Sai Baba Sri Sathya Sai Baba

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Reports of events from the Sai Baba Ashrams


The Festival of Joy – Sai Children's Festival, October 22nd – 24th, 2005

The Sri Sathya Sai Bal Vikas programme was started by Bhagawan in 1968 with the aim to inculcate the fundamental human values of Sathya (Truth), Dharma (Righteousness), Shanthi (Peace) and Ahimsa (Non-Violence) among children so that the foundations of a spiritual life are laid at an early age. Children in the age group 6-15 learn about various aspects of spirituality from designated Bal Vikas Gurus belonging to the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization. The Bal Vikas movement today reaches out to more than 2 lakh (200,000) children all over India through a network of more than 16,000 Gurus and is actively engaged in realizing Bhagawan's vision of a spiritual revival in modern society.

From October 22nd to 24th, more than three thousand Bal Vikas students from all over India gathered at Prasanthi Nilayam to celebrate the 'Festival of Joy'. The event was an outpouring of the love and gratitude of the students to Bhagawan for entering and transforming their lives, and through them, the lives of their family members and others around them. Over the three days, the children basked in the love of Bhagawan, presenting a variety of programmes in the Divine presence on the lessons they have imbibed as students of the Bal Vikas programme. There was a significant presence of students from the far off North Eastern states like Assam, Manipur and Sikkim, their faces beaming with the joy of being with Bhagawan on this wonderful occasion. Bhagawan too responded to the love of the children in so many ways. The students, with their teachers, were all accommodated within the ashram campus and were given free food on all the days of their stay at Prasanthi Nilayam.

Bhagawan evinced personal interest in their welfare and even blessed the children with a visit to see for Himself the arrangements that had been made for them. Two exhibitions were organised on this occasion. One showcased spiritual books for children brought out by the Sri Sathya Sai Organizations in different Indian languages. The other was on the folk arts and handicrafts from all over India. Children could even learn the rudiments of these arts from trainers during the days of the exhibition. The entire ashram was abuzz with activity, with children practising for the programmes they would present in front of Bhagawan during the three days of the festival.

The festival commenced on the morning of October 22nd in Sai Kulwant Hall. Bhagawan lit the ceremonial lamp signalling the start of the festival. Sri V.Srinivasan, President, Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organizations, India welcomed all the participating students and expressed his gratitude on their behalf to Bhagawan for blessing them with the opportunity to be a part of this joyous event. After Sri Srinivasan's introductory talk, there was a music programme by a choir composed of 300 children from different parts of the country. The hall reverberated to the sound of their voices as they sang in unison, songs in Hindi and Telugu languages. "Shakthi ni ivvu, Bhakthi ni ivvu" they prayed to Bhagawan, "grant us Shakthi (strength to carry out God's command) and Bhakthi (devotion to the Lord)". This programme was followed by speeches by three Bal Vikas students. Kum. Shwetha, from the state of Karnataka, began by observing that though man has made such strides in science and technology, he has not yet learnt how to live as a man. The true purpose of education is character, she said, and it was the gift of character that they were receiving from Bhagawan through the Bal Vikas programme.

Master Pranav Shyam Bhat from the city of Mumbai echoed these sentiments and said that every Sai devotee has a moral duty towards himself and to the world to tread on the path shown by Bhagawan so that all the people in the world could reach God. He prayed to Bhagawan to grant all the students with purity in their thought, word and deed. Master Krishna De, a nine-year old student who hails from the state of West Bengal, declared, "We have come from You, Bhagawan, and we must all return to You". He prayed to Bhagawan to mould their lives to live by His teaching so that the ideal of "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam" (The entire humanity is one family) could be realized.

After the rousing speeches by the students, Bhagawan granted His Divine Message emphasizing on the importance of maintaining purity in the food one consumes and the company one keeps.

The food one ingests influences the kind of thoughts that arise in our minds, and it is these thoughts that turn us towards or away from God. Similarly, He said, it is vital to carefully select the circle of one's friends. One must cultivate Sathsangam, the company of the noble. He advised the children to turn away from books that dwell on negative aspects and instead read the inspiring lives of great and noble men and sages.

The afternoon session saw a medley of dances on the theme, "The Glory of Sathya Sai". The dances depicted the story of Bhagawan's life, whose coming had been prophesied by the scriptures of many religions of the world. Many episodes from Bhagawan's life such as incidents at the Pushpagiri Scout fair, the letter written by Bhagawan to His elder brother, Shri Seshama Raju in which He speaks of the Mission for which He has descended etc. were all presented through beautifully choreographed dances.

The presentation had a very novel ending where a UFO descends on the floor of Kulwant Hall.

From the UFO descend aliens who have come to earth after having heard of the Avatar's descent on the planet. They threaten to take Him away with them if they do not follow His teachings, as the entire cosmos is yearning for the opportunity of being contemporaries of the Avatar. They are only satisfied when representatives of Planet Earth promise to be worthy of God's Love. At the conclusion of the programme, arati was offered to Bhagawan.

On the morning of 23rd, there was a presentation by Bal Vikas students of various states on the religious customs and traditions of some of the major religions of the world. The basic tenets of Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism and Islam were depicted through the rituals that are performed by followers of these faiths. The afternoon session featured a very innovative presentation by the children of the Sri Sathya Sai Primary School.

Using a projector-screen system for a backdrop, the programme dwelt on the life and teachings of Bhagawan. The narrators of the programme were two students dressed as Prof. Kasturi and Dr. Hislop, two devotees who were fortunate to have enjoyed the proximity of Bhagawan and were witnesses to many wonders and miracles of Bhagawan during their lifetime. They recall various incidents that took place during Bhagawan's childhood days.

Then it is the turn of Mother Saraswati, the Goddess of learning and Lord Dhanvantari, the God of Healing to express their gratitude to Bhagawan for raising education and medicine on such a high pedestal through His educational institutions and hospitals. The saints, Thyagaraja, Purandaradasa, Meerabai, Chaitanya Deva also follow, paying homage to the Lord whom they all adored through their devotional compositions. For the final scene, all the students of the Primary School joined in waving golden stars and singing aloud the praise of their Mother Sai. Bhagawan blessed the participating students with photographs before accepting arati at the conclusion of the day's proceedings.

The morning of the final day of the festival, October 24th featured a presentation with a difference. "Heritage Sports", as the programme was titled, recreated the sylvan atmosphere of rural India, with the Bal Vikas students showcasing some of the games and sports that are popular in the villages in their states. The students from Andhra Pradesh displayed astonishing dexterity in swirling tops and balancing them on their palms and on their heads and even tossing it to each other and then balancing them. Students from Orissa exhibited a game of amazing endurance, "Puchhi", which is played usually by village girls there. All the games and sports were much enjoyed and appreciated by the devotees who had gathered in Sai Kulwant Hall. This was followed by three short speeches by Bal Vikas students.

In the evening, Bal Vikas students from Tamil Nadu, presented, "Bhakthi Mahima", on the lives of two much revered saints of India, Tulsidas and Kanakadasa. Tulsidas was very much a man of the world until his wife turned his mind away from worldly pleasures towards the bliss of being immersed in devotion to the Lord. His heart was then filled with a tremendous longing to have the Darshan (Vision) of His beloved Lord Rama.

Lord Hanuman guides Tulsidas to Chitrakoot, where Lord Rama had stayed during His exile from Ayodhya. There, however, He fails to behold His Lord, as, absorbed in His contemplation, he does not notice Lord Rama, Mother Sita and Lakshmana walking past him and only has a fleeting glimpse of them. He beseeches Lord Hanuman to bestow the divine vision on him again. This time he even applies sandal paste on the foreheads of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita without realizing that the very Lord who he adored was now before him.

Tulsidas now dedicates himself to composing the epic "Ramcharitmanas" on the life of Lord Rama. One day, some misguided people decide to steal into Tulsidas's ashram to destroy his work. But, at the gates of the ashram, they see two handsome princes standing guard. Realizing that they were none other than Lord Rama and Lakshmana they beat a hasty retreat. Filled with remorse, they beg forgiveness of Tulsidas. But, Tulsidas praises their good fortune that allowed them to have the darshan he was craving for. Finally, Lord Rama, pleased with devotion of Tuslidas, manifests Himself along with His consort, Mother Sita, and brother Lakshmana.

Saint Kanakadasa was born in a low caste family and had never been educated in the Vedas or other scriptures. However, he was full of devotion to Lord Krishna. One day, he happened on a pot of gold concealed in a shrub in a forest. But, such was his detachment towards wealth that he immediately distributed it among the needy. A Guru, who was earlier a disciple of Saint Purandaradasa notices this quality in Kanakadasa and initiates him as his disciple. One day, the Guru decided to test his disciples. He gives them each a banana and instructs them to eat the banana unseen by anyone.

All the disciples disperse looking for places where they could be alone. After a while, the disciples return to the Guru. Kanakadasa alone has not eaten his banana. The Guru asks him the reason and Kanakadasa reveals that he just could not find a place where he could be alone because wherever he turned he saw Krishna smiling at him. The Guru praises Kanakadasa's exalted state and blesses him to go out into the world to spread the glory of Lord Krishna. Kanakadasa travels to many pilgrimage places singing in praise of Lord Krishna. He reaches the famous temple town of Udupi in the state of Karnataka. However, there, the orthodox priests refuse to permit him inside the temple as he belonged to a low caste family. In agony, Kanakadasa cries out to Lord Krishna to grant him His darshan. The western wall of the temple cracks open, the idol reveals itself to bless Kanakadasa with the Divine Vision, and thus the world learns of the power of Kanakadasa's devotion. A window is now fixed on this wall in the Krishna temple at Udupi and it is called Kanakana Kindi. It is a custom to first have darshan of Lord Krishna through this window before entering the temple precincts as a mark of respect to this great minstrel of Karnataka.

This programme marked the conclusion of the 'Festival of Joy'. It was a rewarding experience for all who witnessed the celebrations, but perhaps, most of all for the participating students. The excitement of staying together with peers from different parts of the country, broadening the mind by seeing at close hand the rich traditions and diverse culture of Bharat, and most importantly imbibing lessons for life from Bhagawan Himself, all these are a treasure to be cherished for a long time. This meet will certainly prove a fillip to all Bal Vikas students as the participants return to their homes re-energized by the touch of Bhagawan. Let us all pray that this positive energy spreads to rejuvenate the nation and pervade the entire world so that the Kingdom of God can be realized on earth itself.

Jai Sai Ram!

Source: http://srisathyasai.org.in/pages/balvikas_conf_report.htm


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