53rd Anniversary Celebrations of Vata Vriksha

The Lord Who wrote a Divine Treatise on the Meditation, titled Dhyana Vahini, with His Divine Fore vision had planted a small sapling on the idyllic hillock, at the eastern side of Prasanthi Mandir, five decades ago, precisely on 29th June 1959. Bhagawan then declared, that Yogis who have reached a certain stage of spiritual progress will automatically come to know of this tree and the mystic plate of inscription, materialized by Him on the Chitravati banks, and they will be drawn by the mysterious force of these toward the meditation grove which will then fully justify its name!

This epochal Meditation Tree turned 53 today.

Commemorating the occasion, a function was held atop the Hill, in the Meditation Grove this morning, attended by Senior Trust Members, officials, a group of students and devotees.

The tiny sapling that earned the mystic touch of the Ultimate Lord has grown gigantically over the past five decades, with its aerial roots, boughs and branches, descending and touching the ground, spreading the area around, standing majestically conferring subtle blessings to earnest seekers of spiritual ascension. Over the years, this Meditation Grove or the Penance Grove, as is referred elsewhere, has been the ‘Solitude Spot’ for many a sincere seeker.

This morning, with the special ritualistic offering commenced and continued close to 0930 hrs., a steady stream of devotees arrived post Bhajans and Mangala Arathi in the Mandir, comfortably occupying slots at various vantage points upon the hill behind the grove and the area around, watching the proceedings.

After the special ‘Vriksha Puja’ even as Veda chanting by the officiating priest continued, students chanted Sai Ashtotharam that was followed by Arathi to the Tree. Three Bhajans followed, that began specially invoking Bhagawan with the particular Ashtothara Namavali referring Him to ‘Vatavriksha Pratishtapaka’, One Who planted the Meditation Tree. The programme culminated with Mangala Arathi at 10:30 hrs. Prasadam was distributed to the entire assembly.

As part of the developmental plan, the first phase of facelift of this grove has been completed. Fenced around with lighting poles, the grove now has a tiled circular space around where devotees can sit and meditate, at ease.  Tiled steps have been laid, leading to the grove from the road, and facilitating wheel-chaired as well aged devotees, a tiled ramp has also been provided leading to the grove.

Prof. N. Kasturi in His book of commentary on ‘Sri Sathya Sai Ashtotharam’ writes thus on the great significance of the Vata Vriksha:

One Vaisakha Purnima day, years ago, Baba was on the sands of the River Chitravathi in the evening, with about a hundred Bhaktas. The talk inevitably moved towards Buddha whose birth, illumination and release happened on that day of the year. While speaking on the Bodhi Tree at Gaya to which Buddha proceeded for Thapas, someone asked, “why did he go so far and select that tree?” And Baba replied giving an account of mystic yanthras over which such trees grow, yanthras which keep out evil forces and stimulate spiritual impulses and help concentration. Even while He was describing these yanthras, He created from the sands a shining copper plate on which was drawn in squares the mystic symbols and numbers of which He spoke.

He said that He would be depositing it in the Thapovana, (on the hills behind Prasanthi Nilayam) and plant a Vata Vriksha (Ficus Bengalensis) thereon. “It will act as the yanthra which I am describing. Yogis wherever they are, when they reach a certain stage of sadhana, will know of this congenial spot and hurry hither, to be benefited by this mystic potency’, He said. Baba is therefore indicated by this name – He Who is the Prathishtapaka (person who planted firmly) the Vata Vriksha (the banyan tree of Dakshinamurthy – Siva as the teacher) as an Anugraha  (boon) to the Sadhakas. In the Raghavashtaka, the Lord is described as Sadhakamaarga Kalpatharu, “the wish-fulfilling tree f all Sadhakas”. Baba is the same Raghava or Rama and so, He is again fulfilling the wish of Sadhakas, for a sanctified spot from where they can easily attain their goal.

The Vata Vriksha in Prasanthi Niayam is a symbol of spiritual austerity…sign of supreme tranquility…and is the path to spiritual ascension, as ‘it’ has earned the supreme benediction, having empowered by the Lord Of All Lords, to confer subtle blessings to seekers of higher spiritual realms.

Rightly, the 97th Name in the Sri Sathya Sai Ashtotharam is referred to this attribute of Bhagawan, Aum Sri Sadhakanugraha Vata Vriksha Pratishtapakaya Namah:

II Samasta Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu II