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Region 3 - December 2012 Update

Let's Come Together… Unity of Faiths 2012 at Hatfield Sai Centre

"Let’s Come together" was a landmark event where Hatfield Sai Centre offered a platform for around 100 people from various practising faiths to share and experience the Divine through music and songs on Sunday the 14 October 2012.

How did the event come about?
The first small steps were taken in 2009 when a human values workshop was conducted for the local community by at the Hatfield Sai Centre. This community event was attended by various faith groups from the local area, who planted the seeds of working together to promote harmony and Unity. During question time, Cllr Tony Skottowe, from Welwyn & Hatfield district council asked a very pertinent question:

"How do different religions break barriers and come together to prevent different religions from disliking each other and using it as an excuse for destroying each other?” This engaging discussion from various members of local multi-faith forums, stressed the need to focus on the similarities and not the differences within our society: Unity in the diversity of all faiths.
"Let the different faiths exist, let them flourish, and let the glory of God be sung in all the languages and a variety of tunes. That should be the ideal. Respect the differences between the faiths and recognize them as valid as long as they do not extinguish the flame of unity." ~ Sathya Sai Baba

Over a period of time, a liaison person from Hatfield Sai Centre, began to form meaningful links with the Welwyn Hatfield Interfaith Group. Hatfield Sai Centre members were subsequently invited by this group to deliver a presentation on the “Teachings of Sathya Sai Baba and His Mission” on 11 September 2012. We presented Swami’s Message of Unity of Faiths, Love and selfless service, giving examples of Sai activities. This was well received, many questions were raised and our presentation opened up a unique opportunity for Hatfield Centre to work together with the Welwyn Interfaith Group.

Let’s come together: The event The event was planned jointly with the Welwyn Hatfield Interfaith Group, under the leadership of Mr Reynold Rosenberg, the Chair of this group, who liaised for many weeks prior to the event with Hatfield centre members.

The Sunday afternoon of 14 October 2012 came alive with people from various faiths full of joy and enthusiasm coming together at the Hatfield Centre. Dr. Daksha Trivedi was the presenter on behalf of Hatfield Sai Centre. She opened her welcome address, offering our salutations to the indweller in all of us and by highlighting that “ This day is a landmark event for our local area, where we have come together to experience the Divine through music and songs from various faiths. In every street of this world, people of different faiths live, therefore we are all neighbours. We have come together to light the lamp of understanding – we are not only lighting a lamp in our own homes and places of worship, but also spreading the light in others, our friends and neighbours. As spiritual aspirants, no matter what faith or tradition we come from, we pursue the path of Truth and Love, embracing non violence, and endeavour to live our lives righteously, serving those in need, for peace and harmony.

The Rosetta stone of two languages and three scripts changed everything, opening up vast possibilities of understanding ancient beliefs, customs and practices. Today we will experience the one language of the heart uniting all our various faiths – so Let’s come together…."

The afternoon became exuberant with live music and songs by the Welwyn Hatfield Faith groups, beginning with the spiritual rhythms of Africa, the Zimbabwe choir, (led by Upenyu Chioko) who danced and sang of their Christian faith and devotion in Shona language energising the whole congregation through a soul stirring experience in praise of the Lord.

Then followed the message of ‘Adon Olam’ in a metrical Hebrew hymn that summarised the understanding of God from the Jewish faith by the Welwyn Garden City Synagogue, Mr Reynold Rosenberg. This profound rendition gave us all a powerful reflective energy. Father Philip Knights gave a moving rendition in Latin celebrating the resurrection of Christ, through the ‘Exsultet’ an ancient hymn associated with the Easter Vigil in Catholic practice. The Focolare Movement, inspired by the gospel, share the aim of building a united world. Paul Gateshill provided a very befitting musical experience bringing us all together in One World. We then embraced the beauty of nature and God’s creation through the Digswell Village Church Choir, led by Rev. Nicholas Young, on "Look at the World" by John Rutter. Nature’s creation sometimes appears to be a secret garden but it really is open to all of us!

"The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there." ~George Bernard Shaw

Filling us with the vibrant chants that reached our consciousness, were the devotees from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness who inspired the congregation to join in the Hindu chanting of experiencing the Divine, led by Krishna Kishor dasa who conveyed the meaning and significance of Hare Rama, Hare Krishna.

Swami’s message was blissfully sung by Hatfield Sai devotees through Sai songs of Love, Peace and Unity of faiths. Daksha Trivedi expounded further on the teachings of Sai Baba, to ensure that our lives are governed by the principles of Truth, Right Conduct, Peace, Love and Non-violence, which depict the underlying unity of all these great faiths treating them as different sacred paths leading to the same goal: realising the inherent divinity within one's self.

Not surprisingly, the Zimbabwe group were brought back once again energising the congregation with more songs and dance, but this time they were joined by musicians from Hatfield as well as from other faith groups, united in a musical finale!

Our penultimate item was a Universal song sung by everyone from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical aspects of love "Love changes everything", reflecting Swami’s message of the ONE religion of Love for in that lies our togetherness.

The Bahá’í teachings emphasize that all of us, as creations of one God, are part of one human family. We concluded our programme with a universal prayer from the Bahai faith, presented by Mr Rosenberg from the Welwyn Hatfield interfaith Group.

"I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee. I testify, at this moment, to my powerlessness and to Thy might, to my poverty and to Thy wealth. There is none other God but Thee, the Help in Peril, the Self-subsisting."

The joy of togetherness filled the congregation and we thanked everyone who had brought this Oneness in everyway. The presenter conveyed that Helen Keller who had lost her sight and senses had said

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart."

Not only did we all come together in our hearts and minds but we experienced a powerful vision of future possibilities. We celebrated unity of faiths but also unity in diversity, celebrating difference, where everyone has something to bring from his or her faith and tradition. We sang in various languages – English, Hebrew, African, Latin, Sanskrit – through the One language of the heart! We brought a spirit of ONENESS, towards a unity of purpose, to love and to serve, and in doing so enrich our own spiritual journey. The day ended with a ‘meet and greet’ session sharing food, refreshments and Divine moments! It was a beautiful sight to behold.

What next?
The interfaith groups look forward to working with the Sai community. Hatfield Centre has been invited by the Focolare group to render Sai songs at their Centre of Unity in Welwyn Garden City on the 22nd November 2012. We continue to serve on the Welwyn Hatfield Interfaith Group and Swami’s Divine legacy of the Unity of Faiths continues to be realised through our actions, as we learn to recognise the Divine in all.

Dr Daksha Trivedi

Akhanda Bhajan 2012 - Milton Keynes

With the blessings of Swami, The Annual Akhanda Bhajan for Universal Peace was conducted in Milton Keynes on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th November 2012. This was hosted by the Sai Centres of Milton Keynes, Luton and Bedford. Simultaneously thousands of Sai Centres across the world also conducted the Akhanda Bhajan, as has been the practice over the years.

The peaceful surroundings of the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple near the Peace Pagoda at Willen Lake in Milton Keynes provided a wonderful serene setting for the event. The programme was held in the prayer hall of the Temple.

The event was publicized in the local newspapers and radio. The local radio station, BBC Three Counties Radio, also supported the event by inviting representatives to their studio to speak about the event, reporting on the Akhanda Bhajan in their News Bulletins, and conducting a live telephone interview on the Sunday morning. For the first time ever, the entire event was streamed on the internet, allowing devotees to join us all through the 24 hours, from different parts of the globe.

In addition to the Akhanda Bhajan programme, there was a lovely, informative exhibition, set up by the Youth Wing in an adjoining hall. The theme of the exhibition was the effects of music on the body and mind. There was a display, and individual CD players playing music from different religions that one could listen to…an innovative and interactive way to show the unity of religions from a musical standpoint.

The Exhibition put up by the Youth Wing – Milton Keynes Sai Centre

The Honourable Mayor of Milton Keynes attended the function and expressed her joy and appreciation of the concept and the organization of the event. Members of the Luton Council of Faiths also attended the event.

The programme began at 17.45 hours on 10 November with the chanting of the sacred Vedas. Bhajans by the Milton Keynes and Luton Sai Centres, which started at 18.00 hours, followed this. Thus began a melodious journey, which continued till the next evening at 18.00 hours. One after another, each religious group sang their tuneful prayers, sending warm, pure vibrations all around the area. The devotees from the Kiln Farm Gurdwara and the Christian group from ‘The Well’ in Milton Keynes lent a mixed cultural flair to the rest of the evening, exemplifying the multi-faith nature of the event. ‘Into Self’ and the Foster Hill Sai Centre took us through to the early hours of Sunday, where BaluBhai thrilled us with his bhajans.

Omkar Suprabhatham and Vedic chanting greeted the Sunday morning, followed by Buddhist prayers by Sister Maruta giving a peaceful and refreshing start to Sunday’s events. The rest of the morning was taken over by the younger generation – the youth team from Luton, the SSE children of Milton Keynes, and the Bal Ambika Bhajan Group who, with their melodious singing, showed their love and commitment towards the event.

There were prayers by the Hare Krishna Group, Islamic prayers, Jewish prayers, Baha’i prayers, and singing by the Quaker Community and St Mary’s Choir from Wavendon, all happening in a Buddhist Temple, reflecting the true spirit of brotherhood of humanity and the fatherhood of the one God.

The Youth Group from the Milton Keynes Sai Centre and the SSE children from Luton provided the perfect launch pad for the final hour of bhajans provided by the Milton Keynes and Luton Sai Centres, which lifted the spirits of all present to a thrilling crescendo, with Swami’s love embracing every heart and touching the soul. The event concluded with Aarthi at 18.05 hours.

Aarthi, by Mr. Richard King, a long-time Sai devotee of Milton Keynes. Here are some comments received during the event:

"We felt welcomed from the moment we walked in. The atmosphere was vibrant and we felt that all of us were one big family"

"We enjoyed the fact that all the people joined with us during our prayers, irrespective of their own religion"
"One can sense the mutual respect and the eagerness to unite with each other. Such events will drive social cohesion. We hope to have more of these events in other areas also, e.g.in Social Service, Education, etc".
By Dr. Kumar Subramanian

Akhanda Bhajan - Sri Sathya Sai Centre of Mill Hill

Sri Sathya Sai Centre of Mill Hill held Akhanda Bhajans from 6 PM on the 10th of Nov to 6 PM on the 11th of Nov. Bhajan groups from different parts of London participated in this event. Each Bhajan group was allotted a slot which they attended as per schedule and offered their devotional music to Swami. The groups who participated were Sri Sathya Sai Centre of Mill Hill, Hare Krishna Temple, Pinner Sai Centre, London East, Mila Group, Hendon Sai Group, Hatfield Sai Centre, Arkley Sai Centre, Wembley Sai Centre, Soda Group, Harrow Sai School, Alperton Sai Centre, Harrow East Sai Centre and Watford Group.

The Bhajans were enjoyed and appreciated by all who visited the Centre. They also admired the beautiful and captivating altar which created an ambience conducive for contemplation on Swami. Approximately 500 devotees must have visited the Sai Centre at various points of time during the 24-hour period. The programme concluded with a medley of songs in the last 30 minutes by Bhajan singers from Sri Sathya Sai Centre of Mill Hill, followed by Arati. Prasadam was prepared and served by volunteers during the entire course of the programme.

Traditionally, this event is also seen as an opportunity for devotees from different parts of London to meet one another in the Sai Family. One could feel the love of devotees for Swami and the spirit of brotherliness amongst members of the Sai Family.

We owe special thanks to all the organizers and volunteers for the smooth conduct of this event.

Krishna Subrahmanian

Akhanda Bhajan – at East London

Baba said "Akhanda Bhajans is unbroken Bliss - This day You have resolved to imbibe Divine Bliss by reciting the Glow of God in chorus with music continuously for twenty-four hours" - Sathya Sai Speaks - volume 13.

Region 3 East London Sai family celebrated the Global 24 hours Akhanda Bhajans with so much love, devotion and dedication with the Sai Centres joining hands to unite in BABA's Divine mission to spread Love and Peace throughout the whole world.

Two of the key highlights of the East London Akhanda Bhajans is the appearance of Vibhuti in Swami's altar and the elongation of Swami's garland. These two miracles in the early hours of Sunday filled the devotees with heavenly bliss, serenity and tranquillity.

This whole event would not have been made possible if it wasn't for all the devotees and many who worked relentlessly around the clock.

The program concluded with vibrant and spiritually uplifting devotional songs from devotees from the Sai centres in the region. It was a truly auspicious occasion whereby Beloved Bhagawan Baba blessed all the devotees with his divine miracle.

Ashok Panchabakesan

Serving Man, Serving God: Region 3 Ladies Day – Saturday 17th November 2012

The Lady of Lourdes Church in Wanstead and the ladies from Region 3 once again hosted the annual Ladies Day on Saturday 17th November. Despite the cold weather and their busy schedules, the ladies still got busy with their cultural offerings and culinary delights – to recognise this special day in the Sai Calendar and offer their eternal love and gratitude to our Swami.

The day started with a workshop on "Stress Management" techniques, with reference to ceiling on desires as a way to uncomplicate our daily living – thereby bringing peace and happiness to ourselves, our families and all those around us. This was followed by a practical session on Pranayam (breathing techniques) and how with a few simple exercises, we can all increase our energy levels to deal with the stresses and strains of daily life.
Following this, a delicious cooked lunch kept everyone satisfied and refreshed for the afternoon programme.

After a few rousing bhajans, there was a short presentation entitled LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARDS highlighting the small service projects completed this year by the Ladies and most importantly, what they had learnt about themselves whilst participating in these monthly workshops and how this activity had brought them closer to Swami and assisted in their own personal transformation. The presentation also confirmed that these workshops would continue into 2013 and samples of the finished garments were also displayed around the hall; significantly, the loving attention to detail in each case was apparent for all to appreciate.

Then, the guest speaker – Mrs Nadia Eley (Chairperson, Region 6) gave a delightful talk on her journey with Swami and how HE had lovingly trained her to embrace Sai work – right from her infancy, and as an SSE student. With colourful and practical examples, Mrs Eley kept the audience enthralled as she demonstrated the endless possibilities once you allow SAI into your life. Her touching account of how Swami had guided and guarded through every stage of her “journey”, indeed every single moment of her life – aptly illustrated the theme, SERVING MAN, SERVING GOD – and touched all our hearts.

The ladies of Walthamstow Sai Centre then presented a poetic drama entitled – SUNDARAKANDAM (Awakening Within) which was very entertaining and uplifting, followed by some heartfelt, devotional singing to our Beloved Swami by the ladies of Thurrock Sai Centre.

The afternoon programme concluded with the Vote of Thanks to our Beloved Swami ,the real “doer” in all things, the offering of an exquisite birthday cake to HIM, some rousing bhajans and Mangala Aarti. Swami’s presence was felt throughout the day and everyone left the Church feeling energised and uplifted.

Jai Sai Ram
Sutopa Sen
Region 3 Ladies Co-ordinator

"Service to man is Service to God" at Central London Sai Centre

The time has arrived when we all need to engage ourselves in selfless service.
Hands that serve are holier than lips that pray ~Baba

The Lord is pleased when we serve our fellow human beings; it brings people together and we are able to practice His message of Love in Action.

On 18th November 2012, which is the third Sunday of the month, 40 volunteers came together at Central London Sai Centre to participate in the monthly Narayan Seva, where guests, many of whom are homeless are provided with a hot lunch. November's Narayan Seva is of particular significance as it falls during the month of Swami's birthday. During this month, individuals alongside their lunch are also given a jacket, hat, socks and various different toiletries to support them during the winter months.

Love all men without distinction; know that mandkind is a single community (Baba).

There were two aims for the day; the first was to provide a cooked meal and the second was to distribute clothes and toiletries to our fellow beings.

On the previous evening, volunteers came to clean and set up the hall with chairs and tables. On the day itself, the hot drinks and food areas were set up in preparation to serve the lunch. In the smaller hall volunteers organised the clothes and toiletry items ready for distribution at designated work stations. The needs of our friends was paramount and great consideration was taken beforehand via feedback and a questionnaire to select items they really needed. The Centre was given the task of collecting the items in advance.

At 10am, a group meeting was held where a schedule for the day and the tasks left to do were discussed. The importance of serving peacefully and with love was emphasized.

Service is worship. Each act of service is a flower placed at the feet of God (Baba).

At 11am, the guests started arriving; they were provided with a drink of their choice and were seated. This gave them an opportunity to meet and chat with friends and volunteers. Each guest was treated just as if the Lord had walked through the door.

If you lift the hand to serve, to console, to encourage another man, you are lifting it for God, for God is in every man (Baba).

The atmosphere was wonderful, where many souls had gathered with lots of smiley faces. Our guests were really excited about the gifts, and were very much looking forward to receiving them.

At 12pm, a prayer was recited and then lunch was served. The guests remained seated and waited patiently while the volunteers lovingly prepared the plates with hot food, which consisted of rice, a few different curries, salad and a popadum. For dessert, they were all given a bowl of fruit salad. All food was served to them at their tables.

We ensured there was a relaxing atmosphere and encouraged individuals to take their time whilst eating. Once all were finished, we started calling out table numbers. Each table was numbered and a raffle system was used to ensure fairness and equality, so that individuals could to go into the smaller hall to receive their gifts.

135 bags were pre-packed which consisted of a hat, a pair socks and various toiletries. In addition we had a range of different jacket sizes, enough for all the guests. 135 bags were given out, 27 were given to women; which meant 108 were given to men.

It was wonderful to see the guest’s joyous smile when receiving the gifts.

Phil, one of the guests on the day, commented that a friend he had brought (for the first time) was so overwhelmed by the gift of love she received that she was close to tears. This is the power of God’s Love.

Love was given and received by both the guests and volunteers alike. Each person whether a volunteer or a guest left with the gift of Love; this is also the power of God's Love.

God always gives us the opportunities to serve our fellow human beings, and we must be ready to take up that opportunity. The loving volunteers came together and performed Swami’s message of Love All Serve All. Let us continue with this message of Love in Action and make our life His message.

Reshma Shah and Janki Joshi

Region 3 Swami’s Birthday Celebration – Sunday 25th November

Walking into the school at 7.30am on Sunday morning with the PA gear I had brought from the car, I stopped briefly to survey the hall. Active workers from Region 3 were congregated into small groups of two or three, some discussing the stage décor, others floor arrangement. We were against the clock as we had to vacate by 9:00am to make way for a regular church group. It’s an amazing example of Swami’s Love in Action (a presiding theme of the 80th Birthday) when ordinary people through their own journey of transformation and awareness, come together from different strands of the community, working together in adoration for Sathya Sai and in their own individual ways contributing their time and effort in Service to celebrate His Message.

Today’s Regional birthday programme was full of enchantment. The programme began with Vedic chanting followed by bhajan singing then a short but very moving video of Swami’s discourse followed by an introduction by Sam uncle, Region 3 Vice- Chair.

Walthamstow Sai Centre children then presented a drama about the Mughal Emperor Akbar and his courtier Birbal. The drama illustrated how Birbal demonstrated to the Emperor why God takes the form of an Avatar to rescue Humanity (in the story Birbal throws a doll overboard the Emperor’s boat purposely calling out that the prince had fallen into the sea. The Emperor immediately dives in after his ‘son’. Birbal used this example to explain the intensity of Love that God feels for man and why He chose to send no one other than Himself) Coupled with sound effects and an on-stage visual of waves, it was an excellent effort.

Mill Hill Sai Centre children followed with a fantastic recital of "Gananayakaya Ganadaivataya," which is a song praising Lord Ganesha and "Achyutam Keshavam," which is a song about Lord Krishna in a light classical style.

This was followed by a beautiful, heartfelt talk by brother Sri Devij Desai an ex-student of the Sathya Sai Institute of Higher learning narrating his experiences in the presence of Swami. Especially he narrated one incident that involved a young girl who had aspirations to join Swami’s primary school. Sri Devij explained that admission into the primary school was more difficult than admission into the university. This young girl did not possess the knowledge required to pass the admission entrance assessment, only her deep love for Swami and determination to succeed.

The School admissions team were confounded as to what questions they should ask and asked Swami how they could admit her when she did not possess any academic knowledge. Swami simply replied you accept her into our school based on her faith and love of Swami. Sri Devij then went on to explain that at the time of her admission to the school she could not speak English, but in one year she could speak fluently. Such was her example of determination and love for Swami.

We were then treated to excellent singing by members of Region 3 school choir who sang three songs and instrumental music on Veena by one of the students.

This was then followed by a bharatanatyam dance by two girls. Full of life and colourful vibrancy, their synchronised movements were sublime and seemingly effortless. Their performance greatly appreciated by the audience.

We were blessed with the presence of Dr & Mrs Sandweiss our guest speakers. They had the previous day attended the National Birthday function in Leicester and despite an arduous schedule had kindly agreed to attend our Regional function. The talk focused on transformation through the awareness and development of Love (see www.pathoftransformation.org). They presented their talk in an enjoyable way, each taking turns to lead the discussion. Dr Samuel Sandweiss would provide a deep and purposeful philosophical and often psychological interpretation of Swami’s teachings in a language that was easily accessible and inherently powerful, interwoven with narrative by Sharon Sandweiss which was full of emotional expression of the impact that Swami’s Teachings had on their family life, the upbringing of their children and their lifestyle. Dr Sandweiss provided numerous examples of how ego and individual will interrupts the flow of Divine Will and Swami’s patience to allow one to undergo that individual Karma. However, the most important illustration that stuck with me, was when Mrs Sandweiss spoke of how her husband decided one day that he wanted to journey to India to see this Holy Man Sai Baba. She explained that there was no internet or Google in those days and few individuals with first-hand experience. As a wife she had to act on faith and duty to her husband (one has to appreciate that they were a Jewish family based in the US) in supporting his wish to travel to this remote part of India to see Sathya Sai. Upon his return a month later, she found him overjoyed with his experience of Baba and talking endlessly of Swami’s Teachings. But it was the transformation of Dr Sandweiss’ character and his actions, more than the recollection of the teachings that convinced her that Swami was good and that His teachings were important and relevant to their family. They concluded their talk with a video of Swami.

A brief question and answer session followed by bhajan singing by the youth and cake cutting by the children. The programme concluded with Aarthi.

As we began to pack up at 7.30pm that evening, we all felt tired but jubilant. Lifting up the PA gear to take back to the car, I stopped briefly to look at the now empty hall, grateful for the efforts of all who attended, thankful of Swami’s presence through each and every one.

Jai Sai Ram
Ganesh Yoganathan