Grama Seva 2014 - Saturday, 30th September 2014

Morning Session

Tuesday bought the dawn of day 6 of Gram Seva and Navratri. The sixth day is dedicated to Maha Laxshmi and we started the day with Subrabhatam and recited prayers dedicated to Maha Laxshmi. Puppet Sir used the morning session to discuss the importance of our Stihi’s and how to make the distinction between external and spiritual world. The key message for our morning sessions was to understand that ‘I am not the body, I am not the mind, I am the Soul’ ultimately we should try to recognise I am not the body and the difficulties which we experience in daily life should not divert us from aligning our soul to eternal peace. It was also mentioned that we must trust Baba in his Divine plan which we are all a part of.

Gram Seva – Day 6

Our sixth day of Gram Seva saw us go to the village of IC Colony where there are approximately 4000 people. Tuesday’s Gram Seva was a humbling experience for us.  We worked closely with Swami’s students from the Prashanti Campus who have welcomed us with their Love over the past couple of days.

Afternoon Session - Lingashtakam verse 6

Since the start of Gram Seva we have been fortunate that Puppet Sir has been taking us through the significance of the Lingashtakam verse by verse. Today we covered verse six of the Lingashtakam and the key points which Puppet Sir gave us was to; ‘…Every time we see God you should think that this is the first and last time you will see God…’. This will always ensure that you have a strong connection with Bhagawan at all times and not have periods where there are highs and lows in your spiritual devotion.

Our day then ended with Bhagawan’s afternoon Darshan where we were treated to Swami’s Divine discourse and Bhajans from Swami’s students.

Grama Seva 2014 - Monday, 29th September 2014

The day’s program began at 0500 with 21 Omkars and Suprabhatham. As it was Monday, Somwar, the morning prayers were dedicated to Shiva and conducted just as they had been during Shiva Puja in Sai Kutir for so long. During the remainder of the morning session, Puppet Sir discussed various topics. Among these was how when we ask things from God, it is important that we ask for the right thing at the right time and in the right manner. He narrated a story from the life of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa when a devotee, who was a very worldly man, had arranged a boat trip for Master. On the boat, he said to Master, “I want to ask for something from you.” Master asked him what he wanted. The man replied, “I first want you to promise that what you will give me what I ask for.” To this, Master said, “First tell me want you want.” The devotee insisted that Master first gave him the promise. In this way, they went back and forth until Master finally relented and agreed to the promise. “Now tell me what you want,” said Master. He said, “Master, I want a promise from you that you come to receive me at the end.” Master was overwhelmed with emotion at this request and said, “I give you that promise.” Swami again showed his presence through the Thought for the Day, when he proclaimed, “I will receive you,” and addressed the matter of asking for things from God, stating, “If you keep your mind fixed on me, you will have it.”

For today’s Grama Seva, we once again travelled with Sri Ruchir Desai’s, this time to the village of Krishnapuram. The village was around an hour’s drive from Puttaparthi and has a population of 5000 people. We were also allocated a small housing colony 15 minutes further on from Krishnapuram called S.C. Colony, which comprised of around 75 houses. A number of boys from the UK group were sent on to cover this village with a supply of prasadam. Having finished around half the number of houses, we had run out of rice packets, so one of the vehicles was sent back to the main village to obtain a further supply. When we arrived at the main supply truck, we found there were no rice packets left. We tried several other supply trucks nearby but found that we could only manage to find one crate, which would not be enough. Disheartened, we headed back to the Colony with what we had. On the way, we passed another vehicle coming in the opposite direction that contained just the amount that we required and prasadam was given to every house . How Swami provided to make sure that none were left without receiving his prasadam!

For lunch we shared in Swami’s prasadam, and in the afternoon we recommenced our analysis of Lingaashtakam with Puppet Sir. Today’s Sloka reiterated the idea that worship of the Lingam will lead us to the formless attributeless God and that by worship of the Lingam, all past tendencies are wiped out.

In Sai Kulwant Hall, we heard talks by Sri Ruchir Desai, Associate Professor in the Department of Commerce at Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, with whom we have been going for Grama Seva, and Dr Deepak Anand, Assistant Professor in the Department of Management Studies of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. Sri Ruchir Desai spoke of the unique nature of Swami’s institution. He questioned whether there was anywhere else in the world that you could find students going to villages to serve prasadam in the morning and then sit in the afternoon to chant Vedam and listen to talks 2 weeks before their university exams. He also explained that being a Sai devotee is not a passport to an easy life, rather it is a passport to the way in which we should meet the troubles of life.

In the second talk, Dr Anand stated that the world we see is not the ultimate reality. Swami says that the world we see is like the shadow of an object or the reflection in a mirror. He also said that there are two wheels of life; one is the grace of God, the other is self-effort. This was echoed by Swami in his discourse, as he said that knowledge of atma cannot come from books or Masters, it has to spring from within.

Following Bhajans and Aarti, we had a meeting with Sri Chakravarthi Garu, former secretary and current trustee of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, where he enquired about the backgrounds of the group members. We sat with him for nearly 2 hours. At the conclusion of the meeting, we retired for the day in order to recharge our batteries in preparation what Swami had in store for us the following day.

Grama Seva 2014 - Sunday, 28th September 2014

Morning Satsang

The 21 Omkar reverberated in the prayer hall announcing the start of another auspicious day in Prashanti Nilayam. Brother Paresh chanted Suprabhatam followed by an offering of Mantras and Stotram by Puppet Sir.

Being the birthday of Shirdi Sai, the day was dedicated to Him. Puppet Sir narrated an incident from the glorious life of the Lord of Dwarakamai.

Shirdi Sai once told Nanavali - an ardent devotee - that he will face serious problem in his life in the near future. But Nanavali was least concerned by these comments. Thus, Shirdi Sai repeated himself. Ultimately Nanavali replied: “Are you not there for me? Then why should I be bothered about problems of my future? I know you will resolve it to my highest good!”

A vivid example of faith and surrender!

Veda & Pradakshina

After the morning Satasang, the Grama Seva Boys assembled in front of N1 at 0740.

Grama Seva Boys Gathered before N1, ready to start the day

We all boarded the vehicles and headed to Sai Kulwant Hall for the morning veda and pradakshina

Veda & Pradakshina

Grama Seva at the Village

The convoy of Grama Seva left Prashanti Nilayam at 8:40 a.m. and after nearly half an hour drive, we reached the village. Words fail to describe those unimaginable moments of serving, caring and love. Below are glimpses

The Village

A view of the “Traffic” in the village

Puppet Sir in action

Paresh, our captain, working hard!

Distribution of Food, Clothes and Sweets in the village

A new member of the family.. 2 weeks “young” calf! What a beauty!


Grama Seva boys sharing love with Village Children

Some fun too..  on the way back in the Lorry, with Swami’s Students

A lesson to take home

The above picture is a reflection of the joy that pervades the village when they partake of Swami’s prasadam. That real and genuine smile left a lasting impression on many boys of the group. It made us all realise that though villagers are very poor (in the material sense), some of them were actually much richer in terms of happiness. Swami has to “teach us” what ceiling on desires mean. However, the villagers lead a life which is sustained by the principle of ceiling of desires.

Afternoon Programme

Once back after Grama Seva, Lunch was served & after a brief period of rest the Grama Seva Boys gathered for another enchanting Satsang with Puppet Sir at 2.30 p.m to contemplate on the meaning of Lingashtakam.

Below are extracts of the discussion:

The lingam is described as Gold. This reminds us of the word Swami used so often to address us : BANGARU! The term “Bangaru” means gold as well as Goldsmith / Jeweller in Telegu. God knows that our innermost reality is Gold.

Just as jeweller, He melts and purifies us till our Golden nature is revealed and our mind is at peace and desires are controlled. As Swami Says: “ My only desire is to make you desire-less”

Evening Bhajans & Vidwan Maha Sabha

The Grama Seva Boys headed for Sai Kulwant hall for the Prashanthi Vidwan Mahasabha which can be viewed on the Radio Sai Website. The word Vidwan means intelligent. But how is an intelligent man identified?

A Vidwan is one who maintains his equanimity in both pleasure and pain and treat both is absolute disinterestedness. He knows these are passing clouds and thus enjoys unruffled peace.

The evening of yet another action packed and blissful day of service and devotion concluded with the soulful Bhajans by Swami’s student.

Grama Seva 2014 - Saturday, 27th September 2014

The day’s programme began at 0500 with 21 Omkars and Suprabhatham. Today was Saturday, or Shanivar, and so the morning prayers were dedicated to Lord Rama and Hanuman. It was the first day of the Veda Purusha Saptha Jnana Yagna, where the sacred fire is generated by rubbing two sticks together while all the four Vedas are recited simultaneously. We fondly recollected our previous experiences of this most auspicious occasion, such as how Swami used to materialise offerings to the fire with a gesture of his divine hand and how He would receive the Vedic Aarti. In particular, we recalled one occasion some years ago, in 2007, when we returned early from Grama Seva and so went and sat inside the Poornachandra Hall to watch the Yagna. We found out that Swami had not come yet, but within 15 minutes, he appeared on the stage, stayed for some time and then went back. On our way out, we heard that Swami might be going to give darshan in Sai Kulwant Hall, so we all ran and the entire group managed to be in the first line right in front of the portico. Sure enough, Swami came, and when he turned past the pillar to come in front of the Veranda, he gave eye contact to every member of the group with a big smile on his face.

In the morning session the Thought For The Day relayed Swami’s omnipresence by conveying the feeling that he will be as present as he used to be before Mahasamadhi.

We then made our way to Poornachandra Hall and watched as the procession of Pandits and Vedam Chanters entered.

The auspicious spark to generate the fire for the Yagna was created using two sticks being rubbed together by the priests as was the custom in the olden times.

Once this had been done, we moved to our vehicles and partook in Swami’s Prasadam in preparation for the coming day’s Grama Seva. Today, we were extremely blessed to be serving Swami’s own divine instruments by doing Seva at the staff quarters of the Sri Sathya Sai Super Speciality Hospital, Puttaparthi. Traditionally, this has been one of the hardest days of Grama Seva, as the crates of prasadam have to be carried up the multi-story buildings. However, inspired by the place in which we were doing service and with Swami’s Grace, we managed to complete the task. Having done this, we went to the hospital itself so that some of the group could donate blood. After spending a few minutes in the magnificent domed entrance hall, we returned to Prashanti Nilayam where we once again shared in the prasadam that we had been distributing that day.

In the afternoon, we returned to our daily study of Lingaashtakam, with Puppet Sir today concentrating on the third verse. We learnt that through worship of the Lingam, the intellect can be strengthened and made more positive. After the start of the Yagna earlier in the day, this afternoon saw the commencement of the Prashanti Vidwan Maha Sabha, where faculty members and students of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, along with other eminent speakers, give talks to those fortunate souls assembled in Sai Kulwant Hall before the evening bhajans. The first speaker was Dr Sanjay Mahalingam, who completed his MBA and PhD at Swami’s institute and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Management Studies. Dr Mahalingam narrated several experiences at the divine lotus feet. One experience was when he needed to take a day trip to Bangalore to conduct some personal work. He wrote a letter and asked Swami for permission. Swami said to him “Go”. As the time came, he began to feel very uncomfortable about the idea for reasons that he could not fathom. The night before the trip he was feeling extremely restless. When the morning came, he put aside those thoughts, went to Bangalore, completed his work and returned to Puttaparthi. When Swami next saw him, he said, “I told you not to go.” Dr Mahalingam replied, “I’m sorry Swami, I heard you tell me to go.” To this, Swami replied, “But what about the night before you went?” The message of this experience was that we should learn to listen to the Swami within.

The second speaker was Dr T Ravi Kumar, who has been at the divine lotus feet for almost 50 years since he formed part of the first batch of Bal Vikas students. He is currently Associate Professor of Chemistry at the Brindavan Campus, along with being warden of the Brindavan Hostel.  Dr Ravi Kumar narrated various personal experiences with Swami related to the theme of Swami as mother. He said that mother is a person to whom you can go without hesitation with any problem, no matter how small. He narrated one experience when he was himself a student at the Brindavan campus, where he prayed for Swami to make him taller! Not long after his prayer, Swami, having recently returned from Bombay, instructed the warden to bring the short boys to the front, saying that he had brought some medicine to help them grow taller!! He handed over the medicine and told the warden to measure them all first and then give it. Over a period of time, those boys took the medicine with milk every day. When it had finished, the warden went to Swami and said that the course had finish, asking for some more. Swami told him that it was not needed and to go and measure the boys. Much to their delight, all the boys had grown by between 0.5-2.5 inches. This narration emphasised how we can go to mother with any problem, and that being the divine mother, Swami already knows all our problems.

The evening concluded with Swami’s divine discourse, a musical program by the students of the Muddenahalli campus, bhajans and Mangal Aarti.

Grama Seva 2014 - Friday, 26th September 2014

The morning session started with Omkar, Suprabhatam and prayers. Being Friday, the theme of the Satsang was Islam. We dwelled on the life of Prophet Muhammad; Puppet Sir narrated an inspirational incident from his divine life:
There was a lady that thought that the Prophet Muhammed was mad and she disliked his preaching of sermons to the masses in the mosque. Everyday as he walked passed she would walk on to the balcony to throw rubbish on him, this happened for months. The Prophet wouldn’t flinch and paid no attention to this regular act. One day he walked past and the lady did not throw anything at him, this continued to happen for a few more days. The Prophet was curious about why the lady’s regular act of throwing rubbish had stopped so he went up to her accommodation to take a look. The lady was surprised at seeing the Prophet and immediately asked why he was here. The Prophet replied back, “I was worried, I haven’t been showered by your grace for the last few days and wanted to see if you were okay”. The lady was speechless, she broke down into tears overwhelmed by the compassion and love shown by the Prophet, despite her actions towards him. 
After studying and reviewing this story in detail, the main points were:

- Actions speak louder than words. Noble conduct & character is one of the highest form of service & worship.
- All noble souls face violent opposition. But they do not "react". Rather, they "act" as per their values & beliefs. In the process they inspire, guide & elevate mankind to new heights.

Following the morning session, the Grama Seva Boys headed to the Sai Kulwant hall at 0800 to perform the daily Pradakshina, chanting Vedam as they went round the Mandir in Prashanti Nilyam.

Today’s village for Grama Seva was  Mallempalli in the Kothacheruvu Mandal, Anantapur District.

Words fail to describe the significance of Grama Seva. The closest definition of this Grama Seva is that it is a “Prema Yagna" where God gives the villages Prasadam in the form of food (rice  and ladoos) and clothes. In return the villagers offers their love filled heart to God.

With Chants of  “Bolo Bhagwan Shri Satya Sai Baba Ji Ki Jai !!"  we left Prashant Nilyam in a convoy to the village. On the way the boys sang Bhajans. All the children that saw as, waved as we drove past.

Once we reached the village we disembarked chanted Vedam and and did Nagarsankirtanam around the village with the students. This Vedam chanting and Nagarasankirtanam is done to help purify the atmosphere of the village.

The Grama Seva finished at around 11am following which we returned back to Prashanti Nilyam. Once everyone had returned we recited the food prayer and partook of the same Prasadam of rice and ladoos that we were distributing to the villages.

Back to the ashram, following lunch and a very brief rest, the afternoon Satsang with Puppet Sir started at 2:15p.m. The theme was Lingashtakam. The significance of Lingashtakam, particularly the Nirguna aspect of Shiva was contemplated upon.

Here's an extract:

Even a chain made of gold, silver or copper binds man. Similarly , all  Gunas (Satwa, Rajas and Thamas) chains man to the objective world, thereby causing rebirth.  Thus, to be perfectly free, man needs to rise above the 3 gunas.

Be it good news or bad (from the worldly perspective) Swami would always reply : "Very happy" . This may surprise a few of us, but the fact remains that Swami being above the Gunas, God is unaffected by either gain or loss!

Lingashtakam and the Lingam help man to realise this truth and merge with Sada Shiva (Eternal Shiva)

The Grama Seva Boys attended Bhajans and Veda at 4pm in the Sai Kulwant hall & retired for a brief rest.

At 10pm a visit was organised to the Grama Seva kitchen. It was an amazing experience, especially for the first timers. The operation was conducted at an industrial scale and nearly 30 tons of rice was cooked involving over 700 Sevadals! Below are selected pictures from the kitchen.

But what touched the Grama Seva boys was the selflessness involved in each act and the amount of love, dedication and hard work coupled with a strong sense of duly that guided each act of each Sevadal. Tears welled up in our eyes by watching this selfless operation. Just imagine 700 people working day and night for 10 continuous days and nights, cooking food for 350,000 villagers that are unknown to them. It was truly love in action! Truly a Prema Yagna