Volume 6 - Issue 01
A Phantasmagoric Fragrance Forever
Such a soul-stirring prayer, isn’t it? It makes you feel someone has so perfectly penned every pang of your heart, expressing every intimate emotion of your inner self. What if we say this was actually written by your Indweller! Imagine Swami preparing a greeting card especially for you to wish you Happy New Year and then penning this pearl of a prayer inside the card with the endearing words, “My dear one! Begin the New Year with the above Prayer.” And not only this, He inundates you with more love and blessings with the magic message: “Endowed with long life and sound health, surrounded by children, grandchildren and friends, keep on imbibing joy through devotion and wisdom. I bless that your days be spent in the service of Sarveshwara, the Lord of All. Spend your life in abundant peace and happiness. - Baba.”
Your heart would have skipped a few beats leaping with inexplicable ecstasy, isn’t it? Sounds too good to be true! But let us tell you, this is no imagination. This is exactly what Swami did for Professor Kasturi, His darling devotee, way back in 1960. And this is only half of the story. The way Swami passed on this specially crafted card to Professor Kasturi was even more exciting.
The Lord did not just hand over this poem to Professor Kasturi when he came for His blessings on the dawn of the New Year day; on the contrary, the Greeting Card came gleefully to Professor Kasturi searching for him. The Sweet Lord had sent the card through someone to be dropped in Bukkapatnam, five miles away the previous day, though the addressee was living five metres away! Recalling that momentous morning, Mr. Kasturi writes, “When the Blessing was delivered by the postman along with other mail, the surprise, the thrill, the gratitude and the yearning to express it direct to Him, rendered me incapable of speech or movement.”
Sai and Kasturi - An Unparalleled Relationship
The man who could weave magic with his words and is often hailed as “Vyasa and Valmiki of the Kali Age” for his unsurpassable documentation of the Life of the present Avatar, was dumbfounded and drowned in the Love of his Master and Beloved. And this was no exception; rather it was only a glimpse of the glorious relationship that persisted between this pure devotee and his Lord, for, the most part of Professor Kasturi’s life was a serial of such sweet exchanges with the divine.
“No one was as close to Swami as Professor Kasturi! His level of communication was different,” recalls Professor Anil Kumar who had the privilege of observing, interacting and imbibing many important instructions for life from this distinguished devotee of the Lord. “His level of communication was celestial. He was the only man who could communicate with Swami at that religious, philosophical, vedantic, Himalayan plane of thoughts. I don’t think anybody could do that – not even Sri Kamavadhani (a distinguished Vedic scholar close to Swami in those days).
What does the goldsmith do to ascertain if the gold is genuine or not? He rubs it against a touchstone. Believe me, Swami would ask Professor Kasturi how His speech was! He would not ask anybody else! Swami would find in him an intellectual, a scholar, a man of great wisdom and a true seeker. And Kasturi too would pick up pertinent points which fascinated him and left indelible imprints in his heart. That interaction and sacred bonding was something extraordinary!”
“Yes, his relationship with Swami was very unique,” recalls Mr. B. N. Narasimha Murthy, Warden of the Brindavan campus of Bhagavan’s University, who too was fortunate to spend many summers and winters witnessing this one-of-its-kind devotee-Deity relationship. “I remember, one day in 1982, Swami had gone to the University campus to oversee some construction work, and He had taken Professor Kasturi along with him in the car. And three of us were waiting in the portico of the Mandir for Swami to return. After He came, Bhagavan noticed and called us immediately inside the interview room.
Professor Kasturi, who alighted from the car after Swami, took a while to come in, and by the time he came to the interview room, Swami was about to close the door. But Professor Kasturi, quite nonchalantly, just walked in. Swami then looked at him and said, ‘See Kasturi, there are only ‘Moorthis’ inside – Sathya Moorthy, Krishna Moorthy and Narasimha Moorthy.’ And then pointing to Himself, he added, ‘I am also Moorthy (the name by which the idol of a deity is called in many Indian languages). So, there is no place for Kasturi inside.’ The way the smart and simple Kasturi reacted in this tricky situation was simply superb. It still lingers in my memory.
With a sweet smile dancing on his lips, he said (in Telugu), ‘Swami, neenu osthe antha poorthi aipotundi.’ Which meant, ‘Swami, when I come in, the “Moorthies” assembly will become “Poorthi”, that is, “complete” in Telugu. Swami instantly had such a hearty laugh and let him in. That was the kind of special relationship, the divine friendship that he shared with the Lord.”
A Bond that was Sweet and Beautiful
Such interesting and enchanting instances in the life of this great devotee were numerous. One day, spotting Professor Kasturi sitting in a corner where there was not much light in the veranda in Whitefield, with Vibhuti drawn on his forehead, which was like a part of his personal attire everyday, Swami said, “Aye Kasturi! Come here under the light,” and then He mischievously smiled and continued, “Otherwise others will say, ‘What is that bandage on your forehead!’” The ever affable Kasturi answered, “This is not a bandage Swami; this actually removes me from bondage! From the bondage of birth and death.” The Lord, of course, liberally laughed.
“He was the only one who could joke with Swami,” recalls Professor Anil Kumar. “Many would be scared and tight-lipped in front of Bhagavan; they dare not cut a joke, but not Professor Kasturi.” And Swami would enjoy his innovative and entertaining responses and repartees. “In fact, such was the close chemistry between the two that when he used to go to see Him in the afternoon everyday, Swami used to say, ‘See, My newspaper is coming! He is going to give Me news.’ And the child-like Kasturi would innocently narrate all the ‘hot news’ of the world he had heard with his tiny transistor glued to his ear at 1.30 every afternoon to the Master of all the Worlds. His role in the Divine Drama was really a prized one.
“It is this beautiful synthesis of child like innocence and sage like wisdom that endeared him to the Lord, and as the Bible quotes, exalted him in the Kingdom of God, literally!” says Mr. B. N. Narasimha Murthy.
On one occasion when Professor Kasturi was with Baba motoring from Mumbai to Bangalore, while in the car Swami took out, one by one, luscious apples from a bag kept near Him, carefully sliced each of them, and started distributing to all inside the car. It was the conclusion of a small prayer session wherein Swami asked all to sing bhajans and devotional songs. Everybody heartily accepted the apple-pieces from the Lord and started assimilating the juicy fruit with joy, but not Professor Kasturi. He sat there holding the piece in his closed palm, scared that chewing the skin and swallowing the fruit would be an ordeal beyond the ability of his artificial teeth.
“I dared not spit the stuff through the window for fear the denture might follow the skin!” he writes. But the Loving God glanced at him for a moment and recognized his embarrassment, though Professor Kasturi never stated anything explicitly. And the next piece that He gave Professor Kasturi had the skin neatly and nicely removed by the Lord Himself. “Whenever somebody brought sweets to Him, Swami would keep a few for my father saying, ‘Aye, this is for Kasturi. Let him enjoy it!’” recalls Mrs. Padma Kasturi, Professor Kasturi’s daughter. “The intimacy that existed between them had to be seen to be believed. It was a relationship that was legendary in so many ways.”
In His autobiography, “Loving God”, Mr. Kasturi writes, “Mine is, let me confide in you, a Love Story.”
It, truly, is a Love Story that every Sai devotee can only dream of. The greatest of the romances that have reverberated in the consciousness of mankind, inspiring, instructing and illumining minds for eons together, are those of the devotee and the Divine. And the ones the Supreme Self chooses for these great dramas on earth are blessed beings whose fortune is unimaginable. In the present age, this pure hearted Professor was one such privileged one ‘hand picked’ by the Divine, and the games that the Primordial One played with this pristine soul were plenty and profound.
Mothering the Lord of Love
Professor Kasturi, recounting one such remarkable experience, writes, “We were at Chebrole that evening,” referring to a town in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh where Baba had been many years ago. “During dinner, He suddenly announced that we were to leave for Madras (now Chennai). His face was flushed and He was in evident hurry.
I surmised that He had assuaged the rigor of someone’s fever and had decided to assume a dire disease which had come upon him. He preferred the home of devotees at Madras, because they are more familiar with the role-plays (trances) He enacts, as part of the Avataric mission. Baba was in the back seat. I happened to be the only other occupant of the car, apart from the man at the wheel.
And, I found myself on the back seat. A few miles later, Baba showed an inclination to stretch rather uncomfortably on the space available. I called on the chauffeur to help so that I could scramble into the vacuum on his left. But Baba said, ‘No’. I realized then that we had no pillow and my old affirmative answer to afford a prop stood valid.”
And what happened next was, perhaps, one of Professor Kasturi’s life’s most exhilarating and ecstatic moments. The Mother of all Creation was now a Cosmic Child, comfortable and calm in the lap of his dearest devotee. “I sat stroking the hair and soothing the brow until dawn broke on the outskirts of Madras,” he writes. For eight hours through the night he ‘mothered’ his Beloved Master, and the next morning Swami sent Professor Kasturi back to Puttaparthi asking him to travel by First Class in the train and convey His Message, in lieu of His absence, to the devotees who had assembled in Puttaparthi for the festival of Vaikunta Ekadashi.
Why did the Lord enact such a drama? What could be the concealed Cosmic Design in this play? Was it a harbinger of a higher role that the Lord wanted to assign this gem of a devotee? Is it true that Professor Kasturi would actually mother the future incarnation of the present Avatar? All these dilemmas will remain as enigmas until the Divine decides to decode them some day; we do not know now and will probably never know.
But what we do know is that, just as Swami was Professor Kasturi’s life-breath, Kasturi too was Swami’s beloved and ‘the chosen one’, upon whom the Lord doted, not for decades, but for, perhaps, centuries and life times.
In “Loving God” Kasturi himself reveals, “Bhagavan’s Love has sustained me, not only since 1948 when I stood in His Presence, but, at least, since my birth in 1897 when He watched over me in the cradle. (In fact) Bhagavan once told me that He knew me even before the latest birth in Kerala.”
Blessed as a Baby
Is it not the Almighty’s alacrity that Kasturi Ranganatha Sharma (which was his initial name, later trimmed by his parents to its one third) commenced his earthly career on the day when half of the globe was glorying the Father, for so mercifully sending His Beloved Son to rescue and redeem them? By this, the Lord perhaps ensured that as everybody remembers and reveres His Darling Son on the Christmas Day, they do not forget His Dear devotee too.
And he arrived braced with conspicuous signs of Grace and good luck. The yet-to-be-named newborn had six fingers on each palm and equal number of toes on each foot! Though out of ignorance and impatience, his granny surreptitiously scissored off the visible proofs of Providence, the blessings that destiny had bestowed on him befriended and buttressed him, whether he realized it or not, at every crucial juncture of his life.
When he was 11-days old and carried by his mother to the Shrine of Lord Parthasarathy (the local temple dedicated to Lord Krishna), and placed on a stone slab under the big lamp hanging in front of the idol, the flames on the lamps placed on either side of the idol flickered for a moment, and his mother in her heart ‘saw’ the smile that the Lord subtly conveyed and returned home filled with contentment. For most of his formative years, this Parthasarathy was Kasturi’s pillar of support, private friend and much prayed God.
Be it pencils or peppermints, attires or assignments, Kasturi emptied his heart out everyday to Him with his prayers, pleadings and petitions. Half a century later, when Kasturi saw his Parthasarathy in flesh and blood in Puttaparthi, he realized he had secured the One he steadfastly beseeched for years. And the rewards he received for all his pure-hearted prayers of his childhood was overpowering. The Lord adorned him with the editorship of “Sanathana Sarathi”, the conduit that carried His Message to all continents, much to his disbelief and delight.
When he was a few months old and his parents took him to the Siva temple at Vycome to fulfill the vow of offering their first child to the Deity as His bond-slave, they placed him on a banana leaf in front of the open door of the shrine, and then began to circumambulate the sanctum sanctorum, when in the middle of this, they were stopped by the priest who said, “I have a Message from Siva Himself: ‘I have a child on My Hands. Take it and foster it for Me with care and devotion.’” The overjoyed parents prostrated full length at the feet of Lord Siva thanking Him profusely for His Acceptance and Munificence.
Sustained by His Munificence, All Through
When, out of sheer lack of financial sustenance, the grandfather of Kasturi wanted to deprive the fatherless boy professional education, the Lord in the form of his mother stood courageously by him and ensured that he mastered the mysteries of language and literature, which would, in future, enable him to be His most proficient and prized instrument.
Though his mother’s family had no means to even provide him his minimum calorie requirement to keep his flesh and bone together, let alone make him smart and sturdy, the Lord saw to it that wherever he studied - be it in Tripunittura where he did his schooling, or in Ernakulam where he attended Pre-University, or even in the college at Trivandrum, from where he emerged with an Honours degree in History - there were always free ‘eating houses’ which would offer him two square meals everyday. Again, it was the Hidden Hand which tied his destiny with another diamond of a personality (early in life as was the custom those days) who not only nourished his body with the financial largesse she got from her father during marriage, but also was a perfect partner who propped up his spirits and energized his soul whenever he felt defeated in his life.
After his degree at the age of 21, when he was desperately devouring newspaper columns to catch a vacancy that could put a full stop to the fiscal conundrum of his life, it was the Merciful Lord again who made him stumble on an advertisement for the post of a lecturer in a High School in the city of Mysore, for, it was in this Land of Gold Mines and Sandalwood that the world would get a glimpse of the ‘Literary Gold’, the genius, that he was, and revel in the fragrance of his classic articles and charming anecdotes, tantalizing essays and tutoring tactics and antics, humorous plays and humanitarian programmes.
The Lord Rescues and Kasturi Blossoms
Again, when he longed to liberate himself from this High School, vexed with the variegated inclinations of the founder of the school, which compelled him and his wards to engage themselves in all activities, except sound learning, it was the Ever-watchful Benevolent Lord who made his old comrade and classmate-turned-monk appear at his door one fine morning.
But for this miracle meeting with Gopala Marar transmuted into Swami Siddeshwarananda of the Ramakrishna order, he would probably have never become Professor Kasturi, because during that time, Kasturi was seriously contemplating on a career in Law, to escape from the unpleasant association with the High School and also to prop up his financial situation.
In the next few years the Divine Director saw to it that the latent spiritual potential of this spirited young man in his twenties blossomed and found expression in excellent acts of elaboration on the sacred teachings of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. As secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission, Mysore chapter, he not only lectured eloquently and extensively, in Kannada and English, on the philosophy and practice of his ‘Gurudev’, but also led the way in undertaking many projects of social upliftment – a task he liked the most.
And around this time in 1928, the Munificent Lord placed him in the Maharaja’s College of Arts affiliated to the Mysore University, which was the perfect fertile ground for his literary talents to flourish and allowed him to take on many fascinating roles – as a proficient playwright who directed many an entertaining and educating drama to break social stigmas and stimulate unity in villages and towns; as a capable composer who shared the lives and messages of Saints, epic-heroes and Avatars through his highly popular Harikathas; as a prolific writer who penned a battery of novels in Kannada, most of them laced with significant or subtle humour exposing the muddled and mediocre adventures of the ordinary mind; as the chief contributor of puns and parodies, quips and quixotic essays to the Kannada humour monthly “Koravanji” as well as The Sankar’s Weekly in which it appeared under the title “Mere Prattle” for seven long years; as the Assistant Director of the All India Radio, wherein he not only coined the name “Akashvani” for the broadcasting station (which remains to this day), but also raised the Radio to historic heights by his consistent creativity, weaving numerous novel programmes which appeased and aggravated the listeners’ appetite constantly.
By the time India achieved Independence in 1947, Baba had already transferred Kasturi to Bangalore where Venkatadri, his younger son had joined the Engineering college, while Murthy, his elder one was in Glaslow, Sweden, pursuing his Ph. D in Geology. And it is in this city, after the country was re-born, that the golden chapter in Kasturi’s life, for which God was waiting, also began.
He Meets the Love of His Life
The swashbuckling Kasturi of the Kannada Literature fame was stunned into silence when the very first time his eyes met Baba in a devotee’s residence in Bangalore, Swami read him like an open book! “You are glad I fixed that boy?” He asked, flabbergasting him with His Omniscience and Omnipresence. A few days prior to this Swami had instructed in a dream to Mr. Potti Iyer, an acquaintance of Kasturi, to give his son's hand to Kasturi’s daughter in marriage, though Potti Iyer had initially disinclined hoping to find a more prosperous family to align himself with.
“You wished that I intercede with Potti Iyer and make them agree,” He continued. Seeing the unstinted veneration Potti Iyer had for Baba, Kasturi had earlier said to himself, “They consider this Silent Sai as their Master. If only He says a word, they will receive Padma into their home.” And now, he was dazed when Sai declared that He had in fact heard his inner mumbling! “You lost a son, poor fellow! This boy will be a son-in-law and a son to you.
Do not worry. I know you have not recieved from the University the status you deserve. Very soon, you will receive that too. Your old mother will be happy now….” Swami went on and on, and every syllable that Sai uttered only left Kasturi mesmerized, triggering in him mental gymnastics of a genre he had never indulged till then. It was hard for him to believe what he was seeing and experiencing.
How could this 22 year old with “a huge fluff of kinky hair and ochre robe” know everything? As he was trying to reason it out, Bhagavan dropped a bomb shell. “After retiring from the University, stay with Me. You can write My biography.” “Me?” Kasturi immediately ejaculated. “Yes, I shall tell you whom to consult for details – parents, brothers, kinsmen, neighbours, teachers, etc. I shall also help.” It was July, 1948 and Kasturi’s mind had become a complete conundrum. “Was this a reprimand, a dig at my decrying him, a joke at my conceit as a writer, a warning that I should not merely prattle in weeklies……? Did He really mean it?”
Well, that was, in brief, the mind-boggling manner how the Lord, who had been directing his life undetectably for nearly five decades, decided to reveal Himself when the time had finally arrived. Describing this moment, Mr. Kasturi writes in his autobiography, “It was too good to be true, too sweet to swallow, too sudden to sink in, too light to keep in mind! Oh! The gifts He showered!” From the wedding of his daughter, to his promotion, his mother’s happiness…Swami submerged him with His spontaneous and unceasing love. In fact, He virtually held him by the hand from there on through every single second of his life, with great care, concern and affection, which overwhelmed him time and again transmuting every cell of his being into an inspired instrument of the Divine.
When the dilemma of reconciling his devotion to Sri Ramakrishna and the irresistible love for Baba overwhelmed his mind, the all-knowing Swami dispelled it when He said to his wife within his earshot, “Poor fellow, he does not know that it was Ramakrishna who brought him to Me.” The next few years, till he settled in Baba’s physical proximity, Kasturi’s heart was in Prasanthi and if there was any comma, semicolon or question mark in his life at Bangalore, he found himself at his Beloved’s Feet in the “Heaven of Peace”. And each such encounter with the Lord was an eye-opener.
Swami was steadying, shaping and sharpening His dearest devotee at every available opportunity. On one occasion, He asked him, “Which does taste better – hot milk made lukewarm by being poured from one cup to another a number of times or hot milk cooled to the temperature of the tongue by the cup being kept for sometime in a basin of cold water?” Kasturi was imaginably befuddled.
Swami gave a clue too. “When you go back, ask your mother. Also tell her what she does is not correct.” Only when Kasturi returned and discovered that her mother quickly cooled the milk everyday using a basin of cold water before placing it in front of His picture, did he realize the all-pervasive Presence of his Magnificent Master.
Sai Wills and Kasturi Shines as an Illustrious Principal
Soon, Baba’s promise of higher salary and status in his career materialized. A University Order sent Mr. Kasturi to the Intermediate College, Davangere as its Principal. But the Davangere College was no walk, or even dance, in the park, so to say, and as he described, it was “a sword from Damocles”. But Mr. Kasturi, through his patient and loving personality, his Harikathas and seva to Harijans, educational exhibitions and persuasive and powerful presentations successfully canalized the exuding energy of the youth, and in the process created history in that hostile environment.
On the day he retired after five years, the love the college and the place had for him was patent. The crowd that had gathered to see him off was huge and the flower garlands that were heaped upon him nearly covered his whole face. Later, when Kasturi offered his gratitude to Bhagavan for seeing him through in that ‘notorious’ place, the Kind Lord immediately transmuted the sky in His hand into a rosary of Tulsi beads and placed it lovingly around his neck. Kasturi, conquered yet again by His Pure Love, was left wondering how the Lord who actually is the Doer takes great pleasure in decorating His devotees with laurels and rewards.
But those five years of Kasturi in Davangere (1949-1954) were riddled with remarkable experiences, both at the college and at His physical presence in Prasanthi Nilayam, to where he visited as often as he could. In December 1951, Kasturi was surprised to find in his day’s mail a letter from Baba, in the language Kannada, written in Anglo-Saxon script, requesting him (!) to unveil His portrait at the School Day Function of the Sri Sathya Sai Baba District Board High School at Bukkapatnam (10 kms from Puttaparthi).
When Mr. Kasturi reached the Divine Presence a few days later with a well-prepared manuscript of his Telugu speech, written in Kannada (for, then he neither knew how to read, write or understand the Andhra Tongue) which he thought would impress all, Baba, without a moment, massacred the idea saying, “It must be ‘Heartificial’”.
Mr. Kasturi, on the appointed day, not only gave an inspiring speech in English, but also was immensely humbled when he saw the boards declare himself as “N Kasturi, M A, B L., Ph. D, Principal, DRM College, Davangere”. He fell at Baba’s feet. “Swami, I am not a Ph. D.”
But the compassionate Sai only smiled, patted and said, “You are a Ph. D”. “Of which University, Swami?” The Lord turned to him again and said, “Puttaparthi University". Little did he realize then that it was not a casual utterance, sans concrete meaning; Professor Kasturi, in this episode, was in fact, the Lord’s chosen instrument through whom He intimated the world about the most salient facet of His Grand Mission, of which the Bukkapatnam school was only a starting point. Three decades later when the Sri Sathya Sai University was inaugurated in Puttaparthi, Professor Kasturi was present savouring every second of that significant occasion.
Captivated by His Compassion
In these five initial years of his acquaintance with the Avatar, the ever-inquisitive and enterprising Kasturi, who was mesmerized by His Miracles and Manifestations, even tried to instigate Swami into performing these Divine Acts in his own ‘tactful’ way. When he heard that Swami had, for some reason, become very cold to the evening Chitravathi sessions (which were, invariably, breathtaking ‘Creation hours’ when the Lord would produce anything – idols, lockets, sweets, etc. - from the sands), eager to enjoy the fun again, he went near Him and pleaded, “Swami! It is Full Moon today. We shall have the gathering on the sands.”
“Do you think I can transform only Chitravathi sands? Is there no sand around the Mandir under construction?” Stumped but still strong, Kasturi persisted, “Swami! We shall go to that site and sit on one heap and do bhajan.” “I know it is not Bhajan you are interested. You desire that I entertain you with miracles. You think I must have sand for that,” the Lord laughed. Now that the cat was out of the bag, someone said, “Very well, Swami! We know you can create things right out of air…Let us gather in Mandir itself. A miracle can happen here, now if You are gracious.”
At this point, Swami, who was till then pacing up and down, stopped and stared at the pleaders and said, “Miracle, miracle – you clamour! But you have no knowledge of one miracle – You, every one of you. Your very existence is My Miracle.” Recalling that lightning of Divine Disclosure, Mr. Kasturi writes, “Through that simple-looking statement, He revealed that He was far more phenomenal than anyone we had learnt about in human history!”
But the inventive mind of Kasturi did not cease its schemes. On one occasion when he learnt from a few people who had close encounters with Baba that if He saw a gem-set ring in the finger of the devotee, He would, more often than not, ask for it, blow His breath over it and transform it into a ring with His portrait embedded on it, he got a big gold-ring made for himself. But Baba made him suffer for two full years without asking for it even though he tried in every way to make it as conspicuous as possible whenever he was in His Presence.
On the next day after his “Bukkapatnam speech” when he was inside the interview room, Baba held out His hand for the ring! Shaking with excitement, he placed it immediately in His palms. “Oh! You desire to have a big picture so that you can preen yourself as a big devotee! So everyone would envy you and it would make you famous…No! Have Me in your heart instead. That is My Home.” Next, the Divine blew His breath and lo! The ring disappeared! The poor Professor’s face was like a punctured balloon, all air puffed out. Then Swami gave Kasturi Vibhuti packets as parting prasadam and opened the door for him to step out. With a heavy heart, the old head stepped out. But scarcely had he made a few steps, when the Compassionate Lord beckoned him near and looking sympathetically at him asked, “You want your ring back, no?”
A charming smile crossed His lips, His Hand waved and weaved out of the thin air a ring extolled in the legends. It was a navaratna – a nine-gemmed beauty, three in each row, which, it is believed, could bestow one with boons from the nine planets. The gracious Lord slipped it onto his finger and then said, “Now, you will not be announcing Me, as yours, even before I acknowledge that you are Mine. This ring is worn by many who believe that the Navagrahas (the nine planets) have to be propitiated. By and by, you will discover that My Anugraha (Grace) can overcome the sinister designs of the nine planets. Until then, have this.”
“I will save you from every hurt” - Baba
And how many times did the Ever-Guarding and Gracious Lord not rescue him? During a vacation month when he was at Bangalore, his office at Davangere sent him a cheque to be signed and returned in the official envelope that was enclosed. When Kasturi alighted from a city bus and arrived at the post office to send it, it was pouring cats and dogs. He was petrified, not because of the rain, but because of his wet pockets that were empty! He searched frantically for the cheque on all the roads he had crossed, but no avail. And worse, he had not noted the number of cheque anywhere to be able to inform the Treasury about mishap and save its misuse. In panic, he climbed the night train to Davangere, was at his office at 8 am, and summoned his Accountant to explore ways to repair the damage.
And in the next few minutes, he finds in his room the Postman with a bundle of covers. He inspects the just-arrived mail and voila! One of them is the same registered post, with the cheque safely inside, that he lost at Bangalore! Some kind soul (Baba?) had picked it up and dropped it in the post box, and as Kasturi narrates, “It had traveled with me by the night train and come to my office as soon as I reached there!” Who else, but his Sai, had saved him from embarrassment, ignominy and a blotch of inefficiency in his illustrious rein as the Principal.
Again, during the University exam, when he opened and distributed the question papers for “History of India” while the Time Table had all the students come prepared for “History of Great Britain”, he did not know where to hide his face. He closed the door and cried in front of the portrait of Baba. It was a no ordinary blunder. The whole process of preparing a new question paper, printing and parceling it to fifteen centres has to be undertaken by the University head office in six days! It was impossible! Kasturi was devastated; with tears, he spelt out his gruesome fate in front of Baba’s photo, and then gathering courage boarded the night train to Mysore, the city of the University head office.
He landed early morning and straight went to the house of the Registrar who was fortunately, a friend. He comforted Kasturi when he said that the other two members of the Board of Examiners for History were in the city at that time and if he can get the new question paper by 2 pm, he could arrange to get it printed in the Government Press and have dispatched it by the night. But before anything can be done, Kasturi had to first meet the Vice chancellor, who will be available only at 10.30 am after a historic meeting on Education being attended by the Chief Minister of the state. That meeting was punctuated with unruly scenes with a few students at the back of the Hall creating a ruckus.
When Kasturi caught him at his office after the session ended, he saw him crestfallen. Expecting more bad news from another student population at Davangere, the Vice-Chancellor asked coldly, “What is the news?” And then Kasturi presented his plight. The University Vice-Chancellor was glad. Kasturi was actually pleasantly shocked. “During all these years you have kept Davangere students quiet. Look at the students here! Don’t worry, Kasturi! Such mistakes do happen even in the best regulated institutions…” and next, he summoned the Registrar in. Once the new question paper was set, signed by required authorities and sent for dispatch, the Vice Chancellor even gave a friendly pat on his back and said, “Carry on Mr. Kasturi! Do not loose your sense of humour.”
The next day Kasturi was in Puttaparthi and when Baba called him in, he pleaded, “Swami! I do not want to continue as the head of the college. It is too much of a …” Swami cut in with “What did happen, really? I know you opened one packet instead of another. You wept before Me. And, that in the Office Room…. Well, your boss sent you with a pat on your back, don’t I know? This is not the first time…Go on stumbling! I will follow, saving you from the hurt”.
And exactly as He said, the Benevolent Baba, cared, comforted and virtually carried him in His arms for all the rest of the thirty years of his life that He spent in His close proximity. When he retired in 1954 with a full year’s pension, Swami suggested that he go on a spiritual pilgrimage to North India taking his mother and wife along, and added, “Purchase three railway tickets for the journey. We four can travel on those.”
When their hostess in Delhi sent a phonogram to the Ramakrishna ashram in Brindavan informing them of Kasturi’s arrival, at the receiver’s end, the decoded message had, instead of ‘Kasturi’, ‘Baba’ in it. The whole trip, similarly, was a series of visible and invisible manifestations of His Love and Presence, and after reaching Bangalore when Kasturi wrote a letter to Swami, who was in Kodai Kanal then, describing all the thrilling tales of His Grace, Baba replied, “I am happy you returned full of joy…How can delay, disappointment or danger cross your plans when Swami is ever with you? My Name is not distinct from My Form…”
In Joyous Company as His Neighbour
Such a Loving Lord, whom Kasturi calls, the “Embodiment of Inexhaustible Compassion”, blessed him with the opportunity of being an inmate of His hallowed heaven with a tiny tenement to the right of the Prasanthi Nilayam Mandir in 1954. His was one among the eight which stood in a row. In his autobiography, Kasturi shares many accounts of how Swami used to play and pun with them through His plethora of pranks, and at the same time prick and purify their habits and attitudes, which explains why Swami had aptly named their block “Brindavan”, reminiscent of where Lord Krishna spent His charming childhood, playing with his peers.
One day, when Kasturi and his family were looking towards the northern direction waiting for Him to Grace their house, as He was in there already in their neighbour’s house and could step out any moment, the Sweet Lord managed to tactfully get through their backdoor, tip-toe silently from behind and quickly place His palms on Kasturi’s eyes and ask, “Tell, who?”
That was how much He loved the company of this sixty year old dear devotee. It was a fantastic period of “spiritual honeymoon” for Kasturi and his family when Sai would suddenly walk into their house any day and regale them with His melodious voice singing great Carnatic music classics, or drown them with laughter with His on-the-spot constructed rib-ticklers.
Beholding Amazing Facets of His Brilliance
During this time, Kasturi not only had the fabulous fortune of witnessing thrilling miracles and manifestations of the Lord associated with festivals like Dasara when from the Divine Brow of the Lord would emerge Vibhuti, the sacred kumkum (vermillion) or flashes of light (Swami even materialized ‘Kailas Vibhuti’ specially for him which was hot and could have scalded his palm!); or during Rama Navami when He transfigured the sands of Chitravathi into scintillating idols of Lord Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman followed by a shining silver plate saying, “How can these four remain separate entities? They have to be together”; or on the festival celebrating the birth of Krishna when He Himself so deftly, diligently and delightfully decorated the statue of Lord Krishna with bracelets and bands, gems and jewellery; or the one and only Vaikunta Ekadashi festival when Swami opened the vault of heaven for all the devotees when He materialized the legendary Amrith (nectar), not by a wave of His hand or pouring it from His cupped palms, but from “which nectar was first gained” as He said - Baba brought out from the sands a large and white conch and from that empty shining shell nectar fell, slowly and fragrantly, till it filled a silver vessel to its brim; or the stunning Shivarathri when from Baba’s gullet gushed forth, one after one, nine lingams (!) and the munificent Sai Shiva later graced and sanctified Kasturi when He gave one of these to him for his daily worship; or, of course, the Birthday of his beloved Lord when He blessed him and his wife with the unparalleled chance of anointing His hair….Kasturi was literally in heaven, spending every moment of his retired life with great relish.
From Akashvani to ‘Saivani’
But in 1956, the Divine decided to‘re-tyre’ him for the world, and in spite of his reluctance to leave His presence, convinced him to accept the offer of the post of Producer of Programmes for the newly established All India Radio Station, Bangalore, saying, “Your talents must not lie fallow…Do you think you will be serving ‘someone else’ there? All jobs are for Me…This is a gift of Grace, Go! You are not going away from Me…”
The architect of Akashvani was once again engaged creating and crafting radio programmes and infusing them with vigour and color, variety and candour. At every slightest opportunity Kasturi rushed the hundred miles to bask in His presence, and the Compassionate Lord even allowed him during this time to take a long leave and accompany Him to Delhi, Rishikesh, Brindavan and Kashmir.
And after this trip, there were more blessings waiting! Swami now wanted to celebrate his sixtieth birthday! A priest arrived from Bukkapatnam, musicians came from Mysore and many All India Radio fans and friends gathered from Bangalore. Complete with Vedic recitals, rich decoration and sacred music - there was no compromise on style or celebration in any manner. Swami allowed the fortunate couple to adorn His Lotus Feet with flowers, one by one, as they chanted the 1008 names of the Lord, and at the end, His Hand moved in circular motion and out came a Mangala sutra and a medallion.
While Mr. Kasturi tied the golden thread round his better half’s neck, and she placed the golden pendant over his head, the Magnanimous Lord, standing in the middle, just shook His empty Hand over their heads and the next minute they were covered with a shower of rice grains, kumkum and haldi dust – all considered very auspicious.
Having savoured His unmatched and unceasing love, and with his penchant for penning radio programmes tapering off, Kasturi now longed to return to His Presence permanently and to serve none but Him. And that day did arrive, in a matter of few weeks, when Swami, during a visit to Bangalore in 1958, spotted him at the residence of Mr. Vittal Rao and said, “Now, you have to work at Puttaparthi. A monthly magazine will start soon. Guess! How is it named?”
And then Himself revealed, “Sanathana Sarathi!” This Divine instrument of the Lord, the ashram’s mouthpiece, which was to carry His Message to the multitudes, was instrumental in bringing another chosen instrument into His proximity at Puttaparthi. Kasturi’s dream of living in Baba’s Presence materialised again, and now truly every moment of his life each day, from dawn till dusk, was spent with the Divine.
Starting the Day with Sai…
Recalling his daily early morning schedule, his daughter, Mrs. Padma Kasturi, says, “Much before 6 am, my father would be ready to go the Mandir and my mother would have kept ready for him Bilva and Tulsi leaves - washed, dried and neatly bundled in a cloth - which he would take and go to see Swami.
First thing he would do, once in His Presence, is place these fresh and serene offerings at His Lotus Feet and prostrate, and then return home bringing along with him the sanctified ‘green gifts’ from the Divine. My mother would be anxiously waiting for him and only after he returned would she touch coffee or breakfast.
Again, after the conclusion of bhajans, which was around 9.30, father used to go up the Mandir to His Presence and return an hour or two later.” “At this time, Swami would generally discuss matters relating to the Sai Organisation as the sixties and seventies was the time when the Organisation was taking concrete shape,” adds Mr. Ramesh Kasturi, Mrs. Padma’s son.
And once he returned, there would be people waiting for him to hear from the horse’s mouth, as it were, pearls and gems of Divine Play and Grace, and he would lovingly share too. “He was enormously generous with his experiences of Swami, and also, extremely perceptive of His ways and words, and at the same time had a very sweet voice,” says Mrs. Janet Bicker, who along with her husband produced many films on Baba in 1960s and 70s.
“When I would arrive after not being here for two years or more,” she continues, “I would go to him and show him what I had been working on, the articles that I had been writing, and he would sweetly point out mistakes and say, ‘It might be better, you know, if you took this approach…’ and it was just something that was extremely helpful to me personally and to the writing that appeared later in the films as the narration… And if you approached Professor Kasturi with your question, you would feel confident that you were getting an answer that Swami would be pleased with or approve of….I, therefore, have many things to be thankful for to Professor Kasturi.”
Professor Kasturi - Gentleness at its Zenith
Professor Anil Kumar, similarly, has unforgettable memories of the gentle Kasturi. “What really fascinated me,” he says, “is this: In the year 1970, when I first came to Puttaparthi with my family, the eldest of my four kids was five years old and I was carrying the youngest in my arms. As I was moving about in the campus, the children felt very thirsty. I could not ask for water to anyone because everyone seemed to be so busy, going to the Mandir; I didn’t know where to get water from. And then I saw Professor Kasturi come out of his residence.
I went to him and said, “Sir, I am a Professor from the Christian College in Guntur; my children want some water. I know it’s time for you to go for Darshan…” He immediately said, “Mr. Anil Kumar, giving water to your children is more important to me than the usual Darshan!” And after serving my children, he added, “This is service to Swami; such acts will please Him.” I can never forget that in my life – which is not only the message of his life, it is also a message to me and to our Sai brothers and sisters all over the world.”
Spontaneous selfless service and empathy were as natural to Kasturi as fragrance to a flower. “Right from his early days, his heart always went out to the deprived and desolate,” recalls Mrs. Padma. “He would create Harikathas (composition of song and dialogue) on noble people and perform them in the prisons, and such would be the impact of his inspired presentations that the stone-hearted would soon start sobbing and repenting, even prostrating in front of him. And he liked the Harijans (the untouchables) the most. He would take his enthusiastic and energetic band of boys and entertain those in misery, bringing on their faces forgotten smiles.”
Mr. B. N. Narasimha Murthy, who is now continuing the biography of Bhagavan from where Professor Kasturi left off, met him when he was only 19 years old, and he remembers vividly how Mr. Kasturi was diligently and tirelessly typing away on the typewriter, totally oblivious to the clutter and confusion around.
“But anybody could go and interrupt him; he was so simple, gentle and welcoming,” he recalls. “He knew no strangers; he will not even ask the person’s name and willingly share Swami’s glory. And if anybody came to him with any ailment – mental, physical or emotional, he would emphathise immediately. In fact, he would even go to the extent of interceding on a devotee’s behalf with Swami, though this can often be dangerous for people living in His close proximity.
“I remember one such incident,” says Mr. B. N. Narasimha Murthy. “It was in 1981 and we had organized a spiritual retreat in the Muddanahalli Sai School campus, where I was a warden then. On that occasion, along with Professor Kasturi were Professor K. V. Ramakrishna Rao and Jagadanandaji Maharaj. The latter, who was a monk from the Ramakrishna Mission, gave a wonderful discourse, and after his talk asked Mr. Kasturi if he could accompany him to Puttaparthi to see Swami. And Professor Kasturi agreed to this readily.
So, all of us came to Prasanthi Nilayam, but by that time the bhajans had concluded and Swami had gone upstairs. We all waited down, while Mr. Kasturi went up and informed Swami about our arrival. And in the next few minutes, the Kind Lord granted all of us an interview! And it was an interesting session. Jagadanandaji had a chronic health problem and Swami, graciously, materialized vibhuti and gave him. Then he told Swami, ‘I have this ailment for many years now.’ The reply that Bhagavan gave him that day was revealing. ‘Develop more faith and devotion in Guru Maharaj. You will be cured,’ He said.
Swami was referring to his master, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.” That is how Mr. Kasturi helped a spiritual aspirant secure the Grace of Sai, but on occasions Swami severely censured him too for such ‘Gatekeeper to God’ endeavours to ensure that his ego was never inflated.
How Sai Chiseled His Kasturi
Professor Nanjundiaih, the Controller of Examinations of the Sri Sathya Sai University, who has spent many years watching and working with Professor Kasturi, narrates one such example to illustrate this.
“One day when Kasturi was going to His Presence in the first floor of Prashanti Nilayam Mandir, as was His daily routine, an old-time friend who was aware of his proximity to Bhagavan, caught him and started coaxing him. ‘You should recommend my case to Swami…Bhagavan should give me an interview. Please don’t say ‘No’! You must do this..,” he went on. Professor Kasturi, kind-hearted that he was, could not afford to hurt him nor could he reply in affirmative, so, with an indirect reply ‘I have to go to Swami’, he moved on and went upstairs.
After he saw Swami, He allowed him to convey all that he wanted to convey and then asked, ‘What happened when you were coming up to me?’ Professor Kasturi couldn’t immediately get Him. Swami again queried, ‘What happened on the way?’ Then, as if suddenly recollected, Kasturi exclaimed, ‘Oh, that Swami! One old friend met me on the way.’
‘What did he tell you?’ The Lord probed further. Kasturi said, ‘Swami, You know everything. He wanted an interview from You. He told me to recommend his case.’ Then, immediately Swami said, ‘O ho! Recommendation! You have grown so big in Prashanti Nilayam as to recommend other people’s cases to Swami! O ho!’
‘No Swami, I am an ordinary fellow; just a dust of Your Lotus Feet. Can I recommend anyone to You, Swami? That gentleman thought so many things and told me to do this.’ Professor Kasturi explained and implored. Still, Bhagavan commanded, “Go and tell him: ‘I am nobody here, an absolutely ordinary person. Can any person recommend about others to Swami? Swami is God. Please don’t expect me to do such things. I am really no one here.” Tell him and return.
But when Kasturi went down to pass this message onto his friend the whole episode took an unexpected turn. That person was stone-deaf. And when Kasturi softly, with a serious face, communicated Swami’s message, that gentleman thought his friend was only being too clever, and given his closeness to Bhagavan, he has really acquired for him a Divine audience. He began to rejoice. Kasturi, then, had to repeat His message, twice or thrice, and as loudly as possible, and as a result not only that particular gentleman but everyone around heard it carefully and clearly, apart from it being reiterated repeatedly to Kasturi himself.
For someone who really does not understand Swami’s love for Professor Kasturi, it may seem like an unkind way of humiliating the respectable elder. But that is not the real point. Apart from making the world know that recommendations are not the route to receive His Grace, Swami, who had very special love for Professor Kasturi and the concern for the full blossoming of his personality, actually was nipping in the bud any possible tinge of even the slightest ego in him, which could impede his progress towards his spiritual goal. He wanted His Kasturi to be humble, noble and divine, just like Him.”
Prof. Kasturi – Humility and Humour in Human Form
And this choicest disciple of the Supreme Spiritual Master, did live up to His expectations on occasions that are too numerous to enumerate. “He was no ordinary man, a scholar par excellence and a matchless writer,” says Professor Anil Kumar. “He knew Upanishadic, Ramakrishna and Aurobindo literature through and through, but never took the opportunity to showcase his scholarship.
His talks were not to get into your head, they touched your heart. They were not full of quotations, meant for you to appreciate his great wisdom, but to gladden your heart and make you grow in faith and devotion. It was a communication worthy of the statement – heart to heart! That’s why, when he narrated any incident, you never forgot for a lifetime! I remember all the stories he said long ago, in the 1970’s!... He could speak on one single incident for one hour! And nobody would get up!
There was no parallel! You may perhaps, call this an expression of audacity, but I am sincere when I make the statement: ‘If Baba is number one in story-telling, Kasturi would be number two! His expressions had so much power and colour. His simplicity, humility and endearing nature towards all was really great!’”
Julius, a septuagenarian Sai devotee from United Kingdom, who had spent many days in the Ashram listening to Kasturi’s talks in the 1980s, says, “Even if Swami had made him turn stone into wine in front of our eyes, we would have accepted it, because we knew he would have said: ‘Oh! It’s not me, it’s Swami!’
He wouldn’t ever dream of arrogance! That’s what made him everybody’s dream God-father beside their bed, telling them bed-time stories about God and the Universe.
And you just were taken in! I don’t think he ever thought he was giving anything of his own; he was interpreting to us, what Swami had given to him. I don’t think he ever thought of himself or realized that he had wisdom, no way absolutely…He knew and was completely aware that Swami had allowed him to be Kasturi! And truly nobody can ever be like him just like nobody can ever be like Shakespeare or Hamlet.
They are all totally unique, made forever! … I would say, personally, that the most outstanding concept and attribute of Professor Kasturi was - he emanated love, with humility. And we were spellbound with love for him!
And that’s what Swami is, when you begin to realize what He is – He is Love, and when you discover that Love, you love Him. And I think – this makes me cry – Kasturi discovered that! And I think that’s why we loved him; because he did it with humour!”
“He was a perfect picture of a cultured Indian” – Mrs. Jayalakshmi Gopinath
Ask anybody who has seen and interacted with Kasturi, and they say, if simplicity and humility was his first nature, humour was his second. Mrs. Jayalakshmi Gopinath, the Warden of the Anantapur Campus of Bhagavan’s University, saw Mr. Kasturi when she was in her teens. She recalls, “As a young girl, I had a great deal of reverence for him. You could ask me ‘why’.
Because in my mind, I had a picture of a cultured, Hindu, Indian; and he was typical of that! He was pretty tall, broad-shouldered, his lower waist always straight and would meticulously wear a spotless white dhoti and on the top would be a clean, white jhubba, right up to the knees.
On his forehead, you would find the marks of vibhuti standing out, and in the middle, a kumkum spot - a person who exuded Indian culture! Principally because, in spite of all his attainments, he was never ostentatious. But he had a dignity of his own. And I used to admire him for so many things as a young girl. One was, of course, because he was so near and dear to Swami! He was always around Him in the same attire. And another, was his talks.
Swami would always call him to give speeches to the devotees, and though an intellectual and scholar, he would speak in simple English. There was no show, but the most wonderful aspect of it was, with all his devotion and reverence for Bhagavan, he would spice it with a lot of humour – that was one thing so typical of Professor Kasturi! And it used to be so subtle; we could catch it, but he would not laugh on the stage!”
Mr. B. N. Narasimha Murthy, who had many years of association with him, was a witness to this witty side of this great personality any number of times. Citing one instance, he says, “Swami, on one occasion, had warned Professor Kasturi against taking a lift in a car from Bangalore to Puttaparthi or vice versa anytime, and therefore, Kasturi always traveled only by bus. Unless Swami permitted, he would not get inside a car. And Swami allowed him on occasions, especially when he had to visit villages as the State President of the Sai Organisation of Karnataka. Once, I remember, he was talking about Swami for two hours in Mangalore.
Immersed in his scintillating talk, nobody had kept track of the time, and when I suddenly saw my watch, it was 9 pm. We had planned to conclude the session by 8.30 pm, which would give us enough time to catch our bus at 9.30. But now I feared that we may not be able to make it.
I immediately took a chit and wrote “BUS” and held it up. I was sitting, not at the front, but beside him. Kasturi saw my raised chit and told the audience, ‘See, Narasimha Murthy is telling me in Hindi, ‘Stop!’ (‘Bus’ means ‘Stop’ in Hindi) And the audience burst in laughter.’” Such was the spontaneity in his humour.
But if humour was what dominant in his career before he came under Sai’s direct care, it was replaced later with humility. “When he came to Swami and settled in His Presence in the Ashram in the fifties, they were too few men around at Prashanthi Nilayam, and therefore, whenever any work had to be done, everybody would have to volunteer,” says Mr. Sanjay Sahani, Principal of the Brindavan Campus of Swami’s University.“
And therefore, though by Profession he was a lecturer, a Professor and a former Principal of a College, when he came to Bhagavan, he would have to carry out any number of errands for which he had no training or background. Once, the Post Master General at Hyderabad came up with a proposal to start a Post Office at Prasanthi Nilayam, provided a pensioner of some local authority or Government Authority was willing to become the Post Master.
When they looked around in the Ashram, Professor Kasturi found that he was the only person qualified to take up the job. And swallowing his ego, he volunteered to accept that job. Describing this episode, Professor Kasturi once said, ‘Swami was very carefully observing my reactions! With a concealed mischievous smile, He stated: ‘“Professor Kasturi, Post Master!” This does not sound appropriate, isn’t it?’ As “Professor Kasturi, former Principal” was how he was known and respected.
But the smart disciple of the Divine Master that Kasturi was, said, ‘Swami, not any Post Master - Post Master of Prasanthi Nilayam’. Needless to say, the Supreme Teacher was too pleased to hear this from His trainee. And through this simple episode, Professor Kasturi also explained how when we take to the service of Swami, we should forget our individual selves, and always remind ourselves that wherever the need is the utmost, we should be there and ready to take up any work.”
The Perfect Choice and Voice of the Avatar
In fact, it is this sense of service sans any ego, coupled with humility and humour, which not only made him a favourite Sai brother in the ever-expanding Sai Family, but also endeared him to the Lord the most. He was His “Chosen Instrument” for a variety of valuable roles in His Divine Mission. And He dedicated all his God-gifted talents – as a proficient linguist, excellent writer, talented playwright, scintillating speaker, expert dramatist, brilliant biographer, passionate Professor of History, inspired social reformer, sincere humanist, master storyteller, gem of a journalist, and a spirited spiritual seeker – every facet of his illustrious personality was dedicated to serve in His Divine Mission, with utmost proficiency, humility and gratitude.
He was ‘the man for announcements’ in Prasanthi Nilayam. In the early days of the Ashram, Baba was particular that the devotees be informed about rules and regulations, schedules and safety precautions, whenever there was a considerable congregation and He would always beckon Mr. Kasturi to do it. And the soft spoken senior member of the Sai Family would candidly and clearly convey the message in six languages – English, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi, one after the other. Mrs. Padma Kasturi recalls, “Swami used to say to him, chidingly yet caringly: ‘Go, get the Instructions Book and read it out carefully, else I will get cross with you and the whole festival is going to be, for you, a sorrowful affair!’”
And countless were the occasions when He called on the master orator Kasturi to speak and he would passionately and perfectly share the mysteries and the miracles, manifestations and the mahimas of the Avatar in His Physical Presence, and otherwise too. And he loved doing this to the hilt. In fact, Mr. Ramesh Kasturi, his grandson, recalls, “Whenever he was sick, with cold or fever, Swami used to tell him: ‘Poyi Lecture cheyi, ade neeku biksha’ meaning, ‘Go and speak about Swami, that lecture is your medicinal mixture’. And it was so wonderfully true. He always forgot about himself once he started the story of His Glory. That was his sustenance.”
In fact, on one occasion, Professor Kasturi conveyed this truth of his life to His Beloved, so skillfully and spontaneously. “It was the time when there were only two cottages on either side of the Prasanthi Mandir, and Mr. Kasturi lived on the right side,” narrates Mr. B. N. Narasimha Murthy.
“With not many devotees around, Swami would often drop inside these tiny tenements, without announcing, to the Divine delight of the fortunate few. And during one such surprise stopover, Swami saw Kasturi sitting on a chair and spending time, childlike, with a bear doll that had a kettle drum tied to its waist.
The mischievous Sai, stepped silently in, and before Kasturi could realize anything, pushed the plaything away from the Professor’s hands. The toy toppled and fell down on its back, but the bear was still relentlessly beating the drum; though it was down and it was not out. Kasturi stood up startled! And then Swami said, ‘Hey Kasturi, neeku itle chestnanu nenu’ that is, ‘Hey Kasturi, this is the same thing I will do to you too.’
Mr. Kasturi looked at the vanquished yet valiantly playing baby bear and then reverentially retorted, “Swami, if You do this to me, I too am going to do exactly the same thing; I will still announce the world about the Avatar, the splendorous Sai.”
And if we look at the life of this great soul, right from the time the Lord drew him near, every cell of his body and ounce of his energy has been spent only in speaking and sharing, collecting and circulating His stories and glories, be whatever may the challenges and constraints, difficulties and deadlines.
Syndicating the Sai Saga
In the initial days of Sanathana Sarathi, with no professional or skilled help of any kind, be it in writing and editing to printing, pasting and parceling, it was a tremendous responsibility for Professor Kasturi to ensure that the issue, flawless in every aspect, reached the readers on time. And, in spite of his age and position, Kasturi took to every task with equal enthusiasm and interest. “Once hundreds of copies had been made in English, Professor Kasturi, the editor, would himself type-set the whole text of Swami’s articles in Telugu,” recalls Mrs. Geeta Ram, who watched and played with Professor Kasturi as a tiny girl in those days.
“The whole process of type-setting would be repeated so many times,” she continues. “And after the sheets were printed, the ink would still be wet. They would then have to be spread all over the floor to dry, so the ink would not smear. Later, the pages were carefully collated, stapled together, packed and addressed in preparation for mailing – all done by hand. Although there were a few volunteers to help him, I remember Professor Kasturi doing all these jobs, month in and month out, for so many years. This was truly his labor of love for Swami.”
Yes, for Kasturi, the documentation and dissemination of his Sai’s Life and Message was the only guiding principle and goal in life. And towards this end, he was ever alert, agile and eager to go any length.
“With no drop of verbal ambrosia falling from Baba’s divine lips left unlettered, Professor Kasturi made sure that any delicious delicacy of a delivery from the divine lips would be feasted through his ears and then shared in full with his immediate neighbours and others.
Blessed with a sharp intelligence, sturdy physique and a retentive memory, he was the unassailable and humble Kasturi,” says Mr. B V Raja Reddy, who, for decades, was closely associated with Professor Kasturi in serving Swami. Professor Nanjundaiah, who also knew him very closely, says, “I would not be wrong if I say he is Valmiki and Vyasa to Bhagavan, who is the Avatar of the Age.
In fact, I would add that Professor Kasturi was more effectively suited because He had access to Swami and could directly interact with Him to seek clarifications about His discourses and writings. Today, Sai’s Life ‘Sathyam Shivam Sundaram’ is more historic than Ramayana or Mahabharatha! And for this, he was Swami’s chosen instrument.”
The Master Testing His Masterpiece
And His choices are always perfect. And if they are not where He wants them to be, He trains and tests, goads and guides till they shine with that sublime splendour that every instrument of His should radiate. Professor Nanjundaiah narrates an interesting incident where Swami tickled and taunted Professor Kasturi’s ego to see if it raised its hood or was humble as ever.
“This happened in Brindavan, Bangalore. Swami had just delivered a discourse, which was translated by Professor Kasturi, and as usual he had done a good job, though it was difficult at some places. Swami then asked both of us to go upstairs, and there as He sat on the sofa, He graced us with the opportunity to serve His Feet. So I was gently massaging His one leg, while Professor Kasturi was intently engaged on the other. And now Swami commenced His play! He said, ‘What Nanjundaiah, how was Kasturi’s translation today?’ Professor Kasturi, immersed in His seva, had his face bent down.
But when Swami uttered my name, I looked up. He again asked, ‘How was Kasturi’s translation?’ And then silently shook His head indicating to me that I should reply in negative. I, therefore, implicitly obeyed Him like a child and said, ‘Swami, it was not good.'
Professor Kasturi, who was not ruffled in the least, and had his head fixed at His feet, said, ‘Yes Swami...it is true…here and there, there were many defects in my translation…I hope, overall, it was good’. That was the type of relationship Professor Kasturi had with Swami. He could always tell anything that he wanted, like a child. He was here giving a certificate to himself about his translation (!) and at the same time giving credit to me, although I didn’t really mean it. But Swami continued, ‘Tell me Nanjundaiah, was it bad here and there, or was it totally bad?’ And again He shook His head suggesting me to give an emphatic ‘No’. The Divine appraisal was still on.
With no choice, I retorted, ‘It was completely not alright, Swami’ and you could imagine mine and Professor Kasturi’s plight! Because, Professor Kasturi is one whom I had venerated and in terms of age, experience, efficiency, proficiency, proximity to Swami, and in every other way, I stood nowhere before him, and for me to make such a comment on Professor Kasturi’s translation was something which only Swami could do!
Here Swami also was testing me to see if I am capable enough of unquestioningly obeying His command or do I still suffer from the attractions of worldly name, acceptability, other’s opinion, etc. And to Professor Kasturi, it was an assessment of his spiritual evolution. Swami wanted to see when a young fellow, who doesn’t have the competency to comment on His discourse or translation, makes such a disparaging statement, how does Professor Kasturi react?
Is he able to maintain the same calmness and composure or does he get enticed into an argument or making unwelcome comments? Professor Kasturi, in this episode, was silent for most of the time; his serenity was never shaken. Swami allowed us to do ‘Padaseva’ for some more time and then said, ‘You can go.’ And I didn’t share the true drama behind this enactment to Kasturi for at least seven long years, as I knew, through experience that Swami would not like me to do so. Professor Kasturi’s humility, understanding and application of His Directions were outstanding.”
A Clean Conduit of His Message
And it is for this reason that whenever and wherever he spoke about Swami, it always left a deep impact in the minds and hearts of the listeners. “He was satwic to the core, and that is probably the reason why he had such a soft voice,” says Professor Anil Kumar.
“And his style of speeches was fantastic! The whole presentation always had a powerful continuity, an interesting underlying theme linking every incident and anecdote, event and explanation, such that you never forgot it for a lifetime!”
“For the foreigners, he was a special Ambassador of Swami’s Message,” says Julius from the UK. “We absolutely adulated him. He was the pi to the equation! Swami was the equation, but he was the pi! It multiplied with him because he spoke such beautiful English; we understood it from him, but we didn’t really get it from the books…to experience the great leelas of Swami, you didn’t have to be there; you could listen to Mr. Kasturi and in your imagination he would lead you there!
That was the natural power of his narration. He was another Shakespeare in a way….For example, when Swami went to Gokulam to feed the cows, he would spend those few spare moments telling us a little story, and then he would transpose it into our daily life! I don’t know how he did it! It was just like we were little children – he was like the Pied Piper of Hamlin! We were just mesmerized!”
Delighting in Every Facet of the Divine
Such was the impact of this very important man of His Mission. Swami had so beautifully groomed this great soul such that he was His ‘one man army’, emissary, ambassador, associate, translator, writer and even a comrade. Kasturi was part of almost every entourage of Swami, be it the visit to Kanyakumari or Kashmir, Srinagar or Simla, or Rishikesh or Rajahmundry, Kerala or Coimbatore, Delhi or Dwarka or even Africa.
In fact, among all the trips with Swami, which were always filled with amazing instances of Grace and great revelations of His Divinity, the odyssey to Africa was something very special to Kasturi, not because it was Baba’s first foreign tour but for an altogether alternate reason. Ironically, it was because of a car accident. The few injuries sustained in that mishap reaped such huge dividends of His love and attention that Kasturi wished he was sick like that forever. “Swami showered unimaginable love on him during that period,” says Mrs. Padma.
“He reached the spot immediately after the eventuality, wiped his blood with His own handkerchief, and when he was confined to the bed for a few days, He would come every now and then to enquire and be concerned about his every little need and convenience. The attention that the Divine gave was overwhelming”. Mr. Ramesh Kasturi says, “In fact, grandfather wished for such a thing with the intense desire to experience that Motherly Love of Bhagavan.”
And so the Lord granted him his every wish. When he went to Tirupathi, there he saw not Lord Venkateswara, but Sai; and when he touched the Feet of the stone idol of Lord Ranganatha at Sri Rangam, he found it “soft, tender, fair, familiar and alive – they were Baba’s” as he describes in Loving God. “In fact, the merciful Lord blessed him with a vision of Shiva-Shakthi too, but he would never reveal much about it saying it is ‘Daiva-rahasya’ meaning, ‘Divine mystery’ and ‘I do not want to talk about it’,” recalls his daughter, Mrs. Padma.
Mr. Kasturi was blessed not only to be just next to the Avatar when Narayana Himself went to Badri Narayana and Sai Krishna journeyed to Dwaraka, and watch mind-boggling manifestations, but also record every little delicate and divine detail for posterity. He was there when the Sea God adorned Swami’s Feet with a string of pearls and when the Benevolent Lord bestowed the highest blessing to Swami Purushottamananda inside a cave in Rishikesh.
“Being almost a constant companion of Swami in every trip, Kasturi would joke ‘I am the luggage of Swami. I am like a suitcase, which has no freewill. I go wherever He takes me!’” says Mr. B. N. Narasimha Murthy.
An Exemplary Devotee like a Lotus on the Water
This characteristic humility and unconditional devotion at His Lotus Feet was what stood by Him in every tragedy of his life. Yes, tragedies. Life was not all hunky-dory as one might imagine it to be for Professor Kasturi; his personal life was riddled with terrible losses, disappointments and diseases in the family. In fact, the number of devastating moments in his life was way above the ordinary.
His life-partner, Mrs. Rajamma, who was his pillar of strength and support, was paralyzed for eleven years and predeceased him; he lost his elder son at the prime of his life, just when he was blossoming into a promising adult; at the age of 85, he had to see his another son, die at 60; his daughter’s marital life was beset with on-going problems….to quote a few of his life’s dreadful moments. “But the great Kasturi never for a moment put on a melancholic face,” says Mr. Anil Kumar.
“Like Lord Shiva swallowing the poison, holding it in His throat and shedding only coolness, Kasturi accepted every obstacle as an event in the course of life, meant for his ultimate good, and spread only sweetness. He never complained to Swami and told anybody about them. Nothing ever disturbed his equanimity and intense devotion to Swami”.
One word from Swami, they say, was enough to console Him. When his son, who was a reputed geologist retired and soon after passed away because of an ailment, all Kasturi said was, “His station has come, so he got down; mine has not yet come.” “Truly it was Swami who gave him that courage and stoicism,” says Mrs. Padma Kasturi. “Even though he was living with us as if very emotionally involved, from within, he was very detached.
In fact, many a times, I used to wonder, as sometimes I felt he was very much attached because whenever my sons came from Bangalore he was very endearing to them, but at other times, I used to feel he was very detached. One day I did ask him, ‘Father, I am not able to understand you. Why is that sometimes you are so wonderful that I feel you are very much attached but at other times, you seem to be so very removed?’ And he said, ‘Oh, oh I am duping you too. See how well I am playing my drama’. Of course he considered everything as just a game.
“One day when he returned home after a lecture to foreign devotees, I simply burst out,” continues Mrs. Padma. I was beset with many problems and I said, ‘What is this? You go and talk for hours on how Swami helped this person or rescued those people, but what has He done for you? Your wife is sick. For 11 years she has been lying on the bed and see my marital problems!’
He listened calmly and said, ‘It is ok for you to talk in this vein, but I don’t want Swami to do anything for me or my family. Whatever He does, He is Perfect, He is God. I have that faith in Him. Whomever He does it to, I consider them as my own. I do not have any attachment with you, my wife and family. From your point of view what you are saying is appreciable, but I do not have the feeling at all that He must do some miracle to me, my family, or my people”.
Such was the spiritual height Sai had raised His Kasturi to! Though till the last moment of his life, Swami was assiduously shaping His dearest devotee, He never stopped entertaining him too. When Kasturi became too weak to walk, he would come to the Mandir on the wheelchair which would be placed right in front of Swami’s interview room door. And one morning, seeing him on his chair, Swami flashed a mischievous smile, and said, “What Kasturi?…No election, no selection and you have become a Chairman!”
Another day He came out of the interview room, walked up to him, and pointing to his body, said, ‘Kasturi! This is a 19th century model!" (Kasturi was born in 1897). Swami, then, turned and now pointing towards the interview room, said, “Even this repair workshop cannot fix this model now.” The next moment He looked deep into his eyes and asked, “Kasturi, are you afraid?” “No, Swami” came the soft but solid reply. Swami then advised: “Take Swami’s name. Don’t worry!” And this is exactly what Professor Kasturi ceaselessly did till the Lord set his soul free.
Describing the last months of this illustrious being, which is a spiritual treatise by itself, Mrs. Padma says, “One year before he became one with The Eternal, he had severe back pain. This was in 1986. He could no longer climb the stairs to go to His Presence in the Mandir. The Lord, who was eagerly enquiring about his absence, Himself came to our little room in the South Block to see him. On the first occasion, He suddenly stepped in one day after morning bhajans and asked him, ‘What happened? Why aren’t you coming?’ ‘Swami, this back pain is terrible,’ answered my father, lying on the cot. Swami then materialized Vibhuti, filled his palm with it and walked away.
Eight days passed, but father still could not go to see Him. The concerned Sai came again. And this time, my father said, ‘Swami, You please give me a thump on my back and I will just be alright.’ But the Lord only lovingly looked at him and said, ‘No, that is not the way. You come to the Mandir in a wheelchair.’”
So that is how Kasturi became a ‘Chairman’ as Swami joked and the charming saga of this devotee and his beloved continued, though now, much subdued, if you saw it superficially. Unfortunately, a few days after this, the respectable octogenarian, who had battled through more than eighty five summers and winters, chills and thrills, hailstones and storms, was suddenly down with a jeopardising jaundice. “Swami was not here then; it was the month of April and He was in Bangalore,” recalls Mrs. Padma.
“My father became very weak, and when this news was conveyed to Swami, He sent him Vibhuti through many people. But, for whatever inscrutable reason of the Divine and destiny, nothing seemed to work. His voice lost the usual power. The doctors said he was low on sugar, and his speech became feeble. They wanted to administer him glucose but my father would have nothing of it. Having never done a thing in his life, without Divine Permission, he insisted on instructions from Swami. Message was sent to Him and only after that did he relent to the needle and the much needed supplement. Still, any sign of recovery seemed like a fantasy and his frame became even frailer.
He Pined for Him Piteously
“During this time in Brindavan, Swami had taken upon Himself the heart attack of a devotee and did not grant darshan for three days. It was the year 1987. And after He finally gave darshan, one devotee who had seen Swami there came to my father and said, ‘Swami was looking so weak! He has become very thin.’ Immediately my father began to cry, ‘Oh, I want to see Swami! I want to see my Swami, please!’ Lying on the bed, he told me, ‘You take me early in the morning. Swami must be coming out at about 9 O’clock . I will have just one glimpse, at least, and then we can be back. I do not want anything else. Everybody is saying He has become very weak. I have to see my Swami somehow’. But I was in a dilemma.
The position of his health was too precarious to travel, but at the same time, his desire to see Him was too intense. Finally, when I could no longer withstand his piteous pleading, I said to myself, ‘Alright, let me take him to Brindavan, even if it means taking a huge, and actually dreadful, risk’, as one could not really exclude any serious untoward happening on the way. In any case, I arranged for a cab, but he said, ‘Do not go and tell Mr. Kutumba Rao (the then Ashram caretaker) now itself, because, I know, he will call and inform Swami, and Baba will refuse to my going there. I do not want this to happen’. But I said, ‘Father, you are a property of Prasanthi Nilayam, not just my father. The whole ashram will blame me if anything happens to you on the way. I cannot take such a chance, so, let me please inform Mr. Kutumba Rao.’
“Then he said, ‘Okay, you go to him, but only after 10 o ’clock ’ because by then, my father reasoned, Swami would already have retired. So, the cab arrived, I had finished packing, and then went to Mr. Kutumba Rao. As soon as he heard my plan, he said, ‘You are taking a risk!’ ‘I have to,’ I said, ‘because father is giving me no other choice! His pleadings are so heart-breaking. If anything has to happen in the way, let it be. I just cannot help it. Whatever the case may be, his mind is completely fixed on Swami, and as a daughter, it is very difficult for me to resist his painful pleas.’
But he said, ‘No, this is not the right thing to do. I will come and convince him’. And so, the next minute, Mr. Kutumba Rao, along with Dr. Alreja, came to our room and tried to persuade him to give up the idea. But when nothing worked, they finally said, ‘Kasturi garu, this cab is not a good one; it is very shaky and uncomfortable. We will arrange a good car for you and inform Swami too, and then you can go.’
“Wait for Sai” - Swami
So, father, in spite of desperate desire, could not see Swami that day, and the whole night, he spent only sobbing and shedding tears. ‘How pathetic is my fate!…This has to befall on me!…I cannot even go to see Swami!..’ he went on and on. Then he wrote a letter to Swami; but his hand was highly unsteady and it looked like a sorry scribble on a sheet of paper. I, therefore, suggested that it is better I keep a note along with his paper so that the content of his letter is clear to Swami, but he said, ‘No, you cannot keep a note along with my letter. If you want, you write a separate one and post it on your own. You cannot send it through Mr. Kutumba Rao; he is not a postman to take everybody’s letter to Swami. He can only take my letter, that’s it’. He was very strict in these matters, and therefore I wrote and posted mine, while he sent his through Mr. Kutumba Rao.
And then the most wonderful thing happened. Swami replied to him! It was an inspiring instruction from the Divine. The letter was dated April 1987 and it read, ‘Kasturi, accept My blessings! Do not have fear of any kind. Swami is always with you, in you and around you. Be brave. Think of Him only. Give up any other thoughts. The body is a water bubble. Do not worry about it. Spend your time thinking of Swami only. - Yours, Baba’. Father was, of course, happy to read this, but the agony of his unfulfilled darshan remained.
“Swami did not return till it was June. But before He came, as if responding to his intense yearning to have at least one glance, Swami wrote him another letter. This was in June, 1987. ‘Kasturi, accept My blessings! Sai is always with you, in you and around you. Be in bliss. Do not think of anything else. Be always in the thought of God. That is the main sadhana (spiritual practice) that you have to be engaged in now. I will come back soon. Wait for Sai’. And to father’s relief and rejoice, Swami returned in June, and he eagerly went in the wheelchair to watch and savour His Beloved again. But when Swami came near him, He said (in Telugu), ‘nee asthamana samayam osthavundi’ meaning, ‘Your evening time is approaching…be ready’.
“In spite of his irresistible desire to be in His Presence, he could not make it to the Mandir everyday. His health was deteriorating by the day, and so, we sent word to Swami about his condition through Sri Karunyananda and Mr. Kutumba Rao.
Swami, then, sent the message: ‘I will come, I will come’. And because of this, from that day onwards, even if there was a slightest sound of footsteps in the room, he would get up and expectantly ask, ‘Is that Swami?...’, ‘Has He come?...’, ‘He must have come!...’
It was heart-rending to see how much he clamoured and craved for Him. But Swami, in the meanwhile, sent us the message that there would a big crowd and the resultant confusion if He came to our home, and therefore, He said, ‘Ask them to admit Kasturi in the hospital and I will come there and see him.’
Liberation Here and Now
“But before this, there is one significant event that happened which I must mention. It was the Guru Poornima Day in June 1987. Swami was delivering His Divine Discourse in Poorna Chandra Auditorium, and I was keen to hear Him on that significant day. As my son, Ramesh, was also there that day taking care of him, I came out of the room and sat on the steps near the South Block with my ears glued to His booming voice. But during this time, it seems, father called Ramesh and said, ‘Sri Kasturi is dead. I’m Atma”. My son was shocked. But father persisted, ‘Go and tell everybody that Kasturi is dead!’ So Ramesh got worried and frightened, and immediately came to me. When I went, he said the same thing to me again. ‘Kasturi is dead. I’m only Atma. Don’t force me food or anything.’ I replied, ‘No, I won’t force you. But until the body is here, we have to take good care of it. So please cooperate. I won’t coax you any more to eat or do anything, but please if you want anything, just ask without a second thought, and it will be done.’
“From that day, he stopped talking on anything other than Swami. He did not even crave for Him as pathetically as before. He was just immersed in himself. Maybe that was the realization. Because, once, many years ago, a naadi (ancient palm leaf inscriptions about the future) scholar, by name, Gunjoor Narayan Shastrigal had come to Swami when He was in Brindavan and reading my father’s naadi, he had said that he will attain Nirvikalpa Samadhi in his last moments. It seems, when he said this, my father, at that time, laughed. ‘I? Getting Nirvikalpa Samadhi? This is all bogus!’ He told Swami.
But Bhagavan then had apparently said, ‘No, don’t laugh. Why not? You might get it. Don’t laugh at this.’ Therefore, when father was totally with himself, oblivious to every external sound or stimulus, during this time, I remembered this incident; I thought, maybe, he is going through that transcendental liberating experience, because after that ‘I am the Atma’ moment, he only wanted silence; never liked us conversing with people who came to meet him. When somebody suggested that we play Vishnusahasranama (thousand eight names of Lord Vishnu), he outrightly refused. He wanted absolute serenity and silence around him at all times.
“And as Swami had instructed, we admitted him in the General Hospital on August 7, and true to His word, the very next day He arrived. The Loving Lord made him drink one full glass of water and before He left, said the same thing: “Don’t think of anything. Think of Swami only”. And to others he said that no visitors are to be allowed to see him. Father was completely in a different plane. He didn’t like even us, mother and son, talking to each other. ‘No…Silence’ he would indicate but never utter a syllable. Therefore, if we had to talk about anything often we would come out of the room. We maintained the ambience as quiet as possible.
And then, the momentous day arrived – August 14. But two days prior to this, he had started bleeding because of liver complications, and when Swami was asked if blood transfusion should be done, He said, ‘No, nothing needs to be done. His time is coming. Just give him slow glucose.’ And on the morning of that eventful day, he was semi-conscious. We could see his breathing had become an ordeal; he was trying to deep breathe with great difficulty. I tried to call him, but there was no response. My son, with whose voice he was very familiar, called out to him too, but there was no sign of consciousness. Worried, we sent word to Swami through Dr. Alreja, but Swami said, ‘No, he is fine; the time is coming close. I will come and see him at the hospital’. The morning bhajan ended and we were expecting Swami, but instead of coming to the hospital, He drove into the Institute Auditorium.”
‘I have to go, Kasturi is not well’ - Swami
Narrating the happenings at the Auditorium, Mr B. N. Narasimha Murthy, who was there with Swami on that morning, says, “Swami came to see the rehearsal of the drama to be staged by the boys on the first anniversary of the MBA course, and He seemed deeply engrossed watching the performance. But at 11.30, He suddenly stood up and said, ‘I have to go, Kasturi is not well,’ and went to the General Hospital. When Swami arrived at the Hospital, the only noise in Kasturi’s room was the trickling of water from a tap in the bathroom. Swami called a nurse and said, ‘Stop it’. Then Swami went to the bedside of His dear devotee and into his ear He gently called, ‘Kasturi…Kasturi’ and immediately he opened his eyes and started to fold his palms.” “He wanted to offer his salutations,” says Mrs. Padma. “But Swami caught hold of both his hands with much love and created vibhuthi.
He applied the Divine Ash Himself on his forehead, neck and hands, and whatever was still remaining in His Hand, He gave it to me and asked, ‘Did he take anything since morning?’ ‘No food, Swami,’ I said. ‘I’m only wetting his lips with coconut water whenever it gets dry’. Then He looked at me and said firmly, ‘Chesko…” (do) pointing to His Feet. The next moment I prostrated at His feet and looking at His eyes I understood that it was His way of saying, ‘Now, it’s My responsibility to take care of you. It’s over.’ Then He asked my son too to do the same. After that He went down and told the doctors, ‘There is one hour more. You all go and repeat “Sairam” “Sairam”.’
And before He finally left, He said, ‘We have to arrange a band for his funeral procession. He is a respectable world figure; the procession should be grand.’ And after Swami left, all the staff of the Hospital came and started chanting “Om Sri Sai Ram”, “Om Sri Sai Ram”.
The difficulty in breathing which was there before Swami came had disappeared. Now, it was smooth and slow; and exactly after one hour, just as Swami had stated, around 12.30 pm, his breathing stopped. The doctor attending on him started chanting “Shri Ganesha”, Shri Ganesha”; father was onto a new road, a new journey.
Immediately the word was sent to Swami and He instructed that the body be kept in the guest house, which was located just beside the Hospital building then, and everybody could go there and pay their homage. Later, as many arrived to bow down reverentially where his body lay, He sent another message: ‘Start bhajans,” and Sri Karunyananda arrived with a garland from Swami. A few minutes and there were further instructions. ‘Continue bhajans till 7 pm and then lock the room. Nobody needs to be there. It can be opened again at 6 am the next morning,’ was Bhagavan’s command. But many expressed reservations and apprehensions. ‘No, a dead body should not be kept in this manner. Somebody should be there,’ they said. ‘Otherwise, ants may come.’ But Swami sent word again. ‘No ants will come. I will take care of it. You just lock it now and open again only at 6 in the morning.’ So all of us returned home.
A Grand Reunion
“In the meantime, Swami sent Mr. Chiranjeevi Rao to us to find out if it was okay to use a band for the funeral as it was not a custom in our caste. But I said, ‘It is Swami’s Kasturi; it is not at all my Kasturi, or my father. Whatever Swami wants, He may do. We are all happy.’ So we closed the bhajan at 7 pm and returned at 6 in the morning, and when we opened the door, what did we find?
The whole room was permeated with a divine fragrance! And his face! It was shining! Though it was all sunken, dry and dark because of extreme weakness and bleeding the previous night.
The whole ambience was so dramatically and divinely different. It seems when Dr. Shantha, who was along with me, opened the door she felt as if something or somebody was pushing her from inside. And Swami, the next morning, told the boys in the Mandir, ‘I was there with him the whole night’.” That was the glorious finale of a great saga of ‘appetizing adjacency’ (as Kasturi himself calls it) with the Divine of a devotee that again will never be.
On August 15, Swami even closed the Ashram Canteen and asked everyone present to attend the funeral procession which was an elaborate affair with music, vedam, band, etc. But ladies were restricted for this journey from the Hospital to the Chiravathi as the Ashram authorities felt there was every chance of a stampede, the gathering assuming gargantuan proportions.
“After the cremation was complete,” Mrs Padma recalls, “Sri Karunyananda came to me and said, ‘Amma, your father was a superlatively great man. He attained “Kapala moksha”, the kind of liberation-release that happens when the ‘atma’ or the ‘life-force’ floats away from the body breaking the centre of the skull. I am fortunate to be able to see this.’ Not only he, many expressed similar sentiments of their immense good luck to be present and be part of the occasion. And in the evening, Swami came near me and said, ‘He attained what he has to attain. So have no worries; you do not need to do any rituals either. He has merged in Swami!”
Kasturi – Sai’s Favourite and for Generations a Beacon Light
In the last chapter of “Loving God”, Professor Kasturi writes, “I am clinging to my beloved, and I hope that the Beloved will accept me.” And what did his beloved do? He not only accepted him, but also assimilated and integrated him into Himself. And why did He do it? We find the answer in the next line of the same paragraph, where Mr. Kasturi says, “I love Sai not for the reason that I get back the love, but because I know that He is the most lovable Person on earth.”
Love for love’s sake and nothing else, is what is true, unblemished, pristine, precious and most potent. And if Kasturi could secure such a special corner in the Lord’s heart, it is because he not only understood, but exercised and exemplified in his daily life, this purest form of the highest virtue in this universe.
“My dearest sadhana” Kasturi continues in the last line of the same section, “is to present my Beloved to all whom He loves, to exult when my Beloved is adulated and adored, to hear those who love Him narrate stories of His boundless Mercy, Majesty and Munificence.” And this is exactly what this great instrument, inch by inch shaped by His Master, did.
If the lost, depressed and diseased, or the intellectual, inquisitive and the learned, find solace, sustenance and support from the numerous volumes of Sathya Sai Speaks, it is because Professor Kasturi painstakingly, but with love, compiled them. If the world today relishes, regales and rejuvenates its spirits reading the life story of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, it is because Professor Kasturi created masterpieces of literature that would stand the test of time for centuries and eons.
“People may come and go, there may be many speakers and writers, any number in the past, numerous in the present and many more in the future, but none can equal Kasturi in the art of oration and narration. His poetic style, nectarine language, convincing candour, and his soft and tender, appealing and devoted voice… Professor Kasturi is a legend, a personality too extraordinary to imitate or emulate,” says Professor Anil Kumar. Yes, like there is only one Luke, one Matthew or Mark; or one Meera, Shabari or Hanuman; or even one Arjuna or Vyasa, there will always be one Kasturi, but the mesmerizing fragrance of his personality will, for generations, mould the minds and motivate the hearts of millions in leading them towards their true goal.
- Bishu Prusty
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Vol 6 Issue 01 - JANUARY 2008
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