Robert Bozzani: How Swami U-Turned My Life

Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Sri Sathya Sai Baba


Robert Bozzani: How Swami U-Turned My Life

One among the few devotees from the western hemisphere who came to recognise Baba’s divinity way back in the early seventies, Mr. Robert Bozzani (also known as “Bob Bozzani”) was a forty-five year old flourishing businessman from the USA when he came to Sathya Sai Baba for the first time. For more than thirty five years since then, he has visited Puttaparthi at least once every year and has been a hand-picked instrument of Bhagavan in His Divine Mission. Currently, he is a Trustee of the Sathya Sai Book Center of America, California, USA:

Robert Bozzani: God draws people to Himself in myriad ways. And every traveller bound for the Divine Pilgrimage has a different and interesting tale of how he was first drawn to the Lord. So too is my story.

My tryst with divinity began when I was a 12 year old boy, studying in a public school in Pasadina, California. My mother, giving in to the counsel and pressure from her friends, decided to switch me over to a Church school. Three weeks into this school, and I encountered something which sowed the seeds for a transformation that was to last a lifetime. For, at the Church School, our teachers told us – “You know, there is one thing we must tell you. That is, God would not like it if you went to another Church. If you do so, you will be doomed to perdition.”

Three Unanswered Questions
I did not feel too comfortable with that. Instead, three questions raised themselves to my mind.

  1. If there is a God, shouldn’t He be there for everybody?
  2. If He has manifested as Jesus Christ, does that mean that He has not manifested earlier, or will not manifest hereafter?
  3. Shouldn’t there be more to this universe than what I can think of? This thought stirred the depths of my consciousness every time I looked up at the night sky even as a young boy and saw all the beautiful stars twinkling and shimmering in the empyrean.

It was essential that I first lose my way in the labyrinths of worldly happiness, for only then it would strengthen the urge for spiritual bliss and peace. Thus, I took the path of the temporal and the mundane, because my path, being born in America, was to seek happiness in a materialistic way.

So I went, full barge as one would say, and finished school, and later went on to become a flourishing business man. Then I got married and even had wonderful children. It was essential that I first lose my way in the labyrinths of worldly happiness, for only then it would strengthen the urge for spiritual bliss and peace. Thus, I took the path of the temporal and the mundane, because my path, being born in America, was to seek happiness in a materialistic way.

I had everything that was supposed to make one happy; I could not ask for more. But, at the age 45, I was so unhappy that I didn’t want to be around any more. The feeling was, in fact, deeper than that. I just thought life was useless, but nobody could feel or know how I felt inside; absolutely nobody, not even my wife, family, or my mother. I was trying to find happiness in the pursuit of the great American dream. But I could feel that in spite of having everything, I had nothing.

‘Sai Yoga’ – Union with Sai, Through Hatha Yoga
It was around this time that Bhagavan decided to draw me to Himself. And this happened in the early seventies through my wife who had developed an interest in Hatha Yoga. Keen in her intent of pursuing this ancient form of Yoga, she got in touch with Indra Devi, the leading Yoga practitioner in the West, who was also an ardent follower of Sathya Sai Baba. My wife went twice to Tecate, to supposedly learn Hatha Yoga but when she was there with Indra Devi, they spent so much time talking about Baba.

When my wife returned to California, she told me that she had learned about Sathya Sai Baba and would like to go India sometime. Reluctant and unconvinced, I dropped it at that. But my wife wanted to go the following year, and she did.

Then, towards the end of the year 1973, about December, my wife made a statement which was so unlike her. She said, “I am going to go to India, whether you come or not.” I did not say no to Satya Sai Baba, because, fortunately, we had an open upbringing. We were brought up that way. So, I said, “Well, I guess I am going.”

He Appeared, Not in Dream, But in Person
Here, I should mention something very significant which happened in this month of December. Actually, during this period I was deeply depressed and one night Sathya Sai Baba appeared to me not in a dream, but in person. I woke up in the middle of the night on December 9, and there was Baba standing at the end of our bed! He was clothed in a white robe and with a raised hand as if blessing and comforting me, He said, “Don’t worry, everything will be alright.”

And the unique thing about this experience is that Swami spoke to me in the voice of my physical father who had actually passed away the year before! In fact, I remember, saying to Him, “How are you, father?” And Swami again answered in my father’s voice. He sweetly said, “I am fine, but working very hard.” It wasn’t until several years later that I found out that Shirdi Baba often talked to newcomers in a voice they are familiar with so that they feel comfortable.

It did not stop at that on that momentous night. Baba, next, took me out of my body and I remember looking down on the bed where my wife and I were actually sleeping. It was such a unique experience. He then put me back into my body and told again, “Don’t worry, every thing will be alright.” After this, Swami left. But again, it wasn’t until a year later that I completely understood the message that Swami wanted to give me that night. It was very clearly this: “I wasn’t the body”.

So, filled with such experiences, we came in February 1974 to Bangalore, India. And as per our plan, I was to escort my wife to Puttaparthi, ensure that she was safe, and then I was to go back to Bangalore, and from there, start touring. I was still, not so convinced about His divinity.

But way back in 1974, having come to Puttaparthi, it wasn’t easy to turn around. We reached Puttaparthi into the evening and it was impossible to go back. So I decided to stay on for the night and return the next morning to Bangalore. In fact, I hadn’t checked out of the hotel even, since I knew I was going back.

Answering the Three Divine Puzzles
The next morning, Swami was very kind to call our group in the Mandir. It was not an official interview, but a sort of a small discourse. Professor Kasturi was there who translated His words for us. And then, something very beautiful transpired. It was actually quite extraordinary for me then. For, as I was to learn later on, Bhagavan talks to each one of us – heart to heart. And one is sure of a message from Him, whether it is in a discourse, or whether one is in darshan. Directly or otherwise, Swami has a message for each of us, if we are alert to it. Sometimes we get it, sometimes we don’t. But in my case, it was direct.

For, here was Swami giving us a sweet talk. But suddenly I could feel Swami answering the three questions that I had asked of an unseen Creator when I was a twelve-year old. I could hear His message distinctly, addressed straight to my heart, though not verbally, and felt their import and impact.

  1. Yes, there is a God and He is here for everyone.
  2. He has come before Jesus, and He is here now and He will come even after.
  3. No doubt, there is much more to this universe than what man thinks there is.

After the discourse and that wonderful get-together, I walked out of the Mandir, found my wife and said to her, “He is God. We are staying.” And I sent somebody, who was going to Bangalore, to check out of my hotel and send my luggage to Puttaparthi.

Instantaneous Realisation
Then came the dramatic twist to my tale. My wife, who was very enchanted by Sathya Sai Baba, and wanted to come and see Him in the first place, was dumbfounded. For I, the non-seeker, had realized Baba’s divinity instantly. Whereas, it took her three years to accept the fact that Sathya Sai Baba was God Incarnate and the Avatar of the Avatars. That’s interesting. I got it like that! She took a little bit longer.

But acceptance or not, Bhagavan ensured that He made us feel comfortable all the time when we were with Him. Let me share one instance. We were fortunate to have a private interview with Swami. On that occasion, He told us things that we didn’t know. He revealed us about our past and present; it was surprising He knew events about our lives that nobody would know. But what struck me the most, more than His overwhelming omniscience, was this: He had such a beautiful way of personalizing any moment that you were/are with Him, by making you think – ‘Here is God of the Universe, and I am the only thing existing at this moment’. That is the divine love that He is able to pour out. You cannot explain it. But it’s there.

I still remember that, sometime later, we were standing up with Baba, and so was He. But we did not have to look down at Him. For, He had raised Himself up to our height! And Swami and we were looking at each other eye to eye, and were just in a natural flow, back and forth, at that particular time. It was an unforgettable experience of how He made us so comfortable. And He did so not just for ‘that’ moment, but during all the moments that we’ve been with Him, in all these 34 years.

That first time, we stayed at Puttaparthi for about two weeks. We were even fortunate to follow Bhagavan to Anantapur, where He stayed for a couple of days. And from there, we left for America.

Baba came to be a major turning point in my life. For, when I returned to the USA, I was absolutely sure that my life was to take a total U-turn from thenceforth. During that one interview which we had with Baba, Swami had said to me, “You are very unhappy.” I must say that I added to myself, “Even though He is God, He doesn’t know how unhappy I am right now, which I know now He did.”

Then Bhagavan in His infinite mercy reassured me, saying, “Do not worry. Things will change… You are unhappy with your work. Don’t worry. That will change.” So I came back, invigorated by hope and suffused with optimism, thinking, “Oh, wow, work is going to change. A new job on my way! How exciting!” Soon I was to discover that it is not my work which was going to change; it was I who was about to change. And that was the beginning of my transformation.

Swami Sows the Seeds of Change
The seeds of change had already been sown by a discourse that Bhagavan Baba gave in 1968. That particular message to me is still one of those which is most important; I replay it even today. In that discourse, Bhagavan clearly stated the reason behind His Divine Descent. He said that this time He had come to protect the righteous.

However, since everybody was tainted with sin at this particular time, He had come to ‘Transform’. To me, that really hit home. I tried to dive deep into that, and listen intently to the Voice of Bhagavan to put into practice any particular idea that He might point at me in my path of transformation.

Guiding me also on my individual path of transformation was Swami’s message to me, which He pointed out in that interview. Swami told us – “Duty without love is deplorable. Duty with love is desirable. Love without duty is divine.” And that is where I started my journey from. For, though I always did my duty with a sense of moral righteousness, I could not say that it stemmed so much from Love. Thus, Swami decided to set to me on to this path of ‘Love without Duty’.

It has been 34 years now, since I first met Swami. And I am now beginning to get His message. I would not say that I practice ‘Love without duty’ in the truest spirit, but I’ve been fortunate enough to get parts of that, and it is really beautiful.

Swami’s message is Love. “Love is God. Live in Love. And do everything with Love”. That is where Swami has been dragging me along – to really dive in and get that message. More importantly, practising this Love was very important to my personal and spiritual growth, because at that time, my heart was very dry and I didn’t know it. I thought I was being nice but the fact was that I felt completely devoid of Love from within.

Sai Can Spot You, Wherever You May Be
The next time we arrived at Puttaparthi was in 1975 for the World Conference of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation. That was the time when the American chapter of the Sri Organization was first put together. Dr. John Hislop was appointed as the first chairman of the American Council. And it so happened that I was appointed as one of the Council Members. It was again a very interesting experience. I was seated half way back in the Poornachandra Auditorium during the function. Bhagavan Baba was present even as Dr. Hislop announced the names. And when my name was called out, Swami acknowledged me in that crowd, even though I was seated right in the midst of a jam-packed hall. It is amazing how Swami can directly see you even in the midst of a multitude of people. I was touched, truly overwhelmed!

Swami has this inimitable way of uplifting one’s spirits. With His soothing words, He would make you feel that when you are returning to your world, you are going to be happy immediately and everything is going to be perfect. And I learnt that it was not quite so, because things begin to happen slowly. They neither change overnight, nor by themselves. I encountered this fact of life, even in my work, where I found it difficult sometimes to handle people; there were a few with whom I had to necessarily interact. But I realized that Swami sent such people to me so that I could learn to open my heart.

Thus it was that, when I began getting His message of Love and doing everything in Love, I could feel the change, both in my workplace and in the Sai work. This has been my wonderful and fortunate path all the way. Because, when you begin to get this subtext of Love, you become a happier person. Thus, I went back to the same society and environment, and yet I was able to fit in an entirely different way. It was a slow yet steady process of metamorphosis. For, on the one hand was the wonderful feeling that God is here and now. Yet, on the other hand, my desires took awhile to loosen their hold on me. Although I wasn’t too happy with the endless merry-go-rounds of pleasures and pain, I was still getting entrapped in their vicious cycle in my quest for happiness.

Swami has this inimitable way of uplifting one’s spirits. With His soothing words, He would make you feel that when you are returning to your world, you are going to be happy immediately and everything is going to be perfect. And I learnt that it was not quite so, because things begin to happen slowly. They neither change overnight, nor by themselves. I encountered this fact of life, even in my work, where I found it difficult sometimes to handle people; there were a few with whom I had to necessarily interact. But I realized that Swami sent such people to me so that I could learn to open my heart.

Bhagavan told me that everything would change for the better, and I thought that it was going to happen instantly. But Swami taught me through my personal experience that first I needed to put His Words into practice. What mattered was not the change, which would, in due course, effect itself, but the effort that went behind working that change. And that’s the effort that really pays off. That’s when I understood that if I took one step towards God, He’d take a hundred, even a thousand steps towards me; that He would pour His grace on me. But what was essential was the first individual step.

Bhagavan Roots Out an Unseen Weed
When I made that conscious effort to transform myself, Swami would pitch in with more lessons and guidelines so that I made some headway on this path to progress. There is one instance of this transformation which is very dear to my heart. We’ve been fortunate to come to Puttaparthi every year since our first trip; sometimes we’d be there at least once for a length of time. Many times, we undertook two trips, even were blessed with three trips in a year. This incident occurred in the 1980s when we arrived once more to this Holy Abode of Peace. But this one time, Bhagavan walked up to me when I arrived, and pointing His finger, said, “No ill-will”.

When Swami turned and left, I said to myself, “One thing in my heart, I’ve never had any ill-will against people. That’s not in there. But Swami, You know even if there is a little bit of those ‘weeds’, and I know that You are going to pull them out.”
Nevertheless, Swami’s statement got me thinking, and triggered in response a self-introspection as to what I had done in all these days to warrant such a statement from Him. I tossed and turned in my bed, and finally, after 10 days, the ‘why’ of Swami’s message dawned on me. And when it came, it came as a revelation!

The day after I was supposed to return, I was scheduled to meet a manufacturer that we represent. I was in the automobile business. And this was a meeting with the factory representative, who I felt, beforehand, was not comfortable with me and I too wasn’t compatible with him. In fact, I thought he had an “ill-will” against me. I somehow felt that he wanted me out of his path. And when that struck me, I said to myself “Oh my goodness, that’s the ill-will I hold against this person.” The next morning, during darshan time, Swami came up to me and said, “When did you come?” Then I knew I had got the message right!

Indeed, Swami’s message has a great meaning in today’s complicated setup where everyone looks at the other with suspicion and malice. And if only we would go out and reach out to people, the world can be a different place.

So I returned to my country. The meeting was to be held the next day. This gentleman came with his team of managers, and my team of executives were supposed to meet them at this big meeting. I do not recollect the agenda of that meeting now. But I remember, I said to this man, “Before we meet, won’t you come into my office?” Once in my office room, I told him, “You know, I really understand that you are doing the best that you want for your company and I admire you for that.” I really said that. Wonder of wonders! This gentleman began to cry. We hugged and we went out; there was no meeting. We had coffee and tea, and it was over. That’s the divine guidance that Bhagavan Baba can give us. And since then, we were just very good friends.

Indeed, Swami’s message has a great meaning in today’s complicated setup where everyone looks at the other with suspicion and malice. And if only we would go out and reach out to people, the world can be a different place.

And this miracle can be achieved by the simple yet powerful word – Love.

With Swami, it is not U-turns, it is L-Turns – Transforming through Love!
Talking of Love takes me back to that 1968 discourse wherein Swami said that He would be known all over the world by how we devotees conduct ourselves and put into practice His teachings. And that discourse has always been my touchstone in these 34 years whenever I keep getting off-base from Swami’s teachings.

Because whatever we do in a moment of true Love or sharing catches the attention of people. And I have encountered this even in far-away America, with people wondering as to who is this guy who goes to India so often.

The point is I realized that as I began to practice what this Beautiful Avatar is trying to teach, I began to see a nice relationship. I observed a change was occurring. It was not that the people were changing; in fact, whether they changed or not became irrelevant to me. What was important was that I was changing. And what really mattered was how I interacted with them.

The point is I realized that as I began to practice what this Beautiful Avatar is trying to teach, I began to see a nice relationship. I observed a change was occurring. It was not that the people were changing; in fact, whether they changed or not became irrelevant to me. What was important was that I was changing. And what really mattered was how I interacted with them.

I knew that a metamorphosis had been effected for certain when my mother told me – “You know, I don’t quite understand who your Satya Sai Baba is, but He must be something really special because you have changed so much.” And that’s a beautiful statement to come from your own physical mother.

Reference

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