We reproduce below an article written
by Prof. G.Venkataraman, Former Vice Chancellor of Swami's
University, on the occasion of Bhagavan's seventy-fifth Birthday.
We do this because the article captures the essence of Baba's
unusual and most extra-ordinary relationship with His students,
whom he always refers to as His property.
Jai Sai Ram.
SWAMI AND HIS STUDENTS
Three times thus far in the history of mankind,
Lord God Almighty has come down in human form as a Poorna
Avatar. The age we live in happens to be one of them,
and blessed indeed are we to be able to have the Darshan,
Sparshan and Sambhashan of the Lord. Drawn by
His Divine Magnetic Power or Aakarshana Shakti as He
calls it, people of all kinds and from all walks of life flock
to Him. Swami loves all His devotees and showers His Divine
Grace equally on everyone. Yet, there is something extra-ordinarily
unique about Swami's involvement with His students. This relationship
is not what meets the eye of a casual observer. Students should
really appreciate what they are enjoying. Only those privileged
to have a ring-side view, like I have had, can understand,
even if it be rather feebly, how remarkable is the Love that
Swami showers on students.
a formal sense, Swami is the Chancellor of the Sri Sathya
Sai Institute of Higher Learning, but the role He plays is
anything but that of the run-of-the-mill Chancellor. The role
may vary from moment to moment and over a wide spectrum, but
the constant and unwavering under-current is Prema.
Students often describe Swami's Love as equal to that of a
thousand mothers but this, I feel, is a gross understatement.
Swami's Love is equal only to Swami's Love; there is nothing
else that can match it.
People normally try to measure Swami's Love
for students in terms of the gifts that He constantly showers
on them - incidentally, there seems to be no limit to what
He gives; I have seen Him distribute everything from T-shirts
to cameras and films. However, material gifts form just the
tip of an infinite iceberg. It is the constant concern that
Swami feels about their welfare, both worldly and spiritual,
that in some measure reflects His infinite Love. Like a mother,
He worries whether they are eating enough and getting enough
of nutritious food. At the same time, like a father, He wants
to make sure they are studying well. He is also their Guru,
which makes Him concerned about their spiritual development;
so on it goes. He is at one stroke, mother, father, teacher,
friend philosopher, guide, and everything else one can think
of and much more. When cases of jaundice are reported in the
village, He wants to be sure that boiled drinking water is
available in the hostel. As exams approach, He constantly
checks with the Warden whether students are getting enough
rest and are not staying awake for unduly long periods. While
the exams are in progress, He wants to know how the students
have answered and whether the question papers were stiff.
It is not just the students but also their families that receive
attention and care, especially when there is a medical problem.
As the Institute Convocation approaches, one sees Bhagavan
in an entirely new role, which I doubt if He enacted in His
earlier Poorna Avatars. Swami becomes very much
interested and also involved in the drama that the Institute
boys stage on the night of the Convocation. There are sessions
galore in the Interview Room, every evening after Darshan.
He begins by asking the boys what they are planning. When
they hesitantly unfold the theme, He listens carefully and
advises on how the play should be developed. The script is
now prepared and He goes over it carefully, offering critical
remarks and suggestions for improvement. Then come the songs.
He first studies the lyrics and thereafter calls for the musical
rendering. This is when one sees God as Ganapriyudu
or the Lover of Music. Gently, but meticulously, He coaches
the singers, instructing them how precisely the song must
be sung, how proper feelings must be injected, how the action
must be in harmony with the singing etc. For Swami, not only
must the tune and the beat be right, but, more than anything
else, the feeling or Bhava must be perfect. Until it
comes out the way it should be, He would insist on rehearsing
the song again and again. Meanwhile, He would get other people
busy with the costumes. Especially when historical or mythological
characters are involved, Swami wants to have a preview of
the dress and how it fits the actor concerned. Often, He would
Himself do the adjustments so that the right look is achieved.
All this might make it seem that Swami is the greatest taskmaster
ever. Yes indeed. Swami undoubtedly demands perfection and
will never compromise on quality or accept sub-standard performance;
after all, is not God the acme of perfection? However, in
the midst of all this grind, the Mother in Him surfaces; suddenly
He would disappear inside for a couple of minutes, and when
He returns, apples, snacks, fruit juice and such other goodies
would follow! He knows how and when to inject relaxation and
put the nervous actors and singers at ease. After weeks of
such preliminaries come the full-scale rehearsals, which take
place in the Institute Auditorium. For the boys it is often
a tense affair because pleasing Swami is not an easy task.
now on, it is rehearsals over and over again. The practice
sessions soon move to the Poornachandra Auditorium and whenever
possible, Swami drops in to make sure that all loose ends
are properly tied up. Comes then the great moment when the
play is actually staged before a crowded audience. Swami is
now like the proverbial mother, there He is in the 'pit' scanning
the faces of those around to see if they are enjoying the
play; and when they do, how proud He seems! And how He shows
His satisfaction when He comes up the stage at the end, and
how gloriously the Love-feast continues later in the backstage
when dignitaries shower praise on the boys for their superb
performance! But one must not get the impression that that
is all there to it. For Bhagavan, the Convocation Drama is
not just routine cultural entertainment. Rather, it is an
expression of His Divine Message, communicated in drama form
by His beloved students. Life itself is a drama in which the
Lord coming down as an Avatar, plays as it were a cameo
role. And, as a part of this play, He literally produces and
directs a play - a play within a play! Altogether, it is absolutely
After the Convocation comes the annual sports
festival, and once again it is a glorious opportunity for
delightful Divine intimacy, but of an altogether different
kind. Swami wants the event to be a gala success, not for
His sake but for the sake of the students. And so He fusses
about all the various details, the band, the march past, the
flag hoisting, and the various individual items. He makes
sudden and unexpected visits to the sports field to inspect
the arrangements and watch the rehearsals. When His car is
sighted, the cry goes around, "Hey! Swami's car!"
And what a change it brings about on the playground!
is one particular visit of this nature that I must recall
at this point. It was not during the usual sports season but
a few days before that extra-ordinarily unique event, the
Sri Sathya Sai Unity Cup Cricket Match. As the big day was
nearing, we would often be in the cricket ground doing something
or the other, missing the evening Darshan in the process.
As if to recompense us, Swami came to the ground almost every
evening for a round of inspection and supervision. One evening,
as He was about to return, He decided to step into the Pavilion
that had just been completed. He asked His car to be stopped
in front of the Pavilion Block, got down, climbed up the few
stairs, and went round the various rooms examining the fittings,
the plumbing, the curtains, the chairs - the whole works one
might say. Only a handful of us went inside with Bhagavan.
After doing the round, He came to the Pavilion verandah. Meanwhile,
all the boys who were involved with various chores in and
around the ground gathered on the road by the side of Swami's
car. There were a few hundred students there. Swami just stood
on the veranda giving Darshan, hands folded behind and gently
rocking. He made no effort to go down and get into His car.
I was behind Bhagavan and therefore could not see His face
but from the looks and the effulgent glow on the faces of
the boys below, it was abundantly clear to me that Swami was
simply pouring out His Divine Love in infinite measure. Truly,
it was a sight for the gods! Time stood still for all of us.
There was Swami in total Bliss, and there were the students
lost and drenched in the downpour of Prema. For me,
it was not only an unforgettable but also a unique experience;
among other things, it taught me what Swami means when He
says, "Students are My only property!"
there are ups, then there also must be downs - that is the
law of life, and so it is between Bhagavan and students. Sometimes,
Swami seems "upset" and the whole lot gets flung
into the "workshop" as one says in Prasanthi. Swami
is never really angry but pretends to be, so that the students
realise their shortcomings and rectify their errors. When
Swami seemingly distances Himself from the students, there
is a tense drama of sorts. The boys are in deep distress;
they cannot give letters and give vocal vent to their feelings
because 'Swami is not coming their side'. If students are
in agony, the Mother in Swami too seems anxious for an early
restoration of normalcy. But the Father in Swami seems to
hold back! The fascinating drama continues till one day Swami
walks past near the students during Darshan. They now
cry out loud and in deep anguish. Swami appears to pause;
a small dialogue begins. We are too far to hear the actual
words, but it seems that Swami is gently reprimanding the
students. Suddenly there are cries of "No, Swami",
"Please Swami", and so on. Looks like there is going
to be a thaw after all. Yes there is, and boys want to make
sure; they burst into songs. Swami stands there listening;
there is one song, then two, and then a third one as well.
Hurrah! Swami has been 'won over'! Everyone heaves a sigh
of relief, and, as if to make up for lost time, Swami now
showers more Grace than even before!
Students hardly realise to what extent Swami
goes out of the way to confer favours upon them.
They are the ones privileged to lead the Bhajans both
in Prasanthinilayam and Brindavan. They are the ones who are
permitted to present special musical programmes on festival
mornings. They are the ones who chant the Vedas before
the Divine Discourse, and also on other important occasions.
For their sake Swami comes many times to the Institute to
witness special programmes and also to speak to them. He even
answers specific questions. On occasions, on Sunday afternoons,
He spends some time with them in the Poornachandra Auditorium,
before coming out for the regular Darshan. It is for
their spiritual advancement that He organises the Summer Courses.
It is to encourage them that He takes them to Kodaikanal;
and my word, what an experience that is! It is to give them
the delectable taste of Divine intimacy that He holds the
famous 'Trayee Sessions' while in Brindavan.
Students may forget Swami after they leave
His portals but the Lord never does. When Swami went to Delhi
and Mumbai last year, Bhagavan not only singled out the alumni
from the crowd, but also made kind enquiries. And to those
around Him, He lovingly recalled all particulars about the
student concerned, even though the Student had graduated over
a decade or so ago. The list of examples of Swami's Prema
is endless. As if all this is not enough, on Sports Day, 1999,
Swami, in an unparalleled act of extra-ordinary and infinite
compassion, took upon Himself a serious injury in order to
avert disaster to students who were to later perform dare-devil
stunts. Barring just a handful, no one knew about this Divine
act of sacrifice till several days later when Swami Himself
revealed the details in a Discourse.
there any particular reason why Swami appears to single out
students for showering His Love in such abundance? Speaking
in Trayee, an elderly devotee reported that he once asked
Bhagavan to explain this mystery. According to this devotee,
Swami replied that those who are today enrolled as students
are really Rishis of the past, receiving their due
in this Kali Age. Hearing this, Swami, in Whose Divine
presence this talk was being given, laughed as if to say,
"What! Are you suggesting that these fellows with whom
I am struggling all the time are Rishis?" Swami
may have made light of the devotee's remark but there surely
must be some deeper meaning underlying Swami's most compassionate
relationship with the students, particularly when one recalls
Krishna's association with Gopalas on the one hand and with
Gopis on the other. Quite possibly it is all a part of the
same drama and an extension of that glorious chapter of Srimad
Bhagavatham, now being enacted in a different format and
under the settings of the Kali Age. It is my personal
belief that this indeed is the case.
According to the Bhagavatham, not
knowing who Krishna really was, Brahma the Creator once
tried to embarrass Bala Krishna. But soon he learnt his bitter
lesson, and as he was about to withdraw to his celestial abode,
he saw Krishna playing merrily with the Gopalas. Brahma then
mused, "These little boys do not have any idea of how
lucky they are to have the very Lord as their playmate."
Quite possibly, Brahma is saying something similar even now.
I hope our students do really appreciate, value, and treasure
the priceless gift of Divine intimacy that they are receiving,
which is exclusively reserved only for them. Although Swami
does not expect anything in return, I believe students owe
it to Bhagavan to be the best exemplars of those who seriously
put into practice Swami's teachings. For Swami, Aacharanam,
or observance of His teachings in daily life is far more important
than being able to discourse on them. Students should unwaveringly
aim at Trikaranasuddhi. And, under no circumstance,
should they permit themselves to fall into the category of
Aarthi [the seeker of wealth] or Arthaarthee
[one who wants the Lord to solve his problems]; instead, they
should constantly endeavour to be counted among those who
have realised their intrinsic Divine nature. Having recognised
this truth, they must gear up for the higher duty that beckons
them. They should appreciate that if twelve Apostles of the
Son of God could do so much to spread the Message of their
master, how much they, in their hundreds and thousands, could
do to spread the Message of the Lord Himself. Humanity looks
up to them, and they should not disappoint humanity. To disappoint
mankind would in a certain sense amount to disappointing Swami
Before I conclude, it is appropriate that
I recall a touching prayer once addressed to Bhagavan by Prof.
Sampath, an illustrious predecessor of mine. He said: "Swami,
it is my prayer that when I am reborn, I would be blessed
to be a student of Your School and Your Institute, and one
day receive my degree directly from Your Divine Hands. It
is only when I become a student of the Institute that my life
would be complete." Those of us who have missed the opportunity
of being a student of the Institute in this lifetime, might
well consider addressing such a prayer ourselves.