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Love and Light

Region 5 & 8 - Retreat: LET GO…. LET GOD

The day opened with sun shining brightly for our Regional Retreat in Lake District with Swami`s grace. This year, Region 8 joined us again for the retreat making it a joint family effort. It started on Friday, the 20 July evening with beautiful bhajans inviting Bhagawan to the Mandir, which was a marquee set outside in the lawns of the Youth Hostel where we stayed. Mr Kailash Venkat, Region 5 Chair welcomed devotees for the retreat. He spoke about how this is a family event and how that family is extending with Swami`s grace and love. He welcomed devotees who came from all over the Region 5, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, London, Leicester, Coventry and even from South Africa and the Netherlands.

This was followed by a quick introduction by Mr Sanjay Vaja on the theme of the retreat which was Let Go…Let God. He stated that the whole of Saturday will deal with the Let Go aspect and Sunday is devoted to Let God. He used musical bits by various international singers to talk about the Let Go and Let God aspect of the theme.

LET GO

"Inner purity is essential for God to come in. Purify your heart and make God your Hridayavaasi (indweller of heart). Get rid of the six inner enemies of the man which is inside you with Naamasmarana (recitation of the God`s name). Let go of your desires and the attachments thereof and you will realise that you are an embodiment of the Divine Himself."

Let Go of the six inner enemies (Aberdeen Workshop)

With Swami's Grace and Blessings the workshop achieved its objective of making the participants aware of the practical ways to "let go" of the six inner enemies: Kama (desire), Krodha (anger), Lobha (greed), Moha (attachment), Madha (pride) and Matsarya (envy). The interactive workshop comprised of an initial short presentation on the six inner enemies highlighting Swami's message on each of them. They were asked to join six pre-allocated groups and requested to prepare a short skit on each of the inner enemy. The skits presented by the groups generally followed the theme that demonstrated for the first half a scenario where the chosen inner enemy was taking over the person/situation resulting in difficulties and the second half whereby the inner enemy was overcome. All the participants presented interesting and humorous scenarios. There was a lot of enthusiasm and eager participation. Many useful and practical means to "let go" each of the six inner enemies were discussed. A brief summary of all the six skits was presented in the end to highlight important messages from each. The discussion clearly demonstrated the link between the six inner enemies and how desire formed the root of all of them. If desire which arose from the senses was not controlled and was satisfied would lead to Lobha, Moha and Madha. If such desires were not satisfied they can lead to Krodha and Matsarya.

Let Go the EGO (Isle of Man Workshop)

Ego is our “enemy number one” according to Bhagawan and this workshop had an active discussion about how we can surrender all our actions at the Lotus feet to let go of this Ego.
The skill of how we should love everyone but not to lose the sense of proportion led to some interesting thoughts in the Mandir.

“Cultivate love, not delusion. Love your wife and children and do your duty towards them as a husband and a father. But always hold on to the true values. Do not lose your sense of proportion.”

“He who is devoid of the 'I' and 'mine' tendencies, these are not mine,' 'this is I' and 'this is not I,' he alone can attain Prashaanthi (the Higher Peace)."

It was summarised with the thought that letting go of the Ego is an extremely important part of our spiritual sadhana which requires constant practise.

Maaya- Apparent Deluding Reality (Illusion) Isle of Man workshop

“The acronym MAN stands for Maaya, Aathma and Nirvaana. The teaching contained in this term MAN is firstly 'Get over Maaya', secondly 'see the Aathma', and thirdly 'Attain Nirvaana.' God is one's greatest and closest friend.”

The workshop talked about how we can get the Jnana, the wisdom and enlightenment to see the God behind the veil of Maaya. It was deviced beautifully on aspects: what is Maaya; what is the structure of Maaya and finally how can we see God who is behind this Maaya.

“Maaya is like a mirror. Ishwara, prakrithi and jeeva (the Almighty God, objective world and individualised self), all three are images of Paramaathman (Supreme soul) reflected in the
mirror of maaya and warped by the gunas (qualities) that tarnish the surface of the mirror. It is the mirror that pictures the One as many. But the One is ever One.”

The structure of Maaya and the two powerful Shaktis (energies) that make up Maaya (Avarana, the veiling power and Vikshepa, the projecting power) were explained. The difference between the two was explained with some daily life examples.

Finally it was summarized with the quote from Swami on how to control Maaya which is as follows;

“Scholars have described Maaya as a Narthaki (dancer). This Maaya is said to make every man dance. How is Maaya to be controlled? Read the word Narthaki in reverse and you have the answer Keerthana. This is proclaimed as the path of devotion.”

Nature Workshop (Bradford; Leeds and Halifax)

“There is no greater example of Selfless love than Nature.”

The nature workshop typically was designed as a bridging session between the two parts of the retreat theme Let Go –Let God and it also gave an opportunity to enjoy the extraordinary beauty of the Lake District landscape.

This interactive workshop commenced with the divine Madhurastakam video which beautifully set the tone. The workshop had 4 sessions and was interspersed with beautiful bhajans.

The devotees were divided into five smaller groups and each one was led by a facilitator.

1. Understanding Nature

“If the Creation itself is so beautiful… then what about the Creator Himself?

Devotees shared their thoughts on what nature means to each of them, how we are dependant on nature and how nature is a perfect example for True Surrender and Selfless Love.

"Prakruthi or Nature is the energy, and the controller of this energy is the Lord. Whether it is blessing or bereavement, joy or sorrow, gain or loss, it comes from Prakruthi. Nature presides over the destinies of all creatures. Prakruthi is the name for all the items that impress upon man the glory and the splendor of God. Her beauty is beyond all description, and her strength is enormous. However Prakruthi cannot survive without the company of Purusha, or God. Man himself is a product of the five elements of Nature (Panchabhutamulu) which are Earth, Fire, Water, Air and Space. These 5 elements are equally distributed in everyone and no one can truly be considered superior to any other."

2. Nature: Role in our sadhana

"Pure mind, pure thoughts and pure love can alone lead to surrender."

This session had a fun filled activity where a devotee who was blindfolded had to place a bindhi on Swami’s forehead with the help of their team mates who guided them to achieve the goal.

Other teams in the group distracted and misguided the blindfolded devotee from reaching the goal. This devotee had to filter out the “Noise” and concentrate, focus and have faith on the guiding “Voice”.

Devotees shared how the serenity and tranquility provided by nature enhances the concentration in our prayers. A devotee explained that the sound of birds chirping at the Ganesh mandir in Prashanti helped his mind travel several thousand miles each time. Swami has said that Nagara Sankeerthan helps to purify nature and create vibrations that would cleanse the minds. Bhajans were sung as a group in Nature to end this session.

3. Kalpavrikhsam (Wish fulfilling Divine tree)

“My task is to give everyone what they ask for, without any prejudice or favouritism. Can any fault be imputed to the Sun shining its rays? This world is a part of kalpa vriksha. If we
think evil, evil happens to us; when our thoughts and deeds are pure, the kalpa vriksha of the world will give us the good things desired by us. Both good and bad come from our hearts only; they never come from outside. That is why, at the outset, we have to make our hearts as pure as possible. Therefore in this way, for everything, the mind or our sankalpa, the desire, is the cause.”

Devotees shared their personal experiences of Swami being the doer and giver and how one has to have an open mind and heart filled with love to see our beloved Lord’s miracles that happens to each one of us in every step of our lives.

Devotees wished for a good quality to be granted and at the same time pledged to get rid of an evil quality. Good thoughts lead to good deeds and these in turn reduces the 6 inner enemies present within us.

Devotees set off for the nature walk to explore the serene elegance and beauty of Lake District singing bhajans all along the way and learning from Prakruthi how to overcome the vices present in Man.

Workshop came to an end with a wonderful presentation from the devotees sharing their thoughts on how Nature serves as a perfect example to let go of the vices present in us. Trees all through out their life keep giving flowers, fruits, leaves and bark without any complaints purely because of their love. They shed their dead parts according to the seasons and thus follow a discipline with sacrifice and detachment. Water constantly flows and with it carries all the filth and helps in purifying nature.

This was followed by Jyothi meditation where all devotees chanted the Omkara and allowed the mantra to flow from within only to experience peace, sense of balance and awareness of the beautiful surroundings.

Saturday evening culminated with beautiful bhajans and a fun- filled Bhajan Anthakshari conducted by the ex-Ananthapur sisters, Mrs Praveena Srikailash and Mrs Gayathri Nadella. The anthakshari, with 5 innovative rounds, left everyone wanting for more. There were smiles in every devotee`s face after the anthakshari.

LET GOD- Sunday

After the Suprabhatham and breakfast, we started with the second half of the topic on Faith and surrender (LET GOD).

Faith and Surrender- Mr Krishan Kaul- London

“Man has but the right to perform action; to ask for the fruits thereof he has none. God alone can dispense the fruits of man’s actions.”

Mr Kaul conducted an interactive workshop on Faith and Surrender. It was for almost an hour and a half but time literally flew. Mr Kaul involved the younger audience with a “question and answer” session to start with and analysed the intricate relations between belief, faith and surrender. Belief leads to faith which in turn leads to surrender.

He reiterated that faith is recognition that one is god. Faith is a deeply held belief which is expressed in thought, word and deed. Surrender is not losing power but on the contrary it is
regaining supremacy. One is surrendered completely when he or she is detached to the sense of doer-ship. It was a highly thought provoking session and Mr. Kaul left the devotees in awe
with his profound knowledge.

Guest speaker: Mr Charles Fowler, London

Nothing works better than having someone with devotion and experience to talk to the devotees in a retreat to summarize the theme. Henceforth, having a guest speaker who can do that is invaluable in a retreat. We had Mr Charles Fowler from London who was successful in connecting with the audience. He shared his experiences with Bhagawan and more importantly the lessons he learnt from them to substantiate on the best way to practise surrender. He took us through a journey of transformation within which he is still going through ever since he saw Swami in India. He focussed on how important it is to set a goal and work towards achieving it .The goal should be clear at the outset and as Sai devotees our goal is realisation of Sai. We need to have faith that Sai is Poorna-Avatar. By applying the knowledge, we need to change and make progress towards that goal. Without surrender there can be no liberation. Surrender is not inaction and it should be unconditional. Once we surrender to god, He himself will get everything for us. Mr Fowler shared how each time he felt the change for good within when he had success or failure in his business. He emphasised the power of Namasmarana and how it provided the strength and succour in difficult times. It was a well received and enjoyable session.

Our retreat ended with devotees leaving the Mandir with hearts filled with His love and mind filled with the knowledge of His message. Our love to Swami, who blessed us with such a beautiful retreat.

Retreat Planning Team

Devotee`s experience: Let Go... Let God I attended the R5 & 8 Sai Retreat in the Lake District this year with my family and we had an amazing time. God's grace, interesting and entertaining activities, with weather and scenery that only the Divine could provide. The planning team were inspirational from start to finish and brought everyone together like one big family. We felt welcomed and included in every sense. Bonding with everyone during activities while exploring the deep and thought provoking topics in each session. Reminding us to simply Let Go of all unnecessary worldly attachments that make us forget and Let God remind us of who we really and truly are. The beautiful bhajans transported us to the Sai Kulwant Hall, Prashanti and while uplifting our souls, were the perfect accompaniment to each day. We've brought back with us some lasting memories, friendships and learning what I guess we've known all along... Everything is Perfect and Divine in God's special way and if we only look inside we'll remember and feel Infinite Love and Grace every day.

With Love from Ms Mohini Patel (London)