What happens when you follow the twin path of selfless love and loving service that Bhagawan has laid down for all of us? Our lives transform beautifully and we become a channel of His love and grace. Sri Ashish Bhardwaj’s story is a poignant testimonial to show us how transforming and life-altering can a life lived in the spirit of service be.
A techie, based in Bangalore, Ashish is a regular volunteer at the Breakfast Seva held in Doddabelle.
Read on to know about how Bhagawan guided him personally to take to the path of service and filled his life with contentment that only God can grant.
As a family, we were blessed to have come into Swami’s divine fold in the early 90s. And as it is in every devotee’s life, my life with Swami too has been eventful, generously interspersed with dollops of love and learnings.
While Swami taught and transformed me slowly, what I didn’t know at that point in time was the magnificent plan He had for me. Disheartened at my failed attempt to secure a seat in the MBA course in Swami’s college, I decided to at least live in proximity to Bhagawan. So, in 2008, I applied for jobs in Bangalore and by His grace got an offer from Oracle Bangalore. And as if to remind me that everything in my life happens by His will alone, Swami appeared in my wife’s dream, in which she saw Swami hold my hand and take me to the Airport. He then looked at her and said, “Don’t worry I will take care of him.”
Life is a dream. Realise it
Swami has always communicated with us through dreams. Every time I was promoted in my office, Swami would appear in my dreams much before that and announce the promotion! He even guided us to purchase a house in the outskirts of Bangalore in a place a called Kengeri. And in a subsequent dream named the house as Sai Lok, and also assured us that He will come to the house soon.
While at that time, I had no idea why Bhagawan had destined my move to the city or for that matter, why He had asked me to purchase a house in the outskirts of the city, I simply followed His guidance unquestioningly. I knew Swami had a plan for me, but the magnitude of it, I knew not. Neither did I know the immense joy I was to derive from it! He did give me clues though. Bhagawan would frequently appear in my dream and tell me that “I have pulled you here for my project”.
What was the project, and when would it be given to me, I didn’t know. But these frequent dream communions with Swami strengthened my inner connection with Him. Even so, after April 2011 when Bhagawan left His physical body, I was left in a state of tragic stupor. There was an unfathomable void, a vacuum and I didn’t know how to heal it. But Bhagawan came to my rescue, yet again.
Ever since I had shifted to Bangalore, I would religiously visit a Shirdi Baba temple, no matter what. On one such visit, I broke down in front of Shirdi Sai Baba’s idol. I cried my heart out to Him and said, “I came here for you. But now that you are not here, I don’t know what to do. I want to go back to my native place”. I was heartbroken and only Swami could heal me. And He did! That night, Swami appeared in my wife’s dream and started scolding me, “If you want to go, you go. I will give my project to somebody else”.
I immediately dropped the idea of going back, and waited patiently for the divine drama to unfold. I knew Swami will reveal His plan for me at the right time! It wasn’t easy, the inner conundrum did continue, but each time I would meticulously remind myself to surrender to His will.
The Divine plan reveals itself
Soon, God’s plan began to reveal itself. On the 11th of November 2014, I got to know about the presence of Bhagawan’s subtle form in Muddenahalli, through my youngest brother who is an alumnus of the Sri Sathya Sai educational institutions. I felt it was a divinely ordained birthday gift, as the day coincided with my birthday. I immediately went to Muddenahalli and my heart recognised the presence of the Lord. I was in bliss after hearing Swami’s discourse and silently prayed to Swami to guide me.
While knowing of Swami’s presence in Muddenahalli did help, I was still waiting for Him to give me the work He had spoken about many times in my dreams. Six months later, when Bhagawan blessed my family and me with an interview, I asked Him about the work He had in mind for me. Bhagawan replied, “Go and do Seva with Bangalore youth.”
At the end of the interview, He told us to attend the ongoing Summer Course in Indian Culture and Spirituality, have lunch and then go home. Following His command, we went to the Sri Sathya Sai Hrudaya Mandiram auditorium that was housing the conference.
I reached the venue during a presentation by a youth member from Bangalore. His presentation was about a Breakfast Seva project. I had never heard anything about the seva project before, so I heard him out carefully. It turned out to be a life changer. His next slide showcased the location of the breakfast seva. And by divine design, it was in a place called Doddabelle, about three kilometres from Kengeri! Only a few minutes ago, Swami had told me to join the Bangalore youth for seva, and the seva opportunity was just a stone’s throw distance from my house. I had been living in that house for the last five years, but never before had I heard about this from anyone.
Following Baba’s guidance, the Breakfast Seva activity was started in July 2012, in an effort to provide nutritious breakfast free of cost to underprivileged children in the outskirts of Bangalore.
To begin with, about 50 children going to a small school from Doddabelle village were given free breakfast every morning at a local temple that was used to undertake this service activity. In addition to generous servings of different varieties of a protein-rich meal, milk and fruit were part of the daily diet. Every morning, children were also taught human values, the importance of discipline and personal hygiene.
Noticing the impact of this activity at this village, many other centres in Bangalore and other cities such as Hyderabad, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata and Thiruvananthapuram too started serving breakfast to children at community centres. Over time, a visible transformation was noticed in the children’s behaviour and their parents too started involving themselves in community activities, thus making them active partners in this social cause.
Currently, about 108 centres pan India feed more than 7,500 children, bringing them not just meals but hope for a brighter future and the promise of transformed lives.
Silently thanking Swami for showing me the way, I wrote down the location details of the seva. And as soon as I reached home, I looked up the place on the internet, and reached the venue on Monday morning. A team of volunteers were busy serving breakfast to children and I joined them. And my life has never been the same again!
I have gained more than I gave
It’s now almost a year since I have been a regular volunteer for breakfast Seva. Serving hot and healthy breakfast to the poor school children may seem like an act of giving, but in reality I have received much more from them! Their love, laughter and the satisfaction derived from doing Seva cannot be paralleled by anything in life. The joy I feel in my heart at being chosen as His instrument of love and service is so immense that not a moment goes by when I don’t thank Swami for this lovely opportunity.
What’s more, the Seva activity has strengthened the bond of love in my family too! My children look forward to the Seva on weekends, and are happier and full of gratitude. As a family, we are now more mindful of how we spend our money. We are always aware how by cutting down on our urge to splurge, we can redirect the resources to the children we serve in the schools.
My wife and I also volunteer to transcribe the speeches and discourse. I realise how it is purely the result of divine grace that has enabled us to offer Seva and derive the rich dividends of satsangh.
My heart is now full of love and I am truly grateful for the Sai-filled life He has blessed me with. And as if to acknowledge it, Swami once appeared at our home, in front of my wife and said “Ashish ko bolna, I am very happy with his seva. (Tell Ashish that I am very happy with his service).”
What more do I need in life – a life spent serving Him and making Him happy! I am indeed living a blessed life.