Saturday, April 25, 2015

My frank mail exchanges about Sathya Sai Baba Mahasamadhi (April 24th 2011) at that time

Last updated on 1st May 2015

I came across this very touching article with lots of details including many photos on the Mahasamadhi (April 24th 2011), by Prof. G. Venkataraman of Radio Sai, http://media.radiosai.org/journals/vol_13/01APR15/musings-by-g.venkataraman.htm.

Here's a youtube video having part-I of the interview of Shri K. Chakravarthi in April 2015 by Radio Sai: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GPWM-Jl2SQ.

And here is a comment I made on it:

Very touching, quite frank, and inspiring words about how he pulled himself him up from the void after Mahasamadhi and re-engaged fully in Swami's mission (in particular, along with other leaders, stabilizing it after the trauma of Mahasamadhi), from the veteran administrator of Bhagavan's Puttaparthi based mission, Shri K. Chakravarthi.

A part of the video which I felt was very touching as well as important:@11:36 Shri Chakravarthi says about what gave him strength to overcome the trauma of Mahasamadhi and re-engage fully with Swami's mission, "More than, you know, conversations with Him, it is these discourses which, over more than four decades which I had the blessings to listen to, that really gave the strength. (In) one of the discourses Swami said, when Krishna was no longer there, how Pandavas felt, absolutely lifeless as it were. And it is one thing to hear in a discourse. It is yet another to experience that feeling of void. And that utter helplessness when Swami was no longer with us. So we knew at that time that these are eternally played on the world scene by Bhagavan from age to age. And here He was, unlike other avatars, (He) created institutions which need to be looked after, at least so far as we are concerned, what we consider to be for all time to come. We can't put a time limit - this is something which has to go on. And, I am sure, with His will, successive generations of people who are going to be associated with these institutions will certainly have the wisdom and also the capacity to carry on these great institutions."

--- end comment ----

The above article and video led me to dig up my mails during that period (end April 2011 and a little after). I felt that I should share my mail content of that time with minimal editing so that readers can get a feel of how I really felt then. Please note that most of the mail(s) were sent to non-Sai-devotee friends of mine and so I have referred to Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba as just Sathya Sai Baba. I have provided some additional info. with square brackets and prefixed by 2015Ravi:.

On 24th April 2011 a non-Sai-devotee friend wrote me:

"I just read a few minutes ago the news that Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba passed away.  I know he had a special place in your heart and mind;  and indeed in countless people.  Please accept my condolences."

I responded back to him on the same day (and sent similar responses to other condolence messages I received from other friends):

I deeply appreciate the spirit of concern and love in your mail :-).

But I would like to clarify that for me Sathya Sai Baba (Swami) is not limited to his body. In his discourses he has emphasised so many times that he is the 'dehi' (eternal, unchanging soul/atma) and not the 'deha' (body), and advised all of his devotees to reduce 'deha' (body) attachment and increase 'dehi' (atma) awareness. So his spirit and his teachings and his love lives on. I am not really in great sorrow at this 'death' of his body. However this is a great testing time for many, many millions of his devotees who simply love him and are not able to easily come to terms that his loving form is not 'awake' and living.

I would like to say another thing. But first I would like to give you the entire liberty to think and say that I am wonky :-). Sathya Sai had said that he can leave his body anytime. His plan was to stay on till he was 96. But he had said that if he is fed up of his devotees not changing their ways [including useless fellows like me :-)], he can call it quits from this body earlier (and perhaps prepone his announced next birth as Prema Sai Baba in Mandya in Karnataka).

So he may have quit his current body (Sathya Sai body) for good or it may be temporary. He has always said that he does not need Doctors for his body's ailments but that his ailments can be cured by the devotion of his Bhaktas. Now his body is in state at Sai Kulwanth Hall, which is where he used to give Darshan and devotees are having darshan of his 'body' and also singing bhajans. His body is to lie in state for 2 to 3 days (burial is scheduled to be done on Wednesday).

I will not be surprised in the least if he comes back to his body (which is medically/clinically dead - no heart beat I am given to understand), during or after this 2 to 3 or even more days but before his body's burial (Samadhi). Shirdi Sai Baba was reported to have left his physical body in 1886 and returned to it after 3 days. His devotee Mahalsapathy protected the body during this period. Such incidents of great spiritual people leaving the body and returning after a few days are not uncommon in India's spiritual history. Adi Shankara is famous for one such 'trip' when he quit his body and entered the body of the dying (if I recall correctly) King of Kashi :-).

However this time around the entire Indian media has covered Swami's 'death' and his 'body''s darshan was shown live on many, many channels and is still being shown live on some channel(s). If he comes back to his body, then it will become the most widely known (and media publicised) 'so-called-miracle' of his life, uptil now, which may result in an upsurge of devotion in the world and perhaps instill the great treasure of faith in God in the hearts of many atheists and agnostics.

I saw a panel discussion on Sathya Sai Baba's 'death' a little while ago on CNN-IBN, one of India's well known TV news channels. One of the panel speakers, who said she is a staunch devotee of Swami, had the guts to state that she was sure that Swami will come back to life 40 days after he fell ill. BTW she seemed to be a city bred and a well-educated person. The others on the panel and the anchor were polite to her but it was clear as daylight that they felt she was a little wonky due to her faith :-).

But I must say that I am not in the same boat as her. As far as I am concerned both can happen. Swami may come back to his body or he may not and so his body may get buried (Samadhi). We will have to wait and watch.

Meanwhile I am very moved by the devotional outpouring of people's hearts at Swami's 'death', and this is a very important devotional experience of my life.

Once again, thanks for your concern.

--- end main mail content of mine on 24th April 2011 ---

[Have snipped draft content having mail content from a friend as I have yet to receive his approval for sharing it publicly.]

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Another non-Sai-devotee friend wrote me on 25th April 2011:

Very sad to hear the news of Sri Sathya Sai Baba leaving the physical body. A very sad news and a shock to millions of his devotees. I am sure he will continue to live in their heart and mind and his teachings will continue to guide, and his devotional work will continue to inspire them for ever.

I sincerely wish and pray that your spiritual quest will not get hindered by his physical absence.

Yours common in spirituality!

--- start my mail (main) content dated 28th April 2011 ---

Sathya Sai Baba was 'buried' in his Samadhi yesterday. I was watching the live telecast on TV (if I had gone to the Sai Kulwant hall which was packed with people and quite a few VVIPs/VIPs with their security bandobast, I would have been able to see things only from far). The TV telecast showed Governor of A.P., Chief minister of A.P., Lal Krishna Advani, and a host of other people and Swami's blood relatives putting akshada on Swami's body in the samadhi pit (The camera could not show the body after it was lowered in the pit). Then the samadhi was 'closed'.

So Sathya Sai Baba's body was buried and seen live on TV. I went in the evening (when the crowd had lessened) and sat in prayer for about half an hour about 10 feet or so from the samadhi. [2015Ravi: As I was a teacher then (designation of Visiting Faculty) in the Prashanti Nilayam (Puttaparthi) campus of the Sai university, I was allowed to sit close to the samadhi. I have given below a picture which states that it was taken on 22 May 2011 and is similar to how the samadhi used to be then with flower decorations on top of it. The teachers block was on the left of the samadhi and that's where I had sat then.



]

So the possibility that I had mentioned of Swami coming back to his body before his burial/samadhi did NOT happen. A lot of people here thought that it will happen. Digesting the fact that it did not happen is quite difficult for many (though I think I am able to take it in my stride perhaps because I felt it was a possibility and not a sure outcome).

So what about Sathya Sai Baba's prediction that he would live till 96 years!! I see two possibilities:

a) First I need to say that you are absolutely free to think that I am really, really crazy :-). I believe Sathya Sai has incredible power. I have full faith that he has the power to come back to life from the samadhi too!!! Even after being buried!! And that too in his physical body (like the resurrection of Jesus Christ, though Jesus Christ's resurrection was for 40 days says the Bible and then Jesus ascended to heaven - or something like that). How exactly that will happen, I don't have a clue. But if it happens I will not be very surprised.

But he may choose not to come back to life from his samadhi and that leads us to next possibility.

b) Sathya Sai body does not come back to life. That will falsify his prophecy of living upto 96. Yes, we could say that the prophecy had a rider of leaving early if his devotees do not change. But, for me at least, I had read/heard about multiple times where he had prophesied living upto 96 and also made some prophetic statements about the last ten or so years of his life. So, to me at least, it will then seem that this part of his prophecy was unfulfilled.

However he still has done a massive amount of good in his life upto 85 years and for devotees and struggling spiritual aspirants like me, he has left behind a fantastic setup at Puttaparthi where we can try to evolve spiritually by practising his teachings to the best of our ability. So life will go on and pleasantly and happily too.

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The last few days have been very memorable for me from a devotional experience point of view. Puttaparthi became a sea of devotees, policemen, media and some VVIPs. Inspite of some sections of the media expecting a 'collapse' kind of picture, a few lakhs of people had darshan of Sathya Sai Baba's body in a very controlled, peaceful and disciplined way. There was no stampede, no wailing near the samadhi, no suicides (as far as I know) and no ocean of tears. Of course a lot of people were very moved, many women and even some men had tears in their eyes but it was controlled grief and NOT a 'How can I live without Sai Baba; Death is better' kind of wailing torment.

Bhajans or Veda chanting was on during darshan. Samadhi was done by veda pandits from, what I believe is, a renowned centre of vedic learning in Andhra Pradesh (Rajamundry). Spiritual leaders from other faiths also participated.

The powers of the country were here at some point during the last 3 days: Prime Minister [2015Ravi: Dr. Manmohan Singh], Sonia Gandhi, Chief Minister, Governor of A.P., top Police officials from A.P., several other top state and central ministers. Sathya Sai's body was draped in the national flag and accorded 'state funeral' status.

I felt it was a perfect kind of 'samadhi' ceremony of a great spiritual man. Grief certainly but controlled grief, Love, Peace, Harmony and a determination to carry on with his message and work. And a clear understanding that it is only his body that has passed away but that his spirit is everlasting and present for all of us to pray to and seek strength to carry on his work with the motto of 'Manav Seva is Madhav Seva' and through it achieve our spiritual uplift.

Never before in my life had I attended a 'samadhi' ceremony of a spiritual man. This has been a truly unforgettable, once in a lifetime kind of experience.

If you would like to see some photographs and videos about the last few days in Sai Kulwant Hall in Puttaparthi, please see: http://www.sssbpt.org/Pages/Prasanthi_Nilayam/darshanupdateApr2011.html

Life goes on even after the passing away of a great spiritual man. The indication that life is getting back to 'routine' was a local cable channel which was showing Swami videos for the past few days, get back to showing Telugu film song-and-dance numbers as before :-)!! Puttaparthi has an ashram complex and a village. The local cable channel is for village consumption and so naturally it has to show what the masses want (public ki pasand :-)).

Will Puttaparthi become a Shirdi kind of place (if Swami does not come back to his physical body in the next few weeks or so)?? How will it get transformed?? Will there be enough visitors for the local village economy to flourish like it has been doing for the past few decades? These questions remain to be answered by time.

The Sathya Sai Central Trust has clarified the picture regarding the institutions run by Sathya Sai Baba/Central Trust. Details are available here: http://www.sssbpt.org/Pages/Prasanthi_Nilayam/trustpressstatement28042011.html. I am sure that these institutions will continue to flourish though there may be some changes here and there, as those who are uncomfortable without having Sathya Sai in bodily form may leave and get replaced by others.

As far as I am concerned I am a happy Puttaparthi villager :-)!!! So I plan to stay put and watch either the drama unfold if Swami comes back, or watch the transformation of Puttaparthi from a 'living spiritual man' pilgrimage center to a 'samadhi of spiritual man' pilgrimage center.

I would like to end this mail by sharing a few photographs (attached) which show how the media took over the bus stand of Puttaparthi village over the past few days and how things have come back to normal today. Please tolerate this extremely amateur photographer's efforts :-).

[2015Ravi: I have given below the photographs attached to the mail:]







-








[2015Ravi: The above picture has only the "During Media TakeOver" part.]





--- end my mail (main) content dated 28th April 2011 ---

[Have snipped draft content having mail content from a friend on 10th May 2011 as I have yet to receive his approval for sharing it publicly.]

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I responded on 11th May 2011 as follows:

Thank you for your kind words :-).

I agree with your view that "that many things happen for a reason, and that reason is revealed to us over a period of time." Perhaps somewhere down the line I will have some understanding of why Sathya Sai Baba left his body at 85 instead of his repeated declarations of leaving at 96 (with a rider of leaving early if he is fed up of his devotees). As of now, I have to confess that I am completely clueless. I plan to read the Bhagavatha Purana to read about how the Gopikas must have felt when Krishna suddenly left them [or maybe the right phrase is ditched them :-)] to go to Mathura and never return (except for a Maha Raas Leela once, if I recall Krishna's story correctly) to Brindavan again. That perhaps will match how many Sathya Sai devotees feel now.

You said, "he may have meant that his legacy as it exists today will live for 96 years". Well, I believe very strongly that like Shirdi Sai Baba, Sathya Sai Baba's legacy in terms of his teachings, his life story and his miracles (leela), his institutions etc. will live on for centuries and perhaps millennia. Though I completely understand that many people will have serious doubt about this belief of mine :-).

Maybe his body in the samadhi will retain its Divine power for eleven more years. Of course, it is my strong belief that even after his body mixes with the elements (say in eleven years), his Divine vibrations will endure in Puttaparthi for centuries, and attract and give spiritual succour to millions of people in the world.

You said, "Maybe you were guided to this little town for a reason."
Well, I have spent the happiest years of my life in this little town. I thank God from the depth of my heart for having blessed me with these happy years in Puttaparthi in the presence of Sathya Sai Baba, who, to me, still remains part of the Kali Yuga-Avatar (triple Sai Avatar: Shirdi Sai, Sathya Sai, Prema Sai).

As you seem to be quite interested in Sachin Tendulkar, I thought you may want to read this short article on Sachin drawing strength from Sathya Sai Baba: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/off-the-field/I-just-could-not-control-myself-Sachin/articleshow/8221226.cms

--- end my response ---

Slightly edited mail content from a Sai-devotee friend on 11th May 2011 was as follows:

Sairam Sir,
I have read this email and the other exchange that you forwarded.

Yes, I too was asked that question many times here (by family and friends) - I had just one answer - the rider that you mention below. [2015Ravi: rider of leaving early if his devotees do not change.]

Please don't mistake me to be condescending - I am most definitely not - I don't think I have anything to be condescending about.

Personally, He is God to me. No doubts there; but He taught me (among other things) this one thing and I think I learnt it well (I can say this based on observing my mental status and reactions to the Samadhi news) - that I should have no expectations and should not try to explain Him/His actions, but simply experience Him. Not that I should not analyze Him/His actions - I should most definitely do that for my personal growth, but never use that analysis to explain Him - not that it is wrong - its just useless. Meaning that I will most definitely observe/see contradictions if I attempt to do so and that would only baffle and confuse me and hence useless.

I only enjoyed my stay there; accepting all that I got.

I did miss being there to see and experience the glory and grandeur that He is - but I suppose there must have been a reason for that. The fact that He sent me packing just 4 days before He chose to be hospitalized is not something I can explain or understand at this point in time. All I have come to tell myself over time is this: 'He has a plan' or that 'This too shall pass'. Fortunately for me, I have learnt not to lapse into inaction - I still do what I think I should and believe that His plan will prevail.

Forgive me if I sound very philosophical, but I think it has been quite practical to me - I have lived quite a few years consciously practising to the feasible extent all that I have stated above.

PS: I am quite certain that you must have heard the 'This too shall pass' story from Swami. If not, you should try to watch the Convocation Drama (iirc) that actually portrayed this concept. Swami had written this part of the storyline, iirc. It was about the time that the Pandavas were in exile, and Krishna had given Yudishtra something that he should open only in times of real real need...

----- end Sai-devotee friend's mail content ------------

My response to the above mail was as follows (on 12th May 2011):

Happy to hear your frank views. And I certainly do not consider them to be condescending in any way. I have a lot of respect for your character and your intelligence and so value your opinion, and am therefore happy to read your opinion on the Divine Shock that Bhagavan gave most, if not all, of us.

I think I understand very well your faith that Swami is God and further your view that you should not try to explain Him/His actions (analyze His actions is fine but not explain Him/His actions). I think Bhagavan Himself has advised this to devotees. I think your approach is a wonderful one, in keeping with Bhagavan's directions on how to live with the Divine phenomenon that He is.

Also noted your pithy statements, ".. but never use that analysis to explain Him - not that it is wrong - its just useless. Meaning that I will most definitely observe/see contradictions if I attempt to do so and that would only baffle and confuse me and hence useless." I think this is quite a wise way to handle the great experience of having enjoyed some physical proximity to and being a devotee of the Yuga Avatar.

He has a plan/This too shall pass - Superb approach. Accepting everything that happens as part of His Divine plan is, IMHO, a very wise way of dealing with life. Sachin Tendulkar is a great devotee of Swami (and we could see how Swami was so pleased with him), but Sachin is very rarely in Puttaparthi. Physical proximity to Swami sometimes clouds our vision - mentally and 'heartily' close devotees though physically distant in India or America or wherever may experience His Love and His Grace far more !!!

Happy to hear your philosophy. I encourage you to share your philosophy of life with suitably interested persons.

About 'This too shall pass', I had read about it many years before coming to the Sai fold. I did not see the convocation Drama. As Swami had written part of the storyline I will try to locate the storyline (Swami part) and read it.

It was nice for me to know your perspective on this Divine Shock. I have a different view. While I fully appreciate the philosophical view as I too had such views in my earlier years and still appreciate their validity, now I desire to get fully into the 'mad devotee' experience. Further, one of the 'time-passes' in my retired life is to analyze the Avatar and try to 'understand' Him!!! Very dangerous business :-). But then I have the support of some spiritual practice and a fair amount of scriptural knowledge including the life stories of the previous Avatars. So I think I am able to handle the "baffling contradictions" without losing my balance too much, and, in fact, am enjoying His Leela. But then, I repeat that it is very dangerous business and so I am fully aware that I run the risk of running into serious trouble in my spiritual journey. However I have always been a risk-taker right from my young age when I dropped out of my M.Sc. to jump into the 'university of life'. So far, overall, the risky decisions have paid off handsomely. Let us see what the future holds with these spiritual risks that I am taking on :-).

---- end my response ---

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