Reminiscences With Sri Sathya Sai – By K. Chakravarthi

Sri Chakravarthi with Sri Sathya Sai
at the Prasanthi Nilayam Bhajan Mandir

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the object of all our exploring
Will be to find where we started
And know the place for the first time"

These lines of T.S. Eliot from his Four Quartets echo my feeling regarding my first meeting of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba whom we reverentially and lovingly call SWAMI; and my continued quest thereafter during the last fifteen years and more. 

Looking back, I feel that my first meeting with Bhagavan in May 1975 marked in some way the end of my previous 'self' and the beginning of my new 'self'. To all intents and purposes I have continued to remain the same; but in some fundamental way I have changed. And that change is more in the realm of inner core, of the deeper recesses of my psyche. I believe that my life has, in its vital, emotional and spiritual aspects, taken some dimension which may not have come about at all, were it not for such meeting. 

God, until then, was an abstract concept. He was someone out there in the far-flung heaven, beyond outer space. After being taken under the protective umbrella of Bhagavan, the feeling I have is that God is a living reality, with visible shape and color. Is it that the distant One has become near or the formless One has taken form? Well, Bhagavan has been here in this form, long before I came to know of Him. He has taken other forms at other times, in times past. But what is real to me is the personal feeling that I have - that the Divine has chosen to express itself in this form and in this age. 

Seemingly insignificant things take on significance in one's life. One can rationalize by saying that everything has a purpose, meaning and reason and nothing happens by chance or fortuitously - the teleological view, may be. It is human nature to find reason, logic and cause in the events and happenings. It is the individual's way of looking at things rather than proof of self-existing and self-subsisting universal causal paradigm that would matter in the end. I prefer to attribute a certain destiny to my meeting with Bhagavan. Judged by later events, I cannot dismiss it as a chance occurrence. I also consider it as expressing an unfoldment of new significance to my life. 

It was May 18, 1975. The previous day, while my wife and I were talking to the Chief of Police in the district administration, we were asked as to whether we would like to go over to Puttaparthi to see Baba. I had been at Anantapur for more than two months by then. I have had no natural inclination to go and meet religious heads or eminent spiritual personages until then. It was only later that I could know that I was not coming to meet a religious-head or a spiritual personage but the Divine Manifest. So when I was asked about a visit to Puttaparthi I kept quiet. My wife expressed a certain keenness to go along with my colleague and his wife. We were told that we could start by five in the morning. My wife said that since I had some reservation about the visit, we could come at a more leisurely hour. My colleague said that it would be fine if we could reach Puttaparthi by five in the evening. So it was that on May 19th, which happened to be my birthday, according to the Indian Calendar, we reached Puttaparthi around 4.45 PM, after attending to my official work en route. 

When we reached by 4.45 PM, my colleague said that we must hurry up and go to Mandir. Hardly did we Sit down then Bhagavan came out. There, for the first time I saw Him in flesh and blood. I had seen a few pictures of Him. Somehow, I imagined seeing those pictures that He would be tall and massive and the hair rather rough. But here He was before me - lithe and petite, slender and graceful, His hair forming itself into a natural crown. His appearance itself was the first surprise. He summoned us in, with a beatific smile.

As I was driving the car with my wife towards Puttaparthi, my wife asked me as to what we could talk to Bhagavan. Having had no experience of visiting any such personages, I said, "I will have hardly anything to say. But if it comes to talking, well, we can always talk about the 18th Chapter of Gita". So, we settled down, with Bhagavan also sitting on the floor. He said, looking at me, that He would talk on some spiritual subject. There was a pause and then He asked me "How about 18th Chapter of Gita? " That was quite a surprise. Well, I did not know whether He consciously knew what I told my wife in the car. I nodded and He started speaking. In the course of the next ten or fifteen minutes, He tenderly called me by my name a few times to inquire as to whether I agree with what He said. I was thinking to myself "I have met Baba just a few minutes back. He calls me by my name as though He has known me for a long time". He continued talking. A few minutes later, during His talk, He asked again "Isn’t it so, Chakravarthi? " Then He looked deep into my eyes and said "l may be new to you. You are old to Me". Was it another surprise? It was as though the curtain had fallen, the veil lifted, albeit for a fleeting moment. T.S. Eliot's words ring in my memory: 
"Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past."
Sri Chakravarthi with Sri Sathya Sai - During his initial visits to Puttaparthi as IAS Officer
I must say that although I have had a fairly orthodox religious background at home, my mental reaction was more western-oriented, possibly due to the type of formal education. I had no disbelief in God. But, somehow God was not a very integral part of my life, until then. So, when I was asked by Bhagavan, after His talk, as to what my response was, I said "Baba, (that is how I addressed Him for the first time) Hinduism explains a way; It does not explain". He then said, "What is beyond words cannot be explained in words. You have to experience it in due course." Then after a pause, He continued, "A person who waters a plant waters it at the roots. He does not pour water on the leaves. I have just watered your root. It will take time to grow". 

It looks to me that Bhagavan has been pouring water as a zealous gardener. I hope I have grown a little. I cannot claim I have grown to be a big tree. But that is not the fault of the gardener. Some plants in His garden take a long time to grow. When we were returning after the first visit, my wife said "It would have been good if we had brought the children with us. They would have enjoyed meeting Baba". She also said "Baba perhaps gives only Vibhuti. He does not seem to be giving Kumkum."

A month after our first visit my wife came to see Bhagavan with the District Police Chief's wife. I could not come. During her second visit, Bhagavan told her "You and Chakravarthi felt that you should have brought the children. Next time when you come, bring the children". Was it a surprise again? A few minutes through that interview, and then He looked at my wife and told her "You asked for Kumkum, isn’t it? Have permanent Kumkum". He materialized a ring with red colored stone, symbolizing red Kumkum. Was she given another surprise? Well, by then, I suppose surprise ceased to be surprise as anything seemed to be possible with Bhagavan. 

My wife was naturally in a very happy frame of mind when she returned to Anantapur. During dinner, when she narrated to me what had transpired, I said "well, I cannot wear such ordinary stone ring. I can only wear diamond ring". I thought I had said something light and funny. 
Sri Chakravarthi cutting the ribbon at the Sathya Sai Gokulam Inauguration at Puttaparthi
A few days after this, Bhagavan sent two senior persons in the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation to meet and invite me to inaugurate Gokulam at Puttaparthi. That was during the second half of August. I was very glad to accept the invitation and I came to Puttaparthi with my family. And after the function was over, we went into the Mandir and after talking to us, He was about to retire. We had taken Pada Namaskaram. I was about to come out of His room in the Mandir. He smiled at me, waved His hand in a circle a few times, and produced something, polished it in His robe, and asked me to extend my right hand. And when I did so, He said with a smile "Here's a beautiful and precious diamond ring. Wear it". I was speechless. Did He hear my light-hearted comment to my wife when she showed the ring Bhagavan gave? Was it yet another surprise? At this rate, our lives will be full of surprises, and surprise will be the rule of life, I thought. And so it has been. 

A month after this, when we came to Puttaparthi, while talking to Bhagavan, my wife prayed to Him that He should perform the Upanayanam (sacred thread ceremony) of our sons. He said that whenever my mother and brother came along with us, then He would perform it. We returned to Anantapur; on my return, there was a telegram from my brother saying that he would be coming to Anantapur with our mother after four days! There was no indication at ail that they would be coming then. in fact, according to their original plan they were to come after two months. We all went to Parthi. 

On earlier occasions, Bhagavan used to call us after our arrival by 7.00 am, and talk to us. We used to leave Puttaparthi by 8.30 am and be back to Anantapur by 10.00 am to be in time for my office work. The day when we came to Parthi with my mother, brother and the children, happened to be Vijaya Dashami day. There was no Dasera celebration that year. Around 9.00 AM, I was informed that Bhagavan was very busy and that I can go back to Anantapur if I wanted to. I said that I was not in a hurry and that I could stay. At 10.00 am, 11.00 am, and again at 12.00 noon the same message was brought that Bhagavan was still busy and that I could return. I sent reply that would like to stay for the day and wait till Bhagavan was free to see us. By 12.15 pm there was a knock on my door, and I was informed that Bhagavan wanted us to come to Poornachandra Auditorium. We all went there. Swami came and said that since He was busy directing the students for the forthcoming drama "Jesus - Son of Man", He sent word that we could go back to Anantapur and come some other day. He was gracious and spoke to us all. My wife then reminded Him about the Upanayanam of the children. Bhagavan asked as to when she would like to have it and my wife replied almost exuberantly "Now Swami". He thought for a moment and said that He would perform it at 4.35 pm. And He did so. 
Sri Chakravarthi garlanding Sri Sathya Sai at the Prasanthi Nilayam Campus
I have narrated the above because of what I learnt about the occasion two or three months later. I was informed by two of the senior devotees who were with Bhagavan during the drama rehearsal that He mentioned to them "Chakravarthi is here. I am asking him to go. But if he stays today, his life will take a turn in a particular direction, if he goes away, his life will take another turn". I did stay and that's why my life had taken the direction of turning my life Godward or shall I say Swamiwards! To have been given the good sense to stay for that day was, I think, an act of Grace of Bhagavan. I do not feel that I can take credit for exercising my free will wisely! 


About The Author:
Mr. K. Chakravarthi, I.A.S. (Retd.) held several high positions under the Government of Andhra Pradesh. He joined the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of High Learning (Deemed University) as Registrar from its very inception November 1981. Since 1995, he served as Secretary of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust at Prasanthi Nilayam. From 2011, he is a Trustee of Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust. Since July 2018, Sri Chakravarthi is the Chancellor of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning.

Source: Sai Vandana 1990 (65th Birthday Offering)

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