Our second conversation with Ivan Bavčević felt like sitting in the very presence of Baba. In those moments, the experience was nothing like formal interviews; instead, we immersed ourselves in the essence of Baba – joy, celebration, and profound love, through Ivan. It was akin to sharing a hearty laugh with Baba himself, gaining insights into His unique way of reveling in the beauty of life. From Ivan, we discovered that Baba was a joyous soul, seizing every opportunity to share laughter with His devotees. Moreover, Ivan illuminated Baba’s special connection with people from the Balkans and unearthed many invaluable teachings. As a former youth counselor for Southern Europe in the Sathya Sai Organization, Ivan’s journey becomes a portal inviting you to connect with the extraordinary experiences he shares with his beloved Baba.

The Awakening Times (TAT): Are we conducting this interview to commemorate Baba’s birthday, wondering how the celebration would unfold if Baba was still with us?

Ivan Bavčević (IB): Since these birthday celebrations are held each year, we would be there, having concerts and plays. Students could do a program, stunt motor shows, skydiving…

At my last Baba birthday celebration, there was a laser show with techno music and the Mission Impossible theme song.

TAT: That’s genius. (laughter)

IB: It was raining, and around one hundred thousand people were there. The ground was muddy, and we were jumping and dancing…it was surreal!

Up to that moment, everything was perfectly organized. We had programs, mantras, Vedas, Upanishads, the whole day, we were dedicated to doing these practices, and then a laser show came out of nowhere, and we were like: „What just happened here?!“

TAT: So, Baba was a fun guy? (laughter)

IB: All he cared about was to have an entertaining celebration…

TAT: That’s precisely the question I had in mind. How did he react upon witnessing the laser show?

IB: There is no way that would happen without his blessing. Even when he was pretending to be surprised. It would happen that he was not entirely pleased with something so he would leave in the middle of that event, like a concert, for example. He went to give his blessing to people. But we could see that he didn’t feel like being there anymore. (laughter) 

TAT: So, he knew how to express disapproval? Would he offer criticism?

IB: He would never do it publicly. His saying was, „Compliment publicly, criticize privately.“

But if he stood up in the middle of the performance and started roaming around, that was a sign that the performance should end.

Another thing was, if he really liked something, and the rest of us could not handle it anymore out of boredom, he would ask to see more of it. (laughter)  He would extend the performance for an hour more, but the rest of us would feel like we just wanted to escape. (laughter)

That is because he always knew the intention behind something. If someone did something with much love and dedication, especially lacking resources, he would support it by asking to see more.

He used to do that to all of us from the Balkans. We would finish our performance, and he would say, „Do it again, keep singing“.  Luckily, we were ready. (smiling) 

He just knew that people from the Balkans, especially countries affected by war, don´t have much. Still, we were there in large numbers compared to other countries and their population. 

TAT: As you’ve brought up the Balkans, could you please elaborate on the connection between the Balkans and Baba?

IB: What exactly would you like to know? (laughter)

TAT: I am eager to understand why Baba held such a deep affection for people from the Balkans, as evidenced by the multitude of devotees from these countries. What kind of connection was that?

IB: I think the best answer is given in the book by Vesna Krmpotić „108 times x 108 times“ . He chose our language to deliver 11.864 poems/messages. He chose the language of southern Slavic nations since the words in these languages are the closest to the actual meaning of the poems. Us, Slavic people have to celebrate (Slaviti – to celebrate) and speak (Sloviti – to speak). In one of the poems, “A Note On Language”, in the same book, it’s exactly what it says.

There is one poem, if you remember that our country had six federal states back then, and six is an exceptional number. It is a number of sides in a hexagon, one of the most symmetrical geometric shapes. Our whole three-dimensional world is organized with hexagonal leads, like honeycombs. One of the six federal states was Bosnia, which was in the middle of the country. Its shape is a triangle. Equilateral triangle. In that poem, he is saying how our country (Yugoslavia 1918-1992) is the heart of the world, and the world is experiencing a heart attack (The Bosnian War – 1992-1995).

It’s as if he was in love with us, the Balkan people. He would often mention that we had always been with him, even during the times of the Pharaohs in Egypt, where we served as high priests. Whether in Tibet or India, we were present throughout many cultures. Whenever there was a civilization dominated by spiritual knowledge, that is where we were born.

The Balkan area is exceptional due to high frequencies, and he wanted us to be born here. We had to go through all of it, all that we had faced in the past, so that our hearts could get filled with love. It is always easier to love someone you like, someone who is kind, but the Master said…“ I have learned that in primary school, now is the time for college. And on this faculty…you have to learn how to love the terrorist, the murderer, the one who is bombarding your home.“ So here in the Balkan area, we are studying for a doctor’s degree in Love.

TAT: This is amazing. Doctorate in Love. Beautiful.

IB: In one of my teachings, I apologize now if I am not following the subject, but it is because of Baba´s support. 

All of us born in the Balkans got a VIP pass to heaven. The moment you were born here, Haven is a guarantee. Because you will live here, with all the challenges, you must activate this pass at the Heaven door. You don’t have to wait to die. You can do it right away. And the way to do it is to let go of resentment. The moment you can do that, your pass to Heaven is activated, and you live in Heaven from that moment on.

We have an excellent opportunity to do that here. You know, when you are forced out of where you have lived your whole life and where your ancestors have lived, but now you have to move somewhere else like we had in the past, in the nineties. Or, your neighbor killed your husband, father, or son, and you stay in that pain and misery; you have missed the opportunity to activate that pass to Heaven. That means you care more about the outside world and the circumstances than the Heaven pass you got. If, in that moment, you see that you have a chance to choose not to hate, you are in Heaven right away. 

TAT: Beautiful! You can move from Croatia to Novi Sad in Serbia, and instantly fall in love with people there, just like I have.

IB: Yes, exactly.

TAT:That is the beauty of our story.  Now, please, tell us more about how you ran an organization of Youth Club back in that time, how did you manage all of that?

IB: Look… when there is grace, you do it because you know you were born to do it. Everything that was going on around that was supporting that. You go to work because Baba gave it to you so that you can gather money to do what you need. The interest was quite significant in the area where I worked. All those generations and the energy from countries between Portugal and Romania was impressive. It was like we caught the wave of good energy and enthusiasm. 

I don’t think I can explain why it was like that. The explosion just happened. It lasted intensively for about seven to ten years. But as with any wave, it could not stay for long. People are also growing up, so they can not be part of a youth club. New generations, it is like there were not many. My generation, the seventies, eighties…we are pretty different from those born in the nineties or two thousand. It’s like the enthusiasm was gone, and then, above all, Swami left his body. 

When a Master is not in his body, it is not that easy to attract people, so the ones left are the ones who know his physical presence. If you haven’t met the master, your connection differs from when you spent time with him and established a connection. We have people connecting to Christ even after two thousand years, so that is not an issue, but you have to understand that whenever a Master leaves a body, there is a natural decrease in people connecting to him. So we have to bring that subtle energy that was in the body into space. After that, we can see the increase in interest again. 

TAT: Have you faced any personal challenges when working for such a big organization? Or any doubts, that you are not up to it?

IB: It happens. My first assignment was organizing the World Conference of Youth with around five thousand guests from different countries. We had to arrange transport, accommodation, food, a program that would last five days, all the plays, speeches…

TAT: How much time did you have?

We started in January, and the conference was in June. So, six months. Usually, it takes years. To organize something in Europe where everything is in order and to do it in India with his presence, where everything happened in the last moment, is a different experience. 

One of the significant challenges was that we all came out of love for our Master and duty to serve him, and he had closed the windows on his car and did not even come out for days. We were working all day. For example, we could not work in the Temple during the day, so we had to do it overnight. Sometimes even until the early morning hours.  All we needed was for him to give us a look, but he was driving around with the windows closed, and you could not see who was inside the car. 

This is where I had my first meltdown. I even told him that I was leaving home and didn’t care about the speech or the conference, that if he was unwilling to put the windows down… I am leaving. (laughter) 

I was angry. He wanted us to stay true to ourselves, be honest, and express our emotions. He knows what you are going through; there is no need to hide it.  In that state, even though I said how I would leave if he did not put the window down, I secretly hoped he would not listen to me…so that I could go. (laughter)

And then…the lights got on. Usually, this meant the cars were approaching. But this time, there were no cars. He was walking alone. 

For three months, he was going nowhere without the car, and suddenly, he was walking without even stopping, which was his usual thing. To stop and speak to women. That is when I realized: Oh my God…he is walking toward me. 

I got so scared. I was like: „You know, I was joking. It’s not like I would have left for real; you know I would not leave.“ He stopped before me and spoke to me for the first time since I had been there. 

He gave me all the duties to organize everything to hold the speech but never spoke to me. And in that moment, he did. 

He walked to me without stopping and asked me: „Where are you from?“ (laughter)

I froze. I was speechless. I didn’t know the answer. I was trying to remember, „Where am I from? Where am I from?“ And I didn’t know. There was no answer. He asked me three times. After the second time he asked me, the guys behind me told him they were from Mauritius. It was obvious to him that I was not from Mauritius due to my race. And then he asked me for the third time, so finally…I was able to say that I am from Croatia. And then he gave me that well-known look of his and left. (laughter)

Two days after that, right after I finished the speech, he asked again. „Where are you from?“  Then I decided to tell him: „I was born in Croatia, but actually I am of God.“ He smiled at me. So I thought, ok, he solved the issue. (laughter)

The same was when our Balkan countries got the note to decorate the Temple for Christmas; we got all the decorations from Europe and did most of them by hand…

TAT: Where did this idea come from, was that Baba´s wish?

IB: Not really; every year, another country would get to decorate for Christmas. You would suggest why they would choose you, and all of us from Balkan were going that year. One remarkable thing was that all the people could upload videos, songs, or photos of their families on CDs, and then our friend Vanja, president of Sai Center Split, made these CDs look like candles lighting in the dark. All of us donated one CD to decorate the Temple. 

Vanja is a wonderful person. You really should interview her. She loved Swami so much! He did a lot for her, even curing her son, who was disabled. He is healthy now. 

But the funny thing about this story was Vanja loved the Sex And The City TV series, and she would make these CD candles while watching the show. I told her once how those CDs go to Temple, and she is watching that kind of show while making them (laughter). But her explanation was: „We need to do this with love and joy. This show is making me laugh, and I feel joyful. The show is like our Swami; he would create this kind of show. So I am making it in a good energy.“ 

TAT: To continue on a funny note, what is your favorite joke from Baba?

IB: He always had something funny to say—some jokes. One of them was about people sitting with him in a VIP zone. He would say that VIP means „Very insignificant people.“ (laughter)

Very often, he joked with the answers you would give him. There was a mister from Copenhagen, and he got an interview with Swami, and ten other people were there too. Usually, Swami would ask you the most straightforward questions because he knows that your mind is dissolved in his presence. He asked that mister and the other ten people where they were from. Everyone answered from which country they were, and the mister from Copenhagen said, „I am from Denmark.“  

Except for one boy, he said he is of God. Swami liked the answer and complimented the boy.

The next day, the same mister from Copenhagen got the interview, but this time with ten other people. Swami asked the same question again. Everyone answered with the name of the country they lived or were born in, except the mister from Danmark. He said: „I am of God.“ Swami looked at him and said: „No, you are not, you are from Denmark.“ (laughter) He tried to trick Baba, but it didn’t work. 

The president of the World Sai organization was called Goldstein, and the director of the World Sai organization was called Reddy. 

Baba always taught us to be ready. So every time he would ask you, „Are you ready?“ you had to say, „Yes, I am ready.“ 

Then he would respond with „Always be ready.“ So we knew that we had to say that every time he asked. 

One day, Goldstein and Reddy stood by the door together, waiting to enter with Swami. When Swami came, he asked Goldstein: „Are you Reddy?“  

He answered. „Yes, I am. I am ready.“ Swami then replied: „No, you are not; you are Goldstein.“ (laughter) It might sound childish, but Swami always used the opportunity to say something funny.

With Swami, things were uncertain. If you came to India and you had to perform, every time he would see you, he would ask: „Are you ready?“ And you had to say yes. Now, it could be that your performance will start in a few days, it could be in a day or even a few hours, or maybe it will not happen at all. You never knew, but if he asked if you were ready, you had to say yes. 

Celebrations lasted for days, so something was going on every night—some program. Twenty students were preparing their play, Ramayana, and each time Swami asked if they were ready, the answer was yes. After a few times, Swai said, „OK, you will perform in seven days.“ 

Students were okay with that, but they still had much to prepare. Next time, Swami came and asked students the same question; after they confidently answered that they were ready, he said, „Ok, you are performing tomorrow.“ 

They panicked. They had nothing ready yet. No costumes, no props, nothing. So the other two hundred students stayed the whole night to help twenty of them finish everything. With all that help, they were not ready on time, so they had to do it backstage while the play was going live so they could have it prepared for the next scene. 

TAT: There are three possible Darshans of Baba. Did you get all of them?

IB: I had a blessing of two, live and in dreams and while meditating. 

Physically, I haven´t witnessed his apparition. When he´s present, it gets pretty evident that it is him. It is very imposing. You can’t take the image of him out of your head. He speaks clearly in simple sentences that sometimes might be confusing since you don’t know how to understand it, but as the day unfolds, you get the answer. I love his presence in dreams more than in reality. It’s more intense. There are more distractions in the physical world, like the surroundings or our senses. The one in dreams is more individual, and intimate and works subconsciously. So, the changes are more substantial than when you are aware.

In dreams, he mostly comes in his form, but once he showed himself to me as Madonna, the singer, but you know it is him. He can come in other forms as well.

The impulse for Dolina Mira (Peace Valley) came to me in a dream. It looked pretty apocalyptic. (laughter) There were a lot of Zombies. The dream was happening in Zagreb, where I lived at the moment. Zombies were trying to get to me through the window, and my closest associates were telling me, „ We have to leave; we will die here.“ Swami came and said, go to that estate, and there you will be safe. So we sat in the car and started driving to Peace Valley. 

As you can see, city life is like a Zombie land. My other dreams were gentle with hugs, chats, blessings, or materializations from Swami. I worry less because of those dreams. But this one was theatrical. 

TAT: I have to ask you this, is the book “108×108” by Vesna Krmpotić still available for purchase?

IB: I’m not sure. I can ask around. But, as I have it here, I might as well read you a few lines.

At the end of the interview, Ivan read a few poems from „108×108“.

After he opened the book and started reading, his voice crumbled, and he said: „I can feel Swami’s presence. I apologize.“ 

As he continued, he got overwhelmed with the emotions and beauty of reading in Baba’s presence. „I will stop here.“ He said. „You will have to read the rest yourselves.“

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