Finding my Eternal Companion
When people ask how I came to Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, I always say it is a long story and I would prefer to tell it when you have time to listen. This is especially true for Sai devotees who have a natural and genuine curiosity to know how one came into Swami’s fold. I first heard of Swami from my sister back in the nineteen eighties. She had a big picture of Swami in her dining room, which I mistook for Jimi Hendrix (an American musician). Funny, I thought, Jimi had moved on, years ago. So, who is this person?
My sister explained the concept of the Avatar (God in human form). Having read Paramahamsa Yogananda’s book, "Autobiography of a Yogi," it was not an unfamiliar concept. I thought, if God wants to incarnate, who can stop Him? Then she said that Sai Baba is God. Somehow, I did not find this impossible – not that I believed it. God can come on earth any time He wants, in any way He wants. So, it did not shock me to hear that Baba is God but at the same time, deep inside, my attitude was to wait and see. I thought that perhaps in days to come, I will have a better understanding.
That is how I came to know about Baba. In my late teens, a friend who had been attending lectures on meditation asked me to join him for spiritual initiation from a guru. It was about 3:00 AM in the morning when we drove out to visit the guru. As an incentive to get up so early in the morning, my friend promised that the guru will also teach me and initiate me in the spiritual path. It was a short drive, and I was soon seated in front of this man, who was his guru.
The man enquired who I was and the purpose of my visit. I learned that initiation is only for those who attended the preparatory lectures. I had no idea this was necessary to receive initiation. However, I was persistent, and appealed, “But my friend promised that you would initiate me.” For reasons unknown to me, the guru finally agreed to teach me about the spiritual path. He advised me to sit in padmasana, the lotus position, and close my eyes. Then he instructed me to think that I am in the presence of God and repeat the word “Baba.” He also taught me how to meditate.
I had never experienced the presence of God before, even though I was born in a devout Catholic family and spent many years studying in a Jesuit school in Asia. At that point in my young life, I could not conjure an image of God. Instead, while meditating, I saw the image of a tall iron gate – it was a large main entrance with iron grills that opened to a path leading to an even larger complex. I could not see Him in my mind, but I knew God was in there, somewhere.
I held on to this thought for a while. Not satisfied, as I have an active and creative imagination, I tried to picture God again. This time, I saw myself floating over a city. I could see rooftops and it looked like I was in a foreign country. I thought I was in Jerusalem, looking down on rooftops in the land of Jesus. I concluded that I was in the abode of God, mentally. For many years after that, I continued to meditate and try to visualize this image in my mind.
Nearly 30 years later, I was in India, in Prasanthi Nilayam. It did not dawn on me right away, but I soon realized that the iron gate I saw in meditation was the Ganesha Gate of Prasanthi Nilayam. I also found that to get darshan of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, one needs to go past the Ganesha Gate and enter the mandir. Savoring my realization, I went up the hill to see the kalpavriksha (wish-fulfilling) tree, and on climbing up further, I could see all of Puttaparthi. It was a pleasant surprise to realize that I saw those very rooftops during my meditation. I also recalled the guru’s instructions: Repeat the word “Baba,” while meditating. Today, I realize that I had been given a mantra, but back then in the ignorance of my youth, it was just a word which did not mean anything to me.
However, I hung on to that precious word, Baba, over the years, and even today it is my constant companion – The true Eternal Companion! As Swami says, the name of God is all you need to cross this ocean of samsara (worldly life) and reach the shores of Vaikuntha (eternal abode of God).
Jai Sai Ram
Mr. Al Macasaet
First published in Eternal Companion Vol. 1, Iss. 2