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Sathya Sai's vow to fulfill even a casual word given: the story of a mumps epidemic
The vow of the Avatar
The Dusshera festival in the year 1999 was on in Prasanthi Nilayam, Puttaparthi. As is the practice, the Vedapurusha Saptaha Jnana Yagna (a yagna or fire worship for world peace) was on and as part of the Vidwan Mahasabha every evening, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba delivered a divine discourse for seven days in a row. On the 18th of October, Swami (as Baba is respectfully called) spoke about the vows that the different avatars had taken. Having stated them, He made a very special statement:
I too have taken some vows. One of the vows of Sai is that I shall never go back on My promise. Once I give My promise to someone, I will never forsake him or distance him from Myself even though he may work against Me or disobey My command.
The following experience is a sort of elaboration of the above statement. It occurred years before Swami made that statement in the 18th of October discourse. It goes to show that Swami might have stated it on that day but all His life, He has been true to that.
This episode was narrated to me by my wife Pooja. Pooja has been a student of Bhagwan right from her primary education through high school at the Sri Sathya Sai Primary School. She completed her Bachelors in Commerce honours degree from the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. That is a whopping 15 years in the direct divine presence of Bhagwan! She has several memories and memorable experiences with Swami during that golden period of her life. In fact, it was Swami who started her off on her educational journey, making her write the syllable "Aum" in Sanskrit on a black slate, when she was just a toddler.
Driving down memory lane, she spontaneously shared this experience when she was struck with mumps in her 3rd grade.
When He writes the first "letter"
Mumps strikes - a real pain in the neck
Thus came a time in the early 1990s when a mumps epidemic struck the Primary School hostel at Prasanthi Nilayam. Pooja too was among the several children who had been struck by it and stuck with a huge lump above the throat. Since mumps is infectious, it was very important to isolate the stricken children.
As per Swami’s instructions, a separate ward was created in the nearby Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital and all the affected children were shifted there. The ward transformed into a mini hostel in ways more than one -
1. There were teachers assigned duties to take care of children,
2. Group studies and activities happened regularly AND, most importantly,
3. Swami would visit the children in the hospital just as He would visit them in the hostel.
But life for the children in the ward was much more difficult than that of the children in the hostel - they would suffer regular fevers and have severe pains in the throat. The mumps has literally become a ‘pain in the neck’ for the children. Pooja, with her low tolerance for pain, was finding it simply impossible to eat anything. In fact, she had decided to subsist most of the time on liquids alone and that too because the teachers would not allow her to stay with an empty stomach.
There was another girl however, Shilpa, who seemed to suffer from the mumps in a more intense manner than Pooja too. She would often cry with the pain. All the children were given ice pads and ice packs to place on the swelling to reduce it. But Shilpa found it very painful to place the ice pad. She would just wait for the monitoring teacher to pass by and then dump the ice in the bin! What else can one expect from a child? How can one hope that it understands the fact that a momentary discomfort is necessary for a greater good?
The teachers taking care in the ward began to have a very tough time ensuring that all the kids had some food at least along with the necessary medication. When things got very difficult and the teachers were unable to coax every child to eat, they prayed to Swami for help.
The children too prayed to Swami in their own way. Every Thursday and Sunday, when the Primary School would go to the mandir for darshan, the teachers would carry letters written by the kids who were in hospital. These letters would be offered to Swami on the children’s behalf during darshan. Pooja and her friend, Shilpa, both wrote letters to Swami on one Sunday.
The kids’ letters and Swami’s response
The gist of the two letters are given below:
“Swami, we are in hospital, suffering from painful necks. We cannot eat and don’t like to eat. But everyday, we are made to eat! Ice is also placed on our necks. It is very painful. Please help us Swami.”
The letters were indeed handed over to Swami during the darshan session that day. Pooja and Shilpa, along with the dozens of other children awaited Swami’s response to their prayers. And the response came sooner than they expected. Within two days of sending the letters to Swami, He made a visit to their ward in the General Hospital!
There was great joy and excitement as Swami entered the children’s ward. There were few devotees who tried to caution Swami against entering the ward because mumps is an infectious viral disease. Swami just dismissed the ‘warning’. There have been several instances where Swami has wilfully ‘taken on’ the mumps of a devotee and relieved him/her of the pain instantly! For that matter, He has taken on several other ‘tougher’ diseases and conditions too. Would He fear catching the infection?
The children were all thrilled to have their dear Swami visit them when they were expecting a doctor to go on rounds! Swami was like a loving doctor, a mother, a father and a friend rolled into one. He moved from bed to bed, child to child, talking and consoling them all.
He came to Shilpa and immediately she complained of the painful ice pads. Swami looked at her and comforted her. He then promised her,
“If you use the ice packs for two days, the mumps will go. You can then go back to the hostel.”
Who else but the one who controls everything can give such an assurance? Shilpa was excited,
“Really Swami? Can I get alright in just two days?”
“Yes my child”, was the smiling reply.
Immediately, Shilpa picked the ice pad and placed it on the swelling.
Now, He moved to Pooja.
“How are you?”
“I am fine Swami...”
Just then, a teacher came up to Swami,
“Swami. She is lying. She is not fine. She complains of pain while eating and does not eat anything at all. She must eat something Swami.”
“What do you like to eat girl?”, Swami asked.
“Swami, I like jam buns!” (Jam buns were a delicacy made in the bakery those days. Soft, hot cross buns layered with mixed fruit jam within)
“If you eat properly for the next two days, I will send jam buns for you.”
Pooja’s face too lit up. She agreed to eat her meals completely, on time.
Is every casual word too a promise?
The next night proved to be the toughest one for Shilpa. The swelling increased to proportions of unbearable pain. She began to cry But still, she held the ice pad to her neck because she was determined to do as Swami had said. (Can we see such love and loyalty among 8-year olds? An embodiment of love alone is capable of giving and eliciting such love!). Pooja saw Shilpa suffering. She began to wonder at Swami’s promise. How was it possible for this girl to go to the hostel the next day?
The miracle happened overnight when all were asleep and none noticed. (That is how many miracles happen - silently and suddenly - for God is in no need of publicity!) In the morning, Shilpa was absolutely normal. It was as if the antibodies had waged a terrible war in the night against the offending virus and had completely won! Shilpa was indeed discharged and sent to the hostel! Seeing this, Pooja touched the lump in her own throat. It was still swollen and painful. She looked at the Idly that had been served in the plate for breakfast. Swami’s word had come true for Shilpa but she was still stuck with eating food that she “did not like”! Where was her jam bun?
How about you?
Have you had experiences where Swami has fulfilled His promise/casual word spoken to you?
Even as she was thinking these thoughts, the door flung open. Swami had sent prasad for all the children in the hospital ward. The carton box was opened and Pooja saw that there packets of jam buns! What more, the teacher gave one each to all the children in the ward saying that Swami had sent it for them. When she came to Pooja however, she gave her three! She said,
“Apparently you like jam buns. So three for you!”
Pooja now felt a second lump in her throat... This lump was not painful. It arose from the joy which comes from knowing that one has not been forgotten by one’s beloved.
If you enjoyed this article, you must read the following which are about such vows being fulfilled.
Would you like more such articles?
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© 2013 Aravind Balasubramanya