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Excerpts from the speech by Prof. (Mrs.) Jayalakshmi Gopinath, Warden, Anantapur Campus, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, delivered in the Divine Presence on 12th March 2006, in Sai Kulwant Hall.

My hearfelt Pranams at the Lotus Feet of the Great One… the Perfect One… the Loving One…the all-endearing Bhagawan Baba.

It is for me to tell all those who gathered here at the Lotus Feet of Bhagawan, young and old, fellow travellers to the haven of peace and love – that He is the crest jewel of the Ratnakaram family. Not that God needs any introduction through any family or through any people, but He Willed…and His Will definitely will be translated into action which brings about tremendous messages to the whole of humanity. I have been blessed to know dear Baba’s grandfather, the doyen of the Ratnakaram family. Puttaparthi, then, was a small hamlet and that it has grown to such proportions with people teeming around the canteen, which caters to everyone throughout the day and night, a super speciality hospital, the kind of which you will not find anywhere and all the three educational institutions, two for the boys and one so lovingly constructed for the girls because we also, the women community need His Love and Blessings. One would never understand were I to say, were I to describe, how Puttaparthi was. But there is one thing which I can never forget, the wonderful sanctity, serenity, the simplicity of Puttaparthi which was then in the middle 40’s or late 40’s.

Many a time the great doyen, the grandfather of Bhagawan Baba would come to see his Divine grandson. What a sight for the Gods to see! Blessed I am indeed, that I have seen it! He was a perfect village chieftain – tall, gaunt, upright, dignified; definitely befitting to be the grandfather of Divinity…and he knew his grandson was God Himself. I have seen the interaction between the grandfather and the little grandson. Those early years, Swami used to be beautiful; not that He is not beautiful now…but as so young in his early 20’s, Baba was so very beautiful. He would walk about so sprightly, so vivaciously, at the same time, one could never take advantage of Him. He was God; we have to have our own limits. He would teach us and train us how to behave, both in the secular way and in the religious way, because we have not given up our homes and gone to the forest…we are still in the world…and we have to behave properly even in the world. Baba teaches us even that. So the great grandfather, he would come, he would not take any support. He would just have a stick in his hand, straight, upright. When I saw him he was about 110 years old. And, as soon as he came people around there would put a chair for him. Those who had seen the Old Mandir then, it had an enclosed veranda in the front from where we enter and from there we go into the little sanctum. A chair would be brought and put for him and word would go for his little Divine grandson. But, of course, Swami knew that he had come. Swami would come so lovingly as if He was waiting for His grandfather. Remember, detachment, at the same time loving. That is the lesson all of us have to learn, imbibe and practise. But, at all times, how can we combine detachment with love. Here is the supreme example, our beloved Bhagawan would come to the grandfather as if it mattered so much to Him. I have seen the interaction between the grandfather and the grandson. He would be so endearing to his little grandson, talk to Him. Baba would sit beside him drawing a chair. And we would just watch what brightness would be on the grandfather’s face. He was all happiness, all bliss. Baba would be very, very endearing to him. After some time, he would get up without support. He had the sparks of Divinity in him because Bhagawan had Willed it that to him should be born the grandson, who is going to be The Teacher, The Great Teacher, The Divine Teacher, The Loving Teacher, The Profound Teacher of the whole world. He knew his grandson was that. That is why his heart flowed out to him, but at the same time as we would watch he would never take advantage of Bhagawan. And the interaction is still, as if I have seen it yesterday. I always tell myself how blessed…how blessed I am! Indeed so blessed am I that I have seen the great doyen of the Ratnakaram family. Then he would go back straight, very confident, with the feeling that I have met my Divine grandson, the great satisfaction would be there upon his face.

In these modern days of civilisation, of sophistication, of going to the United States to learn much more…to learn about what? we learn about Divinity? Do we learn how we should conduct ourselves so that we live in peace in the world? Are we taught there that to touch the dust of Divinity’s feet is heaven itself? We go searching into a blind alley. There is absolutely nothing beyond it and we come back frustrated. Then we begin to think when it is too late. It is only when you start at a young age, that by the time you come to my age you would have reached the absolute proximity of the Divine Lotus Feet. May you be blessed by Bhagawan with His wonderful experience because I am relating it all of the great family, the befitting family, it was all Willed by Him that He should be born in this great family.

I have seen the benevolent father, Venkama Raju Garu. What a wonderful person! The father was also tall and thin, he was also a prominent person in the village. How simple! how genuine! how loving! not a bit of ostentation in any of them, and yet, Venkama Raju Garu was the father of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. It was a very small hamlet as I said and in those days there were no shops to cater to the devotees who would come and they had to cook their own food. Now it is a miracle to see the canteens, it is growing day by day. Venkama Raju Garu was so kind to the devotees, he knew the difficulties. So, he would get a large quantity of provisions from Bukkapatnam. He had a small little stall nearby. Let us learn from him. Any devotee who comes to him, he would lovingly ask, “Eem Kavali Meeku” (What do you want)? He would speak with such gentleness and respect. Even to me he would say, “Ammaya, Eem Kavalamma?” (Mother, what do you want?) Who was I? I was nobody. He was the father of Divinity, but so simple. We would touch his feet. My father was very fond of him. It was mutual. We were amazed at his simplicity. We from the town with all sophistication just cannot fathom. It comes right from the heart. It does not come from the mind at all.

One day my father asked him, Venkama Raju Garu,“Me Koduke Devudu Aaypoyadu Kada, Mari Meeku Elaganipisthundi” (Your son has become God, is it not? How do you feel about it?). The same serene face, this was his answer, “Vitthal Rao Garu, Vadu Devudu Aayipoyadandi, Nake Kadu Andariki Devudu” (Yes, He has become God. He is God not only for me, but for everyone). What a beautiful answer! How he had reconciled to the situation that his beloved son was not only for him, but He was for the whole world and for the whole humanity. It could break any father’s heart to think that the son is receding from him and going out to the whole of humanity. The great Venkama Raju Garu had understood the value of his Son, had understood the secret of the Divinity of his Son.

Now Prasanthi Nilayam has grown to such proportion. This could be a very small replica of heaven. Once again, let me reiterate the simplicity of Venkama Raju Garu, the dignity, I have not seen in any modern individual. I speak the truth. I knew the Divine Mother Easwaramma so well. It was mutual love between us. I loved her because, on her face there was such brilliance that you could not find anywhere in the whole world, on any sophisticated face. Whatever one would put on the face, it could not match the glow on her face. I have seen it myself. She was as simple as a child. In the row of houses of East Prasanthi, my father has got a little house. Can you think of her simplicity! Divinity was her son. How simple she was! She came to our house and of course, all of us would touch her feet. I am so glad that I had that opportunity. She came to my father and said, “Vitthal Rao, Swami, “Pedda Pedda Bhashanalu Istharu Kada. Vadu Chaduvukoledu Kada. Sarigane Cheputada?” (Swami gives many discourses, does He speak properly? I am asking because He has not studied books). What would we say to that innocent mother! She was so concerned about her son. She knew He was Divine, but such concern! Of course, we hardly could understand and fathom the meaning of the wonderful things that Swami used to tell us even in those days.

One incident comes to my mind. Way back in 1951; till then Baba had not given discourses in public. That day He called the men devotees and said, “Put a table for Me; I am going to speak”. We were all enthralled. When He had told us, time and again, wearing His self out. I don’t want to be sentimental over it. But it breaks my heart. We have seen Baba walking so fast, all over. Now He is suffering for the sake of humanity. What can we do? We cannot do anything. Just lay our tarnished hearts at the Lotus Feet and pray, “Swami, don’t suffer for our sakes. We are not worth it.” That is what I feel all the time. That day Swami asked the table to be brought. The microphone was put on the table. Baba was young then. Let us remember what He said, at that young age. The wisdom and the love that overflowed, they were joined together. Baba has nothing but love and love and love within Him. I can assert and if it has to be announced on the house tops, I am prepared to do it. Or, if I have to take a megaphone and asked to go to all the countries and tell that there is a wonderful little God with us…Our great God, who is the very incarnation… Oh come, come, come and see Him and experience Him, I can definitely do it because I have the conviction. I have known Him as a young girl. Baba is a wonderful mixture of grace and stability. He is both feminine and masculine. These are the attributes of God.

He came down; of course, none of us had the doubt that Baba could not speak well. We were all waiting anxiously, breathlessly. All fellow devotees, youngsters and elders, if I tell you what He said that day; it will make your hair stand on end. He just thumped at the table hard and then said: “Remember, I am God.” Take it in. So many of us cannot take it in because we do not know God, we do not love God and if God were to come and tell “I am God”, we would be blind to the reality. That was the first announcement (declaration). The second announcement, He thumped, “I am the Upanishads”; the third announcement, “I am the Vedas”; the fourth announcement, “I am the scriptures”. “I have come down for the sake of humanity.” And then He says, “Remember, why are you vacillating? I have nothing that is personal in what I tell. It is for your benefit. Cast off all your doubts, all your vacillations. Come here and try to take in arms full. The wonderful teachings, the wonderful things that you see is not just confined to only as we may think to religious rituals, but a combination of what humanity in toto is – the heart, the head, the intellect, everything.”

He said, “Let us remember this, it is the same people who come to Me, adoring Me and offering Me gifts; the very same people after some time malign Me. It does not affect Me. Whether you give anything to Me or you do not offer anything to Me; it makes no difference”. Beautiful things… He told us that day, young Baba. Even today, I remember the Mandir of 1951. Some of the things are etched in our memory that it makes an indelible impression. These are the scriptures that we should treasure, Sai’s scriptures.

There was another incident involving an old Brahmin lady. That was again here in 1951. She was very insistent that wherever she was, she should follow the brahminical rituals. It was ekadasi and she would fast the whole day. She would not take even a drop of water. She used to stay in the makeshift bamboo houses behind the Mandir. She was so very insistent and somebody called her rigid. Her husband was a great scientist and if she had a bath and wore what we call the madi Sari, she would not even serve her husband. She would throw it on his plate. People used to laugh at her. When Baba used to be that side of the Mandir in those days, with lot of love she would prepare something and she would like to offer it to Swami. She would put it there and not even touch Baba’s Feet because, she was in madi. So, people thought, what a strange creature she is! But, I tell you, Baba does not see the exterior, dear youngsters and elders, Baba sees the interior, what we are.

One day, it was ekadasi, and as usual we would have Bhajans for a long time. The strict discipline was followed; ladies on the one side and gents on the other. Baba came and sat on His throne and asked: “Where is Janakamma?” She was sitting away from the crowd because it was ekadasi. She was in the madi clothes, nobody should touch her. Baba with such compassion asked us to move and make place for her. We did, and He asked her to come and sit near His throne. She did so. What love! What love! It is something that one has to experience.

He asked her, “Today is ekadasi, isn’t it.”
She said: “Yes, Swami.”
“You haven’t eaten anything?”
“No, Swami.”
Then He said, “In the evening on an ekadasi, what would you do?”
She said, “Swami, I would go to the temple where some knowledgeable people or the priest would tell about the puranas and great stories of God. I would go there and listen to it.”
Swami said, “Is that so? Sit down, I will tell you the story of God.”
How beautiful it was! ... when people laughed at her, saying she was mad, she was rigid. The Gita tells us that anything that you do, do it sincerely, that is enough. No need to ask for any approbation from others. The heart must be pure and the love for God must be absolutely transparent and sincere. This is what Bhagawan Baba gave us, so many opportunities to learn that He was the one behind all these things. No religion mattered to Swami; it is only the religion of Love. Every religion tells the same thing. Treat everyone as your brother, the whole humanity is your kin at every stage, at every step. He taught us these things by His own example. Bhagawan sets an example. He is not angry with any of us. An ordinary preacher feels so self important, and if we do not listen to him, his ego is hurt. But, Bhagawan has no ego. He has come to love and serve humanity, to teach us what love is. Love, which is unsullied and pure.

There is one instance which Bhagawan told us. In an interview, there was an individual. Constantly he was putting snuff into his nose. Naturally, people who use snuff should have a big handkerchief. He would blow his nose into the handkerchief which would be all soiled. Baba looked at him and said, “See, this doesn’t look good. You are blowing your nose and making the handkerchief dirty. No, no, no. Give it up, give it up. It isn’t good for a person of your stature, your age”. So, he conceded. Oh! it is beautiful! Then Baba used to eat betel leaves those days and He used to wipe His mouth with the white handkerchief. There were slight red marks in the white handkerchief. It was not even an afterthought. Instantaneously, then and there, Divinity resolved that He would never eat betel leaves again. That He has to do, what He asks us to do…that we should learn. It is not that on a New Year day or a holy day, we should remember these wonderful things, these examples that Baba has given us.

We talk of asceticism; we talk of giving up this, giving up that. It is the purity of the heart, the intensity of love, thinking of God all the time and His beauty. That is the only road to God. No need of wearing rags. No need of saying, I have given up this, I have given up that. It is not giving up the worldly things that matters, but it is giving up bad thoughts, the negative thoughts within us. Everything is God. Why do we see the difference because, we have it in our mind. We have to go beyond, as Bhagawan says, beyond these dualities and understand that He says, “Everything is God.” Baba said, the whole world is God. That is what Prahlada told his father, Hiranyakasipu. …And when Hiranyakasipu asked, “Is He there in this pillar?” “Yes father.” So Hiranyakasipu broke the pillar and there came Narasimha Swami. He was in such a dreadful shape that Hiranyakasipu could not withstand it. But, Prahlada saw. He was God Himself. He went and embraced that fearful form. I am not able to see God except in His physical form here because my eyes have the cataract. If I could remove that cataract all that blinds my vision, I could see the whole universe as Bhagawan Baba. I pray, let us go to those heights of meditation, prayer and love, that everywhere we can see Him. That is the only heaven; that is the only bliss; that is the only thing we must work for and live for. All of you know it; I do not need to say. There is nothing in earning more and more money; there is nothing in craving for greater and greater status; there is nothing in feeling that I must be a great intellectual and achieve this and that; nothing in telling ourselves that I must be a great religious teacher. …Of what avail? All that matters is I am the child of God; I am the servant of God… Suffice it. That He loves me and I love Him. That is paradise enough. All these material things just do not matter. You might say, “I have reached this age and I have come to this conclusion.” No. I have been at the Lotus Feet at a young age. I have understood what the great One is trying to impart to us. He wants each one of us to be happy.

One very casual incident when He came to our hostel... We were all there in the staff room. Baba would come to us very often, very casually and as Mira sang in her Bhajan “Andanalum Vandidado Brindavanatil, Kannan Valarthan” (Would those days come again when Kannan (child Krishna) grew up in Brindavan.) Those days, when He would come to Anantapur, so casually without previous announcement, sit with us in the staff room, talk to us; not as one of great Divinity, but on equal terms. I was wondering, Baba has placed me here; how much can I fulfil His trust in me. Some children can be very naughty. Sometimes they do not know, not that they do it purposefully. I know it now. They all have innocent hearts. Sometimes they are unmanageable. So, when Baba was sitting there, He asked me, “Jayamma, Andaru Bagane Unnara Pillalu?Bagane Anni Chesukuntunura? (Are all the children alright? Are they doing well?) And ignorant as I was, I said, “Swami, Andaru Bagane Unnaru, Kani Kondaru Koncham Vinatamledu (everyone is alright, but some are not listening to me). Immediate answer, Evaru Cheddavaru Undaru, Mana Drishti, Andaru Manchivalu (nobody is bad, good and bad lie in our vision. Everyone is good). That is a message for all of us. Be good, do good, see good. That is Bhagawan’s message. All the Vedanta, all the scriptures, all that the Bible has to say or the Quran or the Zoroastra religion comes to this essence, “Be good, do good, see good”. Understand that this alone will take us to the haven of the Lotus Feet of our most Beloved Loving Bhagawan.

Volumes have been written about the great Avatars, Rama and Krishna and what they did when they set their Divine Feet upon the earth - to redeem and to love mankind. As I said, it was Willed by Bhagawan that I come to Him at a young age. Blessed, blessed, tremendously blessed I call myself. I do not deem anything more.

In those days, Old Mandir was a very small building. We have all seen it. Now, of course, it is much changed. Can we ever conceive it? Thrones bedecked with special gems, people sitting at their feet and fanning the king and those around singing songs of His glory. But the great God lived in that little Mandir. It was a rough construction of stone and the front was a veranda, now where the weddings take place. Just a few steps from there is the sanctum, wherein it was installed with all religious rituals, sanctimoniously Baba’s image and Shirdi Baba’s image. That is where some of us, ladies would sleep and men would sleep in the outside veranda. Mira sang, “Would those days of Brindavan ever come again?” Well, I also feel the same. He would take all of us, men, women, young and old to the sands of Chitravathi. It was almost an everyday affair. How can I describe how Puttaparthi was? There was no obstruction of all these buildings. It was just greenery all around, tall trees, which had grown from the silt of the sacred Chitravathi; so green, so cool, so beautiful, so comforting to the eye. We would go; we were not so many. Baba would walk ahead and we of course ladies would keep to one side and men to the other side. It used to be a wonderful experience where Baba would take us right to the banks of Chitravathi. Eventide is very beautiful time and myriad shades of the sun through the trees were enchanting. They would fall upon Baba’s lovely Feet as He walked the sands of Chitravathi. There He would sit, He would select a place, all of us would sit and again according to the discipline.

There is so much to be told, but Bhagawan asked me to tell just one or two incidents. We read about the ten Avatars. We have seen them in pictures drawn by very good artists. When we see them, it makes an impression on us. And we wonder why God had taken all these forms? You and I cannot fathom it. He is trying to tell us that He is in every creation and He has bestowed on man the greatest gift of intelligence and discernment. It was one such day, when it was evening, almost dusk coming in, it was getting a little dark. We were all there, and suddenly Baba disappeared. Where is Swami? Where is Swami? Because in those days those hills were thickly forested, and we were told there would be cheetahs and tigers around. Baba was small and delicate. Where is Swami? Where is Swami? We could not find Him. But we heard His voice right on that hill. It is there even now. “Look here”, He said, a stentorian voice, the voice of Divinity which can reach out to the periphery of eternity itself. And dumbfounded, aghast, we were just tantalised. We were just looking upon the hill, a brilliant dazzling light. The panorama of all the ten Avatars one by one went across, as if, I would say it was the silver screen. Each one of them perfect, we were just standing there aghast, not petrified, but looking at the whole thing with such wonder. Ultimately, it was Bhagawan’s image in a bright halo of light. Oh! Then we knew the director behind all this. We knew that it was His Will. Oh ye devotees! Oh ye human beings! Remember, I am the Creator, I am The One who has presented before you all the various aspects of My creation.

Then hardly had we got out of this wonderful experience, we were almost glued to the spot, Baba was amidst us. How could He come from that hill? …as if like lightening, He was amidst us! And He spoke to us almost casually as if He was not the One who did all these things. He was just the little Sai Baba of the Old Mandir. That is our Swami. No ostentation. No self glorification. The tremendous power lies in the unostentatious nature of Divinity. And at other times, He had shown us so many other things, which if were to relate to you, would become a great scripture in itself.

This is absolute truth, take it from me. I have known Bhagawan, I have kissed the dust of His Feet for 57 years. …and so how could I speak something which is not truth? I have collected the sands on which He had walked. They are still with me. There was a lady who had collected the sands of Chitravathi on which Swami had walked. I did not know her personally, but after some time, when we had gone to Bombay (Mumbai) with Swami, I met that lady and she said, “Do you know, I collected the dust under His Feet from the Chitravathi sand and this is what it has been transformed into”. They have all become precious gems. I have seen it with my own eyes. These are the wonderful things I have seen. Therefore, I feel that the only place for all of us is the Lotus Feet of Bhagawan Baba, to be in the close vicinity of this loving Divinity, to bask in the sunshine of His loving grace, to get redeemed. When I say redeemed, I don’t mean a static phase. But, whenever God wants to come to the world, as Kanakadasa says, “Everybody be a witness, let me come with You again and again”. I don’t want to stay in heaven for ever. I want to come to the world whenever Baba comes to the world, so that I can see the leelas, so that I can drink deep, the glory, the Divinity, the love. And all that He is offering us every moment.

Another incident shall I say what He taught me. This is for all of us. I know all of us are feeling bad that Baba, who was so agile, so graceful, He would sometimes be ethereal when He walks. When we see Him walk, we know, not that physically He is not undergoing pain. We know what it is, even a small stone when it hits us, how we feel the pain. But, He just overlooks it, does not mind it.

Dear Devotees!
Why have we to travel overseas, searching for a model so that we get eminence and fame? Sit at the Feet of Divinity and learn these precious lessons. In Kodaikanal, I got the opportunity, I mustered courage…looked at Him and said. He had just got up from the chair. He was so concerned whether everything was ready for the dinner for all of us. He hardly eats anything, I know it. As He was coming, I said, “Swami, it is not difficult for Swami to cure Himself; Swami just do this, everything will be alright”. And you know the answer, fellow devotees. It went like a shaft into my heart. I could write it in golden letters and stand on top of Mount Everest itself and proclaim, “In the whole world, God is perfection. I will tell in Telugu, it will be more sweet. Nenu Mee Andariki Mee Jabbalu Nayam Chesthana? Mari Nenu Naku Endaku Chesukuntanu? (Do I cure the diseases of everybody? So why should I cure Myself?) What an ideal! When He saw the man with that snuff handkerchief, Baba gave up eating betel leaves. The feeling that He is not curing, we have our Prarabdha (results of past lives). We cannot ask God to cure our diseases which we have brought with us from life to life. He will mitigate it. But the answer He gave was, “When I am not curing your diseases, how can I cure Myself?” This is perfection! Enough…we sit at the Lotus Feet and redeem ourselves and fill ourselves with love and intensity of devotion to Bhagawan Baba, the sweet Lord, the loving God. God with a heart that is so expansive which is even beyond the creation. He feels for everyone. When He feels somebody is so sick and they are in a condition where perhaps they cannot do anything with themselves, He goes to them personally. But let us remember, we have also to eke out our Prarabdha. …And with His grace, chanting Bhagawan Baba’s Name, miracles will become common when Divinity inherits the earth.

Sai Ram

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