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THE SAI MOVEMENT IN Costa rica


Costa Rica – Colorful and Rich

True to its name, Costa Rica, means ‘Rich Coast’, as it is a veritable treasure garden of the earth’s natural wealth. While the country has only about 0.1% of the world's landmass, it contains 5% of the world's biodiversity! An amazing 25% of the country's land is in protected national parks and protected areas, representing the largest percentage of protected areas in the world.

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Exciting Costa Rica, perfectly situated as a gateway between North and South America

Due to this environmental reputation, the country has become a popular destination for affluent retirees and eco-tourists. Visitors are also attracted by Costa Rica's standard of living with the best life expectancy rate of Latin America which is at 78 years, and San José, its capital city is ranked fourth among Latin AmeRica's cities with the best quality of life. Ninety-five percent of the population has access to safe drinking water.

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A rare quetzal. It's possible to see around
300 bird species while bird watching in Cost Rica.
A spider on an orchid -
one of 1,200 species of that flower
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Clearwing butterfly feeding...
Sloths are quite easy to spot in Costa Rica's rainforest

Costa Rica – Another name for ‘Peace’

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Basílica de los Angeles de Cartago -
The most famous church in Costa Rica
 
Apart from their love and respect for the environment, Costa Ricans are peace and harmony loving by nature and the same principles guide their lives in other areas as well. Costa Rica, for instance, became the world’s first country to constitutionally abolish its army.

There is also a strong democratic spirit, with 60 years of popularly elected governments – quite a contrast to other countries in the region that have been affected by many civil wars and coups.

All Costa Ricans, totaling four million, speak Spanish as their first language and the state religion is Christianity with three out of four people professing the Roman Catholic faith, the other quarter being from the Protestant churches.

The ‘Coming’ of Costa Rica

Caribbean Indians inhabited the region when Christopher Columbus, the first European explorer to reach Costa Rica, arrived. The date was September 25, 1502, and Columbus was making his fourth and final voyage to the New World. When he arrived, a crowd of local Carib Indians paddled out in canoes and greeted his crew warmly. Later, possibly the gold ornaments that the region's inhabitants were wearing would inspire the name Costa Rica, which means ‘rich coast’.

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Gold bell pendant, over 1,000 years old
Frog Pendant, again from 1,000 years

Archaeologists now know that many talented and ancient cultures existed in Costa Rica  before the arrival of Columbus. Some archeological sites in the central highlands and Nicoya peninsula have shown evidence of influence from the Mexican Olmec and Nahuatl civilizations dating back to 5 th century. By the time Columbus arrived, there were several indigenous tribes living in Costa Rica, along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts and in the Highlands. There remain eight indigenous groups in the country that still represent the rich glory of the ancient cultures that thrived on the values of love, mutual respect, harmony and peace.

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These spherical rocks were carved by
the pre-Columbian natives
Toucan pendant is
more than 1,500 years old

More recently, in 1987, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez garnered world recognition when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending a period of Central American civil wars. He was able to get all five Central American presidents to sign the Esquipulas Peace Plan. It would be fair to say that the middle name of this rich coast or Costa Rica could well be ‘Peace’ for its history, culture, people and overall political climate point to a peaceful outlook.

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Former president Oscar Arias Sanchez
The United Nations
" University for Peace"

No surprise then that Costa Rica was selected by the United Nations Organisation as the seat of its unique initiative, The University for Peace, which offers a master's degree in Communications for Peace.

Strategic Location and Steady Growth

This beautiful country loc ated on the Central American Isthmus, borders both the Caribbean Sea (to the east) and the North Pacific Ocean (to the west) and shares a border with Nicaragua to the north and with Panama to the south.

The country’s economic development has been helped by this location, which provides easy access to the North and South American markets and direct ocean access to the European and Asian Continents. Costa Rica's major economic resources are its fertile land with frequent rainfall, and its well-educated population.

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Costa Rica's coffee is world renowned
Delicious Costa Rican pineapples

This nation used to be known principally as a producer of bananas and coffee, but pineapples have surpassed coffee as the number two agricultural export. In recent years, Costa Rica has successfully attracted important investments. Manufacturing and industry's contribution to GDP overtook agriculture over the course of the 1990s, led by foreign investment in Costa Rica's free trade zone.

A Highly Cultured People – Costa Rica's Core Strength

Costa Rica has a highly literate population, estimated at ninety three percent. Many of the country's early fathers like the first President, José Maria Castro, were former teachers who were concerned about education in Costa Rica. In 1869, the country became one of the first in the world to make education free and obligatory, funded by the state's share of the great coffee wealth.

Elementary and High schools are to be found in every community, and as if that were not enough, students here are not required to pay for assistance in this country. Costa Rica now has four state-funded universities, contributing successfully to the nation’s high literacy rate.

Panoply of Forests and River Valleys, Volcanoes and Mountains

Costa Rica's landscapes include ample coastlines, mountain ridges, rivers and volcanoes. This incredible diversity creates numerous ecosystems and micro-climates within the country’s borders.

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The Tabacon hot springs
A gentle rainforest stream
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The magnificence of Irazu Volcano
Arenal Volcano erupting - what a tremendous sight!

Even though there are at least 60 dormant or extinct volcanoes, only seven are active. Some of the most spectacular national parks are created around volcanoes like Poás or Irazú. Adventure tourists, environmentalists and nature- lovers, from around the world, flock to the dense and untouched forests of Costa Rica to connect with Nature at its pristine glory.

Where Beauty and Goodness Abound, Can Truth be far behind?

In this peace-loving country with a rich cultural past, a reasonable standard of living and an educated population, the quest for a higher purpose in life, the drive to rise above the basic physical desires was a natural progression of the nation’s spiritual destiny. Given the deeply religious leaning of its population, it is no surprise that many spiritual seekers of this unique land were drawn to the light and love of the Sai Avatar, in the distant land of India. This happened in the early 1980’s and this is how it unfolded.

History of the Sai Organization in Costa Rica

Former Finance Minister is Early Devotee

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An economist by training, Rigoberto Martínez was a former minister of Finance in El Salvador. His wife was one of the first people to hear about Swami in that region. In 1982, Rigoberto accompanied his wife to Prasanthi Nilayam as a chaperon while she came as a devotee. But, Swami captured his heart there and then.

Later, when he returned to El Salvador, he was appointed to a post in Costa Rica with the World Health Organization. And Rogoberto, who was so moved with his trip to Puttaparthi, began to share his newfound devotion with other like-minded souls in his new home. In this way, he started screening a few of the old Richard Bock films on Sai Baba and holding study circles with a few interested people.

Initially, Rigoberto started meeting with 8 to 10 devotees to sing bhajans (devotional songs) in Costa Rica's capital city, San José, once a week in the humble surroundings of a leather workshop. The space was completely inadequate, but the devotees learned to sing bhajans and conduct study circles.

Early participants in these meetings included Mireya Méndez and her husband Guillermo Hidalgo. The couple owned a bookstore specializing in occult books. Mireya believed in Sai Baba long before her husband. But after reading a couple of books, such as Sai Baba, Man of Miracles, Mr. Hidalgo decided to accompany his wife to one of the meetings. It was at this meeting that he met Rigoberto Martínez and his deep devotion for Baba began.

Sai Guides His Mission in Costa Rica

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Mrs. Mireya Mendez, one of Baba's first instruments
 
After this experience, Mr. and Mrs. Hidalgo decided to look for a bigger and better place to continue the Sai meetings and study circles. While thinking about this in their home, they smelt a very strong fragrance. “This was a clear sign that Baba blessed our desire to have a new room for the Sai meetings,” he says. Next day, Mireya found a beautiful and large place at a low price, which had recently been painted in soft pink.

It had previously been used as part of a Catholic convent, and still had a painted glass window with Jesus on it. On April 2, 1984, they opened its doors for Sai meetings and were ready to receive more Sai followers.

God Stamps Approval on Devotees’ Efforts

Mr. Hidalgo experienced two other leelas or signs of divine affirmation at this time. When he first tried to open the door to the new room, rose oil began to spread over the keys, and this scent lasted for several days. On another occasion, when he was about to begin a study circle, he had no idea about the topic for that day. But after intensely praying to Baba for His directions, when he opened a book, and vibhuti began to pour from that page. And there, on that vibhuti-blessed page, was the topic!

Their love and devotion only grew with every passing day. Finally Mrs. Hidalgo traveled to see Swami in 1985, together with Jesús Arauz from Panamá and Rigoberto Martinez, the economist who had played a pivotal role in starting the Sai movement in San José, the capital of Costa Rica.

Within a short period of time, the Sai awareness had spread far and wide in Costa Rica. In 1987, Leonardo Gutter and Dr. Goldstein came to Costa Rica, and the first public meeting about Sai Baba was conducted in this small country.

Sai Seed Germinates in Cartago in 1985

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A meeting at the Sai Center of Cachi,
capital of the province of Cartago
Meanwhile, other parts of Costa Rica such as the province of Cartago, were also embracing the good news of the arrival of the Avatar.

In 1985 Vidal Sandoval, resident of Peñas Blancas, Cachí, in the province of Cartago, met a Spanish man named Joaquín Villaplana, who initiated him into yoga. Mr. Villaplana also introduced Mr. Sandoval to Sathya Sai Baba and advised him to buy books about Swami at Mr. and Mrs. Hidalgo ’s bookshop. He bought several books and, after reading them, asked the owners of the bookstore to visit him and teach him how to conduct the Sai meetings.

At that time, there were only 10 devotees. Later on, ten more joined the group. Their first devotional practices included bhajans (devotional songs) at 4 a.m. and study circles, which were held on Tuesdays and Thursdays. With few resources, all members worked hard in several different areas and, in the process, were also putting Swami’s teachings into practice.

In 1988 Vidal Sandoval became the President of the Sai Center in Cachi. A homeopathic doctor by profession, Vidal, after coming into contact with Sai Baba’s teachings, was inspired to serve the poor from his clinic one day a week at no charge. An interesting fact about Vidal is that being a strict vegetarian, Vidal, always eats only raw food raised on his home farm.

A couple of years later, Alfredo Lizano, a lawyer, and his wife joined the Sai Center in San Jose. They traveled to see Swami in the 1990's and this visit inspired Alfredo to become the Sai Center President in the Sai centre, San José.

Sai Plants Each Instrument to Sow the Seeds of Sai Awareness

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(L to R) Betty Richard, Leticia Wilie and John Behner
 
In this manner, the Sai movement in Costa Rica continued to grow, and in retrospect, what is clear is a divine plan that orchestrated the growth of Sai awareness, one devotee at a time. Each of the chosen instruments of God had a personal tryst with divinity that eventually led them to work as His functionaries, joining the dots of individual efforts into a collective, larger whole known today as the Sai Movement in Costa Rica.

Leticia Wille is one such chosen one. Her father was a scientist who liked to read about Indian philosophy. She first heard about Sai Baba from him. In 1978, when she was 18 years old, he gave her the book, Sai Baba: The Man of Miracles to read. Her reaction was immediate acceptance of Sathya Sai Baba as the Avatar who had come to redeem mankind. She thought, “Wow, this is the Avatar of Avatars, I want to see him!” 

However, it was not until 1990, that she could travel to see Him in person. In January 1991, Leticia Wille joined the Sai Center in San José. A few years later, around 1997, Leticia began a Study Circle group in a place called Belén, and by the year 2000, had a full-time Sai job as a secretary for the Sai Center.

A recurring theme running through the milestones of the Sai Movement in Costa Rica, well, for that matter everywhere, is that Swami seems to place the right person in the right place at the right moment to carry out His will.

Hand-picked Devotees Serve Sai Mission

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Members at the old Sai Center venue of Barrio la Cruz
By 1998, two Sai devotees, Dr. José Cabezas (currently Vice-President of the Central Council of Central America) and Elisabeth Mevissen (a German devotee living in Costa Rica at that time) were helping the Sai Center a great deal. They both had their own transportation and also had easier ways of communicating with other Sai devotees abroad. Thus the Sai Center began to use internet to get connected and share His love.

Elisabeth Mevissen, who had traveled many times to see Baba, and is a melodious singer, taught many Sai devotees in Costa Rica the proper way to sing bhajans. She was very active in all areas, teaching devotees a great deal about Swami’s teachings and also served as National President till she returned to live in Germany in 2005, after serving the Sai cause in Costa Rica for a number of years.

Recalling her time as President, she says, “In the many years of being blessed as a member of the Sai Organisation of Costa Rica, there is no way to account the numerous experiences and endless teachings of our beloved Swamiji. The most important understanding I gained from His divine guidance, through leadership within the Sai Organisation was and is, ‘Love is all and He is the Love incarnate on Earth!’ Baba opened my inner vision, foremost the spiritual heart, to listen and surrender to His will. This assurance made it possible to unify the Sai family on many occasions and encounter blessed moments of service and meditation.

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Mrs. Elisabeth Mevissen, former president of the Sai Organisation in Costa Rica
 
“We all remember the unforgettable event of Akhand Bhajans in 2002, when a harmonious group of singers gathered for the first time to sing for twenty four hours, which is quite difficult in such a small (in number) group of active members. Nevertheless, enthusiasm and devotion filled the air with increasing vibration.

I still can hear the guitar, the swinging sound of purity and love, and voices flavored by our beloved Sai’s own inspiration. The sense of service and contribution to peace was brought forward throughout the whole country; it was indeed a high meditation.

“It is this experience of Him being in us, around us, above us and within us that lifts the spirit far beyond the material. Therefore, my utmost gratitude to our beloved Mother Sai for sending me to Costa Rica, where through humble service, I was granted this overwhelming gift.”

Unity, Purity, Divinity: Many Voices, One Song

This singularity of vision has played a significant role in taking the message of the Sai Avatar effectively to Costa Ricans. Towards this end, many visitors from abroad have helped to improve the effort of the Costa Rican Sai devotees.

On September 19, 2001, Salvador Demallistre from the Dominican Republic conducted a very valuable workshop on leadership and donated excellent materials for use by the Sai Center.

Again, a Sai devotee from Argentina, Verónica Hadad, was very active at the Sai Center in San José, teaching and organising many activities, especially Seva. In June 2003, one day, she had a wonderful experience. She was at the Sai Center in San José, cleaning it up before the evening bhajans. Jorge Cervantes, the current National President, had brought some booklets containing the 108 Names of Sai in Spanish. After the cleaning was finished, she sat down to take a look at the booklets.

Divine Fragrance Signifies Divine Presence

Veronica opened one of the tiny volumes at a paragraph where Prof. Kasturi (Baba’s biographer) beautifully described Swami as the One with a beautiful form, whose hands are full of nectar. Suddenly, she felt a very strong perfume of nectar or Amrith and realised all the booklets were emanating a strong sweet smell of Amrith. This wonderful experience, she says, will stay with her for ever.

Costa Rica's current National President, Jorge Cervantes learned about Swami in 1998 from Roxana Guadumez who worked in the same company. She gave him several books about Swami, and he read them with great interest and became a believer in His divinity. In the year 2001, he was invited to attend the Birthday Celebrations of Swami in San José, and as a result started to attend the Sai Center.

Then, towards the end of 2002, he was given the job of secretary for distribution of messages for the devotees. Over a period of time, he had several dreams with Sai Baba; dreams which were wonderful and helped both him and his family. In 2005, he was a witness to a violent assault in which he invoked Swami’s help by chanting “Om Sai Ram, Om Sai Ram”, and miraculously he was protected even though the other two people with him were robbed of their possessions. “Swami must have made me invisible to the robbers,” he says with a smile. 

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Juliana and Roxana before their trip
 
In 2006, he was able to visit Swami in India. His wonderful experience that year began on December 14. On this date, at 6:30 a.m., Jorge arrived in Prasanthi Nilayam. With the help of a devotee named Santiago, from Argentina, Jorge registered at the accommodation office. He was filled with extreme joy when he realised he would be allowed to enter the Mandir. This is what he says:

“After singing bhajans, my heart began to beat rapidly as Sai Baba was coming out of the front door. My inner eye had seen Him before my physical eyes saw His human body.” Swami looked at each devotee and at that moment, Jorge thanked Him, inwardly, for listening to his prayers and for letting him arrive at His Divine Feet. On December 24, the day when the Christmas choir presented their songs, Jorge felt it was one of the greatest moments of his life.

“To be able to sing to God for one hour and receive His darshan is a unique experience,” he says. On January 1, 2007, he got up very early to participate in the Omkar and chanted Suprabhatam. “This was my way of thanking Swami for everything He has given me.” Jorge says with a voice filled with emotion.

Like this, the story of every devotee is precious and profound. Juliana Pulgar, a younger devotee and Roxana Guadamuz, Costa Rica's current Service Coordinator, traveled together to Prasanthi Nilayam in year 2007. Their holy trip began long before take-off, as they trained themselves spiritually, physically and mentally, in preparation for the blessings they would receive in beholding God.

Childhood Tryst with Shirdi Sai Baba Reaffirmed

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Shirdi Sai Baba, the previous Sai Avatar
Going back decades in time, Roxana Guadamuz recalls, “One of the important questions which I wished to get answered while there in Prasanthi was that Swami should confirm for me the truth of an experience which I had had when I was 8 or 9 years old. I was watering the plants in the garden of my home when an old man with a white beard came up to me. He was wearing a strange dress which I had never seen in Costa Rica. It was a tunic tied with a cord, and he had a white cloth tied around his head. He was barefoot and his clothes were somewhat tattered and old. He carried a walking stick.

He sat down on a stump and crossed one leg over the other, close to me and asked me if I could give him something to eat. I went into the house and told my mother that an old man wanted something to satiate his hunger. She was busy, so she did not go outside, but gave me a plate of food to give it to him. I took the food to him, and he started to eat slowly with his hand, even though my mother had given a spoon, and he was looking at me all the time with a profound look; his eyes were filled with love. When he finished, he said ‘thank you’, and started to walk away.

“I took my eyes off of him for just a second or two, and when I looked back again he was gone! I ran out into the street but could not see him. Then, I ran into the house declaring to my mother that the old man was not a beggar but an angel! She came out to look for him too, but to no avail. I can still remember his look of peace and love. I started telling all my family and friends in school that I had seen an angel. Even a year later I was still telling those that would listen about my angel.

Years later, when I knew about Sathya Sai Baba, someone showed me a photo of Shirdi Sai Baba, and I recognised him as being the same man who had come to me in the garden. Now, in my last darshan before parting for Costa Rica, Swami passed in front of me in His car, I heard His voice inside saying, "Everything that has occurred here is true, and you have known Me since you were a little girl."

Shirdi Sai Blesses Childhood, Sathya Sai Blesses Couple with Child

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Mrs. Roxana Guadamuz was gifted a baby by Baba
 
Roxana Guadamuz is the wife of Mr. Rafael Rodriguez, the current President of the Sai Centre in San José. She was also interviewed by the Heart2Heart team, while at Prashanti Nilayam in December 2007. Here is an excerpt of what she told them [to read what she said, click here] :

“In 1997, my husband and I were keen to have a baby, but four years had passed and nothing happened. Subsequently, we decided to get medical help. When we walked into the doctor’s office, we saw large photograph of Swami. We wanted to know more about this picture and the doctor told us that His Name was Sai Baba and that He is a spiritual Teacher who lives in India, and can do miracles. We were actually captivated by His form and the stories we heard about Him.

After we left the clinic, as we were driving in the car, we were surrounded by a wonderful fragrance. It was something that I had never smelt before, and I was really astonished. When that sweet smell started permeating me from head to feet, I started crying because of the emotion that overpowered me so deeply. Nine months after that, we had our first son – truly, a gift from Swami. After that, we learnt a lot more about Him and soon took an active part in the Sai Organisation. About a decade later, we had the opportunity to be in Prasanthi, His Abode of Supreme Peace. We are so grateful to Him."

Roxana’s husband Rafael Rodríguez, sharing his memories of visiting Prasanthi Nilayam in 2006, says:

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Rafael Rodriguez's trip to Swami's Hospital

“After about eight years of being aware of the presence of Sathya Sai Baba as the Avatar of this age, I missed seeing Him in person. I had been saving for several years for a trip as I felt it was as if Jesus was again among us, so any effort was worthwhile to meet Him.

“Something unusual happened to me before the journey. Flying scares me a lot and the day before the flight, when I was driving in front of the airport I felt great fear. Just at that moment I looked at a beautiful orange light over the rear-view mirror. It was the setting of the sun, but I also observed a beautiful rainbow. I had never seen both phenomena together, and I accepted this as a sign that everything would go well, that I would have a good trip, and that Sai Baba was waiting for me.”

Mr. Rodríguez did not sleep that night, neither the following three days. Even so, he felt great energy and enthusiasm when he arrived in India. “It was wonderful that on the first nine-hour flight, I was sitting alone in my line of seats, even when the airplane was totally booked up. I was able to relax in this long trip.”

In his first morning in Prasanthi Nilayam, Rafael saw Sai Baba from a distance. He had the opportunity to be in darshan several times and was able to deliver the letters written to Baba from devotees in Costa Rica.

One day, when Baba was almost in front of Rafael, he said: “ Swami, Costa Rica loves you”, in English. Swami heard this message and answered with a friendly smile. “It was always enchanting to wait daily for His darshan. Even when He was not there physically, one could feel His presence while listening to the spiritual chants,” says Rafael.

From a merely human point of view, Mr. Rodríguez could not believe that a non-profit Organization had built that huge infrastructure and that it was so efficient. Rafael was looking at a real miracle in Prasanthi Nilayam. He says: “Certainly, only God Himself on Earth could have driven so many people to work together in harmony, just for love.”

Despite Milling Crowds, Sai Answers Individual Prayers

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Speaking of her recent experience in Prasanthi, his wife Roxana tells us, “During the last two or three days, Swami had not left His house, except for one or two darshan s. Because of that, I was asking Him to let us see His Divine Form before our departure for Costa Rica.

I wanted Him to come up to us and say ‘Goodbye.’ Juliana was asking for the same thing in her meditation, when suddenly, the people around us became excited – Swami was approaching the Mandir, where we were meditating. While people were applauding, Swami entered the Mandir, left, and then came in again. It was at the time of Swami’s second entrance that Juliana was able to touch His Divine Leg (not feet) and Hand! She lapsed into a state of ecstasy.

As for myself, I hadn’t been aware of Swami’s first entrance, because I was in a state of deep meditation, bordering in a state of Ananda (bliss), perceiving nothing around me. Baba was the One Who had granted this state, and Baba was the One Who wakened me in time to see Him enter the room the second time. And there He stayed, allowing many minutes of darshan while accepting arathi. What an amazing gift of Divine Love for those of us inside the Mandir!

“He then left the Mandir for the Sai Kulwant Hall. The group of devotees inside the Mandir followed Him and joined the rest of devotees in the Hall. As He was passing in front of us in His little car, the car stopped, the window came down and Swami looked at all of us and raised His Hand! So, for those who had been in the temple, it was a double blessing. And He had said “Goodbye” to us!”

Hearing the Voice of God in the Depths of Inner Silence

Roxana Guadamuz adds more to her unforgettable experience in Prasanthi Nilayam: "For many travelers, to arrive in Prashanti means a spiritual and emotional journey, but it also includes a physical effort. I am included among those travelers, who even had the sense of Swami whispering to us.

"The first day we were at the Accommodation area. They had put us in a very big, yet a very crowded shelter and said that there was no other possibility for another place to keep our luggage and rest. We actually did not care much, but it was so crowded that we could never sleep. That same night and for the first time, I felt I heard Swami whispering:  ‘ I will find a room for you both tomorrow.’ I brushed it aside thinking my mind was playing tricks on me."

But the next day, when they were having lunch, Catalina, a devotee who had flown with Roxana and Juliana from   Caracas   to París, talked to them. She said that she was going to make arrangements for them to move to a much less crowded place. Four hours later, Roxana and Juliana moved to Catalina´s room. For Roxana, this was clear proof that Swami had actually talked to her.

Roxana says: "This Voice talked to me several times when I was in Prasanthi Nilayam. On some occasions, He said:  ‘ Do not go outside the Ashram, remain in meditation. Go to the little Mandir’."

Besides listening to this Voice, Roxana was taught by Swami that anything that happens in Prasanthi Nilayam to each one has a meaning, a purpose for one’s spiritual growth. She explains:

Sai, the Light of all Religions

"My dreams during those three weeks in this   Abode of Highest Peace  played an important role in my life.  One night I dreamed about my aunt who had died six months earlier. She was coming inside through the door, walking towards me, and I was looking at my roommates sleeping. When my aunt was close to me she told me:  ‘ I am glad you came, I am here with God.’"

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These words meant a lot to Roxana. She explained that her aunt was a devoted catholic, a woman who would go every day to church and help the priests in all the Eucharist celebrations. Before she died, she had told her sons she was ready to go to God, but she was worried for Roxana because she was not a Catholic anymore and was following  a ‘guru’ from   India. Soon after her aunt said that, she died. On the day of her death, Roxana dreamt that she was looking at Swami and her aunt was going towards Him and into Him.  Swami had said: "She is in me."

Roxana continues, "And in Prasanthi Nilayam, I had a dream that completed this wonderful circle: my aunt confirmed she was with Him and expressed her joy at my presence in that holy place. This fact showed me that Swami is the One and Only God, He is the God of all religions."

The experience of Ana Yancy is also worth a mention. Hailing from a family of strict Catholics, Ana’s mother and her 8 siblings did not take it kindly when she started believing in Swami. They decided to ask her not to come to family gatherings because of her following this ‘Guru’ from India. But after a couple of years, they relaxed the rule, and allowed her to come to family gatherings, but only if there was no mention of her Guru.

At one of these gatherings, her mother declared that her youngest brother was her favorite child. While this did not go over very well with the other family members and became a sore spot, it was like a family secret that no one would ever mention.

But one day Baba appeared physically in the conference room at the University where her youngest brother was studying. Her brother was the last one to leave and was alone when Baba went up to him. Seeing Baba, her brother said,” get away from me, my mother has told me about your tricks”. On hearing this, Swami said, “Oh! so you are the favorite one” and then turned around and walked out. When the younger brother could get to a phone, he immediately phoned Ana Yancy, and said, "How dare you reveal our family secrets to Sai Baba". Ana Yancy tried to explain to her brother that Swami was in India. But nothing she could say would convince him that Sai Baba was not visiting Costa Rica, and that she had revealed the family secret. To this day her brother refuses to discuss the matter.

National Sai Conventions

With such moving experiences and revelations of His Love and glory, devotees in this tiny country only grew. Over the years, many Sai National Meetings were held; there was one practically every month. And each one has been a unique experience with its own teachings, but the learning process of sharing and loving each other has been remarkable during these activities. Although all the meetings have been significant in some way or the other, a few of them stand out:

Educare in Orosi

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The surrounding Cachi landscape
On March 22, 1998, there was a one-day Sai retreat at “Finca Los Maestros,” a beautiful property in the mountains of the Tapanti National Park. A Sai devotee, who lived here, taught in a school in a little town called Orosi. Over the years, she has used the techniques taught by Bhagavan Baba in His divine program called Educare.

As a result, many children in the Orosi School had, through her, learned Sai values. So, it came as no surprise during the Sai retreat, when talks about Swami’s teachings, including experiences, questions and answers captivated all.

Meetings Revive, Renew and Rejuvenate Sai Workers’ Devotion

In July 4, 1999, the country had two special visitors: John Behner (Central Coordinator of Region II) and Betty Richard (Vice-President, Central Council of Latin America, Northern Zone). A Sai Center meeting was organised at a devotee’s property in Belén, a town near the Alajuela airport.

Both Mr. Behner and Mrs. Richard gave talks about Human Values, the Five Aspects of the Personality, and the behavior code. There was also a workshop on ‘Meditation on the Light’ and an explanation about the Gayatri Mantra.

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Devotees at the National Sai Convention of 1999
 
In the same year, on August 14 the Sai centre in Costa Rica was visited by Mr. Héctor Castañeda (Service Coordinator, Northern Zone) and Isabel De Sola (Vice-President of the Coordinating Committee of El Salvador). They gave enlightening talks on selfless service which helped all the devotees to understand the deep meaning of seva.

The meetings became bigger every passing year and in April 2000, there was,a large National Meeting which was held on a big farm in Grecia, Alajuela. Héctor Castañeda, Betty Richard, and John Behner were also there. At the end of this meeting, the strength of the Coordinating Committee of the country increased from five to ten. This has boosted the activities of the Sai centre significantly.

Spreading Sai’s Message of Love

The Sai movement switched gears in September 2003, when there was a public conference and a meeting of all Sai Coordinators from Central America. This two day retreat was attended by Mr. Leonardo Gutter, Chairman of the Sri Sathya Sai Organization in Latin American countries. “Who is Sai Baba?” (His life, work and message) was the title of the public address and it had a big impact on many new comers.

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Mr. Leonardo Gutter speaking at the 2003 retreat
A Sai discussion group with Mr. Gutter

Sai Youth Usher New Dynamism

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Sai in Costa Rica
 
Members of the Sai Center at San Jose
Youth, as Bhagavan says, is the backbone of any nation. It was no different in Costa Rica. For all the activities and festival celebrations organised by the Sai Centres in Costa Rica, the Sai youth had been a potent force.

Many have dedicated their lives towards the cause of spreading Swami’s message. Costa Rican youth members like Juliana Pulgar, Ronald Chacón and Raúl Alfaro, even gave beautiful presentation to the public based on the inaugural Divine Discourse to the delegates of the Sai World Youth Conference in July 2007.

Needless to say, they captured the hearts of the assembly with their enthusiasm, clarity and candid expression.

Spreading the Good Word: Disseminating Sai Message in the Media

Dr. José Cabezas, who is currently the Vice President of the Central Council of Central America, is also a journalist and a lawyer. He has been working tirelessly to disseminate Bhagavan’s teachings and share His love. The story of how he came into the Sai fold is interesting.

In 1996, Mr. Cabezas wrote his first article on Baba in the Revista Rumbo Centroamericana, a magazine distributed all over Central America. And this is how it happened. Even though this magazine was about economics and politics, José was hired to write on new spiritual movements. As he was looking for information on this topic, he learnt about the existence of Bhagavan Baba. He had to write about seven spiritual movements. For each one, he dedicated just half a page, except for the article on Sai Baba and His message, in which he wrote an entire page with pictures.

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Mr. Jose Cabezas - a dynamic member of the Costa Rican Sai Organisation
(L to R) Leonardo Guter, Hector Castaneda
and Jose Cabezas

Two years later, in 1998, the Sai Organization appointed Dr. José Cabezas as a Disseminator of Sai Teachings in Central America. His new Sai responsibilities encouraged him to be a part of the Sai Center in Costa Rica, which he had not visited earlier. While engaged in this holy task, Dr. José has had plenty of Sai experiences. Here is a wonderful story of following his inner voice in his own words:

“ I first knew about the existence of Bhagavan when I conducted an interview for a Central American magazine that hired me to write an article about modern spiritual movements. They referred me to a Cuban man named Oswald, whose last name I do not remember. When I met Oswald apart from granting me a meeting, he also gave me as a gift a poster from which, months later, amritha (nectar) came out in two thin threads. This was in 1996 and it was my first contact with Sai Baba; I still keep that poster in my office, in a special place. But the story does not end here, in fact, it has an interesting twist

The Medium is the Message: Devotee Exemplifies Sai Spirit of Truth and Righteousness

“In February 2006, I bought a house in a rural area outside of the city of San José, in order to get away from the stress of living in a big city. I got the house by buying a company which owned the property. At that time, I studied the balance sheet of the company to ensure that it did not have any debts and was financially healthy. My interest, in any case, was always the house which could be of use in doing Sai’s work in Costa Rica.

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“One day in December of that same year, I received a call from an eminent fellow lawyer in Costa Rica, informing me that a client of his wanted to sell a building for 200,000 dollars and, when he initiated the paperwork, he realised that the building belonged to the company I had bought. Because of an incredible mistake, this person did not remember that in the company he had sold to me there was also included this other building. That is to say, I had bought two buildings instead of one.

The same lawyer confessed to me that the possibility of winning back the building for his client was very remote, as the purchase was performed with all the legal requirements. To demonstrate the mistake would take several years in court, and if I denied the existence of such a mistake the outcome will be almost impossible for them to win a favourable decision. His client had all his savings in this building, and he told me that his client had become completely unnerved and confused when he got the news of this huge goof up.

“I investigated the situation and after realising that everything was true, I asked them to come to my office. When they arrived I told them that I would immediately give back their property. They asked me what I wanted as payment. They knew that if I requested 5, 10 or 50 thousand dollars they would have no other choice as that was better than a lawsuit.

“I answered that I only wanted thanks and a smile. They were rather flabbergasted, and even asked for permission to publish the story in a newspaper, which I refused, of course.

“While I myself was writing the deed to return the building, almost an hour later, the lawyer asked me if I was a devotee of Sai Baba. I was surprised and asked him how he suspected this. He answered because of the hanging poster, as he knew Sai Baba from pictures. ’Of course’, I said and asked how he knew about Baba. Then he replied:

“‘About fifteen years ago I had a client who invited me to his house. I went and he talked to me and showed videos of Sai Baba. When I asked him the name of the client, my skin turned cold with his answer: ‘He was a Cuban named Oswald’.”

“This meant that Bhagavan had made a circle and that, most surely, He had laid this test for me and showed me that He was watching this situation from its very beginning.

“Of course, I felt very pleased for not having failed Him, by giving back voluntarily a property that legally arrived to my patrimony, but that ethically did not belong to me, without expecting any kind of reward.”

Reputed Journalist Committed to Sharing Sai Message through Mass Media

It is Baba’s mystery and grace that people of such integrity are now spearheading the Sai movement in Costa Rica. Dr. José, for the last 16 years, has been writing articles continuously for La Prensa Libre, a national newspaper. There have been approximately 400 columns on Bhagavan’s discourses apart from a number of reports on Sai activities, Sai study circles and so on.

In Radio Columbia, a national radio station with the greatest audience in the country, Dr. José has broadcast four two-hour programs, on Bhagavan Baba’s Life and Message. Currently, he prepares a weekly radio program for Radio America, which is aired on Saturdays at 2:00 p.m., and reaches the whole world through its web page ( www.780america.com). This program, which is filled with Baba’s teachings, devotees’ experiences and Sai activities, has become a tool for study circle in many Sai centres in Central America. Dr. José is now helped by many eager and enthusiastic young devotees like Juliana Pulgar in this noble endeavour. The program is now broadcast on the Spanish hour of Radio Sai Global Harmony.

One Million View His Works

Dissemination of Sai ideals is not restricted to print and radio alone; there have been many strides in the video and TV media as well. In 1999, a few videos on Baba were broadcast on Channel 54 (UHF). In 2008, a national TV channel became interested in the Avatar and interviewed Juliana Pulgar and Dr. José for seven minutes. This interview, layered with images taken from the video called Su Trabajo (His Work), has been broadcast on four different occasions and an estimated one million people in Costa Rica have seen this programme.

SAI EDUCATION – EHV Making a Mark

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Sai in Costa Rica
 
Ms. Ana Yansy Vega, the education Coordinator of the
Costa Rican Sai Organisation
Besides all these initiatives to spread the good news of the Avatar, what has drawn many into the Sai fold are the selfless service projects and also the efforts taken to impart Education in Human Values (EHV) to the young minds.

As far as EHV is concerned, there are many inspired devotees dedicated to this task. Ms. Mireya Aguilar, who lives near the Tapanti National Park, has implemented Educare passionately in a local school; while the same is being done by Mr. Vidal Sandoval, President of the Sai Center in Cachí; he imparts EHV teachings to many children in this little town.

Similarly, in the big city of San José, two excellent teachers, Damaris Guerrero and Ana Yansy Vega, have introduced EHV in many schools. The EHV movement was enriched in 2000 by Mrs.

Ofelina de Medeiros, a special visitor from Panama, who not only brought many useful books and cassettes, but also, together with Ana Yansy Vega, gave a valuable workshop on human values.

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Bal Vikas Class in the Cachi Sai Center
 
This event coincided with Bhagavan’s birthday celebrations and the Sai children of this region presented a beautiful play entitled Muchas Lámparas, Una Sola Luz (Many Lamps, One Light), written by Juliana Rangel from Venezuela. This was a scintillating performance and gladdened the heart of every Sai devotee present.

Ana Yansy Vega, along with her husband, Daniel Soto, has been very active in taking the EHV programme to many schools in Costa Rica. In 2001 they impressed on the young minds to be more responsible towards the environment and many children responded positively.

For example, the fifth grade students in República Dominicana School decided not to throw garbage on the streets and maintain its cleanliness.

In the previous year (2000), a few devotees led by Ernestina de Geovanny, a dedicated devotee, gave oral presentations, with videos, about drugs and Sai Values. Children from many schools like the Chile School, Paraguay School, España School including the children in the Sai Center in Cachí benefited from this immensely.

SERVICE ACTIVITIES – Creating Lives Anew

The other important activity has been various service initiatives which have started right from the day Sai Centres in Costa Rica were born and continues till this day with the same vigour. Over time, as expected, the number of activities has only increased. Some of these include:

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A poor family receiving clothes
The seva operation under way
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Visiting a nursing home
Donation of blankets to a nursing home
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Wheel chair delivery to needy elderly people
Devotees cleaning the nursing home
The merry group of tree planters

a) Medical assistance in the province of Cartago guided by Dr. Carlos Carvajal.

b) Nursing Home visits to help with cleaning, cooking, and to spend time with those extraordinary elderly people.

c) Food delivery to homeless people.

d) Street cleaning and repairing which has been done by the Sai devotees of the small town, Cachí.

e) Free lessons to mentally challenged children with love

g) Tree planting along roads in San José.

Apart from these, Sai devotees also began visiting a shelter for alcoholics and drug addicts from September, 1999. With no support from the government, all the work in this shelter used to be done by a single woman who used to work hard but could do only so much. The scene in this place is much different now with Sai devotees gladly cleaning the toilets, listening patiently to the depressing tales of the inmates, hugging them whole heartedly, sharing their love in different ways, and motivating them to get better and happier each day.

Moving Community Service in “La Promesa”

In reality, there is lot more happening in the area of reaching out to the downtrodden and rebuilding lives in recent times. There is a beautiful community service programme in progress in “La Promesa” and this is what Veronica Hadad, one of the active Sai volunteers in San José, has to say:

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Outreach work at La Promesa
Creative work with the locals

“A most remarkable milestone happened in 2003 and 2004. At this time, members from the Sai Center of San José felt the need to start a new service activity, and they unanimously chose to adopt an underprivileged community on the outskirts of the capital city. These devotees prayed to Swami for guidance and then symbolically placed the service project in His hands. Then, they watched in amazement as many separate events coalesced into a workable seva activity, as if directed by an invisible hand.

“The chosen community consisted of 80 families who had previously lived in very poor conditions, without proper housing and facilities. Though some of them had received brick and mortar houses from the local government a few months ago, there were still many important issues haunting them like domestic violence, poverty, unemployment, and lack of unity amongst them.”

The Proper Study of Mankind is Man

Therefore, there were complex issues in that locality and the Sai devotees went about reforming this place slowly but with a definite plan. First, they contacted the village leader, and arranged a meeting with groups of women to discuss their concerns. They were happy to find out that several of them were seeking help but at the same time did not want to be given "hand-outs" to solve everything. Instead, they wanted to engage themselves in a constructive work or project which could take care of their financial woes, without neglecting their families and children.

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Human values lessons in progress
A section of the enthusiastic attendees

To achieve this objective, there was first a need to create unity in the community. And so, the Sai devotees undertook various measures like conducting workshops for the men and women, introducing human value classes for children and others, inspiring and interesting meetings for youngsters and so on. And all these efforts paid off. There were occasions when the teenagers chose to miss their favorite soccer team’s game to attend the sessions! Once the bond between the families in the community became stronger, the Sai Organisation helped them legalise the Association of the community as “Asociación de Niños, Mujeres y Jóvenes Cumpliendo La Promesa” (Children, Women and Youth Association Fulfilling the Promise). This was an important step which was achieved with the help of a devotee who was a lawyer.

Empathy and Understanding - Cornerstones of Collective Success

Next, a community hall was built on a small plot in a public area and the Association received tables and chairs as donation. Mother's Day was celebrated in grand fashion for the first time in the community. Now, the community was made anew in their outlook and attitude.

Finally, the Sai group helped them move towards choosing a productive gardening project which could improve their financial situation. The new Association selected a project that best fulfilled their particular needs. And this project extended over a period of one year. After that, the Association continued on its own with the community managing all the affairs which looked after their needs. This wonderful experience made both the Sai devotees and the community members, richer in love and brotherly affection.

DEVOTION WING – Providing the Vital Source of Strength

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A recent celebration of Swami's Birthday
 
Supporting all these activities in the educational and service field are the initiatives taken in the devotional wing of the Organisation. Apart from learning bhajans, devotees have learnt the nuances of celebrating major festivals such as Mahashivarathri and Akhanda Bhajans. Now, they have not only Hindi and Sanskrit bhajans translated into English and Spanish, but also new Spanish songs. To aid the devotees, there are currently five different books on Sai bhajans and songs.

A few years ago, in 2000, with the inspiration from María José Velasquez (from Guatemala ) and Isabel de Sola (from El Salvador ) the devotees included many new programs in devotional wing catering especially to the youth like study circles and special activities.

Costa Rica Embraces Sai Gloriously

Though Costa Rica is a small country (158 th in the world in size) and on the other side of the world as far as Prasanthi Nilayam is concerned, the way Sai has installed Himself in the hearts of many is most heartening. The Lord has inspired them to become better husbands, better wives, better citizens, and most of all, loving human beings

This supreme gift of Love from Bhagavan Baba has opened for them a whole new world of exciting possibilities and a divine vision to aspire for. They now know how to make their already gifted and beautiful country a true paradise. In fact, Costa Rica, with its incredible history of always marching for peace, is a role model for not only other nations in Latin and Central America but for the whole world. And going by the way Sai Movement is touching hearts of thousands, the day is not far when Costa Rica will be called so not for its richness in gold or nature’s bounties, but for the golden hearts of its people, who reflect in their words, actions, smiles and gestures only pure Love.

Sai in Costa Rica

- The Heart2Heart Team

Previous Articles In This Series

Dear Reader, did you find this article informing and inspiring? Would you like us to bring you more such articles concerning the Sai movement in other countries? Would you like to contribute? Please share your thoughts with us at [email protected] mentioning your name and country.  Thank you for your time.


 

 

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Vol 6 Issue 09 - SEPTEMBER 2008
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