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February 21, 2009 – Divine Discourse before Shivarathri

There was a sweet pleasant surprise for all the devotees assembling for Shivarathri on February 21. As usual, the bhajans had begun and were on in full swing that evening. Swami completed the darshan rounds and after sitting for a few bhajans, called out to Mr. Ajit Popat, the "puppet" as he calls himself. Offering his salutations, Mr. Popat learnt that Swami wanted him to address the gathering. In his inimitable style, he began with his Namaste Premaroopaya poem. He spoke with energy and gusto for about 45 minutes. Swami advised him to speak long and strong! And he continued on the joy of being in the Divine presence.

After that, there seemed to be a slight confusion! Swami told Popat that he could speak more. So he promptly obeyed and came to the mike. Then Swami said, "I'll speak." Mr. Popat said over the mike, "It is only Swami who speaks. I am just a puppet!" Swami then said again that He wanted to speak. It was with a thunderous applause that devotees woke up to the beautiful fact that there would be a flow of nectarine words from the Divine lips! And yes, Swami began to speak:

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There exists only One
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The Bharatiyas are like the elephant which does not know its own strength. It gets trained by the mahout and meekly sits down or gets up as commanded. Following the foreign culture, the Bharatiyas are forgetting their own culture which is so sacred, noble and immortal. How can you call yourselves Bharatiyas if you forget this? It is said to treat one's Mother, Father, Preceptor and Guest as God. If you forget the mother who is also the first Guru, what is the use of life then?

We speak for hours because we see changes all around. The Jagat (world) is negative. All that we 'see' - the forests, the cities - all are negative and a product of our imagination, the reflections of our mind. The atma is positive, the nayaka or the leader. There is nothing other than the atma. Where is the atma? Mamaivamsho Jeevaloke Jeevabhootha Sanathana - The entire Universe and beings that are seen are parts of the atma. That is One with no second. Duality is only an imagination, and hence, it is said that a man with dual mind is half blind. Only One exists and that is only known as the Sahasra Sheersha Purusha (One with a thousand heads). But today, you are dividing the heads! For Unity, to be achieved, you need Purity. For Purity, you need to realize the inherent divinity in all.

Never forget the inherent unity. Even the Taittriya Upanishad stresses on the atmic principle. Without that, there is no existence. Everything is a mere reflection of that. Whatever be the caste, creed or country, there is only one atmic principle. Rama, Krishna and others incarnated. Their bodies, however, lasted only a while. Nothing is permanent. Nothing in the Jagat is the Truth. However great one may become, he is not permanent. Only the atma is permanent. It has neither beginning, nor end. That consciousness is Truth and Existence. Everyone here is a form of the atma. Forgetting that, you imagine the ephemeral as permanent. All that is a hallucination and it leads to plurality. Only the atma is Sathya (Truth) and Nitya (Permanent).

We undergo changes as we move from infancy to childhood to adulthood. But we remain the same! We should have faith in that changeless reality. Man today is immersed in changing things. A true Manava (man) is one who is changeless. And to achieve that, Self-Confidence is needed. You know that Abraham Lincoln was born poor; other students in the school treated him contemptuously when he went to school wearing torn clothes. His friends mocked and jeered at him. He became sad and ran to his mother who consoled him thus, “Child, do not cry. The world is like this, but just don’t you pay heed to it. Have Atma Vishwasam. (Self-Confidence)” That word struck deep inside. As a result, he became the President of America. Before occupying the seat of the President, he prostrated to his mother; he knew that he could rise to such a high position only by his mother's advice and blessings. Everyone was surprised and his friends too were amazed - a poor boy became the President only by implicitly obeying the Mother and developing Self-confidence. The mother was a tailor by profession and she charged a dollar or half for clothes that she stitched. Her blessings and good wishes ensured that he completed a successful 5 years.

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Self-confidence is paramount
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There is nothing great in studying. Teachers and books will help you do that. Self-Confidence is important. The nine fold path of devotion is of no use if there is no self-confidence. Cultivate that. Even if you have big friends, there is no use. Help ever, hurt never. And the Mother's teaching is the greatest help. That is why the mother is worshipped. Never disobey her command. Her love will always be with you, around you, above you, below you and in you. People think they are big and forget their mothers. They treat them like servant maids. Let the mother say anything, you must follow her. The mother alone is the true teacher; all others are mere helpers. There is no greatness in staying abroad or earning money. Follow the mother and all problems will dissolve. Otherwise, life is a total failure. To follow the mother's command is the main goal of life. And one must do this not as a duty; but out of love.

In Bharat, never consider the woman as insignificant. None actually can comprehend the power of a woman. Savitri brought her dead husband back to life while Sita passed through the test of fire. It is the chastity of the woman that brings greatness to the country. Bharat is great and it has survived all the problems. It is a land of merit and glory. You are all so special, having been born in Bharat. See that you fulfill that boon. High grades are not needed. Have the culture of Bharat and life will be a victory. It may not have the affluence of the west but it enjoys spirituality and sanctity. Thus, the Bharatiyas enjoy great bliss. To get this, people from everywhere else come to Bharat. It is the spiritual power that attracts.

There are three stages - Concentration, contemplation and meditation. It does not mean just sitting steady, but steadying the mind. Concentration is like primary school. Contemplation is secondary school while meditation is the University level. Then you should get good degrees. You become true students only after reaching the meditation level. That is the state of ever steadiness. From God's point of view, you do not need high percentage of marks, but meditation to pass!

Dear students! Do not crave for first class. Marks are not that important. Ensure that you do not get remarks. True marks are determined by your self-confidence.

Swami concluded with Hari Bhajan Bina…. After His hour-long discourse, Swami accepted arati and returned to His residence in the chair itself, accepting many letters on the way.

February 23 and 24, 2008 – Shivarathri Celebrations in the Divine Presence

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Shivarathri has always been symbolised by the lingodbhava.
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In Indian culture, there are as many ways to reach God as there are aspirants! And so it is that every form and every name is venerated as Divine. Cheemalo Brahmalo… As the great saint-musician Tyagaraja put it, the Lord is prevalent in the ant as well as in the cosmos! In such a land, even if one hour is dedicated for a particular deity, a whole year would not suffice to worship even half of the forms revered and ‘idolised’. In this scenario, just the importance given and religious adherence to the festival of Maha Shivarathri, in itself makes one realize that it is a very special occasion in the annals of the culture of India. It is celebrated every year on the 13th night/14th day in the Krishna Paksha (waning moon) of the month of Maagha (as per Shalivahana) or Phalguna (as per Vikrama) in the Hindu calendar (that is, the night before and day of the new moon) with great fervour and devotion.

Shivaratri at Puttaparthi has a long and fruitful history. It dates back to 1945 when the Prashanthi Nilayam Mandir was being planned for construction. Swami personally was immersed in all the details. There was a person by name, Gooni Venkata, who was serving Swami. When Gooni Venkata (meaning, Venkata with the hump), dug at the spot indicated by Sai Baba, so that consecrated stones could be laid as foundation, a large number of stone bases used as stands for lingams  (emblems of the Form merging in the Formless, or emerging from the Formless) were discovered! But strangely enough, no lingams could be found, though a vigorous search was made.

So, there were dozens of bases, but not a single lingam. People gathered around Baba and sought the answer. Swami told them cryptically, pointing a finger at his stomach, "The lingams are all here." Those fortunate to be present at the abode of highest peace during Shivaratri would have realized the secret behind Swami’s action and the hideout of the missing lingams.

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The manifestation of the Hiranyagarbha Linga
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The lingams that emanate from Bhagavan on many Shivaratri nights differ in number, size and composition. Sometimes only one is formed; the material is apparently sphatika (glass), gold, or silver. Often times, they are more in number - three, five, seven, or nine! Mostly they are about an inch and a half in height, larger at times. This, materialization of the lingams, is indeed a unique and mysterious manifestation of the Divine Will. Another awe-inspiring and profoundly spiritual ritual that Baba performed on Shivaratri was the Vibhuti-abhisheka (shower of sacred ash) to the silver idol of His previous incarnation –Shirdi Sai Baba.

From that day till now, many things have changed, but the atmosphere of devotion and austerity still remains. A huge gathering that converged in Prasanthi Nilayam on February 23, thoroughly unmindful of the inconveniences that are natural for an assemblage of gigantic proportions, is an apparent testimony to the inner urge of man to realise his essential Truth. The enthusiastic devotees filled every inch of space available in Prasanthi Nilayam from two days in advance in the run up to the festivity. One could see long disciplined queues making a beeline, much before the first rays of the Sun peeped through the eastern horizon, to ensure a place on the coveted occasion in the Sai Kulwant Hall.

At 7:30 a.m., seated majestically on the golden raised chair, Swami arrived and completed His darshan rounds. More than 1000 youth had assembled in the hall to chant the Rudram. Swami took a complete round and then moved to the stage. Along the way, He blessed and cut a huge cake that had been adorned with statues - the one of Rama worshipping the linga being the most prominent. After lighting the candle on the cake, Swami moved out on to the stage.  He sat listening to the Rudram chants that were looped over and over again.

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A Divine opportunity for these students
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A cake too for Shivarathri !
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Swami arrived early on a beautiful throne
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After a while, Swami began to physically orchestrate the morning’s proceedings. He told the people chanting in the mikes to stop doing so. He wanted to listen to the strength of the 1000 vocal chords, and they did not disappoint. As the Vedic vibrations shook the hall, Swami continued to guide as He said that only those in the back rows must chant. It is not unusual among youth to become back benchers to get away with a lackadaisical attitude. But here that was not the case! Those in the back rows were there simply because all cannot sit in the front rows! (Akin to the philosophy where even a good team loses a game because there can be only one winner!) Building up the crescendo, Swami once again opened the floodgates for the vocal chords as He asked for all to chant in unison. The Primary school students also arrived and joined in. The chorus now seemed complete with the bass, midtones and trebles rocketing high to chant the glory of Rudra on Shivarathri.

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Swami wanted those behind to chant aloud
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The Rudra Parayana resonated through the mandir
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Wall calendars and prasadam was distributed to all after being blessed by Swami. Swami then accepted arati just after 9 a.m. Before retiring, Swami told all the youth and students, "Go and eat well. Then sleep and return here fresh at 3:00". He told the same twice or thrice to different people and it was such a sweet sight to see Swami enact those instructions as all were beyond the hearing range!

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This lad had ample reason to smile, being next to Him!
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The auspicious conclusion of the morning session.
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For the evening, anticipating a surge of devotees, arrangements had been made to put up huge screens to show the programmes live to those who could not have a good view from their spot. Such screens were put on both sides, ladies’ and gents’ in the Sai Kulwant Hall, and a massive screen was hung in the Poorna Chandra Auditorium too. The youth from Karanataka had brought a huge ice-lingam, 5 feet in height, which was placed at Swami's residence. It was after 4:15 p.m. that Swami arrived and He had a complete look at the ice lingam.

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The ice-cold Shiva with pure-gold Shiva!
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The University brass band stood in attention to escort Swami. But Swami had other plans. He asked the band boys to make way and proceeded towards the back entrance of the Poorna Chandra Auditorium! The devotees had assembled there and though a huge screen would show them their Lord, all of us know that the thrill and joy of seeing Him in person is something very special. There was a huge applause and shouts of "Jai Bolo Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba Ji Ki Jai" rented the air. Everyone was thrilled by this act of Grace. Swami saw the devotees and blessed them with darshan for about 5 minutes. Then He moved into the Sai Kulwant Hall, led in procession by the brass band.

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Blessing the thousands at the auditorium
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Swami inspects the screen that had been erected
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Swami was resplendent in a yellow robe, seated on the golden raised chair, and just behind Him, the ice lingam in all its majesty, was wheeled into the Hall. Swami arrived on stage and asked for the ice lingam to be brought up front and placed in such a manner so that all could see it. Then the session began with an address by former Vice Chancellor Mr. S. V. Giri, who dwelt upon the greater significance of the sacred night, calling the festivity as a cultural representation of India.

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With the ice lingam, there was an "Amarnath" feel to the mandir!
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Blessing Sri.S.V.Giri before his talk.
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Mr. V. Srinivasan, All India President, Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations was categorical in expressing the greater benediction that befell on the capacity crowd assembled in Prasanthi Nilayam to celebrate the festivity in His Divine Presence. The third speaker, Mr. Ajit Popat gave an electrifying speech, an appetizer warming up for the lofty Divine Discourse that was in waiting.
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Sri.V.Srinivasan prays on behalf of all mankind
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Full of energy and gusto...
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As Swami asked for His mikes to be brought, there was a loud cheer of joy and approval. What else can be better than listening to Shiva on Shivarathri?

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"Meditation is the steady and unwavering mind."
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Hailing Mother India and her greater cultural heritage, Swami said that having been born in Bharath, people of the country have the responsibility to upkeep her cultural heritage. Referring to the auspicious Shivarathri night, He was candid in expressing that many nights that we pass could not be compared with the auspicious Shivarathri Night. The holy night should be utilized in chanting His Divine Name. Exhorting us to listen to the glory of Lord Shiva, He said, when you spend the night in constant contemplation, it verily becomes Shivarathri. Shiva is beyond physical form. We assign Him a physical form out of our imagination. Hari and Hara are beyond the physical.

Dwelling upon the story wherein Mother Parvathi, being prodded by Goddess Lakshmi, questions Lord Shiva of His odd credentials to be her husband, Bhagavan brought home the point quoting Lord’s reply to Mother Parvathi that Lord was beyond names, caste and lineage; He has no name and no form; He is changeless; He has neither birth nor death; neither beginning nor end; He is eternal and Atma Swarupa. Talking about the greater importance of meditation, He said one should advance through the three levels of concentration, contemplation, and thereafter Meditation. Meditation results out of a steady unwavering mind. True identity with the Divine could be achieved only by sacrificial action, by leaving the feeling of doer ship. Even if you experience any amount of discomforts, never give up the Consciousness (God), Swami said and emphasised that, as a prerequisite to attain peace, one needs to start with Sathya and Dharma by rooting out all negative tendencies/qualities.

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"All be happy always"
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Referring to all the criticism being poured unto Him, He asserted that He is not affected by any of them and He remains to be the same. He only has Love to give back to all of them as He does not have any trace of hatred or anger. Bhagavan exhorted all to follow the path of Sathya and Dharma and to Love All and Serve All. When Sathya joins Dharma, there comes Prema…, He said. “While singing Prema Muditha Manase Kaho…think of Him, meditate upon His Name wholeheartedly with Love”. He concluded the Divine Discourse calling upon the devotees to ‘Be Happy’.

The discourse concluded and Swami asked for the bhajans to begin. Swami wanted the aarthi to be performed! The priest went in to get the aarthi plate. Meanwhile, a member of the bhajan group requested Swami for the chance to sing bhajans all night. Swami then smiled and agreed. (Many a times, we take many things for granted, but in reality every moment with the Divine, every opportunity to sing His name, is a boon conferred upon us.)

And so, the bhajans began. Swami sat for a few bhajans and then retired into Yajur Mandir even as the bhajans went on in the Sai Kulwant Hall.

The next morning, Swami arrived in a magical maroon robe! The blessing of seeing Him in this attire first, once again went to the devotees waiting eagerly in the Poorna Chandra Auditorium. Swami sweetly made His way towards them and granted darshan there before heading to the Sai Kulwant Hall. By 8:30 a.m., Swami was amidst the students in the centre of the hall. There, He was 'informed' of the prasadam that had been kept ready at the northern gates of the hall. He moved down towards the main gate and blessed the prasadam. Taking a bunch of holy grass, Swami sprinkled water on all the bowls containing tamarind rice and laddoos. He spent about 5 minutes there and then moved to the stage area through the gents’ side. He sat listening to a few more bhajans after which the grand mangala aarthi was performed. Swami then personally supervised the distribution of prasadam to all. Many broke their fast with Swami's prasadam.

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He is informed about the prasadam
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He sanctifies it with the holy sprinkling
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"Go and see if all at the back have received the Prasadam."
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Beautiful minutes ticked by as Swami sat silently watching all who were eating. The devotees were contented looking at their Lord and so was the Lord looking at His devotees. Swami told a few people to start eating. The photographers in the front were busy capturing these beautiful moments. Swami told them also to eat. When they continued shooting, Swami sweetly asked, "Why? Is the prasadam not tasty or cooked well?" Immediately, the cameras were put down and the prasadam was given importance! The food prayer was chanted twice, once by the University students and once by the Primary school students.

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He is so happy...
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...at the sight of the praying children
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Swami seemed to relish watching everyone eat. One could feel the message, Aham Vaishvanarobhutva Praninaam Dehamaashritaha – “I am the One inside all, who digests the food they eat”. After sitting onstage for nearly forty-five minutes during the prasadam distribution, Swami returned to His residence.

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"Jata Joota Shiva"- isn't that such an apt name?
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sau
- Heart2Heart Team

 


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