Transcription of Souljourns interview with Sunder Iyer August 30th ,2010
Maya and Sunder Iyer, both Saibaba University students, Sunder , a personal attendant in Sai Baba’s home for two years. Maya ,a student and a nurse at Baba’s hospital ,two students bought together for life by SaiBaba .
Welcome to souljourns ! This interview was recorded in Elyria, Ohio in August 2010.
Sunder: Thank you, for giving us an honor to share our inspiration and faith. I can probably begin by saying how I came to Swami very briefly. I guess it was Baba who brought Maya later into my life too and bought me into her life and brought us together.
I was NOT born into a Sai family or my parents were not Sai Baba devotees. They were orthodox Hindu couple ,extremely orthodox with all the Poojas (prayers)and all the idols. We had all the Gods possible in our Puja room and my Dad would get up at 3 :00 in the morning and do his regular Pujas.In such a situation ,Baba was considered as a “Miracle Man “ and my parents were not very fond of Baba and so they were kind of… it was a “close door issue” and I remember ,at the age of 8 or 10 ,somebody came to our home from south Africa and she said “Hey !this young boy is longing to, he’s got so many questions about God and spirituality. Can I take him to see Sai Baba ?” My parents replied “Oh! no, no!” ,you are not going to take him to see Sai Baba ,he’ll learn all he wants here.
Unfortunately by the time I was sixteen ,none of my questions were answered. My questions were very simple, I mean ,”If God is out there ,why are there poor people or why are there volcanoes? Why is there poverty and death” Why can’t all our wishes be fulfilled? as simple as that! Why can’t I just get an A grade without studying ,just by praying? Can I do that ?Well, I had plenty of questioned but unfortunately there was no body to answer them. I found families were buried and rituals and ceremonies and nobody explained the significance to me. My thread ceremony was a disaster as far as I was concerned because the priest was out to collect money ,so by the time I was 16 or 17 ,I was so against!
Ted: “You were pretty cynical!”
Sunder: “I was very cynical”. I was against God, religion. I said,” You know what! I’ve had enough of this !”
Ted: “I am surprised you were able to turn yourself around with such a profound negative attitude!”
Sunder: Exactly, I was very surprised the way Swami came into my life and how things turned around ,but when he did what I found with Baba was the simplicity of his teachings. I was going for a photographer called Sai Datta in Mumbai.I would learn coloring black and white pictures as color because those days color photographs were so rare that only the rich people could afford it. So, quite a few people would take black and white pictures and then there was a special color and you could actually paint them with the natural colors and try to bring it to some kind of color. And so, we had heard about Sai Datta ,and then I walk into his studio and said “I want to learn this painting ,can you teach me, he said “Sure!” and guess what pictures he hands to me….
Ted: (laughing)Sai Baba’s pictures ..
Sunder: It’s all Sai Baba’s pictures. At first, honestly I had not seen much ,I had not seen pictures of Sai Baba so I just thought this was some Rock star of some kind ..
Sunder: The idea of him being a ‘Saint’ didn’t occur to me at all because in India, the concept of saint and sages that we were brought up with was with the “torn and tattered ones”. The more tattered a saint is, the more holier he is ,the more famished he looks the more powerful, spiritual he is.
Ted: And you thought he was a movie star to you !
Sunder: I thought he was some big shot. I saw the saffron robe but I just couldn’t put the two in together ,there’s no way a Saint can get along in India sitting on a throne and driving in a car. He will be immediately branded as , “Oh! This is no saint at all! “ But when I kept getting pictures after pictures and coloring just orange, black and skin color all the time, I said “Do you have any other pictures at all?” So,” who is this guy?” ,that’s when Sai Datta opened up. He was very quiet ,he was very patient, never forced Sai Baba on me. He said ,“This is a holy man “,I said, ”Really!” He seems to be really a ‘rich holy man ‘ .”He has got silk robes ,there’s not a hole in his robe and he is surrounded by all these people .”So ,that’s how the first experience of Sai Baba , of the first time I actually heard about him.
I was not interested at all. I said, ”Oh ok! if he is holy man ,forget it don’t even bother to explaining to me” .He said ,”No, this is your kind of holy man .”I said “what do you mean?” ,because by then ,he knew ,What I was up to ?as, I used to use him as my mentor and told him all my vows and all my “How people don’t explain concept of God and religion and things like that. He then gave me the “The Summer Showers In Brindavan”.
Ted: “This guy was an established Baba devotee?”
Sunder: “Oh yes!”, he was the photographer, SaiBaba’ s photographer.
Ted: “Oh!, he was Baba’s photographer ?”
Sunder: ”Yeah, he was Baba’s photographer!”
Ted: “He wasn’t just a commercial photographer?”
Sunder: “No, no, no his family, his father was with Shiridi Sai Baba.”
Ted: “I didn’t hear that part of the story!”
Sunder: His father , his grandfather were with Shiridi Sai Baba.
Ted: “Oh, so he was just waiting for you, for the nut to crack ,so he could give you his wisdom and insight”.
Sunder: Yes, yes, especially because my father got transferred at that time to a distant remote village from Mumbai. He not transferred to Haryana which is a very distant place of Delhi ,to a village there were no colleges there. I was just going to finish my twelfth grade and enter into a college.
Ted:” So, he is beginning to speak ,spoon feed you information at a level that you found acceptable about this man whose picture you were coloring in .
Sunder: He didn’t speak anything about him. My father is getting transferred ,I need to look for a college somewhere else in India because I can’t continue living in Mumbai .I am telling him all this then he said,” You know what? There is college, this guy’s college it’s just going to open in Puttaparthi. So, if you can go and join.” I said “No, No holy man, no holy colleges!” that’s when, he gave this book to me and said, ”Listen” ,just read this book and then you make up your mind.
Ted: There are all Baba’s sayings and discourses in that book.
Sunder: “Summer courses in Brindavan “was a great discourse of Baba. I was expecting him to talk about the usual things, you know ‘God with four hands and spears. I was always turned off by all our Gods had weapons in their hands. I could never understand “why”? Anyways, Summer showers in Brindavan was simple, I open this book and he is saying” God is Love”, That’s it! That’s what I always believed .”Serve the people” ,that’s it, that’s what I want to hear .So, that’s how it started ,I said “Oh! this guy makes sense”.
The little miracles Sai Datta was always trying to tell I thought, he is going to talk about how he was performing miracles or how he was able to do, none of what he was doing, it was all about “You are God too”,” Everybody is divine”,” Love is God”,” God is love”, things which made so much sense !I felt “How come I never came across this before ,so that was suddenly like a door opening,, like a flood gate’s opening .I always think about it and that moment in my life as to how I was so cynical about it and what changed me, I can never understand what changed me.
Ted :Baba might say that ,you Sunder Iyer ,waited life times for that particular moment.
Sunder: “Now I believe that!”
Ted: And, how long was it after that moment dawned on you ,that you decided to commit yourself to make an application to attend Baba’s university.
Sunder: Well, then I started reading Baba’s book ,I attended his summer course in Brindavan and because my father said , “Go there, try it for a month and see if you like it.”
Ted: “Even though your father was opposed to this?”
Sunder: “Right!” he was but then at that point he was in Haryana and he needed a college for me. This turned out to be a place where nobody smokes ,drinks and no parties! He thought at least this guy will be saint, if anything he can at least focus on studies.
He was kind of more interested in the fact that it was a protected environment. He said to me ,”Go check out the summer course and see if you like the place and then let me know ,”if your marks are good, you can get in”. So, I did go and attended the summer course, every moment I saw Baba, I was getting more and more interested in him. I saw people falling at his feet and once you are in Brindavan ,you will hear so many stories .None of them seriously moved me, at that point I was more curious ,more willing to learn before I finally said, “Baba ,I am surrendering to you!, You are my Guru!” It took a long time for me to say that…
Ted: “Did he give you any personal attention in those early days, when you were attending these courses?”
Sunder: The summer course in Brindavan ,he gave group interview to young students from every state who attended and I was part of that group. That was as close as I got at that time .I was more sitting behind and watching what he does and how he was talking and I was body reading, sign reading ,just to make sure I was in the right track.
Ted: I think it was not just but a short time there after that the opportunity and willingness met and you decided to
Sunder: The first time ,the turning point came when my grades were out ,my twelfth standard grades were out and I decided to join Puttaparthi because every time Baba spoke I said, he makes lot of sense ,I need to know more about this person .He is down to Earth so simple and yet people are talking such great things about him.
“Who is this personality ,I was very curious that I join this college I moved to Puttaparthi from Brindavan ,waited for my grades to come. I was told you need an A grade to get into the commerce, B.com “Bachelors in Commerce in India called as Bcom.,Bachelors in Science is Bsc. ,Bachelors in arts is BA .My father clearly ,specifically said,” You are getting an admission in commerce, I am an accountant”
Sunder: “No, I am an accountant, so you are also going to be an accountant. Period!” My fate was serious!....(Smiles)
Ted: “I cannot see Sunder Iyer as an accountant, I am sorry!”
Sunder: Well he said “You have to get into commerce “and I needed an A grade for that. My grades came out and I was low, lower than B grade ,a little higher than C grade ,probably but I was lower than B grade. I was no where close to an A grade and I knew there was no way I could get into this admission .So, long story ,short! My father sends me the return ticket to come back to Mumbai. He says “I have to deal with you now, and put you in some college, somewhere, you cannot get into Baba’s college ,because the college had opened .It was a week later and I had my return tickets booked. Two days before I had left Puttparthi, I wrote a ‘very angry’ letter to Baba,a ‘very strong ’ letter and I said “Baba, for once I was interested in God and spirituality and I thought you made sense .”I never prayed to you before ,and this is the first time I am going to pray to you. For some reason if you think my life can change then I need admission! I don’t know how you could get me into this admission ,I don’t think it’s happening!. I have only two days left and the college has started.” I wrote whatever I felt and towards the end I said “The moment you take this letter your relation and my relation is cut! I don’t believe you are God and I don’t think that you are divine!(Ted smiling) These things just don’t work!
Ted: “You were angry!”
Sunder: “I was very angry”, I was a young ‘Mumbai blood’. I thought I am not going to sneak out of the Ashram ,I am going to let him know that ,I was going to look into his face and say “Take it!, you know, Bye!” I was so prepared for it .I went and sat first in the darshan with just a day left. I am sitting with the letter in my palms folded because that was ……You know. I wanted to give it to him ,look into his eyes and ,here he comes for Darshan and he comes with his fingers like this…(Sunder moving fingers like scissors ) to the letter. He goes to the envelope like this and he says,” Kya hai””(in Hindi language)(which means) “What’s is it ?”
The first time he spoke to me literally and I was like “Baba ,admission!Baba ,admission!”.
And, I heard my father’s voice from inside.”Bcom.!,make it clear what admission “.So, I said “Swami! Bcom…Bcom”.Baba said “What?Bcom.? “be calm be calm”
Ted : (laughing)”You remember him say that?”
Sunder: ”Oh my gosh! Everybody was laughing and I was excited because he spoke to me .He didn’t take that letter. His hand was like this(as if like holding scissors to cut open the letter) , then he took it away and walked off. Later after two days when I opened that letter and read I was feeling very ashamed to what I had read ,when I read in the end I said “The moment you take this letter, my relationship is going to break”. So it’s almost like ”Do I cut the relationship or not?” He came like this,(Sunder explaining all this with his hand movements),held the envelope like this because he would pull it off from my hand ,right?, he used to always take it like this…he says “Kya hai?”, I say Swami!Bcom,Bcom…,he says “be calm ,be calm”(Sunder showing in gestures how swami held his palms saying that).
I think he immediately looked at the Principal, and he made some gesture and walked away.So,the darshan get’s over and I saw the principal of the college walking towards me and I ran to him because I have been running to him everyday, and he knew “This is it!, a pain guy coming to me everyday saying,”Sir,please sir! please sir!”.So,today I said ,”Did you see, Swami spoke to me?”
Principal: “I know, I think your prayers are answered”, he said, “ You can come and see me tomorrow!”. I kept asking ”You are sure, I am going to get Bcom…?””Whatever you want, I will give you” he replied.
Ted: Even though you were C com average you got into Bcom.
Sunder: I got into Bcom and I never had to look back. Often ,I wake up in the middle of the night ,sometimes and I think ,“what if ,what if he had let me go?”
Ted: Sunder,that’s a beautiful story, we’ll get back to Part 2 in just a minute. But right now I may hear how Maya got accepted and decided to go into Baba’s school and it wasn’t in the Secondary/High school as we say in America ,it was the Primary school ,right? how did that happen ?”
Maya: Yes, it was the primary school and I joined there in my eighth grade. For me ,it was different because I think from the time, I was born ,”Thanks to my Grandmother”!, our family was already into Swami and she was a Brindavan singer and she got my Mom into Swami and that’s how as kids we always have been with Swami.
Ted:I should point out that the whole family is here, your grandmother and your mother both had a lot to do with that..(Ted introducing them to viewers)”So, was there enthusiasm initially that opened the door for you ?or did you have an interest as well.
Maya: Well,we did have an interest actually because my Dad was in the Air Force and the kind of places that he was posted to, every two years ,it would be a different place and as we came to higher grades, my sister was to go to ninth grade, me into the eighth , the school was not very good .So,my parents started looking at different options and they didn’t want us to keep changing schools as we got into higher grades.
Maya: And then my Grandmother said that “you know, a school is there in Puttaparthi ,and they were just starting ,the High School that year in 1983. So, we were the first batch of students for the eighth and ninth grade and she said “Why don’t you try that ,and also she was in Bangalore ,it was close enough for her to visit us, even if my parents couldn’t come. So, we went there and we had to go through the entrance exam. They used to have an entrance exam in Maths,English and Hindi, three subjects and I was all excited because I used to read inabliting books all .I was all excited about stories about dorm life ,hostel living .”I was excited about that .”
Ted: “You really wanted that!”
Maya:I really wanted that, my sister was not very keen about ,leaving home and going but I guess being there was an consolation for me so but I didn’t miss my parents that much and then of course added to that this is Swami’s school, so it was the icing on the cake. So that’s how we went there, joined and we did three years there ,eighth to tenth grade and then I went into girls college in Anantapur.
Ted: “So, you just didn’t join in it, didn’t you, you had to be selected for it ,as well?”
Maya: Oh,yes!we had to do these entrance exams .
Ted: ………..You said, you had sort of slight advantage nobody else had ,in fact some people may even say that you cheated to get in ,you sat on Baba’s lap as an infant, as a child ,didn’t you?”
Maya: I did,I was about four years old…I did!
Ted: ( )You were right there!
Maya: I guess he had already decided at that time that you know…
Ted: “Real quickly, what’s that quick story ,how could you meet him at that tender age for yourself and how old were you ?”
Maya: I think 4 or 5 and you know…(someone prompts 4 years).Every vacation my parents used to take us to Bangalore to see my grand parents and that year we were visiting Bangalore and whenever Swami was there we used to go for darshan all the time, because my grandma used to sing there and that year it was in Puttaparthi not Bangalore . We went there to see Swami and he called my parents in for an interview. My parents were not sure if children were allowed so we were left outside with one of the ladies there. As he was talking to my parents ,he asked them “Where are the children? and my mother answered ,”they are sitting out.”. He said “bring them”, then my sister and I were brought in and he looked at my sister ,and asked “Oh! What’s your name?”, she said ,”Shalini” Oh! he said ,”good girl!” and patter her cheek ,hugged her and then he looked at me and said “What’s your name?” and I looked at him and said “as if you don’t know!”, because all my life I’ve been hearing he knew everything!, so…
Ted: “You were being smart with Baba?”
Maya: Yes, I was being smart with Baba (laughs) He looked at my face and he said “Maya, Jagat Maya” means “World of Maya”, he patted me on the cheek and he gave us a lot of Vibuthi packets and blessed with Namaskarams and that was the first thing …
Ted: “Had your parents already told him names of the daughters?”
Maya: NO, they hadn’t! mentioned us at all, he asked “Where are the children”?, till then he was talking about their lives and all ..
Ted: He must have been very impressed of at the age of four ,he knew your name (24min:50 secs)
Maya: “ Oh I loved him!”
Ted : I am invited also to ask you about your first interview with Baba,” was it not at this time but at a later time?”
Maya: Well, that was the first interview ,the other one was after I finished my Bachelors in 1991. That’s the year the Super Specialty Hospital in Puttaparthi was being built and inaugurated ,the big one. So, we were sent letters ,we finished in June 1991 ,we received letters from our Principal saying that Swami was looking for old students to volunteer at the hospital and if we were interested we can go to Puttaparthi and see what it was about. So, that was a good chance and my friend and me ,a couple of others went to Puttaparthi and sat there and this was in December 1991.In November the hospital was inaugurated and this was in December 1991 ,we were about eight girls and Swami called in us for an interview.So,that was the second one I got, if you take the first one at 4.
Ted: I interrupted you when you first started to talk about the first several years as Baba’s student ,did you have much access to Swami at that time ,”did he come to the school?” did you get a chance to see him?”
Maya: Yes, he used to come to the school, especially when there would be some dignitaries ,visiting Puttaparthi ,he would show them the school, he would walk into the classrooms .The teachers would ‘freeze’, and he used to say ,”No, No, ! keep teaching and of course no body would pay attention because Swami was there.” Sometimes he would just drive when it was breakfast time. So, he would just come around the driving hall ,we would all be sitting and he would ask questions like “Did you eat?, Did you have this? Did you have that ? ,walk around .
Ted: So, Maya was this all the experience ,everything that you expected it was going to be ,or?..
Maya: It was a lot more
Ted:” How so?”
Maya: I guess I had no concept of how it was going to be there, I didn’t know anything about the life, in the dorm and that kind of things ,but being there we would just go every Thursday and Sunday for darshan from school. Swami would come and he would just talk to everybody and then when it’s your birthday, you would get to sit right up front and give him the tray of that candy, then he throws it all ,that excitement ,that closeness with him.
Ted: Here is a question I always wondered, when I see students come in .”Were you and your sister’s students all students of spiritual school or were you spiritual students at a school? Did you have as much of a sense about having spiritual growth at that time or was it just a school for you?”
Maya: I guess initially it was just a school because everything was new ,we had to concentrate on the studies part and it was a good standard but being there ,listening to Swami’s discourses, attending every function ,going to darshan bought in the spirituality and that’s where we started questioning ,learning and exploring more about ourselves .
Ted: One of the things that I have liked over the years is hearing peoples’ personal experiences with Swami, as a student on the inside and I ask Sunder this in a second too … “did you start to become aware of some of your sisters students having personal experiences with Baba ,whether they came in dreams or performed leelas for them or miracles or materializations?”
Maya: In fact a lot of girls when their parents would visit Swami would call in for interviews ,as children. They would tell us a few things that he said ,a lot of them would talk about dreams that they had, we used to talk about them with each other ,we were thirteen, fourteen year olds ,so we used to talk about the things and Swami materializing little lockets for some of them. There were lot of experiences shared over there and then the teachers would share experiences with us too. You know, when they first came to Swami, how different things were at that time ,we learnt a lot from them also.
Ted: ”Who was Sai Baba to you at that time for you in that early age when you were young teenager .”
Maya: “To me, he was ….
Ted: “Was he more than the Principal of the school?”
Maya: ”Oh yes! definitely, he was more a ‘friend’ to me ,I would think of him as that because I know my parents said God and everything but I wasn’t curious to know as to who was God at that time!”
Ted: One final question for this part of interview ,”What about the students that you went to class with ? Did they share your point of view or were some skeptics or doubters or were some of them really convinced about you ?”
Maya: There were a couple of students that were very new to Swami and they had joined there because of may be circumstances ,somebody said it’s good school ,it’s a girls school, girls would be safe ,it’s a good environment ,so they came there ,they didn’t know much about Swami .I wouldn’t think there were any skeptic there at that point .They were learning about him .
Ted: You had a lot learned about all the way through those learning years .
So, Sunder back over to you ,I’ve asked Maya’s about her first interview including the one at the age of four,” I don’t suspect you had such an experience, so tell us about your first experience of meeting Baba in interview form!”
Sunder: “I wish I had that interview at the age of four”,now!But my first interview with Baba was about eight, nine months ..hmmm I joined in 1979 ,it was ..let’s see 1981,a year and half later just six months before that we had a hostel inauguration ,Baba had attended. I had done some gymnastics in front of him. I jumped through three rings of fire .
Ted:” That would get his attention!”
Sunder: ”Yes,it did!” I would probably come to that incident in a bit because it explains the spontaneity of Baba’s love.
For me it is all first hand, if somebody say’s “ Swami is love” I could never understand that till I had that experience ,I will come to that in a bit ,if you have the time ,but the interview was when he finally called me .He cornered me straight away into a wall and he said “what do you want ? ”(3 times).
I replied ,”I don’t want anything Swami !“,because I had never and ever, even today asked him anything as he I used to think “If he is God ,he should know everything ,and God should provide you ..Why should you ask something?’
He said “No, ask me! What do you want ?I said ,”Swami, I don’t want anything !“
Swami: “No you ask me! ” ‘Cheppu’( he tried Telugu),’Bolo!’( he tried Hindi) , he tried English
Sunder: I was so scared .I said Ok! Ok!
The first thing I said,” My sister”, I just said that because my mother has been writing to me .”Hey! you are in Sai Baba’s ashram !”…so now their doors are opening, now they wanted to sneak in but they didn’t know where to go with Sai Baba because Sai Baba was a big ‘No No ‘ for them , being Lord Shiva’s devotees and all that, so she had kept writing, “you know what ! your elder sister has been married for eleven years and she has not had a baby ,can you ask Sai Baba ?”I said,” No way!” I will be the last person to get up and say “Swami , bless my sister with a baby”.
I thought it was just so petty to ask him because I saw him so keen on his mission and things like that ..but he was forcing me that day and I had nothing else to ask, so asked about my sister and he said “ah! Your sister, eleven years , twelve years, whole family is crying , “No baby ,No baby!”
Sunder: “Your mother”, he turns around and says Your mother cries…”Ayyo Muruga! ,Kolanda Porakiliye!” ( meaning: Lord Muruga,she has no kids…in Tamil),exactly the way my mother would say .That was the message for my mother because even if he had said, “Your mother is saying,Oh Bhagawan Oh God !”,it would have been different but he actually said the family deity whom my mother would worship.”Muruga!”,your mother is all the time ,”Kolanda Porakiliye!”
Ted: “ Is this the first time , may be he revealed his omniscience to you?”
Sunder:”Yes!,that was the first time ,for me it was like,” wow!” and it was coming so fast that I did not have time to even digest it, he just waited for me to say that, it was as if like “I need you to say that ,so that I can get your family in ,here!” Then come ‘poop!’ say it, …,the moment I said that.
Swami :“yes ,yes! sister has not had a baby ,the whole family is crying ,your mother is going on doing like this! I will give you vibuthi, you give it to your sister ,in eight or nine months ,she’ll have a baby boy!”
Sunder: I am like “wow!”
Ted: “What do you think your sister might have said?”
Sunder: “I will come to that in a bit “, and the second thing ,”Now ,what do you want?” So, he didn’t finish it, “Ok!Neeku Emi Kavali(in Telugu) What do you want, What do you want?”
“Swami! I want nothing!”
Swami again,”Cheppu!” (in telugu..tell),and he is coming so close,’ big hair’! “Swami, what is this going on here? I don’t want it? But the moment he said that, suddenly…..(it struck me) I always had this heartfelt desire, I wanted to know what does Swami do in his room , upstairs .I mean here,people say “He is Avatar! he doesn’t eat, doesn’t sleep ,what about it?”, and I was wanting to know everything first hand, I had enough rituals and other peoples stories, I wanted to learn first hand everything about Sai Away.So,the moment he said ,”what do you want? ,I said “swami, I want to be with you, in your room!”
“Oh!come tomorrow morning”, in a flash of second ,that’s all!”Repu ninchi vacheseyyi”(in Telugu),
“Come from tomorrow!”. ”Wow, Swami!”, I thanked him ,hugged him ..He said,” Hey! you are spoiling my hair!” So, those are the two things and I walk out of the interview room, excited because I’m going to be in Swami’s room ,”I had no clue ,what that meant?” I knew there were two other boys who were actually personal attendants of Swami .
Ted: “They would go there every day?”
Sunder:” Yes ,we would go there at 5:30 am in the morning “
Ted: “And he invited you to come just for one day?”
Sunder : No, I stayed ,two years after that
Ted: “I knew, you got into that position eventually ,but I did not know it was the result of that first interview!”.
Sunder: It was, it happened so simply and so sweetly because those were. ..and my building blocks of faith were actually in the divine presence ,not by reading a book but actually watching him and seeing him, you know literally almost, twenty four hours, till he would go to bed and shut that room door. But, to finish the story of my sister ,I come out of the interview room excited…
Ted :”Oh yeah!”
Sunder: Because, I’m going to go into Baba’s room and the second part was I was nervous and confused because Baba not only revealed his omniscience about my sister’s plight but he also said I am going to give vibuthi and in 8 or 9 months she’s going to have a baby boy, so there were like too many things .First of all eight or nine months ,immediately !it’s not like eventually ,”she will have a boy!”. He’s given a time frame ,and also he say’s it’s going to be a boy ,”what if it’s going to be a girl!”, I needed that faith so badly that period.
I didn’t want to philosophize ,if it’s a girl , and make a philosophy about what Baba would have meant, I wanted , just concrete evidence at that point.
(Sunder to himself)”Baba ,you don’t have to say all those details! now I have to wait eight months! to make sure comes true” but believe it or not ,timing, this is what the leela of Baba is. In those days you had registered mail right? Anyways, I am s waiting at in the interview room for Baba to give the vibuthi because my sister’s baby has to come, so obviously it’s not going to be just a packet of vibuthi ,he’s going to materialize for me,” yeah!” ,so I am waiting for that ,Baba finishes the interview and he handing everybody packets of vibuthi am like when is ‘that vibuthi coming ,”the vibuthi”which Baba said .He just hands me the packets of vibuthi and he is carrying on …I said “Swami ,Swami !,didn’t you say my sister.. Swami! Sister,vibuthi ,
Swami: “I gave you know!, send this to her.”
Sunder: It was just an ordinary handing over, you know. So, that was my first thing, you don’t need any special..” Oh, for your sister, no,! 11 years ok! let me prescribe this one!...(sunder waving hands ..)It was just “send it to her!”, for me that was like, there is no way this is going to work ,this is just what he gave everyone else ,there is no way! I had no feeling ,Oh my gosh!, this need to have happened! I should not have asked about this because I was just getting there and I did not want any confusion .Anyway, I put it in the mail ,wrote all these details to my sister and I mailed it to her. Now, the mail takes three or four days to reach Delhi. The day it reached her, that day morning ,5 in the morning, my sister was woken up by NagarSankeertan. She had also heard about my being in Baba’s ashram ,college and all that .She was also probably going through this depression phase , not having a baby and she is really pining for one .Apparently that morning she got up with this Bhajan group going past the house and she got up, she felt like crying to Baba that “If you are really God, then why don’t you hear my prayer?” and 8:00 clock that morning, she get’s the Prasad am I mailed, so for her..
Ted: “With the vibuthi”
Sunder: See his timing, it’s the perfect timing, it was not like ,you know she was….(Sunder in tears of immense love for Baba)
Every time I speak about Baba, this is what I get(Sunder cleaning his face with tissues and pointing out to them) (All excited with this sweet experience of Sunder)
The timing, he gave me the interview, he made me ask ,and then he said mail it, and then three days later she gets up that time and she prays,” Her prayer and the grace have to meet !”
This extra ordinary sequence of events is something I can’t get over, and it’s everybody’s experience in some level or the other ,it’s not coincidence right?, it’s COIN’SAI’DENCE .So that was it, she get’s this envelope, she opens it she finds Baba’s vibuthi and the letter and then of course eight months later she had a boy ,she got pregnant within a month !
Sunder: One thing after the other, so ,for my parents immediately it was like a turn 180 degrees or 360 degrees what ever turn that was..
Ted: 180 degrees!
Sunder : Ok,180 degrees!, they turn straight to Baba and you know there were no questions asked after that ..
Ted: This was the joyest story if you share ,I am really glad that you did because ,it’s unbelievably beautiful .But then ,you opened this big door also that has to be explored and it’s your fault ,you said you had all of this interest in knowing about what goes on upstairs in Baba’s room and you told him to his face and he said come up and then have been telling us , you got to stay there as his personal attendant for 2 years..”
Everybody is waiting Sunder ,what does go on in Baba’s house!”
Sunder: Let me summarize that ,I think what I took home every night was the intensity of Baba and his mission .He was such an intense person ! I would see his life.. ,a day in Baba’s life …He would get up in the morning, it is a small room 10/10 ft .Puttaparthi ashram windows were wooden windows, above the bhajan hall ,where he would sleep and there were four of them, four small windows ,so he can open ,each one at a time. He would have just one opened and three closed all the time ,and in the mornings he would get up at 4 :00 am or whatever because he needs to have his hair done so that he could go for 6’o clock darshan.The Suprabhatam goes on later 5:15 or so, they think they are waking him up but he is wide awake ,he is probably doing his hair. He would get up at 4 in the morning but he would not use his own bedroom light ,he would use a flash light ,why? Because he used to say ,if he puts on the light the devotees across the West Prashanti ,they will be waiting for Baba’s room light ,”they are crazy people ,they won’t sleep “,they will be up at 3:00 clock and they will be waiting to get a glimpse of my hair, my face ..
Why should I trouble them ,,,(In telugu) “valla ki enduku idanta”,naku ee chinna light unte chalu…,na pani nenu chusukuntanu…In telugu ,he would say I can take care of my job with my flashlight ,why do I need a big light so in his own room ,in his own house he would use a flash light to go to the rest room in the morning, have his shower ,till he comes out at 5:15--- 6’o clock. By then it becomes brighter ,then he would put on his light because then you cannot make out the difference , the room light is on or off ,that was just the beginning of the day and then he comes out for darshan,he gets people in and listens to their problems and solves them. He keeps listening to them …all day long ,what does he do? I used to often wonder, what does he do sitting there ,…reading the devotee’s mail
Ted:” He does that?”
Sunder: That’s all he did. That was his pass time ,opening reading ,opening reading and he would keep some aside.
Ted: Even though he slept in various houses since the days you were there that I am aware OF NOW ,this is his third one now, all in the same close proximity ,forgive me for going little extra heavy on this but this is something since past thirty but few people have THE opportunity right now or in future or ever to learn about really Sai Baba in his own personal moments that we can learn from, just what you shared with us is enormously valuable that he is always with his devotees especially with their concerns..
Sunder: Oh yeah!
Ted: What’s in that tiny room ,a bed and a chair and a light and the table ?Was there anything else too?
Sunder: It’s just the minimum furniture .His living room has just one chair for him and everybody else stands around him or they sit on the floor .
Ted: Does he do any courting in there or are they any meetings constantly going on, is he by himself mostly ..what is it like?
Sunder :The times when I was there the college had just opened, the university was just forming so you would have the Vice Chancellor, the Registrar ,the ashram officials would go up there ,the doctor from that small hospital would go up there .He would make that doctor tell about each and every patient who was there in that hospital,.” Today ,who are all who visited you ?Who are the patients?”
Doctor: Swami ..one with stomach ache came and one lady with broken leg came!
Swami :Ok! What medicine did you give her ?
Sunder: He would take out, two packets of vibuthi , give this to that lady and that would go to Dr Alreja,who is an old man now,Dr Alreja’s left pocket .Then he would listen about another patient and he would dig out another two packets or three packets whatever and he would say,” give this to him “,so Dr Alreja would take that and put it in his right pocket and thus it would go on in different pockets and then one day I asked Dr Alreja,”It’s from the same basket ,why are you all going on ?…because he would come down later on and make notes and go so I asked “Aap ye kyun kar rahein hain ?(in Hindi)Why are you doing this? because this is all coming from same basket,Baba is giving you.
Dr.Alreja:”If Baba is giving me two packets and said this one goes to a lady ,then that has to go to ONLY that lady!”
Ted:” That’s interesting ,so people who were there, were because he requested to see them when he gave instructions and he expected them to carry out the instructions .”
Sunder: Oh! to the letter, always !Even with us ,it was to the letter, he would tell you to do something, if he said to meet some one .he would ask us” did you meet him ? or did you just tell somebody to do that?” so he would expect us to follow it to the very end to the very letter ,so that was the kind of training he gave us .
The beauty of that is….”what I was wanting to say here to summarize this whole thing was ..His entire life ,the way I saw, it was a SAGA OF SACRIFICE, it was all for his devotees sake .He had a huge verandah where he could go for a walk and have fresh air ,he wouldn’t do that ,because devotees would come and watch him. So in his own room of his own house he lived like a prisoner and yet there was an incredible sense of freedom ,peace in his face in his presence .”Where is that coming from !to me that was a secret ,where is that secret? what is that secret, that he is ,not bound by these four walls ,I could go crazy ,you could give me ten million dollars and tell me to do this ,I couldn’t do it, I would go mad!”
I would ..with the money no doubt but
Ted :And he would do this routine seven days a day and 365 days a year !,
Sunder : “Without stopping.!”.
Ted : Quick question, for my fourth grade of mind ,because you gave us a great account of how he knows , he just knows ,he knew about your sister, he knew about eleven years of having no children ….He knew about your mother’s anguish over that ,and yet you told us that he reads letters of devotees all day. Did it ever dawn on you to ask ,”why are you reading these Baba? surely, you know what’s inside all these letters, just like you know the contents of our family that you shared with me.”
Sunder: Ochre’s the first lesson I learnt .”Never open your mouth and speak out to Swami unless you are spoken to!”.So,even though we would say we were in his room for two years ,none of us I know could ever say,”Oh yeah! I can put in a word to Baba for you ,nobody! and that’s an other thing that impressed me.” Nobody could say he was close to Baba or take Baba for granted, even the closest of the closest.
Ted: And, not just amongst his students but among his closest attendants as well .
Sunder: Yes, everyone including the ashram official, whoever including the highest, could never because when he was with Baba he would keep his mouth shut!
Baba would ask him “What the news?, What does so and so say ?What’s the news from Canada? then you would open your mouth and say … ,”what’s the news in US ? then You would open your mouth and say !
If he is busy reading, you just leave him ,” why does Baba read letters ,I have no answers !I stopped asking ‘why’ long time ago, I would just stand ,watch and observe .Probably that never crossed my mind because it was just a natural thing for Baba to pick up the letters and…
Ted: Or if I say …
Sunder: Having said that ,let me share one exciting an interesting anecdote!
Ted: “Is it to have to do about reading these letters.”
Sunder: Yes, it’s about reading the letters
Ted: Ok, good!
Sunder :The strange thing that Baba would do ,just to give you a glimpse of how these personalities are is comprehensible, I got that also from Baba, one is his physical austerity if you will, or being focused in his mission but also a playfulness…
“Hey, you can’t understand me ,just when you think you are getting to know him and his routine …he would throw you off…Here’s one…
Every day ,the mail would come and we would arrange it in trays the big one, the small ones, the long ones ,the red ones we just arrange them properly so that it would be easy for him to pick up instead of being in a mess.So,we would take the tray and go , and when he would open his bedroom and come out in the afternoon ,we would go and leave it just next to him and if he had something to share that time he would talk to you, we would wait…just outside his room, we would never stand in his presence unless he would say !”just sit down and press my feet or something “,otherwise we would just stay and leave.So,that afternoon it’s just like everyday routine, I would go leaving the trays. I’m backing out, he said wait! Come here ..I said Alright go, he takes one tray keeps it on his lap and believe me , there would have been 150 or 175 envelopes in that one tray, and there were three trays like that, at a speed of. I don’t know...incredible speed ,he kept picking up envelopes one,two,three,four,five,six ..he was not feeling or anything like that…he was just picking up fast ,keep it! Keep it! keep it! I was like’ wow; ,what’s going on?…He is passing one envelope after another and the other tray .He was going fast that day and he didn’t have time for this…..He is picking up one after the other from the tray like …take take ….so he gives me. I have my hand full envelopes 40 or 50 and there was another tray ..and then takes a deep breath and says” All this has got to do something with money”, so give it to Kutumba Rao,the person who is in charge.
I am walking down the stairs, thinking what do you mean? ,”all this has got to do with money!” ,I went to the smaller room because he would expect us to arrange it and then give to Kutumba Rao. So, if there is anything personal like a check or money or involved ,we would keep it separately .Every single envelope had to do with money from Eleven rupees to ten thousand dollars, everyone had to do with money every one of them. I couldn’t believe I told others. .”Hey guys!, you don’t touch this, this is my stuff, I am going to do it !”
Friends: “Yeah! it’s all yours because Baba gave you ,you better do it”
Sunder: I sat and it took me about 45 minutes to open each one I was curious ,what if, one of them was missing ,everyone of them had some money either cash or some check .The least that I remember was eleven rupees and highest was ten thousand dollars check, every one of them. I said ‘wow!’ ,to answer your question,” Why does he need to read the letters ,why does he need to walk? Why does he need to eat”, why does he need to be? ,just to have fun I guess….
Ted: Maya, “there is so much to ask and so less time and so many areas to cover here. Let’s resume with your part of story about Baba ,as a student, you were also a volunteer at hospital ,about that and about how you and Sunder met and I’d like to know how you and Sunder formed this wonderful partnership ,it’s really a dual partnership ,about the marriage and great service work that is your way of spending the rest of your life in the service of humanity.So,you begin with the hospital first..
Maya: Well, like I was saying, earlier that when Swami started the hospital in 1991 ,some of us got letters to volunteer in the hospital.
Ted: “While you were student?”
Maya: No, after we finished our graduation, I was back home and I was planning to do Masters but then I got this letter ,saying “if you want to volunteer at the Super Specialty Hospital ,Come to Puttaparthi!” ,so I just left everything and went. It was 1991,I went to Puttaparthi, we were a group of about eight girls and Swami called us and told us that ,next day we were being sent to Delhi to the AIMS (ALL INDIA INSTITUTE OF MEDICAL SCIENCES) hospital. We would go there and we would receive training to work in the hospital. We had no idea ,what kind of training? What we were going to be doing? But it was Swami’s work , so anything was ‘OK’! and this was winter in Delhi ,Delhi was really cold as compared to Puttaparthi .So Swami at the end of the interview ,looked at us he actually called one of the Seva dals and then he distributed blankets to all of us and he said,” You are all not prepared and Delhi is going to be really cold, so I am going to give you these blankets ,just to keep you warm over there and he said ,”your tickets are booked” and everything is done, so you go!”
The next day the eight of us and one of the teachers came with us and we were put in a train to Delhi. We go there and we were received by the staff of AIMS. They took us into the hospital and there we were told that we were given choices. They said, they need three girls for ICU (Intensive care unit) .and I must say that none of us had a degree in ‘science’. We were all either students of arts or commerce.
Ted: No training!..
Maya:” No training ,whatsoever in nursing. I think the only thing we may have done is to cut the frogs in school. That’s it ,not anything else to do with science but..
Ted : “And they would have been dread frogs? “
Maya:Yes,dead frogs! We had no idea of anything to do with medicine, so we go there and we were told three girls had to work in ICU,this is all in the Cardiac department and then four of us were to work in operation theatre and one girl for the cath lab ,which they called and I jumped at the idea of working in Operation theatre because it just sounded exciting .So, my friend ,me ,two other girls went there and we were trained .initially as anesthetists and I still remember ,they were training us to put in the IV and ,made us to draw the blood. Suddenly I hear this thump, my friend has fallen down, fainted on the floor because she saw blood for the first time. We were there for 2 months so the first month was training as anesthetist and in the second month they shifted us over to assist in surgery ,so we had to stand there and give the instrument to doctors.You,know go through ,learn all the steps of every type of open heart surgery and learn all that.
Ted:” What a baptism of fire ,you went right in from knowing nothing to open heart surgery.
Maya: I remember ,Dr Venugopal who was the head chief of staff ,he was there at that point .One day looked and , I was assisting in that surgery I in the training ,he looked and said ,” Have you held a heart before”, I said “No!” .He said “Do you want to feel how it is like! And he actually called me and I actually put my hand in and held the person’s heart...It was amazing and then we came back from there and then we started working.
Ted: You sure would be pursuing masters at the same time frame as you could have been doing ,huh!
Maya : “I guess!”
Ted: Broadened the horizons on human life on your own !
Ted: “So, what happened then?”
Maya: We came back from Delhi and those days the team of doctors from Delhi used to come and work in Puttaparthi hospital because they were still setting up things over there and so they came back with us and the training continued .There were two operation theatres and I think the two years I was there ,we did about 1500 open heart surgeries.
Ted:” Good grief!”
Maya: We used to work from 7:00 am in the morning to 2:00 the next morning and back again.
Ted: “Just exhausting for you!”
Maya: Well, I don’t know where we got the energy came from, I guess Swami did it and ,we were never tired. We would almost stand 9,10 hours in a day continuously ..My mom ,I remember when I called her from Delhi first time ,and said, “guess where I am ? “ I am in Delhi! to tell her that I went for training because they had no idea ,they thought I am in Puttaparthi .The next day I am gone and I am in Delhi and I call and say I am here , this is what I have come for…I’m being trained . She said …”Are you sure?, can you stand the blood .They also trained us to help because there were less doctors there. With so many surgeries going on they needed help as assistant doctors ,so eventually we started doing that, stitching up towards the end of surgery and all that, we started doing that , ,,,Mom called and then says …”You only used to do embroidery and now you are doing this…
Ted: “That’s not the same!”….
Maya: But the best part was that Swami used to watch the surgeries sometimes and would scrub up . He used to say these are the rules to be followed and you wouldn’t enter into the operation theatre without these. He would scrub and of course the cap wouldn’t fit his head and so he would just keep it on, but he used to keep the mask and wear the robe .
Ted: Amazing, great insights ,people are going to love this! So how did you meet Sunder?
Maya: Well, I was working in the hospital and Sunder was already there, he was teaching and our family, his parents and my dad’s parents have known each other from Mumbai days and they are all very close together, so we kind of knew and..
Sunder : ( Prompting Maya…)
Maya: So we never met being in Puttaparthi and (Maya to sunder: when was that it was later right? And sunder giving more details about what happened that time)
This was I guess in June 1992. In April Sunder’s father passed away and I’ll let him tell you about that a part of it).We are sitting in darshan, we had gone, the hospital staff ,we were sitting and suddenly Swami came out and there was this girl ,it was her birthday and she stood up with her tray of candy and Swami looked at her and he says.. ”Are you Maya?” And she looked and she says “No Swami”, she told her name, and he looked around and of course blessed her, took her candy and asked “Where’s Maya?”, I was scared,” What did I do?”,” why is he asking for me? because he’s never done that before right? I stood up ,I was like in the third or fourth row, I stood up and said “Swami ,I am Maya!” and then he looks at me and says “Oh! Marriage Maangta hai” which means in Hindi “you want to get married?”
Maya: When we joined the hospital, one of the conditions I remember they told our parents was that for the next 5 years ,you will not get these girls married ,you wouldn’t get your daughters married , you wouldn’t talk about that and I had only been in the hospital for a year then. I was like “No, Swami I don’t want to get married ,I am working but then later I got to know that he had just spoken to Sunder’s mom and told her, “ Now you need to get your son married!, you are alone and you need to get your son married .I’ve seen a girl , she works in the hospital and she’s a year younger all that…
Ted: Baba said this to Sunder’s mom ?”
Maya: Well he had spoken to Sunder’s mom and then he comes and talks about it in darshan to me ,the next day and says “Oh! you want to get married?”, and I was like ..”No I don’t want to get married and then my parents later told me this part of the story.
Ted: “So, how much time passed before all this to came to be and you got a chance to meet Sunder to see your fate was already decided by Baba !”
Maya: He had spoken to Sunder’s mom in June 1992 and then he asked her to call my parents and he said that, now, because his father was not there..”I’m going to …we are the boy’s side and I am going to do everything!” The girl’s parents should come and ask for the boy’s hand in marriage so. in July I think my parents had gone, Swami was in Brindavan at that time, so they had gone there but then when he looked at them he said, July to august ..there is the month in Indian calendar where no one talks of marriage, any functions like that ,nothing auspicious ,so he looked at them and said “This is Adi Masam (Tamil),so we won’t talk now, you come after this and see me .”
In August they came to Puttaparthi when that month was over and Aug 18th ,he gave my parents and Sunder’s mom an interview , and finalized the wedding. He sat with the calendar and said,let’’s look at the date and first he said Sep3rd and then he said it’s Thursday , a working day ,it won’t work out and then he said Sep 6th ,it’s a Sunday, so let’s do it on Sep6th.
Ted: “And , he married the two of you ?”
Maya: Yes, he married us in interview room.
Ted: That’s just wonderful and real quickly, it’s been a wonderful marriage and you have two beautiful dogs and ….
Maya: “We do..!”
Ted: You have a very enterprising future and program that you are already seeking your teeth into, that will really benefit people all over, not just locally the people that are directly in contact but you will be setting examples for others, to follow your footsteps ,a couple of words from you first about that and I would like to talk to Sunder also about that
Maya: Ok, well, this is…both of us have been into yoga but Sunder is one who got me into Yoga but it was his passion always and he will tell you about that but when he got married, one of the questions he asked me is…
“Have you done Yoga, do you like it ?”..
I said…,I did a little bit in college, …it did seem interesting and I think I’d like to get into it.Ofcourse,the first thing he made me do is a ‘hand stand’ and he left me there, and I was like..”don’t leave me, suddenly I hear his voice, at the other end of the room and I started crying and then I said…I am not doing this again…so…but when he taught me Yoga, I loved it and then I still do ..this is what we want to get out to the community and everybody the true meaning of yoga not, just as fitness exercise but bring out the ..MIND BODY AND SPIRIT aspect of it…and bring this out to everybody and that’s what we are working on together and..
Ted: “You have a virtual studio ,in your own home. ,you’ve been to Himalayas ,you have done videos, you have website information..”
Maya:” Yes, we are learning everything as we go along but trying to do it together.”
Ted: I am not sure ,what can people learn from that…that will help them whether they have background in Yoga , or not ,that will help make better sense of their life in bringing some calmness and love that is missing to their life?”
Maya: Yoga practically does that and it’s very subtle way that it brings about, joy do the exercises but the way you focus on each part of your body and your breath, it helps you calm down, it helps the stress release. So , automatically you will start to feel the difference and that would help!
Ted: And then, I wanted to ask you , how I ask just about everybody, who is Sai Baba?
Maya: To me,Sai Baba is the greatest teacher of all and a very loving friend ,that’s what I would say!”
Ted: Is he with you always?
Maya: Yes, always!
Ted: How far away is he?
Maya: Not far away at all , he is in here, always !
Ted: Maya, thank you! And here is the Mangalasutra that I would like Sunder to explain that , Baba actually materialized it it?
Sunder: Yes, the wedding in his room when the time came, he said “Hey ! where is the Mangalasutra.In Tamil, we call it ‘Thali’ or Mangalasutra where Mangal means auspicious and Sutra means thread and, so “where is it?”. Maya’s mother was like ok! What do we do, she had one she had bought to be blessed for her sister’s wedding ,that was also fixed at that same time ,So, then Swami said “Hang on! And he waved his hand and then materialized the thali ,it was on a thread which was with turmeric powder which is again a symbol of auspiciousness ,it symbolizes gold ,so the poor could not afford gold, take yellow powder and put it on a regular thread so it looks like gold. So he had that on a thread and he told me to tie it around her next and he helped me, tie it around her neck ,and he helped me tie the knot because in our tradition ,the bride groom ties one knot and his sisters if he has tie the other two knots meaning. the girl doesn’t just get married to him but his whole the family too! now she becomes part of them ! ,
Ted: “How beautiful!
Sunder: But, in this case, it was I tie a knot and then Swami brought his hand worked with me to tie the other two .I thought that was a special blessing.
Ted: Swami blessed the two of you so much!
Sunder: It was very special thing and we are very honored that he took time to do that for us
Ted: So, this begins another chapter in your life Sunder and in the life of the two of you but before we get into that real quickly, wrap up the previous chapter, little bit more for us .You, spent two years attending to Baba along with other students in his room…
Ted: I wish I could ask you 00 questions about that ,.What might you add to the picture that we haven’t discussed already that might give people …who’ll never know what it’s like to see the private abode the most private place of Baba?
Sunder: all that I want to share and I am very eager to tell people is “Hey!, listen especially because today ,in the internet if you type Sai Baba ,you get 200 things from people against Sai Baba , for no reason and there are ten websites for him and I feel ,those people who are writing against him have no exposure ,no where close to what we have had the exposure ..and my heart goes out to just tell people “Hey, listen! If you want to really know about Sai Baba ,then come to us, come to me ,ask me I have watched him 24/7 (365 days) a year. I was a teenager, I was struggling to find faith and I found faith by watching him and not by reading a book, not because vibuthi materialized from some photographs, rather, that would have scared the heck out of me probably. But this was I noticed, saw what Baba was, that’s the thing I want to emphasize. All that I know of him was, he was totally involved in his mission ,if you are really atheistic about this whole thing or call it an antagonist ,you might say it’s delusional but “What a great way to be deluded!”. He believed ,he had a mission ,that’s why I tell people, it’s our goof fortune that we chose to believe he is divine , but it doesn’t make any difference for him because he believed he was divine, that’s it!. He believed his touch was important, his word was important, he believed every step he took had a meaning to it. He believed it, I saw that in the first hand. He wouldn’t waste a word, a touch or a look because he was in the moment, he knew exactly whom he was looking ,whom he was talking to, what movements he was making .I can tell you so many incidents pointing to each one of these but we don’t have time for that …but the point is, he believed he was divine and he believed he had a mission .
Once he was having temperature, you know fever and , we were pressing his feet, we found that he had stuffed nose, but all this disappears and when he goes for darshan, No body in darshan line would even get an iota of it He would come back and his eyes will be red and he’ll be sniffing with stuffed nose .But once he steps out it will be like “What Baba had a cold, he was so ..that’s a whole different thing when he steps out. That afternoon he was having a cold and the other boy said ,”swami, please take rest and he almost immediately said,” Look at that clock, behind you, and he turned “ which of those hands are very important?” Obviously, the biggest one right?, so we said “Swami, the hour hand!” .Swami shook he said ‘SECOND HAND’, you can hardly see it but the second hand has to keep moving ,so that the minute and hour hands will move. He said,” I am the second hand, I cannot stop!”
Ted:” Geez!” never heard that one before.
Sunder: Tick…tick…tick…tick,”Sathya Dharma, Shanti, Prema” ,”Sathya dharma,shanti,Prema”I will not stop ,swami continued “ Naku ekkada rest, Naku rest ledu (In telugu ,which means, where do I have rest, I cannot have rest).Swami was very serious at that time.
Ted: The lasting lesson that you took away FROM THAT once in a life time ,once in a million experience ,spending two years at thus site was ?
Sunder: “Incredible determination ,unshakable faith in yourself and clarity of vision”. His clarity of vision was amazing, When the super specialty hospital was designed, we were in Kodaikanal and he had the topmost engineers, the top notch engineers from Larson and Turbo along with Kernel Joga Rao, they are coming with this blue print, the design of the hospital to lay it out in the front ,on the dining table for Baba to come and watch.Baba was coming down the stairs, he was an eighth grader ,right?, eighth grade, pass/didn’t pass, he three away his books….I wish I could do that too….He is walking down the steps, so now ,”what would somebody like that do?, he would come, watch the design and engage the engineers in some constructive criticism right?”But,he is walking past, he comes ten feet away from behind the dining table ,he gives one glimpse at it ,and says”Bagaledu (In Telugu),It’s not good! And then he goes out for darshan.The top engineers ,none of them are devotees ,they are all waiting to be praised and here….is one holyman,walking past not even coming and looking at it and says ,Oh! what is this ? what is it , he is walking past ,just took one glimpse and he said “bagaledu”,adi building (it looks like a building in telugu),it’s not a temple “. “I want a temple!” ,he said and walked away, we were all stunned ,where did this come from ?
Because he had a vision and just one glimpse at that blue print ,and just one glimpse at that blue print ,he said ,”this is not what I wanted!” there was no compromising ,he never compromised and he doesn’t ,I am sure, he believed in who he was , what he was and it didn’t matter .Not everybody ,who came to him, stayed to be a devotee.. it doesn’t matter ,he never compromised on who he was because he knew he was divine, and he would tell us “Whatever I am doing trust me ,I am doing it for your good! If you have that faith ,you will benefit by it!” .,that is something which I can never forget!
Ted: Sunder in the remaining moments that we have, just a few of them ,you took that lesson, you took that vision and you bought it to America along with Maya ,the two of you combined efforts and you loved your desire to serve the humanity ,to go above and beyond your new careers which were rewarding already by themselves ,to serve the humanity in your own distinctive way. We heard a little about it from Maya, tell us some of the details about what’s your vision of what you too hope to accomplish!
Sunder: Well, having lived with a master Grand Master and watching him serve selflessly ,willing to give himself all the time, even if we achieve an iota of what he has done, I would consider our lives being blessed…
Once Baba asked me” what do you want?” and I said,” I want to be like you”, he shook his head ,he said” I am the Guru,you be a friend, you don’t be a Guru like me, be a friend “ and I take that home today because he wants us to mix into the society ,be like everyone else ,and then share the ethics ,the values ,the principles and the most importantly the faith that we are inherently divine and that is an infinite potential within us. For me, the path of yoga has been an amazing path of self discovery, self enlightenment self awakening if you will. Baba has guided me in so many innumerable ways .All those saints and sages and yogis who used to come to see him, I would chase them to learn advanced practices from them. Baba in his own way would guide me and the very fact that he blessed me with a medal for the convocation, out of the blue he said “Call Sunder!”, call him to the stage too and I was like “why?” He said ,”this is for your yoga and then he gave me the medal”.
Ted: ”He did ?” he recognized your Yoga pursuits back when he was accommodating your student days !
Sunder: Yes, there were one or two occasions when he would call all these Buddhist monks for interview ,he would pick me and say “You ,mad fellow, you also like all this, you also come “.
I remember once where I didn’t understand a word of what Baba was talking to them . Baba was talking to them in Telugu and to me in Telugu too. They were two Buddhist monks sitting, amazingly they are just staring at Swami and swami is talking to them in Telugu.They are from Tibet ,they are not regular .I knew they would not understand Telugu. he languages in India ,there are so many different ,completely different languages…Baba is talking ,flawlessly to them in Telugu,he is talking to me in Telugu ,this is going on for 45 minutes and I ‘m thinking …I’m listening to Baba , it’s amazing, his exposition on Kundalini was amazing !,he was talking for 45 minutes but at back of my mind I’m thinking ,I’m gifted but were these two even understanding but then I’m finding their eyes watering and they are just sitting deep in meditation.So,after the interview was over ,I met them after bhajans and all that in the evening. I said,”Namaste!” and then they said ,”Oh! Namaste “,I said in Hindi “Did you understand anything with great difficulty because they didn’t even understand what I asked I guess, but they said “Oh! Baba spoke so beautifully about Kundalini”!
Sunder: He explained it ,so well ,everything we experienced was beautiful!
Ted: So, they understood that..
Sunder: “I don’t know .what ...when he say’s ‘Language of the heart is love’, I’m telling you ..those are the times I would spend the whole night sleepless ,sitting and thinking what happened there! ,what was going on there ..how could this be possible?” but it was and I was first hand witness to that one particular incident.
But Swami in his own way guided me ,it’s benefited me ,enriched my life, health wise ,spiritual wise ….and when I see people of my age stressing out falling sick for no reason at all for little things, that could upset them ,you know, the balance, the equilibrium if you will ,I owe it all to this wonderful science , this yoga and I am so happy that Maya is with me, she is probably the best gifts Baba has ever given me and she is the strength behind it, honestly!
Ted: “Now, you both want to pass this on ,so that you can gift it to humanity the gift you got from the Supreme Master !”
Sunder: It’s our way of bring Swami into the lives of people. I think, Swami say’s your life is my message ,so instead of telling people who Sai Baba is ,if you live it and they’ll ask you “Who is the Master you are talking about?”
It was strange, we did a yoga workshop in and we talked about it, and they asked,” where did you study again ?” and then I mention Sai Baba .There was one American lady says “Is he the one who sells these incense sticks because there are Sai Baba incense sticks …I said, well his name is Sai Baba but he doesn’t see these incense sticks .She was like “Why wouldn’t he, his name is there…?”I said “Alright ,!”So, they just start from there and we ended up with an other 2 hours, just talking about Swami .There were these eighteen people sitting ,who had heard about Sai Baba but now they are getting to know Sai Baba .I feel very honored to do that ,we feel it’s very self- fulfilling task.
Ted: Let’s conclude with two easy questions ,”what is the name of your program and how people can access it on the web?”
Sunder: We have a website called “ IYER ZONE. COM.” Swami used to always call me Iyer and I’ve never like it because by the time I was sixteen I was called IYER , that’s my last name “I “ Iyer “ it’s like putting my cast out there and Iyer is usually called …priests are called Iyer ,the pot bellied priests and for me the Iyer concept is ..”Don’t call me Iyer, call me Sunder ,my name is Sunder!
But Swami called “Iyer,hey Iyer!” always!
Then when we were talking about this program and there has to be some name ,what do we name? Then suddenly it dawned on me that IYER can be abbreviation for “Integrated YOGA Exercise Routine”
Ted: ”Very good!!!” ,say that one more time please..
Sunder: “ IYER” is an abbreviation for “Integrated Yoga Exercise Routine”. Exercise for MIND, exercise for the BODY, exercise for SPIRIT.
Ted: I’m sure you’ve put that to the website name as well!
Sunder: IYER ZONE is Zone for Integrated Yoda Exercise Routine. We’ve just started ,we’ve learned to program our website ourselves ,so it’s taking one step at a time with two full time jobs but we are getting there and we hope to share yoga blogs, yoga exercises.
I have been invited to do yoga workshops in few places in and around Cleveland, now, especially so we are very excited .We are able to reach our program for seniors, we have come up with a program for the Bakai community, I want to make yoga affordable .It’s unfortunately taken to the Hollywood style ,everybody is afraid to talk about spirit. “Don’t be afraid ,you can’t talk about yoga and not talk about the spirit! you can’t say there is a physical yoga and a mental yoga .”Somebody asked me is your Yoga physical or is it spiritual ?”.I said, ,”you tell me, where the body ends, and mind begins ,where does the mind ends and spirit beings? You tell me where are these compartments and I’ll tell you what my Yoga is?”
Ted:” Good answer”!, what is the name of the website, if people want to get the information ,right now?
Sunder:” It’s iyerzone.com “
Ted: I want to thank both of you, and I want to ask Sunder ,one final question ,we hear where Baba played an important role in life of Maya right at the age of four, or how he enrolled you into his university and then invited you to be an attendant to him .”What is the future OF Baba in your life and I ask this because he’s not sharing from his lips as much as he once did to all of us ,he’s sharing in an another way. What’s Sai Baba’s role for you in your future?
Sunder: His role has progressed from being a SWAMI to being SAI by then what I mean is, there was an attachment to the form and a relationship with the Guru and that has materialized and matured into an inherent principle ,divinity principle itself that’s awaken and guiding me at every moment in my life. I look to it, for inspiration and I feel SWAMI so much within me, I mean this home, wherever we live, I haven’t see been to Puttaparthi for fifteen years nor has Maya .That desire has not come for two reasons and both being personal.
One reason being that ,I have not felt the need, “why do I need to go when you experience his divinity in everything that we do”, .The birds chirping ,the plants , the trees, the good and the bad ,it’s amazing ,when you open yourself and allow divinity to express itself from within .The proximity is so mind blowing that you feel going there is just something you don’t want to.
The other reason why I really don’t want to go is I can’t see Swami in a wheel chair .I’ve not seen him that way…(Sunder all in tears ,with concern for Swami )
Ted: “Beautiful!” Sunder, Maya ,I can’t tell how grateful I am that you both opened your hearts and shared as much as you have and, I’ve a feeling that this is just scratching the surface.So,until the next time ,let me just say
“God bless you! and Sairam to both of you”