Volume 16 - Issue 07
July 2018
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Posted on: July 17, 2018


Dancing in Ecstatic Joy to the Tune of His Divine Melody

Mr P Vijay Bhaskar

Part 01


Mr P Vijaya Bhaskar was among those Sai Students who had the fortune of studying in the erstwhile Sri Sathya Sai Arts and Science College in Brindavan, Bengaluru. He joined for his bachelor's programme in 1974 and thereafter completed his masters from the Bangalore University, which he pursued continuing to stay in Bhagawan’s hostel in Brindavan.

An exemplary student that he was, he graduated with gold medals in both the programs. He was also among those few boys handpicked by Bhagawan to serve in the gokulam and the farms that were part of the Brindavan ashram. In spite of dedicating much of his time to Swami and the responsibilities assigned by Him, his academic achievement in terms of the marks he secured during his M.Com., is a record yet to be surpassed in the Bangalore University.

Subsequently, on Swami’s command, he embarked on what would be an illustrious career. In 2016, when he retired, he was an Executive Director of the Reserve Bank of India, India's central banking institution, which controls the monetary policy of the Indian rupee.

Even as he was serving at the RBI, he remained active in Swami’s work too. He was even appointed by Bhagawan as Convenor and Trustee of the Sri Sathya Sai Trust, Maharashtra. He was instrumental in organising the conference on ‘Ethics and the World of Finance’ at Prasanthi Nilayam in 2009, which brought together some of the most notable personalities from the Indian banking sector, including the Governor of RBI.

In November 2016 he was appointed as a Trustee of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust. His notable contribution in this capacity was the initiation and setting up of the Sri Sathya Sai Nithya Anna Seva, free lunch prasadam for all devotees visiting Prasanthi Nilayam, an activity that was commenced during Gurupoornima 2017. It was not an uncommon sight to see him personally monitoring the serving of free food whenever he was in Prasanthi Nilayam. Later he was also appointed a trustee of the Sri Sathya Sai Sadhana Trust, under which all canteens, refreshments counters, shopping complex, and Gokulam are run.

To the utter shock of everyone in Sai fraternity as well as in the banking world, he suddenly succumbed to a massive heart attack on May 4, 2018 in Mumbai. Till the last day of his life he was constantly engaged in activities related to Swami’s organisation and the Trusts.

As a student, he was personally groomed by Swami Himself. He then went on to play an important role for the country, and thereafter in Swami’s organisations too, albeit shorter than we had wished. It indeed was a case of a life that had come a full circle. We cannot but look upon him as a blessed devotee and a dear student of Swami from whom we can derive much inspiration.

Presented below is an edited transcript of the talk he delivered at Dharmakshetra, Swami’s mandir in the city of Mumbai, on the occasion of the Sri Sathya Sai Aradhana Mahotsavam 2016. We pray to Bhagawan that he forever basks ‘in the daylight of His Splendrous glory’.


Most humble pranams at the lotus feet of Bhagawan. I stand in front of you on this thrice blessed day. I say ‘thrice blessed’ in the sense that today is the Maha Samadhi Day which we are observing as the Aradhana Day. Today is also the Samarpan Day and coincidentally this happens to be the first anniversary of the Samarpan programs which we started in Dharmakshetra a year ago (in 2015).

Brothers and sisters, five years ago on this day Swami chose to leave His mortal coil. I was working in Bangalore at that time and I reached Prasanthi Nilayam towards afternoon. The scenes and emotions and the way in which devotees reacted there are etched in my memory and I shall not forget them for a lifetime.

On the Maha Samadhi Day one of the most overriding or overwhelming feelings among the majority of devotees has been a sense of having been orphaned. We feel that Swami has left us and has gone to a distant place and that He is in His heavenly abode Vaikunta or Kailasa. There is an extreme pain in our hearts as we feel a sense of void within.

Brother Venu Srinivasan of the TVS Group, a very familiar face in Prasanthi Nilayam, was telling me during Swami's 90th Birthday, “So many people say so many things about Swami's departure but in one respect I really miss Him.” Imagine a devotee of his standing and one who had so much proximity to Bhagawan saying that! He said, “Earlier whenever I had any trouble or problem I used to come to Swami and catch hold of His hand and say ‘Swami, it's very difficult. I cannot carry on like this. You help me out.’ That hand which I could hold and that shoulder on which I could lean is something which I am missing now.”


This in a way sums up the feelings of the majority of devotees. But I have also heard a few devotees who are spiritually more advanced say that Swami has asked us to promote ourselves from the sakara (form) to the nirakara (formless) form of worship. However, the overwhelming majority feel that Swami has left us high and dry and has gone to a far-off place.

But I would like to place before you Swami's own words which are most soothing, most assuring and most reassuring on this day when all of us have mixed feelings about Him depending on our own equation with Him and our own spiritual maturity.

Best Way to Address Swami

I distinctly remember something that Swami told and I thought that is the first thing I should share with all of you. This happened in 1974 a couple of months after I joined Brindavan. It was a very different Brindavan then.

Dr Bhagawantham, Mr Ramabrahmam and a few of our boys were there. Swami asked, “Do you know the most appropriate way of addressing Me?”

All of us including the elders tried giving different answers and said, “Swami”, “Bhagawan”, “Deva Deva”, “Sai Deva”, “Sai Mata”, etc.

Swami was not satisfied with the answers and went around the room. He again asked Dr Bhagawantham, “Do you recollect the way in which Venkatagiri Raja used to call Me?”

Apparently the Raja of Venkatagiri used to call Swami in a particular way. Dr Bhagawantham kept thinking. Swami immediately interjected, “He always used to call Me as, ‘My dear Atman’. Whenever he used to address Me he used to say, ‘My dear Atman’”.

Brothers and sisters, for all of us who have been with Swami and who have seen Him, we know that He is a very effulgent and radiant figure. He always exuded ananda and His physical body was full of energy. He was Ananda Swaroopa (embodiment of bliss) but when He mentioned this particular point, He said, “‘My dear Atman’ is the correct way to address Me. That is the fundamental truth you should know of Me.

Subsequently I remember Swami mentioning this point in Prasanthi Nilayam a couple of times. He was much more radiant while mentioning it. Now I recollect in my mind's eye that I have never seen Swami so full and so overjoyed. In other words, Swami feels so happy when someone addresses Him in the correct way. So He said, “‘My dear Atman’ is the correct way in which you should visualise Me and pray to Me.”

In the olden days when Swami used to give interviews some devotees asked, “Swami, when You speak to us You tell us of our innermost thoughts and actions which nobody else knows. How is it? Do You enter us at that point of time and then see within us and then come out and explain?” Swami said, “There's nothing like exiting and entering business. I am always there. You cannot think without Me.”

In so many words He had told us this through the years. In fact He mentions in various discourses, “There could be a fraction of a millimetre distance between the eye and your eyelid but as far as you and I are concerned, there is no distance. You and I are one; there is no difference. In fact there is no way in which you can say that I am different from you.”

So I think the true aradhana to Swami would be to realise Him, to visualise Him and to pray to Him as our own atma or our own consciousness.

The Samarpan He Seeks

 

In 1975, Swami did a Summer Course but it was not the conventional one. I remember this Summer Course very vividly because it was only for Brindavan students and I was blessed by Swami to be with Him in His personal entourage.

In that Summer Course Swami talked in detail about ‘samarpan’ and how to go about it. Swami said ‘samarpan’ or ‘to offer’ is the first step towards complete sharanagati (surrender).

He started that Summer Course by mentioning about the body and patram (leaf), pushpam (flower), phalam (fruit) and toyam (water) – from verse 26 of chapter 9 of the Bhagavad Gita. He said, “When Krishna said ‘Patram, pushpam, phalam, toyam’ He was never talking of the externalities. He was talking of your own being and parts of your own Self.”

In that Summer Course Swami asked, “Do you know why the deham (body) has been given to you? Your body is the leaf or patram which you have to offer to Swami.”

Swami further explained, “Paropakaram idam shareeram. The body has to be used for the service of fellow human beings.”

When Swami is residing in our own hearts as our atman, service to others is actually service to Him. So He says that the way to offer the patram or leaf is to try and serve other human beings.

Next He spoke about pushpam. He said, “Pushpam is the hridaya pushpam. You should offer the lotus of your heart to Me. How should you give it? Should it be given on a status quo basis? No! It should be given bereft of all the arishadvargas (six inner enemies) — kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada and matsarya (lust, anger, greed, attachment and jealousy)”.

Swami then asked, “What is the phalam or fruit you have to offer to Me? It is the fruit of your actions — karma phalam.” Finally speaking about toyam, He said, “Toyam is not physical water but it is the tears which well out of your own being when you are lost in contemplation of the Lord.”

Swami further asked, “Should this samarpan or offering be a periodic activity? Is it good to do it once a month or once a week? No! It is a lifelong affair. Take for example your own body. You will have to indulge in karma throughout your life. So use your body in the service of others. Try and offer to Me the karma which you do day in and day out till your last breath. Likewise, the purification of the heart is a continuous sadhana.” Regarding toyam Swami said, “At least once or intermittently if you are able to experience the ecstasy of the Lord in communion with you and you offer that to Me, it is of utmost sacredness.”

Now let me share a few of my experiences with Bhagawan. If anybody wants to look at a person who is a product of Swami's not 100% but 200% grace, it is me. It is a matter of recorded fact that He has given me seven rebirths in this life! Seven times doctors took me to be almost dead but all seven times He revived me. Twice I have experienced Him physically in an ICU in Hyderabad.

Before I go on I think it would be worthwhile to think over the lessons from these experiences. The first and foremost is that Swami is Sarvantaryami Tatwam, the Indwelling Principle. He is divine and He is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. That is something which gushes forth in all these experiences. As I narrate them, you will find that every time Swami proves His divinity. If at all confirmation or reaffirmation was required He provides us proof!

The second lesson which I have personally drawn is that His words are always difficult to understand. Swami used to always converse with me in Telugu as it is my mother tongue but even then many a times I found it tough to understand His words. We can understand His words only after a certain efflux of time when those things play out in our lives. The reason is that the frame of reference with which Swami uses His words is completely different from what we understand. But He later tells us personally or through our experiences proves to us what exactly He meant. I will mention a couple of such examples.

Sri Sathya Sai Nithya Anna Seva
Sri Sathya Sai Nithya Anna Seva canteen. (Below) Mr Vijay Bhaskar personally supervising prasadam serving.


If I were to analyse my experiences they can be divided into four parts. The first is what I experienced with Swami when I was in my childhood. Part two are experiences which I had as a student in Swami's College. Third are the ones I had after I came out from His college and the fourth are what I have experienced after His Maha Samadhi.

He Captured the Tender Heart with His Love and Playful Omniscience

My first experience with Swami is through our altar at home. I grew up in Guntur, a place in coastal Andhra. It is the place where the new capital of Andhra Pradesh is coming up—Amaravathi. There were photos of a quite a number of gods and goddesses in our pooja room but in the main altar there used to be a photo of Lord Sathya Narayana. It was a medium-sized photo and it was used as the main photo for worship during the Sathya Narayana vratam which we used to do once in a year in the month of Kartika.

There was a peculiarity about that photo. After that whenever I saw any photo of Lord Sathya Narayana anywhere I tried to find out whether that same peculiarity was there. The peculiarity was that the way in which His eyes and lips were shaded would make you feel that the Lord was frowning at you angrily, if you saw the photo from a distance. So I used to have a tinge of nervousness whenever I used to see the photo and would feel very jittery. The jitteriness continued for quite some time and it would increase whenever I used to approach the altar. My mother used to keep sweetmeats below the photo and so whenever I went to pick up the sweetmeats I used to look at that photo and feel a little nervous. I felt that the Lord was looking at me very angrily. But I never asked my parents or the elders in the house whether I was correct.

Curiosity got the better of me and one day I took the help of a stool and went near the photograph. Due to the way the lips of the Lord were shaded they looked as if He was frowning. But when I saw the photograph from close, what I thought was Ugra Narasimha Roopa (angry form of Lord Narasimha) was in fact Chirumandahasam (a gentle and beautiful smile). How can I put it? If you see the Krishna statue here on top of the hillock, there Krishna is smiling a little bit. That was the actual way in which Lord Sathya Narayana was smiling but because of the shade I used to think that He was frowning.

Few months after this incident, Swami blessed my mother and me with our first interview. Even prior to that my mother had received a lot of blessings from Him as He had given her a number of interviews. Swami introduced Himself to me in that interview in a dramatic manner.

I used to have a peculiar habit whenever I went to the altar at home. When pooja was done, as a small child I would stand in front with parents and others behind. I would close my eyes initially but would open them faintly later. I would close the right eye first and open the left eye slightly and peer with it. Then I would close the left eye and open the right eye slightly and peer. In my childish ignorance I thought that since pooja was being offered, Lord Sathya Narayana must be happy and at least at that time He may be smiling. So I used to open my eyes to look if He was smiling.

The moment Swami saw me in the interview room, the first thing He did was to stand exactly the way I used to stand with my eyes half-open. It was electrifying! Then He said in Telugu, “Kopamtho kadu ra, prematho choostunnaru Swami. Swami is not looking at you angrily but He is looking at you lovingly!”

Swami's first name as given by His parents was Sathya Narayana. He didn't use the name ‘Sathya Narayana’ but instead said, “Swami is looking at you lovingly, not angrily.” This was one confirmation for me.

In fact this is the second confirmation which Swami gave me because two months before that in 1969, two days prior to Shivaratri I had the first darshan of Swami. In those days He used to have pan and some of the reddishness used to rub off on His lips. The moment He came out of the interview room one of the first thoughts which hit me as a child was that the lips were exactly the lips which I had seen in that photo of Lord Sathya Narayana at home when I saw it from close! So this was my first confirmation and the second was what He revealed about me in my first interview with Him.

I must say at this juncture that devotees fall under two categories. For some devotees it is love and faith at first sight. You see Swami and develop faith; it is automatic. There are certain others, like my cousins and others who went through a lot of testing and only then accepted Him. I belong to the first category.

Going back to that interview, when Swami made that revelation to me my mother was looking askance. She probably thought, “What is Swami telling about this fellow which I do not know?” Swami  continued, “You need not do pooja the way in which you are doing.” My mother was again wondering what pooja I was doing without her knowledge.

I had a very peculiar habit as a child. I used to take some of the smaller photographs from the altar and create my own small pooja room in one of the pathways in the house. It was a typical town house with a front yard and a back yard. There were pathways on either side so that if somebody came from the front yard they would not have to enter the house but could go to the back yard directly. I used to clean one of the pathways all by myself. I used to take the smaller photographs and put them against the wall there. I would construct walls with loose bricks and put asbestos sheets or Kadapa slabs. I would then light incense sticks and perform Arati with camphor.

 

Swami actually mentioned, “You need not do pooja the way in which you are doing.” The reason was that a few months before, this was the last time I did such a pooja. I used to do the pooja when my parents were not around in the house. That particular time there was a cyclonic storm and some of the photographs got wet and my parents had to retrieve and put them back in the pooja room.

So even as Swami mentioned all this in the interview my mother was looking at me and then at Him quizzically.

Then Swami explained everything to her in Telugu. “This fellow is in the habit of doing this. So I am telling him that he need not do pooja the way in which he is doing.” This was my very first introduction to Swami at the physical level.

His Protection is Eternal

Then the next major experience with Swami was His assurance of protection. I had the first darshan of Bhagawan in 1969 and in 1974 I joined His College.

The period from 1969 to 1974 was when He gave me maximum interviews.

In one of the interviews one evening He told me, “Repu ra ra, raksha istanu - Come tomorrow, I will give you a protection.”

So next morning we sat and Swami came out and picked up people for interview. In those days He used to call two batches of people for interviews. That day He came towards me and called the person on my right and left but not me.

Swami went inside and finished the first interview. Usually when He finished the interview after the first batch He used to stand facing the main Gopuram gate. He would stand on the mat just in front of the door on which was the throne, and guide people outside.

I was sitting against a neem tree which was there at that time in the place where the bell is now rung when Arati is done. If we sat against that tree we could see Swami clearly. The moment He came out we would be in His line of vision. That day Swami came out and beckoned me.

I went and sat in the last row for the second batch of interviews. I was in fact the last person to enter and so I was the first person Swami saw when He closed the door and turned around. He looked at me and asked, “Who called you?” I said, “Swami, You called me.” He asked, “Why did you come?”

Swami at the divine level knows everything but in some cases depending upon one's karma He wants us to ask Him what we require in life. Perhaps I needed protection. So I said, “Swami, You called me yesterday and told that You will give me protection. That is why I have come.”

The moment I said this, with His left hand Swami caught hold of my right ear. He pulled me to Him thrice. All three times my forehead touched His forehead. While He did that He told me, “Ippude kadu ra, jeevitam anta rakshistanu - Not just for now but I will give you protection for a lifetime!”

Brothers and sisters, from that day in 1970, for 46 years my life has been a continuous saga of Swami's protection. You take any aspect of my life — personal, professional, family, financial or social. In every respect He has saved and protected me. The point I am trying to make is that Swami made me ask that question perhaps knowing that I require His protection for a lifetime due to my own karmas in the past.

Does that mean that Swami has not protected us earlier? The answer is no! Swami has been protecting each and every one of us right through our lives. But it is due to His grace that some of us are consciously aware of the fact that He has played a part in this aspect of our life.

The Ever-Watchful Benign Master

I will mention one or two instances of Swami's protection before I joined His college. Let me give an episode to show how He protects us from going into bad ways. Before my intermediate final year exam (XII grade), in the name of studying late at night my friend used to come home. We would go on cycles to a town centre, have a cup of tea and come back for studying. The friend was a compulsive smoker and pan eater. Every day, after tea he used to force me to smoke cigarettes. Two or three days I resisted but the third day I succumbed. I never used to like the smoke. I used to just take a puff or two and then throw it away.

Immediately after my exams we went to Parthi. My mother and I were called for interview. The first thing Swami said when He looked at me was, “Poga, Poga.” Poga in Telugu means smoke. My mother by this time had reconciled that Swami would every time mention something about me which she did not know.  My mother kept asking Swami what He meant. I did not answer but just put my head down. Then Swami said, “This fellow in the name of late night studies is going out with his friend who forced him to smoke. But why should he succumb?” That was the end of my smoking! When Swami takes the protective gear He is there in every aspect of one's life.

In those days whenever my father and I went to visit Swami we would stay for months on end. During my intermediate final year I was a BPC student (studying Biology Physics and Chemistry as main subjects). In fact Prof. Anil Kumar was our botany lecturer that time.

It was March and final exams were announced. Being science students we had to first complete the record work. The practical exams would be conducted first and theory exams after that. Those were the days of trunk calls. Prasanthi Nilayam had only one telephone in the post master's room. If somebody wanted to make a call, a 'Particular Person' (PP) call had to be made. My mother was frantically trying to call us but could not succeed. Later Swami one day told us, “Why are you not going home? You go home. Why are you staying for months on end?” So we took Swami's blessings and went.

By the time I went the last date for submission of the botany record was over. I was crestfallen because if I missed that, I could not take the examination and one year would be wasted. But my mother said, “One of your friends came on his own and took your botany record.”

When I went to the college I found that my friend had completed the record and submitted it on time. The best part of it is the next day when we got the marks we found that I had scored the highest mark! After the exams were over when we went to Swami, He came straight to me and said, “What happened to your botany record?”

The point I am trying to make is that there is no limit to Swami's grace. The way in which He operates through us is something which no philosopher or poet can express. When the results were out, I topped the university. Then came the question of what next. My parents were of the opinion that I should study medicine but I said I would not. If I see blood I am put off and I cannot see other people suffering. So I said I will not study medicine.

As usual we decided to go to Swami and He called my mother and me for an interview. The very first thing He said was, “This fellow's heart is weak. Medicine is not for him.” He then looked at me and said, “You come. I will give you seat. Do B. Com. in My college.” This is how I joined Swami's college. That is how He saved me and took me into His fold.

Basking In the Daylight of His Splendorous Glory

The connection between Swami and the students is something which nobody can describe. For His 50th Birthday in 1975, all of us boys who were there in Brindavan at that point of time said, “Swami, for Your 50th Birthday we would like to make an offering at Your lotus feet.” He agreed and we said, “Swami, we would like to write essays and publish it as a book.”

 
  Mr Vijay Bhaskar (standing first from left) as a student of the Brindavan College

We wanted to come out with a book titled ‘Hrudaya Brindavan’. The next day a few of us wrote about 20 topics and showed to Swami. He then chose 15 or 16 and said, “On these topics you write articles.”

The topic which Swami gave me was ‘The days of my youth, the days of my glory’.

For the starting of that article I wrote a poem which I feel holds good for not only the students but for all devotees. The poem runs like this:

In the daylight of His splendorous glory,
In the esoteric night of His inscrutable reality,
In the mid-hanging twilight of His serene beatitude,
In the pulsating throb of His listful laugh,
And in the green foliage of His melodious symphony,
We dance in ecstatic joy to the tune of His divine melody.

It is not hyperbolic. Based on my own experiences during those one and a half years I wrote this poem.

In the run-up to this Samarpan program one of the thoughts I had was, “How do I summarise my student life?” Then I felt there is no better way to summarise it than with this poem. I think Swami has made us live every word of what I have said.

The proof of that came when Swami went one month before the birthday celebrations to Puttaparthi. Before He left the book was ready and we gave it to Him. He opened a few pages here and there when a few of us were around. He opened my article and said, “You have written well!”



Go to Part 02

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