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National Sathya Sai Orientation Conference 2015

The National Sathya Sai Orientation Conference 2015 was held in Hatfield, London on the 24th of January. It was heartening to see about 260 office bearers and active workers of the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation in UK congregate enthusiastically for this annual conference, in the spirit of their sheer love for Bhagawan Baba and their shared love for each other. Aptly then, the Conference programme based on the theme ‘Love is My Form: Living as Reflections of Love and Service’, blended in nicely with this prevailing spirit on the day and helped amplify it further.

2015 is a special year being the 90th year of the Advent of our Lord, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. All over the world, brothers and sisters of our Sathya Sai Organisations are engaging in various activities throughout the year with a sincere aim to accelerate their individual and collective spiritual growth, and make this their loving offering at the 90th Birthday Celebrations in November later this year. In the UK too, various service and spiritual activities have been planned with the same aim as above, and the Conference provided an ideal platform to discuss, align, orientate and consolidate these plans.

Inaugural Session

Dr. Kiran Patel, National Chairperson, delivering the Welcome Address

The Conference began with energetic bhajans in the Main Hall that was simply but tastefully decorated. Dr. Kiran Patel, National Chairperson of SSSSO UK, welcomed the delegates heartily. In his address, he reminisced on the Loving Form of Bhagawan Baba and exhorted all to remember this, so as to be able to reflect it in our own daily life interactions. He advised the delegates to stay focussed on developing and deepening this inner connectedness with Bhagawan and His teachings, and cautioned against various distractions and claims made by a few. (Click for video link)

A section of the delegates at the Conference

After a Video-review of activities undertaken in 2014, Mrs. Phyllis Krystal gave a short talk on the theme of Love. In her inimitable simple and soothing style, she summarised that the best way to love others is to see Swami in them! She said that it wouldn’t be possible otherwise. She shared how Swami once said to her and others in the group that they were all ‘Walking Temples of God’, not just some ordinary bodies! Very gently but profoundly, she encouraged everyone to connect with this higher truth, our ‘higher self’, whilst engaged in the activities of our daily life. (Click for link)

Talk by Guest Speaker Mrs Phyllis Krystal

Our Sathya Sai National Organisation hosted a one-day National Office bearers Conference on 24th January 2015 to welcome the new Office-bearers and to thank the retiring Office bearers for their dedication, service and for their wonderful contribution to our Organisation. The Theme chosen for this year’s Conference was a beautiful, apt theme. I was very impressed and humbled to see our National Chair, Vice Chair and Regional chairs all working quietly, very enthusiastically, efficiently and with a smile. They made us all feel very welcome as all part of One Sai Family.

The Morning session started with registration and a short bhajan. This was followed by a very beautiful welcome address by our National chair. He highlighted the Aims and Objectives of our Organisation and set the Goals to be achieved for the year 2015. I found his talk very simple, straightforward and coming straight from the heart. His expectations from us as office bearers were very practical and correct. He made us realise that we should be very fortunate to have been chosen as an office bearer in the Sathya Sai Organisation, that we should be grateful to Swami to be chosen to be apart of the Lord’s Divine Mission of Dharmasthapana and to realise that we have been given an opportunity by our Lord Himself to fill our lives with Love, Goodness and righteousness, and be given an opportunity to get rid of our ego and other negative tendencies if present in us through the sadhana of Love & Service.

Main Altar & Stage

This was followed by a short talk by our most respected Phyllis Krystal. Her talk was very inspiring and it beautifully fitted in with the theme. She made us realise that we are all moving temples wherein our Divine Lord, our Loving Mother Sai resides. She beautifully gave us a technique of communicating with the Divine within in that small 15 minute talk. A truly amazing soul!

Dr. Ram Bhaskar, Sathya Sai Centre of Aberdeen, Scotland
Region 8, SSSSO UK

‘Living As Reflections of Love and Service’-
Conference Workshops

The Inaugural talks set the ball rolling for the next two hours that were spent by the delegates in a Workshop that deliberated on the topic, ‘Living as a reflection of Love and Service’. Whilst the first half of the workshop focussed on the topics Love and Service, the second half highlighted various aspects of Effective Communication based on the principles of love and service. The take home message was to concentrate all efforts to feel Swami and His Love in our heart and then see Swami in others, so as to live as His Reflections of Love.

Morning Workshop

The workshop highlighted that Love is the atmic principle that is always within us, and therefore should be at the heart of our communication with others. The simplest technique advocated to achieve this is to remember that when we speak to others we are speaking to Swami himself. Particular attention was placed on speaking softly and lovingly, and practising moderation in speech; this is helped by enquiring whether what we are saying is true; will it hurt anyone? Will it improve on the silence? Is it necessary? Is it kind? Love can be realised though the removal of ego via selfless service, enabling us to realise the Brotherhood of man and Fatherhood of God.

A simple and powerful way of communicating with others without the use of words is to smile: “When we smile, love bubbles up in us”, was an interesting quote from Baba. Another important form of non-verbal communication is listening. We should listen patiently and attentively without interrupting our fellow brothers and sisters and express empathy when required. The workshop made us reflect on how feedback should be listened to with an open mind and accepted if correct. If unjustified, it should be regarded as a test of how we handle it. “Love lives by giving and forgiving”, as quoted by Baba was shown as an apt video clip.

Communication is a fundamental part of our everyday lives, including our spiritual growth. Good communication allows everyone to benefit, whilst poor communication can lead to confusion and conflict. Through group discussion and interaction based on various everyday scenarios that were presented in the workshop, delegates felt more confident about communicating effectively in situations they may face both within and outside the organisation.

Dr. Anshi Dattani, Youth Coordinator
Sathya Sai Baba Centre of Harrow East, Region 2, SSSSO UK

The facilitator showed us wonderful video clips of Swami’s discourses on the topic of True love and Service and discussed Swami’s teachings on Love and Service. He stressed that the Love for the Lord is true Love and God’s Love alone is true Love as it has no trace of selfishness. All other types of worldly love, although are expressions of divine Love, are imperfect as they are tainted by some bit/form of selfishness.

Workshop

He recommended that Love and divinity can be experienced through the Sadhana of Satsang (good company), and through the Practice of Service. He explained that when we share our Love with others, with the feeling that we are serving the Lord himself, then we can experience that Divine love. He also highlighted that we should treat each other with respect and love, work as a team, and communicate with all, including our superiors, our juniors, our colleagues.

Dr. Ram Bhaskar, Sathya Sai Centre of Aberdeen, Scotland
Regional Representative, Region 8, SSSSO UK

Please click the links below to download the workshop slides -
NSSOC Workshop 2015.pptx

National Wing Presentations and Wing Meetings

After a scrumptious lunch, the National Wing Coordinators presented the details of their plans for activities in the forthcoming months. These were further discussed in the Wing meetings that followed. A brief outline about the Sathya Sai Charitable Trust, its objectives and activities, was also given in this session. (Click here for video link)

Mrs. Thana Yogendran, National SSE Coordinator, presents the Wing Plan for 2015

Dr. Rakendu Suren, National Spiritual Coordinator, shares an Overview

National Service Wing activities summarised by Mr Jayesh Patel, Region 1 Service Coodinator

Vision 2015 for Youth Wing in UK presented by Mr Shyam Jamnadas, National Youth Coordinator

Summary of Wing Meetings

Spiritual Wing meeting was well attended. Following a brief feedback from representatives from each region, we discussed the goals for 2015, and focussed mainly on the Pre world Conference Study circles. In preparation for the 10th World Conference in Prashanthi Nilayam in November, a Pre- world conference will be conducted in UK mid this year and the theme for the conference is Love and Self-less Service. In preparation for this, globally study circles are conducted on these two topics and for the coming months we in UK will also be conducting study circles on these topics in our centres. The group welcomed the idea of nominating a person to coordinate/conduct the study circle in each centre

Spiritual & Service Wing Workshop

We also discussed two other important activities for the year. First is the meditation workshop to be conducted in different regions with the aim of encouraging it in our daily lives as directed by Swami. The second activity discussed was the English devotional songs recording project which we are aiming to complete this year with the aim to upload them on our organisation website to facilitate their learning. We will be further discussing these projects and others in details during the Wing Meeting day on February 15th in Watford , London.

Dr. Rakendu Suren,
National Spiritual Coordinator, SSSSO UK

The Youth Meeting focussed on communication, with more emphasis on the application of communication in the youth wing. We reflected first on our current understanding of the purpose of the youth wing, the roles and responsibilities of each of us as youth and as youth coordinators. We concluded that the youth were there to support and integrate into the other wings, to live our lives according to Swami’s teachings and to be role models for our peers and youngsters around us. We drew inspiration from Swami’s Words on the role of youth:

“The future of the country depends on the skill and the sincerity of the youth. Therefore, the necessary enthusiasm and encouragement must be generated among the youth. All my hopes are based on the students, the youth. They are very dear to me.You are the ones who will assume the leadership of the country in future. The future of the nation depends upon you.Your nature and character will decide the character of the nation.”

Youth & SSE Wing Workshop

Youth coordinators have the special responsibility to encourage the youth. As youth, we have to watch our nature and character carefully, as this will be shape the future of the society in which we live.

On a more practical level, one of the key roles of the youth coordinators is to communicate effectively and utilise the opportunities available to the youth within the Organisation and the Wing. However communication is two ways, and so active youth should also feel able to share their thoughts and ideas with the youth leaders. We agreed that therefore Youth leaders should be approachable and encourage youth to come forward and have a good rapport with the youth in their centre.

We analysed different modes of communication, looking at possible modes of communication that should be used to reach out to different youth and how to pass information effectively and efficiently. Communication should motivate and inspire youth and should be prompt, positive and to the point.

A role play exemplified how to behave and communicate according to Swami’s teachings under difficult circumstances, for example, when faced with criticism or judgement. Swami says,

"Let people say anything; be cool and calm. Do not enter into unnecessary arguments with them. It only breeds enmity. Speak softly and sweetly with a smiling face. That will silence a critic. A smile is the best answer to criticism”. Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Dr. Nishal Govindji-Bhatt,
Regional Youth Coordinator, Region 5 SSSSO UK

The SSE Wing meeting was packed with attendees, resulting in a number of extra chairs being brought in. All were enthusiastically keen to start working on plans for the year ahead. Divided into groups, the assembly was brimming with ideas concerning two particular initiatives.

One of these initiatives was a plan of nationwide activities for SSE students, teachers and parents, with each activity being carried out over the course of a three-month period and each based on “Love is My form”, the theme for this year. The first activity, to be carried out from February until Eashwaramma Day, will have each student, parent and teacher, aim to record 90 acts of love performed by him or her and place each record of these in a special “Love Box”, to be offered to Swami.

The second initiative was called “SSE Reconnect”, a Nationally-driven but Centre-led activity that entails re-establishing contact with SSE alumni who are no longer active in the Organisation. The need for gathering and maintaining contact details from former teachers and office bearers was a key point; and ideas regarding the form of initial contact with such alumni were also given, for instance starting off with personal one-to-one contact before eventually progressing to something larger-scale. It was also noted that Centres could do more to maintain contact proactively with those former students who move away to university, thereby ensuring that any link remains unbroken.

Mr. Roni Ramdin,
Regional SSE Coordinator, Region 1 SSSSO UK

The Service Wing workshop was attended by approximately 50 delegates. Our Vice chair, Dr Veeru Mudigonda set the scene by highlighting the supreme importance that Swami places on Service as the surest way for our spiritual progress. He pointed out that it was for this reason alone that Bhagawan had chosen the word ‘Service’ to sit alongside His Divine Name when founding our Organisation in 1967! He advised that the Service Wing should work towards motivating every member of our Organisation across the country, irrespective of age or gender, to participate in some service activity during this 90th Year of the Divine Advent of our Lord.

Delegates then discussed the golden opportunity given to SSSSO UK to decorate the entire Prasanthi Nilayam for the Christmas 2015 celebrations. Everyone was enthusiastic to participate and not to miss such an opportunity. A total of 100 volunteers would be needed over a period of 4 weeks between 5th December 2015 and 5th January 2016 in Prasanthi Nilayam. More details would follow soon.

On the spiritual path, the first step is selfless service. Through selfless service one can realise the Divinity that all this creation. (SSS 10.32: November 20, 1970)

Delegates then divided into groups to interactively discuss and share ideas for activities in UK under the 5 service streams of Educare, Sociocare, Healthcare, Aquacare, and Envirocare. In depth discussions took place within each group with all delegates participating and all were so engrossed that it was difficult to get them to stop! It was evident that the delegates enjoyed the session very much and wanted more time. Each group came up with many ideas and plans for activities based on societal needs, and common threads were evident. Further in depth discussions will be undertaken during the National Service Wing Meeting on the 15 February 2015.

Mr. Jayesh Patel,
Regional Service Coordinator, Region 1 SSSSO UK

At the Centre Chairs Meeting, there was a good discussion between the Regional and Centre Chairs on a number of queries ranging from Multifaith prayers to DBS (CRB Checks). We were reminded to re-examine the main purpose for which Swami has created the organisation – “The Organisation has as its main objective, selfless love and service without any distinction of religion, nationality, race, socio-economic status, either for those who work in the Organisation or for those who are served by them”. To this end, the General guidelines released by Prasanthi Council should be adapted to local community needs for Centre activities including Bhajans and prayers.

We agreed that as a UK Organisation we are required to abide by UK legislation. All active workers are therefore required to be CRB checked. CRB is now known as DBS – Disclosure and Barring Service. Regional and Centre Chairs will soon be advised on a national plan to facilitate this process in a systematic way. Work continues on establishing indemnity insurance for the Centres, in the meanwhile, Centres are requested to renew their indemnity insurance until further notice. Other operational issues of importance such as support for SSE, use of Social Media, development of websites by Centres were discussed. Updates on these will soon be circulated by the UKCC.

Looking ahead, it was felt essential that our Centres serve the needs of their respective local population and function as true reflections of Swami’s universal message. To this extent, it is incumbent upon us to dispel any perceived notions that Sai Centres are orientated towards any particular Religion. Here we reminded ourselves to constantly examine if our Centres align with Swami’s teachings that place greater emphasis on a ‘spiritual rather than ritual’ basis for activities. Centres are encouraged to chant Multifaith prayers according to local needs. Whilst we work closely with many multifaith organisations and participate in their activities, we still have work to do in this area to facilitate our own deeper understanding and genuine experience of universality, apart from ensuring a closer integration of our Sai Organisation and Centres within the local communities. Singing more songs in English during the regular Bhajan sessions is to be encouraged as an inclusive measure and is on the 2015 plan for the Spiritual Wing.

Mr. Seelan Moodley,
Regional Chairperson, Region 3 SSSSO UK

Please click the links below to download the wing workshop slides -
SSE Wing.pdf
Service Wing.pdf
Spiritual Wing.pdf
Youth Wing.pdf

Dr Veeru Mudigonda, Trustee and Vice Chair of the Sri Sathya Sai Charitable Trust UK

The Conference concluded with a ‘Question and Answer’ session with senior members of UKCC, a short Closing speech by Dr. Veeru Mudigonda, National Vice-Chair, SSSSO UK (Click for Audiolink), followed by bhajans. It was indeed a recharging day, each devotee deriving energy and inspiration from each other as kindred pilgrims, that put a spring in our step and a fire in our belly to dedicate our lives in his Love and Service.

Mr. Vadgama offering Arati to Bhagawan

Compiled by Love and Light Team