|Volume 4 - Issue 07 JULY 2006||
THE WONDERFUL SWAMI I HAVE SEEN
By Mrs. Geeta Mohanram
My salutations at the Lotus Feet of our ever present Swami, and Sai Ram to all of you. Sai Ram.
I see that the theme for this retreat is “All is One’, and I was reflecting about it, in that I have come from India to United States and from there to U.K; and you enter a Sai Regional Retreat and you immediately feel one with everybody in the hall; only because our Beloved Swami binds us all together with His Love!
So, thank you for having me here. It’s late in the evening; so I hope I will be able to bring a little bit of Swami to you today. Someone just read out a beautiful story at the beginning of her talk about the Master and the three people who visited in the form of the woman and the child. Our Master is known to do things like that.
No Need For An Invitation
As she was reading that I was thinking about a strange experience that happened to me in 1970. My mother, for the first time was to visit London, UK as Swami had asked her to come and speak in Mr. Sitaram’s house (who was one of the oldest devotees who started the first Sai Center ’s here in U.K). Swami had asked her to come and visit them in their house, because this was one of the first center’s that was opened outside of India.
So, every time Swami paused she would say: “Swami, you must come.” The first time she said that Swami ignored her; second time, ignored her; third time, I was beginning to get a little nervous because you know that when Swami is ignoring you twice when you say something you are better off being quiet. I knew that there was a lesson that was coming our way in the form of this poor woman who was going to be the scapegoat of the evening. So the third time, when Swami was still speaking about something, she said it again: “Swami, you must come to our town.” So Swami looked at her and said: “But I have! I have come to your city!” Now this poor woman, she still would not keep quiet and said: “No Swami, You have not come to our city.”
Swami changed the topic, and suddenly looked at her and said: “How is the service going on in your town?” And immediately she was very happy because she was the service coordinator in her city. She said: “Swami, the service is going on so wonderfully well; you know when we started off, there used to be about five or ten families who used to go out and do seva.” Swami had at that time said: “Everyday, when you’re doing seva, put aside a handful rice or flour that you are using for your family; collect it over a period of time, and then pool all the rice. The Sai devotees together, cook a dish and then distribute it to the poor people.” And the idea behind putting aside one handful every day was - to remember the people who didn’t have anything to eat at every meal that you cooked for your family.
So the lady said: “Swami, when we started off there were ten families who were putting aside the rice. Now we have a hundred people and we have about 25 kilos of rice that we get together. And we are feeding a lot of people. Swami, the seva is going wonderfully well!” And this is asking for trouble if you know Swami! Because it is not for us to tell Him how wonderfully well we are doing seva, it is for Him to tell us how well we are doing. Swami said: “Oh! Very happy! Very happy!" "Chaala Santosham!” in Telegu. Now, this lady was beside herself with joy! She was the seva coordinator; she was all ready to go back and tell everybody how wonderful it was.
You can imagine the silence, the utter silence in that room and the embarrassment of that lady! She was embarrassed. She had tears in her eyes. But believe me, the ten people in that interview room that day would never dare to go out and ever do seva in a way that would not please Swami! Because it was such a moving experience. Swami does come, as the Master did in any Form at any time!
This is the wonderful Swami I have seen since I was a small child. He has been my Mother, He has been my Father, He has been my Teacher, a very good Friend, and He has been a Wonderful, Loving Master too.
To give you a little bit about the background that we were talking about earlier. My grandfather came to Swami in 1943. He came in a very strange way - he didn’t want to come - they dragged him along. My aunts had seen Swami 6 months before that in the year 1942, and they had seen a young Swami who was just sixteen years old at that time. They had been so moved by His singing, and His message, that they had gone back home and Swami had told them to come back for the Dussehra, Navaratri celebration - the ten day celebration that happens in the month of October. So they wanted my grandfather to take them along to Puttaparthi because in those days, the journey to Puttaparthi was so difficult!
‘Highlights’ Of The Journey To Puttaparthi…Those Days
I am sure you have all read in books about the horrendous journey to Puttaparthi. It is only a hundred miles from Bangalore where my family lives - all the members of my family live in Bangalore. It was only a hundred miles, but it would take us more than a day and a half to get to Puttaparthi! We would leave Bangalore around two o’clock in the afternoon, and reach a town - a small village in Andhra Pradesh - called Pennukonda around two o’clock in the night. And the train would stop there and we would get out. And at two o’clock in the night, there was nothing there - just a granite block which was the station - and we would just sit on that stone.
I remember all of my childhood, having spent many, many hours in this place in Penukonda. We just took out our sheets from our little bags, and we just spread it on the stone and just laid down and dozed off till about six in the morning, and around six o’clock or so, some of the elders would run around and try to get some milk from the near by shop keepers to give milk to all the children in the group.
Sometimes, he would say: “I’ll take you across but only the children and the luggage.” So all the adults had to wade through the river and the poor ladies would all be screaming and yelling trying to cross the river wearing saris, and they would all be scared as nobody knew swimming!
And the children, I cannot believe our elders did this to us! Now that I think back, they would put us in this bullock cart - with the luggage - put all of us in it! I remember my cousins and all of us, we would all sit in the bullock cart and the bullocks would be made to go into the river. And you know what happens when the bullocks go into the river, they start swimming! So the cart floated behind these bullocks; and this hill that we had to come down - there would be a whole bunch of people standing on the hill - and the first victim group would be the bullock carts.
Everybody would be screaming: “Sai Ram! Sai Ram!” And these guys with the bullock carts would be making some really strange noises! And we would say: “Why are you scaring us with these screaming?” They would say: “We are not scaring you; we are trying to scare the bullocks into swimming!” So they would scream and yell and these bullocks would swim faster and faster, and we would be in the cart with the entire luggage, going up and down in the water.
One load got off, he would come back; and then the second group of people, so you can imagine the heart attack the second group was having after having watched the first group from the hill! We would all be dumped in again!
In the meantime, on the way back these guys in the bullock cart would eat all the food! There was nothing available in Puttaparthi! Those of you, who have gone to Puttaparthi now, believe me; you are all very, very lucky! There’s the Italian restaurant, there’s the Pizza Hut, there’s everything! When we went to Puttaparthi, there was nothing there! There was not even a store! If you forgot one thing to bring from Bangalore, you had to go back on the bullock cart, back to Bukapatanam to buy it. So believe me, we packed everything quite well.
So, this would be our journey. We would have left the previous day, at two o’clock in the afternoon, and this is the following morning at 11 or 12 o’clock when you’re going through the river, going on the bullock cart, and arriving there in Prashanti Nilayam soaked to your skin!
But on the other side of the bank was our Beloved Lord, waiting to help us out of the bullock carts! “Come on! You must be really tired! All the ladies are wet. Come in!”
And there were no rooms. No Prashanti Nilayam, nothing! They had to go to the old mandir; there would be just three rooms there; Swami’s room, my grandfather’s room and one extra room. So we all went into that room to change. By the time we came out, the food was ready! Swami would have had the village ladies cook the food, and He would make sure that all the children were fed, all the adults were fed. And then this is about three o'clock in the afternoon; He would say: “Ah!! Now that everybody’s hunger has been taken care of, sit down and tell me what happened in Bangalore ? How did you all get going? How long are you going to stay?”
Grandfather and the Sixteen-Year-Old Sai
So this was our trip to Puttaparthi. And on one of these trips, my grandfather (I haven’t forgotten that I had started the story with my grandfather) was asked to go with the ladies; because they couldn’t go by themselves without a male escort on these journeys that were so difficult. And he was an orthodox Brahmin gentleman in those days when things like that mattered. He said; “I am not coming to see some sixteen year old! He is not even a Brahmin! He has never gone to school! He doesn’t know Sanskrit! I am not coming!” So the ladies pestered him, they said: “No, you don’t have to come. You just escort us all the way to Puttaparthi because we want to see Him again. He has asked us to come.”
At that time in the evening while the bhajan was going on, these four people - my grandfather, and my two aunts – arrived, and as they entered the compound of the old Pattam Mandaram, the old mandir; there was Swami, sitting on the rock. And here comes the gentleman who is supposed to be helping these two ladies - this is my grandfather, Sheshagiri Rao. He takes one look at Swami that he had vowed not to - because he was going to go away - he takes one look at Him; two seconds, and bang! He has fainted on the floor.
So you can imagine these two aunts! He was supposed to be protecting them and here he is on the floor in a dead faint! Swami gets up from the middle of the bhajan and says: “Don’t worry, don’t worry!” He gets up, and helps them carry this 58 year old man into Swami’s room and puts him on His bed. Swami says “Don’t worry; he is going to be like this for two days. You people go and attend the bhajan.”
So these poor ladies, this is the second time they’re seeing Swami; they have a father who has fainted away, and they are sitting and trying to sing bhajans! Talk about concentration! And there is Swami, happily sitting on the rock continuing with the bhajan. As the bhajans are done, they say: “What has happened to our father?” Swami said: “Don’t worry, he’ll tell you when he wakes up. But he is alright, I’ll look after him.”
So, for one and a half days, Swami looks after this old man - 58 years old, puts water in his mouth every two hours, materializes vibhuti, puts it on his head every two hours. This goes on for two days and these poor women, they don’t know if he is going to recover or not.
Two days later he gets up and he is a completely changed man! He said: “You ladies, you two daughters of mine, you can go back to Bangalore, but I am not coming back.” They said: “You said you were not going to come here! What do you mean you are not coming back with us?” He says: “No, when I walked in into that compound, and I saw the young boy sitting on the rock, in His face, I had the vision of Lord Shiva. In His head, I saw the moon, and on His forehead, I saw the third eye! This is the Lord Shiva that I have been worshipping for the past fifty years. And now that I have seen Him, why would I leave Him? I am not coming back.”
So he resigned his job from Puttaparthi and he never came back. He would visit Bangalore; he would visit us with Swami - when Swami came to Bangalore - and he lived there till 1965, until he passed away.
We are all trying to get closer, and nearer, and dearer to Swami. But it is a lot of work. It is a wonderful thing to hear all these stories, but then it is not just listening to the stories; fortunately or unfortunately, we have to practice what He teaches us. From that place where my grandfather said: “He is not even a Brahmin.” Where “I” am more important than somebody else, had to change into “We”, and then it had to change into “Us”. We had to grow from a narrow “I”, my family to our family, relatives, and friends and then all the Sai devotees included. It has taken a long time to grow.
So he stayed there and because of him, my father came into Swami’s fold at the young age of 21; and I was very, very fortunate therefore to be born into this family. So it wasn’t too difficult really. In fact, I admire all of you, who have come later to Swami; because it is more difficult when you are a grown up. When you are an adult, when the world has already entered your system; to come and accept and see and believe; it’s much more difficult. And especially for those who have come from a different culture; it’s even more difficult and I really recognize that and I didn’t really realize that until Swami asked me in 1988 to go away to U.S.A.
'Pack Your Bags'
So, I came to United States and over the years, I have really understood what He meant when He said: “You’ve just seen a little Swami here, and you go and you will see a Cosmic Swami there!”
God And Dog
And as the pervious speaker was talking about the dog, I was reminded of another incident. There’s a beautiful letter that Swami has written to my cousin who lived in the town of Mysore, which is about eighty miles from Bangalore.
Lots of incidences today that Swami has taken me back in time. So this is the wonderful Swami that I have experienced throughout my childhood where He has assured and re-assured us that He is always there with us and I am sure that He’ll have plenty to say to me the next time I see Him, that I walked in 15 minutes late for the bhajan - the bhajan had already started when I came - I am sorry Swami that I came in late!
High Drama At High Tea
My father, who used to drive Swami around at that time, was deputed to take Swami to General Cariappa’s house and from General Cariappa’s house he was to take Swami to our house for dinner. And my father is terrible at finding any place. You take him to the nearest place which is two minutes away and he will still manage to get lost! So my father was having a complete nervous breakdown at the thought of having to drive Swami from Brindavan to General Cariappa’s house and then, to our house. Brindavan to our house was not a problem; he knew the way because he has done that a million times, but he was really worried to take the deviation to General Cariappa’s house. So he said: “I am going to do a trial run on the previous day; I will go to Brindavan and from Brindavan to General Cariappa’s house and then to our house; so I know the way correctly.”
In the meantime, Swami told my father: “Make sure you are here on time because we have to be at high tea - not one minute before, not one minute after five o’clock.” My father was even more petrified!
So I was the lucky eight year old, and I always went wherever Swami went; my father used to drive - when my brother was a little bit older he was sixteen or seventeen, my brother used to drive Swami’s car - but I always tagged along. I was lucky to go in that car wherever Swami went till I was about 13-14 years old. Swami told me in Brindavan too that “Make sure you are ready and you’re in the car and not making anybody wait.”
Swami bends down and says: “Don’t worry, I know the way.” So Swami very sweetly directs my father and we come back exactly one minute before. And at five o’clock we are at the door-step of General Carriapa’s house.
And we walk in and General Cariappa, who is very well mannered, says: “Come in Swami!” And then Swami turns and looks at me - and I was a little girl - and He whispers: “You are not allowed at the tea-table; just sit in the veranda”. Because I was gate crashing you see, only Swami and my father are invited and I was part of this whole car routine. “You sit in the veranda; I’ll make sure they will send you a biscuit.”
So here I am, a little girl sitting in the veranda, eating my biscuit with Swami sitting inside for about half an hour; and then General Cariappa comes out and we all get into the car. And I was thinking, as I walked in: “Swami, what would you say I am walking in the third bhajan when the bhajan has started!
That is Swami, who is punctual! He is here. If you told Him you are starting at eight thirty, believe me, exactly at eight thirty He would have sat on that chair and it is ten minutes to ten and I dare not exceed my time again. I didn’t come prepared for these talks and I will tell you a little story about that then we will stop.
Speak Or Retreat
In 1996, out of the blue, the U.S Retreat in my region asked me to speak because the vice-president of the Region was a member from our center in South Bethesda; Washington D.C. He said: “Geeta, you keep telling us all these stories whenever we come to your house for dinner, why don’t you speak at the Retreat, and share all your stories with our friends?’ I said: “No, I don’t know if Swami would approve or not and I don’t have His permission to speak.” He said: “No! How can you say that? This is Swami’s work, you should do it!” I said: “Swami’s work or not, I am not sure if He would want me to talk about my interactions with Him!”
But he kept on saying: “No, you have to speak, you have to speak!” And I was very nervous! I have spoken at EHV training meets and it’s very easy because they give you a topic and say: “You speak on this topic.” And you prepare and you read from the Sathya Sai Speaks; I don’t know but I am sure all of you in the U.K are very well versed in reading the Sathya Sai Speaks. But in my center, I can tell you in Washington; the only books that are absolutely new for the past ten years are the Sathya Sai Speaks. The pages are so beautiful and the books are so well maintained!
But when I was given a topic, I would refer and the best thing that has come out in the past few years is the index and when you want to talk about non-violence; you look for non-violence in the Sathya Sai Speaks number 7, page number 42. And you read up that part of Swami’s discourse and prepare it. Those talks are easy. And I have done that many times!
My father is a very strict man. He said: “Have you not been doing Swami’s work?” I said: “I have been doing everything at the center! Okay, here’s what they have been asking me to do: they have been asking me to speak at the Retreat. I want you to ask Swami is it okay to speak at the Retreat.” My father said: “You want me to ask Swami for you? No!”
I told him: “Please can you ask because it’s an organizational thing?” And I told him about my loophole strategy and it still didn’t work. He said: “Look, Swami already said there should be no confusion to do Swami’s work. So go and do it if they have asked you to do it!” I said: “But, you’re not getting it! Tell Swami that at the Retreat really important people like Dr. Hislop and Dr. Goldstein have spoken there. I can’t go and speak! There will be a thousand people who are going to be at the Retreat! At our Retreats in the mid Atlantic region 900 to 1000 people attend the Retreat! I cannot speak at this Retreat. It’s a huge crowd and all these important people have spoken there. Will you explain to Swami that this Retreat is big?”
My father said: “I am not going to go and tell Swami: Swami, the Retreat is big and You don’t understand it.'” I said: “Well, can you do something?” My father said: “I am not going to do anything, you call me again over the weekend, and if Swami wants to say anything, by that time He would have!”
Swami looked at me and said: “Oh! Is it you that is speaking?” I said: “Swami I don’t want to speak again”. He said: “You think you are the one that is speaking? What are you afraid of? You are just the tape recorder. When I turn you on; speak; when I shut you off; quiet!”
So that is how I started to speak. And it’s time to be quiet now.
- Heart2Heart Team
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Vol 4 Issue 07 - JULY 2006
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