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Then & Now
A day in Ashram


26th March 2005

On 26th March, devotees from Bihar and Jharkhand had assembled at Prasanthi Nilayam to celebrate Holi in the Divine Presence. It was the first time that holy celebrations were held at Prasanthi Nilayam. Sai Kulwant Hall was decked with silver and gold shining decorative strips. Banners with the message of Holi adorned the pillars of the Hall. Holi – the festival of Love and Joy…and so on. Devotees from Bihar and Jharkhand were seated awaiting Bhagawan’s Darshan. Several balloons were tied in the shape of a big inverted ‘V’ acting as a border for a deep blue screen with cutouts of a flute and several hands representing Lord Krishna and the Gopalas. This served as the backdrop for the actors who were to enact a drama in the evening.

Swami came out at 3.15 p.m., cut across the centre of the Hall and proceeded straight to the interview room. At 3.35 p.m. He came out and sat down on the sofa amidst chants of the Vedic hymn Anandavalli. Marigold garlands adorned the brass railings in front of Swami’s chair. At 3.50 p.m. the Veda chanting stopped. The youth of Bihar entered the performing area. In the first scene, they explained the significance of Holi through the episode of Holika. Then came the actual celebration with all colours! The youth dressed in spotless whites threw colours on each other and into the air with gusto and joy! Swami was watching all the celebration with a smile on His face!

The rest of the play went on to convey that Holi signifies burning of the Asuric tendencies in man. It stands for destruction of prejudice, selfish motives and the Rajasic and Thamasic traits in man. It advocates the strengthening of Love for God through resolving all differences. The play ended at 4.15 p.m. with the song ‘Sai Namamu Dorake Kada…’ This was followed by group photographs with Swami and Bhajans. At 5.15 p.m. Swami was offered Arati and then He retired for the day.

1st April 2005

Students had their last exam on the 31st of March and today was the first day of their summer vacation. In the evening Swami came out at 3.00 p.m. and sat outside for nearly one hour. Most of the students were leaving for their home towns for vacation. Therefore, they had a wonderful Darshan. It was like a parting gift for the boys! Subsequently, Swami went into the interview room and came out later for Bhajans.

Many of the evenings, Swami would come into the Bhajan Hall and spend a few minutes talking to students. On one of the occasions, He asked the boys who all had been to Kodaikanal. On another occasion, He materialised a ring for one student. Therefore, these sessions have become very valuable and students wait eagerly for 4.00 p.m. when they are allowed into the Bhajan Hall. The moment the signal is given, they rush into the Hall!

7th April 2005

Bhagawan came out for Darshan in the evening at 3.05 p.m. He sat down on the sofa placed on the dais amidst the chanting of Mahanarayanopanishad. It was 3.50 p.m. when Swami called for Sri B.N. Narasimha Murthy, Warden of Brindavan Campus of the Institute. Bhagawan asked him to share his thoughts with the audience. Sri Narasimha Murthy spoke about the evolution of the Vedic thought in India, which took place in 4 stages. In the first stage, the Veda Mantras praise the various entities of the Creation/Universe. In the second stage, they speak about perceiving the Lord within oneself. In the third stage, they exclaim Ekam Sath Viprahah Bahuda Vadanti, Antar Bahischa Tat Sarvam … In the final and fourth stage, the thought evolves to the highest level of Advaita. Ekam Sath Sarva Bhutantaratma. It talks about perceiving Unity in Diversity.

The rest of his talk was centred on the life and experiences of Dr. Alreja, an ardent devotee of Bhagawan who came to Swami way back in 1965 and who till now serves in the General Hospital at Puttaparthi. Mr. Narasimha Murthy shared several interesting episodes related to Swami from the life of Dr. Alreja, listening to which, everyone was struck with wonder and awe! He concluded his talk at 4.20 p.m.

His talk was followed by another talk from a student of the 1st M.Sc. class – Sai Giridhar. Sri Giridhar shared his thoughts about the lessons he had learnt at the Lotus Feet and especially about the learning experience he had gone through putting up several programmes in Sai Kulwant Hall in the Divine Presence. He delivered a very scholarly talk that was appreciated by one and all. He concluded his talk at 4.35 p.m. Swami was very pleased and spoke to him for some time and their dialogue culminated in the materialisation of a unique ring for him!

At 4.45 p.m. Bhajans began and at 5.00 p.m. Swami was offered Arati.

9th April 2005

A brief note on Ugadi Festival: Festivals are celebrated every year in the remembrance of past events. All the major Hindu festivals have their own purpose and significance, i.e., to show their relevance and importance in the context of the eternal world cycle of history. India's rich heritage with its numerous festivals celebrated throughout the year, provides succour and faith, as each occasion has its own distinct value, beauty and ritual practice. Amongst the numerous festivals of India, Ugadi is celebrated with festive fervour in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. While it is called Ugadi in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, in Maharashtra it is known as Gudipadava".

Hindus have always given pride of place to festivals, as it is a time for getting together as families. The occasion can be based on a seasonal change, a social or religious theme. The New year festival or Ugadi comes close on the heels of Holi. Ugadi name has been changed from Yuga Aadi (Yuga + Aadi means "Beginning of New age"). It is believed that the creator of the Hindu pantheon Lord Brahma started creation on this day - Chaitra suddha padhyami or the Ugadi day. Also the great Indian Mathematician Bhaskaracharya's calculations proclaimed the Ugadi day from the sunrise on as the beginning of the new year, new month and new day. The onset of spring also marks a beginning of new life with plants (barren until now) acquiring new life, shoots and leaves. Spring is considered the first season of the year hence also heralding a new year and a new beginning. The vibrancy of life and verdant fields and meadows full of colorful blossoms signifies growth, prosperity and well-being.

Ugadi marks the beginning of a new Hindu lunar calendar with a change in the moon's orbit. It is a day when mantras are chanted and predictions made for the New Year. Traditionally, the Panchanga Sravanam or listening to the yearly calendar was done at the temples. On Ugadi day, people wake up before the break of dawn and take a head bath after which they decorate the entrance of their houses with fresh mango leaves.

On this day, it is the practice to eat what is called "Ugadi Pacchadi (Ugadi Chutney). This Chutney is made from neem flowers, mango juice, honey, sugar and other ingredients with different tastes. The inner significance of this preparation is to indicate that life is a mixture of good and bad, joy and sorrow and all of them have to be treated alike. All experiences have to be treated with equanimity. Everyone should make a resolve that he will face calmly whatever happens in this year, accepting it with good grace. Welcome everything. Consider everything as for one’s own good. Men should rise above sorrow and happiness, success and failure. This is the primary message of the Ugadi festival.

Ugadi at Prasanthi Nilayam: We wish you all a very very Happy Ugadi. The entire Sai Kulwant Hall was decorated with brightly coloured festoons. The huge red Chinese lamps, floral decorations on the dome and around Ganesha gave a festive look to the Hall. Nadaswaram was being played to welcome Bhagawan. At 7.40 a.m., Swami came out in the golf cart. He took a full round blessing everybody with His Darshan and by 7.50 a.m. He sat on the sofa placed at the centre of the dais.

The Hyderabad youth were seated in front next to the Veda chanting group. They were ready with a special programme for the occasion. Swami called one Primary School student and asked him to chant the Veda. The lucky boy stood face to face with Bhagawan and kept chanting Veda for a long time. Swami was looking straight into his eyes with so much of Love and Grace. After a while, Swami spoke to him and blessed him with a gold chain!

At 8.15 a.m. the former Vice Chancellor of the Institute, Sri S.V. Giri was summoned by Bhagawan to address the audience. Sri S.V. Giri began his talk with a recap of the events in the last year and the various difficulties that the world had faced. In this context, he drew attention to the ever growing need for human values in life. He spoke about the relationship between Vyashti and Samashti and how one should make an attempt to see Parameshti (the Lord) through Samashti (society). Subsequently, he elaborated on the eternal verities expounded in the Sikshavalli saying that mere chanting is not adequate and one should understand and internalise the meaning of the Vedas.

At 8.35 a.m. the Hyderabad party began their programme with Swami’s blessings. It started with a Panchanga Pandit (Almanac Scholar) reading the almanac – which is commonly called the ‘Panchanga Sravanam’. The Pandit began with reading out the name of the coming year – ‘Parthiva Nama Samvatsaram’ and prayed that it should become Parthi Nama Samvatsaram. He reminded the people of their good fortune to be witness to the Holy 80th year of the Avatar. He demonstrated with some calculations how various aspects of this year total up to the number of 80, symbolic of the 80th year of the Avatar.

He then read out the positions of various stars and constellations and briefly explained their significance. He concluded by saying that though the science of Panchanga, conventionally is understood as the science of stars and planets and their implications for the world; it truly means the Pancha Angas and using the same to be happy and make others happy. His final punch line drew loud applause. He said that all these Grahas (planets) and their influence can have no impact on us in the powerful presence of Swami’s Anugraha (Grace)!!

The Panchanga Sravanam was followed by a music programme by the Hyderabad youth. The programme was packed with enthusiasm and vigour! They had selected very good songs, some being new and the rest a collection of songs sung on earlier occasions by them in the Divine Presence. One member gave a brief commentary between the songs with his soothing and mellifluous Telugu. It was 9.40 a.m. by the time the programme concluded. The final song was Sai Matha Biddale Mein Andaram. It was a grand finale for the programme!

This was followed by a photograph session with Swami and Prasadam distribution. Swami was offered Arati at 9.50 a.m. and then He retired to His abode.

At 3.15 p.m. Swami was out again to delight everyone with His Divine Darshan. He took a full round and then sat down on the sofa. Swami was enquiring about the speakers for the evening. He called Sri Sanjay Sahni, Principal of the Brindavan Campus of the Institute. Sri Sanjay Sahni began his impromptu talk at 3.25 p.m. He stole the hearts of the audience with his expressive delivery, poignant illustrations and scholarly insights.

He began with the description of God as the One who embodies Time, transcends Time, and from whose womb Time is born! He stressed on the great significance of the present time when we are fortunate to be the contemporaries of the Avatar! Jantunam Nara Janma Durlabham (out of all living beings, human birth is the rarest). He explained the importance of human birth and how it should be spent in the service of others.

He categorised people into 4 stages. The first being the money-minded. These people work merely for the sake of monetary benefits. They are ready to do just anything for the sake of money! The second category of people are the career-minded. These people have only the three P’s in mind. Pay, Prospects and Promotion! The next category is the Professionals. These people put in a lot of effort to excel in their field of work and try to achieve perfection in whatever they do. Still higher is the service-minded. This category of people work for their self-satisfaction. Yet however, there are traces of selfishness even in them. The highest category is the visionary.

He then went on to describe the unsullied and pure Love of Bhagawan, through various illustrations. He recalled the episode at Kodaikanal where students and staff were helping in clearing the ground for making a new Bhajan Hall. Watching this, even the hawkers who earned their livelihood, selling trinkets on the road along the lake, prayed to Swami to give them an opportunity to participate in this service. They offered to continue the work when the students and staff would go for taking rest in the afternoon. That was their Love for Swami!

He then went on to describe how during the Narayana Seva in the Hill View Stadium, Bhagawan watching the 8th class students sitting in the Mandir with no work allotted to them, had personally guided them to help in serving water to the people. He did not want anybody to be left out from the service activities.

He also spoke about the inspiring message given by Bhagawan in the Bhajan Hall to the staff before the commencement of the first Grama Seva. Swami was so moved by the episode of a mother poisoning herself and her children due to extreme poverty. This amply demonstrated that God was no alien entity sitting in the heavens above but was very much part of humanity.

He concluded his talk with a Kabir’s Doha (couplet) which says that when we come to the world, we cry and the world laughs. But let us conduct ourselves in such a way that when we go, the world cries and we laugh – for we have finally reached our destination!

It was 4.05 p.m. and Bhagawan signalled for the Discourse table to be arranged. (Full text of Ugadi Discourse is given separately.) It was 5.25 p.m. and a group from Visakhapatnam presented their music programme. This went on till ten past six. Prasadam was distributed in the end. Pocket calendars were distributed to all. The uniqueness was that it was a Parthiva Samvatsara calendar starting from April 2005 to March 2006! The past year has come to a close. The New Year – Parthiva Year has begun!

Bhagawan was offered Arati and then He retired for the day.

10th April 2005

Bhagawan came out for Darshan at 8.40 a.m. As He took a full round of the Hall, He collected letters from many devotees and from almost all the students. As He approached the Veda group, Swami asked for the golf cart to be taken a little back. He spotted a boy in the third line. Swami called him and took his letter. The joy on the face of the student was indescribable. Bhagawan had reversed the golf cart just to collect his letter!! Swami then went into the interview room. Bhajans started and went on till 10.00 a.m. after which Swami was offered Arati and then He retired to His abode.

In the evening, Swami came out for Darshan by 3.15 p.m. He got down from the golf cart and sat down on the sofa. He spent half an hour listening to the Vedic chants and receiving letters from the students. At 3.50 p.m. He got up and walked into the interview room. He went into the Bhajan Hall by 4.50 p.m. and spent some time talking to the boys inside the Bhajan Hall. Bhajans started a little while later and went on till 5.35 p.m.

The next few days are likely to be very eventful with programmes from the Kerala Youth and Tamil Nadu devotees as Vishu and Tamil New Year falls on the same day, i.e., 14th April 2005. We will get back to you with the details.