Ashram Visit: 1 October 2001

laughterThe lotus reaches up from the mud to the surface of the water, and opens its petals to the sunlight. So also, the petals of our hearts are opened with love when Sai gives darshan: he, kaalatheeythaya, Lord of Time, takes us beyond time into the eternal cavern of His Love, to embrace us all.

I pass an empty darshan hall on my way to lunch. Ladies are sweeping, mopping the floor inside. The whole floor. Generally the middle of the day is the hottest, but today storm clouds roll across the sky. Seva dals singing as they clean the Indian Canteen. Cool gusts of wind in Canteen Avenue. Ladies are moving upstairs to sit and form lines. Pass Hanuman, the immortal devotee, in the Sita-Ram Shrine at the front of the darshan hall. Men stand in front of the Ganesh Temple fanning themselves. I think its going to be a sticky afternoon. I see dark clouds, thunderheads rolling past the museum. Sweeping, Lady seva dals, sweeping everywhere.

Swami comes out early, at 2.10 pm. Stops and speaks with seva dals outside the door of Poornachandra, for a minute, perhaps longer. Walking slowly, clutching his robe, he walks into the darshan hall, followed by the security. The security do not follow Swami, some remain at the entrance, others race around the outside of the hall to be there when Swami arrives on the mens’ side.

Swami lets go of his robe and gestures toward some women. just inside the door, near the chair ladies. I think Swami’s relatives and Kamalamma sit just inside the entrance of the hall. Makes a sweeping, pointing movement toward the interview room. Later, when Swami reaches the men’s side, I observe ladies in white shawls arise and move toward the Mandir.

Of course, it is an ‘early’ darshan and students are fairly flying through the air to get to their seats in the middle. A white rain of flying students falling into their allotted places.

Swami is taking smaller steps now, he is not clutching his robe. Moves across and stands in front of some women, talking for quite some time. Not taking many letters. Comes across and pauses, slaps a student on the back and speaks. Other students get up and pray. Swami stops and speaks. Place is full of light, Swami’s face is very bright. Stops, speaks with students, takes some letters, moves on. Keeps moving, speaks with a student on the move. Leaves the middle. Crosses over to the men’s side. I am in the middle section. Heaps of space, the darshan hall is only one quarter filled, if that.

Experience of Swami is like a lotus opening. Although darshan is over in a short 15 minutes, it is a 15 minutes that seems transcendent and timeless. Swami moves slowly. Hair silhouetted against the light, thin strands at the ends, almost a crown of light, thick bushy hair. Half smile, stops to bless. Pauses and looks over the sitting devotees. Pauses, glancing here and there in a timelessness that embraces all present. In this timelessness is a unseen, felt energy of utter peace, being-awareness-bliss within which Swami is embracing us all.

There is a word in the Old Testament to describe the loving kindness of God, hesed. It conveys an expanding love, a binding love between God and his people, a love that does not end. I will be your God, you shall be my people. That kind of idea. As Swami moves slowly, face turning, I see that penetrating, powerful Shiva look, now a half smile, now a glance, now stopping, holding his hand up palm upwards. Moves on. Glances toward men. Pauses in his silence to take letters. Crowd gets up to hand letters, I see covers poking out of Swami’s hand in every lopsided direction, but in his hand, nonetheless. He has them. Moves on, Silhouetted against the light and the East Prashanthi pink and yellow flats. Robe has a brilliant lustre. Seconds melt by so slowly. He looks, glances and nods toward us all, as if he knows each and everyone of us there, his glance containing an all embracing mother’s love, compassion.

I turn. Watch. Swami moves over to the opposite side from me, lifts his hand toward the men he has placed there, smiles and makes that “finger circling” motion of his. Still moving slowly through our time and space, he stops and turns toward us to take letters. There are some willing men trying to get letters to Swami. He does not take many. Moves around the corner. Pauses to look at students caught out of their places, sitting at the top. Moves around the next pillar, almost seems to have his back on the pillar; he stops and talks to some men. Time moves slowly. Passes by, crossing to the front of the Mandir. Stops and speaks with Institute staff. Broad smiles on many faces as Swami talks. Moving toward the lions, students are up on their knees, some with questions, some with letters. Swami talks, takes, keeps moving. Taps students on the head. Students take photos. Taps packs of vibhuti. Two students move onto the porch, Swami taps the prasadam many times, looks at a card the class has made, takes it, and speaks to one of the students. Picks up some grains of rice and drops them on the student. They both smile. Swami moves onto the porch.

Ladies go in. Darshan is over. I rest in place for a while, reflective. I think of the lotus opening, petal by petal as Swami reveals his love and grace, his timelessness and loving kindness.

Car Darshan:

After morning darshan and interviews, Swami comes to the front of the porch and beckons to the driver outside the garage under his residence. White Mercedes comes out. Swami gets in. Car leaves. On the street, the word moves swiftly, ‘Swami’s coming!’. Seva dals close the gate near the Ganesh Temple. People stop work and line up each side of the road. Police clear the road quickly. Women run and purchase garlands. Swami’s car emerges, the Jeep is following. White clad men run behind the car, hands on the rear bonnet. Devotees, shopkeepers, people stop what they are doing and stand each side of the road, hands together in pranaams. Everyone is looking into Swami’s car, some throw garlands which land on the front bonnet, Swami passes by, sitting in the back seat. Glimpse of hair and face, dark inside the car. A man is sitting beside Swami in the back seat. Swami goes up the main road, entire street is lined with people offering pranaams. Disappears over the hill and under the arch. People move, go about their work. Some ten minutes later, Swami comes back. People stop again, run across the road. Police order rickshaws off the road, tell people to get off the road. Main Rd, Puttaparthi is cleared instantly. Police jeep comes first, siren squealing occasionally. White Mercedes is covered in yellow and orange garlands. Shopkeepers and traders lean forward and offer pranaams. Devotees slip their chappals off, leaning even further forward, looking into the back seat, looking for Bhagavan. Swami passes silently, looking out the window. Men run with the car. Jeep follows. Swami’s car turns and enters the ashram through the Gopuram entryway. Seva dals stand, hands together in pranaams. Bliss trails down the Main Street, you can see bliss on every face, with every smile, every pair of sparkling eyes, every person stops for a moment and savours Car Darshan.

Sai Ram to you all from the Abode of Highest Peace.


the white mercedes