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Posted on: May 12, 2015
Surrender, Trust, Accept
- The Life Mantra of Sai Student Susmita Patnayak
Mrs. Susmita Patnayak spent 12 impressionable years at the Anantapur campus of Bhagawan's University, starting in 1980 when she enrolled there as a teenager to complete two years of her Pre-University education. From 1982 to 1985 she studied for her Bachelor's degree. From 1985 to 1987 she completed her Master's in Philosophy earning herself a gold medal.
In 1987 she moved on to Madras University to pursue her M. Phil. degree and from 1988 to 1992 she returned to her alma mater at Anantapur to lecture at the Philosophy department for four years. In 1992, Susmita Patnayak got married and settled in Berhampur, Odisha. She later earned a degree in Education, and since 1995 she has been teaching high school.
Reproduced below are edited excerpts of Susmita Patnayak (SP)'s conversation with Radio Sai's Karuna Munshi (KM) which was first aired on Radio Sai on 15 January, 2015.
When Sai Takes the Place of God
KM: Let's begin at the beginning. How did Bhagawan come into your life?
SP: It was in 1972–73, in Berhampur, Odisha, where we live, that someone gave a photograph of Swami to my father. We started worshipping Swami. Then in 1973–74 we came to Parthi. Roads and railways had not reached Parthi then. We had to get down from the bus and trains somewhere far off and from there we had to come by bullock cart to reach Bukkapatnam. It was already evening time and we were looking for a bullock cart to reach Parthi. We didn't know where to go when an old man came along and showed us the way where the bullock cart could take us.
On the way we heard evening bhajans that were coming from Prasanthi Nilayam. We reached around 7.30 p.m. Bhajans had ended and Swami had gone into His room. Then Prasanthi Nilayam was a white building with a Krishna statue on top. We spent the night in open air. The Poornachandra Auditorium was under construction. Stones and boulders were there and on the heaps of sand we stretched ourselves and took rest.
The next morning my parents woke me up and told me that we would see God. So we went and sat on the sand. They started Omkaram 21 times. I never knew what Omkaram was. I was looking around to see from which direction Swami would come on the Pushpak Vimanam (mythological chariot used by heavenly beings to fly) because they had told me we were going to see God. So I thought He was going to come from Vaikuntam (heaven) by Pushpak Vimanam.
I was looking around for some heavenly vision in the skies. Meanwhile,Swami came on the balcony to give darshan. That was Prabhat Darshan (morning vision) which Swami used to give at that time. Then my mother said, “This is God and we have come to see Him.” Then I realised He was the one — my Lord and Master. Since then He came into my life and accepted me and then we continuously kept coming at least once a year.
In 1975, I came as a Bal Vikas delegate and we were lodged in the Anantapur hostel. Swami's college for women had already started there and all the Bal Vikas students from all over India were housed there for two days. We were trained in bhajans and march past. Then we were brought to Parthi on birthday when we had to march in front of Swami.
The new mandir building was constructed and in front of that was the circle with a Ganesha statue and Swami was standing there with Swami Karunyanandaji. We had to march past Swami, saluting Him. We had learnt the song specifically prepared for that march past, ‘Sai, Sai japte chalo’.
We sang and we marched and after that Swami gave a discourse, distributed laddus (sweets) and gave us big badges and then gave each of us one ball pen and one ink pen which I still preserve till date.
The Desire to Become His Student is Kindled
When I went back to Odisha, I became more active in Sai activities and started going for all possible seva activities and bhajans. A gentleman named Mr. S. M. Patnaik from our town was an important person in Parthi and in his house we used to attend Pre-Sevadal. He told me, “Recently Swami has started a college for women in Anantapur where you stayed when you went as a Bal Vikas student. Would you like to join there?” I said, “Certainly, I want to go.”
Then he said, “You have to study very well and get first class. Only then you can go there.” Then started my prayers and the intensity and yearning that I must go and join Anantapur College. I was studying in Oriya medium and didn't know to speak in English. But in Anantapur everything was in English, a language I didn’t know. I told Swami, “I don’t know how I am going to go but it is Your duty. I will try my best to do well and get good marks.”
Every time I sat down to study I would pray to Swami and finish my studies and again pray to Him. Every minute I spent praying, “Swami please take me.” My grade ten exams were over and I passed with distinction and I got very good marks in Oriya. So Odisha government offered me scholarship, i.e., completely free education but I rejected it because I wanted to join Anantapur.
We had to write the entrance exam in Anantapur and wait for the results. There was no news of any interview call from Anantapur. Telephones were not there and to get information from Anantapur was not so easy, so again my father and I came to Anantapur and explained our situation and requested for an interview so that my admissions process could be completed.
Very cordially the then Principal, Dr. Hemalata madam and Wardens Jayamma madam and Pushpa madam interviewed me for 45 minutes and let's not forget that I never knew how to speak English. I didn’t know what I spoke, I don’t remember what they asked during those 45 minutes. The next day they informed that I was selected to join Anantapur and then very happily my longing was fulfilled and I started my studies.
Everything was in English medium and everybody was speaking in English but all my seniors were so nice to me. The warden Jayamma madam was very, very loving, very motherly lady and so compassionate and kind towards me. The entire community in Anantapur was very loving and caring and was guiding me; I was in a world full of love and I started picking up English.
Mother Sai Never Misses You
In 1980, the year when I joined Intermediate program (pre-university), we came to Parthi for Swami’s birthday. We reached on 16 or 17 November and Swami sent word that we should come and take His blessings and that He would distribute sarees. So we sat down in rows, on the sand that was there on the darshan ground.
I was at the beginning of the line but last person to come and sit. Swami did not begin with me. He began with the other person. He started distributing sarees, giving padanamaskar and when He came to me the sarees got over. I was the only person who didn’t get a saree and nobody noticed it nor knew about it except the girls who were sitting beside me.
Swami then went back into the mandir and naturally girls were made to get up and return to their dormitory and I was so innocent and so simple, that I never knew what to do. I was wondering if Swami would give me a saree or if I would have to go back without it. I didn’t know what to do. Luckily, it took a few minutes for everybody to leave in line, in a disciplined way. Suddenly, there was Swami on the verandah with a saree in his hand. And He beckoned me. The teachers wondered what had happened. They didn’t know that I didn’t get a saree but Swami called me from there. He was standing near the window with a saree. I went to the verandah, He told me take padanamaskar and my friends later told me that Swami blessed me while I was bowing at His lotus feet. Then I got the saree from Swami's hands. That was the day when I felt a confirmation that Swami had accepted me.
KM: You know what they say, ‘God’s delays are not His denials’, He had something special for you, one-on-one, with a personal touch.
SP: Very special indeed! I really wondered how did He create that situation for me.
I was a very simple and innocent 15 year old and never the pushy kind. I would always prefer to be back stage. After my pre-university education, I joined the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning for my undergrad studies in 1982.
Being Trained to See a Test as an Opportunity for Him to Step In
Ours was the first batch to follow unique institute syllabus which our first Vice Chancellor Dr. V.K. Gokak had framed for us. To our dismay we had nine courses: two Awareness papers and two elective papers with five regular subject papers. Swami was so particular that Science students learn about Arts, and the Arts students learn about Science for a wholesome learning experience.
We struggled with such a heavy course load and the eight periods of college schedule, were not enough to cover all the subjects. So we had to have extra classes during night times in the hostel, in the corridors, in the prayer hall, in the dining hall where teachers started teaching.... There was such a lot to study and the syllabus was so vast. And the Lord was so gracious, so very concerned about us that before our first semester exam He gave us an interview and told us how we should prepare ourselves for our exams. He gave the example of a letter. He said when your younger brother or sister writes you a letter while you are in the hostel saying, “Akka (elder sister), you bring me this or that, or you bring me a locket, or a vibhuti packet or some calendar, what do you do? You read the letter and pick out the main points as the items your little brother or sister has asked you to bring for them, and then you dispose the letter.
“This is what you can do when you study - you prepare that way, read the chapter, mark the main points, remember the main points, and put away the book.” Swami said by doing so we would have prepared well, and can write the exam and leave everything to Him. “I will handle the rest” He assured us.
We knew only Swami, we knew nothing else, and we studied for Swami. He gave us pens, He gave us padanamaskar. He said, “Study well and take Swami’s name okay?”
We went back and we wrote our first semester exams and the second semester exam was in April. Rest of the students had finished their exams earlier than us. We were 38 of us in our batch and we were left with Jayamma Madam in the hostel, while the rest of the students had gone home. Meanwhile, towards the end of March, Swami decided to go to Brindavan and we were heartbroken. Swami was going away to Brindavan and we had exams to deal with and the heat in Anantapur was sweltering.
Swami sent a message to us, 'Don't worry, I know it is unbearably hot. It will rain on 1 April and the climate will become very cool for all of you to study; prepare for the exams and write them'. We trusted His sankalpa and needless to say on 1 April there was a downpour. It was all cool, we studied and wrote our exams in comfort and then went back home.
What can one say about Swami’s concern for us.
He Gracefully Accepts the Offering He Helps Prepare
It was in January that we had our very first sports meet of the institute. We all were not so trained, we had yogasanas prescribed for us, and we had to attend yoga classes. So we were preparing to display something in front of Swami, and some of our classmates practised some motorbike stunts. Motorbikes were hired for us. We started practising on them, and then some of our classmates also wanted to put up skating. So we came to Parthi in January to practise.
Swami was very concerned, and would often come out to us, enquire about us, how we are practising and so on. He asked if everything required was available to us.
- Radio Sai Team
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