A little order comes as Swami walks quickly. Takes very few letters. Makes vibuthi for one. Quiet clapping. Turns, faces down the hall, makes a patting movement with his hand. As if he acknowledges our presence, our devotion. Turns and walks toward the garage. Moves up the red carpet, no letters taken. Reaching the end of the carpet, he turns left and walks out to the East Prashanthi walkway beside the darshan hall. Police Inspector moves quickly to be at the gateway when Swami emerges.
The Festival Is Over
It is dark as I go to morning darshan, People are waking up in the street, and I hear dogs fighting. I take coffee, watching street sweepers. Enter the ashram. Women are queuing up for morning Nagarsankirtan. As I turn toward East Prashanthi, I see 5 rows of men sitting, waiting to take their turn for Nagarsankirtan. Enter darshan hall. A bright light is on in the interview room, someone is inside giving a sweep and clean. Golly, the light shines out of that room, beams come out the doorway, so brightly, into the darkness of the porch. Soon, men emerge from the mandir temple, they have gone for meditation. Seva dals enter and sweep. The mandir is dark; only one or two lights are on. Sitting, I begin to focus. Thought has to stop. I enter within, creating Swami’s face. So-hum. Kick-start again. When I come out, I am surprised, time has flown. I see the verandah people surge to take their places on the verandah; no, they are held. Swami’s guests must go first and get front row on the verandah; thereafter, the institute staff and co-ordinators are allowed onto the verandah. Soon, the music starts, oh, it is only 6.40 am, men bunch up, they need no seva dal now, watch them go forward as they get up and struggle to see Swami around the corner.
Students are coming in; I see them sprint to get to their places. I see devotees run to the top seats near the garage; students pour in and sit near the garage. Too late and caught outside, students begin to form a line outside. Swami has come EARLY!
Men bunch up and move forward at least 10 feet, as they push and struggle with all their might to see Swami. One man pushes himself up with his hand on my knee; another one bangs his head on mine as he pushes forward and tries to see Swami. I keep sitting, and appreciate this strong, manly, powerful desire and pull of devotion to see Swami; I understand, this is no mob; these men really, truly, want to see Swami. After what seems ages, with men pushing forward, leaning over trying to see around a squat pillar, finally, over comes Swami to the men’s side, they are all up on their haunches, up on their knees, I cannot even see the top of Swami’s head for hands held up in pranaams.
A little order comes as Swami walks quickly. Takes very few letters. Makes vibuthi for one. Quiet clapping. Turns, faces down the hall, makes a patting movement with his hand. As if he acknowledges our presence, our devotion. Turns and walks toward the garage. Moves up the red carpet, no letters taken. Reaching the end of the carpet, he turns left and walks out to the East Prashanthi walkway beside the darshan hall Police Inspector moves quickly to be at the gateway when Swami emerges.
Shortly, Swami re-enters the darshan hall. He turns, moves toward the devotees sitting in front of the garage. Stops and speaks for a time. Crosses over, begins to take letters from devotees; many get up and struggle to hand him letters. He passes the students and institute staff, climbing the front steps of the porch. Gives the brass lion a pat. Funny, I have often seen Swami give the lion a pat; I sometimes wonder if there is the spirit of a real lion inside.
I have a clear view of the verandah this morning. Swami moves up and down, sends people to the front. Takes letters. Speaks with staff. Makes vibuthi for one. Sends him to the front. Goes in the interview room alone. Music still on. Some moments later he comes out sans letters and sends people in. Moves back down the verandah, calls another one in. The wife of one fellow comes over. Points to the room. Wife goes up to Swami and says something. Eh? He leans forward to hear, points into the room. Lady enters. Swami goes in last and closes the door. Music stops. Students begin to come in. Students just pour in and a white haze of moving boys obscures the front of the porch as they take up their places. Devotees begin to get up and stand.
I try to focus, too many men standing, talking. I move closer toward the mandir, still more men come and stand. I don’t care for this; I move away and plop down near the Japanese. Retinue. It seems the mind must stop, I try to stop, in the end just let go. Only when I let go, surrender, the silence emerges. Ouch, I am far away from true sadhana, I think to myself. I reflect on all the days passed, as the crowd has come, it has been increasingly difficult to focus before and after a darshan. More focus on keeping your seat sometimes. I have been here a while now, the body no longer protests as I sit still for a long time. It wasn’t like that on the first two days. Now, I feel a challenge to seek Swami in silence. After a while I observe the Japanese.
There are Japanese, Indians, Italians, and other (apparently) Europeans all wearing ‘Sai-Ram Japan’ scarves. All reading Japanese books about Swami. Seems to solve the oddity I observed several days ago. Their co-ordinator comes and listens to them, reads a paper they hand to him, takes several photo albums of Sai-satsang and Sai Seva in Japan back to the verandah to show Swami when he comes out of interview. After sitting for a long time, I take leave of the Divine and depart.
I cannot see past the bus station in Main Rd, afterwards. Dust, departing Convention delegates, buses, buses, buses. Taxis and cars in every street. Inside, a crowd outside the Bookstall, purchasing the Bal Vikas Guru’s discourse. Canteen Avenue is clogged with buses, ready to take pilgrims home. I count 13 buses lined up beside the two Indian Canteens. More buses coming in. Queue at the Indian and Nepal devotees Accommodation Office. Mr Rao waves and smiles as I pass. He has been there for many years. These sweet retired men who give their mornings and afternoons to Swami and seva, they keep the ashram and its many services functioning. Airline schedule on the wall, advises times for Indian Airlines IC 669 and 670 flights. A faded notice from the Southern Railway advises train times. Near the Secretary’s office a notice board hangs:
5.20 AM Omkar
5.35 AM Nagarsankirtan
“About” 6.45 am, Darshan
9.00 AM Bhajans
“About” 3 PM Darshan
5.15 PM Bhajans
I see the students in the dormitories attached to the end of East Prashanthi, and that Great Lion of God, Narasimhamurthy, Warden of the Brindavan Hostel, enter a dormitory. There is a man who I have seen tremble with reverential awe before Bhagavan. I was in the Kalanya Mantap at Brindavan when he spoke, with Swami’s permission, and told stories of the visit to Kodaikanal. Did you know Swami’s room is the smallest room in the house at Kodai? He barely has room to turn around, just a cot and a small room for washing. Narasimhamurthy told, he saw a cut on Swami’s finger one morning. He asked, Swami, how did you cut your finger? Oh, he banged it on the wall of his room as he turned, in the morning. What a story …
I walk with a friend down the main road toward the village, on past the Gopuram Gate. He takes me to Sathya Lane, which runs along the back of the Indian Canteen wall, full of high rise and concrete pathways. I spy impossibly small cul-de-sacs. Eventually we come to Shanti Lane, which backs onto the ashram somewhere near the old sanitation plant. We go to Shanti Library and Gardens. This is a petite oasis of garden, paths and pond. In a further part is a small library. A list on the wall tells me which videos will be on each afternoon of the week. As I enter, I see the Mahabharata is showing with Italian sub-titles. People sit in chairs watching. I am drawn to a picture of Swami with Raye Thomas. I look closer, I see a robe of Swami’s and I am looking into a glass display of all the materialisations Swami gave to Joy Thomas. Rings, Ganesha Statue, japamala, there is a picture of Swami, with Raye and Joy Thomas. It is a touching gift to the library. The library is a quiet, spacious little building with a table and library cards. It is both a book library, and a video library. A young man comes, his name is Sairam, and I met him many years ago. I look at his smile and recognised him. When I leave the library I think to myself that he has flourosis, that dental deterioration of his teeth. Years ago he had perfect white teeth; now he has brown lines in his teeth. Swami has spoken of this in some discourses and some preventative action is being taken. This is part of the Water project.
Afternoon darshan. Seva Dals behind me have been on Canteen Seva since 3AM. They have finished for the day, taken their scarves off and come to darshan. One keeps falling asleep and bumping me. The inner voice tells me, ‘He has been up all night’. I let the distraction go. Read discourse. No focus, the air is a bit muggy. I look at the seated VVIP (very) Very Important Persons) and notice there are no students. I look around to the dormitories, all empty, no bags, towels or students. I asked myself, ‘Returned to Brindavan?’ Darshan hall is dark. Swami comes at 3.05 … pauses, slowly, talks to many, many women. Crosses several times to take letters. Walking across the now bare space under the Perspex canopy, his hair takes a light brown hue and his robe becomes soft ochre, soft and bright. As Swami comes nearer, his face is quite brown. Neat, clean, pressed robe, I commented to someone the other day, we always see Swami in a neat and crisply ironed robe, I have only ever seen creases when he has been in the car for a long ride. I think to myself, he must put on a fresh robe for us, every darshan. ALWAYS clean shaven. I think Swami does his best for us devotees. It is up to us to do our best for him.
Abhayahasta, hand held up in blessing as he approaches the men. Stops, talks for a time. Men up on their knees, perhaps it is their last darshan, they go home tonight. Little boys stand up and hold hands high in pranaams. Swami passes us by, his smile widens as men reach out with letters.
Turns and walks up toward the garage, moves over and speaks with members of a Samithi sitting in front of the garage. I recall darshans from days past: Swami would come back and walk up and down the rows of men giving padnamaskar. Students followed Swami with the shopping bag and gave out handfuls of packets of vibuthi and pictures of Swami to all the men receiving padnamaskar.
Hankies would go down for Swami to walk on, four five men at once taking padnamaskar, Swami slaps men on the back. Three rows on, he turns the corner and materialises a ring for a man on the end of the line. Men clap. Moves on walking up and down.
This time, Swami grasps the front of his robe and ascends the steps of the now bare porch and walks past Ganesha in his little shrine, and the waiting lions. Jumsai rises and speaks with Swami. Swami gestures to the room, and Jumsai leaves to collect some devotees. All enter the interview room.
Gurupournima Sandesh (part)
I want to tell you one more point. You may feel pained by what I am going to tell you now, but I am happy about it. From today onwards, I am not going to give padnamaskar to anybody because I and you are one. God is present in all. Easwara sarva bhuthanam … God is the indweller of all beings. Understand this truth. From today onwards, I have resolved not to give namaskars to anybody. You may do Namaskar to your parents as they and you are not aware of the truth that God is present in all. Since I know the truth I shall follow it. The same Atma is present in you, Me and everybody else. So, no one needs to do namaskara to anybody for that matter. If you still want to do Namaskar, do it mentally.
Bring your palms together and say “Swami, I offer my ten senses to you”. That is enough; you don’t need to touch my feet to do Namaskar. Understand the truth that God is in you and act accordingly. Then you become God. If somebody is offered Namaskar, others are feeling jealous. I am stopping this practice of giving Namaskars only to see that such feelings of jealousy do not sprout in you. Wherever you are, offer your Namaskar to me mentally. That gives me happiness.
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