, my role model, my Bhagavan and my true Self. What a peaceful realization, to be one with my Tat essence! Aham Brahmasmi!


Dear Reader, did this article inspire you in any way? Would you like to share your story with us? If so, please contact us at [email protected] mentioning your name and country.  Thank you for your time.


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Vol 5 Issue 04 - APRIL 2007
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