Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Spiritual Diary: Chapter 23

It was in May 2006, that I was drawn deeper and deeper into the world of the great Sai of Shirdi. I had many dreams during this period that propelled me into knowing more about this Saint. I trawled through various internet sites and learned a great deal about Sai Baba, his early years, the miracles, his teachings, etc.

I started every day by listening to Vishnu Sahasranamam. Shirdi Baba is believed to be a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. I would then read a few chapters of the SAI Sat Charitra and then listen to the melodious bhajans over the internet in sanskrit, hindi and marati in praise of the great lord . Although I did not understand the meaning of these bhajans, they nevertheless transported me into another world. The more I looked at Baba’s picture or photo, the more I felt that He was drawing me closer to him. Then, one day I decided to do a charcoal sketch of Baba in his customary pose, seated on a stone with one leg crossed over the other, and the right hand raised in blessing.

I had never used charcoal as medium before and therefore started off by requesting His blessings. “ If you have really accepted me as your devotee then please allow me to portray you on paper”. This was my only fervent prayer.

Looking back. I think drawing Shidi Sai Baba was the most fulfilling spiritual experience for me.

I would spend hours with my eyes closed in meditation before I started his drawing. Then, with a few easy strokes, the picture would progress every day. I completed two large life- like portraits using charcoal as the medium. The final picture was completed on the day my daughter had her qualifying exams at the University .

She was pursuing a doctoral degree and that day was her viva voce exam.

Terribly nervous and flustered she burst into my room in the morning and said “ How can you sit there calmly doing a painting when I am so nervous. I thought you would be sitting and praying for me instead”.

I looked up at her and said “ Just take a long and hard look at this man’s face before you go off to your exam. He will help you. Just remember to think of his face before you open your mouth and start talking. He will remove your nervousness”.

My daughter stepped up to the portrait, knelt down and spent a few moments looking at his face . Then she left. I promised her that I would pray for her as well.

I looked at Baba’s unfinished portrait and sent off a silent entreaty to help her overcome her nervousness. Then, I immersed myself with painting Baba. It was noon time and I jut finished the last downward stroke using the charcoal pencil;. The midday arathi bhajans I had been listening to over the internet ended with the ceremonious chorus of voices hailing Lord Sainath. Amost on cue, the doorbell rang and my daughter walked in.

From the look on her face, I knew things had gone well. She had passed with extremely good commendations. She confided in me later, “Mum, you know I was very nervous at first but I did what you suggested. I thought of Sai Baba”.

What is interesting to note here is that my daughter had not really known who Sai was or his story. She had merely focused on his face based on the painting I had been working on. Such is the glory of Sai Baba.

I also came to know, two months later, that my husband had been in Mumbai on the very same day I finished the painting in Boston, and one of his business colleagues came up to him and handed him a packet containing prasad from Shirdi!

From then on wards every Thursday, I started the weekly routine of offering prayers to Sai Baba and listening to the bhajans. Although Baala of Nemili continued to hold an important place in guiding my spiritual growth, I accepted the influence of Sai Baba as something She must have wanted for me as well.

I was to realise one year later that Baala had given an “ Arul Vakku” or ( holy message) where she said that there was no difference between her and Shirdi Sai Baba. Worshipping one was the equivalent of the other!

One day, while still at Boston, I called up Haran Aiya at Rochester. I was lucky to get him on the phone immediately. I introduced myself as a devotee who had been sent to him through Bala of Nemili. Immediately, he mentioned that he too was a great follower of Shri Bala and recited the simple kavacham written by Ezhilmani every day. I confided that I did that as well. He invited me to come over to Rochester, but somehow I was unable to make the journey. One year on after that conversation, I have still not visited the Raja Rajeshwari Peetam in Rochester or met up with “ Aiya”.

During the month of June 2006, when I was in Boston, I started on a project of depicting the Dasa Mahaa Vidyas both in the form of their respective physical images as well as in their yantra or diagrammatical representations.

I have given a more detailed explanation of the Ten ( Dasa) Mahaa ( great) Vidyas (sources of Knowledge), in my web site. It is important to realise that these vidyas depict the ten great cosmic powers of knowledge. They encompass almost every aspect of the entire universe in some form or the other both tangible and intangible.

For example, they include the physical world of the suns, moons and their satellites; the changing seasons; the flora and fauna on earth as well as all the different species and humans pulsating with life. The ten cosmic powers encompass emotions like love, hatred, jealousy, greed, abundance, generosity, etc, as well as attributes that make objects and species beautiful / ugly; harmful/ beneficial, etc; In addition, these vidyas in their personified forms give us lessons that are relevant in life. For example, they teach the importance of sense- control and exhort us to teach us to lead a life filled with dharmic values while accomplishing daily duties one might have as either a child, adult, householder, etc.

Most importantly, these ten great cosmic powers of wisdom teach us to view the whole world as aspects of the divine and to love everyone living in it be it humans/ animals, etc with love and compassion. They teach us that abundance in wealth exists alongside poverty; Good health is a boon to some just as sickness and ill health are a curse to others. Finally, these teachings enable us to learn that our journey through life provides us with opportunities that make us both happy as well as sad or depressed.

Just as night is surely followed by day, emotions always follow each other like a rollercoaster. One event in life can make us happy , another can make us angry; yet another can cause great sorrow or grief or fear. The inevitable presence of pairs of opposites in the universe has to be accepted and loved for what it represents.

The Dasa Mahaa Vidyaas are the earliest attempts in our Vedas to teach some of the great truths to mankind and to make the representation simpler and easier for lay people to understand, symbolism was heavily used. Personification of some of the attributes represent the grossest level of understanding; the yantras are subtler and represent fields of energy in diagrammatic representations; mantras harness the power of sound, while the more subtle aspects of silence leads to eventual self- realisation or the state of samadhi.

The most famous Yantra is the Sri Chakra. Although I have drawn this mesmerising picture of interlocking triangles several times, I had the opportunity of including it again several times during the depiction of the Mahaa Vidyas as well as in the project of the Fifeteen Nityas that followed soon afterwards.

During the period I spent immersed in the yantra drawings, I was listening to the CDs and cassettes I had purchased on my recent visit to the Bala Peetam. I would spend about 7 to 8 hours a day listening to the sounds of mantras from the rudram, lalitha sahasranama or bala sahasranama / bala songs and stories. These sound patterns would constantly reverberate in my mind as I would sit and draw the yantras.

The area where I worked became an enchanted circle and the concentric circles, triangles and lotus petals I drew on the yantras seemed to surely bring the power of the deities on to the paper. However, I noticed very clearly that the yantras could be drawn only when mantras were being chanted. In fact, I experimented several times attempting to draw yantras with and without being accompanied by mantra recitation. Despite the fact my mind was absorbed in total concentration, the yantra patterns emerged more easily and quickly when accompanied by mantra sounds, rather than in a vacuum devoid of any sound.

In addition, as each yantra specified a certain attribute or aspect of nature or of the senses, etc, I could also observe the unfolding of their respective effects. For example, while drawing the Dhumavati yantra, I observed that a lot of minor accidents , calamities and misunderstandings were taking place within my family. While the Matangi yantra was being drawn, an atmosphere of peace and calm prevailed; Kali seemed to bring out the worst aspects like anger, while Tripurasundari exerted an unifying influence. The final picture of Kamalatmika brought a resolution to many petty problems and concluded a somewhat volatile period while executing these ten paintings!

After I finished work on the Dasa Mahaa Vidyas, I depicted the yantras for the fifeteen lunar days in each month, called the fifeteen nityas. Along with the sixteenth nitya, also known as Tripurasundari, these daily recurring elements influence each day in our lives and are consequently tremendously important to understand. More details have been given in the web site where these paintings have been displayed.

I spent the summer of 2006 in Boston and returned to London briefly in September. I was destined to return once more to Chennai, this time just as the nine holy days of Navarathri commenced.


m said...

i really don know who u are..but i receieved this mail from a bala devotee...and trust me after i read ur page i really feel eternal bliss....and me bein an ardent sai devotee i could jus feel wat u ve written..great work..!!

Unknown said...

I just couldn't believe the connect u mention about sai baba and bala amma ... I'm experiencing this I'm my life now and was looking for an answer to this connection... what can I say ..bliss. god bless u and ur work