July 28, 2008 – Programme by USA Devotees
On July 28, 2008, the devotees from USA, Region 10, had the permission to put up their programme in front of Swami. They were all seated in the marble block by 3:00 p.m. itself. A sea of blue scarves occupied the most coveted spots of the Sai Kulwant Hall. Swami arrived for darshan in the chair and took the round along the ladies side. In between the marble block, He turned and moved towards the stage. He took mini rounds of the portico and the Bhajan Hall and came out onto the stage at 5:25 p.m. There were many offerings to Him - flowers, cards and booklets. Swami, sweetly and smilingly blessed everything.
The programme was based on the concept of the Lord's descent in the world for man's ascent. Like always, the traditional "opener's" slot was allotted to Lord Ganesha. The episode wherein the monkeys led by Lord Rama build a bridge to Sri Lanka was depicted by children as songs went on in the background. A wonderful feature in this programme was the extensive use of the children themselves as props and sets. For instance, the bridge was literally built by and of the monkeys! Moving into another age, the next episode depicted the pranks of Lord Krishna and His leelas (Divine Sport) among the cowherd boys and girls.
A traditional Sufi dance set to the lively rhythms of a qawwali was next and it focused on the grandeur of Allah. The next Avatar to make the appearance was Lord Buddha and the vanquishing of the negative emotions that he embodied. The fifth theme was on Jesus Christ and his all encompassing Love. And finally, just like how all roads led to Rome in the past, all paths lead to Sai today. The final few songs were on the glory of Swami and His projects for the welfare of mankind.
Towards the end of their programme, all the children who had acted in the various tableaus came forward and sat down. Swami called a photographer and told him to take a snap of all the children seated down. He then moved down the stage and sat amidst them too. All the children surrounded Him and the picture was complete. He moved back on stage as the children kept touching His feet and seeking blessings, and then they began bhajans. Swami then called one little boy from the group and materialised a gold chain for him. After the bhajans went on for a while, Swami received aarthi and retired to Yajur Mandir at 6:40 p.m.
July 31, 2008 – Music Programme by Devotees from UK
Thursdays, in the recent past, had become days of great joy at Puttaparthi, especially among the gents. With Swami frequently choosing to take a shortcut to the interview room immediately after the ladies’ side, the gents’ devotees were generally starved for close darshan. For them, Thursdays became very important - not only because of the fact that Swami has since childhood assigned special importance to it, but also because the primary school children come for darshan on these days.
As when the children come the gap between the ladies and gents blocks is filled up by them, thus increasing the likelihood of Swami taking a full round. On July 31, when Swami came out at 4:15 p.m., He did exactly that as He took a complete round of the ladies and gents side on the chair, leaving everyone happy.
Very often, it is said, "God is everywhere. All we need is a pure heart and a clean mind to feel Him." Be it just a statement or the Truth, ask anyone who has just had the privilege of seeing Swami from up close, and you will get the answer. The thrill that shoots through one’s being at being so close to His Being is something out of the world! His darshan seems to fill the entire body-mind-soul apparatus with sublime joy and pure bliss. That effect seems more divine and profound especially when one has been starved of it for many days! It is not simply that the sages and saints, who were ever immersed in the divine, became dumbstruck into ecstatic silence at the mere sight of that same Divine. When the Lord descends as an Avatar, His darshan is something that one must experience.
On July 31, Swami was all "randomness" if we can give another name for His famed "uncertainty"! He moved towards the interview room, but hen moved along the upper portico and interacted with the devotees there. He also materialised a gold chain for one of them. Moving down, He went towards the primary school block. He blessed chocolates to be distributed to all the children and this raised the excitement levels slightly in the whole Mandir, and to extreme levels in the children's portion of it. As the chocolates were distributed, another treat too was readied and choco-cream biscuits soon followed suit, only that this time the beneficiaries were everyone and not the children alone. Swami slowly traveled down the slope along the primary school students. He collected letters and blessed the kids as their Veda chanting reached "sonic boom" levels. He retraced the same path and granted the children a bonus darshan.
Through the veranda, He moved out to the gent’s side and this time gave the privileged 'double' to the Higher Secondary School and Institute students. As He neared the area where the birthday boys were seated, He told them in a joking and admonishing tone, "Aye! I already blessed you all!" He moved to the interview room and then blessed the group from the United Kingdom to put up the musical programme they had prepared. Quickly, the marble block was cleared and the group to perform was seated. Hurriedly, a lamp to be lit by Swami was prepared. However, when Swami came, He straightaway sat facing the devotees and asked for the programme to begin. The group leader went up to Swami and offered a rose to mark the beginning of the programme. Starting with "Brahmaanandam Parama Sukhadam", the group sang five songs in different styles and moods. The final song was a powerful one that had the catch phrase, "onward, forward, Godward". As they completed their five songs, Swami told them to sing bhajans. The youth from the United Kingdom had come on this visit to Puttaparthi as part of their Sadhana Camp. They began bhajans and after a while, Swami asked for aarthi and then retired to Yajur Mandir.
August 3rd, 2008 – Drama by Devotees from Kuwait
The central area in the Sai Kulwant Hall on August 3, 2008 was occupied by devotees from Kuwait and they had been granted permission by Swami the previous day to stage a programme that evening. For the devotees from Kuwait, it was a very significant pilgrimage. They had come prepared with a programme called, "Prayer" with a prayer for an opportunity to put it up in His divine presence. Days had passed and nothing eemed to happen. Swami too had avoided the gents’ side for some time.
And on August 2, when Swami Himself went to them, enquired about the rogramme and granted permission, they experienced the joy of praying and the thrill of it being answered at the right time by the Lord!
At about 4:40 p.m. Swami came out for darshan rounds. As He moved in the chair and neared the Kuwait devotees, He asked, "Drama?" They were all very happy as they nodded in agreement. Swami, with a lot of interest, watched the huge screen they had put up as the backdrop and moved over to the gents’ side. Waves of devotees rose to catch a glimpse of the smiling, orange-robed, lovable and adorable form that was gliding through them. The balconies of the East Prashanti block were also bursting at the seams with old ladies looking at their Sai Krishna. Smiling and granting Abhayahasta, Swami moved on. With His scented curls of jet black hair dancing to some ethereal melody, red lips sporting a divine all-knowing smile and twinkling eyes with the unique ability to thrill and fill every person with joy on whom they fall upon - seeing Swami is a joy sublime!
Completing the rounds, Swami came onstage and as soon as He arrived, He called one of the ladies seated in the front and asked her whether the drama was first or was there a music programme prior to that. She said that both were together but things would go as Swami wanted. One of the most common answers that people give Swami is, "Swami as you will/wish." On deeper introspection, we realize the absolute needlessness of that statement. Anything that happens is 100% in tune with what He has willed and no amount of effort from us can change that. Only complete surrender to Him can change things, and that too because He will do anything for the one who surrenders completely to Him. But still, that statement is made very frequently and Swami too seems pleased when it is stated thus. More than informing wami, that statement serves to remind each one of us that everything is going on beautifully well and nothing can ever go wrong because whatever is happening is in accordance to His Will and His Will alone!
As Swami sat on the stage, a few devotees from Kuwait came up to Him with flowers, cards and booklets as offerings. Swami received of all them and blessed the devotees. After that, Swami sat for a while listening to the Veda chanting. Then, He went into the interview room for a brief interval, and returned to the stage. And then, He asked them to start their programme. The presentation was a skit cum music programme that was many shades different from the standard presentations made in Swami's presence.
The storyline was very simple and day to day in nature. There is a devout Muslim searching a good match for his daughter. In his daily interactions with the shopkeeper of the local grocery store, he discovers the power of prayer. The episode narrated here is of a very pious but poor lady who begs for food at the store. When the shopkeeper mockingly tells her that he would give her provisions equivalent to the weight of her shopping list, she takes the name of Allah and places the list on the scales. The scales get "tipped" so heavily in favour of the one taking the Lord's name that no amount of provisions seems to move the weighing balance! With the Lord's name, nothing is impossible. And so with the Lord's name on his lips, the devout Muslim is able to find a good match for his daughter. That lad is also devout and hardworking, and helps a music teacher, Rammohan, to run his music classes. Finally, there were simple dances and songs in praise of Swami.
The striking aspects of the presentation were twofold - firstly, it was a very simple story which everyone could relate to; the problem portrayed, the questions asked and the line of thinking employed were so similar to the slice of life of any common man. Secondly, there were quite a few songs embedded in the play which were sung live and were very lively too! The coordination and synchronization between the ladies and gents on either side of the "play" were very harmonious and the counters sung were also very effective.
As the programme concluded, Swami called a little girl in a Muslim dress to come on the stage. He materialized a gold chain for her and put it lovingly around her neck. He also agreed to move down and pose for group photos. As He posed for pictures, He spoke to the children asking them where they had come from and what their names were. Some answered and many did not even open their mouths. But well, can they be blamed? Swami's presence is so overawing that one is muted into a mind-free moment!
Swami was moving back on the stage in the chair, one of the wheels seemed to trip and slip out of the ramp. There was a collective gasp but Swami seemed to just shrug it off. He just said, "Ay" to the person moving the chair more because of the 'gasp' he had caused among the devotees rather than because of the actual act. Swami never bothers about Himself at all. And His thoughts and feelings are always on the devotees. Even a slightest discomfort to them, makes Him very uncomfortable. If we really want Swami to be comfortable always, let us vow to remain comfortable and fine always! His joy lies in our joy and comfort.
Swami then permitted them to sing bhajans. Very creatively and nicely, they sang what we call as the "chain bhajans" - one bhajan threaded into the other! After the singing went on for about 15 minutes, Swami blessed the prasadam to be distributed and then left after receiving aarthi.
August 4, 2008 – Speeches by Devotees from UK
August 4, 2008 at Puttaparthi was quite cloudy as a moisture laden breeze swept through refreshing the otherwise sweltering afternoon. Slowly, more and more clouds gathered and the day grew cooler and cooler. Early evening, the message was that Swami had permitted the youth from nited Kingdom to sit in front and have a short programme. The thick clouds soon gave way and a torrential downpour began. As the rain lashed on the Sai Kulwant Hall roof, the movements near Yajur Mandir indicated that Swami was about to arrive. Swami came in the car and after a short darshan round, came on stage. He enquired about the speakers for the afternoon. After listening to the Veda chanting for a short while, He went into the interview room.
Swami came out after a while and asked for the speeches to begin. The first speaker was an elderly lady devotee by name Ms. Josephine. She was helped to the stage and as she slowly walked, Swami was all compassion and love for her. He asked for the mike and podium to be immediately placed and then blessed her to begin. She seemed to be completely drenched in His love and overwhelmed at the wonderful opportunity. She spoke only for four minutes wherein she stated that all she wanted to convey was that everyone must have full faith in Swami and that was enough! As she concluded with "Sai Ram", Swami seemed surprised. He asked her smilingly and jokingly as to why her speech was so short. Blessing her, Swami asked for a chair to be placed for her to sit. The next speaker was Mr. Ajit Popat. In his usual inimitable style he began with a shloka saluting the Lord. Centering his talk on the theme of "onward, forward, Godward", he spoke on a plethora of subjects ranging from faith and devotion to realizing the Self as the Swami within. He concluded after a little above 35 minutes, and then Swami patted him lovingly for the effort. Then, He asked for bhajans to begin. As per His command, the first bhajan was "Sri Raghunandana" with the aalaap. The next one began with the aalaap, "Allahu Akbar". As the singer traveled through the highs and extra highs of the opening tune, Swami was visibly moved. He even told Mr. Popat sitting beside him that the boy was singing at a high pitch. Seeing Swami so moved, the youth sitting in front of Him too began shedding tears.
The Love that devotees have for Swami is so unique
and complete, just like His Love for them. A smile on His face lights every other
face similarly. When a tear wells up in His eye, there is a free flow of tears in
all the thousands of eyes watching Him. He reflects the emotions and feelings of the
devotees, and they in their turn, reflect His emotions and feelings. Indeed,
beautiful is this unique relationship. As the bhajan reached its crescendo
and the zenith of its rhythm, Swami asked for aarthi and retired to Yajur
The marbled blocks in the Mandir on August 5 wore a festive look. It had been occupied by the youth from Himachal Pradesh, clad in cream-coloured sherwanis with a maroon dupatta. They were seated neatly in four rows and behind them was another group of men who were also in red scarves and from the same state. The ladies side also had devotees from Himachal Pradesh sitting in a separate area. They were to present a musical entitled "Hrudaya Tarang" - a collection of Himachali folk songs and qawwalis.
Swami arrived in the chair and as He neared the devotees in the centre of the hall, He asked, "Himachal Pradesh?" As they nodded and answered in all eagerness, Swami's face too seemed to light up. In fact, twice He asked the devotees whether they were from Himachal Pradesh. He went into the interview room for a short while and then came outside. He sat listening for the Veda chanting for a while and soon asked for the youth to begin their programme. After the customary offering of flower to Swami, the programme began.
The third row of youth went up on their knees while the fourth row stood up. The first song was in praise of Lord Shiva, the emperor of the snow covered kingdoms of Kailash! The second song was a song of dedication by the youth of Himachal Pradesh which is also called Dev Bhoomi (Land of the Lord). Both the songs had a wonderful and soulful aalaap which was sung so beautifully by the lead singer playing the harmonium. Just as the aalaap filled the soul with sweetness and sublimity, once the actual song began, it enveloped the mind with melody and the body with energy, bold and beautiful! The thirst for God was almost visible on the faces of the youth as they moved in perfect rhythm. Their harmonious movements made the entire area look like a colourful and gently fluttering brocade. Their body language was such that it looked like with His name on their lips and the deep contemplation of His form in their hearts, they were promising to spread His message with their sterling character and exemplary conduct.
he third song was a qawwali full of heartfelt prayers to the Lord for spiritual upliftment in the sojourn of life through the path leading to Puttaparthi, the abode of the avatar of the age. "Lord, we are not in search of worldly companions or fellow travelers in this journey, but only you, who are our only solace and refuge", was the repeated refrain of the song. As they let their feelings flow in a free torrent towards Him, Swami reciprocated with sweet smiles. The Lord throughout was clapping gently on His lap and had a rhythmic sway. The fourth song was a qawwali of total surrender to Swami. The final song was on the glory of Sai as He marches ahead inspiring millions to strive for the welfare and emancipation of the world. As they completed, Swami asked them to sing one more song. They immediately began another song, not in the original "schedule".
As they were singing, Swami asked the student sitting beside Him, "What is the meaning of that line?" The answer came, "Swami, they want to be at your Lotus feet always!" Swami smiled and nodded. At many points during the programme, Swami kept speaking a few words here and there. One was not able to make out the exact lines He spoke about, but anyone could easily see that He seemed to be enjoying Himself and as very happy with the songs (and with the "dances" too). As the programme concluded, Swami called the lead singer who was playing the harmonium and created a gold chain with a pendant for him. The youth playing the tabla came up to Swami and offered gratitude to Swami on behalf of all the youth. Swami asked for special sweets to be brought and distributed to all the participants. Then, He called Mr. S. V. Giri, the former Vice Chancellor of the Sri Sathya Sai University, and told him to distribute white safari pieces to all of the participants. He also ensured that all of them had received the sweets and the cloth pieces. The concern was very evident, as He told a student to distribute in the far corners too and asked another student to find out personally whether everyone had received the gifts of Grace.
Then, turning around, Swami said, "Get prasadam." Vibhuti packets were brought from the interview room and distributed to the participants. They sought permission to sing bhajans and they were granted that. After a few bhajans, Swami asked for the students to sing a bhajan. They began with the aalaap, "Allahu Akbar", a multi-faith bhajan. Swami was drawn into it and He too began to lip the words of the song. What a supreme joy it is to see Swami singing to your "tunes"! It is an overwhelming and humbling feeling at the same time! As that bhajan concluded, Swami asked for aarthi. A few youth from Himachal Pradesh moved up to Swami and spoke to Him. Swami patted each one of them lovingly on their cheeks. One of them seemed to be following Christ's dictum. When Swami patted him on one cheek, he showed his other cheek too! Swami obliged him by lovingly patting his other cheek also. Blessing everyone Swami left for Yajur Mandir. Meanwhile, it was announced that a special farewell ceremony for the Vice Chancellor of the Institute had been arranged by Swami in the Poorna Chandra Auditorium at 10 a.m. the next day.
August 8, 2008 – Vice Chancellor Changeover Ceremony
August 8, 2008 was the scheduled farewell for the Vice Chancellor (VC) of the Sri Sathya Sai University and also the welcome ceremony for the 8th VC. The Poornachandra Auditorium was the hub of activity as it was being readied for the big day after a lull lasting months. This was the first programme being held in the auditorium after the Convocation drama the previous year on November 22! The dais had been set up grandly and there were four chairs in the centre. But all these lay hidden from the public eye as the whole stage had been curtained.
At about 9:50 a.m., the huge curtains began to part. It gave the feeling of the huge doors of some grand temple opening to reveal the deity. The 'veil' lifted and the Lord was seen. Two huge banners stating, "Saa Vidya Ya Vimuktaye", adorned the stage. Swami took His place in the centre and then Mr. Anil Gokak and his wife came on stage and took their places beside Him. Finally, Prof. Vishwanath Pandit, the Vice chancellor to be, also took his place. The programme began with Mr. Gokak and his wife being garlanded by the principals of the Prashanti Nilayam and Anantapur campuses respectively. Then, Mr. Rangarajan, a lecturer from the Business School, made the opening remarks and expressed gratitude to Mr. Gokak. Recounting the instances where he had shown a lot of care and concern for students just as Swami wants all His administrators to be, the speaker spoke of the glowing qualities of Mr. Gokak. Then, he invited former VC, Mr. S. V. Giri to address the assembly, after which he requested Mr. Anil Gokak to say a few words.
Mr. Giri spoke of the glory of the story of the Institute. He too spoke of the sterling qualities of Mr. Anil Gokak as well as his illustrious father, Mr. V. K. Gokak, the first Vice Chancellor of Sri Sathya Sai University. Then, he praised the noble virtues of Prof. Vishwanath Pandit. There was applause as he concluded and Mr. Gokak rose to speak. He was overwhelmed by the nature of the ceremony being accorded to him. He recounted how his father had experienced Swami's divinity and had come to Him. He was almost in tears as he gratefully narrated Swami's love that had and has been bountiful on his family. He said that wherever he may be, he was sure that Swami would be with him always and that he would work for Him forever.
He concluded his talk and Swami asked for the "Suvarna kankanam" (golden bracelets). First, Swami put the bracelets on Mrs. Gokak, and then calling Mr. Gokak, Swami placed bracelets onto both his wrists and blessed him profusely.
After that, Swami rose to speak. There was a joyous applause and Swami began with a poem on the glory of Bharat ( India). Here is a detailed summary of His discourse:
In the evening, Swami had agreed for a music programme by Ms. Sunanda Sharma. It was being placed at the lotus feet as part of the Puttaparthi Pilgrimage by the youth of Himachal Pradesh. They were all seated in the centre of Sai Kulwant Hall. Swami arrived close to 5 p.m. and taking a detour between the youth from Himachal Pradesh, He moved into the interview room. After a brief stay there, He came out. He sighted one of the youth sitting in the first row and asked him, "You were playing the dholak last time, right?" The boy was really touched and thrilled; he nodded in affirmative. Swami also said, "That small boy was sitting in that corner last time. Now he is in the third line there." After a while of Veda chanting, Swami asked for the programme to begin.
Mrs. Sunanda Sharma, an MA in Indian classical music from the Punjab University, went onstage and offered a rose to Swami. Taking namaskar, she returned and began the presentation with three Aumkaras. The first song, a Chota Khayal actually, was in raag Madhuvanti entitled, "Sai Gun Gao". She showed what nine years of rigorous training under an able guru in the Guru-shishya tradition can do to groom one's talent. Her performance was scintillating to say the least. She continued in the same vein as she sang "Bhool Jaave Sab Dukhve" (I forget all my sorrows). Then she shifted over to singing Meera bhajans. She enchanted the audience with "Jogiya Tu Kabhahu Miloge" in raag Sindhubhairavi and then with another Meera bhajan in raag Kaapi. As she concluded, Swami called the 'Dholak player' and told him to find out how many songs she had still.
When He was told that she had sung her quota, He asked, "One more song?" She was overjoyed and she responded with a song that seeks refuge at His lotus feet to cross the ocean of life. As she completed her rendition, Swami called her to the stage and materialised a gold chain for her. She was so happy and excited that she ran to the stage with the tambura still in her hand.
It brought to one's mind the images of saint Mirabai running to her beloved Krishna. Swami was all smiles as He quickly placed the chain around her neck. Another lady came walking to the front and Swami told her to sit down. The singer told Swami, "My mother Swami." Swami said, "I know. And that is father..." He pointed to the person playing the harmonium and the parents were so very happy.
Swami then asked the students to start bhajans. As it went on, Swami asked the youth girls whether they were ready to sing as a group. So one bhajan later, they were asked to sing. Swami, meanwhile, called the artists who accompanied the singer and gifted them clothes and paadanamaskar. He called the singer too and gave her a wonderful saree.
The youth girls from Himachal Pradesh sang two songs, one on Lord Ganesha and the other on the mother goddess. Next, Swami, the divine orchestrator that He is, asked the students to continue. As bhajans went on in fast speed, Swami asked for prasadam to be distributed. Chocolates went around sweetening the mouths after the ears had been sweetened by the musical feast. On the ladies side, the people distributing the chocolates to the youth, got back the box half full stating that everyone had received prasadam. Swami said, "Take it back and finish it. It’s yours!" And through that simple act, all understood what it is to give wholly, the way God always does - no restrictions. In Hindi it is said, "Jab Bhagawan Deta hai to chappar faad kar deta hai" which somewhat translates into the famous English quote, "When it rains, it showers!" After two more bhajans, Swami received aarthi and retired to Yajur Mandir at about 6:30 p.m.
August 10, 2008 – Video Show with Swami and Drama by Vizianagaram Devotees
Swami had decided to gift His dear students with a wonderful opportunity on August 10, the Sunday! He had invited all to the Poornachandra Auditorium to view a film entitled, "Living with God is true education" which had been prepared by the students working at the Prashanti Digital tudios. The Auditorium began filling at 3:00 p.m. and by 3:30, it was occupied by all the students of the University as well as the Higher Secondary School. At about 3:50 p.m., a hush fell over the entire gathering as Swami entered the hall from the stage. The students had lined the paths as usual and Swami slowly moved to His place in the centre. As Swami entered the hall, the musical CD entitled, "Bhaavanjali" which Swami had graciously blessed for release, was being played. Swami and the guests who had come with Him sat in their respective places. Swami was surrounded by boys and how apt it was! Living and sitting with God, the students were watching, "Living with God is true education"!
The new Vice Chancellor, Prof. Vishwanath Pandit, welcomed everyone and spoke a few words expressing his gratitude to Swami as he also introduced the film to all the boys. He said that it was indeed wonderful to see a film made by the students, of the students and for the students with Swami, on Swami and around Swami!
The show then began and all the lights went out. Swami was attention personified as the storyline moved on along Swami's philosophy of education. It showed how Swami's University combined the best of modern education with the glorious culture of the Gurukula system of education. The documentary traced the history of how Swami literally put together bricks and bonded them with Love to raise the massive edifices of Educare in Puttaparthi, Anantapur and Brindavan at Bangalore. Swami was quite nostalgic as the events that led Him to build the hostel in Brindavan right next to His bungalow were recounted. He became emotional as former students, now well settled in various professions, related how Swami would personally take care of every aspect of their lives, and how they would manage everything in the hostel and college as in self-rule, for in Swami’s institutions
The Self really ruled! When a former student, now a teacher in the University, recalled an incident where Swami miraculously made the sweet filling enter into the hollows of the wheat dough fried in oil, Swami pointed and said, "That is Ravikumar!" The videos of the Sports meet where Swami was almost tumbling in laughter and joy made everyone clap as they were thrilled reliving those lovely moments. Memories of Kodaikanal and Trayee sessions captured on film also left indelible imprints in the hearts of all watching. Swami was at many times recollecting the people involved, the incidents and events, and narrating them to the Vice Chancellor. It was an experience that thrilled everyone present. As one viewer put it, "As you see Swami toiling, as You watch Him laughing and thinking for your welfare, as You see Him excited and grim on your cause, something deep inside your heart sprouts back to life….your tears would water it and the strength of relationship endows it a will to sustain it." At the point when, Mr. Indreshwar, the grandson of the Rajmata, narrated how none of the students were even in the billionth worthy of what Swami was showering on all, Swami said, "Stop! We will go now!" It was a very profound moment. Swami said that the devotees from Vijaynagar with the drama were waiting. But it was a perfect and beautiful spot to leave everyone in the hall lost in deep introspection. As the film was stopped, the students who had prepared a card for putting up a drama on August 15th went to Swami. The Lord interacted with the students for quite some time, and then, began to move towards the stage. All the students moved to Him like bees surrounding a lotus. The kind Lord smiled and blessed everyone on the way and then moved from the auditorium towards Sai Kulwant Hall where all the devotees from Vizainagaram were waiting for Him eagerly.
Swami took a turn in the central marble block after 'inspecting' all the children involved in the drama as they sat in front of the backdrop. He came on the stage and asked for the program to begin. The children accompanied by an adult from both the ladies and gents side went up to Him with cards and roses. As Swami blessed them, a group of people advanced to the stage with a big silver lamp and a Shivalingam. Swami lit the lamp and blessed the Shivalingam. Like a sweet child, He picked the silver snake that lay coiled around the lingam and then placed it back. As the devotees returned to their place, the drama to be staged was introduced.
The drama featured the story of Mallamamba, a great devotee of Lord Rama, from the Rayalaseema district. Her father writes a shatakam (hundred stanzas) but is refused entry into the temple to offer to the Lord as he belongs to a lower caste. Mallamma speaks strongly to the guards and stuns them to silence. But as always, might becomes right and both father and daughter are thrown out of the temple. With her intense devotion and prayers to Lord Rama, Mallamma forces the Lord to appear before her, and Rama Himself blesses her to write the Ramayana in her native tongue. She thus composes the Ramayana in Telugu. She goes back to the temple and the guards feel that she must be punished for her audacity. But she is rescued by none other than Tenali Ramakrishna, the minister and jester for the king Krishnadevaraya. Being a great poet himself, Ramakrishna is floored by Mallamamba's work. He personally informs the king, and soon, the king too appreciates and gets her work published; her effort is finally recognised. Mallamamba eventually, lost with Rama's name on her lips and His beautiful form in her heart, gives up the ghost. The drama was interspersed with lovely songs and dances by the Bala Vikas children.
As the drama concluded, Swami moved down from the stage. He created a golden chain for the devotee Mallamamba! He also got a wonderful blue saree and gifted it to her. He presented all the other girls with beautiful sarees. As they crowded and almost mobbed around Him, sweetly He kept telling them, "I will give all of you. I will give all." He, then, personally distributed white cloth pieces to all the boys. At the same time, accepted letters from many, blessed all of them, and finally, returned to the stage. Next, He asked for bhajans to be sung and blessed the prasadam to be distributed to all. After 4-5 bhajans, Swami received aarthi and retired to Yajur Mandir.
August 14, 2008 – Independence Day Programme by Students
India and Pakistan, countries which were Siamese twins at birth, were separated by a political cesarean operation. And so, it happens that while India celebrates its rebirth as a free nation on the 15th of August every year, its separated twin, Pakistan, does so on the 14th of the same month. Whatever be the date, it is indeed in "august" company that the celebrations occur! August 15, 2008 in Prasanthi Nilayam had both celebrations, of the National Independence and the Varalakshmi Vratam. Swami never allows anyone to go disappointed. And so, Swami had instructed His students to put up their traditional I-day drama on the 14th evening itself so that the very elaborate preparations that had gone into the Vratam could continue into fruition the next day.
The stage was set and all the boys in their costumes were seated in the Bhajan Hall. Swami moved along the lines as He came out for darshan, and then as He reached the central block, He looked admiringly at the simple yet elegant backdrop that had been constructed with the Indian tricolour on it. He cut through the central area and moved straight into the Bhajan Hall. That is where all the actors were waiting. Swami seemed to be fascinated by their good and colourful costumes. And like a child, He was so happy seeing the 'various colours' of the boys! He was 'introduced' to Gandhiji, Subash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh. He looked at a bearded person sitting nearby and asked him what he was doing. He turned out to be Harishchandra; his wife, Chandramati, too was nearby in a blue saree! Swami was also very happy to see Krishna and Arjuna figure in the scheme of things. He enquired into the duration of the programme. “One hour, Swami,” was the answer. Similarly, Vasishta and Vishwamitra were introduced to Him. Swami blessed all the actors and told them that He would soon be out to witness their programme.
As per His word, He soon came out and asked for the Veda chanting to give way to the programme. Krishna and Arjuna came up to Him and offered roses. Swami appeared very touched seeing Krishna in all splendour. The programme started with the Sootradhaari or compere introducing the drama. Then all of a sudden, he asked, "Why are you proud to be an Indian?" Everyone was taken by surprise. A few tense moments passed when it seemed that no one wanted to voice an answer!
Then a hand went up and a student rose and said, "There are many reasons why I am proud to be an Indian. But the greatest and the most heartfelt is because God has taken birth here over and over again through the ages!"
The crowd burst into a joyful applause and Swami was very touched. He called the student and told him to announce that the programme was being done by the 2nd year post graduate boys and he did as asked. The programme continued with another student, a boy from the 8th standard getting up and stating that he too was proud to be with the avatar and for the reason that Bharat has such a glorious culture. Swami was deeply touched to see the fire in the belly of that child.
The drama was weaved into a fine brocade of a story by the threads of little known individual patriots who gave their all for the sake of Poorna Swaraj (complete freedom) alongside the lives of two young men who dedicate their lives for the freedom struggle under the leadership of the Mahatma Gandhi. They rise against the British non-violently, trusting the power of their immortal spirit rather than relying on the strength of the mortal body. They receive the blows rained by the British joyfully knowing that each blow that seemed to crush their body actually developed their resolve to be free into an indomitable and unbreakable one. They go to jail and there too experience the joy of unity and oneness as people of all religions and strata in society rub shoulders, united in the common cause of freeing Mother India from the fetters of foreign rule. Gandhiji motivates them by his mere words which are laced with Truth.
The episode of Sathya Harishchandra was depicted very aptly at this point. Being a king, Harishchandra is reduced to a poor undertaker at the cemetery. His legendary adherence to Truth is seen as he refuses to be bound by bodily attachments and bury his own son for free. His wife pleads and the king's heart bleeds. But he remains firm in his resolve to be on the path of Truth. As Swami saw the episode of Harishchandra, He became very emotional. It seemed as if His heart too bled and tears were shed at the memory of a person who always adhered to the path of truth and righteousness. Especially when Chandramati, the wife, pleaded for the son, the divine mother that He is, Swami felt the pangs of another mother's heart.
When the protagonist of the play loses his son to police brutality, he is a broken man. With tears he goes to his Guru, Sri Aurobindo. His brother who is also a comrade is there and he is just unable to understand why people meekly receive blows and think that it is bravery to be non-violent. Did not Lord Krishna in the Bhagwad Gita urge Arjuna to rise in arms? The Guru clears all the doubts by taking both the disciples through the Bhagwad Gita. The Krishna Arjuna dialogue ensues and message becomes very clear. Krishna, though apparently urged Arjuna to wage war, wanted him to actually give up body attachment. And war was the means of doing it then, for Arjuna did not want to fight because he thought he was killing his own people. Non-violence was the means used now for the revolutionaries wanted to fight because they thought they were killing enemies! Whatever be the means, the end must be to annihilate body consciousness and then alone can one be truly free.
Towards the end, the heroes, Gandhiji, Bhagat Singh and Subash Chandra Bose made their brief but very inspiring appearances. Patriotic songs were liberally sprinkled all over the drama and all the singing was being done live. Rather than using recorded tracks, the boys wanted to get immersed in the feelings of the day and occasion, and sing the songs live. It had the desired effect as each song touched the people in some deep recess of the heart. There were no spectators or audience on the day as all felt one with the feelings of patriotism and true love being depicted at the centre.
The drama concluded with all the students coming forward in the crescent formation. Then, in military style, one by one, they all stepped out of line, stated loudly and proudly what the Bharata Bhagya Vidhata, Swami, had done for them and then stepped back in line. As this concluded, it was so clear for all in the hall that if at all there is a true patriot, then He sat right before them robed in the saffron of sacrifice! This final portion elicited a lot of applause from everyone.
Swami called all the actors to Him. He was very happy and
congratulated everyone. A 'muslim' from the drama was called onstage and
Swami spoke a few words with him. He however commented that the Bhagwad Gita was the
greatest treasure from India and more time should have been spent on dilating on its
teachings. He, then, moved down to the performance area to grant the students the
privilege of group photos with Him. He materialised a beautiful and thick gold chain
for the student who played the role of Krishna.
Swami accepted all the letters the boys had to offer. He moved back on stage slowly and then very patiently and lovingly posed for group photos with all the boys. He Himself called on the groups. " Krishna and Arjuna", "Bose and Gandhi", "Harishchandra and Chandramati", "the sepoys", "the red clothes sepoys" (British soldiers), and so on. He would call like this and they would go on stage to pose for photographs with Him. Then, He blessed the lush red apples to be distributed to one and all. As if that were not enough, He personally distributed watches to each and every member of the 130 strong team that had made the presentation. As this distribution went on, each student interacted with Swami in his own way and Swami responded to every one of them and made them feel special.
One of the students gave a golden ring to Swami and requested Him to put it on his finger. Swami smiled and obliged. All the students prayed that Swami visit the hostel and Swami said, "I will come". Then Swami asked for bhajans to be sung as He continued to distribute watches ensuring that He missed no one. The bhajans began and after 5-10 minutes of vociferous and enthused singing, Swami received aarthi. It was past 7:00 p.m. when He retired to Yajur Mandir.
August 15, 2008 – Vara Lakshmi Vratam Celebrations
The completion of sixty years is a very spiritual event in the life of a person as per ancient Indian traditions. It is celebrated as the "Shashti Poorthi." It signifies the fact that a person has completed all his/her earthly duties and from now on, the focus would be God and God alone. It is an event that marks the watershed in the life of any person. And India on August 15, 2008, turned 60 as a free and independent nation! What greater fortune could have befallen this nation, for while everyone turns Godward only as they turn 60, God had turned towards her ever since her birth and also when She turned 60! As if symbolizing this Godward turn for Mother India, as everyone awoke to "life and freedom", in the words of Pandit Nehru, Puttaparthi awoke to the celebration and worship of the Mother in the form of the Varalakshmi Vratam! It is very significant that this Vratham (vow) is one that is done only by the ladies and it has very spiritual connotations. The fact that this vow was performed in the divine presence on the occasion of independence day as Mother India completed her 60th birthday was in itself thrilling and goose bumps erupted on the being of anyone who realized the supreme significance.
The whole Sai Kulwant Hall resembled a bedecked bride awaiting her Lord! The stage had been set and a small pandal had been erected to house the presiding deity, Lakshmi. All the ladies participating in the pooja were seated neatly in rows on both the ladies and gents side of the Kulwant Hall. Swami came out after 9:30 a.m. He moved along the lines of the ladies, all dressed up in pink, granting darshan. There was the gap in the centre but that day Swami said that He wanted to go on and complete a full darshan round.
The students were in one corner of the hall and Swami moved there too. After completing the round fully, Swami moved onto the stage. There, He lit the lamp to mark the auspicious beginning of the worship. The Veda chanting was told to subside and the pooja began. Swami sat for a while as the worship went on, and then moved into the interview room. Five minutes later, He was out again and began a second round of "rounds" starting with the ladies side. He slowly moved along the lines of the worshipping ladies and blessed a few of them too by sprinkling the holy akshatha grains. He moved around the entire gathering and surely there wasn't even a single woman who could complain of not being able to see Swami from close quarters.
As Swami went on these rounds, the pooja continued. The various aspects of Laksmi were worshipped and mantras chanted - some by everyone and others only by the priests. Swami slowly returned to the stage and sat there witnessing the rituals. The story behind the worship and the inner significance also was explained by the chief priest. The event concluded with the women exchanging gifts with the feeling that they were welcoming and presenting to the Goddess Herself. As holy threads were tied on the wrists, Swami blessed the conclusion of the worship. He then spoke to and blessed the priests. Prasadam was blessed to be distributed to everyone and as the distribution went on, Swami asked the priest to chant a few special Sama Veda mantras. He chanted, or rather sang, them slowly and well. Swami swayed to those tunes! After that was completed, He blessed the priests once more and then left after receiving aarthi.
In the evening, there was a scheduled programme by Mrs. Sunitha. She is a renowned playback singer, anchor and dubbing artist who has won many awards at various levels. The stage was set by way of a wonderful blue carpet in the central marble block. The artists were ready and Swami came for darshan rounds. He took a complete round and then moved into the interview room. He soon came out and asked for the concert to begin. She sang many light devotional songs and most of them were in Telugu. She was lost in the joy and feelings that aroused in her as she sang and Swami too was very happy listening to her rendering. She was accompanied by a keyboard, tabla, veena, tambourine and mridangam. After she completed her planned quota of 6-7 songs, Swami, asked her to sing a few more. She sang one more and when Swami asked her to sing another, she seemed so very thrilled and happy. She told Swami that the song she was about to sing was one that matched exactly to what she was feeling right then. She also sang a Meera bhajan. She, finally, concluded with Swami's bhajan, "Giridhara Naagara Kunja Vihaari" which everyone followed.
Swami called her to the stage and created a gold chain for her. He also gifted silk sarees to her and safari pieces to her accompanying artists. He also blessed her husband who came up the side stage. He had many words of encouragement for the singer, and He, very lovingly, blessed her. He seemed to be advising her husband, He blessed him too and then each of the accompanying artists also had their share of interaction with Him.
As they returned to their places, Swami asked for the boys to sing bhajans. Two bhajans with aalaap were sung and everyone including the artists followed with great fervour. As the bhajans concluded, Swami called one of the students and asked him to sing a song. He sang the Carnatic song, "Dinakara Shubhakara" with all its intricacies. The singer artist of the evening, Mrs. Sunitha, herself was lost in appreciation of the boy's singing. After he completed, Swami told her that from a young age itself the boy had been practising and that he was a student in the University. She seemed very happy and pleased for she too had begun her music training at a young age of three.
Prasadam was blessed to be distributed to all and Swami received aarthi. Swami sat through the whole aarthi and at the end raised both His hands in blessings and benediction. It was 7:00 p.m. as He retired into Yajur Mandir.
August 16, 2008 – Programme by West Bengal Sai Youth
The youth from West Bengal had come prepared with a drama to present in front of Bhagavan. The Lord had graciously permitted them to stage it on August 16, 2008. The 'privileged' marble blocks were all empty and there was a backdrop that had been erected. The 'youthful' prayer had been on for a few days now and Swami had showered special love on them. In fact, on August 13, it seemed, He had made special darshan rounds only for their sake.
Swami arrived in the chair and moved into the interview room after the rounds. He came out briefly and sat listening to the Vedas. However, He went in again and the chanting continued. It was about 5 p.m. when He finally decided that the programme must begin. As presented in the introductory brochure, the drama about to be staged was a "depiction of how the divine energy of Love, when translated into action at an individual level in the form of selfless service to humanity can bring about the transformation in society." Swami called the main coordinator and asked for the performance to begin. The chanting came to a halt and the prerecorded audio filled the air.
The story was of a Sai Youth, Vinay, who is strongly committed to values and adheres to them in all situations. He sacrifices personal gains and benefits to safeguard them. He refuses to be a part of bribery and corruption, and even quits jobs though it means severe financial stress for him and his family. The company he finally works for plans to relocate a village and build a factory in that particular area. That village happens to be the one in which Vinay does Grama Seva undertaken by the Sathya Sai Seva Organisations. Not wanting to be a part of that relocation, Vinay quits again. But when the heads of the company see the wonderful work being done in the villages, they are inspired. They are overwhelmed by the power inherent in Love. They understand that what they thought would be good for the villagers, was not actually something that they wanted. And it was here that one felt the true meaning of Love.
If Love has to be defined in one word, that word would be "freedom". It is not a great binding force, but the greatest liberating force. And Love expresses itself by giving the power of choice to the loved one, even if that choice is apparently used for something that may not be so good for that being. Towards the end of the drama, as is the case in any drama - on the auditorium stage or in the stage of life - Vinay's associates are transformed seeing his selflessness and dedication. Vinay humbly attributes all of it to his Master, Sathya Sai Baba. He also explains the great gift - the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, which Bhagavan has gifted mankind for redeeming itself.
The lead role was played by an alumnus of the University. As soon as he came on stage, Swami recognised him as a student. He also said, "That boy sings very well. He has a very good voice", during the course of the drama when the protagonist sang. There was also a scene of the traditional "white" and "red" robed selves which are a part of every human that pull him towards them whenever he is caught between the horns of a dilemma. But this scene was done so realistically and powerfully, that everyone, including Swami, seemed to feel the pangs of dilemma and doubt, as the "angel" and "devil" argued forcefully and in rapid succession. In the final scene, the hero shared the stage with more than 20 characters, some dancing, others speaking and a few others miming. But all the attention and glory seemed focused entirely on Vinay as he simply stole the show with a burst of superlative acting topping his sterling performance till then.
As the drama concluded, Swami called "Vinay" to the mainstage and materialised a golden bracelet for him. He also asked him about his stay in Puttaparthi and the date of his departure. Swami, then, personally distributed Safari cloth pieces to all the participants. Then, moving down the stage, He posed with them for group photos.
Accepting letters from whomsoever had one and granting padanamaskar to anyone who wanted, Swami slowly returned to the stage. Still, He, somehow, did not seem satisfied! He went into the interview room and came out with many boxes. Opening one of them, He displayed a photo frame with an embedded digital clock, the screen of which would light up green at the press of a button. Swami, in His sweet childlike manner, showed all the boys how to "enlighten" their "time" in the simplest manner by pressing a button. He, again, personally distributed these to all the members of the drama, including the sets boys and the helping youth members. He also spoke to some of them as He gave them the gifts. To one youth, He asked out of the blue, "Where do you work?" He answered. The Swami said, "Not much pay...how much?" He said, "Swami, 800." Swami blessed him and sent him back. That boy was really thrilled.
Next, Swami asked for bhajans to begin. As the singing went on, one of the photographers showed Swami copies of the group pictures that had just been taken. Swami was very happy and held up the pictures for all to see saying, "Your picture is here!" He called the hero and presented the photos to him. After that, blessing the prasadam to be distributed to everyone, Swami received aarthi and retired.
August 22, 2008 – Drama by Vishakapatnam devotees
Last two years devotees seem to be coming in huge numbers to Puttaparthi. It is not that devotees were less in numbers anytime before, it is just that now they come as groups. The concept of unity seems to be getting stronger with each passing day. On August 22, for instance, a 2500 strong contingent had arrived from Vishakapatnam, and had also been permitted to put up their programme that evening. From His side, Swami too encourages group sadhana. Even physically, He seems to give more attention when the devotees are in groups. He speaks to the group, gives them opportunities to present their programmes and distributes gifts of grace. Very subtly but surely the message sent across is - "Unity is strength; Unity is divinity."
Swami arrived at about 4:10 p.m. and took a straight path to the interview room. The stage was all set for the drama to begin. The actual drama began, however, at only 5:15 p.m. But in the hour that passed by, any absorbed observer could not have helped but notice the two other dramas going on - one of bhakti and the other of Karma. The hall was packed and all the devotees with yellow scarves sat in prayer and devotion waiting for the Lord to come. It was a hot evening. As the popular fact about Puttaparthi goes, "There are three seasons in Puttaparthi - hot, hotter and hottest!" So though the wrath of the summer had passed by, it is still hot, at times, in Puttaparthi, with the humidity too being high, it being a monsoon season. Giving relief to the bhakti of the devotees was the Karma of the selfless sevadal volunteers as they went about relentlessly supplying ambrosial and cool drinking water to them. This silent Yajna went on continuously as many a parched throat was slaked with nectarine water. It was symbolic of all that Swami has achieved through His mammoth projects - injecting into His people the enthusiasm for energetic service; the softness of heart to be touched by suffering of any kind.
Swami came out at about 5:05 p.m. and after listening to the Vedic chants for a while, asked them to stop and beckoned the Vishakapatnam group to begin the programme. The office bearers first symbolically offered the programme unto His feet. A silver lamp made its way up the stage and soon it was lit by the Lord. This is another practise that has gained ground especially among the different districts of Andhra Pradesh. A lamp is lit by Swami at Puttaparthi and its "light" is taken back to the respective places signifying Swami's entry into their homelands. And so, it was only after the lamp was lit and Padukas blessed that the actual participants moved up to Swami and offered flowers. Soon the drama began.
It opened with Karnam Subamma calling out to Krishna and little Sathya responding to her asking her why she had called. He reminds her of the wonderful Brindavan days that He has come to recreate - those days of leelas when He as Krishna had danced with the gopikas. Then too, like now, He was the favourite of everyone. All wanted to spend time with Him and no one felt their day complete without Him being a part of it. As a tiny tot, Krishna showed Mother Yasoda that the entire Universe is in Him - the same boon that the little Sathya bestowed on Subbamma.
The episode of Krishna merrily dancing on the hoods of the vicious serpent Kaliya as He subdued him was wonderfully depicted and the episode of Swami swallowing the poisoned vadas, and in turn consuming the hatred and anger of people who tried to poison Him was brought up as a comparison. Krishna also performs the miracle of lifting the mountain Govardhana to spare the people of Gokulam, who had placed all their faith in Him, from the ire of Lord Indra. When Subbamma asks little Sathya whether He would do a similar thing even now, He replies, "Then I lifted only one mountain - symbolic of achieving the impossible. This time, I shall do many more." He then allows her a sneak peek into the future where He accomplishes "lifting the Govardhanas" of health care, educare and socio-care.
Throughout the drama, Swami was very moved and it appeared as if He was reminded of the Love that exists between Him and Subamma, and that which exists between Him and Yashoda, if there is any difference between them, that is! He seemed overwhelmed on many occasions, and here and there kept nostalgically remembering the episodes and even told some of them to the people by His side. The crowning moment for the drama came towards the end. Both Subamma and Yashoda express their desires to see their dear little ones gently swinging in a jhoola. At this point both Krishna and Sathya came to Swami and pleaded with Him to fulfill that desire! Swami agreed and as the final dance was on itself, Swami moved down from the stage and went near the big swing that had been placed in the centre of the performance area. The dancers went about merrily dancing till Swami told them to stop and pose with Him by His side.
And so, all the children came crowding around. Slowly all the people associated with the drama also came to Swami. They surrounded Him from all sides as the flashes were fired and tapes rolled. Most of the children began to break down into uncontrollable tears. There were expressions of Love and uncontrollable joy. The urge to fall full at His feet was also uncontrollable. In short, everything about the final formation and photo session was uncontrollable! And that is how it is with the Lord - everything beyond limits and boundaries!
Swami created two gold chains simultaneously and gifted one to Krishna and the other to Subbamma. He was surrounded on all sides by the children and the young ones seemed to be everywhere. And everyone seemed to have only one objective - to fall at His feet. Soon, Swami waded out of the surging waves of children, and as He moved towards the stage, He asked for sarees and white safari pieces.
He gifted two beautiful sarees to Yashoda and Subbamma. He also asked for sarees to be distributed to all the other children. For the boys’ side, He gave T-shirts to all the kids and to the elder boys, He gifted Safari pieces. In the meanwhile, He also sent word for Krishna and Sathya. He told Krishna, "Call your mother also." The innocent ' Krishna' instead of calling 'Yasoda', called her mother from the audience. And the mother of Sathya also came to Swami in the same fashion. Swami posed for a picture with them. The mothers broke down and almost lay at His feet. Swami told them to rise and blessed them.
Swami continued the giving with pens that were also brought out. To many of the children, He Himself distributed. After that was done, Swami returned to the stage. Everyone was so happy and Swami was the only reason for that. Swami said that the drama was very well scripted and presented. After a short visit to the interview room, Swami received aarthi and retired for the evening.
August 23, 2008 – Programme by Alike Sai Students
The students from the Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva Institutions, Alike (located in the state of Karnataka) had been permitted by Bhagavan to stage a programme in His presence in the afternoon of August 23, 2008. Yakshagana, the traditional dance form of Karnataka, was to be performed. This art form is a combination of musical narration, dance and drama and the novelty lies in the fact that the characters do not speak much vocally, but any viewer would unequivocally subscribe to the statement that they give wonderful expression to the thoughts and feelings through dance, actions and facial movements.
Swami arrived a little after 4 p.m. but He went straight to the interview room, cutting through the ladies side. Then, there was a gap of about 40 minutes. This time period was used by the participants to pray so that their efforts please Him. It is a period when the sweat and toil, and the feelings and emotions of all the training time are creamed up with the fervent devotional prayers. Soon enough, Swami came. The first thing He wanted to do was to go backstage where all the wonderfully costumed actors were seated. He moved down the stage and slowly glided amidst the actors. He asked some of them about the roles they were playing. He checked whether they were all appropriately dressed. The perfectionist that He is, He pointed out to hairpins that were sticking out of the heads of some of the characters, and said that they must be put in properly. On the whole, He was pleased with the costumes. Taking a full round, He moved back to the stage slowly. Then, He asked for the presentation to begin.
Two children came with the cards and offerings, dancing all the way to the stage and presented them to Swami. The drama entitled, "Choodamani Pradanam" was the story of Hanuman's successful triumph at Lanka in the search of Mother Sita. After the kidnap of Sita by Ravana, Sri Rama enquires from Lakshmana about the promise of the king of monkeys, Sugriva, to search for Sita. Then, Sugriva gets his army ready for the search. Leaders are selected among them but Sri Rama has the ultimate trust in Hanuman. Rama informs Hanuman of the identity of Sita and gives the signet ring as a mark of identification. All the monkeys now plunge into action with Rama's name on their lips. The mere chanting of the name gifts wings back to the de-winged Sampathi, the brother of Jatayu. Very inspiringly, it went on to show that once anyone begins to work for the Lord, all obstacles simply seem to fade and disappear. Sampathi, thereafter, himself guides the troops towards Lanka where Sita had been kept under strict vigil. When faced by the sea, Jambavan, Sugriva's minister, reminds Hanuman of his immense powers. With Rama's name, Hanuman jumps across the sea and encounters the demoness Lankini at the entrance.
There was a funny sequence when Hanuman teases and troubles Lankini! Finally, vanquishing her and releasing her from the curse she had been under all this while, Hanuman comes to know the whereabouts of Sita from Vibhishana, the pious brother of Ravana. Sita is with Sarama, Vibheeshana's wife. Ravana enters the orchard with material gifts and tries to persuade Sita to marry him. But Sita reprimands and curses him. Hanuman, then, makes his appearance and tells mother Sita all about Rama. The description of Rama touches the inner recesses of Sita's heart. It also seemed to touch some chords deep within Swami. He was touched by the loyalty and love of Sita to Rama and Hanuman's devotion to both Rama and Sita.
All the singing was being done by the ‘Bhagavathars’ as they are called, standing backstage. There was the main singer and accompanists for him. A mrindangam, a drum, a set of cymbals and a music box provided the rich music. Most of the speaking was being done by that singer. The actors would once in a while speak English dialogues so that the non-Kannada people could also catch the action going on. But all that was rendered superfluous by the superlative acting of the boys, who brought to life all the characters from the bygone era.
Sita is overjoyed and she hands over the "Choodamani" as her mark of identification for Rama. Then, when she seems to despair, Hanuman, meek and sweet till now, stands to his magnificent height and reassures her. Hanuman then destroys the Ashokavana and gets captured willingly when Indrajit, Ravana's son, uses the Brahmaastra against him. In anger, Ravana commands that Hanuman's tail be set on fire. Jumping across the city of Lanka, Hanuman sets it on fire. Finally, Hanuman returns to Sri Rama and informs the joyous tidings. When he gives the Choodamani to Rama, Rama embraces him.
Marching against the demonic forces, Rama vanquishes Ravana and rescues Sita. The drama closes with the scene of the coronation of Lord Rama. It displayed the glory of the humble Hanuman who achieved so much that even the Lord was speechless in gratitude to him.
The Ramayana is such a wonderful epic that even today when we listen to it, it arouses noble feelings and emotions within. The story never seems to get boring and every time it is narrated or depicted, it inspires one to rise above the pettiness and narrow mindedness, and get lost in Love for God. And so, it is no surprise that Swami gives so much importance to this epic. It is not just a story, but the story of every person in the journey called life.
As the drama concluded, Swami came down from the stage and was so very happy with all of them. He stated so many times that each and every actor had done a wonderful role. He posed for group photos with all of them, and then He also materialised two gold chains simultaneously and gifted them to Rama and Sita respectively. Many tried giving letters to Him. He told them to wait and hold on. He seemed to say, "When I am here available for you to tell me whatever you want, why the impediment of the paper? When the rich feelings of the heart are on song, why use the grossly insufficient medium of the words?" He called for Rama, Sita and Lakshmana and took a picture. He then slowly moved on to the stage. All the boys in a disciplined manner moved backstage when they were all told to come front and sit.
Discipline is something that pleases Swami a lot. Not one person, child or adult, rushed to Swami. As a result, Swami Himself kept calling people to Him, and spoke and interacted with them. He sat for more than 20 minutes after the drama and interacted with them all. He distributed t-shirts to all the students. He gifted the elders with Safari pieces. For some of the elders who always dress in traditional clothes, He gifted silk dhotis. He also asked about the people who had been involved in the make up and gifted clothes to them. He spoke at length with the heads of the institution at Alike. Then, blessing them profusely, He asked for the aarthi to be taken. He sat for the whole aarthi and blessed the children specially after it concluded. Before leaving, He once again said, "Very nice drama. All acted very well. Am very happy!" Blessed indeed are these children for they delighted the Lord so much!
August 24, 2008 – Krishna Janmastami Celebrations
August 24, 2008 day dawned to usher in the birthday of the most fascinating Avatar of the Lord - Krishna. The Sai Kulwant Hall was brimming with people. Many devotees who were supposed to leave had decided to stay on to witness the splendour of the Krishna avatar with their dear Sai Krishna. So full was Prasanthi Nilayam that the main gate carried a notice, "Sairam! No accommodation available inside." Well, there was dearth of accommodation in the ashram, but no dearth of accommodative people! People had settled in the corridors of the Southern blocks and had spread sheets and mats wherever there was a little sheltered space.
The red rays of the early morning Sun turned golden and began to filter and flow into the Sai Kulwant Hall lighting up especially the central area. Krishna Gita, Swami’s baby elephant, the Gokulam cows, deer, peacocks, doves and rabbits accompanied by the student care-takers too had arrived to the Mandir in procession. They too had been bedecked and some of them appeared to be in bridal finery. It was at this moment that the sweet Lord too arrived covered in the golden yellow robe! There was an applause of thrill as He entered the Sai Kulwant Hall. We have only heard about the beauty of Lord Krishna in the pitambara (yellow dress) but everyone present was indeed blessed to see Him in the splendid yellow robe! He moved slowly down the aisle and a sweet smile adorned His beaming face. He blessed all as He arrived. As He neared Krishna Gita, she stretched out her little trunk to touch Him. Smiling to Himself, Swami slowly waded into the confluence from the animal world.
He fed the cows with bananas. There was a suckling calf. That day it was blessed to receive milk from two mothers as Swami too fed it with milk from a feeding bottle. Gently moving amidst the animals, He ensured that everyone was fed at least something in His divine presence. Two white pigeons had the special privilege of being released into the free skies from His divine hands. As the pigeons soared skywards, the decibel levels in the hall also soared as people joyously clapped at the happy sight. Moving ahead, Swami lovingly fondled a baby deer that was brought near Him. He fed the mother of that deer with a biscuit which she quickly gobbled. He not only blessed the animals but their caretakers too. Many of the members of the Sathya Sai Gokulam offered roses to Swami. It was as if a bouquet of roses had been presented to Him. He patiently and lovingly accepted all of them, and then moving through the students, went up the stage. It was then that two children decked as Krishna and Balarama went on stage. Swami blessed them and also the sweets they offered to Him.
Swami sat listening to the chants that were on ceaselessly. He sat that way for about 20-25 minutes. In between, He told the caretakers to take all the animals back to their lovely homes that He so lovingly has gifted them. It is really wonderful how much concern Swami has for the animals. Normally any of us feel that though the animals do not know, it is their privilege to be in Swami's presence. However, on the smooth marbled floors of Sai Kulwant Hall, the animals find it a little tough to get a grip. It was not so before when the Hall had concrete floors, and before that when there was sand. Probably therefore, Swami sends back the animals as soon as possible.
Once the animals left, Swami asked the students to start their programme. The card was shown to Him and the programme started with a group song, the Pandurangashtakam. Since it is a popular one, even the children from the Primary school too joined in the singing. After that, two students sang the song, "Govardhana Giridhara" in all its majesty and grandeur. This was followed by a novel programme. A group of students from the Institute and the School have been working hard at learning to play the flute. All these students, along with their teacher, put up a 15 minute recital in His presence. Swami kept tapping in beat as they played on the flute. And therein lay the beauty of being a student! Any talent that one has or any skill that one acquires, one gets the wonderful opportunity to present before the supreme Lord Himself! After they finished their presentation, it was back to songs. A Telugu song recounting the leelas of Lord Krishna as a child was sung and Swami was very involved in the song. He seemed to be drinking in every word that was sung and appeared very touched at times. As that song was completed, Swami probably decided that it was best all leave in that frame of mind. He asked for the aarthi.
As the aarthi was nearing conclusion, Swami called the students who had arrived with a cake. He cut the cake and naturally so, for, was it not His birthday? Many Krishnashtami cards had been made by students from the Institute, school and primary school too. Swami called them all and began to slowly and patiently go through the works of art that His children had designed. Some were huge; others were three dimensional structures; while a few others were fine carvings. There were others which were simple sketches and paintings depicting the episodes in the life of Lord Krishna. But all of them were prayers addressed to Swami.
As Swami went through these cards, the " Krishna" and "Balarama" moved up on stage again, and offered chocolates to Swami. Swami lovingly gifted these to the Primary school children who had made the cards. He, in fact, gave a chocolate to every child who came to Him. In this manner, Swami spent more than 20 minutes seeing and blessing the cards with their creators. Then, raising both His hands in benediction, He retired for the morning. It was a blissful day for everyone blessed to be present.
August 25, 2008 – Music Programme by Tamil Nadu Sai Youth
More than 3000 members of the youth brigade from Tamil Nadu had arrived at Prasanthi Nilayam on August 25, 2008. It has become part and parcel of the activities of each and every state in India to have at least one pilgrimage to Puttaparthi wherein all can recharge their fatigued spiritual batteries, and continue all the other activities thereafter with renewed vigour and energy. Swami had very graciously consented for a music programme by them. And so, by 3:30 p.m., all of them were seated in neat rows and columns in Sai Kulwant Hall. The rest of the Hall resembled an ocean as all these devotees were in deep blue scarves.
Swami arrived for darshan and took a complete round of the ladies side. He cut through between the seated rows of singers and moved towards the interview room. Coming on the stage, He sat listening to the chants. Then, He took a round around the stage area and moved to the portico. Via the portico, He again went over to the ladies side. Now, this was a bonus round that none had dreamt about. This turned out to be the darshan round that had been cut short initially. As He moved through the students into the gents’ side, the sea of humanity from Chennai experienced high tides as people bobbed up and down to glimpse the Orange Form. Taking letters and raising His hands in blessings many times, Swami moved back into the portico, and then finally returned to stage. Then, He called all the card boys and birthday boys and blessed them. The cards were actually made for the occasion of Janmashtami, and Swami seemed to make fun of the fact that He was being shown cards whose "expiry date" was gone!
He then told the Vedic chants to stop and asked for the programme to begin. The programme schedule was shown to Swami by a member of the youth - a former student of the University. Swami recognised him instantly! No wonder it is said that once you become His student, you never cease to be one. The programme consisted of devotional songs that the youth had prepared. The original plan was that the girls would sing their share of songs, and then the boys would present what they had prepared. But with Swami, one has to be ready for everything. As soon as the girls finished the first song in praise of Lord Ganesha, He called one of the boys and told him that they should sing in an alternating fashion. This needed some quick adjustments as all the songs had part of the music pre-recorded on CD and the tracks had to be shuffled all over so that the boys and girls could alternate. But as with the Lord always, when He asks for something, He also gives the strength and intelligence needed to achieve it. And so, the necessary changes were quickly made and the song programme continued as He willed it!
There were two little kids playing the mridangam and violin respectively, and they did it like professionals. Swami seemed very impressed by them. Most of the songs were in Tamil and one or two were in Malayalam, a sister language for Tamil, too. The girls especially were wonderful in their singing as they reeled counters and chords in their rendering. As they concluded about 8 songs, Swami asked the students to sing a few bhajans. The students then sang Swami's favourite bhajan-couple: “Ram Hare Hare Ram Bolo…” and “Sri Raghunandana..” After those two bhajans, Swami sent word for the All India President of Sri Sathya Sai Organisation and had it announced that there would be a drama by the Tamil Nadu youth the next day! Then, receiving aarthi, Swami retired for the day.
August 26, 2008 – Drama by Sai Youth from Tamil Nadu
As announced the previous day, the Sai Yoh from Tamil Nadu were all set to stage a drama, Sathya Sai Kavacham, in the divine presence. Swami came out in the chair after 4.15 p.m. Bhagavan has not used the car during darshan for quite a few days now. There were times when Swami's arrival in the chair sent shivers of pleasant surprise through everyone assembled. Now, it has become part of the routine and people are shocked if He uses the car! Many times, we miss the grand and glorious things happening in our presence merely by getting used to it! The secret to happiness and peace lies in living the present moment fully and looking forward to every moment as if it is a new one, for, indeed it is a new one!
Moving through the ladies side, Swami reached the
centre of the hall where He took a detour towards the interview room. The Primary
school children were arriving in great hurry, and Swami seemed to enjoy them rushing
in. In any case, rushing for God is a noble quality worth of emulation by anyone!
Swami granted interviews to various devotees till 5:15 p.m. He, then, came out and
wanted the drama to begin. The initial offerings of the card and flowers
were made. Once the Veda chanting stopped, flexible and foldable props erupted on
the stage and created appropriate settings for the scenes to begin.
But the person never yields and Kali surrenders as the hero's mother is allotted a bed in a Super Speciality hospital under the Sai Trust's Free Bed Scheme done in collaboration with many hospitals. Wondering from where on earth does the young man get his sustenance and determination from, Kali discovers the power of Sathya Sai Kavacham (Sathya Sai Shield). He too desires to come to Puttaparthi to see Swami and gives up his crown of ego.
Swami seemed very involved in the drama. He was very touched when the hero held on to his principles in the face of very stiff challenges. Swami was moved seeing the hero torn between options, and was pleased to see him select the correct one over the easy one. As the drama concluded, Swami called one of the participants and told Him that He would move down for group photographs. He moved down and the boys clustered around Him. He materialised a gold chain for ‘Narada’ of the drama. He kept saying, "Romba Santosham (Very happy)" and His smile and beaming face conveyed the same to those who did not understand Tamil or could not catch those words. He moved up the stage and then brought Safari cloth pieces from inside. As aarthi was performed and prasadam was distributed, He personally distributed white cloth pieces to each and every member of the performing troupe. The boys were all joy at this shower of Grace.
Icing up this cake of Grace, Swami asked the boys to sing some bhajans. The mikes were quickly transported to the youth from Tamil Nadu and they began singing. Swami kept rhythm as two bhajans were sung and everyone joyfully clapped and followed. After this singing, aarthi was performed for a second time. Everyone seemed so happy because very rare are the days when Swami receives aarthi twice. Swami raised both His hands in benediction and Love, and told all the participants that He was very happy. Then, He retired to Yajur Mandir.