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The Constant Presence
On Sunday, the 13th day of December, 1964, Baba was at Venkatagiri town. He had reached the place a few days earlier in connection with a heavy schedule of discourses in the Chittoor and Nellore Districts, in Andhra Pradesh. But, Baba is not bound by the limitations of space and time. On that very day, about 8 a.m., "Baba surprisingly appeared in front of my house", says, U Ram Mohan Rao, Superintendent of the Junior Technical School, Manjeri (28 miles south of Calicut on the West Coast, in the State of Kerala). As the crow flies, the distance between Manjeri and Venkatagiri will be more than 600 miles! But distance is only a game that Baba plays to keep us, poor mortals, apart.
We shall listen to Ram Mohan Rao describing this visit, "I and my wife were indoors with our daughter. The maid told us that a Sadhu had come. We went out to see who it was and we were surprised to see Sri Sathya Sai Baba! Baba said, Hari Om, Santhih Santhih Santhih; we prostrated ourselves at His Feet. We led Baba into the officer room, but, on the way, He saw our Pooja room where His Photo was hung, along with several holy pictures. He said He would sit in the Pooja room itself. He told us that He had come to us that day, being very pleased with the Bhakthi of Sailaja, my daughter. He asked me to send word to devotees if any were available, for Bhajan and Pravachan." "He sent word to his neighbours and people collected immediately", says Ramesh Rao, his cousin. "He sang "Nandamukunda Sayinatha", "O Bhagavan", "Jayaram Jayaram", along with the Bhakthas. After Bhajan, He talked to me in Tamil, to my wife in Canarese and to the others in mixed dialect of Tamil-Malayalam. He blessed us by the gift of a Sankhamala and Himself placed it on His own photograph. He told me that my father had decided on a rite to propitiate the Snake-God (Sarpasamskaram) at Bangalore on 25th February, Thursday ('My day' He added), but He told me that he need not perform it, since He had already wiped off the calamity it was intended to avert and the sacrilege it was designed to atone.
"He took some light refreshment. Then, He told the persons around Him that all will be anxiously awaiting Him at Kalahasti. So, He took leave of us and asking us not to follow Him, went through the gate. He disappeared in a few seconds. We all felt happy at this unexpected Darsan and were struck by the 'disappearing miracle', within the twinkling of an eye."
Nor was this all. There are a few more paragraphs in the letter, which I am quoting: "24th December, Thursday, was a holiday; we felt lonely since our Sailaja was away at Mangalore. So we went out in the afternoon to visit some friends and returned home at 6-30 p.m. We were shocked to see the lights burning within the house. My wife asked me whether I had forgotten to switch off all the lights. I first examined the lock of the main door and finding it intact, went round the house to see whether the other doors were bolted from within. They were o.k. Then, both of us came to the front door, opened the lock and walked in. We found everything intact; all the lights were on. We saw Baba in our Prayer room! We prostrated ourselves at His feet. He asked us (in Kannada) whether we were afraid! We replied that we were very lucky and that we left very happy! Baba said that He had come because we were lonely and said, 'Let us sing Bhajans. If Sailaja were here, she would have liked to sing', He said. He sang a few Bhajans. He took food later, we discussed some general topics together. Then, Baba retired for the night.
Early next morning, Baba had His Bath; He had coffee with us and then, discoursed on Bhakthi and the Basic Truth of Nature. All of a sudden, we saw a rosary of Rudraksha beads in His hand; He put it on my neck with His Blessings, with the direction that I should wear it during my Sandhya rites. After those rites, I was to place it on Baba's photograph. We had breakfast together. The Puja room was decorated specially with garlands and flowers. Bhajan began. Meanwhile, devotees came to know that Baba had come; so they too assembled for Bhajan. Baba discoursed on Bhakthi in the Tamil-Malayam dialect. He granted every one the coveted interview.
At 12 noon, Baba himself waved the Sacred light of Mangalarathi and distributed Prasadam, to every one present. The quarter kilogram of dates that I had, sufficed for 100 persons! We had our lunch with Baba. He rested for a couple of hours and we had 'tea' at 4-30 p.m. Then He told us that several devotees were eagerly waiting for Him at Kalahasti. He blessed us again, when we fell at His feet. At 5 p.m. He went out on the road through the gate and suddenly disappeared. What a wonderful miracle! We could not believe our own eyes!
Nor could I, without confirmation through independent sources! Baba had given Darsan to persons in distress in distant places but nowhere, so far as we knew, did He stay so long and so concretely. It was too overpoweringly unscientific! I wrote a letter to two friends, P.K. Panikkar and P.A. Menon in Kerala enclosing a list of 84 questions for which I wanted them to find answers at Manjeri. They proceeded to Ram Mohan Rao's house and sent me a fuller report, which dotted all the 'i's and crossed all the 't's of his letter to me!
Ram Mohan Rao and his wife told them that Baba was wearing a yellow gown on the 13th December; He walked in, barefooted and went into the shrine room saying, "I shall go into My own place." My friends saw the picture on which the rosary of Rudraksha beads were placed. It had a thick outgrowth of sacred ash in a few days. Strangely enough, the face of Baba was clear but from the outer area in the picture, 'there fell a continuous shower of Vibhuthi dust which was being collected and distributed with the reverence due to the divinely created gift of Grace!'
"Rao and his wife have been devoted to Shirdi Sai Baba for many years; they have not visited Prasanthi Nilayam, but they had secured a picture of Sathya Sai Baba seven years ago and placed it amidst the other pictures in their shrine. When Baba sat in the shrine room and leaned against the wall, right under His own picture, they saw that the picture was genuine! That was the first time they saw Him; they had borrowed the book 'Sathyam Sivam Sundaram' from a friend to read it. They thought that Baba has come, accidentally to Calicut or some nearby town and had decided to bless them by this visit.
When Mrs. Rao was listing her sorrows to Baba, encouraged by His overflowing love, Baba said, "Sorrow and pain are the lot of all; don't you know that both sisters of this body are widowed?" When Sailaja asked Baba for a Bhajan Book, Baba said, "Palghat Menon has brought 400 Bhajan books, printed in Malayalam, to Prasanthi Nilayam. I shall give you one". So saying Baba held His palm upside down, waved it twice and caught with His fingers the book that appeared! He gave it to the girl; we saw it! It was the same book, with the blue paper cover! Sailaja had great faith in Baba, since her eczema on the foot was cured by Baba a year ago, in answer to her pleading before His picture.
When he was asked to bring some persons for Bhajan, Rao did not go far, for he did not desire to miss Baba's company for long. He brought in the owner of his house, an old gentlemen, by name Thalayur Moosad and his 5-year old daughter; he brought the widow of Madhavan Nair, the founder of the renowned Malayalam newspaper, 'Mathrubhoomi', and his sister. Baba asked Moosad, "What ails your leg?" He gave Him an account of his disease and prayed for some drug. Baba told him, "The course of treatment you are now undergoing is enough." Mrs. Rao is now sending him the Vibhuthi Baba showers from His picture; he finds it very effective. The widow told Him of her diabetes. "I am getting bags and bags of rice from my fields; but I cannot eat a grain," she said, Baba replied in Malayalam. "It is the result of your past Karma". He asked Rao to bring an empty glass. When Baba held it in His Hand, it was full of a pink liquid. He gave it to her. "Take this thrice daily for 3 days; you can then eat any quantity of rice you like".
"One cynic was there, among the rest. Baba knew it and so He jocularly asked Rammohan Rao to bring a pair of scissors and He asked the fellow to cut for Himself a single hair from His Head! The man tried hard but failed, whereupon a bigger pair was brought at His command. This time too he failed. So, he put down his head and walked away without a word" writes U.N. Ramesh Rao, Rao's cousin, who visited Manjeri soon after this incident.
Baba sang four songs in all, during the Bhajan, asking the gathering too to sing them after Him in chorus. They were: 'O! Bhagavan', 'Pahi Pahi Gajanana', 'Siva Siva Siva' and 'Omkara Priya Sai Ram'.
"We saw the Sankhamala, the rosary of small conch-shells," says the report. "It is of the type available at Kanyakumari, each shell being no bigger than a seed of pepper. They are white in colour, with brown dots. There are 108 of them in the rosary, created and given by Baba. When we saw it, Vibhuthi had heaped itself over the beads. The rosary of Rudraksha beads also was examined by us. Baba told them that, until he could string them in gold, he should place it on the picture. Baba also created an orange-size bell-metal drinking cup with a spout and gave it to Sailaja. He also created a piece of scarlet silk cloth with borders of gold thread, and, presenting it to the girl, asked Rao to have a jacket sewn for her. He gave Rao additional Vibhuthi and Kumkum created on the spot to be given to "Calicut" (meaning U.N. Ramesh Rao, his cousin living there). Baba left at 11 a.m. on the 13th, saying, I have to keep to a programme at Kalahasti." They did not then know that Kalahasti was about 20 miles from Venkatagiri. They were too aggrieved at His resolve to leave, to ask where it was. He said, "No one need come with me." He closed the gate behind Him and disappeared!
The second visit was on a Thursday. Mrs. Rao was afraid to approach the house, since the lights were on. Rao opened the lock and entered. He saw Baba in the shrine, sitting leaning against the wall. Baba asked him in Tamil, "Are you afraid, seeing me?" "I have come to join your Bhajan," He assured him. Rao had brought some dried dates from the bazaar; he gave the plate into the hands of Baba for distribution; he felt that He alone could make it suffice for all those who were present. Baba entered the kitchen and protested against the dish of 'Kheer' being prepared. He did not "relish that sweet dish". "This is enough for six," He said! They had cooked only for two but, after dinner, food for three more was available. Next morning, Rao and Mrs. Rao partook of it as a sacramental. Before retiring for the night, Baba removed one picture of His from the shrine and hung it on a nail in the bed room. 'Let it be here,' He said. From that picture too, Vibhuthi is showering in large quantities now.
Rao peeped through a slit in the door to find out whether Baba was sleeping well but, he saw Him sitting up, most of the time, 'lost in thought, as one in reverie.'
Next morning, Baba had his bath and breakfast. When the housewife started preparing 'festive dishes,' He noticed her enthusiasm and warned that He would leave without eating anything at all; He insisted that only their daily menu should be given to Him. He talked to them of Sankaracharya being caught while young by the crocodile (Maya) in the river Poorna (Brahma) and saved by renunciation (Sanyas). He spoke of Sai Baba, and of God as Subrahmanya or Murugan. While speaking of Subrahmanya, He created a thin plate of gold, drew on it with His nail the picture of Subrahmanya on a peacock and rolling it directed her to wear it around her neck, inside a golden cylinder, to be made later. He said jocularly, "Sorry! I have no gold!"
This is perhaps the most dramatic, detailed and authentic narrative of the multilocative miracle of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
Baba appears in dreams to console, to advise, to assuage pain and to instruct; He has said often that persons can see Him in dreams only when He wills! He informed a Divisional Commissioner of the Life Insurance Corporation in his dream that a certain document he was desperately searching for, a document which every one declared was destroyed by the Post Office where it had to be preserved only for 6 months, had not actually been destroyed! He went to the Postmaster, spoke about the dream and got the document he wanted from the place indicated by Baba in the dream. It had not been destroyed! In a dream he woke up a school teacher at Tumkur and told her to take the next train to Bangalore so that she could recover her jewels from a person who was leaving for Bombay at 8-30 a.m.!
I have heard Him say, "Poor fellow! When he left, he prayed for My Darsan at least in dreams! I must give him the chance", or "Tell your son I will appear in his dream next Thursday"! He has directed me to ask some persons, "Did you not see Baba in your dream last night?" and sure enough, they had an unforgettable dream experience in which Baba granted them Darsan and Blessings. He has initiated persons into spiritual Sadhana through Upadesh granted in dreams; He has taught people new Bhajan songs in dreams and asked them at Prasanthi Nilayam to sing them; He conveys information and advice in dreams; He operates on boils and bubos, on eye, ear or tongue. The patient dreams that He is operating with the knife and the dream is true. Those who went to bed in pain woke up happy, rid of the dire disease! Listen to the experience of Dr. V.D. Kulkarni of Chadchan in Bijapur District. He writes on 2-11-61, "A Muslim lady (60) Badooma Kasim, suffering from pneumonia in both lungs was admitted in my clinic last month. On the fourth day, I came home at about 8 p.m., after examining all my patients and finding them progressing well. About midnight, however, her son ran to me in hot haste and I hastened to the clinic to find that her heart was sinking. I administered Coramine orally and by injection, and waited for an hour by her bedside but found it ineffective. The son started weeping in despair. I came home at 1 a.m., had a bath, and entering my shrine-room, did Puja to the 'picture' of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, recited the 108 Names of Baba, and prayed, 'My efforts have all become vain; I know no other course except to surrender to You. Yours is now the victory or defeat, the fame or the failure. On You is the responsibility of making her come out alive.' I then quietly took to bed, but could get no sleep. Even before sunrise, I hurried to the clinic. I found Badooma sitting up. 'What happened at night? Had any one come?' I asked her. 'Yes! On this bed, near my pillow, some one with a pile of hair sat; he placed his hands under my ears and stroked my face softly. So, I could rise and sit up,' she said. I showed her the small photograph of Sri Sathya Sai Baba I had with me. 'Yes! this very person,' she said. "How lucky is this woman! She got a lease of life through His touch," writes Dr. Kulkarni.
There are many instances when Baba has appeared and applied the Vibhuthi on the forehead of the sleeping or unconscious patient and the dot is seen on awakening. Or, as Swami Abhedananda (aged 75) writes, the appearance may be to convey a message. "In the early hours of the 28th December, about 4 a.m., while I was still in bed brooding over the melancholy and disturbed state of my affairs, I felt a sudden blow on my head, strong but bearable. I got up and switched the lights on. To my surprise, I observed a shining form of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi which changed into Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba - appearing separately for some time and then merging together into a dazzling column of light which lasted but a few seconds. I felt I had the vision of both my benevolent Gurus! While in this happy state of mind, I heard a voice (which was then strange to me but which I later verified as the authentic voice of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) which spoke to me in Telugu: "Do not get agitated; do not meditate! Merely watch the mind; that will make it disappear. Watch! And know that he who watches is pure awareness. Abstract and absolute Awareness is Self, Sath-chit-anand, 'That Thou Art'. This is the Peace that knows no second condition. This is what you are ardently seeking. Be firm. Bliss is Thyself; you know it through intuition. The blow I gave you was to reveal this secret: Watch!" I started following the instructions from that moment onwards. Bhagavan is a 'living presence'. He says often in Telugu: "I am with you, Kantane, Ventane, Jantane and Intane (before your eyes, behind your back, by your side, in your home)." Baba wrote to Charles Penn, "Know that I am always with you, prompting you and guiding you. I know also that you are aware of this. Live always in the constant presence." Charles Penn receives lessons from Baba during Dhyan. "My teacher Sai Baba said to me, 'Every time the Hand is lifted, lift it for Him'. I wrote to Baba and thanked Him for the lesson. In reply, he explained the meaning of what He had told me. He wrote, 'If you lift the hand to help, to serve, to console, to encourage another man, you are lifting it for God. Because in every man, there is God; use all your talents for serving others; that is the best way of serving yourself'."
Charles Penn of Los Angeles is a Captain in the Civil Air Patrol, attached to the US Air Force. This is a voluntary organisation formed for the express purpose of rescuing pilots who have had 'forced landings'. During the air search for lost flyers, Penn saw Baba sitting beside him, and knew that he was directed by Baba. "Penn! You need not look out! I shall look for you" were the words he heard, words which convinced him that he is but an instrument in His Hands. "This gave me a feeling of fearlessness in the hailstorm across the mountain peaks", he says. "Petrol splashed across the wind screen but I saw Him beside me and so calm and collected, I brought my plane down and, after hurried repair, went up again."
Hasn't Baba always told us that distance is no bar in His way. If any one could have faith and love, He is always with them to take care of them. "Here, 10,000 miles away" writes Hilda Charlton from New York, "a person who has never met Baba in the physical form is healed and is feeling Baba's presence always with her!" Baba has no stranger; He is in every one. Mary Simpson was unsuccessfully operated twice for blood clots in the lungs and for congested, enlarged breathing tubes. The Doctor told her daughter when she was taken home, "I am sorry your mother is leaving the Hospital worse than when she entered." But she had the luck to know of Baba and to get a picture of Baba as well as some Vibhuthi. When she prayed, Baba appeared before her and filled her with vibrant thrill of well-being. Within a few days, the Doctor said, "I cannot believe this; the improvement is a miracle."
Whenever Baba wills or our wills contact His Will, the laws of nature are transcended; the unpredictable alone can then be predicted. A three year old boy was thrown to a distance of 20 feet by a Staff car, in Kharagpur (West Bengal); there was bleeding all over the body. He was conveyed to the K. G. Hospital. When he regained consciousness, he told the Doctor, "Do not fear, Doctor! Sai Baba lifted me up. He held me by the hand!" There was no fracture, no wound. He was discharged on the third day.
An officer of the Hindustan Aeronautics at Bangalore was admitted into Hospital with severe Thrombo-phebitis with pulmonary embolism and probable pulmonary tuberculosis. His condition became so serious, that the oxygen tubes were taken away. The kith and kin were waiting outside the window, standing in the corridor. He saw Baba standing by the side of the bed; He heard Baba say, "Do not be afraid; you will be cured and you will be a new man." From that moment, improvement started. The doctors of the Victoria Hospital wondered! Later, when he was called in by Baba at Prasanthi Nilayam, Baba said, "So, you have come reborn!"
The rustling of Baba's silken gown, touch of His smooth soft hair, the faint footfall of His light lovely feet, the silver voice, the flash of lightening from those eyes, the sacred fragrance of His presence - these have served to indicate to many that Baba has come to heal and hearten.
No word of His is spoken without significance. Baba told Mrs. Some Dutt Khera of Calcutta when she implored Him at Madras to visit her home, Achcha Achcha Achcha, thrice. She saw His form distinctly at her place on three occasions and felt thrilled that the Promise had been fulfilled. When Sri Raghavan, Inspector of Health, Malavalli, came to Baba and prayed for the cure of his wife ill with chronic osteomalacia, and fractures of the pelvic bones, Baba said, "Do not despair; putting her in plaster for years is beyond you; I shall cure her, tak tak tak, like that" and he made that noise with His two fingers to make His point clear. Four months later, one night, in the late hours, Baba appeared before her, and asked her to rise. She fell at His Feet; He stroked her back with many a word of consolation; she heard something snapping within her, 'tak tak tak'! She could stand and walk; she was herself again!
J. P. Maroo of Bombay writes, "At about 5-30 a.m. on the Guru Pournima Day (Day dedicated to the worship of the spiritual preceptor), Sri Bhagavan appeared at the residence of Mr. Iyengar (at Sion) and gave Darsan for about 3 minutes to Mr. Iyengar's mother. She was filled with joy. She prayed to Bhagawan to remain a little longer, so that she could awaken her children. But Bhagawan did not agree. He moved about the house and placed on a glass plate in the shrine room a small quantity of saffron-mixed rice created on the spot. Then He disappeared."
Sometimes, Baba indicates His presence by some sign. At Chaganlal's Santi Kutir in Madras He indicated his Presence during Bhajan pushing the Footstool under the Chair, placed for His use though He was away at Rajahmundry. Those engaged in Bhajan saw the stool sliding in, as if He had pushed it in, as He does when He rises from the Chair and gives Darsan standing, as a sign that Bhajan shall close! At Sirsi, the cloth over the chair developed two clear pictures of OM when He decided (at Prasanthi Nilayam) to convey a Message to the thousands gathered there. At Shimoga, a small garland of big jasmine flowers which was offered to Him at Mysore 200 miles away fell in full view of the gathering, to indicate His Presence! At Jamnagar, He indicated His Presence by the sudden appearance of OM on His portrait, before which the gathering sat for Bhajan.
"When I remarked that He did not come to my house as promised, He said with a smile, 'I did! Did you not see the indication?'; I was overjoyed, for the 3 footprints, all of the right foot, which I had seen at home on the day He had promised to come, were thus acknowledged by Him as his!" writes Sri B.S. Kesava Vittal of Bangalore. To M.S. Dixit He said, "I shall come to your home in January." Dixit showed signs of doubt whether He deserved that signal gift of Grace. "January? January of which year?" he blurted. "Next month, middle of January without fail" was the reply. Baba placed His hand in Dixit's hand and repeated the assurance.
It was the 17th day of January. When Mrs. Dixit was eating her lunch, she heard Baba's voice calling Dixit, Dixit, twice. She ran up to the door but found no one outside it. She came back and resumed her meal. Then, she saw a glimpse of Baba's Face peeping into the room. She rose and went into the next room. But there was no one there. She saw seven footprints, leading from the outer door to the shrine, left-right, left-right in that order and both feet by the side of the shrine! They were all marked out by Vibhuthi ash, the outline only. In a few days, the Vibhuthi of one footprint grew and rose up to two inches in height! Thousands saw it for months on end and knew that Baba's Will had caused it.
Thus does Baba fulfil His Promise to be with us. He is the most loving guide, the dearest companion, the closest kinsman, the fondest Parent and the nearest Master.