Volume 6 - Issue 02
FEBRUARY - 2008
Germany - The Land of Many Gems
Think of the greatest physicist of our times, one who baffled great minds for decades and is even today almost worshipped for opening altogether new dimensions in the realm of modern science (Einstein);
Dwell on the most influential thinker, philosopher, political economist and revolutionary of the 19th century who established a new political and social order for not one or two but a whole group of nations (Karl Marx):
Think of one of the greatest masters of music who, even though aurally completely challenged, created such magic with the piano that nearly two hundred years later, his personality and music remains a mystery (Beethoven);
Dwell on one of the most influential monks, theologians and Protestant Reformers whose ideas created a whole new doctrine of Christian faith and changed the course of Western civilisation forever (Martin Luther);
Think of one of the most revered world leaders of the present time who when he speaks one-sixth of the world population listens (The Pope)…
The list can run into several volumes, for such is the greatness of this glorious land of Germany.
Indeed there must be something about the people of this land that makes them truly outstanding. Call it the gene of the collective consciousness. It is the genius of the Germans sheer mental and intuitive ability. And we can see this trait running in their history; be it in the field of science, or in the arena of art and music, in the area of philosophy, or in the level of their mystical awareness, Germany has stood out as a giant of amazing creative ability.
Germany – Blossoms of Beauty
The country has vibrant cities, varied landscapes of mountains, forests, lakes and beautiful, historic towns and villages. In Cologne’s mighty Cathedral Towers – the pinnacle of Gothic architecture, in King Ludwig’s world famous castles which stand proudly against the spectacular backdrop of the Alps, in Berlin’s signature attraction (the collapse of the Berlin wall) – the symbol of the reunification of Germany - in the Bavarian plains and forests, and in the coasts of the North and Baltic Seas, Germany’s rich natural beauty and majesty are unforgettable.
The Impressive Cultural Diversity
This dynamic nation located in the centre of Europe is truly the heart of the European Union, not only because it is the largest population in EU, but also because of its scientific and technological prowess.
Surrounded by Denmark in the North, Poland and Czech Republic in the East, Austria and Switzerland in the South, France and Luxembourg in the South-West, and Belgium and the Netherlands in the northwest, it is spread over 357000 km² and is the world's third largest economy by nominal GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
The diversity and mixture of different races - thanks to the Indo-European tribes, the Romans and Franks, different regional princedoms, earldoms, monarchies and states, - provide Germany with a variety of cultural wealth that is unparalleled.
It is also home to world’s third-highest number of international migrants with a standard of living that is enviable even by many developed nations.
The most important religious festivals are Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide. Their national holiday is German Unification Day on 3rd of October to commemorate the unification of the East and West which took place about 20 years ago.
In 1945 after the end of the Second World War, Germany was divided into two parts: the Eastern part being put under Soviet government and the Western part under American, English and French Government.
The communist East and the democratic (capitalist) West developed independent constitutions and economic systems. After forty years of at times hostile competition of two ideological systems, separation finally ended with the “Fall of the Wall” that marked the collapse of the communist system in Europe. Since then Germany has been reunited.
Precious Gifts to Humanity
Over time, 98 German Laureates have received the most coveted Nobel Prize. This could only be a token of appreciation for so many of this land's priceless gems who have given humanity a quantum leap in consciousness.
Germany ’s most famous scientist, Albert Einstein (1879-1955), is best known for his theory of relativity and mass-energy equivalence, E = mc², and was named Time magazine's "Person of the Century".
This land of creativity has also gifted humanity with luminaries from all disciplines - poets, philosophers, artists and so on. Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven are shining examples. Similarly, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s contributions span the fields of poetry, drama, literature, theology, humanism, science and painting. Karl Marx’s work on Political Science, Immanuel Kant’s idealism, Arthur Schopenhauer’s composition of metaphysical pessimism, Fredrich Nietzsche’s development of perspectivism, and Martin Heidegger’s works on Being are testimonies to the supreme ability of the exalted German mind.
In the area of religion, Germany has gifted the world with famous religious reformers like Martin Luther who initiated the great Christian Reformation of the sixteenth century.
The current Pope, Benedict XVI was born in Bavaria, Germany. Meister Eckhart stands out as one of the leaders of popular mystical movement in the modern world and Elisatbeth von Thueringen, who lived for only 24 years, is a symbol of Christian Charity, venerated as a great National Saint of the mediaeval era, who always cared for the sick, the young, and those who lived in poverty. She is often remembered for her saying: “I always told you that we have to make people happy.”
So how did Sri Sathya Sai Baba of Prashanthi Nilayam, India, without ever visiting Germany in person, sweep this great land of thinkers, inventors, revolutionaries, poets and philosophers with His love? How did the Sai seed germinate in the hearts of these enquiring seekers who put everything under the crucible of critical dissection? How did the Sai Movement spread all across this land of over-achievers within a 40 year span?
A Sai Seed Germinates in Germany
How blessed are those whom the Lord draws from the far ends of the world! And when they meet Him, they know, beyond the logic of reason, they have reached home. The true knower within, experiences the truth that is Sri Sathya Sai Baba, just as a child instinctively understands and enjoys the love of a nurturing mother.
It was in the year 1970, that the Lord made the call and Beuno Wesener could not resist the pull. He was by then, a young German spiritual seeker, travelling all over India in search of the Fountain of Life. Going down the memory lane, Beuno recalls how he was attracted to the Divine Magnet that is Sai.
“Even if you do not plan to come to Swami, He will reach out for you. I was walking across the market in Bangalore, when all of a sudden an Indian man came up to me and said, ‘You have to go and see Sai Baba’. I was not really interested to go to another ashram as I had already visited a few during my travels throughout India. Somehow I changed my plans and instead of going to Madras (Chennai), I thought of hitchhiking to Hyderabad and up to Calcutta. On my way to Hyderabad, an American couple with a VW-bus stopped on the road, they opened the door and there was this huge picture of Swami.
"They told me, that they are going to see Sathya Sai Baba in Puttaparthi for the festival of Shivaratri. Since I had no other plans I took that ride. When we reached Puttaparthi, there was already a huge crowd. At that time, there was no accommodation for many pilgrims, so everybody stayed outside under trees, in tents, in cars, etc. After the Shivaratri festival was over, Swami called all the young westerners, who had been drawn to Him, for an interview. After this first interaction, I knew somehow that there was nowhere to travel anymore, I had found my destination and so I stayed on for two more years.”
The Small Seed Grows into a Sapling…
It is indeed a marvel that today the phenomenal German Sathya Sai movement began with a handful of people gathering in an obscure place in Nuremberg, a town in Southern Germany, to sing Bhajans and to share experiences regarding Sai Baba. And who can understand the Lord’s ways or tell the mysteries of His mighty operations? This was the story of how the tiny seed grew into the proverbial tree of God’s Kingdom.
Later in 1976, Beuno Wesner, who was among this handful of people, set up the first German Sathya Sai Centre in Nuremberg, after he returned from the Second World Conference of the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation in 1975, held at Puttaparthi. Beuno was one of the very few European participants.
And this was the beginning of the multiplication of Sai centres in Germany. Soon after setting up the Nuremberg Sathya Sai Centre in 1976, the Berlin, Bonn, and Munich centres followed in 1978. In the North of Germany, Hamburg was the first city to hold regular meetings for singing and dissemination of information about Sathya Sai Baba. In the early 1980s, Bremen and Kiel followed.
The Second World Conference and especially the Third World Conference in 1980, gave strong impetus to the small Sai movement in Germany. These conferences provided guidelines for setting up international co-operation between Germany, Italy, Holland and Belgium. In 1980, these countries became allied to the “European Coordinating Committee” and two European Meetings were held in 1980 and 1981.
Germany … Graciously United by Sai
It is the Lord Himself who ignites a prayer in the hearts of His devotees just to rush to the needs of many, who are under the burden of the yoke. Through a connection of coincidences, what we now know as “Saincidences”, He plays His game of Love. Beuno was one of the three German delegates from Nuremberg, Bonn and Berlin, attending the Third World Conference in 1980. Beuno recalls how the Lord answered the unspoken prayers of many Germans through a ‘game of garlands’.
“During this conference, on Swami’s 55th birthday, I was allowed to offer Swami a garland on behalf of Germany. This was a strange thing for me because I had to find one outside the market. After searching and buying one, I went back to my room where I took the chance to have a closer look at it. I then found it was rather too small to be put around Swami’s neck. So I went again to get a second one and made one big one of the two.
“Then, when the holy moment of offering the garland to the Divine Teacher arrived, a strong thought took over my mind: ‘Practically these are two garlands, so let this be a symbol of the two German States.’ But when I put the united garland around Swami’s neck, it opened at the down end! I felt very awkward about it, but Swami in His Grace took it and made it whole again. I was overwhelmed and thought: ‘He is uniting the two States.’ This gave me the feeling that everything is in order in His Hands.”
And so it was! After nine years, the walls of division came tumbling-down with the unification of Germany in the following years. What is it that the Lord cannot do? We pray to Him to break the walls of ego that separates us from our true Self and make us enemies of one another. This is the real wall that builds the fences of division and hate, and when this wall collapses, humanity will live under one roof, in the harmony of one family of God.
The Rome Sathya Sai Conference
The German devotees knew that the real walls that separate us are inside. They are the walls of ego, jealousy, anger, lust, greed and attachment. The Sai Movement in Germany therefore directed its efforts towards breaking these inner obstacles. In 1983, many German devotees attended the first conference of the European Sathya Sai Organisation with the theme: “Unity is Divinity, Purity is Enlightenment” which took place in Rome. The multi-national participants worked on the different aspects of finding unity both in oneself and in the community. Participating in the conferences and establishing international ties had a deep impact on Germany. Groups and centres were set up, and regional and national weekend seminars and retreats were organised in all parts of the country.
In 1982, the German Sathya Sai Association was founded as a legal body to co-ordinate the development and to publish all audio, visual and text materials on Sathya Sai Baba and His teachings; distribution of books, films and cassettes became much easier. In the same year the Munich Centre started publishing “Sathya Sai Letters”, a quarterly journal forming the basic information platform for the German speaking countries of Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
From the very beginning of the German Sathya Sai Association, the late Gen. Bernhard Gruber served to spread Swami's teachings and supported Sai groups and centres within Germany and Northern Europe as Central Coordinator.
Waltraut Gruber relates how Swami drew her and her husband Bernhard Gruber to His Divine Lotus Feet more than 25 years ago.
"In the spring of 1981, Bernhard and I were travelling by car through the west of the USA. At the end of this travel, in Arizona, we planned to drive from Phoenix to Tucson through the blossoming desert, and if time permitting, to see a German-American lady to deliver greetings from a friend in Germany. We finally visited this woman and it happened that she was a devotee of Sathya Sai Baba. This was the first time we were in the home of a devotee. Wherever our eyes turned, we saw pictures of Him in all sizes and postures hanging on the walls. The waves of energy we experienced, when she was telling us stories about Him from her heart, touched us more than what we felt when we had partially read a book about Him the previous year. The joy in my heart made me exclaim: ‘Ah, I would very much love to go there, I must experience this!’
"I looked at Bernhard questioningly and he said: ‘If Baba is this Omni-present, All-Knowing Power then it is superfluous to travel to India, because He would be present everywhere’. Hardly had he spoken these words when he quickly and excitedly lifted his two palms to his face and exclaimed: ‘What is this? What is this? What smell is this?’ We at once felt the smell and confirmed it was the smell of vibhuti. So Sai Baba reassured His Omni-Presence and Power, and that this Power has incarnated in a Human Form in South India.
“Our final destination on this trip was Washington D.C. It was in front of a small book store that we thought of buying something to read during the flight. Upon entering the shop, we found Baba looking at us from many of His photos. There, on the shelves were many books on Him as well as bhajan-cassettes and copies of His discourses. I had no time to browse and select judiciously, so I just hurriedly grabbed a copy of ‘Summer Showers in Brindavan -1973’.
“During the flight, I read this compilation of Baba’s Divine Discourses to His students during a four weeks’ study course on the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita, the timeless divine song that Lord Krishna sang to Arjuna 5000 years ago. These teachings filled a vacuum in me. I was touched by the possibility of a dialogue between God and Man. By the time the flight landed and we arrived at our destination, I felt a new peace had also dawned in me.
"The chronology of events seemed to have been divinely orchestrated. They made my decision clear and I wanted to travel to this Teacher who held the prospect of bringing me into contact with esoteric knowledge. Four months later, in November 1981, we travelled to Baba for the first time."
This was how the Lord chose and beckoned to Himself many devotees, one after the other, from this great Land. Each devotee’s experience of being drawn to the Divine net of Sai is as unique and thrilling as any other. By sharing one another’s experiences, through public meetings and through book fairs and other spiritual activities, they were able to spread His Message of Love.
Public Meetings and the International Book fair
The German Sai Movement spread like wild fire with the fire of Love lit in the hearts of devotees. Since 1985, there have been three Public Meetings presenting Sai Baba’s teachings and work to a public audience.
The first one was held in Munich in the year 1985 entitled “My Life is My Message” and received considerable attention.
Twenty years later, the second Public Meeting was held in Wiesbaden in 2005 under the theme “Sathya Sai Baba – His Life is His Message.” About 160 people attended the programme.
The third Public Meeting in Berlin was held in 2007 with the spotlight on “Sathya Sai Baba – Teachings and Work.” 250 people attended the programme.
Since 1982, more than 120 books have been released on the works and teachings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The latest book released is based on the “Unity of Religions” which is the motto of the forthcoming national festival of the German Sathya Sai Organisation in the year 2009.
The International Book Fair is the world’s largest fair in the field of publishing. In 2007, more than 285,000 visitors and 7,500 publishers attended the five-day event. For several years now, the Sathya Sai Organisation of Germany has been participating in the International Book Fair in Frankfurt / Main with its own exhibition booth. A huge banner on one side of the booth and a Power Point presentation on the other side attracted visitors from all works of life. Devotees who manned the booth handled queries and distributed information material on Sathya Sai Baba and His humanitarian projects as well as the German Sathya Sai Organisation. Many of the visitors to the fair interestingly were young adults who were new to Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings.
The Blossoming of SSEHV in Germany
If our present day society is sick, the only elixir is Education in Human Values. If there is Divinity latent in the core of every human being, the only mine is Education in Human Values. If our world is to be born into the age of Divine Consciousness, the only midwife is this imbibing of the eternal Human Values. The German Sai movement saw this secret of the panacea to the world problem and took the bull by the horns. After its introduction in the year 1986 the Education in Human Values Programme became a major activity of the German Sathya Sai Movement. In the beginning, two seminars on the five Human Values were conducted in order to make the devotees acquainted with this aspect of Swami’s teachings. More than 100 devotees attended both meetings.
A year later, in 1987, the first training for teachers of the Educare in Human Values took place, which was organised in those days by the Sathya Sai Organisation Europe Region 1. Later, Teacher Training Seminars were held regularly with an average of five seminars a year. So far nearly 250 teachers have received training on how to teach Human Values to Sai Devotees and their children as well as to adults and young minds outside the Organisation. Moreover, a strong team of teacher trainers in various parts of the country has been carrying out trainings and seminars.
Human Values Programme – The Powerful Panacea
The overwhelming impact of the Sathya Sai Education in Human Values on teachers at all levels cannot be quantified in any known terms. It was the missing essence in the whole system of western education which created a vacuum that made it like a body without a soul. The psychotherapist and SSEHV Teacher Trainer, Elisabeth Pongraz, from North Germany, describes how she found this missing essence when she discovered SSEHV. Recounting her story, she says:
“Since the time I went to school, I was always searching for an inner sense of purpose and the deeper truths about life. I therefore studied psychology and medicine to find answers. Like Dr. Sandweiss, I kept searching, learning different types of therapies without getting answers to my torturing questions. I often felt dissatisfied with my work as a psychotherapist.
“On Nov. 23rd 1986, mysterious circumstances led me to Swami and in 1987 I found myself at the Lotus Feet of the Lord.
“My private and professional situation changed immediately when I took part in an SSEHV weekend seminar for the first time in 1988 in the South of Germany.
“I listened to the inspiring lectures about the Five Human Values: Truth, Right Conduct, Peace, Love and Non-Violence, and was deeply touched. After the lectures, we were working in small workshop groups on the subjects of the lecture, in order to apply them to concrete life situations. The main difference of this group, compared to the groups I knew before, was that nobody demonstrated his or her feelings like I experienced in psychotherapy groups, something which had always left me emotionally agitated. Whatever anyone of the group said was important and valued as a precious contribution to the whole process.
“I was fascinated by the subjects and the atmosphere of love and compassion of the SSEHV meetings, and although twenty years have passed since this first weekend, I still remember a lot of things about this seminar, above all the non-judgemental love that each participant displayed. I could open my heart and it was filled with peace and joy. The knowledge that was shared there and the way the proceedings were conducted struck a deep cord in my heart different from anything I had experienced before. At the end of the meeting, when all the small groups and especially these wonderful children of all age-groups presented their experiences in the plenum, I felt an overwhelming energy of uniting love. This feeling was so strong that I could not stop the tears rolling down my face. I knew at that very moment that I had found what my soul had always been searching for.
SSEHV – Destroying the Root of All Addictions
“My work in the hospital for drug addicts has also changed because of the experiences I had in the SSEHV meetings and by introducing the Human Values into the therapeutic sessions.
“There was one patient I will never forget. He was suffering from severe depression and had been treated several times in a psychiatric hospital. He blamed his wife for the death of his little dog that he had loved like his own child. As a result, he had a lot of repressions and hatred against her, and had not spoken to her for three years. In addition, he had become an alcoholic.
“This man was in my therapy sessions and I taught him about the values of love and forgiveness. I asked him to talk to his wife during Christmas. He was convinced he could not do that because of the block inside himself. After Christmas, he told me that he had tried several times to speak to her, but he did not succeed. On Christmas Eve, he remembered the song of one of the values I had often sung with the group. It was: “I Have Joy in My Heart…” First he was singing this song in his heart, and then with a low voice, he began to sing it to his wife. That broke the spell of anger and silence, and suddenly he was able to ask his wife for forgiveness for the long years he had been hard and unkind to her.
“After this experience, I was fully convinced that now I could sow these seeds of values into young human hearts - seeds which are so immeasurably valuable and which have changed my life, which was earlier full of conflicts, fear, negative feelings and insecurity.
“I could communicate that there is a spiritual world behind the visible world which has special rules that govern our human existence; it is beyond science. If we are aware of them they give us a sense in life - they give truth, and joy, and inner peace; but if we disregard them, disease and pain follow. I could tell my patients many examples of problems and confusion in my own life which I had dissolved completely, after I followed the spiritual rules. The example of my own transformation made them more eager to imbibe the Human Values that I taught them.
“Truly, I think the five Human Values and the combined methods to teach them - which Swami has given us anew - are absorbed so easily because every soul, like my own, recognizes that it is this which everyone has been looking for ages in the outside world, utterly in vain - often consuming alcohol and drugs out of ignorance.
The Scintillating Story of Sathya
The children are the main focus of the Sathya Sai Education in Human Values programme in the German Sai Organisation. And so, various classes for youth and children are offered. Classes for children started in 1989 and have been offered by well-trained teachers at various centres and groups all over the country.
Gisela Sebastian is one of the experienced Bal Vikas teachers from the Munich Centre. In 1995 she was involved in preparing the children for a drama presentation in the Divine presence of Swami. She shares with us her exhilarating experiences in this subtle process of heart transformation which took her through planes of joy and agony, struggles and perseverance, patience and determination.
“There are many examples of how the children went through the change, but I remember one story in particular in which the child's transformation went hand in hand with my own, so to speak.
“It happened 12 years ago while we were preparing to stage another play with our Bal Vikas group for Prashanti Nilayam. The play was entitled: "We Shall Overcome." That, however, was not only the theme of our drama but also, as it soon turned out, the play of our transformation process - the drama within the drama, as it were.
“We needed a total of 60 children. At the first rehearsal we had a few new children. Two young boys immediately attracted my attention when they walked in: Sathya, 6 years of age, and Dominique, his older brother, age 11. Both came from the countryside and had a very healthy appearance, just like two pranksters with blue eyes, red chubby cheeks, short, blond, shaggy hair and very lively eyes. Both of them had an especially loveable air about them.
“Everything went quite well at the casting. In the end, however, two boys wanted to play the leading role of ‘Victory’, the hero, one of them being Dominique. I could not decide whom I should cast for this role, so I sat down in front of the altar and prayed to Swami, so that He may show me whom He would want to have in that role. The answer was obvious: Dominique. I saw him clearly in my mind's eye surrounded in beautiful light. It was good that at that point in time, I had no idea what was in store for me.
“When all roles were satisfactorily cast, I suddenly realized that one role was left: the part of Baba! That was the main role in the piece. But not one child was left without a role. In addition, none of them really dared to play Baba. I had to sleep over it. During meditation I thought that the little 6-year old named Sathya would be perfect. After all, he already bore the name ‘Sathya’. And he was charming.
"However, I did not want to take away from him the role he had chosen for himself. So I gave him a call to explain my predicament. I requested him to please ask Swami to come to him in a dream and let him know which role he should play.
“The next day Sathya called me early in the morning and told me earnestly that Baba actually did appear to him in a dream, just as we had discussed, and clearly told him that he should play Baba! I was deeply touched and speechless! That gave me the secure feeling that Swami was guiding us.
Until the Child Gives in to the Values…
“Now the work and the processes began. Dominique turned out to be a real acid test for me. He was supposed to play Victory, the hero, but behaved quite to the contrary. Dominique literally refused to cooperate and didn't learn his lines. Most of the time, he would just be standing aloof - motionless and smirking. He made me livid and distressed during the rehearsals. His parents also were desperate and often complained that he refused to cooperate at home as well. We were always having emergency meetings, either with his parents or with him alone. Whenever I was alone with him, he would listen patiently and make promises to change. But no sooner did he get back on the stage, than he became the difficult boy again.
“Time passed and nothing changed. I was truly in despair - at my wit's end. I then got to the point where I could no longer take responsibility for what was happening, so I decided to give the role to a different boy. Time was running out and we soon would be leaving for Prashanti. A different boy was willing to play the role and had already learned the part. Everything was set. I only had to let Dominique know.
“Dominique felt what was coming, and as I took him aside, I saw two big, sad eyes looking at me. I could not bring myself to tell him to his face what I had decided. There was an unspoken plead in his eyes which went: “Please don't do it, believe in me, please don't give up on me, I want to do it but I need your help, I need you to trust in me’.
“I explained the difficult situation we were in and asked him what he thought we should do. He said he wanted to play the role! Okay, I decided to give him a last chance.
“By the next rehearsal he knew his role by heart! That was the first breakthrough. He also started getting deeper into the role and was becoming, as you could already now guess, a beaming, powerful Dominique and a wonderful Victory. However, the unruly, stubborn Dominique had not completely disappeared and continued to disturb the rehearsals. Never in my 20 years of Bal Vikas teaching had I encountered a child as challenging as him, always testing me to the limit.
SSEHV – Building the Foundation of Self-Confidence
“Now let's turn to Sathya. While I was being put to the acid test with Victory, there was Sathya who was developing more and more into the real Swami, and who was there to back me up in every situation. Whenever he felt that I was having a hard time, or feeling distraught, he would come to me, give me a big hug and say: ‘I love you so much’. And that happened quite often. I often had the feeling that Swami was giving me a hug and comforting me, and assuring me of His Presence.
“Sathya was truly a positively charming child. He was always full of love, no matter what the situation was. Through the many demands of the rehearsals, he never complained. Instead he was always inspiring and true to the role he was playing. As such, I did not have to teach him much. He moved so authentically in the role of Swami that we all had tears in our eyes whenever it was his turn to perform during rehearsals. You could have heard a pin drop in the room. Swami’s Presence and love poured forth through him. The rehearsals were an emotional roller coaster ride, from the sweetest love to stubborn disobedience, the carrot and the stick.”
Sai - The Author, Actor and Motivator of EHV
“The trip to India and nine unforgettable days of rehearsal followed in Prashanti Nilayam in the Poornachandra hall. Swami came to every rehearsal. He was interested in everything and attended to all matters in the greatest details, going as far as to select the colour for the children's lipstick. He corrected us and gave us important pointers at the rehearsals.
“During this period the children were being tested beyond their endurance levels on the one hand. On the other hand, they were being showered with Swami's love and affection. Many of them were in India for the first time and were being challenged by the high heat, getting up early and different food. Everywhere, whether at mealtime or anywhere else, there was some inconvenience involved.
"Before and during Darshan they were required to sit still for long periods of time. Three rehearsals per day were especially exhausting... then one by one all the children got sick. There was not one single moment of rest. Nevertheless they all hung in there, letting themselves in for adventure.
“However, during rehearsals, Swami paid a lot of attention to the children, and He had a great time with them, especially with Sathya. He spoke with him often and it was a pleasure to witness little Swami and big Swami talking to each other. Whenever Swami came to watch us practice we took a break so that we could talk to Him.
"Sathya, however, whenever it was his turn, continued to practice his role until he was done with his part. He would allow no interruptions, not even when Swami came. Swami then stood smilingly beside him, or observantly behind him, and waited until Sathya finished. Sometimes He would motion the same way with His hand as little Sathya did. It was simply unbelievable how this little boy could play Swami!
“Swami put Sathya to the test as well. Once, for example, Swami gave us all Prasad, but did not give any to Sathya. I felt bad because actually if anyone truly deserved it, it was him. Later I went over to Sathya and offered him my Prasad to console him, but he didn't take it and simply smiled lovingly. He was overjoyed and said Swami loved him so much and that was more than enough. I don't know if I would have been so overjoyed.
“On another occasion I did not receive Prasad. Sathya took notice thereof and immediately came over to me and insisted I take his. But I did not want to do that because I had learned from him after all, how one should deal with such situations. However, Sathya insisted and in the end we decided to share his Prasad.
“Swami often joked around with us, with Sathya too. One time He placed a handcrafted cow's head on him and put us all in a really embarrassing situation because he asked us to tell him what kind of cow it was. Swami laughed after we had named all the types of cows we could think of. Then He humorously informed us that it was a New Zealand cow which we never would have thought of. It was great the way Sathya interacted with Swami. He always knew how to behave, in a dignified and composed manner.
“Working with Dominique was still not always easy, but one could feel that he was now more ready to fight, to give his all and fit in. By preparing for and rehearsing this play, we had profound encounters with Swami which strengthened the children's positive character traits. One could not help but notice that the character of Victory was slowly maturing in Dominique due to the presence of the Supreme.
“At the morning rehearsal, on the day of the performance, everything escalated. Half of the children were sick and nothing was going right. Everyone was tense, nervous, and afraid that we would not make the grade, and would flop in front of Swami and the audience.
“Then Swami came to attend the rehearsal. I was so distraught that I fell before Him on my knees and pleaded with Him to help. Swami stood majestically before me and said in a loud voice: "Don`t worry, I will help”. In that declaration lay my salvation. Instantly, all my worries were gone and I realized that it was Swami who is in charge. He had everything under control and it was His "drama”. Swami then asked me how the sick children were doing and materialized Vibhuti. Now I was sure that all would go well. We are only His instruments. He is the Motivator, the Director, and the true Actor. Soon, all the children were healthy again in time for the performance.
SSEHV, the Victory of Divinity
“The programme was a heavenly delight. Everyone performed well and Victory was simply fantastic; he had made his breakthrough. Not only did he act wonderfully, it was as if he really had turned into Victory. He did so well and was convincing as never before. I could feel he had penetrated the wall known as the ego; he was the winner. All his might and strength of soul came through, I could have cried in gratitude and joy - my Victory had made it.
“Sathya became so one with Swami, and completely infused by His energy that one forgot that it was a play. The audience in Poornachandra was deeply moved to absolute silence whenever Sathya appeared on stage. It seemed everyone had tears in their eyes because we all sensed that Swami was sharing His own childhood with us through Sathya - adorable little Sathya - a child himself who fascinated and enchanted us with his incredibly wonderful divine love.
“At the end of the presentation, when Swami came on stage to take a picture with the children, He went straight over to Sathya and materialized a golden medallion for him. He took His time hanging it around Sathya's neck. Then Sathya knelt down and humbly touched Swami's feet in a dignified manner. Swami put His arm around him and had their picture taken. The Lord shone like a thousand Suns, and so did Sathya. It was a sight for the Gods to behold.
“The applause by the audience was indescribable and seemed to go on forever. Everyone felt that this encounter between the two Babas was extraordinary. While the saris and scarves were being handed out to all the children, Swami leaned on Victory who was down on his knees and praised him lovingly: "Very happy”. Victory also shone with joy as never before in his life.
“We had passed the acid test; everyone was happy. Backstage Swami talked to us for quite a while, and highly lauded us. What a joy it was to make God Happy!
Living the Human Values… the Acid Tests
“The next day we were invited to Swami's Primary School. The Principal showed us around all the classes, introducing Victory and Sathya to everyone. The Principal spent a lot of time with us and talked quite a bit with Victory, in particular. She asked him a lot of questions. At the end of our visit, her mood became serious as she looked Dominique directly in the eye and challenged him to promise with a handshake that he would live Victory during his lifetime. She extended her hand and waited for him to take the pledge. It took a while, then suddenly everything got very quiet in the room. In a resolute voice Dominique said aloud as he put forth his hand: "Yes, I promise!”. That was a holy promise. We all felt it!
“Dominique's acid test was not only for him to be convincing in his role as Victory, but also to become the real Victory during his lifetime and free himself of his inhibitions, recalcitrance and mental blocks in order to be able to tap his true inner power and strength, and to accept his task in life with all its challenges.
“My acid test as a Bal Vikas teacher was to learn to believe unconditionally in the values hidden deep within the child, and not to be fooled or distracted by the overlying layers of the ego. This means, never to give up on a child, but rather, simply to continue on the path and under all circumstances believe in the good of the child. This means to be willing to go with the child through fire and water.
“And Sathya? What was his task? He was the perfect instrument for Swami's wonderful love. Swami showed us through Sathya that love is the greatest victory, for love is stronger than anything else, and only through love, can we triumph.
"Whatever became of these two wonderful spirits, you may wonder?
"Dominique is now a splendid, strong young man who has taken on and accepted the challenges of life. Nothing is left of the inhibited, smirking, self-conscious, recalcitrant Dominique. He left these traits by the wayside. He will be getting married soon and has a successful company in the field of media design. And now, he is a helpful, loving, open, competent, dedicated and positive person.
“Sathya still has a wonderful, loving way about him, although he is more calm and introverted. He is of a pure character and very dutiful. He is planning to become a doctor and will begin his studies soon. What other profession would have suited him better!
“Whenever I meet up with these two young men, I am simply so proud of my Sai boys, just as a mother would be proud of her two well-mannered sons. I am deeply grateful to Swami for this unforgettable, divine journey of transformation.”
Sathya, now a youth of 18, looks back and shares the overwhelming impact that the Sathya Sai Education in Human Values has had in his life. He recalls:
"When I close my eyes today, 12 years later, and look back, I am constantly reminded of the great gift I was given. The play "We Shall Overcome," an experience which resulted in transformation, together with my parental upbringing, formed the spiritual foundation for my life. The numerous rehearsals and meetings we had during the preparatory phase taught me many important values which have been of great help to me along the path of life.
“Somehow at that moment when I went on stage before thousands of people, my mind became empty of thought. My actions simply flowed as a result of my total surrender and trust in Swami. This is also how I view life. Life flows like a river as it paves its way. It overcomes every single obstacle and does not stop flowing. Even the largest dam is too small at some point to restrain the river's happy flow. If one lives continuously trusting in God and is always aware of the fact that there is always a solution, then there is nothing which can cloud the joy of living, for inner and true joy cannot be found in material things or having set ideas. True joy comes solely from the bliss of being alive. I personally developed this perspective from "We Shall Overcome" and my upbringing. And most people who have characterized me up to now have always begun by mentioning my cheerfulness."
Sai Summer Showers in Germany
Students of Bhagavan Baba joyfully recall the bliss of their spiritual adventures with their Beloved Lord at His Home in Brindavan every summer. That is when Swami showers upon them the attention of a thousand Fathers, the Love of a million Mothers, and the guidance of the Eternal Teacher during the annual “Summer Course on Indian Culture and Spirituality” at the start of His University’s academic calendar. The German Sai movement took the signal from the Divine Master knowing fully well that all students are Swami’s property. Hence, since 1989 the educational highlight of the German Sai movement every year has been the Annual National Sai Children’s Camp similarly called “Summer Course”, which takes place regularly during July/August. Usually there are more than 80 participants - mainly children of age seven to twelve years - hailing from all over the country. These camps take place at beautifully situated youth hostels in the countryside.
Besides the daily sessions of prayers, meditation and group singing, various group activities are offered to different age-groups. These include modelling with clay, painting, sports, picnics, and plays in the middle of nature. Storytelling and dramatics are also part of the programme.
The educational activities not only apply to the numerous Sathya Sai devotees in the country but also to those public and private school teachers who are interested in the unique Sathya Sai Teachings in education and spirituality. Once a year, a meeting is held to exchange views and find ways to utilize the contents and techniques of Sathya Sai Educare at public schools.
For German speaking countries, yet another yearly meeting provides a platform for professional teachers of all fields to learn from each other and develop ways to implement human values in different curricula.
The Boundless Expanse of Spirituality
Who can prescribe a limit to the ocean of Love in the human heart or can the wing of the wind tell the movement of the spirit? For our souls, says St. Augustine, are restless until they rest in God. This is the sole goal of life: the realisation of our Divinity.
The spiritual wing of the German Sai Organisation has put in place spiritual programmes aimed at harnessing the ocean of Love within the human heart and channelling the direction of the spirit towards the Supreme Soul.
In the summer of 2000, during the occasion of Swami's 75th birthday, a unique, first All-German Convention entitled “Unity is Divinity” was held for four days in Potsdam, near Berlin, the German Capital.
On the occasion of His special Birthday, the German Sathya Sai Organisation took the opportunity to publicly thank Lord Sathya Sai Baba for the historic and harmonious unification of the two German States in 1990.
The goal of this meeting was to get a deeper understanding of how the five Human Values were realised and expressed in the six major religions. The conference had been prepared for nearly one year in advance. Each region had to work on one religion and to clarify how the values were implemented in that specific religion.
Members of centres and groups formed organisational teams who were responsible for collecting and providing materials as well as planning and conducting the workshops. More than 450 people attended the conference.
The results of the regional preparatory workshops were presented in interactive and artistic performances. During the two and half days of the convention, the praise of the Lord was bountiful: Swami’s Love and Spirit radiated through His devotees and charged the rather sceptic environment of Potsdam into an aura of bliss and beatitude. Some of the highlights of this creative programme included:
In the workshop on Christianity, some devotees shared their experiences of living with their faith in Christ during the time of communist suppression in Eastern Germany.
The soul praises of 450 voices filled the atmosphere. Swami blessed all with sunshine, an abundance of garden flowers and organic food.
Spirituality in Art and Culture
Who is the One who painted the many colours of the rainbow hewn in the beauty of the evening setting sun? Who is the One who adorned the lilies of the field with brushes of unspoken splendour in the language of fragrance?
Who is the One who taught the birds of heaven how to sing the chorus of the angelic host? Indeed the Glory of the Lord has been carved in His Creation.
The human heart is truly the Art of God. And Spirituality is the Art of seeing God painted in His Creation. And to make this “Art” a way of life is what we call “Culture”. To bring out the integral truth between Spirituality, Art and Culture, the Spiritual Wing of the German Sathya Sai movement has organised a number of cultural Art festivals.
In 2004 one such festival was conducted in Cologne with the theme: “Sai Art Festival”. More than 550 German devotees came to participate in this cultural festival which took place from August 5 till 8. This Art Festival has been motivated by Sathya Sai Baba's recommendation given to the audience at the inauguration discourse of the Sathya Sai Music Academy during the 7th World Conference in 2000 that “Sai Seva by Art and Culture should be the new dimension in Sai Centres.”
The motto of the festival “Divinity in the Arts” attracted devotee artists from all over the country to hold numerous workshops and give performances in Fine Arts, Music, Drama, Literature, and more.
During the festival, an exhibition of paintings was displayed in every corner of the beautifully decorated venue. The prominent colours resembled the colours of Prasanthi Nilayam. The cultural programme included a guided tour to the world famous Gothic Cathedral of Cologne.
Among the many presentations of the festival, there was a play entitled “My Life is My Message”, performed by Bal Vikas Children. The play depicted scenes from Bhagavan's life as a child.
The evening programme featured two musical highlights. One was a multi-media show on “All Religions” with songs of devotion in different languages from all over the world. The second was an inspiring concert by the Bhajan Group “Danish Divine Light” from Denmark. This was very well appreciated by a large audience.
Finally, the youth launched a musical drama which was composed and written by them. The play dealt with the everyday-situation of young people in big cities in western countries and how they, by Swami’s teachings, are enabled to tackle difficult situations and stick to human values.
This Sai Art Festival was not only meant for the members of the German Sai Family. The afternoon and evening programmes were open for the public. Due to the wide range of programmes, the participants had to choose between several simultaneous sessions. The public was cordially welcomed and had the opportunity to get information on Sai Baba and His work reflecting His love for humanity.
The four-days-long festival came to an end with a marvellous memento of Sai’s Divine Art. This was a postcard of a gazelle, woven personally by Swami from a palm leaf in the early 1950’s. The original of Swami’s gazelle was a special loan from the grandson of the late Professor N. Kasturi.
In her valedictory speech, the then National Coordinator, Mrs. Gabriele Goebel, said that the cultural event would be an inspiring example for all German centres to adopt Art and Culture as a means to foster Sai Seva at all levels in the country.
The Healing Power of Selfless Service
“I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found a way to serve,” said Albert Schweitzer, a German born philosopher who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953 for his philosophy of “Reverence for Life.”
It might be asked: what is it that makes someone literally jump out of their skin to give up comfort and time, wealth and energy, to bring peace and succour to another who may be totally unrelated by the human ties of country, caste, colour, creed and culture? This secret is the joy of Pure Love. With this Power, Sai Baba transforms His devotees and makes them instruments of Selfless Service for the multiplication of His Love throughout the world. It is this fire of pure, selfless and unconditional Love that has led devotees of the Sathya Sai Organisation to engage in heart-thrilling service, be it in the war torn Yugoslavia, or in the neighbouring countries of Russia, Bosnia and Poland, or on the streets of Germany - or in any place a call for help is needed.
In the initial years of the Sathya Sai Organisation in Germany, seva or service activities were organised by individual devotees and small groups that gathered to provide ad-hoc seva to people in need.
The First European Seva Project
The first major seva project was organised during the years 1991 till 1995. Led by the Austrian Sathya Sai Organisation, its main purpose was to help alleviate the suffering of the people in former Yugoslavia, an area struck by civil war.
A big service network was set up in close contact with the Sathya Sai Organisation in Croatia and later Bosnia. Under the motto: “From Heart to Heart – from Hand to Hand” nine European countries, including Germany, participated intensively in this effort.
Materials were collected and then despatched by train, truck and private transport to the bigger cities of Zagreb and Osjek. From there, they were further distributed by local devotees to refugees and the suffering population. In Germany, the bigger centres organised “Train Wagon Projects” for Easter and Christmas.
Devotees contributed food, clothes, medicines, hygiene products, household articles, school materials, toys, bicycles, seeds, furniture, construction materials, seeds, etc. The final day of loading the wagons always turned out to be like a family festival.
Lovingly and colourfully packed parcels were added and everything was stowed carefully and systematically into the enormous train wagons. This was done with joyous hearts and lots of singing. Everyone was happy to be given this opportunity to help brothers and sisters in need.
“Through this project we were able to help in alleviating the suffering of war-torn areas and at the same time, experience the joy of service ourselves,” remarked one the participants.
Setting up Weekend Training Seminars
Germans continued to send the lorries even after the project was officially stopped in 1995. Necessity had forced the German Sathya Sai Organisation to intensify co-operation among centres for the massive Croatian Project. At the same time, the organisation was able to reach out to devotees who experienced the joy and self-satisfaction through serving these communities. This joy gave rise to the desire to know more about the teachings of Sai Baba.
Consequently, since 1995, weekend seminars were held exclusively for Seva Coordinators twice a year. They facilitated an extensive exchange of ideas on common tasks and challenges that the various groups and centres faced. Such seminars led to a deeper understanding of the goals and subjects of seva or service, and last but not the least, they helped in developing a common vision for future projects in the Service Wing.
National Weekend Seminars were also organised for special topics like selfless service with handicapped, old or homeless people.
This training functioned as the impetus to start a lot of projects in which groups of members spread out into the cities to help needy people, and to provide them with all they could not get from the state: respect and care, time and appreciation, understanding and love.
The development of the 1990s gave a stronger relevance to the German Seva Wing on national and regional level. Around the year 2000, there were twenty-two Group Seva Projects being carried out by thirteen centres and eleven groups.
For Swami’s 75 th birthday the groups and centres edited a book on German service projects and personal transformation. One centre summarized its transformation in these words:
“We get more and more united by this group service experience. Overcoming difficulties in community strengthens every one of us and the group as a whole; our trust in Swami steadily grows; everyone experiences a growth of self-confidence; the children learn - together with their parents and the Sai group. Through unity of thought, word and deed, they strengthen their character. The practising of Sadhana in the group transforms every single individual; our patience, our compassion, our love-capacity is enlarged; we learn to see God in everyone and serve selflessly.”
National Group Seva in Prashanti Nilayam
In the year 2003, after a full year’s preparation in study circles, 130 devotees from Germany made a two weeks’ group pilgrimage entitled “Unity in Seva” to Prashanti Nilayam. The majority of the participants took up work in the kitchen of the Western Canteen. The rest of the group served in the Chaitanya Jyoti Museum. On August 8th, Swami blessed the group with the divine opportunity to sing in His presence. One devotee sums up their experiences in these words:
“We experienced how singing and serving go together, one supporting the other to lead us into unity. Singing while working in the kitchen taught us to dedicate all activity to God and surrender to Him.”
Sai Medical Camps
Since 2005, small groups of German devotees have taken part in Medical Camps in the neighbouring countries east of the German borders. These countries include Russia, Bosnia and Poland. The divine opportunities of serving gave these devotees a practical experience in spirituality. First, there was this inner process of letting go the barriers of altruism. Will I be able to serve under circumstances of increased hardships? Will my physical and emotional strength carry me through? What will happen to my loved ones if I face the risk of death? This inner churning of doubts and insecurity finally lead the devotees to a state of trust and surrender to the Lord’s assurance: “Why fear when I am here?”
The devotees were welcomed with extreme joy by the local devotee groups once they arrived at their respective countries. In the case of Russia, a group of devotees travelled, about one year in advance, to make preparations before the real camp. This pre-visit made the Medical camp very smooth and efficient.
In spite of the primary aim of a Medical Camp being to provide efficient medical care to those in need, there was also a place for people who wanted to serve in other ways like renovation, cleaning, kitchen work, lessons and games for the children or through musical contributions and sharing joy. In this way, those who did not have a medical background too joined in the “Sai Family Service”.
Also, the coming together of the Germans with the Russian people was clearly experienced as a contribution to a deep personal and national reconciliation-process of two peoples that had suffered immensely in the terrible Second World War with all its consequences for coming generations. It was everyone's experience that the past can only be healed by Swami’s Love in Action - being together under Swami's loving guidance, working in harmony, singing in unison, serving the most needy and sharing resources, and at times confessing what had happened during the time of war. This realisation was the greatest blessing of the group which was beyond expression.
A few of the touching experiences of some devotees who participated in these medical camps might help to bring out the depths of love that is shared in selfless service.
Healing the Past
“The Russian patients were very loving to us Germans. Sometimes the older people talked about incidents of the Second World War. Then everyone would become very quiet and we would have tears in our eyes.
“Oliver and I were given the task of giving oil massages to so many small children and elderly people. In this way we could allow our love to flow through our hands. Some came twice or three times. And each time they came, the smile on their face was broader.
“Very often understanding was only by heart to heart or loving eye to eye contact. I believe we were given the grace to become messengers of the healing of old wounds between Germany and Russia. While serving, I was often having the feeling of being in a cathedral, so quiet and sublime was the elevating service to the patients.
"Deep in my heart I knew very well that this service was a great gift of Swami to me. This filled me with gratefulness. Several times I heard the sentence: ‘Prashanti Nilayam is here’. And so it really was. Swami is always present wherever we share His love through Selfless Service.
“Elisabeth had to massage the eighty year old mother of the volunteer car driver. During one of the trips he told us that up to now his mother had not been able to forgive ‘the Germans’ because they had killed her father when she was six years old. Now he was very happy because his mother had found peace and that we were friends. We were rendered speechless. Afterwards, Gregory told us that he had an interview with Swami and inside the room there was a German and a Russian group. Baba told them during their interaction that it was very important that the Russians and Germans come together.”
National Service Project to Honour Mother Earth
It was German-born Albert Einstein who said, "When I read the Bhagavad-Gita and reflect about how God created this Universe everything else seems so superfluous.”
In the year 2005, a national project themed “Our Service on Earth, for the Earth and with the Earth” was set up to find the relationship between the five elements and the five values. Each of the five German regions focussed on one of the five elements and its respective value. Many study circles worked on the elements developing various creative seva or service ideas.
Regional and local projects were put into practise and activities were manifold: clearing away garbage; praying and singing outdoors for the elements and the earth; light meditation for the elements; cleaning of specially contaminated places in nature and in cities through the prayer and mantra recitation; service in animal shelters, and so on.
One young adult participant, who served in a protected nature resort, says, “During these three days, we cleaned the slopes covered with trees and bushes along the canoe trail. There is much water here and nature is mainly untouched, in spite of some trails being carelessly used as rubbish dumps. In the approximately 500 meters’ long area, we found broken pieces of pottery, toilet bowls, rubber tyres, piles of glass, motors, iron scrap, batteries, asbestos pads, dishes, bricks and a lot of rubbish. We found it very invigorating when we had our accompanying study circles on the topic of service, silent sessions for connecting with Swami, and also communion through songs and prayers. Throughout the service we experienced the spirit of oneness and joy. Some of the participants reported that collecting garbage proved to be a physical expression of their internal cleansing.”
Inspiring Upright German Youth
Long ago, the Holy Book of the Jewish and Christian religions posed the moral problem of all ages: How can the young adhere to a life of moral uprightness? (Psalm 119:9) This moral issue of the preservation of the pristine purity of youth has become even more critical in our modern world today which has put in place all that it takes to steal away the purity of the young; thanks to the misuse of the electronic media communications and the world wide net.
But after attending the third World Youth Conference under the motto “Ideal Sai Youth – Messengers of Sai Love” which took place in Prashanti Nilayam from July 26 to 28, 2007, in Baba’s Presence, the 55 German youth who attended the conference were infused with new vision and strength. They believed that it is indeed possible for the Youth to live an upright life.
In spring of 2007, a European pre-conference had been held in Berlin for the Youth of Zone 7 to prepare them with a comprehensive practical Sadhana programme.
In the German Youth Magazine “Blütezeit” No. 30 (“Blossom Time”) an organizational member of the Exhibition Team described what had happened to all and how initial resistance against the multi-point Sadhana Programme gave way to acceptance, prayer, renunciation and then a positive step by step improvement under Swami’s loving guidance:
“When I heard about the Sadhana Program, my first reaction was: ‘I won’t practice it! This is too difficult for me. I can never do it!’ Then, during the European Pre-Conference in Berlin we had a ceremony in which every one of us wrote his / her special form of Sadhana on a flower petal which later were put together at Swami’s Feet. With these petals we promised Swami to practice this chosen point of Sadhana up to the beginning of the Conference. This was a very special moment for me. If I promised something to Swami I really would have to do it. Now there was no way out for me! I could not run away any longer. He would be watching me all the time. Oh, I prayed to Swami, please help me do it! And He did come to my aid.
“I realized the truth of the statement: When you go a step towards Swami He comes a hundred steps towards you. With Swami’s help everything is possible. He is the One who thinks, inspires and acts. It is a blessing to become His instrument.”
Today, the unified German nation looks forward to its future seeking its confidence in its great civilization. German children, youth and adults are charged in the Sai spirit of selfless love and service. Within the short span of just four decades, the teachings of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba have indeed made their way into the hearts of the Germans seeking a higher purpose in life.
Just as a tiny acorn holds the mighty oak tree within, a few chosen instruments of the Divine Mission let out the clarion call forty years ago that soon led other instruments to join the chorus, and today, the symphony of Sai rings in the land of Beethoven and Bach striking the chords of Love, Peace, Truth, Right Conduct and Non-violence. Now, the hearts of Germans resonate with the words of a fellow German, Immanuel Kant, who recognized much earlier that: “The human heart refuses to believe in a universe without purpose”. And the purpose is living up to this timeless injunction: “Love All Serve All – Help Ever Hurt Never,” unconditionally, spontaneously and perpetually.
- German Sai Devotees
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Vol 6 Issue 02 - FEBRUARY 2008
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