From I to We – Living the message ‘Love All Serve All’
It is said only a life lived in the service of others is worth living. And true to this statement, Sri K Sathya Narayana, a management student in marketing has been leading a life in the service of Swami. He did his primary schooling at Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vihar, Hyderabad and has been an active sevadal of the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation. Currently, he is one of the active volunteers at the Sri Sathya Sai Annapurna trust, Muddenahalli and spear heads many service activities across different states.
He says, “Many consider Swami to be their father, mother, friend, brother, sister or guru. But since the moment I set eyes on him, I considered our relationship to be one of a grandson and a grandfather, with whom I could share anything and demand any amount of love and affection.” The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is truly one of the sweetest, for it has no expectations. It is based on love and enjoying time spent in the company of one another. Sri K Sathyanarayana narrates his tryst with the Lord, reminiscing of the days spent with Bhagawan in the physical form and making the transition from the physical to the subtle.
I consider it to be the greatest blessing bestowed on me to have been born in a family that is devoted to Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. As a boy, I was like any other kid in the neighbourhood, engrossed in fun and games. But in Swami’s master plan, I was not destined to be restricted to doing just the regular.
I began my education in Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vihar, one of Swami’s institutions based in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh (present day Telangana). In fact, one of my earliest recollections of Bhagawan was when He visited our school and distributed Prasadam to each and every child. That day is vividly etched in my memory, when each of us offered a rose to Bhagawan, took Namaskar and received the Prasadam from the Lord personally. I fondly recall those days and wonder how naive and childish I was to focus on the Prasadam rather than on Swami.
My parents, being devout followers of Sai, enrolled me in the Sri Sathya Sai Balvikas, a course that laid the foundation for my numerous interactions with Bhagawan as a Sevadal and a volunteer. I am reminded of many instances when, as a Sevadal, I have prayed fervently to Bhagawan and He has responded instantaneously. At times, I did not even have the need to pray; just a few words spoken in a puerile manner would suffice for Him. One hot afternoon, I was involved in doing Seva where we had to clean the debris of a broken parapet wall. I was given a spade and asked to collect the debris and load the same onto a truck which would then transport it. Being from an IT background, I had never before held a spade, let alone use it! To make matters worse, the sun was hitting hard on us and for a techie who is used to the comfort provided by an air conditioned office, this was an uphill task. With these thoughts running through my head, I casually remarked to a fellow Sevadal about my pitiful state. The words had hardly left my mouth when there was a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see the leader standing behind me. He asked us to drop the spade and follow him. He led us to a hall and told us that the hall had just been washed and that there were a few areas that were still wet. Our new activity was to soak off the waters from the floor using a sponge and empty the same into a bucket. This incident shook me for a while, as I realised that Swami is hearing us all the while, watching over us, caring for every small need and desire.
In another instance, while doing Seva in Parthi, at around two in the afternoon, I started feeling hungry and after having looked at the watch, confessed to a fellow Sevadal that we would have to go hungry since there wasn’t enough time to make it to the canteen. At that very instant, the warden of the boy’s hostel beckoned us. Expecting more work to come our way, we approached him, but instead, he invited us to have lunch with the boys residing there. Such is the loving care that Swami showers on all of His devotees and children. When we have Swami, we need fear nothing.
Many consider Swami to be their father, mother, friend, brother, sister or guru. But since the moment I first set eyes on Him, which was during the 50th Birthday Celebrations, until the very last darshan in Kulwant Hall during the Shiva Parvati Kalyana Mahotsavam, I considered our relationship to be one of a grandson and a grandfather, with whom I could share anything and demand any amount of love and affection! This has remained my relation with Him.
When Swami shed his physical form in April 2011, I was shattered and did not know how to react and express my emotions. I even accompanied a friend to Parthi to pay my last respects to my dear Lord, all the while too shocked to say anything. Even months after the physical form left us, I had not come to terms with it and during a visit to Tirupati, while standing at the altar, my eyes swelled and I broke down, feeling lost and abandoned. I desperately wanted Swami to return. Soon after, one night, I had a dream in which I saw a building with architecture similar to that of a Chinese monastery. I saw a couple of mountains and a golden sun. In the same dream, I witnessed a person, clad in white, surrounded by hordes of people. I narrated the dream to my family when I woke up in the morning. But nothing much transpired until November 2014, when a friend enquired if I would be interested to accompany him to Muddenahalli for Swami’s birthday celebrations.
While I was seated in the stadium waiting for the celebrations to begin, I saw Sai Anandam in the distance and was struck by the similarity of this structure with what I had seen in my dream. As I turned my head, I happened to see the golden sun setting amidst two mountains. I also saw Sri Madhusudan Naidu, who was accompanied by many other devotees. The dream came live before my eyes. The final assurance of Bhagawan’s presence was when the divine discourse began and the nectar of Swami’s words started to flow. My heart was overjoyed for Swami had returned and from that moment on, there has been no looking back.
Swami also gave us further assurance of His omnipresence when, during a group interview, He spoke about a conversation that my wife and I had in private. This further cemented my faith in the subtle form and thus began a new chapter in my story with Swami. The biggest blessing that I and my family have today is the opportunity to be a part of Swami’s mission and render our services during the various events that take place in Sathya Sai Grama, Muddenahalli.
Swami has also given me the privilege of being a part of the Annapoorna Breakfast Seva Programme, through which school going children from lower economic backgrounds are fed breakfast as per Swami’s command, every morning. Through the course of being a volunteer at various Seva centres, I was able to personally see the impact of this programme on the children and the transformation it has brought about not only in the children and the volunteers, but also in the surroundings. This triggered me to hunt for a school nearby my residence. With Swami’s grace, we identified a school with 325 children where we have been serving breakfast for the last one and a half years. Having made a humble beginning with just nine volunteers serving Sai Protein to the kids, we now have over forty volunteers serving cooked food and participating in other activities such as Swachh Bharat, medical camps, Balvikas classes etc.
I have observed a five-fold transformation at the school over the last year.
Firstly, the children have developed discipline and are regular to school, unlike before. They are performing better in schools and their attendance and attention span has improved. The children shower us with their love whenever we see them and interact with them. Once, they told us that after they complete their education, they too would like to render similar service to society, which was very heartening. Small acts when multiplied by millions of people can transform the world.
Secondly, the teachers, who were initially reluctant to permit us to conduct the seva in the school, have now started to pitch in and participate in the activity with great zeal and vigour.
Thirdly, the vendor who supplies the raw materials for the food, upon hearing the purpose of the activity, started to offer the material at a subsidized price as he wanted to contribute towards the activity as well.
Fourthly, our neighbours, who would watch us cook, transport and serve every day, started showing interest and began to get involved in the seva.
Finally, the transformation that we experience within ourselves in every moment spent with the children is beyond words. As we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness.
Bhagawan’s seva projects are but pathways that enable us to transform ourselves and progress along the spiritual path of self-realisation. All I can do is offer my gratitude to Bhagawan for giving me an opportunity to remain with Him and serve Him through His creation. I consider myself fortunate to be living these wonderful times under the guidance and love of our Beloved Sai.