Gram Seva 2015 – Friday, 23rd October 2015

Aum Sri Sai Ram

The day started at 05:00 with 21 Omkars and Suprabhatham.  As this was a Friday, Puppet Sir lovingly recited Al Fatiyah from the Holy Koran.  In the remainder of the satsang in the morning session, Puppet Sir discussed the role of sadhana and how it should be done.  In particular, he said that sadhana can take the spiritual aspirant up to the doorstep of self-realisation, but that only with God's Divine Grace can one cross that doorstep.  Whether God's Grace can be received or not, one must at least get to the doorstep to find out, so sadhana must be done, and done with persistency, consistency and intensity.  In relation to God always keeping His promises, Puppet Sir also narrated that, before travelling from the UK to Prashanti Nilayam on one occasion, he was asked by the Centre Chair of a London Sai Centre to bring back a message from Swami.  When Puppet Sir relayed this question to Swami, Swami simply said, "Sathya Sai does what he says".

After the satsang, a touching exchange of parting gifts took place between Puppet Sir and his UK boys, since this was the second-last full day in Prashanti and a few of the brothers had to leave on this day.  Every brother received their prasadam directly from Puppet Sir, and then he was presented with a framed photo of this year's full cohort of UK Grama Seva boys.  The musicians that played so wonderfully the evening before also received gifts from Puppet Sir, and the young tabla player in particular was informed that he had won the hearts of the crowd the previous night.  The musicians then left Prashanti later in the morning.

On Sunday 11th October, Dr Ravi, head of the Puttaparthi General Hospital, invited us to spectate a yagna that was held at the hospital for the purpose of opening up a new wing there.  We arrived there at about 08:30.  We were sat in a room with a first floor balcony along all four walls and natural light let in through the roof.  The yagna was conducted on a lowered platform in the middle of the room, and in the centre stood a large pink ceramic lotus, which had four life-size photos of Swami's upper body on top of it, facing the four directions.  The priests chanted the vedam, including the Rudram, with aplomb.  As if we didn't already feel privileged enough, we received punchaamruta prasadam from the yagna and a commemorative book about the history of the hospital.

We quickly nipped back to the Sai Kulwant Hall for the aarti at the end of the morning Darshan at 09:30 and went back to the hospital to listen to a set of speeches to mark the opening of the new wing.  The speeches covered facts and stats about the amazing work done by the hospital throughout its history, the fact that Swami Himself laid the foundation stone (He didn't normally do this) and the importance of the hospital in Swami's mission.  Veteran doctors of the hospital were honoured at the end of the session.  All guests were then invited back to the South Indian canteen for a sumptuous lunch, where some brothers definitely filled their boots after not having breakfast!

The afternoon darshan started at 16:30 with 45 minutes of vedam, for the first time since before the start of the Navaratri / Grama Seva activities.  The Sai Kulwant Hall was then treated to the latest installment of the "Puppet Show", i.e. Swami spoke to us via a talk by Puppet Sir.  This humble blog post cannot do justice to the dynamism, wisdom and humour shown by Puppet Sir during his hour-long speech, so the reader is directed to, where the audio/video of the speech should appear within the next week or so.

Nevertheless, the main themes of the speech are briefly covered here.  It was split into two parts: the attributes of the loving Lord, and "adesh, upadesh and sandesh".

In part one, it was described that the loving Lord is mischievous and mysterious in how he guides us.  Regarding the mysterious element, Puppet Sir gave an example from his trips to the Kodaikanal hill station with Swami.  Swami ensured that all guests travelling with him should have towels in their rooms.  There is always a reason behind every one of Swami's actions, so surely the towels served some spiritual purpose?  The towel gets dirty in the morning, it is then thoroughly washed and hung to dry in the punishing afternoon Indian sun, and is folded nicely in the evening to have the same done to it again the next day.  In a similar sense, are we prepared to go through daily hardships, with a smile, for the purpose of serving the almighty?

In part two, Puppet Sir revealed that at the end of one of his journeys to Prashanti, when he was ready to go back to London, he asked Swami about what sadhana he should do.  Swami, pointing at His lotus feet, simply replied, "just love me".  In its purest form, this is the highest form of sadhana.  Puppet Sir then detailed a six-step process for a spiritual aspirant to transform their life:

1.    Purify vision
2.    Clarify thoughts
3.    Sanctify intentions
4.    Verify actions
5.    Solidify sadhana
6.    Simplify, simplify, simplify life

Puppet Sir gave a set of three questions to ask to simplify one's life in relation to acquiring things and putting ceiling on desire:

1.    Do I need it?
2.    Can I afford it?
3.    Can I live without it?

If the answer to the last question is "yes", then don't acquire the item in question and after repetition, life becomes noticeably simpler.

Puppet Sir's speech was incredibly well-received by the audience in the Sai Kulwant Hall.  There were chuckles throughout and at the end, the audience generated three of the now-familiar build-up sets of applause when usually they give their approval with only one or two such sets of applause.

After a few bhajans, the afternoon Darshan was concluded at 18:40 with aarti.  We then ate dinner, and the logistics and packing associated with winding up the trip were started in earnest, before a well-needed rest.

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