Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Delhi-Simla Memories- Part 8 - Bahai Temple special

Blessing all the devotees just before setting out to Bahai temple. 
08. The Lotus Temple

It took a thirty minute drive through the roads of Delhi to reach the Bahai lotus temple. All along the way, CG and I took shots of the convoy in various parts of Delhi. Reaching the temple premises at about 11:30 am, I saw that it was in the shape of a lotus yet to bloom. I thought that maybe it represented the potential lotus within all of us which was waiting to bloom. Swami often says that one should grow in the world like the lotus in slush - untouched and unaffected. That is why we compare the Guru’s feet to the lotus, however rosy or ‘sunflowery’ they may be - they help one to be in the world and yet not be affected by it. The fact that my name - Aravind - also means a lotus made me feel special. The Bahai temple was a magnificent edifice to look at. Only Swami’s car was permitted to go right up to the temple which was almost 400 metres away from where our cars were parked.

We had to cover the distance on foot with the scorching sun beating down upon us. Having lost my slippers, the sole protection for my soles, I had the experience of running on a frying pan as I rushed desperately to reach the temple before Swami’s car. Sai Krishna was also running in front of me. It was a very tough yet funny situation. I was finding it tough to run because i was panting and I felt that my lungs were burning but I could not stop because my feet were burning too!! I had to run in a manner that balanced both the burns and keep the damage to the minimum. It was almost a quarter kilometre and I had a real ‘Temple-Run’ experience!

A rare picture of only Swami's car on the dried 'lawns' of the Bahai Temple.
Swami’s car moved towards the side entrance but its orientation was such that Swami would have to descend on the lawns. So the driver, Padmanabhan, went ahead to make some manoeuvres and turns to get the car facing the opposite direction. As the car moved on the lawns, it was a rare sight because one can never see Swami’s car in solitude anywhere, thanks to the security and the seva dal belt around it. Once in position, Swami slowly got out of the car.

{This is the 8th part of an ongoing series. You can read the previous part at this link:
Or you can read from the beginning of the serial where each part is linked to the next. The link to Part 1 is here:
The members of the Committe of the Bahai Temple welcome Swami with roses. 
A committee from the temple welcomed Swami. The Bahai temple is meant for people of all religions, castes, creeds and races. There are no prayers done there and it is in a state of perpetual silence. It is supposed to be a spiritual temple like Prashanti Nilayam rather than a religious one. Swami moved up the ramp and skirted the perimeter of the temple to reach the entrance. The whole building had a pool around it which looked blue even in the harsh sun. An umbrella had been held over Swami to shade Him from the super-hot sun. Entering the temple, I saw hardly 400 people seated there and I wondered as to why so many seats were empty. (Later, I got to know that this was planned as a private and restricted visit. Else, surely the devotees would have ‘flooded’ the ‘lotus’.)

The heat was scalding as is evident from Satyajit's expression! An umbrella was held over Swami as He entered the temple. 

A temple of faith and unity

It was a really magnificent sight to see the temple from inside at its full height. As Swami moved down the ramp and through the rows of seats in the temple, I kept taking pictures. Finally, Swami reached the front and everyone settled down. Though it was supposed to be a temple of silence, on occasions,  the committee arranges for a set of prayers of all the major religions to be sung. As Swami sat, about 8-9 people came forward and sang Bahai songs, Gita verses, Quranic verses, Bible psalms and so on. I went to the huge area behind the group of ‘singers’ and took pictures of the temple in its full height.

An expansive view of the prayer session in progress.

Being used to the vigorous veda-chanting and bhajan-singing or Prasanthi Nilayam, the rendering there became a bit boring for me. My fatigued body and relaxed mind posed the danger of me dozing off. I looked at Swami and felt as if He too seemed a bit bored! No wonder it is said that God is pure reaction, reflection and resound. With whatever drishti (vision) and feeling we look at Him, He appears that way. That was a big learning for me in the temple.

I got up from my place and began to move around the temple taking pictures. Swami’s eyes seemed to be tracking me and He kept seeing me take the photographs. The knowledge that He was seeing me encouraged me into even better and passionate photography. I went to all parts of the huge hall and took pictures. I even went to the front and sat near Swami. Swami saw me arriving! After taking pictures there, I left to go back and I do not know if Swami saw that. The whole session lasted about twenty five minutes and it was 12:00 pm when it concluded and Swami began to leave.

Again, He moved through the benches and came to the door. This time however, Satyajit took Swami via the inner perimeter from within the temple itself so that Swami was not re-exposed to the oppressive heat. Swami got into the car and the organizers at the temple wanted Swami to visit the exhibition in the premises. We again ran back all the way to our cars. 

Lu sir, Ravi Teja sir, Sai Dath, P.Sreenivas and Ravi bhaiya get a moment's
respite for their feet on the lawns as I quickly take a picture.
On the way Lu sir sacrificed his footwear for me and I did not even get a chance to refuse. It was however a great relief for my scalded feet. I offered him my soulful thanks! In that hurry, we also managed to take pictures of ourselves in front of the Bahai temple before Swami’s car came down. (The concept of selfies was not in vogue then).
I also got good pictures of Swami’s car in front of the Bahai temple. Swami blessed the exhibition from within the car itself and did not enter it.  So, after a false alarm rush towards the exhibition,  all of us students rushed back to our respective cars and the convoy started.

Whether you follow the Lord or not, He follows you

We were all told to head to the International Centre over the walkie talkie but being a member of S1 (the first vehicle in the convoy) and wanting to take photos at Justice Bhagawati’s home, CG and I disobeyed and continued along in the mini-convoy. CG was not comfortable with it but I felt there are no rules when one is ‘following Swami’. Thus, we had a long debate and argument in the car  and I actually enjoyed the duel! Minutes before we reached the Justice’s home, I got a call from Cheema who conveyed the message of the AIP that we had to turn back as they had no need for photographers. I was disappointed that we missed the opportunity of sneaking into a divine opportunity! We had to turn back and S1 traversed the 20 remaining kilometers to the Centre, without the convoy, bearing the brunt of the Delhi traffic!

If the center of this photograph can become the center of our lives too, then, we will get a VIP passage no doubt!
(Picture taken along the roads of the Indian capital, Delhi.)

By the time CG, Sai Krishna, Phaneendra and I reached the Centre, everyone else had finished their lunch. We were happy in a way for we were still full from the previous days’ eating. Whenever we ate with Swami, there was an array of dishes which we would be served with love and we couldn’t refuse. This afternoon, we ate a leisurely lunch which consisted only of pickle rice! Then, we joined the others sitting in the AC waiting room, relaxing and even sleeping as we waited for Swami. I sat next to Ravi bhaiya and told him of our little misadventure in following Swami. Then I said to him,
““As soon as Swami comes we should ask Him, ‘Swami where were you? We are all waiting hungry here for you!’ We will make Him feel that He forgot us for lunch...”

Justice P.N.Bhagawati beside Bhagawan during the visit to his home. Photo courtesy: Vibhu Mahajan.
At about 2:40 pm, Ashwath rushed in saying that Swami was back and so all of us quickly ‘woke up’ from the siesta. We gathered near the lift landing area. Sure enough, in a few minutes, the lift door opened and Swami arrived. He asked the boys whether all had lunch and everyone nodded. He looked at me and asked whether I had lunch. I was so touched. I forgot everything else and gave Him a smile and my most “satiated” look. Swami nodded and went in. I understood that even in physical absence, Swami never leaves us. He ‘follows’ us without the need for Facebook or Twitter!

We returned to our rooms for a nice rest after all that running at the Bahai. It was at about 5:30pm that we all assembled in the dining hall for tiffin with Swami.  

I sat with my back to Swami in the 4th chair. Sandwiches and sweets had been placed in the plates. As Swami ate, He began to say,
“It was good that the boys did not come there. It is so very hot.” Anil Kumar sir also agreed with Him. Swami asked him where he had his lunch. He started to say, “Swami I came with you everywhere. First to that Bahai temple….” At this point, AIP gently entered the conversation and said,
“Swami he also had his food with all of us elders at Bhagawathi’s home.”  
Swami said, “If I keep travelling like this, when will devotees get darshan. All the time gets used up on the road!”

Once we finished the tiffin, Swami told us to rise and leave. Once again, after washing my hands, I went back to the dining hall to take my camera. I walked out backwards and fumbled for quite a while at the curtains before going out. At that time Swami was asking AIP what the programme in the evening was. There was actually a programme scheduled at the Dwarka grounds like yesterday but Swami was in no mood for another 45 minutes of travel. AIP sensed it and said, “Swami if you permit, your children will sing for you here itself.” There he delivered the Brahmaastra which Swami could not resist. Swami nodded and He seemed happy for the first time in the day with the news that He would be attending bhajans amidst devotees with the students singing.

Swami arrived for the programme with eager anticipation.
Evening bhajans

We all moved out and in a few minutes Swami too got into the lift and moved down. Swami asked an elder whether he had been to Simla. Even as I was taking snaps there, Swami also seemed to snap at me. He suddenly said,
“Look at this boy. He keeps clicking all the while.”
He spoke so loud that Satyajit stopped to ask what it was about. When Swami told him about me, he carried on his task of taking Swami. Swami moved out and all of us students rushed to the front to begin singing. Swami came onstage and the singing by the other bhajans singers ceased.

I was in a sort of predicament here! I had probably overdone the ‘photographer’ bit and had jumped too much with the camera. That had apparently annoyed Swami. CG who usually handled the video camera was playing the sitar for the boys’ programme. And I had told him that I would handle the video camera along with the taking photographs! I was sure that this was the wrong time to have committed to doubling my coverage duties. In the inner recesses of my heart, I prayed to Swami for forgiveness and told Him that I would sincerely do my duty.

Ravi bhaiya started with the alaap, “Prashanti Nilaya Nivasa, Araj Suno Mere Sai” and there was a sudden electric charge in the atmosphere. The sound seemed to echo in every heart.  Swami also became a bit emotional. I was now on the video camera that I had set up earlier with all the necessary audio connections.

Doing what He loves best - Among devotees as the students sang bhajans.
What followed next was 50 minutes of wonderful bhajans singing. Swami asked Ashwath to sing Shri Raghavam and then once again to sing Allahu Akbar. Prabhakar & Aravind Sai and Sai Krishna & Lu sir – all were class. CG on the Sitar and Ravi Teja sir on the flute were both adding so much beauty to the bhajans. The whole International Center reverberated with the singing and, I am sure, many devotees would have shed tears of joy and devotion that evening. It was special grace for those who had assembled here and it was ‘misfortune’ for those that had assembled for a programme at the Dwarka grounds which stood cancelled. Nobody can understand fully the ways of the Master and the only explanation is that it is for the good because He does everything with the utmost selflessness.

It was nearing 7pm when Swami received Aarthi and moved to the interview room at the entrance of the International Centre. All of the students quickly wound up everything and even as I returned, Swami had moved out. He was visiting the former Prime minister of India, a brahmachari (celibate) and a steadfast devotee, Sri Atal Behari Vajpayee at his home. Swami sat in the car and drove out.

It was 8:30 pm when Swami returned. He was appearing very happy and satisfied. Later on, we came to know a few things that had transpired there. One of the volunteers had overheard a little conversation where Vajpayee had agreed that there was a time when he would be surrounded by IAS officers, police, military and the like. But now, only God came to him. Swami had lovingly assured him that God would never leave him ever!

As Swami arrived, I rushed up the stairs to the lift-landing area so that I could get a chance to seek Swami’s forgiveness about the evening’s ‘blast’. All the boys too reached behind me. When Swami was passing by me, I got up and asked, “Swami, ekku photos theesthunnana? (Am I shooting too many pictures?)”
He did not seem to hear and asked, “Aa?”
I repeated to which Swami replied, “Chumma Ira da.(Just keep calm)”
Wow! Was I surprised with the Tamil reply! I felt grateful to Vajpayee, meeting with whom Swami’s mood seemed to have become so ‘benign and forgiving’! We turn to God for improving our mood and attitude. Blessed indeed are those devotees who have the ability to improve the Lord’s mood in the divine drama called life!

to be continued in Part 9 which is at the link given below:

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. “Chumma Ira da" looks so touching & shows the kind of closeness you enjoyed with Swami & the indirect pat given by Him to you. Enjoying every bit of your writing. Thanks for taking time out in sharing with us your treasured moments - S.Ganapathy

  3. Sai Ram Aravind," I had the experience of running on a frying pan" welcome to the club!! Brought back memories of walking sedately on hot baking sands to get to the darshan lines - running not allowed or mataji would chuck us out. Now for the confusion: With whatever drishti (vision) and feeling we look at Him, He appears that way - reflection, but then Swami said “Look at this boy. He keeps clicking all the while.” and you heard as you were meant too and immediately thought Swami was angry/irritated with you. How to put it and not offend you beta? You've been extremely busy with Navratri and Dasara and must be very tired. You remembered how boring you found this part of the visit so that like a mad monkey you jumped around taking photos to keep awake with Swami's eyes following you all the while. Here I expected you to remember your discipline story and tie the two together but you didn't as you tied it to the Mr Vajpayee story and Swami having moods. Swami is forever blissful isn't he? So if we apply the 3 R's wouldn't it mean that it was you had been moody (boredom being a mood) which you reflected onto Swami? Loving regards chandan aunty.

    1. I did not get offended by what you said aunty because I did not understand exactly what you were referring to. However, am praying and typing an answer. I never said that Swami is moody. That would be narrow reading in isolation.

      To resolve your confusion aunty, Swami says in many discourses, "Yes Ane Variki Yes Anura, No Ane Variki No Anura Kani Sai Sarvam Yes Yes yes."

      I think I have got that right to a great extent.

      It means, "NO for those that say No; Yes for those that say Yes. For Sai, it is always Yes, Yes Yes."

      The Lord is an amplifier and wish-fulfilling tree, always blessing us. So, whatever we are comes back to us manifold in His presence. If I am bored, I feel everything as boring, including the physical appearance of the Lord!

      "God you think, God you are. Dust you think, dust you are."

      This happens because, in reality, we too are all Divine and what we think and feel are equal to God's thoughts. So, we 'bless' or 'curse' our own selves... :)

      Hope I have clarified what I meant.

    2. Sai Ram beta, Yes, Yes, Yes!! Your reply to me is the missing link in your article. Today many of us can understand that there is only GOD but how many of us have actually given up our identity and become GOD. We are getting there even if it is for only fractions of a minute at a time but there are also many of us who still find it hard to make the leap for even a fraction of a second. I know you were a lot younger then and your understanding then was quite different than now. My comment to you was really saying: why didn't you give us your wisdom at the end for it felt something was missing. You normally do which is why we find we learn a lot from your articles. It's also why I mentioned you being tired from this hectic month as maybe being the reason. Loving regards, Chandan aunty.

  4. Sairam Aravind well written memories of Delhi trip with Swami. Brought back memories of my visit to Bahai temple when I was in Delhi. Also dealing with walking barefoot in temples during summers and trying to walk fast to give relief to soles is an ongoing experience for me here or in Prashantinilayam when I do seva in April every year. Waiting to read the next episode. Best wishes and love.

  5. Sairam, Dear Brother Aravind, thank you for the wonderful service you are doing. I always read lot of your articles. People say when coming to Spirituality, to start reading Bhagavad Gita. But, when Krishna is in your heart(sai baba) why do you need bhagavad gita. I have him in my heart always speaking. I never read any discourses or books on him till date. I don't think its needed because god is in your heart and he also says, when I am with you why do you need them :-) .. This is my feeling as I talk to him every second. Still I want to see if there is more in his teachings than he talking to me all the time. Mine is Monkey Mind :-). Do you mind pointing to any link or website, where I can read all of Baba's teachings and discourses. Just don't want to miss any of them he thought us all the years. May dear baba bless you with all his love ever and ever. Sairam, Sushma.


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