The Bond of Love, Part-1
Mr. Kota Shiva Kumar joined the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning in 1993 for his Masters in Business Administration. Prior to this, he worked for five years in Indian Farmers Fertiliser Co-operative Limited (IFFCO) in Ahmedabad, Gujarat after the completion of his engineering degree with specialisation in Electronics and Communication from Osmania University, Hyderabad. After graduating from Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning in 1995, he has worked in several companies including Dr. Reddy Labs and Baan Info systems.
Currently, Kota Shiva Kumar is the Founder and Chief Consultant of ‘InSai Consulting’, an HR Consulting firm based in Hyderabad. For him, the two years spent in Bhagawan’s college in Prasanthi Nilayam are the most profound years of his life.
This is the adapted transcript of the conversation with him in the Radio Sai studio in January 2011.
The New Year Bond of Divine Love
H2H: This New Year (2011) has been a glorious beginning for all the former students of Bhagawan’s schools and colleges in Prashanti Nilayam and Brindavan as all of you have gathered here and have had the chance to spend three blissful days with Him. Can you tell us what really goes on during this New Year Meet?
Mr. Kota Shiva Kumar with His ' Sai Rama'
KSK: This has indeed been a glorious beginning. There cannot be a greater spiritual retreat or vacation that anybody can talk other than this opportunity that Bhagawan has been giving us over the past so many years. I am sure that the prayer of every student who has been here during the past three days has been fulfilled.
When over a 1000 plus students assemble for Bhagawan’s darshan it is like a saga of pure love between the Lord and His dear ones. I have been here through all the programmes. On the first day an EHV workshop was conducted for primary school teachers near Easwaramma School. There were teachers from 120 schools from different regions. They were hand-picked by the regional officers and were sent here as special invitees for the workshop. Prof. Anil Kumar was invited to deliver a lecture. This programme was very successful.
H2H: Were the teachers primarily from rural schools? Also, what was the objective of this workshop?
KSK: Yes. They were from the neighbouring villages and Mandals around Puttaparthi. The objective of this programme was to discuss the implementation of human values in primary school teaching. The workshop covered many aspects such as its validity today, the difficulty or ease in implementation and what teachers who are uncertain of their ability to implement this in their schools can do. As stated earlier, Prof. Anil Kumar shared his experiences in this. His two-and-a-half hour talk was very well accepted by the teachers. In fact, the teachers were very intrigued. Following this, we had a very interactive session in the afternoon. The teachers were offered about seven to eight topics on what are the current valid themes they need to deliver upon and how they can actually implement it successfully when they go back to schools. A report was presented to Bhagawan.
In January 2011, the alumni of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning conducted an EHV workshop for primary school teachers especially from rural schools in Prasanthi Nilayam. Prof. Anil Kumar addressed this group for more than two hours.
This workshop was followed by Grama Seva. Later, on the evening of December 31, a drama was presented to Bhagawan. I felt the drama was a very humble submission of the Seva that the students have been trying to do across the country. For example, students who have just passed out have been moved by the plight of orphans and are trying to pitch in every small way they can. They try to emulate what Swami has been doing by getting involved in drinking water projects and so on. All these were showcased in a beautifully woven drama.
H2H: There was mention of Sai Anandam in the drama. Sometime ago, H2H had a well-received story on Sai Anandam. It was wonderful to see those children in the drama.
He had the blessed opportunity to speaking in the Divine Presence in the Poorna Chandra Auditorium during the New Year Alumni Meet 2011
KSK: Yes! Swami blessed and distributed clothes to them. Everyone was so glad that all this was happening and that the Divine Mother had so lovingly allowed this to take place. Sometimes we wonder as to what we really did to deserve His grace at the end of every year. But it seems as though He has been waiting for us!
We arrived at Prashanti Nilayam and the next day we were allowed to perform a music programme. The students had prepared well. Though there were some technical glitches, the programme went so well and Swami was very happy - particularly with some songs. He enquired about the singers… He responded to the programme! Of course the crowning glory was the Poorna Chandra session that happened.
H2H: You had the wonderful opportunity to speak in the Divine presence.
KSK: That was honestly nothing short of a miracle. In fact, there is a little story behind this opportunity. The day before, while sitting in front of Bhagawan during the music programme, I had a few queries for Him regarding my career. Swami has always been guiding my career for the past 15 years. In any case, I was sitting there and praying for Bhagawan’s physical attention. On the previous day morning when we were preparing the group songs, a student walked in and told me that Swami might ask someone to speak hence I would have to come prepared to speak in Telugu. I was instructed to offer a flower to Swami before the presentation. So here came the opportunity!
The next day I made my presentation. I spoke of a few personal experiences and Bhagawan was listening to every word. After that I walked up to Bhagawan with a letter in my pocket. He seemed as though He wanted to speak to me - it was very evident that He wanted to say something. It was my turn to bring out some topic. Intuitively, I got prompted to bring out the letter and show it to Him. He started going through every line of the letter. During those few minutes, I asked Him about my personal issue and He clarified my doubts!
Here was the same situation that we had experienced 15–20 years ago. If you have a sincere prayer in your heart, rest assured that Swami will always respond. To me nothing has changed for students. In fact, His guidance has only increased every day.
A panoramic view of the men alumni of Swami's University gathered at His lotus feet to offer their gratitude and love on the New Year 2011
H2H: Swami went round giving padanamaskar to every student. His look would have brought back loads of sweet memories in everyone’s mind.
KSK: Absolutely! In fact one of the things I have always seen and heard about Swami’s Darshans is that at the end of it everyone is in bliss. Without exclusion every participant experiences joy and wishes to return for a lot more of the Ananda! That is the sign that Swami is very happy.
The Journey to Sai
H2H: Let us now move on to your journey to Swami. Please share with us how Bhagawan drew you into His fold.
KSK: This is, to me, a wonderful question, but a difficult one as it is difficult to put a date on ‘when’. I grew up in a neighbourhood in Hyderabad where Swami was not new. I vividly remember those summer nights when we used to sleep outside our homes. We used to wake up hearing the local Sai Samithi members doing Nagarsankeertan (singing His name on the streets) in the wee hours of the morning. Though I used to like it, I somehow never got prompted to go and join them; I don’t know why.
H2H: Was this when you were a teenager?
KSK: This was during the early 1970s. I was just five or six years old then. There were some very ardent devotees of Bhagawan in our colony and we used to regularly visit them. I am still in contact with them. They are wonderful people. I used to see a lot of Bhagawan’s photographs in their house and used to like them, but somehow the call had not come. I took Him for granted and even agreed that He is God, but I never really got prompted to ask who He really is.
During college I was interested in quizzing. My friends and I used to participate in quiz competitions organised by the Sathya Sai Organisation, Andhra Pradesh. It used to happen at the basic level with a written examination to start with. Then came the district level and then the state level which was conducted in Shivam (Swami’s abode cum temple in Hyderabad). We reached the final level. There were five teams, named Sathya, Dharma, Shanthi, Prema and Ahimsa. I felt a little strange with these names. This was in 1986 and that was probably the first time I stepped into Shivam.
H2H: Were these questions only on spirituality?
KSK: About 60% to 70% of them were on spirituality. I was interested in spirituality from my childhood due my parents and grandparents who were also spiritually inclined. I also used to read a lot.
H2H: Were you familiar with the Ramayana, Mahabharata and so on?
KSK: Yes. In fact that was why I was in the Quiz team. I had decent knowledge in them while my teammates were strong in other areas. I still remember the audio round in the quiz. They played some classical kruthis (songs) and asked for the Raga. They were very interesting quiz rounds.
H2H: Were you trained in Carnatic music?
KSK: I had some sort of training, but not much. I took up to Carnatic music training twice and gave up for whatever reasons. But I am familiar with this style of music because I grew up in that environment. My grandfather used to conduct Thyagaraja Utsavams (music festival celebrating the great composer Saint Tyagaraja) on every Pushya Bola Panchami (the holy day when Saint Tyagaraja attained Samadhi) that comes in January-February. He used to arrange the event and had done so for over the last forty years, and I was pretty much involved in the organisation of this right from my childhood. Actually so much of it (music) comes through listening. Even though I am not trained I can differentiate between 150 – 200 Ragas. I compose songs on Swami in various Ragas, but I may not be very accurate in terms of notations.
I used to read lots of classics like the Bhaktha Vijayam, Bhaktha Leelamrutham and about devotees of Lord Panduranga; I used to get inspired reading these right from my childhood.
H2H: What about your parents? Were they Sai devotees then?
KSK: My parents were very spiritual, but not devotees of Bhagawan. We come from a Brahmin family and though we followed all the rituals, we were not very orthodox. We were open to quite a few things. But somehow going to Swami was not one among them, I guess because the call had not come. In 1986, when we won the quiz, we were given the book Sai Baba: Man of Miracles written by Howard Murphet. It remained in my suitcase for two years and I never did anything about it. The unfortunate thing is that I did not understand that the books had immense value. Later when I was alone in Gujarat I started reading these books and one after another strange things started happening. Swami started coming in my dreams and guiding me.
H2H: You moved to Gujarat after engineering and started your career there?
KSK: Yes. This was from 1988 to 1993. I worked there for five years. Swami gave me a lot of experiences there. It was in Ahmedabad that I joined a Samithi. I did not come to Puttaparthi as a Sevadal, but was a member of the Samithi. Finally, in 1993, I landed up here in the institute and wrote the entrance examination for the MBA course.
With Swami in Kodai Kanal; Kota Shiva Kumar is on the right with
his hands at His feet
H2H: You did mention that a lot happened in Gujarat. Could you please share a few experiences?
KSK: One of the most vivid experiences that I had after I started reading the books was a dream of coming to Puttaparthi. This was in 1989. You are aware of two angels that you see in the architecture of Bhagawan’s buildings. I saw the angels in the Stupa coming out alive! They carried me all over Puttaparthi like on a tour. I saw a lot of places here. That is what I realised when I came back later. I also had another vision where I saw Bhagawan sitting as Lord Rama. I saw Lord Rama and Lakshmana seated and then suddenly Lord Rama turned into Bhagawan. He looked at me and said, “You will reach Me in your 52nd year.” I didn’t understand the import then and I still don’t understand it now. However, I did some calculations. It comes closer to the date Swami has indicated He will move out of His present form. Beyond that I didn’t try to analyse or try to understand anything.
H2H: What was very clear was that Bhagawan is Lord Rama and that was a vision!
KSK: Yes, it was very clear. In fact I had a picture of Lord Rama seated in exactly the same way. Then I saw Bhagawan sitting in the place of Lord Rama after some time; He spoke to me clearly. I have written it in my diary.
So I came to Swami in 1990 after the dreams and also after having heard so much about devotees’ experiences. I queried myself as to what I was doing in Gujarat when the Lord is physically here! How did I miss the experience of being with Him even though I too am from Andhra Pradesh! The call came one day and then I decided to quit the job and come to Him.
H2H: Quit the job?
KSK: I quit the job because my thought was on going to Bhagawan; and I was sure that He would put me somewhere. I had no clue how or what.
H2H: You were already so much inspired!
KSK: Absolutely! I had no clue about how it was in Prashanti Nilayam or the organisation. I did not care to talk to anybody.
H2H: So you just felt that God is here and that you should be here too.
KSK: Yes. I told my people that I am going to Prashanti Nilayam. It felt like the most normal thing to do for me, but they were all astounded. I gave my resignation and the personnel department took it. I packed my baggage and came here. Once I reached Puttaparthi, the buildings looked a bit different. My idea of an Ashram was not exactly this. I saw some ‘familiar’ places and I was given a shed. I attended Omkar, Suprabatham and Nagarsankeerthan. Somehow I felt that if there was something called Vaikuntam (heaven) it was this.
During those days there used to be sand before the Mandir. I had my very first Darshan of Bhagawan in the morning. It was so wonderful. I had never seen Him in flesh until then. Then I saw Swami coming. For about two to three minutes I never felt that His feet were on the ground. He seemed to be floating. I don’t know if it was my imagination, but Swami did seem to be in air.
I had a few more experiences after that. I would keep my hands folded looking at Swami during Darshan. Swami would throw chocolates, and He threw thrice one week. It so happened that on all these occasions I got either the first or second row. When He threw the chocolates I never knew what was happening; I was looking at Swami so rapturously. Silently Bhagawan used to glide on. At the end of it when I open my palms there would be a chocolate embedded there!
H2H: Even though you did not catch one?
KSK: I never tried to catch it. They used to fly around and I would just look at Him and finally it would end up being within my palm. So I took all that to be a divine blessing and I thought that He was gracing me, and asking me to remain in Puttaparthi. Gradually I noticed that Bhagawan was talking to people around me. He seemed to give me enough indications that it is not good to come out like this. He also communicated that I go back and rejoin. The message was loud and clear. He would speak to people around in Telugu, “No, no. Velli join kavali (go back and join)”. That was a direct message, but never directly to me. Somehow I understood that the message was for me. Also the money that I had with me was almost fully spent. I slowly realised that may be the way I had quit my job and come was not right. I started enquiring about the way to be near Bhagawan. Someone said that it might be a good idea to do an MBA here!
H2H: Was this idea given when you were here?
KSK: Yes, when I was here. In fact, the person who gave me this idea works in the hospital now. He was a Sai brother who did his MBA. I was asking him lot of questions.
H2H: But at that time he was a stranger to you.
KSK: In fact one of the early members I met was Mr. G. V. Prabhakar Rao (a faculty member in the Institute); I knew him through one of my colleagues in Ahmedabad. I understood that I could not just be here and expect myself to be taken. Then the thought struck me: why not do an MBA? Somehow I went back with a firm resolution that I will come back to Bhagawan for MBA that year (1990). But you will be surprised, when I went back my priorities totally changed. I don’t know how it happened. That is how maya (delusion) works! For three years I did not think about the MBA.
The Lord’s Selection
H2H: You did not apply?
KSK: No, I didn’t even apply. I was attending the Sai Samithi in Ahmedabad, but I never again thought about MBA. It took me three years – until 1993. How I came about was very strange – I had a roommate by name Boopegarpasi Mehta. He also loved Bhagawan. He came to know about Him through me. He wanted to visit Puttaparthi and so he purchased a ticket.
However, he couldn’t travel because of some urgent work. He worked in the production department of the same organisation.
He asked me whether I would be willing to go. I replied casually that I would love to. This was in January 1993. Swami used to live in the Prasanthi Nilayam Mandir then. One evening after bhajans I walked behind the Mandir. We could see the light in the rooms inside. This was an indication that Bhagawan was probably reading devotees’ letters. As I stood there the thought returned in a flash! I was in tears and I was praying, “Swami, how did I forget to come back to You? This time I am coming. Please give me permission”. Later I took the application that was published in Sanathana Sarathi. I prepared and got through. In fact I was surprised to know that I stood seventh in the written examination.
H2H: So you had prepared?
KSK: Yes, I had prepared. I was very keen on joining. I took the test and interview. Later on I was to learn how I joined. Bhagawan gave us MBA boys an interview after the summer course (on Indian Culture and Spirituality) in Brindavan. On this occasion He asked me, “How did you come here?” I looked at Swami and said, “Swami! I don’t know.” He said, “You came here because I put a tick on your name.”
H2H: That is amazing!
KSK: That was the validation of Bhagawan’s own plan on when I should come and everything else.
H2H: That is indeed wonderful! I know that is only the beginning, a drop of the ocean. We will continue in the next episode on how you actually joined the college, your indelible memories of the two years that you spent at His lotus feet. Thank you very much for your time!
KSK: Thank you very much. Sai Ram!
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