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God's Omnipresence: Experiences of great proximity to Sri Sathya Sai
What good fortune it is to have proximity to God - being able to see Him in day to day life and interacting with Him regularly. Having spent a huge chunk of my life with my God, best friend and Master, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, I must admit that very often I have wondered about His non-public life. Based on my interactions with Him and my observations of His interactions with others, I have always tried to imagine how Swami’s day-to-day life in His residence would be. What time does He rise, what He does in the mornings before the darshan, what He does after the bhajans, what time does He go to bed - these and many more questions have arisen in me. I am sure, the same would have arisen in many devotees and followers too.
I have received answers to some of these questions through different ways. For instance, when Swami lovingly allowed me to accompany Him to Hadshi, Mumbai and Delhi, I got a chance to observe how He dines, how He hosts and how He becomes an ideal guest too. On other occasions, I heard from those that had the great good fortune of staying with Him and serving Him. But still, there are many gaps and holes to be filled in the complete picture that I desire to obtain.
Thus it was that I felt overjoyed when my classmate, Achintya Awasthi, visited Puttaparthi and my home in February 2013. He had the good fortune of staying with Swami, physically at the mandir, for several years and I hoped that he would share some things about his life with Swami. Swami had blessed him in February 2011 to get married and that was the last time Achintya had seen Swami physically. Today, he is a married man and though his wife knew nothing about Swami before their wedding, she too is completely in love with Swami now.
And that is obviously due to the stories Achintya has shared with her - his experiences with Swami. Those were the stories that I too sought from him as we sat down for the meal.
Life with Sai
What he narrated during the lunch indeed filled some of the gaps and holes that I referred to earlier.
It was during the evenings that we (himself and another student, Naresh), would have to ‘report’ at Trayee Brindavan (Swami’s residence in Whitefield, Bangalore). We were supposedly doing ‘security’ duty! What security can we provide to one who is the security for the whole world? Anyway, we knew that this was a great chance that had been bestowed on us and we would be at His residence at 6:15 pm.
What would happen then? Would Swami speak to you?
It would depend on the programme during the day. Sometimes, Swami would be talking about the happenings of the day. Other times, we would discuss a discourse that He had delivered earlier in the day. On several other occasions, we would simply sit at His feet, massaging them and praying within ourselves. Very soon, it would be dinner time. Swami would have an early dinner and by 7:00 pm, we would all ( 3 boys totally) be in His room. Swami would lie down on the cot in the center of the room, while the two of us would lie down on either sides of the door. The third boy would lie down on the floor near Swami’s cot in case He needed any assistance at night.
Wow! You mean to say that the lights would be put off by 7:30pm?
Yes! And Swami would lie down straight on His back with the sheets covering Him halfway. I have almost never seen Him change His position in His sleep. At times, I felt that it was more of a trance than a sleep!
How would you get sleep so early?
Many times, I would not get sleep. But that’s it! After lights off, there was nothing that I could do. I would simply lie with my eyes closed because if my eyes were open, sometimes Swami would ask why I am not sleeping. There would be absolute silence and I don’t know when I would drift off into sleep. Sometimes I would be awakened by Swami going to the bathroom. Many times, Swami would read all the letters that devotees had offered to Him in the bathroom so that others are not disturbed.
Did you experience any miracles or see some astounding things?
This question brought a smile on Achintya’s face. He is a very silent person and rarely speaks out. He continued,
The way Swami would be with us, it was so difficult to remember that He is God! He was just like a very close member of our family and I had to keep reminding myself of His reality. And I did that through experiences that He had conferred on me...
“Experiences like??”, I asked
You will not give up, will you?
No! I want to share this with the world. The joy that you and I get will be multiplied a million fold by sharing. So please share something which I can share with the world.
An experience of Swami’s omnipresence
Well! okay. i shall narrate one such episode that happened when I was a student in the 9th grade. The summer vacations arrived and Swami called me. He blessed me profusely and told me to go home for the vacations. He advised me to serve my parents and be a good child. I promised to do so and left for home. When I returned after the summer vacations, I was surprised to see that Swami seemed upset with me! He did not speak to me, nay even refused to look at me! I began to wonder I had done that had upset Him.
A week later, as He was speaking to some teachers and senior students in the Darshan hall, He sent word for me. I walked up to Him and He asked me what I did during the vacations.
I told Him what I did - served parents, studied a bit, played a bit, watched some TV and so on. Out of the blue, Swami said,
“You tell your mother that you are watching cricket on television but instead, you watch...” and He trailed off. A smile came on His face.
In an instant it hit me. I remembered that during one of the days at home, I was watching a cricket match on TV. When the ads came on, I was surfing through the channels when I arrived at a Fashion Channel. I got drawn into it and was watching the models. After a few minutes, my mother called out from the kitchen,
“Achintya, what are you doing?”
I suddenly realized my mistake and quickly changed the channel back to cricket and answered,
“Mother I am watching cricket on TV.”
There was nobody else at home then - or so I thought. Here was Swami replaying the exact conversation and revealing something that only I knew! Even there, He said only that much which was needed and did not embarrass me in front of everyone. He simply patted me on my cheeks and said that I was a good boy before sending me back.
I then realized that He had given me several days time to understand what mistake I had made. When that did not happen, He had shown His omnipresence in the most sweet manner possible.
As I heard Achintya’s experience, I was touched with the understanding and love that Swami has. He is ‘father discipline’ no doubt, but primarily He is ‘mother love’!
So, you see, Swami was so human with us in order that we feel kinship with Him. It becomes difficult to live with Him if He keeps showing His powers and omnipresence every moment. And yet, moments such as these are revealing - when the veil is lifted and we get a glimpse of who Swami really is!
Always remember the words of Sai
And yet another experience of Swami’s omnipresence
And so, our conversation went on. Two other members of the Sai family also joined in the conversation and a happy sathsangh started. At about 2:00pm, my parents went to their bedroom to rest a while. The others left. But Achintya, his wife Suruchi, Pooja and I continued our talk about Swami. We went on and on and before we realized, it was 4:00pm! By then, I had shown our little altar also to Achintya and Suruchi and narrated some interesting episodes that had happened at home too.
When the ‘guests’ decided that it was time to leave, all the four of us were actually reluctant. I remembered that we had purchased some small gifts for both of them since it was the first time that they were coming home after their wedding. The two wrapped gifts had been kept near the pillow on my bed. I requested Achintya and Suruchi to come to the room, before leaving.
As we entered the room, i was shocked. The two wrapped gifts were not near the pillow. They had apparently moved to the corner of the bed next to Swami’s chair near the altar. And ON THE GIFTS WAS A HEAP OF VIBHUTI!
All four of us were stunned at this. Suruchi broke into tears saying,
“I have always prayed for a sign from Him and now He has given it.”
Achintya was stoic. However, he too could not help but reveal,
“Aravind! Swami told me to come to Puttaparthi after my marriage. He said that He would bless me and give vibhuti. Here is His blessing! Now we can leave happily for home.”
Both Pooja and I were dumbstruck. Achintya’s statement simply echoed in our hearts:
Moments such as these are revealing - when the veil is lifted and we get a glimpse of who Swami really is!
And so, proximity to Him is much more than the 'physical'. It is much beyond. It is more of 'dearness' to God than 'nearness' to Him as Swami often says with each one of us having equal rights and opportunities to experience Him.
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