PRASHANTI DIARY - WITH A SPECIAL REPORT FROM BRINDAVAN -Part I
- PRASHANTI DIARY - CHRONICLES OF HEAVEN ON EARTHWITH A SPECIAL REPORT FROM BRINDAVANAs most of you are probably aware, Swami stayed in His "Trayee Brindavan" home in Whitefield, Bangalore continuously from January 20th, 2006 and returned to Parthi only on February 18th. As this chronicle covers His sojourn there for this period, it was suggested that perhaps this month's chronicle be relabelled as "Brindavan Diary". But as prashanti - the peace that passeth all understanding - in the fullest sense of the term is extant only where He stays, we decided to let the name remain unchanged and we hope that you concur with our view that prashanti is more a state of the mind and heart and not just a mere geographical term.And while we type these words, we are also reminded of an incident that occurred just before the 75th birthday in the year 2000, which we will recall even at the risk of digressing from the main theme. As most of you know, once every five years all the Ashram buildings get re-painted. Hence all the buildings in the Ashram had just been given a new coat. From where Swami was standing on the veranda, He could see how the name on the East Prashanti Blocks had just been painted in big bright red letters. He read it out loud - "East Prashanti " and then turning to the students remarked in Telugu, "Prashanti ki direction undaa?" - Does prashanti have a direction also? It is very clear in what sense He is referring to the term prashanti!Going back to the main story, soon after Swami arrived in Brindavan, the Brindavan boys welcomed Him with a well prepared programme "Hridaya pushpam". One of the hallmarks of the integrated system of education prevalent in the Sri Sathya Sai Institutions is effective time management. The boys put up a creditable programme and also performed well on their mid-term exams starting the next day. This time-management quality of course is so useful in today's demanding world where one always has to do multi-tasking while simultaneously resolving conflicting and demanding priorities.JAN 29, 2006 : HRIDAY PUSHPAM - A PROGRAMME BY THE BRINDAVAN BOYSSundays in Brindavan are always special. On each Sunday the devotees of Bangalore start the bhajans in the morning and it is continued the whole day up to the point when Bhagavan enters the Hall again in the afternoon, and ends only when He signals for arathi at the end of the afternoon darshan. This gives an opportunity for the devotees to be immersed in devotional singing the entire day. Sundays are also special as some of the devotees from Puttaparthi also come down for the day and there is a full house in Sai Ramesh Hall.After Swami arrived in Sai Ramesh Hall in the afternoon, He signalled to the boys to start their programme. His Excellency, the Governor of Karnataka, Sri T.N. Chaturvedi was also present that day, as he had come to Brindavan to seek Bhagavan's grace. Readers of this column may recall that Sri Chaturvedi was the chief guest at the Institute's Convocation on November 22nd last year.The programme "Hrudaya Pushpam" (the flower of the heart) by the students was a mix of soulful group songs interspersed with speeches. The songs varying from Hindi, Telugu and English lifted the entire atmosphere and also lit up a beautiful smile on Bhagavan's face. In between each song the students stood up to express their love, narrate their experiences, and thank Bhagavan for the wonderful opportunity.Sreejith expressed his love for Swami in 4 different languages - Bengali, Hindi, Malayalam, and English and thanked Him for being his only solace and for helping us to be in bliss whenever He is near us. Asutosh Jha prayed to the Lord to make us true instruments in His hands and remember Him always come what may.Nishant Verma related how Bhagavan once cured him of his paralytic attack. He said that our every breath and heart-beat speaks only one thing - "Swami we can't live without You." Akshay Kamath said that the small squirrel that helped build the Ramasetu (bridge across Sri Lanka) and the flute of Lord Krishna are immortalised. It is similarly our duty also to become immortalised as His instruments.Sai Giridhar feelingly prayed to Him that we realize the beautiful relationship we share - that we live for You and You alone. Vivek Thacker speaking in Hindi expressed his love through a poem (a shaire) which conveyed that our relationship is deeper than love also.Another speaker expressed that before man realises that desires are not going to reap him any fruit, he ends his term on earth. But we are lucky that our Lord Sai has shown us the reality and has told us that He is our only motive.
The last speaker expressed his gratitude to Swami for He gave him life. He was a still-born baby when he came out of his mother's womb and only when his grand-mother put the baby on Swami's altar and also applied some vibhuti did the baby come to life. He called Swami his true mother for She gave him life.Wonderful also were the songs that they sang that day. The songs included "Maa Prana Daivam", "Kaise jiyoon", "Every moment of my life", "O maa O maa", "Sai Matha Biddalam", "I keep feeling", "O Nesthama", and "There is something special in your love". The last song was "Maa Jeevana adhaarama", meaning the very basis of our life is our Lord! The programme ended at about 6:30 PM after which there were bhajans followed by arathi.FEB 5TH: BHAKTI SAGAR - A STUDENT PROGRAMME ON BHAKTIThe following Sunday again saw another programme offered by the students immediately after the end of their exams week. The presentation that the students had planned was to highlight the profundity of the great teachings on Navavidha bhakti or the nine-fold path of devotion, on which Swami has talked about on many, many occasions.After Swami had taken His place on the dais, He signalled to the boys who were holding an oversized card to come up to Him. After seeing the card the boys had prepared, He blessed them and asked them to start the programme.The programme followed a similar format to the previous programme in which a speaker first expounded on a quality of bhakti and this was immediately followed by a song. Thus alternating between a speech and a song, the boys explained some of the major aspects of the ninefold path of bhakti to everyone's appreciation.The first speaker talked of Shravanam, the foremost step of devotion giving the example of Parishith's exemplary devotion. This was followed by the song "Saptaswara". The second speaker highlighted the Keertanam aspect of Bhakthi, referring to saints like Meerabhai, Purandara Dasa etc. The song that followed was "Ram Bhajana Karo Mann". A small talk on Vishnusmaranam was followed by the Tamil song "Easwaramba". Padasevanam or worship of the Lotus Feet was the next aspect to be discussed. Vandanam or salutation was followed by the song "Vande Janani Vidyadayini" a song extolling and saluting Mother Saraswati. Referring to Hanuman as the best example of Dasyam (servitude), the speaker quoted several events from the life of Hanuman including the famous one wherein when Mother Sita gives him a pearl necklace, Hanuman bites each pearl and throws them away after putting them to his ear as he could not hear them say "Ram, Ram". This engaging program ended with a rousing Qawali, "Shirdiwale Sai Baba" to which the entire audience joined in clapping and chorus.At the end of the program, prasadam was distributed to all. Swami also blessed all the students and the devotees profusely with His beneficent gaze for a long time before He retired to Trayee Brindavan.FEB 6TH: CHINESE NEW YEAR CELEBRATIONS IN SAI RAMESH HALLAfter a hiatus of a few years, Swami graciously permitted the celebration of the Chinese New Year in His Divine Presence. Accordingly, about 200 people of Chinese origin, hailing from Hong Kong , Singapore and Indonesia assembled in Brindavan during the first week of February. Putting up with myriad difficulties (due to limited infrastructural facilities in Brindavan) they nevertheless bridged barriers of distance and temporal difficulties to come together as one unit through intense practice and present a seamless Chinese New Year program on the morning of February 6th.Sai Ramesh Hall is decorated for the Chinese New YearThe Chinese Lunar New Year was actually on January 29th. However, the New Year is celebrated over a period of 15 days and the 8th day is specially marked for honouring the parents. Hence in this year of the Dog, on Feb 6th - the 8th day after the New Year, the Chinese gathered at His Lotus Feet to show their filial love to our beloved Divine Father and Mother Sai.The entire Sai Ramesh Hall was decked out with intricate floral patterns with large helpings of the auspicious Chinese colour of red. The program began on a pounding note when Bhagavan was escorted from His home in Trayee Brindavan to Sai Ramesh Hall to the resonant sounds of drums with a pair of lion dancers and dolls leading the procession. When He reached Sai Ramesh Hall, Swami was given a traditional Chinese welcome before He ascended the dais.After Swami had taken His seat on the dais, the lion dancers gave a vibrant display of their art. Devotees from Parthi are familiar with the lion dance since the students have performed it during the Annual Sports and Cultural Meet on January 11th this year and also earlier. However, for most of the devotees in Karnataka, this was the first time and they watched it with wonderment and joy.The lion dance has an important place in Chinese culture and is traditionally performed to inaugurate important events like starting new businesses or other social events. It is also believed that this traditionally brings good luck to the people and the pounding drums drive away all the bad luck and evil in their lives.Additionally the association with the lion's strength and character (like courage and fearlessness in all situations) is supposed to bring good fortune and prosperity in the coming New Year and help achieve success in the ultimate goal of life.After Swami was welcomed with roses and presented with the day's agenda for His blessings, the programme started with different couples presenting in turn the following items to our divine parent: Chinese tea, two types of Chinese cakes - Nian Gao and Fa Gao, Mandarin oranges, a pair of scrolls, and red packets (Hang Baos) containing sweets as gifts to Swami.Swami accepted each present with grace and dignity. It was very touching to see Him pick mandarin oranges from both the gentleman and the lady presenting it to Him and lovingly stacking the oranges delicately in His lap to the delight of the congregation. Swami also spent a lot of time going over the photographs of seva done by our brothers and sisters after the recent devastating tsunami in the region.While all the presentation ceremony was going on, there were many in the crowd who wondered - is there a special significance in these gifts? We did not have to wait long for an answer, for the presentation ceremony was followed by a drama elaborating on the significance of the Chinese New Year traditions and culture.
Using a back-drop of Malay and an Indian family visiting their Chinese friends on the occasion of the Chinese New Year, the Chinese traditions were performed and explained to their young sons. Thus we learnt that pairs of oranges are presented as a mark of respect and also as a symbol of wealth - to wish people good health and that all matters in their life will run smoothly.Chinese tea is offered to guests during the Chinese New Year and also on festive occasions for good health and longevity. Two types of cakes are offered to guests during the New Year. The moon shaped Nian Gao cake which is a New Year cake and the Fa Gao cake for prosperity. A pair of scrolls is offered to guests with inscriptions in Chinese letters to wish good luck, fortune and peace in their lives like - "Wish you a happy, prosperous New Year" or "May all your wishes come true in this New Year".New Year scrolls being shown to SwamiAnd finally, through the medium of the drama they explained the significance of the red packets or "Hong Bao". They are given on all auspicious occasions (like Birthdays and weddings also) and not just on the New Year. The red envelope is decorated with Chinese characters for luck and is usually given with money inside it for luck and wealth. It is a Chinese practise to give an even amount of money as a gift rather the custom of an odd amount prevalent elsewhere. However the red packets given to Swami (and later distributed as prasad to the devotees) contained sweets and not money!The Hong Bao or the red packets of Prasadam
being explained in the dramaArathi brings the Chinese New Year program to closeAfter the short drama there was a chanting of the six-syllable mantra Om Mane Padme Hum, which means that by the practise of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech and mind of a Buddha.Following this, Lunar New year songs and Chinese and Sanskrit bhajans were sung by the devotees before mangala arathi was taken to signify the end of a memorable morning of celebration. Heart to Heart would also like to take this opportunity to say "Xiang Nian Kuai Le" or Happy New Year in Mandarin to our readers all over the globe.To be continuedWith Sai love from Sai brothers - 'saidevotees_worldnet'Courtesy: http://media.radiosai.org/
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