To enjoy the full glory of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, we have to learn to go inwards, to form a strong bond of love with Him in our hearts, which is His true residence. Sri Gopalakrishnan Ramanan, a former student of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Prashanthi Nilayam Campus, shares his transformative experiences that highlight the importance of building a heart-to-heart, direct relationship with Bhagawan. Sri Gopal, graduated from the Sathya Sai University in 2006. He currently lives in Mumbai, India and works for The Times of India.
“Nityanandam Parama Sukhadam Kevalam Gnanamurthym
Dwandwathetam Gaganasadrusham Tatwamatsyadi Lakshyam
Ekam, Nityam, Vimalam, Achalam, Sarvadi Sakshibhutam.”
“Eternal bliss, supreme happiness, wisdom, non-dual, ultimate, the single one, pure, immobile and eternal witness – these are the various names and descriptions of the Atma. The Atma has no form, so do not aim to see the form of God. Instead, consider all the forms you see to be God’s. Do not fix various forms as unique to God.”
Clearly, what Swami has been, is and will be, points to the same truth that He is the Indweller, the Eternal Witness, who is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. The compassionate Lord assumed the beautiful 5’4” human form just to make us mortals understand and experience divinity. He walked, talked, laughed and lived amongst us, setting an ideal example for leading a kind and noble life.
My family and I are blessed to have experienced Baba’s divinity since the 1990s. By His grace, we have basked in His omnipresence while He was in His physical form as well as now when He is in His subtle form. I am also fortunate to have a mother who can see Baba’s subtle form.
Journey to Muddenahalli
When Swami left His physical form on the April 24th 2011, my father and I immediately reached Parthi the morning after. We stayed there for a few days and when we returned to our home in Mumbai, we took a picture of Swami’s Samadhi for the house altar. But as soon as my mother saw the picture, she chastised us for worshiping the Samadhi when she could see Swami in flesh and blood in our home! We were surprised to hear about it, but I didn’t quite accept it. How can it be? My apprehensions, however, were put to rest, when in the evening, Swami made a profound statement to my mother, ‘I am ageless. Why are you worrying? I will be there with you all forever.’
All I needed was this assurance from Swami! My faith got the life support it required, and I knew my Swami was always with me, form or no form. It was around the same time that we started hearing about the happenings in Muddenahalli, and about Sri Narasimha Murthy sir’s dream. We were immediately drawn to the place, for we had by then realised that Swami couldn’t be contained to our understanding of Him.
Life moved on and we never really made the trip to Muddenahalli. In January 2014, we were scheduled to visit the Whitefield Ashram for the ‘One with Sai’ musical programme. My family first visited Parthi and after a satisfying stay there, decided to go to Muddenahalli and watch the practise sessions for their forthcoming Sports Meet, before going to Whitefield for the programme. They had their first encounter with Swami in the subtle body then. My mother however could see Swami’s magnificent form in Muddenehalli and she was convinced that it was indeed Swami who was there. Unfortunately, due to prior work commitments, I couldn’t join them. Instead I came directly to Whitefield on the designated day.
My rendezvous with Swami came a year later. Again in January, my family and I had to make a trip to Bangalore for a family function. This time too we decided to go to Muddenahalli. We reached the ashram just in time to see Bhagawan returning from the stadium after the Sports Meet function. We stood by the side of the road Swami’s car was supposed to pass by. I had a letter in my hand and prayer in my heart. It was a moment of joyous excitement, a moment that will forever be etched in my heart. When Swami’s car came near us, my mother took the letter from my hand and gave it to Swami. She could see Swami and was thrilled. Seeing her so happy, made me happy too. We stayed back for the evening discourse and bhajans and it was a very fulfilling experience.
That same year, we visited the ashram twice, once during Dussehra and then for Birthday Celebrations. During both the times my mother could see Swami giving Darshan, walking amidst devotees and sitting through the entire proceedings. There is an interesting side story to how the Birthday trip happened. Every year, after seeking Swami’s approval, we celebrate all functions such as Guru Purnima, Shivarathri and Swami’s birthday functions at home. But this year, we had shifted temporarily to a smaller house as our house was undergoing renovation.
The new house simply didn’t have the space for us to celebrate His birthday function. So, for the first time, my mother asked Swami if we could instead visit Parthi and Muddenahalli. Swami agreed and told us to first visit Parthi and then Muddenahalli. Just a day before Birthday, when we reached Parthi, housing ourselves in the beautiful tents that had been erected for the function, a happy surprise awaited us. We were welcomed by none other than Swami Himself! He greeted us in Tamil, our mother tongue, saying, “Vanditiya” (you have come). We were simply overjoyed. After attending the morning celebrations in Parthi, we reached Muddenahalli in time for the evening function there.
Swami arrived soon and walked towards the dais of the Sri Sathya Sai Premamrutham Hall, having avoided the ladies side where my mother was seated. She immediately started praying fervently for Swami to turn and come towards the ladies side. And as soon as she started her prayers, Bhagawan made an unexpected turn, and walked straight to the devotee seated next to her. He spoke to that lady and then turned to my mother and said, “Why are you worrying so much when I am there? I will take care!”
After the programme, when Swami came towards the men’s section, my brother and I rushed to the pathway and gave our letters to Him. And yet another visit ended on a spiritual high for us.
Swami is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent
Having shared the experiences we had with Swami in His subtle form, I can say with conviction that Swami is beyond form – He is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. Nothing moves without His will. I would like to narrate some incidents from my life that corroborate this realisation.
A few months ago, my parents, grandmother and brother had been to Nerul, a suburb in Navi Mumbai to attend a wedding. Normally, this particular area is very desolate. It is also notorious for chain snatching and other such crimes. That evening, it was a little over 9 PM when they finally managed to come out of the wedding function. Knowing the risks involved, they decided to hire an auto to get to the railway station. But as luck would have it, there wasn’t one in sight. So, my brother and father decided to walk some distance in search for one, while my mother and grandmother stood to the side of the road. The duo had hardly covered some distance, when two men passed by them on a bike. The men were dressed in casuals and looked like regular office-goers. But when they neared my mother, the pillion rider tried to snatch the gold chain she was wearing around her neck. All this happened so quickly, there was hardly any time to react. But somehow my brother shouted at them, and the startled men on the bike failed in their attempt to snatch the chain.
By the time my family returned home, I could see that shock had set in. While they tried to gather their wits, the one question that lingered in all our minds was why it had happened to them! My mother was crying out to Swami, and I could see that they were all visibly upset by the incident.
Swami then appeared to my mother and very lovingly explained to her, “Why do you worry about the jewelry more than your own life? I saved your life today by making your son shout at them. If I had not alerted him at the right time, the person who was trying to pull your chain would have cut your neck as he was using a small blade, tied to his index finger.” Even as Swami went on to explain the whole incident, we were rendered speechless. My mother couldn’t control her tears. The Lord had come to our rescue even without us having called on to Him. What more can we ask for! While in our hearts we all know that Swami is omnipresent, experiencing it is a different feeling altogether.
Swami as Sri Ramana Maharshi
Swami is the indweller in every being, and He taught us this lesson beautifully. My grandfather was devoted to Swami Ramana Maharshi for a long time. Every Sunday he would conduct Satsanghs in our native village – with activities such Veda chanting, and chanting of Aksharamani Malai (written by Swami Ramana Maharshi in the form of garland of 108 verses as letters to Lord Arunachaleshwar). Once when we were visiting our native place in Chennai, we got an opportunity to attend the Satsangh. The experience was so beautiful that it filled up our hearts. We silently prayed to Bhagawan to give us opportunities to attend such Satsanghs even when we went back to Mumbai. And the immediate Sunday after we got back home, we chanted the 108 garland of verses composed by the Maharshi. Even as the chanting was going on, my mother was blessed with a vision of Maharshi. She saw Him sitting on the throne, specially made for Swami, in the shrinking position that He usually sits. It was a great moment of revelation and realisation to my mother that Swami and Maharshi were one and the same! Needless to say, since then, we have continued to chant those divine verses of Maharshi every Sunday.
Such instances of the Lord’s love and presence in devotees’ life are plenty. While the Lord leaves His footprint in our lives, my heart rejoices for I know it’s only the beginning. More such incidents will continue to happen to devotees worldwide, and it will only grow multi-fold in the coming years as Bhagawan prepares us all for something more profound and precious – developing that deep bond with Him within.
What’s the use of divine experiences if it can’t transform us to become better individuals? By the grace of Bhagawan, ever since He came into my life, I have experienced a transformation that’s made me more complete in many ways. I remember when I was young, I was attracted to Bhagawan’s magnificence and bhajans. And that made me strive to sing, and ultimately to become His student. And now I am in a different phase of inner growth, learning to feel His omnipresence on my own or through my mother. And the experience is always fulfilling. No matter what form we connect to, the joy we experience in our hearts in His presence continues to remain the same. With His blessings and grace, I hope, all of us will soon be able to experience Him in His true form – that of pure love.