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Posted on: Mar 19, 2013
THE MYSTIFYING GLOBAL SAI
A Conversation with Dr. Narendranath Reddy
Sai Youth – Taking the Reins
NR: It is really wonderful to see that the youth are not only having conferences and leadership meetings but also are taking part in numerous service activities.
As recently as a few weeks ago, the youth from Singapore went all the way to Sri Lanka and conducted a Village Improvement Programme. They went to the war-stricken Jaffna district, where after the war so many people were displaced and lost.
This is happening all over the world, and it is good to see such interest and dedication in our youth. Instead of worrying about their own careers and families, they go all the way to help the needy. This is the inspiration from Swami. This is His grace!
RS: The other interesting thing I noted is that the youth in Malaysia have started a programme called SHAKTI.
|Members of the Sai Organisation offering service at Sri Lanka|
RS: SHAKTI stands for Strengthening Heart, Attitude, Knowledge, Talent and Image. They have met with more than 200 students of technical colleges, who have found a transformation in their character. And it was mentioned that the discipline problem in one of these institutes was reduced to zero, after the SHAKTI programme was organised.
NR: Yes, I was there in Malaysia in March 2012. I went to Singapore, Indonesia and then to Malaysia. I was joking with them on these acronyms, one of which is HOPE – Honouring Of Parents Everyday!
In fact, the Malaysian group enacted a drama on 24 November this year in Sai Kulwant Hall on this theme – HOPE.
NR: Their theme was on honouring parents and the values system. They have another acronym – CAT, which stands for Clarity, Accountability and Transparency. These acronyms convey valuable messages in simple phrases.
RS: That is right. They are using innovative ways to take Swami’s message to the wider community.
NR: The youth arrange their own conferences at all levels – zonal, regional, national and international. Actually, in July, during Guru Purnima this year, the youth from the Far East countries held a conference in Prasanthi Nilayam. Over 200 youth participated in it.
NR: When I visited Sri Lanka after Guru Purnima, a National Youth Conference was held in Jaffna. The youth were talking about Swami’s message and how they could take a more active part in service activities. It was wonderful to see the youth do all this. I was very happy!
Swami once said that these youth are practicing His message, “Start early, drive slowly and reach safely,” in their lives.
Sathya Sai Organisations – On a Two-Fold Mission
RS: Yes, so true. In my limited perspective, if I see the role of the Sai Organisation now, it is two-fold: one, you have to make every Sai centre a perfect place to facilitate the spiritual upliftment of every individual. Anyone who steps inside a Sai centre should feel that this place is best suited for spiritual growth.
Two, we have to also ensure that the message of universal love and selfless service reaches out to more people out there! We know that the Sai movement has grown in most countries of the world. Perhaps there are millions who have heard about Bhagawan, but there are still billions who have not heard about Him – who are still grappling with so many problems and restlessness in their minds.
When we talk about bringing a positive difference in the world, this message of selfless love and service has to go out to the wider community out there. May I ask you, how is the organisation gearing up in both these directions?
NR: I think this is very important; this is our obligation and duty, as Swami has given His name to this organisation. It is our duty to spread His message. We have a unique opportunity, as this organisation came into existence during the lifetime of the Avatar.
Many organisations, such as the Sri Ramakrishna Mission and the Shirdi Sai Sansthan, came into existence after the lifetimes of these Avatars. But we are fortunate to have received direct divine guidance from Swami as to how to run the organisation.
Swami made it clear to us the purpose of the Sathya Sai Organisation: the purpose of the organisation is to make us realise our inherent divinity. We should never forget this! Sometimes we get side-tracked with service activities, bhajans, etc., but the entire purpose is to make us realise that we are divine; that we are the embodiments of the Atma, we are the embodiments of Divine Love – and also that we should help others realise the same!
How best can we do this? That is why we have study circles, service activities, bhajans, public meetings, and so on. Firstly, the Sathya Sai Centre is a place where we study Swami’s teachings in depth. And the best way to spread Swami’s message is to translate His message into our daily life. Swami Himself has stated this.
Once we are transformed, people at home, work and in the community notice the change; that is the best way to spread His message. The primary objective is to dive deep into His teachings and to translate it into our lives.
The second thing is more practical, as it is about service activities – to perform service to the community, be it medical camps, feeding the poor, donating clothes or giving shelter. I have noticed, especially in places where people have not heard about Bhagawan, that when we perform selfless and loving service, they tend to take notice and enquire about us and the organisation. That is when we tell them about Swami. In the process, they are touched and transformed.
The third thing is the interfaith meetings and conferences we hold, especially in countries such as the USA, UK and Singapore. We invite people from different denominations and faiths. In fact, the organisation’s Annual Report mentions this. There was a meeting in Canada.
RS: Yes, in Scarborough Sai Centre.
NR: These interfaith meetings reiterate our belief in the harmony of religions.
The first step is to have tolerance for all religions, which is good, but it is better to accept and embrace all religions. Thus we promote harmony of all religions.
We take the essence of all religions because the true values are all the same. That is why we use the Sarva Dharma symbol and also celebrate all religious festivals in Prasanthi Nilayam and around the globe. We celebrate Buddha Purnima, Christmas, Id, Chinese New Year and many Hindu festivals. This is the uniqueness of the Sathya Sai Organisation.
On this basis, we are trying to give a universal appeal to all Sai centres, especially overseas. This is very important. Swami is for all. He has said very clearly, “There is only one religion, the religion of love.”
When newcomers walk into a centre, they should feel that it is a place where there is love and harmony and not a place of ritualistic worship. Swami says, “From ritual, you should progress to being spiritual.”
Dr. Hislop once asked Swami, “What pictures should we put on the altar?” Swami said, “You don’t need to have any picture at all. God is beyond name, form and attributes. But if at all you want to have a picture, have My picture, because I am here now on earth, and also you may have a sarva dharma symbol, giving a universal appeal and harmony of all faiths.”
We should have the right perspective, and the Sai centre should have an universal appeal, reflecting the local culture.
The altar, the way we seat devotees and what we sing, should appeal to the local people. For example, if we sing Sanskrit and Hindi bhajans in Germany, Italy or in Argentina, people could get turned off. So we encourage people to sing in their local languages. Thus, it would have an universal appeal.
|(left) Dr. Narendranath Reddy addresses the gathering in Norwalk, California, USA; a snapshot of 'Festival of Religions' in Cologne, Germany|
Next we should have public meetings, open not only to devotees but also to the public. Here we share Swami’s message and His teachings. In our centre meetings, we love to talk about the leelas of Swami, the divine sport, because that is what gives joy to us, in addition to learning about His message.
In public meetings, we mainly talk about His message and His humanitarian projects. Everyone admires the service that is being done through education, free medical service and community service.
As a means to share His message, we utilise the electronic media. We should see the “Love In Action” website (www.sailoveinaction.org), which Dr. David Gries facilitated, along with others. This showcases service activities around the world. This is a new initiative, and we are currently working on refining it. Apart from this, we have publications and audio-visual materials showing His message and His humanitarian works.
Radio Sai has also leveraged many means to spread His word. In fact Radio Sai is a great instrument in spreading Swami’s message. Whenever a devotee wants to learn more about Swami and His message, or learn a bhajan, or know what is happening in the divine mission, I tell them to listen to Radio Sai. It is a great resource. This is how we spread the message of Swami and His Love.
RS: As we look at the future of the organisation, there are so many outreach activities that are needed. What steps do you think the organisation has taken towards infusing more youth into positions of responsibility? Do you see them taking over the baton in many areas?
NR: In July 2007, with Swami’s blessings and guidance, we had an International Youth Conference in Prasanthi Nilayam, where about 6,000 youth from around the world participated. Swami took a lot of interest and gave them guidance. They were in ecstasy. A lot of countries now have youth leaders. We have international youth coordinators, and in each zone they have their own coordinators.
The youth are taking an active part in the Sai organisation during the recent years. In many parts of the world, these youth leaders are now officers at the regional and national level. For example, in the USA, Dr. Hari Conjeevaram was a youth leader, but now he is the regional president in the Chicago area. In the same way, in Europe, we had a youth leader who is now the central coordinator. It is the same story in other regions of the world, such as Latin America, where some who were youth leaders a couple of years ago are now national council presidents.
There are many youth in the organisation who are being identified and groomed for higher positions at all levels (regional, zonal, national and international), depending on their commitment and ability. Swami says the youth are the future leaders, and we are looking forward to more active participation by the youth in the organisation at all levels.