Sai Memories by Thomas P. Mortimer
Two experiences of Sathya Sai Baba that stand out in my mind occurred in India where everything appears to have greater significance and importance. That is probably not the case but it seems to me to be that way.
My first visit occurred under very unusual and stressful personal circumstances. My wife of 22 years was divorcing me, and consequently my relationship with our two sons strained and I was being forced to leave the house I had designed and built. To top it all off, at the same time I was being laid off from my aerospace job of 21 years!
For many years prior to these simultaneous, stressful events, I had studied, practiced, and taught yoga in Swami Satchidananda’s Integral Yoga Institute. After Satchidananda left Connecticut for Virginia, I learned about Sathya Sai Baba from my friends, Bill and Nadine Clegern. I read numerous books about Him, began attending a local Sai Center, and participated in Sai retreats.
Thank goodness I had this solid spiritual foundation and some understanding of the teachings to help me through this truly difficult period!
Amazingly, just before my layoff date at work, I was offered one last assignment to facilitate total quality workshops at the company facility in Singapore. Wow, I thought, since I would be in the “neighborhood” of Sai, globally speaking, why not visit? When I completed my work in Singapore, I made arrangements to fly to Madras then on to Bangalore, India.
While waiting for the Bangalore flight, I was very fortunate to meet a medical doctor and his wife who were also going to see Sai. They were veterans of this pilgrimage and kindly took me under their wings. They shared their cab with me for the four-hour ride to Puttaparthi. My surroundings felt very strange but I felt that I was under Sai’s protective care and was relaxed.
I knew it was a special blessing to be in Sai’s physical presence, and even more so if He accepted one’s personal letter, so I poured out my heart to Him in a handwritten note asking for His help and guidance through these tests. Somewhat audaciously it might appear to some, I also asked of Him a personal favor……. an experience of the “cosmic reality” which I believed I had glimpsed while experimenting with psychedelic drugs many years before.
One day I “won” the seating lottery on the men’s side and sat right in the front row. I waited with letter in hand and with great anticipation. Sai suddenly appeared far in the distance. As He worked His way in my direction, I knew I was about to meet Him and my excitement built. While He was still at some distance, I experienced a strong divine fragrance like jasmine, which, I was later told, is not uncommon in His presence. As He came close, He hesitated directly in front of me, looked deeply into my eyes (soul?), reached down and took the letter from my hand. Greatly moved, I remained seated in an elevated consciousness for some time after He walked away and the crowd dispersed
I was at Puttaparthi for about a week, and had many amazing experiences and insights, including being really sick from ingesting “holy water” from a village priest. (What was that lesson about?!) The night before I was to leave the Ashram, I decided to have dinner at the house of a devotee in the village.
As I was finishing my meal, I closed my eyes, and began to experience a powerful inner energy. I visualized it as a sphere of intense blue light from within my being, though separate, which expanded continuously. As it grew I could see various images of Sai playing and communicating with me. At one point, I realized that this expanding energy wave would at some point reach me.
As this wave stuck my auric boundary, it encompassed me and I went into a state of Samadhi. I sat quietly in that altered blissful state for what seemed five to ten minutes, although my sense of time may have been greatly distorted. As I slowly came back to my normal state of consciousness, I found myself sitting quietly as if nothing had happened. I realized clearly that Baba had just granted my request to experience The Cosmic Reality. Comforted and strengthened by this blessing, upon my return home I was able to better surrender to my challenges, and not only survive, but grow stronger.
Two years later, my youngest son, then fourteen, expressed interest in seeing Sai, so we arranged our trip to India adding some educational sight-seeing. This time Sai was visiting his ashram and school at Brindavan in Whitefield just outside of Bangalore. We both wrote letters to give to Sai. In my letter, I included another, perhaps presumptuous, but specific heart felt request….to experience some “tangible miracle,” which, as an engineer, scientist, and proverbial “doubting Thomas,” I could not rationalize or reason away.
Sai had always challenged us to question so that is what I did. We had an event-filled week at the ashram, including a serendipitous invitation to an Indian wedding that Sai attended. When it was time to leave, I arranged for a cab to take us to visit the nearby town of Mysore which has a famous temple, palace, and a Sai orphanage that I had read about in Sai literature. The cab waited as we toured the orphanage’s temple rooms filled with pictures of Sai, many of which were covered with vibuthi, or holy ash.
The doubting Thomas in me always considered the possibility that this vibuthi could have been sprinkled there to look like a blessing and miracle. My son and I separated for our look around and some time later, at the appointed time, he met me in front of the orphanage to continue our tour. As we prepared to leave, he asked if I had seen the amrit? Amrit? Amrit?! The word jostled my memory and I recalled the story about how the orphanage came into being.
Many years before, in an interview, Sai told a man to create an orphanage in His name. The man, Hallagapa, replied that Sai knew that he was a petty thief and did not have the means to comply. Sai manifested two medallions, which, He said, would produce holy nectar called amrit. The miracle of the medallions would attract others who would help to sustain the project.
Remembering this story, I immediately turned around and motioned my son to return inside the orphanage. Upon entering, a holy man (who I later realized was Hallagapa himself!) was sitting in meditation to my left. I acquired his attention asked if I could see the amrit. He gazed deeply into my eyes and, rising, led my son and me into the now totally empty temple room. He motioned for us to sit on the floor, went to the altar to fetch a silver chalice, returned to where we were sitting, and with a silver spoon, captured the two medallions from the pool of amrit in the chalice.
Purposefully, he put one each on the top of our outstretched right palms, and then sat in meditation beside the altar. I examined the medallion in my hand in great detail. It was nearly the size of an American dime, and on one side had a white enamel-like covering with a fine black line etching of Shirdi Baba. The other medallion resting on my son’s palm had an etching of Sai Baba.
The medallion in my palm was moist with amrit, which would be expected since it was taken from a pool of the honey like fluid. As I sat there, all the time closely examining the medallion, it began weeping amrit into my palm. “How could this be?” I asked myself. There clearly were no hollows or recesses in the smooth surfaces, and after some time the volume of amrit exceeded by many times the medallion itself! I became quite excited realizing I was witnessing a physical miracle first hand! In fact, in my hand!! When my palm filled with amrit, Hallagapa rose and approached again with his silver ladle.
Apparently to underscore my experience, he spooned at least a tablespoon of the amrit from my right palm into my left and returned to his seat. The medallion filled my right palm a second time! Halligapa approached once mere and motioned us to ingest the liquid, which had a divine jasmine like fragrance and sweet taste like the most heavenly honey.
My request to Sai for an inexplicable miracle, outside of the physical laws that I knew well, had been granted! And making it all the more special was the gift of sharing the experience with my son. Before we left, Hallagapa poured amrit from the chalice into a cup, which I later transferred into a thermos to take home. I have occasionally offered some to those I believe would benefit or were in need of healing or blessings. Almost two decades later I still have some in a refrigerator and consider it my most precious “possession”. It still retains the most wonderful smell and taste as it did that memorable day.
Whatever words one uses to describe Sai, His life, or His teachings, He was certainly a very special being with powers that few have ever exhibited. I feel very fortunate and humble to have experienced His presence and blessings first hand.
Tom Mortimer, February 9, 2012