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Experiences by Devotees of Sri Sathya Sai Baba

  Journey of Love

A Toronto Group Visits Prasanthi

"Journey of Love", the pilgrimage that left Toronto, Canada, on July 13th to be in the Divine presence of our Beloved Lord Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, will forever be etched in the hearts of all the devotees of the Sri Sathya Sai Baba Centre of Toronto.

Through the Divine blessings of our Lord during this pilgrimage, many devotees gained the courage, the motivation and the determination along with a renewed spirit to face life. To our Dearest Lord we offer our most heartfelt gratitude for giving us the opportunity to be with Him, and to all those who read this article we pray that you will also be inspired by the experiences.

The idea for this Holy Pilgrimage was conceived in January 2000 and on September 2nd, 2000 a letter was sent to Bhagavan asking for His permission, guidance and His blessings to bring the Sai Spiritual Education children and Youths, as well as adults from the centre, to Prasanthi to have His darshan and experience His divinity. As a centre we felt that this permission was granted when Swami took the letter and also said "yes, yes". Excitedly the plans began, however the response from devotees as of December 2000 indicated that we had a lot more work to do to encourage devotees to take advantage of this unique opportunity. The centre became a hub of activities all focused around the trip and in March of 2001 we were ready to make the first attempt at travel arrangements for 174 devotees, all resolved to make this Journey of Love.

Looking back at many of the groups from various countries that had gone before us, we realized that we should have our children prepare an offering of love for our Lord. With this intention we decided to do a presentation comprising of musical renditions and a drama. We all realized that permission to stage this for Swami had to come directly from Him, but we had full faith that He would do what is best.

With excitement, a feeling of unity and a bond of brotherly love, we traveled together to Prasanthi Nilayam. The group left Pearson International airport on three flights, with the knowledge that we will be re-united in Bombay to board the chartered Jet Airways flight that will take us straight to Prasanthi. Our joy was overflowing as we sang bhajans throughout the flight until we safely landed in the airport at Prasanthi. This flight was given special permission by Bhagavan to land, because only Indian airlines, until then, had permission to use the airport. Before leaving we were informed that Swami would not be in Parthi for three days, so by the time we reached the ashram, Swami had already left for Maharashtra. While we did miss him, it gave us the opportunity to settle in and do some "Sai-Seeing" of the various highlights of Puttaparthi, including the hospital and the recently built Chaitanya Jyothi Museum.

Starting on the afternoon of July 17th, our group was blessed to have reserved seating for darshan. Over the course of the next five days, we received beautiful darshan and were overjoyed with Swami’s glances and smiles. He also accepted letters from many devotees, materialized Vibhuti for some and inquired "How many?" and "Where are you from?" Nevertheless, we still had not received any indication as to the date of the presentation. Undeterred we continued our daily sadhana meetings and rehearsals in a shed that had been designated for our use.

A few days later on July 21st, Dr. Singh, Central Co-ordinator of Canada, was blessed with an interview with Swami, in which he was kind enough to inquire about a date for our presentation. Dr. Singh, immediately after the interview, told us that Swami responded by saying, "Birthday time would be better." Dr. Singh broke this news later to everyone, in the kindest way possible, all the time emphasizing that Swami knows best. Initially we felt disappointed, but were consoled by remembering that Mother Sai always wants the best for Her children. Our efforts grew in intensity, as we wanted to melt Swami’s "heart of butter" with the warmth of our devotion. Our prayers were answered on the 23rd of July, when Swami said to the ladies after morning bhajans, "Canada, Drama 25th!" This brought joy to all our hearts, especially the children, and soon after we received confirmation from ashram officials to begin rehearsals at the Poornachandra Hall that very afternoon!

In addition to the honour of practicing in the premises of Swami’s home, we were blessed with darshans backstage during the practice sessions. It was so sweet to see Swami, as Sai Krishna, teasing and lovingly poking fun at His children. On the second occasion, one Youth asked, "Swami, what can we do for You?" In response, He gave a message that all Youth can strive to follow: "I want nothing! [Swami raised his hands] Just do your Duty sincerely. Study Well! Work is Worship."

The 25th finally arrived. Swami, being Sai Ma, showed us His motherly affection by sending a comfortable bus for the entire cast, despite the fact that we were in walking distance from Poornachandra Hall. Prior to going on stage, Swami visited us twice backstage. The presentation proceeded very smoothly. It was very fulfilling for all members of the cast to perform in His presence, watching the Divine Director conducting and enjoying His masterpiece. Swami was very sweet and loving when He joined us on stage for the Grand Finale. He was gracious enough to hand out cloth material and saris to the boys and girls. Out of our deep love for Him, many of the boys and girls said, "We love you, Swami!" Swami responded, "I love you, I love you too. Very happy."

Overwhelmed with bliss, we were surprised again when Swami, on the morning of the 27th, on His way back to Poornachandra after the morning Bhajans, came towards the group and said "Today 2:00 p.m. come to mandir, Swami will see you". This was simply too much. He was too compassionate and loving. We quickly got ourselves together and decided how to arrange ourselves for this Divine appointment with God. Sitting in the Mandir, awaiting His arrival, we were eager to know what Swami had in store for us.

After entering the Mandir, Swami overfilled the cups of our hearts as He walked amongst the devotees, speaking with some, smiling to others, taking letters, materializing vibhuti and joking with the children. Swami gave a beautiful discourse, mentioning the drama and explaining its spiritual significance. He advised us on how to lead our lives in order to reach God. After the discourse, Swami asked two boys and two girls to distribute Vibhuti and small photos to everyone. He then brought basins of sweets and asked for it to also be distributed. He gently enquired, "Am I giving you trouble?" What a great lesson for us, how considerate we should be. He asked for cameras, when we told him we were not allowed to bring them in, He went outside and got a camera from the students. He permitted us to take many photographs with Him, and granted us the golden opportunity to sing bhajans for Him. He requested that we sing Canada bhajans, to which the group sang two English bhajans. He was the most compassionate Mother and Father to all of us. When it was time for Him to leave He said that He must leave since He was with us for two hours. It was a bittersweet moment, all of us forever grateful for His Love and sad that it had to end. However, he did say to come and bring larger groups to be with Him, and we thanked him for this boon. He waved good-bye sweetly before leaving the room for the last time.

On the whole, the trip was a learning experience that brought us closer as a Sai family, and especially closer to Swami. All the experiences and blessings provided us with the inspiration, motivation, and guidance to give Swami what He really asks for – transformation. Transformation to Love All, and Serve All.

The journey of love has not come to an end…but has just begun! Jai Sai Ram!

 (Chandra Gopie, Toronto, ON)

Source: http://www.geocities.com/svevani/Nov2001.htm

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