May 8, 2009 – Buddha Poornima in Prasanthi Nilayam

Vesak is an annual holiday observed traditionally by practicing Buddhists in South Asian and South East Asian countries like Nepal, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Indonesia, Pakistan and India. It falls on the full moon day of the lunar month Vaishaaka. Sometimes informally called "Buddha's birthday," it actually encompasses the birth, enlightenment, and passing (Parinirvana) of Gautama Buddha. In India, it is celebrated as Buddha Poornima. And in Puttaparthi, where one gets to see the potpourri of all festivals in the world, Buddhists from all the above mentioned nations congregate to celebrate their festival in the divine presence. The whole of Prasanthi Nilayam, the Mandir especially, had a transformed look. The theme of the 2009 celebrations was, "Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah (Non-violence is the highest conduct of righteousness). This message was liberally splashed in multi-coloured banners everywhere and festoons hung from the top adding to the gaiety.

The programmes were scheduled for the evening in the Sai Kulwant Hall that looked on that day like a Buddhist temple. Chinese decorations hung everywhere and a beautiful statue of The Buddha adorned an altar that had been specially erected on the main stage. More than thousand Buddhists were seated in the hall. The celebrations had been organized by the devotees from Indonesia and Malaysia. The women devotees from Indonesia were in the traditional golden attire and they played the Gamelan music to welcome Swami into the hall as He arrived at 4:30 p.m. This beating of the traditional drums in wonderful synchronization created an atmosphere wherein one really felt that he/she was seated in some far-eastern country. As Swami arrived on the stage, He seemed to observe the altar for a while. He then lit a candle which was used to light the other candles in the altar.

     

It is traditionally (wrongly) considered that the Buddha criticized the Vedas. Actually, He was against the misinterpretation and the wrong practice of the Vedas that the people indulged in out of ignorance. Hasn't Ahimsa, the central principle of Buddhism, always been one of the five fundamental values of the Sanathana Dharma? And on that day, it was such a beautiful experience as the chants of Buddham Sharanam Gacchami mingled with the chants of the Vedas. The traditional Buddhist chant had new additions - Satyam Sharanam Gacchami and Premam Sharanam Gacchami. It was indeed the experience of the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God. A delegation of Buddhist monks who were seated in the centre of the hall on the gents’ side added to the wonderful flavour.

Lightening the lamp with the divine hand
 
Dr. Raveendran, the regional in-charge

Swami then signaled for the programme to begin. Dr. Raveendran, the regional in-charge spearheading the operations, offered salutations and gratitude for His magnanimity for permitting them to celebrate the occasion in His Divine Presence. He introduced the two guest speakers for the evening session, to speak on the theme, “Ahimsa Paramo Dharma”, Non-violence is the Supreme Dharma. The first speaker was Dr. Art Ong Jumsai from Thailand, a scientist and educationist par excellence whose contribution to Sathya Sai Educare has been commendable. Dr. Jumsai made a mention about the central teaching of the Buddha, the four noble truths, namely, there is suffering in the world, there is a cause for this suffering, there is a way to get rid of this suffering, and the way to do it. Referring to the common man’s slogan “I want Peace”, Dr. Jumsai, highlighted on the importance of cutting the ‘I’ and the "want" to earn Peace.

 
 
Dr. Art Ong Jumsai from Thailand

Man has to have control over his senses to achieve the much sought after Peace, said Jumsai narrating the often repeated story of Bhagavan which revolved around a king and his five wives with bundle of desires.

Talking about the famous Sathya Sai School in Thailand, which is in its 17th year of running, Dr. Jumsai highlighted how the school evolved into a role model educational institution, of course, by His Divine Grace and Guidance, winning awards galore and continuously transforming young hearts and minds through the most effective tool, Sathya Sai Education in Human Values.

 

The next speaker was Allen Yeoh, a practicing advocate from Hong Kong. He said that the heart is the seat of non-violence; a person with love will not entertain any thought of non-violence. Quoting Bhagavan’s teachings, the speaker said, "Non-violence is to be loving in thought, word and deed, and not merely refraining from inflicting injuries in the physical sense. Non-violence has to be practised with purity of thought, word and deed." He urged each one all to pose the question unto themself as to how best to put into practice Bhagavan’s teachings, for we all have the greatest opportunity of living with the Avatar.
Both the speakers were lovingly blessed by Swami, and then Bhagavan was requested for the divine discourse. Swami pointed to the children in costumes saying that the little ones were eagerly waiting to perform in front of Him. Thus, it was that the programmes began.

Allen Yeoh, a advocate from
Hong Kong.
 

Representative children moved up the stage with details of the programme and floral offerings to Swami. The Lord blessed them and then there was the announcement about the programme about to take place. This was followed by a colouful display of Indonesian traditional dance by Sathya Sai Balvikas, Denpasar, and the Sathya Sai School, Denspasar depicting the life and spiritual attainment of Gautama Buddha who became Lord Buddha by attaining Nirvana. It was done to the rhythmic beating of the traditional drums, and singing and chanting by the ladies who were dressed in golden attire. The dance was short and sweet, and had a moving backdrop comprising of toy birds, bees and butterflies. 

     


     

This was followed by a repertoire of songs by the Malaysian Choir in Chinese and Sanskrit conducted by Stanley Cheong. They were accompanied by Aung Chan Chooi on the piano and the songs were in devotion to the Buddha and Swami. Most of them were in the foreign tongue, Chinese, but their sweetness was unmistakable as Swami sat listening to them. Many of their songs were adaptations of popular Sai bhajans and everyone in the audience recognised the tunes, and in turn, the feelings, though they could not grasp the meaning of the words. Midway through the programme, Swami moved into the interview room. But as He did that, He signaled to them to continue singing and that He would soon be back. The choir went on and concluded, but obeying Swami's instructions, began to sing the last song, once more. It was the Hindi and Chinese rendering of the bhajan, "Yuga Yuga Ke Avatara." Soon Swami arrived with a smile on His face.

their songs were filled with Devotion
 
Stanley Cheong the conducter of the Choir

He called the conductor and materialized a Navaratna (nine-gem)ring for him. The conductor was happy beyond measure. Meanwhile, the devotees began to sing bhajans. The second bhajan was being sung by a lady. Swami saw her singing and seemed drawn by it. He asked to be taken to the ladies side of the stage and He sat on that side. Midway through the bhajan, Swami called that lady and materialized a gold chain for her. The lady and everyone in the audience let out gasps of joy as Swami put the chain around her neck very lovingly.

materialized a Navaratna ring for the conducter
 
With so lovingly Swami put the chain
around her neck

He then sent clothes, sarees for the ladies, and safari pieces for the gents, to be distributed to all of them. As they were all celebrating this outpouring of love, Swami said that He would move down and grant group pictures to all of them! Like bees rushing to the Lotus, the devotees buzzed around His lotus feet. Many had tears of joy at this unexpected bounty. Some of them wept and did not seem to know how to channelize their joy! Swami posed with all of them and then granting the Abhayahastha, slowly moved back to the stage. Prasadam was then distributed and Aarthi performed.

Distribution of cloths to all the participant
 
The awaiting moment for everybody

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