Temple of Learning|
time to time, Baba organises for the benefit of students, a Summer
Course in Indian Culture and Spirituality. Typically, it is in the
latter half of May, and, except for one occasion, Brindavan has
always been the venue. The main objective of the Course is to give
students a strong dose spirituality, which is achieved in part
through lectures delivered by elderly devotees, men of esteem and
reputation in public life, etc. The highlight is of course the
Daily Discourse by Swami, delivered typically in the evening.
For every Summer
Course, Swami chooses a particular theme; for example, in 1993, it
was the Mind. In 1976, the venue was shifted to Ooty, where there
used to be a Sai School, later shifted to Prasanti Nilayam]
because the Hostel in Brindavan was then under construction. That
year, Baba's Discourse revolved mostly around the human aspects of
the Krishna Avatar.
Summer Courses were started in the early seventies. At that time,
the student strength in Baba's College was relatively small.
Therefore, participation in the Summer Course was open to students
from all over India; at times, there were even some overseas
participants. However, once the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher
Learning came to be established, participation in the Summer
Course has been restricted mainly to the students of the Institute
and some select guests.
As in other such
activities, Swami takes complete charge. For the entire duration
of the Course, food is served free for all - students, teachers,
guests, supporting staff, etc. Further, Baba makes sure that
sweets and the fruit of the season, namely mango, are regularly
distributed to one and all. Evening entertainment and cultural
programmes are not overlooked, and one year there was even a play
by youth from New York.
Without fail, the
Summer Course is always a memorable experience for all involved
with it in one manner or the other. Especially for the new comers
to the Institute, it is an eye-opener to Swami's Infinite Love.
The camaraderie, support and co-operation they receive from their
seniors stands in marked contrast to the crude, cruel,
uncivilised, and vulgar 'initiation' customs practised elsewhere.
For the benefit of
posterity, the Divine Discourses are compiled and published under
the generic title: Summer Showers in Brindavan.
The 1976 volume of course bears a different title; it is called,
Summer Roses in the Blue Mountains.
Summer Course always concludes with a farewell lunch, personally
planned and supervised by Bhagavan Baba. He arrives even as
honoured guests and students are taking their seats. To start
with, He goes on a round of inspection - the general arrangements,
the kitchen, the items to be served, etc. The scrutiny over, Swami
now moves around playing the gracious host. Here and there He
stops to exchange a few words, and occasionally, He even accepts a
letter or two - people never miss a chance to slip a letter into
His hands! Finally, He moves to the table set apart for Him and
takes His seat there. From there, He glances over the entire
gathering. After this a beautiful smile and a gentle, barely
perceptible nod - this is the signal for chanting the
Brahmaarpanam prayer [drawn from the Bhagavad Gita and
specially selected by Baba for chanting before eating; basically,
the food is first offered to God and then eaten as a sacrament].
After the chant is completed, all eyes are on Swami. When He takes
His first morsel, others start eating.
Swami hardly ever
stays back to eat a proper lunch. Having tasted a little bit of
the fare (for the sake of the students), He rises, moves around
for a brief while, receives Aarathi at the exit and leaves
the dining hall. This is the standard routine.
year, there was a dramatic difference. While food was being
served, Swami slowly moved to the Head Table where important
guests are seated. Bhagavan stopped by to talk to an old-time
devotee seated there. As He was conversing, food was being served,
including to the guest with whom Baba was talking. Quite casually,
Swami occasionally took a small bit of some of the items on the
plate and popped it into His mouth. It was a gesture of
extra-ordinary intimacy, but it all happened so delicately that
hardly anyone was aware of what was going on. Even the devotee
concerned hardly noticed - so absorbed was he in the conversation.
Suddenly, Swami said aloud, "All of you; what are you waiting for?
Start eating. People have planes, trains, and buses to catch. It
is getting late. Start eating." Of course, no one made any attempt
to start eating; how could they, when Swami had not taken His seat
and Brahmaarpanam had not been chanted? Baba repeated His
instruction once again. This time, the devotee with whom Swami was
conversing till then said, "Swami, but Brahmaarpanam….?"
Swami smiled and replied, "Bangaru [an endearing term in
Telugu that literally means gold] what are you talking about? I
have already taken the food even before it was formally offered to
Me with a chant! What more do you want when I have taken the
food?" So, for once, no Brahmaarpanam was chanted. One more
reminder of who exactly He is!
Source: Radio Sai
E-Magazine, 1st November 2003