SARVA DEVATHAATHEETHA SWAROOPA SRI SATHYA SAI VRATHA KATHA- Chapter 1- Leela Kaanda
It is quite well recognised that since times immemorial, in this sacred land of Bharat, God manifested Himself from time to time in numerous divine Avatars for the sake of ensuring the well being of mankind. There are many countries in this wide world. How is it that the Glory of God is bestowed in such special measure on Bharat alone! This is an important point worthy of deep consideration. Numerous yogis, recluses, seers, devotees and Rishis took birth here. They ardently adhered to Sanathana Dharma (the most ancient creed), practiced the numerous austerities enjoined therein, dedicated themselves heart and soul to the Divine and followed scrupulously in the traditions of the ancient sages. They unveiled the secrets of spirituality to the common people all around. Because such eminent souls took birth in large numbers in this sacred land, Bharat has come to be known also as Aaryaavartha.
Whenever Sanathana Dharma is in peril and impediments arise to the due practice of Dharma according to the precepts of ancient sages, God, on His own volition, takes birth in earthly form, overcomes those obstacles and restores the well being of the world. This phenomenon is nothing new. It has been happening age after age; and God has been fulfilling this role ever since creation. Divine Will is all pervading, uninterrupted and endless. No man, be he ever so eminent, can comprehend its true nature fully, nor can he adequately explain it. How then can ordinary mortals hope to understand it? God Himself stated in the Bhagavad Gita: “I will incarnate myself age after age for establishing Dharma”. In other words, Dharma is eternal and immutable. Whenever it is threatened by forces of Adharma, injustice, evil and oppression of the virtuous, God will manifest Himself in every age in order to vanquish adhaarmic forces and restore Dharma to its rightful pre-eminence. But we, common human beings that we are, cannot keep count of the countless Avatars that God in His Infinite Mercy may have assumed. We are now in the Kaliyug. We witness around us any amount of Adharma, wickedness, oppression, cruelty and evil of every description. The Arishadvargaas, i.e. the six major impediments to man’s spiritual development (viz., Kama – covetousness; Krodha – anger; Lobha – miserliness; Moha – infatuation; Mada – arrogance; Maathsarya – envy) have grown wild in intensity. Rarely do we come across basic virtues like devotion, faith, regard and respect for each other or even simple decency in day-to-day conduct. If some odd person clinging to such virtues does exist, he finds his path in life beset with self-doubt and difficulty at every step. To add to this chaos of values, virulent poison in the shape of atheism is spreading its terrible influence everywhere.
The ever-Merciful God has taken note that the present times are in pressing need of materialisation, in human form, of the Divine Parabrahmah Satchidananda Moorthy, on this earth. For fulfilling his divine purpose, he chose the tiny village of Puttaparthi on the banks of the sacred river Chitravathi near Bukkapatnam town in the Anantapur district of the Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh. The village breathes sweet and reposeful atmosphere and calls to mind sacred memories of the village of Vraj where Krishna, the divine child, played his games of fun and frolic. Puttaparthi was at one time under the rule of kings of the Surya dynasty bearing the surname of Rathnaakara. Members of the family were generally very devout and saintly. Many of them even renounced the world and took to Sanyas and rose to the order of Avadhoothas, of whom one, Venkaavadhootha, particularly distinguished himself. In more recent times, a saintly person, Sri Kondama Raju, was born in that family. Deeply devotional, he learnt many songs from the Ramayana by heart; and when he sang them in religious gatherings, the audiences were moved to transports of joy. It is said that he established several charitable institutions on a permanent footing. His wife, Smt. Lakshmamma, was a devoted wife and herself performed many Vratas with great dedication and devotion.
The couple had two sons, Pedda Venkama Raju the elder, and Chinna Venkama Raju, the younger. The elder boy followed in his father’s footsteps and acquired commendable musical skills and used to sing songs from the Ramayana. The younger boy took to writing books and practicing herbal medicine and astrology and, in course of time, acquired valuable experience in all these fields. Pedda Venkama Raju was in due course married to Easwaramma, daughter of Meenaraganda Subba Raju, a close relative of the Rathnaakara family. The couple was before long blessed with three children, a son called Seshama Raju and two daughters called Venkamma and Parvathamma.
Sometime later Easwaramma was again with child, her fourth. To the outward eye, this baby yet in the womb was no different from the ordinary. But in truth it was not so. The Vedas proclaim that Parabrahmah is the primordial source of all creation; they also describe that Supreme Being as Sath, Chith and Ananda. It was really that Supreme Being that was growing up in Easwaramma’s womb. As though that Divine Being was displaying his extra-ordinary powers even as he lay in the narrow confines of his worldly mother’s womb, the household of Kondama Raju used to hear, on occasions, during nighttime, strange notes of musical instruments like mridangam being played. But no one suspected or imagined that those sweet sounds were but auspicious signs and indications occasioned by the child soon to be born. Such is the overwhelming effect of the veil of Maya, which the Lord himself spreads.
A significant coincidence occurred in relation to the birth of the child. His paternal grandmother, Lakshmamma, happened to attend a Pooja of Lord Sathyanarayana, brought some Prasadam home and gave it to her daughter-in-law. The delivery took place moments later.
God himself, who cannot be comprehended either by word or by mind, assumed human form for fulfilling His divine purpose of ensuring the well-being of the world. The time was the Brahma Muhoortham in the early hours (before sunrise) of Monday the 23rd November 1926. The year was Akshaya; the month was Karthik; the Thithi was Bahula Thadiya. Even at birth the baby was astonishingly beautiful and attractive. Striking large eyes sparkling with compassion and kindness, smiling face, beautiful ringlets of hair playing around the forehead, dimpled cheeks – everybody was bewitched on seeing the newborn. Just as the celebrated Sri Vatsa adorning the bosom of Lord Vishnu, the baby had a birthmark on his bosom. The tiny lips were finely moulded and enchantingly pink. On the little feet one could discern the divine marks of Sankhu and Chakra. He was like the full moon in all glory and splendour.
The households as well as the entire village were in raptures as they beheld this wonderful baby. Since he was born moments after his mother had partaken of Lord Sathyanarayana’s Prasadam, the devout grand parents considered it appropriate to name him Sathyanarayana. Although they had no idea that their baby was God incarnate but selected the name solely on the grounds of their devotion and love of God, nevertheless that divine name was perfectly in tune with the true form of Nirguna Parabrahmah, that which is changeless, eternal, boundless, having no beginning or end and perpetually effulgent. Sathya means True and Narayana means the sustaining divine force, which is all pervading. Thus, by the combination of the two words so pregnant with profound significance, Sathyanarayana truly symbolised the Supreme Being even as a baby.
As the child grew up, his innate godly qualities were getting slowly unfolded. Powers out of the ordinary, immense compassion, abounding love, mellifluous utterance, dedication to Ahimsa, entrancing musical voice recalling to mind the flute of Balagopal himself, unruffled mien, poise, sedate dignity of bearing which was way beyond his young years – all these lovable traits were seen in him. Several people were wondering, deep down in their hearts, whether God had indeed come down to earth in this little boy, although no one could correctly gauge his true identity. All in all, the whole village took him to their hearts. They were feasting their eyes on this boy, who was moving about just like any other boy of his age but with a subtle and indescribable aura of distinction. His word was law; none would go against it. He would gather the village children around him; led by him groups of children would go round the village, street by street, singing devotional songs and Bhajans. He would compose new songs from time to time and train his associates to sing them. Everyone grew fond of this multi-talented boy and his Bhajan groups. He was inordinately kind to the afflicted, the blind, the lame and the poor. Behind the back of the household, he would take out food and give it away; he would even forego his own meal but was intent on feeding the needy. If villagers were struck down with disease like cholera, he would visit the sick persons along with his group of child singers, entertain with Bhajan singing and also alleviate their suffering. Gradually, the children learnt to treat him as their guru. They would do his every bidding with alacrity and would never leave his company. Even at that tender age, Sathyanarayana was going around with his little friends staging plays, singing Bhajans and taking out devotional processions. Without ever giving any inkling of his inner divine identity, he would busy himself with numerous good deeds and virtuous activities, which were, at the same time, of benefit to the community. His exemplary conduct soon made him the beloved leader of the entire village of Puttaparthi even though he was but a child. When the whole village was thus enthralled, needless to add, members of his own household rejoiced.
Puttaparthi had an elementary school. The teacher who presided there was by nature quick to anger and harsh in handling his charges. The slightest trans gression invited severe punishment. Sathyanarayana was one of the pupils and he could not bear to put up with the teacher’s ways. So, he composed songs, in simple and sweet words, stressing the importance of observing proper code of behaviour by one and all, and trained his fellow pupils to sing them. The teacher felt abashed and corrected himself. God is the Supreme Master of all the fine arts. No wonder, poetry came to this tiny child naturally and so early in life. After all, he is but the human manifestation of Satchidananda Moorthy who carries all the fourteen universes in the confines of his stomach. Every frolic, every prank of the child Sathyanarayana was but the Leela of that Supreme Divinity.
The sweetest songs composed by him in his childhood are being sung and heard by devotees even to this day. Just like Balagopal of yore, he was playing and frolicking to his heart’s content in the sands of the Chitravathi in the company of his bosom friends, partaking of food along with them and performing intriguing Leelas (playful pranks). Day after day he would materialize delicacies like savories, candies or fruit and distribute them as Prasadam all around. Asked wherefrom he was getting such delightful pieces, with a smile playing on his lips, he would tell them that a Shakti residing in his house was giving them.
Eight years thus passed by and Sathyanarayana finished elementary school. He was then taken to Bukkapatnam and admitted in the middle school. Teachers and boys there were treating him with loving care and affection. The good conduct and exemplary character ingrained in this young boy delighted them. He never gave an inkling that the cosmic purpose of his advent in this world was to defend and protect the devout and the virtuous, nor did he reveal the secret of his own avatar. While in class he would often appear to be deeply lost in his own thoughts. That was his habit. One day, a particular teacher who was harsh by nature pulled up Sathyanarayana for not writing down in his notebook what was being taught, and ordered him to stand on the bench until school closed for the day. The boy obeyed and promptly stood on the bench. The rest of the class were feeling upset but could do nothing about it as, after all, the punishment was ordered by the teacher himself. When class was over and the teacher was to move out, he found himself stuck in his seat. When the teacher of the next period came in, he was surprised at what was happening. He had much love and affection for Sathyam; in fact, he entertained an inner conviction that this boy was nothing but God’s avatar. He got Sathyam down and made him resume his seat. At that very moment, the unfortunate teacher was able to get up from his chair. The news spread all over the school. Surprise and astonishment was everywhere.
The teacher’s predicament, it needs to be appreciated, was hardly due to Sathyam’s anger or malice. It was but a trifling prank of his to demonstrate a tiny bit of his immeasurable divine powers.
People used to be enchanted not only by the boy’s surpassing charm but also by his commendable moral qualities, self-discipline and calm, self-possessed bearing. Be it a celebration or function, only Sathyam should sing the prayer songs. At play or sport or song or stage play or dance, Sathyam would always take the principal role and distinguish himself. However much the little boy might try his utmost to conceal his divine powers and keep his Leelas under cover, they were spontaneously blossoming, bubbling and bursting forth into the open. Meanwhile, things were inexorably on the move. Seshama Raju, the elder brother of Sathyam, was teaching Telugu in a High School in Uravakonda town in Anantapur district. He was keen to see his younger brother educated in English and to see him in due course become a highly placed officer. Accordingly, he persuaded his parents, took Sathyam to Uravakonda and got him admitted in his own school in the eighth class. Sathyam’s amazing reputation had already preceded him in Uravakonda and all the teachers and students there were looking upon him with great regard and love. People came to consult him about their problems, and he would tell them about their past and foretell future events and set their minds at peace. He was materialising, as was his wont, flowers, fruits and sweetmeats in immense quantities by a mere wave of his hand. Witnesses to such occurrences would be spellbound. People wondered what awesome divine powers he held in his command that he could make such displays, what might be the immense measure of his auspicious karma in past births that resulted now in the divine gifts he was evincing before one and all. The boy’s fame traveled far and wide – to Kamalapuram, Dharmavaram, Penukonda, Bukkapatnam and beyond; and crowds began swarming in droves to Uravakonda. Those suffering from misfortunes, problems or losses would come to consult him seeking relief. Learned scholars and savants of philosophy were dreading to meet Sathyam face to face. Even though they had spent years and years in studying learned treatises, once they met Sathyam they would discover that what they had understood from their long and arduous studies, and also taught others, was all erroneous, mistaken and wrong. Sathyam would correct them. He would interpret the texts in his own masterly manner; teach them new meanings they had never dreamt of. As a result of such encounters they all developed a deep and healthy respect for his profound knowledge and unique understanding; they would never again dare question his expostulation. However eminent they be, Sathyam would pull them up without hesitation, contradict their erroneous ideas and thoughts and correct them. Onlookers would often stand bewildered at the depth of Sathyam’s knowledge. To the outward eye, what they were seeing was a mere boy by appearance; his education was but meager. When did this slip of a child master all these intricate scholarly works? How could this little boy contain in his tiny frame such awesome command over the deepest secrets embedded in the great books of learning which scholars needed years and years to study and unravel? Unbelieving, wonderstruck, people spoke to each other in whispers, but who would give them the light of knowledge to clear their doubts?
Sathyam was often found staring into space and smiling to himself. As he talked with those around him, he would be found to keep his eyes on something far beyond. Quite often, he would close his eyes and go into rapturous singing. Or, now and then, he would remove himself somewhere and sit all by himself for hours on end. Members of his household who noticed such happenings were concerned or even frightened. Was it due to some evil spirit that possessed him, or to some ailment or mental illness? Tongues wagged. Gossip was on wing. But the exact nature of the problem, the underlying truth was beyond their comprehension. Poor Seshama Raju was at a loss to know what to do. He sent for his parents and handed over the boy to them. That was the end of further studies in Uravakonda and the boy resumed his former activities with renewed vigor and zest, performing Bhajans along with his friends, taking out devotional processions in the streets of Puttaparthi and playing in the crystal sands of the Chitravathi.
Before long, the stage was reached when Sathyanarayana decided that he should no longer keep in wraps his immense divine powers and capabilities to perform supra-natural deeds (Mahimas). Early one fine morning he summoned all members of his household to his presence. Before them he manifested with a wave of his hand a large quantity of crystal sugar (misri) and began distributing it to one and all including neighbours. The astonished onlookers sent for Pedda Venkama Raju to come and see the miracle. The father flew into a rage. With a stout stick in hand he came rushing home shouting that he would never permit such nonsensical, vile and harmful activities under his roof. He accosted his son and demanded, “Who are you? Are you God? Or, are you some evil spirit”? Cool and collected, Sathyam replied briefly, “I am Sai Baba”. Pedda Venkama Raju was aghast. The stout stick slipped from his hand by itself. The boy proceeded to speak. “I am not your Sathyam. I am Sai Baba, of Aapasthamba Soothram, of Bharadwaja Gothram. I have taken birth in order to relieve hardship and to resurrect and elevate all of you. All of you here must keep your residences clean and pure in every respect”. Seshama Raju drew close to Sri Sai Baba and asked him: “What exactly is the purpose behind your reincarnation”? The reply he got, sharp and clear, was, “Your ancestor, Venkaavadhootha, had prayed to me that I should take birth in his family (vansh). In fulfillment of that prayer I have incarnated here”. On being asked for something by way of proof of authenticity, Sri Sai Baba took a quantity of jasmine flowers from the hands of those around and threw them, in a bunch, on the floor saying, “Look at this”. The flowers were found to have arranged themselves into letters reading “Sai Baba” in the Telugu script. All doubts melted away at this marvelous exhibition of proof.
From now on, people came in swarms to Sri Bala Baba to worship him and to serve him with total devotion and dedication. Members of the household found such crowds unmanageable, a distraction and inconvenience. They did not quite know what to do. One day Sri Bala Baba told them, “The purpose of my advent cannot be fulfilled if I continue to stay in this house. I will move out to some other place”. At this, Smt. Easwaramma felt distressed. She entreated him not to leave the house. She met with no success. Sri Baba left the house [on 20-10-1940], went to the village orchard and seated himself there. The distraught mother hastened there and begged him again and again to return home. She conceded that he could continue to attend to his devotees’ needs in whatever manner he wished, that no hindrance of any kind would be raised to his chosen mission. She requested him, with all her persuasive skills, to come back home and have his meals. Sri Bala Sai felt that it was his duty to please his mother. So, he relented and returned home. The jubilant mother cooked his usual food with her own hand and set it before her son. He ate just a little thereof, a mere three morsels. Then he got up, saying, “Oh God, the mist of Maya has lifted. Why struggle any longer?” He proceeded straight to the house of Subba Raju, the brother of Smt. Easwaramma. After spending some time there, he re-moved to the house of Smt. Karanam Subbamma and established his abode. Smt. Subbamma had, right from the beginning, recognized the divine in Sri Bala Baba, earnestly believed that he was God incarnate and worshipped him heart and soul. She felt extremely pleased that she was blessed because Sri Bhagawan chose to make his residence in her house. From that blessed residence Sri Baba continued to display his multifarious Leelas and to grant immense pleasure and happiness to his devotees.
End of Chapter 1
Pooja will be performed once again. A coconut or fruit will be offered as naiveidya and Aarti will be offered. In the same manner, the ritual will be repeated at the end of every succeeding Chapter of this Katha.