It’s going to give me great pleasure writing this article because I’m going to tell you a true story about about how Swami bestowed his loving grace onto a truly wonderful man. A man that I have great pleasure in being aquainted with; and a man who was truly deserving of Swami’s grace.
For about the last four years I have been attending, whenever possible, the once- a-month bhajan (devotional songs) sessions at the Claverton Hall in Bath with the Bath Sai Baba group. Because I live around 25 miles away it is not always possible for me to attend, and take part in the other activities that the group organise. I am eternally grateful to my wonderful friend and brother, Satyan, for introducing me to this group after I met him for the first time at an event celebrating Swami’s birthday in 2007. However, I digress slightly. Whenever I went along I noticed that a man called Patrick was always in attendance, and I also found that he was always one of the first to arrive to help set up, and always one of the last to leave after clearing away and tidying up. I learned also that Patrick always got involved with the seva (service) activities that the group organised, such as the feeding of the homeless at the hostel in Bath City Centre. I got to know Patrick after a few visits and quickly became aware that he was a man of great humility with the wisdom of a sage, and I also just assumed that he lived in Bath. I also just assumed that he had been to Prashanti Nilayam on a number of occasions.
Two things, however, really surprised me. Firstly, when I was chatting to Patrick just prior to my first visit to Swami in 2009, I was amazed to hear that he’d never actually been himself. Secondly, I was equally amazed when someone told me that Patrick does not actually live in Bath; he apparently lives in Bradford-On-Avon, which I believe is at least five miles away. Not only that, he doesn’t drive either; he travels everywhere by pushbike. Nothing too unusual about that, but not only is the Claverton Hall at the top of a very steep hill, but it’s also a very long hill, and I remember one particularly bitterly cold Thursday night in December when the group held a Christmas Carol service at the hall, Patrick had been there then; helping to set up and pack away. It’s difficult to believe that someone would be so devoted to Swami that he would go to those lengths to ”do his bit”. Anyway, that’s the background information, now on to the main point of the story.
As I mentioned in a previous article Swami had invited devotees from all over the world to attend a pilgrimage in 2010. The UK had been invited, along with several other countries, to attend in August of that year. Various devotees from Region 7 (of which Bath is a part) were going. Unfortunately, Patrick, being a family man, didn’t have the spare cash to spend on the cost of the flight. However, Baba had other ideas. Because the group booked a bulk ticket the airline offered one free seat for the return journey. So, it was decided that all the names of people who wanted to go but couldn’t were put into a hat. Patrick’s name was amongst them, and lo and behold, his name was drawn. But there was more to come.
I saw Patrick some time after and I was telling him how happy I was for him that he was able to go. What he told me next left me nigh on gobsmacked. Patrick said that he had been at Prashanti for a number of days and did not even think that he would get any personal attention from Swami, especially on the day in question, because when he was sitting in darshan he was quite a few rows back and never in a million years even dreamed that Baba would single him out.
Now anyone who is familiar with Baba will know, that during the last few years in his physical form, he was in a wheelchair. This particular day Patrick was sitting in line with the throngs of people and Swami was being wheeled along in the gangway area specially left clear for his wheelchair (the days when Swami would glide amongst the masses like an orange-robed angel were long since gone). All of a sudden the wheelchair stopped and Baba looked over towards Patrick. As he did so a man sitting a few rows in front sat up obscuring Patrick’s view. Patrick said he quickly moved his head to one side just in time for Swami to make eye contact with him and say ”so you have come at last”.
I was overjoyed to hear this and I can just imagine how he felt. Out of all the thousands and thousands of people in darshan Baba chose to shower his grace on Patrick. I was over the moon for him.
I will close by sharing an experience that occurred just six days prior to writing this article.
I had not been to the hall for what must have been over six months and I was having an ”inner calling” to attend. I wanted to get there at 13:45 in order to take part in the study group prior to bhajans. But due to circumstances I wasn’t able to get there until the bhajans were about half-way through. As I entered I noticed empty seats at the front where Patrick was sitting. I sat down and we acknowledged each other. Within seconds of sitting down Swami enfolded me in his Omnipresence and I felt my heart bursting with love; my eyes just filled up with tears of joy. It was as though my loving Father was welcoming me home. When the bhajans were over I was able to have a brief conversation with Patrick. As ever I found a few minutes in his company so uplifting and inspirational. It was like a double whammy for me. Baba showering me in his love, and words of wisdom from Patrick; a truly perfect afternoon.
What a lovely and beautifully written piece Richard. Thank you for sharing your spiritual moments and what shines through clearly is your devotion and love for Sai Baba.
Thanks for taking the time to stop by Linn. I’m surprised you had the time; your comments are always welcome.
It was a wonderful read, especially on Baba’s birthday. I could feel the devotion and love throughout. The last time I went to Puttaparthi, I wasn’t keen at sitting for hours and hours on a cold floor with thousands of others. But the night before we left, he scolded me, and told me to keep walking. When he passed by us in his wheelchair, he looked straight at me, with that twinkle in his, like he knew how bugged I was. He’s truly my greatest friend, and I loved how you wrote about his ‘leelas’. God bless 🙂
Thank you so much for your kind and positive comments. There are many more posts on my blog that would interest you if you have a trawl through. I posted 2 swami-related articles over the last couple of days that I’m sure you will enjoy too. Thanks again. Jai Sai Ram 🙂
This remembrance came to mind when reading about Patrick and seva. Let me first say that it in no way has anything to do with me, but everything to do with Baba . Years ago I was asked to go with an Indian family who were very good friends of mine to help attend with their quadriplegic son Depak for a 4-day retreat by Swami Chidananda of the Divine Life Society. I didn’t really want to go other than to help out as I already had a guru but knew the Divine Life Society was very respectable indeed so I “went along for the ride.” After a full day and night, I was struck with how poorly things were running like in the cafeteria and shuttling Swamiji about, etc. I say this because of my experience around Baba; everything is done perfectly in double time. So, to make a long story longer, I just jumped in and started getting things together and it all fell into place perfectly. On the last day, two women approached me and said, “You are a Sai Baba devotee aren’t you!”, to which I replied, “Yes. Long time. How the heck do you know that?” I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone. She said, “We could just tell by the way you did service this weekend, only Sai devotees work like that.” I was quite surprised at this. Not long afterward, a very refined Indian gentleman who I had not seen or talked to walked up to me and gave me a very beautiful shawl and said, “This is for all of your work this weekend.” I began to refuse it but thought better of it when I looked into his eyes. What rang loud and clear to me was, “Your life is My message.”