Volume 8 - Issue 11
November 2010
Other Articles

LOVING LEGEND -- LIVING LEGACIES

October 20, 1940. It was on this day, seventy years ago, that Bhagavan Baba unveiled the mystery surrounding His birth, life and mission.  He declared to the people around, and through them to the entire mankind, that He indeed is the Supreme Consciousness embodied in a diminutive and delightful form. “I am no longer your Sathya, I am Sai…I have My work; My devotees are calling Me…” He announced candidly on that day.

Ever since, this eternal reservoir of energy and empathy, hope and happiness, solace and succor, light and love, has nursed and nurtured, and ensured that the tiny seed of goodness latent within every individual grows into a gigantic tree of love and serenity.  And like a perfect teacher, He has demonstrated this more by living that principle in every moment of His own life. The result is a luminescent legacy that will continue to illumine the dark alleys of humanity’s collective consciousness, elevating it to a state of absolute sublimity for generations to come.

“Loving Legend – Living Legacies” seeks to capture a few salient highlights of this glorious saga of Pure Love. This 30-episode radio documentary starts on October 20, 2010 on Radio Sai to continue daily till November 19, 2010.

Below is the textual adaptation of this audio series embellished with pictures, audio and video clips!

Let us immerse ourselves in the story of His glory and more important strive to make our little lives shine with the sacred glow of purity, nobility and genuine compassion.

Episode 15: The Divine African Odyssey

 
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The loving response Baba received from the African people during his sole journey abroad confirmed His claim in the previous episode that He is all names and all forms.
               
Over the years, devotees have pleaded with Bhagawan to visit their homes, towns and cities, even their countries. Swami has yielded many times to requests of the first three types, but, in this physical body, Bhagawan has not made trips to other countries.

Whenever devotees constantly plead that Swami's Lotus feet must sanctify their land, in reply, he just smiles and says: "Sugar candy does not go in search of ants; rather it is the ants that come in search of sugar candy!"

Yet, Bhagawan did make one exception; that was way back in 1968, when He went to East Africa.

Baba travelled to the infant republics of a continent that was emerging into the dawn. He was to confer courage and consolation, to knit hearts and hasten the circulation of love.

The Journey of Love

 

When preparations for the African safari were being made, divine mother Easwaramma became anxious. Not much was known about Africa in those days, and she was deeply concerned because she had heard that the Dark Continent was full of wild animals and savages. When someone gently pointed out that this was not really true, and that even if true, nothing would happen to Swami because he was God, Easwaramma shot back: “I know Swami is God, you know He is God, but do those wild animals and savages know He is God?”

Late Prof. N. Kasturi has written a wonderful account of this extraordinary overseas trip of Bhagawan: “The citizens of Bombay convened at Dharmakshetra at a mammoth public meeting and bade him farewell on 29 June 1968. The next day, at the airport, crowds spilled over the terrace, pushed through to the tarmac area in thousands, and used every atom of enthusiasm to cheer Him as the plane took off.

“Flying at 590 miles per hour at altitudes of over 35,000 feet, Baba was busy granting other passengers signs of His grace, such as autographing a book or a photograph, materialising Vibhuthi, or furnishing illuminating answers to solve personal problems of every kind.

 

“The sky was not always blue. In fact, it was mostly a murky white, with a huge concourse of monsoon clouds lumbering eastward on their way to India. The sea mirrored the sky; there was an occasional zig-zag of silver ripple on its surface. One felt as if the plane hung in mid-air, while sea and land were pulled from underneath by an unseen hand.

“Soon, gleaming streaks of rocks and boulders and blotches of greenery were visible as far as the eye could see. Mount Kenya was announced. Visible was its jagged crown over the sea of milk. Finally, all traces of the sea were gone and below, reflecting in the sun was a quilt of red and brown roofs – Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.”

At the doorway Baba was greeted spontaneously with, “Nandalala, Yadu Nandalala!” from the yearning hearts of thousands perched on all available vantage points. While the party waded past counters and through corridors, filling forms, and having certificates stamped and signed, climbing over the routine hurdles, Baba was whisked away in a floral automobile by Dr. C.G. Patel into the gathering from which the bhajan had emanated.

Baba said: “It was a feast for the eye and the ear - the scene where they showered flowers, and waved lights, when they sang melodiously and from the depths of their hearts. I was reminded of the days when Jayadeva and Gauranga sang the Glory.”
               

In a small caravan, they began a journey of 407 miles to Kampala, the Capital of Uganda – the state known as the Pearl of Africa. The cars sped on, encouraged by the fine straight road through miles of delightful scenery.

The Undying Spirit of Beautiful Africa

 

They traveled westward through Kenya until the night enveloped. The motto of the country is “Marambee” meaning, “Let us pull together.” This spirit was seen all along the route in the wheat fields, the cattle farms, the plantations, and in groups of village folk on the wayside, brimming with vitality. They were merrily dancing along as they carried their leafy burdens expressing their joy under the expansive sky.

The tedium of travel was made less monotonous as Baba’s entourage passed through beautiful avenues of trees. Restful green comforted the travellers. Climbing higher and higher, they encountered coolness of air amidst the gurgling streams and fresh-water lakes.

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All had a glimpse of the Rift Valley - 2,000 feet below it gaped, with sheer escarpment for its banks. Then the soda lake, Nakaru, came into view as well as the town bearing its name. A sizeable gathering of eager Africans and Indians awaited Baba there. Swami moved among them, blessing and creating Vibhuti for a few that needed it.

 

From Malaba, on the border of Uganda, an impressive pilot car preceded the car of Baba, as a sign and symbol of His being welcomed by the rulers of that state. The cars drove on to Jinja, where the Nile emerges from the womb of Lake Victoria, and, channeled through turbines, flows North to fulfill its vow of a thirty-five hundred mile pilgrimage to the Mediterranean Sea.

Kampala was reached at 1.30 a.m., hardly the hour for a hearty welcome by a cheering throng. But Baba is in a category all by Himself. People were wildly waving banners of silken welcome stretched across the streets. Every few yards, a floral arch beamed with lights as Baba passed through. A member of the party counted exactly 108 of these.

Outside Dr. Patel’s bungalow, over 2,000 people continued the bhajan, singing with unabated ardour in the hope that Baba would give them the coveted darshan. And Baba did not disappoint. Alighting, He walked slowly amidst them, feasting the eye and delighting the heart. Their restraint and reverence was exemplary.

The Sun Shines Down at Kampala

 

Never had Kampala so yearned for daybreak as on that night. The city knew that Baba had arrived, and He would be granting darshan when the Sun rose. Baba came out early next morning. He stood facing the unprecedented massive gathering. He moved, lithe and lovely, along the passage between the barricaded blocks of people, showering upon everyone His supreme compassion. He went up to the lines of standing Africans on the margins of the assembly. He held many by the hand and brought them into the shade among the others so that they may sit in comfort, listening to the community singing of bhajans.

Dr. Patel persuaded Bhagawan to visit the Hindu Temple, the Bahai House of Worship, and the Television Tower Hill. While driving down, Baba summoned the six-foot police constable acting as the motor-cycle escort. Knowing the man was a Christian, He created on the spot a charming locket with the picture of Christ to be worn around the neck.

During the bhajans, He selected the sick and the disabled, and taking them into the bungalow, He spoke to each one with love and tenderness. He conversed in Swahili, English or Hindi, and gave each a token of Grace – Vibhuthi, talismans, lockets with His own portrait or the picture of Christ or some sacred design. Everyone who came out of the room had a smile on the face, a twinkle in the eye, a ray of sunshine in the heart, and firmness in the step.

 

A stone-deaf person who went into the ‘Room of Hope’ came out wonder-struck at the amazing world of sound. A polio-afflicted boy came prancing outside and a patient who was wheeled into the room walked out with his hands on the shoulders of his companions while a volunteer pushed the empty wheel chair out of the gate.

A Memorable Lesson Learnt From Nature

The third day of July was a memorable one. First, the flight to Ngorongoro Crater which is the largest concentration of wild life in Africa. Reaching Entebbe International Airport by car, Baba with some members of the party boarded a twin-engined aircraft at 9.00 a.m. For an hour and a half they flew over an immense inland sea of fresh water – Lake Victoria – which the Nile attempts in vain to drain.

Hundreds of gazelles, zebras, and wild beasts were seen grazing while the plane flew slowly over the Serengeti National Park. The crater is a huge circular plain, over 127 square miles of grassland, bush and forest, sheltering large masses of wild life. A few farms stocked with fat cattle were to be found in this fantastic milieu.

 

As they drove from the airstrip to the Crater Lodge, a family of wild elephants received them with the gentle flapping of broad ears and an array of ivory tusks gleaming in the pre-noon sun.

Land Rovers took the party into thick clusters of wild buffaloes, zebras, and gnus. Soon they entered the haunt of the simba, the lion. From the safety of the cars they admired a heavy-weight male lion yawning on a mound, and nearly ran over a pair of fat females having their siesta in the grass. They came upon more such lion families, and the party soon became endeared to them as it seemed Baba had come to bless them.

Rising up almost from nowhere, a stately dowager lioness walked majestically towards a group of sleek giraffes. This onset of danger was communicated to the long-necked fraternity by some birds, and the giraffes in their turn alerted the buffalo, zebra and gnu. In a few seconds, all disappeared into the distance and the distinguished lady stood sniffing the empty air.

 

Baba drew attention to this demonstration of mutual service. He said that man is highlighting the advantages of competition and the struggle for survival, but the beast is teaching him co-operation and service as the ideal means for survival.

Baba Visits Kampala

On 7 July 1968, Baba addressed the first public meeting at Kampala. He told the multi-racial, multi-religious gathering:“Just as the same bloodstream circulates in all the limbs of one body, the One Divine Principle activates the entire universe.”

This was a heartening message that was received with enthusiastic approval by Muslims, Christians, Bahais, Hindus, and Parsis alike.

 

The next day, Baba addressed another vast gathering at Kampala.

He said: “Here in Kampala, I shall pinpoint the basic requisites for a good, contented and happy life: Love is Power; Love is Bliss; Love is Light; Love is God.”

These discourses drew Baba close to the hearts of the Africans. People recognised in Him a friend, a guide, a leader, and a Light. But word had spread that Baba was leaving for India on 10 July - Guru Poornima Day. During the evening, when Baba moved among the thousands seated in the pandal, rows of Africans knelt, handing notes and letters to Him, some with tearful pleas.

Looking through a window of Dr. Patel’s bungalow at the faces filled with adoration, Kasturi could not suppress his tears.

He writes: “I was overcome by a delightful sense of gratitude for the opportunity that Baba gave me to witness this spontaneous surge of devotion in a new continent. I was awakened from my reverie by a light tap on my back from Baba who enquired, ‘Why the tears?’ It was because the notes and letters were filled with sorrow. The Africans had learnt that Baba planned to leave for Bombay on the 10th. ‘Father, do not leave us so soon,’ was the plaint in every prayer.”

Yielding to the yearning of the Africans, Baba decided to spend the whole day in Kampala. India was informed by cable that the return was postponed.

More than 25,000 people gathered that morning for the bhajan. The Africans joined the chorus led by a Tanzanian Mr. Zoodoo. For over two hours, Baba walked slowly among the lines of yearning, love-seeking eager hearts, giving each person a handful of sweets and a packet of Vibhuti. To the amazement of the recipients, most of them discovered inside the packet, lying ensconced in the midst of the holy ash, enamel or metal portraits of Christ, the Cross, Krishna, or Sai Baba Himself.

 

Not only that day, but for four more days Baba blessed the people of Africa with his Divine Presence. Wherever He went, throngs of people eager to win one more glimpse of His radiance assembled and stood at the gates or on the pavements for hours.

 The Lord is Pleased with His Beautiful Creation

On 12 July, Baba proceeded to the Murchison Falls National Park, one of the most beautiful and fauna-stocked regions of East Africa.

Prof. Kasturi relates the following incident: “The straight road tempted our driver to race and overtake every car that moved in front. We were catapulting so fast that a sudden turn of the road found the car rolling madly over and over, finally coming to rest on its jammed wheels in agonised silence.

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“We four were thrown against the roof and the floor, receiving knocks, bumps, hits and cuts. The man at the wheel fell out; the friend at his left struggled to open the stuck door with his uninjured left arm. The cushion from the back seat was on my head, wedged between it and the caved-in top. I found myself sitting astride on the chest of my companion, with blood trickling on his shirt from a long gash in my forehead. The third car came up in utter bewilderment, and friends gently pulled us out.”

 

Baba’s car had gone beyond Masindi that was some 30 miles distant. He said to the people in His car: “The second car has trouble. They will resume their journey in a taxi.”

Kasturi continues to narrate:“We packed ourselves in this third car and reached Masindi. From there, we hired a taxi and moved on towards Baba.”

When they reached the park, they saw a welcome poster: “Elephants have the right of way.” The cars were ferried across the wide green Nile, and passing between two live tembos (Swahili for elephant) with sharp white tusks about five feet long, they proceeded to Pra Safari Lodge.

Upon seeing the group arrive, Baba came forward to greet and comfort them, while listening to their description of the accident of which He already knew.

 

Within minutes they went for a boat ride, up the Nile for over 15 miles towards the Murchison Falls and back. The boat passed through ‘schools’ of hippos lying close to each other, showing just their eyes, ear tips, and occasionally their noses above the water. Some of them were on the land, with red, barrel-like hippolets behind them peeping through the thick papyrus weeds. There were crocodiles too with open jaws, but the vicious tail and the voracious jaw did not frighten the hippos in the least.

Returning to Pra Safari and re-crossing the Nile, the cars took the party through elephant-land to the Nile above the falls. Herds of 30 - 40 elephants looked from a distance like flocks of sheep grazing on the downs. As they drew nearer, they were filled with wonder at the sight of an enormous bull standing a few yards away. Baba had exited his car and was standing on the foot-board to give him darshan. It appeared that the elephant was highly grateful for he stood there gazing for a few minutes, filling his large eyes with the orange loveliness. Then, turning back, he quietly joined his herd.

The Murchison falls are furious and fascinating. The Nile comes foaming and rapid, down a continuous stairway until the bed contracts suddenly into a gap in the rock, barely six yards wide; through this strangling portal the tremendous river is shot in one single jet, down a depth of 160 feet into a stream of terror and beauty. Baba was happy that they could see this sublime scene.

Returning to Masindi through a road rendered slushy with a thick shower of rain, they had to slacken speed to avoid skidding. Elephants crossing the highway were another cause for delay.

 

From Masindi, they proceeded to Kkondo 80 miles away, where a Bhajan Mandir in authentic Afro-architectural style built by a devotee was to be inaugurated. It was a large estate, growing paddy, sugarcane and bananas. The Mandir was full of squatting African labourers who venerated Baba as the God-man from the East. Baba sat on a special seat arranged for Him, but soon he was among the farmers creating and distributing sweets and curatives.

He told the gathering of Africans and Indians that man alone among beings strayed from his allotted tasks. The rest stuck to their respective dharmas, whatever the obstacle. The tiger never stoops to eat grass. The elephant is never tempted to have a meal of fish or flesh. But man, the crown of creation, not only grovels in the mire of bestiality but is also proud of it.

Kampala was reached at 1.00 a.m. The lateness of the hour only whetted the appetite for darshan of the thousands who waited there all day, singing bhajans. Baba gave them the much-coveted gift, walking among them and standing on the decorated dais long enough to satisfy them.

Africa Bids a Tearful Adieu to Swami

13 July was a day of growing gloom. From Mazwa, Dar-es-Salaam, Mombasa and Eldoret, people came to persuade Baba to visit their places. The Mayor of Kampala pleaded for a short extension of Baba’s stay.

Baba is always everywhere. He reveals His Presence to all who call on Him, or even to many who are unaware that God is amidst them for their sake. For Baba, there is no coming or going, no arriving or leaving. Still, the physical presence wins such indelible loyalty that one feels an orphan without it.

On 14 July, hours before dawn, half of Kampala was at Dr. Patel’s door. Streams of cars and planes brought people from Jjinja, Mbale, Kakira, Kabale, Ikaye, and Kapila, where Sathya Sai Seva Samithis and Bhajan Mandalis were active.

 

Baba says: “I have no desire to stun or shock people into submission or adulation. I have come to install Truth and Love in human hearts.”

When Baba got into the car, even the hefty constables on duty trying to hold back the surging rows of citizens wiped tears streaming from their eyes. Baba patted their backs, but that only sharpened the pang.

The road to Entebbe was choked with cars, trucks, scooters, and cycles. The East African Airways plane that was to take Baba to Nairobi developed some trouble while moving on the runway, so Kampala got the bonus of two more hours with Baba on its soil.

Nairobi was reached at 2.30 p.m., and the thousands who gathered there for a final glimpse of Baba were rewarded by a darshan, but one that was quick as the earlier delay prompted airport officials to set the Air India flight on its way immediately.

The plane flew over Ethiopia and Somalia, ferried across the Red Sea at a height of over two miles and a half, and landed at Aden at 5.15 p.m. Though Baba did not disembark and the date of the flight had been postponed while at Kampala, they were surprised to find a long line of devotees and admirers, Indians and Arabs, filing into the aircraft and touching the Lotus Feet. Baba spoke to them with sweet affection. He created Vibhuthi for their sake.

At 12.45 a.m. IST, the plane, which had the unique fortune of carrying the most precious cargo that the world offers in this age, touched ground at Santa Cruz International Airport, setting off a chorus of ‘Jais’ from over 10,000 quickly pounding hearts. Bhagavan had returned to Bharat and His physical form has never left her sacred soil since.

(To be continued)

- Heart2Heart Team

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