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Sai Prashanti Diary
 
 
PRASHANTI DIARY
Chronicles of Heaven on Earth

 

March 30, 2008 "Follow the Master" Drama by X Class Students

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Senior MBA teachers get approval for the industrial tour
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March 30 is the time when the academic year reaches its fag end in Bhagavan’s educational institutions every year, and the hostels are busy with students packing their bags for the summer vacation. As everyone else, the students too would like to end the year on a beautiful note and what "note" can be more enthralling and satisfying than the one that is filled with the Lord's melody and Love!

The students of the X class from the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School had been permitted by Swami to put up a small programme in His presence and they were in high spirits!

So, that evening, the Bhajans did not begin at five o'clock, and a back-drop was erected in the centre of Sai Kulwant Hall, with the title of the drama "Follow the Master". Swami arrived for darshan at 5.20 pm. He completed a full round and as He came out of the car in the mandir portico, He went into the Bhajan Hall to interact with the students who were in costumes.

This is a unique gift that Swami bestows on the students. Whenever there is a programme to be put up in Sai Kulwant Hall, the students get ready with their costumes in the Bhajan Hall. Swami comes to the "green room" if one may use the term and interacts with the actors. He asks them about the roles they are about to play, scrutinizes the costumes and makes observations on the make up and theme of the programme. On many occasions, Swami has also made modifications in the dialogues to be spoken in the presentations, and the students have in the short span of 15-20 minutes incorporated the changes too!

Many times, these interactions assume an importance greater than that of the actual drama itself, for, usually, while the drama carries powerful messages for all, this little drama behind the drama, carries a lot of profundity and significance for the lives of the students. Swami spent a few precious moments with all in the Bhajan Hall and then told the students to go out and begin their programme as soon as they were ready.

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The programme got underway just after 5.35 pm, with Swami coming onstage. The storyline was based on the true experiences of four students on how Swami had guided them in various circumstances of their student lives. One of them brings about a change in the mindset and attitude of his "hooligan" friends by sheer dint of his self-confidence and Swami's teachings. The story of Nachiketa was woven into this story of transformation and it depicted the direction that life must take. One student brings in love for one's parents in a lazy and callous friend. Another helps a pickpocket reform himself and gets him a job to support his ailing mother. The drama had songs interspersed aptly.

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An inspiration for all his peers and friends
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The highest wisdom imparted by Yama to Nachiketa
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After the hour long drama, Swami blessed the participants with group photographs. The bonus round came when Swami walked down from the stage for another set of group photographs! Then He also had a group photograph with the school teachers. When all the teachers stood by Swami, a thrill of joy ran through the students who were overwhelmed by the sheer sight itself. They burst out clapping. Swami, then, slowly moved back towards the car. The boys shouted out, "We Love You Swami!" Swami turned back and seemed to ask how much they loved Him. They shouted louder, "We love You". He turned back completely, and then there was a resounding third shout, "Swami, We Love You". Swami looked at them, smiled and said, "Sing something". The students sang one Bhajan and Swami sat enjoying it. He seems to love the Love that comes in a musical form! Swami then accepted Arati and returned to His residence just before seven o'clock.

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The students with their beloved Swami....
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...and then the school teachers too!
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March 31, 2008 – Mirpuri College of Music Gratitude Programme

Like in every year, on March 31, 2008 started the summer vacations for the students. It is a very different time of the year from the way things generally move on in Puttaparthi. The people, both, within and outside the Prashanti compound are bustling with activity. Outside, the speculation about Swami's plans for the summer is on and numerous versions of many stories are doing the rounds. The shop owners are using all their forecasting methods to predict the crowd strength and therefore the stocks to be ordered, and also of probable dates to have a temporary stop to their establishments.

Inside the compound wall too the guessing game is on. The students are planning their itinerary keeping various options in mind. Either they are blessed by Swami to be part of the group if and when He leaves for Kodaikanal, or they leave for their hometowns to be with their parents - in both scenarios they get joy and satisfaction, though one maybe more joyous than the other. All the inmates and residents are having their own preparations for the scorching summer looming large.

In these conditions, the students of the Mirpuri College of Music had come prepared to mandir with their gratitude programme. Swami arrived at 5.50 pm. He completed the darshan round, and then, after a round of the verandah in His chair, He moved to the stage and sat listening to the Vedas being chanted. Soon, He asked for the programme to commence. Usually when the students of the School or Institute put up a gratitude programme, the general format is that they speak out their feelings which are supported by the songs that they sing. Today it was a simple reversal. All the feelings were expressed in songs and tunes and they were supported by the few words that they spoke!

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Music is the most dear to the Lord.
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Feelings in the form of tunes and songs
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The fifty minute programme had Hindustani and Carnatic songs as well as a sitar recital. A wide range of ragas were explored. The harmonium, keyboard, tabla, mridangam and other instruments were used to beautiful impact. The sitar recital was also well orchestrated and it picked up gusto and beauty as it progressed. As the programme concluded, Swami blessed the items brought up to Him by the students before accepting Arati and returning to His residence at seven o'clock.

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All the items to be distributed for the boys are blessed
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The seniormost students receive divine counsel
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April 2 to 4, 2008 –Special Chair Darshans

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Every birthday boy was made blissful
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The sweltering summer had arrived at Puttaparthi. The breeze blowing also seemed to carry heat waves along with it. The summer vacations were declared and the impact of this declaration was seen very prominently in the Mandir; the students' number had dwindled. This was of some cheer to the devotees as they had the chance to occupy more of the "prominent" places available in the Sai Kulwant Hall.

There were still many students who had decided to put away the summer heat and the "heat of the moment" decisions to leave for their home towns at the earliest. Similarly, there were many devotees braving the dry summer to see their Beloved Lord.

In these hot conditions too, Swami made His "warmth" felt to one and all alike! As if as a bonus gift to those who had either cancelled or postponed their summer trips to stay with Him, Swami had been coming on the chair. From April 2nd to 4th, 2008, the darshans everyday was same, in terms of the route that Swami took, but there were so many different and touching stories along the way.

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The supreme grace in form of easy access to Him...
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Swami generally started from the ladies side and moved down gently. He was in no hurry at all and He seemed to be taking letters from everyone! Letters are so symbolic of desires! The more He takes, the more there seem to remain to be taken! But during those three days, the profusion of letters being given and the overwhelming Love with which they were being accepted was such that on April 4, the letters' number seemed to have reduced. Well, it is also a common practice, especially among the students, to compose letters to their dear Lord whenever there seems to be a good chance to hand it over to Him.

So from the students' side, there were always letters flowing. The Primary School block was comparatively so empty. Instead of the twittering and talking thousands, there were only a few tens left. But these tiny tots rushed down towards the rear end of the block during every darshan to have a close glimpse of Him as He passed by and then rushed back to their places in the front of the block to get another darshan when He came to the front! He knows all this and yet, so sweetly, He, every time, chose to be surprised when He saw them again for the second time. His expression seemed to say, "Hey! Did I not see you there at the back a few minutes ago?" It was a bonanza time for all the devotees too.

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The students too reduced to "letterless"states!
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When He comes in the car, the people sitting on the driver's side crane their necks to have a glimpse of His Divine Locks, at least. But those three days, it was such a wonderful and fulfilling feeling to see Him in all His grandeur. He looked to both the sides and took letters. Many of the devotees bent and took the opportunity to touch His Feet.

The effect of the hot cuddapah slabs below and the scorching roof above seemed to just fade away with the cooling and refreshing Presence of Swami so close. The heat might seem to make it the worst of times, but His warmth made it the best of times. Indeed blessed were those being able to enjoy the bliss of this proximity that He decided to shower.

As He moved through the group of eagerly crowding students, He blessed many - a few words here, a tap on the shoulder there; the acceptance of a letter in one corner or a shower of the holy akshata grains at a different end. The final result of all these was the same - a glowing smile on the face. He completed the darshan rounds and then extended it into a round in the Bhajan Hall and the veranda too! Everyone was happy and the waves of joy washed out the sweltering heat. The bhajans began and there was lot of gusto and enthusiasm. It was around 6:15 pm on average when He retired.

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The artistic cutout that
adorned the stage
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April 6, 2008 – "Baala Rama" by Institute Dance Group

The dance group in the Institute and School is growing both in numbers and quality. With a phenomenal performance of the "Saagara Manthanam" dance a few weeks ago, it is definitely true that the nimble student dancers have to do a real quality job each time they step on the big stage, for the expectation levels are just being pushed higher and higher. On April 6, 2008, Swami had permitted them to put up what would be a major milestone in the dancing history of the students.

To date, dance has always been like the proverbial "icing on the cake" that the dramas and programmes constitute. That day, an attempt was made to make dancing the "cake" along with the "icing" and the "cherries" on top too!

A 40 minute dance entitled, "Baala Rama" depicting the Ramayana story till the marriage between Lord Rama and Mother Sita had been planned in great detail. The songs had been specially written by the students and had also been tuned and recorded by them. It was a fully "in house" production if the term can be used.

Swami arrived at 4:50 pm. And like the last few days, He came on the chair to the delight of everyone. For the devotees, it was really ‘summer showers’ in the hamlet of peace. Ever since the holidays began on April 1st, it seemed to be holiday time even for Swami's vahana (vehicle)! Though Puttaparthi is hot and uncomfortable, the minute Swami comes on the chair, all pains disappear like mist in the sun.

 

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Blessings galore for everyone assembled...
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...the primary students get their share of blessings
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As soon as Swami completed His rounds and reached the interview room area, He saw the students in costumes in the Bhajan Hall. He went in and then began a sweet interaction. He enquired into the role that each student was performing in the drama. When they said that the dance would depict briefly even of Raghuvamsha (Raghu clan), He said, "It became Raghuvamsha only due to Rama. Then it was Ikshvaaku dynasty." Even as He smiled, everyone nodded sheepishly. He was very particular about "Seeta's" costume. He made 'her' stand and checked 'her' from top to bottom. A piece of string to hold up the saree was being seen and Swami asked for it to be covered. Blessing everyone, He told them that they should start in another 10 minutes time. As He went to the interview room, the stage was set up and the dancers got ready for the performance. A beautiful Rama figurine comprised the backdrop and that too had been crafted by a student!

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The troupe for "Baala Rama" with Sai Raama
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Making some final yet fine checks on the costumes...
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It was 5:15 pm when Swami came out and sat asking for the programme to begin. The glory of the nectarine story began to unfold and the whole story was scripted as narrated by Swami in the Rama Katha Rasa Vahini. Valmiki writes about Rama as a man would view God, but Swami's narrative gives insight into the feelings of Rama too. Swami was absorbed in the programme right from the start. It began tracing the history of the clan till Dasharatha prepares for the sacrifice to obtain sons.

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The story narrated by dancers....
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The four princes on their way to the hermitage
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The wonderful childhood of the four brothers was depicted and then the scene where sage Vishwamitra asks for the princes to vanquish the demons came up. The conflict between Dasharatha's duty as a king versus his attachment as a father was very well portrayed and the music really elicited the flow of emotions from the heart. The graceful movements and soulful music transported the audience back in time to the period of the Treta Yuga. Swami's moods seemed to flow along with the moods of the drama. Finally, the princes accompany the sage to the dark forests where their first exploits as super heroes are demonstrated. The climax came when Rama and Lakshmana go to the kingdom of Mithila where the mighty bow of Shiva lay between them and the princess. Lord Rama, as per the Guru's command, breaks the bow and later proves His Divinity to Parashurama. There is a grand celebration for the marriage between Rama and Seeta.

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Swami watches with excited anticipation...
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...as the drama moves into the climax.
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The famous episode, which Swami loves narrating, where Seeta comes to garland Lord Rama was depicted. He is tall and being the Purushottama (perfect man), stands erect without looking down at Seeta. She is unable to garland him. (In the dance however, Rama was not that tall. The problem had been dealt by giving Him a big crown!) Lakshmana falls at Rama's Feet and when Rama bends to raise him, Seeta quickly garlands him. This act elicited great applause. The atmosphere was dramatic and yet so real. One really felt as if the Rama-Seeta Kalyanam had been witnessed. The dance concluded with a final formation. Swami immediately said that He would come down. As Rama and Lakshmana went up to receive Him, everyone else prepared to receive Him.

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Swami calls out for "Urmila" to come on stage!!
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A crown of scented black among other crowns!
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Swami was so sweet as He asked Lakshmana, "Ay Lakshmana! Where is Urmila?" Lakshmana was dumbstruck. "Tell me....Where is she?", Swami persisted! The four princes were actually married all at once and Swami was fully justified with the question. The answer was a blushing smile and Swami seemed to enjoy the redness flushing in Lakshmana's cheeks as He once again asked, "Tell, where is Urmila? Paapam! Not there!" Swami showered Love and smiles liberally as He posed for photos. All the students who were part of the drama got a picture with Him. That included even the boys who did the music recording and all the backdrop work. All the programmes put up in front of Swami are like the Taj Mahal. Though they are beautiful to look at, they have a supporting huge foundation. And Swami blesses not only the Taj but also the foundations!

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Group photos to one and all
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"Chaala Santosham Bangaroo"
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Filling every heart with joy, Swami had prasadam distributed and at about 6:40 pm received Aarthi and retired.

April 7, 2008 - Ugadi Celebrations

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Welcoming the fresh year - Sarvadharin - in all grandeur
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It is that time of the year when the sun's rays are increasing in intensity, going from mellow to hot. The crops have been harvested and the fruits of the harvest are making their way to the marketplaces. Mangoes, called "the king of fruits" in India, are in season once again. The ripe smell of jackfruit is filling the air. Shrubs and trees are bursting into their flowering best. Everything is fresh and new. It looks and smells like spring. The cool springtime breeze is wafting through the air carrying the fragrance of the fluttering flowers.

The birds are chirping their charming chants and there is greenery as far as the eye can see. The sweet scent of the soil, the butterflies fluttering by, the symphony of the birds and bees, the swaying of the flowers and trees - everything around arouses a sense of sublime harmony. Hail the festival of Yugadi - the festival of bounty and Grace.

The Telugu New Year had arrived and the Sai Kulwant Hall had been tastefully decorated on April 7, 2008. The students had gathered in the marble block and the Ugadi programme was ready. Message came from Swami that as soon as He came out, the programme must begin. At about 9 am just at the conclusion of the Rahu Kaalam, Swami arrived, so fresh and beautiful, on the chair. The air was filled with the sacred chants of the Sai Gayathri and the atmosphere was charged to electrifying levels in an instant.

As Swami glided down the aisles granting darshan and joy, a special song composed to welcome the "Sarvadharin" year filled the hall. The joyous song seemed to fill all the hearts in the hall too. Swami looked so beautiful. A gentle breeze began to blow. The sweet smile on that enchanting face; the curls swirling in the gentle breeze, the Tender Hands swaying to the beat of an ethereal melody, and those Soft Feet that are the refuge of the entire mankind - the Lord is truly incredibly sweet.

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A festive atmosphere for Ugadi
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Welcoming Swami with music on the new year....
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Swami was on the rounds when the students got up and began the narration. They explained in English, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi the significance of the day. Apart from being Ugadi, the day was also celebration time as Gudi Padwa and Cheti Chand, the New Year day for Maharastrians and sindhis respectively. As these were explained, Swami continued to move around and bless everyone who had so eagerly assembled to begin the New Year with a glimpse of their dear Lord. Very appropriately, the song began, Yenta Bhagyamo, in Telugu, referring to the great good fortune of gathering at His Feet on the holy occasion. Swami sat enjoying the songs and each time a smile blossomed on His face, it reflected on the faces of everyone assembled.

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Bliss divine at the wonderful rendering of the songs...
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"With the Lords Grace, no planet can ever affect us"
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The next part of the programme was the traditional "Panchanga Shravanam" where the almanac is read out to see what the coming year has in store for all. Two students dressed as learned brahmins rose. They discussed the coming year in a very scholarly manner. Much to Swami's amusement, they even began to see what each sign of the almanac portended to the people under its rule! They discussed the meaning of the Panchangam. Swami so beautifully has said that if we take care of the Pancha Angas (the five limbs and five senses), nothing in the Panchangam can affect us.

As the discussion progressed on the influence of the planets which were both positive and negative, the significance of the Ugadi ‘Pachchadi’ was highlighted. This is a kind of soup-like preparation that is taken as sacred prasadam. It is very unique in its composition. It is made with jaggery, tamarind, raw mangoes, chillies, salt, neem and water. It has a component of all the 6 tastes namely - salty, sweet, sour, spicy, bitter and pungent. It is symbolic of the fact that whatever the New Year brings, it will be accepted with equality and equanimity.

It concluded with the statement, "When we have the God's Anugraha (Grace), what can the Navagraha (nine planets) ever do to harm us?" There was a very joyous and thunderous applause. Swami called one of the ‘pandits’ and created a beautiful gold chain for him and the soul stirring song, Karuniso Ranga (Shower compassion on us Krishna) struck a rich melodious chord.

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A chain for the "pundit" who predicts a wonderful year
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The students who did the "Panchanga Shravanam"
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Being a New Year day, the significance and importance of time was highlighted. An incident was also narrated. Swami, while gifting watches to His students once said, "See, this outer box is the body. The inner plastic cover is the mind and deep within is the watch - the most precious one with Swami in it. Treasure the watch and do not give undue importance to the box and cover. Also ‘Watch’ has T as the central letter and so it becomes very important to watch over our thoughts. It is our thinking that determines everything.

Many times when we feel that, "bad things" are happening to us, it only shows the weak nature of our faith. For instance, let us consider that something untoward has happened to us. This can mean only two things –

1) My God is not powerful enough to protect and shield me from that calamity.
2) My God is powerful, but He does not Love me enough to protect me.

If we have that firm faith and conviction that, my God is the most powerful and loves me infinitely everything becomes so simple. In spite of being so loving and powerful, if something that I think is bad for me is happening, then God must want this. Why? Because, though unaware about it, it is for my good. Out of a billion possible events that can occur to us, the sweet and kind Lord handpicks the best possible one for each and every one of us to experience. Like swallowing the Ugadi ‘Pachchadi’ without a smile or a grimace, we must accept the various experiences of life as God's prasadam. That attitude and way of thinking is the correct one for that is the Truth. And when we do that, the much awaited Golden Age will dawn on mankind.

The songs continued and Swami seemed to enjoy every moment of it. In between, Swami called out to one of the boys assisting him and asked him to make some arrangements. Those who saw that were wondering what Swami was saying. Using the traditional art of lip reading, the message understood was as if He seemed to say something about pouring water! A song on the sweetness of His Name and glories was followed by a discussion on the fact that noble deeds make the day holy and not that a holy day is for doing noble deeds. As Swami so beautifully says, "The flow of time can never be stopped. It continues relentlessly and continuously. But it is not correct to keep saying that this is a bad time and we will wait for a good time.

The Yugas or time periods change only with the change in dharma, not with the mere passage of time. The wicked demon Hiranyakasipu and the pure hearted Prahlada both lived in the same chronological Yuga; the same Yuga saw Dharmaraja, the personification of righteousness and peace, as well as the arch-cheat, Duryodhana. So, dharma is what makes the Yuga or time into good or bad for each; one can always be in the Kritha Yuga, if only one has all the four qualities of dharma. It is the conduct of man that makes or mars history and changes the Golden Age to the Iron Age or vice versa.

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Swami springs a surprise!
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As seven songs concluded, Swami seemed to tell the programme to stop, but then seemed to change His Mind. It becomes very easy to enjoy the grandeur and the beauty of every action of Swami in retrospect. But as Swami was doing this, all wondered as to what was happening. But the programme continued.

There was a beautiful Hindi introduction on the beauty and glory of namasmarana or chanting of the Lord's Name. It was followed by a song by saint Mirabai, Baso More Nainan me Nandalaal. That song was completed and then what happened next was something so divine and unexpected. And these kinds of uncertainties of the Lord, who will not love?

The song that began was, Barso Re… which was a prayer to the Lord to rain His Blessings on all. As it started, Swami asked for a big silver container to be brought from inside. In it was the holy Ganges water! Swami descended from the stage and began to shower the water on the devotees and people assembled in the hall! It was so thrilling. Goose bumps erupted on every inch of the skin and the whole hall erupted in joy.

The joy was common but its expression varied from frenzied shouts to serene meditative stances. As the ‘summer showers’ continued, people were lost in a devotional ecstasy. After a while, symbolically blessing all, Swami told the priest to go around showering the consecrated water on everyone assembled. Then with the smile of an innocent child that had surprised everyone, Swami sat on the stage enjoying the song. He was gently swaying and a smile danced on His Lips.

He was radiating happiness all the while and everyone assembled had no choice but to be happy! Surely the people must have thought this to be a coincidence that the song acted as a "theme song" for Swami to shower His bountiful Love and Grace. One of the students immediately rose up with the mike and exulted at this great good fortune wherein Swami, like always, instantly responded to the prayer to shower Grace on all!

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The summer showers at Puttaparthi...
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Holy water sprinkled to begin the new year...
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For all the people assembled, there could not have been a better way to begin the New Year. They say that the first day of the year determines what the whole year goes on like. If that is true, (and with God, it has to be!), the whole year we have to prepare ourselves to be drenched in His Love and Grace! Glory be to the Lord! Swami then blessed prasadam to be distributed to all. Moving into the verandah, Swami received Aarthi and it was about 11 am when Swami retired to Yajur Mandir.

April 10, 2008 – Inauguration of Canteen at SSSIHMS, Puttaparthi

In life, food has always occupied a paramount position. In fact, Swami Vivekananda had said, "Feed a man before teaching him spirituality." Food that sustains the "boat to cross this ocean" of life is regarded highly even by Swami as He says, "Annam Brahma". As if in accordance to these dicta, a new, airy, well lit and spacious canteen had been built at the Super Specialty Hospital ! And what was more is that Swami had agreed to preside over the inauguration! Though it was scheduled for the morning, Swami had it postponed to the evening.

Colourful toranams adorned the Hospital premises. Creative and beautiful rangolis (floor drawings) had been made all along the path that was to be used by Swami as He came - not only in the premises but all along the road. Swami is synonymous with life for millions all around the world as He has touched them in a divine manner. But for thousands of people in the villages around Parthi, Swami has done so much even physically, that they just do not know how to express their profound sense of gratitude to Him. Like the squirrels in the Ramayana, they do whatever little they can with all their Love. All along the road, they make drawings trying to add a little more "colour" to the Lord's journey!

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Swami arrives surrounded by motorbike escorts
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A traditional welcome into the building
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At about 4:10 pm, Swami reached the Hospital premises escorted by motorbike riders. A vedam contingent received Him at the entrance with the traditional Poorna Kumbham. Lord Ganesha, the one who ensures an obstacle-free path for any endeavour, had been installed at the entrance and a yellow curtain had been drawn in front of Him. As Swami neared the spot, He was given a remote. As He pressed the button, the curtains slowly parted and Swami so sweetly peeped in between the many shoulders that almost obscured His view to see the curtains move! Swami came out of the car at the door and all the various heads at the Hospital offered roses to Him. Swami received them all and bunched them in His hand as a beautiful smile lit up His face and all the faces around. He went into the main hall where all had gathered. As He entered, bhajans began.

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The Poorna Kumbham is blessed on arrival
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The heads of various depts. make rose offerings
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He was taken for a tour of the building. There were five different sections to seat people. And that day, all of them were being occupied by various staff of the Hospital. As Swami passed by each room, He seemed to fulfill the aspirations and desires of all seated there. Many of them took the opportunity to fall at His Feet while some offered roses to Him. Swami entered the huge kitchen hall where a vessel of milk had been placed on the huge stoves. With Swami's blessings, the staff placed the vessel on the stove. But then, much to their tension and Swami's amusement, the stove just refused to light.

Swami sat watching their efforts to "light" up! Then a photographer nearby opened the gas valve which had been shut! Immediately a flame shot up and the milk boiling began. Swami then blessed the workers and also the pile of clothes to be distributed. The tour continued at the end of which, Swami moved back to the central hall.

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Moving in the new dining hall - into every hall
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Blessing the milk before traditional boiling!
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He called Mr. Manohar Shetty, who was instrumental in the beautiful building coming up so quickly and nicely, and created a gold chain for him. He also blessed the architect. As Mr. Lakshminarayana "explained" to Swami on the various facets of the Hospital functioning, Swami expressed His desire to speak! A tiny table with an elegant mike was placed before Him. In a short and sweet speech, Swami said that the building was very beautiful, well lit and airy.  It was built with a lot of purity and that purity must be maintained. He was very happy and said that soon He would come there again to have either lunch or snacks with all the people! There was a lot of excited chatter as Swami said this. Swami was smiling so wonderfully and He seemed so happy.

He called Dr. Neelam Desai and enquired about how things were going on.  He spoke to a few more people and then a plate of some of His "favourite" eatables were offered to Him. Swami picked up a groundnut and threw it to His Mouth. The force seemed a little more than needed and it fell hitting His upper lip. Swami was the first to laugh and there was laughter all around.  He so simply teaches great lessons.  God is the first to laugh at Himself! When anyone is able to laugh at himself or herself, there is happiness all around!

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Blessings to Mr.Manohar Shetty
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Dr.Neelam Desai "updates" Swami on the hospital
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Swami was then requested to partake of some snacks that had been arranged. He at first seemed to say no, but then smiled as if saying, "It’s alright if it makes you happy!" Swami was then taken to a separate section where the "snacks" turned out to be a banquet in silverware! Swami just nibbled at a few fruits. He just wanted to taste a little to please the hosts. But the hosts often feel that the extent to which the heart is filled is proportionate to the extent to which the stomach is filled! When some little fried item was given to Him, He let out a few gentle coughs! Then sipping a little water, so sweetly, like a child that had overeaten, He said, Chaalu (enough)! He saw a student staff of the Medical Trust. He called him and asked him as to where and how he was working. Then He returned to the main hall.

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The incident of the mischievious groundnut.
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Mid meal enquiries carried out!
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On the way He blessed each and every vessel carrying sweet prasadam and apples. Once in the main hall, Swami received Aarthi and began to move out. On the way out too, He blessed everyone and spoke to some of the people. He blessed the octagenerian, Dr. Bhat, considered by many as the Father of Urology in India, with a smile and abhayahastha.

As He came out, there were hundreds flocking with a thirst to see Him. Swami did not disappoint anyone. As He moved out, He blessed everyone with Raised Hands. As He left, He left behind sweet smiles and momentous memories.

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Apples and sweets blessed for distribution
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A grateful gathering offers Aarthi to their Lord
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April 13, 2008 – Tamil New Year Day Celebrations

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Thespian Rajnikanth offers a bouquet
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India is a land of rich diversity. As a famous saying goes, “The diversity seen in Bharat covers the diversity that one can see the world over!" According to Census of India of 2001, 29 languages are spoken by more than a million native speakers and 122 languages by more than 10,000! Add to these the dialects and sub-dialects and the array gets bewildering.

So it is small wonder that every other day is a "New Year Day" for some section of the people or the other. To ensure that everyday remains a "holy day" and does not convert into a "holiday", the Government has standardised some New Year days! And one of them is the Tamil New Year day which dawned with the sweet chirping of birds in Puttaparthi.

The Tamil Nadu devotees had thronged the precincts of Prashanti Nilayam. The devotees also included thespian Rajnikanth who had arrived quite early. In the eyes of the world, it seems like a big and grand event when people who have achieved much in their worldly life come to Swami.

For Swami, each devotee is as dear as the other and there is absolutely no difference between the "common" people and the "achievers". Being at His Feet is the greatest achievement and there cannot be someone who is greater or someone who is lesser anyone once he or she is at His feet! And so, all were ready to greet their New Year with the Lord.

Swami arrived at the decorated Sai Kulwant Hall at 8.45 am to the music of Nadaswaram and the Vedic chants. He was looking so bright and brilliant.  After a round of Sai Kulwant Hall in His chair, Swami came to the verandah and went around there before moving to the stage area.

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The divine joy of proximity to the Lord
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Last two weeks have been wonderful in terms of the "nearness" of darshan available. Swami goes around every available path among the thin crowds, granting amazing darshan.

The vedam chanting stopped in a few minutes, and Ladies singers from Tamil Nadu began with devotional songs. After a couple of songs, Bhagavan asked the students to continue with Bhajans. One wondered as to why Swami so suddenly had the bhajans started. As the first bhajan began, things became so evident. While the devotees assembled were appreciative of the songs being sung, they could experience the thrill of participation once the bhajans began.

Swami has always exhorted us on the importance of group effort in any field of activity, more so in spiritual activity. The bhajans picked up tempo and gusto as minutes ticked by. Swami sat in a sort of trance for the bhajans. But it was like the "calm before the storm", as the usage goes. And what a storm it turned out to be!

One that was saturated with showers divine! About half an hour into the bhajans, Prof. Anil Kumar was asked by Swami to announce that this evening, Bhagavan would bless the gathering with His Divine Message. This was received with thunderous applause. At about 9.45 am  Swami accepted Arati and returned to Yajur Mandir.

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Who can believe that this is a painting!
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In the evening, Bhagavan arrived for darshan in His chair at 4.10 pm. All the devotees were like eager beavers what with Swami promising the spiritual shower of His Divine Discourse. A big backdrop with a beautiful painting of a smiling Swami adorned the back end of the marble block. Children from the Sri Vishwa Vidyalaya, Chennai sat in front in full costumes. Swami's face lit up as He saw the tiny tots and He kept looking at them as He crossed the marble region. After a round of the Hall, Swami came on stage and the proceedings got underway with an introduction by Sri V. Srinivasan, the all-India President of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations. The speakers to follow him were Justice Ramasubramanyam of the Madras High Court, and Dr. V. Mohan, Convenor of Tamil Nadu State Trust. Both spoke of their experiences in their respective fields where they could feel Swami's presence always conducting - what the world calls - miracles.

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Justice Ramasubramanyam shares his thoughts
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Dr.V. Mohan relates experiences of miraculous healing
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After their speeches which recollected many Sai experiences, Bhagavan rose to speak.

Swami said that the speakers that preceded Him spoke of experiences, but those were relevant to the world. True Aadhyatmikam (spirituality) lay in recognizing one's true Self and that was in the Truth of "I am I" alone. He said it was high time that the divinity present in all be recognised and that alone will confer peace and bliss. He continued by mentioning the greatness of Bharat, with its many perennial rivers. Unfortunately, in spite of all these water resources, men today struggle to fill their bellies and slake their thirst. Feelings of mine and thine are responsible for this unfortunate state of affairs.

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The nectarine flow of words
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Selfishness is on the rise. After stressing the oneness of all creation, Bhagavan moved to the Ramayana story to commemorate Ramanavami festival which was just a few hours away. He spoke on His "favourite" portion of the Ramayana - the birth and childhood of Rama culminating in the marriage with Mother Seeta. The stories of bravery of the young princes, the parental devotion of Shravan Kumar and the greatness and goodness of the three wives, Kausalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi were brought alive in front of an audience that was lapping up every word spoken.

Bringing out the ideals exhibited by the characters in the Ramayana, Bhagavan concluded His hour-long Discourse by mentioning that the Ramanama (sweet name of Lord Rama) was the panacea for everything. And that is why, in every village in India, Rama is revered. As Swami sat down at the conclusion of the hour long discourse, He looked a bit tired but immensely satisfied. He announced, "There is a drama now being put on by children from Tamil Nadu."

Children really have that innocence and hence the ability to win the Lord's heart. Swami had just delivered a discourse and had spent nearly two hours in the hot afternoon, but still He permitted the drama to be staged. No doubt, the sight of those little children sitting with all their costumes and make up on in the hot sun melted His Tender Heart. That was a really 'drama'tic announcement and immediately the marble block area was cleared and space created for the actors to move in.

The drama that was to be staged was entitled, "Prema Vahini" and it exuded the fragrance of gratitude the Chennaites felt for the water project that Swami had gifted. It is an inspiration in itself to know the background and the story of the children and the school that was putting up the drama. Read that story of the magic of Swami's Love and His students' devotion in the April 2008 Cover Story from Heart2Heart Archives.

The drama "Prema Vahini" then got underway. It began with the "Burrakatha" - a traditional mode of musical story telling in Telugu, which Swami greatly loves. The drama presented the story of the Chennai Water Project as seen by one of the managers of the construction team. A tiny village in the outskirts of Chennai is struggling with the lack of water. And this is just a tiny dot in the vast landscape of acute water scarcity that is facing the citizens there. The struggle of people to get water was compared as equivalent to the struggle that sage Bhagiratha had to undergo to make the River Ganga descend onto earth. And the depiction of that episode was done crisply, aided with wonderful background music. Swami's face blossomed with smiles a few times when He saw tiny tots in the depiction.

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The drama is aptly entitled, "Prema Vahini"
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Chennai was in dire straits with absolutely no water
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The water problem reaches its heights when people in an old age home almost face death due to lack of pure drinking water. At this point, the powerful statement that Swami made at the inauguration of the Bangalore SSSIHMS (hospital) was played and it was received with thunderous applause. Swami too seemed deeply touched in nostalgia. The hero, Ramesh, is blessed to be a team leader in the construction of the Kandaleru-Poondi canal.

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And Swami did what no government ever even dreamt
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The team is jubiliant as water flows in at the zero point
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The drama was punctuated with a Burra-Katha on Mother Easwaramma which Swami really appreciated and a Tamil song depicting a well choreographed rejoicing of the citizens of Chennai at the joy of receiving pure Sai Ganga Water. The grand finale came with the song, Gangamma Talli (meaning, "Oh Lord! You have brought Mother Ganga to our doorstep). As the song was nearing the end, Swami remarked, "Now the drama is about to get over!" As the drama concluded, Swami spontaneously raised both His Hands in Love and Benediction. All were thrilled at this and there was another burst of applause. After the 45 minute drama, Swami accepted Arati and returned to His residence after 6.30 pm.

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The grand final formation
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Blissful benediction at the end of an eventful day
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April 14, 2008 – Vishu Celebrations

A traditional altar had been placed in the centre of Sai Kulwant Hall on the occasion of Vishu, the New Year for the people of Kerala. In the morning, the central marble block had been adorned with the Pookalam (‘flower art’) as it is called. Swami sent a message that bhajans should begin at 9:00 am and as per His instructions, bhajans began. Again at 9:45 am a message was sent that Aarthi be taken and the same was done.

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Another blissful "chair" darshan day
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Bhagavan arrived for darshan at 4.40 pm. He was on the chair and that brought smiles on every face assembled. The summer of 2008 has been bonanza time in Puttaparthi. Except on a solitary occasion, Swami has come out every time in the chair. And more than that, on every single occasion, He has moved through every alleyway and path that exists in Kulwant hall.

As the phrase goes, "When it rains, it showers." And today, as the devotees from Kerala packed every inch of available space in the hall, it was no different. A decorative and screened stage had been put up for the drama on Bhadrachala Ramdas that was to be staged in the evening. It was very apt as that day was also the festival day of Rama Navami. Swami went around the entire hall and moving in front of the last few tiny tots of the Primary school, came onstage.

As He came on the dais, He settled on the gents side of the stage. The vedam chanting ceased and the programme for the evening got underway. The drama centered mainly around the incident in the saint's life where he uses the money collected as tax to renovate the temple of Lord Rama. Ramdas feels rightly that doing something for the Lord who has done everything for all is no big deal. But the king is furious for he feels that his authority has been undermined. He metes out the harshest treatments to Ramdas and when he sees that Ramdas is absolutely unaffected and blissfully immersed in the Lord, his fury grows even more. Finally, Lord Rama and Lakshmana themselves come to the king and pay off the tax amount.

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The Ramadas who was humiliated by soldiers...
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...is the object of reverence of the king himself!
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It was such a touching scene to witness Rama become Ramadasadas (the dasa or servant of Ramadasa!)! And Swami too was apparently very moved by the Love and devotion of Ramadas. As the actors came to their final formation with the Mangalam song, Bhagavan blessed the boy who played Ramdas' role with a chain.

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Ramadas is rewarded for his devotion.
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Rama, Lakshmana and Sita called up specially...
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And then Sairama too descended down to the stage level at the request and prayers of Ramadas! He came down from the stage and blessed the group with photographs. After He moved back to the stage, He went to the interview room and returned with clothes for the participants. He then asked them to sing a Bhajan. After that, Swami sprung a beautiful surprise. He said, "Rama, Lakshmana and Seeta, come up." The "lords" made their way up the stage. Swami beamed as He posed for special pictures with them. As this was on, He even asked the photographer to ensure that everyone is clearly seen in the frame! After that, Swami received aarthi and retired for the day.

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"Love my Uncertainty!"
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Third Week of April, 2008 – Swami’s Departure to Brindavan

As the mid April festivities concluded, the speculation of Swami's departure to Kodai got renewed energy and vigour. Soon, it was replaced with "confirmed rumours" (as they are called by inmates of Puttaparthi) that He would be soon leaving for Brindavan. Swami's Brindavan has been undergoing changes for the better and the delayed bridge building activity has only catalysed the intense pining and longing of Brindavan for its Sai Krishna. And after all the Nostradamuses and soothsayers laid down their probable dates for Swami's departure to various places, the only thing that could be said with certainty is that on the 24th morning, Swami is in Puttaparthi!

The taxi owners had a field time as many people had already made to and fro trips from Bangalore. The shops and stores used their accumulated knowledge and experience to 'guess'timate the probable date for closure and plausible stocks needed to be ordered. The days were such that if someone was seriously following Swami's advice, "Love my uncertainty", they would have a lot to love! Inside the Sai Kulwant Hall, the crowd was fast dwindling. People from "past" experience and trends were making arrangements and some others, based on "future" predictions had made preparations. Only a few still stayed on at Puttaparthi.

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Barely enough students to fill even the first lines!
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Swami, in spite of the searing heat, appeared so beautiful and bright when He came for darshan. There was a freshness about Him and a cherubic smile dancing on His lips. Swami came more often than not on the chair discarding the car. And this is the most thrilling and exciting feature of darshan sessions for all. Till about mid April, there were only one or two lines of students bordering the blocks to get close darshan. But as the days progressed, the numbers are became so low that the same boys rushed behind forming the "darshan lines" and then returned to the front forming the line there too.

Bonus darshans and paadanamaskars became the order of the day. The devotees too enjoyed the rare privilege of moving right up to Swami to hand over their letters. The car however was not totally discarded. Quite often, Swami went out for drives in the late mornings or early afternoons. The roads were usually deserted, but Swami's presence was a cooling and comforting influence to all who found it very difficult even to traverse to the Mandir in the scorching heat. Swami too in all love and compassion moved so slowly in the car that everyone saw Him to their hearts' content.

Those beautiful days began when He came early into the Bhajan Hall and engaged in "small" talk with the students. Those are the moments that every student cherishes - when his dear Lord becomes his best friend. The subject of the talk ranged from Self-confidence to the probable date when the student is leaving for his vacation. Some of the students were adamant - they said their vacation was best sanctified with Swami. The Lord too played the game and told them, "No..no. Go Home. Parents want you there." "Swami, if I go home, parents will ask me ‘why did u come?’. They too want me to be here with you." Swami seemed defeated and enjoyed the defeat. For, when His defeat brings victory to His beloved ones in terms of their growth, He is the first to rejoice. "Aye, when are you going to finish your Ph. D?" He asked another research scholar. "Swami try chestanu" (I'll try). "Ay, try chestanu kaadu, chestanu cheppu" (Don't say, I'll try; say I'll do!) He then pumped in enthusiasm and confidence into the startled student.

It was such a joy to watch the interactions going on. He asked a few others as to when they were leaving. Some places and dates popped up. And then there were some very poignant moments for a few people. To a member of the staff He asked, "Aye, what were you doing on the road towards Super Speciality Hospital ?" "Swami, wife my was sick and so I was taking her there." "What happened? Pregnant! Correct. So, some vomiting..." "Yes, Swami!" A gentle tap on his head and there was a smile acknowledging his gratitude at His omnipresence, Swami then turned to another person.

From the primary school side too, only a few representatives remained. They were seen running and frolicking during the darshans. They made cards and special items to grab His attention and He too seemed all set and eager to grant them their due! Everyday, a small stop was a compulsory activity at the Primary children's block, it seemed.

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The ex-students too had their wonderful moments..
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The Primary children show their works of creativity...
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Well, all these just showed that Swami is the only factor for peace and joy. The place, temperature or any other factor has absolutely no influence once Swami decides to give Himself. It is famously said, "Puttaparthi is Swami's office, Brindavan - his home, while Kodaikanal is His playground." And Swami showed that no rules exist for God. He could be homely and play at Puttaparthi too, and at the same time, keep everybody on tenterhooks to love His next move of uncertainty!

And sure enough, (paradoxically, only His uncertainty is a certainty!), on April 26, news came floating by that Swami was ‘really’ leaving for Whitefield in Bangalore after all! So the morning saw a huge gathering by current standards in the Sai Kulwant Hall. Somehow, when there is an impending separation, Swami becomes a lot dearer and everyone pines to have that ‘last glimpse’ before He leaves.

The bhajans in the morning started at 9 am and went on with unabated fervour. At about 9:45 am there was a surge of thrill as the favourite orange form on the red chair made an appearance. The decibel levels automatically rose and so did every person assembled in the hall to have a glimpse of dear Swami. He was in an all-fulfilling mood as He went through the Darshan lines accepting letters from everyone and blessing photos, trinkets, vibhuti packets and any other objects of devotion and faith that was permitted inside the Hall. He completed a full round and then sat in the Bhajan Hall for a few bhajans. He then received Aarthi and retired to Yajur Mandir.

By now, it had been confirmed that Swami would be leaving early in the evening. By 2 pm itself everyone gathered in the Sai Kulwant Hall. Activity was seen near the Yajur Mandir at about 3 pm. The sleek grey Mercedes parked itself and everyone sat in heightened alertness as it became evident that Swami would be leaving anytime now. At about 3:20 pm, Swami came into the Sai Kulwant Hall and went straight to the portico. There, receiving the final Aarthi, Swami went round the entire hall. As the pining devotees longed to see His face, the Lord sweetly waved to everyone.

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He goes for a complete round....after Aarthi.
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The whole of Puttaparthi came to wave Him goodbye!
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He then drove out through the Gopuram gate, leaving behind sweet memories of a Grace filled April in everyone’s heart.

 

- Heart2Heart Team


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Sai Prashanti Diary
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Vol 6 Issue 05 - MAY 2008
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