Aum Sri Sai Ram.
The festival of Maha Shivaratri is one of the most significant events
in the Prasanthi Nilayam calendar. According to Hindu belief, the moon
is the presiding deity of the mind and the 16 phases of the moon
represent the 16 aspects of the mind. On the Shivaratri day, which
falls a day prior to the new moon, only a streak of the moon is
visible. This is symbolic of the waning influence of the mind when 15
aspects have already merged in the self and only one aspect remains.
Hence on this day, it is easier to control the mind and direct it
towards God. Therefore, the night is spent in contemplation and
adoration of God, so that the vagaries of the mind can be totally
subdued and transcended to attain realization of the Atman.
On the 18th of February, it was the good fortune of thousands of
devotees of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba to spend this sacred night in
contemplation of the Divine in His very Presence. Such was the eager
anticipation of the devotees that they began to assemble in Sai
Kulwant Hall as early as 10.30 a.m. completely unmindful of hunger and
sleep. Their yearning found fulfillment when our dear Lord arrived
just after 3.00 p.m., resplendent in a bright yellow robe. As He
entered, the hall reverberated to the tunes of Nadaswaram and the
Panchavadyam and also Vedic chanting by the students.
The programme commenced at 4.00 p.m. Bhagawan blessed three speakers
to address the assembly before he delivered His Divine Discourse.
First to speak was Sri Sanjay Mahalingam, a final year student of the
MBA course at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. He was
followed by Sri Sanjay Sahni, the Principal of the Brindavan Campus of
the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. The last speaker was
Sri S.V. Giri, the Vice-Chancellor of the Institute. The learned
speaker dwelt on the importance of Vedic chanting and the benefits of
chanting and listening to the Vedic hymns.
Bhagawan then yielded to the prayers of His devotees and rose to
deliver His Divine Discourse. He stressed the need to preserve our
ancient culture as many of the traditions and beliefs of our ancestors
have great inner significance. But, even as the vast gathering was
drinking of the sweet nectar of the Lord’s message, Bhagawan’s voice
suddenly choked and he began to hiccup – the first signs that the
Lingam was beginning to emerge!
Bhagawan then signalled the students to begin singing bhajans. As the
singing proceeded with great fervour, Bhagawan seated Himself in the
chair. Then began the painful process which is familiar to all
devotees, as Bhagawan began to rub His chest and continually sip water
as if to ease the passage of the Lingam from within His body. This
continued for a few minutes and just as it seemed that the devotees
could not longer bear to see the agony, the Lingam emerged from His
mouth to the immense relief and joy of one and all. Bhagawan held up
the golden-hued Hiranyagarbha Lingam for all to see.
Bhagawan then explained that He does not undergo any strain to produce
the Lingam as He does this solely to give joy to all His devotees. He
also said that this Lingam would give rise to many other Lingams
later. Even as He said this, He began to hiccup again and the
anticipation of the assembly grew as they realized that another Lingam
was on its way. Suddenly, to the dismay of all devotees, Bhagawan’s
body went limp and He was taken into the Interview room. But, the
anxiety and fear in the hearts of devotees was soon assuaged, when
Bhagawan first had it announced that two more Lingams had manifested
and when He Himself emerged a few minutes later, raising His Hands in
benediction and reassurance.
Bhagawan declared that though it may apparently seem that His body
undergoes suffering, He will never come to any harm. He declared that
His body was for the sake of His devotees. He then exhorted the
gathering to refresh themselves and then return to the Mandir to spend
the night in devotional singing. Before Bhagawan retired to His
residence, He added that He would come again later that night.
The bhajans continued thereafter. Through the night, groups of
devotees from India and abroad had the good fortune of leading Bhajans
on this sacred night. At around 1:30 a.m., to the great delight of
all, Bhagawan arrived in the Mandir. He spent about an hour, seated on
the dais, listening to the Bhajans, while His fingers moved
rhythmically with the beat.
The following morning, at around 7:15 a.m., arati was offered to
Bhagawan and the Akhand Bhajan drew to a close. Bhagawan then blessed
Sri B.N. Narasimhamurthy, Warden, Sri Sathya Sai Hostel at Brindavan,
to address the gathering. The erudite speaker based his talk on the
Kathopanishad, which narrates the episode where a young lad named
Nachiketha receives the highest knowledge from the God of death, Yama
Bhagawan then delivered his discourse where he exhorted devotees on
the need to transcend body consciousness and develop detachment
towards the world. He narrated an episode from the life of Adi
Shankaracharya which beautifully illustrates this teaching. Once when
Shankaracharya was walking along with his disciples, he found his way
blocked by a Chandala (a person of lower caste and an
untouchable). The master ordered the man to move out of his path so
that they could proceed. The man then questioned Shankaracharya
whether he was addressing the body or the Indweller of the body, the
Atman. If he was referring to the body, he had no identification with
it, and was therefore not concerned with it. If it was for the Atman,
the Atman is the same in all. Then Shankaracharya realized that this
was no ordinary person and fell at his feet. Then Lord Shiva revealed
Himself and said that He had come in the form of the Chandala
in order to teach him this great lesson.
After the discourse concluded, prasadam was distributed to all the
devotees. Swami watched on lovingly as all the devotees partook of the
prasadam and only afterwards did He go for His repast. Bhagawan then
retired to His Poornachandra residence. Thus concluded the holy
festival of Maha Shivaratri leaving all happy and blessed.
Jai Sai Ram.