Bhagawan’s entourage, along with Mr and Mrs Ampilio, their daughter Mrs Silvia Velada, and Mr and Mrs Salvatore Iozzia, landed at the Bari International Airport, and reached Cisternino, which was an hour’s drive. It was an early start to the day, as the flight from Venice to Bari was at 7 am.
As the entourage entered ‘IL PORTICO’, a resort built in the typical Trulli architecture, a sense of tranquility took over. It is also the only vegetarian resort in that area. The place was a wonderful confluence of Man, Nature and God, and a little private Trulli was decorated as Swami’s beautiful residence.
Cisternino has a unique landscape of green valleys and small hills, interspersed with stone huts with tall conical roofs. There are plenty of them, now bought over by farmers and businessmen and renovated and restructured to suit a modern day living.
The moment Swami entered His little residence, He called everybody inside. All squeezed in to the small room, where a stone throne was made for Swami in a wall, that caved in to double up as a seat. The handful of people gathered around Him; it was such a nice and cozy feeling, literally in God’s lap! Truly indescribable!
Swami said, “When one visits such places in nature, one automatically feels spiritually elevated as nature is closest to God, being His closest manifestation! It reflects the selfless Love of God, by always giving, and never taking. When both the nature, outside and inside man become same, there is peace. For instance, if the temperature outside is less and your body temperature is higher, you will feel cold. Similarly, you will feel hot when the temperature outside is higher than your body temperature. But when both the temperature outside and your body temperature is the same, there is no more discomfort; you are at ease. Likewise, nature’s quality is selflessness; but if man is selfish, there won’t be peace. If men and women can become selfless like nature, they will be at peace.”
Swami was served His breakfast, a mix of Indian and Italian food. An Indian young man, flew down all the way from Sweden to cook Indian food for Swami!
As everyone proceeded for breakfast, Brother Madhusudan came after a while, and described what had happened after everyone left Swami’s room. Brother Madhusudan asked the host about Saint Padre Pio’s place, as Swami wanted everyone to go there. He explained that after all left Swami’s room, he noticed a man dressed in a long brown gown with a rope like belt tied to his waist, tall, lean and fair, with a little beard around the chin, who entered the room. He looked like a Brother from the Franciscan order of Assisi. He knelt down near Swami, took Swami’s hand and kissed it; perhaps the way they pay their obeisance, when they meet the Master. Thereafter, a conversation happened between him and Swami, which Brother Madhusudan said he could not understand, but as soon as they finished talking, Swami looked at Brother Madhusudan and told him to find out how to go to San Padre Pio’s place the next day, as he had invited Swami to visit his Church!
Truth is stranger than fiction as they say, Brother Madhusudan rushed out to enquire about the details of the place and the person, only to learn that it was three and a half hour’s drive from Cisternino, and that San Padre Pio had passed away, in the year 1969. However, he was the only other brother of Franciscan order who also was a priest, and had received the stigmata (wounds) of Lord Jesus, on his hands, feet, ribs and shoulder, which he bore till the end of his life. He was the most revered Saint in the recent times, and had a large following of devotees around the world.
Brother Madhusudan found out about the visit and returned back to Swami, while the messenger from San Padre Pio, still waited for the confirmation. Swami thereafter confirmed that He would visit them, the next day, post which the strange messenger disappeared!
After breakfast, all were taken to their respective rooms to rest till lunch time.
Lunch was an affair to remember, the cook could not accomplish the task in time, as the rice would not agree with the water, and refused to get cooked! There was pandemonium in the little kitchen, which transformed in to a battleground, almost! Worried and anxious about the outcome of the culinary efforts, finally the Indian Chef arrived with the lunch for Swami, an hour late, sweating anxiously, even in the cold!
Swami had a hearty laugh at the plight of the young man, revealed Brother Madhusudan. Swami said, cooking should give you joy, and not worry. Avoid hurry, worry and curry! He told him how the young man wanted to open an Indian restaurant but could not, but it would happen later. Young man, Shiju was very grateful for this blessing as that had been his desire! Swami narrated the story of a barber who while giving a haircut to the King, discovered that the King had horns on his head. Unable to keep the secret he blurted it out to the Royal cook by swearing him to secrecy. The cook though never shared this with anyone, yet kept thinking about it while cooking; as a result when people ate the food, instead of letting a loud belch of satisfaction, the sounds that were heard were strangely saying, “the King has horns on his head”, to everyone’s surprise. The embarrassed King called for the barber and upon investigation it was found that the cook who had prepared the meal, was thinking about it all along and his thoughts had gone from his head to the food, and now back to the heads of those who ate!
Swami’s advice to the young Chef was to keep his head cool and pure, lest the thoughts should get in to the food, and affect those who eat.
After a brief rest post lunch, all headed towards the Satsang venue which was organised in a hall, which was a 15 mins drive. Over 300 people had gathered, to be with Swami from the other cities of Bari, Milan, Padova and even Rome. Swami was driven to the venue by the son of Ms Lucia, to whom Swami had told in a dream 20 years ago about an ashram in the same area! Since then a group of them had bought a piece of land, formed an association, and worked on the permissions for construction of the hall in the ashram land called “SAI PREMA”. Swami, during His last visit had guided them accordingly.
The evening programme commenced with Alessandra Volpe, a opera singer of international fame. She sang the Ave Maria by Giulio Caccini, a 16th century musician. Her rendition was flawless and heart tugging. Thereafter, Mr Salvatore Iozzia welcomed Bhagawan, and the proceedings for the evening commenced.
Mr Isaac Tigrett, the first speaker, spoke about faith and the need to think from the heart, rather than the mind. He said that this was a phenomena beyond comprehension, and time was indeed running out, stressing on the fact that life is a journey from Atma to Atma.
Mr C Sreenivas who spoke next said that the cardinal virtue of life is prayer. He quoted a verse from the Bible which says that, man achieves more through prayer than anything else. He said, “If there is one panacea, remedy or aspiration that mankind should have, it is a life of prayer. He urged everyone to broaden their hearts and include all the beings, in all the worlds while praying. “In a world where we live for ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’, ‘Swami is here to take us on a beautifully hi journey of ‘I’ to ‘We’ to ‘He’.’
Mr BN Narasimha Murthy also stressed upon the importance of prayer and quoted the great mystic poet Tenesson, who said that more things can be achieved in the world through prayer. He said that the very fact that everyone was seated there with the Divine, was due to a prayer by each person. He said, ” We are all fortunate and blessed to be part of this phase of the Avatar. This phase is glorious and inspiring on one side; on the other side it is baffling and mysterious!” He said that we are very fortunate witnesses and participants in a very unique phase of the grand mission of Bhagawan, which is impossible to understand with our minds, but easy to experience with our hearts!
Bhagawan began His divine discourse with a Telugu poem, , ‘Just like how the reflection does not stick to a mirror, just like how the water does not stick to the leaf of a lotus, similarly sins will not stick to a person with devotion.’ Both birth and death are like a pair, just like the two wheels of a chariot, which move together. Even if one falls, the chariot cannot move. This is the secret of creation.
This world is full of dualities, and where there is darkness, there is light. Where there is heat, there is cold. Where there is joy, there is sorrow. Where there is pleasure, there is pain too. Birth and death, like the two wheels of a chariot, help the world move forward. All of us are born into this world with a manufacture and expiry date, Avatars being no exception. Whenever the Divine, who is ageless, formless and timeless, decides to encapsulate into a form, name and time, the rules of the world will apply. He puts upon Himself all the constraints that are part of the creation. When He acquires a body made up of the five elements, which is bound to go back into the five elements at some point in time, He also follows the same rule. No Avatars, no Messiahs, no Prophets, no Gurus have been an exception to this rule.”
Swami explained that it is a big mistake to identify them with the body. “Body belongs to them, but they are beyond the body, for they truly represent the eternal truth of the Atman”, He said.
Swami answered a few questions thereafter. One question was about karma, free will and divine sankalpa; how do these three combine together? ” Swami, we know Divine will is the most important, but what can we do to harmonise ourselves with Karma and the Divine will?”
Swami replied, ” Everybody who is born in this world, is bound by the rules of this world. This world is a world of action or Karma Bhoomi. Everyone who is born in this world, must engage in action. And, as is the kind of action, so is the result. Whoever performs the action, gets the result, which is similar to whoever eats the food, will belch.
But is it the human being, or is it the Divine encapsuled in the body which performs the action? If you think it is the human being who is performing the action, then you may call it human will or free will. But if your attitude is that it is the Divine who is the one who performs the actions, then it is Divine will. The truth is, there is only one will – the Divine will, and not two.”
Swami said that the Divine willed that all humans should be given this free will; a choice to decide what attitude to adopt! But humans may operate in a way that everything is divine, and ‘the Divine operates through me’. In truth, there is only one choice, Swami said, is to choose between the attitudes – “is it the Divine who is operating, or is it the body. Under the great Divine will this choice has been provided to you. And as long as you think, that it is this body, equipped with ‘this’ mind to perform the action, it comes under free will.”
Afer mangala Aarthi and prasadam, Bhagawan went back along with His entourage to ‘IL Portico’, after yet another glorious day with God!