The Christians who gather see their Christ in Him
Christmas time in Prasanthi Nilayam, at the holy hamlet of Puttaparthi has always been one of great love, joy, brotherhood and peace. The specialty has been the fact that people from more than 150 countries gather at the feet of whom they consider as the ‘Father of Christ’, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, to offer prostrations and salutations to him. Many travel from halfway around the globe to be present at Prasanthi Nilayam. The crowd is such that movement inside the township in itself becomes an arduous task. And this has continued to be the feature even after the physical departure of Swami. Christmas 2011 saw a packed Prasanthi with thousands of Christians thronging in from all parts of the world, especially the south-eastern European nations. And as Father Charles Ogada, member of the congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers, the Spiritans, revealed in the enlightening article ‘The Truth about the Father and His son’:
Yes, many Christian priests too are drawn to Swami’s teachings! They worship and adore Swami in secret - like Nicodemus in the Bible who goes to Jesus in the night. But this priest, Father Arazu who introduced me to Swami is no longer a secret devotee. Otherwise, I would not have mentioned his name. In fact he now conducts Satsangs in his residence where people come to learn about Sai Baba and the universality of religion. Once he told me that he has won his freedom because the Church does not know what to do with him. They just let him be.The point is that as long as you do not come public in any form to express your faith and devotion in Swami, the Church can do little or nothing to you. For example, look at the case of Father Don Mario Mazzoleni who was excommunicated. Until Mario wrote his book, ‘The Catholic Priest meets Sai Baba’ he was safe. Actually, it was the book that got him into “trouble”. The book became as it were, evidence against him in the Church’s Court that he had gone against the faith of the Church. There are so many priests who come to Puttaparthi here secretly - and after having Swami’s darshan, they return. It is not really allowed. It is not official. However, faith is something inside. It is beyond the reach of anyone. As long as that faith remains within, you are safe from the hands of the Church’s Hierarchy. But when you begin to write and preach it openly, then they have evidence to hold on you for excommunication or other punitive measures.
The specialty of Christmas at Prasanthi Nilayam:
Swami has been open in His objectives with the Christians - “To make them better Christians” - as has been His motive with the Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews and people of any other religion.
“There is only one religion, the religion of Love. I have not come to establish any new religion. I have only come to repair the ancient highway that leads man to God.”
That has always been His refrain. It is thus, definitely, at the level of the spirit that thousands of Christians are finding fulfillment in Swami’s ever-growing umbrella of Love. However, those that reminisce the days when Swami was physically in form on the earth, always recollect the Christmas morning, balcony darshan with a sparkle of nostalgia in the eye and a dash of love in the heart.
In fact, the first Christmas I visited Puttaparthi, I was simply mesmerized by the silvery-white robe that Swami would wear as He appeared into the Prasanthi balcony, opening a silver door at 5:30 am! The devotees would have walked through the entire premises around the Prasanthi mandir singing carols, holding candles in hand. All eyes would be riveted on the balcony. Swami would have walked from His residence at the Poornachandra auditorium to the Prasanthi mandir at about 3:30 or 4:00 am! Just as the devotees would wait with bated breath for their Lord, He would wait with eagerness and joy for the devotees.
And then, the silver doors would open and out would walk the most breathtakingly beautiful form of Swami, dressed in a silver-white robe. He would bless the devotees singing bhajans. The whole atmosphere would be charged with love and devotion as the 5000-10,000 throats sang out in unison. Instead of committing the mistake of trying to describe the beauty of that darshan in the morning, I will let the pictures do the talking.
After that early morning darshan, the next session would be at about 7:30 am when the students of the Sri Sathya Sai University would sing carols in Swami’s presence. The whole dais would be decked with boughs of holly and the stars. Santa Claus too would make an appearance during the songs programme, to the tune of the popular refrain, Jingle Bells. He would get all the chocolates in his bag blessed by Swami and then would happily romp in the crowd throwing chocolates. Ah! The sight of smiles that would come on every face is one that should be seen to be believed. Giving a taste of that sweet Swami are a few pictures during the song’s programme.
If you enjoyed this photo gallery, you might also like the following:
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Rajesh M on December 25, 2012:
One other 'beauty' of Christmas Darshan used to be Swami's arrival from PC without the customary instrumental music (as was the norm then). I think this was on 2000/2001 when I was fortunate to see Him giving Darshan from the balcony.
Aarthi on December 25, 2012:
Lovely pics bro! I loved the one where the 'Heart of God' is seen. Today, in our Sai center in the morning after nagarsankeerthan, I saw the picture of Jesus Christ and that's when I noticed his heart has been depicted in that portrait. I immediately remembered the photo I have seen here in your blog. :) I smiled to myself and thanked Swami silently! Thank you Aravind for these beautiful pictures of our beloved Lord!
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on December 24, 2012:
@ SaiSarannaga - I just write whatever the Lord in my heart says. And what is the need to fear when He is there?
It is entirely credit to Him for making me write whatever I do. I pray that the connection stays forever. Thank you for your kind and loving comment.
@Karthik - All the pictures are from 1998.
@Deborah Demander - My pleasure. Thank you for the visit.
Deborah Reno from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on December 24, 2012:
Thank you for sharing this.
Karthik on December 24, 2012:
Are some of the pictures from 1998 or 1997?
saisarannaga from Chennai in Tamilnadu, India. on December 24, 2012:
Sairam Aravind! You are bold enough to write such articles. I think the world is ready at present to embrace such sublime messages and thoughts. When Sri Kasthuri made ready the first volume of Sathyam Sivam Sundaram, Swami has not given permission to publish it saying that the world is not yet ready. Hence Kasthuri could publish the same only after Ten long years after Swami gave him permission!
T P Udayasankar on December 24, 2012:
got of feeling of having been in PN and seen the father of Jesus during christmas
Mark Aspa on December 23, 2012:
Shruti on December 23, 2012:
Wow…. just breath-taking…. wonderful memories and He just looks more beautiful than ever!….
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on December 23, 2012:
@ Prasanth - You have no idea how crowded Prasanthi is! Some of the lanes and bylanes do not offer even walking space! It is really amazing. I have ben here for many Christamases and this year's Christmas has more people than most of the older ones I am sure! :)
I do agree that those memories are golden and unforgettable... But so are the ones being created right now in Puttaparthi! :)
Prashanth on December 23, 2012:
Takes me back in time. Loved Christmas for the wonderful decorations, band performance, carols on Christmas Eve. The winter air of Parthi, Swami's silver door darshan(as a kid)...all beautifully etched in my memories.
I am beside myself in happiness when I find people saying that a lot of people have come this year for Christmas...Love you Swami!