Uttarayana is a quality of the nayana (the eye); it is matter of attitude, a point of view. It is not an ayana (solstice point). When your sight is on Brahman, it is Uttarayana (northward); when it is on the objective world, it is Dakshinayana (southward). When you have developed excellent quality, every day is Uttarayana whatever the almanac may say. When you have a fever, the tongue will be bitter; when you are healthy, you know all tastes. The bitter tongue is the Dakshinayana, the sweet tongue is the Uttarayana. To associate this with the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn is just a convention.

Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 2 Ch. 29, January 14, 1962

The summer solstice day in the Northern Hemisphere (Makara Sankranthi) is celebrated each year on 14/15 January as an auspicious festival all over India. The northward journey of the sun on this day is called Uttarayana. Although there are rituals observed on this day, Sathya Sai Baba urges us to be fully concerned with the inward journey. He reminds us that with every sunrise our own physical life journey is nearing its end. He says that in a heart which is pure and steady, the sun of intellect enters. One’s northward journey means to turn the intellect inward, towards the heart. This journey is called the quest for liberation.

The astronomical Uttarayana comes to you whether you strive for it or not; it is part of the law of nature. But for the real Uttarayana, you must make efforts, tremendous efforts. Know that there are only two entities: the substance and the shadow, (or, rather, only One and its appearance, produced by ignorance), the atma and the anatma, the seer and the seen, the rope and the snake. When this knowledge becomes part of the mental make-up, it liberates you from delusion, and you see Kailas (Siva’s mountain abode) at the end of the northward journey. Like Kailas, that stage is all light, all white. The path is straight and hard but the goal is glorious; it is nothing less than Illumination. It is when people forget this goal that the Avatar comes to save them.

Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 2 Ch. 29, January 14, 1962

As with all festivals. Sathya Sai Baba reminds us that the outer rituals carried out on this day have an inner significance. On the Sankranthi day, every home is swept clean and auspicious designs are drawn on the floor with flour. In the middle of the design, a lump of cow dung is placed with a big yellow flower. Swami says that cow dung symbolises the cow, the "Go" which Gopala feeds and fends. "Go" also means individual souls. The inner meaning behind drawing of the designs is that the individual beings are under the loving care of God.

On this day, people traditionally prepare a special dish, called pongal, which is made of sweet rice cooked in milk. This is considered sathwic (pure) food, which promotes pure thoughts and humility. What we take in through our senses, through our thirst for variegated experiences of the objective world, is all considered food. Swami says that every particle of this intake has to be sathwic, so that one's progress towards Self-realisation is quick and fruitful.

This is a reminder for all of us to focus on our inner journey as we prepare and enjoy the food traditionally consumed for Makara Sankranthi. Let us celebrate the fact that the Avatar has come to connect us with the ultimate reason for taking human birth and to recommit to our quest for liberation.

The Avatar comes when there is yet a remnant of good men, yet a trace of righteousness (dharma), for what is the use of a doctor when the patient has collapsed? When a large number of good men are afflicted with the fear for the survival of goodness, the Lord incarnates to feed their drooping spirits and revive faith and courage. “Parithranaaya Sadhoonaam” in the Gita does not mean the “protection of wise aspirants or ascetics;” it means the “protection of all who have good (sadhu) virtues;” Good virtues might be found even in animals and insects and worms. The Lord will guard and guide even such. He comes to promote dharma, and virtue is the foundation of dharma.

Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 2 Ch. 29, January 14, 1962

Let us use this occasion of the summer solstice to fix our vision on God and to see every sunrise as a reminder of the blessing of this life and its opportunity for goodness each day.

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