Sweet Christmas Memories...
Christmas in Prasanthi Nilayam has been an enthralling and elevating exprience for believers from all around the globe eversince the celebrations became a part of Prasanthi Festive Calendar. The Manger, the infant holy child, the hymns and carols would bring nostalgic memoirs of the days when Jesus walked on the Earth. Read on an account from a devotee depicting how as a westerner he felt and accepted the festivity in the Divine Presence of Bhagawan...
Hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas we invoke His Divine Blessings to one and all on the ensuing New Year 2008!
Allow me to share with you some thoughts which came to my mind when I took a round in the ashram one evening beginning December 2007. To my surprise I saw that a crib with Baby Jesus was already installed next to Swami’s altar on the groundfloor in North Block 4.
For many years Sai Kulwant Hall had been witnessing a manger scene during Christmas festivity until 2006 when it was moved to the front of the Western Canteen, reason being Swami’s comments that devotees could not see it in the Hall because the crib was placed low on the steps of the veranda. For me, that manger scene holds a special sweetness in my memory, and in my heart.
I take you to the days of Christmas 2005. A beautiful music program was prepared for the 24th afternoon, and everybody was waiting for Swami. Finally, it was darshan time! Swami came in the car and took a full round. I was seated at the fence of the veranda close to the crib. When Swami passed the veranda He looked directly at child Jesus, and so the crib was blessed.
When the music program was finished, Swami took arati and returned to His residence. I went down the steps and prayed, then I touched the feet of child Jesus. It was a memorable moment for me, because I saw that some of my students did the same.
Why is this so touching for me? It is for one reason only: India is a holy land. The people of India have Love for God, and that is felt in the vibrations especially at holy places, where all the prayers form the loving atmosphere that can be experienced by everyone who loves God.
Every time when I come to India I feel the Divine Love so strongly, especially when coming closer to Parthi and reaching this Divine Valley. This is so different from my home country, The Netherlands. Why? Generally in my country we do not speak about God, let alone pray in public... Jesus is privatised to the homes, monasteries, churches and some TV-channels. Processions have almost disappeared from the streets in villages and cities. At meals we have to ask our host for quiet moments for prayers, and only with a few can we share our most devotional thoughts and feelings.
Now let us return to Prasanthi Nilayam. Once you have reached the Ganesh Gate peace “falls” on you. The twin temples of Lord Ganesha and Lord Subramania are the immediate ‘attractions’ where people do their prayers and circumambulation with devotional fervour. Vedic chanting and Nagarsankirtan around Swami’s residence clears the atmosphere every morning infusing happiness to many a devotee. When you walk through the ashram you feel the holy atmosphere and when you come to the garden next to the South Block, you’ll find statues of Jesus, Buddha, Ganesha, and Krishna.
My happy child Jesus-feeling from Christmas 2005 initially continued each time I prayed to Ganesha-Jesus in the center of the veranda, usually after arati. After some time I started to go to the garden, where the statue of Jesus is on the highest place and where there is not much space for devotees. On this spot I found myself in a different mood, as I was not used to praying in public. But I stood anyway, on top of the garden, standing before Jesus, most of the time alone. From my childhood my love for Jesus was always there, but I did not grow up in a society which showed this devotion in public. I had to overcome shame, pride and mixed feelings.
After this, when I went back to The Netherlands (or Holland, as Swami says), I started to greet all the places where I passed statues of Jesus or holy scriptures. In the south of Holland, where we live, many small chapels of Mother Mary with child Jesus were found. We regularly go to the Saint John Cathedral where every day hundreds of devotees come to light a candle for Mother Mary with child Jesus.
I believe that our inner Swami, God, is spreading good vibrations everywhere. As Swami says: See Good – Do Good – Be Good, then we are a beacon in our respective societies. The time will come that we can experience bhakti (devotion) everywhere again, the time of Brotherhood of Man and Fatherhood of God.