Volume 13 - Issue 06
June 2015
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Posted on: June 19, 2015

SAI STREE SHAKTI series - 04

The Bliss of Being Bhagawan's Bansuri
From the elegant English drawing rooms to the sacred Sai Darbar:

The Journey of Mrs. Angela Loraine Burrows

Part 01

 

The Journey of Mrs. Angela Loraine Burrows


Radio Sai special series Sai Stree Shakti chronicles the forces of nature that incarnated as women of spiritual substance to serve as the chosen instruments of the Avatar, contributing significantly to the Sai Mission.

Bhagawan not only hailed their sterling virtues but also shaped them to be exemplars of duty, devotion, dedication and determination for entire humanity.

To mark the auspicious 90th year of the divine advent, we salute these dynamic and divine Sai women whose contribution to the Sai mission has been strong and steady and largely silent. 

Starting March 19, 2015, every month till November 19, 2015, Radio Sai plans to celebrate Ladies Day by highlighting the life and dedication of such individuals who will go down in history as the able and capable contemporaries of the Sri Sathya Sai Avatar. Their incarnation appears to be a significant part of Bhagawan's master plan.

On March 19, 2015, Radio Sai offered its first tribute to the late Mrs. Sarla Shah under this series. (click here)

On April 19, 2015, Radio Sai featured the contributions of Mrs. Carole Alderman of the United Kingdom in the area of Sathya Sai Education in Human Values. (click here)

On May 19, 2015, the humble and simple Mandir Ladies of Prasanthi Nilayam were under the spotlight as the custodians of the sanctum maintenance. (click here)

On June 19, 2015 Radio Sai shares the journey of an English lady whose life transformed dramatically to become a melodious instrument in her Master's hands. She was transplanted from England to Thailand to serve as an ambassador in His Educare programme. Her mission was to deploy the five unique teaching techniques given by Bhagawan Baba, to awaken the five human values latent in every child's heart.

Drawing upon Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s infinite wisdom, Mrs.  Angela Loraine Burrows has trained, influenced and inspired a world-wide network of educators and policy makers to explore deeper spiritual possibilities in the area of education. She has encouraged teachers to go within and find a deeper understanding of themselves, their students and society. Today, she has taken the Sathya Sai Education in Human Values (SSEHV), to national curriculums around the world. This has made her a significant catalyst in the Sai mission.

She has also been instrumental in creating the universal medium of music that brings human values alive through melodious and catchy songs, which are now sung in multiple languages. From Australians to Canadians to Omanis and South Africans, children around the globe are singing the SSEHV songs she has composed.

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist strikes on the twin towers in New York City, USA, a shell-shocked North America was struggling to come to grips with the horror of the tragedy.  In Toronto, Canada, the city's Metro Hall hosted a well-attended multi-faith prayer meeting, during which the choir from the Sathya Sai School of Canada rendered the song ‘Take a lesson from the sun that shines on everyone...’ to a rousing applause. Everyone admired the message of peace, harmony and calm that the little children from the Sai School shared through their singing. The wisdom conveyed through the Sai students' melodious singing was widely reported in the Canadian press.

Similar values-based songs are sung in schools Sai and non-Sai the world over, be it ‘Smile, smile, smile’ or ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again’ set to lilting tunes that grow on children and adults alike. Mrs. Burrows has composed dozens of such songs for the Sathya Sai Education in Human Values Programme and their impact has been felt the world over.

Teachers around the world are bringing more love, peace, truth, right-conduct and non-violence into their classrooms and playgrounds, by using the many teaching tools and resources that she has created.

Click here to Listen to the Songs

The Journey

“Can anyone in all honesty say when they first met Sri Sathya Sai Baba? We can name the day we first heard His name mentioned in this lifetime or first saw His Divine form. But none of us know how many lifetimes it has taken to earn the honour of seeing Him, hearing Him, speaking with Him and being in His Divine Presence.”

In this lifetime Angela Loraine Burrows was born with a ‘silver spoon in her mouth’, into a fairly aristocratic family in England and as a young child, she lived a very sheltered life. However, she never felt that this was her real home, and would ask her parents, much to their distress, “Where did you find me?”

 

She had never met an Indian person in her life and her father forbade television in the house, but at the age of 8 or 9 she started to draw pictures of people in India, of villages, even people begging! Her mother was very alarmed and wanted to take her to a psychiatrist! As she grew older, she longed to go to the East and started to study Eastern philosophies. At the age of 18 she started to practice meditation and became a vegetarian for life. Many, many years later in an interview in Whitefield, she was sitting next to Swami’s chair. He was talking to someone else and suddenly He looked at her and said: “You… you were here last time, you are an old-timer come back,” and He tapped her on the head! It was a confirmation of everything she had felt as a child.

Her chance to go to the East came when she was about 22 and she met her future husband, an American, Mr. Rob Burrows, who was a friend of her brother and was working in Thailand. After some time, she travelled to the East, where they were married. They lived in Thailand and in Laos and in 1975 they were living in Singapore and decided to go to India and travel back to Europe to be with her family and then go to America to his family. She had never heard of Sai Baba but the day before they were leaving Singapore someone came to their door and gave her the book ‘Man of Miracles’ by Howard Murphet!

On the journey to India she read the book and wept with joy that she had found what she had been looking for all her life. They went through Thailand and Burma and flew to Calcutta. In those days Burma had a non-external policy where nothing was imported or exported. They stayed in Mandalay which was like going back 100 years or so, no cars or anything from the West. Loraine had just finished ‘Man of Miracles’ and she prayed to Sai Baba and in her ignorance said: “If You really are who it says You are in this book I want Your photo today”! Her husband said she was totally mad to ask for the picture of some Indian ‘Guru’ in a Buddhist country like Burma. Needless to say Swami listens to our prayers if they are sincere even if they are not very sensible! They went into a tiny bookshop in Mandalay and there to their astonishment was a picture of Sai Baba! Within minutes the picture was hers and she gave the book to the man in the shop.

She took it back to their little hotel and put it on the small table she used to light a candle for meditation. In the morning when she went to the table, there was a small pile of yellow powder in front of the picture (she thought it was vibhuthi as that was all she knew about through the book – however in retrospect it was probably either sweet haldi or sandalwood powder.) She woke her husband and told him a miracle had happened, he said “Nonsense, it is fungus!” and to her horror he brushed it away! This materialization happened three days running! On the third day her husband was down on his hands and knees with a magnifying glass! He could not fathom it out! - Swami had left his ‘visiting card’. The biggest miracle was that as soon as they arrived in India in Calcutta, her husband went out and bought a book on Sri Sathya Sai Baba! This was the beginning of their journey.

In India they went to Bodh Gaya where Loraine did two intensive Vipassana meditation courses. At the beginning of 1976 they went down to Bangalore and to Whitefield where Swami was at the time. They stayed 6 months at the Ashram and at Whitefield, but it was not until the second visit that she got her first interview.

The Most Sacred Experience

From 1976–1980 they lived in America, yet Loraine spent more time in Prasanthi and also in Whitefield studying Carnatic Music with Smt. Parvathi Mahadevan who was one of the Whitefield Bhajan singers and an All India Radio Singer. During this time she had one of the most wonderful experiences that she had had with Swami. It all started when Swami called her with a small group of Americans for interview two days running in Whitefield. After the second day, Swami called Dr. Hislop to come and talk to them about changes in the Sai World Organisation. Dr. Hislop explained how things were changing globally and more and more people were learning about Sathya Sai Baba. He said that Swami had asked all countries outside India to make their centres and practices more in accordance to the country in question. In other words Bhajans should be sung in local languages as well as Sanskrit and Hindi.

A group of friends around New York got together and tried to make English Bhajans, mostly translating the original Bhajans into English. One day Loraine was driving her car and a song came into her head in its entirety. It was ‘You are Lord of the Universe’. When she got home she sang it to her husband and he said it was OK but the last verse was wrong - ‘Mother of the Universe, Father of the Universe the Light of mankind Sai Baba.’ He explained that Sai Baba was a man, therefore it should be ‘Father of the Universe, Mother of the Universe…’ So she changed it!

Later that year she was in India again. Swami was to perform the marriage of one of her dearest friend Faith Hollander on Christmas Day 1977. The marriage took place in Swami’s house in Brindavan. At the end of the beautiful ceremony Swami said: “It is an Indian tradition – Wedding song.” There was silence because no one knew any wedding songs. Then Swami said: “Happy song? English song?” Swami looked at Faith and she glanced over at Loraine. Swami then looked at Loraine, waiting for her to sing and at the same time someone nudged her and said: “Loraine you sing.” She thought that this was her chance to sing this new song “Lord of the Universe”, so she started to sing. It was a total disaster because except for Faith, no one had ever heard this song before and the rhythm was off and it sounded awful. Swami told everyone to be quiet and then He looked at Loraine and said “sing”, so she sung and Swami sang with her! They got to the last verse and she sang “Father of the Universe, Mother of the Universe” and Swami sang “Mother of the Universe, Father of the Universe.” He looked at her as if to say – “You got it wrong!!” He also said: “Mother always comes first!”

 

“You are a Singer”

Another extraordinary experience with music and Swami happened during the early 1980’s when Thailand was given the opportunity to arrange the Buddha Poornima Celebration in Whitefield. They had to organize all aspects of the two day programme including the Bhajans. A selected group of singers mostly from Thailand, but also from other parts of Asia were to sing the Bhajans in front of Swami. The instruction was for each singer to prepare two Bhajans each although the opportunity for more than one Bhajan may not arise. Loraine requested her music teacher Mrs. Parvathi Mahadevan to help train the singers. The day came and Swami seemed to be in the mood to listen to Bhajans! All the Bhajan leaders sat in the front row and Loraine was also playing the harmonium. Everyone completed their two Bhajans, yet Swami did not get up! None of the other women singers were prepared to sing another Bhajan so Loraine had to sing alternating with the men for at least another five or six Bhajans. She started praying in her heart: “Swami, please get up, I cannot think of any more Bhajans!”The next morning during Darshan, Swami came straight up to Loraine and said: “You are a singer”; “Yes, Swami.”; “You are a harmonium player.”; “Yes, Swami.”; “Keep it up, keep practicing. Don’t stop.”

Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step

In 1980 Loraine’s husband got a job with the United Nations in Bangkok, so they moved back to Thailand where she has been ever since! Except for Sri Ramlal Sachdev an elderly Indian gentleman who knew and loved Swami and celebrated His Birthday every year, there were no fixed Sai activities in Thailand. Before coming to Bangkok, Loraine was at the Ashram and asked everyone she knew if anyone knew of any devotees in Thailand. No one did, until the day she was leaving and someone came to her room and told her that a devotee family – the Sangar’s from Bombay had been transferred to Bangkok. She contacted them as soon as she got to Thailand and they had their first Bhajan on Christmas Day 1980 with 9 people. From that small beginning everything started to grow. For the next few years Loraine’s work was mostly helping to set up Centres, teaching Bhajans and starting Bal Vikas classes. The Bangkok Centre grew from the Sangar’s house to Sri Ramlal’s house (a much bigger house) and when that was too small into a hall in Chulalongkorn University. By this time Dr. Art-ong had joined the throng and he arranged this location.

In 1985 Sri Ramlal donated an entire floor of a building he was constructing as a warehouse to be their first permanent Sai centre. Here they had their first proof of the success of Sathya Sai Education in Human Values. The day of the opening of the centre came, it was a grand affair. People came from all over Thailand and from some neighbouring countries. The initial ceremonies with the Buddhist monks etc. were carried out downstairs in the courtyard. Many people noticed amongst the well-dressed crowd, were a few dirty, ragged and bare-footed children, but everyone was too busy to take any notice! The second part of the day was held in the centre hall which is on the 3rd floor of the building. Outside the hall, cubicles had been constructed to put everyone’s shoes before entering. Everything went well, the ceremonies, the Bhajans and the cultural performances. All was fine until people started to go home! Then there was confusion around where the shoes were placed, as some people could not find their shoes and had to go home in their best clothes bare-footed! Soon, they put two and two together and realized that there was a connection between the scruffy children and the disappearing shoes!

 
Storytelling in EHV class  

The next day Loraine went back to the centre as she had an office there to do centre work. The children came back – they were very curious about her, as they had probably never seen a foreigner before and also they had found a new place to play instead of the street! When the building was being constructed, nobody noticed that there was a small slum behind; the children came from there.

Within a few weeks Loraine decided to start an EHV class with them. At first it was total pandemonium as the children had never had this kind of discipline before. They could not sit still or quiet for meditation, but they loved the stories, values songs and group activities. After a few weeks, on a Saturday, Loraine went to the centre and as she turned the stairs to get to the centre door she was surprised to see that there were visitors as there were many shoes in the cubby-holes. Then she saw that the centre door was locked and nobody was inside. Inspecting the shoes, she realized that they were the ‘disappearing shoes’ from the opening ceremony – the children had brought them back! This was an incredible proof of the efficacy of Sathya Sai Education in Human Values and the beginning of a long journey.

Her Life’s Commitment

In 1983 Loraine went to India as usual towards the end of year. She was told that there was going to be the first Conference on SSEHV for Overseas Teachers. She did not take much notice as she thought that her main work was to help set up centres, teach Bhajans and arrange various activities. Strangely enough as soon as she arrived at the Ashram she became sick! She had to stay in her room; she couldn’t even go to Darshan! All the time she had the repeating thought going through her brain: ‘This is the first Conference in SSEHV for Overseas Teachers’ but she kept discarding it! After a few days she couldn’t bear it any longer and forced herself out of bed and went down to what was then the World Office. Prof. Sachdev was in charge and as soon as he saw her he smiled and said “Good, good, now we have someone from Thailand for the conference.” Loraine had no say in the matter as he immediately wrote her name down! As she was walking back to her room which is in one of the old blocks of West Prasanthi, she suddenly realized that she was not sick anymore! Obviously it had all been Swami’s plan!

Loraine was not the only person from Thailand attending the conference; Dr. Art-ong Jumsai also came with a couple of other people. They did not know each other very well at this point as he had just started coming to the centre. On the first night of the conference, something happened that changed the course of Loraine’s life forever! All the delegates were sitting in the first row of the Poornachandra Hall and Swami gave a discourse about education. He said that there was no work or profession more important than being a teacher and that the future of the world lies in the hands of the children. The world would only change if there was a generation of young people who lived the values and were ready to serve society. He then said something that is imprinted on her mind forever! He looked down at all of the delegates and said: “If you are a teacher of Education in Human Values it is enough for your life, you don’t have to do anything else.” Some people may have been thinking: “That’s great! All we have to do is just teach an EHV class once a week and that is enough!” Then Swami ‘dropped the bombshell – so to speak’ He said: “Because if you are a teacher of Education in Human Values you have to practice everything that you teach!” That was it! There was no way out, no turning back! It was a lifelong commitment! Then and there she decided to dedicate the rest of her life to teaching children and helping them to become good and responsible citizens.

When the group returned from India they started more SSEHV classes. Loraine was already teaching Bal Vikas classes to the children of Sri Ramlal’s very extensive family but now they started reaching out into the Thai community and after 1985 had regular classes with the slum children as well.

Around the same time Dr. Art-ong arranged a half-day seminar with many heads of education in Bangkok to explain about Sathya Sai Education in Human Values. It was so well received that the team was requested to conduct two-day training sessions for teachers in the Bangkok region. They arranged these sessions at least twice a month, sometimes every weekend for one to two hundred teachers at a time. Altogether thousands of teachers attended. A small team led by Dr. Art-ong did the training and other devotees prepared vegetarian lunch and breaks for the delegates. This practice continued over the next few years. After a period of time, it became very clear that if teachers were to practice human values, they needed to see the proof of it. It is not enough just to give theory, it is said that ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating!’

It became evident that it was necessary to have a Sathya Sai School. Around this time, Swami also told Dr. Art-ong Jumsai to start a school in Thailand. It is not an easy project to start a school, you need a lot of money, land and resources, however, when it is Swami’s project, somehow everything works like clockwork! Thanks to the initiative and generosity of Sri Ramlal Sachdev who donated a very large piece of land (now the school has 168 acres of land) and enough money to build a school building and a canteen. Money was also put in the bank to cover expenses for the next five years.

In 1991 Dr. Art-ong Jumsai and Sri Ramlal Sachdev went with the plans to show Swami. They told Him that it would take two years to build and be ready to open. Swami told them that it must be done within one year! The Lord’s words always come true and in May 1992, the Sathya Sai School opened its doors to 14 students. There were six teachers, from these original six, teacher Loraine is the only one still remaining at the school, she is now going into her 24th year at the Sathya Sai School!

Meditation time at Sathya Sai School, Thailand

Prayer Sessions at Sathya Sai School, Thailand

Over the years, the school has grown and now has almost 400 students from grade 1–12 and more than 50 teachers. The school is totally residential even for all the teachers, only the kindergarten children do not board. It now has two campuses, the girls and the boys. The young boys up to grade 3 study with the girls and from grade 4 go over to the boys’ campus. Almost 100% of the children coming to the school are not from Sai devotee families and mostly have never heard of Sai Baba before they come, however by the time they leave they all love Swami and have faith in Him. Many of them have actually seen Swami in the school or have very vivid dreams of Him. They all feel that Swami is there beside them and guiding them whether they are at school or not. The same is true for the majority of the teachers.

Only a handful of devotees started the school, and almost all of the other teachers have come from non-Sai backgrounds. It is a growing and learning experience for both teachers and students. However, many groups of teachers have been to see Swami and He has always been very gracious to them and they develop great faith in Him. A great many of the students have also been to see Swami, in fact it has been a tradition for many years that Dr. Art-ong Jumsai has taken the Grade 12 students to get Swami’s blessings before they leave the school and go into the wide world. Many of the children have also performed in front of Swami especially dancing. On November 19th 2009 five girls from the school danced as part of an International dance presentation for Ladies’ Day. Since then almost every year the Thai school children have performed at Prasanthi on different occasions. On 17th July 2008 a group of 9 of music boys played a concert in front of Bhagawan under the guidance of their teacher Ms. Maren Tancke and they received tremendous grace from our Lord.


Although the school follows the national curriculum, the main aim is to produce good children above everything else. The five human values of love, truth, right-conduct, peace and non-violence are integrated into all subjects and all activities in the child’s day. It pertains to the philosophy that ‘The End of Education is Character’. The first lesson every day for every grade is an EHV class where they teach values using the five teaching techniques. The five teaching techniques are the means to draw out the values from the children’s hearts so that they can practice them in their daily lives as naturally as breathing.

The Journey of Mrs. Angela Loraine Burrows


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