Friday, August 19, 2011

We drove to Puttaparthi on 13th August. This was the first time we were going there after the Mahasamadhi of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba was constructed and unveiled on the holy day of Guru Poornima last month. I was high on anticipation to get there quickly and catch a glimpse of the divine place where HE rests waiting for us. Listening to the A Bridge Across Time, Vols. 17 and 18 as we drive to Prashanthi Nilayam is quite apt as it takes us down the memory lane and recollects the times in the physical presence of the Avatar. For the uninitiated, ABAT albums is a collection of songs rendered by the SAI Students. It has sublime feelings that reflect melancholy, ecstasy, poetry, excitement, bliss and above all celebrates the earthly sojourn of the Lord who touched millions of hearts with HIS preaching of Love and service. 

Enter Puttaparthi

Reaching the hallowed township of Prasanthi Nilayam, we discover that the spiritual routine of the Ashram has not changed a bit after Swami's Mahasamadhi. Prayers begin at 8AM with Veda chanting till 9AM followed by Bhajans for half an hour. Aarati is given after that. Devotees make orderly lines after that to go near the Mahasamadhi for a closer darshan and offer their prayers. Same is repeated in the evening from 04:30 PM. There is a weekly schedule charted out for which hymns to be chanted each day which was blessed by Swami last year. 

We enter the Sai Kulwanth Hall at 04:15PM and take up vantage points so that the Mahasamadhi is visible once the curtains are lifted. The hall is very elegant with many maroon pillars holding an impressive and eye pleasing ceiling on top. I bow to the blessed land. There is fairly good crowd given that it was a long weekend. As we sit and look at the podium, it is a strange feeling! The flapping of the pigeons that fly above is familiar. My gaze inevitably goes towards the Yajur mandir, Swami's residence. If my eyes have looked at anything with lot of intensity it is this place, when we waited in yesteryears for the Lord to emerge from there for darshan. The clock strikes 04:30 PM and Om karam rents the air followed by the invocation Gananamthwa... which soon gives way to the all powerful chants of Rudram - Om Namo Bhagawate Rudraya... The bright red curtains slide open and lo and behold, the wonderful, sparkling, spectacular, white marble clad Mahasamadhi is now visible! Hands come together to do namaskar. Below the Mahasamadhi, there is sarvadharma symbol and the mantra  that Swami taught humanity - Love All, Serve All. It looked very apt. Bhagawan's entire life was beautifully captured in this one line and the symbol. No matter how many volumes are written about HIM detailing the projects and compassion, the undercurrent was the coming together of all religions and the message that we should love all and serve all. Head bowed in reverence to this embodiment of divine Love who has made such a difference to the lives of millions. 

[photo from]

As the chants are going on, I imagine the same body that lied in state in April in the Sai Kulwanth hall to be now encased in the sparkling Mahasamadhi. I imagine chanting into HIS ears. The image of Swami's physical body lying in state has been enduring. Thoughts wandered down the memory lane, recollecting the past visits. The first one was in December 1983 when we came as small kids for the first time to attend the Balavikas conference. That was also my closest physical encounter with Swami in HIS current form. HE compassionately gave pada namaskar to all the thousands of students who came from across the globe. All the subsequent visits after that have been rich in anticipation of being acknowledged by HIM and inevitably all those anticipations were annihilated and HE never even cast a glance at me. It used to cause lot of disappointment, the ego was being pricked and pounded upon. I am so important to myself and yet HE ignores me! Why? How? What is the reason? I usually used to go back more agitated than when I came in. However, by HIS infinite grace, I never stopped thinking of HIM. As I grew up, I kept visiting Prashanti Nilayam at irregular intervals. But HE never seemed to care to even put me in the first line for a close darshan! And yet I loved HIM!! It is strange at a physical plane. We don't even say hello to a colleague who didn't respond to our half smile. But here we are, in Prashanti Nilayam, being ignored by HIM trip after trip, only to go back again! This is not just my story, this is also the story of a huge majority of people who flock to Prashanti Nilayam. I always asked silently in my prayers, why this treatment? The answer I found was Love MY uncertainty. It appealed to me. Yes, in science too, what we don't understand, we don't give up. We continue our investigation with more intensity. Why should it be any different with HIM? The key here is Love and not uncertainty. This answer dissolved all my disappointments in a trice and imparted a very beautiful  way of looking at life. Ever since this lesson has stayed with me. Recently when Swami left at 85 instead of the 'promised' 96 years of earthly sojourn, I was again thinking why? It is equally difficult to 'lose' a Loving Lord at 96 as it is at 85. In fact there is never a good time to lose HIM! It is only about how prepared we are? Prepared not only to lead life in the absence of the physical form, prepared to make HIS life our message, prepared to spread HIS love, prepared to Love All and Serve All, prepared to Help Ever and Hurt Never. The manifestation has disappeared but the ideas and ideals have got strengthened. When a Father, a head of the family passes away, it is up to HIS children to keep up the good will that the father had created during his lifetime. The father doesn't lose anything if the children don't, but the children stand to lose a lot if they behave otherwise. If we have been Loving HIS uncertainty while HE was in HIS form, why not when HE shed HIS form?

There are all sorts of reports in the media about how the crowd has reduced and how the Central Trust will function etc. These are just knee-jerk reports. It is naive to think that there will be same number of people now as there were when Swami was in HIS physical form. HE also prepared us for this through the irregular darshans in the last few years. The devotees are still coming to terms with this. What is indeed striking is that the Trust and the other organizations such as hospitals and the academic institutions have gone on in a business like manner. That is ample proof that it is the spirit that is guiding and not the physical body of Swami. These are run by people who believe in Swami's vision. There will be hiccups, but no stoppages, there will be commas and colons but no full stops.

Two days of stay in the Ashram also gave an opportunity to sing a bhajan in the house of a very loving uncle. As I lead the bhajan, I also had goose bumps thinking that I am singing a bhajan in the same region where little Sathya before being come to be known as Sathya Sai Baba formed the Pandhari Bhajan Group and sang the glory of God on the streets of Puttaparthi. Eating a meal in the south Indian canteen where a meal costs just Rs.6/- (0.15 USD) is another thrilling experience of the love of Swami. I felt very grateful and happy for having spent the weekend in the divine land started driving back to Bangalore with mind firmly fixed on HIS teachings and HIS glory and of course eagerly waiting for the next chance to visit this holy land.


CA. Ravi Shankar Sistla said...

Oh my! You drenched me...

Quite logical points too: in His Uncertainity and Father-children relation!

His Institutions run the same way they did four or six months ago! May Swami continue to drive more and more people by imparting His Vision.

Sai Sekhar said...

Nicely written and definitely provides the heart felt emotions & love that you have for Swamy.

But I had one question... is HE really RESTING waiting for us, as referred in the line #5..???

manmeram said...

Sai Sekhar, I don't know if HE is resting. That is a reference to the physical body's resting. But HE surely is waiting for all of us - then and now.

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Love to blog. Every time I turn joyous or in extreme pain, I blog. Huge believer of 'charity begins at home'.