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The "Journey of Love", pilgrimage left Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on July 13th 2001, to be in the presence of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, will forever be etched in the hearts of all the devotees of the Sri Sathya Sai Baba Centre of Toronto - York.

Through the grace and love of Sri Sathya Sai Baba during this pilgrimage, many devotees gained the courage, the motivation and the determination along with a renewed spirit to face life. To Sri Sathya Sai Baba we offer our most heartfelt gratitude for giving us the opportunity to be with Him, and to all those who read this article we pray that you will also be inspired by the experiences.

Trip Preparation The idea for this "Journey of Love" was conceived in January 2000, and on September 2nd 2000 a letter was sent to Sri Sathya Sai Baba asking for His permission, guidance and His blessings to bring the Sai Spiritual Education children and Youths, as well adults from the centre, to where He resides in Prashanthi Nilayam. As a centre we felt that this permission was granted when Sri Sathya Sai Baba took the letter and also said "yes, yes". Excitedly the plans began, however the response from devotees as of December 2000 indicated that we had a lot more work to do to encourage devotees to take advantage of this unique opportunity. The centre became a hub of activities all focused around the trip and in March of 2001 we were ready to make the first attempt at travel arrangements for 174 devotees, all who resolved to make this "Journey of Love".

Preparing Props for Presenting to Swami Signing Card to Present to Swami
Preprations for Journey of Love

Looking back at many of the groups from various countries that had gone before us, we realised that we should have our children prepare an offering of love for Sri Sathya Sai Baba. With this intention we decided to do a presentation comprising of musical renditions and a drama. We all realised that permission to stage this for Sri Sathya Sai Baba had to come directly from Him, but we had full faith that He will do what is best.

Departing on The Journey of Love With excitement, a feeling of unity and a bond of brotherly love, we travelled together to Prashanthi Nilayam. The group left Pearson International airport on three flights, with the knowledge that we will be re-united in Bombay to board the chartered Jet Airways flight that will take us straight to Prashanthi Nilayam. Our joy was overflowing as we sang devotional songs through out the flight until we safely landed in the airport at Prashanthi Nilayam. This flight was given special permission by Sri Sathya Sai Baba to land, because only Indian Airlines, until then, had permission to use the airport.

Before leaving we were informed that Sri Sathya Sai Baba would not be in Prashanthi Nilayam for three days, so by the time we reached the ashram, He had already left for Maharashtra. While we did miss Him, it gave us the opportunity to settle in and do some "Sai-Seeing" of the various highlights of Puttaparthi, including the hospital and the recently built Chaitanya Jyothi Museum.

Chaitanya Jyothi Museum Super Specialty Hospital
Chaitanya Jyothi Museum
Super Specialty Hospital

Spiritual Practice Meeting Starting on the afternoon of July 17th 2001, our group was blessed to have reserved seating to view Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Over the course of the next five days, we received beautiful viewings of Him and were overjoyed with Swami's glances and smiles. Bagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba also accepted letters from many devotees, materialised sacred ash for some and inquired "How many?" and "Where are you from?" Nevertheless, we still had not received any indication from Him either directly or indirectly, as to the date of the presentation. Undeterred the group continued our daily spiritual practice meetings and rehearsals in a shed that had been designated for our use.

A few days later on July 21st 2001, Dr. V.P. Singh, Central Co-ordinator of The Sri Sathya Sai Baba Organization of Canada, was blessed with an interview with Sri Sathya Sai Baba, in which Dr. V.P. Singh was kind enough to inquire about a date for our presentation. Dr. V.P. Singh, immediately after the interview, told us that Bagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba responded by saying, "Birthday time would be better." Dr. V.P. Singh broke this news later to everyone, in the kindest way possible, all the time emphasizing that Swami knows best. Initially the group felt disappointed, but we were consoled by remembering that Sri Sathya Sai Baba always has His devotees best interests in His mind and His heart. Despite the message from Swami via Dr. V.P. Singh, the group did not want to give up hope. Our efforts grew in intensity, as the entire group wanted to melt Swami's heart with the warmth of our devotion and love for Him.

Set Construction Dress Rehersal

Our prayers were answered on the July 23rd 2001, when Bagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba said to the ladies after morning Devotional Singing, "Canada, Drama 25th!" This brought joy to all our hearts, especially the children, (who had been practicing so hard and for so long, with full love and devotion for Swami) and soon after we received confirmation from ashram officials to begin rehearsals at the Poornachandra Hall that very afternoon!

Backstage Visit by Baba In addition to the honour of practising in the premises of Swami's home, we were blessed with Sri Sathya Sai Baba, Himself visiting us backstage during the practice sessions! It was so sweet to see Swami, teasing and lovingly poking fun at His children. On one of the occasions, one Youth asked: "Swami, what can we do for You?" In response, He gave a message that all Youth can strive to follow: "I want nothing! [Swami raised his hands] Just do your Duty sincerely. Study Well! Work is Worship."

Boarding Bus to Performance Baba Accepts Rose

The day of performing the 'Canada Drama' July 25th 2001, for Swami had finally arrived. Sri Sathya Sai Baba showed us His Motherly affection by sending a comfortable bus for the entire cast, despite the fact that we were in walking distance from Poornachandra Hall. Prior to going on stage, Bagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba visited us twice backstage. The presentation proceeded very smoothly. It was very fulfilling for all members of the cast to perform in the presence of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, especially so for those who were in Prashanthi Nilayam for the first time. Swami was very sweet and loving when He joined us on stage for the Grand Finale. He was gracious enough to hand out cloth material to the boys and Saris to the girls. Out of our deep love for Him, many of the boys and girls said, "We love you, Swami!" Swami responded, "I love you, I love you too. Very happy."

Baba Looking at Letter Overwhelmed with bliss, we were surprised again when Sri Sathya Sai Baba, on the morning of the July 27th 2001, on His way back to Poornachandra Hall, after the morning Devotional Singing, came towards the group and said "Today 2:00 p.m. come to Mandir, Swami will see you." This was simply too much for our hearts to contain! He was too compassionate and loving! We quickly got ourselves together and decided how to arrange ourselves when in the presence of Bagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Sitting in the Mandir, awaiting His arrival, we were eager to know what Swami had in store for us.

Baba Speaking to Toronto Centre Baba Posing with Some Devotees

After entering the Mandir, Sri Sathya Sai Baba walked amongst the devotees, speaking with some, smiling to others, taking letters, materialising sacred ash and joking with the children. Swami gave a beautiful discourse, mentioning the drama and explaining its spiritual significance. He advised us on how to lead our lives in order to reach God. After the discourse, Swami asked two boys and two girls to distribute sacred ash and small photos to everyone. He then brought basins of sweets and asked for it to also be distributed. He gently enquired, "Am I giving you trouble?" What a great lesson for us, how considerate we should be. He asked for cameras, when we told Him we were not allowed to bring them in, He went outside and got a camera from the students. He permitted us to take many photographs with Him, and granted us the golden opportunity to sing devotional songs for Him. He requested that we sing 'Canada Bhajans' (i.e. Devotional Songs to which the group sang two English Devotional Songs. When it was time for Sri Sathya Sai Baba to leave, we protested a little to which He reminded us that He had been with us for two hours. It was a bitter-sweet moment, all of us forever grateful for His Love, and sad that it had to end. However, he did say to come again and bring larger groups to be with Him, and we thank him for this boon. He waved good-bye sweetly before leaving the room for the last time.

On the whole, the trip was a learning experience that brought us closer as a Sai Family, and especially closer to Sri Sathya Sai Baba. All the experiences and blessings provided us with the inspiration, motivation, and guidance to give Swami what He really asks for - transformation. Transformation to, Love All, and Serve All.

The "Journey of Love" has not come to an end...but has just begun! Jai Sai Ram!

Contributed By: Chandra Gopie

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