The ninth session of the “My Sai and I” series in Canberra and the third session for 2018 took place between 4.30 pm and 6.00 pm on 11 August 2018 at the Griffin Centre in Canberra City.
The event commenced with three Aums and a Ganesha song after which Dristy welcomed the devotees who had gathered that day. Dristy recapped the reason for holding the “My Sai I” series –to offer an opportunity for all to listen to the glorious stories of Sathya Sai from the dearest and nearest of his followers. It is hoped that by listening to these stories we all could, contemplate on Sathya Sai’s love and learn from His Divine messages and transform our lives.
Dristy then introduced Dr Pal Dhall going through his illustrious career both outside and within the Sathya Sai Organisation. Dr Pal Dhall is a Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of the UK and the Australasian Royal College of Surgeons. Dr Pal Dhall was Professor of Surgery in the University of Nairobi, Kenya in the 70’s. After moving to Australia in 1975 he was Senior Consultant Surgeon, Director of the Vascular and Thrombosis Research Unit and a Visiting Fellow of the John Curtin School of Medical Research of the Australian National University. He was Academic Advisor to the University of Central Queensland for the Master’s program in Learning Management with Human Values and Adjunct Professor of the University of Canberra in Bio-ethics. Last year he was honoured by Ricardo Palma University in Peru with a University medal as a Distinguished Academic and given the title of Honorary Professor of Ricardo Palma University. In Ecuador he and his wife, Dr Tehseen Dhall, were honoured by the City of Guayaquil as Honoured guests of the City. Dr Pal Dhall has published over 200 scientific papers and articles in the field of vascular and thrombosis research and general surgery.
In the Sathya Sai Organisation, Dr Pal Dhall served as the National Education and Devotion Coordinator in the 90’s. In 2004 he was appointed as the Zone Chair for Zones 3, 4 and 5, and was the Chair of the Education Committee of Prashanti Council and the SSS World Foundation. He has published 19 books some jointly with Dr Tehseen Dhall on Human Values and on the teachings of Sathya Sai Baba and some of these books have been translated into several languages. In addition, Dr Pal Dhall served as the Director of Institute of Sathya Sai Education in Australia.
Presently, Dr Pal Dhall is the co-chair of the Education Committee of the Sri Sathya Sai World Foundation and Prashanti Council and looks after 43 Sathya Sai Schools and 31 Institutes of Sathya Sai Education in Human Values around the world. Along with his wife, he is an International trainer for a variety of programs they have developed on Human Values and ethics with a focus on Human Values in Education, Parenting, and Human Development. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Canberra Interfaith Forum of Canberra.
Hence it is without surprise that through all these experiences Dr Pal Dhall has had the good fortune of closely interacting with Sathya Sai Baba, both physically and in the cosmic sense.
Dr Pal Dhall noted that the majority of the speakers at the ‘My Sai and I’ sessions were students of Institutions established by Sathya Sai such as the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. However, he noted that all of us are students in our own way. Dr Pal Dhall also added that his talk would centre on the collective experience of his family rather his experience alone and as such the topic of the day would be ‘Our Sai and I’ instead of ‘My Sai and I.’
Dr Pal Dhall said that early in life he had an orientation to spiritual life having been born and raised in Kenya where people from different faiths co-existed. He grew up with the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads and his mother, an ardent Krishna devotee, treated Lord Krishna more like a family member. In the 1950s while attending medical school in the UK, Dr Pal Dhall found that there was a lot of focus on Christian missionaries, and conversion of people from other faiths to Christianity was the norm. During this time Dr Pal Dhall became familiar with writings of the Christian mystics and Guru Nanak, and delved further into the Gita and Upanishads to firm up his own understanding of his own religion in order to mainly enter into informed debate with those who propagated Christianity as the exclusive religion.
Dr Pal Dhall became a professor at the age of 34 years and had a life of comfort and, like many, lost touch with spirituality in the chase for a career. Dr Pal Dhall said that many of us are pre-occupied with various activities and live in a pressure cooker environment. These pressures have increased today particularly with the increased use of social media. He found secular success lacking a deep meaning and he then turned to spirituality. Spirituality offers an alternate way of life. Questions like “Who are we?” “Where do we come from?” “Where we are going?” led Dr Dhall to turn to Mahayana Buddhism. It should be noted in Sanskrit the word “Mahayana” means great vehicle and this form of Buddhism is prominent in North Asia, including China, Mongolia, Tibet, Korea, and Japan.
Dr Dhall came to know about Sathya Sai in an aircraft on his way back from England via Pakistan. An Englishman sitting next to him on the plane noticed that Dr Dhall was a vegetarian and a teetotaller. He started a conversation with Dr Dhall and he told him about Sai Baba and his miracles of healing people by touch, and gave Dr Dhall an account of Sathya Sai reviving someone after he had died. Dr Dhall was convinced in no uncertain terms that this was not possible. He stated that he should know better since he was a surgeon and a scientist however the Englishman continued to talk about an Avatar on Earth. Dr Dhall remained unconvinced and in fact doubted the Englishman’s sanity and credibility, though he had spoken for many hours. As Dr Dhall was getting off in Karachi the Englishman took a plastic packet of powdery material and pressed it on to Dr Dhall saying, “You owe it to yourself to go and see Baba in India’. Dr Dhall remembered saying to himself “How crazy is this guy! He expects me to go chasing after some strange Guru in India. He is probably taking some hallucinogenic drugs and the packet of the powdery material is probably that. He decided out of politeness to take the packet, determined to throw it away before being caught in the Customs in Karachi and put into prison for possessing drugs.
In Karachi he forgot to throw away the packet of vibuthi as there was a lot of commotion at the airport from a bomb blast. He shared his experience with the Englishman with his brother-in-law who seemed fascinated with all the miracles, and declared that he would like to visit India and meet Sai Baba. He found, much to his surprise, the same reaction in his wife, Tehseen when he returned home. Within weeks of his return, Dr Dhall and his wife embarked on a journey of discovery of Sathya Sai. Many ‘coincidences’ and surprising experiences led both Dr Dhall and his wife to make many trips to Puttaparthi, sometimes alone and sometimes with their children. Gradually, their life became more and more focused on Sai Baba. It should be noted that until then Dr Dhall had led two parallel lives – an inner spiritual life and an external worldly life, and his approach to spirituality had been to bring God within the realm of his understanding; now he has learnt that God is neither measurable nor understandable with the human mind.
Dr Pal Dhall shared numerous experiences including the collective experience of his family with Sathya Sai; a selection of these experiences are shared below in order to enable the readers to get the essence of the learnings.
During one of Dr Dhall’s early trips to Puttaparthi he found that he was going to be sharing the house he had rented with three people – a drug addict, a butcher and one who had no faith in medical practitioners or their treatment. Dr Pal Dhall had to overcome his prejudices and learn to share a month of experiences by living with the three, understanding them and going beyond merely getting along with these three individuals. He is now convinced that nothing is a meaningless coincidence or a matter of chance.
Dr Pal Dhall used to have an outer house at his residence which he used for meditation practices based on Mahayana Buddhism. In an interview Sathya Sai advised that such meditating in isolation is selfish and that in fact, “Work is worship.”
Understanding Divine Miracles
Dr Pal Dhall’s greatest challenge was to bring Sathya Sai within the realm of his understanding as a scientist. However, Sathya Sai seemed to arrange events in such a way that Dr Pal Dhall had to repeatedly confront the rigid programming of his own rational and scientific mind. During an interview, Dr Dhall saw Sathya Sai create Vibuthi, or holy ash. On another occasion, he filled the cupped palms of a student with fresh, hot laddu, an Indian sweet, which poured out from His fingers. Dr Dhall was intrigued at how all this was happening. On another occasion, Sathya Sai materialised a gold ring with an image of Buddha. Sathya Sai handed this ring to Dr Dhall and asked him pass the ring around to others after inspection. When the ring had done the full circle, Sathya Sai held it in full view of Dr Pal Dhall and blew on it. In an instant the image of Buddha changed to the symbol of Om. Sathya Sai looked at Dr Pal Dhall with a smile and said “See, My workers are very fast!”. As a scientist Dr Pal Dhall had the greatest difficulty comprehending what he had just witnessed. Gradually he began to understand that miracles happen every moment of our life but we begin to take these miracles for granted. The whole of creation is full of magic and miracles, and Sai Baba show us the way to connect with these miracles in which we are immersed.
Dr Pal Dhall said that Sathya Sai’s omnipresence is most forcefully felt through His manifestations which occur in homes thousands of miles away from Puttaparthi. Dr Pal Dhall cited several examples of these manifestations. For example, a drop of Amrit manifested on a picture of Baba when Dr Pal Dhall was ill and unable to go to devotional singing during Diwali; Vibuthi in the shape of a smiling face manifested on the roller skates given to their daughter, Shammah, on her birthday; and in an unopened a packet of potato chips. He also narrated how vibuthi manifested on Diploma Certificates which were neatly laid in front the Sathya Sai altar at a residence in Perth prior to the graduation ceremony of students of the Institute of Sathya Sai Education in Australia.
On many occasions Sathya Sai became a divine protector for Dr Dhall’s family. When Dr Dhall’s daughter, Shammah went skiing for the first time, he had an intuition she might hurt herself. That night Dr Pal Dhall saw Sathya Sai in a dream and in this dream Sathya Sai conveyed to him that Shammah may have a mishap. In the dream Dr Pal Dhall had pleaded with Sathya Sai until He agreed that He would do something about this. On the ski slopes on the first day Shammah kept falling and calling on Sathya Sai for help. When that night Shammah saw Sathya Sai she complained to Him that He had not been helping her. Sathya Sai said to her, “If you want help, Shammah, you have to call Me from your heart. Remember this tomorrow.” The next day when Shammah went skiing she was going downhill and lost control. She did not know how to steer or to stop. She was hurtling towards a tree at a steadily accelerating speed and called on Sathya Sai in desperation from her heart. Suddenly, from nowhere appeared another skier who came towards her at great speed and knocked her over away from the tree. She rolled in the snow uninjured and avoided hitting into the tree. Later, Shammah could not find the skier – he had disappeared as mysteriously as he had appeared.
Dristy thanked Dr Pal Dhall for sharing his and his family’s beautiful memories of Sathya Sai. The 11th series of the ‘My Sai and I’ event concluded with a devotional song and Aarathi and distribution of Vibuthi and light refreshment