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PRASHANTI DIARY
CHRONICLES OF HEAVEN ON EARTh


As we informed you in our last issue, Swami left for Kodai Kanal on 26th April. Bhagavan graced those sylvan hills for 22 days – a welcome respite to all from the blazing sun at Puttaparthi. Twenty-six students and several elders had the good fortune of being invited as Bhagawan's entourage, and all had a holy, joy-filled time there. Many devotees travelled from the surrounding areas to have their Darshan of Bhagavan in that unique setting. During the three weeks Eashwaramma day celebrations were carried out with great enthusiasm and there were numerous special concerts and talks. Bhagavan organised Narayana Seva on a grand scale and the students and elders alike participated in the distribution of gifts of food and clothes. Swami also visited some devotees’ homes. We are sure that you, dear reader, would like to know more about all this and we will be covering the amazing Kodai story on a serial basis starting from next issue in the ‘H2H Special’ section of H2H!

Swami giving Darshan in Kodai
Blessing the ladies in the morning Darshan

 

Swami’s Return to Prashanti Nilayam on 18 May 2007

There was a lot of anticipation and excitement in the air as news that Swami would be arriving in Parthi had spread far and wide. The aircraft was scheduled to land at Parthi anytime after 3:00pm from Coimbatore. Banners and buntings, flowers and mango leaves had been put up everywhere in order to accord a warm welcome to the Lord.

There was an eager murmur at about 3:15pm as the Indian Airlines flight made its first appearance in the horizon. It approached the airport from the eastern direction and gently landed, taxiing along the runway. As it came to a halt, the airport staff got into action immediately and a “roomy” platform was raised to the front door of the plane.

Touchdown in Puttaparthi airport
   

There was a cheer as the orange robe made its first appearance at the door. Swami too seemed to mirror the eagerness and anticipation of everyone at Parthi. He came out of the plane blessing everyone and looking down at all those who had gathered. He sat in the front seat of the Sonata car waiting for Him and then began the journey to the mandir- and what a journey it was!

Swami appears to the expectant crowd
He gets into the front seat of the car

Devotees and the local people had gathered en masse along the entire stretch of the road. Swami too seemed to have instructed the driver to slow down wherever the devotees had gathered. He was smiling at all and blessing everybody. The tinted glass of the car could in no way reduce the ceaseless and spontaneous outpouring of love from both the sides. It is indeed a scene to be seen - the relationship between Swami and His devotees. Coconuts broke by the hundreds and flowers of myriad colours were showered on the car. The flower shower was so profuse that the security guards had to constantly remove the flowers on the windscreen so that Swami could see the devotees ahead and vice versa. There was also a special motorcycle escort squad of the Puttaparthi youth to lead the convoy. The convoy slowly wended its way along the serpentine roads cleaned with water and lined with rangolis. A band of drummers also joined the convoy near the Vidyagiri arch. From the gopuram gate as Swami entered, the students conducted a vedam procession led by dancers and music. A welcome song filled the air that was already heavy with love and devotion.

Crowds welcome home their Lord
Pranams to Swami!
Sai Gita was happy to see Swami back
Drums banging away to let Puttaparthi know that Swami is back home

Swami alighted near the interview room and sat on the sofa looking at the devotees on both the ladies and gents side for a while. He received Aarthi and then went into the interview room. Swami went to Yajur Mandir for a short while and then returned for the evening bhajans.

Darshan in Kulwant hall
Swami receiving the Aarthi

Buddha Poornima Morning Programme on 21 May

 
 

Devotees from many Buddhist countries: Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and also Indian devotees with Buddhist roots arrived to celebrate Buddha poornima  in the divine presence of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The morning programme for today commenced with Swami’s arrival after Rahu Kaalam at 9:10am. The hall had been decorated in Japanese Buddhist style and two altars for Bhagavan Buddha had been set on the main stage. On one altar was the child Buddha and the other had Buddha in the meditative pose.

Swami was welcomed with Japanese drumming. The drummer stood in the centre of the hall gracefully moving and powerfully playing the single traditional drum - the Taiko. These drums have a tradition going back more than 2000 years old and are used for ceremonies in temples and shrines, inviting God to the place of ceremony.

Swami took a complete darshan round and arrived at the portico near the interview room. There He alighted and lit a candle on the cake specially made for the occasion. Swami then formally inaugurated the celebrations by lighting the lamp in front of the Buddha altar.

The drummer welcoming Swami
Swami lighting the candle on the cake

There was a dance by the Japanese youth accompanied by the Taiko drums.

Japanese children dancing ....
Drums beat out the dance for the youth

After a short presentation, there was the “Buddha Bathing” ritual. As a symbol of inner purification, a little Buddha is bathed with fragrant water. This ritual highlights the universal message that it is simple to wash away physical dirt but much more difficult to cleanse one’s inner dirt of ignorance, greed and anger. The ritual was performed by ladies dressed in traditional dresses while holy chants rended the air. The monks too performed worship at the “meditative Buddha” altar.

Bathing the Buddha
Chanting near the altar

A lady monk master then presented Swami the Ta Bei Chou. This is an ancient Buddhist scripture which contains mantras of mercy and compassion.  It contains 84 different names and forms of Buddha as Kuan Yin, with illustrations of each form done by Master Wu Cheng. Swami accepted the manuscript and leafed through it. The monk then took padanamaskar and went back to her place with a smile beaming on her face.

Then Swami permitted bhajans to begin. Devotees from the host countries lead the bhajans and Swami blessed the prasadam to be distributed to all. The prasadam was a Japanese jellied sweet- Yokan made in Hokkaido. Swami then went into the interview room as the bhajans continued. He came out and at 10:15 am received Aarthi, cut the cake on which He had earlier lit a candle and then left for Yajur Mandir.

Master Wu Cheng's work presented to Swami
Ta Bei Chou- the Holy book presented to Swami.

Buddha Poornima Evening Programme on 21 May

In the afternoon, Swami came out at 4:05 pm. The backdrop for the drama had already been put up and Swami eyed it intently as He passed by it in the car. He completed a full darshan round and then sat onstage. The most amazing thing was the welcome Vedic chants. The Vedas were being chanted by the Japanese and other Buddhist devotees at the mike. The pronunciation and delivery were impressive. Swami sat listening to the chants for about 5-6 minutes. Then the programme began. Mr Nari Chugani, Chairman for Zone 5 introduced the two speakers for the evening. The first speaker was Dr. Venerable Bellanvilla Wimalaratna from Sri Lanka. Dr. Wimalaratna is the chancellor of University of Sri Jayawardhapura, Sri Lanka. He is also serving as the Secretary General of the World Buddhist Sanga Council in Sri Lanka. He dilated at length on the teachings of Buddha. Describing Buddha as the perfect man he exhorted everyone to make efforts to attain that state.           

The second speaker was Reverend Tulku Karma Gyurme Sonam Rinpoche. He continued where the first speaker had left off and further detailed on the teachings of Buddha. He was profusely grateful to Swami for having given him this opportunity to speak in His presence. It was his first public speech to a Sai audience.

 
Dr. Venerable Bellanvilla
 
Tulku Karma Gyurme Sonam Rinpoche

Swami then consented for the drama on Buddha to be put on. Before the drama could begin, Swami called Tulku Karma Gyurme to Him.  As Swami spoke to him, the entire hall came to a perfect standstill witnessing the interaction between the Lord and His devotee. The announcer also stopped the drama announcement. A loving interaction followed after which Swami materialised a beautiful Navaratna ring for him. He was overjoyed and returned to his place after taking Padanamaskar.    

Then three Japanese ladies came up on stage to offer the new book "Enlightened Beings" to Swami. Swami accepted the roses and browsed through the book and accepted it. A lady then offered the programme schedule. The drama was titled "Buddha No Monogatari". Swami had a look at it and then the three ladies bowed down to Him and left. This was followed by the inauguration of some more books by Swami which were offered by Mr. Ashok Sakhrani, the National Chairperson of Hong Kong. Then the Drama began.

The drama was based on the life of Gautama Buddha. It was introduced and connected throughout with commentary by two "soothra dharas" or stage managers. It opens with the scene where a prediction is made to King Shuddhodhana about his son, the little prince Siddhartha, would become a renunciant and a great seeker. Shuddhodhana, trying to thwart the prophetic words, limits Siddhartha to the confines of the palace.

However, when he is old enough, Siddhartha tours his kingdom where he sees sights that he had never seen before. Sickness, old age and death shake him up and the calming sight of a monk in meditation drives him to seek the ultimate source of never ending bliss. Siddhartha is well on his path to becoming the Buddha. He receives enlightenment under the Bodhi tree and finds that the ultimate secret of life is love and it is expressed as non violence.

 
   
Siddhartha seeing sights never before seen

 

Buddha spends his entire life spreading love and nonviolence and is tolerant towards all. When some village folks advise him against breaking bread in the house of a woman of supposedly bad character, Buddha lovingly tells them, "A single hand cannot produce clapping sounds. It needs the other hand to co-operate too. So too, left to themselves, individuals are not bad." Then he goes ahead to say, "There are 5 sinners - those who commit the sin, those who accompany the sinner, those who help the sinner, those who watch the sin and those who know that the sin is being committed and yet do nothing about it."

The drama also made use of a demoness to represent symbolically how the evil qualities of hate and jealousy etc fade away in the face of love. The conclusion came when the Buddha gives up his mortal coil peacefully and inspires his disciple Ananda to go within. "Oh Ananda, all the while I searched for the Truth. But it was forever within. Seek within oh Ananda, seek within." 


The drama concluded with all the participants coming forward in a formation. Swami appeared very pleased and He descended from the stage to grant them group photos. He spoke with many of the participants as they gathered around Him. After blessing them thus, Swami received Aarthi near the interview room and left.

Buddha under the bodhi tree
   

Evening Programme on 22 May
 
Swami came out at about 4:25 pm. Since the devotees could not see Him in the morning, His arrival was celebrated in glee and clapping. He was accorded a traditional welcome again with the drums and dances.

The first programme of the evening was a solo drum-dance-vocal performance by a member of the youth. This was followed by a dance by Japanese women with traditional fans in their hands. Swami then permitted the Hong Kong Ladies choir to begin their recital. The conductor offered a rose and pranaams to Swami and then the Choir began. The first song which ran as "Chuen Zhun Chuen Shan" was the translation of the popular bhajan, "Satyam Jnanam Anantam Brahma". Two English songs specially composed for the occasion were sung which were in prayer and devotion to Lord Buddha and Swami. They rendered songs for 20-25 minutes and received applause from the audience and a benevolent smile from Swami.

 
   
Solo performance for Swami

The final programme was the "Gomadaki" ceremony. The priests lit the sacred fire with incense sticks. As the chants went on, the flames lit up with a flicker. They rose higher and higher and soon an impressive flame glowed bright just like the Dusshera yajnam days, as the Buddhist yajna was on, Swami asked for bhajans to begin. After the Gomadaki, Swami said that chairs for the priests must be laid out right in front of Him and the priests must be seated comfortably there. It was a wonderful opportunity for them and they sat there, palms folded in love and reverence. Prasadam was distributed. Swami then received Aarthi and left.

Gomadaki ceremony begins with chanting
Flames rise up and up
 
Swami asks the Priests to sit in front of Him
 
Prasadam being blessed by Swami


The Mergence of Sai Geeta

This year was also significant in the fact that after more than twenty years, Swami returned to Puttaparthi and not to Brindavan in Bangalore. Many strongly feel that this was an act of Grace for His very special devotee, Sai Gita, who passed away a few days after Swami’s return on 22 May in the evening. On the 23 May, Swami visited her body at 8:30 am.  Pedda Reddy, Gita's caretaker for many years, burst into tears. After consoling Pedda Reddy, Swami lovingly patted Gita calling, "Gita, Gita..." and opened up a packet of Vibhuti to shower it on her trunk. Swami left after giving exact instructions on what should be done.

Sai Geeta playing with her beloved
 
Sai Geeta bowing before Mother Sai

But again at 11 am Swami came to see the body which was being transported by a crane. It took nearly one and a half hours to finally lower Gita to her final resting place in the same palatial shed she lived in which was a recent gift from the Lord. The most wonderful thing was that Swami was there all the while - sitting patiently in the car and in the sun (a sunshade was brought after a while). He left only at 12:15 pm! Such was the respect that Sai Geeta holds in our hearts that more than 2,000 devotees thronged to the place to make their final pranaams to the great soul. It is true to say that Parthi has been experiencing a void and news of her passing away has been received as a shock.

 
Always at Swami`s side
 
The gorgeous and graceful Sai Geeta

We hope to pay our respects to this divine being by offering you another cover story on Sai Geeta in July 2007, which will follow on from our January 2007 cover story: Sai Geeta … A Mystifying Tale Of Unmatched Love.

Thank you for being with us. Sairam.

- Heart2Heart Team

 

- Heart2Heart Team.

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Vol 5 Issue 06 - JUNE 2007
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