Ashram Visit: 5 July 2001

at the microphoneWhen the festivals occur in Prashanti Nilayam, devotees travel for days to reach the ashram. It is not uncommon to find devotees have arrived during the night after the accommodation office has closed, and sleeping on the grass as the dawn breaks. It is Guru Pournima, the festival of the Guru (and Sage Vyasa) and the ashram is crowded. So crowded, I cannot get into the darshan hall. Neither can many others, we have to make do … just as those who have arrived from overseas during the night have to make do …

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Ashram Visit: The Convention Closes

at the microphoneDarshan, sparshan and sambarshan: we want to be the recipients of Swami’s gaze, his speech, his loving touch. Amongst the crowds that gather for divine darshan, we can feel that we are far, far, away, and forget all that He has said about how close he is to us, closer than the eyelid is to the eye! Yes, grace is anugraha, the smallest of the small, that which seizes us, and lifts us up into that feeling of joy, bliss and Oneness with divinity.

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Ashram Visit: Not All Cheese and Bikkies

blissSwami has sometimes referred to Prashanti Nilayam as the mechanic’s repair shop, or the workshop. We go there, get infused by His grace (yes, even now, so many years after his leaving the physical form) and repairs are done, internally, externally, and from time to time, we may experience a challenge to our habitual behaviours, and perhaps, be confronted by the way we react to external stimuli and events. So here is a narrative of one such challenge and the journey towards internal self-understanding of the mind and is machinations. Sai Ram …

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Ashram Visit: 5 July 2001

pink robeThis evening, I took a walk around the ashram during evening bhajans, for it was a festival time, many visitors had come (yes, the red and white APRTC buses ply Canteen Avenue) and there were quite a few temporary structures – mostly tent affairs called shamina – that had been erected to provide seva to all the additional visitors. It is quite the crowded ashram at this time, yet, there is a hum of contentment, peace and satisfaction from the visitors that they are home: at home with Swami. It is so peaceful amid the hustle and bustle of the service being rendered, here.

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Ashram Visit: July 3, 2001

in the mandiramThe question comes to my mind, ‘What is satisfactory darshan’? (Satisfactory not referring to how I might feel or not feel implying anything about darshan being good or bad. That is a subjective ‘satisfactory’.) An intriguing reply: Preparation, Presence and Retinue. Hmm. Much food for thought in that reply.

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Ashram Visit: 2 July 2001

Sai BabaThe hot, gusty wind wraps Swami’s robe around him as he enters the darshan hall. He is dark, again silhouetted against the trees, the light green hedge surrounds the Stupa; the flagpoles and lamp posts at the rear of Poornachandra have all been decorated with bright colours, gold, silver, red, green, and the white uniform of the seva dal; all these provide a brilliant background to Swami as he walks into the shadows of the darshan hall. The hot gusty wind continues to play with his robe as he walks on slowly. Entering the ladies side, here and there, he stops, further on he touches a tray, takes a letter. Moves slowly on, still dark, still silhouetted against the green surrounds of the stupa.

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Ashram Visit: July 1, 2001

a pensive Sai I observe Swami closely as he speaks with some men. His head moves in that little nod, his whole expression rises as the dialogue continues, his visage takes on a most open and inviting aspect. It is difficult to communicate this, it is almost as if his eyes sparkle, he opens up who he is somehow as he asks different men questions. His eyes, eyebrows, face, lips, and expression seem to transform to a really close friend who is really, really interested in what you have to say …

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Ashram Visit: 30 June, 2001

handsHere, something happened in this darshan; Swami was way up top in front of the mandir, talking to men. All were seated, attending Swami. Suddenly he gestured quickly to a man 5 or 6 rows back; he came forward with his letter; Swami took and moved on. No one else got up. Perhaps that was a sign, Swami knows exactly where everyone is, and knows exactly their needs and responds just so.

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Ashram Visit, June 28, 2001

Ambassador car, IndiaI travelled from Whitefield to Puttaparthi in a new Ambassador taxi (I was totally surprised, wondering to myself, ‘They still make these cars?’) on a smooth road. Well, it was smooth except for parts of the back road to Hoskote, very lumpy, holes, axle-grinding kinda road… Shortly after motoring along National Highway 7 we passed the turn-off to Nandi Hills. Out of the blue, a six lane highway appeared. My jaw fell off in shock; I nearly missed my favourite Shirdi Sai Baba Mandir (something I always look for on a journey). Glancing over, I noted that a new (mandir) (covered area?) is being constructed at the rear. I am sitting in the front seat of this new Ambassador car, still in shock over this surprise, a six lane highway divided with a meridian strip. ‘My, my, how India progresses’, I thought to myself. All too soon, it disappears and the highway reverts to the typical two lane carriageway. I think maybe some Shirdi Sai devotees have urged construction of a highway. Six lanes, I have never seen this in India…

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Ashram visit, June 26, 2001

crowd with Sai BabaIt was a long flight. I have arrived at Brindavan, staying near the ashram. Road works have commenced to build the bridge over the railway gates at Whitefield. The taxi driver took the wrong turn and took me to the new hospital instead; he did not listen properly to me. I said “Take me to Whitefield”, all the taxi drivers were yelling at me “Baba is in Puttaparthi!” “Baba is in Puttaparthi!” “Baba – Puttaparthi!” They want to take my trolley and push, they want to take over my life and tell me where to go, etc., etc.

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