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THE SAI MOVEMENT IN PUERTO RICO

Previous Articles In This Series
 

Pristine Puerto Rico

It seems it is like the Garden of Eden. Surrounded by sea on all sides, dotted with lovely waterfalls, blessed with miles upon miles of white sand beaches, endowed with unbelievable rainforests, covered with captivating mountain ranges, awash with more than 50 rivers, and to add to all this soul-soothing magic, a cool and warm climate all the year around - Puerto Rico is, truly, a surreal beauty blessed by the divine in bounty. This tropical island which is actually the top of a submerged mountain crest is a pristine paradise of nature where warmth of its people is equaled only by the sunshine that graces its shores. Though only 170 kms by 60 kms, every facet of nature’s beauty blooms in this most sought after Caribbean island. It is one of the rarest places on earth Puerto Rico is always a dream vacation for many Americans next door and nature-lovers worldover.

A Much Coveted Island    
         

Being an unincorporated self-governing territory of United States, and located about 200 kilometres off the south coast of Florida (the nearest to the mainland United States), any American can freely step into this island without a visa. From July 25, 1898, when it was invaded by the United States during the Spanish-American war, the President of United States has been the Head of the State, though the territory has its own Executive, Legislaure and Judiciary, the Governor and the legislators being elected by popular vote every four years.

When Christopher Columbus arrived in Puerto Rico during his second voyage on November 19, 1493, he found the Taínos (Amerindians) inhabiting the island which they had named "Borikén" or "Borinquen". But he named the island San Juan Bautista, in honor of Saint John the Baptist.

 
   
The island of Puerto Rico in Central America

 

When Christopher Columbus arrived in Puerto Rico during his second voyage on November 19, 1493, he found the Taínos (Amerindians) inhabiting the island which they had named "Borikén" or "Borinquen". But he named the island San Juan Bautista, in honor of Saint John the Baptist. Later, the island took the name of Puerto Rico, (which means ‘rich port’ in Spanish) while the capital was named San Juan. In 1508, Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León became the island's first governor to take office. Earlier, the island was occupied by prehistoric people called Ortoiroids who are believed to be first human settlers of the Caribbean, originated from the Orinoco valley in South America.

But after Spanish colonisation in the 15th century, the Tainos who were flourishing till then, soon dwindled in the island because of harsh working conditions enforced by the Spanish conquerers as well as diseases brought by them. The Spanish rulers then introduced African slaves to augment the workforce. In time, this port city evolved into what is now San Juan, the Capital city, and the republic island Puerto Rico. Because of its strategic location in the Caribbean, especially from a navel standpoint, the officials of the Spanish crown always thought of it as the strongest foothold of Spain in America, and to safeguard it from imminent threats from European enemies, built various formidable forts and walls, such as La Fortaleza, El Morro and San Juan Cathedral which are now national treasures of the island; the first two in fact being ‘World Heritage Sites’.

Christopher Columbus
 

Puerto Rico – Prosperous and Progressive

During the early nineteenth century, because of constitutional reforms, the economy and population of the island saw a surge with hundreds of Corsican, French, Lebanese, Chinese, and Portuguese families, along with large numbers of immigrants from Spain and former Spainish colonies in South America, arriving in Puerto Rico. The local character of the island expanded. There were other settlers too which included Irish, Scots, Germans, Italians, and thousands who were granted land from Spain during the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815 which allowed European Catholics to settle in the island with a certain amount of free land. This mass immigration during the 19th century helped the population grow from 155,000 in 1800 to almost a million at the close of the century; now it is roughly four million. Thanks to its rich fertile soil as well as its small size, Puerto Rico today has one of the highest population densities in the world at 446 people per square km while it is only 31 in the United States.

After the United States granted the right to democratically elect the Governor of Puerto Rico in 1947 and draft their own constitution in 1952, the island experienced rapid industralisation, thanks to the new deal (Operation Bootstrap) offered by America. Taking advantage of the tax exemptions, factories flourished and slowly Puerto Rico’s economy transformed from being agricultural-based to manufacturing. It became the leading exporter of US prescription drugs, electronic and other machinery, chemicals, raw and refined sugar, and sugar products. And added to this was tourism, the country forte. Even now, at least five million tourists – mostly from United States – visit this island every year, contributing nearly 2 billion dollars to its economy.

From some of America’s best un-crowded beaches with breathtaking sunsets to beautiful biosphere reserves, from mesmerizing mountains to amazing old-world architecture, from best seafood restaurants to spectacular surfing, kayaking, hiking, horseback riding, parasailing and Scuba diving experiences - not to forget the golf courses -, Puerto Rico, for many, is the star-attraction of the Caribbean with the charm of an island and at the same time with conveniences and roads that one would find in the United States. Another big plus for this tropical island is the climate, which is neither too cold nor hot, and is always warm with an average temperature of 82.4 °F (28 °C).

But what has made Puerto Rico a preferred choice for millions today, is not its warm weather but the warm hearts of its people. Best known by speaking using lively hand and facial gestures, Puerto Ricans are very cordial and genuine in their communication, especially to strangers.

Puerto Rico's pride...best un-crowed beaches on earth...

Though Spanish is the primary language, English is taught as a second language in schools from elementary levels to high school.

Nearly half of its population (that is two million) lives in the capital city of San Juan, which is also the largest city. Apart from being the island’s most important seaport and manufacturing and financial hub, this historical city is the home to many picturesque colonial buildings and extraordinary forts. It is also a major sports and cultural centre too having played host to mega sport events like Pan American Games and World Baseball Classic tournaments.

San Juan with the fort del Morro
Old San Juan...beautiful colonial past

The Port of San Juan, epicentre of the island's life and economy
The Governor's Mansion in San Juan, the capital city

Puerto Rico - A Pot-pourri of People

With a mix of four cultures, African (from the slaves), Taíno (Amerindians), Spanish, and, more recently, North American, Puerto Rico is not a complex society but a lovely blend, which is very tolerant, radiant and resilient. From Africans, they have obtained the ‘bomba and plena’, a type of vibrant music and dance including percussions and maracas. The Amerindians (Taino's) have kept many names for their municipalities, foods, and musical instruments like the güiro and maracas; while their language, Catholic religion (the most dominant in the island) and a vast majority of their cultural, moral values and traditions have come from the Spanish.

View of mountain range from El Yunque
El Castillo San Felipe del Morro Fort
El Castillo de San Cristobal Fort
Breathaking Mountains

The United States have gifted the English language and the university system – the University of Puerto Rico was founded in 1903, five years after the island became part of the United States. And now, just over a hundred years later, the Univeristy is receiving the Sathya Sai Education in Human Values programme. Now, when and how did Sai enter this serene island?

The Sai Organization is Born…

The Sathya Sai Organization of Puerto Rico had its beginning in July, 1987, when it was officially accredited by the Sathya Sai Council of USA. In Cabo Rojo, a city in the Western Coast of Puerto Rico, a group of people were meeting in the clinic of Dr. Moreno to study the teachings of Swami Muktananda. When this teacher left his body, the group continued their study circles, but now turned to understand the universal teachings of Bhagavan Baba. This was in the early eighties. Around this time, Aida Medina made contact with the group in 1984, after reading some books on Sai and seeing the movie Aura of Divinity. When Dr. Moreno left the group, a committee was formed, with Aida being designated as the leader. Aida lived in Mayaguez, which is on the other side of the island from the capital, San Juan. But only after attending a Sai retreat in New York in 1986, did she discover that there is another Sai Group in the same island, right in the capital city of Puerto Rico, San Juan. She found that Mr. Mohan Darayanani was the one in charge of this group and they had Sai books for sale too.
 
     

 

Mohan had been a devotee of Shirdi Sai Baba for long. Originally from Pune, India, he moved to Canary Islands (in the north western coast of Africa) after his marriage. The couple did not have an offspring for eight years. This was when Mohan decided to make a trip to Shirdi and sure enough, months later, his wife conceived and Neeta, their sweet daughter was born in 1963.

Two years later, Mohan happened to visit a Sathya Sai Centre in Canary Islands and the picture of Swami in the wall there made such a deep impact in him, that from then on Swami became the soul of his life. And he made his first visit to India to see Baba in 1978. Mohan was now living in San Juan, Puerto Rico and in 1986 when an oportunity showed up to rent a place for Sai meetings; he along with Jose Marrero and Erick Lluch formed the Condado Sai Group in San Juan.

On the first chair on the left is Mohan at a Sai retreat in Caguas
   

Fascinating Encounters

How Swami came into the life of Erick Lluch and Jose Marrero is fascinating too. In 1975, Erick was living in New York, and going through very challenging times in his life. It was at this time that he accidentally picked up the book “Sai Baba, The Holy Man and the Psychiatrist”. He was very sick and the doctors could never diagnose his problem. So he prayed for a divine intervention or the presence of a saint in his life. He read the book completely the day he bought it and then started writing letters to Baba everyday.

He was convinced that Swami was the ‘Divine Saint’ he had prayed for. Swami even appeared to his mother at their home in Puerto Rico. Erick returned to his mother’s place in 1976 and there he met Jose Marrero. Together, they started visiting a park near his home everynight to sing devotional songs to Swami and meditate on Him. Jose Marrero recalls,

 
   

“My good friend Erick told me about this saint from India who had saved his life. He called Sai Baba his personal physician, and always carried with him the book, ‘Sai Baba, the Holy Man and the Psycaitrist’. This book has been his point of reference to overcome a severe crisis of health. About this time in 1979, there was no Sai Baba center in Puerto Rico. But, Erick and I would take a guitar and sing to Sai Baba and meditate on His presence in the world. We would do this every night in a small park in our neighborhood; known as Golden Gate, Guaynabo.

It was here that I started to have the most transcendental experiences of my life. This has been a guide for my life ever since. Sai Baba made His presence felt in my heart, and I started to become aware of another world, up to then unknown to me, a world where the atma (spirit) was all. When I discovered Sai Baba, my search for God opened a new horizon for me. From that time to now, I have been repeting His name in my mind. It has been like this for 28 years now.

“Our spiritual practice in the park lasted several years, and in this way we maintained an inspiration and motivation for Swami and His teachings, and at the same time receiving innumerable blessings. About this time, Erick told me that his wife, Alicia had seen some photos of Sai Baba in a store in Condado. We thought the owner must know Sai Baba, and when we went there, our suspicion was confirmed; Mohan Darayanani was a staunch devotee of Sathya Sai Baba. This was in 1986. Mohan had just heard about a group which was meeting on the other side of the island in the home of Aida Medina, but he did not have a car.

 
   
Jose Marrero in red t-shirt at a Sai meeting

We solved the transportation problem, took off to visit the other group and sing bhajans together. Later, Mohan offered his apartment as a meeting place, and we started our regular meetings to sing bhajans and perform arathi ceremony which has continued for 21 years now without interruption.”

 

Comforting Grace

In the meantime, all these devotees filled with devotion for Sai had amazing experiences too. Erick wanted to travel to India, and there were too many obstacles on the way. But when he just mentioned Swami’s name, he got the visa in no time and all the other problems too disappeared including his undiagnosed sickness! Similarly, when Mohan’s daughter, Neeta, too did not have children for eight years, and she did an encore like her mother, she conceived too once she was back from Shirdi. Just a few years back, in 2005, when Mohan was diagnosed with prostate cancer, the doctors examined him and detected a swelling on his chest too. After a biopsy, they confirmed it was cancer, which meant the disease had spread. His wife Sandra Maria, prayed to Swami, and started applying vibhuti to the wound left by the biopsy on the chest. 

The doctors prescribed chemotherapy but first they sent the biopsy results to a U.S. laboratory for a second opinion. When Mohan came for his next meeting with the doctors they found that there was no cancerous growth on his chest or in the prostate! The doctor could not explain what had happened, but Mohan knew how much Swami loved him. Even now, Mohan is strong and healthy serving as the Vice President of the Sai organization coordinating committee. But we will come to it a little later; for now, going back to the late eighties, so, it was Mohan along with Erick and Jose who started the small Sai group in San Juan.

   

The Small Group Now Grows…

In 1990, this study group became a Sai Centre. Bettina Biggert, who for many years was the regional coordinator of south-eastern USA, and one of the founders of the Sai Organization in the States, attended the opening ceremony. Later, she went to Mayaguez too where the other group was operating in the home of Aida Medina.

In 1991, the Sai Organization of Puerto Rico was transferred to the Latin American zone from the US because of similarity of language and culture, and the first public meeting was held in San Juan where about 200 people attended. New centres and groups sprang up in north as well as south coasts of the island in the municipalities and cities of Carolina, Guanica, Ponce and Guayanilla. This necessitated the formation of a coordinating committee in 1998 and Mr. Erick Lluch was its first president, while Jose Marrero became the first service coordinator. Erick, incidentally, is a very talented person skilled in plastic arts and woodworking. Jose, on the other hand, has a sports clothing factory, and sponsers little league baseball teams.

Mysterious Manifestions

Apart from Mohan, Eric, and Jose, there were many others too who were the divine instruments of Swami in the early years of the Sai Organization in Puerto Rico. And one such person is Mercedes Mercado. She heard about Swami when she was living in New York in the late eighties from a friend. Her life’s circumstances then were very painful. The divorce process was on and every minute was difficult, but she felt Swami’s protection through every step of the way. He manifested to her in mysterious ways.

First it was a vibhuti flow on a tiny envelope for a whole week; then, a delicate sensation of jasmine smell in the middle of dark winter where no plants were around and snow was piling high everywhere (it was February!); and later, through the sound of a flute in the first visit to a Sai center. “However, the most fascinating part was not the manifestations per se but the feeling of a rare peace of mind and exhilarating joy that I always felt inside my heart and spirit,” says Ms. Mercedes. When she returned to Puerto Rico in 1992, she started the Sai Center of Carolina (a city located in the northern part of Puero Rico bordering the Atlantic Ocean), in her home. Since the starting of this Sai group, Swami has been entering the lives of many Puero Ricans in His own unfathomable way, just like it was for Mercedes. It will be interesting to note that Mercedes is a trained music teacher and violinist, and even participated in the Sai Symphony Orchestra held in the Divine Presence of Bhagavan at Prashanti Nilayam on various occasions as the representative from Puerto Rico.

 
   

Divine Answers

Kilbio Tiburcio of this centre in Carolina, after going through very difficult times in his life, had some searching questions. One of his friends was going to India, so he penned his doubts in a letter for Swami and insisted that his friend give the letter to Swami directly. The friend agreed and reached the ashram - but not only did Swami not take the letter, He seemed to avoid it day after day of his month’s stay.

The last day during the morning Darshan drew no joy either, so there was no choice but to send the letter by post. Kilbio’s friend started on his journey home, saddened at his failure to keep his given word. The trip took him two days and when he arrived home, he did not know how to call Kilbio and give him the depressing news. But out of the blue Kilbio appeared at his house and before he could tell him anything, with great excitement Kiblio said: “I know what happened; you don’t have to tell me. Sit down I know everything! Sai Baba did not take my letter, as I asked right? As I was going off to sleep three days ago, a very strong energy came into the room, took hold of me and I just could not move. As I opened my eyes I saw Sai Baba at the end of my bed, and He asked me: ‘What do you want to know?’ Then He answered every question I wrote on that letter!”

You can imagine, Kilbio and his friend’s joy! Such miraculous and mind-boggling experiences, continued to draw more and more people into the Sai fold.

Vibhuti Visitations

Going back to the San Juan centre, many more devotes joined there too, prominent among them being Mr. Aulio Hernandez and Mr. Reynaldo Ureña.

“On two occasions Swami has blessed my pictures with a very soft veil of vibhuti,” says Aulio Hernandez. “The first time was with my son, who decided to start talking poorly about Swami. So, I punished him by making him stand in front of Swami’s picture for a while and then closed him in the room. About two minutes later he started to scream very loudly which scared me. When I got to the room and opened the door he was very upset, so I let him go. Later as my wife was cleaning the picture she noticed a soft vibhuti veil – no wonder he had been shocked!

“On the second occasion it was my duty to clean the altar but I arrived at the center late from my job, and was the last to arrive and leave. I began to clean the altar around 10 o’clock in the evening and left at 10.30. That was on Saturday, and no one else had been there since, because I had the key and locked the door as I left. On Sunday morning, as we arrived for the morning service, a soft vibhuti veil was on the same picture I had cleaned the night before. It was just another manifestation of Swami’s Love.”

 
 

A Call and a Cure

It was Vibhuti for Aulio, it was a mysterious phone call for Yesenia Urena. She says, “These events happened, right after I had gone through a painful separation from a Christian group, which I had cherished very much and was feeling really low. So, I prayed to Jesus, and told Him that I feel as if I have lost everything in my life! “The next day, a neighbour’s child called me and gave me a little note. It read: ‘One can lose everything except faith, and still you haven’t lost anything. But if you lose your faith then, you really did lose it all!’ Some days after, I was walking into the Sai center and the following event unfolded.

“My father became suddenly very ill and was hospitalized, and admitted into the intensive care unit. He could not breathe and chances of his recovery were dim. That was on Sunday and on the next day I went to visit him again and he seemed to have recovered, and was not even on oxygen. Amazing I thought! Then I left the hospital, but hours later his health was in a deeper crisis, much worse than the first one. On the next morning my mother received a phone call from a woman, asking if a ‘Dr. Francisco Ureña’ lived there. “My mother told her that Francisco Ureña was her husband’s name but he wasn’t a doctor and he was very sick at the hospital. The woman explained that she had a dream telling her to call Dr. Francisco Ureña because he had a remedy for her, (i.e. the lady that was calling) and since it was such a vivid dream, she started to look for the name in the phone book. Dazed by the phone call, my mother told me about it and immediately I thought it was a call from Swami. I phoned my older brother and told him to give Dad some vibhuti. Right after that, Dad recovered and was out of the crisis.”

Sai Retreats – Refreshing the Soul

Miracles like this only drew people in increasing numbers and the dedication and devotion of the devotees were exemplary. Mr. Aulio Hernandez and Mr. Reynaldo Ureña guided the San Juan centre successfully since 1999. People wanted to share their love for Swami with fellow devotees and Sai Retreats began to take shape. Almost every year there was a big congregation of all the devotees apart from the meetings in small groups and every such session had profound impact in their lives.

Sai Retreat in Caguas 2002
And this one was in the Mountain Vacation centre

Sharing her experience at a national retreat in 2002, Ms. Carmen Teresa Pacheco, says, “I was very worried because my daughter Mayra had detected a lump in her breast. One could see under the skin something that looked like a calcium deposit. I went to the Sai Baba retreat with Mayra in the Centro Vacacional del Monte (Mountain Vacation Center). The Presence of Sai is so real during the retreats and I wanted to dedicate this special time to my daughter’s health. The first night I could not sleep and we got up at 4:30 AM and in spite of the cold, we joined the nagasankirtan singing bhajans. Then we went to watch the Sun rise. It was breathtaking watching as the Sun rose between the mountains and pine trees while we chanted the Gayatri mantra.

“As the Sun ascended I made a prayer to Swami for Mayra’s health and then noticed the big ball of red light come closer and then retreat. This happened several times, but Mayra did not have this experience. We passed the day together in the wonderful spiritual company of the devotees. When we returned home, Mayra told me of her own experience. She said that she too had been sleepless. She had sat on the floor to meditate, and a white warm light had touched her, and then a translucent figure like an angel had appeared. She felt covered by light as the figure disappeared. After relating this experience, she touched her breast and said, ‘Mom, the lump is not there anymore!’ I too examined her, and the lump had disappeared. Thanks to Swami we are enjoying good health.”

  The Sai retreat every year was a moving and revealing experience for all the participants. In 2005, the retreat featured the Sai Musical group know as the Lightstorm. The group has Jonima and Kalassu Wintergate who were old time devotees of Swami and had spent a lot of time in the ashram during the 1960's. During their visits to Prashanti, they would take leave for a few days and travel to Vietnam and entertain the troups there. Narrating a ‘divine moment’ that occurred in Vietnam they said that once there was to be an enemy offensive and they were warned not to go into the jungle. But they said, “Baba will protect us” and went. When they got to where the troups were, the commander told them that there was sure to be an enemy attack that night; however, the Lightstorm started their concert at 6 PM. And from out of the shadows appeared all the enemy soldiers, but without weapons, and what is more amazing is that they joined the allied soldiers listening to the music until the wee hours of the morning! There was no fighting until the next night after the Lightstorm had left to return to Prasanthi.
A musical Sai study circle with the Lightstorms
   

The Sathya Sai Institute of Human Values

There is no kind of people untouched by Swami’s Love in this island. And every devotee now wanted to express their love to Swami and what better way than service? One of the first major service projects of the Puerto Rico Sai organization was in the sphere very close to Swami’s heart, namely Education, especially guiding the small children along the right track. And thus was born the Sathya Sai Institute of Human Values in Puerto Rico.

A fruit and more love to the kids
They dance to value songs
A refreshing cultural programme by young adults
A drama on peace by the EHV students

The entire history of the Institute has indeed been a Sai miracle. In 2002, the devotees were inspired by the visit and the talks given by Paola Contestabile, who was a recent graduate of the Sathya Sai diploma course in Thailand, and the daughter of one of the directors of the Sathya Sai School in Chihuahua, Mexico. They decided that they must start an Institute in Puerto Rico. The Ministry of Education advised them that the director of such an Institute needed to have special educational requirements.

During the Inauguration ceremony of the Sathya Sai Institute of Human Values

Raul Rodriguez, a recently retired teacher and devotee of Swami was the right person for the job with all the required conditions, so the legal basis was fairly easy to cover. They then started receiving applications for workshops to introduce the program at different schools, and as word got around, many more schools called up to receive training in the program. The Institute gave the first seminar in May, 2003, and since then over 300 teachers have been trained in the Sathya Sai EHV Program. Raul Rodriguez continues to lead the Institute as its President and the training is given free. Teachers from different public and private schools come voluntarily, and give their time to understand Swami's Educare, and then they apply it in their classes and their lives too.

A Sai Institute's Seminar in progress...
Raul and Laura Rodriguez overseeing the discussion
 
 
 
The dedicated members of the Sathya Sai Institute of Human Values
 

One of the first teachers to receive the training workshops was Mrs Emma Roche. A very enthusiastic participant, she has now joined the Institute’s team of teacher trainers, and also has introduced the program to all the teachers in her school Centro Angeles de Esperanza where she is the director. Last year Mrs Emma brought a young university student, Jackilyn Rodriguez to take the workshop. After going through the course, Jackilyn, who is now studying to become a teacher, has chosen to do her thesis on Sathya Sai Human Values techniques for her graduation. No one had earlier presented this approach to teaching Human Values, and learning from Jackilyn her teachers at the University of Puerto Rico became enthusiastic advocates of the program too. Her supervisor at the university is now helping her give some workshops for public schools teachers.

Silent sitting - A salient feature of Sai workshops
Learning through illustrations and presentations

Human Values in Music

Another very salient and innovative way the Institute encourages human values is through organizing uplifting Music Festivals. In a recent such programme, 25 public schools and 3 private schools signed up.

The kids arrive for the Music Festival
..they came from twenty eight schools across Puerto Rico

However, one director of a school contacted the organisers a few days before the festival, and said she was withdrawing her school from the festival because there were no prizes for winning the competition and she was sure that her school would win. It was explained to her that this was not a competition, that only certificates of participation would be given, and everyone was to be served a free breakfast.

Registration and lunch-break

The festival representative also explained that the way human values need to be practiced is not by looking at the fruits of the action, but for the sheer joy of giving. This made sense to her and she changed her mind. On the day of the festival, when each school was being given their certificates of participation, it was noticed that the certificates for the aforementioned school had disappeared. The organizers prayed fervently to Swami and as the lady director approached the dais to receive her certificates, the envelope appeared on top of the others!

Singing value songs with gusto...
...every school had something different and exciting

Everyone who participated in the Music Festival thought this was a festival straight from Prashanti Nilayam. They could feel Swami’s presence during the entire event. Each school presented their values song written by the students, or teachers, and in some cases songs from other countries in Latin America were also used. Many of the songs were accompanied by instruments played by the students themselves. The hall vibrated with positive vibrations as value songs, one after another, filled the air. After the programme, there were requests to hold more of such inspiring programmes.

 
 
 
"El Nuevo Dia" - a national newspaper of Puerto Rico is pleased to cover the unique Music Festival
 

“The amazing thing about working at the Sathya Sai Institute is that as we practice the values in our daily lives, there is a gradual transformation in our personalities, and we become more loving and caring as we found while participating in the Music Festival,” say the volunteers working at the Institute.

The Festival was unique not only for the theme but also for the costumes, color, creativity, the unifying character...

Stirring Sai Service

The Sai devotees’ service activities over the years have diversified into many areas. For five years in a row, Grama Seva (rural service) is being done for homeless people at El Paraiso. One of the poor and the forlorn expressing his gratitude says, “I know my Jesús wouldnt leave me alone. I knew God would hear my plea and that is why you came.”

The Sai volunteers here regularly see the ‘hand of Sai’. One Saturday when they had prepared food for 10 to 13 people, but suddenly actually 30 showed up, they just prayed to Swami and served the exact proportion to everybody and no one was left out in the end.
They also serve breakfast at the Plaza Rio Piedras in San Juan every week, which has been going on since 2001. All the homeless are waiting by 7 am in the morning every Sunday to receive their only good meal in the last six days. And during Christmas, it is very special here when the devotees sing and celebrate along with the poor. After they had their fill of cakes and ice creams, the homeless with their pots and pans as improvised percussion instruments and the devotees with their voices, in fact, make up a wonderful musical group, and sing gleefully the glories of the divine.

Weekly breakfast for the poor at Plaza Rio Piedras in San Juan
For the devotees, it is greater joy than for the recipients

Laura Rodriguez tells us that during one of such breakfast outings at the Plaza in San Juan, Sai volunteers arrived to serve breakfast as usual. But on this particular Saturday morning, a group from a local church had also showed up and brought several items. The devotees now were wondering what to do with all the extra food. Laura put through a call to her brother to ask for suggestions, but inadvertently she dialed an incorrect number; it was the Divine Providence home for the elderly. She asked if they needed some breakfast items, especially hot chocolate for the inmates. The elderly home was very happy to receive it. But the story does not end here. While they were delivering the breakfast, it was apparent that the Divine Providence home was not in any urgent need of charity, as this was a very nice place where the inmates were paying for good service. However, just above the home on the hill, they noticed many homeless people who were in need of help and they offered all the extra food to them. Now, the Sai group was introduced, through very strange circumstances, to a new group of homeless who were really in need and would receive loving Sai breakfasts on Sundays. For the devotees, it is the way Sai guides them and is always with them. Yesenia’s story is just another illustration emphasing this fact.

The disadvantaged sing and dance with Sai devotees
It could be a hot chocolate, a rich sandwitch or a nice piece of cake

Puerto Rico - Pulsating with Pure Love

Yesenia Urena used to teach Bal Vikas classes in San Juan Center every week. When the night before her class she asked her mother to accompany her to the store to buy some materials for the children to use during the class on Sunday morning, her mother agreed and she drove out. While they were traveling to reach the store another car lost control and ran into the back of Yesenia’s car. It was a terrible crash, but the mother and the daughter were without a single injury. When they got down to inspect the damage, their car was perfect too; only the car that had hit them was fully smashed. It was unbelievable!

Swami always says that if you are all the time focused on Me and My work, I will look after your welfare. And this is the experience of every Sai devotee whether he is in Puerto Rico, Panama or Prasanthi Nilayam. By instilling Sai in their hearts, and worshipping Him there with offering of pure love, Puerto Ricans, though miles way from Puttaparthi, are still in Prasanthi Nilayam every moment. Just as Swami promises, “I am in you, around you, above you, below you, with you,” He is always there with them. And one day, by His grace, this ‘island’ would surely metamorphose into ‘Sai-land’.

- Heart2Heart Team


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Vol 5 Issue 07 - JULY 2007
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