Lessons from Sri Sathya Sai in the Kodai Hills – By Dr. Deepak Anand

I have been blessed to be a part and parcel of the Institute since the year 1997. I sometimes wonder as to how this institution is able to transform ordinary individuals to men and women of character in a short span of time. Is it the academic rigor in the Institute with focused and disciplined attention, the practical learning in various self-reliance departments of the hostel, the time spent in the Mandir in the Divine Presence or accompanying the Lord on occasional trips to Kodaikanal that brings in the desired transformation? The answer is neither straightforward nor does it exclude any of these factors. But certainly, the opportunity to observe the Lord from very close quarters and come under His transformative influence in the Mandir and to a much greater extent during the Kodaikanal trips is unique to Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, facilitating imbibing of incomparable and invaluable lessons from the One whose life itself is a living message.
Dr. Deepak Anand with Sri Sathya Sai in Kodaikanal - May 2005
Certainly, there is no better place to transform ourselves into better individuals than being with Bhagavan in Kodaikanal. The Vedic injunction of Atithi Devo Bhava (consider the guest as God) and the definition of being cultured as, ‘having concern for others’ come alive from the very first moment we are in the presence of Bhagavan in Kodaikanal. He plays the role of a perfect host. From the inspection of bathrooms to the serving of dishes as per the taste and health requirements of individuals – nothing escapes His keen attention. In the year 1998, the new air-conditioned bus that we were travelling in was unable to keep pace with Bhagavan’s car and thereafter, a traffic jam on the way left us miles behind Him. Feeling lost, in the middle of nowhere, we were pleasantly surprised to see an elderly devotee of Bhagavan approach us in his car with plenty of snacks, which He said Bhagavan had sent for us. We were moved to hear that Bhagavan had enquired about us tens of times and had repeatedly refused to have food or retire before seeing His children eat. Tears flowed freely from our eyes. Finally, when we reached Sai Sruthi, well after 9 p.m., we found the Lord standing at the door-step with intermingled feelings of anxiety and joy writ large on His face. He welcomed us in with smiles and a loving pat on our backs, asking each one about his comfort. The Lord ushered us straight into the dining hall and asked us to wash our hands and sit for dinner with Him. He personally inspected the serving of one of our most sumptuous dinner sessions in decades and only then, to satisfy us, did He take a mere spoonful of rice, before retiring. Out fatigue had disappeared and our hearts were full of an indescribable ecstasy as we spread our beds just next to the door of His room. I could hear the footsteps of Bhagavan moving inside and immersed in His love, we slept with His thoughts.

From the very next day, we realised that we would be having sessions of over seven hours each day with the Lord. Deepest of philosophies and peels of laughter intermingled with perfect ease in His presence. “This has to be heaven”, I concluded as the weather, the beauty of the place, a beautiful lake with lotuses, with clouds floating all around, and the presence of Bhagavan. That day, the Lord said that He would take us for a picnic to the Hill Top bungalow.

The Lord had just materialised the gigantic ring which King Dasharatha had gifted to Lord Rama before the marriage. It had happily fitted the right thumb of Lord Sai Rama. Everything just seemed perfect – the milieu, the presence of the Lord and we, like monkeys, surrounding him and laughing with Him, our beloved. Suddenly, the Lord became serious and peered out through the drawn curtain. He asked the bus to be halted and we were all surprised. The Lord pointed towards two poor women carrying bundles of firewood on their heads at a distance and asked them to be escorted closer to the bus. The middle-aged women, when told that Sathya Sai Baba was calling them, rushed to the presence of Bhagavan. The Lord enquired about their welfare as a loving father and blessed them with His smiles and Abhaya-Hasta. He then directed and ensured that they were given Rs.500 each. The women were quite stunned and looked dazed at their great good fortune. After the Lord had showered His blessings on them, He asked the security personnel to help them keep the bundles of firewood back on their heads. “What a great lesson for all!” I thought.
Sri Sathya Sai at the Dining Table
Two days later, we were having one of our dining sessions with Bhagavan. I was part of the serving group, which served everybody before having their food at the end. After we consecrated the food with a prayer to Lord Brahma in the very presence of Lord Sai Brahma, to our great surprise and joy, the Lord got up from His chair, and keeping a small towel on His right shoulder, walked between the two rows of dining tables, carrying with Him a small silver bowl containing salted white-peas. He ate a few as He ambled along, aware of the students’ furtive looks and asking us occasionally to serve again the items some boys had finished eating. Standing afar, I prayed to the Lord.  When the Lord turned back, I knew He would answer that prayer of mine. The Lord came close, looked straight into my eyes, smiled, took a spoonful of peas, and to my great delight, gave them to me. Then, purposely, He dropped a spoonful of peas on the ground. I went on my knees behind Him and collected them all.

I was beginning to realise that sumptuous food of diverse variety can both be a blessing and a curse. With an average of twenty items, sweets and fruits included, like many others, after the first three days, I began running to tables where plates were not yet full, giving me a choice of how much to eat. Sometimes, some of us would find ourselves in front of Bhagavan with plates filled with delicacies that we could neither eat nor leave. Sometimes we suffered mild indigestion even. Whenever a boy was found missing from a meal session, the Lord’s motherly eyes would immediately seek him and enquire from the elders the reason. When informed, the Lord would Himself walk up to his room and ask about his well-being. He would sometimes chide the boy lovingly for not going for a full round of the lake in the morning, that explained his lack of appetite, or Himself check his temperature with a thermometer. Later He would bless the fortunate boy with Prasadam and instructions about restricted diet for him the next few days. Observing all these outpourings of love and personal attention, most of us would actually feel like falling sick! Man’s needs are God’s opportunities. 

But His great love and concern were in no way confined to His students alone. For Him, all are His own reflections and the only relationship He has with one and all is one of supreme love. An instance that revealed His immense concern for others, especially the sick and the forlorn, was witnessed by us during the Easwaramma Day celebrations on the 6th of May. The Lord had organized Narayan Seva and sumptuous food and new clothes were distributed to all those who assembled at Sai Sruthi. After the distribution, the Lord asked a jeep to be loaded with rugs, and went around Kodaikanal, spotting old and decrepit people who could not have made it to Sai Sruthi, and distributed the much-needed rugs to them. It was with the same concern that the Lord gave us money and asked us to purchase woolen clothes for our parents from the Nepali sellers who take a lot of trouble in manufacturing these goods and transporting them to Kodaikanal.
Sri Sathya Sai with the hat purchased by students from the locak vendor
After a few days, we started praying to Bhagavan to take us out for another picnic. The Lord said that as people follow Him in large numbers, some of these picnics earlier had been difficult to manage; so instead, He would take us on a sight-seeing drive. Bhagavan consulted a local police officer on the ideal place around Kodaikanal to visit. The officer promptly suggested a particular spot, listing a few things in its favour, such as, its proximity and scenic beauty. The Lord asked him to lead the caravan the next day and made all the necessary arrangements for the same. The next day, we happily boarded our bus that followed the Lord’s car, while the police jeep led from the front. But this presumed journey of less than one hour seemed endless! The condition of the road, where it could be called one, and fallen trees after a recent storm made the job of the security-men and drivers ‘memorable’! The Lord, who travelled with us for some time commented about the lack of planning and foresight on the part of the police officer. We all assumed that a thorough reprimand from the Lord awaited the police officer once we reached. At the end of what can safely be described as a ‘torturous’ journey, the Lord called for the police officer close to Him and most lovingly mentioned to him that the journey was a bit longer than expected. He then materialised a beautiful diamond ring for him and posed for photographs with all the officers.
After the Drive Around Kodaikanal
Sometimes the Lord parts the veil of Maya (illusion) and reveals His Supreme Divinity. During one of the sessions with Him, the Lord said, “I will give a prize to the one who tells correctly who I am.” Prompt flew answers in search, not of Him, but the promised reward. “You are God, Swami,” said one, “You are Dattatreya, Swami,” said another; “Shiva-Shakti” said another, and “Krishna,” another. After some time, we looked at Swami who seemed to be enjoying the titles being conferred on Him, but none had satisfied Him. The Lord said, “Wrong answers. I am I. When you say, ‘I am God’, there is duality as you consider ‘I’ different from ‘God’. For me there is no duality.” In the stillness of the silence that followed, we tried to come to terms with His and our realities. This was one of the times when the Lord gave lessons directly, but there were equally revealing times, when the Lord said something that again brought us face-to-face with the Principle that He is. Once, as the Lord appeared from His room in the early morning and stood facing us, He asked one short boy to stand next to Him. He then asked, “Who is taller, you or Me?” The boy was quite nonplussed and after a little while said, “Swami, You are taller.” The Lord gave a loving pat on his back and said, “No, wrong answer, Anoraneeyaan Mahato Maheeyaan” (I am smaller than the smallest and larger than the largest).
"I am I"
On another occasion, the Lord was conversing with us and narrating significant and amusing instances from His childhood when He had visited many places. In the course of this recollection Swami mentioned the Queen of the princely state of Jind in pre-independence India. One of the elders mentioned that the Queen was present among the ladies. The Lord looked at her and asked, “Jind Rani, what is your age now?” Having been very close to Bhagavan for decades, she replied childishly, “Swami I am elder to you by three months.” Instant was the reply of Bhagavan who said, “Not me, this body. I have no age.” Another significant instance in this regard involved two brothers who were part of the entourage in the year 1999 and were visited by their parents and sister for a week. The Lord blessed them with an interview and an opportunity to have meals with Him.

It was Friday morning and during the session, the Lord asked one of the brothers, “When are your parents leaving?” The boy folded his hands and said, “Swami, they say that they would leave whenever Bhagavan says.” The Lord smiled and said, “Did they not come to meet you yesterday evening and say that they were planning to leave on Saturday to be in time for your sister’s exam on Sunday? Where am I?” 

Having thus seen glimpses of His Reality and the practical messages of His life, let us now go on to those golden words uttered by Him that are practical scriptures for those on the path of spirituality for all times to come. One of the instances that comes to my mind is when the Lord invited spiritual questions from us. Taking the opportunity, an elderly devotee asked, “Swami, whatever Sadhana we do, finally, it is You, who being pleased, grant us liberation. So please tell us what pleases You the most, so that You quickly bestow upon us Your blessings of liberation.” The Lord smiled and replied, “Bangaroo, to please me is very simple – just follow what I say.”

In Kodaikanal, Bhagavan gives occasional discourses in the Bhajan hall after the evening programme. One day, the Lord spoke elaborately about the need for all to master the mind and become a master-mind. But all through, the Lord did not reveal to us the way to achieve the same. I was determined to ask Bhagavan for the easiest way to achieve it. After we came inside and sat around Bhagavan, He again mentioned the importance of mastering the mind in the spiritual path. At that point I raised my hand and sought permission to ask a question. The Lord looked at me and said, “Ask.” I prayed, “Swami what is the easiest way to master the mind and become a master-mind? The Lord smiled and said, “The easiest way to master the mind is to love God more and more, and the best way to love God is to love all and serve all.”
Sri Sathya Sai with Students at Kodaikanal - April 1999
After descending from the hills of Kodaikanal, we experienced a sea-change in weather and found the journey to Madurai quite warm. The road-top ahead reflected the scorching sun. The Lord’s car was in front of us, preceded and followed by two police jeeps. Suddenly, the Lord’s car stopped and with that our bus and the whole entourage. The door of the Lord’s car opened. Expecting the unexpected, the bare-footed policemen from the jeep following Bhagavan’s car jumped out, only to jump back immediately, with the burning tar painfully scorching their soles. As they frantically started to wear their shoes, the Lord kept His tender and lotus feet on the ground and walked slowly and majestically the entire fifty-metre distance with a smile on His face. He then distributed tetra packs. I thought He had forgotten me, sitting as I was, holding His lotus feet on the floor of the bus. He asked for a pack, pushed in the straw, and reversing His hand, in one quick gesture inserted the straw straight into my mouth, without even looking towards where I was sitting!


Source: Vidyagiri: Divine Vision (2006)

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