A sunny morning, excited laughters, sumptuous breakfast, and the eagerness to be in Swami’s presence was felt amongst every single person present on the first morning of the 2019 Kodai Retreat at the Sri Sathya Sai Anand Ashram. Swami emerged at around 10 a.m., and walked down towards the Prayer Hall which reverberated with melodious Bhajans. After a few more Bhajans, Sri B N Narasimha Murthy welcomed everyone who had gathered from so many countries. He went on to talk about how the very first retreat at Kodaikanal took place in the year 2014, with a handful of students, staff and devotees. He also recounted the events that had occurred which led to the establishment of Sri Sathya Sai Anand Ashram, the Hilltop Bungalow in Kodaikanal.
Swami beckoned Brother Vijay Sai to speak to everyone, who narrated various instances of Swami’s humour and childlike demeanour. His speech as always was laced with humour, and indeed a wonderful start to the Kodai Retreat, as everyone reminisced the good old days when Swami was in His physical frame, and would bring His students and staff to Kodaikanal every year.
Swami then delivered His discourse by saying, “All of us are here not because of what we are today, or because of the relation that we have today with each other. We are here because we have been with each other for many many births. You do not know about it but I know about it. So when I look at you, I don’t look at you as what you are today. You may be a boy or a girl or a young or old, thin or a fat man. I know you from many many births and that is why we are here again and again and again to spend time with each other!” He went on speak about the four stages of becoming God – Salokyam, Sameepyam, Sarupyam, Sayujyam.
Swami said, “You came as students, devotees, or in whichever capacity, you joined this Institution and this association. This is the first stage. Second stage is to come closer to God, and become dearer to God. How do you become dearer, nearer? Do things that God likes. Speak the truth. Don’t hurt anyone. Be kind. Serve everybody. Be disciplined. Love everyone. From that closeness, comes the likeness to God. You become like God. People will say, ‘I see you, I see Swami in you because you are so compassionate, you are so kind, you are so loving. Truly you are not just students and devotees. You are Swami personified in these forms.’ This is the kind of feeling others get when they see you. And ultimately a day comes when there is no difference between you and Swami, you become one with God because you have been continuously living in that thought of God. So I create opportunities for you to come so that you can understand what is God, His love and compassion, what He expect from us, how to become close to God, and ultimately how to become God Himself. You can become God by constantly living in that thought of God!”
Mangala Arati was offered to Swami, and thereafter He proceeded to partake His lunch with all the guests.
In the evening, invited devotees along staff and students eagerly waited for Swami’s arrival. A little after 5 p.m., Swami came down the staircase of the Bungalow to the living room where close to 150 staff, students and guests from India and around the world had gathered. After a few Bhajans, Swami spoke about how when the name is sung, the very form manifests. “Whatever name you sing, God will take that form and come, that is how the name and form are connected. Every name has a form and every form has a name. So when God who is nameless and formless decides to take a form, He also takes a name, and when He decides to take a name He also takes a form. Krishna was being weighed on the balance with gold, so the wives decided that since it was Krishna’s birthday, they should give out as much gold as Krishna weighed. The poor wives thought that since Krishna was not too heavy, he would not weigh much, and hence had decided on gold. It was their ego which had given rise to such a thought. But can gold ever match Krishna’s value and their thought of giving the equal quantity of gold in charity on His birthday? So with Krishna on one side and gold on other side, they continued adding more gold, but the balance did not even budge! How much ever gold was put, Krishna was not getting lifted at all. Finally, the wives had to remove their jewellery! Both Rukmini and Satyabhama looked at each other’s face and realised their mistake. What can be equal to Krishna? Can gold ever match Krishna? Can all the wealth of the world ever match Krishna? Can all the things that you get in the world even equal Him? Krishna alone is equal to Krishna! What else can be equal to God? God alone is equal to God! Then, Rukmini took a small Tulsi leaf and took out her hair pin and wrote ‘Krishna’ on it and put it on the balance. Immediately it weighed equal! Krishna is equal to Krishna. Krishna’s name itself is equal to Krishna’s form!”
Swami then beckoned a grade six student Vinod Salunke from the Karwar Campus to speak. The clarity of thought in the child’s speech was par excellence! At such a tender age, he had the understanding about the Lord, and His magnanimous ways! The student quoted John F. Kennedy and reminisced what he told, ‘We should not say what America has done for us, rather ask what we have to do for America.’ The boy went on to submit to everyone gathered that one should not ask Swami for anything, rather the question should be what each one can do for Swami! He said that many talk about the glow on the face of students studying in Swami’s institutions. He prayed selflessly to Swami that He should institutions around the world, so every child on planet earth can have the same divine glow on their face!
Swami beamed with pride listening to this child’s speech. He then called upon a Pre University student Yuva Supreet Reddy to address the gathering. He was emotionally choked and all that he could say was that though his parents live in Dubai, and he has not been able to see them for the last three years, his beloved Mother Sai is his everything! He offered his deep gratitude and love to Swami for giving him this unique opportunity.
Swami then asked Sri PDN Srinivasu, the Vice Chancellor of the Sri Sathya Sai University for Human Excellence to talk about the various courses and facilities offered by the University. Thereafter, Swami spoke about the wonderful Seva done by the 14 families of Singapore. He then called Ryan Tan, a spirited youth from Singapore to address the gathering. After his soul stirring speech, Swami commented about how youths like Ryan live outside the country, but have their minds fixed on God!
Mangala Arati was offered to Bhagawan, and after dinner Prasadam, He retired for the night.