As the musical offering ended, a visibly delighted Bhagawan motioned for the Arati song to be sung. I was thrilled at the opportunity to wave the flame, lit with camphor, to the Lord, and I trembled with joy. Even as I offered Arati to Swami, I prayed that my life should be like that of the camphor – pure, white, fragrant, and burning out to glorify God. He seemed to acknowledge my prayers with a smile and raised His hands in blessing. What a perfect end to a perfect evening!
The 7th of August 2010, the day when Sri Sathya Sai Baba blessed the devotees from Northern Europe with the opportunity to sing 15 songs in His presence, was also my last darshan of Him physically. But I know that Swami has always been with me, eternally - even before I knew Him during His earthly sojourn and after His 'Mahasamadhi'!
Human Values in Business
Today, I see Swami's hand in my life, even my motivations, from an early age. When I was a child, I realized that the world was in a bad state, and all I wanted to do was to make it better. I decided to prepare well for life and studied at an American business school.
My first job was with a supermarket chain store in the Netherlands. At that time, I noticed how old and used glass used to be disposed of in landfills, and it piqued my conscience to imagine the harm we were doing to the planet. God (today, I know it is Swami) inspired me with an idea to solve this issue while boosting profits for the company. Back then, recycling glass was not in vogue, and I found that melting existing glass required much less energy than producing it in a furnace from sand and soda. It was a win-win solution: we segregated the glass and made money by selling it to glass companies; the companies also saved a lot of money in raw material costs. Thus, the Netherlands became the first European country to set up glass recycling containers to collect waste glass. The initiative was a huge success and spread across Europe like wildfire. In recognition of my creative enterprise, I was immediately placed in charge of marketing. I served in this position for two years until a big firm acquired the company.
I began to pursue a second sadhana seriously:
to find good in people when I meet them
I never patented this idea, and I am grateful to Swami for inspiring me to do this as a selfless service. I found a new marketing job with the country's biggest provider of school supplies. However, I learned that this company was deceiving customers with sub-standard quality products. I protested, but no one supported me, and my words fell on deaf ears. I left that company and started a foundation with a health food store and a vegetarian restaurant. We also organized classes on healthy lifestyles and vegetarian food for thousands. It was a resounding success. Simultaneously I managed a publishing firm, producing stationery from recycled paper. This initiative, too, turned out to be a great success. In the meantime, despite its large size, the dishonest school supplies company went bankrupt. This reminds us of Swami’s message that commerce without morality is not only useless but positively dangerous.
Lasting Happiness Comes Only From Swami
I was about thirty years old when, one day, I found myself on my knees praying, "Oh Lord, thank you for your great creation and for all the opportunities you have given me! But there is one thing missing in your creation: lasting happiness. So, please take back this creation and give me one with lasting happiness".
Though God had always been a part of my life, I decided to start looking for God. I started reading about great spiritual masters like Paramahamsa Yogananda, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Sri Aurobindo, and Lord Buddha and took some classes. The teacher mentioned the name 'Sai Baba' in my Buddhism class. I asked, "Who is Sai Baba?" The teacher answered, "He is God on Earth." If that was the case, I wondered what we all are doing here and that we should all visit Him.
It was 1979, and I immediately joined the local Sai Baba Center. Within a few months, I was invited to join a group visiting Swami. I told them, "Well, I just got married. I don't have the money to travel, and I don't know how to explain my plans to travel to India to my wife! But if Swami can resolve these challenges, I will be glad to go with you."
Swami indeed arranged for both! My accountant had erroneously filed my tax returns, showing that I owed taxes; in reality, a tax refund was due to me. After two weeks, a large sum of money was credited to my bank account, which was more than enough to pay for the trip to India. My wife also had a vision not to object to my plans. Hence, she agreed with my plans to travel to India!
So it happened that a group of nine couples, a man, and a woman, finally arrived in Whitefield, Bangalore, from the Netherlands to see Swami.
During darshan that year, Swami came near me and asked,
Swami just walked on. But the moment He reached the door of His residence, He stopped, turned around, and came straight to me.
"Go!" He said. That was the first interview with Him. In that first interview, I saw Him materialize rings and chains for many.
The thought that came to my mind was, "Do I also want a ring?"
Spontaneously, the answer came from within, "No!"
"What do I ask for then?"
"I will ask to touch His feet."
That was my first Padanamaskar.
Let me fast-forward to 2003. I was again in the interview room. I didn't know then that it would be my last interview with Swami. My wife was also with me. Upon entering the interview room, Swami took my hand in His and held it like that throughout the interview. I melted and could not think anymore. During the interview session, Swami asked me thrice,
"Do you want a ring?"
I did not answer because I wanted only what Swami had come to give: Self Realization. But when He asked me for the third time, I replied,
"If you want to give me that too, I am happy to receive it."
Swami waved His palm and made a ring with a green stone. He put it on my finger but looked at it with disappointment.
"Wrong color," He said and asked me to take it off and hand it back to Him. Then He blew on it and changed it into a shiny, transparent stone. He asked everybody,
"What stone is this?"
“Diamond, Swami!” everyone answered.
“No,” He said, “This is Die-Mind.”
As He put that ring on my finger, I felt delighted that He gave me what I really wanted.
After the interview, Swami asked the photographer to take a picture of Him with my wife and me. Swami The photographer asked me for our address so he could send the picture. But I was then on the proverbial Cloud Nine and could not quickly recollect my address. It was only on a later trip that one of the devotees from that interview gave me the photograph.
Significance of the Diamond Ring
Back in the Netherlands, I constantly prayed to Swami to help me become a good person. That was when I got a vision of a Divine Hand pointing at someone, with three fingers pointing at me. When Swami gifts you an experience, He alone can grant you the ability to understand it. I understood that whenever I looked at other people, I had to find three good traits in them.
So, I did this exercise intensely. Nothing seemed to happen for one full year; then, it was sheer magic for two weeks! For two weeks, I could not find a single mistake anywhere or in anyone - all was perfect and divine! I woke up in a land that I never saw before. However, I did not arrive there by my effort alone. I took one step, and Swami took one hundred steps toward me to make this possible. After two weeks, this experience stopped as suddenly as it began. I knew I had to continue my exercises.
I began to pursue a second sadhana seriously: to find good in people when I meet them. But when I am alone, it is the Die-Mind sadhana where I just watch my thoughts. I become a witness to my thoughts, and it is amazing to see how the thoughts drop off the moment you begin to witness them. I only want to entertain good thoughts.
I cannot tell you how happy I am to know Swami. Swami says, “You are already saved!” That is how I always feel now.
About the Author:
Mr. Jan Floris is an innovator, marketer, and entrepreneur from the Netherlands who has always practiced human values in his professional life. He joined the Sri Sathya Sai International Organization in 1989 after meeting Sri Sathya Sai Baba and served in various capacities, including as the National Council President of the Netherlands. He is presently a Central Coordinator for SSSIO, Zone 7 (North Europe). He is also the Chair of the SSSIO Christmas Program Committee.
First published in Eternal Companion Vol. 1, Iss. 10