Sri Sathya Sai Baba & Maynard Ferguson

Maynard Ferguson Guru Sathya Sai Baba

Sri Sathya Sai Baba & Maynard Ferguson

Walter “Maynard” Ferguson (May 4, 1928 – August 23, 2006 ) was a Canadian-born jazz trumpet player and bandleader. He came to prominence playing in Stan Kenton ‘s orchestra, before forming his own band in 1957. He was noted for being able to play accurately in a remarkably high register , and for his bands, which served as stepping stones for up-and-coming talent.

Ferguson was born in Verdun, Quebec (now part of Montreal ). Encouraged by his mother and father (both musicians), Maynard was playing piano and violin by the age of four. At nine years old, he heard a cornet for the first time in his local church and asked his parents to purchase him one. At age thirteen, Ferguson first soloed as a child prodigy with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Orchestra and was heard frequently on the CBC, notably featured on a Serenade for Trumpet in Jazz written for him by Morris Davis. Ferguson won a scholarship to the French Conservatory of Music where he studied from 1943 through 1948 with Bernard Baker.

Ferguson dropped out of Montreal High School at age 15 to more actively pursue a music career, performing in dance bands led by Stan Wood, Roland David, and Johnny Holmes. While trumpet was his primary instrument, Ferguson also performed on other brass and reed instruments. Ferguson later took over the dance band formed by his brother Percy, playing dates in the Montreal area and serving as an opening act for touring bands from the United States. During this period, Ferguson came to the attention of numerous American band leaders and began receiving offers to come to the United States.

Ferguson moved to the United States in 1949 and initially played with the bands of Boyd Raeburn , Jimmy Dorsey, and Charlie Barnet . The Barnet band was notable for a trumpet section that also included Doc Severinsen , Ray Wetzel, Johnny Howell, and Rolf Erickson. Ferguson was featured on a notoriously flamboyant Barnet recording of Jerome Kern’s All The Things You Are that enraged Kern’s widow and was subsequently withdrawn from sale. When Barnet temporarily retired in 1949 and disbanded his orchestra, Ferguson was free to accept an offer to join Stan Kenton’s newly formed Innovations Orchestra.

Kenton and Hollywood
Stan Kenton had a longstanding offer to Ferguson but had temporarily disbanded when Ferguson moved to the United States. Kenton’s bands were notable for their bombastic brass sections and Ferguson was a natural fit. In 1950, Kenton formed the Innovations Orchestra, a 40-piece jazz concert orchestra with strings, and with the folding of the Barnet band, Ferguson was available for the first rehearsal on January 1, 1950. While the Innovations Orchestra was not commercially successful, it made a number of remarkable recordings, including “Maynard Ferguson”, one of a series of pieces named after featured soloists.

When Kenton returned to a more practical 19-piece jazz band, Ferguson continued with him. Contrary to the natural assumption, Ferguson was not Kenton’s lead trumpet player, but played the fifth chair with numerous solo features. Notable recordings from this period that feature Ferguson include Invention for Guitar and Trumpet, What’s New and The Hot Canary. In 1953, Ferguson left Kenton to become a first-call session player for Paramount Pictures . Ferguson appeared on 46 soundtracks including The Ten Commandments. Ferguson still recorded jazz during this period, but his Paramount contract prevented him from playing jazz clubs. While he enjoyed the regular paycheck, Ferguson was very unhappy with the lack of live performance opportunities and left Paramount in 1956.

The Birdland Dream Band
In 1956, Ferguson was tapped to lead the Birdland Dream Band, a 14-piece big band formed by Morris Levy as an “All-star” lineup to play at Levy’s Birdland jazz club in New York City. While the name “Birdland Dream Band” was short-lived and is represented by only two albums, this band became the core of Ferguson’s performing band for the next nine years. The band included, at various times, such players as Slide Hampton , Don Ellis , Don Sebesky, Willie Maiden, John Bunch, Joe Zawinul , Joe Farrell, Jaki Byard , Lanny Morgan, Rufus Jones, Bill Berry, and Don Menza. Arrangers included Bob Brookmeyer, Jimmy Giuffre , Bill Holman , and Marty Paich.

As big bands declined in popularity and economic viability in the 1960s, Ferguson’s band performed more infrequently. Ferguson began to feel musically stifled and sensed a resistance to change among American jazz audiences. According to a /Down Beat / interview, he was quoted as saying that if the band did not play Maria or Ole, the fans went home disappointed. Ferguson began performing with a sextet before finally officially disbanding his big band in 1967.

India and England
Following the path taken by many important jazz artists in the 1960s, Ferguson left the United States in 1968. Feeling that he needed a period of spiritual exploration, Ferguson moved with his family to India and taught at the Krishnamurtl-based Rhishi Valley School near Madras. He was associated with the Sri Saithys Sai Institute of Higher Learning’s Boys Brass Band, which he founded and help teach for several years. Whilst in India, Ferguson was impacted by Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi, whom he considered as his spiritual guru.

In 1969, Ferguson relocated to Manchester, England, manufacturing personally designed trumpets and mouthpieces and performing with a variety of ensembles in Europe.

Also in 1969 Ferguson signed with CBS Records in England and formed a big band with British musicians that performed in the newly popular jazz/rock fusion style. The band’s repertoire included original compositions as well a pop and rock songs rearranged into a big band format with electronic amplification. This British band’s output is represented by the four MF Horn albums that included very popular arrangements of the pop songs MacArthur Park and Hey Jude.

Return to the U.S.
Ferguson’s new band made its North American debut in 1971. With a revived career, Ferguson relocated to New York in 1973 and gradually replaced his sidemen with American performers while reducing the band size to 12 (four trumpets, two trombones, three saxophones and three rhythm plus Maynard). The quintessential recording of this period is the album /Live at Jimmys/, recorded in 1973 in New York. Ferguson latched on to the burgeoning jazz education movement by recruiting talented musicians from colleges with jazz programs (notably Berklee College of Music, North Texas State University and the University of Miami) and targeting young audiences with performances and master classes in high schools. This practical and strategic move helped him develop a strong following that would sustain him for the remainder of his career.

In 1976, Ferguson began working with producer Bob James on a series of commercially successful albums that were complex studio productions featuring large groups of session musicians, including strings, vocalists and star guest soloists. The first of these albums was Primal Scream, featuring Chick Corea, Mark Colby, and Steve Gadd. The second, Conquistidor in 1977, resulted in a top-10 pop single, Gonna Fly Now (from the movie Rocky), a rare accomplishment for a jazz musician in the 1970s. Aside from an exciting Jay Chattaway arrangement and dense Bob James production, the single was also helped by the fact that it was released prior to the official soundtrack album of the hit movie. Ferguson maintained a hectic touring schedule during this period, with well-attended concerts that featured concert lighting and heavy amplification.

Ferguson continued with this musical model for the remainder of the 1970s, receiving considerable acclaim from audiences but often tepid response from jazz purists who decried his commercialism and questioned his taste. Ferguson reportedly also began to experience great frustration with Columbia over being unable to use his working band on recording projects and having difficulty including even a single jazz number on some albums. Ferguson’s contract with Columbia Records expired after the 1982 release of the Hollywood album, produced by Stanley Clarke.

Ferguson recorded three big band albums with smaller labels in the mid 80s before forming a more economical fusion septet, High Voltage, in 1986. This ensemble, which featured multi-reed player Dennis DiBlasio as the only other horn player, recorded two albums and received mixed reviews. The format was ultimately unsatisfying to Ferguson, who had grown up in big bands and developed a performing style most appropriate to that structure.

Big Bop Nouveau
In 1988, Ferguson returned both to a large band format and to mainstream jazz with the formation of Big Bop Nouveau , a nine-piece band featuring three trumpets, one trombone, two reeds and a three-piece rhythm section. The band’s repertoire included original jazz compositions and modern arrangements of jazz standards, with occasional pieces from his 70s book and the Birdland Dream Band. This format proved to be successful with audiences and critics and Ferguson toured nine months a year with Big Bop Nouveau for the remainder of his life. This band recorded extensively, including albums backing vocalists Dianne Shurr and Michael Feinstein.

Although in later years Ferguson did lose some of the range and phenominal accuracy of his youth, he remained an exciting performer into his late 70s. Just days after completing a weeklong run at New York’s Blue Note and recording a studio album in New Jersey, Ferguson developed an abdominal infection that resulted in kidney and liver failure. Ferguson died on the evening of August 23 , 2006 at the Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, California.

Influence
Maynard Ferguson was one of a handful of virtuoso musician/bandleaders to survive the end of the big band era and the rise of rock and roll. He demonstrated a remarkable ability to adapt to the musical trends that evolved from the 1940’s through the 2000’s. Ferguson’s albums show an evolution from big band swing, bebop , cool jazz , Latin , jazz/rock, fusion with classical and operatic influences. Through his devotion to music education in America, Ferguson was able to impart the spirit of his jazz playing and technique to scores of amateur and professional trumpeters during the many Master Classes held throughout his long career.

Ferguson was not the first trumpeter to play in the extreme upper register, but he had a unique ability to play high notes with full, rich tone, power, and musicality. While regarded by some as showboating, Ferguson’s phrasing and vibrato have been extremely influential on generations of trumpet players. Ferguson was doubtless endowed with exceptional facial musculature, but he often shared in interviews that he was able to command the upper registers of the trumpet not so much with his embouchure, but more with the breath control he had discovered as a youngster playing the instrument in Montreal. Ferguson attributed the longevity of his demanding bravura trumpet technique through his later years to the spiritual and yoga studies he pursued while in India.

While Ferguson’s range was his most obvious attribute, perhaps equally significant was the personal charisma Ferguson brought to a musical genre that often veers towards the cold and cerebral. As David Von Drehle wrote in Ferguson’s Washington Post obituary, “Ferguson lit up thousands of young horn players, most of them boys, with pride and excitement. In a (high school) world often divided between jocks and band nerds, Ferguson crossed over, because he approached his music almost as an athletic event. On stage, he strained, sweated, heaved and roared. He nailed the upper registers like Shaq nailing a dunk or Lawrence Taylor nailing a running back — and the audience reaction was exactly the same: the guttural shout, the leap to their feet, the fists in the air. We cheered Maynard as a gladiator, a combat soldier, a prize fighter, a circus strongman — choose your masculine archetype.”

Ferguson popularized and enhanced two unique instruments, the ‘Firebird ‘ and the ‘Superbone ‘. The Firebird was similar to a trumpet , but had the traditional valves played with the left hand (instead of the right) and a trombone-style slide played with the right hand. The Superbone was another hybrid instrument, which was fundamentally a trombone with additional valves played with the left hand. Ferguson regularly incorporated Indian instruments and influences in albums and concerts.

Personal Life
While Ferguson’s life had its ups and downs and moments of exploration, Ferguson was fortunate to have evaded the self-destructive behaviors that bedeviled so many other musicians of his generation. In the mid 1970s, Ferguson resettled to Ojai, California, where he lived to the end of his life. Ferguson’s first marriage was to singer / actress Kay Brown in 1951. Maynard second marriage to Flo Ferguson (in 1955?) lasted until her death on February 27, 2005. Ferguson had four daughters: Kim, Lisa, Corby, and Wilder. Kim Ferguson is married to Maynard’s former road manager, Jim Exon. Wilder Ferguson is married to pianist (and former Big Bop Nouveau member) Christian Jacob. At the time of his death, Ferguson had one granddaugher, Erica.

Reference

YouTube Videos Of Maynard Ferguson: 010203

Maynard Ferguson

The Rediff Special – Major General Eustace D’Souza (retd)

The Rediff Special – Major General Eustace D’Souza (retd)
‘Here’s my pistol, now come on shoot me’
June 27, 2008

As a young major in 1947, Eustace D’Souza first read about Major Sam Manekshaw when reading about the Burma campaign in World War II. Manekshaw was shot in the stomach when he and his company were holding the Sittang bridge. For that act of valour, he was given the Military Cross on the field of battle; his commanding British officer did not expert the flamboyant Parsi officer to survive. But survive Sam did, leading the Indian Army to an incredible military victory in the 1971 war.
Commissioned in the Indian Army in 1943, Major General D’Souza (retd), now 87, has fought four wars and had several interactions with Field Marshal Manekshaw. He spoke about the man who was an outstanding leader of men. A first person account of a great soldier who passed into the ages shortly after midnight June 27:

Till yesterday Sam Manekshaw was the oldest living field marshal in the world.

I first met Sam Manekshaw when I was facing the Chinese in Nathu La, commanding a brigade. It was in 1964-1965. The Chinese were across a little strip and my brigade held them when they first moved up with 2,000 troops, we held fast, we didn’t panic like in ’62.

Sam came to visit us as he was very pleased, and then he came again to request me to stay on as brigade commander. I told him, ‘Sir I have a family too, I have been away from my family for four years — three in high altitude.’ He recommended me to the National Defence College and I went there.

He was very perceptive. When he came to visit me at Nathu La at 13,600 ft, I was a brigadier then with 5,000 troops under me. He said, ‘Souzie — he used to call me that –what do you do for your young officers, they must be absolutely cheesed off here.’

He went back to Calcutta and sent back a packet of girly magazines. He said this is for your young officers. He had wanted to see how I lived and saw a portable record player with lots of LPs — and I am a Western classical music fan. He went back and sent a parcel with a LP record of the famous American singer Marian Anderson.

He was fearless. When he was a major with the Sikh company in Burma, they had a promotion meeting for the appointment of lance naik to naik.

He didn’t approve of one name because he said he was a rascal. That man sent word to Sam saying, ‘I would kill you.’ So Sam Manekshaw told his senior subedar — ‘Unko march karna hai’.

He was marched before Sam and he asked him — ‘You are going to kill me? Here’s my pistol, now come on shoot me.’ That man was so taken aback that he marched out meekly. Sam appointed him as batman. That was the sort of man he was.

Once in a riot he walked through the crowd with just his cane.

Once he visited our 4th battalion in the ’65 war in the Barmer sector. There was a mike etc for him and he said, ‘Take this bloody thing off, I want to speak to my boys.’ He knew how to win people. In Nathu La, we got tea for him on a silver tray and he said, ‘I want it in a mug.’

Professionally he was good, there is no doubt about it. He was the first Indian to be appointed by the British after World War II to the military operations directorate.

Just before the war ended, he was sent on a three month deputation to Australia to tell them about the Indian Army. He did a good job. He came into focus then.

When he became chief it was a toss up between him and (Lieutenant) General Harbaksh Singh. His becoming chief was touch and go between him and General Harbaksh. Tactically and strategically, he was a very good soldier. He knew how to get around men. He commanded the Western and Eastern Commands — both hot seat commands.

He will always be remembered as the creator of Bangladesh and the man who split Pakistan. What was most outstanding was that he could get a team going because the Navy and Air Force, who were always at loggerheads, he got them around in Bangladesh.

If there was no Bangladesh, he would not be a field marshal. He was at the right place at the right time. He deserved to be field marshal because he carried the air force and navy with him in ’71. Remember we were fighting on two fronts — east and west. He stood out.

He had a presence, was impeccable in dress and appearance. His shoes were polished, he had a good knowledge of the English language, sense of humour and was a good orator.

When (then prime minister) Mrs (Indira) Gandhi asked him if he was going to take over the country, he told her are you asking for my resignation on grounds of mental instability? Here’s my resignation.

His only fault if you can call it that is having an inner circle of friends but who doesn’t. All of them flourished. Once I was told that Sam Manekshaw doesn’t like anyone taller than him.

In the ’71 war, I was commanding the division in Baramulah — responsible for 200 kms of the border between India and Pakistan, somebody carried tales to him that when I took over the division, my predecessor said — ‘I’m sorry Souzie there are no Gorkhas in this division’ and I said — ‘thank god’.

That was carried to Sam; after that he was after my blood (the field marshal was from the Gorkha regiment] Sam. During the war, my division captured 73 square kilometres of Pakistan territory, but he never visited my boys. I had 25,000 troops from 365 castes and communities.

I retired in 1978 and came to Bombay, I was on the management of Xavier Institute of Management and we did a series on leadership for which I asked for Sam — along with five other names.

I asked for an appointment, at that time he used to live at the Oberoi (hotel, now the Hilton in Mumbai). He was very surprised because he thought I hated his guts but there is no doubt that he had leadership qualities.

I asked him to come and speak on leadership for an hour. He said, ‘You really want me — and I said — yes sir, that’s why I’ve come here.’ He spoke brilliantly without notes, answered all the questions, held the audience in a packed hall. I had it recorded and have shown it all around the country.

He was called to speak on leadership many times in Bombay and he used to say, ‘Souzie, haven’t you heard enough of me?’

He was always prepared well in advance if he was making a talk, he never used notes and his turnout was impeccable. Even if he was to give a talk in the evening, he would shave again so that there was no shadow on his face.

He had a sense of humour, sometimes it backfired. Once a remark in Patiala offended the royal family there. Wherever I took that CD of the leaders, and asked people of the 6 who impressed you most — 100% it was Sam Mankeshaw. He used to get a standing ovation.

When the Parsis had a felicitation for him at the Tata Theatre (in Mumbai), I was asked to rally all the ex-service officers. I told them to come wearing their medals and when he saw all of us, he was really touched.

I called on him in Connoor when his wife was living, she was a very nice warm hearted person.

He was a great believer of Satya Sai Baba.

He liked good looking girls and was colour conscious. When he went as commadant of the Staff College in Wellington, he got into trouble in the mid 1950s because he put up photographs of the (British) queen. Somebody made a complaint and there was an inquiry held by the then vice chief (Lieutenant) General (P P ) Kumaramangalam and he was later exonerated.

Sam wanted to be a doctor. He wanted to go to England where his brothers were doctors but his father knew that Sam was a naughty chap, he said — ‘you stay right here in Amritsar.’

He read an ad in the paper asking for young Indian gentlemen to apply for the first course of the Indian Military Academy in 1930. He applied and got through.

He belonged to the 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment which went to Pakistan after Independence and commanded the Sikh Company.

The Sam Bahadur myth is all because of his association with the Gorkhas. He was allotted to the Gorkhas after Independence. His father was a doctor in the old Indian medical services and fought with the Second Royal Ludhiana Sikhs in Mesopotamia. Sam was partial to Gorkhas and Sikhs.

When he was sick, it was the saddest thing for me to see him being led up the stairs at the Tata Theatre by his daughter some 8, 9 years ago. It was unthinkable because he was always so dashing.

In the last few years he was mainly in hospital in Delhi. He said he wanted to go back to his home in Connoor because he was very fond of rose gardening. When he had come to Baramullah, I took him to my rose garden and said, ‘Sir have a look at my roses,’ and he said, ‘What are you bloody well taking the credit for, it’s because of the climate here.’

I think the top leaders of the Indian Army are Field Marshal K M Cariappa, General K S Thimayya and Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. I rate General Thimayya number one. India hasn’t produced a better general than him.

Major General Eustace D’Souza, PVSM, retired from the India Army in 1978. He served two years in Italy, two years in Japan during World War II and fought the Pakistani army in Baramullah in the 1971 war. Now, 87, he recently traveled to Baramullah and met soldiers in the area he once commanded in Kashmir. He spoke to Archana Masih. Photograph: Archana Masih.

Reference

Ramayana Saptaha Mahotsava At Prashanti Nilayam

Ramachandra

Ramayana Saptaha Mahotsava At Prashanti Nilayam
(Curtesy RadioSai)

Sunday, June 22, 2008
The seven-day Ramayana Saptaha Mahotsava got underway today. In the morning, the priests assembled for the occasion did Abhishekam to Lord Rama’s idol at the altar readied on the Mandir Stage. The Bhajans did not start since the puja was scheduled. Bhagawan did not come for darshan, so the devotees in Sai Kulwant hall dispersed by 11.30 am.

In the evening, the Rama-Sita-Lakshmana idols were brought to Sai Kulwant Hall in procession with traditional paraphernalia from Bhagawan’s residence just before 4.30 pm, and Swami followed soon after. At 4.45, Bhagawan was seated onstage and asked for the programme to commence. A learned scholar spoke in Telugu for 45 minutes, introducing the Ramayana Saptaham, stating that each day, one Kandam of the Ramayanam would be expounded by a scholar, till the last day, which would be dedicated to the Pattabhishekam or Coronation ceremony. The scholar then spoke about the first part of the Ramayanam, the Bala Kandam and the inner significance of many events narrated there. Bhajans commenced after the speech and prasadam was distributed while the students sang Rama Bhajans. Bhagawan accepted Arati at 6.10 pm before returning to His residence.

Come 22nd of June and the entire Kulwant hall appeared in a different light altogether. It looked as if the legendary “Rama Rajyam” had descended on earth. Sorry! Correction please – not just looked that way, Raama Rajyam has indeed descended! Sai Rama speaks a lot on Rama. More than anything else, as He describes the qualities of the Lord then and the way Rama conducted himself, one is always reminded of the daily activities of Swami Himself.

The stage had been occupied by three beautiful statues – Rama, Lakshmana and Sita. Hanuman was conspicuous by his absence. It came to be known that these were only like a standby The actual idols would be brought in a procession in the afternoon! In the afternoon, the Yajur Mandir was bustling with activity. A gaily decorated procession stood in readiness to escort the two Ramas from different Yugas!

Swami came out at about 4:30 pm and the procession started. The grandly decorated palanquin bearing the idols of the Lord was being carried by priests chanting hymns and mantras in praise and glory of the “perfect man” of the Treta age. The sanathana Dharma is so glorious and grand.. While in many places, God is reduced to a mere book, idol or picture, the Sanathana Dharma, uplifts everything – idols, pictures and everything to the level of God! The “GajaNade” as it is called is the traditional elephant walk that the priests simulated while carrying the idols. This meant that Rama seated atop the palanquin would have felt as though He is seated on an elephant! The movements were such and the priests undulated and gracefully twisted their bodies to exactly replicate that walk.

Swami in the meanwhile, sat just at the threshold of the Kulwant hall entrance from Yajur Mandir and said that He would prefer to wait for the idols to be taken in procession completely and then begin His darshan round. That was so sweet and understanding of Swami. Imagine the state of mind of people if both Swami and Rama came for darshan together! The two eyes are not enough to drink in the beauty and glory of both forms at the same time. What does one do when the tastiest of dishes and the best of desserts are placed simultaneously in front for the feast! So, as Swami sat sweetly allowing the palanquin to proceed. all the assembled devotees had a wonderful darshan of Rama, Lakshmana, Seeta and Hanuman. Towards the later part of the procession, the “HamsaNade” or the gait of the majestic swan was adopted and the palanquin proceeded and came to a halt at the stage.

Then sweet Swami began His darshan rounds. It was double delight. For those not yet spiritually evolved to see the Lord in the idols, here was the same Lord in flesh and blood. The thought that the Avatar was in our midst in flesh and blood, heightened by the presence of the idols atop the palanquin made hairs stand on their ends at the great good fortune all of us privileged to enjoy being contemporaries of Swami.

Swami glided through the hall in the chair and was all smiles towards the assembled devotees. He went through the gents side and then came to the students section of the hall. Blessing the birthday boys and collecting letters from many, Swami went on stage. There He lit the lamp that had been placed and so the “Srimad Ramayana Sudha Pravachana Sptaham” had been officially declared open! The Kalashasthapana and Shodashopachara pooja to the idols were performed and everyone awaited for the next part of the programme to begin looking at Swami. Swami sat listening to Vedic chants as He gently fondled and played with a yellow rose bud in His hand. He opened up the petals slowly. It was so symbolic of what He was doing to all the children seated in front of Him. The come to Him as buds and with His touch, He makes them bloom into fully blossomed flowers.

At 4.45, Bhagawan, seated onstage, asked for the programme to commence. A learned scholar, Sri.Vidwan Nidumamidi Srikanta Rao, spoke in Telugu for about 45 minutes, introducing the Ramayana Saptaham, stating that each day, one Kandam of the Ramayanam would be expounded by a scholar, till the last day, which would be dedicated to the Pattabhishekam or Coronation ceremony. The scholar then spoke about the first part of the Ramayanam, the Bala Kandam and the inner significance of many events narrated there.

As he went about the narration of the events of the planned coronation the intilal exploits of the young princes, Swami listen appreciatively with rapt attention. At the end of his talk, Swami looked at the bhjan group and signalled them to begin with a hint word, “Shlokam”. And so began “Shree Raghavam”, the aalap for the bhajan “Shree Raghunandana”. Bhajans continued after that and everyone clapped and sang enthusaistically. All the bhajans were on Rama with special emphasis on the initial phases of Rama’s life- to the events of Baala Kanda in particular! Prasadam was distributed while the bhajans went on. Bhagawan accepted Arati at 6.10 pm before returning to His residence. (Reference)

Monday, June 23, 2008
Today was the second day of the Ramayana Saptaham being held at Prasanthi Nilayam, and today’s talk was on the Ayodhya Kandam. Bhagawan arrived for evening darshan at 4 pm, and after sitting onstage for a few minutes, moved to the interview room. He emerged after half an hour to move around the stage area and the verandah, going back onstage and starting the proceedings at 5 pm. After the stirring hour long Telugu speech by Mallapragada Srimannarayana Murthy garu, bhajans commenced at 6 pm. After half an hour of Rama bhajans, Bhagawan accepted Arati and returned to His residence.

The afternoon of 23rd too began on the same auspicious note as Swami came for darshan. Today however, Swami cut to the stage after the ladies side. Bhagawan arrived for evening darshan at 4 pm, and after sitting onstage for a few minutes, moved to the interview room. He emerged after half an hour to move around the stage area and the verandah, going back onstage and starting the proceedings at 5 pm.

Today’s talk was on the Ayodhya kandam. The scholar speaking on it today was Sri Malla Pragada Sriman Narayana Moorthy from Guntur. He spoke very beautifully on the inner significance. Ayodhya means, “Where no one wins”. this part of the Ramayana, expounded the scholar, was the portion where everyone- King Dasharatha, the queens, all the four brothers and everyone in the family loses. Yet all of them lose so that Dharma can win. And that was the significance of that Kanda. It also highlights the beautiful congruence between Sathya and Dharma. Like the two feet which are perfectly in sync and make movement possible, only when Sathya and Dharma are in sync is progress possible.

Swami was very moved at many instances during the narration. The speaker too spoke very powerfully on the Ayodhya Kanda and the entire audience listened in rapt attention. After the stirring hour long Telugu speech by Mallapragada Srimannarayana Murthy garu, bhajans commenced at 6 pm. Swami too sang the lead for some of the bhajans and that only catalysed a more devotional and enthusiastic singing by everyone assembled! After bhajans for half an hour, Swami received Mangala Aarthi and left for Yajur Mandiram. Two Wonderful days of the Ramayana Sapthaha. (Reference)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008
On this third day of the Ramayana Saptaham, the proceedings began in the morning with Vishu Sahasranama chanting by the entire congregation at 7.50 am, forming a laksharchana. Bhagawan arrived when the morning Bhajans commenced after the laksharchana. In the evening, Bhagawan once again sat for a few minutes onstage after His darshan round in the chair and returned to the stage from the interview room to start the proceedings at 5.15 pm. Today’s speaker was Sri S. Ranganath garu from Bangalore, who spoke in English about the Aranya Kandam for 45 minutes, noting various points of interest in Valmiki’s poetry. Bhajans commenced at 6 pm, and Bhagawan accepted Arati at 6.30 pm.

As the Mangalavaram (literally translates as auspicious day / Tuesday) dawned in Prashanti Nilayam, the chanting of the holy VishnuSahasranaama started in the mandir. All the devotees who had assembled offered the holy akshatha grains to a picture of Swami’s cosmic form that had been so efficiently distributed to all of them.

At about 8:45am, Swami came for darshan in the chair. He cut to the interview room after the ladies side. The bhajans began at 9 as usual and then a beautiful incident took place. Swami came in for bhajans and noticed that a student was seated in front with a bowl of Akshatha grains as it was his birthday. Swami called him and blessed him profusely. The magical moment came when the student asked for paadanamaskar and Swami consented. There was a sudden momentary silence as the bhajan that was on concluded. As the student placed his head on the Lotus feet, the next bhajan began – Sathya Sai Paadaambujam, Bhajore Manasa Nirantaram. (Oh mind! Dwell incessantly on the Lotus feet of Sathya Sai) A thrill went through all who were witness to the poignant scene and the student must have been overwhelmed for he stayed down on His feet for more than 10 seconds. Swami was smiling so sweetly at this “coincidence”! The bhajans concluded and Swami left after receiving Aarthi.

In the evening, Swami arrived at about 4:30 pm. He completed the darshan rounds and came onstage. There , He called a boy and took his letter opening it, Swami saw that the letter was a full page long. He made a face of mock anger and then asked, “Why do you write so much? Write a few lines- that’ll suffice!” The boy returned with a smile on his face. He was so happy that Swami spoke to him that maybe that advice went unheard! Immediately, Swami called another boy to take the letter. This time, as He slowly opened it, all watched in bated breath! Swami Himself seemed to open it with an expectant anticipation. Seeing that the letter consisted only of a few lines, He smiled and so did everyone around. With this, He went around the upper stage and then via the inner portico, went into the interview room. He returned to the stage from the interview room to start the proceedings at 5.15 pm.

Today’s speaker was Sri S. Ranganath garu from Bangalore, who spoke in English about the Aranya Kanda for 45 minutes, noting various points of interest in Valmiki’s poetry. Today’s talk was more of a Sanskrit scholars’ delight with the erudite speaker outlining the beautiful grammar and perfect language employed by the sage Valmiki. He also drew out examples from the works of various modern and contemporary writers where they had been influenced and inspired by the Ramayana. Therefore, he stated, this epic has great relevance irrespective of the age or era!

At the end of his talk, Swami saw that one of the students was clicking photos prolifically. He asked him as to there was film in the camera. The student, on his knees, cheekily pulled out the memory chip from the camera, showed it to Swami and said, “No film Swami!” Swami smiled and asked for the bhajans to begin. The bhajans began and today they were all specific to the episodes and the characters of the Aranya Kanda. After bhajans, Swami enquired whether any prasadam was available! When it was being checked, He said that prasadam may be distributed the next day. Smilingly He asked for Aarthi and then left. (Reference)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008
This morning’s Laksharchana chanting was performed with the Sri Rama Sahasranama at 7.30 am. Bhagawan came in His chair in the evening at 3.45 and went into the interview room. After interacting with a few devotees, Swami came onstage at 4.45 to start the proceedings. Today’s talk on the Kishkinda Kandam was in Telugu by Sri Venkata Subbarao garu. After the 45 minute talk, the Bhajans commenced at 5.40 pm. Prasadam was distributed while the students sang Hanuman bhajans. Bhagawan accepted Arati a few minutes before six o’clock and returned to His residence.

This day was dedicated for the Kishkindha Kanda. Swami arrived in the evening a little earlier than all the students had arrived. He completed His darshan rounds on the ladies side. There was a huge empty space as the students had not yet filed in. He took a detour and then cut across the marble blocks. He spoke to the two sevadal lads who were seated near the pillar as part of the security measures to ensure that no one rushes upto Swami to touch His feet and so on. They were taken aback but nevertheless filled with joy as Swami spoke to them. The speaker scheduled for the evening was Dr.Thangirala Venkata Subbarao from Bangalore. Swami then went into the interview room. Coming out, He took a round around the stage and inner portico and once again went into the interview room. From there, He spoke a while with then bhajan singers and then came out of the bhajan hall too. Swami came out and then after a while of Veda chanting, He asked for the speaker to be introduced. The speaker offered his obeisances to Swami and began the talk.

He detailed at length on the Ramayan story from the point where Hanuman meets with the two princes Rama and Lakshmana till the point where Hanuman stands ready on the shores of the ocean, ready for take off to Lanka. The killing of Vali at the hands of Rama and the wonderful dialogue that followed was narrated. Vali asks Rama as to was it fair on His part to kill him in that manner from behind. Rama raplies, “Oh Vali! I never challenged you in a fight. I am on a hunt and I hunted you like any hunter would do a wild animal. Your deeds show that you are indeed a wild animal as you have eyed the wife of another and treated your own brother very badly. As for the enmity, though you are not my direct enemy, you are the enemy of my friend Sugriva, and so you become my enemy too!” Vali himself repents to his words and begs Rama’s forgiveness. Rama’s crystal clear understanding of Sathya and Dharma was highlighted. At one point, the speaker said that just like the forest in Ramayana had been transformed by the penance of the sages, Puttaparthi had been transformed by penance of Swami. At this point, Swami burst out laughing! With a smile, He said, “I never did any penance of any sort.!” All those who saw it smiled and nodded back at Him.

There exists a misnomer among many that Swami is a great spiritual seeker who has loads of penance backing Him. He is not a spiritual seeker but the One who is spiritually sought; does not need penance to back Him, but He is the one who backs all the penance of the world!

The mind may make comparisions between Him and sages, but the heart will say that the only apt comparision will be between Him and Rama for both are incomparable and that is the similarity between them!!

After the speech completed in about 50 minutes, there was a loud applause and the speaker was blessed by Swami. Swami then asked for bhajans to be sung. The instructions were that only Hanuman bhajans be sung.

The first bhajan to begin was “Rama Lakshmana Jaanaki”. Now this bhajan is special because, the lead is always “Rama Lakshmana Janaki” while the follow is always,”Jai bolo hanuman ki”. As soon as the first line was sung, Swami sang out aloud, “Jai bolo Hanuman Ki”. Apparently, it seemed that the Lord was reminding all about the special nature of the bhajan. Well, a little deeper view and the Lord was showing mankind another beautiful aspect. In the divine romance, the devotee always keeps singing and thinking of the Lord while the Lord thinks and sings about the devotees. As all assembled kept singing the Lord’s name, the Lord was singing the devotee’s name! It was indeed an awe inspiring and thrilling sight! After four bhajans, Swami asked for the Aarthi and then left for Yajur Mandiram. (Reference)

Thursday, June 26, 2008
The laksharchana by the devotees gathered in Sai Kulwant began at 7.30 am, with the chant of the Sri Sathya Sai Ashtothara Sahasranamavali. Bhagawan arrived at 8.40 am while the chanting was in progress and sat onstage for a while. He then moved to the Bhajan Hall and then to the interview room. The chanting concluded at 9.10 am and Bhagawan arrived in the Bhajan Hall for the Bhajans to start. He moved to the interview room for a few minutes, then returned to the Bhajan Hall, sat there for half an hour and accepted Arati at 10 am before returning to His residence.

Swami returned in His chair to Sai Kulwant Hall at 4.10 pm and moved to the interview room. After a round of the Bhajan Hall and the verandah after a few minutes, He came onstage at 4.45 pm and sat there for 45 minutes while the Vedam went on, calling up a few students with letters and interacting with them. The speech for the day was on the Sundara Kandam by Dr. Mylavaram Srinivasa Rao garu in Telugu, and he held the audience spell-bound for 90 minutes. Swami accepted Arati immediately after the talk at seven o’clock while prasadam was distributed to all.

Friday, June 27, 2008
This Friday’s concluding Laksharchana was with the chanting of Sri Lalitha Sahasranama. All the devotees chanted “Aum Sri Matre Namah” as the Sahasranama went on from 7.30 to 8.25 am. The scholar who chanted the Sahasranama spoke a few words extolling the compassion of the mother, then concluded the morning session for the Bhajans to begin as usual at 9 o’clock in the Bhajan Hall.

The afternoon session began with Bhagawan arriving in His chair at 3.45 pm. Moving to the interview room after a few minutes onstage, He emerged at 4.15 and moving to the verandah, distributed special clothes for the priests to wear for tomorrow’s function. Then He came onstage and sat for a while with the Vedam chanting going on. Swami called up two American brothers from among the students to chant Vedam onstage, then an Iranian boy from the Primary School. The programme of speeches commenced at five o’clock. The Yuddha Kandam was narrated with aplomb in Telugu by Sahasravadhani Garikipati Narasimha Rao garu till six o’clock, and with that the programme of speeches concluded. Bhajans were sung by the students as prasadam was distributed, till Swami accepted Arati at 6.15 and returned to His residence.

Pictures Of Prashanti Nilayam Rama Pattabhikema 2008

Lord Rama