It was the time when the most significant event to unfold in the twentieth century for one of the most ancient and holy lands on this planet, was still eighty one days away. Subjected to colonial rule and careless exploitation for centuries, India was still groping in darkness, trying hard to extricate herself from the clutches of her foreign rulers. There was despair, death and distress in every hamlet and home. And it was no different in the house of Seshamaraju, the teacher of Telugu, in Urvakonda, an obscure little town miles away from the nearest big city of Bangalore. But his tensions and trials had an altogether unique dimension – his younger brother, Sathya Narayana Raju’s bizarre behaviour was baffling him more than ever before. His ‘simple village-grown brother’ was now being taken away in cars and carriages to horizons much beyond their tiny hamlet – into the maze of teeming cities and big towns. Fear, pain and helplessness gripped his heart. It became most severe when local newspapers started carrying horrid news about the twenty-year old, who was ‘doing tricks and collecting people’. It had breached the barrier of his patience and endurance; but he could do nothing to stop Him. So, one day he wrote Him a letter, seriously warning about His ‘wayward ways’ and the possible ‘disastrous impact’ it could have in His life and future. And the response he received, without much waiting, was one which altered his own understanding of life forever, and changed not only his future or his family’s or town’s, but of the whole of humanity!
In that historic reply, on May 25, 1947, the young Sathya - His age not more than a score -, wrote, nay declared, “I have a 'Task': To foster all mankind and ensure for all of themselves lives full of Ananda (bliss). I have a 'Vow': To lead all who stray away from the straight path, again into goodness and save them. I am attached to a 'Work' that I love: To remove the sufferings of the poor and grant them what they lack.” Sixty summers and winters have entered and exited on this earth since then, and what have we seen? How many millions have been blessed and benefited, beyond their imagination and belief, with the taste of the Ananda, the bliss, that He promised on that historic day!
Right from the early days of His Avatharhood when He sent the tiny band of devotees into heavens of ecstasy on the sands of the Chitravathi by bestowing on them the experience of the supranatural (the glimpse of the third eye of Lord Shiva! The vision of the Sun after it had set! The gifts of vada [a south Indian delicacy] picked from inside the sands, dripping with ghee (!) with no dust particle sticking onto them!..), He has incessantly been engaged in raising the consciousness of mankind from the physical to the meta physical, from mundane to the Divine, by conferring on them a taste of that bliss, which could grant them happiness that is perennial. And so eager is He to confer this Blessing, that in the earlier years, the Lord did not wait for the devotees to come to Him, He Himself went to their towns and cities, villages and settlements. In 1944 itself, the young Sathya went to Bangalore, and thereafter to Mysore, Madras (now Chennai), Hyderabad, Karur, Kerala, Udumalpet, Ooty and so on.
Seven years after the inauguration of Prasanthi Nilayam, in 1950, Swami made His first visit to North India, to Srinagar in Kashmir, but that was a brief 2-day trip. The next year, He was in the southern most tip of India, Kanyakumari, and the fortunate devotees who were around Him, saw the breathtaking scene of the sea offering her salutations to Him by enigmatically encircling His feet with a garland of pearls! In 1961, Swami was in the Himalayas again, now to the holy shrine in Badrinath. And how mysteriously He materialised there a four-armed Narayana icon, about 12 inches high, followed by a charming thousand petalled ‘golden’ Lotus, and again, a Jyothirlinga, to be placed on the shining Lotus. The creation spree continued. Later that day, to do abhishekam to this lingam, came a silver vessel and 108 miniature golden bilva leaves from nowhere, and then the most incredible - 108 actual ‘thumme’ flowers, fresh with even the touch of the morning dew! It was a rare event of Divine sport for a fortunate few. But the numbers were huge and overwhelming, when Swami went to East Africa in 1968 – His first and only visit outside India till date. Having never before tasted such Love, when Baba gave light to many – to some who were physically sightless and many mentally - in that hitherto dark continent, they cried, ”Father! Do not leave us so soon!”
After this, in 1970, the Lord traveled to Goa where, out of His immense compassion, He took over the malignant illness of a dear devotee. It was another moving revelation of His Infinite Love. In 1973, He was in Hyderabad to inaugurate ‘Shivam’ – an architectural marvel shaped in the form of a Linga which is the epicenter of Sai Mission in the capital city of the state of Andhra Pradesh. Later, Swami went to Mumbai, Jaipur and Rajkot in the West of India, and even to Shimla in the North in 1973. Every visit was a testimony to the infinitely powerful Divine magnet that He is. But the most outstanding of all these was yet to come. The Lord had been dropping big hints and working inscrutably behind the scene; but few were aware, and even among them, who knew a little of what was coming, nobody ever believed a bit. That is how silent and shrouded, the Divine Master Plan was. But when it actually happened – the dream visit of Swami to Kashmir in 1980 for an amazing twelve days! – it virtually blew their minds away. What they saw and experienced was out from a Divine fairy tale; it was as if a piece of heaven had fallen off on earth. Exactly 28 years ago, in this same month of June, this paradisiacal gem of a journey of the Divine finally unfolded. What was the Divine scheme behind this spiritual odyssey? How did this idea originate? Who were the blessed Divine instruments through whom the Lord played out this dream of a divine drama? You will find all these fascinating tales when you read our cover story The Spectacular Saga of Sai in Kashmir.
Dear reader, when you read the story you will probably say that the title should have been, not just ‘spectacular saga…’, but ‘supremely spectacular….’, because the manifestations and miracles, ethereal darshans and enchanting leelas that Sai, who was physically in His fifties then, enacted was simply extraordinary. The valley of Kashmir, was as if swept over by a force that was so irresistible and elevating - the divine play of pure Love in the pristine lap of nature amidst pining devotees was too overpowering. It was again a lesson to humanity on the humungous potential of this one virtue and strength – Love, and at the same time, offered to the fortunate thousands, who were present, a glimpse of what an incredible experience it could be when Sathyam, Shivam and Sundaram – Truth, Goodness and Beauty become One; it is just unsullied ‘bliss’.
What does one do when he or she becomes a recipient of this ‘bliss’ from the divine? They want to relive it and recreate it! And how each one does this is really beautiful. We have one sweet and inspiring instance in our Sai Seva section, and interestingly, it is entitled Sai Anandam (bliss) – A Garden of Divine Blossoms. This is a touching tale of how a former student of Swami’s University, longing to experience that bliss of Bhagavan perennially, has created an environment that is subsumed with this supreme emotion. When you read how hapless and haunted orphans, who would otherwise have destroyed their lives, are today not only shining symbols of bliss, but are also eager to share it with others, you will get a real taste of what it is that confers on us limitless happiness, and as they say, ‘adds life to our years and not years to our lives.’
Swami says, “The bliss that you can experience in service, in helping the needy and neglected, is not found anywhere else.” And that is the reason why the Lord is always happy – in a state of undiluted bliss. In fact, He says, “Bliss is My food.” And one can see this in every darshan. How hungry is the Lord to only give, give and give! If only we design our lives in a manner that in every moment of our lives we exist not for ourselves, but for others, then we too would surely become Sai, our beloved ‘Baba’, - ‘Being Awareness Bliss Atman’ as Swami explains.
Lets us make the brief sojourn of our existence on this planet a tiny bubble of bliss!
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