Volume 6 - Issue 02
FEBRUARY - 2008
After sixteen years of traveling to India and attending many festivals in Prasanthi Nilayam, I got my first chance to be in the Ashram on the Holy occasion of Christmas, the birthday of Beloved Jesus, the Lord of Light and Love, only last year (2007). Through one of my friends, I learned that help was needed for decorations.
Happily I was able to join the decorating committee. In the beginning, we were just a handful of people working in a small ashram room. Another lady and I began by stitching together the curtains that would hang on the gates around ashram. Other people arrived and gradually the scope of the work grew. For two weeks, I worked closely with one lady from Italy. We could not speak each other’s language, but we understood one another very well. Our common language was mutual respect, kindness, patience and love.
Even though I was raised as a Moslem, I lived in the U.S. and Canada for many years and had a chance to participate in different types of Christmas celebrations. Outside of the Sai community, the holiday was mostly about gifts, parties, drinking and food. It was at Sai Centre celebrations where I first felt the true spirit of love and peace that Jesus came to teach. Even this could not compare with the deep experience of universal brotherhood and holiness of my first Christmas in Baba’s Divine Presence.
All of us on the decorating committee had the same goal. We prayed that through these decorations we would be able to offer our love to Lord Sai, who is not separate from Jesus, Allah, Moses or Buddha. We began our labour of love in Roundhouse 3 and ended in Shed No. 32. As our work expanded, more people of different nationalities and religions came and joined in. Still, I was the only Iranian and the only Moslem, until two ladies from Bosnia arrived.
The Italians had never heard a name like mine and had difficulty remembering it. Finally they asked me what it meant, and I said, “sweet”. This delighted them and they began to call me “dolce”, which means “sweet” in the Italian language. This was fine with me. All names are only given to identify the body and have nothing to do with the true self.
“Sai Ram” and a big smile were our common language. In the silence of our hearts, we practiced Swami’s teaching, looking beyond the differences of nationality, religion, colour and language; we felt how we were all beautiful beads on the common thread of God, everyone putting forth their best effort to please Swami.
One day, while the nativity scene was being set up, the baby Jesus went missing. The man in charge was moving around the room, asking people, “Have you seen the baby, Jesus?” When he came to me, I answered without thinking, from the depth of my soul, “Yes, I have seen the baby Jesus 2000 years ago.” It was then that I remembered a dream I had a few years ago. Swami was directing a Christmas play. I was sitting and waiting to see if He was going to give me any part. Finally He called me over and said, “You play one of the three wise men.” I asked, “Swami, is this role more important than others?” (That was my ego talking.) Swami answered, “No.” I realized that all roles that we play in life are of equal importance to God.
A Very Special Duty
Then the most exciting part of our role in the Prasanthi Christmas celebration came. It was time for us to begin to install the decorations outside of Swami’s residence. At 8:30 in the evening, we entered the gates leading to Swami’s Home.
We moved silently and talked in whispers so as not to disturb our dear Swami. For a few seconds I stood in the corner looking at the sky, moon and stars and then at all my colleagues, ranging in age from 17 to 75. I felt like we were all children in heaven, full of divine energy and joy. For two nights we worked inside the gates of Swami’s residence, to make a beautiful offering to our Lord. I was praying to Swami to approve and accept this work of love. When He came for darshan, it seemed that He looked all around the hall, showing His appreciation, making us feel loved and special.
The decorating committee was also given the privilege of sitting close to Swami for a few darshans. We sat eye to eye and received His blessings. It was more than I expected. At the same time, I reminded myself that He is the Director of this play. If anyone deserves credit, it is Him. He is the Doer that lives and works through all hearts.
A few days after Christmas, I received a phone call from the coordinator of the decorating group. Swami had given us permission to remove the decorations following the next morning’s bhajan. We had only two and a half hours to empty the hall so the seva dals could prepare it for afternoon darshan. Blessedly, lots of people showed up to take down everything and move it back to the shed where it was to be prepared for storage.
I worked on the veranda, unwrapping the decorations from the two pillars next to the lions. We found that some of the glue had stuck to the pillars and so we had to use paint thinner. The smell was so strong, even after washing with soap. How could we get rid of this smell? I wondered. Swami was about to come in just a few hours. A solution came to me. I went out into the village and bought two bottles of rose water.
By this time almost everyone was gone. I took a new cloth and the rose water and started washing the pillars. From there I moved on to the lions, removing all the dust. I even took this opportunity to wash the feet of Ganesha with rose water. Then I thought, why not the other deities on the veranda too? I ended up cleaning the whole veranda, including the gold railing where Swami stands. I dried it all with my scarf.
During this time the seva dal volunteer arrived to wipe the floor and prepare the hall. They left me alone to do my job. As I worked, I silently talked to Swami in my heart, thanking Him for giving me this amazing grace, the opportunity of many lifetimes. I felt very blessed to be part of this service project. How blissful I was to experience the real spirit of Christmas. The outside decorations were only the instrument Swami used to help us all experience the inner meaning of the Holy Day. We were able to expand our hearts and to work together with love and harmony as brothers and sisters under the Divine Umbrella.
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Vol 6 Issue 02 - FEBRUARY 2008
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