September 2013 Edition

Quote

Just as the iron ball cast in fire becomes one with it, your mind should become one with God. Water cannot be separated from milk; likewise, your mind should get merged in God. You should not think that you are separate from God. One who realizes such a principle of unity is a true human being. Do not limit worship of God to festival days alone. Each and every moment should be spent in the contemplation of God. You may think, "If every moment is spent in the contemplation of God, how is it possible to do our work?" Do not distinguish between your work and God's work. Your work is God's work because you are God. It is a mistake to think that all that you do in the prayer hall is God's work and outside it is your work. You should not entertain such feelings of separateness. Consider that your heart is the altar of God and turn your vision inward. One who understands this truth and acts accordingly is a true human being.

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba - Divine Discourse Ganesh Chathurti September 1st 2000

~ Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Events

Sai Smaran Bhajans

Serve the Planet

Articles

First Aid

Ganesh Chaturthi

My Baba and I

National Sai Retreat 2013 - A Balvikas Experience

National Sai Retreat 2013 - A Real Treat

National Sai Retreat 2013 - Harmonious Bliss for Balvikas Students

National Sai Retreat 2013 - Living with God is Education

National Sai Retreat 2013 - Messy Play & Spirituality

National Sai Retreat 2013 - Reminiscent of Prashanthi Nilayam

National Sai Retreat 2013 - The Last Weekend of my Summer Holiday

National Sai Retreat 2013 - Youth Reflections

National Youth Satsang with Mr T.V Hariharan

Region 1 - Brixton Eid-ul-Fitr Celebration

Region 1 – Merton Centre: Youth Reunion

Region 2 – Young Adult Programme 2013: Life...

Region 3 - Foster Hill Sai Centre Bedford Laksharchan

Region 3 - Region 3 Youth Awareness Programme

Region 4 - Coventry End of Year SSE Celebrations

Region 4 - Coventry Janmashtami Celebrations

Region 4 - Rugby Sai Centres 30th Anniversary Celebrations

Region 4 - Sathsang with Mr T.V Hariharan in Leicester

Region 4 - Seva at Salcey Forest in Northamptonshire

Region 7 - Annual Sai Picnic in Glastonbury

Serve the Planet - a Global Service Project

Sri Rathnakar in Leicester

Sri Rathnakar in London

Sri Rathnakars Talks at the Retreat: Inaugural Address

Sri Rathnakars Talks at the Retreat: Valedictory Address

Editorial

Dear Love & Light Readers,
Sai Ram to all of you.

Where there is FAITH, there is LOVE; Where there is LOVE; there is PEACE; Where there is PEACE; there is GOD; Where there is GOD; there is BLISS

Whatever pilgrimages one may perform, whatever yaagas and japas one may do, without using the body in the service of others, no one can achieve liberation. Every one should be prepared to serve and be served. This body has been given so that one may do seva (serve others) and not for Naayakathvam (lord it over them). Discourse in the Sai Kulwant Mandap on 1-10-1995

In the Month of August which falls at the height of summer, along with the seasonal warm weather, we have all had what can easily be termed an opportunity to bask in the sunshine of Swami’s grace. At the beginning of the month a group of us returned from another memorable National Pilgrimage to Prasanthi Nilayam. A scintillating musical performance was offered by the UK Group in the Sai Kulwant Hall which also brought to a close the weeklong Gurupoornima celebrations in Prasanthi Niliayam. The pilgrimage group visited Whitefield, Brindavan where they were blessed to have a group devotional and meditation session inside Trayee Brindavan which is one of Swami’s residences.

Eid Al Fitr was celebrated after the Ramadan month of fasting on 8th August by our brothers and sisters. A series of Bhajan workshops by brother Sri T V Hariharan then followed over the weekend of 11-12th August in London, Leicester, and Bradford. Brother Hariharan was one of the earliest batch of students to join the Sri Sathya Sai College in Prasanthi Nilayam and is now spreading our Beloved Bhagawan’s message through naamasmaran – bhajans, music, workshops and talks at different Sai centres and other spiritual gatherings throughout the globe.

Krishna Janmashtami in August is a celebration of the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna. Group devotional singing along with other activities to commemorate this were undertaken by centres and groups across the length and breadth of the country providing additional opportunity to further progress our spiritual quest.

At the other end of this month of August, a large number of us have just returned from our National Retreat in the coastal town of Llandudno in north Wales entitled Divine Bliss – Echoes of Eternal Harmony. Our chief guest Sri Rathnakar has had the very extraordinary and rare blessing of being born in Bhagawan’s physical family and also spending all his life in the divine presence. He currently serves as a Member of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, Prasanthi Nilayam and has completed all his education in the Sathya Sai educational institutions culminating in an MBA from the university in Prasanthi Nilayam.

Sri Ratnakar spiritualised us with his unique experiences in the divine presence at the retreat. The workshops at the retreat were on the Nine Point code of conduct to enhance our understanding and provided an opportunity for each one of us to individually review how we are implementing these codes in our daily life.

The live streaming of the retreat provided anyone who could not be there physically to also benefit from the deliberations at the retreat. In addition devotees also had an opportunity to attend the two special satsangs with Sri Rahtnakar held last Monday in Midlands and on Tuesday in London deriving the maximum benefit for the devotees from this cherished visit to the UK.

As September dawned on us, we carry forward this spiritual energy into various prayer and service activities. We celebrate the famous festival of Ganesha Chaturthi, worshipping the Remover of Obstacles Lord Ganesha, with great love and devotion. Sai Smaran Bhajans, our national offering of gratitude to our beloved Bhagawan will take place on Saturday 21st of September from 10:30 am to 4:30pm at Sandbach, Cheshire.

Serve The Planet, is a global initiative of the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation where all of us will have an opportunity participate and as devotees commemorate the Avatar Declaration Day on 20th October. This is a Youth and Service Wing led project and will concentrate on feeding the needy in our country. Details are in this issue of Love and Light; please contact your service or youth coordinator in your centre or group to participate.

Wishing you all a prayerful and peaceful month,

Prema & Jyoti (Love & Light)

Mukund Patel.
National Service Coordinator



First Aid

First Aid is about providing immediate treatment to someone who has had a sudden illness or injury while awaiting the arrival of medical aid. Proper early measures are often times instrumental in the prevention of further injury, saving life and ensuring a better and more rapid recovery.

Rendering immediate and appropriate medical aid, a preventative approach to health, and universal access to healthcare are some of the fundamental aspects of the Sai Global Healthcare Mission. Providing First Aid facilities to all, including to our fellow devotees, thus becomes an important and integral activity of this Global Mission. In UK, since ours is a volunteer-only organisation, the ‘duty of care’ is a common law duty which applies to all individuals and organisations. Apart from a spiritual duty, we have a legal and moral duty to provide a safe environment for the devotees attending the centres and groups as well as our regional and national events. Even with all the right measures in place, there is always a potential risk of illness or injury occurring on premises used for activities of the SSSSO UK, however rare this may be.

As part of good practice as well as a service of need, the objective of the Service Wing of our Organisation is that every centre and group should have at least one first aider in attendance during the regular group/centre activities. It is in this context, that a First Aid Training Days are being organised all over the UK for volunteers in our Organisation.

After an absence of nearly five years, the Derby Civil Aid, a national charity who had previously been providing First Aid training for us, held a First Aid workshop on Saturday 17th August 2013 at Oxhey Wood Primary school in Region 2. The main objectives of the workshop were to provide a basic introduction to First Aid appropriate for the need of the general public and focussed on First Aid and the Law, the ABC of First Aid, Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation, recovery position and how to deal with heart attack, haemorrhage, burns with hands-on exercises. After a practical assessment, a nationally recognised certificate which lasts three years was awarded.

Keith, the Lead trainer with his inimitable fun-loving teaching approach helped the participants gain the skills and knowledge needed to effectively respond to First-Aid emergencies with more confidence.

Fourteen devotees from Region 2 attended the workshop and four served as first aiders at our recently concluded Retreat in Llandudno this year! The second workshop is currently planned for Saturday 5th October for devotees in region 1 & 6 and more training will be held in other regions. If you are interested in attending the First id training, please contact your regional service coordinator.

Gayatri Bikoo
Secretary UKCC
Member, Sai Healthcare National Coordinating Committee

Ganesh Chaturthi

‘This day, That year'
Prasanthi Nilayam, 1st September 2000
Excerpts from Student Diaries ‘Heart to Heart’

The Vinayaka-principle, however, has only one meaning, which is relevant to everyone irrespective of whether he is a believer or a on-believer. "Vinayaka" means that He is totally master of Himself. He has no master above Him, He does not depend' on anyone. He is also called Ganapathi. This term means He is the lord of the ganas---a class of divine entities. This term also means that He is the master of the intellect and discriminating power in man. He possesses great intelligence and knowledge. Such knowledge issues from a pure and sacred mind. This knowledge leads to Vijnana (wisdom). Because He is the master of Buddhi (intelligence) and Siddhi (wisdom or realisation), He is described as the Lord of Buddhi and Siddhi. Buddhi and Siddhi are referred to as the consorts of Vinayaka.

Another name for Vinayaka is "Vighneswara." Easwara is one who is endowed with every conceivable form of wealth: riches, knowledge, health, bliss, beauty, etc. Vighneswara is the promoter of all these forms of wealth and removes all obstacles to their enjoyment. He confers all these forms of wealth on those who worship him. Vinayaka is described as "Prathama Vandana" (the first deity who should be worshipped). As everyone in the world desires wealth and prosperity, everyone offers the first place for worship to Vigneswara.

It is only when the inner meanings of various aspects relating to the Divine are understood that worship can be offered to the Divine meaningfully. Unfortunately, as only the superficial and worldly meanings of the scriptural texts are expounded these days, men's devotion is growing weaker continually. It is essential for everyone to understand the inner meaning of the Vedantic texts.

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, SSS Vol.24, Chapter 24

Today, Swami came for Darshan at 6.30 am. Students chanted stotrams and sang songs. In his divine discourse, Swami spoke on the significance of worshipping Vinayaka on this holy day. Later Swami went to inaugurate (near the north Indian canteen) a week long Homam and exhibition of 751 Ganesha idols of various hues and colours. The idols of Ganesha represented various Hindu gods and few gods of other religions, like Jesus Ganesha, Moulla Ganesha, and Buddha Ganesha. Shirdi Sai Ganesha idol was the main idol. Few of the idols were from foreign countries like China and Thailand. The function was titled as ‘Eka Pancha Saptha Sathi’.

On the 3rd September, it was Ganesha Idols Immersion day. The morning Darshan was at 6.50 am. Being Sunday, students were also present. Immediately after the Darshan, Prasadam was distributed to the students. Later Swami gave clothes to the institute principal. After the interview, Swami spent some time with the primary school children. Then Swami called the warden and told him to have the procession for the immersion of Ganesh idols at 2.00 pm. After bhajans, Swami retired to his Poornachandra Residence.

In the evening at 2.00 pm, 24 Ganesha idols were taken in procession from different places to the Mandir (From School and Institute hostels, from both hospitals, airport, Gokulam, Primary and Easwaramma Schools). The chariots and palanquins were decorated very beautifully. One of the palanquins was a thermocol model of a car named ‘Mooshikar’ . Each Ganesha idol was led by students chanting Vedas and singing Bhajans and in between there were ‘Jai kars’. After about forty five minutes, the procession reached the Mandir, where Swami was seated on His Chair near the interview room. He was enjoying the dance programme presented by the boys of the primary school. The palanquins went around the Mandir. Swami broke many coconuts and gave group photographs to all who accompanied the Ganesha idols. The students who accompanied the palanquin modelled as a car, pointed out the name of ‘Mooshikar’ to Swami and He smiled. After taking Arathi, Swami directed the procession to return. The idols were immersed in a well near the ‘Saigeetha’ shed. At around 3.30 pm, Swami again witnessed the dance programme by primary school children. This time, He was seated in the front of Ganesha. They also chanted Vedam, sang Bhajans and many famous group songs. Swami was very happy with the programme and interacted with them for quite a long time.

Swami: (When they sang the song ‘Sri ganesha Sivuni Kumara…’) Who are the two mothers of Ganesha?
Primary
Student: Parvathi and Ganga (They asked Swami to sing a song)

Swami: What song?

P. Sdnt: Swami, Subramaniam…..Subramaniam

Swami: What are the different names of Shanmuga? (Another name for the Lord. The students mentioned a few names) What is the way to God?

P.Sdnt: Swami Love. (A student quoted the saying- ‘Start the day with Love….)

Swami: What is the form of Love?

P.Sdnt: Swami, YOU.

Swami: What is the way to Immortality? (Swami was not satisfied with their answers. Then Swami said) Removal of immorality is the way to immortality. How is your hostel? Is it clean?

P.Sdnt: Yes Swami, it is clean.

Swami: How is institute hostel?

P.Sdnt: We don’t know, Swami.

Swami: (jokingly) Institute, all big boys. They keep everything clean. You are all small boys. You keep things dirty.

P. Sdnt No Swami. We keep things clean.

Swami: What are your marks? (Many boys answered and most of them were above 85% or 90%. Swami to Anil Kumar sir) See, all get eighties and nineties.

Prof. AK: Swami, they are good at all things.

Swami: Anyone who knows carnatic music? ( Few of them raised their hands) Who is first in the class? (Boys who secured first rank in different classes lifted their hands. To a student) How much did you get? (The student went very close to Swami and said something to Swami. Swami to others). He got 99%. He was saying that it is not nice telling in public, praising oneself. That is why he came near me and told me.

Prof. AK: Swami, we were thinking that he got less marks and was feeling shy to say it in public.

Swami: (To a student) Who is your brother?

P.Sdnt: Swami, all are brothers.

Swami: All are one, be alike to everyone. (Later two of the primary school students spoke in English and Sanskrit. Swami asked the student who spoke in Sanskrit about his marks in Sanskrit. The boy replied that he secured 99%. Swami expressed his happiness and pride about his students to Anil Kumar sir. To Primary school students)
Who is your friend?

P.Sdnt: Swami, You are our friend.

Swami: Who is your enemy?

P.Sdnt: Swami, anger.

Swami was very pleased with their answers and spent some more time with them speaking very lovingly. Swami asked students to start bhajans at 4.30 pm itself. After sitting outside for few bhajans, Swami went inside the Bhajan Hall and too Arathi.
Then Swami retired to Poornachandra.

My Baba and I

My Baba and I

‘Sai Anandam 2013’ was my first trip to the abode of our beloved Bhagawan after He left His physical form. The sadhana plan for this trip included Likhitha Japam (Writing Swami’s Divine Name – ‘Om Sai Ram’) and the activity helped me to focus more and more on the name of Sai Rama. Baba wiped out the sadness, the disturbance and the physical form from my mind.

For me, this trip to Prashanthi with the wonderful group was a life-changing trip. The pilgrimage was jam-packed with talks by esteemed speakers on their intimate individual experiences of with our Lord and they transformed my perspective on the Divine. Also the various local trips (like Trayee, Brindavan) organised during the pilgrimage gave me a new insight into the Love of our Lord through His Leelas.

I am continuing writing the Lord’s name as I have found it is helpful when connecting with our Lord Sai. I also urge all the SSE children like myself to grab the opportunity as it is a guaranteed to be a life changing experience.

By Kesavan Sivanesan
SSE Group 3
Mill Hill Sai Centre
Region 3

National Sai Retreat 2013 - A Balvikas Experience

This year the National Sai Retreat was held in North Wales, Llandudno next to the beautiful beach from the 30th August to 1st September.

There were two groups, the adults and the children and everyone enjoyed themselves very much. The guests were Shree Rathnakar garu who is Swami’s nephew, Uncle Arun Panda and Ajit Popatji who has had many interviews with Swami! As a child I’m going to tell you what the SSE children’s wonderful exciting activities were.

The SSE children started their amazing activities on the 31st August. We had yoga early in the morning. After breakfast we read a story called the rainbow fish. Next we did a wonderful seascape collage to do with the rainbow fish. We produced a wonderful art collage with fish and stingrays to coral. We even used real seashells from the beach to stick on. What I learnt from this was teamwork and working in harmony.

After lunch we walked to Bodafon farm, where we went on a colossal tractor for a ride around the farm and we went to a play area. We looked at the birds of prey and there were owls’, eagles and hawks. After that we fed the goats and deer which was my favourite part of the retreat. What I learnt from this was sharing and caring with animals.

We came back, had a little break and then listened to some melodious bhajans in the huge arena, had dinner and went to bed.

The next day we woke up early in the morning to go to suprabhatam, morning prayers and then to yoga. After breakfast we did seascape again but this time in dance and movement, for waves we moved our arms up and down in a special sequence. I learnt about teamwork from this activity.

Next we went to the arena and received certificates from Shree Rathnakar garu and took a picture. We had lunch and left for home with bliss. I’m looking forward to attend the retreat next year.

Adithya Kunigiri (9)
Group 2 Year 1
Region 4

National Sai Retreat 2013 - A Real Treat

This year the National Sai Retreat entitled ‘Divine Bliss: Echoes of Eternal Harmony’ took place in the scenic coastal town of Llandudno, located in North Wales. This retreat, spread out over three days, was attended by about 350 devotees from all around the UK. We were very fortunate to have with us, Sri R.J. Rathnakar, a member of the Sathya Sai Central Trust, Prasanthi Nilayam, and a nephew of our beloved Lord Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

As devotees started arriving at their allotted hotels on Friday afternoon, one could feel immediately the ‘echoes of harmony’ in the loving and enthusiastic way in which they greeted each other; in the way that volunteers at the Registration desk attended to their needs and requests patiently with a smile; and in the way various teams worked together silently and happily to get everything ready for the evening programme. There was a palpable sense of one big, happy Sai family assembled together in love and devotion to our Divine Lord Bhagawan Baba.

After a delicious dinner, cooked and served lovingly by our volunteers, the evening programme commenced at the prestigious Venue Cymru Conference Centre located on the seafront and near the hotels. As one entered the main hall in this venue, one was swept off the feet and transported immediately into the hallowed precincts of Prasanthi Nilayam! For, the hall was adorned with a huge backdrop of Sai Kulwanth Hall with Bhagawan’s Most Sacred Mahasamadhi occupying the Centre Stage. It was so alive and uplifting to behold, and also a totally unexpected and breathtaking introduction to the Retreat! The bliss that one experiences in Prasanthi Nilayam was felt instantly, and this continued for the rest of the weekend.

The evening started with mellifluous Bhajans followed by a welcome note from our UKCC Chairperson, Dr Kiran Patel. In his welcome, he said that Bhagawan Baba is the personification of Bliss or Anandam and the easiest way to experience this bliss ourselves is to be in harmony with Him, through constant contemplation and through the practise of His Teachings. Our esteemed guest Sri Rathnakar then gave a short insight from the vast experiences he has had with Swami. He reflected on the great blessing we have in being His devotees, as He then takes over our welfare for lifetimes. Both thoughtful and humorous, his talk gave a glimpse of the precious gems he had to share with us over the next two days. The evening concluded with a delightful Carnatic vocal concert by two of our very talented youngsters, Akilesh Sreecumaar and Keertana Easan, who performed several pieces each, followed by Aarthi. Everyone then went back to their respective hotels to have a restful night before the amazing programme awaiting them the next day.

As the sounds of the waves crashing against the shores echoed in the ambient early morning stillness, the chanting of the Primordial Aumkaar 21 times during Suprabhatham at 5.30 am awakened our inner self to the experience of inner stillness and bliss. Jyoti Meditation, Darshan and Bhajans that followed enhanced this joyful experience. Following this session, devotees had a choice of activities in which they could participate- either yoga, meditation, a meditative walk on the beach, Vedam chanting or Taize chanting. Understandably for most, the choice was a hard one to make between these 5 different harmony-bringing activities!

The yoga activity was led by an experienced and young ‘teacher’ who expertly brought the focus of the ‘students’ on harmonising the body and mind so as to experience peace within themselves. The meditative walk on the beach led by one of the Spiritual Coordinators was worth joining, despite the slight chill, as it was bringing peace within oneself, thanks to a beautiful view and the soothing sounds of the water. Meditation sessiion was held at one of the two hotels, whilst the energising vibrations of Sri Rudram chanted in the foyer of the venue during the Vedam session intermingled seamlessly with the soothing Christian Taize chants sung by another group of devotees in the main hall. Such divine vibrations wafted from the venue in to its sorroundings, that it was a clear indication to the event living up to its name: ‘Echoes of eternal harmony’.

Simultaneous with all this activity, the children attending this retreat had their own activity programme held during the weekend by the SSE Wing. Yoga sessions, art and music sessions, a visit to a local farm etc allowed the young ones to express their inner spirit. A walk on the beach inspired the budding artists within them to create a wonderful underwater collage which was displayed in the exhibition at the main venue for all to admire. Whilst the children had a joyful time under the supervision of SSE Wing, the parents, youth and other devotees enjoyed the Saturday morning keynote talk by Sri Rathnakar on his experiences and interactions with Swami. He emphasized the fact that to call ourselves Sai devotees, we should live the message of Swami. As per Swami’s words, he said, the Sai organisation is different from any other organisation in that the only condition to be part of it is to actually follow and live Sai teachings.

After his talk, a traditional Bharata Natyam dance tribute entitled ‘Sai Anandam’ was performed by the talented sisters, Riddhi and Nidhi Joshi. Then, Mr Arun Kumar Panda, an active member of the Sai Organisation, shared how by engaging in service activities constantly, he came closer to Bhagawan and experienced immense joy and bliss.

Continuing on, a total of 9 workshops on Practical Spirituality were held. The main theme in these workshops was centred on the Nine Point Code of Conduct given by Bhagawan for all Sai devotees to follow in their daily lives, and how this is akin to a spiritual formula for experiencing Divine Bliss. Each workshop then focussed its discussion on a single point from the Nine Point Code of Conduct, and its practical application. Delegates participated actively in these workshops and the discussions further consolidated the understanding of Bhagawan’s teachings. After lunch, which many devotees took as a picnic on the beach, delegates gathered again in their respective workshop group for a 2nd session and discussed various topics such as the importance of ceiling on desires, considering all work as worship, the true meaning of devotion, etc. The feedback from all the workshops, which was given the next day in the main hall, gave a clear indication that delegates in all workshops recognised the significance of the Nine Point Code of Conduct as a practical roadmap to experience Divine Bliss, the ultimate goal of all spiritual journeys!

Returning to the auditorium, a question and answer session with Sri Rathnakar took place where he addressed some of the wide array of questions posed to him by the delegates. It was a very interesting and inspiring session where his simplicity, humility, devotion and surrender to Bhagawan whilst working incessantly in a focussed manner in His Divine Mission became very evident for all those gathered in the hall. Bhajans were held shortly after, leading onto a sumptuous and welcome dinner. We reassembled after dinner for a panel discussion, where brother Rathnakar shared some of his personal experiences as a student at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, as well as some of his family’s experiences, with two former Sai Students who are active members of the UK Sai Organization. The evening came to an end with Arathi, after a delightfully exquisite musical performance entitled “In Tune with Thee” by the Panesar Brothers on the Tar Shehnai and Tabla.

Refreshed, thanks to a well deserved sleep, the Sunday morning programme began with the resounding Aumkaars, morning prayers and bhajans like the previous day. Once more there was an opportunity to take part in one of the 5 different activities. This was followed by breakfast, enabling us to go full of energy to listen to Sri Ajit Popat, familiar to all of us as ‘Puppet’, which our beloved Bhagawan used to call him most endearingly. In delivering his talk on the topic ‘ Through Sacrifice alone, Immortality can be attained’, he reminded all of us of Bhagawan’s words that ‘removal of immorality leads to Immortality’. In his inimitable style, full of humour and deep insights, he emphasised that we should strive to sacrifice this immorality, and achieve purity through various activities such as listed in the Nine Point Code of Conduct. Then Immortality or Divinity will be our experience. After this inspiring ‘Puppet show’ and the workshop feedback session, brother Rathnakar gave a highly thought provoking Valedictory address, in which he spoke about the Divine Mission of Sathya Sai and our roles in it as Sai devotees, office bearers and trustees. This brought us to the closing session where the children were awarded Certificates, and the stupendous efforts of various teams involved in putting this Retreat together were acknowledged in gratitude on behalf of all delegates. Bhajans and Arathi brought the Retreat to a close, and devotees departed for their homes after a tasty lunch.

Overall the retreat was indeed a Real Treat! It spiritually recharged us with the wonderful satsang of fellow devotees, esteemed guest speakers, delightful concerts and interactive and reflective workshops. Going home after this inspiring retreat, it is now our responsibility to contemplate deeply and put into regular practise at least some of what we learnt, such as the Nine Point Code of Conduct in our daily lives. We are very grateful to Swami for enabling us to participate in such divine events. May He shower His Grace on all of us and guide us more and more towards Divine Bliss.

Nimisha Komalram & Marine Aufranc
Region 3 & Region 4, SSSSO UK

National Sai Retreat 2013 - Harmonious Bliss for Balvikas Students

This year the UK Sai Family went to Llandudno, North Wales for the National Sai Retreat. I went this year as well as last year and each year the retreat is getting much more fun! This years two guests were Sri Ratnakargaru, Swami’s nephew, and Ajit Popatji, who Swami called Puppet!

This retreat was excellent for children as we could meet our old SSE friends from different regions. The organisers made extra fun activities for the children while the talk was going on for adults in the main hall. Children went later on for some time every day to listen to the harmonious Bhajans, music and dance. Here I am going to tell you about activities to balvikas children…

In the morning the children had yoga, which is extremely good to make you concentrate more at work and at school. The next activity on the first day was to make a seascape art collage where we heard a story of the ‘Rainbow Fish’. What I learnt from this was to work together in a team in harmony. For the collage we all got rocks, pebbles and seaweed from the beautiful beach to stick on.

After the luscious lunch, all the children went to Bodafon Farm. When we got there we went on an amazingly huge tractor up the hill to the actual farm. There was a park in which we all played in and there were owls, eagles and even hawks!!!! After the park we went to feed the goats and deer, which was thoroughly enjoyable. Then we went on another tractor ride!!!! This ride went near other animals such as the sheep and ram, and the cows. We even saw a calf drinking its mothers milk which was so cute! We all strolled back to the hall in the evening to listen to the harmonious Bhajans and had a delicious dinner.

The following day we did yoga as usual, had breakfast and started our daily activities where we did seascape through dance and movement. After we finished that we went back to the hall to listen to some melodic Bhajans and collected our certificates from Sri Ratnakargaru and had lunch, which ended our wonderful time at the National Sai Retreat in Llandudno. I hope to come again next year.

Jai Sairam

Ankitha Kunigiri (10)

Group 2 Year 2

7th September 2013

National Sai Retreat 2013 - Living with God is Education

It was with Swami’s Grace that I was given an opportunity to help with the SSE activities at the recent National Retreat, with the central theme- Divine Bliss: Echoes of Eternal Harmony. The activities were planned so as to give parents an ideal opportunity to participate in the workshops and to listen to the talks, while the children partook in the many activities provided for them.

The first day started with Yoga asanas in keeping with the natural beauty we were surrounded by for those early risers aged between 3 to 13 yrs where they learnt basic postures to help with their flexibility, concentration and focus inwards. Later in the morning the children had a guided walk on the beach to appreciate the different sights and sounds of the seaside. These impressions helped them to work together on a Seascape Collage. It was heart-warming to see all these children of different ages working together in a spirit of co-operation to create this “Harmony through Art” masterpiece which every single child contributed to this work by using all the different art materials that were provided.

The children’s afternoon was spent at a nearby Bodafon Animal Farm where they enjoyed tractor rides, pony rides and had an opportunity to interact further with each other and with the farm animals such as the cows, llamas, deer and goats. Their joy was evident from the expressions of happiness and excitement on their faces and in their voices!

In the evening, we all were able to enjoy the bliss provided by the bhajans, panel discussions and music presentation in the main hall.

Sunday dawned and we had another invigorating morning session of Yoga and a ‘Harmony through Movement and Dance’ led by one of our sisters. This session got the children and all the teachers and helpers on their feet to form synchronized patterns with the seaside and the farm visit serving as the theme.

The crowning moment came when the children had an opportunity to go up on stage to receive certificates of participation from our guest of honour, brother Rathnakar.

The weekend was indeed action-packed and fun-filled! It was heartening to know that the children enjoyed themselves, while utilising all they learnt in an informal environment. Personally, I think that the Retreat is a wonderful idea for us to recharge our “spiritual energies”, and feel more rejuvenated. It was a wonderful opportunity to interact with, and enjoy the company of the other SSE teachers, the parents and of course, the children. A big thank you to the youth who helped and to the catering staff who provided delicious meals and snack bags for the children. I certainly am looking forward to the next Retreat.

Miss Nuleen Panday
Regional SSE Coordinator
Region 6

National Sai Retreat 2013 - Messy Play & Spirituality

A few years ago I attended a retreat with our then 6 month old son. It was without a doubt a spiritually uplifting event but one of the thoughts that I left with was would I be able to attend such an event again...

During the event I witnessed many mothers, and fathers alike, either trying to console their little ones that the talk would soon be over, or standing in the corridor watching their children running from one end to the other. Exasperated looks on their faces, whilst apologising to those who walked past about the noise the children were creating!

A year went past, we attended our local Sai centre, and our son started to walk and with that came the inevitable. Mother or father leaving the room mid-bhajan and standing in the corridor whilst our little monkey explored the area around him!

So I missed out on attending the National retreat last year but consoled myself that it would have been a nightmare to manage a 2 year old at the event. Not long after the retreat I heard that parallel to the adult sessions, activities had been organised for the children. I thought what a brilliant idea this was and was even more pleased to hear that such activities would be organised for the 2013 National Retreat organised by the SSE wing of the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation.

With this information we decided our family would be able to attend the retreat this year.

On arrival in Llandudno we were provided with the programme information for the children. At the very least I expected to see that we would be provided a room in which may be the children would be given a few items such as paper and paint to keep themselves occupied. This was not the case. We were greeted with a packed schedule with every aspect of the children’s needs thought off!

Yoga for the early risers, to a visit to the farm….what else could the children ask for! This was in keeping with the theme for the retreat, and the sessions captured the children’s imaginations.

The Art session started with story-telling inspiring the children to create a ‘seascape’. The children were equipped with colouring tools of all kinds, pens, glitter and wobbly eyes… it was like messy play at nursery! Surrounded by the sea, loving ‘teachers’ who then took the children out to the beachside to collect inspiration for their wonderful works of art, the activities began with great enthusiasm and excitement.

After a meal ‘fit for a child’…which child doesn’t love pizza and chips, the children and the lucky parents were taken to a fabulous farm for the afternoon. Reputation preceded the group, as the farmer remembered the group from last year, collected us in his tractor and allowed us to take snacks onto the farm for the children, as I understand this is not usually permitted. In a fantastic setting the children ran around to their hearts content under the watchful eye of the parents and helpers, some of them with boundless energies themselves… a sister ready to climb the obstacle course in a saree?!

After dinner the children went to sleep allowing the adults to enjoy the evening ahead….no over tired children, running their parents round the bend, in sight!

The next morning the seascape theme continued in the form of rhythm, melody and dance. Again the beautiful sisters performed the role of teachers and got the children, even the reluctant older boys in the group to perform a wonderful dance piece. The children’s session concluded with an acknowledgement of their efforts in the form of certificates received by the children on stage from the chief guest Sri Rathnakar.

The feedback session at the event was hugely positive from the children and the parents who accompanied them. Huge thanks to an amazing team. The commitment, dedication, meticulous planning and last but not least the love of the people who organised it shone through.

It was certainly ‘messy play’ but the children learnt about unity, co-operation and friendship, all part of the central theme for the retreat, ‘harmony and bliss’. There was no exasperated parent in sight, only bliss from having spent a weekend with our beloved Swami.

Our family have already put our names down for next year’s retreat!

Mrs Nashita Suren
Parent
Region 1

National Sai Retreat 2013 - Reminiscent of Prashanthi Nilayam

Reminiscent of Prashanthi Nilayam

I had the great opportunity to attend this year’s National Sai Retreat in Wales, where Swami also blessed me with special opportunity to perform at His divine lotus feet. As a young boy, attending the retreat without my parents was a daunting thought at first, but Swami blessed me with many Sai brothers and sisters who took very good care of me!

We had the great privilege of listening to Sri Rathnakar, the nephew of our beloved Swami, who narrated numerous experiences he had with Bhagawan Baba. Sri Rathnakar not only highlighted the various messages Swami taught him throughout his life, but also Swami’s humorous side. Sri Rathnakar narrated a very important message with a funny anecdote; he said, in a certain village a survey was carried out to see whether a husband is always forced to listen to his wife. At the voting booth, the husbands were given a choice to either vote that they are always forced to do as their wife says, or that this is not true and that in fact they do have their own freedom. After nearly a whole day of the men voting, one man came to vote and said that he had his own freedom. He was immediately asked as to how come he had his own freedom when all the other men of the village had voted otherwise. He said, “I voted here, because my wife told me to!” From this small incident, Sri Rathnakar brought out a more significant message saying that instead of listening to our wife/husband, we should listen to our conscience. This simple but strong statement made me think; as a young boy, I am not writing this to say that I would disobey my parents or teachers, but in certain situations you have to ignore what the monkey mind says and stay strong to one’s own conscience.

The retreat was reminiscent of times in Parthi; getting up at 3.45am, attending morning prayers etc. And at the end of each day you would feel a sense of spiritual upliftment; whether it is from the prayers, meditation, Bhajans or talks. I thoroughly enjoyed myself on the retreat this year and with Swami’s grace, I will be attending the years to come!

Akilesh Sreecumaar
Group 4 SSE
Region 1

National Sai Retreat 2013 - The Last Weekend of my Summer Holiday

Ananda Sai Pillay
SSE Group 1
Region 7

National Sai Retreat 2013 - Youth Reflections

The national retreat which was held last weekend in the picturesque surroundings of Llandudno, has been an enjoyable and uplifting event to those of us who were fortunate to attend this year. Having been part of the retreat last year, which left us with such unforgettable memories, there was great excitement and enthusiasm in the weeks leading up to this big weekend.

My experience during thiinto s retreat comes from a different perspective; as one who had the privilege to be part of the Seva team, along with other Sai sisters and brothers helping with various small tasks required for the smooth functioning of the event. This experience was truly remarkable as it highlighted how much effort and planning had gone this for weeks or even months by our national committee to ensure the success of the retreat. On reaching the venue early Friday morning, we could see that many volunteers were already busy setting up for the evening’s programme. The catering team was hard at work. They worked graciously and tirelessly in the kitchen day and night over the weekend to provide meals and snacks in vast quantities throughout the day, as we’ve seen in every national event. I was given the opportunity to be part of the stage team to help set up, work on floral arrangements together with our Sai sisters, and help out backstage.

With a stage backdrop of Prashanthi Mandir that truly made us feel like we were on the sacred soil, a member of Swami’s physical family - his nephew Shri. Rathnakar- in our midst to share the glories of Swami, his inspiring and irreplaceable memories with our Bhagawan, and with the energy-filled talks by Shri Arun Panda and Shri Ajit Popat, we really couldn’t have asked for anything more! Needless to say, Swami’s presence was truly felt in that hall and the Bhajan sessions were uplifting as always and added to the vibrations already present there.

This retreat brought together Sai sisters and brothers of all age groups- SSE children, youth and respected elders, with many inspirational workshops and activities. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that by Sunday afternoon we hadn’t realised how quickly time had flown past and were left with the feeling of not wanting to leave Llandudno and the lovely Sai company that we enjoyed so much. I would like to thank the national committee for having organised such a memorable weekend and with Swami’s grace hope to be a part of next year’s retreat too!

Jai Sai Ram

Dr Arthika Ketheeswaran
Youth Wing, Region 5, SSSSO UK

National Youth Satsang with Mr T.V Hariharan

Saturday 10th August 2013

On the morning of 10/8/2013 a group of approx 30 youth from across the country gathered together for an uplifting satsang with Brother T. V. Hariharan. Mr. T.V. Hariharan joined the Sri Sathya Sai College in Prasanthi Nilayam in the year 1979, two years before the Sri Sathya Sai University (SSSU) was unfurled. After his graduation from the Sai College, he served in the Administrative Block of the newly inaugurated SSSU for two years, until 1984. He later moved to Bangalore for further studies and subsequently worked in a pharmaceutical company for 3 years. In 1989, he resigned from his job and ever since, he has been engaged in spreading the message of Bhagavan through bhajans, music and talks at various Sai centres and other holy gatherings all over the world. He has composed in the region of 450-500 bhajans which are sung in Prashanti Nilayam and worldwide.

Our youth gathering consisted of Brother Hariharan explaining to us how and why we should sing bhajans. We also had the privilege of learning two new bhajans that Brother Hariharan has composed and have not yet been released on CD. He also shared some of his personal experiences with Swami.

The tone of the satsang was very informal; we sat in a semi-circle and Brother Hariharan invited us to ask him questions. The first question that was asked was: “How can we control our emotions when we sing a bhajan?” Brother Hariharan replied: “You should never control your emotions.” He explained that the purpose of bhajans is to pour out our hearts to the Lord. If we pour out our heart when leading a bhajan, others will do the same. He explained that we should find stillness within ourselves when singing the glory of the Lord and lose ourselves in that joy. Bhajans are our time to converse with Swami; our personal interview with Swami.

We learned that bhajans do not have to express just one type of emotion. Through bhajans we can dance with the Lord, we can plead with God, we can sing lovingly and be happy. We should not stop singing one bhajan, we should make one bhajan our mantra. On the first day, the bhajan will be sung as a song. On the second day we will sing with a little more intensity, on the third day we will be lost in the glory of the Lord. After 2 months of singing the same bhajan, our bodies will vibrate with the bhajan. We will then reach a state where we lose all sense of emotion and feel that we are in total bliss.

Brother Hariharan described the feeling of bliss that he experiences through bhajans. When he sings, he “asks for nothing, for Swami is giving me everything”. If we don’t ask for anything, he will give us even more than we desire.

He also explained to us what it means to be a ‘singer’. The essence of being a singer is feeling Swami within and around us and interacting with Him through the glory of bhajans. It does not mean that we have to lead the bhajans for a congregation; we simply have to feel Him within our hearts to be a singer for God. Bhajan gives us an understanding of our true nature. We should never feel that we are the ones who are singing, we should feel that the bhajan is emanating from the life force within us. Our body consciousness, mind activity and intellectual activity should come to a stop. When we think too deeply about the art of singing we lose the joy of singing.

The only true relationship we will have in this world is our relationship with God which can be developed through namasmarana in the form of bhajans. Bhajans make us steady so that we can forever experience peace and enjoy the oneness with Sai. All of us become one when we sit together and sing bhajans.

In addition to reminding us of the glory of bhajans, Brother Hariharan was keen to share some of his experiences with Swami. From this, he made us think; now that we cannot be with Swami physically, do we have the awareness that He is in us and around us at all times? Our duty is to remember Him. He does everything for us, why do we worry? We should discard our worries and doubts; only then can we be free. We should not have any expectations; by removing our expectations it will be easier to accept whatever comes our way. We should stop asking and instead be grateful to Swami for what we have. What we want from Him is often different to what he wants to give us.

Within the short space of three hours, we had been taken through a journey of how and why we should sing bhajans. We were privileged enough to learn two new bhajans from Brother T. V. Hariharan himself and were also given guidance for our own lives from him. It was an uplifting morning, reminding us of the glory of bhajans and leaving us with plenty to put into practice in our own lives.

Written by Anshi Dattani (Active Youth, Region 2)

Serve the Planet - a Global Service Project

“I always conduct Myself in accordance with the principle of Help ever, Hurt never. This has been My motto. I never harmed anyone. I derive great joy in helping others. That is why I tell the devotees to always pray, Loka Samasthah Sukhino Bhavantu (May all the people of the world be happy!) All should be happy, healthy and blissful. With such sacred motive, I have been spreading the message of love to the entire world.”

Sathya Sai Baba 20th October 2002- this was a momentous discourse that Bhagawan had given about His early life on the occasion of the 62nd Anniversary of the Avatar Declaration Day.

What is Serve the Planet?

Serve the Planet is a global service initiative being undertaken this year to commemorate Bhagawan Baba’s Avatar Declaration Day on October 20th. All overseas Sathya Sai Organisations have committed to carry out this project under the leadership of Prasanthi Council, as a sacred offering on this epoch-making day.

On this significant day in 1940, Bhagawan in His infinite Love and Compassion announced His Avatar to the world. He declared that the purpose of His Advent and Mission is the transformation and redemption of mankind through Love. And all through the 85 years of His sojourn on earth, He was engaged in this Mission of Love through selfless service to humanity. In fact, His central message ‘Love All, Serve All’ has been the shining light, guiding millions of devotees and followers around the world in their spiritual journeys.

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

The project “Serve the Planet” is an effort to focus the attention all over the world on the importance and significance of Service with Love. On the Avathar Declaration Day, and in the week leading up to it, various service activities will be undertaken by individual countries based upon locally identified needs. Serving food to the poor and hungry (Narayana Seva) has been suggested as one of the main focus areas for this project.

“The gift of food is the noblest of all gifts. You have today arranged the feeding of a large number of people and thus justified the name of this village. The years of life allotted to man is very short; the world in which he lives is very wide; time extends far behind and far beyond. What little man has to do here has to be done quickly, at the place that is assigned to him within the time that is allotted to him. And, man has such a formidable task before him; it is to fulfil it that he has come as man, exchanging for human habitat, all the merit he has acquired during many past lives. The task is no less than the manifestation of the Divinity latent in man. The easiest and the most pleasant means by which this can be accomplished is Seva-the service of man, done in a spirit of dedication and devotion. And, in village like this, Seva is a potent and profitable discipline. And, the best type of Seva is feeding the hungry. The first step in this discipline is the establishment of mutual help and co-operation in all seva activities among the residents. This will ensure peace, security and prosperity for the village”.

Apart from bringing devotees together from centres under a shared vision, the project aims to provide a wonderful opportunity for everyone to participate, be it children, youth, adults and the elderly, to reflect His Message of Loving and Serving all. When carried out together by the Sai family around the world on the same day with a singular focus, very similar to the Global Akhand Bhajans, the impact on our planet will be amplified manifold. It is also hoped that this project will create a lasting effect upon local communities throughout the UK, by our united and sustained efforts through the various Sai Centres around the country.

What will be the activities in UK?

The Sathya Sai Organisation in UK, via its Youth and Service Wings, has identified mainly 2 avenues to serve food to the needy, as part of this Global Project.

1. Food Banks
2. Homeless Shelters

It is indeed distressing to note that in the UK, over 13 million people live below the poverty line i.e. 1 in 5 persons. A lot of people in the UK go hungry for reasons ranging from homelessness, lack of adequate income, sickness, changes to benefits, unemployment, debt etc. The current economic climate has also not helped the situation.

Food Banks

It is well known that the Trussell Trust UK, via its network of over 350 Food Banks around the country, does yeoman service in extending food supplies to the needy. These banks provide a minimum of three days emergency food supply for people in crisis, and only last year about 350,000 people including 125,000 children were served. It has been identified by us that the food banks themselves have an immense need for supplies of various non-perishable food items.

As part of the Serve the Planet Project, our effort will be to collect these items at the Sai Centres in the coming weeks. These will be delivered at the nearest and local Food Bank in the week leading up to the Avatar Declaration Day. Please contact the relevant Regional or Centre office bearer for further details such as collection dates, collection points etc. Please also click the weblink below for further information.

The following food items are listed for this service activity: Milk (UHT or powdered), Sugar (500g), Fruit juice (carton), Soup, Pasta sauces, Sponge Pudding (tinned), Tomatoes (tinned), Cereals, Rice Pudding (tinned), Tea bags / Instant coffee, Rice / Pasta, Tinned fruit, Jam, Biscuits or snack bar

Your local food bank has its own dedicated website which will provide details of specific items needed. It is advisable for Sai Centres to try and meet this demand.

Homeless Shelters

On the Avatar Declaration Day itself, all the 8 Regions of the SSSSO UK will be conducting Homeless Shelter Feeding at various Centres. Please contact your Regional Service or Youth Coordinator if you are interested in participating in this activity.

Laksharchana Programme

Our dear lord Bhagawan Baba says:

You arrange dinner parties and picnic, where members are treated to costly feasts, more as part of social convention, than to appease hunger. This is sheer exhibitionism, and display. Instead I would ask you to feed some hungry people with the delicious dishes, people who have never had in their lives the joy of having eaten a full meal, not to speak of a rich meal. Serve man as God. Give food to the hungry, food that is the gift of Goddess Nature. Give it with love, and humility, give it sweetened with the name of the Lord.

As part of the Serve The Planet Project, we will also be conducting a Laksharchana Programme for the welfare of the planet in London on the 20th of October simultaneously as the Homeless Feeding activity. Those amongst our Sai family members, who are unable to participate in the Narayana Seva activities on the day, are encouraged to participate in this Naama Seva opportunity. For further details, please click on weblink below.

Let us all utilise the above opportunities wholeheartedly and offer our most loving gratitude at the Lotus Feet of our Divine Master on the occasion of the day when He Announced Himself to us and entered our lives to steer them to safe shores, out of sheer Love and Compassion.

“A single homestead cannot make a village; many have cluster together and live as one family in order to constitute a village. And, for such Seva as you are doing, each homestead and every member thereof has to lend a helping hand and achieve success in the common venture. The physical strength, the monetary resources, the intelligence of all have to be pooled in order to make the project succeed. This garland has not happened out of a single flower; many flowers of different hues and fragrances have string themselves around the string in order to achieve the common aim of decorating the picture or person. No one in the village can stand apart and say, "This work is not mine; it is the responsibility of man or this group". Bhagawan Baba

Sri Rathnakar in Leicester

A beautiful evening with Swami’s nephew

On Monday 2nd September, Leicester, affectionately called a ‘second Prasanthi’ by lots of the Sai devotees, had the immense and priceless privilege to welcome a much esteemed person, who had not only the Grace to study in the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning in Puttaparthi, but also to be born in the physical family of our beloved Lord! This esteemed person is none other than Sri Rathnakar, Swami’s nephew. None of us can actually truly realize what a blessing it is to be born in Swami’s immediate family, but suffice it to say that it was such a blessing to have him as our guest speaker.

After a beautiful and divine Retreat in Wales the previous weekend, where lots of us had the golden opportunity to listen to inspirational speakers (Sravanam), and recollect His Glory (Mananam), a second opportunity to rejoice in pure vibrations was given by Bhagawan for those who were in the Retreat as well as for those who were not able to go.

More than 300 people gathered at Ram Mandir in the upper hall, which had been delicately and beautifully decorated, in a purple tone. Prayers and bhajans welcomed one and all to immerse oneself in a divine atmosphere and connect with our Swami. The programme anchor for the evening, brother Sanjay Samani, a long time Sai devotee, came on stage to welcome our National Chair Dr. Kiran Patel, who then warmly introduced Sri Rathnakar. From that instant, all the devotees silently and passionately listened to Swami’s nephew who instilled in us, by narrating various divine experiences, the awareness that, actually, we cannot ever fathom the infinite blessing we have been granted in knowing Swami; to have lived during His time here on earth as a human being; and to have experienced Him. Do we realize what a great Grace we have received? Do we truly realize that we have lived during the physical presence on Earth of a Purna Avatar? We are amazingly ‘lucky’, if we can say so, to have Swami in our life. Who would take care of us like He does? Who would have that selfless and everlasting Pure Love for us, inspite of whatever mistakes we commit? Swami gives us the Love of a thousand mothers, he said! Sri Rathnakar then narrated some of the details of the terrible car accident that he was involved in, where he suffered multiple leg fractures. He was not able to walk and his body was aching very badly. Swami took so much care of him and enquired very regularly about his health, showering his Love and Care on him as if He was his real mother, and even more than that! This was just to give a small glimpse of His Divine Love.

After Sri Rathnakar’s very touching and inspiring talk, Dr. Kishan Gadhia felicitated brother Rathnakar. Following this, a short musical item was offered by two of our talented youth, Anand Bhalsod on tabla and Akash Parekh on sitar. The beautiful evening ended with Arathi to the Lord.

Sri Rathnakar then had the supreme kindness to interact with several devotees, talking to some and accepting requests for photographs with some, thus demonstrating a great humility and love towards everyone.

Thanking Swami for this divine opportunity, let’s always remember the Grace that we are blessed with to know Him, and let’s do our best to serve Him as much as we can, with selfless love, and in the awareness that He is present in every one of our brothers and sisters.

Marine Aufranc
Region 4, SSSSO UK

Sri Rathnakar in London

After a long weekend National Sai Retreat event in Llandudno, Wales, Tuesday the 3rd of Sept at London was the finale of Sri Rathnakar’s visit and talks to devotees in UK. Over 300 devotees participated in the London event. After a brief introduction by our National Chair Dr. Kiran Patel, Sri Rathnakar delivered an inspiring talk for approximately an hour. The Key messages from his talk are given below.

God comes looking for us when we are in trouble

He narrated an incident which took place during one of the Bhagawan’s Divine Visits to Ooty, a hill station in Tamil Nadu South India. Swami had instructed about 10-15 students to be ready to leave in the morning at 3 am in two cars and a van. But as the boys forgot to inform the drivers about this early start, Swami and the group could leave Brindavan only about 4 am! Swami chided the boys gently and said that laziness is not good for youngsters! En route, one of the luggage pieces fell off the van, as it wasn’t properly secured due to all the haste in the morning. So the van and the car in which the boys were travelling stopped, and having noticed this, Swami’s car stopped too. And Swami alighted from the car and came enquiring out of concern! Once informed, Swami again chided the boys for their negligence. After another hour or so, whilst near Mysore, the van developed a technical snag and the journey had to stalled again. This time it was decided to leave the van behind along with some students to get it repaired, and for Swami’s entourage to proceed in the two cars.

Unfortunately, after another hour or so, the ca in which Sri Rathnakar and 2 other boys were travelling behind Swami, started making rattling noises. Although the driver was anxious to inspect, Sri Rathnakar forbade him so as not to draw Swami’s attention and disturb the journey again. But as the rattling increased and the driver became more restless, they decided to stop at a place where the road took a curve, in the hope that they wouldn’t be noticed by Swami’s car that had gone past the curve already. They took only a minute or so to inspect the problem, which thankfully was only a minor one, and quickly resumed their journey. To their astonishment, they now saw Swami’s car approaching them in the opposite direction! Sri Rathnakar was frightened and worried lest they irritated Swami who perhaps decided to abandon the trip and return to Brindavan. However, much to his relief, Swami’s car turned back about 50 metres from them and finally they reached Ooty. Sri Rathnakar tried to keep a low profile, and a little away, out of fear of admonishment or ‘fireworks’ as he put it.

But Swami sent word for him! He went into Bhagawan’s Presence with a tremble and a shiver, but Swami was aware of Rathnakar’s fear and allayed it immediately by such gentle words. Swami enquired about what happened to his car, and said most tenderly that He was coming back only out of worry for his safety and to see if they needed help!

Rathnakar said that God comes back again and again, whenever we are troubled, so as to take us to the abode of safety and higher peace. He leaves behind all His Comforts and Troubles instantly, and comes to rescue all of us, His children, he added.

Bhagawan is with us

He also said that many people ask him various questions about the Advent of Prema Sai. I do not know the answer he said. However, we are sure that Swami has left the physical body in order to be with each of us, and he assured that He has not left us at all! Some of us had the good fortune of Darshan, Sparshan and Sambhashan with Bhagawan. Many people hear about Swami now, and many newcomers are visiting Prashanthi Nilayam in ever increasing numbers. This he said cannot be due to any human effort, and is proof that Bhagawan is ever present amongst us, continuing to inspire and guide millions around the world along the Sai Path.

God is there to lighten our load, not to increase it

He narrated another anecdote between Lord Sri Krishna and the Gopikas. The Gopikas used to carry heavy pots of water on their heads, and would request the Lord to give a helping hand in lifting the pots on to their heads. But Bhagawan Krishna used to ignore their requests. However, when the gopikas reached home and were about to off load the pots, he would go unasked and running to help them. When the perplexed gopikas asked why he didn’t help them earlier, the Lord simply replied that it was not in his nature to burden his devotees with any load. His Nature allowed him only to lighten the burdens of His devotees!

Bhagawan knows everything and is the Master of Time

He narrated a personal life incident, when his father Late Sri. Janakiramaiah suddenly fell ill in 2003. Sri Rathnakar who was at home in Puttaparthi rushed him to the Superspeciality Hospital at 3 am in the morning, where he was diagnosed as suffering from a heart attack. As the doctors resuscitated and stabilised him, Rathnakar went to the Prasanthi Mandir to report to Swami at 8.30am. Bhagawan had received the news by then, and as he enquired from Rathnakar, said ‘Your father’s lungs are tired!’. Although doctors gave a good prognosis, this statement of Bhagawan sounded prophetic to Rathnakar. Over the next fortnight, Bhagawan visited his father in the hospital many times and spent much time with his family regularly. His father seemed to recover well and the medical staff in attendance felt encouraged to discharge him soon. Bhagawan again instructed Rathnakar to inform Him a day or two prior to discharge, so He can send a ‘big vehicle in which he can come sleeping’. Rathnakar felt that Swami was indicating that his father would not survive, and had been preparing and counselling him and his family over the past 2 weeks. As it turned out, his father passed away that week and Swami had sent a big ambulance for his final rituals.

A similar incident took place during Sri Kasturi’s lifetime too, which brother Rathnakar narrated in detail. During their very first meeting, Swami had stated ‘If there is no birth and death, how will I spend my time Kasturi?’. On another occasion, whilst interacting with a group of students who put up a Shiva Tandavam dance show, He noticed a wrist watch on the boy who played the character of Lord Shiva. Bhagawan humorously commented, “How can Shiva, being the Lord of Time, wear a watch?”. Then, pulling up the sleeve of His Robe and pointing to His Wrist said, “See! Shiva doesn’t wear a watch!”

These incidents, Sri Rathnakar said, reveal how the Divine Lord whilst reminding us of His Supreme Divinity, interacted with us at human level and behaved in a human way so as to make us realise that we are no different and not separate from Him. Yet we lose our way, despite having had the blessing of Darshan (seeing), Sparshan (touching) and Sambhashan (talking) with Him. The only way to stay connected at all times, he said, was to contemplate and pratise His Teachings which are only simple.

Bhagawan has always given each of us the comfort and security in our life. It is our duty to be part of the Sai Mission, and that is the only tribute we can offer to the lotus feet of our beloved Bhagawan. Sri Rathnakar ended his speech by praying and seeking Bhagawan blessing for each, and everyone gathered there and their families.

May Bhagawan bless us all

Sam Sambanthan
Region 3 Chair Person

Sri Rathnakars Talks at the Retreat: Inaugural Address

National Retreat: Divine Bliss – Echoes of Eternal Harmony
Address by Sri R J Rathnakar (31st August 2013)
‘Divine Bliss – Being in the Divine Presence’

Sri Rathnakar began his address with prayers and gratitude to our dear Lord Bhagawan Baba. In this address, he brought out wonderful facets of Swami’s Divine personality through his personal experiences.

He began his talk by sharing how he always kept in focus the truth that Swami is God Incarnate, the Supreme Divine Master, rather than feeling that Swami was his uncle! He recalled that there wasn’t a single moment when he didn’t have the awareness in Swami’s Presence that He is God! If there were any momentary lapses at all, then Swami would restore this immediately in a very loving, casual, simple and humble way.

Sri Rathnakar recollected an incident where even a raging wild animal was able to recognise Swami’s Divine Presence and calmed down immediately. Swami had decided to take a small group of students to Ooty, a hill station in Tamilnadu, which could only be accessed via a dense forest called Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary. Whilst travelling through the forest, they encountered a traffic jam involving around 200 vehicles. On further enquiry, they found that a big male elephant, trumpeting ferociously, was standing in the middle of the highway and wasn’t prepared to move. Swami asked for the car to be driven forward so that He could see this elephant. As He approached, Swami lowered His window and looked at the elephant for a minute or so. It seemed to those nearby that the elephant also did the same! Most amazingly and immediately, the elephant slowly moved away and made way for Swami’s entourage. However soon afterwards, it was learnt later, the tusker resumed it’s tantrums, blocking the highway.

On another occasion, Sri Rathnakar and others were sitting at Swami’s Lotus Feet and doing ‘padaseva’ (gently pressing Swami’s feet). Swami asked one of the devotees what he wanted from Him? The devotee replied that he did not want anything, and that he considered being in Swami’s Divine Presence in itself as a unique boon. Swami brushed this aside firmly, and the devotee with tears in his eyes prayed and said that he considered Swami as his mother and father! Then Swami explained gently that every child inherits the characteristics and traits from its parents; only when a devotee practises Swami’s teachings in daily life, and reflects Swami’s divine characteristics, would he or she be accepted as His child! So Swami used to reveal such profound truths lovingly, but at the same time could be a hard task master!

Sri Rathnakar shared one mind-blowing experience that gives a glimpse Swami’s silent Omniscience and Omnipotence. This happened on another blessed occasion when he was chosen to accompany Swami to Kodaikanal with a group of students. Devotees were seated for the morning darshan, and inside Swami’s Residence he was standing near a window, waiting for Swami. Swami soon came near him and enquired if all the devotees were settled and seated for His Darshan. Innocently brother Rathnakar opened the curtain and looked out to ascertain this, when Swami quickly stopped him and remarked, “Aye, what are you doing? Do you want to give the first Darshan?”. Swami had a fantastic sense of humour! Swami said that to peep all one needed was a very small gap in the curtain, just enough to accommodate one’s eye! So, as he followed Swami’s advice and peeped out, he noticed a lady in one of the front rows sobbing openly. He informed Swami that this poor lady was crying. Swami looked at brother Rathnakar and commented, ”Oh! You are very kind hearted. Why don’t you call her for an interview and find out what is the problem.”

He then went out to give darshan and picked a few devotees for interview, including the lady who was sobbing. After the interview, brother Rathnakar noticed that this lady was gleaming in joy and was himself happy for Swami’s blessing on her. Later, as the group of students were returning from a walk around the lake as per Swami’s instructions, he came across this same lady! His curiosity overtook him, and so he introduced himself and gently enquired if she wouldn’t mind sharing her interaction with Swami in the Interview Room. She said that her husband was working in a European Ordinance factory where he was a marketing director. He was caught out in some serious trouble and was in custody in a European country. Swami said to her that her husband was innocent. He assured her not to worry and that He would protect him. Swami also told her that He would need one year to take him out! After 9 months, this lady bumped into brother Rathnakar by chance, outside the Ganesh Gate in Prasanthi Nilayam. And, recognising him, introduced her husband who was alongside her! True to Swami’s words, the husband was released unharmed in less than a year!

Another incident that Sri Rathnakar narrated was in relation to His Excellency, Late Sri Shankar Dayal Sharma, who was the President of India and a very ardent devotee of Swami. Many months prior to occupying this exalted position, when he was the Governor of the State of Andhra Pradesh, Swami had told him that He would give him a bigger job in Delhi. And so, he went onto become the President of India. It is beyond anyone’s comprehension how Swami operates!

Once brother Rathnakar was sitting at Swami’s Feet. Swami enquired if there was anything he wanted to ask. Since Swami persisted in this enquiry, he asked, “ Swami, how do we know we have your Grace?” Initially Swami said, “When you have lots of money!” Of course, brother Rathnakar knew that Swami was testing him, and so he kept quiet, prayerfully looking at Swami. Then Swami said, “When you have a high status and position of authority in society!” Again, he kept quiet. Swami continued in this vein for a little while, and Sri Rathnakar continued with his silent prayer waiting for the Divine Answer. Finally Swami said, “All these can be gained and lost. Why will I give such things that can be lost?” Then He revealed, ”Whatever you are doing, wherever you are, without your own effort, if My Thoughts are flowing in your mind and flooding it, that is the time I have decided to come to you. That is the sign of My Grace!”.

Sri Rathnakar concluded this talk exhorting everyone to remain focussed on Swami and His teachings which are the essence of all the scriptures, and to thus strengthen our inner connect, our inner bond with Swami. This he shared always keeps him happy and blissful.

Sri Rathnakars Talks at the Retreat: Valedictory Address

National Retreat: Valedictory Address by Sri R J Rathnakar (1st September 2013)
‘The Divine Sathya Sai Mission’

At the very outset, Sri Rathnakar expressed his delight being at the Retreat and felt very much at home with the kind of love and warmth he was experiencing here.

He commenced his address by saying that the Sai Mission and Sai Vision would continue with or without us since Swami will continue to take it forward. It would be our great fortune and blessing if we could be part of this wonderful experience.

Sri Rathnakar was recounting a moment with Swami when he was with other students in the interview room. One of the students said, “Swami, we will lay down our lives to you.” Swami looked at all of them and with a twinkle in His eye remarked, ”I don’t want dead bodies!”. So humorous, but profound! He further added that He wanted everyone to live for Him and live His Message. Only when we lived and practised His Message could we claim to be part of the Sai Mission.

Many a times Swami has reminded us to follow the inner conscience. Sri Rathnakar reiterated Swami’s message and said that if our conscience indicated something to be right, then we should go ahead and do it; if it does not indicate this, then not to do it! He added that the Self would never ever misguide us; the inner self would always guide us towards the right path. It was always prompting us and one should learn not to ignore it.

Swami was a unique personality who could relate to every individual. Sri Rathnakar made an attempt to understand how Swami was able to do this. He pondered that with our human limitations, whenever we looked at someone, then it was only natural to see that person through the prism of his position, background, his family and other such aspects. However, in God’s Vision, these parameters wouldn’t apply at all. He narrated an incident to illustrate this. He was once sitting with Swami in the interview room. Someone’s visiting card was brought to Swami which described that person was so and so and a Managing Director of a company. Swami’s humour is unparalleled, but His response was instantaneous: ”Managing Director….or Damaging Director! All out of Prasanthi Nilayam!”.

From being a witness to many such incidents, brother Rathnakar felt that whenever anyone entered Prasanthi Nilayam, Swami appeared to connect with our inner feelings and attitudes. He, being the Indweller in every living being, seemed to reflect Himself accordingly. He elaborated further with another incident.

He recollected the day when he had witnessed the splendour of Swami on the Golden Chariot. Millions of assembled devotees were offering their respects and salutations to Him in utmost devotion and reverence. After blessing them, Swami returned to His Residence at Yajur Mandir, and asked the watchman if he had his lunch. Often times, if the programme was a bit delayed, He would express His concern to the watchman or gate keeper or a volunteer manning the gate. That is how He connected to everyone. For Swami, every living creature was His own reflection. He saw Himself in everyone. And no wonder then that all of us were drawn to Him!

Sri Rathnakar also touched upon the question: Why some of us were the fortunate few in this vast population to have witnessed and interacted with the Avatar? Perhaps it was our past karmic deeds, he mused. He gave a good analogy using the example of iron filings which are attracted by a magnet. If iron filings were too rusted, they wouldn’t get attracted to the magnet. It is not as though people who hadn’t come to Swami are rusted, or that we were very pure! Those of us who have come to Swami are already in His Divine Mission, he stated thoughtfully. Sri Rathnakar further added that if we continued to follow Swami and His teachings, the Sai Mission would be an integral part of us. Otherwise sadly, it would be separate from us, and external to us. But it would still continue! He urged all devotees to make the entire Mission part of us so that we would be blessed forever.

A young lady had approached him at the Retreat, he said, asking if he had any advice for the youth. He shared that it was essential for the youth to get involved in the Sai Movement in an enthusiastic and vibrant way. He questioned what is youth, and shared a wonderful thing that Swami had once said:

YOU and TRUTH is YOUTH.

He exclaimed that you would always remain Youthful when you made Truth (Sathya) a part of You.

Sri Rathnakar connected this to Swami and said that because Swami was the very embodiment of Truth (Sathya), He looked very youthful and full of enthusiasm. Whilst energy and enthusiasm were important for the youth , Sri Rathnakar stressed the importance of having experience and wisdom as well. He cited the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust as an example where the elders of the Trust bridged the important gap of experience and wisdom that a younger person is yet to possess. The youth and the elders had to be working together and complementing each other. He encouraged the youth to take Swami as the inspiration. Swami laid the foundation stone for the construction of Prasanthi Nilayam when He was only 21. He started the General Hospital when He was 30 years old!

Sri Rathnakar shared a question that a devotee had posed him – why was it that Sathya Sai Baba didn’t have a person such as Vivekananda? In one of the interviews Sri Rathnakar was blessed to have, Swami asked him what he wanted to become. Very innocently, he replied that he wanted to become like Vivekananda. Swami lovingly asked him why? To this he replied that Vivekananda was a great personality. Lovingly Swami responded, ”No need! You become like me instead! Why do you want to become like Vivekananda?”. Sri Rathnakar then reiterated that we had to become like Swami to be part of Swami’s Mission.

Before concluding, Sri Rathnakar shared a touching experience. There was a gentleman who used to be physically close to Swami. Swami stopped talking to him, and understandably, this gentleman was very sad and dejected. He once shared his deep anguish with brother Rathnakar, and at an opportune moment, he conveyed it to Swami. Swami’s responded and said that if someone had a breathing problem, why blame the air? The problem was not with the air! So too, If one was not feeling the Love of Swami, why lay the blame on Him? it was not the mistake of Swami! He said that It was important for each and everyone of us to introspect and correct ourselves, so we could all feel the Divine Love which Swami is.

With that, Sri Rathnakar concluded his very interesting and thoughtful talk. He thanked the organisers, people in the kitchen who lovingly fed everyone, Mr Prasad an ardent devotee of Swami whose support was very crucial for various arrangements, and all the devotees for all the Love that he had received from them. He felt fully in bliss and was feeling the echoes of Swami’s voice. He said that he was going to carry the memories back to Prasanthi Nilayam. He prayed to Bhagawan to be close to us at all times, so that we remained always in Divine Bliss.

Region 1 - Brixton Eid-ul-Fitr Celebration

On the 11th of August, the Sathya Sai Baba Centre of Brixton celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr. On that day, we were very blessed to be joined by around half-a-dozen of our Muslim brothers and sisters from the Hyderi Islamic School, a local madrassah (Islamic school), who were present throughout all the proceedings.

We started our group devotional singing as per normal with our multi-faith prayers, including al-Faatihah, the first verse of the Holy Koran in which we both praise God and ask him for His guidance on the right path.

We all sang multi-faith devotional songs, all referring to the name of Allah; and throughout felt Swaami's presence as well. Only recently, our Centre had introduced a system whereby all songs to be sung are decided in advance and listed on a board, with books available for all to follow if needed. We felt that Swaami had waited until we had introduced this so that we were then truly ready to welcome any visitors, for indeed our dear guests sat through the whole programme and were able to follow all the devotional songs using the books provided.

Following the aartee, we had the pleasure from two preachers from the madrassah. The first, Sister Rummana Kazmi, talked about the unity of faiths and how Islamic teachings on love and peace were similar to those in the Bhagavad Geetaa and the Mahaabhaarat. She also addressed the matter of the wearing of the headscarf by women and whether this was oppressive to women. She explained that wearing a headscarf signified both modesty and self-respect. She made the very astute observation that, in modern Western society, men are considered well-dressed when fully-clothed in elegant suits; whereas women are considered glamorous when wearing next-to-nothing! Considering the headscarf to be oppressive is therefore the opinion of a society that has its morals out of balance. She also made the point that Muslim men are – for their part – instructed to lower their gazes when encountering women; hearing this, we recalled how Swami instructed His students to do the same. There is therefore a responsibility on both genders to behave in an appropriate manner.

Sister Rummana also raised the subject of jihaad. Although a commonly-used term, it was not well understood: she explained the word means “struggle” and, here, the struggle is really an internal, spiritual one, not a “holy war”.

The second speaker, Dr. Muhammad Zakaria, talked about the spiritual side of Islam, narrating his own personal experience and what it means to him. There was a lot of overlap with what Swaami teaches us about respecting and loving everybody: he actually said if you are a Muslim, you should be a better Muslim; if you are a Hindu, you should be a better Hindu. Listening to him made us feel like we were listening to Swami Himself.

Afterwards, they were both very happy to answer any questions we had. One of the questions was why Muslim men are apparently allowed to have four wives. The answer was that Islam was founded in Arabia, at a time when the prevailing culture already allowed men to have a number of wives. Therefore, Prophet Mohammed allowed Muslim men to continue having four wives, in keeping with this culture, provided that there is justice. As was pointed out, it is often the case that true justice is difficult enough to exercise whilst having one wife, let alone four! Thus, whilst ostensibly having four wives is allowed, the reality is much different.

We also learned from Dr Zakaria that a shrine to Guru Naanak exists in Iraq, near one to Prophet Mohammed, showing that all religions are one. And, as Swaami says, there is only one religion, the religion of love.

After this, consecrated food was distributed. All were very happy to have been present to talk about Islam and witness the unity of faiths in action. Sister Rummana even took away a copy of our Centre’s devotional singing programme, containing all the prayers we regularly recite from various major world faiths.

We were truly blessed on that day, as we felt the happiness of sharing and love amongst everybody. The fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man were felt to be a reality during what was a very special and memorable programme.

Aum Jai Sai Ram

Region 1 – Merton Centre: Youth Reunion

“EVERY activity of man is dependent on the energy he derives from the intake of food.” ~ Baba

The sun finally reappeared for the exciting day on Sunday 18th August when the Merton Youth reunion took place at Merton Sai Centre, and those days of consistent rain suddenly seemed like a distant memory.

There is nothing quite like the delicious aroma of the barbecue (fully vegetarian) wafting across our venue to set up a terrific event, from delicate spring rolls to scrumptious cupcakes. Barbecuing on this site with the helping hands of the Youth meant our food was wonderfully fresh, succulent and sizzling hot.

After refuelling our bodies with the barbecue food, we stepped up and used our gained energy to playing games. Sitting in a circle, the Youth were organised into three teams, namely Shanti, Prema and Ahimsa, where we started off with a game of Charades, acting out Swami’s Sayings, such as

"End of education is character". ~ Baba

Acting out Swami’s Sayings, knowing and understanding them allowed the Youth to link them back into their lives and guide them.

Following on from Charades, the three teams were given sticky tape and newspaper. It was the time of the day to construct the tallest tower. Some people tried the scrolling method; but others, for different results, chose simply to scrunch.

We had discussed that the foundation is very important, as the tower will stand, no matter what comes against it, relating to the Youth being the foundation to become future leaders and to grow and develop their ideal character.

The auspicious event was wrapped with three Aums and a message promoted from building the tower, the message is as follows,

“No matter what we are in our lives, no matter how strong, young and powerful we are, if our roots are not deep enough, we will fall. Our Lord has said this morning that youth is the foundation of life. If this foundation is not strong enough, if it does not go deep enough, the building of our life will collapse when even a small earth-shake strikes. Where should we base this foundation of our lives? Generally we seek an education as the base of this foundation. We think that education will give us knowledge, wisdom and intelligence so that the foundation of our lives is strong, so that we will be strong.

Without Swami’s love, without His teachings, without Swami in our lives, our lives are bland and useless. Let us ask ourselves – What will be our lives without Swami? Our roots will be shallow as those of the red wood tree. Any breeze will blow us down; even a small gust of wind will bring us down to earth. In our lives, at this age, we always seek a good piece of earth where we can strike our roots; we seek a centre of our lives. Many a time, the youngsters outside choose a wrong centre for their lives.” ~ Baba

Saaranijha Ganesalingam
Merton Sai Centre, Region 1

Region 2 – Young Adult Programme 2013: Life...

The first session of the Young Adult Programme (YAP) 2013 for Region 2 took place in August, hosted by Pinner Sai Centre. The challenge set for us to bring to Life Swami’s Quote, Life is a Game, Play it! One of the aims of the YAP is to provide a platform through which our young adults can discuss aspects of spirituality in our lives. With this in mind, we thought it was apt to commence this year’s YAP with an event that provided our young adults an opportunity to introduce ourselves to one another and to consider how we integrate spirituality into our daily living.

Pinner Centre Young Adults volunteered to kick of the R2 2013 YAP season with a round of Ten Pin Bowling that brought out a spiritual twist! Starting as we meant to go on, we organised ourselves into teams named after the 5 Human Values. The encouragement everyone received, even from members of different teams, was very uplifting! Whilst bowling it was important to keep the deeper spiritual message in mind: The ball is like the concentration needed in Sadhana – The more we practice at making it one pointed the better we become at knocking down the pins of desire, anger, greed, attachment, illusion, jealousy and egoism. To be successful in bowling (as well as in spirituality) we had to have complete focus on our target without being side-tracked by the distractions around us.

After the bowling, we all gathered at one of the brothers’ home to have a Sathsang together. We began by sharing dinner together whilst watching an inspirational video of Swami which highlighted how much life truly is a game. As in all games, there are guidelines that should be followed, and we are very fortunate to have been given guidelines by Swami to follow in life…The 9 Point Code of Conduct. If we follow these guidelines and put in our full effort, we will all certainly win the game of life. We also talked discussed how we can remain motivated by encouraging each other in this Game of Life.

To help remind us of these guidelines and continue the “Game” theme, we concluded the session with a game of Charades. We took turns to enact Sai Teachings, including 9 Point Code of Conduct with our respective teams trying to guess what was being being acted out. Everyone was really involved as Charades proved to be very interactive. All the participants spent quality time with each other by sharing their views on "Life is a Game - Play it" and how that applies in their lives. The whole Region 2 Youth team received great feedback from those present in terms of how well the whole program went.

At the end of the Sathsang, everyone came forward to help clear up and also take any remaining food along with them to avoid wastage. It was a great evening, well spent in Learning by doing. We can’t wait for the next R2 YAP event, to be arranged soon by the Harrow East Youth Team. …Life is a Challenge, Meet it!

~ Youth Team, Pinner Sai Centre

Region 3 - Foster Hill Sai Centre Bedford Laksharchan

"Sarvada Sarva Kaleshu Sarvatra Hari Chintanam" - everywhere, at all times, under all circumstances contemplate on God.

There is nothing sweeter than the name of God. It is the cure for all diseases in the world and to chant his name is the easiest path to reach the Lord.

A Laksharchana is a very unique and powerful sadhana of chanting the divine name. Concerning the word’s actual meaning : ARCHANA means “chanting and glorifying the Divine name”. LAK means 100,000. Therefore, LAKSHARCHANA is the name and practice of repeating in a group, the name of the Lord in the form of a Mantra.

The original founder of the Laksharchana, Dr Ghadia was a long standing devotee of Swami. He travelled all over the world and shared his experiences and teachings of Swami. One day during an interview he asked Baba for a mantra which devotees could recite for their spiritual practice and in His honour. Baba replied that all mantras were fine and that he had no real preference. However, Dr. Gadhia insisted on having a mantra given by Swami. Finally Swami gave in and told him that the devotees could recite: OM SRI SATHYA SAI KRISHNAYA NAMAH. This is how the Laksharchana’s began with this Mantra. When it is said with high energy, in unison and with devotion by all present, the effects are really powerful.

In 2005 Swami approached Mr Vadgama and asked him to continue the work of Dr Ghadia. Hesitant at first Mr Vadgama politely declined due to his elderly age and weak voice however, Swami reassured him that he would chant the mantra for him and went on to materialise pink vibhuti for him. Since then Mr Vadgama has performed Laksharchanas all over the world, and on Saturday 17th August 2013, Mr Vadgama kindly conducted the Laksharchana programme in Bedford.

The programme began with Vedam chanting and bhajans, followed by a short introduction of the significance of Laksharchana. Approximately 130 people attended hence 7 mala’s were performed. These were interspersed with soulful bhajans and a narration of Mr Vadgama’s experiences with Swami.

On the day we were also fortunate to have Mr Arun Kumar Panda, a long standing devotee of Swami, as our guest speaker. He touched on the importance of seva, his work on the Sri Sathya Sai Water project in Orissa, and his intimate experiences with Swami.

Finally, Swami blessed us with his presence as specs of vibhuti appeared on his photograph during the programme.

"You may undertake any number of spiritual practices, but never forget God’s name even for a moment. Chant the name of God day in and day out. That alone will protect you at all times. You can achieve anything through prayer."
- Baba

By Foster hill Bedford Youth

Region 3 - Region 3 Youth Awareness Programme

On 8th September, the Region 3 Young Adult Programme (YAP) session took place at the Foster Hill Sai Centre Bedford.

After a welcome by Foster Hill Sai Centre Chair, Aunty Smita Chotai, Brother Kapil Dev Prasher (R3 Youth Coordinator), opened the session by briefly recapping on the previous session’s theme of ‘Master’. Our Regional YAP sessions are a follow up and continuity from the National Youth Conference’s that took place in February on theme of ‘Master, Message and Messenger’.

This current session focused on the theme of ‘Message’ and was opened with the question of ‘What is Swami’s Message>; What did He Stand for?’ Some of the responses included;
• ‘Love All, Serve All’
• ‘Help Ever, Hurt Never’
• ‘I am God and so are you’
• To see God in everything around us e.g. nature

The group then divided into two groups to discuss two different questions linked to Swami’s Message; what was meant by the message of Love? And, What is meant by Swami’s message of Divinity (being ‘children of Immortality’)?’

Concerning Love, the group discussed the nature of Divine Love being unconditional and that in contrast, human love is associated with attachments e,g, towards mother, father, friends, between a mother and a child and certain expectations are also present. In relation to human love towards God, in its early stages our Love towards God may also be conditioned. In developing unconditional Love we must learn to look beyond the physical form and see the God within all, just as Swami sees us as ‘Premaswarupalara’ (embodiments of Love). The group also discussed that Love is our nature by birth right and that worldly influences and desires can sometime interfere with this. Finally the group discussed whether Love encompassed Divinity and came to conclusion that they were one and the same.

Concerning Divinity, the second group came up with the various interpretations such as unconditional Love as opposed to loving only those whom we wish to. As the discussion progressed the following key points were raised:

• One way of recognising that we are God is by remembering we are God.
• Recognise Divinity in other people and understand them.
• Undertake selfless service - don’t just do something for the sake of doing it.

Thereafter, Brother Shyam Jamnadas, National Youth Co-ordinator, spoke about the global ‘Serve the Planet’ project as an opportunity to put into practice what we have just been discussing and take Swami’s Message of Love to the community and BE His Messengers. Brother Shyam provided an outline of the UK food bank project and encouraged youth participation in this wonderful initiative of providing food items to those on the poverty line to local food banks that are under the Trussell Trust.

The last part of the session was a workshop entitled ‘Giving with Love’, conducted by sister Sutopa Sen (Region 3 Ladies Coordinator), where participants in the session made cards, rosaries and necklaces to be given as part of gift parcels, which are to be distributed for young children in the upcoming Kazakhstan Medical Camp.

"The life of Sai, the Message of Sai, the ideals Sai holds forth, the lesson that Sai teaches the world, are all enshrined in one word, Love. Children of immortality! Remember that you are created in my image and likeness. Perfect. Live up to this image in all planes. Live like Masters! Walk this earth with your heads held high, your spirits soaring, your hearts open to Love, and believe in yourself and the God within you. Talk to me and love me who is in each. Then from each I will respond and bring you into glory"
- Baba

Jai Sai Ram
Foster Hill Centre Bedford Youth, Region 3

Region 4 - Coventry End of Year SSE Celebrations

Sunday, 7th July 2013 was the end of year SSE Celebrations Assembly. The peaceful morning began with the children and Gurus singing beautiful universal prayers.

Kalpanaben warmly welcomed all the parents who were present and explained how the day would unfold. All the children from each group were going to present their thoughts and ideas about how SSE has helped them this year and what aspects of SSE they thoroughly enjoyed. Group 3 were going to share information they had researched and learned. As the children had planned their own individual talks, it was going to be a surprise for all.

Nursery (aged 4-5) and Group 1 (aged 6-9) children began the presentations with the youngest member, Kulam age 5, who shyly revealed that he was good boy, now that he attends SSE. Amrita expressed the importance of practising prayers for her. Menagaa said, now that she has been taught how to meditate, she meditates regularly. Neha talked about how much she enjoyed being with everyone in class and doing the role plays. Role plays are important for younger children, as it helps them to understand the message in the story. Krishan talked about how SSE has given him the courage and confidence to speak in public. He explained that during Shivratri festival, he was able to stand in front of a large audience and deliver a speech confidently. He felt this was as a result of attending SSE. Aingaran talked about how he puts Baba’s teachings into practice. The final speaker for the group was Canaga, who mentioned how much she had enjoyed taking part in national programmes such as Eswaramma Day, which was held in Hatfield. When programmes are celebrated on a national level, children have the opportunity to meet other like minded children of similar age.

It was a very exciting and proud moment for the parents who attentively listened to what their child was about to share.

Then Group 2 children (aged 9-12) started with Manay, who shared an anecdote with the parents about the Golden Heart. He concluded with some interesting points such as - always look at the bigger picture. Kishan talked about the significance of prayers. Baba says,” Prayers are important as they are the direct communication line to God.” Children in SSE learn new prayers with their meanings. Shyaami explained how each human value can be put into practice in our day to day life, for example, by doing the right thing everyday, is to have right conduct. This was really interesting to hear, as it came from her heart.

Dhruv researched the topic of ‘A Healthy Body’. He shared so many interesting facts about how one should eat a balanced diet; exercise both spiritually and morally. He explained the significance of the 5 human values in keeping a healthy body and mind. It was fascinating to hear how Dhruv managed to tie the key points of being healthy physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually and how they are important to a healthy body.

Finally the last group (aged 12-15) - Aman and Darshan presented their researched SSE topic. This was full of fascinating facts about the Indian Culture and History. They found out that Indian architecture is influenced by the different cultures in India; they went on to discuss the music, instruments, the different types of food and languages in India and how cultural interaction has led to ‘Unity in Diversity’.

Following the presentations, Hasuben and Kishorbhai presented every child with a certificate, a gift and a quote from Baba. The children received them with appreciation.Kishorbhai (the Centre Chair) thanked Hasuben (SSE Coordinator) and all the teachers for their hard work and extended his gratitude to the parents, for regularly bringing the children to SSE. Kalpanaben was appointed the new SSE Coordinator, who equally thanked the parents for their continued support. Hasuben presented the Gurus with gifts as a gesture of thanks and parents also presented Gurus with flowers.

Swami says, “Acharya Devo Bhavo.”

The programme finished by singing the melodious Aarti, with the all the children linking together to perform the Aarti. Following the Aarti, the food prayers were sung. Children and parents all celebrated the end of yet another exciting year of SSE by part taking in all the different, homemade, delicious dishes brought in by parents and Gurus. Everyone had a good time. We thank Swami for guiding us and filling our lives with love and bliss.

By: Meena Matharu, SSE Parent.

Region 4 - Coventry Janmashtami Celebrations

On Wednesday 28 August the Coventry Sai family gathered to take part in the Janmashtami celebrations from 7.30pm until midnight.

The programme began with the chanting of Vedam creating a divine and peaceful atmosphere. This was followed by bhajans sung for the beautiful Lord Krishna. The bhajans included some that were sung in Swami’s sweet voice including ‘Hey Giridhara Gopala’ and ‘Govinda Krishna Jai’.

After the melodious bhajans the sisters and brothers took part in a quiz. The quiz included questions about Krishna’s birth, the Gita, and Mahabharat, as well as touching some of Swami’s teachings. The quiz was a great chance for all to learn about things they did not know before. It was also good fun, especially the gentle competition between the sisters and brothers!

Everyone present then settled into watching various video clips of Swami and past Janmashtami celebrations that took place in Prashanti Nilayam. It was a beautiful sight watching Swami give darshan to his children eagerly waiting for him. There were also some lovely clips of Swami feeding his beloved Sai Geeta, and other animals in Sai Kulwant Hall.

Followed by the video presentation were some more bhajans, leading to a group song prepared by some of the Coventry Sai family. This then lead to the unveiling of our beloved Krishna in his ‘julha’, and one by one the Coventry Sai family rocked Bhagawan gently.

A quote that Swami gave about Lord Krishna:

“In Realty, Truth is God; Love is God; Dharma is God. The Gopîs and Gopalas saw in Krishna the embodiment of truth, love and dharma. What He said was Truth; what He was became Love, what He did was Dharma. They were so immersed in Krishna-consciousness that they saw everywhere and in everything nothing but Krishna. Krishna for them did not exist as a separate entity in the home of Nanda; He was right in their own consciousness, at all levels of it. These Gopîs and Gopalas were true bhaktas indeed.”

Geeta Parashar

Region 4 - Rugby Sai Centres 30th Anniversary Celebrations

On Saturday 17th August at 5.30pm the first sound of Omkar greeted everyone assembled in the hall ; inviting our beloved Swami by welcoming him with prayers and mantras and our heartfelt wishes to bless the event by his presence and loving grace.

Invocation to Lord Ganesh was in a form of a Bharat Natyam dance by a SSE student, followed by a welcome speech by Dr. Siva .

Our first speaker was Dr. Prabhodhbhai Mistry one of the founders of the Rugby Sai Centre 30 years ago when Swami inspired this young devotee along with Dr. Kantibhai Parmar , Ashwinbhai Mistry and others to start the centre. Dr. Mistry gave an insight into how the centre started, the support and the enthusiasm with which everyone took on responsibilities to bring the centre where it is at present and a Sai Centre was “ born “ in Rugby. Prabodhbhai’s key message was to encourage the SSE and youths by being examples and taking on more of Swami’s Work.

Next we had songs by the SSE children depicting what we must yearn for , from Bhagwan in the form of a song titled "I have a dream" How wonderful it was to hear the children’s voices in such harmony.

We were then treated by Dr. Parmar who gave a speech in Gujarati ; sharing his experiences and how into the centre's 2nd year , a pilgrim to Prashanti was arranged and a group of Devotees set out for Bhagwan's Darshan. There Swami materialised a Lingam for Ashwinbhai; a blessing from our Lord was greeted with tears from the pilgrims.

Also the hosting of several events such as Laksha Charan attended by Dr. Dhirubhai Gadhia and activities like food parcels and boxes for the homeless was part of the centre’s regular seva.

Next Dr. Siva read a short but loving message sent by Ashwinbhai from New Jersey, USA.

This was followed by yet another song by the SSE children "We are the children of Sai" the multi coloured ribbons tied to their wrists made a sea of waves in the ocean of love experienced by all gathered.

What followed next brought found memories and happy tears to one’s eyes when a slide show of past and present events and people was presented to all.

We ended this wonderful event by a group of singers called "One World" who took us all to a different level with their Gospel type songs followed by the Aarati and Maha Prasadam.

Koti Koti pranams and my humble thank you to our Beloved Bhagwan for this wonderful day.

Jai Sai Ram - Savita Mistry

Region 4 - Sathsang with Mr T.V Hariharan in Leicester

We, devotees in UK were very fortunate to have Shri T V Hariharan visiting us in the month of August. Mr Hariharan is one of the first few students who joined the Sri Sathya Sai College in Prashanti Nilayam in 1979, two years even before the Sri Sathya Sai University (SSSU) was formally inaugurated. He worked in the Administrative Block of the newly opened up SSSU for two years until 1984. He pursued further studies in Bangalore and worked in a pharmaceutical company for 3 years. But in 1989 he resigned from work and ever since he has been involved in spreading our Beloved Bhagawan’s message through naamasmaran – bhajans, music, workshops and talks at different Sai centres and other spiritual gatherings throughout the globe.

Brother Hariharan comes across as an embodiment of devotion and humbleness, two of the many hallmarks of Swami’s teachings. This article is based on Hariharanji’s bhajan workshop in Leicester on 11th August 2013 and the Heart to Heart article called “FROM THE JOY OF SYMPHONY TO THE BLISS OF SAI” (By Mr. T. V. Hariharan). He had the good fortune of being part of the first bhajan group in Prashanti and also learnt and played the Carnatic violin. Bhagawan had gifted him a violin and asked him to accompany Smt. M S Shubhalaxmi for the jhoola darshan (when Swami used to sit on a swing) on the occasion of Swami’s birthday in 1982.

Brother started with expressing his deep gratitude towards Swami and related how little we actually need to live and to always be grateful to the Lord for providing us so much abundance in our lives. During the workshop brother Hariharan rendered many soul-inspiring bhajans and lifted all the devotees to new heights of spiritual bliss. The strong vibrations were felt by many who happened to be present in the audience. That is the strength of real devotion transmitted through a bhajan singer when it makes the audience forget their ‘individual’ selves. Hariharanji, cautioned all of us during his talk about over emphasising on mere musical ‘expertise’ by saying, “It is not the expertise of bhajan singers alone…..but their hearts which they use to pour out (devotion to Lord)” He reiterated that he often prays to Swami to give him enough Shakti (strength) to lose himself in His Love, something we can all learn to aspire to.

How fortunate we are that we are born in the time when an Avatara walked on this very earth! We cannot emphasise this fact enough times. Moreover Swami as the Avatara always sends His chosen instruments to inspire, guide and thrill us with divine ecstasy and brother Hariharan is undoubtedly such an instrument. He expressed sweetly his gratitude in the bhajan, “Kaise bataayen hama kitne dhanya, kaise sunaayen bhaagya hamaare” (How can we express how blessed we are, what good fortunes we have!) but also reminded us how we all should aim for perfect purity in another of his rendition, “Mailee chaadar audh ke kaise, dwaara tumhaare aavun” (O Lord, how can I come to your door with my impure mind?)

Hariharanji gave some very useful and relevant advice and tips for singing bhajans. Bhava (feeling, emotion) for God is central of them besides being clear about the reasons for singing bhajans. Along with bhava, comes drishti (the way we look at the world). It is not mere physical nearness to the Lord but our bhava for Him which can result in His Grace. Bhajan singing is seva (service) for all listeners and not an instrument for aggrandising our ego(s). Brother Hariharan advocated practising bhajans hundreds of times and refining them to such an extent that we lose ourselves completely in it. About ego, brother amusingly related Bhagawan’s dictum that only God was one and we were all zeroes without God.

“Swami often says that if you sing Meera bhajans, you should become a Meerabai yourself; if you recite Kabir’s couplets, you should transform yourself into a Kabir; and if you render a Tyagaraja keertana, you should be filled with the devotion that Tyagaraja had for Lord Rama.”

He emphasised the need to keep bhajans simple so that they can be easily followed by all and also they enable relevant and powerful expression of devotion. “Endeavour to match the correct meaning and emotion to the bhajan that you are singing. Feel the bhava behind the meaning of the bhajan.” Brother Hariharanji and also pointed out to the strange fact that though Lord Rama, Lord Krishna and Lord Jesus incarnated such long times before, we still sing their glories since they are more eternal principles like righteousness and love and not mere historical personalities. He remarked that even more complicated classical bhajans can be sung in simple ways.

Hariharanji’s example about purity was powerful and reached straight to our heart. He compared our body and our being like a (Godrej) safe and reminded us that we would only keep very valuable items in such this safe – so only pure and divine thoughts and feelings need to be there. Another essential element in our spiritual practice is unflinching faith in Swami like the simple-minded devotee who had no doubt that God can do anything - He can even send an elephant through the eye of a needle if He can create a large Peepul tree from a small seed!

Intelligence, though useful, is not the primary purpose in devotional singing as Hariharanji remarked, “Intellectual capacity shouldn’t lead us to egoism or we lose the very purpose or goal – be it singing bhajans, seva….He (Swami) is operating through us, singing through us, working through us.”

Our dear Swami brings us all together – no limiting boundaries of time, language and space through His boundless Love. Brother Hariharan reminded us that to Baba, the whole world is a family, whether we consider ourselves devotees or not and He was, is and will be taking care of us always. Let us all be inspired and let Swami sing through us, Let Swami listen through us.

|| Om Shantih Shantih Shantih ||

Region 4 - Seva at Salcey Forest in Northamptonshire

"Salcey Forest – a unique habitat with a rich history…the remains of Iron Age fortifications…traces of the Roman Empire….evidence of the Norman Conquest….hidden in and buried under the forest..." as described in the official Salcey Forest guide.

Our Region 4 Spiritual Co-ordinator, Rohit Tailor, organised ‘seva’ at Salcey Forest on Sunday 18th August 2013. The time slot arranged was from 10.00am to 2.00pm and then finishing off with a shared picnic – yum!

We had a total of 14 devotees attend - youth and adults from Coventry, Leicester and Northampton.

On arriving, we were met by one of the forest rangers Jo, with her lovely dog Toby and then we followed Jo’s van in our cars to our designated area of the forest for clearing. It was surprisingly far from the car park. Once there, we parked our cars in the small clearing and walked a distance to an opening that looked like a wide walking path. After some sensible health and safety advice from Jo on how to use the tools loaned by the Forest, was given, we all got stuck in. Some picked up small shears, whilst some picked the small saws; others tried the anvil loppers for a more heavy duty cutting.

Everyone worked very hard removing and cutting weeds from the damp ground, cutting the tall bushes; once the bushes were cut we had greater access to the trees behind that were blocking the light.

A lot of the male youth and men got stuck in with sawing the trees – whilst the others trimmed bushes and cleared the frontal areas, piling the foliage and then cutting them down into smaller pieces to throw back into the ditch behind the trees.

So why were we clearing this area? I was very surprised to learn what Joe had to say. She said butterfly conservation relies heavily on volunteers. In the UK we have several different species of butterflies and two thirds of these species are found at Salcey Forest alone. The butterflies feed on a climbing plant called Vetch – part of the legume family, and they bear pea like flowers. The butterflies feed on this plant and need it to survive and to reproduce. The over growth of weeds and other trees, cover these Vetch plants and then become hidden from natural light by the towering trees and plants and eventually get buried completely or die. In effect, the butterflies can’t find these plants to feed on and so stop coming.

One of the species found at Salcey Forest is the rare black hairstreak butterfly and it only breads in black thorn thickets – Salcey is one of the last remaining English strongholds.

The clearing will encourage these Vetch plants to grow and multiply and resume butterfly reproduction.

The four hours we spent flew by very quickly and some of us were just getting into it! But…who can resist a scrumptious picnic? As we finished, the sun came out in readiness for our picnic. Everyone brought something to share and even nature wanted a share as the flies and wasps also gathered eagerly around us hoping to get a quick bite of something!

This trip was certainly very enjoyable, educational and we all hoped that we had contributed in some small way to butterfly conservation. We look forward to the next Salcey Forest clearing and hope that this time it will attract a lot more devotees from the region.

Article written on behalf of all participants

Region 7 - Annual Sai Picnic in Glastonbury

The heaven’s opened and Swami poured His Blessings on the 19th Glastonbury Picnic which has become a regular feature in Region 7’s calendar.

For the last ten years, the Sai Picnic has been held in the lee of Glastonbury Tor, in the exquisitely beautiful gardens of Michael and James, who generously host this joyous satsang, on behalf of the Glastonbury Sai Group.

Over the years it’s become traditional to begin the event with a circumambulation of the gardens whilst we chant the Gayatri Mantra. There’s no doubt that the gardens receive this blessing with alacrity as they become more luxuriant and rich with each year.

The theme this year was AUM, and it was during the chanting of His 108 Names that the 60 or so devotees assembled together dived for cover under an assortment of umbrellas and gazebos. Swami seemed happy that the chanting had continued uninterrupted despite the downpour and duly rewarded us with sunshine for the rest of the day.

There were talks on the meaning of Aum, a healing “Aum Bath”, lots of bhajans, and meditation in the Shrine room...But perhaps of greatest importance, a loving satsang where devotees from far and wide, the very old and very young, newcomers and more seasoned ‘oldies’ were able to come together in an informal, relaxed and loving environment and share their love for our Beloved Swami.

Our grateful thanks to Michael and James for opening their house and gardens and providing such a Love filled venue.

Mrs. Claire Pargeter

Data Protection Act 1998
Please note that "Love and Light" is also published on the National Website and is freely available to countries outside the EEA.

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

All rights reserved
"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.