Prasanthi Diary
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Reciting the Vedas in front of crowdIt all started innocently enough! Swami had just come out for the Sunday morning darshan. The Sunday morning darshan is always a little special, as all the students including the Primary and the Secondary School students, both boys and girls, come to Sai Kulwant Hall for the Divine darshan on this day.

As is His wont, Swami came to the verandah to the sounds of Vedic chanting by the students of the Sri Sathya Sai Institutes. Slowly He was walking from one end of the verandah towards the other side to talk and joke with the Primary School students. He happened to see a High School student from overseas, chanting Vedas with full feeling along with all His Indian brothers and fellow students. Visibly impressed, Swami beckoned to him to come up and listened carefully to the Sanskrit verses rolling easily off the tongue of this young man from the United States.School Boys reciting for Swami

Swami then asked him to turn and face the crowd and continue the chanting in unison with the rest of the boys. Perhaps Swami wanted to hold this young man up as an example of how people from overseas come and drink deep from the fathomless well that is the Bharatiya culture, whereas Bharatiyas themselves neglect their cultural heritage and go West in pursuit of the Almighty Dollar.

Swami then called another young primary school student to come up and join this young man. Pretty soon there was a collection of young students with varied backgrounds reciting the Vedas in front of the thousands who had assembled in Sai Kulwant Hall that morning. The entire assembled crowd listened spell- bound and with rapt attention.

Student explaining the Narayana UpanishadAnd Swami. He was bursting with pride that some of the very youngest of His students could recite the Vedas with such ease and correct diction. After all, an important facet of the Avataric mission is Veda Poshana or the nourishment of the Vedas, enabling it to flourish without restriction or hindrance.

But the story does not end here. Swami then called an MBA college student from the Institute and asked him to not only recite the Vedas but also explain the meaning to the crowd. This young man recited and explained the Narayana Upanishad, the story of how the supreme person Narayana, willed to create all the beings. All things and all beings emerged from Narayana. Everything is sustained by Him and ultimately merges in Him.

Swami then called a Sanskrit teacher and asked him to recite and explain from the Purusha Suktham. ThisSwami explaining the meaning of Yagna mantra describes the greatness of the Purusha or the Cosmic Person. It describes His omnipresence and omnipotence. From Him is born the entire manifested Universe. From this Cosmic person, all the Devas (Celestial Beings) are born. Then the Devas performed a sacrifice (yagna). The Vasantha and the other seasons became the offerings of this sacrifice. (Swami then asked the teacher to name the six seasons, as they are not explicitly named in the mantra. The teacher correctly replied –Vasantha (Spring), Grishma (Summer), Varsha (Rain), Sharad (Autumn), Hemantha(Spring), and Shisira (Winter.) As there was nothing else, the Cosmic Person Himself became the first ‘animal’ for the sacrifice. From that Yagna is born everything. As the teacher explained this part, Swami asked him, “What is the meaning of Yagna?” The teacher replied that Yagna or sacrifice refers to all the actions that we do. Clarifying, Swami replied, ”Whatever we do, whatever we think, whatever we utter, should be considered as the sacrifice. Without expecting any fruit of the action, all actions must be offered to God. That is the true Yagna”. What a simple explanation of one of the most profound truth of the Vedas!

A subtle fact that perhaps eluded most devotees present there, witness to the progression of these events on that day, is Swami’s commentary on education. At the ‘primary school’ level, it is enough to learn by rote with perhaps some attention to diction. At a more advanced ‘college’ level, one should not only learn by rote but also understand the meaning in full. At the ‘post-graduate’ or ‘teacher’ level, one should not only know the literal meaning but also understand the inner significance. Additionally, the ‘teacher’ should also have a deep understanding of all connected and related material. Compare this simple truth with the situation prevalent today when all material is learnt by rote with the examinations in view, and college students go to court if even one question on their examination paper is from ‘out of syllabus’.

A gold chain for the school kidAnd the story still does not end. On a couple more occasions, Swami asked the same young man from overseas to come up and recite in front of the crowd. On one occasion, while the young man was reciting, Swami called up the ‘birthday boys’ to come up and receive His blessings. (Note: On their birthdays, the students generally bring a tray with some cloves, dried fruits, and chocolates, to be blessed as prasadam by Swami. They also utilize this opportunity to give a letter to Swami or else have His photograph autographed by Him). After blessing the birthday boys, Swami asked the young man to stop, and said, “Here boy, this chocolate is for you”. The boy’s face lit up like a neon light, especially happy that Swami had singled him out for this special attention and glad that he was given the opportunity to contribute his mite towards the Avataric mission.

The story still goes on. On New Year Day, Swami called the young man, yet again, and asked him to chant facing the mammoth festival crowd. Visibly nervous, he gamely did his best, closing his eyes to shut the crowd out and concentrating hard on the recitation to please his Lord. Swami also perhaps chose this most auspicious day and setting to appropriately reward this young man who had served Him well. Waving His hand, He manifested a beautiful gold chain and personally put it around the neck of this young man. What a beautiful lesson to managers that you should publicly praise and reward everyone who has served you well.Are you happy

The story also has an interesting post-script. On January 12th, 2004, Swami gave a sudden, but welcome, discourse in the morning. Touching upon a topic very dear to His heart, He exhorted the students, “You must respect your parents, whoever they may be and in whatever condition they may be. You must respect their words and obey their commands, without any reservation. Then only you will be able to command respect from society”. Furthermore, Swami went on to explain that the ancient traditions of Bharat are meant to promote humility, respect and reverence among people. He also explained that one must strive to earn the ‘grace’ of God, whereas people these days are craving only for the ‘grass’ of worldly desires. Then calling this American boy to the dais, Swami said, “This boy is securing first class not only in studies but also in the study of the Vedas. He has given immense joy to his parents with his good behaviour. His father is very happy that his son has earned a very good name and is appreciated by one and all”. Swami then called the boy’s father, who was present in the crowd up to the dais and asked him, ”Are you happy?” In a choked, emotion-filled voice he replied, “Very happy, Swami”. This moving scene is still etched on everyone’s mind.

The sight of this lanky Yankee kid with braces on his teeth, but profound Sanskrit Vedic hymns on his tongue, and the sight of his equally tall father answering Swami in a moving voice, provided a simple but powerful imagery for the thousands to remember Swami’s teaching that pleasing your parents is what pleases God the most.

Yes, verily living with God is true education. Heart to Heart captures for its readers these events and we hope you are as moved by them as we are. Do write and let us know. We can be reached at [email protected].


Volume - 2 Issue - 4 Radiosai Journal - PSN 2004