85 glorious years of divine love in action
Once upon a time, in a thick forest, in the middle of the night, a lioness gave birth to a cub. Hungered by the labour of delivery, the lioness started on a chase for a fleeing prey, leaving the newborn cub behind. Next morning, as sun rose in the eastern horizon, the orphaned cub, missing the motherly warmth of the lioness, staggered aimlessly and reached a nearby pasture. It came across a flock of sheep. The ‘mother-sheep’, took pity on the cub, welcomed it and made it a part of the sheep family.
As years rolled by, deeply influenced by the affectionate company of the sheep family, the cub matured as a unique lion.... it would bleat like a sheep and heartily feast by grazing on fresh green grass. It had mastered the sheep’s life style. It had matured into a ‘sheep-lion’.
One evening, a lion from the neighbouring forest, entered the pastures and saw the grazing flock. The sheep’s antenna, picked up the danger signal. The lion was alerted. A high-speed chase began... A few moments into the jungle adventure; the preying lion was halted abruptly by an abnormal sight..... the sight of a frightened fleeing lion in the midst of the sheep. Watching a lion run with its tail twitched high up in the air, was a confusing visual for the hunting lion. Wondered by this, it decided to pursue the ‘sheep-lion’. In no time, with a giant leap, it got the fleeing lion crashing on the ground.
“Leave me, let me go!,” bleated the lion in a high-decibel, sheepish tone.
“Why are you running away?”
“I am a sheep of yonder flock, let me go,” it squealed again.
Gripping the lion by its tuft, the majestic lion dragged along the frightened one to a nearby lake. After continuous exhortations, the ‘sheep-lion’ was made to open its eyes and behold its reflection in the clear waters.
“You are a lion, not sheep and a lion does not bleat, it roars,” thundered the majestic one.
Under the impact of blows from the mighty paws of the lion, the ‘sheep-lion’, began to affirm its true identity firstly with bleat mingled roars and ultimately in a royal roar, as befits its real king-like stature.
Today, Man’s plight is like this ‘sheep-lion’. Born into a sheep-like family, he is conditioned to lead a selfish life in pursuance of sensual pleasures. To awaken man from this stupor, take him to the crystal clear waters of meditation and show him his Godly reflection, a divine lion has come!!
Garbed in an orange robe, fed by the adrenaline of selfless love and armed with a disarming smile, has come a ‘lion-like’ master.... Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
On the eve of Swami’s 85th birthday, Primetime Prism celebrates by presenting a cover story on the glorious life of this Divine personality, written and compiled by Smt. Jayanthi Subramanian.
“I have come not to disturb or destroy any faith, but to confirm each in his own faith, so that the Christian becomes a better Christian; the Muslim, a better Muslim; and the Hindu, a better Hindu.”
The task of measuring the waters of the glorious and oceanic personality of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, equipped with the ‘bucket-like’ aid of the vocabulary is an utterly impossible and an impractical adventure. But to personally witness the glory of Swami and be touched by the sweetness of His love is a divinely satisfying experience. That divine love, which is at best stammeringly described by the thousand tongued Adi Sesha, or praised by the innumerable mellifluous sankeertanas and ancient Vedas, can surely be a real experience, when one turns unto him!
WHO IS SAI BABA?
To a spiritual aspirant, He is the divine master par excellence; to a rationalist, He is the greatest humanitarian on earth; to thousands of modern youth, He is the leader with a dynamic vision and a colossus of inspiration; to a devotee, He is simply divinity in human form; and to everyone who has had the opportunity to behold Him, He is Pure Love Walking on Two Feet.
Ask Bhagavan Baba, “Are you God?” And He says: “Yes, I am God and so are you. The only difference between you and I is that while I am aware of this fact, you are not.”
And this is no casual remark. Indeed, inherent in this small, but extremely significant statement, is the fundamental truth of humanity’s divine nature - its true reality; and revivifying the heart of every human being to this sacred truth is the mission and message of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Very aptly, Baba begins His every discourse, addressing the gathering as, “Embodiments of the Divine Atma”.
All who listen to Him, experience His unconditional love, benefit from His caring counsel and witness His supernormal supremacy over mind and matter, get a real glimpse of the glory and majesty of God, and therefore, of the infinity that each human potentially and inherently is.
When the divine director of this cosmic movie called ‘Life’, himself enters the sets of this world, dons an infinitely charming role and enacts His historic drama, the audience is intensely absorbed and doubtlessly thrilled !!! A mere trailer featuring the histrionics of ‘His Story’, attempted in this cover story, offers a glimpse of his grandeur and takes you into a journey of time, when the curtains were raised....
November 23, 1926
It is a red-lettered day in the history of mankind. On that day was born in the (then) obscure village of Puttaparthi, a charming baby boy in the Ratnakara family. None realised then, and indeed for a long time thereafter, that Divinity had incarnated in human form as Ratnakara Venkata Sathyanarayana Raju, grandson of Kondama Raju, and son of Pedda Venkama Raju and Easwaramma.
The birth of ordinary mortals is the direct consequence of earlier lives. The karma or the track-record of earlier births, i.e., the nature of deeds performed, both good and bad, determine the future janmas or births. In short, human birth is a karma janma (birth that is the consequence of earlier births). However, when the Lord comes down in human form, it is a different story altogether.
He incarnates as a part of His unfathomable Cosmic Drama, to play as it were, a cameo role. He decides the time and the place of His incarnation, the parents, and also how His life would unfold. Thus, the Lord's birth as a human is a part of His Divine Sport or Leela; in other words, His life is a Leela Janma.
In the Sathya Sai Incarnation, the Lord chose the Ratnakara family on account of the purity, piety, and the devotion of its members. Prior to the incarnation, Pedda Venkama Raju and Easwaramma had been blessed with one son and two daughters, Seshama Raju, Venkamma, and Parvathamma, in that order.
Some years passed and Mother Easwaramma longed for another son. She observed all the prescribed austerities, and soon her prayers bore fruit - she was to become a mother again. Even before its birth, Easwaramma knew that the child to be born would be unusual. There was a definite reason for such a belief.
Sometime prior to the birth of this new boy, Lakshmamma, the mother-in-law was engaged in the worship of Lord Sathyanarayana. The Lord then appeared in her dream and blessed her, indicating that He would be born in her family. Promptly, Lakshmamma alerted Easwaramma that the latter might have strange experiences, but ought not to worry about them. Shortly thereafter, Easwaramma had precisely one such experience.
One day as she was drawing water from the well, Easwaramma was startled by the sight of a big blue ball of light. The ball came directly towards her and entered her; Easwaramma fainted and fell. The Lord had entered her womb for the mandatory stay prior to physical birth as Sathyanarayana Raju. Thus, the Lord was not begotten, but immaculately conceived, even as His Son (Jesus) had been, two thousand years ago.
Sathya was born in the early hours of November 23, 1926. There were a number of unusual incidents accompanying His birth, as also in His childhood (as in the case of Lord Krishna). Though they all gave strong hints of His Divinity, few realised until much later that Sathya was the Lord Himself. But all unfailingly recognised that Sathya was most unusual, extra-ordinarily intelligent, and above all, always full of love and compassion.
In Primary School, Sathya helped His classmates in numerous ways. Though from a poor family, He did not hesitate to give away His clothes to needy classmates. More importantly, He never lost an opportunity to turn the minds of His friends towards God. Among other things, He formed a bhajan group for this purpose, which later became very popular.
It was time to move on to Higher Secondary School, but such a school was available only in Bukkapatnam, several kilometers to the north of Puttaparthi. Young Sathya now had to trudge back and forth every day, no matter what the weather, the muddy path through fields, walking on bunds, and wading through water, as required. In the Bukkapatnam School too, He was a model student, ever helpful to others. Making students God-conscious remained His prime occupation, and to hold the attention of His mates, He would often materialise prasadam (gift-articles or vibhuti), much to their amazement.
Sathya was an automatic choice for the class-leader, but this attracted its share of problems. Once, His teacher asked Sathya to slap all the boys in the class for an infringement of discipline. Instead of slapping hard as he was expected to, Sathya merely patted the cheeks of the errant pupils. This greatly angered the teacher, who then directed all his wrath on the class-leader. Sathya bore the punishment in stoic silence; for Him, it was all a part of the drama scripted by Him, and this particular scene was being enacted to impart some lessons to humanity.
On another occasion, the teacher handling a particular period noticed that Sathya was not writing down what was being dictated, while all other students dutifully did. When questioned, Sathya replied that He was not taking down because He already knew the lesson. Interpreting this response as gross impertinence, the teacher asked Sathya to stand up on the bench, a form of punishment popular in those days. Sathya obediently did.
After a while the School bell rang, signalling the end of the period in progress, and the commencement of a new period. It was time for the teacher to leave the room and make way for another one who was to handle the next period. Mahboob Khan, this other teacher, entered the classroom and to his utter surprise saw Sathya standing upon the bench. Khan loved Sathya very much, and to him it was inconceivable that Sathya would have done anything to deserve a punishment. He also noticed that the teacher who had handled the previous period was not vacating the chair.
To his astonishment he then discovered that this teacher was not getting up from the chair because he was stuck or glued to it - whenever the teacher tried to get up, the chair also lifted! In a flash, Khan understood the problem. He asked Sathya to get down from the bench and the stuck teacher promptly got his release! Years later Swami disclosed that this drama was staged not to inflict humiliation on the teacher concerned but to make people conscious of His Divine powers. Humiliation is something that does not exist in Swami's dictionary.
Around this time, Seshama Raju, Sathya’s elder brother, went to Kamalapuram to stay with his in-laws, and also qualify there as a teacher. Kamalapuram boasted of a good school and Seshama Raju thought that this was the school where Sathya ought to study - the entire family pinned its hope on Sathya, and dreamt that one day He would go to college and eventually end up as a big officer in the Government. And so, to Kamalpuram, Sathya went.
Seshama Raju's in-laws, being relatively well heeled, looked down upon Sathya since He was quite poor. As a result, He was not only ill-treated but also called upon to perform arduous house-hold duties. He, for example, had to fetch drinking water everyday from a far-off well. Such chores left scars, which remain to this day.
In the Kamalapuram school, Sathya was a great favourite of the drill master who doubled also as the scout master. Once, there was to be a grand general fair and cattle show in the neighbouring village of Pushpagiri. The scout master wanted his troop to go Pushpagiri and render services of the type scouts were expected to. A subscription of ten rupees was collected from each boy for meeting the various expenses connected with the trip, including the bus fare. Not having the required amount, Sathya excused himself from joining the group but assured the scout master that He would somehow or the other be in Pushpagiri at the appointed time for duty. While His friends went by bus, Sathya walked the entire distance, with little to eat on the way.
When He finally reached Pushpagiri, He was very tired but did not flinch from discharging His duties. Just before returning, He thoughtfully bought a few small gifts for folks back home. When He returned, what greeted Him was not appreciation for the gifts but a severe punishment because His absence had created problems with the supply of drinking water.
Much later, Swami revealed that He deliberately created such painful situations for Himself in order to teach the lesson of forbearance and equanimity. Despite the harsh treatment constantly administered, Swami has never ever criticised either His elder brother or His sister-in-law, maintaining always that they were but mere instruments in His drama, with specific roles to play.
His teacher's training concluded, Seshama Raju moved from Kamalapuram to Uravakonda to take appointment as a Telugu teacher in a school there. Sathya went along and joined that school. Once again He excelled in everything, and became the cynosure of all eyes. But once He was back at home, it was the same painful routine; no let-up at all.
And then, came the prophetic declaration...
A turning point
Sathya was allegedly stung one day by a scorpion, found in plenty in Uravakonda. His health became impaired and the village medics were consulted, but it did not help. Sathya's behaviour also appeared to undergo a change, and He became an enigma to all. Convinced that Sathya had come under the spell of evil spirits, all sorts of quack remedies were tried but they were of no avail.
An exorciser was summoned but before he could get started, he heard a mysterious voice warning him; obeying the warning he promptly withdrew. Meanwhile, a frantic message was sent to Sathya's parents in Puttaparthi, and they both rushed to Uravakonda consumed with anxiety.
Everyone was puzzled since Sathya was no longer the ideal and model school boy of the standard type. He was remote, withdrawn, and indifferent to worldly matters. If He spoke, which was rarely, it was always on spiritual matters. At times He would burst into non-stop recitation of Vedic hymns He had never learnt. On matters philosophical and spiritual, He dared even to correct elders, acknowledged experts and scholars - all this was something He was never known to do before.
Sathya was then taken to other places like Bellary and Dharmavaram for treatment but there was no improvement. One more attempt was made and this time He was taken to an exorciser in Kadri, a mean and cruel person. Here, young Sathya was put through incredible physical torture, unimaginable even in the proverbial hell. The witch-doctor was verily an agent of death, and when his atrocities mounted, Sathya was whisked away back to home in Puttaparthi.
Days and weeks passed, and Sathya continued to be ‘abnormal’. Came May 23, 1940, and with it a revelation. That morning Sathya was in a good mood, materialising flowers and sugar candy in plenty, and distributing them to all those who called on Him. Father Venkama Raju heard about this but was neither pleased nor amused. Suspecting trickery, he armed himself with a big stick, approached Sathya, and asked, “Who are you? Are you God, ghost, or devil?” The big moment had arrived and Sathya calmly replied, “I am Sai.”
The stick slowly slipped out of Venkama Raju's hand but he still remained puzzled. And so he asked, “What are we to do with You?” Sathya replied, “Worship Me.”
The father's next question was, “When?” Came the answer, “Every Thursday.” That was when the worship of Sathya Sai first commenced.
One Thursday, someone challenged, “If you are Sai Baba, show us some proof.” Sathya then asked for some flowers. A bunch of jasmine flowers were given to Him. He threw them on the floor; instead of falling randomly, they got neatly arranged to form the words “SAI BABA” in Telugu. Such revelations not withstanding, Sathya was forced to return to Uravakonda and resume school.
Looking back, one can see that starting from the very beginning and particularly from March 1940, Sathya had been gradually setting the stage for what was soon to follow. Right from the time He was a little boy, He had, constantly and consistently, displayed the divine qualities of compassion, sacrifice, forbearance, and selfless love.
Occasionally, He performed miracles to drop hints that He was indeed far beyond the normal. Repeatedly He demonstrated His ability to absorb enormous cruelty and physical punishment without any trace of hatred or rancour towards those ill-treating Him. And last but not the least, He constantly diverted the attention of one and all from the mundane to the divine.
Came finally the day to snap all worldly ties and launch the mission He had incarnated for. October 20, 1940 was that day. On that morning, Sathya left for school as usual but within minutes He was back home. Standing on the doorstep, He flung aside the bag containing books and in ringing tones declared, “I am no longer your Sathya. I am Sai. I don't belong to you. I have My work. My devotees are calling Me. I am going. I can no longer stay here.”
Walking up to a neighbour's house, He sat on a rock in the middle of the garden there while people flocked, bringing flowers. And then, most lovingly and compassionately Sri Sathya Sai Baba led the congregation in a bhajan that has now become very familiar to us. He sang:
Manasa bhajare Gurucharanam,
Dustara bhavasagara tharanam
O mind! Meditate on the Lotus Feet of the Lord!
That alone will help you to sail across the turbulent sea called life.
The Avatar had finally revealed Himself. Physically, Sai was still a fourteen-year old. Yet, such was His magnetism, and such was the faith of the devotees who flocked to Him that they had no reservation in accepting Him as a divine incarnation.
Baba now decided to return to Puttaparthi and make it the base for His mission. The residents of Uravakonda gave Him a ceremonial and tearful send-off, and Baba was carried in procession. En route, He was joyfully welcomed and worshipped in all the villages that He passed through. Back in Puttaparthi He stayed with His parents for a few days and then shifted to the house of a pious lady named Subbamma, who always had abiding faith in the divinity of Sathya Sai. Soon, Subbamma's unostentatious abode became a pilgrim centre.
They came in large numbers to worship Sai, and patiently and tirelessly, Subbamma played hostess to them all. The crowds kept growing bigger and bigger, and a new residence had to be found for Sai. In 1944, Baba moved to a thatched hut in a vacant plot of land nearby. The plot was gifted to Swami by Subbamma. Later the hut was replaced by a tin shed with verandahs on either side - this is the famous Paatha Mandiram (Old Mandir) of Puttaparthi folklore. Baba stayed in the shed while devotees occupied the verandah. There was a total absence of creature comforts and indeed even elementary conveniences that one takes for granted. Yet, for those devotees, sharing the same roof with Bhagavan Baba, was veritable heaven.
History repeated and Paatha Mandiram also began to overflow - Baba clearly needed a much bigger place to receive His devotees. Plans were made and in 1950, what is now known as the Mandir (in Prasanthi Nilayam), came into existence, in bare-bones form of course. Once Baba moved to Prasanti Nilayam, the tin shed previously occupied by Him was replaced by a brick and mortar structure - the Paatha Mandiram of yore had now become the Pedda Venkama Raju Kalyana Mandapam (marriage hall); to this day, marriages are celebrated in this hall.
Every Avatar has a Mission. In 1958, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba revealed that His mission would unfold itself in stages. The first sixteen years would be dominated by contact with individuals. Following this, attention would be given to groups. In the next phase, spiritual exhortation would be the dominant feature, after which service to humanity at large would become the principal focus.
Baba moves, lives, and acts like ordinary mortals do, but His extra-ordinary Love (Prema), if noticed, would immediately reveal that He is nothing short of divinity personified.
The Intent of His Advent
Today, millions from all over the world, professing various faiths and hailing from all walks of life, worship Bhagavan Baba as an ‘Avatar’, and the reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi. Thousands gather every day at Prasanthi Nilayam, His spiritual headquarters established beside the village of Puttaparthi, for His darshan (the act of beholding His sacred form), when He moves among devotees, blessing them and uplifting them by providing spiritual succour and solace.
Revealing the purpose of His advent, Sai Baba has said that He has come to re-establish the rhythm of righteousness in the world and repair the ancient highway to God, which over the years has systematically deteriorated. In His own words:
“This Sai has come in order to achieve the supreme task of uniting the entire mankind as one family through the bond of brotherhood, of affirming and illuminating the Atmic Reality (Atma - The Divine Self) of each being, to reveal the Divine which is the basis on which the entire cosmos rests, and of instructing all to recognise the common Divine Heritage that binds man to man, so that man can rid himself of the animal and rise up to the Divine, which is the goal.”
His Glorious Mission
Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is an integral manifestation who combines two very significant roles.
Firstly, He is a great spiritual master, famed for His simple and sweet exposition of the greatest and most intricate of spiritual truths, which form the fundamental teachings of all the religions of the world. Elucidating on His mission, Bhagavan declares that His formula for humanity to lead a meaningful life is the five-fold path of:
Prema (Love), and
‘Love for God, fear of sin and morality in society’ - these are His prescriptions for our ailing world.
Secondly, He is an inexhaustible reservoir of pure love. His numerous service projects, be it free hospitals, free schools and colleges, free drinking water supply projects, or free housing projects, all stand testimony to His selfless love and compassion for the needy and less privileged. True to His declaration, ‘My Life is My Message’, He has inspired and continues to inspire millions of His devotees worldwide by His personal example to live the ideal that ‘Service to Man is Service to God’.
The Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization today has a presence in hundreds of nations in the world, and its members undertake any number of service activities that benefit their immediate community. And they do it selflessly and spontaneously.
Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has thus emerged as a beacon of hope in a world that is desperately seeking an end to the unrest and sorrow prevalent today. His message of ‘Love All Serve All - Help Ever Hurt Never’ is a spiritual salve that will lead mankind from the pain of darkness and ignorance and to the light and bliss of immortality.
Indeed, once in a millennium does such a Divine Being walk the earth. For you and I, and all humanity, in spite of the dark clouds hovering on the world’s horizon today, there is a silver lining - nay, a golden one. If we seize this rarest of rare opportunities, world peace and harmony, along with our individual emancipation, will no longer be a utopia. It will become as real and universal as the morning Sun.
Amongst all the manifestations of Bhagavan’s love, meaning His projects, The Sri Sathya Sai University is particularly dear to Him. One of the many selfless reasons for this is that students (without any distinction of caste, religion, colour, social status, etc), as Baba feels are the future of the nation and if their plastic minds are carefully moulded, they can be shaped into ideal citizens and be the torch bearers of the glorious culture of Bharath.The alchemist nature of Baba’s selfless love is such that, it transforms the heart into a golden temple, from where love can shine forth brightly.
The relationship between Swami and His students
“Education must teach a person what life is, and what its goal is. It must purify the heart and clarify the vision. It must prevent pollution of the hand, heart and head by habits injurious to the individual, society and the nation. It must promote virtues and raise the moral and spiritual standards of the educated.
In this college the medium of instruction is discipline. The first, second and third languages are love, service and sadhana (spiritual discipline)."
- Sri Sathya Sai Baba
“My students are my property”, thunders Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba proudly and unequivocally. In them, He sees the future of the nation and fertile hearts with great spiritual potential, where in, He sows the seeds of love, discipline and duty towards parents, society and God. Above all, He sees in them, his own pristinely divine reflection. Bhagavan’s students consider their identity as “HIS students” to be the most prized possession of their lives. They see in Him a loving mother, a nurturing father, a guiding guru and an unconditional friend. He is the pole star of their lives, a living God whose presence is worshipped not just within the walls of the altar, but also dynamically in the battle din of the day’s activities. Touched by his selfless love, inspired by His teachings and guided by His exemplary conduct, they are prepared to face the unavoidable tribulations of life, with spiritual poise, keen intellect and stellar character.
The Sri Sathya Sai University provides excellent integrated education, spanning from Primary School to Ph.D, absolutely free of cost... Priceless education indeed!!
This is what a student of the MBA class had to say on his experience, during his student days in Puttaparthi: “After pursuing mechanical engineering from the University of Madras, I joined the Sri Sathya Sai University for the MBA course. Before proceeding further, let me give a brief history, which would outline the sketch of my personality, pre-MBA. I was a typical last-bencher, who would for want of sufficient time (thanks to my religious attendance for a continuous string of hits at the box office), burn the mid-night oil, 24 hrs prior to the exams and manage to scrape through, decently. ‘Bikes, movies, friends, coffee’ was the theme of engineering days. One Friday night, during 3rd year, when the syllabus of movies were watched out, I casually asked a friend (a last bencher too), if we could go to Puttaparthi on the bike. In retrospect, the only reason for the trip was the mystery associated with a night journey and more so with Sai Baba. We kick-started at 9 pm and after an adventurous journey reached Puttaparthi only to be informed that Baba was in Brindavan, Bangalore. After a night’s halt in a budget lodge, we proceeded to Tirupati, for darshan of the lord of seven hills. We reached Chennai back in time to attend the ‘gas dynamics and jet propulsion’ exam... the dynamics of the tiring trip was such that we were propelled to sleep through the exam. Semesters flew by.
It was a few days before my convocation, when a family friend spoke very highly of the MBA course in Puttaparthi; a course which I was not at all aware of. I had no clue about the divinity of Baba and planned to join the course with a ‘clean slate’ mental approach. After having cleared the entrance successfully, I was faintly reminded of a silent prayer, I had made in front of Swami’s Photo, 2 years back, in that remote lodge in Puttaparthi. “If you are really the same saint of Shirdi, I want to stay with you. I don’t want to miss this opportunity, while you are still on earth”. Were the strings of destiny clandestinely pulled in response to this heartfelt prayer? Or was it casual coincidence? I decided to experience the divinity of Swami, first hand.”
“Cutting a long story short, on the 21st September 2004, Swami called me and my family members for an interview. Amongst other things, Swami told my mother, “Your son came to me, for the first time, with his friend, on a bike. They proceeded to Tirupati from here, isn’t it?” he looked at me for my needless acknowledgement. Numerous have been my experiences of his divinity since then ... be it, materialisations or clairvoyance or answered prayers. But, what touched me most was His genuine love. Miracles can be performed by many, but selfless love is an insignia of the divine. My story continues ....”, he signed off with a smile.
Whenever God comes down on earth, He is inevitably accompanied by maya, the delusive power. Divinity cannot be grasped and sensed by the arithmetics of man’s mind. Very few people could recognize the divine spark in Jesus. Krishna was taken for an ordinary cowherd boy. Shirdi Sai, whose worship is taken to world-wide now, was derided and called a mad fakir, when he adorned the Dwarakamayi. How inexplicably fortunate are we to have the self same God re-incarnate in our age and in our midst, as Sathya Sai in Prashanthi nilayam.
What is Prasanthi Nilayam?
Prasanthi Nilayam, literally ‘The Abode of Supreme Peace’, is the birthplace and the headquarters of the sacred mission of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. For His devotees, it is what Rome is to the Catholics and Mecca to the Muslims. For others, who step into this township out of curiosity or general interest, it is a seat of inner growth and learning that visitors describe as awe-inspiring. Its draw lies in its power to nourish the soul and calm the mind.
This sacred township welcomes thousands of spiritual seekers from every faith, and all corners of the globe each day, as they arrive to behold the sacred form of Bhagavan Baba.
True to its name, anyone who steps in this holy precinct and breathes its air, vouches to experiencing the highest peace seep in their soul.
Inaugurated in 1950, what was then a humble settlement comprising of a cluster of modest concrete roofs and a shrine with no approach road worth the mention, has today emerged as the international spiritual lighthouse of the world.
Where is Prasanthi Nilayam?
The tiny township of Prasanthi Nilayam is located in the village of Puttaparthi, the hamlet where Bhagavan Baba was born. This area is part of the Anantapur district in the state of Andhra Pradesh, in South India.
Today, the village of Puttaparthi is no longer a rural setting. It has emerged as the centre for spiritually-driven secular learning, with hospitals combining holistic healing with cutting-edge technology, and is well-connected through road, rail and air.
How to Reach?
The Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) and Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) run many buses connecting Prasanthi Nilayam directly to several major cities like Hyderabad, Bangalore, Tirupati, Mysore, Chennai, Mangalore, etc.
The Prasanthi Nilayam bus terminal is located just opposite the main gate of this spiritual township, and has a fully computerised reservation counter of the APSRTC; Phone - (08555) 287210. The KSRTC reservation counter is located in the building adjacent to the bus terminal towards the left; Phone - (08555) 288938.
By Private Transport:
There are a number of private bus and taxi operators who ply between Prasanthi Nilayam and cities like Bangalore, Chennai, etc. Please be advised that taxi fares between Bangalore and Prasanthi Nilayam are in the range of Rs. 1500/- to Rs. 1800/-.
The Sri Sathya Sai Prasanthi Nilayam railway station is located 8 kilometres from this township. However, a computerised railway reservation counter is located at the bus terminal itself; Phone - (08555) 287355.
Some of the important cities that are directly connected to Prasanthi Nilayam via rail are Hyderabad, New Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Vishakapatnam, Bhubaneshwar, etc. For further details, contact the Station Master, Sri Sathya Sai Prasanthi Nilayam; Phone - (08555) 280125.
The nearest major airport is the Bengaluru (Bangalore) International Airport located about 120 kilometres from Prasanthi Nilayam. For more information, visit www.bengaluruairport.com
Is Bhagavan Baba Always in Prasanthi Nilayam?
Although Bhagavan Baba's programme is not generally known in advance, He is usually present in Prasanthi Nilayam from early June to the middle of March.
Summer months are usually spent in ‘Brindavan’, Bhagavan's ashram in Whitefield, located in the outskirts of Bangalore city; or in ‘Sai Shruti’, Bhagavan’s place of stay in Kodaikanal, a hill station in the state of Tamil Nadu.
To ascertain Baba’s current whereabouts, it is advisable to call Public Relations Office, Prasanthi Nilayam at (0091) 8555 - 287390 between 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (Indian Standard Time), or visit www.sathyasai.org before embarking on your journey.
There are three canteens which cater to the varying tastes of the thousands who visit Prasanthi Nilayam each day from all over the world. The South Indian Canteen is open 4 times each day. It serves South Indian cuisine, snacks and beverages for breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner. The North Indian Canteen offers opens only for lunch and dinner and serves North Indian cuisine. The third is the Western Canteen which appeases the continental palate. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. All these three canteens provide only vegetarian food at nominal rates.
Indian Citizens can be accommodated in rooms and dormitories. However, room accommodation may be difficult during festivals when there are large crowds. The Indian Accommodation Office is located in Room No. 7 in front of the South Indian canteen, and is open from 6:00 a.m. till 8:00 p.m. The Non-Resident Indians and Foreign Citizens’ accommodation office is located in North 8, N-1. These visitors need to bring along their passports and visas, and are accommodated in rooms, dormitories or common halls. This office is open from 8:00 a.m. till 8:00 p.m. There is no provision for booking any of the accommodation facilities inside this township in advance.
The Daily Schedule
Life inside Prasanthi Nilayam begins at 5:20 a.m. with the chanting of ‘Om’ and morning prayers in the main shrine, followed by group recitation of Vedic hymns and devotional singing while circumambulating the main temple. Bhajans (congregational devotional singing) are held everyday at 9:00 a.m. in the morning and at 5:00 p.m. in the evening.
On most days, Bhagavan Baba arrives to the Sai Kulwant Hall to confer the blessing of His physical presence and move amongst the multitudes every day in the morning (after 8:00 a.m.) and/or in the evening (after 3:30 p.m.).
Highlights and Institutions in Prasanthi Nilayam
Sri Sathya Sai University: The administrative office of the Sri Sathya Sai University sits majestically atop a hill of this serene valley. This unique institution, which combines the best of India’s ancient system of value education along with the instruction of specialized branches of secular learning, offers a number of undergraduate, post graduate and professional courses, all completely free of charge. It has four campuses at Prashanthi Nilayam, Anantapur, Brindavan (Bangalore) and Muddenahalli (this one is under construction).
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences: Just five kilometers away from Prasanthi Nilayam, stands the grand edifice of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Medical Sciences, which offers world-class tertiary care, completely free of charge to all, especially the needy and downtrodden. There is a similar sister institution in Whitefield, Bangalore.
These unique healthcare institutions, along with many others, are maintained by the Sri Sathya Sai Medical Trust, a completely charitable trust, which has its office in Prasanthi Nilayam.
Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust: Apart from the free University and the charitable hospitals, all the other service projects like the mammoth Sri Sathya Sai Drinking Water Projects, Sri Sathya Sai Orissa Flood Rehabilitation Project, Sri Sathya Sai Deena Jana Pathakam (boys’ orphanage) and many others are undertaken by this entirely charitable Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust which has its main office in Prasanthi Nilayam.
Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation: The spiritual headquarters of the worldwide Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations is housed in this hamlet. Since its inception in the early 1960s, this voluntary organisation, has been engaged in the spiritual advancement of humanity through the principle and practice of selfless love and service, without any distinction of religion, nationality, race, and socio-economic status, either for those who work in this organisation or for those who are served by them.
Sri Sathya Sai Sadhana Trust: This is an umbrella organisation which has four divisions. The Media Division and Publications Division are engaged in disseminating the message of Bhagavan Baba, the former mainly through Radio Sai, Heart2Heart, Video Documentaries and Television programmes, and the latter by publishing Sai literature, as well as audio and video products. The Bhaktha Sahayak Division and the Eswaramma Women’s Welfare Division cater to the physical needs of the devotees by offering subsidized food (in the many canteens inside the township), and other articles of need in the Shopping Complex and snack joints.
Key Places of Interest
Sai Kulwant Hall: This is the grand venue where a mass of humanity congregates everyday to behold Bhagavan Baba. This massive convention hall is also where most of the cultural and spiritual festivals that fill the calendar of Prasanthi Nilayam, are celebrated.
Chaitanya Jyothi Museum: This is a museum, exquisite in its architecture and elegant in its presentation, which narrates the story of the life and mission of Bhagavan Baba through creative multimedia and fascinating models.
There is free entry for all and it is open from 9:00 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. on all days of the week, except Mondays.
Sanathana Sanskruti Museum: Literally, it means ‘The Eternal Heritage’ and this is another museum which eloquently exhibits the principle of ‘Unity of all Faiths’, which is one of the cornerstones of Bhagavan Baba’s message. This too is free and open on all week days, without exception, from 10:00 a.m. till 12:00 p.m.
Sri Sathya Sai Space Theatre: Inaugurated by Bhagavan Baba in 1985, this is a planetarium which educates not only the students of Sri Sathya Sai University but also the visitors on the wonders of astronomy. On every Thursday, there is a free show for the general public in English and Hindi. Free passes are issued at the South Indian Canteen Coupon Counter every Wednesday from 10.00 a.m. onwards on first-come-first-serve basis.
Man’s heart has become rock-like, owing to the influence of this kali yuga. In these times, when man’s boundary of concern is confined to himself and his family, God has incarnated with a weapon of love, to touch our hearts, to remove the narrow boundaries of our ‘desire-motivated’ love and make us experience ever-lasting and boundless love.... ‘Pure Love’ in the form of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. It is just the magical power of His love that has achieved impossible tasks like offering state-of-the-art super-speciality healthcare for lakhs of helpless patients, absolutely free of cost, without charging a single paisa! Innumerable are incidents wherein people suffering from final stages of cancer have been miraculously cured, just by His will as He whispered - ‘cancer cancelled’. Our destiny must have been written with golden ink, for we as mankind are living with the Loving God, right now. It is an opportunity of life times, which will never come again. He is not a celebrity, but celebration itself! A celebration of divine festivity and pure love!
Month: November 2010.