Come December 25th and the character of Prasanthi changes. Like the past few decades, the whole milieu of Puttaparthi acquires a different aura with hanging bells, angels shining and stars glistening all around the ashram. It was no different in the just completed year too, or rather, it was more special than previous years because the Divine Lord willed the celebrations to be spread over three days, with He delivering His much-awaited and prayed for discourse on the evening of December 26th. [We have detailed accounts, accompanied by lots of pictures, of this joyous festival in the Prasanthi Diary Section]. Bhagavan stressed that Jesus was no ordinary mortal and everybody heard with rapt attention as the Father hailed the Son.
While half the world celebrates on December 25th, the Birthday of the favourite Son of God, very few are aware, let alone commemorate, another story of His Glory that also had its genesis on this same sacred day. It is not the story of a Son of God, but one of God’s most precious, proficient and powerful instruments. It is the tale of one whom God held in His Hand to pen the uplifting account of His advent and mission; of one whose inner self was so pure and clear that the Sweet Lord held Him unto His lips like a flute and out came a surreal symphony of His miracles and manifestations in most captivating notes and narrations; of one in whose company the Lord was regaled with his repartees and rib-ticklers; of one who had become an indispensable part of His entourage whether He went to Ernakulam or East Africa; of one who assiduously assimilated every syllable that slipped from the Divine lips and not only documented it with great clarity and dexterity but also announced it with great alacrity to as many people as possible; of one who was a perfect conduit between the Lord and His message, rendering with ease and finesse the language of the Avatar into not only the Anglo-Saxon tongue but also into many Indian lingoes; of one whose speech was so soft, soothing and comforting that the captivated listeners imagined him to be the ‘pied piper of Hamlin’; of one whose nature was so gentle and attitude so refined that one could never observe scornfulness or a tinge of sadness, come what may, in his countenance; of one who started his day by placing at His Lotus Feet the sacred Tulsi and Bilva leaves for not one or two weeks, months, or years, but for more than three decades; of one whose relationship with Swami was so special and childlike that he could say anything he wanted without any apprehension and after thought, and the Lord too listened, punned and played, jeered and joked with him, and on one occasion even asked for his lap to rest His Divine Self; of one whom Prof. Anil Kumar describes as the one “whose communication with Swami was celestial and the relationship he shared with Sai was rare and without a parallel.”
But at the same time, this special devotee of the Lord was the first postmaster of Prasanthi Nilayam, who at one time even was the accommodation in charge looking after the well-being of devotees and acting as their guide, counselor and comforter, who also saw to it that the canteen in the Ashram fed all the pilgrims without any problems, who was a type-setter, binder, writer and editor – all rolled into one – of the Ashram monthly magazine, who religiously made the announcements during every major festival in Puttaparthi in six Indian languages, who always traveled in public buses and not in a private car even though he was a State President of the Sai Organization, who knew no stranger and had a warm hello oozing from his being on whoever his eyes fell, and who knew no worship other than serving His Master through sharing the tales of His Grandeur, Greatness and Glory.
That was Prof. Kasturi, the Lord’s ambassador, emissary, effective instrument, efficient translator, brilliant biographer, charismatic orator, fascinating playwright, gifted writer, master story-teller, an incomparable comrade and most importantly, a beloved devotee like no other. In fact, Prof. Kasturi is one of those rare souls to whom in a letter before his final mergence with Him, the Lord addressed as “Bhaktha” or devotee. In that letter He said, “Know this, O devotee! The Resident of Puttaparthi, the Compassionate One, will guard you always, and ever hold your hand, to save you ever, everywhere. Forget it not.”
What facet of Kasturi’s personality endeared him to the Lord? Was it his literary and oratory skills? Or his special sense of spontaneous humour? Or, the respect he commanded as a great intellectual and luminary in Kanada literature? Or, his credentials as a capable educator and administrator, having turned around a notable and formerly notorious college during his tenure as principal?
Or, was it his association with the Ramakrishna Mission having served as a secretary there for many years? What was so unique about him that every devotee looked up to him with awe, admiration and love, and Swami held him so close to his heart, virtually carrying him in His arms every moment of his life until his last breath? And how did He finally embrace him into Himself for eternity? The cover story of this issue will not only be an eye-opener for you into the life of this great devotee of the Lord but also instruct and illumine you as to what it means being a true devotee of the Lord - what are the responsibilities and rules, characteristics and challenges.
Basking in the divine proximity of the Lord did not mean the life of Kasturi was a bed of roses - still the fragrance of his smile never faded. Whether rock or sand, gorges or grass, he never grumbled in the least and just like the river, always steadfast towards its goal with willpower and vigour, Kasturi was unassailable. “He was like the Rock of Gibraltar”, recalls Sri B. V. Raja Reddy. “His faith in Swami was unassailable.” In fact, when you read our comprehensive cover story and contemplate, you will realize that the life of Kasturi epitomizes the life of every sincere spiritual aspirant. There is no glory of God without the story of His devotees, and Sri Kasturi’s life is one such golden chapter in the grand epic of the Sai Avatar.
In fact, the Lord Himself had prompted Kasturi to write his own life’s story which he titled as “Loving God” and placed it at His Lotus Feet on his 85th Birthday. Just like Bhagavan’s Schools and Colleges, and Institutes of Higher Medical Sciences are models to be appreciated and emulated, Prof. Kasturi’s life too is an 'university' by itself from which every sincere Sai worker should learn, imbibe and fortify his love and faith for Baba. It is for this reason that we have this cover story on this New Year month, besides commemorating the hundred and tenth birth anniversary of this great soul, which happened the day the lovers of God sang “Silent Night..." a few weeks ago.
Kasturi’s story, by Divine design, is fortunately intertwined with the story of Sai Avatar, he being a blessed recipient of His divine proximity for nearly four decades. But there are many other deeply inspiring souls in recent times who may not have had any physical contact with the present Incarnation, but the Lord fondly remembers them for their purity, sincerity and nobility. And one such is the fiery patriot of India, Sri Subhas Chandra Bose.
During India’s Independence Day in 2007, Swami surprised everyone when He rose to give an unscheduled discourse and said, “Never forget Bose… such glorious personalities are not to be forgotten.” And that triggered us to tell the tale of this great son of Mother India, and we are happy to offer it to you this month which happens to be his birthday month. If only we look around and have the eyes to see, there are many personalities whose lives are filled with devotion and dedication, but for the most part they are silent, letting their deeds do the talking.
But God never forgets such sincere selfless souls. A case in point is Sri Gopal Rao, who has been living in Prasanthi Nilayam ashram for nearly four decades. Though a champion in the banking industry who served as the chairman of the Andhra Bank besides being on the board of many other prestigious companies, when he settled down in Puttaparthi in late sixties, serving water in the canteen was the task Sri Gopal Rao undertook with great joy and sincerity.
This spirit of service is what has touched the Lord, but more than this, for what Bhagavan always remembers him is his undeterred faith. At one time, when Sri Gopal Rao was under pressure from the powers that be of the country to act against his conscience, he stood firm and did not yield even a little. And this is what, Swami says, is the hallmark of every true devotee of the Lord. He honored and blessed this dear devotee profusely on his 100th birthday a few days ago. (See Prasanthi Diary).
In the most recent Christmas Discourse, Swami said, “Everyone must have Masterfaith (a superlative of faith). The rest is useless. You can achieve anything with it. So, develop faith. Without faith, there is no life.” In this New Year, when we are busy contemplating how we can redirect ourselves to make the most out of our lives, let us not forget to incorporate this essential element in our lives, thoughts and actions. For, without this, all else might be like walls without a firm foundation.
Let unflinching faith at His Feet be our resolution in 2008. For, the power of His Love is great!