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Posted on: Dec 21, 2016
The Story of Sai - 5
The antiquity of The Ramayana, The Mahabharata, and The Bhagavatha is unquestionable and indecipherable. Yet in India they are as fresh and alive in people's consciousness as the stories of their own families. Rama, Krishna, Radha, etc. are almost a part of their daily life and living. What makes these legendary tales contemporary in every age? Rama's paintings and sculptures or Krishna's images and carvings, poems on Rama's glory or discussions on Krishna's message, are as passionately done now as they happened in 3 AD or 13 AD or 1300 AD. What makes them defy time and be relevant to every society over ages? Is it the incredible heroics of Rama? Or the delightful and miraculous sport of Krishna? Or the awesome plot of these captivating poetic narrations? While all this is true, what makes these epics eternal is something more fundamental.
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“The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are like the heart and the head of India, and are as vital to India as the heart and the head are to a human body,” Bhagawan says and goes on to state what makes these epics so vital: “Sathya and dharma are not related to merely one person, one period of time, or one country; they are related to all people, all periods of time, and all countries...” It is because these tales are nothing but beautiful elaborations of Truth and Righteousness, that they have stood the test of time and circumstance. But this essence can be grasped only if these epics are read not as scintillating stories but as reinvigorating treatises on how to lead a life anchored to Truth and Righteousness.
As much as this is true for these ancient epics, it is the same with the current Sai Bhagavatha too. Every scene and character, sequence and incident, twist and turn in the Sai Saga is for the purpose of divinising man through the practice of Truth, Righteousness, Peace and Love. But to assimilate this deeply and internalise it intensely so that it can be translated into real action, the Story of Sai needs to be not just read but meditated upon assiduously. This series, started in November 2016, commemorating Bhagawan's 91st Birthday is an attempt in this direction. We hope this will help us to reflect more profoundly on the Sai Bhagavatha and implement the lessons learnt more powerfully in our day-to-day existence.
For generations, the Ratnakaram Raju family was known for its piety. The transformation in the character and mind-set of the family was often traced to the saintly ancestor Sage Venkavadhuta. He was in fact the family deity. Sri Kondama Raju always felt a deep connect with him. Apparently he had seen Venkavadhuta in person and had the opportunity to serve him food, and directly listen to him. It is the powerful influence of these priceless moments that inspired Kondama Raju to lead a pure and simple life, one that is always tuned to the Divine.
It is not surprising that Kondama Raju frequently referred to Venkavadhuta in his conversations. The Sage was believed to have come to Andhra Pradesh from Maharashtra. One afternoon under a Banyan tree, he is said to have communed with Kondama Raju and revealed, “The earth is in deep distress...Narayana Himself would come.”
Whenever Kondama Raju described the Avadhuta it would be in such words:
“No face could ever be gloomy in his presence for he was always smiling, and jovial. No door ever closed as he passed by because everyone invited him in. People everywhere claimed him as their kinsman but he himself refused to accept any relationship or ties with anyone. He was hungry only when another in his presence was hungry. He wore clothes only when they were wound around him. He carried his body as if it were a dress put on him; he had no attachment to it. So the rain washed it, the Sun dried it, and sleep visited it occasionally and left whenever it was unwelcome. When he looked, his eyes shone bright. When he spoke, his voice was steady and soothing. When he placed his hand on the head of someone, that touch was a prelude to paradise. He was like a breeze... a cloud... a bird on flight from earth to heaven... no one knew anything about him... none could guess where he came from and to where indeed he went. He was here, there, anywhere, everywhere for more years than anyone could calculate or guess.”
Legend has it that the Venkavadhuta went into Jeevasamadhi (eternal communion with the Divine), about 300 years ago. This took place in the village Chowdeswaripura. However since 1846, it has been known as Hussainpura because of the nomenclature change instituted by the then Nawab of Hyderabad. Currently, it is in the Pavagada Taluk of the state of Karnataka, a few kilometres from the border of Andhra Pradesh.
The story goes that one day the bullocks of a peasant, Mukkarollu fell into a well. Many people tried to rescue the animals but in vain. Venkavadhuta was then passing by and looking at the chaos there, remarked, “Why do you all struggle so much? No need to pull them. The bullocks will come out on their own.” The next second he lovingly called out to the bullocks, and up they came – walking! The villagers were flabbergasted! They realised he was no ordinary holy man. So they requested him not to leave their place. The grateful Mukkarollu offered a hut to the revered saint. In that space, which served as the saint's residence for many years, stands today a historic temple dedicated to this enlightened being.
There is another tale of how after his Jeevasamadhi, a few Muslims complained to the Nawab of Hyderabad that the Avadhuta's body was buried in the middle of the village. The Nawab then ordered that the tomb be removed. A soldier was assigned the task of uncovering the tomb. As he did this, what he saw left him completely bedazzled and befuddled – all the puja material were neatly laid out and the lamps were still burning, bright and steady! Horrified and humbled, he instantly closed the tomb and transformed into a devotee. Not only him, the entire community there, once and for all, surrendered to the sacredness of that shrine. In fact since then, many including the soldier, contributed generously towards the development of this temple. The people of that area even now confide how on several occasions they have spotted saintly personages come and disappear from that holy enclosure.
It is probably because of his intense devotion to Venkavadhuta that Sri Kondama Raju named his two sons Venkama Raju (the prefixes, 'Pedda' and 'Chinna' in all likelihood came later to distinguish them). Providentially, both of them inherited not only their father’s musical, literary and dramatic virtuosity, but also his piety and simplicity.
On May 23, 1940, when Pedda Venkama Raju, intensely frustrated with the puzzling and paranormal behaviour of young Sathya angrily exhorts Him to reveal who He truly is, for the first time, the 14-year old Sathyanarayana uncovers His identity and declares, “I am Sai Baba... I belong to Apasthamba Suthra and I am of Bharadwaja Gothra...” Then He adds, “I have come because Venkavadhuta and other saints prayed for My coming.”
It is evident that the Transcendental Reality encases Himself in an earthly body more as a response to the prayer of His devotees than anything else. Rama came because the sages then prayed to the Almighty to arrive on earth. Krishna descended because countless pure souls beseeched the Lord to descend for their deliverance. When Prahlada called out to Him, the Lord had to take a grotesque-looking human-lion form because of Hiranyakashipu's mighty powers, but He did come.
Especially when the good and godly pray, God always arrives because they undoubtedly seek the larger good of the world. For them, He can go to any length. Thus, He comes because they ask for His coming. If they had asked for only destruction of evil or protection from a particular calamity or the granting of a certain boon, the omnipotent Lord could have done that for them in a million ways, without having to assume an earthly vesture. But when the devotees miss Him, He comes down in a mesmerising form. It is the same that happens within us too. When the pangs of separation from Him grow into an unbearable pain and emptiness in our heart, He manifests within, most magnificently, melting all our sorrows in an instant into unspeakable ecstasy.
Therefore, the Avatar comes only to fill our starved hearts with love. In fact this is what Baba said on Krishna's Birthday in 1988: “You should note that the Divine comes as an Avatar only to teach mankind the way of Love... because only through love, and the practice of love as sacrifice, can man realise the Divine.” It was the same in the present era too. So many evolved souls like Venkavadhuta prayed for His presence and the Lord consented.
Sri Aurobindo, for instance, withdrew himself from his disciples considerably from the beginning of 1926. From the trend of talks he delivered before and after August 15, 1926 it was becoming clear that the importance of a link between the highest Supermind and mind was being emphasised; he called it the Overmind. During those six years (1920-26), it was also apparent that he had gone much further not only in the ascent and into the Higher Consciousness but also in bringing about its descent into Nature. Several times in early November, his evening talks turned on the possibility of the descent of the Divine Consciousness and its process. Finally on November 24, 1926 (just the day after Baba's birth) Sri Aurobindo called for a special assembly of all his disciples. He was looking unusually radiant that day. What followed next was a session of deep meditative silence for about 45 minutes, and then he blessed all of them, profusely and joyously. Later he revealed: “It was (the day of) the descent of Krishna into the physical.” Explaining more he said, “The descent of Krishna would mean the descent of the Overmind Godhead preparing, though not itself actually bringing, the descent of Supermind and Ananda.”
Perhaps Sri Aurobindo was referring to the descent of bliss (Ananda) in the hearts of devotees which would happen with the “descent of Krishna into the physical”. In fact Baba Himself wrote in a letter to His brother in 1947: “I have a Task: to foster all mankind, and fill people’s lives with Ananda.”
However, it is truly difficult to decipher the words and acts of Avadhutas (self-realised souls) and evolved beings like Sri Aurobindo. Nevertheless what is clear and confirmed by Bhagawan Himself is that He came because enlightened and pious beings intensely longed for Him.
What is also interesting to note is that Venkavadhuta is believed to have come from Maharashtra, the state which witnessed the first incarnation of the triune Sai Avatar. It almost seems like he was God's messenger pleasantly doing the task of preparing the space selected by the Lord for His second incarnation in flesh and blood. Perhaps, this preparation begins with God's name pulsating in the breath of the members of the Ratnakaram household, and singing His glory becoming their life-blood. Because Divinity can manifest only in a milieu of purity. Thus, the touch of Venkavadhuta transformed Sri Kondama Raju's life into a saga of devotion and servitude. And it is this sacred blood that flowed into the veins of his sons, preparing them to eventually become the earthly Father and Uncle of the Sri Sathya Sai Avatar.
− Bishu Prusty
Radio Sai Team
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