Ashram Visit: 28 September 2001

mata-ambeSome are able bodied; some are disabled. It is interesting that the daily darshan in Prashanthi Nilayam is a hall filled with the able-bodied. Yet, as the years roll by, more and more attend in wheelchairs, age having rendered them non-ambulatory. In these darshans, I encounter the intellectually disabled, called to Divine Darshan by the Lord of all the Worlds, the Divine Mother-Father, Sri Sathya Sai.

Once again I arrive in the darshan hall in the dark, surprised to see how few people are present in the hall. I have arrived at 5.45 am and make the 6th row back from the front. A lot of buses must have taken people home last night, I think to myself. Concentrate, silence, the Name of the Lord. The man beside me goes into a ten minute coughing session. Many people stare at him. One gives him a cough lozenge in compassion.

Swami comes. Darshan commences. People start telling one another how to sit, sit down. Swami is over on the other side, on the Ladies side and the men are pushing one another back down. It’s going to be an interesting morning, I think. Can’t see Swami, he has disappeared behind the men in front of me. Finally he comes across, takes many letters, stops, talks to the men on my right; then he moves to the other side of the carpet and takes a letter or two. The man beside me leans over the man in front of him and takes this man’s hands and joins them in pranaams and lifts his hands up. Immediately I understand the man in front is blind and cannot see Swami. Swami moves quite quickly, taking letters and not stopping until he gets to the corner. He comes across. Raises his hand in blessing. Suddenly he looks to his right and takes a letter. Moves up the carpet toward the top. Men get up and hand letters. Seva dals restrain men at the back, too far away. Swami takes letters, hands to his assistant. Moves on.

Long time on the verandah. Men with red and white scarves are sent back. Swami only called the women. You see that from time to time. Darshan is over quickly. Sitting on the benches at the side, a conversation turns from visiting Nepal to the incidents in New York. Discussions. Play of the atma, Swami is the actor, Swami designed the play. Man with New York scarf walks past. Arrived yesterday afternoon.

Sathya Sai Space Theatre has a notice near the cloak room. Session will be available, “Architecture of the Cosmos”. Thursday. Tickets available at the Canteen ticket shop, Wednesday Morning, 10 AM. Southern Railway notice board advises me about trains at the Puttaparthi Rail Station. Train departs at 4.30 PM for Bangalore connection at Anantapur. Another notice, Mr Sathyanarayan is giving a talk in the lecture hall, 11 AM, ALL MAY COME in capitals. Pilgrims arriving crowd around the Indian/Nepal Accommodation office. I observe newly arrived devotees carrying small suitcases. It is 12.30pm, I have just had lunch. Lines, already – ladies are beginning to line up opposite the Indian canteen. Further on I look up the hill, yes there are men’s lines formed already. That’s not a place to be at 5 am when the mosquitoes are biting, I can tell you. Where do they all come from? (Mosquitoes, I mean.)

This afternoon I was caught again. Quickly inside, it is a seva dal versus my belt. He seems to think there is something in my belt, and I am impatient to take a seat. I tell him its a belt, not a bomb!

Recover poise. Swami spent a long time crossing to and fro on the women’s side. So much time and peace, I thought to myself. I contrasted my lack of peace with that seva dal just earlier now, with Swami over on the women’s side. I never see him ruffled, tired, spent or fatigued. Always clean shaven, freshly pressed robe, always patient, with time, not attached, he moves with grace. That has to be an avatar to do that day in and day out, I think to myself, as I observe him on the ladies side. Peace descends upon me as Swami approaches. I notice these changes within me. Such is his grace.

Swami had taken many letters. All the men have sat down. A man crouched and went up a little, went down. Swami’s hand shot out with his fingers open. Strong, definite, faster than anything else I had seen today. Took the letter. Not even looking. Man stood up straight, offered pranaams. Not even looking, Swami immediately put his hand up in blessing, left it there for some seconds. Incredibly Strong, Definite, from Swami. Moves on.

I was stunned by all that. Swami did not look at the man.

Swami moves along the red carpet.

Men up on their knees. Man beside me turns and looks at me, mute, he cannot see Swami. Nor can I, but I am not perturbed, I just put up with it. He looks at me for some seconds. I think to myself, ‘He has not come here for my darshan, he is wasting his valuable darshan looking at me’; I turn him and point at Swami’s receding back and say, “There is God, Look!” He starts looking at Swami again.

Long time on the verandah. Senior Lady Seva dal goes to fetch a lady.

Intellectually disabled people come in when the gates are opened. Carers hang onto them and sit them down. A bit late to see Swami, he is on the verandah, yet they are in the Divine Presence, nonetheless. They all get up and move to see Swami, seva dals try to stop them and the intellectually challenged people don’t understand. Some days ago I sat next to a man who was holding a person in front of him. That person was moving about uncontrollably and making uncontrollable noises. I turned and smiled at his carer happy to see him and his charge here. I was happy for them. In another place, I thought to myself, such people would be in an institution. Yes, they are all called for the divine darshan, no matter what their physical or intellectual capacity, I thought. That’s their blessing.

The madding crowd have gone for afternoon tea. I am sitting on the benches.

Interviews are over, Swami has come out on the verandah. Hidden behind a wall. I can see him, students can see him, devotees cannot. No see, see, I begin to see reactions. I think about that, a wall between myself and the divine form. What does that mean? Swami is always present.

On the verandah, an old man who can only take very small steps is sent in for interview. Goes slowly, his swaying from side to side as he is taking little steps.

I have had my day in the Sathya Sai Ego Grinder. I had forgotten about that. Ego being mirrored back to me. An old friend reminds me that Puttaparthi is the Divine Repair Shop, closer you come to GOD, the more you see yourself.

After dinner I attended a talk in the lecture hall above the Punjab canteen. It was quite a lively session on Reincarnation – a fascinating talk. A young German man told about his three experiences which led him to do some research. Questions and Answers follow. A microphone was passed around and many people present made comments. A resolution was arrived at; it seems many who are on the spiritual path come across one or another of their past lives; that is Divine will. However, to go digging may not be beneficial, most of us conclude. We asked the question and listened, why is such a thing given, perhaps to understand that it is the mind that brings us back. It was quite a lively session, I quite enjoyed it. We ended with Swami, “Man is born in order that he may not be born again‘.


Jai Mata Ambe



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