Volume 5 - Issue 05
The Wonderful Mother That I Have
My Pranams (salutations) at the Lotus Feet of our Ever-Present Swami and Sai Ram to all of you on this wonderful day – a holy day of Buddha Poornima, with Mother’s Day coming up tomorrow.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do my Namasmarana and place my respects at Sai - my Mother who has been a part of my life since the day I have come into this world. So I thank you all for bringing me here and giving me the opportunity to think of Him, re-live my experiences with Him and share His Love with all of you.
To speak of Swami is a huge responsibility. To speak of many subjects, you can prepare, you can read books, and you can have references, but when we speak of Swami, we are looked at very differently by the eyes of the people who look at us. They look at us and wonder and say: “They have had the association of this Divine Being – how has their life changed?”
So when you speak of Swami, your life changes. When you enter a Sai Center and start sitting down here for the bhajans, for the study circles, your life changes – it should change, otherwise we would be very poor representatives of this wonderful Mother that we have!
My Multi-Faceted Beloved Swami
For me, Swami has been many things. I have seen many facets of Swami and I still discover more as the years go by. He has been my Mother – a very loving Mother – corrected me like all Mothers do with their daughters. He has been a strict Father pointing out my poor marks on several exams. He has been a strict teacher and has not forgiven if I have made the same mistake twice – even after having been corrected.
But He has also been a very good friend! These are all things that a Mother has to be with their children – you have to be a loving mother when your child is very young; you have to be a strict parent to inculcate discipline and devotion; you have to be a teacher by example – I am sure many parents will agree with me. And you have to be a friend too with your child. And Swami has been those many things to me.
When The Lord Becomes Your Guest…
My earliest memories of Swami has been that as a child - a very sweet one - when He used to come and stay with us in Bangalore in my parents' house – in those days the Brindavan building was not there. So when He came, He used to stay with devotees, among them my parents.
And I remember as a child that He would stay with us for several days. And when Swami is with you, you know that everybody is very much focused. Even when we have a guest in our house, the housewife knows that she will be focused on the room, the bedroom, and the food – whatever that you want to make to give the guest a pleasant stay.
But imagine having Swami staying with you! You will have this wondrous feeling of when He is going to walk into the kitchen and I remember my mother would constantly be cleaning the kitchen never knowing when Swami would walk into the kitchen!
I remember my father who never lifted the newspaper and put it away, constantly putting away the newspaper so that Swami wouldn’t find it on the sofa in our living room! I remember my brother making his room exceptionally clean – which never was – when Swami was around because you never knew when He would come in. And I remember hiding my story books behind Sathya Sai Speaks so Swami wouldn’t know what I was reading!
This is my experience that whenever Swami would come, suddenly the look of all the book shelves would change. The books – whatever the current craze was growing up in school; I think as a child I read Enid Blyton; as a teenager I probably read Barbara Cartland and Mills and Boon - but they would all go behind and in front of them there would be a second row of Sri Sathya Sai Speaks, in the hope that Swami would think that I was reading that!
You Can’t Trick The Lord!
The thread that ran through my life that whatever I did, Swami knew everything – He was Omnipresent and you could never really trick Him – even though, for a while He pretended and played the game along with us.
I remember once He came into our room, He would actually eat in my room because we always had the food separate for Swami, and then the other devotees who came with Him were fed, and He would walk into the room a little bit ahead of time while my parents and aunts were setting up the table. And then He would stand in front of the book shelf and look at all the books.
So you know, your heart is pounding and you hope that He would just look at the books in the front. Then He would look at the books and say: “Oh! Prema Vahini!” Then He would look and say: “Oh, is this the new one that has come out at the Sathya Sai book store now?” And He would very sweetly remove two books and say: “Oh! Barbara Cartland! Is that what you read?” and put the Sathya Sai Speaks back right where it was!
The Ecstasy and Agony of Experiencing ‘That Omnipresence’!
So the thread of Omnipresence ran through my life. Sometimes as a child I would wish that ‘that Omnipresence’ was not reminding me all the time that He was with me because I wanted to be like any other child and read what I wanted to read and do what I wanted to do!
But as I grew older I remember what a wonderful sense of security it gave me – because wherever I went, I knew that Swami was with me! It was very easy for me to say: “No” when my other friends said “Yes” to things - because I knew that when I went back on the weekend, Swami would be asking me where I went last Wednesday or Thursday!
I remember once when I was in College, and I met a good friend – an old friend from my school on the side-walk while I was walking to the bus-stop. We hadn’t seen each other for a while and were very happy to see each other – it was just an unexpected meeting. We both were standing in front of a sugar cane stall. So we both were talking and decided to buy a glass of sugar cane juice. We brought the sugar cane juice on the foot path on the side walk of the street and we drank and we chatted there for quite a while and we went home.
The following weekend we were in Brindavan. And as in the early days with no sevadal there, we were the sevadals, we were also the bhajan singers, we were the cleaners – we were everything there. So all of us had jobs to do and when I went to Brindavan my job was to clean the altar where Swami did bhajans inside in the evening sometimes.
And there were pictures of Swami in different poses and Shirdi Baba – and I was cleaning that. Swami would be walking around the building and He came up to me and looked at what I was doing and then He said: “What time did you go home last week from College?”
I couldn’t quite remember. I said, “Swami, after college I went home in the evening.” But He named the day – Wednesday. He said, “What time did you go home last week on Wednesday?” I still couldn’t remember! He said, “You went home late because you missed the bus!”
Then I remembered and I said, “Yes Swami, I missed the bus.” He said, “Why did you miss the bus?” I said, “I met a friend of mine and we were talking.”
He said, “Three mistakes. Missing the bus because you were talking to the friend on the street; second mistake – not telling your mother that you would be late or why you came late; third mistake of drinking on the street out of a dirty glass that fellow gave! Three mistakes in one day!”
So this Omnipresent Swami – sometimes you wonder: “Swami, please! Why don’t you go and get behind somebody else’s back instead of me all the time!”
But He was the loving Mother – He reminded me that there were certain ways that one behaves and if you don’t follow the norms of the society at that time, you are bound to have problems with it.
“Life is a Game – Play it!”
So coming back to the times of the childhood – of sweetness though - there were times too when He would be in the house and we children would be banished to the rooms because they didn’t want us to make any noise! They would say: “Swami is talking in the living room; so stay in the room, read a book, do something. But don’t appear here and make noise!”
So I remember my cousin and me – we were almost the same age – we were constantly being banished to the room to do something with ourselves. And those were not the days of TV’s and the X-boxes, and Play stations – and even if it was, I am sure we wouldn’t have gotten one in our home.
And we would go there and the game that we would constantly play was snakes and ladders or lido – we would constantly be playing and I remember on one occasion when Swami knocked on the door and walked in because we had closed the door.
And I remember my cousin and I were playing snakes and ladders. So He came in and said: “Oh! You both are playing over here while I have to go and talk to those devotees – not fair! You guys are having fun here! Can I please play with you?” We said: “No!” because we had already had an experience of playing with Swami and we didn’t want Him to play with us!
So we said: “No!” He said: “Why not?” We said: “Because, every time You roll the dice, You always get the number You want! So we don’t want You to play with us!” So He said: “No! No! I will play like you people!”
So He sat down and sure enough He rolled the dice and we rolled the dice and the game was progressing quite nicely – sometimes He went up the ladder and came down the snake too! So we thought this was pretty good. But by the time one of us had gotten to all the way to 98 or 99 or whatever – and by that time the snake is waiting to bring you down, Swami rolls His dice and within three moves He reaches 100 and says: “Useless people, you don’t know how to play!” It was not fair; you know! He used to say: “What is this? A game isn’t it? You shouldn’t cry when you lose a game!”
You know Swami doesn’t do anything without a reason! And I never forgot the lesson He taught us with that snakes and ladder game. He said: “Life is like a game! As long you have Swami as the dice of God in your hands, it will move you along – sometimes you go up the ladder; sometimes you come down the snake – it’s okay! But as long as you have the dice with you, you can keep playing and you can keep moving forward. That’s the important thing you have to remember – what is the use of playing this game; reaching 100 and starting again from number 1 – day after day!”
So He was a friend and He played; He joked and He looked at the books that we were reading – so He was a wonderful Mother in many different ways!
Swami - The ‘Micro-Manager’
I remember when He got me engaged to my husband – the wedding was still a month away – it was the global akhanda bhajan going on in Puttaparthi. And at that time my parents and aunts and I had to go to Puttaparthi because the wedding was going to be in Puttaparthi – Swami was going to conduct the wedding.
He had asked us to bring all the details of the wedding – He wanted to see the saris, the invitations, the guest-list, the food menu – He wanted to see everything!
If Swami is anything – He is a micro-manager! There is no other word for it. He will check everything 25 different times. So He wanted to check everything. He even wanted the paper sketch of the rangoli that was going to go from Swami’s building to the wedding hall!
So, armed with all these things, we arrived at Puttaparthi and the bhajans were going on – it was very crowded. At that time they would allow you to take all these things and, of course, the sevadal people knew that the wedding was coming up. So we sat there like a store – with saris and jewelry and everything that we had to show Swami.
Just before going for Darshan, I had worn a very simple synthetic sari because the moment everybody in Puttaparthi saw you there with all these things, they knew there was a wedding and they would ask ‘who is the boy?’ etc. I didn’t know anything about the boy – Swami had fixed the wedding. So I had no answers to their questions.
I didn’t want to be the center of attention. So I wore a very simple sari and was sitting for Darshan. As we left our room, my aunt (an elderly person) said: “You know, you are the bride; you are getting married in a couple of week’s time. You shouldn’t be wearing such a simple sari. You should wear a silk sari – something festive!”
I said: “Well, the wedding is a month away. I am not going to start looking like a bride for the next thirty five days. I am certainly not going to wear it because all those ladies at the Darshan keep looking at me!” So we had a little bit of a discussion and I still didn’t change and we went.
Sure enough, after Swami had gone inside the bhajan Hall and He attended the global bhajan, He came out and called us in. He had told us to come that day; so we knew He was going to come to talk to us.
So we went loaded with all these things and as soon as we entered, He first looked at the invitation – the draft – and approved that. He looked at the guest list, added a few names, deleted a few – we don’t know why! He looked at the menu and said: “Oh! This is not good, that is not good!” – And chose different things.
And after all this discussion, He said: “Why didn’t you bring the bride? Why isn’t the girl here?” And I am sitting right there in front of Him!
We all look at each other thinking: “Okay. So He is getting on with some fifty-plus years; He is not recognizing the bride who is sitting right in front of Him! He has known me since I was born – He should know me!”
We all think He should know us – really undeserving! Why should He know us? That’s the question to ask ourselves. He knows us; but why should He? Do we do anything at all that deserves His attention? I leave that question to think about!
So He said: “Where is she?” So my aunt said: “She is sitting right here!” So He looked at me and said: “This one?” You know, He can really bring your ego down! She said, “Yes Swami! Why are you asking that?”
“Be Conscious of All that You Do!”
Then He looks at me and said, “Didn’t your aunty tell you to wear a different sari this morning? Two mistakes!” He is always pointing out mistakes! And He loves to number them. So it is very clear in your head.
“Two mistakes! One – you didn’t listen to an elder when she told you something. Big mistake! Second – bigger mistake! Because all the people here know that you are getting married; Swami is getting you married; Swami has fixed the wedding; Swami has found the boy and the family! And you are sitting there looking like you are not interested in getting married! So everybody is thinking that maybe the girl doesn’t want to get married and Swami is forcing her.
Maybe she doesn’t want to get married and her parents are forcing her because he is a Sai devotee. Third; maybe the girl wants to marry somebody else! By your one gesture and the way you behave, you can create many ripples. So always be conscious of what you do. If you are getting married, behave according to the time and place. Be happy if you are happy! If you don’t want; tell me now and it’s off! But if you’re happy and you want to get married then behave accordingly – appropriate to the time and place – not out of place! Don’t draw attention to yourself by being out of place. Merge with it!”
What a lesson He taught me! As a mother, whatever we do, it doesn’t just reflect on us - it reflects on our parents, it reflects on our families, it reflects on Swami. So He said, “Be conscious in your life whatever you do! How you stand, how you sit, what you say, because it first reflects on Him!”
That’s why I said, the minute we say we are Sai devotees, our very action, and our speech is judged by everybody. If you are just a regular person, nobody will bother with what you do. But if you start attending a Sai center, they will say: “Oh! you know what? Every Sunday they go and sit for two hours and sing some Sai bhajan but they are worse than us!” That will be the remark if your behavior is not up to date.
So that was the Mother Sai who taught me how one has to dress if you are at a certain place or at a certain occasion.
I love to share this incident. I am sure many of you have heard it – I don’t know what I say. I was telling my friend this morning that whenever I have to speak about Swami, it is a very scary experience because it is like I am going to a place without a road map – I don’t know where I am going; I don’t know which road I am taking; I don’t know the exit number!
I am just driving and I am hoping that somehow the place will appear before me. So that is how it is when I speak of Swami. I don’t know what I am going to say and what He wants me to say. Sometimes I repeat the same things in four of my different talks – the same incidents!
Once I said, “Swami! I have been speaking the same thing in every retreat for one and a half years! Why don’t you make me speak something else?” He said, “No! They need to hear it. You have to talk about it. When they are ready to change, I will give you a different story.”
And then very sadly He made this gesture: “Look at Me! Fifty years I am saying the same thing! Does anybody hear? If they hear, do they listen? And if they listen, do they practice? You are complaining of one year of speaking the same thing!”
What a statement! How we must bend our heads in shame. So I repeat and this is another one that I love to repeat because I love to tell you about the mistakes that Swami has caught me in! Because like I said the thread is His Omnipresence - constantly showing me His wonderful Divinity.
“I am always with you, behind you, beside you…”
I was speaking at a retreat in Texas. It was in the afternoon. I went and sat in the morning – Brother Jagadeeshan was speaking in the morning and I love his talks; he is such a wonderful narrator. Even though they had very sweetly offered me a seat, as a child I dared not – Swami being much elder to me – so I sat on the floor.
In the afternoon I had gone back to my room but I had not changed – I went for my afternoon talk. And Swami’s picture was just the way it is now but my podium was way forward – because the stage was very big.
I went and stood and started talking – that was it! This was in the month of September. In June I went to India. In July Swami called me for an interview. He asked me, “Where have you been speaking?” I said, “Swami, I spoke in Texas.” He said, “Yes, I know you spoke in Texas and brother Jagadeeshan spoke too, is it not?”
Then suddenly out of the blue He asked me, ‘Don’t you pack your clothes properly when you go on your trips?” That was completely unexpected – it had nothing to do with my talks! So I said, “No Swami! I packed my clothes well.” Then I am racking my brains – did I wear something that was not appropriate? Did I wear a salwaar-kameez at my talk – which I don’t. I always wear a sari. My mind is churning: “Why did He ask me?”
I am trying to place why this question came because you know, Swami does not ask these questions for no reason – very specifically: ‘Do you pack your clothes properly?’ Such an unexpected question! Again He asked me. I said, “I don’t know Swami what have I done?” That’s the best way – ask Him a question back.
He said, “You know, in Texas you wore that blue sari – cotton sari?” He named that sari – blue cotton sari! He said: “All day you sat on the floor and then when it was your turn, you went and stood there, your cotton sari was all crumpled – gone a little high. I am the one who has to see your ankles – because I am behind you! When you go and speak somewhere and especially if you have to sit for a long time, you should wear a proper silk sari, they don’t get so crumpled.” Can you imagine? What a lovely motherly advice!
But remember this, in every Discourse He says: ‘Don’t worry! All of you go back to your homes safely!” He says: “I am with you, behind you, beside you – all the time, all the way, wherever you go!” We forget that He is behind us, that He can see your ankle, we forget that He is beside us and can hear us; we forget that He is in front of us and He sees which path we you are taking – we forget all these things. A simple example of a sari tells you that He is there with you all the time.
“Sai, My Mother, Who Notices Everything!”
I was in the summer course once and suddenly out of the blue they asked me to do the summarization of the day’s activities. You know, in the old days, the summer course was for everybody – from all over India they would have students selected and I was in one of the summer courses in the beginning years.
They had chosen me and one other boy to read the summary of what had happened in that day’s lecture. It was a wonderful opportunity to be chosen to come in front of Swami - it had been drafted, checked and rechecked by 25 adults to make sure that the right things were written and I came. Swami was sitting in a chair and we were behind the screen. The boy came and read his part. And as I came to Swami to take my padanamaskar; He said something and I didn’t quite catch it.
Swami very sweetly dropped His handkerchief deliberately on the floor! So I bent to pick it up and as I got closer to Him to give Him the handkerchief, He said: “You must put your heels down at the back of your sari when you stand up to pull it down!”
Can you imagine that? The ladies will certainly understand it if the men don’t get it – “Put your heel down to the back layer of your sari when you get up to pull it down.” So obviously my sari was a little folded in the back and before I turned around to face the audience and come to the stage, He was making sure! And the way He said it with a smile -
Kaalu kinda pettukoni cheera eedchuko (in Telugu), meaning, ‘put down your foot and drag the sari down’.
Everybody thought He was giving me some beautiful blessing – with a sweet smile. But He was pulling me up on my bad sari-wearing techniques!
Sai my Mother, who notices everything! Sai my Mother, who has taught me everything! Sai my Mother, who has shown me up-most love!
I don’t know what I am saying today – these are my very personal experiences. If they give you any lesson out of this; I don’t know! All I can tell you is that we are all born at this wonderful time where we have this wonderful Mother pouring His love to all of us and it is for us to absorb it and to understand it. And if we don’t, then we miss out on a chance. And each of you I am sure feel His Love in his or her own way otherwise we wouldn’t be sitting here listening to some unknown woman come from Maryland.
So He has been a part of my life with wonderful miraculous ways He has shown me too. To me, those miracles are wonderful but the little things are far more wonderful - because I see His love in the little things much more than in the big things.
Now you see His love for humanity in a huge way. His Motherly Love by that wonderful Super Specialty Hospital where thousands of people with no money are treated – free of cost. We have the University, we have the Music College, we have the water project – it’s in such magnitude now.
But the little things that happened to me were small things – but it was the same essence of that love. But again He reminds us how many times - much later He said: “Lying is not just telling a falsehood! Keeping something from your mother is also a lie. She may not know, but I know!”
Problems are Blessings
So He has been that Mother who constantly teaches us that if you have decided to take this path of spirituality then there is no shade of grey! It is black or it is white. And if you want Him, it has to be white.
You can’t try to find loop-holes in your behavior. You can’t say: “Well this might work for today!” There are no loop-holes – He is going to pull you up! If He doesn’t do it physically, He will do it in some other way – He will bring some big problem along to remind you – that’s what He said: “Problems are there to remind you that you are forgetting Me!”
Swami always loves to quote that famous prayer of Mother Kunti, after the whole war of Mahabharata is over, Lord Krishna says: “Now that everything is over and your sons are kings, now what do you want? Ask and I shall give.” She said, “Always give me troubles; because when I have troubles, You come to me!”
Swami says: “When you have troubles, you come to Me, troubles remind you of Me.” So He reminds us that He is there; and He also reminds us that He is a good friend. I don’t want to make Him so serious that you have to wonder: “Oh my God! I can’t step out of this building without worrying.” He can be fun too!
His Awesome Sense of Humour!
I remember once in Puttaparthi Laalgudi Jayaraman - a famous violinist in India was coming to Puttaparthi to play the violin there in front of Swami in Prashanti Nilayam. My father used to always go from Bangalore to Puttaparthi on the weekends. And my father being a doctor also would always want to come back on Sunday night so that Monday morning he could attend to his patients.
And Swami in those days would say: “Stay one more day!” And my father would say: “No Swami! I have given appointments and my patients will come so I have to go.” “Stay one more day Padmanabh!” “No Swami, I have to go!” So this was a constant thing in our childhood.
So on one particular day when we had gone, Swami said: “Today in the evening, Laalgudi Jayaraman is going to come, why don’t you all stay for the concert and go tomorrow morning?” - This was in the morning Darshan line to my mother.
My mother said: “Swami you know my husband, he is not going to let us stay! He will say he has to go to see his patients.” He said: ‘No, He will stay!” She said: ‘No Swami, he won’t stay.”
Sure enough after the morning Darshan my father said: “We are packing up, let’s leave!” And in those days we always used to leave during daylight hours because the roads were so bad that in fact, Swami used to say: “Before it gets dark, you have to cross those 22 miles first from Puttaparthi.” So he said: “Pack up!” We said: “Please, can we stay?” He said: “No! Pack up!”
So my father got ready to put away things in the car - for those of you who have been to Puttaparthi, you know the Ganesha statue that is there – that is where we used to park our cars in those days. And there were only about 10 or 15 rooms and we stayed in those rooms. So, my mother and I were bringing out all the bedding and we were rolling it out on the sands under the eucalyptus tree there.
Swami was in His room and suddenly when we are rolling the thing, my mother and I were talking: “I wish for once daddy would agree and stay!” Because we were very fond of the violinist – he was a very famous Karnatic Music violinist and I wanted to hear!
Suddenly, while we were talking, we heard somebody calling us making a sound: “Shh! Shh!” We look around to see who is making that sound? This was around 12 – 12:30 when Swami has already retired to His room!
Suddenly we look up and there in His balcony with His bedroom door open, Swami is standing in the balcony and gesturing to us to not make a noise! Because all the devotees will come running if they know that Swami is standing in the balcony!
He gestured: “Don’t pack!” We said: ‘But Swami we have to go now!” He said: “No! Don’t pack!” And He showed us with gestures that the car tire has a puncture. Flat tire! We can’t go! Because the 22 miles ride from Puttaparthi to Pennukonda was the worst road. If anybody had a flat tire, Swami had a rule – you had to get the flat tire fixed and only then can one leave.
Because if you put a spare tire and are carrying the flat tire and if you have one more flat tire on the way, then you were totally stuck. There was nothing between Puttaparthi and Penukonda and you were stuck with the anti-villagers who didn’t really like devotees coming to Puttaparthi.
So we understood. We happily put away our bedding inside and went. My father came and asked: ‘Why are you people sitting?” We said: “Yes, we are getting ready.” So he takes another bunch of things to the car and he comes back and says: “You know, there is a flat tire! We can’t leave.” We said: “Aha!” We knew about the thing but we didn’t want to say anything!
He said: “We can’t go now so I am going to take a lorry and go to Penukonda and get the tire fixed, you people be ready. If I can get it fixed, we will go today, otherwise we will go tomorrow.”
So my father went back and sure enough, you can’t go to Penukonda and get the tire fixed and come back in a few hours – it’s a question of quite a few hours. So while my poor father was getting the tire fixed, we were happily listening to Lalagudi Jayaraman’s music!
After the music got over, Swami got up from His chair and asked: “Where is Padmanabhan? Has he gone to Penukonda?” We said: “Yes, Swami! He has gone to Penukonda.” He said: “He will come back at ten o’clock, you go to bed! Wasn’t the music good?” Then He smacked my cheek and said: “See! You wanted to listen to the music, so I sent your father to Penukonda!”
So He would play along with us too, you know! You couldn’t help but love Him so much – even when He scolded you, you enjoyed the scolding though you knew that you couldn’t make the same mistake twice like I said.
So this Swami – He is there for all of us.
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Vol 5 Issue 05 - MAY 2007
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