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Love and Light

Personal Account of the National Sai Retreat 2012

17th to 19th August 2012

After an absence of several years, the UK National Sai Retreat exploded onto the scene in 2012 and was held in Llandudno, North Wales, from 17th to 19th August. The “big bang” came from the fantastically high level of the organisation of the whole event, the location for the retreat, the chosen venues, the programmes timetabled, the catering, the sevadals, the facilitators, the singers and musicians, the delegates, and of course, the guest speakers.

This weekend "party" began around 11am on Friday 17th August, when a solitary car carrying three elders and me set off from Coventry, heading for North Wales. Great fun was had by all in this journey as we discussed topics based on spirituality, had a pit-stop/picnic at a service station, tried to remember where the car was parked as we returned from our respective comfort breaks and attempted to pronounce phonetically the names of the Welsh towns we passed! With God’s grace, we just managed to miss the mayhem that ensued on the M6 motorway.

On arrival, we were warmly received by the planning team and our hotel and room details were promptly provided. The “80s throwback” hotel and room allocated to some of our party members (situated away from the main venues) added to the ambience of being at the British seaside!

Once settled, we headed back to the main venue hotel for the evening programme. As per the summer showers refreshing us after a hot, scorching day, the talks given by the eminent guest speakers, Mr Vadgama and Professor Anil Kumar, calmed and cheered the attendees (some of whom had had protracted and arduous journeys due to problems on the M6) and united and injected us with Sai energy. The professor stated that spirituality, especially retreats, should be fun and blissful; I stuck to this prescription!

Detailed coverage of the retreat is available online (http://www.srisathyasai.org.uk/national-programmes/nationalretreat2012/) and, so, is not covered here. There were no highlights at this weekend, as all the programmes and the hospitality were of an exceptionally high standard and very enjoyable. There were two surprise events: the laksharchan spanning two days that was conducted by Mr Vadgama; and the talk on the Saturday evening by the professor of his experiences, prompted by ex-Sai students who were actually present when these events occurred.

I took away the following from this retreat:
• The existence of Chekka Bhajans! Beats Zumba workouts any day, as the former benefits the body, mind and soul (web search for this)!
• Food from Andhra Pradesh state (the Indian state affectionately referred to as "Andhra" by the professor) is very hot, spice-wise, especially the Andhra pickles!
• How to interact with people. Professor Anil Kumar stated from the outset that we should never consider him as a guest: that would have been the worst way of insulting him. He requested that we considered him as a family member. Mr Vadgama and the professor demonstrated how this may be put into practice throughout this retreat.
• Even though God is everywhere, it was reassuring to see that eminent people were also missing the physical portal that was Sri Sathya Sai Baba. This was especially evident during the moving speech given by the professor on the Sunday morning: there were hardly any dry eyes amongst the delegates.
• That we should not be serious. The professor quoted Swami: “The one who laughs is divine; the one who cries is human”. He continued that we are essentially spiritual and divine. Therefore we need to be happy and to smile. We should contain our problems within ourselves and share the joy with everybody (and not vice versa, which humans tend to do!).
• That religion is laughter, ecstasy and celebration; never serious.

As the professor beautifully put it, "King Kong cannot be satisfied with one idli – it is impossible!" The "King Kong" that is the UK Sai Organisation cannot be satisfied with this one national retreat for another several years: many of us are eagerly looking forward to more such retreats in the near future.

In the meantime, where can I get these Andhra pickles...?!

Geetha Krishnamoorthy