Incredible Experiences Of Santoor Maestro pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma
I first came to know of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba from my family doctor, Dr. M.L. Shukla, in 1968. Initially, I was a bit skeptical about Baba's miraculous powers and I used to have arguments with Dr. Shukla. In those days, Bhagavan Baba used to visit Mumbai twice a year and used to stay at Dharmakshetra, Andheri.
One day, Dr. Shukla told me to stop these arguments and invited me to Dharmakshetra to have the Darshan of Bhagavan. Both of us went to Dharmakshetra. I had carried my instrument (Santoor) in the car, just in case I was called upon to play there.
There were thousands of men and women of all age groups there, sitting and waiting for Swami to come. We too sat there, waiting, but Baba had been held up somewhere else. After waiting for more than an hour, we had to leave as I had some other engagement that evening.
After a few days, Dr. Shukla asked me again to accompany him to the residence of a devotee of Baba, where there was a constant manifestation of Vibhuthi from Baba's photograph.
Here, I would like to mention that, in those days, I was still struggling very hard to establish my instrument (Santoor) in the classical field and it was a real challenge in my life. Dr. Shukla was a fatherly figure to me and was very keen that I get Bhagavan's blessings.
The First Miracle
We went to Vile Parle, a suburb of Mumbai, where this devotee of Baba lived. I saw a big framed photograph of Baba there, completely covered with Vibhuthi. In our presence this man wiped away the entire Vibhuthi and collected it in a small container. I sat in front of Baba's photograph and started playing my santoor.
After an hour or so, when I had finished playing, I got up and went closer to Baba's photograph. To my astonishment, the entire glass frame of the photograph was fully covered by Vibhuthi! I could not believe my eyes, but what I saw was a fact. This was my first indirect experience of Baba.
After a year, when Baba again visited Mumbai, I received an invitation to visit Dharmakshetra and play my santoor in a special programme. I believe this was again organized by the efforts of Dr. Shukla who knew some people at Dharmakshetra. The programme took place inside a room, where Baba stays when He comes to Mumbai.
There were a selected number of people; amongst them were Manoj Kumar, a film actor and director, Mahendra Kapoor, a playback singer and many others. I performed first, followed by Mahendra Kapoor's song, and then a few other musicians performed. After the programme, Swami talked to different people; I was sitting there watching and listening. In the end, Baba spoke to me.
He said, ''I liked your playing, I want to speak to you, come tomorrow morning.'' Next morning I was not free, but before I could say anything, Baba again said, ''Tomorrow you are not free, but day after you are free, so come the day after.'' I could not believe it; He was reading my mind. I said, ''Yes Baba, I will come the day after'' to which He replied, ''Bring your wife also with you.''
‘My Home is in Your Heart’ - Baba
My wife Manorama and I reached Dharmakshetra early in the appointed day. After the Bhajan and Darshan, we were asked to go up to His residence and wait there. After a while, Baba called us inside His room. We were sitting in front of Baba with no one else in the room. Baba started talking! He told us everything about our lives, about my career, my struggle, the difficulties I was facing and then, He blessed us. Then, suddenly Baba asked, ''What do you want?'' I said, ''Baba! I just want your blessings.'' Immediately, my wife said, ''Baba, give him something."
With a wave of his hand Baba materialized a ring with a golden bust of Baba embossed on it. He put the ring on my finger and said, ''From today, this is your home; come to Me any time you want and My home is in your heart.'' I cannot express in words the feelings I experienced at that moment. It was love personified in the form of Baba, the kind of love that I had never experienced before. We came out of that room quite dazed with that experience.
From then onwards, a new chapter began in my life; I had many experiences of Baba's omnipresence, and above all, His divine love which He always showered on us like a Divine Mother. After Baba gave me the ring, occasionally people would ask me, ''After getting this ring, have you experienced a change for the better in your life?'' One night, when I was visiting Jammu, my birthplace, before going to bed I told myself, ‘‘Actually speaking, there is not much change in my life.''
With this thought, I went to bed. In the morning, when I woke up, I touched the ring to my forehead, and my eyes, as I used to do every morning. To my dismay and shock, I noticed that the golden bust of Baba was missing from the ring. Naturally, I was very upset. Since I was sleeping on the terrace of my house, I started searching for the missing bust of Baba in my bed, under the cot and all over the terrace, but, it was not found anywhere.
Suddenly, I realized that, because of my doubtful thoughts, this had happened. Thoroughly disappointed and dejected, I kept standing near the wall of the terrace. After a while, I looked down at the parapet and I could see some shining object there. It was Baba's golden bust!
By no means was it possible that while I was sleeping in the middle of the terrace, the golden bust of Baba that I had seen before going to sleep could have come off my ring and landed on the parapet. I retrieved the golden bust from the parapet with great difficulty and tried to fix it back on the ring, but it did not work. I kept it with the ring in a small silver container and used to take it with me wherever I was traveling.
In 1971, when I was in Sweden for some concerts, I saw Baba in my dream telling me, ''Why don't you put on that ring?'' When I woke up in the morning, I took out that silver container from my bag and tried once again to fix the golden bust on that ring with an adhesive. To my amazement this time it fixed! I came back to India after the concerts.
A few months later, Baba came to Mumbai and I received a message that Baba would like me to play at Dhamakshetra next evening. I was very happy to have this invitation, but, the problem was that I had earlier already accepted a concert at Churchgate in Mumbai for that same evening and also, there was no tabla player available to accompany me. After a while, I got another message from Dharmakshetra, that Baba would like me to come even late and to play without a tabla player.
I was very happy. After finishing my concert at Churchgate, we directly drove to Dharmakshetra. Baba was sitting in the hall with some devotees and I played santoor without any tabla accompaniment. After I finished my performance, Baba asked the other devotees to leave.
Now, only my wife, Dr. Shukla, my elder son Rohit, a couple of my friends and I were there. Baba asked, ''How was your tour abroad?'' I said, ''Baba, with your blessings the tour went off well, but my ring.... '' Before I could even finish the sentence, Baba said, “Yes, when you got that ring people started asking you questions. What benefit did you derive from this?" Although you believe in Baba, one day the doubt did come into your mind and the golden bust of Baba came off. Then Baba came in your dream one day and told you to put it on and since then, the ring is fine. Now, what is the problem?" After speaking to us thus, Baba blessed us and we experienced the same Divine Motherly love once again.
A Name Recited by the Divine
On Bhagavan's 60th Birthday in 1985, I had the privilege of being invited to give a Santoor recital. That evening's programme was taking place in the huge open area at the Hill View Stadium. The schedule of the programme was that I would give a performance on the Santoor first, followed by Baba's Discourse. But, in the evening, Baba changed the order. It was first Baba's Discourse and then my Santoor recital. I was very worried, thinking that after Baba's discourse, who would stay there for my programme?
After the discourse, suddenly Baba said, ''Now Shiv Kumar Sharma will play Santoor, and he is a longtime devotee of Swami. So, if you want to experience divinity listen to his music, don't go.'' I was completely overwhelmed and tears started following from my eyes. I could not take it. I was unable to get up or move. I could not believe my ears, for in all these years Baba had never called me by my name.
This was the first time I was hearing my name in the divine voice of Bhagavan. With great effort, I could get up and go on the stage. Emotionally I was in no position to play. Baba, who was already on the stage, put His arm lovingly on my shoulder. That had an electrifying effect on me and I became totally normal and started playing. After the concert, Baba materialized a diamond ring and put it on my finger.
It is not possible to understand Baba's Leelas. I have also undergone a period where, for a few years, Baba did not pay any attention to me. He just gave me blessings from a distance and we had no conversations at all. Maybe Baba teaches us in this way so that we should not get attached to His physical form. But, He never leaves His devotees, wherever they may be.
The Eternal Guardian
On November 13-14 in 1998, my son Rahul and I had gone to Dubai for a concert. My wife was also with us, along with Shafat Ahmed Khan, our tabla player. A day before the concert our hosts planned to take us for a sand dune safari. We left Dubai in two cars, my wife and I, accompanied by three other people, while my son Rahul, Shafat, our host, as well as a couple of people were in the Land Cruiser, a brand new car. The Land Cruiser was a few cars behind us as we made our way on the highway. After a couple of minutes there was a call on the mobile phone in our cars, asking us to go back. We drove back not knowing what had happened, till we arrived at a spot on the highway where the driver stopped the car.
Then, we realized that the car in which my son Rahul and others were traveling, was lying upside down in the middle of the highway and was totally smashed. There was an ambulance and a few police vehicles surrounding the smashed land cruiser. My wife had become hysterical and it was difficult to control her. Looking at the condition of the car, it was obvious that nobody would have survived.
Suddenly, we saw Rahul standing on one side along with the other passengers. Later, we came to know that their car was traveling at 135 km/hour when one of the tyres burst. The driver tried his best to control the car, but it hit the railing on the side and flipped upside down and started spinning. Rahul, who was sitting next to the driver, shouted, "Baba.... Baba, Baba, Baba," while the car landed with a thud on its roof. For a few minutes, there were no vehicles coming from behind, as if somebody had stopped all of traffic. After a while, some cars came and stopped.
The people helped the passengers out of the smashed car. Nobody could believe that all the passengers traveling in the car were unharmed through this entire ordeal. Some of them had little bruises, but Rahul, who was in the front seat was without any bruises! They were all taken to a doctor’s clinic in Dubai for a check up. As soon as they entered the clinic, they saw a big photograph of Baba smiling and looking at them! Baba gave the message that He had saved the lives of my son Rahul and all the other passengers.
On 21 November, 1998, we went to Puttaparthi to attend Bhagavan's Birthday celebrations. The first day Baba did not talk to us. But on November 22, Baba came and asked me, "Where is son?" Rahul was sitting next to me and so I said, "Baba, he is here." Baba asked again, "Where is son?" Baba kept on repeating the same question. Suddenly I realised and said, "Swami gave him a new life." Swami said, "Yes, I know," and then left. On the morning of November 24, during the interview, Swami narrated the entire episode, how the accident happened, how Rahul shouted ‘Baba... Baba, Baba, Baba,’ and Swami said, "That time somebody was sitting with Me here, and I told him Shiv Kumar's son has met with a very serious accident but he has been saved."
“We Always Feel His Presence”
Thirty years have passed since I had my first Darshan of Bhagavan Baba at Dharmakshetra, Mumbai in 1969 and had the opportunity of giving a Santoor recital in His presence. Since then, hundreds of Santoor recitals have been given in the presence of large audiences at several places in India and also abroad.
By Baba's Grace, my son Rahul too had joined me in giving Santoor recitals with me in the Divine presence as well as at other places. We can count ourselves among the few fortunate ones, who have had the opportunity of giving vocal and instrumental music recitals in the presence of Baba at Prashanthi Nilayam, where the audience is in thousands belonging to various parts of India and several other countries.
Everywhere, in India and abroad, we have always felt the presence of Bhagavan Baba and His Grace and Blessings pouring on us in abundance.