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National Sathya Sai Orientation Conference 2013

'The Mission of Sathya Sai: How to serve ably as His Instruments'

This Conference is itself a sign of revival. You are allotted the task of bringing once again to the homes of the people the message of Aathmic strength and Aathmic unity. Transmuting 'man' into 'God' and experiencing that Aanandha (Bliss) is the one and only achievement for which life is to be devoted. The efforts you make in your own places are directed to bring this goal into the awareness of each person. Of course, there are in existence many organisations and societies engaged in distributing various cures for the 'spiritual' 'ills of their constituents, and therefore, a question may arise about the need for this additional institution. The need has arisen to emphasise the basic and essential discipline, which is practical and universal, as prescribed since ages for the revelation of the Divine in man.

Sathya Sai Speaks 7-18 (First All India Conference, Chennai, 1967)

On the crisp morning of February 9th, about 300 devotees of our dear Lord Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, who lovingly serve Him as officials and active workers in the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation in United Kingdom, assembled with great enthusiasm in Hatfield near London for the annual Orientation Conference. As devotees arrived, there was a palpable sense of joy and eagerness in the air that one naturally experiences when in the company of good and god-loving people. What was immediately evident also were the meticulous arrangements made so lovingly by humble volunteers, both the young and the not so young, from across the country.

Be it the smart Stage design, adorned by a bewitching picture of Bhagawan Baba in a red robe; or the hi-tech audio visual arrangement that included a video conferencing facility that delighted the delegates later in the day; or the Registration desk that so adroitly managed the challenging task of allocating delegates to the correct workshops; or the ever-giving catering team that always works indefatigably and serves everyone sumptuous and pure food with a smile, helping us sustain our bodies and propel our minds onwards in our spiritual journey. All these silent and happy volunteers, along with many others such as the workshop, web and music teams that we became aware of as the day unfolded, were indeed living and practical examples of the theme for our Orientation Conference: How to serve ably as His instruments in His Mission! Our Lord Sathya Sai orientates all of us thus: (SSS 7-18)

Duty is God. Do it and be content. The very first ideal you must keep in mind, when you start and run these organisations is: Do not crave for status or authority or position; do not allow any pomp, or show; do not compete for publicity or recognition or praise.

When an organisation is started it has to lay down for itself certain rules and regulations. But our rules are of a different nature altogether. Our rules emphasise that members must first practise what they stand for. Whatever you desire others to do, you must first put into daily practice sincerely and with steadfastness. You must do bhajan regularly and systematically, before you advise others about the efficacy of bhajans. When you want to be honoured by others, you must learn to honour them first.

After a few mellifluous and devotional bhajans helped calm the mind, our ebullient and dynamic programme anchor Dr Anila Modi introduced the day eloquently. She later invited on to the stage Mrs Gayatri Bikoo, National Secretary, UK Central Council (UKCC), who delivered the Welcome Address and introduced all the members of the UKCC for the year 2013 to the gathering, and thanked those who had served so selflessly in 2012.

Dr. Kiran Patel, National Chairperson of the UK Sathya Sai Service Organisation, then shared his thoughts on the Mission and Message of our Lord. He reflected on how the Universal Sai Message of ‘Aathmic Strength and Aathmic Unity’ is echoed in the Universal Sai Mission of establishing on earth ‘Fatherhood of God, Brotherhood of Man’, and how Bhagawan has made the realisation of such a lofty universal Truth, accessible and practical through His Divine Injunction exhorting us to ‘Love All, Serve All. Help Ever, Hurt Never’. He said that the Year 2013 will be observed in the UK Sai family as the ‘Year of Harmony’, and encouraged everyone to strive and achieve this state both internally and externally. Only when one is in harmony, or when one is in the company of a person who is established in harmonious living, does one experience ineffable peace and joy.

Brother Kiran also touched on the Conference theme and said that to serve as His Instruments, one needs to aim at ‘Perfection’ . He went on to share that during his days as a student at Baba’s College in Brindavan, Bhagawan defined ‘Perfection’ as ‘Dexterity in action’. Ability, availability, eagerness, understanding and humility are some of the key aspects to focus upon whilst offering ourselves to serve in the Divine Mission of Sathya Sai as instruments, he concluded.

Sai's philosophy does not lie in encouraging devotees to sit in a comer, control their breath and go on uttering, "Soham! Soham! Soham!"

"Oh, Sadhak! Arise! gird up your loins! Plunge into social service!" This is the Sai message. No room should be given for laziness and indifference. Controlling your senses you should take to social service. A life not dedicated to service is like a dark temple. It is the abode of evil spirits. Only the light of Seva can illumine the spiritual aspirant.

Therefore embark upon service to your fellow men without any expectation of reward. Do not waste your time in profitless talk. Of what avail is it to mouth expressions such as: the Lord is All-knowing, Omnipresent and Omnipotent? You clap your hands when these epithets are used, deriving pleasure from simply hearing them. How many act according to the word they speak? There must be harmony between what is-said and what is done. All spiritual exercises like japa and dhyana are efforts to control the mind and prepare it for the journey to the Divine. Knowing the way is not enough. The path must be traversed to reach the destination. That journey is service to the society. This service must be done with the awareness that the Divine dwells in every heart, in every individual and in every living thing.

SSS 18-22 (4th World Conference 17.11.85)

The Conference offered two interactive workshops where delegates could deliberate and deepen their understanding of the various practical aspects involved in the efficient discharge of one’s duty in the Sathya Sai Mission. In the month preceding the Conference, all registered delegates received pre-conference study material which included a compilation of Bhagawan Baba’s divine discourses delivered at all the 9 World Conferences, and the latest 2012 edition of the International Sai Organisation Guidelines.

The first workshop focused on the Guidelines and touched upon topics such as the importance of reflecting the universal nature of Sai teachings in our Centres, enthusiastic and prompt response to service opportunities that are presented to us from time to time, and the correct approach to the management of finances and funds. Amidst lively discussions, the importance of understanding the Guidelines in ‘letter and spirit’ for their effective implementation was impressed upon all the delegates. Whilst the Guidelines could be considered as the ‘letter’, the Divine Guidance given by Bhagawan in His Discourses and Writings, which are accessible freely to everyone, ought to be studied closely and contemplated upon deeply to understand and imbibe the ‘spirit’ behind these Guidelines.

‘His Instruments’, the second workshop , was conducted in the afternoon session. It began with delegates taking an Oath that was first administered by Bhagawan to the participants of the first All India Seva Conference in the year 1967. Subsequently, delegates reflected on the characteristics they felt were essential to being an ‘instrument’ in the Divine Hands. Principal amongst those identified were enthusiasm and commitment to serve, an attitude of humility and dedication, and skilfulness in action. These traits were then tested out in a practical way when participants were tasked with exercises relating to communication skills, planning skills and organizational skills that are demanded of us on a regular basis when discharging our duties. Participants left the workshop with an awareness that ‘perfection’ even in a seemingly small activity should be the aim, and sincere efforts should be made to develop the necessary skills to fulfil this aim, and then to offer all activity to Lord Sai in an attitude of humility and surrender.

Train the mind to dwell on the inner equipment rather than the outer attractions. Use the mind to cleanse the feelings, impulses, attitudes, tendencies and levels of consciousness. Let it not accumulate dirt from the outer world and deposit them within itself. If it is attached to work (Pravritthimaarga) the consequences of work get attached to it. Unattached work is the purest; it does not encumber the mind with elation or disappointment. 'I did it,' 'This is mine': these are the two fangs that make the individual poisonous. Pull out the fangs, the snake can be handled and played with as a pet. These organisations must be vigilant to see that egoism and the sense of personal possession, pride or achievement, do not invade them. That is the goal to be kept in view. (SSS 7-18)

National Coordinators of the 4 Wings gave a brief overview of their programmes for the year ahead. It was evident that the underlying purpose of all their various activities and determined efforts- be it for example conducting the Sai Smaran bhajans, Pilgrimage Sadhana days, various workshops on meditation, carols etc, audio recordings of English songs (bhajans), Sai iterature study days, and National Christmas celebrations by the Spiritual Wing; or the announcement of healthcare clinics and medical camps, sociocare activities such as homeless feeding, tree plantation etc, Skills development days and Global Service day by the Service Wing; or the announcement of a National Youth Conference, regional youth sathsangs, and a youth-led global service initiative ‘Serve the Planet’ by the Youth Wing; or the various efforts to inculcate in children a ‘Spirit of Oneness’ and Unity of faiths, organizing Family Values days, SSE Alumni forums, and celebrating the National Easwaramma Day by the SSE Wing- was to promote steadfast faith in God, internal and external harmony, peace and happiness in mind and spirit.

Your organisations must endeavour to promote faith in God. If that base is absent, worship, bhajan, puuja, good works---all become meaningless automatic ritual, done under social compulsion. Inner transformation, which is the fruit, can be acquired only when these are done with faith. Faith can grow only from the root of inquiry. Faith is made firmer by inquiry. You must encourage inquiry by the members whom you contact and welcome their efforts to gain first-hand experience. (SSS 7-18)

A heartening feature of the day’s programme was the SSE Awards Ceremony. Six children from across the nation- Miss Sai Lavenya Mithiran and Miss Luckshi Jegatheeswaran from Region 3, Miss Shivani Sood, Miss Sainie Varatharajan, and Miss Shaynikaa Suthakaran from Region 2, and Master Rishi Kumar from Region 4- who excelled in the 2012 diet of national examinations and projects were invited on stage and presented their certificates.

Miss Mithiran then addressed the gathering with great poise and insight, and spoke about the deep and positive impact that the SSE activities had on her. She said that they helped her develop an integrated, balanced approach to life in general, and especially in her academics and social interactions. She was followed by Mr Kapil Dev Prasher representing the Youth Wing, but who also is an SSE alumnus who now teaches SSE students. He mused on the various gifts of Grace he received from Bhagawan in his life, and the myriad ways in which he benefitted from participating in various activities conducted by the Sai Organisation, chief amongst them being the shaping of a strong character and a broad outlook. In his heartfelt speech, he wondered if one could ever repay in gratitude and concluded saying, ‘Ask not what the Organisation has done for you! Be humble and grateful, and ask yourself how you can contribute to it and serve with love!’

Two very ardent and longstanding devotees of Lord Sathya Sai, were then felicitated. Mr Balram Puri, the doyen of the Sri Sathya Sai Charitable Trust UK, retired recently after 35 years of tireless and selfless service in the Sai Mission as a Trustee. It was inspiring to hear him speak with such enthusiasm and vigour about the sacred opportunity he was blessed with by none other than Bhagawan Baba himself, when He sent word to him via Sri Indulal Shah in 1978, to start the Sathya Sai Trust in UK. Mr. Puri recounted fondly the various phases over the past four decades during which he witnessed the Sai Mission grow in scope and strength due mainly to the sheer Will and Grace of Bhagawan, but also due to the unstinted efforts of devotees and leaders in the Organisation around the country. Mr Puri also offered a set of two audio bhajan CDs at the Divine Feet, rendered by his late wife Mrs Damayanthi Puri.

Mr Dipak Fakey OBE, followed with another inspirational talk. He was recently awarded the honour of OBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for his services towards community cohesion through human values. Widely known to the Sai family in UK for many years for his humility, simplicity, infectious enthusiasm, and overwhelming dedication to teach Sathya Sai human values to all children, brother Dipak shared the success story of the Good Values Club in Abbey Primary School, Leicester. In a moving narrative, which included miraculous cures by Bhagawan of his various ailments including cancer, Brother Dipak in his trademark style attributed all his success to the Divine Will of Sai. He pledged to work with redoubled energy and enthusiasm, and exhorted all devotees to join hands and work in unity in the glorious Sai Mission.

Establish unity among yourselves first; do not seek faults in others or excellences in your own selves. The Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man - -have full faith in this and fill every act of yours with that reverence and love. Meet together once a week or once a fortnight or at least once a month; have some one to discourse to you, or engage in bhajan or study or dhyaana; experience the thrill of spiritual comradeship. Every member of the association must have some item of work allotted to him and he must be present whenever such meetings are held, unless of course it becomes physically difficult. (SSS 7-18)

A delightful surprise towards the end was the Concluding Address by Dr. Narendranath Reddy, Chairman of the Prasanthi Council via a live video link between the Conference Hall and his California home! Snowfall a fortnight earlier in London had caused this Conference to be rescheduled, and everyone felt at the time that we had missed a great opportunity to interact with our senior leaders, Dr Reddy and Mr Gary Belz, Chairman of the Sathya Sai World Foundation, both of who had specially flown into London to attend the conference. However, Dr Reddy’s warm and loving ‘videolink’ presence seemed to compensate to some extent the previously missed opportunity. The speech that he delivered drew together smoothly, the various streams of thoughts shared and discussed through the day, into a free flowing river of wisdom and experience. He reminded us of the four unique gifts in our possession- the gift of human birth, the spiritual urge to know God, the unique contact with our Divine Master and Lord of the Universe, and finally, the gift of a role to serve in His Divine Mission.

The purpose of the Organisation, he emphasized, is to realize our divine nature which is possible only through the path of unity and purity. He quoted Bhagawan’s dictum: ‘Unity is Divinity, Purity is Enlightenment’. The activities undertaken by the Wings of the Organisation are intended to facilitate for us this experience of unity, purity and divinity, he explained. He encouraged everyone to participate in various activities with humility, love and compassion; to achieve perfection by paying attention to detail and to consider all work as God’s Work: Done to God, by God and for God.

Dr Reddy ended his inspiring talk by listing the essential mandates for all devotees and members of the Sathya Sai Organisation. First, to have an unwavering and steadfast allegiance to our Lord Sathya Sai. Having seen the Highest, there isn’t a need for us to run from one teacher to another. Second, to dive deep into His Teachings. Third, although there are various spiritual topics and paths, such as Hatha Yoga etc, the best path is to practise Love. Fourth, to remain connected and visit regularly Prasanthi Nilayam, our spiritual birthplace. This is the arena where the Avatar of the Age chose to be born, deliver His Message, live His Life and remain in Mahasamadhi. Fifth, to be a part of the Divine Legacy bequeathed by Him to all of us devotees, namely the Organisation, the Educational Institutions, the Hospitals and the Water Projects. He exhorted everyone of us to participate in these sacred activities wholeheartedly.

As the day drew to a close, the National Vice-Chairperson, Mr Jamie Raju, delivered the Vote of thanks, and Arathi was offered in gratitude to Bhagawan. Delegates seemed to head home from the Conference venue with a spring in their step despite a long day! The energy generated and the inspiration gathered at the conference felt capable of carrying us all not just through the day, or the week, or even the month; but an entire year! One felt divinely charged and uplifted to return to our centres, regions and national projects and work with renewed vigour and enthusiasm, with unflinching focus and steady faith in Bhagawan than ever.

Ketan Gokani, Chairperson, Region 4, SSSSO UK
Dr. Amit Patel, SITA Team, National Service Wing
Dr. Veeru Mudigonda, National Spiritual Coordinator