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  Sri Kasturi

How Kasturi received his name

(From the book "Loving God" by Kasturi)

'On the twelfth morning of my life, a label was attached to me amidst a great deal of religious noise. My father saw me for the first time only then, when he came to name me. The name which has stuck to me ever since was an ancient one, much the brighter, because it was borne by a series of grandfathers. The rule was that the first son must be named by the father after his own father. So, I was given by father the name his father bore .... My first son was named Narayana by me, because that was the name my father had .... Father took me from mother's hands and sat on the floor facing the family shrine with me on his lap. He prayed to God to bless the name and help me to add some more fragrance to it. The he raised me by the shoulders to his face and whispered thrice in my right ear a long string of strange sounds, by which I was to be known thereafter. It was a nine-syllabled rodomontade (ranting talk). I had tumbled into the Brahmin caste and so, the last two syllables had to be Sharma, symbolising that status. The rest of the name, Kasturiranganatha indicated, neither the God idolised in my village nor the God installed on the Seven Hills. It denoted God, as adored by millions in Tamilnadu, installed in a reclining posture, on a multi-hooded many coiled serpent and described by that name as "musk-dot adorned". Kasturi means 'musk', 'ranga' means 'stage', and 'natha' means 'director' or 'master'. The temple of "Ranganatha with the Kasturi dot" is situated on an island, called Sri Ranga (The Stage), in the Kaveri River, formed by it while half-way from the Mysore Plateau to the Bay of Bengal.

... The substance called musk is valued as a precious perfume. Since it is also dark in color, a dot of musk between the brows serves to ward off the evil eye. It was preferred by nobles and princesses over cheaper contrivances. The brow of the idol at Srirangam was marked with the Kasturi dot, for nothing less could satisfy the devout worshippers. The name "Director of the Stage" reminds us that 'All the world is a stage'. God directs the cosmic play, unaffected Himself. he reclines magnificently on terror and poison, with His head on a pillow of calm. His will achieves and motivates. The Katha Upanishad declares, "Seated, He journeys; reclining, He is everywhere".

Kasturi Ranganatha Sharma was too long a word to be uttered in full, every time I was spoken of or to. The caste symbol 'Sharma' could be painlessly amputated. The rest symbol too had to be curtailed, but, the problem was, head or tail? My grandfather was accosted and referred to, by all who had to deal with him, only as Ranganatha, and for the daughter-in-law (my mother) to mouth the name of the father-in-law was taboo! So, the second half had to be jettisoned. The result was, I came to be known as the fragrant animal substance used for 'dotting' the Divine Brow.

I could stand with folded hands in the presence of the "Kasturi Ranganatha" only in my 70th year! It came about through Baba's Grace. Friends invited me to a town called Tirupur to speak on Baba, on the 24th day of December. And Baba directed me to go. But, I longed to spend Christmas Day with Baba, since it reminded me of my entry into the world stage. I asked permission to go over from Tirupur to Srirangam and worship Him in the Ranganatha, reclining on the serpent. The serpent, Baba says, is symbolic of pollution, poison and death and God is pictured as overwhelming, quietening and mastering these evil traits. Baba said, "Yes. Go to Sri Rangam and eat your fill of sweet rice". The reference to sweet rice did not surprise me. Years previous, when we were proceeding to Madras, Baba, as was his wont, asked every single person in the car to sing for Him a song. My genes had no music among their components but I had to obey, nevertheless. Memory brought up for me a song I had heard a clown sing during a play I chanced to attend while at school. it was a prayer to Shiva for a morsel of sweet rice, wrung out of a hungry onlooker at a feast conspicuously consumed by the rich. Baba must have discovered that my subconscious had hooked up this particular lilt, for the reason, that I myself had an unfulfilled hunger for this dish, deep within me! He decided to remove that pang at Srirangam on my 70th birthday.

I was thrilled when I stood before the shrine and filled my eyes and heart with the entrancing vision of the 20 foot idol, stretched on the coils of a seven-hooded serpent excluding captivating icono-charm. To my eyes, the Feet, the upraised soles were not of dark green stone as the rest of the Divine Body was. They were alabaster with a shade of blue. They were soft, tender, fair, familiar, alive; they were Baba's! I removed myself away from the portals of the shrine with great reluctance. Sweet rice was, I believed, the routine offering at Ranganatha shrine but that day, we were given only laddus and muruks. 

We had one more temple to visit on that holy island - a famous Shiva temple with the sacred Jambu Tree. When we moved out of that temple, the priest ran behind us, to announce that it was specially sacred day when "Sweet rice was offered to the deity." This was welcome news indeed. He insisted on our turning back into the temple. He made us squat on the clean floor to the right of the shrine; he spread banana leaves before us and served sizable heaps of the dish Baba had asked me to 'eat my fill'.'

Reminiscence of Professor Kasturi

Sri Kasturi was born on Christmas Day 1897. Swami jokingly called him 'the 97 model'. Naming the year of production was the way antique automobiles were identified. He passed away on 14 August 1987 and was cremated on the banks of Chitravathi on the 15th. He was 90. He had made it easy for us to remember by coming among us on a Christmas Day and leaving us on India's Independence Day anniversary (India attained Independence at midnight on 14-15 August 1947). Kasturi served Swami for 40 years and lived those 40 years in Independent India.

Talking about Kasturi, I told V.K. Narasimhan (Kasturi's deputy editor and later the editor of Sanathana Sarathi) that Kasturi was Swami's Hanuman. VKN corrected me, 'No. No. You are wrong. Kasturi was Swami's Vyasa'. VKN told me that Swami asked him to write a tribute on Kasturi in SS (see below) - a rare expression of Swami's Grace. Apart from Swami rushing to Kasturi's hospital bedside at the time of his last moments and giving him vibhuthi, another rare blessing was Swami getting Kasturi to write his autobiography 'Loving God' and Swami launching it on Christmas Day 1982, in his presence, on his 85th birthday, 5 years before his death . On that occasion, without prior notice, Swami had asked VKN to speak on Kasturi. VKN spoke for 5 minutes, after that Swami had whispered into VKN's ears, 'Very good, very good'. In that day's Christmas discourse Swami said, "Whom does God seek? He looks for a sincere, selfless, steady devotee. Besides, He seeks an ideal son who can be held before mankind as an example and an inspiration. Such persons have become extremely rare nowadays" (SSS vol. XV, ch. 59). I like to think that Swami found that 'rare person' in Kasturi.

'Loving God' is not only Kasturi's life story. It is the story of God and jiva, Guru and sadhaka, the story of Swami making Kasturi an exemplary instrument in His avataric mission, an inspiration to humankind. It is a message for all. That is probably why Swami got Kasturi to write it. 

In my monologues with Swami, I thanked Him several times for Kasturi's multi-facetted seva, for Him and for us. Today again, I join GR to think kindly of Kasturi. May he be Well and Happy, at His Feet or wherever he is! Loka(s) Samastha(s) Sukhino Bhavanthu! - May all the beings in all the worlds be happy.

Please see his photo taken by GR and posted in the Files area of Sai Discourses. Swami also took Kasturi's photo once. It is a very funny story and one, as is usual with Swami, with a very profound spiritual message. I leave you to read it in Kasturi's own inimitable language in 'Loving God' and learn/re-learn the message that Swami conveyed to us at Kasturi's expense. Before that see the Appreciation written by late V.K. Narasimhan (Editor) and published in Sanathana Sarathi, September 1987, p. 260.

Unto Sai a Witness

"Death is the denouement of the drama of life," wrote Prof. Kasturi in 1981. That denouement came to him on August 14 at noon, a few minutes after Bhagavan Baba saw him in the Sathya Sai Hospital at Prasanthi Nilayam. He was 90.

Bhagavan Baba, who was overseeing a students' rehearsal in the College Auditorium, abruptly stopped it at 11.30 a.m. and went straight to the Hospital. Reaching the bedside of Prof. Kasturi, Swami called him: "Kasturi!". Prof. Kasturi opened his eyes for a moment and looked at the Lord. Bhagavan materialized vibhuti and placed it in Kasturi's mouth. Kasturi closed his eyes and a serene peace enveloped him. Swami told those at the bedside to do Namasmarana. An hour later his spirit merged in the Lotus Feet of the Lord. Streams of devotees paid their last respects to him at the hospital.

The next morning his mortal remains were cremated on the bed of the Chitravathi river. 

For over forty years he rendered devoted service to Bhagavan as writer, editor, companion and tireless propagator of Swami's life and message. Millions of devotees all over the world got acquainted with Bhagavan's life and teachings through the four volumes of "Sathyam Sivam Sundaram" (on the life of Bhagavan) and the 11 volumes of "Sathya Sai Speaks", besides the Vahini series.

Prof. Kasturi was a witness to the innumerable miracles of Swami and he could bear authentic testimony to the glory and magnificence of the Avatar as few others could. He had traveled with Bhagavan all over India. Vivid accounts of his intimate experiences with Swami are given in his autobiography, "Loving God," which was released by Swami on Christmas day in 1982.

Kasturi continued to work right upto his last illness, giving of his best to "Sanathana Sarathi," which Swami launched in 1957 with Kasturi as Editor.

After 1982 Kasturi brought out two books, one on the Lord's mother "Easwaramma," and the other on the essence of Swami's message in a book entitled "Prasanthi". 

It could be truly said of Kasturi: "Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven". - Editor.

August 14 to be understood as August 14, 1987.

Collection of photo's gathered by N. Kasturi
out of his book "Loving God" - Eighty five years under the Watchful Eye of The Lord


'My Mother at 75' 


'Myself and Wife Anointing Avatar on Advent Day' 


'Carrying Sunshade over 'Sun' ' 


'With the Lord on Kashmir Hills'


'Holding beholding Vibhuthi Wonder'


'Holding beholding Vibhuthi Wonder'


'The Translator stands corrected'


'Sand as SrÓ Krishna'


'Bh‚gavatam Recital - Kerala'


'Portrait Unveiling' - at Bukkapatnam'


'Each hair can bear a nation's woe' - Poet's Meet - 1964
I'm reading the above line'


'Toward Badrinath - 1961'


'When He first drew me to Himself - 1948'


'He looks at His own Portrait - 1967


'He clicked at His empty chair'

Source of this article: http://vahini.org/Discourses/d3-kasturispoem.html
Visit: Vahini.org - Vahini Books written by Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

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