Praying to Lord Veera Hanuman and Lord Vinayaka who removes all obstacles. I expressed my desire many times over the years to observe the birthday festival in a simple manner. I wanted to use the money instead to donate to and feed the poor in their colonies. Devotees did not listen to my desire to celebrate the birthday simply. They would do Swamiji's bidding to donate food and clothes on the birthday, but would insist on celebrating the birthday. I kept quiet then. They would argue, "We are doing what You are asking us to; but we also want to do what we would like. How can we live happily if we do not celebrate our Guru’s birthday in the small way we do? Swamiji takes nothing; he eats nothing. You do not even partake in the feast. All the feast and decorations are for us" and would celebrate for their own satisfaction. So now, on the occasion of this 78th birthday, I am happy we are celebrating in a simple manner.
We spent nearly Rs. 1 crore and fed the hungry in every corner of Mysuru city. Through the Commissioner of Mysuru and through our volunteers and through the Ashram, we donated a lot of food. If you thought we did a lot of food donation, Hyderabad devotees did a lot more. They not only fed the poor, but also the police force on duty. Devotees in Andhra also donated clothes, uniforms and books for school children in various poor locations, in the name of Swamiji. Various organizations also donated liberally in the name of Pujya Swamiji for this birthday. On May 26th, charities were given all over the country as well as in the US. Swamiji too donated more than Rs. 7 lacs to US charities. There too, devotees spent about Rs. 1 crore. Devotees normally spend money to go see Swamiji during His birthday – they spend on travel, on offerings to Swamiji, on new clothes etc. But since they are unable to travel, many are now instead spending that money - however small or big it is - on the puja participation online. I spent all that Puja money to feed the poor.
We wanted to renovate and modernize the cottages in the Ashram. Although that did not happen yet, this food donation took place. No problem, the repairs can wait. We planned a few projects in the Ashram. Nada Mantapa was going to get some work done. There is some work in Shuka Vana too. Workers also could not travel due to the lockdown. So, all of that was left half done. We wanted to get everything ready for the birthday. As for cottage repairs, we demolished some of them for repair, but work had to be stalled midway. So, neither do we have the old cottages, nor the new ones. During this birthday, only a few Mysuru devotees are allowed to get Darshan in-person. It seems like more people may be able to visit during Guru Purnima, but we do not know what the government instructions will be. After the lockdown ended, the infections have soared. This is not good for India. Coronavirus may not kill, but it will cause us to suffer like we are going to die. The number of coronavirus deaths in India is relatively small, but it does cause a lot of suffering in the infected.
About 100 years ago, there was a pandemic like this. Humans normally get a cold or some minor ailment at least once a year, it is like overall servicing for the body just as we do for vehicles. This coronavirus has integrated with that system of minor ailments. It is very contagious, that is why we are asked to wear gloves and not touch anything outside. Do not eat out, you do not know where the virus is lurking. Carry food from home. I cannot explain in any more detail than this. The virus can live on fruits, in juices, in coffee, on the coffee cups etc. So, be very careful. The more you Datta devotees are careful, the more happily you live. Otherwise many of you will suffer and Swamiji will not able to do anything. You will need to get admitted to the hospital and suffer as if you are going to die, even though you may not. So do not touch anyone. You used to get offended earlier when asked to keep distance from Swamiji or when dissuaded from touching His feet. Now, you will not touch another even if you are given money to. You thought offering namaskaram in our traditional way instead of shaking hands was old fashioned. Shake hands now and people will run away. Do not invite relatives home. If they do visit, give them a hot water bath and dip them in buckets of sanitizer multiple times. Tell them they can only enter the house if they go through this process. That will discourage them from visiting you. Once we get past June, the infections will decline. We will be the reason for decline if we observe caution and do our duty. Do not sit in close contact with others, do not let one’s saliva touch another. Exercise an abundance of caution this month (June). Only Mysuru devotees have permission to come to the Ashram. Most of you are members of various committees – Ashram committee members, Gnana bodha sabha, Matru Mandali and other committees. Devotees from out of town have no permission to visit the Ashram. This is a very simple birthday festival. That is why I told you that I spent all the money to feed the poor, the daily wage workers and poor Brahmins. I am happy about that. Volunteers have helped a lot with packing food and other tasks. They are still continuing to help.
For 52 years, we have not had such a simple birthday. Believe it or not, when I was little, the Mani family used to celebrate my birthday in a grand manner. They used to address me as Sadhu Peyya (the saintly boy) and would feed hundreds of people for my birthday and donate clothes. They liked me a lot also because whenever I went to their restaurants to eat, they did great business that day. Even this, in fact, is not a simple birthday; only when I am alone in the Himalayas will it be considered simple. I want to be in the Himalayas for one year. Let me go for a few months, I will come back. Where can I leave you and go? I wanted to stay in the Ashram for three months at stretch, but that had not happened. There was always travel to some place nearby or some other Ashram in India, for atleast a day or night. Never before in my life, but now, has that been possible. I have been able to be in the Ashram for three months and I had a very simple birthday. So, now that my two wishes are fulfilled, coronavirus has to go, does it not?
Do not go out this month. Avoid going out to shops. Only go to shops you are very familiar with. Be very careful. Rather than go out to cinemas, you can watch movies on TV. This month is the peak for infections as people are all out and mingling. Do not touch other; wear a mask, have a bottle of sanitizer on you all the time. Do not touch strangers. Do not shake hands. Keep your mask on when talking to others. Do not eat at sweet shops. I saw on TV yesterday that a guy was putting his hand in his mouth and then stirring the food with that hand. The channel was repeatedly playing that clip as a caution to its audience.
A couple Datta devotees suspected infection when they seemed to test positive, but they later tested negative. Datta devotees listen to me, be careful. 3000-4000 people are watching Swamiji’s program on Facebook Live in the evenings. They are (following Swamiji’s words and are) all careful. There are nearly one hundred shares of that Facebook Live link daily as well. I keep repeating the words of caution to stay safe. For one month, on Dighvijay TV channel, I kept reminding people that they be careful. On Bhakti TV, I keep reminding and cautioning people to this day. Everyone listed to Swamiji. See how coronavirus has changed our life. Businesses and education have been impacted. Economic activity has been impacted. Our lifestyle has changed; we suspect infections around us, so we are careful.
Swamiji wrote in His life history decades ago that there will be big changes in the year 2020. Great souls never give all the details; Swamiji only mentioned it in passing and said the ancient sages’ tradition will return. Now, the ancient sages’ tradition is back. We are seeing it unfold in front of our eyes. People are offering namaskaram rather than shake hands. We are seeing other changes in lifestyle as well. We have more fear and greater compassion. There has been a drop in crime in the last two months; there may be isolated cases here and there of something minor. We used to hear of so many crimes including rape cases before. None of those happened in the last two months. The police was everywhere. The government has done very good work. So, we should all be very careful and stay home as much possible and only get out if absolutely necessary. When you are in the Ashram too, keep a distance from those around you. Once the program here is complete, leave. Do not stick around and mingle. Even if you have not seen some devotees in a while, do not socialize now. Just go back to your places as soon as possible. We really did Chaitanya Archana to Mysuru. We spent the entire money - nearly Rs. 1 crore on Mysuru only. We spent over Rs 1.1 crore during this period. Whatever we would otherwise spend on the birthday, we spent it all on feeding the poor. The 2000 volunteers in Hyderabad spent their personal funds and worked batch by batch in shifts to feed the poor and the police force. They would wake up at 4am and start their shifts in a systematic manner. They exercised caution and never got infected. The government even recognized them a few times for their efforts saying no one has served like they did. They were of the firm mind that all the expenses that were spared due to not traveling to Mysuru for this birthdayshould now be spent to help the needy.
I saw photos from Ashramas around the country – Chennai, Bengaluru, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh – and other places wherever devotees lived. All of them donated food. Devotees even donated in the Himalayas on the occasion of Swamiji’s birthday. I am very happy with your service. That is real birthday - where you serve others. I am seeing you during live Satsangs everyday. There are more than 3000 people watching via Facebook Live everyday. Facebook Live is like an everyday TV program now. Do not miss watching it. First of all, you get good Darshan and energy. How long can you watch movies? Your eyesight and your intellect will both suffer. Watch three movies at a stretch and you will need to make your way to a mental asylum. You will pour coffee in your eyes instead of in your mouth. You will have more fights at home since the scenes from the movies will still linger in your minds. Swamiji has been doing Satsangs on Facebook live for the last few months. Devotees got so used to this Darshan each evening, that if Swamiji did not give Darshan for a day or two, they would make so much noise about it. It got really easy to follow Swamiji on these live programs with their phones, even as they go about their day.
If you are careful one more month, we will be okay. The situation will cool off after August and we will be okay by Navaratri per my calculation. We keep touching people and contracting new diseases. I am telling you again and again, that this coronavirus has changed our lifestyle, even at home. There is a little fear underlying our lifestyle now. It is as if we lost some freedom. See how dear one's life is to him/her. Everyone has to die, no doubt, no one wants to die with so much suffering. The disease impacts the organs in the body – especially the heart and lungs. This is not the first time a pandemic has hit us. I was about three years old or so when the Plague hit. People dropped like flies. The second world war had just concluded. The Quit India movement was going on. There was scarcity of rice then, so my grandfather was taking some rice in a truck to distribute to the needy. I was also seated in that truck, in one of the bags. The British prohibited people from carrying rice. I remember when the British officer stuck his sword into the bag of rice I was hiding in, to test the contents of the bag. The sword just grazed me. I only have a faint recollection of that, since I was just three years old. So, I have seen such difficult times. I have seen diseases like leprosy as well that people were afraid of. But coronavirus is very contagious. Therefore, do not put your fingers in your eyes or nose or mouth. There was a study done to observe how many times people touch their face. They put cameras around individuals wearing masks. Each person, on an average, touched his face 24 times per minute. We need to tie down our hands. We keep putting our hand on our face all the time, itching, touching etc. We take out the goop from our eyes and ears and examine it before tossing it off and infecting someone else. That is why always wash hands. It is our hands that spread the germs. Protect yourself and your family for one more month. Datta devotees be very careful. There are hundreds of thousands of Datta devotees, but there are no infections among the group. All of them are watching Swamiji on Facebook Live and staying close to Swamiji. The Datta family in fact shared the word of caution with others. May this disease and other problems go away soon. May all be well.
I am reminding you again - do not come to Ashram till Guru Purnima. The gate will not be opened. We do not want the infection to spread to people that live here, I know you are not infected, but we should still observe care. I already said a long time back that Navaratri may be the time to visit again, but may be Guru Purnima will be okay. So stay safe when and avoid going to shops and cinemas. Since you all observe certain rituals including fasting, you may not have enough strength to resist the disease. Stay home and do not expose yourself to the infection. If you are careless and get infected, I cannot help when Corona punishes you. Therefore, minimize your travels. I am right here, am not going anywhere, I am seeing you live everyday. I am doing Mahabharatam discourses live every day. Watch the videos on YouTube. We will tell you before Guru Purnima when you can come to Ashram. Until then no permission to come to Ashram. I am reminding you repeatedly to not travel to Ashram.
Be careful. Do not come to Ashram.