Ashram Visit: Gandhi Jayanti, 2001

darshanSwami was working right up to bhajans, calling people in for business. Business is administrator of this, administrator of that, Secretary of this, Department Head in College, etc, etc, all called in for 5 or 10 minutes into the room. Someone comes out of the room during the start of bhajans. Swami comes out and waits, continues talking with an admin orderly and then takes his seat during the first bhajan.

Tonight, instead of the flutes at 5PM, I relaxed and listened to this magnificent raga of veena (?), harmonium and mdirangam, it is utterly magnificent to listen to. Most pleasing. We seem to get this musical boon every second or third night. Lights are on in the mandir, but not over Swami. Sitting in his chair, slightly silhouetted against the other lights in the mandir, we can see his hand moving, keeping time with the bhajans. Loudspeakers on, it is Evening bhajans. Students singing.

Listening to bhajans. Ganesh, Devi, Guru. Hare bolo natha Shiva shambo hare, Hare Sai natha Shiva shambo hare, As those two lines are sung, I feel a vibration in my heart actually follow the tune of the bhajan. I am stunned, it seems to me that the Atma within me dances along to the words, rhythm and pace of the bhajan. I was totally peaceful when that occurred.

Swami leaves his chair quickly. The bhajan leader chants the Arathi. Students stand up peering around the edge of the mandir. Swami is walking toward the women, hand lifted in blessing. Ashram staff pause, and join their hands in pranams. Narayana, Narayana, Narayana Om Sathya, he walks down past the waiting women and out of Sai Kulwant Hall. Every one on the men’s side is up on their knees, hands joined in pranaams. I glance and look back down the hall, it is FULL of devotees.

Loka Samastha; the assembled divines of the Sai Avatar pauses as the day draws to a close. In the descending darkness, many many standing still with hands joined in pranaams taking a last look at the receding, enchanting Divine Form for the day. I wonder on that; there has been darshan, interviews, bhajans, darshan, interviews, bhajans, yet Swami is still attractive, enchanting, alluring, drawing love, giving love. Utter silence as everyone stops and watches Swami enter Poornachandra. An enchanted silence. Air full of bliss.

Today is Tuesday, Gandhi Jayanthi – 132 years since the birth of Gandhi. All students come for darshan; the hall fills up. Swami comes, moves through the Ladies swiftly. I observe many fathers with little sons attending darshan. I don’t mind toddlers standing up and blocking my vision, its important that they get to see Swami. Even more important is the terrific example their fathers set. As Swami approaches, he does move quickly again, stopping only to take a few letters here and there. As Swami passes I reflect on his love that emanates from him, and his calling us Premaswarupa, Embodiments of Divine Love, in his discourses. Students take photos as he ascends the steps and stands near the lions. Very few called for interview. Madding crowd depart for breakfast, students remain. Find my chappals. Odd, I separated them and set the straps so I could put them on easily. Someone had put them together neatly, with straps tied. I wonder.

Afternoon Darshan. Swami arrives at 2.25pm. Warm afternoon, the sky is blue, the Sun is busy at work. Swami stops in the first section of Ladies, and gestures three times toward some ladies. I am far away, Swami is a dark ochre robe and small brown face surrounded by black. He comes closer, there is a bit more light on him, he takes sporadic letters. Stays on the one side, does not cross over the red carpet. As he arrives in the middle, a student takes a photo. Swami moves through the students and arrives on the men’s side.

I saw a young Korean? Japanese? lad in the front row. Every day he is first in that queue to go into the Mandir for meditation after darshan, and often scores a place in the lines for morning bhajans. He has put in a lot of diligent effort. Swami took his letter and gave him a firm tap on the head and said “good man”. He was up on his knees, his face full of happiness, pranaams, asking for an interview. Too late, Swami has moved away from him. His face fell and he sat, morose. I looked at him and I thought just how blessed and fortunate he was. Somewhere I recall Swami has told of the significance of this boon. If I recall, the spiritual advancement and graces granted by such a touch on the head cannot be obtained even via lifetimes of penance. It is a boon that can only be conferred by a Poorna Avatar.

Swami had moved on. Now he stops near me and faces toward a hall filled with men offering pranaams. He smiles, one hand with letters, eyes sparkling, and gently lifts his hand again and again. It is a moment of pure silence, timelessness as he pauses. The Lord Sai moves on. Men call out Swami! Swami!, and tremble from rows back with their letters. He walks slowly and does not take many letters until he arrives at the top and begins to turn. Here, Swami takes several handfuls of letters, and instead of transferring them to his left hand, he hands them directly to the man behind him with the plastic bag. Swami does not turn, he just moves his hand back behind him and the letters are taken. Rounding the top, Swami faces all of us, and again lifts his hand, palm up: is it lifting – raising energy? Is it in blessing? I wonder. Moves onto the porch with letters in hand.

Arrive for Bhajans. I observe lady seva dals sweeping the red carpet laid from the hall to the door at Poornachandra; they are using those unique Indian brooms to sweep. At 5PM, the flutes again. Swami still at work when bhajans starts. Takes his chair midway through the first bhajan. From time to time, I see his hand moving in time with the music. All too quickly, the bhajans are over, Swami gets up and leaves. Walks the red carpet, his hand constantly up in blessing. The day darkening, the hall lights are on, and as Swami leaves the hall, it is sundown, and the light rays have that vibrancy for a moment or so; Swami’s robe is a brilliant oriflamme as he crosses over out of the hall to the path. Constantly, his hand is up in blessing, as people line the stairwells and the back footpath in front of South Prashanthi.

I wait for a friend under the tree in front of the Ganesh Temple. Moving people everywhere. Looking for chappals in between bicycles, in a heaped pile of thongs that all look the same. Policeman’s whistle sounds a constant tattoo out on Main Street. Bhat, the Pujari, has placed fresh garlands and flowers on Lord Ganesh, and is waving new sticks of incense in front of the idol. He turns the temple light on. Masses of people come up, spouses look for spouses, people meet, now, a white blanket of students come. Moving slowly, the crowd vies with cars that trundle toward the gate. Groups of people wait under the tree as students thread their way through the crowd and walk back to the college. A tiny student pops up near me, stops, closes his eyes, faces Ganesh and touches his forehead. Instantly, he is gone. A quiet hum of people talking, I stop and let go my focus; I discern peace and bliss in the air. People collect bicycles and scooters, leave. More women arrive, looking, waiting. Bhat is in the Murugan temple now, I watch as he places garlands on Lord Murugan. I meet my friend and turn to leave. Behind me is the temple of the Nagas, the snake gods, and I see women placing garlands on the idols. On the way out I pass new pilgrims fresh off the bus, entering the ashram with their little suitcases, and lady passes me, new garlands in her hand, ready to place in a temple. Outside the gate, whistles pierce the dust.

Sai Ram to you all from the Abode of Highest Peace


Sri Sathya Sai Baba



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