Niigata lies on the northwest coast of Honshu, the largest island of Japan, and faces the Sea of Japan. It is the capital and the most populous city of Niigata Prefecture, Japan. It is also said to be one of the most holiest and ancient parts of Japan. No wonder this holy land was picked by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba to build an Ashram, as part of the 17 Ashrams which will serve as spiritual light houses around the world.
Swami’s entourage which also included two young Engineering students from the Sri Sathya Sai Centre for Human Excellence departed Bangalore on Thursday, March 08 in the morning. With an overnight transit at Singapore, the entourage reached Tokyo the next afternoon Friday, March 09 at 2 p.m. After a short transit, they departed for Niigata, and landed at 6:30 p.m. The Japanese team led by Brother Genzo Makino along with his group of energetic youth and devotees welcomed everyone. The temperature was about two degrees, and quickly the entourage made themselves warm and comfortable with the winter gear. It had snowed the previous day, and as the convoy of cars and vans left the airport, either side of the roads were dotted with snow.
Upon reaching the Hotel, where Swami’s room was also arranged, traditional South Indian dinner awaited everyone lovingly cooked by three ladies from Singapore, Mrs Shyamini Pillay, Mrs Aparna Sivaramakrishnan and Mrs Karen Tan, who had specially flown to Niigata a couple of days earlier. From pots, pans to all the ingredients, they had brought every single item from Singapore like they do every single year! Like Swami says, this is their Seva, their Sadhana to experience and be with the Lord. But before dinner, Swami met the local authorities who were overwhelmed to learn about the ongoing mission and personal revelations which Swami made. They pledged their complete support to the cause and the upcoming Ashram. Dinner was served to Swami and the entourage, after which everyone retired for the night.
The next morning, Saturday March 10 was a red lettered day for the Sai devotees of Japan, as it was the blessed day for the Bhoomi Puja of the upcoming Ashram, the reason for Swami’s Visit to Japan this year. Driving through snow covered roads, Swami and His entourage reached the land. Just as the Lord arrived, there was a light shower of snow which looked magical as He alighted from the car! The priest had flown in from Chennai, and the Purna Ahuti was performed as soon as Swami reached the make shift canopy which was erected for the function.
Swami beckoned Brother Genzo Makino to speak a few words about the upcoming Ashram. Swami then said that the vision of the Ashram will be to grow into a spiritual centre of all faiths and all beliefs. Swami said, “There may be many ornaments, but gold is one. There may be many kinds of cows, but milk is one. Similarly, many kinds of clothing exists, but thread is one. But man does not understand the oneness, and gets confused. But inner unity exists, inspite of the external differences, and that fundamental unity in all of creation is divinity! This Centre should be dedicated to the fundamental unity of all the diversity that exists. Therefore, this should be an inward path, not an outward path. When man goes inward he knows the truth, but when he goes outward he gets confused. This will become a universal home for love and peace. When milk boils, we sprinkle water on the milk to subdue it from overflowing. Likewise when man is restless, add divinity, then he will be in peace. Man is forgetting his divinity, which is the cause of all restlessness in the world. This divinity is fundamentally selfless love.
There is a SPIRITUAL aspect to this Centre, whose vision or goal is to establish this fundamental divinity and help people understand. There is a SOCIAL aspect as well, which should reflect in community service. The entire creation is meant for service. There is also an ACADEMIC and INTELLECTUAL aspect of this place, which is in undertaking the fundamental studies of Japanese and the world culture. Layer by layer when you go deeper, you will realise that all are based on the fundamental truth of one Creator and that all are divine. This place is meant for service and must reach to as many people irrespective of caste, creed or religion. Eventually it will grow into a Centre of repute and people from all over Japan and other countries will come to undertake studies!”
Thereafter, Swami proceeded outside the canopy to perform the Bhoomi Puja rituals. Nine bricks as part of the tradition were laid into the bosom of Mother Earth, seeking her permission to build the Ashram. Swami also walked around the 25 acre land, giving guidance on the construction.
Swami along with His entourage departed back to the Hotel, and went on to the Satsang Hall, where over a 100 devotees were blissfully lost in Bhajans. It was indeed a bonus Darshan for them, and the joy on their faces turned into tears of happiness and gratitude, as the Lord walked around blessing them, and even sat for a few Bhajans before Arati. Swami also commanded Brother Makino to address everyone and tell them about the Bhoomi Puja. Prasadam was distributed, and Swami then proceeded to His room, and granted a few interviews before His lunch.
In the evening over 500 people had gathered for the Public Satsang. As soon as Swami took His seat, a short cultural progrmme ‘SANCTUARY’ was presented, which showcased the ancient history of Japan through a live flute and synthesizer performance by Brother Okano and dance performances by several dancers. It consisted of three pieces that communicated this ancient story. During time immemorial, on the land where people were united with God through prayers, God descended down and danced together with people of the land and lived inside their heart. People were blessed with His grace, but as time passed this wisdom was lost. However, now this forgotten ancient wisdom is being revived in this land. The dances were a representation of awakening this ancient land, to open up the sacred door of Yahiko, and bring down God to this land once again. Swami blessed all the performers profusely, and then took His seat on stage.
He then called upon Brother Nimura, who was emotional and spoke about the upcoming Ashram. He reminisced his trip to Muddenahalli, and the interview he was blessed with, where Swami had made many revelations. Thereafter, Swami also called upon another gentleman from a nearby shrine to address the gathering. He was meeting Swami for the very first time, and his heart took over, and the rest is history as they say!
Sri B N Narasimha Murthy addressed the gathering next and said that melody, rhythm, beauty, energy and harmony, the five wonderful values which add beauty and joy to life are rooted in love. He reminisced what Swami had spoken that morning at the Bhoomi Puja. He said, “The purpose and the mission of Swami, especially in the last few years is to unite the whole of mankind into one family.”
Swami blessed all the devotees with His divine discourse. “Just as there is oil in the sesame seeds, just like there is butter in milk, just like there is fragrance in flowers, just like there is sweet juice in fruits, and just the way fire is inside wood, similarly divinity is present everywhere.
Though the divine is present in everything and everywhere, He cannot be seen, or touched, or tasted with the senses. Everything is born out of divinity, exists in divinity and merges in divinity, but some effort is required to understand this! You cannot see your own face and you need a mirror to see yourself. Likewise, in order to know your own divinity, first and foremost you need to be in the company of divine people. The first step in the search of your divinity, is to be in the company of noble people. It is only in good company that the Godhood in you comes out. Only through a process, the divinity inside you can be understood and experienced. This process is Sadhana or spiritual austerities. One may contemplate on the divine principle, or one may chant the divine name so much so that they become one with the divine name. Whether you meditate, chant or serve the Lord, these are various processes by which the divine principal inside can be experienced. This process becomes faster and easiest in the company of Divine people. The purpose of such Centres and Ashrams is to bring such people to together, so they can understand the divine principal.
The culture of Japan was very glorious where everyone sacrificed for the other. They had great respect for nature and all creatures. But with changing times, the selfishness grew and they forgot. This body is going to become earth one day, the name will be forgotten, but only the good that you do will stay. From this moment decide to lead a life of selflessness, and in this constant endeavor of being selfless, understand and experience your divinity. Alone, you cannot sustain your efforts, but together everyone can be benefitted.”
After a few Questions and Answers and Mangala Arati, the evening came to a close. Swami was served His dinner and He retired for the night.