The Jasmine Bud

It came to pass that the material sheath which the Lord once again willed to wear was formed. Mysterious intimations of the impending great incarnation disturbed the even tenor of Pedda Venkapa's life! For example, there was the unusual twang of the stringed tambura in the night. Because the brothers and the father were all extremely interested in the village operas on the legendary histories of India, and since plays were very often rehearsed at home, there was a large tambura hanging on a nail on the wall and a maddala, or drum, on the floor beneath. These two were silent only when the family retired for the night. But as the birth of a son for whom Sri Easwaramma prayed announced itself as imminent, the household was awakened at midnight and sometimes early in the morning by the tambura twanging melodiously and rhythmically and the maddala softly beating, as though they were in expert hands! Various theories were advanced by the wise men of the village to explain this phenomenon, but they only added to the mystery.

Seeking an answer, Pedda Venkapa hurried to Bukkapatnam where there was a Sastri, an authority on signs of this nature and on whose interpretation he could place faith. He was told that it was an auspicious occurrence; the unbidden music meant the presence of a beneficent power, conferring harmony, melody, order, symmetry, spiritual elevation, and joy.

On the twenty-third day of November, in the year 1926, the son was born. The villagers were chanting the names of Siva, the cosmic rhythm personified, in remembrance that the day was a Monday of the Holy Month of Karthika devoted to the worship of Siva. That day was even more auspicious because the ascendant star was Ardra, and on such rare occasions when the month, the day, and the star coincide, special worship is performed in the temples of the Lord. The year was Akshaya, the "Never declining, the Ever-full!"

While the mother was going through the final rituals of her Satyanarayana adoration in accordance with her vows, the birth pangs forewarned her. When she revealed this, messengers were sent to inform the mother-in-law, Lakshamma, the pious old lady of the house. However, she had gone to the house of the priest to perform her own Satyanarayana Prayers. The messengers went there and urged her to return. She was so confident of the Grace of Satyanarayana, so steadfast in her devotion, so disciplined in her religious adherence, that she refused to be hurried! She sent word that she would bring with her to her daughter-in-law, Easwaramma, the sacred offerings after the worship, and that on no account would she interrupt her prayers. She finished the entire ritual with full concentration, came home, gave Easwaramma the flowers which had previously been placed on the idol and the sacred waters with which it was washed. Easwaramma partook of the blessings of the Lord, wore the flowers in her hair, and sipped the water. In the next moment the Lord was born. And the sun rose above the horizon!

Sai Baba has said that one special point to be noted about this manifestation is that the incarnation has not been transplanted away from the place where the body was born, for He had chosen that very place as the center of His alleviatory Mission. Puttaparthi was doubly blessed that November morn, for the Lord had chosen that happy village not only for His Birth but also for His Habitation.

Indeed the village, which bears the name "Ant Hill Prosperity", gave the child an appropriate welcome. A snake was found in the lying-in room! The women did not notice it for some time, but suddenly they saw that the baby, lying on a bed of clothes, was being moved gently up and down in a peculiar way be something underneath the bed. They watched with baited breath for a few moments, and when at last they searched, they found a cobra under the bed!

The baby was charming beyond description. Little wonder, for even in the cradle He had all the Yogic spiritual powers which Sage Patanjali, author of Sanskrit Yogic Scriptures, says come with rare souls and accompany the birth of an Avatara, a Divine Incarnation. Sai Baba has declared that He knew even prior to His Birth where He would be born. He has also said that He was born with all the miraculous powers which He is manifesting one by one out of His Divine Will, as and when He feels each can be so announced. As a baby, He must have had a halo of splendor around His head, a smile which reflected an other-world beauty, and a heavenly power to captivate the heart.

Some years ago Sai Baba told the author, "I do not sleep at night; I remember then the events of my past appearances, and I laugh within myself as memories pass across." It can therefore be surmised that the little lilies of laughter and red rosebuds of joy which lit up the cradle of the baby bloomed from the reminiscence of previous arrivals and adventures!

The baby was named Satyanarayana since the relationship between the worship of God in that Form and the realization of the mother's cherished desire for a son seemed very important to her. When the rite was performed and the name was whispered in the bud-like ear, it seems the baby smiled, for was it not He Himself who must have unobtrusively suggested that name be given? How else can we explain the fact that the first requisite for spiritual advancement, now propounded by Sathya Sai Baba, is Satya or Truth and Narayana or "God in man?" The embodiment and exponent of Truth could not have given Himself a more appropriate name.

The child became the pet of the entire village of Puttaparthi, and the farmers and cowherds vied with each other in fondling and feeding the infant and playing with his lovely silken curls. His charming smile attracted everyone. Pedda Venkapa's house was always filled with visitors who came on any pretext and lingered around the cradle singing lullabies, showering caresses, and forgetting their humdrum lives.

Soon the fragrance of "the Jasmine Bud" filled the air. As a lighted lamp, Sathya moved about the house, and laughter tinkled in the street when he lisped his vocabulary of sweet sounds. It was noticed by all with wonder that he delighted in having broad Vibhuti (Sacred Ash) markings worn by men on his forehead, and that he insisted on the marks being renewed as soon as they wore off. He also desired to have a circular Kumkum dot, the red saffron dot worn by women in the center of his forehead. The mother seldom satisfied this desire; so he had to seek out his sister's box of Kumkum and dab it on himself. He was Siva, he was Sakti, "God and the Power of God." He must have both the Sacred Ash and the saffron dot of the Consort.

He kept away from places where pigs, sheep, cattle, or fowl were killed or tortured, or where fish were trapped or caught. He avoided kitchens and vessels used for cooking flesh or fowl. When a bird was selected to be prepared for dinner, little Sathya would run to find the bird, clasp it to his bosom and fondle it, as if the extra love he poured on it would induce the elders to relent and spare the fowl. He was called by the neighbors Brahmajnani, a "Realized Soul," because of this type aversion to killing and this measure of love toward creation. At such times Sathya would run to the home of the village accountant nearby, for they were Brahmins and vegetarians; he would take the food offered by Subbamma, the aged lady residing there.

He rarely retaliated when he was handled roughly by playmates. Information of such ill-treatment came to the parents through other toddlers who witnessed the affair, never from Sathya, who seemed not in the least to suffer pain or discomfiture. He spoke the truth always and never resorted to the usual subterfuges by which ordinary children try to cover up their mistakes. So distinct was his behavior that a youngster once nick-named him "the Brahmin child!" It was a fitting description. Little did this youngster know that, while in the previous body, this child, at whom he now laughed, had declared at Shirdi, "This Brahmin can bring devoted men onto the White Path and take them to their destination!"

At the tender years of three and four, "this Brahmin" showed that he had a heart that melted at human suffering. Whenever a beggar appeared at the door and raised his cry, Sathya left his play and rushed inside to force his sisters to hand out grain or food. The adults were naturally irritated by the endless procession of outstretched hands. They easily lost their tempers and sometimes turned the beggar away before Sathya could bring relief. This made the child weep so long and loudly that only by bringing the dismissed beggar back could the elders stop the wailing. On occasion in order to put an end to what the elders thought was expensive and misplaced charity, the mother caught hold of Sathya, and with a finger raised in warning said, "Look here! You may give him food, but mind you, you will have to starve." That did not daunt the child. He would run inside and bring out food to the hungry man at the door and later stay away from lunch or dinner himself. Nothing and no one could persuade him to come for his food which was left untouched!

Sathya had a mysterious visitor who was feeding him. Whenever he refused food and persisted in the refusal for some days, he showed no sign of starvation in his appearance and activities. He would tell his mother that he had eaten and would say that an Old Man had fed him sumptuously, giving him milk-rice. The full stomach was proof of that. Besides the child volunteered to give another indisputable piece of evidence. He would hold out his right hand for his mother to smell, and lo, she inhaled from that tiny palm the fragrance of clarified butter, milk and curds of a type she had never before enjoyed! The wonder remained, however. Who was this unseen visitor, this strange nourisher of this little child?

When Sathya began running about in the streets, he sought out the maimed, the blind, the decrepit, and the diseased, and led them by the hand to the doorstep of his parents. The sisters had to secure from the store or the kitchen some grain or food and put it into the beggar's bowl while the little master looked on happily.

rama1.jpg (44336 bytes)Satyanarayana was held up so often before the children as the ideal child by every mother and father that the children of the village started referring to him as Guru, meaning Teacher or Master. The parents and others came to know of this under strange circumstances. It was late in the night of Ramanavami, the Holy Day of Devotion to Rama, when a procession wended its way round the village. A huge picture of Sri Rama was placed on a flower-bedecked bullock cart upon which the priest sat in order that the flower garlands offered by the householders could be placed on the picture and the camphor they presented be duly burned and waved in front of the picture. The pipers and drummers awakened the sleeping villagers, and thus the cart proceeded along the uneven roads.

Suddenly the two sisters discovered that little Sathya was not at home. A search was ordered. Everyone in the house ran about frantically, for it was already past midnight. All at once their attention was diverted by the arrival outside the door of the bullock cart carrying the large picture of Sri Rama. When they went to the doorstep, they were surprised to see the five year old Sathya sitting nicely dressed, and with evident authority, underneath the picture! They asked his companions why he was seated on top and not walking with them on the road. Promptly came the answer, "He is our Guru!"

Indeed He is the Guru of children of all climes, of all ages!

There is a small primary school in Puttaparthi which Sathya attended with his contemporaries for something nobler than learning to spell and write. The school at that time had a very harsh scheme of punishment to ensure punctuality. The lucky child who came in first and saluted the teacher, as well as the student who arrived next and also saluted, were exempt from punishment. Every other boy, for whatever reason, legitimate or not, who arrived late, was given a taste of the cane. The number of cuts across the hand depended on his place in the list of late-comers. In order to escape from this torture, the children gathered under the eaves of the schoolhouse long before sunrise in rain or in fog. Sathya saw the plight of, and sympathized with, his shivering playmates. He visited them under the eaves. Bringing shirts and towels from his home, he covered the boys and made them warm and comfortable. The elders at home discovered this and locked up all the clothes they could not afford to lose!

Satyanarayana was a precocious child, learning by himself more than anyone else could teach him and much quicker than most other children. He could sing all the songs rehearsed at home for the village operas and mystery plays. He even composed at the tender age of seven some touching songs which were gladly accepted by the cast for public presentation.


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Written by N. Kasturi M.A., B.L.