To Kodaikanal... With Sri Sathya Sai...

Sri Sathya Sai in Kodaikanal

Challenging, stressful, too fast to cope with – are all familiar retorts from a cross section of people when quizzed about today’s life. Swami has constantly reminded us during our days with Him, under His Divine tutelage, that Life is a Challenge, Meet It! In the case of the lucky many who have been drawn to the Avatar, learning and following Swami’s advice is not only easier but is also more practicable, as He practices the tenets that He wants us to follow – delivering us from this mundane existence to a higher one infused with Love!

I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity of experiencing Swami’s miracles first hand. These are unfathomable and I am certain that every one of you has had an experience or two that breaks the boundaries of traditional and rational thinking; experiences with Swami as the central figure, making something possible in your lives, either subtly or evidently with His uniquely indescribable calling card!

9:30 a.m., April 1, 1994, Puttaparthi
A surprisingly balmy day for an otherwise blazing summer ahead, a group of 23 boys board a bus bound to Brindavan, the other heavenly abode, from Prasanthi Nilayam, to a coveted destination this time of the year – Swami’s summer retreat and an eclectic locale – Kodaikanal. It is only once we board the bus that we know who our comrades for the rest of the journey and visit to Kodai, are. What a well-kept secret, given that each individual knew that he would be part of the trip at least a month prior to the D-day! 

Sri Sathya Sai in Trayee Brindavan

1:15 p.m., Brindavan Campus, Bangalore
After a wonderful journey we are given accommodation in the VIP rooms adjoining Swami’s residence – Trayee Brindavan. After freshening up, all of us are given the opportunity to sit around Swami in Trayee, with Swami majestically seated on the Jhoola. It felt ethereal, as we were but a handful and a whole world awaited Him outside.
Swami took the interest and time to speak to each one of us, enquiring about each of our names, how we fared in the exams and then in a gracious manner personally took us to the main door of the Trayee entrance and explained in meticulous details the intricacies of the door. “This was used by the Maharaja of Mysore as his Pooja room door, and he wanted Swami to use it”, was a revelation our Divine Master made to us.

Over the course of the next few days, Swami gave Darshan to the public, went to Tumkur to inaugurate a temple and continued showering us with talks on a one-to-one basis. Exultant – would best describe the mood of us 23 boys.

Lesson 1: Let Love Drive Our Actions

Swami showed us that life in all its glory can be construed as either stressful or invigorating, depending upon how we compartmentalise our time and implement our daily routine. Given the deluge of attention by Swami and opportunities galore afforded to each one of us, we felt that Swami was ours – belonging to only we 23 people! Yet, He continued with His regular routine with unflagging spirit, spreading joy to the world around us. This I feel is possible only when Love is the central driving force behind all activities.

Lesson 2: Attention to Detail

Swami could have simply had someone else talk to us and brief us about the do’s and don’ts. He could have instructed some else to show us around Trayee and explain the significance of ‘the doors’. Swami’s personal interest and attention to detail is a classic example of working in a team and yet being able to lead the team – ‘Delegate you may, but keep the interest level high by being interested in projects’ is a key take away for all of us aspiring leaders, from this episode.

2:00 p.m., April 3, 1994, Trayee Brindavan

We have seen three halcyon days in the presence of the Master; Swami showering us with all the attention we can crave for, everything is seemingly perfect. Until…..just before evening Darshan, assuming that all 23 of us were called into Trayee, we trooped in, probably showing off a bit of a swagger as well only to be stopped by Swami!

He had asked to see only one boy from our group with his father. Swami called our teacher and said, “You are a bad leader, stay back in Bangalore”. Then He called another boy and said, “You are a good boy, but you do not fit into the group, I have already told you to sing, at least follow the Bhajans, but you have not done so. Thousands of eyes are watching you, because I have chosen the best boys and you put your head down when Swami sits in His chair”. (And Swami showed us how the boy sat). “You also stay back in Bangalore”, rang in our ears as Swami boomed.

Every one of us in the room began to feel the gravity of the situation and started sobbing. Swami moved towards the door and being nearby I said, “Kshamisi, Swami” (forgive us, Swami). “Yenu Kshamisi, Tappu Madutanne Irodu, Amele Kshame Kelodu Daivadroha” (What forgiveness, committing the same mistakes repeatedly and expecting forgiveness is reneging God’s trust).

Throughout these episodes Swami was lovingly explaining everything to us. The boy who was admonished about not singing during Darshan mustered up enough courage in the middle of his anguish and said, “I will try, Swami”. Swami looked at me and said, “See, no interest; he is saying he will try”. Realising his folly, the boy immediately said, “Must Swami, must... Not try”. Another boy feeling avuncular at this moment said, “Please forgive him, Swami”. Swami immediately retorted, “You do not intervene, keep quiet, this is My business, it is individual to individual”. Swami left the room and we were totally deflated.

Lesson 3: Think Before You Act

This one is probably common sense, but we know the frequently delivered adage about it. This point is of major significance in the corporate world. The point is never showing your boss in an unsavoury light, especially in the eyes of the public. If entrusted with a task/responsibility, discharge it to the best of your potential and remember to acknowledge that each of these tasks – small or big is a stepping stone to a higher level, both spiritually and otherwise. Swami had chosen us among a large pool of deserving candidates, but He was the boss to decide why we were chosen over another set of boys to accompany Him to Kodai. We slipped in our reciprocation of trust that He held in us as defined by our actions and further we tried to ask for pardon without introspecting our folly.

Needless to say we were reprimanded. Swami displayed absolute panache in His leadership quality of explaining to us our faltering and taught us the importance of trust. He displayed to me the importance of keeping open, clear channels of communication – probably one of the highest ideals required in a business environment. He then went on to give us another opportunity to redeem our place in His and the public’s eyes. This is a very difficult trait to show when you feel let down by those you have chosen as ‘the chosen ones’.

In my mind this is a key differentiating trait that separates the aspiring leader and the accomplished one. As an extension of this, maintaining a level head and displaying equanimity during periods of adversity and being able to rise above the occasion is a learning we should all aspire to emulate for our own betterment.

7:00 a.m., April 5, 1994, Trayee Brindavan

A convoy of vehicles leaves for Kodaikanal from Brindavan. Fortunately the same 23 boys are in the bus. Swami has pardoned us. Throughout the journey Swami was a treat to watch, as He stopped His car on the way and lovingly visited each and every Bhajan Mandali, blessing the gathering and imparting so much joy to all of them. 

Sri Sathya Sai at Sai Sruthi Mandir in Kodaikanal

8:00 a.m., April 7, 1994, Sai Sruthi, Kodaikanal

We were all seated around Swami’s chair and He asked us what ‘Marketing’ meant, after several of us MBA students said that we wanted to take this as an elective subject. Some said it is an act of selling (including me). “Marketing is societal”, Swami said, “for society and for the public”. He then asked me the meaning of communication, for which I said, “A process of responding”, and He corrected me saying, “Communication is Understanding”.

Lesson 4: Love in Action

The simplest of things can bring joy to others when it is done with love. Swami had taught us that the proof of true understanding is when we forsake our selfishness and embrace a selfless attitude, working for the benefit of society, which will lead to long term and far reaching positive results. As individuals we are links of this chain, the strength of which is directly dependent on the robustness of each of these links. So, remembering to act in a manner conducive to societal improvement will not only help others but also ourselves in the bargain. That is the positive halo effect created by each simple action motivated by selfless love.

The possibilities of deriving lessons from watching and learning from Swami are limitless. The four lessons are what I learned during this informal ‘course’ of seven days. With Swami, there is something new to learn almost every day. He is the Chancellor not only of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning but of the entire universe. No other Institute or body of learning:

a) has the Divine Master as the Chancellor,
b) has the Chancellor imparting lessons for spiritual and worldly growth by way of interaction and by showing personal interest in His students, and
c) has Swami – the Divine Master as well as the Chancellor, working tirelessly for the benefit of the students and expounding various truths through very easy daily lessons that transform the heart

With Swami providing us the opportunity to learn directly from Him, we Sai students are fortunate to imbibe His simple teachings for everyday living.

- Karthik Shenoi
Student (1993-1995), Department of Management Studies
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
Prasanthi Nilayam Campus
Currently, CEO, iCam Solutions Pvt. Ltd., Bangalore

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