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8th World Conference First Report
Opening session



The 8TH World Conference of the Sri Sathya Sai Organization was inaugurated at 08:00 AM on November 20, 2005 in the Divine Presence of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

Sri Indulal Shah

The first speaker was the former International Chairman and current Advisor to Prasanthi Council, Sri Indulal Shah, who offered salutations to Bhagawan on behalf of the 15,000 delegates assembled from 180 countries. Recalling that the first world conference was held in Bombay in May 1968, he noted that “the Organization has now spread to every district in India with thousands of Centers in India and thousands of Centers abroad. Whereas earlier emphasis of the Organization was on encouraging devotees to practice the five tools of sadhana (spiritual discipline), viz., devotional singing, meditation, study circle, prayer, and service activities, the Avatar is now calling for the personal transformation of every devotee to the point of experiencing God within.”

The 8th World Conference, Sri Shah said, provides an opportunity to take stock of past achievements and plan for the future. Describing the students of Sri Sathya Sai Schools and Colleges as “our most valuable assets”, he urged that this strength be consolidated; and he publicly requested the Sathya Sai University teachers to help in this endeavor. He also called for action “to involve the Bal Vikas and Sathya Sai students in activities of responsibility, which will enable the propagation of Bhagawan's message for all mankind.”

Sri Shah said that Bhagawan has clarified that the 21st century is going to be “the age of transformation technology, not information technology”. Continuing, he said that this transformation technology will have each one of us who are devotees of Baba everywhere in the world as an integral part of it. This will be the world's most beautiful World Wide Web. That is, (W)ork, (W)orship, and (W)isdom.

Sri V. Srinivasan

The second speaker was Sri V. Srinivasan, President of the All-India Sathya Sai Organization. He said:

We are gathered here today at a unique time in history, when the world celebrates the 80th year of the advent of the Avatar in the Kali Yuga, an Avatar who is great and glorious and yet unlike any other. One who has come not for the direct destruction of evil but to transform mankind through the medium of Love, and thereby to eliminate evil for all time.

We are fortunate that we are witnesses of this spiritual revolution, and are experiencing the thrill, the joy, and the wonder of Bhagawan's Divine mission as we move ever forward. The Sai Organization and its members are particularly blessed as Bhagawan is permitting us to play a part in this glorious transformation of mankind. From the members of the Sai Organization, Bhagawan expects neither wealth nor status nor intellectual capacity. All He wants is Love for our fellowmen. That is enough for Him. And then He takes us under His fold, like a loving mother, and cares for us, nourishes us, and leads us on to our Divine destiny.

Sri Indulal Shah has set a precedent, several decades ago, and we have seen the growth of the Sai Organization all over the world, about which brother Goldstein will speak in his talk. And even in the far off, remote corners in India, Sai workers are working through the medium of service and spirituality. Yet it is clear that Bhagawan is doing everything. We are the visible instruments. We do not have to say that Bhagawan is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. We experience this everyday. It is a continuous lesson for us in our sadhana. We can only express gratitude to Bhagawan for His patience and for His deep Love for us, and for giving us real happiness. While the Organization is growing rapidly, we have to always remember that Bhagawan places importance on quality, and not quantity. This should always be our guidepost in whatever we do.

The theme of the conference is appropriately ‘Unity, Purity and Divinity'. Bhagawan repeatedly teaches us that unless we have Unity in thought, word, and deed, we cannot achieve Purity, which alone can enable us to realize our latent Divinity. At this conference, the Sai Organization in India proposes to examine these three mahavakyas (great maxims) in relation to the individual, the family, the Organization itself, society, and the nation. Bhagawan has revealed to us the importance of every individual, who is the basic building block for the family, the society and the nation. Through His grama seva program, He has taught us to reach every single individual, in every single hut, in every single village. Bhagawan, we assure you that we will always start from the individual to reach out to the world. By the Grace of Bhagawan, we are fortunate to have eminent speakers to address the sessions of the conference on these subjects. We have much to learn from them to mould our work on the right lines to meet the challenges of these modern times.

In closing, I only express gratitude to Bhagawan on behalf of all the delegates assembled here for permitting us to hold this conference in the Divine presence and for all the arrangements that HE has made for our comfort, our care, our food, our accommodation. Bhagawan has done all this. Even a thousand mothers would not care as much as our Lord for His devotees. Jai Sai Ram.

Dr. Michael Goldstein

The third speaker, Dr. Michael Goldstein, Chairman of the Prasanthi Council, added his welcome to the delegates, noting that “every five years over the last 35 years our beloved Bhagawan Baba has graciously permitted us to assemble in His Divine presence to reflect upon what we have done.” He further said:

Drawing upon His divine inspiration, we strive to perfect our ways, and to become worthy of bearing His name on this spiritual organization. What has been, is, and will be in this saga of God on earth will comprise the sacred volumes of holy scriptures for the societies and civilizations of humankind that live in the centuries and millennia of the future. This is indeed a momentous time.

The plan for this conference has changed. At first we who have responsibility for the planning of this great event intended to draw out the program for many days. We planned to ponder the mysteries of man's spiritual sojourn and the dilemma of this spiritual Organization. Our beloved Bhagawan Baba, in His infinite Love and wisdom, knowing always what is best for us, has curtailed our zeal and put a ceiling on our desires. Instead of wasting time, Bhagawan Baba has aptly given us sufficient time to do the needful.

What is the dilemma of this spiritual Organization, the Organization that bears the Divine Name of the Kali Yuga Avatar, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba? What is our dilemma?

Our dilemma is to realize Unity, Purity and ultimately Divinity as an Organization. A group of spiritual aspirants, we as individuals are striving for that end, following the inner light. Sometimes we go astray. But our beloved Swami curtails our wanderings. We return to the only true path for man, the spiritual path, the path of selfless Love, the path to the realization of our Divine heritage. Now, we as a group aspire to act collectively in the world in a manner that is spiritually authentic. We aspire to create an environment that is conducive to the self realization of all peoples by raising divine consciousness. Our dilemma is that we, who are imperfect, join together to act collectively to manifest perfection in the world.

Only by the Grace of our beloved Lord, Bhagawan Baba can such a feat be accomplished. Only He can melt away our impurities and smelt the pure ore of our noble intentions. What must be done in this unique conference, this meeting of spiritual aspirants, this gathering of Love? Swami says, “always be careful.” We must proceed with loving care. While order and understanding are prerequisites to accomplishment, bureaucracy is antithetical to spiritual progress. Therefore, let's beware, lest we institutionalize mediocrity. And let us take care, lest we trivialize Divinity. When we give up our 'control', when we forego the machinations, manipulations, and politically contrived controlling and selfish actions, then we become the chief beneficiaries. We become capable of genuine spiritual experience and accomplishment. Clearly, we need faith; we need heart, we need Love. We need Bhagawan Baba's Grace to achieve our goals.

… What is the Sri Sathya Sai Organization? It is composed of people who have been called by Him through their conscience to follow His teachings. Thereby we uplift ourselves spiritually. In so doing, we contribute to the redemption of mankind. First, the beckoning of the divine indweller, the individual; then, the coming together of like minds. Then groups organized to have collective spiritual meetings and activities. Then the geographical division into groups of various sizes, ranging from small Sai groups to large Centers with hundreds and even thousands of members — nations and groups of multiple countries in a hierarchy of organizational management.

The current status of the Organization, as stated by Sri Indulal Shah, includes thousands of Centers and groups in hundreds of countries. They are engaging in spiritual activities, falling under the three wings of the Organization, devotion, education and service, representing the tri-marga of Bhakti, Jnana, and Karma Yoga.

The theme of the 8th World Conference is: Unity, Purity, and Divinity. Ultimately, we seek to develop the perspective of Unity, the experience of Purity and the bliss of Divinity. That is the goal of this conference and the aspiration of each and every one of us. Beloved Bhagawan Baba has taught us that Unity, Purity, and Divinity are not three distinct things but rather three stages of spiritual progress in our spiritual sojourn as human beings. The human life wasted consists of wandering from one pleasure and worldly pursuit to another, none conferring lasting peace or joy, none resulting in a life well lived, none resulting in the fulfillment of our profound purpose.

The human life worth living is a spiritual progression through Unity, Purity, and Divinity. Being one, knowing who you truly are, is spiritual Unity. Removing the distractions that result from our animal nature, the desire for power and pleasure, that is spiritual Purity. These are intrinsic to our nature, that we should accomplish these goals. That is, this is the reason that we have taken these human births to pass through these stages until we become what and who we really are. We go through Unity to Purity; and then we achieve all-enduring, all-encompassing Love, which is Divinity realized.

Swami's teachings inspire us to cast off the shroud of delusion and enable us to live without a shadow of doubt. Unity of thought, word, and deed put us in command of our worldly selves. We subdue the worldly pretenders, so that We, the real We, prevail. We achieve Purity by removing the cardinal enemies, the contaminants: lust, anger, greed, pride, attachment, and jealousy.

How do we gain this quintessential command? We put aside the distractions of our meddlesome minds and the interference of our incessant desires. Our thoughts, words, and deeds, actually our bodies and our minds, are surrendered to the dictates of our conscience. Thus, spiritual Unity and Purity are achieved. As a result, we cease meandering through the maze of illusion, being blinded by the haze of desire and attachment. Upon cessation of these distractions, we achieve realization of who and what we have always truly been. Divinity is realized. Thus the Embodiment of Divinity, our Beloved Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, teaches us.

In this 8th World Conference of Sri Sathya Sai Organizations, we will consider the profound spiritual significance and the practical worldly application of Unity (being one), Purity (removing contamination and distraction), Divinity (being a personification of selfless Love).

The All-India and International Sai Organizations will exchange whatever is spiritually constructive, amongst one another. United we will always stand. We will act and practice in the name of Divinity, our beloved Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. We will work together as true brothers and sisters. Can it be any other way? Can the Light of perfect Love, divine Consciousness, be contained, defined, or constrained by religion, race, caste, or nationality?

Swami said, “all are one, be alike to everyone.” Therefore, we, the Organization, must strive to erase ignorant bias and see the God in all. If not the first commandment of this Organization, it is certainly near the top.

In conclusion, from time to time, some of us are drawn into the world and we lose sight of the spiritual path. We become forlorn, and then we become skeptical. We ask ourselves: will we ever achieve this or that? When we ask if we will ever do this or that, we acknowledge the possibility of never. Asking “if ever” gives power to “never”.

Swami has said that we should have no doubts. His mission will be accomplished. Therefore, for us there is no “never”. We will become genuine devotees of our beloved Bhagawan Baba. We will act collectively as a genuine spiritual Organization and manifest the light of His Love all over the world. For us there is no “ever” or “never”. For us, there is only the inevitable — inevitable self-realization, inevitable fulfillment of the Divine proclamation of our beloved Kali Yuga Avatar, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Jai Sai Ram.

Mr. Leonardo Gutter

It appeared that the session might be ending, but at this point, Prasanthi Council member, Leonardo Gutter, got an indication to approach the dais. He approached Bhagawan, received His blessings and permission and went to the microphone. Mr. Gutter began his spontaneous, extemporaneous remarks by saying,

Dear brothers and sisters, I would like to share with you the Love of God.

Since the first time I met Bhagawan I felt His Divine Love, His incredible Love. I know all of you here have felt the same Love. He is here in this beautiful form in Prasanthi Nilayam. Though He is here, He is also with us always in our homes, at our work, everywhere.

Bhagawan, as Shirdi Sai, said “If you look to Me, I look to you.” The only thing that we have to do is to think about Him all the time.

When I first came here, I had many experiences with Him, some of which I will share with you now. On that first trip, I was with a small group of Argentineans, and I was waiting for a divine opportunity to have an interview with Swami. At that time I was part of another spiritual organization. But one night, overwhelmed by the reality of His Divinity, I felt that I had to surrender to Him completely. So, that same night in my room, I wrote a letter of resignation from the position I had in the other organization and placed it on my altar. The next morning during darshan, Swami, instead of doing His usual rounds, came directly to where I was sitting and said, “yes, I will see you, I will give you an interview.” I thought I was supposed to go in the afternoon, sit in front of the interview room and wait for Swami's call. But the volunteer told me “no, it is not like that; He will have to call you again.” Then I thought that the seva dal just didn't like my face, and had spoiled the opportunity I was looking for. So in the afternoon, feeling sad, I thought Swami won't remember me. And even if He remembered, He wouldn't be able to find me in the large crowd. However, when He came out for darshan, He did not leave the verandah, just looked straight to where I was sitting, pointed and said, “You.” I stood up, and He said “go!”

In the interview room, He spoke about all that was on my mind, my doubts, and then He approached me and whispered something in my ears that I feel was not just meant for me, but for all of us. He said, “Swami will never disappoint His devotees.” I will always remember these divine words. I pray that we all always remember His words.

Since that time my life has been a life filled with divine experiences. I would like to share some of these with you. For over 20 years I have had the opportunity to travel to many, many Latin American countries, where I have seen how Bhagawan has touched the lives and hearts and minds of so many hundreds of thousands of people to change their lives forever. Many of them have come here. One day, Swami came and stood in front of a young boy and said to him, “One day, you will be the leader of your country.” That boy became the President of El Salvador. Today, the Secretary of the Department of Education for Venezuela is here. Tomorrow, the Speaker of the Parliament of Venezuela is coming. The former president of one of the Centers in Guatemala was the former President of Guatemala.

Swami, we have devotees in every country in Latin America. We have over 300 Centers in Latin America. In every country there are Sai devotees; even in Cuba, there are thousands of Sai devotees.

One day, when I was traveling to several Latin American countries to attend some of the public meetings we were holding there, I landed at the Miami International Airport around five o'clock in the morning. My connection flight was not until late in the afternoon. This is a very large airport, with planes taking off every thirty seconds. I was there for a while, and suddenly I noticed that the bag in which I kept my ticket and passports and all my other valuables was gone. I looked around for it frantically for a long time, looking everywhere. I even went to the Lost and Found desk, but no one had turned it in there. I was very distressed. If you lose your ticket, you may get another, but to lose your ticket, your money, credit cards, and your passport, you are in a very bad situation.

I continued to look everywhere, but no luck. Then I remembered that Swami says you must ask God with all your heart. So, remembering this, I went to a secluded area and I prayed to Him. I prayed very hard for nearly one half hour, “Swami please, please Swami, Swami,” like that. And finally I reached a point where I could not ask anymore. So I gave up and, surrendering to His Will, I left the area.

Just as I came back into the lobby area, a cleaning woman came up to me, just a foot away, with the bag in her hand, and said, “Sir, is this yours?” Everything was still there, money, passport, ticket, and all, untouched.

Mr. Gutter went on to share a number of other very touching and inspiring experiences that greatly moved the assembled delegates and made everyone very happy.

The Session ended with the singing of Arati.