Follow The Master!

Speaking on the occasion of Guru Purnima in Prasanthi Nilayam, Dr Srikanth Sola, a reputed cardiologist and a spiritual guide, spoke of Bhagawan’s Four Fs, elaborating on the theme ‘Follow The Master’, the first of the 4 Fs…His speech was a testimony to the fact that when one is meticulously following The Master, He Himself takes care of the aspirant’s onward journey, both material and spiritual. Dr Srikanth Sola is currently working as Consultant Cardiologist at SSSIHMS, Whitefield, Bangalore.

My Humble Pranams at The Lotus Feet of beloved Guru and Master – Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

Respected elders, dear brothers and sisters, my loving SaiRams to each and everyone of you.

It is a pleasure to be here on this holy and auspicious occasion of Guru Purnima. As I stand here before you, I am reminded of how I first came to Swami – a humorous incident, when I first came to Swami back in 2008 after having moved from the United States to India.

This was around Guru Purnima time, and I had just joined the SSSIHMS as a cardiologist, as Swami’s cardiologist. And so I had come here to Prasanthi Nilayam on my first visit to seek Bhagawan’s blessings as I began this new career, this new phase of my life.

Imagine my excitement, as I sat here on the verandah, not too far from where I am standing today, and Bhagawan approached me in His chair and motioned for me to come forward.
With my heart palpitating, every limb in my body trembling, I approached Bhagawan, kneeling before Him, engulfed by His smile, His radiance that beautiful Divine fragrance that emanates from Him. And with a heart full of enthusiasm, I burst it out with my hands thrown and I said SAIRAAAM SWAMI!  …And Swami just looked at me with a smile of amusement.

I was very naive perhaps at that time, and certainly very simple in my approach to how I understood Swami. Perhaps in the time that has intervened, I have matured a bit, but my  practice of Swami’s teachings is still very simple.

And what I would like to share with you this morning, is just one of these simple practices that I follow.

Swami has given us the four Fs -
Follow the Master; Face the devil; Fight to the end and Finish the Game.

These are the four Fs. In my simple minded practice, I actually only follow one of these – Follow the Master. I will tell you what happened to the other three at the end of this talk.

Follow the Master – this lesson I learnt actually by watching our students. As Bhagawan sat before us on the dias,  I would observe how Swami’s students would interact and relate with Swami – they were ever attentive, always alert to Swami’s slightest motion. Always focussed with one-pointed attention on everything that Swami did. Whenever Swami gave the slightest instruction, the slightest hint, that he wished something to be done, they would run of immediately performing the task and when the task was completed, they would come back again and watch Swami with one-pointed attention.

There are deep lessons in this simple practice for all of us.

Just as these students were always observant of Swami, ever ready, always alert and always obedient to the slightest hint of Swami’s wish, His will – we can also do the same.

So, on this holy occasion of Guru Purnima, I wish to talk to you about Following The Master. This is the only practice that I really know. FOLLOW THE MASTER.

How do we do it? It is not enough just to talk. We can be like Swami’s students but here we have to follow the inner MASTER, the inner SAI. We have to watch Him with that same one- pointed attention, that same extreme focus, looking inside of ourselves, watching always alert, always ready and ever obedient to His DIVINE WILL in our lives.

Now, when I share this with devotees from around the world, I find that devotees tend to fall in three different groups :-

Children, adults and our youth or young adults.

Interestingly, when I share this with children, they understand right away. It is simple for them. I just tell them and they say okay uncle and they practise right away. And so I am delighted to see that students from both of Swami’s Primary Schools are here. Children, you are the ones who have to take this forward. You have to set the example – Follow the inner Master. Follow the inner SAI. Be always alert, be always ready and be always obedient to Swami.

But you know Swami is very mischievous and He loves to play. And so make this practice fun. Play the game with Swami…play with Swami…have fun with Swami. Follow the Master.

When it comes to adults, I find something different. Adults are often led away, sometimes very far away by the monkey mind. The easiest way to tame this monkey mind, to vanquish this monkey mind is simply to love Swami, to adore Swami. Because when we love our Lord, we become immersed in our Lord; we become immersed in Him, we become absorbed by Him. And then the monkey mind vanishes.

The second thing I find in adults is that we have to develop purity. We have to vanquish the six enemies – Pride, lust, anger, greed and so on… Again the simplest way to do this is just through love, just contemplate and meditate on Swami’s pure, sweet, unconditional love. It is this love of Bhagawan that has drawn Him to us and it is the love of Swami that will purify us. Just contemplate on that love and all these six enemies will vanish forever.

And then the third thing I find with adults is that sometimes they carry excess baggage. You see when our students are sitting before Bhagawan, and Swami would ask them to do something – they would get up and run and then they would come back and again sit silently. They would never proclaim what Swami had told them. They would just carry the work out silently, without making any fuss.

But when we carry excess baggage, it is difficult for us to run. It is difficult for us to be agile, to follow Swami’s instructions. And this excess baggage is our emotional baggage. Our resentments, our regrets, our sense of rejection – these, we need to hand over to Swami, because we don’t need this heavy weight any more.

So when we purify ourselves, when we immerse ourselves in love, when we get rid of this excess weight, even we adults can follow the Master very easily.

Yet there is a third group. And this third group is the one that I find has the most difficulty in following the Master and this is our youth – our young adults.

Surprising! What they tell me is that, Sir it is fine for you to follow the Master sometimes, but what about us – we have to study…we have to work…we have to establish ourselves in our careers…we have to move forward… I just have a family…I just had a child…I need to earn to support myself.

Perhaps just as I was naive, when I first came to Bhagawan as His physician and I said SaiRam to everyone, even to Swami Himself, perhaps these young adults are also naive in thinking that somehow if we follow the Master, we will be relegated to a third class way of life.

Brothers and sisters, let me tell you that this is absolutely incorrect.

Let me give you some examples from my own life.

Twenty years ago, when I was a medical student in the United States, I was physically far away from Swami. I didn’t have access to Bhagawan’s physical form and so I had to learn to connect to the inner Master – I had to learn to follow the inner SAI. …And I find interestingly that twenty years later, we are all in the same position, a beautiful position today.

Now, I had, as a student, all medical students had to take the National Board exams in order to pass out of medical school. Some of you may know this as USMLE exam. I was so attuned to Swami in those days that Swami gave me the strength to study for 16, 17 or 18 hours a day for months on end to prepare for this exam. And when the time came to actually take the exam, I found that the answers flowed effortlessly, so easily that I was able to answer during the two day course of the exam without any difficulty at all.

A few weeks later, when the results were announced, I was surprised to find that not only had I received the highest score on these Board exams in the history of my medical school, I had also received a highest score ever in the history of the exam itself.

This is what happens when we follow the Master. But let us be clear – Swami made it very clear – a few days after all the congratulations from the family and friends, classmates and professors had died down – Bhagawan appeared to me in a dream and He said, with His finger raised He said – you see that was all My doing, Swami’s doing. He said to me that there is no way you could have achieved that kind of score on your own.

As you heard during the introduction, I went on to work at a hospital called as Cleveland Clinic which is regarded as number one hospital for cardiac care in the world. So, let me give you my example. When we follow the Master, Swami will make you not only Number 1 in the world, not Number 1 in the country rather, He will make you work in the Number 1 institution in the world. He will make you the best that you can possibly be.
But still, there will be some doubts. Still there will be those who think that if we follow the Master, we will somehow lack.

Again this is incorrect. Let me give you some examples from Swami’s own hospital – simple and short examples.

When we follow the Master, Bhagawan will bless us with all success. He will bless us with all fame and He will bless us with all wealth.

I will give you three such examples.

First, let us look at how Swami has blessed us with all success. We doctors in Swami’s hospitals are not only physicians who take care of patients, we are also preceptors, teachers to the next generation of physicians. They are called residents, they have completed their medical school and they are completing their speciality training to become full-fledged physicians. At the end of their residency training, they have to take national level exams and these exams are very very difficult. For every three residents who appear for the exam, only one will pass and the other two will fail. It is a very difficult exam.

At Swami’s Institutions, we take this as a holy duty, as a sacred responsibility to train and mentor this next generation of physicians. And so what do we do? We follow Swami’s examples, We follow Swami’s guidance, and we follow the Master – attuning ourselves to Him so that we are constantly refining and upgrading our teaching programme so that our residents get the best possible experience.

The result – is that whereas in the country, only 33 percent of residents are passing these exams, at the SSSIHMS, our success rate is not less than one hundred percent.

Let us look at the second gift from Swami.

Fame – Now we all know that Swami is the only hero and we are all just zeroes. I will give you some examples from my own department – the department of cardiology.

At best we see that fame is a distraction. We have no interest in this. But we know that Swami gives fame as part of the play. If you look at the senior faculties in our department, we find that they are so attuned to the Master, that to be with them is similar to being with a Master Himself.
Our junior faculty have risen so quickly by following the inner Swami, that they have won two national level awards at various meetings.

And as this fame, this word of our expertise and knowledge spreads, we find that we and staff are in such demand that when we look at medical conferences where physicians are educated, we find that we are booked for every single major national and international conference until the conference schedule ends in February of next year. Such is the demand on Swami’s doctors.

But not just His doctors, it’s His Institution – the sacred institution that He has formed.

You see, when we as doctors go to a medical conference, we not only expect to hear the most expert physicians speak to us on the latest manners, we also want to see complex operations, difficult procedures being performed, so we can learn and these are beamed into the conference venues from various hospitals around the world.

The organising societies, the senior physicians who lead the societies will choose hospitals which have expert physicians, which have access to a wide range of complex and difficult cases, which have the latest technology and which have excellent infrastructure to support this type of activity.

Swami’s hospital has all of these. And what we are finding is that when these conferences are organised, these senior doctors are saying – I don’t care what it takes – I want Sathya Sai Hospital at our conference.

Let us look at the last gift of Swami – when we follow His teachings, Swami will bless us with all wealth. We just have to follow the Master. Recently, I was part of the team which was entrusted with the responsibility of purchasing new high end CT scanners for both of the  Super Speciality Hospitals.

We had prepared a budget, which was in rupees naturally but the vendors which provide these CT scanners give their prices in dollars. Now, as many of you are aware, because of various external factors, the cost or the value of the rupee against the dollar has fallen by more than twenty percent in recent months. So, whereas we had budgeted for a certain level of CT scanner initially, we found that when we were actually ready to make the purchase, our budget was only able to allow us to purchase this much.

Now, here I should add that the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust has been very progressive, very forward thinking in making sure that all of Swami’s hospitals are enabled and equipped with the latest technology and the we are always functioning and exceeding the latest medical standards.

But we have a sacred responsibility. Swami had told us, that every paisa that we spend has to be spent in the most responsible and efficient manner and so we take this duty very seriously.

So we had this much to work with, but the difference for the very best of the best CT scanners was this much. It was actually more than 2.5 crore rupees for both scanners.

Now, for that much money, brothers and sisters we can perform 500 heart operations. That gives you the perspective of what we were thinking.

Here, I will recall what Swami had done – when the first Super Speciality Hospital was opened more than 20 years ago – when He was asked what type of CT scanner to purchase, Bhagawan simply answered purchase the best CT scanner on the face of the earth and that’s what was done. But now some time ago, we found ourselves in a different situation and so what to do?

What else should we do? Follow The Master – Go and get inside and follow the Master. All of us – whether it was from finance, bio-medical engineering, cardiology, radiology – that’s exactly what we did. And in the end do yuo know what happened?

The vendor which sells the leading CT scanners came to us and they said look, we know that you are budgeting for this level scanner, our mid-range scanner, but we very much want  our top end scanners at both of your hospitals.

Here is what we are going to do – We will give you both of our very best scanners at the same prize as the mid-range scanners which you are planning to buy.

And so Swami’s both of the Super Speciality Hospitals will once again have the best CT scanners on the face of the planet. This is the wealth that Swami gives us when we follow the Master.

Follow the Master – you will have all success, you will have all fame and you will have all wealth.

But I know that none of us are going to follow the master for these things. This is worldly success.

We follow the Master because we love the Master. We follow the Master because for us Swami’s love is our life-breath. We know nothing else but to serve Swami. We want nothing else but to serve Swami.

But when we follow the Master, Swami will give us all spiritual success as well. He will show you the truth. Bhagawan’s will is for you to know that you are SAI, that you are God and that everything is God. And when you follow the Master, this will become as plain as day.

When you follow the Master, there is no need to face the devil because the devil would disappear. When you follow the Master- there is no need to fight till the end because all fighting will cease. When you follow the master, there is no need to finish the game because the game of duality will be finished itself.

Brothers and sisters, on this holy and auspicious day of Guru Purnima, let us all dedicate ourselves to following our Divine Master, let us all remain ever alert, ever ready and always obedient to HIS WILL.

II Samastha Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu II