Ashram Visit 2001: Snapshots of the Divine Valley

the ashram workshopWe conclude the 2001 visit to Prashanthi Nilayam for occasion of Guru Poornima and the Bal Vikas Guru’s Convention. Much has happened on the internal level and we have shared the fruits of devotion – and otherwise – that came on this visit. Now, we have some small reflections on the time spent in the Divine Valley, wrapped around the Chitravathi River.

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Ashram Visit: 6 July 2001

keep the focusA 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.

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Triptych of Eclipses (Second Part)

The moon covers the sun in a rare ‘ring of fire’ solar eclipse as seen from the southern Indian city of Dindigul in Tamil NaduOver the period of one month from June 5th to July 5th, 2020, we will have three eclipses. The first – on 5-6 June was a penumbral lunar eclipse visible over all of Africa, Europe, South East Asia and the Indian Ocean. There will be an annular solar eclipse on June 21 which will start in Africa and finish over the Pacific Ocean. The third eclipse of 4-5 July will sighted over most of Africa, most of north and south America and Antartica.

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World Refugee Day: Every Action Counts

World Refugee Day LogoWorld Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe. It falls each year on June 20 and celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution. World Refugee Day is an occasion to build empathy and understanding for their plight and to recognise their resilience in rebuilding their lives.

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Ashram Visit: 5 July 2001

at the microphoneWhen the festivals occur in Prashanti Nilayam, devotees travel for days to reach the ashram. It is not uncommon to find devotees have arrived during the night after the accommodation office has closed, and sleeping on the grass as the dawn breaks. It is Guru Pournima, the festival of the Guru (and Sage Vyasa) and the ashram is crowded. So crowded, I cannot get into the darshan hall. Neither can many others, we have to make do … just as those who have arrived from overseas during the night have to make do …

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Ashram Visit: The Convention Closes

at the microphoneDarshan, sparshan and sambarshan: we want to be the recipients of Swami’s gaze, his speech, his loving touch. Amongst the crowds that gather for divine darshan, we can feel that we are far, far, away, and forget all that He has said about how close he is to us, closer than the eyelid is to the eye! Yes, grace is anugraha, the smallest of the small, that which seizes us, and lifts us up into that feeling of joy, bliss and Oneness with divinity.

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International Day of Yoga – 21 June

International Day of Yoga logoThe International Yoga Day, marked on June 21, since 2015 is a gift of India to the world. The idea to mark the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, June 21, as the International Yoga Day was proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the United Nations General Assembly in 2014. Out of the 193 member states of the United Nations, the proposal was approved by 177 co-sponsoring countries.

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Ashram Visit: Not All Cheese and Bikkies

blissSwami has sometimes referred to Prashanti Nilayam as the mechanic’s repair shop, or the workshop. We go there, get infused by His grace (yes, even now, so many years after his leaving the physical form) and repairs are done, internally, externally, and from time to time, we may experience a challenge to our habitual behaviours, and perhaps, be confronted by the way we react to external stimuli and events. So here is a narrative of one such challenge and the journey towards internal self-understanding of the mind and is machinations. Sai Ram …

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Ashram Visit: 5 July 2001

pink robeThis evening, I took a walk around the ashram during evening bhajans, for it was a festival time, many visitors had come (yes, the red and white APRTC buses ply Canteen Avenue) and there were quite a few temporary structures – mostly tent affairs called shamina – that had been erected to provide seva to all the additional visitors. It is quite the crowded ashram at this time, yet, there is a hum of contentment, peace and satisfaction from the visitors that they are home: at home with Swami. It is so peaceful amid the hustle and bustle of the service being rendered, here.

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Ashram Visit: July 3, 2001

in the mandiramThe question comes to my mind, ‘What is satisfactory darshan’? (Satisfactory not referring to how I might feel or not feel implying anything about darshan being good or bad. That is a subjective ‘satisfactory’.) An intriguing reply: Preparation, Presence and Retinue. Hmm. Much food for thought in that reply.

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Ashram Visit: 2 July 2001

Sai BabaThe hot, gusty wind wraps Swami’s robe around him as he enters the darshan hall. He is dark, again silhouetted against the trees, the light green hedge surrounds the Stupa; the flagpoles and lamp posts at the rear of Poornachandra have all been decorated with bright colours, gold, silver, red, green, and the white uniform of the seva dal; all these provide a brilliant background to Swami as he walks into the shadows of the darshan hall. The hot gusty wind continues to play with his robe as he walks on slowly. Entering the ladies side, here and there, he stops, further on he touches a tray, takes a letter. Moves slowly on, still dark, still silhouetted against the green surrounds of the stupa.

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Ashram Visit: July 1, 2001

a pensive Sai I observe Swami closely as he speaks with some men. His head moves in that little nod, his whole expression rises as the dialogue continues, his visage takes on a most open and inviting aspect. It is difficult to communicate this, it is almost as if his eyes sparkle, he opens up who he is somehow as he asks different men questions. His eyes, eyebrows, face, lips, and expression seem to transform to a really close friend who is really, really interested in what you have to say …

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Ashram Visit: 30 June, 2001

handsHere, something happened in this darshan; Swami was way up top in front of the mandir, talking to men. All were seated, attending Swami. Suddenly he gestured quickly to a man 5 or 6 rows back; he came forward with his letter; Swami took and moved on. No one else got up. Perhaps that was a sign, Swami knows exactly where everyone is, and knows exactly their needs and responds just so.

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Ashram Visit, June 28, 2001

Ambassador car, IndiaI travelled from Whitefield to Puttaparthi in a new Ambassador taxi (I was totally surprised, wondering to myself, ‘They still make these cars?’) on a smooth road. Well, it was smooth except for parts of the back road to Hoskote, very lumpy, holes, axle-grinding kinda road… Shortly after motoring along National Highway 7 we passed the turn-off to Nandi Hills. Out of the blue, a six lane highway appeared. My jaw fell off in shock; I nearly missed my favourite Shirdi Sai Baba Mandir (something I always look for on a journey). Glancing over, I noted that a new (mandir) (covered area?) is being constructed at the rear. I am sitting in the front seat of this new Ambassador car, still in shock over this surprise, a six lane highway divided with a meridian strip. ‘My, my, how India progresses’, I thought to myself. All too soon, it disappears and the highway reverts to the typical two lane carriageway. I think maybe some Shirdi Sai devotees have urged construction of a highway. Six lanes, I have never seen this in India…

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