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Posted on: Jan 08, 2016
Why the Annual Sports Meet?
Annual Sports & Cultural Meet 2016 - Schedule
Prakash tugged at the carabiners that held him to the ropes via the harness he was wearing. He checked all the safety buckles on the harness to ensure that they were secure. Everything was fine. He put on the helmet and tightened its strap across his chin. He then looked below at the distance. The Ambassador car in the middle of the cricket ground was just a little white spot and on top of it was a brown spot - the cardboard wall which he would be ramming into. The zip lining ropes from the top of the hillock to the bottom passed just above the cardboard wall. Everything seemed perfect for the final practice before show time.
Prakash was part of 'Team Falcons' a group of students performing daredevilry stunts on 11 January 2005, as part of the Annual Sports and Cultural Meet of the Sri Sathya Sai educational institutions. Daredevilry was not new in the Sports Meet that had witnessed motorbike stunts, 4-wheeler stunts, show-jumping with horses, para-motor flying, bungee jumping, fire-escapades and the like in the previous years. But the question that might pop in a mind not acquainted with Swami’s system is “Why on earth do students take up such events? Do they do it for the adrenaline rush? Or is the Sathya Sai educational system built to produce acrobats and sportspersons?”
The answer is simple. But for it to make better sense, let us go back to Prakash who was ready to take the plunge.
Prakash closed his eyes momentarily, said a quick prayer and launched off. The morning session of the Sports Meet had concluded a couple of hours before and in a couple of hours from now, the evening session would begin. That was when Prakash’s stunt was scheduled and this was the final test run. As he hurtled down the rope and touched a speed of almost 50 km/h, a horrible realisation hit him! The ropes had been erected early in the morning, much before the events began at the Hill View Stadium. The sun was not yet up then. Having been exposed to four hours of the sun’s warmth, the ropes had expanded. They were sagging and, Prakash realized, he would be ramming straight into the windshield of the car instead of the cardboard wall on top of it!
The driver in the car also noticed this and quickly started the car and began to move forward. Things happen very quickly at high speeds. Though Prakash did not ram into the windshield, he crashed into the luggage-carriage on top of the car. The metallic tearing sound was sickening and a moment later, Prakash was on the ground, holding his back with a grimace of pain. Everyone gathered around him to assist him but what could anyone do? His harness was quickly removed.
After two minutes of terrifying silence, Prakash wiped the tears from his eyes and spoke his first words, “Sir, please allow me to do it in the evening. Don’t deprive me of the chance to please Swami...”
That was when everyone realised that his pained tears were not because of his hurting back but a hurting thought at the back of his mind that he would be replaced for the final showdown!
And that, dear reader, summarizes why anyone does anything during the Sports Meet - to make Swami happy and see a smile on His face. There is no doubt about this. Swami Himself declared this during His Divine Discourse on 14 January 2003:
“Here, people have to understand the difference in the sports activities of our students and the students elsewhere. The students outside have only one goal in their mind, i.e. to win a prize or a medal, whereas our students only aim is to please Swami.”
This holds good for all students - boys and girls, KG to PG. The tiny tots from the Primary School practice in the early morning chills and early afternoon heatwaves with equal rigour and vigour. They do not understand the 4 Ds of dedication, discipline, duty or determination. But the 5th D of devotion - love for God - makes the other 4 Ds spontaneous!
Now if one were to ask what is the reason for such love for God, the line in one of Swami’s favourite songs comes to mind - “No reason for love; no season for love.”
When the logical mind refuses to accept that statement and seeks a reason, the only one it probably finds is the fact that Swami’s love for the students inspires the students’ love for their Swami.
“The students are not the same...”
From Prakash, let us move over to Hemant who is tugging at the laces of his shoes, getting ready for the march past. Hemant has been a student literally from KG to PG, having completed 17 years in Swami’s educational institutions. Though the items done for the Sports Meet repeat once every few years, the march past is definitely an annual occurrence. Every year, without fail, Hemant has been part of the march past, the parade on the morning of the January 11. Is he not bored of doing the same thing, over and over again, year after year?
“Have you thought about it from Swami’s angle?” he counter-questions, “He has been seeing the same march past for more than 25 years now. Is He 'bored'?”
That is a very valid point made there. It is fascinating to see Swami’s fascination with the march past. It is not as if He sees it once every year. He sees it more than a dozen times a year. In fact, He comes regularly for the practice sessions also! On some occasions, He even asks for a repeat of the march past practice. Of course, He sees other items as well, but the march past is something that He never misses each year. He was also asked once,
“Swami, how do you enjoy the 'same' march past, year after year?”
“The students are not the same...” was the quick reply.
In a very candid conversation, S. Srinidhi, a former student of Swami who is now in the armed forces gave some amazing insights on why the march past should be done in front of Swami. He has marched before Swami and now he comes during the Sports Meet season to train Swami's students in marching. That is the student's perspective. If we try and imagine Swami’s perspective, it presents some more beautiful insights.
Swami’s only concern is individual perfection that collectively transforms into perfection at the macro level. Little wonder that He sits almost at the edge of His chair as the students march up to the dais to perform the 'Eyes-right' salute. Having exhorted on Samyak Drishti (good vision) being the foundation for a good character (which is the true goal of education), it is as if Swami is keen to ensure that every student has his/her ‘eyes’ to the ‘right’ side always. And which is the ‘right’ side? The side on which the Lord is seated!
Is it a coincidence that the “Squad Daayein Dekh” command to turn eyes to the right has been so designed? I don’t think so.
The Students’ Experience is the Same
Different students participate in different events during each Sports Meet. But their experience is the same - whether it is a girl jumping through a ring of fire on her motorbike or a boy dancing gracefully to the steps of Bharatanatyam. That is summarised well by Sathya Lars as he prepares to climb to a height of 50 feet to perform the 'Celestial Rhythms’.
“I have been a student here for one and a half decades. My earliest memories of Sports Meet is just jumping and jogging at a particular point on a huge grid that was drawn on the ground. Today, I am going to be performing on another grid - one that is 50 feet high. The grid is the same, the altitude is different. This, I feel, is what Swami has done to me through the Sports Meets. The activity apparently appears to be the same, but the elevation is something totally different. That spiritual elevation also leads to elation.”
That, dear reader, is the Sports Meet in essence for you. This year again, all activities for the Meet on January 11 are in full swing. The preparations are on. The various events may be the same. The march past is definitely the same. But, as Swami said, the students are all different. And yet, they are all having the same experience of bending their bodies, mending their minds, ending their senses and uplifting their beings!
As we eagerly await this grand event, enjoy these glimpses of the preparations in progress.
Click the image below to view the Photo Gallery of the Sports & Cultural Meet preparations - 2016
By: Aravind Balasubramanya
- Radio Sai Team
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