Christmas is certainly that time of the year, when every Sai devotee from around the world eagerly looks forward to gathering in the Lord’s presence! This year was certainly no different. Devotees from Singapore had very lovingly decorated the mandir Premdeep and the newly built architectural edifice, Sri Sathya Sai Premamrutham. From the festive cheer of carol signing to the morning candle light procession for Nagar Sankeertan, the atmosphere was charged with adoration of the Holy Father! Festivities at Sathya Sai Grama, Muddenahalli began on Christmas Eve.
Thursday, December 24, 2015
Bhagwan arrived at 5:30pm amidst veda chanting. Mr Issac Tigrett, Founder of Hard Rock Cafe and House of Blues was the first speaker for the evening, shared his thoughts on the theme ‘Brotherhood of Man and Fatherhood of God’. He spoke of his own Christian upbringing and Jesus, his first Master. “Today, people had forgotten the essence and message of Christmas and the holy day is reduced to partying, food etc.,” he said. Highlighting a unique aspect of the Sai family, he said, “Each one of us has a special and unique bond with the Lord, and this should be extended to seeing Swami in everyone else.” He ended his talk offering his gratitude to Swami for coming into his life, and being with him in his personal and professional journey. In his humility, he announced to the gathering that he was a work-in-progress, and Swami continues to work on him!
Mrs Frances Seaton, wife of Mr Gary Seaton from Australia, was the next speaker. Born into a Greek family, she traveled extensively and sought a spiritual path from a very young age. This background has provided her with a deep love for humanity! She narrated how each person believed they were true devotees, but the true essence was in understanding and underlining the importance of humility, and the feeling of oneness.
The much awaited International Choir by devotees from six countries – Australia, Germany, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain and the United States of America was the next programme of the evening. The team had been practising diligently for over a week, perfecting the presentation, readying for the D-day, to be able to put their best foot forward in the Divine Presence! Swami had lovingly named the Choir – Love and Joy Sai Christmas Choir and had wanted His students to experience the true meaning of Christmas, the joy of giving love, and receiving love, which is the true spirit of Christmas!
The performance lasted for close to 90 minutes and Bhagawan blessed the team profusely, before Arathi was offered.
Friday, December 25, 2015
The proceedings of the Holy morning of Christmas commenced at 5am, with a group of around 300 devotees, signing bhajans and carols all the way from the Old Mandir to Premdeep, the current residence of Bhagawan. It was surreal simply witnessing the scene; devotees holding candles, singing from their heart and going around the mandir.
The morning session started at 10am with Bhagawan’s arrival at the auditorium – Sri Sathya Sai Premamrutham. ‘Sai’s Angels’ the brass band comprising of students from the Muddenahalli campus, rendered traditional Christmas carols and songs at the Lotus Feet of their Beloved Swami. They are aptly called ‘Sai’s Angels’ as they sang the glory of the Lord, through their wonderful instruments. It has been just a little over a year, since Swami first gave them these brass instruments. They were complete novices, and within a span of just two months they played for the first time during Bhagawan’s 89th Birthday celebrations, in 2014. Self-taught, with guidance from the alumni who had been part of the University brass band of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, they are now proficient in their instruments by the grace of our beloved Bhagawan and are always a delight to listen!
This was followed by a 30 minutes choir presentation by devotees from Croatia. Bhagawan had commanded them to perform for Christmas during His trip, earlier this year, to the country. They rendered songs in Croatian, Hindi, Sanskrit and even a song in Telugu, which was Swami’s own composition. It was certainly a delight to see them performing with heartfelt devotion and gratitude to Swami.
The last performance for the morning was a choir recital by the devotees from Singapore. Always a delight to witness any offering made by the dedicated group of Singapore devotees, for their beloved Lord, the choir was certainly no exception. Performed with love, devotion, adoration, backed by sincere practise, the songs and carols ended the morning on a high note, leaving all gathered with the Christmas cheer!
The evening programme commenced at 5pm, with Veda chanting by the PU girl students of Prashanthi Niketanam campus. Hon’ble Mr Justice Gopala V Gowda, Supreme Court of India, presided over the evening, which began with a scintillating talk by Father Charles Ogada.
Swami had commanded him to speak on ‘Swami then and Swami now’. He started by saying how Swami had come into his life, when he was only five-years-old, and would bring presents for him! Since then Swami had blessed Father Charles with many experiences. In recent times, when he reconnected with Swami in the subtle form, Swami asked him to bring the children of the school he manages, in Nigeria, to Muddenahalli. While it all seemed impossible then, Swami had made it happen and all the children were celebrating the birthday of Christ in Muddenahalli!
He ended his inspiring talk with a prayer to Swami to manifest in each one of us and make our hands, His hands; our feet, His feet; our heart, His heart, thus filling each one with the energy to do His work!
Sri C Sreenivas, Chairman of the Sri Sathya Sai Health and Education Trust spoke about the life of Jesus Christ. Sri Sreenivas is also the driving force behind the Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Hospital, Naya Raipur. The hospital won the SACH BHARAT SAMMAN 2015 Award instituted by ASSOCHAM – The Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India, The Times Foundation and SREI Foundation. The award instituted in recognition of adherence to ‘Spirituality at Work’, seeks to promote truth, to help corporations deal with cut-throat competition, jealousy and workplace conflicts through spirituality.
Sri Sreenivas reminded everyone that Christ was defined by commonality. Jesus was born in a manger, but His influence had touched mankind. Even today, 2100 years after He walked the earth, He continues to guide and inspire millions across the world. He reminded all gathered, “Today, the father who sent Jesus, is amidst us, to guide the world for the next 2100 years and beyond! Hence, these are no ordinary times.”
Sri Sreenivas pointed to the students of the Sri Sathya Sai educational institutions assembled at the auditorium, and humbly submitted to the Chief Guest of the day Honourable Justice of Supreme Court, “We can be assured that the future of our country is safe in the hands of the generation of students, passing through the portals of the Sai educational institutions.” He made a clarion call at the end of his talk and said, that the need-of-the-hour was for each one of us to give a little more of love and service, and share it with the world!
Hon’ble Mr Justice V Gopala Gowda delivered an inspiring talk thereafter, mainly aimed at the youth. He enthusiastically endorsed the pure intent and path of the Sai mission, which had grown from strength to strength over the years. He emphasised the need for people to break out of the narrow confines of their self-centered way of thinking, and extend oneself to the betterment of the society at large.
Bhagawan launched a new initiative ‘Sai Liquid Love’, soon after the three talks. During the Summer Course for Indian Culture & Spirituality in June 2015, held in Muddenahalli, Swami blessed the Hyderabad youth team to start a project and named it ‘Sai Liquid Love’. A project to develop an application, that would help the entire process of timely blood donation; a project that would connect people who are in need of blood, with those who can donate this precious gift!
Introducing the project, Sri Ravi Kiran, an energetic and active youth from Hyderabad started by underlining the importance of blood in the human body, a critical component that man has not been able to replicate. He then walked the audience through the ‘Sai Liquid Love’ team’s own experience during the course of the project, and how it was Swami’s grace which enabled them to make the deadline when all hope was fading, just a few days back. He ended his talk inviting everyone to participate and register on the website www.sailiquidlove.org and be a part of the blood donation drive.
Sri B N Narasimha Murthy addressed the gathering next. He quoted a beautiful poem of Khalil Gibran, about a song that never ends. He compared the song in the poem to Swami’s mission, which is ongoing even after He left His mortal coil. He narrated stories of Jesus Christ and drew comparison to many aspects of His life and teachings, to Swami’s life and teachings. He said the ultimate teaching of all the great masters who have graced this earth is, ‘You are that’ or ‘Tat Tvam Asi’. Quoting Swami, he said “If you abide by my word, you will be close to me, and the truth will set you free!”
Bhagawan’s nectarine Christmas discourse followed next.
After a short break, Bhagawan returned to take His seat for the evening’s cultural programme. About 25 children from the Heart of Love Children’s Home, and the Embodiments of Love Academy in Swami’s Joy Ashram, in Nigeria, presented a mesmerising performance of songs and carols at the Lotus Feet. Trained by Jude Nnam, a prolific music composer, the children were an absolute delight! The orphanage and school that are run according to Swami’s ideals of Educare, brings Swami’s spiritual transformation to the disadvantaged and orphaned children in the village.
The group from the former Soviet Republics hailing from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Latvia and even India, united as one Sai Family and offered a beautiful garland of seven Christmas Carols, all jointly composed by them. Christmas in Russia is celebrated based on the Julian calendar, and hence celebrated on January 7. On the Eve of Christmas (6th January), there are rituals and religious ceremonies in the churches for long hours. The families then return home for the traditional Christmas Eve “Holy Supper” which consists of 12 dishes, one to honour each of the 12 Apostles. Devout families return to the church for the “All Night Vigil” known as Vse-Nosh-naya.
A short documentary on the Chennai Relief work undertaken by the group of volunteers from Sri Sathya Sai Sevamrutham was showcased thereafter. With only one motto of their master Sri Sathya Sai Baba in mind – ‘Love All. Serve All’, the volunteers participated in the relief work in and around Chennai. An avatar of compassion and love, Sri Sathya Sai Baba propagated the message, ‘Service to mankind, is service to God.’ The video showcased vividly that Bhagawan’s words of love and service continue to light the lamp of love, in the hearts of all the devotees. The spectacular Christmas Day celebrations came to an end with Arathi and prasadam distribution.
Saturday, December 26, 2015
The evening programme commenced at 5:30pm with a drama titled ‘He Lives in You: The Birth of Jesus’, by the children from Nigeria. Written, scripted and directed by Father Charles Ogada, the drama conveyed the inherent message that – God takes human birth, so that man can take divine birth. The performance by the children was captivating and everyone gathered enjoyed every bit of the drama!
The next and the last performance of the evening was the traditional Yakshagana, performed by the students from the Alike campus, titled ‘Sri Rama Charitamrutam’.
Yakshagana, is a folk theater form that combines dance, music, dialogue, costume, make-up, and stage techniques with a unique style and form. Yakshagana literally means the song (gana) of the yaksha (celestial spirits). Various scenes from the Ramayana narrating Sage Valmiki’s meeting with Shatrugna, who was on his way to kill Lavanaasura; his meeting with Mother Sita and Lava Kusha were all beautifully performed, ending with Lord Rama handing over the kingdom of Ayodhya and His responsibilities to the children. After bidding adiue, Lord Rama walked deep into the Sarayu River and disappeared, while Mother Sita allowed herself to merge with Mother Earth.
The performance, rich in costumes and make-up, like any traditional Yakshagana performance, was met with applause and appreciation. After Arathi and prasadam distribution, Bhagawan retired for the evening.