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  Volume 4 - Issue 11 NOVEMBER 2006
 
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PRASHANTI DIARY

CHRONICLES OF HEAVEN ON EARTH


Bhagavan says, “Hands that help are holier than lips that pray.” This year the devotees witnessed a unique combination of both aspects during September/October 2006. On one side, the students were chanting Vedic hymns (lips that pray) with perfect intonations, while at the same time, there was another large group of students who carried Bhagavan’s prasadam in the form of clothes and food to every doorstep in the neighboring villages (hands that help). This is how the Festival of Dasara was celebrated in the Divine Presence. We now bring a detailed account of how the proceedings of Dasara took place in Puttaparthi.

September 26 – October 2: Veda Saptaha Purusha Gyan Yagna and Grama Seva 2006

As it happens every year, devotees kept surging in for the commencement of the Veda Purusha Saptaha Gyan Yagna on the 26th of September. The rithwiks (priests) had assembled in the mandir for the ceremonial Kalasha Puja accompanied by the chanting of hymns from the Vedas. They then proceeded to the Poornachandra Hall for commencing the Yagna.

As per Swami’s command, the Grama Seva began at this same auspicious moment. It was a wonderful sight to see hundreds of students circumambulating the mandir, singing bhajans, and then proceeding on their journey which would put Swami’s message of love into action. Bhagavan watched the boys until the last one had completed the pradakshana around the temple. Sri Sudhir Bhaskar, Sri Narsimha Murthy, the wardens of the two hostels and other group leaders led the procession of staff and students as they then went to assemble in the Poornachandra Hall.

 
The Kalasham is carried by priests in a procession to the Poornachandra Hall

Students circumambulating the Mandir before
proceeding for Grama Seva

The Yagna Begins

Swami came to give darshan in the Poornachandra Hall at 8:30 a.m. after which the Yagna fire was lit and the seven-day Gyan Yagna began. Even the Gods of the highest heavens would consider themselves fortunate to witness a yagna presided over by the Yagna Purusha Himself. The priests were ably supported in their chanting by the students of the Veda group.

After some time, the students and staff boarded their trucks and vehicles and left for the Grama Seva amidst loud chanting of bhajans. They carried along with them dhotis and saris to be given to every family along with pulihora (tamarind rice) and laddu (sweet) prasadam. This being the first day, Puttaparthi village was covered wherein each and every person received prasadam. About 6,000 cloth parcels and 40,000 food packets were distributed. The distribution was done through 6 groups, each consisting of 25 members and a group leader.

 
The Sacred Fire being lit the traditional way
 
Students ably accompany the learned Purohits in Veda chanting

September 27, 2006

The second day of Grama Seva started in the morning at 9:00 a.m. and lasted until 1:00 p.m. As per Swami's instructions, the students went around the village doing nagar sankeertan and Veda chanting before commencing the Grama Seva in the village. This practice was followed in every village where students distributed Bhaghawan's Prasadam. 7,500 families were blessed with food and clothes packets. Over 30,000 food packets and laddus were distributed by the students and the staff, covering 20 surrounding villages.

In the afternoon, Swami came for darshan at 4:30 p.m. and sat in Sai Kulwant Hall. Students seeking Swami’s blessings sat with trays containing clove and yellow rice. Swami called them and lovingly blessed each one. At 5:00 p.m., Sri S. V. Giri, ex-Vice Chancellor of the University, was asked by Bhagavan to speak about the Navarathri festival and its significance. In his speech, Sri Giri spoke about Grama Seva and the immaculate planning of all the activities personally carried out by Swami for the seven-day Seva operation. He also pointed out that during the Athi Rudra Maha Yagna, Swami’s involvement was to the minutest detail. And He did all this for the peace of the entire world. He also related personal incidents from his life, when Swami saved him from many trying situations while he was State Relief Commissioner in 1986 during the devastating Andhra floods.

On the way to distant villages
Students singing Nagar sankeertan before commencing Seva

First Dasara Discourse

At 5:30 p.m., the assembled devotees were thrilled to see Swami standing up and the microphones being arranged, as Bhagavan was about to deliver His first discourse for the Dasara celebrations. Bhagavan first elucidated the meaning of the Dasara festival:

“The festival that is being celebrated today is meant only to encourage you. The ten-day Dasara festival is meant to control your ten senses. The legend says that Goddess Chamundi killed the demon Mahisha during this Dasara festival. What is the inner meaning of this story? We should not under any circumstances associate ourselves with demons. You are a human being and not a demon. How can there be friendship between a human being and a demon? A human being shall have relationship with another human being only.”

Speaking on the principle of Love, Bhagavan said: “I always address you as embodiments of love, the reason being, I am suffused with love. Love is My property. You all are heirs to that property. I will distribute that love to one and all. I do not hate anyone. I have no selfishness at all. My love is selfless love.”

At the conclusion of His nectarine discourse, Swami sang the bhajan, “Prema Mudhita Manasa Se Kaho” to the joy of all the devotees present.

 
   
Bhagawan delivers the first
discourse this Dasara

September 28, 2006

This morning, after having darshan and blessings of Bhagavan, the students and staff proceeded for Grama Seva at 9:30 a.m. They covered another 20 villages in the Kothacheru and Bukkapatnam mandals. They spread Bhagavan’s message of “Manava Seva is Madhava Seva” by distributing clothes and food packets to all the people, not leaving even a single person deprived of Bhagavan’s prasadam.

The Gyana Yagna Sapthaha continued in the auditorium from early morning. After giving darshan to the devotees in Sai Kulwant hall, Bhagavan went to the Poornachandra auditorium for the Yagna. Along with specific prayers of the Yagna, the devotees could attend pujas to the Goddesses Saraswati, Lakshmi and Durga, as well as parayan (recitation) of the Bhagavatham and the Ramayana. There was also one priest carrying out Surya namaskar to Bhagavan.

School children blessed with Prasadam

One of the Purohits performs Surya namaskar to Swami

In the afternoon, Swami permitted two speakers to address the audience. The first was Sri Ajit Popat from the UK who spoke on Grama Seva and how one can attain true knowledge. He stated that we have to believe completely in Sai as the Poorna Avatar of the age and that belief itself would lead to wisdom. He mentioned that this day also happened to be the birthday of Shirdi Sai Baba. Sri Popat brought a team of 20 dedicated youths from the UK who participated in the Grama Seva along with the students.

The next speaker was the All India President of the SSSS Organisation, Sri V. Srinivasan, who spoke about the Navarathri function and how it is being celebrated all over India in various ways. He mentioned that in the southern states the custom of Kollu is prevalent – the keeping of idols and statues of various gods and goddesses in the home for nine days with get-togethers of relatives and friends. In Gujarat they celebrate with garba and group dances where as in Bengal, Assam, and the northeastern states, they perform the Durga Puja, etc. In short, the whole of India celebrates this festival when the Goddess slays the demon Narakasura with the trident. “Swami has also given us the trident to slay our inner enemies with the mantra of ‘Daiva preeti, Paap bheeti and Sangha Neeti’ – Love for God, fear of sin, and love for humanity,” he said.

Sri. Ajit Popat shares his views with
the assembled devotees
Sri V.Srinivasan addresses the devotees
in the Divine Presence

“When I Make the Devotees Happy, I Am Happy”

Swami then delighted the assembly by rising to give His divine discourse and spoke for forty minutes. Bhagavan magnanimously gave some precious details about Himself:

 

“Several people wonder, ‘Swami is nearing 81 years, yet, His physical body does not reveal any signs of old age.’ My answer to those people is: My dear devotees, I am not taking unsacred food or breathing polluted air. I am breathing the air of prayers of the devotees. How then can I lose My divine effulgence? I have no ailment of any kind. I have no pain at all! Sometime back, I fell down on the floor on account of an inadvertent error committed by a student. I broke My leg then. Hence, I feel a little difficulty in walking. That is all. There is another reason too. Nowadays I don’t feel like walking. Nevertheless, I am coming to Sai Kulwant Hall daily and giving darshan to the devotees. What difficulty or pain is involved in this routine? I do not have any pain or suffering.

“When I am able to make the devotees happy, I too am happy. Sorrows, difficulties and pain are nowhere near Me. I am always happy and blissful. Bliss is My food. There is no greater happiness than My bliss. If for any reason I am unable to come out and give darshan to the devotees, I feel very sad: ‘Alas! How much the devotees are pining for My darshan. For how long have they been waiting in the hall. How much suffering they are undergoing?’"

“Sometimes I may be late in coming to Sai Kulwant Hall due to some urgent work. Still I do not miss giving darshan to the devotees. Hence, you should not feel that Swami has not come due to pain or suffering. I am revealing these facts to you today so that you may not feel any distress because of My absence and always be happy and cheerful.”

Blessing the Assembled devotees with the Divine Discourse
   

Later, Swami gave us some valuable insights to maintain a healthy mind:

“You may have some physical pain or mental anxieties, but you should ensure that they do not disturb your Atma Tattwa (principle of the Atma). If you are thus firmly established in the Atma Tattwa, nothing can bother you. This is the message of Navarathri. We encounter several difficulties, sorrow, pain, etc. We are mentally disturbed day in and day out due to several reasons. But, we should ignore them with a detached feeling, ‘They are not mine, they are somebody else’s.’ They just come and go like passing clouds. As for Myself, I do not at all attach importance to them.”

September 29, 2006

This day began like the previous morning with darshan, when Swami sat on the veranda for twenty minutes listening to the vedic hymns chanted by students. Immediately after darshan, the staff and students left for Grama Seva at 9:00 a.m. singing bhajans. Meanwhile, Veda chanting, and Devi Parayana continued in the Poornachandra auditorium. Nineteen villages under the Puttaparthi mandal were blessed with Bhagavan’s prasadam, which included Pedapalli, Konapuram, Marlapalli, Iragarajupalli, Kammavanipalli and Kotturu.

Later in the morning, there was a surprise in store for the tiny tots. At 10:00 a.m., Sai Kulwant Hall was empty except for the primary school boys who were lined up near the veranda. Suddenly, Swami came and approached the line of bright expectant faces. And then, wonder of wonders, He started to pass right alongside them, giving a most personal and intimate darshan to these sweet and innocent boys. One could feel their excitement and joy as Bhagavan passed by the entire row – and as He did, the boys would run around to have another glimpse of their most loving Lord. After this, Swami attended the Yagna and received arati at 10:45 a.m.

Blessing the sacrificial offerings
Bhagawan receives Arathi from the head priest

In the afternoon there were two speakers. Sri Anil Gokak, the Vice Chancellor, followed by Prof. G. Venkataraman. Sri Gokak dwelt on the significance of Lakshmi, Durga, and Saraswati pujas during Navarathri. He emphasized that the boys should seek Atmavidya, the true knowledge, represented by Goddess Saraswati.

Prof. Venkataraman then dwelt on Swami’s earlier discourse on September 28 when He mentioned how development of medha shakti without corresponding buddhi led to serious problems worldwide, in terms of violence, pollution, etc. He narrated that in May 1985, during Grama Seva by the students, Swami personally visited two neighboring villages, Kammavaripalli and Amagondapalyam. Swami went around the village, visited houses, distributed food and clothes and spoke to the villagers. The Professor exhorted the students to listen and follow every single word of Sai for their future betterment. Atmavidya together with secular knowledge alone can help the world attain peace.

Swami then gave His divine discourse. Swami started His hour-long talk in a most moving way by saying:

Sri. Gokak exhorts the students to seek Atmavidya

“Since I came a bit late today for this afternoon program, you all had some misapprehensions about My health. I want to assure you that I am perfectly all right. I cannot be idle, that is my nature. There were a few devotees waiting for Me there. I therefore spoke to them for some time and made them happy. Thereafter, I started for giving darshan to the devotees in Sai Kulwant Hall.”

 

“How Sacred is Bharat” – Vivekananda

Later, Swami commented on the importance of good thoughts:

“The mind is a bundle of thoughts. When the thoughts and resolutions are controlled, it will be clean like a placid lake. Narendra (Swami Vivekananda) tried his best to control his thoughts, when he was a youth. When he finally succeeded, he acquired a pure heart. He constantly reminded himself, ‘I am very proud of my birth as Bharatiya. How great and sacred is this country Bharat. How pure it is.’ To whichever country he traveled, he used to teach the people of that country about the greatness of Bharat. The very thought of the sacredness of Bharat should make you feel great. Hence, you must constantly remind yourself of the greatness of Bharat.”

Swami concluded His discourse with the bhajan, “Govinda Krishna Jai.” Then He proceeded to have an engaging dialogue with the boys in front of Him. “What do you want?” The boys shouted back, “You, Swami!” Swami replied, “Take Me, I am ready.” Then He called one of the boys in front and materialized a necklace and lovingly put it on him. The wonderful evening was not over yet as Swami signaled for bhajans. Bhagavan departed for His residence after receiving arathi.

"Take Me, I am Ready"
   

September 30, 2006 : Durga Ashtami and Ayuddha Puja Day

The Ayuddha Puja Day falls every year two days before the Poornahuti of the Dasara Yagnam. Swami came to the Hall at 8:15 a.m. After listening to the vedic chanting by the students for ten minutes, He proceeded to the area where the Golden Chariot and four other cars were lined up for Ayuddha Puja. Swami broke the first coconut and thereafter handed over one each to Sri S.K Giri, Sri Anil Gokak, and others who broke them before each of the cars.

Thereafter, the students circumambulated the mandir, singing bhajans. All the while Swami was watching and blessing them until the last one departed for his assigned vehicle. At around 9:00 a.m., the students left for Grama Seva. About 7,500 packets of clothes and 35,000 food packets were distributed in ten villages under the Puttaparthi mandal.

 
Ayudha Puja celebrations in the Divine Presence
 
Chanting Sacred Vedic Hymns before commencing Grama Seva

Meanwhile, the Yagna went along with the same fervor. Swami graciously blessed the Poornachandra auditorium where the Gyana Yagna Saptaha was being performed for the fifth day. The Devi Puja and Ramayan Parayana were also going on simultaneously. Swami took arathi and left at 10:30 a.m.

In the afternoon, Swami gave darshan at 4:30 p.m. He sat in Sai Kulwant Hall for fifteen minutes before going to the interview room. Later, Swami came to the mandir and spent more than forty minutes listening to bhajans.

October 1, 2006

On this penultimate day of the Yagnam, Bhagavan blessed all with divine darshan at 8:00 a.m. Swami sat in Sai Kulwant Hall amidst Veda chanting by the students for half an hour and then went to the interview room. He then graced the Yagna in the Poornachandra auditorium from 10:00 a.m. for the many devotees who had been waiting for a glimpse of their beloved Lord.

The Kothacheru mandal was blessed to receive Bhagavan’s prasadam this day. Students served twenty-two villages distributing Bhagavan’s tokens of love and giving them the assurance that Swami is always there with them.

Afternoon darshan was at 3:45 p.m. As part of the function, two speakers from the Institute delivered talks in Swami’s presence. The first was Sri Sanjay Mahalingam, who is currently pursuing his research at the Institute. His spoke on gyana and vairagya (wisdom and renunciation) and quoted from Narada’s Bhakti Sutras and chapter two of the Bhagavad Gita.

The second speaker was Sri Ravi Kumar, a faculty member of the Institute at the Brindavan campus. He narrated some of Swami's beautiful leelas and went on to share how his father, the late Sri Thyagarajan, was saved from cancer when doctors had given up hope after performing several operations. Swami cancelled his cancer by His mere will. He lived for 39 years after that and died of old age here at Prashanti Nilayam, without suffering from any major illness.

 
   
The Yagnya continues in all its Grandeur

Sri. Sanjay Mahalingam speaks in the Divine Presence
Sri. Ravi Kumar shares how Lord Sai
always protected his father

The Details Only Lord Sai Knows

At 5:30 p.m., Swami stood up and gave His discourse for 45 minutes. He spoke on the Ramayana: of King Dasharatha and his three wives, how Mother Sumitra’s sons Lakshmana and Shatrughna were born, the closeness of Lakshmana to Rama and of Shathrughna to Bharatha, the forest life of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita, and so on.

 

Swami spoke in great detail about Sita’s life in the Ashoka Vana in Lanka, when she was guarded by the demonesses Shakini and Dhakini, who were the daughters of Vibhishana. These minute details are not available in any books. Only Lord Sai, who is none other than Lord Rama, gives us such minute details from the Ramayana.

Swami then spoke on the qualities prevalent in the days of yore, when Dharma ruled the lives of men:

“The noblest quality of chastity is unique to the culture of Bharat. You don’t find it anywhere else in the world. In those days, whenever the gents came across ladies, they used to move on bending their heads in reverence to them. But today, both ladies and gents stand in the middle of the road gossiping. At the end of the Dwapara Yuga , Dharamaraja witnessed such a scene one day. He felt very unhappy and immediately called for a meeting of his brothers."

Bhagawan narrates stories from the great epics
   

“He expressed his anguish to them thus: ‘Oh, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, Sahadeva. The Kali Yuga has begun yesterday. While I was taking a stroll in the city, I saw a lady talking to a man in public. I am sorry, I cannot bear witness to such immoral behavior.’ On another day, his younger brother Arjuna narrated another incident, ‘Today, I saw a farmer returning from his field carrying his plough on his head. I asked him why he was carrying it, as he could have left it in the field while returning to his house. He replied, “Alas, Swami, it cannot be left there. If I leave the plough in the field, the thieves may take it away. Hence, every day I am taking it home and bringing it next day to the field.”’ On another day, the Pandava brothers noticed a lady locking the door of her house before going out. On enquiry, the lady replied, ‘If I don’t lock the house, someone will enter and carry away our possessions.’ All these were signs heralding the advent of the Kali age.”

Swami ended his discourse with the bhajan, “Rama Rama Rama Sita” and prasadam was given to all, ending another glorious day.

October 2, 2006: The Poornahuthi of the Yagnya

Thousands of devotees gathered for this last day of Dasara. Swami granted darshan at 8:00 a.m. in the Poornachandra auditorium. The Gyana Saptaha Yagna continued in its entire splendor as the grand spectacle of Poornahuthi was performed in Swami’s presence at 10:00 a.m. when the holy water was sprinkled by the priests, amidst Veda chanting.

Blessing the final sacrificial offerings in the sacred fire
Swami sprinkles the Holy Water

[For the full text of Bhagavan’s Dasara discourses, please go here.

The Grama Seva on the final day was conducted within the ashram premises, by the female students of Anantapur College while the boys went to two villages – Kammavaripalli and Tarakaramanagar near Puttaparthi. 5,000 packets of clothes and 35,000 food packets were distributed during the day.

In the afternoon, Swami came to the veranda at 4:00 p.m. and spent half an hour giving darshan to the devotees. The former Vice Chancellor of SSSIHL, Dr. Hanumantappa, spoke on this occasion of his unique experiences with Swami during his forty years of association with Him, first as a devotee, and later as a Vice Chancellor. In a spellbinding manner, he disclosed some of the miraculous experiences Swami blessed him with and also several times when Swami guided him through a chain of dreams.

Not a single villager deprived of His Prasadam
Sri. Hanumantappa shares his wonderful experiences

October 23, 2006: Gujarati New Year’s Day Celebration

A huge number of Gujarathis assembled in Sai Kulwant Hall to celebrate Gujarati New Year’s Day. Swami came at 8:30 a.m. Young girls gaily dressed in colorful costumes and carrying garba pots on their heads lined both sides as Bhagavan drove past them. A beautiful welcome song was sung by the Gujarat mahila group. There were cheers and clapping from the crowd as Swami alighted from the car and walked up to the railing. The State President of Gujarat and other officials approached Swami with a rose and other articles for blessing.

The celebrations began with the Bal Vikas girls performing three group dances. These were the traditional garba dances, the first with deepas (lighted lamps) in their palms. About twenty girls between 10 and 14 danced wearing colorful costumes.

The next program was a play by the Bal Vikas and youth students titled “Divyananda.” It tells the story of a youth named Arjun who is driven by ambition to strike it rich and make his fortune in the industrial world by any means possible. His friend Vivek is God-loving and a Sai devotee. Arjun’s attitude changes for the better when he sees his father suffering a serious sickness. Arjun dotes on his father, but the doctors give him no hope, as his father has lung cancer. Gradually, Vivek and other seva dal youth lead him to seva activities at the SSS Heart Hospital at Rajkot. Arjun soon finds that sincere selfless service and prayers to Sai yield the right results and his father is completely cured.

 
The Garba dance performed by the
Bal Vikas Students of Gujarat
 
Arjun in a heated discussion with Vivek

His father’s sickness worries Arjun
Arjun joins Vivek in Seva Activities

Swami then asked for bhajans. The lead singers from the Gujarat mahila group sang bhajans with full devotion. The program finished with arathi at about 9:45 a.m.


“Sai is the only Mother”

The afternoon program started soon after Swami came into the mandir amidst Veda chanting. Two speakers were called up at the start of the function. The first was a student who spoke in chaste Telugu with classical quotations. Next, Sri B.N. Narasimha Murthy, Warden of Brindavan Hostel, gave a wonderful talk on Sai Mata, the true mother of all. He related his experiences when his mother was ill and had to be operated on. He approached Swami for blessings, and Swami kept asking him, “Which mother?” Swami finally whispered into his ear, “Sai is the only Mother.”

The next cultural item was a drama by the Bal Vikas and youth wing of Gujarat State SSSO, called “Love in Action is Seva.” The theme of the drama was how a group of brash movie going college students are transformed through selfless service into Sai youth. The importance of donating blood was also highlighted. Mohit, who has fallen into bad company, is helped in times of trouble by a Sai youth who donates blood when his father is seriously ill. Mohit is transformed by seeing these acts of service and himself becomes a Sai devotee and sevak.

Synchronised dancing in front of the Lord
Scenes from the drama “Love in Action is Seva”

After the drama, Swami came down and blessed the young children with group photographs and interacted with many participants. All of them were filled with joy as they received this three-in-one blessing of darshan, sparshan and sambhashan.

Group photo with Bhagawan -
A Memorable Moment for the participants

So till next month, Sai Ram!

- Heart2Heart Team.

 
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Vol 4 Issue 11 - NOVEMBER 2006
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