The Plane has landed: Who is the Pilot? - By Dr. Shailesh Srivastava

A decade and a half ago as I was browsing through a book in the Institute library, I came across a debate between an atheist and a theist. I couldn’t help but read it. Even as I was reading, I started feeling uneasy. I knew very well that there was no theoretical proof for the existence/non-existence of God. It was a matter of self-enquiry and experience. Such a debate would therefore not yield any fruitful results. In fact it would only lead to conflicting thoughts. “Need I read such a dialogue?” I wondered. Pricked curiosity, in guise, easily goaded my gullible self with justifications to continue reading. After all, I was very confident of my belief in God, and I just wanted to read what others felt. The author of this book was a famous Nobel laureate in Physics. So thinking, I continued reading, eyes glued to the pages, till the end. 

I had an uncomfortable feeling lingering inside even as I left the book. Though matters pertaining to the spirit are beyond logic and rationale, the rational self in me had always supported the spiritual. In fact that was one of my strengths. In this case the atheist’s arguments, though born out of sheer lack of total knowledge, did seem logical. My innocent theistic wisdom, which was born more out of simple faith and some personal experiences, felt a sudden lack of support from the ‘logical me’! 

Deep inside I knew that ‘He exists’, ‘He Listens’, ‘He helps’. How was I to convince my logical self, which would not accept anything without a mathematical proof or induction?

I prayed to Swami to pardon me for unnecessarily reading the book. “Swami, tell me something nice so that I feel comfortable,” I prayed. Well, as I had done on many previous occasions, I went up to the ‘spirituality’ section of the library and randomly picked up some volume of ‘Sathya Sai Speaks’. As I opened the book after praying, the contents literally awakened me, yet again, into the tangible reality of His existence and His compassion. The page had the beginning a discourse and the very first sentence said something like this: “Why do you worry about arguments between atheists and theists?” Swami then went on to plain the same in many different ways. Such arguments, He explained, are as foolish as the argument between two men standing on the ground, debating on the presence of the pilot in the airplane flying high above them. 

Swami said that there were only two ways to verify the presence of the pilot. One is to go up into the plane and see, and the other is that the plane should come down, so that you can look inside and verify! I was overwhelmed by this most beautiful analogy. While the former represented the path of Karma and Jnana, the latter symbolised the path of Bhakti. Swami further explained the plight of most atheists with another analogy. Think of a non-believer going on a boat in the middle of a lake. The man keeps arguing with the boatman, about the existence of God. 

Suddenly the boatman catches hold of his head and immerses it deep into the water, refusing to let go. It is at that moment of intense suffering, moments of agony and pain coupled with the urge to be freed, the urge to live, that even the most rock hearted atheist turns to God. Man’s adversities are God’s opportunities it is said. Very true indeed! The only thing is that God uses even these opportunities for our progress, for our ultimate good. There is absolutely no trace of selfishness in His motives. The belief in God, naturally leads us to the love for God and fear of sin. That brings morality into the society and naturally peace and harmony in the world. 

Reading His words, I felt the presence of His unseen hand, and the light of His love, more than ever before. I had a glimpse of the truth behind the transient. There was no logical explanation for this simple experience. There is someone who is aware of our innermost feelings, someone who cares, someone who rushes to our rescue when we need it the most. I offered my gratitude to Him for being so kind. He had not only reaffirmed my faith, but also filled me with His love. I had not prayed to the formless Truth. I had directed my prayers to the God, whom I had seen and loved, in whose powers I had full faith - Our Swami. 

Sri Sathya Sai Speaks

The discourses that He has been most painstakingly giving over the last six decades are not just simple words. They contain the panacea for all ills. Nay! He has even decided, when and where and who, will be guided by each of those seemingly simple, and sometimes seemingly out of context words. That is because they are meant for people from all walks of life, people at different levels of spiritual evolution, for people in the future and all times to come. They are verily the guiding forces that are shaping the destiny of the cosmos. 

It is not just His words. Sincere and deep introspection into any one aspect of Bhagavan’s life can reveal the same truth to us. For a moment, consider the number of foreigners who come to India just to see Bhagavan. What drives them? Till today, Bhagavan has not gone to any other country except East Africa, that too in 1968! Bhagavan has appointed no special messengers for inviting people! None are invited. Yet, many foreigners save all their money just to make one trip to Prasanthi Nilayam. It is possible only because Bhagavan’s glory is being experienced in all countries. Indeed, when man is drowned neck deep into the troubled waters of material misfortunes, and when he can bear it no more, the call for help from deep within does arise. Unknown to others, there is someone who has been answering these S.O.S calls, and leading people out of troubled waters into green pastures, showing them a higher life, a life of love, service and sacrifice, a life of fulfilment- a life Divine. The following experience may illustrate this point. 

Dr. Shailesh Srivastava with Sri Sathya Sai at Brindavan

Almost 23 years ago when I was still a fresher in the Brindavan hostel, the then Warden Sri C. Sreenivas had this to narrate after he returned from his visit to Europe. While in Greece, they were invited for dinner by one of the Vice Admirals of the Greek navy, who had become a devotee of Bhagavan. Having toured all over Europe and seen the glitter and the glamour, Sri Sreenivas asked them a simple question. “Why exactly did you all come to Bhagavan? Why all the way to far off India?” In fact, people appeared so prosperous that they do not seem to lack anything. How did they feel the need for God? 

The wife of the Vice Admiral narrated her story in answer to the query. Earlier in her life she had two children and both died at a tender age. Later she had two more children and brought them up with great care and love. However, when they came of age, both went away to USA deserting their parents. The mother was naturally heart broken. She could take it no longer. One day out of sheer frustration and desperation she went to the church and broke down in front of Jesus. She swore that if she did not receive some news from her children by the next morning, she would end her life right in front of him in the church. That fateful night, she had a dream in which she saw a man dressed in an orange robe, beckoning her to come to Him. So charming and enchanting was the smile on His face that she lost herself and completely forgot about her problems, drawn as it were by some magnetic power. 

When she woke up the next morning, all she wanted to do was to find out who that Divine figure was. She totally forgot what she had decided the previous day. In her search, she soon came across the book, ‘Sai Baba - the Holy Man and the Psychiatrist’, in a bookstore. She immediately recognised the photo on the cover page. The next thing she did was to book a ticket to India. The rest of the story is obvious, for when the call comes, one is drawn to Him, in spite of all odds. Swami called them for an interview and explained to them the reason for the misfortunes in their life. He gave them solace and comfort and showed them a new way of life - a life Divine. 

That was just a sample out of the millions of miracles of transformation that Bhagavan has brought about. A simple walk through the Sri Sathya Sai Books and Publications, will show us that He has demonstrated every possible facet of God’s power to someone or the other, at some time or the other. Indeed for the last eighty years, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has affected the lives of so many, in so many different ways, all over the world, that it would be impossible to imagine what might have taken place had He not come in flesh and blood. Verily, God is living in our midst. Mankind shall remain ever grateful for this merciful act of God. The plane has indeed landed and the pilot can indeed be known. But how can a pilot’s credentials be proved true, unless we see him in the cockpit! For that we need to go INSIDE! The moment we visualise Him in the cockpit of our heart, and see Him guiding our path, He will make our spirits soar higher and higher till one day we realise our identity with Him. Yes, indeed the seemingly eternal debate between the atheist and the theist shall also find its end. That is when we realise that we ourselves are the enigmatic pilots. We ourselves are the Truth, the God that we were struggling to discover or deny. 

- Dr. Shailesh Srivastava
Student (1984-1989), Department of Physics
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning;
Currently, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Prasanthi Nilayam Campus;
Coordinator, Prasanthi Mandir Bhajan Group


  1. Excellent. Thank you. Sairam.

  2. could you tell us the title of the book?

    1. This article was published in the 80th Birthday Offering by the Students titled Sai Nandana.

      The source link at the base of the article will take you to the book page on our website.

      SSwS Team

    2. Links on the page don't work. could you just ask Dr. Shailesh and let me know.



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