IT’S NOTHING SHORT OF A MIRACLE HOW SRI SATHYA SAI BABA has reached people from all walks of life in the farthest corners of our planet. Growing up in a suburb of Amsterdam in the Netherlands and moving to Santa Barbara, California, for studies, I became one of those people “in the farthest corners of our planet” to be captivated by His miracles, His teachings, and His unconditional Love.

Two Significant Dreams

The mother of my very close friend and college roommate, Greg Slee, first introduced us to Sri Sathya Sai Baba and His teachings. Newly arrived in sunny Santa Barbara, spiritual matters were not on my mind at all and I was very skeptical about the existence of God in human form living in faraway India. However, Swami quickly transformed me by appearing in my dreams with profound experiences, messages, and guidance. These dreams led me to explore and put His teachings into practice. The first sign of His presence was the distinct fragrance of jasmine flowers that sometimes emerged when thinking about doing service.

In my first dream with Baba, which felt more real than reality itself, He appeared before me, holding His hand, palm up, right before my eyes. All of a sudden, the most stunning red, blue, green, and diamond-like crystal clear stones appeared out of nowhere in the palm of His open hand. As these stones materialized in my dream, I could hear the most beautiful celestial chimes. The brightness and colors of those stones and the sound of those chimes were out of this world and beyond anything I had ever seen or heard before! Indescribable! I fell to the ground, full length, face down, prostrating before Him, exclaiming fervently: “YOU ARE GOD, YOU ARE GOD, YOU ARE GOD!”

Through these profound experiences, I grew increasingly interested in Him and His teachings. I started doing volunteer work and eventually visited the Sri Sathya Sai Baba Center of Santa Barbara. After my initial visit to the Sai Center, I felt conflicted as worshipping God in this way felt foreign to me. The following day, as I came to a stop at a traffic light while driving, I ended up reflecting on the night before at the Sai Center, thinking to myself that “maybe this stuff with Sai Baba and God is not for me…” That very instant, I noticed the car’s license plate in front of me. It read: “GOD IS 4 U,” a direct response to my thoughts.

The picture below depicts the exact setting of a subsequent ‘Baba dream.’ A large crowd surrounded us.

In the dream, when Swami looked at me, I mentally asked Him what it’s like to be in heaven. He stretched out His hand, and when I reached out and held His hand, what I experienced was truly indescribable. Labeling it as an “experience” doesn’t do it justice. It was beyond what we refer to as “experience.” Although I knew it happened, and I felt the experience, it was erased instantly from my awareness upon waking up, making it that much more difficult to describe. Eventually, I realized that if this “experience” had not been erased from my awareness, it might have been challenging for me to have any interest in worldly life, so the removal of this experience from my awareness was for my own protection. I realized that this “experience” could only have come from God.

“Man has to be Unmade and Remade”

As I continued to grow closer to Swami, different aspects of my life started to unwind! Among other things, suddenly, orders for the business I had started years earlier began drying up. Big orders that had seemed secure somehow ended up falling through. Things became dire. I had to sell my car and ended up riding a bicycle given to me by a friend who felt sorry for me. I’d ride this bike to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission to teach English and Math to homeless kids. I sometimes had fleeting thoughts like, “What on earth am I doing here? I should be working on my business…” But somehow, I sensed that Swami had my back. I could sense the importance of sticking to His teachings and doing seva as much as possible. He instilled confidence in me that no matter what, all would turn out OK. And eventually, it did.

But first, I still had some more unmaking to go through. In 1995, a massive rainstorm flooded whole sections of Santa Barbara, and most of the contents in my office ended up submerged under water. I remember wading through waist-deep water on my way to my office, attempting to salvage whatever I could. I said to Swami, “OK, Lord, I am all Yours. Thy Will be done. Do with me as You please.” It was a surrender that left me feeling free and relieved, and I was happy to surrender to Him! It was at that point that things turned around. Not long after that rainstorm, I ended up moving to Los Angeles for a work opportunity. This brought me close to the Sri Sathya Sai Center of Hollywood, which became the Sai Center where I took a more active role as part of the SSSIO.

With Swami during 75th Birthday Celebrations. Author is wearing eyeglasses.

First Darshan and Many More

I first visited Prasanthi Nilayam in 1997 for His darshan and to participate in the first-ever Young Adult World Conference. This was followed by numerous trips with the Sai Center of Hollywood. It would be impossible to share everything that transpired during those wonderful trips, but let me share just a couple of relevant and significant experiences.

In 2000, members of the Sai Center of Hollywood were blessed to receive several interviews with Swami. One day, Swami informed us that He would see us the following day, so I had the chance to prepare a list of questions. At the start of our first interview the following morning, Swami pointed at me seated in the back, and without me having said a word, He answered the very first question on my list in such a way that no one else in the interview room understood the nature of my somewhat personal question! During the interview, Swami materialized several items for different people, including a relatively large cup filled with vibuthi. Then He gestured to me to come forward and sit at His feet. He started waving His hand, and a beautiful Navaratna (nine gems) ring decked with nine beautifully colored stones popped from His hand. It included the same stunning stones I had seen Him materialize in my first Baba dream. Before placing the ring on my finger, He said, “Perfect fit!” And it turned out to be precisely that. Only God can know the size of my ring finger like that! Then, He explained that the ring is “protection from the negative influences of the nine planets!” It felt like having come full circle since that first Baba dream I had more than ten years ago.

At another point during the interview, Swami stood up, looked at me, and asked, “Do you want marriage?” I replied, “Whatever is Your will, Swami.” Then, after a brief pause, He again asked, more sternly this time and pointing His finger at me: “No, but do YOU want marriage?!” To which I blurted out something along the lines of “I think that would be a good thing at some point, Swami….” Approximately one year later, my future wife, Tarini, started attending the Sai Center of Hollywood. She had a dream in which Swami showered us with Vibhuti, which was her experience of Him blessing our marriage. Shortly thereafter, in 2002, I went to India, and He took my letter asking Him to bless our marriage. Later, in 2002, we got married in the Shiva temple where Swami was born, and we have two kids.

“I have come for all. Those who stray away will come again to Me; do not doubt this. I shall beckon them back to Me... If you cut this contact and get away, a time will come when you will weep outside the gates clamoring for entry.”

At the end of a subsequent interview during that same trip in 2000, I said to Him, “Swami, I have so many questions…” He looked at me and sweetly replied: “ASK!” Of all the questions I had, I began describing the dream about Heaven (described earlier) to confirm the authenticity of my experience in that dream. As I was struggling to describe the dream, He interrupted me and asked, “Where’s heaven?” When I was not able to answer, He said, “Heaven is in the heart.” He proceeded to add, “Hell is in the head.” Even though He did not directly address the dream itself, I realized there was no need for Him to affirm the dream as I knew in my heart of hearts the significance, meaning, and value of that dream. I found His answer to be so profound and meaningful that nothing more needed to be said.

The Greatest Blessing of Working for Swami

When I first started discovering Swami, I remember reading the following quote from Him: “…I have come for all. Those who stray away will come again to Me; do not doubt this. I shall beckon them back to Me. ...If you cut this contact and get away, a time will come when you will weep outside the gates clamoring for entry.” Years later, during a busy festival day in Prasanthi, I found myself outside the mandir, seeing Swami seated before the massive crowds inside the mandir. All the entryways had been closed, and no one else could get inside. Large crowds had gathered outside the walls surrounding the mandir, and I was among them.

I remember thinking, “Oh my goodness, Swami! I’m standing outside the gates, clamoring for entry!” I felt so disillusioned, and I felt crushed. Then, out of the blue, someone tapped me on my left shoulder. I looked to my left and noticed that the person who had tapped me on my shoulder was a sevadal, someone I had never seen before. He motioned for me to follow him, which I did. Through the large crowds, he guided me to the side entry, where the VIPs enter the mandir. He walked me right through that entry and motioned me to sit wherever I wanted inside the mandir. Then he walked off and disappeared into the crowds outside. This surreal loving gesture by our all-knowing Lord left me standing there, stunned, amazed, and overwhelmed with gratitude. After the license plate experience described earlier, this was the second time a mere thought led to an instant response from Him.

Baba has said that it takes tremendous effort, penance, and grace over countless lifetimes to be born during the advent of the Poorna Avatar. It takes even more effort, penance, and grace over many more lifetimes to hear His name mentioned just once. Imagine the grace bestowed upon us, being immersed in His teachings and being part of His mission daily! Swami has said that this triple Incarnation of Shirdi Sai, Sathya Sai, and Prema Sai has never happened before and will never happen again. We, indeed, are the most fortunate, blessed souls ever to have incarnated. Thank You, my dearest Swami, for all Thy grace!!!

Mr. Maarten Wagener  



Mr. Maarten Wagener was first introduced to the teachings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba in the late eighties. Swami’s presence, teachings, and unconditional love have been the guiding light in his personal, professional and spiritual journey and the foundation of Maarten’s life ever since. Maarten has made numerous trips to Prasanthi Nilayam. In the USA, he became involved with the Young Adults program and with the Sathya Sai Baba Center of Hollywood where he served as President (1999-2003) and in other leadership roles. Currently Maarten serves as the YA advisor for the SSSIO–USA, Region 8 Young Adults. Maarten Wagener is a real estate investor by profession.


First published in Eternal Companion Vol. 3, Iss. 4