Volume 6 - Issue 03
MARCH - 2008
All Encompassing Grace
By Mrs. Kavitha Sriram
Bringing Cheer to Seventy-Seven Babies
Swami’s 77th birthday was fast approaching when I had humbly proposed to the members of our Sai Center in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, that we take up a special service project such as the sewing or knitting of baby blankets, to live His message that the “Hands that serve are holier than the lips that pray.” My idea had its roots in the Anantapur college tradition, when final year students take up a hands-on project to express their gratitude to our Chancellor, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, prior to our graduation.
As I was planning on traveling to India during the time of Swami's birthday, I volunteered to carry whatever we made. Everyone agreed and I was given responsibility to coordinate the entire effort. We decided to do 77 baby quilts. Even though I was in charge of the project, I had no clue about stitching or sewing. I surrendered my lack of needle-and-thread abilities to Swami and reposed my trust in Him to guide me.
Immediately thereafter, we began procuring materials for the project as we had just 3 months in hand. We were still doubtful about completing the whole endeavour successfully because there were no sewing specialists in our center. We held on to the faith that we are but instruments in His Divine Hands, and that His grace would empower us to execute His will.
Guided by His unseen Hand, slowly, but surely, things started to shape up. Every Sunday after the Center sessions I reported the progress to the president of our Sai Centre. One such Sunday night I had a dream in which our beloved Swami called me by name, enquired about the work going on and then even asked me about the number of quilts completed?
In my dream, I was able to recall the exact details as I had just relayed the same information to our centre President in that evening. Swami listened carefully to my brief update and said that He was very happy about it.
Next morning I couldn’t wait to share my dream encounter with the Lord with everyone involved in the project. We were all overjoyed and knew Swami was with us and guiding us through. Despite the lack of talent, the task was completed well ahead of time and our parcel of love was shipped to Puttaparthi. When I went to Prasanthi Nilayam that year, I requested that I be allowed to tell Bhagavan about the quilts.
But when Swami came near, I was so overwhelmed by His love that I could not utter a single word. I simply spoke to Him in my heart. And Swami was talking to another devotee but looking at me all the while. I felt that this was enough of a confirmation!
Later, after I was back in the US, we got to know that Swami did accept a sample piece shown to Him and carried it to His interview room. Everyone was ecstatic at this gesture of Divine Affirmation.
Ever since then, during Swami’s birthday every year, it has become a tradition for us to undertake a special service activity to express our love by reaching out to Him among the needy, as He so lovingly always reminds us that “Service to God is service to man”.
The following year too, He graciously accepted the sample package and instructed that the first piece be given to the first child born on November 23 in His Hospital in Puttaparthi.
Swami inspires us in many ways and instantly acknowledges every single sincere gesture of ours, however small and insignificant it may seem. We think, in our small human minds, that we are doing something for society, but He does not need our help. It is a chance given to us to improve ourselves.
For me, each little blanket is a baby step towards my self-transformation. He affirms our efforts and reminds us in a million different ways to live in the awareness of His Universal Self which is always present everywhere and in everyone. This is a big lesson and I learnt it the hard way, and this is how He taught me.
This happened the second time I was visiting India in March, 2004. This visit was extra special as this time I was a new mom and was very eager to go to Puttaparthi so that my little one could catch a glimpse of the Lord - even though she had barely started looking people in the eye. Well, that was my plan. But the Lord works in mysterious ways and His game plan sometimes can be quite unexpected. As His children, we have to be ready to deal with it and accept it, as I soon found out.
I ended up in Chennai, for the entire 3 month period and found that I could not attend even one bhajan session or Darshan of the Lord. Robbers broke into my in-laws home in Chennai and in this incident I lost almost all my wedding jewellery including the ones made for my little daughter. It was a tragic setback. Needless to say, I was devastated. Most of our time and energy was spent on visiting the police station and following up on the paper trail in wake of this huge loss. The net result was, even though I was in India, I still could not make it to Puttaparthi. Remembering Swami’s advice that “Money comes and goes, morality comes and grows”, we prepared ourselves to return to the United States.
Just before boarding the flight to the United States, after passing through the gate, I noticed a small window. I cast one longing look through it, feeling terribly sad that I was leaving my motherland without even a single Darshan of Bhagavan. I was waiting in the line to board the plane.
With a heavy heart, I prayed to Swami to step into the aircraft ahead of me, as I always do. Just as I reached the door of the plane, to my utter surprise I saw two photos garlanded on either side of the door. On the left was that of Lakshmi-Ganesh-Saraswathi, and on the right side was Shirdi Baba!
Never before or after this incident, have I seen any pictures of God in the vicinity of an airplane? I was amazed at how Swami works! He gave me His Darshan just before I left my motherland. Along with the plane, my spirit was ready for take-off now.
On the day of the journey, my eight month old developed severe diarrhea and was running a high fever. I had even considered canceling my trip! Once inside the flight she was very cranky and cried her way out before falling asleep. Her loud crying drew the attention of fellow passengers. I felt nervous and embarrassed, and prayed for divine intervention.
Just then, an elderly lady who spoke Tamil, my mother tongue, came up to us and started enquiring why the baby was crying. She went on to say that she was visiting her son in the United States and that she was going for the delivery of her daughter-in-law.
She extolled how her son and daughter-in-law were part of a spiritual group that did parayanam (a regular recitation of a holy book) of the Divya Prabandham, a sacred scripture of the Vaishnavite Hindus. She also mentioned that it was her second trip to the United States but it was pretty scary for her this time because she was the first to enter the flight.
My husband and I were tired after a long day - the tension over making it to the flight and our sick child had worn us out. So I was almost falling asleep as this kind lady started narrating her story.
But something made me sit up and listen to her attentively. At the end of the conversation, I clearly remember her saying that she was a Sai devotee and that she believed only in Swami and also that she had Swami's padukas (Divine sandals) with her in the cabin.
So saying, she returned to her seat and came back with some Vibhuti, applied it to my child’s forehead and gave us some too. I was speechless! She then went back to her seat and promised to see us in Frankfurt where we would be stopping for the next flight.
Who Else Could It Be!
As soon as we reached Frankfurt, I urged my husband to go and help the lady with her cabin baggage. He went to the seat she had mentioned but found no one! The entire episode seemed so surreal. I started recalling every detail of our encounter with the lady.I realized I had prayed that Swami should enter the flight first and she had clearly mentioned that she was the first to enter the flight! And now she was nowhere to be seen!
In retrospect, I realized that every word this elderly lady had spoken was an appropriate response to my prayers to Swami. Can I ever describe the infinite Love of Mother Sai! Swami knows all of our earnest desires and fulfills them in His own way assuring that He is always with us.
The Divine can assume any form, at any time and place, as space and time are no barriers to the Universal Consciousness. But for His love we would be adrift in this world’s material pursuits. My only prayer is:
“O Lord, please give us the opportunity to be part of Your Divine mission in whatever little way possible so that we make our stay here fruitful. Also, be with us to show us the right path so that we may live our lives as Your message.”
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Vol 6 Issue 03 - MARCH 2008
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