Volume 8 - Issue 11
November 2010
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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.

 
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Episode 23: Water Comes from God

Part - I

We have seen how Bhagavan at the urging of His mother constructed a school and a hospital in Puttaparthi for the benefit of the villagers. These were the seeds that grew into larger educational and medical projects and were available for free to mankind at large.

Mother Easwaramma had a third wish: Puttaparthi needed a water source during the dry season. To satisfy this need, Bhagavan had a borewell drilled on the campus of Prashanti Nilayam.

In the next two issues of H2H, we will see how the initiative served as the seed to satisfy the needs of millions for drinking water.

The Elixir of Life

Eighty percent of the human body is nothing but water. A human being can survive without food for several days, but without water his life expectancy is measured in hours.

Water is one of the greatest gifts of God, given by Him out of His infinite mercy for mankind and for all beings. God not only created water but also set up an elaborate system to bring this gift to us throughout the year from the sea to inland areas. He has made lakes for storing water, rivers for transporting it, and huge underground aquifers for additional storage.

Man fails to appreciate the physical nuances of the water cycle. He often misses to see the creative force behind it. Instead, those who wield power, divert water for their own use. They are driven by greed and selfishness. Others mismanage the water that is given to them. For these reasons, many regions of the earth are parched and dry, although they do not necessarily have to be so.

The western part of peninsular India receives heavy rains during the monsoon season but vast tracts of land in the rain shadow region to the east regularly suffer from water shortages and droughts. Foremost among the drought-prone districts of South India are Bellary, Anantapur, Cuddapah, and Kurnool in the state of Andhra Pradesh. This region is collectively known as Rayalaseema. Here people depend on well water. But the fluoride in the water causes serious disabilities, such as bone deformation.

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For over a hundred years, the people of Rayalaseema have been clamouring for drinking water but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Even in independent India, this remained the situation for nearly half a century, until Baba stepped in.

A Challenge to the Government

 

On the morning of 22 November 1994, there was a special function in the Poornachandra Auditorium to honour the distinguished surgeon Dr. Venugopal. The doctor had performed the first cardiac surgery on the day of the inauguration of the Super Specialty Hospital in Puttaparthi, and had helped the hospital in numerous ways. Present in the Poornachandra Hall was Mr. P. V. Narasimha Rao, the then Prime Minister of India, who had inaugurated the Super Specialty Hospital three years earlier.
               
In His discourse on that day, Bhagavan made reference to the perennial drinking water problem in Rayalaseema.

He said: “The Prime Minister should be reminded of one factor. For 45 years, there has been a water problem in this country. Rivers are God’s gift. They don’t belong to anyone. The waters in the Krishna River and in the Godavari are permitted to flow to the sea while in Rayalaseema people don’t have drinking water. Instead of losing this water, it should be diverted along its way and no harm will result by it. There’s plenty of water in the Krishna River. The Krishna and the Tungabhadra rivers can be harnessed to supply Rayalaseema. If this water is supplied, then crops may be sown.

“For the water supply, I am willing to give one crore, two crores or even 100 crores. There should not be a dearth of water in Rayalaseema. There are many devotees ready to make sacrifice, but I have not stretched out my hand to anyone.”

This was a direct challenge to the Indian government to do something about the problem, offering all possible help from His side, if the government chose to embark on such a project.

After a few months, no action could be perceived from the Union Administration. Baba then quietly told the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust: “Let us do the project,” and proceeded to set what seemed an impossible timetable.

The Trust Members were stunned. They wondered: “It is one thing to build a hospital, or even an airport. But to provide drinking water to the entire district of Anantapur with a population of over a million and so many hundreds of villages scattered over hundreds of square kilometres? And, that too, in such a short time? Where was the money for all this? And the manpower, expertise and so on?”

Determination Overrides all Obstacles

The reaction of the Trust Members was a typical one, the way humans look at issues and problems. With Baba, it is quite different. Determination comes first, problem solving later.

Once it was realised that Baba was absolutely resolute to go ahead no matter what others said, plans immediately began to be drawn up. And, wonder of wonders, things started rolling and at incredible speed!

Although amazed at these initial developments, there were many who remained sceptical. One commented: “With the government, it takes years to consider taking up a project, more years to study it, still more years to plan it, then more years to find funds, and dozens of years for execution. So, how is Baba going to do such a giant project and that too in such a short time, as He has promised?”

About nine months later, during the Guru Poornima festival in July 1995, a function was held to mark the first step in the supply of drinking water to the people of Rayalaseema, specifically to the neighbouring village of Bukkapatnam. After the usual speeches by the concerned officials, Baba pressed a button. By remote control, the pump in Bukkapatnam started working and drinking water began to flow out of a tap there. A microphone placed near the spot picked up the loud cheers of the villagers present, and soon village elders spoke words of thanks into the microphone. All this was heard by the thousands assembled in the Divine Presence in Prashanti Nilayam.

 

Thereafter, the tempo quickened and things took shape with amazing rapidity. Baba assumed direct charge and monitored the progress literally on a day-to-day basis.

The going was not always smooth. Many devotees wondered why this was so. Was not God in charge? Yes, He was. And, if He so willed, things could have happened with a mere wave of His hand. But this was not the way He wanted things done.

The project was actioned the way it was merely to teach some significant lessons - that man must do his best to help others, and without being too much concerned about the obstacles coming his way must march resolutely towards the goal. People were also taught that the impossible becomes possible if one has firm determination.

For a brief period, there was a money crunch.  He who could create gold and cash with a wave of the hand now borrowed money from a bank! There were a host of other problems too. But Bhagavan was always calm and His usual self – ever a perfect demonstration of equanimity.

Where There is His Will There are a Million Ways

It was not so much His management of the difficulties as it was the magic of His prema (love). The Government of a State where Marxists were in power did not hesitate to waive taxes on pipes and other products procured from their State. The Railways gave priority in moving various items, especially steel and cement, to the work sites.

Baba made several aerial surveys over the entire district. So considerate was He that He squeezed these surveys between the morning and evening darshans, and the devotees in Prasanthi Nilayam never knew that Baba was out flying over the countryside while they were having their siesta.

 

In more ways than one, Baba showed how projects must be executed, with constant direct personal supervision from the top, and incessant attention to the most minute detail.

It was November 1995. Once again, there was a meeting in the Poornachandra Auditorium. And yet again, Mr. P. V. Narasimha Rao was present. He was there to inaugurate the Sri Sathya Sai Drinking Water Project.

Here is what the dignitaries said on that occasion:

Mr. K. Chakravarthy, who represented the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, in the execution of the drinking-water project, said: “I have the honour to present a brief report of the Sri Sathya Sai Water Supply Project. We started the project in the second week of March. Three infiltration wells in one sector and two in another were completed before the end of May 1995. Since the network of pipes were as long as 2,500 km we had to use heavy earth-moving equipment for the digging of trenches and the laying of pipes and this was done in the short period of two months, May and June ’95. This was found to be a formidable job. The project involved the construction of 275 overhead reservoirs, 175 ground level reservoirs and over 1,000 pre-cast cisterns many of which are nearing completion. The balance will be completed by mid-January 1996.  

A project of this dimension and scope executed within a brief period of time called for commitment and dedication. It was possible to find this in the prime agency for this project, namely the team from the L & T Construction Co., who put in long hours and endured many hardships executing various schemes under sun and rain.

The biggest miracle is Swami Himself. All the miracles put together cannot come up even to the height of His ankles. Bhagavan is a perfectionist and expects high standards from all concerned. We invoke a special blessing therefore to carry out this project with the standards expected by him.”

 

The Sri Sathya Sai Drinking Water Project is the largest social service project to be executed anywhere in the world, by a charitable organisation.

Next, it was the Prime Minister’s turn. Mr. P. V. Narasimha Rao had once been the Minister in the State Government of Andhra Pradesh in charge of Anantapur District. He knew well, not only the various problems faced by the people of the district, but how difficult it was to solve them.

In his address, he said: “This Anantapur District, based on the statistics available, is a district where there is low rainfall. At several of the places the water is not fit for drinking purposes as it is polluted. I know this district very well. I know every village as I served as a minister in charge of this district. It is very difficult to work here because of many inconveniences, and today this district has taken on a new form altogether. This district is known for shortage of water – the non-availability of drinking water. And today there is a water supply. This is clear proof of Bhagavan’s grace. We declare it is because of Bhagavan’s grace we have drinking water today. It is our fortune and good luck.”

This was followed by Baba Himself who said: “With regards to the water project, it should be noted that much was accomplished in a short period. In the execution of the project changes had to be made in response to the appeals of people in different villages. Because of this, the entire project has not yet been completed. Some villages are yet to get water. This should not cause any disappointment. Whatever may happen, all villages will get water and the project will be fully carried out.

 

“The inauguration of the project by the Prime Minister does not mean that further work has come to an end. We are prepared for any sacrifice to honour our pledge. Work will be resumed from tomorrow and we shall see that by January the entire district is supplied with water. We will give no room for anyone to complain that he has not got water.

“Embodiments of Love, it is a matter for gratification that today the Prime Minister, who belongs to Andhra Pradesh, has inaugurated the water supply scheme for Anantapur District. All of you should live in amity, without differences of any kind and offer your cooperation to the government. Not only will the nation benefit from your unity, but you will also be setting an example to the world. Give up hatred and jealousy. Participate with love in measures taken by the government for the well-being of the people. Love can achieve anything.”

His Love Flows Everywhere

Because of the unexpected mid-course correction, some villages had not yet received the water they were promised.

However, during the inauguration ceremony, a phone call from the manager of the Anantapur pumping station confirmed that clean, drinking water was now available to the people of Anantapur. He said: “Om Sri Sai Ram. The pump and motors are on. The people of Anantapur town are indeed blessed for having been endowed by Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba with the gift of drinking water through the scheme of summer storage tanks here. We are sure they are also happy that the Prime Minister has so kindly inaugurated the summer storage scheme in Anantapur. We express our gratitude to Bhagavan Baba and special heartfelt thanks to the Prime Minister.”

A few months earlier, on Guru Poornima Day, just the neighbouring village of Bukkapatnam had received water. Now, the whole district was blessed with water supply.

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Baba addressed the subject of giving on the morning of His birthday in 1995 and said: “You must have listened to the list of offerings of gold ornaments by some devotees. What is the ornament for Bhagavan? Only bliss. Why cover Him with a shower of jewellery? A sculptor carves a beautiful idol. Why submerge that beauty under clothes, jewels and garlands? All these are artificial. Natural beauty alone gives real joy. Don't take the trouble to bring such ornaments. You should not entertain such thoughts at all.

“I have asked the Central Trust to put up for auction on this stage all the ornaments given by devotees. The money raised thereby should be used by the Trust. These jewels should not be taken to Prasanthi Nilayam. In addition to jewels, offerings of money have also been made. All these funds will be used for the completion of the drinking water project.

“I have not sought anything from anybody. But I will be happy with any kind of service you render. Spend your money to help the needy. Assist in the provision of water. Meet the educational needs of the people and provide medical relief. Do everything for the good of society and not for the sake of an individual. Have the nation's welfare in your mind.

“The water problem of Rayalaseema will have to be completely solved. This is a dry area. There is not enough water to drink. How can trees be grown in such an area? Without trees, people do not have a sufficient supply of oxygen. Water, therefore, is essential for life.

“I had been considering this problem for a long time. For health, the heart is important. For knowledge the head is important. For the body, water is essential. All these three should be provided free. They should not be commercialized. All these come from God. Like oil for a lamp, love is essential for life. Without oil or love, darkness will prevail. Render loving service to all. Recognise that the Divine is within you and you have all the potency for great deeds.”

The Sathya Sai Drinking Water Project – A Demonstration of Unity of Thought, Word and Action

Two years later, on 11 October 1997 - Vijayadasami Day, Bhagavan who had executed this project entirely on His own handed over the complete project and its assets to the state government of Andhra Pradesh. The project was undertaken for the people and now Baba wanted the government to own it as well as maintain it.

On this occasion, present in Prashanti Nilayam was the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and a few other senior politicians who had come to participate in the handing-over ceremony.

 

First to speak was Mr. K. Chakravarty of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust. He said: “In His divine discourse on 22 November 1994, Bhagavan Baba drew the attention of the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister of the State to the severe drinking water problem faced in many parts of the country. Bhagavan added that if needed, he was ready to offer financial assistance, should a project be launched in this direction. By actually executing the project all by Himself, Swami proved to the world that the word of God is indeed the truth.

“It is well known that the Avatar has all the powers with Him. However, in executing this project, His objective was to set an example to the people of the world about how difficulties facing mankind ought to be faced and solved.

“The Sri Sathya Sai Drinking Water Project cost Rs. 310 crores. To meet this enormous expenditure, at one stage Bhagavan had to borrow as much as Rs. 100 crores from the Canara Bank. He even thought of selling off the Sri Sathya Sai Airport in Prashanti Nilayam. Through this single-mindedness, Swami has given a practical demonstration of the unity of thought, word and deed.”

Following is the speech by Ramakrishna of Larsen & Toubro (L & T), the construction firm that handled the project: “Bhagavan has shown His love to us in L & T by providing us with many opportunities to execute, in record time, projects like the super specialty hospital, the community flats, the canteen, the airport, the Kalyana Mandapam in Hyderabad, and the beautiful Sai Kulwant Hall.

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“L & T is engaged in many projects all over the country and in many places abroad. But nowhere have we been able to execute projects with the speed we have been able to achieve here. The only reason for this is Swami’s blessing and grace.

“It is quite common for accidents to occur in major projects such as this. But this drinking water project was completed in record time without a single accident. This is entirely due to the grace of Swami.”

 

In his statement, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, said: “The people of Anantapur District have been facing severe difficulties with regard to drinking water. Swami has solved this problem in record time, what others elsewhere could not have accomplished in the same duration.

“All this work ought to have been done by the State and the Central Government. But it was done single-handed by Bhagavan Baba. As Ramakrishna from L & T said, such massive work could not have been accomplished in such a short time, without the grace of Baba.”

“On this occasion, I have one assurance to make: The State Government will maintain this project in the same sacred spirit in which this project was started and completed. This is my public promise to You, Bhagavan Baba.”

Is this then the conclusion of the enormous water project initiated by Bhagavan Baba, a project that brought drinking water to the entire district of Anantapur with its hundreds of villages scattered over several hundred square kilometers, with population of over a million? Is the task now finished? Has Mother Easwaramma’s third wish been fulfilled? The answer is, No. The story continues and expands to include more territory and a larger population.

To be continued)

- Heart2Heart Team

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