15. The Mission Begun
Sathyam Shivam Sundaram, Vol 1
The Mission Begun
Baba spoke on three successive days about Himself and His Mission ... He declared that He had come again to proclaim the same doctrine of Karmasanyasa and Sharanagati. "Just as the clouds hide the glory of the Sun, the clouds of doubt and delusion hide My Glory from your understanding," He said.
THE thousands, who attended the Dasara celebrations of 1960, must be even now remembering the thrilling declarations that Baba made in His discourses, about Himself and His Mission. On the very first day, during the Hospital Day celebrations, Baba said that it is waste of time and energy to force incomprehensively abstruse vedantic doctrines down the throats of simple, unlearned folk; it is foolish to recommend to them exhausting fasts and vigils. Teachers and gurus must urge them slowly forward, from where they are, encouraging them to take one step at a time, to give up one evil habit after another, and to lengthen the period of japam and meditation.
Baba spoke on three successive days about Himself and His Mission, for the recitation and explanation of the Telugu poem, Sri Sathya Sai Gita by Vidwan Doopati Tirumalacharyulu on those days, provided Him with the necessary cue and background. He declared that He had come again to proclaim the same doctrine of Karmasanyasa and Sharanagati.
"Just as the clouds hide the glory of the Sun, the clouds of doubt and delusion hide My glory from your understanding," He said. He wanted that like Arjuna, all men should now give up the Moha born out of Agnyana and get released from the shackles of 'I' and 'Mine'. "Prema is the seed, bhakti the sprout, Faith the manure, Sathsanga the rain, Surrender the flower, and merging with the Lord the Fruit," He declared.
"You are all more fortunate," He said, "than men of previous generations, for you have Me as your guide and guardian, watching over you and warning you when your steps go wrong. Make the best use of the rare chance; do not leap about like frogs, ignoring the lotus that blooms by their side, but be like the bees that swarm from far and near to drink the nectar in plenty."
Words such as these, resonant with the authority of the Lord, who called upon all to take refuge in Him, came plentifully from Baba in every discourse. "Faith is its own reward; it will reveal Truth. If you consider that Krishna was a cowherd, you reduce not only Krishna, but yourselves too to the level of the cowherd boy. Take Him to be the Lord residing in the shrine of your heart and He acts as your charioteer." "Do not deny or doubt, or hesitate to acknowledge the Lord, when He has made Himself available so easily to your prayers," He said.
"You cannot grasp the full significance of the Avatar or stand the full splendour without a period of preparedness and hence, I reveal to you only small instalments of the glory, like the creation of Vibhuti, etc.," He said one day. "No, it is not in My nature to scatter attractions to draw people towards Me; I shower joy, without any purpose; it is on account of this, that I revel in mahimas."
Lifting the screen that hides His Divinity from us, He declared another day, "Some ignorant people commenting on Me say that I have a double personality, Daivatwam (Divinity) most of the time, but Manushyatwam (humanity) the rest of the time. But, have faith in this, I am ever and always of the 'twam', of the 'ity' only. God does not change, or get transformed. I am telling you this, because there is a superior spiritual attachment between us, not the mere casual connection of visitor and visited."
Another day, He spoke in a more minatory tone. "I must warn you all against false teachers and deceitful gurus. There are many such, who go about performing imitation samadhis, pretending that they have fallen into divine ecstasy and promising to communicate that ecstasy to those around them. They lecture during the samadhi and dance and sing, in what they call raasakreeda. They deserve only severe castigation for all their pains. Keep away from these," He said. "I will soon take up the task of exposing these impostors and granting them the punishment they deserve," He announced.
On Guru Pournami day, 1961, at Mysore city, Baba called upon the devotees and followers to keep a strict watch over this class of gurus and warn them against the slightest tinge of greed, egoism, pride, envy, and hypocrisy. "The time has come to weed out the gurus who are setting bad examples to the shishyas, the sanyasis who compete in the accumulation of comforts and the acquisition of fame," He said. "I shall soon enter upon this Task; it is one of the purposes, for which I have come," He announced. "Sanyasis, who have given up all ties with the world and decided to burn their boats, should not celebrate their birthdays; they should not pester the rich with their importunity for donations and funds; they should not cater to the egoism of their followers by granting them pompous titles, praising their spiritual attainments; once you start diluting the strict discipline prescribed for monks, you cannot arrest the inevitable fall. Dharmasthapana requires that the Dharma of the sanyasi should first be corrected, because it is he, who commands the respect of all and it is he, who holds forth the spiritual ideal. If he begins to compromise and slide down the path, then religion will become the laughing stock of all."
The same Sankalpa was ringing in the discourses that Baba gave during the Birthday Celebrations, in November. Addressing the vast gathering of the villagers of Puttaparthi, He said, "For more than twenty years now, you have been seeing only the light, not benefiting by the warmth, for you did not care to come near. But, I knew that this day would come and that you would all one day give up doubt and delusion, and recognise the way to peace and happiness. Believe Me, this Puttaparthi is soon to become a Tirupati. Thousands of yogis, sadhus, and aspirants will be coming here in future years and derive solace and salvation. The re-establishment of Sanathana Dharma will emanate from here."
On Mahashivaratri day, He emphasised the Universal Aspect of His Message and declared that it was for all humanity that He had come.
"There is no one in this World, who does not belong to Me; all are Mine; they may not call out My name or any name; but, still they are Mine."
The meaning and significance of these profound utterances became evident only at Coimbatore, where Baba installed the marble image of the Previous Shariram, the former Avatar Shirdi Sai Baba, at the famous Naga Sai Mandir. Truly, it was a historic occasion, that function on the 26th day of February, 1961. The Naga Sai Mandir is so called, because Shirdi Sai Baba had given darshan to countless devotees there as a naga or cobra, which rose up from the heap of flowers, listened to the Bhajan for hours together, and even posed for a photograph, before finally disappearing. This miracle took place seventeen years ago and the mandir has since then served the spiritual needs of thousands from the city of Coimbatore and the surrounding areas. This was the first occasion, on which Baba was formally installing for daily worship an idol of His previous manifestation and so, devotees were eagerly expecting some important pronouncement from Baba that day.
Nor were they disappointed! Baba said, "It is really amusing, is it not, that I should install this idol of Myself in another manifestation. I am doing so for a very valid reason. This day deserves to be inscribed in letters of gold, for this function is the beginning of a new era, the 'Sathya Sai Era', when Saayi will become the Hrudayasthayi, the Inner Motive Force, of all. The only other instance of a similar kind, of an Avatar installing an idol of the Lord, is that of Rama installing the Ishwaralinga at Rameshwaram. That was done as a preliminary to the Destruction of Ravana and the Rakshasas, to the divine task of Dushtanigraha. Now, I am doing this as a preliminary to the other task of all Avatars, Dharmasthapana, the Establishment of Dharma in the world."
Epoch-making Declaration, indeed! Words ushering in the New Age of Love and Justice, of Peace and Unity! Clarion call for humanity to gather under the Sathya Sai banner!
No wonder the reception at Udumalpet, which Baba visited the next day after that momentous declaration, was magnificent; there too Baba called upon the people to partake in the great resurgence of Dharma that was imminent.
Baba has often said that the holiness of a place of pilgrimage is proportionate to the devotion, which the bhaktas bring with them and the sincerity of the prayers, which they pour forth before the shrine. But, when Baba Himself visits a temple or place of pilgrimage, the effect is more profound; it is like a rundown battery being charged from the very fountainhead of all holiness. Baba had declared that this is so, and that the purpose of His standing before certain shrines is to enhance their spiritual efficacy. It was therefore gladdening to hear that Baba planned a tour of Ayodhya and Benares after a short stay at Madras.
On 23rd March, Baba addressed a mammoth gathering at the Railway Stadium, Perambur and the silent admiration, which the assembly evinced throughout the address made Dr. B. Ramakrishna Rao, the Governor of Uttar Pradesh, who was presiding declare, "I was all these days very sad that in spite of the marked progress in the economic and cultural fields after Independence, there was not much joy and contentment and peace and neighbourliness and love in the land, for want of the emphasis in people's daily lives on the moral tone and the spiritual discipline; but, today, I have regained hope. This vast gathering, the welcome you accorded to Baba, and the earnestness with which you have been listening to His words have told me that the moral progress of this nation is assured."
Dr. Ramakrishna Rao invited Baba to Lucknow and when He was there, he allowed the citizens of Lucknow to attend theBhajan sessions at the Raj Bhavan, thus enabling many to be blessed by Him and to get initiated by Him in the first steps towards the higher life. Some fortunate few were made aware of His Presence by some miraculous happenings, which brought more seekers to Him.
He also addressed a meeting at the Town Hall, under the auspices of the Andhra Association, the Tamil Sangha, the Kerala Association, and the Mysore Association, who felt that they should honour Him, presumably because Baba hailed from the South of India! But, as Baba said once, Dakshinamurti does not belong to Dakshinapatha! So, Baba advised those associations to give up compartmental loyalties and inaugurate, in place of various sanghs, one satsangh, an association of good people striving to become better, by systematic Japam, Dhyanam, and Lokaseva. Since the suggestion had the Sankalpa of Baba behind it, the satsangh was formed without delay and Baba Himself inaugurated the new chapter of harmony and unity and spiritual brotherhood in Lucknow.
From Lucknow, Baba proceeded to Ayodhya with a small group of devotees. He pointed out to them the various places associated with the Ramayana and the spots sanctified by Divine Events. He said that bhakti was still very deeply implanted in the hearts of the people in the area, for He could hear the unceasing Ramanamajapam emerging from their hearts. He visited the Rama temple and said that what is found in the virat is found undiminished and unalloyed in the limited swarupa also; only, the power has to be constantly nourished by the rituals prescribed, the sincerity of the prayers, the purity of the devotees that gather and of the priests and archaks, and the sanctity of the atmosphere. "People worship the Lord as existing in Ayodhya or Dwaraka and nowhere else; that is wrong; He is everywhere; limiting Him is to deny His glory. All this diminishes gradually the efficacy of the holy spot and it can be increased only by more and more sincerity among the devotees or by the Lord Himself, out of His grace."
Baba blessed the devotees on the bank of the Sarayu and later, took them to the temple of Hanuman, built in the territory that, according to legend, was given to him by Rama himself, given so that he might establish a kingdom resonant ever with the name of Rama. Baba distributed the prasad of the temple to the devotees, adding in the process, the prasad, as He said, of Sai Rama to that of Saketarama!
From Ayodhya, Baba reached Sarnath the same night by car and on the 21st day of April, Baba and His party visited the ancient temple of Viswanatha at Benaras, the temple immortalised in history and legend, in song and poetry, by epics and puranas, by bards and saints, the great shrine of the Lord of the Universe. The Lingam in this temple has been bathed reverentially by millions of pilgrims for thousands of years, with the sacred waters of the Ganges; Benares itself is considered as holy land, every inch of it, and death there is supposed to lead to the end of all misery of birth and death.
To be with Baba inside the shrine was indeed a rare and elevating experience, for He is Balashiva Himself, as those who have had a glimpse of His Glory know. And, we all expected that Baba would do something, some miracle, to heighten the sanctity of the shrine, to offset the decline caused by egoism and doubt.
Baba watched the ceremonial pouring of Ganges water on the Lingam and the recitation of the traditional mantras. Then, as though impelled by a sudden decision, He moved forward and materialising the Kailasha vibhuti in His palm, He applied it in three broad lines to about three quarters of the rounded image, making it shine with a peculiar splendour. Another miracle was in store, for He 'created' some sandal paste, of an other-worldly perfume and consistency, and patting it into a round shape, He approached the Lingam again and applied it to the centre of the triple-lined vibhuti. The archaks and others stood aghast with wonder at all this, but we knew that Baba was performing a ritual with a significance profounder than that of any done hitherto. Then, by another wave of that Divine hand, Baba materialised a priceless jewel, which cast its captivating effulgence around the shrine. It was a gem-set Pranava symbol, rubies round the circumference, diamonds forming the three vibhuti lines, cornelian in the centre of the vibhuti to represent the sandal dot, emeralds artistically designed like bilva leaves forming a green border for the Pranava, and above all the Pranava itself, a blaze of diamond, on a curtain of gold. The devotees burst into song and the chorus of "Om Shivaya" echoed and re-echoed through the temple aisles. Baba placed the Pranava on the sandal paste He had already put on the face of the Lingam, and asked that Arati be performed. Those who observed this ceremony that morning, in the most historic of India's temples, can never forget it.
Baba then directed every member of His party to perform the abhisheka to Vishwanatha with Gangajala, to the chanting of sacred mantras like Sri Rudram. He also led them to the Annapoorna Temple and the Vishwanatha temple in the Benares University campus. The carvings and sculptures in the latter place were explained by Baba to the devotees, for He alone knew the unwritten details of the Vedic and Puranic incidents depicted therein.
On 3rd April, Baba was in Allahabad, blessing the holy Triveni Sangam by His presence and showering with His own hand the sacred waters of the confluence on the pilgrims. He also visited the Saraswati Koopa, the Hanuman temple, and the original Akshaya vata, mentioned even by Hiuen Tsang, inside the fort, by the side of the wall facing the Yamuna. Baba returned to Puttaparthi on the 8th of April, halting at Tirupati for one day, to preside over the Tyagaraja Utsava celebrations there.
At Tirupati too, Baba spoke of idols and idol worship, for that was the refrain of His North Indian Tour. "The sadhaka should see, not the stone which is but the material stuff of the idol, but the chaitanya that is inherent in it, that is symbolised by it, the same chaitanya that is inherent in Himself and that pervades, moves, and transcends all creation. Then only is Idol worship and temple worship meaningful and beneficial..." "Many people laugh at those, who worship idols, and condemn it as blind superstition. But, reason is rendered dumb before the testimony of actual experience. All the arguments that logic can frame, all the tricks that dialectics can formulate, are powerless to nullify the effect of that inner evidence. The idol is not a mere external adjunct or apparatus or object. It is a part of the inner mechanism of relationship. If worship is carried out in the confidence that the idol is saturated with consciousness, it can bestow the highest bliss."
After only a week's stay at Puttaparthi, Baba left for the Nilgiris, where the people were long anxious to have the honour of welcoming and serving Him. The entire Nilgiris, from the smallest hamlet in the farthest corner to the biggest plantation, joined in the reverential homage. Baba condescended to visit the villages around and the sincerity and simplicity of the ryots were so touching that even long-standing devotees were moved into admiration. Baba Himself gave expression to this. He said at the public meeting at Ootacamund, "Here the people are full of bhakti and the bhakti has endowed them with vinayam and shraddha." At every village, Baba called upon the people to supplement the efforts they now make to earn physical sustenance, by making efforts to win spiritual sustenance also.
The Nilgiris, which Baba christened as Holy Hills, fell at Baba's feet and the spirit of surrender is well summarised in the song composed and sung by an aged ryot at Achanakal. He sang: "O Come my brothers, this is not our home, this leaky stuffy ramshackle shelter; our home is eternal, world-wide; it is there on the banks of the Chitravati; its name is Prasanthi Nilayam, the Abode of Peace." Or we can quote a Badaga song, in folk metre which the villagers of Ithalar sung with gusto: "He has come, the Lord, to bless us with a golden halo, like the sun. He is here among the hills, with a crown of silver moon. He drives along, adown, around the creeping climbing roads, to touch each stricken heart in city, town, and hamlet, assuring, 'Do not fear.'"
Even while Baba was in the Nilgiris, He was arranging for a tour of the Himalayas and informing such of the devotees as were selected by Him to join the fortunate party. He returned to Puttaparthi, via Madras and Hyderabad, in the first week of May.
The visit to Badrinath was first mooted by Baba three years ago, at a Bhajan session held on the sands of the Chitravati. He said then, that He would take the Bhaktas to the place where He was doing tapas and we were wonderstruck, for that was the first time we had ever heard of tapas, associated with His earthly career. At least, I was a bit confused, for I was until then convinced that Baba indulged in no tapas, here or anywhere, corporeally or extra-corporeally! But, I did not pursue the matter and try to get an answer.
The visit became a certainty and plans were ready and the party fixed, before the end of May. Baba greeted them all with His darshan at the Ethiraja Kalyana Mantapam, Alwarpet, Madras on the 7th day of June, and sent them by train to Delhi, where He promised to bless them personally, since He proposed to fly to the Capital, the very next day.
The train reached Delhi about six hours late and when the hungry, tired, and distracted devotees arrived at last, they found Baba shedding cool comfort and consolation and strength by His smile and His motherly attention. The next day, at Haridwar, the Governor of Uttar Pradesh, Dr. B. Ramakrishna Rao, joined Baba, for he too had planned a visit to Badrinath.
On 11th June, Baba and His Excellency attended the evening arati to Gangamata at the Brahmakund; the vast assemblage of pilgrims got the darshan of Baba at that holy spot; Baba blessed the priests and archaks with the vibhuti that He materialised and He sprinkled the sacred waters of the Ganges on those around Him.
That night, Baba called together the devotees, who were to accompany Him to Badri, and reminded them of the rare privilege that they had won. "You have the good luck of proceeding with the manifested form to the Unmanifested Form, whereas usually, people pray to the Unmanifested Form, immanent in the idol, to manifest itself before their eye, so that they might win the fruit of their sadhana," He declared. We were thrilled with joy at the revelation. He then described in great detail the sacred shrine to which He was leading us, as if He knew every nook and corner of the holy area. When He disclosed that Narayana was there depicted as in Tapomudra, as doing penance, and explained that it was called Badarikashram on account of this, I began to see light and the doubt that assailed me on the Chitravati sands three years ago, about Sathya Sai Baba and tapas, melted away in a blaze of joy. Baba spoke also of the subsidiary shrines in and around Badrinath and also of certain unknown aspects of its sacredness. For example, no guide book has published the information that Shankaracharya brought from Kailash five Lingams and that he installed one each at Badri, Puri, Sringeri, Dwaraka, and Chidambaram, but Baba revealed this fact that night. Baba planted in every heart the pilgrim mood of prayer, of brotherhood, and of loving service.
From Haridwar to Badrinath, a distance of nearly 182 miles, every inch of the road is saturated with penance and prayer, asceticism and aspiration. Myth and legend and history have woven round every spot stories of sages and saints, of sacrifice and sadhana, of renunciation and rigorous ordeals. The pilgrim is shown places where Shiva, Parvati, Rama, and other Gods did penance, where Parashurama performed expiatory rites, where Narasimha cooled His ferocity, where Arjuna won his weapons, and Karna his prowess, and Narada his veena, places where Kanva nurtured Sakunthala and Narada received the Ashtakshari. It is a narrow and tortuous road, cut on the face of the cliff, above the roaring waters of the Ganga or the Alakananda flowing in the ravine below. The party accompanied Baba, in full confidence and faith, regardless of the calamities that lurked round every curve of the road, and the landslides and landslips that happened, but could not delay their progress. Baba had announced that the rains would be held off, until the party returned to Rishikesh and the clouds obeyed. He willed and the party returned without a scratch or a prick for anyone!
The line of cars, jeeps, and buses coiled round the meandering road and reached Devaprayag, the confluence of the Bhagirathi and the Alakananda at about noon. One of the purposes of the tour that Baba had planned was to instil in the minds of His devotees and through them of all, faith in the scriptures that speak of the sanctity of certain places. He always emphasises shastravishwasa and devavishwasa, faith in the Shastras as equally important with faith in God. So, He directed everyone to have a dip in the sacred waters, before proceeding to Srinagar, the ancient capital of the Garhwal Rajas. There, the party halted for the night.
The people of Srinagar, who knew of the arrival of Baba in their midst, gathered in thousands to welcome Him and at night, they organised a programme of Pahadi and Tibetan dances, depicting the simple hilarity of the hardy mountaineers and hill men and tribes. Baba blessed them and gave each of them the unique chance of His darshan.
On the 13th, the vehicles moved towards Joshimath, where the motor road ends and from where the party had to walk 18 miles to Badrinath. That day too, Baba stopped at Nandaprayag, the famed Kanvashram, and directed the devotees to bathe at the confluence of the Alakananda with the Mandakini. Joshimat is the place where Shankaracharya wrote his celebrated commentaries on the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Brahmasutras; it is also the winter headquarters of the Mutt, which he established at Badrinath to counteract Buddhist influences that threatened to percolate through the Mala pass of the Himalayas, just seven miles away from Badri. Who knows whether Baba's own trek to Badri was connected with the sinister danger to Sanathana Dharma, which is now threatening from the same direction through the same road?
On the 14th day of June, early in the morning, the mules and horses were loaded with luggage, the dandis for the aged were booked, and the party started off in high spirits behind Baba, who led them along that sacred road. Eighteen miles ... miles of narrow congested road of rubble and stone, trodden into elusive smoothness by millions of pious feet; of gasping climbs and reeling inclines; of danger from falling stones announced prominently and frequently on boards en route; the rapture of snow-capped peaks ever on the horizon; the cheer of the cool torrent ever in the ear; broad glaciers descending foolhardily down the valleys into the Alakananda itself; snow lying across the pilgrim path; streams of pilgrims from all the quarters accosting each other in the language of brotherhood, though the words might fall a little strange; pilgrims resolutely pulling themselves along on foot, the old and even the decrepit with faith as their only stick, some sitting pathetic and forlorn in dandis carried by perspiring hill men, some swaying helplessly in kandis tied to the backs of men, some perched on ponies that trot on the perilous edge of the precipice, as if they are determined to commit disaster.
Baba walked the distance of eleven miles to Lam Bagar on the first day and halted the night there. On the 15th, the remaining distance was covered, before noon, in spite of the pretty stiff that it involved. The devotees persuaded Baba to ride a horse, but to their great disappointment, He dismounted very soon and resumed walking. Baba encouraged everyone along the arduous path, watching for signs of exhaustion; He directed some to enter dandis, some to mount ponies, some to put a brake on their overenthusiasm, some to sip a little water, and for some, He even materialised the unfailing specific, vibhuti! And, this, not merely for members of His Party. No, far from it. There were many, who sat exhausted on the roadside and Baba walked towards them and revived them by His sweet glance and words and His Vibhuti.
One picture will be ever green in my memory. A mile this side from Lam Bagar, Baba was sitting on a rock, with the devotees all round Him listening to some Puranic story, with which He was freshening us for the climb ahead. Pilgrims were streaming along the road in front; many passed on, too engrossed with their own pains to recognise the Lord within sight. But, one woman came, saw, and was conquered. She turned aside and fell at the holy feet; she had the sixth sense to recognise that the feet were holy. She was an adventurous soul and she discovered that Baba was on His way to Badrinath. So, in spite of the exhaustion, to which she had been reduced by that long trek, she entreated that she might be taken as one of Baba's party! And, what do you think was Baba's reply? "You had your darshan here; I was waiting for you to give you darshan; what more do you hope to get there, when you come with Me? Go, be happy; take this prasad with you." Truly, no one can come near Him without His grace, without His Sankalpa .
The 15th and 16th days of June were rather quiet days, when Baba allowed the devotees to perform in the Badrinath temple the poojas they preferred, Himself busy with interviews to the many officers, civil and military, and the members of the Temple Committee, who had heard of His Divinity and come to have His darshan. On the 17th evening, Baba attended the arati at the Temple. He thence drove to the Badrinath Hospital, where He inaugurated the newly installed X-ray unit. The Avatar of the Lord, whose X-rays penetrate even the darkest recesses of our hearts, from whom nothing can be concealed, pressed a button to take the first photograph (of the physical interior of the Medical Officer in charge, who insisted that he must be the first patient).
The 17th was, in fact, the day of days, the day selected by Baba for re-infusing spiritual efficacy, for charging the run-down battery. During the morning abhishekam at the shrine, Baba, who was sitting facing the idol, materialised a beautiful four-armed Narayana idol, with Shankha, Chakra, Gada, and Padma, an idol of supreme craftsmanship, perhaps sublimating in that form, the Narayana Tejas or Shakti before Him. Then, in a trice, He created a Golden Lotus, a thousand petalled one, lovely beyond all imagination. We all wondered why the lotus appeared; but, before our wonder could find expression in a gasp, Baba waved His hand again. This time, there was a Lingam in His palm, evidently the same that Shankaracharya had installed inside the Badri shrine. This last He placed in the centre of the Lotus and with both lotus and idol placed on a silver plate, Baba came away to the Dharmashala , where we were all staying.
There, Baba directed Bhajan to be done and while the praise of Narayana was being sung, He rose from the floor, saying, "Now, we shall consecrate this Lingam again." He showed the Lingam to everyone, bringing it Himself near each person and pointing out to all the translucence of the material, and the form of an Eye that was mysteriously incorporated inside it! He called it the Netralingam from Kailasha. Materialising a silver vessel full of holy water (from Gangothri itself as Baba announced), Baba Himself performed abhisheka to the Idol, the devotees reciting Sri Rudram and Narayana Suktam and Purusha Suktam all the while.
After abhisheka, Baba materialised for the Pooja 108 bilva leaves made of gold; they fell in a scintillating shower from His Divine Hand on to the silver plate beneath! Again, the hand was waved! This time, the shower consisted of a heap of 'tumme' flowers, with the dew still fresh upon them, tiny bits of fragrant fluff, plucked with care from a hundred little tropical plants! The pooja was performed, on behalf of all present, by Dr. B. Ramakrishna Rao, appropriate mantras being recited by the devotees. The Netralingam was sent back into the secret niche, where it was installed by Shankaracharya 1200 years ago, as Baba explained to us, when It suddenly disappeared, for the purpose, for which it was drawn out, had been fulfilled with the completion of the ritual aforesaid. It had been charged with immense potency and the temple consecrated anew by the manifested form Himself. In pursuance of His Mission of Dharmasthapana, of which promotion of faith in Shastras is an important item, Baba directed every one of His party to offer oblations to the dead at Brahmakapal that noon.
Baba always harps on the need to remember with gratitude the parents, who are responsible for one's very existence, for all the chance one has got for struggling upwards towards salvation, for all this joy of sadhana and satsangh. "Though the departed souls might not be actually in the Lokas you locate, or anxiously awaiting the offerings you make, it is your duty to honour them, to remember them whenever you are yourself happy or elevated, and offer them reverential homage," Baba has said often. So, when the devotees went to Brahmakapal, the holy spot where the bhog offering of Badri Narayana is itself offered to the manes, Baba Himself proceeded thither and blessed everyone while the ceremony was being performed!
There were some among the party, who were handicapped according to strict Shastraic rules from offering oblations to the departed and Baba very graciously collected them together and took them to the river Alakananda for a ritual that He had framed for them. He took from the surging torrent a glass of water, but the Divine Alchemy of that Hand had produced inside that glass, even as it came up from the river, a big cube of vibhuti, with the mystic symbol 'Om' carved on one side. Baba tapped the side of the glass and lo, the water had many grains of til floating on it, til considered essential for all ceremonies connected with departed souls.
He called upon the handicapped ones individually, poured the Alakananda teertha on to the palm Himself, and asked each to offer it to the departed, in grateful reverential remembrance.
The Badrinath Temple Committee accorded welcome to Baba at a special meeting in the temple premises, that evening. His Excellency Dr. B. Ramakrishna Rao presided and translated Baba's discourse into Hindi. The audience of 3,000 mainly consisted of pilgrims as well as the merchants and citizens of Badrinath itself. Baba told them of the five Lingas brought by Shankaracharya and of the sacredness of Badri itself. He said that the Lord is Premaswarupa and can be realised only through the cultivation of prema; just as all parts of a sugar doll are uniformly sweet, all those who, according to the Vedas, originated from the face, arms, thighs, and feet of the thousand headed Purusha, are equally saturated with His presence and the prema that is His nature. Baba described the trials and tribulations of the pilgrims, the expense and the exhaustion of the pilgrimage, and He asked the citizens of Badrinath to learn from the continuous stream of men and women, something of their faith in Badrinarayana, which prompted them all to make all that sacrifice. He wanted that they should not fleece them or foist things upon them, but treat them with greater brotherliness and kindness.
In the night, Baba arranged for the feeding on a really lavish scale of all the mendicants around the temple. The scene reminded us of the feeding during Dasara at Prasanthi Nilayam, for Baba Himself served sweets to everyone squatting on the sides of the road, and distributed to each person, after food, a blanket or its equivalent in cash, for the stock of blankets in the Badrinath shops ran out pretty quick.
Thus, Baba became in the short period of three days the cynosure of all eyes, and when He left on the morning of the 18th, people reminded Him of the promise He had made the previous evening that He would be visiting the place frequently in the coming years, and accompanied Him and His Party for a long distance along the road to Hanuman Chatti. Reaching Joshi Math on the 19th, Baba returned by car to Haridwar on 21st, visiting the Andhra Ashram at Rishikesh, on the way.
It must be mentioned here that the party of about a hundred devotees, mostly aged and not quite sturdy, could go through all that twisting and tossing in the buses, all that tramping and climbing among the Himalayan heights, amidst strange climes, taking unaccustomed food and come back hale and hearty, happy and contented, as per schedule, fresher than when they started, only through the ever-present, all-powerful grace of Baba.
From Haridwar, Baba went to Nainital where many people were awaiting His arrival. He granted them courage and consolation and spiritual guidance, during the interviews He granted. He also visited the Gita Sathsang, established by Swami Vidyanandji. An Address was presented to Him there in Hindi. He spoke to the sadhakas of Nainital on the value of concentration, quoting the shloka from the 18th chapter of the Gita where Krishna asks Arjuna, "Kacchith ethach chrutham, Partha, thwaikaagrena chethasa? " (Has this been heard by you, O Partha, with one-pointed mind?). From the same shloka, He drew the conclusion that the Gita, then as now, is intended for the removal of moha, the agnyana sammoha, the delusion born of ignorance, which makes man mistake the un-real as real, the false as true, the transitory as permanent, the source of sorrow as the source of joy.
Returning to Prasanthi Nilayam on 4th July, Baba Himself graciously described to the Bhaktas the ritual at Badri, as well as the incidents of the tour. He gave them, too, the Holy Theertha of Gangotri, which He materialised for their sake, a second time, at Puttaparthi. He wanted that those, who went on pilgrimage to holy places, must demonstrate in their daily conduct that the holiness has entered their hearts and transformed their words and deeds. "Shankaracharya," He said, "installed Narayana at Badri. Each one of you must now install Narayana in your hearts."
While at Badri, Baba had written a letter to the bhaktas at Prasanthi Nilayam: "Be always remembering the Lord; recite His name, writing it or uttering it, or meditating on it or turning over a rosary with it, or worshipping an idol or image with it; that constant dwelling with the name of God is itself all the holy places, all the sacred theerthas, all the famous shrines. When the mind has thus been sublimated, the full glory of Badri shines in it; the pilgrimage to Badri is a waste of time and energy, if the mind has not been duly tamed. So, do not worry that you are there and others are here. Narayana is beside you, with you; why then delude yourself with the pursuit of the unseen Narayana? Be steadfast, be full of enthusiasm, be ever joyful." In fact, Puttaparthi is itself Badrinath, for those who have the eyes to see and the knowledge to recognise.
Let us, therefore, install Him in our hearts, or rather let us realise that He is there already, directing as per His plan our every thought, word, and deed, and let us with the full consciousness of the good fortune, be full of quiet content.