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Features | Experience of the Divinity of Bhagavan by Devotees | Group VII | Dr. Vasundhara

Dr. Vasundhara,
Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital,
Prasanthi Nilayam.

      Dr. Vasundhara, originally hailing from Sri Lanka, being a devotee of Bhagavan, has come to stay at Prasanthi Nilayam and work in Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital. She records a few of her experiences in an article published in Arogyapradayini, the Golden Jubilee publication of Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, Prasanthi Nilayam released in August 2006.

'On the very day my mother first kept a picture of Bhagavan in our shrine at home, a small lamp of pure silver was found under a mango tree in our front garden. Swami, You lit our lives … to worship You!

Swami had shown His guiding hand in my life as a doctor from the very early days in Colombo. There was a patient in the Intensive Care Unit of Colombo General Hospital and I did not expect her to survive that night. She was not my particular responsibility, for I was then only a junior. Why then did Swami come in my dream that night? In the dream, He was in the ICU of the Cardio-Thoracic unit to one side of the patient's bed and I was on the other side with the patient's brother and another doctor. 'We have tried everything, all the medicines possible. Shall we now try vibhuti?' I pleaded. Everyone agreed and it was applied on her forehead. I also wanted to see the effect of vibhuti. The dream ended. Swami had not spoken at all.

As I reached the ICU the next morning, the patient, freshly bathed, was seated comfortably on the veranda outside! Seeing my stunned expression, she said 'suddenly, in the middle of the night, I felt so well that I begged to be given a bath and to be allowed to come out in the morning for some fresh air.' I was thrilled. I told my superior Dr. Natkunam about my dream, which coincided with the recovery of the patient. Dr. Natkunam then told the Medical Superintendent about the story of the patient, who was actually the M.S.'s sister. 'Oh, you are a fan of Sai Baba?' the Superintendent joked. 'Not fan' I corrected him firmly, 'I am a devotee.'

I decided to come to Puttaparthi for the first time in 1982, even though I had been worshipping Swami since 1972. The MS, who refused anyone anything more than a week's leave at a time, sanctioned a month and a half of leave for me. I wondered what thoughts had stirred in him at his first encounter with Swami through my dream. I was grateful to be able to spend such a long time with Swami on my first visit, and the dream involving the MS's sister opened the way to Him.

When our stay in Puttaparthi was over, my niece, cousin and I were returning to Colombo via Trichy, and we decided to visit some of the temples that are on the way. We found the doors open at all the temples, until we got to the one at Tiruannaikkai. This village mentioned in the Periopuranam (the ancient classic on the great devotees of Shiva from Tamil Nadu) has an unusual story behind its fame. There was once a spider - an apparently insignificant speck of life - who was such an ardent devotee that it spent all its time worshipping the Lord by weaving cobwebs over a Lingam in a small deserted temple. An elephant from that forest was also a fervent devotee and he spent his time brushing away the cobwebs that he thought were desecrating the sacred Lingam. After some time, the exasperated spider crept onto the elephant's trunk and bit him in fury. The elephant dashed its trunk in pain against a tree, and both died. The spider was reborn as the king of Chola. In this highly evolved birth, he was able to offer much greater service to the Lord by continually building temples, but his instinctive enmity toward elephants continued, and all his temples were so constructed that no elephant could enter the temple premises.

When we reached Tiruannaikkai, we tried hard, but we could not find our way to the sanctum. We gave up and were walking out when I glanced back and suddenly saw the Lingam in the sanctum sanctorum. 'The doors are open, let us return!' I shouted, but the next moment as the three of us swung around, there was only that solid wall again. This time, we carefully went around and saw a very small entrance built on the side of the Lingam. Where the entrance should have been, there was only that stubborn wall facing the Lingam. (This was the way the king had kept out any visiting elephants!) How and why had I seen the Lingam through the wall for just an instant? Is it not said in the scriptures that, at the very beginning, a pilgrim is given a glimpse of the final goal and then he would have to struggle long to reach it?

We reached Trichy soon after and were given the great news that there would have to be a month's wait to get a return booking. We were delighted at this unexpected chance to spend more time with Swami, and came happily back to Puttaparthi, after I had informed the Colombo hospital about the delay. When I got back, however, my salary for that month was withheld because of my unsanctioned absence and I had to go to the head office to explain myself. The Director of Health Services exhibited the same sense of humour that the Medical Superintendent had done, in talking of Swami. 'What would you have done if we had terminated your position?' he asked merrily. 'Swami would have given me another', I replied instantly. It was a spontaneous retort for I had never dreamt of such a thing. But it had also been a precious moment of intuition - for, on my next visit, nine months later, Swami appointed me to the General Hospital at Puttaparthi. However, even before I came, Swami had given me His call many times through my one absorbing interest then - my work as a doctor. Here are two instances of that call:

I was attached to the Cardio Thoracic Unit in a hospital at Colombo. An operation was fixed for the next morning; but at 5 a.m., while asleep, I dreamt of seeing Swami in the theatre beside that patient and He told me 'do only the closure of ASD.' The 'only' was because the surgeon had intended also to explore the pulmonary valve for narrowing. I related my dream to the surgeon, but he wasn't going to bother with some Swami or any of my dreams. After the closure of the ASD (hole in the heart) was done, he explored the pulmonary valve. Contrary to all expectations, there was absolutely nothing wrong! Days later, when the patient had improved, I told her about the dream only to find that she herself was a long standing devotee of Swami. And my dream at 5 a.m. in the morning had been just the time when the patient was being prepared for the operation. The remarkable thing about this incident is not that it was a particularly serious case. Yet, to Bhagavan, it had been very important to assure her of His care, and equally important, I think, to tell me that He was looking after my life at every step.

The other instance took place at the same hospital where the devotees from the samithi came and sang for the first time. Most of the senior doctors were not interested, but there was a group of the ancillary staff in attendance. On this particular day after bhajan, one of the attendants went back to his patient in the next ward. This patient had been in agony for days due to the retention of urine. The attendant, who had some vibhuti in his hand as prasadam after the bhajan, asked the patient 'can I give you some holy ash?' 'Please give me anything that will help!' the poor man cried. Two minutes after he swallowed it, urine began to flow effortlessly.

I came back to Puttaparthi, nine months after my first visit. Swami called me for an interview in which He blessed me to work in His hospital. He materialised a pendant with His form. I tried to put it on the chain I was wearing. But it wouldn't slide on. 'Swami, it will not go' I complained. I was cunningly hoping to persuade Him to give me a chain to go with the pendant. 'It will go' Swami said over His shoulder, while taking different groups one after the other into the inner room. As Swami kept walking in and out of the rooms, I struggled with the medal. He glanced at me now and then, but didn't say anything. When it was almost time for us to go out, I pleaded once again 'Swami, it won't fit.' Then, at last, very softly He murmured 'Murugan irukiraan. Athuthaan.' (Murugan is there. That's why.) A gold locket of Murugan (Subrahmanya), the only piece of jewellery I had ever specially requested from my parents, was on that chain! Muruga was my Ista-devata and our house in fact faced a Muruga temple. Our life at home had revolved around that temple. What Swami had said made me understand that different forms of God could be distracting at this crucial time in my life when I was to take the first momentous step as a sadhaka. Fierce one-pointed-ness was necessary. My sweetest memory is of Swami's patient silence for so long before He spoke just three words.

Soon after I joined the Puttaparthi Hospital came Swami's Birthday. I had to be on morning duty that day at the hospital, but I thought I would be able to rush to the mandir to have a glimpse of Him. There was a very bad asthmatic patient, who was not responding to any medicine or injections. As time passed, he grew worse. Though I yearned to have a glimpse of Swami on His birthday, I decided not to move from the hospital till the patient got well. 'Don't be frightened' I told him. I was almost in tears. 'I will not leave the hospital until he is perfectly well' I thought. Having given him that confidence, I completed the ward rounds and came back to find that the patient had improved swiftly and that he was insisting on going for darshan himself! Both of us did get to the mandir in time. But the real Birthday darshan I had was this - to be shown the essence of sadhana as duty, the inner decision to remain dedicated to duty - and this was shown to me in the first few days of my work in Swami's hospital.

While working in the General Hospital, I was also assigned to the Primary School. One of my first experiences there was of a child, in the first standard, with chicken pox. It was a bad attack and his body was a mass of rashes and aches. There was little to be done, because the first few days have to be suffered. I could only hug the child and sit by him for a while. Then exhausted, I went to my room, fell asleep and dreamt that Swami turned into a small child in my arms. I put Him to bed and said sternly 'now you are ill and you can't go anywhere.' When I awoke, I went down to that little boy again in his isolated room. He greeted me with a radiant smile 'Aunty, all my pains have gone now!'

It was not another miracle cure, but a compelling revelation as I began looking after children. Children cannot express themselves properly and a doctor has to develop the extreme empathy and the intuitive response of a mother herself. Swami, in coming to me as a sick child, showed that it would be He in the child helping me by creating this kind of a mother's inner bond. Whenever an epidemic such as influenza swept through the school, Swami paid us a visit, casually walked through the dormitories and all would be well. He materialized vibhuti to be mixed in water and given to all the children, and the infections subsided at once.

Another instance is of a child who became seriously ill when his measles was complicated by pneumonia. Gradually, both lungs were affected, but 'don't worry' was Swami's invariably placid reply to the frantic messages we sent Him daily. But finally, we had to take the initiative to call the parents and inform them about the severity. The senior physician advised transfer of the child to a major hospital for ventilator management. The parents wanted the child to remain in Swami's hospital. The crisis came on the night of New Year's Eve. The child was near death. The duty doctor in the hospital told them that only God could help. We could not do anything.

That day, just before I was to return from darshan, Swami looked in the direction of doctors and said 'I am going to the hospital now.' Walking through the wards, Swami gently stroked the chest of the child and said 'nothing wrong, you will be well, you will be well.' The weeping father told us 'I was Swami's student in the Vedapathasala days and I too was once on the verge of death. In those last few hours, Swami came, touched me and gave me life. I never imagined that He would do the same to my son one day.'

Swami works in different ways, either He comes Himself or works through another. The following are incidents, which illustrate the various ways the Saviour acts. All these events occurred in the General Hospital.

I was the duty doctor on that day. A teenage boy with a severe attack of the flu was admitted. His blood pressure was dropping at an alarming rate. Steroids injected at intervals only helped for a while, and then the pressure started falling again. I was in a panic. The OPD for the evening was finishing. I pleaded for someone to stay with me to help and tell me what to do. But my colleagues did not know what to do and, in the end, as it was almost time for darshan, they all left. There was only one nurse and I. All of a sudden, the entire medical staff came charging in again, for Swami said that He was coming to visit the hospital right then. He came and created vibhuti for the patient. The miracle had occurred. I had been given the miraculous time of being alone - with trouble and with God.

Once, one of the villagers had come as a maternity patient, but she also had medical complications of severe jaundice and was in a bad condition with secretions from the lungs choking her. We had to keep sucking out the fluid. Some time later, I was upstairs with another patient when I heard a senior doctor call out my name with an urgent ring in her voice. I ran down, but neither that doctor nor any other was around, only the mother of the patient standing at the door of the ward looking desperately for some help. The patient was completely unable to breathe and I was just in time, she was barely saved. When I had a moment to spare, I asked the mother where the other doctor had gone. She said there had been no doctor or anyone around for quite some time. In fact, who called in a voice I clearly recognised as that of my senior, so that there could be no delay in attending to the patient?

In another instance, a young resident of the Ashram had collapsed and was in the Super Specialty Hospital. I was to see her one morning, but got delayed and the car that was to have picked me up had already left. So I went back to my room and was talking to some visitors. All of a sudden, my mind went completely blank and I walked like a zombie to the telephone and called the Super Specialty Hospital. I asked to be connected to the ICU, where the girl was admitted. They told me that the doctors had requested the relatives to take her to Bangalore hospital. I replied in stubborn anger 'it is Swami who told her to get admitted in the Super Specialty Hospital. She cannot be removed without His permission.' I told the staff that I would speak to the General Hospital Superintendent and she was not to be moved till further instruction. I ran to Dr. Alreja and begged him to give an order. He called the ICU and told them to keep the patient till further instruction from Swami. Half an hour later, the patient sank into a comatose state. There was a great struggle to pull her out of it. Had she been discharged, she would have died before the car was five miles out of Puttaparthi. Who seized my mind and wiped out all thoughts and thrust in just one driving force 'call the hospital'? Who gave me such determination and authority that I was able, just on telephone, to stop the decision of those doctors?

This last incident I relate is simple and sweet. An asthmatic, a regular patient of the OPD, said that she was feeling much better even since I had given her that injection one week before.

'Who, me?' I asked, 'I have not attended to you.'

'Yes' she said.

'No, I did not 'I said definitely.

'You did' she insisted, 'I was in the mandir garden during bhajan and I had a bad attack and you came rushing, took an injection out of your emergency bag and gave it.'

'I am never in the garden, but always inside the hall for bhajan' I replied.

'It was you with these same clothes, kumkum, chandan bindi and shoulder bag that I have seen before. I am not making a mistake.' But it was not I. The Lord goes to any length to safeguard and protect His devotees. It is indeed our great privilege to live at the feet of this compassionate Lord.'

-- Dr. Vasundhara

(Extracted from Arogyapradayini, the Golden Jubilee Commemorative volume of the General Hospital, Prasanthi Nilayam released in August 2006)