Volume 9 - Issue 02
February 2010
Other Articles



By Prof. G. Venkataraman


This article has 4 parts and an Appendix



Part 04


Please Note: This article has many inset boxes meant for supplementary reading.

I trust I have by now convinced you that the best starting point for a reset and restart is CEILING ON DESIRES [C.O.D]. It needs to be emphasised at this point that in Swami’s scheme of things, C.O.D is not to be regarded merely as a survival strategy. We don’t look at doomsday forecasts of the type first made by the famous Club of Rome many decades ago and say, “O my God! We have to abandon the consumerist model or else we would perish!” Yes, we do have to give up this utterly wasteful and most dangerous model. However, we do it for reasons that are larger than survival, although I entirely concede that survival of the human race and saving the eco system are both absolutely vital. The larger reason is spiritual; what I mean is that by giving up consumerism, we would be kicking out desire and, along with it, jealousy, greed, anger, etc. This is a mandatory first step in the journey towards God, and at least those who are serious about being seekers of spiritual knowledge as well as loyal devotees of God, must sign up to this ideal.

C.O.D is not meaningful, unless it is backed up by a substantial restructuring of social priorities. Take employment for example. Today, most advanced countries have a problem with employment in that the manufacturing industry no longer employs as many people as it once used to; this is due to automation. As a result, many people who once used to work as assembly workers, etc., in an auto plant can no longer get employment. Furthermore, earlier lots of people worked in auto garages. With cars becoming highly sophisticated and controlled by computers, these days if one has a car problem, one has to take it to a ‘super-speciality garage’, equipped with car scanners and what not! This too has led to quite a lot of erstwhile mechanics becoming unemployed.

Thus, if one looks at the employment structure, there are basically two types of jobs, those demanding high skills and which fetch high salaries, and those at the bottom with rather low wages. There is very little of middle ground which, alas, leaves many jobless. We see a lot of this in America; quite possibly, India too might soon face that same situation. What I am driving at is that along with a switch-over to C.O.D we need to ensure that we switch from mass production to ‘production by the masses’ as someone put it, that is to say ensure there is employment for all. Clearly, in such a scheme the pay inequities would be relatively small. Also, wherever possible, production and consumption must be relatively local. We just cannot have the current practice of demanding a supply of apples throughout the year and from all parts of the world, no matter where we are. Even as recently as 20 years ago we did not have such a phenomenon. It is globalisation that has done all that.

Those who have been bitten by the G-bug and feel it is a mighty blessing would no doubt cry foul and protest hugely. On the other hand, if we wish to live in a sustainable manner, then there is no option but to take the pendulum to the other side all the way. This would NOT be possible unless we resolve that we are here on earth to live for God as He wants us to live, and not live as if there was no tomorrow! The Bible emphatically declares that one can serve either God or mammon and not both. Swami too says same:

This makes it abundantly clear that each and every individual has to make the correct choice, and that, in my opinion, is the first mandatory duty of every devotee of God. But the individual’s responsibility does not end there; rather, like the trillions of cells do in the healthy body, all of us have to pull together to mesh our individual activities so that humanity as a whole functions to fulfil the responsibilities given to us by God. It is then and then alone that peace and harmony would prevail in this world. To put it bluntly, merely chanting Shanti three times after bhajans and saying Samastha Lokha Sukhino Bhavantu would not do! Proclamations and prayers have to be backed up with right action! The job ahead of us is to give a call to humanity to wake up, arise and be about God’s work, explaining in detail what should be done and how.

In their own little ways, lots of people all over the world have already begun talking about leading simple, sustainable lives. Referred to as ‘greens’, for these people, it all ends with going back to a sustainable life-style as existed centuries ago. However, when we talk of C.O.D, we are jacking up the ante and raising the green concept to a spiritual level. As Swami puts it [a paraphrase]:


O man! You have great ambitions, dream of all kinds of success and luxuries, and struggle hard throughout your life to attain these goals. Often, you spend your entire life chasing the ‘rainbow’ but fail to. At the end of it all, what have you got but misery? Some achieve what they call success; but are they able to live in peace and happiness thereafter? Not at all. They would lose sleep trying to protect what they have, because others would be trying to topple them and take away what they have got!

There is no limit to desire. You may have millions but you are not satisfied; from millions you want to go to billions; from billions you want to go trillions! After all this, one fine day, you would die. What is it that you would take with you at that time? Not a penny, not even a single thread! All the wealth you earned on earth would not serve you in your after life, not one little bit!

How many times we have heard Baba tell us all this and top it off with the bhajan: Bhaja Govindam….. [which essentially means chant the Name of the Lord, and enrich your life spiritually rather than with cash and material goods!]

The point being made is that if we are serious about following Swami’s teachings, we really have to start with C.O.D – there simply is no running away from that. Starting from there, we then have to take it all the way as Swami has described in His numerous Discourses, and that exactly is where spreading the Message assumes importance.

Many people think that the idea of placing a ceiling on desires is a stupid fad and unworkable proposition. I would strongly argue that it is NOT a fad. As to whether it is workable or not, it depends entirely on whether or not we would like to roll over the cliff. In some areas like nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, sanity has begun to prevail and controls are slowly being established. Where climate change is concerned, one sees some signs of stirring [hope it is not too late!]. In the same way, we have to wake up to the importance of placing a ceiling on desires also. If we see it purely in terms of survival, then not many may sign up for it. However, if C.O.D is linked to moral fervour and an intense desire to please God, then there is a good chance the movement would pick up because God would become actively involved and help us all the way. Remember what Swami has said umpteen times!

 Once more I stress: One simply cannot have indefinite and endless consumption in a finite world! Many years ago, a dire warning to this effect was given by the Club of Rome.


The Club of Rome FORECAST

The Club of Rome is a think tank that came into existence in April 1968, that subsequently grew and achieved prominence in 1972 when it published its first report warning again unlimited consumption of non-renewable resources. The essence of the forecast was captured in impact-making graphs and projections, an updated version of which is reproduced above for convenience.

It is true that the projections are based on computer models and that some of the assumptions then made were subsequently found to be inadequate. That does not mean, however, that the basic features of the Club’s qualitative findings can be summarily dismissed. The Club’s point is simple: Limitless consumption in a finite planet is unsustainable!

At first, there was a scare but soon people forgot. But God and Nature do not forget, and of late, we have been getting plenty of subtle warnings. The impending water crisis is one such, and that is why I have laid it thick. What we learn from even the limited data I have presented is that if we waste water as if there is no tomorrow, then we might not have a tomorrow! And if you reflect deeply on the way out, you would realise how crucial Swami’s teachings are for the survival of not only the human race but also the eco-system; that precisely is where being in harmony with Nature strongly enters the picture. Presently, we do not care much about society, being focussed too much on our little individual selves; that’s why society is kicking us back with all kinds of economic and social problems like crime, etc. Similarly, we are busy ravaging Nature, but she too would push back, if she is not already doing so via climate change.

What I am talking about is not rocket science but something quite simple and elementary. Late Prof. Victor Weisskopf who, among other things served as a Distinguished Professor in M.I.T once said:

If you keep this in mind and examine what Swami is asking us to do, you would realise that He is basically asking us to harness both knowledge and compassion to the same ‘cart’ and use it for serving humanity. And to prove that this makes sense, Swami has set up educational institutions which are models that modern society can copy with much advantage. He has set up model drinking water projects that are unequalled and unmatched in any part of the world. How many know that together, the half a dozen drinking water projects Swami has implemented provide potable water to about ten million people? You know what that number means? It represents the population of one entire country in Europe like Hungary! Which private Charitable Trust other than Baba’s has done such a project, and with the least fanfare? By the way, Swami has done six major drinking water projects.


SWAMI’S massive drinking WATER PROJECTS

A Few Glimpses of the Anantapur Drinking Water Project

Shown above is a map of the State of Andhra Pradesh [in which, by the way, Puttaparthi is located]. During the last decade and a half, Bhagawan Baba has executed Drinking Water Projects in five Districts of this State.

It is not only the poor in remote villages who face problems, it is the same with the low income groups in towns and cities too. In principle, the municipalities of many of the bigger towns and cities have water supply systems. However, this water is not always available to the slum dwellers who are entirely at the mercy of tanker services, especially where there is a scarcity. Of course, this water is not free; there is a hefty service charge. Even if the disadvantaged are willing to pay for this, it is no smooth process because there are long waits, lots of pushing around, and sometimes the tanker is not able to provide water for all.


In some areas of Anantapur district even though there is ground water available through open wells or borewells, neither of them is safe. While the former contains too much fluoride which causes bone deformations and dental disorders, the latter is often heavily polluted with garbage.

On November 22, 1994 during a major function arranged in the Poorna Chandra Auditorium in which was present the then Prime Minister of India Mr. P. V. Narasimha Rao Swami drew the attention of the distinguished Chief Guest to the difficulty that villagers of the arid regions of Andhra Pradesh constantly faced in getting access to safe drinking water. Swami also hinted that if the Government came forward to implement a massive drinking water project, the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust would extent full support.

However, nothing much happened in the subsequent months. Finally, on March 1995 Swami gave a simple command to the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust. In essence He said, "Do all that is necessary to supply safe drinking water, throughout the year, to as many people in as many villages of Anantapur District as possible, no matter what the cost and what the difficulty. And do this in the shortest time possible!"

One of the problems faced in the execution of the Drinking Water Project in Anantapur District was the uneven nature of the terrain. Essentially, the land sloped down from the South to North. On the other hand, the water sources were all principally concentrated in the North, which meant a good deal of water had to be pumped against gravity to supply villages in the South.

So a clever strategy was evolved where water was first pumped to a high point on a hill in the area to be served. From there, it would flow down by gravity to the neighbouring villages. While part of the water would be so utilised, the rest would fill a Sump, from where it would be pumped up to fill an elevated reservoir in the next region. The illustration above depicts this arrangement. Many such innovations were done depending on the terrain as well as the nearest source of water.

Laying pipes, stretching over 2000 km in total length and over all kinds of terrain constituted by far the largest activity in this project. The amazing part of it was that it was all done so smoothly, without any accident and of course no fanfare.


This is a panoramic view of a huge Summer Storage Tank located close to Anantapur town. Seven such Tanks were built at various locations to store river water (flowing through irrigation canals).

All the water goes to a filtering station (like the one above) where elaborate filtering and purification is carried out to make the water fit for drinking.

Bhagavan gave the green light for the Anantapur Project in March 1995 and on November 18 of the SAME year, there was the Prime Minister inaugurating the huge Summer Storage Tank near Anantapur town. A beaming Prime Minister told the audience that with this assured source of water, Anantapur had now become Anandpur (City of Joy). Bhagavan on that occasion mentioned that even though a lot was accomplished in a few months, there was plenty more to do. He once again assured all that the Project would be carried out in full.

Late Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma had the opportunity of inaugurating the entire Project, four days after the Prime Minister had inaugurated the Anantapur Tank. And the day of inauguration was a most blessed day - November 23, 1995, Swami's 70th Birthday.

At last! Water was available just down the street. No more waiting. More important, it was Pure - absolutely safe for drinking with no fluoride in it since it is all river water. For the villagers, truly a miracle!





sri sathya sai drinking water project
in medak and mahabubnagar districts of Andhra pradesh


Water is drawn via intake wells located at appropriate places on existing water channels supplied by small and big rivers including Krishna River.

A view of the filtration plant in Mahabubnagar.

No more hassle for the hundreds of thousands of people in Medak and Mahabubnagar districts. At least 320 villages were covered in this yet another massive project.



The East and west godavari Drinking Water Project


East Godavari District is partly covered with hills. This region is some distance away from the river, and populated largely by tribals. Their life is hard, and safe driking water was always a problem.


This shows tribals collecting water in pots and buckets from a small spring near a stream. Access to these regions is not only difficult but also risky as they are snake-infested. In the rainy season, the tribals have muddy water flowing in streams which of course is not potable.

Like many other water projects, this one too involved miles of pipe laying now through hills and jungles.

A view of a collection well in the tribal region which collects river water which is later purified in a plant and then piped to the villages.

On the day of inauguration of this project in the East Godavari District for the tribal people of that area, there was no speech making or any fanfare. Just a simple bhajan session following which the people were invited to draw water from the taps.


being distributed to the tribals after the simple opening ceremony.


Their happiness is obvious! No one had cared for them in so many years and now unasked Baba had attended to their most pressing need and at absoluetly no cost to them.





The city of Chennai (formerly Madras), was founded by the British more than 200 years ago. Since there was no big river nearby, the city always depended on lakes/reservoirs in the neighbourhood that stored monsoon water.

In 1886 a British engineer built a dam across a small river in the neighbourhood of Chennai. This river is normally dry but if the North East Monsoon is good, the river runs in spate. The dam helped the flood water to be stored which was drawn into two tanks named Red Hills Lake and Sholavaram. Initially, this water was used both for agriculture and drinking (after of course due purification). Later, additional reservoirs were added in Poondi and Chembaram Bakkam and all tanks were networked.

As demand for water grew, by 1950 it was necessary to reserve the water in Red Hills and Sholavaram exclusively for drinking. But thanks to erratic North East monsoons the reservoirs often were reduced to tiny ponds or even just wet soil. The snap above is of the Poondi reservoir taken about 10 years ago.

This is how the Chembaram Bakkam reservoir looked whenever the rain gods were not favourable to Chennai.

As years rolled by Chennai evolved into one of India's biggest metropolitan cities (in fact now it is the fifth most populous city in India). In the 1980s there were at least 4 million people in this city and catering to their water needs became a huge challenge. In 1950s itself it became evident that Chennai cannot rely on the fickle North East monsoon. Therefore in 1963, an announcement was made in Parliament that conceptual agreement had been reached between the States of Maharastra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh that a portion of the waters of River Krishna (which flows through all these three States) would be made available as drinking water to Chennai. However, it took fourteen more years for a formal agreement on water sharing to be signed. According to this each of the three States agreed to donate 5 TMC (one thousand million cubic feet) of Krishna water from their share to Chennai. The city thus was promised 15 TMC annually.

Years passed and nothing happened. And then in April 1983, a new agreement was signed between Mr. N. T. Rama Rao (left), then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and Mr. M. G. Ramachandran (middle), then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, of which Chennai was the capital. As per this arrangement, Andhra Pradesh agreed to provide drinking water to Chennai as a part of its larger project, named Telugu Ganga Scheme. On the right is the then Prime Minister of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi.

So in April 1983 it was decided that Krishna water would be brought to Chennai via a long canal that cut through two reservoirs, one at Somasila and the other at Kandaleru.

On May 25, 1983, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India formally inaugurated the Chennai Water Project. For the people of Chennai who had been patiently waiting for Krishna water, the end at last seemed to be in sight - but was it?

In September 1996, the canal was formally declared to be completed. Water at last - so thought the thirsty citizens of Chennai. But in reality, very little water flowed from Krishna River to the Poondi reservoir in Chennai, the collection point for the city. The reasons were many. Basically the entire scheme had been executed by resorting to conventional earthwork. Unfortunately this was not the best way to do this. With time, there was heavy loss of water due to seepage. Besides, the walls of the canal had eroded in many places. As a result within a few years, the canal looked almost like a long ditch.


The reservoir in Kandaleru too became a shadow of its former self due to erosion and growth of vegetation on the bund as is evident on the picture above.

The Krishna River drinking water scheme having failed to live up to the promise it once offered, a desperate Chennai now tried to get hold of ground water from wherever it was available; water thus collected was moved in tankers. Soon over 10,000 tankers started criss-crossing the city. And at the end of it all, there was a stiff price to pay, which many especially the slum dwellers in particular, could not afford. For the people in the city water woes became a permanent worry day in and day out, and it adversely affected everyone from school children to corporate officers.

Out of the blue on January 19, 2002 during the course of His discourse delivered in His Super Specialty Hospital, Whitefield, Swami declared, "Today, I have made a new resolve. Madras is suffering from acute water shortage of drinking water... I have therefore decided to work towards bringing water to Madras, no matter how difficult and costly the task is. This wish of mine will fructify without fail. Success always springs from deep conviction."

The starting point was the improvement of the Kandaleru reservoir. So firstly the storage capacity of this tank was enhanced from 16 TMC to 59 TMC by raising the bund level by revetment. Secondly, a comprehensive scheme for reinforcing the bunds was implemented by using Gabions and Geotextile (Poly Propylene membrane) as shown in the picture above.

Thirdly the dam that forms a part of the Kandaleru reservoir was also reinforced by guniting, which involves forcing concrete into the wall at high pressure. Prior to all this, during the flood season, water that could not be stored in Somasila reservoir was drained into the sea. Presently it flows into Kandaleru, to be of use to people in Chennai.

After rebuilding the Kandaleru reservoir and all the channels that lead in and out of the dam at Kandaleru, again a thoroughly professional approach was followed to rejuvenate the earlier dilapidated canal.

Canals are normally lined with concrete. However, in spite of this there could still be some water loss due to seepage. To prevent this, a special Geomembrane (0.5 High Density Poly Ethylene) sheet was imported and used during the canal lining process. This is a unique feature of the Sathya Sai Ganga Canal. This was used to line the canal bed too.

This is the Sathya Sai Ganga Canal as it enters the jurisdiction of Tamil Nadu. The narrow passage (in the above picture) is where the actual water inflow into Tamil Nadu is measured. 500 metres away from this measuring station is the bridge which marks the Zero Point for Tamil Nadu.

Water serenly flowing through the 150 km Sathya Sai Ganga Canal towards Chennai.

The picture above shows people from Chennai welcoming the first arrival of water to Tamil Nadu. The Project was completed in 13 months flat from the time of commencement of work. The shutters at Zero Point were opened on November 23, 2004 - that was Swami's prasadam to the people of Chennai on the occasion of His 79th Birthday.

The picture above was taken when the canal was dry and had remained so for years, waiting for Krishna water. Below is the picture taken soon after Sathya Sai Ganga Canal started filling up Poondi (seen in the background). Swami's words HAD come true as He had emphatically asserted earlier, and the nightmare for the people of Chennai was over. The difference in both these photos is obvious.


On Sunday, December 19 2004, 3000 people from Chennai came to Puttaparthi to have Swami's darshan and express their gratitude to Him on behalf of the Metropolitan City for coming to their rescue.


"For solving our water problem I am ready to thank Baba not once but thousands of time."

"Swami through His Sai Ganga has saved all of us... I offer my billions of salutations to Him."

Except for the very first one, namely the Anantapur Project completed way back in 1995, Swami has not bothered about an inaugural function in the case of all the rest. A lot of money was spent on every single project, but once it was completed and the facilities became functional, Swami just told the Trust Members, “Hold a small prayer ceremony, organise bhajan singing, and allow water to be drawn and used by the public.” In the case of the Chennai Water Project, there was not even such a function.

Water was released from the Main Dam after a short prayer by a couple of engineers present, and allowed to flow along the 150 km canal towards the Poondi Reservoir in Chennai. About fifty or so people waited near the border between Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, waiting for the water from the Krishna river arrive; and as it crossed the inter-state border, they sang bhajans. It was purely a spontaneous effort.

What it all boils down to is that Baba’s teachings though incredibly profound are simple in their essentials. And, they are eminently practical too, as He Himself has shown repeatedly. In fact, it is to draw attention to various aspects of Baba’s teachings that we presented shortly before the 85th Birthday, a month long tele-serial entitled THE MESSAGE OF THE LORD, that was webcast daily from 20th October, 2010. Many saw it but many more seem to be not aware of it at all, including in places like the UK, Australia, Malaysia, etc.; which is why it is necessary to constantly keep the Divine Message on the radar screen of humanity. And this exactly is where all this business of you and us working together to create a SAI TIDAL WAVE, becomes relevant and meaningful.

This 30 episode Video Serial was webcast on radiosai.org from October 20, 2010 till November 19, 2010,
and was watched with great interest in at least 120 countries.

In this context, please do not miss the various appendices that follow. As far as this ‘build-up’ is concerned, let me wrap it up by recalling a question that Swami once posed to His students. He asked: “What is the purpose of life?” Many replies were given but Baba kept on shaking His head as if to say, “No, not correct!” After a while the students gave up and silence prevailed; that is when Swami said slowly,

"From God you have come and to God you must return!"

This immediately raises the question, “OK, but what is the road to God?” And that precisely is where the teachings of Bhagavan Baba enter the picture. Considering that Radio Sai is one of the instruments used for spreading the teaching, I guess you can see now how you and we can together play a powerful role in spreading the Message.

So much for the relevance as well as the prime importance of the Message. Now here is something else you must know concerning what the Lord says about the spreading of His Message.

That was way back in an earlier Yuga. In this Kali Age too this is the Message Swami gave to His devotees. This Message was revealed to late Charles Penn, who, I believe, read it out during a World Conference many years ago. Here it is below in part; read it carefully please!


Dear Reader! If you count yourself as an instrument of God or wish to be one, then it is clear from what Mr. Penn read out, what exactly is expected of us! I think I have said enough.

Please make sure you carefully go through what follows and get back to us, so that we can take this endeavour one step further. Speaking for myself, I feel quite excited by the enthusiastic response already received. It looks like many of you are straining at the leash to take off, and why not? By God’s Grace we sure shall, and soon “be about His work” with all the enthusiasm we can summon!

Thank you and Jai Sai Ram.



Go to : Appendix to 'The Manifesto'
to know how exactly to join hands with Radio Sai


Go to Radio Sai
Go to Publications Division Sri Sathya Sai Sadhana Trust
Go to Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust
counter for wordpress