SAI SADGURU – THE PRECEPTOR UNPARALLELED
The Unceasing Sun
“Swami, what is the best relationship we can have with you?” asked a student, one evening in 2007.
Those of us, who have been touched by Baba’s love, adore and extol Him in many ways. While for some He is the Divine Mother, caring and loving, fostering and protecting like no one else can, for others He is the Best Friend, with whom they share a camaraderie that allows us to open up to Him anything and everything about life, without ever worrying He will leave their side!
Then there are also those for who Swami is the Most Comforting Father, one who has a solution for your every problem and who does not shy away from reprimanding you, sometimes even severely if you have transgressed the dotted line. And there are also those for whom Baba is plain and simple – their One and Only Guru! Period!
But our relationship with Swami isn’t really written in stone. There are times in life when we have experienced one or two of these or even all of these varying relationships with Baba.
“Swami, you have looked after me like an extremely doting mother, corrected me like a disciplinarian father, loved me like a most dear friend and also guided me onto the right path like a guru… but of all these, what is the best way to relate to you, Swami? What is it that I should cultivate and foster?”
This student was completing his education in Baba’s college that year and the thought of leaving Baba’s presence was always bothering him. He was constantly asking himself, “How can I connect with Swami permanently? How can I strengthen this bond with Him?” and he wanted an answer.
On that opportune evening when he had the golden opportunity to sit at Bhagawan’s Lotus Feet inside the interview room, he took the chance to place this prayer to Bhagawan.
“Swami, what is the best relationship we can have with you?”
Bhagawan looked deep into his eyes, paused and then in a calm but assertive tone, said:
“If you want My relationship with you to be permanent, then regard me as your Guru. Take Me as your revered Master and be a steadfast pupil. Then this bond will last not for a lifetime but for lifetimes together.”
This is no ordinary revelation if we think about it deeply. Swami is not just a mother who will always cover us with love or a friend who will simply stand by us irrespective of what we do, or a father who is constantly engaged in providing for us. He is all this, yes, in more ways than one. But that only partially explains our relationship with Him.
What He truly is for all of us is this – He is our Master Supreme, our Sadguru! Just like an outstanding teacher, He is concerned only about one thing – His pupil’s progress. And towards this end He will do anything. He will suffer any amount of pain. He will take in any measure of ignominy – it does not matter if He becomes unpopular or His pupils even begin to hate Him. He will go out of His way any number of times and do things to fill His pupil’s heart with ecstasy if that is needed for his/her growth.
If it comes to that He will change all His plans without batting an eyelid. He will also smilingly welcome and endure unimaginable hardships if need be, if that is the best way to teach His pupils a tough lesson.
Why does He do all this? Simple. Selfless love for His wards! If there is one characteristic that shines magnificently in a Sadguru it is His Selflessness. He exists solely for His wards’ welfare and nothing else. How many are the occasions when Baba in formal or informal conversations, casual or serious interactions, emphatically mentioned,“Top to toe I am selfless!”
Every time I heard this from the divine lips during my student days at His college, I perhaps took it in as one of those things that Swami told often. Just like ‘Love All, Serve All’, ‘Love is God, Live in Love’ and the like. Maybe then I was more enamoured by His physical form to think of anything else or was always excited with the what-is-He-going-to-do-next feeling. Or was busy strategizing on how to get an extra photo with Him or planning on how to give Him one more letter. Or maybe I was just not matured enough to think through this more seriously. As a result, instances of such revelations of Bhagawan unfortunately did not always trigger a long and deep contemplation. But this changed as I completed my education and stayed on in Prasanthi Nilayam to see Him more at close quarters.
One telling memory is of March 20, 2011.
It was a day of deep rejoicing, and also a day of tearing anguish. The last Sunday when the ‘Sun’ shone with an unexpected brilliant glow, pleasantly befuddling everyone. He did what the Sun always does best – giving itself up little by little, silently and systematically, only to spread brightness and warmth all around.
On this day however, as everyone felt the ‘Sun’ was ‘hyperactive’.
After 7 p.m., finally there was movement in front of the Yajur Mandir. A wave of inexplicable happiness started sweeping the entire Sai Kulwant Hall. On that day – even though it was already dark and bhajans had been going on for more than one hour – Swami chose to go round the devotees very slowly. He was accepting almost everyone’s prayers and letters. Every few meters His car stopped and He spoke to someone, blessed another, dropped a Vibhuti packet to the third, and so on.
Baba went through the complete darshanround. And now everyone was expecting Him to come onto the stage. The wheels of His car were about to turn left to come to the portico. The eager devotees who had been waiting for Him for at least three hours now longed to soak in His form to their heart’s content. Once He was seated on the dais they could blissfully fill their eyes with the purity and beauty of His presence.
But suddenly Baba decided differently. The car glided towards its right. And now Swami was with the devotees again.
Another darshan round! Wow!
Imagine the thrill that went down the spine of every soul present on that sacred Sunday! Whoever missed giving a letter or seeing Him in His eye or treasuring a close glimpse during the first round now virtually leapt in ecstasy.
After bestowing bonus blessings for another ten minutes, Baba eventually came onto the dais. Now, the ‘hyperactiveness’ took on another hue.
Swami immediately beckoned the ‘birthday boy’ sitting in front and graced him profusely. Even as he returned to his seat, another boy with the tray looked at Him prayerfully. The Lord granted pada namaskar to him too and showered akshatas (sanctified yellow rice grains) on him. Encouraged by the tidings, the third boy got up. To his utter joy, the scene repeated. It happened the fourth time too.
Same for the fifth time, sixth time, seventh time…. it went on and on!
“Swami seems to be in a ‘great mood’ today,” the boys said to themselves. Even as the tenth boy was receiving his birthday blessing, some students had a flash! They rushed to the hostel, hurriedly prepared their birthday trays and began to dash to the Mandir. After all, the day Baba blesses you is your real birthday. How does it matter which calendar date you were born on! Here was an opportunity that could simply not be missed.
‘Who knows? Maybe we can make it while Swami is still in His ‘blessing mood’. At least let’s give it a wholehearted complete shot.’ This is what was racing in their minds even as they were fighting against time to enter the Sai Kulwant Hall. As they stepped in, to their unspeakable thrill Swami was indeed still taking letters, dropping akshatas and conferring pada namaskarams to anyone with a birthday tray. What a fulfilment of a mission!
Meanwhile, the tiny tots from the primary school too showed up. Cutely they fell on His feet. Swami most lovingly caressed them and sweetly accepted whatever they had to offer. They returned to their seats.
“Now with this the birthday blessings for the day conclude” I thought. But that was not to be. The moment Swami saw another tray and a pair of pleading eyes, He gently nodded.
The saga now continued… twenty fifth, twenty sixth, twenty seventh….. thirty!
Oh my God! What a bonanza it has been!
Swami is still going on.
Thirty three, thirty four, thirty six, thirty seven… thirty nine!
Is this ever going to stop?!
Good heavens! What an unprecedented day of relentless grace! How many priceless moments created in one single evening for so many fortunate souls!
It was indeed a day of great rejoicing.
At the same time, it was a day of tearing anguish too. Very much. You could see – actually, it was so hard to watch this – the Lord was obviously in pain. You could sense that He had taken the trouble of coming out for darshan that day in spite of His body being in a precarious condition.
Every time He raised His hand to bless the birthday boy, it was an ordeal; there wasn’t enough energy in His physical frame to even raise His palm a few inches. Yet He did it, hiding the strain behind His smile. And He did it, not once or twice but again and again, scores of times.
“Swami! It’s fine… You can please stop now! You have already blessed so many! You could please relax and enjoy the bhajans now!” Our hearts were crying out.
But just like the ever-incessant Sun, He was unceasing. Relentless. And in the process destroying His body, bit by bit. ‘Come what may, I will not listen to My body. I will just give, give and give… till the last ounce of My being’ He seemed to have come with that determination that day; it was so apparent. It was simply heart-breaking to take in those scenes.
He did this just so that His devotees could be delighted and His students could have moments that would become eternal springs of inspiration and subsequent transformation.
This was the last Sunday of the physical form of Sri Sathya Sai. And I feel this one day encapsulated what this Sai Sadguru had done all the eight and half decades of His earthly sojourn. Just wearing Himself out systematically day after day, week after week, decade after decade. The only goal being to somehow teach and train, confirm and confer on as many individuals as possible the secret to lasting happiness.
This is because when He saw others suffer, He suffered. When He found others grieving He lamented ‘why are they languishing in sorrow when infinite joy is just a millimetre away!’ He cried when we cried.
And we know how that historic Sunday came to a close. Bhajans concluded and arathi was offered. The Sai Kulwant Hall now reverberated with Samastha Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu and even as this was going on, Swami slowly raised His right hand. I could see that He was indeed exerting Himself beyond His limits of endurance to somehow keep aloft His hand, even for those few seconds. Actually there was a mild tremor in His hand; it was shaking. It was too weak; there was little energy in His being to support that raised palm.
And then I saw His other hand too rising. Again with herculean effort. But His left palm was not open and raised like when He blesses with both His hands. The left palm with lot of struggle only joined the right palm. ‘Oh, Swami is supporting His delicate right hand with His left’ I said to myself. With this the trembling in His right hand too reduced. ‘Good, this has helped Him’. I consoled myself.
And then it happened. Something absolutely unexpected. Unprecedented.
The audience did not know how to react. They had never ever faced anything like this before. Swami has never done such a thing in the entire more than eight decades of His earthly years. Everyone was too shocked to think. They stared at Him wide-eyed, mouths open and minds numb. Only a sudden collective gasp could be heard.
Just when everybody was expecting to see both His open palms raised in blessing, Swami stunned all by bringing His palms together and forming the Namaste posture – the traditional Indian way of greeting. He did this on the gents’ side and then mustering more energy slowly turned to His left. He did it again on the ladies’ side.
It is only then that I thought ‘Sweet Lord, so that was not an accident!’
(The historic photos that you see accompanying this article were taken by my ever-alert colleague Aravind Balasubramanya)
And immediately my mind was clouded with a million questions.
‘Oh my God! What is Swami doing?’
‘Why did He do this?’
‘How could He do this?’
‘What is this new thing now and why?’
Even as you gazed at Swami totally dazed and bewildered, His sofa started moving. Soon He was inside His car and left as if nothing unusual had happened.
And I too forgot about it – or at least made serious attempts to just obliterate it from my memory just like how to want to erase a bad dream.
Only after a month and more when the curtain fell on the physical form of the Avatar, did the significance of this incident hit me like a thunderbolt.
‘The Sadguru could become this humble!’ I said to myself. Because Namaste in India is generally done out of respect to greet others, especially elders and guests when they arrive or leave. And here was Bhagawan doing this to us! Just so that the message gets permanently imprinted in our hearts and minds.
In this world there is truly no ‘other’, the ‘other’ too is the same divine albeit in a different vesture, and so has to be respected and loved. That is what Baba had done all His life. He addressed all always only as ‘Embodiment of love’ or ‘Embodiments of Atma’, never as ‘Ladies and gentlemen’ or ‘dear devotees’ or anything of that sort.
This is because when He saw you and me, He saw only a reflection of Himself; He saw only our intrinsic pure nature. This is the reason why He loved us uncondtionally inspite of our million shortcomings and inadequacies.
Towards the end of His physical sojourn He wanted to assert this once last time as assertively He can, exhorting us to ‘See only SAI in all, as Sai is Always Inside.” Just how He had done for the past eight decades.
He now wanted no one to miss this fundamental lesson – the lesson of underlying divinity being the basis of humanity.
Just like Lord Jesus washed the feet of His disciples and Lord Krishna gladly wiped clean the feet of the guests who came for the Rajasuya yagna organized by Yudhisthira after the Mahabharata war, here was Lord Sathya Sai humbly saluting to every soul.
That day truly summarized the saga of Swami’s life and His message.
The Master Supreme does not just guide and preach; He lives, demonstrates and exemplifies those principles more eloquently in His life than in His words.
Swami Vivekananda, one of the foremost pupils of Sri amakrishna Paramahamsa, once said, “If I can show the world one glimpse of my Master through my life, I shall not have lived in vain.” For all of us who have been blessed to be contemporaries and pupils of this never-before, ever-spectacular Avatar, maybe this is something to think about.
[This is the first article on this series ‘Sai Sadguru – The Preceptor Unparalleled’. Having made a beginning in this month of July when we celebrate the sacred festival of Guru Poornima, we plan to continue this series in the coming weeks.]
By Bishu Prusty (Radio Sai Team)
Graphics: Mohan Dora (Radio Sai Team)