October 5 and 6, 2008 – Third and Fourth Day of Dasara Yagnam
Navarathri in its direct sense means nine nights. But ‘Nava’ also stands for ‘new’. It is this meaning that also finds equal fruition, if not greater with Swami. Swami continued in His beautiful flights of loving uncertainty and thrilled everyone filling them with eager anticipation and joyous guessing. The third and fourth days of the Vedapurusha Saptaha Jnana Yajna were beautiful and fulfilling.
On the morning of October 5, all had assembled in the Sai Kulwant Hall while the Yajna proceedings began in the Poorna Chandra auditorium. “Where is Swami going to give darshan? In the auditorium or Sai Kulwant Hall?” – were the questions that were on everyone’s mind. And so, while some people continued to sit in Sai Kulwant hall, a few others moved out to occupy vantage positions in the auditorium! That morning, it paid off for those who had laid their bets on the auditorium as Swami went straight there when He came out of Yajur Mandir!
He arrived on the stage and saw the proceedings for a while. In the meantime, the priest performing the physical exercise of the suryanamaskars moved to Swami and offered the rose. This priest has the privilege of performing one pradakshina (circumambulation) and offerings directly to Swami whenever Bhagavan is physically present on the stage - on other occasions he does it to the Swami who is omnipresent! As the priest fell flat in full prostration, Swami accepted his rose and blessed him.
Then He moved to the ladies corner of the stage where the head priest and his wife were engaged in worship. Behind Him all the other priests also gathered and chanted Vedic hymns aloud. Swami received aarthi there and as the camphor was waved He smiled at all the devotees and priests. All the ladies outside the auditorium heaped on each other and craned and strained to catch a glimpse of that sweet smiling face. Swami then returned to the gents’ corner of the stage.
We just now said those devotees who placed their bets on the auditorium were lucky, but with Swami there is nothing like the losing side. Once you are on God's side, you are always on the winning side. Those who had held on to sitting in the Sai Kulwant Hall also won as Swami moved at a quick pace from the auditorium into the regular darshan grounds. The hall was now quite empty, and thus, the devotees who had held on and continued to sit had the opportunity to get wonderful darshan blessings. Swami completed a full round and then moved into the portico via the gents side. The Union Home Minister, Sri Shivaraj Patil had arrived, and Swami blessed him with an interview.
After the interview was over, Swami came out and sat listening to the chanting of the Rudram that was on. He listened to one complete cycle of the Rudram and that took more than 30 minutes.
The students have a tendency - to slowly move closer and closer to Swami as they sit near Him and who would not do so given the chance! As Swami wanted all the boys well-versed in the hymns in the front, the block was literally bursting at its seams and the students were seated almost till His lotus feet! He called a few students and then asked them what they had for breakfast. Later, He collected letters and interacted with many more students. He enquired into the well being of some of the members of the staff too. He interacted with some more students, asked one of them to demonstrate the ‘Jaikar’, and returned to His residence at 10.45 a.m. after some more ‘Jaikars’ from the assembled devotees. It was a wonderful session which concluded with aarti and ‘Jaijaikars’ to the Lord.
The evening session was again marked by a beautiful round of darshan after which Swami commanded Mr. Ajit Popat to speak. The next 40 minutes or so was an energetic and enthusiastic outpouring of love and devotion for the Lord by Mr. Popat in his characteristic style. He urged everyone to make the best of the Lord's availability and become dear to Him not just by touching Him in the physical sense, but by touching His heart! "When the Ganges is flowing by our homes, why do we choose to bathe in our narrow bathrooms?" he questioned out aloud.
As he concluded his talk, Swami blessed him and asked for the bhajans to begin. As the bhajans started in the Sai Kulwant Hall, Swami made His way to the Bhajan Hall. The day concluded with the waving of the holy fire to the Lord.
The morning of October 6 was again another display of the wonder and beauty of His uncertainty. All the devotees assembled in the Sai Kulwant Hall and Poorna Chandra auditorium for the "holy sighting" or darshan, as it is called in daily parlance. It was about 10:15 a.m. when Swami arrived to Sai Kulwant Hall for darshan. Completing a full round, Swami went to the interview room. Swami had in His mind to distribute sarees to some of the ladies, and He did so as He moved from the Sai Kulwant Hall towards the Poornachandra auditorium. And the blessed ones accepted the gifts of Love with joy and gratitude. Once in the auditorium, Swami sat on the stage witnessing the Yajna. It is an amazing sight to see the way Swami sits at the ceremonies. The word "witness" is so apt to describe it. He is neither elated nor down, but seems to be in a state of steady serenity! And that serenity radiates to everyone in His physical ambit. Devotees seem to forget everything, and everyone sits calmly and reverentially as long as He is there. The magic of His presence proves that truly it is The Presence - like one is sitting face to face with one’s innermost Self!
After a while, Swami moved to the western end of the stage, and blessed all the priests there. He received aarthi to mark the conclusion of the day's chanting for the Yajna. Having done that, He again distributed sarees to some of the priests’ wives, and also to few other ladies. Sitting on top, Swami continued to distribute as the ladies gratefully accepted the sarees and had the privilege of performing padanamaskar. Then, Swami retired to Yajur Mandir.
In the evening, Swami came to the Bhajan Hall just before 5.30 after completing His darshan round. As the Vedam went on, He made two rounds down the aisle, distributing more sarees. The nine days during Dasara are dedicated to the Mother Goddess and it was so apt that Swami continued to distribute sarees. The students from the Anantapur campus of the University seated in the Bhajan Hall were all joy as they got bonus darshan blessings, and Swami accepted letters from some of them. At 5.50 p.m., He asked for the bhajans to begin and sat there for half an hour before accepting arati. But as He moved out, His eye met the eyes of the warden of the Brindavan campus, Mr. B. N. Narasimha Moorthy. With a sweet smile, Swami told him, "I will come out soon. Be ready to speak!"
And so when the whole Sai Kulwant Hall was expecting Him to retire for the day at 6:00 p.m., Swami called this elderly devotee and told him to speak! The warden requested, "Swami, it will be shrama (difficulty) for you as it has already been a long day." Swami replied, "Shrama Kaadhu, Prema (It’s not difficulty, its Love!)" He had a twinkle in the eyes as He came out and asked for the mike and podium to be placed for the speaker. For the next 35 minutes, the speaker spontaneously poured out his feelings of Love and gratitude to the Divine Mother. The climax of his speech was an incident where Swami had told him exactly the same words as on that day a few years ago.
In the summer of 2000 when he had been rendered almost immobile due to a severe backache, Swami had walked all the way to his room in the hostel climbing the steep steps! The warden had then asked Swami as to why He had taken so much "Shrama" (strain) and Swami had replied the same, "It’s not shrama dear, it’s Prema!"
He concluded his talk and everyone seemed overcome with emotion. When the glories of the Lord are relived and related, everyone feels overwhelmed. Only those that have transcended the realms of the world and have entered the higher planes of consciousness are untouched by emotion. Even those that are heartless by nature seem to find that noble organ within them and it wells with Love and emotion! As the speaker concluded, Swami blessed him and quickly moved back to the car and retired for the evening.
October 7 and 8, 2008 – Fifth and Sixth Day of Dasara Yagnam
The ninth day in Dasara is celebrated as Mahanavami day or Ayudha puja day. The festival is replete with many practices and rituals. For instance, there is a legend related to the exhibition of toys that is known as Golu (spelled Kolu in some regions). Since the goddess Durga needed tremendous power, all other gods and goddesses transferred their power to Goddess Durga and stood still as toys. To respect the self-sacrifice of these deities during the festival days, Hindus revere toys that are in shape of particular gods and goddesses.
After the slaying of Mahishasura and other demons by Durga or Chamundeshwari, there was no more use for her weapons. So, the weapons were kept aside and worshipped. This Ayudha puja is being celebrated since ancient times. It is a worship of whatever implements one may use in one's livelihood. On the preceding evening, it is traditional to place these implements on the Divine altar. If one can make a conscious effort to see the divine in the tools and objects one uses each day, it will help one to see one's work as an offering to God. It will also help one to maintain constant remembrance of the divine. In India, it is customary for one to prostrate before the tools one uses before starting one's work each day; this is an expression of gratitude to God for helping one to fulfill one's duties.
And so, in Puttaparthi too, all vehicles and implements are worshipped and revered this day. Swami’s cars stood beside each other awaiting their Lord! In this place, not only the devotees from all parts of the world sit with each other, even machines and vehicles from all over the world rest side by side! An altar had been made amidst the cars and the whole place was spotless clean. A few minutes after 9:30 a.m. Swami arrived for darshan. There was a Mangalavadyam (literally translated as "auspicious sound instruments") team standing in readiness to welcome Swami. Swami was not accepting letters this day and understandably so, for it was the day of the machines! As He crossed the students' area and entered the gents’ side, the Mangalavadyam escorted Him.
The wonderful thing is with Swami anything looks beautiful and thrilling, for He is the one who lends beauty and Grace to everything. The escort group that led Swami for a short distance erupted wonderful feelings within every heart. As Swami neared the cars area, all the members of the escort party grabbed the opportunity to prostrate at His Lotus feet.
Swami then moved to the altar that had been made especially for the occasion. He sat in front of it looking and gazing at it. And for those few moments, amidst all the noise and celebrations, a kind of silence enveloped all those standing near Him. His silence is so powerful that it stills even the most turbulent of minds into placid calmness. Trays and bowls holding chocolates and coconuts were brought to Him for blessings. He placed His palms over all of them and blessed them to be broken in front of the decorated vehicles in the traditional manner. As Swami watched on, coconuts were broken in front of each of the cars. Then, bowls of prasadam and chocolates were blessed for distribution. Having done that, Swami continued His darshan rounds through the Veda chanting area and the Primary school blocks. Then, He arrived to the stage where He sat listening to the Veda chanting going on. The chanting of Rudram began and everyone vociferously joined in the chanting.
Swami then moved towards the Poorna Chandra Auditorium. As He moved out of Sai Kulwant Hall, everyone else rushed to secure a good place in the auditorium. In the meanwhile, there were two more garages and cars there too had been worshipped. Swami blessed coconuts to be broken. The first coconut hurled did not seem to have force enough to shatter. Swami smiled and told the person to take the coconut and break it properly; that smile reminded one of the days when Swami Himself would break the coconuts.
He would hold one in each hand and smash them against each other. The coconut on the left would always be left as it never broke but the coconut in the right hand would break exactly into half! This would go on till the last pair of coconuts was left. This time however, when He would crack them against each other, both the nuts would crack! Leaving all the witnesses with nostalgic memories, Swami moved into the auditorium.
Swami sat on the stage as the Yagna progressed. The "Suryanamaskar priest" once again did his prostrations and prayers at the Lotus feet by placing a lotus there. All the various priests were deeply engrossed in the worship. We have often heard Swami say, "Work is worship". For these priests, it is so apt, as literally worship is their work! After a while, Swami moved across all the students chanting on the stage to the western end of the stage, and received aarthi as well as the chantings of all the priests who gathered there in a single file. Swami was there for about 10 minutes after which He moved back across the stage, and then retired for the morning.
In the evening, Swami arrived a few minutes after five o'clock. Once He came onstage after His darshan round, He asked the All India President of Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, Mr. V. Srinivasan to speak at 5.15 p.m. The speaker dwelt on what Swami meant to everyone in all parts of the world. Talking about the relationships that one adopts with Swami, he stated that they can be as diverse as that between a mother and her child to that between friends! As he concluded his talk, Swami called him and told something in his ears. A kind of anticipative thrill spread across the hall and slowly the speaker came back to the podium. He stood still for a while, obviously contemplating and gathering thoughts and words on the magnificence and munificence of the words that the Lord had whispered to him.
And then he spoke with surging joy, "The people of Orissa have been struck by floods and in about 7 districts thousands have been rendered homeless. Swami's heart has gone out to them. He is immediately sanctioning 10 crores for their relief." The applause was deafening. While people everywhere else were blaming each other for the calamity, Swami had instead planned massive relief! Swami directed that houses be rebuilt by the Sai Organisation along with Primary Schools for the villagers. And these shelters, Swami had said will not be temporary; like Swami's glory the shelters would also be permanent - not mere tents or wooden structures, but sturdy concrete homes. Swami didn't want mere houses to be built; His intention was that homes be rebuilt! Swami also said that He would sell away the hilltop building in Kodaikanal and the Sri Sathya Sai Airport at Puttaparthi and utilize those funds for such service activities.
For the Lord, only the present moment exists. Right now, there is help needed and that will be rendered. Financial estimates and practical difficulties are not to be given prominence when people are suffering, for everyone belongs to Him and as He has said, "If you need me, you deserve me." As the speaker narrated the troubled conditions of Orissa which he ascertained during his recent trip, Swami seemed deeply moved. The Lord seemed to be shedding a tear, His heart was going out fully for His children. For the One who initiated everyone into chanting, "Samastha Loka Sukhino Bhavanthu" since He wanted not only the people of this world but of all the worlds to be peaceful and happy, any suffering melts the heart. As the speaker went on, Swami called him and issued another command, "Right after Vijayadashami (final day of Dasara), you, Mr. Kondal Rao of the Andhra Pradesh Government and Mr. A Ramakrishna, the former Vice president of L&T leave for Orissa and make plans so that in two months time, those people have homes!" If the previous applause was deafening, this one was such that even the deaf would hear!
After these announcements, Swami asked for bhajans. Very aptly the bhajan chosen by the students was, "Deena Dukhiyon Se prem karo…". Prasadam was blessed and distributed to all. As that was done, Swami received aarthi and left.
The morning of October 8 was quite uneventful as Swami remained indoors. The Yagnam went on and all the devotees attended the function at the Poorna Chandra auditorium. In the evening, Swami arrived and completed the darshan rounds. After coming on the stage, He blessed Mr. S. V. Giri, the former Vice Chancellor of Sri Sathya Sai University to speak. Mr. Giri spoke on the significance of Navarathri and Dasara. The greater part of his speech however was dedicated to what we should do in order to express our love and gratitude to Swami. He listed an eight point plan which was simple yet effective in its approach and implementation. Faith, respect for elders, love for children, good company and positive thoughts were some of them. Swami too applauded as he concluded. Then there were bhajans.
After about four bhajans, Swami subtly indicated to a student to sing the bhajan "Allahu Akbar"! And so the next bhajan was powerfully rendered with the introductory aalaap. Swami blessed prasadam to be distributed to all and then received aarthi. He then went into the interview room for a short while. He retired as the announcement, that the next day would be Poornahuthi for the Yagna, was on.
- Heart2Heart Team
Dear reader, do you like this section? Does it help you? What improvements do you suggest to make it more informative and inspiring for you? Please tells us at [email protected].