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.

It rained…

Morning came and afternoon came. I joined the lines which stretched up the hill beside the old B block, half way up to the meditation tree, or so it seemed. This morning the lines moved quickly. Proceeding down the side of the darshan hall, I observe the famous obstructing pillar of yesterday has been gaily decorated with a silver and red dressing with a gold lotus motif repeating. It seems the ashram is slowly gearing up for a festival. Later in the morning I see white-clad students upstairs at the back of Poornachandra polishing the brass railings on the two circular platforms there. The man in front of me points to the policeman observing our progress down the side of the darshan hall. He shrugs. He asks why they are here. I told, security is a ‘must’ around Swami now, devotees expect it. (I surprised myself saying that.) Then he mumbled about government and I said, “Yes, Union Ministers had come from Delhi and insisted upon this for Bhagavan.” I observe a Police Inspector with three stars on his shoulder take his shoes and socks off and enter the hall. I told the man in front as we ascended the steps, ‘Many police are devotees’. A seva dal tells me, “Hey you, keep quiet!” OK, it is Swami’s darshan hall, I will keep quiet. Perhaps I have overstated the obvious.

I reflected as I waited for Swami to come out, that single-pointedness is needed, tuning into Radio Station G-O-D as Swami once put it in a discourse. I have been silently doing Hamsa Gayathri, So-hum, as I wait. I am supposed to visualise the light within as I do this. It is a self-revelation to become aware of just how many things the mind will go out toward and attach itself to. Seva dal are standing, waving, gesturing to devotees to move, boys standing up, coughing, pigeons fluttering about, devotees looking up at the gold flaked roof, so many distractions available. I pulled the mind back many, many times as I keep the internal So-hum going. If I relaxed and concentrated on the idea of the light within me (instead of one or another image of light), a warm vibration would start up.

Music starts, Swami has emerged from Poornachandra. The Police and bodyguards take up their places behind Swami. Men bunch up and move forward. Some manage to move themselves several paces forward. Swami, small in the distance, pauses as he enters the darshan hall and seems to speak for quite some time with the ladies just inside the entrance. Swami begins to move slowly, crossing many times to speak with women and take letters. He had a handful which he gave to a bodyguard when he finally arrived on the men’s side. Sometime during this darshan I have become internally self aware and I notice that the bodyguards have left my attention, and that I have become focussed on Swami. Still, I am distracted, men getting up, thronging forward, they disturb my attention, distract. I dislike that. I want to focus on Swami. If I am not managing the mind it draws attention away from Swami, yes, even during darshan …

Here, 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.

Once again he moves slowly, stopping and talking. It is an overcast day; it is not bright where Swami is walking, his robe has turned a dull red almost and his face is again quite brown. He stops and faces toward us and touches his third eye, and holds his palm up toward us. I recall ‘Everything I see becomes transformed’. Swami moves along and comes close by. He looks over, turns the corner and approaches some men. Many get up and reach out with letters. A tall, bald man with a green scarf comes from nearly the back row right up toward Swami, who took his two or three letters, the last of that swarm of men who got up. Swami looked at the green-scarf man and said “Thank you!”

Darshan is completed; the madding crowd arise and mull about. Slowly, silence returns to the darshan hall. I move to the front. So-hum. Mind wanders frequently. Decide on the need for single-pointedness. I reflect that love actually ‘pulls’ Swami toward devotees in darshan (I have seen this many times. I did this once; I wrote a letter asking him to lead me down the path of divine love. The next morning in darshan he was attending men opposite me, and he turned and steadily looked at my letter. He made a line for my letter and took it, firmly touching the tip of my finger with the tip of his finger. I have often though back to that, thinking of Michelangelo’s famous painting in the Sistine Chapel with the spark of life passing from the finger of God to Adam’s outstretched finger).


michaelangelo - sistine chapel
The divine gift of life: the fingers touch


After a while, Swami comes out and moves up and down the verandah, speaking with officials and international co-ordinators sitting there. Entranced, I watch Swami as he communicates. This is unusual; Swami’s face, head, hands, inflection, gestures are a total act of communication and divine self-giving. His hand gestures with his speech and head movements give a visual communication of the movement from heart to heart. Entranced, I am pondering that Swami is the perfect communicator.

Shortly thereafter, it rains. A short sharp shower that leaves a fresh tangy scent of water in the air. Seva dal move about mopping up water where it has leaked through the gaps in the roof. At about 4pm, students arrive. Dry floor for students. Swami’s chair is brought out. Fan, table, tumbler, handkerchiefs, all these are put out. Soon, Swami is seated in his chair on the front of the verandah. Students approach and kneel with trays of prasad and cards on the tray.

I suspect a class project of love toward Bhagavan. Swami takes the cards off the trays and reads. He puts them with the letters and touches each student on the head, 1,2,3,4 four taps on four heads. Quite distinct and definite. I recall the day he touched me on the head, a nothingness opened up – as vibrations reached down into me and worlds collapsed for a timeless moment. Somewhere (I cannot recall the exact reference) I have read Swami tell boys “You are very lucky to have me touch you on the head” … something to the effect that it is a gift that can only be attained by many lifetimes of spiritual effort … the boys continue kneeling, one shrugs his shoulders and they slowly get up and return to their classmates.

More and more devotees arrive. From Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore. I am walking the ashram and I observe new arrivals. They enter and immediately proceed to Ganesha in his temple. Then with children and small suitcases they move down the side of the darshan hall and I observe small smiles become wide grins as the bliss emerges from within them. They have come HOME!!! They smile at me as I walk past them sitting on the benches in Canteen Avenue and softly say ‘Sai Ram’. Bliss, bliss, bliss.

Popcorn is Rs2/- at the shopping mall. The popcorn machine is at the foot of the stairs with a crowd surrounding it. The strong sweet smell of popcorn and butter pervades the front of the shopping mall. I climb the concrete steps and follow a very small child on his father’s shoulder, he would have been 1-year-old if that; he was singing sai rama-rama-ram; and I marvelled, reflecting that his father must have sung it to him all the way to Puttaparthi on the bus.

Evening came and morning came. All the pillars are now decorated with the red and gold motif with lotus. Garlands on the fences around the mandir. Chinese lanterns – some rose shaped, some lotus shaped, hang from the ceiling between chandeliers. Marvellous, soft, gentle and STRONG colours on the lanterns. Soft greens, aquamarine, hues of blue and red, soft butter yellow. An elegant decoration. Festival time is approaching. There is an All-India Bal Vikas Guru’s Conference about to commence.

I have slept in (6AM is sleeping in, over here!). Arriving at the darshan hall, the place is full. I get in past the gate, go through the security screen. I am seated way back, nearly as far back as old back wall. Seva dal are hopelessly trying to get the men to bunch up a bit. I am prodded, I move, another prod, I turn, and the seva dal points to the man in front of me, so I tap him and give him the classic Indian gesture. He ignores me and stays put. Interesting, I observe, that was exactly how my ego behaved yesterday … Oh! I am seeing myself in action. Hmm. Next lesson.

Darshan begins. Swami is silhouetted against the bright green grass around the Stupa as He stands at the very gate and speaks with the very first devotee he meets entering the hall. (I suspect this is Kamalamma, one of his “foster mothers”.) He is so distant, dark against the bright green, his robe wrapping his body, head of hair sharply outlined with a faint light; He turns and faces the ocean of devotees after making vibuthi for the lady by the gate, his visage shrouded against the silhouette of the garden of the divine. He pauses and lifts his hand to all.

Swami is moving very slowly through the women this morning, stopping to talk, take letters, turning his head, speaking, taking more letters, pausing. Quite a long time passing through the ladies. Sends a large group for interview.

Finally, Swami crosses over the middle and arrives on the men’s side. The bodyguards take up their position. I am seated far back; Swami is obliterated from view by all the men raising hands in koti koti pranaams. They are peaceful, and remain seated, taking darshan of the avatar. Swami moves slowly, only half his body is visible, he is small and distant. Many men get up this morning to hand letters over. Some are taken, some are bypassed. As he turns and walks up toward the garage, I recalled a time in Brindavan when I took darshan once, and Swami passed me by. I vividly brought to memory how I was looking at his form with utter peace and no thoughts. Swami was walking down the aisle and stopped, turned and gave me this amazing smile, piercing me with his eyes; I felt energy entering my heart. On that day, three years ago, I asked myself, ‘What did he do that for’? Today, the penny dropped. Thought has to stop.

It is Year 2001, I am seated halfway down the darshan hall amid thousands of men. Seated far, far away from Swami’s form. Looking across rows and rows of black haired men, I observe Swami move past the men nearest the garage. My mind stopped; I let go, and I saw Swami’s aura, and warmth began to enter my heart. Momentarily, the aura moved with Swami as he moved his head.

Later in the morning I walked down to the village. The Venugopalswamy temple is there (it was flooded the last time I saw it), the old temple compound has an attractive coat of paint and surrounded by children and pilgrims. Partha Mandir (the old mandir) has a cream coat of paint and idol of Pedda Venkappa Raju, Swami’s father, atop the front entrance. It is now a marriage pandal. I proceed toward the Shiva Temple constructed over Swami’s birthplace, past Janakiram’s home (Swami’s brother), past Subamma’s house. Entering the Shiva temple, I take off my sandals and hear devotees ring the bell. Nandi, the divine bull, sits in pose in front of the pillar, gazing toward Lord Shiva. I make pradakshina (walking around the temple) and feel waves of bliss come over me as I walk around the birthplace of Almighty God, this time born as Sathyanarayana Raju, now Sathya Sai Baba. Sketches of the birth come to mind, images of Easwaramma and her mother-in-law come.

I enter within and the Ashram pujari is there, he is sitting and offering prasad to devotees present. He is speaking Telugu and often touches his heart, saying ‘Swami’. As I listen, again and again his entire countenance breaks into joy and bliss as he shares his mandir stories of Swami, and Swami’s teachings. He is at once humble, blissful and inspiring. He keeps touching his heart and speaks in soft cadences, which give hint of his benign nature. He catches my eye and breaks into English, “Swami says, Be happy!” (This is the priest who offers Arathi to Swami in the mandir.)

I leave the temple proper and examine the adjoining wall; it is the back of Subbamma’s house. I see the rusty windows through which Subbamma used to feed the little boy Sathyanarayana Raju. She stood on a stool to do that.

Walking back to Puttaparthi, I pass the Sathyabhamma Temple, constructed by Swami’s grandfather, Kondamma Raju. This temple building was perhaps the beginning of the divine self-giving, through this beautiful grandfather of Swami’s.


Shiva Temple at the Birthplace of Sri Sathya Sai
Shiva Temple at the Birthplace of Sri Sathya Sai



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