Chronicles of Heaven on Earth
November 30, 2007 – Programme by Karnataka Bal Vikas
The devotees from Karnataka had come for a three day Parthi Yathra. In the evening of November 30, the Balvikas children of Karnataka presented a series of folk dances. Swami came out for darshan and took a complete round. Then He came on stage and asked for the programme to begin. The entire evening had been planned along the lines of a rally where at least 11 different types of dances from Karnataka were presented.
The forty minute programme commenced when Swami came onstage after His darshan round at 5.30 pm. There were about 10- 20 children in each of the dances and they were all decked in the traditional costumes. One by one, each group came ahead, performed for Him, made their bow and left. Karaga and Yakshagana were the very popular dances that were also performed.
At the end of the dances, Swami blessed the dozen groups of children with group photographs, then with prasadam and clothes, too. Swami sat smilingly as each group came up to Him and posed for the photo. The Karnataka devotees sang Bhajans as the prasadam was distributed. Swami accepted Arati at 7 pm and went into the interview room, emerging after ten minutes to retire for the day.
December 2, 2007: Shirdi Nivasa Sai Drama
The first Sunday of the new month witnessed the charming children from the Sathya Sai Vidya Niketan in Bagepalli as they performed the dance drama, "Shirdi Nivaasa Sai" in Swami's presence in the evening. Swami came out at about 4:10 pm and completed His darshan round. He went into the interview room for a short while and then sat outside towards the ladies side of the stage. However, after ten minutes of sitting and listening to the Vedic chants, Swami went towards the interview room again. He spoke to many sitting in the portico and went through a few letters they offered to Him. Then, He came out again, but this time, He moved over to the gents side of the stage and sat there, asking for the programme to begin.The customary card and flower offerings followed and then the drama began.
The backdrop was formed by a giant screen and had a movable scroll so that the different backgrounds could just be rolled down as scenes progressed. The drama began with many children rushing to "Pedda bottu" (A great devotee of Shirdi Sai who later came to Swami too. She was called Pedda bottu meaning the lady with the “big red dot on her forehead”) and asking her to relive the divine stories of Shirdi Sai Baba. The whole drama was in the words of the venerable lady devotee as she recounts first how Baba came to live at Shirdi and Mahalsapati recognises Him as Sai Baba. The famous incident when all the shopkeepers at Shirdi refused to give Baba oil and He lit lamps with water itself was narrated next. The incidents of Baba asking for wheat flour to be sprinkled along the borders of Shirdi to keep out cholera; when He recognized the "sugarless" Sadhana of Mr. Cholkar and encouraged the chanting of the divine name - however loud or soft - were the other incidents depicted.
All the different scenes were interspersed with well choreographed dances which were performed by the sweet children. The drama concluded and the children came into a final formation. Swami very eagerly went down and posed for group pictures with them. He spoke with the main coordinator and asked how many children there were and then blessed pens and chocolates to be given to all of them. As most of the children had letters which they offered to Swami, He smilingly accepted all and then went back on stage.
He then distributed sarees to all the girls and white cloth pieces to the boys. He also called the teachers involved in the programme and gifted them sarees. They were very touched at this loving gesture from Swami. He then spoke to the main coordinator and also his wife for a while. Then there were bhajans by the Karnataka devotees after which Swami received Aarthi and left.
December 5, 2007: Dramas from Haryana and the Punjab - "God is the Only Creator" and “Glorious Sikh Heritage”
The youth from the northern states of Punjab and Haryana had arrived at Puttaparthi as a pilgrimage to Sai. Swami had agreed for both the states to put up their respective programmes in His presence on December 5. At about 4:20 pm Swami went around for darshan rounds in the car and alighted near the interview room. He spoke to a few of the doctors and also some others as He made His way to the interview room. After a few minutes, Swami came and sat outside and asked for the programme to begin.
The Haryana programme entitled, "God is the Only Creator" had a unique beginning. All the actors involved came in a nagar sankirtan style Veda chanting. The chantings were very high pitched and all sat up straight to see what was happening! One by one, the members came up to Swami offering roses, cards and the details of the programme. One of them offered cloves to Swami which He accepted. Then the drama began.
The story was about a sculptor whose fame spreads far and wide as a person with the ability to make lifelike statues. The top aristocrats and bureaucrats of the region visit and lavish praises on him. One night, on seeing the beauty of the statues representing Sathya, Dharma, Shanti, Prema and Ahimsa, he prays to the Lord for the strength to put real life into the idols! Sure enough, God appears before him and fulfills his desire. But like it happens in the case of every man, ego takes over and the sculptor is on the road to his doom till finally God takes back the boons He granted. Soon the sculptor is reduced to a pauper and has a tough time fending for himself.
Swami often says that talent is God. It has the capacity to transform lives if utilised properly. It should be considered by everyone as Swami's gift to us. With a single talent, we can bring smiles on a hundred faces and wipe away sorrow and pain from a hundred hearts. Whether it is the skill of painting, music, or athletics - God has gifted that special power to us because He felt that we would be able to wield it best for the betterment of everyone around. Talent is His gift to us and what we do with the talent should be our gift to Him. As the drama portrayed, we ruin our talents if we offer it to the world, to our ego in particular, instead of using it for God.
To get back to the play, the sculptor then gets diseased and is struggling until some members of the Sai Youth find him and tell him about Swami. He learns his lessons and finds solace at Swami's feet. The drama ends with a song of gratitude.
After this was another skit by the youth of the state of Punjab.
The skit was about an NRI (Non Resident Indian) who comes and lands in Chandigarh Airport. There he meets up with some of the Sai Youth of Punjab. He is reeling with negativity about the country in general and the Punjab villages in particular. What begins next is a virtual tour of Punjab - with its great Sikh history and patriotic fervour forming the basis. Coming to know of the great patriots and the glory of the Sikh Masters who shaped the collective consciousness of the people of Punjab, the NRI is bowled over.
No member of the youth brigade can resist from talking about Swami. The NRI is told about Swami and all that He has done. Wanting to make his life meaningful too, he too joins the youth in their final prayer song to Swami.
All were captured by Swami’s reaction - He seemed to be in a mood to thrill all the youth and set their hearts afire. He literally gave Himself to the youth. He made His way into their midst and using the group photo as an excuse, He spoke and interacted with each and every one of them.
He then gifted everyone with white cloth pieces. The joy and enthusiasm were evident on the faces of every youth member. Seeing them one felt that they are ready to do anything for Swami. It thrills the heart to see so many youth coming to Him from everywhere. Definitely a silent, or rather ‘Sailent’, revolution is on. And this is a revolution of Love. Swami then told them to sing bhajans. After a few bhajans, He received Aarthi, blessed the youth with a double handed Abhayahasta and then retired.
December 9, 2007: Drama from Srikakulam - "Jagame Sarvam Sai Mayam"
From the district of Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh, thousands had flocked to the abode of supreme peace by way of a pilgrimage. On December 9, Swami had agreed for a programme to be presented by them. It was about 4:15 pm when Swami came out to grant darshan. As He went around in the car, the excitement and more importantly, joy was evident in the radiant faces of all the devotees. Swami alighted from the car and there were several rounds of applause.
Swami also stresses a lot on discipline. But on occasions like today, when there is an overwhelming outflow of devotion, it becomes difficult to restrain. The devotee, finding himself in a very difficult situation where he is not allowed either to shout out or get up and dance in glee at the joy he is experiencing seeing the sweet Lord, takes recourse to the 'decent' and more importantly permitted mode of celebration - applause. A round of applause carries many emotions at Prashanti Nilayam, but one thing for certain is that it is a spontaneous, emotional and overwhelming outburst.
Swami went into the interview for a short while and then returned to take His place on the stage. The lamp being brought up to Swami to be lit and mark the beginning of the programme too has undergone a lot of transformations. On that day, it was a beautifully carved Mandir fully in silver that was brought up to Him and He lit it up just as He had lit up the entire hall minutes before with His darshan. The traditional roses and dry fruits plate were offered to Swami. Finally the children, who were part of the drama, offered flowers to Swami. The programme was entitled, "Jagame Sarvam Sai Mayam".
The drama began with the activities of the Sai Youth in the villages. The joy of everyone sharing the feeling that Swami Himself had arrived to their village was brought out nicely. The father of one of the members of the youth, the hero in this drama, feels that his son is wasting all his time and energy on futile activities. Like all deluded people of today, he measures the success of any activity undertaken from the money it fetches. He tries to drill "wisdom" into his son through a friend of his who has agreed to employ the boy. They are not prepared for a reversal of argument that the boy has in store for them!
When the eternal values of Sathya and Dharma are attacked, the boy resorts to the example of King Harishchandra. The king never gives up on the Truth even in the face of death saying, "Just because something impermanent is passing away, should I sacrifice the only permanent entity in this Universe?" Quoting Swami's words, he says that it is only adherence to Sathya and Dharma that can provide everlasting happiness and peace for they alone are eternal. "But they will not give you the money needed to live", exclaims the worldly wise uncle. "Swami's name is my greatest treasure. If I call out 'Sai', He will respond with 'Oyi' and if I cry out 'Swami', He will respond with 'Emi'. I may not be able to do anything with so little money, but with Him and so little money, there is nothing in this Universe I cannot attain."
Listening to the powerfully scripted dialogues, one could not but help marveling at the conviction and faith of the writer. Swami also appeared moved by the words being spoken. The whole drama was interspersed with dances and songs which again were very touching in their emotion and powerful in their meaning. The dialogues had such an impact on Swami that in between the drama itself, He called the hero and materialized a beautiful gold chain for him.
Again, the applause began, as Swami lovingly put the chain around the boy's neck. After that short "break", the drama continued. The final scene of the drama was one in which Mother Eashwaramma came to life speaking of how much Love Swami had showered on her and everyone. She sang out her love for Him and it was such a tender sight to see the one with the Love of a thousand mothers well up with emotion on being reminded of His earthly mother's love. The final song described the beautiful image of Swami gently swinging on the Jhoola. Then all the actors and dancers came close together in the final formation. The Jhoola was also brought as part of the formation.
Swami called the scriptwriter and created a gold ring for him - an apt reward for the fingers that had created the writing which had moved thousands of hearts. He also told him to be a part of the group for the final photo. Swami went down in the wheel sofa and then to the joyous amazement of everyone around, said that He would sit on the decorated swing! He got up from the chair and walked slowly towards the Jhoola. Then, very gently, He sat on the Jhoola and the people celebrated with another round of applause! Gently rocking Himself, Swami blessed everyone with smiles and loving words and pats. All the children were just diving at His feet and so sweetly Swami was telling them, "Sit down. Sit down. I will come." True to His word, after getting up from the Jhoola, He walked up to the stage, passing in between rows of Love hungry children!
After going on stage, He gifted every child with clothes. The girls received sarees and the boys had white cloth pieces. He then permitted the Srikakulam group to sing bhajans and they did so with gusto. There were two bhajans new to the Sai fraternity at Puttaparthi. After that, He asked for the camphor to be waved after which He retired to Yajur Mandir.
December 11, 2007 – Music Programme by Srikakulam Devotees
December 11 was a day of added Grace for the people from the district of Srikakulam. The previous day, they were sitting with a music programme ready to be presented before Swami but He could not get an opportunity. And this day, the lovely Lord sent word that He would like to witness the Music programme by the Srikakulam devotees!
So in a very great hurry, all the singers and musicians involved in the programme took up their positions. Swami came out and took a complete darshan round after which He came out and sat, asking them to begin the programme. It was about 5:25 pm when the singers started. Swami called out for a few students and took letters from them. For the students, it is a very special feeling when Swami calls them and takes a letter, especially when He does it during a music programme. It gives a feeling of being very dear to the Lord that He finds time in between an event too to call and read the letters. At such times, a smile blossoms on the faces of the students thus blessed and an excited anticipation grows in the hearts of the students yet to receive that blessing. And all these get transparently expressed on the faces that an observer sitting metres away too gets a gist of what is going on within!
The songs that were being sung were phenomenal in their meaning and one of the singers resembled the famed Ghantasala in his style of rendering. They were all in Telugu and there were two singers doing the singing. All the songs were semi-classical and light music but were heavily laden with love, devotion and meaning. After about 45 minutes of singing, Swami asked them whether they had more songs to offer. Then the musicians prayed that Swami allow them to present an instrumental ensemble playing Thyagaraja kritis. Swami called and blessed one of the singers with a ring and also allowed them to begin the instrumental piece with more than five violins and mridangams. As the instrumentalists continued, Swami smiled at them telling them to continue and then went into the interview room.
He returned 10 minutes later and gifted everyone with clothes, padanamaskar and also many with an opportunity to speak with Him. Filling all hearts with joy and delight, Swami asked for the aarthi.
There is something very special about the Sai Avatar. When Krishna said that He would take care of everything including liberation of a devotee, He said that for that to happen, the devotee must think of nothing else but Him. In this age, God is very kind. As He had vowed that He would confer Ananda to one and all. No expectations or conditions! Really, seeing Swami give Himself to His devotees, one is reminded of Pure Love. "Whomsoever comes to me, I will fill them with Ananda", seems to be His motto and He has laid no clause and condition!
After receiving aarthi, Swami retired for the day.
December 15, 2007: Special Bhajans by USA Devotees
A group of devotees from the USA had been permitted to sing bhajans as a part of their programme in front of Swami on the evening of December 15. Swami came out at about 5:05 pm and went straight to the group. He asked for their programme to begin. It was a session of “chain bhajans”. It began with Shuklambaradharam Ganapati Mantram and then moved on to other ones without a break - a good blending of the different beats and ragas. Swami sat tapping His hands and watching them intently as they sang. The "chain" of bhajans got completed so to say, and they then began to sing "normal" bhajans.
But the beauty of the evening came after the programme. In fact, it came after the Aarthi was performed at about 6:00 pm. Swami did not move even after the Aarthi was completed. He called Mr. Bob Bozzani who was seated right in the front row of the American devotees and asked him to speak! Mr. Bozzani gave a short and sweet talk on the topic of reaction, reflection and resound.
Everyone was thrilled at this extra dose of darshan. But they were totally unprepared for whet was to come next. Swami signaled for His mike to be brought! Then He to everybody surprise and delight, He began to speak! This is what He said,
"We bother ourselves too much with the world because of the difficulties we face. Everything is actually bliss. The Lord, who is creator, is full of bliss and so is the creation - be it an insect, animal or bird. Difficulties and problems are imaginations of man. Pleasure is in an interval between two pains. You cannot experience the joy in pleasure without pain. Remember, whatever happens is God's prasadam. Never consider anything as painful. To remove severe pain in the abdomen, the doctor uses surgery which itself is painful. Difficulties are ultimately responsible for removal of pain.
“The crores of beings are in fact the product of the same Atma. The same God dwells in all. The names are different - Jesus, Allah, Rama and Krishna. The Atma is nothing but Love. The exact name for the Atma is Love. All of you have come from America only because of your love for Swami. This love will ensure that you achieve anything. Love holds everyone. Unity leads to success. It leads to Purity and finally to Divinity. I and you are one. Swami is not separate from you. You have to strengthen the feeling that ‘I am God’. In that oneness you will find bliss. The mind wavers like a monkey only for some time. If there is Love, it gets subdued. What we have to learn today is that we have to love all because God loves all and hates none. God will never leave you and will be with you always, everywhere. ‘Sarvam Brahmamayam’ - God is in you, with you, above you and around you. You are God, in fact. So, you do not have to search for God.
”It is only with the physical body that you have all the difficulties. Do not go by the form. Mind is a mad monkey and the body is a water bubble. The ‘I’ is the real you. The true answer to the question ‘Where is God?’ is ‘I am God’. So I say, take Love as the basis. Without Love, all spiritual activities are useless. If Love exists, then there is no need for any other spiritual activity. To understand the importance of Love, spiritual activities are needed. All physical relationships are like passing clouds. Have total control over the mind, then you are moving towards realizing God. Love has no birth or death. It is immortal. This is the Truth and Truth is God. God manifests and moves about in the form of Love.
“Your breath itself is God. If you observe it, it says, ‘Soooo....Hammm....’ meaning, ‘I am That’. The same Love pervades all. So do everything with Love, even if it is facing your enemy. Look at the enemy and say ‘Hello’. Everything is reaction, reflection and resound. Nothing is impossible for Love. The creation, sustenance and destruction are all done out of Love. Since there is nothing beyond God, there is nothing beyond Love. Love is one and the same. It is pure and unsullied. Adherence to the principle of Love equals to loads of spiritual effort. Do not have differences based on the names and forms as Love is one. It is like this: You have rice. With it you can make either idlis (Pancakes), or dosas or roti and with sugar, it can be made into payasam (pudding) too. But all these different names and forms arise from the same rice. God or Love is the same - made into different names and forms by man. God is beyond everything. If there is no unity, there will be diversity. God is the only one.
“If you have a 1, put as many zeroes after it. Each zero gains value. But remove the 1 and all the zeroes lose value even if they are a thousand in number. Without God, everything is of no value. With God, everything's value gets enhanced. This is the truth, howsoever anybody may say it. ‘Ekam Sat, vipraah Bahuda Vadanti.’
“Do not hate anyone. ‘Help ever hurt never’ is the quality of a true devotee. Being a devotee, it is not right to get lost in mine and thine. Do not observe differences. Swami's wish is that all should be happy always. Some say ‘today is my birthday.’ That is only related to the body. You are all eternal and immortal. Be happy always. Swami is very happy with your bhajans today. They were full of harmony and thus were in perfect unity. Keep singing bhajans always, throughout the day - from the time you rise till you sleep."
Then Swami sang “Hari Bhajana Bina…”
After this, Swami so sweetly asked, "Is Aarthi over?" He asked for the Aarthi to be done! And so it was a double bonus for the boys and devotees selected to give Aarthi to Swami. After filling everyone with His mellifluous words and the vision of His delicate yet powerful form, Swami retired at 6:50 pm.
December 17, 2007 - Talk by Prof. G. Venkatraman
The talk in the air was that Swami would maybe see a "Burra Katha" programme by the students of the Institute. The students concerned were dressed and ready. Swami came out for darshan after the bhajans had begun at about 5:10 pm. Everyone had the feeling that He would go straight into the bhajan hall for bhajans. But as Swami got down from the car, a gentle smile danced on His lips. People had already started streaming in steadily into Prashanti Nilayam for the impending Christmas celebrations. Hungarians, Australians, Singaporeans, Americans...name them and they were present. Swami asked for the wheel sofa to be taken outside directly.
He came and sat just next to the teachers' block on the gents side. As would be expected, the enthusiasm levels of the bhajan singing shot up so much that the clapping outside began to dictate the rhythm to the singers inside.
Swami was all smiles. He asked for Prasadam to be distributed. It was the ber fruits (medium sized reddish berries) Swami picked up one from the vessel and gifted it to the boy holding the vessel who accepted it gleefully. He also picked up one and kept it clutched in His palms. As the distribution went on, Swami threw the fruit in His hand to a boy sitting in the first line. The ber reached its initial destination of the boy's hand after bouncing off the steps, and then in a short while reached its final destination into his stomach too! He then beckoned to the birthday boys who were sitting with hopes of sparshan and sambashan. He blessed all of them by sprinkling grains on their head and taking their letters. At about 5:40 pm, Swami sent word for Prof. G. Venkatraman to speak a few words to the audience.
Clearly taken aback by the sudden opportunity, the Professor reiterated Swami's message in the previous discourse on how Love and pure Love alone is the panacea for all the ills of the world. He said that in reality there were no problems in the world and that everything arises because man is not able to understand the inherent unity and underlying divinity of the entire creation. His talk was for about 25 minutes. After he concluded and bowed to Swami, Swami asked for the veda chanting to begin. It was a beautiful and sublime evening with Swami. After a while, Swami too joined in the chanting at a few points and this acted as a trigger for very vigorous chanting all around. The piece selected was also the very popular Purusha Suktam and so everyone joined whole heartedly and full throatedly.
After about 10 minutes of the chanting, Swami waved the chanting to a gentle stop. Then with another smile, He asked for Aarthi. It was about 6:40 pm when Swami finally retired into Yajur Mandir.
December 20, 2007 – Programme by Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh Youth
The youth from Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh had the chance to present their programme in front of Bhagavan on December 20 evening. It turned out to be a bit of a testing time as the clocked showed 5:30 pm and there was still no sign of Swami's arrival. Just as faces were about to droop, the lights all around the hall came on and there was also a wave of cheer. Swami had arrived and one could not make out whether there was a sigh of relief or an expression of collective joy! Whatever it be, it immediately had magical effect and there was "light" and the heavy cloud of anticipation vapourised.
Their programme got underway at 5.45 pm, after Bhagavan came onstage and blessed the various cards and bouquets offered by the youth. A drama "Manava Seva is Madhava Seva" was the first item. The story of a golden plate appearing at Kasi with the injuction that it belongs to the dearest devotee of the Lord was presented, with the dearest devotee turning out to be a Sai Youth engaged in selfless social service.
There were famous bhajans like "Deena Dukhiyon Se Prem Karo" embedded in the play. The drama concluded with a group song on Seva. As the youth came forward and sat in the final formation, they requested Swami for a group photo. Swami seemed to say that it had become very late and that there was yet another programme to be performed. They pleaded but Swami seemed firm. There was one particular boy who had done a dance in the drama. He seemed very disappointed not to have got the picture with Swami. The second programme then began.
Sri Gautam Kale, a Sai Youth from Indore and a disciple of Pandit Jasraj, presented very popular and wonderfully composed songs. After he sang about three songs, Swami was very pleased. He created a ring for the singer and blessed him with clothes. Swami then asked for Bhajans to be sung.
Prasadam was distributed and Swami now brought more cheer as He called all the drama participants for a group photo. He blessed them with white cloth pieces too. As they sat near Him singing, Swami called out for the lad who had danced in the drama and materialized a ring for him too. Like the mists clearing before the sun, his gloom lifted away with a bright smile.
Swami patted him and put the ring on his ring finger. Then blessing all, He received Aarthi and left.
December 23, 2007 - Drama on Lord Rama by Institute Students
As per Swami's instructions, the boys from the Institute had prepared a drama basing it on the Ramayana - specially the episode of Shravan Kumar on December 23. Swami came out at about 5:10 pm. He completed the darshan round and after alighting near the interview room went straight into the bhajan hall where the students in costumes had gathered. Swami seemed specially interested in the characters of Shravan Kumar, his parents, Shabari, Guha, Rama and Lakshmana. He interacted with all the students there and then told them, "All of you go out and then start the play."
Next came another pleasant surprise that none really expected. Swami came out and saw the sets being moved to their place as He sat on the stage. He told the boys arranging the sets to turn them around in such a manner that they faced the audience. He then said that He would come down and sit so that everyone in the audience could also see the drama! Accordingly the wheel sofa was brought down and Swami smiled at everyone. The next five minutes saw a quick but massive reorganization of everything - acting positions, sets, mike positions, camera positions - and Swami seemed so comfortable. Finally the drama began.
The whole presentation had been beautifully conceived. It begins with Lava and Kusha coming up in front of Rama on one side (and Swami on the other.) They begin to sing the Telugu Ramakatha. Rama listens very intently and is enjoying it. The singing twins are interrupted by Rama himself at appropriate spots where they are reminded that they have forgotten some important characters. The story of Shravan Kumara is narrated. Shravan gives up everything in life to fulfill the desires of his parents. Even when king Dasharatha shoots an arrow at him and he is dying, the only thought in his mind is that his thirsty parents must be given water to drink.
The next interruption in the twins' narrative comes when Rama recollects the wonderful service that was imparted to him by Guha. Rama, refuses to allow Guha to touch his feet telling him that he mustn't embarrass him as Guha was himself a king among the boatmen. Guha then tells, "Oh Rama! I heard that the dust of your feet has great power. It transformed a rock into a woman. If the same happens to my boat, how am I going to survive? So I will allow you into my boat only after ridding your feet of all the dust!" Rama, then, is taken across the river and when he tries to pay Guha for his service, Guha says, "Oh Lord! It is not required that one boatman pay another. When you came here, I took you across. When I come to the shores of this Bhava Saagara (Ocean of life), you just take me across."
Finally when the twins begin to sing about the glory of Hanuman, Rama reminds them of the devotion of Shabari. Shabari keeps cleaning the path to be tread by Rama and Lakshmana for 40 years! People mock at her and think that she is crazy. She is indeed mad and as Swami says madness for God is the least harmful and the most beneficial. Finally Rama grants her heart's desire by being a guest at her humble abode and even partaking berries that have been bitten and tasted by her. (She does so with the intention that only the sweetest berries must go to Rama!)
As the drama came to a close after these three episodes, Swami was moved and very happy. He got emotional like many around Him as the different scenes progressed. It is such a cleansing process to get soaked in the love between the Lord and devotee. Anybody who sees or even just hears it is transformed. Small wonder then that it is said that as long as the mountains stand and rivers flow, the Ramayana will touch hearts of people. Even the stone hearted, if they existed (for in the presence of Swami can there be anyone who is stone hearted?) would have felt something warm in their hearts seeing the immortal characters come to life before them. Swami got up and went walking towards all the characters. He called Lava and Kusha (and the students who had lent voice for their singing) and expressed His joy to them. He created a beautiful chain for the boy who had so soulfully acted the part of Shabari. The group photos had a kind of new flavour thrust onto them as Swami called the main characters of each scene to keep exchanging for the coveted position right next to Him as the photographers clicked on!
Swami then went on stage and blessed all the boys once again. He said that He would like to see more of such dramas put up on a much larger scale performed in the Poornachandra Auditorium. Then He received Aarthi and retired for the evening.
December 24, 2007 – Christmas Eve Celebrations
Puttaparthi had undergone a transformation, like it always does on the different occasions to suit the taste of the devotees gathered at His Feet. Christmas trees, large and small, seemed to have sprouted up in different parts of the ashram. Frosty the snowman had arrived in front of the western canteen and a smiling Santa with his sleigh and gifts too sat on the lawns near the canteen. The climate too chipped in with its contribution, chilling the air and making every night into a truly "silent" and "holy" one. Though the air was cold, there seemed a warmth in everyone’s heart as they prepared for an evening of carols in front of their dear Swami.
In the evening, the whole of Kulwant hall had been decked and a huge gathering of the overseas devotees waited for Swami's arrival. He came in the car and went around slowly granting darshan. He alighted near the interview room and came straight outside. Three big candles had been kept on the stage and they were lit in Swami's presence as He smilingly looked on. With a gentle movement of His hand, Swami halted the Vedam chanting and then beckoned the overseas devotees to begin.
The first part of the programme was the children's choir. The little ones began with shlokas (verses) from the Bhagawad Gita adapted to the western style of soft music. It had a very pleasing effect and one could observe the effort that had gone into getting all the pronunciations clear. It sounded very harmonious and in the middle, during one of the shlokas, Swami began to nod His head in affirmation. What was the shloka being chanted? Ananyaschinta Yantomaam… - meaning "whomsoever thinks of me without any other thought, I shall take care of their ultimate salvation without doubt." Anyone who could catch the import was thrilled - the others were thrilled simply seeing His reaction! There was a small enactment by the children for the carol, "We three kings of Orient". The choir lasted about 20 minutes after which the adult Christmas choir began.
They began with the triple chanting of the Ganesha Gayathri. Wow! What a great feeling it was as more than two thousand voices chanted it with the bass and alto harmonics, so natural to the foreign throat, and sent a feeling of reverberation in the mighty Kulwant hall. More than two thousand years ago, the angels in the heavens sang out as the father and mother of Christ, Joseph and Mary, waited for the divine child to arrive, in a stable. Today the privilege of the angels had been given to the blessed humans to sing out as the Father of Christ waited to shower His Divine Love on them!
They began with a carol - "Listen". It literally made everyone sit up and listen as the ladies and gents alternated beautifully doing justice to the wonderful lyrics and composition. The carols that followed had been subtly modified and the devotees used them as a medium to convey their deep Love and yearning for Swami. There were smiles on every face and they reflected the Love being radiated from every heart. Some of the songs were fast, others were gentle; some had the power of God being expressed, while still others reflected on His tenderness. They sang eleven carols and the final concluding piece was "O Holy Night".
As they concluded, Swami beamed with joy and benediction. He sent Prasadam to be distributed to all. Then, the conductor came up to Him and offered, "Swami, would you like some bhajans?" Swami smiled, "Yes, please." With a quick swing of her arms, just like the way she had been conducting the whole evening, she signaled for the bhajans. The bhajans began with great earnest. As they progressed, Swami called out for a lady instrumentalist to come on stage. With a wave of His hand He created a chain with a pendant for her. There was bliss on her face as He put the chain around her neck. In tears of joy and was finding a dire shortage of words to express her feelings. Even then, her eyes spoke eloquently of the feelings coursing through her and Swami, of course, understood everything.
The bhajan, "Hari bhajan Bina" started and Swami seemed so happy. He enquired as to who was singing and the singer was blessed with a padanamaskar too! After that, Swami received Aarthi and left. Before that He got it announced that the next day there would be a programme by the students.
December 25, 2007 – Christmas Day Celebrations
Finally, the day for which preparations had been on for past few weeks dawned. In Puttaparthi, it began with the Nagarsankeertan choir at 5:45 am. After that, Kulwant Hall was full again by about 7:30 am. Swami came out for darshan at about 8:20am and was welcomed by children holding candles. He went around for a complete round of darshan. He was in orange and that was a sort of surprise again as all many expected Him to be in white!
Four cakes had been placed for Him to bless in the portico. The cakes were marvelous, to say the least. Two of them depicted the nativity scene so beautifully. The cake and icing formed the stable and surroundings while beautiful idols of Jesus, Mother Mary and Joseph had been placed to perfection. One another cake that could not be missed was the one from the General Hospital. The icing on the cake was a literal 'icing on the cakes' made on Christmas day. Well, believe it or not, the nativity scene was painted on it with icing! The pictures spoke for themselves. Swami appreciated each cake as He lit the candle and cut them. It was after the cake cutting that Swami came out and sat on the stage.
As soon as He sat, He saw the primary school children sitting right in the front with their violins. He immediately asked them as to what they were upto. Two kids went up to Him and offered the card that carried the details of the programme.
The violin concert began. The tiny tots played with beautiful synchronisation and in unison. The final piece they played was the famous Jingle Bells.
Not one, but six Santas came up to the stage with their bags full of goodies. Swami smiled and as the Santas showed their bags, as though asking for His approval, He picked chocolates from their bags and put them in other bags. He also threw a few of them to the boys sitting in the front. Then the Santas went about in all directions, hurling the chocolates to a gleeful crowd. Meanwhile, the violins became silent and the children bowed down to Swami.
Like a mother, Swami called the children up in the front and gifted them with Hazelnut chocolate bars. Then came the beautiful sight as the Santas were at the receiving end of the gifts! Swami gave each of them chocolate bars too.
The second programme of the day was the one by the Institute brass band. The bandmaster and another student went up to Swami with the card bearing the programme details. Swami blessed the programme and it began. The band played four beautiful pieces and everyone applauded in joy and appreciation. Then Swami signaled in a sweet manner, "Is it over?" "Just one more piece Swami!" was the answer. Swami nodded in agreement. The band began playing the piece, "Love is my form." The whole audience clapped to the rhythm of the song. After that, they bowed to Swami and sat.
The final programme was the carol singing by the students. Two students again took a card to Swami. Swami saw through the details of the programme. The carols began with, "We wish you a merry Christmas." It was threaded along by Fred, Scrooge and the spirit of Christmas (characters from the famous Dickensian play, "A Christmas Carol.") The whole programme went along crisply and everyone seemed to enjoy it. The students sang about nine carols and in the middle, the carol, "Jingle Bell Rock" was sung. It was at this time that the senior Santas arrived! They too received blessings from Swami and went about distributing that to everyone seated. As the carols progressed, Mr. Scrooge was getting transformed by the Christmas spirit and Swami asked, "How many more?" "Swami two more" "OK" was the reply with a smile. Swami sat listening to the carols and at about 9:45 am received Aarthi as Prasadam was blessed for distribution. Swami then retired.
The evening programme had four speakers scheduled. Swami came out for darshan at about 5:10 pm. He went straight on the stage and after a short while of Veda chanting, He asked for the speeches to begin. Mr. John Behner of Latin America introduced the four speakers of the day - Ms. Inez from Argentina, Mr. Sumeet Tappoo from Fiji, Ms. Poppy Hillcoat from Australia and Dr. Michael Congleton from the USA. The first two Youth speakers spoke of the transformation Sai has brought in their lives. Ms. Hillcoat spoke of the joy she experienced in past Christmases at Prasanthi Nilayam, and Mr. Congleton spoke of the joy derived from selfless service. After the four speakers, Mr. Behner requested Swami to bless everyone with His divine discourse. The time was already 6:30 pm. Swami said, "All are tired now. They will be fresh tomorrow and then I will speak to them all."
A roar of applause made its way throughout the hall as everyone cheered at this promise. Swami was all smiles. He asked for bhajans. As bhajans went on prasadam was distributed and then receiving Aarthi, Swami left.
December 26, 2007 - Christmas Mass at Prasanthi Nilayam
For the second year in a row, a Roman Catholic Christmas Mass was celebrated at Prasanthi Nilayam with the Divine approval of Bhagavan Baba, conducted by a priest from Nigeria, Father Charles Ogada. The word “catholic” means universal, and the spirit of the Mass was on behalf of the universal spirituality that men and women share everywhere.
The structure of this worship service has been preserved since the 1st century, with four parts:
- Coming together in reverence for God.
- Listening and reflecting on the Word of God.
- Uniting ourselves with God through the Eucharist liturgy.
- Going forth to love and serve God in the world.
The highlight is always the Eucharist liturgy, where the word “Eucharist” comes from the Greek word for gratitude and grace – our rejoicing at the grace of receiving the very substance of Jesus Christ in a holy communion service.
After the opening entrance songs from the choir – “Come and serve the Lord in joy” and the “Sarva Dharma” prayer – Father Ogada greeted the hundreds of us who had gathered the hall with:
“May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
After he asked God to “bring light to those who are in darkness” (similar to the Sanskrit “asatoma sadgamaya” prayer), the choir sang a rousing “Glory and praise to the Lord. Here is here! He is here!” in 3-part harmony.
The second portion of the Mass featured two readings, the first from the Bible’s “Book of Revelations,” written by St. John the Apostle:
I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem [“Jerusalem” means “the abode of supreme peace”] descending out of heaven from God… Then I heard a mighty voice, saying, “See! The abode of God is with men, and He will live among them; and they shall be His people, and God shall personally be with them and be their God. God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more… for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away.”
The second reading was from Sai Baba:
I call upon you to radiate bhakti (devotion) within you so that its unseen power will envelop all who come within your orbit. Be ever pure of heart and soul, and mankind in your lifetime will benefit from your unique qualities. The time is approaching when all humanity will live in harmony. That time will be here sooner than one expects. Before it arrives, be prepared for whatever is needed to reveal to every living thing the true purpose of existence.
Members of the congregation then offered prayers for the world in many languages including Russian, German, Italian, Spanish and Telugu.
In the 3rd part of the Mass, Father Ogada led us in the Eucharistic prayer:
Priest: The Lord is with you.
All: He is also with you.
Priest: Lift up your hearts.
All: We have lifted them up to the Lord.
Priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.
All: It is right to give him thanks and praise.
Finally the time came for the transubstantiation of bread and “wine” (non-alcoholic grape juice) into the very substance of Jesus. As Father Ogada recited:
Before Jesus was given up in death, a death he freely accepted, he took bread and gave thanks. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said:
Take this, all of you, and eat it; this is my body which will be given up for you.
He consecrated the “wine” as well. And before the distribution of this Prasad to all, everyone prayed:
Through him, with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.
Communion was then distributed at tables set around the room. Afterwards, silence reigned as each one felt the presence of God within their hearts.
Concluding the Mass, Father Ogada reminded everybody, “The Lord is with you,” to which all responded, “He is also with you.” A final invocation was given to “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,” and the choir sang, “Love all. Serve all. That is the way to God.”
The Mass had ended. Still, it took more than 40 minutes for the hall to be emptied – no one wanted to leave! One man was so moved that he was in tears “more than I have ever cried before – especially with so much joy.”
Everyone present was grateful for the grace of being able to have such a wondrous Christmas Mass within the abode of supreme peace and prayed that this becomes a tradition for every Christmas in Prasanthi Nilayam.
December26, 2007 – Christmas Discourse
Everyone was eagerly awaiting His arrival on the evening of December 26 as the previous evening He had promised that He would be speaking the next day. Swami came and took His usual rounds and then came on stage. He first asked the Telugu professor, Sri. Veerabhadriah, to speak, who was slightly taken aback. One could sympathize with him, for on a Christmas Day, when the majority of the people are non-Telugu speaking no one would expect Swami to ask a Telugu professor to speak. But that’s the nature of Love. It knows no reason or season and that is exactly how the Professor began his speech - with wonder at Swami's spontaneous Love. He spoke for about 15 minutes on the inner significance of the Cross as propounded by Swami. Then he concluded.
With a smile on His face, Swami rose to speak. There was a thrilled applause. He refused to use the discourse table. He stood up holding the railings and then began His discourse. Given below is a summary:
"One with anger is the one who commits sin repeatedly. God is Love and Love is God. All the problems, differences and conflicts that you see today are due to the absence of love. They are all due our imagination alone. There is nothing actually like difficulties or restlessness (Ashanti). There is peace everywhere. So I don't understand why you complain that there is no peace. When the heart is peaceful, everything around is peaceful. That is because everything is reaction, reflection and resound. And we get carried away by our imagination. Even our names are not true. Boy there! What’s your name?
(The boy answers – ‘Vikas’)
This boy answers as Vikas and everyone seated here will respond in a similar manner. But if God is asked what is His name, He will answer, "Aham Brahmaasmi" (literally translated as “I am God”). That should be our response too. That is our name. And that is possible only if one has Love.
But we do not understand Love. We think it is physical or worldly. You are not one person but three. The one you think you are, the one others think you are, and the one you truly are. What you and others think is only imagination. Who is your true self? It is the ‘I’. This ‘I’ is common to all. The Christians have the cross. How is it formed? Take the false ‘I’ and cross it. Kill the ego to get the true ‘I’. All those who are born of Karma must realise, "Aham Brahmasmi". Then alone can you experience the Truth. Till then keep any names that you want. You are not born with the name. Parents have named you thus. That’s why when they are asked, "What is the child's name?" they sometimes answer, "We have not yet kept a name!" The name is only for identification.
There are so many people in this world. But there is not even one who says, "I am God." We just carry on this life with given names. Remember, your name at birth is Brahma (God). It is the principle of 'I'ness. It is not anyone else's creation but your own will. See here. I will and...(waving His hands, materializes a chain and puts it over the mike for all to see) Creation always has two aspects - Truth and Illusion (Maya). If there is no illusion, there will be no creation. But still, Maya is only a shadow and there can be no journey without a shadow. At the time of sunrise the shadow is 20 feet long but by midday, it is absent, under one's feet!
Love is the basis of faith. None seem to know the origin of Love. The ‘L’ in Love stands for Lord. Everything has come from God and to God it will return. Even a blade of grass cannot move without God's will. People may argue, debate, etc. but is there anyone who knows the end fate? Without God there is no creation. The sprouts come up because of the rain. The rain is due to the clouds and the clouds are created because of the sun. The sun is the creation of God. Without God, nothing is possible. We forget God and remember everything else. If you forget God, you forget everything. Without the foundation, the wall and roof cannot exist and there can be no life. Self confidence is the foundation. Self satisfaction is the walls. Self sacrifice is the roof and life is one of Self realization.
Jesus was the son of the carpenter Joseph. Joseph stayed with a girl Mary who was pregnant. It was a kind of election time then. So they had to move from village to village. Those days there was no car, cycle or rickshaw. They used only a donkey. All the rooms were full then and they came to a donkey shed. In the corner in a manger, the baby was born. Joseph thought that it was because of the strain of the journey that Mary delivered early. Those days, the methods of calculation had not been developed. Exactly nine months had been completed. The parents brought leaves and hay and put an old cloth over it to comfort the baby. The child then was fed by the mother and began to grow.
Once there was a function in Jerusalem. The lad Jesus was lost in the crowd there. The parents hunted from morning to night but could not locate Jesus. As they wept and were about to go to bed, there was a knock on the door. Jesus came and said, "Mother I did not go anywhere. I was with the priests and learned men." The mother was very happy hearing this.
Jesus knew that the Truth lay in Him and that everything else was false. He roamed the mountains. When He came down to the river, he met the boatmen and Peter. There were some people knitting. They said, "Yesterday, we got no fish." Jesus worked His first miracle. He said, "Go over there. You will reap a rich harvest." He later distributed bread to all. Everyone hailed Him for the miracles. "Jesus is our Guru," they said. The followers grew and so did the enemies. Wherever there are friends, there are bound to be enemies. Jesus said that all were divine. "Brahmavid Brahmaiva Bhavathi" - (One who knows God becomes God). When He was asked, "What is your name?", he replied: "Jesus".
"Who named you?" "I myself" "Who are you?" "I am God."
He was taken for crucifixion. He did not try to argue or explain as He knew that it would all be in vain. When His mother cried at the cross, He said, "Oh Mary! The body is a water bubble. Why do you weep for it? None can kill or destroy me. I am the only one. All are sparks of my Divinity."
Jesus is not a mere mortal. He is totally divine. But some of the people had no faith. The same thing is happening today too. It is the faith that protects. Hold a stone and call it God, it will respond. Jesus was one who was very good. He gave food, clothing and shelter to all. He said, "All come from me and from my will" Remember that everything is the will of God. People with faith will be protected. Faith is the foremost. People today have been blinded because they have lost the eyes of faith. Faith and Love alone are the cause of all creation. They are like the positive and negative ends of a circuit. Grow in love and trust.
Many foreigners have faith but they lack Love. Faith is useless without Love. When Jesus was questioned in the court he said, "Go ahead! It is only my body. I can do as I will."
Everyone must have the Masterfaith. The rest is useless. You can achieve anything with it. So, students, develop faith. Without faith, there is no life. Without faith there is no self. Even today, those with faith in Jesus have progressed. Whether your desires are fulfilled or not, keep your faith. Faith can make the blind see and the dumb speak. Never doubt. Some things just keep happening in this world. People thought that Jesus was an ordinary man. Likewise, many think that Swami is an ordinary man. That is a big mistake. It is all the fault in your sight (Drishti).There is no mistake in Swami. It is all the disease in your eyes. If you are good and happy, Swami will be happy. Swami's happiness is in all of you.
You are all in me. I am yours and you are mine. Do not consider me separate. This is the fundamental Truth. You are all instruments. Grow in faith and Swami will make you instruments. It is only the spiritual life that protects. If that lacks, it is only emptiness. Fill your hearts with devotion. God is in you, above you, below you, with you and around you. If you have to be ripe fruits, you must have the sweet juice of devotion within. Any name you give God, have faith in it. Jewels are many but gold is one. Never loose the gold. No jewels without gold. Grow in Love.
Students, you are here not for studies but for learning from Swami. If you have this, you will be successful everywhere."
Then Swami sang the bhajan Hari Bhajan Bina.....
After this, Swami called the boy Vikas up in the front and put the chain that was resting on the mike, to his neck. Everybody burst into big applause. Then He blessed the prasadam to be distributed and received Aarthi.
December 27, 2008 – Programme by USA Devotees
Swami had permitted a group of devotees from USA to put up a programme on the December 27. The stage was set in a very cozy manner. It was a small backdrop and the devotees - on both the gents and ladies side sat close forming the borders of a stage to put up the play. Swami came out for darshan and saw the backdrop as He went on His rounds. Then as He came out of the car, He went straight to Sri Gopal Rao who was celebrating his 100th birthday. Swami blessed him and showered him with akshatha grains. Then He came out and sat for the programme.
The first part of the programme was a musical Christmas Play in one act taken from the Gospels of Luke, Mathew and Mark. It was entitled "The Boy Jesus." The play takes place in the day of the rule of Herod. Angel Gabriel informs Mary that she was chosen to bear Jesus. Joseph and Mary wander about in search of an inn and finally come to a shed where Jesus is born.
It is then that, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar from Mesopotamia, Persia and Ethiopia reach the babe following a star and gift gold, frankincense and myrrh. Jesus grows into boyhood and impresses and inspires everyone with wisdom far beyond his age. Jesus reminds all that the kingdom of God is within one and all. The whole skit was interspersed with carols – “Silent Night”, “O Little town of Bethlehem”, “We three kings of Orient”, etc. The final song was “Joy to the World” and the children came front and sang out the final portions.
Swami called the boy who acted as Jesus and spoke for a while with him asking his name, place, etc. Then He materialized a chain for him. Swami took some time for opening the link to put the chain around his neck. The boy told Swami, "Swami, please do not trouble Yourself." Swami smiled and Himself put the chain around his neck. Then the second part of the programme began. It was a musical program by the "Sathya Sai Singers of Southern California and Hawaii." For the next 40 minutes or so, they sang out wonderfully to the Lord. All the songs were with beautiful meaning and all directed towards Swami. After they concluded, Swami went into the interview room and came out with sarees and white cloth pieces. He gave gold coin chocolates to the kids who had performed in the drama and the clothes to the gents and ladies. After that, He blessed them all and receiving Aarthi, retired for the day.
December 28, 2007 – Felicitation of Mr. Gopal Rao
Swami had set aside the evening of December 28 for a very dear devotee of His - Sri Gopal Rao - who had turned hundred. Swami had blessed him the previous day, the day of His birthday, but He did not seem satisfied with that.
He came and took a full round of darshan and then alighted near the interview room. Taking a round around the portico, He came out on the stage and very soon asked for Mr Gopal Rao to be brought on stage. The 100-year old shining and smiling gentleman was wheeled on to the stage. Swami then called Prof. G. Venkataraman and assigned to him the pleasant task of speaking in felicitation of Mr. Gopal Rao.
The professor deemed it as a special privilege to speak on this occasion. He spoke of how Gopal Rao's life had been saturated with faith and love for Swami. He had been cured of a cancer of the urinary bladder in 1960s simply by the force of a word from Swami. And now, in 2007, he was very fine and healthy. It was his steadfast faith in Swami's word that made him stand firm during the Andhra Bank strike during which he was thoroughly tested. From the age of eighty, till late nineties, he served water for devotees in the canteen. The professor's talk was very well appreciated and naturally so for it was the description of a most loved and respected centurion. In the speech he also made public a revelation that Swami made, "As per the scriptures, Sri Gopal Rao is not 100 but 105 actually!"
As he concluded, Swami asked the “Birthday boy” to speak. A mike was placed before the centurion and the mike volumes must have been turned very high in anticipation of a feeble voice. Sri Gopal Rao boomed forth and his voice was surprisingly clear and loud considering his age. He started with a very recent anecdote. His eyes and ears were weakening and the doctors had prescribed operations. Swami came to him and told him, "Gopal Rao, you have seen enough, you have heard enough. No need of any operation now!" He then narrated of how he first came to Swami as a proposed translator and then was saved the blushes when Mr. B Ramakrishna Rao stepped in at the right time. He expressed his deep sense of love and gratitude to Swami and also to Radio Sai for giving him Swami throughout the day. He spoke for about 40 minutes and everyone listened with rapt attention as words of wisdom poured forth. "Swami keeps telling that we are all God. All the problems are only because we do not seem to listen how many ever times He tells. I try to follow that and it is so elevating."
With that statement, he offered himself to Swami. Swami got Gopal Rao publicly garlanded by Mr Chakravarthi and there was a thunderous applause. Then Swami came to him and put a shawl to felicitate him. Both of them had an intimate conversation. Gopal Rao told Swami that he had seen all in his life and that He was ready. He had no desires left. He said that the whole day, he could not step into his house for so many came to see him. It was all Swami's love and grace, he said. Swami got up and posed for photographs with him and blessed him so many times by placing His hands on his head. Swami was smiling so sweetly and Gopal Rao chose to speak through his eyes which were now shedding drops of Love.
God's love is so overwhelming and overpowering. None can resist its flow and grandeur. Swami gives Himself up completely to anyone who has said from the depths of his heart, "Lord, I am yours. I Love you." It was so touching to see Swami blessing and showering His Love on a dear devotee. After that was done, the time was around 6:40pm. Swami had prasadam distributed and then sat in a joyous pose as Aarthi was performed. Then He retired for the evening.
- Heart2Heart Team
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