Aum Sri Sai Ram
In particular, he narrated the story of a man who performed plenty of sadhana every day but couldn't find peace. One day, Moses walked past him on his way to receive instruction from the Lord. The man stopped him and asked, "since you're going to see God, could you please ask Him why my sadhana isn't working?" When Moses relayed this question to God, He simply replied, "beard". The man carefully maintained a long, flowing beard, so a lot of his thoughts were focussed on this mundane activity rather than holy subjects. Thereafter, he maintained a completely clean-shaven look, initially thinking that this would find him peace. However, he soon realised it was not doing so. Moses was again travelling to seek instruction from the Lord and the situation repeated itself, including God again replying, "beard". This time, it was because the man was spending so much time taking God's message too literally and plucking every single hair out! The message is that body-consciousness will always detract from spiritual efforts, so it should be erased.
After the morning Satsang, we packed up our five "Sumos" (4x4 vehicles, one for each team of 5 brothers) to prepare for travelling to our first village in this year's Grama Seva. Before leaving, all Sai students, faculty members and us took part in Pradakshina (circumambulation) at 08:00 around the portico and mandir in the Sai Kulwant Hall, chanting the holiest Vedic chant (Rudram) along the way. We were stood just behind the lead Vedam chanters during this procession, and the extraordinary vibrations surely prepared us for this most holiest of Seva (service) activities! The subsequent exclamation of "Om Namo Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba Ji Ki... Jai!" as we left the ashram, and bhajans thereafter, were proof of the energising effect the vibrations had on us.
Our Sumos followed some supply trucks and Sai students to a medium-sized village called Pedaballi, in the Kothacheruvu district, a 30-40 minute drive from the ashram. Stepping out from the vehicles upon arrival, the sights, sounds and smells of real poverty immediately became apparent. However, what also became apparent was the immense gratitude that villagers showed when receiving tamarind rice packets, ladoos, saris and dhotis. These items won't last too long (the food possibly a few days, the clothes a few months), but they are prasadam, i.e. items blessed by God being delivered directly by God, so they hold great significance for the villagers.
The brothers all felt very privileged and were all excited... so much so that many were quite excitable, and we were a little bit disorganised to begin with! However, all brothers became quite relaxed towards the end of the two hours we spent in the village, and we all enjoyed carrying out this sacred work. After driving back to the ashram, we were able to eat some of the rice and ladoos, and it was tasty! This confirmed that the villagers received top-class food. Nothing but the best would do.
In the afternoon session with Puppet Sir, he commentated on the 12th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, concerning Bhakti Yoga. These verses describe the attributes of a devotee who is dear to the Lord. Examples of such attributes include that the devotee is devoid of attachment and jealousy, they have no enemies, they remember the Lord in all good times as well as bad, and they maintain equanimity in all situations.
As an aside, Puppet Sir also heavily recommended we should all go on cruise holidays based on his personal experience, so start booking now! He said that in looking out into the vast ocean that surrounds the ship, one can feel the glory and magnificence of God's creation.
Afternoon Darshan then followed, in which powerful Vedam was chanted and uplifting bhajans were sung. Most brothers then enjoyed dinner in the Western canteen (veggie burger and chips!). We practised Vedam chanting as a group, working on unity and speed, in the likely event we will be chanting with microphones in the Sai Kulwant Hall in the near future (watch this space...). Rest then followed...
Jai Sai Ram