This is the transcript of a radio talk on SGH by Sri B.N Narasimhamurthy; the Warden of Sri Sathya Sai Student's Hostel at Brindavan. He is an excellent orator and above all an ardent devotee of Bhagavan, serving Him in His educational institutions for the past three decades.
The event that changed the course of my life happened in October 1965 when I was in my twentieth year. That was my first meeting with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba at Prasanthi Nilayam, Puttaparthi. At that time I was studying in the University College of Engineering at Bangalore, in my Pre-final year of the five-year Engineering course. The prompting to go to Puttaparthi came to me from a reputed educationalist of Karnataka, Narayana Bhatt. He was lovingly referred to by his students and followers as "ANNA", meaning elder brother. I had heard about Sai Baba of Puttapurthi from other persons, before I met Anna; but much of it was vicious criticism of Sai Baba. Therefore my attitude towards HIM was marked by disbelief and ridicule.
In September 1965, along with a few of my college mates, I attended a meeting of the "Thinkers' Forum" started by Anna. The main aim of this Forum was to inculcate idealism in youth, especially the college students of Bangalore. About thirty students attended the monthly meetings of this Forum regularly. Anna was a very inspiring speaker and on that day he spoke about the then prevailing National scenario and the importance of the role of youth in the task of National rejuvenation. I was highly impressed by his talk. His was a simple and straight forward approach to the topic. He spoke about the inspiring examples of Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi. During the course of his talk he made a very respectful reference to Sai Baba of Puttaparthi. The rebel and sceptic in me could not accept what Anna said of Sai Baba. I interrupted him in the middle and asked him a few questions about Sai Baba. Anna did not mind my interruption and answered my questions very patiently. But I was not convinced and so I made a few caustic remarks about Sai Baba, saying that as a student of science I could not accept what he said about Sai Baba's miracles. Obviously I had lost my cool, but he had not. Anna asked me, "Have you seen Sai Baba?" "No", I answered. My voice and the way I said "No" made it clear that I was not interested in seeing Sai Baba. He asked me again, "Have you read any books by Sai Baba?" "No". "Have you read any books on Sai Baba?" "No", I answered again. "Have you heard anything about Sai Baba from persons devoted to HIM?" "No. May be the first one is yourself". My dislike for devotees of Sai Baba was clearly manifested in my answer. Anna smiled and asked me, "May I please know your name?" "Narasimhamurthy", I said casually. Anna then said, "Narasimhamurthy, you say you are a student of Science. You have not seen Sai Baba nor read anything about HIM. You have not heard anything about HIM from HIS devotees or admirers. Obviously whatever you know about HIM, you would have heard from HIS critics. Is it scientific on your part to pass a judgement on HIM?" There was neither vehemence nor sarcasm in his voice. In fact it was full of love and affection. I was totally disarmed, and did not know how to answer his question. But it was amply clear that Anna did not like my discomfiture, and he continued without waiting for my answer. He said, "I suggest you should see Sri Sathya Sai Baba yourself and then come to a conclusion about HIM." Any sense of triumph was conspicuous by its absence in his voice. On the other hand I got a feeling that he was uncomfortable about my predicament. He said, "I like your frankness and forthright nature. If you have time, kindly meet me afterwards". "Yes sir, thank you", I said and felt relieved. The meeting concluded after a while.
Later Anna talked to me and two of my classmates separately. He answered all our queries with deep understanding. The discussion continued for nearly two hours and at the end, I should say I was completely won over by Anna. But I could not get over my scepticism about Sai Baba, though I was willing to go to Puttaparthi to see HIM. Finally Anna said, "I am going to Puttaparthi next month. If it is convenient for you, you may come with me". I accepted the invitation very willingly. Thus the eagerness to see Sai Baba was aroused in my heart, and it grew day by day.
Within a month I visited Puttaparthi and had the Darshan of Sai Baba. HE called me for a personal Interview and I stood facing HIM in the vibrant atmosphere HIS room. HIS loving smile touched the softest corner of my heart. He looked at me as if HE knew me for ages. A similar feeling was roused in me. HE said, "You have come here late since you listened to wrong things spoken by others. That is all right. You have indigestion. Not in your stomach, but in your head!" HE smiled heartily and continued, "You are worrying too much about your future. Do not worry. Your future is safe and secure in Swami's hands. Be happy." I was overwhelmed by HIS love and concern and dumbstruck by the correctness of the statements made by HIM. I could not speak a word. Thus Sai Baba became my Swami, the Divine Master.
Let me now tell you what Swami meant by Indigestion in my head. Both my mother and father were highly devoted to God. Even today I remember very clearly the annual Sathya Narayana Puja performed at our home, when I was studying in primary school. It was performed with great devotion and not merely as a ritual. I used to take an active part with much enthusiasm in making arrangements for the Puja, and also sat by the side of my parents throughout the ceremony. At least a hundred persons would be fed at our home after the Puja. My parents encouraged me to visit temples on festival days and listen to Hari Kathas, the stories of GOD. During the week long celebration of Sri Rama Navami festival, I listened to Hari Kathas day after day with great enthusiasm and my heart resonated with deep feelings of devotion to these stories of great devotees and I instantly memorized those stories and songs. Many times my mother would ask me to sing the songs that I had learnt, and she would enjoy listening to them. Faith in God and kindness to fellow beings are hallmarks of my saintly mother. I feel proud to be the son of such a mother who embodied true Indian womanhood. But as I grew up and entered the high school, somewhere the silken bond of love for God in my heart was cut and I stopped visiting temples and attending religious functions. Even when I did it, I did it with a little compulsion and as an empty ritual. Probably one important reason for my forgetting God completely was too much of attention and adoration I received everywhere because of a brilliant brain and a photographic memory, in an educational system where moral and spiritual training was totally absent.
When I passed out of the school and joined the Engineering College in Bangalore, I came under the influence of Marxist philosophy which had become, among the students and teachers at that time, a passion with some and a fashion with others. I should say that spontaneous sympathy for the poor which I inherited from my mother was the cause for my Marxist leanings. A superficial study of Karl Marx and Lenin made me a proud atheist. I took great pride and joy in looking for believers among my college mates and friends and engaging them in arguments over the existence of God.
Life went on smoothly for me for nearly two years in the new-found joy of youthful intellectual arrogance, riding utopian idealism of a new world, freed from all types of inequalities. But God, to whom I had prayed earnestly in my childhood, did not forget and dismiss me in spite of my becoming an atheist. My mother's prayers for me could be one more reason for God forgiving my faults. He sent two of HIS most terrible hounds to hunt me down and take me to HIMSELF. One was the fear of death which seized me suddenly, and the other was the mystery of life in this enigmatic universe.
Both of them became obsessions of my mind. I could not get them out of my thoughts even for a moment. I lost all zest for life and spent many sleepless nights. There was none with whom I could confide. When I confided my problems to the Principal of the College where I had studied my Intermediate Course, he very simplistically fixed an appointment for me with the Director of Institute of Mental Health, who was his good friend. But I was sure that nothing was wrong with my mind; instead, I used to wonder why others were not haunted by those problems and how they could sleep over those stark realities of life.
For nearly three months I led a life of mental turmoil and torment. My life became very disorderly and in-disciplined, and my attendance in classes became very irregular. Parents were away in a town forty miles from Bangalore, where I stayed in the University Hostel attached to the Engineering College. My deep attachment to my parents made me hide my suffering from them. What compounded my agony was that there was now no God to pray to. But the merciful God did not wait for my prayers. He sent one of His angels in the form of my classmate to rescue me from my hopeless state.
His name was Madhav, and I had met him for the first time in my high-school days in a neighbouring town. I had gone there to represent my school in an intra-school debate. Madhav represented his school in that town. We had met each other thrice in our schooldays on similar occasions in different towns. We became classmates in the Engineering College but there was no friendship between us in the first two years. Ideologically, there was no meeting ground. He was a staunch follower of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. In those days I despised and even looked down upon believers. Madhav and I lived in the same block in the hostel, separated by three rooms. Because of inner turmoil, I was leading a very disorderly life at that time. My books, clothes and other belongings lay thrown around the place in my room, which I shared with two other college mates.
One evening when I got up from a long nap I was surprised to find my place tiny and clean. My roommates had not done it nor did they know who had done it. The same thing repeated on the next day also. I wanted to find out my benefactor on the third day. I lay down on the cot pretending to be asleep and waited. After about thirty minutes, Madhav entered. He cleaned up the place, set my books and clothes in order and then went away. I could not fathom his intentions in doing it. I went to his room that evening and confronted him with the question, "Why did you do it?" He just smiled and said, "I like you, and I like to do it for you. That is all." His warmth was very soothing for my troubled heart. From that day, our friendship developed.
We spent quite a lot of time discussing and debating our ideologies with no meeting ground, apparently. However, there was one thing common to both, and that was our natural sympathy for the poor and the down trodden. Gradually I confided my inner troubles and turmoil to him. He said that those were the signs of a true spiritual aspirant, and that I should develop faith in God. I rejected his remark vehemently, and wanted him to prove to me scientifically the existence of God. He failed to convince me and I bombarded him with the ideas of many Western agnostics that I had studied. He surprised me by saying that he was praying to Sri Ramakrishna for my happiness and solace.
One evening we went out of the hostel after dinner for a walk in the Cubbon Park which was nearby. Our claims and counterclaims on the topic of existence of God lasted nearly three hours. At the end, both were exhausted. I felt that mental unrest had penetrated into him also, since I had disturbed his faith in God. Finally I told him, "I am sorry for what I have done to you. All my logic and rationalism have not given me any happiness. I could see your faith in God had given you happiness and peace which I have disturbed now. Believe me; I want to know whether God exists. And if HE is merciful as all believers claim HIM to be; there is no reason why I should not develop faith by tomorrow morning."
When we returned to hostel, it was past midnight. I entered my room and put on the table lamp. I found a magazine which Madhav had left on my table before we went out. There was a lovely picture of Jesus Christ that adorned the cover page. There were strange feelings in my heart. Suddenly I broke down and wept bitterly. With tears rolling down the eyes, I put out the table lamp and went to bed. A surprising prayer went out from my troubled heart: "Oh GOD, if You really exist, if You are all merciful as Your devotees claim; shower Your kindness on me and grant me faith."
I do not how long I cried in my bed before sleep overtook me. When I got up late in the morning the unbelievable had happened. I had faith in God. My mental torment of three months had ended with the gift of faith from the All-merciful One. I ran to Madhav and told him what had happened. His face lit up with joy, he hugged me and danced. It was a day great celebration for both of us. Our friendship assumed a new meaning for me from that day.
As I evinced interest in Ramakrishna's and Vivekananda's literature, Madhav gave me some books. Among the very first books I read was Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda, which quenched my intellectual thirst to know about the mystery of death and the enigma of creation. Later I studied the life of Sri Ramakrishna, and it satisfied my heart's hunger to be with God. But I could not reconcile myself to the idea of Avatar, God coming down as man on earth. There could be men of God, call them Saints, Prophets or Messiahs. But how could God, the Inscrutable and Infinite Power sustaining the Universe, be born on this tiny earth, which is but a spec in this vast Universe. Of course, I prayed to God for an answer.
Madhav and I, visited Sri Ramakrishna Ashram in Bangalore, attended the prayers and met the monks there. Madhav confided to me his desire to join the order of monks of the Ashram after his education. I was not decided about my future. Though my spiritual quest had found the answer in Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, I was finding it difficult to shake off the political idealism instilled via Marx and Lenin. I had also found a new political idol in Mahathma Gandhi. In addition, I was also thinking as to how I could help my parents in bearing the burden of a large family with eleven children, who had to be brought up and educated. Of course, I found a new strength in prayer to God, which quelled the turbulence of my restless mind, at least temporarily. But the worries about my future remained, even as my affinities to Sri Ramakrishna grew in intensity, day by day.
A few months, later one of my relatives invited me to his farm house on the outskirts of Bangalore. After lunch, I went out alone into the coconut grove for a stroll with a book on Sri Ramakrishna in my hand. It was a beautiful day with a cloudless sky, and the winds were very calm. I sat down under a coconut tree and opened the book at random. There was a beautiful photo of Sri Ramakrishna with his face glowing with kindness. I sobbed like a child looking at his face and prayed to him, "Oh., Compassionate Master, You were on this earth a hundred years before, to guide wavered children like us drifting in the ocean of Samsara but who is there today? We are orphaned without you. Kindly take hold of our hands and guide us to Yourself." This prayer continued in my heart ceaselessly for a few days. That was in August, 1965. Things started happening fast after that prayer.
In the month of September I met Anna in Bangalore and was prompted by him to go to Puttaparthi to see Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. On coming to know of my leanings towards Sai Baba, Madhav tried to dissuade me from going to Puttaparthi by saying that Sri Ramakrishna has warned earnest seekers against going after men of miracles. Usually, those who perform miracles are Sadhakas or fallen Yogis, deluded by Siddhis or occult powers, who have left the sacred path, to pursue name, fame, pleasures and wealth. I tried to persuade Madhav to meet Anna and know more about Sai Baba. But he refused. When I raised this topic of Sri Ramakrishna's warning to seekers about men of miracles, Anna smiled and said that what Sri Ramakrishna had said was completely true in respect of Yogis or Sadhakas, who have not reached the goal. It did not apply to Avatars and Siddha Purushas who perform miracles, keeping in their view LOKA SANGRAHA, the welfare of the world, and to sow seeds of faith in the hearts of men. Did not Sri Ramakrishna himself pray for the Darshan of Sri Krishna who performed amazing miracles? Sai Baba is a Poorna Avatar like Sri Krishna, Anna told me.
In October 1965 I went to Puttaparthi and was conferred the Divine blessing of Darshan, and Sambhashan by Swami. I had found my Divine Master in Swami. It did not take much time for me to realize that HE had prepared me, before leading me to HIMSELF. It was baptism by fire. My heart started clamouring for HIS Sannidhi more and more. HE occupied my mind more and more. It did not mean that all doubts and questions inside me had vanished. The monkey mind, propelled by the sharp brain, continued to play its tricks now and then. Prayer and Namasmarna helped me a lot and there was Anna, always ready to guide. But I was separated by a distance of about hundred miles from Swami and two hundred and fifty miles from Anna.
In October 1965, I was still left with one and half years of Engineering Course at Bangalore. I made it a point to go to Puttaparthi, at least once in a month and never miss any festivals there. During festivals like Swami's Birthday, Shankranthi, Shivrathri, Guru Poornima and Navarathri, I could meet Anna there and also listen to the nectarine Discourses of Swami. When Swami was in HIS Ashram in Brindavan, near Bangalore; I went there, mostly with Anna, who came down from his village, Alike, near Mangalore. Whenever I went to Puttaparthi, on days other than festivals, Swami was very kind to call me and talk to me, lovingly and intimately. The topics were always spiritual, and related to the deepest aspirations of my heart. HE never asked me about my studies at College or happenings in our family, even once.
In one of the early interviews, HE resolved a deep dilemma, arising out of my strong affinity for Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, by speaking in the terminology of the Great Master. HE said, "It is extremely difficult to conquer Kamini and Kanchana, my son. But, do not worry. You enjoy Divine Grace in abundance. Swami will grant you peace of mind." Kamini Kanchana was a phrase very often used by Sri Ramakrishna, to indicate the two major obstacles in the path of a seeker; craving for sensual pleasures and wealth. Thus my heart knew that Swami had in HIM, Sri Ramakrishna also.
On another occasion, Swami granted me HIS Divine assurance saying, "You have a strong aspiration to lead a sacred life and attain fulfilment. But your parents have other ideas. You need not worry over it. I shall change their mind." My parents, especially my mother, were afraid, that I might run away from the world, and become a Sanyasi or monk.
As days passed, a very strong desire to be with Swami all my life, without getting entangled in family life, developed in my heart. I kept on praying to Swami, for this boon, day after day. It was an inner prayer, which was never expressed in words, even to Swami. Nevertheless, HE responded to my prayer, in one of those early interviews. HE told me, "Swami will take you nearer and nearer. HE shall grant you the good fortune of serving HIM." Now, when I look back, I find that, HE has kept all the promises HE had made. But, I have certainly failed to keep up many of the promises, I had made to HIM. I can only say that, this is the difference between God and man!
Apart from my spiritual needs, Swami looked after my worldly needs, too. Even during my college life, HE solved miraculously one of the problems related to my studies, and strengthened my faith in HIS Omnipotence. I had to write my pre-final Engineering Examination in March/ April, 1966 and that was six months after my first Darshan of Swami. During my sojourn in Engineering College, I was not very regular in my studies, for two reasons. The first was my obsession with the study of books and magazines, not related to the Engineering Course. The books of my interest at that time were those on literature, political ideologies, and political thinkers. The second reason for my neglecting my course was my over-confidence in my intelligence and memory power. I would study my course subjects for only a month before the annual examination and still manage to secure a first class.
After I met Swami in October 1965, I neglected my studies completely. Most of the time was spent in reading books on and by Swami. Also I missed many classes during my trips to Puttaparthi. Even in the classes that I attended, I could not concentrate properly. When the annual examination approached in March /April 1966, I tried my best to concentrate on studies. Three days before the examination started, I was shocked by the disappearance of Madhav from his hostel room. He had left a note on his table which read, "I am going in search of Truth. None should worry about me and search for me." I roamed around all the places which he would normally visit, in Bangalore, but could not find him. I learnt from one of the monks at Ramakrishna Ashram, Bangalore, that Madhav might have gone to Belur Mutt, Calcutta, to join the order of monks as a Brahmachari. Next day, I went to Madhav's native town, which was fifty miles from Bangalore, to meet his parents. It was heart rending to see their grief. Madhav was the eldest son of the family and he had four brothers and sisters. This was a lower-middle class family. I shared their grief and felt that none should desert ones parents, brothers and sisters in such a condition, for any cause, however noble it could be. I prayed to Swami for Madhav's return to his house.
I returned to Bangalore, a day before the examinations. My concentration was totally disturbed. I did my best to study and write the examinations. That was my worst performance ever in any examination. Till then, I had never secured anything less than the first class. When I returned home after the examinations, I felt very sad for my parents, imagining their disappointment over my poor performance in the examinations. Meanwhile, Madhav returned home, after fifteen days. The authorities at the Belur Mutt had advised him to complete his course of studies first, and then go there. His return brought great joy to his parents. I was there in his house to share their joy.
As expected, I secured only a second class in the pre-final examination, to the utter disappointment of my parents, especially my father. He was worried about my future. I could not bear to see his worried face and promised him that I would secure a high rank in the final examinations, next year. My promise brought some cheer to my parents. Finally my course started in June 1966. However much I tried to concentrate on my studies, I was not successful. I had not achieved the balance between work and worship. It was like a new priest, trying to wave the Aarthi with right hand, ringing the bell simultaneously with the left; and could do neither successfully.
I had to choose either studies or Swami. I forgot my promise to my father and chose the latter. Still, I hoped that I would study well for a month or two before the annual examinations in March/April 1967, and do well. But it was not to be. A month before the examination, I prayed to Swami, "Lord! YOU have assured me that my future is safe in YOUR hands. The forthcoming examination is YOURS and not mine! Help me to keep my promise to my father!"
I tried my best to study and write the examinations. But the performance was much below par, definitely not better than the previous years. In one subject related to drawing, I could attempt answering only 34 marks out of 100. The minimum for a pass was 35. I returned home after the examinations. My anxious father asked me, how I had fared in the final examination. I said that I had done well, for fear of disappointing him and making him unhappy with the actual facts. I was sure that I would fail in one paper. I had not done well in other subjects also. I started feeling miserable as the day of results approached, but my diffidence, arising out of bad performance in the examinations, became an obstacle in the path of my prayers. Surely, it was lack of firm faith in the words of Swami.
A week before the announcement of results I confided to my father, that I had not done that well. But, I was not bold enough to tell him that I might fail in the examinations. He asked me, if I would get at least first class. I answered in the affirmative. But I prayed to Swami for HIS forgiveness, for having told a lie to my father. Panic and confusion gripped me on the day prior to the announcement of the results. I had no courage to show my face to my parents, after failing in the final year Engineering examination. I was totally distraught at the prospect of failing in the examinations, for the first time in my life. I quietly left my home and went away to a neighbouring town, where Madhav lived.
I stayed in his house that night and confided to him my fears. That night became a most forgettable one for my parents and others at my home. In panic, they looked for me every where in the town. They spent a sleepless night. On the other side, Madhav tried to give me solace and courage. He talked, through almost the entire night. At the end of it, I told him that the only hope for me was the Divine Grace of Swami. I hoped for a miracle by Swami, to salvage me .But that faith was not complete, so the fear continued to haunt me.
Madhav convinced me that I should go back to my home next morning. In fact, he accompanied me back to my town, which was twenty two miles from his. As we got down in the bus stand, news papers greeted us in the stands. But I was not eager to look for my result in the examinations, because of my pessimism. I instinctively wanted to postpone the time of learning the unpleasant news. I told Madhav that the newspaper would be available at home. As we were walking down towards my home, one of my younger brothers came running, with a news paper in his hand. His face was brimming with joy. He shouted with uncontrollable glee, "Brother, you have secured a rank, Congratulations!" Neither Madhav nor I could believe it. I could hear my heart beat. Madhav grabbed the news paper from my brother's hand and looked into it. My name was in the rank list. He congratulated me. My eyes were filled with tears of gratitude to Swami. I whispered to Madhav, "It is surely a miracle of Swami!"
When we entered my home, the celebration had already started. Everyone congratulated me on my distinction. All the time I was telling Swami in my heart, "Swami, thank YOU very much. Forgive my lack of faith in YOUR words." Next morning I went to my college office in Bangalore and received my provisional marks card. Almost in every paper, I had secured at least five marks more than what I had attempted for; and in Engineering Drawing, I had got 37 marks! While I was returning home, I pondered over how Swami had influenced the minds of at least ten examiners, and lost myself, in the Bliss of complete gratitude, to the Divine Master.
I returned home and showed the marks card to my father, who was agog with joy, at his son's achievement. I did not tell him about the Divine Miracle, which had helped me in my achievement, since my father had his reservations about Swami, at that time. That night, I confided to my mother, in detail, the handy work of Swami in helping me pass the Engineering degree examinations, with distinction. My tender hearted mother was quickly touched by the kindness of Swami and expressed her desire to go with me to Puttaparthi, to offer our gratitude to HIM. Probably, she also wanted to pray to Swami to remove her fears, of her dear son becoming a Sanyasi. She would have thought that, only a miracle of Swami could restore her child to herself.
Within three days, my mother and I left for Puttaparthi. We were accompanied by one of my sisters, younger to me by three years. She had developed great faith in Swami, by that time. As soon as Swami saw us, HE called us for an interview. HE accosted me with a question, waving HIS forefinger at me, a mischievous smile adorning HIS beautiful face. "Hey! How did you pass the examination?" Words failed me. I fell at HIS feet, tears drenching HIS robe. I could barely blurt out, "Swami I passed only because of YOUR Divine Grace." Swami then chided me for what I had done, on the day prior to the announcement of results, and added with HIS right hand on HIS chest, "At least now onwards, develop steady faith. Swami will never desert any one who trusts HIM."
All the while, my mother was nodding her head with tears of joy in silent approval. The Master had already divined her feelings. HE told her, looking at me mischievously, "Now that he has finished his education, your burden will be reduced by getting him married, is it not?" My mother's face lit up with intense joy and deep sense of gratitude to Swami. She exclaimed, "Yes Swami!" Swami then looked at me and asked, "Hey! Is it not true?" I blurted out, "No Swami". Swami said seriously, "What do you mean by that? Do you have a steady mind even for five minutes?" With a feeble and unsteady voice I answered, "No Swami". "Do as Swami tells you", HE commanded and continued, "Help and serve your parents". My mother's cup of joy was full. Her faith in Swami's Omniscience was complete. Swami led us out of the interview room, after materializing vibhuthi for us and granting Pada Namaskar. My mother and sister left Puttaparthi for home, the same day, while I continued to stay at Puttaparthi. The next day, Swami told me, "Develop will power to control your mind. You have Swami's Grace."
My faith in His Grace was firm. I knew for sure, that the Lord, who had changed me, would surely change my mother's mind. I had the faith that I would be blessed to offer my life in service to Him. Today as I look back, I know that my faith, did work miracles!
and Radio Sai E-Magazine, 15th October 2003