A Good Seat this Afternoon – Sathya Sai Memories

Swami often use to say ‘love my uncertainty.’  On this very subject, the following incident took place on one rainy Kodaikanal afternoon during the mid 1990’s. 

Swami often told devotees not to ask for interviews  but to have a ‘heart to heart’ with him. What does Swami mean by a “heart to heart?” In my experiences, over many years,  my  guidance from Sai Baba always came from within.  Sai guidance is given   “one to one,”  or “heart to heart,”  what I  call a personal teaching. Lessons from Sai Baba were many and varied, each devotee had their own special lessons. Each lesson tailor-made to suit the person receiving it.  Here is one of mine I don’t mind sharing.

I can remember the afternoon well. It was one of the dull afternoons that seem to be part of the Kodaikanal adventure. I was sitting near the lake away from the dusty road, although I’d left my darshan cushion on the street where the token lines were forming.  While sitting there on the damp grass, quietly looking at the small boats sailing on the lake,  I heard the following words come up from inside.     

‘Good seat this afternoon’ – these few words came from  somewhere in my  heart, as if my heart was talking to me.  I remained mystified as to what it meant!  I sat watching the sun rays dancing on the cool, calm lake where I sat at the time and pondered about those four little words. I hadn’t imagined them, although I was mystified to where the words had come from. I had not told myself “Good seat this afternoon.” At the time, the chance of a good seat for bhajans in the small Kodaikanal hall was extremely unlikely.

The Bhajan Hall at Kodaikanal was so small that it really could only accommodate the VIPs, and  there were many ladies waiting in the general public lines – all hoping for a place inside. I knew from previous afternoons that only the first two or three token lines would be allowed to enter the hall, with only outside places left for the rest of us. Perhaps, I thought, Swami was giving me some sort of guidance that I would have ‘line one’ that afternoon. With this positive thought firmly established in my mind, I continued to gaze at the lake and took little notice of the crowd gathering on the road.

At about 3.30 p.m., the tokens numbers had been drawn and the rows/lines made ready to enter Swami’s garden. It was time for me to rejoin my line to find out our number; a time to test my inner guidance.

I found out that our token number was six! Well, I mused, I must have been wrong. There was no way line six would be able to enter the bhajan hall. Row six would be seated outside!

Bitterly disillusioned by what seemed to me as some sort of   ‘false’ inner guidance, or wishful thinking on my part, I decided to returned to my hotel room. I told myself that, in future, I wouldn’t listen to ANY INNER GUIDANCE AGAIN,   no matter how clear or true it might seem at the time.

I slowly strolled along the gathered lines of ladies when token number one ladies came up from behind, ready to enter the  ashram garden. A friend in that “precious row” noticed me walking away from the darshan area ,  and she called over,  “where are you going? “I told her that my token had been six so obviously there was no way I could enter the hall that afternoon. I had decided to return to my hotel room. She understood my disappointment and suggested I join her in her number one row. I explained that I didn’t want to join her line because I felt it was cheating.

When I reached the small ashram gate, I noticed one of the seva dal ladies whom I knew well. Perhaps I should ask her for a good place inside. At least I would give it a go. I had nothing to lose.  I nervously approached her and expressed my disappointment at having been outside most days, pleading my bad luck in drawing large token numbers. But she wasn’t at all sympathetic, and flatly refused my wish for a seat in the hall.

Several of the V.I.P’s ladies suggested that I take their place, but the seva dal wouldn’t hear of it. Disappointed, once more, I turned to leave, when another friend spotted me and asked why I was speaking to the seva dal. I briefly explained my ordeal to her. She insisted that I stand behind her in line four which wasn’t likely to enter the hall either, but, at least, I would have good company for the afternoon.  The seva dal agreed that I could join line 4.

When our turn came to enter the  garden compound, we were instructed to move to the bhajan hall as there were just a few spaces at the  very back. I managed to find a tiny space up against the back wall of the hall, where it would be difficult to see Swami, still better than being outside. By now it was raining quite hard.

Determined to make the most of the afternoon, I sat quietly waiting for the bhajan to begin. Then to my utter surprise Rani, the chief seva dal serving  at Kodaikanal, strolled down to where we were sitting.  She beckoned to two ladies seated in front of me to move to the front where they were given a seating position near to Swami’s chair.

‘How blessed,’ I thought, as they sat down almost under Swami’s chair.  Then to my complete astonishment, Rani walked back down the hall again, spotted me, and beckoned, saying,

“I have one more place at the front. Come.”

With a grateful heart, I followed Rani to the front where I was seated near the carpet’s edge, very near to Swami’s chair.

When Swami  entered the hall that afternoon, he turned towards  me with an expression of mock surprise. Here I was sitting just a few yards from him. The inner guidance had been true after all!  (What a wonderful afternoon bhajan that turned out to be, despite the obstacles. )