Love on the March (a)
(in 4 parts: (
a) continued b, continued c and continued d)

Why Colleges?

The Avatar had illumined the world for forty-five years when this narrative was completed up to Part III of 'Sathyam Sivam Sundaram'. That name, which flashed into my consciousness when wondering what title to adorn His biography with, now brings to my memory a prophetic declaration by Swami Vivekananda. During his discourses on Bhakti Yoga he announced, 

"[*]Religion, which is the highest knowledge and the highest wisdom, cannot be bought; nor can it be acquired from books. You may turn your head in all directions, you may explore the Himalayas, the Alps and the Caucasus, you may search the bottom of the sea and pry into every nook and corner of the world, be it Tibet or the desert of Gobi, yet you will not find it anywhere till your heart is ready for receiving it and your teacher has come. And when that Divinely appointed teacher comes, serve him with childlike confidence and simplicity. Freely open your heart to his influence and see in him God manifested. Those who come to seek truth with such a spirit of love and veneration, to them the Lord of Truth reveals the most wonderful things regarding truth, goodness and beauty." 

Translators of this passage into Indian languages have, even without the knowledge of the Sathya Sai Avatar, interpreted truth as Sathyam, goodness as Sivam and beauty as Sundaram! The Lord of Truth is, best translated as Sathya Sai. Baba has revealed the most wonderful thing about human beings - that the core of every individual is Sathyam-Sivam-Sundaram, and that this awareness alone can confer liberation. I had no inkling of this truth. Vivekananda himself must have led me to the teacher, the Lord of Truth.

Baba blessed the city of Anantapur, headquarters of the district of which Prasanthi Nilayam is a part, with the College of Arts and Science for Women, not with the intention of adding one more to the hundreds already dotting the land. His plan was to create an educational institution which would mould the girls entering its portals into daughters revering the spiritual traditions of Bharat (India), sisters eager to serve the ever-expanding circle of their kith and kin in the villages of this land, wives wedded to simplicity and sincerity, and mothers skilled and eager to instil ideals of service and spiritual discipline in the hearts of children. Before long, Bhagavan blessed Anantapur with another structure dedicated to the furtherance of 'higher living', a Kalyana Mantap (wedding hall). "When love is the lever that operates the mind, only good can result. I have come to restore love among mankind, to cleanse it of meanness and restrictive attitudes," He declared, while inaugurating the building. The Mantap is used as a community hall of service. Baba Himself arrived a few years later, when devotees celebrated therein the wedding of four indigent Harijans, and showered grace on the happy couples. He created for each bride a gold Bottu (a sanctified ornament, worn to indicate wedlock) that the groom had to place around her neck as part of the ritual [see 'With Wounded Wings' for an example of a gold necklace Baba materialized], and for each groom a gold ring which the bride had to put on his finger. The Harijan families were entertained to a hearty feast which they shared with the devotees and with Bhagavan Himself.

Seventy Apartment Flats

In the month of August 1971, when thousands gathered at Prasanthi Nilayam for offering homage on the sacred day commemorating the birth of Krishna, Baba declared, 

"People tell me that mankind is today on the brink of destruction, that the forces of hypocrisy and hate are spreading fast over all the continents, and that anxiety and fear are stalking the streets of every country. There is no need to tell Me this, for I have come here for this very reason. When the world is on the verge of chaos, the avatar comes to still the storm raging in the heart of man." [**

The Dasara festival in September afforded an opportunity for the vast gathering of seekers to benefit by what it has actually become - a course of divine lessons on the mystic symbolism in Vedic culture. Baba explained that the Yajna (ritual sacrifice) was a reminder of our essential duty to sacrifice the self in order to visualize the Over-Self. The body is the altar; the world we live in, the oblation; Bhakti (devotion) and Jnana (knowledge), the sacrificial flames which accept, transmute and sanctify the oblation; and the sublimation of the consciousness (Purusha) into the Absolute (Purushottama), the fruition thereof. Bhagavan also announced, 

"This year Dasara marks a new chapter in the history of the Nilayam. Recognize that Divinity is its core; yearn for that Divinity and strive to reveal It in yourselves through Sadhana, to which this campus is dedicated." 

The prayer hall had a new frontage added to it, besides an extended porch with silver doors and traditional temple sculptures and ornamental domes having golden finales. The Mandir was proclaiming the presence of the Avatar. The residents and visitors were to be conscious of the presence and to mould their daily schedules in conformity with the spiritual upliftment that they could partake in the sanctified atmosphere. Baba blessed by His divine presence, more than seventy flats which were allotted to devotees who were anxious to spend their days in Sadhana. The allottees had come from different parts of India and even from overseas. They professed different faiths and spoke different languages. But Bhagavan showered grace on them all for, as he declared,

"There is only one caste, the caste of humanity; 
there is only one religion, the religion of love; 
there is only one language, the language of the heart; 
there is only one God and He is omnipresent." 

The flats have since increased in number to about 300. Sadhakas (spiritual aspirants) eager to spend their days, or at least some months every year, in this atmosphere of silence, self-reliance and surrender to the Divine Will, are fast increasing in number.

Sivam Arising

October saw Bhagavan at Hyderabad, enthusing the citizens into Nagarasankirtan, inspiring them to instruct their children in the rudiments of Sadhana and transforming the baser ideas and goals of the elite by His discourses at the Academy of Vedic Scholars, growing in strength and usefulness under His benign guidance. On 25th October 1971, Baba laid the foundation for a Lingam-shaped temple at Hyderabad, the capital city of the state of Andhra Pradesh. 

"I am consecrating this temple for devotees who, instead of following Me from place to place, can now gather here, assured of Darsan," 

He said. At Dharmakshetra in Bombay, the divine residence is named 'Sathyam'. 'Sivam' is second in the series, while 'Sundaram', in Madras, was raised last. Of the three, Baba said, 

"Sathyam is the feet, Sivam is the trunk and Sundaram the head. On Sathyam we stand, on Sivam we act and on Sundaram we think. In Truth we are born, in Goodness we live and into Beauty we merge." 

Bhagavan inaugurated 'Sivam' on the Telugu New Year Day in April 1973. This architectural gem, enshrining the cosmic message of emergence from and mergence into the One, was completed in eighteen months. Here He materialized a Lingam for continuous worship by devotees who may be so inclined, and installed it in the hall which forms the Peetha (base) of the Lingam structure. For seven days thereafter, large concourses of people listened in rapture to the recitation and exposition of the glory of Shiva and of the Lingam which He is, as described in the Shiva Purana texts. The event marked the dawn of a cultural and spiritual revolution, with 'Sivam' as the fountain of inspiration.

During the Birthday celebrations, 1971, Bhagavan explained, 

"Life is a challenge; meet it. 
Life is love; share it. 
Life is a dream; realize it. 
Life is a game; play it" 

- a message which thousands now cherish and live by. He spoke of the three bodies which each one is encased in - the gross, the subtle and the causal. He said that intelligence is master of the gross body, intellect of the subtle and intuition of the causal. Every day during the celebrations, all those who were alert to the proceedings could advance a few steps towards self-control, self-knowledge and self-realization. Christmas came soon after, and in His discourse Bhagavan emphasized omnipresent Christ, saying "All are One in Christ and the One Christ is in all," He assured.

The Conference Did Meet

The Eighth All India Conference of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization was held at Abbotsbury, Madras, in the last week of December 1971. Baba had encouraged the organizers to proceed with the preparations in spite of the country being involved in a war with Pakistan, for He said that the war would be over by that time. "The civil war in Pakistan, between its western and eastern halves, forced millions of terror-stricken people to take refuge in India. They prayed in their agony that we should help them. True to our culture and tradition we sacrificed a great deal, gave them food and shelter and sent them back to their homes after ensuring that they could be safe and live there in peace. "We do not wish to expand or dominate or injure anyone," Baba said after the conflict ended. His Will prevailed. The Pakistani army surrendered, administering indeed a pleasant surprise to India. This happened barely a week before the conference was due to start with more than 3000 delegates gathering at Madras from all over the country.

Many had come from outside India. The Cowans - Walter and Elsie, Dr. John Hislop and many others came from the USA. The Cowans returned home in April 1972. At a gathering of 'Friends and Fellow Seekers' Elsie said, "We have come from India, my husband and I, brimful of the most astounding news that can happen to anyone. It is so fantastic that many of you may doubt it, because hardly any of us realize the great importance and the tremendous power of this Great High God, who not only walks the earth but cares for all the planes from earth to eternity. Walter died at Madras. Sai Baba resurrected him." And Walter confirmed, "While in the Connemara Hotel at Madras, two days after I arrived, I was taken very sick with pneumonia and was in bed. As I gasped for breath, suddenly, all the body struggle was over. I died."

During the conference, Bhagavan inspired the devotee-delegates to endeavor to translate the love they bore for Him into acts of service for those less fortunate than themselves. He exhorted them to share their resources, power and skills with others who are also integral parts of the same God whom they revere equally. Service must not become a routine gesture, an exhibitionistic activity or mere oral outpourings of sympathy. 'All for one, one for all' is the ideal towards which society should march. Bhagavan castigated institutions and individuals who deride holy festivals, defame holy men, deny God and thereby undermine the faith, charity, sincerity and honesty in man. He pointed out that man had mastered vast fields of knowledge, yet he had no knowledge of himself. He limped, though his legs were strong; he was insane, though his inside was sound; he was deaf, though his ear was sharp. The time had come to awaken him to this absurdity and infuse confidence into his behavior. Before the delegates left for their homes, He directed that all traces of dislike or distrust they may have had in their hearts for Pakistan be drowned in the flood of Universal Love that they had experienced. "All mankind must be welcomed into the warm fold of your love," He said.

In a letter to the residents of Prasanthi Nilayam on the New Year Day 1972, about the Madras conference, Baba said, 

"The sessions of the conference gave Ananda (bliss) to all. But more time and attention was devoted to the needs of the tongue and the stomach than to the needs of the Atman. For those who have appetite for the Atman, these cravings are trivial. It is best to keep feeding and feasting at a low key. In Madras this did not happen." Baba is uncompromising in His emphasis on values. He also explained, "Where material comforts are overstressed, Ananda escapes. Sadhakas should reckon that idle talk, voraciousness, indulgence in backbiting and scandalmongering, the denigration of others and the exchange of flattery, are inveterate enemies. Only those who avoid these evil tendencies can earn Swami's grace. May you deserve that grace in the year ahead. Determine today to get out of the old ruts and move along the paths laid down by Sanathana Dharma. (universal eternal ancient wisdom)"

A College for Boys

The foundation stone for a Sathya Sai College was laid on 16th March 1972 on a vast piece of land lying adjacent to Brindavan, near Whitefield. This building was planned by Bhagavan as a unique architectural gem, comparable in its magnificence to the one which houses the women's college at Anantapur. It had been designed as a reservoir of Jnana (spiritual knowledge, wisdom), promising to transform the land into a place of peace and prosperity.

 "Parents, politicians and teachers are all responsible for the extent to which the educational system has deteriorated," Baba said. "In education, as in all sectors of modern life, borrowed ideals, imported systems and fickle loyalties have brought disaster in their train. Everyone is engaged in offering advice or criticism, but none in actual execution to set an example. When the students of this college become leaders and teachers, the number of persons able to voyage happily on an even keel over the turbulent sea of life will increase. Injustice, untruth and unrighteousness will be recognized as disgraceful and demeaning social evils, instead of being tolerated and even appreciated. Truth, justice, love and grace shall soon return to earth. The reorganization of education is one of the means towards this end," Baba declared.

His People in Delhi

On 25th March 1972, Bhagavan arrived in Delhi for a ten-day stay. Baba often begins His discourses to the mammoth crowds before Him with the benediction, "I am most happy to share your Ananda and to find you sharing My Ananda." Those ten days were spent in sustained ecstasy and inexpressible, divine delight. After His return to Prasanthi Nilayam, Baba spoke to a gathering of devotees on the Delhi visit thus: 

"The longing of My people in Delhi was so poignant that it took nearly half an hour for Me to alight from the plane. Lakhs of people presented themselves before My residence and clamoured at all hours of the day and night for Darsan. Unless one group moved on, there was no room for the next to get Darsan. I had to climb up to the terrace so that the huge concourse could get a glimpse of Me... Drawn by the Ananda that the Darsan gives, masses of people from Meerut, Jullunder, Patiala and some other distant towns and villages gathered for Bhajan and the discourses. On 1st April I agreed to go to Kurukshetra during the hotter hours of the day, since I did not like to disappoint the Delhi crowds and deprive them of Darsan. There, Gulzarilal Nanda had arranged a meeting of ascetics and students at the university campus. But there were three Lakh people waiting for Me on that ground that was familiar to Me as a field for corrective teaching. I warned the Sanyasis (ascetics) of the corrupting influence of institutionalism and hierarchism. I told them to keep away from the contamination of political involvements." 

Jogendranath Joshi, an eye witness of the Kurukshetra meeting writes, "Until Baba arrived, thousands of students were surging in confusion and evidently getting increasingly restless and unruly. But as soon as He ascended the dais and looked around, the wild emotions were soothed; apparently menacing hordes were instantly transformed into brigades of peace."

The U. S. Ambassador at Delhi, Professor Keating, was so impressed by the reverence that motivated the Delhi crowds, that he said, "I cannot grasp the full impact of Indian culture through the study of books, nor can I vouchsafe for the authenticity of the scriptures of this land... but when I see in the capital city of this land, in the seventh decade of the 20th century, a phenomenon like this - five Lakh ardent men and women milling round to get a heartening glimpse of this five foot personality - I feel that I can hear the heartbeat of this ancient people." 

Khushwant Singh, then editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India, wrote thus on this unique wave of adoration that stunned the bustle of Delhi into silence: "A traffic jam is a rare occurrence on Delhi roads as kerbs are broader than in any other city. But here it was - a traffic jam with cars and buses snarling up all avenues within a radius of two miles, the focal point being the house where Sri Sathya Sai Baba was staying." 

Baba explained it as the natural manifestations of the longing for light and love. He deprecated expressions such as 'Triumphal Entry', 'He Took Delhi by Storm', etc., which the journalists used, as also the word 'invaded' used by Ariel in his column: "Last week Delhi was invaded by one of India's most renowned mystics and seers, Sri Sathya Sai Baba, who received a welcome from the classes and the masses, more rapturous than most welcomes Ariel has witnessed over the years."

Baba said at Prasanthi Nilayam, 

"We went to Meerut one evening, but the gathering was so vast and thickly packed that the car could not proceed to even within a mile of the dais. We were advised to return to Delhi, but the moans of the multitude persuaded Me to appear before them on the platform. I sang a few Bhajans, which the huge gathering repeated after Me, line by line. Having satisfied their thirst, I got back to the car as mysteriously as I had ascended the dais. I have been telling you since six or seven years that the day when millions will gather to benefit from the Avatar is approaching close. I advise you to garner and to treasure all the Upadesh (teaching) and bliss that you can today, so that you can sustain yourselves ruminating on the sweet memories of the experience."

For Baba, as for the millions, it was love, light and bliss every moment. The News Chronicle reported an incident which symbolizes the divine love: "Baba's car was moving at quite a speed near India Gate, when He suddenly asked the driver to stop. Everyone was surprised at this. Baba got down, crossed the road, went to an old man in tattered clothes sitting on the pavement and, bending down before him, materialized a ring which He Himself put on one of the man's fingers before returning happy to the car." Sri Ramanujam of Newsweek fell in with a scooter driver named Ashok Kumar, who had resolved to give up his evil practice of overcharging his customers the moment he had Baba's Darsan. The impact of the divinity cleansed his heart of vicious greed. Another incident worth recording happened when Baba was at the American Embassy with Professor Keating. He materialized a ring and put it on the Ambassador's finger, but the recipient was rather unhappy since it was quite loose. Noticing the embarrassment, Baba said, while sitting at the table for tea, "It will be tightened. You may ask how? Just as it came unexplained, the ring will also be tightened by itself." When he rose after tea, Keating found, "It was tight."

Baba Invaded

Instead of Baba invading Delhi, He offered Himself to be invaded! He addressed a gathering of the capital's elite at Kamani Hall and another of over one hundred and fifty thousand citizens at the play grounds of the Modern School. He spoke to members of the Seva Samithi and the Seva Dal who were engaged in various service activities as part of the spiritual upliftment process recommended by Him.

Back at Brindavan, Baba decided to initiate another great movement for teaching the wayward world that God is not a tyrant up in Heaven, but a way of life.

Shower of Light in Summer

He planned the month-long Summer Course on Indian Culture and Spirituality in order to instil into students the qualities of humility and reverence. Three hundred students from various colleges all over India, as well as seniors from the Sai college, stayed in a camp and went through a spiritually-oriented curriculum which centred round our heritage of moral and spiritual wisdom, intensive practice of positive secularism and the study of the lives and messages of mystics and saints of all creeds and countries. More than all, Bhagavan Himself graciously took on the role of author, producer, director, preceptor, participant, provider and instructor. Meera Bharani, a student at the course, said, "We were inspired to adopt nature as our teacher, life as our school and service as our task." Onita Bahl, another participant, said, "Bhagavan was the most taxed teacher at the camp. He talked to us every evening and on some days, in the morning hours also. He spent most of the day with us - watching, consoling, warming, cajoling and clarifying. He personally supervised every detail of the daily schedule - the recitation of Om (the Primordial Sound) in the early hours of the day, the Nagarsankirtan, the classes and the daily Bhajans, besides conducting question-answer sessions every Sunday. We asked him, 'Where does the soul reside?' 'How can one conquer ignorance or delusion (Maya)?' 'How should one meditate?' 'How is one to engage in action (Karma) without being involved in consequence?' 'How does one practise Pranayama (breath-control)? And so on. He listened with compassion and analyzed our problems in order to still the waves of doubt in our minds through His highly illuminating expositions. He filled our hearts with the gift of grace. None of us can ever be the same again."

The array of intellectuals who had arrived from all parts of the country, included pundits, professors, vice-chancellors, writers, judges, administrators, artists and poets all of whom were thankful and happy for this opportunity provided them. They, too, felt the impact of divinity and benefited from the unique experience. On the valedictory day Bhagavan told the students, 

"You are all bright and beaming with inspiration imbibed from the atmosphere of peace and self-control, the vision you have gained of your own reality, the sense of mission you have acquired, the inner resolutions you have formed and the invigorating lessons you have assimilated. Now cherish with reverence what these elders have taught you out of their love for you. Go back happily with the courage born of self-confidence. Share your Ananda with your parents, friends, companions and teachers. I shall be with you wherever you are; you can never be alone and helpless hereafter."

The Mother's Role is Over

On 6th May when the summer course was progressing ahead full steam, mother Easwaramma cast off her mortal coil at about 8.00 a.m. at Brindavan, in the very presence of her son, the Divine Avatar. She was happy and in good spirits till the last. When I paid my respects to her the previous night, I had found her surrounded by children. She was then narrating stories about Puranic heroes, and the children kept insisting for one more story before they unwillingly crept into bed.

The passing away of the Mother did not cause even a flicker in Baba's demeanour. The left half of the mausoleum at Puttaparthi wherein lay the body of the Father, had been demarcated to serve as the tomb for the Mother. So Baba had the sacred body sent with a few volunteers to Puttaparthi, where it was buried that same evening. The sudden death plunged the village in gloom, as residents of Prasanthi Nilayam bewailed the loss of their Prema Matha (loving mother). The women devotees had been orphaned by the death. They led the long line of mourners who were invoking the Lord through Bhajans, to grant them strength to bear the loss. Meanwhile, at Brindavan, every item in the schedule of the camp remained undisturbed. "Duty-Devotion-Discipline," Baba always emphasises. The few who knew what had happened, dared not spread the news without the specific permission of Baba, for whom death was but a curtain drop, a wink in the wakefulness of the eternal, a footstep to be followed by another in the soul's march to its source. Even when the Father passed away at Puttaparthi, the event did not disturb the normal routine at Prasanthi Nilayam. Baba's emphasis on duty and discipline as the two banks of the stream of devotion, was seen in action that day, the sixth of May.

On 20th July Baba inaugurated, at Puttaparthi village, the Easwaramma High School, a fitting memorial to the universal affection with which Easwaramma had evoked the goodness dormant in thousands of rural and urban women and children. Baba declared, "This village will certainly be uplifted when more of its children receive higher education. The new teachers who will reside in the village will spread both knowledge and the enthusiasm to earn it."

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[*] Itihaas: Vivekananda's Speeches at Parliament of Religion: about the intercultural situation of the world religions.

[**] BG, Chapter 4, verse 8: 
paritrânâya sâdhûnâm
vinâsâya ca duskrtâm
sambhavâmi yuge yuge

To liberate the seekers of truth, to take the power away from the wicked ones and to reestablish the way of the human principles I do appear age after age.



Written by N. Kasturi M.A., B.L.