Why Fear when I am Here…..

Well, the classic ‘Why Fear when I am Here’ promise is a very well known one to all Sai devotees. Having said that, all Sai devotees also know that there are times when their faith in this statement goes through a severe acid test. This is one of the lessons imparted time to time with various experiences in a devotee’s life. As Baba is a very unorthodox guru,He imparted my lesson in the most unexpected place. At the Universal Studios of Japan!

Despite various signs and assurances given by Baba that we have to remain patient and calm about our current predicament, I remained highly doubtful if any of my prayers about my husbands transfer or a new job back in Japan is going to bear any fruit. As stress was mounting about moving to China and the heavy financial problems it could bring to us, my husband decided to do something radical. He thought we should take a break and go on a small trip to Osaka, to visit the Universal Studios of Japan; a fun park. He believed this will relax us a bit. As much as I was not interested at all, I felt that it would be a good thing for our 6 year old son as he was also taking the brunt of the soberness in the house.

We reached the park and I was hoping to get caught up in the frolic of the amusement park but it vain. My mind was totally concerned about out problems. Around midday we decided to stop for lunch and we decided to go to an Italian joint for pizzas as our son is a big fan of pizzas like any 6 year old. Just then he saw an Indian restaurant in a corner and he suddenly insisted he wants Indian food. This was surprising as you don’t find an Indian restaurant in an amusement park in Japan in the first place and secondly our son hates Indian food if there is an option of pizza. So, happily we entered the restaurant. I went to the wash room near the restaurant with tears in my eyes I prayed, ‘Baba, I know I should be patient and have faith… but I simply can’t do that… can you please assure me that you will fix our problem soon…. If so, please show me a picture of yours in the Indian restaurant.’

Having prayed this, I went into the restaurant scanning every nook and corner of the place with my eyes for Baba’s picture. Not a single picture was to be seen. There were some decorative pictures and idols, but no Baba. I was quite heart broken but was not surprised as I know that it is impossible to see such pictures wherever I wanted to. The restaurant was very tiny and it did not take much effort to really keep looking at every corner. After lunch we came to the cashier’s table to pay the money and right there upfront facing the entrance was a beautiful picture of Baba.  It was so visible from the entrance of the restaurant and I could not believe how I missed it in the first place!! Not only I was assured about His promise of ‘Why Fear when I am Here’; He once again taught me not to go looking for anything in life with an empty stomach. He has always said that ‘Offerings of food is an auspicious sign, do not refuse it’. That is why I was able to see his assurance only after eating my meal.

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The Summons …..

Time, is the single factor in the world that does not pay heed to anything. It stops for none, bends,bows nor does it move fast for anyone.Time did its job and we were still in the limbo. My husband tried his best to get a transfer to Japan but in vain. Travelling to Shanghai once every five days started taking its toll.

Dream….

A few days after I completed the Parayan, during the early hours of a weekend morning I had a dream.  I was in some crowded city in China and I was standing near an apartment. I was not sure if it is my apartment but I realized that I had lost my way and did not know where to go. Suddenly an old man wearing a long dirty kurti and  a red printed turban on his head comes near me and asks if I am ok. I don’t talk or answer to that man’s question but he understands that I am lost. He looks into my eyes and says, ‘ You can take a bus back home from Shirdi’. He repeated this sentence twice and I woke up!

As it happens to many of us, I totally forgot about this dream after I woke up.  Soon, I sat with my computer and coffee in the morning and read some of the Shirdi Baba experiences.One particular experience was eerily similar to ours.The devotee’s wife also finished the  one week parayan  and nothing dramatic had happened to change their lives. The wife apparently told her husband that she felt that they must visit Shridi after doing the parayan to solve their problems. The husband replied,`let Baba solve my problem and then we will go’. The wife asserts that the problem will not solve until they visit Shirdi!.Somehow, this triggered the memory of my dream I had early that morning.

As it was a weekend and my husband was home I told him that we must go to Shirdi as I had  finished the parayan.  I did not mention my dream or the experience of the devotee I had read earlier. The next statement he made was, ` let Baba solve our problem and then we will go’.The exact words the husband said in the devotee experience I read. I asked him to go to the computer and take a look at the story which was still open in the computer. Even he felt that this was a good sign and we decided to book out tickets to India.

I waited impatiently to go to Shirdi and counted the days. Soon we left for Mumbai. As soon as we arrived at  the airport we were going towards the immigration formalities and as I walked in we were received by this beautiful smiling big picture of Baba… It seemed to me as if He came to receive us in the airport. Of course, seeing a Baba picture in Mumbai might not be a big deal normally but I have to mention that I have landed into Mumbai international airport several times earlier and after that. Not once have I seen a Baba picture till date in the immigration counter.

The very next day, which also happened to be my birthday, we left for Shirdi. It is a great opportunity to step on the soil of Shirdi but to get that as a birthday gift was beyond my imagination. We reached pretty late at night so we could not go to the temple. The whole night I couldn’t sleep and kept praying to Baba for a good darshan. The next morning I woke up early and could not wait until my family got ready. I simply left for the temple without having breakfast or even water and asked my husband and son to come later and I will meet them in the temple. As I was warned against carrying money or mobile phone, I went empty handed. I had no clue how and when I where I will meet them after darshan.

It was a very crowded  Sunday and I stood for about an hour and a half in the queue and kept praying. I had a laundry list of things to ask Him and I knew that I will be able to get only a few minutes of darshan because of the crowd. I was ready with my wish list and finally when I reached the main darshan hall and looked at the magnificent murthy, I forgot everything around me. I did not even realize that tears were pouring out of my eyes unclontrollably and I could not remember one single thing I wanted to pray. I went absolutely blank!

Within seconds, I was pushed out to pave way for the crowd. I came out of the back door, the one on the left hand side of Baba’s idol. I moved to a corner and peeked inside. All I could see was the bottom of his right foot and his left hand placed on the right foot. I felt so blessed as Hematpand in his Holy Sai Charitra has a remarkable mention of Sai`s right toe and his left hand and the philosophy behind it.  While I was standing there mesmerized, I saw someone gesturing to me. I  thought that the security staff is going to ask me to move away as I might be hindering the devotees coming out of the mandir. This staff shouted to another security staff inside the temple and told something in Marati pointing to me. The other lady staff immediately smiled at me and asked me to come in again through the back door. She made me stand in a nice corner near the murthy where I could have the darshan of a life time and fill my insignificant self with the radiance of my Guru!

I was allowed to stand there as long as I want. I remember it should have been at least half an hour I stood there staring at baba, still not able to ask or pray anything. After that unbelievably long time I voluntarily decided to come out as I felt it to be wrong to crowd that place when other devotees can stand there and pray. As I was leaving, the security lady asked me to wait and went near the murthy and took a packet of sugar candies and roses from beneath Babas feet and gave it to me. I did not know what to say. I did not have anything to offer baba as I did not have my wallet or money. I came out of the mandir as if in trance.

Ever since that first darshan on 16th of June 2007, Baba has blessed me to come to Shirdi several times. The crowd has increased several fold since then. The security has been tightened immensely. But, Baba has ALWAYS, ALWAYS, made me spend at least 45 minutes inside the main mandir, right near him. I have no idea why not even a single security staff who keep asking everyone to move back and go out has never ever asked me to leave. I have seen several people offer some money to the security staff in the temple to let them stay for a while. I have always been against such practices and I even do not take the special on line booking. I have not paid even one rupee to anyone for a special darshan. It is nothing but the sheer Mercy and Grace of Baba that has made me stand right there in front of Him for such long time during every visit of mine.

As I came out after darshan it struck me that I have no phone to call my husband to find where they are. Hunger, thirst and tiredness hit hard suddenly and I had no idea where to go for even a glass of water. Just then amidst that phenomenal crowd my family spotted me as if by magic. Among all the amazing experiences I had in my life with Baba, this first visit is evergreen in my mind.

After visiting Dwarkamayi and other important places in Shirdi we came back to Mumbai. For the first time in life I realized what Peace and Calm felt like. There were no worries, no sadness and at the same time nothing seemed important.

The Miracles begin…..

 Once my conditions were full filled, I had no choice than to go ahead with the seven day Sat Chairta Parayan. I was curious about what would happen after I read the entire book. It was more like an experiment than faith or trust at that point of time. This was when Sai started going out of the way to show his miracles, like luring a child with candies and toys….

There was a small rose plant trying to regrow in our balcony after facing a tough winter. Before the plant almost dried up for the winter it had yielded several beautiful dark red roses. Now the plant was reviving and had a generous growth of leaves and two medium sized buds. It seemed to me like the buds will bloom by Thursday, when I start the parayan. I thought it will be a nice touch to offer those two roses to Baba on the first day of Parayan. On the day of Parayan, I eagerly went to the balcony to pluck the two roses that had bloomed fully. What I saw there is still hard to explain. The miracle was not that the flowers were fully bloomed and ready for the pooja, but the miracle was the roses were not red roses anymore! The roses were saffron orange, exactly matching the color of the kafni in the new Baba picture I had bought couple of days earlier. How the red roses turned to saffron orange is not something I can explain until today!

Second day of Parayan. Just before doing the Parayana I was having my breakfast, I saw a crow on my apartment on the 28th floor. Usually crows don’t come high up till there in cold weather. At least, they have never come in my house. Intuitively I offered a piece of bread I was eating to the crow and went back in for my regular Parayan. Soon, I came across  chapter 9 in the book where Baba says to Mrs Tharkad that his stomach was filled with the piece of bread which she offered a dog that morning. I could not believe that Baba was actually communicating with me!!

The rest of the parayan days were filled with miracles that might seem small and insignificant to a non believer, but to anyone who has been in the hold of Baba will know how important they are! Every day’s reading imparted a lesson, revealed His Love and I was mesmerized by the way He inspired me to prepare some prasad for the day and later on the same prasad would be mentioned in the Sat Charita during the days reading.  If I offered white flowers to Shiva, there was a mention about a similar act by a devotee in the book… I felt that Baba was all around me listening to every single word I thought, spoke or heard.

By the time I finished the Parayan, my mind was  filled with Baba and every small thing around me reminded me about an incident or sayings of Baba in Sat Charita. I was amazed at the fact of how a simple, small book with a story about a simple saint could be so powerful enough to take complete control of a person’s mind and body.

After ending the seven day Parayan successfully I  cooked for an annadaan in the local Sai center. On returning home I found a beautiful calendar of Shirdi Sai Baba and Udi in my mail box from the Sai Dham of Chicago. I had received the calendar in a lucky draw conducted by the temple authorities in Chicago. I leave it to the reader to imagine my joy and ecstasy.

The Guru Arrives…..

Sometime during the month of February 2007, the winter was at its peak in Japan. It should have been about 3.a.m. I had spent a restless night and probably just dozed off. The dream I had was very clear.

I was standing near a huge water tank in a big terrace of a very tall building. I couldn’t see the ground. This building was close to the ocean and the waves were menacingly coming towards me. Despite the fact that the building was very tall, the waves could still reach the top…. I could even feel the water spray. I got very scared and tried to hold my breath as the water was slowly drowning me. Suddenly, my hands fell on something! It seemed like a huge piece of iron. It thought that I should hold on to it tightly.  I suddenly discovered that the piece of iron was actually holding me too and would not let me go. It felt so cool and soft despite being an iron pillar or a wall.  I looked up and saw the trunk and the big belly of a huge idol of lord Ganesha. I held on, or rather, the idol held me tightly…. I felt secured when I woke up. Unlike my regular dreams, this one remained in my mind very vivid. There was something significant about this dream. In this one, I could even smell the sea and remember the sense of touch! I remembered every single detail.  I could feel it with all my six senses. It was the first time I had such a dream.

During that phase of life we were looking desperately for a house near my son`s school and we were ardently praying for a good apartment. We had actually considered an apartment on the 22nd floor of a building and later found that it was already taken. I concluded that this dream was nothing but some manifestation of the events going on around our lives at that time. Although I was happy to hold on to Ganesha’s idol, I did not see anything more than that at that point.

Meanwhile, there was a rumor in my husband`s office that we could be transferred to China within a few months. This worried us a lot as we  did not want to lose money on the house deposits and shifting. So, to be on the safe side, we stopped looking for new house for the time being. However, over the next few weeks they announced that they have identified someone else for the China office  and we will not be transferred. We thanked God and resumed our house hunt.

Soon, we located a beautiful  apartment in a great area and got ready to go and take a look at it. Since we did not have time we had to decide right away. The apartment was indeed a beautiful one. As I was busy checking the kitchen and the rooms, my husband called out to me and said, ‘Hey, they hadn’t mentioned ‘this’ in the plan..!!’ ‘This’, turned out to be a huge open terrace. I was open mouthed when I went out to take a look and something strange struck me. I remembered my dream. This was exactly the same terrace in my dream and strangely, from that huge terrace of the 28th floor apartment I could see the ocean !!I thought that was an auspicious sign…

Needless to say, we moved in soon into out new home. We spent a fortune on the deposit and new furniture and moving. Hardly a week passed by when we got the news! The person who was to join in China in my husband`s position, refused to join and they wanted my husband to be transferred to China.

I was totally disappointed. The new furniture which was yet to arrive and could not be cancelled anymore. The new things which were hardly a day or two old should be given away to a flee market. We had paid a huge key money to get this house which was non refundable. To add to all this I couldn’t imagine moving to another place where I should start from scratch. Honestly, all these were not the main problems…. the main question in front of me at that point was; ‘ I prayed and saw so many good signs to get this house so that we will live happily… and what kind of faith am I going to have in prayer anymore?

All my life I was taught that God never gives up on you when you pray. Now I did pray really well and asked Him to guide us. In fact, I even told him not to make us do anything which He would not approve of, even if we desperately wanted it. Now, I felt cheated and deprived. I thought I had PRAYED…. So I SHOULD and MUST get what I wanted! And, I had not asked for anything wrong or illegal after all!!

I imagine this must have been when Sai decided…. ‘Ok, this woman needs to learn a few things about life!!’ Let’s drag her to our Feet’!

I spent my days crying and worrying. But that did not stop destiny from doing its job. My husband started working  in China and spent most of his time there. Both of us were tired and devastated and since we couldn’t find admission for my son in China until august, we had almost a year of traveling for my husband, where he will come home to Japan from China during weekends!!

As if by some design, I stumbled upon the Shirdi Sai Baba`s web site. I read about Shirdi Sai Baba for the first time in detail and was mesmerized. I read about Sai Sat Charitra parayana and though I had seen Shirdi Sai Baba’s picture often, I hadn’t felt this kind of attraction towards Him. I used to think he is some old man, some saint who is dead and gone! But, for the first time, I read his eleven assurances and felt a great sense of calm come over me.

We generally think that we get problems because of our bad time and difficult planetary positions. But I started believing that this should have been the best time of my life because I found that this single problem had changed my life more than I could imagine.Though I wouldn’t call myself an ardent devotee of  Sathya Sai Baba, I did believe in Him and revered his miracles and the changes he has created in people’s minds. Being aware that He was the next incarnation of Shiridi Sai Baba, brought about a new strength in me.

The more I read about Shirdi Sai Baba, the more I wanted to do the 7 day Parayan. According to the site, I was supposed to have a Shirdi Baba picture at home while doing the parayan and I had none.  I could have downloaded and printed one but there was some lingering doubt in my mind if all this would be a wild goose chase! Finally I posed a test to Baba and challenged Him. I thought if I get a picture of both Shirdi Sai Baba and Sathya Sai Baba in a single frame by next Wednesday evening, I will do the Parayan.

Getting such a picture would be an easy task if I lived in India, but I live in Japan. Finding a regular Hindu God picture is in itself a feat and to find this Baba picture with all this specifications is almost next to impossible. We do not have any  Hindu temples in Japan like US or UK, so this was like a big gamble of faith.  However,the following Tuesday I was returning home after my work. I took a subway home but to my great surprise I had taken a wrong train! This has never happened to me in all these years. Nevertheless, I reached this place called Kawasaki, where the subway station is located in a large mall. As I had heard from friends about this mall earlier, I thought I could do some window shopping before I go home. Meanwhile, if I am lucky I might find an ethnic goods shop that might have some Hindu god pictures and I could see if I can find that particular Baba picture.  After about one hour of hunting  I got tired suddenly and felt as if all my energy has drained so I decided to have lunch. After lunch I walked aimlessly through various shops in the mall which was lined up with Gucci, Gabanna and the likes and I was constantly aware that I will not find the picture there. Time was running out and I thought to myself, ‘if I do not find the picture by 3.00 p.m. I am going back home!’

It was almost 2.40 p.m. I walked from one corner of the mall to another not even sure where I am going. I  finally decided that I will have to give up now and walk towards the station to take the train back home. I was coming down an escalator from this multi storied shopping complex and I got this strange smell of incense sticks and perfumes. Right there in a corner of the floor was a tiny ethnic goods store. There were absolutely no other shops or stores near it. I suspected that they may have many Hindu god pictures there and I was right. Along with rows of Thai and Vietnamese Gods were Laksmi, Ganesha, Shiva and the likes. I did find a Shirdi Baba Picture and was about to buy it. Just then I remembered that I wanted to buy the Baba picture only if I could see both Shirdi Baba and Satya Sai Baba in the same frame. As atrocious as it might sound, I could not compromise. I had two conditions for Baba to start Parayan. One, to find the picture of both the babas side by side and two to get them by 3.00 p.m. today.

As I could not find what I wanted, I  walked towards the exit depressed. I was suddenly drawn to another corner where they had Thai gods and show pieces. Alongside was a corner of the shop dedicated to Sathya Sai Baba pictures and books. More importantly, along with it was an array of key chains and pictures  and there was this one picture. The one with three dimensional image with both Shirdi Sai and Sathya sai side by side! This, to me was nothing short of a Miracle! i looked at my watch… it was 2.59 p.m.

That day, 24th of April, 2007, 2.59 p.m. my Guru revealed himself to me!

 

If you look to me, I look to you!

When I was first enrolled into the realm of my Sadguru Shri Shridi Sai Maharaj, I was overwhelmed with experiences, emotions, miracles and above all, valuable lessons. Anyone who has been overpowered by some positive energy that is beyond their ken knows what a spiritual adventure that is. There is a strange combination of excitement and calm at the same time; there are a million things to share with the world about the new positivism, yet expressing that seems impossible! That is exactly when you feel the need to start writing down all your feelings and experiences, however small, insignificant or unimportant it might be to the outside world. As, these are the experiences that you treasure in your heart and have played a great role in making the real, new ‘you’! So, when my experiences with my Sai Sadguru reached that point, the thought of publishing a book came to me now and then. But, I knew without a doubt that it is way beyond my capabilities and knowledge, let alone wisdom and maturity. Nevertheless, I decided to put the experiences into some file in my laptop which I vaguely named as ‘Chapter X.’ I did this so that someday at least my son and my grandchildren and my family will read it and understand how a Guru can touch the life of a human being who is totally oblivious to the joys of being taken over by a spiritual force. I had no idea then that ‘Chapter X’ would take the form of this interactive blog one day! I was always under the impression that when the thought of pursuing spiritual path comes,  a person would have reached a stage in life where he or she would ask God or Guru to show the mighty Bramha Gyann or the so called  ‘Great Realization’. On the contrary, as a totally ignorant candidate, living my day to day fears, anxieties, doubts and vices I had no clue as to what I wanted and i had no inclination or interest in any Realization whatsoever! So, when I found myself drawn towards the power my Guru, I discovered two things. Firstly, I understood that you could sit there and imagine whatever you want but the fact is; it is the Guru who chooses you and not you who chooses the Guru. The second and the most important fact; you really do not have to be some pure and super great soul to receive God’s bountiful mercy…. In fact, it is not a bad idea to have a few flaws and imperfections! After all, if you are all that pure and great, why would you need a Guru in the first place? So, that made me a perfect candidate… flaws, vices, imperfections… that’s me! So, what is this blog all about? What would be the purpose of such a blog? Well, apart from the gratifying feeling of sharing my experiences and spreading the joys of Baba’s merciful existence among us even today after decades of His leaving His mortal body, it is about sharing all your experiences, miracles and your spiritual evolutions….. More often than not, Sai devotees go through everyday changes, and miracles and feel that it might be so small and not a great earth shaking miracle like someone else’s, so feel shy to share it with others. But nevertheless, Sai’s miracles HAVE to be spread. They MUST be sung and shared unconditionally! In the pages that follow, I will share my everyday adventure through this spiritual journey, where I will unabashedly portray those times when I had flawed, failed miserably, hit the rock bottom, and eventually got saved by the all merciful Baba. This blog is not just about miracles. It is about what changes we undergo to become  a better human being. Though we might not realize it, every single moment the world is evolving and Sai’s hands are working on us to constantly make us better. At times this manifests as miracles, changes in our behavior, our positive attitudes towards others and much more. So, this is not a blog about ‘out of the world miracles’, it is simply about how Sai’s vision on us makes these small ‘inside our mind’ changes. I pray that He watches over us at all times and guides us to evolve every day. A little by little. One day at a time….