Enthralling Encounters with Eternity
Conversations with Mr. Raja Reddy
few fortunate devotees, who came to Swami in the early years of
His avatharhood, Mr Raja Reddy is exceptional. He was one of the
most privileged who came to Bhagavan as a teenager and continued
to stay in the Divine Presence enjoying His blissful divine
proximity for nearly three decades. A sincere spiritual aspirant
right from his childhood, the story of His encounters with ‘The
Eternal’ is most fascinating. We had an enthusiastic Sai worker
go over to his home in Mumbai to interview him.
Sairam, Mr. Raja Reddy. To begin with, please tell us how you
came to know of Swami and how the relationship with Him
blossomed? And how was Swami in those days?
Sairam. Originally I was a devotee of Sri Ramakrishna
Paramahamsa (an enlightened soul). From my early days, I was
almost a hero-worshipper of Swami Vivekananda and I loved Sri
Ramakrishna who had a resemblance to Swami Vivekananda.
you may be aware, had very little respect for miracles. In fact,
he went to the extent to say: “Do not visit miracle-men.” That
was the background I was coming from.
But my mother used
to go to Bhagavan much earlier, in the early fifties. Then, I
was a student studying in the Loyola College, Madras. I was
advised by my mother to go and have a Darshan of Bhagavan. He
was then a guest of one Mr. Hanumantha Rao, who was a Transport
Commissioner in Madras. It was the first time that I had the
good fortune of coming into physical contact with Bhagavan.
Did you see Him?
RR: Yes, I physically went there; I saw
Bhagavan and I was most attracted by His gentle, loving voice
and speech. And then He went on moving His hand in air – in His
usual inimitable style. I, then, asked Him why He was waving His
hand in that particular manner. After all, since I was educated,
I was a little inquisitive. But Swami didn’t give a direct
reply; He said: “Then, why are you wearing a tucked-in shirt?” I
said: “This is how we should be in our college.”
So, he gave you a question instead?
Yes, and answered it indirectly! It was brief but it was a very
loving speech and I was very impressed by that; that’s how that
chapter of the first meeting closed. After that I went to
college to do my studies.
Where were you studying?
What was the course that you studied?
I studied there for about five years and I had taken Economics
Honors. It was a very disciplined and good college.
So when was your next interaction with Swami?
My next interaction was later on, October 4, 1956. That was when
the first Hospital in Puttaparthi, the General Hospital, was
opened. It was opened by the then Chief Minister of Andhra
Pradesh, Mr. Bezawada Gopala Reddy. And I was present there on
Prior to that I
had finished my studies and was totally absorbed in my
sadhana (spiritual practice). Because spiritually, I am
sort of an incorrigible introvert – that’s what I would say of
myself! I used to have my own meditation, my bhajans, my yoga
sessions and things like that.
So with that
background, I went to Baba. And the very first question I asked
Him was: “Are You a realized soul?”
Did He call you for an interview?
So what was His answer?
You know, He is not
given to giving direct answers! He just pointed to a light in
the room with His hand. He said: “This is the hand; this is the
shadow of the hand on the wall. There is no such realization.”
What He meant to say is: “I am the Original! You’re the
shadow; there is nothing to realize for Me! You have to
realize!” That’s how it was. I had to read in between the lines.
And then of
course, I was totally absorbed by Him – it was just
irresistible! His power was something else! And I became His
Did He call you again? Did you go back again to Parthi after
Yes! After that I went home but then I returned and
settled down with Bhagavan, because I was in search of a
Sadguru, a spiritual master. During this time, I was drawn
by Swami Shivanandaji from Hrishikesh too, who is no more. He
passed away many years ago.
Is he the one from the famous Shivananda Ashram?
Yes. He was then alive and I had half a mind to go there and
take sanyasa (become a renunciant) or that sort of a
thing. So with that background, Bhagavan absolved me; gradually
he put me in bhajans and in driving His car and looking to His
various duties; getting His bath ready and His bed, and so many
other opportunities! He has been immensely graceful to me –
giving me all those chances to do seva, and so it went
But of course, I
had been a skeptic in my own way – not easily giving into
everything; because at that time, at the back of my head, I
always had Sri Ramakrishna’s influence on my mind (to not
believe in miracle-men).
So much so that at
one time, knowing my doubting mind, Swami revealed Himself. It
was in Ooty and Baba was relaxing on a cot; only we two were
there in the room.
“If you are a devotee of Vishnu, you will see the
parama-jyoti (Supreme light) coming from My heart; if you
are a devotee of Shiva, you will see it from My forehead – where
the third eye or the Jnana netra (eye of wisdom) is located.”
I, of course, saw a jyoti (Divine light) in
the heart area, as I have been a devotee of Lord Krishna right
from the very beginning.
Did that have any change in your outlook?
Not a change exactly, I told you I am a born skeptic! I wouldn’t
yield that easily; I have an ego too! As I told you we were in
Ooty at that time and after Baba went out of the room, I took
His torch which He had kept under the rug. I thought: ‘Will it
give me the same effect? Let me try it!’ Immediately Baba caught
me red-handed! He came inside and said: “What shall I do to make
you believe?” He Himself was at a loss, so to say!
So He caught you red-handed with the torch!
Silly fellows that we are! You know how ego comes into play and
you get all sorts of doubts! But it’s better to get rid of all
this to start with.
You could see a jyoti in His heart; which is a very
I did have Darshan of the jyoti, no doubt; but I
must tell you the fact that I had doubts too!
As you went along, were these doubts getting cleared?
Yes! He was very gracious to me. I used to sleep on the floor
and He used to sleep on the cot. Early in the morning I used to
meditate and I had some wonderful experiences! Like the
kundalini (spiritual energy within envisioned as a coiled
serpent) rising and waves and waves of bliss being experienced!
Also, I used to see flood-lights during meditation. I can’t
explain, but they had a wonderful, pleasant effect.
As I told you, I
was an incorrigible introvert - even until now! I don’t know if
you have seen the old Mandir; Bhagavan’s bed was in one room and
then next to it, are His shelves where we used to keep His
things, and then there was the bathroom. So I used to sleep
there near the shelves, and Baba was in the other room on the
All of a sudden
something happened; it was like half of the Sun’s circumference
was falling on me! It was an incredibly huge light coming! It
was rather shocking. That was a great experience; it didn’t last
long enough to shatter me off but then I had the shock enough!
Of course, Baba was behind all this but He used to pretend He
didn’t know anything.
Once I had a
difference of opinion with Baba – you know ego coming out! We
were stationed in Bangalore - in one devotees’ place. And I took
it so much to heart that I thought I must back off! And in fact,
I did back off. I took a 3 hour bus journey to return to my
But half way
through the journey, as I was having a snack in a way-side
hotel, I don’t know what happened! My whole heart was being
wrung like a wet towel. I could not stand it! Automatically
tears started flowing from my eyes unendingly.
So much so that
the other inmates at the hotel thought: ‘Poor fellow; he must
be suffering from some agony!’ In spite of myself, the tears
would not stop. It was a ceaseless flow. I could not stand it
anymore; I was finished! I took the next bus to Bangalore and
said, “Come what may, I am going back to Baba!”
When I reached, I
saw Baba sitting quietly on the bed, writing a letter to me!
Writing a letter to you?
Yes! He was writing: “Where will you leave Me and go?” From
then on I decided - He is sakhshaat hridyanivasi (the
supreme indweller)! And nothing can be done without His
permission. When He has your heart under His control, you can’t
do anything! You’re finished. Your brain doesn’t work. So that’s
how it happened and that’s when I decided: “No Baba! I will not
go anywhere without Your Will – it can’t be done!”
So it was sort of an ego-breaker experience?
Yes and the hridaya-vasi realization, that He knows
absolutely everything; it was something fantastic! And you know
all the rest of it – whenever a thought rises in the mind of any
one of the devotees sitting there, it at once gets registered
there in Baba’s Solar Consciousness; so much so that He reacts
You had that sort of an experience?
It has happened umpteen times! So much so that it has become a
For instance, my
wife, and my son – they have also had such experiences. Once
Swami was giving an interview; and He called my wife too. There
were some rich people around Him. Then she had a faint thought
in her mind: ‘He gives special attention to rich people!’
Swami was talking
then about something else, but He immediately turned to her as
if following her thought and said: “Why? Because under them
there are so many other people who are working; and they will
all be benefited by it!”
Everybody working under the rich person can get influenced.
Yes, and not only that, so many people will be benefited if
one at the helm is corrected. Naturally, His heart goes out to
other people also; so they also stand to benefit. So, instead of
catching every small ant, catch hold of the queen ant! That’s
what Baba is doing; and that’s what Swami Vivekananda used to do
I had some doubt
regarding Baba’s ways and I was thinking about it but I did not
express my thought. That’s how it happens when His physical Form
is present there, immediately those thoughts come. If you were
there as a third person, you wouldn’t understand anything at
why in Baba’s discourses too – many that I have heard, not
recently, but in the earlier days - there used to be a lot of
‘loss of linkage’ so to say, between one statement and the
other. Because as and when doubts used to arise in the minds of
the audience, He used to stop whatever He was explaining and
answer them then and there. So naturally, sometimes that
correlation used to be missing.
The other person might feel that this is not coherent; but
actually it is.
It is! See, actually He has come for jiva’s
(individual’s) sake; and not for publicity or any auditory
nonsense! That’s how He operates – it’s something wonderful!
You had the privilege of being with Baba that other people can
only dream about. So please tell us more – how His routine used
to be in those days and how He used to interact with other
Even during informal conversations, Bhagavan, in those days,
used to allow devotees or people who had come there to express
their doubts and He used to clarify their doubts immediately. At
the same time, He would give them direct experiences too, which
are known to some of us.
One thing I have
noticed in Bhagavan - while in contact with individuals, He
always treats an individual as an individual; He is not
enamoured of crowds. He wants to give instructions to every
individual where He corrects them Himself and He develops them,
for He has intense interest in the evolution of the individual.
That’s something very remarkable of Bhagavan!
He would like to instruct an individual singularly to evolve
Absolutely; and correct him too! For instance, there used to be
one Mr. Jawa from Joy Ice-cream; he was the proprietor of the
company. Before coming to Bhagavan, he was very well-off
financially. In those days, Joy Ice-cream was very popular in
Bombay too – like Kwality Ice-cream now. And before coming to
Bhagavan, He was used to taking alcoholic drinks. So much so
that even small children in his family used to take to it, just
for fun; this practice was so much impregnated in his family.
He came to
Bhagavan when He was staying in Gwalior Palace, Mumbai, which
is, of course, now demolished. So there, when He was in Baba’s
presence for the first time, Baba said, “Hello, Jawa!” and
that’s it, there was some inner transformation in him and he
threw his drinking habit into the fire instantaneously.
Bhagavan takes particular interest in the development of an
individual, come what may; but at the same time not hurting the
individual. As if He has been his friend right from his birth!
How about Mr. Jawa's family?
They too have had beautiful transformations. And Baba gives
an inner strength. It’s not easy to be an addict of liquor and
leave it overnight! Take the case of my own cousin, Shiva Reddy.
He is a dental surgeon and his wife, who is my niece, is also a
lady doctor. Both of them are now retired and stay in Prasanthi
Nilayam ashram. He had a habit of smoking and used to have his
practice in Nigeria then.
“One fine morning Baba comes in my dream and gives me
padanamaskar (privilege to touch His feet). And I said, ‘I
will leave smoking.’” So it happened just like that. Baba came
in his dream, gave him padanamskar and he left smoking
altogether! This is how Baba enters into an individual,
into the depths, because He is antharayamin (the
indweller)! He is not satisfied with your show or other things –
no! He goes straight right into the core. It’s so wonderful!
That’s why Bhagavan can converse with anybody; He needs no
intermediary, no introduction.
Everything is an open book to Him and He wants transformation in
each one of us. We are many a time ‘an absolute alien’ to our
self, not knowing anything at all!
Q: He goes through our minds without any
Sri Raja Reddy
(extreme right) singing in His presence
Oh yes, like open books. I have no doubt about it; it’s a common
experience, as common as drinking water.
Q: Tell us more about those experiences.
He has His own inimitable ways. Bhagavan had given me the
opportunity to sing bhajans. I was leading bhajans for decades,
right from 1958 until 1983; that is, up to my 60th year.
Q: That is more than twenty five years!
Yes. When I was 60 years old, one day, as usual, I started a
bhajan. All the students were singing with fresh and blooming
voices. Naturally, Bhagavan wanted to give them more chances and
I was also getting superannuated. So one fine morning as I was
sitting there to sing a bhajan, all of a sudden the mike was
taken away from me. Being with Him for so many years, I ‘knew’
of Swami’s ways and could get the hint. So I didn’t react at
Then, after the bhajans were over and aarti was performed, Swami
just looked at me; it was just a glance, but very deep. Believe
it or not, for about 2-3 days, I was just floating in bliss.
Just a look, nothing else! But it was a completely
out-of-the-earth blissful feeling! So that was a wonderful
experience I had.
other words, in His own inimitable way, His message was: “O
fool! Don’t go on dragging your feet into the bhajan right
through until the grave! Come on, go off the ladder! Evolve from
bhajans to something more intense and increasingly inward,
something more direct.”
That was His superb indirect lesson. Only you must be blessed by
Him to take it in the right way. You can’t revolt, ego doesn’t
play a part.
from His Body
Q: What was the first miracle of Swami you
witnessed after you started visiting Parthi?
RR: Miracles had become such a common
place occurrences with Baba that they ceased to be miracles! I
used to hear of Baba materializing vibhuti, and when I came to
Him I was mentally prepared for it because my mother was an old
have seen quite a few interesting incidents. Swami used to go in
a ‘trance’, meaning, He used to, so to say, leave His body
whenever there was any danger to any devotee, anywhere. What
used to happen is that His body would become almost like a rigor
mortis – almost death-like. And it would fall like a stick.
So, as attendants on Him, we had to take care of His body by not
allowing Him to fall or get hurt. On one of these instances, I
was not very well acquainted with this process of His ‘trance’
and while He was ‘gone’ from His body, He went on pulling His
hair and had quite a handful of His hair in His hand. Then He
asked for water, which I readily gave. Next, He swallowed the
hair and washed it down with water!
Later, when He returned to normal consciousness, He
asked me, “Did I swallow any hair?” I said, “Yes, Baba.”
Remember, I was not acquainted with these divine acts. Even one
hair is enough to damage the digestive system; and this was a
Just then, He opened a button and what happened next was
something unimaginable. The hair which was wet, which He had
swallowed, was coming out from underneath His heart! That was
Q: Any instance, where you could recall where
He could tell somebody’s past and future.
As I told you, I was a worshiper of Swami Vivekananda.
Baba would say, “You will just pick up Viveka (which means
‘conscience’) and then play with him.” I thought, as I so full
of Vikekananda and his ideas, I would, spiritually, go to such
heights. But what really happened was, after I was married, He
named my son Viveka.
And that’s how he played this prank on me. But imagine, Swami
said this many years ago, in fact, decades before my marriage!
He had no connection with my marriage whatsoever.
Q: It was a good joke!
Q: Swami has such a good sense of humour.
Tremendous! We used to burst into peals of laughter when He used
to impersonate somebody so perfectly.
Q: Have you witnessed any instance of ‘divine
RR: Once I was suffering from piles and
experienced profuse bleeding, as a reaction to a wrong
homeopathic medicine that was given to me. And I had to go to
Bhagavan as there was a function and I had to participate in
that procession. So I told Bhagavan about my situation and
immediately He gave me prasadam. Believe it or not, the
moment I took it, the problem was gone! It was not a
joke! I used to suffer for days because of bleeding piles.
will narrate one more incident. This concerns my wife’s cousin,
Mr. Suresh who is a sincere devotee of Bhagavan. At that time,
he was probably in his thirties and was well qualified with a
Chemical Engineering degree and an MBA done in Ahmedabad. He was
highly placed too in his profession.
Suddenly he developed cancer in the thigh. Remember, he
was young and had two small kids, a boy and a girl. He went to
Dharmakshetra (Mumbai) to have Baba’s Darshan and there Baba saw
him and said, “Yes, cancer cancelled!” Mind you, that
was a very dangerous type of cancer and he had been given an
ultimatum of six months by the doctors. He had tried
chemotherapy and everything else by then.
Q: He is still around?
Yes, hale and healthy after decades! He has a job in a German
Company in Pune, India, and he is on the move, globe trotting 15
days in a month. His son and daughter are well placed too.
Therefore, He is very vivid about the entire past, present and
the future of everybody. All the states of consciousness –
waking, dreaming, deep sleep and complete bliss – are under His
control. Here is one instance.
Everybody in my wife’s family is a staunch devotee of Shirdi
Baba. In fact, my wife’s grandmother and grandfather had been to
Shirdi and had darshan of Shirdi Sai when He was on earth in His
physical form. At that time, her grandmother was pregnant with
Just before our marriage, when my wife was in
Puttaparthi, she had a dream. She dreamt that Shirdi Baba came
in her dream early in the morning and gave her a rosary -
japamala. She was enjoying the dream, but the whole episode
ended abruptly when she was woken up by someone saying, “Come
on! Wake up! Baba has called us for an interview!”
So, then she had to hurry to Baba’s Presence. Baba,
then, had to talk to others too and after some time, she was
called in. When He saw her He said, “kya? kaisa hai?”
(How are you?). And then immediately materialized a rosary for
her! Finally He said, “sapna sach hua!” (The dream has
There are two facets implicitly stated by Baba in this incident.
First: ‘I have complete control over jagrat, sapna, shupti’
(waking, dream and deep sleep states). Second: ‘I am the
same as Shirdi; Shirdi Sai and I are not different.’ In her
dream Shirdi Baba gave her a rosary and she was woken up by
somebody, and she was unhappy for having been disturbed. And
here, Baba completes the dream! It is something fantastic!
The former Vice Chancellor of Baba’s University, Sri
Hanumantappa, had said: “I have traveled the world, I have yet
to come across such a human values based University where it is
completely free from bottom to top! It’s highly unimaginable.
And so is the Hospital, free for the visitors to stay! What
further Love can be extended?”
And not only that, if this is on the curative side, on the
preventive side, He gives us water so that we don’t succumb to
any diseases in the first place. It is indeed unbelievable!
Everything is offered free.
Metamorphing Matter and Minds
Q: When has been the transformation in your
life after you met Swami?
As I explained earlier, when I came I had little respect for
miracles, and it was common place for Baba to do miracles. He
used to pluck a seethaphal (custard apple) and by the
time it reached your hand it would turn into an apple! These
instances were happening all the time. He used to take a slab of
stone and throw it up, by the time it returns it would turn into
a sugar candy!
is, in fact, changing our minds like pots of clay! These
miracles are nothing. By his Grace my mind is so evolved! I sit
for meditation three times a day and that has been a habit for
not years but decades. Even when I used to drive Baba’s car, I
used to meditate and drive! That’s because I didn’t want to lose
that experience. I told you earlier that I was an incorrigible
introvert. I generally don’t tell others these experiences, but
I used to feel an inexplicable ecstatic bliss. It was something
so fine to experience that you didn’t want to leave it either,
but then at times you had to.
Baba has very kindly advised us to link our
namasmarana (chanting His name) with our breath. Uchwas
and Nichwas - when you inhale and exhale, you link His name
to that. It could be “Sairam! Sairam!” or whichever name. Then,
there is real happiness. Our mind is the horse-rider and breath
is the horse; you catch hold of the horse, the rider is
automatically in your hand!
Q: Do you think there is a difference in the
quality of people or kind of devotion now, compared to the
One can’t delve into people’s minds. People come to Him with
many motives - ulterior as well as divine. It was so even then.
But Swami’s way always has been the same. He used to say, “My
miracles are like visiting cards. Once you get acquainted, you
will naturally come into the fold. I am the Big Shepherd, with
capital ‘S’! You are the sheep and I am the good shepherd. So,
to perfect you into my fold, I give you My visiting card.”
Yes, there are all sorts of people, but then, it should start
somewhere. People do start with ulterior motives and desires,
but later, Baba has a way of molding minds like pots of clay -
which He alone can do! He is a 'Para-psychologist'; a
psychologist, par excellence!
don’t know how far the students have witnessed that, because
every mind is an open book to Him; there’s nothing to hide.
Ultimately, He wants everybody to benefit from His Avatar. He
has come for us and He doesn’t require anything. He is Bliss
Q: When you are at your residence now, in
Mumbai or in Parthi, do you feel any difference?
No, Absolutely not! I don’t miss Him at all. Only I would like
to see Him now and then, therefore, twice a year I come to
Puttaparthi. In those years, I used to be with Baba, now Baba is
with me! There I used to be in His physical presence, now Baba
is in me - in bliss! In essence He is with me, so why
should I bother? Baba doesn’t talk to me these days, do you know
that? But I don’t require His talking! I am absolutely happy and
He is guiding me day in and day out!