As the 180 youth of the United Kingdom all dressed in white boarded the flight from London to Bangalore, they had only one goal in mind- to make Swami happy. After several months of Sadhana, the group anxiously awaited the moment they would arrive in Puttaparthi to receive Swami’s darshan and participate in Sadhana Camp; the theme being ‘Mind, Body and Atma’, or MBA.
On the 25th of February 2009, Swami blessed the proposed Camp as presented to Him by Sri Ajit Popat (see picture). Swami took great interest in the programme and gave specific instructions on the format and theme.
The group held its first meeting in London in March 2009. Thereafter, the group met a number of times in preparation for the camp to ensure that everyone was approaching the pilgrimage with a common understanding, purpose and level of discipline. The singers and musicians spent most of their weekends earnestly preparing for the musical programme to be offered at Bhagawan’s Lotus Feet. After months of preparation and intense sadhana, the group arrived in Puttaparthi on the 2nd of August to spend 12 blissful days in the Divine Presence of the Lord. The unity and love felt by the group was evident for all to see. For many of the group members, this was the first Sadhana Camp in which they had participated. For others, this was the first visit to Prasanti Nilayam. What a wonderful sight it was to witness their first darshan of Swami. Their hearts and minds filled with the radiance of sheer bliss which Swami emanates.
Each day was filled with activities that focused the mind on Swami. The day began as early as 3:30 with a wakeup call. At 4.50 the group would commence silent sitting followed by 21 Omkars, Suprabatham, an inspiring talk by Sri Ajit Popat, the thought for the day (which, with Swami’s grace was always relevant to the day’s activities or topic of discussion), pranayam and yoga. With Swami’s grace and blessings, the MBA programme inaugural talk was given by Mr. Sathya on 2nd August, a Young Adult from the US. He spoke about his personal experiences with Swami and asked us to question ourselves if we were really ready to do Swami’s work – the message being that we should be “ever-ready” to serve Swami, proactively seeking to love and serve in our daily lives.
With Bhagawan’s grace, eminent speakers from Prasanti Nilayam and abroad addressed the group. The speakers included Sri Ramana Rao (Former Head, Examinations Board), Sri Anantharaman (former visiting-Harvard Professor) Sri V Srinivasan (President, All India Sri Sathya Sai Organisation), Dr Voleti Choudary (Head of Cardiology, SSSIHMS), and finally to conclude with Sri Anil Kumar. Each speaker provided clarity on the theme of Mind, Body and Atma, gave practical advice on how to achieve a healthy mind and body, explained the timeless/eternal and indestructible nature of the Atma and shared personal experiences.
Professor Anantharaman gave a beautiful account of how to balance the many challenges young people face in these turbulent times, the loss of values in the corporate world and the importance of integrating Swami’s teachings in our daily and professional lives. Sri V Srinivasan was truly inspiring as he recounted his many interactions with groups and samithis all across India over many years. He asked us to make a fervent enquiry why we come to Prashanti Nilayan. He reminded us that we can only come here if Swami wills it and suggested that most people come here for inspiration, for peace of mind and to ‘recharge their batteries’. After all, although electricity is all around, you go to an outlet to get that electricity. So too, although God is all around, you sometimes need to see the physical form in order to recognize the God all around us. All members of Sadhana Camp could relate to the fact that we truly find peace and inspiration that motivates us to do His work when we come to Prashanti Nilayam and return to our respective places in life. Dr Choudary gave a humorous account of his personal experiences with Swami. He related the fact that despite earning material success, he still felt that “there was something missing” until he came to Swami. On the day he addressed the group, he had worked until 4.30 and got up at 8.30 and he still found the energy to address the Sai Youth at 19:00 the same day. The end of Sadhana Camp was marked by Sri Anil Kumar providing the ‘graduation’ address in his inimitable style. The energy and love in the room was felt by all as he spoke about the differences between the material and spiritual worlds.
The youth of Sai Kingdom also had a unique opportunity to meet , Sri K. Chakravarthi, Secretary of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust. Over a period of 6 days, small groups of 30 met with him each day to discuss a variety of topics relating to the Sai mission, challenges facing youth today and Swami’s teachings and philosophy. For someone who has left the Ashram only once in 35 years, he possessed a stunning grasp of world affairs (!)
The highlight of Sadhana Camp was the opportunity to offer our love in the form of a musical programme on the afternoon of 9th August. Swami sat for over an hour immersed in divine bliss as the group presented a variety of compositions in Hindi, Sanskrit, English and Telugu, as well as instrumental pieces on the Sitar and Veena. Indeed he later conveyed to the group leader, Sri Ajit Popat ‘kushi hai” (I am very happy). It is fair to say that the youth of Sai Kingdom made Swami happy with Swami appearing reluctant to leave Sai Kulwant Hall even after Arati had been conducted. Such proximity is indeed rare these days and the joy experienced was overwhelming for many of the Sai Youth, bringing tears to their eyes. It is impossible to describe in words the feelings of the group; this intangible manifestation of divine love must be experienced to be believed.
The youth were also given the opportunity to present to Swami and launch a CD - “Language of the Heart”, a compilation of 9 compositions in 9 languages to Swami. The CD was produced and recorded in London with great love and devotion by the youth of Sai Kingdom.
As the time of departure drew closer there were many heavy hearts but all members of the group felt inspired with their batteries fully charged and ready to return to the world. For many, this has been a life changing experience and for all there is the hope that they will be called back in the future. The youth of Sai Kingdom left joyous and filled to the brim with Swami’s Love, knowing full well in their hearts that these were rare chances indeed.
Testaments from some of the Sai Youth
“The Sadhana camp has definitely created an impact on my way of life – living with the bear essentials was something I thought I could never do but it has made me realize how dependant we are on material/luxury products which in reality we only desire but don’t really need”.
“Visits to the ashram and the Sadhana camp are arduous. They are cleansing, like a painful operation which must be endured for a longer term goal. Seeing and experiencing God should not be easy, it is a privilege that should be earned”.
“This trip was necessary to bring God to the forefront of my life once more, it was necessary to cleanse me of the detritus I had collected since my last visit in 2006”
“I had the most amazing and inspiring time”
“I was given the opportunity to present the musical programme card to Swami, although this episode only lasted for a few minutes it is something I will remember and cherish for a lifetime”.
“This trip has been a real journey where Swami has churned all types of emotions in me and made me analyse myself as part of my sadhana”.
“Swami’s divine darshan provided us with the motivation to pursue our sadhana joyfully and cheerfully”.
“Living a simple life, eating less, talking less, speaking less. No Ipod, phone, TV or Internet”
The group is heading back to the United Kingdom vouching to make it a Sai Kingdom…worth to notice and emulate!!!