Volume 16 - Issue 05
May 2018
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Posted on: May 3, 2018



The spiritual journey is one that exhilarates and terrifies us at the same time. The exhilaration is of the soul rejoicing on its sojourn back home, the terror is that of the ego fearful of its extinction. That is why, in order to maintain balance, it is necessary for the seeker to take the help of a guide, or a Guru while traversing this path. For a fortunate few, God Himself becomes the Guide. (Read: And the Greatest of All is Love )

As with any journey, this path is also full of ups and downs. One is constantly faced with inner and outer challenges, designed to test the resolve and the mettle of those who have chosen to walk this way. It cannot be over-emphasized how much the Guru’s benign Presence and guidance are eagerly sought after by the aspirant.

Then imagine the scenario if the Master were to no longer be available, or suddenly disappears from view. How lost the devotee would be; how hopelessly adrift in the sea of life with the helmsman gone away. The month of April is for every Sai devotee, a month of penance, of remembrance, and of strengthening the inner connection with our dearest Master, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, who assumed His Cosmic Form on April 24, 2011. That day marked the beginning of the journey for many devotees to seek our beloved Lord, within us. Hence, despite the grief, and the rush of emotion attached to many golden memories, the month of April is also a time for renewal and reconnection.

In the latter half of 2010, a small but significant incident happened during darshan. Bhagawan was in the car, returning to His residence after the morning session, when He directed the driver to stop near the gate, up the slope towards Yajur Mandir. A long-time lady devotee of Swami, was waiting to give Him a letter, her hands outstretched in yearning and anticipation. It was Ms. Diana Baskin from the United States of America. She was leaving Puttaparthi that evening. As was the norm those days, most long-standing devotees before returning to their homes, would inform Swami about the same, and take His permission and blessings.

Bhagawan blessed her, took her letter, and spoke a few words. People around could see the puzzlement in her face, as Swami once again repeated what He had already said. Later Diana would share that Swami’s words to her were, “I AM NOT GOING ANYWHERE, in response to her saying that she was going back to the US”.

Within a few months, on April 24, 2011, finally Diana understood what her beloved Bhagawan had communicated to her as she heard the news that shattered the Sathya Sai community world-wide.

In the present article Dr. Susan Boenke too reveals similar profound moments with the Avatar which have been tremendous source of inspiration and strength on her spiritual journey, especially after Bhagawan merged into His Eternal Self.



By Dr. Susan Boenke

Susan Boenke was born in Germany, and was a student of history, political science, literature and philosophy. After graduation, she worked for the German Government, collaborating on presenting exhibitions and publications about the current history of the State of Bavaria in Germany. Later, she shifted to the University of Munich as part of a research project - ‘Major Science Institutions in West Germany after World War II’, where she wrote the history of an institution involved in atomic fusion research.

In 1988 she accepted Bhagawan as her guru, guide, God, and as her most understanding and loving friend. Following His call and her spiritual yearning, she came to Prasanthi Nilayam and has since made it her home.

For more than two decades she has been actively participating in service activities as a member of the SSIO (Sathya Sai International Organization), Germany. Since many years she has been translating Baba’s discourses and other Sai literature into German. She has also been the coordinator for German speaking devotees visiting Prasanthi Nilayam, orienting them to the life in the ashram.

Swami had graced her many times with personal interviews, mostly as translator for German devotees. She has also actively taken part in several international cultural programs, especially during Christmas.

During my nearly thirty years’ long journey with Swami, I was blessed with many personal interactions during darshans, in ‘interviews’ and during cultural programs, as part of the Choirs at Christmas time.

A precious moment for Dr Susan Boenke - receiving a gift from her Beloved during Christmas 2008

These precious outer interactions were at the same time a path of inner transformation too, as Swami used most of these occasions to promote inner growth and teach many lessons.

Life with Swami has been a saga of full-time Sadhana. He often created specific situations and experiences one had to learn from, sometimes the most difficult ones.

Every Interaction Outside Strengthened the Connect Inside

Sitting in long queues for darshan to have a chance for front lines, waiting for hours in the hot sun or in the rain (till the Sai Kulwant Hall was built in 1994), sitting on the darshan grounds in cramped uncomfortable positions – these were all part of sadhana. Running after the “outer form” conveyed at the same time many lessons in forbearance, adjustment and going beyond body consciousness. Hence, the “outer path” with Swami strengthened at the same time the inner path.

The day was automatically spent with God, the thoughts centred naturally around Him: “I have to get ready for darshan, has He already come, when will He come ...” and so on. Even apart from darshan, the conversations we had, were about Him - what did Swami do during darshan today? Did He speak with anyone I know? Whom did He call for an ‘interview’? What did He say there? The list is endless.

Thus, Swami’s beautiful form was the outer path. His reactions led us to learn many lessons - understand what had His approval, introspect when He ‘ignored’ us, and change our behaviour when He seemed annoyed or stern. The outer darshan of Swami prompted us into the inner path and hastened inner growth and transformation.

Then how is the spiritual path now, after His Maha samadhi, without the inspiration of the outer form? For many of us Swami´s Maha samadhi was devastating, to say the least. Swami Himself explained the dilemma in His Shivarathri discourse 2009, where He hinted at His physical departure:

“People derive great satisfaction and experience bliss (by worshipping the outer form). It is alright as long as that form remains. Once that divine form ceases to exist, what will you do? The happiness and bliss derived from the worship of a particular form of God are born only out of your illusion…

For example, you are now attached to this physical body. You worship this body and derive great satisfaction and bliss thereby. But after some time, this body may also disappear like the earlier Avatars. Then you should not feel sad”. (February 23, 2009)

Now is exactly the time when some of the communication conveyed by Swami to devotees in His physical Presence, becomes important, and is the foundation for the present path.

  Bhagawan patiently reading a note from the author during Christmas 2010

A Mantra from Swami to Remove All Maladies

Even when Swami was physically present, I tended to be a bit worried about my spiritual progress. I was spiritually rather traditional, and believed that personal sadhana like japa, meditation etc. is necessary for spiritual growth.

I was concerned that these practices did not find a place in my daily routine in Prasanthi Nilayam; here I was busy with darshan, bhajans, taking part in programs and seva activities.

I decided to ask Swami directly for spiritual guidance, hoping for some direction for my personal sadhana. The best, albeit not the most likely one, would have been initiation in some special mantra by the Avatar Himself!

So, during one interview I asked Swami directly for some instruction for my spiritual progress. And what did Swami do? He turned towards me, looked at me and said this one sentence: I AM WITH YOU.”

I did not expect that. Not only was I surprised, I was even a bit disappointed. I had hoped for some specific spiritual discipline, something “more precise”. We all know after all, at least theoretically, that God is with us, Swami has Himself said it so many times.

It was only much later that I started giving more attention to it. There must be a reason Swami said it so specifically to me. Am I aware of this fact that Swami is with me always, in all situations? If I were really aware of it, would I be afraid, have doubts, worries, and more importantly, would I miss His physical attention or form after He left?

How would I act if I really believed that Swami is with me? Would I not behave with more self-confidence, love and awareness? So gradually the message that Swami gave me started sinking in.

I had a similar interaction with Swami some time before, in another interview with Him. Like many of us, I fell prey to the jumps and bumps of the outer journey with Swami’s form, feeling more loved when He gave me outer attention and feeling less loved when He ignored me. I realized, that this turmoil did not lead me anywhere and searched for a solution. So finally, in one interview I asked Swami plainly: “Swami, how can I feel Your love always?” Swami looked deeply into my eyes and said: SWAMI IS INSIDE YOU, clearly giving the instruction: Don´t seek for love outside. Swami is inside.

Times of Grace and Times of Trauma

There are times when I feel Swami’s Presence naturally, without effort. I call it Grace-times. There are other times when I struggle, when I miss the inspiration which came from His lovely form, from His precious darshan.

Sometime after His physical departure, I broke down one day in front of Swami’s chair, desperately crying from the bottom of my heart as I missed His beloved form so much. Our compassionate Swami decided to come into my dream.

In the dream I was sitting in front of Him, and He held a plate full of nutritious food on His lap for me. It seemed as if He wanted to tell me, all nourishment is here, with Me. And then He said to me: IF YOU MISS ME, THEN YOU MISS ME. The message was clear: If you have the feeling of missing Me, you really miss out on My constant Presence, because, like He had told me, and all of us: “I am in you, I am with you.”

Then comes the next dimension, His omnipresence, the cosmic dimension. I remember, once we were sitting with Swami in the interview room, which was jampacked with devotees and the question of some devotees not making it into the interview room came up. Swami responded by saying sweetly: “My interview room is small. Only few people fit inside it. But My heart is big” – now Swami made a wide gesture with His arms showing how big His heart is, and said: “The whole universe has place in it.”

How calming, how reassuring! He is in us – guiding us from inside. He is with us - as our companion, friend and guide, as our mother and father. We are safe, being inside His cosmic heart. He is all around us, and in His Omnipresent form He is everywhere. 

In the same Shivarathri message in 2009, Swami gave specific instructions for all of us on how to experience the inner presence:

Over a period, God has incarnated as several Avatars. You should not be attached to the physical form of a particular Avatar; rather you should be attached to Divinity as the formless, attribute-less Supreme Self (Parabrahma) which manifested as different Avatars in different ages. Avatars come, fulfil their mission, and disappear. Therefore, you must meditate upon Divinity, which is true and eternal.

Serving the Lord with a single-minded focus - the author with the Children's choir, Christmas 2010

There are three aspects in spiritual practices: concentration, contemplation, and meditation. At the moment, you are fixing your gaze on this form; that is concentration. When this form moves away after some time, you still look at this form with your mental eye; that is contemplation. As a result of this exercise, this form gets imprinted in your heart permanently. That is meditation.

As you go on meditating thus, the form remains in your heart permanently. At present, you are confining your spiritual practice to concentration and contemplation only. These two stages are only transitory. It is true that the first step in your spiritual practice is concentration. Concentration has to be transformed into contemplation and later into meditation. In this final stage of meditation, you will continue to visualize the form of God even if you close your eyes.

The ancient sages adopted this form of meditation. That is why God manifested before them whenever they wished, talked to them and fulfilled their desires.  (Divine Discourse, February 23, 2009)

The path therefore is amply clear: no need to go anywhere else or search further. Visualize Swami in your heart. Connect to Swami in your heart for He is there, guiding and guarding you. And when one chooses this path, it is my experience and that of many others that He responds to every prayer and little wish, and His love is tangible at every step.

At the same time, it still holds true what He said during His lifetime: You can come to Prasanthi Nilayam to recharge your batteries. Swami’s Sannidhi is vibrant and speaks to us. When one passes through the ashram gate one feels an elevating Presence. It is a fortuitous chance, to leave the world for a while and concentrate on the Divinity which can be felt here so vibrantly. It is an opportunity to deepen the inner connection with Sai, to finally experience that He is in us, with us, around us and everywhere.

- Radio Sai Team

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