Self-Transformation through Devotional (Bhajan) Singing by Sailaja Sree Parasa
Realizing Self is the primary goal of human life. It is not an easy task in our world, unless God's name is constantly repeated within. Swami has taught that this repetition will act as a sword to cut the illusions that shroud our mind and show us the "Real I."
The first step on my journey was knowing about Swami as a child through my maternal aunt. Whenever we met over summer, she told me about her experiences with Swami. I understood that Swami was God and that He loved bhajans. Blessed with a fairly good voice my sister and I used to sing old devotional film songs. In 2001, we had Swami’s darshan in Puttaparthi and the very first feeling that came into my mind on seeing Swami was “He is so pure and peaceful.” I can write a math formula: Purity = Swami. He came to us with a smile and looked into our eyes, and took a letter from my sister.
I used to casually think “What was the use of learning music in my childhood? Life makes me super busy and stressful with work, kids and managing family.” My “monkey mind” was playing its role whenever I had the thought of singing. A point to be noted is that while singing to Swami at home kept me connected to the inner Sai, my mind reverted to illusion at other times. But when I started singing devotional songs (bhajans) weekly at the Sathya Sai Center of Fremont, CA, I felt very happy that I offered bhajans to Swami along with other brothers and sisters. I could stay in the thought of Swami for a long time.
The first transformation in my thought process occurred when I realized that whatever skill I have can become divine when it is offered to God. I began offering bhajans to Swami on every occasion, practicing bhajans at home in every spare moment, while cooking, doing chores etc. This brought me clarity on the previous question in my mind "What is the use of learning music?” The answer I got from within is "You are a bhajan singer." When I heard this answer, I told myself that “Yes! I’m a bhajan singer.” So, from that day onward I decided to sing only for Swami. Whatever bhajans I learn, I offer at His lotus feet with complete faith that He is listening to me. This thought gives me immense bliss and soul satisfaction, and Swami responds in kind.
During my next pooja, after hearing my sister sing karaoke songs, I asked Swami, “Is there bhajan karaoke?” Then I simply forgot about this thought. A week later, the Fremont Sai Center officers came across the bhajan karaokes available on Radio Sai. When the officers announced that we would be using this resource, I was thrilled!!! I immediately looked at Swami’s picture and thanked Him with immense gratitude.
Soon I was asked to help. I took the opportunity as Swami’s will and started coordinating weekly bhajan practice, regularly collaborating with our karaoke team of singers and the audio team to ensure we were on schedule for our weekly devotional offering. Throughout the entire collaboration I felt very joyful.
I strongly feel that constantly connecting with Swami is transforming me. No matter what I'm doing - working, doing chores, talking to kids - Swami induces in me the awareness that He is with me, watching my thoughts, words, and deeds. I offer them all to Him as prayer. If I'm angry due to situations at home managing kids, immediately He pulls me into a peaceful track in my thoughts. What grace, to never forget God. Jai Sairam!.
Please note: A media article (Click here), ‘Rethinking Devotional Singing: Bhajan Karaoke’ was published in October 2020.