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Love and Light

National Sai Retreat 2014 – Llandudno

The joyful time of the year had returned, for a reunion of the Sai devotees belonging to Sai family in UK was underway in our second home, Llandundo! The National Sai Retreat 2014, in this refreshing coastal town in North Wales, brought together many new faces as well as the familiar ones. The theme for this year was "Divine Grace: Fountain of Eternal Joy", and the weekend certainly filled our beings with the experience of His Grace and a lasting feeling of Joy.

The 2014 retreat has been captured from many different perspectives and can be accessed by clicking on any of the links on home page.

Welsh Costal town Lladudno / Royal Regency Hotel

Many of us started our journeys on Friday morning, some even before, and arrived in this beautiful town and to the familiar and inviting hotels, Regency Royal and Ambassador, that would serve as our lodgings for the weekend. After comfortably settling in our rooms, and a sumptuous dinner, we made our way to the nearby Conference Centre, the prestigious Venue Cymru, for a light evening session that set the tone for the entire weekend.

Venue Cymru / Main Hall – Sai Kulwant hall backdrop

The Retreat Programme started with the energetic and soulful bhajans. The gusto and involvement evidenced from all participants during the bhajan session reflected the happiness in each heart, from being together in His Presence. After a welcoming address from our National Chair Dr Kiran Patel, we were treated to an opening speech by our renowned guest speaker Prof. Nanjundaiah from the hallowed land, Prashanti Nilayam. Prof. Nanjundaiah is a former Controller of Examinations of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher learning who came into Swami's service in 1973, and stayed in close proximity in His Presence for about 40 years. He had the rare privilege of translating Swami's discourses into English for more than a decade, between 1981 and 1993. Prof Nanjundaiah is blessed with numerous experiences with Bhagawan. He considered Swami as his Mother, and developed this relationship with immense faith and love. Beloved Swami too responded to him with great affection, bestowing upon him many insights.

Prof. Nanjundaiah / Audience in Main Hall

Showers of Grace – Carnatic Programme

How fortunate were we from the UK to have such a unique personality in our midst, sharing with us such unique interactions with Swami, the insights they bestowed upon him, the love and sheer joy they filled his being with, and the peace and serenity that exuded from him. His opening address itself lifted the jets of the fountain of joy to great heights, soaking us in the thrill of His Grace. Yet we were thirsty, and in anticipation of receiving more from his ensuing talks at the Retreat.

After the talk, as is the practice in Prashanti Nilayam, there was a cultural programme, entitled ‘Showers of Grace’. Arrthi Nagaratnam and Keerthana Easwarkumar offered a scintillating Carnatic vocal programme. Accompanying them expertly on stage were Sanjay Raguseelan and Sajurran Raguseelan on the Violin and Gobi Varatha-Rajan on the Mridangam. The performance by these youngsters was received very well, and in fact, the instrumentalists were requested to perform again the next morning. The brief programme came to an end with Arathi, and as we strolled along the serene seafront, back to our rooms, one was left wondering what a perfect evening it had been!

The mornings over the next two days began before sunrise, nice and early with 21 Omkar, Suprabatham, Jyothi Meditation and bhajans. Having awakened our spirits for the day’s proceedings with these prayers, we were then offered a choice of group activities to align our minds and bodies. The delegates thus joined either the Yoga sessions, meditation sessions, chanting group or the silent walking meditation. A hearty and healthy breakfast, prepared lovingly by the dedicated Sai volunteers, then provided the essential sustenance to the body.

Bhajans Singing / Exhibition on 9 Forms of Devotion

During the plenary sessions, Professor Nanjundaiah spoke on the topics ‘The Power of Sai’s Love’ and ‘Surrender to Sai’, and participated in a ‘Question and Answer’ session. Each session, lasting about 75 minutes, was replete with precious gems of wisdom and touched everyone’s hearts. As delegates sat in rapt attention, transfixed and mesmerized by the effortless flow of divine experiences and insights, it would be no exaggeration to say that one could sense a palpable buzz in the hall: That of soaring spirits! Professor shared with the audience the contents of many letters that our beloved Bhagawan had written to him personally, advising him, guiding him, encouraging him and enlightening him. In fact, one of the letters written by the Lord in immaculate English, was projected onto the screen for all of us to see and fill our hearts with joy. The confidence and conviction with which Professor spoke- on love, faith, service, surrender and the power of the Name of Sai- had such a strength and ring of truth about them, that they resonated and reverberated in every heart, drenching us in joy and delight. Truly, only a person who spent long years in the presence of the divine, listening and internalizing every Word of Sai, imbibing every thought with the Love of Sai, and living every moment in the Spirit of Sai could have shared so simply and selflessly in generous measure, giving happiness to so many aspirants.

There were 2 workshops on Saturday on the topics, ‘Power of Love’ and ‘Cultivating Love- Practical Ways’. Delegates assembled in different rooms in groups of 20-25 and explored these topics with great enthusiasm. Conducted immediately after professor’s uplifting talk in the morning, these workshops provided opportunities and encouragement for everyone to share their experiences and feelings, and reflect deeply on their spiritual journeys. Undoubtedly, delegates left these workshops feeling enriched from the engaging discussions and the collective learning. A full account of the workshops can be viewed under the workshops tab.

Workshops

Q&A session with Prof Nanjundaiah

Following the Q & A session with Professor on Saturday afternoon, a Laksharchana programme was conducted by our much loved elder from London, Mr. Vadgama. Devotees chanted ‘Om Sri Sathya Sai Krishnaya Namah’ with deep sincerity and love, led by Mr.Vadgama, and enjoyed the bliss that Namasmarana entails. The mellifluous bhajans that accompanied the Laksharchana programme enhanced the sweetness of the Divine Name and ensured a thrilling experience for everyone.

Sri Laksharchana conducted by Mr. Vadgama

The evening programme, after a delicious sit-down dinner ( lunch was a takeaway alfresco), was an opportunity for all to enjoy the cultural talents of our SSE children. All day long, these children had been participating in programmes specially designed for them; they went up the nearby Great Orme mountain on a tram and visited a local farm that afforded them exciting tractor rides! Ms. Jhyni Ravishankar, a talented Group 2 SSE student from London, gave a riveting dance performance in the traditional Bharathanatyam style. This was followed by a group of about 20 children singing most harmoniously in choir, ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘This little light of mine’. Indeed, it was amazing to see these little lights glow, shine and sing on stage with such elan and joy! It was difficult to fathom when the Anchor announced that the children offered this programme after only a few hours of practise! How we all wish to be children again, we are sure, is how everyone felt in the hall! Two of the SSE teachers and coordinators, Mrs. Dharini Pillay and Mr. Roni Ramdin, then shared their thoughts and experiences on their personal spiritual development.

The evening programme on Saturday ended with yet another high calibre and thrilling Vocal musical concert, titled ‘Springs of Joy’ by Mrs. Deepa Hattangady-Karnad. A long standing, ardent devotee of Bhagawan and an illustrious disciple of a doyen of Hindustani Classical Music, Srimati Veena Sahasrabuddhe, Deepa captured everyone’s attention with her gifted voice, poise and immaculate rendition. But above all, what warmed all hearts was her humility, love and devotion to our beloved Bhagawan. She was ably supported on tabla and harmonium by our very own, home-grown, youth talents, Roshan Patel and Kapil Parasher respectively.

Bhajans in the Main Hall / Yoga Session

Silent Walking along the Promenade / Morning Meditation Session

The Retreat programme was brought to a close with a valedictory address by Dr. Veeru Mudigonda, Vice Chair SSSSO UK and Trustee SSSCT UK, followed by bhajans and Arati. Even as devotees embarked on their journeys back home, after another delicious and filling meal, one could not help but notice the spring in their step and a smile on their faces, that reflected the inner fountain of joy. Also, not unnoticed was the silent but hard work put in by the many selfless volunteers working in various teams tirelessly during the Retreat, and for many months in preparation. Their offerings of love, together with the love of all the delegates for Bhagawan, ensured that His Divine Grace flowed in abundance on all.

Dr. Amit Patel
Lead Coordinator, SITA Team
Service Wing, SSSSO UK