Sri Sathya Sai: The Eternal Companion – By Dr. Naren Ramji

Dr. Naren Ramji with Sri Sathya Sai during the SSSIHL Convocation Ceremony - November 22, 2009

The whole of humanity is a part of God but when does humanity allow God to be a part of his or her life is a choice one has to make. It is not just a few of us who are His; the whole world is His. Many of us are testimonies of being nobody and were moulded by Him to become someone. He is our ‘eternal companion’ not just because of what Swami has done for us but continues to do to this day. 

Everybody is God’s property and God chooses to draw His property to Him at some point. So our family’s journey or ‘the pull’ from Swami came sometime in 1949. I must confess that our family had no spiritual inclination, nor even any religious fervour such as Pujas, etc. My grandfather was serving in the Government of India at Delhi. My grandmother, my mother and her younger sister resided there. Sri Raman and Sri Lakshmanan were the Vidwans of the Venkatagiri royal household, and had the privilege of singing in front of Bhagavan many a time. It so happened that Sri Lakshmanan happened to be staying in our house as he was working in the All India Radio in Delhi and teaching music to my mother. My mother was a young girl of about ten years of age at that time. It so happened that a postcard written by his brother Sri Raman, after a visit to Puttaparthi, to him, was picked up by my mother who read the whole postcard though it was not addressed to her! The contents of the letter seemed intriguing.

That evening when Sri Lakshmanan came home, my grandmother asked him who this Baba was. He described Baba, their meeting and other experiences. Later that summer when my grandmother, mother and aunt had been to Chennai, they met the family of Sri Lakshmanan. Their sister had come there with a group of about 10 to 15 people and all of them felt that they should have the Darshan of Baba in Puttaparthi. At that stage, it was just curiosity and not any spiritual yearning. 

After an arduous journey to Puttaparthi (in those days the travel to Puttaparthi took about 12 hours from Bangalore) their group reached Puttaparthi at around 1:00 AM. Swami was resting in the erstwhile Mandir (presently Kalyan Mantap) on a cot with all devotees around Him. Sri Lakshmanan’s sister requested all the members of her group to leave the luggage and rest for the night. 

The next morning, even as my grandmother entered the hall where Swami was sitting, He looked at her and told the people around Him, “See, this lady has come from Delhi. I don’t need an advertisement. I will call people to Me when the time comes”. Even after the first revelation and Darshan, my grandmother was not very much impressed with Swami. She construed Swami to be a mere young lad wearing a silk robe with just a few people around Him. They had planned to stay for a few days but Swami insisted that they stay longer. That trip lasted about 10 days. After a week, the questioning person in my grandmother, made the following observation: ‘I don’t know about His greatness, I don’t know anything about spirituality, but what I see is that every family which comes to Baba leaves in tears of joy. What is this phenomenon? Could this be Love?’ Even as this thought passed through, she heard Swami’s voice and as she turned around, Swami was standing behind her. He simply said, “You are thinking along the right lines. Continue thinking like this, you will reach God”. Swami has never asked for blind faith. He has always encouraged anybody to question, experience and then be convinced. That is how my family was taken into His fold.

Though I had been in Swami’s fold from my childhood, that didn’t mean that I had a yearning to be a student of His Institution! In early 1986, I received a phone call from my mother saying that Swami was going to Kodaikanal and that it would be a good time to have Darshan there since the crowd there would not be much. 

Sri Sathya Sai at Kodaikanal
Towards the end of the Kodaikanal trip, on the last day, Swami told me that He was leaving for Bangalore in connection with the MBA programme that He was commencing at the College. He looked at me meaningfully but did not say anything further. I took the cue and said, “Swami, can I do MBA in Your Institution?” Swami said, “Very happy!” The next morning, sitting in Darshan, Swami searched me out and said, “Today in The Hindu (newspaper) an advertisement has come for the MBA programme. Did you see it?” I said, “Swami I have not seen the papers yet”. He said, “See that and apply”.

During the Guru Pournima of that year, Swami called my family for an interview. In the interview, He asked me, “What do you want?” I said, “Swami, I want Your grace”. He said, “What else do you want?” I said, “Swami, I want to get a chance to do MBA in Your Institution”. He said, “What more do you want?” I was tongue tied not knowing what to say. Giving a very sweet smile, He asked, “Don’t you want Me?” That is the very purpose why He brings all of us to Him – to seek Him. In the interview, as He blessed me with a seat, He told me one very simple thing. He said, “I know that you have never woken up early in the morning, throughout your life. Now are you going to stay in My Hostel”. He said, “For My sake, can you get up early morning and recite Suprabhatam?” This was something which one can never refuse.

During my second year of MBA, we had been for the annual industrial tour which was in the month of January. Swami was in Brindavan. Every evening we used to have a beautiful time in Bhagavan’s Divine company. We received a lot of attention. Just before the industrial visit got over, Swami left for Puttaparthi. However prior to His leaving, He said, “When you come to Puttaparthi, I will give you a taste”.

It didn’t strike us as to what was coming but what came was quite unexpected. By the time we reached Puttaparthi, nobody wanted to be near us. Swami simply stopped speaking to us. He was ‘upset’ with us. The same people, who sat with us in the first year, were all sitting far away because Swami would take a detour around where we sat. We, as a batch, started writing letters asking for forgiveness. A senior teacher came back and returning our letters to us told us that Swami had sent them back! We then decided that we wouldn’t send the letters as a batch and do it individually such that atleast one would slip into His attention. But without fail, Sir would come back to Hostel everyday saying Swami had sent it back. 

So Swami was basically telling us, ‘I don’t want to talk to you, neither can you talk to Me.’ This was the biggest lesson for me because when Swami cuts us off completely, Swami is actually forcing us to talk to Him because He was always there with us and that was the inner connection. For the entire duration of our second year, He didn’t speak to us. Finally, Swami relented and called us all inside. Swami, the Divine Mother, melted and gave instructions to all boys telling them what He expected them to do. 

Though I came for just my MBA, somewhere down the line the desire to be a part of this Institution grew within. I would write letters to Swami with this prayer. However, Swami would go to my grandmother and say, “See his father is not happy with him being here. Let him go back”. This kind of testing went on for almost three months. I would literally have mental fights with Swami, every night, asking Him, ‘What is lacking in me that I cannot be close to You? Why can’t I be in Your Institution?’

Eventually, though Swami appointed me as a teacher in the Management Department, the testing continued. In the year 1990, we were in Brindavan for the industrial visit and the summer course was to follow. Before the Summer Course, the then Registrar of the University spoke to all the MBA boys and teachers. He said, “Swami is very upset with you boys. You have not been following His words”. Then suddenly he let one statement out very casually, “Swami has said, ‘Why boys? Even teachers! This Naren Ramji does not even know whether he wants to be here or go away’.” I followed sir after the meeting and asked him what the matter was. He told me that Swami had mentioned that my father had written a letter to Swami and hence I should immediately go back to Delhi.

I knew very well that my father wouldn’t write letters to Swami, and that Swami was merely churning the pot. So immediately began, what I call ‘Postal Sadhana’. Every day I would write a letter and give it inside Swami’s residence. And every evening, during Darshan, I would stand at the end hoping for Swami to say something. Swami would come into the College auditorium, walk among the gents, to the staircase and then proceed to the stage and seeing me standing there, Swami would put His head down and walk away. 

The duration of Summer Course was over and we all went back to Puttaparthi. Swami was still in Brindavan. On the first day of the academic calendar, I went to the College to teach thinking everything was resolved. In the evening, the Principal called me and I found Registrar waiting with him in the visitors’ room. He said, “I have got a message from Brindavan. Swami has said that you need not come to College and teach! You can stay at home and contemplate your future”. These were the words. Swami soon returned to Prasanthi Nilayam, and a few weeks later a senior member of the Administration asked me if I had prayed to Swami about my intense desire to stay here. I told him about the letters that I wrote every day to Swami. He simply said, “I think you must tell Swami, face-to-face”. Being the diffident person that I was, I was nervous. However, since the person advising me was a senior member, I felt this was the only way forward.

That day I went and sat in the first row for Darshan. When Swami is upset, you are reluctant to get up and tell Him anything. As I hesitatingly stood up, Swami said, “Sssh!” (Pointing at me to be quiet and sit down.) That was enough to freeze me completely. I just gave up. So for the next five days I just sat there and never attempted to get up. On the sixth day, I think Swami took great pity and called me for an interview. Inside, He very lovingly asked, “What? Did you get scared? You think Swami doesn’t know your thoughts? Swami, wouldn’t talk to you?” Now when I think back I know why Swami did this. When all your chips are down, Swami wants to know what your decision is. Is Swami the first priority or not? And this was the final, possibly breaking of that little thread. 

He said, “Look! You make a decision now. Do you want to be with Me or do you want to go back?” I said, “Swami, I don’t want to go back. I want to be with You”. Then He said one thing. He said, “If that’s your decision, leave everything to Me; I will take care of it. Do not worry about anything, leave it to Me”. It’s a very profound statement. ‘Leave it to ME’ means whatever the waves outside, the dissonance, disagreements, etc., leave it aside, and just leave it to Swami; that’s all. When God chooses to be our Guru, He is strict with us. He tries to mend us to do the right thing. Though God is all compassionate in that sense, God doesn’t punish. But the Guru has to train you to go towards God and that’s the rare privilege we all have. But the beauty of Swami is that even when He puts you to a test, He gives you solutions, supports you. And, finally we come out unscathed or victorious, which is due to His Grace. At the same time, He is so happy with our apparent successes.

Ever since, it has been a very fulfilling experience to be a teacher at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. I have learnt that with Swami the journey and learning never ends. It goes on even today for all of us, including me and it will never end. Swami keeps using that opportunity to make us learn, whether it is the Vice-Chancellor of the University or the junior-most student. All of us are here for only one purpose and that is reaching God. Whatever it takes for us to do that, Swami will keep tweaking and tweaking us till we reach that point. 

The first time I was exposed to Swami’s attention to detail and His magnificent way of managing things was when the first International Cardiac Conference was being organised at Prasanthi Nilayam. The Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences had invited international cardiologists to come and visit the hospital. It was in the early nineties and there weren’t many facilities in Prasanthi Nilayam. We had to upgrade the auditorium, College building, etc. 

Swami had selected a few teachers and students to be involved in that. And that is when I was a witness to the way Swami went into details about everything. He went with us to the rooms where doctors were going to stay and taught us how to fold the bed sheet, told us how to make the bed. He instructed us about the way to put a mineral water bottle, the glass, the towels in the bathroom, etc. That is the level of detail Swami went to, apart from, of course, looking at the cleanliness of the toilet, the seating area, the menu for the dining sessions. The younger generation should understand, Swami was extremely particular about every little thing. This has rubbed off on the way we work now because we shudder to see something wrong just imagining Swami’s frown.
Dr. Naren Ramji as the new Registrar of SSSIHL - June 2009
One of the most challenging tasks or duties for me was assuming the Registrar’s role in 2009. The message from Swami was that it was Swami’s desire that we (Srirangarajan and I) assume these (Registrar and Controller of Examinations) responsibilities. That is Swami’s method – He wants to know if you will accept. Swami didn’t direct us to take over. When Swami asks you to do a job, you just do it. But let me confess that being a teacher is a completely different from having to work as an administrator. One doesn’t know what comes each day. I remember once going to Swami and praying, “Swami I want Your blessings because this job is something which I am finding very overwhelming”. Swami said, “Nene Pettaanu. (I only put you there.) What are you talking about blessings?” The message was loud and clear. ‘What do you think? As if you are carrying the burden of the world on your shoulders. It is Swami who is doing everything’. And this is very true and this is what actually I would like to convey. And that is why I use the word ‘companion’. He is with us. He is with you if you choose to believe He is with you. 

Here is another example of how Swami is so considerate. It was the convocation in 2010, the 29th convocation of the University where the Prime Minister of India came as the Chief Guest. This was my first exposure to what is called ‘bureaucratic red tape’. A lot of instructions were streaming down, from the Administration saying, ‘This must be done this way and that way’. We got the seating arrangement from the Prime Minister’s office saying that Prime Minister would be sitting in the centre and Swami sits by the side! I was quite upset. 

Swami is the centre of our ceremonies and He is the Chancellor and therefore Swami should be seated in the centre. Some elders advised me not to push the matter because they said it’s the protocol. I was stubborn and told my office to find all the photographs when dignitaries like the President of India, all had come previously, scan those pictures and send them to the PM’s office. I picked up the phone and spoke to the Secretary of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust and told him that I would be sending some pictures for his perusal and that he should clear it for sending. Within 24 hours, we get a fax from the PM’s office saying that our seating arrangement was approved!
Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh with Sri Sathya Sai at SSSIHL Convocation - November 22, 2010. Dr. Naren Ramji as Registrar is kneeling on the right.
I would like to end with a wonderful learning I have had which has stayed with me to this day. When I had joined the University as a teacher, a very well-meaning elder in the Ashram came to me after about a few months and said, ‘You know Swami has given me this message which has to be given to you.’ I listened to the message and out of a need to thank Swami for sending the message, I wrote a letter mentioning the message that I had received and thanked Swami for guiding me.

That evening Swami came out of Interview Room, searched for me, called me inside and I got the first pounding of my life! I can remember very clearly that day I broke down because Swami was so furious. He told me, “When I am here and even when I am not here, do you think I will send a message to you through somebody else? I will tell you directly. You don’t have to believe anybody coming saying ‘I have got a message from Swami’ I will tell you. I may tell you through a dream or any other way, but you will know it is Me”. That was a very strong message saying which taught me that God has got no limitations. To say that ‘I am not in tune with Him and therefore He cannot speak to me’ is putting limitations on God, not us. Swami can tell you anytime, anyway; one doesn’t have to be specially realised or something like that. It’s a very important testament, that’s why I say He is the Eternal Companion. Seek from Him what you want to know, He will tell you. Swami was telling me that, ‘Look, I am there looking at you all the time what you do.’ I will close with a quote of Swami where Swami says, ‘Don’t walk in front of Me for I will not follow you. Don’t walk behind Me I will not lead you. Walk beside Me’. That is why I have always experienced Swami as my Eternal Companion.

- Dr. Naren Ramji
Student (1986-1988), Faculty of Business Management
Currently, Registrar, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
Prasanthi Nilayam


2 comments:

  1. OM SAI RAM:)YOU ARE A TRULY LUCKY PERSON SIR:)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow...Om Sai Ram!!!...bhagwan baba is my angel..he is my everythg....nd u r such a firtunate being dear sir!!...

    ReplyDelete

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