It was the day of Buddha Poornima ten years ago. Sathya Sai Baba was then not in Prasanthi Nilayam or in Bangalore but in the tranquil hill station of Kodai Kanal – the serene spot amidst dark forests, tucked away in the Upper Palani Hills in the state of Tamil Nadu.
Baba being in Kodai Kanal in 2003 was of course nothing new as many a summer of the Divine had been spent in this green valley; right from 1986 Baba often came here with a group of students and elders to the delight of the inhabitants of this hilly little town.
But the 2003 Kodai Kanal experience was exceptional for reasons more than one. First, it was a most unexpected trip; generally Baba would visit Kodai Kanal in April and return by the first week of May or on rare occasions the week after. But that year Baba started His journey to Sai Shruti, His abode in Kodai Kanal, in the middle of May.
And second, it was an extremely short trip – just a week or so, while all Kodai visits were for at least a fortnight or so.
However, the most unique thing about this trip was that the celebration of Buddha Poornima happened that year in this most pristine and peaceful locale, that on one side has this beautiful lake covered with sparkling white lotuses, and on the other side huge, majestic silver oak trees as if always straight, firm and forward in their journey to greater heights, while in the third corner your eyes are filled with the kaleidoscopic beauty of a motley colour of blossoms – purple, magenta, maroon, yellow and so on, perhaps covering all hues of human emotions.
So it is in this lovely setting that the Lord decided to celebrate Buddha Poornima that year. And the most exquisite part of this festival that year that only a few privileged were fortunate to witness is this:
That morning as Baba was speaking to the boys inside Sai Shruti, He started elaborating on the pure nature of The Buddha, how He attained enlightenment and how He exemplified so many sterling virtues. Even as Baba was talking thus His palm suddenly moved in the air, caught that empty space, and immediately closed. And the next instant when the closed divine fist opened, all the boys could only gasp in awe!
What Baba was holding in His hand now was such a marvellously done miniature Buddha, red and resplendent.
Baba then asked, “Tell me, what is this made of?”
“Baba, plaster of Paris”
Baba dismissed all answers and then revealed, “This is made up of the Lumbini mud – the sacred soil where The Buddha was born.”
And then Baba went on to narrate the various austerities that Buddha engaged in, the rigorous spiritual disciplines that this holy one pursued on His path towards Nirvana (enlightenment), and as Baba was explaining thus at one point He paused and with a sudden firmness He said, “Anyone who contemplates on The Buddha, can attain Moksha (or liberation).”
Well, this is what happened a decade ago and Baba left us with something to ponder over for lifetimes. So who truly is The Buddha? And what is Moksha?
Baba in one discourse explained:
“Buddha is not a personal name. A Buddha is one who is spiritually enlightened, mentally awakened and who has realised the Supreme Truth. He is one who practises unity of thought, word and action. His heart is ever full of compassion and love. He is unaffected by the vicissitudes of life. Sakhyamuni, The Buddha, was a muni (sage) in the Sakya clan.”
And in the Buddha Poornima Discourse of 2000 Baba clearly clarified all doubts about liberation. He said:
“People have strange ideas about liberation, imagining that it involves going to heaven and having eternal existence there. That is not the meaning of liberation; it truly means achieving selfless love that is constant, unabating, and total. This is the state that one must seek to attain; it is only when this state is reached that one is truly liberated. In the name of liberation, seekers are trying out all sorts of spiritual paths. All such exercises can at best confer temporary satisfaction. The path of Pure Love alone can truly get you there and confer permanent Bliss.”
On every occasion of Buddha Poornima, Baba stressed on how this festival should be celebrated and what should be our focus as we gleefully participate in this festival.
In 2006 Baba said:
“The same divine principle of love is present in all of you. When you take to the path of love, you will become Buddha yourself.”