Volume 8 - Issue 06
JUNE 2010
Other Articles

Family Time with Beloved Sai

- An engaging and insightful conversation with Sharon and Judy Sandweiss

 

In November 2009, Radio Sai interviewed Sharon and Judy Sandweiss of California, USA in which the mother-daughter duo shared reflections of their life with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

Sharon Sandweiss learnt of Bhagavan Baba when her husband Dr. Samuel Sandweiss, an American psychiatrist, first traveled to India to explore the Sai phenomena in the early 70s. He later wrote three highly acclaimed books about Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

Sharon, and her husband Sam, have hosted a Sai Baba Center in their home for over 37 years and have raised a family of four accomplished daughters. By profession, Sharon was a public high school teacher and an advisor/coordinator for the Sathya Sai Young Adult Program in her region. For a number of years, she served as editor of Sai World Newsletter, a newsletter for Sai children in the age group of 6-13. During the Sandweiss family’s long and close association with Bhagavan Baba, Sharon has had wonderful experiences with Him.

Judy Sandweiss is the youngest of Sharon and Samuel Sandweiss’ four daughters. She was less than a year old when her father, Dr. Sandweiss, first went to see Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Judy and her three older sisters have been fortunate to have grown up with Baba in their lives. After Baba directed her to study "management administration," she got her Master’ s degree in Health Administration and another in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University. She currently works in the human resources department of a high-tech company based in San Diego.

Reproduced below are excerpts from their interview with Radio Sai Global Harmony.

Listen to the Radio interview with Sharon and Judy Sandweiss


Part-1


Radio Sai: Sharon and Judy Sandweiss, welcome to Radio Sai. We will start with Sharon. A lot of people have read your husband Dr. Samuel Sandweiss's book, Sai Baba - The Holy Man and the Psychiatrist. But for the benefit of those who have not read it, can you tell us about Swami's entry into your life and why you were drawn to Him?

 
Dr. Samuel Sandweiss' highly acclaimed book that brought Sai to millions
 

Sharon: It is a long story... It began when I first met my husband. He was always curious to know the meaning of life, the mystery of life. I did not enquire into these questions because I was afraid the answer would be too sad, that there would be no meaning. After we were married, Sam continued questing for the meaning of life.

In 1972, Sam heard about Sai Baba from the famous yoga teacher, Ms. Indra Devi. He asked her about consciousness and other things, and all she said in reply was, "Sai Baba, Sai Baba." Within a short while he was on a plane to India. I was a mother of four young daughters and wondered what had happened to my husband. I did have the book Man of Miracles, but we didn’t have the internet then to know more about Sai Baba. I was in the dark.

My husband returned one month later, transformed. He told us, "God is on Earth in the form of Sai Baba. You are God I am God, we are all God.” He said our life would change forever... I wondered what he was talking about. I didn’t know what to expect. I watched my husband rapidly becoming transformed.

RS: What were the changes you noticed in him?

Sharon: He became very calm… The motorcycle disappeared; the fast car was not to be seen. He became calmer, more peaceful, more patient and more loving. He was always loving, but now he became more loving. I wanted to have the same deep faith, that same experience. Within a few months, we left our four daughters in good care for 10 days, which was very hard, to see Sai Baba. Since then, Baba has brought much joy and sanctity to our family life.

Sharon: Yes, it took 14 years of struggling, but never letting go. I will tell the same to anyone who is struggling, as I was: do not let go of Him. Hold on, talk to Him, look for Him, pray to Him, and then you will see how wonderful it becomes. He comes as a Living Presence. It is such a precious gift.

My story is very long and it was not an instantaneous love or appreciation for Baba. I struggled a lot because I did not understand His teachings about Unity. I am Jewish, and the Jewish faith doesn’t accept God in human form. I couldn’t quite understand the concept of Avatar.

 
Mother daughter team of Judy and Sharon
Sandweiss at Radio Sai

But I saw that there was a promise, because Baba's teachings held answers to my questions and worries. I had a fear of death, and during our first trip I asked Baba about it. He soothingly said, "How can you fear death? You merely shed your body like you shed an article of clothing. You are infinite." It was very comforting.

Our lives changed. We immediately set up a Sai Baba center in our home, which was unusual in the U.S. in 1973 or '74 (The Sai Center is still in our home, 37 years later!)

But I was still questioning and entreating Baba to give me the faith that I saw in my husband. Finally, I did have an experience after 14 years… He opened my heart and I saw His magnificence, His glory and I just fell in love with Him.

I realized He was Divinity. I saw that love is at the core of all religions.

RS: So it was a 14-year-long period?

 

Sharon: Yes, it took 14 years of struggling, but never letting go. I will tell the same to anyone who is struggling, as I was: do not let go of Him. Hold on, talk to Him, look for Him, pray to Him, and then you will see how wonderful it becomes. He comes as a Living Presence. It is such a precious gift.

Judy: There is also a special connection. When Mom first went to Indra Devi's place, she had an impulse to ask the date of Sai Baba's birthday and the response was November 23rd - and that's Mom's birthday! So from the very beginning there was a little special connection.

RS: Judy, you have seen your parents take to the Sai path right from the time when you were a little girl. What was it like to have them bring in a teacher from India, into the family?

Judy: I was not even a year old when my Dad first went to see Baba. I can’t remember anything but having bhajans at our home, talking about Baba, His grace, and seeing His pictures and videos.

My three older sisters and I have been blessed to have parents who are very loving and who practice values that Baba teaches. They love us and have always been very patient and open and have never pushed anything on us.

I am fortunate to have a loving family and I think people sense that love and it radiates to them. We have also been blessed and so very fortunate, as Baba personally sat with us and asked us what we were studying and gave us support and encouragement during our difficult years.He showed us that He sits in the center of all families, if we just invite Him in. He showed us how to have a family meeting.

We practice the Jewish faith. Though I am not very active, we do practice Judaism and especially during the High Holy Days. The Jewsh teachings have more meaning for me and my family because we know Baba, as He teaches the universality of all religions.

But for me, there was a period in high school when it was difficult. My sisters and I felt we were different from a lot of our friends because we are Jewish vegetarians who love Swami. But after coming here over several years and experiencing Swami's love, we saw how unusual Swami is and how His teachings are universal. We saw many people of our age in Puttaparthi who also love Swami like we do. We didn’t feel different after that.

RS: At any point did you feel a lot of pressure because you were different from everybody else in school? Did you feel the need to justify why you were a vegetarian and why you worshipped this person from India, which is something quite contradictory to your traditional faith?

 
Judy Sandweiss in conversation with Radio Sai
 

Judy: We are four sisters and we have always been each other's friend and confidante. We have always been able to talk with each other and our parents about our concerns or fears. I think people watched our actions, they saw that we were nice to each other, to our friends and that we are kind, giving, and loving.

One of our Spanish teachers became a Baba devotee after she had all of us in her class at different times. When she found out that we were going to India she said, "Hmm ... Who is this Sai Baba?" She explored for herself and then became a devotee.

Sharon: Some of their friends are now vegetarians and have expressed spiritual interests. So in a way, the girls were ahead of their times, as their contemporaries are now on the path to finding deeper meaning in their lives.

RS: It is very interesting that people are trying to know more about Swami through your example…

Judy: Maybe a little bit. I am not putting myself up as an example at all, but I am fortunate to have a loving family and I think people sense that love and it radiates to them. We have also been blessed and so very fortunate, as Baba personally sat with us and asked us what we were studying and gave us support and encouragement during our difficult years. When you are in high school and college, you don’t know what to do in life and He was so personally involved with that.

 

Sharon: He showed us that He sits in the center of all families, if we just invite Him in. He showed us how to have a family meeting. When we first brought all the girls to see Baba, they were a little nervous. We were invited into the inner interview room and we sat on the edge waiting for Him. He came in and said, "Boo...!" (laughs). That’s His playful sense of humor.

He asked us to sit close and He became one of the girls (Judy: So sweet and loving). Sometimes, Sam would want to ask some organizational or spiritual questions. Baba would say, "No, this is family time." Family time came first, and He always showed us how He cared about all the little details in our lives, including details about our dog!

RS: Would you like to share some instances where Swami told you something about your life that took you by surprise?

Judy: I am very fortunate. During one of our earlier trips, He asked each of us what we were studying and I said I would like to study something like physical therapy, social work, veterinary medicine. But He said, ‘Management Administration’. I was very upset, as it was a grey area, and I didn't understand what it meant. The next summer He asked us the same question. He came to me and I said maybe education, social work or veterinary medicine. Then He said, "Don’t you remember what I told you the last time? Management." He remembered that a year later too! When we came back the next summer, He asked me again and I said, "Management."

RS: So did you really study management then?

Judy: No. I didn’t know what it (management) meant then and got a Master's in Health Administration because I liked healthcare and I thought it was a good combination of business and health. But I couldn’t find a job. I took temporary jobs answering phones, etc., though I had a Master's degree from an Ivy League school. It was a good humbling experience for me. I then decided that Health Administration was not right for me and went back to Cornell to do my second Master's in Industrial and Labor Relations.

 
Sharon Sandweiss shares her story of living with Sai

I was then able to get a job with Sun Microsystems. I realized that this is what Baba meant. In that process, I was able to spend a year in our Bangalore office in 2001. It was such a blessing, and on weekends I could come and see Swami. I realized that it’s all integrated... your work life, personal, and spiritual life. Finally, I began to see what management administration actually meant.

Sharon: When He said management, He said "First self-management, then man-management." So the self-management part is what we are all working at…

RS: So it took a while to unfold to find what Swami meant?

Judy: Yes... I am still not sure, as this is not really what I want. I have been doing this for about 10 years and I feel that I am learning every day, which is good. But I am still looking for meaningful work. I keep asking Swami for direction.

Sharon: Also, He said that all work is good work when it is done with love. (Judy: He actually said it three times). I think He is also saying that wherever you decide to go, whatever you do, it is sacred work...

RS: As long as you do it with love...

 
Sai has been the source of all joy for Sharon
 

Judy: And give it to Him, offer it to Him.

RS: Sharon, did Baba give you any advice or tips on parenting during your many interactions with Him?

Sharon: We went into the interview room in many different situations. There would be a child crying, for example, and He would sweetly say, "Shh...shh... Discipline is very important." Once, the parents pushed their child down to touch and kiss His feet and the child was reluctant. He softly said, "Don’t force, be gentle..." When the girls would say, "Baba I have a bad thought," He would respond, "Ohh... bad thoughts, but good girl. I will help."

One daughter said, "I have a temper, Baba." He answered, "Not temper, it is just action-reaction. I will help." He talked about how to control the mind. He was always very positive, supportive, and encouraging.

We were worried about schools, as there was so much negativity around, even drugs and alcohol in the nice neighborhood in which we lived. In reply, He said that schools were all the same.


He added, "You need to talk to your children because you don’t know what they are thinking; you don’t know what's on their minds. You have to listen, try to understand, and then compromise and try to reach unity."

He reminded us that parents and children must have mutual respect for each other. Children respect us, but we have to respect them too, and listen to them to know what they are struggling with in life.

Children are more expressive. Baba once said that parents are teachers for their children and children are teachers for the parents - so it works both ways. That's very important.

RS: That's an amazing parenting tip - open communication and good listening skills. And that’s what people don’t make time for these days.

 

Sharon: Right. They don’t take the time or perhaps it is not in their culture. Back in the olden days, a child had to be seen and not heard, and people didn't openly discuss their feelings. But times are different now. Children are more expressive. Baba once said that parents are teachers for their children and children are teachers for the parents - so it works both ways. That's very important.

Judy: Our whole family would either sit around at the dinner table or we used to take long walks with our two dogs and sit on the grass in a beautiful place. Dad and Mom would talk with us about what was going on in our lives. Invariably, one of us would cry and we would work through the problems. At the end of that family conversation, we would feel better.

The big teaching for us is that when we are growing up, we tend to see things as black and white. But it is not so. We've come to see that it's not about being so rigid with yourself on the spiritual path. It’s about being joyful. As Baba says, "Be happy," and so it is alright to be happy. You can have fun and laughter, and have friends and do activities that nurture your body, mind and your soul.

Sharon: Since Judy's twin sisters were 13, Baba has said, "For you, soon, marriage." They would exclaim "ohh..." (Judy: They are 42 now). He would tell my husband, "Why aren’t you looking for husbands? You are not being a great father..." Sam tried to do his duty because we would come back and Swami would again ask where the husbands are.

One year, Swami finally told him, "OK, no more... You are relieved; I am your agent," and He relieved my husband (of the search). Three of the girls eventually found wonderful men, but they are not Baba devotees or vegetarians.

We brought the pictures to Baba and each time He said, "Good boy; they should get married." When we told Him that they didn’t like Him, He said, "It doesn’t matter. He is a good boy. He doesn’t know Me."

Then we told Him that they were not vegetarian. He again said, "It doesn’t matter, He is a good boy," and said that they should get married. He blessed each one of them and they are all wonderful...

Judy: They are wonderful brothers-in-law…

Sharon: None of the husbands ask the girls to cook any meat... If the men really want some meat, they eat it at a restaurant or make it themselves.

Sharon: We were worried about one of the boy's parents (about our being Sai devotees)... They came in just before the wedding, and didn’t say a word about the many pictures of Baba all over the house… The parents were so polite and loving… We even did a prayer for Baba at the wedding. It was a Jewish wedding and Baba was part of it, and… we had no meat at any of the weddings...

Judy: People said that was the best vegetarian wedding meal ever...

Sharon: They are all wonderful families... they all love each other.

Judy: Their families do service, and one son-in-law's father even does medical service in a village in Africa.

 
A happy family portrait : Baba surrounded by
His Sandweiss children

Sharon: When we came here a year ago, we showed Baba a picture of the entire family including our three grandsons. Baba looked at the picture and said, “Unity… Good family unity," and placed His hand over each individual family. It was so sweet. We felt His love radiate into the extended families. Our sons-in-law joke that their wives are sweeter than they are.

When one of our grandsons was about three years old, he chanted the Gayatri mantra on his own. Samuel and I would take Joshie out in the mornings, and as he dozed in the backseat, Sam chanted the Gayatri (mantra).


One day, Rachel, Josh's Mom, called us and said that Josh was chanting, "Om Bhur Bhuvah Suvaha…" Sam and I were surprised, because we had never taught him. This illustrates why Baba says that we have everything within us…When we were coming to Puttaparthi for this trip, Rachel gave us a picture to be blessed by Baba. She said, "We love you Baba," and her two-year-old son kissed the picture and said, "I love you Baba," like his mother. Children closely follow our example...

- Heart2Heart Team

What are your impressions about this article? Please share your feedback by writing to [email protected] Do not forget to mention your name and country.

 
Go to Radio Sai
Go to Publications Division Sri Sathya Sai Sadhana Trust
Go to Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust
counter for wordpress