Sri Sathya Sai in My Life – By Dr. Somnath Saraf

Vice Chancellor Dr. Somnath Saraf with Sri Sathya Sai 
on SSSIHL Convocation Day - November 22, 1987

In the beginning of April 1982, I learnt in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan that Lord Sai would be in Delhi. I rushed from Thimphu, like Radha in search of Beloved Sai Krishna, down to Phuntsholing, the southern plains of Bhutan, near the Indian border. I reached the nearest Bagdogra Airport on time in the morning on 7th April and left by air for Delhi. I reached Delhi in the evening to the surprise of all. 

On April 8, 1982, Mrs. Saraf and I rushed to the residence of Justice P. N. Bhagwati to have Darshan of the Lord. It looked as if the Mother was looking for her children. As soon as He saw me, He enquired as to when I came and why I came. Standing in the Divine Presence, I said, “I came yesterday to see the Lord.” Referring to Mrs. Saraf, who was standing at some distance and with a twinkle in His eyes, He asked, "Where is your life?” Pointing towards the Lord, I summoned the courage and said, “Baba, my life is standing before me.” With a beautiful smile, prompt came the reply, "I am asking for your wife. Where is she?” I pointed towards Mrs. Saraf. He immediately materialised Vibhuti and gave it to her. He told her particularly to preserve it for some important occasion. He further said, “I shall come to your house.” 

While we were very happy that we had Lord's Darshan and precious gift, we were slightly worried that if the Lord comes to our house in Delhi, it will not be worthy of His visit as we did not have the right kind of facilities. We took His words literally. The plan which emerged was that Mrs. Saraf would come to Bhutan with me, presuming that our Lord would not be able to come to Bhutan. That was our childish view at that time.

On 8th June, 1982, Mrs. Saraf, on hearing about the sudden death of her father, was very much perturbed and excited and had a severe heart trouble. She lost vision in her right eye and the right side was practically paralysed. After seeing this depressing state of affairs, I calmed myself and remembered the Lord. I applied the sacred Vibhuti given on April 8, 1982, in Justice Bhagwati's house. She became almost normal. Immediately, I called the Head of the Indian Military Hospital in Thimphu named Dr. Shahi. He came promptly and, after thorough examination of the symptoms. diagnosed that while it was a case of severe heart attack, he expressed his amazement as to how it was averted. During our stay in Thimphu, Dr. Shahi would visit us regularly, prescribe medicines, suggest the amount of salt to be taken, the kilometers to be trekked daily in the hilly terrain, the kind of diet to be taken, etc. He would always wonder as to how this dreadful event was averted. He knew that we were Lord's children but we could not explain to him the phenomenon then and there. Even after returning to Delhi, when we used to meet Col. Shahi in the Delhi Cantonment, this topic would invariably come up for discussion. We forgot the whole affair for full five years. It was early in the morning of 8th June, 1987, in the Vice-Chancellor's house in Prasanthi Nilayam, the Lord, in His lustrous form, came to my dream at about 4 a.m. and, in a sweet voice, said: “Saraf, do you remember that I came to your house in Bhutan exactly five years ago on this very day when Mrs. Saraf was seriously ill with heart attack. You applied Vibhuti on the affected parts of her body. I came in the form of Dr. Shahi and saved her. She recovered soon."
Dr. Somnath Saraf following Sri Sathya Sai at the Hill View Stadium, Prasanthi Nilayam
I got up from the bed and woke up Mrs. Saraf immediately. I asked her about the date of the heart trouble in Bhutan. Like me, she was confused and did not remember the date. Immediately I consulted her medical file, which was readily available. To our delightful surprise, it was clearly indicated in the diagnosis chart, written by Dr. Shahi, that it was on 8th June, 1982 that she had suffered a heart attack when we had called him. This is how our Lord looks after His children wherever they are and keeps His promise(s). When He says that I shall come to your house, it means that He will come wherever we are may be, Delhi, Thimphu, Tokyo, Kabul, London, Moscow, Lima, California and even the remotest part of an unreachable mountain and in any form. Such experiences are numerous. 

We were slightly surprised as we never wrote to our Lord about the illness of Mrs. Saraf in Bhutan, nor about Dr. Shahi having treated her. At that time, we did not know that we should invariably communicate our problems and prayers to Him in writing in case we are not in close physical proximity. I have now come to the logical conclusion that, whether we write or not, He is always in touch with His devotees in any part of the world. We may not reach Him but He reaches us. I do not subscribe to the view that He is unreachable and unapproachable. Before we start writing to Him, He knows what we are going to write. Accepting letters, as He often says, is to give some solace to the devotees. 

The same day — June 8, 1987, our Lord was asking some devotees in the Mandir verandah in Prasanthi Nilayam, casually about their ages. My turn also came. In retrospect, I believe that it was to remind me about the morning experience. I immediately remembered the early morning experience — the Lord's beautiful Vision, His Omniscience, Omnipresence and Omnipotence. I immediately indicated my age — less by ten years. The Lord mentioned to the persons in the verandah that there was a great significance in what VC says and that He came to me at the age of 10. This reminded me of my past when I was a child living with my parents in Malapora, Srinagar, Kashmir. 

He actually took care of me when I was hardly ten years old studying in Class V. I had two younger brothers. Our mother died leaving three of us alone. The day is unforgettable. There was no one to look after us. We wished we too had died along with our physical mother. Perforce, we had to go through the usual rituals which had no meaning for small children with tender hearts. The day our mother died, one Mr. Murtaza Khan Saheb joined our School as our form teacher in the Vth class in which I was studying. The name of the School was Baba Pora Middle School. When translated in English, it means the place of Baba. The school still exists in the same building and with the same name.

I returned to the School, after 13 days, completing the necessary rituals connected with my mother's death. With great reluctance I went to the School knowing that, on my return to my house, there would be no mother to look after us, no food would be ready, clothes would be unwashed and unkempt etc. But with faith in my mother, who was sweet and loving to the last day, I left for the School. I found a new teacher, Mr. Murtaza Khan Saheb, whom I had not seen earlier as our Form Teacher. On seeing me, he called me and embraced me with intense love and said: “Why are you downcast and depressed?” While in his lap I wept bitterly. I said: “My mother is dead.” The way he hugged me so closely and sweetly I felt my mother had come back physically to the School to console me. I did not know what to do. I felt relaxed and relieved. Murtaza Saheb said: “Your mother is not dead. I will look after you.” His heart was throbbing and I got the vibrations. That was the turn in the tide. I returned to my home with a new life and a bright light which is still shining in my heart. My mother had come back though not physically. Murtaza Saheb would daily enquire about by health and give his personal attention. He would teach us like a true Guru always with us and within us. He was love incarnate. 

Murtaza Saheb used to talk about our culture, common heritage, spirituality and human values. In Kashmir, there used to be a custom that Brahmin boys would wear ear-rings so that they could be distinguished from the rest of students in the classes. This was a man-made design to make distinction between students on the basis of their religion, caste and region. Mr. Murtaza Saheb advised that the Brahmin boys should remove their ear-rings as these were against the basic cannons of equality of the human race and of the universality of faiths. He would say that all are creations of Lord, belonging to one world. India was our Motherland where there should be no distinction between students on the basis of caste, creed, colour or religion. This was the first lesson to us in the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God. 

He also introduced us to the monumental book of Mahatma Gandhi, his autobiography – “The Story of My Experiments with Truth.” It took us to an entirely different world of ideas and experiences and gave us an inkling into the feeling, thinking and action of great people. We were indirectly introduced to the concept and practice of truth, non-violence, righteous conduct and love by reading Mahatma Gandhi's inspiring autobiography at the tender but impressible age of 10 to 14. With deep interest, we would read Gandhiji's experiences after seeing the drama of Harishchandra, his adherence to truth in spite of his teachers' advice to the contrary. Murtaza Saheb would make us talk about the stories of great sages and saints of Kashmir. His first love was for his students. His special affection was focused on me as long as I was in that school from the age of 10 to 14. He gave me back my life. 
Pratap Singh High School, Srinagar, Kashmir
After completing my Eighth Class in Baba Pora Middle School, I moved to a High School called Pratap Singh High School, which was nearly two miles from our house. After a couple of days of my joining the High School, I visited Baba Pora School to see my Guru, Murtaza Saheb. I was informed, by the Headmaster, that Murtaza Saheb had left and his whereabouts were not known. It was almost a shock to me. I had to reconcile to the inevitable. He tended me when I was forgotten and forlorn, when the whole world had become dark and dingy - life had become lifeless and listless. Till this day, that is, even after half a century, I cannot forget the face of my Saviour, Murtaza Saheb. Where did he go? 

This was my moot question which remained unanswered till I saw Murtaza Saheb in my Lord in 1972 after 34 years, in a photograph, and then in physical form in 1979 on August 30, Thursday, after 41 years, in Brindavan. On August 30, Thursday, 1979, my Lord, Mother Sai greeted me on taking me and my family into the interview room in Brindavan with such sweet words: “Acha Kiya, Guruvar Key Din Aaya.” “You have done well that you came on Thursday - the day of the Guru”. It flashed to me that My Master and My Mother are the same. 

One thing which deeply impressed me was, when I saw Bhagavan's photograph in the Puja Room of one of the devotees in 1972, that His Lotus eyes compared very well with the eyes of Murtaza Saheb. This impression got confirmed when I saw Mother Sai, in physical form, in 1979 on August 30, Thursday. I rejoice often recollecting mentally the two pairs of the beautiful Lotus eyes. While sitting at the Lotus Feet of my Lord, and watching Him from near or at a distance, I often recall the hair style and broad facial features of Bhagavan and Murtaza Saheb. These are almost identical. 

I am now firm in the belief that the Lord had taken the form of Murtaza Saheb and had come all the way from Puttaparthi to Kashmir to look after His child. This was confirmed by Him on June 8, 1987, in the Mandir. He must have done so with millions of people without their realization. I often rejoice in recalling this beautiful real experience which gave me a new lease of life. 
Dr. Saraf with Sri Sathya Sai at the Prasanthi Nilayam Campus
It was November 1975. I rushed from Paris where I was in the UNESCO on some assignment to London on November 20, to meet my youngest brother and his family and to attend the 50th Birthday Celebrations of Bhagavan being organised by the Sai Organisation on November 23. The celebrations were festive, full of enthusiasm and deep devotion, organised in one of the largest halls of London. This was my first experience of joining Birthday Celebrations and that too outside India. I was deeply moved seeing the spontaneous love of devotees of all ages, colours, creeds and nationalities, in a far off land, paying their reverential Homage to their Lord almost with tears. This was my first and last impression. I had to return to Paris and arranged the journey through the hovercraft crossing the British channel. On the day of departure, that is, November 27, 1975, Bhagavan appeared early morning in the dream and advised that I should avoid travelling on that day. He also said that I had Navoorihas which were not auspicious. Out of compassion and after blessing me, He said, “Saraf, do not worry. You will come to me after nine years. You will have to face many ups and downs during this period but you will survive. I will have a tripartite meeting with you and Dr. Gokak.” 

I followed the Divine advice and got my travel plans to Paris postponed. My brother, an ardent devotee for many years, insisted that the journey should be postponed. Actually, the British Channel was in terrible storm that day and the too the craft, in which I had to travel was in trouble. I could not, however, understand the implications of Bhagavan's observations till November 27, 1984. 

Mrs. Saraf and I came to Prasanthi Nilayam in the second week of November 1984 to attend the 59th Birthday of Bhagavan. We continued to stay on for a few days more in the Abode of Absolute Peace. Who wants to leave the Divine Presence? On November 27, Bhagavan called me and Mrs. Saraf to His interview room. As usual, after enquiring about our children, health, etc. Bhagavan suddenly asked: “Saraf, when are you retiring?” I replied that I had already retired but was working on an important research project of the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, Delhi. He further asked: “Saraf, when will the project work be over?” I explained that it will go on for a year or so. I further mentioned that I was devoting 99% of my time for the E.H.V. work when I was not busy with my research project Bhagavan, very beautifully, asked me as to what work I was doing during the one per cent of my time. He said: “You know 'one' means ego or 'I'. Why don't you surrender this ‘I' also to me?” I was a bit confused praying to Bhagavan as to what was meant by 'one' per cent and 'I'. He clarified: “I want you to be our Vice-Chancellor from the next year after you finish your research project. Then you can surrender the remaining one per cent of your work as well as your ego to Me.” Not being prepared for such a situation - not having any inkling whatsoever, I became suddenly silent taking mental stock of many considerations in the change of the job, the place and responsibilities. Mrs. Saraf, who was a silent spectator till then, promptly replied, “Swami, we will come.” Bhagavan's face suddenly became effulgent and said: “See, your wife is prepared. You get ready. I will look after your problems and responsibilities.” I bowed my humble head at His Lotus Feet and said "Thy will shall be done." I cannot describe the bliss and joy on His Divine face and the love He gave to us. 
Dr. Somnath Saraf with Sri Sathya Sai during SSSIHL Convocation - November 22, 1986; On the left is Sri S B Chavan, Chief Guest and Chief Minister of Maharashtra
The Divine Command on November 27, 1975, in London, that I will come to Him after nine years, materialised on the same day and that also in His Divine Chamber in Prasanthi Nilayam. The travel from Paris, London, to various countries of the world and Delhi and to Prasanthi Nilayam took exactly nine years without my knowing about it. This is the Divine Will — the Will of the Cosmic Creator and how it materialises. The tripartite meeting between Bhagavan, Prof. Gokak and Saraf took place. The Revered Chancellor's choice, after the retirement of Prof. Gokak, was clear and decided nine years earlier. 

Thus we started preparation for our ultimate journey to Prasanthi Nilayam. Nearly one year -  November 27, 1984 to November 12, 1985, when we came to Prasanthi Nilayam, with bag and baggage and not ‘luggage’, passed off within one minute. We were physically nearest to the Lotus Feet. What better wish could one have. Wish of the devotee is the Will of the Lord. 

How can one describe in words the Omnipresence, Omniscience and Omnipotence of our Bhagavan? It is difficult to put adequately our numerous experiences in writing. When hearts are full, words are very few. Lord is always with us wherever we may be. In this connection, Shloka 30 of Chapter VI of Bhagavad Gita is worth quoting: 
“He who sees Me in all things, and sees all things in Me, he never becomes separated from Me, nor do I become separated from him.” 

The Lord has said: “Devotion is as fire. Fire will melt iron. God is moved by Devotion.” We can only pray that our deep devotion moves our Lord as fire melts iron. 
This humble presentation of my homage to my Lord Sai, recounting, a few of the blissful experiences, on the occasion of His 65th Birthday, is in the capacity of a devotee. I do pray fervently that I do pass the crucial tests of a true devotee till I ... merge with the Lotus Feet of my Divine Mother, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba the Creator of the Cosmos. 

About The Author:
Dr. Somnath Saraf, Vice-Chancellor, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, between November 1985 and January 1991, was earlier Educational Adviser, Planning Commission, Govt. of India. He worked as Chief Technical Adviser, Consultant and Adviser to the UNESCO in various capacities in Afghanistan, Paris and Bhutan for a number of years. He worked with the Govt. of India and other agencies for more than 40 years. He has represented the Government of India and UNESCO in various international conferences and has written profusely on subjects relating to educational planning. management and Human Values. He was also closely working with the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation before he joined the Institute. 

Source: Sai Vandana 1990 (65th Birthday Offering)

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