Swami stood on the porch on the way toward the verandah, and spoke to one of the Institute staff. He used his hands as he spoke. It was magnificent to watch, Swami is THE master of communication, verbal and non verbal. Soft, swift movements of his hands, gesturing, a spoken word observable. He looked like Mother Sai up there on the porch. Actually looked like a woman in his robe, you know, his tummy came out, his chest changed. Mother Sai looking after all her students and devotees.
The Bookshop has packed up and moved to its new premises behind South 6, near the new supermarket. All the bookshop stock was moved there this afternoon. The new Sanathana Sarathi Office is right up the back; I will leave it for you to find out just what that means! The new bookshop is very tastefully constructed and set into the hillside.
A friend told me it was Pizza Night in the Western Canteen. The queue of ladies extends out the door, down the steps, across the sand to the footpath. Inside, I wait in the queue, get two huge slices of pizza and join what I later find out is called the Kali Yuga Table. An Argentine gentleman came over and waved a little Silent Table placard at one gent at my table. I know these men well, I have done canteen seva with them, shared rooms in Brindavan, we have travelled on buses together to Kodaikanal, and here they are fooling around on Saturday night in the Canteen. I couldn’t stop laughing, the Argentine man pretended he knew no English, my friend pretended he did not know Spanish and they carried on these mock admonitions about silence and not understanding. No spika inglish! Si, espanola et casteliano non! They were both strong minded men and really giving each other what-hey with good natured bantering. I couldn’t stop laughing.
Sunday, Morning Darshan.
Arrive in ashram. Surprised to see Senior staff and Lecturers near the front gate. One and another greet me. Look around. See a large crowd in front of the Murugan Temple. Bhat, our pujari, is waving the arathi flame around Murugan, and the crowds attend. Senior Ashram staff stand at a distance and offer pranaams. Crowded near the front gate. Pilgrims with suitcases and bags, just off the buses. Walk to East Prashanthi; see many VIP’s are here. Look inside: how does it all happen, overnight the darshan hall has swelled to three-quarters full. Front of Hall is packed solid with students, primary school students, and Anantapur College ladies, who arrived last night.
The crowd finally settles down to silent waiting. Soon, Swami emerges. Moves swiftly through the waiting throng of devotees. Pausing slowly among the women. Men around me become adjutant-marshals and prod and poke one another to sit down. I observe this interesting play of the atma. Continue focussing on Swami. Stops and talks to men. Moves swiftly, not many letters taken today. Leans over into the crowd and blesses a large tube, its a photo of Swami rolled up. Stops several times and speaks, makes vibhuti. Goes to verandah. Very quickly, a small group ushered in. Crowd gets up and leaves. I remain for a while. Suddenly, interview is over, students are called in, and come out with boxes of prasad. Move through the entire hall giving prasad. On the benches a student stands in front of a blind fellow, holding out the prasad. I tell the student, “Blind, blind!” Student does not know what to do. I take the prasad and put it in the man’s pocket and say loudly, “Bhagwan Prasad!“. Blind man smiles and pats his pocket. Student smiles and moves on. Of course, the madding crowd has left for breakfast so not many people receive prasad.
Swami comes out at 2.15pm. A lot of visitors are here, and being Sunday, most of the students have filed in and the place is getting rather full. A simple, gentle music plays as Swami enters. He stays on the carpet, until he moves over to take letters. On the way past the women, Swami stopped and turned back to speak with someone. It was very sudden and quick.
You know how it is in darshan. Swami is walking in one direction and looking in another. He walked towards a man to accept a letter. Reaching out and taking still more letters, his eyes rove over the seated men, piercing looks flashing here and there. All the while taking letters. Crosses over to the other side, and starts taking letters. His eyes move about extraordinarily quickly until suddenly a brief flash passes and Swami looks somewhere else. Quickly through the men’s side and up toward the verandah, he pauses near the lions and turns back to speak with some Institute staff. Stays there speaking, gesturing with letters. Makes vibhuti, right up there where everyone can see it. Turns and walks toward the verandah proper, past the lions. Long wait on verandah. Senior lady seva dal goes to bring a lady to the verandah. Music stops, darshan is over.
A seva dal changeover is occurring tonight, (it’s the end of the month); Seva dals from Maharashtra will go home and the new Seva dal group from Tamil Nadu will replace those at the Ashram and at the Super Specialty Hospital. They will do 15 days seva. Hence the crowds in darshan this morning and the long queues at the Indian Canteens.
The darshan hall is now chock full of seva dals who have been here for two weeks doing service. Many are now taking their first (and only) darshan and going home. You know, Swami knows exactly where every seva dal is, and what it is they are doing. I have this vivid recall of an aged gent doing seva in the darshan hall, his back to Swami, holding hands with others and shaking with awe whenever Swami came close. One day, he was doing his job, his back to Swami, and he was totally focussed on keeping those fellows who jump up – to get back down in their seats. He could not see Swami. I am watching Swami, watching him closely, he looks at the back of this fellow’s head for some seconds; some shakti, some gift of grace passes from the eyes into this fellow. I watched Swami continue giving darshan; I watched this fellow, this seva dal. He never knew that Swami had given him a divine gift in this darshan.
I am closer to the ladies side today. Swami stops outside on the way in and speaks with a seva dal. Moves slowly through the ladies side. I see Swami stop and make vibhuti, and many ladies hands shoot up for vibhuti, I see the light reflecting off their open palms. They don’t get up like the men, (they are far more disciplined), so it is a pleasing sight to see the ladies so close to Swami and his gifts, and so disciplined. Swami tells that ladies have more faith than men inherently. Crosses over and converses for quite some time with some lady devotees. When he arrives on the men’s side, he goes directly to the group wearing a rather attractive Aum Sai Ram scarf and speaks with them for some time. Talks, smiles, pauses. Face opens up as he gestures and speaks, moves his hand holding the letters in circles, emphasising what he is saying. Speaks to individuals here and there. Takes some letters. Moves on. Stops and speaks with more men. Crosses over, man with a huge roll of full sized photographs comes forward and stand his ground in the middle of a willing group trying to deliver letters to the divine postman; I watch and watch as he is crowded out and, finally, Swami taps the roll of photos!
Swami crosses over. Faces the men to my left, some distance away from me. He lifts his hand, palm up and I see rows and rows of hands joined in pranaams. I look down the hall, astounded at the instant response, nearly the whole hall has hands up to Swami, and he is responding to each and every one individually; he is an avatar! As he walked on, I thought, yes, these are the blessed of the Sai Avatar, these are his glory.
On the way to the verandah, Swami pauses and speaks with Anil Kumar. Anil Kumar’s head is nodding vigorously, from side to side, Swami is gesturing and speaking. Swami takes a few steps and walks away. Suddenly he stops and speaks further with Kumar, facing all of us, yet looking at him. Gestures with the hand holding letters, other hand goes up and down, emphasising this, that. Swami looks at all of us and lifts his hand in blessing.
Calls people on the verandah for interview. Men walk out onto the porch seeking spouses and children. Assistants go and get some more people. Swami sends the people in for interview, then stops outside, walks around the corner, and speaks with a lady for quite some time. Goes in. Music stops, darshan is over.
Sai Ram to you all from the abode of Highest Peace.