Puttaparthi…………. Prasanthi Nilayam………… Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba …… I had heard about them; I had read about them. I had not seen them. I never knew I could see them, so soon so suddenly.
I had read “Sathyam Sivam Sundaram” and some odd numbers of the Sanathana Sarathi; also, the volumes of “Sathya Sai Speaks.” I never expected that I could come to the Presence, so soon.
The publications of the Prasanthi Nilayam were given to me by a dear kinsman; it was His love and consideration that made it easy for me my wife and my children to go to Puttaparthi and return, without any difficulty.
At Puttaparthi, the ten days of Navaratri are festival days and I reached the place the evening previous to the inaugural day. As soon as I entered the environs of the Nilayam, I recalled the lines of Dr. D. V. Gundappa, in His poem, Manku Thimma, which mean, “Can one gauge the expanse and the sublimity of the Himalayas from a picture printed in a book? Can the awe and reverence that the sea arouses be experienced by reading descriptions? There were thousands around the Nilayam and they were engaged in their several tasks. But, there was no sound emerging from the gathering; no shouting; no call. Men murmured to one another as leaves whisper among the branches above. It was a unique experience.
The devotees had occupied whatever space was available, in the open sheds, on the verandahs of the houses, under the trees, on God-given land beneath the God-granted sky.
Late in the evening, Bhajan started in the Prayer Hall. There was a huge gathering of people in front of the Nilayam waiting for the appearance of Baba on the porch above, to grant them Darshan. I felt that if I enter the Hall and sit in the front rows, I would be able to get a nearer view of Baba. So, I got in and secured a place in the fifth row from the front. The Hall was filled with the sublime Om; the Bhajan was begun. Baba did not come and occupy the Chair set on the pedestal. I repeated within myself the prayer contained in the Krishna Stotra of Mahaprabhu Chaitanya, “Jagannathaswami! Nayanapatagamee, Bhavathu me” (O! Lord of Jagannath, enter the path of my sight.) I repeated it many times. Suddenly, Baba came in and sat on the Chair.
When night advanced, we spread our beds under a tree and laid ourselves to sleep. There were many other families all around us, trying to sleep like ourselves. Slumber overcame me. A few raindrops fell on my face! I had heard people say that when festivals are celebrated at Prasanthi Nilayam, rains hold back from these environs, because of Baba’s Glory. Yet, when two or three more drops fell on my face, I rolled my bed, woke my wife and children, and moved about frantically in search of shelter. I could get a verandah where I could resettle myself and my people. A little later, I blamed myself for the haste, for, there was no rain at all. I remembered the words of admonition with which Jesus reprimanded the disciples who were not steadfast, “O ye men of little faith!”
The stars were shining all over the firmament Mosquitoes took toll on the verandah where we were. So, I migrated once again to my old tree and unrolled the beds. Slumber overcame me quick; but, in a few moments, a shower, more profuse than before, sprinkled drops on my face. I sat up and called on my people to wake and move. My wife said, “What kind of foolish game is this! There are thousands like us all over the place; they are not worried at all; Baba will guard us; keep Faith in Him and go to sleep.” “Well, let us get wet when the rain pours,” I said and drew rug over my head. I could not sleep; the rain too could not pour.
Early dawn, I heard the Omkar recitation from the Nilayam; it came on rolling like the waves of the sea. In the morning, Baba hoisted the Prasanthi Flag on the Nilayam. Thousands of men and women, old and young and children too gathered before the Nilayam, but, there was no rush; rushing or pushing; silence prevailed everywhere, a silence that was sublime and full of reverence. One could have a good view of Baba and of the ceremony, wherever one stood or sat. The arrangements left nothing to be desired.
Baba began His Discourse with a poem, which declared that only those who have practised detachment can understand Him.
Then Baba went up, on to the terrace and hoisted the Flag. He showered handfuls of petals on the vast assembly beneath. Within minutes, the Grihapravesam Ceremony was announced, to take place soon. About 25 residential quarters were waiting to be “opened” by Baba that morning, built to the south of the Prasanthi Nilayam. My kinsman had secured the privilege of having one built and so, He was waiting at the door of one of these, the very first, with me and my people around Him.
The auspicious moment neared and Baba came along, preceded by the party of musicians playing on the Nadaswaram, and accompanied by the students of the Veda Pathashala, reciting the Vedas. Baba came to us and, He entered the door, cutting with a pair of scissors the ribbon tied across it. He sent us in, with the words “No time now; I have to be in all these houses before Rahukalam intervenes; I shall come to you on my way back.” When He pushed us gently in, He placed His Hand upon my shoulder. At that instant, I realised what was meant by “refreshing coolness,” when the word is applied to the inner consciousness.
Baba got in and out of those 25 houses, accepting the worship that was offered in each and finally, He came back to us, as He had so graciously promised. He sat on a Chair that we had placed there; then, saying in my heart of hearts, “Angeekritha naraakaaram, aasraye bhuvanaasarayam” (I take refuge in the refuge of worlds that has accepted this human form), my hands placed a garland round His Neck; my head sunk low to His Feet. His abhayahastha stroked my head when I rose.
Someone placed a photograph in His Hands praying for autographed Blessings. He said, “Later, later” and took it with Him. I took my daughter’s book from her clasp and gave it to Him, with my pen, which I uncovered, fixing the cap at the back. Baba turned over a few pages and seeking out a picture in the book of Himself with the right hand on the Abhaya pose, He wrote upon it, “With Blessings….Baba” and loosening the cap from where I had fixed it putting it on other end and tightening the cap by a few turns, He handed the two to me. His hand touched mine. Joy bubbled within me. “Kim alabhyam, Bhagavathi, Prasanne Sreenikethane,” I said to myself.
Baba moved into the Nilayam and all was quiet; no; my heart was repeating that sweet line, “Angee kritha naraakaaram, aasraye bhuvanaasarayam”. It was the last of four, from a sloka composed by Leelasuka, the great devotee of Krishna; I had read it in the “Krishna Karnaamritham.” I was in that house, enveloped in that inner joy for some time. Then, I rose and went towards the Nilayam.
There, my attention was caught by something I had noticed in the morning, when Baba was giving His Discourse. There on the porch where He stood were a golden Image of Krishna on the right and a Golden Image of Bhagawan Buddha on His left. They were still there. Krishna, Sathya Sai, Buddha, different eras, different territories, but, the same teaching, the same Message.
Leaving Prasanthi Nilayam with the prayer, “May I come again soon, may I come again soon,” I journeyed back to Bangalore the same day, recollecting the thrill and the joy that we got through His Grace.