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Then & Now
A day in Ashram



Updated on 17-02-2007 @ 12:27 Hrs. IST

Maha Shivarathri - The Night dedicated to Eshwara

Maha Shivarathri has been among the most spiritually signifying events in a festive galore Prasanthi Nilayam. …and the festivity has had a unique trail to this Divine Abode that dated back to the early 1940s when the Master Indweller of this Home of Supreme Peace, had come out with the most significant declaration after the times of Bhagawan Sri Krishna, revealing The Sai Advent. With Lord Shiva in physical Shivarathri has never again been a choice, rather, it has been a compelling benediction. Shivarathri in the immediate Divine Presence of Lord Shiva Himself and this remarkable distinction is the uniqueness of the festivity in Prasanthi Nilayam.

The Festival of Austerity

Maha Shivarathri is perhaps the only festival that has this attribute to its credit. This is the holy occasion when the jiva remembers and adores Shiva, who is the life of lives and the Lord of all souls, who through His cosmic dance, a metaphorical representation of life on earth, conglomerates the three acts of the Godhead, namely, creation, preservation and destruction… Bhagawan has said: all that you find in this world, mobile and immobile, is nothing but the Cosmic Dance of Shiva. This is wonderful, blissful and beyond human comprehension…

Maha Shivarathri means `the Great Night of Shiva. According to the Sivapurana, falls on the Krishna Chathurdasi day which is on the fourteenth day during the waning of the moon in the month of Megha, though in some years it may occur in the month of Phalguna.

The Legend

This festival has a unique tale that dates back to the ancient times. The legend has it that in the ancient city of Srisylam a thief with a keen desire to plunder a Shiva Temple goes there with the intention and patiently waits behind the ‘Lamp of the Lingam.' Crowds come and go and the thief waits for the appropriate time for his plunge into the treasures of Lord Shiva. Hours and hours pass on, and lo! He waits patiently. At last everybody leaves the temple and the thief is left alone in the night in the midst of a cyclonic weather! Suddenly an unknown fear envelops the thief and in spite of himself being a thief, he starts muttering ‘Shiva, Shiva'. The great irony behind this is that the man though he is only a thief, has fortunately reached the fag-end of his Prarabdha Karma and a little Japa proves sufficient for liberation, as in the case of Ajamila in the epic ‘Bhagavatam'. Now in his great concentration in invoking Lord Shiva, the Lord appears. Having pleased with his devotion, Lord Shiva liberates him!

In the highest abode of Lord Shiva at Prasanthi Nilayam, the festivity assumes a different dimension compared to the traditional Shivarathri celebrations in other parts of the country. In the late fifities, sixties and seventies, Shivarathri had become synonymous with the most coveted mystic occurance called ‘Lingodbhavam’. There were occasions when a record number of eighteen lingams emerged out through the divine gullet on the sacred occasion. Hoisting the Prasanthi Flag atop the Mandir by the Divine Hands, symbolically signifying a successful sadhaka who achieves realisation through the conquest of evil qualities is another feature of the festivity of olden days. This would invariably be followed by illuminating Divine Discourses.

At a time when the surging crowd in anticipation of Lingodbhavam become multiplied in large proportion year after year, in 1978 Bhagawan had decided to stop the phenomenon of Lingodbhavam in the public. There could definitely be apparent reason behind this action that would be incomprehensible to the ordinary minds with limited understanding and blurred spiritual vision. Yet again after a gap of twenty long years, in 1999, Bhagawan re-enacted the feat of the sixties and the seventies, blessing thousands and thousands assembled in Sai Kulwant Hall to witness the mystic phenomenon, on the sacred Shivarathri occasion. Eversince this has been a regular feature for the full public view, all years except in the year 2005 when it was announced in advance that there would not be any Lingodbhavam that year.

The miraculous feat of Lingodbhavam is one of the greatest boons conferred on to the humanity by Bhagawan and for Him it is a very natural phenomenon as He embodies the Shiva Principle. As was attributed by Bhagawan time and again about the feature of His miracles, Miracles are My visiting cards, the Lingodbhavam serves a clarion call to the humanity to realise that everyone is essentially Shiva alone and by digging deep into the inner shrines of one’s own existence one is certain to know that he/she is nothing but Shivam alone…Shivarathri underlies this Shivoham Principle.

Morning Session

The unprecedented gathering converges in Prasanthi Nilayam during the occasion, thoroughly unmindful of the inconveniences that is natural for an assemblage of gigantic proporations, is an apparent testimony to the inner urge of man to realise his essential Truth. The inflow of this ‘would be’ unprecedented rush began filling every inch of space available in Prasanthi Nilayam from the 15th evening onwards and one could see long disciplined queues making a beeline, much before the first rays of the Sun peeped through the eastern horizon, to ensure a safe place on the coveted occasion in the Sai Kulwant Hall that is estimated to have the capacity to accommodate nearly 40,000 devotees.

On the auspicious morning Bhagawan came out in His car at 8:00 a.m., moving gently among the devoted assemblage, completing one full round, reaching the dais…Craning necks, glued eyes, folded hands and prayerful lips, minds attuned to the ecstatic vibrations and hearts beating to the melody of souls…He was the focal point….for the weak and the meek, rich and the poor, men and women…for one and all…The special Shivarathri Cakes prepared by the overseas group of devotees as well as by the students were blessed and cut by Bhagawan before He chose to occyp His seat on the dais.

His Glory does note require any catalyst to express…Sai Kulwant Hall filled to capacity reverberating with the Vedic chants, and the every single heart beating with bated breath and all the eyes glued to the beauteous form of the Lord with rapt attention, Bhagawan sat through the session for nearly fifty minutes, blessing the previleged folk of Prasanthi Nilayam…His Students! Bhagawan blessed the Primary and Higher Secondary School children who came forward with Shivarathri Greetings that was was followed by a musical bouquet by the senior students glorifying Eashwara. Music Programme intertwined with short commentary dwelling upon the Greater Glory of the Lord of Kailash Mountains…Sambha Shiva…the students declared: You are the Puppeteer and the world dances to Thy tunes…and they ended the prayer with an apt suppication …You are Samba Shiva…Mother and Father…and we seek solace and refuge in Thee… Towards the end prasadam was distributed and after Bhagawan left for Yajur Mandiram at 9:30 a.m after being offered Managala Arathi.

Evening Session

An electrifying Divine Discourse, an inspiration rhetoric excellence and Akhanda Bhajan were the highlights of the glitzy Shivarathri evening session at Prasanthi Nilayam in the immediate Divine Presence. In the afternoon it was indeed a long waiting for the capacity crowd assembled in the Sai Kulwant Hall; the hall was occupied by the general devotees, students and staff by as early as 12 noon...and Bhagawan arrived in the evening at 4:15 p.m. Sri A.V.S. Raju. a senior devotee was the recipient of Divine benediction to render his Telugu compositions on Bhagawan...This poetic rendering was followed by an exhilarating, inspirational rhetoric excellence by Sri Ajit Popat from the United Kingdom. His inspirational speech, a fine blend of Divine Teachings, poetic verses from spiritual classics suffused with wit and practical wisdom was indeed a treat to the huge assemblage of devotees. We are all assembled here with a purpose and the purpose is to contemplate on the journey ahead...and that journey is a journey Onward, Forward, Godward and Upward and not Outward but Inward...and that is our duty...exhorted the speaker...Endng his exhilarating speech the speaker prayed to Bhagawan to hold the humanity to walk the path of Truth and Righteousness...

Bhagawan began His Divine Discourse at 5:55 p.m. and it indeed was the treat for the afternoon session...Truth is all pervasive...It is everywhere...and lo! He materialised a golden ring substantiating His statement...Everything originates from Truth. Righteousnessemerges from Truth. When Truth and Righteousness come together Peace emerges and this is followed by Love. It is Love that brings everyone together. From Love comes Bliss. With Love, there is no room for hatred and this makes way for Non-violence...said Bhagawan.

Exhorting the students to follow the culture of Bharat, Bhagawan declared that very soon all would recognise the culture of Bharat. Acknowledging the devotion of devotees from overseas countries,, Bhagawan sounded, All are one...The Russian blocks, both men and women in the congregation were the recipients of a special Divine appreciation and the group cheered back with raised hands in reverence to the Divine remark. Bhagawan left for Yajur Mandiram at 7:15 p.m.when Prasanthi Nilayam was abuzz with the Akhanda Bhajan...

Gist of the speech delivered by Sri Ajit Popat

Sri Ajit Popat interspersed his speech with Sanskrit verses from Bhagawan’s Divine Discourses. Offering his salutations at the Lotus Feet of Bhagawan, Sri Popat said that we are in the immediate Divine Presence of Lord Shiva Himself. Bhagawan has given us Preyas and Sreyas. It can be compared to “do I want to be a great person or a good person?” or “do I want to be a successful man or a perfect devotee?” or “do I need the world or blessings of Bhagawan?” Sri Popat emphatically declared that if the objective of our Sadhana is to realise God, then we need not aspire for the kingdom of Kailasa, since we are right here at Prasanthi Nilayam…in the immediate Divine Presence…in the presence of Shiva Himself…He declared: “It is here and now…” Referring to the presence of thousands assembled for the coveted occasion, Sri Popat said, all are brought in to the Divine Presence with a purpose and that is to contemplate on the journey ahead…our Onward journey, Forward journey, Godward journey, Upward Journey…and journey to inside…the Journey Within…and this is our duty. Bhagawan has come to make us realise that we are neither the knower nor the doer. Sri Popat in his own inimitable way gave seven tenets for life that he preferred to call ‘seven ups’.

Wake up: We should wake up with the spirit of God. Let us listen to the ‘BBC’ – ‘Baba Broadcasting Corporation’ as soon as we wake up which is “Sathya Sai Speaks”. 

Stand up: We should stand up to the conviction Aham Brahmasmi – I am Brahma. We are verily God.

Dress up: We have to make up our mind. Let us seek everything from God. Let us offer everything to God with no sense of doership.

Look up: When I go back home and touch the Lotus Feet in the shrine of my room at Prem Kutir, I should feel and think that I am really touching Bhagawan’s Feet at Prasanthi Nilayam. Look up to God with gratitude.

Reach up: We have to reach up to the poor and hungry. Recently in Chennai in a Discourse, Bhagawan said that when we see a hungry person, we should ourselves feel the pangs of hunger and rush to feed him. Bhagawan was reaching to the people by going in the roads near Sundaram so that they could also experience Bhagawan’s Love.

Lift up: Let us lift our brothers and sisters. Is it not our duty to bring people to Bhagawan so that they can also experience the warmth of Bhagawan’s love and bask in His glory?

Shut up: We are only a witness. Bhagawan wants us to become the eternal witness. In all our actions, we should have 100% involvement and 0% attachment. We should punctiliously follow His teachings.

He ended his speech with a supplication to Bhagawan to help the humanity to walk the path of Truth and Righteousness…

The inspirational rhetoric came to an end with the assembly of devotees joining Sri Popat in reciprocating his ‘Jaikars’ to Bhagawan…and it was full throat, reverberating Prasanthi Nilayam as Bhagawan, the Eternal Witness sitting in the midst…watching non-chalantly.

Gist of Bhagawan's Divine Discourse

After Sri Ajit Popat’s speech Bhagawan began His Divine Discourse with a poem which reads thus:

The creation emerges from Truth and merges into Truth,
Is there a place in the cosmos where Truth does not exist?
Visualise this pure and unsullied Truth. (Telugu Poem)

Truth pervades everywhere. Vision, audition and sense of touch, they all carry with them Truth. Truth is everywhere and has no specific form. Brahma Sathyam Jagan-mithya (Brahman alone is real, the world is unreal). God is the only Truth and the world is illusion. Truth is one and manifests in different forms. Dharma (righteousness), Santhi (peace), Prema (love) and ultimately Ananda (bliss), all have originated from Truth.

Mamaivamsho Jivaloke Jivabhuta Sanathana (the eternal Atma in all beings is a part of My Being). You are I and I am you. Each body has a name for identification, but the Atma is the same in all. Loving the Atma amounts to loving yourself. People think that the relationship between husband and wife, between mother and son is love, but they all represent your feelings and sentiments. Love is one. When there is no duality, there is only one. “A man with dual mind is half blind.” “Brotherhood of Man and Fatherhood of God.” When we live up to this dictum, there will be no chance for conflict. Only then will humanity be One.

Who is Manava? Do you mean to say that Manava is a combination of limbs? Manava means one who has no differences whatsoever. Though the bodies are different, Atma is one. We should not develop differences based on name and form.

Jewels are many but gold is one
Cows are many but milk is one
Beings are many but breath is one (Telugu Poem)

(Pointing to the array of bulbs in the Hall), Bhagawan said, “Bulbs are many, but current is one.” Speaking on the manifestation of Linga, Bhagawan said that He received many letters from devotees and the doctors were also of the view that manifestation of Linga strains His body and that His body was very important for everyone. All have prayed to Bhagawan to save His energy. They were all of the view that Bhagawan should not strain His body to give this joy to devotees. Bhagawan should retain this energy to confer bliss on everyone. Very soon Bhagawan will give infinite bliss. Speaking on the acronym of the word Hindu, Bhagawan said that the five letters represent five sheaths and five human values.
H – Humility...... I – Individuality..... N – Nationality.... D - Divinity.... U – Unity
When once there is Unity, you can develop Divinity. We should uphold Nationality. So, it is the individual who safeguards Nationality.

Elaborating on the nature of life, Bhagawan said that without difficulties, we cannot be happy. Pleasure is an interval between two pains. The pain may last for a short while. We should be prepared to face minor difficulties. It also happens that good people face problems. A fruit laden tree always faces a barrage of stones.

One should have total faith in the principle of the Atma. Consciousness (Atma) is verily God. The Atma is the fundamental principle. It is not possible to fragment Atma.

Commenting on the progress of science and technology, Bhagawan said that in countries like America, cows are fed with meat to yield more milk, but it contracts diseases which in turn are transferred to humans. Speaking on the loftiness of the culture of Bharat, Bhagawan said that the culture of Bharat is highly sacred. Very soon even people from overseas will realise the greatness of culture of Bharat.

Speaking about Himself, Bhagawa said: Right from childhood, He was for the betterment of the poor and forlorn. He used to convene meetings in the Puttaparthi village prior to the Independence on the plight of farmers. He would share His food and clothes with the poor. Help Ever, Hurt Never is the motto of Bhagawan and He never expressed His anger or hatred towards anybody. Commenting on the wrong propaganda, Bhagawan said that it was because of jealousy in people. He is Truth personified. Truth has no fear. There is not even an iota of mistake in Bhagawan. “All of you follow Sai.” Sing the glory of God treading the path of Truth. “Whatever I do is for you.” Your life will be redeemed when you follow the path of Truth.

Speaking on the water project undertaken in the East and West Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh, Bhagawan said that He is spending crores of rupees for the sake of giving pure drinking water for the people of East and West Godavari, and that He would be shortly visiting East and West Godavari districts.

On the free education being given to students, Bhagawan said that not a pie is taken from students with respect to their education, be it examination fees or library fees. Bhagawan made an announcement that very soon He would go on trips round the world. There are lots of devotees in Africa and Russia. In this gathering, many are from Russia. “You are no longer Russians, you belong to Bhagawan. Russians, Japanese, Americans, Italians, all belong to Me. We have to learn many things from them.” These overseas devotees go to all places that Bhagawan goes. “They even came to Chennai in spite of all difficulties and expenditure.”

After this, Bhagawan signalled to the students to commence the nightlong Bhajans. Bhagawan retired to His abode at around 7.15 p.m. 

17th Feb 2007 Morning

“Shivarathri was the festival which manifested most of the God that Baba is” wrote Sri N. Kasturi in his narration about the festivity of the seventies and eighties. If God is Love and if that Love has embodied in human form, He is bound to shower that Love…and it was that all-encompassing Love, all-conquering Love that probably precipitated in the hearts of thousands of men and women assembled on the Shivarathri occasion, to treasure as most valued…to carry home…and further on…in the journey ahead.

Love My uncertainty…Bhagawan seemed to have wanted the thousands assembled to take a note of this often mentioned dictum…The Sacred Vigil that began with the Divine Discourse followed by Akhanda Bhajan continued beyond the scheduled hours as Bhagawan, the One who has an attribute, as beyond time…was expected to be in the middle to solemnise the occasion…the concluding part of Akhanda Bhajan. With the buzz of another Lingodbhavam still lingering in the minds of thousands, with every bated breath seemed to be prolonging to eternity, it was suspense all around as the whole of Sai Kulwant was in rapt attention with one supplication, invoking the Lord!

It was nearing 8:00 a.m. All eyes were glued to the pathway leading from Bhagawan’s Residence…and lo! The dazzling red clad Divine Form just emerged out of Yajur Mandiram, in the wheel chair, out in open!…Bhagawan was wheeled through the entire pathway, through the assemblage of devotees on to the dais. As Bhajans were still continuing Prof. G.Venkataraman, former Vice Chancellor of the Institute was asked to address the gathering…

Thanking Bhagawan for the rare privilege of the most exhilarating and elevating experience of Maha Shivarathri in the Divine Presence, Prof. Venkataraman made a mention about the recently concluded Divine visit to Chennai. Referring to the official function organised by the Chennai Citizen’s Conclave, Prof. Venkataraman said that the meeting was indeed a most extra-ordinary one as luminaries from the political scene were sharing the dais with Bhagawan sinking ideological differences and offering themselves at His Divine Lotus Feet. Making a special mention about the Youth, Prof. Venkataraman observed that it was time for the youth to come forward with Bhagawan’s Divine Message to save the world that was in doldrums. Talking on behalf of the old generation, he prayed to Bhagawan for New Role, New Vision and New Action…to rejuvenate and move ahead…He pleaded Bhagawan to help them, senior devotees, to take the Youth forward…

Man is estimating himself to be great; without being human he cannot be a human being; if he understands the qualities and manifest human nature, he can be called a true human, exhorted Bhagawan addressing the thousands congregated in the Sai Kulwant Hall on the day following the Sacred Vigil. Ego and attachment are the two worst enemies of man today. Man will loose everything because of the poison called ego. Referring to the story of Laila and Majnu, Bhagawan furthe said that Love is grossly misunderstood today and this was because of the effects of bad tendency in the society.

Think of Mother and Father with gratitude…Narrating the story of a person who was in danger of being killed, where instead of calling out God for help as Mother or Father, who preferred to yell ‘ayyo’ helplessly, Bhagawan said, Divine Mother is ever ready to come running…He hailed Mother Parvathi as Mother in Love. Mother is God; there is no other God beyond the Mother; once we forget this fact we will have problems. Bhagawan further exhorted the gathering to respect every woman with gratitude and serve them…this is the proper relation between man and woman.

Greatness does not lie in the number of books read; instead, it depends on how one conducts himself. By virtue of humility, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar attained great name…Bhagawan narrated some instances from the life of the great man depicting the greateness he had achieved during his life time by virtue of good qualities.

After the Divine Discourse bhajans continued for some more time as instructed by Bhagawan...after 2-3 bhajans Arathi was offered to Bhagawan. Spcial Shivarathri Prasadam was distributed to one and all gathered on the occasion and Bhagawan retired to Yajur Mandiram at 9:50 a.m.