April 2016 Edition

Articles

From the Poets

Letter from the Lord

Life Lessons from the Ramayana

My Sai And I

Photo of the Month

Pre World Youth Festival LEGACY OF LOVE;

Pre-World Youth Festival: Legacy of Love

Region 1 - Easter Youth Service Activity

Region 1 - Mahashivarathri Celebrations

Region 1 - Sathya Sai Regional Orientation Day 2016

Region 1 - The Spires: Swamis Love to the Homeless in Streatham

Region 2 - Clean for the Queen

Region 2 - Clean for the Queen Project in Watford

Region 2 - Health Awareness Day at the Dhamecha Lohana Centre

Region 2 - Sathya Sai Centre of Harrow West Celebrates Babas 90th Birthday

Region 3 - River Clean Up, Bedford Embankment River Ouse

Region 4 - Computer Awareness Day in Leicester

Region 4 - Laksharchana in Leicester

Region 5 - Cumbria Flood Relief

Region 5 - Gayatri Mantra Chanting: A Unique Collective Prayer Initiative

Region 5 - Love in Action: Selfless Service at Families Relief, Sheffield

Region 5 - New Year Bhajans and Maha Shivarathri Celebrations

Region 5 - Sathya Sai Regional Orientation Conference 2016

Region 7 - Shivarathri Celebrations in Bath

Sai Spiritual Education Training Day

Souljourns with Ted Henry in UK

Spiritual Quiz

The Meaning of Easter and Swami's Messages

Editorial

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Wish you all a Holy Easter, a Holy Sri Rama Navami, and a Happy New Year to those from various parts of the Indian sub-continent.

April indeed is the month which heralds the Spring season, bringing with it new life, new beginnings, new hopes and new joys! The UK Pre-World Youth Festival that was held at the beginning of April seemed to encapsulate the upbeat spirit of this season quite aptly, especially as many a fresh youth attended too.

The National Human Values Day, which we celebrate in UK every year in this month, is also an occasion to renew our resolve to experience the divinity inherent in all of us. Even as we mark the Divine Transcendence of the Sathya Sai Avatar from the bewitching Form to the eternal Formless, albeit with a certain sense of sweet nostalgia and deep yearning, we refresh our understanding of the Divine Teachings of the Avatar and rededicate our lives to the daily practise of the 5 Human Values which He personified. Ted Henry, the founder of Souljourns, will be with us and be our Chief Guest at this event.

Swami says that all human beings are incarnations of the divine, although divinity manifests only partially due to the strong association with ego and possessiveness1. It is by gradual sublimation of these traits through the various processes of devotion, service, and self-inquiry that the hitherto partial manifestation of divinity starts to reveal itself in full splendour. The sacred life of Jesus Christ is a perfect demonstration of this journey from the Messenger of God, to the Son of God, and then to the complete Oneness with God. Swami says: To Love God is to be His Messenger; To be loved by God is to be a Son of God; The final stage is to be one with God, ‘I and My Father are One.2

Thus, to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, cultivating a loving heart, like that of a child or of a mother, is essential. The upcoming National Easwaramma Day, an event that celebrates both motherhood and childhood, and has as its theme ‘WATCH’- an acronym based on Swami’s quotation Watch your Words, Actions, Thoughts, Character, and Heart- is indeed an apt reminder of the practical method for divinising our daily lives with Love. Swami says Love as thought is Truth, Love as action is Righteous Conduct, Love as feeling is Peace, Love as understanding is Non-violence 3- thus transmuting all activity imbued with pure love into divinity itself, because God is Truth, Right Conduct, Peace, Non Violence, Love and Bliss.

Service to fellow beings that are in need is indeed a natural manifestation of such loving hearts. A kind word, a genuine smile, a lofty thought, a noble action, or a pure feeling, offered spontaneously and without self-interest, are all the hallmarks of Service. The Sathya Sai Avatar stands out as an unparalleled example of such incessant outpouring of Selfless Service to humanity, be it in His daily interactions or in the mammoth projects that He completed in various fields such as educare, healthcare, aquacare, sociocare and envirocare. His example continues to inspire millions around the world, including in the UK, to follow in His footsteps and redeem their lives .

All the service activities announced and reported in this edition - Sathya Sai Healthcare Camp in Kazakhstan, the Sai Prema Prayer Meetings for those affected by the massive earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador recently, the various reports from Regions about the ‘Clean for the Queen’ and other such noble activities- are heartening opportunities for everyone of us to participate in His Mission and sanctify our lives.

1 - http://sssbpt.info/ssspeaks/volume23/sss23-26.pdf
2 - http://www.sssbpt.info/ssspeaks/volume27/sss27-33.pdf
3 - http://www.sssbpt.info/ssspeaks/volume05/sss05-38.pdf

With Prayers to Beloved Swami to bless everyone abundantly,

Dr. Veeru Mudigonda
National President, SSIO UK

Pre-World Youth Festival: Legacy of Love

This summer will see the World Youth Festival (WYF) in Prasanthi Nilayam, with the theme ‘Love is the Source, the Path, and the Goal’. We are all very well aware of the emphasis our Lord places on youth. These events provide a platform and grounding to come together and fully comprehend how best we can fulfil Swami’s ideals as the youth. Leading up to this, countries around the world have been hosting their own events to prepare youth for the festival by reflecting, discussing and acting upon the relevant themes, goals and ideas. The UK is no exception! From 1st until 3rd April 2016 we had the UK Pre-World Youth Festival, entitled ‘Legacy of Love’, held at Beaumanor Hall in Loughborough. The aim here was to really bring Prasanthi to the UK, so that we may better experience the energy, vibrations and atmosphere that one would anticipate there.

The beautifully arranged Main Altar for the weekend

As with any retreat or event, during the weeks and days leading up to the festival, the various organising teams – workshops, music, PA, altar, catering, etc - were frantically getting together hoping to achieve a smooth, successful and above all, a fulfilling and motivating weekend.

To begin with, the location was in the idyllic rural landscapes of Leicestershire, where the minds could instantly find rest from the distractions of the mundane hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. The programme commenced at 7.30pm on the Friday. As we walked into the hall we were greeted by a bewitching life size picture of beloved Bhagawan, as if He was standing there just to welcome us into His Presence! Combined with Swami’s chair, the carefully selected lighting and altar colours, the ambience was reminiscent of Sai Kulwant hall, complete with a backdrop of the sacred Mahasamadhi. Opening with multifaith prayers and a selection of bhajans, the festival began in full swing. The programme was inaugurated by our National Youth Coordinator, brother Sai Ganesh, who outlined briefly the purpose and itinerary of the weekend. He also elaborated on the Sadhana we were invited to do leading up to the WYF. He gave us all a “Sadhana Diary” in which we could, on a daily basis, reflect upon the events of the day and highlight certain specifics such as acts of selfless service we achieved in the day and areas we wish to improve on. The evening programme concluded with Aarti and everyone was encouraged to rest, ready for the busy subsequent days.

For those who have been to Prasanthi, you will be aware of the early morning starts, commencing with Suprabhatam – prayer to wake up our beloved Lord, where even the toughest of us may struggle to stay awake! This youth retreat, where we brought Prasanthi to the UK, was not going to miss upon that opportunity. At 5.45am we entered the hall on Saturday morning, facing the Mahasamadhi and welcomed with the serene atmosphere. At 6am we began with 21 Aumkars and Suprabhatam. Following this, the brothers and sisters separated to do yoga, led by Hansa aunty Sisodia and brother Keval Shah. Starting with breathing exercises and then moving to more physical activities, this proved to be an eye-opener for some of us who were complete beginners to this ancient art. More than that though, it ended up being an amusing spectacle of sisters jumping around in their saris!

The next main activity was the first workshop entitled, Sai – our younger years. This aimed to reflect upon how we first came into the Sai field and how it influenced our younger years. This proved to be quite a reflective conversation where we truly appreciated how different we would be, had we not been able to learn about the values stressed in the Sai Fold. We additionally discussed the traits which comprise an “ideal Sai youth” and also spoke about how we can bridge SSE children with the youth so that they too feel inspired and motivated to carry on the Sai Mission.

The retreat in actual fact turned into an international event for we were joined by brothers and sisters who flew in from The Netherlands. We were fortunate enough that our first main speaker was brother Sathyam Sheoratan, National Youth Coordinator of the Netherlands. He lovingly spoke about his experiences and dreams growing up. Intertwined in the programme were vignettes of various youths’ experiences that they wished to share with the rest of the congregation. This included brother Harianand who spoke about the group trips that he had been on to Prashanti and how loving Swami was towards them. He wisely concluded by reminding us of letting go of the idea of us being the doer and ensuring spirituality permeates our whole lives and not just for the few hours we attend the Sai Centre. We additionally heard from sister Dipika who shared her humorous experiences when working as a junior doctor, really reiterating to us that Swami is truly omnipresent and listens to our earnest prayers.

Harianand Mistry, Leicester UK & Sathyam Sheoratan, Netherlands

The next activity was fun filled activity of spiritual games, making everyone work and get their brains ticking. Our next speaker was Dr Kiran Patel, previous UKCC National President, who shared his early experiences with Swami. He reminded us, through his own hardships during college examinations, that when we really leave everything to Swami he will surely take care of everything. His profound concluding remarks would have struck a chord with many in the congregation, “If we are successful, it is only because of his Grace and we should not forget that."

Following this, our culinary skills were challenged where we had to break up into groups and make various dishes from around the world including Pau bhaji, quesadillas, noodles and pasta. Hence the youth were able to enjoy the products of their own efforts for their lunch. After lunch was a musical offering by the youth comprising a medley of songs and bhajans including the chorus of the song the UK submitted to the world youth festival theme song competition.

Busy preparing Lunch Prasadam

As some of the younger, less experienced folk of the Sai Organisation, it is often invaluable for us youth to hear the advice of those with a wealth of knowledge in areas we may lack. So we were most fortunate to have a question and answer session. The panel included our national youth coordinator, Sai Ganesh, former UK chairperson and International youth coordinator, brother Shitu Chudasama, his wife Ritaben, and our UKCC Vice President, Mrs Vidyulatha Narayan. During the session various questions about connecting to Swami following his Mahasamadhi etc were asked. The panel provided very well constructed and practical answers that many of us could apply to our daily lives. Many of us were heart warmed when Shitubhai relayed to us that he used to wake up 3.30am every morning between the ages of 8 and 12 years and hug Swami’s photos as a form of his love and devotions towards our Lord.

Q & A Session- Moderated by Karthik Prashanth, Alumnus, SSSIHL
Panellists (from left): Vidyu Narayan, Rita Chudasama, Sai Ganesh, Shitu Chudasama

The next workshop was entitled, Sai youth – Life is a challenge, Meet it. During the discussions, we were encouraged to reflect upon what barriers we had in the path of becoming that “Ideal Sai Youth”. These included for many of us, anger, lack of discipline, impatience. After the long discussions we were asked to write on a piece of paper a motivational message that we could give to someone else, to help them overcome their barriers. This was placed in a box and we all at random were able to pick a message to take home as our prasadam from Swami. The main message of the workshop was beautifully summed up through Swami’s quotation, “The path of Love and Service is not smooth: it abounds in struggle and disappointments. Life itself is a pendulum between sighs and smiles. But, every obstacle is an invitation to your intelligence. "Life is a challenge; meet it! Life is a dream; realise it”. We were additionally given the Prayer of Surrender – practical instructions our Lord has given us on how to surrender and take the right step in overcoming the challenges we face.

We all have various ways of expressing our love and devotion, be it through singing, praying, service etc. Brother Sanjay shared his way through poems – one entitled A Conversation with Sai. We all laughed away at his cleverly fashioned rhyming couplets, aided by an ingenious slideshow of photos of Swami matching the phrases he was reciting.

After the dinner, which was lovingly prepared for us by the service team, we heard the stories of uncle Navin Patel, one of the first students of Swami at the Brindavan campus. He narrated the story of how he first saw Swami in Uganda and how Swami personally asked him to join his college – how blessed indeed! We further heard the stories of sisters Nirali and Bijal, who endearingly narrated the interview experience they had with Swami during their 2004 pilgrimage to Prashanti, entitled “Sai Anugraha”. Through the detail with which they described the scene and Swami’s various interactions, we could almost imagine we were there, living the stories they were sharing.

Navin Patel, Alumnus, SSSIHL & Sai Anugraha Experiences

The final activity of the day was a session of exciting bhajan games, where the brothers competed against the sisters. This included bhajan pictionary where our artist skills were tested. Bizarrely enough though, the bhajan pictionary game really made you think about the meaning of the bhajan, something we often overlook. The games provided great team working opportunities among the brothers and the sisters in their respective teams. One could really feel the tension in the atmosphere escalate as the sides were competing against each other. After an eventful day, we concluded with Aarti.

The third and final day commenced as previously with Aumkars, Suprabhatam and yoga. On this day however, Swami had a Jhoola. The first speaker for the day was brother Divij Desai, alumnus of SSSIHL. He spoke about his experiences which seemed to draw parallels with many of our lives, where we are trying to balance our work for Swami with work we may consider as mundane or day-to-day duties. This could be succinctly summarised with Swami’s well known reassurance: “You do My work, I will do yours!”

Suprabatham Session & Divij Desai, Alumnus, SSSIHL

After a sumptuous breakfast, again provided by our Service Wing volunteers, we heard the much needed words from brother Kapil who reminded us that whilst it is all well to listen and smile at the experiences of others that Swami has given them, it is also just as necessary to reflect upon the inner message and significance of these events and implement the learning points into our lives. Following this, we were lucky to be addressed by Dr Mahesh Narayan, who has had a plethora of experiences with Bhagawan. Interestingly, he advised how we should speak in front of an audience. Through humorous tales and loving anecdotes, he elaborated on the importance of speaking from the heart, where Swami is always installed, and not from a piece of paper! This hopefully would have awakened the shy amongst us to not have any fear when we are asked to speak in front of our brothers and sisters.

Kapil Dev Prasher, Regional Youth Coordinator & Dr. Mahesh Narayan, Regional President

penultimate workshop was entitled, Our task at hand – what are we doing and what can we do? In this workshop we discussed the service activities that we were currently undertaking, as youth in the organisation and suggesting ways to overcome barriers in consolidating and expanding on these activities. Our Lord places great emphasis on service, as we know, as a means of gradually expanding our smaller self and experiencing instead our ever joyful Higher Self. The service streams that Swami has propounded for us, and which are followed in the Organisation in UK, were discussed in detail under the headings: educare; medicare; sociocare; aquacare and envirocare. It was interesting to note that many youths were only minimally aware of the activities that were currently taking place and so was encouraging to see them motivated to participate.

Continuing on the theme of service, we participated in an outdoor service activity. Luckily, the weather Gods too lent a helping hand to our good motives to serve, because until then the weather was a bit temperamental to say the least! Some went to a nearby town, Groby, to clean the streets as part of the national initiative “Clean for the Queen”, leading up to the Queen’s 90th birthday. The rest of us stayed in the vicinity of Beaumanor Hall and cleared parts of the streets, a church, parks and forest. It was good opportunity to get on our feet and enjoy the country air too, as well as do an activity that would be of benefit to the local area. It was encouraging when we saw how grateful some of the locals were.

Following what was arguably a well-deserved lunch, brother Deviesh Tankaria, Zone 7 vice-youth coordinator, spoke to us about how Swami played a role in every aspect of his life, including at his job interview with the Home Office! He additionally talked about the World Youth Festival this year and value of us going to hear, learn and serve together as youth for the benefit of ourselves, the Sai Organisation and the Society.

Dev Tankaria, Zone 7 Youth Coordinator & Dr. Veeru Mudigonda, National President

The final workshop complemented brother Deviesh’s talk for it was on about the World Youth Festival. We shared in our groups the significance of going to Prasanthi and what it meant to each one of us; and for those who had never been, we shared why they would feel inspired to go.

Our final address was by our UKCC National President, Dr Veeru Mudigonda, who once again lovingly encouraged us all to go home and book our tickets to India! He explained how Swami defined the meaning of Youth, the ways to stay in tune with Swami’s teachings, and how to lead our lives as the real ‘legacies’ of His Love. The weekend concluded with a bhajan by Swami and Aarti.

A lot of thoughts and feelings may be running across our monkey minds following such a weekend – motivation, excitement, energy, enthusiasm or even just sheer fatigue! It was a busy and packed weekend, and there would have been a few shortcomings and last minute changes, but in a way everything went according to His Divine Plan. Ultimately He is the director of such a weekend! But why have such a weekend in our busy lives, I reflect. Such a weekend requires a lot of planning, logistics, resources and even sweat and tears no doubt. But when we do it out of love for our Lord, it allows us to help ourselves. It brings about a change in ourselves, allowing us to expand and unite; and it is this change in ourselves that will be reflected in the world around us. Ultimately our aim is a transformation from “I to we to He”. One weekend will not necessarily take us to the goal, but it at least is a step forward on this path, towards the goal. The weekend left us with many platforms that we can build upon whether it is overcoming our occasional waywardness, or developing our good qualities or serving more. No doubt, up on reflection, we would have been filled with many positive thoughts, making us ponder about ways to progress as our Lord would see fit.

Swami has said that the “Youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow”. That tomorrow, brothers and sisters, is now! The future is now here, today. We, as youth, have to start acting now. What makes today so special is that many of the youth have never had the opportunity to see our Lord, Sri Sathya Sai Baba, physically and hence we have to act as his beacons, so that all can experience what we have experienced. Our Lord once beautifully shared the analogy that the youth are his heart and that his love for us is the blood flowing through it. Let us therefore beat together as One Heart, carrying His Legacy of Love to all aspects of our lives and to all the communities of the World. The Grand Opportunity is ours, and is upon us!

We thank Swami, dearly, for working through us to make the Pre-World Youth Festival a reality.

Sai Ram!

Dixa Thakrar
Leicester Central Youth Coordinator

Sai Spiritual Education Training Day

“The teacher is like a water storage tank. If there is clean and good water in the tank, you will get good water in the taps. Students are like the taps and will prove to be good only when the teachers are good. Teachers should have lofty ideals so that these can be reflected in their students, who are the future citizens and leaders”
Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s address to the Bal Vikas teachers at Abbotsbury, Madras, on 20-1-1985

On Saturday 19th March 2016, Region 3 hosted a National SSE (Sai Spiritual Education) Training day in Greenfields School, Hatfield. The day was well attended by 74 SSE teachers, Youth and Parents across the country who wholeheartedly participated in the training sessions.

The National SSE Training Team with much enthusiasm and zeal conducted 3 separate training sessions which ran simultaneously, the sessions were:

  1. Basic Training – which introduced the key concepts of SSE classes and explored in detail the five teaching techniques: Devotional Singing, Prayers, Silent Sitting and Meditation, Storytelling and Group Activities
  2. Intermediate Training – the first half of the intermediate session concentrated on teaching of Multi faith prayers which is a key feature in our SSE Syllabus. The second half of the session was used to discuss Group 3 Projects which SSE children often undertake during the latter years of their SSE.
  3. Advanced Training – The session explored the teachings of the Bhaja Govindam and Bhagavad Gita which feature predominantly in Group 2 and 3 classes.

Delegates were free to choose which session they felt they could benefit from the most. Many of those who attended have shared their feedback and experiences from the day, a few of their comments are quoted below:

Shubhaa Srinivasan, Region 3:

“The SSE training was helpful for me as this was the first training of this nature which I attended. It was interactive. Experienced teachers shared general and more specific teaching techniques they use and found to be effective. This was most useful for me as I learnt ways in which I could handle issues specific to the Centre where I am an SSE teacher to enhance the learning experience of students. The training was fully geared towards how to make the Bal Vikas class an enriching experience for children and teachers”

Bandana Gurung, Region 6:

“How lucky we were, I felt like a SSE child myself at the training eagerly waiting to hear more stories. The whole context of the of the Mahabharata and Bhagawat Gita is such a huge topic and with profound meaning, Brother Mahesh explained it so well”

Yashoda G. Ifversen, Region 7:

“My husband and I together with other devotees from Bristol attended the basic teacher training for SSE teachers and parents.

The organizers, presenters and teachers emulated the teachings of Swami by being examples of His values, Sathya, Shanti, Prema, Dharma and Ahimsa, which was very nice to see and experience.

Numerous were the examples of how to teach these values to children, in fact very impressive; a lot to live up to! The teachers presented in a lively, competent and sweet manner, which was beautiful and inspiring. The fishing game using magnets and based on pairing up characters from the Ramayana at the end of the day was good fun and can readily be implemented into class.

I think I can speak for us all in saying we are very much looking forward to the next teacher training event”

We thank Swami for making the day so joyful and uplifting for all those who attended and benefited. We look forward to welcoming many more teachers, office bearers, parents and youth to future SSE training events.

Mali Almeida
Regional SSE Co-ordinator,
Region 3 SSIO UK

Region 1 - Easter Youth Service Activity

For the last few years, Region 1 has been collecting Easter Eggs to be donated to local hospitals. We have always wanted to make Easter enjoyable for the patients at these hospitals during the Easter break. Last year we had collected 850 eggs which inspired the Sikh Youth from Croydon who also participated and donated 500 eggs.

Collection of Easter Eggs

Every year seems to have a special story and this year was no different. As has been the practice, the SSE children of region 1 led this fun filled activity with the support from the youth at centers.

For quite some time, we had looked at the potential of breaking the thousand egg mark but we have always fallen short by a few after the count. Swami never fails to amaze us, and this year was no different!

Easter Egg Donation at Royal Marsden Hospital

The youth had not counted the eggs collected up to the final day planned for drop off. To our amazement, we had hit the 1000 egg mark! In fact, we ended delivering 1008 eggs to 5 different hospitals in the area – Royal Marsden Hospital, The Children’s Trust, Mayday Hospital, St Georges hospital and St Helier Hospital. All five hospitals were overwhelmed and they responded very positively saying that this would bring a smile to the patient’s faces. Swami teaches us to ‘practice ceiling on desires’ and I feel our SSE children have worked wonderfully at this!

With Swami’s Divine Grace, we hope that we can continue this drive and collect even more eggs next year which will bring happiness to a lot more children.

Saish Balakrishnan
Regional Youth Coordinator
Region 1, SSIO UK

Region 1 - Mahashivarathri Celebrations

Maha Shivarathri is the auspicious day that is celebrated in prayers of Lord Shiva. This year, Region 1 celebrated this sacred day on Monday, 7th March and was hosted by Sathya Sai Centre of Merton.

Our beloved Swami said in His Divine Discourse on 11th March 1994: "Among the festival days, Maha Shivarathri is of exceptional importance. Today, God is in close proximity to man. At midnight (on Shivarathri), Divine vibrations are close to every human heart. At such a time, when people are engaged in holy tasks, they get suffused with the Divine vibrations."

Swami has mentioned that unlike any other night, this night is very important for concentra-tion and dedication. With these profound thoughts in mind, the celebrations commenced at 6:00pm with Vedic chanting led by the SSE children, followed by Linga Abishekam (worship of the Linga), Shiva prayers and then bhajans which continued throughout the night. All cen-tres within region 1 joined and sang with their utmost devotion during their allotted time slots.

The most wonderful feature of the Shivarathri celebrations was the unity demonstrated by the devotees from the various centres. The resonant bhajans that were sung full throated by the children, youth and adults out of their love for Swami created divine vibrations and the right ambience for the occasion. Refreshments were served throughout by loving devotees who looked after the comfort of all, many who stayed the whole night. The bhajans contin-ued until 5am, when Suprabhatham and Omkaar were chanted to awaken the Lord within us all. Bhajans then continued for an hour and concluded with Arathi.

Arrthe Nagaratnam & Janani Jeyakara

Region 1 - Sathya Sai Regional Orientation Day 2016

On Saturday 9th April 2016, Region 1 hosted the Sathya Sai Regional Orientation Day based on the National Theme for the year, ‘Love in Action -The Sai Path’, at Sathya Sai Centre of Tooting. The Orientation Day was open to all current and outgoing office bearers and active members within Region 1. There were more than 70 attendees and we were glad that the National Vice-President Vidyulatha Narayan, National Secretary Subo Gunam, National Spiritual Coordinator Dr. Rakendu Suren, National Youth Coordinator Saiganesh Ketheeswaran, Former Region 1 President Yoges Yogendran and Region 6 President Dr. Mahesh Narayan, were able to join us on the day.

Speakers at the Sathya Sai Regional Orientation Day from Region 1

The aim of the day was to deliver information about the various regional and national projects that were planned for this year. Another vital aim was to look at where the Regional team could provide support to the Sathya Sai centres in carrying out these service projects and also where they could help in the day-to-day activities that take place in the various centres. It was all about sharing ideas, about what worked well and what could be improved.

After being offered a wonderful breakfast by the many volunteers, the Region 1 Orientation Day commenced with uplifting bhajans followed by Region 1 Vice-President, Sakthi Shanmugathasan, opening the Orientation Day and setting the scene for the rest of the day. The welcome speech was delivered by our Region 1 President, Rajendra Krishna Manandhar, who touched upon the aim and objectives of the Sathya Sai Service Organisation founded by our beloved Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and the importance of Loving Communication.

The Wing Presentations were delivered by the Regional Coordinators - Saish Balakrishnan (Youth), Roni Ramdin (SSE), Jayesh Patel (Service) and Aanand Venkataraman (Spiritual). The regional wing coordinators gave an overview of the events that took place in 2015 including details of the multitude of planned events in both Region 1 and nationally that would be taking place in 2016. Maureen O’Hara of Spires, a South London based charity that helps hundreds of homeless and disadvantaged people, provided an update of what Region 1 had offered and thanked the organisation for support. Yoges Yogendran and Jayesh Patel delivered a delightful presentation taking many volunteers back to Prashanti Nilayam during Christmas Celebration in 2015 when UK was blessed with the opportunity to decorate Prasanthi Nilayam. It was wonderful to watch a video clip of volunteers decorating the Sai Kulwant Hall which was done with a deep sense of love, devotion and unity as an offering to our Lord.

Thereafter, the SSE, Spiritual, Service & Youth wings held workshops which provided the opportunity to discuss plans for the year ahead, current challenges and areas of improvement. Some of these included ideas to facilitate practice of Swami's teachings, enhancing spiritual vibrations in Centres and Groups; the importance of SSE teacher, parents and student relationship; projects on Educare, Socio-care, Aqua-care, Enviro-care and Medicare and how Youth should unite across the UK to make 'Our Lives his Message', etc.

After a lovingly prepared sumptuous lunch, the afternoon session started with a Wing Breakout Review session where each coordinator shared the outcome of their discussions. This was followed by talks by two guest speakers.

The first one was Vidyulata Narayan, National Vice President (SSIO UK) who spoke about how Bhagwan's focus was on awakening the latent divinity within each one of us and how we should try and emulate even a small fraction of Bhagwan's life which was spent in intense love and service of humanity. She also shared a heartfelt poem composed by Professor N. Kasturi for Swami.

The second speaker was Dr Mahesh Narayan, Regional President (Region 6) who spoke about the importance of understanding Swami’s message and applying this in our daily lives. He expressed that there was no need to strive in search for an ideal role model when we had Swami Himself!

The eventful programme concluded with Bhajans and Aarti. We finally all departed with elevated thoughts and how we could all best serve in Swami's Organisation with Love in Action.

Akhilesh Manandhar,
Youth Coordinator,
Sathya Sai Centre of Brixton,
Region 1

Region 1 - The Spires: Swamis Love to the Homeless in Streatham

20th March 2016

3 centres/groups share the task of providing ingredients and sending volunteers to cook the curry on a monthly basis and also provide fruit on a fortnightly basis at Spires, a South London based Charity helping the homeless and disadvantaged, that provides support to anyone who is in a state of crisis.

The benefits are a hot vegetarian meal for those in need which is cooked with love, Healthy fruit for them to take away, a respite for Spires staff / volunteers who get a break from cooking, a fun-filled morning for us and a great sense of satisfaction for everyone participating.

Here is an account from 3 of our volunteers who participated for the very first time.

“First of all, we would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to be a part of this seva activity at Spires. In one word, the experience was ‘Overwhelming’".

“It was one of the best spent afternoon for us this year so far. Since all 3 of us have neither been at this activity nor cooked for such a large number, we started with a mental prayer to Swami to help us through this without any hassle. It was a great learning experience with a lot of spiritual talks. As always, Swami ensured the required quantity was ready by the end of 3 hours”.

Jayesh Patel
Regional Service Coordinator

Region 2 - Clean for the Queen

A narrative from two SSE teens

I volunteered to participate in a service project to celebrate the Queen’s 90th Birthday. This project ‘Clean for the Queen’ involved clearing litter from a local park. I was shocked at the immense amount of rubbish there was and the type of rubbish people left behind.

All of this rubbish was extremely harmful to the environment in that area. There were hundreds of cans and glass bottles in bushes and other rubbish such as soiled nappies, crisp packets, carrier bags and surprisingly a pair of trainers!

This made me realise the dangers of leaving behind such litter lying around. It would have been extremely dangerous if a child had picked up one of the broken glass bottles and cut themselves. Not only is it very dangerous but it is also very unpleasant to look at.

This made me aware of the benefits of recycling and how important it is to protect our environment. If a small park was filled with so much rubbish, it would be shocking to see how much rubbish there was lying around in the whole country, and then on a much larger scale, the world.

Shriya Thakkar

I also went to do some litter picking in Watford as part of the ‘Clean for the Queen’ project this year. We were working under a bridge, and even in that small area, we managed to collect a huge amount of rubbish. Nature provides us with so many things, yet we do not appreciate it enough.

We found shoes, handbags, fully loaded nappies, broken glass, TV stands, to name a few. Rishi and I collected around 200 empty cans and bottles that were thrown into the bushes. That made up 4 of the 20 bags of rubbish we collected all together.

Many people are no longer interested in serving selflessly for humanity and the environment; such examples were shown by Swami, Mahatma Gandhi etc.

It takes a selfless heart to make a great person. This is why Swami stresses the importance of selfless service to help save and protect the environment. I have realised this after doing the litter picking project.

Shana Jeyaseelan

Region 2 - Clean for the Queen Project in Watford

Her majesty, the Queen will celebrate her 90th birthday on the 21st April 2016. Clean for The Queen is a national campaign supported by all of the country’s litter charities along with a range of companies and associations to clear up Britain in time for Queen’s 90th birthday. ‘Clean for the Queen’ litter blitzes were planned throughout the UK in January, February and March culminating in a monumental litter clear-up from Friday 4 to Sunday 6 March.

Region 2 had teamed up with the Friends of Oxhey Park to support this event. Eight adults and two SSE teenagers met with Sandy Bell outside Tesco Extra supermarket in Watford to pick up litter in a public area on Saturday 5th March 2016. Sandy had sought all the necessary permissions and sent us some guidance and Health and Safety information prior to the event.

On the day, after a Health and Safety briefing, we set to clear an area of the public pathway and part of the river Colne bank.

We collected lots of rubbish and separated the recycling items into separate bags.

As a devotee suggested, this event fits into the Sai principles. On a spiritual level, it would be:

Love and Respect of our Elders, such as The Queen
Love and Service to the Motherland - UK
Love of Sita and Mother Earth

Gayatri Bikoo
Regional President,
Region 2, SSIO UK

Region 2 - Health Awareness Day at the Dhamecha Lohana Centre

The Lohana Community North London (LCNL) in association with Sathya Sai International Organisation UK Region 2 held a Health Awareness Day on Sunday 20th March 2016 at the Dhamecha Lohana Centre in South Harrow.

The purpose of this event was to make people from the Lohana community aware of their health and wellbeing and raise their awareness of some of the medical conditions in modern times.

The day was very well organised principally around four health talks addressed by medical experts renowned in their respective fields. Professor Mehul Dattani talked about endocrinology and diabetes while Professor Nilesh Samani spoke on cardiac problems. Dr Tulsidas Kotecha presented his talk on sleeping disorder and snoring, and Dr Nikhil Tanna concluded with radiation oncology.

About 350 people filled the ground floor hall to listen enthusiastically to these experts’ talks. There was a Q&A session after each talk to give the audience an opportunity to deepen their understanding and to elucidate queries.

On the top floor, a health awareness clinic was run concurrently with the talks. Region 2 team offered Blood Pressure checks, BMI and Diabetic Risk Assessment as well as Eye checks. The healthcare professionals’ team comprised of 1 doctor, 4 nurses, 1 pharmacist, 1 Optometrist and 3 general volunteers.

Several other stalls such as GP advice and Dentistry were also present. Additionally, health charities for Kidney problems, Bone marrow and Thalassemia were also in attendance.

Approximately 150 people visited the top floor to avail the different services on offer. After the talks, the LCNL thanked all the speakers and volunteers at the event followed by a sumptuous healthy vegetarian meal which everyone enjoyed.

Lohana Community Leaders thanking SSIO UK

We are grateful to our beloved Swami, and the vice-president of the LCNL Deeneshbhai, who being an ardent devotee was instrumental in facilitating this community outreach activity.

Gayatri Bikoo
Regional President,
Region 2, SSIO UK

Region 2 - Sathya Sai Centre of Harrow West Celebrates Babas 90th Birthday

This being the 90th year of Baba’s Supreme Advent, Baba’s Birthday Celebration was of special significance. The Harrow West Sai Family celebrated this august occasion with great piety, joy and ceremony. To celebrate the sacrosanct day, the Sai Family of Harrow West came together and with great love and reverence, laid a warm hearted and worshipful program offering at the Lotus Feet of our Beloved Bhagawan.

The anticipation of this holy day was growing for many weeks and the cold, crisp afternoon couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of devotees. A sacred ambience pervaded the venue. The beautifully decorated statue of Lord Ganesha at the entrance filled one’s heart with veneration. In the prayer hall, the impressive blue and white background on the stage and tastefully decorated silver Jhoola in the foreground was breathtaking. The Divine Presence was instantly felt by the captivating photograph of Bhagawan, and our spirits soared. The program commenced with Veda chanting. The sacred vibrations in the hall were clearly felt with our hearts filled with love.

The children from nursery and SSE Group 1 were up on the stage first, presenting an episode from Lord Krishna’s life. It was delightful to see the charming Krishna lifting the Govardhan Mountain to save His devotees from the perils of Lord Indra’s wrath. Their love for Swami was evident in the hard work and effort they put into the play. They also performed a beautifully choreographed traditional dance. The “little hearts” delighted and enchanted all with their poise and verve.

After this, there was a presentation from our Group 2 and 3 SSE children. Through prayers and Grace of Swami, our twelve musical students formed an orchestra and presented a superb instrumental rendition of one of Bhagawan’s Bhajans, “Hari bhajan bina sukh shanti nahi”. The combination of harmonium, tabla, flute, guitar, keyboard, saxophone, clarinet, and violin, with the vocal rendition of the bhajan was faultless and the whole congregation joined in with the beats and singing. With their rhythm, tempo, harmony, melody, instrumentation and enthusiasm, they energised and infused the whole atmosphere with joy and jubilation! Every heart was replete with the musical performance. The children were indeed blessed to have had the opportunity to perform on such an auspicious day!

A joyful offering of bhajans by the adults ensued thereafter and the auditorium reverberated with the rapturous melodies. All those assembled joined in the singing and clapping and keeping beat with the tabla. The ambience was vibrant and soulful.

Our beloved Swami has lovingly elucidated the significance of singing bhajans. He has said, “The bhajans that are sung permeate the ether in the form of sound waves and fill the entire atmosphere. Thereby the whole environment gets purified. Breathing in this purified atmosphere, our hearts get purified. Reciting the Lord's name is a process of give and take. Singing the Lord's name should become an exercise in mutual sharing of joy and holiness. It should be remembered that the sounds we produce reverberate in the atmosphere. They remain permanently in the ether as waves and outlast the individual uttering the sounds.”

The bhajans were brought to a stirring end by a medley compiled by the Harrow West’s dynamic and zealous youth wing.

As an offering to Beloved Baba on His 90th Birthday, the youth members decided to serve the local community thereby experience “Love in Action”. By practising ceiling on desires throughout the month of October, our ten youth members raised a sum of One Thousand Six Hundred and Thirty Pounds! They used the saving to support charities close to their hearts – Post Pals, ¬a charity helping to ‘Post a Smile on a Sick Child’s Face’ by the sending of cards, letters, emails and little gifts to seriously ill children and their siblings in the UK. They offered Christmas gifts to 16 children.

The second charity they supported was Hands on London which runs a campaign during the winter season called ‘Wrap Up London’. Coats were collected to help the homeless, refugees, women and children living in poverty. Through their loving dedication, the youth purchased and donated 38 good quality coats!

The third charity they supported was St Mungo’s Broadway. St Mungo’s provides bed and support to more than 2,500 people a night to homeless and they also work to prevent homelessness, helping about 25,000 people a year. Our youth donated a sum of Three Hundred Pounds towards this most worthy cause.

The Harrow West Youth group has committed themselves to the above projects and through implementing ceiling on desires, will continue to support charities from this year forward.

Afterwards, our guest speaker, brother Ishver Patel was invited to speak and relate some of his experiences with Baba to the assembled congregation. His heartfelt speech sounded nectarine as he relived his tender and loving experiences. Finally, and much to the delight of the children, it was time to cut the cake! A lovingly made and decorated sarvadharma cake was brought forward and as the children gathered around Swami to help cut the cake, the devotees began singing Baba’s Birthday song with such affection and reverence that tears of love, gratitude and devotion filled every eye.

The program came to an end as the hall resounded powerfully with Swami’s Aarti. Some devotees had generously bought gifts for the children and youth which were given to them on Swami’s behalf. A well prepared and delicious Mahaprasadam was distributed to all afterwards.

Jai Sai Ram

Shivani Singh
Sathya Sai Centre of Harrow West

Region 3 - River Clean Up, Bedford Embankment River Ouse

Jai Sai Ram

On Saturday the 5th March 2016 adults and children from Foster Hill Sai Centre in Bedford - Region 3, met at the local Borough Council. We joined the local community to participate in an environmental project led by Bedford Borough Council as part of the Clean for the Queen programme.

In total 50-60 volunteers gathered along the Great River Ouse to clean and pick litter across the Bedford Embankment and nearby area. The area alongside the embankment is a beautiful stretch of riverside with scenic views and is a place for all to visit and enjoy. We would very much like to keep it this way for everyone to enjoy and be proud of. Please see pictures below.

The morning was very successful and the opportunity to serve at this event was most certainly worthwhile and fulfilling. This activity enhanced community spirit, and all who engaged did so with a strong sense of duty to keep our surroundings safe and clean, for all to appreciate.

At the end of the day, it was wonderful to see that our riverside, had been restored to a site of beauty. We are grateful to Bhagawan for affording this opportunity to the devotees, youth and children of our Sai centre to play a part in this project.

Jai Sai Ram
Sonia Sandhu
Service Co-Ordinator, Foster Hill Sai Centre, Bedford Region 3 SSIO UK

Region 4 - Computer Awareness Day in Leicester

On Sunday 28th June 2015, Sathya Sai Centre of Leicester Central held a computer awareness day. Many of us may have out of great love and joy, given a loved one, a new tablet, phone or computer. However we often lack the time to actually explain to the loved individual how to use the new gadget. We may take for granted the fact that we grasp the intricacies of technology as easy recalling our two times table, but for others this may not be the case. Hence we in Leicester thought of holding a day clinic where individuals could drop in and ask any questions about their device.

Beginning with three Aums, the session commenced with youth, Group 4 SSE and service wing members helping others. Personally, I was helping with setting up email accounts, sending and receiving emails on tablets, setting up iTunes accounts, setting up WhatsApp, manipulating screens on Windows 8, amongst other device-related functions. People were freely able to ask questions and of course engage in loving banter. It was a fun, light-hearted event. Naturally, no event is ever complete without a little fuel for the body and so we all indulged in a sumptuous afternoon meal.

At the end of the event, people were smiling as they had been helped and were satisfied that they would now know how to Skype their daughter or email their brother. They were happy that they could now make use of their new tablet that their loved one had kindly given to them and would no longer need to be collecting dust in a corner of the room.

Swami has on countless occasions spoken about the importance of service. But a question that I have come across is, when we serve, who are we serving? Are we serving the apparent recipient or are we serving God or are we just serving ourselves? There is no straight forward question to answer however one of Swami’s quotations has always stuck with me “the very joy derived from service reacts on the body and makes you free from disease”. For me, although making time for service can prove challenging, when I do engage in such activities it can be surprisingly uplifting, energising and rewarding. Ultimately, for me, when I do service I often feel I benefit more than the person I am trying to help. Of course, we may all have different views on this.

I thank Swami for this great opportunity and hope we are given his blessings to hold similar events in the future.

Sai Ram

Dixa Thakrar
Sathya Sai Centre of Leicester Central, Centre Youth Coordinator

Region 4 - Laksharchana in Leicester

The Lord’s Name is like a boat for a man crossing the ocean of life. It is supremely important in the Kali Age. It has been declared that there is nothing greater than chanting the Lord’s Name in the Kali Age.

By no other spiritual or religious practices can peace be attained in this age. The Divine Name can turn poison into nectar. It can revive a lifeless thing. It is surcharged with infinite power.

LAKSHARCHANA is the name and practice of repeating in a group, the name of the Lord in the form of a Mantra. ARCHANA means “chanting and glorifying the Divine name”. LAK means 100,000 times.

Sathya Sai Centre of Narborough conducted its annual Laksharchan, for World Peace on 9th August 2015 at the East West Community project. This was led by Mr.Vadgama and two youth. Mr Vadgama is an ardent devotee of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and has been an inspiration to devotees with his dedication and devotion. Although an octogenarian, and in poor health he travelled from London to Leicester to lead this sacred task, and all the devotees were grateful for his presence.

By chanting the Lord’s name desires can be reduced, while legitimate wishes get fulfilled. ~ Sri Sathya Sai Baba ~

Devotees from different background –English, Polish, Lithuanian, Gujarati and South Indians came from Leicester, Loughborough, Birmingham Rotherham and India to attend this sacred event. For many of them, this was their first time. The chanting of the 9 malas was interspered with soul stiring bhajans and amazing awe inspiring experiences shared by Mr. Vadgama!

At the end of the morning, the devotees had mahaprasadam and went home very uplifted with the divine vibrations and packets of vibhuti.

Nalini Randall,
Centre Chair,
Sathya Sai Centre of Narborough (Region 4), Leicester

Region 5 - Cumbria Flood Relief

December 2015 was a difficult and unfortunate month for the Cumbria community in the UK. The region was hit by one of the worst floods in its history. Thousands were left homeless. People lost their businesses and jobs and tourism was affected badly. The government pledged to contribute over £50 million in an attempt to bring the region back to normality.

As part of their service activity, the Sathya Sai International Organisation decided to help in the relief efforts. Contact was made through the council and other teams. The service coordinators all over the UK enthusiastically participated with support from their regions. The Sai devotees around the UK were made aware of the plans to help the area of Cumbria who responded positively to the appeal.

Delivery of Items at the Cumbria Salvation Army Relief Centre by Region 5 Devotees

Van Loaded by Region 5 in Preparation of Supplying Aid

Over 55 boxes of perishable and non-perishable items were collected. The first batch of boxes were distributed to the Salvation Army in January 2016 and the second batch in February 2016. The work in Cumbria is continuing and throughout this service activity, we have built strong relationships with the council as well as the flood volunteer groups. Region 5 will be working closely with the other regions to continue to assist Cumbrian authorities with the relief efforts.

Amish Dave Hurree
Region 5 Service Coordinator

Region 5 - Gayatri Mantra Chanting: A Unique Collective Prayer Initiative

In January 2016, a few youth from Region 5 during conversation before our weekly bhajan session thought about starting a Gayatri chant project utilising WhatsApp which was successfully trialled in another country. WhatsApp was used as a Messenger to motivate, remind and inspire people in the centre to chant the Gayatri Mantra. This discussion which lasted no more than a few minutes led to the creation of the “Gayatri Mantra Initiative” in Region 5 of the SSIO UK.

Use of WhatsApp has the benefit to engage devotees to chant the Gayatri Mantra. It transcends physical barriers to reach out to people outside the Sai fraternity. The working mechanism of the project was fairly straightforward. A person is added onto the group and for every 18 Gayatri chants, they send in a prayer emoji to rest of the group (Figure 1).

Figure 1- WhatsApp Screenshot of the Gayatri Chants Figure 2- Screenshot of the Daily Tally of Chants

At the end of the day, the administrators of the group tally the total number of chants done; they would then send the group a message with the daily count (Figure 2). The administrator also adds the daily count to an Excel sheet where the total monthly chants are tracked.

We started this initiative with the simple intention that more people should chant the Gayatri Mantra. Although Swami has many a time reminded us of the benefits of Gayatri chanting, few of us actually do it! Take up for this initiative was very encouraging. Soon after we started, we received many messages of thanks, stories of inspiration and requests by people to be added to the group.

We noticed that the act of creating a group had a profound impact on the lives of many. At a personal level, our lives changed as well. Whenever we used to walk between lectures, walk back to home from work, sitting on the bus or whilst walking, we used to be on the phone either chatting with friends or on Facebook getting ourselves tangled into the web of this materialistic world. However, every time we now had time to ourselves, we would start chanting the Gayatri Mantra. Chanting of the Gayatri benefitted us to focus within rather than on the external things happening around us.

We have felt calmer and more composed as a result. What is fascinating is the fact that such change has come about as a result of chanting the Gayatri Mantra, consistently, for less than 3 months. We cannot wait to see the change which comes about after years of chanting!

Inspired by the regional theme of chanting the Gayatri Mantra, we organised an event entitled Gayatri Bhajan Mala on the 27th March 2016 in Oldham, to cleanse the atmosphere and propagate the beneficial effects and vibrations of chanting the Gayatri Mantra. Over 75 devotees from across region 5 attended and took part in the chanting. The programme commenced with Swami chanting the Gayathri mantra which helped us get the intonations correct, followed by Bhagawan explaining the meaning. After the chants, bhajans were sung for around 2 hours which enabled us to soak in the spiritual vibrations.

Gayatri Bhajan Mala in Oldham held on 27th March 2016

Finally, this initiative has helped many people across the region and we are certain that the vibrations created through collective chanting would have a positive impact for the world! We have chanted the mantra over 300,000 times in the last 3 months that we have been doing this and have set ourselves a target of 1.8 million chants for the year. Most importantly, we would also like to thank our dearest Mother Sai Gayatri for inspiring and guiding us to offer this humble collective Sadhana at Thy Lotus Feet. We encourage everyone to take up the chants.

Ravi Sisodia Region 5 Youth
Prasanth Selvam , Youth Coordinator (Greater Manchester Sai Centre) Sai Sreenidhi Ram , Youth Coordinator Region 5

Region 5 - Love in Action: Selfless Service at Families Relief, Sheffield

I am all too well aware that the sheer geography of region 5 makes it a challenge for us to work together in service projects as the distances may sometimes be too great. However, it is said that “where there is a will, there is a way” and one such occasion proved that statement true! On the 12th March 2016 at Sharrow Old School at Sheffield, Swami gave us the opportunity to serve Him through packing donations for refugees.

Although we got very little notice about the service project, that did not hamper us from showing up with our full contingent, heading from Manchester to Sheffield. We arrived in Sheffield at about 11am and started our work at the school. We worked with Families Relief, the charity organisation that was coordinating this initiative; they have used the school as premises for their activities. Over the years they have been doing wonderful work collecting clothes, shoes, scarves, tents and other items that refugees from Syria and Greece may need and distributing them. On arrival, we were assigned the task of segregating the various donated items.

Region 5 Devotees Offering Service to Families Relief in Sheffield

We were given bags filled with donated items and were asked to segregate them. A very efficient method was adopted. It was lovely to see the numerous items donated by many wonderful people from in and around Sheffield. We worked as a team and segregated all the clothe items into boxes for children, women and men. The boxes were finally sealed and moved to another room for storage. We were informed that the boxes were going to be loaded onto a cargo container the next day for immediate shipment.

Baba says, “Service to Man is Service to God”. Service can be defined as the action of helping or doing some work for someone without expectation of a reward. Even though we were not helping the refugees directly, it gave us all the happiness to know that soon the donated items would reach them. Having witnessed the suffering of the people in these countries and their plight in the news, this activity gave us satisfaction that we were able to play a small part in the aid of these individuals.

At a deeper level, I believe this service activity has given me an opportunity to indirectly show love towards the affected people. We are blessed to be Instruments in Swami’s Mission – the mission to spread Love in the world. Swami was Love personified. Love can be expressed in many ways.

The simple act of distributing the clothes made me realise that Swami had chosen this task for us as a way of expressing love and compassion towards these refugees during their difficult times. Looking at the dedication of the whole team and fulfilling the task at hand, gave me a sense of immense joy. On that day, we did not just pack some clothes into a box, but we had packed love, care, happiness and an abundance of positivity for the refugees. This day shall forever remain fresh in my memory as this was the one weekend where my time was spent not just surfing through the web and seeing the news around the word, wondering what could I do to save those in need, but in fact actually spent doing some service towards the community and thereby towards the world as a whole.

Hemanth Sri Ram
Sathya Sai Centre of Greater Manchester, Region 5 Youth

Region 5 - New Year Bhajans and Maha Shivarathri Celebrations

New Years Day Bhajans at Gita Bhavan, Manchester

On Friday 1st January 2016, the Gita Bhavan Hindu temple of Manchester kindly offered their large prayer hall for Sai Bhajans. Together with Sai devotees, general temple worshippers came together from all over Greater Manchester and surrounding areas to take part in group devotional singing. The event began with opening prayers which filled the hall with warm and spiritual vibrations. Bhajans then followed non-stop for two and a half hours concluding with both Sai and temple Aarti. It was a wonderful start to 2016 and devotees all enjoyed the uplifting experience. We all look forward to the bhajans next year!
Our thanks and appreciation to Gita Bhavan for providing the wonderful opportunity.

Maha Shivarathri Celebrations in the Northwest

On Monday 7th March 2016 at 7.45pm, devotees from areas surrounding Manchester, including Bolton, Oldham, Warrington, Ashton and Macclesfield, all eagerly gathered at the Jain Community Centre in Manchester to celebrate the auspicious day of Maha Shivaratri. The evening began with a wonderful message from brother Ravi Sisodia about the significance of this special day, followed by the opening prayers led by the youth. All devotees were given the opportunity to personally offer worship to the Shiva Lingam which was installed on the beautiful altar that was put together for the auspicious occasion. Bhajans dedicated to Lord Shiva then ensued and continued into the night until 11.50pm. Finally, the youth offered a high energy and spiritually invigorating bhajan medley at the Lotus Feet which concluded with offering of the Aarti and closing prayers. Devotees took home with them the beautiful vibrations along with the special milk/water and Vibhuthi offering from the Lingam.

Maha Shivarathri Celebrations in Manchester

Maha Shivarathri Celebrations at the Sathya Sai Centre of Lidget Green, Bradford

On Monday 7th March 2016, devotees from Bradford, Halifax and Keighley gathered at the Sathya Sai Centre of Lidget Green to celebrate Mahashivarathri. The evening began with chants followed by Rudram . Bhajans were very uplifting and went on until midnight. The event concluded with Aarti and closing prayers. Prasadam was offered to all the devotees.

Maha Shivarathri Celebrations in Lidget Green, Bradford

Vinesh Parmar,

Vice-President, SSIO Region 5

Region 5 - Sathya Sai Regional Orientation Conference 2016

Office Bearers and Active Workers travelled from far and wide across the region to attend the Regional Orientation Conference on Saturday 27th February 2016. Newcastle, Bolton, Leeds, Halifax, Warrington, Greater Manchester, Lidget Green and Preston centre chairs and active workers attended the event which was lovingly hosted by devotees of Leeds. We were joined by Dr Veeru Mudigonda, National President SSIO UK and Dr Kiran Patel, Outgoing National President SSIO UK. The day started with bhajans and beautiful darshan of Swami. Dr Vijayanand Nadella, Region 5 President welcomed Dr Kiran Patel and the rest of the office bearers and active workers. He said that this orientation conference is an opportunity for all the active workers to come together and share the wonderful work done by the different centres in the region and thus inspire and motivate one another in taking the mission of Sai forward.

Dr Veeru Mudigonda, National President SSIO UK, then addressed the gathering. He emphasised that we should have a heart to heart communication within our Organisation. Swami knows every feeling in our hearts and Swami will only accept those feelings and actions filled with Love. Swami is interested in the worker and just not the work. The means to the end is equally important. We can do work as individuals but what Swami is more interested is collective work. Only when we interact with people can we give the chance to expand our Love – our hearts expand when we interact with other with Love. We can always do meditation, bhajans, japa on our own, but when we come together and interact together, the Love expands. We should be able to work together by looking at the divinity in each individual. Take every opportunity to connect with hearts across the country, across the world, Dr Veeru said.

Dr Kiran Patel addressed the audience and highlighted the enormous responsibility of the office bearers in safeguarding the interests of the devotees. He said that we come closer to Swami by serving in His Organisation. He shared wonderful direct lessons he learnt at the feet of Sai and how Swami stood as an exemplary icon of selfless service. To Serve is above even Moksha (liberation). When we offer all work to Swami, then work becomes Worship. Keep focussed on Swami! Follow the Master and Finish the Game.

Certificates of affiliation to the Sathya Sai Organisation were then presented by Dr Veeru to all the Centre Presidents. All the members present congratulated the devotees from Leeds for their hard work to get their group status promoted to a centre.

We then had the presentations by wing coordinators and centre chairs which was followed by a quick lunch. After that, Mr Vinesh Parmar, R5 vice-president, and Sai Sreenidhi, R5 Youth Coordinator facilitated the Ideal Sai Centre workshop. The workshop materials were beautifully put together – the quotes, videos, scenarios and interactive sessions moved and inspired us as well as giving us plenty to reflect upon. There was something for everyone to learn and to take away.

Dr Vijay Nadella (Left) and Dr Veeru Mudigonda (Right) holding Affiliation Certificates

Workshop Group Discussions

Some of the reflections by the members following the workshop are given below:

What is the purpose of a Sai Centre ?

  1. Personal spiritual development and improving spiritual knowledge
  2. Meeting other families for Sathsang and thereby form a Sai Family in the local community
  3. Raise awareness of the Divinity within us
  4. Become a role model and inspire the youths and guide them where necessary
  5. Discuss Swami’s discourses from different festivals and faiths
  6. Focusing on devotees’ experiences

According to Sathya Sai Baba, the purpose of a centre was to make one aware of their inherent divinity. He had established various wings in a centre to enable individuals to fulfil this purpose.

Youth and SSE roles:

Youth Action Programmes (YAPs) to be organised to facilitate the following:

  1. Keeping the youth unified in a spiritual environment
  2. Providing a platform for the youth to contemplate deep spiritual issues with their peers

Leadership Roles for youth: To facilitate the leadership transition from the elders to the younger generation in an effort to mould the youth to become the future leaders of the organisation.

SSE participation during bhajans: To provide the SSE children an opportunity to serve during Bhajan sessions e.g. set up altar, singing, playing instruments, manage PA and IT equipment, make announcements, give talks, enact dramas etc. These would benefit children with self-confidence and spiritual living.

Service

Multi-faith Youth Initiative: To provide a forum for various faith groups to engage in service. This is to foster God-Consciousness amongst the various faith groups through the participation of service and for youth to expand their hearts transcending caste, creed, and religion.

How can a Sai Centre achieve its objectives through Group Devotional Singing?

  1. Bhajans - introduce more English bhajans
  2. Prayers - Lord's Prayer
  3. Chanting – in addition to Vedam chanting, to include chanting from other faiths as well.
  4. Music - take musical experience beyond the centre, for example by contacting Oldham Library to see if they would allow their venue to organize a musical event in the library.
  5. Interfaith - celebrate other festivals from the different religions.
  6. Inviting representatives from different faiths to present stories/prayers during festivals at centre.

The day concluded by setting dates in the calendar for future regional events. All the office bearers took the oath as laid out by Bhagawan.

A big thank you to our regional team for facilitating the day. Everyone was left feeling uplifted, inspired and energised ready to start our journey for the year.

Dr Vijayanand Nadella,
President, Region 5 SSIO UK

Region 7 - Shivarathri Celebrations in Bath

I attended the Shivarathri bhajans with my mum, dad and sister on 7th March in Bath. We were fortunate enough to have our Organisation President, Uncle Veeru perform the Lingam Pooja with us that day.

I have never seen anything like it before. He was pouring water and milk on the lingam and chanting. It was very nice to watch especially when Uncle Veeru decorated the lingam with flowers at the end.

Dr Veeru performing worship of the lingam

Mummy said it was very peaceful and powerful and the vibrations were very strong, she could feel them the whole night.

After the Pooja (worship), the SSE children sang bhajans, the adults then carried on. We finished just after midnight. Luckily I was allowed to stay up late.

I struggled to get up for school the next day but I enjoyed it so much I will do it again next year.

Sai Ram

Divya Patel
Age 7
Region 7

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"Love and Light" is the only nationwide monthly publication of the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation (UK). You are free to pass it on in its entirety to any interested party. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation (UK) UK National Chair.