Volume 11 - Issue 04
April 2013
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Posted on: Apr 22, 2013


The Piercing pain of losing the only beloved

... ANd learning to Love HIM Truly

A Sai student reflects on the agonising moments of April 24-26, 2011

I was sitting in a state of denial. Even as I walked to mandir on that fateful day (April 24 2011), I had heard the rumours that it was all over. I walked by with a sneer, for how can it ever be, I thought. Had we also not got used to rumours in the past couple of weeks. ‘What do they think of my Swami’, I would grumble to myself.

But that day there was an eeriness about those whispers. But my heart chose to look away, strangely though it was nervously palpitating. I sat through bhajans that day, mostly blank. There were people around, but no one spoke. May be the singers too were careful not to sing bhajans that could make us cry, but who knows what they sang – I was blank. The podium was brought as the bhajans ended, and Prof. Anil Kumar came on the dais. His was a popular voice that we have heard thundering when he translated divine discourses or gave speeches. But that day, he choked, and involuntarily we choked with him. With much difficulty he said, “Bhagawan is no more physically amidst us.” “Swami..” a scream was heard from the devotees. Loud wails and louder wails followed. My mind finally woke up from its reverie and commanded the eyes to shed tears. But the eyes did not wait, they were already moist. That painful wail still rings in my ears even today and like the Pavlov's experiment, when it rings, instantly the eyes well up.

sathya sai baba holding a child's hand

Can it be true? Could Swami do this to us? Yes it was, and yes He had done it to us. For weeks, when we heard news reporters speak from outside the hospital or from their plush studios about the 'Sinking-God', there was a silent sense of pride in our hearts. We would think, 'Wait and watch how our Lord disproves you all. We will then stand behind our Swami and laugh at your impudence.' That wasn't to be.

Instead that whole cruel world was now looking at me and my likes with sympathy. That sympathy was choking the life out of me. But these were only fleeting thoughts that came when I managed to take my mind away from the pain. A pain I had never felt ever before and a pain I wish I feel for no other. The pain that you feel when you lose someone that belongs to you is tremendous. But the pain that one feels when one has lost the One to whom he or she belongs is heart-wrenching and ineffable; that was what we felt then.

I would often tell Him in my prayers, “Swami, you might have devotees who love you more than I do. Their devotion may be purer than mine and their sacrifices greater. But I have loved no one the way I have loved you. The sacrifices I have done for you I don't think I would've done for anyone else. You may have a million lovers, but I have only one beloved... You.” And the pain of losing such a Beloved... if you were not among those that went through these emotions and you don't see the feeling I am trying to express... close your eyes for a moment and imagine it from the deepest chambers of your heart. Do you sense it now? Yes? Let me tell you it was a million times more intense.

We all love Him in our own ways, so we experience pain too in our own ways. There were as many emotions as there were crying hearts. Some said He would rise from the casket, why else would He choose an Easter Sunday they argued. Some said it's a test of faith we needed to conquer, and some were smiling, to convince themselves that they had learnt His message. But what test, what message or miracle could I think of. The only thought that kept coming at me was that I will never understand this Lord. I will never be able to grasp the meaning of His words in their entirety. That my faith cannot express itself in authoritative declarations, but only in acceptance and surrender.

His body was laid in state, and we all laid in state around Him. In the casket were His mortal remains and outside were the living remains – us. Sitting there we lost count of the hours that went by, hunger and sleep was long forgotten. And in the mind, were running images of our Swami moving amongst us, speaking to us, laughing with us and even scolding us. Never before were the thoughts of Swami so painful and never before was pain so sweet. I wanted to capture that pain and immolate myself with it, but alas, this too shall pass. And that thought was torturous.


Thousands came to see Him for one last time. Many did not want to see Him, but the thought, 'what if I were to be possessed of the guilt of missing the last glimpse' made them come. They stood in lines uncaring for the summer heat. Mothers did not worry about their infants’ hunger, and the elderly did not spare a thought for their aching limbs. But how can Swami not care about them. He lives in the hearts of His devotees, doesn't He? He inspired them from within to become the servitors of His devotees. Marquees were erected, drums filled with water were brought, and refreshments were shared with love. In the long lines that came, some were stoic or braver than the others, but they too had to breakdown when they saw the life-giving form lie lifeless. Sitting around Him and seeing Him, we cried; when we turned our gaze away, we saw these people and cried harder.

They were all there, from the prince to the plebeian. But what cruelty, I thought to myself. Those that had loved, worshipped and thought of Him every day of their life had to wait for hours for just a glimpse. But those that had hardly cared for His divine presence, were getting to sit before Him undisturbed for as long as they willed. But when I saw the tears in the eyes of those simple ones, when I felt that devotion that was wrenching their hearts, I knew that that glimpse was a billion times more treasured than the long minutes that power and authority could claim. Swami gives and He cares not that the world should know.

devotees having last darshan of sathya sai baba's samadhi

For years and years we had sung for Him. We had framed in music words we had poured from our hearts. When we sang them then, they became more alive than ever before. Tere bin sooni lagi zindagi (without you life feels empty)... We had sung this line before, but that day we were living it. It was the morning of April 26 and the songs abruptly stopped. And slowly interlacing the silence was the singing of the Suprabhatham. Even as it came floating by, the words pierced the hearts, deepening every wound in there.

Utthishta Sathya-Sayeesha
Karthavyam Daivamahnikam
Utthishthothishta Partheesha
Utthishta Jagateepathe
Utthishta Karunapoorna
Lokamangala Siddhaye

(Please rise O Lord Sathya Sayeesha
Time to lead us along life’s way
Awake, Lord of Parthi
Awake, Lord of all Creation
Awake, O Lord of compassion
That the world may find auspiciousness)

Were these words written for this day; did the composer of these verses know that one day we would sit around Him and plead with Him to get up; that we would implore Him to open His eyes and see the devotees who had gathered to worship Him.

Those three days were spent like a dream you wish you never woke up from. Those three days passed like how dreams, pleasant or otherwise, always melt away. Why was it like a dream that you get attached to, you may ask. Because that pain was all that was left with us and it felt terrible to let it go by. I had once prayed to Him, “You lit the flame of love in my heart. You fed it daily with yearning and craving. The flame has now become a fire that scorches me. Soothe these inner walls of my heart with Your love, if You so wish. Else, flame it further into a conflagration and oversee it consuming me. But please, Swami please do not let it die.” The fear was that of seeing the flame fade away.

sathya sai baba maha samadhi

But the innocence of our love lies in the naivety of our fears. Is He an exotic blossom that can simply wither away, or is He that morning mist that noiselessly melts away? In the days that followed, I came to realise why a healing wound sometimes hurts more than a fresh one. Many unfulfilled promises came to mind, desires that can never be realised haunted. Some prayers appeared like arduous paths one endures, only to come face to face with a heartless dead end. The days were spent in tearful reflections.

One day I asked myself, what’s most important in my relationship with my Swami? And came the prompt reply - Swami’s love for you and your love for Swami. Will this new twist that Swami has brought to the tale affect or change His love for me, I queried and the answer from within was a convincing no. Will it change my love for Him - the rational mind would have liked to say ‘maybe not’, but the heart thundered, it ‘will not’. That reflection brought with it an incredible solace. ‘Swami, as long as you moved before me in that beautiful form, I sought Your love through that form. Now you have chosen to remove the form away, why should I stop seeking Your love or believe You will not give it to me.’

These thoughts did soothe me, but the pain did not cease. But now I was telling Him, if I truly am Yours, You have every right to inflict this or any pain upon me. I would seethe like a snake if it was anyone else doing this to me, but Swami, You own me and You have every right. Tagore once wrote, ‘God says to man, "I heal you therefore I hurt, love you therefore punish."' I don’t know if you did all this to hurt or to punish, but I accept it for You have chosen it for me.


The pain we felt was born of the love we bear for Him. But yet there is an incompleteness in that devotion. We cried profusely when that ‘Body’ perished, because we will no more enjoy His presence. But when I think of it, even being a resident of Prasanthi Nilayam would ensure only a couple of hours or so of His physical company in a day. And even when He would be amidst us, there would be a thousand others who were vying for His attention along with us. Yet, it hurt so bitterly when He removed that physical frame from our midst. But Swami lives in my heart too. He spends every moment of every day with me. And what more, He is all for myself. Then how much more should my pain be that I am yet to see Him, feel Him and converse with Him within. May be that was the role of His presence and His intriguing physical withdrawal - to give us a taste of that Divine Love and make us crave and pine for it, and eventually seek and discover Him within. Let us begin this search now, and when we find Him.. we can relive that first magical Darshan, that first instant when His eyes met ours and that fulfilling moment when we felt this life was worth living.

- Team Radio Sai

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