Posted on: July 19, 2011
fragrant blossoms of sai educare
How the Master Gardener nurtures His precious saplings
It was May 16, 1964. Bhagawan had blessed and performed the thread ceremony of over 300 children. While addressing these young hearts who had been initiated into the Gayathri Mantra after the upanayanam function, Baba said, “Bodha (teachings and advice) is the seed which you must plant in the heart, water this sapling with prema (love), manure it with faith and courage, keep off pests with the insecticides of bhajan (devotional singing) and sathsang (company of the good), so that in the end you can benefit. This seed of good teachings will grow into the tree of knowledge, and yield the fruit of wisdom.”
The Divine Gardener has taken upon Himself, the task of cultivating a beautiful garden. He waters and gently cares for all His saplings and delights in watching them grow into mighty trees, mature shrubs and bushes, and lush lawns that give beauty and pleasure, fruits and nourishment, shade and rest for all humanity. And for this garden, Sai created a lovely nursery too. He called it - Sri Sathya Sai Bal Vikas.
The Bal Vikas movement took roots in 1969 with Baba founding the Mahila Vibhaag (women’s wing) of the Organization. Speaking to them Baba said, "Run a Bala Vihar for young children where they will listen to stories from the scriptures, the epics, and the lives of saints belonging to all religions. Children must also be trained to sing bhajans and enact small plays with themes selected from the classics. They must be taught to cultivate habits of discipline, for these alone can ensure happiness: both individual and social."
The idea of the Bal Vikas movement is to raise a generation of boys and girls who have a clean and clear conscience. Thus it is the primary basis for the grand goal of restoring dharma (righteousness) in the world; it is the nursery where saplings are tended to before they become part of the Sai Garden. And today, this nursery is flourishing under the loving service of the thousands of Bal Vikas Gurus everywhere.
Here is a sample of such beautiful samplings:
Saisha Sharma is from Shimla in the state of Himachal pradesh. She recounts:
“Once my friends called me and forced me to accompany them to the Ritz complex to see a Hindi movie. Since I was alone at home, I thought of going with them without telling my mom. As I got ready and was locking the door, a thought suddenly came into my mind that if I am dishonest with anyone, my own life would be dishonest with me. This was what my Bal Vikas guru had taught me. So I called my friends again to tell them I would not be coming.”
Harish from the state of Karnataka learnt the joy of truth after a small incident.
“During a project work assignment, my friends forced me to play cricket. As we began our Chemistry teacher walked in and questioned as to why we were making a noise. All my friends lied saying they were simply working on the projects. Deep inside I knew I had made a mistake and that we should not lie to teachers. So I told her the plain truth that we were playing cricket. She walked away quietly without punishing or even chiding us. I felt she was happy with the truth. I also felt good after telling the truth instead of suffering the guilt of lying.”
15 year old Mayank Gandhi from Katni in Madhya Pradesh shared his brief tryst with the devil which he successfully withstood:
“Once I got very poor marks in my exams. Like many of my friends, I thought maybe I could copy my father’s signature on my report card. But later I discarded the idea because I knew that Swami would not like it. The simple thought that came to me was - ‘I cannot be a wrong doer’. I was developing into an individual who abides by truth and morality, thanks to Bal Vikas.”
It is not as if these children are foolhardy in their following of values. Baba tells the story of a hermit who sees a deer running for its life. A hunter soon follows and is confused as to where the deer went. He confronts the hermit and says, “Tell me old man, where did the deer go. Remember, you cannot lie to me.” Speaking the truth would be death for the deer. The hermit smiles and says, “Dear sir! The eyes that see do not have the ability to speak and the tongue that speaks did not see!”
This kind of wit and tact is often employed by the Bal Vikas children as Ms. Nikhilasai Chakkera from Vadodra in Gujarat recollects:
“Bal Vikas has helped me solve a lot of problems in school. One day during my exams, one of my friends called me in a whisper and asked for an answer. I acted as if I did not hear her because I had been taught that I should not help students to cheat during exams as it did not help them in their progress and only caused harm to their future.”
The training under the gurus not only helps the children refrain from bad behaviour and wrong actions, it also inculcates in them values and good principles. The changes are sometimes very subtle but definitely powerful.
Dikshita Uppal from Panchkula, Haryana, talks about one such subtle change Bal Vikas brought in her:
“Yesterday I was travelling with my family in a car. My father was driving when suddenly some monkeys came in front of the vehicle and one of them got hit. Unfortunately he died! The moment I saw this, my hands automatically folded and lips murmured prayers so that his soul could rest in peace. This kind of feeling came only by God’s Grace and the Bal Vikas classes which taught us the value of oneness and love.”
The case of Sajjan Kumar from the state of Rajasthan is a fitting example of the power of love. Baba says that Love is the greatest weapon for it annihilates enmity without killing the enemy; it destroys the badness without destroying the bad people. With tears of gratitude to Swami, he narrates:
“Previously our lives were bitterly unhappy. There was no peace in our hearts and minds. In my 5th standard I was very callous, a fighter cock and weak in studies. Hurting others and quarelling was my daily routine. My parents scolded me for my bad activities but I did not care. I did not eat properly. I would come home only late in the night and watch TV. My parents beat me up, abused me and asked me to die! Then came Bal Vikas.
“I began to see tremendous changes in me. I learnt that God resides in all. Can you imagine that I started singing bhajans?! I started to respect my parents and elders. I learnt prayers. My family has transformed. Hard days are still there. There are times when my parents don’t get work but I console them saying that tough days will pass just like day arrives after every night. They also love me and encourage me in my studies.”
We often hear the phrase of one bad apple spoiling the whole basket. There seems to be a paradigm shift here and one good apple seems to transform the whole basket into good fruits. That was what happened in the case of Sajjan Kumar.
It is the same story when it comes to Kumari Sai Sneha Das from Bhubhaneshwar, Orissa:
“The Group-II Bal Vikas changed my life style because I got my mother as my Guru here. She guided me both in class and real life. My family which was completely non-vegetarian became vegetarian in food habits. Before Bal Vikas, I had never seen any of my family members doing prayers or singing bhajans. Now I see my grandparents and other members of my joint family taking interest in bhajans and God. I feel very happy and proud. I had lacked self-confidence initially. But knowing that Swami is with me always has made me much more confident!”
Lessons for life are not at the cost of lessons needed for a living! in fact both of these are taught synergistically as we learn from Nikita Rath, a fourteen year old girl from Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh. She says:
“I remember that I used to get a Re.1 coin from my parents for one good behavior to be put in a piggy bank as told by my Bal Vikas teacher. But for each mistake, two rupees would be taken away. It was to remind me that when the piggy bank would be opened before Bhagawan’s birthday, only the good work done would count. This way I learnt to save and spend judiciously and also to behave well.”
As these saplings grow, they do not vie with each other. They are not envious of the success of others and celebrate each others' joy while sharing the sorrows. There is no bar of caste, creed, race or religion. The Bal Vikas is a happy garden of great variety.
Mahaziver Master, from Maharashtra feels blessed to be in Bal Vikas. She smiles as she says:
“Baba has stated that all religions are the same in essence. Following one's own religion will take one closer to God. This has been reinforced by Bal Vikas, and my faith in my own religion, Zorastrianism, has been strengthened. In fact I was blessed with the opportunity to chant our Zorastrian prayers in the Divine Presence at the Children’s festival held in Prashanti Nilayam in 2005.”
Rajdeep Bose from West Bengal further illustrates the good traits that have developed in him, thanks to Bal Vikas.
“I am very lucky that I have got the blessings of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba from my Bal Vikas class. I try to maintain peace always and that is why I was selected as class monitor. Every year, after my annual exams, I collect the unused pages of all exercise books and bind them for reuse. In Bal Vikas we are taught not to waste anything.
“One day, my classmate, Sheik Mohammed Ali forgot to bring his tiffin. Nobody gave him anything to eat as he was a Muslim. I shared my tiffin for I believe in only one religion, that of humanity. Another day, when all of us were running and playing, a small girl fell down and suffered a cut on her knee. I took her for first aid and got the wound dressed. The girl thanked me and I felt so happy. Bal Vikas is a blessing of Sai Baba.”
There is a little story about the Divine Gardener. One day as He was strolling in the garden, seeing His plants, He was very happy and relaxed. Suddenly, He heard the wailing of a child. He turned around to see that a little marigold flower was shedding tears. With all love, He held the blossom and asked, “My little one! Why do you cry?” Amidst sobs the marigold replied, “I cry because I am not as beautiful as the rose. I am not as fragrant as the rose. If I were like a rose, I could have made you much happier!”
The Gardener smiled. He wiped away the tears of the beautiful one and said, “Dear one, if I wanted another rose I would have planted another rose. I planted you because I want marigold. I want you. I love you. He gently kissed the flower and a broad smile came over the marigold's petals. The Gardener continued along His stroll.
Baba has made each child feel special in His own way. Each one has experienced His love and feels like Swami has come for them. That is the matchless story of His Love.
One little flower from the Sai Garden, refuses to tell her name but she writes:
“I am a very poor orphan staying in Puina’s shelter (home) for girls situated in Thangmeiband Yumnam Leikai in Imphal. When I was 5 years old, I had been brought to this Home through a miracle by the Child Welfare Community, Govt. of Manipur. I got good food, enough clothes and good education. But I missed the love of my parents whom I had lost; it often disheartened me.
“That changed on one Sunday morning in September 2005, when some smiling ladies and gents came to our home and spoke to Miss Anee about starting a Bal Vikas class here. From that day onwards, I learnt so many nice things like meditation, chanting Omkara and stories of many heroes. Now, I get up early and pray to Swami. I take bath, change my dress and go to the Meditation Hall. In the evening, we have bhajans; these sessions have brought all of my friends close to one another. My studies have improved and I receive so much love from everyone. I don’t feel lonely anymore.
“I am a child still in the 6th standard. I want to finish the Bal Vikas course and become a Youth Seva Dal to serve my saviour Sathya Sai Baba forever.”
Sai Kripa Pratek from Bihar and Jharkhand had an unforgettable experience. He recounts:
“I remember an important incident that happened in 2009. By Swami’s grace, I was part of the troupe performing the drama from our state. The evening before the drama, our state president received the instructions that there would be no performance. We all became very sad and cried bitterly. It was at this time that I remembered a story that my Bal Vikas Guru had told me about the power of prayer; this kept occurring in my head very strongly. Swami gave me the very good thought of doing 108 pradakshinas (circumambulation) around the Ganesha temple in the morning. Nothing happened and the next day, we left Puttaparthi.
“While on our return journey, when the train was at Dharmavaram, we received a message that Baba had called us back to see our drama! Our happiness knew no bounds - Swami had stopped the train for our sake. We came back and the drama happened! Swami spent more than three hours with us!”
The Sai Garden is a fresh and fragrant one. It is forever beautiful for it has been tended to by the Divine Gardener Himself. And these gardens are present all over the country. Let us please take a stroll in these beautiful nurseries and enjoy a whiff of fresh air in the otherwise polluted world. Let us taste the sweet fruits of virtues and innocence and let these flavours linger in us. Let us get inspired to pick up spades and seeds and start helping in the maintenance and blossoming of these gardens whose owner and care-taker is God Himself.
- Radio Sai team
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