My Path to Sai

My Path to Sai

                                                                   Frank Greenhalgh 

 

            On April 24, 2011, Easter Sunday, India's most cherished guru, Sri Sathya Sai Baba, at 84 years of age, died of heart failure. Hundreds of thousands of devotees descended on Prashanti Niliam, Baba's Ashram in Southern India, to say farewell to their Guru.

            I have been a Sai Baba devotee for the last thirty years and to lose Swami (devotees like to call Baba "Swami") this present day "Avatar", who had changed my life was a large blow to me. As I followed the funeral on the Internet with sadness, I also thought how lucky I had been to find this wonderful guru. Then I thought, maybe it was the other way around? Maybe this wonderful guru found me? Certainly the path to Sai was easy, and I came to him through a very unusual set of circumstances, I can’t help but wonder at which point in my life Sai decided to enter it.

Meditation:   In January 1970, I took a course in Transcendental Meditation, and started meditating. The effects were very profound in a positive way. I searched for the source of this wisdom and found it in the Bhagavad Gita. I soon read every Hindu book I could: The Mahabharata, The Ramayana, Shrimad Bhagavatam and many more. I was fascinated by this religion. I started hunting for a Guru to learn from.  I was not attracted to the local gurus and gave up my search. I continued for a few years to be a vegetarian, do Yoga Asanas and finally resumed a normal life but continuing to meditate.

Susan goes to India:  In July 1981 my daughter Susan was selected by the Amityville Rotary to represent Amityville as an exchange student. She was sent to India (not her choice) for a year. In 1981 communications in India were poor and I wanted to see how she was doing, so I went to see her in January 1982. When I mentioned it to Peter an engineer who worked for me he said he had been to India three times, to see Sai Baba. I never heard of Sai Baba, but it renewed my interest in a guru. Peter gave me a book by Sai Baba, I read it and was fascinated by the wisdom he seemed to emanate. I asked Peter where I could get more of this Sai Baba’s teachings. He told me to wait till I get to India as they will be much cheaper there.

            I went to India staying with Susan at the Jagada families apartment. The next day Susan and I were sent on a whirlwind tour of Northern India: Delhi, Agra, Brindavan and Jaipur.

            Arriving back in Bombay on a Thursday, I was taken to an Astrologer that night,

and on Friday night a Palm Reader. The Palm Reader had a booklet that listed Sai Dat Studios which he said was connected to Sai Baba. I copied the address hoping to find books there.

A Blessing from Sai Baba:  Saturday afternoon we had a wedding to attend. I got dressed up and waited outside the apartment for Susan to join me. As I was waiting, a Holy Man came up to me and said

“Sai Baba Sends His Blessings” and touched my forehead with a Tika,

I immediately asked him if he had any Sai Baba books.

He looked startled for a second but then quickly answered, “You’ll get your books tomorrow" and he walked away.

 

I would be flying home Sunday, so I woke up early that morning hailed a cab and gave the driver the address to Sai Dat Studios. When we arrived, I got out and looked at the building. It was a storefront on an empty street, with a locked chain gate stretched across it.

I thought “how dumb of me to think that this photographer would be open at 8AM on a Sunday morning.”

As I was about to get back into the cab, a solitary person appeared walking past the chain storefront. He looked at me and in perfect English, said, “They’re in the back developing, go to the rear and knock, which I did.  Someone opened the door, I entered and bought three photos of Sai Baba when I asked for books. I was told to go to Churchgate, in downtown Bombay. I took a cab to Churchgate and found a stall selling Sai Baba books and cassette tapes. I returned to the states with a supply of books and tapes, allowing me to learn more about this Guru.

  During my stay in India, I became very good friends with our host in Bombay, Dhiraj Jagada. We shared evenings together playing chess, discussing religion and drinking scotch. I had mentioned Sai Baba briefly asking for books. Dhiraj hadn’t heard of him.

Bangalore:     In 1983 the Jagada Family moved from Bombay to the city of Bangalore in southern India.

      Dhiraj invited me to visit him there and I accepted. I arrived in Bombay on a Friday morning and flew into Bangalore early Friday evening. Dhiraj met me at the airport with his wife Gisela. They informed me that on Saturday morning we would drive to Puttapharti, the village of Sai Baba’s ashram, and they would stay one night and leave Sunday, leaving me at the Ashram. This was unexpected.

            During the week each morning and evening all ashram attendees would line up to have Darshan or “Vision of God.” While sitting on the darshan line, Sai Baba spoke to me twice. The first tine he patted me on the head and said, “Beau Kush”, which I was then told by a Devotee, after he passed that it meant “Very Happy”, I made him very happy.

            At another darshan I was in the front line and Swami stood in front of me as he passed, I spontaneously attempted and was allowed kiss Baba's feet, a very great honor, I was told by devotees.

I returned to Bangalore on Thursday and stayed with the Jagadas in their new house till I left Sunday.

 

Love All Serve All:   For the next 13 years I didn’t travel to India, but did become a Sai devotee. I now meditated on Sai Baba, joined the Sai Organization on Long Island and donated my time to them. I became the Audio provider for all Sai events, sung folk songs in nursing homes, worked with St. Martins church Outreach program and provided young singers with a recording studio to make sample tapes.

Following the basic teachings of Sai Baba. "Love All Serve All." I realized that my engineering skills were to be used to "Serve All."

 

Bob calls:   In January 1996, I received a phone call from my friend Bob. Bob and I became very good friends in 1965, when he came from England to work as an engineer in

the same company I did. Bob started his own company in Florida many years ago and I was surprised to hear from him. He asked me "What do you know about Sai Baba?"

I was surprised by the question but said "I am a devotee but what made you ask it?

He said "My son visited me from England and told me I should visit Sai Baba. He left me  a picture of Sai Baba on my piano. When I looked at it, it said call Frank."

  Bob hadn't known about me and Sai Baba and I hadn't seen Bob in about ten years. Bob said he was going to go to India as his son recommended. I said "I will join you" and we started to set a date.

     About a week later my wife and I were having dinner at my friend Richard's house, and I jokingly said to Richard, "Richard I'm going to India to see Sai Baba, want to come?" I said it jokingly because Richard is a very busy lawyer and rarely takes even a family vacation. I never expected him to say yes, but he looked at his wife, she encouraged him and he said yes! So now we are three.

Kodikanal:       We ended up going in April a time when Sai Baba has a vacation Ashram at a "Hill Station" in the village of Kodikanal. Located at 7000 feet above sea level it is cool and pleasant there.

       It turns out that Richard's reason for coming was that his wife Susan had a pap smear that could possibly be cancerous, and they thought that Sai Baba might help. Richard had brought a letter to Sai Baba from Susan.

        Bob was not committal to what his problem was, other than his son said Baba could help him.

         The first Darshan Richard and I attended, we were in the second row and as Sai Baba passed by us he took the envelopes we held out. That really was as much as we could expect. Sai has our requests and Bob still hasn't come. When Bob comes we continue to go to Darshan but during the week Swami gave very few interviews. On our last day we got to sit in the first row. When Sai Baba appears and walks in front of me, he looks down at me and says, "Where are you from?", I quickly respond, "New York Swami, Interview?" Sai Baba asks "how many are you?" "Three Swami" I replied. Swami answered, "Go" and continued walking. I stood up to go to the darshan room and motioned to Bob and Richard to follow me. They looked at me and said, "He said No." I yelled "Swami GO?" Swami turned and said, "Go."

     Up to the Darshan room we went, where we waited outside with four Italians and a Japanese couple with a small baby. It was about an hours wait, as Sai Baba went through the men's section first and then the women's section of a few thousand devotees.

      An Ashram worker opened the door and we went into a small room with about 10 chairs facing a large chair draped in a cloth for Sai Baba.  Swami entered, sat in his seat and invited the four Italians into a smaller room behind the wall where Swami's seat was. About 10 minutes later the Italians came out of the room, followed by Sai Baba. Swami then took the Japanese couple in. When they came out Swami said "New York?"

We jumped up a hurried into the small room. We lined up me Bob and Richard. Swami walked up to Bob in the middle and put his hand on his head. As he held his hand on Bob's head he looked at me and said, "This man can't sleep. His monkey mind won't let him." Bob immediately broke into tears and said "Yes Swami, I can't sleep." As the tears poured down, Baba rubbed Bob's head and spoke to me as if I was a friend of his and he was explaining Bob’s problem to me. Swami told Bob all would be fine.

Next he turned to Richard. He put his hand on Richard's shoulder looked him in the eye and said, "How is your wife?" with that Richard burst into tears. Baba rubbed Richards shoulder and said it will be all right. Now Richard is also crying.

Next Swami says the interview is over and we all go back to sit in the interview room. Swami takes his seat and asks Bob to sit next to him. He then materializes a ring for Bob and puts it on his right ring finger.

After a few words Swami gets up and tells all it is time to leave. At that point I felt disappointed. I was the devotee that brought Bob and Richard to Swami, and he talks to them makes Bob a ring and just tells me about their problems. He didn't address me at all. The reality is that I really didn’t have anything to ask for. Suddenly Swami is looking at me saying "You Prayed to me last night for an interview." Then he walked over and put his arm around me and said "I would never disappoint you" and now I burst into tears. As we left the Ashram in tears, we immediately went to a phone and called our wives and tell them as best we could what happened.

        I must confess that moment when Swami said "I would never disappoint you" was a most memorable point of my life. The tears you shed in Baba's presence are called Bhakti tears (love tears), and we all shed them in great quantities that day.

 

     Over the next years I continued to work with the Sai Organization as their Audio Guru, providing audio systems for Bhajan sings, meetings and recording CDs for Sai singing groups. In 2000, Dr. Girish Dixit, who led a group of devotees singing bhajans asked me if I might accompany their group to India, as they were going to perform for Sai Baba and wanted me to be able to video and record their performance. I agreed to go and as a result I produced the movie "Grindle goes to India" which has been shown to church’s, AARP, women's clubs and Sai groups.

    As the years go by I still meditate on Swami, and I have been blessed in many ways.. Over these years I noticed that I seemed to always be lucky to find parking spaces. Even my wife noticed it. We called it "Car Karma."  Just last year Richard mentioned to me that he had "Car Karma" without me ever mentioning mine. Apparently that was a boon Swami bestowed on us.

 

Frank Greenhalgh

July 15, 2012