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It was on the last day of our trip to Kodaikanal with Bhagawan in the summer of 2003, while doing padaseva to Swami; He playfully knocked on my head and asked, “What will you do next, Sir?” My Masters in Business Administration at Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Prasanthi Nilayam had come to an end. After having spent seven best years of my life at His feet since 1996 until that day, I had no heart to go back to my home town, near Raipur in the State of Chhattisgarh, 1200 Kms away.

I prayerfully submitted, “Swami I want to be at Your feet.”

“There is no place at My feet; if all of you stay here, then who will serve Me outside? Go and spread Swami’s ideals in the world outside,” commanded Swami. Little did I realise then, the purpose and the meaning of those few words!

Swami blessed me to work in a private bank in Bengaluru, Karnataka, and graciously permitted me to visit Prasanthi Nilayam to have His darshan frequently. He compassionately enquired about my work and life during many such visits. However He never permitted me to quit my job and stay with Him at Puttaparti, despite several such eager submissions to Him. There was a purpose far beyond my comprehension.

After six years, finally He permitted me to quit my job but still did not want me to come to Prasanthi Nilayam. I was on my own, alone, till one such day in March 2011, when He chose to appear in my home at Bengaluru.

I was praying, sitting in front of His chair in His room at our home, when I felt that He was sitting on the chair and saying something that I could understand! During several long interactions with Him while I was doing my post-graduation, Swami would very graciously talk to me, guiding me and telling me about various things – about Himself, His Mission, His devotees, and future plans; so it wasn’t too difficult for me to recognise that it was truly Swami. The same mellifluous voice, the same sweet Telugu and the same gestures that were unique only to our Swami, did not escape my notice.

Of course, it was a little strange, because I had never experienced something like this before, even when I was a student for seven years. I thought, I was hallucinating because like all the others, I too had been praying and thinking too much about Swami as He was not keeping well. However, Swami kept on coming every day and kept speaking to me in Telugu, which I could clearly understand.

One fine day, He said, “You doubt whether it is Me or it is your imagination. Look, your friend Sridhar will come now; in ten minutes he will ring the doorbell, will come inside and give you a box with breakfast.” That was at Eight o’clock in the morning. This Sridhar was my classmate when I was studying in Puttaparti, but I had not seen him for months, though we stayed in the same city. I was waiting for this to happen to confirm my faith.

And it did happen. In ten minutes, I heard the doorbell ring. When I opened the door, Sridhar was standing there. And not only was he standing, he was actually having a box in his hand. He was carrying breakfast for me. I asked Sridhar, “What made you come this early in the morning, without even calling me?” He said, “Nothing specific. My wife and I, while having our breakfast, felt that we had not seen you for a long time. So my wife said, ‘Why don’t you go and see Madhusudan on your way to office and also give him some breakfast?’ ” Now I was absolutely sure that it wasn’t just a hallucination or imagination.

Thereafter, this became a regular phenomenon – Swami coming, talking and telling me many things even when He was admitted to the hospital. Then came the day when the doctors declared Swami ‘dead’. I was surprised because Swami kept on saying, “I am coming back. If you have faith, I will come back.” I believed sincerely that He would come out of the hospital, walk amidst us again, and prove to the whole world that He is God and He is beyond medical treatment – just like many of us thought at that moment. We thought it was His leela, He was playing a game and He would bounce back from the hospital bed to good health and maybe even walk! Swami used to say, “I will run one day. I will fly across the sky.” I used to believe that He would actually, physically do all these things. That was how a lot of us thought at that time. But it didn’t happen!

On 24th of April 2014, I went back to His room in the house and started crying, “What is happening, Swami? You said that you would come back, but that may not happen. Everybody says that you have gone!”

Swami said, “No, no, this is all tamaashaa (show). Where can I go? I am here right in front of you.”

I cried, “You are here in front of me, but there they are taking you off the ventilator and they’ll put you inside the casket. They’ll bury you.”

He replied, “No. I am here with you. I will always be there. You go and see the tamaashaa in Puttaparti.”

With my heart pounding in my chest, I went to Puttaparti, driving all alone from Bengaluru hoping to witness the miracle of the millennium. But when I saw His body, lying there in the casket, it just broke my heart. I said, “It can’t be true. Swami can’t come back. Look at this thing. They have sealed Him in that ice box. Even if He was alive, He wouldn’t survive that cold.”

It so happened that after two days, it was decided that His body would be laid to rest in the same place where He used to sit and grant darshan. I was crying on that morning, saying to myself, “I have been deceived. I have been duped. Swami said He would come back. He didn’t come back. He just fooled me.”

I was crying to myself when suddenly I felt a tap on my head. It was so strong that I was jolted out of my crying. I looked up. I thought may be some sevadal volunteer was trying to tell me something. I looked up and I saw Swami standing there, so real, in flesh and bone, in a yellow robe. He looked at me compassionately and said, “Why are you crying?”

I said, “Swami, see there. They are taking Your body. They are going to put it in the pit in no time, and You will never come back!”

He said, “Where should I come back from? I have never gone anywhere. I am right here with you. Why are you crying? That is not Me, it’s only a tamaasha.” He kept on assuring me. I trusted that; it gave me a bit of solace.

Of course, the ‘body’ went under the ground, we all know that. But Swami continued coming and talking to me. I thought it was just a personal conversation, like the way Swami used to talk to me during my student days. But eventually I realised that He was on a bigger mission. Gradually He started telling me about the need to build a Super Specialty Hospital in Raipur (Chhattisgarh) first and then in many other states eventually. He also told me that there would be many new schools in Karnataka, in all districts. There will be drinking water supply projects in many states of the country. And all this will be done within the coming ten years of His life!

Swami also explained to me that He could not continue physically because it was impossible for Him to even brush His teeth or put on His clothes and look after Himself. It was too below His dignity to depend on others for that long. So He decided to give up the ‘old car’ as He called, which didn’t work anymore, and change into a ‘new car’ which could go faster towards the same goal of transformation. “The Road is the same. The Goal is the same. It is just the car that has changed,” He said.

Then He explained that He has four forms. The Physical form, Sthoola Shareera, like we all have. Then there is the Subtle Form, Sookshma Shareera, that is, the mind, with feelings and thoughts. It is just like the physical form minus flesh and bones. Then there is a higher form, which is Higher Subtle, Athi Sookshma Shareera, that is how He comes into peoples’ dreams and meditation. And finally, the Omnipresent Super Subtle Form, Para Sookshama Shareera, in which He is present in every being and every atom, everywhere.

Swami said, “I will be in this Subtle Form, which is just like the physical form, without flesh and bones.” That is how He is going to take His mission forward. “My work is not yet over,” He declared. “Keep yourself selfless and pure so that I may use you all as My instruments. I do not have a body but I shall use your bodies to do My work. Your hands shall be my hands, your feet shall be My feet, your words shall be My words and your actions shall be My actions. Be selfless. Glorious times are ahead when the whole world will become Saimayam (filled with Sai). Soon I will be back in another Physical form as Prema Sai who will further guide you all and continue the work.”

– Sri Madhusudhan