A national online program was held by the Sathya Sai International Organisation of Australia to observe the auspicious occasion of Avatar Declaration Day on 20 October 2020 from 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm. The program was put together by the devotees from Western Australia Region and Tasmania Region. It was on this day in the year 1940 that Swami, whom until then was known as Sathya Narayana Raju, declared to his family and the world that he was Sathya Sai Baba. From this point onwards Swami formally took up His work of re-invigorating faith and love for God and guiding the transformation the individual and society through the practice of universal human values, ultimately leading to the discovery of our true divine source.
The program began with a recap of the importance of the Avatar declaration day and the events that unfolded 80 years ago on this day. This was followed by an overview of the establishment of the Sathya Sai International Organisation and its mission to establish human values and help humanity recognise its inherent divinity. Amidst all the accomplishments of Swami, the silent transformation of the individual was identified as one of the most noteworthy aspects of Swami’s teachings and guidance.
An enthralling conversation between two long time devotees of Swami, Jenny Monson and Margaret Van Hennekeler, followed. Both Margaret and Jenny shared their own journey to Swami and the valuable lessons they learnt during the considerable number of years knowing Swami. Both were originally from small towns in Australia and initially they did not have access to meeting people from Sathya Sai centres in the major cities. Jenny had first come to know of Sathya Sai Baba in 1986 and Margaret had come to know Him in 1992. Margaret learnt of Swami through a friend who had lent her some books about Swami through which she was immediately encapsulated. In particular, the books of Samuel Sandweiss and Howard Murphet had her intrigued to find out more about Sathya Sai Baba. She soon visited a house where she witnessed the miracle of vibhuti appearing on a photo of Swami. Shortly thereafter met someone who was going to India to visit Swami so she decided to tag along with her to visit Swami.
Jenny also shared that he had first heard for Swami through Sai literature before enquiring with other people as to who Sathya Sai Baba was. Jenny also said she came across Samuel Sandweiss’s and Howard Murphet’s book which strengthened her faith in Swami. Jenny and Margaret were both on the same page that it wasn’t the miracles that attracted them to Swami initially but rather it was the teachings that captivated them.
Jenny shared an experience which she had in 1986 where she experienced Swami’s powerful energy of love and divinity flow through her in a dream which further strengthened her faith in Swami. She then made her first trip to India in 1986 to see Swami for herself. Jenny also shared about the good fortune she had to join a Sai Centre in the town of Bridgetown in WA where she was able to attend bhajans and study circles where they went through all of the Sathya Sai Vahini series and other literature of Swami.
Both Jenny and Margaret talked about the dramatic change in their lifestyle after learning about Swami, notably giving up eating meat and drinking alcohol. The main purpose of their lives changed towards a focus on spirituality which they found to be a highly fulfilling experience.
Jenny then described her first experience in seeing the physical form of Swami in Kodaikanal, where she had the opportunity of touching Swami’s feet and felt a strong electric current go through her and strike her heart. She described the feeling of her heart physically aching for a few days after this very powerful experience.
Margaret and Jenny discussed the importance of demonstrating love for god through selfless service and shared their own efforts in doing this. Margaret and her friends organised camps for children in their community with a focus on youth who had a troubled upbringing. Jenny on the other hand set up a community hospice program, which was based on Swami’s human values, to help those who were at the end of their life.
Jenny and Margaret also shared a deeply personal period of their lives where they had both lost their son and how Swami’s teachings helped them deal with the pain and grief they had to go through. They both shared that this episode of their life helped them accept that everything happened as per the will of god and taught them the importance of detachment in their lives.
Jenny and Margaret concluded their discussion with a reflection on the current stage of their spiritual journey, with Margaret saying that she has stopped being focussed on achieving goals and Jenny stating that she has grown stronger in her faith that everything is perfect and everything happens as a result of the will of god.
The program then moved onto a slideshow of all the service activities that have taken place recently around Australia and a narration about the importance that Swami placed on selfless service. The one hour Avatar Declaration Day program was brought to a close with a bhajan sung by Swami Himself, followed by Mangala Arathi.