Volume 6 - Issue 11
NOVEMBER - 2008
Bhagavan sri satHya sai baba:
Embracing the “L” Factor, Changing the Equation of Life
An alumna of the Anantapur campus of the Sri Sathya Sai University, Toronto based Kavita Kaul poignantly recalls her first ever participation in the celebration of the holiest of days in the Sai calendar - the sacred date of His advent on earth, November 23. The historic year was 1980 and she was blessed to be in Prasanthi Nilayam for the occasion.
“Having been recently accepted at His University, I enjoyed the perks that came as a part of being His blessed student. Most significant was access to the ringside seat from where I witnessed a sea of humanity from all corners of the world, speaking a myriad languages, wearing a variety of skin colours and costumes, pour into the ashram through the weeks leading up to the big day.
"It was astonishing to watch people joyfully set up their belongings in the open, under the trees or spend the night in the corridors, as all the rooms in the area were taken up and all the dormitories were filled beyond capacities. Even the tents that had been set-up along the periphery of the ashram grounds for the corps of volunteers from all parts of India were jam packed. Just when the township seemed to be bursting at the seams, more busloads of eager seekers arrived!
“Due to our ignorance and His unassuming personality, we, the students, related to Swami more as our dearest friend and a caring parent than a Universal Divine Teacher. Witnessing the international draw of ‘our Swami’ was simply astounding. It was an eye-opener indeed, and put into perspective what a blessing it was to be so closely associated with the One who was loved by so many,” she recalls even today.
While multi-faith celebrations such as Dasara, Christmas, and Buddha Poornima are attended by thousands in His physical presence, there are millions of others who are replicating the same spiritual efforts in their Sai Centres and Samithis across the globe.
However, no celebration attracts bigger crowds in Prasanthi Nilayam, or in the thousands of Sai Centres all over the world than the one leading to the date when Bhagavan Baba was born. Come November, the ashram in India literally turns into a global village. It is quite common to find the ashram abuzz with silent activity as people start lining up for darshan as early as 12 a.m.!
In the crowd, one can typically find Latin Americans rubbing shoulders with the local villagers, Americans guiding pilgrims from Russia and Europe, the Japanese contingent exchanging notes with the Australians and an entire India melting in one proud pot as the blessed land that the incarnation of Love chose as His birthplace!
Explaining this unique occurrence, Bhagavan Baba points out,
Love: the Power of Attraction
This magnetic power of pure love is an unmistakable attribute of the purest of living beings on earth, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He points out that this ability to attract cannot be found in all. The ocean is vast and deep beyond measure. A tumbler of water taken from the ocean will have the same saline taste but it cannot possess its vastness. Individual human beings have the capacity to love according to the limitations of their past spiritual history and effort. For those who have caught glimpses of the vastness of Bhagavan Baba’s love, it is His purity of intent that makes His Love totally spontaneous and infinite.
Practice Love Now and Here: Orissa Relief and Rehabilitation Project
A perfect instance of His spontaneity to Love wholehearted and rescue those in distress came through loud and clear just weeks ago when, at the peak of the Dasara festival, He asked, Mr. V. Srinivasan, the President of the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organizations of India to announce publicly His decision to undertake the Orissa Flood Relief and Rehabilitation Project.
When the government authorities were busy pointing fingers, the raging waters had mercilessly washed away thousands of precious lives and homes, destroying families and dreams. The callousness of the authorities in handling the tragic situation moved the compassionate heart of Sai to intercede immediately.
To deafening applause from the audience, the visibly moved Mr. Srinivasan spoke of Bhagavan Baba’s concern for the hundreds of thousands of victims in the seven affected districts of Orissa.
"The people of Orissa have been struck by floods and in about 7 districts, thousands have been rendered homeless. Swami is immediately sanctioning 10 crores for their relief." Mr. V. Srinivasan continued to say how Swami directed that along with houses, primary schools too will be built by the Sai Organisation for the devastated villagers.
And these shelters, Swami said, will not be temporary; they would be permanent - not mere tents or wooden structures, but sturdy concrete homes. Then came another announcement from Swami through Mr. V. Srinivasan. “Swami would sell the hilltop building in Kodai Kanal and the Sri Sathya Sai Airport at Puttaparthi and utilize those funds for such service activities.”
As the speaker narrated the troubled conditions of Orissa which he ascertained during his recent trip, Swami seemed deeply moved. The Lord seemed to be shedding a tear, His heart was going out fully for His children. As the speaker went on, Swami called him and issued another command, "Right after Vijayadashami (final day of Dasara), you, Mr. Kondal Rao of the Andhra Pradesh Government and Mr. A. Ramakrishna, the former Vice President of Larsen & Toubro, leave for Orissa and make plans so that in two months time, those people have homes!"
For the Lord, only the present moment exists. Right now, there is help needed and that will be rendered immediately, without any reserve. Financial estimates and practical difficulties are not to be given prominence when people are suffering, for everyone belongs to Him, and as He has said, "If you need me, you deserve me."
Divine Love: Million Connections Tap the One Source
He speaks to each one of His millions of devotees in the language of their choice, for even as a child, Bhagavan Baba declared that there is but only one language of universal communication, the language of the heart!
His heart-to-heart hotlink that every single one of His millions of followers worldwide enjoys with Him requires no intermediaries; it is highly personalized and unique for each person concerned. Highlighting this fact, the All India President of the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organizations, Mr. V. Srinivasan, explained during a speech delivered on October 8, 2008, how Swami meant the world to every one who loves Him in their own special way.
Commenting on this relationship, he defined it as being as diverse as that between a mother and her child, to that between friends!
Love Enables Universal Communication
Truly, reams can be written about the myriad ways in which devotees relate to Bhagavan. While for some He is the Divine Father, in whom they find protection and guidance, a few look up to Him for the emotional succor and warmth that only a Divine Mother can provide.
And then there are those who share an unrivaled camaraderie with the Divine, while a few others worship Bhagavan as verily God. In short, if there are a zillion devotees, there then are as many ways to relate to Him. Today, Bhagavan Baba’s life steeped in His practice of Love has unfolded before humanity as a perfect example of how the “L” factor alone can relieve the agony of a planet and its inhabitants. And His approach has been simple – touch each individual heart and overwhelm it with unconditional love.
Love Transforms and Elevates
When the downpour of pure love soaks a soul, it washes off loads of emotional, psychological and mental debris, and clears the vision about the true purpose of life, which is to realize that we are here on this earth not for getting things for ourselves, but forgetting ourselves in giving ourselves to others.
In the case of the young Kenyan Daniel Otieno, whose journey to Sai is chronicled in part one of this cover story, the inner spring of love that welled up from within after that memorable encounter in Prasanthi Nilayam, translated itself as love in action, reforming young lives.
Love Cures the Pain of Dehumanization
A few years ago, the Sathya Sai School Uthiru, Nairobi, was an informal set up, meant to deal with destitute children. Since its inception in 1997, it has touched many a young life, and quite soulfully at that.
Today, Mr. Daniel Otieno, as the Principal of this school, has played a pivotal role in rescuing tender lives from grave danger. He recalls a time when the street children first came to the school “with knives and weapons hidden in places we could never find. And they were sniffing glue. They sniffed it because it gave them a high and made them drunk. So we brought them into the school and told them to throw away their glue bottles. We asked them to take a shower, taught bhajans and showed them love.”
But that’s where the challenge lay, for these children had been dehumanized beyond belief and had never experienced the emotion of love before! Principal Otieno says, “These children did not even know what we were talking about when we told them that we loved them! They were so used to being kicked in the street, spat upon, being locked up by the police in jails with hard core criminals - their life was so filled up with violence - that when we told them ‘we care for you’, they said they did not know what care means! They would have understood us had we said we hate you. If we had slapped them, they would have known, but when we hugged them they did not know what we were expressing!”
Music Unlocks the Floodgates of Love
Principal Otieno confesses that the unbelievable transformation he witnessed in these children over a period of time was nothing short of a miracle wrought by the magic potion of Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s love. The first discernable sign of the change was in the form of a feeling of joy that overcame these children, it was something they had never known before.
They experienced it as this giddying warmth that just oozed up unexpectedly from inside each of them when they participated soulfully in the congregational singing of bhajans. The power of group singing was so tremendous that even the sacred ash vibhuti, a symbol of Baba’s grace, manifested during one such session.
The hardened hearts of these children started melting from within; they felt a higher power was responding to their little prayers. For them, it was a defining moment. Imperceptibly, a sacred bond of love was sealed!
He added, “Those who went through SSEHV (Sathya Sai Education in Human Values) are now a beauty to behold. There is one boy who is in the university and he looks back at his life in the street and thanks God…These children ordinarily would have ended up in a child rehabilitation center, or in a remand home for children, or in jail, or would even be dead. But now, after being exposed to Swami and bhajans, their lives have changed... They softened up and became more receptive, and have all proceeded to high school.
“All we did was to expose them to Swami and His teachings. It is He who slowly transformed them all so much so that some of these kids have indicated to us that they want to get good jobs. The main reason for this being they now want to influence other people’s lives positively, just how their lives have been influenced.”
Love is God, Live in Love
Like the Kenyan boys from the Sathya Sai School, Uthiru, Nairobi, those who open their hearts to His love realize they are a part of something larger than themselves; everything around them is but an extension of their own selves; there is interconnectivity between the individual and the environment at all levels, be it mental, emotional, physical or spiritual. Suddenly, the perspective changes dramatically when life is viewed from the prism of love, pure and unselfish.
To say that Bhagavan Baba’s love has no limitations is an understatement for those who have known it in some form or shape, but what’s more inspiring is the transformation it bears upon the people who receive it – even when they go miles away from His physical presence.
Mr. Vassilis Xanthopoulos of Athens, Greece, explained, “Whenever after interviews with Bhagavan I go to my room, I do not feel like eating for one or two days. I am just so overwhelmed by love… my lips just go on repeating ‘love all serve all’. It is a feeling of serve... serve… serve…non-stop 24 hours service to the society.”
After every such encounter, Swami, the heavenly consciousness that He is, makes His presence felt inside him stronger and stronger. He added further, “and this love from Swami, through us, flows to other people, especially the ones who are sick, by our words, touch and various other ways. With His grace, my faith and love is only growing. After all, we are all in His hands, I mean, everything that there is, belongs to Him.
"And He belongs to us… He is every moment with us… and that is a very great feeling. Imagine, every being you meet, everything that comes in your life you know it’s His. All service activities need just an open heart that feels Swami’s love every second. I cannot describe it… I now do not need so much ‘outside’, in terms of physical guidance from Swami; everything is Swami. Like He says ‘I am always with you, in you, around you’.”
Practical Love: Work is Worship
Living in this continuous awareness of His omnipresence is something very profound. And there are any number of devotees of Bhagavan who attempt to live their lives by reminding themselves that they are working for God, and surrender even their routine work to Him through the day.
Captain S. S. Ong of Singapore confided, “When I first got to know Bhagavan, I sometimes wished I were a doctor, or an academician, rather than a commercial pilot. That would have allowed me to render service at His Hospital or School. Sensing this, He instructed me, ‘Work is Worship’. There was no need to be in Prasanthi Nilayam to be with Him. I could be near and dear to Him by serving the ‘Him’ in my passengers.”
Explaining how he applied this in his life, Captain Ong said, “I was recently blessed with an opportunity to put this dictum ‘Work is Worship’ into practice. A few weeks ago, a passenger fell too ill to travel just as our plane pulled away from the gate in Singapore on my flight bound for London.
"She and her parents were en route to London from Perth to see her first and newly born nephew. She left with her father with the intention of returning to Perth upon recovering. Normally, the offloading of passengers is handled by the ground staff, not the pilots, whose duties are to obtain a new air traffic clearance and prepare the airplane again for departure, in order to minimize the delay and inconvenience to the remaining three hundred and eighty passengers.
"Although the passenger had already been entrusted to the ground staff, her physical condition and unfortunate disruption in visiting her new born nephew compelled me to accompany the pair to the lounge, reassuring and comforting them all the while. I could feel Bhagavan’s Love flowing to her through me; it was a most touching and ennobling experience. In seeking to encourage us on our spiritual journey, Bhagavan often leads us through incidents and events that though simple, are pregnant with subtle lessons.”
“If we really want to experience Him we should go within” – John Tadega
“When you love you should not say, ’God is in my heart,’ but rather, ‘I am in the heart of God.’ And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.”
These words of the renowned poet Kahlil Gibran, beautifully capture the spirit of the all-pervading love consciousness.
While world bodies like the UNO and the WHO are debating their aid policies to sub-Saharan Africa, it is only the divine love of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, which is bearing the fruits of individual and communal reform, as perfectly exemplified by another Sai devotee, Chief John Tadega.
Having undergone transformation many times over after coming under Swami’s fold, John Tadega, from Ghana (West Africa), said, “I believe Swami’s love has expressed itself in many ways in my own personal transformation from the kind of person that I was to the person that I believe I am today.
"It is Swami’s love that helped me in dealing with the relationship that I had with my parents. Swami has taught me from within how to deal with all the different processes of spiritual upliftment in ways that would be very philosophical if I tried to describe. He has brought me close in touch with something extraordinary within myself that it makes me truly believe that God lives within and is always around me, protecting and taking me through life.
"If we really want to experience Him we should go within us and take on the teachings that can be given only by God on how to discover Him within us, so that we can become instrumental in bringing change in the lives of others and in the upliftment of humanity. ”
Love, the True Strength of a Leader
Today, a Ghanaian community in the African heartland is richer because its ruler has been touched by Sai’s love and applies it to his life. John Tadega is highly respected as a traditional ruler for serving his community with success and proficiency. He adjudges his achievement to the constant ‘Sai-Presence’ in his life.
“The awareness that love that can be shown to every being, because every body is a reflection of God has helped in making me a good chief of my people. I have come to appreciate how people actually can be changed, and I think the difficulties that I have faced have actually directed me into the field of politics.
"I found out that people are very difficult to change when they are hungry, poor, and are grappling for even pure water to drink. We must be able to provide them with the basics, so that we can then start to work on their value system. We have to bring this awareness at the national level for them to understand that there is a need for us to address poverty seriously, to be able to help people help themselves in the future. And one of the reasons I am able to easily relate to my people, is my simple life, which is an inspiration from Swami.”
Be it a personal transformation, or building a relationship in one’s family, or bonding with one’s subjects in the case of a ruler, it is the “L” factor that lends a deeper meaning and worth to all human pursuits. In the end, it is the love energy that holds the key to the knottiest of human situations, for it is the panacea for all that ails us.
“I Separated Myself from Myself, so that I Can Love Myself”
A living example of a personal crusade in this direction is Reverend Karen Chenoweth of Denver, USA, who started believing in Swami after watching the video – Man of Miracles in the year 1975. She has since then come a long way in her spiritual journey.
For this Church Minister “Swami now means everything… His form represents to me, the God that I am, inside, the Love. Basically, everybody and everything…. Swami, in the larger context, is everything. He is the Love; the Compassion, the Truth, the Beauty and the Goodness.
"It’s hard to define with words. At an even larger level than that, He represents to me that which He said – ‘I separated Myself from Myself, so that I can love Myself’. So, I am that Self that He split from Himself to Love. And so, He is the repository; the One who is responsible for the creation of this visible Universe. I think that’s where the understanding of Brahman – ‘I am That’ lies,” she explained.
Reverend Karen Chenoweth admitted that such a profound philosophy may not be easy for everyone to understand but its crux is simply Love, and that emotion is simple enough for anyone to relate to, pointing that in the end, everything in life may be complex, but God is simply Love, the current that lights every life bulb.
Love as Acceptance
If everyone is so deeply connected to each other, including all forms of life on our planet as Bhagavan Baba says; if we are looking for Love to be the reaction, resound and reflection of our emotions and experiences, then Love is what we must first exude in all our thoughts, words and deeds. Bhagavan Baba reminds us that all beings are beautiful when seen through the eyes of love.
If a Christian Minister’s understanding of Sri Sathya Sai Baba is simply Love, in distant South Africa, the story is not that much different. Many inner treasures are unraveled in its wake, for love brings in its trail gifts of broadmindedness and acceptance, contentment and inner joy.
Segi Nayaka started his career as a school teacher over 14 years ago and has been working with the African Institute of Sathya Sai Education. When asked about what aspect of Swami’s teachings has left an indelible mark in his life, he said, “It’s the message of Love. As human beings, we are so thirsty. And when we have our Divine Mother and Father amidst us, we can only bask in His Glory and keep absorbing the Love. But then it is just not enough if we only absorb – we should share it too!
"The biggest thing that Swami has done to me is soften my heart to the point that even when I see misery and suffering in any film, I spontaneous start wiping my eyes as tears roll out. That’s probably the reason why I am involved in a lot of Seva activities despite the fact I am restrained on a wheel chair or on crutches. I was away from the regular family life because we were all the while busy doing a lot of seva. But thanks to Swami, now the whole world has become my family.”
Over two decades back, when Mr. Nayaka had sustained a spinal injury as a result of a serious car accident, doctors had told him he would never be able to walk again. While it is easier to lose faith, or at least accuse God for not having ‘been there for you’ during such challenging phases in life, Mr. Nayaka underwent this test in faith with a completely different perspective.
He shared, “People always look at me and say ‘how can you always wear a smile and not regret for anything in your life?’ Over a time, I learnt that whatever happens is for good. At that time, you may think of it as a calamity and the worst thing to happen. But it is His Grace and Love for me that sustained me through the difficult period. I did not have to do anything at all. I was already strongly devoted to Swami by then. I had become a vegetarian and had also given up the worldly friends that I had. The brothers in the organization were my only family. Yes, it was traumatic, a mind-altering, body-altering situation, but I just clung to His Lotus Feet and I knew that I was not alone.”
It is only Swami’s message of love, and in particular, His Educare program that has the power to alleviate human suffering and pain, surmised Mr. Nayaka, who has traveled across countries in Africa and Asia, working to spread human values, set up clean sanitation facilities and educate children.
Putting in a nutshell the core of his life’s learning, he said, “One should have Faith in Swami – faith that He will never let us down. He gives us pain only to the extent we can bear – not more than that. And whatever happens in our lives is actually a process of purifying us.” ‘Love is accepting His Will joyfully’, is the mantra that Segi Nayaka lives by, as he spends every second of his life reaching out to the ones who are deprived and downtrodden.
Love as Action is Right Conduct: Baba
The saga of service, which is nothing but love in action, in fact, goes on in every continent. In Argentina for instance, the Sai devotees have achieved unprecedented success in serving their fellow citizens in need.
Of the various service activities that Sai devotees in this part of the world carry out, Carlos Fazzari, President of the Central Council of Argentina says, “We have integrated all wings of the organization into these service camps so that people in the devotional and education wing also experience the joy of service.
"As far as medical service is concerned, we see about 100 patients routinely, and we also have eye camps where people receive prescription glasses. The people who are benefited are seeing how Sai’s love works.”
He further added, “Most of the Sai Centers in Argentina are doing Narayana Seva. They prepare food during the week and give it to the homeless people in the parks and the streets; sometimes these people even come to the centers to eat. These people have lost interest in life, and when they see someone taking interest in their lives, they find it a motivation and an inspiration to change; and they begin to transform their lives.”
Reviving the Power of Love
The silent Love revolution initiated by Bhagavan Baba decades ago has its source in individual reform for mankind’s collective course-correction. For years now, without any fuss or fanfare, the son of humble parents Pedda Venkama Raju and Mother Easwaramma, who grew up without any privileges, or formal education worth mentioning, has helped millions directly with His love in various forms, be it as individual guidance and intervention, or through His many humanitarian projects.
When many loving individuals join hands, inspired by His love for them and His loving example, the team that emerges, inevitably, achieves the impossible. When the driving force behind an effort is pure love, not personal greed, then on the strength of the purity of intent, the project becomes foolproof.
Today, nations with scientific and economic prowess send missions to the Moon and the Mars, spending billions on wars and nuclear weapons’ development. Yet, the most pressing of humanity’s challenges remain poverty, pain, illiteracy, disease, hate, exploitation, crime and the relentless violation of our environment. The ill health of our planet is a serious indicator of how much pollution an uncaring generation can release into the environment and the existence of physical limits to how many resources we can extract from Mother Earth.
Love: Wall Street’s True Bailout Package
Driven by pure greed, the prevailing model for human society is based on such indicators of growth as expansion in market share, profits and Gross Domestic Production.
Yet, the recent collapse of modern capitalism that is paralyzing the world’s leading economies is raising serious existential questions, even in hitherto unheard of circles. Many of the victims of the recent financial carnage are beginning to realize that perhaps a model driven ruthlessly by pure profits, needs to be rethought.
Financial debacles and corporate scandals are prompting boardroom conversations around the issue of a conscious and conscientious corporate culture that includes the practice of values and ethics in the workplace.
As the pillars of the world’s premier economies lick their wounds, the pain is deep and difficult to overcome for those whose lives have been shattered in the aftermath of its collapse. Even the multi-trillion bailout package is unable to restore the hoped-for stability in the markets, proving that the call of the moment requires way more than a band-aid solution to humanity’s self-inflicted wounds.
Love and Corporate Karma
While the world’s great powers and individuals bleed dry from the brutal cuts in spending and jobs, the pain is symptomatic of a larger problem. The pursuit of happiness based on a selfishness, greed, ego and a desire for instant gratification need to be exchanged for a broader vision that empowers leaders with a discretionary energy to realize that all human experiences and endeavours are connected to something larger than themselves. Market manipulations, quick profits and ruthless environmental exploitation are just a few loveless business practices that leave behind a trail of negative karma in the form of devastation and pain that no one is immune to.
Now, awareness is on the rise that the only recourse to steer humanity away from self-annihilation is in the practice of utterly selfless and uninhibited, universal love in all walks of life, including business and policy making. Love and concern beyond the immediate is the key to turning around attitudes towards life and its true priorities. And this is exactly what Bhagavan Baba has demonstrated in every moment of His divine life for scores of decades now.
Eighty Three Years of Loving, Loving and Only Loving
Living, breathing, acting, sacrificing, and speaking only out of concern and unselfish love for all, this Ocean of Love has proven to the world repeatedly through His Life and incomparably grand altruistic achievements, that when we try to dedicate ourselves to collective good with a genuine intent, miracles abound naturally.
On November 23, 2008, the world celebrates the 83rd year of the birth of the most luminous, loving and guiding light to have ever shone upon the planet. If a mere visualization of His love by Phyllis Krystal could save a flight from fearsome hijackers, today, for seekers all around the globe, it is this Supreme Love alone which is the final boarding pass to their highest spiritual plane.
In responding to His call to soar on the wings of love lies humanity’s final salvation and its ultimate chance to evolve from the level of human-animals into true 'human-beings' immersed in God consciousness. We must awaken wide from a confusing dream to the truth of our reality, to conquer all illusion and discover that the password to the final frontier of this wonderous divine destiny lies in four simple letters: L-O-V-E.
When translated into the language of the heart, this four letter word defines the sweet resident of the Yajur Mandir, and that of every heart that beats in the universe, indeed the very rhythm of the universe itself; its source and sustenance, our most Loving Universal Teacher, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
End of Part-2
- Bishu Prusty
Dear reader, how did you like this story? Did it inspire you in any way? Would you like more such stories focussed only on Bhagavan Baba's love? Please write to us at [email protected] with your name and country. We look forward to your feedback, comments and suggestions to help us serve you better. Thank you very much for your time.
Vol 6 Issue 11 - NOVEMBER 2008
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