My first impressions of God were those of someone who could assume any form, as someone who would be bigger than the biggest and concurrently smaller than the smallest. I often conjectured how I should visualise my God, as someone who could appear in myriad colours, as one who possess imaginary weapons, and had the entire creation within Him. More startlingly, my imagination even led me to conclude that He was more of a punisher than a boon giver, as someone who was always framed in photographs and lived only in idol fortuitously. One day, these impersonations and beliefs changed to a perception of a beautiful, loving and affectionate God.
It was the 16th of November, 1995 when I was seated in an august assembly with devotees from all over the world in the Sai Kulwant Hall. I had managed a place in front row. When Swami arrived I rose to offer a tray with Akshatas (rice grains) and said “Swami, today is my birthday.” “Achha, Phir Swami Bless Karta Hai.” (Is that so, then Swami is blessing you). He then took some Akshatas from the tray and showered it on my head. This was my first face-to-face interaction with Bhagavan and I had got my reply.
God is not someone who would demand years of penance, who would tell His devotees and prove His heroics. That interaction offered a new image of God. Till then, Swami was restricted just to photos and distant Darshan. It was then that I realised that God is someone just like us, but with a difference. He is the most powerful yet tender, all-knowing yet compassionate and munificent. And if we were to take thousands of births hereafter and spend every second of it in reciting the Lord’s glory we would still drop short of describing it fully. I often wondered why they refer to Him as God when He looks, talks, walks, eats and drinks just like us. To this query, my heart whispered only one answer. He is like all of us, so as to teach us that we all can become like Him. The very purpose of our life should be to become ‘like Him’ or to become ‘one with Him’.
The beautiful and serene face of Bhagavan reflects Kshama (forgiveness). It is His Kshama that renders us happy and joyous. Each one of us has a story of our own. And these stories have a lot of good deeds and bad deeds as well, with the latter dominating the former in the lives of most of us. But when we face the Lord, He sees us as a clean slate. He erases all our erroneous writings. Though He reflects our own self for the Lord Himself is a clean and a pure mirror, He wipes away every mistake of ours every time we face Him and gives us a new lease of life.
Swami has often stated the fact that by developing Kshama one evolves as a human being. And that is why He declares, “Forget the harm that others have done to you; forget the good that you have done to others.”
The Vedas proclaim:
Tyagenaike Amrutatva Manashuhu
(Immortality can be attained only through sacrifice.)
Bhagavan is the greatest example that the world can ever witness in this aspect. Many a time we would have heard of Bhagavan taking upon Himself a calamity in order to save a devotee from danger. I am reminded of one such incident, which took place when I was studying in my final year at the Brindavan campus. Bhagavan was down with an injury due to an apparent mishap. He did not come out to give Darshan for almost a fortnight. People all across the globe prayed only for Bhagavan’s health. Students, devotees, all young and old, had only one prayer in their heart - a prayer to Bhagavan to heal Himself as fast as possible.
After a month when things were back to normal, an elderly devotee of Bhagavan mustered some courage and asked, “Swami, was this necessary? Why did You take this injury upon Yourself? It was so painful for us to see You in that condition.” And Bhagavan replied, “Listen. When I was hurt, every heart prayed only for Me. For once there was the spirit of unity in prayers all across the planet. And, when there is such harmony in thought the world over, do you know how many of your sins will be washed away. And if your sins are washed away, will you not be happy, and if you are happy will I not be happy?”
Bhagavan had undertaken physical pain and trouble to wipe away our sins. Is there any greater example of sacrifice? If someone were to ask us what makes us believe that Sai Baba is God, what would we say? It is not because He can transmute earth into heaven or metamorphose night into day. The apposite reason is that He loves us more than we love ourselves. He loves us to such an extent that He is ready to sacrifice anything for our sake. In fact, by keeping a smiling face in spite of being under physical pain, Bhagavan teaches us the greatest lesson of keeping away from body attachment.
“Love is life and life is love.” And it would be so easy to perceive that Bhagavan’s life is nothing but an expression of love. I vividly recollect an episode during my stay in Brindavan. It was the month of March when we were amidst examinations. Bhagavan had come to Brindavan after Shivaratri. The night after my first examination, I received a phone call from my mother. She informed me about a minor accident my father had met with. She reported that they had been to the family doctor who had asked them to get an x-ray done for the left leg, which had been injured. Till then, I had heard and seen other students and devotees getting up during Darshan and informing Swami about their troubles. Swami would usually bless them, comfort them, and at times even materialize Vibhuti and assure them that He would take care. All that was fine, but I, myself had never experienced it.
That night I disclosed my anxiety in the form of a small plea to Bhagavan that, the next morning would be a test of my faith in Him and His love towards me. If it were true that even the minutest of the details does not escape Bhagavan’s attention then He would respond to my prayers. What transpired the next morning confirmed my credence in His omnipresence. He stood right in front of me and I got up to inform, “Swami, my father met with a minor accident.” He immediately created Vibhuti and said, “Give this to your father and don’t worry. There is no fracture. Bhagavan loves everyone.”
More than avowing His Divinity, this happening taught me that if there was a life worth living, it should be lived in loving others just like the way He does. And if I was to pose myself the question as to what I would like to be, the sole reply would be – I would love to be like Bhagavan.
Divij Desai with Sri Sathya Sai - Kodaikanal, 2007
One fine day, during Darshan, Bhagavan asked me, “What do you want?” I had read myths about great saints and sages, who after years of penance, I fumbled while answering this question from the Lord. So with childlike innocence I replied, “Swami, I want You!” And intriguingly Swami replied, “I am always with you. I am always with everyone, all the time. What else do you wish?”
“Swami, I want Your love.”
“Yes ... this is what you should ask for.”
How true it is that if we were to ask for His love, we would develop His love, His sacrifice, His forgiveness, and become like Him, and indeed become one with Him. What else do we need to aspire for?
- Divij Desai
Student (2001-2006), Department of Physics
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
Currently, Manager, TCS e-Serve Ltd., London