Volume 7 - Issue 09
September 2009
Other Articles

 

THE BEAUTIFUL AND BLISSFUL DAYS OF MY LIFE

My surprise entry into the Sri Sathya Sai University,
the first fabulous divine encounter, sweet memories of being
in Brindavan, and much more…

By Mr. O. S. K. S. Sastry


Mr. Sastry joined the Sri Sathya Sai University in 1988 for his Bachelors in Science and distinguished himself as a brilliant student by winning a gold medal in his Masters in Sciences (Physics) in 1993. Later on he completed his two-year Masters in Technology in the same university. Currently he serves as a faculty member in the Department of Physics in the Brindavan campus of the Sri Sathya Sai University and also pursues his Ph. D in the field of nuclear medicine. He is a gifted artist and a dramatist.

It is really surprising that even though I am from Andhra Pradesh, I did not know about Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba till I was 18. It is only after my Grade 12 exams that my father gave me an application form from the Sri Sathya Sai University to fill up. This was for enrollment in the Sai University’s Bachelors in Sciences program. I was actually writing several qualifying entrance examinations at various universities.

I had applied to more than seven institutions, each one set in a different location. When my father gave me this application form in 1988, I just thought, ‘Why not apply here too, I am anyway applying in so many places’. And so, I casually filled the form. Little did I know then how different it would feel when I would come to this place (Prasanthi Nilayam) to write the examination.

I remember I came on June 1, 1988 as an exuberant, very excited young man, and met a lot of my soon-to-be classmates and everyone was agog discussing things like, “I was in sevadal”, “I am in pre-sevadal”, “I have gone through three levels of Bal Vikas (Sai Education in Human Values)” and so on. And here I was, coming to know of Sai for the very first time.

I had absolutely no idea what Bal Vikas meant. So, I was feeling a little out of place but said to myself that I would do my best. Around this time, I met one of my best friends to-be, Venkateswar Prusty. He is the one who actually introduced me to what Swami stands for and advised me not to worry, as everything would turn out alright. He said, “Do your best”.

One day Swami suddenly came and asked, ‘What is there in My hand?’ We said, “Swami, nothing”. Then He said, “Eh, see carefully.” “Swami, we can’t see anything.” Now, Swami stated: “Everything is there in this hand.” The next moment, Swami created a ring and in that was the Vishwa roopa darshan (or the Vision of the Cosmic Form). And inside that was a figure of Shirdi Baba, and within that the image of Swami.

Finally at Home - Where Supreme Peace Seeps into the Soul

The Prasanthi Mandir morning ambience in the 1980s. Each absorbed himself in the sublime silence that pervaded the air and awaited the Lord with eager anticipation

The next morning, he took me to attend the morning prayers, suprabhatam, in the Prashanti Mandir. That was one of the very best moments in my life. As I sat there listening to the chirping of the birds in that beautiful silence inside the Mandir, I was filled with a sublime feeling; an indescribable experience engulfed me. I had never before felt such peace in my life. One might wonder what an 18-year old might know about peace but, I can say only this much – I was really peaceful. I felt so calm and at home. Intuitively I felt as if I belonged to this place. And that is when the omkars got over and the suprabhatam started.

In my mind I prayed to Swami, “Bhagavan, if you were to take only the good boys in your college and make them better, what big challenge is that? You have to take people like me who have gone off the track and make us good human beings. That is really something. So, please do consider me and take me into Your institute.”

This was much before I saw Swami, or before I wrote the entrance examination. Later that morning at 9’O clock was the entrance test. But, this prayer just came out from my heart. I knelt down in Mandir and then left the sacred premises. Then of course the entrance examination went off very well because I had been already preparing for IITs and engineering exams. And then was the interview. When my turn came, they just asked me my name. I said, “O. S. K. S. Sastry” and they asked me to expand it. “Sri Krishna Subramanya Sastry,” I replied. The interviewers then said, “Krishna and Subramanya, both in the same name!” I said, “All gods are one, Sir.” So they were happy.

But what they questioned next actually stunned me. One of them asked, Will you join our college? Here I was wondering whether I will get a seat in this college, and right in the interview room, even before the results were announced, he was offering me a seat!

But, I did not know what to say. I just said I would have to ask my father and then let them know. The interviewer explained, “Look, this is very difficult to get. So, please ensure that you reply to us within a week. Send us a telegram with your decision. If you are not coming, we can offer the place to someone else.” I said I most certainly would and left.

Life Begins to Flow along a Divine Pattern

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As I reached Hyderabad from Puttaparthi, the first experience, in a series of divinely planned events, unfolded. Quite unexpectedly, right there at the railway station itself I met my father.

He was coming from Vishakapatnam to Hyderabad and both of us arrived at the same time. I told him everything. He advised me to ask my grandmother, and do whatever she says. Imagine this, my grandmother barely has a 3rd grade education but despite her lack of formal schooling, she had such wisdom that for us, she was the world.

When we were small, she was the one who taught us the sacred epics of Ramayana, Mahabharatha and Bhagavatha. So even though I thought I had not gone through the formal Bal Vikas program, much later I came to realize that thanks to her, I had been raised in an environment steeped in the values that the Bal Vikas program aims to draw from within each child.

Being from a very orthodox family we had lived our lives bound by tradition. So when I asked my grandmother if I should accept the seat at the Sai University, she straight away said, “Yes, go and join.”

So I came on June 1988 and that was the first time I had Bhagavan’s darshan in shed number 20 where Swami was to address some devotees from the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. I remember Swami coming in His red Benz car and that was My first darshan, a moment to remember forever.

Lord Rama to Sai Rama: The Insightful and Intuitive Transition

We were devotees of Lord Sri Rama before coming to the Sai circle and what happened next was very meaningful for me. Before Swami spoke, two other speakers addressed the assembly. One of them was a devotee of Lord Sri Rama and happened to be from Hyderabad as well. He just expressed his feelings as to how Rama and Swami are the same. And then Swami created a ring for him, and explained how this person, being a staunch devotee of Lord Rama, prepares the grains for his meals in a special manner. Swami described that the gentleman takes a daily quantity of grains, and charges each one of them with divine energy by chanting Lord Rama’s name, as he puts it aside. How much ever food he is able to bless thus is what he cooks and eats; nothing more or less.

Suddenly Swami told him, “Eh, don’t eat. It will spoil your throat.” He just smiled and took the wafer. Now, Swami was actually walking and distributing it to everyone. After a while, He returned, and now took the wafer from him and blew on it. It transformed into a huge diamond. Then Swami said, “See, if you had eaten this it would have cut your throat!”

The gentleman’s level of devotion, as vouched by Swami, really touched me. It was the first time I was seeing Bhagavan, and as I mentioned earlier, we were devotees of Rama and here Swami was talking about Rama and the devotion to Rama, and how it is so important to have such devotion, and so on. So, I just knew He had to be God. It was like a natural transition, I should say. There was never again another doubt. I just continued to believe that He is the same as Rama. So, when I came here my father gave me a photograph of Rama, Lakshmana, Seetha, and Hanuman, and that was the first thing I placed in my altar at the hostel.

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Mr. Sastry blessed with the opportunity of chanting Vedic hymns in the divine presence

An Auspicious Start – Learning Directly from the Divine Chancellor

On June 24, Swami wanted to speak to us and since we were in hundreds, He asked us to assemble in the Institute auditorium. In fact, every year Swami used to welcome the students, the first orientation was from Bhagavan Himself. That was a wonderful experience for each and every one of us. Every fresher cherished the opportunity to interact with the University’s Divine Chancellor before embarking on the academic session.

In His discourse, Swami outlined the core philosophy and objective of the University and guided us on our behaviour, and stated how to become an ideal and good student. He told us, “Give up your old company. Tell me your company, and I shall tell you what you are.” I remember Swami saying that the first thing we should develop is good company, which means we had to give up all our unworthy associations. He also told us not to see movies and gave many such small advises which were simple and yet so important to make that transition of becoming a Sai student.

Life in Brindavan Campus: A Saga of Blissful Years Begin…


After I joined the Brindavan campus of the University, Swami came within about two months on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi. At that time, in the interview room, Swami gave us Vibhuti prasadam and one photograph of His divine form, bearing the blessing hand, with the message ‘why fear when I am here.’ I placed it on my altar beside the picture of Lord Rama, and this divine gift always assures me that He is always with me.

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He asked, “Did you eat? Did you give it to you wife? Did you eat the twig?” And then He added, “Next year come back with a son.”

Then, as He was going inside, Swami just turned and said, “Boys, any of you want a son?”

We all said, “No Swami”. He asked again, “Anybody wants a daughter?”

“No Swami,” we replied vociferously. Then, He smiled enigmatically and remarked, “Son is knowledge, daughter is peace. I wanted to give you, both knowledge and peace. But you don’t want. What can I do?”

Then we all shouted, “Swami, please, we want Swami”!

   
       

In Brindavan, my very first memorable experience was the darshan along the central path in front of Trayee Brindavan (Swami’s residence). All the elders and guests would stand there, and we were there right behind them. Once, when I was just sitting in front of the crouton plant waiting for Swami’s darshan, Bhagavan came out and asked one of the guests, You want a son, I know. Swami suddenly took out a twig from that crouton that I had not noticed till then and threw it at the person and said, You eat half and give the rest to your wife; dont leave the twig. That man was obviously happy. After this, Swami went out for darshan by gliding past us.

While speaking to his person at length, He had stood right in front of me and I managed to place my hand on His feet for a long time. I was thrilled at this opportunity. Soon, Swami returned after granting darshan in the Sairam Shed (the area where the Sai Ramesh Hall now stands). And as He walked back, again He stood in front of me and talked to the same gentleman. He asked, Did you eat? Did you give it to you wife? Did you eat the twig? And then He added, Next year come back with a son. Then, as He was going inside, Swami just turned and said, “Boys, any of you want a son?” We all said, “No Swami”. He asked again, “Anybody wants a daughter?” “No Swami,” we replied vociferously. Then, He smiled enigmatically and remarked, Son is knowledge, daughter is peace. I wanted to give you, both knowledge and peace. But you dont want. What can I do? Then we all shouted, Swami, please, we want Swami!

The first experience you have with God is always the dearest one. It stays on with you forever. After this, there were plenty of such instances and slowly I came to a state of complete surrender.

The Divine Teacher Touched and the Talents Blossomed

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The author's prayer was answered. The painting was blessed and
his faith strengthened

As a student, I used to be an artist and enjoyed sketching. When Swami came to Brindavan, I remember drawing Swami’s feet while sitting there in darshan. And the Lord came and blessed my creation. But I wanted Swami to sign it, so I kept praying. As Swami went to Sairam Shed to grant darshan, the intensity of my prayers increased. “Swami, please sign it for me! I will keep it in the centre of my altar.” Actually, I had never thought about it, this prayer just came spontaneously.

Swami did accede to my request! He came and signed it, and also blessed me by touching my head, and then returned the painting to me. So that day any trace of duality between Sai and Lord Rama dissolved, and on my altar, the image of Lord Rama inched to the side as the autographed Lotus Feet of my Lord Sai Rama took centre-stage.

The three years I spent in Brindavan as His student from 1988-1991 have been my life’s best days. After that, luckily, Swami has given me the opportunity to serve there as a lecturer.

I don’t remember ever being worried about academics, games, and so on - our focus at all times was only on Swami. We were constantly thinking how to please Swami.

On His part, Swami would come and talk to all of us, blessing us with wonderful chances. He would ask, ‘Any new boys?’ And anybody could raise his hand and speak in front of Him.

In fact, He would personally train the students. Brindavan was literally like a training ground. Inside the Trayee building, Bhagavan has trained speakers, singers, and given ample encouragement to artists. So many students have excelled purely by His blessings and grace.

Reinvigorating and Revealing Trayee Sessions

The most beautiful highlight of those days was His divine message every evening. We felt we were treated with heavenly nectar as He spoke everyday. Only those who have gone through it will know what it is to be inside Trayee Brindavan for the “Trayee Sessions”, where you have Swami spending time with all the students.

For example, one day Bhagavan talked about Gauranga and you could literally feel the devotion of Gauranga because the Lord himself was expressing the devotion of His devotee. You could actually feel the intensity of Gauranga’s devotion for Lord Krishna. It was so moving and uplifting!

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Swami in the jhula inside Trayee Brindavan
 

On another day, it was about Mahaveera and how He attained full control over his senses. At the end of it, I remember, Swami took a promise from all of us. He asked, How many of you will control your senses like Mahaveera, raise your hands, and give promise. I remember all of us raising our hands. The way Swami explained Mahaveera’s life and the amount of control he had achieved, inspired everybody.

When Swami spoke of the devotion of Gopikas, we could feel Krishna dancing, literally pining for the Gopikas. Imagine Swami explaining the feeling of each Gopika for two or three long hours! And then, there used to be the question and answer session where we could ask any question, does not matter whether it was spiritual or mundane.

Divine Mother Sai was there to guide if someone was worried about his wrong thoughts, to solving his dilemma about what kind of course or job he should take next, to sorting out his family problems, to answering questions about the importance of various activities done in the college and the hostel like suprabhatam (early morning prayers), night prayer, etc.

In fact, Swami encouraged us to question why we were doing many things in a certain way. Bhagavan says we should know the rationale behind what we are doing; simply following the routine without any understanding of its purpose is of no use. In spirit, we should know what we are doing and only then do it. I remember Swami saying, ‘You attend suprabhatam every day, and I will give you supreme grace.’ This is because there are certain things which we understand at a certain age, but there are other things for which we take time and really appreciate and understand them much later.

Amazing Lessons through Divine Playful Acts

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Once, the ever-playful Swami gave all of us chocolate wafers, which He distributed to each one of us individually. We would go over to Him, accept one and return. I had a classmate, Vijaya Sai, who was a very good singer and speaker too.

Suddenly Swami told him,
Eh, dont eat. It will spoil your throat. He just smiled and took the wafer. Now, Swami was actually walking and distributing it to everyone.

After a while, He returned, and now took the wafer from him and blew on it. It transformed into a huge diamond. Then Swami said, “See, if you had eaten this it would have cut your throat!”

Swami then smiled and passed along the diamond for everybody to see. It was a massive stone, too big to fold your palm around, and it was dazzling, brilliant and white. After everyone had seen it, Swami took it again into His hands and blew on it. Now it turned into a wafer again, and Swami gave it back to Vijaya Sai.

Like this there are so many wonderful moments. To recall another instance, one day Swami suddenly came and asked, What is there in My hand? We said, Swami, nothing. Then He said, Eh, see carefully. Swami, we cant see anything. Now, Swami stated: Everything is there in this hand. The next moment, Swami created a ring and in that was the Vishwa roopa darshan (or the Vision of the Cosmic Form). And inside that was a figure of Shirdi Baba, and within that the image of Swami. Later, Swami gave this to a boy.

I also remember there was a Tulasi plant right in the front, near the gate. Swami once plucked a leaf from it and started playing with it. As He came inside Trayee, He called all of us inside too. After we all were seated, He beckoned a very elderly devotee, Mr. Kakade, the author of the book ‘Shirdi to Parthi’. Swami asked him, “Have you finished the book?” He said, “Yes, Swami.” “Ok, come and read a few paragraphs,” the Lord commanded. That person was thrilled; He stood next to Swami and started reading the experiences he had written. Swami allowed him to read one or two. And as this was going on, Swami went on playing with the Tulasi leaf and was asking the students around him What is this? We said, Swami, Tulasi leaf. Then Swami just blew on it, and it became a ring which He gave it to Mr. Kakade.

Divine Personal Care to Every Pupil

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Then there was one of my classmates who seemed to be feeling a bit low on a certain day. In fact, Swami would attend to each and every student. Typically, He’d ask us which place we had come from and what subjects we were studying and so on. So He found that this boy was looking pale and slightly dejected, and asked him what was wrong. The student did not say anything.

Then Swami assured him, “Don’t worry, I will take care.” Swami then created a ring which had the image of small Krishna with the vattapatra pose, that is, baby Krishna lying on the top of a small leaf sucking His own thumb. Swami asked him, “Do you want this?” He said “Yes, Swami”. So Swami put it on Him.

We all knew that this boy was a devotee of Lord Krishna. So we told him Swami gave you a ring with Lord Krishna on it so that you can always think of Krishna. But then, the boy was still not very happy. He just smiled and kept silent.

Next evening, Swami called him again. This boy had actually tied some thread around it because it was a bit loose. Usually, whenever Swami creates a ring, He says, “See, perfect fit” but somehow this boy’s ring was a bit loose. In any case, on this occasion, Swami asked him, Eh, come here and He took his ring. Swami asked, Why did you put the thread? See, anything that I give has power. It is there because it has a vibration which will protect you. So, when you do modify it in any way, it reduces the intensity of the purpose for which I have given it. So you are unnecessarily meddling with that.

Then Swami removed the thread and said, “Ok, I think you did not like this ring. I know you don’t like small Krishna, you like young Krishna.” Swami blew on it and changed it into a golden ring with a beautiful youthful Krishna on it. The boy was ecstatic.

So, like this, the Lord interacted with so many. Anybody could raise his hand and stand up to speak. I remember one more of my classmates, who raised his hand to speak but stood their shaking and shivering; stage fear gripped him. The, Swami held him and said, “Now you speak. Don’t worry”. After this, he spoke and the crux of his talk was that “Swami, I don’t want anything except Your love.”

Then next day Swami said, “You see, I give anybody anything. All this is like a talisman. When I give you a chain or a ring, it is for your protection.” And this was the first time I was hearing the Lord Himself speaking His devotees’ experiences, of how He had protected them. So He was talking about a person whom Swami had given a ring to and how He had protected him from an accident in Russia. The ring went off and it came back to Me but he was safe, Swami said. So this is what reminds you of Me and at times of danger it brings Me to you. So dont think that when I give you something, it is not important. My love is important. But anything I give you also is out of My love for you. It is for your good. That is why I give you.

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So Swami made that boy speak again, just to give him confidence. Although he was shaking at first, the second time he spoke much better. I remember he gave the analogy of a hollow flute and prayed to Swami to make him one so that He could blow His sweet breath through Him and create divine music. Swami was very happy and blessed him.

The Unforgettable Charm of Brindavan

So, Brindavan was like a training ground where we had wonderful moments with Swami. Every day was a most beautiful day of learning and growth in an environment of divine love.

Each day Swami would have one of our faculty members speak and then He delivered His divine discourse. It used to be almost 2 to 2 ½ hours session and that was a place where many of our institute’s good speakers and singers were born. Swami would ask us to sing bhajans inside, in Trayee Brindavan.

Only much later bhajans began to be held outside on Thursdays and Sundays, and later, on all week days. But it was inside that Swami corrected the singers and guided them on pronunciation and tune.

In fact, there are so many bhajans that Swami has rectified. Imagine being initiated into bhajan singing at His divine command and perfecting the art under His loving guidance! Those truly were the happiest days of our lives.

 

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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