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(Rajan Krishnan - Mumbai)

Imagine a place on Earth where Truth, Righteousness, Peace. Love and Non-Violence are the cornerstones of daily living. Imagine a land where health, education and basic infrastructure are provided free to every citizen. Imagine a town where   the   concept   of 'Brotherhood of Man' and the 'Fatherhood of God' touches every soul. Utopian? Welcome to reality!


Everyday, hundreds of children across the country go from elementary school to specialised  post-graduate courses with the same rigour that the ancient 'Gurukul' system prescribed. Everyday, thousands of people across the country get treated for numerous ailments without having to spend a single penny. Everyday, millions of villagers living in drought stricken hamlets across an entire state get free drinking water. Everyday, people across the globe march towards a small town in India to get one small glimpse of the Divine Spirit who has transformed their lives. Surprised!   Welcome   to Puttaparthi!


Sri Sathya Sai Avatar


On November 23.1926 in the tiny hamlet of Puttaparthi, a child was bom with a mission. The prophecies proclaimed that the divine child would transform mankind by re-establishing the principles of Satya & Dharma and spread Shanti & Prema in a turmoil ridden world.


Bom as Satyanarayana Raju, the child's gentle voice and willingness to help endeared him to one and all. He often treated his classmates to sweets of their choice with a mere wave of the hand. and often sang divine songs with great elan. Though the child did not go through any formal education beyond the 4th standard, he espoused the wisdom of the world with the ease of a World Teacher. At the age of 14, he broke all family ties and announced that he was 'Sai Baba' reborn, and had a mission to fulfill as foretold by the prophecies. He was called Sri Sathya Sai Baba thereafter.


As per his promise to his mother, he chose to remain in Puttaparthi to carry out the tasks, namely, re-establishing the sanctity of the Vedas and advocating the principles of simple living and high thinking.


Sai Baba's Miracles


His sweet bhajans and profound speeches enthralled people and they flocked to see him in hordes. He would wave his hand and give his devotees anything they desired. He always distributed Vibhuti, to all those who came to see him. Devotees lovingly called him Swami and they never returned empty-handed or without their prayers unanswered.


The lame walked, the blind saw, the terminally ill were healed, the broken hearts mended, the depressed were happy, the mentally anguished regained peace. The appearance of Vibhuti on photo frames or his appearance in dreams to resolve complex problems became regular news across the continents. Reams of books exist about the experiences of devotees and the many miracles that they have witnessed, and of the transformation Swami brought about in their lives. But more importantly, once they entered into the Swami's orbit, they found a new meaning in their lives.


Swami often refers to his miracles   as 'visiting cards', which   were mere attractions to draw devotees closer to their spiritual reality. Slowly but steadily, a non-descript hamlet became the 'Spiritual Hub of the World'.


A Day at Prashanti Nilayam


Devotees across the world assemble in neat lines at nearly 4.00 a.m. to get a darshan of Swami at 7.00 a.m. A few people are handpicked by Swami irrespective of caste, creed, color, race or religion, for a personal interview. He walks amongst   the   devotees. materialising Vibhuti, blessing them. and picking up letters which contain their earnest requests and prayers. The same procedure is repeated in the evening and the darshan concludes with divinely

beautiful bhajans sung by the students   and   devotees. Devotees can explore the various monuments within the ashram. The Chaitanya Jyoti Museum showcases the Life of Swami and His Message while the Library has a book store where one can procure books about Swami and His Teachings. Food canteens catering to Indian and international palates serve simple satvic food at subsidized rates. On auspicious days and festivals, Swami addresses audiences to explain the significance of the day and His messages always touch the soul.


Swami's Message


'My message is one and the same for all people, irrespective of color,  caste,  creed, geographies, names and forms. All religions are facets of the same Truth. All scriptures are holy. All places of worship are holy. All religions are seeking the one and the same God. although they may call Him by different names.


'I've come not to disturb or destroy your Faith, but to confirm your own faith. So that a Christian becomes a better Christian, a Muslim becomes a better Muslim and a Hindu becomes a better Hindu. ' I've taken birth in order to drive home the truth that Love and God are one and the same. 'I've come but to light the lamp of love in your heart. In its light. you will see Sai Himself in each one of you !


'I've no geographical far & near. Nearness to Me is not acquired by physical proximity. 'However far you are, if you stick to Satya, Dharma, Shanti. Prema, you are close to Me and I 'am close to you. 'Wherever and whenever you think of Me, I shall be with you. Whenever you call to Me, I will respond. 'I'm everything, everywhere, ever.


'Know that I'm always with you. Prompting, Motivating. Guiding you. Live in the that constant presence.'


'Do not posit any distance between you and Me. Do not interpose the formalities of the Guru-Shishya relationship or even the altitudinal relationship of the God-Devotee relationship between us.


'I'm neither Guru nor God. I am you. You are I. That is the Truth. There is no distinction. That which appears so is the delusion. You're the waves. I'm the Ocean.


'Your life has a beginning and an end and both are governed by the laws of Karma.


'You've been bom because you did not pass in certain subjects. There is some balance of experience which you must acquire to complete the course.


'When your self-realisation convinces you of your true nature, then you would have passed.


'Welcome every test, because thereafter you are awarded the certificate.

'It is to measure your progress that these tests are imposed. So don't flinch in the face of grief.


'The Lord bestows a favour when He decide to test you. When He is impressed by your achievement. He puts a seal of approval. Rise up to the test, that is the way to please the Lord.


'All relationships are incidental and temporary.


'As long as one is involved in worldly life, all relationships have to be recognised as a natural phenomena.


'All these relationships have no permanence. Separation is inevitable sooner or later.


'But there is no separation between you & God. Even if you forget Him. He will not forget you.


'The Grace of God cannot be won through the gymnastics of reason, the contortions of Yoga or the denials of asceticism.


'Love alone can win it. Love that needs no requitals. Love that knows no bargaining. Love that is unwavering. Love that is paid gladly, as a tribute to the All-loving.


'Love alone can overcome obstacles, however many and mighty. There is no strength more effective than purity. No bliss more satisfying than love. No joy more restoring than devotion. No triumph more praiseworthy than surrender,


'If you engage yourself in the constant meditation of the Name of the Lord, with devotion, humility and faith, the Lord will stand at the door of your Prayer Room, awaiting your wish.'


Swami's Angels


Based on Swami's core philosophy of 'Help Ever. Hurt Never', devotees across the world render yeoman service to mankind. From rural upliftment programs  to  vocational guidance, from free education to free food distribution, from free medication to blood donation camps, the men dressed in white rush to help. When we participate in all these spiritual activities wholeheartedly, it becomes the highest form of spiritual worship. As Swami reminds us, there is no prayer more powerful than service. " Manava Seva is Madhava Seva!



sourced: Deccan Herald, Thursday, July 1, 2004m Page 5.