As the world in parts feel the effects of this dark age (Kali Yuga), Sathya Sai devotees in Australia were looking in a different direction to receive some Divine Light on their spiritual path. They started talking in the lines of “Getting Back to the Source”. They were inspired by the Australian-owned indigenous symbol, “The Boomerang”. A Boomerang that when thrown properly takes an elliptical path and returns straight back to the origin of its journey. Sai devotees were also looking to embark on their spiritual journey back to their own inner reality, which is “Higher Consciousness”. Thus, the organisers embarked on this mission to organise the 2019 Sai National Conference and called it “Boomerang Back to the Source”.
Plans were rolled out to receive and look after a mammoth total of 900 Sai spiritual aspirants from different states and overseas. The Kings School in North Parramatta was identified to be the venue for SNC2019. The Kings School exhibited its sprawling campus with a main lecture hall, classrooms and hostels. It was fitting for the main events, breakout workshops and lodging. Selfless Sai volunteers came forward to handle the catering, logistics, transport, audio visuals and many more aspects of SNC2019.
As the Sydney horizon brightened up on 19 April, the morning of Good Friday, the moment had arrived for the yearning hearts. Divine Will revealed its hand at The Kings School. 900 Sai devotees entered the main theatre to witness the grand opening ceremony. A shining altar put together for Sathya Sai Baba stood beside the stage, drawing everyone’s attention.
After the salutation by the regional officials at the Lotus Feet of Sathya Sai Baba, the Sydney Youth took to the stage to sing the Conference Theme Song “Boom, Boom Boomerang”.
Parliamentarians, councillors and other emissaries graced the stage, taking time off from their daily chores of politics, and delved into spirituality and humanity. The highlight of SNC2019 was waiting to unfold. It was going to come from our guest speakers from Prasanthi Nilayam, Prem Anosh, Siddharth Raju, Ravi Kumar and Amey Deshpande. We also had Aparna Murali from the US and a local speaker Paul Bryden, a Sathya Sai devotee, who was also a specialist in Boomerang throwing.
Young Prem Anosh was a unique speaker on Sai devotion and spirituality. The audience was enthralled by the talks delivered by him at such a young age. Siddharth Raju, Ravi Kumar and Amey Deshpande are members of the Prasanthi Devotional singing group. This bhajan trio’s singing was just mesmerising. Their deep devotion to Sathya Sai Baba was very much evident in all their performances on stage. Aparna Murali very much entertained the audience with her talks on spirituality, and her Sai-moments blended with a pleasant sense of humour.
Paul Bryden enlightened the audience with his knowledge on Boomerang theory, and practical demonstrations both indoors and outdoors. Paul also related his experiences at Prasanthi during the presence of Sathya Sai Baba.
Refreshments, lunches and dinners served at the venue were so delicious and we could see the gracious hands of the Sai volunteers.
Fifteen interactive workshops were held on the first two days on various spiritual topics. In tandem sessions were conducted on Sathya Sai Education (SSE) for the younger students.
Another fantastic Sai conference has just been completed in Sydney. Once again, the planning committee and volunteers have excelled themselves with comprehensive, efficient and loving attention to detail so that the experience over the three days was enjoyed and valued by one and all. One could see Sai Baba’s hand in all that happened.
The program this year, although having interactive workshops focused on a plan for the years ahead, was particularly like a retreat in which we were all immersed in spirituality. This included reminders of many aspects of it in which we could all find some need for a more concentrated effort. Of course, the teachings and examples of Sai Baba were the basis of all the speakers who shared their experiences, lessons and preoccupations with us.
We were blessed with 6 guest speakers for this conference, Amey Deshpande, Ravi Kumar and Siddharta Raju from the Prasanthi Mandir Bhajan, Prem Anosh from Radio Sai, Paul Bryden, an Australian spiritual aspirant and boomerang thrower, and Aparna Murali currently from the USA where she has a number of roles in the SSIO and who has had several years contact with Sai Baba during her younger years. All communicated with us with enthusiasm, warmth and humour, but above all, with valuable lessons and reminders for us all.
Each of the speakers had several topics and sessions assigned to them and rather than take each session on a blow by blow approach, I will cover some of the things said that I feel will be worthwhile to highlight.
There were many references to our very good fortune in this lifetime. These could be summarised in the thoughts of Prem who talked about the three boons we have; to be born a human, to have a desire for liberation and to have the blessings of a great master. He elaborated on this by stating Sai Baba’s assertion that it is only as a human that liberation can be achieved. Our desire for liberation is rare in the human experience and should not be taken for granted. Finally, our last boon is fulfilled by none other than the Supreme Himself, teaching, leading and guiding us as our own beloved Sai Baba. With these boons in mind, no small achievement, we should not waste them. We need to understand our purpose in life and strive to achieve.
A thought-provoking story he related concerned an old man rescuing a young child who was drowning. When the child thanked him, he said, ‘Don’t thank me, just make sure your life was worth saving!’ Well worth reflecting upon, as I am sure Sai Baba has interceded in most of our lives at some time. What are we doing with our lives?
Paul Bryden recounted his first contact with Sai Baba when he was invited to an interview and asked to bring his boomerang with him. Sai Baba, after a demonstration, organised him to teach the students the skill of throwing it. This culminated in a spectacular, inventive demonstration by the boys during a sports meet. Something that lives in Paul’s memory. The theme of the boomerang was of course a constant throughout the conference, referring to its flight away from the thrower and back again; a metaphor for the spirit’s journey from source to source. Paul also reminded us it stood for karma. ‘What goes around, comes around.’ The good, the bad we do, comes back to us.
The Prasanthi Mandir group constantly went back and forth utilising their much appreciated skills in music to reinforce their messages. One of their messages was the value of music for spiritual expression. Music is the universal language of emotion. Chorus singing in particular had several benefits. It had the power to calm the mind, slow the heart-rate, release endorphins which give a sense of pleasure and stifle pain and it builds confidence. They stressed the importance of singing with concentrated devotion to get the most from devotional singing, to engage with the feeling of the song, rather than get caught up with the technicalities of it and treating it as a performance. They warned that spiritual Ego is a most dangerous thing.
Arparna introduced one of her addresses with ‘I see you!’ rather than Sai Ram. A lovely reminder to see the God in the heart and eyes of the one you are engaging. She cautioned about allowing rules and the intellect of getting in the way of listening to the inner voice. She also described part of her work approach. She treats her office as Sai Baba’s interview room in which all who come should feel the love of God. Other words of wisdom delivered in that address were, ‘keep the lessons, forget the experience’ a nice reminder to learn from the past but not to live in it.
Prem recounted an exchange between a devotee and Sai Baba in which the devotee claimed he didn’t have time for sadhana as he was fully occupied in Sai Baba’s mission. Sai Baba replied, ‘What is My mission? I am not a missionary. There I only one mission I have. To lead each one of you to the truth.’ This stressing the paramount importance of devoting ourselves to spiritual practice. Whatever we are doing, whether within the organisation or without, it is to get back to the source. Self-transformation must be accompanied with Self-discovery; both are essential to each other and both must be undertaken.
Pal Dhall during a brief address about Sai Education, reinforced the message to, ‘Become the change we wish to see about us.’ He also amusingly recounted Sai Baba’s instructions once given to him, to come and live with Him once certain worldly obligations were fulfilled. The important point he learned from this was that he was not to live in Sai’s physical proximity, but rather to install and live with Him within the heart – moment by moment to be constantly with Sai.
During an interview in Aparna’s childhood, Sai Baba was exploring her family’s relationships. He then said, ‘I am mother to each of you. A mother-in-love. I am like a thousand mothers to you and will never change.’ Such a reassuring and endearing statement that is also applicable to each of us.
Prem in the later stages of the conference talking about Sai’s relationship with His students gave us an inspirational thought to cling to. Always imagine Sai Baba saying with pride, ‘Mine!’ about you as you live the teachings He has so freely given. Nothing else is worth pleasing as much as Sai Baba. Prem also gave us some poignant poetical statements a little freely recorded here,
Give Me your heart,
I will take care of it, protect it and lead you.
Now you can focus on Me.
Yearn for the Lord with all your heart.
For some good fortune, you have got hold of Sai Baba, don’t let go. Once you do, there is no guarantee the opportunity will come back to you.
I will give you love. Ask Me.
I will immerse you in all you need for liberation.
Think of me with one-pointed devotion.
Come! Come! Come! Use this opportunity to sublimate all your karmas.
What is faith? Faith is fearlessness.
In the closing comments of the Prasanthi Mandir Group, they stressed, ‘Run if you can. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But, whatever you do, you must keep moving forward. Obstacles will be in the way. Call on Sai. Always think of Sai. This will overcome all obstacles!’
Whilst I have concentrated on just a few points gleaned from the many words of wisdom given by the speakers, I have ignored the beautiful music and the items presented by our own local devotees, including some memorable concerts by our SSE students and the Sai Young Adults. I urge everyone to view the videos of the conference proceedings and entertainments once available. For those who were there, it will, I am sure reward them anew. For those who missed it, you can imbibe the joy of listening to such wonderful people and be inspired by experiencing the stories and messages told. I haven’t mentioned the enormous efforts of those selfless people who provided service throughout the conference. Many were invisible and some so engaged that they weren’t able to attend the proceedings. I am sure all who attended thank them with sincere gratitude for their work and sacrifice. Sydney has done very well. No worries!!!!
I would like to start with what I most importantly took away from the Sai National Conference. One of the topics touched on a lot by the speakers at the conference was superheroes of the future.
This is something that resonated with me especially because I am at a stage in my life where personally I am making decisions about what I want to do in the future. What I have learnt is that Sai Baba wants and encourages us to follow our passions and aspirations, fulfil our rolls on this planet in a positive way, create a positive environment for yourself and others, make a positive impact in whatever you do on this planet and stay positive in the mind, body and soul.
The night after the conference had finished I was lying in bed and thinking about all the wonderful activities I had participated in, and the amazing people that I met over the three days of the conference. Then all of a sudden Sai Baba had placed himself into my dream. I dreamt that I was sitting up in the stands of the conference hall. I was sitting next to Bruhathi at the time. The very last bhajan procession was taking place with all the young adults up on stage singing. Bruhathi and I were so engaged in this offering. Then all of a sudden, I just see Sai Baba walking up the stairs in the middle of the stand. On that same stairwell there was loads of people walking up and down. Sai Baba was looking straight at me. He didn’t have really any expression on his face at all. But Bruhathi and I were so shocked that our mouths literally dropped open. But at the same time, we were in utter bliss and happiness to be in the presence of Sai Baba. Sai Baba came right up to the top of the stairwell and he then turned and came walking towards us. Now his vision was straightforward. Bruhathi and I both turned around. And Sai Baba is just about walking in front of us. Before Sai Baba could go any further I asked Sai Baba ‘can I please touch your feet?’ Sai Baba turned his whole body around and stared at me lovingly for a few seconds. Then finally Sai Baba nodded and said ‘yes you may.’ So, I touched his feet. I then lifted up my hand with my palm faced upward towards me. Then I just saw all of this vibhuti coming out of my hand. I was so shocked. Before I could even say thank you, Sai Baba had already let Bruhathi touch his feet and was making his way down the stairs to go to the stage.
I think that the reason why Sai Baba placed himself in my dream was because I was so spiritually charged from the conference that I could only feel his energy and presence around me and within me the whole time so strongly and deeply. And the bhajan that we had in the conference hall on the last day was so power-packed that I could just hear, feel and see Sai Baba the whole time. I knew he was with me and still is with me. I came to understand that it was meant for Bruhathi to be there with me at that time. They always say when Sai Baba places himself in your dream it means that whatever your experience with him happened in real life – because it’s not you who dreams of Sai Baba, it’s Sai Baba who places himself in your dream.
Vaishnavi Uthayakumaran – Nunawading – Victoria East
I had great memories of the Sai Conference in Melbourne in 2017 and the pilgrimage to Parthi in 2018 where I made many Sai friends from across Australia, so I had been looking forward to the Easter long weekend in Sydney. I was able to reunite with old friends, as well as create new friendships. Sydney is also one of my favourite destinations to get away because most of my cousins live there. We arrived in Sydney a day early to catch up with family and friends before the conference started.
We were up early on the morning of the 19th to attend the conference, and as usual it got off to an excellent start. I was part of the opening ceremony, joining the procession representing the Nunawading Centre in Victoria. After this ceremony, the SSE children gathered in another location for drama practice. Children from other states had to join with their each other for this production which was staged on the same evening. Aunties and uncles from Sydney had planned everything so well that it didn’t take very long for the children to pick it up. We had a number of practices throughout the day, and by afternoon all the children were ready for their presentation. Each scene consisted of individuals from different states working together as a team. During rehearsals, we were able to witness the talents of our fellow peers and were able to learn from each other. Finally, we presented the drama in front of 900 people and it was a memorable evening.
The next day the teachers had organized many more activities for us and we also had presentations from guest speakers. One of the highlights of the conference was meeting the Prasanthi Mandir bhajan group consisting of uncle Amey, Ravikumar and Siddharth. We were thrilled to hear their presentation on superheroes, in which they explained how Sai Baba is the greatest of all heroes that we can look up to. They went on to explain that without Sai Baba, our lives would not be the way it is, as it is He who is protecting all of us. Following the speech, we were treated to a bhajan session, in which the SSE children were given the opportunity to request bhajans for them to sing.
During the breaks in between our scheduled programs, we had the choice of bhajan singing or bhajan anthakshari. Whilst being a friendly group, there was much competition between the states to take home the anthakshari title. Over breaks we were further able to develop friendships, as we would all work together to win against other teams. Music being a major part of the conference for us, we were able to enjoy the musical talents of all the children, whether it was singing, playing the harmonium or being one of the percussionists.
It was amazing to see the young adults from Melbourne combine with other states to present their musical and acting talents in a wonderful drama. Even Sai Baba manifested that evening.
The conference was organized so well, and we had a great time in Sydney. The food was great, and we were fed constantly by the aunties and uncles. My parents too had a great time, attending workshops and presentations. It was the loving people that we were surrounded by that made the conference even more enjoyable.
With spirits and spiritual discipline riding high after the young adult Parthi trip earlier this year, the national conference was the perfect boost to help keep the momentum going on our flight back to the source. The heart-warming company of our fellow young adults from interstate and even overseas, along with the inspiration to redouble our efforts in our personal spiritual discipline, made this year’s conference incredibly rewarding. The cherry on top however was the privilege of listening to all the guest speakers. Whether it be experiences with Sai Baba’s physical form, explanations and discussions on his teachings, or sharing a laugh at the joy that is this journey which Sai Baba called life, there was something for everyone. In a humble attempt to retain the many messages of the conference and the blissful experience, bellow are a collection of notes catalogued by the topic. I’m sure that if we use the opportunity to actively take on one message, our journey with God will become that much easier.
Work and the path back to the source
- Do not attach yourself to your position or your work. work is not important, remembering that the work is just a path to the lord is most important
Sai Baba and what he ‘needs’ from us
- Sai Baba needs nothing, he gives us jobs and opportunities because we need it to grow
A simple definition of Liberation (Moksha)
- moksha is the spiritual practice that we struggle to do, done effortlessly.
The 3 Paths of Bhakti, Karma and jnana (music, service and knowledge)
- Sai Baba puts no distinction between the paths of, bhakti karma and jnana. They’re all equally good and we need them all, one is not enough.
- the purpose of all 3 paths is to see God in every act, word and thought
- not everyone needs to be a Fitness Gym Junkie but everyone needs some degree of fitness.
Similarly not everyone needs to be a devotional singing (bhakti)/service (karma) /reading (jnana) junkie but we all need at least some of each.
- We can’t call ourselves a devotee if we don’t: serve, love and read/inquire
Attachment, Grief and Death
- death doesn’t cause grief; attachment causes grief
What is the Benefit of Big celebrations such as Guru Poornima and Sai Baba’s Birthday
- To remember Sai Baba just that little bit more then we usually do
Dealing with anxiety
- To be anxious is to hold onto something, try the best you can to let go of it.
- Try to use the knowledge that there is a Divine plan to quell the anxieties that come.
- For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11)
- Devotional singing (bhajans) are also a great fix
The Importance of Secular and Spiritual Education
- secular and spiritual education must go hand in hand. Don’t neglect either. The best way to do this is to spiritualize everything
If the National Conference that took place over three days was to be described in one word, it would be mesmerising.
I remember signing my name on my tag and taking a deep breath, thinking about where the next few days were going to take me as an individual on my spiritual journey.
On the first day, our opening ceremony showcased the multicultural and diverse groups across Australia together, offering their gratitude and love to Sai Baba before the three days started. Together as different states came together, we were united and we were looking forward to the divine experiences and our beloved Sai Baba’s plans to unfold before our eyes.
We were then greeted by our guest speaker, Uncle Paul Bryden, who taught us about the purpose of the boomerang in the Aboriginal culture and how the symbolism of the boomerang can be integrated into our life, paving the pathway to return back to the divine source.
Afterwards, we practiced for our drama performance that was to be showcased in front of everyone. A rush of excitement and nervousness lingered in the atmosphere and everyone was anticipating the performance. With Sai Baba’s grace and blessings, the performance was executed smoothly, accompanied by the efforts of the prop teams, the actors, the dancers, the backstage crew, video-makers and everyone who was behind the scenes.
The key message I carried home with me was that surrendering to Sai Baba was important in developing the special relationship between Sai Baba and I; the same relationship that will bring me closer to the source like a boomerang.
On the second day, we were enticed to a energetic morning with wonderful devotional singing from the young children from across the states, presenting their warm love to Sai Baba. Our second day was focused on guest speakers like Prem Anosh who spoke to us about the divinity of Sai Baba and the various stories on his glories and his experience as a student, growing up with the divine’s presence. Collectively as a group, we were inspired by Prem Anosh’s talk on the importance of a pure mind free from ego and arrogance as Prem Anosh states through Sai Baba’s quote, “A pure mind will bring you closer to the lord”.
Later in the day, we were presented by the Young Adults Of Australia a drama presentation that displayed stories and videos from different religions which sent a message to us that regardless of religion or ethnicity, the aim to return back to god was evident prominently in all religions, which is the reason behind why unity is important. The idea about living in harmony amongst our society is essential as extracted through Sai Baba’s teachings as well as the national conference:
“ Our aim is to return back to the same source, regardless of the respective names given by different people.”
It was not too long until the last day came and it was heart-wrenching as we were bidding our goodbyes to the friends we made over the course of three days. To add to the emotional day, we were blessed with the opportunity to listen to the Prasanthi Mandir Bhajan group soulfully sing bhajans and explain to us on how we can achieve love for god when singing the glories of the lord, establishing our connection or prayer to God. From this, the SSE kids learnt from the Prasanthi Bhajan group that the mode of prayer can be different for everyone which includes bhajans to be a type of prayer to communicate to God.
Overall the three days was heart-touching and memorable; even to this day, I would not hesitate to go back in time and relive those moments together as a SSE group. The values and lessons that we personally seeked out as individuals was fulfilled and expanded on through the narration of the guest speaker’s experiences, drama/dance presentations and activities.
We moved one step closer in returning back to the source…like a boomerang!