“What were you thinking last night?” - By Pawan Negi

As a student at Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, I was fortunate to learn lessons of life directly from Bhagawan Himself. What separates SSSIHL from other academic institutions is the integrated approach to education, i.e. the overall development of the body, mind and spirit. 

As a student, I’ve learnt the most significant lessons of Management from Swami. Various Management Gurus have given complex mantras, such as Management by Objectives, 3 Forces, Re-engineering, Matrices, etc, for business strategy and success. Yet, why is it that the organisations that were peacocks of yesterday are the dusters of today? 

The answer to this is most simple and yet the most effective summation of management – Man Management – as Swami puts it. In one of the interviews to MBA students, Swami asked, “What is the most important resource in an organisation?” Some students replied Finance, some said it was Technology and some felt it was Marketing. Swami then, in His own inimitable style replied that there were five M’s involved in any organisation – Man (Human Resources), Machine (Technology), Minutes (Time), Money (Finance) and Material (Raw Materials). Among these, the most important asset/resource is Man, as it is Man who controls the other resources. This answer got enshrined in my heart.

Over my short experience in the corporate world, I’ve kept this Mantra central to my work-approach and there is no doubt that I have benefited from it personally as well as professionally. During the years 2001-2004, I was employed in a BPO arm of a Multinational Bank, working for clients who were in different time-zones. The demanding nature of clients and the odd working hours created a lot of work stress on the team. Due to increasing workload, working over-time had become almost a daily routine. Swami has often said that a good manager is like parent to the subordinates; he/she cares for the subordinates like a father or mother would and if necessary reprimand them for their own good.

With the increase in work pressure, the stress also increased. However, I made sure that I understood the problems of all my teammates and tried to find solutions to them. I never had a problem with any team member even when I requested them to stretch themselves for a few more working hours. This may sound very insignificant. However, considering the resistance faced by other team heads from their subordinates, I firmly believe that Swami’s teaching had been the reason for my success in managing difficult situations and creating a very co-operative team. 

Swami has often said that His students are His only property and that His love for students exceeds the Love of a thousand mothers. From my personal experience, let me narrate an incident to illustrate the Love of our beloved Mother Sai. I had joined SSSIHL in 1993 as an undergraduate student. Swami spoke to me just once or twice in my first two years. It was during my II B.Sc. examinations, that I was slightly disappointed for not having had any Sambhashan (an opportunity to talk) with Swami. One night, I could not sleep, and kept pondering over why Swami had not spoken to me. I did not realise how the whole night had passed by. Suddenly I heard the Suprabhatam bell ring. 

That evening, during Darshan, I sat along with a group of boys. We were praying to Swami that He should grant us an interview. However, Swami selected a few devotees for an interview. Thinking that Swami would spend another 50-60 minutes giving interview to the selected devotees, I took a short break for drinking some water. I had just come out of the Old Hostel, when suddenly there was a hushed commotion, an indication that Swami was outside in the Portico. I rushed to the Mandir and saw my group going inside the interview room. I was delighted but also a bit confused whether I should proceed to the interview room. Somehow, taking courage I started walking across to the interview room, with my head bent down. I did not have the courage to look up as I knew that all eyes would be fixed on me. Later, I was told that when I was walking towards the interview room, Swami had been looking straight at me till I entered the room.

We were around 20 students in the room. After a few minutes, Swami entered the room and put on the light and the fan to make us feel comfortable. As He proceeded towards the chair, He looked at me and asked me my name and the class I was studying in.

After being seated, Swami enquired about the welfare of all of us. Swami, in His unique way, started asking questions. Whenever any student attempted to answer the questions, Swami looked at me and asked me for the answer. I was delighted that Swami was speaking to me. I had totally forgotten my agony of Swami not talking to me for two years. One of the most unique qualities of Swami as a Master is that, He simplifies even the most complex philosophical question. Throughout the interview, Swami in His unique and simple way explained many complicated topics. For example, He asked us which were the first and last Shlokas of the Bhagawad Gita. The first Shloka begins with ‘Dharma Kshetre Kurukshetre...…’ and the Last Shloka ends as ‘Yatra Yogeeshwara Krishna.....Matir Mama’.
Swami then clubbed the last word of the last Shloka with the first word of the first Shloka and said that the essence of the Bhagavad Gita was ‘Mama Dharma’ i.e. the Dharma (duty, nature) of each individual. At the end of the interview, Swami started distributing Vibhuti packets to everyone and gave us Padnamaskar. When I bowed at Swami’s Lotus Feet to take Padnamaskar, Swami caught my nose and lovingly asked me what I was thinking the previous night. Before I could say anything, the Omniscient Lord lovingly replied, “Were you not thinking that Swami does not speak to you at all?” In His own loving way, Swami had answered all my prayers. For me, this incident holds a lifetime memory. Even though Swami may not be physically with me, I have the faith that He is watching me, cares for me and will never abandon me. What more can one ask for, than having the Lord as one’s Guide and Guardian?

- Pawan Negi
Student (1996-1998), Department of Management Studies
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
Prasanthi Nilayam Campus
Currently, Senior Specialist, Citigroup, London

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