Zagreb, one of the most beautiful places, is Croatia’s northwestern capital, distinguished by its 18th and 19th century Austro-Hungarian architecture. This 1000-year-old city is blessed with rich flora, and it is said, Zagreb is rife with a café culture rivaling Paris, and a cosmopolitan vibe akin to Prague. This war ravaged country is going through difficult times, but above all the people are humble, with a deep spiritual side to their personality. It was endearing to note that most citizens are aware of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, including the Government.
Everyone woke up to a cold morning, about 7 degrees! But nothing deterred the flurry of activities at the Mladen household, from early hours of the morning; breakfast, which was followed by a Trust meeting. Swami’s entourage is always eager to see Swami’s room, in every country. The devotion and love for the Lord is seen in every facet of the room, and in every country, the Lord does not miss to note His tastefully decorated abode! But in Zagreb, His room was slightly different. The walls were adorned with pictures of saints, sages, angels, demi-gods, Gods and Avatars, from all parts of the world. As the hosts Mr and Mrs Mladen brought the breakfast, Swami asked them, “Why haven’t you put a picture of yours on the walls along with the others?” Mrs Mladen replied enthusiastically, “We are not dead yet Swami!” Swami said, “Nor are they (pointing to the pictures). You put your picture there a well, to remind yourself that you too are divine, just like them!” Little lessons, profound meanings!
Soon after, Swami met the members of the ‘Sai Ananda Foundation’, which has been entrusted with building the Ashram in Croatia, called ‘Ananda Ashrama’ – a place open to people of all faiths and religions for mutual spiritual evolution. A year before, Swami had guided them about the need for an Ashram as a light house, to guide the people of Croatia and the neighbouring countries. Since then, a Foundation has been registered and work has been initiated for the Ashram.
Swami stressed on the importance and responsibility vested upon a person, appointed as a Trustee. Thereafter, Swami commanded Si C Sreenivas to address the small gathering. Mr Sreenivas mentioned that a Trustee above all should embody the ‘trust’ Swami has placed in him or her. “It’s a job that’s to be undertaken round the clock. Selfless hard work for the welfare of others with a vision, and time bound goals, are the tools that can help us become good trustees”, he said. Quoting from his own experience with Swami for several decades, he inspired them to re-dedicate themselves in Swami’s mission without losing a moment.
Swami said that the leader should be the first to follow. “Only those who follow can lead; for their actions will be their voice. You are very fortunate as you have God Himself to guide you! All you have to do is, simply follow. All are Sevakas (Servants), only God is the Nayaka (Leader).”
Apart from guiding the way a Foundation or a Trust should work, with regular meetings and planning ahead of time, working with unity and commonality, He also told them, “When many people come together with different minds, it is difficult to think alike. Mind is a bundle of thoughts and desires, which we have gathered over many many lives of our existence. Mind has picked up all these ideas, attitudes and thoughts. Mind is not the truth. The whole objective of spirituality is, ‘cut-off your mind, and live from the heart’. The thumb rule is to use your hearts, and not minds. Mind is different based on the experience and understanding, but heart is the same in all. More than the decision being based on one’s likes and other’s dislikes, it should be tested against the parameter of Swami’s likes! ‘Would Swami like this? How would Swami think, and act in such a situation?’ Some thought should be given to this. All need to cut-off the noise of the mind, to listen to the inner voice which is the same in all. Practise can help to become better.”
Swami told the members of the Foundation that He will visit Croatia as soon as the land for the Ashram is ready. The team sought guidance from Swami on the location of the land; a huge map of Croatia was shown to Swami. He insisted that the Ashram must be in the midst of nature, and pointed out to a place which is an hour’s drive from Zagreb, very close to the Plitvice Lake National Park.
After blessing everyone, Swami had His lunch and retired for the afternoon.
In the evening, Swami consented to the request of the host Mrs Karla Gasper, to visit the venue for the Satsang, Hypo Centre, and bless the volunteers. This auditorium which has a seating capacity of 1200 was completely booked and not available! But by Swami’s grace, the organising team got it for the Sunday Satsang, for which around 1400 devotees from 18 countries had registered!!
Swami was driven by Mr Mladen to the Hypo Centre where volunteers, almost 100 of them were eagerly waiting for Swami. Their joy knew no bounds, when Swami granted this very special session to them. The programme card for the public satsang, due to be held the next day, was presented to Swami, and the leaders of each group of seva, from registration to decorations, from seating to food etc, were introduced. Swami asked Sri Narasimha Murthy to speak about seva. Mr Murthy reiterated what Swami said in the morning. Everyone has a role to play in the mission of Swami, and no single person can do all that Swami wants! Therefore, it is only through unity that we can achieve like the five fingers; when united they can do any work. He mentioned that Swami’s path is from I to We to He. “Drops merge to become a stream. Streams join to become a river. Only a river reaches the ocean. Subjugating out individuality for a group effort, will please Swami, and this as is the right way of Seva.”
Swami gave a wonderful message to the volunteers saying that a few of them
Working together are going to bring joy to many tomorrow. They, like pipes or conduits are responsible for delivering the water of love in the tank that Swami is. Being good channels of Swami’s love is important. A pipe that is free of rust and dust alone can deliver the water without contaminating it; likewise volunteers who are free from ego and attachments alone can do it perfectly.
Swami urged that it’s through them that people would feel Swami’s love, and therefore they must serve with a smile. (He even asked them to smile, and show how they would do it the next day!!) On a lighter note, quoting an incident about seva dals, Swami said that once, “A person came and told Swami that, though in the ashram everything was so nice, sevadals are a fearsome lot. Please advise them to be kinder, as we devotees are scared of them, prayed the devotee. Swami told him, ‘Not only you, even I am afraid of them, what to do?'”
He continued saying “It is the primary duty to serve with love and patience. Treat everyone as Swami’s guest, and treat with great respect and care. Those who have had the great fortune of seeing and being with Swami, have greater responsibilities towards those who were not fortunate to see Swami, while He was there physically.”
After mangala arathi, Swami proceeded to Mr Mladen’s residence.