September 22, 2009 -  The Dassahera Yagnam Begins

September 22 marked the first day of the Veda Purusha Saptaha Jnana Yagna. The English translation for the Yagna is "sacrifice" but a Yagna means that and much more. At the physical level, it is offerings made to the sacred fire that is generated in a traditional manner. But the physical is only one of the aspects of the world around us which is influenced to a far greater extent by vibrations. We see it for ourselves in daily life. When we enter a sanctum or the place which has been witness to some great historical or spiritual event, we feel thrilled. We don't know why but we say that there is "something in the air" that seems to enthrall and envelope us.

Again when we are constantly bombarded with violence and negativity by the media, we are depressed and frustrated though nothing physical has happened to us! It is to generate and encourage the magical and spiritual "something in the air" that Swami has encouraged these Yagnams in Prashanthi. With Swami, any ritual is to realize the spiritual! A Yagna is a small manifestation of the unbounded, vast, eternal Sacred Fire that exists in each one of us, invoked from the Womb of Creation. With this background, let us continue to term the Yagna as "sacrifice" and proceed.

The morning saw an assembly of the priests and students in the Bhajan Hall. (The former Bhajan Hall so to say, as of late the Sai Kulwant Hall doubles as the bhajan hall as well!) Swami arrived in the car and headed straight to the Bhajan Hall.

He entered the hall and all the priests gathered there began to chant and carry out some preliminary rituals. As a wonderful backdrop to this, the students and teachers from the University, dressed in orange, continued to chant. Swami sat listening to this for about ten minutes after which He began to distribute sacred clothes to all the priests and the wife of one of the head priests. (It is essential that there be one couple for performing the sacrifice.)

Everyone quickly changed into the new clothes and Swami told all of them to proceed towards the Yagnashala (the ceremonial sacrificial pit) in the Poornachandra auditorium. After the priests left, He directed the staff and students too to leave. They filed out in a single line prostrating as they passed by Him.

Swami arrived in the auditorium soon after that and the priests sought His blessings to begin. The sacred fire (Agni) was generated in the traditional manner by churning wood to give rise to a spark. The spark thus produced was carefully tended to by a priest and as He gently blew into it, it burst forth into a blazing flame. The Yagna then began.




 

Like the rising sun, Swami was in the eastern corner of the stage in orange. The orange of the sacrificial flame, of the vestures of all on stage and finally of the Lord's robe proclaimed the message of selfless sacrifice to one and all.

The chanting of the Rudram - both the namakam and the chamakam was on and the auditorium filled with people.

The Gram Seva distribution was scheduled to be in Puttaparthi itself so that the students too could witness the opening day of the Yagna.

Right in front of Swami was a priest performing the suryanamaskar (salutations to the universal provider - the Sun) and he too started it with prostrations at Swami's 'rosy' feet! (He did place a rose on them!)

The Devi Parayanam (reading of the glories of the mother goddess) was on and various other texts too were being read.

Swami sat on the stage for more than half an hour and after that, retired to Yajur Mandir. It was at this point that the students and staff moved towards their respective vehicles to carry out the Grama Seva. The priests continued with the worship which concluded at about 12:15 p.m.

The evening session marked the beginning of the "Jyana" (wisdom) portion of the Yagna where learned speakers would address the mammoth gatherings. Swami arrived at about 4:15 p.m. and after a short visit to the interview room, arrived onstage. Then, He started the Prashanti Vidwan Mahasabha.

Prof. Anil Kumar introducing the three speakers of the evening
 
Prof. Vishwanath Pandit, The Vice Chancellor of the Sathya Sai University

The translator, Prof. Anil Kumar introduced the three speakers for the evening and the first to speak was the Vice Chancellor of the Sathya Sai University, Prof. Vishwanath Pandit. He began with his recent experience in Delhi where all the deemed universities had to report on their progress before an elite panel. When he started to speak about the Grama Seva, there was nothing else they wanted to hear about! While the other universities were subject to "intense interrogation", he was conferred a friendly chat! And that is the power of sacrifice and service.

Stressing on the concept of having a ceiling on desires, he stated that one must be content with fulfilling the needs, for greed has no limits. He emphasized that it is not sufficient if man just learnt addition and multiplication of wants. He must divide what he has through sacrifice and ultimately 'subtract' himself/herself from the entire picture realizing that God alone is the doer.

 
Mr. S. V. Giri describing the Mother's Glory
 

The second speaker for the evening was Mr. S. V. Giri. The revered speaker celebrated the fact that we were all in the presence of the Divine Mother and went on to describe her glories. Stating that one needed peace of mind and not a momentary state of peace, the speaker went on to highlight how one would be able to achieve that peace of mind.

As he spoke, Swami made a brief visit to the interview room but returned before the conclusion and with a smile said, "You spoke very well." The third and final speaker for the evening was Dr. T. Ravi Kumar, lecturer and asst. warden in the Brindavan campus of the University. As he bowed at the lotus feet, Swami said, "Speak for however long you want. Speak about experiences from your childhood onwards."

Swami was so emotional as He said that and that emotion immediately spread to the heart and face of the speaker. The next forty five minutes turned out to be divine as the speaker beautifully passed on that very same emotion to all of the gathered thousands.

 
 
Dr. T. Ravi Kumar, lecturer and asst. warden in the Brindavan campus

He started from how his father had been introduced to Swami after the death of his mother. His father, after losing his wife, was left with four children to tend for and was struck by tragedy when he was diagnosed with cancer. 25 operations later, the doctor advised that it would be better that he spent his last few days at home. It turned out to be "love after first sight" if we may term it so, when Swami came straight to him and said, "Why did you have 25 operations? Your cancer is cancelled!" He lived for more than 30 years after that day! In fact, the doctor who made the dire prediction about him passed away before him!

The speaker also went on to narrate how Swami had guided him to take Chemistry as his core subject after saving him from an academic debacle in mathematics. He concluded with the experience of how Swami granted him his eyes back after hot sulphuric acid had spurted into them! The most miraculous and jaw dropping revelation came when he said that a short while after that, chromic acid tipped into his eyes. And then, the loving Lord granted him with sight for the second time!


The speaker stood there for all to see - a standing miracle. And Swami's eyes were moist. He seemed to be offering what He has stated is most dear to Him - "Tears of Love and Bliss". As the speaker continued his extraordinary journey of Love, everyone in the audience seemed to be reminded of the umpteen times they had been graced with His love.

As he concluded, the beautiful smile on the divine effulgent face and the thunderous applause said it all! Swami clapped and gently slapped him on the cheeks. Swami seemed intent on signing off the evening session on a devotional high as He immediately asked for the aarti to be done. As it was sung, He indicated that He would speak on the next day. Blessing everyone who had gathered, Swami retired for the day.

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