The Third of March 2017 saw an excited lot of students from the Sri Sathya Sai Centre for Human Excellence along with a few teachers jump in to their buses, that were all set for a Divine holiday, rather Holydays with Swami in the Nilgiris. The buses began their journey from Muddenahalli to Top Slip in the Southern Western Ghat Region of Annaimalai Tiger Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary, which was to host Swami for two days. The devotees and Swami were received at Coimbatore International Airport by the devotees from Ooty and Coimbatore, and of course, Swami reached by the Aakasha Marga.
Swami and His entourage, which consisted of a handful of chosen devotees were driven up to the hills of Annaimalai Tiger Reserve, around ninety kilometres from the Coimbatore International Airport and they reached the forest rest house, which was to be the residence of the Lord, around half past noon. Swami was served His lunch in the specially done up room of the forest rest house by the students, who had traveled a little early to make the arrangements befitting His glory and presence. Mrs Rajasekhar, wife of the retired Chief Conservator of the Forest had prepared a variety of dishes to serve Her Lord with great love. The last time when Swami asked her if she had prepared the ghee too along with the other dishes, she answered in the negative. This time, she lovingly prepared the ghee all by herself to serve Swami, without forgetting. The love between Bhagawan and His devotees is always endearing! Mr Rajasekhar, who retired from the Forest Department Services two years ago, is now a full-time volunteer at the Muddenahalli Ashram and looks after the beautification of the place through landscaping. Soon after, devotees were served their lunch in the dining hall of the forest rest house. The students who were still on their way to Top Slip, had their lunch on their way in a hotel arranged by the devotees.
After a short afternoon rest, all the senior devotees gathered in Swami’s bungalow for the evening Satsang, while the students who had arrived around 5 p.m. in the evening, refreshed themselves quickly and rushed to Bhagawan’s proximity. As Bhajans were going on in the open portico of the Bungalow, from where one could get a 360-degree view of the Annaimalai Tiger Reserve, Bhagawan entered, to the immense joy of all gathered, and enquired about their comfort and accommodation. Bhagawan took His seat and listened to a few Bhajans, before He commanded Mr Rajasekhar to speak a few words, and acquaint the students and staff about the Forest Reserve. Mr Rajasekhar mentioned that the Southern Western Ghat Ranges were unique for its combination of three different ranges and it was not continuous; starting from the evergreen forests in Kerala to the semi evergreen forests in between, and the residuos forests thereafter. It was the home of a wide variety of other birds and animals, including the flying Squirrel and the Hornbell. Just as he was talking about the forest, the Chief Conservator of the Forest Mr Ganesan along with his wife joined the gathering. They were totally new to Swami, and it was Mr Ganesan’s very first experience in a gathering held this way. But one could make out from his demeanour that he was deep in his understanding of spirituality, and God.
Mr Rajasekhar with Swami’s permission passed on the mike to Mr Ganesan, who is in charge of this Forest Reserve and therefore could do a better job of explaining the details. Mr Ganesan, after seeking Swami’s blessings mentioned that it has been the most fulfilling time of his life in the last 35 years of his service in the Forest Department, for he has seen it not as a work or duty, but a Divine attachment. He submitted that it was far greater than being a Commissioner at the administrative services in the Government of India, and considered himself fortunate to be the custodian of God’s creation, and said, “The tribals of this Forest are the real conservators, as they have given everything for the sake and protection of the forest, due to their deep respect and attachment to nature. We forest officers are doing the duty just for the job or the salary.” He also mentioned that the whole Forest Reserve is spread over 950 Sq Kms and is one of the largest in the state of Tamil Nadu, and is home to the largest number of elephants in South India and therefore the name Annaimalai, which means the hills of the elephants. After speaking a little more about the various aspects of the forests, he concluded by saying that it was a unique opportunity for him as it also happened to be his birthday, which he rarely celebrated before.
A cake was brought to be cut by Mr Ganesan in Swami’s presence, and Swami while blessing him told that in the last 35 years of his career, he was nominated for various awards and recognition, but none of them came his away. Bhagawan said, “Here I am bestowing upon you the highest award. You have served God by serving His creation and this is the expression of God’s happiness for you.”
Bhagawan blessed Mr Ganesan with a special token of love, and revealed to everyone that though Mr Ganesan wanted to join the IPS Services as a police officer, it was God’s master plan that made him take a transfer to the Forest Services for dealing with the animal kind, which was better for him than dealing with mankind, for there is no kindness left in man anymore! This has helped him develop deeper insights in to nature, and the nature and presence of God, which has helped him to become closer to God.
An overwhelmed Mr Ganesan, who experienced this Divine joy for the first time, thanked everyone profusely and took his seat.
Thereafter, Sri B N Narasimha Murthy spoke about his experiences that evening, when he walked across the forest grounds to have a look at a pillar installed in the center of this place, which had a plaque that read “Man was the last to come in the creation”. He opined that after all the other animals and beings were created, man was the final one to enter the creation. As he was walking unaware in an area, where he was not supposed to, a Forest Guard came running to him with deep excitement in his eyes and humility had said “Sir, maybe you are not aware that you are not supposed to walk across the ground, you have to take the route around.” After a little conversation, the Forest Guard had revealed with great pride that he is the fourth generation of the Forest Guards – his great grandfather, grandfather, father and himself all have been serving the forest. Sri Narasimha Murthy said that this sense of pride, and doing one’s duty is definitely inspirational and the children of the Centre for Human Excellence should take a leaf out of this chapter. “This trip is definitely not just a holiday, but there is something that Swami is trying to teach us by showing us that the forest guards and officers like Mr Ganesan are committed and dedicated in their duty.” He mentioned and differentiated three kinds of people – the mercenaries who work only for money and power, whose only aim is to gain power and get money, and gain money to get power; professionals who take great pride in doing what they do. But both of these are of a lower kind, as the highest kind is a missionary, who does work as the work of God. He added that he has seen such a spark of missionary zeal in both the Forest Guard and Mr Ganesan, and he congratulated them for keeping up their work with such noble spirit, and advised the students to draw inspiration from them.
Swami spoke briefly about the great opportunity of being a human, out of all the eighty-four-lakh species, “Therefore, one must utilise this opportunity completely in order to benefit from it, and the true use of this opportunity is to realise the truth of one’s existence which is Divinity. Forest or the nature teaches us a lot of lessons and we are definitely not here for a holiday, but for Holydays and we are spending our time in the company of nature. The first lesson nature teaches is selflessness, it does not take anything but gives everything selflessly to all. Then we learn the rules and the discipline that all creation follows. They only live by their needs, and not by greed unlike man. Even a tiger kills a prey only to fill its stomach for that day, and does not store for the future out of fear and greed. Man alone engages in such acts of selfishness and greed, even at the cost of hurting or harming others. There is a reason and season in nature for everything, and the whole creation follows that except man!”
Swami advised the students to learn from nature which was all around them, just as the yogis spent time in the nature in order to lead a more selfless and pious life. He also praised the efforts of Mr Ganesan in doing his duty well and supporting the cause of conserving the nature and forest. Swami in His own imitable style said “Forest is for rest, definitely it gives peace and purity. One must derive devotion when they look at the variety and diversity in the creation, and adore God for such a wonderful world He has given us to live in.”
After inquiring about food and comforts of devotees and students, Swami advised everyone to go for a trek in the morning and see the forest for themselves, of course under the supervision and guidance of the Forest Officers. After Arati and distribution of Prasadam, Swami returned to His room in the rest house and had dinner. Everyone were served dinner outside and made their way early to bed to wake up early, to spend yet another day in Divine proximity.