When the disciple is ready, the Guru seeks him on His own. The story of how this young man comes to Swami is rich with many such divine lessons and learnings. An ardent follower of Shirdi Baba, Srivatsa Saiputra had vehemently denied the Sathya Sai avatar as Shirdi Baba’s reincarnation. But a series of divine events in his life changed all that.
Born and brought up in Bangalore, Srivatsa is an Economics Graduate from the Bangalore University. He worked in a risk management company for more than three years, before relocating to Sathya Sai Grama, Muddenahalli on Bhagawan’s command. He now works as the Co-operations Coordinator in the Sri Sathya Sai Premamrutha Prakashana Trust and the radio station, Sanathana Vani.
I was born in a family that worshipped Shirdi Baba as their God and Guru for the past four generations. And so, it wasn’t difficult for me to accept Shirdi Baba as my God; for that matter, it came very naturally to me. But what didn’t was the adoration of Sri Sathya Sai Baba as the avatar of Shirdi Baba. Was it due to my love and devotion to Shirdi Baba or was it due to plain ignorance, I know not. But as a family, we never believed in the Sathya Sai avatar, until that one day. The day that changed my life!
The Triple Avatar
The triple Sai Avatar was quite an alien concept to me. I knew nothing about it, and refused to consider it even when a friend told me about it many years ago. I believed in Shirdi Baba and His words and to the best of my knowledge, there was no mention of the triple Sai incarnation in the Sai Satcharitra. I didn’t even want to entertain such a thought, and so the triple incarnation story failed to pique my interest. But everything changed on that fateful day in November 2011 when Shirdi Baba decided to reveal to me His presence as the Sathya Sai avatar.
I was a regular volunteer in “Sai Mandir” in South Bangalore (Shirdi Baba’s temple). In November 2011, the Sai Mandir Trust decided to celebrate the birthday of Sri Sathya Sai Baba as a tribute to Him. It was the first birthday since His Samadhi and the Mandir wanted to pay its tribute. As a volunteer, my duty was to take care of the Shirdi Sai idol and the pujas being conducted in the hall opposite to the main Mandir. On the night of 22nd, the other volunteers and I finished decorating the Mandir, bhajan hall and Mandir hall by late night, and went home. I reached home around 2.30 AM and quickly hit the bed, since I had to go to the flower market early next morning to prep for the function in the temple the next day, 23rd November. And that night, I was blessed with this amazing, life-altering dream.
In the dream, Shirdi Baba, garbed in a white robe, appeared before me and started scolding me for not believing in the triple avatarhood! He then explained the concept to me, quoting words and lines from the very Sai Satcharitra that I swore by. “What is it that you doubt when I am present in all the living forms in this universe, I am present in all the saints and the gurus. Open your inner eyes and you shall see this truth.” ~ Chapter 32, topic – The Quest, in Sai Satcharitra.
Even as He was explaining it to me, He got very angry, took out His turban and threw it at my face. While I stared blankly at Baba, my mind still trying to figure out what was happening, the most beautiful scene unfolded. Slowly, but surely, the form of Shirdi Sai metamorphosed into that of Sathya Sai, with His characteristic little curls, glinting eyes and a crack of a smile. Sathya Sai Baba then wiped His face with His hands and gave me a questioning look, as if teasingly asking me who I thought He was! While I struggled to assimilate the events, Baba came near me and with a mischievous smile asked, “Do you still not believe in me?”
While my dream ended on that note, it flagged off the beginning of the most eventful phase of my life. Needless to say, I woke up a transformed man. What a revealing dream it was! The next day I however didn’t get the time to sit and ponder on the significance of the dream. As soon as I woke up, I rushed to the flower market to procure the flowers and then reached the Sai Mandir. There was a lot of work to be done. While I went about doing my chores in the Mandir, my mind kept reliving the dream many times over. I felt a sense of shock and numbness. It was a lot to grasp. My entire belief system had been challenged. But, like it is His wont, Baba wasn’t done with me as yet! In the evening when I went to the hall where Sathya Sai Baba’s birthday was being celebrated, I was in for another experience of the divine kind. The hall was bedecked with flowers and it presented a beautiful scene. There was a jhoola, adorned artfully with flowers, swinging gently to the rhythms of the bhajans, with a picture of Sathya Sai Baba placed at the centre. For a moment, as I stood there, gazing at the grandeur of the occasion, Sathya Sai Baba, appeared on the jhoola in flesh and blood! He looked at me and nodded, as if to remind me once again that it was indeed my Shirdi Baba that had come again as Him! Within moments, the inner turmoil I had been battling with the whole day, ended on its own – my heart and mind needed no more proof! It was indeed my Shirdi Baba, my Sathya Sai Baba.
While my heart leapt in blissful chorus, having found the God and Guru I so adored, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat bad about having missed the priceless opportunity of seeing and serving Sathya Sai Baba when He was physically present. Alas! What a missed opportunity, my heart lamented, inconsolably. It’s a rare fortune to be contemporaries of God, but it’s a greater misfortune to be unaware of it. I knew I couldn’t do much about the missed opportunity, so I decided to make up for it by following the path of service Sathya Sai Baba lived by. That would be my offering of love to Him, I thought. So, I joined a nearby Sai Centre, where I met a Sai brother, who was the Youth Coordinator for service activities. Under his guidance, I started volunteering in Brindavan (Swami’s ashram in Bangalore) and the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences in Whitefield, Bangalore. I was living the dream life – my life became joyous and seeped in bliss.
Sathya Sai to Sookshma Sai
A year later, in 2012, one of the Sai brothers told me about Breakfast Seva, a unique service offering that was being planned. By that time, I had completed my studies and had started working in a corporate risk management firm. The work was a high-pressure one, and my only vent was the time I spent in the Government school in the village doing breakfast seva. Though office work kept me busy, I managed to go to the village once a month.
Two years later, in 2014, I happened to meet the same Sai brother who had helped me volunteer in the Sai organisation. He then revealed to me the happenings in Muddenahalli, about Swami’s continued presence in the subtle form and His mission. He took a group of us to the ashram. As soon as I saw brother Madhusudan, I remembered a Swami dream that I had a year ago. In my dream, I had seen Swami hold the hand of Madhusudan brother and walk around. Of course, at that time, I had no idea who he was. But when I saw him again in Muddenahalli, I knew Swami had brought me to the right place. Having found my Lord again, I was determined not to miss any opportunity to serve Him this time around! I immediately started taking an active part in the service activities in Muddenahalli.
The Kodai Connect
In May 2015, I got the opportunity to volunteer and serve Swami during His ‘Holiday’ in Kodaikanal, the hill station in Tamil Nadu that He used to frequent every year earlier too. It was a two-week seva opportunity and I had dutifully applied for leave at my office. Even though my leave had officially been approved, just a couple of days prior to the seva, they cancelled it. I was then summoned to the office of the Vice President of the company. He informed me that they had cancelled my leave request, and asked me to continue my work as a critical project was due. My heart sank. I had waited so long for opportunities to serve Swami only to be stuck in a situation which was taking me away from the seva my heart longed to do. Not willing to let go of without a fight, I argued passionately with the Vice President, impressing upon him the inevitability of my leave application. He asked me to leave the job, if the leave of absence was that important to me. What can I say, I was joyous at his response! In my heart, I thanked him for the opportunity he had provided to serve Swami, and walked out of the office, a happier man.
Soon, my two weeks of bliss began in Kodai. I hadn’t told anyone except my mother about the loss of job, but the omniscient Swami knew about it. During the May 17th session with the Kodai volunteers, He publicly spoke about how I had left my job for doing the seva. He then called me near His chair, blessed and assured me that He will take care of me and bless me with a better job soon.
By now, my faith in my Swami had grown by leaps and bounds. Nothing could shake my faith in Him, not even my mother being diagnosed with cancer. End of May in 2015, during the second day of the Summer Course in Indian Culture and Spirituality in Muddenahalli, I learnt of my mother being suspected of having cancerous cysts in her uterus. Just before Swami was to come for Darshan, she called and informed me that she was going in for a scan and the doctor suspected that the cysts could be malignant. I told her to keep her faith in Swami and not worry. “Swami would take care of you”, I assured her.
That evening when Swami came for Darshan, he came straight towards me and enquired about my job search. And then, just before He turned, He said, “Amma Jagrata” (take care of your mother).
Later that week when my mother went to doctor to discuss the next course of action and take a repeat scan, a pleasant surprise awaited her. The scans came out perfectly normal, with no signs of cancer or cysts even! All the earlier reports and diagnoses were cross-verified, but nothing could explain the ‘obvious miracle’. It was the divine visiting card we knew – He had cancelled the cancer!
Inner view and insights
At a time when I should have been drowned in worries about getting a good job, I was floating in the bliss of nearness and dearness to the God my heart had long yearned for. My world was resplendent with the many soulful experiences Swami was bestowing me with.
Swami would bless me with His visions often, and sometimes even during public darshans. When I was in Kodai doing service, I was fortunate to have His Darshan once when He went out in the car on a picnic with the students and guests. I could see Him seated in the front seat of the Jaguar, and as if to acknowledge what I was seeing, Swami looked at me and smiled. On another occasion, I saw Swami in the car again, but this time in Muddenahalli during the Summer Course. Yet another instance was when I saw Him giving a discourse during the Athi Rudra Maha Yagna in October 2015. On Swami’s command, I was volunteering with the webcast team, when I saw Him seated on the chair, giving the discourse. Till that time, I had thought that Swami would look at brother Madhusudan while giving the discourse. But that day I saw Swami look at the devotees while addressing them.
Though such visions were short in duration, it was long enough to seal my faith in Swami for lifetimes.
The Dream Job
While Swami would lovingly enquire about my job search each time, my focus continued to be only Him. I really didn’t worry about finding a job. I knew it would come at the right time, as per His will for me.
Here I would like to share a revealing dream. The dream was so vivid that it gives me goose bumps every time I think about it. In the dream, we were having a Shri Anantha Padmanabha Swami puja in my house. At the end of the worship, my mother asked me to take namaskar of the deity. But when I went to take namaskar, I was surprised to see that all the offerings made were to Swami’s throne and not to the special altar that was created for the Anantha Padmanabha Swami worship. So, I went to the puja room where the photo of Anantha Padmanabha was kept. As soon as I entered the altar, I saw the beautiful photo of Anantha Padmanabha Swami, looking all magnificent and life-like. And when I went nearer, Swami came out of that photograph and asked me, “Anantha Padmanabha Swami ni choostava?” (Do you want to see the deity Shri Ananta Padmanabha?) I replied in the affirmative. Holding my hand, Swami then takes me on a cosmic tour, through the Bramhanda Loka, through the Ksheera Sagara (the ocean of milk) and through the seven doors to the Vaikunta Loka. At the end of it, I could see the majestic Ananta Padmanabha or Shriman Narayana himself, sleeping on the huge Adishesha (serpent). I was so caught up in the beauty of the Lord that I didn’t realise that Swami wasn’t standing near me anymore. And as soon as I noticed His absence, He appeared in the attire of Ananta Padmanabha sleeping on the Adishesha! He then came near me, and asked, “Viswaroopam Choostava?” (Do you want to see Viswaroopam?) Even before I could say yes, Swami assumed a gigantic form. He was so big that I couldn’t even see His face. There was a luminous light coming out of His body. It was so bright that after a while unable to bear it, I started screaming in pain. Swami then shrunk to a smaller size and transforms Himself to the form of “Viswaroopam”. It was such a powerful sight! After a while, He assumed His form again and brings me back through the same route, but this time to Muddenahalli. I come back with Swami to His room, where brother Madhusudan was waiting for Him. Once we reach, brother took Swami’s blessings and both of them go out for Darshan and satsangh. After a while, they both return, and Swami blesses me saying “You will soon work for me.”
In another dream, Swami took me to an inaugural function near Muddenahalli and after the programme, asked me if I would like to work for Him in Muddenahalli. I said yes. He then instructs me to learn about the Upanishads, the great Indian saints and their stories etc. as it would help me with my future job. Nodding in agreement, I then ask Him when I should join. To which Swami replied “Very soon. I need to arrange things for you”. This was in June 2015.
In November 2015, I was blessed with another dream. In the dream I was having lunch on the banana leaf with the Sai family. Out of nowhere, a young boy, about six years of age, comes up to me and asks me about joining and working for Him to Muddenahalli. Again I say yes. The little boy nods in acknowledgement and says, “You will be called soon. My blessings are there with you”. Saying so, the boy leaves. Soon, one of the Sai brothers seated next to me tells me that it was none other than Prema Sai! A few years ago, I had vehemently denied the triple incarnation theory and here I was now, being frequented by the three avatars in my dreams!
As I have later realised, the many Sai dreams were just preparing me for the dream job. A month later, on the 14th of December 2015, Swami asked me to join the Sri Sathya Sai Premamrutha Prakashana Trust and the newly-launched radio station, Sanathana Vani. It was exactly a year ago that I had first come to Muddenahalli to have Swami’s Darshan!
What can I say, my life had come a full circle, and Swami was at its centre, periphery and everywhere else. And I know in my heart that this is just the beginning of my Sai-filled life, for the best is yet to come.