St Francis and Custody of the Eyes

A warm wind raises the dust in Main Road as I walk towards the ashram in the early morn. Methinks a warm day is coming.

Last night, I saw something from the past. In years gone by, after bhajans and arathi were over, Swami would go into his room for a few minutes, come out and walk through the ladies to his residence at the back of Poornachandra. (Admittedly, this was years ago. The Sun would be setting and Swami would be silhouetted brilliantly in the last rays of the Sun. Perhaps the Sun itself was doing Surya Namaskar to its very own Lord!)

Anyway, back to last night, the temple pujari was waving arathi flame to Swami’s chair and the Samadhi. Something caught the edge of my eye and I was transported back in time, back to those days when the staff and students would all come to the very edge of the Mandir, peer around the corner with joined hands to take that very last darshan of Sai for the day, as he walked towards Poornachandra … … Well, they were doing exactly the same last night, except they came to the very same spot to take the arathi and watch the ritual right through to the end! I was stunned by the exact same similarity, of taking the very last darshan of Sai for the day by these fellows.

A warm wind raises the dust in Main Road as I walk towards the ashram in the early morn. Methinks a warm day is coming.

St Francis taught “custody of the eyes” to his brothers in his religious order, the Other Friars Minor (OFM’s). I was thinking about St Francis today as entered the ashram, and took my place in the darshan hall. Lingering in my mind is the impending date of departure … some days away, which makes each time in the darshan hall precious. Thinking again of St Francis, I wondered how he would take in this scene, a huge hall, three domes with golden spires on top; a porch and a tomb, called a samadhi at the front, from whence grace is dispensed to those seekers, those devotees of the very Divine itself. Francis would probably spend his time preaching to the pigeons. (No fanciful romance; the animals would gather around him and remain silent for his sermons.)

This presupposes a gentleness of spirit and a love of all creation and nature – something Francis was famous for.

Meanwhile, I am wondering about “custody of the eyes” – which Swami tells us, is a form of conserving energy (we can waste energy through what we look at) and of course, control of the senses. That’s my workshop at the present moment.

The darshan hall is empty when I enter, the curtains are closed around the Samadhi, there is a sporadic groups of souls seated here, there. Silence in the Mandir. Vedam has not yet begun. White pigeon feathers all over the floor. A cool wind plays its way through the Mandir, and I commence this “custody of the eyes”. I am a bit distracted as Vedam begins with three OMs and Ganapathi Prarthana – the curtains around the Samadhi are opened, as vedam echoes over the loudspeakers.

SAI means See Always Inside – well, I was drawn to this, this morning. Instead of focussing on the Samadhi itself, I was drawn to seeing Swami himself within me. Sometimes it is easy to see Swami in there, in the heart; he appears immediately whenever I am doing my duty – whatever that is – and gives guidance. Seeking him in silence, is another matter ~ at least for this monkey mind. After settling down (and several efforts at this, coming out to distractions and going back within) it comes with utter simplicity – simple concentration. How hard it is to say that! Again I think of St Francis and “custody of the eyes”. Such good advice!


So Many Russians!

So many Russians! Signs for Russians at the Canteen, at the hall the supermarket, and I heard that one residential block is given over to the Russians!
(That is “hello” to all the Russians reading here. ‘scuzi; is machine translation, is …)

These Russian fellows sit somewhere nearby me every morning – and sometimes evenings – and they always sweetly say Hello or “Sai Ram” – I have known some of these fellows for many, many years and have shared accommodations with them. Some have good English, and some have not much English, but all have generosity of heart and great love and joy emanating from them.

So this morning, one of the Russian fellows – the one who sits on his cap – arrived with this small garland to offer at the Samadhi. Fine. Other Russian confrères join, they sit and pray. Now some fellows, locals from somewhere around Andhra Pradesh, got it into their heads not to stay for darshan of the Samadhi and gave their garlands and flowers to this Russian fellow to place on the Samadhi. Others saw this, and took advantage, and before ten minutes had passed, the Russian fellow had a large collection of garlands at his feet. Well, all they could do was smile and nod yes, when asked!

Lines and lines and lines of children arrive in the darshan hall, all smartly dressed in white, sitting in their class groups – first boys, then girls. All from the Hostel, they come for darshan on Thursdays and Sundays.

I had a hunch I was going to be put in one of the inside lanes at the Samadhi; yep, I was put into an extremely slow inside lane. It is warm up there directly in front of the Samadhi. Sai Gayatri is going on, quite loud right in front of the Samadhi; all the seva dals are chanting it, in addition to those in the queues. Take darshan of the Samadhi and offer prayers, many men up there holding wee children as well. On the way out, the seva dal with the flower petals gives me ONE petal. I demur and point to his nearly full tray; I get some more. Pass fellows asleep in chairs on the verandah – men who have done yeoman service unto Swami and his devotees for many, many years.

I take the petals down to another Samadhi, that of Swami’s parents in Samadhi Road – there I do three circuits, chanting Sai Gayatri and place the petals on that Samadhi, for in honouring Swami’s parents, I honour my own parents, the vessels of divine grace for this lifetime, and those who are in loco parentis, those wisdom figures given to us by Sai, parents in spirit and in truth.

Sai Ram from Prashanti Nilayam, the abode of Divine Love!




© Chris Parnell