What began as a conference for about 500 members of Zones 4 and 5 (Asia) countries of the Sri Sathya Sai International Organization (SSSIO), the three-day conference in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, quickly blossomed into an international conference attracting over a thousand participants from 16 countries. Held at the Hoover Auditorium and its adjacent lecture halls of the Medical Faculty of the University of Jaffna, it was a blessed choice for an auspicious gathering of Bhagawan’s devotees.

For hundreds of Sri Lankan devotees, the conference symbolized the love of Bhagawan coming into their lives and their hearts. The gathering of senior SSSIO leaders at the conference, including Dr. Narendranath Reddy, Chairman of SSSIO, brought the divine mission of the Sathya Sai Avatar to their doorsteps so that they could love Him more and practice His teachings in earnest.

SSSIO Sri Lanka planned and worked for months to organize and host the conference, assisted by other SSSIO members of Zones 4 and 5. Its senior officers led from the front while the Young Adults (YAs) and Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) Children dedicated their hearts and souls to the preparation of many programs with attention to minute detail. It was, therefore, not a surprise when the youngsters brought everyone present to their feet on the third day of the Conference with their impeccable performance, Sai Melodies–The Language of the Heart. The presentation was a bouquet of soulful bhajans representing the rich traditions of different cultures and languages, including Sri Lanka. The Conference was graced by the participation of the university’s Vice-Chancellor, Senior Professor S. Srisatkunarajah. His devotion and wisdom were evident during his inspiring address on the third day.

Well Begun is Half Done

The Conference began with a welcome procession of Vedam chanting and a flag-hoisting ceremony that installed the Sri Sathya Sai insignia. Inside the auditorium, the program opened with a lamp-lighting ceremony as Sai bhajans filled the air to welcome our beloved Swami. Bhagawan’s divine discourse blessed the delegates with divine vibrations on each day of the conference. In the discourse on Day 1, Swami urged everyone to conduct themselves responsibly and recognize the sanctity and divinity of life. Swami blessed all to “… lead the life of a true human being and become divine,” and He urged all to strive to Experience the love of God.

Mr. Manoj Singh, Chairman of SSSIO Zone 4, welcomed the august assembly. He urged all participants to strive to make their lives His message (the conference theme) and to earn Swami’s love and grace. He said, “Change can come through intense good thoughts, which can happen at any moment!” He added that we should be grateful that Swami has gifted His teachings and organization to us for our transformation. He reminded the audience of the scriptural advice,Only by sacrifice can we become immortal.

Dr. Narendranath Reddy then delivered the keynote address and declared the conference open. He reminded everyone that we are blessed to be contemporaries of the Avatar. He drew attention to Bhagawan’s divine discourse of May 17, 1968, wherein Swami declares that all names and forms of divinity are manifested in Him and that we should experience Him, not by inquiry but through His love. Dr. Reddy emphasized that the purpose of the Sathya Sai organization was to help us realize our true divine nature and manifest divinity in thought, word, and deed and help others do so. To achieve this goal, one must practice Swami’s teachings implicitly, immediately, and completely. He reminded everyone that Swami’s life, His Message, and His works are enshrined in one word: Prema (divine love), which we must practice. Dr. Reddy then spoke of the great importance of the Gayatri Mantra, to be chanted for the illumination of the intellect. He added that chanting the mantra rids one of all physical and mental diseases and that our sorrows and troubles will be removed, and all good desires granted, ultimately leading to Self-Realization. He described how one could develop Mahattara Shakti (higher divine power) through the practice of Sathyam (Truth), Ritam (harmony of thought, word, and deed), Yoga (sense control), and Trikarana Shuddhi (purity of thought, word, and deed).

Next, a short, humorous, and inspiring presentation on making our lives, Swami’s message charged up the audience before the official opening ceremony began. A magnificent flag procession with flags from 16 countries carried by SSSIO members from those countries captivated the delegates. The march was led by the human values flag of the SSSIO, ending with the specially composed song–’Truth is the Hero.’

Dr. Ramadevi Sankaran, a physician from the USA, then introduced two key initiatives, EASE and CORE. The critical foundation of the EASE and CORE programs is realizing that all activities should be performed with the awareness I am God. The program EASE inspires—Exercise Regularly, Attitude Positively, Sleep Deeply, and Eat Responsibly. And the initiative CORE encourages—Consistency in Sadhana, Objectivity–Finding Your Purpose, Resource Management–Financial Literacy, and Emotional Wellness. In explaining the supreme importance of His teachings to modern life, Dr. Ramadevi quoted Bhagawan Himself when He said the five human values are the Vedas of the 21st Century.

Practical Learning Through Participation

A practical and innovative exhibition arranged by the YAs was officially opened late in the morning. Their creativity in the many Sai-inspired activities and messages was evident in the exhibits. An exciting and innovative item was a 32-seater model airplane to simulate carrying all the visitors to the venue for divine darshan. The enthusiasm of the YA presenters at every display booth was infectious and highlighted their dedication to Sai.

The simultaneous workshops on the four aspects of the EASE program for physical well-being commenced in the morning, with each workshop lasting 40 minutes. Facilitators shared detailed information on their subjects, providing practical and spiritual insights to help promote physical and mental well-being and inviting participant engagement.

Presentations that Touch the Head and the Heart

YAs from Malaysia then offered a joyful production, “Rasa Sayang,” meaning ‘Feel the Love.’ They were followed by the wonderful program of SSE children of Sri Lanka who put on a beautiful and moving play on the purity and devotion of a tribal woman, Shabari, the earnest devotee of Sri Rama who waited for decades at the instruction of her guru to serve Lord Rama when he passed through the forest.

Mr. Aravind Balasubramanya then spoke on Practicing Dharma in Daily Life, peppering his talk with many stories and experiences with Swami. He shared how Swami once asked a young boy, “What do you want?” and provided the answer Himself, “Grant me the strength to love You with all my heart.” That should be the only prayer we must have! Aravind then highlighted that Swami says there is only one Dharma: Atma Dharma, the same Atma or God who resides in all.

He added that nearness to Swami is not enough; dearness is important. He elaborated on the four stages of life according to the scriptures, beautifully comparing them to the stages in a river’s journey. The first stage, Brahmacharya (Student Stage), is for us to focus our lives on Him by learning about Atma Dharma. The second Grihastha (Householder stage) stage is for growing and expanding like the river gathering tributaries. The Vanaprastha (stage of a Recluse) stage involves giving up desires and attachments, desiring only Moksha or liberation, like the river breaking into distributaries as it reaches the ocean. The final stage, Sanyasa (stage of Total Renunciation), is the hardest, for one has to give up the I, the ego, the sense of separation from God. This represents the merger of the river with the sea.

DAY 2: Starting and Filling the Day with God

The second day commenced with early morning Nagarsankeertan, with hundreds of devotees walking through the town, awakening it from its slumber, literally and spiritually, with melodious bhajan and satsang. In his opening talk that day, Mr. Billy Fong, Central Coordinator of Zone 4, reminded the audience about the importance of practicing Swami’s teachings and the importance of the morning and night prayers given by Him.

In the divine discourse that followed, Bhagawan explained that wisdom is not academic information or knowledge of life; it is the understanding of the oneness of the individual and community. Swami said man is not making efforts to know the human values inherent within. Bhagawan asked rhetorically, “How to recognize Divinity within?” and explained that it can be recognized by controlling the senses and fostering divine feelings. Swami explained that good vision leads to good thoughts and that human life is given to entertain good thoughts and practice human values.

Mr. Krishnamoorthy Venkataraman spoke on Work is Worship, remarking that work is duty, duty is God, and even the most insignificant work is a flower offered at the feet of God. For the benefit of SSSIO officers, he drew particular attention to Swami’s instructions, “Be a sevadal to Swami’s sevadal.” He also shared his experience with a severe medical condition and how Swami cured him. When he asked Swami about his recovery, Swami said that serving in the Sathya Sai Organization nullifies our past karma!

Krishnamoorthy also shared a dream he had in which Swami asked him, “Who is your family?” Swami then added, “Everyone in the world is part of the Sai Family, including animals and plants.”

‘Drama’tic Messages for Transformation

YAs then offered The Mind at War, a gripping drama that opens with Lord Krishna visiting the court of the Kauravas to offer them one more chance to behave in a dharmic manner. Yet, as we know, all reason was ignored. However, the drama took a twist, and a play within a play unfolded. The director and actors in the play had to deal with a participant who wanted personal glory at the expense of the whole production. Creative, engaging, and poignant aptly describe this excellent drama presentation. The main message of the drama was the practice of Human Values.

SSE children staged a colorful and joyful production about how societal actions in the last century have not been beneficial toward nature but, on the contrary, destructive. The play provided a provocative but practical view of the future, resulting from humanity’s deplorable actions of the past. It concluded with Swami’s injunction, “It is your duty to protect Mother Nature,” and His advice, “Practice the five human values to save the planet and bring love and peace.

Then came the presentation of Dr. Suresh Govind, a member of the Prasanthi Council, the administrative body of the SSSIO. As the charismatic and energetic ‘host’ of a staged live TV service program, he showed videos of outstanding work performed in Zone 4 countries of the SSSIO. He dilated on various projects enthusiastically and encouraged others to emulate these practices. He described how the University of Jaffna had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the SSSIO of Sri Lanka to train trainers in the “War against DARTS (Drugs, Alcohol, Relationship issues, Time Waste, Smoking) program. The audience stood up multiple times to honor and applaud these outstanding achievements of SSSIO during the inspiring presentation.

Ms. Anuradha Venkateswaran, an alumnus of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning (SSSIHL) and Regional Devotional Coordinator, SSSIO USA, Region 3, then spoke on Living a Balanced Life. She spoke of Shrama (effort) and drew attention to the three rare boons in life that the sage, Adi Shankaracharya, extolled: human birth, intense desire for liberation, and the company of a great soul. She further explained that a balanced life is spent doing all work as God’s work. She urged everyone to offer all actions as offerings to God. To illustrate this point, she told the touching story of a lady named Radha. During Grama Seva (service in villages) in the 1980s, Swami described her as the best midwife in the world because every time she went to help deliver a baby in a remote village, she prayed for Swami to work through her.

She also narrated that Swami once told Professor Bhagya of Swami’s college that all work is His work and said, “If you separate your work as worldly work and spiritual work, I will not give you liberation even in a thousand lifetimes.”

The CORE of the Conference

After lunch, the delegates attended the first two workshops of the CORE program on Mental Well-Being. The facilitators moved enthusiastically across the lecture halls to ensure enriching experiences for all four workshops.

All delegates then proceeded to one of the four panel discussions offered: for YAs, in Tamil, in English, and for ladies. Each workshop was on a different topic and thus added to the wealth of topics for discussion and reflection at the Conference.

A special convocation ceremony was held for YAs from Zones 4 and 5. The proud delegates came with sashes to receive their certificates from Dr. Narendranath Reddy and Dr. Mrs. Hyma Reddy.

DAY 3: Rejoicing in His Glory

In the auspicious early morning hours, at 4:45 AM on the third day, delegates made their way to the beach for Sunrise Prayers. Sitting on the sand before Swami’s chair and awaiting the glorious sunrise, they chanted the auspicious Gayatri Mantra in unison. Although rain was forecast for the day, the merciful Lord kept the rain at bay as dark clouds streaked across the sky ahead. The unique event received great attention and admiration from devotees around the world.

SSE Children’s tour

The Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) children, seven years and older, went on a tour of the coastal region of Mathagal on the third day of the conference. The team of 93 children, 15 SSE teachers, and 8 conference delegates visited the Sangamiththa Temple and the famed Mahabodhi tree , sacred places associated with Lord Buddha. The children also enjoyed the beauty of nature along the coastal area and experienced oneness despite cultural diversity.

Morning Session

In the auditorium later that morning, Dr. A.R. Ganeshamoorthy, a member of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust of Sri Lanka, spoke of the inspiring and selfless work being done in his country.

Then, the ceremony honoring senior devotees from Zones 4 and 5 followed. The honorees were given certificates to acknowledge their long years of service to the divine mission of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

The remaining CORE workshops were held to conclude the morning proceedings of the third day at the conference.

A Fitting Finale

In the afternoon, the YAs worldwide jointly offered a musical program, Sai Melodies–The Language of the Heart. It is a wonder that singers from around the world, who did not have much time to prepare, sang in harmony and in languages they did not speak. The YAs received a well-deserved standing ovation as they demonstrated that they are spiritual lions.

As the program came to a close, Dr. Suresh Govind offered a Vision for Sai Mission. In an inspiring, energetic speech, he urged all devotees everywhere to take Swami’s love and His message to all corners of the world and relieve human suffering by tackling complex social issues. He said, “Be part of His story. When we are part of His story, we become part of history.”

Senior Prof. S. Srisatkunarajah, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Jaffna, the gracious host of the venue, spoke about his faith, spirituality, and awareness of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He said: “I know Bhagawan is here, and you are here. My Master used to tell me there is no difference between the Master and the disciple.”

Resolutions to Grow in Love for Him

The countries of Zone 4 then declared their resolutions for the 100th Birthday celebrations of Bhagawan in 2025.

For Education, they resolved to increase the numbers of SSE and SSEHV students, establish a standard curriculum for SSE throughout the Zone, establish international certification for SSE graduates by the Asia Pacific Institute for Sathya Sai Education in Human Values, and establish an SSE alum body. They resolved to establish YA programs in every Sai Centre and ensure their active participation in social service and environmental programs, including planting 250,000 trees across Zone 4 countries.

For the Devotional Wing, it was resolved to have at least 500 people chant the Gayatri Mantra daily, do other sadhana, train meditation trainers and bhajan singers, and conduct more Sadhana Camps.

In the area of Service, it was resolved to hold 130 medical camps, perform 5,000 cataract surgeries, offer physiotherapy to 100 cerebral palsy patients, and have the Sri Lanka Ladies’ Wing care for at least 100 pregnant women, amongst other initiatives.

Dr. Narendranath Reddy delivered the valedictory address in which he shared a prayer for all leaders: Oh God, make me the servant of the servant of the servant of the Lord. He said it is with such humility and enthusiasm that Sai leaders must take the Sai Mission forward. Dr. Reddy referred to Lord Krishna’s message about how maya (delusion) is very difficult to overcome, acting as an obstacle between man and God. To overcome this challenge, Lord Krishna said: Surrender to Me completely, and I will take you across the Maya. He also assured, “If you completely surrender to Me, I will remove all your sins and give you liberation; hence, grieve not.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Ashok K. Sakhrani, Chairman of SSSIO Zone 5, provided an overview of the conference proceedings, identifying highlights. He stressed that human birth is precious and urged everyone to be convinced I am God, which should be the basis of what we think, say, and do. We should treat all work as divine work and everyone as Sai Family, recognizing the oneness of creation.

The evening ended with bhajans and mangala arathi.

DAY 4: The Grand Finale

On Sunday morning, the SSSIO Sri Lanka graciously organized grama seva or service in villages and tree-planting. The delegates were in for a pleasant surprise since the villagers entertained them with a cultural program in gratitude!

The Conference delegates returned home energized, with recharged spiritual batteries and memories galore. The Conference was a momentous occasion that demonstrated the strength, depth, and breadth of the SSSIO in taking the divine message to all corners of the world, just as Bhagawan had instructed the members of the Prasanthi Council to do in 2004. The organization bearing His holy name continues to triumph and spread the Love, name, message, and works of our beloved Sathya Sai all over the world.

Jai Sai Ram.

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