|Ravishankar with Sri Sathya Sai|
I had come from the U.S. to be in Swami’s presence for a few weeks and so I was fortunate to have an opportunity to participate in this humble offering of Seva. As we were packing up in the evening to go back for evening Bhajans, we saw an elderly gentleman, a farmer, come running towards us. Thinking that this was an emergency, a few of us rushed to the gentleman. He explained that he had heard that Swami’s students were in the village and he did not want to miss us. In between catching his breath, he made some extraordinary statements.
Proudly displaying his entrance badge as a relative of a patient, the farmer explained that his wife was in the Super Specialty Hospital recovering from heart surgery. What he then told us was an example of Swami’s love. He explained that after his first visit to the hospital soon after her operation, he decided not to go again to take care of her on a daily basis since his wife was so lovingly being taken care of by the doctors, nurses, and Seva Dal – he attributed all this to Swami. He even mentioned how good the food was in the hospital! Then he made a powerful statement: that if not for Swami, poor farmers like him would simply die. The directness and reality of his words hit us like a thunderbolt. He explained that water was always scarce and people like him would always thirst, but now they had piped water due to the Sri Sathya Sai Water Project. As a poor farmer he did not have the wherewithal to go to private doctors or hospitals. Government hospitals were inadequate or required him to pay a bribe for treatment. His eyes welled up with tears of joy and love for Swami as he recounted Swami’s love that had saved his wife. He asked us to convey his gratitude to Swami. What a lesson for us all in love, humility, and gratitude.
I deem it my great good fortune to have had the opportunity to be a student and lecturer in Swami’s college. Though born and brought up in the U.S., our family was always oriented to Swami and we visited frequently to be in His Presence. However, a fantastic new facet to Swami’s Love opened up for me when my grandfather, father, and my mother beseeched Swami in May 1981 to admit me in His College. That was 25 years ago, and so this year of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning’s 25th anniversary is doubly special for me. Swami mentions that it is the mother that shows the father to the child, and the father shows the guru, who in turn shows God. Here, I am ever grateful to my mother and father who placed me at the feet of God Himself!
I recall the golden opportunities we had to participate in a very humble way, in the magnificent expansion that has taken place. From the Institute Administrative block, to the sports ground (now stadium) where massive Narayan Sevas were held by Swami, to construction of the Super Specialty hospital, and many more projects – Swami allowed us to participate in all of these so that we may as individuals benefit from being a small part of His grand mission. Students would rush for these opportunities. There was no dearth of construction workers or resources, but we were still given a place to lend our unskilled hands. Frequently Swami would come in His car, trailed by a jeep carrying food & drink, to distribute to us all and He would tell us to take rest and not strain ourselves, as a mother would.
What struck me when I first joined Swami’s College and Hostel was Swami’s direct involvement in the day-to-day welfare of His students. Swami would inquire how we were, what we had had for breakfast, lunch or afternoon 'tiffin'. Many times, Swami would send Prasadam to the Hostel for the students. His regular and surprise visits to the College or Hostel were treasured moments. I vividly recall my first week in Parthi. Swami would constantly inquire about my health and welfare and if I was eating OK – Swami’s love was truly the love of a thousand mothers. In the following months, the day before I would receive a letter from my father, Swami would ask if I had got a letter from him. This became so regular that when Swami asked me, I knew the letter would be arriving the next day!
That love shown by Swami permeated the love shown by the Institute and Hostel administration and faculty. I had come to Parthi with my family for my younger brother Sanjay’s Upanayanam, which Swami graciously performed, but ended up staying for 11 years. Eventually Sanjay also had the good fortune to study in the Institute. Since I was born and brought up in the U.S., I would be asked by many friends in U.S. and India if I found it difficult to adjust to the Indian conditions – the simple answer was that I was at home with the Lord. So where was the question of adjusting? All His students consider being with Swami as being at home.
Life with Swami is truly an education, and His teachings of practical spirituality are infused with immense love. The lessons learned at Swami’s feet in the portico of Prasanthi Nilayam or in Trayee Brindavan are cherished moments for every student. Every action of Swami is a lesson in service and love. The service projects that we see today are an extension of what Swami has been doing ever since His younger days, as we experienced just before Swami’s 60th Birthday celebrations in 1985. During the months leading up to the celebrations, our M.Com. class had the good fortune to help conduct a socio-economic survey of the villages in Sathya Sai Taluk so that the Sathya Sai Seva Organisations, at Swami’s command, could build roads and schools, provide bore wells, and build/repair temples and mosques as part of the 60th Birthday celebrations.
|Sri Sathya Sai at the entrance of Trayee Brindavan|
Before we set out for the villages, Swami graciously spoke to us and instructed us on how to serve. He explained that we must go with humility and ask them what they needed by way of infrastructure or amenities. Additionally, He told us that we must teach them about health and hygiene, but Swami was particular that we do this in a loving way and not as if we were lecturing them. From this we learned that service is an opportunity for us and service must be delivered with sweetness on the tongue and humility in the heart.
In conjunction with Seva Dal, some Institute faculty, and Sathya Sai Trust engineers, we would travel to villages near and far by jeep, bus, bicycle, or on foot where there were no roads. As we entered the villages, the residents would initially run inside their houses, thinking we were from a political party! When they saw us wearing the typical white clothes worn by Swami’s students, they would come and greet us lovingly. When told that Swami had sent us to ask them what they needed in their village, the typical response used to be that Swami has already given them so much! They would show us a school Swami had built, or a temple and idols given by Swami. Invariably we would find that Swami had, in the preceding 40 years, visited their village at some time or another or had blessed them with a school, temple or mosque. In the end, we would have to press them to tell us their needs since we must report back to Swami what they needed! This is the lesson of contentment that we learned from villagers who could barely afford to skip a day’s work lest they went hungry. Their sacrifice of food and wages to come and see Swami from a distance is deeply moving. All this is due to Swami’s Love.
|Sri Sathya Sai with Deer in the Brindavan Ashram|
As the years rolled on and I was feeling the generation gap between myself and my students at the Brindavan campus, I would see how Swami, with His Divine love, would lovingly interact with the students at their level without overawing them. As Swami has said, “When with children, I am a child.” However, we would always be treated to His Divine aspects, lest we forget that we are in the company of the Lord Himself.
On one occasion, in Kodaikanal Swami took us to a scenic spot and the students saw this as an opportunity to ask for individual photographs with Swami. Swami graciously accepted and so as one of the photographers, I took many photos of Swami with students and of Swami standing near flower plants. As the group of photographers took the photos, Swami turned and commented that we all had big cameras but we should see how He takes photos. With that Swami stood in front of a large rose bush and waved his hand in front of a large rose. He then materialized a hologram of that very rose. Whether it was creating this hologram, or Janaka’s ring, or Shivaji’s amulet given to him by his mother, Swami’s Divinity would manifest itself in the course of His teachings. But, in order not to overawe us, he would follow-up with a joke or would blow on the materialized object to send it back to where it came from!
|Sri Sathya Sai in the Hills|
|Ravishankar with Sri Sathya Sai at Kodaikanal|
|Sri Sathya Sai's Visiting Card|
- Ghandikota V. Ravishankar
Student (1981-1986), Department of Commerce
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
Prasanthi Nilayam Campus
Currently, Director, S&P Global Market Intelligence, New York
Source: Vidyagiri: Divine Vision (2006)