Text size: A A A

Please Click Here
to Return to
Love and Light

My Journey with Sai

Dear Readers! It is well known that the Infinite Majesty and Glory of the Lord cannot be captured in full measure by the human mind. However, the sweetness of His Glory can be instantly enjoyed by recounting the experiences of devotees who have contacted God, have been blessed by His Grace and chosen as His Instruments. Bhagawan Baba also says that such an exercise fosters a taste for Godward thoughts in us, and thus brings us ‘nearer ‘ and makes us ‘dearer’ to God. This Special Feature contains articles written by ardent devotees of Bhagawan describing their Experiences with Divinity, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, especially narrating ‘how’ they first came to Him! Rather more aptly, how they received His Divine Intimation! His Divine Call! We pray to our beloved Bhagawan Baba to keep us strongly connected with Him always.
Love & Light Team

My Journey with Sai
Miss.Shobhna Patel

Shobhna Patel is an Accounts Executive in the Banking industry and works with a reputed international bank. She is an ardent devotee of Bhagawan Baba and a committed worker in the sacred Sathya Sai Mission. She has held many senior positions in the UK Sathya Sai Organisation, including serving as its National Chairperson. She currently serves as a Trustee of the Sathya Sai Charitable Trust, UK.

My first trip to Prashanthi Nilayam, and actually to India, was in December 1989. In those days flights to Puttarparthi were via Mumbai and only 3 times a week!

Swami wanted to ensure it would be a trip to remember, in experiencing the various modes of transport in India. We arrived at Mumbai airport, unfortunately half the plane’s luggage had not left London and was not due to arrive until the following evening. This meant we would miss the connecting flight to Bangalore and the next flight with available seats was in 3 weeks’ time when I was due to be back in London.

The first night was at the expense of the airline in a 5 star hotel until your luggage arrived. The next evening was spent on a temple floor. We managed to secure train tickets from Mumbai to Bukkapatnam – the only seats available were working class seats. For 26 hours we sat on wooden seats watching the beautiful scenery floating past the windows. We eventually arrived in Bukkapatnam at 5am where we waited for the bus to take us to Puttarparthi. Two hours later we were told that we had to go to the bus station as the bus was being repaired. We then had to travel by horse and cart to the bus station with our luggage. This was my first lesson which Swami gave me about patience. I have seen many times in my spiritual journey that this quality is needed if we are to succeed.

We finally arrived in Puttaparthi and rested in what is now known as halls, but in those days were known as sheds. They were dark, with tin roofing, which during the daytime made them unbearably hot.

My first Darshan of Swami had a profound effect on me. I saw him gliding into the Compound, now known as the Sai Kulwant Hall, which at that time was an open air compound with arches and concrete flooring. There was pin drop silence, no-one uttered a word unless Swami spoke to them.
HE moved swiftly across to the men’s side and stopped where my brother, along with a friend who had come for the first time, had got up! He spoke to them and they sat down. Swami had asked them where they had come from and how was the journey!

During my stay I was fortunate to be part of the Christmas day procession of carol singing around the mandir and seeing Swami appearing through the beautiful Silver doors. This was a most beautiful sight to experience.

In years to come, I decided to go in a group with Aime and Sandra Levy – it was a wonderful experience of meeting devotees across the country and listening to the experiences of seasoned travellers. My first interview with Swami was through one of my group trips. It was quite interesting as everyday not all the members of the group would arrive on time to line up for Darshan or even make it to Darshan!. There was however one day where everyone in the group was early and ready for Darshan. That morning our group picked token No.1 and the group was called in for an interview! Swami also called another family into the interview room along with the group. This was the first time I saw Swami materialise a Rado watch from his hand for the family! He then went onto to materialise a ring for the lady in our group who promptly asked if the ring had a picture of Swami on it!

On returning from India, I became involved in service activities rather than attending a Sai Centre at first. I began attending Manor Park Sai Centre when it formed and met at the Froud Centre. With the support of the elders, the youth wing was started at the Centre. We were encouraged to mirror the adult activities, to help inspire the youth in taking responsibility for representing Swami and HIS teachings in the local community. With the continuous support of the Centre, I went onto to become Regional Youth Co-ordinator and then National Youth Co-ordinator.

I was fortunate as NYC to hold the first National Drama Festival for schools in UK with the grand final being held at the Old Vic Theatre. The experience of organising such an extraordinary event was phenomenal as it reinforced that when we rely on Swami, all things are taken care of. Even the challenges along the way taught all the participants to let go and let God.

During my term as NYC I was fortunate to be invited to join the Sathya Sai Retreat Committee lead by the late Joan Brake and her husband, Richard. The committee members consisted of Aime & Sandra Levy, Aftab & Esther Ali, Bala & Malika Balaraman, Navin & Chandrika Raval, Caroline Vasey and Pat Eastbury. I always looked forward to those meetings as Joan ensured they were fun and finished on time so we could enjoy wonderful cakes from the ladies of the WI!
The venues selected by the Brakes were always ‘coincidental’…. Those who were fortunate to attend the retreats at Newbury will remember when Joan and Richard first went to see the venue, the caretaker told them that the person in charge, Mr. Baba, had already visited the place with the elderly man who wore a white scarf on his head (Shirdi Baba). The care taker told them that they went around the main hall to have a view!

I then served as National Secretary, and again, Swami was there to guide and help. I am sure a lot of devotees and Office Bearers would agree that when you are doing Swami’s work, HE is always there to make sure your day job fits around your Organisation role. It worked perfectly. It was during this period that I nearly lost my eyesight. It was Swami who saved me. I had somehow managed to contract bilateral conjunctivitis, which meant I could not see clearly and possibly lose my eyesight. Dr Upadhyay had checked my eyes and told me to go to A&E straight away telling me that everything would be OK. He did not sound too convincing! When I got to A&E the doctor gave me steroids and told me to attend Monday’s clinic to see if my eyes had improved or deteriorated – he said it was 50-50 chance.

Waiting felt like the longest weekend ever, Monday finally arrived, I walked to the hospital and sat in the Eye clinic. Even though I felt like it, I couldn’t cry as my eyes hurt and no tears would fall. It was only me in the waiting area until an old lady came in with her shopping trolley singing away. She sat next to me, whilst I was thinking there are so many seats in the waiting area but she sat next to me! She asked me if I was OK, she then opened her shopping trolley and got out a booklet which was extracts from the Bible that she had put together herself called Faith. She then took my phone number and gave me hers. She told me to call her after I had my appointment to let her know how it went. As she left she said again not to worry and to have faith.

The doctor saw my eyes and said it was good news that they had not deteriorated and to come back every other day to the clinic for check-ups. I felt happy and the first thing I did when I got home was call the lady, called Pat. She picked up and I told her, she said keep your faith and we will speak again soon. I continued my appointments for the next 3 weeks but they started to decrease gradually. I didn’t call Pat back, nor did I see her at the hospital, but coincidentally she called me after I came back from my last appointment at the hospital and asked how did my check -up go? I told her and she said ‘always keep your faith’ and put the phone down. As ever it didn’t dawn on me at the time how did she know I had been to the clinic?.... Few hours later when I realised, I called her back but the line was dead…Swami’s ways are infinite and unfathomable.

Taking on the role as UK Chair, Swami guided me through and helped me throughout my tenure. At the time of accepting the role, Swami again opened more doors to show that anything is possible if we have the utmost faith in HIM. Swami will make sure whatever we need to do the role, HE will provide! During the term, I was fortunate to visit great places as an ambassador for the Organisation – St James Palace for an audience with HRH Duke of Edinburgh, Scotland Yard, The House of Lords, be part of the youth pilgrimage to see Swami showering his love on the Youth present there and in the UK. Swami also provided situations which took me out of my comfort zone and also tested my faith in Him. These situations made me stronger and more determined to make sure that the Organisation continued on the right path.

When I took on the role as Trustee, I was privileged to be working and learning from Trustees who had been selected by Swami when the Trust was established in the late 1970’s. To learn how Swami was particular in the way matters were dealt with – in the beginning Swami was one of the signatories on the bank accounts and his signature had to always be on all Trust cheques – was a real eye opener.

When Swami left the physical form in 2011, HE has left us a divine legacy, HIS teachings, that we individually and collectively should honour by putting them into practise through selfless service in our homeland first – UK. I feel selfless service should be done the same way as we think of our spiritual path, the change begins with ourselves first. Hence the change should begin in our homeland first in the aspiration to help others.

Putting Swami’s message of Love All Serve All does not necessarily mean that we have to be seen always wearing an orange scarf on the street, so that people will know we are from the Sai Organisation. It does not mean we have to shout loudly which organisation we belong to, but like the rose whose fragrance pervades the atmosphere silently, we should through our actions and behaviours be seen as Ambassador for Sai. Our behaviour should be such that it encourages people to ask us why we help.

A noteworthy experience in this regard was when I was fortunate to be a Team Leader Games Maker during London 2012 and be located at the Olympic Park for the 2 weeks working in shifts. During those two weeks, I met a lot of Sai devotees who had come to watch the games. I also met a lot of people from around the world who had come specifically to watch and participate in the spirit of the Games. To say that the atmosphere during those 2 weeks was one of happiness – there was always a ‘feeling of oneness’, e.g. when going to a football match there is at times, animosity and vulgarity during the games, however when spectators at the Games were asked what they enjoyed most as they were leaving they would not say ‘Usain Bolt winning, but that of Sarah Attar from Saudi Arabia participating and finishing the race.

I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity by Swami through the guidance of the elders at Manor Park Sai Centre and having met the late Joan Brake whose example taught me nothing is impossible when you have implicit faith in Swami. This faith in Swami has led me to have faith in the Self. I hope and pray that the ambassadors of Sai continue to demonstrate Swami’s teachings and work around the world.…

What has Swami taught? Simply to be confident and face my own fears. That I should take the right course of action and then walk forward. To know that Swami is always with me even when I sometimes may not feel so. That (God + 1 = Majority). When doing right, do not flinch and go ahead.
That challenges will come, that life is what it is, it is however my choice how I wish to view my experiences. That I cannot change THE world but I can change MY world. For I view the world from where I am. If I want friendship – this means I have to be friendly. If I want to have peace – I must myself be peaceful. If I want help – I have to be helpful. It begins from within. When I began this transforming journey I thought I could change the world and then I realised it was me I had to change. I have come to know when I have an unpleasant experience, after I have taken the action I thought was right, I question myself – what was in me that attracted this experience and what can I learn from this?

I realise that the world reflects that which I am. It has been a journey which is leading me back to myself. I have been pondering lately that in His discourses during the last few years, Swami kept telling us You are God! I hope that when we face our everyday life, we will remember that we are God, that we are powerful beyond measure. I pray that Swami will guide each and every one of us to our – Self. I’m sure a lot of people will remember the well-known advert - ‘The future is bright the future is orange’…. We should remember this of our Beloved Lord.

Love & light
Shobhna Patel