Rendez-vous with Dr. Safaya
WITH Dr. Safaya:,
DIRECTOR, SRI SATHYA INSTITUTE OF HIGHER MEDICAL SCIENCES,
PRASANTHI GRAM CAMPUS AND THE WHITE FIELD CAMPUS.
Prof. G. Venkataraman, (GV)
Former Vice Chancellor, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher
FROM THE PREVIOUS ISSUE)
The point I wanted to make in the whole story is the
DIVINE SANKALPA. I surrendered
totally at HIS feet. The big SHIVARISIs
(recommendations) had failed. The big intervention at the worldly
level had failed. Only He could do something. And HE did!
This is a fantastic story and I am glad that we got it out of you
for posterity. Moving on to some mundane matters, can you please
tell us about the kind of treatment that is being given in the
Puttaparthi Super Speciality Hospital? What are the specialities
that are catered to?
In His Divine Declaration, Bhagavan has announced that His
hospitals would deal with the specialities of the heart, the
brain, and the kidney. In Puttaparthi, He initiated treatment of
the heart; soon followed the treatment of the kidney and later
came the Department of Ophthalmology. Right now we do
diagnosis and treatment of the heart, kidney and the eye. Tertiary
care is offered in these super specialities. This can be achieved
only with state of art equipment, both for diagnosis and
treatment. Even though the Puttaparthi hospital is ten years old,
it remains one of the best hospitals in the country in all these
This is amazing considering that Puttaparthi is still a somewhat
remote place. You said at the time of start, your next door
neighbour was a thatched hut. Is that true even today?
Yes, even today.
What types of patients come here and where do they come from?
They are mostly middle class, lower middle class and the poor.
Most of them are genuine villagers.
How do they hear about this hospital?
Two things are responsible. One is the branches of the Sathya Sai
Seva Organisation that exist all over the country. The service
people reach out and advice, creating awareness about Swami?s
Hospital. Most of the country knows today that there is such a
hospital. However, most people are so poor, that even though they
know about the hospital, they cannot make the journey.
You mean they do not have money to travel?
Yes, they do not have money. And because they are poor, they also
do not have the will to travel. They don?t have the determination
to get their patient treated. But when they can manage some money
to come here, they sure do land up here. You can see in the main
gate early in the morning and judge for yourself what type people
come to our hospital. You can also go into the wards and see.
Yes, I have seen. Can you recall of any particular case of a
really poor person who was desperate and got treated here?
I can remember even the first case.
How did you happen to choose that first case? It is amazing that
even before there was a hospital, there was a case and you had a
You see, we had opened our OPD two days before the formal
inauguration of the Hospital. We had also opened the
CATHETERIZATION LAB. Thus, even before the inauguration,
examination of patients had started.
How many patients came at that time?
I think about two dozen patients had come. We were able to inform
only the people in Anantapur, and this person came from Anantapur.
It was easier to make an announcement about the new hospital in
Anantapur than in any other place in the neighbourhood. I think
the name of this first patient was Rajasekara Reddy.
How old was he?
At that time, he was about 15 years old. His father was a petty
shop keeper. This boy had a hole in the heart that needed a major
surgery. The parents had only one child at that time. They had
given up. Being poor, the parents were very depressed. We had to
give him encouragement by way of food and money to make him stay
for all these days. They were that poor. The story of all the
other patients is almost the same. In all the four operations done
on that inauguration day, there were no complications. No
mortality, no morbidity.
I remember on 23rd, the day following the opening, Swami
announcing in the Hill View Stadium during the Birthday Discourse
that all the four operations were very successful.
Very successful. Bhagavan came in the evening on the day prior to
inauguration, materialised vibuthi, gave it to the patients, and
later all of them did wonderfully well. Since these patients came
from poor families, their nutrition levels were low. As a result,
their capacity to repair the tissues was quite low. In spite of
all that, they did very well.
So, as Dr. Bhatt often says, the Surgeon merely cuts while God
That is absolutely true.
Have you seen this first patient of yours subsequently?
Yes. On tenth anniversary, that is on 22nd November 2001. He heard
about the tenth anniversary celebrations and came to visit us.
How does he look now?
He was tall, well built, and is a healthy young man now. We had
also the good fortune of Bhagavan coming to the hospital on that
day. We presented the patients to Swami.
What did Swami say?
Swami was very happy to see these old patients of ours. He
materialised vibuthi, gave it to all of them and blessed them.
By the way, were these people devotees earlier?
No. They knew about Bhagavan no doubt, but they were not devotees
in that sense. Before coming to Prasanthi Nilayam, they were just
preoccupied with making both ends meet. That was all.
So, really speaking, the doors of Swami?s Hospitals are open to
Absolutely, and irrespective of class, colour, creed, religion,
Have you had any patients from far off places?
Yes, we have had patients from Nepal, Sikkim.
That?s quite a long distance!
We have a computerised data bank of patients who have come for
check up, and have been put in a queue. In this computerised
system we give some additional points to those coming from far off
places and particularly from a foreign country like, Nepal. We
have had patients from Bhutan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka. We have even
had patients for consultation from Pakistan.
That is very interesting. So word about Swami?s hospital has even
reached Pakistan! Wonderful! I now want to ask you about something
else. You know we have many of our old students working in the
hospital, in fact, also in Bangalore hospital. As an Institute
man, I would like to know: How do you feel about them, these old
students of ours?
I feel very proud of these people as my employees. They are a
highly motivated group.
So do I.
By establishing the Puttaparthi hospital, Bhagavan has not merely
helped poor people suffering from heart disease, but also created
some unique prototypes for mankind to see and to derive the
benefit of that wonderful experience. One of Bhagavan?s novel
experiments is the induction of highly motivated young men into
various technical jobs associated with the hospital. These people
did not come from a medical background. Rather, they all are
graduates from Swami?s University, mostly in the field of
Management. In the University, they excelled in their own
subjects, but here in the hospital they have picked up medical
technology, developed the right aptitude and understanding. The
net result of all this is that these so-called Swami's students
are now able to guide younger medical staff and even middle-cadre
Would you say this motivation springs from deep love for Swami?
Yes of course. It is a combination of Love, respect and
dedication. They have practically very few interests besides Swami
in their life. So they are not diverted. Most of them have even
forgotten to marry!
I guess they are married to their work! I presume they express
their Love for Swami through dedicated and loving service to the
They refrain from the usual apparent show of dedication. On the
other hand you will find them highly dedicated to work, carefully
looking after the machines they are in charge, and rendering
service to patients as needed.
So, you will give them extra marks for motivation and dedication.
Absolutely! This is the type of group that must be created in
every good scientific institution and hospital, especially the
latter because there one is dealing with life and death. A year
back a top Phillips team visited our CATH lab. We have two
Phillips machines. When they saw the CATH lab the visitors were
astonished. They said, ?Is this Lab. ten year old? We don?t
believe it?. Now in its eleventh year, this lab is still one of
the best CATH labs in the country.
That is fantastic! How does Swami guide and support you? Obviously
He does. Can you give some hints about how He actually does it?
His methods are?.
Very subtle, I know!
He gives many ideas but you have to be very attentive to catch
them. The way He talks to you, what He says, His gestures, and
even His not talking to you - all these are part of the Divine
language! All these are lessons in administration, whether you are
taking the right decision or wrong decision. You get a sort of
clue as to what is to be done.
So, you have to be tuned to him, really.
Correct. Then comes the ultimate lesson. When you are totally
helpless, you have to surrender. When you tell Bhagavan your
problem, He offers a solution. Whenever you go to Him with a
problem, He says, ?I know?. I have perfect proof that He knows the
problem already. He was just waiting for me to say and HE has a
Allow me to narrate an experience of mine. When I became the Vice
Chancellor, one day Swami asked me a question. I was na?ve and
replied, ?Swami You know everything?. Swami said, ?Yes I know but
I wanted to know whether you know. I know even that but I want you
know whether you know or not!? That shut me up and thereafter I
became attentive to details.
You have to go through the motions. You have to tell Him about
everything you have observed, anything wrong that is there and you
have to obtain corrective solutions from Him.
Yes, He guides, supports and also inspires.
Yes, I have not seen anybody, any teacher in my life who has
taught me as much as He has taught. I had been administering for
18 years the All India Institute of Medical Sciences Hospital, the
country?s biggest hospital and South East Asia?s biggest hospital.
We have 35 medical specialities there. After coming here, I had
practically to unlearn most of what I had earlier learnt!
Why was that?
Because of the change of ambience. Here in this Temple called the
Hospital, God heals the patients.
The patient is placed at the highest pedestal. So whatever you do
or think or plan for, is for the benefit of the patients. This is
theoretically true in all other hospitals also but in practice it
is different - may be because of money, personal ego or something
else like that. But in this hospital there is nothing else. Money
is not involved and personal egos are not involved. So there is no
So, at the end of the day you feel very happy.
All of us feel very happy, including my colleagues and staff.
You talked about money. One question people always want to ask is:
How does the hospital get money when patients are not charged
Swami is the ultimate source of money. There is the Sri Sathya Sai
Medical Trust to which people donate money. Part of this money
goes into the Corpus Fund. The interest from this Corpus Fund
keeps the hospital going. There are also donors who are ready to
offer equipment or money for specific equipment.
Basically, it is Love which sustains the hospital. It is Love
which comes as money or service or equipment. You do have a lot of
people coming there for service.
Yes, that is another example which Swami has shown, namely
community involvement. People have been talking of community
involvement in hospitals ever since I became a medical student.
But I have never seen that happening in practice until I joined
this hospital. Right now at Puttaparthi hospital there are a
hundred volunteers, 50 men and 50 women. They take turns and come
from different States at different times.
You are referring to the Seva Dals?
Yes. They work day and night for the patients, no matter what
their status in their normal life.
I know. One day I met a Professor from Indore. He was pushing a
wheel chair with a poor villager, a cobbler perhaps.
I have met a large number of them. Right now if you go there, you
will see senior army officers, senior professors and even doctors
serving as Seva Dals.
Doctors coming as Seva Dals?
Yes, doctors coming as Seva Dal do not sit in OPD to examine
patients; instead they push trolleys, sweep the floor, clean glass
One last question. You have been very kind to spare so much of
your time. But this is a question that needs to be asked
especially because so many people are trying to build similar
hospitals elsewhere, both Governments and individuals. Do you
think that these two hospitals in Puttaparthi and Bangalore can be
Frankly, if Swami does it, yes. Basically Bhagavan's intention of
creating these two hospitals is to have a model before everybody,
Government and other organisations, to see our hospital. Awareness
of this hospital, particularly the Puttaparthi hospital, has
spread all over the world. The world now knows that a high-tech,
completely free hospital is functioning in India, a so-called less
developed country; and it has been working successfully for the
last ten years.
So, Love and dedication can work miracles is the main message of
this hospital. You don?t have to think that it is not affordable
No, the question of money is secondary; that is what I have learnt
now. I realise: If you have the will, Love and dedication, you
will have Divine help.
Divine help will come automatically if one is selfless. So
selfless Love and total dedication are what make these hospitals
of Swami work - that is the lesson.
This is a miracle of Love both in the process and in the results
also. The results of the treatment of the patients are also
miracles of Love.
I suppose patients also learn what Love is.
Every patient goes with a picture of Swami and I have to sometimes
be a little rude to them because they insist on pasting Swami?s
pictures on the walls besides them.
Yes, otherwise the place would be flooded with pictures! They can
paste it on their Hearts!!
They take those pictures with them. They are not devotees, but
they now know that some one cares. Swami does take time off to
visit the hospital and definitely visits one or two wards and
critically ill patients.
Thank you very much, Dr. Safaya:.
It has been wonderful talking to you and I am sure our listeners
will derive great joy and pleasure listening to you over the air.
You have told us so many things about the hospital which we did
not know. I have been here for ten years and I have been going
past the hospital so many times. I have also gone there several
times, but I did not know many of the things that you revealed.
I should say, I feel very very happy of having spoken about the
experiment of Love, the significance of which is not realised at
this point of time by the medical analysts, though the story of
the Puttaparthi hospital has been published by WHO in its Bulletin
which is distributed all over the world in forty languages of the
world. A time is going to come when people are going to seriously
examine and take lessons from this experiment.
Let us hope that the day is not far off, and that both of us would
have the pleasure of seeing it happen before our eyes. Thank you
so much and SAIRAM !
E-Magazine May 15, 2004