Volume 7 - Issue 09
September 2009
Other Articles

 

IF LIFE IS A GAME, THEN PLAY IT WELL!

For the first time ever, a medley of students drawn from the various colleges affiliated to Delhi University had a unique challenge thrown at them.  It was an initiative of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, Delhi to connect the youth of India’s capital city with the country’s core values and Sai ideals. The endeavour evoked a refreshing and welcome response from a diverse group of young minds, who discovered much more than their rich heritage at the 5-day residential camp.

 
An enriching and heartwarming endeavour

The first two weeks of October 2008 were looked forward to with great eagerness by many youth of Delhi University located in the capital city of India. It was not because an important guest or a screen star was visiting their colleges; it was simply because it was holiday time! Several colleges affiliated to the Delhi University were to remain closed for the short autumn vacation, and so every youngster had a plan for himself or herself to make the most of this off-college bonanza. For some it meant reveling by organizing a party or taking a fun trip together to that coveted tourist place; for others it was an opportunity to enroll in a short term skills development course like public speaking, dance, and so on, or to spending quality time improving their health at a gym.

In for an Interesting Inner Adventure

However, outside of the box, there was another group that chose to do something very different – they opted to dedicate their five days for a very unconventional program; not only was the theme so unusual, but also every aspect of it – the course, the organization, the objective, the methodology as well as the procedure to join in.

It was a course not to help them excel in earning high salaries, but to encourage them to yearn for a higher life. The purpose was to enrich their lives spiritually so that every other endeavour could become a smooth sail.

Now, how did the twenty-year olds of a cosmopolitan city take to this idea of spending a vacation listening to words of wisdom rather than having a fun time elsewhere? And what impact did it have, if any?

At the end of her five-day intense course, Ms. Nisha Kalra from Delhi University’s Gargi College summed up her take away:

“This spiritual camp has brought me closer to myself and God. When I decided to join the camp, I was very doubtful about how it would be. To be a part of this programme, I had foregone the chance to participate in a western dance event which I was looking forward to for almost a year. But now, I sincerely don’t regret my decision. I feel energized and full of life after this workshop. My hesitation to take initiatives has reduced, and I have an inner urge to contribute positively to society.”

Helping Conquer the ‘F’ Factor

How did this transformation happen? It was because Nisha was helped to conquer one critical trait – Fear. In fact, before the workshop started the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, Delhi did an exploratory survey of the participants and understood that this ‘F’ factor is what bothered many young adults.It could be fear born out of guilt or desire, which followed them like a nameless shadow and affected them in every sphere of life, from academics to relationships. And that’s why this workshop was aimed at guiding these young minds into four emboldening principles of life:

 
The participants of the camp in action...one of the plethora
of activities they were involved with in the 5-day camp

 

Life is a Game, Play it!

Life is a Challenge, Meet it!

Life is an Adventure, Dare it!

Life is a Promise, Fulfill it!

 

 

Lead By Eminent Exemplars of Values-Driven Life

This, in short, was the goal of this five-day residential camp on Human Values, Indian Culture and Spirituality. The fee was naught and the format interactive, experiential and thought-provoking, including talks by eminent leaders from various disciplines who have successfully demonstrated a strong values perspective in their lives. There were also seminars, discussions, cultural activities, quizzes, yoga, meditation, veda chanting, music, dramas and community service. Everything was to be learnt more by doing than listening.

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Stilling the mind and bending the body through Yoga and dance...
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They had several enlivening presentations as well as exciting opportunities to learn theatre, music, etc.

The main themes of the five days were as follows: 

The Five Human Values

The Glory of Indian Culture and Heritage

Service to Mankind is Service to God

The Success Factor in Today’s Competitive World

The Messages of Major Religions for Peace and Harmony

Life is a market. Giving and taking, bargaining and speculating are part of the game. Play the game of life. Enjoy it. – Baba

Day One: The ‘Game’ Begins…

 
 
A soulful and peace-bestowing exercise
 

The programme started on October 1, 2008 at the Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vihar, Kalkaji Extension, Delhi. Every participant received a welcome bag at the time of registration which contained a diary, the workshop schedule, a spiritual diary and ID card. It was inaugurated by Air Chief Marshall (retd.) Mr. O. P. Mehra, a longstanding devotee of Bhagavan Baba. Mr. Mehra, in his inaugural address, touched upon many issues related to youth leadership and the value system of a good leader. His speech in fact set the stage for the actual programme to roll out and the first speaker of day one was Mrs. Nimmi Kanwar, who spoke on Human Values.

What also happened on the first day was that the students were introduced to their Veda Guru, Music Guru, Dance Guru and Theatre Guru. Each one had to choose one stream out of the four - namely veda chanting, bhajan singing, dance or drama and collectively present a cultural programme on the final day of the workshop.

Joyful Experience Dissipates Initial Hesitation

As the first day proceeded, many of the participants who had little clue about the programme when they joined, were now happy to be part of it. And one among the many was Ms. Jyoti Valecha who confessed later about her original apprehensions and said, 

“Initially when I registered for this 5-day programme, I had several positive and negative thoughts whether to attend this workshop or drop out. But then when I went through the brochure I thought ‘why don’t I give myself a break and attend this programme’. As it was for youth, it was educational and inspiring; moreover, its purpose was to nurture our latent talent and enable us to voice our opinions. I would like to congratulate this collective effort which has proved to be effective for us. I am grateful to our mentors and
speakers for their support and guidance.”

Surely the workshop was beginning to make some impact, and as the day proceeded there were plenty of opportunities for the participants to open-up and imbibe.

Day Two: Addressing Youth Concerns

In the second part of the programme on the first day, Mrs. Usha Bhatnagar engaged the participants in an interactive and interesting session on Living With Awareness. Many students came up with thought-provoking queries during this session and the whole audience learnt from this discussion.

In the evening of day one, Prof. S. R. Bhatt, an eminent philosopher, elaborated on Concepts of Buddhism which was followed by a talk by Mr. Murli Balasubramaniam, a Senior Vice President with Nestle. He shared how to lead a Successful Life. The proceedings of October 1 ended with arati and after dinner the participants watched a video on the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences.

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A glimpse: Dr. K. K. Agarwal, a distinguished life style interventional cardiologist, speaks to the young audience

The start of day two was a challenge for all the participants who were not early risers. It started at 5 a.m. with morning prayers followed by a yoga session which lasted till 6.30 a.m. After this all the participants assembled at 8.30 a.m. for the first talk after their breakfast which was delivered by Mr. Aditya Saxena and his topic was Love.

The distinguished academician explained to the students in clear terms the concept of real love, and discussed how human love was so different from divine love. Citing examples of the love of Gopikas for Krishna, and also quoting from the scriptures like Narada Bhakti Sutra, Mahabharata and Ramayana, he highlighted the sublime aspect of love and said, “Love can only be experienced, not debated and discussed. Even if it is discussed there is never any meaningful outcome of such a discussion. Life is not just a game but an enjoyable game for all of us and to enjoy it we need to dwell on the aspects of love – love that Radha and Krishna epitomize.”

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Mr. Shalabh Mittal, an alumnus of Sri Sathya Sai University, motivates the students to appreciate
and apply the gross as well as subtle tenets of non-violence in life

The next presentation on day two was by Mr. Shalabh Mittal, an alumnus of Sri Sathya Sai University, presently working for a non-profit organization. He spoke at length on Non-Violence. Since his speech was on October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, he used the opportunity to share inspiring stories from his life, as well as from the lives of other great leaders. When Nelson Mandela was released, he was told by some to get even for the monumental wrong that was done to him, but he refused to be swayed by hatred. He said he had already been a physical prisoner of his opponents for long and did not wish to live the rest of his life as their emotional captive.

 
 
Retired Income Tax Commissioner, Mr. J . S. Anand

Such telling anecdotes did seize the minds of the participants, and the session in the later part became even more interesting as the speaker focused on issues relevant to the present times like bullying, ragging, eve-teasing, etc. At the end of his speech he made all the students take a pledge to lead a life of non-violence and to promote peace.

This inspiring session was supplemented by the next speaker, Mr. J. S. Anand who again emphasized on the message of love and non-violence, but this time it was centered on Sikhism as the speaker, a retired Income Tax Commissioner, is an authority on the literature of this faith. He used this opportunity to reinforce that Sikhism is a doctrine that promotes love and peace, though it is often misunderstood as a religion of extremists.

Successfully Expressing ‘Success’

The afternoon session of day two was again very different and interesting as it was completely interactive. Mr. Atul Sharma conducted a Success Factor Workshop wherein he made the participants play many motivational games that instilled in them team spirit and confidence. The students came out of their shell and revealed many of their fears and personal problems. And later, many came forward, took the mike and made short presentations on what they felt were the five important factors that are essential for finding success in life. Here are a few glimpses: 

Participant 1: “First your goals should not be vague, they should be clear and precise; you should be certain in life about what you want. You should have morality, honesty and a great zeal to achieve your targets. You need to have passion and a hunger to achieve your goals. Knowledge and health make the third and fourth points respectively. Money and confidence are crucial factors as well in achieving success”.

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Enthusiastic participants eagerly express their take on 'success in life'

After quite a few students explained their mantra of success, came another confident student, Ms. Mahima who said,

“I feel success can only be achieved with a balance of mind, body and soul. Patience is an integral part of the procedure along with control over temptations, desire and anger. Spirituality is very essential in achieving success, and most importantly, power to withstand your goal. And last but not the least – being disciplined”.

Again, after a few more such presentations, another confident young man walked up to the front and said,

“Dream is the perquisite for success. Second is discipline. Dedication and devotion make the third and fourth points. The fifth point which I would like to emphasize is deadlines. A person needs to be time bound in order to achieve success. And for the last point, I would like to quote Swami Vivekananda who said “One needs to arise, awake and continue trying, until the goal is achieved.”

     
 

Presentation_1.flv

 
 
"One needs to arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached"
 
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Presentation_2.flv

 
 
"First and foremost for me is vision, and then comes knowledge..."
 

And this was followed by another spirited youngster, Ms. Madhuram who said,

“The first and most important point for me to achieve success is Vision followed by knowledge which we either already have or have to acquire. Third being hard work which all of us are familiar with. Fourth is sincerity, and fifth is perseverance which I feel is very essential to achieve success. This is my path for success. Thank you”.

A Light Storm Band to Lighten the Evening

While the afternoon session of day two was spent in such a scintillating interaction, the evening became even better. The souls of the participants feasted on a spiritual music concert by the Light Storm band consisting of Johnima and Kalassu Watergate.

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The Light Storm band who filled the hearts of every participant with their sublime music and stirring stories

This couple, who later gave a very inspiriting talk, is deeply devoted to God and is full of life. They reminded their audience that God is all loving and all inclusive. All saints and sages who have walked this earth have told us that each one of us is God, and if we are God, then we are all powerful - but what are we doing with our power? Bhagavan Baba says, ‘Watch your words, actions, thoughts, character and heart’. As every individual is God, their thoughts are of utmost power. The mistaken notion that we are not truly God is responsible for moving us away from our reality. Later, the committed couple also spoke about the law of karma, reincarnation and love; and thus ended a fruitful and enlivening day two.

Day Three: Meditation, Music and Dealing with the Mind

On day three, the students were taught Jyoti Meditation by Mrs. Samhita Nehru. This was followed by Ms. Divya Deswal who guided them on meditating with music. Both these sessions interested the students a lot as they taught them how to relax and relieve stress during pressure situations in life.

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Ms. Divya Deswal on using music for meditation
 
Mr. Nidhesh Gupta on Duty, Action and Knowledge

Later in the day, Dr. Sanjeev Chaudhary, CEO of SRL Ranbaxy Ltd. and Fortis Healthworld, spoke on the Philosophy of Sai, while Mr. Nidhesh Gupta, a senior advocate in the Supreme Court of India, explained about Dharma, Karma and Jnana. This was followed by two more talks one by Mr. Sanjeev Saluja who dealt on the theme Service to Man Being Service to God and the second by Mr. Venkatesh S. who elaborated on the idea of The Ideal Student.

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Experiencing the stillness of Jyoti Meditation
 
Dr. Sanjeev Chaudhary, CEO of SRL Ranbaxy Ltd.

Mr. Venkatesh started his talk with a prayer that created a sense of surrender among all the participants. Then, he moved on to stories of his own life and discussed the traits of an ideal student. Splitting the term – ‘Ideal Student’ to read as ‘I Deal Student’, he explained that the letter “I” stands for ego, ‘deal’ is to deal with the issue of ego.  A student therefore means a learner. One who is learning to deal with ego is an ideal student. All of us in our daily lives while doing something, whether a job, or business, or playing a game of cricket, are part of this learning process, the speaker explained. With this, the curtains came down on the third day of the workshop, but the impact it had left on the hearts of the participants was indelible. Ms. Jyotsana Sharma had this to say:

“This course of spiritual training is great and the best ever experience of my life. It gave us an opportunity to love and to spend time with people who believe in God. We learnt yoga, meditation, bhajan singing and the truth about divinity in everyone. I am grateful to the organizers of the workshop for creating this opportunity for us to interact and understand the important rules of playing the game of life.”

Day Four: Practical Exposure of the Power of Love

 
 
Tasting the thrill of genuine love and service...
 

The first three days were fruitful but were all indoor sessions. The organizers had a special plan for day four; it was dedicated to hands-on learning through seva or selfless service. For this, the participants were divided into two groups. The boys went for Grama Seva or village upliftment work while the girls went to a Senior Citizens’ home.

The groups were first given an orientation on the code of conduct for the programme and then it took off. One of the main motives of arranging this activity was to bring the students face to face with a reality of our times which many of them were unaware.

Both the groups were deeply moved by the selfless work they found themselves involved in; and the joy they saw in the faces of the poor villagers and the lonely seniors of the old-age home did stir their hearts. They had tasted the thrill of genuine love and service, and longed for more such opportunities.

In fact, this outdoor experience which only sent them inward was further augmented by exposure to the idea of taking personal responsibility for one’s consumption and expenditure. Mr. N. N. Joshi, a former Executive Director of LIC of India, explained to them the importance of Ceiling on Desires, while Mrs. Jayshree Bajaj impressed on them The Glory of Indian Culture. This presentation did bring out a sense of self-worth and pride among the students who belonged to the capital city of the country.

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Mr. N. N. Joshi on how to live a life based on limits
 
Ms. Samhita Nehru on living a life based on values

Day four had another enlightening lecture by Brahmachari Govind Chaitanya who elucidated on the Significance of the Vedas in Indian Culture. Mrs. Nandini Bhattacharya followed this up by a talk on the Importance of Bhajan Singing.

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Brahmachari Govind Chaitanya
 
Mrs. Nandini Bhattacharya, conducting Bhajan classes for the eager participants

As the day four came to a close, the students were busy practicing for their cultural programme to be staged on the next and final day of the workshop. The main purpose of this presentation was to offer the participants an opportunity to stage the skills they had learnt in the last couple of days, be it veda chanting, music, dance or drama.

Day Five: A Fitting Finale by Air Chief Marshal (Rtd.) Mr. N. C. Suri

The fifth day was the day of the valedictory function, but before this event there was an enriching talk by Mr. Navdeep Sharma on the topic Food is God. And after this, the workshop was signed off by the address of Air Chief Marshal (Rtd.) Mr. N. C. Suri, who was the chief guest for the day. When arati was offered to Bhagavan Baba after this distinguished speaker’s talk, the five-day residential camp which was attended by over two hundred students concluded.

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Just two glimpses of the several presentations of the final day - it was a mix of devotion, dexterity and dedication

A Riveting Game Ends and the Real Game of Life Begins…

 

The workshop was certainly over but not the work of the organizers or the participants. The members of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, Delhi sought to ensure that they sustained the levels of enthusiasm of these spirited youth by providing them several such opportunities, while the students returned with a will to bring a fresh perspective in their lives which was wholesome and rewarding. Summing up his takeaway from the camp, Mr. Gaurav Valecha, one of the students from the Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, said,

“I take two important messages from this workshop – ‘Love all Serve all’ and ‘Help ever, Hurt never’. This workshop has definitely helped the participants to transform their lives and I would like to hear more
from Baba.”

From 'fear of the world and fear of oneself' to 'faith in God and faith in oneself' – this is the journey that many who attended this residential camp traversed, and like every single act of goodness brings along with it rich rewards, one can only expect that the seeds of love and service, peace and devotion which were sown in the fertile hearts of these energetic young men and women will one day certainly confer solace and succor to thousands. Life is an exciting game, and now they know how to play it by the right rules!

We are extremely grateful to Mr. Jatinder Cheema, the State President of SSSO, Delhi, and Mr. Shalabh Mittal, an alumnus of the Sri Sathya Sai University, for providing us valuable information for this article.

- Heart2Heart Team

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