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  Volume 4 - Issue 09 SEPTEMBER 2006
 
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The Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam

A POWERFUL PRAYER FOR UNIVERSAL PEACE


“The land of Bharat is like a teacher to all the countries in the world. Where else would Lord Shiva incarnate, except in such a sacred land as Bharat?... This Yagna is being conducted for the welfare of the world. There is a very important aspect of this Yagna. The Athi Rudra Maha Yagna protects and fosters the divine nature in the human beings, while rejecting and diminishing the demonic qualities. Thus, it works for the welfare of humanity.”

This is what Swami emphatically declared to the large concourse of devotees who had assembled for what was to be an unprecedented and supremely exalting spiritual experience – the Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam (the Supreme Sacrifice to Lord Shiva) on the 9th of August 2006.

“It is the Highest Form of Worship” – Head Priest Sri B.S. Nanjunda Dixit

Time and again in the history of human evolution, there come watersheds that redirect humanity towards the ultimate goal. Akin to the loving hands of the mother that support and steady the faltering steps of her toddler, God grants us a glimpse of His Grandeur and what He holds in store for us…with just a small inkling being given in such instances as this. In the words of the Head priest of the Yagnam, Veda Brahma Sri B.S. Nanjunda Dixit,

“The Athi Rudra Maha Yagna is the highest form of worship of Lord Shiva. At present the same Athi Rudra is being performed in the presence of Rudra Himself…it is a unique opportunity for everyone to enjoy the blessings of Bhagawan, as this yagna is for the spiritual progress of humanity as a whole. At the same time it is the duty of each one of us to express our gratitude for our existence and also to spread the message of love and peace, highlighted by Bhagawan so that His dream of establishing a Nation of Humanity is realized.”

“It Was Priceless, Heavenly, Revitalising…” – A Youth from Canada

The yagnam stood for “Universal Love and Peace”. Thousands who had filled literally every inch of the richly decorated Sai Kulwant Hall felt themselves bathed in these two emotions as they watched the seven-tongued flames, leap and dance, accepting the oblations offered into the eleven homa kundas [fire-altars], delivering the prayers from thousands of yearning souls to the divine.

 
The Most Potent Form of Lord Shiva

As the sanctified plumes from the altars entered the being of everyone present…an overwhelming sense of purity pervaded the mind, heart, frame of one and all. It is not self-effort that brings one to such a momentous occasion, it is something far beyond…as one youth, from Canada expressed blissfully,

“When I contemplate back on the Athi Rudra Maha Yagna, words like priceless, heavenly, revitalizing and auspicious come to mind. The hours spent in lines to sit in the Sai Kulwant hall and the early mornings were all worth it. As I sat amongst devotees from all nooks and corners of the world, I was overcome by a unique sensation. I felt at peace during the chanting of the Vedas. The Vedas seem to have an exceptional cleansing and energizing property contained within them. Although, in all honesty, I had little idea of what was being chanted, the hairs on my arms seem to stand and chills ran down my spine at times. Perhaps it was the ancient hymns (whose origin is that of mysticism); or perhaps it was the fact that the Maha Yagna, in praise of Lord Rudra, was being performed in the midst of Rudra himself? The series of Bhagawan’s divine discourses only made the experience sweeter. It was the cherry on the cake. Swami reminded us that we are verily God - that we are sparks of divinity. All we have to do is realize it.”

An Awe-Inspiring Spectacle

“My Every Hair and Folicle Was Charged” – Ms. Sharmila, UK

You would have found the similar sentiments on the lips of everyone present for the glorious occasion. Take for instance, Ms. Sharmila Parikh from UK,

“The atmosphere was charged with spiritual vibrations that I felt through each hair and follicle of my frame. (One was reminded of Hanuman – Hanuman’s every hair resounded Rama’s name). The magnitude of the Yagna is a memory to be cherished forever and more. Experiencing Bhagawan’s Love and basking in the bliss and His glory for the duration was an incredible treat; I felt like a child of God receiving sweet prasadam twice daily.”

In the presence of God even the greatest, oldest and wisest of all feels like a child. It is with awe and admiration that we look upon His handiwork as the Master works on the masterpiece.

“I Have Come To Foster The Vedas and Devotees” – Bhagawan Baba

The Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam is yet another milestone in the unfolding grand mission of Bhagawan and as significant and far-reaching in its influence as any other; be it the Health mission, or the Educare mission, or the Sociocare mission.

In a landmark discourse in the year 1963 at Prasanthi Nilayam, Swami declared,

“The Lord comes as an Avathar when He is anxiously awaited by saints and sages. The pious prayed - and I have come…My tasks are…Veda Rakshana and Bhaktha Rakshana - fostering of the Vedas and fostering of devotees.”

An Unforgettable Experience That Stunned My Soul” – Dr. Venkat Sadanand, USA

To limit Vedas to any particular religion, philosophy, sect or culture is like limiting the ocean to a bowl! Vedas are Universal in nature. They are for the good of all mankind. It is for the whole humanity to benefit from this great treasure of energy. A Yagna incorporates various aspects of the ‘fostering of the vedas’. It is akin to an ultra-wide spectrum antibiotic. Through the tremendous positive energy that it generates the Yagna elevates consciousness to a higher level.

 
'The pious prayed - and I have come.'

“Spiritual energy is not discernible by our five senses. But it renders an unforgettable experience that stuns and exhilarates the soul. The spiritual energy present during the Yagna was high and each individual present at the time was truly blessed when, out of pure love, Bhagawan infused the lingam with Prana [consecrated the lingam personally].”

These are the words not of a philosopher, but of Dr. Sadanand, a neuro-surgeon working in USA who experienced the Yagna for just one day.

Also read the supplementary article to this cover story,
"The Profound Significance Behind The Powerful Sacrifice"

for an indepth insight into this great spiritual exercise.

A Great Spiritual Symphony

The Yagnam was a great spiritual symphony in perfect harmony which merged the whole congregation into one entity reaching out to the divine. Recalling his unforgettable experience, Matthew, a youth from England, says,

A Vedic Sacrifice Performed Par Excellence
 

“While watching the 132 priests offering oblations into the fire and moving in perfect synchronicity; and hearing their chanting, all uttered in unison, creating a symphony of divine mantras, I felt transported beyond my ordinary self.

The flames aglow from the eleven altars, the beautiful robes of the priests, and their wonderful voices, the entire scene was so electrifying, I was lost in bliss. Above all, when the Lord Himself was presiding, I was overcome with divine vibrations, so much so that I felt filled to overflowing – surely this was a taste of heaven.

Other highlights were the times when the head priest would offer the holy fire to the Lord and then all would move their hands back and forth taking in the vibrations coming from this sanctified act - this again was a tangible feeing of joy, another gift of grace. Sometimes, there would be one priest reciting the prayers alone; invariably his voice would be most beautiful to hear and on one occasion I was spellbound at the speed of recitation which still maintained a great sense of sanctity and holiness.

Then at the end of the day, at least half those present would form well-ordered lines sitting on the floor. They were all waiting patiently for the holy abhishekam water and after quite some time they were rewarded with this by designated seva dals. Surely everyone left the Kulwant Hall in an exalted state, maybe experiencing feelings they had never felt before. I am so grateful to Swami for allowing me to be present at the yagna and I am already praying to Swami to organize the next one!”

It may be asked that though the Veda Purusha Saptaha Jnana Yagna has been performed right from 1961 during Dasara celebrations, what was the necessity for Swami to perform another Yagnam on such a grand scale at this point in time? Swami clarified this on the final day of Yagnam when He said, “The Yagnam done during Dasara is Gyana Yagnam, while this is an Adhyatma Yagnam”, meaning, this Yagnam is for the spiritual health of the whole world and much wider in scope and purpose than the Yagnam performed during Dasara which is related only to the “mental principle”.

‘See What I Will Make Out Of It’ - Swami

Every effect has a cause and every purpose, an instrument. The chosen instruments for this grand spectacle were the Sai Youth of Karnataka. Sri Vinay Kumar who led this dynamic team of youth exceptionally well, recalled the very initial days of this sacred project saying,

“On the 13th of June, when I submitted this humble prayer at the Lotus Feet to allow us to perform this Yagna, on the same day, Swami said, “You watch what I will do. You are bringing it as this small proposal, and now you see what I will make out of it.”

True to His word, God made things happen. With clockwork precision, every single piece of the massive jigsaw puzzle fell into place perfectly. It was absolutely amazing to see how such a mammoth project was executed to perfection.

 
Sri Vinay Kumar - One of the Lord's Instruments

More than a thousand fresh lotuses every morning, tons of toned sandalwood and neem wood, seamless coordination and communication in every level from the transport of massive quantities of milk, tender coconut water, curds, honey, ghee, sugar, nine types of grains and above all, waters from the nine rivers from their very sources dispersed across the country – everything was carried out as smoothly as a gentle breeze.

Prof. Ramaswamy - full of Praise for
the Karnataka Sai Youth
 

In the words of Prof. Ramaswamy, a founder director of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management - Bangalore,

“…This organization, this Athi Rudra Maha Yagna is a superb example of organization management of the highest perfection. As a teacher for the last 50 years I have not seen anywhere such decorum, discipline, demeanor - perfection.

Why? This is based on spirituality, ethics, morals, meditation, law of order, law of karma, etc….my tribute and my admiration…to Mr. Vinay Kumar and his group of volunteers, the ritwiks and all those who were behind him who have sacrificed everything they want with Ananda (bliss), with a spiritual provocation, strength which you cannot find even in professors working under me who get twenty thousand rupees per hour.”

Swami Arranged the Entire Yagna

So, it was the Divine manager who was at work. Recalling the level of involvement of Swami, Sri Vinay Kumar, said,

“… The dates for the Yagna were fixed by Swami, very meticulously, the location of this Shivalingam, right here in the centre of this hall was His direction…Out of His mercy, He said, “Every person in this Hall, every individual, the last person sitting in the hall should also be able to witness the Abhishekam being performed to the Lingam.”… Every Homakunda [fire-altar] which is put up here, the layout of this Yagashala [sacrificial enclosure], was personally decided by Bhagawan. The colouring of the homakundas, the selection of the lingam, the methodology for setting up this mantapam, it was all personally advised, instructed, directed and put into action by Him. We of course have been fortunate to be used as His worthy instruments… For the first time, probably in the history of this Avatar, He released an invitation in the Sanathana Sarathi, inviting people for this Yagna. He commanded and ensured advertisements went through newspapers, all over the country, inviting them for the Yagna…."

“Each time I took some aspect of planning related to the Yagna to Swami, He would say, 'You don’t take any tension on your head. You remove all the worries from your head and transfer it to me. I will take care of everything. I will ensure that everything goes through smoothly. You don’t worry about anything.' And Swami took care of everything."

"Sri Nanjunda Dikshit, in an interview granted by Bhagawan mentioned that the Athi Rudra Maha Yajna would give a lot of Trupti (satisfaction) to Lord Shiva. Bhagawan then immediately said, 'But I have a lot of Trupti, My Trupti is in your Trupti.' And continued, 'If you listen to what I say, then I will have a lot of Trupti.'"

 
Bhagavan checked every detail

Bhagawan casually gave us a glimpse of who He is and how fortunate we are!

Sri Rudram – A Potent Prayer

This brings us to a question. What is this good fortune? How is this Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam significant? What is it in the Rudram that makes it so powerful? Let us turn to the ancient scriptures to understand the beauty and majesty of this timeless hymn, Rudram.

Sri Rudram, also known as Rudraprasna, is a hymn devoted to Lord Shiva. It is part of the Krishna Yajur Veda and one of the greatest of the Vedic hymns for all round benefits and to remove all maladies and obstacles. Sri Rudram is in two parts. The first part, is known as Namakam because of the repeated use of the word "Namo" in it. In this sacred hymn the devotee repeatedly salutes the Lord who pervades the animate and the inanimate, tangible and intangible, visible and invisible aspects of creation. The devotee prays to Lord Shiva thus:

“O Lord of Mount Kailash of the Vedas! We pray to attain you by our auspicious words. We ask that for all our days, this entire world will be free from ills and discord, and that we may live in amity and concord.”

“Salutations to Him who was before all things and who is foremost. Salutations to Him who pervades all and moves swiftly.”

“Salutations to Him who is the source of happiness here and hereafter. Salutations to Him who is inherently of the nature of conferring happiness directly in this world and the world hereafter. Salutations to Him the auspicious one, who is more auspicious than all others.”

These are just a few of the myriad expressions of the Namakam through which the Lord is propitiated. The Namakam concludes with the most potent Mrutyunjaya stotram.

Tryambakam yajamahe sugandhim pushhtivardhanam
Urvarukamiva bandhananmrityormukshiya maamritath

“He who has divine fragrance, He who makes men powerful and full of plenty, Him even we worship, the three-eyed Rudra. Like a ripe berry from its stalk, release me from death, and let me not turn away from immortality and enlightenment."

 
Lord Shiva's Resplendent Form

The second part of the Rudram, is known as Chamakam because of the repeated use of the words "Cha me". The devotee prays to the Lord for blessings and benefits both in this world and beyond. For instance -

The Lingam beautifully arrayed
 

“Let Lord Shiva grant us happiness in both worlds on (earth and heaven). All the materials dearer and attractive and worthy of possession in heaven and endearing relations.”

“Grant me, Lord, the capacity to discriminate what to hear and what not to hear. May my mind be lit up with clarity to understand things properly.”

“May I be blessed with the capacity to protect and retain what I have already earned. May I be granted courage and determination to face tough situations in life. May I win goodwill, respect and honour in this world.”

The “Shanti patha” (invocation for peace) in the concluding part of Chamakam begins with, “Idaa devahuurmanu…” meaning:

“Let my pleasant thoughts bring forth pleasant actions and the resultant enjoyable fruits. Let my joyous offerings bear fine and worthy speech and my words please the divine. May men lend their ears to gladden me and may the Gods enlighten me and make my words powerful. May my forefathers feel joyful over this and bless me to perpetuate it.”

For a detailed report of the Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam with all its rituals and
their significance, go to the Prasanthi Diary.

The Divine Blessings of Chanting Sri Rudra

It is said that Sri Rudra is a great purifier which when repeatedly chanted with devotion can expiate the worst of the sins and in the words of the head Priest, “One can attain Bhukthi or all material benefits for enjoyment of life on earth and Mukthi, which is freedom from the ills of the world.” But an important aspect to note is what Dr. Kashyap, Director of the Sri Aurobindo Kapalishastri Institute of Vedic Culture, conveyed when he said, “The mantras we chant are potent and full of power. But it manifests only if we chant it with full of faith.”

If one Rudra [that is, eleven times the eleven stanzas of Namakam chanted along with one stanza of Chamakam every time by a single person] is chanted, it can free one from all childhood diseases.

Similarly:

3 Rudras can destroy imminent difficulties which with one is faced.

5 Rudras can free one from the evil effects of certain planets occupying unfavourable positions.

 
The Head Priest Illumines the Listeners

7 Rudras can dissolve one’s greatest fear.

9 Rudras can confer the fruit of one Vajapeya sacrifice (which is believed to bring in bountiful crop and plentiful water) and also attainment of peace of mind.

11 Rudras can bestow one with great wealth and the favour of the high and mighty.

33 Rudras can fulfill all material desires and bless one to be free of enemies.

Now just imagine the benefits that this hymn can confer when chanted over a thousand times! During the Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam the Rudram was chanted the prescribed 14,641 times accompanied by the Vedic fire ritual or Homam.

"If This Can Happen Anywhere It Can Be Only In Prasanthi Nilayam" - Sri Veda Narayan

One of the unique aspects of the Yagnam in Prasanthi Nilayam in the words of Sri Veda Narayan, who generally leads the Vedic chants in Prasanthi Nilayam,

The Vedas Span the Nations
 

“One thing, which touched me most, is that it is not the mandatory 132 Ritwicks alone who chanted the Vedas, but from the tiny tots of primary school onwards to the illiterate devotees who joined in the chanting of Namakas and Chamakas irrespective of the caste, creed or gender! (So the number was actually much more than 14,641).

In any Yagna performed before, there never was a chance for people of other beliefs to see such an occasion let alone chant the Vedas. In other words the spirit of NamakamNamo Mahadbhyah Kshullakebhyaschavo Nama” - Salutation to the Lord in the mighty as well as in the lowly - was practically demonstrated in the presence of Bhagawan, and if this can happen anywhere it can be only in Prasanthi Nilayam.”

And what was most significant is that in Prasanthi Nilayam the Lord in flesh and blood presided over the Yagna. “Never in the history of mankind," continues Sri Veda Narayan, “was such a Yagna performed in the immediate presence of the Avatar, who was the Yagna Kartha (performer of the sacrifice) and the Yagna Bhokta (receiver of the oblations) for the welfare of the whole world.”

“We Need To Ignite Fire Only In The Engine” – Bhagawan Baba

Now, many might wonder how could a sacrifice done in a small corner of India impact the whole world! This is exactly what a devotee posed to Swami many years ago,

“Swami, you say all yagnas are conducted for loka kalyana (welfare of the world), but all yagnas are conducted in India alone?”

Swami gave a beautiful reply to this saying,

“All the nations in the world are like the coaches and India is the engine. We need to ignite fire only in the engine.”
What is the eligibility of India to be the guide for the whole world? Someone might ask. Prof. N. S. Ramaswamy, a Founder Director of Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, (one of the premier Management Institutes of India) and a recipient of Padma Bhushan (one of India’s highest civilian awards) who spoke during the Yagna’s proceedings,
“Out of the 49 civilisations existing in the world prior to the Christian era, ours is the only one which is living and vibrant. Why? Everything is conceptualized as a mother - Mathrutva Bhava."
 
 
 
'India is the engine for the world' - Bhagavan

"In every century, in every part of India, great saints and evolved souls and Avatars were born... Loka samastha sukhino Bhavantu (Let all beings everywhere be happy) – no other country says it. We are the only people to say that all religions lead to the same God… Akashat patitam thoyam, yatha gachati sagaram… We are the only civilisation in the whole world to give highest praise, highest pedestal to women… our civilisation has continued for 5000 years because of sacrifice, suffering, modesty, chastity, sympathy, empathy and service of the women of India. The world is divided into two - the haves and have nots. But India has a third category - those who have but don’t want. Buddha, Mahaveera and Janaka belong to this exalted category.”

The Youth Lead The Way

The 11-day glorious ritual of the Yagnam was one potent facet of this Indian way. And by whom did the Lord choose to demonstrate this significant aspect? The youth. And there are good reasons for this.

Sri S V Giri, former Vice-Chancellor of Swami’s University, explains,

Rudram by itself is a very dynamic, highly energy-infusing mantra. It is in a class by itself. To chant the hymn means to charge oneself internally with dynamism and elevate one self to higher levels. So it is only appropriate that youth have come together to organize this elaborate event. For, just as this mantra, youth represent energy and vigour.”

In fact, it would be interesting to note that even among the priests there were many who were in their 20s. Swami Himself expressed great satisfaction about this in His final discourse of the celebration on the 19th of Aug and said,

“There are several youths in this group. The country needs such youths. I feel very happy in the midst of youths. I will give whatever they want.”

 
Sri S V Giri enlightens the audience

“The Youth Will Build The Kingdom of Sai ” – Sri V Srinivasan

“It is the Youth of India which will bring out her spiritual regeneration. This is what Bhagawan has said on many occasions,” affirmed Sri V Srinivasan, the All India President of Sai Organisations, on one evening during the celebrations. “The people of India look to the youth of India to make India again not only a Ram Rajya but a Sai Rajya ( kingdom of Sai ).” He continued,

“In the Sai organization today, much has been done, but much more is yet to be done. You the youth have to take the reins and give it a new energy and enthusiasm.

Another eminent speaker, Sri V Srinivasan
 

Today we have begun to use technology in the Seva organization. We can proudly say that our Sai brothers in Uttaranchal have commissioned successfully a mini hydro-electric project that is giving electricity to a village to run their ‘chhakkis’ (small grinding units). Where the governments are unable to provide electricity, our Sai brothers have made it possible.

Our brothers in Andhra are installing in the villages new types of water purification plants using reverse osmosis technology and membrane technology. Brothers in Madhya Pradesh have commissioned thousands of new types of toilets in villages.

So we are looking to you to take the Sai Organization further in playing your role in Sai’s divine mission. Remember, you are the Amritha Puthras – sons of immortality who are full of confidence and without doubts. With Bhagawan we are heroes, without Him we are zeroes."

If the world today is a pathetic picture of restlessness, terror and insensitivity towards fellow beings of a different community, region or religion, misguided Youth are surely a major part of the problem. As Krishnan Bhagawat, a youth from Karnataka put it,

“At the core of all the hotspots of violence the common thing is disaffected and disoriented youth. What is the solution for this problem? It is the transformation of hearts that can bring about a change in the youth.”

And this transformation can come about only when the youth take up tasks which will cleanse their senses, energize their inner self and connect them to their roots – their glorious ancient heritage. It is in this respect that the Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam stands as a perfect example.

Shashank, a senior student of the Institute said,

“We saw Bhagavan achieving multiple objectives through one event – the upholding of the Vedic wisdom, the upkeep of the Vedic scholars, the encouragement of the youth in the positive direction and the purification of the environment through the positive vibrations.”

It was really a very heartening sight to see hundreds of youth from Karnataka working so systematically with so much unity and more importantly with passion to see that the yagnam proceeds without even a slightest hiccup. “It really was a great lesson for us in project management as well as dedicated service,” many students from the Institute said.

 
The priests were always full of joy

More than 300 youth – most of them employed in multinational companies in Bangalore - working tirelessly for two weeks for an event like a Yagna has done more than just setting an example. And this is something which is going to have awesome cascading effects in the days to come. Swami already mentioned in the final day of the Yagna that He wants the Youth of Tamil Nadu to come together and conduct the Yagna in Chennai in the month of January. That this is going to be replicated in multiple locations all over India and all around the world spearheaded by Sai Youth is anybody’s guess.

Exhilarating Experiences

A young adult, Arvind, from Hyderabad, India, who attended the Yagnam said,

Worship of the formless made form
 

“Every time I heard the opening lines of the Rudram Om Namo Bhagavate Rudraya… I was filled with some inexplicable sense of awe and reverence. When I first saw the lingam of sparkling white marble that glowed in ethereal hue and heard it being christened “Saieaswara” [ritual demands that the lingam being worshipped be given a special name] my mind filled with the multitudinous names of Lord Shiva and His lingas all over the sacred land of Bharath, from the Amarnath in the Himalayas to Rameswara at the southern tip. And most of all, I was filled with a deep sense of satisfaction when I reflected on the set of circumstances that had culminated in me being in Prasanthinilayam, in the presence of Lord Rudra himself, as He presided over the Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam. It is an opportunity of several thousand lifetimes that all of us are blessed to be here at this time – with the living loving God.”

Such was the blissful experience that every youth felt. That it was a purifier of massive proportions, something which propelled every individual present to journey towards one’s soul with greater vigour is what every participant testifies.

“I am very grateful to have been part of such an extraordinary event,” said S. Mass from USA, “I experienced a strong purifying energy. Also, there were moments which transported me to a brighter, more intense, yet subtle place of harmony within.”

And Pedro Montero from Spain said after attending the ninth day of the Yagnam,

“I went to the Yagna very early (sleeping only 4 hours in the previous night) and spent the entire morning and evening in Kulwant Hall. Later, I experienced strong physical energy as well as a heightened sense of alertness, something akin to Swami’s Constant Integrated Awareness. Even now I feel that not only my body, but mind, intellect, senses, intuition and even my soul have made a quantum leap in all their functions. It is truly amazing! I don’t know myself.”

So, that was a small glimpse of the mystifying and soul-enriching experience that thousands had all through the eleven days of the Yagna. But all this exalting spiritual experience is subjective and very personal - how did the Yagna actually contribute to world peace, one might ask? The answer is – in different ways at different levels, gross and subtle, individual and cosmic. Let us deal with the cosmic level first.

How the Yagnam Furthered World Peace

The chaos theory of physics states that the flap of a butterfly’s wing in Brazil could set off a tornado in Texas. Such is the way the whole cosmos is connected. The power of positive thought is something which every discipline of modern knowledge acknowledges. New research suggests that once Alzheimer's disease robs someone of the ability to expect that a proven painkiller will help them, it doesn't work nearly as well. Scientists from the University of Michigan injected the jaws of healthy young men with salt water to cause painful pressure, while PET scans measured the impact in their brains. During one scan, when the men were told they were getting a pain reliever which was actually a placebo, their brains immediately released more endorphins - chemicals that act as natural painkillers by blocking the transmission of pain signals between nerve cells - and the men felt better.

Positive thought generates positive energy and in a similar fashion positive energy creates positive thoughts. Just think how peaceful you feel when you are in the sanctum sanctorum of a venerated shrine. If the Yagnam was anything it was a ‘colossus of positive energy’ which could alter the collective consciousness of the world.

'A sight to make even the Gods jealous' - The Head Priest

Leni Matlin from USA says,

“I find it more than curious that Baba called for this powerful Yagna just when the world was on the brink of violent madness, which always leads to more of the same. As the Yagna began, the terrorist plot to blow up 10 transatlantic aircraft was thwarted, and during the Yagna, the UN approved to the ceasefire resolution which both Israel and Lebanon agreed. I am not a pundit and cannot understand or explain the Yagna in esoteric terms, but it is clear to me that the flood of divine light it brought to the planet has saved humankind from further disasters, either manmade (war and terrorism) or natural. Swami says He does not interfere in karma, but we know He sometimes mitigates it. I shudder to think what might have occurred without His divine presence and the conducting of this Yagna.”

In how many diverse and subtle ways will this critical mass of positive energy affect the world is something unfathomable for our limited minds. But that it’s favourable impact is inevitable is beyond doubt. Katharina from Austria says,

“I could feel that this Athi Rudra Maha Yajna was not only meant for the welfare of the participating individuals in Prashanti Nilayam. Something much, much bigger was going on. It was for the welfare and peace of the entire Humanity.”

'Whatever is offered to God, comes back to us a thousand fold' - Bhagavan
 

Is the Yagnam a Waste of Resources?

A good act can only result in good results just like a mango seed can grow only into a mango tree as Swami often says. There are some who question the various oblations made to the fire during the Yagna – the grains, the ghee, etc. Is it not ludicrous to submit all these edible articles to fire when thousands do not have food to eat?

To this Bhagawan gave a beautiful reply in His discourse on the 16th of August. He said,

“Today a farmer sows five bags of paddy in a field. When they sprout, he transplants them in the entire field and waters them. Can anyone say that he is throwing valuable paddy into mud and water? Ultimately, he reaps a harvest of fifty bags.

Similarly, the rituals being performed by the Ritwiks (priests) confer great benefit on humanity; they are never a waste. Whatever is offered to God today is like this paddy and ghee; they all confer great benefit to humanity at a later date. Just as a bag of paddy sown in a field multiplies itself into fifty bags, similarly all the materials that are offered to Agnihothra (the fire-god) multiply themselves several times…. Whatever is offered to God, comes back to us a thousand fold.”

“A Grand, Self-Purifying Event” – Prof. William Miller, USA

Now coming to the individual level, what the Yagna has done to every participant and through them to society in general is something most profound. William Miller from USA says,

“At the beginning of this Yagna, someone suggested to me that it could become quite repetitious and even boring with the Vedic chants and rituals being done day after day. I had just the opposite experience -- it became more engaging and more enriching as a cumulative effect, for me and others. Before this Yagna started, I read many of Swami's quotes from Sathya Sai Speaks about the purpose of Yagnas in general, and a focus on Rudra and Siva in particular.

I realized that this grand, self-purifying event incorporates two metaphors that prepared me for how to participate: that I could use the sacrificial ceremonies to ‘wash myself clean of my errors in life’ and to ‘offer into God's 'refining fire’. Thus, Swami helped me get ready for how to actively take part in the ceremony, even though I don't chant Vedic mantras.

 
A unique view - as the angels must have seen!

Also, I kept in mind the Sanskrit verse we chant every day -- 'Loka Samastha, Sukhino Bhavantu” --' May all beings in all the worlds be happy'. Since that is the purpose of this Yagna, I felt attuned to whatever has been happening, even without mentally understanding everything. In this regard, I met a friend coming out of the darshan hall who was ecstatic that an ‘impure set of thoughts’ (vasanas) had arisen in him during the ceremony, which he could then enthusiastically ‘put into the fire’ to finish off. I realized that I could do the same, and in that way contribute in some small way to greater peace -- if not in the whole world, at least in the world around me. And as one of the speakers said, this Yagna doesn't really end on 20 August, 2006. It will remain an ongoing process in my heart. I will simply continue to focus on asking God to make me pure so I can be an instrument of peace.”

Instruments of Peace

Love - the royal pathway to God
 

An instrument of peace – that is what the Yagnam made out of individuals. It infused tremendous inspiration more importantly into the minds of Youth. One of the Youth leaders from Karnataka, Sri Gunaranjan, an IIT and IIM alumni, said,

“Any student of science will know that in any equation of nature L.H.S or Left Hand Side is equal to R.H.S or Right Hand Side. For us, L.H.S. is Love, Humility and Service. And R.H.S is Royal Highway to Swami. Let us cultivate these three aspects. Let us build the royal highway to our Mother Sai.”

And many were really on the path. Having mended their senses with the sacred chants, they wanted to bend their bodies and end their mind. Just consider this startling case.

It was one blissful evening during the Yagna celebrations. The programme was in its concluding lap and Prasadam distribution was going on. Carrying the carton of sweets, Bhanu, a senior student of the Institute, went to the far corners of Sai Kulwant Hall trying to reach everyone present. He distributed as many as he could. The carton was now empty and Bhanu was returning. But suddenly there was tug. The box is empty, why is someone holding on to the carton? Agitated, Bhanu looked around. It was a 60 year old man pleading through his eyes for the carton box. It is empty, Bhanu explained, but the old man in silence persisted. Bhanu let it go. He had no time. There were hundreds yet to receive Prasadam. He picked up another box from the store and forgot all about the old man, until he saw him again after half an hour. Now from a distance. Most of the crowd having received the sweet was now dispersing. But the old man with his back bent was busy on the road just beside the hall. There was the carton in his hand, Bhanu noticed and he was picking something. Intrigued, Bhanu went near the man. The old man’s carton box was full with the sweet wrappers. Bhanu was moved. The old man must have walked up and down the road at least 20 times to fill the carton box with empty papers, he thought to himself. With shock and reverence, he asked, “Why are you doing this, Sir? Can I offer you one more sweet?”

The man very reluctantly said,

“I always wanted to be part of this great Yagna, but I could not be part of the organizing group. The only way I thought I could do some service and be part of this glorious Yagna is by collecting the left-over wrappers of devotees. Thank you for the carton box.”

“This Is The Way We Serve Devotees In Gurudwara”

And this is no incident in isolation. The Yagna worked on each individual in a magnificent way and how the transformation found expression in each individual is something very special and actually stirring.

Just outside the Sai Kulwant Hall on the Southern side is a small shoe-stand where generally the students and the staff leave their slippers before entering the Hall. One evening as the Yagnam was going on, a senior student noticed that beside the shoe-stand was the rear of a red turban. What’s a red turban doing here, he thought and moved closer. As he went nearer, he found there was a head below the turban and actually it was a person, a red-turbaned Sikh, who was sitting facing his back to the road. The man intently looking down was busy. With a neat napkin in his hand, he was assiduously cleaning a pair of slippers. The amount of care and undivided attention that the man put into want he was doing, it looked as if the man was cleaning a piece of gold. Shocked beyond measure, the student bowed down to the middle aged man.

“Why are you doing this, Sir”, he asked, with all humility and reverence. What the man replied sent a chill down the boy’s spine. The devoted Sikh said,

“Yesterday in His discourse, Baba praised His boys very much, he said, ‘All our children are like gold, not impure gold, but pure and unalloyed gold!’ I am new to Sai Baba and the Sai Organisation. I do not know anybody here. But I love Baba and want to serve Baba. And the best way I can serve I thought is wiping their slippers clean. This is one way we serve the devotees who come to the Gurudwara in Punjab.” The student stood transfixed to the spot.

And these two examples are not alone as this gentleman’s experience shows. Mr Gopal from South Africa, told Heart2Heart that he and his wife had been drawn to do seva in the North Indian canteen for the entire duration of the Yagnam. They missed most of the ceremonies, but had been able to take part in the massive prasaadam preparation work. Their job was to wrap up the prasaadam ready to be distributed later in the day. Sometimes there was prasaadam both morning and evening, so he and his fellow sevaks often found themselves working until 10.30 at night, completing batches of up to 40,000 per day. He mentioned that the spirit of camaraderie and love amongst those preparing the prasaadam was unprecedented and a clear reflection of the presence of Sai amidst them.

Just imagine what the world would be like if every heart shines resplendently with purity and love just like the Sikh gentleman, or the old man from Karnataka, or those workers in the North canteen. Has anybody any doubts about the efficacy of Yagna? Just like one cannot quantify the power of mother’s love or the bliss of Mother Nature, the impact of the Yagna can only be felt. And just as every second in vital in an hour and every drop important for the ocean, every person in peace is a concrete step towards world peace.

The True Yagna

But one does not necessarily need to organize elaborate Yagnams for world peace. In His divine discourse on the second day of the Yagnam, Swami said,

Swami tells us what the true yagnam is
 

“We do not find the performance of sacred rituals like yajnas and yagas anywhere else in the world. People think that only offering oblations in fire is Yagna, but the true Yagna is offering oneself to God, to please God and to become worthy of His love.”

In fact, what the Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam really did is it light this fire of inner Yagna in the hearts of thousands who witnessed the grand spectacle.

“Even more enthralling than simultaneous Vedic chanting,” Dr. Sadanand from USA says, “were the words delivered by the One from whom the Vedas, and indeed, the universe itself originated. It reminded me that it is more imperative now than ever before for all individuals to heed the words of Bhagawan and cherish the loving touch of the Divine Avatar in our lives.”

Speaking to a group of students on one occasion, Bhagawan Himself asked, “What is the meaning of Yagna?” And then went Himself went on to explain,

“Any action that you perform, if you offer the fruit thereof to the Lord, it becomes a Yagna. In other words, a true Yagna involves unity of mind, action and words.”

“We Need To Rededicate Our Lives” – Sri Vinay Kumar

It is to remind one and all of this inner Yagnam is what the real purpose of Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam is.

“It is time to be ready at Bhagawan’s call, and to me it is not only a question of being an example but also to be ready to sacrifice and use all my strength to meet challenges of a transformation in my life,” said Cecilia Parisi Frascati from Italy.

Sri Vinay Kumar, the youth leader emphasized this very significant aspect of the Yagna on the final day of the celebrations when he said,

“Efforts towards world peace are happening whether this Yagna happens or not. This was done only to put us on the right path. Only to give us the thought process that we need to dedicate our lives towards this end. And this surely is only a beginning. The real work starts when every single soul sitting over here and the rest of humanity sits up and thinks what one needs to do to take all the aims that Swami has set out for us and convert them into reality.”
 
Rewarding a worthy servant

Captain Ong from Singapore who was there for the penultimate and last day of the Yagna says,

“Just last month, on the 9th of July, one of the main intentions of the chanting by the group Tibetan monks in Prasanthi Nilayam in His divine presence was for the peace of the world and today, our Most Loving Bhagawan had upped the scale and grandeur of His Divine Will with this Maha Yagna and the forth coming one in Chennai. He so very much wants to confer upon us the peace and bliss that is our very nature. Let’s us all open our hearts so that God may do His work so that there will be peace in the world.”

'You must be immersed in devotion' - Bhagawan
 

“Develop Devotion, Golden One!” – Bhagawan Baba

Whether we understand world peace or not, whether we understand Swami’s grand mission or not, one thing we can do which will take care of our personal welfare as well as the welfare of the world and which Swami emphasized over and over again during His discourses all the eleven days is - love for God.

Swami said on the very first discourse itself,

“Develop devotion, bangaru (golden ones)! You must be immersed in devotion, not deep ocean. It is only such devotion that will take you to the Divine.”

“This yagna, for me, was a manifestation of love” said Harry Geurts, Visiting Faculty from the Netherlands. All we have to do is to light this fire of God’s love in our hearts. This is our true Yagna. Once guarded and protected with enthusiasm and concentration, this is what will purify us, energise us, enlighten us and one day help us merge into that pure ocean of consciousness that divinity is all about.


Dear Reader, how did you like this cover story? Was it informative and inspiring? Would suggestions do you have for our future cover stories? Please let us know at [email protected]. Please mention your name and country when you write to us. Thank you for your time.

– Heart2Heart team




 
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Vol 4 Issue 09 - SEPTEMBER 2006
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