IT WAS 10:50 AM, JULY 29, 1990. THE DOOR OF THE INTERVIEW ROOM IN PRASANTHI NILAYAM OPENED, and Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba beckoned Captain Oberoi, the officer in charge of Sathya Sai Airport, seated in the veranda, and said, “Krishnamurthy has met with a bad accident. It happened near Chikkaballapur as he was coming here.”
The shocked devotee listened to Swami describe everything that happened to his dear friend in detail. Swami said the vehicle had flipped over four times and landed on its side. But Swami made sure everyone was safe despite the deep ditches on either side of the road and oncoming traffic. The vehicle’s roof had been torn apart, but nobody was seriously injured.
Then, Swami spoke about other things before letting Captain Oberoi leave the interview room.
A Postponed Visit
Those were the good old days when Swami would entrust me with many tasks. He would get sarees, white cloth pieces, and many other items purchased from Madras (Chennai) for distribution to devotees. I was given the opportunity to get samples for Him to make the selection. On July 29, 1990, accompanied by my wife and a good friend, I was on my way to Puttaparthi with a suitcase full of items for Swami’s selection.
It is not a coincidence that the word ‘SEVA’ and ‘SAVE’ are anagrams of each other.
The seva (service) we render comes back to us and saves us in times of difficulties.
I was at the wheel of a Maruti Omni van, about 7 kilometers from the town of Chikkaballapur. Suddenly, a buffalo ran across the van’s path out of nowhere, and I instinctively slammed on the brakes. The impact was such that the van flipped over four times before coming to a halt, landing back on its wheels! The rest was precisely as Swami narrated to my friend, Captain Oberoi. I had broken my collarbone, but I was not in pain. The suitcase full of samples for Swami was safe in the van while my suitcase was open, with the contents scattered all over the road. Since the van was no longer drivable, gathering our belongings, I made alternate arrangements to return to Madras via Bangalore (Bengaluru). At Bangalore, our relatives insisted that we get examined by a doctor but I refused because we were doing Swami’s work and were under His care. Unaware of the divine drama of the all-knowing Lord being played in the interview room and not wanting to communicate anything negative, I sent a telegram to Swami informing Him that I could not make it to Puttaparthi and that I would be coming soon.
Three weeks later, we were in Puttaparthi. Captain Oberoi accosted me and, seemingly anxious, asked, “How are you? Hope you have recovered from the accident….” I wondered how he knew, and he soon shared how Swami had revealed everything in detail within a few minutes of the accident! I sat on the mandir’s veranda, awaiting Swami’s darshan. As soon as He came out of the interview room, Swami looked at me compassionately and raised his eyebrows to ask how I was doing. I nodded to indicate I was fine with no pain, despite a broken collarbone. He smiled and moved on to give darshan.
Swami was leaving for the Brindavan Ashram, Whitefield, in Bangalore the following day. He asked me to accompany Him–45 Japanese delegates had arrived, and Swami wanted me to address them. I usually talked about the scriptures, especially the Bhagavatam, quoting Sanskrit verses and texts extensively. Knowing this, Swami told me not to discuss Sanskrit material in my talk, saying, “Speak about your car accident!”
SEVA Will SAVE You
I needed no further prodding. With humility, gratitude, and love pouring out, I shared the experience of the accident which happened a few weeks before and how Swami had saved me. At this point, Swami stopped me, called me close to Him, and said, “I did not come there. I did not save you.”
“What are you saying, Swami? After everything you have revealed, how can I tell them that You did not save me?”
“But that is the Truth!” Swami retorted
“Then who saved me, Swami?”
With an understanding and a compassionate look, Swami revealed,
“Whenever you serve people, especially the poor, they express their gratitude and say ‘Thanks’ to you. But instead of accepting those expressions of gratitude, you tell them just to ‘Thank the Lord,’ saying that Swami did everything. You accumulated merit for all that. As per your prarabdha karma (results of one’s past actions), you should be dead. But I encashed your accumulated merit so that you can live. But I did not do anything; I am a mere custodian.”
It is not a coincidence that the word ‘SEVA’ and ‘SAVE’ are anagrams of each other. The seva (service) we render comes back to us and saves us in times of difficulties. That is the power and blessings of service.
How Should We Do Seva?
Serving others is something that I learned directly from Swami, for He exemplified it throughout His life in matters small and big. My accident was a lesson to me, clarifying why seva must be done. But even years before, Swami had shown me how it should be done. This is an incident from the early 1980s before the Sai Shruti mandir was built in Swami’s Ashram Kodaikanal. Swami was then staying in the guest house of Sri V. Srinivasan’s father-in-law. His typical schedule consisted of darshan and interviews in the morning, which ended by 9:30 AM, after which Swami would go to His room, only to come out around 11:30 AM.
I wonder how many such unknown miracles are happening worldwide by Swami’s boundless grace and compassion!
I am sure they will number in millions that we are not aware.
One day Swami went into His room, and we were all relaxing. I was also lying down on a sofa and resting. Suddenly, at 10:00 AM, Swami came out and said, “Put on your shirt; let us go out.”
Within minutes, Sri V. Srinivasan, an ardent devotee of Swami, and I were sitting with Swami in the car. Radhakrishna, another ardent devotee, was at the wheel while I sat with Swami in the back seat. There was pin-drop silence before I took the courage to ask, “Where should we go, Swami?”
“Just take the road to Bangalore,” was His terse reply.
After we drove for a few kilometers, Swami asked to stop the car. He got down and began to walk fast. I got down quickly and followed behind Him with His slippers. Fortunately, He accepted the slippers, wore them, and kept walking. I continued to follow Him as the other two waited in the car. Swami kept walking down the road and began to descend the hilly incline.
“Be careful, Swami,” I ventured to say.
“You take care. You are not even wearing footwear,” He replied lovingly.
As we descended the slope, I saw broken liquor bottles along the way and asked Swami whether we should go in the other direction. He agreed, and we continued going down but in a different direction. However, I was still worried. There was no proper pathway, and it was a wild, overgrown hillside. I wondered what to do if we encountered any wildlife like a fox, dog, or snake; I was unprepared to fend them off. We descended about 150 feet, reaching the flat ground; Swami asked me to let go of His hand. Putting His hands on His hip, reflecting, He stood there with His eyes closed. I stood there with Him, my eyes wide open, looking in all directions to ensure no animal or insect approached Swami.
Three minutes passed.
“Swami…” I said hesitantly. He stood still with eyes closed.
“Swami…” I said again meekly. Still no response.
“SWAMI…” I was pretty loud this time.
“Emi (what)?” He asked, opening His eyes.
“Shall we go back?”
“Yes. Let us go back now.”
We began the 150 feet return up the slope. When we reached the top, the car was nowhere in sight, and I panicked.
“Ay! The car is on the other side of the road, don’t worry,” Swami said. We reached the car and drove back.
The next day, Kodaikanal witnessed torrential rainfall. Darshan had to be canceled, and we remained indoors. As we sat at Swami’s feet, I once again ventured to ask,
“Swami, why did you do what you did yesterday?”
“Do you see how it is raining today? There is a village on the slope of the hill near where I stood yesterday. Its base is all clay. The pouring rain would have washed it away, endangering the lives of a thousand villagers and hundreds of domestic animals. I reinforced the base, and the village is safe now.”
We all sat in absolute silence at this revelation. Sure enough, after two days, many villagers came to express gratitude to Swami for their good fortune in escaping all the damage from the torrential downpour! They had no idea that Swami had blessed and protected them from destruction by His visit the previous day itself!
And that is how service should be rendered–without publicity, display, or informing the recipient. The left hand should not know about the help rendered by the right hand! In this case, Swami lovingly made us aware of His service to the village people. I wonder how many such unknown miracles are happening worldwide by Swami’s boundless grace and compassion! I am sure they will number in millions that we are not aware.
May we follow Swami’s example and sanctify our lives through loving, selfless service to everyone.
Sri T.G. Krishnamurthy
Sri T.G. Krishnamurthy has served as the President of the Tamil Nadu chamber of commerce, honorary secretary and correspondent of Sri Thyagaraya educational institutions. He has served in the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization India as the District President of Chennai in 1976, member of the State trust in 1978, State trust convener in 1982 and as the State President of Tamil Nadu in 1995. Bhagawan on numerous occasions has blessed him to speak to devotees at Prasanthi Nilayam, Brindavan, Ooty, Kodaikanal and Chennai in His Divine Presence. He is also the author of the book “The Divine Path to the Wisdom of Sai”.
First published in Eternal Companion Vol. 2, Iss. 4