Volume 6 - Issue 11
NOVEMBER - 2008
The Heavenly Dasara Celebrations of the Fifties
The Dasara celebrations during the 1950's and 60's were very different. We used to stay at the Patha Mandiram (Old Mandir) then. This was before we shifted to Prasanthi Nilayam. The celebrations were not as we see them now. Swami used to be taken in a procession. He was carried in a palanquin by four men. Naturally, Swami was in a higher position than us. We devotees used to sing bhajans facing Him, walking backwards!
There were no proper roads and the procession used to start very late at night. We used to trip over stones and trample thorns, but we paid no heed to all that. We only saw Swami. It gave us so much joy. Each devotee saw Him differently. Some saw Him as the Divine Mother, others as their Ishta Daivatha (personal deity). Each one saw Swami the way they wanted to see Him; it was very personal.
In those days, Swami’s dress was very grand; people today may not believe it. His dress used to be brocaded and had zari (ornamental borders) because the devotees wanted it that way. During Dasara, He is the embodiment of the Divine Mother. Hence, He cannot be in ochre. Devotees used to dress Him up very nicely, and He used to allow it too.
Thus, the procession covered the entire Puttaparthi. However, Puttaparthi then was a very small place; they only had one or two roads. The entire place was like a forest, there were no houses or roads. In fact, the population was just about three hundred.
The procession used to end at about twelve or one at night, but nothing used to tire us. That is what I wanted to stress. See, we hardly had any sleep and very little to eat because there was no proper store here at that time. There was only one store that used to supply very poor quality rice, lentils and other items which used to take a long time to cook.
Hence, we used to bring these things with us - pulses, cooking oil and other food stuffs – two trunk loads full. Also we couldn’t cook fast as we depended on firewood. We used to cook in the open as there were no kitchens. So, that was how it was in those days, the 1950's.
The Joyful Jhoola Darshan
Later on, the Jhooladarshan (Swami on a swing) was introduced in Prasanthi Nilayam. On the last day of Dasara, that is, the day of Vijayadasami, Swami used to sit on a beautifully decked jhoola (swing), which was decorated with numerous flower garlands.
Swami too was very grandly dressed. Devotees sang songs and pushed the jhoola gently. This used to be at night on Vijayadashami. It was called the Jhoola programme and used to start only after dinner, at about 8.30 p.m.
During those days, everything was so very informal; everybody just sat around the swing. There were no restrictions then. If you went early, you got a place. After that things gradually changed. On His birthday, we could all go and offer Him a garland and do namaskaram. Everybody was let in and He gave that opportunity to anyone. He used to sit on a chair. Mother Easwaramma used to anoint Him with oil.
After she was done, we went to Him in a queue and offered Him a garland on His birthday, which He accepted. Today, of course, there is a lot of change; celebrations have changed completely. We used to get Padanamaskar (touching His feet) twice a day, every day. As there were only a few, it was physically possible. Today such a thing is not possible at the human level.
Fulfilling a Cherished Desire
I would like to share with you an incident about a little yellow pouch that is now with my daughter.
Earlier, during the 1950's and 60's, devotees in New Delhi were very lucky. Sometimes, during festivals such as Dasara or Swami’s birthday, when devotees couldn’t make it to Puttaparthi, others who had gone for the function used to return with prasadam for them.
However, I was not so lucky, because in those days I lived in Indore, and there were no devotees there. My two sisters, on the other hand, lived in Delhi. I occasionally joined them in their trip to Puttaparthi; sometimes I could not. I used to feel sad and wallow in self-pity hearing about the prasadam opportunity that I missed.
I mentally said to Swami, “I am very unfortunate. I stay in Indore and there is no Sai devotee here. I am the only Sai devotee. I must have done some bad karma to be in a place like this.”
One afternoon, our cook, who was not residing with us, rang the door bell. I went to the door to open it for him. I saw a little yellow pouch on the floor before the door. It was a string pouch. Mistaking it for my cook’s, I asked him whether it belonged to him. “No Amma,” he said. Curious, I then proceeded to open it.
To my utter surprise, I found it full of vibhuti and kumkum packets. I realized that Swami is indeed omnipresent. See! I was lamenting about the lack of prasadam opportunity and Bhagavan delivers one at my doorstep! That is the krupa (compassion) of Bhagavan. I have handed over the precious pouch to my daughter.
You may be a householder, but when you truly love God, and you know that you are living only for God, He listens.
He Listens To Every Prayer
Swami knows everything. We are mere sadhujanas - harmless people; not sadhus (ascetics). We pray, but that is all. We do not meditate or perform penance. However, when the call came and when we came to Prasanthi for the very first time, He transformed us!
How? Swami says if parents pray for their children, He will listen. If we pray that our children should be in a good position and earn a lot of money, He would listen; but that does not please Him much. However, if we pray that our children should love and serve Him with all their heart, He becomes very pleased. He fulfills such prayers. I guess my mother prayed so, because now, we sisters, are with Him! He once told us that our mother was a very devout lady. She died young.
But her only wish was that her daughters should hold on to God very tightly. He once said, “Your mother’s prayer has brought you three sisters here.” How did He know about my mother? He has not even met her! This thought reinforced in me the belief that He does listen to our sincere and devout prayers. Here, I would like to add that even my grandmother was very God-fearing, and must have prayed in the same manner.
Bestowal of a Divine Task
In the course of his work, my husband was shifted to Bhopal. As you would know, Bhopal was made the capital of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. It was while living in this place that I first visited Puttaparthi. I remember an incident concerning one such visit from Bhopal. One evening, in Prasanthi Nilayam, Swami called me upstairs and asked, “You now live in Madhya Pradesh, is it not?” I said, “Yes Swami. I come from Bhopal.” He often used to enquire as to where we came from as we often used to shift our residence. He then said, “There is no Sathya Sai Seva Samithi in Bhopal. You start a Sathya Sai Seva Samithi there.” He then gave me an apple as prasadam.
I did not know how to start a Samithi (Sai Centre), but I also could not say that I won’t. I was very disturbed. I did not tell Him anything, but internally I was very uncomfortable. I prayed, “Swami, I don’t know anybody there. I am new to the place. How do I contact people? How do I start? I have no experience.” Later, I returned to Bhopal.
I thought since Swami has chosen me for the task, let me start somehow; He is always there! I started making enquiries through various friends about any group that knows about Sri Sathya Sai Baba. One lady said that she is aware of a group of mill workers, consisting of office attendants, clerks, peons, and the like, who perform Sai bhajans every Thursday.
I went to the flour mill. The place was huge and I did not know which door to knock. There were so many apartment quarters for the workers. I prayed, “Swami you must lead me to the right door.” I went to the first floor and knocked on one door. A gentleman opened the door. I asked him whether he knew of any Sai devotees.
He said that he was one, and invited me inside. There was a picture of Swami in his apartment. He said, “What can we do for you? Why have you come to us?” I told him about the directive from Puttaparthi and asked him whether he could help me. He said, “Yes Ma, what sort of help do you want?”
I asked him for a room where we could organize bhajans, some class for children and women to spread the word of Swami, and also teach bhajans. He said, “Yes, that is no problem. We have a prayer hall which we will give you.” I asked him to join me and bring children as I had to start a class. “No problem,” he said again. “We will help you.” My daughter was staying with me then. So, I also asked for her help. I organized the ladies and conducted Bal Vikas classes. However, as I was unaware of the Bal Vikas course curriculum, I created one of my own.
Once, through a mutual friend, I called up the secretary of a Ladies club and told her that I wanted to visit the club and talk to the ladies about Swami. Having her permission to do so, the secretary, the mutual friend, another friend of mine, and I, went to the club. There I saw women playing billiards in a room. In another, they were playing cards, and in yet another, there was some other game going on. I was told that the members were informed about my visit and the purpose, but many were not interested. There were only three or four ladies sitting. It did not bother me. I lit a lamp, but did not display Swami’s picture. Instead, on the table was a Sarva Dharma symbol which I had carried.
The women were skeptical. They thought I was out there to convert them to Sai devotees. I told them that Swami was for all religions and that I had no intention of converting them. They then seemed relaxed. I then started with a Tulsidas bhajan. I closed my eyes and sang about two or three such bhajans. When I opened my eyes, to my utter surprise, I found the place packed with about 20 - 25 women! They said that they would like to attend!
Later, I visited the expansive Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited’s campus. It is actually a small township. I met the chairman, told him about my purpose, and explained about the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Samithi. After due explanations, he was delighted and offered me a hall. I installed the Sarva Dharma symbol there. Many of my friends from the flour mill who joined me at the BHEL hall asked why I had not installed Swami’s picture instead.
I told them that doing so might put off people who are interested otherwise in the discussion. Besides, that is not the purpose. Swami told me that I had done the right thing. Swami Himself had stated during His 60th birthday discourse, “Don’t take my picture when you start something. That will go against the organization. I don’t represent just this Sathya Sai Roopa (form). I am universal. So, only put My symbol.”
Overcoming Many Obstacles
I formed a committee, the members of this included about 8 to 10 workers of the four mill. The committee in no way could be recognized as a Sri Sathya Sai Samithi. There was one gentleman who would visit Puttaparthi. So, I gave him a letter to deliver to Swami telling him, “Please try to sit in the first row and give this to Swami saying that it is from Rani Ma.” I wanted him to seek Swami’s blessings for the committee.
Swami took the letter. Nothing much was written in the letter; it was about the committee formed, giving the names of the president, secretary and other members. However, I did not add my name to the list. Swami saw the letter and returned it saying, “I refuse to sign this committee. Take it back. Tell Rani Ma this is not the correct committee. This cannot function. Give it back to her. No blessings.”
The person came back and told me what Bhagavan had said. “Swami said that it is all wrong, not the proper committee. You have to change it,” he said. I sat and prayed. I told Swami that I do not know any big names.
Through a friend, I met the then Governor’s wife, Mrs. Reddy. The friend fixed an appointment for me with this esteemed lady. Then, the first thing Mrs. Reddy asked me was the reason for my visit. I told her that we wanted to start a Sri Sathya Sai Samithi in Bhopal. She bluntly said, “I refuse to have anything to do with Sathya Sai. I don’t believe in Him. Please do not expect any help from me.” I was shocked! She was very curt. I closed my eyes for a few seconds and prayed as to what to do.
A voice inside told me not to give up. “You have to pursue, do not give up!” Though she tersely asked me to leave, I did not. I asked her the reason for her disbelief and she told me this: “I have been to Puttaparthi twice. I have also taken a friend of mine from Madurai to meet Sathya Sai Baba. The friend is the top man of Madurai Mills, a very rich person. I accompanied him and his family to Baba’s ashram. He had a son, about 18-years old, who was very seriously ill.
The doctors had given up hope and said he will not live for long. So I told him about Sai Baba. He asked whether I could accompany him and ask Sai Baba to bless and cure him. At Puttaparthi, the mill owner got an interview with Baba. He asked Baba to bless and asked Him if He can cure him. Sai Baba said that the boy would be alright, but the boy died. Why does He lie? Can He be God? If you convince me, I will help you.”
I tried to reason out with her. “Look Mrs. Reddy, we don’t know the subject. Spirituality has to be understood first. That is what the Bhagavad Gita says. It is knowledge; our spiritual life is knowledge. One cannot blindly adhere to a religion. You will be disappointed, disturbed, and unhappy.”
‘For Me, the whole Jagath is false’ - Baba
I remember another incident that I shall briefly share to highlight this point. A lady and her daughter visited Puttaparthi. Her daughter was married for only two or three years, when the doctors diagnosed her with cancer. The mother was distraught. Swami called my sister who was serving there, and told her to take care of the duo. He told that mother that everything would be fine. However, after a couple of days, the daughter died.
My sister approached Swami and questioned Him about the promise He had made. Swami replied, “I am Mangala Swaroopa (embodiment of auspiciousness). How can I tell anything that is not mangala (auspicious)? I only speak the truth. There is no difference between falsehood and truth, as the false does not exist for truth. What you people are experiencing is delusion.”
Swami told my sister, “Supposing I tell that lady that your daughter is going to die in five days or five months, she will suffer during the period night and day. Her daughter too will suffer for the duration. They will lose their sleep; they will be so unhappy, and would already start mourning. Have I come to disturb and create sorrow or have I come to give peace? I cannot work with you people at My level of truth; you can’t take it. This is not falsehood. For Me, the whole Jagath (world) is false. Be it your problem or someone else’s, they are false.” Swami says mere blind faith is of no use; there must be bhakti (devotion).
When I told her all this, there was a total transformation in Mrs. Reddy. She allowed the entire workforce of the Raj Bhavan (Governor’s house) to join the class. I also requested her to be the president of the committee, adding that I did not want to hold any post. My aim was only to obey Swami.
However, after much argument I complied to be the joint secretary. Next, I wanted a vice president. I knew of one Sir Datar Singh. He was a very popular person and was knighted in England. I knew him because his daughters were the devotees of Anandamoyi Ma, and I was very close to her. I called up Datar Singh. He declined the post saying that he was a Sikh and that the organization was a Hindu outfit. “All the more a reason that you become the vice president as you are a Sikh,” l said.
He did not understand. I explained the concept to him. We have no difference, no cult, sect, or particular religion, but only one religion - Love. The idea is to unite the world. I told him, “Uncle, you pray to Guru Nanak. We are not telling you to pray to Baba. But give your name and accept His mission. You have to only accept His mission; you don’t have to accept Him!” He agreed.
The committee was then formed with the governor’s wife, Mrs. Reddy, as president, Sir Datar Singh as vice president, and other committee members, all of them seniors and holding authoritative positions in society.
Sometime later, another group went to Puttaparthi to show Swami the member list of the newly redrafted committee. Swami was happy. He said, “Very good committee. Tell Rani Ma I am very happy. This committee is correct.” Later, He told me, “See, what can these ordinary people do for others? They themselves are not so well off. Respected people can start institutions; they can start a college, and so on.” Swami has a reason for all that He does. He wants the right people to do the right thing at the right time in the right place. Can poor people start a hospital or a college?
It was truly miraculous, the way He started the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Samithi in Bhopal. The potential members were initially not forth coming, but Swami gave me the buddhi (thought) to meet His requirements, to talk and convince the others. The crux of the issue here is that one must have no ego in His work. If you want to follow Baba, there is no place for ego. Abandon yourself to Him: Twameva sarvam. He then enters your life.
An Assistant in His Sacred Operation
I would like to share a singular incident with you. It concerns my daughter, Sheela. She was about nine years old then. In those days, the duration of bhajans was totally up to Swami’s discretion. One day while I was in the Bhajan Hall, Mr. Kasturi came in and said that Swami wanted my daughter upstairs. As it was His wish, I sent her upstairs with Mr. Kasturi. Sheela was let into a room where Swami was along with another child, a young girl who was, I gathered, suffering from a severe throat problem.
Swami told Sheela that He was to perform an operation, and He asked whether she would help Him. “Whenever I ask you for scissors or cotton or anything else, give it to me, okay?” She did not fully comprehend the requirement, however, she agreed. Swami materialized the required operation instruments and medicines, and performed an operation on the suffering girl’s throat.
After the surgery, Sheela came downstairs to the Bhajan Hall. “Why did Swami call you?” I asked her. “Amma, I don’t know. He did some operation on a little girl. I was handing Him scissors, cotton, whatever He asked for.” Can you believe it? I was so stunned. Needless to say, the little girl recovered absolutely!
He Alone Knows the Right Prescription
Allow me to share another incident. Sheela was about 10 years old when we were in Nagpur. All of a sudden, she started running a high temperature, about 100 degrees. We consulted many popular doctors of the region; however, none of them were able to identify the reason. They thought it might be due to tuberculosis. Tests were performed, but they indicated perfect health. So where was the problem?
At that time a friend of my husband was returning from Delhi. He was a doctor and he agreed to examine Sheela. He said that it was not a serious issue. Some children may have a slow metabolic rate, and hence, this symptom. However, there was no sign of the high temperature abating. This went on for about two to three months. I lost faith in doctors. I asked my husband’s permission to go to Puttaparthi. “There are no doctors there,” he said. However, I was adamant. I wanted to go along with my daughter and see Swami.
I met Bhagavan. Swami asked us to stay in a portion of the garage as all the accommodation at the time was full. So my daughter, my sister (who was also there), and I put up at the garage. Swami told me, “I know why you have brought Sheela here. She is running a temperature, is it not? Don’t worry, she will be alright. But you would have to stay here for a month.”
Swami forbade me from allowing her outside the garage after nine o’clock in the morning. “She must not be exposed to the Sun,” He said. “You must be very vigilant. When you go outside to wash clothes, lock her inside. I too will look after her.”
After a month, Swami allowed us to go. During the one month period, He did not take her temperature or offer any treatment, neither did I. My husband took her temperature after we reached Nagpur – it was normal. I cannot explain to people the reasons for Swami’s actions.
(To be continued…)
Vol 6 Issue 11 - NOVEMBER 2008
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