28th – 30th October 2009.
Pune had waited for just such a moment silently and patiently for 36 long years. Finally her prayers were answered. The Lord had given His divine acquiesce to the oft repeated earnest invitation for a visit. Her heartbeats increased with sheer jubilation, even as she stretched her arms lovingly into the ether, to embrace the Jet Airways 737 – 700 aircraft which was about to land at Lohegaon airport, having being blessed supremely to have the Lord on board as a Passenger!
The soil of this erstwhile Peshwe city beamed with delight as it received the touch of those precious lotus feet as Beloved Bhagawan alighted from the aircraft.
Each atom bowed with deep reverence. Every heart applauded and celebrated this most sacred moment.
His chariot too was eagerly waiting for Him, having journeyed over 775 kilometers along the highway from Prashanti Nilayam to Pune, in order to serve Bhagawan during His Maharashtra sojourn.
Ever so quickly He sped away, first to the Jadhavs’ residence in the city, where a loving welcome awaited Him and then on to Panduranga Kshetra, where thousands had gathered for a glimpse of their Beloved One.
The Jadhavs’ had the delightful benediction to play ‘host’ to Bhagawan here for the next three marvelous days and in all humility they extended their hospitality to the massive turnout of devotees.
It was a time when Earth was transformed into heaven.
Famed vocalists from Mumbai enjoyed the bliss of serenading Bhagawan, on the evening of the first day of this divine visit, even as the sun gently bowed out, to make way for the moon and stars to witness this most captivating tableau.
Space, Air, Fire, Water, Earth watched in awe, while the environment and all those gathered in it remained fascinated to the core.
Nature had been blessed to reign supreme at Panduranga Kshetra, with her lush emerald green foliage and charming abundance, now her flora and fauna knew themselves to be in the presence of their most adored benevolent Creator.
As the evening’s programme concluded and Bhagawan returned to His abode, the milling multitude too began to disperse, their minds soothed and hearts replete with joy.
The sound recordists, the camera and video technicians and some others were still around.
My niece and I were as yet standing and looking at the stage, the wonderful floral decorations, mesmerized by the fact that only a few moments ago Bhagawan had been sitting there.
Suddenly we heard some sort of a commotion and several voices giving an alarming cry of having sighted a snake. The snake could be seen wriggling in the direction of the men’s enclosure.
Perhaps it too had just been a part of the sanctified audience and was counting its blessings!
Snakes live quietly and attack only when disturbed, provoked, threatened or cornered. We, my niece and I, knew this to be true and asked the people in the crowd to leave it alone, stressing that it would slither away. But the technicians were getting trifle agitated that it might enter their equipment which was lying around the place.
We heard some people give orders to kill the snake, that’s when my niece, went down on all fours, maneuvering herself under the bamboo blockades, that divided the different enclosures. She rapidly moved on to the grass, chasing the snake in order to catch it. My first thought was why should we slay this serpent and how could anyone think of any kind of killing when Bhagawan was physically present here?
It was preposterous and absolutely unthinkable.
Whatever we have read in the Shirdi Satcharitra and from Bhagawan’s teachings has made us open our hearts and minds to seeing Him in all creatures and beings. His love opened us up to His compassion. And His compassion to a feeling of unspeakable joy. Any kind of pain inflicted upon any creature is felt by Him, for His ‘body’ is made up of all of us. How else does He always answer us so promptly…?
It is because He lives within us and breathes and feels through us!
Now, it was my turn to try and get into that enclosure where this reptile was. I followed my niece, crawling under the barricades in my sari, trying to ‘save’ this courageous young lady, who was determined to save the snake, so that it will not face a premature and violent death, being beaten with sticks.
What an insult that would be to His presence! More than me this young lady is an absolute ‘natural’ when it comes to animals…there is a genuine bond. I am always reminded of Bhagawan in His avataric form of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, setting the path of devotion aglow, singing and intoning His own glory, while birds and wild animals of the forests follow Him enchantedly! I love this image of Bhagawan…Creator leading and His creation following…
All that hullabaloo and the chase soon ended as I, to my surprise, managed to catch the snake in my hand.
Wasn’t I afraid? There was no time for fear. We had to act. When someone you consider your very own is being persecuted you will step in.
Love gives courage and when courage steps in, fear has to step out and flee.
Come to think of it there had been no time for even a ‘Sairam’, for He was already there.
Someone quickly removed a cover from a bolster and asked me to put the snake, which remained dangling in my hands, into it. My niece held the cover open as I slipped the snake into it and swiftly pulled the strings together to close the opening. Another young lady also from Pune, very eagerly came forward and asked that the snake be handed over to her so she could release it, a distance away.
Much later in time, when we were better acquainted with this youngster, and when we reflected upon this episode of adventure, she admitted that she had not interacted with animals much but seeing us in action, she wanted to assist and Bhagawan gave her the required confidence and courage. She and my niece later became colleagues at work.
When I had the opportunity to mention this incident to Mr Jadhav, some months later, he said that though there were many, many snakes at Panduranga Kshetra, by Bhagawan’s grace, there had never been any unpleasant incident.
A question of faith and of following the age old adage of ‘live and let live’.
In this context I remember Bhagawan’s words which gave the following message of Ahimsa – “When you kill an animal, you give him suffering, pain, harm. GOD is in every creature, so how can you give such pain?”
And then, I also recollected an incident mentioned in Chapter 9 of ‘Tapovanam’ under the subtitle ‘His Boundless Compassion’ which reads as follows :
Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba was once travelling by car from Bangalore to Puttaparthi. One of His students was driving the vehicle. Other cars with groups of devotees were following Swami’s car. The ground was stony and rough, the terrain hilly, desolate and silent. A long cobra was crossing the path. The student driver of Baba’s car noticed it from a distance. He could not however make up his mind whether to stop the car to save the cobra or to run over it. He looked back in the rear seat of the car and found Swami in ‘yoga mudra’ (deep contemplation). He thought, “Swami is fast asleep. If the car was brought to a halt His sleep would be disturbed. Therefore, he sped forward and ran over it.
After arriving at Prashanti Nilayam, the student alighted from the driver’s seat, ran and opened the rear door for Swami. Swami got down and proceeded towards the verandah of His residence. The student was intrigued to find a wide smear of mud, like a broad strip on the back of Swami’s robe. He said, “Swami, Your garments are soiled at the back.”
Swami’s reply was, “A little while ago, I had to go below the tyre in order to save the poor cobra.”
My niece had been bitten by the serpent when she attempted to catch it but that had not deterred her. I applied vibhuti as we recited ‘Sairam’…surrendering all to Him. The venom did not get her and she said she will always try hard not to let any venom get out of her…the venom that we release through our thoughts, words and deeds!
Some criticized us for what we did, whereas a few appreciated what transpired.
All we know is we simply acted, responding to the moment in accordance with His teachings.
And our Beloved Lord ever so tactfully, lovingly and graciously soon let us know that He ‘knew’.
The very next evening the following words formed a part of His Divine Discourse, as He sat resplendent, atop the flight of stairs, in the portico of the Vitthal Rakhumai Mandir at Panduranga Kshetra, Hadshi. No one present can ever forget those incredible moments in the Divine Presence, where a hushed twilight merged into a starry night.
“There is no human being without love. Even beasts, birds, animals and insects have love. This love is experienced even in the smallest of creatures. We should have deep conviction that God is present in everyone in the form of the Atma – consciousness.
We go by name and form. We may call it snake or scorpion. God is in every creature. God has given skills to different creatures to protect themselves. The scorpion stings in self defence and not with an intention to hurt. In a dense forest, a lion hurts only if hurt. Reaction, Reflection, Resound.”
My heart skipped a beat when I heard His sweet voice mention snakes and scorpions!
What magnificent grace indeed! He truly is closer than the closest.
Only He can respond in this way for all that was, all that is and all that ever will be, is known to Him and nothing ever escapes His note.
For there is nothing but Him.