Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Ugadi 2018 Divine Omnipresence of Sathya Sai at Prasanthi Nilayam

The Samvatsara with the name Vilambi arrived on the 18th of March 2018, marking the beginning of a new year in the 60-year cycle. The festival of Ugadi was celebrated by the people of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka as the people of Maharashtra celebrated Gudi Padwa and the Parsi people prepared to celebrate Navroz. In Prasanthi Nilayam, the abode of highest peace of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba at Puttaparthi, Ugadi is celebrated with great fervour and tradition every year in accordance with the precedent set by Swami Himself. This year was no different. However, it was also quite different in the sense that Bhagawan chose to show His loving omnipresence in a unique manner.

That revelation of His Presence started on note of apparent failure!

The beautifully decorated Sai Sannidhi at Prasanthi Nilayam on the Ugadi day in 2018.
When the discourse went into mute mode...

The morning dawned with the myriad hues and colours of the Ugadi decorations unfolded as the curtains of the Sai Sannidhi were drawn open. The customary Panchanga Shravanam, listening to the annual forecast based on the Panchanga, was delivered by Brahmasri Kuppa Siva Subramanya Avadhani Garu of Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanams. The most anticipated part of the proceedings however was reserved for the last. The customary prayer to bless the gathering with His Divine Discourse was made and, as always, the Radiosai team played an appropriate discourse clip that had been prepared almost a fortnight before. It was an audio clip and as Swami and the translator spoke, the text of the message was projected onto the giant screens as well.

A few sentences into the discourse, ‘failure’ struck! The audio suddenly went off and there was absolute silence in the Sai Kulwant Hall. However, the display of the text of the discourse progressed. A few people ran up and down frantically trying to fix the situation as the silence in the hall continued beyond a minute. What had happened was a terrible mistake.

Whenever there is a programme scheduled in Sai Kulwant hall (other than the daily Veda chanting and Bhajans), the systems in the hall are always run on generator power. This is to ensure that the programme goes on smoothly without even the 15-seconds no-power time that is necessary for the generators to kick in. Even on the programme days, to minimize fuel consumption, the generator is put on after the Veda chanting, just before the programme begins. A mix-up or miscommunication had occured because of which the generator-guy had assumed that the programme is beginning at 9 am and had promptly switched the load from raw power to the generator! That had resulted in a downtime when there was no power available for Sai Kulwant Hall. In the meanwhile, the projectors that run on UPS continued to work. Thus, this strange situation cropped up wherein it felt as if the discourse had been ‘muted’.

However, before the blame-game could begin, Swami revealed His masterplan and there were goosebumps instead of annoyance!

Thursday, 8 February 2018

101 reasons why you are my best friend

These were the contents of a huge greeting card that I gave the best friend of my life! That is a lovely story in itself and you can read it at:

And here goes the 101 reasons why I tell my best friend that He is my best friend!

1. I can't spell friendship without you
2. You’re the most beautiful flower in the garden of my life.
3. You can easily tell a lie for my convenience.
4. You understand when I’m too busy.
5. You know me better than my siblings.
6. You don't necessarily support my decisions.
7. You go an extra mile when I need help.
8. You tolerate my bad moods and still speak to me when you are in one of your own such one.
9. At others expense, you make a great laughing partner.
10. You walk in when others walk out.
11. I can speak my heart out to you.
12. You openly discuss a disastrous date/crush.
13. You fall for the same junk as I do.
14. You help me to choose the right thing for my heartthrob.
15. I can throw my tantrums on you.
16. I can rely on you to post my letters.
17. I know I needn't look my best when you’re around
18. I can discuss my creepy fantasies with you.
19. You motivate me to exercise.
20. You’ve got sense of humor.
21. You hand me your handkerchief when I’ve conveniently forgotten mine

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Where to find Sri Sathya Sai Baba?

The life-changing day

The 24th of April, 2011, changed life for millions of people around the globe. It was the day when Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba took Mahasamadhi ( For those considered as Spiritual Masters, the term 'death' is never used for they are beyond birth and death. The term Mahasamadhi literally means 'Great Samadhi'. 'Samadhi' refers to the realized conscious departure from the physical frame.) Needless to say, it was an earth-shattering event for me. I seemed lost and the world seemed to come to a standstill. Considering everything in life as temporary and transient, I had held on to my God and Master. But now, He Himself was gone! What was I to hold on to now?
The earliest unveiled form of the Mahasamadhi structure of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. 
I had always delighted in my work at Radiosai, spreading Swami's message of love and selfless service. But now, I was not able to do any of my work. I was known as a person who kept cracking jokes and making people laugh. There is nothing that satisfies me more than to know that I have been the reason for someone's laughter, someone's joy. Now, I no longer felt the need to make people laugh and happy - how could I when I myself was poverty-stricken in that respect? There were no smiles on my face nor was there any joy left in my heart. The pain was so much when I saw my Master lying in state for the 'funeral' that I did not even have the guts to go again to the Sai Kulwant hall where the mortal remains of beloved Swami had been buried.

The days passed agonizingly slowly. I don't remember much about those days except the fact that I just kept breathing on when I wanted to actually let go of everything and allow my breath to travel with Swami's. However, I remember one incident that Swami seemed to have especially planned to kick me out of my stupid stupor and kick-start my life again. 

An impulse that overruled a decision

It had been just a couple of months since I had been engaged to Pooja. It now became clear that Swami would not be present for my wedding. In fact, I realized that He would not be there for any of my life-events from now on. I wasn't ready to accept that. In an attempt to forget the Mahasamadhi, I decided that I would not go anymore to the Sai Kulwant Hall, the temple where I had spent hours daily for more than a decade! Later in the day, when I mentioned this to my fiancĂ©e, she did not seem surprised but she told me that Swami would miss me if I did not go there. 
"I don't think so Pooja. I will meet Swami daily in my workplace for, thankfully by His grace, my work involves seeing Him, hearing Him and writing about Him."
"Your wish. It is your journey to Him. I can only pray and pray hard for you... Pray for me too okay?"
I realized that, lost in my sorrow, I had forgotten that it was equally sorrowful for Pooja too to have lost her Swami.
"Yes! Absolutely. I shall pray for you. Let us pray for each other..."

Monday, 29 January 2018

Power of the Gayatri Mantra is beyond imagination

The beautiful Panchamukhi Gayatri idol installed in Prasanthi Nilayam, Puttaparthi. 

Gaayantham Thraayathe Ithi Gayatri

The Gayatri mantra is considered as one of the most powerful, all-encompassing and comprehensive mantras. Commonly, it is said,

Sarva Roga Nivaarini Gayatri (Gayatri Mantra is the reliever of diseases),

Sarva Duhkha Parivaarini Gayatri (Gayatri Mantra wards off all misery),

Sarva Vaancha Phalasri Gayatri (Gayatri Mantra is the fulfiller of all desires).

Those apart, the mantra also ensures that bad thoughts do not arise in one’s mind. It filters thoughts to allow only good and noble ones. It also increases one’s focus and concentration abilities. 

The Gayatri Mantra was discovered by Sage Viswamitra. It was the same Sage Viswamitra who initiated Sri Rama. It is a Universal Mantra and can be chanted by anyone, irrespective of religion, nationality, gender, caste, creed or race. In fact, as Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba (Swami) puts it, this mantra can be chanted at any place and any time. 

There are innumerable instances, public and private, where Swami has dilated on the power and potency of the Gayatri Mantra. One thing He always says is,

“Gaayantham Thraayathe Ithi Gayatri. (Gayatri is that which protects and redeems the chanter of the mantra.)”

Though I have heard and read this multiple times, the enormity of that statement hit me when I read an incident from the book, “Avatar’s Prescription” by Dr. M. Vijai Kumar (MD, DA). This book is a collection of experiences of this venerable doctor who has done free medical service for over four decades. It is the story of his association with Swami and the guidance he has received from his Guru and God. It is on page 109 of the book that he reveals this incident which makes our jaw drop in awe about the power of the Gayatri Mantra. 

Bhagawan Baba chanting the Gayatri mantra. Play 
it as you read the article. You will get the merit of
hearing the Gayatri Mantra a few times atleast! :)

The accident in 1985 that could have a different ending

In the year 1985, Dr. Vijai Kumar and several others were with Swami in an interview. Swami was speaking to all the assembled people. However, He seemed to evince lot of interest in talking with a six year old girl seated on her mother’s lap. The girl was asking Swami many questions in rapid succession and Swami was answering all of them with great patience and love. After a while, Swami gifted her with a photograph of Himself. Now, the girl wanted to know whether to put the picture in a big frame and hang it on the wall or put it in a small table-top frame.

“Put it in a small table-top frame...” Swami answered.
“Swami, where should I keep it? Should I keep it in my bedroom or in the living room?”
“Dear one, keep it on the window sill in your house - the one where there is direct sunlight. Then you can view it from your study table and well as from the living room,” Swami revealed in His omniscience.

The conversation went on and soon, the child seemed to be the sole focus for Bhagawan. All the while, the mother was sobbing silently but uncontrollably. Swami allowed her to cry. Everyone in the interview room were amazed at this unique interaction and were wondering why the mother was crying.

As if to appease everyone’s curiosity, Swami informed them in a very soft voice that the girl’s father had traveled on board “Air India Kanishka”.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Jnana and Dhyana also need Bhakti - Ram Mohan's life experience_Part 3

The magazine of God, for God, with God

It was almost instantly that Ram Mohan decided to make everything he did as an expression of his love to Swami. In 1984, he encouraged the students to produce a hostel magazine as an offering to Bhagawan on His Birthday on 23rd November. A number of hand-written articles, hand-drawn sketches and original poems landed up in his room in the weeks leading to the birthday. With the permission of the Controller of Examinations, Prof. Nanjundiah, Ram Mohan got multiple copies made from the University cyclostyle machine. Then, getting all the pages bound, Ram Mohan offered the magazine to Swami for His birthday.

Swami placed the bulky book on His lap and leafed through all its contents. He was visibly happy and He blessed the effort. From then on, there was no looking back for Ram Mohan. He ensured that a copy of the magazine which was released for every major festival - Guru Poornima, Krishna Janmashtami, Dusshera, Christmas etc. - made its way to Bhagawan. After that, a copy of the magazine was also delivered to each and every room in the hostel for the students to read. Swami would go through the magazine and send His feedback on different articles, poems, sketches and paintings. Even when Swami had suffered a fall and a fracture, He went through the magazine, sending feedback via the editor of the Sanathana Sarathi, Sri V.K.Narasimhan. Swami conveyed to Ram Mohan,
“Why has the boy drawn Garuda’s nose so long? Tell him to shorten it...”

Ram Mohan offering the initial version of the hostel magazine, Sai Chandana, to his Swami in the Mandir portico. 
Years later, in 1989, Swami Himself christened the magazine as ‘Chandana’. The next issue onwards, the magazine carried the name ‘Sai Chandana’ in bold letters on the front. Ram Mohan could not think of Chandana without the ‘Sai’ coming first! Thus, not only did Ram Mohan make the hostel magazine a vehicle for his devotion, he made it the carrier of all the students’ love too. In the later years, the magazine grew in size and significance and had multiple editors. Even then, when Swami referred to it, He always fondly remembered Ram Mohan. In fact, going through the 60th Birthday issue, Swami looked at Ram Mohan and told him,
“I know that you only have written all the articles in here.”
That thrilled the devoted heart.

{This is the concluding part of the 3-part story of Ram Mohan. To ensure you get the best of the story, read this part only after reading the first two parts at the links below:
1. How to get devotion and increase it? - Life experience of Ram Mohan Rao - Part 1
2. The easiest way to increase devotion to God - Life experience of Ram Mohan Rao - Part 2 }

Sai Chandana became a passion and obsession with Ram Mohan. He fervently worked for it with the feeling that this magazine of God should record the heartbeats of His students. The contributions were from students as young as 12 years of age right up till the research scholars in their mid twenties. Ram Mohan considered Sai Chandana as a legacy of the present to the future, a gift and treasure trove of Divine Love.

The lines of dedication from the first issue of the hostel magazine (that Swami named as Chandana) says it all.
When the revered Sri Gandikota Subrahmanya Sastry passed away, a list of names was taken to Swami to name his substitute on the board of reviewers of the Sri Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust alongside Prof. Anil Kumar, Sri Ramana Rao and Sri Prahlad. It was possibly as a reward for his purity, patience and perseverance that Swami selected Ram Mohan as a member of the book-review board.

When God waits for the devotee

This attitude of doing everything as an offering to Swami began to pervade Ram Mohan’s ‘translator-abilities’ too. In the 1990s, Swami brought Prof. Anil Kumar from the Brindavan campus of the SSSIHL to its Prasanthi Nilayam campus. That was when Ram Mohan’s opportunities as a translator declined drastically as Prof. Anil Kumar took over that divine task. However, that did not sadden Ram Mohan or dampen his enthusiasm for Swami’s voice and words. He would sit in his spot behind the Ganesha idol in the Mandir portico, recording Bhagawan’s discourse on tape, in his diary and his heart. Then, he would transcribe the entire discourse in his beautiful Telugu handwriting after which, he would add his comments and appreciation of the different points made by Swami in the discourse. Having done that, he would make copies of his work and send the originals to Swami in a sealed envelope!

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The easiest way to increase devotion to God - Life experience of Ram Mohan Rao - Part 2

"Test is the taste of the Lord"

The Lord always encourages the devotees’ test. But then, repeated testing is harmful for the devotee! If the mind is allowed to tug at the sapling of faith on a daily basis to check whether the root - God - is there, the sapling may never grow into a mighty tree. Swami had already faced the ‘Hyderabad test’. Now, he had been thrown the ‘Bangalore test’. His love is such that He would definitely respond. But this time, it would involve a ‘Madras test’ for the devotee.

The route to his destination in Odisha involved travelling via the city of Madras (Chennai today). In the Madras railway station, Ram Mohan discovered to his horror that he had lost his tickets! He did not have sufficient money to purchase the tickets afresh. Soon enough, the TC (ticket collector) came and evicted him from the train. Stranded and stuck, he was at his wits end. He closed his eyes and prayed to both the Babas he knew - Shirdi Sai and Sathya Sai. The train would be leaving soon and he wondered why had he got into such a predicament. But wait, hadn’t he himself prayed to Swami to demonstrate His divinity?

[If you are wondering when did Ram Mohan make such a prayer, it becomes evident that you missed reading the first part of this article. For better understanding and greater enjoyment, read ahead only after having read the first part which is at the link below:

God recognizes us irrespective of the 'costume' we put on outside. Are we able to recognize when God comes to us in
His many costumes? (Sri Ram Mohan Rao with Swami in Kodaikanal, 1987)
“Ram Mohan Rao... Who is Ram Mohan Rao?”
He turned around to see a couple of gentlemen walking towards him. One was tall, about six and a half feet, while the other was short, about five feet.
“I am Ram Mohan Rao...”
“Ah! There you are. Does this belong to you?”
It was his ticket!
“Thank you so much. You are lifesavers!”
“Words will not suffice sir... Give us our dakshina (an offering made usually to one’s Guru or God only)...”
Ram Mohan had only a few Rupees left on him. He gave them ten and they seemed happy with whatever he gave. Taking his ticket, he managed to board the train just before it’s scheduled departure. But still, making the 3-day journey with barely a few Rupees in pocket was a tough ask.

That was when a gentleman from Masulipatnam, who was sharing the same compartment offered to help. Handing over 30 Rupees (the amount that Ram Mohan said would suffice), the gentleman said,
“You can take this now. But please return the money to me. Here is my address.”
Ram Mohan thanked his godsent saviour and promised to send the money as soon as he was at his destination.

Monday, 4 December 2017

How to get devotion and increase it? - Life experience of Ram Mohan Rao - Part 1

A persistent Presence

The first time that Ram Mohan Rao heard the name of Sathya Sai Baba was in the coastal city of Vishakpatnam. The schoolboy was passing by a photo-framing shop when he chanced upon the image of a man in a saffron robe sporting a thick, curly mop of black hair.
“Who is that?”, he asked the shopkeeper in curiosity.
“That is Sai Baba... He is the living God”, answered the shopkeeper casually.
“God!” Ram Mohan’s jaw dropped down in disbelief. He paused for a moment to take a second look at the ‘Sai Baba’ and then returned home.

Sri Ram Mohan Rao with the love of his life, the meaning of his life and the goal of his life
- his God and Guru, Sri Sathya Sai.

After that day, however, there were at least a dozen occasions before he graduated with honours in English literature when he came across the name and form of Sathya Sai Baba. The most bizarre experience occurred when he left for the sleepy town of Jaleshwar in Odisha, in search of a job as a lecturer in English. When he met Mr. Chittaranjan Sahu, the Principal of the Deena Krishna College, for the interview, the first question almost took Ram Mohan’s breath away.
“Do you know Sathya Sai Baba?” the Principal asked.
“I have heard the name sir and have also seen pictures of him...”
“Have you been to Puttaparthi?”
“I haven’t even heard that name in my life...”
The Principal smiled and said,
“It is He that has prompted you to come here. I am certain of that because today is the 23rd of November - His birthday! You are appointed. Congratulations...”

Ram Mohan was in a daze. What he was hearing seemed so strange. It was as if Sathya Sai Baba was following him ever since he saw Him in that picture-framer’s shop!

During the one year he spent at the DK College in 1971, Ram Mohan learned many things about Baba from the Principal. Mr.Chittaranjan would speak very highly of the discipline and devotion that ‘Swami’ demanded from His students in the newly opened colleges at Bangalore, and Anantapur (The Puttaparthi college had not yet come into existence then). He would want the same kind of discipline at DK College as well.

In 1972, Ram Mohan Rao took up a job as a lecturer at the Science College in the large town of Chhatrapur, in the state of Odisha. Swami followed him there too in an almost shocking manner. Ram Mohan had a very jovial colleague, Prasanna Misra, in the college. He was a happy-go-lucky person whose easygoing nature bordered on the recklessly casual. He was deep into the smoking habit. Thus, though he was a pleasant conversationalist, nobody would want to visit his reeking room. However, Ram Mohan, who was the antithesis of Prasanna Misra, developed a liking for him. That is why they probably say - ‘opposites attract’.

One day in the winter of 1975, Ram Mohan was shocked to see Prasanna early in the morning in the staff room without a cigarette in his mouth for the first time ever!
“Didn’t you sleep at all last night Prasanna?” Ram Mohan could not accept the fact that he had woken up so early.
“I slept like a baby Ram Mohan”, he responded with a serene smile.
What had happened to his colleague? He seemed to exude some ethereal happiness and peace. The thought expressed itself directly.
“What happened to you man?”
“I saw God”, he answered simply.
“You?”, Ram Mohan stared at him in disbelief.
“Yes! Me... With these eyes of mine...” , Prasanna said, “Come home in the evening and I shall tell you everything about it.”

That evening, when Ram Mohan went to Prasanna’s room, he was pleasantly shocked to find it pervaded with the fragrant smoke from incense sticks instead of the usual tobacco smoke. Prasanna was dressed in a silk dhoti and he welcomed Ram Mohan to join him in the evening worship. The altar was filled with pictures of Sathya Sai. It was Swami again!

After the worship, Prasanna explained how he visited Puttaparthi for the golden jubilee Birthday Celebrations of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. What he experienced within was an insatiable thirst for God which was slaked only when Swami gave him two vibhuti packets. From that day, he lost all urge to even pick a cigarette. After narrating his incredible tale of transformation, Prasanna took a tiny pinch of vibhuti from the packet and giving it to Ram Mohan said,
“God has given this to me with His own hands. You eat it. It will surely do you good.”

Holding the pinch of ash gingerly in his palm, Ram Mohan returned to his room. As prescribed by his friend, he ate it and applied a bit to his forehead as Prasanna had done. Then, he went to sleep. The next morning, he made his way to the well in the backyard to draw water for his ablutions. His eyes fell on something shiny beside the well. He picked it up and it was a pair of cymbals! Not knowing what to do with it, he placed it in the room and promptly informed Prasanna about it.

“Ram Mohan, you will surely become a devotee of Swami”, said Prasanna, “because Swami wants you. He sent you these cymbals which are symbolic of Bhakti or devotion. These are His visiting cards.”