March 2013 Edition

Quote

Shivarathri is a day when one tries to establish friendship between the mind and God. Shivarathri makes one aware of the fact that the same Divinity is all-pervasive, that It is to be found everywhere. In our daily experiences, there are a number of instances which reveal the existence of Divinity in every person. Consider a cinema; on the screen we see rivers in flood, engulfing all the surrounding land. Even though the scene is filled with flood waters the screen does not get wet by even a drop of water. At another time, on the same screen we see volcanoes erupting with tongues of flame, but the screen is not burnt. The screen which provides the basis for all these pictures is not affected by any of them. Likewise in the life of man, good or bad, joy or sorrow, birth or death, will be coming and going, but they do not affect the Atma In the cinema of life, the screen is the Atma It is Shiva, it is Sankara, it is Divinity. When one understands this principle, one will be able to understand, enjoy and find fulfilment in life.

~ Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Articles

Divine Directions – How to serve ably as His instrument

Education Wing - My Baba and I

National Sathya Sai Orientation Conference 2013

Region 1 - Bhajan Seva by Tooting Sai Centre

Region 1 - The visit of the Ahmaddiya group to the (SSE) Balvikas of Merton Sai Centre

Region 2 - Skanda Vale Trip: Love and Service in action

Region 3 - Sikhism

Region 3 - The Significance of Maha Shivarathri

Region 7 - Bath Sathya Sai Group presents at Mayor of Bath’s Interfaith Day of Prayer

The Significance of Mahaa Shivaraathri

Youth Wing - National Youth Conference 2013: How To Make OUR Life HIS Message

Youth Wing - National Youth Conference 2013: Workshop Summary

Editorial

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

February turned out to be another eventful month for the Organisation with hundreds of devotees and esteemed guests attending the National Sathya Sai Orientation conference and the National Youth conference. The National Sathya Sai Orientation Conference was held on the 9th February for Office Bearers and Active Workers from around the country. The focus of the conference came under the theme ‘Mission of Sathya Sai – How to Serve Ably as His Instruments’. We were blessed to have a video call with Dr Narendranath Reddy, Chairman of Prasanthi Council. We were reminded of our Master, Sri Sathya Sai Baba, His Life, His attributes of Selfless Love and Sacrifice and many others and His Avatar hood which He demonstrated by His Omnipresence, Omniscience and Omnipotence, His Mission to establish Brotherhood amongst humanity and His Message of Divinity that pervaded everything.

The workshops helped reinforce the guidelines that Bhagawan had given on the Organisation and how one could serve Him ably as an instrument. The day also saw inspiring speakers drawn from the very young to the more experienced. From across the Atlantic was an inspiring talk presented by Dr Narendranath Reddy, who joined us via a video link and reiterated the Mission and Message of Baba. The conference was indeed a very elevating and memorable experience for all.

We were also fortunate to hold the National Youth Conference (22-24th February) which brought over 250 youth together in unity from around the country. The theme of the conference was ‘How we can make our Lives His Message’. Esteemed guest Dr Sunder Iyer from USA, a former alumnus and lecturer of the Sri Sathya Sai University, Prasanthi Nilayam, was the special guest who enthused the youth with his inspiring thoughts and experiences. The love, energy and the positivity throughout the weekend was beyond description. The workshops, question and answer sessions and musical items created a Prasanthi atmosphere and left everyone feeling energised and ready to be His messenger.

March will be another busy month all over the UK with Regional Conferences and the Shivaratri Celebrations. The next few weeks will also see the launch of our National Pilgrimage, The Sathya Sai Human Values Day and National Easwaramma Day.

I would like to wish everyone a very very happy Mother's Day, and a Holy Mahashivaratri.

Kiran Patel,
Chair, UK Central Council

Divine Directions – How to serve ably as His instrument

"My place is among you, with you and wherever work lies. That is why I moved among you and stood at your back. This is just to show you that, even in your own places, when you do bhajan or some other type of adoration, like serving children or the sick or the poor, I do not sit on a special seat, apart and distant. Do not believe I am on the pedestal that you offer Me; I am part of you, a partner and partaker in all your efforts, inspiring and instructing, when you ask or need inspiration and instruction".
Sri Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol 10, Ch 1

Saadhakas should become examples to others

Some persons suggested that the Presidents of these Organisations may be given a short refresher course of instruction, so that they may carry out their duties (of encouraging units to undertake saadhana and service) more efficiently. This is very much like the move to train whole-time archakas (priests) for performing worship in the temples! Imagine someone being trained for adoring God! It is not a mechanical process, amenable to the curricula and time-table of the classroom; it is a spontaneous urge from within, born out of sincere faith and yearning. If puujaris (temple priests) are to be trained to pray and adore, the suggestion may crop up tomorrow that God too should be given training so that He may respond and reciprocate in correct proportion! Presidents and others are now in those positions because they are acknowledged by their people as virtuous, devoted and capable of doing sustained service to their brothers and sisters. What can a course of instruction add to their spiritual height? This and similar suggestions raise their heads, because most of you have not grasped the very raison d'etre of this organisational set-up. The goal is not the proliferation of activities and centres, the multiplications of units, dotting the map with Bhajana Mandalis (Chanting groups) or Seva Sanghs (Service units), but encouraging saadhaks (spiritual aspirants) to become examples and inspiration to others.

What is planned is 'inner individual reform and reconstruction' and not 'outer reform and rebuilding.' This is no game of word-building, where out of one big word a number of small three-letter words are derived and paraded! This is world-building where out of a large number of straight and sincere individuals the new human community is ushered in. The selection of office-bearers of these units should not be done for 'political' reasons---on the basis of the financial, business, social or official position which persons hold; that method will breed squabbles, jealousies and factions, such as those from which many units are suffering today.

Love must be unselfish and universal

Choose men and women who have unshaken faith in this present Avathaar, with this Name and this Form. That will save the units from many complications later on, arising from loyalties which may dissipate or divert the energies of the office-bearers. The leaders of these units lead because they have the vision and the yearning, not because they have the votes or the purse. The aanandha they derive is the only reward they are after. When men who have no understanding and no vision encroach into positions of authority, unrest and confusion usurp the saddle. Detachment, simple living, steady saadhana---these are the qualities that entitle a person to membership of these units. Give up; do not gather---that is the road to Grace. Abu Ben Adam found that the Angel had recorded his name in the list of those whom God loved, though his name was nowhere to be found in the register of those who loved God; for, he loved, not God, but men. That is enough to win Grace.

Sri Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol 10, Ch 1

Education Wing - My Baba and I

(Transcript of the speech by Miss Sai Laveniya Mithiran, SSE student, Region 3 delivered at the National Sathya Sai Orientation Conference U.K. 2013)

There are no words to express the gratitude I feel towards all those who are responsible for making it possible for me to stand up here and share my experiences with you. Swami has guided me throughout my whole life and through many difficulties I have faced. I have always felt his presence within me and this will stay with me forever.

Swami says that “The ideal of the Balvikas is to raise a generation of boys and girls who have a clean and clear conscience”. I have been attending Mill Hill Sai Centre my whole life and Balvikas for 11 years now and it has been a phenomenal experience. Without attending my lessons regularly I truly believe I wouldn’t have understood the principles and discipline of life, “Character is the most precious gift of education”.

I chose to undertake as part of my SSE project work teaching a SSE lesson to our group 2 students in my Sai Centre. I hadn’t really thought about this topic as my task as I was looking to take up the project on Bhajans and Group Devotional Singing. This was until my guru told me to try something different. Therefore with Swami’s guidance I was able to accomplish my given task with all the help from everyone including those I was teaching. I really enjoyed undertaking this task and it has made me consider teaching SSE myself, of course with Swami’s will and grace. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to actively take part and associate myself with the SSE wing. I underestimated myself when deciding to do this task. Without Swami showering his blessing this would not have been easy.

With Swami's grace and blessings I have had the chance of performing in front of him twice, first a dance with Sai Mahima 5 and secondly singing with the National pilgrimage in 2010. The dedication and discipline we had to follow just to perform a 2 minute dance or to perfect one song was astounding, but this commitment made me the person I am today and was reinforced by teachings from SSE. The qualities that I developed during these pilgrimages were a gift from Swami to help mould me into the person I am today.

This society sometimes is full of negativity. Being a LOTUSS also known as Group 4 student I can clearly visualise and contemplate on the tremendous transformation I have experienced from starting off as an SSE student to now, however this credit goes to all those again responsible for changing peoples lives in a spiritual manner- for me they are first and foremost Swami, then my parents, my family, my SSE Gurus and lastly devotees at my Centre who work tirelessly in a selfless manner living the values of Sathya, Dharma, Shanti, Prema and Ahimsa. As Swami once said “The Balvikas (also known as SSE) is the primary basis of the great movement to restore the practise of Dharma in the world”

One story which moved me was one told by an elder from our centre. This is the way which I remembered the story. There was one family who went to a different centre and they were such a humble well respected Sai family at the centre this was. Every Sunday they would all come in white clothes in such Saatvic manner. So one summer’s day the elder bumped into a lady with a push chair. The lady was dressed in shorts and a sleeveless top with sunglasses and her eldest daughter was in a short dress. The lady apologised when accidentally bumping into the uncle but didn’t stop to look at him. The uncle just stared at them thinking he recognised them. Then suddenly whilst the mother was yelling at her eldest daughter it clicked to the uncle that this was the family from the Sai centre. The mother finally realising that this elder was just staring recognised who he was. She and her family were full of embarrassment and said Sai Ram and literally ran off.
This incident made us all realise how our attitude and manner is not only regarded at the Sai centre. We should not act any differently and reflect Swami’s message at all times. People, strangers, anyone can recognise a Sai student or devotee quite easily because of his personality built by listening to the teachings of Swami and then putting them into action. Again Swami had said “Knowledge that is not put into practice is like food that is not digested”

I honestly can’t reiterate how much SSE has transformed us into something unexplainable.
As one uncle from Mill Hill proudly said about us SSE students - 'SSE has made you excel not only in humility but simplicity, morality and integrity'. And whilst SSE is an abbreviation for Sai Spiritual Education parents of SSE students also see it as Spiritual Secured Education.

My prayer to Swami remains- 'Never let go of me; help me to practise what I have learnt; help me to see you in everyone'. Equipped with what you have taught me I know I can step out into the world confidently knowing and believing in what you have always said 'Why fear when I am here'.

Thank you
Jai Sai Ram

National Sathya Sai Orientation Conference 2013

'The Mission of Sathya Sai: How to serve ably as His Instruments'

This Conference is itself a sign of revival. You are allotted the task of bringing once again to the homes of the people the message of Aathmic strength and Aathmic unity. Transmuting 'man' into 'God' and experiencing that Aanandha (Bliss) is the one and only achievement for which life is to be devoted. The efforts you make in your own places are directed to bring this goal into the awareness of each person. Of course, there are in existence many organisations and societies engaged in distributing various cures for the 'spiritual' 'ills of their constituents, and therefore, a question may arise about the need for this additional institution. The need has arisen to emphasise the basic and essential discipline, which is practical and universal, as prescribed since ages for the revelation of the Divine in man.

Sathya Sai Speaks 7-18 (First All India Conference, Chennai, 1967)

On the crisp morning of February 9th, about 300 devotees of our dear Lord Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, who lovingly serve Him as officials and active workers in the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation in United Kingdom, assembled with great enthusiasm in Hatfield near London for the annual Orientation Conference. As devotees arrived, there was a palpable sense of joy and eagerness in the air that one naturally experiences when in the company of good and god-loving people. What was immediately evident also were the meticulous arrangements made so lovingly by humble volunteers, both the young and the not so young, from across the country.

Be it the smart Stage design, adorned by a bewitching picture of Bhagawan Baba in a red robe; or the hi-tech audio visual arrangement that included a video conferencing facility that delighted the delegates later in the day; or the Registration desk that so adroitly managed the challenging task of allocating delegates to the correct workshops; or the ever-giving catering team that always works indefatigably and serves everyone sumptuous and pure food with a smile, helping us sustain our bodies and propel our minds onwards in our spiritual journey. All these silent and happy volunteers, along with many others such as the workshop, web and music teams that we became aware of as the day unfolded, were indeed living and practical examples of the theme for our Orientation Conference: How to serve ably as His instruments in His Mission! Our Lord Sathya Sai orientates all of us thus: (SSS 7-18)

Duty is God. Do it and be content. The very first ideal you must keep in mind, when you start and run these organisations is: Do not crave for status or authority or position; do not allow any pomp, or show; do not compete for publicity or recognition or praise.

When an organisation is started it has to lay down for itself certain rules and regulations. But our rules are of a different nature altogether. Our rules emphasise that members must first practise what they stand for. Whatever you desire others to do, you must first put into daily practice sincerely and with steadfastness. You must do bhajan regularly and systematically, before you advise others about the efficacy of bhajans. When you want to be honoured by others, you must learn to honour them first.

After a few mellifluous and devotional bhajans helped calm the mind, our ebullient and dynamic programme anchor Dr Anila Modi introduced the day eloquently. She later invited on to the stage Mrs Gayatri Bikoo, National Secretary, UK Central Council (UKCC), who delivered the Welcome Address and introduced all the members of the UKCC for the year 2013 to the gathering, and thanked those who had served so selflessly in 2012.

Dr. Kiran Patel, National Chairperson of the UK Sathya Sai Service Organisation, then shared his thoughts on the Mission and Message of our Lord. He reflected on how the Universal Sai Message of ‘Aathmic Strength and Aathmic Unity’ is echoed in the Universal Sai Mission of establishing on earth ‘Fatherhood of God, Brotherhood of Man’, and how Bhagawan has made the realisation of such a lofty universal Truth, accessible and practical through His Divine Injunction exhorting us to ‘Love All, Serve All. Help Ever, Hurt Never’. He said that the Year 2013 will be observed in the UK Sai family as the ‘Year of Harmony’, and encouraged everyone to strive and achieve this state both internally and externally. Only when one is in harmony, or when one is in the company of a person who is established in harmonious living, does one experience ineffable peace and joy.

Brother Kiran also touched on the Conference theme and said that to serve as His Instruments, one needs to aim at ‘Perfection’ . He went on to share that during his days as a student at Baba’s College in Brindavan, Bhagawan defined ‘Perfection’ as ‘Dexterity in action’. Ability, availability, eagerness, understanding and humility are some of the key aspects to focus upon whilst offering ourselves to serve in the Divine Mission of Sathya Sai as instruments, he concluded.

Sai's philosophy does not lie in encouraging devotees to sit in a comer, control their breath and go on uttering, "Soham! Soham! Soham!"

"Oh, Sadhak! Arise! gird up your loins! Plunge into social service!" This is the Sai message. No room should be given for laziness and indifference. Controlling your senses you should take to social service. A life not dedicated to service is like a dark temple. It is the abode of evil spirits. Only the light of Seva can illumine the spiritual aspirant.

Therefore embark upon service to your fellow men without any expectation of reward. Do not waste your time in profitless talk. Of what avail is it to mouth expressions such as: the Lord is All-knowing, Omnipresent and Omnipotent? You clap your hands when these epithets are used, deriving pleasure from simply hearing them. How many act according to the word they speak? There must be harmony between what is-said and what is done. All spiritual exercises like japa and dhyana are efforts to control the mind and prepare it for the journey to the Divine. Knowing the way is not enough. The path must be traversed to reach the destination. That journey is service to the society. This service must be done with the awareness that the Divine dwells in every heart, in every individual and in every living thing.

SSS 18-22 (4th World Conference 17.11.85)

The Conference offered two interactive workshops where delegates could deliberate and deepen their understanding of the various practical aspects involved in the efficient discharge of one’s duty in the Sathya Sai Mission. In the month preceding the Conference, all registered delegates received pre-conference study material which included a compilation of Bhagawan Baba’s divine discourses delivered at all the 9 World Conferences, and the latest 2012 edition of the International Sai Organisation Guidelines.

The first workshop focused on the Guidelines and touched upon topics such as the importance of reflecting the universal nature of Sai teachings in our Centres, enthusiastic and prompt response to service opportunities that are presented to us from time to time, and the correct approach to the management of finances and funds. Amidst lively discussions, the importance of understanding the Guidelines in ‘letter and spirit’ for their effective implementation was impressed upon all the delegates. Whilst the Guidelines could be considered as the ‘letter’, the Divine Guidance given by Bhagawan in His Discourses and Writings, which are accessible freely to everyone, ought to be studied closely and contemplated upon deeply to understand and imbibe the ‘spirit’ behind these Guidelines.

‘His Instruments’, the second workshop , was conducted in the afternoon session. It began with delegates taking an Oath that was first administered by Bhagawan to the participants of the first All India Seva Conference in the year 1967. Subsequently, delegates reflected on the characteristics they felt were essential to being an ‘instrument’ in the Divine Hands. Principal amongst those identified were enthusiasm and commitment to serve, an attitude of humility and dedication, and skilfulness in action. These traits were then tested out in a practical way when participants were tasked with exercises relating to communication skills, planning skills and organizational skills that are demanded of us on a regular basis when discharging our duties. Participants left the workshop with an awareness that ‘perfection’ even in a seemingly small activity should be the aim, and sincere efforts should be made to develop the necessary skills to fulfil this aim, and then to offer all activity to Lord Sai in an attitude of humility and surrender.

Train the mind to dwell on the inner equipment rather than the outer attractions. Use the mind to cleanse the feelings, impulses, attitudes, tendencies and levels of consciousness. Let it not accumulate dirt from the outer world and deposit them within itself. If it is attached to work (Pravritthimaarga) the consequences of work get attached to it. Unattached work is the purest; it does not encumber the mind with elation or disappointment. 'I did it,' 'This is mine': these are the two fangs that make the individual poisonous. Pull out the fangs, the snake can be handled and played with as a pet. These organisations must be vigilant to see that egoism and the sense of personal possession, pride or achievement, do not invade them. That is the goal to be kept in view. (SSS 7-18)

National Coordinators of the 4 Wings gave a brief overview of their programmes for the year ahead. It was evident that the underlying purpose of all their various activities and determined efforts- be it for example conducting the Sai Smaran bhajans, Pilgrimage Sadhana days, various workshops on meditation, carols etc, audio recordings of English songs (bhajans), Sai iterature study days, and National Christmas celebrations by the Spiritual Wing; or the announcement of healthcare clinics and medical camps, sociocare activities such as homeless feeding, tree plantation etc, Skills development days and Global Service day by the Service Wing; or the announcement of a National Youth Conference, regional youth sathsangs, and a youth-led global service initiative ‘Serve the Planet’ by the Youth Wing; or the various efforts to inculcate in children a ‘Spirit of Oneness’ and Unity of faiths, organizing Family Values days, SSE Alumni forums, and celebrating the National Easwaramma Day by the SSE Wing- was to promote steadfast faith in God, internal and external harmony, peace and happiness in mind and spirit.

Your organisations must endeavour to promote faith in God. If that base is absent, worship, bhajan, puuja, good works---all become meaningless automatic ritual, done under social compulsion. Inner transformation, which is the fruit, can be acquired only when these are done with faith. Faith can grow only from the root of inquiry. Faith is made firmer by inquiry. You must encourage inquiry by the members whom you contact and welcome their efforts to gain first-hand experience. (SSS 7-18)

A heartening feature of the day’s programme was the SSE Awards Ceremony. Six children from across the nation- Miss Sai Lavenya Mithiran and Miss Luckshi Jegatheeswaran from Region 3, Miss Shivani Sood, Miss Sainie Varatharajan, and Miss Shaynikaa Suthakaran from Region 2, and Master Rishi Kumar from Region 4- who excelled in the 2012 diet of national examinations and projects were invited on stage and presented their certificates.

Miss Mithiran then addressed the gathering with great poise and insight, and spoke about the deep and positive impact that the SSE activities had on her. She said that they helped her develop an integrated, balanced approach to life in general, and especially in her academics and social interactions. She was followed by Mr Kapil Dev Prasher representing the Youth Wing, but who also is an SSE alumnus who now teaches SSE students. He mused on the various gifts of Grace he received from Bhagawan in his life, and the myriad ways in which he benefitted from participating in various activities conducted by the Sai Organisation, chief amongst them being the shaping of a strong character and a broad outlook. In his heartfelt speech, he wondered if one could ever repay in gratitude and concluded saying, ‘Ask not what the Organisation has done for you! Be humble and grateful, and ask yourself how you can contribute to it and serve with love!’

Two very ardent and longstanding devotees of Lord Sathya Sai, were then felicitated. Mr Balram Puri, the doyen of the Sri Sathya Sai Charitable Trust UK, retired recently after 35 years of tireless and selfless service in the Sai Mission as a Trustee. It was inspiring to hear him speak with such enthusiasm and vigour about the sacred opportunity he was blessed with by none other than Bhagawan Baba himself, when He sent word to him via Sri Indulal Shah in 1978, to start the Sathya Sai Trust in UK. Mr. Puri recounted fondly the various phases over the past four decades during which he witnessed the Sai Mission grow in scope and strength due mainly to the sheer Will and Grace of Bhagawan, but also due to the unstinted efforts of devotees and leaders in the Organisation around the country. Mr Puri also offered a set of two audio bhajan CDs at the Divine Feet, rendered by his late wife Mrs Damayanthi Puri.

Mr Dipak Fakey OBE, followed with another inspirational talk. He was recently awarded the honour of OBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for his services towards community cohesion through human values. Widely known to the Sai family in UK for many years for his humility, simplicity, infectious enthusiasm, and overwhelming dedication to teach Sathya Sai human values to all children, brother Dipak shared the success story of the Good Values Club in Abbey Primary School, Leicester. In a moving narrative, which included miraculous cures by Bhagawan of his various ailments including cancer, Brother Dipak in his trademark style attributed all his success to the Divine Will of Sai. He pledged to work with redoubled energy and enthusiasm, and exhorted all devotees to join hands and work in unity in the glorious Sai Mission.

Establish unity among yourselves first; do not seek faults in others or excellences in your own selves. The Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man - -have full faith in this and fill every act of yours with that reverence and love. Meet together once a week or once a fortnight or at least once a month; have some one to discourse to you, or engage in bhajan or study or dhyaana; experience the thrill of spiritual comradeship. Every member of the association must have some item of work allotted to him and he must be present whenever such meetings are held, unless of course it becomes physically difficult. (SSS 7-18)

A delightful surprise towards the end was the Concluding Address by Dr. Narendranath Reddy, Chairman of the Prasanthi Council via a live video link between the Conference Hall and his California home! Snowfall a fortnight earlier in London had caused this Conference to be rescheduled, and everyone felt at the time that we had missed a great opportunity to interact with our senior leaders, Dr Reddy and Mr Gary Belz, Chairman of the Sathya Sai World Foundation, both of who had specially flown into London to attend the conference. However, Dr Reddy’s warm and loving ‘videolink’ presence seemed to compensate to some extent the previously missed opportunity. The speech that he delivered drew together smoothly, the various streams of thoughts shared and discussed through the day, into a free flowing river of wisdom and experience. He reminded us of the four unique gifts in our possession- the gift of human birth, the spiritual urge to know God, the unique contact with our Divine Master and Lord of the Universe, and finally, the gift of a role to serve in His Divine Mission.

The purpose of the Organisation, he emphasized, is to realize our divine nature which is possible only through the path of unity and purity. He quoted Bhagawan’s dictum: ‘Unity is Divinity, Purity is Enlightenment’. The activities undertaken by the Wings of the Organisation are intended to facilitate for us this experience of unity, purity and divinity, he explained. He encouraged everyone to participate in various activities with humility, love and compassion; to achieve perfection by paying attention to detail and to consider all work as God’s Work: Done to God, by God and for God.

Dr Reddy ended his inspiring talk by listing the essential mandates for all devotees and members of the Sathya Sai Organisation. First, to have an unwavering and steadfast allegiance to our Lord Sathya Sai. Having seen the Highest, there isn’t a need for us to run from one teacher to another. Second, to dive deep into His Teachings. Third, although there are various spiritual topics and paths, such as Hatha Yoga etc, the best path is to practise Love. Fourth, to remain connected and visit regularly Prasanthi Nilayam, our spiritual birthplace. This is the arena where the Avatar of the Age chose to be born, deliver His Message, live His Life and remain in Mahasamadhi. Fifth, to be a part of the Divine Legacy bequeathed by Him to all of us devotees, namely the Organisation, the Educational Institutions, the Hospitals and the Water Projects. He exhorted everyone of us to participate in these sacred activities wholeheartedly.

As the day drew to a close, the National Vice-Chairperson, Mr Jamie Raju, delivered the Vote of thanks, and Arathi was offered in gratitude to Bhagawan. Delegates seemed to head home from the Conference venue with a spring in their step despite a long day! The energy generated and the inspiration gathered at the conference felt capable of carrying us all not just through the day, or the week, or even the month; but an entire year! One felt divinely charged and uplifted to return to our centres, regions and national projects and work with renewed vigour and enthusiasm, with unflinching focus and steady faith in Bhagawan than ever.

Ketan Gokani, Chairperson, Region 4, SSSSO UK
Dr. Amit Patel, SITA Team, National Service Wing
Dr. Veeru Mudigonda, National Spiritual Coordinator

The Significance of Mahaa Shivaraathri

Among festival days, Mahaa Shivaraathri is of exceptional importance. Today God is in close proximity to man, but in fact the Divine is never far from anyone at any time. This means that everyone is Divine. But each one must strive to recognize this indwelling Divinity that is the eternal Reality. Most people waste their lives in the observance of external rituals and forms of worship. Together with external observances, people should also try to achieve internal purity. How long should one waste his life in external forms? All knowledge and skills are of superficial value and effect no internal change. At midnight on Shivaraathri, Divine vibrations are close to every human heart. At such a time, when people are engaged in holy tasks, they get suffused with the Divine vibrations.

The holy night of Mahaa Shivaraathri is thus intended to serve as a sacred opportunity for eradicating the evil tendencies within and turning the mind firmly towards God. At least on this auspicious day, people should concentrate their minds on God with purity and devotion. If at least on one night out of 365 days in a year, the senses are brought under control, then peace may be experienced and the quest for liberation may be initiated. When the entire night is dedicated to the chanting of the Lord's name, one's mind, speech and senses all get centred on God. This is itself a form of sense control. The control of the senses is itself a form of Thyaaga (sacrifice) which leads to Immortality. Sacrifice of wealth or possessions is no sacrifice at all. It is the sacrifice of the senses (the desires caused by them) which is the highest sacrifice.

At least on one day in a year all our thoughts and words should be centred on God. When this is done, people can realize the Supreme as described in the terms, Sathyam, Shivam, Sundharam. Socrates' disciple, Plato, used the terms, Truth, Goodness and Beauty to describe this state of Self-Realisation. In the experience of oneness with the Divine, there is Shaanthi (peace) Chith (Awareness) and Aanandha (Bliss).

Embodiments of the Divine Aathma! The whole of last night you were all immersed in the blissful vibrations in Prashaanthi Nilayam caused by the chanting of the Lord's name. You must see that the Nilayam in each of you is always filled with these divine vibrations. What is this Nilayam? It is your body, which enshrines the Aathma. There are these divine vibrations always in you. They constitute your Life-Force. The body is inert by itself. It is the divine vibrations that animate it. Both the body and the Vital Force derive their power from the energy radiating from the Aathma (the Indwelling Spirit). You are thus a composite of the body (material substance), the Life Force (vibrations) and the Aathma (Radiations). Seek God within you. This is true saadhana.

Bhagawan Baba, Excerpts from Divine Discourse in Poornachandra Auditorium, 11/3/94

Mahaa Shivraathri - the Great Night of the worship of Lord Shiva, occurs on the 14th night of the new moon during the dark half of the month of Phalguna ( the holy twelfth month in the lunar Hindu calendar). It falls on a moonless late February / early March night, when Hindus offer special prayer to the lord of Dissolution. Shivaraathri (Sanskrit 'ratri' = night) is the night when, the Puranas (holy scriptures of the Hindus) say, Lord Shiva performed the Tandava Natya or the dance of primordial creation, preservation and dissolution. The festival is observed for one day and one night only. It is usual practise for devotees to keep vigil the whole night offering prayers and bhajans and engaging in sacred activities in the company of the good and holy people (Sathsang. It is important to note also our dear Bhagawan’s divine directions above: To strive and focus our minds on God with purity and devotion whilst engaged in this vigil.

According to the Puranas, during the great mythical churning of the ocean called Samudra Manthan, a pot of deadliest of poisons (Haalahala) emerged from the ocean. The gods and the demons were terrified as it could destroy the entire world. When they fervently prayed to Shiva for benediction and help, he in order to protect the world, drank the deadly poison but held it in his throat instead of swallowing it. This turned his throat blue, and since then he came to be known as 'Neelakantha', the blue-throated one. Shivratri celebrates this event by which Shiva saved the world. Bhagawan Baba exhorts us to take this ideal of Shiva and be eager to serve, to help, and to come to the rescue of others. For this, one must cultivate Sahana (Fortitude, Equanimity) and eschew the poison of impatience, anger, hatred and pride. Bhagawan explains that in hiding the ferocious poison behind the blue patch of His Throat, Lord Shiva demonstrates to humanity a lesson: Keep under restraint within you, the qualities and tendencies that are anti-social, the poisonous hatreds and competitive greeds. (Sathya Sai Speaks Vol.7 Chapter 8)

Shivaraathri is considered auspicious for all. Generally it is believed that anyone who utters the name of Shiva during Shivratri with pure devotion is freed from all sins. He or she reaches the abode of Shiva and is liberated from the cycle of birth and death. This is one reason why Bilva Archana (worship with the unique trifoliate leaf of the Bael or Wood apple tree) is done on Shivalinga (the formless symbol of Shiva) during Puja. The Bilva Ashtakam (an 8 stanza hymn) says, ‘Trijanma Paapa Samharam – Eka Bilva Shiva Arpanam’ – meaning, if you offer a single Bilva leaf with devotion to Lord Shiva, it has the potency to eradicate sins from 3 lifetimes. Apart from the recitation of Sri Rudram throughout the night during abhishekam on the Shivalinga, Bilvaarchana is also performed with great devotional fervour.

In a marvellously unified and dynamic composition expressing the rhythm and harmony of life, Lord Shiva is worshipped as Nataraja, The Lord of Dance, with four hands representing the cardinal directions ( also representing the 4 yogas or paths, 4 yugas or epochs, the 4 ashramas or stages of life and most importantly the 4 Vedas). He is shown in this Form as the one who triumphs over illusion and ignorance, thus assuring all beings of protection and freedom from ego and fear. This cosmic dance of Shiva is called 'Anandatandava', meaning the Dance of Bliss, symbolises the cosmic cycles of creation, preservation and dissolution, and the rhythms of illusion and salvation. It highlights for us all the very nature of the Divine Principle that is inherent in each one of us: Ananda or Supreme Bliss.

Resolve on this Holy Shivaraathri, in the Presence of Shiva Sai, to visualize the Shiva as the inner power of all. With each breath, you are even now, asserting Soham, ‘I am He’. Not only you, but every being that breathes, every being that lives, everything that exists! It is a fact you have ignored so long. Believe it from now on. When you watch your breath and meditate on that magnificent Truth, slowly, the I and the He (the Sah and the Aham) will draw closer and nearer, until the feeling of separateness will fade away- and the Soham will be transformed in to Om, the Pranava, the Primal Sound, the Fundamental Formula for God. That Om is Swaswaroopa – the Reality behind this ‘relative reality’. (Sathya sai Speaks Vol.9, chapter 3)

Dr.Vickneshwaren Krishnan
Chair Person Ilford Sai Centre
Region 3, SSSSO UK

Youth Wing - National Youth Conference 2013: How To Make OUR Life HIS Message

22nd February – 24th February

Please visit our Youth Conference Website to see videos, photos. Workshop materials and much more!

http://www.srisathyasai.org.uk/national-programmes/NYC2013

It was an inspirational sight in itself to see Group 4 SSE and Youth aged 16-35 from all corners of the country gather together to learn from each other and take Swami’s Message forward into the wider world. The title of the National Youth Conference 2013 was ‘How to Make Our Lives His Message'; focusing on the theme of Our Master, His Message and how we can be His ’Messengers’. The background movie theme to the conference symbolised how this world is Swami’s Divine play and that we are His puppets.

The first day, the evening of 22nd February began with Bhajans and a welcome address by our National Youth Coordinator, Shyam Jamnadas. This was followed by a talk given by our National Chair, Dr Kiran Patel. Kiran uncle told us that leadership is not to command, but to follow His command. This was particularly relevant to the youth, since Swami has said that He wants His students to be “leaders like lions”. Our keynote speaker Dr Sunder Iyer then gave us a glimpse of what was to be in store from the conference in his opening thoughts. He told us that when we find that “treasure in the attic” and realise our true nature, nothing in life will disturb our inner tranquillity.

Both of the following mornings began with morning prayers and silent sitting, followed by an energising Yoga session led by Dr Sunder Iyer, who learnt directly from Swami. Yoga is a means by which we can unite the body, mind and spirit. It begins with tuning into the body through exercises. After this has been established, we can regulate the breath to make the senses turn inwards; allowing us to experience clarity of our thought and the glimpse of spirituality.

Dr Iyer addressed the youth at various intervals throughout the conference. His talks were based on the three sub-themes of the conference, ‘Master, Message, Messenger’. From his talks he left us with six words to summarise what he learned from Swami: Discipline, Determination, Discrimination, Detachment, Devotion and Duty.

Master (Morning of 23/2/2013)

In his first keynote address, Dr Sunder Iyer emphasised that it is sometimes difficult to fathom Swami as God since God is beyond the comprehension of the human mind and this creates a distinction between Him and us. Swami had access to an infinite source within Him, and we must realise that divinity within us by following the example He set for us through His life. It is easier for us to put Swami on a pedestal and reject the notion that we are divine but He walked, talked and faced difficulties and physical illnesses like we have to so that we can learn to do so the way He did. Masters such as Krishna, Jesus and Swami became the change that they wanted to bring. They were Love so that they could spread Love. Similarly, we can all be Masters to bring about that change.

Seeing the Master in action, Dr Iyer saw discipline in Swami. Swami attended to every little detail, even when organising massive projects such as the Chennai water project and the Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences because He knew that the little details build the bigger picture. Swami focused on being in the moment and doing what that moment required with focus and one-pointedness at all times. Similarly we should focus His Message. We should have one Master and one Message so we can focus on the destination.

As a Master nothing shook Swami’s will. He had determination. His Message and Mission was Love and He carried this forward without any doubt. We must do the same in life; we have to start saying ‘I am God’ so that it becomes a reality rather than a future state.

With this energising speech reverberating in our heads, we then gathered in workshop groups to identify our own personal connection with Swami. We discussed how we can sustain that connection with Swami and be Masters ourselves.

Message (Afternoon of 23/2/2013)

Undoubtedly, Swami’s one key message is Love. Brother Divij Desai and some of our brothers from the UK youth shared their experiences of Swami’s Love in action through Grama Seva. Brother Divij described Swami’s attention to detail and how He ensured that every individual received the package of food and clothes. He also explained how Swami said that in service He does not seek perfection but dedication. If we are dedicated and serve whole-heartedly, God will ensure that the service is perfect. Phil D’Costa from the UK Trust spoke about service and encourage the youth to grab every service opportunity we can whilst we are young. 3 brothers then spoke on how Grama Seva had significance far beyond the simple food package that the villagers received on that single day. It was a symbol to them that God is always for them. They reminded us that Swami said that in service the person giving should feel humbled and the person receiving should feel proud. The situation should not be the reverse of this.

Dr Sunder Iyer told us how Swami demonstrated discrimination. He knew what was important and what was not. We constantly chase success in life but we must question ourselves: “what is success?” Our inability to discriminate stops us from controlling the mind and senses and understanding true success. Understanding that we will not be able to take all our luggage with us when we leave the Earth will help with this.

We know the right path to choose but we must have detachment; the ability to let go of what is unnecessary. This means that we must hold Swami’s hand and step out of our comfort zone. We should be empowered by our love for Him but fear keeps us where we are and stops us from progressing. We know the right path to choose but we need to make the decision to take it.

Being inspired to love all and serve all, we gathered in workshop groups to discuss the real definition of Love, why we struggle to love all, why we should serve and how we should serve.

Messenger (Afternoon of 24/2/2013)

Sister Srilatha Komaravolu shared her experiences of ‘God as Guide’. She explained how Swami took on different roles as her guide. As a mother Swami taught her to look presentable; as a father He asked for discipline and as a Divine Master He explained that nothing should be accepted or expected in response to service. She said that God is the perfect guide since He knows the past, present and future and has no expectations of you. He is ever ready for us; we must simply give Him the freedom to be our guide. His Message is always available. For us to be His messengers we must have God in our hearts, and put His message in action.

In his final speech of the conference, Dr Sunder Iyer told us that as messengers we must allow God’s light to shine through us with devotion. Swami demonstrated unshakeable devotion to His Mission and His devotees. He constantly wanted to serve them. As a child, Swami had the dream of spreading the message of Love and He gave up everything to fulfil that Mission. How many of us are willing to give up everything for a cause? Swami said that He is like the second hand on the clock. He keeps going and has no rest.

The sixth word that Dr Iyer left us with was duty. He explained that we must ask ourselves: “am I what I want to be?” We must answer the call of duty within us and follow it with devotion and determination, living our lives in discipline. We are co-creators with Sai, we choose every second of every day. We must make the right choice of what we want in life; from our friends, to our food, to our lifestyles. Swami is saying to us “walk beside me”. We must live and spread Swami’s message by example.

The final workshop group gave us the opportunity to discuss how we can put the message of Love into action. It drew upon the examples of great Masters such as Benjamin Franklin, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King Jr. who spread their message by practicing it.

Along with the inspirational talks and thought-provoking workshops there were a variety of musical offerings throughout the conference. They ranged from classical Indian violin music to a Spanish guitar composition by Greys, one of our youth sisters; to a softened version of a British pop song sung by Gajan, one of our brothers. The conference ended on an uplifting Bhajan medley

As our National Youth Coordinator brother Shyam told us at the beginning of the conference, the three days of the conference were just part one of the Divine Play. Part two began when we left the conference full of motivation and enthusiasm to become His Messengers. We are the future, but the future begins today. We must not impose limitations on ourselves. Every time we say we are just an ordinary man we will remain an ordinary man. We must remind ourselves that we ARE the Master, we ARE the Message, and we ARE His Messengers.

Anshi Dattani, Region 2

Youth Wing - National Youth Conference 2013: Workshop Summary

What a fantastic and inspiring weekend. The theme chosen was perfect – Master, Message, Messenger. This was broken down perfectly whereby everyone was able to understand the sub-topics within each of these themes. 2013 finally saw a National Youth Conference which I felt had been long overdue. Since the last National Youth Conference in Leicester a number of years ago this had definitely lived up to the expectations and more.

The guest speaker Dr Sunder Iyer was such an inspiring speaker. He really was able to relay Swami’s message to the youth through his speeches in a perfect manner engaging the audience with his style. Through the various stories and his experiences with Swami, he was able to draw the audience with such amazing charisma. The key message from his speech which has been imprinted in my heart is to remove the barrier we place between Swami and us.

Master

The Master themed workshop set itself the ambitious task of achieving three objectives:

1) Understanding the attributes of a master and, in particular, why we have chosen Swami as our Master;
2) Agreeing how our connection with Swami can be sustained, strengthened and deepened; and
3) Understanding how we can become masters, through mind and sense control.

The workshop activity varied from observing video clips and personal reflection, to group discussions on various questions, including a case study.

One particular aim was to encourage the participants to be introspective, for instance when considering the effectiveness of spiritual practice. Swami clearly guided the workshop: this was demonstrated at one point when, in response to a challenge from one participant that the workshop was not exploring issues deeply enough, the next topic focussed on addressing exactly that point in greater depth!

After over two hours of reflection, the workshop ended with participants expressing how much they had enjoyed it and found it useful to their lives.

Message

The objectives of the Message workshop were as follows:

• Understand the teachings of “Love All and Serve All”
• Explore the ideals of Love and Service.
• Begin to think about the practical application of the ideal in our lives.
• Be aware of the underlying Truth that connects all His teachings.

In this workshop we learnt what Swami meant by the word love and discussed how selfless love is the purest form of love and this can be experienced through loving God. We explored how loving our self is important before expanding love to others. Swami says we can reach a state of loving oneself by removing bad habits and evil thoughts and striving for perfection.

We also explored Swami’s teaching on Service and we talked about how to develop a service project in alignment with a checklist process prescribed by Swami. The checklist was follows:

• Bhava – Intention and Attitude - whether his heart is full of selfless love, humility and compassion
• Understanding and know how - whether his head is full of intelligent understanding and knowledge of the problem and its solution
• Preparedness - whether his hands are eager to offer the healing touch
• Ability and Capacity - whether he can gladly spare and share time, energy and skill to help others in dire need

Messenger

In this workshop, we discussed the characteristics of a messenger – looking at other great messengers such as Hanuman, Jesus, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela. We explored our role as messengers and tools to become better messengers.

In the workshops it was really interesting to hear different people’s opinions and views on various topics. In particular on how they connect with Swami. One person in the group has ‘virtual Darshan’ this means, that whenever they want to have Darshan they’ll go on to Youtube website and see Swami. Dr Sunder Iyer mentioned in one of his talks that our connection with Swami is unique to us and between us and Him.

What was learnt overall from the weekend was the fact that Swami’s message is so simple and therefore it confuses us. The language of the heart and love is the message. ‘I am God and so are you’ but we create that distance that Swami is up there and we are down here. However, there should be no barrier or distance between us. Swami’s will and determination was supreme. What He willed happen.

Written by members of workshop groups

Region 1 - Bhajan Seva by Tooting Sai Centre

"You too must pass your days in Song. Let your whole life be a Bhajan. Believe that God is everywhere at all times, and derive strength, comfort and joy by singing His Glory in His Presence. Let melody and harmony surge up from your hearts and let all take delight in the Love that you express through that song."
-Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Prashanthi Nilayam 14-11-1976

"Where ever my devotees sing, I manifest Myself there"

Tooting Sai Centre was asked to participate in a wonderful Seva activity on Sunday 17th February 2013 at the Hindu Society Centre in Wandsworth. We were requested to set up the alter and sing bhajans for an hour by a non-Sai family in memory of a dear departed loved one.

22 devotees from Tooting Sai centre were there and sung a mixture of bhajans with full gusto under the most trying of circumstances, being in a non Sai environment with little or no participation by the attendees; the devotees were all reminded that Swami will always challenge us when we have to do His Seva. However by challenging us, He will make us stronger to be worthy instruments in His divine mission. He is our guide and the ultimate doer and we leave the fruits of our action to Him.

Region 1 - The visit of the Ahmaddiya group to the (SSE) Balvikas of Merton Sai Centre

On Sunday 10th February, Merton Sai Centre had the opportunity to host a group of children and teachers from the Bait-Ul-Futuh mosque of the Ahmaddiya Muslim community. This followed on from a visit, by the women and children of this large mosque in Morden, to the adjoining Ganapathy Temple earlier in the year. As part of this visit, they were taken into the Sai Mandir and the Centre activities and Swami’s teachings were explained to them. They were so interested in Swami’s teachings and the large no of children that were taught in the SSE classes, that they asked if some of their children and teachers could come again and attend one Sunday – hence their visit.

The group, consisting of 2 teachers, 7 girls and 1 boy, participated in various centre activities including the chanting of multifaith prayers, SSE classes and Veda chanting.

With the group divided into two, they each joined one of the group 3 classes and took part in the class discussions.
In one class, the topic was ‘Spiritual diary and Sadhana’, with reference to which the SSE and Ahmaddiya children talked about the similarities between Swami’s teachings and those expounded in the Qur’an. In covering the story of Saint Tukaram, the common belief that one must see good in everything and that everything happens for the best, was brought to light.

In the other class, on the topic of ‘Discipline and Peace’ the theme of prayer was noted as being common to all cultures and faiths. When this was discussed in more detail, it was concluded that the numerous similarities between religions really highlighted the unity of faiths.

Both the Ahmaddiya group and the members of Merton Sai Centre really enjoyed this visit. Seeing different faiths coming together in such a practical and positive way, to discuss and appreciate their common ground, really emphasised Bhagavan’s message of seeing Unity in Divinity.

We learnt from each other our commonality and the understanding that, through personal dialogue, we can gain a deeper understanding of our own and each other’s faith.

Region 2 - Skanda Vale Trip: Love and Service in action

On 16th February 2013 Harrow West Sai centre organised a trip to Skanda Vale Ashram. The trip had a dual purpose; a) to take devotees on pilgrimage and b) to assist two charities; ‘Wherever the Need’ who were supplying sarees to the poor in Gujarat as part of a major sanitation project and ‘Mohanji ACT Foundation’ who were working with Skanda Vale to serve the homeless by supplying Mother Teresa homes (Missionaries of Charity) in the UK with food aid. Thirty two pilgrims travelled on the coach and two devotees drove a van for the service projects.

Skanda Vale is a multifaith monastic community (ashram) located in about 150 acres of woodland deep in the heart of South Wales (near Carmarthen). The community is dedicated to worship of the lord in his many forms. Over the years Skanda Vale has grown into a major place of pilgrimage despite its remote location. Devotees flock there from all over the UK and Europe to experience the serene and peaceful atmosphere and to worship god in all his forms. As well as being a place of worship with temples dedicated to Lord Subramanium, Lord Vishnu and the Divine Mother Kali, the ashram is also a sanctuary for animals such as cows, bulls, goats, rabbits, horses, donkeys, deer, swans, peacocks, geese, hens, pheasants, parrots and even an elephant!

One of the highlights of the trip was a talk by one of the resident Swamis (Swami Brahmananda) who has been in the ashram for the last 23 years. Swami Brahmananda gave us an insight into how Skanda Vale started in the early 1970’s and how life was so tough that there was shortage of food and resources. He described how the first community members had to search for nails in skips for their building work. He also explained that even though Skanda vale is now very successful and they have no shortage of food or resources to keep the community going, the monks still lead very simple lives, relying on the divine to supply them with all they need.

He exhorted us to simplify our lives and to enjoy some discomfort in our lives otherwise if everything is too comfortable it makes our minds lazy. He described how Lord Subramanium came into being by the will of Lord Shiva to destroy a demon. He explained that the same demons in the form of greed, hatred, anger and jealousy are also within us and we need to work with the lord to destroy these demons in our hearts. Swami Brahmananda also talked about living in the present. He said that the minds of many of us are either focused on the past or the future. The past has left us and there is nothing we can do about it. The future is created by the present – hence we should live in the present.

After this uplifting talk we spent some time in the peaceful surroundings, enjoying the beauty, nature and fresh air. Some of us went to the Vishnu temple which is open to the elements and offered our prayers and chants of 36 Gayathri Mantra before making our way to the Mahashakti temple for the Saturday evening puja – the special abhishekam to the divine mother.

As stated earlier, we also participated in a couple of service projects. Skanda Vale gets many offerings from devotees such as food and sarees. Not all of this can be used and therefore Skanda Vale works with various charities to distribute freely the food and clothes to the needy who cannot afford the basic necessities. The van driven by the volunteers was loaded with 1.2 tonnes of rice, dahl, flour, pulses, sugar etc as well as 675 sarees to be transported back to London.

After loading the van with food and sarees and attending the last puja we returned tired but in bliss to London. The coach arrived back in London at 02:30 am. However the van had a more interesting journey! I later joked with the two drivers that the Divine Mother was so pleased with their service that she did not want them to leave Wales! The van broke down at a petrol station in Carmarthen at about 9.00 pm. The recovery vehicle had to come all the way from London and therefore did not get to the van until 4:00 am. The recovery driver then needed a rest so they did not leave Carmarthen until 5:00 am, having spent all night in the cold van (temperatures outside were close to zero on that night). They eventually arrived in London at 9:00 am!

However, the two drivers did not want to rest there. They hired a replacement van and we joined them to unload the contents into this new van and then took the sarees (8 boxes and 9 suitcases containing a total of 675 sarees) to the address in Harrow for shipping to Gujarat. We then made our way to Southall to unload the food at the residence of the sisters at the Missionaries of Charity. A van from the South London Missionaries of Charity also arrived to take part of the food back to South London. The sisters were kind enough to help us with unloading of the foodstuffs. They expressed their gratitude to the Sai organisation, ACT Foundation and Skanda Vale for this service to the poor.

While having a cup of tea with the senior sister there she explained in more detail how the food will be used. She told us that the food will be used to support local poor families; to serve the homeless/poor who attend the soup kitchens in Mother Teresa homes in Southall and South London; for the daily soup run to serve the homeless sleeping rough; and for feeding the temporary residents of the hostels. The sister also gave me some more insight into the families they support. She explained that some of the families were living in really squalid accommodation, sometimes with a whole family living in one room. Some unscrupulous landlords also allow many families to stay in one house meant for a family of four or five people. The properties are in very poor condition with mould growing on the walls etc. This food from Skanda Vale, delivered by ACT Foundation and devotees from the Sai Organisation will be used to support these families.

In summary the trip to Skanda Vale was truly a memorable occasion, characterised by love, devotion, worship and selfless service crossing all man made barriers. We offer our thanks to Swami for having given us the opportunity to have a truly memorable pilgrimage and at the same time to participate in some service.

Rajesh Ramanaidoo
Spiritual Co-ordinator, Harrow West Sai Centre

Region 3 - Sikhism

Sikhism was founded in the 16th century in Punjab in India. Despite being so young, it has 20 million followers and it is the 5th largest religion in the world. It was founded by Guru Nanak and the religion is based on his teachings and the 9 gurus who followed him. Sikhs believe that the way to lead a good life is to: keep God in the heart and the mind at all times, live honestly and work hard, treat everyone equally, be generous to the less fortunate and serve others. The Guru Granth Sahib is a book which the Sikhs consider as the living guru. The tenth guru said that after his death. the Sikhs should look to the Guru Granth Sahib for spiritual teachings. The Gurdwara is the Sikh place of worship and there is a Guru Granth Sahib in every Gurdwara.

The symbol of Sikhism is the insignia of Khalsa, which is one of the most important symbols in Sikhism. In the centre of the symbol is a double edged sword which symbolises the creative power of God. One edge of the sword symbolises divine justice and punishes the wicked oppressors. The other edge of the sword symbolises Freedom. On the outside is two swords, the left is the sword of spiritual sovereignty and the right is the sword of political sovereignty. Since there has to be a balance between the two there is a circle to emphasise this point. The circle is called Chakra. Together it is the symbol of oneness, Unity of Justice, Humanity and Immortality.

Three Principles of Sikhism

Guru Nanak Dev, the first Sikh Guru, taught three fundamental principles:
• Kirat Karo - Work hard and honestly
• Wand Ke Chhako - Share what you have with the needy
• Naam Jappo - Always remember God throughout the day

Khalsa are Sikhs who have undergone the Amrit ceremony. Guru Gobind Singh introduced the 5 Ks for many reasons- adopting the symbols would clearly identify those in the Khalsa, each K had a particular significance and the community would be more bound together if everyone wore the 5 Ks. The 5 Ks are 5 physical symbols worn by Sikhs when they are initiated into the Khalsa. They are Kesh, Kara, Kanga, Kaccha and Kirpan. Kesh is uncut hair, which means that because hair is God’s creation, one is willing to accept God’s creation as he intended it. Kara is a steel bracelet which means that God has no beginning or end and it reminds a Sikh not to do anything that God wouldn’t approve of. It is not made out of Gold or Silver as it is not an ornament. Kanga is a wooden comb which symbolises being clean and pure. It means that we should look after the body because it is a vehicle for enlightenment. Kaccha is a special underwear and it symbolises chastity. It was a useful garment for the Sikh soldiers in the 18th and 19th centuries as it was suitable for warfare and when riding a horse. Kirpan is a ceremonial sword which symbolises many things such as a defence of the good and weak, the struggle against injustice, spirituality and many more.

The Golden temple is also known as the Harmandir Sahib. It is a Sikh Gurdwara located in Amritsar, Punjab, India. It is surrounded by calm waters which is known as the Sarovar. It was built by the Fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev in the 16th century. Over 100,000 people come from all over the world to visit and worship this holy shrine daily. The present day Gurdwara was rebuilt in 1764 by Jassa Singh Ahluwalia.

Sikhs are encouraged to aim at avoiding the 5 vices which are self-centred and turn people against God. These are Lust, Greed, Attachment, Pride and Anger. If a person can overcome these 5 vices then they are on the road to liberation. Sikhs believe that there is only one God but he is without form and gender, everyone is equal in front of God and everyone has access to God. Sikhs focus their lives around the relationship with God and being part of the Sikh community. They believe that to live a good life, a person must do good deeds and meditate on God. Sikhs believe that there is a cycle of birth death and rebirth. They share this belief with other religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. They also think that God is inside everyone of us no matter how wicked they have been. Sikhism doesn’t ask to turn away ordinary life but to use ordinary life to get closer to God.

If the mind is polluted, then the body is polluted, and the tongue is polluted as well.
- Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

While you are alive, conquer death, and you shall have no regrets in the end.
- Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

Ms. Thirukesh Sreeganesh
SSE Coordinator, R3

Region 3 - The Significance of Maha Shivarathri

Maha Shivratri - the night of the worship of Lord Shiva, occurs on the 14th night of the new moon during the dark half of the month of Phalguna. It falls on a moonless late February / early March night, when Hindus offer special prayer to the lord of destruction. Shivratri (Sanskrit 'ratri' = night) is the night when he is said to have performed the Tandava Natya or the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction. The festival is observed for one day and one night only. It is usual practise for devotees to keep vigil the whole night offering prayers and bhajans and engaging in good satsang.

According to the Puranas, during the great mythical churning of the ocean called Samudra Manthan, a pot of poison emerged from the ocean. The gods and the demons were terrified as it could destroy the entire world. When they ran to Shiva for help, he in order to protect the world, drank the deadly poison but held it in his throat instead of swallowing it. This turned his throat blue, and since then he came to be known as 'Neelakantha', the blue-throated one. Shivratri celebrates this event by which Shiva saved the world.

Shivratri is considered auspicious for all. Married women pray for the well being of their husbands and sons, while unmarried women pray for an ideal husband. Generally it is believed that anyone who utters the name of Shiva during Shivratri with pure devotion is freed from all sins. He or she reaches the abode of Shiva and is liberated from the cycle of birth and death. This is one reason why Bilva Archana is done on Shivalingga during Puja. It is said in the Bilva Ashtakam that ‘ Trijanma Paapa Samharam – Eka Bilva Shiva Arpanam’ meaning if you offer a single bilva leave with devotion to Lord Shiva, it has the potency to eradicate 3 lifetimes of sins. Apart from the recitation of Sri Rudram throughout the night during abhishekam on the shiva-lingga, Bilva archana also features strongly on Maha Shivarathri night

On the day of Shivratri, a three-tiered platform is built around a fire. The topmost plank represents 'swargaloka' (heaven), the middle one 'antarikshaloka' (space) and the bottom one 'bhuloka' (earth). Eleven 'kalash' or urns, are kept on the 'swargaloka' plank symbolizing the 11 manifestations of the 'Rudra' or destructive Shiva. These are decorated with the leaves of 'bilva' or 'bael' (Aegle marmelos) and mango atop a coconut representing the head of Shiva. The uncut shank of the coconut symbolizes his tangled hair and the three spots on the fruit Shiva's three eyes.

The Form & Symbolism of Lord Shiva as Nataraja

In a marvelously unified and dynamic composition expressing the rhythm and harmony of life, Nataraja is shown with four hands represent the cardinal directions. ( also representing the 4 Yogas, 4 Yugas, the 4 ashramas and most importantly the 4 Vedas) He is dancing, with his left foot elegantly raised and the right foot on a prostrate figure — 'Apasmara Purusha', the personification of illusion and ignorance over whom Shiva triumphs. The upper left hand holds a flame, the lower left hand points down to the dwarf, who is shown holding a cobra.(this represents Shiva’s call to man for complete surrender at his feet!) The upper right hand holds an hourglass drum or 'damaru' that stands for the male-female vital principle, the lower shows the gesture of assertion: "Be without fear."

Snakes that stand for egotism are seen uncoiling from his arms, legs, and hair, which is braided and bejeweled. His matted locks are whirling as he dances within an arch of flames representing the endless cycle of birth and death. On his head is a skull, which symbolizes his conquest over death. Goddess Ganga, the epitome of the holy river Ganges, also sits on his hairdo.(representing a fertile mind) His third eye is symbolic of his omniscience, insight, and enlightenment. The whole idol rests on a lotus pedestal, the symbol of the creative forces of the universe.

The Significance of Shiva's Dance:

This cosmic dance of Shiva is called 'Anandatandava,' meaning the Dance of Bliss, and symbolizes the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction, as well as the daily rhythm of birth and death. The dance is a pictorial allegory of the five principle manifestations of eternal energy — creation, destruction, preservation, salvation, and illusion. The dance of Shiva also represents his five main activities: 'Shrishti' (creation, evolution); 'Sthiti' (preservation, support); 'Samhara' (destruction, evolution); 'Tirobhava' (illusion); and 'Anugraha' (release, emancipation, grace). The overall temper of the image is paradoxical, uniting the inner tranquility, and outside activity of Shiva.

Wishing everybody a very spiritually uplifting Shivarathri… May you awaken from the slumber of ignorance and illusion on this holy night.

Dr. Vickneshwaren Krishnan
Chair Person Ilford Sai Centre -http://ilfordsaicentre.org.uk

Region 7 - Bath Sathya Sai Group presents at Mayor of Bath’s Interfaith Day of Prayer

On the 3rd February 2013, the Bath Sai Group took part in the Mayor of Bath’s Annual Interfaith Day of Prayer.

This day of unity and brotherhood was celebrated in the beautiful Guildhall of Bath, which was filled to capacity. The Sai group was provided a display table and also took part in the presentations given by each of the faith groups. We were graced with the opportunity to present our Beloved Swami’s message of Universal Love.

The Mayor had asked each group to present projects on youth work; in particular work focussed on youth “Not in employment, education or training (the NEETS)”.

Our presentation was made against a projected backdrop of Swami’s teaching – “Love All - Serve All”.

It was delivered in the form of a dialogue presented by Susan Cullip and Yumesh Pillai, who spoke of the service project in Bath of making a sandwich run to the homeless, many of whom are young people who face various challenges. However, the major part of the presentation was presenting the inspiring service project of the Sathya Sai group in Newcastle upon Tyne.

This group has evolved from providing food and household items to the homeless, to tackling, with success, the area of helping people find employment and even set up their own businesses. The emphasis was on the way the group had worked to help the “Neets” find what we would call “the God within”, that inner source of self-confidence which gave them the energy to begin to help themselves.

At the end of our offering, the Mayor of Bath led the applause and said he had really been moved and found the project “an inspiration”; others also expressed similar sentiments. It was a privilege to let everyone know how we have all been inspired by Swami, his love and teachings.

The event was concluded by the Mayor's Chaplains leading the following prayer:
“Let There Continue to be Respect for the Earth, Peace for its People, Love in our Lives, Delight in the Good, Forgiveness for Past Wrongs, and Hope in All our Hearts.”

Jai Sai Ram

Mrs. Susan Rosie Cullip
Mr. Arun Bedi

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