How I came to Sai -- another Australian Story.
In 1978 I was working as a Primary school teacher in the lovely Victorian country town of Wangaratta a gateway to the Alpine region. I was renting with friends a large comfortable spacious house surrounded by grape vine covered verandas and rambling gardens. Being in the country with a beautiful environment, climate and starry night skies was most conducive to reflecting on the meaning of life.
I had been christened and confirmed in the Anglican Church but was not a practitioner. I considered myself agnostic but also felt there must be something in this great play of life of earth and universe. Cold hard science was most interesting but certainly unsatisfying.
After some years spent living travelling and working in London, Europe, Israel and then Melbourne I had not met my life partner. I didn’t see myself as a career teacher although I enjoyed the children and freedom in teaching as we had in those days. Most of my friends were married or in relationships and I had just finished a 5 year rather tortuous relationship.
I had no idea where my life was heading. But I was missing a loving life partner. Even though I had a secure pleasant job, I experienced emerging feelings of insecurity and a realisation that my life was not following the general pattern of marriage and children. What was happening?
Then a friend in Melbourne gave me "The Holy Man and the Psychiatrist" by Sam Sandweiss which had been given to her by someone in New Zealand. As I read this book, there were many tears and a feeling of utter awe and amazement that there could be someone on the earth like this, this amazing Sri Sathya Sai Baba. My friend was a little sceptical of Swami’s miracles and herself never came to Him although we remain friends to this day.
Just within myself I had been asking the big questions----- What was this amazing experience called life? ------- Who was I? ---------- And what meaning lay behind religious belief systems? --- Not that I knew much about religions at all!!
With wonderful [in hindsight] synchronicity, I had enrolled in a relatively new Distance Education Course entitled Religious Experience from Deakin University in Geelong.
This course looked at the religious experience of Indigenous people, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and of people in Nature. William James’s “Varieties of Religious Experience” as well as Ninian Smart’s “The Religious Experience of Mankind” were the main texts at the time. [Later during my first visit to Prasanthi Nilayam Swami smiled at me constantly while I was reading the latter.] The university tutor/ lecturer was visiting a neighbouring town to give a tutorial for the Course.
I asked him if he knew of Sai Baba. Of course he did. He was quite astonished that someone would ask such a question in a small country town. He was an early devotee and had already been to Swami. He gave me vibhuti and the address of devotees in Melbourne. Then later Swami came in a strong dream and in the lecturer’s voice said “Hello”!!!
There were many more synchronistic experiences at this time where I found Howard Murphett’s “Man of Miracles” in an unlikely bookshop and I heard or saw Swami’s name on radio or in a news article. Every connection was opening my consciousness further to this awesome mystery of “God” in a human form yet transcending time and space. This was my amazing introduction to Sai Baba.
At the end of 1978,at age 32 and travelling alone, I found myself on Christmas Day in Prasanthi Nilayam for the first time. I remember an incredible feeling of the sacred and the silence which was overwhelming as I was ushered by the older ladies to a place on the veranda of the wonderful temple where Swami was giving a Christmas discourse. I had found my true love although I didn’t really recognise then how profoundly.
On the eve of my departure for India this first time I was lying in bed at my parents house in Eaglehawk Victoria when I had a powerful experience of not being the body or mind at all. I was still in a state of great wonderment at this so totally incredible shift in my life and meditating in bed on this, I experienced being light, great clear light and observed words slowly very slowly coming -----------“ this must be the light you see in meditation.” It was if I was observing the words.
Then there was the feeling or idea, “Where is my body, I cannot feel my body?” Then very very slowly again I came back into body consciousness and the light gently faded.
This first trip was so wonderful. In my first darshan sitting in the back row against the low white wall on the sand and under the palm trees, Swami looked at me in exactly the same way he looked in the photo on the front cover of The Holy Man and the Psychiatrist. I felt as if I had come home.
Later in 1981 when I stayed in Prasanthi and Bangalore for the year, He allowed me to become a room donor and established within me a sense of security in His Way and His Wisdom and His Love for the continuing and challenging journey!
The major part of this journey has been working with the Indigenous people of Australia.
Swami, in darshan, gave me the direction to visit Yogi Ramsuratkumar near Arunachala --a wonderful and profound experience. It was as if I was visiting Swami in a different form. I had the immense grace to spend quite some time with this joyous and wild looking, beedie smoking, God loving yogi. He had a pet dog called Sai Baba and I was reminded of the story of Swami identifying Himself with a dog that had been beaten by a devotee for taking food. ----- The Divine is in all things! It was Yogi Ramsuratkumar who with great kindness gave me a very direct hint [amongst others] to think of working with Aboriginal people in Central Australia.
This duly came about again with synchronistic connections with Sai and in 1985 I began a teaching job at Yipirinya School, The Caterpillar Dreaming School in Alice Springs which taught Two-way education combining Indigenous Language and Cultural education with Western education. The school was situated then in rough demountable buildings in an Industrial yard and focused on working with the terribly disadvantaged town camp people where Alice Springs had been established on their traditional land.
To have the privilege of getting to know these Indigenous people in their own country was wonderful and I experienced with them that universality of love and connectedness which Swami Himself exemplifies.
There have been many many experiences of Swami on this inner journey with its inner and outer challenges and changes and the constant wearing down of the false and illusory self which will continue until the goal is reached.
Om Sai Ram
Margaret [Maggie] Wallace