June 8, 2008 – Swami Returns to Prasanthi Nilayam
The academic year at Puttaparthi may have a beginning and an end like any other academic year elsewhere, but unlike any other place, the way it begins and ends is truly divine and thus unique. The year ends with the Lord telling the students to return home and spread His love and joy to all there. The year begins with the students receiving Him with all their love and joy! And so on June 8, 2008, when the good news came that Swami would be leaving Brindavan early that morning, and after a few scheduled halts on the way, would arrive at Puttaparthi by 11 am, the events that followed later made it the actual opening day of the Puttaparthi campus of the Sri Sathya Sai University (though the college had started on June 2). For, what is the University without its Divine Chancellor, Sri Sathya Sai!
Entering the premises of the Sai Kulwant Hall, one could observe a huge gathering waiting eagerly in anticipation. One could not help but wonder as to how on earth did so many people come to Prashanthi Nilayam! A gala procession had been arranged from the Gopuram gate to welcome Swami. En route, Swami had made stops at Muddenahalli and Bagepalli to bless the people there. That it took more than 20-25 minutes for His car to navigate the last 4-5 kms from the Super Specialty Hospital to the Mandir gives an idea about how slow Swami was travelling. He was moving slowly so that His devotees who had gathered on the way to catch one glimpse of Him could fulfill their desire. As the car reached the Gopuram gate, many things began in a synchronised manner. The welcome song went on air through the speakers beginning with an enthusiastic, "Jai Bolo Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba Ji Ki Jai." A procession of orange clad students began with the high pitched chanting of the Vedas. There were a set of students doing vigorous bhangra dance on both sides of the car. The 8th and 9th class students held and waved balloons and flags to signal the colour and gaiety of the occasion. Handfuls of flower petals were devotionally offered onto His car that had the privileged fortune of being the vehicle of choice for the Lord.
Swami took a complete darshan round and as throngs of thrilled devotees "rose to the occasion", Swami flashed beautiful smiles to all around. He went to the portico near the interview room and there, asked for the aarthi to be done. Before that roses were offered and blessings were sought. A devotional fervour replaced the gay atmosphere as the aarthi began. As Swami moved towards the ladies side, the headmistress of the Primary School, performed a traditional aarthi and "warded off the evil eye" with a coconut! Swami smiled through the ritual and the entered the Yajur Mandir. He retired at about 12 noon.
In the evening, Swami arrived at the Mandir about 5:20 p.m. Much to everyone's delight, He had decided to come out in the chair. So, the summer showers which began in the month of April and continued in full flow through His stay at Brindavan, had been extended into the fresh academic year as well! Swami was in those, "I will accept everyone's letter" moods. With a gentle smile, He slowly moved through the ladies side. It was reminiscent of the times when Swami would come walking slowly down the path. As He moved along the path, He slowly alternated His attention and "eye-span" to the left for a while and then to the right as everyone vied and pined for His attention. There was a lot of excitement as He moved through the students. The ‘freshers’ (newly joined students of the college and institute) were being exposed for the first time to the taste of what it means to be His students. Swami completed a round through the gents’ side, and then as He moved in the front through the students, He collected letters and blessed the birthday boys. The bhajans began at 5:30 pm.
When there is a lot of joy and fervour waiting to burst forth, the bhajans act as a wonderful release! And adding to the existing enthusiasm, Swami came straight out to the front of the stage and sat there. The difference in excitement levels, when one could see Swami and when could not, could easily be made out from the tempo of the clapping that went on inside the Bhajan Hall in sharp contrast to the doubled speed one that went on in the Sai Kulwant Hall! Swami made a face indicating that the beats were going awry! He also clapped and set the beat so that the exuberance at seeing Him doesn't disrupt the rhythm of the bhajans. After He sat outside for four bhajans, He called a student and took his letter. The joy of that student knew no bounds and he returned to place, lighter in the hand and in the heart too!
Swami then went into the Bhajan Hall for the rest of the bhajans. It was 6:10 pm when He received aarthi and retired for the day.
June 15, 2008 – Bhangra Dance by His Students
The greatest fruition of any talent is when it is offered to the Lord, said a wise man once. He must have been really wise because that is exactly what even Bhagavan Baba says. On one occasion in Trayee Brindavan, when a teacher said, "Talent is a gift of God", Swami corrected him and said, "No! Talent is God." This awareness makes it easy to understand why each and every bit of talent that is latent in anyone tries its best to become patent in front of the Lord. The talent bustling in the students of Swami’s University was also no exception to this!
On June 15, 2008, the students of His college were all ready and eared up with a Bhangra dance programme. The dance was to be presented before Him. The Bhajan Hall was filled with students in their costumes awaiting the divine command to go out to the Sai Kulwant Hall and dance to theirs’ and their Lord's hearts content! Swami came for darshan at about 4:10 pm and to everyone’s surprise drove out of the main gate into the Puttaparthi township. And when He returned, He went straight to the Bhajan Hall without even going for a complete darshan round. Inside the Bhajan Hall, He collected letters and spoke to the student participants.
When Swami enquires into the details of the programme, know that it is definitely not His inquisitiveness about the programme. What is there that He does not know? It is but an enthusing dose of Love and affection that charges the participants to do better than their best in front of Him. After the short interaction, Swami told the boys to go out and start the programme. He too moved to the centre of the stage in Sai Kulwant Hall.
As soon as Swami asked for the Veda chanting to be stopped, two students came to Swami with a card and planned programme proceedings. Swami blessed them and they took the much sought after Padanamaskar. Then, the programme began. Two boys compered the show bringing to light the teachings of Guru Nanak and the other Sikh gurus. One of the comperes played the role of a disciple of the Sikh gurus while the other acted as a devotee of Swami! Beautiful comparisons and blends in the teachings of both the spiritual masters were then brought forth. The atmosphere in a Gurudwara was very well depicted and the sheer numbers of the participants - 64 in all - was enough to make everyone feel as if they were seated in the heart of Punjab. There was a singer and another person who provided the music for the entire programme. But that was only the audio over the public address system. The chorus of the 64 students energetically exercising their lungs in the heights of excitement and feverish devotion was so loud that at times it overpowered the blast of the Bose speakers hanging high above in the hall.
Bhangra is a dance with a lot of colour, energy and life. The swirling turbans added the colour; the boys gave the energy and the sweetly smiling and engrossed Swami lent life to the performance. The tempo and rhythm went on building up as is the wont of any Bhangra performance. Huge formations, criss-crosses and human pyramids came up.
Various instruments and tools used in Punjab were on display too - swirling wheels, wooden stretches, poles and bare hands and legs combined in an amazing array of sequences to add spice to the fervour of the dances. Many of these visually attractive steps and items were performed right in front of Swami, close to the stage. Once the dance concluded, all of participants came right up in the front and collected themselves in front of Bhagavan. Swami was all smiles as He watched them.
Any art form needs patronage to survive, and more importantly, thrive. Who can give better patronage than the mother? And which mother is more loving than the Divine Mother? Swami indicated that He would Himself come down the stage to be with all the boys. The next moment, He stood up and walked down the dais! All the students thronged around Him. Like a lotus surrounded by buzzing bees, Swami blossomed, as cameras clicked and videos whirred. More than once He told all of them, "Very very good programme." When in a burst of emotion, the boys thundered, "Swami, we love you", He smiled and whispered back, "I love you too!" One was reminded of the statement, "In the depths of silence, the voice of God is heard." And here, in the deafening enthusiasm of the boys too, the sweet mellifluous voice, "I love you too" was heard so well. Clearly, the silence in that statement refers to something deeper than mere absence of sound! It is more a 'sound' state of perfect harmony with oneself - the way one is when in the Presence of Swami.
Swami spoke to the boys as He posed for pictures and returned to the stage. Once on the stage, He beckoned a few and took their letters. Some of the ‘freshers’ (boys joined in the new academic year) were thrilled when Swami called them near and spoke to them. The end result of the interaction were 64 faces that beamed in unison after receiving the divine outpouring, and the many other happy faces that had witnessed the divine outpour! Swami then moved into the Bhajan Hall and the usual evening bhajans began. At about 6:00 pm He received aarthi and left.
June 21, 2008 – Inauguration of Two Ambulances for Prasanthi Nilayam Ashram
Two Tata Winger vans stood majestically in front of Yajur Mandir on the afternoon of June 21. Quick enquiries revealed that the Puttaparthi ashram, by Swami’s blessings would be receiving the two fully equipped state-of-the-art Tata ambulances. Though formally attached to the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, these ambulances would be available for all Sai Institutions in Puttaparthi, including the schools, colleges, hostels, stadiums, hospitals and staff quarters. It was another yet another gift of love and grace from Bhagavan.
That evening Swami came out at about 4:45 pm. The vans caught His attention the moment He came out of His residence. Swami asked about the vehicles and it was promptly said, "Swami these are the well-equipped ambulances for the ashram." He then went closer to have a better look. The oxygen cylinders and the stretchable and retractable bed looked elegant and professionally compact in the vans. Where Swami is concerned, the unexpected is something that has to be expected. Swami enquired about the drivers' place. The front door was opened and Swami was shown the drivers' seat. He scrutinised it carefully. He seemed fully satisfied with the new powered twins and blessed them for their "release". As He was moving towards His car, He saw coconuts on the ground. He told the students and security personnel there to break them as signs of auspiciousness in front of the van. As they were about to do so, Swami, with a sweet smile told them, "Wait! I will go for darshan. Then you break the coconuts."
That statement from Swami was so wonderful for many reasons. For ages, Swami has been breaking coconuts. One of His favourite styles is to hold a coconut each in both His hands and then crack one against the other, using one of them as a breaking instrument. Both the coconuts were thus easily halved. On other occasions, Swami throws the coconut to the floor and as it shatters, devotees make a rush to collect the pieces as holy prasad. But nowadays, Swami often asks the people near Him to enjoy the privileged honour of breaking the coconuts. On many such occasions, when people throw the coconuts to the ground, some pieces fly towards the Lord. Though Swami is always amused by this, it is not the case with many devotees. Their Lord for them is the most powerful but He is also the sweetest and the most delicate. So when the coconut pieces fly towards Swami, while the coconut breakers are rewarded with a smile from Swami, they also got glares from the devotees! And so this time, when Swami was just beside the vans said, "Wait till I go for darshan and then break it," one could not help but suppress a smile.
Swami moved into the Sai Kulwant Hall on the chair itself and there was a surge from all sides. The Sai Kulwant Hall was almost filled up because of the week long parayanam of the Ramayanam was scheduled to begin the next day. Added to that, it being a "weekend", devotees had gathered in good numbers for darshan. Swami went about collecting letters and blessing everyone. His progress was slow and gentle. The bliss on the faces of the devotees showed that by His touch, smiles and Grace, their "progress" had been made rapid and huge!
When Swami moves amongst the devotees in the chair, He is often covered by the lapping waves of the devotees with hearts flooded with devotion. And on such occasions, one can easily see Swami reflected so beautifully in the faces of all His devotees. If you want to know who Swami is, you just need to look at the devotees' faces. A mere look will make you realize that Swami is an embodiment of Joy, Peace and Love! Swami then collected letters from all and then moved into the students' zone. Blessing everyone, He slowly waded through them. He blessed all the birthday boys and then went into the interview room. Bhajans began at 5:30 pm and concluded at around 6:05 pm. And thus ended another wonderful day.
June 22 and 23, 2008 – First Two days of Rama Sudha Sapthaha in the Divine Presence
On 22nd of June, the entire Kulwant hall appeared in a different light altogether. It looked as if the legendary "Rama Rajyam" had descended on earth. Well, it certainly was not ‘as if’, Raama Rajyam had indeed descended!
Our Lord Sai Rama often speaks about Lord Rama and the way He had lived and conducted Himself. But, more than anything else, when you listen to Swami describe Lord Rama and narrate His various experiences; you are always reminded of the daily activities of Swami Himself.
In line with the mood of the day, the stage was rightly occupied by the three beautiful statues of Lord Rama, Lakshmana and Mother Sita. Hanuman however was conspicuous by his absence. It later came to be known that these statues were only a temporary arrangement; the actual idols would be brought in a procession in the afternoon! And so in the afternoon, the Yajur Mandir was bustling with activity. A gaily decorated procession stood in readiness to escort the two Ramas from different Yugas! Swami came out at about 4:30 pm and the procession started.
The grandly decorated palanquin bearing the idols of the Lord was carried by priests chanting hymns and mantras in praise and glory of the "perfect man" of the Treta age. The Sanathana Dharma, the most ancient Indian religion and culture, is so glorious and grand - while in many places, God is reduced to a mere book, idol or picture, the Sanathana Dharma, uplifts everything - idols, pictures and everything to the level of God! The "Gaja Nade" is the traditional elephant walk that the priests simulated while carrying the idols. This meant that Rama seated atop the palanquin would have felt as though He is seated on an elephant! The movements were such and the priests undulated and gracefully twisted their bodies to exactly replicate that walk. Meanwhile, Swami sat just at the threshold of the Sai Kulwant Hall entrance from Yajur Mandir, and said that He would prefer to wait for the idols to be taken in procession completely, before He began His darshan round.
That was so sweet and understanding of Swami. Imagine the state of mind of people if both Swami and Rama came for darshan together! The two eyes will never be enough to immerse one’s self in the beauty and glory of both the forms at the same time. After all what can one do when the tastiest of dishes and the best of desserts are placed simultaneously in front for the feast! So, as Swami sat sweetly allowing the palanquin to proceed, all the assembled devotees had a wonderful darshan of Rama, Lakshmana, Seeta and Hanuman. Towards the later part of the procession, the "Hamsa Nade" or the gait of the majestic swan was adopted and the palanquin proceeded and came to a halt at the stage.
Thereafter, Swami sweetly began His darshan rounds. It was a double delight. It was as if even if we were not yet spiritually evolved to see and feel the divinity in the idols, here was the same Lord in flesh and blood! The thought that the Avatar was in our midst in physical form, heightened by the presence of the idols atop the palanquin was so elevating that we all felt very privileged that we were actual contemporaries of God in human form. Bhagavan glided through the hall in the chair and was all smiles towards the assembled devotees. He went through the gents’ side and then came to the students section of the hall. Blessing the birthday boys and collecting letters from many, Swami went on stage. There He lit the lamp and with that officially declared open the "Srimad Ramayana Sudha Pravachana Saptaham"! The Kalashasthapana and Shodashopacharapuja to the idols were performed and everyone awaited the next part of the programme to begin. Swami sat listening to the Vedic chants as He gently fondled and played with a yellow rose bud in His hand. He opened up the petals slowly. It was symbolic of what He was doing to all the children seated in front of Him. They come to Him as buds and with His touch; He makes them bloom into fully blossomed flowers.
At 4:45 p.m., Bhagavan, seated on stage, asked for the programme to commence. A learned scholar, Sri Vidwan Nidumamidi Srikanta Rao, spoke in Telugu for about 45 minutes, introducing the Ramayana Saptaham, and stating that each day, one Kandam (section) of the Ramayanam would be expounded by a scholar, till the last day, which would be dedicated to the Pattabhishekam or Coronation ceremony. The scholar then spoke about the first part of the Ramayanam, the Bala Kanda and the inner significance of many events narrated there. As he went about the narration of the events of the planned coronation, the initial exploits of the young princes, Swami listened appreciatively with rapt attention. At the end of his talk, Swami looked at the bhajan group and signaled them to begin with a hint word, "Shlokam". And so began "Shree Raghavam…" the aalap for the bhajan "Shree Raghunandana". Bhajans continued after that and everyone clapped and sang enthusiastically. All the bhajans were on Lord Rama with special emphasis on the initial phases of Rama's life - to the events of Baala Kanda in particular! Prasadam was distributed while the bhajans went on. Bhagavan accepted arati at 6.10 pm before returning to His residence.
The afternoon of 23rd, too, began on the same auspicious note as Swami came for darshan at 4 pm. However, Swami cut short His rounds and moved to the stage after the ladies side. After sitting on the stage for a few minutes, He went inside the interview room, and emerged half an hour later. The proceedings for the evening began at 5 pm. The talk for the day was on the Ayodhya kandam by the scholar, Mr. Malla Pragada Sriman Narayana Moorthy from Guntur. He spoke very beautifully on the inner significance of the kandam, stating that Ayodhya means, "Where no one wins". This part of the Ramayana, expounded the scholar, was the portion where everyone - King Dasharatha, the queens, all the four brothers and everyone in the family is defeated. Yet, all of them lose so that Dharma or righteousness can win. And that was the significance of that Kandam. He further explained that the kandam also highlighted the beautiful congruence between Sathya and Dharma. Like the two feet which are perfectly in sync and make movement possible, only when Sathya and Dharma are in sync is progress possible.
Swami was very moved at many instances during the narration. The speaker too spoke very powerfully on the Ayodhya Kanda and the entire audience listened in rapt attention. After the stirring hour long Telugu speech by the learned scholar, bhajans commenced at 6 pm. But this time, even Swami sang softly the lead for some of the bhajans along with the main singer. Needless to say, that only catalysed a more devotional and enthusiastic singing by everyone assembled! After bhajans for half an hour, Swami received Aarthi and left.
June 24 and 25, 2008 – Third and fourth Day of the Rama Sudha Spathaham
Tuesday or Mangala varam (literally meaning ‘auspicious day’), as referred in many Indian languages, dawned in Prasanthi Nilayam with the chanting of the holy Vishnu Sahasranaama in the Mandir. All the devotees who had assembled offered the holy akshatha (rice) grains to a picture of Swami's cosmic form that had been so efficiently distributed to all of them. At about 8:45 am, Swami came for darshan in the chair. He directly went to the interview room after passing through the ladies side. The bhajans began at 9 a.m. as usual and then a very beautiful incident happened. Swami came in for bhajans and noticed that a student was seated in the front with a bowl of Akshatha grains as it was his birthday. Swami called him and blessed him profusely. But, the magical moment came when the student asked for paada namaskar and Swami consented. At that time, there was a sudden momentary silence as the bhajan that was on had just concluded. And when the student placed his head on the Lotus feet, the next bhajan began - Sathya Sai Paadaambujam, Bhajore Manasa Nirantaram (Oh mind! Dwell incessantly on the Lotus feet of Sathya Sai). A thrill went through all who were a witness to this poignant scene, and the student must have been overwhelmed for he stayed down on His feet for more than 10 seconds. Even Swami appeared to be enjoying this “coincidence” and smiled very sweetly! The bhajans concluded and Swami left after receiving Aarthi.
In the evening, Swami arrived at about 4:30 p.m. He completed the darshan rounds and came onstage. Then, He called a boy and took his letter. Opening it, Swami saw that the letter was a full page long. He made a face of mock anger and then asked, "Why do you write so much? Write a few lines - that'll suffice!" The boy returned with a smile on his face. He was so happy that Swami spoke to him that maybe that advice went unheard! Immediately, Swami called another boy to take his letter. This time, as He slowly opened it, all watched in bated breath! Swami Himself seemed to open it with an expectant anticipation. Seeing that the letter consisted only of a few lines, He smiled and so did everyone around. After this, Swami went around the upper stage and then via the inner portico, went into the interview room.
Swami later returned to the stage from the interview room to start the proceedings at 5:15 p.m. The speaker on June 24 was Sri S. Ranganath Garu from Bangalore, who spoke in English about the Aranya Kanda for 45 minutes, noting various points of interest in Valmiki's poetry. It was more of a Sanskrit scholars' delight with the erudite speaker outlining the beautiful grammar and perfect language employed by the sage Valmiki. He also drew out examples from the works of various modern and contemporary writers where they had been influenced and inspired by the Ramayana. Therefore, he stated, that the epic Ramayana has a great relevance irrespective of the age or era! At the end of his talk, Swami saw that one of the students was clicking photos prolifically. Swami asked him if there was a film in the camera. The student, on his knees, cheekily pulled out the memory chip from the camera, showed it to Swami and said, "No film, Swami!" Swami smiled and asked for the bhajans to begin. The bhajans began and they were all specific to the episodes and the characters of the Aranya Kanda of Ramayana. After bhajans, Swami enquired whether any prasadam was available! When it was being checked, He said that prasadam may be distributed the next day. Smilingly He asked for Aarthi and then left.
June 25 was the day dedicated for the Kishkindha Kanda. Swami arrived in the evening before the students had come in. He completed His darshan rounds on the ladies side and took a detour, as there was a huge empty space since the students had not yet filed in, and then cut across the marble blocks. He then spoke to the two sevadal youth who were seated near the pillar as part of the security measures to ensure that no one rushes upto Swami out of the blue to touch His Feet. The youth were taken aback, but were nevertheless filled with joy as Swami spoke to them.
Swami then went into the interview room. After He came out, He took a round around the stage and inner portico, and once again went into the interview room. The speaker scheduled for the evening was Dr. Thangirala Venkata Subbarao from Bangalore. From there, Swami spoke a while with the bhajan singers and then came out of the bhajan hall too. Swami came out and then, after a while of Veda chanting, asked for the speaker to be introduced. The speaker offered his obeisance to Swami and began the talk.
He detailed at length on the Ramayana story from the point when Hanuman meets with the two princes, Rama and Lakshmana till the point when Hanuman stands ready on the shores of the ocean, ready to take-off to Lanka. The killing of Vali at the hands of Rama and the wonderful dialogue that followed was narrated. Vali asks Rama if it was fair on His part to kill him in that fashion from behind. Rama replies, "Oh Vali! I never challenged you in a fight. I am on a hunt and I hunted you like any hunter would do a wild animal. Your deeds show that you are indeed a wild animal as you have eyed the wife of another, and treated your own brother very badly. As for the enmity, though you are not My direct enemy, you are the enemy of My friend Sugriva, and so you become My enemy too!" Vali then repents and begs for Rama's forgiveness. The narration highlighted Rama's crystal clear understanding of Truth and Righteousness. At one point, the speaker said that just like the forest in Ramayana had been transformed by the penance of the sages, Puttaparthi had been transformed by the ‘penance’ of Swami. At this point, Swami burst out laughing! With a smile, He said, "I never did any penance of any sort!" All those who saw it smiled and nodded back at Him.
There exists a misnomer among many that Swami is a great spiritual seeker who has loads of ‘penance’ backing Him. He is not a spiritual seeker, but the One who is spiritually sought; He does not need penance to back Him. On the contrary, He is the one who backs all the penance of the world! The mind foolishly may make comparisons between Him and the many sages, but the heart will say that the only apt comparison is between Him and Lord Rama for both are incomparable and that is the similarity between them.
After the speech completed in about 50 minutes, there was a loud applause and the speaker was blessed by Swami. Swami then asked for bhajans to be sung. The instructions were that only Hanuman bhajans should be sung. The first bhajan to begin was "Rama Lakshmana Jaanaki". Now this bhajan is special because, the lead is always "Rama Lakshmana Janaki" while the follow is always, "Jai bolo hanuman ki". As soon as the first line was sung, Swami sang out aloud, "Jai bolo Hanuman Ki!" Apparently, it seemed that the Lord was reminding all about the special nature of the bhajan. Well, a little deeper thinking and it was obvious that Lord was showing mankind another beautiful aspect. In the divine romance between the Lord and His devotess, the devotee always keeps singing and thinking of the Lord while the Lord thinks and sings about the devotees. At a time, when all the devotees assembled in the hall were singing the Lord's name, our Lord was singing the devotee's name! Needless to say, it indeed was an awe-inspiring and thrilling sight! After four bhajans, Swami asked for the Aarthi and then left.
June 26 and 27, 2008 – The Fifth and Sixth Day of Rama Sudha Sapthaah
The holy Thursday on June 26 was to play host to the Sundara Kanda of the Ramayana. In the morning, the laksharchana by the devotees gathered in Sai Kulwant Hall began at 7.30 a.m., with the chant of the Sri Sathya Sai Ashtothara Sahasranamavali. Bhagavan arrived at 8.40 a.m. while the chanting was in progress and sat on the stage for sometime. It was such a wonderful feeling for all present at the moment in the hall - to chant His 1008 names in His physical presence! He then moved to the Bhajan Hall, and then to the interview room. The chanting concluded at 9:10 a.m. and Bhagavan arrived in the Bhajan Hall for the bhajans to begin. He moved to the interview room for a few minutes, then returned to the Bhajan Hall, sat there for half an hour and accepted arati at 10 a.m. before returning to His residence.
Swami returned in His chair to Sai Kulwant Hall at 4:10 p.m. and moved to the interview room. After a round of the Bhajan Hall and the verandah for a few minutes, He came onstage at 4:45 p.m. and stayed there for 45 minutes while the Vedam went on. As has become the norm, as soon as He comes on the stage the priests offer to Him a garland of lotuses and also get blessed flowers to be offered for the day to the deity.
The Vedam went on and the priests also kept chanting the shlokas from the Sundara Kanda. As Swami sat listening, He called a few students and said something to them, after which everybody started smiling. When Swami shares a joke, it is such a beautiful sight. The smile on His face broadens till it seems to cover the entire face. Then the lips open and a whole hearted laughter gently rocks His body. It’s such a wonderful sight to see that even an onlooker cannot help but smile. A great devotee had termed this beauty of Swami as omni-felicity. At the same time, He felicitates so many.
Everyone sitting there feels that a wave of His hand or a smile from His lips is for them too! Swami then called more students and collected letters from them. On this day He seemed so intent on the Veda chanting, that He let it go on for quite some time. It was almost 5:15 p.m. when Swami asked for the speaker to be introduced.
The speech for the day was on the Sundara Kandam by Dr. Mylavaram Srinivasa Rao from Guntur to speak in Telugu. The entire Kanda was on the glory of Hanuman. Hanuman is the champion in all fields related to the body, mind or soul. The speaker highlighted these wonderful qualities of Hanuman in a very poetic way. The Sundara Kanda is one which is a repository of so many secrets and so many beautiful episodes - thus the name. The talk was a delight for those who could understand Telugu; for the others, it felt like music to the ears! And so, he held the audience spell-bound for 90 minutes. He was so lost in the glory of Hanuman's love and devotion to Lord Rama, that he lost track of time and went on with his speech. Seeing the audience getting restless, Swami gently reminded the speaker of the time! Swami's communication skills are something that all must emulate. He says, "Do not speak the unpleasant Truth." But He always speaks the Truth and the way He speaks is so wonderful that nobody is ever hurt. His words are the sweetest and most wonderful. The speaker concluded and Swami immediately received aarthi and retired for the evening.
The concluding Laksharchana was with the chanting of Sri Lalitha Sahasranama on June 27. All the devotees chanted "Aum Sri Matre Namah" as the Sahasranama went on from 7:30 to 8:25 a.m. The scholar who chanted the Sahasranama spoke a few words extolling the compassion of the mother and then concluded the morning session in time for the bhajans to begin as usual at 9 o'clock in the Bhajan Hall.
The afternoon session began with Bhagavan arriving in His chair at 3:45 p.m. Moving to the interview room after a few minutes onstage, He emerged at 4:15 and then took a round on the verandah. All the priests were called to the Mandir portico. Swami wanted to distribute special clothes for the priests to wear for the next day function. As they sat in two rows, Swami moved gracefully amidst them handing over each of them a yellow bundle and gifting each with the opportunity to touch or kiss His feet. Then, telling the priests to proceed with the Poojas as usual, He came onstage and sat for a while with the Vedam chanting going on in the background.
Out of the blue, Swami beckoned two American brothers from among the students to chant Vedam onstage. They were taken aback but with His touch, regained composure and chanted the Vedas with aplomb. Swami told everyone to stop chanting and listen to them as they went about chanting flawlessly! The Mother's heart swelled with pride as the amazed priests watched the lads in admiration. Swami then blessed them and sent them back. He asked for Sathya, an Iranian boy from the Primary School to be brought to Mandir! Quick messages were passed and the little kid of 10 years was picked up from the playground, quickly washed up and brought to the Mandir! As He came, Swami asked him whether he could chant vedas. That tiny kid too chanted the Medha Suktam with as much proficiency as anyone else. When, at Swami's behest, the boy told on mike that he was a 9 year old from Iran, there was a loud applause. Swami was very happy and He told the child to sit in the front.
The programme of the speech commenced at five o'clock. The Yuddha Kandam was narrated in Telugu by Sahasravadhani Garikipati Narasimha Rao till six o'clock. He spoke with a speed that had been hitherto unknown during the saptaha. In between the speech however, Swami said with a smile, "He is speaking so fast." Oratorially, the speaker was a marvel. But Swami always has in mind every devotee in the hall - and many cannot follow such rapid Telugu. Many credited the speaker for translating parts of his speech into English too. The speech concluded and Swami asked for the bhajans to be sung. Prasadam was blessed to be distributed to all. Swami asked for aarthi and it was an amazing sight that day with about 5-6 aarthis being waved in unison - by coincidence all of them seemed to be in perfect sync with each other. The head priest came very close to Swami and performed aarthi just as he would to the idols! Swami smiled beautifully at him and told him to be at a little distance! Then He retired for the evening.
June 28, 2008 – Pattabhishekam Ceremony on the concluding day of Rama Sudha Sapthah
On the morning of June 28 was the scheduled Pattabhishekam - the ceremony where Lord Rama is crowned as the ruler of Ayodhya and the Supreme master of the three worlds. A procession stood in readiness at the Gopuram gate of the Mandir. It was about 9:00 a.m. and Swami came on the chair for the darshan round. He seemed in such a kind of detached state and a gentle smile kept dancing on His lips. We often think it is our good fortune to have His darshan on holy days. In fact, it is the other way: Anyday we have the good fortune of having His darshan, becomes a holy day!
Swami completed the darshan rounds and came on stage. Then, the proceedings began. There were three beautiful idols of Lord Rama, Lakshmana and Sita with a huge Hanuman statue below.
The first part was the Panchamrutha abhishekam. The idols were bathed in honey, ghee (clarified butter), curd, sugar, tender coconut water and milk. As each item was reverentially poured over the idols, Swami kept looking at the devotees. Each item was brought to Swami for His blessings before they were poured over the idols. And each 'bath' was followed by a water bath through specially made silver ladles. Then the camphor and wicks would be lit and an aarthi performed to them. The whole hall vibrated with the holy feelings and energy of the Lord. It was such a thrilling sight to see the idols in all their beauty being thus bathed.
This was followed by the Theerthabhishekam. Water from the various holy rivers in India were poured over the idols. Swami listened intently to the names of the various rivers being read out. As each pot was taken to Him for blessing, He enquired into the names of the rivers. Even Chitravathi water was present. A beautiful and grand silver plate was held over all the idols. This plate was perforated and water was poured on it. It must have been a very special Pattabhishekam for Lord Rama as Sai Rama was presiding over it.
As the ceremonial baths were completed, the priests sought Swami's permission to curtain and cordon off the area of the sanctum sanctorium as the Lords had to be "dressed" up for the day's "crowning moment"! Swami agreed with a smile and a red curtain was drawn around the Lords. As Rama was 'hidden' from the devotees' view, Swami decided to grant a special darshan. He went through the inner portico and then went around the students for a darshan round.
He took a few letters and granted many smiles and Abhayahasthas. By the time Swami came on stage, the idols were almost ready. The Alankaram ("decoration" will be a simple translation for that word.) to the idols was on when Swami was requested permission to bring the Pattabhi Rama idol in procession. Swami agreed and the procession began. From the Gopuram gate, the idols arrived in a grand and gay procession. The statues were brought on stage and installed there. The Vedic chanting had begun and was on in full flow on Swami's command.
As the curtain was drawn, there was a loud applause as everyone marvelled the grandeur and beauty of the idols.Then the actual Pattabhisheka Mahotsavam began. There was the Parayanam of the Pattabhishekam Ghattam with the Shadashopachara pooja. The various aarthis and the Rajaasheervadam were also performed. Swami kept smiling so beautifully and then blessed the crowns to be placed on the idols. Swami looked so radiant as the idols were crowned. He looked the actual emperor and His wonderful mop of black hair swaying gently in the light breeze that had begun looked like a Divine crown. When the entire ceremony was complete, Swami called the two main priests and simultaneously materialised thick gold chains with pendants for them. All the priests then went one by one to Swami and offered jasmine flowers at His feet. Swami blessed each one of them and gifted watches to all of them. It was such a beautiful sight to see Swami's feet loaded with sweet scented jasmine flowers.
Swami then asked for the bhajans to begin. He blessed the prasadam to be distributed. The prasadam was sweet pongal, Rava laddoo and tamarind rice. As the prasadam was being distributed, He sat for about four bhajans. Then receiving Aarthi and blessing everyone, He left at about 11:30 am.
In the evening, the jhoolotsavam had been planned. The idols were placed on a beautifully adorned and decorated jhoola (swing). Swami arrived at 4:30 pm in the chair and He cut through to the interview room after the ladies side. As soon as He arrived on stage, the priests offered the flowers to be placed on the idols for blessings to Swami. Then they offered a garland of lotuses at His feet. Another beautiful sight to see the lotuses form a circumference around the Lotus Feet.
With His blessings began the Jhoolotsavam. As the priests gently rocked the swing and performed poojas, Swami sat watching. Then a singer was introduced. Sri.M.G.Venkataraghavan from Bangalore was blessed by Swami to sing Keerthans. He sang for about 45 minutes and he was accompanied by tabla, mridangam, morsing, flute and the keyboard. As he sang, Swami went into the interview room for a short while and then returned. This time, He sat facing the jhoola. After a few more songs, Swami told the students to sing. The perfect host that He is, He asked the singer, "Can these children sing one or two songs?" Swami teaches lessons every moment. He is the supreme emperor and His every word defines Truth as every action of His defines Dharma (Righteousness). But He follows all the courtesies and respect with everyone.
The students started. The first song began with an alaap filled with gamakas (rapid modulations and undulations of the voice). The opening sequence itself drew appreciative and thunderous applause from the audience. As the song began, it was sharp contrast as the audience sat tight lipped and spell bound by the magic of the melody the student was weaving and casting a trance like spell on all. Swami kept the rhythm with a divine gleam in the eye. The thunder returned as the student completed his rendering. Two more songs followed. The final song was on Swami's avatarhood in our midst and it was lapped up by the divine-thirsty audience with a steady and heavy clapping of hands. As the song concluded, on Swami's command, the bhajan with shlokam alaap- Sree Raghavam- began. What a sight it was!
The students rendering soulful tunes, Swami swaying and swinging to the tunes and the priests tuning their swing pushing to the rhythm going on. The smell of incense and dhoop made the atmosphere heavenly. Swami in the meanwhile blessed prasadam to be distributed to all. He also called the Kirthan-singing Vidwan and his troupe to the stage and gifted them with silk cloth. He honoured them by placing it on their shoulders and they redeemed themselves by falling at His Feet! As the bhajans concluded, Swami called one of the students who incidentally had his birthday also on the same day and asked him,"Where are the holy grains?" The boy got up and rushing to Swami with a tray that he picked up from a nearby birthday boy, bent down his head to receive blessings.
Swami blessed him and then pointing to two seva dal boys sitting near a pillar said, "They have not received the prasadam that has just been distributed. Go give them prasadam." The boy did as he was told and all - the seva dal boys who were recipients of His love , the Lord who could not see them "prasadamless", the boy who got the chance to serve the Lord at the Lord's behest and the devotees who were fortunate to see this expression of Love - were happy.
Swami then called two boys on stage and told them, "Sit here. We will have Ramakatha." Saying thus and blessing them, Swami went into the interview room. It was 6:45 pm then. Hurried preparations for these two students to render the musical Ramakatha, which Swami loves so much, were being made. Mikes were brought and the stage was set. Swami came out soon. He asked the boys to sit close to Him. Then, all of a sudden, Swami asked for His mike to be brought! He started with the famous, "premaswaroopulara" and the claps that followed were deafening. Then Swami did something unique and special. He started singing, "Kausalyatmaja Ramacharan". Everyone soon realized that Swami was leading them in a wonderful bhajan session. And the follow too picked up to the enthusiasm levels that Swami was expressing.
Swami then started singing the names of Lord Rama. The lines wereall composed on the spot and so were the tunes. The bhajan that He was singing went on for 10- minutes or so. The lines were all about the wonderful name and form of Rama. As the last part of the bhajan, Swami started to sing "rama Namame melu, Rama Chintane Chaalu" in the tune of "Kausalyatmaja Rama Charan." Then He asked the students to pick up from there and gently closed His eyes.
The bhajan tempo picked up and so did the volume and pitch. The whole hall was clapping mad and wild in devotion and the singing was in such perfect unison and harmony. A thrill ran through one's spine and the sheer power and glory of united singing was demonstrated subtly by Swami. The wordings are not so importanat, nor is the bhajan tune. All must follow it and sing whole heartedly - that's all that Swami wants. As the bhajan concluded, it was about 7:05 pm and so Swami's mike was removed. After a few minutes, Swami asked for the mike and began to speak. A summary of the discourse is given below:
It is very important that we sing together. It is much more effective than individual singing. If a thousand people call out to Rama together, atleast one cry will surely touch Him. Kausalya and Dasharatha had a daughter named Shanta. She was married away to a sage and in fact she was the one who conducted the PutraKameshti Yagna to beget sons for the 3 queens. When the pudding that emerged was distributed equally among the queens, Sumitra cried out, "Kausalya is the seniormost queen and her son will have a right over the throne. Kaikeyi's father has received a promise from Dasharatha that her son will be made king. Why should I beget children?" In that mood, she went to the terrace to dry her hair. Unlike these days,there were no fans then. She was drying it with scented smoke when an eagle came and carried away the pudding. Lamenting, she told it to the other two queens who wholeheartedly shared their shares of pudding with her. Thus were born the four princes. Since birth it was noticed that the twins- Lakshmana and Shatrughna- were crying all the while.Lakshmana was born of Kausalya's portion of the pudding and so was not satisfied and happy until he was placed in the cradle next to Rama. So too, Shatrughna happily suckled his thumb when placed beside Bharatha.
When Ravana arrived to kidnap Sita, Lakshmana had drawn the protective line around the hut and none could touch her. In the first place, she had desired for the golden deer when she had given up all the luxuries of the palace. (She did this to teach all the lesson that when one gives up Rama-God, for the sake of Kama-desire, one is bound to suffer) Ravana then arrived and acted a nice drama that he was very hungry. He then kidnapped Sita. He placed her in Ashokavana with demonesses. But there too, Sarama, Shakini and Daakini took very good care of her. Ravana, though the overlord, did not have the courage to touch Sita. When he came, Sita threw a blade of grass at him and said, "You are not even this blade of Grace in front of my husband when it comes to worth!"
Meanwhile, Rama was given the jewels that Sita had dropped. He told Lakshmana to identify whether they were Sita's as his eyes were covered in tears. These days, every husband keeps a list of all the jewelry his wife has. but Rama never did so. Lakshmana said," Oh brother! I can recognize only the anklets of Mother for I never saw beyond her feet- the feet I worshipped everyday!" Rama entrusted Hanuman to find Sita. And who was Hanuman? The eagle that took the pudding from Sumitra dropped it in the mountains where there was a lady meditating. Who was that lady? (All said loudly, "Anjani Devi Swami") Yes! Anjani Devi - not the cine star Anjali Devi ! And so Hanuman was an integral part of Rama. He went to Lanka with the only intention of pleasing his Lord. He searched for Sita in the private palaces of Ravana. There were many females and queens there and many hardly wore dresses. Yet Hanuman is the perfect Brahmachaari (celibate). He thought only of finding Sita.
Ravana, in his younger days had tried to force a girl into marriage with him. When he tried dragging her by the hair, she cut off her hair and cursed him,"I am coming again. Then the number of your people who will be destroyed will equal the hair in your hand." Thus she was born as Sita - Vaidehi. Vaidehi means the one without body attachment. She was found by Janaka and was not the daughter of his loins. Vaidehi was married away to Rama.
The Ramayana is full of secrets and great mysteries and power. Just take the name of Rama and all will be taken care of. It was Guru Nanak who first started the trend of singing as groups. All the names of the Lord are the same. God is one. Cows' colours are many, milk is one. Jewels are many, gold is one. So too, treat everyone alike. The Atma or soul in you is Rama. All are one, be alike to everyone. The whole world like the Ramayana is nothing but Rama and Hanuman.( Very significantly many interpreted this statement as the world is made up only of the Lord and devotee - nothing else ever exists. Swami was simultaneously speaking of both Dwaitha and Advaitha) Thats why in the bhajan that the students sang, Rama Lakshmana and Sita came in one line and the other line was on Hanuman.
Hmmm...Swami has put you all to a lot of strain by speaking so much!
Having enjoyed every moment of it, everyone vociferously shouted out, "No Swami" at this 'atrocious' statement from Swami! Swami was smiling all the time. He seemed so happy and pleased and that reflected on every soul. The priests slowly went upto Swami and requested for a group picture with Him. Swami beamed a smile and said, "Surely". The pundits flocked and swarmed around Him like the bees do to a lotus or a rose. Swami then received Aarthi and retired. It was 8:00pm when the seat took Swami into the car.
- Heart2Heart Team
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