The COVID 19 lockdown period has resulted in significant challenges in people’s ability to participate in community service activities and help those in need. Many vulnerable members of society have been finding it more challenging than ever to access important support systems as community service activities reduced drastically throughout the country. However, NSW Region West found an innovative way to continue to serve those in need by donating 256 non-perishable food items to the SydWest Multi Cultural Services organisation who collected and distributed these items to those most in need.
Approximately 200 enthusiastic members of region west participated in donating these non-perishable food items. The items donated included essentials such as pasta, baked beans, rice, flour, oil oats, coffee, sugar, canned beans and lentils.
This proactive approach to providing service certainly confirms that where there is a strong will to serve there is a way.
Whilst the SSIO is a spiritual organisation with no particular affiliation with a specific religion, it honours the teachings of all the major religions and seeks to find shared ideals. It also seeks to encourage a sense of unity by observing some of the various religions’ holy days. Throughout April, Muslims across the globe observed Ramadan, which is a time marked by prayer, reflection and the wilful sacrifice of one’s personal comforts and pleasures in honour of the Divine. Throughout this period, Young Adults from NSW devoted themselves to sacrificing something of value to practice discipline, self-control and to feel empathy for those less fortunate.
Here are some excerpts of Reflections:
My pledge for Ramadan is to read Sai literature daily, exercise consistently and to avoid fast food and soft drinks. Soft drinks have been an Achilles heel for me. When accompanied with fast food, I feel bogged down, and become very unproductive. As Swami says “to remove a bad habit start a new (countering) good habit”. By reading Sai Literature daily and exercising consistently, I would be able to eliminate my bad habits. There will be plenty of temptations and desires to break my pledge but I must find my inner strength to overcome this challenge.
This Covid period has been pretty rough for me, and I was forced to let go of a lot of “my” plans due to illness and general restrictions, which got me complaining alot and also feeling really down. For Ramadan, I took on not complaining and meditating as my Sadhana. Not complaining felt like it was supposed to be a service to others initially, but actually in the end it’s proving to be more useful for me as I started to actively move away from how Covid impacted my life to focusing on the positives that have come out of this period.
My pledge this year has been to do a few things: Fasting between 6AM – 6PM, not consuming Artificial Sugars and being Vegetarian. I particularly chose these activities to challenge myself to practise ceiling on desires to satisfy my food senses particularly, and indeed it has been challenging. I love food, not only eating but cooking as well. Initially it was hard and then by day 4 or 5 it became a lot easier as my body adapted to the change. I would like to share a quote from Swami that has motivated me to persevere and be consistent with this Sadhana – “You must be a Lotus, unfolding it’s petals when the sun rises in the sky,unaffected by the slush where it is born or even the water which sustains it”
With the start of isolation, my general routine was a little messed up. I was feeling very lazy, purposeless and bored. Choosing my two Sadhanas was to build some discipline and self control in my ‘routine’ and general lifestyle. With my limitation of social media, I have now started reading or listening to videos/podcasts. When I would usually turn to my phone in boredom or when I couldn’t sleep, I now reflect on my day and connect with Swami!
My pledges this year were cutting down my phone usage and practicing the Radiosai Thought for the Day, everyday. I started this Ramadan with the goal of being more present and more focused because I just felt I was becoming a robot in all aspects of my life. I’d definitely like to continue these pledges in the long run. The physical and mental silence has helped my relationship with Swami grow, and love Him more – everyday.
This year has been full of ups and downs and this group sadhana could not have come at a better time. These sadhanas have really helped me find my grounding again and keep connected with my one truth – Swami ❤️
SSIO Australia’s National Education Wing, together with the Regional and Centre Education Teams offered their first virtual Easwaramma Day celebrations at His Divine Lotus Feet on 10 May 2020 at 10:30 am AEST.
The purpose of this offering was to come together as one broader family and commemorate the most important event dedicated for SSE children in the SAI calendar, an event SSE children, parents and SSE teachers eagerly await for every year.
The 2020 National Theme for Easwaramma Day Celebrations across Australia was “Unity is Divinity”. The SSE students of Australia took the audience through a journey of exploration of the Unity principle and Unity at different levels as explained by our beloved Sathya Sai Baba.
The program consisted of: devotional singing by SSE children, address on the theme by Kamala Pandya (Former All India National Balvikas Coordinator), a documentary on Mother Easwaramma and presentations focusing on Unity at Different Levels being Unity at the Individual Level, Unity of Head, Heart and Hand, Unity in the Family, Unity at the Creation level, Unity of Faiths, Unity in the Society and Unity the Purpose of the Sai Avatar.
All who watched the Easwaramma Day program were truly touched and amazed to see the many creative ways in which each regional offering explored the theme of unity is divinity and highlighted the importance of practicing unity at different levels. As a nation we collectively pledged to our dearest Lord to strive to see SAI in all.
To coordinate, prepare and present between 190 – 200 children remotely within two to three weeks required many talented hands. And we saw the dedicated loving service of many SSE teachers, coordinators, parents, young adults and members who assisted in many different ways to bring this offering to life. It was heart-warming to see the passion with which the SSE children, young adults and adults across Australia worked together in a spirit of unity to bring this virtual offering to life during these very challenging times. The offering served as a source of comfort and joy during these challenging times and helped everyone reminisce on all the past Easwaramma Day celebrations they were involved in whilst paying our humble tribute to our Divine Mother and the Chosen Mother of our Lord.
The year 2020 will be remembered by all of us for many reasons and for the SSE family the memories of coming together to celebrate Easwaramma Day nationally and virtually will forever be etched in our memories.
The National SSE Wing offer their loving salutations and gratitude to our beloved Lord for having given us this blessed opportunity to experience His presence and love through this National Virtual Easwaramma Day Offering.
Easwaramma day celebrations in Adelaide this year had a new and special flavour.
All devotional programs have gone online for the last couple of months yet the devotees in Adelaide have been fortunate to be able to stay in touch with various Sai activities despite being stuck in their homes. Change is the only constant and Sai devotees have been well equipped by our Sai to ride adeptly every new wave that the ocean of life brings forth. Also, the grace that permeates devotee’s lives allows us to taste the nectar that lies hidden at the heart of every changed circumstance.
The online Easwaramma Day program commenced with three Aum’s and then went on to a video of the story of Easwaramma Samadhi from the Prashanthi Chronicles, which revived memories of the Mother of the Divine. This was followed by reflections of a number of devotees spanning three centres. The reflections were an absolute treat to listen to as the speakers shared their thoughts and feelings on the love of the ‘Mother’ in various forms, of Swami Himself and of their mutual love and admiration for their own physical mothers. A unique facet of their reflection was their exploration of the nurturing- motherly element they had seen in their children and the aspect of the ever-tolerant Mother Nature herself.
Upon completion of the reflections, devotional singing with songs themed on the Mother were sung followed by the Sarvadharma prayer. This was followed by Gayathri Mantra chants in Swami’s heart-meltingly loving voice which reverberated through every cell of the attendees. A reading of a story on the special interaction between Swami and Mother Easwaramma.
The program concluded with Arathi and Vibhuti, leaving the devotees in a peaceful, content and soulful state.
On Saturday 30 May at 8 pm Australian Eastern Standard Time, the Pre-World Conference Webinar 2 was delivered by the International Young Adults Coordinator Mr. Deviesh Tankaria. The inspirational talk covered Mr. Tankaria’s personal journey with Swami and his learnings from Swami’s teachings.
Mr. Tankaria opened his talk with a story, set in Brindavan, which outlined how fortunate Sai devotees are to know about Swami and His teachings. While Swami was giving darshan in Brindavan one day a leaf from a tree fell on His head and Swami picked up the leaf and carried it with him for the entire darshan session. Watching this a couple of students thought to themselves how lucky the leaf was that it was being carried by Swami for the session. As this thought crossed their minds, Swami approached them where they were sitting for darshan handed them the leaf and told them “ The leaf is not the lucky one, you are the lucky one”.
Mr. Tankaria went on to note how fortunate a person is to be able to take up an office bearer position in the Sathya Sai Organisation and he reflected Swami’s statement that an opportunity to take up an Office Bearer position is a reminder that we are under Swami’s direction.
Mr. Tankaria then shared his personal learnings on topics of Unity and Purity, which are the theme for the upcoming World Conference in 2021. He stated that in his experience there were four important steps in this journey towards unity and purity:
Have complete unflinching faith in Bhagwan.
Contemplate and practise His divine teachings.
Contribute to the welfare of society.
Practice the path of Love.
In relation to having unflinching faith in Swami Mr. Tankaria recalled an interaction he had with Swami where he was asked by Swami “What do you want” to which he promptly replied, “You Swami”. Mr. Tankaria was happy that he gave the answer that Swami was looking for, but the true test of his conviction came during another interaction when Swami approached him in Darshan and asked him “How many?”. Mr. Tankaria replied that he and His mother were the only ones in the group and Swami signalled him to the interview room with his mother. As he was about to go to the interview room Swami asked him “Who is your mother?” to which Mr. Tankaria replied pointing to his mother “She is my mother Swami”. Swami accepted the answer however during the interview Swami asked him two more times “Who is your mother?” to which Mr. Tankaria gave the same reply both times, pointing to his mother. It was only later that Mr. Tankaria reflected that the answer Swami was looking for was for him to point to Swami as his Divine mother. This incident helped him strengthen his resolve to have more conviction that Swami is the foundation for everything.
With respect to contemplating and practising His divine teachings Mr. Tankaria outlined the important role the Sai Organisation play in providing an opportunity for devotees. Mr. Tankaria gave an overview of the International Young Adults Wing and the range of activities that it runs including Serve the Planet, Ocean of Music, Leadership Programme, Sadhana of Love, Data team, Insaights and the Young Adults International Engagement
Mr. Tankaria then reflected on another interaction with Swami as he was just about to enter the university. During an interview with Swami he asked him what course he was going to study at university. Mr. Tankaria replied “Computer Science Swami. That’s ok, right?”. Somewhat to his surprise Swami responded saying “Don’t do it”. Mr. Tankaria explained to Swami that it is very late for him to change his course and that he doesn’t have any option but to continue with the course. Swami seemed to look surprised at Mr. Tankaria’s response but then replied saying “Ok fine, do it” and then added “I will make your mind like a computer”. This interaction reinforced in him the boundless love of Swami and that his grace was always abundant on his devotees.
Mr. Tankaria spoke about the challenges of connecting with Swami now that He is not in his physical form however he shared his daily practice in order to ensure he stays connected with Swami. Mr. Tankaria said that he spends one silent minute each morning to connect with Swami and to offer his actions to him. Then, at the end of the day before he goes to bed he spends 5 minutes at the end of the day going through all of the day’s actions with Swami and offering it to Him. He further narrated an experience where in four different incidents random strangers came up to him and said “Sai Ram” for no obvious reasons to him during his travels, which he took as Swami’s indication that he is with him.
Mr. Tankaria spoke about the challenges and opportunities of practising Swami’s teachings in a secular and diverse work environment and shared his own experiences in doing this. Mr. Tankaria noted that it was important to see all work as Swami’s work and to show the same level of dedication to secular work as you would if you were doing the work for Swami. He stated that as Sai devotees we natural radiate Swami’s love and that will be recognised by people without us needing to shout the message in a loud or extravagant manner.
Mr. Tankaria concluded the talk recalling one of the interview’s he had with Swami where Mr. Tankaria had seated himself close to Swami’s foot stool so that he could get the best possible darshan of him. When Swami entered the interview room he looked at Mr. Tankaria and said “Why are you sitting there, move back”. Mr. Tankaria accordingly moved away from the foot stool to allow Swami to easier access to his seat. After sitting down for awhile Swami then looked at Mr. Tankaria and said “Why have you sat so far? Come closer”. Mr. Tankaria concluded noting that this was a beautiful example of Swami’s limitless love and compassion for all.
Buddha Poornima, also known as Vesak, is an important day for Buddhists all around the world. This is the day of three important events in the life of Lord Buddha:
The day in which Lord Buddha was born
The day in which Lord Buddha achieved enlightenment
The day of Lord Buddha’s passing away
The auspicious day was marked by SSIO Australia by a special virtual devotional session at 8:00 pm on 7 May 2020.
The program aptly began with a guided light meditation, with meditation being a key spiritual practice that was undertaken by Lord Buddha. This was followed by the chanting of the Sai Gayatri.
A talk on the significance of Buddha Poornima was given by Ms Deependra Udugama who is currently the SSE Coordinator for Homebush Centre in NSW. Ms. Udugama commenced her talk with the well known Buddhist prayer of “Namo Tasa Bhagavato” and went on to explain the significance of the prayer as paying homage to the blessed one, the worthy one and the fully enlightened one. Ms Udugama went on to share some key buddhist principles, buddhas teachings, values in Buddhism, the alignment of Swami’s teachings with Buddhism and her experiences as a Buddhist Sai devotee. Ms Udugama also shared a recent dream which she had in which she and her family were with Swami in the interview room where the Australian National Devotional Coordinator, Sridhar Subramonian was also present. In the dream Swami blessed a speech that Mr Subramonian had written which for Ms. Udugama to use. She then shared that Swami enquired to her “Do you need anything else” for which Ms Udugama replied “No Swami, I have everything”. Ms. Udugama woke up from the dream energised and inspired. Just three days later received a call from the NSW Devotion Coordinator saying that a request was received from the National Devotion Coordinator, who had no knowledge of the dream at that point, for Ms Udugama to talk at this year’s virtual Buddha Poornima celebrations. This was another clear example of Swami’s omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence.
Ms. Udugama also shared the spiritual significance of the Bodhi tree under which Lord Buddha achieved enlightenment after meditating for 49 days. She shared that when Lord Buddha was once asked “Who is the richest man in the world” Lord Buddha replied “He who has contentment with what he has is the richest man”. When Lord Buddha was asked “Who Is the poorest man in the world” Lord Buddha said “He who has many desires”. The program then went on to a twenty minute vibrant and energetic devotional singing session.
This was followed by a presentation by the SSE students of the Western Australian Region on the significance of Buddha Poornima. The presentation of the students touched on some significant incidences in Buddha’s life. The students provided a fascinating storytelling of the birth of Buddha, an incident in the young Lord Buddha’s life in which he shows compassion towards a swan, Lord Buddha’s retirement into the forest leaving behind life in the palace and his eventual achievement of enlightenment through meditation. The SSE students presentation concluded with Swami’s teachings on Buddhism with a particular emphasis on the concept of ceiling on desires.
This was followed by another twenty minutes devotional singing session which was followed by a video excerpt of Swami’s discourse on Buddha Poornima. In this talk Swami talks about the true meaning of spirituality and explains that the transformation of human qualities into divine qualities is the true meaning of spirituality.
The uplifting, inspiring and informative online celebrations of Buddha Poornima concluded with the Mangala Aarathi.
The fantastic team at Radio Sai have come up with a way for devotees to take a virtual tour of Prasanthi Nilayam from the comfort of their own homes. Launched recently, this online tour takes views through important attractions in Prasanthi Nilayam.
The Australian National Media Team are currently embarking on their own ambitious projects. Two new and exciting projects they have planned are:
1) Virtual Sai Centre – running of Centre activities in English from start to the finish – on Website/YouTube
The idea is by providing platform for wider community and young new generations to understand, experience, expand and live with Sai ideals/teachings
2) Virtual Tour to Prasanthi Nilayam – virtual visit to:
(a) Prasanthi prayer session
(b) Visiting Mandir and interesting sites including Chaitanya Jyoti, Museum, etc. – on Website/YouTube
The intent of this idea is to attract and facilitate visits to Prasanthi Nilayam.
With SSIOAU members becoming better and better versed in undertaking a large number of Virtual prayers we think now this is the perfect time to take little steps to do and expand HIS mission to the wider community so that people from everywhere are able to enjoy the bliss of the Sai Centre and Prasanthi Nilayam from the comfort of their own home.
If you are a creative mind or have skills in Information Technology we would love to hear from you to be involved in these innovative projects. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in being involved with these projects for benefit of many millions of people in the years to come!