The holy festival of Maha Shivaratri was celebrated on 6th and 7th March in the Divine Presence of Lord Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, the embodiment of Shiva-Shakti Principle. Over the years, Maha Shivaratri has attracted large crowds to Prasanthi Nilayam in anticipation of Lingodbhavam, where Bhagawan Baba manifests Lingams (Elliptical symbols used in worship of Lord Shiva) from within His body that emerge from His mouth. And this year too, crowds started thronging Prasanthi Nilayam days ahead of the Holy Occassion.
On 6th evening, at 5.20 pm, Bhagawan arrived in Sai Kulwant Hall to the accompaniment of Vedic chants and Panchavadyam. Bhagawan blessed Sri V.Srinivasan, the All India President of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations to address the gathering. The learned speaker pointed out that though ‘Ratri’ or night is usually associated with ignorance, Maha Shivaratri is unique as it is the night of ‘Shiva’ or auspiciousness, where the finite individual merges in the infinite Godhead. And the process of achieving this merger is through singing His glorious names – Bhajans. During Bhajans one gives up one’s individual differences and sings in unison with others. Therefore, singing Bhajans is a very powerful means of uniting all mankind. Sri Srinivasan concluded his speech with a very pertinent quote – “Where there is great love, there are great miracles.” Indeed, if one witnesses wonderful miracles in Bhagawan’s presence, it is due to the fact that Bhagawan Baba is the embodiment of Supreme Love.
Following Sri Srinivasan’s speech, Bhagawan delivered His Divine Discourse. He decried the pitiable scenario in the world today where man takes great efforts to accumulate wealth but does not take even half as much for realizing God. Bhagawan reminded everyone that “Brahma Satyam, Jagath Mithya”, which means that God alone is true and everlasting whereas the world is but a delusion. Therefore, one must remember God, love Him and chant His name. God resides in everyone in the form of Love; life lived without Love is no life at all, Bhagawan said. During His discourse, Bhagawan also revealed that though He wanted to manifest the Lingam, He decided against it due to the prayers of so many students and devotees who submitted to Him that they did not want to watch Bhagawan’s physical body undergo pain. Bhagawan exhorted everyone to revere one’s parents and always be grateful to them for all that they have received from them. He further said that Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi are the father and mother of the entire universe. Then Bhagawan, to the joy of the multitudes present there, proclaimed the phenomenon of the three Sais: Shirdi Sai, Parthi Sai and Prema Sai Avatars. He added that presently during the life of Sathya Sai, lot of conflicts and troubles are being witnessed, but during the era of Prema Sai there will be no more conflicts. The whole country and the world will be free of divisions based on caste, culture and country, and everyone would be united in Prema (Love). The devotees were overjoyed at this stupendous declaration and responded with a thunderous applause. Bhagawan concluded His Discourse with the song: “Hari Bhajana Bina Sukh Shanti Nahi…” and reiterated that the only way of attaining peace is through singing Bhajans. Bhagawan retired to His residence around 7.15 pm. Bhajans continued with unabated devotional fervour through the night. Many groups took turns in leading the Bhajans. At around midnight, there was also the Ekadasha Rudra Parayana where the students chanted the sacred hymns - Namakam and Chamakam eleven times in worship of Lord Shiva.
At 7.10 am the next morning, Bhagawan granted Darshan and at 7.45 am, the Bhajans that had been going on non-stop, concluded with Arati being offered to Bhagawan. After this, Prasadam was distributed to one and all. In the evening, Bhagawan blessed Sri Ajit Popat, a devotee from United Kingdom to share his thoughts with the august gathering. Sri Popat said that there are three Hs that one should always follow: be Healthy, be Holy and be Happy. Without having a healthy mind in a healthy body, one cannot progress on the spiritual path. However, being healthy is not an end in itself; we should utilize the body in the service of society. Deliberating on how to be holy, Sri Popat remarked that one’s attire or display of religious symbols on oneself do not make one holy. The secret of holiness lies in maintaining unity of thought, word and deed. Finally, quoting from Bhagawan’s discourses, Sri Popat said “Happiness is union with God”. He concluded his speech with a verse from Koran where he prayed to Bhagawan Baba to lead everyone on the right path unto Himself.
Then to the absolute delight of everyone, Bhagawan granted His Divine Discourse. Bhagawan dwelt on the importance of Karma (action) in the life of man. He said that before one undertakes any task, one should discriminate as to whether it is good or evil. Having been bestowed with the human body, one must always undertake only good actions and lead a ‘human’ life as against resorting to evil deeds and stooping down to bestiality. One must always remember the inexorable rule that good acts lead to good consequences and vice versa. It would be foolish to expect beneficial results after having committed evil actions. Bhagawan then said both bondage and liberation of man depend on his mind: “Mana Eva Manushyaanaam Kaaranam Bandha Mokshayoho”. Man can attain divinity only by cultivating unity and purity; unity implying harmony of one’s thoughts, words and deeds. Bhagawan also exhorted everyone to consume only pure food that is offered to God, which will lead to good thoughts and healthy life. He also stressed the importance of maintaining good company and staying away from bad company. Dilating on the significance and merit of doing community Bhajans as advocated by Guru Nanak, He said that at least a few people out of the entire group will focus their minds on God, and that will benefit one and all. Bhagawan then sang “Hari Bhajan Bina Sukh Shanti Nahi…” thus bringing the Shivaratri celebrations to a grand conclusion. Bhagawan accepted Arati and retired to His residence at 7.30 pm.