Musings From Prashanthi Nilayam
WHAT SHOULD WE LEARN FROM
By Prof. G Venkataraman
This is the
text of the Radio talk by Prof. G. Venkataraman, broadcast
after the Sivarathri festival 2006, which has some very
significant reflections on what Lingodbhavam means.
Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam. Normally,
you would have heard in this time slot, a talk by me on the life
of Shirdi Baba. Today I interrupt that serial to share some of
my thoughts with you, concerning some memorable moments we
witnessed during Sivarathri celebrations last week. As
you are aware, this year, Sivarathri, or Maha
Sivarathri to be more precise, fell on Sunday, February 26.
Divine Sivarathri Schedule
per Prashanti Nilayam traditions, typically, this is how
Sivarathri is observed. On the morning of Sivarathri,
Swami’s boys sing songs; after that, there is Bhajan and Swami
retires. In the afternoon, everyone assembles in the Divine
presence for a Discourse, which would then be followed by
all-night Bhajan singing.
This all-night Bhajan singing is a phenomenon in itself and
merits a talk on its own but I shall skip that. On the following
morning, some time after dawn, Swami comes back to the Hall,
listens to Bhajans for a while and then gives one more Discourse
to bring the observance of Sivarathri austerities to an
end. After that, there is Prasadam distribution, which
too is an event in itself. This, so to say, is the standard
script for a non-Lingodhbhavam year, and this was the
way it was for many years until Swami revived the
Lingodhbhavam a few years ago.
Last year, it was announced well in advance that there would be
no Lingodhbhavam, and, as was to be expected, this
resulted in a sharp decline in the crowds attending the
function. By the way, although it was announced last year that
there would be no Lingodhbhavam, what actually happened
was that after Swami finished the Discourse in the evening and
sat down to listen to the Bhajans, suddenly there were strong
symptoms that a Lingam might emerge. However, Swami
summoned His car and went away; ultimately, there was no
Lingodhbahavam, at least in public.
This year too, the crowds were much smaller; probably because
everyone expected that there would be no Lingodhbhavam,
and Sunday evening passed off without any Lingam
emerging from Swami. In a sense, many were glad because you know
Swami has to undergo enormous physical stress and strain, while
making the Lingam come from within Him. Devotees told
one another, “Ah, this year, Swami has mercifully spared Himself
the torture He has to undergo while bringing the Lingam
Morning Heralds A Great Event
Came Monday morning and Swami came out at around 6.45 and sat in
His chair. Bhajans were going on as usual. Meanwhile, a big
group of Swami’s boys got busy bringing in fresh hot
Prasadam from the Canteen in huge vessels and placing them
in the Sai Kulwant Hall for distribution after the conclusion of
the proceedings. I noticed though that they were doing things
somewhat differently to the routine they usually followed. I
knew, however, that this must be on the explicit instructions
from Swami; in all such things, it is Swami who is truly the
Manager; He decides even minute details, and nothing can ever
happen unless He personally orders it.
OK, all this is fine but this is not what I
wish to talk about. There we were, all of us waiting for Swami
to start on His morning Discourse, when I saw a few boys rushing
into Swami’s Interview room. In itself, this is nothing unusual.
Swami often gives instructions and Swami’s boys are so agile and
alert, that they dash to implement the instructions. A minute
later, I saw these boys go back to where Swami was seated, with
flasks, towels and tumblers in their hands. The moment I saw
this, my antenna went up; I said to myself, “Looks like Swami is
going to bring out a Lingam.” And it was not just me;
the whole of Sai Kulwant Hall suddenly woke up from its
drowsiness, coming at the tail end of an all-night vigil,
singing Bhajans. Something that not normally does not happen in
the morning session, was about to happen.
After last year, everyone assumed that for the second time in
the history of this Avatar, Lingodbhavam would come to
a stop. What I mean is that way back, Swami used to bring out
Lingams regularly but then put a stop to it for years
and years. And then most unexpectedly, it became a star
attraction so to speak. While everyone was thrilled to see this
spectacular phenomenon, devotees also realised that Swami went
through much physical pain and suffering before the Lingam
emerged. Thus, many even prayed that Swami should spare Himself
this agony and stop the Lingodhbhavam. That’s exactly
what happened last year and this year too, till Monday morning,
that seemed to be the case.
When it became clear that there would be a Lingodhbhavam,
the huge audience snapped to attention, while the singing of
Bhajans picked up in vigour and tempo. Everyone waited with
bated breath, while Swami started drinking glasses and glasses
of water, as He normally does just before the Lingam
of the Birth of the Lingam
big group of boys was seated behind Swami, pouring out water
from flasks into silver tumblers. Two boys kneeling on either
side of Swami, were tensely focussing on Swami, ready to support
Him by holding Him. One of them would place the tumblers in
front of Swami and offer the water to Swami whenever He
signalled, which was every fifteen or twenty seconds.
Swami would take the silver tumbler from this
boy, and drink the water. He would then hand the empty tumbler,
which this boy would pick up and hand over to the crew behind
and position the next tumbler in readiness for offering to
was evidently feeling very hot, and coolers were placed on
either side to blow cold air. After drinking water, Swami would
wipe His face. And so, kerchief after kerchief was offered.
Frequently, Swami would use a small hand towel to wipe His face
and mouth. Any number of towels were passed on. Meanwhile, some
of the boys sitting behind would run to Swami’s Interview room
to fill the flasks, bring more kerchiefs and more hand towels.
a sense, all this was not new; we had seen this for many years
now, except last year of course. But what was unusual
this time was the very long time it took for the Lingam
to come out.
Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes, half an
hour, forty-five minutes, and still the Lingam would
not emerge. By now, almost everyone was absolutely shattered and
silently prayed, “Oh Swami! Please, let this agony end this very
minute.” But Swami’s suffering continued.
Impassioned Bhajan Singing
Meanwhile, the Bhajan singing went almost haywire. Normally,
when the Lingam is expected, the team of singers, boys
from Swami’s Colleges in Brindavan and Puttaparthi and girls
from the Anantapur College for Women, would take turns and sing
fast, powerful, and inspiring Bhajans on Lord Siva. This time
too it started off like that; but when Swami’s suffering became
prolonged, the singers could no longer maintain the traditional
drill and rhythm; instead, they cried out in their own way,
perhaps coaxing the Lingam to emerge and bring Swami’s
suffering to an end. Here is a sample of those extra-ordinary
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO
THE AUDIO [547 KB]
hope that gave you an idea of how things were. Meanwhile,
Swami’s body continued to suffer so much, that everyone seated
everywhere could see it plainly. It seemed like an epic story in
which a frail human body embodying the Incarnation of God was
struggling to rise to the enormous demands of a mighty Divine
Power within, to bring forth the ultimate symbol of Creation.
Finally, about one hour after Swami started showing the symptoms
of yet another Lingodhbhavam, the much-awaited
Lingam appeared ever so suddenly. It was about 8.15 A.M.
Listen now to the sounds of that historical moment.
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO
THE AUDIO [110 KB]
Lingodhbhavam Demonstrates Divine Creation
would now like to digress and reflect for some moments on the
significance of Lingodhbhavam itself. People come from
far and wide to witness the extra-ordinarily Divine event and
feel thrilled by it, but what exactly does that event signify?
That is what I would now like to dwell upon.
Briefly, when Swami brings out a Lingam from
within, He is reminding us, among many other things, that behind
Creation, there is a Creator. If there is a painting,
then there must have been a painter who painted the picture. If
there is a child, then there must have been a mother who gave
birth to that child. Everyone accepts these facts without any
dispute whatsoever, including the so-called rationalists and
atheists. But when it comes to the Universe itself, say God
created it and see how many feathers you ruffle.
is not just that some people feel offended by the reference to
God; the more important point is that their vehement denial of
God has done much harm to Society. What we call good thoughts,
good acts etc., spring basically from God. Goodness is the
representation of Divinity at the human level. Swami as Krishna,
Shirdi Baba and in His present Incarnation has made very clear,
that goodness springs from Godliness. Where there is Love there
is God. Without God, there simply cannot be any Love and without
Pure Love, there just cannot be any sacrifice, and without
sacrifice, there cannot be any goodness.
very large number of people are good by nature, and silently
they do a lot of good to Society. Without the sacrifice of these
people, without the compassion shown by these people, without
the selfless service done by this people, without the sense of
duty exhibited by these people, Society would come to a stop.
All these virtues are the manifestation of Divinity within.
So, the first point about the Lingodhbhavam is
that it is a powerful reminder to us of the basic fact that
behind Creation there is a Creator, and that Creator is God.
These days, there is a lot of talk about the DNA test.
Where heredity is concerned, everyone knows that the child must
have the genes of the mother and the father. In the same way, if
every atom in the Universe has come from God, should not every
atom and all things built from atoms have “Divine genes” if I
may say so?
This exactly is what Swami tells us often. He says:
“Everything in the Universe is Divine, and there is nothing
other than God.” Swami has said this to us not once,
not twice, but any number of times. And yet, why do we fail to
take notice of it? Because we are so obsessed with the outer
form of everything in the Universe. This is all the result of a
terrible disease called body-consciousness. In its most virulent
form, this disease makes everyone see just the outside, but not
what is hidden within.
Disease of Body-Consciousness
Let me give a few examples, starting with the
Sun. Today, thanks to our knowledge of Science we say, “The Sun
is but a gas cloud that is burning. Deep inside, it burns
elements like hydrogen via thermonuclear reactions. And the
energy produced in these reactions is what comes out to us as
solar radiation.” Yes, all this is true of course. But how come
all this is happening? The modern scientist would just shrug and
say, “Oh that? It is all Nature.” This kind of reaction may not
be harmful but then one thing leads to another, and it is really
dangerous to ignore the Omnipresence of God.
Let us take violence; if people saw God in others, would anyone
raise a sword to strike another person? Remember those famous
stories about animals and Shirdi Baba? How Baba taught one woman
that He came as a dog and she rained blows on Him? And how He
told another woman that He came as a pig and she fed Him most
kindly? Yes, as the Vedas proclaim, God is in
everything, from the atom to the galaxies. And, as Swami often
reminds us by quoting a powerful line from one of Saint
Tyagaraja’s song, which says that God is in the ant and in the
Cosmos as well.
What I am driving at is that Lingodhbhavam is NOT a
spectacle. But most unfortunately, that is what most of us tend
to reduce it to, by clamouring more for the photos and videos of
that event, rather than pondering about the deeper implications
and the message that Swami is sending to us.
Let us take a minute off to reflect on why
Swami undergoes so much suffering to bring out the Lingam.
Is it merely to thrill us? Is it merely for showing the
Lingam to everybody by going round? Indeed, why does He,
after going through so much physical pain, take extra trouble to
go round, holding up the newly-created, brilliantly shining
Lingam for all of us to see?
The suffering of the Divine body that we saw this year was
something quite unusual and exceptional. In fact, Swami
mentioned to a few devotees even on the previous day that He was
beginning to experience pain inside. So it was not just
the painful struggle we witnessed on Monday morning. Unknown to
the world, the birth pangs of Creation, if I might call it that,
had commenced 24 hours earlier.
Golden Splendoured Lingam
We all say that Swami brought out a Golden
Lingam. Yes that is true but for a moment just reflect
on this fact. Can anyone have so much gold inside? The answer is
no. Then wherefrom does the gold needed to form the Lingam
inside Swami come? It comes from the five elements that form
Swami’s body as well as ours. In our bodies, those five elements
cannot specially combine to form gold. However, they do inside
Swami’s body, as the result of Divine Leela.
Next, the gold that forms inside thus must aggregate, become
liquid, acquire the shape of a Lingam, solidify, and
then only emerge. It is all very much like a baby growing in the
womb, starting from a single cell. I am sure you are aware that
gold is a solid at room temperature. If it has to exist as a
liquid, and that is what happens at start during the
Lingodhbhavam, then it must be a very high temperature,
something like 600 degrees. Now at that temperature, the
stomach of ordinary mortals would simply burn away and turn into
ashes. But such is the control exercised by the Divine that the
inner organs of the Avatar, do not get destroyed, though they
experience excruciating pain. By the way, it is to
counter the enormous burning sensation within that Swami drank
so much water. Frankly, I have never seen any one consume so
much water. But then, there was a reason for it in this case.
Message of Lingodhbhavam
short, I personally believe that through the Lingodhbhavam,
Swami is sending us many subtle signals. The first of these is
that we must see God everywhere so that we do not disturb
Society and harm Nature, both of which, each in its own way, are
an aspect of God. When an individual fails to see God in
Society, it then becomes very easy for that individual to slide
into actions that harm, injure and even have the capacity to
People do not realise that corruption harms Society; promoting
permissive behaviour harms Society; unfair competition harms
Society; creating unwanted desires in the name of expanding the
market harms Society; promoting junk food harms Society;
treating education as a business harms Society; marketing
weapons harms Society; peddling pornography harms Society – the
list is almost endless. Why do people do all this? Because they
are dominated by greed, by the quest for power, by the urge to
dominate, etc. If, as Swami says, people see God in Society,
would they dare to do such things?
earlier years, I have many times seen big groups of Sai devotees
from various States in India come to Prashanti Nilayam to invite
Swami to their town or city. Swami would call the group for an
Interview and the devotees would walk in with big smiles, hoping
to persuade Swami to accept their invitation. After
about half an hour or so, the door of the Interview room would
open and out would come these people, everyone of them with a
long face. Why? Because Swami had ticked them off. What for? For
not having unity.
This has happened many times. The point is that why should there
be such a marked absence of unity among Sai devotees, when Swami
keeps hammering the message of unity all the time? If we saw
Swami in each other, could there be such disunity as to make
Swami refuse the prayer to visit? Mind you, I am not trying to
preach or pontificate. I am just trying to say that we must take
seriously Swami’s advice that we must see God in every entity in
Creation, as we go through life.
Lessons to Practise
One might ask what exactly does this mean?
Many years ago, when I was giving a talk to a group of devotees,
I said something similar; I said we must see Swami in all. A
devotee who was a businessman objected to my remark and said,
“Listen, you obviously have no idea what business is. I do
padanamaskar to Swami. I offer whatever I can to Swami
free. Surely, you do not expect me to fall at the feet of
everyone I am trying to make a business deal with, do you? And
do you expect me to give away free, various things to my
customer, things that I am trying to sell?” There was a lot of
laughter and everybody was wondering how I was going to respond.
simply said, “You know what Swami’s name is? Sathya. All I ask
is that a businessman must deal with his customer in a truthful
manner, with integrity and not try to take the customer for a
ride, that is all. I am not asking you to do padanamaskar
or give away things free. I am just asking for honesty. Is that
asking for too much?”
The point about all this is that seeing God in others
does not mean we abandon normal worldly code of conduct. What it
means is that no one should hate others; if one hates others, it
is tantamount to hating God. No one should hurt others wantonly,
especially with malicious intent. We would not hurt
God, would we? In the same way, we should not hurt others
because God resides in all. The long and short of it is that
seeing God in every entity means recognising that God is the
core all entities, animate and inanimate.
From Society, let me for a moment, turn my attention to Nature.
If man saw God in Nature, he would not recklessly cut down
trees. If man saw God in Nature, he would not mercilessly hunt
whales. If man saw God in Nature, he would not shamelessly
pollute air and water. If man saw God in Nature, he would not so
thoughtlessly harm the ecosystem created by God for the good of
all living beings. The list goes on.
What I am trying to get at is that the Lingodhbhavam is
really a profound lesson, teaching us the following:
Universe exists because the Creator has specifically
willed it to be so.
Everything in the Universe is Divine at the core, though
we might see bewildering diversity on the outside.
- Man must
live in harmony with Society and Nature, and this he
must do by God everywhere.
- This does
not mean we go around saying, “Oh snake! You are God,”
or “Oh tiger! You are God,” and things like that. That
would be entirely artificial. Rather, we must love all
living beings on earth, both humans and of other
species, and must not deliberately cause harm to anyone
or anything. On the contrary, if we can help, we should.
- We must
also remember that since we have come from God, we must
get back to God, the sooner the better.
getting back to God would be possible, only if we try to
You would remember that this year, the theme of the World
Conference held at the time of the 80 th Birthday was: UNITY,
PURITY and DIVINITY. In simple terms this means: first we must
feel one with all beings not only on earth but in the entire
Cosmos. Next, we must strive to be internally pure, meaning we
must keep a long distance from our eternal enemies, you know the
usual fellows, Kama, Krodha etc. And when we achieve
this sense of oneness with everything and are also pure, then we
can become united with God and enjoy bliss forever. I do not
know whether you would agree with me, but according to me, these
are the lessons, subtle lessons I should perhaps say, that Swami
is teaching us through the Divine and extra-ordinary phenomenon
Mankind has not seen this before and I am not
sure mankind would see it subsequent to the Sri Sathya Sai
Avatar. We who are privileged to witness it, must seek a higher
meaning in it, rather than see it simply as a rare and
spectacular event. Just think of the one hour of long agony that
Swami went through.
Being Divine Swami could easily have made the Lingam
come out in jiffy; but He did not. Why? Because He wants us to
know that anything good and beautiful cannot be created without
pain and sacrifice. All babies are beautiful. But just
recall how much pain the mother has to go through for giving
birth to the baby. It is those lessons that Swami is recalling
wonder how many of us realise that sacrifice and purity go
together. Some of you may recall the famous story of Siva
swallowing poison. The essence of that story is that when people
get together for doing anything collectively, there are bound to
be a lot of bad vibrations generated in the beginning by the
evil lurking within humans. If any good is to be achieved, then
those bad vibrations must be quelled, and that can be done only
with sacrifice. Since in the story concerning Siva, He makes a
big sacrifice, He is also known as Tyagaraja or the King of
to Sivarathri Morning
Let me now get on with the rest of the story
of that unforgettable Monday morning. The moment the
Lingam emerged, Swami’s face instantly brightened. He then
put the Lingam on a silver plate and called for the
moving chair that is actually a seat in His small Toyota car.
Swami sat on that chair and went
round Sai Kulwant Hall holding up the Golden Lingam in
His right hand, to let devotees see the Lingam from
close quarters. In fact, He went round many times giving
Ananda to all.
Blesses the Orphans and Their Carers
We thought that after this Swami would signal
for Aarathi and Prasaadam distribution. But
that was not the case. He went to the place near where the boys
of the Primary School sit and whispered something. Soon, a red
Hyundai car [kept in readiness] was brought there, and Swami
graciously blessed Mr. Paramahamsa, by presenting him the car.
It must be added that Mr. and Mrs Paramahamsa live in the Ashram
and have been serving Swami for many, many years, particularly
by taking care of destitute children and mothers who have been
given protection by Swami for nearly a decade. In fact, Swami
has built an entire village to accommodate the destitute mothers
and their children. Swami spoke highly of this devoted couple.
After Mr. and Mrs. Paramahamsa were honoured, they signalled to
the children they are taking care of to come near Swami. What
followed then was truly memorable. Swami became
overwhelmed with Love as He distributed sweets to these
erstwhile village kids. Swami spoke to them softly. We
could not hear what He said since there was no mike but we could
make out from the reactions of those standing near Swami that He
was very happy the way these children had shaped after coming
under His protection. Mr. Anil Kumar then very kindly gave the
huge gathering some background to the whole episode. Just listen
to what Anil Kumar said -
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO
After that, the former destitute children expressed their
gratitude to Swami in many ways, including by singing a song or
two. Here is one of them.
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO
This song is set in folk song style, making
it abundantly clear that these boys are really from the
couple of boys also made speeches in which they not only
expressed their deepest gratitude to Swami, but also promised to
spend their lives with Swami, serving Him in every possible way.
Looking at it all, I felt that through this
impromptu function honouring Mr. Paramahamsa, Swami gave an
opportunity to the vast gathering in Sai Kulwant Hall, how one
must reach out to the forlorn, shower love and compassion on
them, and bring cheer into their lives. This is one very
effective way of being in resonance with Society and therefore
also with our Creator.
Swami’s entire life is a saga of Love
and Compassion. But this Sivarathri, He gave a
new meaning to both these words, by first undergoing
tremendous physical suffering to highlight the crucial
role of sacrifice. The result of that personal suffering
of His was the emergence of the Lingam, which
taught us that without Creator, there cannot be any
Next, having come into this world
with the human form, itself a great blessing of the
Lord, we must use the opportunity to serve Society with
Love and Compassion. Here again, Swami gave us an
example by reminding us of the children He had taken
under His wing, bringing hope to their lives.
Altogether, it was a
memorable Monday morning, with a wide shade of
experiences from the utterly sublime to the very
practical. I was deeply touched by it, and I felt
absolutely electrified by the extra-ordinary message
that Swami sent through His suffering, of which we saw
just one hour. I then resolved that I must share my
feelings so that you can get at least some idea of the
great Divine drama that we witnessed. That is why I am
interrupting the normal schedule of the talks on Shirdi
Baba to tell you something about what I saw.
conclusion, I would like to quote a comment I overheard while
returning to my room at the end of the proceedings. Two young
ladies were walking by, talking to each other. They
spoke in Tamil, which is my mother tongue. One girl said to the
other, “Did we really have to witness all this horrendous
suffering?” Indeed, and so, let us all pray that Bhagavan will
not tax His physical body from now on, and give us the
Buddhi (intelligence) to absorb and practice the profound
lesson He has taught us this year, after much physical
Thank you and Jai Sai Ram.