What Swami means to me is still a Divine and unfolding epic. I know that Swami is always with me for He has told me so. Yet, I feel the innocence and shyness of a beginner in His presence.
At the Summer Course in 1978 at Brindavan my wife and I first came to Bhagawan Sai Baba. Baba allowed me to perform a concert with Vemu Mukunda and his Indian musicians at one Summer Course session. At the climax of my main solo, Baba sitting in the center of the stage, rose to His Feet and holding out His arm with palm down, while the audience cheered, materialized a beautiful jewelled necklace, paused, then made it larger to accommodate my neck size, which swells when I play. With the crowd still applauding, Swami garlanded me with this necklace. As He did so He smiled, close into my eyes, and said, whilst holding before me the gold medallion hanging on the necklace, "On this I give you Krishna because He played a wind instrument."
We both laughed. The audience was thrilled. I was ecstatic. Someone in white asked, "Discourse, Swami?" I heard Swami's voice say, "Already had discourse." And taking my hand, He led me to the front of the stage, and following His direction I bowed to the audience. Then Baba, being the perfect master of ceremonies, held out His other hand for Vemu Mukunda to join us for a final bow. This was my first experience with Swami. It was fun, joy, mystery, excitement and sweetness too. That is what Baba meant to me that first day - and still does, plus much more.
On my concert tours for many years now, always Swami's picture and puja materials are in my dressing room, besides another puja set and pictures in my hotel room. I do a short meditation and pray to Swami before each performance regardless of where I am in the world and in my mind I always dedicate my performance to Him. On the stage there are times when I call Baba by touching the Krishna on my necklace. It gives me strength and enhances my confidence. During an important performance, where one is often surrounded by excitement, anxiety and tensions of backstage, by tuning into Swami I can clear the clutter from the mind and turn on the joy and creativity. If Swami is always with me how could I be nervous? Nervousness is created by the mind - so, better to give the mind to Swami and just play.
Since 1978 Swami has been a part of my actions. When things go right I thank Swami for His grace. When things are difficult I pray to Swami to direct my actions to correct the situation be it my fault or the fault of others. In my personal life as well as career I bring all of my problems to Swami.
During an interview, my wife was having a conversation with Swami about meditation. After He had lovingly and patiently answered her questions, I asked Swami about "my meditation". He interrupted me with a sweet playful laugh, pointed to me and said, holding His thumb and forefinger about half an inch apart -"For you - VERY SHORT!"
The summer before the 60th Birthday, Swami said to me, on the verandah of the Mandir, "So much of western music is so beautiful, would you speak to the students about your music at the hostel for half an hour twice a week while you are here?" I was delighted and after talking to them and seeing their enthusiasm to learn to read and play western instrumental music, I soon received Baba's permission and support to teach the students with the available instruments here. When I returned to America my first performance was for the "International Association of Jazz (Music) Educators" and soon after for the "National Association of Music Merchants". During the last four years various companies and individuals from these two organisations have donated to the S.S.S.B. Institute of Higher Learning many brass and electronic and wood wind instruments plus marching drums, orchestra drum-set, cymbals, electronic guitars and piano plus computer programs that teach fingering techniques, music reading, care of instruments and other important learning materials. So now we are having a wonderful time during this August of 1990 with all of this modern equipment.
I cannot describe what a joy it is to teach such talented, well mannered, intelligent students who are totally devoted to Bhagawan Baba and eager to come at 6.00 a.m. to learn marches and use the computer. They practise into the night while still maintaining their high academic levels because they are so earnestly looking forward to playing for Baba.
I have tried to write what Swami means to me, but really there are no words to fully describe one's relationship with Bhagawan Baba. Every time I come to Prasanthi Nilayam, I take back into the world a little more of Baba. Recently I read in "Sanathana Sarathi" one of Baba's Teachings,
"BE HAPPY...BE HAPPY! ALL WILL BE HAPPY!"