Spiritual Symposium 2004

Spiritual Symposium 2004 Holland
Swami’s tour of Holland – July 19th – July 24th, 2004
by Lakshman

Monday July 19th 2004
It was Monday the 19th July 2004; this day Swami started his 4-day tour of Holland with four other devotees to accompany him from Bangalore. I was one of the blessed ones to be with Swami. I reported at the temple at 11.00 am. It was quite a sunny morning. I went straight inside but Swami as usual was busy as I had seen him from day one. My parents, my twin brother and my wife also had come to see us off at the airport. Swami (as a mother) made sure that all of us had our prasadam (meal) before we left.

Our reporting time at the airport was 1.00 pm for the 3.00 pm flight, but all of us reached the airport at 2.00 pm. Swami was given a VIP room at the airport, before we boarded the flight to Mumbai. All the devotees who had come to send us off along with Swami were present in the room. It was quite a divine experience for all of us, to travel with the God himself. What else can one wish and ask for!
The flight took off from Bangalore airport on time and we landed at the Mumbai airport around half past 4. We were welcomed by a shower of rain while landing. We were all welcomed by the Mumbai GKS group who had come to receive Swami at the airport. By around 5.10 pm we reached Mr. Pradeep’s residence where Swami arrived 10 minutes before us. Swami was given a very good and hearty welcome at his place as always, and all of us were also welcomed inside their home. The minute Swami stepped inside the house, the informal bhajans started and continued for about 20 minutes. After that we were all given 20 minutes to freshen up and report at the terrace at 6.00 pm for the official bhajans where more than 100 devotees had gathered already. The bhajans started on time and ended around 7.30 pm, and all of us just had time to have some prasadam. By around 8.15 pm we were on our way to the airport with 10 other devotees from Mumbai who had joined on the tour with Swami to Holland.

By 9.00 pm we reached the airport for the 12.20 am direct flight (Northwest-KLM) to Amsterdam. The airport authorities did their duty as customs officers, before we checked in our luggage, and we were in the airport lounge by 10.30 pm, after all the security checks. We were all ready with our boarding passes to board the flight. By 11.50 pm we boarded the flight as it took off on the scheduled time with all of us to Amsterdam on the spiritual tour of Holland with Swami, our Lord.

Tuesday July 20th 2004
Tuesday photos

The journey was for over 8 hours non-stop to Amsterdam. We landed at Amsterdam at 9.30 am (IST) and the local time was 6.00 am (Holland time) as the time difference with Mumbai is 3.5 hours. Carla, the wife of Kannaiah, was there at the doorstep of the aircraft and received Swami with a warm welcome. As soon as we reached the lounge of the airport, Swami was welcomed and greeted by over 100 devotees singing “GOPALA, GOPALA, DEVAKI NANDANA GOPALA”. Among the first to receive Swami was Kannaiah. Swami hugged him as his son and it was such a wonderful sight to watch, such is the love of our Divine Mother. The singing at the background went on and on. Swami glanced to everyone with his smile and accepted the warm loving welcome by all the devotees. Immediately all of us left to the respective cars as were allotted to us. The weather was very chill outside the airport, but was very similar to that of Bangalore’s weather. During the 45 minutes drive to Kannaiah’s residence from the airport, we had covered a distance of more than 60 kms. I would definitely like to mention that driving on those roads was a pleasure because the traffic road discipline was followed by the vehicles in sticking on to their own lanes at one speed. It was a very scenic atmosphere throughout the drive with herds of cows grazing on the lush green grass and wind mills were spinning in plenty. Most of the houses looked like as they were toys to play with, and it was really a remarkable sight to see. When we reached Kannaiah’s place there were 100’s of devotees waiting to receive Swami. All who had come from India joined in welcoming our Swami in front of the new temple.

The minute Swami arrived; everyone started singing “GOPALA, GOPALA, DEVAKI NANDANA GOPALA”. There were videographers, photographers and all the Holland devotees who had circled around Swami. It clearly shows how much Swami loves everyone and is also being loved. Soon after, Swami was interviewed by the local popular TV channel which was telecasted regularly almost every hour. Some of the newspapers also carried the news of the arrival of Swami in Holland. The temple was very unique of its own, as it was not like that of a Hindu Temple, as there are restrictions in these countries to build one of this kind. The temple was a huge one, with a big Sarva Dharma symbol on the main door. The chairs were arranged beautifully for the people to sit at the back and the place in the front for the musicians. There was a large Shiva lingam in the centre of the Dias (podium) and a big photo of Bhagawan Sathya Sai Baba on the left side and Bhagawan Gopal Baba on the right. It was a wonderful sight to see. All the credit goes to Kannaiah and all the wonderful Sai brothers and sisters of Holland. Swami walked in and went to almost each and every devotee and blessed them while we sang bhajans. All of us had a brunch by around 2 pm and rested for an hour or so due to jetlag. In the afternoon I was trying to fine tune my voice alone, but due to the sound of the Harmonium one by one everyone came to the living room and a small talk developed into a big deep discussion with our spiritual brother Dr. Kutar. It was really wonderful as we exchanged good vibrations for a short time. It was time for us to get ready and leave to Kannaiah’s parent’s place which is around 15 minutes drive from this place.

We left at the scheduled time for the bhajans. Everyone left early before Swami as we had to start the bhajans. The whole place was decorated so well and planned and the minute we landed there we were on our job and ready for the bhajans. The bhajans started on time and Swami entered the jam packed hall with his ever flowing love to all as usual. His Love is eternal not only in this physical form but also from inside the heart. He has captured everyone’s heart because of his Love. With Love one can achieve everything in life and vice versa. Swami mesmerized everyone with his smile and Love and everyone was glued to Swami no matter what ever he does. I didn’t realize that Swami was sitting in front of me on the ground level because whenever I sing, I close my eyes and get immersed with God. The moment I opened the eyes I saw our Swami in front of me enjoying every moment of overflowing love from the devotees. By this Swami clearly shows that he is not behind any Maya or materialistic things in this world. It is for us to see, feel, realize and follow the path of God that Swami has shown us. As Swami dwells in our hearts, we need to practice what he preaches and not just read spiritual books and sing the praise of God. Swami always tells us to have good sathsangs (to be in the company of the good) so that we learn good thoughts and can put them into practice. Dr. Kutar gave a small discourse after the bhajans and his message was very clear; that of Love. Love all, serve all, be good, see good, do good and Swami would be there to take care of us and guide us on the right path. We as humans keep wandering for new materialistic things which lead to unending pain in the end.

As we have Swami in our hearts, I think that we are all blessed souls to be associated with Swami’s work whatever it may be. It is due to our good past karma, that we are in the spiritual sathsangs. These sathsangs help us to realize our goal. There is no end to Swami’s leelas (playful miracles). Swami can guide us, but it is for us to follow the path of truth. It cannot be explained, it has to be experienced.
By the time the bhajans ended, it was around 10.45 pm, but at that time the sun was still shining in the sky. It was really a sight to watch the leelas of God through nature. Half the Indian devotees overstayed at a cottage nearby Kannaiah’s parents place and the other half came back to Kannaiah’s place. One more spiritual eventful day passed by with the blessings of Swami.

Wednesday July 21st 2004
Wednesday photos

Every life of the devotee begins with the vibration of Swami in their hearts and I am no different from others. As usual we had the morning bhajans in the mandir by both the Indian devotees and the dutch ones. As we were all in the league and being a part of the inauguration of the spiritual temple in Holland, we were all given the strength and zeal to do our duties by our beloved mother Gopal Ma, without whom it would have been really impossible for all of us. In our daily lives we think that we have achieved certain materialistic things and we feel that we did it all by ourselves, due to our ego we feel that. But later, after realizing God we come to know that it was God’s blessings that we were able to achieve it, without His grace nothing is possible in this world.

The Bhajans were arranged in Limburg (the South of Holland) around 270 kms away from Kannaiah’s place. Kannaiah had arranged a beautiful double-decker bus from his place to Limburg and it was a wonderful experience too because around 80 people were seated in the bus. Devotees from India were all seated in the first floor of the bus, and during the drive we were served with groundnuts, soft drinks, biscuits, chewing gum and many other refreshments throughout the journey. There was a TV-screen on which they were showing Swami’s last visit to Holland. Some of the devotees were singing Bhajans, some were tired and went to sleep and some were walking and talking to each other. It looked like a festival in short. It was nice to see that the GKS family had grown so big in terms of devotees and spirituality had spread far and wide.

We reached the place in less than 3 hours, the roads so clean and everyone following the road disciple, it was a wonderful sight to watch. The bus was driven at one speed throughout the journey. None of us felt any kind of tiredness during the pleasant drive. After reaching the place we were all led to the hall of in Heerlen in the province Limburg where the bhajans were supposed to be held. The place was decorated well and we were welcomed at the entrance of the hall by the devotees of Limburg. All our fellow brothers settled to do our jobs as we all got set to start the bhajans. As per the allotted time, we started the bhajans and Swami entered the hall and as usual he mesmerized all who were sitting there by his presence. At the end of the bhajans Swami gave a speech which was well translated in English and Dutch respectively for our beloved devotees. Soon after the bhajans, we were served prasadam by the devotees of Limburg at the hall itself. All of us left to Kannaiah’s place by the same bus. These are some of the experiences which can never be forgotten as it goes deep down into the memory lane while you travel with the divine Lord himself. One more day goes down with lots of memories to carry.

Thursday July 22nd 2004
Thursday photos

The much awaited day of the formal Inauguration and the prathistapan (founding by puja) of the Shiva lingam arrived. The day began at 4.00 am in the morning with all of us getting ready for the great occasion. By around 6.30 am we were there at the mandir and all of us witnessed a wonderful sight at the mandir. Swami was there and did the colourful Rangoli (an art form design) on the ground for more than an hour or so. He did it with so much of ease and we were all blessed to see such a sight. Soon afterwards Swami left the mandir and by around 10.30 am it was time for the prathistapan of the Shiva lingam. Swami arrived and he conducted the Ganapathi Homam (prayers to Lord Ganapathi – Ganesh) and was ready to start the puja for the prathistapan of the Shiva Lingam. I had a different role to perform on that day apart from that of singing bhajans, Swami asked me to assist him during the puja and prathistapan of the Shiva Lingam. During the puja, our dear brother Kannaiah started reciting the Rudram (the chants of Shiva) which is one of the most difficult mantras to chant. He did it with perfection and sincerity. During this time I was asked to take the kumbham (the vessel which contained holy water) to be touched by every devotee sitting there as the wishes of the devotee will be fulfilled because the same water will be used for Abhishekam on Lord Shiva lingam (statue of Shiva). Soon afterwards Swami did the Abhiskekam to the Shiva lingam with the same water from the kumbham with turmeric, kumkum, milk, vibhuthi and many other ingredients and he decorated the Lord with flowers, and pronounced the prathistapan of the Shiva lingam.

Swami’s speech was immediately interpreted in English and the local language too. From that moment the Temple immediately was filled with lots of vibrations. There were tears of happiness in many of the devotees as they thanked Swami through their eyes for this wonderful work he had done for them. This is what life is all about, we propose and God disposes. Swami at every point of time reminded us that we should not stick too deep into this materialistic life which leads us to unending pain. He also conducted the marriage of our sister, Sita’s daughter, on the same day in our presence. The married couple was seated at the feet of our Lord throughout the event. This is also one of Swami’s leelas. The evening was special as we witnessed our dear brothers and sisters of Holland singing bhajans which enthralled the audience with their devotion to Swami. We had a small talk by GKS devotees about their experiences in spirituality and how Swami transformed them into this. Throughout the tour, none of us slept for more than a couple of hours every day, but still we were able to perform our duties, and this is because of Swami’s blessings. All of us retired that day full of spiritual vibrations and went to sleep as we completed yet another eventful day.

Friday July 23rd 2004
Friday photos

The penultimate day of the tour was slightly different from all the other days as we had to go to Kannaiah’s parents place to reach a wonderful spot for spiritual sathsang. We had to travel by boat for more than an hour to reach that place. The journey started from behind Kannaiah’s parents house. We were singing bhajans and Swami was discussing many important matters with all of us and what can one ask for as we were all at the feet of Swami and travelling with him in the same boat. Two of Swami’s devotees from Holland drove the boat. Just before we landed on the side of the spot, we witnessed a rare sight again. All the devotees were standing on the edge of the canal and singing “GOPALA, GOPALA, DEVAKI NANDANA GOPALA”. Finally, we landed on the banks of the canal.

Swami already knew the spot where he had to sit. He went straight to that place and sat down. All the other devotees sat around him in circles. The place looked very lush green with grass and dark grey clouds above and water by the side. What else can anyone ask for a scenic beauty with Swami and his devotees in the centre? To me it just looked like Lord Krishna and his devotees sitting all around him. One by one everyone came near Swami and talked their heart out. Swami gave them the right suggestions to realize their soul. Suddenly there was a downpour of rain, but still no one got up from their seats. Everyone was waiting for Swami’s words in this regard. Swami just gazed the sky for a moment and the clouds cleared immediately. All of us witnessed this miracle of nature. We were all served with love the prasadam prepared by the Dutch devotees from Limburg. It was time for us to leave the place and go back to Kannaiah’s parents place, some of us by the same boat and others by car. What an experience it was for all of us! In the evening we had again a wonderful bhajan session which Swami concluded with a discourse.

That was the last eventful evening which we had in Holland and all these events will remain in our memories for the rest of our lives. Swami’s leelas are unnumerable; it cannot be explained but has to be experienced as I had mentioned earlier. We started packing our luggage to leave Holland the next day morning.

Saturday July 24th 2004

All the Indian devotees who were staying at Kannaiah’s and his parent’s place assembled at Kannaiah’s place by 6.00 am. I was given the task to count our luggage and number them. Immediately, we were asked to get into the assigned cars and were on our way to the airport. It was a 45 minutes drive. The minute we reached the airport, Swami was again welcomed by the devotees singing ’GOPALA, GOPALA, DEVAKI NANDANA GOPALA‘. Swami was circled by all the devotees, and Love was flowing from both ends. Tears of joy were flowing from the devotees. Swami went to almost each of them and gave his unending love and blessings to them and all of us left to get our boarding pass. Kannaiah and all the brothers and sisters of Holland did a wonderful job during the whole tour. Some of them were behind the scenes, we should not forget to mention them as they deserve more credit than be told. We were delayed at the airport for more than four hours due to a technical failure of the aircraft. All of us again got another opportunity to be with Swami and have a good sathsang.

Finally, we boarded the flight and were on our way to India. Swami blessed Carla (Kannaiah’s wife) who was with us the whole time trying to make our stay at the airport comfortable. Tears did not stop flowing from her eyes filled with love. During the flight Dara and myself were with Swami for more than an hour and discussions started from general to spirituality. Finally we were welcomed by rain when we landed in Bombay in the early morning hours. We were all welcomed and received by our GKS brothers in Bombay and were all driven to Mr. Pradeep’s residence. There was a short bhajan session arranged early in the morning at 6.00 am at their residence, soon after which all of us left to the airport and boarded the flight to Bangalore. All of us reached by around midday and Swami started his work soon after landing. This clearly shows that every one of us has come to this world with a mission, as he leads by example. These events go down the memory lane for the rest of our lives, as all of us experienced new things in spirituality as we travelled with our beloved mother Gopal Ma. There are certain things and events in our lives which cannot be explained, but have to be experienced and I guess I was one of the blessed ones to be with my Lord. What else can anyone wish for!