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It was Kahlil Gibran who said, “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give yourself that you truly give.” Bhagavan, the ever compassionate Lord, truly gave Himself completely to His devotees in this sacred month of November, as expected huge masses thronged Prashanti Nilayam to witness the 81st Advent Year of the Avatar. The birthday festivities began with the Global Akhanda Bhajans starting on November 11th. This was followed by the Rathotsavam and the Ladies Day Celebrations. The 25th Convocation of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning witnessed a wonderful celebration, with the President of India as the Chief Guest. And devotees who had gathered on November 23 were rewarded with a double bonanza - the Darshan of the Lord in His sparkling white robe in the morning and a resplendent yellow robe in the evening of the birthday. Let us now go back to the beginning of the month.

November 11 and 12, 2006: Global Akhanda Bhajans

It was more than six decades ago, in the year 1940, when the Lord conveyed His first message to mankind through the medium of a bhajan: “Manasa Bhajare Gurucharanam …” In fact, this bhajan was the seed that has today grown into a gigantic Sai movement. Singing Bhajans with full devotion is the simplest way of remembering God; and numerous are the instances where the devotees of the Lord have enjoyed His proximity through their soulful renderings.

It was December 18, 1994 that Bhagavan said in His Discourse:

"...During community singing, divine vibrations emerge sanctifying the whole atmosphere. The same result cannot be expected when one sings alone. Community singing promotes unity, which leads to purity and divinity. Today there is no unity, purity or divinity. What mankind needs today is unity based on the spiritual oneness of humanity..."

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Swami lighting the lamp to commence the Global Akhanda Bhajan

Let us take a moment and ponder on the positive effect that would result if people across the globe join together in singing His name. It was in this spirit of spreading divine vibrations, that Bhagavan started the Global Akanda Bhajans by lighting the lamp in the Bhajan Hall at 6 P.M. on the 11th of November. Sai Organizations in every nation started the Akhanda Bhajans at 6.00 P.M. at their local time. In the evening, Bhagavan sat for more than an hour enjoying the bhajans and encouraging the students to sing with greater enthusiasm. Later in the evening and throughout the night many students, youth from various places in India and overseas devotees sang their choicest bhajans electrifying the atmosphere with spiritual vibrations and their devotional fervour.

The next morning Bhagavan blessed the students by listening to the bhajans for half an hour and out of His compassion, before He left, He instructed that apart from the usual bhajan singers others should also be given a chance to lead the bhajans, so that all are blessed with the priceless opportunity to be a part of the sacred event. In the evening Bhagavan again sat for more than an hour listening intently to the devotees’ devotional offerings and exactly at 6 P.M. lit the camphor and marked the end of the twenty-four hour bhajans session. After the aarthi, all the devotees received the Prasadam – Tamarind rice and laddu (sweet) and returned carrying the blissful memories and sublime vibrations with them.

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Bhagawan receiving Aarthi at the end of bhajan
Primary School children partaking Prasadam with glee

November 16, 2006: Distribution of Bicycles by Anantapur Campus

On this morning, as part of Bhagavan’s 81st Birthday Celebrations, the Anantapur Campus of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, made a humble offering of their love and devotion to Bhagavan, in the form of bicycles for eighty-one deserving girl-students. These girls were selected – irrespective of caste or religion - from various educational institutions in Anantapur - such as the Government Girls’ High School, the Guild of Service School, the PVKK College, the Sri Sathya Sai Junior College, etc.

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An underprivileged student receives a bicycle

Most of the girls belong to the 8th and 9th Standard with some of them being in 11th, and a couple of them in 12th Standard too. Many of these girls hailed from severely challenged economic backgrounds, yet had the ardent desire to come up in life.

Therefore, they walked long distances to their schools and back everyday. The gift of these bicycles by Bhagavan meant the end of their daily drudgery of trudging such long distances. Some of the girls hailed from villages 8 to 15 kms. from Anantapur town - places like Kattakindapalli (which is 8 kms. from Anantapur), Narpala (10 kms.), Lingampalli (13 kms.) Bukkarayasamudrum (15 kms.) and Kothapalli (also 15 kms. from Anantapur).

On this eventful morning they came one by one, bowed down to Bhagavan, placed a rose at His Divine Lotus Feet, and then walked past the dais wheeling away the bicycles given to them. Bhagavan graciously acknowledged their pranams and blessed them all. One of the girls, Kum. Aswini from Ambedkar Nagar, studying in the 8th Standard of the Govt. Girls’ High School was physically challenged and used to be carried by her classmates from one class to the other. A wheelchair awarded to her was a divine boon.

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Distributing wheelchair to a handicapped girl
The enthralling Brass Band from the Anantapur  Campus

After the distribution of the bicycles was over, the Brass Band of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Anantapur Campus, played a few tunes that captivated the audience. The morning function was over by 9.30 am after which Bhagavan returned to the Interview Room. This was followed by Bhajans in the Mandir. Bhagavan took arati at around 10 am, and returned to the Yajur Mandir marking the conclusion of the morning program.

November 18, 2006: Rathotsavam and Inauguration of Sai Geeta’s New Residence

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Sai Geeta receives blessings on Rathotsavam Day

The yearly Rathotsavam day marks the occasion when idols of deities are taken in a procession in the village, so that the village folk have an opportunity to have a closer look of their Gods and offer worship. This morning Bhagavan came for Darshan at 7.30 am. The procession with bedecked Sai Gita, Bhagavan's pet elephant, was waiting at the front gate of the Sai Kulwant Hall. As Swami's car reached her, He paused and fed her with apples from the car. It was a sight to savour for all, but especially touching for the small children who were able to witness this.

After those few minutes with Sai Geeta, Swami continued His Darshan round. Swami's car came to the Verandah and He alighted, went to the stage area and sat there for ten minutes listening to the Vedic chants and the Panchavadyam by the students, along with the village band.

Later He went inside the Bhajan Hall where the palanquins with the Rama-Lakshmana-Sita-Hanuman and Krishna idols were kept ready decorated with flowers. Dressed in orange dhotis the Vedam group boys chanted the sacred hymns in the Bhajan Hall. The priest brought the ceremonial thread to be blessed by Bhagavan and then adorned Sita devi with it, and then waved camphor in front of the palanquins.

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Puja before the procession
A surprise visit beyond the Gopuram gate

This marked the beginning of the procession, with the Vedam group leading the   palanquins carried by specially trained Sevadals from Hyderabad, followed by the Bhajan group. The devotees gathered in Sai Kulwant Hall were in for a pleasant surprise when Swami followed the idols right up to the Gopuram gate, granting Darshan to all.  The procession went to the Pedda Venkappa Raju Kalyanamantapam which was the former Bhajan Mandir. Led by the Naadaswaram, Vedam and Bhajan groups, the procession paused every twenty feet where many devotees who had gathered came with their offerings of coconuts and flowers. Bhagavan returned to the interview room till the procession returned a few minutes after nine o'clock. The Bhajan group members started singing once the Rama statue was reinstalled in the Bhajan Hall. Bhagavan came in soon after, sat for a few Bhajans, accepted Arati and then returned to His residence at 9.45.

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The Lord arrives at the new home of Sai Geeta
Sai Geeta relishes every moment with the Lord

But the morning program did not end there. At 10:45 A.M. Bhagavan gave more joy to His devotees as He went to inaugurate the new residence for Sai Geeta which is located next to the Sri Sathya Sai Space Theatre (Planetarium). The Planetarium grounds were beautifully decorated with buntings and flower arrangements. Bhagavan alighted right next to Sai Gita who was expectantly standing at the entrance of her new building. After feeding her, Swami went into the building and stayed there for some time, while some people connected with the construction presented Him with bouquets. A priest made puja and broke a coconut in front of Sai Gita. Bhagavan blessed clothes and food prasadam to be distributed to the workers involved in the constructions who were sitting close by and also sent watches to be distributed to them. Sai Gita then entered her new abode, and Swami fed her again with apples and sugarcane. Bhagavan finally left at 11.10 A.M accepting Arati and blessing some ladies who were seated near the entrance.

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The young Russian devotee receives His blessings
Precious moments after their performance

The evening programme commenced at 3:45pm when Swami arrived at the tastefully decorated Sai Kulwant Hall. Much to the joy of the devotees gathered there, He took centre stage and was keenly observing and occasionally even chanting vedam. At 4:10 He asked for the evening program to begin and was greeted by our Sai brothers and sisters from Russia with their traditional folk musical presentation. They used a rare traditional harp, called a psaltery, for the programme, which featured an eleven-year old treble along with other singers, an accordion and guitars. Bhagavan enjoyed the programme including the boy's rendering of the catchy "Kalinka". The wonderful performance lasted a blissful forty minutes, following which Swami blessed the whole performing group with photographs. The intimate interaction between Swami and the group was a treat for the eyes. Bhagavan then asked the bhajan boys to start bhajans. After fifty minutes of enchanting bhajans Swami signaled for aarathi and then proceeded to His residence.

November 19, 2006: Ladies Day Celebrations

This day is much anticipated by the lady devotees every year in memory of Mother Easwaramma, who stands as a crest jewel of womanhood. On this landmark day, the Sai Kulwant Hall bedecked with flowers of every shade appeared verily heaven on earth. Swami entered the Sai Kulwant Hall at 8:00 a.m. led by the girls of the bagpipe band of the Sri Sathya Sai Primary school, amidst vedam chanting by the senior girl students. As Bhagavan entered the Hall, the strains of the song "E Malik Tere Bande Hum" filled the air. Bhagavan commenced the morning’s programme by lighting the ceremonial lamp. Children dressed in different traditional costumes and carrying flags of different countries representing women throughout the world, paid homage to Bhagavan by placing flower bouquets in front of Him.

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The Bagpipers with Baba
Mrs. Vasumati shares her experiences.

The first item of the morning was a bagpipe musical performance by the primary school band. This was followed by a ten minute choir medley by Sai Youth of the UK. There were two speeches, one in Telugu and the other in English, by Mrs. Vasumathi Bhaskar Rao and Dr. Ronne Marantz respectively. Mrs. Vasumathi, a Mahila Seva dal convenor from Andhra Pradesh, spoke about her experiences of seva working shoulder to shoulder with Mother Easwaramma.

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A sweet blessing on that tender morning

Dr. Ronne is a member of the international Sri Sathya Sai Education Committee and Principal, Scarsdale Public Schools, New York. She spoke of how her interactions with Swami and His EHV programme helped her implement value education in her school. It was nearing 9 o’clock as the speeches concluded; Bhagavan then received the Mangala Aarthi and retired to His room.

The celebrations continued in the afternoon when Swami came for Darshan at 3:10 p.m. Lamps were lit in ordered rows in front of Swami’s chair which received His appreciative looks.

Bhagavan came to the verandha at 3.20, and a small girl from the Primary school dressed for their dance programme later in the evening went up to Him and gave Him a card. Bhagavan responded by giving her a chain! At 3:30 p.m., Bhagavan delighted the lady devotees by signalling for silk sarees to be distributed.

Little did anyone expect that He would personally gift those to about four hundred ladies! Out of His immeasurable love, our Lord deigned to do so, even though it took a whole forty-five minutes to distribute, grant Padanamaskar to each lady and speak a few words to each one of them. Their beaming faces said it all. After the elderly lady devotees, it was now the turn of the little flowers of the Primary School. After the saree distribution He proceeded to the centre of the veranda, indicating the Primary School children to begin their dance.

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Sai on a saree distribution spree
A scintillating performance by the Primary School

The primary school girls presented an enchanting dance programme at 4:30 P.M. In appreciation, Swami came down from the dais and took photographs with them. When Bhagavan came back, the Priya sisters went up to Bhagavan for His blessings for their concert. The scintillating Carnatic vocals of sisters Shanmukhapriya and Haripriya wafted in the Sai Kulwant Hall for the next hour. Their musical rendering befitted and complemented the sublime mood of the evening.  At six, Bhagavan asked for Arati and just as the Arati was drawing to a close, students brought prasadam for Bhagavan's blessings, and after the distribution was over, He retired to His residence.

November 20, 2006: Annual Day of Easwaramma Women’s Welfare Trust

A day after Ladies Day, the Eswaramma Women's Welfare Trust, which was formed by Bhagavan in memory of Mother Easwaramma, celebrated its annual day. As Bhagavan's car was ushered in the Sai Kulwant Hall at 3.45 pm, the village percussion troupe began their homage to the Lord. The function began with bicycle distribution and Bhagavan moved down from the veranda and sat in the centre of the hall and watched as bicycles were given to economically disadvantaged girls. This was followed by the Chakkabhajan dance (a south Indian traditional dance) by small children from the village. Bhagavan called the smallest boy from the group and to everyone’s surprise materialised a chain for him.

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Another step towards women’s welfare – gifting bicycles
The little performer receives bountiful blessings

One more village dance followed – this time performed by the elders. They were dressed in black costumes fringed with peacock feathers. The dance program ended at 4:40 P.M. after which some of the village women presented short speeches and songs, expressing their gratitude to Bhagavan for all that He has done for them. Mrs. Chetana Raju, the organiser of the function, then announced the distribution of material for mothers and mothers-to-be in the surrounding villages, a thousand of whom had gathered in Bhagavan's presence. Bhagavan handed over the material to representatives from each village.  Each “token of love” comprised of water purifiers and bags containing utensils and toys for the children. The doctors who were working for mother and child welfare with the Mobile Hospital were also presented with gifts of grace by Bhagavan.

The Mobile Hospital is a great service activity started by Bhagavan wherein doctors travel to far away villages with a fully equipped bus that has state of the art equipment to perform various medical tests. The idea for this noble work emerged when Bhagavan asked what could be done for the sick who are unable to come to the Super Speciality Hospital on account of severe health problems, acute financial crisis or other handicaps. The solution Bhagavan gave was very simple. He said that if they cannot come here then we should go to them. Thus started the Mobile Hospital that reaches out to the sick and needy and serves them with timely medical aid.

The next item in line was a video projected on a large screen in the centre of the hall. But this required the daylight to dim further. So, Bhagavan instructed His students to present their dance. A few days ago, Bhagavan had indicated the Institute dance group to be ready to dance on the 20th, so they were dressed in costumes waiting for the Divine command. Bhagavan came to the veranda and watched as the boys danced for the next forty minutes. We were all fortunate to watch the programme which featured praises to Lord Ganesha followed by a Yakshagana presenting the Krishna story, a Dashavatara dance and finally a dance on Bhagavan's glory, after which Swami graciously called up the boys for a group photo.

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Sai students - Creating ethereal magic with rhythmic movements
Performing to perfection  the ancient dance form of Yakshagana

Then a video entitled "The One Sri Sathya Sai" began. Beginning with the story of creation, this twenty minute film traced Man's fall from his divine origins and his final redemption by Mother Sai's Love. The video reiterated that God descends so that Man can ascend and realise his innate true divinity. Bhagavan accepted Arati at 6.20 pm and returned to His residence.

November 22, 2006: The Twenty-fifth Convocation of the Institute

This year marks the 25th convocation of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning and on this grand occasion Bhagavan gave yet another momentous gift to the students in the form of an Olympic standard indoor stadium. The Sri Sathya Sai Centre for Sports was constructed by Larsen and Toubro in a mere 122 days - yet another miracle from Bhagavan.

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An Olympic standard Indoor Stadium for the hallowed Institute

Nadaswaram music filled the Sai Kulwant Hall from around 7:00 A.M. as devotees waited for Bhagavan to appear for morning Darshan. There was an impressive array of international sportsmen and athletes who had come to celebrate the inauguration: the national volleyball teams from India and Sri Lanka: the national basketball teams from India and Indonesia; and Olympic athletes and gymnasts from Greece and Switzerland.

Bhagavan arrived at 8.20 A.M and sat onstage for half an hour listening to the Vedic chants. Then He slowly walked towards the interview room, glancing benignly at all on the way. Bhajans began at nine with the UK youth group singers alternating with the regular bhajan singers.

The afternoon programme was the inauguration of the Sri Sathya Sai Centre for Sports, which was followed by the 25th Convocation of the Deemed University - Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. Televisions had been arranged in the Sai Kulwant Hall, the Higher Secondary School and the Hill View Stadium so that all those who could not be in the Indoor Stadium could witness the event. The Chief Guest for the function was the President of India, His Excellency Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Other dignitaries included Governors of the States of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka along with the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.

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The President arrives to the Indoor Stadium with Bhagawan
Dr. Ram Shetty, a long standing devotee addresses the gathering

The President went to the mandir first to have the Darshan and blessings of Bhagavan. At 3.30 pm, Bhagavan arrived at the venue accompanied by the President. The Centre for Sports has a domed building at the entrance, with a tasteful exhibition commemorating twenty five years of the Sathya Sai University.

The inauguration of this Commemorative building was performed by the President after which Swami and the President then climbed into a golf cart and took a small trip around the building and then entered the stadium. Then they took a full round as a special song sung by the students specially for Bhagavan’s 81st Birthday was played.

As Swami and the President approached, distinguished sportsmen and the teams participating in the inaugural functions were introduced - Cricketer Kapil Dev, Olympic shooter Rajyavardhan Rathod, badminton whiz Prakash Padukone, the basketball and volleyball teams and officials. The Institute brass band, as always, played melodious tunes as the Convocation procession joined the Divine Chancellor.

Bhagavan and the Chief Guest went to the gallery to take their seats in the special stands above the entrance. The Vice-Chancellor then spoke a few words about Dr. and Mrs. Ram Setty who had endowed the indoor stadium. Dr. Ram Setty then expressed his gratitude to Bhagavan in a short speech.

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The Greek gymnasts in action

Sri Kapil Dev, the living legend of Indian Cricket, gave a brief talk, complementing the world class facility built in just 122 days. The function began with a ten minute video presentation “Life is a Game” by filmmaker Manishankar. Then the sports events started.

First, there was a short gymnastics display by the Greek and Swiss athletes who were actually recipients of gold medals at Olympics. They had been praying to Bhagavan for many years to allow them to perform in His Presence and that afternoon it was a dream realised for them. Next, was an international volleyball match, India vs Sri Lanka - the second match in Sri Lanka's tour of India.

The first match was won by India in Bangalore. The second match which was played in the Divine Presence lasted forty minutes and was also won by India in straight sets 25-15, 25-13. The Indonesian and Indian basketball teams offered their pranaams to Bhagavan - their match was slotted for later.

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A panoramic view of the Convocation ceremony

The 25th Convocation of the Institute began at 5.35 after a short break. The students seated themselves in the centre of the stadium in their ceremonial robes and hats. Waiting for Bhagavan to arrive, our most admired President, who is ever enthusiastic to speak to youth, took a few moments off to interact with the students onstage who were to start the proceedings with Vedam chanting.

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The Institute Brass Band enraptures the audience
The Graduates in attention

The Convocation ceremony formally began when the Divine Chancellor, in His sweet and blissful voice, declared the Convocation open. The Vice-Chancellor next thanked the President profusely for his visit and then enumerated the achievements of the Institute in various spheres in the last twenty-five years.

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Mandolin Srinivas and Shivmani weaving magic in the Indoor Stadium

This was followed by the Chief Guest’s thirty-five minute Convocation Address. As mentioned by the President, his convocation address became available on his website five minutes after he concluded his speech.

Bhagavan then rose to deliver His Benedictory message, in which He exhorted the students to emulate Tenali Ramakrishna and know the inner meaning of the letters, words and phrases they use. “The main root words we must learn are just five: Sathya, Dharma, Shanthi, Prema and Ahimsa,” Swami said.

After Bhagavan's Discourse, Sri Mandolin U. Srinivas accompanied by his brother U. Rajesh and the illustrious percussionist A. Shivamani gave a half hour concert. The function concluded with the National Anthem at 8.05 P.M. after which Bhagavan returned to His residence.

November 23, 2006: 81st Birthday Celebrations

The grand day finally arrived – the Birthday of the One who is beyond Birth and Death. Devotees queued outside the Ganesh Gate from early morning itself. Thousands of devotees who were not able to enter the hall packed all the approach roads. The Mandir verandah was lined with birthday cakes of different sizes and designs.

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The entrancing Birthday darshan

At 8.10 A.M. the packed procession began from Bhagavan's residence - the Anantapur girls' band, the primary school girls' bagpipes, primary school boys chanting vedam, primary school boys' recorders and drums, the Institute Brass Band and finally the Vedam group with Poorna Kumbham.

All these fortunate and eager youngsters were able to take part in the Lord’s procession, as Bhagavan, dressed in a shining white robe, seated in the special Lamborghini open vehicle entered the Hall. Bhagavan took a full round and reached the Mandir verandah where He was greeted by President Dr. A.P.J.Abdul Kalam.

At 8.30 A.M. Bhagavan sat onstage with the President beside Him. Swami indicated that the President could address the gathering. Dr. Kalam greeted everyone on Bhagavan's 81st Birthday, and presented the Telugu translation of a poem written by him, to be read out by Prof. Anil Kumar.

The President’s Poem

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The President takes the opportunity to offer everyone some inspirational words

Earth Shining in Glory

Our Milky Way is shining, with millions and millions of stars.
Our beloved star Sun, along with eight other planets around,
Orbits the Milky Way, finishing one orbit in two hundred and fifty million years.
Somewhere in the galaxy, echoed a voice in surprise. "See there the Earth shining  in glory: how come it has its light?"
A sweet and soft reply comes:
"It is not the mere light, It is the light of knowledge, It is the light of service, It is the light of peace,
Specially radiating from Prashanti Nilayam,
When Earth completes its eightieth orbit, carrying a great soul in its bosom."

Bhagavan stood up at 9 o'clock and began His hour long Discourse. Bhagavan spoke about the devotion and love of Mother Eswaramma and Karnam Subbamma. Swami told the students that whatever they did in life, they should never forget God. He even blessed all gathered that they would never forget God. Bhagavan concluded His Divine Discourse with the bhajan - 'Bhajan Bina Sukha Shanti Nahin', He accepted Aarati and went into the interview room. Later Swami cut cakes on the verandah and retired to His residence.

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The much awaited Birthday message
One of the many cakes that Bhagawan blessed that morning

The Birthday evening program was scheduled at two locations: first in the Indoor Stadium and later in the Sai Kulwant hall. Bhagavan arrived at the Sri Sathya Sai Centre for Sports at 4.15 pm, resplendent in a yellow robe. As He entered the stadium, a song performed by the students filled the air, and all of Swami's students joined in the chorus as Bhagavan alighted from the car and went towards the badminton courts which were ready for the first match: a forty minute doubles exhibition match between India and Indonesia. India recovered after losing the first set to win the match two sets to one. Bhagavan watched the matches with keen interest and great delight.

Bhagavan then moved in His chair to the other half of the stadium which had the basketball court, for the entertaining display by the Harlem Globetrotters. The Harlem Globetrotters are a band of highly talented stunt basketball players who tour the world as ambassadors of goodwill. Till now they have toured across 183 countries. This evening, the New York Nationals were their opponents in a friendly demonstration match.

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Volleyball match watched by Bhagawan
with keen interest
Entertainment at its best

The proceedings began with the mascot Globie (dressed up in a costume with a globe of the Earth as a head) endearing the audience with his antics. He arranged a musical chairs contest with some primary school boys and made everyone laugh. The Nationals and the Globetrotters then took over, dancing with the basketball as if it were glued to their hands. After a few minutes of demonstrations set to music, the game play began. During timeouts, the players kept up the entertaining mood by involving some children.

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The famous Globetrotters group from the U.S.A.
Mind-boggling stunts enmeshed with mind-tickling fun

First a small girl from the Primary School was chosen and a Harlem player helped her balance a rotating basketball on her fingertip and later gifted her a tiny ball. Similarly they picked a small boy and asked him to shoot the ball into basket - when he came out with flying colours they gifted him with a Harlem Globetrotters t-shirt. The players also created humorous interludes, horsing around with a pail of water which finally landed on the referee! Their programme concluded after an hour, after which Swami gave Darshan to all the players moving by them as they lined up.

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The Globetrotters with Bhagawan
Parveen Sultana enthralls the audience with her soulful music

Then Bhagavan had group photos taken with them and also presented them with watches. Bhagavan even materialised two rings, one for an official and the other for a player. Bhagavan then left for the Sai Kulwant hall. Arriving at the Mandir at 6.45 pm, Swami asked the artistes Parveen Sultana and Mandolin Srinivas if they were ready for their programme. First was Begum Parveen Sultana's forty minute Hindustani classical vocal concert. Mandolin Srinivas, once again accompanied by his brother and A. Shivamani, came next. The musical fete concluded at 8.20 P.M. with Mangala Arati to Bhagavan, bringing the curtain down on the day - but not the celebrations!

November 24, 2006: The Sai Symphony Orchestra

Masterful presentations of western classical melodies

The Birthday Celebrations continued on the next day with the Sai Symphony Orchestra. The programme was presented by 50 musicians from 22 countries. Just as in the Gurupoornima celebrations, Klaus Maurer conducted and Paul Erhard introduced each piece. The repertoire comprised of masterpieces composed by Ludwig van Beethoven, Joaquin Rodrigo, Mauro Giuliani, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - to mention a few names.

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In symphony with the Lord

The Symphony began with a Ganesha bhajan, and then moved on to present seven enthralling compositions, including some where the guitar featured prominently. All the themes reflected gaiety and celebration. After the hour-long concert Bhagavan asked for prasadam to be distributed to the participants and then coming down from the verandha, blessed them with group photographs and a few minutes of Divine interaction.

November 25, 2006: Drama by Italian Sai Devotees

After Bhagavan came for Darshan this evening, He enquired about "the drama" from Dr. Michael Goldstein, the Prasanthi Council chairman, which came as an unexpected blessing for the Italian group.

They immediately rushed to get dressed and make the sets ready in the Sai Kulwant Hall. At 5.15P.M., Bhagavan came out of the interview room, and five minutes later, the Italian group started the drama in which some Argentinian devotees also participated. The forty minute presentation was on Dante's The Divine Comedy, with a voice-over of the English translation of selected extracts.

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Beautifully portraying the inner journey through a blend of ancient wisdom and Bhagawan’s teachings.

The poet Dante Alighieri wrote about the journey from hell to heaven, with purgatory being a stage between hell and heaven where the soul is purified. The topics of the three canticles were compared to Bhagavan’s teachings so as to highlight the common aspects between them. The participants did an admirable job of presenting the abstract themes with expressive gestures. At the end of the programme, Bhagavan gave some of the members chocolates, and then asked for the rest of the chocolates to be distributed. As prasadam was being distributed, Bhagavan retired for the day with Arati.

Thus concluded the wonderful celebrations of Bhagavan’s 81st Birthday. We will be back with stories of other events and Christmas Celebretions next month. Till then, Sairam.

So till next month, Sai Ram!



- Heart2Heart Team


The Greatest of All…Is Love

By Mr. John Behner

This is the transcription of Mr. John Behner’s talk during Christmas, 2005 in the divine presence of Bhagavan Baba in the Kulwant Hall. Mr. Behner is the Zonal Chairman of International Sai Organisation, Zone-II (Latin America).

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John Behner

My loving Pranams, at Bhagavan’s glorious Feet. Dear brothers, sisters, and students. I am here exactly twenty five years to the day, to tell you our experience that occurred at Christmas time in 1979. Actually when we first read about Swami, my wife said to me that if we had lived at the time of Christ wouldn’t we have gone to see Him? Of course, I agreed.

That year the celebration was in Whitefield, Bangalore and the students presented a drama on the life of the Jesus Christ after which Swami gave His Christmas message. And after Swami’s discourse, the boys came with large containers of rice delicacy which was served on plates.

Served by the Divine

It was so special those days as Swami Himself served every single one of us in that auditorium. After my wife received a plate, she said “Thank you” and Swami immediately said, “It is My duty”. Now imagine this: we come to India, to see the Divine in person and He is serving us a plate of food and saying that it is His duty!

At that time I was the General Manager of a multi-national corporation. I went to meetings with the Chairman of the Board in New York and he had never served me a plate of food! In fact it was difficult to give him a handshake. So, this incident with Swami actually was the turning point for us and our family; it literally started us on our spiritual journey.

Jesus’ Life

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Jesus Christ

We also know that Jesus Christ was teaching the same thing when He told us “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”  And this idea of serving others is not something new but we do have to put it into practice. We actually know little about the life of Jesus. It’s strange because we know a lot about Lord Krishna, we know a lot about Lord Rama, but only Swami can tell us many of the details of Christ’s life.

The little we do know about Jesus when He was young was that He came to India when He was still a teenager and He must have come looking for spiritual information, but we don’t know too much about the details. You could ask whether Jesus had a guru? Rama had a guru, Krishna had a guru and Jesus must have had a guru but what was Jesus learning? The Vedas, the Upanishads, the Ramayana and the Bhagavad Gita were all available 2000 years ago. Wouldn’t Jesus’ experience have been very similar to our experience when we come here to Prashanti Nilayam? Wouldn’t He have learned many of the same things of what we are learning? I am sure that’s what happened.

Jesus learned that Man has the potential to discover his true divine nature and to have a personal relationship with God, and when Jesus took this message back to Jerusalem and started preaching, this gave a lot of hope to many people, especially the poor. They were used to dealing with a very structured theology with intermediaries between them and God, and they were so happy to hear this message. Fishermen, tax collectors, and even a soldier became Jesus’ followers and some of them His disciples.

Now Jesus was seen as a revolutionary I would guess, because His message was so wonderful for so many people, but it actually turned your attention away from the structured high power religion that people were following. So then the priests went to the Roman authorities and were able to convince them that Jesus should be crucified.

Jesus’ Teachings were Preserved by the Essenes

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Dead Sea Scrolls

After the crucifixion of Christ, we know that His disciples went out and they preached and told people what His message was, going to different cities and towns. And we also know that James, one of the brothers of Jesus, was the head of the community of the Essenes and he was the main person in charge of Jesus’ teachings. The Essenes were a small group of people who lived in the desert.  They were disciplined, vegetarians and they respected women.  So, these people were given the job of writing down many of Jesus’ teachings, the manuscripts of which were at some point hidden in caves in the desert.

As time passed many of Jesus’ disciples and followers were killed or died, and when James was killed, about 30 years after Christ was crucified, His teachings were no longer available and they stayed hidden for almost 2000 years. In 1948, the caves were discovered by a shepherd boy and the manuscripts which came to light came to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

After studying these texts we can understand that one of the things that Christ believed in was the importance of considering the body as a Temple and that it was necessary to keep the body clean, to have good dietary habits. Vegetarian food was extremely important in order to be able to have communication with the divine.

Faith, Hope And Love

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St. Paul

I would like to read a passage on the teachings of Jesus on Love, from His greatest missionary, St Paul, who writes:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Thus, we can see how close Swami’s teachings are to the teachings of Jesus.


- Heart2Heart Team


source: radiosai