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Love and Light

National Report 2013

January

The new year started with singing, contemplating and remembering the divine name when we congregated in Watford to join in Sai Smaran (12th January). Around 350 devotees were present throughout the day to express their gratitude to Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The air was filled with divine vibrations with youth and the service volunteers serving devotees throughout. There was a wonderful feeling of brotherhood and unity all around.

Regionally, Region 1 celebrated New Years Day at the Sai Mandir with traditional New Years Eve Bhajans commencing at 11pm and the New Year beginning with Swami’s aarti. Later that day the Sai Mandir celebrated its 32nd Anniversary with vedic chanting and a beautiful Ghanapathy Homam. The ceremony then continued with Laksharchana – the recitation of the 1008 names of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. In Region 3, Hatfield Sai Centre celebrated its 34th Anniversary. The theme of the programme was to promote a renewed focus on multi-faith activities in our local community and to invite devotees to reflect upon the benefits of association with the world faiths.

February

February turned out to be another eventful month for the Organisation with hundreds of devotees and esteemed guests attending the National Sathya Sai Orientation conference and the National Youth conference. The focus of the National Orientation conference came under the theme ‘Mission of Sathya Sai – How to Serve Ably as His Instruments’. We were blessed to have a video call with Dr Narendranath Reddy, Chairman of Prasanthi Council.

National Chair Dr Kiran Patel speaking at the National Orientation Conference in Hatfield.

It was also the month that held the National Youth Conference (22-24th February) which brought over 250 youth together in unity from around the country. The theme of the conference was ‘How we can make our Lives His Message’. Esteemed guest Dr Sunder Iyer from USA, a former alumnus and lecturer of the Sri Sathya Sai University, Prasanthi Nilayam, was the special guest who enthused the youth with his inspiring thoughts and experiences. The love, energy and the positivity throughout the weekend was beyond description.

The stage and Dr Sunder Iyer speaking at the National Youth Conference in Watford.

Bhajans and workshop at the National Youth Conference, Watford.

March

In the month of March, the world celebrated Easter, which has always been a time for reflection, a time to reminisce Jesus sacrificing his life for mankind and its resurrection, out of his infinite love and compassion. Easter was celebrated in various ways within different regions. Brixton Centre, Region 1, for the third year in a row, held an Easter Egg collection for the children of the Royal Marsden Hospital, Surrey Branch. The Royal Marsden specialises in cancer treatment, meaning all would-be recipients unfortunately suffer from this terrible disease. The staff were surprised and pleased to see the gifts kindly donated by the members of the centre. Coventry Sai Centre held an Easter Sathsang and the SSE children of Region 7, Swindon, decided to host a tea party for the elderly in their community. The Easter Tea Party is the third party the centre have hosted and each time there has been a growing interest from the local community in Wootton Bassett.

Regional Maha Shivratri celebrations took place in Region 1, 2, 4 and 6 and Regional Orientation Days took place in Regions 1, 2, 3 and 4 this month. Other service activates that took place were; Sierra Leone medical camp preparations where volunteers from Tooting came together to pack boxes and prepare gifts for the underprivileged people, and 3 centres from Region 1 turning up on the 3rd Sunday of each month at Spires in South London in order to cook a curry for those people that do not get a hot meal every day.

April

We reflect on the month of April which is commonly associated with spring in the northern hemisphere; the month very aptly started with the celebrations of Sri Rama Navami denoting the birth of Lord Rama. This was celebrated with great spiritual fervour in many Sai Centres around the UK.

The month was also very special to us, His devotees, around the globe who were immersed in prayers and gratitude for the countless benedictions that we continuously receive from our Lord, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba who transcended to the formless on the 24th April 2011.

As remembrance of His Divine Life and Teachings, we celebrated the Sathya Sai National Human Values Day on the 27th April which drew hundreds to Leicester. The event was very lovingly put together and inspired by our Lord, which reiterated His Message on Human Values.

National Human Values Day, Leicester

Each of the five human values was highlighted by guests from various faiths and religions.

Musical performance by a team of highly accomplished and well known musicians namely- Roopa Panesar (Sitar), Upneet Dhadyalla (Tabla), Rishi Chowdhary (Tabla), Kaviraj Dhadyalla (Santoor, Vocal) and Poonam Panesar (Vocal) at the National Human Values Day, Leicester

Maha Samadhi days were also held Region 1 and Region 5 this month. Narborough Sai Centre of Region 4 celebrated its 25th anniversary and Brixton Sai Centre of Region 1 celebrated Vaisakhi, Sri Rama Navami and Hanumaan Jayanti along with celebrations of Yugaadi and the Tamil New Year in the month.

We were also blessed with Bhagawan’s Grace when Dr T Ravikumar, from Brindavan Ashram in India, travelled around the UK to share the Love of Bhagawan with fellow devotees.

May

The month of May is when Easwaramma day is celebrated throughout the country which brought devotees together in reverence to remember the blessed mother Easwaramma. We were blessed to have the company of Dr T Ravi Kumar (Associate Professor, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning and Warden, Brindavan, Whitefield) at the National event who inspired everyone with his experiences with our Lord. SSE children from all parts of UK also participated in the programme who felt a sense of oneness and were inspired to look forward to the next.

Stage and National Easwaramma Celebrations, Hatfield

Dr T Ravi Kumar, Associate Professor and Warden, Brindavan Campus of SSSIHL, speaking at the National Easwaramma Celebrations.

SSE children from all over the country performing at the National Easwaramma Celebrations. Hatfield.

We also had the 4th National Sai Smaran Bhajans and the 2nd Pilgrimage meeting on the 18th May, where bhajan singers from around the country participated which brought joy to everyone. We were fortunate on that day to hear brother Nimish Pandya, Vice-President of Sri Sathya Sai Organisation, India who spoke on Sai Mission and our duties in the Organisation.

The month also witnessed celebrations of Buddha Purnima, commemorating the birth of Gautama Buddha. Several Centres around the UK celebrated this event. Other activities that took place include, Ladies Day, Youth Sathsang, Age link party and Narayana Seva.

June

June was a busy month with each region holding a variety of activities. Region 1 had service at its core this month with Brixton Centre holding three large service events, known locally as “Fundays”. These are usually held at care homes or at sheltered accommodation schemes and involve the members interacting with the residents and entertaining them with fun and games for a whole afternoon. Tooting Sai Centre had the pleasure of hosting an Age Link Party for the elderly people in the local area. This is an annual event at the Tooting Sai Centre and on this occasion there were 34 guests in total. The Youth in the region lead the Spires Seva this month which s a charitable organisation based in the South London area and is a community based project which reaches out to the homeless and the needy. The youth also held their monthly satsang (YAP) and the Region held their annual Sports and Family Values Day.

Region 2 held a Awareness Workshop on Parents in Sai Spiritual Education in London West, Region 3 held a SSE Basic and Intermediate Teacher Training in Milton Keynes. Region 3’s ‘GIVING WITH LOVE’ Ladies Service Project successfully meeting its first deadline to supply the Kazakhstan Medical camp with 130 gift bags for distribution to children and local volunteers at the forthcoming medical camp in August.

Region 4 held a Global Service Day inside the purpose built Senior People's Home called Gulab Ashram where they shared Swami's Love and Light with the guests by having activities that we our guests really enjoy, such as bingo, pass the parcel, SSE children’s musical performances and antaksiri. The Youth of Region 6 met at their regular i2I workshop where the topics of Dharma, Karma and Karma Phala were explored.

Region 7 saw a hive of activity from the SSE students. The SSE students of Bristol Centre had a special visit from the Lord Mayor. He listened to the bhajans ‘Hu Allah’ and ‘Let the love we are sharing’ along with morning prayers, chanted beautifully by the children. There was a presentation of SSE classes, and little ‘speeches’ by children on what SSE meant to them and how it has benefitted them in their day- to- day lives. The Swindon SSE children hosted a tea party for the elderly in the community. This service activity has been on-going by the children in the last year and everybody looks forward to it! This one however, felt very special for our elderly friends were very moved by the pouring of love that was showered to them.

July

July was yet another memorable and spiritually uplifting month with celebrations of Guru Poornima around the country signifying our homage and gratitude to the Divine Teachers who have been ceaselessly guiding us on the path of Truth and Global Service Day, a reminder of our responsibilities to our fellow beings, by serving them in the spirit of selfless dedication to the Divine being that is present in all beings.

As part of the Guru Poornima Celebrations, a Rudra Ekaadashini Homam was conducted at the Balaji Temple in Birmingham on 21st July which was imbued throughout by the Divine presence of our Lord, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. This annual event draws devotees in hundreds from around the country bringing them joy and bliss.

The Homam also provided the perfect setting for the final Sadhana meeting of our pilgrims who were embarking on the UK National Pilgrimage (28th July – 3rd August) to Prasanthi Nilayam, the abode of our Lord. This was an ideal opportunity for everyone to pay their gratitude for the benevolence that Baba has showered on humanity which He continues to do so. Around 60 devotees which included elders, youth and children visited Prashanthi Nilayam for the UK Pilgrimage christened ‘Sai Anandam – In Harmony with Sai’. The Pilgrimage comprised a sadhana camp where inspiring talks and experiences were shared by eminent speakers of Prasanthi Nilayam, a visit to Brindavan (Baba’s abode in Whitefield near Bangalore), a musical offering by reputed artists of UK in the Sai Kulwant Hall and visit to significant places of interest. All pilgrims returned home energised and eager to play their role in the Divine Mission.

Sayeeswara Lingam and Swami’s chair at Rudra Ekadhashaini Homam, Sri Balaji Temple, Birmingham

Rudra Homam, Sri Balaji Temple, Birmingham

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. It was energising for all participants not only to breathe the fresh air but also experience the ‘Breath of Sai’. They dwelled on topics such as ‘What is breath of Sai’? How is it relevant to us and our lives? They enhanced their understanding of Swami’s words “Truth is My Breath. Truth is My nature, My Mission, My Message.”

Two Free Health Awareness Days were conducted by the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation (SSSSO); Region 6, Eastleigh Mela. The event was coordinated by the Asian Welfare and Cultural Association, with the support of Hampshire County Council and other local agencies. Region 3, Newham Mela which was organised in partnership with the London Borough of Newham- Public Health. In addition the members of Tooting Sai Centre and their friends came together in July to undertake the service of packing medicines and boxes for the Healthcare Camp in Yonibana, Sierra Leone.

August

This year the National Sai Retreat entitled ‘Divine Bliss: Echoes of Eternal Harmony’ returned to the scenic coastal town of Llandudno, located in North Wales. This retreat, spread out over three days, was attended by about 350 devotees from all around the UK. We were very fortunate to have with us, Sri R.J. Rathnakar, a member of the Sathya Sai Central Trust, Prasanthi Nilayam, and a nephew of our beloved Lord Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, Sri Arun Panda and Sri Ajit Popat. The retreat was deemed a ‘Real Treat’! It was spiritually recharging with the wonderful satsang of fellow devotees, esteemed guest speakers, delightful concerts and interactive and reflective workshops. Sri R.J. Rathnakar also gave talks in London and Leicester during his stay spreading Swami’s message with humility and love.

Sri R.J Rathnakar with the SSE children at the National Sai Retreat, Llandudno

Workshop, reception area (above), children farm visit and workshop below at the National Sai Retreat, Llandudno.

The UK also welcomed another inspiring guest and ardent devotee of Swami in August. Mr T. V. Hariharan, an alumnus from the Sri Sathya Sai University who is a bhajan singer and a Bhajan composer responsible for composing over 300 bhajans. A youth sathsang was held and within the short space of three hours, they were taken through a journey of how and why bhajans should be sung. They were privileged to learn two new bhajans from Brother T. V. Hariharan.

After an absence of nearly five years, the Derby Civil Aid, a national charity who had previously been providing First Aid training , held a First Aid workshop on Saturday 17th August 2013 at Oxhey Wood Primary school in Region 2. The main objectives of the workshop were to provide a basic introduction to First Aid after a practical assessment, a nationally recognised certificates were awarded.

Region 4 returned to the Scaly Forest where they were assigned the task of cleaning up a secluded area of the forest. This trip was certainly very enjoyable, educational and hopefully contributed in some small way to butterfly conservation.

The Sathya Sai Baba Centre of Brixton in Region 1 celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr; they were joined by around half-a-dozen of our Muslim brothers and sisters from the Hyderi Islamic School, a local Madrassah (Islamic school), who were present throughout all the proceedings. Truly living the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.

Devotees also enjoyed the annual picnic at Glastonbury Tor in Region 7 and the Rugby Sai Centre in Region 4 celebrated their 30 year anniversary.

September

The Sai Smaran Bhajans in UK are being conducted at regular intervals since April 2012 as a national offering of love and gratitude to our beloved Bhagawan. With the Grace of our Lord, the sixth in the series were held at Sandbach on the 21st of September, and like the previous ones, this event too was a thrilling session of Sankeerthan indeed!

On the 29th September, we were honoured to have been invited to a special Ardas and Kirtan session (prayer and hymn-singing) at the Namdhari Sikh Gurudwara in Birmingham. This prayer session was a part of the 109th annual session of Jap Prayog (Meditation on the Name of God), a 40 day period of prayer and meditation which Naamdhari Sikh communities all over the world observe every year with great vigour and dedication.

Sathya Sai Leadership Training Programme Outward Bound Weekend, Upminster, Essex. The SSLTP weekend session incorporated outdoor activities in addition to the normal modular lessons

Lewisham and Bromley Sai Centres in Region 1 hosted the annual Age Link party which was enjoyed by all. Region 7 SSE students visited St Bartholomew’s church and the ladies of Brixton Sai Centre in Region 1 visited the Buddhapadipa temple.

Region 6 held its annual Family Values Day in the beautiful surrounds of Blunden Hall in Farnborough.

October

As part of the global initiative, Serve the Planet to celebrate Avatar Declaration Day, devotees all across the United Kingdom joined hands in the bond of His Love and participated enthusiastically in 3 main activities:

1. Providing food items to local food banks in the week leading up to October 20th
2. Narayana Seva – serving food on October 20th to the homeless and those in need
3. Nama Seva – Chanting the divine name of the Lord 100, 000 times and praying for those in need during a special Laksharchana programme

With the Divine Blessings of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, the 15th International Service Camp in Russian speaking countries was conducted in the Republic of Kazakhstan, Karaganda Region in the town of Saran and nearby villages from August 1 to 10, 2013. This was a united effort of 254 volunteers from over 11 countries worked together to serve the people of Kazakhstan.

Region 2 continued the shoe box gift project and donated 162 boxes to Refugee Relief; gathering together to fill and wrap the gift boxes the hall was filled with love and laughter. Also, nearly 100 SSE Children, Parents, Teachers and centre members from region 2 gathered at the Hare Krishna Temple (HKT) for the third year running to carry out farming duty as their personal contribution to the National Seva day and continuing the SSE focus on ‘SELFLESS SERVICE’.

Region 1, Merton Sai Centre celebrated the Navarathri festival with uplifting bhajans to our Divine Mother Sai every evening from 7pm to 8 pm. This included Omkar, 108 names of our beloved Swami, followed by bhajans and Arathi.

Tooting Sai Centre, Region 1 also hosted a bhajan workshop entitled ‘Inspiring for the Aspiring’, this was a thoroughly enriching day that served both as an opportunity to sing Bhagawan’s name, but also instruct all to take steps to reach a higher level of singing to offer only the best in His divine presence.

November

November is probably one of the most important month in the lives of devotees when we take time in prayers, in contemplation and reflecting upon the rare benevolence showered upon us, that of having been blessed with a birth when our Lord, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, out of His infinite compassion for humanity walked the earth.

We started the month with Akhand Bhajans (non-stop devotional singing) on the 9th and 10th November. The glory of our Lord was sung across UK and the world over. We were also blessed to listen to Mr V Srinivasan, All India President of the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation (India) and member of the Central Trust (Prasanthi Nilayam). It was the privilege of many Sai devotees in United Kingdom to have the exalted company of Mr V Srinivasan in London during the Global Akhanda Bhajans this year.

Our sisters from many centres and regions in the UK participated in ‘Ladies Day’ on the 19th November.

November culminated with the 88th Birthday Celebrations of Bhagawan. Whilst several centres and regions celebrated this momentous occasion, a special national celebration was also planned at the Leatherhead Theatre, London on the theme, ‘Sai Premabandhan - The Unifying Bond of Divine Love’. The event brought together around 550 devotees. We were fortunate to have Mrs Janet Bock-Bicker as one of our special guest who thrilled the audience with rare presentation of the recording of Bhagawan’s early life. She later travelled few cities of UK to share Swami’s Love and the treasure of rare photographs she had in her possession that were taken with her husband Richard Bock.

SSE children performing inauguration dance at the National Birthday Celebrations, Leatherhead

Guest speaker Janet Bock-Bicker at National Birthday Celebrations, Leatherhead.

Youth performance at National Birthday Celebrations, Leatherhead

Musical Concert by Mr Sikkil Gurucharan and accompanying musicians at the National Birthday Celebrations

The zenith of the musical performance was provided by our second guest, Mr Sikkil Gurucharan who thrilled the audience with his vocal rendition as He had done previously in the Divine presence. A wonderful and memorable finish to the National Birthday Celebrations!

December

December was also a month of festivity. We returned to the Cheltenham Ladies College for our National Christmas Celebrations which once again provided a setting for devotees and other special guests to come together to share Love in the true spirit of Christmas.

Our Sai Family gathered into a beautiful and traditional chapel-styled hall, where the feeling of Swami’s presence was verily overwhelming and peaceful. The service was of the format “Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols”, where alternate readings from the Holy Bible and carols are sung. This was concluded by Reverend Katie McClure, who gave the final reading.

The Christmas spirit was imbibed through the arts: SSE children from around the country began our celebrations with a procession and accompanied the nine readings with tableaux of the nativity. Region 1 SSE children preformed a beautiful interpretation of the nativity which included bouncing bunnies and dancing angels! To our delight the day was topped with melodies singing from the Leicester Gospel choir, the Quire Voice Ensemble and the dulcet tones of the magnificent Dana Gillespie.

Reverend Katie McClure leading the children in the procession at the National Christmas Celebrations in Cheltenham.

Stage at the National Christmas Celebrations in Cheltenham.

Musical performance by Dana Gillespie at the National Christmas Celebrations

The day was also attended by representatives from the Trussell Trust and local food banks who were presented with food donated by all the devotees.

Christmas celebrations were held around the UK where SSE children took part in nativities and carols were sung. Simultaneously, local communities were served through feeding the homeless, shoebox appeals in collaboration with the Samaritans and Help the Aged to name a few.