August 2013 Edition

Quote

One may be a master of all the Scriptures and competent to teach the Vedanta; One may be a great ruler, living in a many-splendoured mansion; One may be a valiant hero who has vanquished his enemies; Or one may be a pitiable victim of poverty and privation. If he has no devotion in him, His life is devoid of meaning. A servant who is filled with love of the Lord Is more to be adored than the overlord of the world.
Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba - Discourse at Abbotsbury, Madras, on 19-1-1986.

~ Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Events

UK National Sai Retreat 2013

National Youth Satsang with Mr T V Hariharan

Articles

Krishna Janmashtami

Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr – An inside view

Region 1 - Gurupoornimaa Celebration

Region 1 - Service Day: Serving the Elderly

Region 1 – YAP: Are We Ideal Sai Youth?

Region 2 – London West Sai Centre Visit ISKCON Farm in Watford

Region 3 - Ladies Retreat: Milton Keynes

Region 4 - Coventry Sai Centre Service - Grub n Gab

Region 4 - Global Service Day at Wicksteed Park, Kettering

Region 4 - Global Service Day: Rugby & Coventry Centres

Region 4 - Leicester Laksharchana

Region 4 - Moving and Handling: Training for Volunteers

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

Rudra Ekaadhashini Homam 2013

Sai Anandam: National UK Pilgrimage 2013

SSE Graduation

UK Healthcare Activities

“Serve the Planet” – Global Service Project

Editorial

Dear Love & Light Readers,
Loving Sai Ram to you!

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

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

The Homam also provided the perfect setting for the final Sadhana meeting of our pilgrims who were embarking on the UK National Pilgrimage (28th July – 3rd August) to Prasanthi Nilayam, the abode of our Lord. This was an ideal opportunity for everyone to pay their gratitude for the benevolence that Baba has showered on humanity which He continues to do so. Around 60 devotees which included elders, youth and children visited Prashanthi Nilayam for the UK Pilgrimage christened ‘Sai Anandam – In Harmony with Sai’. Most have now returned back, energised and eager to play their role in the Divine Mission. The Pilgrimage comprised a sadhana camp where inspiring talks and experiences were shared by eminent speakers of Prasanthi Nilayam, a visit to Brindavan (Baba’s abode in Whitefield near Bangalore), a musical offering by reputed artists of UK in the Sai Kulwant Hall and visit to significant places of interest. We intend to publish transcripts of the talks by the speakers and the experiences of devotees in the ensuing editions of Love and Light which I am sure you will be delighted to read, perhaps enthused enough to join the next UK National Pilgrimage in 2014!

July also witnessed the start of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting by our Muslim brothers and sisters which just concluded in August. It was a time to focus upon unity, harmony, equal-mindedness and self-control.

August will be another spiritually invigorating and stimulating month for us with train of events crossing us. The month 'August' was named after Emperor Augustus for the very many positive and triumphant events that occurred in his life in that month. It means 'great, magnificent'.

Hindus all over the world will be celebrating Krishna Janmashtami on the 28th August, denoting the birth of Lord Krishna, a unique incarnation possessing all attributes assigned by man to Godhood.

Excitement is also building up for August as the United Kingdom welcomes two inspiring guests and ardent devotees of Swami. Mr T. V. Hariharan, an alumnus from the Sri Sathya Sai University who is a bhajan singer and a Bhajan composer responsible for composing over 300 bhajans currently sung in Prasanthi Nilayam and world over. He was guided by Swami on how to experience God through music. He is currently inspiring devotees around the UK in his bhajan workshops. Similar gathering is also planned for the youth with brother Hariharan on 10th August (see enclosed flyer).

Our second guest, Sri R. J. Rathnakar, will be special guest speaker for our National Sai Retreat taking place in Llandudno from 30th August to 1st September, themed 'Divine Bliss: Echoes of Eternal Harmony’. Sri Rathnakar has the very extraordinary and rare blessing of being born in Bhagawan’s physical family as His nephew. He is a former alumnus of the Sri Sathya Sai University, Prasanthi Nilayam and currently serves as a Member of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, Prasanthi Nilayam. Not surprisingly, Sri Rathnakar has had innumerable opportunities and experiences in the divine presence and was personally guided by Him.

There are still places available to attend the Sai Retreat as a non-residential delegate. Please visit http://www.srisathyasai.org.uk/national-programmes/ for further details and other upcoming events.

Sri Rathnakar will also be addressing devotees in Leicester (02Sep13) and London (03Sep13).

I pray that everyone has a spiritually energising August!

With Sai Love & Light,

Shyam Jamnadas
National Youth Coordinator, On Behalf of UK Central Council



Krishna Janmashtami

This Day That Year
Janmashtami Day in Prasanthi Nilayam, August 22nd 2000
Excerpts from Student Diaries ‘Heart to Heart’

This morning the Divine Darshan was around 7.00 am. After the Darshan, there was Sthotram chanting by the students. The students chanted Madhurashtakam, Pandurangashtakam and Bhaja Govindam. It was followed by the Divine Discourse. After the Divine Discourse, Swami went behind the fourth block, near the main gates to bless Sai Geetha, the Gokulam cows and deer, which were brought in procession from the Gokulam by the students and Gokulam staff. After feeding Sai Geetha with apples, Swami blessed all the cows by feeding them bananas with His own Divine hands. Swami also fed the deer. While returning to Mandir, Swami broke coconuts and released doves. At the end, Swami held in His hands, a four-day-old baby deer to everyone’s delight. Even though Swami came back to the Ganesh portico, Sai Geetha was still there in the fourth block waiting for some more of Love and affection from Swami. Swami observed this.

Swami: Geetha…….Geetha, come on. (To a guest) She came here when she was eleven years old. Now, she is 55.

Swami again went near her and blessed her by feeding her. Sai Geetha hugged Swami with her trunk and did not allow Him to leave her. After this, Prasadam was distributed to one and all. Around 9.15 am, Swami retired to Poornachandra.

The evening Darshan was around 2.40pm. After interviews, when Swami came near the third block, there were Vibhuti marks on His Robe. The person who follows Swami in Darshan pointed it to Swami and tried to wipe them. Swami told him to leave it. Swami said that while giving Vibhuti in the interview room, it fell on the Robe. The students who brought the procession from Gokulam in the morning prayed to Swami:

Students: Swami, cowboys padanamaskar.
Swami: Why? The chance given to you is itself a big gift (Adhrushtam). You should have gratitude for that.
Students: Thank you, Swami.
Swami: Next year, you will all be replaced.
Students: No Swami. We will stay here only.
Swami: No, go outside and do service. You should serve the society. (To a schoolboy) Is it correct?
Students: Yes Swami.
Swami: Not after twelfth, after degree.

Bhagawan’s Krishna Janmashtami Message
Excerpts from Divine Discourse in Prasanthi Mandir, 14th August 1990

Who is Krishna? When was He born? Krishna was born in the month of Sraavana, in the Krishnapaksha (dark fortnight), on Ashtami day, in a dark room, as a dark child. Sraavana means that which gives sravanam (hearing), delight to the ear. It is significant that among the nine forms of devotion, the first place is given to Sravanam, listening to the glories of the Lord, and the final stage is Atmanivedanam (total surrender). Today men tend to listen to all kinds of evil things, but do not lend their ears to hear what is pure and holy. What you should hear---sravana is all about God and not other trivial gossip.

Krishna was born during the Krishnapaksha, the dark fortnight of the month. The effulgence of the Lord is seen with greater effect, when it is dark. In a world of disorder, Krishna was born to establish order. He was born on Ashtami day. Ashtami is associated with trouble and difficulties. When do troubles arise? When Righteousness is forgotten. Krishna's advent signifies the dispelling of darkness, the removal of troubles, banishing of ignorance and teaching mankind the Supreme Wisdom.

Krishna's primary role was that of teacher. He taught the Gita to Arjuna. He told Arjuna: "Be only My instrument!" Krishna thereby declared: "Using you as an instrument I am reforming the whole world." All the teachings of the Divine are related to Dharma and Prema (Divine Love)……In the Krishna Avatar, Krishna not only performed many marvellous deeds, but also taught the Supreme Wisdom to the world. He was one who had transcended the gunas, but, for the sake of regeneration of the world, behaved as if He was influenced by the gunas, and delighted the world by His deeds. Sanjay Sahani (who had spoken earlier) said that whatever Krishna did was for the welfare of the world. Krishna did everything, whatever He spoke or whatever action He did, for the good and well-being of the world. But some people, not understanding this truth owing to their own limitations, attributed wrong motives for some of Krishna's actions. In this they reflected their own feelings.

Prema (Love) is nectarine in its sweetness. Bhakti (Love for the Lord) was the highest expression of devotion among the gopikas (the cowherdesses of Gokulam) because they were saturated with the sweetness of Divine Love. They did not seek liberation or higher knowledge. The ecstasy they derived from merely seeking Krishna, they did not get from any other source. Narada coined the phrase, "Parama Bhakti" (Supreme Devotion) to describe the devotion of the gopikas. These supreme devotees regarded the Lord as their companion and most precious treasure. So intense was their devotion that they used to go about as highly intoxicated persons who were unmindful of the world. Leaving their homes, on hearing the music of Krishna's flute, they rushed to the forest in search of Krishna, oblivious to everything.

The Gopikas realised that Jnana (supreme wisdom) consisted in experiencing oneness with the Divine and that all other knowledge was only mundane and related to the physical. Krishna was everything for them. In their feeling of oneness with the Divine, they made no distinction between the animate and the inanimate. They saw the Divine in everything. Pothana (author of the Telugu Bhagavatham) has beautifully described the feelings of the gopikas when they went in search of Krishna in the forest. (Bhagavan recited the poem in which the gopikas describe Krishna and ask the jasmine creepers to tell them whether Krishna is hiding in any of their bushes). Having tasted the nectar of the devotion of Krishna, the gopikas would not think of seeking anything else.

The gopikas prayed to Krishna that He should never leave their hearts in which they had installed Him. Mira also sang in the same strain. "I dived deep into the ocean and found a pearl. Will you let me slip it out of my hand?" (Swami sang the song in Tamil). Samsara (worldly life) is a vast ocean. Desires are like the waves. Our feelings constitute the depth of the ocean. In this deep ocean there are crocodiles, whales and sharks in the form of attachments and hatred. It is not easy for ordinary beings to cross this ocean. The gopikas declared that only with the help of the Divine name can people save themselves.

People tend to look upon the devotion of the gopikas in worldly terms. Their minds never turned towards any sensory objects. They were completely free from sensual desires. All their desires were concentrated on God. They viewed the entire universe as the manifestation of God. The gopikas did not concern themselves with the question whether the Divine was attributeless or full of attributes. They preferred to worship the Divine in the form of Krishna and they wanted their forms to merge in the Divine. "Thereby we shall be formless," they declared.

It is when we forget our form that we can merge in the Formless. The Divine cannot be experienced through Dhyana (meditation)or japa (reciting Lord's name). This is a delusion. These practices may give momentary peace of mind. To experience permanent joy and the Knowledge of the Spirit you have to develop your Divine nature. For this, the environment must also be congenial. Such an environment can be secured only in a place with pure and Divine vibrations. This was the reason why the ancient sages sought the solitude of the forests for their penance in divinely charged atmosphere. They betook themselves to the forests because they felt that the happenings in the villages were not conducive to mental purity. This was sign of weakness. It is not necessary to go to a forest if you can concentrate on the Divine Atma dwelling in the heart. The forest is remote. Here you have "For rest" your heart. The key to inner peace is within you and not outside. In the atmosphere of a sacred Divine presence, you can promote more effectively your quest for peace.

Krishna is said to have stolen butter from the houses of the gopikas. The butter which He stole was the pure, milk-white hearts of the gopikas. Butter is pure and soft. The hearts of the gopikas were like butter. (Bhagavan recited poems in which Yasoda tells Krishna about the complaints she had received from the gopikas against Him and says she will tie Him to a mortar so that He may not go to other houses for stealing their butter). Yasoda did not realise the divinity of Krishna, though even in small things Krishna used to reveal His Divine powers.

Every episode connected with Krishna is a marvel. That was why Vyasa declared that all the stories relating to the avatars of Vishnu are full of wonder and beauty.
Every Avatar is an amazing phenomenon. Not to recognise the Avatar is equally a matter for amazement. Even more astonishing is the incapacity to experience the presence of the Avatar. Most astonishing of all is to be in the presence of the Lord and feel miserable. To be in the proximity of the Avatar, to move about with the Avatar, to sing and sport with the Avatar and yet fail to understand the truth of the Avatar is indeed a remarkable phenomenon. When the Avatar principle is understood, you experience real bliss. When you have faith in the Divine, life becomes a victorious journey.

Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr – An inside view

The Ramzan month is set apart for the holy task of bringing into memory and practice the teachings that Hazrath Muhammad conveyed and attaining that stage of unity and purity which is truly Divine. Islam gives importance to the Moon which regulates the months. Hindhus consider the Moon as the deity presiding over the mind. With the dharshan of the New Moon, the Ramzan fast begins and when the New Moon is seen again, the fast ends. 'Fast' does not consist in merely desisting from food and drink. The fast starts at sunrise and is broken' only after sunset and is observed most rigorously.

Every human being has three needs: food, clothing and shelter. Seeking to fulfil them, man has developed a variety of foods to fill his little stomach ignoring the purpose of eating them. Clothing has to be worn to protect the body from cold. But we are attaching enormously exaggerated value to clothing. Of course, one must have a house to live in and lay the body down for rest. The Muslim, Gibran, asks why build these gigantic dwellings then? They are erected not for oneself but to hoard one's treasure and riches. Gibran says these mansions are tombs erected by the dead for the living.

The Quran lays down that all men should cultivate the sense of unity, of interdependence, of selfless love and of the immanence of Divinity. Generally, all men take food of some kind or other for the body five times a day: an early cup of coffee in bed, breakfast two hours later, a heavy lunch at noon, tea at four and a fat dinner at nine. Islam prescribes food for the spiritual nature of man and directs that it be taken five times a day, as prayer. For the arousal of the Aathmic consciousness, for earning spiritual joy and for promoting the manifestation of Aathmic illumination, prayer is prescribed as many as five times a day, from the dawn of discretion up to the moment of death.

Since Islam means surrender to God, all who in a spirit of surrender and dedication, live in peace and harmony in society, do really speaking, belong to Islam. Islam insists on full co-ordination between thought, word and deed. Muslim holy men and sages have been emphasising that we must inquire into the validity of the 'I' which feels it is the body and the 'I' which feels it is the mind and reach the conclusion that the real 'I' is the Self yearning for the Omniself, God. The Ramzan month, the fast and the prayers are designed to awaken and manifest this realisation. Whichever may be the religion, its emphasis is on unity, harmony, equal-mindedness. Therefore, cultivate love, tolerance and compassion, and demonstrate the Truth in every daily activity. This is the Message I give you with My Blessings.

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Excerpts from the Divine Discourse in Prasanthi Nilayam on 12th July 1983

It is that time of year where almost a quarter of the world will be celebrating Eid-al-Fitr, the celebration to mark the end of the month of Ramadan. Most people have heard of Eid and Ramadan and know that Ramadan is the holy month where Muslims will fast from dawn to sunset. But, is that all there is to it? I can assure you that fasting is just the tip of the iceberg.

Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic calendar and it is during this month that the Qur’an (the religious scripture that Muslims follow) was revealed to the prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him) and his people. It is a time when the good deeds and prayers are multiplied in the eyes of Allah (One of the names for God in Arabic).

Most people think that fasting just involves not eating and drinking from dawn until sunset, however, there is so much more to it. During Ramadan, Muslims will disconnect from worldly issues. It is a time when Muslims really get to know themselves through reflection, and meditation, to work on their own personal flaws. They will go out into the community to feed the hungry, strengthen bonds between friends and family, and try their best to improve the society that they live in, spend in the way of charity and undertake many more such good actions.

Fasting is not a new concept, it is found in almost every religion and is seen not only as a way of worshipping God but also a way of training themselves to control their own personal desires and act in a way which will not only benefit them but also others in this world. It isn’t just a time where Muslims will be at their best for the month and go back to how they were. A Muslim will use this time to train oneself to do all these things so that when Ramadan finishes, one can continue to develop as a human and be an asset to the community and world.

So why is it that during Ramadan all of this is possible? Well, Allah has sent this month as a blessing to the Muslims. He has given Ramadan a certain spirit that cannot be matched at any other time of the year. It is a time of forgiveness, of charity, happiness and a time to increase the love between all of mankind. Often, people say it must be hard to fast throughout the day, but it gives Muslims perspective in life and gives us a small taste of what those who are less fortunate then us must go through daily. The prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) said.

"Ramadan has come to you. (It is) a month of blessing, in which Allah covers you with blessing, for He sends down Mercy, decreases sins and answers prayers. In it, Allah looks at your competition (in good deeds), and boasts about you to His angels. So show Allah goodness from yourselves, for the unfortunate one is he who is deprived in (this month) of the mercy of Allah, the Mighty, the Exalted." Narrated by Tabarani

Muslims are often very sad when Ramadan finishes and often look forward to the year to pass quickly so they have a chance to experience it again, in the meantime, Allah has blessed us with Eid-al-Fitr. Eid-al-Fitr is the celebration where Muslims families and friends will meet up with each other to share food, gifts and show their appreciation for one and other. For a Muslim, fasting is compulsory and is part of the five pillars of Islam, but those who practice and read more around the blessings and value of Ramadan, are truly thankful for the month. For those who haven’t fasted, I highly recommend it as a way to not only learn more about oneself, but also to gain a new perspective on life and to truly realise what is important in life.

Dr Adil Ibrahim

Rudra Ekaadhashini Homam 2013

After months of ardent practice by devotees and youth across the country, and after months of immaculate preparation by the volunteers of our Sri Sathya Service Sai Organisation, the sacred Rudra Ekaadhashini Homam for this year became a reality on 21st July 2013 at the Balaji Temple in Birmingham. As the much awaited day dawned, it was evident that not only the temple but also the heavens opened their doors lovingly to one and all! For, even the clouds that had hitherto been absent in the scorching weeks preceding the Homam, came out that day and shielded everyone from the strong sunrays, keeping the weather cool and perfectly temperate for the occasion.

The programme started with the Ceremonial Procession that brought the auspicious Sayeeswara Lingam in all its glory and majesty from the Shirdi Sai Temple to the main tent where we had all gathered in great anticipation. Melodious bhajans were being sung in the background even as one could hear the familiar chants of Ganapathi Atharvaseersham by the main chanters leading the procession, who then entered and took their seats near the Homagundam (the sacred fire altar) built specifically for this event.

A short introduction to the day was then given by Dr Mahesh Narayan, welcoming all on this auspicious occasion and outlining the day’s programme. In his talk, he drew everyone’s attention to the objective of this Homam: Loka Kalyanam or the welfare of the world, as announced by Bhagawan Baba during the Athi Rudra Maha Yagna in 2006 in Sai Kulwanth Hall. Dr Mahesh exhorted all to pray selflessly, and especially, for the welfare of our brothers and sisters suffering in various parts of the world. In this context, he aptly mentioned the efforts by the Sri Satya Sai Charitable Trust UK to support the on going relief operations in Uttarakhand, North India where recent severe floods wreaked terrible suffering and damage. He urged everyone to sincerely open their hearts in the spirit of love and join hands with the International Sathya Sai Organisation which has undertaken the stupendous task of coordinating relief and reconstruction efforts on a sustained basis in those areas. Following Dr Mahesh’s introduction, the head priest took a few moments to broadly explain the meaning of the offerings at each stage of the proceedings.

Many of us often reflect on how Swami had taken great pains to explain and extol the power and importance of chanting the Sri Rudram. Why our Beloved Swami should recommend it so? We are told that the Sri Rudram is a powerful Vedic hymn on Lord Shiva found in the ancient Yajur Veda and well known for its healing vibrations and traditionally chanted to invoke Lord Shiva's energy, intelligence and blessings. In Sri Rudram, (also called the namakam) the beautiful Cosmic form of Shiva is described. Accordingly there are 300 repetitions of the word “namaha” the Sanskrit word for 'salutations'. Another interpretation of “namaha” is 'not me' and so by repeated chanting “not me” again and again, it is believed that man’s ego diminishes as he is reminded that he is not the “doer” in this huge drama of life. By understanding this fundamental truth, man consequently finds the solution to all his problems. Scientists also believe that our brain is designed to respond differently to different words and so whatever word we repeat in our “inner space” gets recorded in our brain and bio-memory and also decides the circuit of brain signals. So, repeating the word “namaha” in our “inner space” breaks the unconscious part of our mind where the root cause of all the health problems resides. And, simply chanting the Sri Rudram with awareness can directly destroy the root of all mental and physical health problems! So we have a fraction of understanding as to why Swami, in His infinite, unconditional and overflowing love for each of us - directed His devotees to learn Sri Rudram for the benefit of both ourselves and others.

By now, the Homam (sacrificial fire) was well underway, burning brightly as the priest fed the flames with a repeated and steady offering of ghee throughout. As devotees fervently repeated the sacred chants, we prayed that our humble efforts would invoke the Cosmic energy in the homam fire allowing it to spiral upwards and outward into the surrounding environment, thereby cleansing and rejuvenating the environment by infusing it with prana (life force). The momentum could be felt by one and all, as we watched the sacred ‘Lingaabhishekam’ ( ceremonial bathing of the Lingam) being performed continuously with milk, curd, honey, turmeric, sandalwood etc. whilst fortunate couples came forward to receive the blessings of Lord Shiva and watch mesmerised at close quarters. Yet, inspite of the flames of the homam, and its miraculously healing smoke (known to cure a variety to ailments including asthma), many commented afterwards as to how cool and comfortable the tent had remained, allowing almost a thousand devotees to remain completely focussed on the ceremony throughout the morning from Punyah Vachanam at 8.40 am to Purnahuthi which took place almost a full five hours later! Many of us felt this was a sign of Swami’s Grace as Lord Shiva was appeased each time with renditions of the namakam, followed by a verse of “chamakam” seeking all manner of wordly boons that only God can bestow on Man.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes a dedicated team of volunteers stayed on their feet throughout the day, serving fruit, water and meeting the needs of the huge gathering. Finally, the crowd were again treated to vibrant Shiva bhajans as the sacred lingam was shielded from us whilst the priests lovingly dressed and adorned it in preparation for the final puja. The head priest then asked all present to rise to their feet as the final Aarti was offered and the morning’s programme gradually drew to a close.
Following this, bhajans continued for the next hour or so whilst devotees eagerly queued up to receive fruit prasadam, sacred ash and bow down to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva before heading to the adjacent tent to receive a much welcomed, hearty lunch – with two types of rice and a delicious sweet halwa which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. Whilst many took the opportunity to look around the beautiful temple grounds and visit the various deities in their respective shrines – most of us returned promptly to the main tent as the afternoon programme was due to commence after this short interval.

Brother Mukund Patel, National Service Coordinator of SSSSO UK, then introduced the guest speaker, Dr Surendra Upadhyay, well known to many for his inspiring work in conducting medical camps all over the world in reaching out to the poor and needy. He started with a small prayer to Lord Shiva and expressed his feeling of gratitude at being present at such an occasion. He recalled a trip to Prashanthi Nilayam in 2006, only to witness the very first Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam. The doctor observed that the Balaji Temple, the planning and inauguration of which had been blessed and approved by none other than Swami Himself – was the perfect venue for this homam which was organised with the sathwic and unselfish intentions to achieve peace in the world for one and all – a noble aim that would surely please our Beloved Swami. He went on to say that the temple grounds had become a veritable Prashanthi Nilayam itself, thereby fulfilling another of Swami’s wishes that each of us should create a Prashanthi Nilayam wherever we are!
The eminent speaker then asked the audience how many had had the rare opportunity of performing seva for our Beloved Swami – a difficult if not impossible occurrence as Swami was selfless by His very nature. Consequently, the easiest way to serve Swami would be to recognise the God in each and everyone – an outlook that would please the Lord and win His Grace- alleviate the suffering of others and keep one constantly engaged in His work.

The doctor then went on to relate the story of the Sudarshana Chakra and its significance which was not only to destroy demons but also had an amazing power to protect the noble-minded, ensuring they also see only noble qualities in others. The speaker spoke of how fortunate all of us were to have taken birth at the same time as the Purna Avatar and said that even the demi-gods were jealous of this boon. In return for this boon, Swami’s expectation is that we should use our hands as HIS hands, and when we do this with full faith, they too will become healing hands. To become fit for this noble task of serving others we should strive to free ourselves from the bondage of jealousy, hatred and anger and fulfil our true potential, exercise humility and thus realise our true identity through transformation. How do we remove this veil of ignorance? By tuning into God each and every day, removing the “background noise” in our lives and listening to His voice speaking to each of us. We should yearn and pray to remain connected to Him at all times and one of the easiest and simplest ways is through “Namasmarana”. Sairam is the most powerful word but it should be said with conviction, the doctor said. He ended with the story of how, many years ago he was posted in the Himalayas at the start of his professional career as a young doctor and so found his calling for a life of service. The doctor asked all present to let their hearts go out to the flood victims who had lost everything, saying that these floods were the result of man’s own actions by interfering with Mother Nature and not heeding God’s advice. But we should all strive to remain connected to God, through serving Him in man, by engaging in sacred activities such as chanting Rudram, and thereby find peace in our lives.

Finally, a beautiful musical recitation by two very talented young musicians, Akaash Parekh on Sitar (student of Roopa Panesar) and Gulpreet Singh Chandan on tabla who played their instruments with great skill and devotion for the final item – a combination of brilliant, classical music - interspersed with instrumental bhajan pieces. With this exhilarating finish, Aarti was offered to our Beloved Swami in thanks for such a wonderful experience. Everyone felt spiritually charged and full of energy as we all made our way homeward bound – with verses of the sacred “namakam” still reverberating in our minds. JAI SAI RAM!

Sutopa Sen

SSSSO UK, Region 3
Alumnus, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning

An SSE Group’s experience

When they started chanting om, it felt as if we had been transported to puttarparthi which was emphasised even more by the stunning stage decorations including a wonderful picture of Baba. Minesh was initially nervous however after beginning the chant and seeing Shiridi Baba’s temple the atmosphere amongst the male chanters changed into one of excitement and immense spirituality and for Minesh he was blessed to have the opportunity to touch the lingum . For us in the marquee when the chanters entered with the ling we were so excited that our heart rates increased. Our anticipation was increased further when the priest explained the importance of the Rudhram chanting and the benefits it has which refreshed and reiterated the purpose of us chanting and after all the hard work we put into learning the Rudhram it was even more rewarding to be able to chant during the Homam so much so that we transferred all the energy we could into chanting with our full voices and open throats placing particular emphasis on the intonations and pronunciations which produced very powerful, spiritual vibrations. The flames of the yugna also reflected the power and the energy and which uplifted especially because we were blessed to be sitting so near to the alter us and we also felt that we had been blessed by swamis grace to have had the opportunity to take part in this celebration that contributed to universal peace.

Sai love,

Jayna, Meesha & Minesh
Wolverhampton SSE

A Youth's Experience

Events like these are a once in a lifetime opportunity, for who knows when the opportunity will arise again, to be part of such a grand Spiritual Experience? And with such grandeur comes the months of individual preparation, both on a mental and physical level. The day itself began with an early start; a 4am rise, leaving home at 5.30am, all in anticipation of what lay ahead.

Personally, this was not the first time I was to take part in such an event. I had been involved in the previous years National celebrations, taking as part (as I did this time too) as one of the chanters. I must take this opportunity to mention that it is an absolute privilege to be involved in such capacity; chanting of the Sri Rudram (Namakam & Camakam) is no ordinary feat, the effects of which are beyond our mere comprehension, yet the experience one feels after chanting it leaves one in a state of bliss – peace, tranquility. But despite this not being a ‘new experience’, in a way it felt like one. Over the course of the year, my outlook and approach towards chanting Sri Rudram had changed (as I would like to believe, for the better). My understanding of ‘why I was chanting this sacred hymn’ had developed, had evolved; so much so, that I could feel this on the very day.

The day began, with all in anticipation of the arrival of the chanters; bhajans and chorus singing, coupled with melodious music, filled the air, setting the platform from which the ‘holy offering’ was to unfold. As the chief priest began his introductory speech, educating the masses, we were told of the purpose and benefits of chanting this divine hymn – for ‘Loka kalyanam’ (benefit of the World). Reflecting back on such words, one can only relate to what our beloved Bhagawan Baba has often said: “we are who we are because of society, hence we owe a great deal back unto society”, and also “Paropakaram Idam Sareeram
“ (That this body/vessel, has been provided unto us, for the very purpose of serving mankind). With such noble thoughts, the chanting began. Eleven times chanting of the Sri Rudram, with tremendous vigor, passion, bhavam (feeling), that the effects could be felt far and wide!

Sitting continuously, cross-legged, for 5 hours can take its toll on any ordinary individual – the back pains, aching knee joints, and not to mention one loosing ones voice due to continuous chanting. But all of this seemed irrelevant, for we all felt that there was a greater purpose – the feeling of collectiveness, where brothers and sisters united in a common cause, channelling our thoughts, words and deeds through this act of Athi Rudra Maha Yagna, unto our beloved Swami. What could be a more nobler cause??

As the day came to an end, and we all departed for our respective homes, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction and achievement. With the grace of Bhagawan Baba, the day’s events had gone tremendously well, all had felt a sense of triumph, achievement! I pondered on when the next opportunity would arise – Mahasivarathri, Guru Poornima 2014? At the same time, I had to thank Swami, for giving this opportunity unto me.

Swami, may this experience lead to a change in me, a change in which I am ever more in-tuned with you, one with you; one without a second, but just ONE.

Kapil Dev
R3 Youth

The Homam flames reflected immense power and energy....

When they started chanting Om, it felt as if we had been transported to Puttaparthi which was emphasised even more by the stunning stage decorations including a wonderful picture of our dearest Bhagawan Baba. Minesh was initially nervous. However after beginning the chant and seeing Shirdi Baba’s temple from where the procession started, the atmosphere amongst the male chanters changed into one of excitement and immense spirituality. And for Minesh, he was blessed to have the opportunity to touch the Lingam. For us in the marquee, when the chanters entered with the Lingam we were so excited that our heart rates increased. Our anticipation was increased further when the priest explained the importance of the Rudram chanting and the benefits it has which refreshed and reiterated the purpose of us chanting. After all the hard work we put into learning the Rudram it was even more rewarding to be able to chant during the Homam. So much so that we transferred all the energy we could into chanting, with our full voices and open throats placing particular emphasis on the intonations and pronunciations which produced very powerful, spiritual vibrations. The flames of the Homam also reflected the power and the energy, which uplifted us especially because we were blessed to be sitting so near the altar! We also felt that we had been blessed by Swami’s grace to have had the opportunity to take part in this celebration that contributed to universal peace.

Jayna, Meesha & Minesh
SSE Group 3, Wolverhampton

All of us felt a sense of joy and contentment!

Events like these are a once in a lifetime opportunity, for who knows when the opportunity will arise again, to be part of such a grand Spiritual Experience? And with such grandeur comes the months of individual preparation, both on a mental and physical level. The day itself began with an early start; a 4am rise, leaving home at 5.30am, all in anticipation of what lay ahead.

Personally, this was not the first time I was to take part in such an event. I had been involved in the previous years National celebrations, taking part (as I did this time too) as one of the main chanters. I must take this opportunity to mention that it is an absolute privilege to be involved in such capacity; chanting of the Sri Rudram (Namakam & Chamakam) is no ordinary blessing, the effects of which are beyond mere comprehension! Yet the experience one feels after chanting this Hymn leaves one in a state of bliss, peace and tranquility. Despite this not being a ‘new experience’, in a way it still felt like one. Over the course of the year, my outlook and approach towards chanting Sri Rudram had changed (as I would like to believe, for the better). My understanding of ‘why I was chanting this sacred hymn’ had developed, had evolved; so much so, that I could feel this on the very day.

The day began, with everyone in anticipation of the arrival of the chanters; bhajans and chorus singing, coupled with melodious music, filled the air, setting the platform from which the ‘holy offering’ was to unfold. As the chief priest began his introductory speech, explaining the purpose and benefits of chanting this divine hymn – for ‘Loka kalyanam’ (benefit of the World). Reflecting back on such words, one can only relate to what our beloved Bhagawan Baba has often said: “we are who we are because of society, hence we owe a great deal back unto society”, and also “Paropakaram Idam Sareeram“ (That this body/vessel, has been provided unto us, for the very purpose of serving mankind). With such noble thoughts, the chanting began. Eleven times chanting of the Sri Rudram, with tremendous vigor, passion, and feeling (bhavam), that the effects could be felt far and wide!

Sitting continuously, cross-legged, for 5 hours can take it’s toll on any ordinary individual – the back pains, aching knee joints, and not to mention one loosing one’s voice due to continuous chanting. But all of this seemed irrelevant, for we all felt that there was a greater purpose – the feeling of collectiveness, where brothers and sisters united in a common cause, channeling our thoughts, words and deeds through this act of Rudra Ekaadhashini Homam, unto our beloved Swami. What could be a more nobler cause??

As the day came to an end, and we all returned to our respective homes, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. With the grace of Bhagawan Baba, the day’s events had gone tremendously well, all had felt a sense of joy and contentment! I pondered on when the next opportunity would arise – Mahasivarathri, Guru Poornima 2014 perhaps? At the same time, I had to thank Swami for giving this opportunity unto me.

Swami, may this experience lead to a change in me, a change in which I am ever more in-tune with you, one with you; one without a second, but just ONE.

Kapil Dev Prasher
Regional Youth Coordinator
Region 3 SSSSO UK

Sai Anandam: National UK Pilgrimage 2013

Swami has many a time said that entry into Prashanti Nilayam is by divine invitation only, and not by the virtue of affording the flight ticket. Thus, with the grace of Bhagawan, approximately 60 devotees from the UK embarked to Puttaparthi to participate in the National UK Pilgrimage with the theme, Sai Anandam – In harmony with Sai.

Running from 28th July until 3rd August 2013, the programme was densely filled with spiritual activities, ranging from hearing inspiring speeches to visiting Brindavan. Evidently, Swami was determined to make sure we were not idle during our time in Prashanti.

Following the much appreciated preparation by our group leaders, the official pilgrimage began at 4am on the morning of 28th July for Omkar, Suprabhatam, and Nagarsankeertan. In spite of the tiring hour, those who made the queue outside N2 were eager to begin their Sadhana by first waking up Swami – “a rare blessing”, as one fellow devotee gracefully described it. Afterwards, many of us discussed the experience of being in the Prashanti Mandir, describing it as “electrifying”, “uplifting” and “peaceful”.

Our first group darshan was a poignant event, filled with mixed feelings and spirits, as for many it was the first visit to Prashanti since Swami’s Maha Samadhi in 2011. Walking into Sai Kulwant Hall and seeing the Samadhi in place of the Ganesh statue on the veranda was overwhelming and for some, would take time to adjust to. Nonetheless, being part of a group, Bhagawan allowed us to have special seating in the hall and priority to go up to the Samadhi.

The first meeting was an opportunity for the leaders to introduce the itinerary of the pilgrimage, which we found to be surprisingly busy, with very little time for rest. Nevertheless, our National Chair, Dr Kiran Patel assured us that these extra activities, intertwined between darshan were the real gems of the trip. We of course could only trust his sound opinion. Our leaders graced us with calendars, photos and copies of Bhagawatha Vahini, the official designated book of the pilgrimage. These gifts conveyed the background work which had gone into the trip.

One of the most important elements of a group pilgrimage, as opposed to family or individual trips, is the opportunity to develop and extend our Sai family by meeting like-minded brothers and sisters to elevate each other’s spiritual path. In order to facilitate this we were given the chance to introduce ourselves to the other group members. We expressed our reasons for joining the trip and what we hoped to achieve through the journey. This revealed that many of us came to recharge ourselves with Swami’s divine energy and take this back to the UK. Others sought answers to questions. We discovered that members hailed from various corners of the UK – Alperton, Mill Hill, Hounslow, Bedford, Southampton, Coventry and Leicester.

Following our opening discussions, began the line of prominent guest speakers, who in their own way conveyed Swami’s teachings, keeping him alive in our hearts. Our first speaker, Aravind Balasubrahmaniam, was a student of Swami and currently a broadcaster on RadioSai. He made us think about the question that many of us are probably asked, “How did we start believing in Swami?”. Through an array of experiences during his time as a student and popular student speaker in the divine presence, he said that it is because Swami is the Lord of many little things. Whether it was that eye-to-eye contact you had or vibhuti materialisation or perhaps something as divine as cancelling cancer, God comes into our lives in so many little ways. Indeed, it is these little stories which together create the divine epic for an individual person. He touched greatly on faith in the Lord, especially during hardships when we have a tendency to feel that God has neglected us. We must remember that this is false and concluded with a touching analogy about a goldsmith. A goldsmith was working on an impure piece of gold. He was heating it, filtering it, shaping it and causing the gold much pain. The gold cried to the goldsmith “when will you stop hurting me?”. The goldsmith replied “I will stop when I see my image in you.” And this is perhaps the reality, as Swami will put us through trials and tribulations in order to ensure we become his image.

Our second speaker, Mr. Bishu Prusty, was also a former student and currently a main anchor at RadioSai. Through personal experiences, he spoke on the importance of surrender and how letting God lead the way will always reaps greater results. This was beautifully summarised in a story about a mother and son who went to a bakery. After the mother had bought all that she needed, she asked her son whether he wanted any toffees. They boy wanted some however refused to help himself to the toffees in the jar. This irritated his mother and the shopkeeper. As a result, the shopkeeper had to take them out of the toffee jar himself and placed them in the hands of the boy, who gracefully accepted them. On leaving the store, the mother asked her son why he would not help himself. He smartly conveyed that had he helped himself, he would only have grabbed as many toffees as would have filled his small hands. However, because he let the shopkeeper take the toffees, he received a lot more. If we whole-heartedly surrender to God, we can only receive more. The humility with which he conveyed this was heart-warming.

Dr Sara Pavan, an anaesthetist from Australia spoke of his experiences with Swami and how Swami told him to leave his wealth and comfort in Australia and bring his family to Puttaparthi. He narrated stories of Swami bringing back his grandson to life and spectacles that were left in Bangalore reappearing in Rome, reminding us of Swami’s omnipresence. He touched on being in harmony with God and how this is achieved through leaving behind materialistic and false identities. Agnostic himself, he tried to separate religion from spirituality and said that even an atheist can be in harmony with Swami.

On Monday evening we were addressed by an ex-student who is now a lecturer in statistics and commerce in Swami’s institute, Mr Sai Surendranath. He said that he was determined never to marry and only serve Swami, but later he had to agree to marry as per Swami’s Command. Swami found his future wife, and the two first met on their wedding day! He linked this to the importance of faith in God, for he will take care of everything. A few years ago, his wife suffered from a slipped disc in her spinal column. This caused her much pain and rendered her almost immobile. Before undertaking any further medical treatment, brother Surendranath went to Swami who gave him some vibhuti. This vibhuti ultimately led to her complete recovery. Such is the faith of some lucky souls in the Lord – who withhold from professional medical advice to seek the help from the doctor of all doctors! He gave us useful practical advice on how to connect with the inner God by thinking of Swami and remembering happy moments with God. In this way, we can keep him alive within us.

We were fortunate to listen to Professor Nanjundaiah on Tuesday morning, who translated Swami’s discourses for almost a decade. He outlined the amusing story of how Sri Kasturi came to Swami, after trying to defame the Lord by attempting to pull off his afro, thinking that it was a wig! Through stories, he eloquently reminded us of God’s love and compassion and expressed how we already have God’s love, and need not ask for it. This touched us all.

Perhaps the most thought provoking and challenging talk was given by the former Vice Chancellor of the Swami’s Institute of Higher Learning, Professor G. Venkataraman. Rather than narrating experiences he brought up social issues common in the modern world – single mothers, violence, corruption, rape. Such changes in society though, have not developed overnight but rather are an accumulation of lack of morality in society. He condemned capitalism for its profit driven motives, removing any morality that was left in man. He stressed the importance of serving society as means of helping social problems and described education in moral values is needed, as the nurturing of moral young adults requires time. What he emphasised though, was that such service need not be done in the name of religion or God. This way, they may appeal to a wider population. His talk undoubtedly gave everyone food for thought, especially about conducting service in the UK with an aim of also facilitating the development of more morality in society. As man of science and a great leader, he gave us many anecdotes from his vocation, narrating how Gandhi referred to the radio as “shakti, the energy of God” and how Einstein’s famous equation of energy, E = mc2, was equivalent to the energy of God. This emphasised how these leaders were connected to the higher power. It is hence, not surprising that Einstein said “God does not play with dice”, that is, everything is due to the fine divine design!

Some say, that Prasanthi is Swami’s Office, but Brindavan is Swami’s Home! Hence, on Wednesday, we travelled as a group to Brindavan. Having heard about the experience of the trip last year, we all set off with high expectations. Walking through the grounds in Brindavan, we were met with vibrant flowers and many nostalgic stories. Sri Sanjay Sahni the Director of the Brindavan Institute Campus, guided us through these grounds narrating anecdotes associated with every corner. He explained how Swami inaugurated the cricket field by taking six wickets in six under arm balls! This made us all laugh and reminded us of the playfulness of Sai Krishna in his Brindavan.

We were given the opportunity to sit in Sai Ramesh Hall, the hall in which Swami gave darshan to his devotees in Brindavan. It was truly filled with magical vibrations. One could imagine the hall filled with people, the blue carpets laid out and Swami, in his orange robe, walking towards individuals. Professor Sahni then led us to the University campus where we were met by Dr Ravi Kumar, who narrated his experiences. He conveyed how Swami does everything for a reason. During the construction of Sai Kulwant Hall, many thought the green and gold ceiling was a mistake. However, Swami once explained to a devotee that the reason for this was that he could not materialise a green and gold ring for everyone. Green, he said was for peace. Hence, when the masses flock to Prashanti with their problems, worries and anxieties, they should go home peacefully after sitting in Sai Kulwant Hall.

During the afternoon in Brindavan, we made a trip to the Super Speciality Hospital. The architecture and interior designs were simply mesmerising – not your average hospital, anywhere. It had been designed and constructed with the intention of holistic healing – physically, spiritually and mentally. This temple of healing accommodated a neurology and cardiology department and provided free healthcare to the masses. It was a true blessing to see Swami’s work in action. As Swami says, “If wealth is lost, nothing is lost. If health is lost, something is lost”. In this hospital Swami was clearly restoring and restructuring many lives.

One of the most touching experiences was the visit to an Elderly Care Home which Swami had opened. Here devotees who were very close to Swami were looked after, including a lady who accompanied Swami to Badrinath in 1961. It was a pleasure to meet them and receive their blessings after we sang a few bhajans.

The evening saw a brilliant performance by the four UK musicians accompanying us- Sister Roopa Panesar on Sitar, and brothers Kirpal Panesar on Tar Shehnai, Talvin Singh on the Tabla, and Pirashanna Thevarajah on Mridangam- in the Kalyana Mandapam (Marriage Hall) for the Brindavan students and devotees. The musicians stunned their audience with thrilling variations and improvisations around the bhajans, Arunachala Shiva and Partheeshwari Jagat Janani. The peace and tranquillity that this performance filled us with, appeared to prepare us for what was perhaps the pinnacle of our trip to Brindavan – entry into Swami’s Divine Residence, Trayee Brindavan! We were truly bestowed with a blessing of a lifetime. Sitting in the residence of the Lord that walked on the Earth was surreal. We were addressed by Dr T Ravi Kumar, the Warden of Sri Sathya Sai Boys Hostel, Brindavan Campus and Professor Sanjay Sahni who narrated many sweet experiences with the Lord. What touched us greatly though, was when Professor Sanjay Sahni said that Swami was pleased to have us in his home and then presented the group with four photos of Swami from Trayee. Words cannot describe the elation we all felt after hearing these words. This visit to Brindavan was truly heavenly!

Of course, one must never forget that problems are likely even when one is journeying to a holy place. We were no exception. We were told that we would have to leave Brindavan at 4am on Thursday morning due to the political unrest in Andhra Pradesh following the decision to split the State. With Swami’s grace, our early rise paid off and we arrived back in Pranshanti, ready for morning darshan.

That afternoon was to be the UK Musical offering, titled ‘Sai Bandhan’, by the four musicians who performed earlier in Brindavan. The sisters all dressed up in coordinated saris and as ever, the musicians ‘wow’ed the audience with their loving offering to Swami, playing various improvisations around familiar bhajans including, Antharanga Sai, Om Hari Om Hari Om Bhajore Sada, Hari Bhajana Bina and Rama Jayam Raghu Rama Jayam, to name a few. Our musicians created a certain a-ha moment in Sai Kulwant hall! During the bhajans by the students, our group was privileged to have photos taken at the Maha Samadhi. No doubt, we will cherish these photos forever, along with the beautiful memories of the trip.

Video Link:
http://media.radiosai.org/journals/vol_11/01AUG13/roopa-panesar-instrumental-concert.htm

On Friday morning, following darshan, the group went to the Heritage museum. In spite of the long trek up the hill with a plethora of stairs it was a worthwhile journey. The return gave the opportunity to sit underneath the majestic Meditation Tree, which was a chance to get some well deserved rest or reflect upon the trip thus far.

That evening, we gathered together and reflected upon the trip, each saying what our most memorable experiences were. Almost all commented on the magic they took away from Brindavan and sitting in Trayee. Everyone felt like a family – a Sai family – and was prepared to go away with energising experiences, having successfully recharged their batteries.

On Saturday, as our journey together drew to a close we visited the planetarium which explored new concepts like dark matter in space and the possibility of landing on the moon once again in order to see if it would be suitable for life. We heard of some vibhuti materialisations in the Easwaramma English Medium School which was Swami’s first school, established especially for the underprivileged children of local residents. The school is separate from Swami’s primary school. These students come to darshan on Wednesday and Saturday. Swami had changed the school from a Telugu Medium to an English Medium in 2010, which will no doubt be beneficial for them in the future, especially if they want to join Swami’s Institute. At the school we were told of the materialisations filling the principal’s office completely. Although they had cleared this by the time we arrived, we could see vibhuti marks all over the chair. We were taken around the school and were shown into the computer lab, which contained 14 PCs to accommodate more than 400 students, and is used to teach students from fourth standard. This was a brand new suite and made us appreciate how not everyone gets the opportunity to start learning how to use computers as soon as they start school, as is often the case in the UK. We visited classes, and students as young as six were chanting Vedas and singing bhajans. The discipline they displayed was humbling.

Our last group darshan was made memorable by the potent rains, which seemed to have come from nowhere, during the Rudram chanting. It was as though the heavens opened to conjure up a powerful and auspicious atmosphere. During that darshan, we were joined by students from the Easwaramma English Medium School. It was a pleasure to hear them chant and sing bhajans.

Although the pilgrimage has officially concluded, such a trip is for life, for a spiritual journey cannot be bound by time or space. Indeed, being truly in harmony with Sai depends only on how well we harmonize and sanctify our feelings, thoughts, words and deeds wherever we are. For many, this pilgrimage was the first time in Prashanti Nilayam without Swami’s physical presence. However, it can be said with confidence that we all felt Swami’s presence during every moment. We were privileged with opportunities of a lifetime, graced with the talks by prominent speakers, and blessed to sit in Swami’s residence. Swami was no doubt there every step of the way!

We offer our gratitude to the group leaders and organisers for the incredible amount of work behind the scenes and of course to our dear Bhagawan for allowing us to journey to his holy abode.

Guest Speakers

Aravind Balasubramanya

Dr. Sara Pavan

Bishu Prusty

Prof. Venkataraman

Prof. Nanjundaiah

Ms. Dixa Thakrar

I Will Now Tell You How Much Fun I Had

A loving Sairam to the entire Sai family. I have been fortunate to take part in this year’s National Pilgrimage Sai Anandam. I will now tell you how much fun I had.

Brindavan:

My favorite part of the trip is the trip to Brindavan. I was extremely lucky because the number of the room we were given was 108. I really loved the dog in the ashram, which I think was called ‘Boxy’. Even the shape of college building seemed interesting. When we were taken to the cricket ground, Sri Sanjay Sahni uncle, the Principal of the Brindavan collage, told us the way the ground was inaugurated by Swami. The story was Swami threw the ball six times and got six wickets. In one turn, Swami threw the ball and it was coming slowly towards the boy and he thought that it would be an easy one. But just as he was about to hit the ball, it went in a funny shape and hit the wicket. After that we went to Sai Ramesh hall and looked around it and the best one I liked was the lovely big picture of Swami there.

Then we went to see the Super Specialty hospital which was a giant building. We had few photo’s there too. The staff told us that some people who come there ask if it is really free as it is so big hospital. Then we had a long session of musical program. Last and my favorite part of Brindavan trip was when we went in to Trayee Brindavan. I can’t believe we went there. There was a clock there sounding like cuckoo, which I loved.

Darshan in Prashanthi:

I also liked Darshans because we were allowed to sit in the front. When we go near to the Maha Samadhi I would normally put down a flower and pray. I also liked the Mandir hall darshans. The big pictures of Swami there with silver framing are very good. I also loved the sculpture of Krishna riding the chariot with Arjuna at the back which is in the Mandir.

Puttaparthi the village:

Even though Puttaparthi is a small village it is like a city to me. There are lots of bullock carts, rickshaws and also cars. There are many temples in the village. There are also many big apartments around, some even with 9 floors. There are lots of shops around. There is lots of greenery. There are lots of fruit sellers and flower sellers too.

Planetarium:

I loved going to the planetarium too. They showed a video about outer Space. They showed pictures that looked like you could touch them. They showed rockets going on to the moon and also a super spotter like thing in Australia which can see things in space. I enjoyed my trip to planetarium.

Guest Speakers:

We were given lots of talks by great speakers like Dr Sara Pavan, Aravind Balasubrahmanya and Bishu Prusty. The summary of these speeches was to have all the faith in Swami and he will help us always. I also asked them questions and cleared some of doubts which my little mind could think of.

Conclusion:

Overall Sai Anandam was a fantastic pilgrimage for me and I am looking forward to next years pilgrimage to make a trip to Puttaparthy again.

Sriya Moparthi, Year 2, London.

A Special Evening in Brindavan

Close to Sai Ramesh Hall, the students had assembled inside the Kalyana Mandapam. As we entered, we saw that the instruments had already been laid out on the stage at one end: the sitar and tar shehnai at the centre, flanked by the tabla and mridangam. Swami’s simple red chair was facing the stage, inviting the Divine to watch our musical offering, and behind it, the students from the Brindavan campus were soulfully singing the bhajan, ‘Vighna Vinashaka Devadi Deva.’ Next, a sanskrit verse in praise of Lord Vishnu led beautifully into the familiar bhajan ‘Sai Ram, Sai Shyam, Mere Sai Ram.’ One could not fail to be moved by these bhajans, sung by Swami’s students with such obvious devotion and musical talent.

With the tone so appropriately set by the bhajan singers, it was soon time for our own instrumentalists to ascend the stage and offer their music to Swami, on behalf of all of us: Sister Roopa Panesar taking up her sitar, brother Pirashanna Thevarajah placing the mridangam drum across one leg, brother Kirpal Panesar taking the Tar Shenai and bow into his hands, and brother Talvin Sing, setting the tabla before him.

The first note was struck on the sitar, resounding across the hall like the unexpected first raindrop of a heavy, but welcome, downpour. The torrential flow was not far away, as the other instruments quickly joined it, at a daring tempo: the rhythmic beating of the table and mridangam percussion, and the other-worldly sound of the Tar shehnai. For over one hour the quartet plucked, bowed and struck their instruments with such a variety of speed and tune, and with such energy and synergy, that the entire audience was lifted up into thoughts of the Divine.

At the conclusion, there was a thunderous and sustained applause, as the students and devotees expressed their delight at the stellar performance given by the four instrumentalists. The humbled musicians bowed their heads, and with hands folded, prayerfully offered their music at the Divine Lotus Feet. The session ended with Aarathi, offered to Swami’s chair; students and devotees alike thanking the Lord for a blissful evening in His Brindavan ashram. But of course, Swami still had saved the best surprise until last.

As we left the Kalyana Mantapam, it was dark outside and the ashram was illuminated by electric lights. Turning left, we approached an arch, with a path leading through beyond it towards a solitary, Lotus shaped building, surrounded by grass and trees. With a rush of excitement and anticipation, we realised that we were heading for ‘Trayee’ – Swami’s own Divine residence. As we walked up the path, we realised that Swami Himself had used the very same path, everytime he had walked down to Sai Ramesh Hall to give darshan. The hairs stood on end as we came to the ornately carved wooden doors, verily the gates to heaven. How does one describe the feeling of stepping into Swami’s own home? Should I attempt to describe how each of us felt as we entered that most sacred of portals? Volumes could not fully describe the bliss of being seated on the marble floor, in front of the altar inside Trayee.

At the centre was a statue of Lord Ganesha, carved in dark wood, surrounded by small images of the Navagrahas – the nine planets. On either side, large framed pictures of Swami and other idols, as well as Swami’s chair, placed on the ladies’ side. The poets of the past have asked, ‘are a thousand eyes enough to see the beauty of the Divine?’
That day, we all felt that two eyes were not sufficient to take in the beauty of that sight. Swami’s presence could be felt so intensely that the burdens carried over a lifetime were put down there, the forests of sorrow were felled, and our hearts were filled with hopefulness and love. And over the next hour and a half or so, as Sri Sanjay Sahni and Dr T Ravi Kumar, former students of our dearest Lord and currently the Director and Warden of the Brindavan Campus respectively, brought to life through their vivid and loving narrations the many events and occurrences around our beloved Swami’s physical sojourn on earth, that love in our hearts overflowed and saturated our very beings! Everyone was thrilled, overjoyed and overwhelmed by the Divine Love and Leelas of the Lord. There wasn’t a single dry eye or a single dry heart in the entire group. As we retired for the night, all of us were acutely aware that this was a very special evening when we touched Him, and were in turn, touched by Him!

Sairaj Puvinathan
London

SSE Graduation

Region Two's unique Sports & Graduation Family Day was witnessed by 111 Students, 101 Parents & Family and 35 Teachers, 1 Dog and many more centre members that attended the event on 7th July 2013. With Swami's Divine Blessing, It was a FUNTASTIC DAY; Weather was PERFECT, Food was DELICIOUS, Games were AWESOME, the Company was HEAVENLY and the Token Prize was a GOLDEN moment to Treasure.

The planning began many weeks before the event day with SSE teams across 4 centre's coming together and volunteering their time as 'One Family' and helping with the preparation and planning of games, refreshments and celebration of the SSE Academic Year of 2012/13.
However, before these two main events began, the day was blessed with Pinner Sai Centre’s usual Sunday morning bhajans commencing at the venue. The melodies of these bhajans carried into the fields giving SSE a vibrant start to the day which was further with SSE Prayers and Yoga as the British weather blessed us with a scorching 27 degrees.

All 247 participants were divided into six teams and each given a flag bearing their team name.

After each game, each team had a question relating to SSE Syllabus across all years and they had bonus points for cheering the loudest and for encouraging their team member to do well. It was all about taking part and learning to be team player.

There were a range of games from carrying water blind folded, egg & Spoon, Skipping, throwing bean bags, doing the hula- hoops, running, jumping, to playing rounder’s, football and much more.

And the games went on and on.... until it was time for football for the boys, Rounders for the girls and a Parachute and ball game for the very young. In between our teachers were on hand to distribute water whilst the parents raced each other.

Then it was time for Family Picnic Lunch...

After Lunch, our every First Regional Graduation Prize Giving Ceremony took place in recognition of 180 children's dedication and commitment in attending SSE and 80 Teachers and Parent Helpers were awarded with Gold Medal to mark their continuous hard work and devotion to SSE Wing in Year 2012/13 across 6 Centre’s in the region. Our Special Guest from the Region 2 Team, Sister Anil and Brother Senthil lovingly presented each person with their Gold Medals. No doubt Our Dearest Master was overseeing everything that had taken place from Planning to execution including ending the wonderful day as it began with Group Devotion Singing, this time by Harrow West Centre. Those who were not exhausted from a long and hot day attended more fulfilling vibrations in the bhajan hall.
But, we must not forget the input of our parents of SSE. After all, it’s the parents that bring their children to SSE week in and week out, so that we, as Teachers can act as Baba’s instruments to mould the children’s characters into Swami’s perfect idols. We Thank Swami for all his Guidance and love he showers us each and every day. Thank You Swami.

Written by Teacher from R2 SSE Wing.

REGION 2 - SSE CLASS OF YEAR 2012/13

CLASS - PRE-NURSERY (UNDER 4'S)

CLASS - NURSERY 1 & 2

CLASS - GROUP 1 YEAR 1, 2 & 3

CLASS - GROUP 2 YEAR 1,2 & 3

CLASS - GROUP 3 YEAR 1,2 & 3

SSE TEACHERS & PARENT HELPERS

A Letter from Lavanya Murki (SSE - London West)
On sports day we had a fantastic activities but without the help of the SSE teachers, the SSE students we would never have got there. So first we had the all round games where we did egg and spoon, skipping, running and many more. After that, we played a trusting game where you have to trust the person with you, you first get into pairs and then one wears a blind fold and the other guides you, tells you and as normal there will be hard thing, that thing was indeed to hold a cup of water and then pour the water into an empty milk bottle. Then we did the egg and spoon race when we did this all we had to make a chant for our team. That was really fun, after that we did some racing, then the boys and girls split up boys played football, while the girls played rounders / baseball and the pre nursery and nursery played with a parachute and a ball. Then after lunch graduation time came and every single SSE Students and teacher got a medal for working very hard at SSE.
That’s what happened on sports day! We all had a great fun and I hope there is one next year. Thank You.

A Letter from Mita Panda (SSE - Harrow West)
The Region 2 Sports and Graduation Family value day, was an event of its own kind. The day started with a clear sign of our beloved Swami’s grace, in the form of clear blue skies, with plenty of sunshine and cool breeze for everyone. It was my first experience of Sports and Family day and I was pleasantly surprised by the way it was organized and how united everybody worked as a big family to run everything smoothly. I felt, the games were selected keeping in mind both the learning and enjoyment factors. Along with other parents, I too joined in few of the games and had a good time. We sat down with the children and had a picnic lunch. For me the highlight of the day was the Graduation ceremony, where all the children and teachers were presented with a medal to celebrate their hard work and success. It was like the icing on the cake and brought smile to everyone’s face after a long tiring day .All in all for me it was a FUNTASTIC DAY, with a FANTASTIC atmosphere, AWESOME games, SCRUMPTIOUS food and some truly GOLDEN moments and learning experiences to treasure.

REGION 2 - SSE CENTRE GRADUATION - CLASS OF YEAR 2012/13

SSE – SLOUGH SAI CENTRE

Children were presented with certificates on the Auspicious day of Guru Purnima, the day also being their Graduation of the Academic Year 2012/13.
A child, Akshaya Nambiar, aged 5 , also sang a Guru bhajan. It is such joy and pleasure to see their sparkling faces early Sunday morning, Swami being the motivator.
They give up sleep to get to the SSE classes. Some come from very far. Swami says:

'Just as two wings are essential for a bird to fly high in the sky, two wheels for a cart to move, so too, the two types of education are needed for man to attain the goal of life. Spiritual education is for life, whereas worldly education is for a living. Only when man is equipped with these two aspects of education, can he be deserving of respect and adoration in society.'

Written by Bhartiben (SSE Cordinator)
SSE – HARROW WEST SAI CENTRE

SSE – HARROW WEST SAI CENTRE

On the 28th of July 2013, the Harrow West Sai centre was filled with excitement for the Guru Poornima celebrations and the annual SSE Graduation. The programme started at 3:30pm with Ganash Prathana followed by Abishekam to our beloved Bhagawan's Padukas while the devotees chanted the Sai Gayatri; Sri Sai Paadam Ashtothara Shathanaamaavali and bhajans. Before we concluded the programme with the aarthi, the SSE Graduation took place.

The names of the children were read out by our SSE Co-ordinater, Sister Mita and the certificates were presented by our very special guests, Region 2 SSE Co-ordinater, Bhupendra Uncle and his wife Asha Aunty. The love and affection that they showered on everyone was wonderful to see. Along with the certificates, we received special gifts to mark the occasion. We thoroughly enjoyed the event and all of us are ready for the long break ahead until SSE starts again in September.

Written by Shana (SSE Student)

UK Healthcare Activities

Sathya Sai Health Awareness Day, Sunday 7th July 2013
Eastleigh Mela, Region 6

The Service Wing of R6 of the Sri Sathya Service Organisation UK conducted a very successful Health Awareness Clinic on Sunday 7th July at Eastleigh recreation ground. The event was coordinated by the Asian Welfare and Cultural Association, with the support of Hampshire County Council and other local agencies.
There was an air of carnival throughout the day, with various colourful and cultural acts, music and dance from around the world, such as a lion dance, Indian dance, steel drumming, performances from Brazil and India, Irish dances and Bhangra, and Steel and Reggae bands.

It was a lovely sunny day (28 degrees!) and the volunteers were very grateful to be allocated an area in the shade of tall and fragrant lime trees, in the comfort of 7 separate gazebos, which were ideal for shade and privacy. The volunteers had arrived from four groups and centres in the region, namely Farnborough, Basingstoke, Southampton and Portsmouth, and included three doctors, one dentist, six nurses, and several nursing assistants, as well as general volunteers. There were a large number of Nepalese volunteers and interpreters.

The volunteers welcomed the members of the public and helped them through the various health checks: those included blood pressure, blood sugar, BMI checks, Diabetes risk assessment, and dental checks. The doctors were on hand to discuss the results of the checks, and provide advice and guidance in a friendly and unhurried manner. About 200 hundred people from all ages and ethnic backgrounds benefitted from the health checks, including the Lord Mayor of Eastleigh! People were very pleased to be able to discuss their problems in a calm and friendly atmosphere, and receive professional advice on healthier lifestyles.

The feedback received speaks for itself, and some of the comments from the public included: “A good idea to have a health screen, because when you are working you do not have time to visit your local GP”, “Brilliant service”, “Excellent. Good to have in an unthreatening environment”, “Good experience, polite people offering helpful information”, “ Good advice given and really happy with overall check up”, “Lovely surprise having this here today. Wonderful people giving the public a great service. Thank you so much”, “Thank you very much for this service. Very helpful and charming Doctors”, “Very good. Kind and helpful”, “Very impressed with the service and the information provided”, “Very nice service. Everyone was very helpful”.

The volunteers thoroughly enjoyed the day, happy to be serving the community, and enjoying the events of the day as well! A big thank you to all who helped to make this day such a success and spread the message of our Beloved Lord Sai, “Love all, Serve all.”

Pierrette Poirot
Region 6 Spiritual Coordinator

Sathya Sai Health Awareness Day, 13th - 14th July 2013
Newham Mela, Region 3

Sizzling sunshine was the backdrop of the free family fun at the Mayor's Newham show in East Ham's central park on the weekend of 13/14 July this year. With residents in huge numbers expected for the annual fiesta, a free walk-in health awareness day was organized by the London Borough of Newham- Public Health in partnership with the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organization, UK.

The NHS had organized a free health check which included BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar checks. This was done to help prevent the onset of heart disease, Stroke, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and dementia. It was a pleasant surprise to see the NHS run the health check-up unit in the same model as the Sathya Sai medical camp, a testimony to the change that our model can infuse in the authorities that we partner with. It was in accordance with Swami's advice regarding preventive care that "Doctors can bring home to the authorities their responsibility in the area of preventive measures. What is the use of spending millions on curative measures without promoting health? It is a waste of money”. The Sathya Sai service wing had setup free check-ups in the disciplines of Eye and Dental care along with the GP’s advice that included Pediatrics and Cardiology. There were a team of qualified, dedicated medical professionals who supported these initiatives: 2 doctors in the eye unit, 2 doctors in the dental unit and 5 doctors for GP advice - available on both days. The NHS had provided the mobile eye and dental units as doctors served their patients with loving concern and most importantly with a smile as per Swami’s dictum that “a patient feels reassured when he sees the smiling face of a doctor”.

The camp was also well manned by the volunteers who served with love while carrying out the various tasks. Following the NHS health check-up, people were directed to the registration counters, where they were advised on the various health check options offered by us. After completing the formalities of filling up the registration forms, they were then guided to the respective units by the volunteers. The queue at each of the units were managed by the cheerful and smiling volunteers who provided any assistance required by the people and ensured the smooth running of the service camp. After the check up and advice, doctors filled the forms with the results that were then digitally captured. All the doctors made truly earnest effort to educate the people in health and hygiene and impress on patients how food habits and lifestyles affect life and cause diseases in general. On the discretion of the doctors, GP notification letters were given wherever required for further checks with the local GP.

Overall, the 200 people who utilized the services appeared very grateful and happy to be able to undergo the checks. Especially they could combine this with the fun filled activities available at the carnival for all the family, making it a perfect day out for many residents both in Newham and surrounding boroughs. Those who utilized the services were surprised to know that the volunteers and doctors were doing it as a free service, sacrificing their personal time, and the NHS was very appreciative of this systematic and sustained annual initiative which the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation, UK has undertaken in recent years. For the doctors and the volunteers, it was a very good opportunity to render service to the local community. As Swami had said "In regard to any action, if it is done with a pure heart and good intentions, it is bound to be successful" and the health awareness day was indeed so – according to those who witnessed it.

Region 3 - Sudhir Shetty

Service for Sierra Leone, July 2013
Tooting, Region 1

In preparation for the upcoming Healthcare Camp in Yonibana, Sierra Leone, members of Tooting Sai Centre and their friends came together in July to undertake the service of packing medicines and boxes containing various items. This happens every year and a container full of supplies is shipped out to serve our needy brothers and sisters in this West African country.

The first stage of the 'packing' day was the 6th of July when about 18 members turned up to a devotee’s residence to sort, pack and categorise numerous items such as clothing, medical equipment, shoes, educational books, shelving, paediatric beds, assorted furniture, donated material from Thornton Heath Sai Centre for use at the Sai Centre in Yonibana, fans, crutches, children’s slide and children’s toys. Approximately 60 boxes were packed on that day and there were another 50 boxes already packed from last year including 13 bicycles! It was an exhausting but highly satisfying day for all of us. As always, Swami gives us the strength and resources to do His work!
Thereafter for the next 2 weeks, there was a steady flow of further materials from devotees and medical personnel for use at the Yonibana Sai Hospital in Sierra Leone. Again all these items had to be packed, ready for the container. But on the penultimate day, right at the last moment, Swami surprised us with the delivery of yet another consignment of 20 folding beds, toilets and sinks!

On the actual day when the container was to be loaded, we allowed 3 hours for 20 volunteers to load all the items. This year, a 40 foot container was procured so as to accommodate and transport all the items collected. However, as the container arrived, the driver could not back it onto the driveway! We had clearly underestimated the size of this enormous container!

With the container lorry now on the road, the ardous task of loading all the items began. Even as this process was underway, a last minute delivery of five granite slabs arrived! These had to be carefully negotiated as they were extremely heavy yet fragile. This was a special delivery requested by Yonibana Sai Centre for the tombstone of our dear departed Victor Kanu who was a very ardent and close devotee of Swami. Towards the end of the loading, we realised that there was still some space left in the container so one car was dispatched off to the local DIY store to purchase 500 bricks, buckets and paint brushes. Three other cars made further journeys to pick up additional doors, shelving, cabinets and large refuse bins.

The container will now makes its journey to Sierra Leone over the next six weeks. The next medical camp to go out there is in October this year, so the container should arrive well in time for the 25+ strong group flying out there.
A smaller group is going there a few days before the main group to install the IT system in the hospital as well as starting prevention programmes in the local Community. The EHV programme has also started at the Sai Centre there. This Yonibana Sai Hospital project demonstrates that what was initially only a medical camp in 2006 when it first started, has now expanded into a well integrated, sustainable service activity addressing the healthcare, sociocare, educare, aquacare and envirocare needs of the local populace. One can only marvel at how Swami arranges everything when we offer ourselves as humble instruments in His Divine hands. Every year, we agonise that we may not be able to offer another container due to various constraints, yet somehow Swami just makes things happen! We pray to Him for His Grace so that we may continue to serve our needy brothers and sisters and fulfill our lives in His Mission.

Jitesh Patel
Tooting Sai Centre

“Serve the Planet” – Global Service Project

“The core of the spiritual discipline of service is to see everyone as yourself and yourself in everyone. You are not doing service to others, you are doing service to yourselves , to the God in you who is equally present in all” – Sathya Sai Baba 21/11/1981

This project was initially proposed by the youth of Italy and has since been endorsed by Prasanthi Council to be a global service project for the overseas Sathya Sai Organisations to commemorate Avatar Declaration Day on the 20th October. One may recollect that on October 20th 1940, Bhagawan out of His infinite love and compassion declared to the world that He was an avatar who had come for the redemption of mankind. Serving fellow beings has been at the very heart of His Divine Mission.

The project “Serve the Planet” is primarily focussed upon feeding the poor which is left to individual countries to implement based upon their local needs.

This is a wonderful opportunity for devotees around the world to participate in this project as an offering of their love to Bhagawan.

In the UK, over 13 million people live below the poverty line i.e. 1 in 5 persons. Lot of people in the UK go hungry for reasons ranging from homelessness, lack of enough income, sickness, changes to benefits, unemployment, debt etc. The current economic climate has not helped the situation.

In 2012-13, Trussell Trust Food Banks fed 346,992 people nationwide. Of these, 126,889 were children. The food banks provide a minimum of three days emergency food supply for people in crisis. There are currently 350 food banks launched by Trussell Trust throughout the country.

The youth of UK after extensive discussion and search have proposed that the centres / groups of our Organisation initially support these food banks which are already well established and make this our nation building project towards ‘Serve the Planet’ to be launched soon.

The project will be jointly owned and led by the Service Wing and the Youth Wing. It will initially entail collection of non-perishable food on specific dates from centres and transferring items to food banks. Further details of nearest food bank, contacts and how each group, centre and region will be able to participate in this initiative will be circulated soon.

We pray to Dearest Bhagawan that He Blesses this humble offering from us, His Devotees and that by His Grace, we will be able to serve our fellow beings with the understanding that the service rendered is to Sai who dwells in the hearts all beings.

Shyam Jamnadas
National Youth Coordinator

Region 1 - Gurupoornimaa Celebration

Region 1 Guru Poornimaa was hosted by Bromley Sai Centre with the immense support of the Regional Team, Brixton and Merton Sai Centres and the Regional Sai Youth. The contributions were most valuable in making the evening a wonderful spiritual experience and a success.

The programme commenced with the traditional lighting of the lamps, followed by chants by the men of Vedic prayers to Lord Ganapati, Lord Shiva and of prayers for world peace; and the singing of verses by the ladies to honour the Guru. Meanwhile, two 6-year olds from Bromley Centre bestowed our Guru with flowers at His Lotus Feet.

Bromley’s SSE children performed two items. The first was a dance depicting a conversation between Krishna’s mother Yashodaa and her friends about the various emotions playful Krishna evoked in her with His pranks/divine plays, such as embarrassment, puzzlement, surprise, laughter, happiness, pride and even frustration. The second was the rendering of two English devotional songs by the older SSE children. They sang their hearts out harmoniously paying homage to Swami.

The video presentation by the Sai Youth took everyone down memory lane to Sai Kulwant Hall and Swami, once again, reminding us of the significance of Guru Poornimaa. Points to reflect upon were: His omnipresence; the Soham (I am That) principle; harmony in thought, word and deed; and self-transformation from materialism to ideal man for progress in both the individual and the country.

The contribution by the 5 to 8 year-old SSE children from Merton Sai Centre was an enthralling play that, within an amazing 20 minutes, cleverly told of the life history and events that lead to the enlightenment of the Buddha and His establishment of the four noble truths that would free one from suffering and achieve Nirvaana (liberation). Adherence to Dharma (righteousness) and sense control were emphasised as important factors. The children who took part acted confidently and their performance was of a very high quality. The play ended with the devotional song, ‘Sai Naatha Bhagavaan,’ sung very sweetly by all the children.

The final highlight of the day was a most inspiring speech by Shree Ajit Popat, from his heart to ours. Everyone was so mesmerised that time fled without one’s realisation of its passing and we felt we could have listened to more. We are fortunate and grateful to our beloved Swami who made it possible for him to come and pass on his experience and wisdom gained over the 30 years he had spent with Swami. The main themes of his eloquent speech were:

1) the five types of loyalty we owe to Swami with regard to a) name; b) form; c) residence (spiritual centre); d) infrastructure and environment; and e) His divine teachings and commands; and
2) the 100% loyalty that Swami expects from his devotees: this was elaborated upon with anecdotes to explain ‘loyalty’ in simple and understandable terms.

Furthermore, he said that ‘good intentions’ need to be transformed into ‘actions’ and leaving a legacy of Swami’s teachings for future generations. He emphasised once again that Swami was the embodiment not only of love but also of immense compassion. He wound up his speech by giving us all a glimpse of his own humbling experience, which in no uncertain terms inspired us all to resolve to follow our beloved Swami’s main dictum of ‘Love all, serve all’ by being 100 % loyal, with nothing less being acceptable. May He grace us with His love so that we can continue to be 100% loyal to Him from this day onwards.

The programme came to an end with a medley of group devotional songs led by the Bromley Centre members declaring His glory, followed by a hearty response from the congregation. Everyone clearly experienced Swami’s presence that evening and went home taking consecrated food with a sense of renewed energy, peace and joy to reflect on Swami’s innumerable spiritual messages.

Jai Sai Ram

Dr. Sushila Balasubramaniam
Bromley Sai Centre

Region 1 - Service Day: Serving the Elderly

The sun was shining brilliantly as many volunteers from many centres within Region 1 started to create a party atmosphere for the young elderly. I say ‘young elderly’ because, although our guests might have been old in age, they were by no means old at heart, mind or spirit! Tables and chairs were arranged neatly, balloons were filled with helium, snacks and a very large amount of hot water for the tea were prepared and, lastly, the tables were sprinkled with a light dusting of glittery stars. ‘Stars’ was the theme of our party for the young elderly and we had hand-made purple broaches and banners to accompany the theme. It was dazzling!

The guests started to arrive, driven safely to the venue by a number of our service volunteers. They were accompanied to their seats, where they were welcomed with…a cup of tea! And along with that, simply someone to talk to. Some of our guests spend the majority of their time in their houses, and as one of our volunteers discovered through conversation, only in two or three rooms of the house: the remaining rooms being never opened, never needed. With this in mind, it was such a magnificent opportunity for us all to be in the company of these thirty-two (young) elderly people, with their immense knowledge, wisdom and even jokes!

Although the main ingredient was of course tea, there were many other bursts of entertainment to enjoy during the afternoon. I mentioned that our guests told us a few jokes: we handed the microphone around and one lady in a brilliant blue dress entertained us with many interesting jokes! I think that’s the best word for them: they did have everyone laughing, that’s for sure!

Bingo was thoroughly enjoyed by all, although concentration was at its highest at this stage! A lot of the right numbers were called out so it was good that there were many prizes to be won. Not only was it enjoyable to see our lovely guests react to their numbers being called out, the way in which the numbers were called out was highly entertaining. With a little background history here and joke or phrase there, one of our volunteers created lots of laughter for our guests who enjoyed being entertained whilst playing their game.

We even had the pleasure of hearing ‘Elvis’ who was a big hit with our guests; he even went as far as to say, “Thank you, thank you very much,” when handed a cup of tea! As our Elvis impersonator sang many hits from the fifties and sixties, our guests felt the urge to get up and dance, and so they did. Our volunteers had the greatest honour of being able to dance beside them, along with them and even be shown a few good dance moves from the experts themselves. The energy in the hall was amazing: laughter everywhere, bubbles being blown from every corner by both adults and children, ‘One more tea, please!’ being called to the kitchen every two minutes…and everyone smiling, happy to be there.

As the afternoon came to an end, we let our guests know and one lady said, “Why don’t we carry on for one more hour?” This virtually explained that they had all enjoyed the day and wanted more and did not want to return to their lonely houses. This is where we can help, by providing company and conversation to those who are in need of it. It won’t be long until the next enjoyable afternoon with our senior guests and we look forward to serving them as we did this time. As goodie bags were given out to each of our special guests, they were guided out as the sun still shone beautifully and were driven home safely. What a perfect end to a perfect day.

Now sitting back and thinking of the entire event, I feel that we in fact served none other than our beloved Lord who just happened to be in different forms. Swami always said that it is only by serving mankind that we can serve the Lord; by serving these seniors, we served more than we expected and it was indeed our most humble service to our beloved Swami to whom, with tears in my eyes, I’d like to shout out, “THANK YOU, DEAR SWAMI, FOR THE HUMBLE PRIVILEGE OF SERVING YOU.”

Saini Baladharan (Mitcham Sai Group)

Region 1 – YAP: Are We Ideal Sai Youth?

In a joint effort July’s session of the Young Adult Programme [YAP] was hosted by both Lewisham and Bromley Sai Centre in Region 1. With YAP being a forum that enables members of our youth to express their views and share their experiences in order to progress and develop our spiritual growth; we felt a topic that has numerous focus points would be the best platform to engage everyone present. Taking this into account ‘Are we ideal Sai Youth?’ seemed like the perfect question for us to discuss and would also allow those that attended to all personally relate to the session.

Beginning with an open question that tried to decipher what we thought were ’bad’ aspects of our daily lives gave people the chance to voice what they thought were things that could possibly be deemed as negative. Even within that it was astounding to see the many differences in what people consider to be ‘bad’.

We then moved on to a small clip of Professor Anil Kumar speaking on whether those that eat non-vegetarian food should be allowed to lead bhajans; his conclusion was that the two were independent of each other and joked that he is vegetarian, yet no one requests for him to sing as he does not have a melodic voice. Joke aside, he made a significant point and that being one’s food habits do not dictate whether they are a good person or a spiritual person.

The main body of the debate was focused around the following four questions:
1) What bad qualities do we have?
2) Why do we have certain bad qualities?
3) Is it actually wrong to do those things?
4) What can we do about these specific qualities?

Upon discussion it was clear that there was a vast range of ideas, thoughts and theories. However one thing that the majority did agree on was that it is all about the realisation that a certain thought or action is bad and that once we have come to that realisation we have to pursue whatever is necessary to ensure we cease those thoughts or actions. Our thought, word and deed must be in harmony for us to strive to be ideal Sai Youth.

Written by Saiesh Balakrishnan and Dhiran Jeyasundar

Region 2 – London West Sai Centre Visit ISKCON Farm in Watford

Om Sri Sai Ram

On the 14th of July 12 devotees from London West Sai Centre visited the Hare Rama Hare Krishna Farm in Watford. We arrived around 10:15am and were welcomed on the farm by Brother Kirti who showed us to where we were going to be working for the day. We were placed on large plot with growing cauliflower that was planted earlier in the year. These were full of weeds that were preventing the much needed water from reaching the parched cauliflower. On a day such as that with temperatures reaching a 30 degree high, weeding was a more important service than ever.

The physical act of weeding brought many of Swami’s teaching to mind. Swami says –

The very first step is to remove the weeds in the garden of your heart, plucking by the roots the briar and bush of lust and greed, of hate and pride and plant in the ground thus cleared the fragrant flower plants of prema (love) and the sweet fruit trees of dharma (virtue).
Prashaanthi Nilayam: Dasara, 28-9-1965

The temple farmer who was guiding us explained how nothing on the farm was wasted. All the cauliflower that does not fully develop is kept together and fed to the cows on the farm. By tending the plants in the garden our appreciation for the food really grew. Food is a gift from mother earth that we should take with restraint and appreciation. Swami explains -

Our life is like a long journey. In this long journey of life, you should make an effort to diminish your needs and desires. It is part of vairagya (detachment) to see that the food that you take is just sufficient and there is no waste.
Summer Roses on the Blue Mountains, 1976

We finished gardening at around 1pm and were served a delicious lunch lovingly made by the temple devotees. We retired from the farm in full appreciation of the service opportunity we had been given. The day was hot and our legs and backs were tired. I’m sure I can speak for my brother, sisters, aunties and uncles by saying we rested well that night. But more than this, our consciences were too rested, as we spend the day in the service of Sai.

With Love,
London West Sai Centre Service Coordinator

Region 3 - Ladies Retreat: Milton Keynes

Saturday 6th July is a day that will remain etched in the memories of all those who attended the Region 3 Ladies Retreat – graciously hosted by Milton Keynes Sai Centre at a nearby Buddhist Temple. Set in its glorious natural surroundings – this turned out to be the perfect venue for a day filled with love, laughter and spiritual sustenance and has since been described as one of those days - occasionally gifted to us by Swami - motivating us to do His work with more love and greater enthusiasm.

The day started with an invigorating two hour yoga and pranayama session led by Sister Swati from Mill Hill and Sister Niruben (Patanjali Yoga Trust UK), on the green hills surrounding the venue while the sun shone up above. After a light breakfast, participants then retreated into the cool, peaceful shelter of the temple itself, with its imposing altar, dark wooden floors and a beautiful picture of our Beloved Swami which had been joyfully adorned with flowers and incense by our Buddhist brethren who help maintain the venue.

The first study circle then commenced, skilfully facilitated by Sister Nirasha from Milton Keynes who handed out copies of Swami’s Ladies Day discourse (2002) entitled RESPONSIBILITIES OF WOMEN: CHARACTER BUILDING. The ladies broke up into small groups to discuss different aspects of Swami’s advice to women and how, by following the BE, DO, TELL principle – this could be implemented in everyday life. In the discourse, Swami was reminding all women of their primary duty to their families, with instances from the lives of great and virtuous examples such as Savitri and Chandramathi. He also reminded us of how the tongue should be used for giving solace and support to others, rather than indulging in idle gossip. The participants thoroughly enjoyed finding time to reflect on this advice and discussing how they could overcome obstacles to put this advice into practice more effectively in their everyday lives.

This lively session was followed by a delicious lunch served outside in the warm sunshine, allowing everyone to walk around and soak up the beautiful atmosphere. After lunch, everyone gathered back into the temple for the afternoon session which was kicked off by a short video entitled GIVING WITH LOVE, highlighting details of this service project and how Region 3 ladies had successfully worked with the local community to hand-make clothes and gifts for those less privileged – both in UK and overseas. This was followed by a short talk from guest speaker Maria Barry from Richard House Children’s Hospice in Beckton who spoke about the support the hospice had received from the GIVING WITH LOVE project – and encouraging others to join in and volunteer in a variety of ways. Maria graciously invited ladies to come and visit the hospice to see the good work carried out in supporting children with terminally ill conditions, along with their families – often helping them make that final journey from life to death - which moved everyone deeply.

The next session was another study circle…this time to remind ourselves of Swami’s sterling instructions on the subject of Service and how this should be carried out. Sister Nirasha once again facilitated a short session looking at the divine discourse: SERVICE WITHOUT DISTINCTIONS (1984) and asked ladies what obstacles prevented them from engaging in more seva?. It was a wonderful opportunity to really examine how we manage our time and prioritise our activities each day - and whether or not our choice of priorities would be Swami’s choice for us!

The final session for the day was a beautiful bhajan workshop, led very humbly by trained music teacher and long-time devotee of Swami, Sister Cookie from Milton Keynes who talked about Swami’s guidance on bhajan singing – covering the three aspects of shruti (tune), thalam (beat) and bhava (feeling). The workshop skilfully met the needs of its varied audience as Sister Cookie ably provided examples of common pitfalls in bhajan singing – as well as providing constructive advice on how to overcome these pitfalls through choice of bhajan and practice, thereby showing each of us how we could make a more worthwhile contribution to bhajan sessions on an individual level, whether leading or following.

After a final tea break, the mood amongst the participants was jubilant as a few, final bhajans were offered to Swami, followed by aarti and a Vote of Thanks – to the Milton Keynes Sai Centre for their warm and loving hospitality, all the participants for giving up their time and effort to attend the event – and most significantly – our Beloved Bhagavan Sri Satya Sai Baba – without whom the day could not have been possible…a day that would certainly not be forgotten for many years to come.

JAI SAI RAM

Sutopa Sen
Region 3 Ladies Coordinator

Region 4 - Coventry Sai Centre Service - Grub n Gab

What is Grub’n Gab?

Grub’n Gab is a service organisation that helps homeless and needy people of Coventry. It’s a place for those attending, to have some ‘grub’ (food) and also some ‘gab’ (or chat) with others. It was established over twenty years ago by Mike Parker and Sylvia Wileman. Grub’n Gab is held every Saturday at the St. Barnabus Family Centre, Cromwell Street, Coventry, CV6 5EZ.

"The fulfilment of human life consists in the service that man renders, without any thought of return, in an attitude of selflessness" Bhagawan Baba

The Coventry Sai centre help and contribute to Grub’n Gab approximately every six weeks. A team of up to six to seven volunteers including youth, help prepare and serve food on site. The team arrive and start preparing food from 10.30 am following three Omkars. After the food prayer has been offered to the Lord, food is served at around 12.30pm. When everybody has been served, the kitchen and canteen facility is cleaned.

On a regular basis, up to twenty to thirty home-less people attend. On arrival they are lovingly welcomed and offered tea/coffee and biscuits.

Vegetarian food is served always. For instance the Grub’n Gab event held on the 22nd of June 2013 included soya balls in tomato sauce with rice and buttered bread as the main meal. The main meal was prepared with fresh ingredients and Indian spices. Ice cream was served for dessert. Tea / coffee and biscuits were served prior to the main meal as guests arrived. Baba’s teachings: "Food should not be too salty. Food should not be too hot. Food should not be too bitter. Food should not be too sweet. Food should not be too sour".

Our local devotees always take great joy in participating in such a wonderfull service activity. “Being a volunteer for Grub’n Gab is a great opportunity to put into practice Baba's teachings of "Love All Serve All" and "Help Ever, Hurt Never". The event is also a fantastic opportunity for volunteers of any background to improve their everyday team working, communication and organisational skills.”

Roshan Chapaneri - Coventry Youth

Region 4 - Global Service Day at Wicksteed Park, Kettering

Saturday 27 July 2013

Global Service Day is celebrated at Leicester Sai Centre every year in July, when we invite 60 to 80 guests for a day out. We provide entertainment, delicious refreshments, loving care and a fun filled day! Our guests are from the local community - elderly residential homes, care homes, members who we provide ‘meals on wheels’ to, and also elderly devotees from our Centre - a mixture of both able and disabled members.

This year we chose Wicksteed Park as our venue for the Global Service Day. Wicksteed Park is one of the UK's oldest theme parks and the grounds and gardens of Wicksteed Park cover a very large area with something for everybody to enjoy.

Our guests were provided transport from their homes by the volunteers, and were picked up from about 9:30am and all arrived at the venue by 11:00am. The volunteers welcomed them with refreshments - hot & cold drinks, plus cookies, all lovingly served.

Swami had graced us with a beautiful, sunny day, and most of the guests wanted to go out into the grounds. We had laid on various games for those who preferred to stay indoors – a craft workshop of flower arrangement, janga game, ‘tic-tac-toe’ challenge, pick a rubber duck, skittles, etc, and volunteers were also at hand for those guests who just wanted to talk!

Come lunch time, the guests started to drift back. Delicious lunch, lovingly prepared and served by the volunteers, was enjoyed by everyone. Lots of laughter & talk as everyone shared their experiences from their day so far.

Straight after lunch, we had arranged a ride on the train - a highlight for our guests! The Wicksteed Park Railway is one of the most iconic features of the park and covers a large part of the park.

When the guests returned from the enjoyable train ride, we had arranged games for them to play, and many joined in the fun. Then it was time for BINGO! Good fun for everyone and prizes won by some of our guests. We also had a karaoke session whilst tea & coffee was served, with clotted cream & jam scones! Delicious!

Whilst the guests enjoyed their refreshing cups of hot drinks, we projected some of the photographs we had taken throughout the day – a memory jogger for the fun-filled day we had!

We said our farewells as the volunteers prepared to take our guests back home. Most were tired but commented on how much they had enjoyed the day.

The following day, the manager of one of the homes sent a ‘thank you’ note which said: “They all had a wonderful time, all shattered but happy...” which summed up the day wonderfully! Thank you Swami.

Region 4 - Global Service Day: Rugby & Coventry Centres

Sunday 14th July 2013

With Baba’s blessings, Sunday 14th July was a gloriously hot and sunny day, perfect for our Global Service Day.

The gazebo’s and chairs were set; tea, coffee and cold drinks at the ready and most importantly our guests had arrived and were looking forward to a day filled with lots of fun and entertainment. The programme started with a hearty warm welcome from Kishor and an overview of the day’s activities.

Our guests enjoyed traditional Bharat Natyam classical dancing performed by young students from a Coventry Bharat Natyam Classical dance school. The wonderful costumes were bright and vibrant and the performances were most enjoyable. Then the Coventry Morris Dancers performed fantastic folk dances, with some introduction to each dance, which involved sticks, bells and handkerchiefs; then after lunch they danced with sword-like instruments. They even interacted with the guests and invited them to volunteer and join in!

This year, we saw Ian King, the talented singer from Rugby, who entertained everyone throughout the event with popular songs which the guests sang along to and took many down memory lane. So many also couldn’t help but join in and dance along – all smiling faces.

One regular comment we receive from the guests is about the food shared and how much they enjoy it. Maybe it’s because it’s served with a beaming smile and lots of love!

Throughout the event, it was great to see so many volunteers, helpers taking part, enjoying the songs and dancing with the guests. It was wonderful to see some of the young SSE children helping our guests with their bingo games and getting involved with helping them spot the numbers called out. Soon after, ‘garba’ dance (North Indian folk dance) started and everyone were invited to join in; soon after, ice cream was served to help us cool down. Who needs an excuse for ice cream?

The day ended with a huge thank you to our guests and volunteers for making the event so enjoyable and fun. It was great to see so many smiling and happy faces.

Here are some of the things that our guests had to say:

I should like to thank you on behalf of all our residents, who had a lovely time at the Global Service Day, on 14 July. Thank you for all the hard work the Sathya Sai put into making the day so enjoyable, and special. It is most appreciated.
Cathy Crosson - Scheme Manager, Bond’s Court

Thank you for a truly wonderful afternoon we had with you all at Bubbenhall, today it was so happy and well organised and the food was very nice. Thank you from Hazel and George Duckett in Rugby

‘Hands that help are holier than lips that pray’ - Thank you to our beloved Swami for giving us the opportunity to put this teaching into practice. We all feel very privileged to be a part of this very special day and are very much looking forward to it again next year.

Jai Sai Ram - Krishna Parekh (SSE Parent)

Region 4 - Leicester Laksharchana

3rd August 2013

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

The meaning of each word in the mantra is given below:
Aum (Om) – refers to Parabrahman (God)
Sri – Goddess of wealth and prosperity
Sathya – Truth
Sai – Divine mother
Krishnaya – To Krishna(‘full’ avatar, like Sathya Sai Baba)
Namaha – Salutations

Our Hridhaya Nivasi, Bhagawan Baba gave this wonderful explanation regarding the importance of nama-smarana in the present age:

“This Kali Yuga is praised in the scriptures as incomparably conducive to the salvation of man, for he can now attain the Highest through the mere thought of God and remembering His Name. So, of all the Yugas this Yuga (era) is described as the most holy and the most beneficent. For this Kali Yuga, the simple remedy prescribed is just nama-smarana, the constant awareness of the Name of God. In spite of this, it is a pity that men do not care for this path and so make their lives a barren waste."

Therefore we must take every opportunity to make the Lords name our very own life breath!

The ambience was set by the chanting of Vedams and Multi-Faith prayers, shortly followed by melodious bhajans which were offered at the feet of our Lord.

This Laksharchana differed from the previous ones, it was a defining moment as this was the first Laksharchana that was streamed live all cross the world! People from various countries like India, USA and Europe were able to tune in and be immersed in the anandam of nama-smarana.

"It was wonderful to participate in the Laksharchana. We felt very powerful vibrations at our home in San Diego. We felt as if we were physically there at the hall. A big thank you to the Technical Team. May God bless you all."
- Raman and Bharti Patel, Devotees from San Diego

Mr Vadgama began by sharing his blessed moments with Bhagwan and how Bhagwan chose to come into his life via a 4" x 2.5" photo. Although he was unwilling to accept the man draped in orange robe into his life, Bhagwan illustrates to us that he himself chooses when he wants to enter our life! After a brief explanation on how the Laksharchana is to be conducted, the chanting of the divine mantra began and was joined by a chorus of voices both young and old. If a prayer from one devotee can capsulate the attention of the Lord, the unified chanting of hundreds of devotees would surely spark the divinity in themselves! There were also bhajans sung inbetween the naama-smarana.

With the atmosphere fully charged and liberated, the chanting was brought to an end and Aarti was offered to Bhagawan. Mr Vadgama kindly offered each and everyone present Vibhuti and photos of the Lord. It is quite befitting to contemplate on the following lines of this bhajan and bring this article to an end... "Hari Bhajana Bina Sukha Shanti Nahin, Hari Naam Bina Ananda Nahin..."

Jai Sai Ram
Bhavin V Jivraj – Leicester Youth

Region 4 - Moving and Handling: Training for Volunteers

Rugby Sai Centre organised a training session for volunteers to help understand the right way to assist guests invited at events. The timing of this training course was to prepare volunteers for Global Service Day programmes due to take place in July. The course was run by two qualified trained nurses (Debbie and Michelle) from University Hospitals Coventry and was held locally in Rugby on Sunday 7th July 2013.

Trainer Michelle went through some legal information about Health and Safety regulations and legislation which were relevant to us, both as volunteers and in a work environment. This was followed by Debbie running through a number of activities which covered risk assessment, assisting guests from wheel chairs to the car or to the toilet, helping them to stand up and how to deal with falls. They showed us equipment which can be used to help guests with the different activities and alternatives, when proper equipment is not available. The day was filled with demonstrations that allowed us all to get involved in working through scenarios.

The training session gave us the skills to ensure that we assist guests in the proper manner and we as volunteers do not get hurt.

Sai Ram
Rugby Sai Centre
Region 4

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

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

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

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

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

Key Message

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

Marquee & Youth Hostel

Suprabhatham & Pranayama Workshop

First Workshop- SATHYA

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

Samarth Mehrorta
Spiritual Co-ordinator, Aberdeen

Second Workshop- SAI- Service Adoration Illumination

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

Service or Karma Yoga

Karma Yogis in Action

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

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

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

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

With love,
Sanjay Vaja
Manchester Sai Centre

SAI - Adoration (Bhakthi) Workshop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jnana Yoga- Illumination Workshop

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

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

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

The topics discussed under Jnana Yoga include the following;

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

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

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

Jnana was then divided into two groups:

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

Jnana in “Understanding”- ENQUIRY

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

Experiencing Jnana

Inward Living- “Experiencing Jnana” and “Realisation”

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

Inner Practices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaker - Partish Dubey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Home Messages from the Forum:

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

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

Retreat Planning Team
Region 5 & 8

SSE Yoga Session

Yoha Presentation & SSE Presentation & Dedicated at the Lotus Feet

Breath of Sai Poem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sanjay Vaja
Region 5

Breath of Sai
Sathya Sai Retreat- My learning experience

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

SATHYA meaning TRUTH/ULTIMATE REALITY
SAI meaning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Bhaskar Ram
Region 8 Chair

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"Love and Light"
© Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation (UK) 2013

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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.