I TRAVELED TO INDIA FOR THE FIRST TIME IN JANUARY 1982 in my capacity as the Vice President of the Suddha Dharma Mandalam (a spiritual organization based on Vedanta, Raja Yoga), invited by the Master of the organization during his visit to Argentina. My plan was to stay with him for a month and learn from him.
I had heard and known about Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba before I left Argentina. Within three days of reaching India, I had a burning and irrepressible desire to see Sai Baba. Fortunately, the Master understood and allowed me to go and see Sai Baba.
I started off by train from Bombay to Madras where I was told Sai Baba would stay for a few days. The train journey in itself could be the subject of a separate article because, in those 36 hours, I experienced numerous miracles that convinced me of Sai Baba’s power of protection, even before I saw Him!
The Heart Always Knows
When I arrived at Sundaram, Sai Baba’s ashram in Madras, there were nearly 50,000 people waiting to see Him. I was escorted to the front lines, and, at that time, I thought it was because I was a foreigner. I know today that everything in our lives is preordained by the Lord!
There was a long wait for Baba. I sat calmly and peacefully, unaware of how my life was about to change forever! A couple of hours might have passed like this. All of a sudden, my heart began to beat fast, and I experienced palpitations. It was not unpleasant. but enjoyable anticipation! I wondered what was happening to me and why it was happening. The reason became evident moments later.
Sai Baba’s car entered the gates of the Ashram!
Swami alighted and began to walk around granting darshan to the assembled thousands. As He passed by me, I said, “Swami, I want to see you…”
Pat came the reply from within, “But you are seeing me now.”
I was stunned because this was my first experience of telepathy in my life!
I continued, “Swami! I want an interview.”
Swami just smiled and moved on.
From that day when I had my first darshan, my heart would always recognize His presence and start beating rapidly whenever Baba came for darshan. This is how I discovered the truth in the saying, “You have to follow the heart because it will always lead to the true goal.”
My heart connected with Him and recognized the Master even before my mind did!
The Great Good Fortune of A Sai Devotee
That was my first experience with Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba in His physical proximity. During that first trip to India, I had a series of wonderful experiences relating to Baba. Practically every day I had the opportunity to come into contact with Him, whether it was by offering a letter which He usually accepted, presenting a photo for Him to bless and sign, or receiving the Vibhuti He materialized for me.
A few days later, a public meeting was held in Abbotsbury, a very large open-air venue in Madras (Chennai). Sai Baba was scheduled to give a discourse, after which the devotees in Madras would present a cultural program. Though the place was packed with thousands of people, I had the good fortune of getting a seat close to the stage, just a few meters from where Baba would sit after His discourse and preside over the event. When Swami finished His discourse, He sat down and waited for the cultural program to begin. Seeing Him so close, I thought this was my opportunity to formally introduce myself.
In retrospect, I realize how naive I was! My assumption was that He did not know me and needed to see my business card as an introduction. So, I simply got up and went over to where He was sitting. Amazingly, nobody stopped me, and when I was near Him, I gave my business card. He took it, looked at it, and then, affectionately slapped my hand, saying,
"You are very lucky!" Sai's remark caused me to reflect deeply, not only at that moment but even now, several decades later. What did He mean?
Today, I understand that I am very lucky to be alive as a contemporary of the Avatar of our age and to be a spiritual aspirant searching for the truth. As Swami says, among eight million four hundred thousand species of life, human birth is the most difficult to attain. It is a sign of Divine Grace and a blessing!
Those of us who have heard of the Avatar, seen Him, experienced Him, or have been chosen to be His devotees are extremely fortunate! Indeed, how lucky we are!
A Resignation and A Promise
Thirty days passed since my arrival at Sundaram, and I felt absolutely convinced of the divinity of Sai Baba. I followed him to Brindavan ashram in Bangalore, and then to Prasanthi Nilayam ashram in Puttaparthi, not wanting to miss even one darshan. That was the turning point, and I submitted my resignation as Vice President of the Raja Yoga organization, Suddha Dharma Mandalam, to fully dedicate myself to serving Bhagawan. The next morning, during darshan, instead of His usual routine of walking first to the women's side, Swami came straight toward me. He must have walked over 100 steps to reach me. He looked deeply into my eyes and said,
"Yes, this afternoon I will call you!" He was going to grant me an interview! The night before I had taken one step toward Him, and He had literally taken a hundred steps toward me!
I was absolutely thrilled at the prospect of having my first interview with God. Not wanting to let go of the opportunity, I wanted to wait in front of the interview room door until the afternoon. But a Sevadal (volunteer) stationed outside the door told me to come back in the afternoon and if Sai Baba decided, He would call me for an interview. I felt sad. I thought, ‘Why does this person not like me? What if Sai Baba forgot what He told me and I was deprived of the promised greatest blessing? And even if Swami remembered, how was He to find me among the thousands of devotees gathered?’ With these discouraging thoughts, I returned to my room to wait till the evening darshan.
Adding to my disappointment, I got a seat in the fourth row in the evening. This was far away, and I would definitely have a lesser chance to talk to Swami, I thought. My sorrow only heightened. I was sure that my golden opportunity had slipped away.
When Swami came out of His room, He stood on the veranda, and from there, without even searching for me in the huge crowd, He simply looked up and stared at me straight in the face! From where He was standing, He called out, "You!” and beckoned me to come in for an interview! I approached Him and asked if the other members of the Argentinian group could come with me. He replied, “Yes.” The best part was that all this happened even before Swami granted his routine darshan!
As we sat near the interview room door, Swami went around giving darshan. Then, He ushered us into the room. Once inside, He spoke to all of us who were sitting there. He came to me and then, in a flurry, began revealing all that I had been thinking about since the morning, including my doubts about whether He was going to remember me or find me in the darshan gathering of people. He described every thought of mine in detail. Then He came closer and whispered in my ear, “Sai Baba will never disappoint His devotee.”
This promise is etched forever in my memory because I believe that it was not just for me but for all devotees and not just for that moment but for eternity! With His Divine promise in our hearts, let us bid goodbye to disappointment and get ready for an appointment with Him to serve Him always!
God is your sole refuge wherever you may be, in a forest, in the sky, in a city or a village, on the top of a mountain or in the middle of deep sea.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba, July 02, 2004
About the Author:
Mr. Leonardo Pablo Gutter, a psychologist by profession, has been serving in the Sri Sathya Sai International Organization (SSSIO) for over four decades. He has had many personal interactions with Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He started the Latin American movement of the SSSIO and previously served as the Chairman of Zone 2, Latin America. Mr. Gutter is a founding member of the Sri Sathya Sai Trust of Argentina.
He is a Member of the Prasanthi Council, Director of the Sri Sathya Sai World Foundation, and Co-Chair of the Intellectual Property Committee. Working with the entertainment industry over the past 43 years, Mr. Gutter represents some of the largest American, European and Japanese TV and cinema studios in Latin America.
First published in Eternal Companion Vol. 1, Iss. 9