Heart to Heart: Sri Sathya Sai with His Students – By Swaroop Alwar

It was for my XI Standard that I first stepped into Puttaparthi not knowing anything about the place or the Master who had designed it. Swami was still at Brindavan.  My casual self was forced to get a philosophical touch when I came here for the entrance exam, since on my way to join the Hostel I was going through the Bhagawad Gita where Lord Krishna was encouraging the depressed Arjuna to get ready for the battle. I remembered having studied for the entrance exam that Bhagawan Baba preaches Sathya, Dharma, Shanti, Prema and Ahimsa. If He were that same Krishna as people believed, why then was He asking Arjuna to fight a war, and now talking about peace? Both of them seemed to be contradicting principles. This question was registered deeply in my mind for a while, only to be forgotten after some time. 

A few days later, Swami returned to Puttaparthi and as He was talking to one of the devotees in the Mandir portico, the long dormant question in my mind suddenly arose from its slumber, only to turn the eyes of Swami immediately towards me. I understood that He had heard my unasked question. Yet, to confirm, I wrote a letter the next morning, mentioning the same question and sat down in the Mandir portico. 

As I waited for the Lord’s response, He completed the routine round of Darshan and the moment He stepped onto the portico, His eyes searching, followed by His swift steps from the interview room towards me. No words were exchanged between Swami and me. The unforgettable sway of His body and the smile that He gave me standing in front and looking into my eyes, was so wonderful that I forgot that there was a letter in my hand to be given to Him. At the end of all this, I was convinced that  Swami could hear my thoughts and respond without even speaking to me; and at the same time communicate the unforgettable message, not onto my ears but directly into my heart. Senses do not come in between the heart of a student and Swami. It was this sort of communication that went on between Swami and me during my school days. This experience was the first to sow the seed of conviction that Swami was the same Krishna whose stories always fascinated me from my childhood. 

During those days, Swami would pick up students personally to serve Prasadam during the Akhanda Bhajans. As He was picking up some of the students, I just thought, “Swami, I too want to be called”!  And Lo, He immediately called me. Such was His love that He responded so spontaneously. But still, there was a feeling that Swami would speak to others but not to me. As He was speaking to another student, I thought, “Swami, if you do not want to speak to me, at least look at me” and immediately Swami looked at me. I felt something was better than nothing, and that something was actually everything to me. Every speechless communication between Swami and me watered the seed of conviction that Swami would definitely hear and respond to my thoughts and feelings. 

It was not until my MBA, the last two years of my study in Puttaparthi, that Swami added the thrill of conversation with Him, in my life. One day, He called me and asked me what I was studying, my age and so on.  I began to wonder whether He was really speaking to me after those silent school days when I used to cry and even starve for one word from Him. At last, a longstanding prayer was answered. Swami used to speak to me every now and then. He took so much care of me that when my ear was to be operated upon to remove a tumour and I went to Bangalore for a check-up, He called the doctor and gave Vibhuti packets to be given to me once I returned. After a few days, He called me and materialised Vibhuti and applied it onto my left ear. It was He who ultimately cured my ailment. 

I always used to stay back during the winter vacation, thinking that there would be more opportunities for interaction with Swami as the students’ crowd would be less during the holidays. It was the winter vacation in 2004 and I stayed back expecting lot of nice things to happen. As ill luck would have it, Swami would never come out of the interview room after Darshan. I was usually the first one to reach the Mandir for the afternoon Darshan, to ensure that I did not miss the front line. This would give me a fair chance for an interaction with Swami. After all that lost afternoon sleep, bearing with the hunger and cruel sunshine above me, it was very difficult to accept the reality that Swami was not coming out of the interview room. When my brother enquired about my well being, the ongoing situation was at the top of my mind and I expressed my sadness over it. I got a feeling that this was one of the worst winter vacations I ever had. 

That very evening, for a change, Swami came out of the interview room to the dais and asked students to speak to the public gathered there. As I was sitting on the stage for the Veda chanting, which precedes any speech; Swami came and started speaking to me. From then on, He continued coming out of the interview room everyday and spent time with the students.  As I passed from XI Standard and finally reached MBA, there was a perceptible change in the way that Swami accepted letters from the students. Earlier, He used to come to the place where we were sitting and collect letters from us. Now, He would call us on to the stage where He would be seated, and take letters from us and also speak with us. So, it was deemed a special blessing when He called us to take a letter. 

There was an occasion when He called me thrice, i.e. in the morning session, the evening session and the next day morning session too, and also spoke to me every time. Then there was the shower of His love when He called nine of us for a private session in the Poornachandra Auditorium after the morning Darshan. Those few hours He spent with us all alone with no teachers, no VIPs, no security men; no one but Swami and us. He gave us clothes, eatables and above all, spoke to each one of us, permitting us to ask any questions. He spoke on topics ranging from the Ramayana to the current day’s governance of the country. It was like a session with Him in Kodaikanal or maybe even better since only Swami and we were there. He even told us that whenever He would go to Kodaikanal, students would be sitting around Him in a similar fashion. My impression about the winter vacation changed from the worst to the best one I ever had so far. This was a benchmark experience of interaction with Swami. All these were in response to my prayer that He was not coming out and spending time with students. 

When Swami was not speaking to me during my school days, the level of displeasure was different. The reason being that He was not speaking to me earlier, and it was the same now, no difference. But a period of silence after blessing me with numerous interactions was more difficult to bear. It was during one such period of silence that I was taken ill. As a result, I could not reach the Mandir on time to join the Veda chanting which Swami had initiated in September 2004. As I was shaving to get ready and leave for Darshan, the blade in the razor was hurting my skin and I thought, “Why should I go through all this pain when the One for whose sake I am getting ready is not speaking to me at all?” Reluctantly, I got ready, feeling that I should never miss Darshan at any cost. As I entered the Mandir, the Veda chanting had already begun and Swami was sitting on the stage. I went and sat near the Bhajan Hall door. 

Usually, once the chanting gets over, Swami would directly go towards the interview room.  As the Veda chanting ended, a student moved His sofa towards the interview room and to his surprise, Swami directed him to take the sofa towards the Bhajan Hall. As His sofa was being taken up the ramp, Swami called me and asked, “Do you know the Purusha Suktam?”  I answered in the affirmative.  Only later did I recollect the thought that had passed through my mind before coming for Darshan. I realised that Swami had again responded to my feelings. This is the Infinite Love of Swami. 
Swaroop (top extreme right) with his MBA classmates and Sri Sathya Sai
We have His Love touching our lives at every point of time. He will never let us away from his tender grip. With Sai, Life is an endless hope and without Him it is a hopeless end. 

-Swaroop Alwar
Student (2002-2004), Department of Management Studies
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
Prasanthi Nilayam Campus
Currently, Content Manager, Thomson Reuters, Bangalore

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