It is said a book can open up your world to new possibilities. But what if it’s a book about the avatar of the century? Nanditha M Pandith, a final year MBBS student in Navodaya Medical College, Raichur, discovered a whole new world, through a series of events that began once she read a Sai book. A delegate of the recently-held National Youth Meet in Muddenahalli, here she shares her experience and learnings, both during the Meet and off it.
I am student of science. I am studying to be doctor and my mind is trained to go by logic and not by heart. But the one time I decided to follow my heart, it paid rich dividends, changing me and my life with it. I had the blessed opportunity to attend the National Youth Meet 2016 held in Sathya Sai Grama, Muddenahalli and I can convincingly say that the three-day meet has changed my life for the better, forever.
Sathya Sai makes an entry
My story with Sai began four years ago in December 2012 when the book ‘Tapovanam’ found its way into our house. It was given to us by one of my father’s friend. But since no one in my house was a Sai devotee, it was dutifully relegated to a shelf in the altar. No one bothered reading it.
Around the same time, I had come home on a vacation and was distraught as I hadn’t done well in my exams. I had some backlogs (uncleared exams) and was worried sick about my lack of academic excellence. In a nutshell, I was depressed. Every day I would do some Pooja and chant “Sri Rama Raksha Strotram”, spending most of my time simply sitting and doing nothing, letting my mind wander aimlessly trying to figure out where I failed in my efforts. My father, unable to see me like that gave Tapovanam to me for a read. He felt it might help take my mind off my worries. Unquestioningly, I read the book. Within a few days, my results were out and I learnt that I had cleared all my subjects! I thanked Lord Rama for His blessings and totally forgot about the book. Life moved on.
My tryst with Sai Baba happened again, and this time it was two years later in November 2015. I happened to meet a friend of mine, who is an alumnus of the Alike campus and we started talking about Bhagawan. Incidentally, I remembered reading about Him in Tapovanam and spoke to him about how I was quite impressed with the work done by Sai Baba. Our conversation was a trigger and it intrigued me enough to re-read the book. Of course, this time I followed the prescribed way of reading it – from Thursday to Thursday. My friend had told me about Swami’s subtle presence in Muddenahalli and after the parayana (reading of the book), my desire to see Swami in Muddenahalli started growing stronger by the day.
After three months of intense longing, I finally decided to confide in my parents. I told them about how I wished to go to Muddenahalli. My parents, concerned about my academic well-being, offered to take me in June after my exams. I was heart-broken! It was getting painful to wait to be in the presence of Swami. I wondered when Swami became such a driving force in my life. While my mind failed to reason out this deep-seated desire of mine, the universe had already put its plan into action for me. I happened to meet my Sai friend once again. And this time, he informed me about the National Youth Meet in Muddenahalli to be held in May. The news was a breath of fresh air. I clung to it for life and immediately registered myself as a delegate, eagerly awaiting for the fateful day in May.
But mind, as they say, is a great trickster. As the day passed by, I started wondering if I should really go. My exams were approaching and I wondered if the days away from my preparations might take a toll on my performance. But thankfully, better sense prevailed and I decided to go by my heart and attend the Meet. Without further ado, I soon left Raichur to reach Muddenahalli.
The Divine rendezvous
Once I reached Muddenahalli, things took a turn for the better. I completed the registration formalities, and happened to meet another delegate. She was kind enough to accompany me to my newly-allotted room. As we were walking towards the accommodation, we received information from the volunteers that Bhagawan was on His way there. My heart literally skipped a beat! I hadn’t expected to see Swami on the first day of my arrival, and here I was minutes away from realising my dream of many months. But unfortunately, I wasn’t dressed appropriately as per the ashram regulations. I had just arrived and hadn’t had enough time to change. The lady volunteers asked me to quickly change into a more suitable dress and come for Darshan. My new friend offered to help too, but I was in two minds. I didn’t want to miss the chance. What if Swami leaves by the time I changed and returned? So, I hid behind the crowd of delegates, devotees and volunteers to steal a glance at Swami. I must confess, I was a little uncomfortable. It was a new place and I knew no one. But the divine mother had probably sensed by discomfort. After Bhagawan arrived, as if to specifically assuage my concerns, He lovingly comforted everyone and told us to all to not hesitate as this was our mother’s home! It indeed was, our Mother Sai’s. This was my first experience of Swami’s love.
He hears our innermost thoughts
Like all Sai devotees, who are blessed to experience the Lord’s omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence, I too had the good fortune to learn and unlearn of God’s many ways – during my stay there and thereafter.
As I hailed from Karnataka, I had always known about the Alike school. But I had also always wondered why there weren’t many more such values-based educational campuses in the state. And as I sat through the proceedings of the first day of the National Youth Meet, this thought crossed my mind again. And within moments, Sri Narasimha Murthy spoke about all the new institutions that had come up and were to come up under the Loka Seva Institutions. While my mind put away this instance as a mere happenstance, it happened again!
Being in the company of such spiritual stalwarts, my heart longed to know how I too could tread the path to Sathya Sai Baba. And just then, Murthy sir spoke about how the pathway to God is only through surrender, and by showing love and compassion to others! I immediately knew I was in the presence of God. This was no coincidence. It was a Sai-incidence.
While attending the youth meet was only a pretext to come to Muddenahalli and see Swami for me, it offered me more than that. I was privy to such rich spiritual talks and speeches, that it left an indelible mark on my personality. Listening to Bhagawan’s discourses made me realise the importance of the opportunity I had been bestowed with and I decided to soak into the spiritual extravaganza, as much as I could.
My mother had always chided my saying it was my ego that always brought me down. While I never really bothered about it before, listening to Father Charles Ogada talk about crossing the feeling of ‘I’ as the essence of Christ helped. My life lessons became clearer.
My heart was leaping with joy. I had received more than I had ever imagined and this was just the first session of the first day! While I sat reminiscing about how I ended up in Muddenahalli, on my Mother Sai’s lap, more dollops of love awaited me. In the evening session, Father Charles spoke about how it was Swami Himself who chose who came to Him! That’s when it struck me that Swami had first come into my life in the guise of the Tapovanam book. This is how divinity descends to humanity. While I revelled in this thought, my mind rose again, reminding me how I possibly couldn’t ascend, weighed down by my karmas. I felt guilty about some of my deeds. I felt I was failing my Swami. Here was Swami, who in all His love had given me such a beautiful opportunity, but suddenly I felt l like I didn’t deserve it. I prayed to Swami, in my heart, to forgive me and urged Him to purify me. I wrote Him a letter, praying Him to rid me of all these sufferings.
Again, and no co-incidence this was, a divine answer awaited me. Father Charles, took to the podium again, and on Swami’s behest spoke about Zoroastrianism. He spoke about the significance of fire and said that fire always purifies. Just like how when you put impure gold into fire, it comes out pure, divinity is purity and to bring out that divinity in us, we go through tough times too. He spoke about how Swami calls us “Bangaru” most of the times and explained how when gold is mixed with alloys and impurities, the Goldsmith puts it into fire. It isn’t to punish the gold. It is done simply to purify it. “Of course during that time, gold will be crying as we all do when Swami purifies us but it is the act of His love. When He makes us pass through the holy fire, let’s not be afraid. Do you know when the fire heats us, we reject it, we deny it, and we fight it. This is suffering. But when we surrender ourselves to Him, the purification becomes sweet, and sufferings turns to be something else… Pure bliss”. I was in tears when I heard it. Swami had once again answered my doubt.
I sat for Darshan with the letter in my hand, praying fervently for Swami to accept me. It was a special day for me – it was my mother’s birthday. But my Sai Maa made it even more special. He not only accepted the letter but said “Sari Pothundi”, assuring me that everything will be fine. Within moments, I felt peace descend my being. The divine vibrations I felt when Swami was walking amidst us is beyond words. I had never felt so calm and wholesome ever; not even in temples and other places of worship. I was overjoyed and cried my heart out. I was happy beyond measure.
Day two of the Meet was yet another eventful day for me. The theme for the day was ‘Ideals of Ramayana for Modern Times’. Lord Rama was my Ishta Devta (God of choice) and therefore I loved the Ramayana. The talks were quite interesting and filled with lessons. I learnt how to avoid the temptation for negativity and how to shoot it from back through Swami Mitrananda’s speech. A person becomes weak when they confront the temptation and the temptation becomes much stronger, he explained.
My heart posed questions it never had before. I found myself wondering what the purpose of my life was. The next speech by His grace Shubh Vilas Das Prabhu helped me find the solution. He gave us the four Ls – live, learn, love and legacy to live by. “To achieve it, we need the 6 Cs – choice, challenge, commitment, connection, composure and certainty”, he said.
Morsels of love
I am a self-confessed foodie. The first day of the Meet somehow I didn’t get the prasadam. It was ladoo. I was grumbling about it to my friend and to our surprise, we got ladoo each when we entered the dining hall. I love bisibele bath (dal rice), and it was in our dinner menu. Swami wasn’t just feeding my soul, He took care of my likes too, just as a mother would!
By now, I had gotten used to Swami responding to my mundane requests. And like a child, I once again asked Swami to help me with my sweet tooth. I usually eat chocolates, 5-star to be precise, when I feel tired. I wanted some chocolates, but I had none. The afternoon session was a Ramayana quiz, and it was called ‘Chocolate Quiz’. Anyone who would answer the questions correctly would each win a 5-star! And by Swami’s grace, I ended the day with not one, two or three but seven 5-stars.
But His grace is such a divine addiction, it never satiates our spiritual hunger. In the evening, I sat for Darshan with my new possession, the book “Sookshma Sathya Sai, The unseen basis of the seen” by Hiramalini Seshadri. This time too a book took me closer to my inner Sai. When Swami was walking through the red carpet, all the devotees gathered on either sides of the carpet, waiting for His blessings, to give letters, etc. I was one among them, holding this book. Swami touched the book and blessed me. Yet again, I was transported to realms beyond imagination, soaked in His love.
If the first two days were demonstrations of how to surrender, day three was a practical lesson in surrender for me. While Swami continued to cater to my taste buds – morning breakfast was Pongal, my favourite – I had a beautiful taste of His omnipresence too.
The NYM had come to an end and I had to get back to Bangalore city bus station to catch my bus to Raichur.
One of the volunteers happily agreed to take me to Chikkaballapur. I would like to mention here how loving and kind-hearted the volunteers were. The ones serving us food, or the ones helping us with our everyday activities, every volunteer here was truly loving and felt it was their duty to serve us all. I was deeply touched by their love. From Chikkaballapur I took a bus to Bangalore city bus station. While everything so far had been as per plan, things took a turn for the worse soon. It was raining heavily when I reached Bangalore. With a lot of difficulty, I managed to book a seat in the 9 PM bus leaving to my hometown. But in all this hullaballoo, I forgot to keep a track of time. By the time I realised, I was left with only 10 minutes to reach the bus stop and none of the auto drivers agreed to drive me to the designated stop due to the heavy downpour.
At my wits end, I started crying. With Swami’s name of my lips, I somehow managed to lunge the luggage and walk to the bus stop, only to see no bus there. I was heartbroken. I had missed the bus. I was stranded in the rain, all alone, in the middle of a deserted bus stop. I cried even harder, calling out to Swami to help me. Only He could, and He did. A good samaritan came near and told me to stop crying and verify the departure time on my bus ticket. I took my ticket out to check, only to find out that the bus was to leave only at 9.50 pm. I had reached the stop ahead of time! As I turned back to thank this person, he was nowhere to be seen. I tried hard to locate him, but as I said, it was a deserted stop and he just wasn’t there.
It was purely Swami’s grace, I realised. Who was this person who appeared out of nowhere to help me? Where did he suddenly disappear? While I may never find the answers to these questions, I know it my heart that it was all Swami’s doing. He made me misread the bus timings, made me go through the travails and even came to my rescue, only to teach me the lesson surrender, the path to Him.