Volume 7 - Issue 07
July 2009
Other Articles

How My Life Got its Value
- A conversation with Mrs. Carole Alderman


Mrs. Carole Alderman is the Director of the British Institute of Sathya Sai Education in Human Values in the UK. For the past 3 decades, Carole has devoted her time and energy to promoting the Education in Human Values Program among schools and teachers in Britian and other countries. In an interview with Heart2Heart, Carole spoke about her work and life as inspired by her divine teacher, Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Reproduced below are excerpts from the conversation.

H2H: Sairam and welcome to this special episode of a conversation with Mrs. Carole Alderman. Carole Alderman is the Director of the British Institute of Sathya Sai Education in Human Values based in the UK, and today she is going to talk to us about the theme of taking Bhagavan’s five human values into the British public school system.

Welcome Carole.

Carole Alderman (CA): Thank you.

H2H: Before we get down to business, would you like to briefly tell our readers, what was your life like, before Bhagavan entered it.

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Sai Alderman
 
Mrs. Carole Alderman

CA: It was totally different actually, because I had a very difficult teenage time and twenties. I had an early marriage and children. I became independent when I was very young and left home; I had a very, very difficult time… in an abusive situation. Later, when I was in my 30’s, I came across the School of Economic Science in London, where I went to study Philosophy. My eldest daughter, a very beautiful girl, who was 16 at that time, had a motoring accident. She was almost dead.

This had a deep impact on me; it made me completely rethink my value system. I joined the School of Economic Science and studied Philosophy where we studied Vedanta, the Upanishads and related subjects. It was the first time I’d ever heard the truth spoken… What I considered to be the truth. As a young child of 6 years, I used to take myself to the various churches in my hometown Ramsgate, a coastal town in Kent, England.

It was nice, I had a happy childhood. I used to love playing on the beach and had lots of relatives to visit. But, as I said, I’d left home early – I’d wanted to start my adventure in life. And, funnily enough, I wanted to learn Philosophy. But I’d got into this situation, marrying my first husband, and so eventually I did go to Philosophy.

H2H: Around what period of time was this? In the 1970’s maybe?

CA: Yes, this would have been in the late 70’s. And it was 5 years into that period of going to this Philosophy school that I heard about Sathya Sai Baba. By this time I had married again, to a wonderful husband. I’ve always said my 2 husbands were like Ravana and Rama. So I had this wonderful husband and we were both studying at the Philosophy school… And we’d come to the part where we were studying Adi Shankara’s commentary on Brahmasutras and I didn’t understand what he was talking about. Then my husband and I went on a holiday and… strange things started to happen - unusual things.

H2H: Like what?

Sai Alderman
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The famous book by
Mr. Howard Murphet
 

CA: Well, before we went, my husband went to the library and found a book sticking out at him. He picked it up and it was called Sai Baba: Man of Miracles by Mr. Howard Murphet. He brought it home and said, “This will be a nice book for you to take on holiday.” That’s the first book he had ever got from a library for me, and he’s rarely got a book since. That was the first thing that was strange – he got me this book from the library.

We always have wonderful, sunny holidays and it was a beautiful summer in England that year. But we went to France and it poured when we were there. So we had to stay in a cottage. This was in August 1983.

H2H: So you were housebound.

CA: Yes! And I was taken up with the book.  I read it from cover to cover, which is extremely unusual – I usually pick up bits and pieces. But I really loved this book and I loved the teachings; they were so simple and straightforward, and not hidden and complicated. So I was excited and wanted immediately to write and find out where this sage had lived, and what teachings he’d left behind him.

H2H: You said “had lived”… Why?

CA: Because I assumed he was dead. Then I realized that I couldn’t really find out much in France. If I waited till I got back to England, I had contacts and I could find out. On the way back to England, I started to notice little coincidences happening. We had gone by car and we got to the port. But the port was closed because of the weather, so we drove along the coast to the next port. Although we were the last, we were put onto the boat that was actually going back to England to cross the channel. We got back and as we were approaching our home in London, we were on a motorway.

I saw him lose control of the steering wheel; the car started to zigzag and we were just about to hit a concrete wall at 60 miles an hour. We were within a few metres of it. Then, into my head came the words from the book, uttered by Sai Baba, “By whatever name you call on Me, I will be with you.” So I said, “Sai Baba, I’m a Christian, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy upon me.” I got into a crash position and I thought, “I’m going to die now.”

And this motorway at a particular point has an adverse U-bend which we know very well. And as we came up to this U-bend, I was about to say to my husband, “Slow down,” because I always slow down on this bend. But it came into my head – don’t tell him to slow down, he’s been driving you for the last 2000 miles safely. So I didn’t; I continued to talk to him, and I saw the car going into a skid. I saw him lose control of the steering wheel; the car started to zigzag and we were just about to hit a concrete wall at 60 miles an hour. We were within a few metres of it.

Then, into my head came the words from the book, uttered by Sai Baba, “By whatever name you call on Me, I will be with you.” So I said, “Sai Baba, I’m a Christian, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy upon me.” I got into a crash position and I thought, “I’m going to die now.” And then I thought that’s going to be really interesting, because then I’ll find out about reincarnation! And I was quite interested in that.

H2H: A very unusual reaction for someone going through an accident!

CA: I was seeing everything very clearly, and we hit the wall. The car was thrown across the motorway, hit the wall on the other side, got thrown back and was turning… But the road had cleared so we didn’t hit anything. The car stopped, facing the wrong way on the hard shoulder, out of the way of the main road. My husband said to me, “Are you alright, darling?” I said yes, and he told me to get out of the car. So I got out of the car. And the car, apart from the seats and the windows and the windscreen, was a total wreck. It was completely crushed up.

H2H: And you were unscathed?

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Sai Alderman

CA: We were completely unhurt, in fact I felt very happy. I felt really quite elated, and happy… As if I’d been held in God’s hand. I mean, this was quite an unusual experience. The boot of the car wouldn’t open, it was completely crushed. When we eventually got the boot to open, there was a screwed up can of petrol in it – not a drop had leaked out.

H2H: My God! That is so unusual.

CA: Nothing had been hurt! And just at that moment, a police car came along. The police said, “We don’t normally travel on this road. But 10 minutes ago, the thought came into our minds to travel on this road on the route back to the station.” So they called the Automobile Association or AA and got us taken home, got the car towed home… It was very easy. I felt very happy. My husband had one scratch on his ankle, about a quarter of an inch long, and that was the total extent of our injuries...  We didn’t have any whiplash or anything wrong with us.

H2H: It was like you were held when you called out Jesus’ name.

It was very easy. I felt very happy. My husband had one scratch on his ankle, about a quarter of an inch long, and that was the total extent of our injuries...  We didn’t have any whiplash or anything wrong with us.
 

CA: Yes, and to Sai Baba. Because it felt as if we’d been on the bumper cars.

H2H: So after that, how did you go about searching for Him?

CA: When I got home, I told my daughter, who was there with a friend, about the accident. Within about 10 minutes, I’d totally forgotten about it and I was reading to them out of this book, Sai Baba: Man of Miracles. Two days later, the girl who was there (my daughter’s friend), said that there was a picture of that man in her driving instructor’s car. I told her to go find out who He was, and she rang me back and said that I could find out more about Him in a shop in Swiss Cottage.

H2H: And that was a distant neighbourhood for you.

CA: Well, that was part of London, but it was on the other side of London from where I lived. It was a part of London that I never went to. And on the Thursday, my daughter rang me up and said, “Mummy, come and meet me before you go to Philosophy class, and have a coffee with me.” So I said, “Yes, where are you?” to which she said, “I’m at Swiss Cottage!”

H2H: What a coincidence!

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Sai Alderman

CA: It was a total coincidence because, as I say, it was completely out of my path. We went there, we went to the shop and the man who was standing in the doorway asked whom we were looking for. I had to say, “Sai Baba,” though I hadn’t intended to tell him… Because I was a bit cautious. But he told me all about it and gave me a picture, and told me to contact Mr. Victor Kanu.

And from the time I’d heard that Sai Baba was a living person, I had a tremendously strong feeling – that I must go now, I’ve got to get there now, this afternoon… I’ve got to get my suitcase, got to get to the airport, got to get to see this person now.

Anyway we went to Kanus’ and had a very nice interview with him. I arranged with him in 3 weeks to see Sai Baba on Easter, with my husband and daughter – the one who had had the accident. She came too. It was in April 1984 that I first saw Sai Baba. And the moment I saw Him….

H2H: What was your first reaction?

CA: Wow… Wow, I’d never realized God was like this. So powerful. So beautiful. Because I knew I was going to see God, and I’d never realized Jesus must have been like this. Much greater than anything I could have imagined. Great power. And my husband knew that he’d come to an Avatar, too. He realized that on sight. My husband never came again for 12 years, but I came practically every year after that.

H2H: Tell me something… Your faith in His Avatarhood was based on the literature you had read, and the series of coincidences that had occurred in your life. And when you saw Him for the first time, you were convinced. Didn’t you need any other personal experience?

Sai Alderman
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CA: No, because there was this great power in His Being. It wasn’t the Being or the frame, it wasn’t the body – it was what was emanating from it. What it was. It was… something else. Something that I’d never experienced in this life before. I can’t say more than that. It was an intuitive knowing.

H2H: I understand what you mean. Now, considering the fact that you came here for the first time in 1984, today, by the year 2008, you’ve been such an effective instrument of taking His message of the Education in Human Values programme to so many schools across Europe, North America, and especially in the UK. How did that come about? How did you make the transition from just coming face-to-face with God to becoming such an effective instrument?

CA: About 2 years before I heard of Sathya Sai, I had been very disillusioned with the education system from my children’s education. I’d seen that they weren’t being taught anything to do with law, not even grammar, in school. Or, morality. I knew that within about 20 years, society was going to be plunged into quite a bad social environment. It was just going downhill. I was very concerned about children’s education, and I prayed about this issue.

When I returned from having seen Sathya Sai… I think, even before that, after I’d seen Victor Kanu, he’d had a conference on Education in Human Values in Monstead, and I’d attended. I started to work in a voluntary capacity for Victor Kanu as his assistant. I was practising meditation at the time, through the school of Philosophy, and his wife seemed to think that I had a peaceful influence on him. I worked as a sort of secretary to Victor and gave whatever help I could. When I returned, I continued helping him and I helped him for 5 years with EHV in the UK, and all the conferences – including going to Accra, the capital of Ghana, for the first African conference on EHV.

About 2 years before I heard of Sathya Sai, I had been very disillusioned with the education system from my children’s education. I’d seen that they weren’t being taught anything to do with law, not even grammar, in school. Or, morality. I knew that within about 20 years, society was going to be plunged into quite a bad social environment. It was just going downhill. I was very concerned about children’s education, and I prayed about this issue.

And then when Victor left – I think it was in 1989 - we didn’t have any EHV in the UK for I think 4 years. Then a new chairperson came up and I suggested to his wife that we start EHV again. They did, and a couple of years after that I was asked to be the National Convenor.

Sai Alderman
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Which I didn’t want to do – I did not want to do it at all, because I’m not a schoolteacher, I’m not a public person and I didn’t really feel I knew anything or was capable of doing or organizing anything. But I accepted the post because there was nobody else available then to do it – everybody else had left and gone off in different directions.

So what happened was that we had a meeting, and we called different people from around the country. It was February at that time. We decided that we would take EHV as a gift for Sathya Sai’s birthday in November, 15 lesson plans – one lesson plan on each of the 5 values in each of the 3 age groups.

I’d asked different people to send me some material – stories, songs, and so on. When I received the material, I found that nothing matched, and nothing was suitable for Western schools. It was all material from Eastern origins, and was religious material… And I knew that we couldn’t present it in a religious way.

H2H: And EHV is not about any religion… It’s about the values, which are beyond and above religion.

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Sai Alderman

CA: It was all that was available at that time. So I turned to Swami’s picture and I was absolutely desperate then. “I cannot do this. I’m not a teacher… I can’t make lesson plans; I can’t make one lesson plan… Please help me, I can’t do it!”

The following November, I attended His birthday, and we’d put a book together and it had 50 lesson plans in it. It was later divided into the first 3 books.

H2H: How did that miracle happen?

CA: It happened because having asked for help, people who had the necessary skills started to ring me up and I started to find material which was suitable. I had to borrow my husband’s laptop and I worked in the corner of the dining room, putting all this material together. Whenever I came to a difficulty, and I needed, maybe, a particular activity for a particular lesson plan, within 24 hours I’d have a phone call from an expert in some particular skill. For instance, maybe a drama teacher who could get me something or somebody else willing to help with that activity. It came about like that.

H2H: So it appeared like the universe was cooperating to make this huge grand purpose happen, because you had prayed to Swami and surrendered to Him… Tell me more about how Swami personally intervened in the process. You were talking about His involvement in the books that you wrote, and the blessings He gave you in the form of a japamala.

CA: Well, in November, I went for the birthday celebration and I had this book divided into 3 sections, with 50 lesson plans in it. At that time, we were allowed to take books into darshan. It was quite a big, heavy book. So I used to take it with me everyday into darshan, and wait for Him to give me an interview so that I could present it to Him and ask His opinion of it. He didn’t call me.

Day after day, I was sitting there with this book, and I eventually thought, “Well, You don’t want it… it’s no good.” I didn’t know whether it was any good or not, because I’m not a teacher; not in public schools, anyway. So I was sitting there and I said, “Well, Swami, this book obviously has taken quite a lot of months, quite a lot of work to do. But if it’s no good, You don’t want it, and I don’t want it… So I’m going to burn it.”

H2H: (Chuckles) Rather drastic, huh?

CA: Well… I was devoted to Swami. If He didn’t want it, then it was no good. It was rubbish. So, get rid of it!

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Sai Alderman

Anyway I waited another couple of days, I didn’t act hastily. After 2 days He called me for an interview, and He went through the book and blessed it. He asked me if I would promote Sathya Sai Education in Human Values in the UK, and I – rather boldly – said, “That is my intention, Swami.” And then I thought, “Oh! But this is going to be very difficult.”

Before the words “I need Your help, this is going to be difficult” had even gone through my mind, He waved His hand and produced this particular necklace, which has 101 beads. He put it over my head and around my neck and said, “Never take it off.” I said, “Huh?” And He said, “NEVER take it off.” So I don’t take it off. Not for any reason, ever.

And one of the effects of it – I know this because once it got taken off accidentally – is that it has a complete link with Him. If I think of doing anything wrong, I immediately know I mustn’t do it. And as I say, I knew because a few years ago I’d accidentally taken it off with another necklace and I didn’t have it for 2 days… I told somebody to do something which was wrong. I mean, in the circumstances it seemed very justifiable but actually it was wrong; it wasn’t truthful. So, since I found the necklace I put it back on and found that person quickly and told him, “Don’t do what I told you to do; it’s not right.”

H2H: So when you’re wearing it, you feel connected with Swami and in case you’re thinking a thought that’s not appropriate what happens?

CA: I get a sort of knocking in the head.

(To be continued...)

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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