Volume 5 - Issue 04 APRIL 2007
Prof. G Venkataraman (GV): Sai Ram and welcome to our studios, Brother Gutter. I have seen you here all the time, every time there is a festival, but many of our listeners may not have seen you, especially since you come from a far-off continent, Latin America, based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Would you mind telling us exactly when you came to Swami and how you came to Swami, because different people are pulled by Him in different ways? So, how did He pull you?
Sri Leonardo Gutter (LG): It is a very interesting story. It was about twenty-two years ago. At that time I was already on a spiritual path in a Raja Yoga Organization, and I heard about Swami, I don’t know how, but I heard about His Name.
GV: Was it like Hislop and many others? They heard it from Indra Devi.
LG: No, not like that. I personally do not know from where I heard His name. I was on the spiritual path; I heard it in Argentina. What happened then was that I became very interested. Soon a member of the organization, where I was, came to India. She had an interview with Swami and when she came back something happened. On her way to India, she stopped in the UK and she went to the library and there a book fell on her head; it was a book on Swami.
GV: A book fell on her head? Direct transmission of the knowledge!
LG: Exactly. She decided to come here. She came here and got an interview with Swami. She came back and she told us about Swami. At that time, as I told you, I was in another organization. Then, one night I had a dream with Swami. My first dream.
GV: You saw Swami in the dream?
LG: Yes, I saw him in the dream.
GV: Complete form, robe, physical form, everything?
GV: It is amazing how many people had this kind of experience.
LG: It was very special for me. I was in a room, there were seven or eight people in a room, and Swami came in and I thought (this happened in the dream), Well, now I will know if you are an Avatar. If you are an Avatar and when you come close to me, by where I am standing, I will have to feel something. So then, He started to approach me and suddenly I found myself doing namaskar. And I thought, What I am doing? I am not a Sai devotee. So, I myself found it strange that I was doing that.
GV: You have heard about Him by that time. Had you seen His picture?
LG: I just heard His name and then I had this dream. I had not seen His picture. What happened was that when He came by my side, suddenly I started to feel waves of energy, one after another.
GV: Very interesting, exactly the same thing was said by Mr. Jum Sai a few days ago.
LG:One wave of the energy after another. It was like all the cells of my body were bubbling with energy. Each cell was exploding and giving me Ananda, a state of bliss. It was so intense, one after another. One moment I lost my equilibrium and fell to the floor. I couldn’t move, I was completely without any strength in my limbs. It was in my dream, I was quite conscious, and I was smiling from ear to ear. And He was just going to leave the room and I looked at Him and thought, You are God, You Are God, You Are God. He looked at me and He came back where I was lying on the floor and hugged me and gave me a few kisses on my head and I woke up. That was so strong that I decided to come here to India. In January 1982, I found myself in the ashram. If you would like, I can share my first experience with him.
“I will never disappoint My devotees.” - Baba
LG: What happened was that I came here with the first organized group of Argentineans. Thirty to forty days went by and we didn’t have a single interview. One night I was alone in my room and I felt so strongly His divinity and I wrote in a paper that I was resigning from the other spiritual organization where I was participating, because I found the Avatar and I want to surrender completely to Him to serve Him in whatever way I could. Then I went to sleep. Next morning I went for darshan and Swami came straight to me. Instead of doing His normal darshan, He came from the mandir, directly to where I was seated. He came directly to me and looked directly at me and said, “Yes, this afternoon I will see you.”
I was so happy when the darshan was over, I decided to go directly to the interview room and wait there for the afternoon. The seva dal stopped me and told me that it was not like that. “He has to call you again in the afternoon,” he said. And I thought that the seva dal did not like my face. I thought he was spoiling my opportunity. I really thought that Swami will not find me or He will forget about that and I was really very sad. Well, afternoon came, darshan again, I got third line. I was simply dejected. Swami came out from His room and looked at me from the veranda, He looked at me, He didn’t start to look for me, He just looked straight at me and from the veranda He shouted, “You!” I was so happy. I jumped up and ran to him. He said, “Go.” He called me for an interview. I asked if other Argentineans can come. He said, “Yes.”
The interview started. Suddenly, in the middle of the interview, He looked at me and told me what happened since the morning, all my thoughts, my doubts. He came close to me and said in my ears wonderful words. I will always remember these words: “I will never disappoint My devotees.” I will always remember those words that proved to be true for the past twenty-two years.
GV: That is a wonderful story, typical of the way Swami draws people. I will use the opportunity to share something very interesting I heard just a few days ago. This is from a lady, a Muslim lady, she hails from Bangladesh and she has come here for the first time. She knew nothing about Swami. Absolutely nothing. She is a fashion designer; she has an outfit in Dhaka where she employs 350 destitute women. She is giving those jobs and they are a mixed lot, Muslims, Christians, and Hindus. Her products have been displayed in many exhibitions. They were bought by Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana, and so forth. And she went to Singapore for a fashion shown to display her products. She didn’t know a thing about Swami and had never seen His photograph.
There she had a dream. Swami came walking downstairs and said to her, “Don’t worry; I will take care of your problems. If someone tries to do anything, that person will get an electric shock.” She woke up and said it’s a strange dream and forgot about it. Two days later, she went to meet her agent, a Chinese girl in Singapore and when she entered her house she stood frozen, because she saw a photo of Swami. She said, “Who is that?” The Chinese agent said, “He is Sai Baba.” She kept on looking at the photo. The Chinese girl asked, “Why are you looking like that?” And then this lady told the story. “Where is this Sai Baba? I want to see him.” And so she found out and she came here.
She told me a lot about her life and family and herself, how her husband has now retired from the railways, how they always lived a very dharmic and principled life and her husband was totally against corruption. She said, “You know our country is number one in corruption ratings, but we were very principled.” I told her because you follow dharma and you are giving sustenance to 350 people, Swami has picked you from apparently nowhere. This sort of thing seems to happen all the time and I am very interested to know that you had this more than twenty years ago.
LG: Latin America and my country are so far from India and our culture is so different yet Swami is known. I had the good fortune of traveling to almost all the countries in Latin America. In all the twenty-three countries there is a Sai Organization; so many people have had direct experiences. Everywhere in Latin America, there is a Sai Organization. He appears there in different ways in different places in the interior of Argentina. So the way people know about Him is through many situations. His physical form materialized in those countries.
GV: This is unbelievable.
LG: I think that having a Sai Organization everywhere, with our culture so different, is great. Because in our culture we don’t believe in an Avatar and the concept is completely alien to us. In spite of that, people receive it well and are so open to it.
GV: Incidentally, talking of this manifestation in different places, I remember an incident that took place in Brindavan, many years ago. Swami was with students and someone from Europe was describing how Swami had manifested in Croatia and was doing service there. And at the end of it all, when that person sat down, one devotee said, “Swami, this is astounding.” Swami’s reply was, “For you, it is astounding. For Me, it is normal.”
LG: Very nice.
GV: I won’t forget it. The exact words of Swami were, “Nee ku chaala aascharyam, naa ku chala sahajam” (“For you it is astounding, for me it is common”).You have told us of Swami’s manifestation and his wide acceptance all over Latin America. Incidentally, I am reminded of what Hislop told me in the early 1990s. He had come to Bangalore for a summer course. It so happened I was sitting with him while the proceedings were going on in the College Auditorium. He said, “You know, the Sai movement is spreading like wildfire in Latin America.” I asked, “What is the reason for this?” He said, “Most of Latin America is Catholic and the Catholics have no difficulty in accepting mystical experiences and saints. It is the Protestants who have a problem. It is very easy for the Catholics to accept somebody like Sai Baba.” That is exactly what he told me.
LG: I just remembered a nice story. When the Sai Organization started to appear in Brazil, there was another spiritual movement called “Spiritism,” which is very important there. It is second to the Catholic Church. When the Sai Organization started to grow, the movement became a little worried and concerned. So they decided to send here to India the number two person of their movement. His name is Prof. Divaldo Pereira Franco, to check if Sai Baba was true or not. He came here with a goal to prove that Swami was a fraud. That was the aim of his trip. And he is very respected; he says he seems to have 12 siddhis or powers, and they believed that he is going to be able to see and know. He is so popular there, whenever he gives a lecture, 5000 people attend. When the Professor returned from Baba’s ashram here and went to Brazil, he said that he came here and saw the ashram surrounded by angels. He also said, “Whenever Sai Baba comes out, spiritual light flows from the sky for all people.” He could see all that when Swami approaches a person, the aura of Swami that is completely pink absorbs all the negativity of the people. He spoke so well about Swami, himself being the person who was supposed to be speaking bad about Him. So that is how he got transformed. And in another situation when the first Sai Center was opened in Costa Rica, the day it opened, there was an article in the press, sent from a correspondent in Prasanthi Nilayam. Can you imagine that? A newspaper from Costa Rica carrying an article from Prasanthi Nilayam?
GV: Most of us don’t even know where Costa Rica is.
LG: Thus we have very nice experiences.
GV: Talking of angels, I am reminded of another incident narrated by Hislop. Many years ago, Swami went to Madras and took Hislop with him. He just drove to one house at about two o’ clock in the afternoon. He knocked on the door. The lady opened, and said, “Swami, You are here”? Swami: “Yes, I am here. Aren’t you going to welcome me inside?” So she goes inside, she doesn’t know how to receive Swami. Normally, you have all sorts of things, fruits, flowers, etc. She said, “Swami, why didn’t you tell me? I have nothing.” He says, “Don’t worry,” and He looks at the car and signals. And Hislop says, “Angels came from that car bringing silver trays they deposited and went back to the car and disappeared.” He has written this – you have to believe Hislop – but the story doesn’t end here. Next time, a year later when Swami came to Madras, He brought students with Him. He took them to that house and then He told the lady, “Show these boys those silver plates the angels brought.”
LG: Fantastic. That is very great.
GV: We don’t understand what sorts of things go on. When you talked about aura, I was reminded about what Frank Baronowski saw. He also saw a tremendous aura. [To read the article about Swami’s Aura from an earlier issue of H2H, click here]. Now, tell me something about the activities that go on in Argentina and Latin America.
Seva Activities in South America
LG: We have plenty of activities. One feature that is very important is that the Sai center in our country became like the community center. It is open every day of the week. In Argentina we have almost 100 centers, between Sathya Sai Groups all over the country, from the North to the South. In Latin America, we have over 300 Centers. Only in Argentina, where we have most centers, there are almost 80 or 90 centers in total. Those centers are open every day of the week, so devotees can go any time. Mostly they are open from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. everyday and on weekends they are open all day. They have several activities every day – service activities, study circles, twice a week bhajans. Then we have service activities three or four times a week. People do Narayan Seva, for example, in Buenos Aires. About 11,000 to 15,000 plates are put out by one center every month and food served for poor people just in one center every month. We have plenty of service activities in each center.
GV: Apart from distribution of food, do you run medical camps?
LG: We do medical camps, we have slums areas adopted, we have visits to the leper’s house, visit to the children’s hospital. The important thing is that this is done in a weekly basis, it is not something done once a month; every week these activities are done.
GV: How do people, the general public like it? Do they know about the Sai Organization?
LG: They like it very much. They know and they acknowledge. For example, just now there was a flood in one area of greater Buenos Aires and this organization was the first to help. We made a medical camp, we give them an integral service.
Bal Vikas and EHV
GV: What about things like Bal Vikas and EHV?
LG: We have in Latin America now (January 2003) 13 Sathya Sai Schools: five in Argentina, four in Brazil, one more coming in January or March in Brazil. We have two in Ecuador, one in Venezuela, and one in Mexico. There are 159 public schools adopted by Sai Organization, just in Mexico with 15,000 public school students going through the EHV Program.
GV: Tell us something about what the EHV program really does and what it means.
House of Gold
LG: I can tell you a story that is very nice. But before that, let me give you some updates. A month ago, the Minister of Education from Argentina met with the Director of Sathya Sai Institute of Argentina. She approved the Sathya Sai EHV Program and requested the Director of Institute to adopt as many schools as possible and our limit are our own manpower resources. Now, I want to tell you the effect of EHV. It is a wonderful story. For example, one of the service activities we have is that we care for children who do not have houses. We have children who do not have houses, children who live on the streets, in Buenos Aires.
What happened was that we were working with those children, bringing them twice a week to the Sai center, and there we let them take a shower, and we give them food and we helped them by teaching; especially we gave EHV classes to them. At the beginning they came back to the center. But then we felt that the problem was that they were going back to the streets and they live in an environment where they have to survive there. We were trying to fill a bucket full of holes. It was a very difficult task. We decided to rent a house, so we are really bringing them out of the streets; But as you know, Latin America is not rich like Europe or United States. So with the funds we have, we were able to rent a dilapidated house, but we decided to work there to make it nice enough to receive the children.
So, one day, three of those children went to the house to help to repair the house; there was a Sai devotee and this lady asked them to go to the front of house to move some earth to put some plants to make it a little nicer. Moments later, they came back inside with a bag that they found, a bag inside one of the pits. What happened was that inside the bag there was thirteen kilograms of pure gold. When they found the gold, the first thing they thought was to run away. But then they said they remembered what they were taught in the EHV classes. And they felt that they had to bring back the gold to us. With that gold – the judge declared that it belongs to us – with that gold, we bought two houses for the homeless children. One of the three children had a missing leg.
GV: Are people digging more in Argentina!
LG : That child to whom we bought the leg, he told that he really wanted to meet Swami; He wanted to come here. So we agreed to buy him a ticket with that gold we received. He came here. Swami granted him an interview and Swami told him that He had put the gold there. In one of the houses we have, we have a home for nine or ten abandoned girls. The judges sent them to us. Lots of services like this are known in other countries in Latin America. There are water projects in El Salvador. Latin America is a country where service activities and EHV activities are flourishing.
GV: We hear a lot about the economic problems of Latin America. Argentina was very much in the news sometime ago and I even received letters from your colleagues there. The question is, do you feel that Swami’s message has a solution for the problems of Latin America, and if so, are people ready to listen to it? Not just the Sai Members, the community at large?
LG: I feel that Swami’s message is the solution for worldwide problems.
GV: I agree with you; I wanted you to say it.
LM: I feel that people are receiving it very well. Just to give you a couple of examples, the President of El Salvador is a Sai devotee; he came here a long time ago. The Vice President of the Central Council of Brazil is a Sai devotee. They have elections in Brazil and a new President was elected. He offered this lady a position in the Government; she refused. Thinking she wanted a better one, they offered a new one, she refused. The third time they offered her an important position in the government; I don’t know if she has accepted; she didn’t want to accept in one or two years as she is very committed to the Sai work.
In spite of the crisis in Argentina, we just had Swami’s birthday celebrations in Argentina in a very important theater in downtown attended by 1200 people. People from all levels of society are receiving Swami’s messages very well as it touches their hearts.
GV: Now the important point here is Swami’s emphasis on morality; it has become out of fashion in America and Europe perhaps. Are people in Argentina realizing that morality is the only solution?
LG: I think so because what we realize at this moment is that the problems we are facing now are due to corruption. Argentina is a very rich country and we have everything there. To be in the present economic crisis is just because of corruption. I know that everybody is realizing that. We feel that Swami’s message is very much needed there and is well received. This is what we infer when people come to centers and we have public meetings. When invited to a program with magazine or newspaper, they keep asking us about Swami and His message.
GV: From the point of view of culture and religion, both are very different there as compared to here in India. Do the people have difficulty in accepting Swami?
LG: My experience is that people do not have difficulty, from twenty-one years ago, after my first trip when I came back from India with my heart filled with love for Swami.
GV: But then, you know, you were already in Rajayoga.
Spreading the Glory of the Lord
LG: At that time, I felt the urge to share what I have found with everybody and I started to go around to different places wherever I was invited and I started to travel all around Argentina and the neighboring countries to speak about Swami. What I found was that everybody was eager to listen. What I found was that since then I am traveling all over Latin America and participated in many meetings.
GV: What is the profile of the devotees? Are they middle class? Are they lower class? Are they from industry? Professionals? Academicians?
LG: We have devotees from all the classes, from industry, academicians, and professionals and intellectuals.
GV: And they are ready to accept Swami?
GV: What about politicians?
LG: Many politicians are Sai devotees.
GV: I suppose they are not corrupt.
LG: No, They are not.
GV: So, what you need to do is get more Sai devotees and then corruption will be wiped out. Tell me something about Sai movement in other countries, like Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Guatemala. We see those people here occasionally. I like the Columbia scarf, it is very imaginative, and Guatemala. Why don’t you tell us something more about those countries also?
LG: You don’t see many people here because of the economic situation in our countries. We just had a meeting with five zonal chairmen; we have many centers here everywhere in all countries. We have many centers in Latin America, including Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Haiti, now there is a devotee carrying books in French from here to Haiti and including Cuba.
The Cuban Story
GV: Cuba ? That is very interesting.
LG: Once I had the opportunity to speak before Swami and with His blessing, I mentioned the experience in Cuba. In Cuba, once, some years ago a stewardess asked me to give her a picture of Swami to carry to a Hatha Yoga Professor, an instructor, in Cuba. So I sent the photo there. From that photo started to appear vibhuti in Cuba. And this Professor, Hatha Yoga Teacher gave a little vibhuti to a teenager who was going to a heart operation the next day. The next day when they took him to the surgery room, they found that the problem in the heart had disappeared. There was no operation. From that day onwards; the Sai devotees started appearing from nowhere. No one Cuban came to India; there it is forbidden to meet in groups. But in a short time 108 groups appeared all over Cuba. Even the members of the secret police who were sent to the meetings became Sai devotees. One of Fidel Castro’s sons became a Sai devotee; they reached a point where the Government became a little worried. They closed the Sai organization.
GV: That will be a temporary closure.
LG: I am sure. What I heard is that they are still having meetings anyway. In three years, there were 30,000 Sai followers in Cuba. If they let them continue, everyone will become a Sai devotee.
GV: It is amazing; it is almost like what is happening in Russia.
LG: The reason that there was a drop “Glasshouse” as we say in Latin America. On the day they celebrated Swami’s birthday in Cuba, there was almost twelve to fourteen hours celebration and there were hundreds of people going to the center to participate in the celebration; that was it for the Government.
GV: That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
LG: Imagine in a country in Cuba where no one has come here, yet there are so many Sai devotees. All of Latin America is filled with Swami’s love.
GV: This is a little extraordinary; nobody has come from there and all you did was you sent a photo to the Hatha Yogi Professor. This is just remarkable, absolutely mind-boggling. It was really nice talking to you and you told us many things that we didn’t know. It just shows that there are dimensions to Swami which we are hardly aware of when He comes in the morning and evening for darshan. We just see someone coming and someone going. This shows how limited our vision is.
Nothing is Impossible With Sai
LG: First of all I want to appreciate the opportunity to share our experiences with all the people that are listening to us. Thank you. I want to say that Swami is doing everything. When I came back from my first trip to India, it was March 1982; I was traveling for three months. I was in the ashram for forty-five days. The day I was returning to Argentina, I felt in my heart such a pain that I am leaving the abode of God. So I said within myself, Swami, I want to come back in September. But at that time it was economically impossible to come back in September. I was just starting my new business, and my partner was going to kill me if I tell him I will go back to India in September, after being three months out. But within my heart I asked him.
So in the ashram, I told my ashram friends, “Don’t miss me. I will be back in September.” So I went back to Argentina. In the middle of June or July, I received a proposal to do a theater play in Ecuador; I was representing a film company at that time. The company came to get the rights to do a theater play in Ecuador. Part of the deal was I had to go with them for one month to check what they were doing and to collect the royalties due. So, I went to Ecuador. When the month was over and finished, I had to come back to Argentina. Suddenly, I felt that I had to speak about Swami in Ecuador because no one knew about Him. I went to the airline office and the company. As part of the deal, they had given me a thirty days valid ticket. I went to the airlines office and I tried to extend my ticket for one week to be able to speak about Swami.
I didn’t know how and where. I went to the airlines office and I said, “Please, let me go back on the next flight from Ecuador to Argentina.” There were two flights that fly from Ecuador to Argentina in a week. And the lady there said, “No, no way, your ticket is expiring tomorrow. You have to go on that flight.” Each time she said, “No,” I was more determined to stay. After forty minutes of discussion, she said, “If you want you can keep your ticket open for one year, and you stay how long you like.” I asked her, “How much is it?” She said, “With one hundred dollars you can stay as long as you like.” So I told her, “Why didn’t you start with this?” I paid one hundred dollars, I had my ticket open. I left the airlines office and say what am I going to do now? I cannot go to a park and speak about Swami, they will think I am crazy. I called one friend who stayed in the capital of Ecuador, and he said, “Come here.” He arranged for me to go to a meeting at a hatha yoga group, presided over by a Catholic priest.
GV: A Catholic Priest accepted hatha yoga?
LG: Yes. The Catholic Priest was running this organization. I told him that I wanted to speak about Swami, He said, “Please, next Friday we have a meeting, you can talk about Swami.” I went there and the hall was crowded with people. I started to speak about Swami; I spoke about one hour about him. When I finished, the Catholic Priest came to me and said, “Listen we have a magazine that we publish and distribute all over the Ecuador. If you write an article, I will publish it in the magazine and if you have a photograph, I will put it on the cover of the magazine.” You can imagine how happy I was.
Next day, Saturday, I was invited by this friend to a concert. When I left the concert, he met with a person with whom he was preparing to work. They went to the exit of the theater. It was cold. When they realized I was feeling cold, this industrialist told my friend, “Listen, your friend is suffering. Why don’t you come to have lunch in our house tomorrow and we will discuss over business there.” And he invited me to come over there too. When he left, I said I will not go to a business meeting. My friend said, “If you don’t come, I will feel bad. The custom here is you have to be polite.” So I went. Can you imagine what my talk was during lunch? I started to speak about Swami.
This industrialist was a very important man in Ecuador. He was a former ambassador to Israel. He had a very important industry too. He was very attached to all the pleasures of the life. He was really not in the spiritual path at all. After ten minutes of listening to me, he said, “Excuse me, Sir, do you have a mind to go to India with me?” I heard him and said, “Of course not.” “OK,” he said, “I will meet you in this place, next Monday; here is a travel agency, and I will buy two tickets and go to India.” I said, “OK.” I thought it was a joke. I told myself, today is Sunday, I have my ticket to return to Argentina to go on Tuesday. Monday I was supposed to meet him and I said, “Let me go and see. This may not be a joke.” So I went. This person came, he bought two tickets. On September 2, I was in the Ashram, Ecuador-Buenos Aires completely paid; Ecuador-India completely paid. And I was surprised.
On the way to India, he explained why he bought the ticket. He had a cancer in his palate, he was not in the spiritual path at all. He had a few months to live. He went to the United States, had surgery in Houston and they couldn’t cure him. When he heard me speaking about Swami, he said, “I have the money and I have nothing to lose.” He came to India with me. The first day we were in darshan in Whitefield. When Swami came to the door, I felt the voice within my head saying, “You want to be here in September, well, here you are.”
That man was very fat. He could not comfortably sit on the floor and he was complaining all the time. So one day, I don’t remember, I think it was Thursday, we had bhajans and he remained seated all day. I was surprised; because after ten minutes, he would complain as he couldn’t sit. In the afternoon, before Swami came, he looked at me and his eyes were completely wet, and he told me Swami had just been here. He put his hand in my mouth, took out something and told me, “You are cured.”
I didn’t see Swami, but he had this experience. Couple of days later, we went back to Ecuador and he was completely cured. He went to the hospital in Europe, the clinic in United States, and they told him, “No more cancer.” Now it is almost twenty years since then, he is alive, completely cured and very happy. When he went back to Ecuador, this person was so grateful to Swami, he published his experience in a magazine and he distributed 10,000 copies free all over Ecuador. This is how Swami makes himself known.
GV: Swami often says, “Things are going to happen far sooner than you imagine”; Now I can believe all of it. If these things are happening, what is there to stop Him? But He always says for everything there must be a time and place and a circumstance. He writes the timetable, He writes the schedule, and all we need to do is to watch very carefully. I am very hopeful, after all that you have said, that Argentina is really going to pull itself out of the current economic, ethical, and moral crisis. And I do hope that rebirth will show a new light to the whole world. Thank you and Sai Ram. We hope we will see you here again in our studios. Sai Ram.
LG: Sai Ram and thank you.
- Heart2Heart Team
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Vol 5 Issue 04 - APRIL 2007
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