December 2013 Edition

Quote

The heart of Jesus was pure and calm. Hence, it is honoured as sacred. We must make our hearts sacred so that either we merge in Jesus or Jesus merges in us. When we merge, it is called Bhakthi;
to have Jesus awakened in us is the path of Jnaana.
Jesus was a messenger of God; but note this also: all of you are messengers of God. Jesus was not the only Son of God; you are all His children. Jesus and His Father are one. You and God are also one and you can be aware on it.

~ Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Events

National Christmas Celebrations

News

Sri Sathya Sai Baba Postal Stamp Issued

Sri Sathya Sai Bookshop Announcement

Articles

Region 1 - 88th Divine Birthday Celebration by Mitcham Sai Centre

Region 1 - Service in Sierra Leone: October 2013

Region 1 - Swami's Birthday Celebrations at Bromley Sai Centre

Region 1 - Swami's Birthday Celebrations at Lewisham Sai Centre

Region 1 - Swami's Birthday Celebrations at Tooting Sai Centre

Region 2 - Akhanda Bhajans 2013

Region 2 - Harrow West and Pinner Joint Birthday Celebrations

Region 2 - Health Awareness Clinic in Hayes

Region 2 - SSE Akhanda Bhajans 2013

Region 2 - Swami's Birthday Celebrations at London West Sai Centre

Region 2 - Swami's Birthday Celebrations in Wembley

Region 3 - Akhanda Bhajans at Central London Sai Centre

Region 3 - Akhanda Bhajans at Hatfield Sai Centre

Region 3 - Akhanda Bhajans at Mill Hill Sai Centre

Region 3 - East London Sai Centres Akhanda Bhajan Event

Region 3 - Ladies Day 2013

Region 3 - Multi-Faith Akhanda Bhajans in Milton Keynes

Region 3 - Sri Sathya Sai Baba Group of Thurrock celebrates Swami’s Birthday

Region 4 - Coventry Celebrating Ladies Day

Region 4 - Coventry SSE Celebrating Baba’s Birthday

Region 4 - First Aid Training Civil Aid Training Centre

Region 4 - Talk by Janet Bock - Bicker

Region 5 - Akhanda Bhajans

Region 5 - Birthday Celebrations

Sai Premabandhan: National Birthday Celebrations

Spiritual Wing - The Spirit of Christmas

Youth Wing - "Life is a challenge, Meet it!"

Youth Wing - Sai Treasure Box: Global Youth Offering for Swami’s 88th Birthday

Editorial

Dear Love & Light Readers,
Sai Ram to you!

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

We started the month with Akhand Bhajans (non-stop devotional singing) on the 9th and 10th November. The glory of our Lord was sung across UK and the world over. We were also blessed to listen to Mr V Srinivasan, All India President of the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation (India) and member of the Central Trust (Prasanthi Nilayam) – please see the November edition of Love & Light for details of his talk.

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

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

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

December brings delight in anticipation of preparations for Christmas. The air is filled with a scent of festivity. There is excitement amongst devotees as well, as we get ready for our National Christmas Celebrations on the 15th December at the Cheltenham Ladies College, Cheltenham, when we celebrate Christmas in the true traditional spirit.

It is also time for families and friends to get together to share love, to reflect upon 2013, to rejoice the coming of 2014 and to make new resolutions.

We look to another exciting and spiritually elevating year in 2014. Please take note of the following dates for your diaries:

Sai Smaran Bhajans - Saturday 11 January, 31st May
National Sathya Sai Orientation Conference – Saturday 25th January 2014
Sathya Sai National Human Values Day – Saturday 26th April 2014
National Easwaramma Day – Saturday 3rd May 2014
National Pilgrimage – Sunday 27 July to Saturday 2nd August 2014
National Retreat 29- 31 August 2014
Avatar Declaration Day – Saturday 18 October 2014
National Birthday Celebrations - Sunday 23rd November 2014
National Christmas Celebrations – Sunday 14th December 2014

Finally, we have Office Bearers (OBs) of our Organisation who have completed their term change on the 14th January 2014. I would like to thank outgoing OBs for their selfless dedication and welcome new OBs. For everyone, be it new, current or outgoing, participation in Bhagawan’s Divine Mission should be our focus.

Please also take note of our ensuing National Sathya Sai Orientation Conference on 25th January 2014. Registration is now open to all OBs (outgoing, current and new) and Active members.
http://www.srisathyasai.org.uk/national-programmes/

On behalf of the Central Council and the UK Trust, I pray that with the Divine Grace and Blessings of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, you have a wonderful Christmas and a prosperous New Year!

Dr Kiran Patel,
National Chair Person


Sri Sathya Sai Baba Postal Stamp Issued

National Wing News

To express gratitude and love to Sri Sathya Sai Baba for His magnanimous and unparalleled service to mankind, the Postal Department of the Government of India issued a special Postage Stamp, with Swami's picture, of the denomination Rs. 5.00.

This very special stamp was officially released on Swami's Birthday, 23rd November 2013, in Prasanthi Nilayam.

Sri Sathya Sai Bookshop Announcement

National Wing News

Bookshop will be closed from Sunday 22nd December 2013 to Wednesday 08th January 2013.

Reopen Thursday 09th January 2014.

Sai Ram

Sai Premabandhan: National Birthday Celebrations

The Advent of God on earth is a heart-warming event for every devotee, fulfilling all prayers and filling him or her with great joy, hope, love and peace. Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s Divine Advent on the Monday morning of 23rd November 1926 is indeed such a memorable event for millions of devotees across the world. His Life, His Form, His Words and His Work: All have given, and continue to give, immense happiness and inspiration to self-transform and lead purposeful lives.

In celebration of the 88th Anniversary of this epoch-making event, the National Birthday Celebrations of our beloved Bhagawan were held at the Leatherhead Theatre in Surrey, London, on the 23rd November 2013. About 550 devotees and others from various parts of UK attended and enjoyed the Programme on the day. The theme for the day was titled ‘Sai Premabandhan: The Unifying Bond of Divine Love’, which reflected Bhagawan’s core message of Unity of all creation that can be experienced through unconditional Divine Love.

As devotees entered the theatre on a cold but crisp morning, they were greeted by the warm smiles of many young volunteers offering them a hot drink. One felt another surge of warmth in the heart as one entered the main auditorium and looked at the Main Altar on the Stage. There was the backdrop of the magnificent ‘Shanti Vedika’, the main stage in the Hill View stadium at Prasanthi Nilayam that hosted many momentous birthday celebrations of Lord Sathya Sai, and a tastefully decorated Jhoola (swing) and Baba’s bewitching picture in the foreground. Everyone appeared to experience the same thrill and anticipation that one feels in Prasanthi Nilayam whilst awaiting Bhagawan’s Divine Darshan.

Soon the morning session began with the singing of sacred hymns and mellifluous bhajans; devotees singing together the glory of the Lord always helps calm the mind and fill the heart with love. After a warm welcome, Dr Kiran Patel, Chairperson of the UK Central Council, set the scene by reminding everyone Bhagawan’s divine counsel:

"The message of the Avathaar must be born, must become alive, must grow in you, your heart---that is the birthday, you have to celebrate...Plant the seeds of Love in your hearts, let them grow into trees of service and shower the sweet fruits of Aanandha. Share the Aanandha with all. That is the proper way to celebrate the Birthday". 23/11/1972

He highlighted the various Service initiatives that devotees undertook recently through the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation and the Sathya Sai Charitable Trust in UK, especially the participation in Food Banks in UK, the Uttarakhand flood relief in India, and the Haiyan Super Typhoon relief in The Philippines.

A beautifully choreographed Invocation Dance by the children from SSE (Sai Spiritual Education) at the Sai Centre in Kingston, London filled everyone with great delight. The children’s love for Bhagawan was evident from the perfect and graceful coordination in their movements on the stage, to achieve which they must have spent many long hours in dedicated and devoted practise. They received a thunderous applause from all the devotees. This auspicious invocation then set in motion the unfolding of the rest of the Programme, each aspect of which turned out to be a spiritual feast for the senses, mind, heart and soul!

Our guest speaker was Mrs. Janet Bock-Bicker, who along with her late husband Richard Bock, were blessed by Bhagawan with innumerable and rare opportunities in late 1960’s. They stayed and travelled with the Lord for months at a time, photographed and filmed Him, as well as various ardent devotees at the time. The numerous films that they produced on Bhagawan (Aura of Divinity, Universal Teacher, The Message I Bring, to name a few) are an eternal treasure for humanity, especially to all of us in the Sai family. Janet shared her experiences whilst she showed some of the pictures and videos from her huge collection, including some taken during Bhagawan’s divine visit to Africa in 1968. Everyone was transfixed in this audio-visual narration, and felt teleported into a divine realm of pure love, beauty, and happiness. Although Janet spoke twice during the day, each session lasting over an hour, one couldn’t be content and wished for more! Such is the Bond of Divine Love, one mused.

But this innate thirst to be close to the Divine Sathya Sai was quenched a little more through the wonderful musical concerts that were offered during the Programme: Firstly by the talented Young Adults of our Sai family in UK, and then by our guest musician, the internationally renowned singer, Sri Sikkil Gurucharan.

The youth concert in the morning, Song of the Soul, was rendered by Ms. Charlotte Hardwick from Canterbury, Kent. Charlotte was blessed to sing in Bhagawan’s Immediate Divine Presence in Sai Kulwant Hall in the years 2005, 2008 and 2011. Partially sighted but full of Light, Charlotte shared the joy in her soul with the assembled devotees who reciprocated spontaneously, especially when she played popular bhajans on the accordion towards the end of her concert. She was accompanied by Vikesh Tailor (keyboard) from Leicester and Brana Ravichelvan (guitar) from New Zealand.

The youth concert in the afternoon, Hearts in Adoration, was rendered by a group of highly talented young adults from London. The team comprising Serena Jones, Janita Amriwala, Gayatri Patel, Arun Jones, Robin Pillay, Darshan Patel, Ujas Patel and Brana Ravichelvan sang and played a string of English songs that celebrated the Love of God and offered gratitude for His Compassion. Most of the members in this group were blessed to be a part of the SSE choir from UK that offered a programme at His Divine Feet in Sai Kulwanth Hall in 2009.

The crowning point of the musical renditions was the immaculate and soulful singing of the highest calibre by Sri Sikkil Gurucharan. Young but immensely gifted, this internationally acclaimed vocalist from the Carnatic Indian classical tradition was blessed to sing for Bhagawan’s 85th Birthday Celebrations in His Immediate Presence in Sai Kulwanth Hall in the year 2010. It is said that ‘Music is the language of the spirit’ (Kahlil Gibran), and it will not be an exaggeration to say that Sikkil Gurucharan’s two 1-hour long concerts at the National Birthday Celebrations touched every heart, united all hearts and connected them with the very Source of Supreme Love. The theme for the day, ‘Sai Premabandhan’, indeed became a real experience for all those present.

As one left for home, with ‘prasadam’ bags of Birthday Cake and other nourishments for the body, there was an inescapable feeling of unity, a sense of ‘deep connect’ with each other: With the devotees and volunteers at the event, with members of Sai family in our homes and Centres, and beyond! Of course, there was the realisation too, that one needs to constantly work with oneself so as to cement this uplifting inner experience forever. There was a renewed resolve and understanding that our Sadhana (spiritual effort) and, consequently, His Grace would ensure this doubtlessly.

Sai Hruday
Youth Wing, UK

Spiritual Wing - The Spirit of Christmas

The Message of Christ

Christmas is a special celebration; one that is very close to the hearts of all; it is no wonder that it has been sung about as being “the most wonderful time of the year”. However, in an increasingly commercialised world, we find our senses being ensnared by the streams of decorative lighting, festive edible treats and endless advertising campaigns. This often produces a fertile medium for ever increasing desires and distracts us from the true Significance of the day.

It is against this backdrop, that we realise how fortunate we are to have Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, bring to our awareness the message of Lord Jesus Christ, and remind us of how to lead our lives, in accordance with His teachings. Many of us have experienced the grandeur and spirit with which Christmas was celebrated in the Divine presence and the Christmas discourses Swami would deliver.

Narrating the words of the three kings who brought gifts to the baby Jesus, Swami said, “one of them stated, “This child will be a lover of God”. The second said, “No. God will love him”, and the third said “Verily, He is God himself”. Swami went on to explain:

“To love God is to be His messenger. To be loved by God is to be the son of God. The final state is to be one with God.”

As Jesus stated, “I and my Father are one.” “Thus, all persons are Messengers of God”, said Swami. This places the responsibility on each of us to divinise ourselves. Swami explained that to call oneself the son of God, one had to work for the good of others, freeing oneself from selfishness. He said, “To call yourself the son of God, you have to manifest the qualities of the Father.”

Jesus exemplified the spirit of social service. He taught, not through his words only, but through his actions too. In washing the feet of disciples, he embodied the virtue of humility and through feeding the hungry, quenching the thirst of the parched and curing the illnesses of the ailing, he epitomised kindness, compassion and love.

Jesus’ message was that of Love. So, powerful was his message, that today, the world celebrates his Advent. But, before we are lured into believing that Christmas is about feasting, drinking, singing and merry-making, let us pause and reflect on his message. The ideals Jesus exemplified should be put into practice by all of us. This would be a fitting reflection of our adoration and our devotion to God.

“God is Love. Live in Love. Start the day with Love. Spend the day with Love. End the day with Love. This is the way to God.” - Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Dr Kumi Pillay,
Region 7 Chair

Youth Wing - "Life is a challenge, Meet it!"

Swami came into my life when I was 5 years old. My mum was invited to visit a Sai Centre in the city of Caracas, Venezuela. Although she had read a little bit about Swami, she did not know in deep who He was. She took me with her on for Thursday Bhajans. As soon as I walked inside the Centre , I recall running to the front of the altar and being drawn like a magnet to Swami’s photo. As Bhajans commenced, my mum who was sitting behind me, was astonished that I was singing Bhajans in Sanskrit without even looking at the words. I remember her asking me: “How do you know this language if you have never heard it?” A question to which I replied “I do not know mum, I just know it”… After this day, considering I was a child of 5 years old; going to Bhajans on Thursdays became my favorite activity of the week.

Coming to the UK all the way from Venezuela has been the most challenging but beautiful experience so far.

In 2007, Swami blessed me with the opportunity of visiting Prashanthi for the first time. I was still living in Venezuela. It was an amazing trip as Venezuela participated in the Cultural Programme at the World Youth Conference. Whilst in India, one day Swami came into my dream and told me “Greys, you will be singing the Spanish song that you composed for me, in the Youth conference with your guitar”. As soon as I woke up I started practicing my song and used to leave my guitar near the Sai Kulwant hall, just in case Swami asks me to sing suddenly. Every day, I used to go to Darshan with the expectation of sitting in the first row and Swami asking me to sing my song for Him. I did this for 5 weeks. Nothing happened.

A few weeks later, another Venezuelan youth and I were asked to join the UK musical Programme, singing and playing guitar. They wanted to hear our song options to then decide what Spanish songs to include in the Programme. Without any doubts, I thought, this is the time for me to sing my Spanish song, but again, it was not selected and did not happen. I cannot explain how disappointed and frustrated I was feeling, thinking that what Swami told me in that dream did not occur.

A few days before returning to Venezuela Swami instructed me "when you finish your degree, you will study and live abroad, you must study English as that will be more useful than your degree..." I was a bit shocked as at that time I was in my first year of Economics and did not know a word of English. Contemplating of going abroad was never in my mind as I am the only child of the house; and leaving my parents and my country was not something that I never even felt like doing. Therefore, I did not pay attention to Swami’s words and continued my life studying Economics and not studying English as I panicked of having to learn a new language.

Two years later, in 2009, I visited Prashanthi for a second time and the fact of not being able to communicate properly made feel embarrassed, therefore the idea of going abroad to USA or UK to study English was popping into my head.

Without me forcing anything, Swami’s plan was taking place…15th May 2010, my UK student visitor Visa got approved and that night I was sitting on the plane making my way to London. A journey of 13 hours was enough for me to remember Swami’s words in 2007. That was the moment when I put my head down and said to Swami from my heart "You knew I was not going to make this decision if you don't give me a reason to leave my country, what You told me 3 years ago now is happening..."

I don't know the feeling of being compelled to do something because Swami said it, but I'm 100% confident that when there is purity in our feelings, His plan happens in the sweetest manner. Only when my heart felt I was doing the right thing is when I thought, "Swami was right".

Even though I came to London with a smile on my face it has been a 3 year journey where each year meant a new challenge to face.

I faced migration difficulties during the first year of my Biomedicine course. My visa had been cancelled by the Home Office for external reasons; forcing me to leave the UK and not being able to continue with my studies. Other various challenges also presented itself in my life such as coping with my Dad's heart disease. These were all tough experiences that made me think of giving up and returning to my country forever.

Questions such as: "If Swami told me I would live here why is all this happening? Why have I lost the legal right to come back to the UK? Doubts started appearing and a feeling of anxiety was slowly catching my faith. Months later a solution came up! I received a notification from the Home Office saying I could only come back to the UK if I get an offer from a highly trusted university to enroll on a postgraduate course. But this must happen in the next 30 days. And this happened... in less than 10 days got an offer from City University to enroll on the MSc in Health Economics, two weeks after I obtained the approval of my student visa and got back to London. My prayers had been answered.

Even though I had the choice between giving up or trying harder, I knew inside my heart it was a test from Swami for me to learn to adapt to changes, make decisions under pressure and discriminate about every step I was about to take.

Swami had certainly placed many boulders along my journey, but I realize today that it wasn’t for me to move them, but to keep pushing against them to make my shoulders stronger…

Today I express my gratitude to Swami for not only enabling me to learn such important language as English, but also for having completed a Biomedicine course, MSc in Health Economics, the Sathya Sai Leadership Training Program (SSLTP) in the UK and the opportunity to get an Entrepreneur Visa and develop my own business in the UK.

Not only that, but I also had the opportunity to sing my Spanish song in the 2013 UK Youth Conference, 6 years after composing it. Whilst attending to one of my last SSLTP modules, Shyam Jamnadas [UK Youth Coordinator] came to learn that I play guitar and sing and asked if I would like to sing in Spanish for the Youth Conference in February 2013. He had not finished his sentence when that dream I had in India in 2007 came into my mind. I thought myself “Swami this is the Youth Conference you want me to sing my Spanish song for!” Of course, Swami did not mean the World Youth Conference, nor India Youth Conference nor Venezuelan Youth Conference but UK Youth Conference. I humbly said yes to Shyam and few weeks after I was singing my Spanish song with my guitar at the UK National Youth Conference.

One lesson I learnt, for Swami there is the right time and place. In his words He never specified that I was going to sing in India in the World Youth Conference, it was my mind which started creating expectations or trying to make it happen. There is always the right time and place for Swami’s will to take place,

During the process, Swami made His presence clear through people that never left my hand. Even in those moments when I felt like giving up, Swami was there talking to me and supporting me through very special people I met both within the UK Sai Organization as well as outside.

It is a mistake to expect that Swami’s plan comes in a bubble, roses and smiles, but what is fully certain is that His plan is the best fit for what we need to spiritually.

Swami may not always give us what we want, but he certainly knows what we need.

What made me stand on my feet and push myself forward was the thought of "I have found the reason why Swami brought me here, and I must accomplish it". Remember Swami knows our past, present and future, we don’t!

After 3 years of challenges, blessings and achievements I find myself as a woman stronger than before with clarity of values that give purpose to my everyday life. Crucible moments were a blessing as they brought out the best in me. All we need is faith in ourselves and courage to beat the obstacles.

I have learnt that if Swami brings you to it, then He will indeed bring you through it,

I have learnt to always be grateful and be ready to accept whatever is next; the least we are attached to our mental structures, the easier life flows. Even though we are taught and trained to make things happen, sometimes it’s appropriate to surrender to Swami and let things happen.

The journey continues and the spiritual growth as well.

I would like to conclude this article with a prayer I wrote to Swami.

"I do not ask you for everlasting happiness, I ask you for the equanimity to accept ups and downs as same. I do not ask you to solve my problems, I ask you for giving me the patience and the faith to understand there is a right time for things to get sorted out. I do not ask you to remove all obstacles of my path, I ask you to give me the discrimination and the humility to learn from the difficulties and move on. I do not ask you for success, I ask for wisdom to at least not loose the lesson when I fail"

With Love, Greys Penaloza Caracas, Venezuela (currently living in London, UK)

Youth Wing - Sai Treasure Box: Global Youth Offering for Swami’s 88th Birthday

Aum Sai Ram,
Dear Embodiments of Love,

We are happy to report that ALL of your card offerings formed part of a book, that was bound and placed in a Treasure Box, and was offered at the Divine Lotus feet in Prashanti Nilayam on the 23rd November 2013 during the morning darshan.

We had the pleasure of mending, consolidating and building up the book. The love that was expressed on the cards was overwhelming. Each offering was unique, as unique as each of our Relationships with our Divine Master.

Your participation in this Global effort of Harmony, Love and Unity is greatly appreciated!

Continue to shine in your efforts in the Mission of Sai.

Jai Sai Ram.

With Love,

Deviesh and Sharvanie
International Sai Youth Council (Zone 9A)

Region 1 - 88th Divine Birthday Celebration by Mitcham Sai Centre

Aum Sai Ram

Mitcham Sai Centre sathsang happens once a month on the last Friday of each month. Hence on Friday 29/11/2013 we observed this as a beautiful celebration of our beloved Lord Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s 88th divine birthday (that fell on 23/11/2013).

We commenced the celebration at 07:00pm with the Chanting of Gayatri Mantra, followed by the chanting of the 108 names of our Lord’s divine lotus feet – Asthothra Padugha Namawali for which one of the devotees who is disabled lady on a wheel chair did the Pushpanjali (placing flowers 108 times at the Lotus feet for each chant). She was virtually in tears as she said she had never been given this opportunity - in view of the fact that she was on a wheel chair and was unable to go near the altar. Devotees moved HIS divine golden Padugha near her rather than move her wheel chair near the altar – she was immensely grateful to Swami. This also reminded all of us when Swami once visited the Prasanthi Hospital – one of the patients who was unable to move or get up from the bed asked Swami for Pada-Namaskar for which our beloved Lord responded with compassion and sitting on a chair near the patient’s bed HE lifted both HIS feet near the patient so that the patient could touch and worship - Swami then blessed the patient.

We then had Bhajans sung by various age groups and ending with Aarthi done by all the devotees taking turns (as this is normal at our Centre Bhajans) for the continued chanting of the Aarthi song, ending with Samastha Loka Suckino Bavanthu.

This was followed by the Birthday cake cutting ceremony when all the devotees joined in happily and joyously to sing the renowned Sai Birthday song – Tere Janam. All the devotees, whole heartedly invited the most senior devotee in the congregation (86 years old lady) to cut the cake (though her daughter had to help her blow out the candles on the cake). This devotee is well known at the centre, for bringing a small garland made of mango leaves each month she attends the Bhajans with her daughter for over 15 years. For this purpose she carefully grows a small mango tree in a large pot in her own house in Tooting in Region 1.

We then had a brief interactive discussion about the significance of celebrating Bhagawan Baba’s birthday each year. We had several inputs from various age groups and we also had the company of our dear brother Yoges, our Regional Chair person who participated in all the proceedings of the evening and also contributed very wisely for the interactive study session.

At the conclusion it was agreed that the best Birthday gift to our dearest Bhagawan next year would be the transformation of each one of us in line with the teachings of our Lord – that is to follow the five Human Values and discard the six negative qualities. The evening came to an end with prasadam being served to all the devotees.

Jai Sai Ram
Mitcham Sai Centre

Region 1 - Service in Sierra Leone: October 2013

Further to our previous article in Love and Light, the journey began with loading the 40 ft container from a residence in South London for its onward march to Sierra Leone. Six weeks later, the container arrived in Sierra Leone a few days before the medical camp was to commence and there was some frantic unloading to be done amidst thunderous lightning and torrential downpours. Makeshift tents were pitched up to unload the beds, Paediatric cots, Wheelchairs, Zimmer frames, Granite slabs, Bricks, Paint, Clothes, Shoes, Fans, Toilets, Shelving, Educational Books, Children’s toys ...to name but just a few. However the constant downpours in Sierra Leone often made our makeshift tents unusable and the above items had to be constantly shunted to avoid getting drenched.

“Care with Devotion, Cure with Compassion”

On Oct 16th 2013, a group of 30 medical and non-medical volunteers from the UK set-off once again to Yonibana Sai Hospital to conduct a Medical Camp incorporating: Surgeons, Anaesthetists, Nurses, General Practitioners, General Doctors, Paediatric Specialists, Gynaecology Specialists, Dentists, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapist, Vibronic Practitioner and Pharmacists.

This Oct 2013 Medical Camp is the 12th medical camp to be held at the Yonibana Sai Hospital. The UK Volunteer team took with them numerous boxes of medicines and equipment to be used to provide free healthcare to the local people. As per all the camps conducted at Yonibana Sai Hospital, the Local and UK volunteers worked on a united front to treat more than 4,700 patients, incorporating 46 Hernia & Hydrocele surgical procedures and over 7,000 patient consultations over an intense 7 day camp period.

Arriving in Freetown in the early morning hours of Thursday 17th October, there was a calm lull about the place –then suddenly in come our 89 boxes of medical equipment, 20 pieces of luggage and a coach full of buzzing volunteers. We then made a 3 -hour journey to Yonibana, a small town East of Freetown. Driving through the village there was a real feeling of serenity and simplicity; the beauty of Mother Nature had been untouched.

After a very bumpy ride, we safely arrived at Yonibana Sai Hospital, a small haven tucked away amongst the vast green fields. On first impression the hospital seems a quaint building with a few rooms, but inside each room is spacious and adequately equipped to provide care; with a theatre, a recovery ward and 5 rooms.

With all hands-on-deck, we quickly settled in, and started making preparations for the first day of camp. This involving cleaning the rooms, stocking all items, assigning medical equipment to their respective departments, setting up the computers etc. After all the preparations had been made for the start of the medical camp for the next day, we sat down for a scrumptious dinner and had an early night.

The following morning we were all thrown straight into the deep-end, with the assurance that Swami was with us every step of the way. An inaugural meeting was held with the local chiefs and various other dignitaries. After lunch, the camp officially started, and we saw scores of local villagers queuing outside the hospital gates, from the old to the new-born; all were seeking medical treatment. The camp commenced with full force, with teams of Pediatrician’s, Hernia Surgeons, GP’s, Physiotherapists, Pharmacists, Gynecologists, Vibronic and Dentists, all carrying out their respective work.

Each morning of the camp commenced with meditation and yoga, followed with a hearty breakfast of porridge and fresh fruits. Even before breakfast had finished, the teams of local volunteers were making preparations for the day ahead. At the same time, the queues of patients were building fast outside the gates of the hospital. By 8am the gates were opened and the endless stream of patients were registered and sent to their respective departments, depending on their presenting complaint.

As part of the dental team, we would treat acute conditions such as dental abscesses, facial cellulitis and pulpitis. This would primarily be treated with extraction of the tooth, but in some instances due to the severity of the infection, it was treated with antibiotics. It was shocking to see the extent of the infection in cases where patients were unable to seek treatment for months and walked for miles to the hospital.

The other departments were equally busy with endless number of patients from miles outside Yonibana. For the first time physiotherapists were providing patients with their much-needed services – their skills proved invaluable, as the majority of patients were local farmers and had work associated muscular-skeletal pains. The Paediatric department saw a number of unusual cases, which frequently had to be referred to other hospitals in the vicinity.

Vibronics provided by Aunty Pavalam treated a number of patients such as those wishing to conceive to those suffering from epilepsy. The General Doctor’s and Obs-Gynae teams saw a large number of patients. The Pharmacists were the back-bone to the camp, providing appropriate medication for the patients who had been seen by the other medical professionals.

During the week we had the opportunity to attend Yonibana Sai Centre. Behind the Sai Centre, Victor Kanu’s memorial grave has been laid. The energy in the Sai Centre was powerful – with this simplicity, it hosts a calm and serene atmosphere, where one can easily feel at peace. We were fortunate to celebrate Avatar Declaration Day on 20th October with a candle-lit bhajan.

As part of the health promotion programme, a group of GPs, Dentists and volunteers went out to the local secondary and primary school to provide advice on basic hygiene and dental hygiene.

Every day we had a feedback session in the evening, where a member from each team would talk about their day and discuss any challenges or achievements during the day. This was great way for the team to know what was happening across the hospital. The days flew by quickly, and before we knew it the final day had come. We were sent off with a heart-warming farewell dance provided by the local women. Getting into the spirit of things, a few of the girls in the group dressed up in the local attire and took part in the traditional Sierra Leonean dancing. We started packing up items ready to go home – although sad to do so, with all the bonds we had developed with local volunteers, we all felt a little tired and ready to come home.

We embarked upon our journey back home full of fond memories of our time in Yonibana. For me the camp provided a real sense of being, and understanding for our purpose in life – to serve. How when we surrender, and become that empty vessel, we become receptive to Swami’s calls. There were many a challenge during the trip – Swami would make sure we knew that He was doer. On more than one occasion the generator, that would power the entire hospital would pack up, leaving many departments with no choice but the wait. But quicker than we anticipated, it would be back to full working condition, and the departments were able to treat just as many patients, despite the interference.

Swami’s love would permeate through each patient, some of whom showed nothing but love towards the volunteers. They were so grateful for the services that were provided they would sing and dance for us! But even in that moment, Swami would remind the ego not to get too excited, as ultimately it was Him doing all the work.

As a group, the bonds of friendship grew over the days to the point we all became like family. Many of the brothers and sisters in the group did not know of Swami, yet they displayed the values that Swami encourages us all to be – thus confirming that each and every person on in the group had been hand-picked to take part in the camp.

On a personal note, this camp was the life-changing challenge I needed in my life. The happiness seen on the faces of those who we perceive to have so little in their lives, made me evaluate the true meaning of happiness and the source through which we should derive it. I am eternally grateful to Swami for the opportunity to be His dental-instrument, and pray for the chance to return to serve His people.

At one of our meetings with the local business residents, when asked if our model of the hospital was based on the ‘Eurocentric’ model (where we put our UK thinking hats on and decide what is best for the locals there) or if the model is an ‘Afrocentric’ model (where we put the African thinking hats on and decide what is best for them using their local resources).

The answer we gave is that it is a ‘Saicentric’ model where we are but instruments of the divine and the final results are in his hands.

Jitesh Patel & Abe Nadesan

Region 1 - Swami's Birthday Celebrations at Bromley Sai Centre

Approximately 90 devotees gathered at the Bromley United Reformed Church to celebrate His Birthday.

We were like busy Bees on the Birthday with lots of people decorating the Hall, cooking, practicing and preparing to welcome all of our members for this most auspicious occasion. Swami’s Chair was set in the middle of a beautiful Rose Arch which was fashioned in White and Dark Green with an elaborate covering on the floor which was also a rich Dark Green with Silver embellishment, next to this was the Jhoola decorated with matching colours and decked with flowers and Silver Butterflies.

The first phase of the programme started with March Past by all the children of the Centre. And then with Vedic Chanting recited by some of the Brothers followed by the Balvikas children reciting the Multifaith Prayers. Uplifting Bhajans were then sung after which the older Balvikas children narrated 3 verses of the Bhaja Govindam with the translation given in English.

Next our oldest girl student sang the Bhajan - Sainath Tere Hazaron Hath - which transported us to another level; all the children were supposed to sing the Chorus but everyone sang it because we just could not help ourselves.

Brother Chun was our Guest Speaker and theme of his talk was "Religion of Love". He told us that Love is eternal and unlimited. It is only we who take tiny sips from its infinite ocean. We have to learn how to develop this love, purify and expand it into Divine love. Divine love is beyond thought. It arises from the depth of your being and can only be experienced in the state of inner still awareness. If we can tap into that source to taste the elixir of Divine love, then we would realise the oneness of all beings – one God, one Religion “The Religion of Love”. Swami says, ”God is inscrutable. Who can affirm that God is of this form or with this attribute? Each religion defines God within the limits it demarcates and then claims to have grasped Him, forgetting that God is all forms, all names, all attributes and all assertions. The religion of humanity is the sum and substance of all these beliefs. But in reality there is only one religion, “The Religion of Love.”

He quoted Jesus from the Holy Bible when he told us "You must love God with all your Heart, all your mind and all your Soul, this is the first Commandment". Without first establishing the Brotherhood of man you cannot experience the Fatherhood of God. Bible declares if a man says he loves God and hates his brother, he is a liar. For he who loves not his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. His talk was full of messages and lessons for us to learn. Towards the end he chided Sister Ravina for bringing him out of his Retirement to speak to us and we were very glad that she did.

Some of the children had written a Birthday song for Swami "Happy Birthday Baba" which they sang for us. After some more Bhajans we all sang the Birthday Bhajan "Tere Janam Din Mein Sai, Tujhe Koti Pranaam Karenge" and the Birthday cake which was lovingly made by one of our members was cut and Sweets were thrown much to the delight of the children. The closing Prayers were said while Brother Chun performed the Aarti to Baba. Tasty Prasadam was served and enjoyed by old and new members alike who had come together as one.

Thank you Swami for giving us the chance to show our Love and Devotion to you on this your Special day. May Swami continue to light our path and keep us strong to face life’s challenges.

Jai Sai Ram

Sandra Fletcher (Bromley Centre)

Region 1 - Swami's Birthday Celebrations at Lewisham Sai Centre

The day that is special in history of His story, a day that marks the advent of His Divine presence, 23 November was celebrated with great fervour at Lewisham Sai Centre. In the evening, the hall was gorgeously decorated with Baba’s Chair & cloth hanging & warm welcome to two Pandiji.

The programme commenced at 18.00 with Paduka Abhishekam & 108 Sri Sathya Sai Ashtotras followed by introductory address by the Organizer of the Centre.

The guest speaker was one of our Aunties from the centre, who threw light on the beautiful Messages of Bhagawan and her experiences, Thus, we see today, devotees professing different faiths being drawn to Bhagawan from all over the world and deriving the bliss of celebrating this festivity in His Divine presence.

SSE children enacted a Dance, The dance was based on Krishna and His mother, and it was so beautiful. Everyone enjoyed very much.

Lewisham Sai Centre Youth conducted a Song and madly followed by Bhajans.

After Bhajans, “Aarthi” was offered and Prashadam was distributed to devotees, consisting of 300 against the sitting capacity of 300audiences. Everyone enjoyed the event, which was really vibrating and relished the Prashadam.

Sita Sharma

Region 1 - Swami's Birthday Celebrations at Tooting Sai Centre

On Sunday 24th November, Tooting Sai centre had the pleasure of hosting Swami's Birthday Celebrations. This followed the National Birthday celebrations the previous day when a number of our Centre members either partook in the programme events or were actively involved with the Seva side. We all gathered early at the Centre by 7.15am in order to set up the Hall, the seating arrangements, the PA system and the Altar. The programme was to start from 9.30am until 1.15pm followed by Prashad.

Amazingly, as is always with Swami's grace, we managed to complete the set up of the Hall in record time. The Altar was tastefully and lovingly decorated and we used the same Sarva Dharma canvas symbols that we had used the previous day for the National celebrations. The programme began with chanting the 108 names of Swami and offerings were placed in the fire within the Havan kund.

This was followed by an hour long programme of bhajans and we were reminded of the high vibrations that we normally only experience at Prashanti.
The hour seemed to pass by so quickly for the 130 members who had gathered there on this joyous occassion.If only every day were like this!

Following a short interlude of refreshments, the programme recommenced with the Youth singing their medley of songs to the accompaniment of the tablas, harmonium, flute and keyboard. This flowed so rhythmically and melodiously as the Youth had a lot of practice having sung the day before at the National Programme.

This was followed by a Shiv Shakti presentation in which the story of Swami having sustained a stroke for 8 days due to the boon given to Sage Bhardwaj was reanacted. Swami had also promised him that he would come as the three avatars representing different aspects of the Shiv Shakti form.

There then followed a charming Bharatanatyam dance by Anjaliben who at a tender age of 7 showed remarkable composure and maturity well beyond her years. Talented youngsters like her always arouse a thunderous applause from the Centre members.

The parents then did a short presentation on the Gayatri mantra, its deeper meanings, how & what times it should be chanted and what should be going through our minds whilst chanting the mantra. It is the mother of all mantras and its significance cannot be underestimated.

The final part of the programme was a number of songs by the SSE choir who had practiced for three weeks prior.

It is no mean feat to get some of these tender youngsters to sing in unison and rhythm and again this was warmly appreciated by us all. Swami's birthday cake was then cut and the programme concluded with the Aarthi. A sumptuous Prashad was served to cap a most memorable and wonderful birthday celebration.

Jitesh Patel
Tooting Sai Centre

Region 2 - Akhanda Bhajans 2013

This year swami tested us in our planning of the Akhanda bhajans! One of the tests was in regards to the availability of our usual 24 hour Akhanda bhajan venue. It seemed that after considering many different venues, Swami had decided that a 12 hour program would be ample this time around.

However the 12 hour Akhanda bhajans turned out to be a huge success !

Swami blessed us with a most exquisite Altar, including a most precious Sarva Dharma symbol which was hand crafted out of wood, especially for this event, by our dearest Service wing.

We started the morning session with Suprabhatam at 530am, followed by vedam and our first set of bhajans which was a unity bhajan slot , sung as a collaboration between the Region 2 Sai centres, then followed by the R2 Youth, Spiritual and Seva wing members.

All worked diligently through the 12 hours to ensure a smooth running of the Akhanda bhajans, from the PA team, to the team serving the Drinks and Refreshments also.

The sessions that ‘stole the show’ it seemed, was our SSE children and it was apparent this and also the previous year, the students are extremely musically talented and that they were also were well-rehearsed for the Akhanda bhajan program.

For the final session of the Akhanda bhajans we were fortunate enough to have visitors from various other regions of the UK attend the program, and participate in union with region 2, in the offering of the final bhajans. The last session were very uplifting and vibrant to say the least, and by the time the bhajans were over, it could be seen that everyone was feeling fully charged, with Divine Energy!!

We were extremely fortunate this year that the Region 2 Akhanda bhajan event did not end there. We were blessed to have esteemed Sri V Srinivasan who is the all India President of the Sri Sathya Sai organisation as well as a Senior Member of the Prashanti Central Trust, whom had come especially this evening to address us.

Sir spoke beautifully about his experiences and referred to himself as only an instrument for Swami’s work. He said that we are all zero’s and Swami is the hero. He said that he has no words to speak , and only prays that Swami gives him the words , which Swami certainly did.

Sir also talked about the three primary projects that the central Trust are currently undertaking, which are the Nutrition for expecting mothers , Disaster Relief & management , and Vocational training for youth, all of which are to be implemented in the rural Villages that are targeted to receive assistance . These are villages part of the SSSVIP program.

Sir also talked about Swami’s Water project which has been extended to a large number of villages, and other projects also, all taking place now in Swami’s universal presence! Sir said that where Swami’s work is done and his name sung, Swami is present there. Sir then spoke about singing bhajans and said that singing bhajans is like having a personal interview with Swami, as we have his name on our lips and his form in our minds and so we are connected with him!

Sir also reminded us that we were not sitting there because it was our choice this day. It was because Bhagawan has pre-selected us to be there on this particular occasion, and we were very lucky, and must be grateful to him. Sir then lovingly, but firmly reminded us that there is no difference between Bhagawan, and Bhagawan’s work, and encouraged us to all do Bhagawan’s work!

Lastly sir also told us not to differentiate between the work we do in our office work and ‘Swamis work’. Work which gives you money ,is also Swami’s work he said, and we should not compromise our principals. He emphasised to do work, with Love.

Sir’s talk was then followed by a small gift of appreciation, given to him by Our Region 2 Chair Brother Senthil , followed by the closing prayers and the Arathi, which was conducted by Sir.

Dearest Swami, we very thankful to you for conducting the Akhanda bhajans this year and every year, and also reminding us of your constant presence this time, through Respected Sri Srinivasan.

With Loving Regards,
Region 2 Team

Region 2 - Harrow West and Pinner Joint Birthday Celebrations

To celebrate Swami’s birthday in the best way possible, this year, Harrow West and Pinner Sai Centres teamed up to put together an amazing programme that brought tears of Joy to our eyes. The theme of this year’s celebration was ‘Unity’, and shone through all aspects of the programme, as well as behind the scenes! After months of planning and preparing, a wonderful variety of offerings to Swami were presented for His birthday.

To start off the birthday celebrations, we had the very loving procession by the SSE children, in which the children held flags of the five human values, or flowers, which were then offered to Swami’s Lotus Feet, causing every single heart in the room to melt. The vedam chanting which then followed reverberated throughout the hall, filling the room with positive vibrations.

Uncle Rajesh formally launched the new Magic Light Meditation website, and we all experienced a Wonderful Jyoti Meditation following along with the animation on the Website…just wonderful. This set the scene for bhajans, and a Laksharchana. This Laksharchana was a wonderful opportunity for everyone to give their own offering to Swami, and was greatly appreciated by all who took part.

A musical performance from our special guests, One World Choir, was both poignant and lively, as well as reminding us of Swami’s message: “Love all, Serve all”. This message was echoed into The SSE play that followed providing us with another message from Swami, which further reminded us that, “Money comes and goes, but morality comes and grows”. The messages then reinforced by the compere hosting a quiz for the audience about the what we had learnt from the play. The youth then delighted everyone with a musical offering to Swami that was just dripping with love and dedication, even moving many of us to tears! Following the Children and the Youth, it was then the turn of our Householders and their bhajans for Swami raised the roof, filling the building and our hearts with positive vibrations.

As this was a special celebration, it goes without saying that we would certainly miss out if we did not have any sweets! Our compere seemed to think the same reminding us all of how Swami used throw sweets during Dashan in Prashanti, bringing back fond memories to the adults, and great excitement and joy to the children. The theme of Unity continued when we all headed to the Dining Area for mahaprasadam, prepared with so much love; it was just like being back in the queue for the North Indian Canteen during Festival times in Prashanthi...Thank you, Swami, for receiving our humble offering and for showering so much Grace on us all.

Jai Sai Ram
Nilam Ramanaido (Harrow West) & Saisha Patel (Pinner)

Region 2 - Health Awareness Clinic in Hayes

Over 200 members of the public took advantage of a free health awareness clinic, held at the Botwell Leisure Centre in Hayes, on a very cold November day. This event was organised by Hillingdon Community Health, part of the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust in partnership with the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation UK.

Organised as part of the Sri Sathya Sai Preventative Healthcare Initiative, it was held at the same location for the second time this year and allowed people from all walks of life including young children and the elderly, as well as those from different ethnic backgrounds to receive a general health check, without making any appointments or requiring any referrals.

The walk-in clinic provides a basic health check including blood pressure monitoring, blood glucose testing, Bone Mass Index, Diabetic risk assessment, dental and eye check, advice on diet and exercise as well as the opportunity to talk to a GP. Two hundred and two visitors were seen and of those, there were 98 females and 96 males with ages ranging between 4 to 78 yrs. A total of 649 health checks were made.

About 30 feedback comments were received and all were positive in confirming the usefulness and effectiveness of this event in health promotion.

One visitor who came to the leisure centre to use the swimming facilities told the evaluation team that he thought the service was ‘very good’. The 47 year old said, “This type of clinic should definitely be made more widely available and I can’t put into words how valuable such an initiative is.”

Hendon resident ‘PG’ said she decided to get a health check because she had been feeling dizzy over the last few days. The 64-year old said, “I had come to use the gym and feel relieved and good that I’ve had this check done. I’d have liked other members of family to have taken advantage of it too.”

Volunteer Jessica Blanchard, a recently qualified dentist who has previously contributed to Sai health camps in Africa said, “The principal dentist at my practice is a Sai devotee and told me about this. I love doing things like this and think it’s really important to give back to the local community and use our skills for that purpose.” She added that services like these are appreciated by members of the public because it gives them access to health care professionals in a non-clinical setting and without them having to make an appointment. She said, “A lot of people I have seen today weren’t aware that they are entitled to free dental healthcare on the NHS. So as well as providing dental advice on site, we are signposting them to local NHS services and correcting a lot of misconceptions which will ultimately benefit their health.”

Jessica was one of eighteen health care volunteers and together with sixteen general volunteers from across region 2 of the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation UK, they joined forces with other charitable organisations such as Bowel Cancer UK and Rethink as well as Smoking Cessation, Healthy Eating and Chlamydia testing to make the initiative possible.

"Let all people live happily, in good health and cheer." It desired that no one should experience suffering or misery in this world. Health is the English term for Aarogyam in Sanskrith. The word health is derived from the Latin word "Healy." Aarogyam has several meanings. One is sacredness. Another is Paripuurnam (Wholeness). The term thus indicates that all the organs of the body should be perfect and holy. If any organ is afflicted, the body cannot be said to be Whole. Hence men should aim at achieving perfect health and help others to do so. (Sathya Sai Speaks vol 28).

Region 2 - SSE Akhanda Bhajans 2013

One of the most popular programs of the calendar year is our annual Akhand Bhajans session by the SSE Wing and this year it was extra special with our largest number of SSE centres participating. The children and teachers from Greenford, Harrow West, London West, Pinner and Slough jointly came together as 'One family of Sai' to make their offering of devotional songs to our Divine Mother and Father.

As usual preparation for the big day started few months back with children, parents and teachers working and practising together at their local centres. A week prior to actual day, Parents, Children and the Teachers came together under one roof to unite in their efforts.

It was amazing to see the Children, Youth and the Adults working together with the same vision of making their offering that was full of Love and the best it has ever been. The session in itself was like a mini Akhand Bhajans with the Youth managing the PA system and the Adults at hand to help the children in a most loving way possible.

On arrival, the children were all served up with delicious lunch and then taken to the gym to remove their shoes and manage their anticipation and excitement of their final loving rendition. It was time and the scene was perfectly set with the most beautiful and welcoming Altar. The Children walked in quietly into the hall, immaculately dressed in their whites and the audience eagerly awaited what these ‘Little Angels’ had to offer and they were not disappointed.

What was to unfold over the next 45 minutes was indeed pure love rendered through songs, sung to the highest of standards.

Swami has certainly blessed the Region with so many talented singers as young as 5 years old and young musicians who supported the SSE slot in spite of having mock exams in the coming weeks. May Swami continue to Bless you all.

Seeing the effort that these children put in was so inspiring and worthwhile knowing Sai Organisation in UK is in the hands of these Little Soldiers Swami has prepared and handpicked for years to come.

What was so evident right throughout the SSE slot was the children’s discipline and dedication. Although the light in the hall was low, it was shining brightly; the little angels had filled everyone’s heart with a beautiful glow at the end of their session. Then it was the turn of the SSE Teachers to sing their hearts out to Swami and raise the vibrations even higher. All this was only possible with Swami’s presence and the wonderful support and love given by the parents and the encouragement provided by the SSE teachers. On behalf of the Region 2 Team, we ‘Thank You’ for your continued support.

Article written by Region 2 team member.

Region 2 - Swami's Birthday Celebrations at London West Sai Centre

Happy and Excited! Those words describe us on the day of Swami’s 88 birthday celebrations. Excitement can come in 2 ways: inside or out; ours was shown in both ways! So many people had come to celebrate and the reason that people looked forward to come to something that was very special is Our Swami.

One week prior to the celebrations, the entire program was finalised. All were in high spirits. On the very special day, Swami’s altar was beautifully decorated, SSE children were all in white waiting for the opportunity to perform in front of Mother Sai and a lot of devotees had gathered. Program started with 3 Aums, Sai Ashtotra Namavalli, Program by the SSE children, Melodious Bhajans ending with Mangala Arthi.

Balavikas Children Performances

Swami gives a lot of importance to the learning, chanting and practice of Vedas in our daily lives. So the SSE program started with Veda Chanting by our Group 1 Girls.

Thanks to our little sisters and brother who had put up a very simple yet powerful skit with lot of messages to take home. The story portrayed many important lessons to us. Lesson of not being lazy and putting in hard work in order to achieve results. Our Dearest Swami always tells Do your Best and Leave the Rest to God. Even though the hen didn’t have any help and the work was hard, her persistence and perseverance paid off in the end.

Dance is surely an art but when coupled with mind blowing moves they transcend to a different level altogether. Flexibility, power, synchronisation is all that you need to perfect this art. Our SSE boys showcased the abilities of the body, capabilities of the mind and aspirations of the spirit through the dandiya dance.

The SSE program ended with a favourite song of Swami “Why Fear when I am here” and a Happy Birthday song.

There was a huge cake cut by one of the older devotees who was more than 70 years old and Mangal Arthi was also performed by her.

Thanks Swami for the lovely opportunity you showered to all of us through Sathya Sai Organisation. May we always be Your chosen instruments working for Your mission.

Region 2 - Swami's Birthday Celebrations in Wembley

Wembley Sai Centre offered their celebration of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba's birthday this year at the more spacious venue of Mandhata Youth & Community Hall, which is sited about a mile away from their regular Thursday evening devotional meetings at BSNL Hall, North Wembley, HA0 3NL.

Several generations - from under 1 year old to over 90 - came together in wonderful spontaneity to offer their devotion and do their utmost to share their joy with all present.

The hall was buzzing with activity an hour before the opening prayers and many of the ladies were putting up an elaborately planned and elegantly executed altar for Baba's photograph. Swami was depicted in resplendent white, and more items in white were placed at the altar and then tastefully decorated with touches of light colour. Other members were busy carrying pots and pans full of aromatic food to prepare the mahaprashadam which would conclude the evening.

The hall soon reverberated with the sounds of Ganesha Atharvashisham - veda chant, followed by a recital of Swami's 108 Names. The wonderful vibrations being built up by the prayers were soon added to by soothing notes of bhajan instrumentals - violin and tabla rectal by versatile young players prepared by Sister Rani Sarvanapavan at her school of music.

This was followed by a vibrant session of bhajans offered by centre members, young and old. Our guest speaker, Bro. Divij Desai, was then introduced by Bro. Suresh Sajnani, Region 2 Spiritual Co-ordinator. Bro. Divij, an alumni of Swami's University, talked about his recollection of Swami - and, in particular, his love of cricket.The stories held everyone spellbound and considerable interest got drawn to the mention of Sachin Tendulkar, who had retired from the game just the previous week.

The next item was a lovingly presented Bharat Natyam classical dance by Sister Nivedini Vijayakumar. This offering Attention to detail and the intensity of preparation The youngest at the event were then brought to the front of the hall for Swami's Birthday Bhajan and cake cutting.

Aarti was offered by Bro.Divij and everyone was invited to move to the dining hall to partake in a sumptuous mahaprashadam meal. The way everyone had come together and how they had given their best possible effort for Swami will mark this as a very proud day in the 36 year history of the centre.

Region 3 - Akhanda Bhajans at Central London Sai Centre

The 24 hours started with some invocation chants and then there was great gusto as the Ganesh bhajan started. Throughout the evening, the crowd increased and by midnight, there were many people singing loudly. Every 1-2 hours throughout the night another group came to boost the bhajan singing giving a nice variety to the event. There were also certain hours set aside for the youth and children to sing. The fact that the kitchen was so busy was testimony to the number of people who attended the event!

In the morning at 5am Suprabhatam was sung and despite the cold, people’s passion for singing did not diminish. Even though the morning hours were relatively sparse, those that were there did not let up their efforts. Soon things picked up again, and the hall filled up. The last few hours were again busy, and the energy levels increased towards a crescendo around the end. Apart from Sai bhajans, those sung to Rama, Krishna, Allah, Shiva, Ganesha and all possible deities were sung in those 24 hours, and it was a real pleasure to be there, to feel the presence of the Lord through devotional singing.

We must thank the many volunteers who made this event possible, especially the people who set up before the event and packed up afterwards, for whom the event lasted even more than 24 hours. We must also thank all those that brought large amounts of food, which kept the singers in a good form. We all look forward to the next year’s event!

Jai Sai Ram! Dr Suneil Aggarwal

Region 3 - Akhanda Bhajans at Hatfield Sai Centre

Multi-faith programme for peace, harmony and unity

This year saw a higher level of behind the scenes activities in preparation for the Akhanda Bhajan as Hatfield Sai Centre came together with the Welwyn Hatfield interfaith Group on the 9 November 2013 to offer a rendition of inspirational and uplifting prayers, hymns and songs from various faiths. The air was charged with energy as the lamps were lit and Hatfield Sai Centre commenced with the chanting at 4.30 pm. Dr Daksha Trivedi provided brief opening remarks which explained the significance of Akhanda Bhajan so that those who were not familiar developed a deeper understanding of the significance of this Global spiritual observance for world peace initiated by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba which takes place in more that 114 countries around the world in the month of November of each year.

Following this; the Methodist Choir from Digswell village Church led by Nick Young singing Christian songs; The Zimbabwe Group from Oxlease Methodist Church singing Christian songs in the Shona language to the sounds of African beat; Hatfield Sai Centre singing bhajans; the Buddhist Group from North Herts Faith Forum led by Rev Samitha chanting Buddhist prayers; the Yoga Group from Welwyn Garden City singing Hindu songs; the Roman Catholic Choir led by Valerie Skottowe singing Christian songs; Jewish singing by Reynold Rosenburg and the Boys Group singing Sai Bhajans took their timely slots and filled the air with the most beautiful renditions.

It was clearly not the language of the lips that mattered but the language of the heart as those who attended joined in or listened with their hearts and felt the energy. What a beautiful tapestry was woven that evening with the diversity that came into the filling hall to the unity for a common goal, which was love for God and peace for the whole of humanity!

To the amazement of some and the affirmation of others the red carnation from the top of Swami’s beautiful frame fell during the evening!!! Wow!!

The evening’s prayers and songs concluded with Aarthi offered to our beloved Bhagawan the Divine Conductor of this year’s Akhanda Bhajan.

Jay Sai Ram Rani Naidoo

Region 3 - Akhanda Bhajans at Mill Hill Sai Centre

Sri Sathya Sai Centre of Mill Hill held Akhanda Bhajans from 6 PM on the 9th of Nov to 6 PM on the 10th of Nov. Bhajan groups from different parts of London participated in this event. Each Bhajan group was allotted a slot which they attended as per schedule and offered their devotional music to Swami. The groups who participated were Sri Sathya Sai Centre of Mill Hill, London East, Arkley Sai Centre, Wembley Sai Centre, Alperton Sai Centre, Harrow Sai School, Hendon Sai Group, Watford Sai Group, Soda Sai Group, Mila Sai Group, Hari's Sai Group, Boys Sai Group and Mill Hill Youth.

The Bhajans were enjoyed and appreciated by all who visited the Centre. They also admired the beautiful and captivating altar which created an ambience conducive for contemplation on Swami. Approximately 500 devotees must have visited the Sai Centre at various points of time during the 24-hour period. The programme concluded with Arati. Prasadam was prepared and served by volunteers during the entire course of the programme. Traditionally, this event is also seen as an opportunity for devotees from different parts of London to meet one another in the Sai Family. One could feel the love of devotees for Swami and the spirit of brotherliness amongst members of the Sai Family.

We owe special thanks to all the organizers and volunteers for the smooth conduct of this event.

Region 3 - East London Sai Centres Akhanda Bhajan Event

Christchurch School in Ilford, London

The much awaited day finally dawned upon us on the evening of Saturday 9th November 2013. The Akhanda Bhajan event at the Christchurch School in Ilford was jointly organised by the Sai Centres of Ilford, Manor Park, Edmonton, Thurrock, and Walthamstow (in no particular order!). The meetings for preparation towards the Akhanda Bhajans began as early as July and proved to be invaluable, as the entire event turned out to be magnificent on all counts. Everyone worked together in a spirit of love and brotherhood.

Thurrock Sai Centre produced a breathtaking altar setting the scene and the event commenced with the recitation of Vedam, followed by multi-faith prayers by the children from the participating centres, before host-centres kicked off with the bhajans. This year we had three guests from outside namely the Buddhist monks who came in and chanted sutras for an hour; the Sikh brothers who sang and explained their Kirtans in a beautiful manner and the brothers from the Hare Krishna Organisaton who took the entire congregation to a different level of spiritual participation, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

The SSE School as well as the Youth from the participating centres also had a slot each and they mesmerised the gathering with their lovely renditions.

All in all, it was 24 hours of divine inspiration designed to aspire each devotee to become a better instrument of HIS and to live up to Swami’s saying namely, ‘LOVE ALL, SERVE ALL’.

In HIS service,
Dr Vickneswaren Krishnan

Region 3 - Ladies Day 2013

In November 1995, our Beloved Bhagavan declared that 19th of November every year should be celebrated as Ladies day, saying that "Ladies' Day is celebrated to make you understand the value of mother's love and her concern for you."

This year on Sunday 17th November 2013, we saw Regional Ladies Day being held at the Sri Sathya Sai Centre of Mill Hill, whereby the ladies of Region 3 all gathered to celebrate this annual occasion.

The programme began with Sister Sutopa giving a brief introduction into Ladies day and the importance of celebrating it, followed by a wonderful video “Giving With Love”, produced by Jaina Parmar (a youth of Mill Hill Sai Centre). It perfectly portrayed the tremendous efforts of many ladies and SSE children from various Region 3 centres over the past year in support of the “Giving with Love” service project, examples of which were also exhibited at the back of the hall. The video also showed how the Region 3 ladies have continued to forge relationships with other religious communities through their activities. For example, the ladies worked closely with a mosque in South Woodford, Essex during the project and also held a wonderful Ladies retreat last summer at a Buddhist temple in Milton Keynes. The video concluded by showing the splendid work carried out by the “Operation Christmas Child” project whereby shoebox gifts are collected for underprivileged children oversees every year. (This year, a huge effort by Thurrock and Mill Hill Sai Centres subsequently resulted in a donation of 40 shoebox gifts on behalf of the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation UK, which received much praise from the co-ordinating charity, Samaritan’s Purse).

We then had the immense pleasure of listening to Sister Leela Sivayogan-Jones, sharing with us an inspirational talk about her life and the experiences she gained along the way with our dearest Divine Mother. She went on to remind us of the importance of Sadhana and the best way to fulfil it, reminding us that Sadhana isn’t just for SSE students but also for us as adults to maintain throughout our life. She spoke of the importance of facing the challenges thrown at us with positivity and therefore overcoming any negativity, providing examples from her own life where she had strived to do this, thereby growing closer to Swami and her own self along the way.

The ladies of Ilford Sai Centre went on to perform a beautiful play based on one of Swami’s Chinna Kathas, “Drawing God”... which told the tale of a renowned artist who yearned to draw God and after waiting a long while, finally received the opportunity when Krishna Himself manifested before him and allowed the artist to make a portrait. However, after much trial and error, (and following timely intervention by Lord Narayana), the artist soon realised that the only way a perfect portrait of God could be achieved is by using... a MIRROR!. The time and effort gone into producing such a wonderful drama was greatly appreciated (especially by the children!) and taught us the importance of humility before God’s endless splendour and magnificence, understanding that there is nothing greater than God, yet His Love is so gentle.

This was followed by another inspiring talk, this time by Sister Mayfare Agymen, who shared some beautiful personal experiences she has had with our Beloved Bhagavan over the many years of her nursing career and how he guided her with such love and compassion. She reminded us of the small things Swami does to show us He is always there, be it by testing us or saving us, but always protecting us, like the Divine Mother He truly is. The audience were genuinely thrilled upon hearing some truly remarkable stories proving God’s Omniscience, Omnipotence and Omnipresence. In particular, Sister Mayfare’s selfless attitude towards life – astounded everyone as she explained how she never prays for herself or her family...only for others. She also recounted how Swami had personally told her that He was still very much present in Prashanti Nilayam...inside the Samadhi...so we should all continue to visit as before to receive His blessings and grace.

We then had the pleasure of Sister Cookie from Milton Keynes Sai Centre, a trained music teacher, presenting an excellent Bhajan Workshop, accompanied by her daughter, Yashoda who accompanied on the harmonium. Sister Cookie explained about the key components of a bhajan (raaga, taalam and bhava) and the importance and significance of each. She also delighted the audience by singing various bhajans, demonstrating their diversity in raaga and taalam, as well as the significance of using our “singing voice” as opposed to our “speaking voice” when trying to hit those high notes. Most importantly, the need to sing with bhava (from the heart) was beautifully explained, as Sister Cookie again demonstrated how bhava can transform even the simplest bhajan, and also the need to remain disciplined and selfless in our approach to bhajan singing in general. All the ladies present sat in perfect silence, taking in the precious little tips shared; no one wanted the session to end.

However, a soothing treat lay in store for everyone as the 2013 Regional Ladies Day programme finally concluded with the ladies of Mill Hill Sai Centre singing three devotional songs; “Mera Jivan Tere Hawale”, “Tumhi Ho Mata” and “Tu Pyaar Ka Saagar Hai” in unison. The audience joined whilst watching an enchanting DVD of Swami’s beautiful, graceful form giving Darshan. A wonderful sense of calmness and unity filled the hall during this ultimate offering at the Lotus Feet.

The aarti was then offered to our Beloved Bhagwan for making the entire programme possible...and a wonderful feast jointly prepared by Region 3 Ladies was lovingly served by the host centre...before the devotees made their way home, fully re-charged!

JAI SAI RAM Kinali Vaghadia & Sutopa Sen

Region 3 - Multi-Faith Akhanda Bhajans in Milton Keynes

For the last decade Milton Keynes has been the focal point in unifying the message of peace amongst all faith groups. On the 9th and 10th of November 2013 MK, Luton and Foster Hill Sai Centres worked harmoniously in hosting the 10th annual interfaith Akhanda Bhajans. This year there were more than 400 visitors throughout the event.

“Let the different faiths exist, let them flourish, let the glory of God be sung in all languages, in a variety of tunes and that should be the ideal. Respect the differences between the faiths and recognize them as valid as far as they do not extinguish the flame of Unity” -Baba

The event started at 6:00 pm on Saturday the 9th of November. There were 22 groups that participated, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist and Hindu are to name a few. The Jain, Muslim and Jewish faith groups joined us for the first time this year. Each energized with love and the feeling of unity. The purpose of Akhanda Bhajan is to help bring world peace by creating strong positive energy through music and singing. It is a truly unique opportunity that a gathering of faiths come together for one purpose. The event went live throughout the world via Ustream, which allowed people from Australia, South Africa and India to enjoy the peaceful singing throughout the day.

The youth from Milton Keynes, Luton and Foster Hill have created many interactive exhibitions over the past 10 years. Topics ranging from The Life of Sathya Sai Baba, Spirituality Though Music, Ways to Achieve Inner Peace are to name a few. This year the exhibition focused on the Sathya Sai Education wing as well as a glance into the Meaning of Peace. Everyone was given the opportunity to share their thoughts on what peace meant to them on a ‘Peace wall’.

The event would not be possible without the dedicated volunteers that worked tirelessly prior to, during and after the Akhanda Bhajans. Our devoted Seva, Spiritual and Youth wings served and kept the night vibrations very strong and powerful.

The Mayor of Milton Keynes and Mr Ian Stewart (Member of Parliament) attended and praised the organization. The Mayor said “events such as these play an important role in encouraging multiculturalism. It enhances everybody’s culture and brings religions together”. Mr Ian Stewart said, “Akhanda Bhajans is a very important and powerful event for diverse communities and helps in building this place together.”

With Swami’s blessings the event was very successful and everyone is looking forward to Akhanda Bhajans 2014.

Nikita Maharaj, Milton Keynes Youth Coordinator, Region 3

Region 3 - Sri Sathya Sai Baba Group of Thurrock celebrates Swami’s Birthday

This saying bestowed to us by our Lord was the theme during Thurrock’s celebration of Swami’s Birthday. His message, teachings and guidance forever moulds and shapes us. Service, an unconditional act conducted with love and unity, brought us all together on Sunday 17th November wherein we all gathered with smiles ready to start the day.

The Birthday celebrations commenced with us singing the name of the Divine. After weeks of preparation and rehearsals, the youth presented a musical offering which was delivered beautifully and sung with love. These melodious and uplifting Bhajans started the day with a lovely atmosphere leading to the inspiring and motivational talks.

The day was filled with service related activities, from talks by our youth and their involvement in international service projects, to talks by local service projects such as making sandwiches for the homeless, to assembling, packing, wrapping and distributing hamper food packages made for the needy in our local area – this day was not only our centre coming together, but a community, through service, in the name of our Lord.

Nimisha Komalram, one of our youth, shared with us her experience of doing service with a group based in Romania during the summer. She, alongside other youth from the centre, travelled to Romania to work with a group of feral Romanian children, who live on the outskirts of society, never having seen the luxuries that we may take for granted. It was lovely to hear of love being the universal language, in that it does not matter who we are or where we are, through love and service we can come together in solidarity and harmony.

We were also very honoured to have the Mayor and Mayoress of Thurrock take part in the celebrations. The Mayor spoke to us about unity and coming together to undertake service projects. Having read on Swami, the Mayor showed his appreciation and enjoyment of what we were doing for Swami’s Birthday. This presented how we as a society and community work hand in hand, like the previous talk; love truly is a universal language.

The National chair person, Dr Kiran Patel, travelled all the way from Leicester to Essex to take part in our celebrations. This again brought forward the sense of unity – the underlying theme of the day! We listened to Dr. Patel’s insightful talk about his experiences with Swami.

After the inspirational talks, in true Birthday style, it was time to cut the cake! The SSE children all gathered around the cake ready to blow out the candles! It was lovely to be a part of such an amazing day!

It was then time – hamper packing time! Every year, we come together to pack food hamper packages for the needy in our community for Swami’s birthday. These packages are then collected by the Salvation Army and distributed to the needy around Christmas time. From the young to the older, we all work together, with gleaming smiles, to create these packages.

Once the boxes have been constructed and filled with non-perishable food items, they are then wrapped with Christmas wrapping paper, ready to be passed on to the Salvation Army. From pasta, to tea, to biscuits, these boxes were not only filled with food but packed with love and a sense of oneness.

The day ended with the Salvation Army arriving to pick up the hamper packages, one by one, we formed a chain and whilst singing Bhajans passed the packages to the Salvation Army. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate a Birthday! Celebrating Swami’s Birthday through service was such an honour to be a part of.

Swami once said “service is the highest spiritual discipline. Prayer and meditation, or knowledge of scripture and Vedanta (holy scriptures of India), cannot help you reach the goal as quickly as service can.” Therefore, service is of the utmost honour, when we serve, we are actually serving God – what could be more beautiful?

With Swami’s blessings, the day ran smoothly - laughter, smiles and camaraderie between us all made this day a success.

We would like to offer our most gratitude at the Lotus feet of our Divine Master for the benevolence He has bestowed upon us and pray for many more such opportunities to serve our fellow brothers and sisters in need, and for His continued guidance and inspiration.

Davina Komalram – Region 3 Sri Sathya Sai Baba Group of Thurrock

Region 4 - Coventry Celebrating Ladies Day

On 16th November the annual Ladies Day was held in Coventry at the Shree Mandhata Samaj.

The evening began with a prayer and bhajans, which created a lovely atmosphere in the room.

We were then reminded why we had come together on this special day, which was declared by Baba, on 19th November 1994, to celebrate womanhood, and to honour their importance and significant role in the society.

Thereafter, the evening was followed by a talk and demonstration by Alex Hyde Martial Art Teacher.

Alex shared with us her personal story of how she had suffered from Lymphoma twice, a form of cancer, (in the lymphatic system).

The lymphatic system, unlike the circulatory system, does not have a pump that allows the movement of lymph, and therefore is reliant on muscles movement. Alex, is a keen believer that it was the Tai Chi that helped her to be resilient and strive through the challenging treatment protocol and thereafter maintaining her wellbeing.

The movement in Tai chi helps to improve your body posture, and muscles movements.

How we hold are bodies indicate how we are feeling, people who often have their head down often indicates a sign of low mood and possibly depression

What are the benefits of practicing Tai Chi?

Immediate benefits from practicing tai chi tend to be a clearer and more relaxed mind. Clinical studies in the US report improved balance and peace of mind after only 8 weeks of a very simple set of movements taken from a variety of tai chi styles.

Other, less expected, benefits of tai chi include improved working of internal organs, better breathing and finding it easier to sleep at night.

People report more strength, stamina and suppleness as a direct result of doing their tai chi.

Others tai chi benefits come in the form of reduced stress, and an improved ability to deal with difficult situations.

The final part of the evening was a performance by Alex and her team of the Lion dance, which was very dramatically and captivating.

Later we were able to try out the Lion consumes and the various mechanism which were built in to make the lion come alive. All in all it was a very delightful evening, finished off with some shared refreshments.

Finally, we thank Sai Baba for making this event possible and giving us ladies strength, love and guidance in our lives.

Nayana Patel, Coventry

Region 4 - Coventry SSE Celebrating Baba’s Birthday

Inner confidence, trusting the Atma...

Salutations to the Atma, Hrudaya Nivasi, Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba who was evidently present on His Birthday Celebrations. Happy Birthday to one and all

From the outset, there was an overwhelming sense of confidence that was present within the SSE children, who were in the main, hosting and taking the centre stage with the variety of items that they had prepared. These children, or should I say His troopers, were as young as 3 years and ranging to 14 years and were holding the fort by .

The programme began in usual style with an enchanting dance dedicated to Lord Ganesh. From there, the young SSE captivated the audience by their smiles and sang sweetly with the message of Love is God, God is Love on their lips. It is important to remember that these children were only between 3 and 4, and performed for the first time in front of a large crowd.

With the older SSE children, narrating a play on Truth and Right-Conduct, namely ‘A Boy who Cried Wolf and Big Frog and Little Frog respectively, the message was loud and clear. Swami’s quotes on Peace, Love and Non-Violence were also demonstrated through readings. The programme continued, with a presentation on the Unity of Faiths and recitation of verses from Bhaja Govindam and Bhagavad Gita based on divine qualities which were carried out by the SSE young adults, who confidently and eloquently educated the listeners with their understanding.

As the celebrations came to an end, and Swami’s birthday cake was being cut, I silently observed the discipline and the devotion that the children were showing, which was not only admirable but also very commendable. With the help of the wonderful SSE gurus and parents, these children had thoroughly practised and devoted their time for Bhagwan and His audience. We must not forget the level of temptations that engulfs our children’s world today and must sincerely Thank our Divine Master for providing them (and us all) with a route to channel their energies to face the challenges of life through inner confidence. Ultimately, trusting the atma is trusting Him.

“I shall be with you, wherever you are, guarding you and guiding you. March on, have no fear” ~ Baba

Jamie Thakordas, SSE Parent, Coventry

Region 4 - First Aid Training Civil Aid Training Centre

15 members from Region 4 attended First Aid in Derby, we had devotees right from SSE Groups 4 all the way up to our elders who have been serving Swami for 40 years!

The course was led by Keith, Rita and David, all who had many years of experience in first aid. Their presentation was based on giving a practical and common sense approach to first aid, and provided with a lot of personal examples in addressing accidents.

One of the first things we learnt was termed as “DR ABC”, which translates to Danger, Reaction, Airways, Breathing and Circulation. When you approach an incident, you need to be aware of personal safety first before trying to help the injured person. ABC stands for checking to see if the person is alive, therefore checking to see if they are conscious, and if they are breathing.

How amazing! DR ABC, does it remind us of a certain other acronym? Bhagawan Baba has given us many, but the one for me was, ALWAYS BE CAREFUL! Even though Keith; was not aware of Swami, he did believe in God, and mentioned of stories of how unexplainable miracles occurred throughout his time out in the ambulances and in the field. When he was alone or treating many casualties, there was some divine hand that helped him through the situations. It was amazing to hear these particular stories and know that Swami, in whatever from, guide His children.

We were taught a few key elements of first aid, and were able to do carry out the practical approaches. We covered; CPR, Recovery Position, Relieving Choking, Bleeding, Burns and treat broken or fractured bones.

Comments from attendees were that it was presented in a jovial manner and in a way that everyone can understand easily. Other comments were that they are more aware of how to react to incidents, such as burns, bleeds, fainting, and so on.

One of the final comments Keith said was that you are there helping others and don’t ever think that you know everything as you are always learning something new every day. We were then presented with our certificates and also a first aid badge to show we were first aiders, to conclude we took a group photo ending a wonderful day!

Jai Sai Ram

Region 4 - Talk by Janet Bock - Bicker

Devotees who attended the Ram Mandir in Leicester on 26th November 2013 were treated to a talk by Janet Bock – Bicker, a devotee of Sathya Sai Baba who freely shared her experiences with Him. Janet spoke about several teachings that were pertinent to her such as: when speaking about HIM, speak about our experience and our teachings, as experiences lead to teachings, further study and thereby new teachings; HE sees us and loves us, wherever we are; all forms of God are represented in Swami; dharma protects those who protect dharma; and it is better to fail at one’s own dharma than to succeed at someone else’s.

Janet then showed various photo’s including those taken by Bob Raymer of Sai Baba’s trip to Africa (1968), photo’s of Puttaparthi in the 1970’s (including the old mandir, and Swami’s Birth house), photo’s of Brindhavan and finally pictures of Sai Gita (Sai Baba’s elephant). Janet also spoke of the trip Swami had gone to a dry river bed where he had manifested various items for the devotees present. Janet also discussed another of Sai Baba’s Topics, namely surrender, the concept of which refers to the idea of surrendering the idea that you are not divine, and also is not about giving up things. Janet finished her talk by stating “I held the camera, HE took the pictures”.

This talk is available to watch online via the link below
http://new.livestream.com/accounts/2915991?query=sssso&cat=account

Rupert Ward

Region 5 - Akhanda Bhajans

The region 5 Akhanda Bhajan for 2013 was jointly organised by Halifax, Leeds and Bradford centres at the Hudawi Cultural centre, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. The preparations for the event began well in advance with good support from the centre chairs and spiritual co-ordinators from all over the region. The altar set up and the decoration of the venue was done on the day prior to the event. The altar was beautiful and very well thought of. We had pictures from all religions displayed on the altar thus spreading the message of unity of faiths. Devotees arrived early on the day braving the cold weather, and the event started promptly at 8am. Ganesh Vandana followed by the first anuvaka of The Sri Rudram set a vibrant tone for the rest of the day.

Dr Shankar Kuchibatla, the chairperson for the Halifax group welcomed the gathering and reminded us that Swami initiated the Akhanda Bhajan way back in 1945 with around 8 families participating. By his divine sankalpa it eventually grew into an annual global event. This spiritual exercise aimed at world peace is held all over the world 2 weeks before Swami's birthday as an inaugural event of the birthday celebrations.

The bhajans started immediately after the welcome address and were sung until 4pm. The vibrations from the beautiful group singing of the Bhajans supported by the instrumentalists transported everyone present to the holy Prashanthi Nilayam. The centre chairs collected bhajans from devotees much in advance and the bhajan lists were made prior to the event. The bhajan singing on the day was seamless without any interruptions. All the bhajans along with the meanings were projected on the screen in power point.

The SSE students, the budding lead singers of tomorrow, sang Swami's sweet Bhajans in an exemplary fashion. Around 20 SSE children participated and sang for nearly an hour. The SSE gurus worked very hard with the children during the practices and made this possible. The SSE bhajans and the Unison Bhajans from various Centres were the new additions to this year's format of the programme. The Unison Bhajans (Group singing) reflected the devotion, discipline and practice that the various singers had. The PA team monitored and regulated the audio system to enable good acoustics throughout the session. The event was live streamed to help the devotees who could not attend. This year by Swami’s grace we had representation from the Bahai, Christian and the Hindu faiths at the Akhanda Bhajan. Mrs. Christine Deihim of the Bahai faith sang beautifully and surcharged the whole atmosphere. She chose two songs and two prayers that reflected the message of Universal love. One of the songs titled ' your new family' was very appropriate to the occasion. It conveyed a simple yet profound message that all the human beings are like the stars in the sky and that there is no difference between one another. She then prayed about the one ness of god, oneness of religion and one ness of man.

The Bhajan mandali from the Sri Laxmi Narayan Temple in Bradford sang Bhajans in beautiful Hindi beseeching the Lord's grace. The bhajans were upbeat and refreshing. In the afternoon session Mayizhi Patricia Chiseyengi & party of ' Christian United Harmonies' ,Leeds sang beautiful hymns and Christian prayers both in English and African dialect. One of the songs titled “It is well with my soul” conveyed how one’s prayers help in nailing the sins to the cross. The hymns resonated the teaching of Namasmarana that is dear to our Lord.The singer’s full throated and harmonious singing brought joy and tears to the audience.

The final hour of the session included fast paced and joyful Sai Bhajans which enthralled everyone. The evening concluded with the Sarva Dharma prayer, Arathi to Swami and the Vibhuthi mantra. The culmination and 'the icing on the cake' was the beautiful video of Swami's darshan which was shown at the end. Dr Vijayanand Nadella, Spiritual coordinator for our region said that this whole event recharged us spiritually, helping us to keep our connection as one family. He reminded us of how dear Namasmarana was to our Lord and that it is the royal path for this age. The individual spiritual transformation is the real 'vote of thanks' that our dearest lord would expect. Tasteful and satwik prasad was served at breakfast and lunch. The kitchen team started the cooking preparations quite early in the morning braving the cold weather. The devotees were served with extreme patience and love. The smooth conduct of the proceedings was facilitated by dedicated volunteers who ensured that the devotees were served with love all during the day. We experienced the divine presence of our beloved Swami throughout the Bhajans and the whole event was indeed a thrilling experience to all of us.

Dr Ram
Sathanapally
Halifax
SSSSOUK

Region 5 - Birthday Celebrations

The hustle and bustle hushed, the Mandir slowly silenced and as the hum of the harmonium sounded, all could feel a reverberating divine vibration engulf each and every devotee gathered for the region 5 celebration of Mahila Day and Swami’s birthday organised at Oldham Indian association on November 24th.

We arrived to be greeted by our truly divine Mother Sai. Swami’s ever-glowing face and radiant smile welcomed us into a hall full of friendly faces as the Sai family reunited once again. With everything organised and set up with great efficiency, we all sat down ready to start in a place of peace and harmony. The day started with the pure and striking voices of the regional SSE children as they chanted prayers and Vedam. This was followed by Bhajans to evoke the energising vibrations that filled the hall and created the perfect atmosphere for a day to forget the chaos of our busy lives and internalise to focus on our Divine Lord.

Mahila day celebrations then started with a melodious musical medley from Lidget Green. They sang three songs – Tu pyar ka saagar hi, Sathyam Sivam sundaram and a qawalli , Sai Mere Sai. These perfectly pitched harmonies took us on a journey of love where we could close our eyes, and be transferred to a place with Baba. While contemplating on the omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience of our beloved Baba, we could feel the love pouring out of the hearts of the devotees as they sang with such heartfelt devotion.

Maanya and Dishani then performed for Shivasthakam in classical Kuchipudi style. From the elegance of every eye movement, the twirl of each hand gesture and the enjoyment seen in their beautiful smiles, we could see clear depictions of the various forms of Shiva in all his glory. With the delicacy of the trishula and damaru,to the powerful stance of Nataraja, we all watched, immersed in the glory of the Lord. This exquisite and exciting performance showed such talent from the girls who were truly inspirational with the amount of hard work put into performing with perfection for our beloved Baba.

Next in line was a truly inspirational speech from our guest speaker Miss Bindu Malini Gunupudi. After studying in Sri Sathya Sai Primary School and doing her Bachelors' degree at the Anantapur Campus of Bhagawan's University, Sister Bindu came to the UK in 2010 to pursue a PhD in Quantum Device Physics at the School of Physics & Astronomy, University of Birmingham. We were very fortunate to hear her words of wisdom and she was a truly inspiring role model for us as we strive to make progress on the spiritual path to reach our beloved Lord. Her school day experiences taught us the importance of perfecting everything we do; ensuring we are always improving ourselves to be the best we can be for Swami. We all felt privileged as we realised how lucky we were to be together as a Sai family, realised how lucky we were to have Swami in our lives and most importantly how he is there for us no matter what. Any time of the day, any day of the week, he will be by our side forever.

The ladies of Leeds and Bolton recited perfectly written poems which made us churn our intellect to concentrate of the words of Baba. This conjured a sense of spiritual thought cultivation to improve practical spirituality. They shared the importance of the Gayathri Mantra and the role of women in Swami’s word. Each devotee had time to reflect on their love for Baba and how important a role he plays in our lives to challenge and guide us. We must live in peace and harmony by following Swami’s teachings and to continue keeping Swami in our hearts all day and night.

A hearty lunch was all that was needed to keep the devotees going for the afternoon. The catering team was ready to serve the devotees by 12:30.The food was so delicious and it was served with the greatest efficiency and everything was cleared in a record, hours’ time. The devotees were ready for more spiritual food to be served in the later part of the day. The morning’s program had filled the hall and hearts of all present with so much love, but there is no end to Swami’s love...as the afternoon’s program would reiterate.

Swami’s birthday celebrations brought home the message that ‘GOD IS’! As though the celestial beings had themselves come to play for our dearest Swami, the region 5 instrumental offering had the entire room captured in Swami’s love. The SSE children from Warrington sang and danced to beautiful tunes spreading the message of universal love and unity of faiths. They then prayed for swami’s grace to let their light of love shine always. They concluded with a song “He has got the whole world in his hands” which said loud about his omnipotence. They all sincerely promised swami that they will love him and serve him more and more. Could there be a better gift to swami on his birthday from us ?

The upbeat and light-hearted talk by Dr Mahesh Narayan had all the devotees in stitches but clearly embedded in us all that Swami is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. Although He has taken Mahasamadhi and left his physical form, the fact that we were all gathered together celebrating in such high spirits just highlighted the fact that Swami hasn’t left us. He is in all our hearts pouring more and more Love.

Swami so perfectly says ‘Why fear when I am here?’ So simple yet so true! We get ourselves so wound up in this materialist world that we easily forget to even say ‘Thank you’ to Swami for waking us up and giving the opportunity to serve Him for another day. But Swami never forgets us! No matter what, He is shedding His love and blessings on us constantly, much as a mother does for her children. As Swami says, “Devotion has to be unintermittent, uninterrupted, like the flow of oil from one vessel to another.”

What better way to depict Swami’s fun-loving ways than to tell the stories of His form as Bala Krishna. The SSE children of Manchester centre so beautifully and creatively/ ingenuity recreated the stories of the playful yet mischievous Kaanha, including His tendency to steal the villager’s butter and the conquering of .....Naag who was poisoning the Yamuna. The joy and love that the SSE children had for Swami showed throughout as they joyfully re-enacted these classical stories adding a modern twist to enhance the performance.

The day had flown by and it was sad to think that yet another of Swami’s beautiful programs was ending. What better way to end the day in which we had cumulatively cultivated Love for Swami than to sing His glory. Supreetha Rao and Gayathri Nadella accompanied by Praveen on Harmonium and keyboard and Prahalad on Tabla, took us on a blissful journey of Love with their 3 song musical tribute to Swami. The joy of singing the Lord’s name was carried through the birthday song and cutting of the cake and ended with the magical closing bhajans, during which time the SSE children offered their hand crafted gifts of art to Swami by hanging them on the birthday tree. The children offered to swami how they are going to make a positive change in their life from this birthday. Due to Our Gracious Lord’s Blessing, there is no doubt that the day started with Love, was filled with Love and ended with more Love! The strong positive vibrations that had enveloped us all throughout the day were taken away by one and all to be spread to those who could not be there.

Let us continue to keep Swami with us always. ‘If He is a tree, be a creeper that clings to it; if He is the sky, be a tiny that twinkles in it.’

Radha Measuria & Sai Sreenidhi
Liverpool Sai Group
Region 5 Youth

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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.