November 6, 2008 – Gifting of Red Silk dhotis to Veda Chanting Students
Since the month of September, the learning of the Vedic hymn Rudram moved into a new gear in Puttaparthi and all around the globe. That’s what happens when one receives patronage from God Himself! On November 6, Swami added something very special to the "incentives list" of this "patronage package". It was the fulfilment of a promise that had been made at the very beginning of the Rudram tutorials - Swami had said, “I will personally give prizes to those who learn the Rudram well." As per His command, 150 members from the staff and students of the Sathya Sai University and the Central Trust who were well versed in the Rudram sat in the Mandir portico by 8:00 a.m.
Swami had said that He would distribute dhoties and angavastrams to all of them. There was an air of eager anticipation and the atmosphere seemed charged. But come 9:00 a.m. , the bhajans began. Grama Seva, that had already begun a few days ago, continued and all the other students left for serving in their respective villages. The bhajans also concluded eventually and the special 150 students and staff were the only people in Mandir now. At about 11:30 a.m. , giving added emphasis and meaning to the statement, "God's delays are not His denials", Swami came out of Yajur Mandir in the car. The 150 seated comprised of cream of the Veda chanting students, and so, there was vociferous chanting of the Rudram. There were no mikes, but the spirited spirits of the energetic youth pining for the Lord more than compensated for that.
Swami came to the portico and then had the dhoties brought. To the delightful amazement of all, Swami was gifting His very own brand new silk dhoties to all! Everyone felt a surge of thrill and as the Rudram chants continued to eclipse all other sound vibrations in the vicinity, Swami began to call the boys one by one and personally delivered the bundles of silken joy. As He was distributing, He opened up many of them and asked as to where the angavastrams (the cloth put on the upper half of the body) were.
He commanded that the angavastrams too be distributed to those that had already received the dhoties from His hands. The distribution went on for about 20 minutes after which Swami sat listening to the chants. It felt really vibrant to see the Lord amidst the divine chants. As Swami was moving towards the car, there was another chanting - this time in English, as all cried out, "Thank you Swami!" And then, in the perfect silence that ensued after that, Swami said in His sweet gentle voice, "I have the right to give and you have the right to take. Then, why thank you?" As He beamed a smile to the joyous gathering, smiles were beamed back at Him and shouts of "Jai Bolo Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba Ki Jai" rented the air.
From the Sai Kulwant Hall, Swami moved to the Vidyagiri stadium to check the progress of the stage being built along with the galleries being extended and also the kitchen and bathrooms being constructed for the priests.
In the evening, Swami arrived at about 4:50 p.m. for the darshan round. As the bhajans were on, Swami came out and sat on the stage. Many students had letters and they sat holding them in their hands with prayers on their lips. Swami, in the middle of His rhythm-tapping, signalled the boys to put down their letters. But none seemed to obey. They held out with greater desperation and eagerness! After about 10 minutes, Swami called one boy and taking his letter opened it. It was an A4-sized paper and both sides had been filled with writing. Swami had a shocked expression as He asked, "Why such big letters? Keep writing like mad people? Write only two or three lines, enough!" Blessing the boy nevertheless He once again said to all the students, "I will not take letters if you write such big ones!" After a while, one more student was called and Swami opened it. It was again a huge one! Swami gave that, "see-I-told-you" look and signalled that He would not take letters. At this point, some of them dropped open the letters to show Swami that theirs were small! Swami smiled and went in for bhajans. Thus ended another beautiful day with the Lord.
November 8 and 9 – Global Akhanda Bhajan Days
If at all we get a chance to rise and travel with the Sun along its perennially westward journey, we will find that the second weekend in the winter month of November is something very special. As the sunset time gets due, the primeval sound - the Omkara - resounds marking the beginning of the 24 hour long Akhanda Bhajans. As we move along in the westerly direction into the later time zones of the world, more and more nations join this activity of devotion, peace and love till a point when the whole world is reverberating with the divine name. This practice which began as a small stream of singing at a senior devotee's house in Bangalore has today gathered momentum into a massive river of devotion worldwide, surging towards the tranquil ocean that the Lord is.
It was about 5 p.m. Indian Standard Time when Swami entered the Sai Kulwant Hall for the darshan rounds. He took the detour after the Primary School block to enter the Bhajan Hall where a lovely large lamp had been prepared. This is the lamp that Swami would light to mark the beginning of the global Akhanda Bhajan. Swami inspected it and He was shown the various fittings that would be added on soon to the lamp to make it taller and grander. He also examined the wicks, and once satisfied that all was fine, He moved out to the stage.
What happened there was something so special that maybe we could also term November 8, 2008 as the " Kalpavriksha Day"! Swami sat outside listening to the Veda chanting that was on. The Rudram was soon completed and the Purushasuktam began. Swami called the Vedam tutorial teacher and in a spurt told him that Swami's wish was that all learn the Purushasuktam as well. The teacher, on his part, assured Swami that all the students and staff would begin efforts in earnest towards that direction. Swami then called the boy in front who was holding up a tray. He spoke to him and blessed him by sprinkling the holy Akshatha grains on his head. As is the practice, when Swami calls one of the boys with the tray, it is assumed that He has called the other "tray boys" too. So, one by one, the boys started to move to Swami and the Lord blessed them all. He spoke a few words to some, listened to a lot of words from many and granted the twin joys of an Akshatha shower and a padanamaskar to all. The grace-hungry are a huge number and even Swami seemed a bit startled as about 25-30 boys came up to Him with trays! Though He jocularly asked once, "How many boys!?", He ensured that every boy returned with a heart full of satisfaction and joy.
Then began part two of the "Kalpavriksha Day" celebrations. Swami called a boy who was holding a letter in the front. He took his letter, went through it and then spoke a few words of advice to him. Another boy, meanwhile, decided to play his chances and moved to Swami along with the first boy and he too gave a letter. Swami simply smiled at him and took his letter and spoke to him too. Emboldened by this response another boy, and then yet another moved to Swami. And again from His side, it was the same response. With smiles on their faces, the boys slowly made sort of a line that was headed to the Lord and Swami too noticed that from the corner of His eye and merely smiled. And so, from 5:20 p.m. till almost 6:00 p.m., boys kept moving to Swami handing over their letters of gratitude, love, prayers and petitions, and Swami satisfied each and everyone. The whole block now resembled a river that was flowing on to become a waterfall as all the boys converged to join the stream that was headed towards Swami and bliss! As the time became 5:55 p.m., the boy sitting next to Swami "reminded" Him that He was due to light the lamp at 6:00 p.m. At that time, Swami sweetly said, "Only 5 minutes left now." That acted as a prod for all to go quickly to Him and offer letters. It was seconds before 6:00 p.m. that Swami moved into the Bhajan Hall and gently lit the beautiful lamp as the Aumkaram began.
Swami sat for about an hour listening and keeping beat for the bhajans. The boys and girls, as usual, alternated in singing the bhajans. It was about 7 p.m. when Swami left for Yajur Mandir.
The 9th morning saw Swami coming out for darshan at about 9:20 a.m. after a plethora of "Aao" bhajans. These are bhajans which request and plead with the Lord to come and bless all with His darshan. Swami cut through after the Primary school block. However, He moved to the stage and sat outside, and everyone assembled in the hall had beautiful darshan. Singing the name as we see the form is a sublimely uplifting experience. And that experience was conferred on the thousands gathered in the Sai Kulwant Hall. Soon after that, Swami moved into the Bhajan Hall where there were quite a few boys who had spent the whole night singing the divine glories of God. He sat through 6-7 bhajans and then asked for the car, and left for the Institute Auditorium where the students were rehearsing for the Convocation drama.
Swami takes keen interest especially in the Convocation drama and though it is performed in His presence on November 22, He sees through every aspect of the drama right from the script writing to the acting and costumes. As always, the devotees from the Sai Kulwant Hall and other places in Puttaparthi made a beeline towards the car to glimpse their beloved Lord as He drove by. Swami was welcomed into the auditorium by the Vice Chancellor, the Principal and the Controller of Examinations. All the boys lined up the path through which Swami entered. Swami, then, signaled to them to go on stage and begin the drama.
Swami watched the drama with rapt attention. Speaking to the warden who sat beside Him, Swami enquired into the various roles and characters on stage. There was a scene from the Ramayana which was very apt to the situation and it evoked very positive response from Swami. He was absolutely touched. All the various songs that were part of the drama were sung live by the students. Swami gave feedback on the drama to the warden and asked for it to be trimmed at certain points to make it crisp. After watching for 50 minutes, Swami blessed all and said that it was time to leave. As Swami moved towards the car, all the students crowded around Him and sought blessings. Chocolates were blessed to be distributed to all. As He came out of the auditorium, the Institute brass band struck up the National Anthem. It was played beautifully and listening to that, Swami left for the Mandir and moved into Yajur Mandir.
Meanwhile the bhajans continued in the Mandir and as the evening drew close, more and more people thronged the Mandir premises. The prasadam to be distributed at the end of the bhajan session was also carried in or wheeled into the Sai Kulwant Hall. The rows of vessels holding tamarind rice and the laddoos were placed neatly at the Northern end of the hall. It was about 4:45 p.m., when Swami came out once again. He moved through the ladies and then took a detour towards the Northern gate where all the prasadam had been kept. He blessed them and then surveyed all the preparations done for the distribution.
Turning back, He moved towards the Mandir again and near the gents side took another detour. Now this detour was something that pleased all the gents as it meant that Swami was coming towards them. After a gap of many days, Swami was going through this path and naturally there was a rejoicing. Swami took a complete round as if rewarding all for whatever efforts they had put in for the Akhanda bhajan.
The evening was characterized by Swami moving in and out of the Bhajan Hall. He moved through the central aisle in the Bhajan Hall and also through the upper and lower porticos in the Mandir. He sat out for a while collecting a few letters and granting darshan. Nobody could have complained of not having darshan. The tempo and enthusiasm levels of the bhajans went up as the conclusion time arrived. At about 5:55 p.m., Swami asked a pair of boys in the front to sing the Sree Raghavam aalaap bhajan. Everyone expected that with that bhajan the 24 hour session would culminate. But sensing another minute and an opportunity remaining, the girls began in full speed, "Namah Parvati Pataye Hara Hara". Swami saw that and smiled. After a while, He told the boys with puckered lips that the girls took the opportunity and they are concluding. A total of more than 400 bhajans had been sung and according to one student, the exact number stands at 424! With that bhajan, aarthi began.
The last stanza where the tempo picks up was marked by resounding clapping and vociferous singing. Swami also asked all to sing the "Samastha Loka Sukhino Bhavanthu" in a very loud voice and all were only too happy to oblige. Swami then sprinkled water over the vessels holding the prasadam and blessed them to be distributed. When a boy started serving the boys immediately, Swami told him that ladies must be first and so the prasadam must be kept on the other side for serving the ladies! The prayer, "Brahmaarpanam" was then done after which everyone began to eat in the divine presence on the divine command.
Swami then moved out of the bhajan hall and surveyed the food being served to the Primary school children. They too began to chant the prayer and so sweetly at that too! It was a high pitched one and Swami sat sweetly swaying to the chants. As they completed, Swami told them all to begin eating. Then He slowly moved through the ladies side and blessed the Anantapur students who were seated there. Finally, leaving all with full hearts and quickly filling bellies (!) Swami retired into Yajur mandir.
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- Heart2Heart Team