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Love and Light

National Orientation and Welcome Day 2012

As the sun rose, casting a warm pink and golden glow on the skies above, hundreds of Sai devotees were already eagerly making their way to Hatfield to attend the National Orientation and Welcome Day, hosted by Region 3. This was the first gathering of Office Bearers and Active Workers since the Maha Samadhi of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba; not surprisingly, there was a feeling of apprehension but excitement on the direction and vision that the SSSSO, UK was taking in 2012 and beyond. Around 300 delegates were present.

Sister Anila Modi was the compere for the morning session who welcomed the congregation.

Welcome address: Shitu Chudasama

Brother Shitu reflected on the events of 2011 which was a significant year with our beloved Swami leaving His physical tenure. The outpouring expressed by devotees in UK had no bounds. The UK Central Council (UKCC) responsible for managing the affairs of the SSSSO, UK rose to the needs of the devotees. With the support of the Sri Sathya Sai Charitable Trust (UK), a record 9 National events were organised which brought together thousands of devotees from throughout the UK to share and draw strength from each other. In addition, several events were held at regional and centre level.

He took the opportunity to introduce the new UK Central Council for 2012 detailed below:

National Chair Person – Dr Kiran Patel
National Vice Chair – Jamie Raju
National Secretary – Gayatree Bikoo
Region 1 Chair – Yoges Yogendran
Region 2 Chair – Bhadra Patel
Region 3 Chair – S. Yogananthan
Region 4 Chair – Ketan Gokani
Region 5 Chair – Kailash Venkat
Region 6 Chair – Nadia Eley
Region 7 Chair – Dr Kumi Pillay
Region 8 Chair – Dr Ram Bhaskar
National Wing Coordinator (Spiritual) - Dr Veeru Mudigonda
National Wing Coordinator (Youth) - Shyam Jamnadas
National Wing Coordinator (SSE) - Vidyulata Narayan
National Wing Coordinator (Service) - Mukund Patel
The outgoing UKCC members were thanked for their contributions:
Mel Griffin - (National Vice Chair)
Harish Thampy - (Region 5 Chair)
Nirmala Pisavadia - (Region 7 Chair)

He concluded by stating how the day’s gathering was a historical event. With Swami there was no coincidence, we all came together through the special bond of Swami. The opportunity to offer ourselves selflessly to Swami was a result of our good deeds in past lives. We now have the chance to learn and grow in this life and become closer to God. From this day we should walk together as one team.

Brother Shitu thanked everyone for their support before handing over to the new National Chairperson, Dr Kiran Patel.

Divine Vision and Mission: Dr Kiran Patel

Dr. Kiran Patel, an alumnus from the first cohort of Sai Students at the Brindavan College, former lecturer in Chemistry at the Sri Sathya Sai Institutes in both Brindavan and Prashanthi Nilayam and former National Secretary, started his inaugural speech by clarifying the significance of the Orientation Day. He said, ‘To orientate is to refocus our minds on our Master’. He introduced the theme of the year: ‘Illumination’. We started last year with the theme of ‘Re-Connect’ which reminded us of our heritage, the ideals and principles that Bhagawan had given. After Swami left His mortal coil, we all started to ‘reflect’ on our relationship with Swami and our role. Now we have had time to do this and have got answers to our query – thus the ‘year of illumination’.

With regard to leadership, we have to recognise that we are not the doers. Swami owns everything, He is the giver. Before becoming Leaders, we should be Pleaders – work with attitude of a Servant as Swami says.

What makes the SSSSO unique from any other service organisation?

Brother Kiran stated clearly that we are born at a time when God walked the planet, how fortunate we were to have known and experienced His Divinity! Only a handful of people have had this experience, and of those, only a handful has the opportunity to serve on this Mission. We are special because Swami has touched our hearts. Now that we have experienced his Divinity we have the chance to share our experiences and serve the community, and serve the God in every person. That is the essence of the Sai Organisation. This is what makes THIS Organisation unique. It is the SPIRIT with which we serve that is unique.

Importance of Centres

Dr John Hislop once indicated to Swami in his discussions that there were a number of problems that some of the centres in US were creating and that, these perhaps should be closed. Swami’s response was that Centres should never be closed. They were doing very good work!

Centres were created for our growth. How are Centres there for us to grow? This brought Brother Kiran’s speech onto the purpose of the SSSSO and the importance of each Centre. He started his explanation with examples of how Swami created kinship with humanity at a human level. Swami developed the youth through education provided at the Institutes of Higher Learning, His colleges and Schools so that they turned out as individuals of character and Self Confidence. He established hospitals which provided free healthcare, catering to those who couldn’t afford; and undertook socio-care projects such as the water project which benefited millions. Swami at a physical level felt and experienced kinship with fellow beings. Thus His Mission, ‘Brotherhood of Man’.

So what is the role of the Organisation in this Mission? To an ardent devotee in early 70’s, Swami clearly indicated that the Organisation didn’t have a role in His Mission. The purpose of the Organisation was for you, our development, Swami had pointed. So the centre provides us with a platform to spiritually grow, thereby to experience the Brotherhood of Man and Fatherhood of God.

Emphasis on Work

Swami has laid lot of importance to work. Indeed whole of His life was spent in serving Humanity. What is Swami’s work? Work that creates an impact upon us, as individuals, our spiritual growth and that which creates an impact upon the wider community.

To a student who had indicated to Swami that he would give up his life for Him, Swami lovingly said to him that he didn’t want him to die for Him but to Live for Him!

Another moving incident was narrated to remind us how swami had sacrificed His Life for Humanity: During the later years of Swami’s life, when Swami had stopped giving Darshan in the morning, Swami’s beloved personal caregiver, Sathyajit, prayed to Swami to come out and give Darshan to devotees who were eagerly waiting for Him. Swami responded to Sathyajit ‘Do you know how much work this body has done? I have gone from village to village. This body is now weak.’ To that, Sathyajit then breaks down praying to Swami to take rest and they will do the work!

He then recalled the message which Swami gave to the UKCC last year, ‘Start work immediately’ and to ‘WORK, WORK, WORK……..’.

Goals for 2012

1. Continue to serve Prashanthi Nilayam
This is the abode of our Master. Infact, it is our Spiritual Birth Place. Our Master’s body resides here.
• National Annual Pilgrimage
• Hospital rota under the guidance of the new National Healthcare Coordinating Committee (NHCCC)
• Service at the Chaitanya Jyoti Museum, canteens and all other services and places in Prashanthi Nilayam.

2. Establish a National Headquarter for the SSSSO, UK
A light house for the UK, it will represent our association with our Master, Sathya Sai Baba and His Mission. It should be a place where all can feel welcome, from all parts of society. A place where people can draw solace and strength.

3. Systems and Best Practices
We should further strengthen the SSSSO, UK and make it more effective to reflect Swami’s Glory who was perfection itself. Few areas for consideration but not limited to these:

• Review of Organisation Manual in collaboration with Prashanthi Council.
• Continue on-going work performed in areas of healthcare and socio-care, but with a cohesive and coordinated approach under the guidance of the new National Healthcare Coordinating Committee (NHCCC) and the National Socio-care Coordinating Committee (NSCCC).
• Office Bearers and their Awareness Programmes.

Who should be chosen as Office Bearers?
Swami’s quotation was read from ‘Guideline to Active Workers of Sri Sathya Sai Organisation’: ‘Choose men and women who have unshaken faith in this present Avatar, with this Name and this Form. That will save the units from many complications later on, arising from loyalties which may detract or deviate energies of the office-bearers. The leaders of these units lead, because they have the vision and yearning, not because they have the votes or the purse.’

Brother Kiran Patel ended his inaugural speech as National Chair with these inspiring words ‘Swami has touched our lives. We are not ordinary anymore. Let us join hands to further Swami’s Mission’.

Divine Love: Video and Life of Bhagawan Baba

Brother Saiganesh Ketheeswaran prepared a soul stirring compilation of famous images and rarely seen gems of Swami’s Incarnation to the much loved tune ‘Sai Naath Tere Hazaron Haath’. Modern day images glorifying Swami as God, were also shown to the emotive song ‘Tujhe Mein Rab Dikhta Hai’ (I see God in You).

Nation on it’s Wings

Each National Wing Coordinator came forward to present the vision for 2012 – Details provided later.

National SSE Wing (Vidyulata Narayan): Education is for Transformation. This year will be to silently transform our children by being innovative and meeting the challenges of the modern day scenarios that our children are faced with.

National Youth Wing (Shyam Jamnadas): The youth are the future of the Organisation and society. The aim is to unite youth across the UK to focus on making HIS life OUR message and to serve the wider community.

National Service Wing (Mukund Patel): This year will see a continuation with serving the community and environment. To have service training days, to develop Organisational structures for the smooth planning and execution of all service events, and to efficiently provide emergency relief during times of disaster.

Spiritual Wing (Veeru Rao): The aim is to enhance the spiritual ambiance at Centre level. The Centre is the spiritual hub for devotees, to elevate the human to the Divine, and to broaden our love by following the 9 point code of conduct. There will be a Study Circle Team, a Music Team and an Interfaith Committee at Regional and National Level. These will provide support to all at Centre level. The National Web Team and the National Youth Wing should be at the forefront of this initiative.

Echoes from the Regions

Photos and videos were shown which celebrated the wonderful, inspiring and meaningful events from across each region, as well as images from the 9 National events held. It was amazing to see how active, enthusiastic and innovative centres, regions and we as a nation have been, and continue to be.

Story of Inspiration from Region 3

Brother Anish from the Sathya Sai Centre of Milton Keynes spoke about the experience their Centre had to serve, but when Swami presented an opportunity, it involved the serving of food which was not considered to be Sathwic. This first challenge raised a question of ‘how should we serve?’ It was a lesson that our beliefs should not be an obstacle to serving, as the real meaning of serving is to realise the Divinity in others. This should be the higher vision and spirit we should hold when serving.

The second opportunity to serve was at the HM Prison, Woodhill. This presented the second challenge as there were criminals who were imprisoned for murder and sexual offenses, and this made it very difficult to serve with the vision that they were Divine beings. Swami was providing the opportunity to learn that service should be given without discrimination, and with the feeling of respect and love. Love all, Serve all.

The final activity involved the annual Akhand Bhajans, which enabled Sathya Sai Centres of Milton Keynes and Luton to work together with the community to create multi-faith relationships. Important personalities such as the Lord Mayor and others were invited and programme covered in the local radio. The whole venture successfully brought so many people together and enabled Swami’s message of Love to spread.

Story of Inspiration from Region 5

Brother Kailash Venkant from Newcastle upon Tyne centre, a small centre consisting of seven families, shared a wonderful experience with asylum seekers and refugees to whom the Sai Centre would serve food. However, the centre started to question relevance of this service and whether they could further stretch it. From serving food, the Sai Centre started to provide heaters, crockery and clothes; they also completely furnished four homes of those asylum seekers who had got permanent residency. Whilst providing this service, they always had the conviction that Swami was the giver and that they were simply sharing what Swami had provided.

Over time, a rapport and relationship was developed, especially with those people who had got residency. The Centre members started to give careers advice, help with job searching, developing CVs and giving help with interview preparation. Through these efforts, 18 people, who started in this country as asylum seekers, had now secured jobs, making themselves and their families self-sustaining.

The Lord Mayor asked Brother Kailash how this kind of service was different to what the local councils and Job Centre Plus provided. Brother Kailash very clearly said that those people that go to the Job Centre already have the willingness to work, they are already on their way to getting a job. However, large number of unemployed people tend to loose impetus and drive and Self-confidence which are essential to actively search for work.

Brother Kailash said to one person who had not worked for 8 years, ‘You can Love yourself more if you serve your community’. This stirred something within that person, and they have now got a permanent job after almost a decade of unemployment. To develop this energy and feeling is an internal activity; it is an inward journey of inspiration and that is what Swami provides. That is what makes a Sai Centre unique and special when comparing with other organisations.

He ended with the quotation to summarise how helping someone to change their attitude, thoughts and daily actions, can change their destiny:

Sow a thought, reap and action
Sow an action, reap a tendency
Sow a habit, reap a character
Sow a character, reap a destiny
You are verily the maker of your own destiny. You can do it and undo it.

Sai’s Trust: Dr. Upadhyay

Dr. Upadhyay, well known for his life changing medical camps, spoke about the Sri Sathya Sai Charitable Trust, UK and its work. He recalled that the Trust was the first one which Swami founded outside of India, in 1979. When asked by the Prashanthi Council what the objective of the Trust was, the then president of the Trust, Mr. Puri, replied, ‘Love’.

Dr Upadhyay assured everyone that the Trust is entrusted to spend funds wisely. It covers areas of Education, Medical, Disaster relief and others.

Dr. Upadhyay spoke about how we should serve, and gave an example of how the cow gives milk but does not drink milk. We should also have that spirit of selfless service. He also explained that leaders should have Self-confidence to make decisions and resolve problems. We should know that all the leaders are chosen Instruments, and that Swami is working though us.

Heart to Heart – Workshops on Self-development

Interactive workshops were conducted to give all office bearers and active workers the opportunity to reflect on shared experiences of challenges which we face and to identify tools to overcome these challenges and ensure success.

Scenarios were given to provoke thought and reflection on how we each act and behave as leaders and members of Swami’s Organisation.

The practical tool for transformational leadership is ‘WATCH’.
Words – Speak lovingly, honestly, and without malice or intention to hurt.
Actions – Act without attachment to the action or result. Act selflessly and with joy and love.
Thoughts – Peace of mind means absence of desires. Thoughts should be positive.
Character - Self‐discipline, selflessness, loyalty, readiness to accept responsibility, willingness to admit mistakes, willingness to sacrifice when needed, faith in God‐ these constitute Character.
Heart – Compassion, love and tolerance

Following the simple message of WATCH will promote internal reflection and self-analysis which will lead to spiritual and self-development.

The conclusion of the workshop was that, as leaders, we should each ensure that:
• Our intentions are pure
• Our actions are free from judgement and envy
• We act without a selfish or personal motive or desire
• We should always do what is for the best of all members of the Organisation and community.
• We should serve in our roles without the need of reward or recognition.
• We should empower others to take action, be involved and grow.
• We should always correct ourselves and be the change we want to see.

The afternoon session was compered by Pradeeb Srikanthan.

Sai Inspires - Panel Discussion

Q1. What should we do if there is no one to take on the role of Centre Chair (or any other role)?
Answer: There should be a shadow or a team of shadows who can work together to continue the role until someone permanent comes forward. Efforts should be made to ensure people are groomed for continuity.

Q2. Is it okay that we give our service to animals, not just humans?
Answer: Yes! Service should be given where there is a need. This is why we also do activities such as tree planting, which serves the environment. There is divinity in all of nature and all inanimate objects, so we should not discriminate, we should just serve. These are only means towards our own growth.

Q3. How can we involve youth at regional and national level and encourage them to lead?
Answer: Youth should always be given opportunities and encouraged to participate. They should be mentored and given guidance by other youth and elders. Youth should also participate with other wings of the Organisation.

Q4. Has the Institute of Sathya Sai Education (ISSE) Diploma been launched?
Answer: A diploma course is being developed, based on the guidelines and framework of the Sri Sathya Sai World Foundation and International Education Committee. Please visit the SSSSO UK website for more information on ISSE.

Q5. Will there be a study programme to work with the Sai Awareness Programme?
Answer: Yes, across the regions, Sathya Sai Speaks volumes 1-8 are being recorded to create an audio resource. This will be completed by February/March and will be an invaluable study material for all our centres, as it is our Lord’s Voice.

Q6. What is the right way to use idols/symbols in our Sai Centres? What is the approach to changing this?
Answer: We should first understand why we attend our Sai Centres. It is to reflect on Bhagawan’s message of Love. Love is what is most important. Idols and symbols are pointers to Divinity. We should think about their significance, meaning and what they symbolise. We should think about the Ideals and Messages that image, idols or symbols convey. At all times we should reflect on Swami’s message of universal Love which is the essence of everything we do.

Q7. What is the Organisation’s relationship with the Sri Sathya Sai School UK?
Answer: Our Organisation’s key objective is service. Our devotees tend to provide this to a plan. We provide other support to the School as requested.

Q8. If we celebrate religious festivals such as Christmas and Iftar (breaking of fast for Muslims) as National events, then can we celebrate the other religious festivals?

Answer: We will try and celebrate as many as we can, and learn from them. There will be constraints of time and cost which will be taken into consideration when organising National celebrations, but all are welcome to celebrate any festival at regional and centre levels since Saiand His Love are Universal. This will be supported and encouraged from the National Committee.

Across the Oceans – Video Conference with Dr. Narendranath Reddy, USA

Dr Narendranath Reddy is the Chairman of the Prashanthi Council, the administrative body of the Sri Sathya Sai International Organisation and serves as a Director in the Sri Sathya Sai World Foundation. He also serves as the President of the Sri Sathya Sai Society of America and the Chairman of the Sri sathya Sai International Medical Committee.

Dr Reddy gave words of guidance and wisdom on being Leaders in the Sai Organisation, and being devotees of Sai.

He said that Swami was preparing us for lifetimes to serve Him and do His work. When the ego reduces, His work begins. However, simply being a devotee alone, and getting a glimpse of His form (Darshan), His Divine Touch (Sparshan) and listening to His Words (Sambashan) was a rare gift given to us.

His gems of wisdom that he shared:
• A reminder, irrespective of our positions, we were still His devotees.
• Swami is still with us; this is amply demonstrated by his materialisations happening around the world, how He has been protecting His devotees etc.
• Should give attention to details and quality when undertaking Swami’s work.
• Greatest service is the realisation that we are Divine.
• How to pay our gratitude to Swami – follow His instructions.
• We should never let anything distract us from His Name or Form.
• We should not try to understand Swami, we should just be open to experience His love.
• We should know that Swami is our eternal companion and He is guiding us all of the time. We should have that faith and conviction.
• Ego and attachment are the greatest obstacles to leadership. Remember that everything belongs to God.

He recalled a story of a man who had received a ring from Swami which had three diamonds. One of the diamonds fell out and the man informed Swami. Swami reassured Him that there will be plenty of time to replace the diamond in the future. When Swami then left His body in April, the man realised that the ring would not be fixed now. Recently whilst sitting in the Sai Kulwant Hall in Prashanthi, he looked at his ring and found that the diamond had been replaced!

From this account we should know that Swami is very much still with us all. We should have that faith and conviction in God. Likewise, His work is very much continuing and all activities in Prashanthi are very much ongoing. People still come from far and wide to present programmes in Prashanthi.

He continued to urge us to serve the Sai School. He told how he was there next to Swami when Swami gave blessings for the Sai School in Leicester to go ahead, and that we should do everything we can to support the School. Swami said, ‘Wherever My glory is sung, I am there. Wherever My work is done, I am there’.

In keeping with the third objective of 2012, as presented by our National Chair, Dr. Reddy said that we should aim for perfection. Perfection is achieved by analysing and paying attention to every little action and thought and making sure that it is pure and with love. How can we perform every action with love? First, by having constant integrated awareness (CIA) of Sai; and second, by always finding our own faults only... that is love.

The day ended with songs dedicated to Swami, prepared by the youth, followed by Aarthi.

We departed with much energy and inspiration. Let the work begin!

Nishal Govindji
Region 5 Youth Coordinator