Volume 8 - Issue 08
AUGUST 2010
Other Articles

Part-2

RS:  Did your brother get married as Swami wished?

SM: Yes, he did. In fact, around the time my brother got married, in February 2008, I once again experienced Swami’s omnipresence. My brother’s wedding was coincidentally fixed for 8 February – the same day when Swami came home and spiritually got my parents married decades ago.

 
In January 2007 Swami blesses Sumana's home in Chennai with an unforgettable visit

RS: So, Swami made sure the tradition was continued?

SM:  Yes. All of us decided that as soon as the wedding was over, the same evening my brother, his new bride, my husband, son and I would go to see Swami. My parents, of course, couldn’t travel with us. So, everything was set and we bought our flight tickets. That evening, while standing in line at the Chennai airport to scan our luggage, my brother got a call. After completing the conversation, he immediately asked us to leave the line and join him. I refused saying the line was a mile long and I would have to go right back if I left my place.

My brother insisted that I hear him out as he had just received a message from Puttaparthi. When we joined him, he told us, “I got this message that Swami has said, ‘These people are coming to see Me. They are in the airport standing in the line, ready to scan their luggage. Even if they have scanned their luggage, ask them to pull it out back and ask them to return home. Swami doesn’t want them to travel.’

At first, I thought my brother was just teasing us given his penchant for playing practical jokes. But, when he insisted that he was serious and had indeed received the message from Puttaparthi, we were stumped beyond words. I mean, we all know about Swami’s omnipresence, but this was as if a camera had been placed right over our heads and Swami was watching our every move. I couldn’t stop my knees from shaking when we experienced this phenomenon.

A bright smile lightens Shravanam's face as Swami enters his workspace - a professional recording studio on the 1st floor of their house
 

RS: Almost like a cosmic scan?

SM: As our mother’s condition was really frail, we had not made any specific plans for anything other than the wedding, so no one knew of our travel to Puttaparthi.

It was something that we had intended to do only if the circumstances allowed us. Swami’s message, therefore, shook us.

When realisation set in that Swami did not wish us to travel, we called the driver back and returned home.

Of course, some of our relatives who were not as deep a devotee of Baba thought we were foolish to change our plans and waste so much money on air tickets.

RS: Swami does indeed look over your family, doesn’t He? Your experiences are incredible!

SM:  Just a month before this took place, my brother and sister were blessed with yet another experience of Swami’s omnipresence. I had mentioned earlier that my mother was discharged from the Super Speciality Hospital in Whitefield on 19 January and returned to Chennai after taking Swami’s blessings.

My father, being an office bearer in the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, is constantly invited to preside over Sai functions. One day, while he was away, my mother said she wasn’t feeling too well. My brother told her not to worry as Swami was there with them. She then got what my brother thought was an epileptic fit. My brother didn’t know what to do. While trying to help her, he received a communication from Puttaparthi conveying Swami’s message.

 
Swami constantly looks at the brother-sister duo as He leaves their home after granting them
half an hour of bliss

The person said, “Swami has asked you not to worry. He says what she has is not epilepsy but a neurological disorder called the tremor. Swami says He is right there, taking care of her!” That was the first time we had heard of the condition ‘tremor’ in medical terminology.

RS: Was your brother and sister relieved to hear Swami’s message?

SM: When my mother had that tremor, my brother was having his lunch. He was eating pulav. Swami even knew that and in His message said, “Tell Sai not to waste his food and finish his lunch. I am taking care of his mother.”

So, both my brother and sister cleaned the room and relaxed after their lunch, relieved that Swami was watching over them. Swami has shown the same kind of care and love throughout my mother’s sickness for 14 months. He would even send messages about when to give her glucose or when she should be administered chemotherapy. He responded to every single prayer.

Swami asked Shravanam where his chair was and when he pointed to his seat Swami positioned Himself there and listened to a sample recording done at the new studio
 

RS: You had mentioned earlier that Radio Sai was playing in your house all the time, even on the day she passed away. Did Swami advise you to listen to Radio Sai?

SM: Throughout my mother’s sickness, one constant reminder or advice that Swami gave was to do namasmarana. He told my father and brother, “Keep repeating Swami’s name in her ear.” He asked, “Do you have Radio Sai at home? Then, have her listen to Swami’s voice all the time and things will be better.”

I am not exaggerating when I say this that we have one radio in the kitchen and one in my mother’s bedroom. They run 24/7. Only the volume is increased or decreased. From what I know, for the last three years, it has never been switched off and makes a huge difference to the ambience at home.

When you have constant chanting or Swami’s voice and the sound of bhajans, it’s much like a round-the-clock satsang that transforms the energy in the room.

 
This studio which has had the rare blessing of a Divine Visit has today become an extension of Radio Sai studios
in Prasanthi Nilayam

RS:  Was sort of effect did it have on your mother?

SM:  All of us could have sulked and cried ourselves to despair. Normally under such circumstances, members of a family get into depression mode over the impending loss of a person. We could have asked questions like why Swami was not curing her or nullifying the cancer in her body. It was only later that we realised that none of us knew the enormous value of Radio Sai and how it helped divert our minds from the problem and channel it more towards God.

When you do that, things stop looking as traumatic and you get the strength to actually deal with whatever challenges come your way. So with Radio Sai, Swami’s voice was being heard all the time. Even more beautiful and sometimes inexplicable was the fact that each time a question would arise in our mind, we would receive the answer in a subsequent discourse over Radio Sai. It would come as a direct response as if it was meant just for us!

RS:  I am sure a lot of listeners can relate to that. It’s almost as if the discourses are meant to address the concern that is bothering you alone.

SM: That’s one of the reasons I repeat ever so often that it is not necessary to be physically close to Swami anymore, especially these days. Let me share a personal experience. Swami always says, “Think of Me before you do something and you will succeed.” This worked true for me just a month ago. It’s something very minor but brings forth what I am trying to explain more evidently.

“Think of Me before you do something and you will succeed.”
 

I always chant the brahmarpanam after I finish cooking and before I set the food on the table. Once, I forgot to say this prayer as I received a phone call soon after I completed the cooking and was extremely preoccupied. I put all the food out on the table and my family even started eating when I suddenly realised the lapse!

I also realised the volume of the radio was down and reached out to increase it. By now it should hardly surprise anyone when I say that a discourse was going on, on Radio Sai, and Swami was reciting the brahmarpanam from start to finish!

RS:  Uncanny timing.

SM: My husband thought it was huge coincidence but I strongly believe there are no such coincidences. When I increased the volume, Swami was saying Brahmarpanam bramarhavi bramogno...” and I kept thinking, okay He is going to stop, He is going to stop; it’s only a sample He is giving.

But imagine my state when He went on to recite the whole thing for us. That incident was not something major yet so meaningful and poignant.

RS: And I guess having Radio Sai on helps you to tap into that energy of synchronicity.

SM:  Yes, it does. You feel His presence in everything you do. You also have this constant awareness of Swami. When I look back at my life and see how physically close I was to Swami, and how physically far away I am from Him right now, I appreciate everything that I received then; it was like a foundation that He laid. Now, all I need to do is think of Him and remember Him whenever I am about to do something, however minor the action might be and it really works. Each time, it also reminds me about the time He told me that I would not need the locket anymore and that He would be there for me any time I thought of Him.

RS:  I would like to put the clock back and take you to the time when you joined His school as a five-year-old. I believe you had quite a reputation as a cry baby because you had a hard time staying away from your parents?

SM:   Yes, I was quite a handful.

RS:  How did Swami help you or how did the system help you overcome that homesickness? How did you adjust eventually?

 
Swami always gave a lot of His time to Bal Vikas
children during His visits to Chennai

SM:  As a five-year-old, I was not on that level where I knew the enormity of being a part of Swami’s school or what it meant to be close to Him - all that mattered to me was my parents. I just wanted to go back.

My grandfather and father had taken this decision to put me in Swami’s school after receiving His consent. I went through the normal admission procedure and got in. I think my first year at school was real bad and although it progressively got better I just knew that I wanted to go home.

Swami was, however, so loving and kind. I remember clearly I was once in the last row in the darshan line and crying. I wasn’t happy at all and Swami came out of the mandir and walked up straight to me. He made a path among the students; put His index finger into my collar and pulled out the two lockets He had given me and said, “Why are you crying? Who gave these to you?” I said, “Swami, You gave them to me.” He then patted the lockets and said, “Don’t cry. Your mother is coming on Saturday. She will come to see you.” And then He wiped my tears, put the lockets in and walked back.

Yet another time, when I was sick and had high temperature, I remember I couldn’t go for darshan. Swami noticed my absence and enquired from the warden aunty what I had been given to eat. When she replied that she didn’t remember, Swami instructed, “Make rasam and give it to her. She will be fine.” Rasam was made just for me and after I had it, I was fine the next day.

He didn’t have to do all this for a lone five-year-old child among so many. But He is like that - the Mother Sai to so many children. He would say, “You all are My responsibility. I am here to take care of you. You are My property.”

RS:   As a student, what memories do you still carry with you?

SM: After finishing my bachelor’s at the Anantapur College in His University, when it was time for us to leave, He granted us an interview in which He said, “Wherever you are, I will be there for you. I will take care of your lives”. True enough, He has done that until today.

Sumana Murali (front) dressed as a saint during the Sportsmeet performance of the
Anantapur Campus in 1993
 

He also said, “Swami never asks for gurudakshina (offering made to a Guru after education). However, I will ask you for gurudakshina today. Wherever you go, lead your life in such a way that people look at you and say how well Swami has brought you up! When your mother-in-law thinks that, she won’t say it you. But when the thought occurs to her, Swami will know. And when other people look at you and remark how well Swami has brought you up, how nicely you embody Swami’s values - that is the gurudakshina (gift of compensation) you will pay me.”

It’s incredible how much time He sets aside to interact with all the children, review their report cards and listen to all their chatter into His ears, only hoping that they will go out into the world and spread His message – a reason why it is so important for us to integrate His message of love, understanding and peace into our lives and reflect them in what we do and in how we conduct ourselves.

RS: You have been in the field of education, tell us little bit more about how you have integrated the Sai perspective, your take-away from this university and the school, into your profession because Swami always lays a great emphasis on teachers as positive agents of change, social change and reform.

SM:  I have come to realise that for someone in my profession the first message we take from Swami is to be a good role model. Children don’t see what you say, they see what you do - the way you conduct yourself, the way you sit, stand, and talk. Children easily absorb all of this and mimic what you do. So, it’s very important to know that children are watching you and you must set an example for them to emulate.

RS: Anything else?

SM: I also often think of Swami’s words about doing one’s duty, whoever it is and whatever stage of life you are in. For instance, a child who is in college, his primary duty is to study. Everything else comes next. As a teacher, my primary duty would be towards the children; everything else is secondary. I do know that teachers aren’t paid very well anywhere in the world. But if all the teachers only hankered after money, no one would want to be a teacher. We have teachers because they like the profession and nurture a love for teaching and children.

In other words, our duty towards the society is to mould these children to become the future leaders of the community and the country. This teaching of Swami is something that I try and inculcate in the kids. I constantly remind them to do their duty and not worry about other’s opinions or remarks. It is in simple everyday things that you need to remind them to follow this moral rule.

RS: Could you give a real-time example of how you communicate this to the children?

SM: Let’s say, one child opens up her lunch box and has something Indian in it while another has something Chinese. There is another who doesn’t like vegetables but sees them in his friend’s box and goes “yew!” And I say, “You worry about your lunch box and focus on finishing your food. You don’t ‘yew’ another person’s food. That’s okay, they like it and you have to learn to respect that. You wouldn’t like it if somebody said that about your box, so you don’t do it to another person. Instead, develop that sense of enquiry. Hey! What is that you have? It doesn’t look familiar to me. Can I learn its name? Can I have a little taste of it?”

 
Prayer and patience is what is taught in the Primary School in Prasanthi Nilayam and today this message has gone global

I try and channel that energy in a positive way and children must be taught to do that. Most often parents can relate to this as well when children come and complain to them about their siblings - ‘he did that to me, she did that to me. He said, she said’.

What I do is go down to the level of that child, look at him or her in the eyes and say, “You said she hit you.” “Yeah, she hit me.” “Well, if she hit you, turn around and tell her don’t hit me, I don’t like it.”

RS:  You tell them to articulate their concerns and take responsibility?

SM:  Yes, to let the other person know in very clear words that you don’t like being hit. I tell them that mere complaining will do nothing to solve their problem. So, I actually physically turn the child around and say, “Look at that child and say, don’t hit me, I don’t like it.” So they go, “Don’t hit me, I don’t like it.” And then the other child goes, “Okay.” It’s as simple as that.

RS:  You mean you have to be trained to stand up for yourself?

SM: Exactly! Otherwise we tend to say, “Why did you hit her?...Why did you...why...why…?” And, then it’s all out of control.

I also think a teacher’s care for the child must be holistic. It’s not only about whether a child is doing his ABC’s or writing, and whether his fine or gross motor skills are good; it’s not just about two pats on the back and say see you later alligator! It is important to remember that it is also about how the child connects with the parent and if he is doing okay in the house as well. It’s important to deal with the whole person - the inside and the outside, the emotional and the social, everything together. And once they know that you actually care, they connect with you deeply and you become partners with the parents in raising the child.

RS: Swami’s concept of Educare comes into play?

SM:  Yes, you discover this uniformity and unity and the positive environment that’s there. The child knows that the teacher and the parent are on the same page. So, he or she will not resort to playing tricks. Swami’s philosophy is extremely simple and works so well. We just complicate it without understanding how important it is to tap into the latent ability of the child.

RS: You are practising Educare, and so it’s logical that people respond so positively but do you see the teaching fraternity in the US, for instance, being open to such an approach towards value-based education? A system which recognises that every child is good on the inside and is loaded with good values and you just have to provide an environment to draw them out?

SM: Right now, they are at a point where if you approach them with a massive programme or a proposal, they will regard it with some measure of apprehension. You cannot expect them to embrace it right away. But we are doing it on a smaller perspective, one classroom at a time. When the authorities notice the difference, they then come to you and ask how we do what we do! So, the trust and confidence is surely gaining ground. We just need more teachers out there with the knowledge of Educare, who practice it and initiate a difference tangible enough for more people to adopt the idea.

A typical morning in the Primary School in Prasanthi Nilayam - this institution
exemplifies educare
 

RS:  And have you had anyone approach you - seeing the transformation within your classroom and the way you connect with the parents and build the sense of community?

SM: I was getting there until I quit the job because of personal circumstances then. I am not working right now. But then, I could see the momentum building. I could see the response I was getting even from fellow staff members. You are always like the well-liked person, somebody who will get along easily, who can see the bigger idea of things, and because your one-to-one connection is good and you are professional, the impact you make in a classroom is effective.

Parents then become more responsive and start asking if the ssame teacher would be moving up with their child to the next grade. When they say that, you know you are on the right track. I strongly believe that it’s just a matter of time before Educare becomes a widely accepted standard of education because people respond to love regardless of who you are.

RS:  And, if the concept comes from Swami, that’s a bonus isn’t it?

SM:  He is an inspiration. So, you keep Him in mind and do what you are supposed to do and you automatically see people responding. I was just telling my father even in Puttaparthi, when you say thank you to a sevadal, you see a big smile from ear to ear as if they don’t get to hear that phrase too often! Take that lady who gives you buttermilk in the canteen - you say ‘thank you auntie’ and she is just so happy.

 
Through Love, Swami has moulded young minds
into enlightened individuals

There is also this very angry sevadal who doesn’t look happy at all as if she is waiting for an excuse to pounce on you. But when you look at her and say ‘Sai Ram’, you instantly see her smile. So, everybody responds to love. It’s a failure-proof concept that Bhagavan has started…to conquer the world with love, a deluge of love. It’s not easy a lot of times but it works all the time.

RS:  Actually, if you try it is not so hard either. It’s just that we have some inhibitions and if you give it a shot, the person in the worst of moods will respond positively or calm down immediately.

SM:  Absolutely. I think in the adult world it is a little more challenging. With children, it’s different. You could go with an absolutely bad morning, walk into a room filled with children jumping up and down and you change, your mood alters. But when you walk into an office with the same mood, the others know what’s in store. It’s definitely a little more challenging when it comes to adults but not impossible.

RS:  You said Swami is like the head of your family. He is also the Cosmic Scanner whose radar is always directed towards you. He knows when you are checking-in your luggage at the airport, and when your brother had to skip his lunch to attend to his mom.

Now that you have learnt to relieve yourself of dependence on the physical and done away with the tangible items He has given you and you are trying to internalise him, how do you relate to Swami? In other words, who is Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba for you now?

SM: That’s a hard one. I have given this much thought and each time I conclude that He is everything to me. Swami says, “Whatever you think, you get from Me.” If you think He is your mother, He will respond to you as your mother. If you think He is your father, He will respond to like one. When I think about Him in this perspective, He is everything to me. And when you have Swami, you have everything. He is just everything. There is nowhere else to go.

RS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to share with the readers that they can identify with?

"Yes, I am your family deity" asserts Swami to this blessed family
that has loved and served Him through four generations

SM: When Swami visited our home a couple of years back, my brother said to Him, “Swami, every time I go to a temple and pray, no matter what temple it is, I only see You. I can only think of You. Whether that is Vishnu or Siva or Ganesha, it doesn’t matter. Whatever the temple is, I only pray to You.”

And, Swami said to him, “There are no two Gods. There is only one God.” To this answer from Swami, my father said, “Swami, every family has a kuladaivam – a family deity - depending on the village their grandparents, great grandparents come from. To us, You are our family deity.”

Swami then turned to my brother and said, “Yes, I am”. Overjoyed at hearing this confirmation from Swami, my father said to my brother, “So, you can now regard Swami as our family deity, you could take Him as a mentor.”

Swami is indeed our family deity. He is just somebody I turn to and look at even when I want to grumble. I freely vent all my feelings to Swami.

RS:   You vent your feelings to Swami?

SM:  Freely! He is my mother and father after all. Wouldn’t I do that with my parents? So, a lot of times I go to Swami and tell Him not to put me through tests that require me to prove I am a good devotee because I am not there yet. I tell Him I am still very human and capable of making mistakes. Needless to say, Swami has guided us like a father. He is everything. Sai Ram.



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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