Journey to the Abode of Supreme Peace
The following article is an account of a few members of Sri Muda Centre who visited Prashanti Nilayam recently.
( Written by: Nanthiney Devi Ragavan, Dhurga Devi Balakrishnan, Kalyani Raman, Hemah Andiappan)
We place our humble Pranams at the Lotus feet of our beloved Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The day that we have been waiting for months had finally arrived on Friday, 13th of May 2011. It was His call for us to visit His holy land, the Abode of Supreme Peace “Prashanti Nilayam” in Puttaparthi, India. We departed from LCCT, Sepang, Malaysia at 3.45pm and reached Bangaluru International Airport at 8.00pm, Malaysian time. All of us had mixed feelings during the journey as it was our first trip to Prashanthi Nilayam, the holy land where our beloved Lord lives. As soon as we have reached ashram, it was nearly lights off period. We were worn out after the long journey and we decided to retire ourselves for the day with feelings of excitement, joy and anticipation for the blissful week ahead.
Saturday, 14th of May 2011 was our first Darshan we had at the Abode of Supreme Peace. We started our day by attending Rudram chants and bhajan which began at 8.00am with the chanting for an hour followed by bhajan till 9.30 am. It was an exciting and blissful feeling being seated in Sai Kulwant Hall, while chanting the chants and singing the glory of our Lord. There is only one word to describe Sai Kulwant Hall, “magnificent”. It was like a dream being in the hall and listening to the melodious bhajans. As all of us were immersed in the beautiful bhajans, a bell rang, indicating the Arathi time. Arathi was shown for Swami and to line up for Samaadhi Darshan.
With blissful feeling, we returned to our rooms and awhile later Uncle Mahendran brought all of us for a tour around Prashanti Nilayam. Prashanti Nilayam is a town by its own. There were many guest rooms for foreign devotees, sheds for the local devotees, a shopping mall, a Conference Hall, Bakery, Mandirs namely, Sai Gayathri Mandir, Ganesha Mandir and Subramanya Mandir, Sri Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust and Sai’s own broadcasting station, Radio Sai is also located in Prashanti Nilayam itself.
Later in the afternoon, we took our lunch in the North Indian Canteen, one of the three canteens in the ashram. The other two canteens are the pioneer South Indian Canteen and newest Western Canteen for foreigners, catering less spicy food. We took a break for about two hours before we prepared ourselves for the evening darshan and bhajan. After the bhajan, Sister Nalini brought us to the popular Chitrawathi River and the ‘Wish Fulfilling Tree’, located outside the ashram. As it was summer season the river has dried out, the view from the ‘Wish Fulfilling Tree’ hilltop was breathtaking. As dusk was nearing we head back to the ashram and had our dinner.
It was a beautiful morning on the 15th of May 2011. We started the day by attending the Nagarasankirtan, singing of devotional songs by separate groups of men and women while walking from the Ganesha Mandir, encircling the Sai Kulwant Hall and Swami’s residence before coming back to the Ganesha Mandir. It was our first experience singing while walking in a big group. After the prayers, we had our tea and coffee in a stall nearby our rooms. Then we headed for the morning darshan. Once the darshan was over, announcement was made that there will be a Sunday Talk by Prof. Anil Kumar. We were excited and thrilled because we had the opportunity to witness Prof Anil’s talk in person in first visit to Prashanti.
A simple yet humble man who was enthusiastic about everything he speaks on the Avatar. Prof.Anil Kumar gave an hour long talk in explaining the glory of Sri Sathya Sai Avatar, the love that He showered on him, the significance of being His devotee, the duty that we have now and post Maha Samadhi.
Referring to the present hot topic, what will happen to Prashanti Nilayam now that Swami has attained Maha Samadhi, will it retain its past glory? Prof.Anil Kumar said, Puttaparthi is the only holy place which has developed in the immediate presence of the Avatar. Swami has made sure, Prashanti Nilayam has each and every facility needed for a man’s survival and all the facilities are WORLD CLASS. He said, no one should have any doubts about the future of Prashanti. This place will flourish much better than any other holy land for that matter.
Prof.Anil Kumar assured every one that Swami is very much with us and there is no need to worry. It is a moment to rejoice for being SELECTED by Swami, he said. Thus we came to an end with the insightful session with Prof.Anil Kumar.
Later in the evening, after the darshan and bhajan, we had our very own first satsang with one of Swami’s very own student, Brother Sai Roy. He was very down to earth and soft spoken. He shared all his experiences with the Lord and we enjoyed every single topic he spoke on. One of Brother Sai Roy’s statements that linger in our mind till today was on how every devotee should not stick to His physical form and mentioned that “He is God, so He is close to every being. God is the Water and Man is the bubble. Bubble will eventually unite with water. So do Man”. After the thoughtful satsang we contemplated sincerely on the essences of the day.
16th May 2011 marks the 1st day of BuddhaPoornima celebration. We got up early in the morning to attend the early morning Suprabhatam, the salutation to the Lord at dawn. After the Suprabhatam and Nagarasankirtan we proceeded for the morning darshan. It was astonishing to watch the devotees in large numbers filing past paying their obeisance to our dear Lord both in the morning and evening.
The experience being in the Sai Kulwant hall is beyond words. Photographs of Bhagawan are placed on both sides of the Samadhi and at various vantage points in Sai Kulwant Hall. The smiling visage of Bhagawan in those magnificent photographs brings alive in the minds of devotees, His pleasing physical form. Yes, He is always with us guiding and guarding us at every step. All that we need to do is to connect with Him in our every thought, word and deed.
At night, around 8pm, we had our very own second round of satsang in our room. The guest for the night was Dr Viji, a renowned eye specialist & also a remarkable Sanskrit scholar. Dr. Viji has a amazing knowledge on Bhagawan’s mission and vision. The satsang begin with the chanting of the universal Mantra, the Gayatri Mantra. Dr. Viji mentioned that the Gayatri Mantra is the very quintessence of the Vedas. According to Dr Viji, the Gayatri Mantra was first universally chanted in the Vedic way. Swami, then, changed the Vedic way of chanting into rhythmic and melodious way in order to enable every devotee to be able to chant the mantra. She added, that, the concluding words- “Dhi Yo Yo Na(f) Prachodayat” has a very significant meaning. This Mantra will make one become sharper in intellect, more zealous, more enthusiastic and certainly qualified to excel in life and carrier. Moreover, at the Upanayanam ceremony held at Prasanthi Nilayam on 17-3-1983, (Bhajanavali Tape no 14) Swami told the students: “You may or you may not chant any other Mantra, but do remember that by chanting the Gayatri Mantra, the benefits are there for you to see. By continuously chanting the Gayatri Mantra you yourself will reach the state of fulfilment, a sense of feeling that you have achieved something.”
We were rendered speechless for some time as she went on explaining about Maha Purusha and her personal experiences with Him. Even on how one should not waste food and her experiences during mealtime with the Divine Presence of Swami. Dr Viji stressed on how important it is for us, His devotee to surrender to Him completely. She concluded by explaining how Swami looks at perfection in everything .She further explained that Swami actually learned Hare Bhajana Bina song from one of His students and after days and days of practice, Swami sang the bhajan. Once Swami finished singing, He actually went back in a very humble manner to the student who taught Him to enquire on how He sang the song. It is so amazing how our beloved Swami teaches us the lessons of life in a very simple yet deep and meaningful way. After the satsang was over, we headed back to our room with heart filled with so much of yearning for His love. 17 of May 2011 was our first activity for the day to help out in the Western Kitchen as the menu for the day was Asian culinary. We lent a hand in cutting the onions, garlic, carrots, just to name a few. It was exciting to see devotees from many parts of the world, getting together and preparing the items for cooking in union. After finish helping our fellow brothers and sisters, we joined the Rudram Chanting and Bhajan at Sai Kulwant Hall as our daily schedule.
The time shows 10.30a.m. and all of us were in the Conference Hall attending a talk which was organised specially for the Buddhapoornima. Speakers for the day were Brother Srinivasan and Prof Dr Anil Kumar. Brother Srinivasan spoke on “The way forward”. Regards to the topic, he asked what the way forward is for all of us and the answer was to transform from loveless to loving society. Brother Srinivasan also stated that “We don’t need to publicise but mission of selfless service speaks off unconditional love. Even at death bed, one could do service by speaking lovingly. Besides that, we should continue engaging in spiritual service activities such as medical camp, satsang, grama seva and many others.” He added that Swami always emphasized, “I don’t want your bhakti but transformation within.” How do we create such transformation? Brother Srinivasan also pointed out that it is the duty of office bearers and the organisation to device programmes to enable each and every brothers and sisters to be part of the Sai Mission. No one should provoke any member to feel unwanted. There is no greater loneliness than to feel unwanted in any circumstances. Swami often says “For any noble projects with noble intentions, the resources will flow through you.”
Brother Srinivasan also touched the topic on the trustee’s part. He said that they will follow Bhagavan’s instructions closely. Bhagavan wants all of us to be happy. Brother Srinivasan ended the talk by stressing that the manifestation of Swami, going to devotees all around the world is increasing. Before, devotees flock to Prashanti but now Swami will be visiting us. People who have never seen Swami will see and experience His divine bliss now and in the future, carrying his message of faith and love to all Brothers and Sisters.
The next talk was by Prof. Anil Kumar on “Nirvana: The end of sufferings”. Prof. Anil Kumar started his speech by defining the meaning of Nirvana, which means liberation or moksha. “How do we attain Nirvana? Why do we suffer? How to end sufferings? In order to answer all these questions, Prof Dr Anil Kumar explains about sufferings and what causes sufferings.
Sufferings occur due to three reasons: identity crisis, time and mind, and meaningless comparison and competition. Ego is the main cause for identity crisis. For instance, when a person does not acknowledge oneself, he or she becomes agitated or disappointed. That person suffers because of their ego crisis.
When a person thinks about the future too much and the challenges that will be faced and eventually waste the blessings of the present moment are known as sufferings caused by time and mind. The mind is the fundamental cause of all sufferings. The mind creates inferiority and superiority complexes. The mind is like a curtain between you and the God. If the curtain is removed, then, there is no duality and eventually you can experience oneness with the Supreme. How to attain liberation? The moment we get detached from bondage, we attain liberation. Thus, nirvana is the end of all the sufferings”, said Prof. Anil Kumar.
Prof. Anil Kumar pointed out that our duty now is to bring up Sai Literatures. Every discourse by Swami involves children, youths, householders and people from all walks of life. Swami’s teaching can be obtained by studying Sai Literatures. The teachings should be further shared with others through the usage of latest technology.
The speech was concluded by answering the question on why Swami spent 27 days in the hospital. He explained that Swami played His drama in order to prepare His devotees for His departure from the physical body. In one of His discourses, Swami says, “I will decide My departure when the time comes”. “He is the living God forever. Without moving out of the Puttaparthi, His devotees from all over the world claimed that He appeared in front of their very own eyes. Swami never demands anything from His devotees, but motivates and inspires millions of them from all over the world. Swami is eternal. It is our responsibility to bring the divinity of Swami into ourselves and make our life His message. We all have to remember that Swami is above us, beside us, in us and all around us and He will always protects us”, concluded Prof. Anil Kumar.
After the contemplative and inspiring talks by respectful speakers at the Conference Hall, we visited Easwaramma’s Samadhi. Right after that, we took a walk to Hanuman temple, Sathyabhama temple and also the old mandir. We had the chance to visit Swami’s birth place and were blessed to sing a few bhajans in Swami’s birth place followed by arathi.
Later in the evening, after the darshan and bhajan, we had another interesting satsang with another faithful devotee of Swami. Florist Uncle Sengodhan, is Swami’s devotee for two decades and was appointed by Swami to be in charge of the paintings in Prashanti Nilayam, mainly in the Sai Kulwant Hall. Uncle shared his blissful experiences and interviews with Swami. As Swami said “You do My work, I will do your work”, Uncle has devoted his life in service for Swami, leaving behind his textiles business and family. As promised, Swami is taking good care of his family. Besides that, Uncle also mentioned that in our life, we must hold on one namasmaranam (name) and be faithful in chanting it. Believe in The One and surrender completely to Him.
It was an inspiring, motivating and mind elevating experiences that all of us gained on this day. With all His divine blessings and messages in our heart and mind, we retire ourselves with full sense of gratitude.
18th of May 2011 was the last day of our trip to Prashanti Nilayam. We tried our level best in participating in all daily activities in Prashanti. We started our day by attending Suprabhatam, Nagarasankirtan, Rudram Chant and Bhajan. Then, we attended special talks at Conference Hall delivered by Uncle Hitesh and Brother Aravind, who were Swami’s students. Brother Aravind is currently working at Radio Sai.
Uncle Hitesh talked about Swami’s mission. Before he started his speech, Uncle Hitesh asked us all a few questions, for instances Where is God? Who is God? What is God? He mentioned that Swami wants us to go beyond darkness and travel in search of light within. Besides that, Uncle Hitesh also told us to see God in everyone, “Sarva Butanam”. Eventhough Swami has left His mortal coil, the organization is going to expand immensely and more devotees will be visiting Prashanti in future to seek for Swami’s darshan. He asked us to move together and grow together. He reminded us that we are not the body, we are not the mind but we are the Atma. Meanwhile Bro Aravind shared his experiences with Swami during his schooling period. He mentioned that Swami once had said that “When you talk about God, God enters you. Once you get God, everything comes to you. Chanting of God’s name has power and will lead us to a pleasant journey.”
After the wonderful experience sharing session, we gathered at the Ganesha Mandir and travelled by Auto to the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Science or the Super Speciality Hospital at Prasanthigram, Puttaparthi. A Sai Brother, who works in the Hospital, brought us all for a tour in the building. We were amazed with the state of art facilities, service, maintenance and the architecture of the Super Speciality Hospital. Soon after the hospital visit, Tobia, an Italian Sai Brother, brought us to his house which was nearby to the hospital. We met Mr & Mrs Francis, Tobia’s parents. They served us Italian cuisine for lunch. The food was awesome.
After the Italian feast, Bro Tobia brought us to a few places outside Prashanti Nilayam. We walked through Swami’s University, Swami’s Music School and Hillview Stadium and reached Prashanti Nilayam at about 4.00pm to join Rudram Chants and Bhajan. After taking our dinner, we met up at Uncle Mahendran’s room for our daily satsang and celebrated both of our sai sisters birthday, Sis Anita and Sis Vivitha. It was a memorable day for sisters, celebrating their 23rd Birthday at Parthi. It was another blesssed day with beautiful experiences and sightseeings.
After leaving the Prashanti Nilayam on 19th of May 2011 morning with heavenly experience and memories in our heart and soul, we proceeded our last day of our India trip to Bangaluru. We had our breakfast in a restaurant and enjoyed the two hours journey by seeing the sights of hills, villages and temples along the highway. On our way to Bangaluru, we visited a scenic ancient temple known as ‘Lepakshi’. The structure of the temple was beautifully and skilfully constructed on the mammoth stones. The statues in the temple were crafted in a very precise and mesmerising way. The Lepakshi temple has its own history and many stories of the epic such as Ramayana were related to this place. The morning breeze in the temple was so relaxing and it was the perfect place for photo shots. Next, we visited Shridi Baba Mandir along the way and the environment was so serene in the temple. After reaching the Bangaluru city, we head to renown ISCON temple, where the Lord Krishna and His consort, Goddess Radha are being workshiped. The temple was splendidly built. After having our lunch, we checked in a hotel for the night. In the evening, we did a quick shopping at the Bazaar. Later in the night, we had our dinner in a restaurant nearby our hotel. We packed our luggage before hitting the sack. The next day, 20th of May 2011, we had our breakfast in the hotel and did our last minute shopping. Approximately 12.00pm, we loaded our luggage into the taxis and headed towards Bangaluru International Airport to catch our flight which departed at 5.30pm, Indian time. Before boarding the plane, we had our lunch at the pizza outlet in the airport. Approximately three hours journey on air, we landed in LCCT at about 12.15am Malaysian time.
The whole journey was so meaningful to all of us. Stepping the ground where Swami has been since His childhood is the most beautiful thing we had experienced. Visits to all these places by foot made us understand and feel Swami from within. By reading Swami’s book about Swami’s childhood life and seeing it with our very own eyes is an unexplainable.
Our utmost gratitude to our beloved Swami for giving us the opportunity to visit the Abode of Supreme Peace.
Jai Sai Ram.