God does not live in structures of stone or brick. He lives in soft hearts, warm with sympathy and fragrant with universal love.
CHINESE NEW YEAR (LUNAR YEAR)
Chinese New Year
"Today (5 February 1998), You celebrate the New Year of Lunar Year (calendar). The year is described as Samvatsara in Sanskrit. This term is also one of the names of God. Hence, the advent of the New Year should be hailed as the advent of the Divine. Without recognising this divine significance of the New Year, there is no purpose in celebrating it with lavish decorations and sumptuous feasts. It is not the feast that is important. It is the ideal that is to be pursued which is important." Sai Baba, SS, 2/98, p. 32
Origin of The Word "China"
"Today (13 February 1997) the Chinese are observing their National New Year Day here (Prasanthi Nilayam). What is the origin of the word China? It is derived from the two words 'Chung' and 'Kuo'. 'Chung' means the human heart. 'Kuo' refers to the country. The word 'China' therefore means that 'My heart is my country'. This concept is applicable to all countries and all religions. For instance, Bharata, it is derived from the two words 'Bhaa' meaning 'effulgence' and 'Rata' meaning 'to rejoice'. The heart is the source of effulgence. Bharatiya is one who rejoices in the effulgence emanating from the heart. Every man is attracted to the heart. God is not confined to any particular place. His real abode is heart." Sai Baba, SS, 3/97, p. 60
The Chinese Tradition
"The Chinese have esteemed the heart as their native land. The heart is subject to troubles and difficulties. From ancient times- and to some extent even today- the Chinese have observed one ritual every morning before beginning their day's chores. They declare, 'Difficulties are our friends. Let us invite them.' The Chinese have looked upon difficulties as their true friends. They have recognised that without trouble no good can be realised. They used to-start the day's work with this thought before them. The Chinese also realised that true happiness comes from the satisfaction of a task well done. In Bharat (India) also there is a dictum 'UddhrethAatmanaa-aatmaanam' (Raise the Self by the Self.') What is it that can raise the self? It is our own good conduct. Our good conduct is not for elevating the country, but for elevating ourselves. A whetstone is used for sharpening a knife, not for making the whetstone smoother. Likewise, in this world, your good conduct improves you and, as a result, the world." Sai Baba, SS, 3/97, p. 60
The Cult Of Hard Work
"There is a proverb in China: 'The most delicious food is that which is got by hard labour.' What is got by arduous effort is relished with joy. One who enjoys his food without having laboured for it is an idler. In China everyone works hard to earn his living. This cult of hard work should activate every human being. Unfortunately this is forgotten today." Sai Baba, SS, 3/97, p. 60
China And India
"In different countries, peoples of the world observe their respective festivals. Today (13 February 1997) is considered as the beginning of their New Year by the Chinese. There is no difference between Bharat and China with regard to the calendar. The Chinese have dates, which represent the apparent northward and southward movement of the sun (Uttarayana and Daakshinaayana). In Bharat, we have lunar and solar months. In China also, there is such a two-fold division. In Bharat, in some parts of the country, the beginning of Uttaraayana marks the commencement of the New Year. They base their calendar on the lunar cycle (Chandra-maasa). In China, they have a lunar and a solar year. In the Bharatiya view, there is an intimate connection between the moon and the mind and between the sun and the eye." Sai Baba, SS, 3/97, pp. 65 & 66
"From very ancient times, there have been close relations between China and Bharat. A short while ago, a speaker mentioned how in the Chinese pantheon, there were deities corresponding to the deities worshipped in Bharat like Lakshmi, Bhoodevi, Kubera and others.
Similarly a common saying currently in China regarding government regulations is applicable to the situation in Bharat. Comparing government regulations to a net, the Chinese used to say that very small fish escape through the holes in the net, while the very big break through it. Only the middle-sized fish get caught in it. In Bharat also, it is fact that the lowest among the people are unaffected by government regulations. The very rich and powerful drive a coach and force through them. It is only the middle class that suffers the most from these regulations." Sai Baba, SS, 3/97, p. 61
Gift For Sai Baba On Chinese New Year
"You have presented many things as 'gifts' to Bhagavan (Sai Sathya Baba). This Tiger Map' is one of them. That is not the gift I want. Hand over to me your 'tigerly qualities'. That is the gift I would like. The tiger is cruel animal. Rid yourself of all cruel feelings and offer them to Me. Lead the life of a useful, harmless, sacred cow. It gives nourishing milk in return for cheap grass." Sai Baba, SS, 2/98, p. 33
Sai Benediction On Chinese New Year
"Embodiments of Love! You have come here from long distances, undergoing many discomforts. Return with joy with the people in your places in an unselfish spirit. A life of selfless love will lead you to liberation." Sai Baba, SS, 2/98, p. 33
Advice To Devotees Gathered On The Chinese New Year
"Devotees have gathered here (Prasanthi Nilayam) from Malaysia, Singapore, Hongkong, Indonesia, Taiwan and Japan. You may have come with many problems and worries. Leave all of them here (Prasanthi Nilayam) and return to your places with your hearts filled with bliss. Leave all your bad thoughts and feelings and fill yourselves with peace and joy of Prasanthi Nilayam. Coming here with restless minds, you should not go back in the same state. Prasanthi (Supreme Peace) is very valuable for man. Today peace is not to be found anywhere in the world. Peace is to be found only here. Carry it with you. This is hallowed by the vibrations of numerous good devotees. Many noble souls have spent their lives here. Fill your hearts with their noble thoughts. Do not bother about what others say. Develop self-confidence and self-realisation through self-sacrifice. Ignore incidental troubles, which are like passing clouds. Think about God alone. There is nothing more vital than that. Try to acquire Divine Love. Love is God. Live in Love. The best way to love God is to love all, serve all. Foster love. Adhere to truth. Follow righteousness. Achieve peace. This is the special benediction of Swami on this day on all. Wherever you may go, speak softly and sweetly. Thereby you will earn the esteem of society. This is the most valuable reward you have to secure this New Year." Sai Baba. SS, 2/98, p. 33
Sai Baba's Message On The Chinese New Year
"Embodiment of love! There is no need to celebrate the New Year. Every second is the beginning of a New Year. People celebrate year after year New Year days, but there is no change in their lives. The body grows from year to year but life span is ebbing away at the same time. People should be concerned about this. Time is most precious. God is the Over-Lord of Time. Time wasted is life wasted. Never waste time, because lost time is beyond recall. Today you are celebrating the (Chinese) New Year instead of thinking about God, who presides over the passage of years. God is the basis of all that exists. Rely on God rather on things which are dependent on God." Sai Bab a, SS, 3/97, p. 68
"When people from every part of the world have gathered here (at Prasanthi Nilayam), to rejoice in a great celebration, they are being described as 'foreigners' and residents of Prasanthi Nilayam as natives. Who are the natives and who are foreigners? When this question is examined, it will be seen that wherever truth and righteousness are respected and practised, people there are to be deemed Bharatiyas. By merely taking birth in Bharat, people do not become Bharatiyas. Bharatiya culture proclaims the two virtues: Satyam vada (speak the truth); Dharmam chara (follow the righteousness). Whosoever practises these two principles is a Bharatiya." "The whole world is one vast mansion. It contains many rooms. Each country constitutes one room in this mansion. Hence, whole world should be considered as one home." Sai Baba, SS, 3/97, p. 65
Glimpses Of Chinese New Year Celebrations At Prasanthi Nilayam -1998
"Although the first day of the Lunar New Year began on 28 January, 1998, it was decided that the main celebration be held on the 9th day, February 5th, which is auspicious as it is the birthday of the Jade Emperor, who is also the Emperor of Heaven.
The bulk of the main Chinese devotees came from Singapore, Malaysia, Hongkong, Taiwan and Japan. There was a sprinkling of representatives from Australia, Indonesia and USA. The aim of the celebration was to heed the call of Bhagavan to follow one's tradition, religion and culture. Each participant wore a heart rosette as a badge for this celebration. The heart with a picture of Baba, served to remind the devotees that the greatest gift we could offer to Baba, was purified heart filled with love, compassion and unity.
Three days before the main celebration. Shed 24 and North Block 7 became hives of activity. The Hongkong devotees had brought 12,000 'hong bao', which was auspicious red paper envelopes, many eager hands helped to fill them with sweets to be given as Prasad. It was a delight to see the spirit of unity that prevailed among the devotees.
Chinese Bhajan practices began almost immediately upon arrival. On one occasion, Baba asked several of those at backstage if they had lunch. The delighted devotees just melted at this tiny example of Baba's love and chorused, 'Oh Baba, we're so happy'.
A troupe of lion dancers from Singapore had brought a new pair of shaggy northern lions for the occasion. Such new lions are considered to have no 'life' until their eyes were dotted. The team manager said that although the life span of the lions is 30 years, the pair dotted by Baba would be supremely precious and treasured for generations. All the troupe members were not devotees. But they too melted under the warmth of Baba's love. The instructor of the troupe became convinced that Baba was responsible for a miracle. He and his wife had remained childless during six years of marriage. But, once he made the initial agreement to perform voluntarily at Prasanthi Nilayam, his wife conceived shortly after. The troupe were later to melt even more as Baba showered His grace on them when He called them in for an interview the day after the Lunar New Year.
An early start to the Lunar New Year was made in Prasanthi Nilayam on February 4th. A beautiful Taoist altar on the Jade Emperor was erected on the field opposite to the North Indian Canteen and prayers were held from 8 to 9 at night.
After Darshan, many also made their way to the cultural exhibition organized by Singapore and Japan in the hall above the North Indian Canteen on the 4th and 6th of February. A traditional Chinese altar had been set up by the Malaysians just inside the entrance. This drew many fascinated people who had never seen one.
The Singapore exhibit depicted panels outlining in a time chart, Chinese history from 16th century B.C. to the present day. The exhibits showed the customs of the Lunar New Year and the popular deities worshipped by the Chinese people.
By the big day, the Sai Kulwant Mandap had been transformed into a fairyland. The great pillars were swathed in red; each was supporting two huge Chinese lanterns. Twenty giant banners, with Baba's most well known saying, like 'Love all, Serve All.' in both English and Chinese, were hung from floor standing lotus lamps lining the path facing the verandah. Above, draped and swooped into curving bows were two red banners measuring 132 feet each. On each was a message reading 'Swami! We love you.' In seven languages: English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Bahasa Indonesia, Telugu and Hindi. Peach blossoms being the seasonal flower for the Lunar New Year, two trees with silk flowers were placed next to Baba's chair, together with a pair of life-size cranes, which are considered auspicious symbols of longevity.
The morning of Lunar New Year started with Nagar-sankirtan at 5.30 a.m. All the devotees took part. It was a wonderful sight because nearly everyone was wearing a traditional dress. Many women wore beautiful red embroidered suits with high collars. The crisp air of Prasanthi Nilayam soon resounded with beautiful Bhajans sung in Sanskrit and Mandarin. Inside the Mandap, the devotees were allowed to sit in the front blocks, with Bhajan singers seated closest to the verandah.
When the lights in the Chinese lanterns were turned on, it drew gasps of delight from everyone because it cast such a special pink festive glow on the hall.
Then came the moment everyone in the hushed hall had been waiting for. With a magnificent flourish of Chinese drums and cymbals, two 'dotted' Northern Lions and a procession of dancers in towering red headdresses glided down the aisle preceding Bhagavan Baba arriving for the morning Darshan. It was a thrilling moment when Baba floated into the Mandap in his characteristic grace, wearing a broad, luminous smile. His love and grace had united so many for this occasion that all were thankful. When Baba reached the Verandah, He found a traditional Chinese altar set up the night before, behind His chair. Everyone was totally delighted when Baba lit the candle at the altar and launched the Lunar New Year celebration.
Sri V.K. Ravi, the Central Co-ordinator for the Sri Sathya Sai Organizations in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines and Brunei, thanked Bhagwan for allowing the devotees of the Far East to celebrate the Lunar New Year in the Prasanthi Nilayam once again. He said that 1998 is the year of the Tiger signifying Rajasic tendencies. It was a year of great uncertainties for the economies of the Far East. But, 1998 is also the Year of Peace. He pointed out that Indian and Chinese traditions are the ancient cultures of the continent. He concluded his speech with a pledge to Bhagavan that the devotees will try their best to follow Swami's teachings, especially 'Help Ever, Hurt Never.'
Lee Han Siang from Singapore, who spoke next, offered salutations to Bhagavan in Mandarin. Two Chinese families from Singapore and Hongkong knelt to give Baba traditional New Year respects. The Hongkong family offered sweets and a traditional book scroll signed by all devotees from Hongkong. The Singapore family offered a scroll in beautiful calligraphy carrying over a thousand signatures from the participants and devotees of the organizing countries. Another gift a tiger scroll from North Korea bought during a joint food Seva visit by Malaysia and Singapore to that famine-stricken country. Finally, Mr. Wee Lin, the chairman of the organizing committee for this year's celebration, presented Swami with the celebration's programme as well as copies of the Chinese translation of Sanathana Sarathi. Then followed a series of wonderful Chinese and Sanskrit Bhajans. Chinese melodies, dancers in fantastically huge headgear gave a short performance for Bhagavan. But it was the lion dancers that brought the most appreciative smiles from Baba. Like an indulgent parent. He patted their heads approvingly after their performance when they had been 'brought to life' through the dotting of their eyes. To the delight of the devotees assembled in the Mandap, He even opened their mouths wider to peep inside and Baba sprinkled Vibhuti over their heads. Bhagavan Baba then gave His Divine Discourse. As Baba left the Mandap, the Far East devotees burst into a rousing chorus of two traditional New Year songs. It was an uplifting finale to a wonderful morning.
The evening cultural programme in Pooma Chandra Auditorium began with the ceremony of dotting the eyes of two Southern Lions, and these were presented as a gift to Baba. This was followed by a short exquisite dance from Japan depicting spring, as the Lunar New Year, is also known as the Spring Festival. The main item was the play, which centred on one of Baba's favourite Bhajans, 'Bhajan Binna Sukkha, Shanti Nahi'. It depicted two modem Chinese friends, one who followed Baba's teachings and drew strength from his cultural traditions and another, who outwardly a successful businessman but adrift from his roots and deaf to spiritual values. Each faces a grave crisis and the play's message to Chinese devotees was to follow the teachings of Swami and to revive and respect one's cultural background and traditions, which are rich in values. Only then can one climb the inner mountains of life successfully. Baba had showered abundant grace on the Far East devotees. And, yet more grace flowed the next day, bringing tears of joy to many. In the morning, all cast and crewmembers of the drama team were given Pada-Namaskar. Then the word came: Baba would give Pada-Namaskar to everyone in the afternoon. It was such a wonderful gift from Mother Sai. Only that morning, Baba had called them into interview room. He gave diamond rings and gold chains to the bedazzled troupe. That afternoon, they pulled out all stops and gave the performance of their lives They soon had Baba laughing like a child. The Mandap, normally so hushed and silent, was rocked to the sound of uninhibited laughter at the antics of one particularly mischievous lion. Baba loved it. He laughed so broadly that His face turned pink.
With a last burst of cymbals, the lion troupe ended their performance and knelt in a flourish before Baba's chair. Baba pulled them into a tight ring around Him and to the sound of thunderous applause, waited for the photographer to take the group picture.
After the offer of Aarati to Bhagavan, the second Lunar New Year celebration at Prasanthi Nilayam came to a close, leaving pleasant memories in the minds of one and all." Editor, SS, 2/98, pp. 34-36
From the book - Festivals at Prasanthi Nilayama - An Exposition by Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba - Compiled and Edited by Suresh C Bhatnagar