One among the few
devotees from the western hemisphere who came to
recognise Baba’s divinity way back in the early
seventies, Mr. Bozzani was a forty-five year old
flourishing businessman from the USA when he came to
Baba for the first time.
For more than thirty five
years since then, he has visited Puttaparthi at
least once every year and has been a hand-picked
instrument of Bhagavan in His Divine Mission.
Currently, he is a Trustee of the Sathya Sai Book
Center of America, California, USA.
Mr. Robert A.
One of the more beautiful
aspects of my relationship with Swami is the complete
care He took to ensure that I received not just His
teachings, but also the ambience to practice the same.
What I refer to here is
the blossoming of the Sai Movement that America was
witnessing just about that time, when I came to see Him
first in the early 1970s. [Read
“How Swami U-turned My Life from the December 2008
And I can only thank Swami
not just for initiating me into the Sai-ward path, but
also for fostering my spiritual growth in the company of
like-minded spiritual aspirants such as Dr. John Hislop,
Charles Penn and a few others - all of whom were early
comers to Sathya Sai Baba from the West. It felt like we
were all classmates in the ‘ Divine School’, and to me,
that was a great relationship.
Not just that, each one of
them, in their own way, was a sterling example of the
goodness and godliness that Baba taught, and that
provided me with the necessary motivation and impetus to
trudge on my newly chosen path.
Dr. John Hislop –
The Pioneer of the American Sai Organisation
His loving devotee, Dr. John Hislop
America saw its first Sri
Sathya Sai Organisation centre under Dr. John “Jack”
Hislop. He was a staunch devotee of Baba, and played a
premier role in the expansion of Sathya Sai Organisation
in the USA.
Dr. Hislop embodied
Swami’s teachings to the fullest, as I saw it. It was he
who inculcated a strong sense of discipline amongst us
as a very necessary step for the organisation to get
started and running.
Indeed, Swami knew
whom He was appointing for the task! For, the Sai
Organisation rests on the bastion of a spiritually
synchronised code of conduct, and we, in America, owe
that to Dr. Hislop.
In 1975, there were only
about three to four Sai centers. I was, supposedly, one
of the region coordinators along with two others. The
main Sai center was in Mrs. Elsie Cowan’s house in
There was one centre in
Sandweiss' house. So, those were the two important ones.
Apart from these, San Francisco and New York had one Sai
center each. It was at these Sai centers that I got to
know more people.
Dr. Hislop embodied Swami’s
teachings to the fullest, as I saw it. It
was he who inculcated a strong sense of
discipline amongst us as a very necessary
step for the organisation to get started and
The Penns – The
Charles and Faith Penn
were among the most wonderful people I met. I got to
know them because they would come to the Sai
get-togethers when we would have retreats and
conferences. And all they would talk about was Love.
They would have a meditation, and then they would get up
and talk about the Love of Sathya Sai Baba and the poor.
Listening to the Sadguru's instructions
I still remember
distinctly, that first time at the retreat; I was very
disturbed. I said, “What is this talk about love? Let’s
get to work and make the changes necessary!” I really
laugh at myself when I think of it now, because I’ve
understood over the years that it was the Penns’ message
which was the most important of all! And understanding
that message of Love was crucial to the perception and
implementation of Baba’s teachings.
In fact, Charles Penn was
really the first in the United States to introduce
Sathya Sai Baba to the United States, because he had
come to Swami as early as 1969.
The Movement Gains
Talking of the seventies, word was
spreading progressively of the ‘holy’ man
and teacher in distant India. And there were
a host of others apart from Dr. Hislop and
the Penns, who pitched in their bit to
spread that word. People like Walter and
Elsie Cowan, Indra Devi, and Mrs. Raja
Gopala in Ojai did a lot for His mission.
Talking of the seventies,
word was spreading progressively of the ‘holy’ man and
teacher in distant India. And there were a host of
others apart from Dr. Hislop and the Penns, who pitched
in their bit to spread that word.
Swami with Ms. Indra
People like Walter and
Elsie Cowan, Indra Devi, and Mrs. Raja Gopala in Ojai
did a lot for His mission.
Then, there was another
lady, Hilder Charlton in New York. She served as a
catalyst to the Sai Movement in New York. Once a week,
she would organise a bhajan-cum-speech session
wherein she would talk about Sathya Sai Baba, His life
And these sessions would
attract a lot of young people who were seeking meaning
in their lives. Many of those early youth hitch-hiked to
see Swami in the early 70s and He let them live in His
ashram.So, she too played a crucial role to introduce
Swami to United States.
The Cowans – The
The Cowans were yet
another important link in the network of Sai devotees in
the America of the 70s. They were important to me,
personally, because, when I returned to America from my
first visit to Puttaparthi, I just felt that I had to go
to a Sai center.
And so, I drove a long way
to Tustin at Elsie’s house, just to enjoy bhajans
for an hour or so; this gave me enough ‘charge’ to
‘return’ to the world for another week. Elsie was always
so loving and sweet to everybody; but at the same time,
she was very dynamic when it came to her devotion to
Swami. A lot of people would come to them; in fact, more
so, when they heard the story of Walter Cowan’s
resurrection by Swami.
Walter Cowan had been
declared clinically ‘dead’ by the doctors in Madras (now
Chennai). But Swami brought him back to life, saying
that he still had a role to play in His mission; that’s
when the Cowans started the Sai Book Center in Tustin.
They sought permission to reprint the first “Sathya Sai
Speaks” because back then, in America, it was difficult
to get them. And so, they reprinted these books and set
up a process to distribute them in the United Sates -
all in the backyard of their house and in their garage.
And, when Walter passed away, Elsie built the book
Swami with Walter
and Elsie Cowan
materialises a gift for Elsie while
their Spiritual remarriage ceremony
Even today, the book
center runs on a purely honorary basis, with no
salaries. We do our best to sell the books on Swami at
the lowest price possible, on a “No profit, No loss”
basis. And that is a very important thing for the people
too, to realise that around Sai activities there is no
money collected, and that the Sathya Sai Organisation
works purely out of love and service, never for any
Thus, the Cowans
too, through their book center, played a decisive role
in disseminating Swami’s message and glory. It is also
interesting to note how a lot of people got to know
Swami through Indra Devi and Hata Yoga coevally.
Sai Movement in
the USA on a Strong Footing in the 80's
Gradually, the Sathya Sai
Organisation began to take deep roots in America, thanks
to all the travelling that Charles Penn and Dr. Hislop
did, to spread His word. And Swami was ensuring all the
time that He prepared more and more ‘instruments’ for
the American chapter of His Mission.
Sai Organisation grew in its reach and
magnitude, and transformed the lives of the
people it touched. Not just that, it also
engineered the spiritual progress of the
individuals who were already part and parcel of
Next into the picture,
came Dr. Michael Goldstein and Dr. Samuel Sandweiss. In
fact, Sandweiss probably has the oldest center running
in United States at the same place.
I was quite fortunate to
interact with all these stalwarts. For, they were
Swami’s instruments to begin to let people know that He
was here, in the United States.
Over the years, more Sai
centers sprang up. And then, later on in the 80s, when
brothers and sisters from India, who were in the United
States, started coming to the Sai centers, these centers
blossomed really faster.
The Sri Sathya Sai
Organisation grew in its reach and magnitude, and
transformed the lives of the people it touched. Not just
that, it also engineered the spiritual progress of the
individuals who were already part and parcel of its
I, as a person,
felt its deep and abiding influence in my life too. It
not only gave me the ambience to practice Swami’s
teachings, but also helped me to understand and unravel
Swami’s message better, especially Swami’s message of
Making ‘Love’ Work
The greatest problem of
humanity today is poverty of love. And I’ve always felt
that a lot of unhappiness and agitation we find in the
world today has to do with just that – want of love.
So, I feel very fortunate
when I know that Swami has been grasping my heart and
opening it more and more – to encompass all that I can
see and feel. And love is not limited to our family or
workplace. It is not enough if we merely kindle the
‘feeling’ of love.
For instance, when we tell
ourselves – “we are going to love our family”, or that,
“when I am working in Sai organisation, I should
practice love there” That is not right.
Wherever we are, every
single moment, we must be ‘love in action’. Love is best
expressed when put in action. And it is just that. The
best way to do it over and over again is watch how we
act; there is no other way.
When we are faced with,
what we think is a hostile person/situation, we tend to
go with it, and attack. But what we all need to learn is
to go the other way around, through the path of love,
instead of finding fault with the ‘other’ and taking an
offensive stance. That’s because, ultimately, everybody
is looking for Love; that ‘lovelessness’ is the real
I have had moments when I
have experienced the extra-ordinary power of Love even
in the most mundane of things. For instance, when I go
out to do an errand on certain mornings and I find a
clerk who is simply unhappy, I do my best to smile and
send love by how I act, rather than complain about
things. And that action of love generates an aquifer of
energy that keeps me going cheerful and buoyant the
I sometimes think how
wonderful it would be if we all had the ability to
address the other person as “My dear embodiment of
love…” instead of “Mr. So-and-So”. Just the way Swami
does! The mere act of
addressing someone with love, generates so much of
happiness and good-will that there can be no trace or
scope for ill feelings. And that is exactly what Swami
wants us to do – to give Love.
When we are faced with, what we
think is a hostile person/situation, we tend
to go with it, and attack. But what we all
need to learn is to go the other way around,
through the path of love, instead of finding
fault with the ‘other’ and taking an
offensive stance. That’s because,
ultimately, everybody is looking for Love;
that ‘lovelessness’ is the real problem.
There are times when we
just can’t do that. But it is at such times, if we
really open our hearts, we can feel Swami at that
moment! Even if we can’t ‘feel’ the love, we can, at
least ‘think’ it, saying mentally to the other person,
“Although you upset me, personally, I love you.” And
when we do that, we feel His presence! Even if we get
angry, Swami is there; He is a good witness.
The incident of Phyllis
Crystal and the hijacker is a perfect example of the
sort of magical effect that Love can have. A
long-standing devotee of Sathya Sai Baba, Phyllis
Crystal shares the message of love with youngsters and
adults alike, even today, in her talks.
She tells people – “If you
can’t love, ask God to help you.” For that is what she
did once, when hijacked on a plane. Threatened at
gunpoint, and probably counting what were the last
moments of her life, Phyllis Crystal mentally prayed to
Sathya Sai Baba for succour.
In that moment of
intense prayer, she felt Swami telling her to ‘Love
those people’! But the hijackers were people who were
mean, angry and upset. Distressed and angry herself,
Phyllis realised she just couldn’t do that.
Being honest to
herself, she started praying to Swami again, “Swami, ‘I’
can’t send them (the hijackers) love, these people are
cruel… but Swami, please send ‘Your’ love through me to
them.” And she prayed that way, over and over again.
When she did that, peace came to the aeroplane, and they
this entire episode in the November 2008 cover story]
It does not end there.
Later on, Phyllis Crystal verified that incident with
Swami in her next trip to Puttaparthi. And Bhagavan
confirmed that when she had prayed for His love and
opened her heart, it was that Love which had changed the
hijackers’ hearts and transformed the whole situation.
Living a Life of
We need to feel and
express Love; a love that stems not merely from the
lips, but from our hearts, a love that is felt from the
depths of our beings rather than recited in a humdrum
fashion. For instance, we chant the Universal Prayer of
Peace – ‘Samasta Lokaha Sukhino Bhavantu’ (May
all beings in all the worlds be happy), thrice, at the
end of bhajan sessions.
“Swami, the world is in deep trouble
due to absence of Love. Please, may this
prayer of mine move You, and quell, to some
extent, the agitation in the minds of the
people, so that there is greater love” – it
would naturally have a greater and
long-lasting effect. For Love and beauty lie
in the eyes of the beholder, not in the
beheld; in the Drishti (Vision),
not in the Srushti (Creation).
We do it pretty routinely
like a tape recorder. If, for a moment, we did it with
an intense feeling, and with the thought – “Swami, the
world is in deep trouble due to absence of Love. Please,
may this prayer of mine move You, and quell, to some
extent, the agitation in the minds of the people, so
that there is greater love” – it would naturally have a
greater and long-lasting effect. For Love and beauty lie
in the eyes of the beholder, not in the beheld; in the
Drishti (Vision), not in the Srushti
When we see
something that we don’t like or relish, the fault lies
in our outlook. And we must rise above that.
This is what Swami means when He talks of
‘Reflection, Reaction and Resound’, and the need to put
our perspective in place. There is no right or wrong.
Everything is God.
I have asked Swami, for
years, to make me rise above my judgmental point of
view, which we all, as humans, are prone to take. And I
can, with all my heart, say that, fortunately, I am
getting there, even if I am not there. I can truthfully
say that when I am not comfortable with a particular
situation or somebody, I can, in my heart, send them
Love, Swami’s Love, which is God’s Love.
I can do that, and I can
pray for them hoping that all is well with them; that
they finally will get the message, whatever be the
outcome, as long as I am Loving rather than Complaining
about their actions. Because when we complain about
something, that something is within us.
That has been my
experience, and to me, it’s gotten right – ‘What I See
is what I Am’.
What is more, I have never
felt better or younger in all of this life as I feel
now. And I can only express my gratitude to Swami for
His beautiful message of Love, and the opportunity to
share my experiences with that message of love. Not only
because I am the one who is most benefited in recounting
my stories and experiences, but also because, when we
share our experiences with each other, we are
transported to an ineffable state of Love, Happiness and
Bliss, that is verily, the nature of God.