Chinese people in thousands from six South East Asian countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong assembled at the Lotus Feet of their Beloved Lord Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba to begin their new year on an auspicious note. The whole ashram was beautifully decorated with many festoons, traditional Chinese red buntings, photos of Bhagawan and sayings of Bhagawan. Large colourful hoardings contained many quotes on the theme of the New Year celebrations: ‘Filial Piety’.
Chantings by Lamas of the Four Major Orders
February 23, 2007
The festivities began on the evening of 23rd. On this holy occasion, 36 Buddhist monks from the four major sects of Tibetan Buddhism namely Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya and Gelug assembled in Prasanthi Nilayam to pay their obeisance to Lord Sai Buddha. After Bhagawan granted Darshan, He was seated on the dais and permitted the programme to commence. After two children offered flowers to Bhagawan, a monk from each of the sects presented ‘Kata’ to Bhagawan. The Kata is a sacred cloth and an auspicious symbol that is presented to Lord Buddha praying for His grace in successful chanting of mantras. They also presented other sacred and auspicious symbols like ‘Dharmachakra’ (symbolising the wheel of transformation wrought by Buddha Dharma), ‘Amitayu Tanka’ (a painting of a deity who bestows long life), ‘Stupa’ (a replica of the religious monument that is in the shape of Lord Buddha seated in a meditative posture) and ‘Chenrizig Mandala’ (a three-dimensional geometrical representation of the universe).
Then the monks commenced the chanting of the sacred mantra “Om Mani Padme Hung”. This six-syllable mantra is supposed to contain all aspects of the 84,000 sections of Lord Buddha’s teachings and is believed to generate love, compassion and positive feelings that will uplift the world. The second mantra that was chanted was ‘Samantabhadra’ or the ‘King of Prayers’. This mantra helps in awakening the mind and prodding it on the path of enlightenment towards Buddhahood, and also for universal peace. Following this, the monks chanted a special mantra dedicated to Bhagawan composed by His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje. The mantra seeks to have an eternal vision of the beautiful form of Lord Sai. This was followed by Gayathri Mantra recitation. At the end of the chanting session, as is the Buddhist custom, the merits accrued by the chanting of all the mantras and all the good deeds involved in the holy activity were dedicated for the greater health and happiness of all beings in the universe.
Following this, Capt. Ong, a devotee from Singapore addressed the gathering. Elaborating on the significance of the mantra ‘Samantabhadra’, he said that it is a compilation of teachings received by a person named Sudana, as he progresses on his spiritual journey through 52 masters culminating in his finding the realized master Samantabhadra. Captain Ong said that perhaps he too would have passed under the tutelage of 52 such masters in his past lives, as a result of which he has now found refuge at the Lotus feet of his Samantabhadra, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The evening programme concluded with Bhajans and Bhagawan graciously granted photographs to all the monks and participants of the programme.
Speeches, Songs and Chantings
February 24, 2007
24th February, 2007 heralded the beginning of the Chinese New Year – the year of the pig as per the Chinese zodiac. At 8.30 a.m., Bhagawan was led in to Sai Kulwant Hall in a procession by grand and colourful pageantry of lion dancers and men dressed in Chinese regal attire to the accompaniment of drum beats. He then came on to the dais and lit candles kept on a table that also had a statue of Lord Buddha and other traditional Chinese items laid out like tea cups and mandarins. Then Mr. Billy Fong Goon Poy, the Organising Chairman of the Chinese New Year Celebrations 2007, addressed the gathering. He began by saying that though the people of China and India look different, there are a lot of similarities in their culture and beliefs. There are many parallels to the Hindu pantheon of gods like the Monkey-God Hanuman (who is immortal and known for his super-human strength) and Goddess Lakshmi (who bestows prosperity and welfare) in Chinese belief. But by far the most striking aspect of commonality is the emphasis both cultures place on filial piety, the love and respect that one should have for one’s parents. While Indian culture declares – “Matha, Pitha, Guru Daivam”, that one should worship one’s parents and teachers as God, the Chinese declare ‘Xiao’ or filial piety as the paramount virtue every human should possess. He concluded by praying to Bhagawan that He should bless the Chinese people that more and more come each year to Prasanthi Nilayam to celebrate the Chinese New Year, so much so that not just the Sai Kulwant Hall but even the Hill-view Stadium should be filled with Chinese devotees.
After the speech, many items like tea, mandarin, a special kind of cake, etc., considered auspicious in the Chinese tradition were offered to Bhagawan. Bhagawan also blessed and released a commemorative book on this occasion. Then a group of students from the Sri Sathya Sai Education in Human Values Programme from the participating countries recited Vedic mantras and also selected stanzas from “Di Zi Gui” that lays down the code of conduct for children and students. Each of those Chinese stanzas was followed by its meaning in English and depicted through dialogues from day to day happenings in our lives. The sweet voices of the little ones and the catchy melody were a treat to everyone’s ears. This was followed by a choir presentation by the youth members. They sang traditional New Year’s Day songs and also some Bhajans in Chinese.
Drama Entitled, "My Parents, My Treasure"
February 24, 2007
The afternoon programme consisted of a drama titled – ‘My Parents, My Treasure’. The story revolved around a businessman Mr. Chin Keong, a widower with four young children and an aging father, and how each day he struggled to attend to their needs in addition to his professional responsibilities. One day he feels that he will no longer be able to devote his time and energy to all of them and so decides to send his aged father to the old folks’ home. Apart from the loneliness and isolation that he would have to face, Keong’s father is shocked that his son is going against the age-old Chinese practice and fundamental virtue of filial piety. Kim Leng, one of his grandsons, realises the trauma that his grandfather is going through, and the conversation between them beautifully brings out the importance of upholding filial piety through epic tales and folklores of Chinese tradition and culture. The drama concludes on an emotional yet, happy note where Kim convinces his father to keep his grandfather at home. The drama vividly captured the dilemma that every man faces in his daily life – the conflict between profound ancient culture and age-old wisdom on one hand and the modern convenient material lifestyle on the other hand. At the end of the drama, Bhagawan granted photographs to all the participants. The evening concluded with Bhajans and Arati.