Veda Purusha Sapthaha Jnana Yajna & Prasanthi Vidwan Mahasabha
The beginning of Vasanta Ritu (spring) and Sharath Ritu (autumn) are two very important events in the Bharatiya Calendar, for they not only signify the change of season but their consequent effect on the human body and mind. These two periods are taken as sacred opportunities for the worship of the Divine Mother in the form of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi in the Bharatabhoomi or India. That is why the festival of Dashara (ten days) or Navaratri (nine nights) is an important festival celebrated all over India with piety and grandeur.
At Prasanthi Nilayam, especially during the Sharath-Navaratri that falls every year in or around October, people gather in thousands to pay their homage to the Divine Mother incarnated as Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Over the past many years, the festival of Dasara in Prasanthi Nilayam has been closely associated with the ‘Veda Purusha Sapthaha Jnana Yagna’, the week-long sacrificial ritual conducted in the Divine Presence, for the welfare of the whole world.
Proceedings of the first four days of the Yajna and Speeches in the evenings
October 03-06, 2008
On 3rd October, the inaugural day of the Yagna, Bhagawan arrived in the colourfully decorated Sai Kulwant Hall at 8.50 am amidst the auspicious sounds of Nadaswaram and the rendition of Vedic chants by His students. After granting Darshan, Bhagawan went to the Bhajan Hall where he blessed the priests and presented them orange Dhotis and Angavastrams. Thereafter, beautifully caparisoned Satya Geeta, Bhagawan’s pet elephant, led the priests and the students in a procession to the Poornachandra Auditorium, the venue of the Yagna. The Yagna commenced with the ceremonial churning and rubbing of wooden blocks to produce fire in the most natural way. Thereafter, the sacred fire thus produced, was placed in the ‘Yagna Kunda’ (sacrificial altar into which oblations are offered). Four priests sat around this Yagna Kunda offering oblations of ghee and wood while reciting hymns from ‘Sri Rudram’ in worship of Lord Shiva. In addition to this, rituals like – Surya Namaskar, Sahasralinga Archana, Bhagavata Parayana, Ramayana Parayana, Devi Bhagavata Parayana and the Devi Mahatmyam were simultaneously performed by other priests. Amidst these rituals, four pundits continuously chanted various hymns from the Vedas, joined by Bhagawan’s students. Thus, the entire stage of the Poornachandra Auditorium was occupied from end to end by priests and students, and on the right side of the stage, Bhagawan sat on His chair, accepting all their prayers and offerings, and blessing one and all. At 12 noon, Bhagawan accepted Arati and returned to His residence.
In the evening, Bhagawan blessed Sri Narayana Bhatta, the priest of Prasanthi Nilayam Mandir, to address the gathering on the significance of Devi Bhagavata. The Devi Bhagavata is considered as one of the most important Puranas or epic in the Hindu theology. Sri Bhatta spoke at length on this epic that contains stories of the power, glory and mercy of the Divine Mother. Thereafter, Bhagawan instructed him to also speak on the Gayatri Mantra. Sri Bhatta’s erudite exposition enlightened the audience about the meaning, significance and benefits of chanting this powerful Vedic hymn and also the correct manner of chanting it. He said that this 24-syllabled mantra set to the Gayatri Chandas or metre was first revealed to the world through Sage Vishwamitra. The Mantra is a prayer to the Sun God to illumine our intellects. At the end of Sri Bhatta’s talk, there were Bhajans and Arati.
During the following six days, the morning session witnessed the proceedings of the Yagna in the Poornachandra Auditorium, while in the evening there were usually speeches and Bhajans in Sai Kulwant Hall. On the evening of 5th October, Bhagawan blessed Sri Ajit Popat, an ardent devotee from London, to address the gathering. Sri Popat, who usually prefers to call himself as Bhagawan’s Puppet rather than by his surname Popat, spoke eloquently for 40 minutes urging one and all to make the best use of Bhagawan’s proximity, follow His teachings and thereby attain fulfillment in this very life.
Sri B.N.Narasimhamurthy, the Warden of Sri Sathya Sai Hostel at Brindavan, was the speaker for the 6th evening. Sri Narasimhamurthy began his speech with a verse from Sri Lalitha Sahasranama that praised the Goddess as the one is fond of Yagna and the one who performs the Yagna. During the course of his speech, he narrated one of his fond experiences with Bhagawan that occurred during the summer of 2000 at Brindavan. He had been rendered almost immobile due to a severe backache and was unable to go even for Bhagawan’s Darshan. Doctors, who came to his room and examined him, advised him complete bed rest for two weeks. He felt extremely dejected at his plight and kept praying to Bhagawan for His Prasadam so that he could quickly get cured and resume his services to the Lord at the earliest. But two days had passed and there was no improvement in his condition nor did Bhagawan send any Prasadam for him. The next morning, he heard a knock on his door. Slowly he got off his bed and went to the door. To his utter surprise, he found Swami waiting outside. Bhagawan entered the room, enquired about his backache and lovingly materialized Vibhuti and rubbed on his back. When Sri Narasimhamurthy bent down to touch Bhagawan’s feet, Bhagawan stopped him in the process and then lovingly lifted up His legs so that he could take Namaskar without straining his back. Swami had walked all the way to his room in the first floor of the hostel building just to grant him Darshan, console him and cure him! When the warden asked Swami as to why had He taken so much Shrama (strain), pat came the reply from Swami, "It’s not Shrama, dear, it’s Prema (love)!" Needless to say, the warden was back on his feet and was serving Swami the very next day, with his heart overflowing with joy and gratitude to his Lord.
Ayudha Puja and Evening Talks
October 07-08, 2008
October 7th, being the day of Ayudha Puja, Bhagawan blessed various cars bedecked with garlands and neatly parked in Sai Kulwant Hall. Coconuts were broken and chocolates were distributed to everyone. After being seated on the dais for some time listening to Veda chanting by students, Bhagawan then proceeded to Poornachandra where He blessed the devotees assembled there before accepting Arati. In the evening, Sri V.Srinivasan, the President of All India Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations addressed the gathering. The distinguished speaker described how Bhagawan was adored in different ways by different sections of humanity. He is Krishna, Shiva, Devi, Jesus, Allah, Zarathustra, Guru Nanak, Buddha and so on. Yet again, the relationship that each devotee has with Him is different. For some, He is the Divine Father, for some others Mother, Brother, Guru, Friend, etc. The festival of Dasara or Navaratri is celebrated in different parts of India in different manner. We all worship Mother Sai as the embodiment of Goddess Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi, he said. After he concluded his speech, Bhagawan spoke to Sri Srinivasan and instructed him to make an important announcement. Coming back to the podium, Sri Srinivasan stated that Bhagawan was moved by the suffering of thousands of people who have been rendered homeless due to the recent floods in the state of Orissa and that He had sanctioned Rs. 10 crores for constructing new concrete houses for them, complete with provision for sheltering their livestock. Bhagawan did not stop at that, He had also decided to construct Primary Schools in these colonies! Sri Srinivasan also mentioned that surveys were being conducted and plans were being drawn up at a rapid pace so that the houses would be ready within the next two months, before the onset of winter and, of course, Bhagawan was looking at every minute detail to ensure that the people would feel happy and comfortable in their new homes. The whole Sai Kulwant Hall was reverberating with applause for a long time at this act of compassion of Divine Mother Sai for Her children in distress.
The next evening, i.e., on 8th October, Bhagawan blessed the former Vice-Chancellor of Sri Sathya Sai University, Sri S.V.Giri, to address the gathering in His Divine Presence. After offering his salutations to Divine Mother Sai on the auspicious occasion of Maha Navami, Sri Giri dwelt on the significance of Devi Navaratri, the compassion of the Divine Mother and how we as Her children should conduct ourselves in order to express our love and gratitude to Her. He listed eight guidelines that were simple for everybody to follow. He concluded with a Tamil verse extolling Goddess Parvathi.
Maha Poornahuthi of the Yajna, Speeches and Divine Discourse
October 09, 2008
It was 9th October, the final day of Dasara celebrations - Vijaya Dashami. The very name ‘Vijaya’ meaning ‘victory’ summarized the significance of the entire festival of Dasara - the triumph of the good over evil. At 9.15 am, Bhagawan arrived in Sai Kulwant Hall, granted Darshan to the devotees assembled there and within a few minutes, proceeded to Poornachandra Auditorium. There, after briefly interacting with the priests, Bhagawan went to the western end of the stage and received Arati. Thereafter, the priests went to Sai Kulwant Hall and returned in a procession chanting Vedic hymns and ceremonially carrying the wooden pole through which the Poornahuti or the final offering of ghee is to be made as the concluding part of the Yagna. Within a few minutes, Bhagawan was seated in front of the Yagna Kunda surrounded by the priests. Amidst loud Vedam chanting by the priests and students, and a thundering applause from the multitude of devotees, red flames of the sacred fire rose up to receive a red cloth bundle of offerings along with a continuous stream of ghee. Thereafter, Bhagawan presented all the priests with new white dhotis, after wearing which they sat on the centre of the stage, surrounding Bhagawan and chanting many hymns invoking the Lord and praying for the welfare of the whole world. Following this, Bhagawan was offered Arati and He retired to His residence at 10.15 am. The priests sprinkled holy water on everyone and Prasadam was also distributed to the entire assembly.
In the evening, Bhagawan granted Darshan in Sai Kulwant hall at 5.30 pm. The first speaker for the session was Sri T.G.Krishnamurthy, former State President of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, Tamil Nadu and a longstanding devotee of Bhagawan. The learned speaker drew the attention of everyone in the audience to the good fortune that they were blessed with to be in the physical presence of God-incarnate, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He said though we see thousands of Bhagawan’s devotees assembling at Prasanthi Nilayam everyday, there were actually millions across the world transcending the barriers of race, religion and social status, waiting to come to Him. He concluded his speech imploring everyone to install Bhagawan in their hearts and conduct their lives according to His teachings. The next speaker was Prof. G.Venkataraman, an eminent scientist and former Vice-Chancellor of Bhagawan’s University. He said that the verse of Bhagavad Geeta was brought alive before our eyes when we witnessed the Yagna where God was the performer, the sacred fire, the oblations made in to the fire, and also the receiver of the offerings. He also described the numerous troubles the world was facing and ascribed them to the lack of practice of human values. He concluded with a prayer of gratitude to Bhagawan for having given him the opportunity to speak in His Divine Presence. Then, to the delight of the entire assembly, Bhagawan delivered His Divine Discourse and the programme concluded with Arati.