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Buddha Poornima 13th May, 2006

My Humble Pranams at The Lotus Feet of Bhagavan
Brothers and Sisters
Today, I stand before you with the distinct pleasure in sharing with you the good fortune that has come to me since my first meeting with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
In my life I have been most fortunate. I have a loving wife and healthy successful children. As a younger man, I followed a prosperous career with plantation companies and reached the highest level of management. Material wealth was not a problem and all worldly things seemed to be within my grasp.

Everything seemed wonderful but something was niggling me deep inside my mind. This feeling had been with me all the time and as the years rolled by an understanding of what I really wanted became more and more clear. When I reached my early fifties I became less interested in things like promotion, money, and so on. An urge to do good for others became a source of self-satisfaction for me. My timely first meeting with Swami was just the cure I needed for my ailing heart.
So, without further ado, I would like to share with you my story and hope that you will find it inspiring.   

On the 24th December 1963, Mahasthavira Ashin Jinarakkhita, the     Chief Buddhist Monk of Indonesia, Maha Pandita Ashok Dharma     Surya D. Kumarasamy, Brother Sutjita Kasih and myself founded           ‘THE BOROBUDUR VIHAR FOUNDATION’.
In 1975, I was selected to be the Chairman of the Foundation. At that time, I felt very sad and frustrated at not being able to perform the necessary maintenance of the Vihar (= Buddhist Temple). Our finances were only sufficient to pay for the simple daily temple expenses.
Almost every day I prayed for guidance from the Goddess of Mercy, KWAN IM. In my prayers, I used to say that I didn’t know what to do and I would ask from where I could begin improving the condition of the Temple, for the good of the Buddhist community.

It was almost 5 years since I prayed for guidance from Kwan Im, when one day I had a heartfelt longing to build a PAGODA (=Stupa) for Kwan Im. But, before I began building, I felt a strong desire to travel to India and visit the holy places where the Buddha lived about 2500 years ago. At these sacred places, I hoped to collect some earth, stone and water, with the intention of bringing them back to Medan and placing these items beneath the foundations of the intended Kwan Im Pagoda.
One evening, Brother Mohan Leo came to my home and during our conversation I mentioned to him about my plan to travel to India and visit the holy Buddhist sites. Brother Mohan was very interested in my plan and expressed his desire to go along with me. So, we decided to travel together.
About the end of July, 1980 we departed from Medan for Madras, India. So as to aid our journey to the North, we decided to leave our main luggage behind in Madras and “travel light”. We flew to Calcutta, and from there we planned to visit the holy Buddhist sites and see places such as, Kapilavasthu (Kapilavatthu) the ruins of the kingdom of King Sudhodana, the father of Prince Sidharta; Lumbini in Nepal, the birth place of Prince Sidharta; BUDDHA GAYA or Bodhgaya, where Prince Sidharta attained “enlightenment” (=Anuttara Samyag Sambodhi) and became a BUDDHA. At Buddha Gaya, and with the help of Bhikkhu Jnana Jagat, we performed a ceremony with the intention to “spiritually connect” Borobudur Vihar, in Medan with Buddha Gaya, in India. The prayer and ceremony was synchronized at both places, at the same GMT. With the ceremony and prayers completed, only God knew whether the spiritual-link was ever established. After our visit to Buddha Gaya, we went to see the Niranjana River, and onwards to Isipatana (=Sarnath), where the Buddha gave his first discourse to five Saddhus about ‘THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS’ and ‘THE EIGHTFOLD NOBLE PATH’.

After seeing Sarnath, we left for Kusinara or Kusinagar. At this place, under the flowering sala-tree about 2500 years ago, the Buddha left his physical body for Pari-Nirvana. From under the sala-tree we can see the “Vulture’s Peak”, where the physical remains of the Buddha were cremated.
Having visited the holy Buddhist sites, we went to Varanasi, and from there we flew to Bombay. From Bombay we had planned to fly to Madras to pick-up our luggage and return home to Medan. But the LORD had other plans for us. He didn’t want us to go back to Indonesia before seeing HIM.  After several days in Bombay we found difficulty in obtaining tickets to Madras and were becoming frustrated with the problem. In the end, I proposed to Brother Mohan that we travel to Bangalore and then onto Madras by bus or taxi. On arrival in Bangalore we checked-in at the Rama Hotel, and that was when “miracles” started to occur.
Whilst checking-in, we overheard the hotel cashier tell one of the guests that “Sai Baba was in Whitefield”. I asked the cashier, “Where can I find Whitefield?” “It’s about 7Km from the hotel”, he replied. I turned to Brother Mohan and told him that Sai Baba was a Holy Man (in 1974 I had read a book about Sai Baba) and suggested that we go and see him before we left for Madras. After leaving our luggage in the hotel room, we hired a taxi and made our way to Whitefield. The real reason for why we traveled to India was now beginning to unfold.
Later, we arrived in Whitefield with no prior knowledge of rules, regulations and customs in a Sai Baba ashram, I approached a man wearing a scarf who seemed to be guarding the gate entrance. I told him that I wished to see Sai Baba, but he refused us permission to enter. At that moment, Brother Mohan noticed a car leaving through another gate with Swami inside looking at us. That was our First Dharsan from Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
Following the sevadall’s advice, we came back later, for the evening dharsan. Inside my mind, I had so many things to ask Sai Baba. I also brought a lot of items to be blessed by Him.  After a long wait, Swami appeared and walked gracefully along the dharsan lines, but no attention was paid to us. The dharsan on the second day was very much like the previous day, so we made our way back to the hotel. On our way back, I mentioned to Brother Mohan that I had made lots of mistakes in my MIND, as well as in my ATTITUDE. I must correct my behaviour. The third dharsan day was to be our last opportunity to see Swami because we heard that it was the last day that He was going to stay in Whitefield (Brindavan).  This was to be my last chance. In my heart, I had decided to ask only one question, “Has the spiritual link between Buddha Gaya and Borobudur Vihar really been established?  To whom in the world can I ask such a question, I prayed further to Swami, to give an assurance and an answer to us by touching the leaf I held in my hands. Later, as usual, Swami came out giving dharsan by walking the lines, seemingly paying no heed or attention to us, the crucial moment came,  after already passing us, He suddenly turned and came towards us with a lovely smile. When He stood before us, Brother Mohan quickly took the opportunity to do “Paddanamskara”. Swami looked at me and I opened my hands to reveal the leaf. Without uttering a word, He touched the leaf in my right hand with a slap and then, with a smile, walked away.
On the way back to the Rama Hotel, I told Brother Mohan that my feeling of being called by Swami was not an illusion, but in fact, a REALITY.
With one touch from Swami I realized that all our problems and difficulties would disappear. I told Brother Mohan that I was now confident we could build the pagoda without anymore difficulties. True enough, on returning back to Medan, I found that Mahasthavira Ashin Jinarakkhita had started digging the foundations of the KWAN IM PAGODA. I have to admit that I was worried because we didn’t have much money on hand, but the strangest thing happened, money started to pour in. The Buddhist community in Medan got to hear of our plans to build the Kwan Im Pagoda and donations came from every corner of Medan. Finally, there were enough donations to complete the building of the pagoda and on the 3rd March, 1982 the KWAN IM PAGODA was inaugurated by the Governor of North Sumatra.

Towards the end of 1987, we began to build an extension above the Borobudur Vihar which we planned to use for our Dharma talks. At the beginning we applied for a building permit from the government, and in the meantime, erected the iron-framed pillars and girders but then we had to halt construction due to the delayed issue of the permit. After waiting for more than a year for the building approval, the only evidence of our planned extension was the rusty iron skeleton that rose above the Borobudur Vihar.
It was about June 1988, when I visited Mahasthavira Ashin Jinarakkhita who I use to call Sukong (=Grandmaster) in his Sakya Vanaram Vihar located on a mountainside in Pacet, West Java. As we were talking, he showed me a large beautiful picture of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba wearing a white garment. Sukong told me that he wanted to place the picture in one of the cottages in the Sakya Vanaram Vihar Complex. I was shocked and said to Sukong, “You are the Chief Buddhist Monk of Indonesia, if you place Bhagavan Baba’s picture here, won’t this create a problem with the Buddhist community?”  He looked at me with a smile on his face and said, “I am used to facing difficulties. To add one more is no problem for me.” His words struck me like a lightning flash, and at that moment, a thought came to me: “Why not use the extension building in the Borobudur Vihar for a Sai Centre?”

From that moment on I began collecting information regarding the building of a proper Sai Baba Centre. I heard that there was a Centre in Penang, Malaysia with Mr. Thanggaraj as its chairman. When I arrived at the Centre in Penang, I was met by a lady who informed me that Brother Thanggaraj, the Centre Chairman, was in hospital having suffered a heart attack. With nowhere else to go and no-one to turn to, I prayed to Swami and asked, “Swami, if I have to be the one You have chosen to start a Sai Centre in Medan, then please give me a clear sign, so that I will understand.” With tears in my eyes I prayed further and reported to Swami that after over one year the building permit for the extension had still not been granted. I pleaded sincerely for His Grace.
It was on a Saturday morning when I prayed in Penang to Swami for His help and assurance. On that same Saturday evening I went to collect my Kwan Im and Ganesha statues from the place where I had left them in the altar of the prayer room. To my amazement, Swami had heard my prayer and as a sign of His approval He manifested a pearl necklace on the Kwan Im statue and a small Shirdi Sai statue near the Ganesha statue. With His blessing, I flew back to Medan the following day.  
The first thing I did on Monday morning was to telephone the building contractor and ask whether the permit had been issued, or not. To my astonishment, he replied that the permit had been issued on Friday! Inside my heart I laughed loudly, understanding the LEELA of Bhagavan. On Saturday I prayed for His assurance and help, but He already gave the building permit on Friday; He is truly omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient!  Thank you, Bhagavan.
Within only one month, the building of the first Sai Centre in Medan complete with all the statues and decorations was finished. So many people came to help us finish the work so that we could inaugurate the Sai Centre in time for the birthday of Swami’s physical body. The inauguration took place on the 23rd November, 1989.
We named the centre PRASANTHI GRIYA SAI CENTRE. During the inauguration, the Director General of Hindu and Buddhist religion, Drs. I Gde Putra, Sukong with five or six Buddhist monks, and many other prominent Sai devotees from Java, Malaysia and Singapore were present. It is to be noted that Prasanthi Griya Sai Centre was the only Sai Centre in the world situated above a Buddhist Vihar.

In early 1990, I was sitting on the third row of the dharsan line, in Prasanthi Nilayam, when suddenly Baba came to me and asked, “How many persons?” I answered, “twenty-seven, Swami.” Then, He said “Go!” I asked my friends what was meant by Go! They told me that I had been granted an interview. Hearing this, I quickly made my way to the interview room along with all the people in my group. In the interview room I witnessed Swami materialize a ring for a doctor from Malaysia. The doctor had asked about his sick wife and Swami gave a detailed response regarding the sick woman. To help make the doctor feel better, Swami materialized a ring for him. I was standing only 50cm away from Swami’s hand and I could see the miracle being performed in front of my very eyes. Swami asked the doctor if the ring fitted well to which the doctor replied that the ring was a good fit. Swami then jokingly said that his workshop manufactured good things indeed. For many years I had dreamed of seeing such miracles, and now I was fortunate enough to witness such wonders. In the interview room I wanted to mention to Swami that I tried to provide a Free Medical Clinic but before I could finish what I wanted to say Swami cut in the middle and said, “Don’t try. Try becomes dry! DO DO DO DO!” Later, in the room where I was staying, I recalled something that happened to me way back on the 30th March, 1960. During meditation, I heard a voice in my ears saying, “TRY, TRY, TRY, TRY!” Now, I understood. Swami had been watching and guiding me for much longer than I had previously thought. 
At this time I came to understand that from now on, No more TRY and talk, but it’s a time to DO and work! After the experience of managing the Borobudur Subsidized Medical Clinic for 10 years, I started DOING the Sai Mendut Free Medical Clinic which opened in 1992. The clinic has managed to serve the poor and the needy ever since its inauguration. Ironically, the Sai Mendut Free Medical Clinic bank account has always been more financially sound than the Borobudur Subsidized Medical Clinic. Furthermore, every Sunday, the Free Medical Clinic together with Sai devotees from Medan, help the poor and needy in remote villages where doctors never visit.

In May 1990, the owner of Brigjen Katamso National School along with some teachers came to visit me at my home with the intention to hand over the school ownership to the Borobudur Vihar Foundation, of which I am the Chairman. The former owner stated that he could not bear the burden of the school any longer so we accepted his request to hand over responsibility of the 300 pupils and school ownership to us. On the 19th May 1990, the transfer documents were signed.

During the visit of Victor Kanu to Brigjen Katamso school – year 2005
In 1995 a miracle occurred at the Brigjen Katamso School. Swami showed Himself inside the school building before a school girl named, Rin Rin. From that time on, the school has transformed itself from an ordinary school into an extraordinary school which is loved by the community of Sunggal, Medan. Today, the school has an attendance of over 2100 pupils.
In recent years we have been honoured by having many distinguished guests visit our school and they include Dr Art-Ong Jumsai, Dr Victor Kanu, and others.
In 1997, the Borobudur Vihar Foundation bought a piece of land located not far from the Brigjen Katamso school in Sunggal with the intention of making it into a flower garden which we named, Sai Ganesha Garden. In the year 2000, we built the Sai Ganesha Sai Centre in the garden, and on the 1st September 2000, the centre was inaugurated by Dr V K Ravindran, the central coordinator of Zone 4, Region 41 of the Prasanthi Counsel.

during the inauguration of Sai Ganesha Garden
At the moment, we were planning to build a “Subsidy School” in the suburbs of Medan, in 2008. All being well, by the year 2008, the Brigjen Katamso School will be able to pay-off all its current debts, and from that time onwards, the school will be able to fully support our intended subsidy school. With Bhagavan’s Grace the Subsidy School will transform itself into a “Free School” that will serve the children of the poor and needy.   
On the evening of August 16th 1980, at 17.05 pm, in Brindavan, by touching the leaf I offered to Him, BHAGAVAN BABA has given us His love, assurance and energy, and from that time onwards we have been able to perform all the tasks that Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has asked us to do.  
With Bhagavan Baba’s Grace we can achieve anything!!!  
Phoa Krishnaputra  
Medan, Indonesia. 

Submitted to SBOI

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