Excerpts from "Sri Sathya Sai Divya Kripasraya'
EXQUISITE FLOWERS AT THE LOTUS FEET
ANNA (Sri Madiyal Narayan Bhat, founder of Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva Trust, Alike and Muddenahalli) stands out in my life as my guide and mentor; I lived and worked under his benign guidance for twelve years, which shaped my life to a great extent during that period. But the greatest good fortune of my life has been my meeting Swami in my late teens and having His divine guidance thereafter. Also, by His grace and by virtue of living in His proximity both at Prasanthi Nilayam and Brindavan for a number of years, I have met a great number of good people and a good number of great people from all walks of life. Also, I had the opportunity to live and work with a few of them.
Among others from whom I have derived inspiration to walk on the Godward path, two good and great persons are prominent. One is the grandsire of Sri Sathya Sai literature and a shining star of Kannada literature in the sphere of
humour, Sri N. Kasturi. The other is a giant in Kannada literature and has a special place in the galaxy of Indian English writers; he is Dr. Vinayak Krishna Gokak. Both were great and inspiring teachers and educational philosophers. Also, both were wonderful orators. Once they met Swami, they surrendered themselves to Him and led their lives as per His guidance till the end. Both were gifted with child-like innocence, which blossomed into sage-like wisdom.
Sri Kasturi was an ardent devotee of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa before he came to Swami and Dr. Gokak was a staunch follower of Sri Aurobindo. To put it figuratively, Sri Kasturi and Dr. Gokak were two flowers offered at the altar of Swami by Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Aurobindo respectively. Dr. Gokak wrote in his book Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba: The Man and the Avatar: "What overawes one is the catholicity of Baba. It does not matter for Him what master a disciple comes from. All are one. He becomes to each disciple the master he has accepted." Both Sri Kasturi and Dr. Gokak visited Sathya Sai Grama a number of times when I was there. My relation with , them grew more intimate after I went to Prasanthi Nilayam in August 1983. I feel fortunate to have enjoyed their love and affection and to have received their valuable guidance at a very important phase of my life after Anna had departed from this world.
Sri Kasturi's relation was unique. He came to Swami for the first time in 1948. Swami was twenty-two years old at that time and Sri Kasturi was fifty-one years old. When Sri Kasturi passed away in 1987 at the ripe old age of ninety, Swami was sixty-one. In the first interview itself, Swami told Sri Kasturi that he would have the good fortune of writing His biography! For nearly forty years, Sri Kasturi had the opportunity to be in the divine proximity of Swami. He also had the rare privilege to observe from close quarters the blossoming of the Avatar's life and speak and write about its important milestones.
Sri Kasturi was a Karma Yogi who found fulfilment in the selfless service of spreading joy and inspiring all those, who came into his contact, through his words and writings. He did all his work as an offering to Swami. When Sri Kasturi retired from service in Mysore University in 1954, he was offered the post of Director of All India Radio Station at Bangalore by the government. (It may be of interest for readers to know that the phrase Akasha Vani was coined by Sri Kasturi. ) But he wanted to settle down at Prasanthi Nilayam and serve Swami. When he approached Swami to get His approval for refusing this offer of the government, Swami told him to take up the assignment in Bangalore. Sri Kasturi pleaded with Swami saying, "Swami, I long to serve You; I want to do Your work!" Swami asked him, "Kasturi, do you think All India Radio's work is not My work?" Then it occurred to Sri Kasturi that everything in the world belonged to God and that all work had to be done as God's work. That was the essence of Karma Yoga. Only after completing his assignment in All India Radio Station at Bangalore, Swami permitted him to settle down at Prasanthi Nilayam where he played multiple roles in running the Ashram. At one point of time, he was simultaneously the postmaster, manager of the printing press and editor of "Sanathana Sarathi", the monthly magazine started in 1958! But his labour of love was speaking and writing about Swami and His teachings.
Sri Kasturi told me more than once the importance of complete surrender to Swami for those who were blessed with the wonderful gift of living in proximity to Him. He would explain with great enthusiasm how Swami brought about his spiritual growth by eliminating gradually his sense of ego or identification with the body. Swami would sometimes melt the ego with a torrent of His limitless love and also He would not hesitate to use the 'knife' to prune it at other times. Sri Kasturi used to say, "Swami is a true Guru who is very keen on spiritual uplift of His devotees and that makes Him a hard taskmaster specially for those who live and work in His close proximity." Wielding of the 'knife' for spiritual growth is a painful experience for both the disciple and the master. Sri Kasturi would often quote Swami Himself in this regard: "I am Nataraja - the dance master, the first among dancers. You are all dance pupils. I alone know the agony of teaching you each step in the dance!" Sri Kasturi also underwent the spiritual surgery many times at the hands of the divine master. But he believed that whatever Swami did was for granting him the highest gift of unity with the Divine.
During the fifty-fifth birthday celebrations of Swami in 1980, I had the opportunity to stay with Sri Kasturi for a fortnight. He was the State President of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation of Karnataka at that time. One of those afternoons, he went to meet Swami in the Mandir and came back within a few minutes. That was very unusual; generally he would be with Swami for at least an hour in the afternoons. He came quietly into the room and almost collapsed into his chair covering his face with both hands. He sat silently for more than ten minutes and then he told me what had happened. He was severely chastised by Swami for some mistake in connection with the discharge of his duties as State President. He felt sad that he had hurt Swami's tender heart by his mistake during the grand celebrations of His birthday. He thought that the position of the State President was coming in the way of his good relations with Swami. He was in deep despair for nearly three days. After the birthday celebrations, he told me very happily that Swami had forgiven him and narrated how the reprieve came. Also, I have heard him speak about it in public a few times and so I write it here in his own words - Two days after the birthday, I went to Swami and very humbiy submitted to Him, "Swami, please forgive me if I am wrong. I pray to You to relieve me of the assignment of State President so that I can stay peacefully at Your Lotus Feet as a mere worm!" Swami stared at me for a while and said, "Kasturi, why do you call yourself a worm? If that is the case, why do you think that you are not a worm when you are the State President? What difference does that make? There is nothing wrong in being a State President. The mistake is in your thinking that the assignment of the State President makes a difference in your stature! Such thinking is caused by the ego."
I fell at His feet and prayed for His pardon. Swami smiled and said, "Don't worry, do your duty properly. You are not a worm and there is God in the worm also. Why do you belittle it? Realise that you are divine!" And then Sri Kasturi would add, "If I had served any other Ashram as much as I have served here, the head of that Ashram would have ruined me by boosting my ego with titles like Bhakta Sikhamani or Bhaktagresara! But Swami is merciful to me. He has conferred on me the highest fulfilment in life!"
Swami granted Sri Kasturi the great boon of His Divine Darshan, Sparshan and Sambhashan in his last moments at Prasanthi Nilayam on the 14th of August 1987. Is it not the highest fulfillment that any human could aspire for? On that morning, Swami had gone to the Institute auditorium to oversee a drama rehearsal of the students. The drama was to be staged on the 21st on the occasion of the third anniversary of the opening of management courses in the Institute. When Swami was halfway through the rehearsal, He got up abruptly at 11-30 a.m. and left for the hospital. Sri Kasturi, who was in the hospital, was almost unconscious whole of that morning. Swami reached the room where Sri Kasturi was and looked around. There was complete silence except for the sound created by drops of water trickling into a bucket in the bathroom. Swami asked one of the persons around to stop that sound also. Then He went to the bedside of Sri Kasturi and called out in His mellifluous voice, "Kasturi!" Sri Kasturi who had not responded to anyone that morning gently opened his eyes and looked at the Lord. Swami materialised Vibhuti and put it into his mouth. Sri Kasturi closed his eyes and a complete serenity enveloped him. Swami asked those around the bed to do Namasmarana and left. An hour later, Sri Kasturi breathed his last. The river had merged in the ocean. The news spread and a stream of devotees paid their last respects to him at the hospital. Next morning, his mortal remains were taken for cremation to the bed of Chitravati river in a procession, with students chanting Vedic hymns and Bhajans.
Speaking on the occasion of the sixtieth birthday of Dr. Gokak at a function held on the lawns of Carlton House at Bangalore in August 1979, Swami compared him to Sage Vasishtha and said that he had the Vishala Buddhi of Sage Vyasa. Dr. Gokak was a towering personality physically, mentally and spiritually. I got a glimpse of the sublimity of his thought one evening in 1979. Swami was at Brindavan at that time. After Swami had retired for the day, we were sitting on a bench in the garden in front of the Mandir in Brindavan. Dr. Gokak was composing his Kannada epic 'Bharata Sindhu Rashmi' at that time. The epic was about the life and thoughts of sages and kings in Vedic times. During the course of the dialogue, I asked him, "Sir, when will 'Bharata Sindhu Rashmi' be published?" Instead of answering my question, he reflected for a while, looked up at the sky and said, "Narasimha Murthy, look at the sky!" I looked up at the sky; it was dusk, stars were beginning to twinkle. Even as I was looking up, Dr. Gokak questioned me again, "What do you see there?" "Sir, stars are just appearing in the sky!"
"Narasimha Murthy, it is not just appearance of the stars; it is the epic being composed by God! ... Can you see those stars in the morning after sunrise?" I felt uplifted by the glory of his thought. I answered, "No, sir!" "God composes a great epic every evening in the sky and wipes it clean every morning. It is like the divine child writing his poem on a slate and wiping it clean after some time. Does he have the desire to publish it?" I was lost in an ethereal joy. I had no answer to his question; I kept quiet. He himself continued, "He writes the glorious epic in the sky out of sheer joy of its existence. Isn't it?" "Yes, sir!" "He does not even bother whether anybody watches the celestial beauty of His creation! Is that not so?" "Yes, sir!" "It is only we humans who want to publicize our little creations. Isn't it?" "Yes, sir!" "Do you know why?" "Kindly enlighten me, sir!" "It is because we have not yet found the complete joy of our existence!" The loftiness of his thinking and feeling humbled me completely and I could feel a glimpse of the majesty of complete joy that he was talking about. The dialogue melted into silence and nothingness.
Dr. Gokak had his first Darshan of Swami in 1965 at Hyderabad. At that time, he was the Director of Central Institute of English there. Swami's instrument in bringing Dr. Gokak to .His fold was Dr. B Ramakrishna Rao who was well known for his illustrious life in politics and who was earlier the Governor of Uttar Pradesh. He was an ardent devotee of Swami and an important member of Prasanthi Vidwan Mahasabha founded by Swami for the revival of Indian cultural values. Dr. Gokak was invited by Dr. Ramakrishna Rao to deliver a lecture in a meeting of the Sabha at Hyderabad in the Divine Presence of Swami. Dr. Gokak had an exhilarating experience while delivering that lecture. As he started speaking, he felt a gradual expansion of his consciousness and by the time he finished, he experienced a divine presence, which filled the void in his heart caused by the physical absence of Sri Aurobindo on the earth. Swami had already entered his heart. Later, speaking about that experience of his.
Dr. Gokak said, "An Avatar has effortless command over metempsychosis, Paranthakarana Pravesh or entry into the innermost hearts of others, the power to open up new channels of thinking and feeling!" Within a few days of his first meeting with Swami, Dr. Gokak and his wife were called for interview by Swami. That interview became a milestone in the couple's spiritual journey. Swami had touched and opened up the heart of the intellectual. Later, Smt. Sharada Gokak wrote in her autobiography, "It is Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba who made Dr. Gokak give more importance to devotion and love in his life. Baba drove home an important truth to Dr. Gokak that devotion was not opposed to intellectual exploration." Within a year, Dr. Gokak had a number of experiences including a few dreams, If which made him realise that Swami had in Him Sri Aurobindo and the Mother also.
Later, when Dr. Gokak moved to Bangalore as the Vice Chancellor of Bangalore University, the bond between the Lord and His devotee grew stronger day by day. And after his stint as the Vice Chancellor 3f Bangalore University and the Director of central Institute of Higher Studies at Simla, 3r. Gokak came to stay with Swami at Brindavan and became Swami's chosen instrument in His divine experiments in education. Finally, when Swami established Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning (a deemed university) with headquarters at Prasanthi Nilayam, Dr. Gokak became its firrst Vice Chancellor and formulated Sri Sathya Sai philosophy of integral education with the divine guidance of Swami, its Chancellor. He continued to be the Vice Chancellor of the deemed university till he as seventy five. Swami arranged a beautiful function at Prasanthi Nilayam in August 1984 to felicitate him and his wife on his seventy-fifth birthday. Speaking on that occasion, Dr. Gokak said, "I have learnt one important lesson in my life. That is to surrender to Swami completely and to do what He commands me to do. I know very II that there lies the fulfillment of my life!"
I had the great opportunity to work as warden of the university hostel at Prasanthi Nilayayam when Dr. Gokak was the Vice Chancellor of the university. I learnt many valuable lessons from him in the field of higher education. I should say, he guided me with fatherly affection. In the first few months of my experience as Warden there, I felt that Dr. Gokak was not taking much initiative in moulding the character of students. In my youthful immaturity I took the liberty of submitting to him, "Sir, kindly excuse me if I am wrong. I feel you are not involving yourself much in shaping the character of students. I am sure, there should be some reason for it!" He looked at me with sympathy, smiled and said, "Narasimha Murthy, I am glad you raised this point with me. I have found out from my experience that Swami is the best moulder of personality of students. We are here only to assist Him. I am sure, you will also realise this truth soon. The sooner you do it, the better it is for students and also yourself! ... It should be our constant endeavor to see that we do not become obstacles in His path!" That wise advice applies to all those who are granted the boon of working in Swami's proximity in any of His projects!
I will conclude my tribute to Dr. Gokak with two of his dialogues with Swami as shared by himself. Once he asked Swami, "Swami, will You kindly enlighten me as to what is the difference between Yourself and Sri Aurobindo?" "He was Vyaktinatha and I am Lokanatha!" said Swami.
During one of the summer courses in Indian Culture and Spirituality at Brindavan for which he was nominated as the Director by Swami, Dr. Gokak was amazed to see Swami quoting exhaustively from the Vedas and the Upanishads and their commentaries by eminent scholars including some from the West. He had not seen Swami studying any Vedic literature at any time. In his child-like simplicity, he ventured to ask Swami, "Swami, when did You study all this?"
Swami smiled and answered, "Gokak, I don't have the bad habit of studying books and quoting from them! All knowledge that is in the universe is also in the head of every man. There are many centres of knowledge in human brain, each pertaining to one field of knowledge. If you learn to focus your mind
on any of these centres, all knowledge in that particular field will open up itself for you! That was how the Vedas were revealed to the sages of the yore!" The intellectual in Gokak felt totally humbled by the reply and he fell at the Lotus Feet of Swami!
Sri Sathya Sai Divya Kripasraya, B.N. Narasimha Murthy, Sri Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust, Prasantni Nilayam 515 134, Rs. 95 (hard bound), Rs.70 (paperback).
The Vedas and the Upanishads are the very foundation of Sanathana
Dharma. There is one interesting feature to be noted. Sanathana
Dharma has no founder as the others have. That invisible, unknown founder
is God, the source of all wisdom. He is the prophet of Sanathana Dharma.
His grace and His inspiration
manifested through the pure sages and they became the spokesmen of this Dharma. When the moral purity
of men degenerates, God takes form as grace and inspiration in sages and
teachers. He has also given through the Upanishads the Sathya-Jnana, the wisdom concerning
the Reality.- Baba
sourced: Santhana Sarathi pg 86 to 92 March 2004 issue