Ms. Connie Shaw is the author of “Wake Up Laughing: My Miraculous Life with Sai Baba.”
The first fresh, perfumed scents of spring were in the air. Inside the Hypo Conference Centre (multi-story convention hall) in Zagreb, Croatia, the atmosphere was electric as the august assembly of one thousand distinguished Sai devotees from throughout Europe, the U.K., the U.S., and elsewhere, took their seats about 7:45 a.m. on April 22, 2015. It was to be a twelve-hour day of riveting events. Two hundred people had been turned away and it was rumored that some determined souls had nevertheless slipped into the hallway outside the convention hall to try to hear what would be transpiring.
Like ravenous honey bees, constantly-arriving devotees were preparing their “landing-approaches” to return to the nectarous Heart of the Avatar, Invisible or not! The simple yet elegant stage was set with His regal chair, hand-made, and flanked with white floral arrangements, an amethyst geode and other large crystals, for the imminent entry of the Lord and His Team. A life-sized photo of Baba in an orange robe formed the centerpiece of the stage and film footage of Sathya Sai played overhead on a super-sized screen. Below the stage, there was a charming, ingenious living floral “welcome” sign for the Avatar, about a meter high. The flowers in shades of red, blue, orange and yellow were arranged (invisibly in pots) for take-home souvenirs later. The sign said “Swami, we love you.”
All of the above was easily seen and mentally recorded since the gracious organizers had led my husband, Jim Wright, and me, to reserved seats, (where women and men sat separately) with names attached, in the front of the hall, to our surprise and deep gratitude. Before long, Vedic chanters, women and men, began perfectly intoning slokas. My ears perked up. The program was starting! Having served Sathya Sai Baba for 34 years in various capacities, my information-gathering collectors were automatically in place, knowing that I would be plied with questions upon returning home to the U.S. We’ve always believed that we, who have been fortunate enough to experience unusual opportunities, travels, and experiences in Sai’s Work, have a responsibility to share our insights with others. A blessing for one is a blessing for all.
Since Sai friends would ask many questions, one must be alert all day, during the twelve-hour event, in order to faithfully speak and write accurately about this historic day. They would want to know such things as:
“What did you feel in your heart when you sat in the venue? Did you think that Swami was really there, invisibly? How did you know?”
“What were the vibrations like in the hall and what were the organizers and the attendees like?”
“Was there unity and harmony in the organization and in the execution of the details of the event?”
“What were the Sai Team, or Divine Entourage like, in person, and how did they comport themselves, speak, and interact with each other, with Baba, and with the audience? What impressed you the most about them?”
“How did Sri Madhusudhan, the young adult clairvoyant and clairaudient former Sai student, comport himself, while translating, and when at rest? Did he face Baba, or the audience? Did he stand, sit or kneel during his translation? What was the quality of his voice, his delivery, his posture, his stance and his overall demeanor? Do you think that he is an authentic communicator for Sri Sathya Sai Baba?”
“What did Baba say in His discourses? What was the same in His divine message and what was new? How was the composition of the audience the same or different from other audiences in which you have heard His discourses? Was the audience mostly adults, mostly Westerners? How many children/students were there? How many women vs. men?”
“What did the other speakers have to say, and who were they? What was their authority to speak and what was the quality of their vibrations and demeanor? Could they have been faking devotion, spiritual authority, humility, and could they have been part of a grand deception at this very delicate time in the history of the Avatarhood of Sri Sathya Sai Baba? Some people, especially those who have enjoyed physical proximity to Sai have difficulty believing that Sai Baba is really actively working at Muddenahalli, South India, guiding, directing, speaking, building, organizing and vigorously taking his Mission forward with great speed, efficiency and competence, in creating many new schools, hospitals, dining halls, guest quarters, apartment blocks and infrastructure throughout the planet, not just in India.”
“Since you have been blessed with the seva of taking 48 groups of sick people to India; have been blessed with many interviews; and Swami has appeared in your house 57 times; and hundreds of times during your thousands of talks in dozens of countries, how did you discern whether the Muddenalli phenomenon, the Sai “Sukshma” or Subtle Body, was, in fact, genuine? Could you have been tricked?”
“Was there a security guard or team of body guards present to protect the Sathya Sai Entourage? Where did he/they stand and where did he/they direct their attention? “
“Why do you think Swami picked Croatia, of all places, to serve in such an important capacity as to be one of the main venues for this global trip, complete with a Speaking Team?”
Pure, High Energy and Unified Hearts
The day that was rapidly unfolding was destined to be filled with surprises and blessings. For example, the overall energy quality and intensity level present in the hall, due to the vibrations of the attendees, was incomparable. It was high, unified and satvic (spiritually balanced). There were no cross-current, inharmonic energies to interrupt the serene bliss that pervaded the venue. In fact, Karla, the organizing coordinator, stressed that Baba is the violin Master and the devotees are the instruments, through which He makes music.
Every detail of the event preparation was executed with love and precision. The Event Staff were extremely kind, gracious, alert to needs of attendees, and ebullient with joy and expectation. Croatians are soft-spoken, thoughtful people who have been devastated by a war in 1991, yet who have bounced back in spiritual triumph with humility and open hearts. Perhaps Swami chose Croatia because of the mature hearts of the devotees. Croatian women are strong, strong women! Perhaps they will be future models for the rest of us.
Unusual Nature of the Audience
Unlike most audiences to whom Sathya Sai has spoken where devotees have been present, the Croatian audience was comprised of Western adults, primarily from Europe. They have been tried in the fires of war, financial deprivation, hunger, unemployment and climate changes. They have been chastened and softened, prepared for New Work.
Impressions of the Sai Speaking Team
Finally the “entry moment” of the Avatar and Team arrived. They fairly blazed with Light as they walked through the black cotton double-curtain from behind the stage, arrayed in sparkling white outfits, all different, yet harmonious. Sri Madhusudhan, referred to by most as Madhu for short, looked handsome, shy and boyish, with down-cast eyes, as he followed Baba up to the stage.
Dynamic, forty-ish Sri Ravi Kasturi, Sai’s enormously talented Team Organizer and Envoy, who has the energy of triplets and the charm of Krishna, did not sit with the Team, but magically kept things moving behind stage – regarding the lunch arrangements and directing the unobtrusive, brown-uniformed security guard (who stood with crossed arms in front of the crowd to the right of Baba’s chair, at ground level). (I wonder how Ravi explained his protective duties to the security guard? In other words, the Guest of Honor will be invisible!) Sri Ravi is like a combination of a fast-moving sprite, a circus ring-leader, a Master of Ceremonies, a Field Marshall, and the ultimate Body Guard, all in one. He engages everyone in the heart and yet you know he means business and is not to be trifled with.
The first speaker was Isaac Tigrett, the venerable white-haired, bearded, distinguished-looking founder of the Hard Rock Café chain and the House of Blues cafes, (plus countless other enterprises). His tall, imposing figure was matched by his charisma and his obvious adoration of the Avatar. His opening comments acknowledged the very high Shakti-energy of the unusual crowd. “This crowd has the highest energy of any group we’ve visited so far,” he said. Of the thousand people in attendance, there were perhaps 950 women and about fifty men and boys, including a handful of children!
Mr. Tigrett indicated that a New Day has dawned wherein the Avatar will require us to live and to serve in our hearts, not our heads. His morning and afternoon talks were galvanizing in exhorting the audience to make their lives count in the service of God and suffering humanity. Hardly anyone was breathing when “Tiger,” as he is called by Baba, relayed how he had once asked the Master why he, Isaac, had been born into such a wealthy, influential but cold, distant and tragically dysfunctional family. “To soften your heart, Tigrett,” was the answer. He was fondly and enthusiastically received and appreciated by all, as a wise Elder or older uncle.
White-haired Sri Narasimha Murthy, the warden of the Sri Sathya Sai School at Muddenahalli, who is tall, strongly-built and imposing, looked resplendent in his long stylish kurta and matching pants. His love of and devotion to Sathya Sai is obvious and his presentations moved the audience deeply. Sri Murthy, much maligned (unfairly and unfortunately), due to his formidable task and position in the Next Chapter of Sai’s Mission), seemed to display a combination of inner softness and exterior strength which impressed this writer greatly. She melted when she observed his tender, motherly interactions with toddlers during the three-hour noon break later. He has an excellent memory for names, events, and processes, and makes everyone feel acknowledged and special, as Baba does with such ease, grace and facility. When slender, fluid Sri Sreenivas, the very appealing and accomplished physician, ambassador-for- Sai, and speaker extraordinaire, finished his two intimate talks, there was hardly a dry eye each time. His self-effacing, somewhat shy demeanor captivated his listeners and his message caught them even more: “Make use of this experience, this lifetime, this relationship with Swami! You’ve been chosen – now do something with this opportunity!” His heart-oriented motivational skills are an example, we feel, of those leadership abilities which will be expressed by Sai leaders in the future.
During the morning session, I saw, to my surprise and delight, Isaac Tigrett’s subtle body get up from his chair to the left of the stage, facing the audience, and move through the rows of women Vedic chanters while his physical body was still sitting in the chair! Like a kindly grand-father, he lovingly bent over and blessed/tapped the top of each woman’s head, in appreciation for their chanting and their high vibrations. Another woman said that she had seen Baba leave His chair and bless/pat every one of the 1,000 attendees on the head!
Indeed, it felt to this writer as if He had planted a vibrant blue-white Seed of Renewed-Purpose-and-Resolve in each of us.
At Last – Swami and Sri Madhusudhan Naidu
Finally the time came for Sri Madhu to begin the translation of the Morning Divine Discourse of His Holiness (my term, for newcomers), Purna-Avatar (God, Creator of the Cosmos) Sri Sathya Sai Baba, also known to His 23 million devotees of all faiths as “Swami,” Master. “How would Brother Madhu sound?” I wondered. Would he do the same outstanding job of translation of Baba’s discourses that we have enjoyed over the years via such elevating and electrifying translators as the late author and translator, Professor N. Kasturi, or Dr. (professor) Anil Kumar?
Brother Madhu, if I may take such liberties as to refer to him thus, knelt down to the audience’s right of Baba’s chair. He started by saying that Swami was seated in the chair and was wearing an orange-colored robe like the one in the center of the stage. He is a soft-spoken “communicator” who is the soul of humility, decorum, and propriety. (Later that day I heard a new friend, Petar, say, “There’s no way that guy could have faked that Divine Discourse!” We agreed.)
Discernment Regarding the Discourse Delivery of Sri Madhusudhan Naidu
Before the Sai Darshan and Divine Discourse in Croatia, various friends ruminated over how they would know for sure, if given the chance, that Brother Madhu were the “genuine article,” the “real deal,” the “authentic diamond” and not a clever facsimile. In essence, their base-line requirements for the counterfeit detection of a person of integrity who was playing the current role of the “communicator/translator” (not medium, not channel, not guru) for the Invisible Subtle Form of Sathya Sai would be these:
He would be himself, simply, and would not try to copy Professor Kasturi, Dr. Anil Kumar, or anyone else. He would have his own unique style of translation and his own personality and way of doing things while in that role.
He would be humble and would not “grand-stand,” “show-boat” (grab attention to himself over Swami) or display any hubris.
The communicator would faithfully translate the message, without additions or deletions, especially regarding the content of the Avatar’s message and mission. Baba’s foundational and historic values, the Sanathana Dharma, would be woven throughout, like a golden thread, under-lying His latest message to devotees.
There would be no awkward pauses and delays, but a straightforward delivery of the message. No nonsense.
There would be, in other words, instantaneous translation, without undue deliberation.
Brother Madhu would preferably have a satvic (pure, pleasant) voice, not a harsh, raucous one.
The force and speed of Baba’s characteristic conveyance of His ideas would be the same.
The unmistakable vigor, wisdom and clarity of Sai’s ideas would be present.
Sri Madhusudhan Naidu met and exceeded all of our expectations and qualifications. In fact, he seems so devoid of “stage personality” while translating (which is a good thing, in this writer’s opinion), as to be almost a slide transparency through which the Avatar can clearly work. He is certainly not dull in his vibration, but seems devoid of pomp and drama, and more angelic than most males one encounters outside of ashrams and monasteries.
Several times this writer saw Sathya Sai in His chair, intermittently, and was thrilled. The vibration of Baba was unmistakable, and yet it contained, for this writer, a new resolve, intent and nuances that we had not experienced in the past, either in Discourses, in dreams, in interviews or in His numerous Divine apparitions to us. To sum up, it seems from the various talks that it is high time that we devotees grow up! He’ll not be coddling us in the same ways as before, where we played the roles of wily beggars and He played the role of Santa Clause. He is expecting us, in this Next Chapter, to step into our Divinity and to be, as He has said, “like ministering Angels to humanity.” As divine sons and daughters, we have enormous work to do!”
The Question and Answer Period – An Intimate Experience
People in all of the Sai Darshan venues have, apparently, had similar questions about whether or not to belong to the (currently upheaved and in transition) Sai Organization (search your heart); how to see and to hear Swami (practice listening within); and when we’ll have more Sai schools (when the teachers have become like Swami, loving adults that children can trust).
The excellent sound system (due to the very accomplished sound engineer) allowed each attendee to experience Swami’s answers as if he/she were in a personal interview, since most devotees have only heard Swami’s singing voice or His ringing orator’s voice, addressing a crowd of thousands, or His internal Voice in dreams. His answers to questioners at the Sai Darshan were soft, sweet and to the point. We could feel the Love, Wisdom and Force of His meaning.
During the lunch break between morning and afternoon discourses, when my husband and I were (undeservedly, we thought) treated to lunch with the Sai Team, Swami spoke to me three times, via Brother Madhu. Since we have not been to Muddenahalli, nor had we previously interacted with the Sai Team, there is no way that Sri Madhusudhan could have known certain things. He was simply repeating what Baba was conveying. Further, as proof of Swami’s Presence, Baba manifested a breath-taking, diamond-encrusted medallion of a standing Sai Baba, in a gold setting, for the excellent translator, a humble doctor, which the physician showed to me, backstage.
Our Mission and an Intriguing Dream
As the turning-point day in Sai’s new chapter came to an end, we marveled at how masterfully-organized the entire event had been, in every detail. A Sai dream of the night before flickered in my memory. In the dream, Baba had said to me and a group of women working on a Sai project, “Very soon I’m going to be doing some exciting things. Are you going to be ready to drop everything, pretty soon, when I say, ‘One-two-three, ready set-
go, come where I am’?” Without missing a beat, we all said, in unison, “Of course, Swami! There’s only You!”
“Good!” He said. “Pretty soon, you’ll all be able to see Me!”
In conclusion, the messages of the Speaking Team and of Sathya Sai seemed, on the whole, to hint of exciting times to come, in which all devotees will be exhorted to move up in consciousness, to deepen in awareness and inner attunement, and to live more consistently in love, praise and gratitude. That is what it will take, surely, as together we commit to unbroken unity in order to bring forth the long-prophesied New Golden Age of Peace and Plenty, wherein we demonstrate the Godly qualities of the Avatar: humility, discipline, compassion, selfless service, joy, and the Five Human Values of peace, Truth, love, right conduct, and non-violence, the timeless qualities which sustain life on Earth – The Sanathana Dharma. Now our lives are His Message and our moment-to-moment, sincere selfless Love – extended to alleviate human suffering- is our divine mission! May we pass every test on the pathless Path and stay established in God-Consciousness, happily serving Him in others until our last breath!