Sai Humour 7


It seems like a while since I’ve written an article on Sai humour, so here I am with part seven of this most intriguing of subjects.  On this occasion I’m going to share two gems concerning the American devotee, Dr John Hislop and a personal experience that happened no more than a few hours before writing this post.  Dr John Hislop was one of Swami’s closest devotees for many years until he departed this Earth in August 1995.

In 1973 Hislop accompanied Baba and some students on a trip to Bandipur forest where they spent Shivarathri.  It was during this trip Baba performed one of his most famous miracles ever, materializing a crucifix for Hislop.  When Baba performed this miracle the crucifix took a second or two to materialize instead of the usual nano second.  This prompted Swami to issue a tongue-in-cheek apology for it taking so long, adding that the reason for the delay was because the crucifix was made from some of the actual wood from the cross on which Jesus was crucified 2000 years ago.  The scientist in Hislop prompted him to get it checked out on returning to the US.  He gave it to a friend who was an expert in this particular field, and he confirmed that the wood was indeed around 2000 years old.  Six months later Hislop returned to India and he could not hide his embarrassment when Baba, with a cheeky grin on his face, said to him “so, you didn’t believe the wood was 2000 years old until you got it tested”.

On another occasion Baba materialized a ring for Hislop with an enamel picture of himself on it.  After some time the enamel developed some cracks, and not wanting to wear a broken image of Swami on his finger, he tied a piece of string through the ring and wore it around his neck.  When Baba asked him why he was wearing the ring around his neck Hislop replied “it’s my talisman Swami, as long as it’s on my body it reminds me to think of you whenever I’m in need of your care and protection”.  Some time passed and Hislop had a miraculous escape from death.  He was travelling in a taxi from Whitefield to Bangalore when a car was approaching at speed in the opposite direction.  The road was not wide enough for manouvering and Hislop, in terror, closed his eyes and waited for the inevitable impact.  After a few seconds he opened them again and was shocked to find that he was still travelling in the taxi with a clear road ahead.  He could not figure out how the driver had managed to avoid a collision, and he was still in a state of shock when he arrived at his hotel.  When Baba saw him the next morning, with a hint of sarcasm and a twinkle in his eye, he said “when you were in such a grave situation yesterday you didn’t think of me did you”.  But Baba’s love is boundless and he gave Hislop another ring.

This next example is so funny to me, because Baba used his humour to convey a message to me via someone else’s dream.  I find it so funny because it is very personal and very, very apt.  Somone who is very dear to me told me this morning that Baba had come to her in a dream and that she had been face to face with him.  Now Swami always said that when we dream of him it is not a dream but a visitation.  I explained this to my dear friend who has only come to know of Sri Sathya Sai Baba in the last few months.  She said that in the dream Baba asked her “do you know me?”.  She replied, “Yes, I know you through Richard Holmes”, to which Baba replied, “ahhh the foreigner”.

At first I just thought to myself that it was typical Baba and that it was one of his amusing quips.  But, I should have known better.  Swami never does or says anything just for the sake of it, and nothing that he ever does can be described as “typical”.  A couple of hours later the penny dropped, the light bulb in my head came on and I knew exactly what he meant when he referred to me as “the foreigner”.  It was extremely appropriate to my circumstances and his way of letting me know that he was aware of everything.  To me it was just wonderful to know that he blessed a very dear soul with his presence and at the same time delivered a personal message to me.  Oooooh that’s why I love him so!

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The Divine Teaser Part Two


In part two of The Divine Teaser I would like to share with you a little story that relates to my second visit to Prasanthi Nilayam, in February 2010.  As in part one, this event happened on my last day and it is also a prime example of Sai humour.

I went with a companion on my second visit, my then girlfriend, Ciara.  We decided to stay the first night in a good hotel and then see about accommodation on the ashram or find a simple apartment.  A significant thing also was that when we planned our trip we did not realise that it would coincide with Maha Shivaratri; one of the busiest festival times of the year.  The ashram had been unbelievably busy during my first visit, which coincided with Diwali and Gujarati New Year, but this time the volume of people was just unreal.  Because Ciara had a stomach condition, that meant she was in a great deal of pain for most of our stay, we ended up just staying in a very basic apartment for the duration.  Once the festival was under way we didn’t have much choice anyway because it would have been nigh-on impossible to find an alternative, what with the sheer numbers of people in the village.  I’d known before we set off that this trip was about her and not me.  I knew in my heart that Swami was calling Ciara; I also knew that he was aware of her stomach pains and that the harsh conditions of the ashram would have been too much for her to cope with.

Our apartment was down a side street but opposite a shop that sold T-shirts.  The motifs on the T-shirts were machined on the premises and the noise from the sewing machine was deafening.  As a result we did not sleep that well during the whole of our stay, but we kind of got used to it as the days passed.

Because of the volume of people in Puttaparthi (and on the ashram itself), I didn’t even bother to go through the business of laying my cushion down early in the hope of getting a place in the first line; I was just content to sit anywhere in Sai Kulwant Hall, and quite often I just sat at the back.  However, by the time we reached the last day of our stay Shivaratri was over, the crowds subsided and I decided that I was going to have one last go at getting as close as I could to Sri Sathya Sai Baba.  I knew that it would not only be my last darshan of the trip, but my last darshan ever, because Swami had already let me know that I would not be returning to Puttaparthi.  Baba has a way of letting you know things on an inner level, in the same way that he calls the millions and millions of devotees to the ashram; it’s just something that you know; words and physical presence are not necessary.

So, come mid-morning I lay my cushion down in the line to reserve my place and then went off about my business.  Early-ish afternoon I returned and took my place with my cushion along with the other hopefuls, and waited for the comedy capers to begin.  For the benefit of anyone reading this who has never been to Prasanthi Nilayam for the darshan of Sri Sathya Sai Baba I shall briefly explain the process of “the lines”.  Once morning darshan has finished you are allowed to go and place your cushion down in a designated area in order to reserve your place in the queue for evening darshan.  Once your cushion has been placed you can disappear until mid afternoon (but in the meantime hope that nobody steals your cushion and/or your place in the queue).  Once the first line of cushions stretches back up the hill until it can’t go any further, another queue is formed next to it.  At around 2:00 to 2:30 p.m. the queues are moved down alongside Sai Kulwant Hall.  This is where the fun begins because you get people who have not been queueing trying to sneak in and this can develop into pushing and shoving.  The two lines are then formed into four lines alongside the hall.  At some point the four people at the head of each line are invited to draw a token out of a bag, and whichever line draws token number one gets to go into the hall first, thus getting the chance to sit right at the front and get close to Baba.  Running is supposed to be strictly forbidden in such a sacred place, but as soon as people get inside they go tearing down to the front as though their lives depend on it.

I couldn’t believe my luck when the line I was in drew token number one.  Now before I go any further I will just say this.  Anyone who has had experience of Swami will know that he quite often plays Divine games (leelas), not only that, he sometimes gives us our own personal leela.  So, there I was in the line that drew token number one; things just couldn’t get any better, I was going to see my loving Lord’s Divine form one more time before leaving.  I got into the hall and sure enough people started running towards the front.  I tried my hardest to be disciplined but the trouble is, because of the runners, even though you may be in line one, if everyone runs past you and takes up all the spaces on the front row, then you wont get your prime spot.  So, seeing what was happening I convinced myself that Swami wouldn’t mind and I broke out into a trot.  However, because of other people’s selfishness I did not get my place in the front row.  But I still got a great position in row two directly opposite where Baba comes out.  There was two people sitting in front of me but I was sitting directly in the middle of their two sets of shoulders so I had a really good view; I was very excited and thanked Swami for getting me this spot.  As I have mentioned in previous posts it had got to the stage where Baba very rarely came out for morning darshan anymore, but you could bet your shirt on him coming out for evening darshan.

So I sat in my prime position, the Vedas were chanted and the bhajans were sung.  The time was getting on, so “anytime now” I thought to myself; I would see that orange robe in the distance and my heart would explode with love and my eyes would fill with tears of joy.  Then I would watch in anticipation as Baba came closer and closer to where I was sitting and I would get a really good glimpse of him.  “You never know”, I thought, “I might even get that all elusive eye contact.”  The bhajans went on and on, “yes, anytime now”, I thought again; and on and on they went.  Then I noticed something that I must admit, I found rather amusing.  There was an older Indian man sitting near me who kept looking around as though he was trying to attract the attention of anyone who would entertain him.  As he looked around with a very indignant look on his face he kept pointing at his watch, as if to say “what time does he call this”.  Then he would point and gesticulate with his hands as if miming “just who does he think he is, keeping us waiting like this”.  Then to my amazement ararthi* was called and the man got up and walked off in a huff.  The realization then dawned on me that Baba was having a bit of amusement in the way that only Baba can.

Every now and then Swami used to remind us that we were becoming far too attached to his physical form, and this was one such occasion.  I also felt that this was his way of telling me that I shouldn’t take things for granted.  I must admit that I was a bit disappointed that my dear Swami never came out, knowing that I wouldn’t see his physical form again, but I also saw the funny side and had a good old chuckle to myself.  In truth the whole thing was just one of Swami’s leelas.  There I was running (I’m ashamed to admit it) in Sai Kulwant Hall because I was scared of losing my place in the front row, but the reality is that we only ever sit where Swami puts us.  We all think that we are in control but all the time the Divine puppet master is having his play.  I have no room for complaint anyway because dear Baba had already blessed us beyond our wildest dreams before this incident occurred, and that will be the subject of a future blog post.

As long as I remain on this Earth I will never forget the sight of that man pointing at his watch and complaining that Sri Sathya Sai Baba was keeping us waiting; absolutely priceless.

*Arathi, aarthi or aarti (from the Sanskrit term Aaraatrik) is the ritual performed at the end of every darshan, in which the flame from wicks soaked in camphor is offered to the Divine. Aartis also refers to the song which is sung as darshan comes to a close.

Sai Baba – Avatar & Human Being


Dear loving Swami was known by devotees the world over for the multitude of miracles that he performed during his 85 years in physical form; miracles such as raising people from the dead (even when the corpse had started to rot), control over the elements and the ability to appear in a multitude of places simultaneously, to name but a few.  But what I personally found most heart warming about Baba was his human side.  Maybe not quite as spectacular in the eyes of the average devotee, but he had this way of showing his human-ness in the most simplistic of ways; ways that really touched the heart.   He always used to say that we should never try to comprehend him because he was quite simply beyond comprehension.  But he also used to say that the reason he walked among us, breathed the same air and ate and spoke just like any other normal human being was so we could relate to him.  So, I suppose it’s for this reason that there was also something incredibly human about Baba.

The late professor Gokak who was very close to Swami for a number of years recalled the time when he accompanied Baba on a trip.  The professor spoke of how Baba had forgotten his razor, saying “so I just gave him mine”.  He also spoke of how easy it was to forget just who Baba really was because sometimes “we would laugh and joke together and in those moments he was simply my friend.”  But one of the most amusing stories I ever heard was when Swami was much younger and he took a party to the Himalayas.  He played snowballs with the group and also enjoyed himself on a sledge.   But during the same trip he visited a cave-dwelling sage and gave him the ultimate blessing by showing him his cosmic form.

I was once blessed with experiencing Swami’s human-ness first hand whilst sitting in darshan during my first trip to Prasanthi Nilayam.  I’d managed to get myself a prime spot directly opposite where Swami used to make his entrance; I couldn’t believe my luck, and what happened next was absolutely amazing.

Sitting just along from me, to my right, was a man.  Behind him was a younger man holding a child.  She was a beautiful little girl and they were obviously all connected.  At one point the younger man passed the little girl to the man in front and he had her on his lap fanning her.  Immediately two Seva Dals approached and told the man that the child would have to be passed back.  This made the Seva Dals look particularly mean, but I didn’t realise it at the time that children were not allowed in the front row.  Apparently there had been various incidents over the years and eventually the ruling was made that children were no longer allowed to sit in the front row.  The man protested long and hard but in the end he had to relent and pass the child back to the younger man.  I also felt for the Seva Dals because on the whole they do a fantastic job, they are all volunteers and it was not the fault of the two Seva Dals in question.  The beautiful thing about this though, is that I was one of only a handful of people who actually saw this story unfold in its entirety, and I feel privileged that Swami engineered this so that I could witness it.

As Baba approached one of the men gave the little girl a letter and they stood her up so that Baba could see.  He has a way of letting his attendants know when to stop and when to start and which direction to wheel him in etc.  The child held the letter out to Baba and he halted and motioned for her to come forward.  He took the letter and she bent down and touched his feet.  He then blessed her and a cheeky grin broke out on his face.  As it did so a huge cheer went up and the section of the crowd that had seen this wonderful event in detail applauded.

It was Swami’s way of letting us know that he knew what had happened with regard to the child not being allowed to sit in the front row; and there is simply no way that he could have seen the earlier incident as he was still in his quarters at the time.  The face of the child’s father was an absolute picture and it was a truly wonderful gesture by Baba.  The unfortunate thing is that because the hall was so packed only those near the front were a party to this amazing event, and only a handful saw the whole event from start to finish.  I am truly privileged to be one of that handful.

Baba must have been about ten feet or so away from me when he called the child forward.  It was fantastic for me seeing Swami face on, and what I found striking was that as he approached he looked absolutely beautiful.  I never thought I would ever describe a man as being beautiful, but Baba was not of this earth.  He looked so tiny in his wheelchair but the power he gave off was absolutely awesome.

It’s now seven months since dear Swami discarded his physical form, and it would be ridiculous to say that his form is not missed by devotees everywhere.  But everyone I speak to says the same thing; since Swami left his body it seems as though he is even more Omnipresent than ever.  His love seems to be even more prominent than it was; if that is at all possible.  I, for example, have lost count of the times since April 24 that he has made his presence felt within my heart and my eyes have filled with tears of joy.  There’s definately something bubbling under, and I can’t wait for it to surface.

 

 

It’s All A Matter Of Perspective


It’s an amazing thing, perspective; it’s all to do with how we perceive things as individuals.  One man’s success is another man’s failure and what may seem fantastic to one person may be run-of-the-mill to another.  I would like to share with you a personal experience that I believe illustrates this very aptly.

In October 2009 when I went to the ashram, Prasanthi Nilayam (Abode of the Highest Peace), of Sri Sathya Sai Baba for the first time, I met an Australian man named Dave.  ”Aussie Dave” as I called him, was just one of many wonderful characters that I encountered during my two-week stay.  I first spoke to Dave after darshan one evening.  I can’t remember the circumstances, but I do remember having seen him around the ashram and in darshan before then.  He was a big man, but when you spoke to him you realised he had a heart of gold.  After our encounter in the darshan hall I bumped into him a couple more times before he went back to Australia.  There was one particular conversation I had with him that I found both interesting and surprising.  I should point out here that whenever devotees of Baba cross paths it is always, without exception, because Baba has engineered it; and there is always a reason.

I was in awe of many of the people I spoke to during my stay, and Dave was no exception,  because Baba had only come into my life in 2001 and this was the first time I’d received the call.  Dave had been a devotee for many years and had experiences with Swami that I could only ever dream about.  He showed me a ring he was wearing that Baba had materialised for him; he also said that this was his eighth visit to Prasanthi (sometimes he brought his wife but on this occasion he’d travelled alone) and not only had he been granted interviews with Baba as part of a group, but he’d also had a personal interview as well.  I was green with envy, but not in a bad way; I was very happy for him that Swami had showered him with so much grace, but at the same time I was thinking ”I wish I’d had those experiences too”.  He also told me what I thought was quite an amusing story.

On the occasion in question he’d travelled to Prasanthi alone and was lucky enough to have been summoned with some other devotees for a group interview.  He told how Baba had been speaking to him and suddenly left and went into an adjoining room.  Dave said that Swami seemed to take an age before he came back and there had also been crashing sounds coming from the other room; as if filing cabinets were being opened and closed.  He went on to say that Baba suddenly appeared again, threw one of his robes at him and said ”here, give that to your wife”!

Anyway, I digress, back to perspective and the point of this article.  There I was in awe of this man’s experiences with my wonderful Swami, he’d visited the ashram eight times, had group and personal interviews, had a ring that Swami materialised for him and he also had one of Baba’s coveted robes back home in Australia.  It all made my experiences seem so trivial.  After all, apart from the astral experience I had with Baba in December 2006, my encounters with my loving Guru consisted mainly of visitations during dream state.  But, when I shared with Dave my humble exploits with the ”God Man” I was dumbfounded to hear him say ”I’ve never experienced anything like that”.  He was genuinely amazed when I shared my experiences with him.

I’ve always heard devotees say that Baba knows us all inside out and he only ever gives us exactly what we need for our long-term spiritual growth and well-being.  He also only connects with us in ways that we can best relate to him; and I would agree with that 100%.  I often think of that conversation I had with Aussie Dave and still try to get my head around why, a man who’d had such incredible first hand experiences with The Avatar of the age, would be so amazed at mine, which seemed so trivial compared to his.  Having said that, I remain the only person I know who has had an astral experience with Baba.

I know there was a special lesson for me contained within that conversation.  I know also that I am ever so grateful for the experiences that I’ve had with Sri Sathya Sai Baba, even if they don’t seem as spectacular as some other people’s.

But I suppose it’s all just a matter of perspective!

Sai Humour 6


The Sai Humour series wouldn’t be  complete without mentioning Professor N. Kasturi.  Kasturi was a wonderful man who was close to Baba for many years and was well into his 90’s when he left this Earth.  Kasturi was the editor of the ashram magazine, Sarathana Sarathi, and some-time translator for Swami when he gave discourses; he was also a lecturer in many spiritual topics and I’m going to share with you a few of the great professor’s experiences at the hands of Baba’s sense of humour.

Kasturi once accompanied Baba to Coorge where he was to translate a discourse from Swami’s Telugu dialect into Kannada, which was the regional language.     Coorge is an area that has the highest levels of rainfall in Southern India.  Baba asked Kasturi to address the crowd of around 10,000 people before he gave his discourse.  The good professor, noticing the build-up of rain clouds in the distance, decided to relate a story from The Bhagavad Gita which told how Lord Krishna protected his devotees from torrential rain after Indra, the rain God, retaliated after perceiving that Krishna had insulted him.  Kasturi went on to reassure the crowd that Swami had control over the elements and would not allow them to get soaked.

As Baba was giving his discourse the rain clouds got closer and closer and Kasturi was panicking that the crowd would get wet and that it would make both him and Baba look stupid.  Throughout the discourse he sent out prayers to Baba apologising for being so presumptuous and pleading with him to stop the rain.  All the time the clouds got closer and closer and Kasturi felt more and more awful; not only that, Baba’s discourse went over time which really had poor Kasturi in a panic.  Baba eventually finished by addressing the crowd  thus.  ”This Kasturi, though he gave the story of the rain, does not have faith.  All the time he worried in his mind whether I will be able to stop the rain.  The rain will come now; it will be here in 15 minutes so all of you get home.”

Years ago Kasturi accompanied Baba on a trip to Benares.  He had a desire to receive a mantra from Baba and mentioned this to him.  He then went and bathed in the Ganges and fasted for the remainder of the morning in expectation of having his request granted.  As the day moved into afternoon the mantra was not forthcoming, and Kasturi was so upset at this that he shed tears.  At lunch he found himself seated next to Baba who asked him ”why aren’t you eating”?  Holding back the tears Kasturi said ”the mantra”.  Baba then asked him ”what is the purpose of a mantra?”  ”To get closer to the Lord” Kasturi replied.  Baba looked down at the professor’s arm and then at his own; they were almost touching.  He then smiled sweetly and in his very down to earth way said to Kasturi ”how much closer do you want to get”?

I will end by sharing with you the very amusing story of one of Baba’s pranks.  One evening in 1959 he sent someone to tell Kasturi to report to his room at the mandir.  When the professor arrived at Baba’s quarters Baba said that he needed to take a photo of him because the editor  of a major Hyderabad daily had been in touch wanting to write an article on Kasturi and the ashram magazine.  Baba told Kasturi he had promised this editor a photo of him and that he wanted to take it right away.  He also said that he had acquired a very special camera specifically for this purpose so he should go and get himself ready.  Kasturi rushed back to his quarters, got showered, shaved and put his best clothes on, he then rushed back over to Baba; arriving back in the presence with a huge grin on his face.

Baba got hold of Kasturi’s shoulders and manoeuvred him into the required position.  He then stepped back the appropriate distance and looked through the camera lens.  After complementing Kasturi on his photogenic face Baba shouted ”steady” followed immediately by ”ready”.  Baba then clicked and Kasturi shrieked and jumped back into the corner of the room as a black blotch with a tail shot out of the camera and bounced off his neck.  It turned out to be a trick camera that fired a cotton mouse.  Baba burst out laughing (and so did Kasturi, but only to relieve the tension).

As we know, The Avatar does not play these pranks just for the sake of it; there is always a spiritual lesson to be learned.  He gently reprimanded Kasturi for allowing his ego to be inflated by the story he’d invented about the newspaper editor; saying that the fact he was editor of the ashram magazine was not the kind of news the world was interested in.  Lasting fame is not to be sought through newspapers that turn into waste paper the very next morning, but through service to God.  Kasturi remarked some time later that he left the room a much wiser man.

Sai Humour 4


Sri Sathya Sai Baba was born Sathya Narayana Raju on November 23 1926 and started performing miracles from the age of three.  His playmates in the village nicknamed him ”Guru” because he held them spellbound with his materializations and stories containing profound spiritual teachings.  As a young schoolboy he would materialise pens, pencils, books and sweets for his schoolmates, who were invariably very poor and whose parents could not afford to buy them.  Of course, as well as winning many friends and admirers, the fact that little Sathya was obviously very special stirred up feelings of envy, suspicion and even hatred in the hearts of those who were jealous of his popularity; there was even two attempts on his life when he was young.  But that will be the subject of another article on another day.

One who succumbed to his own jealousy, and paid the price with his dignity, was none other than one of the teachers at young Raju’s primary school.  This particular teacher was very suspicious of the boy and always assumed that he was up to no good with his so-called materializations.  He had been watching Sathya, and on seeing him giving out pencils and books etc. on this particular day, assumed that he had stolen them.  As a punishment he made the boy stand up on a bench in class.  At the end of the lesson, the sight that beheld the teacher who came to take the next lesson must have been truly something to behold.

On entering the classroom the relief teacher was amazed to see that his colleague was still sitting in his chair with a very embarrassed look on his face, and that young Sathya was standing up on the bench.  However, this particular teacher was one that recognised the boy’s Divinity and he loved Sathya dearly; to the extent that he knew exactly what had happened.  As he approached, his red-faced colleague  explained that he was stuck in the chair and could not move.  Trying to suppress his amusement, the relief teacher explained to his colleague that he had better ask Sathya to step down from the bench.  He did this immediately and found that he was straight away able to stand up from the chair.  Needless to say he never accused the boy of stealing again.

Sai Humour 3


I am prompted today to recall a truly funny prank that Sri Sathya Sai Baba pulled on some of his students some years ago at his mountain ashram in Kodai Kanal.  Swami enjoyed the cooler climate at Kodai and would normally visit late March/early April time.

It is well known that Baba would often use humour in demonstrating spiritual lessons, and on this particular occasion, he had decided that his students at Kodai had been slacking and needed a wake up call.  I am not exactly sure why, but I believe that Baba felt that the students were concentrating too much on his physical form and not on his teachings.  If any reader has heard this story before and has more accurate detail then I would ask you to leave a comment so that I can update the post.

The students were very, very excited, as always, at the prospect of Baba’s visit.  But they were left completely and utterly baffled by Swami’s attitude and manner towards them on his arrival as March was nearing its end.  Instead of greeting them in his usual way with loving smiles and words he completely ignored them; there was not so much as even a glance.  The students couldn’t understand this and were extremely upset; they simply couldn’t understand why their Swami, whom they loved so much, would neither speak to them nor look at them.

The students became more and more distraught as the days went by and their beloved Swami continued to ignore them.  When he passed them on campus he simply looked towards the ground and walked by without a word, a glance or a smile.  It got to the point where the students started to argue amongst themselves as they sought an explanation of Baba’s apparently strange behaviour.  Fingers were pointed and accusations flew around as emotions became more and more fraught.  I believe that this went on for around ten days until finally, as March bade its farewell and April descended, the students could take no more and decided to confront Baba.  This was unheard of but they were so desperately distraught that they waited until Swami was walking in the grounds and confronted him.  As they did so Baba, still keeping his head down, raised his eyes in their direction, and with a cheeky grin on his face said ”April fool” and walked off.