Dr. Gersten reports that, "You wouldn't know there was anything unusual
about this photograph unless you knew it was taken at noon when the sky was
a light blue, about the shade of blue on the side of this building (the
Poornachandra auditorium, the largest free-standing auditorium in India
with only external supports). The figure on the side of the building is
Shiva Nataraj, dancing Shiva, the destroyer of illusion. I have loved the
form of Shiva Nataraj since I first saw it in 1978.
Upon return to the United States, the film was developed, and I was mystified and awed to see the glorious shade of deep navy blue that the sky appears to be. On some computer screens, the sky will appear black as night.
Sai Baba has said that deep deep blue is the color of the Infinite, the color one sees when looking down into the ocean when far out at sea. As soon as I saw this photograph, a whole series of events from that trip to India became clear.
The day before my stay at the ashram was over, I journeyed into Puttaparthi to visit the tailor. Within seconds of passing through the gates of Prasanthi Nilayam into Puttaparthi, I became ill. I instantly had a fever, became weak, and could not walk the hundred yards to the tailor. I staggered back to my room at the ashram. I felt certain that this was a unique spiritual illness, and that Sai Baba had something to do with it. Nonetheless, just to be safe, I took an antibiotic.
That evening, a Thursday, as Sai Baba passed by me at evening darshan, I said, "Swami, I am leaving tomorrow. Will you see me?" "Yes, yes, I see you," He replied. A word of advice. Always be more specific in asking a question of Sai Baba.
By Friday morning I was a bit delirious from the strange illness. Morning darshan came, and Sai Baba walked right past me. I asked my taxi driver if he would wait eight hours until evening darshan and he agreed to do so.
Finally, evening darshan came and I knew that this would be my last chance to interact with Sai Baba during this trip. He came out of the Mandir, or temple, and walked over to the men's side (men and women sit separately). Baba walked my way, stood beside a boy who was sitting to my left and began to wave his hand in the familiar style indicating he is about to materialize something.
My eyes were fixed on what was happening, and Baba's hand was no more than a foot and a half away from me. Suddenly, a silver medallion dropped right out of the center of Sai Baba's palm and just hovered in space. The medallion was spinning around quickly as it hovered as if defying gravity, and it was molten hot as if it had just come out of the Cosmic Oven. As the medallion spun in space, a bright beam of light shot out in my direction - right into my eyes. I was so amazed and stunned that I couldn't breathe for a moment. That was the moment when Sai Baba chose to zip on past me, but I regained my breath, got up on my knees and said, "Swami I am leaving. Will you please see me in an interview?" He stopped, looked me in the eyes for the first time in two weeks and said, "What did you say?" I repeated myself, word for word, and was shocked by what happened next.
Sai Baba slapped the back of my head and said, "Sit!" He then walked away. I was confused and upset and felt that this was the wrong outcome for the trip. Certainly it wasn't the outcome I had wanted. One thing stuck in my mind as he faded into the distance, and that was that I felt that the medallion he had materialized had been materialized both for the boy and for myself.
I left the ashram in a huff, disappointed by my journey up until that point. I packed my bags, got in the taxi and headed away from Prasanthi Nilayam.
When the taxi had traveled no more than a half mile from the ashram, I had a sudden realization. The moment he slapped the back of my head, Sai Baba removed the strange illness I had. I began to laugh. It would take too long to describe all the things that I instantly understood, but a dozen things came into sharp focus. I had been so intent on getting an interview, and so disappointed that I did not have one, that for the half hour after he had slapped my head I entirely missed the fact that he had removed the illness.
I knew that Sai Baba had given me the strange spiritual illness and that he had removed it. This is highly significant in the light of my prayers and questions before the trip. Before the trip, I prayed or mentally spoke to Sai Baba and said, "During my first trip, you proved that you are indeed for real, that you are the maker of miracles, and that you are fully Divine. But after that trip, just about everything in my life fell apart or changed. So, Baba, I surrender everything to you now . . . except for my health. And I want to know if you are involved in my life. Are you my spiritual teacher?"
As the taxi pulled away, I knew he had heard my prayer. He was indeed involved in my life in a big way and this was his way of telling me that. I laughed at my bold and foolish prayer in which I had said, "But you can't touch my health." It was precisely through my health that he chose to work his miracles.
And then I laughed harder. I'm a medical doctor and am pretty used to the preferential treatment doctors get (or used to get) in America. I had traveled 26,000 miles, circled the globe, and this man, this Sai Baba wouldn't even speak to me. What a crushing blow to my medical ego, but a pleasant and funny one. There is no one special in Sai Baba's eyes. He showers his love on homeless beggars as much as he does on heads of state. Being a doctor meant nothing on this spiritual path. Everyone is equally special in his eyes.
More thoughts flooded my mind. "Well, if he's involved at the level of my body, maybe I should take a good look at my diet." Daring fool that I was, I challenged that very thought when I arrived at the West End Hotel in Bangalore. I ordered lamb kabob and a quart of beer. I was throwing down the gauntlet. The next day, the spiritual illness returned and I became quite frightened. I was so weak that I couldn't imagine surviving thelong flight ahead.
I took out some vibhuti (see photo number 1), rubbed some on my forehead and put some on my tongue, and then prayed in this way: "Please free me from this illness. I will be a strict vegetarian the rest of the time I am in India. Please let me work this out on my own once I am back in America." Instantly I felt better, almost cured.
However, the day of my return flight I was beginning to feel weak again. But, when the plane left India, the illness completely vanished. I arrived at LA International Airport, where my car had been parked for the month, drove two hours back home to San Diego . . . and had no jet lag.
Now, you're probably wondering what ever happened to the photograph of Shiva on the side of the building with the deep deep blue sky. Well, you see, I had said to myself, while in India, that if Sai Baba materialized anything for me, I would like a medallion of Shiva Nataraj, dancing Shiva, the form seen in this picture.
Sai Baba had given me the miracle in two parts. The medallion he had materialized had taken my breath away and I had felt that part of that miracle was intended for me. And then this photograph was printed, a miracle surrounding Shiva. Together, the medallion and the photograph, were the Shiva medallion I had asked for, just not the way I had imagined it.
The sense of awe, gratitude, and love I felt was immense. My ego had taken quite a pounding during that trip. Of course, ego demolition is Shiva's job description. I have gone on at some length here to indicate that the miracles, in-and-of themselves are not what matters. They are part of a much grander sheme. These miracles showed me Sai Baba's love and compassion, his humor, his Shiva sternness, his omniscience. He showed me that he will give me what I need, which may have nothing to do with what I want. To this day, I am still learning from the miracle of this Shiva Blue Sky photograph."