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Region 5 - Breath of Sai: Region 5 & 8 Retreat

The Region 5 & 8 summer retreat took place in the most picturesque setting of Langdale in Ambleside, Lake district. Devotees from both regions joined together to glorify the Lord including Aberdeen, Newcastle, Oldham, Bolton, Manchester, Whitefield, Halifax, Leeds, Bradford, Warrington, and Cheshire. We also had devotees from Coventry, Leicester, and London.

It was fantastic for us not only to breathe the fresh air but also experience the ‘Breath of Sai’. What is ‘breath of Sai’? How is it relevant to us and our lives? Swami says “Truth is My Breath. Truth is My nature, My Mission, My Message.”

We concentrated on three aspects this weekend- a) Understanding Sathya;
b) Experiencing Sathya and c) how to Be Aware and Alert on the path towards Sathya.

To help break this large topic into manageable chunks, we had split the theme into three sections: SATHYA, SAI and BABA. Sathya is Truth and the workshop was for Understanding this Truth. SAI stands for Service, Adoration and Illumination. This workshop is for experiencing and realising this Sathya within us. And BABA stands for Be Aware Be Alert, which relates to how we can practice this in our daily lives.

Key Message

“In fact, you must each one try to become ego-less and then the Lord will accept you as His Flute. Once, when a number of people were asked by Me what they would like to be in the hands of God, I got various answers: some said the Lotus, some the Shankha (Conch), some the Chakra (Discus) but no one mentioned the Murali (Flute). I would advise you to become the Murali, for then the Lord will come to you, pick you up, put you to His lips and breathe through you and, out of the hollowness of your heart due to the utter absence of egoism that you have developed, He will create captivating music for all Creation to enjoy. Be straight without any will of your own, merge your will in the Will of God. Inhale only the breath of God. That is Divine Life, that is what I want you all to achieve.”

Marquee & Youth Hostel

Suprabhatham & Pranayama Workshop

First Workshop- SATHYA

With Swami’s grace and blessings the workshop “Sathya” commenced on Saturday (27.7.13) morning inside the marquee that was installed amidst the pristine forests of Lake District.

Being the first workshop of the retreat, the objective was to establish what “Sathya” or “Truth” really means. The interactive workshop started off with a short presentation explaining what Swami means by Absolute Truth which is beyond time, space, gunas and cannot be proven false by any subsequent knowledge. Once it was established that this Absolute truth is nothing but Atma or the God within, the participants were divided into five groups to discuss various aspects of God; like omniscience, omnipotence, how God is present in each and every one of us (omnipresence), how God is present in every aspect of creation (omnipresence) and how experiencing God can foster love. Each group discussed the topics with help from facilitators and came up with a presentation highlighting the aforementioned attributes of God. There was lot of enthusiasm and eager participation. Some groups chose to narrate their real life experiences while some came up with innovative skits.

The workshop concluded with a short play presented by the workshop facilitators which was based on conversation between a father and his son. As they walk through a forest, father uses examples from the nature like stones, animals, tree to teach the son that whatever we see around in this universe exists and this existence principle is SATHYAM/ TRUTH/AWARENESS OR GOD. Also on the way they see a dead animal, the father explains that death is caused when life force or prana shakti leaves the body. As they move along, father explains how the hidden power of a seed manifests into a huge tree (demonstrating the omnipotence or power of God) and sap which runs through all the parts nourishes the tree (like the Divine pervades the entire body, universe as divine energy or consciousness). The fruits and flowers of the trees are nothing but Divine expressing itself in creation as love. The play concluded with a beautiful message “GOD IS IN YOU ALL AROUND YOU ABOVE YOU, HE IS TRUTH, HIS FORM IS LOVE.”

Summary

Swami says “Truth is My Breath. Truth is My nature, My Mission, My Message.”

“The first and foremost truth that I want you to understand is that God there certainly IS, And visible also He is! God IS, IS, IS! He exists!! You should have complete and total faith in His existence.

“Man must understand the truth that there is divinity in humanity. Understand this. Sathyam is not outside you. He is in your heart. He is the life-force (Prana) within you. Without Him, you are a Jada (Inert body). Whoever contemplates on Truth, Sathyam is present in the heart of that person”.

“From the level of an individual truth, one must expand to the truth in creation. Service helps man to recognise the Cosmic Unity that pervades everywhere. God is omnipresent. Truth is omnipresent. All are limbs of one body, nourished by the self-same life-blood, motivated by the same Will, the Will of God; bound by the same Divine Law. That is the Vishwaruupa (Cosmic Vision), that one must see and experience: God in all, God everywhere”.

Samarth Mehrorta
Spiritual Co-ordinator, Aberdeen

Second Workshop- SAI- Service Adoration Illumination

The second workshop was SAI - Service, Adoration and Illumination – which dealt with the ways by which we can realise and experience this SATHYA within us. 'S' is for service, or karma yoga. 'A' is for adoration, or bhakti yoga. 'I' is for illumination, or jnana yoga. We split everyone into three groups to explain, experience and elaborate on these three paths. Explaining was brief and done by the facilitators, allowing a large chunk of time for experiencing, and then concluding with a quick wrap up / summary back in the main marquee.

Service or Karma Yoga

Karma Yogis in Action

Service, or karma yoga, is about actions. Karma is action, yoga is communion with God, so karma yoga is about transforming every action into a yoga, or communion with God. The process is so simple, yet so profound and beautiful. You start by offering all actions to Swami. These actions will be a mixture of sathwic, tamasic and rajasic. You offer them all anyway. You soon realise that you don't want to offer 'bad' actions to God, only good ones. So then you stop doing 'bad' actions and slowly, all your actions become sathwic. Over time, the act of offering becomes desire-free (Nishkama karma) and soon your mind has a sacred orientation - all actions and desires become orientated towards the purpose of seeking and experiencing God, nothing more, nothing less (Anaashakti Yoga). And this is how you reach God through the path of action, through karma yoga.

Our workshop started just before a 30 minute break and the budding karma yogis were instructed to offer all actions to Swami. So the group served tea, coffee and biscuits. The catering team helped out by asking us to do other things - cleaning, clearing, moving things, anything that needed doing - which continued after the break was over. The job of the budding karma yogis was to do whatever they were told, whatever the need. We were then supposed to meet up to share experiences but our room had been taken by another group. At this point, we were asked to chop / grate / peel fruit and vegetables for lunchtime - so we all went together as a group to the kitchen. Everyone was doing 'action' whilst Swami's discourses and quotes on karma yoga were being read out. Harmony of thought, word and deed!

So what did we learn from this? Here are some bullet points that were mentioned by the group:
1. Monkey mind keeps drifting and it's very easy to forget to offer every action to Swami.
2. It's easier to do this as a group activity because when your mind wanders, the group activity brings it back into focus.
1. Some found it easier if they had bhajans in their mind too - a mix of karma and bhakti yoga.
2. This concentrated effort really helped see how to implement karma yoga and demystify it.

Like everything else in life and spirituality, it takes practice to change our habits, and this is what we started in the workshop. We showed how it is possible to practice this in daily life and attempted to take the theory out of the books and into the real world.

With love,
Sanjay Vaja
Manchester Sai Centre

SAI - Adoration (Bhakthi) Workshop

Every being needs love; every being inhales and exhales Love. Love is the very breath of life; each and every one of us is embodiments of Love. Love knows no fear, and so, love needs no falsehood to support it. Love seeks no reward; love is its own reward. Love removes all egoism; the self is transcended, forgotten and superseded when there is love. When such pure Love is directed towards the Lord, it is called Bhakthi (Devotion).
The underlying theme of this workshop was to experience Swami, to feel His love and presence in our hearts and forever be connected to Him.

Adoration room, the room that was dedicated entirely to our beloved Sai was put together the day we arrived at the venue. Swami’s pictures adorned the walls of the room, His voice quietly playing in the background creating a holy ambience. Every picture of Swami weaved different emotions and feelings within us. Everywhere we looked; His eyes followed us assuring us that He always looks upon us. Devotees across the region lovingly brought their personal photos of Swami from their homes, and the room was instantly transformed to a holy abode filled with loving vibrations emanating from every corner of the room.

Throughout the night, Swami singing the Gayathri mantra was played, candles were lit and incense sticks were burned which charged up the room. Even at this stage, while devotees did not know why the room was set up in such a way, they immediately felt the spiritual energy that was present on entering the room.

During the course of the workshop, devotees were requested to maintain silence in the room and focus on the way they feel Swami’s Love through the senses by turning down the volume of their thoughts and increasing the feeling in their hearts. The Adoration room provided a beautiful ambience and also helped the devotees to control their senses by fixing their gaze on Swami’s pictures, listening to His voice whilst agarbathi (incense) provided a beautiful aroma in the room. Throughout the 45 minutes there was very little talking, as devotees were completely submerged in feeling Swami, and strengthening the relationship with Him.

Swami says -
"Among all forms of Sadhana, Bhakti (devotion to the Lord) is the easiest and holiest. Bhakti is derived from the root "Bhaj", with the suffix "thi." It means Seva (Service). It denotes a feeling of friendship coupled with awe. For one who is a creature of the gunas (Satwa, Rajas, Tamas), to understand what transcends the gunas, an attitude of humility and reverence is required. "Bhaja Sevaayaam" (worship the Divine through Seva). Bhakti calls for utilising the mind, speech and body to worship the Lord. It represents total love. Devotion and love are inseparable and interdependent. Bhakti is the means to salvation. Love is the expression of Bhakti."

It is for this reason the workshop was concentrated on Feeling and Love rather than thoughts. Initially, we found this challenging as in previous retreats we have provided much more structure and discussion to the workshops, leaving us concerned that devotees may not understand the purpose and the silence would be awkward. Our doubting minds soon came into play. But Swami beautifully took control and showered his grace as His presence was increasingly felt throughout the workshop.

The devotees also gave a very positive feedback and made the most of the spiritual vibrations that were generated in the room. Many devotees left the room in tears and described the feelings and vibrations as overwhelming. Swami touched the heart of every devotee who entered that room!

Bhakti beautifully bridges the gap between lack of divine knowledge backed by faith, and the personal experience and knowledge of divinity. It is not a subject for discussion. It must be felt, known and experienced for oneself.

Sairam,
Hannah Mistry & Supreetha Kalmadka
Lidget Green Sai Centre, Bradford

Jnana Yoga- Illumination Workshop

“Jnana is the attainment of the feeling of Oneness, the realisation that there is nothing high or low. That is the true Divine Principle, the Brahmam. A sugar doll has head, neck, arms and limbs, but each part is as sweet as the other. From head to foot, it is one uniform sweetness. There cannot be two types of sweetness. That is why it is said to be, not dual but nondual, not Dwaitha but Adwaitha. Those who emanate from the Lord’s Face and those who emanate from His Feet are both His Children. The realisation of this Truth is the sign of Jnana.”

“When the Jnani declares, “I am Brahman” he is uttering the truth from the sincerity of his experience.”

So in order to facilitate devotees to experience this Jnana, we designed a room which had one beautiful photo of Swami`s face with a candle in front of it. The room was made dark completely and had chants like Rudram, Sai Gayathri and other vedic mantras playing in the room throughout the night.

The topics discussed under Jnana Yoga include the following;

Obstacles for a Jnani
To realise this Atma, this Jnanaswarupa (Embodiment of wisdom), there are four obstacles to be overcome:
• Laya (sleep)
• Vikshepa (waywardness,ignorance hiding truth)
• Kshaya (decline, disappearance)
• Rasa Aaswaadanam (enjoyment of bliss)

Why should I strive for this Jnana?
“Jnana is the panacea for all ills, troubles and travails.” “Jnana is last stop in your train journey of life to the Divine”.

How can we experience this Oneness? How can we embark on this journey to become a Jnani?
Dwell constantly in the thought that You are of the nature of Parabrahma; thus, you grow into a Jnani. It is very much possible with right guidance and persistent effort.

Jnana was then divided into two groups:

1. Understanding Jnana
2. Experiencing & Realising Jnana- Transient Experience and Permanent Bliss

Jnana in “Understanding”- ENQUIRY

1. Enquiry about our Body: Beginning of Jnana
2. Enquiry about the Mind and the Senses - “Mind Binds”
3. Enquiry about the Self-“Who am I?” “What is permanent and what is not permanent?”

Experiencing Jnana

Inward Living- “Experiencing Jnana” and “Realisation”

“Divine Life is nothing but this method of 'inward living'. Just as the baby, after learning to watch and understand, tries to toddle here and there at home, so also the Sadhaka learns to toddle in the Inner world and understand it. A healthy baby in the cradle waves it arms and legs in glee, watching the lamp on the wall and lisps in joy: the Sadhaka also healthy in body, mind and soul, lying in the cradle of life, watches the Inner world and claps his hands ceaselessly in great glee at that inner joy.”

Inner Practices

Pranayama: Pranayama – “The process by which the 5 vital airs (prana, apana, vyana, udana and samana) are controlled is called pranayama and this gives us an amount of inner vision.”

Prathyahara: “Prathyahara consists in controlling the mind through the organs. The organs and the mind always wish to look at and concern themselves with the external objects. The mind develops sensuous desires by looking at such external objects. As a result of these desires, the mind becomes impure. The process of prathyahara consists in turning the mind inwards and away from the external objects.

Prathyahara: Mind can be tunred inwards through Dhaarana (Concentration); Dhyana (Meditation) to reach the state of Samadhi.

Both have to be done together and each one depends on the other.”

“By doing both these things simultaneously, you can turn the mind inwards and control your prana. That is how you can control the body which has life in it and you can experience a state of mind called samadhi. Samadhi is equal-mindedness. In Samadhi, you can get Atma Drishti (Sight of the Atma).”

Persistent Enquiry and Practise leads to two further stages of Enquiry- Vichaarana stage; Thanumanasi stage wherein the mind progresses from concrete to subtle to non-existent.

Finally the Jnani will be experience the Atma at all times. He will be ever immersed in bliss and will be like a salt doll merged in an ocean of bliss. This final stage is called the Thuriya Stage which marks the final stage of a Jnani`s life.

Speaker - Partish Dubey

Our guest speaker, Brother Partish Dubey thrilled the devotees with his experiences starting all the way from his school days in Ooty to his university life in Prashanti Nilayam where he completed his MBA.

His talk on how Swami used to travel 8 hours to meet the 5 year old kids in Ooty was so touching and showed the love the Avathaar had for His children.

Of the many experiences shared by brother Partish one of them that touched us was how his friend`s intense desire to get a medal from Swami was granted by Bhagawan in sports beautifully.

He took the devotees on a journey along with him from Ooty School days to Prashanthi (university days) bringing Swami in front of everyone`s eyes beautifully. It made many emotional bringing down tears of bliss.

Third Workshop- BABA- Be Aware Be Alert- Practical Spirituality

After understanding SATHYA and learning the path to realise it through SAI (Service, Adoration & Illumination), it is important to know the impediments in the journey so that we can be aware and alert (BABA – Be Aware Be Alert) of the same.

We completed our theme for the retreat with an Interactive Forum discussing on Practical Spirituality. The forum members (Partish, Praveena and Dr Ram) answered various questions from the devotees on practical spirituality, how to be aware of Swami`s presence at all times, how to be alert and not to stray away from the path of Sathya.

Dr Ram`s answers to feeling Swami even when something unexpected happens (elaborated through an incident which happened at a medical camp in Sierra Leonne) was beautiful.

Praveena`s answer to how Swami is always with us with experiences from her personal life was both emotional as well as enlightening.

Partish`s answer to a question on depression and loss of faith was very useful. He made us realise that being contemporaries of a Living avathar is the greatest and that Swami has hand picked us to be His devotees and anytime we feel depressed we should realise this and instantly feel better.

Take Home Messages from the Forum:

“Be Aware of your true Self. Be alert not to stray from the path of spirituality. What is the path of spirituality? It is the very meaning of your birth. Every individual has taken birth with the sole purpose of merging with the Divine. Lead a Divine Life. A life which will lead you to the Divine. Be ever alert of the six foes. They are the demons to be killed. They are lust (kaama), anger (krodha), greed (lobha), attachment (moha), pride (madha) and malice (maathsarya).”

“Practical Spirituality is absolute surrender. Surrender does not mean that you are vanquished and that the other one has emerged victorious. In spirituality it means that the two merge into one – there is nothing like giving or receiving. Recognise the Cosmic Unity that pervades everywhere. Recognise that this substratum of Unity is nothing but God. You will then automatically experience God.”

Retreat Planning Team
Region 5 & 8

SSE Yoga Session

Yoha Presentation & SSE Presentation & Dedicated at the Lotus Feet

Breath of Sai Poem

Here we all are, at our Sai retreat,
Happy together, as with friends we do meet.
Our theme this year, in two thousand and thirteen,
Breath of Sai, what on earth does it mean?

Is it about prana or life force, or the so hum technique?
Or surrender and meditation, or holding tight to Sai's feet?
Pranayam or a mantra, or a tough yoga pose?
Or sweet fragrant living, making our lives like a rose?

What was Sai about, with His breath what did He say?
What can we take from it, to help us on our way?
Love is my form, that's a little clue,
We'll learn more in the workshop, that Scotland will guide us through.

When we dig deeper, are there many paths or just one?
The word SAI will guide us, and it should be lots of fun!
Throughout the weekend, more about it we'll learn,
We'll talk with each other, to our hearts we'll also turn.

Putting it into practice, that's the real key,
To become hollow and straight, to be quiet and just be.
Are there any tips, practical things that we can do,
Let’s ask an experienced panel, made up of people just like you.

All through the weekend, we're joined by Partish,
Our guest for the weekend, his talks shouldn't be missed.
His time as a student, with experiences quite a few,
Will touch all our hearts, offering a unique different view.

Swami has said, to be like a flute,
Hollow and straight, so His breath can pass through.
He knows the best notes, and in which order to play,
The more we surrender, in His hands longer, we'll stay.

As His flute we'll always be, right by His side,
The tunes that He chooses, help us through life to glide.
Our role is to be ready, so He can play us any time,
As the more that He does this, brighter our hearts will shine.

Sanjay Vaja
Region 5

Breath of Sai
Sathya Sai Retreat- My learning experience

My most humble pranams at the lotus feet of our beloved Lord Bhagavan Baba.
My experience of the retreat started even before I went to the retreat. It started with the title SATHYA SAI BABA-BREATH OF SAI which was very aptly chosen. It had a deep inner meaning.

SATHYA meaning TRUTH/ULTIMATE REALITY
SAI meaning

S- Service
A-Adoration
I-Ilumination
BABA meaning Be Aware Be Alert

Breath of Sai-Reminding each one of us to be like the flute, hollow, without ego and completely surrendering ourselves to the Lord wherein the loving GOD can breath through us, sing his melody through us.

The Venue was set in the beautiful location amidst beautiful lakes and hills, with serene calm surroundings, keeping everyone far away from the hub of the busy world, away from traffic, mobile phones and computers which reminded me very much of Parthi.

The programme itself was very well planned. Much thought had gone in setting the scene. The workshop on Sathya was truly helpful. It was divine blessing to be a part of it in its preparation and taking part in it. I learnt about the significance of Truth, that God IS, that GOD IS Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Omniscient. All this can be realised if we look at nature around us and realise that God is in our heart and is expressed as Love.

The next workshop was on SAI-Service, Adoration and Illumination. The facilitators made the devotees feel and experience each part of the workshop. I took part in the service aspect of ‘SAI’ workshop. Service to GOD is nothing but dedicating ALL OUR ACTIONS to GOD. Even the simplest things such as washing vessels, offering water to others is spiritual sadhana and must be done with Love. I learnt that doing service this way is a practical but very effective spiritual sadhana, one that can be practised by all. I learnt how one can acquire Grace and blessing from our Swami by surrendering all activities to Him and doing it with Love.
The workshop on BABA – Be aware Be alert was in the form of Question and answer session. The guest speakers spoke from their own experiences and I realised that we have to be aware and alert every second of our life.

We were very fortunate to have Swami’s student, brother Partish amidst us. His experiences with Swami, lessons he had learnt and the love and care which Bhagavan showered on him and the students were truly elevating, inspiring and worth contemplating again and again and putting those valuable lessons into daily practice.
Bhajan sessions were truly elevating, the singers and musicians with their wonderful talents sang with hearts full of love filled the atmosphere with devotion and bliss and truly made me immerse in the rapture of God’s name and form.

I felt the event more as a family union and being in the loving company of my brothers and sisters. The catering section was beautifully run by our sisters and all kept to their time as everyone shared their work with love and enthusiasm.
The booklet had incorporated a lot of highly valuable spiritual material and quotes from Swami . A must read and to be contemplated upon.

From my side I wish to put into practice atleast one or two lessons I had learnt from the retreat namely seeing Swami in my heart and in all, dedicating my actions to Swami with a pure heart and filling my heart with Swami’s love.

At the end of this life’s journey we should discard all negative tendencies, become egoless and become a flute or a Murali for our Lord to breath through. That is what I learnt from the weekend.

Dr Bhaskar Ram
Region 8 Chair