We look at the lives of the blessed souls who played the role of teacher to the divine teacher Himself in this issue of His Story.
Though Sathya was exhibiting His divine powers overtly by the time He arrived at Uravakonda, not everybody was able to see it for what it was. As Kasturi narrates in ‘Sathyam Sivam Sundaram’, everyone at the school in Uravakonda wanted to interact with Sathya, “some out of curiosity, some out of veneration, and some out of a mischievous impulse to prove it all absurd.”
What does it really take to be able to see divinity where it exists?
In those days, Sri Lakshmipathi was the headmaster of the high school in Uravakonda, a town near Puttaparthi. As soon as he entered the school he used to call Me to his office…. [He would] make Me sit in his chair and massage My feet, sitting on the floor. I used to plead with him, pretending innocence, saying, “Sir, you should not do this.” But, poor gentleman! He used to reply, “You do not know. But, I know. There is great divine power in you.”
It is not possible for everyone to develop such noble feelings. It is only because of accumulated merit in the previous births that such noble feelings develop in people. Our English teacher in Bukkapatnam, Sri Mehboob Khan was also transferred to Uravakonda. There used to be good teachers in the Uravakonda High School in those days. One such teacher was Sri Perraju. Sri Thammiraju was our Telugu teacher. All these teachers had great love and affection for Swami. In those days, they were not much aware of Swami’s divinity, but due to their accumulated merit over their previous births, the moment they saw Me they used to raise their hands and offer salutations to Me even without their knowledge.
We take a closer look at the lives of these teachers who Swami Himself remembered with love. No doubt, they had indeed accumulated the required merit to love and worship Sathya as their Swami!
Headmaster at Karibasavasvami District Board High School in Uravakonda, Tirapattur Lakshmipathi maintained stringent discipline and as a teacher was very systematic. Being a devoted man, he held Bhajans in his house every Sunday. His daughter Lalitha would recall that Raju attended the sessions and took the lead in singing. “His song, ‘Karunakara Karunincha Rava’ still rings in my ears…”
H.S. Venkataramana was the science teacher and assistant headmaster at the Uravakonda School. His eminence in teaching earned him the President’s Award. He initially challenged Raju’s claim to divinity. Raju was unruffled and told him in his inimitable gentle voice, “Conduct any experiment or test that you like. Then decide whether to believe or not to believe.” Venkataramana took a coconut and said, “I will break this coconut now; can you tell me how it will break?” Raju said, “It will break into five pieces.” As expected, the coconut did indeed break into five pieces. Venkataramana wasn’t entirely convinced by this. It was an incurable stomach ache that was cured by dear Raju that finally changed his attitude and he then became one of Raju’s foremost disciples.
We were first introduced to Mehboob Khan during the chair episode. He was Raju’s English teacher in both, Bukkapatnam and Uravakonda. Swami narrates in His own words:
He had immense love for Me. And, that love was born out of an Atmic relationship, not a bodily relationship. He used to be very eager to take up our class. The moment he entered the classroom, he would persuade the teacher, who till then was teaching, to leave the class immediately, whoever he was… He was fifty years old then. He had no children. Hence, he used to invite Me to his house frequently. He was a great devotee.
C. Kondappa was Sathya’s teacher at the school at both Bukkapatnam and Uravakonda. He was a regular at the Thursday sessions where he would listen to young Sathya’s spiritual wisdom with awe and respect. During the early days of Sathya’s travels, He would often stay in Kondappa’s house at Bukkapatnam and Kondappa would also accompany Sathya on trips to various places.
He wrote a book in Telugu titled ‘Sri Sayeeshuni Charitra’ (The Life Story of Lord Sai) for which he obtained content from Sathya Himself! Published in 1944, this book contains 102 Telugu verses on the life of Shirdi Sai Baba and Sathya Sai Baba.
For many years, ‘Sri Sayeeshuni Charitra’ was the most authoritative version of Swami’s biography. There are even accounts of Swami requesting that the book be read out in His presence, on the banks of the Chithravathi riverbed! N. Kasturi mentions that he, too, had leaned heavily on material in this book for his biography ‘Sathyam Sivam Sundaram’.
As a student, He was a simple, unostentatious, honest and well-behaved boy. Such an ordinary boy! Working miracles! This was enough to attract me. I was eager – very eager – to meet Him – for He was at Uravakonda then: Opportunity presented itself and I had His Dharshan.
To all superficial observers, He was a mad boy. My first impression about him was that he was a great devotee like Prahlada. As the days passed on, as my visits to Him at Puttaparthi became frequent, I saw Him doing miraculous deeds… I was convinced that He was not an ordinary human being, but a boy endowed with supernatural powers.
One day, Kondappa and I went to Puttaparthi to have Dharshan of this great Bhakta. We wanted to hear about His life history, as the available books on Sri Baba do not give us any information about His infancy and boyhood up to 16 years. Quite to our wonderment, this mad boy of Puttaparthi revealed to us that He was none other than Sri Baba of Shirdi. He also asked us to stay there alone for the night, when He would narrate His life history. He granted us this boon even before our asking. Our joy knew no bounds: when night came, we heard His life history. We saw Sri Shirdi Sai Himself with our physical eyes – in human form.
Raju’s teacher, Manchiraju Thammiraju was greatly drawn towards him. Raju would answer his questions on philosophy, which also brought the other teachers to him. Raju left to Puttaparthi, leaving Thammiraju pining for a photo of Raju in His absence, to keep him company. At that moment, a big bumblebee buzzed into the room through the window and dropped something. Thammiraju was thrilled to find it to be the photograph of Shirdi Sai Baba. On another occasion, a monkey threw a packet through the same window and disappeared. The packet contained a letter and a laddu. Raju wrote in His letter that He had sent His picture with the bee earlier and now He sent a laddu Prasadam for him. The teacher was overwhelmed with the realisation of Raju’s love and omnipresence.
How fortunate were these blessed souls to experience such a personal and unique relationship with Swami!