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By Mrs. Szilvia Szaraz, Hungary

After working as a marketing manager for many years, Szilvia, now a housewife and a mother, is completely into Sai work - translating books, organising programmes and meetings for newcomers, and leading a self-awareness course. She has been a Sai Centre member since 2001, Centre leader since 2003, and was appointed as a National Coordinator of Hungary in 2006. When she was in Prasanthi Nilayam recently (in Dec 2007) along with the Hungarian group, Heart2Heart caught up with her and here are excerpts of that interesting conversation in the form of an article.

Sai Szilvia
Mrs. Szilvia Szawaz

When I was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1976, the communist rule was on. As a result, life was pretty simple as we did not have many things to buy. In a way, it was healthy for family life, because we were protected from many desires and temptations that the West is flooded with.

Growing Up in a Testing Time

In my family, I had my brother who is older than me, and we grew up with no great problems; we enjoyed a good relationship with our parents. But when I reached 14 - an age when teenagers change a lot, especially in the West - I felt a little strange because I discovered that I had a different way of thinking. I did not find society’s ways fulfilling and I wanted to find my own way to be happy. I felt something was missing. At just that time, Communism in Hungary was nearing its end; life, in the whole country, was undergoing a sea change, and I was changing too. After 40 years of communism, everybody was searching for something new, and as a teenager, I too could feel this excitement and turmoil.

In my school the teachers wanted every student to obey them unquestioningly. But I was a bit rebellious and this did not go well with them. Though I was a talented kid, I did not feel comfortable in that educational system, as I felt so deeply that something was lacking. Now, of course, I know that we had ignored our inner human values. But at that time, I could not figure out what could fill my emptiness. My life was in complete disharmony, be it in the school, with friends or anywhere.

Finding the Path to Self Enquiry

But there was one saving Grace. I had a teacher, a kind lady who taught us like Plato and Socrates, always asking us questions and encouraging interaction. I really enjoyed her classes in literature. Now, when I look back, I think this was the basis of my later inner searching. She always made us question and probe, and that was very good for me, because I then started to enquire into myself ‘”Why do I do certain things?”, “Why do I act like this?” That was the beginning of my search, and the journey inside. It helped me to understand people, and more importantly, myself. I did not know then that she was a very spiritual lady. Today, I am extremely grateful to her because what she did then is what every teacher should be doing with their students.

The ‘Pleasures’ of Freedom

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When the country opened up too quickly, society started to get westernised vigorously. Gone were the days of less choices and limited freedom, now everyone thought they would be the happiest in the planet because they had so many things to buy. Everyone was trying out new things and I was no exception. I went out with friends and ventured into discotheques, took to alcohol, tried drugs, etc. - I did not want to miss out on anything that was ‘fun’. Different kinds of things were coming into Hungary – all at once, and for a few years, I thought it was all good excitement.

But when I reached 20, there was still something missing! I felt a deep emptiness within. I had started working when I was 17, refusing university as I thought it would be too restrictive. So, I went into media and learned how to sell advertising for newspapers and was quite proficient at my job. I had to call different companies and advise them about the best ways to sell their products.

At that time, this was a new concept and big companies had no advertising agency, so they listened to my advice on where they should spend their money. I earned a good amount and with it came freedom. I wanted to be independent from my family; so I saved money and bought my own flat. I travelled a lot too to different countries, as I was searching for something that could quieten my inner disharmony. For the next five years I explored a lot outside, as that was where I believed my happiness lay.

Captivated by Pure Love

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When I was 21, I read a well-known book The Celestine Prophesy, written by an American James Redfield. That touched my heart; it taught me to look inside. That was the first step, and after that I read many spiritual books. And intuitively I felt ‘at home’ with the ideas and philosophies some of these books were talking about. I got more interested in this line of thought and joined a metaphysical school when I was 22.

This will give me in depth knowledge, I surmised. The teacher of the school happened to be a Sai devotee and one day, he showed us a video about Sathya Sai Baba, it was called Pure Love. When I saw that video, I do not know why, I cried a lot. Baba instantaneously touched my heart. As He walked slowly with the beautiful music playing in the background, my whole being was overhauled. I asked my teacher, “Who is this person? I want to see Him.” He said, “We are going to India shortly, you can join us.”

So, late in that year, 1999, I was in Puttaparthi and my first Darshan was from about 50 meters away. The moment I had a glimpse of Him in the car, I began to cry! It was as if my heart was just pouring out. “I’ve arrived home,” I knew, very strongly. I was simply ecstatic to be in Puttaparthi; He touched my heart so deeply.

I realised I had found what I was searching for so many years outside. It was a moment of great revelation because that which I had journeyed from country to country seeking, was here in Puttaparthi! I started to study His teachings and feel the Love that He is. Imagine a kid who had lost her parents in a big shopping mall, pitiably crying and frantically searching, when all of a sudden, she finds her mother! That was how ecstatic I was when I came to Puttaparthi and saw Baba. And as I read His books more, I realized I had to change many things in my life - how I act, look, think, everything had to go through the Sai workshop. My life took a complete U-turn. I changed comprehensively.

Learning at the Sai School

I stayed for five weeks on that first trip to His Lotus Feet and had to spend a lot of time in introspection. It was a painful and profound moment in my life when I had to finally leave, painful because I did not want to return to my old environment which did not give me happiness, and at the same time profound as now I had found my life’s purpose. I had always felt that my life had a unique objective, a great task was awaiting me, but I could never understand what it really was, though at times I sensed that maybe something nice will happen to me. But when I met Sai Baba I understood what I needed to do - that is, to work with people. When I was a kid and somebody asked me, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I would say, “I want to work with people.” I didn’t really understand much of what I said then, but everything became clear in that first visit to Puttaparthi.

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When I met Him, I realized I have to live His way. He was truly what I was looking for. He found me and gave me meaning in my life. I have not had much physical interaction or interviews with Swami, but I have had many “inner-views”. I feel Him inside, around me, and in my house. I know He is with me and helping me in my work and every situation.

When we started to build a house in 2000, He came in my dream and said, “I’m very happy that you’re building. Build.” The word “build” has two meanings in Hungarian. It also means to ‘build’ or improve oneself. Therefore, when He said, “I’m very happy that you’re building”, I woke up and was filled with joy.

Sometimes I feel God is prompting me to act in ways I could not do by myself. Once I was sitting in a crowded Metro train in Budapest. There was a man standing in front of me and next to him, very close, was a lady. I realized that the lady was actually a pick-pocket. I was not a very courageous or confronting person at that time, but at that moment I instantaneously hit the lady’s hand hard when she tried to steal the purse – that was surely not ‘me’ acting as I did not think about it. The thief was shocked and immediately took to her heels.

On another occasion, we were on a trailer carrying some fencing posts and wire, with my father on the driving seat. It was a heavy load and suddenly, one of the wheels just gave away. And the car went totally out of control. We were swinging directionless from one side of the road to the other. And at this time, we saw another vehicle approaching us from the front. My father was panic-stricken. I just prayed, “Oh, my God, please, help me! Help me!” And the next moment, you may not believe, the car suddenly stopped! It was as if the car reacted on its volition. The accident was timely averted. And the next best thing that happened was that the people in the cars behind us, who could not go forward because of the posts that had fallen on the road, came out and wholeheartedly helped us in clearing the road. There were so many willing to help! I was overwhelmed and thanked the Lord immensely.

Pilgrimage of Grace

I have felt His Love in so many situations. The story of how I made it to Puttaparthi this year (December 2007) is also amazing. My husband and I wanted to join the Hungarian group, but we were not in a position to afford it, so we gave up the idea. When there were two weeks left for the group to leave Hungary, I received a phone call from one of the office bearers in Budapest. She said that some of the group members had collected enough money for me to travel as they felt, being a national coordinator, I must be part of the group. But they had only enough to pay for mine and our little son’s ticket. They could not arrange resources for my husband.

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On one hand, I was touched at this gift from Sai Baba through others. I felt His presence - that He’s calling me to Puttaparthi with the group. I had a glimpse of Baba touching my heart. But on the other hand, it was a very difficult situation too. I was sad that Baba had apparently called only me and my son, and not my husband. He was concerned as my son is only 15 months old. He slowly reconciled to this fact and said to himself, “If Baba is calling them, I should let them go” and started practicing detachment from me and our child.

Our journey was just seven days away and now I get another phone call from one of the centre leaders who were responsible for organising the journey to India. She tells me that a lady had cancelled her trip to India and is offering her ticket to my husband! Moreover, after we return, we could pay in instalments. And later, when the lady learnt that my husband is a graphic designer, she said, “Oh, very good, then he can do some work for me, he doesn’t have to pay anything at all”. So the whole trip was a gift from Sai! He shows us His love in so many ways, through so many people.

I had another experience a few years ago during an earlier visit to Puttaparthi. I had seen many times that whenever Swami creates Vibhuti, after distributing it to the blessed recipient, He would accept a handkerchief from the sevadal lady sitting near by to wipe His Hand. I developed a strong desire to have such a kerchief.

There was a lady doing security duty, with whom we had some contact, and one day as we were talking to her about our Baba experiences, she invited us to her home. During our conversation at her place, she said, “You know what happened? I was sitting working in the Mandir and Sai Baba materialized vibhuti quite some distance away. But He called me over to give Him the handkerchief. And this was unusual, because He always asks for the handkerchief from the person closest to Him.” And then she showed us the handkerchief touched by the Lord, and said, “You know, I would like to give this to you.” I was thrilled. Sai Baba had fulfilled my innermost wish! Today if we have any illness, we put this sacred cloth touched by Sai on that part of our body. He cares for us in many different ways.

Today, when I look back and see the last eight years of my life, that is after I had my first darshan in 1999, I notice a tremendous change in my personality. I have become calmer and friendlier. I am no more arrogant or aloof. I have realised that I’m not different from others and all I need to do is to be humble. And most importantly, if I have any talents, I have to use it to help others, and not for my own ambitions and desires.

A Sign of Responsibility

How I became the National Coordinator of Hungary is also an interesting story. When I returned to my country after the first trip, I joined the Sai Organization and started to work hard in translating many English books into Hungarian.

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The founder of the Organization was a lady who served as the National Coordinator for thirteen years. Earlier, she had been living in Australia for many years, but after seeing Bhagavan she felt that she must bring His message back home, and therefore, returned to Hungary and started the Sai Organization.

After being in charge for such a long period, she felt it was time to move on but couldn’t find anyone who could speak English, work hard and also had other exemplary qualities. But after knowing me for some time, she thought I was the right person, but it took a few years before I could fill the position. (I needed a minimum of two years experiences as a center leader too.)

Before taking the responsibility, I came to Puttaparthi with my husband in 2005, and I was asking myself, “Am I the right person for the job?” I wanted Swami’s opinion, and was looking for any confirmatory divine sign. One day, in the Mandir, the National Coordinator of Belgium saw me sitting in the public area and called me to the coordinator‘s place where she was, and said, “Why are you sitting there, Szilvia?” At that time I was a Deputy National Coordinator. “Your place is here as the Coordinator, why do not you come and sit in front with us?” she continued. For me, it was a sign from Swami that I should take the new role. And the founder lady said, “You are the right person. Be courageous. Don’t be afraid.” So I went and asked permission to sit with the national coordinators and as time went by Swami helped me to be more self-confident and hear His voice inside.

Listening to the True Self

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I underwent a process of coming to trust my inner voice and conscience. One day I was sitting in the first row and saw a Brazilian lady who always came late and sat at the back for darshan. I felt I should give her my place because I thought maybe she has a genuine reason for being late. I was still a little confused and asked Sai Baba inside, “Please Sai Baba, show me if I am doing the right thing in giving her a place. Please open your window during Darshan and look at me if this is right.”

And when Baba came out after few minutes, He turned down the glass of the window and looked straight into my eyes ! I instantly realized what I felt inside was right. Later, I met that lady and learnt that she was a doctor and was very busy with the patients in the General Hospital. I was then completely convinced that I must always be self-confident and follow my heart.

There was another situation which happened after a couple of weeks, concerning a lady who was leaving Puttaparthi shortly. I was in the first row again and had a feeling that I should give her my place. But another lady told me to give up the idea and so persuaded by her, I did not move. When Swami came near where I was sitting, He just turned His face suddenly to the other side and after He passed me returned His looks again to my side. That was a definite sign for me that I didn’t do the right thing. I learnt again to listen to what He tells me from within – my conscience. I should not listen to others; He is inside me, leading me and teaching me. I feel He is directing me every moment. This self-confidence has helped me to carry out my role as National Coordinator more self-assuredly. I enjoyed giving presentations during our youth meeting the previous year (2006), we had lectures on “spirituality in marriage” and how Sai Baba guides us in our lives to progress together on the spiritual path.

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The Hungarian choir exuding harmony and joy
singing to their Lord

In Budapest, we have been able to undertake many service activities. One we worked on last year was to build a house for a poor lady in the countryside. We toiled together and did it all by our selves.

We also give food to the homeless and visit the old, talk to them, stage a program to give them joy and gift them with articles they need. In other cities we are working with orphans by providing them with a sports program and craft activities, and poor families are offered means to earn their livelihood, not just food.

Swami continues to test and teach us in many ways. On this (Dec 2007) pilgrimage we came with an extensive programme of singing to Him. We practiced a lot but for some reason He knows best, we never got an opportunity to perform before Him.

But we accepted this to be His will. Moreover, more than songs, what this music program did to us was great because for so many days we were together, singing, practising and working hard. This has created a wonderful team spirit within us. And this certainly is a big plus for the Organisation. Now, all I want is to be a good instrument in His Hands and find God in myself.


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Vol 6 Issue 01 - JANUARY 2008
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