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!!!!