Monday, April 15, 2013

Everybody is Psychic

In the winter of 1973 at the Toronto Society for Psychical Research I was challenged over the coffee cups by an elegant lady: “Oh, so you think you are psychic, do you?” Somewhat taken aback by her vehemence, I replied, “Yes. I believe everyone  is.” Paul and I often felt that no one understood us better than the spiritual guides who spoke through my hesitant pen when we sat down to consult them with a blank piece of paper between us.

Relief from our searching came in April, 1974, when we read a gem of a book by one Howard Murphet about a Man of Miracles in India. Murphet, a respected journalist from Australia and a student of world faiths and holy figures, had met Sathya Sai Baba in person, and documented the essence of his teachings of love, and many of the healings and transformations attributed to him. For the time being, we lost interest in our quest to “find a good psychic”. Sai Baba stood head and shoulders above the finest psychics encountered in life and in our reading. Paul wanted to go right away to India. I did not. Travel to that exotic destination would have to wait until we “got settled”.

February 1977 found me in London, England, in what had appeared as a dream job and was fast becoming a nightmare on the material plane. Spiritual and psychic spheres came together like a dream. The following autumn our wildest dream of all would come true. Meanwhile, London bookstores abounded in books about Sai Baba, and I met people who had studied at his feet in India. At the British Society for Psychical Research I felt completely at home, sitting in the office of its kindly president, the late Paul Beard. After patiently listening to my doubts about my psychic abilities, he asked me if I had a spiritual master. To my surprise, I said, “Yes, Sai Baba.” Although Mr. Beard had not yet heard of this Baba, he asked me about the connection between us, and I replied that whenever I got worried or upset, I could mentally see his eyes, and calm down. “Keep up your telepathic contact with your guru,” advised Mr. Beard, “And remember: Neither less nor more.”

Rejoining husband and child in France, I spent an idyllic spring in the back country of Provence, while our daughter Mary returned to her one-roomed school and blended into grade six as if she had not been in Canada or the French Riviera for half a year or more. By August, however, we were enmeshed in the thick of a family crisis with no solution in sight - until our wildest dream took shape. Paul sent me to India while he held the fort on the home front. I arrived at the ashram called Prasanthi Nilayam (Abode of Supreme Peace) to consult the Man of Miracles on our family situation, just as a ten-day harvest festival was beginning. I remained through the holiest of Christmases imaginable, and many other auspicious occasions, for four glorious months. On the last afternoon of my stay, Swami called me in for a personal interview to bless me with “a beautiful job”. The beauty of it continues to unfold.

I returned to India five more times up to 1994, with or without husband and daughter. Subtly Baba helped me to develop my abilities to see, hear, feel and know beyond my physical senses. These abilities used to scare me, but they no longer do. Paul and I are the psychics we were looking for. Sai Baba is installed inside our heart of hearts as a loving teacher. I now belong to intersecting communities, world-wide, including followers of Sai Baba, students of the angelic realms under Doreen Virtue, Ph.D., writers, musicians, artists and people who still appreciate the beauties of the natural world. Fairies? Bring them on!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Demonstration by the Crow Family

After flying thousands of kilometers to Prasanthi Nilayam, you try to learn something from everything you see there, especially in the courtyard of the temple. One morning during bhajan a crow continued to crouch on the concrete in front of us, long after the rest of his flock had come and gone. He sat and sat, while we sang and sang. You could tell he wanted to take off, but could not pick up the necessary wing power.

After sometime he gave a loud "Caw" which set the other crows in motion. They deserted their posts on temple roof, palms and neem tree, and came whirling down and away again, as if to scoop up their mate. It looked very much as if he had been given the classic crow summons, "Come, fly!"

When he did not take to the air himself, some of the flock swooped down again and circled in a puzzled way. Then, one by one, they returned to their perches high above the courtyard, where they hopped uneasily to and fro, apparently unsure what was expected of them. Meanwhile, as if glued to the concrete, the old crow roosted helplessly, his beak opening and closing without a sound.

Many suspenseful moments later, he called again, very feebly. This time, only one crow responded, and to some purpose. He took up a challenging stance facing the groundling and set about dealing with the problem. His method was drastic and, eventually, effective.

Gentleness would not have worked. The newcomer began a mock attack, peeking at the old one, who tried to defend himself. It looked like a cruel kind of rescue, but no one watching could doubt that a rescue it was.

The "rescuer" had to intensify his offensive before the grounded crow was driven to take wing. Hurling himself desperately aloft, he dived under the nearest sunshade canopy, passing over the heads of the ladies as he tried to clear the outside wall, and failed. Instead, he blundered heavily into the top of the wall and flopped back into someone's lap. After a short but furious flurry of feather and saris, he found himself back in the courtyard, where his rescuer was still waiting and watching.

Once again the mock attack was renewed, with such vigour that the old crow rose into the air almost immediately, and soared elegantly under the roof and over the wall.

Mission accomplished, the rescuer flew away in turn, leaving us humans to interpret at our leisure what had happened. This example of crow seva—in which some of us had briefly taken an active part—showed one of those predicaments where waiting passively for a "miracle" is not enough. So you cry for help. Having done so, you may have to wait until the right kind of helper appears, one who understands what you need, perhaps better than you do yourself. A true helper will stay and persist until a solution is found; both of you have a part to play in it.

One of the teachings that first attracted me to Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba was that the good is not always the pleasant. We know life is happiest when we are full of bliss, but also that sometimes life has to peck at us with apparent cruelty before we are impelled to summon up strength that we did not know we had in us. Then we soar over what seemed like insurmountable obstacles. Out of helplessness comes new power, and out of pain new freedom.

This story appeared in Sanathana Sarathi's May 1990 Issue, and has been reprinted by Radio Sai.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Four chapters from Birch and Pine Whisper His Name  - A Tribute to Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Chapter 49


“Go back to your family now” Sai Baba told me during my private interview of 18 January 1978. Then He continued, “But all three of you return within the year.” Paul, Mary and I came to India on 21 December 1978  for Christmas and New Year’s.

We were very much hoping to  tie up a few loose ends while drinking in the holy atmosphere unique to Baba’s ashram at that season. True, I had the job that Baba had promised me, and it was a good job with friendly colleagues. I couldn’t ask for better for myself, but a job for me was not a job for my husband. At the time I didn't realize that after the age of 57, employers are reluctant to hire, and often to keep anyone on  their payroll. It's a matter of pension contributions. Paul was already 61.

The vexed question of Mary’s schooling was also looming over us. At ten years of age, she was in her last year at the little country schoolhouse at Buis-les-Genets. Where next?  She had enjoyed years of country life, but that avenue was now closed. Mary was at Buis-les-Genets on borrowed time.

Uppermost in my mind was accommodation. Baba teaches that in-laws are an excellent school for patience and self-control. My in-laws, who had to live with me, did not have the comfort of Baba’s teachings.

Quite apart from worries about our spending Christmas holidays with one whom they strongly suspected of being a guru, my in-laws were understandably alarmed at the timing of our trip. Not only were we deserting them at the festal table, we were also steering straight for a country in the grip of serious troubles.

No sooner than our tickets were booked, the headlines in the local newspapers began to shout about India, of all places. The current Indian government chose that moment to throw Indira Gandhi, then opposition leader, into prison.

Riots broke out, particularly in the south, where Mrs. Gandhi was very popular. I had serious qualms about defying in-laws and inciting my family to spend Christmas in the midst of potential danger. Paul saw this as a test of our faith in Baba. We went ahead, praying to remember He was protecting us.

We found Bangalore uneasily quiet. Taxi drivers were still reluctant to drive foreigners around, for fear of stones crashing through cab windows. Nothing so dramatic happened to us, despite one or two minor hitches, quickly put behind us. We arrived at Prasanthi Nilayam on 22 December 1978 in time for afternoon darshan.

On entering the temple courtyard I found, to my amusement, that my status with the volunteers was greatly enhanced by having a lovely daughter with me. I couldn’t help basking in the light of smiles welcoming me back. Many of my former “classmates” were also at that first darshan, giving me a feeling of continuity that helped to bridge over the time waiting for Baba to come out.

Every trip to Baba teaches something different. On the previous visit, I was a woman traveling alone, but always finding good companions. I quickly found out how to respect certain Indian traditions, wearing my sari correctly and modestly, so as to be respected in my turn. I felt safer in Bangalore than in Geneva or Toronto.

On this second trip to India I was learning the difference it makes to be with husband and child. Coolies and taxi drivers were downright deferential to my distinguished-looking husband. Hotel clerks as well. Paul has an unconscious air of quiet command, and rapidly discovers who is capable of loyalty, and is thus in line to become a sort of family retainer.
All this in spite of the fact that he is able to understand scarcely a word of Indian English. I acted as interpreter whenever possible, although we could not always be together. After several recent months in south India I was used to the lilt of Indian English, and in unguarded moments could hear myself singing along in similar intonations.

Life at the ashram was not as Paul expected. He had difficulty distinguishing between the words bhajan and darshan - their pronunciation and their meaning. I, on the other hand, could not fathom why this man, whom coolies and taxi drivers treated like a lord should feel intimidated by the sight of his wife in a sari.

When I whipped on this length of cloth and rapidly adjusted its folds, this stranger of a husband eyed me oddly, saying in a deprecating voice that I looked impressive.  He watched wide-eyed, as I strung up clothesline to hang our clothes and food, out of the reach of nocturnal pests. I had insisted on buying the sturdy Swiss clothesline, over his objections of economy and overloading luggage. “How you lived here all that time I don’t know, Helen,” he burst out one day. “You really have guts.”

I didn’t know what he was talking about. If he was referring to the simplicity of the apartment assigned to us, I thought crossly, he wasn’t making sense. Compared to his own camping arrangements as a youth in the Swiss mountains, our present ones were luxurious.

Perhaps, I thought in exasperation, my husband did not enjoy camping on a hot, sandy plain, instead of in the cool, misty mountains. That didn’t make sense either, for he had always soaked up the heat in Buis-les-Genets, while I nearly went mad after two minutes under the sun of Provence. He was lapping up the spicy food that I could not tolerate.

My attempts to see with his eyes were skewed by my own frustration, as guilty feelings grabbed at me. Instead of sharing with him the delights of the Courts of the Lord, here I was putting him through some sort of painful initiation. I couldn’t get through to him.

The more I tried to help him through the hoops, the less he recognized my efforts. In fact, he rebuffed them, then claimed I was not telling him what he needed to know. He, on the other hand, was not telling me what was really bothering him.

Our own family power struggles in the Abode of Perfect Peace reflected the difficulties that my husband was having on the men’s side of the temple courtyard, and elsewhere, surrounded by aggressive younger men who knew the ropes. After one visit to the men’s canteen, Paul put me in charge of our food foraging.

This was a reversal of roles, for normally Paul did our food shopping, claiming that I wasted money. If he could not make money, he could save it, and he took this job seriously. He was also our chief cook, in his mother’s noble French tradition. Intimidated by his superior approach in the kitchen at home, I had surrendered my apron to him. But that was not the way it worked out for us in India.

I enjoyed bringing our meals to our apartment in a tiffin-carrier from the women’s canteen, where there was no pushing and shoving. Had we stayed longer than three weeks I might have bought a little stove to cook on.

Meanwhile Mary was plunged into a polyglot community where English, in various accents was the lingua franca. French, her touchstone, was rare to hear, except in our family group. Soon her long-forgotten English opened one sleepy eye, yawned, stretched and pricked up its ears.

Chapter 50


“I’ve got to have a cup of coffee,” Paul said in desperation soon after we arrived at Prasanthi Nilayam. “That’s the only thing that will cure this headache.”

The canteen was closed. By the time I could get to Raju’s restaurant outside and bring back a cup of coffee, it would be cold. I knew that headache must be a raging torment to Paul, who tries to keep pain to himself. The fact that he had spoken of it meant it must be pretty severe.

Time for Baba to intervene, I felt, as I left the apartment, not knowing how, but determined to find a cup of hot coffee, and that quickly.  Looking up at the brilliant sky, I prayed to the Mother of the Universe to provide what we needed, when we needed it, however She willed us to have it.

Then I thought of Catherine, a permanent resident. Perhaps she could help with practical advice. On the way to her apartment a family out on their verandah hailed me, and I stopped a moment to exchange a smile or two. I knew them as the recipients of two bananas from Swami the previous Christmas, during a group interview when one of the children had begun to whimper.

Finding that I was on my way to see someone who might be able to help me find a cup of coffee to cure my husband’s headache, VĂ©ronique said “Wait!” and disappeared into their apartment. She returned moments later with a jar of instant coffee ganules, a little container of sugar and a heatproof glass complete with immersable heater.

My prayer was more than answered as soon as I sent it out, and made a move toward helping myself. When I tried to return all this largesse on the following day, she insisted I keep and use it until our departure.

Years later Swami would remind us of that caffeine withdrawal headache and my prayer to Annapurna, writing in "Sanatha Sarathi" that some people come to the Wish-fulfilling Tree, and all that they ask for is a cup of coffee.

As the roles in our small group were reversed from their usual pattern in Canada and Europe, strong forces were working in a new kind of turmoil. I longed for my husband and daughter to have the experience of seeing Baba’s love in action in the interview room, where we are like a family having a reunion with our divine Mother, Father, Friend. A close Sai encounter would, I knew, sweeten our own lives together and strengthen us for any further tests.

There are times for learning different lessons.  On this visit to Baba’s ashram, I needed to learn to stop living the lives of other family members, and let them live their own, while I focused on what I had to do. It took a while for the teaching to penetrate my understanding.
During the first week of our stay, I seemed to be standing by helplessly while my marriage fell apart. It lay around in pieces throughout the second week until I eventually realized that I might as well get on with my own spiritual business and leave Paul and Mary to deal with their own.

The master of the unexpected, had called us to His workshop. We had arrived too late for me to help organize and prepare the Christmas programme. And so I relaxed and enjoyed being in the audience for once instead of directing singers. During the brief lull between Christmas and New Year’s day I had time for a word with Barbara, the choir leader, about the challenge that Baba had thrown her way - conducting a choir for the first time in her life. Not once in all the rehearsals that I attended, or from my place in the audience did I suspect that Barbara had been thrown in at the deep end.

Mary, on the other hand, was recruited for the choir. We both also found time between rehearsals to attend bhajan classes by two delightful graduates of the college at Anantapur.
Our daughter had arrived in India a little like the wild girl  - “la Sauvageonne de Buis-les-Genets”, that she called herself. I wasn’t much help, with my nagging. “Sit up straight,” I would hiss at darshan, “And stop picking your nose. Baba’s coming!”

One day Mary and I found ourselves sitting further toward the front than many of the ladies at bhajan around the temple. Baba suddenly came out and walked purposefully toward the west exit of the courtyard in the direction of the rear of the Poornachandra Hall. As He walked, He looked us over very thoroughly, mirroring Mary’s cool gaze at every darshan. We knew He knew we were there, all right.

Just as each trip to Prasanthi Nilayam is different from the others, so is each person’s experience at their first darshan. My first reaction to seeing Sathya Sai Baba in person in September, 1977, had been a seemingly banal and nonchalant,  “Oh, there He is.”

Actually I was recognizing a form and presence dearly familar to me. Anything but banal. The inner vision was being confirmed by the outer eye, giving me the comfort of coming home at last.

On the men’s side for his first darshan, Paul was feeling like a new boy at school. Hesitating outside the wall of the courtyard, under a tree, he wasn’t sure where to go, what to do in this strange setting.

Then Baba emerged from the temple. Paul watched shyly, almost as if he were hoping not to be noticed. Immediately Baba’s laser look picked him out, as he tried to melt into the trunk of a neem tree. Like a bolt of lightning it penetrated his whole being “Come inside that wall!” it commanded.

At this pivotal moment my husband knew that Baba knew everything about him. “That laser look went right through me, and I knew there was no escape.”

The next day Paul entered the courtyard and sat down at the back of the crowd, inside the wall. Again, Baba gave him a look that clearly said, “Stop shrinking into the background. Next time, come forward as far as you can.”

Obedience to Baba’s glance placed Paul in the front row several days in succession. One day Baba stood right in front of Paul and spoke in an Indian language to the two men on either side of him. Paul sat transfixed at Baba’s feet, his mind in a whirl, like the incomprehensible conversation eddying above his head. He didn’t dare to touch those feet. Instead, he held his hands just above them, as if warming them at a fireside.

Chapter 51

You have been listening to Me for many years.
You take down notes and listen to tape records.
Has there been the slightest change in you?

At about two p.m. on Christmas Eve, we learned that Mary had to be robed in white and garlanded with deep yellow flowers, as an angel in the choir for the Christmas play. Much scurrying around to tailors. She made a rather bored and bewildered angel, chestnut locks gleaming under a halo of marigolds. Was she regretting the Nativity play in Buis, where she would have had the leading role of the Holy Mary?

While waiting for permission to enter the temple for the play, I peeked through the doorway and saw a group of “angels” around Baba, who was lighting a lamp or candle. A delightful picture. I suddenly held my breath. Standing right next to the Lord was Mary, more fascinated by the flame that He was lighting than by Him.

The angelic sounds of harp strings opened our Christmas Eve programme; at last I was hearing Alice Coltrane playing - and playing - and playing. I could have listened all night, but a play was at last ready to be performed. Baba signaled to Alice to wind up her selection, and the play began.

Tenderly I watched Baba in His chair, my child in the choir, and my husband in clear view on the men’s side. I was dewy-eyed with bliss.

By four o’clock on the following afternoon, 25 December 1978, the temple at Prasanthi Nilayam was already overflowing  with pilgrims from far and near , come to celebrate Christmas with the One who, many believe, sent our Lord Jesus Christ to humankind. We were privileged to hear notable speakers from Australia, Europe and America, including Alvin Drucker, John Hislop and Howard Murphet, author of Sai Baba, Man of Miracles.

The Lord Sathya Sai Baba’s discourse gave the words of those before Him a brighter patina of meaning, so that they sparkled like crystals on a river bed. His message of love was aimed at our very souls; whether it reached its mark depended largely on each one of us.

While most of the privileged audience contented ourselves with listening, others were also recording. On video film, tape or paper we diligently stored away treasures of wisdom to be tapped in years to come. As for me, my tape had run out sooner than expected. I had grabbed a notebook and pen, without missing a beat. Squished in between an American lady and a girl from Singapore, I tried to make myself as small as I could without cramping too many muscles, and scribbled on.

Baba was telling us that in the days of Jesus many poor people made a living of catching small birds to sell to other poor people as offerings in the temples. The wealthy bought larger animals and birds as sacrifices, but the poor could afford only sparrows and wrens. Middlemen profited from this traffic, setting up tables in and by the temple.

Jesus upset the system by giving the bird-sellers money so that they would not need to trap birds for a living. To the buyers He preached sermons of compassion, saying you must sacrifice animal feelings, not defenceless creatures.

As Baba told the story, I could easily imagine Jesus striding into a temple and overturning money-changers’ tables, then opening the doors of cages to release bird after bird. I could see the air full of wheeling wings.

The melodious voice of Baba rose to cover the twittering of our own temple birds. Gradually I became aware that above the temple doorways the air was full of wings and the ledges were alive with chatter.

After every sundown colonies of sparrows, swallows, wrens return to their nests on the ledges high overhead to roost for the night. On this particular evening they didn’t seem to be able to settle down as usual.

So agitated were the birds that I wondered if they were also tuning in to Baba’s vivid word picture of the fate of small birds in temples at the time of Jesus. This would not be surprising in view of Baba’s closeness to all creatures. I could almost hear the older winged ones telling the younger: “Wasn’t it terrible? Our ancestors were used for sacrifices in temples. Aren’t we lucky to be here and safe?”

My pen lay forgotten in my lap as I became less and less the dutiful student determined to pass an unspecified exam. Like a child hearing a bedtime story, I let my spirit rove back two thousand years.

As my senses extended beyond the physical, and shifted back in time I began to pick up subtle impressions. The figure of Swami receded into the background, as if He were behind a gossamer-thin curtain. Spellbound, I watched  while a scene from the time of Jesus unfolded before my inner vision:

A rocky incline sloped upward under a cloudy sky. From the summit of a high hill Jesus was addressing us. “Us?” Somehow I identified myself with an individual in this crowd that covered the hillside.

When I looked down into the lap of the person that I seemed to be, I saw filthy rags, tied every which way around an unwashed body. Listening with me were many other people of my kind.

The word “listening” is inadequate, though. We were drinking in the words of Jesus as if they were the purest water we had ever tasted, from a fountain that we had been looking for all our lives. For once, our stomachs did not trouble us; we must have been fed earthly food already that day. Now we were drinking in divine Truth.

  Where I was huddled, we were the lowest of the low, not able to buy even the beak of a bird in the temple, and so all the more “beyond redemption”. Beneath our unwashed apearance beat many a pure heart, thirsty for the divine, and grateful that such a great Teacher would speak to the likes of us. As no one ever had before, He understood our innermost longings. Now, thanks to Him, ancient knowledge was restored to us and new insights revealed.

“And so you think you once lived at the same time as Jesus and heard Him speak in person! ...” cut in a skeptical inner voice - my twentieth-century mind interfering. I ignored it before it could spoil the clear, translucent scene before my visionary eye. Never mind the pros and cons of reincarnation. In a willing suspension of disbelief I was being treated to a glimpse of how it might have been when Jesus walked the earth and people could listen without literacy or tape recorders to get in their way.

For a few moments I was able to alternate between two time frames. Holding onto the picture from the past, I took a comparing look around the Prasanthi Nilayam temple on Christmas Eve, 1978: Here before me was a Holy Being, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, telling the same eternal Truth as Jesus to people crowded together. Unlike the ragged, dust-crusted listeners on the stony hill, we were well-washed, swathed in lovely saris, like a flower garden of colours. We were sheltered in a jewel of a temple. The birds nesting above the altars were free to fly in and out as the spirit moved.

I shifted my focus for one long, last look at the rocky hillside under cloudy skies, and the quiet listeners. Real listeners. Hungry for love, like us in 1978, but also thirsty for Truth in a way that I in the latter days of the twentieth century seemed to have forgotten. I thought of a verse from a hymn by the Quaker, John Greenleaf Whittier:

In simple trust like theirs who heard
beside the Syrian sea
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word,
rise up and follow Thee.

The vision of Jesus on the Mount faded into the background. I looked down at my lap again, and saw a crisp white sari with a gold border, a notebook and pen. All around me were ladies in elegant saris, hair and teeth shining, freshly bathed, no doubt. Not an illiterate in the lot. Most of us were equipped with passport, return air ticket. Many had come complete with tape recorder, notebook, pen and university degree. Although grateful for all my advantages and material comforts, I questioned how to keep them from being a barrier between me and our own Embodiment of Love. I wished I had the gift of listening to the Avatar of our time with whole heart and soul.

As my spirit returned from a vision of the past to my own time and place, I realized that Swami was answering a question that had been troubling me. I had been wondering about the true meaning of Holy Communion, the taking of bread and wine to represent flesh and blood. Was this a carry-over from pre-Christian practises, even human sacrifice or cannibalism?

“We are all one,” Swami was explaining. He said the original name of Jesus was Issa, meaning the Lord of all living beings. Turn “Issa” around, and you have “Sa-ee”. “Issa - Sa-ee. Sai and I are one.” Then our teacher - master - rabbi - guru - swami - for all these expressions mean the same - went on to tell us what Jesus said at his last supper with the disciples:

The bread represented His flesh and the wine His blood, meaning that all beings were to be treated as Himself, and no distinction made between friend and foe, we or they. Everybody is His body, and the blood flowing in all of us is His; all are divine. Then Swami added - and I take this from the transcription of His discourse in Sanatana Sarathi, since my notes did not cover this:

“Birds and beasts need no Divine Incarnation as bird or beast to guide them, for they have no inclination to stray from their Dharma. Man alone forgets or ignores the goal of life.”
Since that evening when the sparrows in the temple distracted me from scribbling, I seldom take notes of Swami’s discourses. I cannot always understand the translations because of acoustics or accents, but it does not matter. I am more than happy to let the golden voice flow all around and through me, and feel the love emanating from Sai.

Chapter 52


It is not right that man,
who is endowed with immense potential,
should be content with what is seen by the physical eyes.

About halfway through our three-week stay Mary’s English began to flow freely again, as she made friends of all ages from all over the world. A charming Californian blonde took over the styling of her hair, braiding it in two long, thick plaits, and leaving a few rebellious curls to stray over her brow, or smoothing it into two tresses, fastened just so.

In the final days of our third, and last, week in India, the pieces of our family relationships came back together better than ever, without any apparent effort on our part. I could only watch the strands of our lives loosen, smooth themselves out and weave themselves back together like Mary’s hair.

We celebrated  New Year’s Day, 1979, by walking to the dairy farm with its Krishna shrine. As we were about to leave, Swami arrived. “Come, Geeta!” He called. His elephant came trumpeting up to Him. While she touched His feet with her trunk He patted her lovingly.

A family from Sweden and South America were called into an interview. Swami said that their little girl would be much better within a week, and would continue to improve. They should go and live in Sweden. By the time they left, the child had a new light in her eyes that amazed all who had been concerned with her condition.

Little blond Sathya and three-year-old Celadine were two beautiful children who were at the ashram during my earlier visit. Both had interviews with their mothers.  Celadine didn’t wait for her mother to speak to Baba at darshan, but piped out: “Temple, Swami?”

“Yes, yes, yes!”

No one but Swami knew, however, how little time was left on earth for young Sathya’s mother. Within a year or so, while they were still at the ashram, this lovely young woman suddenly fell ill. Then, very quickly, she was gone.

On January 6, Swami left Puttaparthi for Brindavan, near Bangalore. We got our subscription to Sanathana Sarathi and ordered our taxi. It came quite late in the evening, and so Paul decided that we and the driver needed our sleep. In any case no one is encouraged to travel after dark.

At 5:30 on the following morning we left for Bangalore in time for darshan at Whitefield. It was an all-day bhajan, being Sunday. Baba said, “Very happy!” many times.

Three action-packed days in Bangalore followed, with many beautiful darshans at Brindavan, but no interview. When I managed to have a disinterested darshan, everything seemed to come to me, and I felt at peace with myself, in harmony with all around.

One day, while waiting for Swami to come out, I wrote in my diary a long prayer, asking Him to help me use time better, to centre inwardly more, have more compassion, “to purify heart and mind so that You appear before me in all Your effulgence, so that I radiate your truth and love.”

That same week Baba asked an American lady called Wendy to address the women from abroad. She said that when Baba looks at us, He does not look so much at the body as at the subtler aspects of our being.

I was to remember this homily ten years later, in 1989, when He would give me a glimpse of what He sees: the darkness that we may absorb, and the light that can banish that darkness through love. On that rare occasion He invited me to see light within and around people as never before. The groundwork for that unforeseeable and unforgettable experience was being laid in 1979.

A photograph taken at Brindavan during the last few days of our stay shows Mary with  Julie, an American girl of her age, posing in front of the statue of Saraswathi. The goddess of wisdom and music is playing the vina. The mother taking the wishful photograph sees the future in a rosy light.

Certainly, Mary blossomed beautifully in the ambiance of Baba and the people congregating around Him - and not forgetting the clean little puppy that she was free to fondle. (Unlike the stray dogs prowling Baba’s ashram this puppy’s mother was a house pet.) We hoped she could attend one of His schools, but this was not to be. We were all in for a very bumpy ride over a rocky road for years to come.

Time was running out when Paul called out to Baba during darshan,  “We’re leaving tomorrow, Swami!”

The reply that he heard was, “It’s all right!”  And Paul felt it really was. Everything. All his worries were banished by a wave of Baba’s hand.

Shortly before leaving I told Parvati, with some hesitation, about the vision of Christ on the Mount that I had on Christmas day. She said matter-of-factly, “You are lucky to be developing the ability to communicate directly with Swami. A time will come when it will be difficult to get close to that body that He has chosen. There will be so many people around. Those who do not depend on His physical presence will be very blessed. You will not have to travel to India to be in touch with Him. Don’t be afraid of your visions. Everything comes from Him.”

My first Innerview with Baba happened in, of all places, the taxi on way from Whitefield to Bangalore airport. I saw in my inner eye myself with Swami in an interview room, and felt His love and blessings. Then he seemed to give me a taste of merging with Him. Afterward I saw briefly His effulgence - as much of His cosmic form as I can stand at present.  Finally, I seemed to go on a trip in space with Him in a “boat” with swans  picked out in sparkling lights forming each side of it. Had the feeling there were others there too, but invisible to me, so that Swami could give each of us a close experience unperturbed by third parties.

This was also my first experience of having an inner vision confirmed outwardly. The great Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung had already found a word for this convergence of symbols, meanings, ideas and events: “synchronicity”.

First there was the vision in my mind’s eye, momentarily set aside while we checked in at the airport and waited slapping mosquitos, for our ongoing flight. We passed through  customs, settled ourselves in our seats and relaxed. After lunch, I sleepily opened my new copy of Summer Showers in Brindavan, but soon sat up straight as Baba’s words leaped out at me.

"The state of our mind is compared to a lake which contains two swans represented by the aspects of soham. This sound of soham proclaims, “I am that” and demonstrates the oneness of all creation.

"The swan always symbolizes purity in our tradition, and when we compare this aspect to that of soham, we wish to bring out the purity in all creation. This implies that in the mind of man, which is like a lake, the identity between man and God should be promoted."

Monday, October 3, 2011


By early October, 1977, the ashram was beginning to fill up, in anticipation of the nine-day festival dedicated to the Divine in its female aspects. Dasara or Navarathri is then followed by Vijaya Dashmi, the Day of Victory. A heaven-sent opportunity to observe a Hindu tradition presided over by one who encourages all of us to embrace our own faith fully. Christians, Jews, Jains, Buddhists, animists, humanists and the unaffiliated are all welcome to all festivals in Prashanthi Nilayam.

From the balcony outside my room in South Prashanthi, I had a panoramic view. In the foreground, from a pool with lotus flowers rose a great pillar symbolic of all world religions. Directly across from me was the Poornachandra Hall with a frieze just under its roof of the dancing Shiva. To my right, the mandir, or temple. To my left the blocks of flats called West Prashanthi. All this on a distant backdrop of hills lining the far horizon.

One morning before the Dasara festival, wild, triumphant music drew me out onto the balcony. I could not see the musicians, playing on the front verandah of the temple. Their joyous fanfares made perfect background music for the scene before me - crowds in colourful dress milling about as if they were extras in one of those Cecil B. De Mille biblical films.

Men in white wearing the scarves of volunteers were unrolling a large carpet in brilliant hues on the sand. When Baba himself appeared in the doorway of the Poornachandra Hall, I took from a distance my first photo of him. Then I watched while he walked slowly toward the temple, nodding to people in the crowd, blessing some, taking letters. My first festival was under way.

Afterward I wrote to my husband:

Prasanthi Nilayam, Oct. 15/77

Dear Paul,
We foreigners are now lodged in the High School during the nine-day festival. We had to vacate our VIP quarters for this occasion. It means a walk of about 10 min through part of the village, then countryside. A nice change, though abrupt ...

Many of us come here to find out what next, having reached some sort of impasse. A surprising number have no address, yet are far from hippies. We are not alone. I shouldn’t be surprised if, even if you are having difficulties, Baba’s grace is pouring on you.

Yesterday at 2 a.m. one of the girls in our dormitory was awake, and saw Baba in His orange robe. He came from near the windows, walked across the room and stood looking around at each of us for a full minute. She tried to wake someone up, but we were sound asleep. Then Baba came over near her, and she whispered, “Sai Ram!” and He disappeared.

Some of the foreign men were cleaning up the football field today, gathering up the banana leaf plates from a massive feeding of the poor yesterday. There must have been at least a thousand, sitting in orderly rows all across the field, while volunteers with buckets of food went down the rows, with Baba himself supervising and playing host.
Love, Helen

Prashanthi Nilayam, Oct. 25, 1977

Dear Paul,
We have gotten through the crowded, exciting, colourful Dasara festival. Moved to the High School, we foreigners felt rejected at first, until one of the girls, unable to sleep at night, saw Baba watching over us. The poor-feeding at the High School was very orderly, but not the distribution of clothing. That sounded like a riot. The grounds were a seething mass of people and the noise was indescribable. Standing sturdily on the porch were one male volunteer and his young son, all in white, each armed with a long stick, which they did not use. The hubbub died down just in time for us to get out to the afternoon meeting in the ashram.

At last I saw Baba materialize something - a gold chain and medallion for the priest’s wife, who presided over the ceremonies. Also earrings for an elderly holy man; He pierced the man’s ears as He put them in. He washed the statue of Shirdi Baba with ghee, milk, water and holy ash. This last came out of an empty jar held over the statue by Dr. Kasturi. When Baba put His hand in the upturned jar, ash flowed. When He took His hand away, the flow stopped. He also materialized the traditional nine gems just before throwing them into the sacrificial fire that burned on stage throughout the festival, all nine days of it.

On the tenth day, the Day of Victory, we foreign ladies wore the saris that Baba gave to us. Mine is deep violet, with gold embroidery around the hem and shoulder-covering part. They are made of fine cotton voile. He chose colours to suit each of us, and He teased me by fluttering His hand over the pink ones, while I silently begged Him, “Please, Swami, anything but pink. You know Paul doesn’t like to see me in that colour.” Then He threw this gorgeous purple sari in my lap, almost defiantly, as if to say, “Bet you never thought of that colour!”

Your Oct. 20 letter just came ...  Love, Helen

Tuesday, August 30, 2011



When earthly joys appear complete,
some signal comes for earthly strife
to burst upon us, unawares,
and catch us in a net of cares.
But Sai is there to show us how
the tree that’s bending every bough
with fruit that’s never been so sweet
is just the tree inviting folks
to wreak their havoc and their jokes.

Sai himself will never crumble,
though storms may rumble.
He does not wilt,
no matter who may tilt
with stick or stone against the green
of his eternal Tree of Life,
where ripens golden fruit serene.

He melts alone for hearts who yearn
for truth and love; to them he’ll turn.
All bitterness he trades for bliss,
and never tires of saying this:-
“Pain and pleasure, praise and blame
in the end are all the same,
for all are one, and all are Mine...
O Child of God, you are divine!”

Since light and love are what we are,
why should we wait to know delight
or stint a waiting world of light
when we, like flower or shining star,
can breathe out beauty near and far?


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"How Beautiful are the Feet ..."

Birch and Pine Whisper His Name - A Tribute to Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Chapter 54


As I sat on the sands outside the temple at Prasanthi Nilayam on the Sunday morning before Christmas, 1980, a small tune came into my head. The lilting refrain played itself over and over again, as if asking to be recognized. I could not place it, except that it came from Handel’s Messiah.

Over the years I had come to appreciate the magnificent oratorio more and more. It became a family tradition to head for Massey Hall each December to hear Handel’s Messiah performed by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Mendelssohn Choir, which usually contained several other family members.

Those of us in the audience contributed actively as well. When we all stood up for the Hallelujah chorus, my  Aunt Anne always sang along, making up in gusto what she lacked in smoothness.

In time, my singing teachers would hopefully give me solos from Messiah to practise - lovely tunes like “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace”, “Rejoice greatly” and “I know that my redeemer liveth.” Years later would I see a new meaning in that aria:

I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand upon the latter day upon the earth,  And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.   Job 19:25

By Christmas season, 1980 I was convinced that the Redeemer was indeed among us, as Sathya Sai Baba. When we went to India that year, my well-worn score of Messiah traveled with us. As our taxi bowled along the road to the “Abode of Supreme Peace”, I thought of the tenor aria that begins Messiah and speaks of a voice crying in the wilderness: Make straight in the desert a highway to our God.

Recently had it occurred to me that most sections of Messiah about Jesus are in the past tense, like the texts about His birth and the crucifixion. Other parts of the work are more prophetic in tone. It seemed to me that they could very well be about the Lord Sai Baba. The more I studied the text, the more meaningful it became, matching my own experience.

While I waited for Swami’s darshan my tattered score lay in my lap, along with a letter asking Him to confirm my growing belief that much of Messiah was about His advent and His mission. I also asked Him to bless a performance of the oratorio in His presence, envisioning choir, soloists and orchestra under the direction of a world-famous conductor.

The idea seemed fantastic, but not unrealizeable. I pictured people from all over the world practising their parts, then gathering in Prasanthi Nilayam to put the finishing touches to the whole. All in the same spirit of love, service and devotion that inspired one Charles Jennens with the libretto and Handel with the music.

Jennens himself could not understand why he was impelled to begin selecting texts from the New and Old Testaments. Their message was, in essence: Prepare for the coming of the Lord in all His glory, for the sacrifice of Jesus was not in vain.

My mind was time-travelling, back to London in the late summer of 1741. “The Great Mr. Handel” had just received a commission from the  Governor of Ireland to write and direct a new oratorio for a charitable benefit concert. The arrival of an excited Jennens with a new-old text was perfectly timed.

An atmosphere of wonder surrounded the entire creation of Messiah. Handel was so caught up in the work that he completed it in 23 days, hardly stopping to eat or sleep.

Legend says that a servant, tiptoeing into his room one evening to take away an untouched supper tray, found the composer in a state of ecstasy. A glorious vision seemed to be hovering before his inner gaze. He is quoted as saying that when he wrote the “Hallelujah” chorus: “I did think I saw all heaven before me, and the Great God Himself.”

Following Messiah’s premiere for charity in Dublin came a royal command performance before King George II in London. The first full-throated chords of the “Hallelujah!” chorus brought the King to his feet. When the King rose, the audience also stood up, setting a tradition that is generally observed to this day.

Having composed this oratorio for charity, Handel continued to use it in the service of society throughout the rest of his life, giving benefit performances for charities dear to his generous heart. In his will he left a copy of the musical score and several sets of the words to the London Foundling Hospital.

Coming back to the twentieth century and the sands of Prasanthi Nilayam, I found the persistent little tune still chirping away in my head, asking to be identified. Still unable to do so, I decided that morning darshan was not the place to play “Guess the Theme”.

Sternly banishing the motif as if it were a mosquito of the mind, I resolved to calm my spirits by looking up an inspiring text for the day. Usually I do this with one of Baba’s recent books. Today all I had with me was Messiah. Full of sacred writings, it should do very well. My musical score opened at random to none other than my little theme, to the words: He is the King of Glory! He is the King of Glory!

At that precise moment Sai Baba Himself strolled into view on the other side of the courtyard, moving majestically in rhythm to the theme, his red robe gilded by the morning sun. Throughout that unique and splendid darshan, I could “hear” with incredible clarity the ethereal chorus that leads up to my “little” theme:

“Lift up your heads, O ye gates,” sing the higher voices of the choir, like herald angels. “And be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in!”

“Who is this King of Glory?” inquire the lower voices, those of the men.
“The Lord of Hosts, the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle,” comes the reply from on high. Then all the voices, high and low, unite as if heaven and earth had joined voices, to exult: “He is the King of Glory.”

The music playing to my mind came to its last chords not long before Baba reached my side of the courtyard.

As He arrived at my place in the line, I held out my score of Messiah full of the hopes of generations, and the visions of prophets since Isaiah. On top of text and music lay my letter asking to have the work performed in His presence one day.

Baba placed His hand firmly on both letter and Messiah score, and gave His blessing.

(Here is a choir singing that chorus much as I imagined it that day at darshan: )

An earlier version of this chapter appeared in the December, 1982, issue of “Sanathana Sarathi”.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Chapter 56 From Birch and Pine Whisper His Name  - A Tribute to Sri Sathya Sai Baba

On 23 December 1980, as I left the canteen, Parvati (Suzie) Reeves came up to me and announced, all thrilled, “There may be an interview for Canadians, so get ready! Stay with me at darshan this afternoon.”

And so I joined Parvati’s group of ladies from all across Canada, many of them of Indian origin. In those days we did not wear distinctive scarves to show what country we lived in. Volunteers could not always tell who came from a few miles away, and who had been travelling thousands of miles from far overseas. For many Canadians their resemblance to local people often worked to their disadvantage, as it was assumed that they too lived close by Baba’s ashram.

Swami stopped to wish us a Merry Christmas. His reply to a request for an interview was, “I will see”. We felt that perhaps he would call us even that afternoon. It began to rain. We put up umbrellas and stretched out raincoats over our collective heads, huddled in the rain together for another hour, but no interview ensued. That way at least we got to know each other a little.  As the rain fell, we said cheerfully, “He is showering blessings on us!”

At the following morning darshan, 24 December, there was a change in the arrangement of the lines inside the court of the temple. No longer could ladies be seated along the south wall. For that reason the crowd was many rows deeper. I was rather upset to find myself far to the back on the west side, and in the full morning sun.

When  Baba came out I was still quietly fuming in disappointment at seeing my favourite place in the shade no longer available. I even wondered if this change did not arise because ladies selected by Baba for interview on the south side of the temple could not easily be seen by their husbands, on the men’s side. 

Then I saw something that plucked me out of my reverie. Some of the Canadian ladies, who had been in the front row, were standing up, and looking back at the rest of the crowd. Baba had called an interview. We trooped up behind them.

To my delight, Paul come up to the verandah as well. One of the men looked at us as if to ask what we were doing there. Prasanthi Nilayam brings together followers of Sai Baba from all across Canada, who might not otherwise meet. We two had no problem in being admitted when we crowded into the interview room, while Parvati and another Canadian lady, also an ashram resident, were not allowed in by Baba.

When I first visited Baba in 1977 to 1978, Canadians could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Now there were too many of us to fit comfortably into the tiny interview room. I tried to sit at the back, but Baba beckoned me forward to sit at his feet. 

Then he commanded “that man back there” to come forward. We all turned around, and saw several men sitting against the wall, Paul among them. A young man beside him looked eager to get up. “No, that man!” said Baba. “The old man!”

Acutely embarrassed at being singled out, Paul worked his way forward to sit beside me at the front. Afterward he told me he was sure he stepped on several people, so packed were we. He couldn’t understand why Baba made such a fuss about him. 

 When Baba called me for a private interview a few days earlier Paul had been sound asleep in our apartment. Now, this “good man”, as Baba had described my husband on that occasion,  would able to see what was going on, even if he could not hear much, close to the feet of Baba, with me at his side. And there were wonders to see.

Baba spoke to one fair-haired gentleman, asking several times without response: “You are a Christian?”.

“He doesn’t speak English, Baba,” said a deep voice. “He’s from Montreal.”

“What is your name?” At last the Montrealer said he was Dino Fracassi. Baba moved His hand and made Dino a magnificent gold ring with an enameled portrait of Jesus. Franz patted the weeping Dino on the shoulder, but Baba said, “Those are tears of happiness. Let them flow.” It was a moment of intense beauty and love. The ring appeared quite naturally out of that love.

Then Baba asked for Dr. Singh’s ring and showed it to me. “What metal?”
“Panchalloy?” I hesitated. I wouldn’t know that alloy if I fell over it, but that was the big word that came out of my mouth.

Baba shook His head and muttered derisively, “Panchalloy... panchalloy!”

He showed the ring to some other ladies, who correctly guessed it was made of silver.

Then he showed it to me again. “Whose picture is it?”

“Yours, Swami ... Sai Baba.”

“Now watch me turn it into gold,” said Baba. He held the ring in his nearly closed fist and blew three times inside his hand, through the small opening near his thumb. Then he opened his hand, to show us a large gold filigree setting with an enamel image of Vishnu. Dotted around the central figure were minuscule heads of Shirdi Sai Baba (his previous incarnation), Sathya Sai Baba, as we see him now, and Prema Baba - his incarnation to come.

Next, He created a sparkling crystal rosary for Franz’s wife, and showed her how to use it. 
Then He leaned forward with a challenging look at us all: “What are you doing in Canada - bhajan or bhojan? (devotional singing or eating)?”

He teased a young couple about fighting, and they argued with each other and with him that they did not fight. “Well, only about you, Swami.”

Swami twisted a curly lock of the young man’s hair in the opposite direction from its natural curl, and looked over at the girl, saying, “He doesn’t understand.”

“No, Swami,” she smiled.

Then he turned to the young man and said softly, “She doesn’t understand.”

“No, Swami.”

To the accompaniment of slightly embarassed chuckles, the young man opened a vacuum-packed can of cashew nuts with resounding “pop”. Baba blessed them, and they were passed around our group.

About office-holders in the Sai organization, he said, “No selection without elections.”

He asked a young man about a head of Baba that he was painting or sculpting and called it an imitation. “Creation, not imitation!” He added, “Be heartificial, not artificial!”

He asked about a beautiful young girl, just behind me with her mother. This was a teen-ager who could say only one word that sounded like “Baby”, in a strange voice. After a strained silence, Baba said, “Brain not developed. Come!” He ushered the family into the private room behind the curtain. When they came out, he created, right above my head, a small gold medallion on a slender chain for the girl, and handed it to the mother. Then he called in others for private interviews. 

While we were waiting, I turned around to the girl, and saw her pulling on a heart-shaped locket around her neck. She beamed and held it out to me, saying, “Beautiful!”
Her voice was clear and the enunciation perfect.

At the beginning of the interview Baba had made holy ash for many of us near him. At the end, he managed to get around to all of us, distributing packages of ash. I held up a picture of my daughter, and he tapped it in blessing. Since Paul had been expressing doubts about moving back to Canada, I tried to consult Baba about it, but he refused to discuss the matter further, saying, “You go to Canada!” When I tried to ask if Paul was to go too (this after Baba deliberately seated us together!), he added, rather severely, “I spoke to you before. You go to Canada!”

I left the temple feeling exulted, and a little bruised in the ego at Swami’s slightly severe manner to me. It seems that the closer you get to him, the tougher he gets with you. In afternoon darshan, he sent me a beautiful beaming smile, as if he knew how I was feeling.
Several days later I met the mother with the daughter for whom Baba had created a golden locket, but the girl was not wearing it. She had her old heart-shaped locket on, and I asked why.

“We’re afraid she’ll pull Baba’s off its chain ... she’s always pulling on this one.” I mentioned the immediate improvement in the girl right after the interview, and her clear enunciation and understanding of the word “beautiful”. To my amazement, the mother had not heard this. After I assured her that I had, they went off, radiant with new happiness. The next time I saw them, the daughter was wearing Baba’s locket.

As for me, it seemed significant that Baba had made that piece of jewellery above my head, almost as if teasing me. It, and the heart-shaped locket, reminded me of one that my mother had given me long ago. It was hers as a little girl, and it bore the indentation of her baby teeth. I had not seen it for a long time, and began to wonder where it was.

Less than a year later, back in Canada, on a dusty basement shelf among a motley collection of trinkets, I found the little wooden box that used to contain my locket. Nearby, in a bowl of inexpensive baubles was the gold locket, complete with my mother’s initials and teeth marks. When it reappeared, I did not need to wonder whether Baba knew about it, and breathed him a silent message of thanks.

One morning darshan we ladies could see someone get up on the men’s side and begin to caper about. The men around him clapped. Then, after dancing around a little more, the “clown” headed for the temple, and an interview. After darshan, I met Paul, who was shaking his head at that “show-off Swede”. Frivolous behaviour at darshan, like suddenly breaking into a lively step-dance did not meet his approval.

“But Paul,” I protested. “He was permanently lame. Baba called him to an interview and told him to leave his crutches behind. He got up and found he could walk. He couldn’t resist trying to see if he could jump too, and dance.”

My fifthieth birthday, 28 December 1980, was a blissful day, with good views of Swami when least expected. I wasn’t quite sure how much of a fuss to make of reaching the “dread half-century mark”. When Baba gave me a wide berth at morning darshan, I took his message to be something like: So you’re fifty years old today. So what? Just another birthday, and what are birthdays anyway? Every day we are alive we are born to a new life. 

Later, as we were lining up for afternoon darshan I got talking with a lady from London who reminded me vaguely of someone. “Oh, I was in London for Mahasivathri in 1977,” I said. “I visited the home of a Mrs. Ganish, where amrith was flowing from pictures in her shrine.”

“I’m Mrs. Ganish,” said the lady, quietly amused. “And, yes, the amrith is still flowing.”

Meanwhile Paul befriended a gentleman of Indian origin who wheeled his little son around in a stroller. The boy had leukemia, in quite an advanced stage. They had come from England in hope of a cure. The father’s devotion to his son, and to Swami, was most touching. The boy was not too ill to smile at us every time we met them. He was a dear little soul.

Near the end of our stay in India, Paul met the boy’s father, in Brindavan, alone, but serene. His little son had died, with a smile and Baba’s name on his lips.

Soon after New Year’s Day, 1981,  I met Anne Marie, who was born in Germany, and now lives in New Delhi with her Indian husband.  She was among the first translators of Baba’s works into German, and is the author of that heart-warming book And the Greatest is Love. I had a preview of her book when she told me about her encounter with a “strange saddhu”, who could have been none other than Shirdi Sai Baba.

Then, hearing that I was Canadian, Anne Marie launched eagerly into the extraordinary tale of “a man in Canada” to whom Swami came in the flesh while he was giving a discourse in India.

Same Story in Toronto  
Sure enough, in Toronto several months later, I heard the gentleman’s story from his own lips. It happened three years earlier, while I myself was in Prasanthi Nilayam.

As a child Mr. K. had always been sickly, and as an adult he was plagued by many illnesses both known and unknown to his doctor. All the same he had succeeded in immigrating to Canada and was employed by the government of Ontario as a finance director. 

K.’s health took a turn for the worse in August of 1977, and by October he had wasted away to 100 pounds, unable to eat or retain water. He was admitted to a hospital intensive care unit. As he lay awake that night, worrying what would become of his family if this illness were to carry him off, the door opened, and in walked none other than Sathya Sai Baba.

Although this was the first time that K. saw him in person, there was no mistaking the strong, gentle features and the afro hair style. These could be seen on the walls of K’s home, for his wife and children believe Baba is divine, and they often prayed to him, especially during K’s illness. Not an open devotee, Mr. K. too had been praying, and also taking holy ash sent by his brother, a permanent resident at Prasanthi Nilayam.
Instead of the usual orange or gold robe, Baba was wearing a white surgical gown when he walked into K’s room at the hospital in Toronto. K. tried to speak, but no sound came out. Baba came over to his bedside in a businesslike way, and said, “You see, I am also a surgeon.”

Turning K. over, Baba rubbed his back thoroughly. After blessing the patient, saying he would be all right, he walked out the way he had come in.

Recovering his power of speech, K. thought of calling the nurses, but decided not to. He waited until his family came to see him the next day to announce, “Baba came!”
K. recovered rapidly from his illness, and also from his many chronic complaints. He wrote to his brother and sister-in-law at Prasanthi Nilayam to tell them about Baba’s visit to his hospital room in Toronto.

In reply, they expressed their joy at his recovery, and also informed him that Baba had been delivering a speech to a vast audience at Prasanthi Nilayam at the exact moment of his appearance in Toronto. Incidentally, one witness of that discourse in the fall of 1977 was Toronto-born Helen Heubi, diligently scribbling every blessed word.

The following August, 1978, K took his family to India to see Baba, who called them in for an interview. This gave the chance for the burning question: “Baba, did you come to see me in hospital in Toronto?”
“Yes,” said Baba.