|The President of India Sri R. Venkataraman at the SSSIHL Convocation on November 22, 1990; |
Dr. Saraf as Vice Chancellor is on the right
Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, though physically born on November 23, 1926, would begin His 65th year of birth on November 23, 1990. But, in His Divine form, He has neither any date of birth nor any age. He created the Cosmos and whatsoever is within it. He has, therefore, neither any beginning nor any end.
Bhagavan, in His mercy had, however, to guide the misguided, who were suffering the illusion that He was a mere child in a far-off village called Puttaparthi in South India. On October 20, 1940, fifty years ago, He declared His Divinity. This manifestation of Divinity of Bhagavan Baba, during the course of half a century, is now fully recognised as a matter of sheer fact and reality. It is, therefore, befitting that, in this year of grace, His devotees throughout the world are celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Bhagavan's declaration of His Divinity.
Bhagavan's Divinity, with supreme powers of Omnipresence, Omnipotence and Omniscience, is recognised everywhere by everyone and at every time. Place, person and period neither matter nor count. What, however, matters is the pain, the pang, the plight, the persistence, the penance, the patience and the powerful prayer. In such situations, like that of Gajendra Moksha story, our Lord, Bhagavan Sathya Narayana manifests His prompt, punctual and protective presence in its pristine purity, as recorded even in our ancient scriptures as well, in one form or other in a clear and concrete situation. His millions of devotees, across the world, have recorded their incredible, but exhilarating, experiences and expressed gratitude to Him, often in unspoken words, and from the depth of their pure hearts.
Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba came into my life at the tender age of 10. Ever since, He has been moulding me in the right form and chiseling me, at every stage of my life, in different situations and various parts of the world, in spite of numerous angularities and rough edges. What I am today, after more than half a century, is the result of His correct, constant, calculated, calm, concern and care for keeping the little candle, which He found in the form of a small child of 10 years in 1934, in a small corner of North India, i.e. in Srinagar, Kashmir, even Kindled and bright. The story, though long, is sweet. Writing about hundreds of vibrating experiences, which I and my family members have witnessed from time to time, would cover a huge volume. I am recounting here only a few of the acts of His Grace and Mercy.
As a small child, while learning beautiful stories from Mahabharata in Kashmiri, our mother would very sweetly explain how Lord Krishna playfully revealed His Divine Identity to Yashoda by opening His tender mouth, showing very clearly that He was not an ordinary small child but the Creator and Lord of the Universe. When I grew slightly older, I was told that Arjuna, who was reluctant to do the ordained duty, even though he had surrendered himself to Lord, was shown by Lord Krishna the Vision of His Cosmic Form. These stories left me dazed. Then, as a young boy, my grandfather, who knew Sanskrit and Persian very well and knowing my difficulty about the knowledge of Sanskrit, suggested that I could read Bhagavad Gita written in English. He made the sagacious point that what matters is not the language but the spirit. So the practice of reading daily a Chapter of Bhagavad Gita started. While going through Chapter XI of Bhagavad Gita, I would come across Arjuna's prayer to Lord Krishna to give him a Vision of His Cosmic Form — Form of Lord, the Immutable Self. In response to his ardent prayers, Arjuna gets the vision of different forms of the Divine Lord. It was a revelation to me to come across the following Divine Message of Lord Krishna in Chapter XI: 'l am the Supreme Imperishable Brahman. My inherent nature is what manifests as the Indwelling Spirit and I have a creative act which brings forth all beings into existence.'
Sanjay's beautiful description of Lord Krishna, revealing to Arjuna, His transcendent Form as the Lord of the Universe was something which aroused my consciousness. The Lord reveals to Arjuna His Cosmic Form in which He finds, in an instant, all that exists, past, present and future, spread out as it were as part and parcel of an all-comprehending Whole, a Divine Person, whose grand majesty and splendour are too much for him to bear.
|Cosmic Vision by Lord Krishna to Arjuna|
In spite of the fact that my consciousness had been aroused, in its preliminary form, the experiences seemed to be intriguing me and were lying dormant in my mind all the years till 1972. It is in this year that I came across the Chapter with the heading "Words with Wings" in Volume IV of Sathyam Sivam Sundaram. A similar kind of declaration was made by Bhagavan Himself and conveyed in a written message in the monthly Magazine, Sanathana Sarathi when it was inaugurated. It reads:
“There was no one to know who I am till I created the World, at My pleasure, with one Word. Immediately earth and sky were formed. mountains rose up, rivers started flowing. sun, moon and stars sprang out of no-where to prove my existence. Came all forms of life — plants, insects, beasts, birds and men. Various powers were bestowed upon them under My Orders. The first place was granted to man, and My knowledge was placed in man's mind.”
As stated earlier, the revelations in the Bhagavad Gita and various declarations, including the above, continued to intrigue me till the year 1990. It was 11th of January, 1990, Poornima and Thursday — holiest of the days. The place was Shanti Vedika in Sri Sathya Sai Hill View Stadium, Prasanthi Nilayam. The occasion was the inauguration of Annual Sports and Cultural Meet. The vast and beautiful sports complex was filled with hundreds and thousands of devotees from all parts of the world including students of the Sri Sathya Sai educational institutions of various campuses from Class I to doctoral level.
Lord Sai, the Chancellor of the University, is the greatest Time Keeper. His arrival time in the Stadium at exact 7 a.m. After going through the inaugural function, He sat in His Divine Chair in the Shanti Vedika overlooking the whole Stadium, the vast stretch of beautiful land, hills, sky, the educational complex, the Administrative Building of the University. On His either side, He was flanked by eminent educationists, scientists and distinguished public men, who had specially come to watch the most inspiring function.
|Sri Sathya Sai on the Shanti Vedika at Prasanthi Nilayam; |
Dr. Saraf is seated on the left
As is usual with the Lord, from 8:30 a.m. onward, out of His love and compassion for devotees and students, He directed the distribution of cool drinks, biscuits, sweets etc. for the organizers of the meet, eminent persons, student participants, devotees, etc. and these continued flowing at regular intervals. The Lord did not touch anything. Being on His right side and watching Him not touching anything, the human heart in me started aching. There was an unusual urge to pick up the courage and to pray to the Lord that He may take something as He was in the Shanti Vedika for over four hours without sipping even a single drop of water.
Exactly at 11:11 am, with a thumping heart and unusual excitement, I picked up the courage and prayed to our Lord, that He may take something, in these words: “Bhagavan, You have not taken anything. You have not touched even a drop of water. Do take something.” The Lord listened to the prayers and turned His Effulgent Head in my direction. With His Lotus eyes, full of supreme bliss and compassion, He looked directly into my eyes with love. Like a sweet Mother, He paused, watched and gazed directly without uttering a single word. Within the split of a second, what did I see in His Lotus eyes? It was something beyond my imagination. In His Lotus eyes, I could see the Creator of the Cosmos, the Whole Cosmos covering the Universe, Sun, Moon, Stars, Mountains, Rivers, Oceans, different continents, the creation moving at their usual rhythm. Everything could be seen smoothly in this heavenly creation. The Creator of the Cosmos revealed His identity to a small insignificant mortal being. This was exactly how He had described Himself in Shlokas 9 to 13 of Chapter Xl of Gita, as slightly modified by Lord Sai in His written message referred to earlier, which I had completely forgotten having read it in 1972. It was a sublime, sweet and serene divine scene watched by my human eyes, which I cannot forget at all. It was a cosmic scene where everything was in its natural setting.
To a doubting Thomas, who was earlier baffled and intrigued, the lesson was clear — crystal clear. The Lord wanted to convey. “My dear boy, the Creator provides everything to anyone in any place who comes to Him. Why do I need even a drop of water?” The scene was heavenly and beautiful. I was lost without knowing how long in this heavenly creation and spiritual ecstasy. Having shown His Cosmic Form, the Lord returned to the Human form and turned His Effulgent Head slowly towards the Stadium watching the sports, as if nothing had happened. I got Light which I shall retain till the end of my physical journey.
The scene depicted above was neither an illusion, nor a delusion nor even a hallucination. It was true as Truth. In the split of a second. He revealed His Divine identity. I saw Him everywhere - the ultimate knowable, the Imperishable Brahman, the ultimate support of the cosmos, the Imperishable, the Eternal Spirit — with no beginning, no middle no end. Unlike the form revealed in the Bhagavad Gita, the Cosmic Form of our Lord was serene, calm and sublime. An ignorant person, like me, refused to believe earlier that Lord Krishna showed His identity to Yashoda, when He was a child or Lord Krishna could reveal His Divinity to Arjuna on several occasions when he was in His youth and during the Mahabharata war, fought in Kurukshetra. I had to wait for the time and the opportunity and, in response to my innocent prayers, got an appropriate occasion when the Lord revealed His Identity.
We have to come to the inevitable and irresistible conclusion that it is not wise, on our part to treat Him on any other plane excepting the sublime heights of the Creator of the Universe — the Truth of Truths. If we do so, then we can deem ourselves to be real devotees whose qualifications have been laid down in the last shloka of Chapter Xl of Bhagavad Gita which reads as follows: "Whoever works for Me, looks upon Me as the Supreme, who is devoted to Me, who is free from attachment, who is without hatred for any being, such a man comes to Me."
It has often been observed by thousands of devotees all over the world that physically Lord Sai may be in Prasanthi Nilayam or in any other place, but He is with anyone who seeks His refuge at any time and in any place. He responded, without even a single second's delay, to my urgent but prayerful call from Kabul (Afghanistan) in 1974, when l, but of utter desperation on seeing a lady nearing her death, sought His intervention in saving her from the jaws of death. She had stomach ulceration, of an advanced stage, and had vomited bucketful of blood and was admitted into a hospital. All had lost hope.
|Dr. Saraf, Vice Chancellor standing behind Sri Sathya Sai in the foreground of the SSSIHL Administrative Building|
It is an unforgettable event which happened in a small but beautiful Mandir in the house of one of the Sai devotees in Kabul. After seeing the condition of the lady in the hospital, I prayed and knelt before the Lord's charming photograph in this beautiful Mandir in the house of this Sai devotee. I submitted to the Lord mentally and prayed: "Baba, if you are God, save Mrs. Shangloo". Within seconds of the child's fervent telephonic call, fresh and fragrant Vibhuti emerged, as of from nowhere, near the photograph where I had put my forehead at the Lotus Feet, out of desperation and in complete submission.
The fragrance of Vibhuti was so sweet and effective that it spread throughout the house and drew us immediately from the Drawing Room, where we had gone to have some refreshment, to the shrine. The scene was Divine. This was Mira's call from Kabul to Lord Sai Krishna in Prasanthi Nilayam - a distance of thousands of kilometers covered with many mountains and terrains of different nations and countries. I firmly believe that intense devotion gets changed from Mira's call to Miracle. The fresh Vibhuti, which emerged from nowhere, was an utter amazement to the inmates of the house. They had many experiences but not of this kind. I was intensively interrogated by the Sai family as to what I had done in the shrine which brought forth fresh and fragrant Vibhuti. I frankly confessed that I had prayed to Lord Sai intensely and with a bleeding heart.
The fragrant Vibhuti was taken quickly by me without a single moment's delay to the dying lady in the Abu Sena Hospital in the heart of Kabul where she was made to eat it She slowly opened her eyes and started breathing normally. To the great surprise of eminent physicians and surgeons in the hospital, who were around watching her agony and preparing for any eventuality, in fact even an operation, she was back to normal life within a week or so. The X-ray done, after a couple of days of taking the sacred Vibhuti, revealed that the stomach was completely healed and there was no trace of ulceration.
Mrs. Shangloo, even after 16 long years, is still alive and active. This was my first personal and unforgettable experience of the Divinity of the Lord. His Omnipresence, His Omniscience and His Compassion to respond to the fervent prayers of anyone particularly for someone else. His response in such cases is immediate.
|Sri Sathya Sai talking to Dr. Saraf in the Western Canteen at Prasanthi Nilayam during the Vice Chancellors Conference; 1987|
In January 1982, we had the rare opportunity of visiting Bombay. I had to attend the Conference of Vice-Chancellors of Universities located on the Western Ghats. This Conference was convened by us in the Planning Commission, to be held in Pune on 29th and 30th January. I stopped in Bombay for a couple of days before the Conference started. A series of wonderful experiences started confirming the view held by millions of people that Lord Sai is loving and caring and that He looks after His children wherever they are.
In the evening of January 27, 1982 in Dharmakshetra, the Lord was Divine Host to a dinner served to some devotees. Mrs. Saraf and I were invited to this dinner. As usual, Bhagavan finished His dinner, within almost half a minute, and started going round and enquiring from devotees as to what they would like to have. Like a Mother, He persuaded each one of us to eat to our maximum capacity. I had a plan to go to Bhutan as a UNESCO Adviser to the Royal Government for a period of three months beginning from February 1982. At that stage, not being so near to the Lord and completely unaware of formalities, I felt embarrassed to ask Him whether I could go to Bhutan. I saw a number of people making humble submissions to Him. I did not have the courage to speak — the urge was there — but the lips were bound. Knowing what is happening in my mind, He came to me a couple of times watching me eating my food without any concentration and focusing my attention on Him. I was still dumbfounded but His loving look made me to speak one sentence. “Baba, I am going to Bhutan.” I did not say anything else. Lord knew what was in my mind. He said, “Go and do your work with devotion.” After a little pause, He added "When are you going?” “What is your programme?” I said, “Baba, I am going tomorrow to attend a Conference of Vice-Chancellors of Universities located in Western Ghats, in Pune. We will discuss problems regarding the sea pollution and how the Universities can help.” The Lord gave His reply. "Nothing is going to happen. As long as there is pollution in the minds of people, the atmosphere, including the seas, will continue to be polluted. Attend to your work with devotion.” At the Conference, during the next three days, we had exhaustive discussions.
Being blessed by Lord, I left all alone for Bhutan on February 3, 1982. It was an UNESCO-UNDP Project to help Bhutan Government to draw up their National Policy on Education. The duration of the Project was three months only. I remembered the words of the Lord, “Go and do your work with devotion.” The Bhutan Government were pleased with my inputs and extended my stay for more than a year. They asked me to take up additional projects. With the Divine Grace and His Benediction, the work was deeply appreciated and communicated to UNESCO, Paris. I was asked to stay on in Bhutan.
About The Author:
Dr. Somnath Saraf, Vice-Chancellor, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, between November 1985 and January 1991, was earlier Educational Adviser, Planning Commission, Govt. of India. He worked as Chief Technical Adviser, Consultant and Adviser to the UNESCO in various capacities in Afghanistan, Paris and Bhutan for a number of years. He worked with the Govt. of India and other agencies for more than 40 years. He has represented the Government of India and UNESCO in various international conferences and has written profusely on subjects relating to educational planning. management and Human Values. He was also closely working with the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation before he joined the Institute.
Source: Sai Vandana 1990 (65th Birthday Offering)