Skip to main content

An Unforgettable Krishna Janmashtami With Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Aravind Balasubramanya has spent more than 2 decades with Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He has studied under Baba and been His photographer.

mandalay-story

The year 2004 was special not only for me but also for our entire batch completing postgraduate studies at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning in Prasanthi Nilayam, Puttaparthi. It was a time when Bhagawan Baba or Swami as we call Him endearingly, constantly encouraged the students to put up cultural programmes during the festivals and even the daily darshan sessions at the Sai Kulwant Hall where thousands of devotees would have gathered. Till about 2002, the annual Convocation drama was possibly the only confirmed opportunity that the students got to perform a cultural programme in His presence. From 2003, there seemed to be a sudden change. He began to 'allow' and even 'ask' for programmes in His presence which we would prepare for by delving deep into His teachings and messages.


Let me take you back to the year 2004. I was studying my 2nd year Post Graduate in Chemistry at the Swami's Institute. It was that golden period of my student days when Swami took a lot of interest in student programmes. He encouraged us to put up programmes in His Divine presence. In fact, on one occasion, when the warden requested Swami to come and sit outside between the darshan and bhajan sessions, Swami said,
“Why should I? There is no programme today!”

We had no idea then that this kind of ‘programming’ would become the precursor to a plethora of programmes by the different State and International Sathya Sai Organizations later. However, we were happy to be part of Swami’s plan. In fact, seeing so many programmes being demanded by Swami of the students, the seniors in the organization thought of providing ‘relief’ to us by passing a resolution that different groups that visited Prashanti Nilayam to have Swami's darshan should also prepare for a cultural presentation in His presence. Today, when I look back to those days, I get goosebumps realizing how Swami was preparing a new mode to chances for devotees from the world over - through songs, dramas and other programmes in His presence.

The amazing Krishna Janmashtami Experience...

In a collection of short stories by the greatest writers in the world, I came across a story by Leo Tolstoy with the title, “God sees the Truth but waits...”. It was a very powerful read and it showed how God allows seemingly ‘bad’ things to happen so that ultimately, the individual benefits the maximum. The story depicted the difference between worldly love and divine love.

Worldly love cares only about the joys of the body and the mind. Divine love is ready to sacrifice the body and the mind at the altar of the soul!

The story is a reminder that whatever happens in life is always good for us. And that is the true meaning of surrender as Swami revealed so beautifully to a student. It brings to my mind Swami’s saying, “What you meet in life is destiny, how you meet it is self effort.” It also brings to my mind an episode and an event that reassured me about Swami’s all-knowing nature. He sees everything. He knows everything. And yet, He waits...

Let me take you back to the year 2004. I was studying my 2nd year Post Graduate in Chemistry at the Swami's Institute. It was that golden period of my student days when Swami took a lot of interest in student programmes. He encouraged us to put up programmes in His Divine presence. In fact, on one occasion, when the warden requested Swami to come and sit outside between the darshan and bhajan sessions, Swami said,
“Why should I? There is no programme today!”

We had no idea then that this kind of ‘programming’ would become the precursor to a plethora of programmes by the different State and International Sathya Sai Organizations later. However, we were happy to be part of Swami’s plan. In fact, seeing so many programmes being demanded by Swami of the students, the seniors in the organization thought of providing ‘relief’ by passing a resolution that different groups would that visited Prashanti should also have a cultural programme ready for presentation. Today, when I look back to those days, I get goosebumps realizing how Swami was preparing a new mode to chances for devotees from the world over - through songs, dramas and other programmes in His presence.

He sees everything. He knows everything. And yet, He waits...

He sees everything. He knows everything. And yet, He waits...

The 'programmer's dilemma'...

Getting back to the story, it was the first day in the month of September, 2004. September 6th was Krishna Janmashtami and I got an idea that we should put up a programme in Swami’s presence for that occasion. We were the senior most class in the hostel and we had been given the privilege of proposing programmes at short notice. However, the idea was not given an enthusiastic reception. Though there were a few who backed the idea and were enthusiastic like me, most of the ‘necessary individuals’ did not warm up to the idea. Their reasons were:

1. We had already put up three programmes in the past month and there was a kind of ‘saturation’!
2. Just because Swami was giving us chances, it did not mean that we should put up programmes in such a hurry.
3. The monthly tests were round the corner and all had to get busy studying.


I could see meaning in the reasoning, but somehow, my reasoning did not make sense to them. My reasoning was:
1. Swami is giving chances and we should grab them with both hands.
2. If we take care of our intention and keep prayers going, Swami will take care of the programme.

However, there were about 4-5 good speakers in the class who agreed with my idea and we decided that we would go ahead with the programme. We decided that the format would be two comperes hosting the programme with a few songs and dances interspersed in between. Since there were six of us, we divided ourselves into 3 compere-pairs. We requested the students from the higher secondary school to prepare a couple of dances. We requested the bhajan group to prepare some songs.

There is a reason why am narrating all these details and I request the reader’s indulgence for a while more. :)

The six of us met up to decide what should be the theme of the programme and it was a combined inspiration that we should relive the story of lord Krishna in a different perspective. For instance, there is the episode of Vasudeva’s chains dropping away when baby Krishna was born. The prison doors opened and the father got the chance to take the child safely away to Gokul, away from the wrath of the demon Kamsa. On his return to the prisons, the gates locked again and his shackles bound him. We interpreted this as once you ‘pick’ up God, you are ‘set free’ and when you ‘put down’ God, you are ‘bound and shackled.” The entire programme was a creative interpretation like this.

We had to ensure the programme quality with our content for we had nothing on the ‘presentation’ front with all our ‘class’ performers backing out of the programme. In fact, I remember calling one of my friends, Raju, on the intercom phone from my room and shedding tears,
“Why are we not getting any support for this program? Swami definitely sees what the ‘anti-programmers’ are feeling. But does He not see what our intentions and feelings are?”

Raju reassured me,
“Don’t worry. Our motives and feelings are pure. Swami will support us. Let us go and read all of Swami’s discourses on Krishnashtami and we will get more ideas on the content.”

We approached the warden and told him that we would be ready with a programme for Krishnashtami. He was happy (and was unaware of all that we were going through) and himself told a wonderful experience.

When he was a student, Swami had visited the hostel on a Krishna Janmashtami day. He spoke only about the Krishna avatar. While narrating how Lord Krishna would go with his cowherd friends, the gopalas, for grazing cows, Swami said,
“Krishna would tie a cloth around his head when he was with the cows.”
Swami then asked for a piece of cloth. The warden, a student then, ran to his room and fetched his towel. Swami took it from him and to the great joy and wonder of all the students present there, tied it around His head, the way Krishna would!

Ah! That was pure delight and Swami too was beaming a smile.

Listening to warden’s narrative made us feel better and we slept well that night.

Swami playfully tied a towel to His hair to show how Lord Krishna would do the same when he took the cows out for grazing. In the background there is the picture of Swami on the lotus about which Swami made a special mention in part 2 of this article

Swami playfully tied a towel to His hair to show how Lord Krishna would do the same when he took the cows out for grazing. In the background there is the picture of Swami on the lotus about which Swami made a special mention in part 2 of this article

Divine assistance...

The next day, we headed off to the library, not for studies but to research all of Swami’s Krishnashtami discourses. I randomly picked a volume of Sathya Sai Speaks and searched for the Krishnashtami discourse. Immediately, goosebumps erupted on my skin.

The discourse was dated September 6th, 1977, the same day when Krishnashtami was on this year too. (The exact day of Krishnashtami varies from year to year since it is decided according to the lunar calendar.) The goosebumps only grew in size when I read the contents of that discourse. Swami had spoken about the significance of the Krishna avatar and had given the exact same interpretation for the chains falling off as we had thought of the previous day! We hungrily devoured that discourse and gathered more of the content. Even the statement that we would browse through His discourses which Raju had offered reassuringly to me seemed part of His Masterplan.

Imagine the thrill we felt when we also discovered that fact that it was during that same discourse in the Brindavan hostel that Swami had tied warden’s towel to His head!

We were sure that this was Swami’s way of telling us that He backed us. The six of us prepared with great enthusiasm and joy.

But the question still remained - how were we to make a good presentation or programme only with six speakers. There had to be good dances, songs, skits and other such depictions too for a complete programme. We left that worry completely to Swami, who, we were sure by now, was watching over us.

The next couple of days saw us prepare in all thoroughness, but at the end of it, the only programme we had ready were 6 excellent speeches based on what Swami had said. We also came to know that Swami would be delivering His divine discourse on the Krishnashtami morning, i.e. the 6th of September, 2004 morning.

Suddenly, our programme seemed to make no meaning at all! If BHagawan was to deliver His discourse, it naturally meant that there would be no other programme that morning. We went to the warden for his opinion. He told us to be prepared and dressed in our colorful costumes all the same. He said that Swami’s will would prevail and that was something we already knew!

And so, at the break of dawn on 6th September, I dressed up in a golden-chrome kurta. The others too wore their grand dresses. With a prayer on our lips, we set out to the mandir. What happened that morning, simply took our breath away and I realized how God always sees the Truth, though He waits!

After a lot of effort, which involved our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strength, we had reached some level of preparedness for the programme. All of us assembled in the Sai Kulwant hall by 6:45am. It was 7:15 am when the golf-cart in which Swami used to arrive for darshan was seen entering the hall at the ladies’ side of the hall. A gasp of wonder and joy rippled across the hall as everyone realized that Swami was in the beautiful Pitambara (yellow robe)!

He took a complete darshan round and arrived on the stage. It was as if Swami too was excited about the occasion and had dressed specially for it. We, (our ‘programming’ group) were seated in the front. We had not told our warden that our programme predominantly consisted of comperes talking. As far as he was concerned, we had prepared a programme and the success of the previous ten or so programmes had built up his confidence in our word. I felt that all that would change shortly.

Swami called the vice-chancellor of the Institute, Sri.S.V.Giri. He enquired as to what programme was there for the day. The vice-chancellor had great confidence in the warden’s word and this confidence too was built on the successful conduct of the previous ten or so programmes by students. He confidently told Swami that the senior-most students of the Institute would be putting up a presentation. Swami’s face immediately lit up in joy and pride. It was as if He was waiting for this moment when His students would put up the programme.

And now, I come to the sequence of events that unfolded beyond the imagination of any of us. To start with, Swami asked the vice chancellor as to who would be putting up the programme. The vice-chancellor looked towards us and in a trice, two of us rushed to the stage. Swami looked at us and asked what the programme was about. In a hurry, we tried to give a gist of all the talks. While doing so, we went through the names of all the six students who were compering and Swami asked for them to come on the stage, one by one.

All of us gather at His feet on that special Krishna Janmashtami day - 6th September 2004

All of us gather at His feet on that special Krishna Janmashtami day - 6th September 2004

Within a few minutes, all the six of us were on stage, surrounding Swami’s chair. Swami told all of us to sit down. Then He called the vice chancellor and told him to announce the morning programme. The mike and podium were brought on the dais and the vice chancellor made a public announcement of how the senior students from the Institute would be putting up a ‘variety’ programme. Once that was done, Swami sent him back to his seat.

He now looked at me and told me to start the programme. I indicated to the other boys on the stage that we should move down and get things organized.

Programmes those days used to be held by us in a narrow corridor that existed between Swami and the students. We thus called these presentations as ‘street plays’. More than the costumes and make-up, our emphasis was always on the content - Swami’s message.

But even as the others got up, Swami told them all to sit. He told me to proceed.

As I mentioned earlier, we had prepared to do the programme as compere-pairs. An so, I looked at my compering-partner. He was looking deep into Swami’s eyes and drinking in His darshan. There was no way I could catch his eye. I thought that it would be best to go to the ‘corridor’ and start the programme. That would make him realize that he too had to come down to do the compering act.

With this in mind, as I began to move down the stage, Swami called me. He pointed to the mike on stage. He said,
“Go there and speak.”
I was totally confused. What was I to do? It struck me that maybe Swami wanted me to elaborately introduce the programme. None of the programmes we had done till now had been given an introduction this way. I was thinking,
“Swami do not make too much out of this! We do not have such a programme backing up all this introductory grandeur!”

I went to the mike. I was wondering what to speak. I had my lines ready but they were meant for the programme. I quickly recollected some of the material that we had collected for the programme but were not using it. Combining that with some of my compering matter, I gave a brief talk for about 5 minutes talking about the two avatars - Krishna and Sai. Having done that, I went to Swami and asked whether we could begin the programme.

The golden opportunity...

The golden opportunity...

Swami told me to sit at His feet. He looked at Raju who was by my side and told him to go and speak in the mike. I understood. I whispered to Raju,
“Introduce the programme in Telugu.”

He went to the podium and spoke for about 5 minutes in Telugu on what we planned to put up in the programme. Once he finished and returned, Swami asked him also to sit by His chair. He asked the third student to go and speak.

By now, I was totally lost as to what Swami’s plan was. I just stopped thinking. This student, Jagannathan by name, went to the mike and began to speak out all his prepared content. But he too kept it short - five minutes. In those five minutes, however, he sang a song the the gopikas (cowherdesses) used to sing about one devoted gopika by name Suguna. Swami thoroughly enjoyed the song.

Then, Swami told the fourth student to speak! By now, I had just stopped thinking and was just witnessing. It is often said that God is simply a witness to all that man does. I feel it is the other way around. God is the only doer and all of us are simply witnesses!

One by one, Swami had made all the six of us speak and more than half an hour had elapsed. Once the last student had spoken, Swami smiled and said, “Programme over.”

Oh my God!!!!

He knew that we had no programme ready. He knew that we had all put in efforts. He knew that we would make laughing stock of ourselves had we put up the programme. He knew that our intentions and motives for making the programme were noble. So, He simply conjured up a new ‘programme’ and made us all ‘heroes’! Many times, we do not realize that God makes us work for a result that we never even thought of.

Swami then stood up and delivered His divine discourse during which He manifested a chain made of 108 gold coins. The six of us were blessed to be sitting around Him during that entire discourse. And guess what that beautiful discourse was about - how the Lord accepts only a pure heart!

The reports for that day in the different websites were as follows:

After a few minutes, Bhagawan asked the Vice-chancellor to introduce the programme. The VC spoke for a few minutes and asked the boys to commence their presentation. However, instead of the Music Programme, Swami asked each of these boys to give a short talk to the audience. One by one, all the boys took their position in front of the podium and gathering from the material they were to use as part of their presentation and adding few spontaneous remarks and instances, each one got through with an inspiring and interesting talk.

They had no idea of what all had happened. God sees the Truth but waits! He waits for the perfect time and perfect place to bestow the perfect boon. Let me end this narrative with what Swami told the students during that memorable discourse in the Brindavan hostel:

“You have here a picture of Sai standing on a lotus. (That was the picture in the altar there.) Sai Krishna will install Himself in the lotus of your heart. He will ever be with you as guard and guide, and will shower grace on you. He will be the mother, father, preceptor and your nearest kinsman. He will be your all. That is a promise.”

© 2012 Aravind Balasubramanya

Comments

Stephen ADENUGBA on March 14, 2017:

Kindly add me to your list.

Scroll to Continue

Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on February 11, 2013:

@ Bharati Bharwani - There is part 2. You just have to click the lettering in blue at the end of the article which says "over to Part 2".

Otherwise, just click on this link:

https://aravindb1982.hubpages.com/hub/Janmashtami-...

Bharti bharwani on February 11, 2013:

Is there part two. Please let us know. SAI ram

Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on May 21, 2012:

@ P Naik - Indeed Swami did materialize the Kautubha Mani - a big sized emerald of unexcelled greenish-blue, rectangular in shape and bordered with splendrous diamonds hung on a chain.

Swami had said,

"How fortunate you are that you have today the same Krishna, the full prema avatar moving among you! I shall show you the Kaustubha that I was wearing at that time."

P Naik on May 21, 2012:

Great write-up. I vividly recall the September 1977 incident because I was sitting a couple of feet away from Swami in the hostel dining hall. He also materialized a "kaustubhamani" that day... Thanks...

An Impressed Reader on May 21, 2012:

My mundane mind on its own could not see all that you have said :)

Thanks for enlightening brother ..

Raju on May 20, 2012:

Sairam Barru,that day was so fresh.......so vivid...as if it was last evening...

Maria on May 20, 2012:

Thank you sooo much for this story and photo of Swami with the towel. I never so this image or knew this context before March 28- 2012 I had a long & involved Swami dream, at one point he appeared what I thought was from having shampood his hair with a towel wrapped exactly like this- I realized here this has a different connotation, meaning he was Krishna in that dream Swami was young as it was his Birthday I got invited to a fabulous mansion and a table loaded with food. Can't wait for your next part..

Hema B on May 20, 2012:

waiting for part two....write soon...

Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on May 20, 2012:

:)

@ Ely Maverick - Shall be continued within the next 24 hours.

@ An Impressed reader - When you read the story you realize the following:

The merchant ultimately benefits because what he needed most in life was contentment, peace of mind and prayer. His wife and children do not care about him as shown in the story. So it would not have made sense for him to keep striving for their sake. That is what he would have done had he not been imprisoned. Prison taught him what he wanted most in life. And he attained it too... That's why, the great writer that Leo Tolstoy was, he ends the story with the freedom order reaching Aksionov when he has already been 'freed'. Though his body and mind suffered, Aksionov's soul was at peace. That is why I wrote

"Worldly love cares only about the joys of the body and the mind. Divine love is ready to sacrifice the body and the mind at the altar of the soul!"

Rajesh M on May 20, 2012:

Why are you having cliffhanger endings? Waiting for next :)

An Impressed Reader on May 20, 2012:

Nice Post .. Appreciate the enthusiasm that you and the 5 others had ..It takes very high energy and self belief to venture into something in the face of opposition and lack of support ..

I went through the story that you have talked about .. But I didn't quite get how the individual benefits at the end ..

And yes .. Swami does see and know everything and yet waits ..For us to go through our lot of Karma and saves us from its clutches when it is about to devour us .. Ever grateful to him for that ..

Waiting for the next part :)

Ely Maverick from The Beautiful Archipelago of the Philippines on May 20, 2012:

I'm interested..am reading..pls. continue.

Related Articles