October 10 – 17, 2008 – The Wonderful Week after Dasara
Puttaparthi too takes its breaks and mini vacations. After a period of hectic activity, it is usually a period of relative lull and the word "hamlet" that has been long associated with Puttaparthi seems to make some sense. The canteens inside and the hotels and restaurants outside become rather quite and the serpentine queues and the 'bursting at the seams' are very conspicuous by their absence. It looks like the inactive stillness of the lake before a maelstrom of activities arrive again.
But hold on! This may be true of Puttaparthi, but not The Resident of Puttaparthi, the Partheesha as He is referred to in the Suprabhatam. For Swami there seems to be nothing like rest! He is ever on the move and at work. The week after the Dasara celebrations has seen so much that though we have no formal name for the "activities", we would like to call it the “wonderful week”.
The preparations for the Sahasra Chandra Darshanam Yagnam are on in full swing. A huge and magnificent stage has been prepared at the Vidyagiri stadium as an extension of the Shanti Vedika to serve as the altar holding the Yajnakundas on the 15th, 16th and 17th of November, 2008. Plans are afoot for the Lord to arrive in the golden chariot on that grand day. The preparations are on at blitzing speed and Swami regularly visits the stadium charging all those working with divine energy and vigour. Also being constructed and erected are special lodging complexes for the comfortable stay of the priests who would be arriving.
And along with the yagnam, the other buzz word at Prasanthi Nilayam has been the Rudram. The students and staff are planning to present before Swami a thousand boys who can chant the Rudram perfectly and confidently as a birthday gift. Every night, the hostels come alive with the chants as teachers visit various rooms and share their learning. Swami too continues to encourage the students. On the October 10, Swami came out and sat listening to all the 11 anuvakas of the Sri Rudram. (Those days invariably the chants of the Rudram alone filled the air as He came out for darshan rounds.)
Then, as the chant was completed, Swami called for Mr. Ajit Popat, spoke to him for a while, and then asked him to address the gathering at 5.25 p.m. The distinguished devotee spoke on the need for all of us to be Grateful, Gracious and Godly. After he concluded at 5.45 p.m., Swami asked whether any of the students were ready to speak. A boy who went to Him confidently faced the next question from Him, "Will you speak in Telugu?" "Swami I will speak in English...." "No! Not English." And so, another student, more fluent in the sweet tongue that Telugu is, went up to Swami. Swami blessed him to speak and his fifteen minute Telugu speech was followed by a loving pat and words of guidance from the Lord.
Most of the other days were similar in the fact that Swami would take complete rounds in the chair and the devotees filled their hearts to the brim with the joy of seeing Him from close quarters. On many occasions, Swami came out and sat listening to the Vedas being chanted. Midway through the week, Swami directed that bhajans must begin at 5:00 p.m. instead of the usual 5:30 p.m. For two years now, Swami shifts the time to 5:30 during the summer and back to 5:00 as winter approaches! It feels almost like the clock adjustments that happen between the summer and winter in many nations in the west. One of the days, Swami completed a full round and as He moved near the interview room, He suddenly turned towards the ladies side instead of the interview room. The children from the Primary school had come and Swami seemed in a mood to cheer them with His presence. He took a round via the path through which He returns to Yajur Mandir after bhajans, and then turned towards the gents’ side in the main path. And then, like the days of yore, Swami mischievously asked for a path to be made between the primary school children. The little girls on His right and the little boys on His left rejoiced and rose on their knees at this unexpected sweet gift that Swami had showered. More sweet gifts followed as chocolate bars were distributed to all.
On yet another occasion, all the M. Phil (Master of Philosophy) students from the University sought His blessings on the successful completion of their course. They had made a card and Swami blessed all of them in the veranda. And thus, the week following Dasara had its own beauty and joys to offer.
October 20, 2008 – Avatar Declaration Day
It was 68 years ago on this day that the loving Lord decided to announce to all mankind that He had indeed come to redeem and uplift them. It was the first time that He sang out, "Manasa Bhajore Guru Charanam" and the world found in it an easy path to redemption and liberation. For the devotees of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, the 20th of October is a day of special significance.
The Sai Kulwant Hall filled up in the morning and the students were conspicuous by their absence as they all had exams. Swami arrived for the morning darshan and took a complete round through the ladies and gents side. And that made the day truly special! We ultimately realize that more than the day making Swami special, it is Swami who makes the day special. When He moves around and decides to shower His grace in a manner that the physical eye can see, what day will not be deemed special? The bhajans began at 9:00 a.m. as usual and as expected, the bhajan "Manasa Bhajore…" was sung.
In the evening at about 4:00 p.m., Swami headed towards the Vidyagiri stadium. The stage being built for the Sahasra Chandra Darshanam Yagnam (SCDY) had been tiled and the Homakundas (or the holy pits which will hold the sacred fire had also been completed. There were 12 homakundas in all. What is the SCDY actually? As explained traditionally, it is the celebration of the completion of 1000 full moon days of the divine incarnation. (Considering that there is a full moon every 28 days.) But with Swami, it is more like the moon and all the other heavenly bodies celebrating the fact that they have witnessed the living Avatar a thousand times! This sacred programme which is being conducted for the well being of Mankind and for world peace, is scheduled to commence on the morning of Saturday, November15, 2008 and culminate with Poornahuti on November 17, 2008. The programme will be conducted by hundreds of Vedic scholars arriving from various parts of India.
Swami arrived at the Shanti Vedika and via a specially designed lift, ascended the stage. The main workers were seated on the corners of the stage and Swami smilingly blessed all of them. Like in the morning, the Mandir had students missing, and that was not because of exams, it was because about two hundred of them had gathered around the stage to watch their beloved Swami supervising the constructions and arrangements! Some devotees who managed to sneak in through the gates along with Swami also stood beholding the beautiful sight. Swami went around the homakundas. He glanced at the roofing and asked whether it would be completely waterproof; He did not want any leakage. He was assured that layers of materials were being added and that the roof would not allow a drop of water. Swami also enquired into the seating for the devotees.
"They must be comfortable and must be able to see everything clearly", was the instruction. The engineer brought the plans and Swami had a thorough look at them. As He conducted the checks, He was also involved in another 'survey'! Every now and then, He would look at the hundreds who had gathered and His eyes would conduct a quick sweep. Like the rotating and revolving fan that brings relief and joy wherever it faces on a hot summer day, Swami's look brought the same if not greater joy and bliss even on this cool winter evening! And the hands would raise in prostrations whenever He looked at the students and devotees. Swami spent 15 minutes on the stage and then moved down the same lift into the car. He then drove back to the Mandir.
The students seem to transport magically for by the time Swami reached the Mandir, they were all there! Swami came out and sat on the stage. He was all smiles. It looked like one of those "wonderful" mood days when Swami interacts with everyone who approaches Him. One of the students holding a letter got that most awaited call from the Lord. He went to Swami and offered his letter.
Swami suddenly tells him, "Stay back for the summer vacation." The surprised student nods and agrees. Then comes the loving shocker.
Swami : "You have a stammering problem, correct?" Again, a nod and agreement.
Swami : "Not only now, this has been a problem from childhood. All your friends tease you about it. But don't worry, Swami will help."
The nod and agreement now turn into grateful smiles and childlike wonder.
Swami (continuing with a twinkle in His eye): "In Chemistry class, you were struggling to say 'Sulphuric acid', correct?"
And now only a muted silence speaks for the boy.
Swami : "In another class you had the words in your mind but just could not express yourself...."
The boy seems to be thinking about when that had happened. And then Swami says,
Swami : "In that air conditioned class...."
And then it strikes the boy! He had encountered that problem in his awareness classroom and though the air conditioning was not on, it is the only air conditioned classroom in the Institute for it also happens to be the multimedia room!
And when the Lord says such things, how do we answer? The tears of gratitude and joy battle for expression with the smiles of happiness and completeness. As the surface of the face simmers with a plethora of emotions, the depths of the heart experience a serene and soothing silence of salvation. And it was a small miracle that that day happened to be the day when six decades ago, Swami promised, "Dusthara Bhava Saagara Tharanam (The Lord will take you across the ocean of joy and grief)!" It is really such a blessing to be with the Lord and even to just know the Lord. Take refuge at His feet and every problem and misery seems to dissolve away into nothingness.
Swami then called a few more students and accepting letters from them, spoke to some of them. The topics of discussion and interaction varied from person to person but the same result - the person returns to his place with a satisfied smile and a spark in the eye! The Veda chanting went on. He called the two American students and asked them about their progress in the learning the Vedas. He also sent word for the little Iranian kid from the primary school and he promptly arrived. He too was chanting the hymn in great vigour and Swami told him to sit with the students and continue chanting. Apart from these 'special' cases, Swami was beaming and smiling at all that day. Such was the majesty and beauty that just looking at him, one felt liberated, or more correctly, felt no need for liberation, for could liberation be this joyful?
After this, Swami went into the Bhajan Hall for bhajans. The smiles and blessings continued there too. There is student whose mother had passed away following a brief period of illness. Swami called the boy's teacher and enquired about him. Swami had previously materialised a gold ring to be given to the mother. The teacher asked, "Swami should the ring be given to the son?" Swami replied, "Anything that belongs to mother passes on to the son." Swami enquired as to when the student was returning from home. Bhajans went on in full enthusiasm. In the end, as is the practise, a student performed the aarthi and gave Him a rose. The boy giving Him a rose also handed over a letter to Him. Swami read the letter quickly and told the boy, not once but thrice, "Don't worry! Swami will help." With this promise to help, Swami retired to Yajur Mandir.
October 21, 2008 – Programme by Kerala Youth
Swami had permitted the youth from Kerala to put up a programme they had come ready with as part of their pilgrimage to Puttaparthi. There were to be dance and music programmes and everyone sat in readiness. Swami came onstage after His darshan round by 4.30 p.m., and in ten minutes, asked the State President of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations, Kerala, Prof. Mukundan to introduce the programme. He offered the programme with love and gratitude at Swami's Lotus Feet.
The first programme was a dance performance and it began with the lead dancer offering a rose to Swami. The performance was by boys and men clad in white kurta pyjamas with a saffron sash-like cloth decking them around the waist and the shoulders. It was a semi-classical type of dance and all the participants seemed to form a moving human backdrop for the lead dancer. The lead dancer was agile and swift in his movements and was the highlight of the twenty minute long dance.
Swami conferred His abhayahastha on all the dancers as they concluded, and then the singers from the gents and ladies sides respectively went up to Swami and offered roses. They sang alternating with each other and what followed next was a lovely session of Carnatic and Hindustani songs. While the male singer seemed intent on exploring various ragas, the lady singer explored possibilities in different languages. As the singing went on, Swami went briefly into the interview room but returned soon and sat for the remaining songs. Swami then asked for bhajans and the ever ready students began singing in duets.
As the bhajans were on, Swami proceeded to the Act-1 of His "Love My Uncertainty" play! It seemed more like a "You will love my uncertainty" play! First, Swami called all the birthday and tray boys and blessed them. Then Swami called the lead dancer and materialized a beautiful gold ring which had 11 diamonds in it and was shaped like a cross. The lad was overjoyed and was fully prostrate at His feet. Swami conferred him with all the smiles and love one can aspire for.
And then began Act-2. Swami called all the participants, both the dancers and singers, and began to distribute white safari pieces to all of them. He specially asked for sarees to be brought and distributed them to the ladies. As each participant received the clothes, he/she bowed down and took the special privilege of the padanamaskar. Meanwhile, the bhajans ended with aarthi. Swami was saying that He was very happy and then He performed the Act -3 of the play! Swami called all the participants and personally distributed vibhuti packets to them. The proverbial cups of joy of the participants would have definitely overflowed and just seeing the sight filled up the audience's cups of joy too! Swami then moved to the car and then to Yajur Mandir.
October 25 and 26, 2008 - Swami Encourages Veda Chanting
The evening darshan on October 25 started at about 5:10 p.m. as Swami came in the chair. By then, the bhajans had already begun and Swami slowly moved around the ladies and then to the gents side. He passed through the students before coming to the stage. He came to the stage via the portico and then moved through the teachers section collecting letters and speaking to many of them. Then smiling and granting an abhayahastha, He came to the stage. As He sat tapping rhythmically to the bhajans, He called one of the members of the Vedam tutorial team and asked whether everyone had given up Vedam practice and chanting. With a surprised smile he replied to Swami that all were still learning and practising.
Swami then began collecting letters from various students and spoke to many of them too. As one student gave Him a letter, he prayed, "Swami let me keep you in my heart forever and pray to you." Swami said, "Keep me in your heart; that is enough." The student agreed, "As you say Swami." He then bent down to take padanamaskar and unknown to him, Swami materialized a chain for him. Blissfully unaware, the boy was returning to his place when Swami called him and placed the chain lovingly around his neck. That being done, Swami started to move towards the Bhajan Hall after sitting for a while. But changing the route, He came out again and sat, this time far deep towards the gents’ side of the stage, almost where the teachers are seated. He accepted another letter and asked a student as to where the "tall American boy" was? Apparently, that boy had gone to the hospital for a dental checkup.
Swami then asked that the bhajans be halted. Soon after the Veda chanting began. He sent word for the Iranian Muslim kid Sathya. He also called out one of the post graduate students and asked him to come over to the stage. The standing mikes were brought. Meanwhile Sathya arrived. The Rudram chanting that was on had reached the last anuvaka when Swami told all to cease chanting and the two boys - one standing tall, the other small - to begin chanting. They did so in tandem and in wonderful synchronisation. After that was complete, Swami asked them to restart the chanting and they both did that too confidently. Swami then called Prof. Anil Kumar and made him announce that Sathya was the first one from Iran to have so masterfully learnt the Vedas. There was a huge applause of celebration and congratulation.
After that, the little boy asked Swami about something and also gave him a letter. Swami blessed him and then asked for aarthi.
The October 26 also saw Swami encouraging Veda chanting very keenly. Swami completed His darshan rounds in the car and came onstage at 4.30 p.m. The students from the music college had a programme to present before Swami. Swami seemed to be in a hurry and all who were watching Him would have known that He had something planned in His mind. He blessed the card which had the details of the music programme and also the students carrying it. But then, if yesterday it was the chance of the Iranian student to chant Vedam onstage, today it was the turn of the two American brothers, one in the school and one in the college. He asked Prof. Anil Kumar to announce that the Vedic hymns are not limited to any country or religion, and then called up the two American boys to chant onstage. They chanted the first two anuvakas as an amazed crowd watched the ease and perfection with which they delivered in a tongue that was figuratively, ‘Greek and Latin’ for them! After their chanting, Swami sat for a few more minutes while everyone chanted together, and then moved to the Bhajan Hall and finally to the interview room.
During the bhajans which began at five o'clock in the Bhajan Hall, Swami asked for the two bhajans with alap to be sung - 'Sri Raghavam' and 'Allah ho Akbar'. At 5.45 p.m., He accepted arati and returned to His residence.
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- Heart2Heart Team