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Love and Light

Region 3 - August 2012 Update

I’ve recently become acquainted with some lovely Christian ladies who have been regularly attending our monthly craft sessions at the Lady of Lourdes Church in Wanstead, Essex. One afternoon recently, as we all sat knitting at one of the monthly gatherings, Sister Camillus, the most senior nun of the group asked me about Swami and His teachings. I searched in my bag and found a calendar card with a photograph of Swami’s Hands in the “namaskar” pose with the following words written underneath:

There is only one religion, the religion of Love;
There is only one language, the language of the Heart;
There is only one caste, the caste of Humanity;
There is only one law, the law of Karma;
There is only one God, He is Omnipresent.

Seizing the moment, I read the words out slowly and loudly to the little group of Christian Sisters that sat around the table and there was a moment’s silence as the profound meaning sunk in.

Sitting next to me was another Christian sister – Tara, a keen knitter and always full of joy and positivity. Feeling particularly bold in the wake of Swami’s magnificent, universal statement, I seized the moment and asked her where she had grown up. She told me that she had spent her childhood in Bangalore, India; her mother was a Christian, her father a Hindu. She had been brought up by her mother in the Christian faith as her mother had always taught her to pray the way she knew best, the way she understood, in a way that had the most meaning for her…as all prayers ultimately led to the same God. Feeling inspired by hearing this excellent advice, I ventured… “Oh, you must have heard about Bhagavan Sri Satya Sai Baba?”. “He has an ashram in Whitefield, Bangalore”. She told me she had heard of Him and almost visited the ashram once with some friends, but somehow the trip got cancelled at the last minute. She then told me how throughout her life, she had always gained immense strength and courage from praying to our Lady of Lourdes (the title given to the blessed Virgin Mary by Roman Catholics) and how she had always been sustained in her life by this.

I asked her to write down a few words to express what she felt by participating in the workshops. This is what she wrote:

How about joining me for tea on a Saturday afternoon…?

Coming together, meeting each other…just talking sometimes about nothing in particular…we work with beautiful colours – wool and material, needles and machines…many faces, various talents; sharing and learning from different creeds, customs and cultures.

Why do we do this and what does it give us in return? A great dividend of joy and happiness; a feeling of love and appreciation for others; developing a little concern for those who we don’t know, have never met. Yet we can imagine ourselves receiving a surprise present; such a feeling of happiness is experienced… and knowing that the happiness would be so much more when the gift is so desperately needed…

So where does God come into it? Well, we all learn that God is love and we would like to spread this message through our work.

I realised afterwards that it was probably not a coincidence that Swami had guided us to this Church to hold our monthly ladies gatherings; a Church whose patron was the symbol of perfect womanhood for millions of followers worldwide. As a child I had avidly watched the 1943 film “The Song of Bernadette” which recounts the tale of how visions of the Virgin Mary given to a young peasant girl…Bernadette Soubirous …resulted in the magnificent Lady of Lourdes Shrine that exists today.

I also recalled that just as Tara had been due to visit Swami all those years ago in Whitefield…and the trip had been cancelled at the last minute, I too had been due to visit Lourdes several years back… but the trip had been cancelled at the last minute. Perhaps now was the time to put that right and enquire when the Church was organising its next trip to Lourdes…

I know now that as our relationship with this Christian community grows, there will be many other opportunities to learn and grow and serve in God’s love. I am so grateful to Swami for having given us this opportunity. As ever, His Plan and His timing are perfection itself.

Sutopa Sen
R3 Ladies Co-ordinator