Volume 15 - Issue 12
December 2017
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Posted on: Dec 24, 2017

Doubly Blessed In A Million Ways

The excitement and merriment that suffuses the Christmas Children’s Choir

Nikhila Sri Rao and Nilesh Sai Rao

Our happiest Christmas memories are the times when we would be at Prasanthi Nilayam in the month of December. It has become such a wonderful tradition for our family to visit our Beloved Swami every year during Holy Christmas.

Since we were babies, we would go to our special Sai home during this auspicious occasion. In fact, every trip to Puttaparthi was most treasured and most cherished in a very personal way.

Loving and Longing to be in Prasanthi

Soon after Global Akhanda Bhajans and Swami’s Birthday celebrations, we would get very excited because we knew that we would be in Puttaparthi soon to see Swami’s Divine presence.

Once we arrived in Puttaparthi all the way from Rochester, New York in USA, we would quickly settle and literally run into Kulwant Hall for darshans and bhajans. It was like we could not contain our deep excitement and joy to see our Sai Ma. Swami’s presence has indeed touched us in such a heartfelt way.

The little roses Nikhila and Nilesh offer the rose of their little hearts to their Beloved Lord

Sai Sees Us Through in ICU

We have experienced His grace right from the time we were born. We were actually born two months early and had to stay in the children’s hospital, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), with health issues for several weeks.

It is only with Swami’s infinite grace and protection that we are completely healthy and alive today. When we were only a year old, Swami graciously called our family for a personal interview and blessed both of us.

That day in 2003, Swami called it “twin day” because He called us in the morning and then He called the Australian “pink twins” in the evening. We were actually the youngest set of twins and the pink twins were the oldest set of twins in Prasanthi Nilayam.

Since that time, we were fortunate to receive His Divine blessings. On one of those occasions, when we were six years old, we had the unique opportunity to be part of a Unity of Faiths Musical Offering to our Beloved Sai called Sarva Dharma Sai Gitanjali.

As soon as Mr. John Behner, International Christmas Committee Chairman, got the approval from Swami to begin the program, we both then got up and walked to Swami.

Swami had the most beautiful smile we ever saw and was in His full glory. We then presented Swami a rose and a silver plate offering containing rice, golden raisins, cloves, and sweets shortly before the starting of our Sarva Dharma Sai Gitanjali Program presentation.

Affectionately, He took all the offerings, blessed us by showering akshata (holy rice grains) on our heads and allowed us to take Padanamaskar of His lotus feet. He also materialized a beautiful gold chain for one of us which had His form in it and told us to share His love.

What a lovely message for us, twins, about sharing even at that tender age. Swami also asked us what we were learning in SSE class. We recited the five human values: Love, Peace, Truth, Right Conduct, and Non Violence. Swami heard us patiently and then He asked us what they meant!

Both of us softly replied by giving the meanings. Swami smiled at us lovingly and said, “Very good. Keep learning the values and be good examples. I will always be with you.” He then asked us to come every year to see Him.

We were little tots but we definitely understood one thing – we felt so much warmth and love from Swami. That was an indelible memory etched forever in our hearts.

With these extraordinary experiences, we continue to learn and practise His teachings so that we may be His Sai ideal students.

Nilesh and Nikhila offering their love to their Beloved Lord in 2016

We Didn’t See Him Outside Anymore, But We Saw Him Inside Ever More

With Swami’s grace, we had special opportunities to be part of the wonderful International Children’s Christmas Choir which usually takes place on December 26.

For many years, we had wonderful blessings to see Swami’s beautiful form as He came out beaming with radiant love to all of us as we participated in the Christmas procession and sang vibrant Christmas songs.

In 2011, we went through shock and adjustment with many emotions. We were ten years old at the time and it was really hard for us to comprehend that we could no longer see Swami.

However in the past few years, we have come to accept that though we cannot physically see Swami, He is ever more present within us. We certainly feel His love and know that He is always there for us. After all, He did endearingly tell us that “I will always be with you.” That was the Divine Assurance from Swami.

During Christmas of 2011, we were able to present our personal reflections of Swami through the “Gift of Love” offering to Dear Sai. We knew with confidence that Swami is very special who loves us all. Whenever we saw His picture, we smiled and He would smile back at us.

Throughout the whole day, His divine name and lovely grin came into our minds. Swami answered all our questions and prayers and He made us very happy. Swami is our loving Mother, Father, Teacher, and most of all our Best Friend. We hold onto His hand knowing very well that He will never let go. We love to sing and play for Him and He listens to us. We feel His extraordinary grace and with a sweet smile and gentle look, He reminds us that He will never ever leave us. For sure, He is sitting in the very temple of our hearts and has given us the Gift of Love. We absolutely love Him dearly!

Every year during the International Children’s Choir Program, we have absolute joy meeting our friends from all over the world including UK, Australia, South Africa, and many others. We have become such close Sai friends. In fact, we communicate with each other ahead of time to make plans so that we all meet at the Holy Abode of Prasanthi Nilayam for Christmas!

We love going to the practices together, rehearsing, singing bhajans, sharing our Sai experiences, eating at the different canteens, visiting Swami’s birthplace and the museums, helping with Christmas decorations, and just learning from each other in so many ways. It is incredible that we all share the same love for Swami despite where we come from.

In a course of 12 days, we learn many Christmas songs from wonderful conductors like Alma Badings and Gesine Strohmeier. Along in learning the songs during the practice sessions, we get to hear delightful Swami experiences and funny stories by Mr. John Behner and Mr. Tom Lahey. We also have wonderful support from parent volunteers who serve selflessly to make sure we all eat, rest, take snacks, help with costumes, take us for darshans, and even enforcing gentle discipline during rehearsals.

The talented instrumentalists accompany and add to the beauty and rhythm of the songs. When the big performance day arrives, we all have nervous jitters but with superb excitement to sing our heart out for our Dear Swami.

We all dress in pristine white with golden, red or green silk scarves and then walk in an orderly line to Kulwant Hall. We sit together in front of Swami’s Mahasamadhi in the white marble area and with the sun streaming down, it is just a magnificent feeling of jubilation.

Christmas 2016 – Our Sweet Moments

In the past year Christmas 2016, both of us had the special opportunity to place a rose and offer the program on behalf of the International Children’s Choir to our Beloved Sai. As we walked to Swami’s divine chair, we had a nostalgic feeling of Swami’s physical presence and remembered our earlier lovely interactions with Swami. It was very special for both of us.

We then started the choir program and it was an assortment of Christmas melodies and tunes for about an hour. Interspersed between the songs would be devout Christmas readings and messages from the Holy Bible. After each song, the audience clapped loudly and encouraged all of us. The entire song set had a spellbinding effect on all the devotees in the Sai Kulwant Hall.

The incredible day ended with pictures in front of Swami’s Mahasamadhi as Sai bhajans were mellifluously rendered by the Sai students. Just when we thought it could not get any better with such a marvellous experience, Swami then showered us with more blessings in the form of gifts like Saree for the girls, Ganesha idols, white cloth material for the boys, and delicious prasadam.

After having Swami’s divine darshan, we then quietly came out and gathered outside to talk about our sublime experiences. It was time also to say our goodbyes to all with warm hugs of love and tell each other that we will meet once again next year for Christmas!

Truly Christmas is a beautiful and unforgettable experience at Prasanthi Nilayam! As Swami says, “JOY of Christmas is Jesus First, Others Second, and Yourself Last.”

Swami in His infinite compassion gives us all so much love and blessings and we pray that we be His Divine instruments to serve humanity. We have immense gratitude to our Lord of the Universe, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and thank Him profusely. Jai Sai Ram.

- Radio Sai Team

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