MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE SUBTLE BODY OF BHAGAWAN SRI SATHYA SAI BABA – Mr. ROBERT BOZZANI

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Mr. Robert A. Bozzani came to Swami in 1974 and has been involved with the Sai Organisation in the USA since its inception in 1975. He has served on the Sathya Sai Council of the USA since 1975. He was also the Trustee of the Sathya Sai Book Center of America from 1989-2012.


My first encounter with what is being called the ‘Subtle Body of Sathya Sai Baba’ was in May 2014, when I received an e-mail containing a transcript of Swami’s divine discourse in Kodaikanal. I read this discourse, and it mentioned that there would be new accommodation built for students the following year. This brought up a question in my mind, because I had been to Kodaikanal with Swami twice previously and knew that student accommodation had been built many years before. So, it didn’t seem like this was one of the old discourses, but rather a new one. I called my friend David Cornsweet and asked if he had the e-mail address of Narasimha Murthy, who had also been mentioned in the e-mail. I wrote to Narasimha Murthy, with my question as to whether this was a new discourse, and he e-mailed me back, saying only, “You got it!” That’s all I heard.

The idea of Sathya Sai Baba appearing in other than a physical form, or in different places, was not a problem to me, because I have faith in His omnipresence and omnipotence. To go back in time, three years prior, in April 2011, at Easter time, I had had an interesting experience. My wife, Barbara, was in a nursing home, and I was in Phoenix, Arizona, visiting some Sai friends. On Saturday, the eve of Easter, I picked up a book written by Swami and opened it to Chapter 3. Swami was saying, “Become devoted to the formless, not the form.” He explained that, if you have never seen something and you read about it, it is a formless idea, until you see it physically.

He also talked about the ritual of offering a flower as a sign of devotion. Swami was saying to give the flower, but now it should be the formless aspect, which is love. It is all about love:

Love in speech is truth;

Love in action is righteousness;

Love in thought is peace;

Love in understanding is non-violence.

That made so much sense to me and struck me vividly, particularly when Swami chose the next day, Easter, to leave the physical form. To me, the ‘bottom line’ of His message was that, to relate to the formless aspect, we must now live the teachings we have been taught and live in love. I felt this was Swami’s direct guidance, pointing the way forward after His mahasamadhi, I did not have a problem with making a transition to being devoted to the formless.

Encinitas, June 2014

After reading the discourse from Kodaikanal, the following month, in June 2014, I received a call from David Cornsweet. He said, “Sathya Sai Baba is going to visit Encinitas on 29 June, 2014,” and that I was invited to attend.

I flew to San Diego on Saturday, 28th June, and spent the night with friends. That evening, David called us and said, “Come for lunch.” When we arrived, we saw quite a few people – at least 20 or more – gathered there. I was really pleased to see friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, including C. Sreenivas of Bengaluru, Dr. Ram Setty, and others.

We had a wonderful lunch, not knowing what was going to happen next. Then, right after lunch, up on a balcony, a young gentleman appeared – I did not yet know this was Madhusudhan – and he said, “Come up. Swami wants to see you.” He asked for Dr. Sandweiss, Mrs. Sandweiss, David Cornsweet and his wife, and me, so we went. Upstairs was a beautiful puja room, and to me it was like sitting with Swami, just as we had experienced many times in the interview room in Prasanthi Nilayam. Swami sat on His chair, with Madhusudhan seated to one side, and Swami greeted us.

The communication through Madhusudhan was not as if you were talking to me and I were repeating it – absolutely not. There was no delay, as such. Swami just communicated through him, and that’s what made it easy to grasp, at least for me. Over the past year or more, over the course of several opportunities to interact with Swami in this way, various times I heard not Madhusudhan’s, but Swami’s familiar voice. Swami has also said, “Some can see and hear Me now (in the Subtle Form)” – not limiting this ability to Madhusudhan alone.

First, Swami talked to Dr. and Mrs. Sandweiss, with questions and answers, and then He talked to me, and, as usual, just as He would always say in an interview, He asked, “How are you, Bozzani?” And then, typical as well, He asked about my wife: “How is your wife?”

My wife Barbara had been in a board and care home for several years, so I replied, “Well, Swami. She is in a nursing home. She seems to be calm and contented.” “Yes,” He said, “she’s in a very special place, and soon she will be coming with Me and will be with Me when Prema Sai comes, because that has been her desire.”

At that moment, I knew – and if I had any doubt, it was over then, because nobody knew this secret. I alone knew that my wife had asked Sai Baba many times if she could be with Him when Prema Sai comes. He would never fully answer, because He always encouraged us that this is our chance, now, in this lifetime – but I knew that, to be with Prema Sai, was her deep desire.

We went on to talk about other things, and then He talked to the Cornsweets. After that, He said, “Okay” – in other words, to dismiss us but, after we got up to leave, He said, “Come for the Birthday,” meaning around November 23, in the fall of 2014.

Birthday, November 2014

Well, I certainly made plans to go for the Birthday of 2014. He had instructed me, “Go to both places, Prasanthi and Muddenahalli” – that He’d be in both places. Well, I didn’t know what that meant, but I did as He instructed and planned to arrive in late November. I was there only a short time, maybe 10 days altogether. I went first to Prasanthi Nilayam for two days (November 22 and 23), and had the most beautiful experience at the mahasamadhi of Swami.

Also, whilst in our room in the ashram that I’ve had for years, I realised there were so many things that were no longer needed. So, I started to give them away – to the workers, the cleaners, and so on. It was an awful lot to do. Before I left, one part of the room still needed to be gone through – my wife, Barbara’s closet. I thought I would do that corner the next morning before I was to leave.

On the Birthday, the 23rd, I got up early and started cleaning out that area, and lo and behold! I found a letter addressed to Sri Sathya Sai Baba. I didn’t know what to do with it, so I opened it and read it. I discovered that Barbara had written this letter the last time she was in Prasanthi Nilayam, which would turn out to be her last visit of this lifetime. On that trip, we had been called for a ‘going away’ interview, just before our departure. Swami called us and spoke to Barbara in Telugu for 30 minutes! Obviously, this was a significant message being delivered directly to the soul, as our Omniscient Sai knew all that was to happen to Barbara in the coming years, and that this would be her last visit. Yet, despite being called for this interview, Barbara did not have a chance to give Swami the letter during that last trip.

I gasped and decided to save the letter and bring it home to show our daughter because, in that letter, Barbara apologised and asked forgiveness. She forgave her own father who had left her and her mother at an early age.

Even more, she admitted she was having a lot of trouble forgiving him. During one of our last interviews with Swami in the physical form, He had said, “Get rid of all prejudices!” Many of us had tried time and again to encourage her to forgive her father, and she knew she had to, but at that last visit, she finally did. So, I certainly packed up the letter to take home with me.

Muddenahalli

Then I went on to Muddenahalli. I arrived at the designated hotel, which was near the Bengaluru airport, about 45 minutes from Muddenahalli. I had lunch, took a little rest, and then called the contact I had been given in Muddenahalli. Many invitees from overseas had come, and about 40 of us were staying together at the hotel. All the arrangements, from the hotel reservation, to arranging for a driver, to providing all the meals at Muddenahalli – it was all done beautifully.

When I arrived in Muddenahalli later that day, the afternoon festivities for the Birthday had already started at the university stadium. The programme was going forward right away, and Swami gave a discourse, with Narasimha Murthy translating into English. Just as Swami would give discourses while in the form, in Telugu – with Gokak, Kasturi, or Anil Kumar translating into English – Madhusudhan transmitted Swami’s Telugu and Narasimha Murthy translated it into English. I also observed during this and subsequent opportunities to listen to Swami, and similar to when Swami was in the physical form that, generally during discourses, He spoke first in Telugu and that was then translated into English. Otherwise, during more personal interactions, such as interviews or questions and answers, He was more likely to speak directly in English, with Madhusudhan acting as a ‘microphone,’ delivering the message in English.

After a break, C. Sreenivas of Bengaluru gave a talk about a beautiful heart-shaped hospital that had just been built in Raipur, where one thousand operations had been done on the hearts of children. One thousand! Obviously, this is a big problem in India, with children being born with bad hearts, and it takes specialists to do the kind of operations that are needed. Then they talked about the schools that had already been built. Following that was a musical programme, santoor music by Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, which was outstanding. I was so moved by this music; it was entrancing, and I felt I finally ‘got’ Indian music. I was in awe.

The next morning, David Cornsweet and I went to the top of the hill at Muddenahalli. We walked into a room, a nice small bhajan hall where a lot of people were gathered. We took seats facing the stairway and a lift. I didn’t know what was going to happen.

After some time, the lift doors opened. Swami appeared with Madhusudhan, and He greeted everyone and took letters, acknowledging people by name. He walked up to His chair and sat, and then spoke for a few minutes. Then we sang bhajans, and after bhajans, Swami went upstairs. At one point during that morning session, several of us took photos of Swami while He sat in His chair. These were taken at the same moment from virtually the same camera angle. Interestingly, one of the images, taken by one of my companions, revealed a beam of light above Swami’s chair. My friend thought there might be something wrong with his camera, but I interpreted it as a blessing, a manifestation of divine light in the image.

After lunch, we drove back to the hotel, rested for a while, and returned for the evening programme. It was a wonderful experience, because it was exactly like Swami’s familiar daily routine at Prasanthi Nilayam.

The next day, David and I again went up the hill, and again a lot of people were there. I was in awe of the number of people assembled. Once again, Swami came down in the lift, greeted people, went to the front, and, as He was talking, all of a sudden, many kinds of food were brought in through the door. I was thinking, my goodness, is all this food being blessed so that it can then be taken to feed the poor?

After bhajans, Swami invited us all upstairs for lunch. So up we went, into a big dining hall. I’ve had the privilege previously of going places with Swami and dining in a hall where He was the Honoured Guest, but in this case, oh my goodness! – there were at least a hundred people! I recognised a lot of friends. The women were seated on the left side of the room and the men on the right, with Swami’s chair in the middle. We were all seated and waiting.

Then, the lift opened, and out came Swami and Madhusudhan. They moved toward the right side of the room and Swami started talking to people at the first table, where several others and I were seated. To my left was David. Then Swami came and started talking to me. For some reason that morning, I’d had the urge to put the letter from Barbara in my pocket. Swami came by where I was seated and said to me, “You came late.”

At first I didn’t know what He meant, but as I reflected, I laughed at Swami’s omnipresence. I realised He was referring to the previous day, when I had arrived late for the birthday celebrations, and it was Swami’s typical style of conveying His omniscience in a way that would be unmistakably personal. Then He said, “Eat the food and enjoy,” and other beautiful greetings, as He always does. At that point, I held out Barbara’s letter, and He accepted it and moved on. We chanted the food prayer as a group, and, as is customary at meals in Swami’s presence, we paused after the prayer for Swami to take the first bite, after which we all started to eat.

At evening time, we went up again to Swami’s residence for bhajans. The hall was again full of people. Outside, it was cold, but when Swami came down, He walked outside, greeted people, took letters, went back in, and sat with us during the bhajans. What a beautiful end to that Monday.

The next morning, we went up the hill a bit earlier and we were the first to go in. We decided to sit at the very front, but where we could be near the lift and the stairs. We both closed our eyes and got into a very quiet mood. Not many people came that morning, as a large group from Singapore had left.

My eyes were closed and I felt very peaceful. Interrupting my reverie, David nudged me gently and said, “There’s a gentleman on the stairway who says that Swami wants to see you.” I went upstairs and into a beautiful room, an interview room, just as if we were at Prasanthi Nilayam, with a chair for Swami in it, and Swami making all efforts to ensure my comfort.

The Importance of Forgiveness

Just as in Prasanthi Nilayam, Swami greeted me and, after we sat down, asked me, “How are you?” and again, “How is your wife?” As usual, He made me feel so comfortable.

Then I noticed the letter from Barbara was on the table next to Him. He started talking about that letter. He emphasised the importance of forgiveness. He said, “First, have faith. If there is any fear, you cannot have faith,” and, “To delete fear, have faith.” We have to have ‘steady faith’. It’s impossible to love if we can’t forgive. Anything we don’t like is within us, not outside. “Have faith that whatever is going to happen is in your best interest, for your highest good.”

I recalled how, in the Sathya Sai form, He would say often, “Whatever happens, just keep saying, ‘This is good for me.’” He went on to say, “First faith, and then forgiveness,” and, “If you cannot forgive, you cannot love.”

Further, if you can’t forgive, or you retain even one person or circumstance that you can’t forgive – then you still can’t love. In other words, forgiveness is the key to reaching a point of practising divine love.

Practising it – living it – is the whole point. In those moments, as I’ve experienced it – all of a sudden, you say, “I’m God and you’re God.” It all becomes One, and you are released from fear, prejudice, and negative feelings. As Swami says, over and over, “There is only One.”

Then He said, “Dive into your heart, because I am there.”

We know that we have been told that. Now is the time to practise it and realise it, in this age, while He is here. This is the next step for all who have related in the past to the Divine as external to themselves.

Another thing about practising this principle: He is in our hearts – we can ask Him questions, and they will be answered – not later, but immediately. He has spoken about this many times: First faith; then forgiveness; then love – and then, we must ask Swami internally for guidance, because we know, as Swami says over and over again, “God is love; live in love.”

In my heart, I know that this is what we’re supposed to do now. At least practise it, and I firmly believe that He wants us to live it. So, with that, He said that I was dismissed and, by this dismissal, I recognised from past experience and in my heart that it meant that I could just go home. I felt it – but then again, just as I was leaving, He said, “Come to Kodaikanal.” Oh, what a blessing I felt by that!

So, I left and, the next morning, caught my plane from Bengaluru and was home the day before Thanksgiving. This was another blessing, because it had been years since all the family could be together on Thanksgiving, and the family was so happy about it.

Kodaikanal, May 2015

Naturally, after the holidays, I looked forward to going to Kodaikanal in the Spring of 2015. I arrived at the hotel on 8th May and awaited the word. It turned out we were to leave for Kodaikanal on Sunday 10th May, which gave me a much-appreciated day of rest between travels. So we all got our cars arranged and ‘caravanned’ on Sunday, driving all day. I’ve done this before with Swami. He’d stop, and we’d be honoured somewhere with beautiful food for Swami and all of his guests, and later on we’d stop for tea. It was no different this trip.

The next morning, we went up to the ashram, which was at the top of the hill, at the highest point in Kodaikanal. On one side of the property is a beautiful national forest. There was a dining hall that had just been built in ten days, where everybody could be fed, and there were many students, for a total of maybe 150–200 people. We would get there early; breakfast was at eight o’clock, and by nine o’clock, we would be sitting in the hall downstairs, waiting for Swami to come down the stairs.

Then word would come, and we’d start bhajans. He’d come down, accompanied by Madhusudhan, and, once again, greet everybody and talk with them and give little mini-discourses. He would ask people to give talks about their experiences, or even ask for questions, and answer them or call on students to answer. These interactions were very beautiful.

While at Kodaikanal, Swami said, “Go, have fun!” This meant a lot to me, because I tend to take everything about life so seriously. I realised I had stopped simply having fun. I recalled Swami’s teaching, “Life is a game, play it. Life is love, enjoy it.” So, during the rest of the trip, I felt He was giving me this assignment, and I resolved to relax and enjoy everything. I am still reminding myself to ease up, enjoy divine love, and to have fun.

What beautiful surroundings! The volunteers rendering service were extraordinary. There was so much rain and mud; yet the volunteers stood all along the way, out in the elements, lovingly directing people where to go, serving meals, and so on. These were people from all walks of life; PhDs, businessmen – all serving humbly.

The feeling of the Subtle Body was very, very strong; there was no question that I felt I was with Swami. You go there only to see Him, but there’s something to learn, and He’ll bring out the lessons that are necessary. This experience at Kodaikanal was the most beautiful experience I’d had there. What a wonderful journey!

The only thing I can describe of my experience of the Subtle Body is to encourage people to experience it for themselves, because how can we say, “He’s here,” or “He’s not there”? God is everywhere. My attitude is, prove to me where He isn’t, because that’s impossible. Go experience for yourself. How many times has Swami said, “Experience!” He also says, “Practise.” How many times has He said, “Who are you to talk about Me? What do you know about Me? I will be known in the world by how you live My teachings.”

It’s All About Love

Going back a little bit, over here, back in the States, we had a wonderful experience developing a lapel pin in the shape of a golden heart that says, “It’s All About Love.” I had brought along some of those little lapel pins to give to Swami during my visit to Muddenahalli in November 2014. I had the pin and I gave one to Him in the interview room. Then, as I was leaving, Swami said, “Bring 10,000 for the next Birthday.” So, this coming birthday (November 2015) there will be 10,000 pins for Him to distribute. The pin is very simple. It’s the message of today: “It’s All About Love.” I wear this pin practically all the time, and the main reason I wear it is to remind myself, if I get a little off-base, to go back just to practising love – because you have to forgive, if you want to have love.

Encinitas, California, June 2015

The next experience was in late June 2015, when we were in Encinitas, California, where Swami gave a public discourse – and what an experience that was! I had the privilege of being with Swami in the Sathya Sai Book Center of America on Thursday, 18th June. His travelling group had arrived at Los Angeles International Airport and stopped at the Book Center in Tustin for lunch, while en route to San Diego. A small group of guests and long- time Book Center volunteers were present.

While at the Book Center, Swami went into the meditation room and the interview room. The interview room, though reserved for this exact purpose, had, of course, never yet been used. Swami called people in for interviews, which was a lovely blessing and an acknowledgment that the interview room had been waiting for its purpose to be fulfilled. We had lunch at the Book Center and spent time there for about two hours. In my view, He just energised the Book Center. Until this day, the Book Center was the only building that Swami had approved to be built in the USA, which happened years ago through a wonderful soul, Elsie Cowan. He had promised Elsie years before that He would visit the Book Center, and He kept that promise.

Afterwards, we proceeded south toward San Diego. The next day, we accompanied Swami and His entourage back to Orange County to have lunch in the private home of a family in Irvine. He said the only reason He came was because of their pure and divine love; He couldn’t stay away. The family also sang for Him, and then He granted them an interview.

Another reason why this phase of His work is easy for me to believe, is that I had the privilege of seeing all this when He was in His physical body – going to private homes, and so on. This ‘routine’ was exactly the same as when I witnessed Sathya Sai in the physical form making a similar call. I had received that privilege, so it helped a lot for me to bridge the difference between the Subtle Form and the mortal form – and, just as Swami is telling us, we all have subtle forms.

The public meeting in Encinitas was held the next day and it was beautiful. There was a very big turnout. Swami gave a discourse and answered the peoples’ questions. Many of the questions were personal, and He would always answer with so much love and sweetness, yet in such a way to instruct all to “Turn it around to love. Live in love.” That’s what I got out of the discourses.

We were lucky that, on the day of the public meeting, we went to the venue early in the morning. The volunteers gathered and there were some bhajans. Swami came out and sat and talked with us. In the evening, there was a similar gathering, where He talked to us again, and He constantly repeated to us the importance of living in unity and working together. On the morning of 22nd June, before Swami’s entourage, David rounded us up and we waited together for Swami. Again, He spoke at length about the necessity of everyone working together in unity. This was emphasised so much that I realised, no matter what our assignments and challenges are, or will be, they all boil down to the same lesson; learn how to love; live in divine love. I heard the same message over and over again; first faith, then forgiveness. This is how to reach love. Also, to go into the heart, and we can get answers now. “You are Him – I am Him.” He repeated that, too.

Many times, Swami has said, “I can give guidance, but each soul has a choice whether to follow My guidance or take another way home.” I think we’ve all experienced what that means. If we get off course, we’re still going to get there eventually, but He is giving us, directly, the best guidance, gently pointing out the most efficient path, for peace, for living in love, and for realising our Divinity.

Come, Experience, and Decide for Yourself

That is the basis of my experience with the Subtle Form. I tell you, my brothers and sisters, before you make your decision, at least experience it. Experience it and compare this with the opportunities you’ve had to be with Swami in Prasanthi Nilayam. Look back to His first discourse, which He gave in 1968, where He announced to the world why He has come. He has come for transformation. He said in that discourse, “All are tainted,” and that He has come to open our hearts. We have to remind ourselves constantly of that. It’s too easy to go off-course and blame – anyone or anything. No. We must stay focused and practise – live in love and only love. Remember, His Grace is transforming us to be who He wants us to be. What has been happening these past few years, in this phase before Prema Sai comes, is incredible! – hospitals are being constructed, schools are being built. Miraculous! Nobody could do it but Swami, Himself.

Please dive deep within, open your hearts and live in love. My favourite words of Swami: “God is love, live in love.” Sai Ram.

Robert A. Bozzani