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Volume 4 - Issue 12 DECEMBER 2006

How the Divine Drew the Dutiful Dentist

By Dr. Digish Patel

Dr. Digish Patel from the United Kingdom is a dental surgeon at Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, Whitefield. He is also a visiting dental surgeon to a Dental Clinic in Birmingham, UK and to the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, Prashanthi Nilayam.

I offer this brief account of my experiences and life after meeting Bhagavan Baba, with love and humility at the lotus Feet of our dearest Lord of Love, Baba. There are billions of experiences relating to Bhagavan Baba and how lives have been touched and transformed by Him. Oceans of joy and light have been given by Baba to so many people in the past eighty years.

I was brought up and educated in the UK graduating as a dental surgeon in 1991. But, my real life began in 1993 when I first met Bhagavan Baba - until then it was as if I was asleep.

It was December 1993, about three weeks before Christmas in the UK. I had gone out to work and later met some friends. For some reason, I couldn’t sleep and was sitting up in bed in the early hours of the morning. (I usually have no trouble sleeping and can even sleep standing up!) I found myself contemplating on what I should do with my life; I was not satisfied with my job or my recreation time. I was thinking about the meaning of life and my mind was full of worries.

An Astonishing Visitation Out of the Blue

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Just then, in my room, I had the darshan of Bhagavan Baba! He looked extremely beautiful and effulgent and emanated the most aromatic fragrance. I was totally shocked.  There was Baba standing in my room in Tamworth, Staffordshire (UK), wearing an orange robe and appearing most resplendent!
I knew who He was as my family always keeps a photo of Baba in our shrine and my mother prays to Him everyday. But I never followed her example. So you can imagine how I felt: I knew that Baba was thousands of miles away in Puttaparthi and yet He had manifested in my room. Baba broke my stunned silence by saying ‘Come’ and I somehow found the courage to ask, ‘When?’ He replied, ‘Come at Christmas’. Then He just disappeared.

The next morning I woke up and doubted the whole experience. I thought maybe my friends had intoxicated me or I might need psychiatric help! I looked in my medical reference books and I searched for symptoms of paranoia and schizophrenia.

A Fast Flight to Parthi

Who could I ask about this? But nevertheless I decided I should go to India. I found it very difficult to get a flight to India and those around me were surprised that I was suddenly interested to go to India. My family had left India seventy years ago and there was no family out there. But I surely wanted to go. When I contacted the travel agents, they said, “All flights to India are fully reserved.” I was thinking, ‘If Baba wants me to go to India, He had better arrange it.’

That day I finished treating a patient who told me that he was a travel agent and had many tickets to Mumbai. He asked me, “Do you know of anyone who wants to go to India?” I was amazed. They were cheap tickets to Mumbai on an airline that would take 24 hours to get there, stopping all over the Middle East. I grabbed the offer. (Since then Bhagavan always looks after me on all my flight dates and I even get free upgrades - He is too kind!).

I found Baba’s address from my mother and left for Mumbai. I reached Mumbai after the long flight and then bought a return ticket to Bangalore. At Bangalore airport I got a taxi to Puttaparthi and within minutes of entering the Prasanthi Nilayam gates I was in the sheds (community halls). It really felt that somebody wanted me in Puttaparthi fast! The shed was full of devotees from eighty different countries; some places I hadn’t even heard of and people of different religions too.

An Unforgettable First Darshan

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The devotee next to me told me a little about Baba and took me to darshan. We lined up and when we were asked to go in I found myself in the first line. My friend from the shed was very happy that we were first. You see there was a token system and tokens were picked from a bag for each row. I was mentally calculating that there were thirty lines with thirty tokens and the probability of this happening was a one-in-thirty chance.

It was December 23, 1993. There were thousands gathered as it was two days before Christmas. The ashram was getting ready for the celebrations. That morning it was very quiet, the sun was shining in a blue sky and we were seated on the sands opposite the most beautiful mandir I had ever seen in my life. To this day, I feel the cool breeze that caressed me; and even remember the birds and monkeys settled on the trees at the time.

Beautiful music started and Bhagavan came out of His residence, looking exactly as He did in my room. My mind started wondering: ‘I bet He can’t remember me?’ I looked up and there was Baba standing right in front of me. He said, ‘I called and you came’. He then lifted His robe slightly and the boy next to me indicated I should touch His feet. Baba silently smiled and walked away. I tried to give letters to Him which a staunch devotee in my town had given me, but Baba did not take them. I went back to the shed after darshan, threw the letters on the floor-mattress, and told the devotee next to me, “Baba did not take this letter, therefore He does not care about anyone.” (A big mistake, I realised later).

The very next darshan I found myself again in the first line and literally looked up and found my nose touching Baba’s robe. He kindly looked down and asked, ‘Letters?’ I was dumbstruck and started muttering and pointing to the sheds where I had thrown the letters. He said, ‘I know!’ The omnipresent all knowing Baba had already given me a glimpse of His powers.

For the next ten days I felt that Bhagavan Baba was an old friend of mine from somewhere. I had many darshans and listened to Baba’s discourses and enjoyed the atmosphere of Prasanthi Nilayam. I felt at home. I heard from one discourse that all matter is God and that God pervades the whole universe. I read the message: ‘Love all and serve all’. I loved this message, thought about it a lot and prayed Baba always to show me what it really means. (Over time He has shown me that if we have love, we get all the other values very quickly, be it peace, truth, non-violence, righteousness or service.)

I found myself very uncomfortable in the ashram physically, nevertheless I was very happy. I even got the chance to serve. I gladly washed thousands of cups and baked cakes; something which I had never done in my life. When I was leaving for the UK, I was tearful. I prayed that Baba would call me back.

Changed by the Power of Love

After this memorable trip I visited Puttaparthi many times for short periods, whenever I had a break from my clinics in the UK. Each trip was special and I had the chance for close darshans and even little conversations with Baba.

During one of those early visits, I read a message in the ashram: ‘Mother and Father are God’. Since that day I have loved and respected my parents as much as I can. Earlier, I did not show any gratitude to them. I realised we all owe a lot to our parents for loving and nurturing us.

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While I was in Lichfield, in Staffordshire (UK), where my clinic was located, I read a lot of spiritual books and missed Baba and the ashram a lot. I found the treatment to my patients improved too, and I tried to love them more. My clinic was, in fact, blessed by Baba. It was He who blessed the plan of the treatment centre and even mentioned its exact location. When I told my friends and relatives that Baba has asked me to start my health centre at Lichfield, they said, “Give up this idea. You are not going to make any money there.” But to everybody's surprise, there were nearly sixty patients on the first day of my clinic. It is amazing how His will works! I was occupied every minute and some days I was busy working till 10 o clock in the night. I felt His guiding hand during every treatment.

There were many other positive changes in my life too. I visited nursing homes to see patients who were terminally ill and gave the best treatment possible. Once Bhagavan came in a dream and told me to work in a prison. Next morning there was an advertisement in the British Dental Journal for a Prison Dental Officer to work once a week in a nearby prison. I applied, even though I had no experience of working in prisons. I told the interviewer that a friend of mine told me I should work in a prison and that I was sure I would take good care of them. They gave me the job. I visited the prison once a week and Baba guided me in dreams telling me he loved the prisoners very much. The prisoners were 15-25 years of age and were some of the toughest in the land, however they were very nice to me. While in prison, some had turned to spirituality and various religions for comfort and succour. They taught me a lot. There was a window in the ceiling of the dental room and they used to love to see the sky and appreciated the view of the outside whilst they were being treated. I felt Baba’s presence all the time in the prison and never felt worried about my safety.

Baba, in so many ways, had a huge impact on my life; He made me think more about Love and Care. A little more discipline too came with all this. I found I wasn’t wasting time watching TV and gossiping. I got rid of clutter in my house and took care not to waste food or energy, putting more money into ‘good’ work.

On my visits to the ashram, I used to pray in my heart, “Lord, I want a greater purpose in my life, not just earn more.” And He answered my prayers. I had dreams showing me how miserable my life would be if I did not go to India to work. I came to Prasanthi and was fortunate that Baba told me I should come and work near Him. I asked Baba if I could sell my clinic, and prayed that He does it smoothly within twenty four hours after valuation of the practice. And it did happen most wonderfully and effortlessly.

Change of Inner and Outer Practice

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Dr. Digish serving a student of the Zambia Sai School

After selling the practice, I waited twenty four months before Baba kindly and with immense joy sent me to serve in the Dental Department at the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, Whitefield. During the waiting period, I got an opportunity to serve in the Sathya Sai School, Ndola, Zambia in July 2001. I saw the way the students at the school applied Bhagavan’s human values in their studies, the sacrifice and dedication of Mr. and Mrs. Victor Kanu and all the staff who run the school. I saw the way the people of Zambia suffered from HIV, hunger and violence. All these things sometimes left me very tearful. It made me very grateful for the life I had been given; I felt so much compassion in my heart.

Then in February 2002, with His permission, I went to Rajasthan (a state in North India) to work for one month in the desert at a dental clinic attached to an ophthalmic hospital. Here I met rural people and saw how they lived without all the high-tech gadgets we take for granted. They were happy people and were very grateful for the services we offered them. It was a joy to relieve them of suffering. There were many dedicated doctors and staff in the hospital who sacrificed so much to help the patients. The desert was very silent; and Baba often tells us that in the depth of silence the voice of God can be heard. But I found my mind very unstable; it was difficult for me, as I had never experienced so much silence in my life. Imagine experiencing a month of silence, when you are not used to even an hour of silence! Only by reading about the glories of the Lord and chanting His name, could I bring my mind under control.

Before these two memorable trips happened, I was busy serving where ever there was an opportunity in Prasanthi Nilayam. During the seventy fifth birthday celebrations in 2000, I worked in a mobile dental van, and while I was with the first patient in the chair, Baba Himself came past us and blessed us both (the patient and me). His grace and kindness is infinite.

In the same year (2000), a few months of seva in the canteen too gave me a chance to serve food with love and built up my stamina for standing and working in the heat of India. I travelled around the globe starting from the UK and stopping at sixteen cities; yet didn’t find the same pain and suffering as in India. Here people adjust with each other on the roads, put up with power problems, water problems, food and medical problems with great tolerance and patience. India, truly, is a land of sadhana and spirituality.

Once I visited a poor patient in a hospital in Bangalore and asked the patient’s wife what she ate and where she slept. She slept on the floor by the husband’s bed and was ‘on call’ for him twenty four hours as he was bed ridden. They shared the food that the hospital provided for the patient, and were so content with that arrangement. That is Love, I understood.

Working in the Hospital of Love

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Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, Whitefield

In September, 2002 I joined Baba’s General Hospital in Whitefield, Bangalore. I was thirty-three then. Here I am addicted to serving and love every moment of my duty. Many surgeons and doctors render free service in this ‘heaven for the poor’ and work with love and dedication. They are also experts in their fields but work with so much humility. As heartening as this, the staff and doctors have great devotion for Baba and I feel blessed that I am in good company.

Baba’s Hospitals give all treatment for free and yet I notice that there are the same standards of care as my clinics in the UK. However, the healing is much faster, with deep surgical extractions and wounds healing so well which is a testimony to His love which pervades all His institutions.

Often cardiac patients come to get dentally healthy before their operations. After their dental treatment we ask them to rest for sometime on a chair in the room, so we can watch them. Then we give them vibhuthi, toothbrushes and send them to the Super Speciality Hospital for their heart operations.

Once I was going to Puttaparthi wondering if Baba was really omnipresent and knew exactly what we did in the dental department at the General Hospital? That day Bhagavan lovingly conversed with me, describing the exact time our department opens, the way cardiac patients rest on the chair; and even imitated how I act in the dental department to exact perfection! He was very happy and I was filled with joy.

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Dr. Patel at work in the General hospital

Once, a patient, looking very desolate, came to see us from North India. He was a cardiac patient about to undergo a cardiac by-pass operation in the Super Hospital, but needed sixteen septic teeth removed. As he appeared very weak, one of our staff enquired about his wellbeing and living conditions. The patient said that since the time of arrival, he was sleeping outside in Bangalore and was cold and hungry. Our staff provided him with warm tea, food, a blanket and recommended free accommodation for him. His dental treatment was completed promptly and he was sent for his heart operation. After the operation he came to see us in a joyful mood. He related to us how his sons had died and his wife relied on what he earned as a porter. But he couldn’t work due to his heart problem. Baba was his only hope, he said and further explained how all his life he went to the mosque but thought Allah did not listen to him until he came to Baba’s Hospital and was operated upon for free and with love. At sixty, he finally felt that God exists and Allah had, in fact, helped him and He does exist! He shed many tears of gratitude.

Baba Does Not Miss the Missed Meal

The omnipresent Baba always catches me out. Once I went back to the UK for Christmas and I missed a meal. On my return to Prasanthi, Baba was upset that I had not eaten. When I told him I was so big that it would make no difference, He explained that as He resided in my heart He missed the offering of food that mealtime.

On occasions, Bhagavan has even described my house in the UK and Bangalore and narrated what goes on in each place – even what time prasadam is offered to Him. He has really changed my life and entered my heart. There are so many things that He has taught me which I try to follow. He has imparted His wisdom even on dental issues, once telling me that ‘Dental decay is caused by mental decay’. On studying this teaching I find it to be very true. Our mental health affects our immune responses and is responsible for a lot of diseases. He tells us to brush our teeth and keep our tongues clean - simple and good advice for us. He tells us that if we have peace we can stay healthy.

In July 2003, on the occasion of Doctor’s Day, Baba said, ‘Sacrifice is the hallmark of a doctor’. If we think about this, it means doctors should not be too interested in profits; they should lead a simple life, give time to patients and be kind and caring. They should be, in fact, ideal devotees of God.

He Looks After Every Aspect of My Life

Baba is there every moment guiding me, and I have experienced this on umpteen occasions, as recently as a few months ago. Early this year, in April 2006, I went to the UK again to update my skills, do postgraduate studies and maintain my registration with the Dental Council of the UK. I attended many courses and even drove myself seven hundred kilometres roundtrip to the south coast of England for a one-day update on root canal procedure.

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Swami with Dr. Digish

I wanted to finish the courses in a month so that I could get back to my dear Lord’s Hospital. One day as I was travelling doing these various courses, which were mostly on root canals, I was having this mental dialogue: “I wonder if Baba knows the trouble I go to get back to His service and whether He will ever know about the courses I have just done on root canals?”

It was during this time that my mother one day told me, “If you get a chance to talk to Bhagavan, please ask if you can open a practice in UK again and maybe do seva a few months a year.” Mother was very worried about my personal and financial situation and my future. That is the duty of the mother of our physical bodies, is it not?

On my return back to Whitefield at the end of April 2006, Bhagavan Baba was there already. Immediately I was called to General Hospital to attend to a root canal! I went to meet Baba in His residence, in Trayee Brindavan, with the treatment plan for this patient. I had a most wonderful darshan of Bhagavan and when He asked me to come to Him He checked the schedules of the courses I had attended and  then went into detail about how I must carry out the root canal operation in the exact way I was taught on the courses - with  a few extra divine hints! I took the opportunity to ask Him whether or not I should set up practice in UK? Bhagavan emphatically said, ‘No’. He even told me I would get a job in UK where I could visit for a few weeks a year and serve the rest of the time here in Whitefield.

In August, with Bhagavan’s blessings, I went back to the UK to find the practice that would suit me, giving me the chance to work a few weeks a year, and I registered with agencies that gave work on a temporary basis throughout UK.  One morning I woke up with the name of one of my old bosses in my mind and I sent a resume to his surgery unit. Interestingly, that particular day he was thinking that he needed a dentist to work part-time in his practice so that he could do seva and spend time with his Sikh Babaji and his family, as his associate dentist had left recently! So I was called immediately and the exact weeks I needed to work were the exact weeks he wanted off!

I completed all the paper work, signed contracts, etc., and in no time was back in Prasanthi to thank Bhagavan. For, I knew that omnipresent Bhagavan Baba was with me on the courses and had taught me more about root canals; I was convinced that He had found the perfect job that would support me financially. The way Sai guides and moulds our lives, taking care of every little detail is so amazing. It is an experience that has no parallel in the worldly plane.

My closing prayer is that we treasure every moment fully aware that Bhagavan Baba is with us and try to imbibe some of the joy He wants to share with us; and detach ourselves from all the petty things we are asking Him for. We must promise always to be happy and serve as much and in whatever way we can, and above all, learn from the great master and Avatar that Sri Sathya Sai Baba is.

- Heart2Heart Team

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Vol 4 Issue 12 - DECEMBER 2006
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