Aravind Balasubramanya has spent more than 2 decades with Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He has studied under Baba and been His photographer.
A day of celebration or mourning?
The 24th of April every year is significant for those who love or revere Sri Sathya Sai Baba. It is on this day in 2011 that He 'died'. The quotes for that word are because someone who embodied eternal values of Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Love and Non Violence can never 'die'. He continues to live on in the hearts of people who hold Him dear. However, the Sri Sathya Sai Aradhana Mahotsavam, as the day is called, often brings pangs of pain and tears of lamentation for many because they miss their Swami in their midst.
Strangely, this anniversary of His ‘passing’ has been termed a 'Mahotsavam' which translates into 'great festival'. Why this irony? Isn't it sprinkling salt on a wound by terming a day of mourning as a day of celebration? What is one expected to do on such a day and how should one celebrate it?
In 2012, exactly one year after that earth-shattering day, I got ready and prepared myself for the solemn ceremony at Prasanthi Nilayam in Puttaparthi.
Sri Sathya Sai Aradhana Mahotsavam experience of 2012
Waking up early in the morning, I got dressed in the traditional white shirt and white trousers after a bath. It was already 7:00 am and I had to hurry to mandir. As I served some Semiya (Indian vermicelli) for myself, my mother called out,
“Have you kept breakfast for Swami?”
It had become a practice at home to offer food and water to Swami's photograph in the altar in an attempt to feel His presence at home. So, I took the special silver plate and served vermicelli on to it. As I placed it at the altar, I noticed the silver tumbler there had water from the previous day. I took the consecrated water, poured it into my glass and filled the tumbler with fresh water for Swami. That was when a thought crossed my mind.
When people invited Swami to visit their homes, Swami would often say,
“You want me to be at your home but you do not give me food and water!"
That was His way of reminding people that His was a constant and unseen presence in every home. Desperately hoping to feel that in my home, I told Him in my head,
“Swami, keeping food and water for you is a maintenance job. It is noticed only when it is not done! There is no appreciation if food is kept daily, but if it is missed, You complain!”
I smiled to myself as I said this. Since Puttaparthi summer temperatures get searing, I added half a glass of chilled water, placed the silver tumbler at the altar and said,
“There, cool water for a hot day.”
I then gobbled breakfast and soon, the four of us, my mother, my father, Pooja and I, left for the mandir. The other three planned to have breakfast after the morning programme in the mandir.
Being part of the Radiosai team, the official media coverage unit for the mandir in the Ashram, it was also my professional duty to cover the day’s proceedings. The governor of Andhra Pradesh, Sri E.S.L.Narsimhan was the chief guest for the day which had a ‘Guru Vandana’ music programme by the students and the release of a book titled ‘The Miracle of Pure Love’ authored by Prof.G.Venkatraman scheduled.
The students’ music programme brought copious tears in my eyes. They were singing all of Swami’s favorite songs and there were beautiful visuals of Him on the TVs and giant screens. Seeing it was such nostalgia that one wished to keep one’s eyes fixed only on the screen and forget everything else. But sadly, I could not do that for I was manning a camera! Those beautiful 30 minutes were followed by the book release and then the governor’s speech. His speech took everyone by a storm almost.
He simply discarded the speech paper which had been prepared and spoke straight from the heart. He made it clear that he had not come as the governor but as ‘an admirer of Swami’. He said, “I am ashamed that whole governments are not able to do for the people what a single individual did. Swami is such a positive force that He gave a fantastic meaning even for vices. He said that one must have Kama (desire) for service, Krodha (anger) if one is not able to serve and Lobha (greed) to serve more and Matsarya (jealousy) towards those who are able to serve more!
Shedding tears he recalled how Swami cured someone very dear to him with just one statement, “Don’t worry! Nothing will happen.” And as the governor choked, the ruthless press photographers clicked away, firing flashes into him.
“I am sorry I am getting emotional” the man apologised, “I simply cannot help it.”
I was in tears. I was thinking that Swami is a real silent worker. Without the slightest announcement or advertisement He was transforming and changing lives everywhere. And I missed Him!
I missed Him with all my being. My heart pined and ached for Him. Ah Swami! How much I desire to see you...
And then, the governor said, “Swami should not be seen! He should be experienced!”
A Divine reminder
It was as if Swami was slapping an answer to me. I wiped my tears but they refused to stop. I then remembered all the assurances of Swami.
“I am always in you, above you, around you, below you and with you.”
“You may leave me, but I will never leave you till I deliver you to your destination which is yourself.”
I felt better. My heart welled in gratitude and love for Him. I felt blessed that Swami had given me the chance of knowing Him and recognising His divinity. Really! Aren’t we blessed to know that the Lord is in our midst? This is one aspect where I feel that ignorance is definitely not bliss!
Swami’s discourse was the final part of the programme. Swami exhorted everyone to see Him in all and ‘never let God out of your lives’. After that moving session in the mandir, I was returning with my dad on my motorbike when I met mom and Pooja at the coconut seller.
As we stopped there, Pooja told me,
“You know, today I missed Him so much! I cried so much during the programme.”
The same was the story with my mom too. Dad, the wisest in such matters, had a smile on His face. It was as if he was returning after having had Swami’s darshan in the mandir.
We all enjoyed a cool sip of tender coconut water and then went home. Fatigued from standing for about 3 hours and shooting, I just collapsed on the sofa. Mom went into her room to change.
“Aravind...Pooja....Aravind...Pooja...” her screams were frantic.
I thought that she had a fall or something and rushed to her room. She was in stunned silence and frozen stiff. Her hand was outstretched and finger was pointing to Swami’s picture on the cupboard. I followed her finger and my jaw dropped. Forming a gentle halo around Swami’s head was vibhuti! As I rushed to take out my camera, mother rushed to my room to tell Pooja about what had happened. I wanted to tell her to slow down but she was in excitement.
“Aravindddd......” came another scream from my mom and this time I was sure that she had fallen and hurt herself.
“I told you not to get so excited and go slow....” I shouted back as I rushed to see what had happened to her.
Again she was frozen. This time however, there was another frozen figure by her side - Pooja. Both were looking at the altar. And when I went there, I saw that there was copious amount of vibhuti that had emerged from a framed photograph there! I was really stunned. What could be said in such moments? Dad also came and all of us were transfixed. Everyone slowly moved out to the living room to allow the Presence to sink in the being. I was still standing at the altar. I looked down and saw that a few ants were wending their way to the vermicelli that had been placed for Swami.
“Appa! Amma! Pooja”, I screamed from the top of my voice. They must have thought that I had received an electric shock and they were partly right for that was how I felt - pleasantly shocked and electrified.
As I picked the small plate holding Swami’s vermicelli, I could see that there was vibhuti everywhere on the vermicelli! It was as if Swami had decided to feed us vermicelli with vibhuti as a side dish!
And then, facts rolled out one by one.
“Swami was born in the year of Akshaya. Akshaya means that which never diminishes and can never be destroyed.”
“ Today is Akshaya Tritiya. It is on this day that Lord Krishna gave the Akshaya Patram (the inexhaustible vessel) to Draupadi. Whatever is acquired on this day will be replenished endlessly.”
It is for this reason that people all over India buy gold on this day. Today, we had received something far more valuable than gold!
We all sat in silence for a few moments. The ACTUAL IRONY hit me! This was the day being solemnly observed as the ‘day of His passing’. And here, He had almost ‘rampaged’ and ‘had fun’ at home! I decided that from now on, 24th April, Aradhana day, will be a day to be observed joyously as the ‘day of His arrival’ in our hearts. Swami has moved from Yajur Mandir (His former Residence) to Hridaya Mandir (the temple of our hearts).
Since that day, there have been many occasions when Swami has shown that He is always in my heart, with me. And this has happened not just through manifestations of vibhuti, kumkum and turmeric but through a myriad variety of 'miracles' that have left me and my family dumbstruck in gratitude and love. I have attempted to describe the vibhuti manifestation miracles, medical healing miracles and other experiences through my blogs. But however hard I try, I know that I cannot fathom and describe even an infinitesimally small part of God's glory and grandeur. A quote from Swami's discourse would be the best way to conclude this piece:
There are many who observe My actions and start declaring that My nature is such and such. They are unable to gauge the sanctity, the majesty and the eternal reality that is Me. The power of Sai is limitless; it manifests forever. All forms of 'power' are resident in this Sai palm. But, those who profess to have understood Me, the wise, the Yogis (spiritually advanced persons), the Pandits (scholars), and the Jnanis (liberated persons) - all of them are aware only of the least important, the casual, external manifestation of an infinitesimal part of that power, namely, the ‘miracles’! My power is immeasurable; My truth is inexplicable, unfathomable. What I will, must take place; what I plan must succeed. I am Truth; and Truth has no need to hesitate, or fear, or bend. I am announcing this about Me, for, the need has arisen.
- Divine Discourse, Jun 19, 1968.
© 2012 Aravind Balasubramanya
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on August 11, 2015:
The first photograph in this hub has been taken by my colleague, Ranjit Kumar during darshan one day. The photo is enchantingly beautiful and it has been used even as the backdrop for the final resting place of Swami's body.
Andrew Petrou from Brisbane on August 10, 2015:
Can you tell me anything about the history of the main introductory Sai photo in this Hub?
Andrew Petrou from Brisbane on July 31, 2015:
can you tell me more about the first photo in this Hub or provide links about it?
Gouthami Reddy on November 28, 2014:
Thank you so very much bro... I did experience the garland swinging at my home yesterday when I was telling my mother that I want to contribute some amount to narayana seva and was about to move away..the garland suddenly rose by 6inches and started swirling for about 4 seconds and I stood frozen..and today I see this blog of yours which confirms my Swami's presence at home....blessed again :)))
Premie Naidu on May 29, 2014:
Om Sai Ram thank you so much for sharing this with us. I just started finding my way to Swami. Met some wonderful and amazing people on my trip there this year. I am South African. I wish I found him sooner. Am now so blessed finding my way into his fold. Thank you again.
muthukrishnan,chennai. on April 25, 2014:
Our Swami is our SWAMI.Happy to share this.
K. Vijaya Lakshmi on April 24, 2014:
Sai Ram Aravind... Had a very hectic day at my work place , and I was eagerly for this time to get back home and check your blogs. I was very sure that I would be blessed by Swamy through you and get a chance of reading a wonderful post... and lo, I don't have a word to express my happiness and gratitude my child... thank you...May Swamy bless you with a long and healthy and happy life in His service...Sai Ram
Bandana on April 24, 2014:
thank you...Jai Sai Ram
ShivaReddy108 on April 21, 2014:
Thank you bro for bringing me overwhelming tears of love & joy for Swami. I love the little details you describe, like the shock your mum, wife and you had. It's truly beautiful how forcefully Swami makes it the point that He is a part of your family through this experience.
The point you made about the ants wending their way to the noodles you offered Swami. It reminded me of the story from Shirdi Sai Satcharitra where Baba asks Nana to make a sweet (Srikand?) for Him to eat. Nana makes it fresh & brings it for Baba and leaves it at near Him, but Baba leaves it there for such a long time that ants and flies start eating it. Nana complains to Baba "You didn't touch it!" But Baba replies," I've eaten from it. You can now share it among yourselves as prasadam!"
Hope you have a just as beautiful Maha Samadhi Day this year!
Swpana on August 14, 2013:
I just love ur articles and experiences. You are very lucky and blessed to experience his miracles at such a close rnage.
Please keep posting.
Basanthie Sewsunker on April 24, 2013:
Om Sai Ram Brother Arvind!
That for all your inspiring articles. I am really touched with this one in particular. Swami is omnipresent. I wish he could come to me as well like this someday although he is in my pooja room. Just want to know that he is with us always in his own way.
Sai Love and regards
Kokila Vaidyanathan on March 21, 2013:
Just bumped into this...had goosebumps reading it...what an experience...He made sure to leave His footprints everywhere ...Swami is great and we all fortunate to be part of His mission and through you brother we experience such divine experiences. Thank you Swami...Sairam
Saibliss on January 04, 2013:
Dear brother Sai
I have read many of your stories and been touched deeply on many of your sharings, you and your family have been truly blessed and we are also blessed and benefited by your intimate accounts of our dear Lord !
Mark Aspa from Berlin, Germany on August 05, 2012:
thanks for sharing these priceless and unique emotions...
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on July 30, 2012:
That is the way He has entered all of our Mandirs - in all parts of the world....
Thank you everyone for your enriching comments which share more of His Love, Grace and munificence....
Madhava on July 30, 2012:
He left Yajur Mandir and entered 'Your Mandir'
GOWRI GOPAL S.A. on July 15, 2012:
OM SAI RAM
OM SAI RAM ARVINDBHAI
Thanks very much to share your lovely message of SWAMI to the whole wide WORLD. It was breathtaking, and much to learn about as well, i must tell u that u and your family are really being blessed by BABA.
SHRI SATYA SAI BABAJI KI JAI. THANK YOU FROM SOUTH AFRICA
Gautham Narendran on May 13, 2012:
Wonderful message. Thank you bro.
C V Subaash on May 12, 2012:
Thanks for sharing, Arvind. Sairam
Sa Kishan on May 04, 2012:
Sai ram, Thanks a ton for sharing such a wonderful experience. Swamy is everywhere, he is omni present and i'm sure everyone will agree that he is with us and in us. Tears rolled out when i was reading this and my heart filled with joy when i saw the photographs... this is an amazing experience you had. He is Lord or Lords and a Man of Miracles.. Thank you once again...
Manion - Brisbane on May 01, 2012:
Really it is amazing to see those pictures. How much you were all Blessed by Swami's Grace. This is to prove that if we have FAITH, then you will have the SWAMI"S BLESSINGS!
Thank you once again Aravind to share this, " Gracious Event" with all of the viewers. That itself is a Blessing, I feel. May Swami Bless Us All!
Madhavi Alapaty on May 01, 2012:
Thank you for sharing this article with SAI world. I also felt that SWAMI didn't leave me and he is with me and with everyone then why is everyone is celebrating this day as 'MAHASAMADHI'..shouldn't we celebrate that HE came to our hearts to reside in it? I feel that i am on right track after reading your experience.
I would like to share a beautiful experience happened to me two days before April 24th. We have built a room and placed an alter in that room for SWAMI. I bought a papaya two days before April 24th and kept it in my fruit bowl. On April 23rd, i wanted to cut and take pieces to work. When i turned the fruit to wash up, there it is...a big OM formed on the papaya neatly. i was speechless and my husband who was with me at that time, told me to not to cut the fruit and keep it for the APril 24th bhajan. We kept the fruit at the alter and then took it to the bhajan place and cut the fruit and shared with everyone. I kept the fruit part which says 'OM' and froze the piece. I believe it is a devine writing because, the carving was so clear that the skin around it is not disturbed.
email@example.com on May 01, 2012:
Jey Sai Ram Aravind for the breaththing pictures.Baba blessing for you an your family.your sister in Baba. mirta argentina.
K.Rajam on April 29, 2012:
Om Sai Ram.
Thanks for sharing brother.
Yes, Swami always with us.
Nora on April 28, 2012:
Thank you very much for sharing Aravind, our Argentina Sai Organization sent us by email your story translated to our language (Spanish) and a link to the lovely vibhuti pictures, you and you family are truly blessed, SaiRam.
Your sister in Sai
Nischal on April 27, 2012:
thanks a lot for sharing Swami's love thru this sweet story.. sairam..
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on April 26, 2012:
These sort of experiences are surfacing by the dozens on a daily basis. As Swami says, "What is Ascharyam (surprise) for you is Sahajam (natural) for Me". So True...
Sushma on April 26, 2012:
Thanks so much for sharing....never ending leelas of bhagwan..
Chax on April 25, 2012:
Always happy to hear about His ways of reassurance, brother. Thanks for sharing.
vijayasai on April 25, 2012:
His presence is felt.He is always there for us.Nothing in this world can stop his assurance for all of us. I feel now swami has more time to be with us idividually for each of us.Thanx a lot Aravind for sharing this sweet experience.
sridhar on April 25, 2012:
First half I also sobbed with you...and finally YES we need to celebrate HIS entry in Hrudaya Mandir on this day (however with tears only).
Nithya Venkat from Dubai on April 24, 2012:
I am so happy to read Lord Sairam blessed you and your family with his sacred vibhudi. Your hub made my day come alive with hope and faith and reassured me of HIS presence in my life always. Thank you for sharing this experience with us.
I have a small box of vibhudi which my relative gave me when she went to Puttaparthi. When the box of vibhudi is about to get over I get worried - from where will I get more Vibudi?? Somehow HE arranges more Vibhudi before the box gets over. I am very thankful to HIM for giving me more and never lets me run out of HIS sacred Vibhudi.
Sai Nandagiri on April 24, 2012:
I had goosebumps all through the reading. Yes Swami should be experienced. He is always with me is what my heart always keeps saying me. Jai Bolo Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba ji Ki .. Jai. Jai Sai Ram for a wonderful narration i saw each frame of it through you words.
poornimasrinath from Midrand, Johannesburg, RSA on April 24, 2012:
Btw the upma looks so yummy....the aroma must have left Swami with no choice but to taste :D
poornimasrinath from Midrand, Johannesburg, RSA on April 24, 2012:
:) omnipresence to physical presence! Enjoy His physical presence at home :) :) The song "Sai is watching us....Sai is watching us.. Sai is watching us from a distance!" fits well with Swami's leela at your place
Siva KUmar on April 24, 2012:
Thank you. I loved the line "Swami should not be seen! He should be experienced!". That summerizes all that we need to do for the rest of our lives . . .
deepa on April 24, 2012:
thanks Aravind, I knew swamy would give me something to be happy about because he does not want us to be sad. sairam
Madhusudan Nori on April 24, 2012:
One more experience to prove that SWAMI is ever present every where at all times, once that realisation sinks in, becomes permanent in one's heart then one will act only as per SATHYA DHARMA SHANTI PREMA AHIMSA principle. Sairam and thanks Aravind for sharing your experience.
Gopal on April 24, 2012:
Thank you Thank you Thank you...... I am feeling same type of Happiness when I saw Swami at first time in 1991.
Sai Vikram on April 24, 2012:
Good one Aravind. Thanks for posting.
Dharma on April 24, 2012:
Thank you Aravind for sharing this beautiful story with relevent photographs on this auspious day. You and your family are blessed; and you are kindly sharing that blessings with all of us. Swami's Blessings.
Raynooka Mishra on April 24, 2012:
Ohhh ! i am frozen here as well reading this story... Om Sairam , from deep within my heart i am happy for you and your family... & I really appreciate that you decided to share with all of us .. thank you Arvind bhai .. Sairam
Anonymous on April 24, 2012:
Oh Sai Ram! So beautiful! His leelas will never end and of course there's no way He's letting us live this life without Him. Thank You Swami :)
akasha on April 24, 2012:
Yes, the Mahasamadhi program deeply moved our souls, and Swami's Discourse!!!!.....what to say? So precious to renew treasured memories of our Nearest and Dearest. We sang Bhajans in bliss with Sai Radio's 24 hr. Bhajan service, though it was in the wee hours over here across land and sea. Deeply appreciate your explaining Akshaya Tritiya, augmenting and deepening our delight. Endless perfection our playful, glorious, ever Loving Sai!
Anonymous on April 24, 2012:
still here physically too* I mean...
Anonymous on April 24, 2012:
I always thought I just liked Swami. It was like. Yeah, pretty cool! Swami is damn nice, and too awesome and everything. I never thought I would miss Him, 'coz honestly, I never missed anyone really. I was simply used to people leaving.
I woke up to see multiple missed calls and text messages. My world has never collapsed around me the way it did that day... I never thought I'd miss Him as badly as I do. Everyone was so shocked around me. We were definitely in denial, so much so that we ended up having fits of unexplained laughter, which we thought was so inappropriate. We couldn't understand anything that was going on. It was surreal. Earlier that month, I was all, "Oh, Swami's not well? Relax man, it's Swami! Wait and watch the awesomeness in action. He's suddenly gonna be alright- Miracle style!" But I guess there was just a different genre of miracle waiting for us. If I'd written the story, I'd write it differently... One where Swami was still here... But then, I'm no Master Storyteller... That's Him...
JJ MORGAN on April 24, 2012:
Thanks Aravind for sharing ... it is good to be reminded that our Swami is for real!
Aarthi on April 24, 2012:
Amazing bro! Thanks for sharing with us. You echoed my thoughts in these lines "I felt blessed that Swami had given me the chance of knowing Him and recognising His divinity. Really! Aren’t we blessed to know that the Lord is in our midst? This is one aspect where I feel that ignorance is definitely not bliss!" Knowing He is God itself is a blessing that He gives only a few of us in this world, compared to the millions who don't know. :) I feel blessed to know Him and to believe in Him.
Hemanth on April 24, 2012:
Loved the concluding bit on Akshaya Tritiya and Hridaya Mandir. Swami is having fun...
Shyam on April 24, 2012:
Let us all believe from our innermost heart that Swami will return in his form soon, when Swami returns definitely there will be worldwide transformation and every being in this world will leave in peace.
Saijahnavi on April 24, 2012:
Thank you for sharing. Can't express enough. How can words explain this emotion.
darshi on April 24, 2012:
Exactly what we decided to do here in KL too, Anna...celebrate this day! :) Thank you, for sharing His presence in your home with all of us. Hope you had a fantastic celebration with our Sai! :)
vaishnavi rao on April 24, 2012:
Anna something similar in our samithi too! there was vihboothi coming from swami's photo and there was only half a glass of water in swami's tumbler today @ samithi!! wow wat a message HE has given us!!
shruti on April 24, 2012:
Sakkat kano... I so badly wanted to see this.... and I am glad you wrote this blog today itself!.... Thanks kano... Love you!
Jayanthi on April 24, 2012:
Words are falling short.Not able to express.Thank you Aravind for the breathtaking pctures.Had goosebumps.