‘Prema Jyothi’ Lights up Chennai Metro
Dear Reader, in the September issue of H2H, we had a comprehensive cover story on the grand Exhibition “Prema Jyothi” held in the Poorna Chandra Auditorium during the Guru Poornima celebrations, 2007 in Prasanthi Nilayam. Two out of every three who visited this presentation fervently expressed that if an elevating show like this traveled to other cities and states of India, it would awaken many a dogmatic and dormant mind. And by His Grace, it did happen. In the last week of September 2007, “Prema Jyothi” was staged in the city of Chennai, and the impact it had on the citizens of Chennai was beyond imagination. The ways of the Divine are always mysterious and mind-boggling. And the Chennai episode of Prema Jyothi reveals this to us in many fascinating ways. This is one of the principal reasons why we have the second cover story on this Exhibition, though we had the first one just two months ago.
But, for a change, we have the story now not as a free flowing story-like narrative like all our previous cover stories, but as a conversation between characters, Prashant and Sundar. Prashant is a long time devotee who visited the Exhibition at Prasanthi Nilayam, while Sundar, equally devout, participated in “Prema Jyothi” in Chennai. Before we get started, a small note: Though these two characters are fictitious, everything that is conveyed through them (the incidents, facts, testimonials, etc.) are all as true as it can be.
Prashant spends most of his time in Prasanthi Nilayam while Sundar visits occasionally. After many months, Sundar is in Puttaparthi again and one morning meets Prashant, and the following conversation ensues:
Nostalgic Memories Rekindled…
Prashant: Sairam, Sundar. How are you? Nice to see you here in Prasanthi Nilayam. You are coming here after a long gap, aren’t you?
Sundar: Sairam, Prashant, and yes, I am indeed blessed to be here. Coming here is always such a heartening experience. The moment I step in, it is as if a serene calmness pervades my entire being. I wish I could stay here for ever.
P: Oh yes, everybody feels the same. That is the divine magic of this ‘Abode of Peace’.
S: When I am outside, I miss Swami and this place a lot! But, you know, Swami, the Compassionate Lord that He is, always comes to my rescue in some way or the other. When He came to Chennai in January 2007, I joined in as a Sai volunteer and spent as much time as possible serving at the Yagnam site and basking in His blissful Presence.
P: That must have been an experience of a lifetime!
S: Oh yes, when He was there, it was literally heaven, I must say. The way He gave Himself away to all - be it a policeman or a politician, an auto-rickshaw driver or an esteemed celebrity, or the hundreds of eager devotees on the streets of Chennai, was very touching. My heart was soaked in bliss.
P: I can imagine that. Though I was not there, I heard a lot about it from many devotees. He was there for 13 days, right?
S: Yes. When Swami left Chennai on January 31, the emptiness I felt within me was, at times, unbearable. So I began to relive all the beautiful moments I had spent with Him, and that lightened me up to carry on with my regular duties. But recently, my heart again started intensely pining for Him, and it was at this time that a Sai friend, who was truly god-sent, I should say, told me about an elaborate exhibition on His Life and Mission called “Prema Jyothi” to be staged in the same venue where the Athi Rudra Maha Yagna was held!
“It was like Swami re-visiting Chennai!”
P: Oh, so you were there when “Prema Jyothi” traveled to Chennai!
S: Prashant, how do you know about “Prema Jyothi”?
P: How should I not know! Prema Jyothi was actually held here in Prasanthi Nilayam first during Guru Poornima celebrations in July 2007.
S: Was it? Did Swami see it?
P: Of course, He Himself inaugurated it, and spent nearly 90 minutes keenly watching every panel and presentation. Every inch of the Exhibition was blessed by Him. In fact, it was His inimitable Will and His Prema which made “Prema Jyothi” happen!
S: No wonder! Now I know why the Exhibition was clearly out of this world. You may not believe, but for many in Chennai, which includes me too, it was like Swami re-visiting Chennai!
P: Is that so? It had such a profound impact?
“I feel like I am in Parthi!” - Anuradha Vasudevan
S: Of course, one devotee I met by name Anuradha Vasudevan told me, “I feel like I am in Parthi, right in front of Bhagavan. It is amazing. I cannot express myself in words.” Another person, Sandhya B, said, “I could not visit Puttaparthi recently, but this Exhibition literally brought Prasanthi to Chennai!”
P: This is incredible. But what really gave them such an elevating experience?
S: It is difficult to explain, Prashant. There could be so many reasons. Let me put it this way: you tell me, why is Darshan such a unique experience? What really happens when Baba comes amongst the devotees?
P: Hmmm, all I can say is it is an overwhelming feeling. For each one, the experience is different. A depressed heart cheers up, an agitated mind calms down, a curious mind gets an answer, a doubting Thomas gets convinced and a devotee goes into raptures. When Pure Love flows, it touches the inner core of every person and unravels the most beautiful part of his or her personality.
Swami’s Divine Presence was felt Everywhere!
S: Right and I must tell you, the experience of people who visited the Exhibition in Chennai were no different. Because I saw people coming out of the hall in ecstasy, some were in tears, many were beaming with smiles and others were wonderstruck. I do not know whether it was the grand entrance which resembled the stage of the Sai Kulwant Hall in Prashanti, or the never-before-seen magnificent pictures, the moving video presentations, or the courteous sevadals eager to explain patiently every panel to any number of devotees, or the soft bhajan music in the background…. I think the whole ambience was so much like Prasanthi and Swami’s presence was felt everywhere, and therefore, when people left the arena, they were all speechless. But a few gathered their emotions and poured their hearts in the visitor’s books.
P: Did you see these visitors’ dairies?
“It was Swami speaking to you alive!” - Dr. Seethalakhmi Sreedhar
S: Yes, I used to peep into these pages off and on whenever I used to pass through the exit. One Mrs Beena Madhavan had written, “I am so pleased with the way Prema Jyothi exhibition is conducted here. Just like any other project of Swami it is so orderly. I feel I have spent my time truly in the presence of Swami and His Divine Love.” Another person, a youth, J. Syed Ibrahim, who came to know of Bhagavan for the first time, had written a note addressed to Swami, saying, “Baba, I am amazed. I cannot take my eyes off You!” And for Dr. Seethalakhmi Sreedhar, they were not pictures, she writes, “It was Swami speaking to you, alive!”
P: This is incredible. They did not see the panels as images of Swami but as Swami Himself. Swami often says how generally many worship God as a picture, but only people with true devotion see the picture as God.
S: Right. Actually, Dr. Krishna Raman, who was taking pictures, told me how one lady requested him to take a picture of her prayerfully standing next to one large image of Bhagavan. Many were immensely happy to secure just a snap of themselves with the huge panels. And this included the very elderly and the physically challenged too. The sense of devotion and contentment on their faces was so genuine and touching.
P: Only the Lord knows their feelings, just like Lord Rama recognized Sabari’s devotion. Their looks can be many times so deceptive, isn’t it?
“This place is like a Temple!” - Krishnaveni
S: Exactly. Let me tell you the touching tale of one such lady, which was an eye opener for me. I used to serve as a volunteer in the Exhibition area, and I saw one particular old lady from a poor background – she must have been in her late 60s – visit Prema Jyothi every successive day. And she used to go around the panels with so much reverence and fondness. One day, curiosity got the better of me and I approached her humbly and asked, “Amma, I see you coming here everyday. Why do you go through the same pictures day after day?” Then, the lady with folded hands, replied,
“Son, My name is Krishnaveni. I run a petty shop in this area in Thiruvanmiyur. I am Baba’s devotee for the last 44 years and my son loves Him too. When I was living in Ariyalur (about 20 kms from the exhibition site), I used to participate in the Sai Bhajans conducted there and forget the world for those 2-3 hours; but I never got an opportunity to have His Darshan. My, ‘more than four-decades-long desire’ to see Him found fulfillment when Bhagavan came to Chennai in January this year (2007). Actually I had never imagined that I would be able to see Him at such close quarters. His Darshan quenched my thirst, and the divine chants and fragrance emanating from the Athi Rudra Yagna made me feel heaven had descended on earth.” But that was not all.
She continued further, saying, “For poor people like me, Swami is doing so much. It is because of Him that we get drinking water. This is the fourth time I am coming here. My son has told me to enter these premises only after taking a bath. This place is like a temple. Therefore, every morning after my shower, I leave my shop under the care of a relative, and first come here. It is so uplifting being here. I too want to do some service, within my means. I want to be engaged in divine work, till I leave this body.” You know, her heartfelt devotion humbled me.
P: And she was just one of the thousands who stepped in everyday, isn’t it?
S: Right, when the Exhibition started on September 22nd, there were about 1,500 people; but as the days went by the number grew rapidly everyday and do you know how many people had visited by the time it was curtains on October 2nd? Do you want to guess?
S: No, you are way off the mark, Prashant. It was 22,545! But the most wonderful thing is everybody who stepped in had a story to narrate.
P: Is it? Did you meet anybody else like the old lady?
His Love Makes Everyone Speechless!
S: Oh yes, I met so many people – youngsters, newcomers, old devotees. Talking of old devotees, I am reminded of one Mr. Nandagopal. This person was an old man, surely above 70 years. The striking pictures of Swami in the Exhibition moved his heart so much that seeing me standing near, he called me and started narrating his story impromptu. He said,
“Son, I am an ardent devotee of Swami from when I was a boy of 18. Ours is an orthodox family and our family deity is Lord Venkateshwara (also called Lord Balaji). When I first went to Puttaparthi, it was only out of curiosity. But Baba stunned me by looking at me and then calling me by name saying, “Nandagopal, ra naina” (Nandagopal, come, My son). I was speechless. I wondered, I am a stranger here, how did He know my name? I was so touched that I started crying. But Swami lovingly continued, “Why did you come here? And why are you crying now? Go to Balaji.” I could not react except through the tears that were still rolling down my cheeks copiously. And then, Swami, with motherly affection, lifted my face so that I could look at Him, and said, “Choodu, choodu” (see, see). When I lifted my eyes, I could not believe myself. It was no more Swami there! I saw Lord Balaji complete with shanka and chakra (conch and disc)! It was implausible. I was thrilled. And I immediately fell at His feet with total surrender. The kind Lord blessed me by smearing Vibhuti on my forehead and then asked me to return home as my parents were against Him.
“I reached home, and in the same evening our house was filled with the fragrance of Vibhuti. He was proving His presence. And in that night He came in the dream of my sick mother, who was suspected of cancer in the abdomen, and blessed her by pressing her stomach. Needless to say, her cancer was cancelled. And to complete the transformation process in our house, the very next day He gave a Divine vision to my father. From that day till now, we worship only Him. We know of no other God. He is the same Lord who is there in Tirupathi and now is in Puttaparthi. We pray for His blessings.”
P: Sundar, as you narrate these experiences, it is like listening to Bhagavatham, it is Sai Bhagavatham. They say, the story of His Glory is as endless as the sea. But even that is a misnomer. The sea may have an end but Sai’s Glory is as infinite as He is.
S: You are right, Prashant, we can never comprehend Him. For devotees and non-devotees alike, Prema Jyothi served them in two ways. One, they were blessed with a unique kind of Darshan.
P: What do you mean by ‘unique kind of Darshan’?
“Here one can see Swami in so many different Forms!” - Ms Gowri Ramnarayan
S: You see, people were able to see so many different and enchanting facets of His divine personality – all in one place. In fact, this was put beautifully by a lady journalist, Ms Gowri Ramnarayan, who said,
“This has been a comprehensive visual experience. The visuals here are so eloquent that you feel you are in the presence of Swami! But there is another aspect. When we go and see Swami physically, it is an indescribable experience; but what happens here is that you see Swami in so many different forms, various moods, myriad expressions, and doing so many diverse things. Therefore, you experience what we never perceive when we see Him physically, because when we see Swami, we see only Him, nothing else! But now, not only do we see Swami, but we also see the expressions on the faces of the people when they see Him! It is as if they found their heaven! And this is a complete revelation to me, which I have never seen, because I never look at other people when I am there in His physical presence, I only see Him!”
P: This is an interesting perspective. Truly, when we see Him at Darshan time, we are so careful not to miss even one second of those priceless few moments that we do not want to shift our gaze to anything else till He is in front of our eyes. And Prema Jyothi captured for us the other beautiful things that happen when He is amidst us.
S: Yes, and this is not all. There is another important facet - the second of the two, I was just mentioning. And that is, people at the Exhibition not only got a unique Darshan experience, but at the same time it opened them up to His Glory.
P: Because of the comprehensive display of Swami’s mammoth social welfare projects, you mean?
“I am touched to see students’ participation in social projects...” - Ms. Anita Gupta
S: Exactly. Take for example, Ms. Anita Gupta, Senior Vice President and Managing Partner, of JWT Advertising Agency, a prestigious media company. After seeing the Exhibition, she said,
“I am truly overwhelmed and speechless seeing the magnificence of Swami’s work - social and spiritual. Two things impressed me the most. First, I could not imagine the extent of service extended to all through the hospitals, until I saw this display. The service is free, and a calm and peaceful energy pervades the hospital, which is evident from the photographs and visuals. Healing would come naturally in such hospitals. Secondly, I am touched to see students’ participation in social projects. I now want to go and see it myself. This is very well done and I feel His presence here.”
P: That was good. Chennai being a metro, Prema Jyothi in such a location attracted all kinds of people, from various disciplines and professions, isn’t it? It was different in Parthi in the sense that it was visited mainly by devotees who had gathered for Swami’s Guru Poornima celebrations.
“This is definitely an eye-opener for those who have least faith in any religion...”- Prof. K Meer Mustafa Hussein
S: You are right, Prashant. You name any profession and there were people from that discipline, from movie stars to political heroes, from bureaucrats to businessmen, from eminent industrialists to distinguished educationists. Talking of Educationists, reminds me of Prof. K. Meer Mustafa Hussein, the Vice Chancellor of Dr. M.G.R. Medical University who dropped in one day. Besides being a doctor, he is a poet and an author too, and what he said was very revealing: “The world is One, and that is in His palm! And He expects us to do more service. I am really astonished that everyone can get treatment free of cost in His Hospital, which no Government has done! This exhibition is definitely an eye-opener for those who have least faith in any religion. God can do anything through His Holiness! It is really fantastic to see that surgeries are being done and I believe 50% of the healing happens because of the surgeons’ efforts while another 50% is His blessing. That is the feeling I get when I see this exhibition.
“And what to talk of water! Our body contains mainly water and He understands our need for drinking water like nobody else. Not only has He concentrated on Puttaparthi’s needs, the people of Chennai too are really fortunate to get drinking water from the Sai Ganga canal. You name the Project, and every drop of it chants Sai songs!” You know, he went on in this vein and then talking about Swami’s educational institutions, he said,
“There is no compromise on the quality of Education He imparts… The glittering eyes of Sai Baba attract youngsters and they are being led at the right time… And one more peculiar facet of Baba is that He never points to any one religion. He treats all equally and this is really fantastic.”
P: This is something wonderful coming from the head of a medical university who is from the minority community. Did any other dignitary like him visit the Exhibition?
S: Prashant, there were many. Every day there were a few dignitaries. If it was Mr. N. Narayana, Secretary to the Government of Tamil Nadu one day, then it was Ms. Kani Mozhi, Member of Parliament and the daughter of the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, the next day. If it was Sri Subramanian, Mayor of the Chennai Corporation on the third, then it was Mr. K. K. Pandey, former General Manager of Southern Railway, on the fourth day.
P: I am sure the Exhibition must have left an indelible impression on them. What was the reaction of Ms. Kani Mozhi and Mr. Pandey?
“I can only see Pure Love lighting up the whole hall!” - Mr Pandey
S: Oh, the Chief Minister’s daughter spent a lot of time studying all the panels very carefully and was very impressed. She expressed the desire that a Super Specialty Hospital modeled on the lines of Swami’s Hospitals in Puttaparthi and Bangalore should be in Chennai too. And Mr Pandey, who is now a member of the Railway Rates Tribunal of India, said, “The name of the exhibition 'Prema Jyothi' is quite apt. I can only see Pure Love lighting up the whole hall. These are activities of God Incarnate on earth and for the first time in history we are witnessing this phenomenon where the Divine Incarnation is recognized and worshipped in His own lifetime!”
P: How true! And I remember there is one panel in the exhibition which shows how Swami Himself had mentioned this to Dr. Hislop, many years ago.
S: Yes, Prashant. It is in the section “The Matchless Glory of Pure Love.” We also have in that panel a picture of the former President Dr. Abdul Kalam reading out a poem on Swami’s Birthday describing Planet Earth as a shining jewel because of His love. In fact, Dr. S. P. Thyagarajan, a distinguished educationist and a former Vice Chancellor of Madras University, who had come on October 2nd, expressed similar sentiments.
P: Oh, what did he say?
S: He said, “India is now emerging as a synergy of not only economic prosperity, freedom with democracy, and social empowerment, but also attracting people from all over the world because of the cultural integration and spiritual maturity that Bhagavan Baba is disseminating to the people.”
P: Oh yes, and you see the best example of this in Prasanthi Nilayam. Just look around and you find here people of all races, colour, religion, language, ethnicity and what not. In fact, the Sai Organisation in every corner of the world too is an eclectic mix of inspired individuals.
“…and now, everybody wants to do service!” – A lady teacher
S: Absolutely. In fact, the other day at the Exhibition I saw a telling example of this. A group of students from a village called Dhoosi near Kanchipuram (75 kms from Chennai) had come to see the Exhibition, and they were accompanied by a teacher who is a Muslim. The children were an active and enthusiastic lot and asking a lot of questions. But in the end, when we interviewed them, they all said that they want to emulate Swami and serve people. And next, all in the group, which included a Muslim boy too, started reciting the Ganesha sloka “Vakra Tunda Mahakaya….”
When we asked them who had taught them this sacred hymn, they pointed to their teacher. We were taken aback. We were even surprised when the lady teacher told us that she takes pride in taking Bal Vikas classes and tries her best to inculcate Educare in the young minds. We asked her, “How do your family members and community take this? Don’t they have any problems with this?” Then, in a voice filled with conviction, she replied, “Swami is beyond religion, and my whole family is devoted to Him.” And this Exhibition has further revealed the magnitude of His work to the parents of many of these children and now, everybody wants to do service.”
P: This is amazing! The way Swami brings about change in the hearts of hundreds and thousands everyday, directly and indirectly, is something astounding.
“It is His exemplary life that has touched and transformed mankind.” - Hn. Justice Rama Subramaniam
S: Very true. This is precisely what Honourable Justice Rama Subramaniam of the Madras High Court expressed after He went through the various themes of Prema Jyothi.
P: What did he say exactly?
S: He said, “Look at the millions who are directionless and come to Prasanthi Nilayam in search of meaning in their lives, and once they return after seeing Baba, they become instruments of service to society. For me, that is the greatest miracle that Swami performs everyday. If He had willed, by a wave of His thumb, He could have set up these Hospitals and colleges, but He chose to do it like any man would do, to demonstrate to us what we can do if we so decide. It is because of His abundant Love that He is walking on Earth and it is His exemplary life that has touched and transformed mankind.”
P: His words are so pertinent. And we see these transformations happening every day, don’t we?
S: Yes, but I was lucky to witness personally many such instances during the 11 days of Prema Jyothi in Chennai.
P: Is that right? Why don’t you share with me at least a few?
“After seeing this…I am completely changed! I am a new man!” - Mr Muthuraj K
S: Sure. One gentleman, Mr. N. Senthil who came to the Exhibition out of curiosity, after seeing the panels, said, “I am an atheist. But His Love brings me to a new fold. His service to humanity makes me feel that He has become an integral part of me! Love finds meaning in His eyes. They are delightful, powerful and blissful. I have no words to express.” Another person, Mr. Muthuraj K. wrote in the feedback diary: “I am speaking from the bottom of my heart. I have harmed others through my body and mind. But after seeing this exhibition, I am completely changed. I am a new man. I am so grateful.” Stories like this are many, but what takes the cake is the tale of Mrs. Vasantha.
P: Who is she? An actress?
“He has done so much for us!...I want to give away everything to Him and live peacefully!” - Ms Vasantha
S: No, not an actress but an active servant of the Lord. She is an elderly lady who was once a Tax collector for the Chennai Corporation. Mr. Bhoopalan, a Member of the Sri Sathya Sai Trust, Tamil Nadu personally narrated to me this incident. Three days after Prema Jyothi opened, one evening she dropped in at the site and after seeing all the exhibits, she was in tears. She seemed to be looking for someone. Concerned, Mr Bhoopalan, who was standing near by, went to her and asked if he could be of any help to her in anyway. The lady said, “I want to talk to Swami.” And again she looked at Mr. Bhoopalan, she seemed to recognize her and said, “Do you remember me? I was the lone lady Tax collector in Chennai Corporation. I also worked in the town planning section under you. My name is Vasantha.” Mr. Bhoopalan, now in his sixties, could not recognize or recollect her, but comforted her with kind words.
And then she continued, “Please help me. I see Baba in you. I saw through the whole Exhibition, how much Baba has done for all of us! I have done nothing.” And then tears started streaming her face. After a while she regained composure and said, “I retired in 2003. Six months ago my husband passed away and I have no children. I adopted my sister’s daughter, performed her marriage and gave her a share of my property too. And now, I am alone. I have two vacant lands – one at Tanjavur and another at Kolathur, Chennai; and there are many deposits in my husband’s name. I have decided to give away all these to Baba. He is doing so much for us. I don’t need these anymore.”
You can imagine how touched Mr. Bhoopalan was when he heard her resolve. But to make sure that it was not an on-the-spur decision driven by emotion and that she is fully aware of the pros and cons, Mr. Bhoopalan advised her to return home and think it over calmly. But she insisted. “You should help me in fulfilling my desire. This is all I can do. Only two months ago, I joined as a member in Aadambakkam Sai Samithi and I have offered to go to Puttaparthi in October as a sevadal.” Then, Mr. Bhoopalan asked her, “How long have you known Baba?” “My husband took me to Puttaparthi at the time of my marriage. That was more than 30 years ago. But after that I have never seen Baba,” she said and left the premises accepting Vibhuti and a photo of Bhagavan.
But the story does not end there. Next day, at the same time, she appeared at the Exhibition, now with all the papers concerning her land, and broke down. “Please, you must definitely help me. I do not need these properties. I have rents coming from my tenants for my maintenance, which is enough. I want to offer everything to Him and live peacefully. This is all I can do.” The State President of the Sai Organization of Tamil Nadu finally gave her Swami’s Vibhuti packets, appreciated her devotion and sacrifice, and told her that he will surely get back to her after getting Swami’s approval.
P: This is so stirring. She was so transformed by seeing only Swami’s beautiful pictures and some wonderful videos - imagine what her state will be when she sees Swami physically!
S: I guess, those tears will never stop. When people see Swami, the innermost core of their being, which many times even they are not aware of, is touched and then transformation happens in an instant! The Embodiment of Goodness uncovers the best in every individual.
P: Right, these stories are so inspiring. Did you witness any more such instances of changes of heart?
“After seeing this…I strongly feel I should do only good to others...” - Mr. S N Sridhar
S: Oh yes, many. One gentleman by name Mr. S. N. Sridhar from Thiruvottiyur, said, “After seeing this exhibition, I strongly feel, I should do only good to others, especially, offer education to the underprivileged. I have decided today that I will contribute my might to make the lives of people better through education in my village Ulundai (which is near Sriperumbudur).” But what stimulated me more was what Honorable Justice S. Palanivelu, a Judge in the Madras High Court said.
P: Oh, so we had many distinguished lawyers come to the Exhibition? You earlier mentioned about Justice Ram Subramaniam.
S: Yes, at least five prominent members of the Judiciary visited Prema Jyothi, and every one had so many good things to say, but what Honorable Justice S Palanivelu said still rings in my ears.
P: OK, tell me about it.
S: He said, “I have read that service to society is service to the Almighty, but here, I see, that the Almighty is rendering service to society! Only a Pure Mind can render so much to society, be it education, in the field of medicine or providing drinking water.
One caption which has left a lasting impression on me, which I have promptly noted down, is this: ‘Delaying education to the poor is the surest recipe for disaster.’ And then and there, I made up my mind to provide education to at least one person, and if possible, many others. We are so lucky to live while Bhagavan is still here with us.”
P: That was wonderful. Was he introduced to Bhagavan for the first time at the Exhibition?
S: No, but it was only recently he came to know of Swami. He had his first Darshan when Swami visited Chennai in January. Though he saw Swami then, till he visited the Exhibition he had no idea of the quantum of work that He has done for mankind. And, I tell you, he was no exception.
“I realized how little I knew about Swami and His Mission!” - Mr S Kannan
P: So the Exhibition introduced Swami to many who did not know about Him, and also about His work to many others, which often include even devotees who are not so aware!
S: Exactly. One devotee from Ranipet, Mr. S. Kannan, said, “Though I have been involved in the Sai Organization for the last 15 years, after seeing this Exhibition I realized how little I knew about Swami and His mission. I feel His presence here. I am grateful for this opportunity to come here.”
And when you mentioned about newcomers, I was reminded of a young dentist by name Miss Savithri, for whom Prema Jyothi was her first exposure to Swami, though she was inclined to matters spiritual like meditation, contemplation, etc. for a long time. When we requested her impressions, she said, “This is the first time I saw Swami and His work, though I had heard about Him a lot earlier. And I must tell you this is a golden moment for me. Being in the medical profession, rarely do I see people involved in a spiritual life.
"Even if a few show interest, it is limited to yoga and things like that. But this is the first time I have seen a Swamiji providing free surgeries, that too of high quality in hygienic conditions. After I finished all the panels, two lines touched me the most: ‘The Head is responsible for all our problems but the answer to all these lie in the Heart.’ And now I know, as individuals, we do not need money or influence or power to contribute to society, all we need is to give love. If we share love and serve, that is the greatest thing. That is life.”
“I had no faith in Sai, now I am a devotee!” - Ms. Divya Satish
P: Sundar, every story you mention surpasses the other. The kind of impact Prema Jyothi has had on the people of Chennai is, in fact, a revelation to me and, I am sure, it will be the same for many others here too. It only shows how great the need is for His love and guidance to people out there.
S: You are right, Prashant. Being inside the exhibition hall, looking at people’s expressions, talking to them, answering their queries and observing their reactions was an overwhelming experience for me everyday. The other day, as I browsed through the feedback dairy, I saw a particular note which stunned me. It was by one Ms. Divya Satish which said, “Till a second before I had no faith in Sai, now I am a devotee.” But what really made my hairs stand on end was a comment from a 19 year old, Ms. Soundarya Nandakumar. She had written, “What I truly feel is… I am 19 now and have wasted my life by not rendering visible service. Swami is Love.”
P: Such noble thoughts from a teenager! I think this is the best reward for all the effort put in by everybody associated with the Exhibition.
“I am inspired to be a part of this service!” - Class XI student
S: Certainly. And what is heartening is hers was not the only one. I met another student of Class XI studying in Bala Vidya Mandir in Adyar, Chennai. He said, “This exhibition has really inspired me. The amount of help Swami has rendered especially during the Gujarat Earthquake and the Tsunami relief work is phenomenal. I became speechless when I saw how each and every aspect of the projects was taken care of by Him. Every minor detail was paid attention to. For example, the people affected were given buckets to store water. And now what Swami has done for Chennai through the Sai Ganga project is so wonderful! I am inspired to be a part of this service.”
P: I feel this is the most striking facet of Bhagavan’s Mission. While nobody in these present times dares to speak to youngsters, let alone direct them, which includes even parents, Swami is the only one who, for decades, has systematically and so beautifully lit the lamp of love in their hearts and young minds and converted them into lighthouses. The way He has channeled their energies is simply amazing!
That reminds me of what Mr. T. G. Krishnamurthy, the former President of Sathya Sai Organisation of Tamil Nadu, said after seeing the Exhibition. First, he highlighted the uniqueness of Prema Jyothi, saying how it is incomparable with anything else done before and how it encapsulates within itself the essence of all world religions.
Then, referring to the Youth, he said, “The energy of the Youth can be compared to a water level in a dam. If the water level exceeds the maximum limits, it overflows, and destroys villages, their agricultural fields and the cattle. But the same water when diverted through various canals into villages helps in irrigation and contributes to prosperity. It also generates power ands lights up many hamlets. This is how Swami is converting youth energy into a constructive asset for the society.”
P: That’s a nice analogy.
S: Yes, but he made an even better contemporary comparison relating to the Exhibition and its impact.
P: He did? What was that?
“Once you see this…it is like your life is cleansed!” - Mr. T G Krishnamurthy
S: He said, “Once you see this Exhibition from the beginning till the end, it is like your life is cleansed. You are purified by the time you are out of this hall. There is so much Love energy here. You know, these days, when you buy a computer, you need also to buy anti-virus software and a pop-up blocker to save your system from crashing. We cannot live without computers in the present times, but to save ourselves from the viruses, which are nothing but bad thoughts which get into our minds, we need a virus-scan. And I tell you, this Exhibition is like a perfect virus-scan. Once you have seen this, bad influences will not affect you.”
P: That’s interesting. So, the exhibition was the anti-virus, what is the pop-up blocker?
Sai Youth...the Backbone of the Wonderful Presentation
S: He said, “That is the divine devotional music of the bhajans that is always on inside the Exhibition hall. Whenever we get a sensual thought,” he said, “if we think of the Lord, – be it Rama, Krishna, Jesus, Allah – that acts as a pop-up blocker and safeguards us from harmful elements. Only then can we be useful instruments to society.” And then referring to the Sai Youth at the Exhibition Hall, he said, “Rarely will you find so many youth so humble and serving people with so much concern and dedication. I have also seen how, when they go to the villages, they first touch the feet of the elders and then offer them clothes and food. I do not know of anybody who does this except Sai Youth. But for the Youth’s enthusiasm, we would not have had such a wonderful presentation here in Chennai.”
P: That’s absolutely true, and it was there for everyone to see wasn’t it? After the Prema Jyothi was staged here in Prasanthi Nilayam by the Prashanti Digital Studio, it must have been purely because of their initiative and interest that it went first to Chennai from here.
S: Oh, yes. They worked very hard for it. More than 150 youth from different Samithis in and around Chennai worked tirelessly for a few weeks to make it happen. It was no easy task, I tell you, to convert the barren land into a temple of worship. When I went there first, work was going on in full swing. The panels, which had come from Puttaparthi in huge vehicles that are generally used to transport Hyundai cars, were being carefully unloaded, assembled and erected. Soon, the lights, fans, carpets, floral decors – everything happened in record time including the fabulous entrance.
P: Oh, the entrance! Tell me more about it. The entrance of Prema Jyothi here in Puttaparthi was grand. A 150 feet wide massive structure resembling an ancient South Indian temple, it left everyone in awe. Even Swami was glued to it when He saw it on the Inauguration day!
S: That’s great. I missed the exhibition in Puttaparthi but I must tell you the entrance here was also a magnificent construction. It made people feel as if they were entering Prasanthi Nilayam because it was a three dimensional huge structure with three domes and with the same architecture and colors as you see in the Sai Kulwant Hall. And the rest of the area and the walls were draped with garlands and huge curtains of yellow, orange and white. It gave such a pleasant and vibrant look. And as soon as you entered the hall, there was a large picture of Swami with a compassionate smile as if welcoming you to come and bask in His Love.
P: That is wonderful.
S: And before I forget, I must tell you how, just before the inauguration, once all the arrangements were done, including decorating the trees lining the entrance with colorful lights, all the youth were in for a surprise.
They looked up at the sky and there was a delightful rainbow! It just gladdened their hearts and filled them with more vigour.
P: Swami always knows how to inspire His Youth, doesn’t He?
S: No doubt about that. In fact, they distributed at least three hundred thousand leaflets with complete information about the exhibition in Chennai, and I heard every house received it with reverence and joy.
They also had local dailies and television channels flash news about Prema Jyothi continuously for a few days, and went personally to invite the distinguished citizens of the city.
P: Oh boy! That is a lot of work.
S: Not only this, on September 7, a group of 12 went to Puttaparthi to get trained as guides in the Prashanti Digital Studio. And this helped a lot as it gave them a complete perspective of the Exhibition, and because of that they could do a fantastic job in explaining every aspect of the presentation very clearly to dignitaries and devotees alike. In fact, one doctor was so impressed that he said, “I really appreciate your dedicated work. When you are explaining the panels, you do it with so much joy and enthusiasm as if you are showing your own family album to a friend! And I see that you do this with everybody, be it a young individual or an old person. This is real dedication. It is exemplary.”
The Tamil Twist of Prema Jyothi
P: It was the same here, Sundar. The students and staff working in the Prashanti Digital Studio were always in attendance taking devotees around with great joy. The captions for the panels were in Telugu and Hindi apart from the regular English. And if a devotee did not understand these languages, to the extent possible they found somebody who could explain it to the visitor, especially a foreigner, in his or her language.
S: That was nice of them. But in Chennai, language was not an issue because everybody in Chennai follows Tamil or English, and the Youth had taken pains to translate all the 180 panels into Tamil and had them printed and displayed below the regular English.
P: That was good homework done. It would have helped the visitors a lot.
S: Oh yes. I remember many people, especially the old, standing in front of the panels, patiently reading the captions, looking at the picture again with keen interest, and moving on only after they had absorbed in full what was being conveyed.
P: Yes, it was the same when it was held in Puttaparthi too. In fact, there was also a Radio Sai booth here where they demonstrated the 24 hour radio channel live over the internet, as well as the WorldSpace digital radio. Not only that, you could also subscribe to their daily inspirational email service “Sai Inspires” online.
S: Prashant, all this was there in Chennai, too.
“I cried for 15 minutes after seeing the video-clips!” - A Gowthami
P: Oh, that is great. And what about the video clips? We had six TV monitors in Puttaparthi showing small clips on Swami’s leelas, His Hospitals, the Godavari Water project, the Mobile Hospital and so on.
S: Yes, I know what you are talking about. All these too were there in Chennai. In fact, a special video on His visit to Chennai was also there in a separate enclosure at the far end of the hall and people could relax there on comfortable chairs as they listened to soothing music in the background. Many were in tears after seeing these shows. In fact, a lady, Ms. A. Gowthami wrote in the feedback diary, “I really enjoyed this and cried for 15 minutes after seeing the video clips.” Frankly, even I could not contain my tears when I saw it for the first time, especially the Mobile Hospital presentation which shows the pathetic condition of the poor, and the way Swami is reaching out to them is really very touching.
P: Oh, yes. Even in Puttaparthi, I remember people breaking down seeing these five minute presentations. Actually, even Swami was moved!
S: I can imagine that. His heart is softer than butter. No being with so much compassion has ever walked on earth.
Every Minute Detail was Attended To!
P: Absolutely, and Swami, on the inauguration day, also heard Radio Sai on the internet as well as on the digital Radio. Did you have a Radio Sai booth there?
S: Oh yes, in fact, beside the exhibition hall, there were seven booths. Apart from the Radio Sai booth, there were also stalls for Sanathana Sarathi subscription, Sai Literature, a Bal Vikas counter, a CD stall and so on. And what is more interesting is, besides a refreshments stall, they had a playpen for kids, too.
P: That, I would say, is attention to detail.
S: Yes, the youth in Chennai were truly charged; they were overjoyed that Prema Jyothi was first coming to Chennai after Puttaparthi and wanted to do everything possible to make it a memorable experience for every visitor. They even had 15 wheelchairs ready to take lovingly the elderly around the exhibition. It would take two hours to show one person the whole presentation, but they did it smilingly. Touched with this service, a lady Ms. Nivedita R. said, “The service the volunteers rendered to my physically indisposed mother is really commendable. I can never forget this.” Another devotee Mr. W. S. Sundarayajam said, “The volunteers ensured that my family had a divine treat. I felt that I was in a temple having the Lord’s Darshan.”
P: When there is purity in our feelings and absolute openness in our dealings with others, filled with unblemished love, the results cannot be anything but beautiful.
S: Absolutely, Prashant! And I saw many instances of this during Prema Jyothi in Chennai. For the volunteers it was not work, it was worship. You know, they also had a medical camp running all the time, with doctors taking turns, just in case any visitor needed any help. And at the exit, there was always one Youth bidding farewell lovingly and handing over to everybody a photo of Bhagavan and a Vibhuti packet. Later, they even started giving Likhita Japam note books to devotees, and pens and chocolates to kids too.
P: It is because of such dedicated service that everybody who came to the Exhibition felt His Presence. Swami says, “Where there is love, there is God.”
S: True, but the most poignant scene was the last day.
P: Why, did any troublesome event happen on that day?
A Painful Adieu for the Youth!
S: No, nothing can go wrong with Swami’s work. It was more special, that’s all. On the final day, that is, October 2, 2007, they had sweets and sundal (a snack made of chick peas) distributed to everybody who came there. And as the last few devotees were leaving the hall, they started singing Bhajans.
But the way the youth were pouring their heart out to Swami with love and gratitude, singing with all their devotion and zeal, brought tears to my eyes. For the Youth and others associated with the exhibition in Chennai, it was like Swami was there with them for those eleven days in the form of those priceless pictures. You see, even though we know and say that God is Omnipresent, not being fully realized we long to see His captivating form, His pristine eyes, His compassionate look and His divine charm. And when the Youth saw devotees from Indore already at the site to take the Exhibition now to the state of Madhya Pradesh, it was hard for them.
P: I can understand that, Sundar. Who wants to miss Darshan? Having stepped inside the ashram, who wants to leave Puttaparthi and return to the outside world again? We know we have to carry Swami in our hearts and make every place a Prashanti, but it takes a while to get there.
S: Very true. As we discussed earlier, for the many devotees that came to this Exhibition, it was no less than Swami’s physical Darshan. I remember one devotee Mr. K. Krishnamurthy, who had come from Mysore, saying, “I completely merged in bliss. I never realized the two hours I spent here.” But there is one final scene which is etched in my memory forever.
As the youth concluded their bhajans and sang the Arathi “Om Jaya Jagadeesha Hare..” in the last session on October 2nd, at the far end of the hall, there was a devotee who was looking at each of His photos covetously for the last time. And lost in prayer, it looked like she was too immersed in a conversation with her Inner Self. A few minutes later, her eyes brimmed with devotion and tears slowly cruised down her sublime face. And then, she smiled. Probably, Swami heard her prayer. Maybe she got her answer. Maybe Swami blessed her with the experience she was longing for. But as the light of the camphor glowed brightly, she, too, shined. Her heart was now as if one in love with that Light of Love, ‘Prema Jyothi’.
Everyone Carried The ‘Prema Jyothi’ Home...
P: You brought the scene alive so beautifully. I can imagine what kind of experience it must have been for that lady. We, in our lives too, get those flashes of moments in our lives when we are filled with bliss, when we are connected with our Maker. And this exhibition, I think, helped many to establish that precious connection with their Inner Self, which is nothing but Pure Love.
S: Absolutely, and Swami is only an outward manifestation, a concretization of that all-powerful Pure Love that is there everywhere – within and without.
P: So beautifully put, living up to your name, Sundar! What a glorious time we have had today discussing only about His Love!
S: Yes, I did not even realize we have spent more than an hour. That is what happens every time we begin to talk about Swami. He is such a Phenomenon!
P: Absolutely. I hope we will meet soon later and continue our satsang (godly discussion) another day.
S: Of course, as He wills. Sairam, till then.
P: My friend, Sairam.
- Bishu Prusty
We are grateful to Sri Ramani, the State President of Sai Organisation, Tamil Nadu, for his wholehearted support, Ms Jayalakshmi from Chennai for documenting various aspects of the Exhibition and sharing it with us, Dr. Krishna Raman for his telling pictures, and all those Sai volunteers who have helped us, directly or indirectly, in the making of this story.