Sai Baba Sri Sathya Sai Baba

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Sri Sathya Sai Baba Articles

  Akhanda Bhajan

Even as a child Swami sang devotional songs about God, making them up for his friends and teaching them to classmates, who then took them home to teach their parents.  When he announced his true identity as avatar of Sai Baba, in 1940, he sang to those who had gathered about him `Manase bhajare, guru charanam- dusthara bhava sagara tharanam...'
Since the beginning of his work, Swami has made bhajan an important aspect of sadhana for his bhakthas.  In 1942 there were no large crowds around Swami as there are now, and every Thursday those present would join together for bhajans under his leadership. There is a story told about those days, and while I don't know if it is true in every detail, I find it plausible, for the people are real, and they say the story goes like this.
At that time when Swami was still a young boy, Sri Seshagiri Rao, his daughter Sunderamma and her mother-in-law and her six-year old daughter went to Puttaparthi to visit a relative named Karnam Subbamma. This lady had figured prominently in Sri Sathya Sai Baba's early life since it was she who had first helped to organize bhajans when Swami first announced himself at the age of 14. The family was called in for interview and after materializing vibhuti for the ladies, and sweets for the gents, Swami asked what Sundaramma wanted. She was very shy, but Swami knew her heart, and said `Ah, so you yet want a son? Yes, a son is coming. Be happy.'
That prediction soon came to pass, and the family became frequent visitors to Parthi. On one of those trips to Puttaparthi, Sunderamma was alone in her room with her baby boy who had a slight tempearture. After the thermometer was inserted in his mouth, she sat for a moment looking at the child, and recalling what Swami had said at their first meeting. ~Yes a son is coming- be happy.~ In that reverie, she turned her face to the light from the window, and looked outside at the monkeys nearby. In that quiet time alone she was thinking about Swami's recent announcement that he would protect the devotee as the eyelid protects the eye. Then suddenly she heard a sound of glass breaking and turned to the child in his bed.  The two-year old baby boy had bitten through the thermometer and the mother saw the shards being swallowed by the infant.  Prying open the tender mouth, she saw blood and screamed.  The family was frantic as they rushed in to help.  As if from next door Swami, without a word, came to them and massaged the baby's stomach.  He looked at the mother and smiled. `Like the eyelid protects the eye,' she thought.  As quickly as he had come, Swami left. Picking up her child, the mother was astonished to find the mercury and glass bits which she had seen in the mouth, now under the baby boy's blanket in the bed!
After this, Sunderamma began regular weekly bhajan meetings in her own native place, all with great dedication and without interruption for an entire year. Her father, Sehagiri Rao, thought they should celebrate the completion of the year of bhajan-singing in suitable style.  Each member of the family thought up a different way to celebrate the anniversary in befitting manner, but it was Seshagiri Rao's idea that was adopted: uninterrupted bhajans for one whole day and one whole night. They would begin by lighting a Jyothi in Swami's honour, and then sing nonstop for 24 hours.
The decision having been taken, they got down to planning the performance at their house -- which songs to sing, what prasadam to distribute, pooling of resources to obtain the ingredients of the prasadam.  (This was particularly difficult as, in those days, there was rationing of rice and a system had to be worked out for cash or kind to gain enough foodstuffs for the party). After making all the preliminary arrangements, father and daughter went to Puttaparthi to announce their intention to Sri Sathya Sai Baba.  He was very happy to hear of their plans and responded, "I have come only for the sake of my devotees.  Go ahead with the AKHANDA BHAJANS.  I myself will come, and be with you throughout the singing."
Sunderamma was startled at that, since up to that moment they had planned only a very simple celebration.  But, if Sri Sathya Sai Baba was himself going to attend, then she felt she ought to make more elaborate arrangements.  But Swami told her not to fear, he himself would see that all went well. He asked where she had planned the meeting, and then suggested instead she book a place in town for the `akhanda bhajan', so that all those who wanted to attend could do so more conveniently.  He also advised her to ask other devotees to assist in helping her make the arrangements.  Sunderamma was in a quandary at this unexpected turn of events.  To cope with an occasion such as it was turning out to be was a gigantic task in those days when even transportation was very difficult.
She did contact other devotees and together all arranged for the hall, but she herself felt it was her responsibility to prepare the food for the group.  She calculated that about a hundred regular devotees might turn up for bhajans and so had PRASADAM prepared for that number. Little did she know that the crowd would continue to grow as the hours passed. As the crowd passed two hundred persons, Sunderamma became anxious about how she would provide enough PRASADAM to go round. At that late date it was impossible to acquire more food, all her friends had already used what rations were available, and since rationing was so strictly enforced, she feared that nothing could be done.
As the hour approached to begin the festivity, Swami entered the hall. In his presence, PUJA to Sri Shirdi Sai Baba's and Sri Sathya Sai Baba's images was performed under a gaily bedecked floral canopy.  Sri Sathya Sai Baba materialised a silver figurine of Sri Shirdi Sai Baba to keep beside a large bust of Sri Shirdi Sai Baba especially made for that occasion.  Then, with circular movements of his hand, He produced 108 golden flowers for the PUJA. After ARCHANA (Offering with MANTRAS) of rare flowers, Seshagiri Rao performed PAADA PUJA (worship of the feet) to Sri Sathya Sai Bba and lighted the AKHAND JYOTI (everlasting flame) at that first ever akhanda BHAJAN meeting.
Sunderamma then touched his feet and Swami sensed she had a question. He lowered his head to her ear and said `Yes Daughter, what is troubling you?' She requested Sri Sathya Sai Baba to come into the kitchen. He did as she asked and in the kitchen he carefully looked at each dish she had prepared, and so realized her concern that there was not enough food for all those who had come.  He then smiled at her and loudly said "AKSHAYA" thrice, sprinkled water on the food and simply left the kitchen. Bhajans began immediately. Sunderamma did not know what to think, but realizing she had done all she could do, she surrendered to what must come.
Bhajans continued for several hours and as the evening progressed, devotees would come into the kitchen for refreshment, and be served by Sunderamma. That day from the food she herself had prepared for a hundred pesons, she easily fed several thousand people, even generously.  The pots containing the PRASADAM simply never became empty!  At last as the 24 hours came to a close, Sunderamma entreated Sri Sathya Sai Baba to let the pots be empty and only then did the food supply decrease.
Later when she told this story, Sunderamma said "Such was the nature of Swami's blessing that it ensured an unending stream of food".  The event was truly remarkable. Many of the guests were totally unaware of this miracle, and assumed foodstuffs had been provided by some wealthy devotee. That first meeting where the Jyothi lighting was organized by Seshagiri Rao, has led to the lighting of thousands of other JYOTIS on AKHANDA BHAJAN day in SAI SAMITHIBHAJAN centers throughout the world.  Though Seshagiri Rao is no more, Sri Sathya Sai Baba Himself recalled his contribution on one such occasion, by referring to him as "the devotee who was the first to light a JYOTI to Swami."
Even today Swami begins a discourse with a spontaneous poem which he sings in Telgu. This love of song is reflected by devotees, who sing bhajans at all Sai meetings. In memory of this long past event, once a year devotees around the world sing together nonstop for 24 hours, glorifying all the Names of God- from Siva to Allah, from Elohim to Ahura Mazda.  Today is such a day. Starting at 6PM your time, 24 hours of bhajans will be sung by Sai devotees in centers around the world.
Jai Sai Ram!
(with thanks to Michael Goldberger for telling the tale so well)

Source: http://www.hindunet.org/alt_hindu/1994/msg00938.htm

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