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The Miracle of a Lifetime
By Mr. Vijay Sohni


A spirited Sai Youth from Indore, Madhya Pradesh, Mr. Vijay Sohni serves as Assistant Commercial Tax Officer in the Government of Madhya Pradesh. He is also the Convenor of the Indore Sai Samithi and the Madhya Pradesh State Coordinator of Prasanthi Service.

Miracles fascinate all of us. When Bhagavan Baba creates lockets, chains, rings, etc. it baffles us, but Swami says these are not chamatkars (miracles) done to earn namaskars (respect and adulation); these are not pradarshans (exhibitions of power), but nidarshans (evidences of My divinity). These materializations, therefore, are only gifts of His love, a means to another fantastic end, which is the transformation of hearts – the real and lasting miracle. And the story of my life is one such fascinating miracle.

Swami and Me Sohni
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Shirdi Sai Baba
 

Living a Wayward Life

From my very childhood the members of my family worshipped Shirdi Sai Baba as God, but we did not have faith in Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Actually, on the contrary, I used derogatory language when referring to Sai Baba; I had no love or respect for Him. This was partly because there was no place for spirituality in my life then; mine was completely materialistic.

Though I belonged to a Brahmin family (the priestly class of Hindus), I often went against the traditional norms, and indulged in non-vegetarian food, and occasionally, even shared alcoholic drinks with friends.

It was during this period, 1985-86, that I appeared for the State Civil Services Examination. And in this, I indicated my first preference for the Sales Tax Department (now called Commercial Tax), for the sole reason that it was a ‘lucrative’ department for ‘extra income’. I was duly selected for the post of Sales Tax Inspector and was posted in Indore (the commercial capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh, India) in 1987. In no time, I was attracted towards the evils of the department, and eventually I got involved in it quite deeply. I was tutored by my seniors about the ways of making ‘quick money’.

 

I returned home everyday with ‘extra cash’ in my pockets; I did not mind spreading wrong information or even giving veiled threats to businessmen. From 10 in the morning till 9 in the night, I was in the market, moving from one business enterprise to another; I was annoyed if any of the shop owners did not do my bidding.

I returned home everyday with ‘extra cash’ in my pockets; I did not mind spreading wrong information or even giving veiled threats to businessmen. From 10 in the morning till 9 in the night, I was in the market, moving from one business enterprise to another; I was annoyed if any of the shop owners did not do my bidding. “Nobody dare hurt me” was what I conveyed verbally and otherwise; my ego was obvious and demanded compliance from everyone on my own terms.

During this time I visited an astrologer who, on reading my horoscope, prophesied that a change for the better will come in my life in 1994-95. My immediate thought was that I could be posted in a flying squad (which conducts surprise raids on suspected offenders) and my ‘extra income’ would jump enormously. In 1992, our family was blessed with the birth of my daughter, and four years later, I admitted her in Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vihar, purely because it was a school of repute in my city, Indore.

At the time of her admission, a close friend of mine talked highly about Bhagavan Baba to me. He had just returned from Puttaparthi and said, “Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is not only Shirdi Sai Baba Himself, but also the reincarnation of Lord Krishna, Rama and Jesus Christ too!” I dismissed this idea entirely initially, but later I thought to myself, “Whoever this person may be, I should at least familiarise myself about Him as my daughter is studying in a school which bears His name”.

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Swami and Me Sohni

And so, I started going for Sai bhajans to the house of my friend. Casually, I started attending the programmes of the Sai Centre too. After a while, I do not know how and why, I developed this desire to visit Puttaparthi at least once.

Coming Closer to God

In October 1995, I traveled to Puttaparthi alone. The ashram was abuzz with Dasara celebrations then. Even during this time, I had no special respect for Bhagavan Baba, but maybe I was more open. I sat for darshan everyday, and for three days Swami did look at me. However, on the fourth day, the day I was scheduled to return, Swami came and stood right in front of me.

I do not know what happened to me then; I suddenly burst into tears like a child. My hands automatically folded in obeisance to Him; the next instant I bent down completely and touched His lotus Feet. It was such an elevating experience; He made me feel so light. I cannot really describe that experience in words.

After this first rendezvous with the Revered One, I was definitely a much different person. Once I returned to Indore, I started participating in the activities of the Sai Samithi with great enthusiasm. I also decided that I would join the Sai Organisation formally as a Sevadal volunteer and serve at Puttaparthi whenever there was an opportunity. And this chance materialised for me in September 1996.

I do not know what happened to me then; I suddenly burst into tears like a child. My hands automatically folded in obeisance to Him; the next instant I bent down completely and touched His lotus feet. It was such an elevating experience; He made me feel so light. I cannot really describe that experience in words.

 

This second journey to Puttaparthi in 1996 was truly the turning point of my life. In fact, Swami was giving me indications of things to come much before I reached Puttaparthi on that visit. At about 5 o’clock, while I was still in the train, Baba appeared in my dream and asked, “What do you want?” I was startled. I just said, “I only crave for Your love and blessing.” Then He smiled, and again said, “This you have anyway, ask for something else.” I had no other reply; I made the same request again. After this, Swami disappeared and I woke up with a start.

It was the first time I saw Swami in my dream. I wasn’t sure how to understand this; I conjectured that I dreamt about Him probably because I had been thinking about Him. After reaching Puttaparthi, I immediately went for darshan. And while waiting for Swami, I saw a person next to me reading a Sai book (those days books were allowed during darshan time).

I was inquisitive and asked him if I could see through the book for a few seconds. He obliged and when I opened the book I became still. The bold inscription on the page I opened was an excerpt from Swami’s discourse which said, “I appear in dreams at My will. If you think that I appear because of your thinking, you are mistaken.” Instantly, all doubts about His mysterious appearance vanished! This was just the beginning.

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Swami and Me Sohni

On the morning of September 26, 1996, I waited in line for His darshan, and was lucky to get the front row. When Swami arrived, He came very near me, and accepted a letter from a devotee sitting on my right. I too tried to present my letter, but He showed both His hands, which were full with letters, and gestured as if to say, “See, I have no room for your letter”.

So, I withdrew my hand. But in the next second, to my surprise, I saw Him collecting a letter from another devotee sitting on my left! This was depressing; when I came out of darshan, I had a bee in my bonnet. I went into a self-introspection mode.

On the Path of Self Introspection

The voice of my conscience was now speaking louder than ever; my evil habit of taking bribes bothered me terribly. I resolved then and there that I will not accept anything unofficial in future, and mentally, I made this solemn and solid commitment to Swami. The next day, I was fortunate again to find myself in the first line.

This time too, Swami came straight to me, but now, He lovingly accepted my letter without a word. Not only this, He granted me the chance to touch His Feet too. I came out of darshan as if I was in seventeenth heaven. Joyously I shared my happiness with a senior member of our Sai Samithi, who was also present there, and he explained to me that by not accepting my letter on the first day Swami clearly conveyed that He is not interested in a corrupt devotee. I had learnt a vital lesson of my life, but the Lord did not rest at this.

Now, before I started for Puttaparthi on that occasion, I was to do a market survey which could have easily yielded me over a lakh of rupees in unaccounted income. After I returned from Swami, my clerk informed me, with a heavy heart, that my area of operation has been changed, and the present one would fetch me much less income. In other words, my ‘extra cash’ had shrunk a great deal.

If I was my former self, I would have got wild with my officer. Certainly I would have picked up a quarrel with him, and harbored jealousy against the inspector who had snatched my money-spinning assignment. But now, it did not bother me.

When I set out to the market for my new assignment, shopkeepers, like always, came forward offering me bribes, lest I might write adversely about them in my report. But when I refused, they were obviously surprised, and happy too. In my hearts of hearts, I was so glad and thanked Swami profusely for cleaning my life up so amazingly.

 

Putting Everything in His Hands

When I set out to the market for my new assignment, shopkeepers, like always, came forward offering me bribes, lest I might write adversely about them in my report. But when I refused, they were obviously surprised, and happy too. In my hearts of hearts, I was so glad and thanked Swami profusely for cleaning my life up so amazingly.

I gave up drinking and non-vegetarian food too. My colleagues and officers could not believe the transformation they saw in me. Many thought this would not last and tried to lure me back to my old ways. “How are you going to maintain your family with your limited salary?”, “You have a daughter, remember that! You are going to need plenty of funds for her one day…”, “Have you gone nuts?” and so on. They tried to influence me through many clever arguments and strategies. But my only answer was, “All this does not bother me; everything is Swami’s problem.”

All said and done, it was not easy. Once I stopped taking bribes, my revenue stream shrunk. To manage the household expenses with my inadequate income, we cut down our desires. Earlier, I changed my dress twice a day, but now I am happy with a change once in two days. We decided to restrict the size of our family and reduced all avoidable expenditure.

For three full years, it was a financial tight-rope walk. But I was determined to follow this new path; it had given me so much peace. I was sure Swami would help us and He did. Eventually, my wife was appointed as a teacher in Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vihar with a decent salary. This solved all our problems. But how this happened is also interesting.

Dispelling All Doubts

Even though I became convinced about Swami’s divinity in 1996, my wife was not. In June 1999, for the first time I came to Puttaparthi along with my wife and little daughter. For my wife, Lord Shiva was God, none else. And that very night in Puttaparthi, Swami appeared in her dream, and she saw that there was a snake wreathed round His neck, just like it is with Lord Shiva. This aroused her faith in Baba; still, she was not completely doubtless.

What is more heartening, though, is that my transformation has inspired many other officers to rethink about their wrong ways. Today almost everybody in the office greets me with ‘Sai Ram’! Bhagavan Baba has transformed my life, in and out. When I recollect the prophecy of the astrologer now, I understand the true import of his words.

On the second day of our stay in Puttaparthi, I joined the darshan lines at 4 a.m., and when I left the room, I told my wife to follow a little later, carrying along Maitreyee, our tiny daughter. But given her shaky faith in Baba, she did not take this seriously, and slept through the morning darshan. When my 7-year old Maitreyee woke up at 7 a.m., she cried incessantly for missing darshan; she loved Swami dearly.

Therefore, the next day, she was up at 4 a.m. and tagged along with me to see Swami. She was a small girl, so I could have her with me on the gents’ side. Before Swami arrived that day, she confided with me that Baba had appeared in her dream the previous night and promised her that He would grant her padnamaskar at 7 the next morning.

And so, she sat with eagerness and expectation. I told her Swami always keeps His word. And that’s exactly how it unfolded. At 7 a.m sharp Swami was right in front of us, and even though she was sitting in the third row, she just walked up to Swami fearlessly and the Lord too blessed her profusely as she touched His Feet.

Now, this was a moment of revelation more for my wife than anybody else. This sealed her faith in Bhagavan. Soon, my mother too became a sincere devotee, and Sai became the sole inspiration and personal God of our entire family.

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Swami and Me Sohni
Eversince the paradigm shift in his personality engineered by Bhagavan,
Mr. Sohni has been engaged in all service activities of the Sai Organisation

Work Becomes Sadhana

Meanwhile, my office environment saw a lot of changes; every activity was now being computerized. This alteration brought Mr. Hari Ranjan Rao as the Additional Commissioner to my department. He was a staunch Sai devotee right from his childhood and was happy to entrust me with many important responsibilities. In fact, one of the projects was inaugurated by the then Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh in 2003.

And on that occasion, I was awarded a certificate of appreciation along with five other top officers. I know certainly that all this has been purely because of His grace. Even today I continue to work in the computer section, and recently have been given a promotion too!

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Swami and Me Sohni
Sai guided him and guarded him, always
 
Receiving the Divine gift of His Robe!

What is more heartening, though, is that my transformation has inspired many other officers to rethink about their wrong ways. Today almost everybody in the office greets me with ‘Sai Ram’! Bhagavan Baba has transformed my life, in and out. When I recollect the prophecy of the astrologer now, I understand the true import of his words. Yes, my life has undergone a great metamorphosis. And I do not know how to thank Swami for the amazing miracle that He has performed on me!


Dear Reader, did this article inspire you in any way? Would you like more such stories from devotees who have been touched by His Love? Please write to us at [email protected] mentioning your name and country. Thank you for your time.


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Vol 7 Issue 01 - JANUARY 2009
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