Published Thursday, April 7, 2011 @ 0100 hrs.
In the December of 1970, Bhagawan travelled to Panaji, the capital city of Goa stopping en route in the town of Dharwar in Karnataka. In Panaji, a strange and mysterious turn of events took place, which afforded His devotees another glimpse into His Divine nature. In fact, just prior to this incident, Prof. N. Kasturi, Bhagawan’s biographer, was to start for Sri Lanka, as Swami had blessed him earlier to address the Sai Centres there. But, all of a sudden, Bhagawan commanded him to cancel his visit and accompany Him to Goa instead. For what happened next is narrated in the most wonderful manner by Prof. Kasturi in the third volume of Sathyam Sivam Sundaram:
At noon the next day, I accompanied Baba on a circuitous journey to Goa. The three cars moved towards Jog Falls. As usual, while leaving Brindavan, devotees lined up on both sides of the road, anxious to get a glimpse of Baba and to see the Hand waving to them.
It was a Fiat 1500 in which Baba, Mr. N.D.M. Appah, Chairman, Mysore State Electricity Board, and myself were travelling. The road was stony and rough, so the drive was full of jerks and bumps – this caused Baba to reprimand the driver for not being circumspect enough. “You do not know how much pain I get in the abdomen when it bumps,” He said. We wondered why Baba who withstood worse roads better, was insisting on slow driving that day…
When the cars reached Goa, it was night. The stars came forth; they came with us, every yard of the road, keeping pace. When the border of Goa was reached, the Lt. Governor of Goa, Sri Nakul Sen, received Baba and let us into a rest house, where china gleamed in the shelves by the wall and geraniums glistened on the window sills. We had coffee; from then on Baba sat in the State car, with the head of the state.
Hurrying around the rambling roads, towards Panaji (the capital of Goa), the cars finally arrived at Raj Nivas, the Palace of the Governors-General of the “Portuguese Possessions in India and the Far East” for many centuries, but now, the official residence of the Lt. Governor. The time was 9.15 p.m. We had motored 385 miles, since morning, over good and bad roads, but Baba as fresh as a lily when He hastened up the red-carpeted flight of steps to the flower-decked apartments, set aside for His stay. Very soon, Baba presided over the dining table to which we were led by the Lt. Governor. He watched with amusement the contingent of waiters, and the beautiful chinaware, which the Portuguese had brought from Macao.
Though Mrs. Sen made bold to remind Him of His duty to Himself, He did not eat anything. He appeared to be anxious to send everyone to bed. “Go, go! You are all very much exhausted,” He insisted. I protested that travelling with Him can never exhaust anyone, but He repeated that I was really in immediate need of rest. When we rose Mrs. Sen was informed by Baba that coffee be made ready for Him only at 8 a.m. the next day! She knew that at Prasanthi Nilayam, He had His coffee at around 6 a.m., but despite appeals for revising the order, Baba gave instructions that it was to be brought only at 8 o’ clock.
Baba was alone in the suite reserved for Him. Nakul Sen pleaded for permission to be within call, but Baba sent Him away to his own room. We from Bangalore were in rooms on the ground floor.
About what occurred that night, Baba wrote later to Dr. S. Bhagavantam, in a letter I carried to him on the 12th December, “On the night of the 7th, strange events happened. I could not lie in bed, I could not sit upon it, nor turn, from one side to another. Nor could I speak or call. I did not like to cause anxiety or trouble to anyone. So I kept silent, pretending that all was well with Me”!
Next morning when the Sens grew aware of the truth it became clear, why He had abstained from dinner, and postponed the coffee hour, wanting only to hurry away to bed! I too began to understand why He had come away from Dharwar, and why He had taken the driver to task. Obviously, He had been ‘ill’ when He started out from Dharwar!
Mrs. Sen felt that Raj Nivas was an ‘unlucky’ place since He had fallen ‘ill’ there, but Baba immediately corrected her. “No, it is a house of good luck! I brought the ‘illness’ with Me to Cabo, so that I could get rid of it here”.
By daybreak on the 8th, Baba appeared to be in great pain and Nakul Sen called in doctors from the Medical College at Goa, and some leading physicians of the City. Soon an imposing medical team surrounded the sick bed; their report read as follows, “history of pain in right lower quadrant of the abdomen since 3 p.m. on the 7th December. To begin with, the pain was all over the abdomen, progressive in intensity; towards the night, it localised in the umbilical region, and the right lower quadrant. Had difficulty in extending the right lower limb. Pain is exaggerated by movement. 8th December morning, had nausea and fever”. No one could be definite about the illness; there were too many experts and Baba was amused at the clash of their conclusions. The Sens were aghast at the turn of events for, among other reasons, the local Sathya Sai Seva Samithi had announced, that He would deliver a discourse at the large Maidan in the heart of the city, at 5 p.m. that evening.
Meanwhile, pain, nausea and fever kept Baba in bed all day. Information came that 20,000 people crowded the Maidan, awaiting Baba; and half the number had come from far off villages. Baba endeavoured to rise and don fresh clothes to keep the appointment, and not disappoint thousands of people. But Cabo Raj Nivas had no lift; for reaching the Maidan, Baba would have had to get down 28 steps and walk up some distance in order to give Darshan to the people. And then, climb the 28th steps back to His room!
Baba directed me to tell the assembly to disperse quietly, and to assure them that He will be addressing them in a few days at the same place. I was to tell them that He had taken over the illness of a devotee, for I had witnessed such instances of healing and saving in the past years.
At 8 o’clock that night, the doctors reported, “Lying supine in bed, with legs drawn up. On examination, the right side of the abdomen not moving with respiration; abdomen tender on the right side, and the lower flank…, point of maximum tenderness in lower flank…, no rebound tenderness.. . guarding present over right lower quadrant, with rigidity of flank. Temperature 100 F; pulse 100 /m; respiration 16/m. Total blood count 22,000; neutrophils 88%. A diagnosis of acute paracolic appendicitis was made. Unwillingness for surgical intervention”.
Pressmen approached the doctors, anxious to report the reason for the postponement of the announced public meeting, alarmed at the news of the illness of the world-renowned personality. The doctors told them that Baba was suffering from an acute attack of appendicitis. This news was flashed all over India and spread through the early morning editions and the papers issued from Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta, Madras, Bangalore and Madurai.
Telegrams and telephone calls poured in from all over the country, praying and pleading and denying – disbelieving, hoping, weeping and wailing. There were many offers to accept the ‘illness’ from Baba; some devotees said they would fast until Baba was free from the illness. Devotees having firm faith in His Divinity were convinced that just as the illness had been taken on miraculously, it would be thrown off miraculously, too.
The doctors told us Baba must be suffering excruciating pain, but He said, “I have taken it on upon Myself with Love and Love knows no pain”!
Ms. June Schuyler, a school teacher who was accompanying the party writes: “I had once asked Baba a question, and I now remembered His answer. ‘Baba, why did Jesus allow Himself to be crucified?’ ‘Because the Great Ones never use spiritual power for themselves”. Ah! Baba had not set the car right on Saturday night because it was not imperative for the good of someone other than Baba. “Baba! Baba!,” I exclaimed, “I adore you; I utterly love you. Imperfect as I am, I give my heart to you completely”!
Precisely at this very moment I became aware that Mr. Nakul Sen was motioning to Mrs. Rajagopalan, Indra Devi and myself to step inside the doorway of Baba’s room. I could not believe it was true. We crossed the threshold half expectant, fixing our eyes on the bedstead where the Master was suffering for His dear devotee. He was not there! He was standing before us, feeble and frail, with eyes full of love and mercy – charming in spite of it all.
He drew back the orange robe, and permitted us to touch those precious feet. The lovely feet were warm because of the fever. The beloved face was pale and etched with pain. The cheeks had been hollowed for want of sleep and refreshment. But He stood there for our sake. ‘Do not worry’, He said tenderly, in a soft, soothing voice, ‘It is a little upset, that is all’, indicating the right side of the body.
‘Swami! accept what the doctors prescribe’, we prayed. ‘What do the doctors know? What can they prescribe? I only want your Love’, He said, quietly, almost wistfully. He stepped out of the room into the adjacent drawing room where several others anxiously waited. He stood for a few minutes, looking languidly, lovingly, at them all, reassuring the timid and charging them with courage. Then He returned to the bed. None of us knew that the appendix was very near bursting point, and the doctors had said that He must not rise from his bed at any cost.
Later in Bombay, on Christmas Day, Baba referred to the “illness He had taken on at Goa” and the suffering it caused to many…
“The other day, a serious illness came upon this body in Goa. Many who are devoted to Me were plunged into anxiety and despair when they learnt of it. Illness can never afflict this Body. It cannot even approach it! If it should come sometime – believe this – it belongs to someone; not Myself. And it goes just as it came, of My free Will. I have no contact with it; I am not affected by it.”
On 9th December, the doctors decided to put tubes down the nose to relieve the hiccough, which was complicating matters, for taking the gas out of the stomach. They talked also of the urgent need that had arisen to puncture the lump and syringe off the pus from the abscess. It must indeed have given a terrible gash of pain for Baba, every time the hiccough pulled the muscle tight and affected the lump round the inflamed appendix! But eventually the doctors left the Raj Nivas with their tubes and bottles, as Baba refused to accept their proposals.
On the 10th, a Bhajan meeting had been announced at Government House, and word had gone round indicating that Baba would attend the meeting! Baba too said “Yes! Arrange it”. The doctors could not believe their ears. They did not foresee any possibility of a public appearance that day. There was doubt, wonder and amazement in the minds of various people, but a few of them were convinced that whatever He says will come to pass.
At tea time Mrs. Sen looked rather serious, as time was running out and already people were streaming towards the meeting place. Goa, which had been previously shocked by the news of the agonising illness, was now jolted by the impact of such good news.
Baba’s condition may be described in His own words: “The doctors were unanimous that an immediate operation was necessary, or they would not be held responsible for what might happen. They said the inflamed appendix had burst, and the pus had entered the blood – a situation that is fatal for all mortals”!
Baba had to move across His own room, across the drawing room, walk along the veranda, ascend a low step, get across to the doorstep of the hall which He had selected for Bhajan, traverse its length, reach the dais, climb two low steps – and finally sit upon the chair placed there. A total distance of 200 feet! A floral carpet stretched all this length.
Sri Nakul Sen spoke later during the Bhajan sessions. “The doctors became panicky, and I could feel that they were absolutely against what Bhagawan had said to me. My sixth sense somehow assured me that Bhagawan was showing one of His Leelas in Goa and that through His Sankalpa (Will) He would get rid of this trouble as quickly as He had assumed it.”
Dr. Varma, the chief of team of doctors came at about 4 p.m. and finding a floral carpet covering a distance of 200 feet, protested that it was too long a walk. He suggested some short cuts through other doors and passages making the journey a distance of only 40 feet. He said, “The dais itself will have to go; let the chair be on the floor, for He cannot get up the steps however low they may be – and please, have the dais on the near side, not at the farthermost end of the hall”.
At 5 p.m. Baba was led into the bathroom, and twenty minutes later He came out of it, clean shaven, wearing a new robe! Fresh as a new blossomed rose.
When the doctors examined Him again, they could not locate any abscess, nor could they find any trace of big lump of flesh near it. The whole area of the appendix was as soft and as normal as it could be.
“Lo and behold!,” said Nakul Sen, in the speech he delivered as soon as Baba sat on the dais at 6 p.m., “Bhagawan walked from His bedroom to the dais, a distance of about 200 feet without any aid. He sat down erect on an office chair”.
Ms. June writes about that historic moment of ecstasy: “Bhajan began, and my heart was pounding a joyous tune of expectancy. Love for Baba filled the hall. Ah! There He was, moving majestically down the hall, although He had required the assistance of two men all day. He now moved as if nothing had ever happened. His steps were as sure and graceful as ever. The cheeks which had been hollow when I last saw them were completely filled out. His Love flooded the hall. It was overpowering. He swung into the room, and when He saw someone leaning against the wall with a sick child beside him, the Hand began the familiar circular motion to create the cure.
Baba’s eyes which plumb the depths, His eyes which pour out love and compassion, His eyes which flash when he speaks of cruelty, falsehood, hypocrisy and injustice, eyes which can be full of quips, were as eloquent as ever. He took His place on the divan in front of the gathering and began keeping rhythm with the Bhajan being sung, with His head and hand. Mrs. Rajagopal whispered in my ear, “Look! Those eyes are more beautiful than ever. There is an ethereal expression, not of this world in them; a look of radiant joy and adoration”.
Baba’s eyes caressed the gathering, which was watching Him without even a wink, apprehensive that the cure He had effected on Himself, might be only partial or temporary.
Sri Nakul Sen was full of gratitude and wonder! While welcoming Baba, and introducing the gathering to Him as convention demanded, he said, “Bhagawan lives in the inner recesses of the hearts of His devotees; there is nothing He would not do for them. He has simultaneously appeared in this Form at different places, to help His devotees in distress, or to save them from impending calamities, of which He alone has the precognition! Through His Sankalpa or Will, He has assumed the illness of His devotees and suffered it from them, because they would have succumbed to it, if left alone.
We have witnessed this now, a Leela which has greatly perplexed the medical experts of Goa. It leaves no doubt in our minds that there is nothing on this earth which is beyond Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. His Leela is Adbhut – unprecedented; it is Romancha Kari – exhilarating; it is Madhumaya – sweet in memory; Mangalamayi – promoting the happiness and welfare of mankind; Manoharini – overpowering the mind and turning it to truth, beauty and goodness. It gives Ananda – bliss!…”
Nakul Sen concluded his descriptions of the ancient glories of Goa and its sacred contacts with Siva, Rama, Krishna, and Parasurama, the Divine Avatars, with these words: “No wonder the Lord decided to visit this ancient and sacred land again, in the form which He has assumed now, with the name of Sathya Sai Baba; He has loved Goa in His previous incarnations and Goa continues to be dear to Him even now”.
Baba spoke for over forty minutes with His usual emphasis and élan. The gathering listened spellbound, for it was a message of triumph, benevolence, and benediction.
The illness that had vanished an hour ago was still uppermost in the minds of all, and so, Baba spoke of the significance of its ‘entrance and exit’ and its place in the scheme of the Avatar’s activities.
“There are many who doubt the existence of God or deny Him, or dismiss the idea of God as a silly outworn superstition. To make them discard their conceit, the Divine, out of Its Innate Grace, reveals its superhuman glory. The doubters receive the reply without asking, the door is opened without even a knock; for those who deny will not knock at all. The ‘superstition’ will be illumined into divine status by a concrete experience, an indisputable fact.
The human body generates diseases as a result of faulty food or frivolous habits, or foolish rashness or fanatic emotions. The illness that was witnessed by you during the last two days was quite different. That was an illness taken over by Me, voluntarily put on, in order to save a victim who could not have survived it! His continued existence, in good health is desirable for the task dear to Me. Pouring Grace on the devout is one of the functions of the Avatar. The appendix was inflamed, it turned into an abscess which the doctors could cure only by removal… He could not have survived it, I know. I have come with this Body in order to save ‘other bodies’ from pain. This Body is ever free from pain. Disease can never affect it.
I had to go to the rescue of a person who had surrendered to Me – even his judgment. I took over his illness and went through it. It shall not recur again in him. You refer to this incident as a miracle, but remember – every breath is a proof of the Providence of God. Every event is the consequence of Divine Omnipotence.
Wherever you find truth, beauty, goodness, justice, wisdom, compassion – God is present, and active. An atheist denies God, with the very breath that God has given him! He closes the eyes that God has opened in Him, and declares that there he could see no God. Therefore, such amazing events have to be accomplished and made known to man everywhere, so that mankind can be saved from over-fond involvement with the world, and lovingly drawn towards the Master of the World.”
Reference: “Sathyam Sivam Sundaram” Vol – III by Prof. N Kasturi. Published by Sri Sathya Sai Sadhana Trust, Publications Division, Prasanthi Nilayam.