In the morning, I pass a lot of coconut sellers. And garland sellers on the roadside. Many people were going in with coconuts; a crowd in front of the Ganesh temple. Look inside the temple, yes, there is Vighneshwara with his three broad lines across the forehead. Turn and look at the shrine for the Nagas and the Navagrahas, the planets. It’s a huge tree rising from that shrine.
I collect my chappals and go right down the front of Sai Kulwant Hall, where the Rama-Sita-Lakshmana shrine is. I always recall this shrine account the cute little Hanuman kneeling in prayer at the side. Look up, there is Hanuman flying, carrying the hill with the sanjivini herb to restore Lakshmana; look below, there is Hanuman, with gada and his tail, ready to flay the minions of Ravana. Someone must attend this temple daily, for all the idols are clothed, and there are garlands and offerings.
Look across to the Gopuram, look up, there are no monkeys hiding in there anymore, no pigeons on the Gopuram itself. Recall the image of Prashanti Nilayam ashram in 1967 (the year electricity arrived in Puttaparthi), when this was the main gate, with the blue arch = scribed in Telugu – Welcome to the Ashram of Sathya Sai Baba stood proud sentry over the entrance. Think back to days gone by, when bullock carts plied their way up and down “Gopuram Road” in Puttaparthi. Today, bullock carts still ply, witness below:
Of course, Main Road didn’t look like that, way back in 1967. I look at the wall beside the Gopuram, and wonder; now that is some history I don’t know; when the walls adjoining Main Road were built for the ashram.
Turn again, enter the darshan hall and sit. Gaze at Swami’s samadhi. Vedam continues. My mind wanders to nirvikalpa Sai, the formless Sai who is everywhere, everywhen, and in every heart. Omniscient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent. Vinayaka Krishna Gokak, one of these early authors of books about Sathya Sai Baba added another attribute: Omnifelicity – all loving, in all times and in all places.
Take darshan of the Samadhi. Swami’s face in the boss at the back, the two eternal flames each side alight, the ultraviolet light giving a heightened sense of the holy; take darshan of Samadhi. I wonder about prayer, why silence and stillness come when I take darshan here.
Seva dals are smiling, ashram staff are attending, with care and grace that becomes their task, I look up at the band of elephants which go around the perimeter of the roof and wonder, “Why is it I always recall these elephants when I think of this place?”
Homegoing day today; I go down to the security office and tell them I am going home; “May I please have some vibhuti?” A seva dal gives me a handful. Another seva dal leans across, grabs a handful and says, “Take more! Sai Ram!” I smile my thanks and walk up beside East Prashanti, recalling the days when the plans were mooted to put the main entrance right here, opposite Samadhi Road. No, no, those plans were scotched quickly (many years ago, I might add, in case any of you are alarmed).
Looking down at the ground, and recalling the darshan grounds of years gone by when we sat on the sands in the afternoon sun, I wondered as I trod the concrete, recalling those darshans. I recalled the story a lady devotee shared with me many years ago when Swami called her to go, and the lady seva dals were holding her back. Swami went into the interview room, and shortly after, strode across the sands wagging his finger and saying “When the Lord calls, you will come!”
So it is today in Prashanti Nilayam. Everything offered here is for your spiritual progress; the morning OMKAR in the mandir, nagasankirtan, vedam for the welfare of the world; bhajans, darshan, talks in the hall nearby the Bookstore; Sunday talks, the Overseas Devotees discussion groups on Mondays and Fridays; the accommodation, several canteens, the bookstores, the Radio Sai Global Harmony shops, the many smaller bookstalls, the pure drinking water. Swami’s love and grace are felt everywhere, and all seva dal, all ashram staff serve with love. When love calls, antarayami, the inner resident bids you come to the repair workshop and be filled with Love, Love, Love.
I had a short talk with Swami this afternoon, and He asked, “What will you take with you when you leave?”
I was still for a moment, then filled with incredible love which suffused every fibre of my being; I replied, “I will go knowing your love, love, love, is everywhere!”
Sai Ram from Prashanti Nilayam.
Three headed snake
© Chris Parnell