A job well begun, they say, is half done. How about a beginning in the physical presence of the Divine Himself! Can it get any better? No wonder, come every New Year and Prasanthi Nilayam is transformed into a bustling beehive, with excited ‘bees’ from all around the globe eager to drink in the nectar of His bliss, His Presence and His Love. For the thousands who make it to this divine hamlet, it is undoubtedly an unmatched blessing. But in the year 2007, this fortune was available for millions. Bhagavan, the “Queen Bee’, Himself ‘flew’ to one of the largest metropolitan cities of India, Chennai, and granted this ambrosial experience to a massive multitude. In fact, what happened in that capital city of the state of Tamil Nadu, the land of temples, can only be described as ‘unprecedented and unimaginable.”
When Bhagavan landed on this historic land on January 19, 2007, it was as if Chennai was swept by a tsunami of Love. From every nook and corner of this 8-million strong metropolis, masses converged in ‘Sundaram’, His Divine abode, and in Thiruvanmayur, the site of the grand Athi Rudra Maha Yagna, which was being conducted, as Bhagavan explained, for the welfare of entire humanity. The historic city was beholden to Baba, and there were too many reasons for this.
While the devotees were ecstatic to have their beloved Lord amidst them after a long gap of ten years, the entire populace of Chennai proffered their heartfelt gratitude to Bhagavan for putting an end to their century long distress of dismal and inadequate drinking water. In the grand function that was organised in the Nehru Stadium by The Chennai Citizens Conclave on January 21, Mr. Karunanidhi, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, said, “Earlier, the people of Chennai had ‘kaneer’ (tears), but now they were blessed with ‘taneer’ (water).” Actually, now there were both; but the former was out of overwhelming love and gratitude to Sai. Every single evening of the 13 days that Bhagavan stayed in that tech-city was taken up by a particular section of society such as lawyers, educationists, policemen and so on, who gathered in large numbers to express their heartfelt feelings to Bhagavan personally.
When it was the opportunity of the doctors on January 28, the city’s competent medical fraternity came up with a simple yet powerful idea to offer their homage at His lotus feet. It was the birth of Sri Sathya Sai Healthcare Project. Their goal was to deliver the best tertiary care possible to the economically worst section of the population, constantly and completely free of charge. So, what did they do? Did they start to build a Super Specialty Hospital like in Puttaparthi and Whitefield? Well, they did not exactly do that, but achieved what these ‘Temples of Healing’ accomplish and possibly more.
Till date, nearly 500 indigent patients have found inspiration and hope, to live and rebuild their lives, thanks to this novel medical initiative. This project has hundreds of supporters, but no employees; dozens of surgeries are being done, week after week, but it has no building or infrastructure; name any specialty of medicine, and it always has the best expertise available; its human resource is enormous and enthusiastic; it neither has a permanent director, nor regular technical officers or paramedics, nor even a steady stream of revenue, but nothing hinders its aim of incessant alleviation of the suffering of the poor.
And the difference it has made in the lives of not only the patients, but also in thousands of others, who are directly or remotely associated in this sacred endeavour, is simply stupendous. That is the beauty of Sri Sathya Sai Healthcare Project. Now, the moot question is – how does it function? What is the great idea? We will leave that for you to explore in our cover story, which is in two parts.
But what we can share with you now is the fundamental basis on which this fantastic medical innovation operates, and also why we chose this as the theme of our cover story this New Year.
During this same January 2007 visit, speaking to the people of Chennai on one occasion, Swami said, “This human life has been gifted to support one another. When the mother is strong, she should take care of the child; similarly, once the son has come of age, he should ensure the welfare of his mother. Why do we have these relationships? It is only to share the property of love, not to distribute wealth! The expansion of love is the principle of relationships. People may live under the same roof, but without love, it is useless. The stronger ones should support the weak. We should shed tears when we see the poor, suffering and needy. Compassion should flow spontaneously from our hearts. That is the noblest dharma (virtue). That is love, Divine Love.”
This is precisely what the Divine in human form has demonstrated in His life right from the days when He was little ‘Sathya’. When a beggar called out for alms at the door, Sathya ran and gleefully offered his share of food without a second thought. When his earthly father brought clothes for all in the family, He waited for all to pick their choices and gladly accepted the one rejected by all. When His sister-in-law asked Him to deliver two pitchers full of water everyday from a well located miles away from their home, Sathya did it with a smile. It is the same joy with which Bhagavan opened the first Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital in Prasanthi Nilayam in 1954.
Since then, it has only been one steady but determined step after another, decade after decade, in His absolutely unique mission of holistic healthcare. While the second Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, now in Whitefield, came into being in 1970s, the next decade saw a completely modern and expanded General Hospital at Puttaparthi. This was followed, in early 1990s, by the unfurling of the world’s first state-of-the-art and totally free Super Specialty Hospital in Puttaparthi – a ‘miracle of love’ which many even now, especially in the West, refuse to believe is true and possible. And then, with the coming of the new millennium, arrived the majestic Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences at Whitefield, Bangalore.
Incidentally, this edifice was inaugurated in this month of January, eight years ago. Being a young and vibrant home of healing, the strides this institution has made in various spheres of its operation, in these few years, is truly commendable. Starting from maintaining a robust Healthcare Information Management System, to offering services to patients located in remote areas through telemedicine, to the setting up of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Allied Health Sciences for providing free paramedical training courses, to creating a Learning Management System for all its employees, to adding a hostel for patients’ relatives, an indoor sports complex for the employees’ children…the list goes on. Read our article about this marvel of healing on the move, in the Healing Touch section.
The only common thread that runs though all these magnificent institutions of Bhagavan Baba is the feeling of Pure Love, expressed as selfless service. This is exactly the principle on which the relatively recent Sri Sathya Sai Healthcare Project in Tamil Nadu runs too. Not only in Tamil Nadu, there is no place in the world where this formula demonstrated by the Divine has not worked. This New Year issue has a touching illustration of this in the Sai Seva section. It is the moving story of how the islanders in New Zealand welcomed Bhutanese refugees, who had lived in temporary shelters (at times nine people inside one hut) in north-east Nepal for 17 long years. The Asian refugees, now completely at home in New Zealand, say, “This is not New Zealand, this is ‘ New Silent Land’; everybody here is so loving and cooperative.” Tell this to the Kiwi Sai devotees and they say, “Our goal is to transform New Zealand into a ‘New Sailand’, just how Bhagavan had referred to it on one occasion.”
Well, this is what everyone should aspire to do wherever they are – create a kingdom of Sai, of Love, however tiny it may be, through selfless service. In the New Year message in 1997, Bhagavan said, “From today try to cleanse the heart of whatever impurities there may be in it. How is this to be done? One is by meditating on God; and secondly, by rendering service to society. Only through these two can one achieve purity of the heart. If you secure the love of God, you can secure anything. There is love in you. Use it to win the love of God.” And we know the best way to do this is to see ‘Sai’ in all, and serve them with all our heart, all our mind, and all our soul.
Let’s start this New Year with a new zeal to be pure and to subsume ourselves in the service of the poor.