After taking an early morning flight from Cisternino, Bhagawan’s entourage along with Mr & Mrs Ampilio and Mr & Mrs Salvatore Iozza reached Rome at around 9 am. A loving welcome awaited the team by Brother Mario and others, who drove everyone straight to the house of Mrs Maria Buffa, who was to host Swami in her beautiful villa, North of Rome, amidst the picturesque nature. Swami had named her villa “Casa del Divino”, The Divine Villa. Truly it was divine, for it was to house the Divine!
Swami who had come by the skyline (Akasha) was already there to meet the team! As everyone entered Casa del Divino, He went up the stairs to see the renovated rooms for the guests, and thereafter came down to His room. The room had put on a certain charm which wasn’t there last year! Though it was Mrs Maria’s room and perhaps the biggest in the Villa, she wholeheartedly offered it as a permanent residence of Swami, by making iterations that were needed to suit Swami’s comfort, while she herself took up a small room on an upper floor. Swami was touched by this gesture and asked her, ” Isn’t it a problem for you to climb up another floor to your room?” She replied in her broken English, “Little problem”. Swami smiled and said, “I will give you good health, so that you can climb up and down without any problem!” He was happy! “Please let me only serve you till my last breath Swami”, she prayed.
A new bed was bought for Swami, which is a traditional Italian bed, in the shape of a boat, called the Barouka (the boat), used generally by the nobility in Italy. The furniture was antique, almost 200 years old, and the carpets too were the gifts of the Italian Queen to the Grandfather of Mrs Maria, who was a Priest of high order, for the Royalty. All this did not go unnoticed by the discerning eye of the King of Kings!
After a brief rest, lunch was served to all, a thoughtful mix or Indian and Italian delight, to suit all palates.
In the evening, a program for the youth was organized in a villa which was about 15 mins drive from the home, through the most beautiful landscape of Italy! About 100 youth and an equal number of ‘youthful’ were present in the hall of the large vintage Italian villa, set amidst nature’s bounty.
Bhajans were in progress, sung by the most wonderful members of ‘The Gopi’s Band ‘, a group of young and old singers lead by a maverick musician by name Marcello Malvica who plays Sitar, Flute, Harmonium, percussion and sings as well. A one man army of a musician!
At the very entrance Swami was greeted by the Sister from Assisi, Sister Giovanna, an octogenarian, with a twig from an olive tree from Assisi, representing peace! She serves in the mission of Saint Francis of Assisi. (To let you know a bit more about her, during the World Youth Meet in November 2015, when Swami asked the organising team to invite a Priest from Italy, appointments were not available. Swami told Brother Salvatore to go to Assisi. He had said, “An 81-year-old Sister will meet you and she will come! Invite her to Muddenehalli!” True to the Lord’s words, Mr Salvatore and his wife Mrs Kiera, went all the way to Assisi, where they met her, as revealed by Swami! The rest is history; she travelled all the way from Assisi to Muddenahalli be a speaker at the World Youth Meet. She felt the calling from within her heart; she was not a devotee and didn’t know about Swami. She told the gathering that she believed this was the best opportunity of God, and she would not have missed coming!)
A small musical offering was made by the band of musicians, a wonderful Italian song on Love was the highlight!
After this short rendering, Sister Kiara welcomed the gathering. The programme began with Sister Giovanna from Assisi, lighting a ceremonious candle and offering the famous prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi. “Make me a channel of your peace!” Truly moving, especially when she ended the poem with the last line that was modified by Swami Shivananda of Rishikesh when he visited Assisi as, “It is in dying – to petty self – that we are born in to the eternal heaven”. Precisely as Swami says, ‘I’ must be given up to have SAI.
She expressed her happiness to receive Swami & His guests here in Italy, after meeting in MDH.
Mr Salvatore introduced two youth speakers thereafter, who have dedicated themselves to the service of society completely.
Brother Girolamo Grammatico was the first speaker. Born in Sicily, he is writer and a life coach. He has been serving the homeless in Italy. He said, “When I think about what I do, Kubera’s story (kubera is the God of wealth and riches in the Hindu mythology.) comes to my mind, where he invited Lord Shiva to His sumptuous banquet, to display all his riches. But Lord Shiva sent Lord Ganesha, who devoured everything. But, his hunger was insatiable. In a state of panic, Kubera went to Lord Shiva and asked for forgiveness, and the solution to satiate the Ganesha’s hunger. The Lord asked Kubera to give a handful of roasted rice with love and humility. Kubera did the same and Ganesha was satisfied! Why am I thinking about this story? Because, to help the impoverished, we need a humble attitude and realise the great privilege to be able to serve them! Lord Ganesh reminds us that a few grains of rice of God, are enough to satiate the hunger of our soul and be happy.”
This was followed by Sister Pauline Bonazolli. She is of Indian origin, but adopted by an Italian family, when she was barely one and a half years old. She said, “Thanks to the devotion of my mother, I have always attended the Sai Center since a young age, and was part of Bal Vikas and youth. At the age of 18, I had my first experience with helping disabled children during the summer holiday. This experience opened a path of embracing others. It has been six years since I started working for a home of the disabled, and my life has changed. When Kiara asked me to speak in front of Swami, earlier this month, I started focusing on my shortcomings. There has been a transformation within since, and I am grateful to Swami.” She prayed to Swami, for youth to understand their goal and to help live with the right attitude.
Sri C Sreenivas was the next speaker for the evening. He spoke about the role of youth in Bhagawan’s mission and said that in all these years he has been with Swami, the Lord knew only two kinds of youth, “the young and the younger!”
He said, “If there was a prayer that touched thousands of children in India, it would be that of St Francis of Assisi. Everybody heard, imbibed and practised the principles laid down by the prayer.”
He went to tell the youth that if there was one time when Swami was always happy, it was when He was with the youth. That was the very purpose of His mission; the youth meant everything to Him! He said, “It is a great blessing to know that you have a connection with Swami, a connect with God Almighty. When this connect happens at such a young age, it is truly the strength, meaning and definition of life! The connect with God, and this good fortune, which the youth are able to imbibe and grasp at a young age, brings so much richness to life. First, we must remember how fortunate we are, to have a connection with Swami. Every chapter that we will write, will depend on the connect with Him. It does not matter how many follow a leader, it is to realise how much there is to follow in a leader! This is important.
What we have, is God’s gift to us. What we make of it, is our gift to God. In this process, our life gets made!”
Sri Narasimha Murthy recollected the divine and mysterious happenings of the last few days in the spiritual land of Italy, which is so similar in its cultural and spiritual heritage to India. He talked about the manifestation of Swami along with Mother Mary and Baby Jesus at the Basilica of Mary of Good Health in Venice. He also narrated about the appearance and invitation of Padre Pio to Saint Giovanni Rotunda. He drew parallel to the heritage of spirituality that both the countries have, and even today continue to lead the world in a spiritual way. Urging the youth to learn and practise these great spiritual truths, he concluded his talk by praying to Swami for His divine message.
Swami started by quoting from the Scriptures – the narrow minded differentiate between people, as their own and others. Whereas for the broad minded, the whole world is their family, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. He told the youth that they must serve all as their own, and do it for their own happiness more than anything else. If they are happy by making others happy, Swami who is in both, will also be happy.
“The youth today are seeking happiness in the transient pleasures of this sensory world, but they find it does not exist there. True happiness is within, which is permanent. To seek the water below in the bowels of earth, layers of earth and stones must be removed. Likewise, to reach this happiness within, one must remove the layers of I and Mine. Serving all as ours, is the way to happiness. While young, one can use hands (body), head (mind) and heart (spirit) well. Start early, drive slowly, and reach safely. We must learn to use all the faculties given by God to reach Him.
Last November (World Youth Meet), I told you to work on yourself, and make yourselves ready for my work. Just as you need to first practise driving a car in an open ground till you get a control over the vehicle, then alone you can go to a busy road and drive. You have all obtained a learner’s licence, but now you must practise enough to get a driver’s licence, so that you are capable of driving this vehicle of your body, without causing any accidents to yourselves and hurting others. It’s only then you can reach your destination, and also carry others along. Having good control on your mind and sense is a must to go further in spirituality.
I am happy to note that some youth, the speakers, are doing seva. Truly to me, quality of seva is more important than quantity. It should be done for your happiness, for your transformation first. No need of starting more Seva projects. Rather join the youth who are already engaged in some seva and strengthen them. If all of us start digging wells in many places, we may take long before we reach water. Instead, if all start digging in the same place, we can go deeper faster”.
Thereafter Swami answered a few questions to the delight of all. When someone asked, “Swami what should I not do, that makes you unhappy?”, Swami replied, “Bangaru (dear golden one), just now I told whatever makes you happy, makes me happy; whatever makes you sad, makes me sad too. I am in you”.
Another person asked, ” How to control the desires?” Swami said, “Mind is like a child, wanting to play all the time. If you ask the child not to go out and play as it is raining, the child will start playing inside, and will not simply stay quiet. Likewise, if the mind needs to be detached from the worldly desires, then it must get attached to the divine desires, it won’t simply remain unattached! Replacing lower desires with higher ones is the way, till you have the highest desire of God, attaining which no desires remain”.
Another youth who asked about, “how to behave when we are in bad company due to the kind of friends we have”, Swami said, “First of all, avoid bad company. That is the ABC of life, thereafter join good company. What’s the use of eating stale and rotten food which spoils the stomach? Rather stay hungry. What’s the use of bad company which ruins you? Rather stay without any company. Be with yourself, if you don’t have good people around; engage yourself in service. When you are trying to be good, you are like a tender sapling that needs the protection of a fence, so that it’s not grazed away by animals. But, when you become good, you are like a tree which is strong, and can even shelter the same animals which were a harm to it a while ago. When you are not so strong your company will change you, but as you evolve you start changing the people around you. As you start changing, your company will change too”.
After answering many questions, Swami blessed them with Prasadam and left for the residence of Mrs Maria Buffa. While in the car Swami told Mr Salvatore, “I am grateful to you for driving me today to meet my devotees, some day I will drive you and help you reach your destination of divinity!”
The day ended after the dinner was served to Swami, a fine assortment of Italian pizzas and cakes, along with rice, curry and curds!