Exquisite Flowers at the Lotus
Excerpts from "Sri Sathya Sai
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.
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.
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;
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
"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
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
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
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.
Santhana Sarathi March 2004 issue,
pg 86 - 92