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Posted on: Nov 21, 2016
The Temple of Healing teaches the power of prayer too
This year we celebrate the 25th year of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences. When Bhagawan announced His sankalpa of setting up a Super Speciality Hospital in Puttaparthi, people were shocked and surprised. 26 years later, this living proof of His divine will continues to surprise all who come to know of it. What makes this temple of healing special is not confined to the fact that it offers state-of-the-art tertiary care free of cost. Behind the walls of this edifice, lives are transformed, new hope in the goodness of humanity is sown in despondent hearts, and more importantly, faith in prayer and devotion is restored. As we celebrate a special milestone of this living miracle, join us in musing on what it really stands to represent for us devotees of Bhagawan.
As the sun rose over a sleepy hamlet in the heart of the Rayalaseema region, Lakshmi woke up with a smile. Rare were days like this when she could rise after the sun and relax knowing that she wouldn’t have to set out to work. It was going to be like this for the near future. However, that was not the cause of her joy. The cause was the little one growing within her. It was a matter of a few weeks now when her bundle of joy would be beside her. The glow of motherhood shone through her weather-beaten and exhausted face.
Of course, she would no longer be able to earn her daily wages since she wasn’t able to work. She also suffered from a severe sore throat that kept her coughing for long. Her joints ached from the daily grind of hard work. But none of these could stop her from smiling. She got up from the floor with a prayer to God and walked out of her hut to the adjacent thatched structure that served as a bathroom. She had no idea that the day which had begun with the warm rays of the sun would end as a soaring temperature in her body.
Lakshmi’s fever simply refused to subside in spite of all the anti-pyretics that the local doctor prescribed. As the date of delivery drew near, Lakshmi’s condition worsened. Her knees seemed to give way in pain and every joint in her body ached terribly. Then, she began to get severe bouts of chest pain and everyone felt something was seriously wrong with her. She was rushed in an autorickshaw to the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences (SSSIHMS).
The sole resort of the poor
“When any educational or medical institution is established, the sole aim is to make a business of it.” Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba had thundered during His discourse on 23rd November 1990.
“People spend some lakhs to get heart surgery done in the U.S. What about the plight of the poor? Who looks after them? If they go to the cities, they will not get even coloured water (as medicine). Recognising this fact, we are launching this big hospital project. Whether it is heart bypass operation, or a kidney transplant, or a lung operation or brain surgery, everything will be done free. The hospital will be opened on November 22, 1991.”
In what can be considered as a miraculous feat, exactly a year later, four complicated surgeries were completed successfully in the tertiary care hospital that had just been inaugurated by the Prime Minister of the nation (Sri P.V .Narasimha Rao). Since that day, the SSSIHMS became a beacon of hope, the only resort to thousands of poor. Today, it welcomed Lakshmi in its warm, healing embrace.
The diagnosis revealed that Lakshmi was suffering from rheumatic heart disease, an affliction that begins as a throat infection before spreading to joints and causing high fever. Finally, it debilitates the valves of the heart, especially the mitral valve. Her baby was beyond saving as the poor blood flow had almost killed it. Lakshmi too would die now if an emergency surgery was not performed. Without further ado, she was wheeled into the operation theatre where an expert carried out the surgery for hours. The mitral valve was opened, the blood flow restored and Lakshmi saved from the jaws of death. The mother was saved but her first child was gone! Naturally, when she woke up in the ICU, Lakshmi wailed in agony.
Dikku Leni Variki Devude Dikku
Lakshmi knew that her life had been saved. She knew that she would never have been able to afford this medical care anywhere else. But still, she felt that it would have been better that she had died. The loss of a child for a mother is possibly the most cruel one. Her physical heart had been healed but her spiritual heart cried out of the pangs of separation from her child. She was inconsolable. She was numb. Though she didn’t speak it out, her heart seemed to cry,
“God, where are You?”
At precisely that moment, the double-glass doors of the stepdown ICU opened and there stood God!
Baba entered the chamber and lovingly raised His hand in benediction. Lakshmi felt an electric surge pass through her entire being. Compassion was oozing out from Swami’s face and it added an incomprehensible strength to Lakshmi. Swami approached her and began to gently wave His palm. He gave her the materialised vibhuti and gently patted her on the head. Lakshmi was overwhelmed. Though Swami had not spoken a word, He had communicated everything to her - that God was always with her; in her, above her, below her and around her!
Lakshmi’s question had been spontaneous but silent. Swami’s answer had been direct and dramatic!
It was only after Swami left the hospital that the staff realised why He had come. They had been surprised to see Him walk into the hospital in the early hours of the morning. (He usually visited after 10 am.) Instead of using the battery-powered vehicle, Swami had headed in a hurry to the stairs leading to the cardiac surgery complex. It was almost as if He had a very important appointment to keep and He would be late if He didn’t hurry!
That was indeed the case because a devotee was in need and when someone needs God, he/she deserves God. In Swami’s own words, “Dikku Leni Variki Devude Dikku” (for the one without any recourse, God is the only recourse). Having blessed Lakshmi, Swami left as abruptly as He had arrived!
A Temple of Healing
The SSSIHMS is referred to as a ‘temple of healing’ and not simply as ‘a hospital’. There is good reason for this. Right at the entrance, you are welcomed by a magnificent dome that reminds a Christian of the holy Basilica, a Muslim of the grand Mosque and a Hindu of the Maha Mandir. Anybody going through the dome will find depictions of the religion of his/her choice. The atmosphere is silent and surreal. The serenity that abounds calms even the most distressed of patients. This ‘prayerful’ entrance is not just physical. The doctors, nurses, administrators and huge force of Sevadal volunteers begin the day with prayers. Bhajans and devotional songs go on continuously through speakers at a low volume in the entire hospital. Treating everyone with love is part of the hospital’s guiding philosophy which rests upon four pillars:
1. Universal Healthcare
Swami explains it in very simple words, “When disease makes no distinctions of high or low, rich or poor, should those who cure make such distinctions?”
2. De-commercialized Healthcare
The hospital provides the entire range of medical services – investigations, surgery, medicines and in-patient care absolutely free of cost. In fact, there is no billing counter at all.
3. Human Values in Healthcare
Swami’s advice to the doctors was straight – “Doctors should care for their patients as they would for their kith and kin. Love is the basis for values-based living. A doctor can infuse courage in patients by love. If doctors carry out their duties in a spirit of love and sacrifice, their efforts are certain to be crowned with success”.
The atmosphere of Love and Compassion which pervades the hospitals expedites patients’ recovery. The doctors, the caregivers and the hundreds of Sevadal (service volunteers) are inspired by the ideal “Service to Man is Service to God.”
4. Spiritualisation of Healthcare
The aim should be to heal the patient in body, mind and spirit, not merely to cure disease.
But then, no amount of description can do justice. This hospital has to be experienced to be believed - just like God!
Everyone is welcome in this Temple and nothing is expected of anyone. But, as in any temple, a prayer is something that happens naturally. This aspect is what possibly makes this super-specialty hospital a ‘super-special’ one too as the wonderful experience of Sri Ravi Mariwala shows.
God’s only weakness; Man’s only strength
Ravi is an alumnus of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning and he served as a member of the technical staff of the SSSIHMS for several years. He has been blessed to welcome Swami into the hospital several times (including the visit to bless Lakshmi). But one of his most poignant experiences was when he invited Swami into the operation theatre with a heartfelt prayer.
It was a day when Ravi was part of the team doing a valve replacement surgery on a middle aged gentleman from a distant town. Once the surgery was completed, the go ahead was given to wean the patient off the heart-lung machine. The heart-lung machine, as the name suggests, substitutes for the heart and lungs of a person during surgery. Once the surgeons finish the operation, the machine is gradually turned off and the heart is revived. But today, there was a problem.
Despite the use of several supporting drugs and multiple attempts at revival, the patient’s heart simply refused to take over from the machine. The blood pressure and heart rate were on the verge of a complete meltdown if the heart-lung machine was removed. The surgeons realised that the patient had to be put back on bypass to rest the heart. But how long could the bypass continue?
After hours of trying, an expert cardiologist was summoned. He did elaborate tests and confirmed that the artificial valve that had been implanted was competent. He could find no problem or mistake anywhere. And yet, the heart simply refused to beat!
Ravi walked out of the theatre into the corridor outside. He was very disturbed. He knew that everything had been done but still the doctors stood helpless and the patient lay hapless. That was when it struck him that there was a recourse which had not been taken yet - to pray! Standing in the corridor, he opened up his heart to Swami. He pleaded to Him to come and help. As the intensity of prayer grew, the intensity of his worry reduced. Minutes later, Ravi was feeling strong and surprisingly, elated. He entered the operation theatre and his jaw dropped!
The heart-lung machine had been switched off! And the patient’s vital signs were fine! Everyone in the operation theatre was relaxed. Ravi was stupefied. He went to one of the team members and asked what had happened.
“I don’t know exactly. A few minutes back, the patient’s condition magically improved and his heart began functioning normally...”
Ravi fought hard to stop the tears forming in his eyes. Once again, Swami’s response had been immediate.
The following Sunday, Ravi was in the mandir for darshan. Swami walked straight to him and materialised vibhuti. What He said next simply took Ravi’s breath away,
“This is for the prayer you made for that patient...”
Not only had Swami responded to a prayer and saved a life, He had blessed profusely the one who had taken recourse to prayer!
A change in perspective
There are thousands of such incidents that have happened on a daily basis in the 25 years of existence of SSSIHMS. There is no doubt that the Temple of Healing has humbled and overwhelmed people across countries, religions and professions, demonstrating to them the true essence of service. It definitely has proved to the world that free medicare does not mean cheap medicare. It has also amply shown that miracles are possible for mere mortals too if only they possess purity of intent and selflessness in purpose.
But more than anything else, this Temple of Healing established by the Avatar of the age has done a holistic job of repairing not just the physical heart but the spiritual one too. It has taught everyone associated with it that medicare needs prayer and faith in God as strongly (if not more) as good doctors and state-of-the-art facilities. Going through the mind-blowing experiences of many patients here, we understand that prayer need not be the last resort - it should be the first one.
By Aravind Balasubramanya
− Radio Sai Team
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