December 25, 2010 – Christmas in Prasanthi Nilayam


Joy to the world the Lord has come,
Let earth receive her king.
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven n nature sing!

Christmas 2010 rang with the spirit of this joyous song as the devotees from Italy put up the programme for the year. It was 7 p.m. when Swami arrived for darshan in the car. The Mandir was dressed in reds and blues. There were lights everywhere and art work of a chain of humans holding hands made in snowflakes depicted on huge maroon curtains hung from the roofs of the Mandir. The atmosphere was full of joy and eager anticipation. Though it was a ‘holy night’, it was definitely not a ‘silent night’ as the devotees gasped and rejoiced when they saw Him in beautiful yellow!

The car drove slowly through the hall for a round and then, moved on to the ladies’ side again. Before Santa’s arrival, there was a shower of bounty as Swami went around the whole hall for a second time. And from the window of the car, He was tossing vibhuti packets for the lucky ones. Completing the rounds in the portico, Swami got out of the car. Christmas, choir and cakes always seem to go together. An array of cakes in the veranda was blessed as Swami moved around, lighting the candles and cutting the cakes. Taking a complete round in the portico, Swami arrived on the stage. He was radiating such a lovely smile that joy automatically erupted within everyone.

Bhajans were going on and Swami immediately looked to His right towards Mr. John Behner and he presented to Swami the programme for the evening. Swami asked for the speeches first to be followed by the presentation of the devotees from Italy. The Chairman of the International Christmas Committee Mr. John Behner addressed the assembly. [In case you have not seen, H2H had an insightful feature by Mr. John Behner on the Christmas Day] Thanking Bhagawan for His bountiful love and offering Christmas greetings to all, Behner introduced the two speakers for the evening who were Mrs. Kirsten Pruzan, a Danish Journalist, and Mr. Cass Smith, a musician and spiritual healer from the US.

As Mrs. Pruzan came to Swami to offer a rose, Swami flashed a beautiful smile. He blessed her profusely and told her to speak. Ms. Pruzan spoke gracefully, sharing her personal experiences of the 'Divine Pull' that brought her to Puttaparthi for the first time. Elaborating on the omnipresence shown by Swami at her Danish home, she narrated another wonderful experience wherein her husband, Prof. Pruzan, was saved by Bhagawan, from being taken as a hostage after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, while returning from Puttaparthi. She concluded to an appreciative applause from all and a loving look from Swami.

The next speaker came armed with a guitar in hand. Cass Smith spoke of His Love quoting Mr. Samuel Sandweiss’ from his famous book, Sai Baba, The Holy Man and the Psychiatrist. The quote was how Jesus had indicated, “He who has sent me shall come again. A crown of hair upon His frame, a blood red robe just like a flame and Truth shall be His name.” When everyone asked him for a name, Jesus pointed to a lamb which said, Baa...baa. At this point, Smith strummed his guitar to produce a beautiful song narrating this whole scene.

One more song was followed by the very popular, "I keep feeling your love...". In course of his narrative, he spoke of a healing miracle by Swami when he was at Brindavan. Lost in reading, he ruptured his ear drums by inadvertently poking one end of his spectacles into the ear. Not wanting to accept a surgery without Swami’s permission, he asked Swami during darshan. Swami just said, “Very Happy…” and that had somehow repaired the damaged membrane! The doctor gaped in awe at an eardrum, as perfect as the ‘Creator’ intended it to be! Swami blessed him profusely and seemed to get emotional as He blessed him. It was such a spontaneous moment as Smith put his hand on Swami’s shoulder as if consoling and supporting Him! Ah! The beauty of love between the Lord and His devotee!

The speeches having concluded, a powerful feminine voice filled the hall as Sonja Ventura sang a few lines of a Ganesha bhajan. Then came the announcement, “We came from all over Italy to this beautiful Bharat land - this place of peace - Prashanti Nilayam to celebrate Holy Christmas in Swami’s presence. This will be the most beautiful Christmas of our entire lives.”

Presently, two ‘angel’ic children moved up the stage with their haloes and wings. Swami smiled and patted them on their cheeks. Once again, Ms. Sonja Venturi took the mike. Backed by the grand piano and the guitar, as she sang two bhajans, it had a mesmerising effect. The writer has no idea as to how such a mellifluous and beautiful experience could be described. The eyes had tears, ears were in bliss, the skin had goosebumps and the tongue seemed tied!

Listen to a sample of her rendering

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That was followed by two more songs, one on the Guru and the other on Krishna by Sergio Vigagni. Edvige Fontana rendered the Beethoven medley while Dalilah Gutman sang two more songs, one of them in Jewish. Then arrived the baritone of the evening - Bruno Pratico. Swami moved into the interview room for a brief interval. In the meanwhile, Pratico rendered the songs, “Am dreaming of a White Christmas” in English and the famous carol, “Silent Night” in Italian. Swami was enjoying the programme. He seemed to be charmed by the beautiful chords that gave an altogether different beauty to the beautiful songs and bhajans selected. The song Ave Maria was sung after which the finale was when everyone came together and sang the Happy Xmas song.

At this point two Santa Clauses appeared and they distributed gifts to the children nearby.  Swami seemed so happy and satiated. He blessed prasadam for distribution and asked for aarthi. Once that was done, He called the singers and instrumentalists, one by one, to the stage and spoke to them. Most of them were overwhelmed and they were crying. Swami asked one lady, “Why do you cry? Be happy always.” Once all the performers had been blessed, Swami saw some children in a corner. He called them too on the stage and blessed them individually.

Finally, there were two Santas from the students’ too. Swami blessed the chocolates in their bags and sent them off. He also called a few students who had with them photographs of the beautiful Christmas decorations. Leafing through them, Swami continued to sit in the hall, exuding His Presence. That may be the best way to describe the lovely feeling of anyone seated in the hall. It was 9:45 p.m. when Swami finally moved into Yajur Mandir.

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