January 1, 2009 – New Year Day in the Divine Presence
The beginning of a New Year is something that everyone looks forward to, for that is a time when life seems to begin afresh in right earnest. Resolutions are made after the victories and defeats of the past year are analysed. A sense of euphoria fills the air and optimistic energy seems prevalent everywhere. Hope is rekindled and faith reaffirmed. Puttaparthi is no exception to these things. In the place where every moment seems new and fresh, and every day is a celebration as everyone lives in the physical presence of Divinity, New Years Day has been gifted to the alumni of Sri Sathya Sai University, for it seems as if Swami wishes to begin His New Year with His beloved children. And with each passing year, the alumni too have been assembling in ever increasing numbers. The first day of the year 2009 saw more than 700 former students of His schools and colleges gathering in the Sai Sai Kulwant Hall waiting for Him in eager readiness.
A Veda chanting contingent and a squadron of flag bearers waited at the Yajur Mandir to escort Swami into the Sai Kulwant Hall. It was after 10 a.m. that the doors of His residence opened. And what a sweet surprise Swami had in store for all! He has often said, "I am a man among men, woman among women and a child among children." It was as if He was saying, "I am a student among students" as He too, like all of them, came dressed in sparkling white! He was seated on a special movable throne and there could have been no better way to start the New Year. There is a prevalent belief that what happens on the first day of the year continues throughout, and another variant of this is the famous saying "Well begun is half done". If these ideas are true, 2009 is going to be sublimely special, and well, it is going to be so even if that belief is not true because when one lives always in His presence, life can only get better.
The chanting began as soon as Swami came out. First, the Poorna kumbham was blessed by Him, and then the flag bearers neatly filed past Him and saluted Him as they did so. After this was done, Swami too joined the procession that made its way towards the Sai Kulwant Hall. The procession hid Swami from the eager eyes that were waiting to see Him. But like the full moon appearing from behind the clouds, Swami emerged as He fell behind in the procession and soon there was a resoundingly cheerful applause that spread through the hall. The “Lord in white” is a glorious sight! He looks as if He is wearing His purity and innocence on His person.
Swami took a detour after the ladies side, and all the alumni gathered in the marble blocks seemed just a bit disappointed that Swami would not be coming near them. But Swami had another little surprise as He took another detour, and moved back towards the old students' area. Completing His round and filling everyone with Joy supreme, Swami moved onto the stage. His path to the stage was paved with those former students who had chanted the Vedas as part of the procession.
On the dais, the first thing He did was light the lamp. Thus, formally began the New Year celebrations for 2009! A cheer ran through the happy crowd and Swami sat facing all of them, a smile dancing on his luminous face. The first presentation was by the former members of the University brass band. Offering cards, the songs list and roses to Swami, they sought His blessings to begin their programme. Three pieces were played in all and they were interspersed with introductions to each of them by different members of the band. As they played, it was such a wonderful feeling, for here was the band constituted by members through the quarter century of the existence of the University, and they played like one big family.
Once the band finished its performance, the singers from among the alumni came forward to Swami and sought His permission to begin their presentation. Swami blessed them, and then started melodious songs specially composed for the occasion by the alumni. As the songs were going on, three huge cakes were brought up to Swami, and with a gentle smile, He cut each of them and lit a candle too. Before every song, there was a short introduction. One of them narrated in graphic detail as to how Swami was splashed with water from a faulty hot water tap that He had come to inaugurate in the Primary School. On that occasion, with a smile Swami had said, "I not only inaugurated the tap but also had the first bath!"
Many such instances were recounted and as each song began, students with roses and cards bearing the lyrics of the songs moved to Swami and presented them to Him seeking His blessings. Swami also released a few booklets and a newsletter that the alumni presented. He released the next volume of the audio CD, "A Bridge Across Time" which is a collection of bhajans sung by the alumni. After four songs a few members requested Swami for permission to dance and Swami approved. And so a bhajan medley formed the score for the short dance programme too. The dance turned out to be the item that made a huge smile blossom on His face which later erupted as a hearty laugh too! The dance was followed by more songs.
The highlight of the morning, as far as the participants were concerned, was the avalanche of padanamaskars that Swami showered. It began with the "head" of the Veda contingent moving up to Swami and requesting Him as to whether all could get the opportunity of touching His feet. Swami agreed and so almost 60-70 students came up on stage and took padanamaskar. While this was going on, all that transpired between the Lord and His children cannot be captured. Students, ranging from batches as old as 1980 to those from 2006-07, went to Him and thrilled themselves with His touch. It was a homecoming in the truest sense, and once all the members of the Veda group were through, Swami agreed to bless all the band boys too in the similar fashion. Finally, He blessed prasadam to be distributed to all.
At this time, the members of the music group also sought His blessings and Swami promised them He would bless later as it was already late in the morning. It was 11:30 when Swami retired to Yajur Mandir.
In the evening, when Swami arrived, a surge of delight moved through the entire hall - the Lord looked magnificent in the maroon-red robe that He wore! White robe followed by the Red Robe – that was the colourful opening for the New Year! Swami took a complete round and as He came on stage, He blessed the University band boys to begin their performance. They played two pieces, the first one was a masterpiece from Yanni entitled “Santorini” and the second one was a tribute to the Divine Mother, it was the rendition of the bhajan Eashwaramba Priya Tanaya. As they completed, Swami blessed them all and then the current students began to sing songs.
Swami's ways are so wonderful and amazing. As two songs neared completion, He called out for the alumni and asked them to sing. They were taken in by surprise. They had not planned for this but then, as they say, when the head fails, heart takes over. And that is how memorable moments get etched into one's memories. They began to sing the famous songs of the mid 90s and it was a beautiful and nostalgic journey with music. Swami too was fully involved while the songs were presented. When the famous, "Humko Tumse Pyaar Kitna" began, Swami jokingly showed the tip of His nail and said, "Only itna! (only this much!)" There were smiles on every face as they reminisced the Swami of bygone years.
As the songs continued, suddenly two students from the bhajan group went up to Swami on the dais. They prayed to Him, "Swami, the day will not be complete without your sweet voice flowing into all of us. All of us are eager to listen to you. Please speak to us." Swami seemed to be refusing their request and He sent them back to their places. However, as the next song concluded, He signaled for the microphones and there was an explosive applause. And the next minute, Swami began His New Year Discourse. Here is a summary of what He said.
Swami began His discourse with the popular verse on the arrival of the Sankranthi (pongal) festival. He followed it with a vivid description of the season. It is a time when people are busy in agriculture and household activities; when the food grains and pulses are available in plenty and all the farmers gather and sing in joy. The men visit their in-laws and all the members of the family join in with good humour and spend time in fun. Swami's description put everyone to perfect ease and with the mere power of His words, He brought alive the feelings and joy associated with the festival. He also beautifully narrated the tradition where the bull and cow are married off. The cow is named ‘Sita’ and the bull as ‘Rama’. The people entreat and request 'Sita' to accept the handsome and virtuous 'Rama' as her husband!
He brought new meaning to the phrase, "Naa Deham" (literally meaning in Telugu – “My body”) when He stated, "Naa means 'not' in Sanskrit. So when you say, Naa Deham or Naa Manas, it means, 'I am not the body, I am not the mind'." And so, all our complaints and problems are due to our body attachment and our inability to control the mind. All the six vices are a result of our thoughts alone and there is nothing wrong with the creation. God gives neither joy nor sorrows. He is the eternal witness. It is the mind that does everything. It is responsible for our bondage and our liberation too. So, realise that you are God, Swami emphasized. The Christian message too is the same – To cut the 'i' across and achieve the 'Cross" which is God. The message was loud and clear – give up your identification with all that you are not - the body, mind, intellect - and identify with your Self - the true ‘I’.
Swami exhorted that realising our true selves was the only thing to be done in life. "All the wealth, fame and relatives you acquire will add up to nothing. When the body dies, not even a fistful of dust can be taken along." He illustrated this with the story from the life of Emperor Alexander where while on the death bed, he asks his ministers to parade his body in the towns with outstretched hands to let everyone know that even the great emperor, who conquered the world, is leaving it empty handed. Even the avatars like Rama and Krishna, having lived fulfilled lives, withdrew from their body and do not exist in a physical frame today, Swami said. And so, thoughts of the Self are paramount. Ultimately, the experience of the Self is inevitable for Self is existence and existence is Self. It has many forms. Pray to and worship the form of your choice but remember that ultimately it is all the Self.
All the symbolism has deeper meanings, He said and to elaborate on it, He waved His hand and materialized a gold ring with a diamond studded on it. In the western countries, the marriage is symbolized with the exchange of rings between the bride and groom. This symbolizes the Love which, like the diamond, should be permanent.
Elaborating on the significance of the recently held Sahasra Chandra Darshanam celebrations, Swami said, "The Lord is called Sahasra Sheersha Purusha. This does not mean that He has a thousand heads. It means that all the heads are His. So too, when it is said that the Lord had Sahasra Chandra Darshanam, it means that He sees all the minds for the mind is symbolized by he moon. If taken literally, it means Swami has seen crores of moons!
Swami went on to say that Love was the most important element of our lives. "You sang that Love is the only bond between us. Keep that always. Do not give up Love even if negative qualities come. Once Love is there, all other values come. Sathya, Dharma, Shanthi, Prema and Ahimsa are the only five qualities that exist within and to bring it out is “Educare”, Swami explained. This love exists in all like the moon that is reflected in the waters of a thousand pots. There is only one moon and there is only One - that's Love.
He lashed out against foolish enquiries saying that instead of delving into the underlying unity, people enquire into divisive facts like which is Rama's actual birthplace and so on. When that question was posed to Swami, He had said, "Rama's actual birthplace is the womb of Kausalya." Find yourself within and all will be known, Swami said. All that you call as "My" is only Maya. God and Truth are One though known by different names. Do not fall prey to the paintings and photos being sold. Neither the photographer nor the painter has seen the Lord. They do so out of their imagination. Truly speaking, you are God. Have that faith and display God qualities. If you just close your eyes and see inwards, you will find God.
After having explained all this, Swami said that if anyone had still any doubts left, they must be really dull-witted.
After speaking for more than 70 minutes, Bhagavan asked for Bhajans to begin at 7.25 p.m. It was at this time that keeping His morning's promise, Swami granted all the members of the alumni music group the coveted chance to touch His feet. They came in a long line and one by one took His blessings and returned to their places beaming with joy. Prasadam was distributed, and Swami accepted aarati at 7.45 p.m. before returning to His residence. As the aarthi concluded, one more beautiful incident happened. Swami called the priest and gifted the diamond ring He had materialised earlier to him. The priest was thrilled to receive the divine gift.
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- Heart2Heart Team