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Rudra Ekaadhashini Homam 2013

After months of ardent practice by devotees and youth across the country, and after months of immaculate preparation by the volunteers of our Sri Sathya Service Sai Organisation, the sacred Rudra Ekaadhashini Homam for this year became a reality on 21st July 2013 at the Balaji Temple in Birmingham. As the much awaited day dawned, it was evident that not only the temple but also the heavens opened their doors lovingly to one and all! For, even the clouds that had hitherto been absent in the scorching weeks preceding the Homam, came out that day and shielded everyone from the strong sunrays, keeping the weather cool and perfectly temperate for the occasion.

The programme started with the Ceremonial Procession that brought the auspicious Sayeeswara Lingam in all its glory and majesty from the Shirdi Sai Temple to the main tent where we had all gathered in great anticipation. Melodious bhajans were being sung in the background even as one could hear the familiar chants of Ganapathi Atharvaseersham by the main chanters leading the procession, who then entered and took their seats near the Homagundam (the sacred fire altar) built specifically for this event.

A short introduction to the day was then given by Dr Mahesh Narayan, welcoming all on this auspicious occasion and outlining the day’s programme. In his talk, he drew everyone’s attention to the objective of this Homam: Loka Kalyanam or the welfare of the world, as announced by Bhagawan Baba during the Athi Rudra Maha Yagna in 2006 in Sai Kulwanth Hall. Dr Mahesh exhorted all to pray selflessly, and especially, for the welfare of our brothers and sisters suffering in various parts of the world. In this context, he aptly mentioned the efforts by the Sri Satya Sai Charitable Trust UK to support the on going relief operations in Uttarakhand, North India where recent severe floods wreaked terrible suffering and damage. He urged everyone to sincerely open their hearts in the spirit of love and join hands with the International Sathya Sai Organisation which has undertaken the stupendous task of coordinating relief and reconstruction efforts on a sustained basis in those areas. Following Dr Mahesh’s introduction, the head priest took a few moments to broadly explain the meaning of the offerings at each stage of the proceedings.

Many of us often reflect on how Swami had taken great pains to explain and extol the power and importance of chanting the Sri Rudram. Why our Beloved Swami should recommend it so? We are told that the Sri Rudram is a powerful Vedic hymn on Lord Shiva found in the ancient Yajur Veda and well known for its healing vibrations and traditionally chanted to invoke Lord Shiva's energy, intelligence and blessings. In Sri Rudram, (also called the namakam) the beautiful Cosmic form of Shiva is described. Accordingly there are 300 repetitions of the word “namaha” the Sanskrit word for 'salutations'. Another interpretation of “namaha” is 'not me' and so by repeated chanting “not me” again and again, it is believed that man’s ego diminishes as he is reminded that he is not the “doer” in this huge drama of life. By understanding this fundamental truth, man consequently finds the solution to all his problems. Scientists also believe that our brain is designed to respond differently to different words and so whatever word we repeat in our “inner space” gets recorded in our brain and bio-memory and also decides the circuit of brain signals. So, repeating the word “namaha” in our “inner space” breaks the unconscious part of our mind where the root cause of all the health problems resides. And, simply chanting the Sri Rudram with awareness can directly destroy the root of all mental and physical health problems! So we have a fraction of understanding as to why Swami, in His infinite, unconditional and overflowing love for each of us - directed His devotees to learn Sri Rudram for the benefit of both ourselves and others.

By now, the Homam (sacrificial fire) was well underway, burning brightly as the priest fed the flames with a repeated and steady offering of ghee throughout. As devotees fervently repeated the sacred chants, we prayed that our humble efforts would invoke the Cosmic energy in the homam fire allowing it to spiral upwards and outward into the surrounding environment, thereby cleansing and rejuvenating the environment by infusing it with prana (life force). The momentum could be felt by one and all, as we watched the sacred ‘Lingaabhishekam’ ( ceremonial bathing of the Lingam) being performed continuously with milk, curd, honey, turmeric, sandalwood etc. whilst fortunate couples came forward to receive the blessings of Lord Shiva and watch mesmerised at close quarters. Yet, inspite of the flames of the homam, and its miraculously healing smoke (known to cure a variety to ailments including asthma), many commented afterwards as to how cool and comfortable the tent had remained, allowing almost a thousand devotees to remain completely focussed on the ceremony throughout the morning from Punyah Vachanam at 8.40 am to Purnahuthi which took place almost a full five hours later! Many of us felt this was a sign of Swami’s Grace as Lord Shiva was appeased each time with renditions of the namakam, followed by a verse of “chamakam” seeking all manner of wordly boons that only God can bestow on Man.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes a dedicated team of volunteers stayed on their feet throughout the day, serving fruit, water and meeting the needs of the huge gathering. Finally, the crowd were again treated to vibrant Shiva bhajans as the sacred lingam was shielded from us whilst the priests lovingly dressed and adorned it in preparation for the final puja. The head priest then asked all present to rise to their feet as the final Aarti was offered and the morning’s programme gradually drew to a close.
Following this, bhajans continued for the next hour or so whilst devotees eagerly queued up to receive fruit prasadam, sacred ash and bow down to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva before heading to the adjacent tent to receive a much welcomed, hearty lunch – with two types of rice and a delicious sweet halwa which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. Whilst many took the opportunity to look around the beautiful temple grounds and visit the various deities in their respective shrines – most of us returned promptly to the main tent as the afternoon programme was due to commence after this short interval.

Brother Mukund Patel, National Service Coordinator of SSSSO UK, then introduced the guest speaker, Dr Surendra Upadhyay, well known to many for his inspiring work in conducting medical camps all over the world in reaching out to the poor and needy. He started with a small prayer to Lord Shiva and expressed his feeling of gratitude at being present at such an occasion. He recalled a trip to Prashanthi Nilayam in 2006, only to witness the very first Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam. The doctor observed that the Balaji Temple, the planning and inauguration of which had been blessed and approved by none other than Swami Himself – was the perfect venue for this homam which was organised with the sathwic and unselfish intentions to achieve peace in the world for one and all – a noble aim that would surely please our Beloved Swami. He went on to say that the temple grounds had become a veritable Prashanthi Nilayam itself, thereby fulfilling another of Swami’s wishes that each of us should create a Prashanthi Nilayam wherever we are!
The eminent speaker then asked the audience how many had had the rare opportunity of performing seva for our Beloved Swami – a difficult if not impossible occurrence as Swami was selfless by His very nature. Consequently, the easiest way to serve Swami would be to recognise the God in each and everyone – an outlook that would please the Lord and win His Grace- alleviate the suffering of others and keep one constantly engaged in His work.

The doctor then went on to relate the story of the Sudarshana Chakra and its significance which was not only to destroy demons but also had an amazing power to protect the noble-minded, ensuring they also see only noble qualities in others. The speaker spoke of how fortunate all of us were to have taken birth at the same time as the Purna Avatar and said that even the demi-gods were jealous of this boon. In return for this boon, Swami’s expectation is that we should use our hands as HIS hands, and when we do this with full faith, they too will become healing hands. To become fit for this noble task of serving others we should strive to free ourselves from the bondage of jealousy, hatred and anger and fulfil our true potential, exercise humility and thus realise our true identity through transformation. How do we remove this veil of ignorance? By tuning into God each and every day, removing the “background noise” in our lives and listening to His voice speaking to each of us. We should yearn and pray to remain connected to Him at all times and one of the easiest and simplest ways is through “Namasmarana”. Sairam is the most powerful word but it should be said with conviction, the doctor said. He ended with the story of how, many years ago he was posted in the Himalayas at the start of his professional career as a young doctor and so found his calling for a life of service. The doctor asked all present to let their hearts go out to the flood victims who had lost everything, saying that these floods were the result of man’s own actions by interfering with Mother Nature and not heeding God’s advice. But we should all strive to remain connected to God, through serving Him in man, by engaging in sacred activities such as chanting Rudram, and thereby find peace in our lives.

Finally, a beautiful musical recitation by two very talented young musicians, Akaash Parekh on Sitar (student of Roopa Panesar) and Gulpreet Singh Chandan on tabla who played their instruments with great skill and devotion for the final item – a combination of brilliant, classical music - interspersed with instrumental bhajan pieces. With this exhilarating finish, Aarti was offered to our Beloved Swami in thanks for such a wonderful experience. Everyone felt spiritually charged and full of energy as we all made our way homeward bound – with verses of the sacred “namakam” still reverberating in our minds. JAI SAI RAM!

Sutopa Sen

SSSSO UK, Region 3
Alumnus, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning

An SSE Group’s experience

When they started chanting om, it felt as if we had been transported to puttarparthi which was emphasised even more by the stunning stage decorations including a wonderful picture of Baba. Minesh was initially nervous however after beginning the chant and seeing Shiridi Baba’s temple the atmosphere amongst the male chanters changed into one of excitement and immense spirituality and for Minesh he was blessed to have the opportunity to touch the lingum . For us in the marquee when the chanters entered with the ling we were so excited that our heart rates increased. Our anticipation was increased further when the priest explained the importance of the Rudhram chanting and the benefits it has which refreshed and reiterated the purpose of us chanting and after all the hard work we put into learning the Rudhram it was even more rewarding to be able to chant during the Homam so much so that we transferred all the energy we could into chanting with our full voices and open throats placing particular emphasis on the intonations and pronunciations which produced very powerful, spiritual vibrations. The flames of the yugna also reflected the power and the energy and which uplifted especially because we were blessed to be sitting so near to the alter us and we also felt that we had been blessed by swamis grace to have had the opportunity to take part in this celebration that contributed to universal peace.

Sai love,

Jayna, Meesha & Minesh
Wolverhampton SSE

A Youth's Experience

Events like these are a once in a lifetime opportunity, for who knows when the opportunity will arise again, to be part of such a grand Spiritual Experience? And with such grandeur comes the months of individual preparation, both on a mental and physical level. The day itself began with an early start; a 4am rise, leaving home at 5.30am, all in anticipation of what lay ahead.

Personally, this was not the first time I was to take part in such an event. I had been involved in the previous years National celebrations, taking as part (as I did this time too) as one of the chanters. I must take this opportunity to mention that it is an absolute privilege to be involved in such capacity; chanting of the Sri Rudram (Namakam & Camakam) is no ordinary feat, the effects of which are beyond our mere comprehension, yet the experience one feels after chanting it leaves one in a state of bliss – peace, tranquility. But despite this not being a ‘new experience’, in a way it felt like one. Over the course of the year, my outlook and approach towards chanting Sri Rudram had changed (as I would like to believe, for the better). My understanding of ‘why I was chanting this sacred hymn’ had developed, had evolved; so much so, that I could feel this on the very day.

The day began, with all in anticipation of the arrival of the chanters; bhajans and chorus singing, coupled with melodious music, filled the air, setting the platform from which the ‘holy offering’ was to unfold. As the chief priest began his introductory speech, educating the masses, we were told of the purpose and benefits of chanting this divine hymn – for ‘Loka kalyanam’ (benefit of the World). Reflecting back on such words, one can only relate to what our beloved Bhagawan Baba has often said: “we are who we are because of society, hence we owe a great deal back unto society”, and also “Paropakaram Idam Sareeram
“ (That this body/vessel, has been provided unto us, for the very purpose of serving mankind). With such noble thoughts, the chanting began. Eleven times chanting of the Sri Rudram, with tremendous vigor, passion, bhavam (feeling), that the effects could be felt far and wide!

Sitting continuously, cross-legged, for 5 hours can take its toll on any ordinary individual – the back pains, aching knee joints, and not to mention one loosing ones voice due to continuous chanting. But all of this seemed irrelevant, for we all felt that there was a greater purpose – the feeling of collectiveness, where brothers and sisters united in a common cause, channelling our thoughts, words and deeds through this act of Athi Rudra Maha Yagna, unto our beloved Swami. What could be a more nobler cause??

As the day came to an end, and we all departed for our respective homes, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction and achievement. With the grace of Bhagawan Baba, the day’s events had gone tremendously well, all had felt a sense of triumph, achievement! I pondered on when the next opportunity would arise – Mahasivarathri, Guru Poornima 2014? At the same time, I had to thank Swami, for giving this opportunity unto me.

Swami, may this experience lead to a change in me, a change in which I am ever more in-tuned with you, one with you; one without a second, but just ONE.

Kapil Dev
R3 Youth

The Homam flames reflected immense power and energy....

When they started chanting Om, it felt as if we had been transported to Puttaparthi which was emphasised even more by the stunning stage decorations including a wonderful picture of our dearest Bhagawan Baba. Minesh was initially nervous. However after beginning the chant and seeing Shirdi Baba’s temple from where the procession started, the atmosphere amongst the male chanters changed into one of excitement and immense spirituality. And for Minesh, he was blessed to have the opportunity to touch the Lingam. For us in the marquee, when the chanters entered with the Lingam we were so excited that our heart rates increased. Our anticipation was increased further when the priest explained the importance of the Rudram chanting and the benefits it has which refreshed and reiterated the purpose of us chanting. After all the hard work we put into learning the Rudram it was even more rewarding to be able to chant during the Homam. So much so that we transferred all the energy we could into chanting, with our full voices and open throats placing particular emphasis on the intonations and pronunciations which produced very powerful, spiritual vibrations. The flames of the Homam also reflected the power and the energy, which uplifted us especially because we were blessed to be sitting so near the altar! We also felt that we had been blessed by Swami’s grace to have had the opportunity to take part in this celebration that contributed to universal peace.

Jayna, Meesha & Minesh
SSE Group 3, Wolverhampton

All of us felt a sense of joy and contentment!

Events like these are a once in a lifetime opportunity, for who knows when the opportunity will arise again, to be part of such a grand Spiritual Experience? And with such grandeur comes the months of individual preparation, both on a mental and physical level. The day itself began with an early start; a 4am rise, leaving home at 5.30am, all in anticipation of what lay ahead.

Personally, this was not the first time I was to take part in such an event. I had been involved in the previous years National celebrations, taking part (as I did this time too) as one of the main chanters. I must take this opportunity to mention that it is an absolute privilege to be involved in such capacity; chanting of the Sri Rudram (Namakam & Chamakam) is no ordinary blessing, the effects of which are beyond mere comprehension! Yet the experience one feels after chanting this Hymn leaves one in a state of bliss, peace and tranquility. Despite this not being a ‘new experience’, in a way it still felt like one. Over the course of the year, my outlook and approach towards chanting Sri Rudram had changed (as I would like to believe, for the better). My understanding of ‘why I was chanting this sacred hymn’ had developed, had evolved; so much so, that I could feel this on the very day.

The day began, with everyone in anticipation of the arrival of the chanters; bhajans and chorus singing, coupled with melodious music, filled the air, setting the platform from which the ‘holy offering’ was to unfold. As the chief priest began his introductory speech, explaining the purpose and benefits of chanting this divine hymn – for ‘Loka kalyanam’ (benefit of the World). Reflecting back on such words, one can only relate to what our beloved Bhagawan Baba has often said: “we are who we are because of society, hence we owe a great deal back unto society”, and also “Paropakaram Idam Sareeram“ (That this body/vessel, has been provided unto us, for the very purpose of serving mankind). With such noble thoughts, the chanting began. Eleven times chanting of the Sri Rudram, with tremendous vigor, passion, and feeling (bhavam), that the effects could be felt far and wide!

Sitting continuously, cross-legged, for 5 hours can take it’s toll on any ordinary individual – the back pains, aching knee joints, and not to mention one loosing one’s voice due to continuous chanting. But all of this seemed irrelevant, for we all felt that there was a greater purpose – the feeling of collectiveness, where brothers and sisters united in a common cause, channeling our thoughts, words and deeds through this act of Rudra Ekaadhashini Homam, unto our beloved Swami. What could be a more nobler cause??

As the day came to an end, and we all returned to our respective homes, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. With the grace of Bhagawan Baba, the day’s events had gone tremendously well, all had felt a sense of joy and contentment! I pondered on when the next opportunity would arise – Mahasivarathri, Guru Poornima 2014 perhaps? At the same time, I had to thank Swami for giving this opportunity unto me.

Swami, may this experience lead to a change in me, a change in which I am ever more in-tune with you, one with you; one without a second, but just ONE.

Kapil Dev Prasher
Regional Youth Coordinator
Region 3 SSSSO UK