All worldly pleasures are transient and temporary. Very often they result in sorrow and disappointment. God alone is the source of enduring bliss. The purpose of human birth is to realise the inherent divinity in man. This message was brought home to students of the Sathya Sai Institute, whom Bhagavan had taken with Him to Ooty in April last, by an interesting story. Swami said:

Once a great Maharaja (ruler) held a big exhibition of paintings and art products. The finest works of art were on display. The exhibition was open to one and all. The Maharaja announced that anyone could walk in and take away whatever one liked. Large numbers of men and women went to the exhibition and took back with them whatever they fancied. Among them was a lady. She saw everything in the exhibition. She came out through the main door without taking anything with her.

The Maharaja noticed that of all the persons visiting the exhibition she was the only one to come out empty handed. He was curious to know what the reason for this was. He asked the lady: "Madam, how is it you have found nothing to interest you in the exhibition? There are so many attractive things on display. Was there nothing that pleased you?" She replied: "There are innumerable desirable things in the exhibition." The Maharaja asked: "But, was there nothing which you wanted?" "No,” she said. The Maharaja said: “If that is so, tell me what you desire and I shall give it to you." She said: "Maharaja, will you promise that you will give me what I want? Is your offer genuine? Will you keep your word?" "Certainly,” replied the Maharaja. "If that is so, I want only you,” said the lady. True to his word, the Maharaja surrendered himself to her. When the Maharaja himself became hers, all that was in the exhibition automatically became hers.

This cosmos is a vast exhibition. It is the creation of the Lord. All are entering this exhibition and are taking whatever they choose. Some seek jobs, others wealth, and so on. They are content to take the objects of their choice. But no one asks the question: "Swami! If I take away one thing or another, what is it that I gain? If you become mine, all these will become mine." When you have entered the cosmic exhibition, you must seek the Divine. Then, the whole universe becomes yours. You must seek that which is lasting and unchanging. There is no meaning in going after one thing after another. There is no end to that process. There is no satisfaction in that. What you acquire today, loses its charm the next day and you desire something new. But once the Divine is attained, all things are obtained.

In this cosmic exhibition, you are seeing, hearing and experiencing innumerable things. You experience depression, confusion and disappointment. You have no contentment. "Asantrupto nijo nashtah". "Lack of contentment is the true loss." The man who is not contented is continually experiencing loss. There is no Limit to desires. One feels hungry, another is thirsty. If the thirsty man is offered water, he is not satisfied, he wants a cool drink. When he is given a cool drink, he is not satisfied, he wants ice cream. And so on. He is not satisfied with anything.

There is no end to desire for material things in the world. To get rid of these desires, Man must turn his mind towards God. That is the way to achieve contentment and lasting bliss.

With the arrival of simmering summer it is holiday time for the students from Bhagawan’s esteemed educational institutions after another hectic, but most rewarding academic year in His Divine Presence. Branded as future ambassadors, these students do have a definite task with them when they move out of Prasanthi Nilayam, to be role models in the society, in letter and spirit. It is no pressure situation for these students if they put into practice what they have learnt at the Divine Lotus Feet. Sai students need not get panicky at the thought of holidays. Of course, we should remember to have an iron control over ourselves when we go home for holidays, writes M. Sainath, 3rd B.Sc., Prasanthi Nilayam Campus as published in Sanathana Sarathi April, 1988.

"So, you are from Puttaparthi, are you?" For the hundredth time I winced and inwardly I was making a mental note to tell my mother not to tell everyone that I was from Parthi. I told the gentleman, "Yes, Sir, I am." "Well, then, you would like to tell us something about the place, how it runs…" And so it went on.

The conversation might sound insignificant to some. But to Sathya Sai students, this is an 'Agni Pariksha' or an ordeal by fire, the test to determine his moral standard as shaped by the Lord. Of course, one cannot engage in the unholy duty of categorizing those who fail in this test as "untrue" Sathya Sai students. There might be several reasons for a person's failure to live up to Sai ideals at a crucial moment. Sai's ideals are the highest and considering the world from which we all have come to Parthi, it is obvious that time and patience are needed to see the day when a student can proudly say that he is a Sathya Sai student without being afraid of behaving otherwise.

Holidays are one thing which several students look forward to so that they can go back to their parents. At the same time they are not happy at the prospect of leaving Parthi. The moment the bus leaves Parthi, it is as if some part of our being is left behind. This feeling invariably has an effect on our behaviour, the extent of which depends directly upon how far one has been able to grasp and absorb our Lord's teachings. For some, holidays are not just a stretch of days to enjoy, but a period of severe trial in which their degree of absorption of the Lord's ideals is tested.

There are three types of people one is likely to come across in the world outside, viz., (i) those who seem genuinely interested in us and wish to know all about Bhagawan Baba, (ii) those who are just not bothered, and (iii) those who want to know more for the purpose of criticism and ridicule. Most of us, students, would undoubtedly like to move with people belonging to the first category and would not mind meeting a few of the second. But, we definitely would prefer to keep away from the third. But with all the three types of people one will undergo the above mentioned 'Agni Pariksha'.

How does this work? The people in the first category have some regard for us and at any word of disparagement from us, they begin to revise their opinions about us. Hence, one has to succeed in the test with them.

Regarding the second category of persons who are uncommitted in their opinion, it is just enough if one speaks the right words that will tilt their opinion more to the brighter side. As for the third category, most of us cannot do anything. If they refuse to acknowledge the Lord's presence, then we should remember that they are to be pitied rather than shunned.

Most of us have seen Swami constantly urging us to go home for the holidays. But, how many of us readily realize that He is sending us into the testing crucible—the place where we are tested for the qualities we have imbibed at Prasanthi Nilayam. But, there is nothing to worry. If we just think about Swami and call on His help at such times of test, we may be sure He is there. This is my personal experience.

I have an uncle who is very much of a cynic and casts doubts on everything. I was always dreading the prospect of encountering him and be the target of his bombardment. One day what I feared happened. That day he dropped in at our home and said, "Ah! How is your Puttaparthi?" I muttered within myself "Hey Bhagawan!" and said, "Fine, uncle.” Then followed a fusillade of questions and I answered them all in monosyllables, until I met my mother's disapproving frown. And then? I saw Swami frowning that way. I knew then that I must stop my uncle's tirade. I fervently prayed to Bhagawan and then started answering my uncle's questions with more fire and punch in them. I even found myself plunging him into thoughtful silence now and again. I felt very proud of this achievement, though I never took the credit for myself. It was only later that I realised that Swami had been with me at that time. I knew this when I heard my uncle tell my father "Sai (referring to me) has matured quite a lot! I have never heard such an argument from him!" It was four weeks later that I got a letter from him in which he expressed his desire to come to Parthi!

Hence, Sai students need not get panicky at the thought of holidays. Of course, we should remember to have an iron control over ourselves when we go home for holidays. Knowingly or unknowingly, there are a thousand eyes watching every move, and as many mouths to spread the word. Let us bravely go forward and face our Agni Pariksha with the same zest and zeal that we show to the "enjoying part" of our holidays. Let us remember the joy that we would give our Lord if we come out with flying colours in this test. Let that joy in His eyes and our satisfaction at that, be our guiding light to our goal.