The day began with much anticipation as Bhagawan was to visit Sarvodaya, a Foundation established by Dr A T Ariyaratne. He is the Founder of the Sarvodaya Shramadhana Movement, which is based on the principles of non-violence, rural development and self-sacrifice. This has shaped the Sarvodaya Movement in ways that forged a significant link between secular principles of development and Buddhist ideals of selflessness and compassion. The original Sanskrit definition of Sarvodaya is “the welfare of all,” but Dr Ariyaratne has redefined the term to reflect a Buddhist ideal, “the awakening of all.” The volunteers see selfless service to others as a way of changing their own consciousness into a more awakened and compassionate state, on the way to Nirvana.
Winner of many global awards, Dr Ariyaratne is also the recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, the Jamanlal Bajaj Award, as well as the Gandhi Peace Prize in India, and fondly called as ‘Mahatma Gandhi of Sri Lanka’. But more than anything, the octogenarian and his family have been ardent devotees of Bhagawan for many decades. Dr Ariyaratne was also awarded the Sri Sathya Sai Award for Human Excellence, which Swami instituted during His 91st Birthday in November 2016, for the category ‘Unity of Religions’.
After breakfast and a couple of interviews, Swami chaired the Board meeting of the Sri Sathya Sai Karuna Nilayam Foundation. The dining room of the Jayewardene residence was converted into a Board room! The Foundation that was formed by Bhagawan during his earlier visit in July 2015, has already taken the first steps to establish an Ashram at Batticaloa where an elaborate Ashram with medical, educational and spiritual facilities is coming up at a breakneck speed. The esteemed members of the Board as well as attendees who were invited, discussed the various initiatives undertaken by the Foundation so far, with the latest being the construction work of the Medical Clinic. The members are leading the Foundation by waking the talk as they have sacrificed much to make the vision of Swami come true. Swami advised them to have some permanent staff to look after the Ashram work and said, “Foundation of a building needs various material like sand, stones, steel, gravel, cement, water etc. which need to be used in the right proportions to make it strong. Likewise, each one of you have a role to play based on your inner aptitude, qualities and abilities. Only when each one plays their part correctly and adequately, can My work happen seamlessly.” Swami advised them to contemplate on their roles and come up with insights which can help them do their Seva better. He also assured them that He was with them to guide and help at every step. After the meeting concluded, Swami returned to His room for a brief while, before proceeding to the next meeting at Sarvodaya institutions.
What unfolded in the next two and a half hours is something which cannot be explained in mere words. One witnessed the true essence of Bhagawan’s teachings, Seva. It was a pure, Divine experience, and the entire time the heart was over flowing with unsullied love, reducing everyone to mere tears. The Lord first proceeded to the residence of Dr Ariyaratne, and blessed his meditation room, before proceeding to Suwa Setha, an orphanage for infants. These abandoned children, or atleast what seemed to an onlooker where indeed the most fortunate, as God chose to visit and bless them! Dr Ariyaratne revealed that 37 such centres are present all over Sri Lanka, giving love and light to children. Another interesting and endearing fact was that the lady Ms Malki who is currently managing this particular centre, was also brought to the orphanage like one of these infants few decades ago and today she takes immense pride in serving and giving back to the society what she was given! Everyone present there were truly blessed to witness pure love that engulfed the entire place, and there was not a dry eye in the room.
A couple of minutes’ drive from the orphanage was the Meditation Center, Vishva Niketan, a peace centre and a place for all to pursue the ideal of inner and outer peace. In creating an atmosphere of tranquility and serenity close to nature, Vishva Niketan aims to awaken people to their inner spirituality so that they may return to the world beyond to create constructive change. Swami walked into the area where many Awards received by Dr Ariyaratne were displayed. He said, “Contentment is his award. That happiness which he receives by serving others is his true award.” Looking at a media article with the headline, ‘The power of Selflessness’, which was framed and displayed on the wall, Swami said, “The power is selflessness. That is the real power!”
Bhagawan spent a lot of time walking all around Vishva Nikethan, managed by Dr Charika Marasinghe, daughter of Dr Ariyaratne. Swami proceeded to a very serene setting, walking amidst beautiful trees, where a large statue of Lord Buddha was installed. Lord Buddha had meditated under 27 trees at various points through His life, and symbolically all these 27 trees have been planted all around the statue, including the Bodhi tree, the sapling of which was brought from Anuradhapura. Lord Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. Bhagawan then proceeded to inaugurate the Cancer Counselling Center, and lighted the traditional lamp, signed the register, leaving His abundant blessings, and then proceeded to the Satsang venue where over 500 people were gathered.
Dr Ariyaratne commenced the Satsang by expressing his gratitude to Swami for having graced and blessed Sarvodaya, and stressed on the importance of selfless service offered with love. Swami then commanded Sri B N Narasimha Murthy to speak, who was too overwhelmed to say anything. In his very short speech, he said, “One name that Swami would love to be called is ‘compassion.’ We have seen great work that is being done sheltering orphans, destitute, providing Annam (food) and Anandam (highest happiness). Swami has always said ‘I am searching for a true devotee’. I think it has ended when He has visited Sarvodaya! This is the work dearest to God. In the last three years, we have visited 25 countries, I would confess that nothing matches the great work. Dr Ariyaratne is the true follower of all religions. Sarvodaya is the ‘Sai Uddhaya’ (rising of divinity), in every heart. God is truly born in the heart of human beings.”
Swami delivered His Divine message thereafter, which was translated to Sinhala by Dr Ariyaratne’s daughter Dr Charika, and also by another translator in Tamil. The Lord started with a Shloka from the Upanishads,‘Sarvé bhavantu sukhinah, Sarvé santu niramayah, Sarvé bhadrani pashyantu, Ma kashchid duḥkhabhag bhavét.’
Swami said, “This is the essence of culture of humanity which means, Let all beings be happy, Let all beings be healthy, Let all beings see only auspicious and nobody should ever have any sorrow. ‘Sarvodaya‘ means that which is for the emancipation of everyone, not one or two. To pray for oneself, one’s own family and one’s own relations is natural to everyone. But to pray for everyone is a Divine quality. To think that some people belong to me and others do not, is being narrow minded. To think that the whole world belongs to me, is being broad minded. Truly, a person is emancipated when one gives up narrow mindedness which is born out of selfishness, and becomes broad minded, which is born out of selflessness. Rivers do not differentiate, and flow for everyone. The sun does not rise for one country, and not for the other. His light and warmth is equal for everyone. If you look around, there is gentle breeze blowing. It gives life giving oxygen without any differentiation. Likewise, the human birth has been given to serve everyone – ‘Sarva‘ without any differentiation. God’s quality manifests in the creation, and this should manifest in everyone too. To eat, to sleep, to be afraid and to procreate are common between human beings and animals. If we live by just these four aspects, we will not be better than animals. But humans are capable of much higher things; they are capable of loving and serving everyone in a Divine way. Therefore, it is said, this body has been given to serve others – ‘Paropakaram Idham Shareeram.’ There are very few people who know the real value of life by serving others, and Dr Ariyaratne is one of them. Just breathing, eating, sleeping and growing alone is not a being a human. But it is about loving and serving everyone. In 2006, I told I will visit and bless all the people. Therefore, I am here to simply participate in the great work that is being done and partake the bliss that is being derived from such Seva. One may think all this was very easy, as it appears to be, but the challenges he and his family have faced cannot be described in mere words! Today, the world knows more of the glory, but the story behind this glory is known to only a few. He compromised and sacrificed the needs of his family and wife, but God did not keep quiet. He took care of his family. Why go far, let Me tell you the story of his daughter who is translating now. There was a time when she wanted to go for education, but he did not have money and there was confusion as to how she would go to study. Look at the stituation, fees has to be paid, he has no money and what would he tell her? And then comes a message, the fees has been paid! The Principal said ‘Are you that great man’s daughter? Let me do atleast this much for you.’ If you help others, God will help you!
Every time you raise and stretch your hand to lift a child close to your chest, you are bringing God close to your bosom. Don’t look for God in churches, synagogues, monasteries and temples. He may or may not be there, but He is definitely in the hearts of the poor and those who are suffering. Giving up a living God right in front of you, don’t run behind idols. It is my wish and blessing that Sarvodaya will work for centuries and centuries for uplifting mankind from suffering and pain! I may be seen or not seen, I may be heard or not heard, but know that I am there right behind you to support you in all ways! There is much more that needs to be done for this wonderful country of Sri Lanka, and I am behind you, until we reach out to that last person in need!”
After Bhagawan’s electrifying discourse, Dr Ariyaratne once again took to the podium and expressed his love and gratitude to the Lord. He offered a golden idol of Lord Buddha to Swami as a token of his gratitude.
After Mangala Arati and Prasadam, Bhagawan proceeded to the Jayewardene residence for lunch, and the entourage packed to proceed for the Airport. Mangala Arati was offered to Bhagawan, and He blessed Mr Ravi, Mrs Penny, and the organising team who had worked tirelessly for this visit of the Lord.
As the entourage proceeded to the Airport after a glorious day and a half in Sri Lanka, with Sri Rama Himself, they will have filled with a sense of gratitude to the Lord for having blessed them with a beautiful beginning to the New Year, and recollected what Swami told all the devotees earlier that day in the Satsang, “I will come to Lanka, every New Year!”.