Signs, Strange And Significant
In the Blue Mountains just west of Sydney, Australia, I have a number of friends, most of them followers of Sathya Sai Baba. I would not have called Peter a Sai devotee at the time of this episode, but he was certainly interested in Sai Baba and perhaps it was to encourage this interest that Rocky Bugmann, an active member of the Sai centre in the mid mountains, gave Peter a very attractive, good-sized photograph of Sathya Sai Baba. Without framing it, Peter stuck the photograph on the wall of his bedroom in a position that allowed him to see it easily while he was lying in bed. Incidentally, Peter is a bachelor of middle age and lives alone except for his four legged friend, a dog named Adam. Perhaps Adam acquired that name because of his hatred of snakes. Adam of the Garden of Eden had no reason to love the reptile, for it was because of a snake that he was thrown out of paradise into the wide and terrible world.
Although Peter has a large house, he usually allows Adam to spend the night on the floor of his bedroom. It may have been no more than one or two nights after he had hung the picture that the strange phenomena began. While Peter was lying comfortably in bed with the light on, gazing intently at the photo of Sathya Sai Baba, it suddenly became three dimensional, that is, it stood out an inch or so from the wall. At the same time, the image of Sathya Sai Baba changed to a man who appeared to be an historical character. Judging, Peter said, from his clothes, style of hair and beard, he belonged to history but Peter could not identify him. After a while the photograph went flat against the wall again and Sathya Sai Baba was there. For the next five or six nights, the photo of Sathya Sai Baba played the same strange tricks, the only difference being that it was not the same person who appeared in place of Sathya Sai Baba. Each night there was a different one, always appearing to be someone from an earlier period of history and never identifiable by Peter. Peter was quite fascinated but puzzled. It must be some sign to him from Sathya Sai Baba but he could not figure out what it was meant to tell him. And who could help him? The only other person in the room to see this pantomime was Adam the dog, and he seemed quite unaffected by the strange antics of the picture.
Then came the night when, instead of another human being appearing in the three dimensional photograph, in the place of Sathya Sai Baba came a large cobra. It was raised and its hood was spread as if about to strike its victim. Peter was horrified. This, he thought, is a symbol of evil and he immediately turned out the bedroom light but it was a long time before he could go to sleep. He, like many followers of the Christian faith, perhaps through the myth of the Garden of Eden, regards snakes as an animal cursed by God and therefore evil. At last he fell asleep. No dreams came to help him with his problem and as soon as he woke in the early hours before full daylight came, he got out of bed with the intention of removing the picture. But it was not on the wall anymore. Knowing that he had not stuck it to the wall very securely, he looked on the floor below where the photo had been hanging. It was not far away but ripped into many small pieces. This must have been the work of Adam the dog who was lying near the heap, as if to protect his master from any evil that may remain in the torn-up picture. Peter gathered the pieces and burned them.
It was not many days after this that Peter informed Rocky and myself about the episode, about what had happened to the photograph. Both of us assured him separately that to Sathya Sai Baba, who is an incarnation of Lord Siva and his consort Parvati or Shakti, snakes are certainly not evil, just the reverse really. Illustrations of Lord ..Siva often show him with a necklace of snakes around his neck. They are one of his symbols and he has, indeed, appeared as a cobra to a number of people at his ashrams, including myself. The one that appeared to me was a beautiful white cobra in the garden at Brindavan. It had behaved more like a friend than an enemy of man. Peter understood readily and happily. He was very pleased when Rocky gave him another photograph. But he had had his ration of signs and wonders and the second photograph behaved as photos are expected to.
I think that Peter would now call himself a Sai devotee. There are, of course, many different brands and types of devotees and they meander to the feet of our Lord by many strange but interesting routes.
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The Sai signs that came to the married couple, Syd and Karen Paterson were also strange and certainly significant. The Patersons live near me in the Blue Mountains and I regard them as earnest devotees who are making good progress on the Sai path that leads back to God. Strangely, they too witnessed some Sai photograph leelas but, unlike Peter, it was after they were already Sai devotees. It was in this case a framed photograph hanging on the wall of their sitting room. One day when they were sitting discussing Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings while looking at the photograph on the wall, it began to play some strange antics. It would, for example, move along the wall to left or right and sometimes seemed to come away from the wall towards them. At other times bright lights would appear around the photo, bright pink or green or just white light. Of course, they told each other what they were seeing after it had happened but to test that it was just not a fault in eyesight, they decided to tell one another at the time of the happening. For example, Syd might say, “The colour has turned to silver,” or, “The photograph is moving along the wall to the right,” and Karen would confirm that she was seeing the same thing. Then Karen might say what was happening and Syd would agree that he was seeing the same thing. So they decided that what they saw was actually happening and believed it to be a sign of God’s presence in their lives.
Other signs also came to them separately. For example, Syd who is a painter by trade, one day – and all day – during his work saw the face of Sathya Sai Baba appear on whatever surface he was painting, perhaps a door or a wall or a cupboard. This gave him great joy and he had a wonderful day.
Another sign that he spoke to me about was that one day he suddenly experienced adwaitha or non-duality – everything was one. This brought him a great feeling of bliss, an uplift of consciousness. Unfortunately, he said, this did not last all day but just for a short period. Nevertheless he has remembered it always and knows that the truth of Being, lies beyond what we see with our eyes and is in truth, oneness of all life.
Later on, about the middle of the year 1990, Syd had his first dream of Sathya Sai Baba and it was to him a very important prophetic dream. It remained very vivid in his memory. He told me that it seemed to begin with him standing talking to a neighbour who had lived next door to him in a Sydney suburb. Suddenly they saw the form of Sai Baba on the opposite side of the street standing on the pavement. Sathya Sai Baba had a white robe on, said Syd, but I don’t know whether he was aware at the time that white is the colour of mourning in India. Whether or not he understood the significance of the colour white, Syd knew instinctively that the old overcoat that Sathya Sai Baba had swung across his shoulder, represented the body of his own father. Sathya Sai Baba gave them a smile and a wave and moved off down the street. Syd was so full of his strong feelings that he omitted to return the wave but the neighbour did so, remarking something about Sathya Sai Baba being the head of some weird cult in India. Syd did not answer but remembered thinking, “If only you knew the truth!” At the first intersection, Sathya Sai Baba turned as if to go along the cross street but instead he faced up towards Syd and his friend and gave another wave. This time, both men returned the wave and Sathya Sai Baba vanished.
It was a sad dream for Syd because he felt sure that Sathya Sai Baba was giving him a sign that his father, who was very sick in a nursing home hospital, would not last very long. Thinking about this, Syd prayed earnestly to Sathya Sai Baba to be granted four boons. The first was that the hospital would warn him of the approaching death in sufficient time for him to let his old mother know, so that she, who was living in the same nursing home would get there in time for his father’s passing. The second was that he, himself, would manage to be present in the bedroom of his father at the actual time of his passing. The third was that his father would have a peaceful end with no pain and the fourth was that Syd would be aware of the actual moment his father left his body. Perhaps this was asking a lot, he thought, but felt sure that somehow Sathya Sai Baba would grant his wishes.
It was not long after this that the call came from the hospital telling him that his father’s condition had deteriorated so rapidly they were sure he did not have long to live. So Syd had time not only to warn his mother but also his brother. That morning they were all sitting in Father’s ward. Brother had brought along his wife too, but Syd had not brought Karen because at this time they were just at the very beginning of their friendship and Karen did not know his parents. The patient did not seem to be aware of their presence. He was sleeping peacefully with no apparent pain and so the hours dragged by, with a nurse coming in about every half hour or so to check the patient’s condition, which seemed to indicate to Syd that the end was not far away.
After a few hours of watching, mainly in silence, Syd felt that his mother, who was unwell herself, was looking as if she needed a rest. So he advised her to go to her room and lie down for half an hour then he would call her. She went and the brother, who had some urgent business to attend to, left too with his wife. Syd was left alone with his thoughts. His good father, for whom he felt great love, was still alive, breathing quietly. Then, after about ten minutes, something strange happened. A shaft of what seemed like dark blue energy about a yard in length and perhaps six inches in width began to emanate from his father’s throat chakra at an angle of about forty five degrees to the body. Then it vanished and the sound of the breathing stopped. At a later time, Syd learned from someone who had had a great deal of experience with death and dying and the hereafter, that this was his father’s astral body leaving the physical. But Syd must have known this himself intuitively because of what happened later.
The next event happened almost immediately. Sathya Sai Baba came into the room, not the usual Sathya Sai Baba but one about half the size of his small self, a dwarf Sathya Sai Baba and he was dressed in green, which is not a colour he ever wears. Syd took this as a symbol that his father had had a peaceful passing because to Syd the green colour meant peace, like the peace one feels in a green meadow. To emphasise the point further, the diminutive Sathya Sai Baba floated onto the bed and sat cross-legged on the chest of the dead body. Having emphasised the point to Syd of his father’s peaceful passing, Sathya Sai Baba vanished. Soon after that two nurses came into the room. One of them went and stood behind Syd with her hands on his shoulders while the other went to the other side of the bed to examine his father’s body. The one behind asked gently, “Where is your mother?” Syd replied “She’s gone and so has my father.” “Oh, no,” she replied, “I think your father is still alive.” But the nurse on the other side confirmed that he had passed away. Syd sat for a while in quiet remembrance of his beloved father and mentally gave his thanks to Sathya Sai Baba for granting him the four boons he had requested and indeed for being present and blessing the transition of his father who had not even been a Sai Baba follower.
Karen, who is very studious and gentle, has had her own experiences of God’s hand in her life. While her husband Syd has felt the unity of all life, she has gone beyond the maya in a different way. For example, she says one day at work, when everything seemed to be going at a mad rate it was as if worldly affairs in her life, that is the maya, was going around at an ever increasing rate and seemed impossible to handle, her mind went beyond it all. She saw it as it was, an unreal, crazy illusion. She wanted to laugh at the crazy antics of people, including herself. It was unreal and she stepped back from it all into the quiet peace of reality. She found that on future occasions when the worldly merry-go-round seemed to be getting out of hand, just to focus on the memory of this occasion was helpful in trying to re-establish that peace.
Earlier in the same year that Syd’s father had died, Karen too, had witnessed the compassionate hand of Sathya Sai Baba at her own father’s death. “Neither of my parents were followers of Sai Baba and they only ever heard his name when I was at home with them and could not help talking about him sometimes.” Her father was sent to hospital through his emphysema and the work of some other mysterious, tropical virus. She felt somehow that this illness was terminal but the hospital staff was not very co-operative about informing her and the rest of the family of his state of health. So either Karen’s mother, sister, herself or another member of the family spent a lot of time in the ward to check on his recovery or otherwise. One day when she was in the ward alone with her father, he suddenly asked to her great surprise, “You know that fellow you went to see in India I’ve forgotten his name what was it?” Karen told him. “Yes, that’s right,” he said. “I had a dream of him the other night.” Karen felt great surprise and delight to hear that Sai Baba actually visited in a dream, her non-Sai father. She questioned him about the nature of the dream. “Oh,” said her father, “He just walked up to me and shook my hand.” The pleasure Karen felt had a tinge of sadness. She felt sure that this handshake meant that her father would leave his body very soon. Then she asked her father, “How did that make you feel, Dad, when he shook your hand? Was it a good feeling?” “Oh, my word!” her father said. There was such enthusiasm in the old man’s voice that Karen felt assured and humble, with a rush of gratitude to the Lord that he seemed to be taking care of her father at this time of his great need.
A few days after this pleasing but worrying conversation, Karen’s father did, in fact, pass away. Only her mother was present and she told Karen that it was an easy, peaceful passing. He just seemed to stop breathing, she said. Karen knew with an inner knowing that Sathya Sai Baba had been present unseen and had given her dear dad a peaceful and blessed passing. She was very grateful and somewhat surprised that Sathya Sai Baba would in this way, help one who had never taken the slightest interest in him.
To me, the fact that Sathya Sai Baba gave loving help and compassion to the two fathers is a sign that Syd and Karen have their feel firmly on and are making good progress along the spiritual path. The ancient sage Narada in his Bhakti Sutras states that anyone well advanced on the path of devotion will bring divine help to several generations of ancestors and descendants. So I feel that Sathya Sai Baba’s blessing to one generation ahead, that is to the two fathers, is a result of Syd and Karen’s own devotional work and progress. Sathya Sai Baba is interested in and brings blessings to the members of the Sai devotees’ families.
Narada’s Sutra 71: His ancestors rejoice, the gods dance in joy and the earth gets a Lord and Saviour. Such a devotee who is full of God-realisation gives salvation to seven generations of ancestors and descendants in the family. The gods rejoice to see a man of God-realisation as he is one with God. The Earth gets in him a saviour who can bless all mankind.
Reference:: “The Lights of Home” by Howard Murphet
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