East Meets West – Tales From All Traditions

Maha Kumbh Mela, 2013

The city of Allahabad ( City of God in Persian ) in India’s northern Uttar Pradesh state prepares for the Hindu festival of Maha Kumbh Mela, 2013. The ancient name of this city is Prayag and is believed to be the spot where Brahma offered his first sacrifice after creating the world. It is one of four sites of the mass Hindu pilgrimage Kumbh Mela. The Prayag (Allahabad) Kumbh Mela is the largest and holiest of all melas and is believed to be the most auspicious, though the exact origin of the Kumbh Mela is very hard to pinpoint.

kumbh melaThe Purna (complete) Kumbh or Maha Kumbh, the biggest and the most auspicious fair, falls once every 12 years, and is always held in Allahabad. The most recent Kumbh Mela was in 2001 in Allahabad and millions of pilgrims took a holy dip in Sangam on the auspicious Mauni Amavasya on the 24th January 2001.

Kumbh Mela derives its name from the immortal – Pot of Nectar – described in ancient Vedic scriptures known as the Puranas. Kumbha in Sanskrit language means ‘pot or pitcher’. Mela means ‘festival’. So ‘Kumbh Mela’ literally means ‘festival of the pot’. Though the festival is a primitive one, it’s origins can be traced back to the ancient event of ‘Sagar Manthan’.

Tens of millions of pilgrims are expected to visit Allahabad to bathe at the Sangam – the merger point of the Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers. The main bathing date for the 2013 Allahabad Kumbhmela is 10th Feb.2013.

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The Cathedral du Notre Dame, du Paris

Notre Dame du Paris
Notre Dame du Paris – click to see BBC report

Overview

For centuries it has witnessed the greatest events in French history: 80 kings, two emperors, five republics – and two world wars.

With her original 13th-Century rose window, the cathedral was pillaged and nearly demolished in revolutionary France. Now her famous gargoyles stand guard against evil spirits.

This great Paris cathedral has seen crusaders and kings praying before battle and She survived. This month sees the start of a year of special events celebrating the landmark 850th anniversary of “Our Lady of Paris”.

Foundation

The first stone was laid in 1163, though it took a further 180 years to complete. The principles of sacred geometry used in the Cathedral of Chartres took root here too. Yet, as the magnificent structure took form, history was already playing out in her shadow. Crusaders prayed beneath the world’s first flying buttresses as they set off on holy wars.

Our Lady of Paris

Within these walls, in 1431, a sickly boy of ten, King Henry VI of England, was crowned King of France.

And in 1804, to the sound of the 8,000 pipes of the cathedral’s Grand Organ, Napoleon was crowned emperor.

Music

Music is integral to the life of this cathedral – in the archives, medieval manuscripts reveal it always has been. Recently discovered manuscripts of centuries-old music and chants have been made ready.

Fittingly, then, the great sounds of Notre Dame will be at the heart of the anniversary celebrations.

Throughout 2013, three choirs will bring to life some of the earliest sounds of Christianity.

Choir director Sylvain Dieudonne has said that, “in 1163, when they started building the cathedral, Paris became a centre of great intellectual, spiritual and musical development.

“The musical school was hugely influential,” he said. “We know from the manuscripts we have recovered that it influenced music across Europe – in Spain, Italy, Germany and in England.”

The Festival

The year-long festival would not be complete without a celebration of the architecture. And to mark 850 years, they will be improving the lighting.

The building was not originally designed to include the flying buttresses around the choir and nave, but after the construction began, the thinner walls grew ever higher and stress fractures began to appear as the walls pushed outward. In response, the cathedral’s architects built supports around the outside walls, and later additions continued the pattern.

Today the cathedral stands as a gothic masterpiece.

As this Christmas marks the 850th anniversary of this venerable church, it heralds the start of a year-long celebration of her influence and history in France. For western visitors, this home of Christian traditions will come alive with their performances.

 

 

PLEASE IGNORE THE ADVERTISING VIDEO…

The Rise Of Muddenhalli – A Brief History

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During the summer months, there have been several accounts posted on FaceBook about the main characters involved in the Muddenhalli Group. I don’t want to bore you with endless details about the history of those involved. After some research, I’ve decided to post the following notes for your interest. It’s a brief history but may help to understand how the Muddenhalli group has evolved.

From an email posted on FaceBook months ago and remains posted to this day, here is a short excerpt:

“Mr Murthy, a bachelor, has been part of the Sai world for a long time. His involvement with Sai Baba goes back, at least, to the early 1980’s. Swami gave him a position as warden for the Prashanthi Nilayam campus, where he expressed a deep desire to follow Swami’s ideals. He played cricket but he gave it up to concentrate on the job Swami had assigned him. Later, he was part of the Brindavan Campus. There he began to have ideas of his own. He told his friends that Sai Baba had directed him to start a high school in every district of Karnataka. Whether that is true or not, no one can say.”

Madhusudhan is a former Sai student who attended Brindavan college. He had a knack for impersonating people. He often would mimic Sai Baba and often, we understand, took money from other students. For these acts, he was given a warning. Madhusudhan was not the only student to mimic Sai Baba, there were at least 3 others during that time.

From what I have learned from the articles that have been posted on the Saibliss Page, Facebook, it seems the entire scheme was hatched long before the demise of Sai Baba with the help of other key players.

Recently, other ex-VIP’s from America and elsewhere have also joined the group. The Muddenahalli Seniors, over the past year, have made great strides in their endeavour to do their “own thing,” regardless of the sensitivities of others in the Sai World. Whether they will continue to attract new people and/or attract other people away from the Ashram in Puttaparthi, we don’t know. Only time will tell.

There is a video posted on Saibliss just this week, with a damning statement from Sathyajit, the former student who used to look after Sai Baba. He claims that Madhu approached him some eleven days after the demise of Sai Baba, saying that Sai Baba speaks through he, Madhu. For more on that video, please visit Saibliss on Face Book.  Why Sathyajit has waited so long to make this declaration, remains unclear. I do not wish to speculate more on that.

I don’t see this Muddenahalli adventure as anything Sai Baba would have wanted, yet alone encourage via the astral realms. This sad episode is certainly something that has been crafted by those in a senior position in Muddenahalli to, allegedly, gain power and position for themselves.

I don’t think these people care much about the ordinary thousands of people who followed Sai Baba and now wish to maintain a treasure of his memory. Of course, there’s little hope those leading figures in the muddenahalli group, could bury their personal desires for the sake of all involved. Human nature and the very nature of human desires, do not allow for such a generous outcome sadly.

photoMahdu Sudan without his usual leather jacket and expensive shades!


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From “Suk sham Baba” report from Sept. 29th 2015:

” Dressed in a white robe, Swami was beaming with joy when He saw His commanders and soldiers! After a brief talk by Sri BN Narisimha Murthy and Sri C Sreenivas, Swami expressed His gratitude and said that” if Swami had a body now, many will rush to serve Him just as they did earlier, but only a few chosen ones are blessed to feel Him through their hearts, and will be remembered forever for being a part of this uniques mission. Eventually the whole world will know and rush to Swami, but blessed are they who have believed in Swami first, and served Him when no one else would”..Singapore 29 Sept 2015

Hah! love this:

“Dressed in a white robe, Swami was beaming with joy when He…….

He expressed his gratitude and said that “if Swami had a body now, – 

What’s this? – He is dressed in a White robe and beaming with joy, then saying if Swami had a body now..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Late Wilma Bronkey – Early Devotee

Dr. Wilma Bronkey passed away last thursday 10-7-10.

 


“I go to India to see Sai  and be with him, also because he told me to take the tours. The main thing is, when you are with Baba, to pay attention to what he says and to be the best you can be. Climb to your highest nature at all times. Do service and love God is what he tells us to do. Also let me tell you this,  when you visit Sai you will be transformed.  It may be a large transformation or a small one, but you will be transformed! Changed forever.”



Sweet Tales

Wilma Bronkey and her husband Ivan had visited Sai Baba for over forty years. They were there in the early days when physical closeness to Sai had been an easy affair. Here are some high-lights from her remarkable memories of being  with Sai Baba during the early days.

It all began one day during the late 1960’s when Wilma was looking after her children and doing her other work as a care worker at her home called Enchanted Acres. She began to smell a sweet unusual purfume much like vibuthi. This scent was all pervading and would come in waves through her house. She also began to receive intuitively messages from Sai Baba. One thing led to another and once she understood this was Sai’s calling card, she wanted to visit him in India. The only problem was she did not have enough money. Her fare alone would cost over 900 dollars and all she had in the bank was a  few dollars. Actually she only had 8 dollars in the bank. “Oh, I was so disappointed. I said to the lady in the bank, well I only wanted to know how much I had.” ” Wait a minute.” Said the cashier.”There was a deposit last night. A  gentlemen came into the bank that morning and asked me to make sure to deposit this amount into your account. Let’s check how much there is.” – The amount was for 900 dollars.. “Impossible!” I said to the cashier, “I did not put the money into the account.”  “But it is in your account.” The cashier said.  “A  little gentlemen in an orange robe came into the bank and he knew your bank number and he deposited the money into your account for you.” I added a little more to it and with that, I went to India for the first time.

Swami stood on my Feet

An interesting experience happened way back in those early days. In those days, we were allowed in the temple for darshan, we often had with us our cameras, tape recorders and other personal items. It was all so free in those days. I was about 4 or 5 rows back from the front. When I heard one of the men calling my name, telling me to go sit in the front. It was so quiet in the temple I was embarrassed by his demand. In the end though, I gave in and got up and made my way through the ladies all tightly seated together. It was a struggle but I managed it. I sat down again with all my belongings. Suddenly I had a bad case of charlie-horse that caused incredible pain in my legs. I was in agony. I stretched out my legs to help ease the pain. The problem was my legs were over the dividing line that was there on the floor to keep us on the devotee side, and a little way away from where Sai sat on his chair. I was in such pain I could not withdraw my legs up and away from the dividing line. Suddenly there was Swami. He glanced at me for what seems a long while, then proceeded to walk into the temple, whereupon he stepped on my feet! It was a pretty amazing thing to happen. The moment he stepped onto my feet, all the pain in my legs disappeared. I felt as if I’d been hit with an electric force so strong that it left me filled with energy. Every part of my body was charged with this current that came from him. It was a very strange thing. Something I have never been able to forget.


The Story Of Interview and the Rings

The people in my groups often asked Baba for a ring or a watch. He would gently ask them what they wanted and this need for a ring or watch is, often, all they desired. One lady said to Baba, after he’d asked her what she wanted. She answered I want a ring with my birth stone. Sai created a ring for the lady and placed it on her finger but it did not have a birth stone. The lady grew angry and said to Sai that as he had not given her a ring with her birth stone that she would not wear it nor would she visit again.  Of course this is not the right way to approach Sai. The right answer is to ask him for his love or his guidance. Some people don’t know what to say to the question, “What do you want?” They may answer Oh! Baba I don’t know. I only want you. These are the people who often have rings created for them. The rings are not given to give you some sort of decoration for your finger. It is a gift to aid your transformation. If you do not live up to Sai’s message, then the ring will be lost or will sort of bite your finger until you cannot wear it. The rings and gifts are tokens of his love to help you change. You must jolly well pay attention to his words or the gifts are just useless trashy items to show off to friends.

To me, Baba is the creator of the world – he is everything in my mind’s eyes. If you do not know him then my words will be hard for you to swallow and the stories I tell hard for you to imagine. God is in everything. In the trees, the blossoms. The sun that comes up in the morning, that is God. The fire that burns is also God. If you see water running, it is also God. God is the source of everything. So who is God, it is not ‘who’ is God, it is ‘what’ is God. I don’t care what you call your God, the source is the same, whatever name you like to give it. The essence of God, the power of God, the nature of God, whatever the name, is the same thing. You cannot change the nature of God. Names are many but the source is the same. Different people have different paths to God. Yet the destination is exactly the same. I love the soul of all people and all things. I don’t care what is your background, your culture, your nationality, I love all. I want to hug you whatever and whoever you are. I believe that we are all the same. We are all the same soul.

The Story Of The Dog,

There were a couple back in the early days who wanted Sai Baba to come and eat lunch with them. They went to darshan one day and asked Swami to come to lunch. They told him, “We really want you to come to lunch. We are so much waiting for you to visit our house.” Swami answered,  that he would come the very next day. They rushed home and cleaned the house thoroughly. The wife prepared the best foods for Sai on the morning of the expected visit.

They waited and waited but Sai did not come. Then suddenly a dog came into the house, his muddy paws left marks all over the dining room. The dog caused a mess and ate the food. The couple beat the dog  horribly, then kicked him out of the house.

The next day at darshan, the couple asked Swami,  why did he not come to lunch. They said, “We waited and waited but you did not come!” Swami answered, “I was at your house.”  The couple said, “No you were not.” Sai said, “Oh yes I did. I came to visit you but you beat me with a stick and you kicked me out of the house and you did not feed me.” This was the test for the couple that God has all forms.

Excerpt from a talk given by Wilma Bronkey during the early 2000’s

Finally a small tale of how Wilma, in an interview one year, looked straight into Sai Baba’s eyes, and what she saw was to remain with her the rest of her life. She saw  many worlds and realms, colours, and astral lights that she had not seen in this world. She says it was like looking into the infinite.

The Visionary – ‘Tagore,’ Inspirational Quotations

Tagore had early success as a writer in his native Bengal. With his translations of some of his poems he became rapidly known in the West. In fact his fame attained a luminous height, taking him across continents on lecture tours and tours of friendship. For the world he became the voice of India’s spiritual heritage; and for India, especially for Bengal, he became a great living institution.


“All men have poetry in their hearts, and it is necessary for them, as much as possible, to express their feelings. For this they must have a medium, moving and pliant, which can refreshingly become their own, age after age. All great languages undergo change. Those languages which resist the spirit of change are doomed and will never produce great harvests of thought and literature. When forms become fixed, the spirit either weakly accepts its imprisonment or rebels. All revolutions consists of the “within” fighting against invasion from “without”… All great human movements are related to some great idea.”

-Rabindranth Tagore

‘Honesty Pays’ A Sai Experience From Brindavan, 1990’s – Sathya Sai Memories

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A Magical Time

During the early 1990’s Brindavan Ashram was a mystical place. The stage area where Swami sat for bhajans, use to be dripping with exotic flower arrangements. Even devotees offerings of rose and Jasmin garlands , were accepted and placed upon the Ganesha Statue, just beneath the stage area.

A beautiful statue of the Goddess Saraswathi stood  just outside the hall. People use to place garlands  at  her feet.  I, too, use to leave roses there as a token of  gratitude.  Although the old Darshan Tree had been cut down, the new Sai Ramesh Hall, held a certain charm. The placement of ‘blocks’ around the hall, provided us with  close darshan of Sai.  He often strolled around each block where everyone could see him.  In the early days of The Sai Ramesh Hall, Swami gave Darshan twice  a day. He sometimes entered the Sai Ramesh Hall from the third  entrance, towards the back,  much to the surprise and delight of those people seated in the back blocks. It was an amazing time to be with him. And greatly missed.

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saraswati-whitefieldStatue of Saraswathi outside The Sai Ramesh Hall, Whitefield.

Taken from a memory written well over two decades ago

“Some years ago, while in Whitefield, I  joined a London  group for a very short time. When it was time for them to leave, the group decided to join the ‘leaving line’ fondly named the  ‘blessing line.’ I, too, joined although I had some weeks left before I had to leave for home.

A sudden prick of conscience made me reconsider my seating place. I decided to ask one of the Seva Dal volunteers if it was okay for me to sit there,  although I would not be leaving with my group. She answered that it was not and suggested I join the usual token number rows.  I left my plate of sweets with the group and found another line where there was just enough room to squeeze in the very back.

Fortunately for me,  the line drew a number one token.

Quickly, I retrieved my tray of sweets from the group members seated in the `leaving line,’  and followed the rest of the row one ladies into the Sai Ramesh Hall. Here we were placed towards the carpet’s edge and close to where Swami walked.

When Swami came out for darshan, he came over  stood and looked at the sweets, then blessed them.

On the following morning, I sat again in the token lines, while the remaining group members sat in the leaving line. Again, my line drew number one.  Amazed by this good fortune, I stood and waved to my group, telling them of my good fortune. One called over, “That’s what you get for being honest.”

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Another interesting fact about token line numbers is that when devotees ask for front position to have their babies blessed, sometimes they are refused. Swami, aware of their disappointment, often  gives them line number one at the next darshan.

A young lady, who was refused a chance to sit in the front at a very busy time in the Ashram,  drew number one token the next day. The baby received a special blessing from Sai.

Darshan in the Sai Ramese Hall -1990s

Row Number One!

Unbashful row one is something I treasure. I rarely had a chance to sit near Sai Baba and thus, a one number had special meaning.

One of my fondest memories of line numbers is 6th May, 1996, when I drew  no. one token, both morning and afternoon.

This poignant anniversary of the passing of Sri Sai Baba’s mother was celebrated magnificently in the morning; children sang bhajans and chanted mantras. At the end of the ceremonies, Swami accepted a little girl’s bouquet of flowers.

The afternoon arrived  balmy, bright, and festive and while a promising ambience electrified the hall, Swami, in excellent spirits, gave an inspiring discourse about mothers.

Sri Sai Baba teaches in a variety of ways and often his silent teachings are more revealing than any given in an interview. In particular, the token numbers make us ponder on the `whys and wherefores’ of our seating positions.

Of course, front lines gladden our hearts and we see him as Sai Krishna,while the back lines seem to indicate we are being punished. This is when we often see Swami as the  Shiva principle who moves among us destroying our egos.  But through it all, whatever the number, it is a sincere gift of love from Swami to his visitors or followers, at least those brave enough to accept whatever he gives. Who would trade such valuable lessons to be a V.I.P.?

– SathyaSaiMemories

The Guru’s Grace – Mid. 1990’s – Sathya Sai Memories

PLATTER

Many times during Swami’s Darshan, I’ve received blessed Prasad. Excited devotees would buy an assortment of delicious sweets, place them on a shiny silver platter and carefully decorate the offering with an abundance of colourful flowers. Often, by the side of the sweets, lay packets of tiny golden lockets, letters and deity statuettes all lovingly arranged for his attention.

Usually, the determined devotees would wait for days for a suitable seating position where Swami could bless the platters. This would mean re-arranging the sweets, and improving on their floral skills, until finally, each platter resembled a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

Often, the devotee’s efforts received Swami’s blessings. He would walk along until he reached a superbly decorated platter, stop, look and bless the sweet offering. While doing so, he would take large handfuls of the delicious selection and throw them over the seated devotees. With loud aahs! and whoops of joy, and small gestures of gratitude, the sweets would be accepted and passed around to others, or sometimes kept for loved-ones and friends.

I remember many wonderful moments with Swami as he blessed sweets. Frequently, he would throw them high into the air and one would land on my head, chin, or nose. His favourite target seemed to be my headband. Once, a sweet lodged itself between the folds of my shawl, and not until I stood to leave, did it fall on to the floor where I could retrieve it. But mostly, sweets would simply land in my lap or even beneath my cushion; how they found their way there, I’ll never know. But always, I felt elated when a blessed sweet came my way. I would keep my precious catch until a quiet moment, then eat it, slowly savouring the delicate flavour.

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A Story From 1992

On one occasion in 1992, when seated in the front line at Prasanthi Nilayam, Swami came along and playfully tossed sweets to those seated all around, but missed me altogether. It had been one of those days when I had felt less than happy with myself and therefore, undeserving of a blessed sweet. Mentally, I expressed to Swami that I didn’t deserve one.

Immediately, he turned and tossed, with determined accuracy, a large toffee. The missile landed with a loud thud on my head, shattering the silent moment. This of course, left me startled, because he had read my mind!

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Summer, 1995

During my summer visit last year, Swami blessed my sweet platter for the last time. I remember the occasion well, for he had playfully thrown the sweets back at me!

I had not been successful on my first attempt, for a very bewildered Swami had been offered three platters, all at the same time. He had chosen just one.

On another afternoon, I’d taken my sweets to darshan and again had been unlucky. Fortunately, on my third attempt, I was lucky enough to be seated near the verandah passage. I patiently waited through the hot afternoon until after Bhajans when he would walk back to the Poornachandra Hall.

When bhajans were over, Swami came from the temple and began his stroll along the aisle, where I anxiously sat hoping for his attention. He spotted my platter and indicated for me to hold it up high. I immediately did so, and he, playfully picked up just a few of the assortment and threw them back at me! I looked up to express my thanks, and caught him smiling from ear to ear. I noticed the luminescence of his dark eyes, and felt the immense heat radiating from him by his nearness (a characteristic not often discussed by Sai writers or devotees).

As he continued his walk down the aisle, I felt such deep gratitude, I wanted to share the blessed sweets with everyone.

As I began to joyously distribute the sweets, a lady sitting behind quietly refused the offering. I couldn’t believe it! She had been sitting there for hours, but now didn’t want a blessed sweet. I began to recalled a similar situation a week earlier, when I too, had refused one.

On that particular occasion Swami had not thrown sweets, only blessed them. The lucky recipient had offered sweets to those sitting nearby. Somehow, one had been offered to me, but I refused. I don’t know why, perhaps because he had not thrown it directly to me.

Now sitting there with my blessed platter, and painfully feeling the rejection of my offering I instantly regretted not accepting the blessed sweet from the previous week: for it is in the giving and receiving, we truly show our appreciation of one another.

Blessed sweets are PRASAD a gift from the Guru; a gift that has the power to change our lives. When a master gives food to his devotees, he is in fact, giving of his energy. If we take Prasad with this understanding, it can gladden our lives and bring us closer to him.

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Blessed Prasad takes away all sorrows, all miseries, and it calms down the heart completely…

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A Small Story

Here is a small story about the power of Prasad:

Once a young man came to the ashram of a master, because he was suffering from despair. It really didn’t matter what he did, the despair continued to plague his life. Eventually he prayed for it to be taken away, but nothing happened and the despair and suffering it brought now intensified.

A woman devotee tried to comfort the lad, and having received some blessed food, she broke it into pieces and gave some to him.

He ate a small piece of the food slowly and deliberately, when he had finished, he found to his amazement the despair had disappeared. He felt completely well.

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And It Was Like That, He Taught Me

No matter how we receive Prasad, or what form it takes, be it sweets directly given to us by the Guru, or blessed food shared with us by others, it is always full of Divine Energy. Having accepted such blessings, we accept the Guru’s grace. The secret is to appreciate it.

A week after Swami blessed my sweet platter in 1995, he stopped blessing sweets altogether – a delightful sharing of joy, now truly missed.

I am writing this piece to thank Sri Sai Baba for the many beautiful occasions, when he threw playfully, lovingly and sometimes tenderly, his beloved Prasad. I will miss those shiny silver platters full of sweets – dreadfully.

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