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My Sai - the Incredible God, Within and Without

By Ms. Srividhya Sivakumar


An alumna of the Sri Sathya Sai University, Anantapur Campus, Ms. Srividhya Sivakumar graduated with a degree in Physics in 2002. A journalist by profession, she is currently employed with The Hindu Business Line, based in Chennai.

I was born an atheist. At least that is what my parents tell me. But a series of incidents in my life turned me to the person I am now – a lover of God. What were those incidents? How did Swami bring about so much transformation in me? And why am I writing about it? Here is the story of my journey to Sai.

I was in the ninth grade when my mother started believing in Swami. At that time, my mother had contracted some kind of an eye infection and had lost nearly 70 per cent of her vision in the left eye. In the course of events that followed, while she never regained her lost vision, she was blessed with the most supreme vision – the SAI vision.

She later told us that during the period of her illness, whichever hospital or doctor or even pharmacist she visited had a picture of Swami – and from every picture Swami appeared to beckon her. He kept calling her to Him! My mother almost instantly got transformed and that marked the entry of Swami in all our lives. Since then, my mother developed a firm faith in Swami, but I was far from it. For me, Swami was just another photograph in our altar; nothing more and nothing less. It took a good two years for me to develop faith in Bhagavan. But after that, there has been no looking back.

Worship God not as a Picture, but the Picture as God

I had heard and read many instances of the various miracles Swami had performed for His devotees. But there is a huge difference in reading about these miracles as against personally experiencing them. That day however was not too far - I was soon to witness a miracle, which sowed the seed of love for God in my heart.

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Swami and Me Sai Sashi

I was in the eleventh grade and had gotten up early in the morning to prepare for my final exams. My mother had been to Parthi only a few days before and as a result our house was full of Swami’s photos. Every other wall in the house had a photograph of Swami! But there was this one photo, on the wall in the dining hall, which bothered me every time I had to pass by it. In that particular photo, Swami appeared to be staring angrily, unlike the other photos in my house in which He was all smiling.

I even jokingly teased my mom for her poor choice of the photo! To put it simply, I was dead scared of that photo. And so, every time I passed by it, I would look at Swami and give Him a sheepish smile. That perhaps was my way of telling Swami that even if He looked angry, I was not really afraid – see I am smiling!

But that morning, things changed, and changed forever. As usual when I passed by the photo I gave my by now routine smile to Swami. But this time, the angry-looking Swami from the photograph smiled back at me! Now these were only miracles that you typically read about in books, but here I was, standing in front of a photo and looking at the man in the photo smiling back at me. “Was it all really happening?” – I immediately woke my parents and sister up. I wanted all of them to see what I thought I was seeing! But to my chagrin, none of them could.

All along when I could see Swami smile and even move about in the photo frame, my family only saw the photo for what it was. How could that be? Was I hallucinating? I immediately posed Swami a challenge. I told him that if what I had seen was true and not some figment of my imagination, then He needs to come up with a miracle that all of us could see. The very next day, amritham, or divine nectar came from that particular photo of Swami! And as I had wanted, all of us could see it.

Swami had, through this incident, not only made me realize that He was God; He had also removed my fear of God and turned it into Love for Him. And most importantly, Swami had proved to me that He is present everywhere including photographs and is privy to whatever I say or even think in my mind. Instantaneously I fell in love with God!

 

Swami had, through this incident, not only made me realize that He was God; He had also removed my fear of God and turned it into Love for Him. And most importantly, Swami had proved to me that He is present everywhere including photographs and is privy to whatever I say or even think in my mind. Instantaneously I fell in love with God!

Becoming His student

In the two years that followed after that day, Swami became an essential member of our family. We started visiting the local Indore Sai Samithi regularly and life seemed great. My faith in Swami had also grown by leaps and bounds, and so when I heard that Swami had a college, getting admitted into His College became my next big and at that time the only objective in life. I knew Swami loved His students a lot, so I wanted to become His student to experience that love. Coming to think of it now, in the final year of my schooling I had only prayed for getting admitted to Swami’s college and Swami had very lovingly through many dreams, miracles and visions assured me of that.

But then nothing comes easy with Swami. He has this knack of testing you till the last minute and just when you are about to give up, He does some magic and turns things around. So, while I was busily nurturing dreams of studying in Swami’s college, I almost forgot the aspirations my parents would have had for me. My father wanted me to become a software engineer and my mother wanted me to become a doctor. They just could not buy my logic of studying in Swami’s college. Everyday we used to have ‘verandah conversations’ when my parents used to try convincing me to get into a professional course as against the plain vanilla graduation course that was available at the Sri Sathya Sai University.

Swami and Me Sai Sashi
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After a lot of brainstorming, we reached an agreement. The agreement was that I would write all the three entrance tests - engineering, medical and Swami’s college test. If I got in all three, I would go for medical. If I got into medical and engineering, it would still be medical.

And if I got into only engineering and Swami’s college, I would take the engineering option. My only chance of getting into Swami’s college was when I would flunk the other two and get through only Swami’s college. A rather biased agreement, you would say, but nevertheless it was a progress, so I agreed.

But all along, deep inside my heart, the resolve to study in Swami’s college and become His student kept growing and getting stronger. The only problem was convincing my parents and that work I had dutifully assigned to Swami. And when you completely surrender to Him, He takes care.

The day I was supposed to buy the application forms for the medical and engineering entrance exams, the miracle happened. It is precisely for this reason that I chose to pen my experiences with Swami. Early in the morning we got a call from a fellow Samithi member who was very keen to talk to my mother. She asked my mother to read a particular article in the latest Sanathana Sarathi.

That article was a transcription of the speech that Professor Venkataraman (who was then the Vice Chancellor of Swami’s university) had given sometime back. In his speech, he had said, “It really surprises me that these so-called devotees of Bhagavan Baba want to put their children in medical and engineering colleges and not in Swami’s college. But when these very same devotees fall sick, they come running to Swami and do not go to any doctor!”

It was as if Professor Venkataraman had said those words keeping just me in mind! Reading these two lines did what the many ‘verandah conversations and confabulations’ could not. My parents immediately asked me not to buy any forms for the engineering and medical entrance exams. For that matter, they even said that I should appear only for Swami’s college entrance exam and if I did not get through that year, I should try again the next year!

They had, in just under a minute been transformed by the divine wand of Sai, which had come in the form of a speech from the Vice Chancellor of His University. Needless to say, in another two months, I found myself in the campus of divine learning.

Loving God

 

He put me through situations, where I myself did the things that otherwise were in my “list of don’ts”! And in doing so, I realized why people did such things and how wrong I was to judge them on such narrow criteria. Swami loves everyone equally... He treats all who come to Him with love… So when the Creator Himself did not judge His creation, who was I to judge anyone?

But after I started believing in Swami, I had set for myself a sacrosanct set of do’s and don’ts. And I, unknowingly, was using the same criteria even to judge the people around me. I knew I was wrong but found it really difficult to change myself. So, I wrote to my divine problem-solver. In that letter, I asked Swami to “help me love Him the way He loved me”.

And He very sweetly obliged. He put me through situations, where I myself did the things that otherwise were in my “list of don’ts”! And in doing so, I realized why people did such things and how wrong I was to judge them on such narrow criteria. Swami loves everyone equally...He treats all who come to Him with love… So when the Creator Himself did not judge His creation, who was I to judge anyone?

Studying in Swami’s college was an eye-opener. I was face to face with students who loved Swami but had different ways of expressing it. And in the three years that I spent there, I learnt to love that diversity, which was bound by the love for God. But there nevertheless is a strange paradox in having physical proximity to Swami for at times, He appears distant. A God, who was internal all the time, suddenly appears far and out of reach when you see Him in Puttaparthi. But despite that, be assured that He is the indweller of your heart and would certainly be there for you no matter what.

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Swami cutting the cake offered by the Anantapur campus on His 75th Birthday
The most cherished photo of Srividhya Sivakumar -
a priceless moment with her eternal Swami

It was the year 2000 – the year of Swami’s 75th birthday celebrations. Bhagavan had announced the Grama Seva project that year and we had all stayed back in Parthi to participate in the service project. It was a dream that had come true! How many times do we get to serve the Lord and that too at His behest? But just before His birthday, some of the girls in the dormitory contracted measles. And since the disease is infectious, those girls were sent home.

Rightly so, because we could not risk the disease spreading to others, but sadly it also meant that those girls would be missing the birthday celebrations! A friend of mine had also got affected, and I was scared that I too will get it. So, when one day when I got up to go for darshans and saw that I had a few rashes on my face, I was petrified - getting rashes was one of the first symptoms of measles! I did not want to be sent home, I wanted to be present during Bhagavan’s birthday celebrations. And so, I prayed for divine intervention.

I prayed to Swami that somehow He should avert this disaster. I even went on to give Him ideas and said that if He wanted to give me measles maybe He should give it later, after we had gone back to Anantapur! Praying so, I rubbed vibhuti on the rashes and went for darshan. And when I came back, the rashes had disappeared and very conveniently I also forgot about this little prayer for mine. In a few weeks, the birthday celebrations were over and we came back to Anantapur. The very next day I was down with measles and was sent home to recuperate!

Yet again, He proved that He listens to whatever we say or even think. How else can one explain the mysterious disappearance of the rashes and the timing of its recurrence later?

Life as Swami’s student only reiterated the belief that Bhagavan was there every where. In my final year of college in the year 2002, when Bhagavan had blessed us with an interview, He spoke at length about important topics and at the end of it asked us if we had any questions. One girl then asked Swami, “What should we do to be with you always?” It was a question that lingered in all our hearts at that time, because we knew our days in the campus of divine learning were numbered. Swami then gave the most beautiful reply. He said, “I am within you; above you; below you; around you; I am you. There is absolutely nothing that you can to do to be away from me!”

With that single reply, He had put to rest all our apprehensions. There was nothing in this world that could keep us away from our dear Lord. We were ready to face the world!

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After the splendid performance in the annual
sports and cultural meet ...
...the students give their heart and soul and present their skills to their Lord for one such precious moment

Crying for God

It is said that crying for God is perhaps the best emotion that can ever be, for when He chooses to end your misery, the joy is unfathomable. This could not have been truer in my life.

My first darshan of Swami came a year before I joined His college. Some family friends were going to Puttaparthi and they had offered to take my elder sister along with them. I was not considered to join them because I was at that time in my twelfth standard and missing school for ten days was thought not possible. While for me it meant missing God over mere attendance at school, to my parents missing school at such a crucial stage meant missing the chance to secure a good future.

On hearing that, I cried. I cried like a baby. I could not imagine missing Swami’s darshan over anything. Here was my chance to see Him and I was not being allowed to go. But, seeing me cry so much, my parents relented. My first darshan of Swami came only after I pined for Him.

But there was another occasion when I had to cry and crave for Swami’s darshan. And that happened a good eight years later. Last year (2007), when Swami had come to Chennai for the Athi Rudra Maha Yagna, some alumni members such as myself, had been assigned the security duty at the Yagna site. But since only a few days back I had taken up a new job and was under probation, I could not be very liberal with taking leave.

I had nevertheless taken the first three days off. But when the fourth day came, I knew I had to go to office. So, I decided that I will leave for office after having Swami’s darshan when He would come to the Yagna site. But, Swami’s routine when He was in Chennai did not follow a pattern. While He sometimes would come to the Yagna site in the morning, some other days He just would not. On that day, news came in that Swami would not be coming to the Yagna site. My heart sank for this meant that I would have to leave for office without seeing Swami!

Swami and Me Sai Sashi
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Swami and Me Sai Sashi
Bhagavan at the Athi Rudra Maha Yagna in Chennai, January 2007
Bewitching Sai...

Now all along, I had consoled myself thinking that I will leave after Swami’s darshan. But now He left me no choice! I was so disappointed that I started crying. My seniors, who were with me consoled me and told me to go to office; I could always come back in the evening and have darshans, they said. Reluctantly, I conceded. I caught an auto rickshaw to go to my office. But the vehicle barely covered a kilometer, when I got a message on my mobile phone that Swami had started from Sundaram, His residence in the city of Chennai, and that He would be coming to the Yagna site now! Had that message come even five minutes before, my joy would have known no bounds. But now when it did, it only made me feel worse - I felt as if Swami was just waiting for me to leave! I cried even harder.

But His benevolence did not stop with that - Swami turned around and looked at me! He gave me the most beautiful, all-knowing smile that only made me cry harder. Seeing Swami by itself was a difficult emotion to handle but now seeing Him look at me was beyond everything. Seeing me crying so much, Swami smiled again and raised his hand in a blessing gesture before His car zoomed past me. Needless to say, that was perhaps the only day I was so happy to go to office!

 

I knew there was no way I could go back to the Yagna site - I was getting late and traffic was also bad – so I thought maybe if I at least saw Sundaram, where Swami was residing, before I went to office, I might feel better. I asked the auto driver to take me to office via Sundaram. Now Chennai auto drivers are not exactly known for their politeness, but to my surprise, this driver agreed instantly.

And so I reached Sundaram, but at the time when Swami’s car was just coming out! I was on the opposite side of where Swami was seated and so there was no one but me on that side. I was now standing just feet or two away from Swami! Without realizing, I had tears running all over my cheeks. I had come to Sundaram with no hope of getting Swami’s Darshan and here I was standing just a couple of feet away from Him!

But His benevolence did not stop with that - Swami turned around and looked at me! He gave me the most beautiful, all-knowing smile that only made me cry harder. Seeing Swami by itself was a difficult emotion to handle but now seeing Him look at me was beyond everything. Seeing me crying so much, Swami smiled again and raised his hand in a blessing gesture before His car zoomed past me. Needless to say, that was perhaps the only day I was so happy to go to office!

Swami and Me Sai Sashi
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Swami and Me Sai Sashi
As Swami traveled through the city...
...He went right into the hearts of pining devotees

Being His Instrument

When that evening I narrated this incident to my senior, she said something that was so potent that it unnerves me even today. She said, “To whom much is given, much is expected”. Swami has given me, and for that matter all of us, so much… But what does He expect from us? Coming to think of it, not much. All He wants is that we share the love He has showered on us on with the people around us. This essentially means that all of us have a significant role to play in Swami’s mission. Perhaps, bigger than what we are playing now.

Swami’s mission is divine and will go on with or without us. That means, it is only up to us to seek and get a role from this divine director, however small it may be and play it to perfection, or rather, pray that He makes us play it perfectly.

Swami and Me Sai Sashi

 


Dear Reader, did this article inspire you in any way? Would you like to share you feelings with us? Please write to us at [email protected] mentioning your name and country. Thank you for your time.


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Vol 6 Issue 08 - AUGUST 2008
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