A NEW LIFE BEGAN FOR ME IN MAY OF 1973 WHEN I TRAVELED FROM New York City to India to be in the divine presence of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. By His grace, at my first darshan in Brindavan, Baba looked into my eyes; I felt I had known Him forever. The trip that was planned for one month lasted 2 years and 8 months by Baba’s direct guidance in interviews and by my wonderful mother’s patient, loving support. This was a time of true healing and joy for me.

In early May of 1974, Swami traveled from Prasanthi Nilayam to Brindavan for the Summer Course in Indian Culture and Spirituality, which began later that month. A few ladies from overseas countries had been talking together about their hopes and prayers of attending. One day at darshan, Swami paused in front of me, giving me the chance to ask, “Swami, permission for the western ladies to attend Summer Course?” With a slight smile, He replied, “May 20th, not now.”

For days, I pondered the meaning of those words and wondered if I had been too bold in asking Him! Swami’s seeming uncertainty keeps us surrendered and ever with Him in the present moment.

At darshan several days later, Baba walked towards me with Dr. V.K. Gokak and asked, “How many passes?” I replied with the number, and Dr. Gokak gave me the passes for the group. He gave us observer passes, which allowed us to attend Baba’s evening discourses as well as class lectures without the requirement of grading. We saw Baba’s caring attention to every detail and felt overjoyed and so grateful!

The author can be seen seated in Brindavan, looking up to Swami.

The theme of the Summer Course that year was “Brahman and Bharat.” In the first series of discourses on Brahman (Supreme Consciousness), Swami focused on the oneness of the omnipresent divine and the divine within. In the series on Bharat (India), we learned about the universal aspects of the scriptures and sacred traditions of India. Swami spoke on the timeless wisdom of the Vedas. He explained the inner meaning of these teachings in simple ways that we can apply in our daily lives with our varied beliefs and backgrounds. These precious discourses are published as Summer Showers in Brindavan 1974 and available on the SSSIO website.

Our mornings began with devotional singing while walking through surrounding villages (Nagar Sankeertan). The bhajans ended with Arathi being offered to Baba at dawn as He stood on the balcony of His Brindavan residence. The sun rose in our hearts as we sang to our Lord at the start of each day. The daily program of classes ended with Swami’s evening discourses, occasional cultural performances, and final Arathi in the hall.

Unexpected Blessings

After darshan on a breezy sunlit morning in mid-June, I went to Bangalore with a friend to take care of errands in preparation for our upcoming return to Prasanthi Nilayam. When we met for lunch, my friend surprised me with a small cake decorated with the ‘Om’ symbol; it was my 26th birthday. We thought of sharing it with others after Baba’s evening discourse. Like a soft whisper, the thought came to mind that Baba might bless it during afternoon darshan!

As we entered the Brindavan ashram compound, we chose an inconspicuous place near the end of the darshan line. I sat holding the cake and a newly framed photo of Baba on my lap. Baba walked slowly along the entire darshan line, smiling and filling hearts with delight. As He came close, I shyly lifted the cake with one hand and the photo with the other! Baba touched both, sprinkling them with vibhuti He had just materialized. After walking on a few steps, He turned back and asked, “Birthday?” I answered, “Yes, Swami.” He then asked, “Your birthday?” I whispered, “Yes.” Baba turned back and blessed both again, saying, “Good. Eat it!” The day ended with Baba’s divine discourse. Afterward, we gathered in the OM SAI RAM shed around the tree. We shared cake prasad under the Brindavan moonlight.

It is a pure delight to recall the innocence of those times. Even now, decades later, these recollections fill me with gratitude and awe. There may be difficult times in life when we face challenges and feel alone; it is the love of our Lord Sai that sustains us. Our memories help keep that love fresh and alive.

A Rare Discourse

On the day before graduation, Baba gave a discourse titled, “Who Is Sathya Sai Baba?” We felt Swami’s all-encompassing love as He spoke with a sense of urgency as if imploring us to realize the immeasurable grace in our midst. In this discourse, Swami spoke of the themes of His Incarnation, including the unity of faiths and the one religion of love, which He defined in this way:

“It is the common harmonized content of all different religions of the universe. In all these components the same kind of healthy blood must flow. It is true to say that prema, or love, is the blood flowing through all the religions of the world. There is essentially only one religion and that is the religion of love. This love flows as a stream through all the religions, and this is the essence of all the religions.”

Summer Showers in Brindavan, May 1974

Swami closed this special talk with the message:

“Keep the aspect of Sai in your heart. I wished to convey to you some aspects of Sai which many people want to know, although it is not possible for anyone to understand or fathom the depths of Sai. This is the background of My wanting to talk of Myself. I wished to convey to you some things which others cannot convey. From tomorrow, try to put all these into practice and enjoy the divine bliss and become one with divinity. Do not fill your head with mere information and knowledge. Fill your hearts with prema. I am hoping you will thus fill your hearts with the essential content of my discourses and prepare yourselves for meeting the future lives.”

Summer Showers in Brindavan, May 1974

A Sublime Graduation Day

Rain was falling as the procession began from Baba’s residence. An umbrella was held above Baba, yet when He reached the platform, His hair and robe were wet. He sat on a chair beneath a canopy of garlands as we sang bhajans. Soon, He motioned for the presentation of student honors and speeches to begin. He presented every award and stood for photos with the recipients. As a blind student came up to speak, Baba helped him onto the stage and guided his hands to take padnamaskar (touching the divine feet).

We had been well-doused with rain, followed by a cool breeze. From the direction of the Krishna statue, a beam of afternoon sunlight shone through the trees, creating a circle of golden ethereal light around Baba. Radiating from Him, the light seemed magnified and warmed us all. I felt I was in the most sacred place on earth. Surely Gods and angels were watching with adoration the Lord’s exquisite play, His outpouring of grace.

Several honors went to students of Brindavan College. One boy said that the rain was like the tears in their hearts at leaving Baba but that their tears would create a flood. In closing, he said, “If this life is only play, I leave my heart and take my body away.” As Baba sat in His chair, the sunlight dried His robe and caused the raindrops in His hair to glisten like tiny diamonds. Two full rainbows formed above us.

In Baba’s commencement discourse, He spoke about the practice of Dharma and gave strong, loving, motherly guidance to the students returning to their places in the world. He showered blessings and assurances of His constant presence and guidance. Baba closed the talk with the following message:

“Students! You have now reconditioned the car of your body, and having reconditioned the car you must also drive it well. Because you are not good drivers, the cars were frequently out of order. The car is not kept in good condition unless you have a good driver. Having now reconditioned your cars, take Sai as your good driver who will drive your car for the rest of your lives! Then the car of your lives will not be spoilt. You have heard many good things. There is no need for me to keep on repeating these things again and again. I am hoping that you will constantly think of what you have learned here and put it into practice.”

Summer Showers in Brindavan, May 1974

In closing, Baba playfully led us in singing Love Is My Form. He then sang the Asatoma Sat Gamaya prayer and the bhajans: Govinda Krishna Jai and Subramanyam. During the final Arathi, He allowed several enormous garlands to be placed around His neck.

We made our return trip to Prasanthi Nilayam in the following days, cherishing Baba’s gift of this month of learning and light.

Ms. Faith Braverman Hollander  



Ms. Faith Braverman Hollander has been a grateful devotee of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba for five decades. In 1975, at the time of His 50th Birthday and the Second World Conference of the SSSIO, Swami told her to return to New York City and start the center known as the Sri Sathya Sai Center of Manhattan. Faith has served in various center roles, including president and SSE teacher. In 1976, Swami gave her the role of co-chair of the National Bhajan Committee. Throughout the years, Swami answered her prayers for service in many wonderful and surprising ways both in the US and in Prasanthi Nilayam, including giving the blessing of serving as a Prasanthi Nilayam Seva Dal from 1975–1985!


First published in Eternal Companion Vol. 3, Iss. 2