Gram Seva 2015 – Friday, 23rd October 2015

Aum Sri Sai Ram

The day started at 05:00 with 21 Omkars and Suprabhatham.  As this was a Friday, Puppet Sir lovingly recited Al Fatiyah from the Holy Koran.  In the remainder of the satsang in the morning session, Puppet Sir discussed the role of sadhana and how it should be done.  In particular, he said that sadhana can take the spiritual aspirant up to the doorstep of self-realisation, but that only with God's Divine Grace can one cross that doorstep.  Whether God's Grace can be received or not, one must at least get to the doorstep to find out, so sadhana must be done, and done with persistency, consistency and intensity.  In relation to God always keeping His promises, Puppet Sir also narrated that, before travelling from the UK to Prashanti Nilayam on one occasion, he was asked by the Centre Chair of a London Sai Centre to bring back a message from Swami.  When Puppet Sir relayed this question to Swami, Swami simply said, "Sathya Sai does what he says".

After the satsang, a touching exchange of parting gifts took place between Puppet Sir and his UK boys, since this was the second-last full day in Prashanti and a few of the brothers had to leave on this day.  Every brother received their prasadam directly from Puppet Sir, and then he was presented with a framed photo of this year's full cohort of UK Grama Seva boys.  The musicians that played so wonderfully the evening before also received gifts from Puppet Sir, and the young tabla player in particular was informed that he had won the hearts of the crowd the previous night.  The musicians then left Prashanti later in the morning.

On Sunday 11th October, Dr Ravi, head of the Puttaparthi General Hospital, invited us to spectate a yagna that was held at the hospital for the purpose of opening up a new wing there.  We arrived there at about 08:30.  We were sat in a room with a first floor balcony along all four walls and natural light let in through the roof.  The yagna was conducted on a lowered platform in the middle of the room, and in the centre stood a large pink ceramic lotus, which had four life-size photos of Swami's upper body on top of it, facing the four directions.  The priests chanted the vedam, including the Rudram, with aplomb.  As if we didn't already feel privileged enough, we received punchaamruta prasadam from the yagna and a commemorative book about the history of the hospital.

We quickly nipped back to the Sai Kulwant Hall for the aarti at the end of the morning Darshan at 09:30 and went back to the hospital to listen to a set of speeches to mark the opening of the new wing.  The speeches covered facts and stats about the amazing work done by the hospital throughout its history, the fact that Swami Himself laid the foundation stone (He didn't normally do this) and the importance of the hospital in Swami's mission.  Veteran doctors of the hospital were honoured at the end of the session.  All guests were then invited back to the South Indian canteen for a sumptuous lunch, where some brothers definitely filled their boots after not having breakfast!

The afternoon darshan started at 16:30 with 45 minutes of vedam, for the first time since before the start of the Navaratri / Grama Seva activities.  The Sai Kulwant Hall was then treated to the latest installment of the "Puppet Show", i.e. Swami spoke to us via a talk by Puppet Sir.  This humble blog post cannot do justice to the dynamism, wisdom and humour shown by Puppet Sir during his hour-long speech, so the reader is directed to, where the audio/video of the speech should appear within the next week or so.

Nevertheless, the main themes of the speech are briefly covered here.  It was split into two parts: the attributes of the loving Lord, and "adesh, upadesh and sandesh".

In part one, it was described that the loving Lord is mischievous and mysterious in how he guides us.  Regarding the mysterious element, Puppet Sir gave an example from his trips to the Kodaikanal hill station with Swami.  Swami ensured that all guests travelling with him should have towels in their rooms.  There is always a reason behind every one of Swami's actions, so surely the towels served some spiritual purpose?  The towel gets dirty in the morning, it is then thoroughly washed and hung to dry in the punishing afternoon Indian sun, and is folded nicely in the evening to have the same done to it again the next day.  In a similar sense, are we prepared to go through daily hardships, with a smile, for the purpose of serving the almighty?

In part two, Puppet Sir revealed that at the end of one of his journeys to Prashanti, when he was ready to go back to London, he asked Swami about what sadhana he should do.  Swami, pointing at His lotus feet, simply replied, "just love me".  In its purest form, this is the highest form of sadhana.  Puppet Sir then detailed a six-step process for a spiritual aspirant to transform their life:

1.    Purify vision
2.    Clarify thoughts
3.    Sanctify intentions
4.    Verify actions
5.    Solidify sadhana
6.    Simplify, simplify, simplify life

Puppet Sir gave a set of three questions to ask to simplify one's life in relation to acquiring things and putting ceiling on desire:

1.    Do I need it?
2.    Can I afford it?
3.    Can I live without it?

If the answer to the last question is "yes", then don't acquire the item in question and after repetition, life becomes noticeably simpler.

Puppet Sir's speech was incredibly well-received by the audience in the Sai Kulwant Hall.  There were chuckles throughout and at the end, the audience generated three of the now-familiar build-up sets of applause when usually they give their approval with only one or two such sets of applause.

After a few bhajans, the afternoon Darshan was concluded at 18:40 with aarti.  We then ate dinner, and the logistics and packing associated with winding up the trip were started in earnest, before a well-needed rest.

Gram Seva 2015 – Thursday, 22nd October 2015

Aum Sri Sai Ram

Today is the holy festival of Dassera or Vijayadasami – the day Lord Rama conquered the might Rakshasa, Ravana. This holy day started as usual for us by meeting in N6, B25 for Omkar, Suprabhatam and morning prayers. The day was made all the more auspicious as it was a Thursday – Guru’s Day and so the morning prayers were based on the Guru.

We were joined in the morning satsang by Dr Anil Kumar. Dr Anil Kumar is currently Head of Cardiology in Sunshine Hospital in Hyderabad. He used to work in the Swami’s Super Speciality Hospital in Bangalore. Anil Kumar Sir said that the greatest ignorance in life is that we think we are the body. We need to go beyond this. He also asked – are we devotees of Swami? If we think we are, why did Swami say that He was still looking for one devotee? The Gita says a devotee must have mastered the senses. Can we say we have mastered our senses? After Anil Kumar’s talk, Puppet Sir thanked him and spoke a few words. He said that if you are being praised, consciously repeat in your mind “Sai Ram, Sai Ram, Sai Ram” – so that you don’t accept debit or credit.

After the morning session, we went to Poornachandra Hall for the last day of the yagna – the Poornahuti. When we arrived, the priests were performing the yagna. After a while they moved to the side and Swami’s divine seat was placed by the Homam. Bhajans started and the priests left the hall. They came back later, followed by the Vedam boys, with items for the Poornahuti. The bhajans ended and the priests chanting could be heard. Shortly after the Poornahuti took place – a bundle wrapped in a red cloth was shown to the assembly and then put in the Homam. Then ghee was poured into it and the Chief priest and his wife did pradakshina of the Homam a number of times. Aarti followed this while Prasad was being distributed. Holy water was then showered on everyone in the hall by priests and Veda Narayana sir.

We once again were blessed to have darshan at Swami’s Maha Samadhi mandir. Following that we went back to our rooms to get ready for Grama Seva. This was the last day of Grama Seva and it was being performed within Prashanti Nilayam. We went to one of the sheds and served ladoos and Annam packets - around 400 people. Following this we returned to our rooms, had a rest and lunch and we were ready again for our meeting in N6, B25 at 14:00. 

In this satsang, we had our last session on the Gita. Puppet Sir said the teaching of the Gita is not specific to Hinduism, because the teaching of God is universal. All religions teach truth, righteousness, Peace, Love and Non-Violence. He summarised that the Gita showed 3 paths – Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Karma Yoga. It was up to us which path we followed. All merge at the same point.

Brother Chelam, the state President of the Sathya Sai organisation in Andra Pradesh (AP) and Telangana also joined the satsang. The Pottapalli village in AP had been named as a model village for AP. The hospital there had served 166,000 patients.

Our group got a beautiful opportunity to perform today in the Sai Kulwant Hall. We reached the Sai Kulwant Hall at 16:00. Two brothers from the group offered a card and a flower to Swami before starting the program. At 16:30 we started by chanting Vedam – Ganapathi Prathana, Ganapathi Atharva Shirsam and Narayana Suktam. Children of the Eashwaramma Primary School performed the invocatory Vedam chanting and then we were blessed by an excerpt from a discourse by Swami on the significance of Dussera and the importance of Truth and Truthful conduct.

After Swami’s bhajan, there was a soulful Karnatic music programme performed by Sri K Balakrishna Prasad and his troupe. This was followed by an excellent music programme by Roopa Panesar with Roopa on Sitar, Kaviraj Singh on Santoor and vocal, Pirashanna (pronounced Prasanna) Thevarajah on Mirdangam and Moorsing and Zuheb Ahmed Khan on Tabla. The performance was extremely well received by the assembly in Sai Kulwant Hall. The programme for the evening was concluded by a Medley performed by the UK boys, followed by Aarti. Two of the UK boys were fortunate to perform Aarti and a further four who offered flowers at the Lotus Feet. Sister Roopa did the same on the ladies side.

Sister Roopa and team were honoured by being presented gifts by members of the Central Trust and each boy was kindly given safari suit material by Puppet Sir and Ratnakar Sir. After doing namaskar at Swami’s Maha Samadhi we left back for N1. On the way back the musical artists were stopped many times by people who had heard them play and wanted to congratulate them on a wonderful performance. The most touching one was when a car that passed by us stopped, two people got out of the vehicle, thanked and congratulated the artists, got back in their car again and drove off!!

We had evening meal together in the Western canteen before getting ready for another busy next day.

Gram Seva 2015 – Wednesday, 21st October 2015

 Aum Sri Sai Ram

 As usual, we began our day with an early morning session at 4:40, beginning with the powerful 21 Omkars and Suprabhatam. Puppet Sir then began his talk, which today was about devotion. He began by giving an example: a baby being fed milk for the first time will not accept it but a persistent mother will keep offering it and soon, the baby will come to love milk. Eventually, the time will come when the mother mixes rice into the milk for the baby, who again at first won't like it but grow to like it. The same process happens when the baby grows teeth, and is given solid food. This is like Sadhana. At first we will not be able to practice Sadhana and be devoted to Swami, but if we keep trying, and put in the effort, Swami, much like a persistent mother will allow us to gain proper devotion, and practice Sadhana with God in our minds. Patience and effort is the key to enjoying anything you do, and this includes Sadhana and devotion.

We then proceeded to get ready and go to morning Darshan, which was in Poorna Chandra Hall, where we watched the yagna take place, and stayed for the aarti.
There was no gram seva, so following Darshan, we went to the Western Canteen for breakfast, before going to shed 36 to do Narayan Seva. It was hard work but it was also extremely satisfying as we managed to serve food to 1000 Narayans (people). We are all extremely grateful to Swami for giving us such a wonderful opportunity to serve so many Narayans in form of people.

Seva finished at midday, and as there was no food left over from it, we got lunch from the Western Canteen. We then got to rest for a while, before we held a practice in the mandir in N6. During this practice, we practiced our Vedam and our bhajan medly, and we also, for the first time, heard sister Rupa Panesar's sitar performance (also to be offered on Dassera) for the first time. We were thrilled with the power of the medly, and the beauty of the sitar performance.

After practice, we went to afternoon Darshan in Sai Kulvant Hall, where we were privileged to hear a talk from Sri Siddhartha. R, and one of Swami’s discourses. Today's performance was a brilliantly choreographed dance performance given by Swami’s students from high school ranging to the students of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning.

Sri Siddhartha. R is a teacher of English literature at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. He gave a thought provoking talk, telling us stories to show how Swami is all powerful, all knowing and such a fascinating deity. My favourite story from his talk was when Swami asked some elders what they thought the most curious thing in the universe is. They didn't know so Swami told them to remind him to answer the next day. When the next day came, Swami was very busy, so the elders thought, it’s okay, we’ll ask tomorrow. At night on that day, the elders where asleep in the mandir and Swami came and woke them, asking them why they didn't remind him to which they replied, you were very busy, so we were going to ask tomorrow. Swami said that that was nonsense and he took them outside, and he looked up into the night sky. Swami told the elders to look up and they saw all the holy souls in the universe, clearly visible in the night sky. Swami said, what is so curious is that all that these holy souls around the universe have a single desire, which is to be with God, and it is you that get the chance to be with Him. This story shows Swami’s power and knowledge, but it also shows that he takes every opportunity to teach us, in this case how lucky we are to be with Him and that we must make the most of this chance we have been given.

In Swami's discourse, the theme was how we as humans should behave. Swami said that our minds are full of bad thoughts and to do these bad things is demonic. Swami says that we must always follow our conscience instead of the mind, and only do an action once we have fully thought it through. This means we must think of what we do, when we do it and what the consequences of doing it are. We must always do good deeds, and never demonic ones, even if our parents tell us to do something bad, we mustn’t do it, but instead we should explain softly and sweetly why we cannot do what they ask.

The dance performance was extremely unique, a mime group with narration "presented" each new scene, with the theme being a search for the perfect devotee of Swami. The most memorable scenes from the dance where about Hunuman's devotion to Rama and the Gopikas' devotion to Krishna. We saw scenes of Hunuman flying and lifting the mountain at Rama’s command and the Gopikas dancing with Krishna. The narration told us the Gopikas always said that they belong to Krishna and that they were true devotees, which made me remember what Puppet Sir often says, "I am not a devotee, I am a slave of the master."
Darshan concluded with bhajans and the aarti, after which we bowed down to Swami’s Maha Samhadi and did our prayers. Our day finished with dinner in the Western Canteen.

Gram Seva 2015 – Tuesday, 20th October 2015

Aum Sri Sai Ram

This morning the UK Boys Grama Seva group started their day at 4.40AM. The group met at 4.40AM at N6 for Suprabhatam and morning session with Puppet Sir. Immediately after the morning session with Puppet Sir, group went to Sai Kulwant hall for Divine darshans and Pradakshana. They did a final Pradakshana of the mandir for the last day of their Grama Seva, on this auspicious day that is Durgashtami.

This was the fifth day of the Yagna in Poornachandra hall, which they attended before attending the Ayudh puja of Swami's cars and Golden Chariot.  Today was also the Divine Declaration Day; 75 years to the day when Sri Sathya Sai Baba declared that he was an Avatar.

As the group embarked for the village to give out Swami's prasadam to each house, they were reminded of the immensity of the project. Over the course of eight days, 50,000 saris and dhotis would be given to households, along with approximately 40,000 ladoos and food packets per day. These are truly astounding numbers and show the enormity of the task in hand, demonstrating Swami's principle of love in action.

The group attended a talk by Puppet Sir after returning to Prasanthi Nilayam. On Divine Declaration Day, he spoke to the audience about some of his experiences with Swami, in particular on the topics of compassion and purity.

After having Swami's prasadam for lunch, the group practiced with Sister Roopa and the artists from the UK ahead of their programme that is to be held on Dussehra day.

During the evening darshan, Dr Mohan Garu spoke to the devotees in Sai Kulwant Hall in Telugu about Saraswati tatva, with anecdotes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

The group then had dinner at western canteen in the ashram and ended the lovely day.

Gram Seva 2015 – Monday, 19th October 2015

Aum Sri Sai Ram

The seventh day of the Navaratri Festival started in N6, B25 as usual for the Grama Seva Boys, at 4:40. The morning session began with the powerful 21 Omkars followed by Suprabhatam. As it was Monday, this was followed by prayers to Lord Shiva and was conducted by Puppet Sir just like he used to perform Shiv Pooja at Sai Kutir and the fond memories came flooding back for many of our group members.

In the satsang that followed the prayers, Puppet Sir relived his Army days, recounting a story of when General Mahadevan had invited Swami to the Military Staff College in Wellington. Swami graciously accepted and was given full honour coming in an open top jeep and given a 21 gun salute. The General had previously given a talk to the soldiers telling them that he wanted A1 behaviour from them. However, when Swami came on the dais and raised the consciousness by turning his hands upwards and turning them in the customary circular motion, all people stood up and ran to Swami. All discipline disappeared! Swami kindly took letters, blessed and afterwards gave a divine discourse. Later Swami asked General what had happened to the Army discipline and General beautifully replied, “Swami, when devotion entered through the front gate, discipline left through the back gate!”. 

At 8:00, after taking pradakshina of the Mandir, we went to the cars and set off to do Grama Seva at Agraharan, part of the Bukkapatnam Mandal.  Agraharan is in the same direction as Krishnapuram, where we had been yesterday for seva. It took an hour to get to Agraharan and we arrived fresh and ready to serve. We started with Vedam recitation and then started the distribution. As always we received joy by having the opportunity to serve and see the gratitude on the villagers faces when they received Swami’s Prasadam, but the highlight was giving pencils and chocolates to the children in the village and then singing bhajans with them, because doing this really brings joy to the faces of the children, which makes us feel that we are sharing Swami’s love all around.

In the afternoon, after lunch and rest, we practiced Vedam and Medley in preparation for a programme, which will we perform later in the week, with Swami’s Grace.

This afternoon’s programme in Sai Kulwant hall started with powerful invocatory Vedam chanting which was followed by a talk given by T. Ravi Kumar, Warden of the Sri Sathya Sai Hostel, Brindavan. Ravi Kumar Sir had received a Gold Medal for his PhD and had been coached by Swami Himself on Public Speaking. Today he gave a “simple narration of His [Swami’s] love”, telling us about how his family had come to Swami (due to his father’s serious illness), about how Swami got his school studies back on the straight and narrow and how, through insisting to Swami, he was able to remain at the Lotus Feet in Swami’s education institutions.

He excerpt of Swami’s discourse today continued on the theme of truth and morality with Swami giving examples of Dharmaraj and Draupadi upheld truth. He said we should determine to follow the path of dharma all the way and that this was the first teaching of Lord Krishna. Swami said he tells teachers to teach morality. He said instead of learning ‘Aum Namah Shivaya’ or ‘Aum Namo Narayana’ we learn ‘Ding Dong Bell’ or ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’! We should start with God’s name.

The day’s programme was completed by a melodious musical programme by the sisters from the Anantapur campus, followed by bhajans and Arati. We were then told about the programme for the 8th day of the festival and after that offered our love at Swami’s Maha Samadhi.

In the evening we were blessed to be given a talk by Deepak Anand, a Faculty Member of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Education. It started with Deepak sharing his experiences and thoughts in his characteristic dynamic and passionate way, followed by a question and answer session with the UK boys. 

The day ended with the group eating the evening meal together in N1, A9.

Gram Seva 2015 – Sunday, 18th October 2015

Aum Sri Sai Ram

The morning began in our mandir at 05:00 with 21 Omkars and Suprabhatam, recited by Puppet Sir. He also read out the thought for the day, which was very inspiring in preparing us for the day ahead. Puppet Sir spoke about perfection in action and also narrated his experiences where he was blessed by Bhagawan to be part of the entourage to His residence in Kodaikanal, Sai Shruti. He narrated in depth his journey from the time they left Parthi, including the in-flight experience with our Dearest Bhagawan. He further went on to narrate his experience during the time he was in the Indian Army in Sri Nagar and Jammu Kashmir.

After our morning session we went to Sai Kulwant hall. Vedam chanting commenced at 8.00am, during which we performed Pradikishina of the Maha Samadhi Temple and moved to our Sumo's for Grama Seva. On this occasion, the UK group was given a portion of a large village called Krishnapooram in Bhukapatnam Mandal - a 45 minute drive away. As soon as we arrived we conducted Nagasankeertam alongside Sai Students, energising everyone present. Everyone settled into their teams and commenced with the sacred work. After all the villagers were served, we gathered all the children at the Shirdi Temple in the village and distributed chocolates and pencils. We also sang bhajans, encouraging the village children to accompany the chorus. The children were so humble and full of joy. After this we returned to the Ashram to partake Swami’s prashadam.  

The afternoon session was very exciting. We were blessed to have amongst us Veda Narayan Sir who shared his nectar like experience for about 45 minutes. We first started with Vedam chanting and this was followed by a short talk from Veda Narayan Sir. He stated how fortunate we are to have a human birth, which of the 84 lakhs of species is the only one blessed with the power of discrimination. He went on to say that if we turn the key towards God we get liberated and conversely if we turn the key towards the world, we will be ensnared by worldly desires. He also said that the moments we spend with God are the most precious in our lives and added that through the mind we’ll attain liberation. He asked us “what is the principal quality of a human being?” The answer was human values! He gave an example that if fire has no burning qualities how can it be called fire? Likewise if the wind has no blowing quality then how can it be called wind? He continued, saying that one needs to develop human values in our lives and this can be done through sadhana. He also narrated Swami’s message that “if you walk ahead of me I may not keep up with you, if you walk behind me you may not keep up with me, hence walk side by side with me.” 

Finally he concluded saying that he himself had 7.5 years of introspection where Swami did not speak to him and he said that these were the golden moments in his life that prepared him to serve Swami.

Afternoon Darshan started with 15 minutes of Vedam, including a small group of high school children reciting in an additional 5 minute section.  They chanted with clarity and unity, generating beautiful vibrations throughout the hall. This was followed by a speech in telugu by a learned scholar.

We were then treated to a snippet of one of Swami's divine discourses from a Navaratri of years gone by.  The main theme was that man must develop morality, but is (currently) struggling to do so.  Without morality, spiritually speaking, all actions are in vain.  However, if man recognises and acts with morality, he can accomplish anything.

During the evening session we were blessed to have sathsang with Sudhir Bhaskar Sir who has been blessed by Swami to manage the entire planning of Grama Seva since its inception in August 2000 - serving over 100 villages around Puttaparthi. He went on to describe in detail how the Grama Seva is planned and the logistical requirements that enable everything to come together like a jigsaw puzzle, thus enabling a smooth process to reach to each and every villager with love and compassion. 

The day ended at 20:30 when we all retired for the end of the day. 

Gram Seva 2015 – Saturday, 17th October 2015

Aum Sri Sai Ram

Morning prayers started at the later time of 05:50, taking into account the previous night's late visit to see our Anantapur sisters making the rice packets for Grama Seva.  Since it was a Saturday, 21 Omkars and Suprabhatham were followed by prayers to Lord Rama and Lord Hanuman.  Puppet Sir talked with us about the previous night's visit to see the rice production.  He was impressed by the devotion of our Anantapur sisters and stated that they have great unity, and extended this statement to say that our UK group also has great unity.  All brothers readily agreed with these statements.  Puppet Sir then linked the purity of our Anantapur sisters to the idea of "100% involvement, 0% attachment": they make each rice packet according to the same specification and high standards, but then don't concern themselves with what happens to the packets afterwards, i.e. the loading of trucks and distribution to villagers.  On a separate topic, Puppet Sir gave the analogy that for an individual's spirituality, they are the only one who sets the exam, takes the exam and marks the exam.  This means the individual is solely responsible for starting their spiritual progress and evaluating it throughout their life.

After Pradakshina of the Maha Samadhi Mandir at 08:00, we travelled out for Grama Seva.  On this occasion, the UK group was given a portion of a large village called Talamarla, in the Kothacheruvu Mandal, a 30-40 minute drive away.  As soon as we arrived, we conducted Nagasankeertan alongside Sai students, which energised both us and the village.  Logistically speaking, this was the smoothest day so far.  Everyone had settled into their teams and was enjoying the sacred work!  After all villagers had been served, a few brothers gathered some of the children together at the temple and sang 5-10 bhajans with them.  It's fair to say the kids were incredibly cute!

On the way back towards lunch, we stopped off at the South Indian canteen and saw how the ladoos are made.  Similarly to last night, we were all extremely impressed with the skill, efficiency and devotion of the female sevadals making the ladoos.  For the cultural reason of avoiding use of the left hand to make food, these sisters form the ladoos with their right hands only!  The sheer numbers also humbled us: each 3ft x 8ft table used to place ladoos before packing holds 1000, and there were maybe 20 tables squeezed into that room.

Afternoon Darshan started with 15 minutes of Vedam, including a group of about eight older primary school children reciting a section of the Bhirguvalli chant.  They chanted with clarity and unity, so setting an example for us to follow in the UK!

Today's programme commenced with a speech by Miss Isha Sai, who is an Assistant Professor in the Biosciences Department at the Anantapur campus.  She described and explained the significance of the three yagnas being performed in Prashanti during the Navaratri festival, i.e. the Veda Purusha Saptaha Jnana Yagna, Prashanti Vidvan Mahasabha and Grama Seva.  She also elaborated on the purpose of life as stated by Bhagawan, including using the statement that man has to renounce all attachments and desires, which are only transitory, to realise his immortality.

We were then treated to a snippet of one of Swami's divine discourses from a Navaratri of years gone by.  The main theme was that man must develop morality, but is (currently) struggling to do so.  Without morality, spiritually speaking, all actions are in vain.  However, if man recognises and acts with morality, he can accomplish anything.

The Sai students of the Brindavan campus then performed a music programme for 45 minutes, with what can truly be described as a large variety of solos and instrumentals that covered the Hindustani and Classic Indian styles.  The highlight of the programme in many people's eyes was the last item, which was a spirit-raising solo rendition of a song titled "Chelo Bhoolaayaa, Aayaa Hai...".

Before dinner, we had the immense privilege of a private audience with Prof. Sri Anil Kumar: the well-known and even more well-loved translator of Swami's discourses in the 1990s and 2000s.  He was on top form and mixed up hilarious anecdotes and mannerisms with some very profound points.  One point, especially concerning people that struggle to learn Vedam chanting, is that "God also knows English!", i.e. learning Vedam is not necessary, since praying in any language is fine.  He also rubbished the idea that only a chosen few are close to Swami.  We are all close to Swami, but we must have conviction in that.  He then described what constitutes individual service to others in daily life: speaking lovingly and with a smile; being a good listener and sharing the other person's pleasure / pain; and for Sai devotees especially, talking about how one's life has changed as a result of following Swami's teachings instead of talking about miracles that won't really engage the listener, e.g. of the type where Swami materialised a ring for the devotee.

Gram Seva 2015 – Friday, 16th October 2015

Aum Sri Sai Ram

The morning began at 05:15 in our mandir with 21 Omkars and Suprabhatam. Today our morning session started slightly later than usual as last night five of our brothers took part in the Outside Inside (Deep Inside) Radio Sai programme hosted by brother Bishu Prusty. All the brothers in the group were buzzing from the great performance given the previous night on Outside Inside.

Thursday is the day of the Guru and Puppet Sir recited prayers dedicated to our Guru Baghwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. This Thursday is also an auspicious day as it is the first day of the Veda Purusha Saptaha Yagna.

After our morning session we went to Purnachandra Hall to witness the beginning of the four-day Puja where the priests conducting it ignited the Havan. They used the traditional method of using hay and sticks to commemorate the start of the Puja.

The Purnachandra hall was full to the abound with all of Swami’s students and local devotees all keen to get sight of the commencement of this unique and auspicious Puja. We were fortunate to have great seats to witness this event. Following the start of the Havan, we proceeded to our cars for the third day of Grama Seva.

Today we were serving at Swami’s Super Speciality Hospital in the Staff Quarters where we delivered annam, laddoos, sarees and dhotis to the staff who serve tirelessly in the hospital. We were very fortunate as only the UK Gram Seva boys served the entire Staff Quarters.

Once we had completed the distribution of the Prasadam, the group headed over to the main building of the hospital where we all took some time to contemplate at Swami’s altar in the main dome. This dome at the Super Speciality Hospital is exceptionally tranquil; we all spent about twenty minutes sitting silently to reflect and take in the atmosphere and vibrations from the morning’s Seva at the Staff Quarters. Whilst we were at the hospital a number of the brothers took the opportunity to offer liquid love donations, donating blood at the hospital blood bank. We then returned to Prashanti Nilayam and had Swami’s Prasadam together.

As today was the first day of the Vidhwan MahaSabha, Sri Sai Manohar from the Satya Sai Institute of Higher Learning (Muddenahalli Campus) gave a keynote speech during the afternoon darshan session. S. S. Manohar used his keynote speech to enlighten us on how to seek God through faith in our hearts and prayer through our lips.

During the evening session we were blessed to have satsang with Sister Noursheen Mehrbani who has been serving at the Western Canteen for the past nine years after coming into Swami’s fold. Sister Mehrbani spoke to us about the importance of not forgetting Swami’s teachings and using these as our solace now that Swami is no longer physically present. Sister also spoke about the importance of Love and Unity to ensure that we look within to seek Swami’s presence and guidance.

The day ended at 20:00 when we all retired for the end of the day.