TRANSCRIPTION OF VIDEO INTERVIEW
JANUARY - 2010
Welcome to Souljourns and to the astounding story of Brian Brunius of New York city. Brian’s life was forever changed by the curious and mysterious entry into his life by Indian holy man Sri Sathya Sai Baba. This interview was recorded in Sai Baba’s Ashram in Puttaparthi, India in January 2010.
Ted Henry: Brian its such a pleasure to get to talk to you, …… heard your story in private and I can’t wait to hear you tell it on the video of how you came to Sai baba. Lets just begin.
Brian: okay, Umm, in the early 90’s I was a college student living in Oregon and I became very very very sick. I ended up in hospital with Liver and Kidney failure, I was on dialysis. At some point, I got so sick that they moved me to the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and they were looking for a transplant donor. And during that time in my life, really I had no faith in any kind of God, in fact I was vehemently against any sort of religion and you know I was in the hospital for a long time on and off and I hadn’t told my family, but my friends there knew I was not really going to school anymore, I sort of dropped out for a semester. You know a number of friends had come to me and talked to me in sort of spiritual ways that I really, really resented. Made me really angry, because you know what is a dying person going to do, suddenly turn to God and become a very spiritual and die with a smile on their face. So I didn’t like that idea very much but one night, my health had really deteriorated so much so that the doctors said that its really time to start calling your family and making arrangements, because we haven’t found a donor and ….
TH: So you thought you were dying?
BB: I thought was dying … and a friend of mine, a good friend brought someone with him to the hospital one night and that guy talked to me for a long time. What I remember of his words, or rather what I remember of him is that he had this deep incredible spiritual energy that was so soothing and so beautiful and also magical, I felt like when he was there anything could happen. Just as he was getting ready to leave, the nurses had been trying to push him out for hours. He looked at the clock and said its 11: 11 at night, that’s an angel number and it means that something magical is about to happen for you and he said I wanna leave you with these words “There is a kind and loving and a benevolent force in the universe, whether you believe it or not, I believe it so trust me and one day may be very soon, you will need to ask for help and I want you to know that that loving force, if you ask it for help will reach back and help you” and with that he left and I laid in the bed for sometime contemplating his words and eventually I fell asleep. The next thing I remember was that I woke up and I saw the clock and it was 4:44. There was a digital clock in the room, I could see the time 4:44 and I thought, Oh! that must be an angel number too, because he said 11:11 was an angel number and whatever that means, it didn’t mean anything to me at the time, but suddenly I felt a sense of magic that he had left me with and I realized that I woke up because I was ice cold, I was freezing, I was shivering, so I tried to reach for the blankets in the bed but I couldn’t move and I got a little scared why couldn’t I move, I must be you know literally stiff from the cold, so I tried to reach for the buzzer, for the nurse which was by my left hand and I realized that I couldn’t move my left hand and I got really scared and I tried to struggle and I couldn’t move an inch. And it was at that moment I suddenly realized that I was floating looking down at my body. I was overcome by the most incredible feeling of peace and I thought to myself, ‘Oh, this is it you’re dying’ and for a minute I just sort of floated there feeling that peace that I never felt in my life. My whole life had been a struggle, you know, an effort. Suddenly I felt this peace and the words of that guy came back to me “There is a kind and a benevolent force in the universe and if you reach out for help it will reach back to you and help you,” and I thought about those words for a second and thought okay, I’ll give it a try. I prayed a little prayer floating there in the hospital room above my dying body and I said, “God, I know you are not really there but just in case you can hear me, I need your help and now would be a good time for you to come. Something… I had an amazing experience that I’ll try to describe: the sky above me opened up and this amazing blue…cobalt blue light came down and in that light there was a form and he said “I am the blue angel and I’ve been sent to take you to God, he took hold of me somehow and lifted me up and up, up and up for ever, for ever, took so long.. Finally, we broke through some kind of barrier and I was in a place of just pure light and pure peace and complete silence and I suddenly realized that I was standing, literally standing at the feet of a being so immense that I could only see the big toe. It was just this amazing coloumn of light so huge…that I could see through it but it was also solid, it was just light. That being spoke to me and I can’t quite repeat what he said, may be it wasn’t even exactly words, but he communicated to me. He somehow lifted me up and together we went flying around the universe and he explained to me the creation of the universe, the origin of life, the reason I had to be incarnated in that body. He said among other things that the spirit that was in my body had just died, had just left the body and that I was a new spirit that would put back into the body so that I could have a life on the earth, that I needed to come back and that we needed to go and that he was going to use the same body for the second spirit. So, I think literally today, I am not that person who died; I am a different spirit but the same body, same mind, same memories, and the same family. So what happened is we traveled around the universe, it felt like, for hundreds of years, but I woke up in the hospital bed in the morning with the Doctor pinching my arm and saying, “What’s happened to you, what happened?” because I had gone to sleep completely yellow, almost green, my eyes were brown color, they are now very white. He said “What’s happened, you look amazing!” I suddenly realized, I felt amazing and all of the memories of that experience, the white light experience came back to me. He said we’ve got to do some tests and find out what’s going on. By that evening, the tests had come back and he said “I don’t know what’s going on, but it looks like all your kidney and liver functions were returning to normal”. He said, “Everything’s returning to normal and you know if you look this good tomorrow morning, I’m gonna let you go home and you’ll just come back for tests frequently. Sure enough the next morning they released me from the hospital. One of the things that God had said to me in that vision was that “Wait for me everyday at noon and I will come to you.” I did, everyday at noon I waited in my apartment sitting on the sofa. Everyday at noon the wall of the apartment would turn to light and the form would walk through. The same form I had seen high up in heaven, whatever heaven is, had come into my apartment. Everyday at noon he would come. He would again pick me up and we would go traveling, flying through… I donno what through space and time, it was an inner journey, I don’t know what it was. That lasted for about a month, and at the end of the month suddenly there was silence, there was no more God, no more visitation, daily visitation.
TH: Did he give you a clue that it was going to come to an end?
BB: I don’t think so, I don’t think there was any clue, but on the last day it happened, he said move to New York, Move to New York. That day I picked up the phone and called some friends of mine who lived in a nearby city and I said, “ You know guys, this sounds crazy but I think I’m gonna move to New York. I think I mentioned to some people that I was having some kind of spiritual experience. Being a very non spiritual person, my friends were also very non spiritual, they said, “ Oh, that’s ridiculous, you know you’re just a weak and feeble minded person, having been sick, suddenly you’ve turned religious .” I said “guys, I think I want to move to New York” and they said “Oh my gosh, you won’t believe it but we were just up all night last night, we want to move to New york too. We were up talking about it all night. We were gonna call you this morning and ask you.” So four of my friends and I bought tickets for three days later on a train from Portland to Oregon to New York city, a train called the Empire builder express that runs all the way across the united States. I don’t know how I did it, but in those three days I managed to drop out of school, sell my car, packup my house, take all of my stuff to Portland and board a train with four friends. None of us had ever been to New York. I suddenly realized, I had a little money but none of them had any money. I think they had just enough to buy their train tickets. My spiritual experience had sort of stopped at that time but I was running on those fumes, You have to move to New York. So we boarded the Empire builder express from Portland to Oregon and we traveled on that train for five days all the way to New York City. None of us had thought during that trip of where we would go, or where we would stay when we go to New York. Of course, and each of us had brought dozens of huge boxes, all of our household goods. We thought we would need all of this stuff when we get New York right? So we end up at Penn station in New York City at 6:30 in the morning. Penn station at that time has a million commuters going through it. It’s the busiest train station in the world. The red caps are bringing out from the train, we probably had 60 huge boxes, moving boxes, full of stuff. They were literally making a pile of them in the middle of Penn station under the giant sign that lists the 30 or 40 trains that are coming through the station any time. They are all looking at us and sort of scratching their heads and saying “ What are you guys going to do with all this stuff, Where are you going?” and of course, we had no idea at all where we were going. No Idea…. I suddenly got very very scared and I started crying and then one of the old red caps, old black man with white hair, white beard, he said to me “Now son, you need to calm down, go in the bathroom cry for few minutes if you need to I’ll watch everything and when you come back we’ll figure out what you’re going to do.” I went in the bathroom and I cried and in the bathroom a man walked up to me and he said “ Why are you crying”? and I said “ I just got here and I have a million boxes and I am with my friends, We don’t have anywhere to go, We don’t know anyone in New York and very little money.” He looked at me and he said “My name is Michael Colan, I’m an actor I just a job for play in Connecticut for the next few months and I just came to Penn station to buy the ticket. I am leaving this afternoon. My apartment is three blocks away and if you and your friends will pay the gas bill and the phone bill I’ll let you stay there for free, because I was already gonna leave the apartment empty anyway.” He went back to his building and got a hand truck from the super, four or five boxes at a time, he pulled that cart all the way from Penn station to his apartment. Of course it was a typical New York City 6th floor walk up in a building only about 10 feet wide stairs going up 6 flights. My friend and I relayed the boxes all the way to the top and just about the time we got the last boxes up he grabbed his suitcase and said its time for me to leave. He left for Connecticut and I never saw that guy again. We were there for about two months when we found an apartment and moved into our apartment. But what happened is that I had been in New York for few months and my spiritual life was….. I was really struggling to get back that amazing feeling I had had that month when God was visiting me everyday. Its hard to beat that in any normal daily situation, that energy and feeling of being one with God and so I was really struggling. I was everyday praying, ‘Give me more, give me more, make it harder, you know give me the lessons’. I was going through very difficult situations, very strong emotions and very strong memories, you know I was punishing myself basically. I was going to meditation groups, I was chanting and I was doing everything one can possibly do I think to have spiritual experience. I was having it and I was getting it, you know I was wrapping my crystals around my hands, and to get my sleep at night, I would never let go of the crystals and doing all of the things that so many people have done. I was getting some benefit from it, but I didn’t really know what I was doing, I didn’t know what I was getting and I didn’t know what there was to be gotten and what I really didn’t know the message Baba gave me when he finally brought me here is that ‘there’s nothing to get, you already have it all, you already are everything that there is’. So, during that period I had been praying for a spiritual teacher to come into my life and people were always telling ‘ When the student is ready the teacher will come’ Everyday I was praying ‘ God, please send me my teacher, please send me my teacher’. Then he came.. What happened is that one day I was meditating, and had been praying for my teacher and I felt this beautiful energy that orange energy, and I didn’t know what that meant. Just that it was this beautiful energy that came to me and it was orange in colour. I suddenly felt a real ease come over me an amazing feeling, the same feeling what I had when I was floating over my lifeless body ready to die. The meditation ended and that night I had a dream. I had a dream that I was a detective and that I was in a ahouse investigating a murder. You know the door was broken, there was broken glass on the floor, drops of blood everywhere and all the cupboards were broken and everything was askew. There had been a burglary or something and a murder.
TH: This was in a specific area in the country..
BB: It was in Mendesina in California in the Redwoods. I was investigating that murder and everywhere in the house I would go I’d open a cupboard and inside there would be a photo of a man wearing an orange robe with a big afro. I thought it was a black man, an African American man or an African man. Then I would open a drawer and the only thing in that drawer would be the same photo, very specific photo. Everywhere I went in the house there was that photo, I’d open the medicine cabinet in the bathroom and the same photo would be inside. At the end of the dream I come to a bedroom with a low flat dresser and a big mirror over the top of the dresser and stuck in the middle of the mirror is the same photo of a black man wearing an orange dress and I can see that the whole top of the dresser is covered with ashes and the ashes seem to be falling from the photo and someone with their finger has written a phone number in the ashes. I saw that phone number and in my dream I pull out a notepad and I write it down and the dream ends. I woke up in the morning and that dream was may be the most vivid dream that I ever had in my life. So I had that dream in the first night and I woke up in the morning, but I couln’t remember the phone number. In my dream I had written in a note pad but I couldn’t remember it in the morning. It was so vivid, I thought about it all day long and I told a few friends about it. Nobody really knew what it meant and why was I dreaming about a black man with a big afro. Nobody I knew had really heard about Sai Baba, or nobody had seen his photo. Nobody said to me ‘ oh, that sounds like Sai baba’. So I went to sleep the next night and again I had the dream and it was as vivid, so detailed and in the dream I was so anxious to find out what had happened in that house, Why everything was broken and why there was blood everywhere?
TH: and why was it in California?
BB: and why was it in California in the Redwood forests. So, I had the dream again…the next night I had the dream again, next night I had the dream two times. As the weeks progressed I started having the dream all night long. I’d dream it, wake up, I’d fall asleep and dream it again 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10 times in a night I’d have the dream. It became almost disturbing, I almost didn’t want to go to sleep because I knew I was just gonna have the dream and wake up again. Finally a friend said to me, you always pull out a pad and write it down in the dream, why don’t you keep a pad next to the bed and try to write it down the moment you wake up.
TH: This was like how many days…?
BB: This was almost like 3 months into having the dream almost many many times every night.
TH: Same dream…3 months?
BB: Same dream every night for three months sometimes a dozen times in a night. Finally I put a pad of paper next to my bed and a pencil. My friend said ‘ You gotta remind yourself before you fall asleep that if you have the dream you are gonna wake up and write it.’ Tell yourself ‘I will wake up and write the number if I have the dream’. So I started trying but I could never get the whole number, I would get a few numbers I finally figured out that the prefix was 516 which is sort of Long Island number in New York not a New York city number. May be after a week I finally had what looked like a whole phone number. I woke up that morning and I saw that I had gotten the full phone number and I said yeah that it looks like a full phone number, why don’t you try calling it. So I waited until about 8:30, I didn’t want to wake anyone up and I called the number very scared you know..I dialed that number, someone answered and I said, “I probably have a wrong number and this might sound a little weird,” and he said “ No, no, trust me I’ve heard a lot of weird things, go ahead what is it?” I said, “Well, I had a dream and I saw this phone number in my dream.” He said, “That doesn’t sound to me weird at all, What did you dream about?” I said “Well, you know I’ve been having this recurring dream, every night for the last three months. I’ve been dreaming about this African guy with this big afro wearing an orange robe”, and he said “Oh yeah, that’s my guru, I get calls like this all the time” and he said “His name is Sai Baba and he lives in India.” I said, he’s not black and he said “No, no, he’s an Indian, He’s from South India, and they are very dark there”. He said, “You know we have a group here that meets every week for…. He didn’t say Bhajans.. he said for prayer and meditation and we study his teachings. Its tonight, why don’t you come, It’s in Manhattan. He gave me the address and the time and he told me you can’t wear shorts, you need to wear long pants and dress modestly and so that was it. I felt that was amazing, I called all my friends and told them. They thought I was crazy.
TH: It was real number!
BB: It was a real number and the guy knew who I was talking about, It was a spiritual teacher in India. My friends thought I was nuts. Umm.. but I was happy to be nuts at that point because I finally knew what my dream was about. I had all day to kill, I wasn’t working that day and so I was walking around my neighbourhood which at that time was a place called park slope in Brooklyn. There were a lot of little used book stores in parkslope and I was walking past a used book store and this one in particular had a dollar table on the sidewalk of the books that hadn’t sold. They would always have some out there for a buck, They call it ‘Books for a buck’ I think. I was walking by and what do I see, but a book and it has the exact same photo from my dream on the cover and the book is called ‘Transformation of the Heart’. It’s still my favourite book of devotee stories. I was just stunned. I picked up the book and ran inside and paid for it. I thought, okay I’m gonna spend the day reading this book. So I walked to the subway and got on the subway to go …I was gonna go to central park, it was a beautiful day and I thought I’d sit in the park and read the book. I was riding the subway and it was very crowded. There are poles in the subway, and I was holding on to a pole. There were people on the other side of the pole, holding on to the pole facing me and what do I see on someone’s hand but a ring. And the ring has on it the exact same face from my dream and the exact same face that appears on the cover of the book.
TH: That’s a coincidence.
BB: The person is talking to their friend next to them about my guru Sai Baba, at that time I am so freaked out, I don’t say anything to them, I am just observing this and thinking ‘Oh my god, what is happening to me? What the heck is happening to me?’ So I ride the subway, I get off at Central park, go into the park and I sit down and I start reading. At some point I am praying, I stop reading and start praying and go into a little mediatation. I suddenly realize in my meditation that someone’s standing in front of me. I open my eyes and look up and as real as a person was physically standing in front of me, I see swami. I am sitting on the ground and meditating, looking up at him and he’s looking down at me, with his hands sort of folded in front of him as I now see him very often. I don’t really remember what the conversation was but I know I said “Please help me, show me, tell me what can I do to grow spiritually faster?” and he said “If you want to, you can stop smoking and you can stop eating meat, if you want to.” He didn’t say you have to, he didn’t say Stop, he said if you want to, these things will help you grow faster. That’s really all that happened, It was, it was I guess pretty brief, you know. I didn’t drink at that point because I had so many liver and kidney problems, I’d already stopped drinking from the time when I was in the hospital, but I smoked a lot and I ate meat like most Americans do. From that very day I stopped eating meat and I stopped smoking, so the day went on and I ended up at the Sai Centre. The new york Sai centre, the Manhattan centre, I found it, the guy had given me the address, I found it and I was really scared to go in. There were lot of Indians going in which I thought was very weird. It was in a little red Presbyterian church. I think it was the 81st or 86th at Lexington, no no on the west siders..86th and columbus. There were all these weird Indians walking in wearing sarees , you know even western men were wearing white clothes . I thought it was such a weird thing, It was like a cult. I walked in and sort of looked through the back door of the church. They had put a giant photo over the altar. It was the exact same photo from my dream, the exact same photo from the ring and the exact same photo from the cover of the book. Even though I was really weirded out, I thought, “you must be in the right place, this cannot all be a coincidence, this is a message”. He had appeared to me that day, I knew, I knew I had to be there. I walked in and I asked for the man who I had spoken to on the phone. He sort of introduced me around, introduced me to a few people and then he said “Now we are going to sing, and you’re not going to know any of the songs but just try to follow along. I guess the bhajans started and I suddenly knew the words to every song. The people sitting next to me who knew it was my first day, my first meeting ever said, “What the heck is going on? You’re singing every song like you’ve known it for 10 years.” Anyway, that was just a weird side note. I don’t know why that happened, I don’t know the words to most of the bhajans today. But………….
It was three months before baba’s 70th birthday at the time, and the centre was making all kinds of preparations for a huge group trip to Puttaparthi. India had never been a place I had thought about in my life. I’d never really wanted to go to India. I’d never really thought much of it. I never saw pictures of India except that Bhopal gas disaster. So I didn’t think much about the country. The group suddenly said, “you know we have just bought about 400 tickets, they basically bought most of the plane, most of an Air India plane and Air India as a result had given them a handful of free tickets for buying so many seats on that plane. The president of the centre said, “ we’ve got these extra tickets, would you like to come?” and I said “ Vow, of course, I’d love to come.” He said “How long do you want to make the tickets for?” and they just told you can have upto 6 months and I said “ Okay, 6 months, Give me a 6 month ticket.” I promptly quit my job, I called the landlord and said I’m gonna give up the apartment, I sort of packed up all my stuff and put it in a friends house and the group made its plans to leave. I got a passport and I got a Visa for India. We got on a plane and came to Bangalore. That was a real culture shock. But the first thing I saw at the Bangalore airport was a huge photo of Swami and what photo was it? It was the same photo from my dream, from the ring, from the vision, from the book, from the centre. It was the exact same photo. It said Sai baba Ashram, puttaparthi, 119 kms or something like that. It was at the old airport at Bangalore. At first we landed at 5 in the morning or something. It was that typical Indian scene , people are sweeping up dust and leaves and burning them right in front of the airport front door. A cow is grazing right in front of the airport, chewing on the garbage, children are begging , It was such a typical Indian scene as we boarded this nice sort of a Air conditioned bus. We had a lot of buses. It was a huge group and we head to this village. I thought I wanted to look good when I get there so I put on a blazer, I put on a nice shirt, I put on some nice trousers, good shoes. I wanted to look nice when I showed up at the ashram.
TH: ……and you went to a shed!
BB: So we get to the ashram and at that time, it was 3 or 4 days before the 70th Birthday. I have never seen crowds so big in life. I’ve never seen clouds of dust, so huge in my life, because all those people…Now the ashram is very green and they have planted the lawns and trees have grown big. Most of these big trees were planted at the 70th Birthday. There were not a lot of trees then. There were few old trees. All of this south block and North block had just had little tine baby trees that had just been planted and it was just dirt. There is this philosophy that dirt is very clean and you can sweep it easily. I mean make big clouds of dust… all the foreigner had masks on, they were all getting lung infections and bronchitis and you know it was terrible. It was just dust and we didn’t even have an accommodations office, it was agiant tent with like 400 desks because so many people were coming constantly. We registered. They took us to our shed. A shed very far in the back, the last shed. That was a shock. That time there weren’t even cots, They were just these little thin cotton mattresses on a stone floor.
TH: and how many people with you in the shed?
BB: Probably, there were hundred and fifty people in the shed with hundreds of ropes with mosquito nets over the mattresses.
TH: ….modern bathrooms?
BB: No, there were Indian toilets at that time, now they have a few modern toilets. It was a shock. But someone said, “ You’ve got to change into your white clothes. We’ve got to go for darshan. I guess it must have been around 3 in the afternoon. You’ve got to go for darshan. So I threw on a…. someone had agiven a white kurta pyjama that they had bought for me. I got dressed and we ran to darshan. So when we got to the sai Kulwant hall the gate was closed, the hall was full. The amndir was little smaller then, They’ve extended a section since then. It was packed. It was Birthday and there were millions of people here. We couldn’t get in and the crowds were really pushing against the gates. I’m not sure exactly what happened but a sevadal reached out to me and grabbed me and said You come, you sit here. It was all the way in the back against the back wall, next to the water cooler. After five minutes, another sevadal came and said to me, “ What are you doing over here, move over there. He picked me up and moved me to some other spot. A few minutes later another one came up to me and said “ what are you doing there? Move ..You’ve got to go over here.” So then I was sitting with a certain group then he said, “ This whole group, get up and move over here. Little by little, I went from being all the way at the back to being very near the front. Just a few minutes before Baba came out a sevadal grabbed my hand and said, “You come with me”. He pulled me to the front row, there was an empty seat where the sevadal had been sitting and got up and he put me in that guys seat. It was right at the end of the white marble walk where Baba comes from his house. At that time, he was living at the back of the Poornachandra hall. There is a white marble strip that comes all the way to the men’s side before he makes a turn and he sat me right at the end of the white marble strip. Just as I sat down, the music started to play, at that time there was no Vedic chanting. It was silent, everyone was in silence and when Baba stepped out of his house the music would play. I saw him step out of the Poornachandra into the sunlight, at the end of this long dark tunnel. There weren’t all the chandeliers that it was pretty dark inside. I think at that time, they had the roof open, the roof retracted, They never do it now, it used to retract and the beautiful sunlight was coming down the middle but it was dark hallway between Baba’s house and me. The breeze was flowing through and that beautiful music started to play. He stepped onto that white marble path and I don’t think he looked away from me the whole time. All the way from his front door, I felt him staring straight at me as he walked so gracefully and so slowly, one hand was holding his kurta and dhoti up and the other hand was sort of like this. He just walked all the way to me staring straight at me. He couldn’t have, he must have looked away, he must have taken a letter but all I remember is that his eyes straight on me the whole time and he walked straight to me and I thought he was going to run over me, he walked right up to me until his toes were under my bent legs and he was staring down at me, holding up his kurta with his hands he stared down at me and he said, “Where did you come from?”, in that sweet soft little voice, “ where did you come from?” and I said I came from New York and he said “What is your name?”, I think he said, “What is your name?” and I said “I’m Brian and he said out of the blue.. “It took you three months to figure out the dream?” and I was thrown into shock. I just lost the entire scene. I forgot everything. I forgot even that he was standing there and I was just, the whole story went through my mind, it just must have been a second or two, all those things that had happened, in one sentence he told me, I caused all of it, I know about all of it and I arranged all of this and now I’ve come here to tell you have no doubt, I know everything.
TH: Brian, what does it feel like right now, you telling this story?
BB: I’m just..I’m still filled with that same wonder from that moment. You know, he said this looking down at me, he had his toes tickling under my legs, just the most intimate possible thing, completely intimate and innocent at the same time. His kurta was draped across my knees, his toes were tickling my legs and he just looked down at me and said, “ It took you three months to figure out the dream?” He knew everything, he was the reason I was there, he was the teacher I had been looking for. He not only brought me to the centre but then gave me a free ticket to come and then came directly to me to tell me, so I would have no doubt. All those thoughts flashed through my mind and I must have looked up only a few seconds later but Baba was already 20 feet away walking towards some other person. He just in that..said what he had to say and he left. I just sat there and cried and I cried and cried through the whole darshan. I had never had that feeling in ly life of being so completely taken care of, everything arranged for me and God, it was just an amazing experience. He said so little. You know other people get an hour interview, I just got one sentence and he told me everything I needed to know.
TH: Well, he came to you in the park, he came to you in the subway, he came to you in the dream, he came to you in the sai centre and he came to you in Puttaparthi.
TH: You got much more than an interview
BB: So, I did stay for 6 months. And I have to say they were the best and the worst 6 months of my life as it often is here. It is very difficult and its also extremely rewarding.
TH: How, the worst?
BB: Yeah, I’ll tell you, some terrible things happened. I’ll tell you the best things that happened. I’ll tell you the best. The best lead to the worst. They always do, here especially with Baba. The best things always lead to the worst things. The more attention you get, the more you get punished. The more good things you get, the more bad stuff you get to go through.
TH: I thought that was just me.
BB: That’s part of the blessing we get here. Its all appearance. The reality isn’t what we think it is. The good stuff is usually bad and the stuff that feels bad is usually good for us.
BB: Very shortly after that day, I think may be it was the very next day, Someone came to me and said, “ Baba wants you to have a job”, she handed me a staff pass and she said, “ Your job is going to require you to work right up until darshan time so you can use this pass and go through the staff entrance and there’ll be a reserved area where you can sit so everyday you’ll get a good darshan. The only thing is that you have to wake up at 3 in the morning which is something that I had never never done before, you have to work at 3 in the morning and start work at 3:30. So I started that with another guy Andreas, we both got the same job and we were staying in the same shed and we became sort of fast friends. We would wake up every morning and go do our work. Our job was making flower displays for altars in the pujas. We would go out in the village very early. We had a contract with some of the flower women to bring us certain bags of flowers early every morning. We would do our jobs, then we would run to the mandir and get our seats. We would always get a front row, front in the staff section right in front of the verandah facing swami. It was very nice. There was no vedic chanting then, so the students and staff sat all the way in front of swami’s seat. So everyday twice a day, I got beautiful front row darshan and Swami would come and stand there and talk to us, I’d get up on my knees, he’d slap my face, pat my shoulder. Very often he would pretend like he didn’t know who I was. He’d ask me everyday, “Who are you?, where did you come from? How long are you staying? What’s your name? You know he’d ask me the same questions all the time. Everytime I wanted to say, Swami, interview please, but everytime he came to me I was dumbstruck. In fact many days he would ask me Where did you come from? And I just couldn’t even get out a word. I was just …You know I’d breathe in and I couldn’t breathe out. I couldn’t speak. There was so much attention you know, so much attention, it was so beautiful and I felt.. people were saying, “Oh my god, this is so special we can’t believe how much attention you are getting and everyday he’s talking to you and it got to where everyone was giving me their letters to give him. If they wanted their vibhuti blessed they’d give it to me because everyday he would come to me, he’d bless or touch whatever I handed out for him. Someone gave me a book to show Baba. You know, I wasn’t taking anything of my own, I wish, I really didn’t really know the value of what I had then. But, at some point, Swami, for the friend who was sitting beside me, Swami materialized a mala, a blue like lapis mala. The guy gave it to me. Swami had also given him also a watch, he’d given hima lot of things when we were there. He’d given him a one of those green emerald rings, that mala, he gave hima gold watch. He gave him..some thing else…necklace or something he’d given him. The guy gave me the mala, he didn’t use it. Yeah, he gave me the mala. We were best friends and we did everything together, we had our jobs together, we sat for darshan together, we ate together, you know we did everything together. We slept three beds away from each other in the shed. So I started using that mala, I started praying with all day long, even when I was walking around I’d have it in my hand and I’d be praying with it. At some point , we got this smart idea of splitting it up into 4 malas of 27 beads each, its cumbersome to walk around with a big one in your hand. But if you have made it small, you can still do a 108 and just do it 4 times and its discreet, nobody sees it. I think at that time Baba was giving discourses too about people who look like they are praying all day and how that’s a big ego. So we wanted to make the mala small. You know people wouldn’t see us praying. Swami gave a lot of discourses then in the mid 90s about how to use the mala and about constant namasmarana so I was doing that all day everyday, doing my job and just having an amazing time , you know just feeling really blessed and the staff entry for everything, it was just fun, it was great. We had the same spot for darshan everyday and one day out of the blue, Swami came to me and he looked down at me and he said something in Telugu and I said swami what and he said it again, very loud. I suddenly had the… I could see all the people around me were backing up, all the old me, all the old staff sitting around me moved back and I looked like this (looking behind) and suddenly I could see there was like three feet around each side of me, they had moved away. I said what did swami say? And the man went like this. I turned to the other and said , “What did he say, I don’t speak Telugu,” and the guy said stay away from me. I was just in shock, and Swami walked away. Darshan eneded and I tried to talk to these guys and said, “ You got to tell me what did he say, I didn’t understand.” None of them would talk to me. So I was really bewildered. So I finally left and when I came back the next morning for morning darshan, I came to the staff gate and the guy said, “Give me your pass”, I gave him my pass and he said “Priveleges revoked” . I was saying , What this is a shock. So I went to the person who had given me the pass and given me the job, She said, “Sorry, you can’t work here any more, Swami has said you can’t work here anymore, Thank you for your service, but its not needed anymore.” My friend kept his job, he kept his staff pass and I went to him and he said, “Swami has just given me a room, I am not going to be staying with you in the shed anymore.” And even in the shed, I guess rumors… the ashram is full of rumors. Within a few days all the people whose beds were near mine had moved away.
TH: You became Poison
BB: A perimeter around me … a zone of you know I don’t know what, it was horrible. Within a few days no body in the ashram would speak to me. All the people who had been friendly to me. All the people who had invited me for meals at their houses, at their apartments, all the staff who had become friendly with me would not speak to me. Nobody would tell me what Swami said or why they wouldn’t talk to me. Most of them didn’t know why, just that someone else was not talking to me and that must mean something. After three four days, one day I showed up for darshan and I went in the main entrance, you know, the token line entrance and the guy said, “I’m sorry you can’t come, you cannot enter.” I sat outside crying and crying and crying, “What had happened, why would nobody speak to me, Swami had given me so much attention and suddenly nobody would talk to me, they wouldn’t let me in for darshan, nobody would even sleep near me in the shed, in the most horrible and disgusting place in Puttaparthi, nobody would sleep within 20 feet of me. The friend asked me for…anyway that’s another story. I was just bereft, I was miserable and I’m just going to stop for a second and ask Ted, How long you want this to go on because there are a lot of other stories which I can tell that are related
TH: I’ll keep it running, but we’re down to the last 5 minutes
BB: Oh, great.
TH: So, yeah, this is a great story to end this segment on and then we’ll do subsequent interviews over the years I’m sure.
BB: I have a lot of
TH: We are all yearning to find out, why he kicked you in the butt
Q: You didn’t know that?
BB: Well, I know now, I understand
TH: Okay, lets finish, in 4 minutes left, lets wrap that up and put a good spin on it.
BB: Okay, so for weeks I couldn’t get in for darshan. I would wander around the ashram crying at darshan time. Sometime I’d go up on to the hill to the meditation tree and look down over the mandir and see the birds circling, hear the beautiful music, the darshan music playing or the bhajan and wonder why can’t I go in and I would try everyday and sometimes once or twice a week they’d let me in and I’d sit at the back and but many days the sevadal would say… always it would be the first day when the new sevadal would come. The new group would come. The first day they would let me in before they found out this guy can’t come in. I would wander around the ashram crying and there was a ..in the west buildings, the west prashanti buildings, a lot of old devotees are there and there was an old woman who would sit on her stoop everyday. She would sit out in front of her house during darshan. I guess she couldn’t walk to the mandir and she had a beautiful garden and she would sit on the steps everyday, one day she called me over. One day I was walking around being miserable. She said, “I see you crying everyday now, I know what’s happened to you, I understand, I’ve seen this happen to so many people like you over the years. Swami gave you a lot of attention and now he won’t talk to you and he’s taken away every privilege he gave you and you want to leave.” I said, “Yes, amma, I have a ticket, an airplane ticket to go back to New York and every week I’ve been trying to get that ticket changed so I can go back sooner but because it’s a free ticket the airline won’t change the date. I’m stuck here. I can’t leave. Every time I try to leave Puttaparthi I can’t go. She said, “You think Swami is abandoning you right, you think he’s not giving you any attention.” Yes, I said, he’s completely abandoned me. She said No, you’re wrong, at this moment; he’s giving you more attention than anyone else in the ashram, at this time he’s got every single person in the ashram working for him to give you the most possible attention you could get. This is the trial by fire that God gives us You cannot become spiritually strong until everyone has abandoned you. You cannot become gold until go through the fire of transformation. She said, for two months wami gave you the pure energy of transformation, now he’s put you in the crucible and he’s burning you like the gold to remove the impurities. I know it feels very bad but you have to, you have to stay stronger in this period, eventually you’ll come out of it and you’ll be okay, You’re not here, remember you’re not here for any of those people, you are here for Swami. It’s the only reason you came to Puttaparthi. None of these people matter. What they think of you doesn’t matter. It didn’t make those months any easier, but I was trapped, I couldn’t leave, Air India wouldn’t change my ticket date I didn’t even think of going anywhere else. I could have left and gone to a million places in India but I stayed and I stayed most days miserable but I really learnt to pray, I really learnt to use the mala and to focus on a single thought and Swami in every discourse at that time was saying ‘I am god, I am god, I am no different from god’ So I made that my constant repetition. All day long with nobody speaking to me, I would walk around the ashram. I was afraid even to go out of the gate. I was afraid they wouldn’t let me back in. I would walk around the ashram all day praying with that mala, ‘I am God, I am god , I am no different from God’, and somehow I had a transcendental experience where I just became, the whole world dissolved and I just became one with everything, may be that’s an overstatement but, suddenly there were no other people. It was just all one. I wandered around, just and life became so easy. God took control and It was such a powerful experience and such a beautiful gift that Swami gave me that I’ve never quite gotten that same deep level of that experience again, no matter what, how hard I’ve tried. So that has been my guide all these years, that experience of knowing I am one and also the experience of being able to have any terrible feeling but to just remain who I am and where I am regardless of how it feels, I know I am on God’s path, Swami is in control.
TH: Brian this has just been a beautiful, wonderful, exciting transformative story somehow I have to believe that Baba eventually took you out of the deep freeze..
BB: He did!
TH: Some how I got to believe that your spiritual journey continued to evolve in perhaps additional negative ways but certainly additional positive ways as well. 15 years have passed since those initial experiences and we’d love to hear them at some other time, would you share them with us?
BB: Yes, I’d be glad to and
TH: you’ve got the last 20 seconds, the last 30 seconds, some final impressions just from what you’ve told us so far about Who is Sai Baba?
BB: That’s really hard for me. Who is Sai baba, Sai baba is you, he is me and he is the air in between us. He is everyone and everything.
TH: Brian, Thank you very much. Sai ram
BB: thank You Ted, Sai ram.