Life offers continuous learning opportunities from all things, all happenings and all people around us. We should only be receptive to these teachings by keeping our hearts pure, minds empty with no pre-conceived notions and through a process called active (receptive) listening.  Life’s most important lessons could be learnt from the most trivial events or from an inconspicuous source or from a conspicuous source. Let me share an example of such lessons I learnt from Dr. Safaya who was the then Director of Sri Sathya Sai Super Specialty Hospital (SSSH), Puttaparthy.

It was the time in the 90s when I was leading the overseas medical service camps at Puttaparthy as medical director. We used to go as an international team of medical professionals from around the globe, consisting of 150-200 members to Puttaparthy for medical service at Prashanthi Nilayam. Typically we went during the peak seasons like birthday and Gurupurnima celebrations and served around the clock for 1-2 weeks. We used to take medical supplies with us and worked in shifts.

While we took with us most of the supplies, we depended on transportation vehicle (ambulance) from ashram and for some additional supplies from super-specialty hospital. We were not getting the co-operation from the ashram authorities for getting one of the ambulances garaged at the ashram and occasionally to get some supplies from Sri Sathya Sai Super Specialty Hospital. I was baffled by this so called non-cooperation by ashram authorities for the needs of our service project. I brought my concern to the notice of Dr. Safaya. It was then I was taught one of the most important lessons of my life.
He simply asked me couple of questions. He asked me under whose request we started service work in Puttaparthy. I said on our own, voluntarily with Swami’s permission obtained through Dr. Goldstein. Safaya said that we wanted to do service for which Swami in his grace consented, not the other way around in which Swami requested and we agreed. He said when we as devotees desire to do service, he questioned why are we depending on others help. He advised us to be self reliant and not depend on anybody.

This simple statement of Dr. Safaya opened my eyes. I immediately took this to heart. I hired a Maruthi van from Bangalore, got the seats removed and converted it to make it an ambulance. I opened an account in a whole sale pharmacy in Bangalore and arranged for constant flow of additional supplies from Bangalore as and when we needed them. Thus we cut our dependence on ashram authorities for ambulance and super-specialty hospital for additional supplies. We did this from then onwards with every medical camp. We started to inquire with both general and super-specialty hospital about their needs and started providing those needs with voluntary contributions by our team members. Example of such contribution is like the backup generator and ultrasound equipment for the general hospital and Echo equipment and other supplies to the super specialty hospital.

Once we became self reliant and be of help to them, instead of a drain on their resources, there is quantum shift in the attitude of the ashram authorities as well as with super-specialty hospital authorities. There is paradigm shift in our attitude of service. That is we now learnt to do service that is fully self reliant. We decided only to give but not seek help from others. We used this important life lesson in all the projects we have undertaken at Prashanthi Nilayam and later on in all our medical service activities in Texas, USA.

I am grateful and thankful to Dr. Safaya whom I consider is one of my mentors in teaching this important lesson of self reliance. This lesson is not just for service work.  it is a life lesson in all circumstances and in all events. At the end of each day I now evaluate, if I give more than I received that day.

Life is a water bubble. While this water bubble lasts we should be giving more and more to the people and society around us. At any moment we are destined to leave this world we should leave with a positive balance of giving rather than with negative balance of receiving.

Dr. Safaya left this physical abode today (Jan, 10, 2013) to expand into Omnipresent abode of Oneness. Thank you Dr. Safaya for this important life lesson of self reliance. You are one of my mentors. I Love you. You live in the memories of all of us, for ever.


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