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Monday, December 19, 2011

"He is still doing His job! Very Much! - Thus Spake Anup Jalota




"What fascinates me about Swami?" I ask myself.

"I do not know..." says the heart, and then pauses and continues,

"I love Him because.... I love Him. Thats about it.

"I cannot reason it please... It is the feeling of unfettered freedom of my spirit that I experience in His presence, it is the sense of ultimate sublimation of my soul when I just think of Him, it is the unlocking of unbounded reservoir of energy within me when He is with me, it is the descent of undiluted and undisturbed peace that settles in my mind when I close my eyes and just envision His enigmatic form.... well, sorry, it is not all this, rather, it is much more than all this... I cannot articulate it please. As I said, I love Him because I love Him. I cannot explain it."
This is perhaps the unspoken feeling of any number who have been touched by His love. We do not know the stories of all but occassionally when we do get to fill our ears with the tale of one or two it simply revivifies us.It was the same experience for me when I had the opportunity of sitting across Anup Jalota as he bared his heart out about Swami. This happened just after His elevating concert in the Sai Kulwant Hall on the evening of His 86th Birthday.

One statement he made that night never leaves me. "After performing here, now I am so charged that I can give another 1000 concerts!" This is from the 'Bhajan Samrat' who has given over 5000 concerts the world over.

"My music is all what He has given me and what He has directed me to do... I came to Him when I was just 10 and today I am 58; He has groomed me for 48 years. If I have spent most of my time doing only devotional music even though I could have gone into playback singing or any form of modern music, it is entirely because of Him.

"25 years ago He directly entrusted me with a huge responsibility - that of creating only such music which will touch and transform the hearts of the coming generations. I have been doing only this."

Anup Jalota has recorded over 200 albums, most of them devotional. He holds a record number of over 100 gold, platinum and multi-platinum dics. Who says devotional music/spirituality does not sell? Or that it does not entice and energize masses?

"It is His grace that each one of my albums is a success. Music is God and it should be offered to God... I have sung other ghazals off and on but that leaves me so empty... when I do Sur Ramayana, or Bhagavad Gita or Meera Bhajans or Sai Surya Saman and so on, I am lost in devotional fervour. Such music take me over completely.

"You may not believe it, many of the times when I am composing in my home, I am crying; I cannot do this on the stage so I try and control my emotions. I am involved in my music totally; they raise me to sublime heights.”




Every bit of insight that this great legend shared thrilled me. How Swami has used him as His instrument in so many ways was even more exhilarating.

"When the Water Project started, Baba called and informed me about it. And then I received invitations to perform a series of concerts in London and Spain; all the collections went as donations for Baba's new project that was to help millions who are thirsty."

"Wow!" I reacted in excitement, "Your music flowed before Sai Ganga!"

"My mission is to do His bidding, that is all," the master musician asserted.

"I came to Prasanthi after so many years today... But Baba was and is always with me. Today, I could feel Him... it was not darshan but a feeling... a feeling is more powerful than darshan itself! He is so much there!"

The conversation in this manner went on for almost an hour and Sri Anup probably still had not scratched the surface of what Swami really means to him.

[To listen to the entire conversation, please go here. To see a few glimpses of him narrating these fascinating slices of his life, do watch this video on radiosai.org.]

Little did I know that there was a time when Swami used to beckon him as “Chota Baba” and say, “Aye! You look like Me!”;

Or that He blessed him with an elaborate interview explaining to him the essence of Bhagavad Gita before he embarked on his album series on this Celestial Song Divine;

Or that He demonstrated to him how to render Rag Malkaunsh and Bhairavi so as to do justice to their latent beauty;

Or even that he actually saw Him sitting on the Jhoola on that unforgettable Birthday evening which is why He spontaneously sang out Mere Sai... Mere Sai... Jhoola Jhoole Mere Sai.

In the end Anupji said
, “All I say is He is still doing His job! Very Much!”

Well, that is Sai! We know it! 


Now, the question is 'Are we doing our jobs'? What do you think?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"BABA IS NOT KALIYUGA AVATAR"

Just a couple of days ago I had the chance to interview a young, spirited and dynamic devotee. In the course of the conversation he shared how when he was doing his post graduation in Chennai he developed this intense desire to visit the Nara Narayana Gufa ashram in the Himalayas [For those not familiar, Baba had blessed a group of 12 (if I am not wrong) saints to go to Himalayas and meditate in this cave for world peace. He had also given them an Akshya Patra that will produce food according to their needs everyday].
This young man therefore went to the hill on which is located the shrine of Lord Badrinath and then continued to walk beyond this holy peak to the snow capped mountain where these saints were supposed to be in constant meditation for most of the time during the day. 

He was all alone. He had no clue where those saints were. All he knew was he definitely wanted to meet those exceptional human beings.


However as he climbed higher, breathing became difficult. His face was now swollen. His fingers started becoming numb. Worse, blood started dripping from his nose. 

His body could no longer take the harsh, chill and oxygen-starved environment. His vision was now blurred... and then it went blank! He just collapsed on that icy slope.


The next moment, a saint appeared on the scene. He carefully lifted and carried him on his arms. He then took him to his cave. And started nursing him; he massaged his limbs with oil.


After a while, the young man slowly regained consciousness. 

The good samaritan saint then offered him two big tumblers of hot milk. And finally when the young man opened his eyes he saw that in a corner of that small cave was a tiny lamp burning steadily and next to it was a small photo of Swami. 

"Where do you come from?" the saint asked. 

"I am from Puttaparthi..." he answered.

"Oh... from Puttaparthi!" The saint laughed aloud. "So, why are you here?" He was amused and curious.


"I want to go to Nara Narayana Gufa ashram?" the young man replied.


"Oh... even I have not gone there! It is very difficult!"

The saint hailed from Punjab and had been living in that cave for 80 years! He then continued,

"Take my advise. Go back. It is nearly impossible to go there..." 

The young man was not fully convinced and as the conversation continued, the saint suddenly asked, "Who do you think is Sai Baba?"

The young man replied confidently: "He is Kaliyuga Avatar! He is God! I believe in Him!"

"Who says that? He is not Kaliyuga Avatar!" The saint shot back with equal zeal.

The young man was taken aback. He insisted: "For me, He is God!"

"He is not Kaliyuga Avatar," the saint too reiterated and then continued in a tone resonating deep-rooted conviction, "He is beyond that!... Arrey, if He wants He can create any number of Kaliyug Avatars! He can create a Rama, a Krishna... whatever He wants! Whenever He wants! ...you just go back to Puttaparthi!"


Speechless and completely numbed, the young man just stared at him, as the lamp in the corner continued to emit light, as steady as ever.

Finally, the saint escorted the young man down the hill reminding him again of his good luck of going back to Puttaparthi, and finally wished him a happy journey. 

I met this young man just two days ago. His name is Ananth Pande. Does it ring a bell?
Well, this is only tip of the ice-berg. There is lot more to this fantastic guy and his Tryst with Divinity. It is on radiosai.org in two parts - Part-1 and Part-2. Don't miss this! :)

The Sad, the Same, the Complexly Simple and the Simply Complex

It is absolutely amazing how different people feel Baba and experience Him especially in these changed circumstances (post April 2011 when Bhagawan Baba left His mortal coil). While for some, everything has changed. For some others, nothing has altered. And there is also a group for whom everything has just got better!

Talk to residents of Puttaparthi especially those who have been living there for decades and who had always imagined to spend their last moments basking in the love and grace exuding from His beautiful physical form, for them life has become as dry as the current Chitravathi river bed where once the gurgling waters were witness to scintillating leelas of the Lord. 

This is the first category - The Sad - for whom everything has changed; the zing and josh has gone out of their lives, it is no more worth living.

The other day I was talking to a few German devotees who were in Prasanthi Nilayam as part of their Pilgrimage to Parthi, and the leader of the group said:

"This year 200 of us have come, next year it is going to be 400! It is so beautiful to be here. I feel Baba so much here. The spiritual ambience and the routine of the ashram is so spiritually rejuvenating. 

"That place is not Baba's Samadhi, it is not a tomb - it is the symbol of Constant Integrated Awareness, it is the precious treasure house of supreme and sublime peace! It just exudes love and peace." 

Another day a Polish devotee said that He actually felt Baba's touch as He placed his head on the Samadhi and even saw a wall of orange light and His foot prints in the Sai Kulwant Hall. His entire thrilling account is here. Do not miss it. 

So this is the second category - The Same - for whom nothing seems to have altered much. Their reason and inspiration to come to Prasanthi Nilayam is still the same, and they will continue what they have been doing till now with the same zeal and love.

There is another German I met a few days ago who said, "You know what, you may find this weird but this is how I feel. Actually, it is much better now. 

"Earlier I used to stay for 10-15 days in Prasanthi Nilayam but was never sure if I will get a single padanamaskar. But now every single day I get to touch Him. The experience of touching the Samadhi is exactly the same as placing my head at His lotus feet. Also, now there is no crowd. I can easily go to Bhajan Hall and meditate there. This was so difficult earlier. So it is all fine." 

This is the third category - The Complexly Simple - for whom things have even got better! They feel Puttaparthi is less crowded now; it is more silent, and so good for spiritual sadhana. And Baba's Samadhi darshan is so easily available; one can be blessed with the opportunity of touching Him every single day!


And there is yet another group - The Simply Complex - who passionately believe, no, they say they know it. "Swami is coming back... " they declare and insist, "Yes, in this same form of Sathya Sai! Just hold on and watch... you have no clue who Swami really is! And the incredible thing that He is up to! 

"You may not get a chance to step into Prasanthi then, protect your place from now! You do not believe me... does not matter. But this is definitely going to happen - 200%!"

How Swami is keeping each one's inspiration at their best is so incredible. It almost seems our dear lord has become more mystifying and mind-boggling than before! But at the same time He is so accessible or otherwise to each one, it all depends on how we relate to Him, feel Him and experience Him!


So, which category do you fall in?

FROM KARAAIKUDI TO KOLAVARI

On the evening of November 22, 2011 Sai Kulwant Hall was witness to a music fest that can only be described as 'divinely phantasmagoric'! 

'If only Swami was here how much He would have loved this!" I kept saying to myself. And this is exactly what I told Guru Karaaikudi Mani during a conversation after his out-of-the-world performance. 

"Oh! Why do you say so? Swami is here! His sukhsuma sareera (subtle form) is here!... I never imagined that I will be playing right in front of Bhagawan's Maha Samadhi! Can you believe it? I sat right in front of Him and did the performance! What a blessing it is! And what an experience it was! I cannot describe it in words... "

Guru Karaaikkudi Mani is to mridangam what Adi Shankaracharya is to the upanishads. He is not just a master of music, he is a Nada Yogi; for him the sound of mridamgam is divinity itself.

"There are only three instruments that have been played by the Divine - the Veena by Mother Saraswati; the Murali by Lord Krishna and the mridamgam by the Nandi. If one pursues any of these instruments with devotion and dedication, one can do wonders!"

And that is exactly what Guruji has done! An instrument which was always perceived as an accompanying add-on, in a matter of a 2-3 years occupied the centre stage in carnatic music concerts in the eighties. And today a solo mridangam performance is as popular and captivating as a solo violin or a tabla concert. 

After having dedicated his life in the worship of the divine through music, coming to Puttaparthi for Guru Karaaikudi was a truly indelible experience.

"How much I have longed to come to Puttaparthi... but Baba had decided that I should perform for Him only now. During the 18 years that I spent with my spiritual guru Sri Suraajananda, we discussed about Swami all the time.... I have seen His videos and heard a number of His discourses... actually I even saw Him once physically many years ago. And that was in a plane! I was going abroad for a concert and Baba was in the same flight, I went and touched His feet!"

The thrill and joy on his face as he said this, was sublime. For Guru Karaaikudi Mani, Swami is the Sole Force for his success even though he never had the opportunity to perform physically in front of Him.

"I have Shruti Laya centres (his music training schools) in many countries from USA to Australia. There are a 1000 students along their families who are associated with these centres, and let me tell you this: All these families are Sai devotees. It is Baba alone who is making all this happen... whenever I go abroad my hosts are always invariably Sai devotees. Baba is with me all the time."

"I have performed all over the world but presenting something here is absolutely divine. I cannot imagine my good luck... it is purely His blessing. I was filled with a different kind of energy..."

Will he come to Prasanthi again?

"Oh...yes! This is only the beginning!"

If this was Karaaikudi Mani's experience who is adored as a saint by music-lovers and others alike, just a few days ago Anirudh of Kolavari fame (the composer of 'why this Kolavari...") dropped in at the Radio Sai studio and said:

"I have come to Puttaparthi because I had mentally prayed to Swami that if this song works, first thing I would do is to come and see Him... I visit Parthi every year and this time there is an even more compelling reason to make a trip... I am here to offer my gratitude."

Wow! From Karaaikudi to Kolavari... Puttaparthi is the happening place for everyone on this planet! And it will continue to be!


[Radio Sai will offer the full text of the interview with Guru Karaaikudi Mani sometime shortly. Watch out radiosai.org]