By Sri Ghandikota V. Subba Rao
From Sri Sathya Sai Avatar of Love
Prashanti Society, November 23, 1993

[Mr. Ghandikota V. Subba Rao has been a devotee of Swami for many years. He served with UNICEF and the United Nations, as head of the Energy Section, for 34 years and took early retirement in 1985 to return to India to be with his 92 year old father, Sri Ghandikota Subrahmanya Sastry, the Rishi of the Sathya Sai Gayathri and a renowned Vedic scholar. Mr. Subba Rao has been living in Prasanthinilayam since 1985, on occasion translating Swami's speeches, giving lectures to overseas devotees, and editing publications of the Sri Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust.]


That Baba knows our thoughts - indeed our past as well as future, has been repeatedly attested to by a large number of devotees. Just one such example from this writer's own experience is recounted here.

For many years, I developed a deep yearning to visit Shirdi. I made several attempts to pay my respects at Shirdi Sai shrine at Shirdi itself but to no avail. The closest I could come to the point of realizing this dream was in 1983, when I planned on my home-leave trip from New York to India to visit Shirdi after our landing in Bombay. Unfortunately, the whole family developed a stomach virus after our first meal in India at a Santa Cruz airport five-star hotel - precluding any extensive surface travel all the way to Shirdi. It was once again a great disappointment.

I was thinking of this escapade while intensely gazing at Shirdi Sai's shining silver idol and his giant size picture in the background of the Prashanti Mandir Bhajan hall, and also wondering about the connection of Shirdi Baba with Parthi Baba, about which I found numerous references in the Sai Literature. I closed my eyes, with Shirdi Baba in my mind, when to my utter amazement Parthi Baba stood right in front of me while I continued in my reverie. Swami waited till I fully opened my eyes, when with a burst of bliss I clasped His soft lotus feet and hung on to them like a child. Swami beckoned me inside the interview room and materialized a rather large silver ring with an inlaid multi-colored enamel picture of Shirdi Sai - saying that 'I am He'. I was stunned and electrified and I blurted out that at long last my long-cherished desire was fulfilled now! The shining large Shirdi ring on my finger used to attract the attention of my diplomatic acquaintances during my frequent elevator rides in the forty-story UN headquarters building in New York, leading to many inquisitive queries on the strange-looking personality on the ring-face. One thing led to another and before long I found myself presenting Sathya Sai literature to the UN Secretary General in his office!


Sensing the growing interest in the story of the glory of Baba, we had founded, with Baba's blessings, a Study Circle at the United Nations headquarters, with regular Thursday gatherings in delegates' meeting rooms situated right underneath the UN General Assembly Hall, and sometimes under the Security Council Chamber. Before long, Sai Bhajans began to reverberate in the after-office hours in the United Nations! The annual celebrations of the Study Circle attracted a large number of UN staff members and country delegates. I remember the occasion when the president of the International Court of Justice came rushing along with a couple of delegates seeking Sai Vibhuthi (sacred ash). He proudly showed me a picture of Baba in his wallet!


A few years after Baba gave me the Shirdi Baba ring, Swami called me again for a brief interview, and suddenly inquired of me whether I still wanted the old man or was now ready for the younger man! I then replied that having lived with the old man till then, I would welcome the change into company of the younger man! Swami graciously took out the somewhat worn-out big Shirdi ring which then disappeared right in front of my eyes and, then and there, materialized a well-fitting similar silver enameled ring with a picture of Swami showing His Abhaya Hastham - a raised palm assuring protection. This creative gesture and gift signified to me my spiritual (mental) journey from Shirdi to Parthi guided by Bhagavan Sathya Sai Himself. As a result, I found myself and family settling at Baba's Lotus Feet in Prashanthi Nilayam - indeed the very abode of peace.


This leads me to remember another miraculous manifestation of a triple-sided gray stone Baba materialized for me ten years earlier. Not knowing what to do with it, I kept it as a curio in my UN office desk drawer for two years. On my subsequent home-leave trip, in an interview with Baba, I held up the three sided stone and asked Baba about its meaning and significance. Baba then endearingly chided me for keeping it aside in a drawer and asked me seriously whether I was interested in knowing the meaning (Artha) of its shape or in reaping its beneficial effects (Phala). I replied categorically that my interest was in the benefit it would yield me!

Baba then explained that the triple-headed stone was given as a protective talisman in my numerous global air travels, and therefore I should wear it on my chest. A thought crossed my mind as to how I could wear an odd-shaped piece of stone on my chest. Baba sensed my inner doubt, took the stone from my own hand, held it up and blew, and lo and behold there appeared a twine-sized hole running through the point of the stone. Only a laser could drive a hole of that size through the sharp points on the opposite ends of the oblong stone. Swami then instructed me to insert a string or a thin wire and wear it like a chain around my neck with the stone resting on my lower chest.


Whatever article Swami materializes has a powerful purpose behind it. His materializations are not for exhibition (Pradharshana) but they are purposive evidence (Nidharshana) of their beneficial effects on the receiver. Around the early 1970s, Baba materialized for me a silver idol of Ganesha, saying that this would help me overcome obstacles in my spiritual and professional efforts. That was the time of our founding a Ganesha temple in New York, practically the first traditional Vedic style temple in the Western Hemisphere. A stone frieze of the Sarva Dharma Symbol of all religions adorns the entrance of the Ganesha temple. This symbol was earlier strongly resisted by some of the tradition-bound Hindu devotees of the temple but after Swami appeared in the dreams of several trustees, the opposition melted away to the point that the temple management welcomed the holding of Sai Bhajans in the main hall of the temple facing the Sanctum Sanctorum itself! Today, the Sathya Sai Bhajan Mandali at the Ganesh temple in New York - dating back over twenty-five years - is perhaps the oldest, the most well-attended regularly organized Bhajan group in the western hemisphere. Hail to the Sai devotees in the New York Ganesha temple!


That the mind-boggling miracles of Sathya Sai are not confined only to India but spread across the world has been attested to by many overseas devotees. Suffice it here to cite just one striking example repeatedly witnessed by this writer - a virtual Vibhuthi storm for a continuous period of nearly two weeks in the house of a Connecticut Sathya Sai devotee. I was overwhelmed by the unending flow of Vibhuthi in practically all rooms of that devotee's house and by the Amrith (nectarine fluid) on the Sathya Sai pictures taken and kept by this writer in that house. Inevitably such a miracle draws a large number of curiosity seekers disturbing the Sadhana of the devotees and Swami therefore advises against any undue publicity to such miracles.


Some of my most unforgettable experiences of Baba's miracles relate to my father, the late Sri Ghandikota Subrahmanya Sastry, a great doyen of Vedic learning and wisdom. A collection of the talks and articles on Baba by this great Vedic scholar was published in Telugu as SRI SATHYA SAI AVATHARA VAIBHAVAM - the Glory of Sri Sathya Sai Incarnation. My father had received in his long life, many honors, but none of these compared with the joy and bliss conferred by Baba on this venerable Vedic scholar who was chosen by Baba as one of the founding members of the Prashanthi Vidhvan Mahaa Sabha, and who was often invited by Baba to preside over the Dassera Yagna Ceremonies and to deliver Vedic discourses in Baba's august presence. This revered Vedic Pandit was inspired to reveal, in the presence of Baba on the Christmas eve of 1977 in Brindavan, Bangalore - the vision of Sri Sathya Sai Gaayathri, and electrified the gathering by his subsequent exposition of its meaning and significance. At the insistence of the late Kasturiji, I transcribed this event into an article in Sanathana Sarathi of April 1979. The Sathya Sai Gaayathri conforms to the Vedic mould and characteristics similar to the other Gaayathri Mantras and reads as follows:

Om Sayeeshwaraaya Vidmahe
Sathya Devaaya Dheemahi
Thannassarvah Prachodhayaath
It means: 'We realize that Sai is the Supreme Lord. We meditate on this God of Truth. Let that All-in-All entity inspire and enlighten us.

Baba called this Vedic scholar a Maha Rishi - a seer and revealer of Vedic manthra - and showered on him compassion and grace in abundance.


When my revered aged father was completely bed-ridden with severe complications after a compound fracture of the hip, one morning he even passed into a long coma and the doctors warned us of the impending doom. When we gave up all hope, a telegraphic message reached us in our home town that all would be well soon and that I should bring my father to Puttaparthi for Baba's sixtieth birthday celebrations. My father woke up shortly thereafter with a smile on his lips and narrated, to the astonishment of the doctor, that all through that period Baba was sitting close to the bed, conversing with him, and even invited him for Baba's 60th birthday celebrations. When I inquired with my father whether it could have been a dream or hallucination, he emphatically declared the divine presence of Baba at his bedside and wondered why we did not notice it! The learned Vedic scholar also asserted that when Baba was speaking to him, Vedic passages flashed across his mind and that Baba was indeed the Veda Purusha (embodiment of Vedas) Himself, exuding the fragrance of Vibhuthi all around.

With all these happenings, there was no doubt in my mind that the devoted Vedic scholar was rescued by Baba from the very jaws of death. The Vedic scholar lived for a year and a half in Prasanthinilayam where he received Baba's darshan, sparshan and sambhashan, i.e. seeing. touching and conversing with divinity practically every day.


A few years earlier Baba lovingly performed the 90th birthday ceremony of my venerable father, when He materialized a most beautiful 42 diamond-studded automatic gold watch with gold wrist band. He also materialized a picture of His Shiva Shakthi form, reiterating His Avataric source as SATHYAM (Truth), SHIVAM (goodness) and SUNDARAM (divine beauty).

During my father's stay at the Lotus Feet of Bhagavan towards the end of his life, Baba used to materialize Vibhuthi (sacred ash) frequently and would himself put it in the mouth of this renowned Vedic scholar and devotee. Once Swami manifested for my father a Shiva Linga of Neelakanteshwara - the blue throated form of Shiva, and instructed that he daily drink the water poured on it for his better health. Another time Baba pulled from the air a small silver medallion of Shiva on one side and the Shiva Panchaakshari Manthra (five syllable holy formula of Shiva) on the other side. He inserted, with great dexterity, this medallion onto the sacred thread worn by my father. Swami then stated that Shiva being my father's favorite deity, the silver medallion still wet with sandal paste was brought by celestial Sai messengers as Prasaadam immediately after Shiva Puja in Kailasha (abode of Shiva)! Hail to the glory of Shiva Shakthi!


A day prior to the passing away of my revered father, Swami spoke to me in the verandah of the Prashanthi Mandir and somewhat cryptically told me that my father would go home the next day, being the first day of the Dassera festival, and that Swami would come to our apartment. Since my father's condition was improving, I interpreted Swami's remarks to imply that my father would return home from the hospital the next day. But something prompted me awake at 5 AM of that fateful day, and I sleep-walked my way from the ashram apartment to the hospital nearby. My father's eyes lit up as I lifted him up in my arms when, saying SAI RAM, he passed away in serenity and peace. That same evening after the cremation was over, Baba graciously visited our apartment in Prashanthi Nilayam and consoled us, explained the mystery of birth and death and declared that my father's life was fulfilled in Vedic and Vedantic terms and that he attained final liberation as he was a Brahma Jnaani - steeped in Braahmic consciousness. On the tenth day of my father's passing away, Swami once again visited our apartment and later in the Poornachandra auditorium, Swami eulogized Subrahmanya Sastriji for his unsurpassed Vedic wisdom and his Vedantic living, called him an immortal soul, and declared that this Vedic scholar lived in the strong conviction of the Truth that Sri Sathya Sai is the embodiment of all divinities. When I heard the last statement from Swami's lips I recalled exactly the same words in Sanskrit imparted and thrice repeated in secret confidence a month earlier by my father. The secret Manthra was revealed by Baba Himself to devotees in Poornachandra auditorium.


Just a few minutes after my father passed away in my very arms, I received a telephonic message of condolence from Baba, and that if we wished the arrangements could be made for the body to be taken to our home town for cremation. On my stating that our sole refuge as well as that of my just departed father was Baba's lotus feet only, Baba promptly made arrangements in the minutest detail for the large funeral procession led by a number of Vedic chanting priests in front and Bhajan singing devotees at the back and for the cremation of the body on the river bed of the nearby dried Chitravathi river. Amazingly by the day of the bone-interring ceremony, unexpectedly the river swelled to such an extent as to wash away the bones and ashes - a sign of ritual fulfillment and a miracle in itself!

As promised, Baba visited our apartment the next day to console us personally. He directed me to perform post-funeral ceremonies for a period of ten days in strict Vedic style. When I expressed my ignorance and inability to perform them in the strict scriptural manner and wondered at the necessity of performing elaborate rituals, Baba stated that it was my bounden duty to perform them in memory of my learned father who, for a long period of his life, strictly followed Vedic Karma Kaanda - ritual actions. Swami arranged for a priest who was not only an expert in funeral rites but also learned in their significance. Swami instructed me to first understand the importance of each of the numerous ritual actions, before I performed the actual ritual on the ground. The daily rituals used to begin at 8 o'clock in the morning and ended in the late afternoon with a repeated number of baths and fire sacrifices. Swami advised one to read the Garuda Purana during this period. When Baba visited us again on the tenth day, he explained why He insisted on my performing these esoteric rituals strictly. Having been abroad all these years, I was like a cooking vessel kept far too long in the attic gathering grime and dust. The vessel had to be thoroughly cleansed and rubbed free of dirt. Baba made it clear that my departed father, being a Brahmajnani steeped in Brahmic consciousness did not require these funeral ceremonies. But it was I that needed purification and understanding through the performance of rigorous disciplines or penance!

Initiated, I thought, by Baba Himself into Vedic ritualism, I took to it like a duck to water, with the zeal of a "new convert"! Baba sensed this and promptly applied the brakes. He cautioned me about priestly ritualism and when I remonstrated that it was Swami who got me into it, He told me that the substance of spirituality should not be sacrificed for the shell of ritualism . He opened my eyes when He stressed that loving remembrance and expression of heart-felt gratitude to our forefathers is more important than mechanistical ritual action and that Ashru Tarpanam (offering of tears of gratitude) is more important than Thila Tarpanam (offering of sesame seeds with water).


Swami is primarily a Divine Aadhyaatmic Guru; He imparts profound spiritual lessons to the devotees on an individual, group and collective basis. His teachings are the quintessence of Advaitic nondualistic Supreme Reality. A few experiences of this writer in this regard are given below.

Once this writer, just on the eve of his departure from Puttaparthi in a hurry to catch a plane that very morning in Bangalore, was called by Swami to His modest living-cum resting room in the upstairs of Prashanthi Bhajan Mandir. Without being told that I was studying THAITTIREEYA UPANISHAD during my week end spare time in Delhi (where I was then a resident representative of a UN agency) Baba, in His infinite Grace expounded for nearly one full hour the essence of this famous Upanishad. When I began to write it all down, Baba remarked that there was no need to take notes; He assured me that whenever the need arose, I would automatically recall His teachings!

While Baba's teaching was proceeding, Kasturiji came up to request Baba for Swami's article for the monthly Sanathana Sarathi, the issue of which was just then going to the printer. Swami, with a wave of His hand, produced the article and gave it to Kasturiji in my direct presence! When Swami concluded His Upanishadic teaching, He materialized a king-sized hot laddu (a type of Indian sweet) as His prasadam to be distributed to members of my family. Furthermore, Swami assured me that I would definitely catch the plane as it was flying late that day. I reached Bangalore airport with all anxiety but to my pleasant astonishment I was the last passenger on the long delayed flight!

I recall another individual teaching session with Baba also in the Prasanthi Mandir upstairs room. Baba explained to me for almost an hour the five most significant Brahamasutras - analytical aphorisms on the supreme Reality. As the saying goes, Brahma Vidhyaa Vidhyaanaam - the Brahmic knowledge is the acme of all learning. The teaching by Swami was marked as usual by profundity and simplicity, using parables, and filled with good-hearted humor on the other side.

Apart from these exclusive individual teaching sessions, I had the greatest good fortune of listening in the interview room to Baba's teachings on the Bhagavad Gita. Thus I was initiated by Baba himself into the Vedantic lore of the holy scriptural Texts called Prasthana Trayee, viz. Bhagavad Gita, Brahma Sutras and Upanishads! Hail to Bhagavan Sathya Sai, The GNYAANA BODHAKA GURU.

When He performed the Upanayanam of my eldest son in the early 1960s and also of my youngest son in the early 1980s, He not only materialized turmeric-anointed Yagnopaveetham (holy threads) but also patiently taught the Vatus (the young boys) the meaning and significance of Gaayathri Manthra recitation, the Sandhyavandana (daily prayers) ritual, and the importance of celibate living. Salutations to the World teacher Sri Sathya Sai Baba, SAYINAM VANDE JAGADGURUM.

Sankalpa refers to the powers of Siddha Purusha with acquired - and therefore depletable Yogic powers, whereas Sankalpa Sidda signifies the state "mere WILLING IS FULFILLING"! Swami's undepletable miraculous powers are the most natural and spontaneous manifestations of His love and grace to the devotees.


That it is not possible to fully understand Swami is aptly expressed by Baba Himself when he stated: "In order to understand me, you will have to stand under me for so long that your legs are likely to collapse!". Then, what about experiencing Him? To this Swami replied that experience is something like experimentation, with yesterday's experience being different from today's and one's experience being very different from other's. Experimentation is "mentation"- a mental act and the Lord cannot be reached, understood or experienced by the mind, APRAAPYA MANASA SAH as the THAITTIREEYA UPANISHAD states. If one cannot fully understand or experience, what then, Swami? He says, Enjoy - be in joy and end (your mind) in joy! Just as in the Upanishad saying AANANDHO BRAHMANO VlDHVAAN - The knower lives in Braahmic Bliss alone.


Sri Ghandikota V. Subba Rao translating Bhagavan's Divine Discourse in Ooty.