Studying at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute - The Road Less Travelled... - By Gunaranjan Turaga

In May 2002, I was at cross roads to decide a career path, like most under graduate students would be placed in. There were two options – one, a known, clearer, easier and presumably a faster track for a good prospective career; and second, unknown, living in something like a Gurukulam, a road less traveled. However, as destiny has its way, I had to take the ‘road less traveled’. 

At that time, with little inclination towards Sai Service activities, His Mission and His Institutions, I was not aware of what awaited at the portals of the Sai University for a person who wanted to fathom and experience the vast unknown.
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning - Brindavan Campus
I was asked to report at the Brindavan Campus by the 14th of May 2002, to attend the Summer Course in ‘Indian Culture and Spirituality’. I was bemused, unable to figure out why an MBA student at the University needed to attend this course.

This was the beginning of my endless questions, doubts and apprehensions that poured forth during my course of stay at the Institute. Most of them had been answered to my complete satisfaction while I was there. 

Firstly, as I wanted to know more about Swami, His Mission and His Institutions, my brothers suggested names of books to quench my thirsty mind. I started with a few of them but never was able to finish even one. The books were giving me information and echoing Sai's Omnipresence, Omnipotence and Omniscience. My thirst was more and beyond. I wanted to know about "The Perfect Human Being". The only way to do this was my decision to bid adieu to books & take to observing Swami in his entirety. Fortunately being ‘His student’, was a blessing in disguise. 

My main objective of Darshan was to fix my eyes on Him; understand how God acts, walks, talks; behaves like a perfect human. To be honest, it was an exploration, which only left me in sheer awe and amazement of how consistently perfect He is. 

The way He sits on the Throne, His gestures, His expressions, the way He uses the handkerchief; puts it back appropriately, the way He makes eye contact with devotees, the way He sometimes avoids a few first-line students who are sitting with letters to be given to Him, the way He acknowledges one’s arrival at Parthi, His attention to every detail, His very reminiscent smile, etc. Oh! These are real great moments to watch keenly and learn how to lead a life, so perfect in every way!

I heard of an incident that happened during a Kodaikanal trip. One afternoon, during a lunch session, Swami, as usual, completed His meal early and started walking between the students and devotees sitting on either side in the dining hall. He talked to a few of these devotees and students, enquiring how a particular dish tasted & whether they wanted more of the same and accordingly telling the serving people to provide more of that, or at times the Lord Himself would serve a few portions to the lucky ones. Sai was playing the perfect host. At the farther end of this hall was a washbasin for hand wash after meals. As Swami was doing His rounds, He casually had a glance at the washbasin. His glance turned into a stare as He found that it was not clean and tidy. He slowly walked up to the basin, rolled up His sleeves and opened the tap to clean the washbasin with His hands. It was only when He stood long enough at the basin that everyone sensed He was doing something. Through this small episode, Sai reconfirmed His absolute priority to cleanliness and self-reliance and taught us to live by example. 

There are a good number of occasions when I observed Him communicating in a perfect way, even without exchange of words. One such occasion was on a cold winter afternoon, when this long time elderly devotee in a wheelchair was made to sit on a chair just behind the Ganesha Portico, close to and facing the interview room door. Swami walked out of the interview room and stood there for a while talking to the Vice Chancellor and the Registrar, when He noticed this devotee. He looked at him quite keenly, raised both His fore arms closer to His chest, closed His fists and gestured as if to ask “Are you feeling cold?” The devotee nodded his head very gently. Swami gracefully looked down and made eye contact to a student assisting Him, who in a jiffy brought a shawl from the interview room. I think nobody understood what was happening until Swami walked up to this devotee, took the shawl in His hands, opened it up completely & wrapped it around him. The devotee’s only expression was drops of tears trickling down his cheeks. 

Observing Sai’s daily life, moment to moment taught us the ‘Job and Art of Living’.. 

To hear about Sai is to know,
To listen/read about Sai is to understand,
To live with Sai is to experience.

He has influenced us, not just at the physical plane but also at the mental, emotional, psychological & spiritual planes. He has raised the 'Sensitivity Quotient' in us through community living at the Hostel, through the Awareness Classes at the Institute and through numerous programmes that we had performed to please Him.

Had I chosen the beaten and known track, I would know not what life would have been beyond making it fit for a living. It was on this ‘road less traveled’ that I was taught about life itself in the larger context, helping me paint broader strokes on the canvas of my life, giving me awareness to live in the present and to give back to society. To this, I owe everything to Sai.

- Gunaranjan Turaga
Student (2002-2004), Department of Management Studies
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
Prasanthi Nilayam Campus
Currently, Director at ArthaYantra, Hyderabad

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