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National Pilgrimage 2014: Report and Reflections from Pilgrims

54 pilgrims on the ‘Sai Samarpanam: One with Sai’ UK Pilgrimage to Prasanthi Nilayam, returned recently after a spiritually uplifting and fulfilling trip, their hearts filled with joy and lives with love and peace. During their week-long stay, they attended daily Suprabatham, Nagarasankeerthan, prayers and bhajans in the Sai Kulwanth Hall; they received beloved Bhagawan’s divine blessings at the Maha Samadhi every morning and evening. Various blessed devotees of Bhagawan and senior leaders shared their invaluable and unique experiences and insights with the pilgrims. Speakers included Professor G.Venkataraman and Mrs. Karuna Munshi from Radiosai; Sri. Prasada Rao, Secretary of the Ashram; Sri. Satyajit Salian, Lead for Vidya Vahini programme; Dr. Pallav Baruah, Dr. Shiva Shankar Sai, Dr. Ravi Kumar, and Dr. Sanjay Sahni from the University; and Dr. Sunam Gyamtso, an alumnus of the SSSIHL.

The pilgrims also visited Brindavan, Bhagawan’s Abode in Bangalore, for a day during this week. They had the opportunities to visit both the Sathya Super speciality hospitals, amongst other places such as the Old People’s Home in Whitefield and the Chaitanya Jyothi Museum in Puttaparthi, and felt inspired by the majesty, magnitude and the impact of the divine Sathya Sai Mission. The youth and children from the SSE in UK felt immensely blessed when they were given the opportunity to offer a garland of musical compositions at the divine Lotus Feet of Bhagawan, not once but twice: At Trayee Brindavan (inside Bhagawan’s Residence) and again in Sai Kulwanth Hall at Bhagawan’s Maha Samadhi.

Below is a collection of reflections from a few pilgrims, giving some glimpses of this memorable pilgrimage. In the next few issues of Love and Light, we hope to share the key points from the talks given to the group in Prasanthi Nilayam.

Pilgrimage Planning Team

Divine Memories

When I registered myself to be part of the UK pilgrimage, I had no idea what to expect and as to how this trip will go. As I attended the meetings, things were starting to happen. The Sadhana, and other works related with the pilgrimage, kept me busy during the preceding 2 months or so. It was Swami who planned this pilgrimage and chose the pilgrims. There were 54 of us, all wanting to be one with Sai. We took the one step, Swamy took the rest of the steps to make sure we were comfortable in every way. For a week, N2 block in Prasanthi was our home. Seeing each of us getting in and out, going for Darshan and bhajans, meetings, having coconut water, ice cream, cakes etc. gave us the oneness with all!

Early morning Suprabatham , Nagara Sankeertan, and morning, evening bhajan became our daily routine, not forgetting the Eastern, Western and Northern canteens for our food.

We heard talks by the blessed devotees of Swami, who had so much experience to share. A coach was arranged to take us all to Brindavan. We left early on Wednesday and reached Brindavan around 11am. We all were allocated rooms in Gokulam, after a few minutes for well needed drinks and short eats, we were taken on a tour of Whitefield campus with a short explanation of the place. For some of us, visiting Whitefield brought good memories. We were very fortunate to be allowed into Swami\'s residence "Trayee Brindavan". We sang bhajans and carnatic songs, heard a talk by Prof Ravikumar who shared his experiences with Swami in Brindavan and how all the boys longed for Swami\'s Darshan. Being inside Trayee Brindawan was an experience I will never forget. Visits to both super speciality hospitals, in Puttaparthi and Bangalore, was another highlight for all of us.

When we heard that our group will be performing a musical programme on 1st August, we were very excited. Our SSE children and Youth put together a very good programme, which was appreciated by all those assembled in Sai Kulwant hall. Radio Sai brothers worked hard to make sure every item was captured and photos taken. As we were due to end our pilgrimage the next day, they made sure DVD copies and photos were ready for us to collect. A big thanks for the Radio Sai team. As all good things must come to an end, our pilgrimage too came to an end on 2nd August. All of us left within few days with good memories and stories to tell.

Looking forward to the next UK pilgrimage. Dearest Swamy! Thank you for giving us the opportunity to visit Your abode.

Yoges Yogendran
Regional Chairperson
Region 1, SSSSO UK

"Love my Uncertainty"

A quote we are all too familiar with, but at the same time hardly ever ready to accept! Whatever the reasons for me attending this pilgrimage, I have no idea, but one thing is for sure - I have full faith and belief, that Bhagawan willed for me to be there!

It is often said, that unless Bhagawan wills, we will not enter the portals of Prasanthi Nilayam, for it is His will alone that determines the movement of even a single blade of grass! Such was my desire to be there, and a growing desire at that! But at the same time, the fear of \'going against one’s duty\', and disappointing those around me hung over my shoulder, for I was meant to attend a funeral during this very same period; in fact, as it turned out later, on the very day of our musical offering in Prasanthi Nilayam. I prayed fervently to dearest Bhagawan for guidance, and soon, as if the shackles were broken, my mind was made up! Immediately I booked my tickets, and within two days, I saw myself boarding a flight to India - my prayers had been answered!

We go on pilgrimages for various reason; performances, as was most definitely the case for me, and we were indeed blessed with bountiful opportunities of performing inside Trayee Brindavan, as well Sai Kulwant Hall; service activities; conferences; and such other reasons whatever these may be. But I have always believed, and still do till this day, that these are mere \'excuses\' conjured up by our Beloved Lord, as a means to \'attract\' us, to His Divine Lotus Feet. For, it is there in the presence of Bhagawan where the actual work is taking place - where He is reforming us, changing us, where the \'seeds\' are being planted.

On the final day of our Pilgrimage, one devotee commented that the actual \'Pilgrimage\' begins for us now, upon our return to the UK, for this is where the true journey begins… where the true tests emerge. I pray to our Beloved Bhagawan, that may He continue to guide us, and shower upon us, His most choicest and bountiful of blessings.

Kapil Dev Parasher
Youth Coordinator,
Region 3, SSSSO UK

Abode of Peace – Sai Samarpanam - UK Trip to Prashanthi 2014

Our trip this year to Prashanthi has left me in a bit of a daze. I’m still not quite sure if it was real or just a beautiful dream! Although I was travelling on my own, in charge of my son, my daughter and two of our Sai youth, I felt no stress and no strain. Swami ensured that the path was smooth for us to return to His home, and He welcomed us, His children, with open arms, and showered us with His Grace.

Because of commitments at home, we were only able to join the UK group two days after it had officially started. So we joined them when they came to Bangalore for a planned two day visit to Brindavan, Swami’s Ashram in Whitefield. Immediately it felt like being part of one family. Many beloved and familiar faces were there, and many new faces also, who welcomed us with open hearts and huge smiles, making us feel at home straight away. The nice thing was that, because it was a small group, we had that feeling of immediate closeness - a shared wish to dive deeper into our beloved Lord’s ocean of Love.

At Brindavan, this feeling of love was carried through by the sevadal in Sri Sathya Sai Gokulam, who organised our accommodation, and cooked and served food to our group with such humility and dedication – true love in action! We were also blessed to have Dr Sanjay Sahni, Director of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning (Brindavan Campus), who spent most of the day with us, sharing His wonderful experiences of Swami and taking us on a personal tour of the campus. Visiting the Super-speciality Hospital in Whitefield was so inspiring, seeing so many of India’s poorest people being given the best that modern medicine can provide, free of charge, served by medical staff and volunteers who lived and breathed Swami’s message. But the most special part of the trip was that evening, when we were given the unique privilege of going into Trayee Brindavan, Swami’s actual residence in Brindavan and have some of the youth in our group perform a carnatic programme there. I had been privileged to be there once before - in 1994, when Swami had called our group for an Interview after the children had performed Sai Mahima 1 in the Kalyana Mandapam and then in the Sai Ramesh Hall. Memories of that wonderful time came flooding back – of the performances, the Interview and of our divine Lord so happy and caring, showering His Grace upon us all. And tears of gratitude started flowing from my eyes, as my own children were now sharing in this divine experience. Sundaraamma was blessed to sing a Telugu Carnatic piece in the place that our Lord had walked and talked with His closest of devotees, and we could truly feel His presence there - even looking up to see if He might suddenly appear from one of the many carved wooden doors on the upper floor as Sister Vidyulatha talked of her experiences with Swami as a young girl living in Brindavan and Brother Ravikumar (Warden of the Campus) shared His own delightful experiences with Swami.

Early next morning, memories of our group going into the vastness of the Sai Ramesh Hall, to sing the Suprabatham and then doing Nagarsankirtan whilst walking around Trayee, will stay fresh in my mind and in my heart, as will the rest of the trip in Prashanthi.

Seeing our children performing for Swami in the Sai Kulwant Hall was a profoundly joyful and emotional experience. But to be truthful, everyday of the UK pilgrimage was such. For myself, my son and my daughter, this was the first time we had been back to Prashanthi after Swami’s Samadhi. And we wondered if anything had changed. In a way, it was even more profound, because the crowds were less and there was no hysteria or mad scrambling to get a glimpse of our beloved Lord. It allowed us time to truly feel His divine spiritual presence, to meditate and feel the power of Love that emanated in waves from the Samadhi. And it allowed us time to really ponder and internalise all that had come before - all the wonderful memories that are wrapped up in this beautiful, divine place – Swami’s physical home on earth.

In my heart, I had felt that for more than a decade before, our Beloved Mother had been preparing us for this time. His “illnesses” were part of His message – showing us how we should react to disease and illness in our own and our family’s lives. For years, he had been showing us, through His own example, that we should not be attached to the body, to the physical form (even His!) and encouraged us to look within to find the true Reality, to feel His spiritual presence around us, guiding us in everything that we would think, say or do. And Swami had sent some of His most beloved Sai Students to the UK, many years before He left His physical body, to help His UK devotees through the difficult time of loss of His physical form that was to come. Their presence in the UK, their presence within the organisation, was the salve that was needed to heal our bruised and broken hearts. Their memories and experiences of almost daily contact with Swami helped to strengthen us and kept our memories alive and current. And the fact that they have taken leadership roles within our Sai centres and within the Council have brought us that steadiness of faith and trust that will ensure that our belief and faith in Swami will continue to grow and stay true to the principals that He taught us.

It was His beloved students that took the leadership of this small and wonderful group and took us back to the final resting place of our Lord’s physical form. They gave us daily food for the mind, with inspiring talks, organised visits to institutions that Swami had created and blessed with His presence, and introduced us to many inspiring Sai devotees. The young singers and musicians in our group were able to meet some of Swami’s students who sang daily bhajans to Him and they were inspired by their absolute faith in Swami, their advice about looking after their voices and about singing and accompanying bhajans, and we met many wonderful souls who have dedicated their lives completely to helping the most poor and vulnerable people in society. We left Prashanthi with hearts full of joy, with love and gratitude to our Beloved Sai Mother, who had cleansed us of all our worries, allowed us to bathe in unconditional love, and sent us back into the world, carrying with us these precious and joyful memories of our trip to our beloved Swami’s Abode of Peace.

Mrs. Geetha Maheshwaran

I Felt Connected!

My experience from the Prasanthi Nilayam UK Pilgrimage 2014 is one that I will never be able to forget. I fully appreciate the privilege of being able to represent the United Kingdom at Prasanthi Nilayam, and very grateful that I was able to spend 2 weeks in the presence of the divine. It was also an opportunity for me to reflect and realise that I have a very long way to go on my spiritual path, and being one with Sai.

There was a very unified, and cohesive feeling amongst all of the brother, sisters, aunties and uncles who were a part of the UK Pilgrim group. It was also very warming and reassuring to know that everyone respected each other, and were all there for the same reason - to surrender ourselves to Swami.

I felt blessed to have the opportunity to listen to various devotees of Swami talk about their experiences with Him. Their experiences allowed me to gain an insight into what life with Swami was like! The incredible details excited me and constantly pushed me to want to hear more.

The two day trip to Brindavan, Whitefield, was incredibly hectic, but fun and inspiring as we visited Swami\'s home (Trayee Brindavan), the Super Specialty Hospital, and Old people\'s home amongst other locations. I experienced many different feelings, of love, compassion, inspiration, service etc., but above all I felt connected with Sai and with those around. I felt very emotional as we heard stories about Swami\'s life whilst sitting in his home, and as we watched a short documentary about a girl whose life was saved at the hospital.

Overall, my time spent in Prasanthi Nilayam was blissful and allowed me to re-energize myself, ready to tackle my last year at college, and made me realise that my spiritual journey has only just begun...

Rajan Bhagwandas
Youth, London

A Divine Trip

Sai Samarpan 2014 – What a Divine trip, what a Divine stay at the Sacred abode of our beloved Bhagawan! Every day was full of surprises, full of Love and blessings and spiritual vibrations. Various guest speakers brought their own valuable experiences with Swami and shared with us Divine lessons they had in their life through Swami. I feel blessed to have met some of the closest devotees of Swami.

Super Speciality Hospital, Prasanthi Gram

Being in the mandir for Vedas and bhajans every morning and evening is a very unique and valuable moment, where the Supreme presence and Love of Swami can be felt. The absence of His physical presence is in no way modifying the energy there. The same feeling is experienced and the same happiness is lived. Living that, I realised, even more than before, that Swami is present everywhere. Not as a body, not as something defined, but as a permanent and immanent Divine Principle. His Love and blessings can be felt everywhere at every moment. When I was in the mandir, it hit my mind that I have exactly the same feeling when I am in the Sai Centre in Leicester. Exactly the same loving presence can be felt! He is part of us, part of everything, and once we become fully and permanently conscious of this, our vision of life and way of living our life will be always led by this awareness and will hence always be on a pure basis.

Finally, Swami gave us the Divine opportunity to sit at the Feet of His Mahasamadhi for a while during the performance of our group. This was such a blessing. His Presence could be felt. As per his words, as soon as two or three people gather to sing His glory, He is there, ‘sitting on His chair’.

I thank Swami from the bottom of my heart for this Divine trip and express my deepest gratitude for His constant Love, Protection and blessings.

Marine Aufranc
Leicester, UK

The Saga of Love...

The last time that I went to Prashanthi was with my family in December 2010, when Swami was in His physical form, and I was blessed to sing in His Divine Presence as part of the International Children’s Christmas Choir. But four years later, I decided I should take another trip. My sister was due to perform in the cultural programme with the National UK Pilgrimage, so I thought that I should come as well, as I had finished all my exams and wanted to give my thanks to our Lord. However, this time it was different. With Swami no longer being in His Physical Form, the crowds of devotees were much less and the atmosphere felt different - but in a way also the same as in previous visits. I felt His presence everywhere. He soothed my heart and took away any worries and concerns I had for the future.

So, whilst my sister was practicing for her performance, I decided that I should offer my help wherever it was needed. One of these opportunities came when I had the privilege of working after hours in the Western canteen. Whilst working there, it made me realise the enormous effort that goes into preparing the food that arrives after morning darshan. It took nearly 3 hours to sweep, clean, wash down the tables, mop the floors and sanitise the kitchen so that everything would be clean and fresh for the morning. What I couldn’t believe is that volunteers did this every evening, in order for us to enjoy fresh cooked and sathwic food prepared and served with love to Swami’s devotees every day. I knew then, deep within my heart, that the saga of divine love, of Swami\'s Love, carries on as strongly and sweetly as ever before!

Saiganesh Mahesh - Merton

Thank You Swami

This was my first visit to Prashanti since Swami left His physical form and I was extremely fortunate to have gone with the UK Pilgrimage. In my opinion the highlight of the trip was the day we spent in Brindavan where we visited Swami’s college and Ramesh Hall. In addition we had the opportunity to not only go inside Swami’s Residence, Trayee Brindavan, but also perform. As I sang I could truly feel His presence and words cannot describe the immense happiness it brought me. Furthermore I had the opportunity to sing in front of His Samadhi and I am eternally grateful to Swami for having blessed us with such a wonderful and unforgettable trip.

Sai Sharanya - Merton

Journey to Spirituality

Swami has told us many times that He has hand chosen each and every one of us who are riding on this journey to spirituality. However the ride will continuously be filled with challenges. This recent trip to Prashanthi was no different. I had no intentions of going to spend time with my beloved Guru this year, as I have tied myself up with various work commitments, but He clearly had other plans for me. One week before the UK group was to meet in Parthi, I received a call, asking whether I can come and play Mrithangam. I gave a few other names to try, but all the other options were physically not able to be in Prashanthi on time. This began to make me feel as though Swami is directly calling me to His humble abode. Therefore I eventually decided that I could spend the following week preparing at work to be away for a week. With His divine grace, I was in Brindavan His very own playground a week after securing my flight.

Statue of Lord Ganesha in Brindavan couldn't be lifted and was therefore left in current location after Swami's instructions

Just like I said two years ago, experiencing Swami’s places of residence with the guidance of UK’s very own direct products of Swami’s teachings; Kiran Uncle and Veeru Bhai, we were blessed with opportunities that we could only dream about if we were to visit these places on our own. Not only did we get a personal tour of the Brindavan campus, but we also had the rare opportunity to perform in the divine abode Trayee Brindavan. We also managed to squeeze into the day a beautiful visit to the most stunningly produced hospitals (Super Speciality Hospital, Bangalore) in the world. We were also graced with the opportunity to meet the lovely residents of the Sri Sathya Sai nursing home.

The next day, we went to Prashanthi. Just like always it immediately felt like being back at home with the Divine Mother. As soon as I enter through the gates, I instantaneously feel the tranquility resonating through my body. Which also leads to the mind clearing up all the petty worries which burden us from back in UK. Which made me recall an experience that was narrated to us about a devotee from Dr Volety at the Super Speciality Hospital. Swami once materialized a ring and asked the devotee “What colours are here?” The devotee replied “Green and Gold Swami.” Swami, then went on to reveal that the green emerald symbolises peace. Swami also said that He cannot give a ring to all his devotees, therefore in the Kulwant hall, Swami made the whole ceiling green and gold, so that all the devotees can experience peace and can get rid of all their worries when they come to attain His divine darshan.

During our time in Parthi, there were two main things that stood out the most. Obviously at the top is performing directly in front of the Samadhi again. Which is always a wonderful pleasure to perform on the largest stage in the world. Only a very few people can say they have performed to thousands of people in front of God himself. The second memorable moment was meeting kids from an orphanage, who made each and everyone of us in the UK group feel inadequate by the sheer power, and talent of all the young children reciting Vedams, Poems, Shakespeare and many more other challenging performances, with so much ease.

However like I mentioned at the beginning, Our dear Lord had called me for some reason. It could very well be in order for me to merely experience the presence of His divine soul with the UK group, or He may have called me for something that will unravel in the near or not so near future. But either way, for whatever reason He had called me, I will always eagerly await for the next time He decides to present His omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience to me. In the meantime, I’ll continue to serve Him with my whole heart knowing that it is by doing His work that helps me to develop and progress further in everything else that I endeavor to do.

Saiganesh – Wimbledon

A Dream Come True

With Swami’s grace, I was fortunate to participate in the National UK Pilgrimage with the theme Sai Samparnam -One with Sai. During the week, we visited several places which include Sai Ramesh Hall in Brindavan, Trayee Brindavan, Super Specialty hospitals, Orphanage and an Elderly care home. One of the highlights of our trip was visiting Swami’s Divine Residence – Trayee Brindavan, where I was given the opportunity to play the violin. As I was playing Thygarajah’s kriti, I could feel Swami’s Presence and I felt as though He was playing through me for the entire piece. This was truly a blessing of a lifetime! From a young age, it has always been my dream to perform in Prashanti and this year, I was given the wonderful opportunity to sing and play the violin in front of the Samadhi. Swami says ‘What I will must take place; what I plan must succeed’. It was his Will that we performed and I will always be thankful to Swami for fulfilling my dream.

Tharsica Sivagnanasithiyar - Merton

My Soul Wept with Joy!

This was my second visit to Prashanthi Nilayam after Swami’s Maha Samadhi. Preparation for the Pilgrimage had started months before in UK and pilgrimage Sadhana activities had tuned our thoughts and minds to prepare to receive his Grace. For me I felt at Home the moment I landed in Prashanthi Nilayam. Right from my young age I had travelled there from my home town in Kerala, India, usually in the month of August – September for the festival of Onam, and each visit surprised me with new developments and the changing landscapes of Prashanthi Nilayam. But the core discipline and routine of the Ashram had always remained the same and even after several years, even now in this trip, I felt the same!

Sitting in the Kulwant Hall as I closed my eyes to meditate when the Vedic chants started, the excitement and expectation in me, in anticipation of Swami’s Darshan any moment, was very strong indeed! And I found that this aided my meditation, with the Presence of Swami felt very strongly with in.

Story of Gokulum narrated by Sri Sahni - Director, SSSIHL, Brindavan Campus

As I queued for the Maha Samadhi Darshan with Sai Gayathri chants reverberating in the air, His presence was felt stronger, reminding me of his promise that ‘His Samadhi will speak to His devotees’. When my head rested on the marble floor of the Samadhi , I felt very light , the same feeling when I had taken Swami’s Paadanamaskaram . Although my mind wept longing for his physical presence, my soul wept in Joy reconnecting with him!

The daily talks to our group by people who had interacted with Swami at close quarters, and holding various senior positions in Swami’s University, Ashram, Trust and the Organisation added to the richness of the experience. They conveyed the essence of Swami’s teachings in the most practical terms sharing a lot of their personal experiences with Swami.

Tears of Amrut emanating from Goddess Saraswati few days before in Brindavan

Perhaps the highlight of the trip was the visit to Brindavan and the ‘Trayee session’. We travelled to Brindavan in Coach from Puttaparthi. Sri Sanjay Sahni sir, Director of the Brindaavan Campus received us, and after making sure we were all fed and accommodation sorted, Sri Sahni sir took us on a guided tour of Brindavan – Sai Ramesh Hall, Kalyanmandapam, Trayee and Institute campus where we were treated with a brief presentation about ‘Trayee’. Following a visit to Swami’s Super speciality hospital in Bangalore and the Old people’s Home started by Swami, we rushed back for the ‘Trayee session’ in the evening. We were so fortunate to step in to the residence of Swami! An experience beyond description! Our group sang Bhajans in Trayee, and after Arathi we got the opportunity to do Namaskar. Swami’s presence was very much felt there. We were then given Vibhoothi packets taken from the ‘Red basket’ from which Swami used to distribute Vibhoothi to devotees. Following Suprabatham and Nagarasankirthanam next morning , we travelled back to Prashanthi Nilayam.

On 1st August, our UK group dedicated a musical performance in front of Swami in the Sai Kulawant hall. A fascinating performance by SSE children and the Youth! Our Pilgrimage came to an end on 2nd August. Now back in UK, totally recharged, I am re-living the experience I had in Prashanthi Nilayam until the next Pilgrimage in December 2015!

Jai Sai Ram
Dr. Rakendu Suren
National Spiritual Coordinator,

Swami had hit 6 sixes in the cricket ground seen behind in Brindavan - Time for of reflection in Sai Ramesh Hall, Brindavan