It was the last day of the Kodaikanal retreat for the year 2018. The end of yet another memorable trip to the cool mountains with the cool Lord! Truly, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is but a reflection, reaction and resound. And Kodai being His playground, the adorable Lord is always full of action, and always does ‘cool’ things, much to the excitement of His very dear students. The downpour of love from Swami over the past few days made everyone hope it would continue forever and ever. The dear Lord also decided to make it a most memorable day for every single person. Every single person!
Swami walked down to the Prayer Hall where everyone were seated, which included a couple of the local police personnel, who also wanted to receive Bhagawan’s blessings. Once He was seated, on His command, young Vijay Gupta was the first speaker of the morning. Vijay, son of Sri Madan and Smt Shobhna Gupta hails from Dubai, and is currently pursuing his Chartered Accountancy in London. Although his family had never seen Bhagawan’s Darshan in the physical form, Vijay along with his parents are active participants in Swami’s ongoing mission. They are also blessed with the privilege of hosting Him during His visit to Dubai. Vijay shared his journey since the Lord’s first visit to Dubai in 2015, and how Swami has been guiding and guarding him at every step, and his own journey of transformation since then.
Sri B N Narasimha Murthy was the next speaker who spoke on the value of gratitude. He reiterated that above all relationships and obligations, one must be grateful to God. Never before had anybody taken so many students and devotees who were neither His kith or kin, ensuring their utmost comfort and convenience, and above all, blessing them with the delight of His Divine company over the last ten days. Surely, only God is capable of this all encompassing love!
Swami never forgets any act of Seva rendered, however small or big it might be. Despite Him being the Lord of the Universe, He has always been the perfect example of expressing gratitude. His life is His message, and every small act of His, is a huge lesson for all to emulate. And that morning, Bhagawan decided to bless all those who had toiled hard during the ten days in various areas such as the kitchen, security, transport etc. As their names were called out, each person went upto the dais and received from Sai tokens of His love and blessings. Swami also very lovingly gifted a ring to the headcook for his selfless and sincere Seva rendered.
Thereafter, Swami delivered His divine message on the same note. He said that although nobody was His kith and kin, as Sri Narasimha Murthy had mentioned earlier, the highest and purest relationship is that of heart to heart, between Swami and His devotees, that surpasses even blood relations. The nature of love itself He said is to give, give and give selflessly. Love lives only by giving and forgiving, and so it was only natural that Bhagawan’s love knows no limits. Quoting the first speaker – Vijay Gupta, Swami revealed the extent of selfless sacrifice practised by the entire family. When his parents wanted to gift him an expensive, fancy sports car, Vijay politely declined the gift saying that it was unnecessary, and that the money could instead be used for the education of under privileged children. Swami also revealed all that all his earnings from a part-time job in a restaurant in London, are also offered to Bhagawan without spending anything on himself. Vijay’s mother – Smt Shobhna Gupta had given up her career to involve herself in Seva activities full-time, but to be a part of the ongoing education mission of Swami, she once again took up a job only so that she could support the cause of educating rural children in India. Sri Madan Gupta too always strives to serve Swami in whatever way possible. This, Swami said is the hallmark of true devotion!
Mangala Arati was offered to Swami and He returned to the Bungalow, He posed for a few photographs with the students and staff amidst nature’s bounty – tall trees, green grass and wild flowers all around. It was truly a sight to behold – the creator amidst His creation! Confluence of the trinity – Man, nature and God!
Swami then proceeded to bless the second batch of volunteers who had served from the wee hours of the morning until late, every single night in many areas, such as cutting vegetables in the kitchen, serving food to the guests in the dining hall, coordinating the smooth movement of vehicles to avoid confusion and chaos, etc. He presented the ladies with sarees, the gents with safari suit pieces, and also posed for photographs with them in batches. The perfectionist that Swami is, did not seem to be satisfied until the best location was chosen as the background! He truly seemed to be in the mood of creating memories that would be treasured by each one for eons to come. Swami then came down to a view point that gave a bird’s eye view of the valley beneath. Situated at a height of almost 7,000 ft above sea level, it is a breathtaking sight indeed. That morning, the whole area was covered with clouds and once again, against the complete pure white etheral backdrop, Swami posed for several pictures. Right from students, staff, devotees, volunteers, little children, and even the drivers of vehicles, each was blessed with the coveted gift of a photo with Swami! Only the Lord knows the deepest desire of every heart, however small it may seem, and only He can fullfill every one of those little wishes, in His time, in His style.
After a most memorable morning, Swami retired for the afternoon and partook His lunch thereafter.
May 19 – Evening
It was the last of those intimate evening sessions with Swami at the Hill Top bungalow and usually everyone’s hearts is a bit heavy and sad. But this time however, there was pure joy and only overwhelming gratitude that each person experienced for all that Bhagawan said, did and poured His love in myriad ways on each person, over the last ten days.
As with every year, there was a gratitude programme planned by all the devotees and students. Once Bhagwan finished His usual rounds, and was seated, the programme began with a few songs rendered by Sri Kunal Ganjawalla and Smt Gayathri Ganjawalla. The couple are both noted playback singers, and more importantly ardent devotees of Bhagawan. They sang popular songs such as ‘Tum hi morey‘ and ‘Ram bhajan kar man‘. Swami also commanded them to sing a Marathi Abhang and so they sang Majhe Maher Pandari– the meaning of which as explained by Smt Gayathri goes in this manner- Sant Eknath who composed the song, considers Pandhari as his mother’s home-“Maher” and calls out to Vittal and Rakumai as his father and mother.
Swami was extremely pleased with their rendition as well as their choice, that He began to explain how God is the eternal parent. “Sa” means Divine, “Aayee“- mother and “Baba“- father. Thus, Sai Baba is the Divine Mother and Father and therefore wherever Swami is, that becomes mother’s home. He beautifully explained that one need not go after father and mother separately, since both are in the same divine – two in one, He said. Quoting the Shloka – Tvameva Matha Cha Pitha Twameva..Swami said, “One must consider every relation with God – as He is our father, mother, brother, friend, Guru and everything else- Sarvam Mama Deva Deva. It was because of this lofty feeling that Sant Eknath experienced Ek with the Nath – one with the Lord, and hence became Eknath. Among Eknath, Tulsidas, Meera, Purandaradasa, Annamacharya or Tyaagaraja, all of them were musical geniuses who composed such beautiful songs, despite the fact that none of them trained in any music university. It was the devotion to the Lord which sprang forth as music from their hearts.”
Swami reminisced how decades back, He had started the “Pandari Bhajan” group in Puttaparthi, in an era when nobody there had any idea of what Pandari was. During the month of Ashada, He would group all the village children, take them for bath in the river and then street to street, singing Bhajans. And that is why Pandari Bhajans, especially those of the Varkaris continue to remain very dear to Him even today. The tradition of singing Bhajans from place to place singing the Lord’s name at every home began in Pandari, which continues to this day.
Swami continued that India is a country rich with such cultural heritage wherein God was the centre and soul of everything, and everyone. Bharatha means Bhagawath Rathi (God loving) and Bharathiyas are the ones who revel in the love and glory of the Lord. As long as Indians continue to love and serve God, it will remain what it is, but the day they forget God, India will break into pieces. God alone unites this country. To the students He explained that education is complete only when devotion to God is developed, else filling one’s head with mere imformation is an utter waste.
Swami also blessed Smt Gayathri to come to Muddenahalli and teach these Pandari Bhajans to the students, for which she happily agreed, and thanked Swami for the opportunity profusely. When Sri Kunal expressed to Swami that although they lived in Bombay they continued to feel Swami’s presence with them all the time, Swami agreed saying – Mano Moolam Idham Jagath – it is important to focus the mind on God irrespective of where the body is. He then narrated a story of two friends, that was often told by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.
One evening, two friends were contemplating on how to spend their time. One friend suggested that they attend a Satsang and listen to a realised Guru, whereas the other friend wanted to drink and enjoy in a bar. So both left for their respective Ashrams (as Swami joked). Upon reaching their destinations, the friend at the bar realised his folly and began to repent for the manner in which he was wasting his time, while the friend at the Satsang began to think of his friend at the bar, and was imagining how he must be enjoying. Therefore, body is only an instrument and it is more important to focus the mind on God!
Whatever work one may be doing – be it cooking, cleaning, eating, it must be offered to God- Sarva Karma Bhagavath Preethyartham. Once everything is offered to God, He will ensure that all thoughts, words and acts become pure. Sakhubai used to chant “Ranga Ranga” even while she was preparing cowdung cakes. Samartha Ramdas who wanted proof of her devotion was made to listen to a piece of the dung cake, and that too reverberated with “Ranga Ranga”.
Once again Swami emphasised that the one who loves God and God alone, to the exclusion of everything else is sure to attain God. For God will ensure that it some manner, He himself will come behind such a devotee!
Swami then asked the little children to sing, who were seated, all dressed up in their finery for they too wanted to please Swami in their own little way. They presented 3 songs – the evergreen – “Love is My form” and two actions songs – “We have a great big wonderful Lord” and ” When you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”. A particular line goes thus – when you’re happy and you know it, hug Swami…and after the song, the children prayed that they too wanted to hug Him and Swami to everyone’s surprise and delight actually allowed the children to hug Him and hold onto to Him for all their lives! What an amazing blessing!
Next, Mr Cass Smith offered a couple of songs including Swami’s favourite – “Rowdy Boy”. The funny lyrics of the song had Swami burst into peals of laughter yet again, and it was such a treat to watch Swami laugh so much. Swami also confessed that Mr Cass could make Him laugh so much, and it was also his job indeed to bring joy to everyone around him. Swami said that unlike last year, He did not want any sad songs but instead only happy ones as He wanted everyone to leave with only happy memories. Brother Tarashankar and another devotee also offered a hindi and a Chinese song respectively.
Bhagawan ensured that not only was every heart filled but overflowed, after receiving so much of His love and thereafter Arati was offered to Him. He then began to distribute chocolates and pens to some of the guests seated. As He walked up the wooden staircase, He continued to distribute, even though He had to stretch a bit. And even as He was doing so, He remarked – “To reach Me, you have to stretch a bit and come close, and I too will stretch and cover the distance. Only then can we both meet!” And just like that, another tidbit of spiritual dosage delivered. Swami then partook dinner with the elders and guests, and retired for the night.