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Christmas in Prasanthi Nilayam
Choir and Christmas Drama 26 Dec 2009
Posted at 04:43:00 Hrs. IST on 26 Dec 2009
|28 Dec. Joy of Serving - Music Programme by Southern Europe 28 Dec 2009|
|"...Christmas is over, but the joy the festivity brought is still in the air in Prasanthi. One could see a sizeable populace of devotees from overseas nations camping in Prasanthi, post Christmas, awaiting the next big occasion, New Year 2010..."|
...Donning pristine white, men and women
numbering several hundreds from the erstwhile USSR, namely,
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia
all coming from Zone 6, Region 61 and 62 of Sri Sathya Sai Seva
Organisations - Overseas, were ready to embrace the Lord with
the songs of their hearts, to sing His glory in His immediate
It was obvious that the language of their hearts was already heard by the Lord well before them bursting out their devotional repertoire. Bhagawan, upon coming onto the dais at around 4:45 pm, chose to climb down, blessing the group profusely,....Read More
26 Dec International
Children's Choir & Christmas Drama
Over 200 children from around 14 countries brought the true spirit of Christmas with their unified feeling of love for the Lord, while humming in Prasanthi Nilayam in the immediate Divine Presence of Bhagawan on the beautiful evening on 26 Dec 2009.
First half of the programme was an evening by children for their Beloved Swami which later in the second half, at the culmination of the programme, turned out to become a twilight by Beloved Swami for His beautiful children from around the world.
When the Lord glided past the throng of devotees at 4:30 pm, blessing one and all, the stage was already set for the grand finale of the three day X-Mas celebrations. The evening had two scheduled programmes, with the first one being an International Children’s Choir conducted by Alma Badings of the Netherlands followed by the Children’s Christmas Drama 2009 by participants from Latin American countries, directed by Coni Avila Benitez from Mexico.
The International children started off in style with Ganesha Gayathri that was a precision rendering on par with well trained primary school children of Prasanthi Nilayam. After the show a beaming Alma Badings quipped, referring to the perfect rendering of the Ganesha Gayathri, “We had hectic practice sessions on the same”. The choir had a collection of 10 hymns which included some “non-english” numbers.
With the dancing movement of the finger baton of the graceful conductor, the children numbering exactly 153, sixty-nine boys and eighty-four girls, fixing their mental focus on the Divine Conductor sang in chorus, singing His praise in His immediate Divine presence.
They sang, “Sai Baba Sai Baba Sai Om Sai Baba…” followed by “We are your children from all corners of the globe..”, “En esta era de Kali Yuga…”, “We love you dearest Swami…”, “Om Sai Ram Sri Sathya Sai Baba…”, “Jesus is the savior whom I love to know…”, “Sin nje nje nje…”, “Njalo njalo…”, “With all your love from our heart…” etc…
Beaming faces, immersed in greater bliss at the very opportunity of singing in presence of the Mighty Lord were reflections of their greater love for their Beloved Swami. ..And Bhagawan has been quite attentive, all through.
The choir was assisted by able musicians numbering over 11 who played an array of instruments that included guitars, violins, tablas, African drum etc. The African drum beat that sustained in the air as a solo beat in between the choir was an added attraction that remained quite distinctive from the rest of the instruments.
The theme chosen for this year’s choir was “Christmas in Prasanthi is Pure Grace”, said Alma Badings, a veteran for many years with International Adult Choir and Ladies’ Day Choir who has been conducting the show for children from early 2000. “This year there has been many children participating. Every year the number has been increasing and children have been very well behaved and got many compliments”, added the conductor answering as to how she has been managing children from varied background in just 12 days time conducting a perfect show in the Divine Presence. “It was Children’s Love for Swami” said an active volunteer who has been helping Ms. Badings in the entire show. ”Swami’s Pure Grace” was all that Alma Badings wanted to add.
The Drama for the year, “Christmas Comes to My Heart” was based on Bhagawan’s teachings and Biblical gospels of Saint Luke and Saint Matthew.
Christmas in Prasanthi, in the Divine presence is a holy dream for any Sai child as they have been invariably taught of the greater significance of the holy celebrations in Prasanthi Nilayam, in Bhagawan’s own words. This year’s drama was a true expedition to Prasanthi to know the Christmas in its truest sense.
The story began from a warm Friday afternoon in December and the stage was set in a big Latin American city. Little Teo and his mother were at home getting some rest after a busy week. Teo was the only son of the Gonzalez family, a happy Sathya Sai family that has longed to make a Christmas trip to Prasanthi.
To a grateful mother whose joy knew no bounds at the opportunity to celebrate the holy occasion in the mighty presence, Little Teo, who was ever inquisitive, and had a question.
A true Christmas? What’s a true Christmas?
Here came the mother revealing the story of the blessed son of God, Jesus.
The boy was ecstatic at the prospect of being in the Divine presence of Swami.
Scene Two had the depiction of Mother Mary and Archangel wherein the angel informed Mary of the greatest boon she had received of bearing His own son.
Hearing of the Divine birth of Jesus, the little inquisitive mind of Teo raised some more doubts to his ever loving mother. This time he was referring to his Bal Vikas teacher who taught him about Swami’s birth as Divine Birth, who had selected Mother Easwaramma as His chosen Mother.
Wise Mothers, Mother Mary and Mother Easwaramma had taught their sons, Jesus and Swami truth and righteousness and they had been exemplary good children who kept their mother’s teachings in their hearts with love and respect.
Now, Little Teo wanted to know the secret behind keeping the teachings in their hearts.
Scene Number three had the answer to this question wherein Jesus along with his parents were attending a Jewish festival in Jerusalam. Jesus got lost in the jostling crowd, went to the nearby temple to listen to the speech of the high priest. Panic stricken parents, especially Mother Mary went around in search of her son finally to find him in the temple listening to the sermons.
To a worried mother, Little Jesus quipped with affirmation of faith in Greater Heaven. “Mother! Why should you fear? Those who believe in the world will have fears. But why should anyone who believes in God fear at all? I am in the company of my Father. You taught me that God is everything for us. How, then can you worry like this?”
…And the Children Choir burst open with the famous song, “Why Fear when I am here….” , apt for the situation.
As Mother kept narrating the story of Jesus to an ever inquisitive Teo, passing through the great mission of the Son of God, the mission of Love, Little Teo was equally getting evolved taking cue from the life of Jesus.
Jesus’s unconditional selfless love was portrayed depicting his many a sermon to his followers, that included loving one’s own enemies, doing good to those who hates him etc.
Now, having heard enough on Jesus, Little Teo wanted to know whether he could pray to Jesus the way he would do to Swami. He asked, “Can I talk to Jesus the way I talk to Swami? Is it the same?” Mother was affirmative, more than convincing of Little Teo about Jesus Christ’s Divinity.
Hearing a famous Christian prayer addressed to the Holy Heavenly Father, Little Teo felt that the prayer was similar to that of Swami’s.
“Oh! Lord, take my love and let it flow in fullness of devotion to Thee,
Oh! Lord, take my hands and let them work incessantly for Thee,
Oh! Lord, take my soul and let it be merged in one with Thee,
Oh! Lord, take my mind and thoughts and let them be in tune with Thee,
Oh! Lord, take my everything and let me be an instrument to work for Thee”.
Mother was very happy and advised the son to keep the prayer always in his heart telling him that these prayers are gifts from God. Little Teo was more than excited to keep the same within his heart to keep repeating every day. ..And needless to say that Little Teo was in all ecstasy at the prospect of being in the Divine Presence, and so were his parents.
Teo was indeed a common representative of global children from Sai fraternity who always look forward to the Advent of wintry December to be in the Divine Presence of Swami at Prasanthi Nilayam.
Swami had said, there is no other place in the world where Christmas is celebrated with more holiness, brotherhood, and love than in Prasanthi Nilayam. Indeed, Christmas in Swami’s presence is a real opportunity to have the chance to truly experience His Divine Love!
And this “Love that Conquers” was what in store after the curtain was drawn for the Christmas Drama 2009. While the drama had the depiction of a story telling the Advent of Jesus, the real drama happened when The Lord “entertained” the children with His explicit, unsullied love, post the drama presentation.
In an untiring session that lasted for almost an hour Bhagawan went amidst them to photograph with the drama and choir team, blessing them in abundance. Bhagawan created a chain for the cast of Jesus while all the boys were given safari pieces and the girls got blessed with sarees, including the conductor and drama director and assistants. Disciplined and devoted children formed a beeline going one after one, most reverentially with folded hands, to receive the gift of love from His Divine Hands. One of the helping hands in the Children Choir also was blessed with a ring.
While the event was a perfect show of love by children reciprocated multifold by Bhagawan’s all conquering love, it was not all easy for the drama troupe to get the same done just within two weeks.
The theme was selected from over 12 entries, scripts submitted through a “competition” conducted for the purpose, well in advance and what went in favour for the Latin American entry was perhaps the reference to Mother Easwaramma and her greater love for her Divine Child along with the story of Jesus while depicting Mother Mary, said the Drama Director Coni Avila Benitez from Mexico who has been a devotee for over eighteen years.
None of the children in the drama were of English speaking and the voice over had to be done in English with the help of Balvikas children from the US, ably managed by Victoria Hargreaves, from Santa Barbara, California, who directed Christmas Drama in 2008. Though no practice was possible before their arrival in Prasanthi Nilayam, script was made well in advance, casts were identified and scripts were sent out to the participants to do “homework” in advance. “As the practice session progressed steadily, children grew more enthusiastic at the prospect of presenting the drama in His Divine Presence” said Coni Avila who was specially blessed by Bhagawan on the eventful evening.
“The Children were Balvikas students from Latin America, speaking Spanish and Portuguese. They come from Mexico to Argentina and thus could not practise until they grouped together on the 13th Dec at Prasanthi”, said John Behner, International Coordinator for Christmas in Prasanthi on the hard-side of the saga of Christmas 2009. The Choir was the largest we have ever had, but children worked hard and they learnt the songs for both choir and drama by practising twice a day for 12 days in the run up to the festivity. Every day we told them a story about Jesus or Swami from their childhood days so that their practice had lots of human values added”, added John Behner who was full of praise for the wonderful children who made the day a ‘Happy Day” for the Lord.
The drama had eight hymns aptly intertwined and sung by the Children Choir taking their total tally to an array of eighteen hymns.
Previous evening witnessed Bhagawan blessing some of the Russian devotees conversing with them and even materializing a ring for one of them. The ring was tight on his finger and Bhagawan had promised him to change it. Upon completing the photo shoot Bhagawan asked for the Russian devotee to materialize a fitting ring that was received with round of applause.
Children made their day, by offering their unsullied love for The Lord and The Lord was up with a Million Bounty, reciprocating their love. During the photo shoot when Bhagawan called for the drama director, Coni Avila there was a comment from a senior devotee, “this is a Mexican Revolution”. Indeed it was not alone Teo who was transformed on the beautiful evening. In fact, Teo was a symbolic representation of many a heart, who underwent the transformation, receiving His bounty of Love and that was “True Christmas” at Prasanthi Nilayam.
Christmas Evening in Prasanthi Nilayam - 25 Dec 2009
Christmas flavour in Prasanthi Nilayam got a shot in its arm when Bhagawan, hinted quite affirmative to a prayer from students to bless ‘them’ with Christmas Benedictory Divine Discourse. …And in the evening when Bhagawan came out quite early, just after 4 pm, the greater expectation was giving way to a near certainty.
And the beautiful Christmas evening was enlightened by a nectarous Divine Discourse wherein His Divine voice was heard echoing: God is Love…Love…Love alone… Do not brood over the past; past is past and will never come again. Future is uncertain.Live in the present. This moment of life, existence, is reality.
The third session of the Christmas Programme 2009 started off with a thanksgiving speech by Christmas Committee Chairman John Behner that was followed by two speeches, by Yuliana Stephanie Pulgar Monge from Cost Rica and Douglas Saunders from Newzealand.
John Behner in his thanksgiving address was categorical in mentioning various groups and even individuals who made the big difference in making Christmas 2009 a grand success. Ranging from Secretary, Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, to accommodation to security to maintenance to western canteen, Mr.Behner had a special word of request for a big applause for this dedicated bunch of staffers of Prasanthi Nilayam.
926 strong adult International Choir under Ms. Sylvia Alden, the upcoming Children Choir conducted by Ms. Alma Badings, the children Drama team scheduled to perform on Saturday afternoon directed by Cony Avala from Mexico, Special Christmas Mass scheduled for Sunday at Chaitanya Jyothi Museum that would be presided over by Father Charles Ogada, also came in for special mention for their wonderful dedicated devoted service.
The Atlanta Decoration Team, responsible for decking up the Abode of Divinity had a inspiring tale behind their greater effot. Mr. Nagesh Rai from Atlanta had a wonderful story related to decorating Prasanthi Nilayam. Mr. Rai, a professional decorator himself, had a dream a couple of years ago, in which Bhagawan had asked him to decorate His house. Initially Mr. Rai had no clue. Bhagawan had even asked him to write a book and the title as suggested by Bhagawan was “Decorate the Decorator”. It was then, when the Atlanta centre obtained the final nod of approval for decorating Prasanthi Nilayam that Mr. Rai understood the subtle reality behind the dream.
Indonesian group comprising 430 devotees who would be working in the western canteen, cooking till the 28th Dec and also involved in ashram services as well as conducting Bal Vikas Sadhana Camps, and the Atlanta choir which conducted Christmas Choir in the mandir on the Christmas morning also came in for mention with appreciation and gratitude. The large group of Croatian group who would be performing a musical programme also got introduced to the devotees.
The first speaker for the afternoon was Ms. Yuliana Pulgar, a medical student from Cost Rica who was the youth coordinator for Sathya Sai Organisations, Costa Rica for one year and also is one of the collaborators for Radio Sai programme from the country as well as the Costa Rica Radio programme, Love in Action. The eighteen year old speaker had started a Hata Yoga Institute at the age of seventeen as inspired by Bhagawan and has been a follower of Bhagawan since twelve years.
Expressing deep sense of gratitude for the “miraculous” opportunity bestowed upon her, the young speaker said she was confused as to what she would speak on the occasion in the Divine Presence. With a blank mind she had a fervent prayer to Bhagawan to guide her through and as a result she was illumined to share one of her experiences.
At the age of 6 she was introduced to English training through a teacher who was incidentally a Sai devotee. She would often see the lovely picture of Bhagawan with her English teacher, but had no clue about His identity. From within she started feeling His love and could equate the same with that of Jesus Christ. And as she grew up her interest in Swami also increased and started applying His teaching in her life. She has been awakened and compassion descended into her heart. She turned to vegetarian food to the utter disgust of her friends and relatives. ..And is Divine providence, her mother gradually learnt cooking vegetarian food and got convinced of her daughter’s decision.
The inspirational young speaker had mention about her Hata Yoga institute, her medical career, her efforts in spreading His message through the radio programmes in her country, miracle at Hata Yoga institute wherein after fervent prayer to Bhagawan five of her students, who had undergone fertility treatment, but could not conceive and subsequently lost faith in miracles became pregnant and delivered healthy babies, all with His grace.
A shocking news that she had received before setting off to India, that she was infected by a dreaded disease that could finally lead to cancer if not treated in time, forced her to cut her long beautiful hair for undergoing chemotherapy. The contented speaker was at her somber best when she expressed satisfaction that her long, beautiful hair would be used by someone in some part of the world and that she no longer identifies herself with any false delusion. The speaker claimed that she has been evolving herself to understand the Atma principle. She said the incident helped her to reflect life and death from the right perspective.
The second speaker was Douglas Saunders, who was in printing business and is the national chair of Sathya Sai Seva Organisations, Newzealand.
Referring the Birth of Jesus as a day of hope and love the speaker started with the message Jesus Christ had for humanity, his message of love and compassion. The speaker had his wife’s own story of transformation that happened overnight.
In 1987, when his wife happened to watch a film organized by the SSSO, Oakland and the moment she watched Swami on the screen, listening to His discourse, she had understood that this was what she had been waiting subconsciously for long. She exclaimed “Here He is; He is here” and she was no longer her old self. She had been transformed. The first to come was a meal without meat followed by extensive reading of Sai literature and attending to service activities in His name at the local Sai Centre while consciously started working on self improvement.
With Douglas the story was different. Disturbed at the new found spiritual love of his wife, he wondered: God is somewhere up in the heavens with white beard and how could He be walking on earth and living in India. Douglas was not prepared for a change.
After six years, Mrs. Saunders travelled to India for Swami’s darshan and she returned after a three week’s mission to Kodaikanal. Though consciously she was making an effort not to talk to him anything about Bhagawan, she was so overpowered by His love, that she could not resist temptation in telling all about Him after the trip.
Douglas was confused. He had decided to sit and talk to his wife to convince that she no longer need to travel to India. And within six months he found himself in presence of Sai Baba. He decided to see the “man” in person so that he could convince himself before convincing his wife not to travel to India anymore.
Though he stayed over there for three weeks, he could not get any closer opportunity despite fervent yearning. When time was fast approaching for him and his wife to return, during the second last darshan the transformation happened. Bhagawan came near him to grant a beautiful smile that was the panacea he had been wanting for quite long. And he was transformed once for all.
GOD IS LOVE! LOVE!! LOVE ALONE!!!
God is in all, in a subtle form, in the form of spirit; Man does not make any conscious effort to understand the spirit within, said Bhagawan commencing His Christmas Benedictory Divine Discourse.
Talking about the greatness of Bharat He extolled the great illumined characters who glorified the cultural and spiritual worth of the nation, exemplifying character par excellence.
Mentioning names like Mother Sita, who exemplified chastity and integrity, Chandramathi who could extinguish wild forest fire with the power of chastity, Savitri who showcased her power of Truth, Bhagawan mentioned that it is in Bharat alone that one could find women of such great characters and only Bharat had the great good fortune of giving birth to Avatars.
Today, man wants to possess everything else, other than God and is prepared to leave his motherland to amass wealth. Bharathiyas are not supposed to have excessive desire for wealth.
Referring to violence prevalent in present day world, Bhagawan said, people think and meditate on peace, but we find only pieces. God is Love; Love is God, Truth is God; God is Truth, Truth and Love stand for Divinity, exhorted Bhagawan.
Talking about love, Bhagawan said, people tend to picturise love in the form of Ravi Varma paintings. All these paintings are imaginary work. God is present in everyone. True form of God is Love…Love and Love alone…
Ego has to be eliminated. Bondage is nothing but, “I” ness. “I” and “Mine” should be removed so that one gets the all-encompassing feeling, said Bhagawan referring to the crucifixion of Jesus, symbolized by the centre-line on the holy cross.
Do not brood over the past; past is past and will never come again. Future is uncertain. Bhagawan wants us to live in the present. This moment of life is existence which is reality.
Divine Discourse was ended by the bhajan “Hari Bhajana Binaa Sukha Shanti Nahin…”. Upon His Divine Discourse Bhagawan called out some of the Russian devotees who were seated in the front row, interacting with them. He materialized a ring for one of the Russians. And when the Russians prayed for a photo session Bhagawan promised the same the next morning when “lighting would be proper”.
The Russian group was allowed to sing a bhajan, “Manasa Bhajare Guru Charanam…” upon which Arathi was offered, ending a glorious Christmas Day in presence of the Holy Father!
Posted at 18:14:05 Hrs. IST on 25 Dec 2009
Christmas Eve in Prasanthi Nilayam - 24 Dec 2009
|Christmas Eve in Prasanthi Nilayam - 24 Dec 2009
Posted at 01:36:12 Hrs. IST on 25 Dec 2009
Also Read: SAVOURING THE SACRED STREAM OF LOVE:
What makes Christmas in Prasanthi Nilayam so charismatic and magical?
Joy knows no bounds when you sing your heart in praise of His Glory. On the auspicious Christmas Eve after an hour-long singing of His Glory in His immediate Divine Presence, the International Choir had an unusual word of appreciation, from none other than The Lord on whom, to whom “they” sung. Towards the end of the session, calling one of his students, Bhagawan asked him to announce that the songs sung by the choir were touching and made Him very happy. ..And after a two hour long session, the International Choir walked out of the hall with joy in their hearts that knew no bounds!
Prasanthi Nilayam, the Abode of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, brings to light a diverse perspective of the festivity called Christmas. As rightly echoed by Bhagawan in one of His Christmas Divine Discourses, the festivity is celebrated in its truest sense in Prasanthi Nilayam.Bhagawan, addressing a huge concourse of devotees from around the world during the 1998 edition of the celebration, exhorted: “True Christmas is celebrated only in Prasanthi Nilayam”. "Elsewhere people drink, eat non‑vegetarian food and make merry in the name of Christmas. But Christmas in Prasanthi Nilayam is celebrated in a holy atmosphere".
Christmas in Prasanthi Nilayam is unique not only because people of all religions join together to celebrate it, but also because it is celebrated in the true spirit of Christ in the Divine Presence of the Avatar, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. That is why people from United Nations across the globe assemble in large numbers to celebrate Christmas in Prasanthi Nilayam.
Christmas Eve finds a greater mention in the Christmas legend. The Eve traditions vary from country to country and region to region. The greater anticipation of the holy birth and its preparatory run make the eve a momentous one in the history of the festivity.
…and the Christmas Eve in Prasanthi Nilayam is distinctive over the years with a unique choir comprising representation of united nations singing His glory in His immediate Divine Presence. The overseas choir has been a part of the Christmas celebrations for over a decade ever since the wonderfully graceful Sylvia Alden from the United States was given the mantle by Bhagawan to conduct the show.
This unique choir for this year had over 950 voices singing a spirited collection of songs on His, of His Love....
Once Sylvia Alden took over presenting the programme to Bhagawan, the choir sang 18 hymns, precisely for an hour, presenting a disciplined devotional show of Love for their Beloved Bhagawan. Singing their hearts out, the choir used all the available adjectives heralding the glory of the “Born Little Divine”.
sonorous notes from an array of musical instruments rendered the
air, with hundreds singing in chorus, the sun in the western horizon
slowly fading off giving way to a beautiful twilight, they
sang…”Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee God of glory...” The choir sang
and made it a befitting evening paying homage to the Master of
masters while remembering His chosen son, anticipating yet another
Divine Advent…a glorious Christmas 2009!!!
|...and the climax came when Bhagawan called the student to
announce that the songs that were sung by the choir were touching
and made Him very happy... It was kind of “Oh! Ghosh! Does He really
want a student to tell us that He is happy with our singing” was the
reaction many of the choir members who exclaimed that the entire
show was a “Perfect Show of Love”. Indeed the appreciation that came
along most unexpectedly was received with awe and greater excitement
and it would take time for these choir members to sink in with this
The third block that was occupied by white clad men and women of International Choir was the reflection of this pure love, wherein their surge of emotional and devotional ecstasy was contained in their folded palms, fixed glare and glances that talked about their musings from within, Love for The Lord! The student was commanded to express grateful thanks to the International Choir on behalf of the University for their wonderful “conduct”. The student while praying for their turn on the Christmas morning for singing as well as their regular band display prayed that Bhagawan should bless them to come up with the best of their performance as was done by the International Choir.
Earlier, Bhagawan arrived to a fully packed Sai Kulwant Hall just after 16:30 Hrs. Wetting many eyes, filling and fulfilling many hearts, the gracious Lord moved through the assemblage of devotees in the ladies side to take a detour to ascend the dais. Soon after ascending the dais, the Lord lighted the special candles to officially inaugurate the Christmas celebrations. The entire Sai Kulwant Hall was aesthetically decorated with a specialised group of devotees from the US, from the Atlanta centre, working meticulously on the same for many days in the run up to the festivity.
Christmas Celebrations International Co-ordinator, John Behner was asked to announce the three-day Christmas Programme. While the Christmas morning programme would commence at 9 am. in His immediate Divine Presence the evening programme would be having two – three speakers including himself, who would be reading the report delivering vote of thanks to various hands involved in the entire Christmas preparations and the third day afternoon would feature an International Choir conducted by Alma Badings followed by a Drama on Life and Love of Jesus Christ, by name “Jesus comes to our Hearts” by Children from Latin American countries.
After the entire show that lasted for more than two hours, members of the International Choir walked out of Sai Kulwant Hall, gracefully, with joy in their hearts that knew no bounds.
|Related Link: Revelation to john|
Joy of Serving - Music Programme
by Southern Europe 28 Dec 2009
Posted at 01:17:17 Hrs. IST on 28 Dec 2009
Christmas Divine Discourse
- 25 Dec 2009
(updated on 30 Dec)