HIS-STORY in Hong Kong and China
The Spring of Devotion
The Sri Sathya Sai International Organization of Hong Kong had humble beginnings as a spring of outpouring devotion in its journey towards the lotus feet of the Avatar of the Age, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
It started with bhajan singing at the home of an Indian devotee whose heart had been lit with the flame of love for Swami. The inspiration to adore Him was so strong that the few people who gathered transformed a tape recorder into the lead singer and followed it for an hour! In 3 years time, this grew into a regular bhajan group.
Swami appreciated this progress in His inimitable way. He blessed a devotee from Hong Kong, Mrs. Dorothy Plant, materializing for her altar, a container that would fill itself up with vibhuti miraculously! Needless to say, her home altar became the venue for bhajans.
By 1975, the devotional movement in Hong Kong was on firm footing with weekly bhajans at the homes of different devotees.
A Storm of Grace
One devotee, Madhu Hardasani, yearned for a photograph of Swami for her home. This was 1976 and photos of Bhagawan were not easily available. It was the monsoon time and the tropical storm, Violet, struck Hong Kong violently. As everyone bolted their doors for safety, the typhoon winds deposited a blessing on the bamboo rack of the yearning devotee’s home - a photo of her Swami which seemed to say, ‘Why fear when I am here?’ The devotee’s joy knew no bounds and inspired, she started Bal Vikas classes at her home.
There is no need to fear or worry about storms in life because our Swami comes to us through them as well!
The Stream grows into a River
The Sathya Sai Baba Centre of Hong Kong was duly inaugurated on 26 April 1978 by the Consul General of India. Swami named it Shanti Nilayam - and was intimately involved in guiding its growth, lovingly speaking to the office bearers in an interview in 1980.
Swami used the Centre to bless the Gurkha (a sect in Nepal considered as the world’s fiercest soldiers) families from the British Garrison who began to come for bhajans on a monthly basis. Thus began Sai’s recruitment for His soldiers of love.
In 1982, the Sathya Sai Centre borrowed a lingam from a Hindu Temple for the Rudrabhishekam ritual during the Shivaratri celebrations. Bhagawan thrilled the devotees as the image of Shirdi Sai appeared on the lingam and, one week later, the image of Sathya Sai also appeared on it! The Temple decided to install the lingam permanently at the Sathya Sai Centre where it currently rests.
Everyone who has seen and touched the lingam has received many divine blessings!
Soon, local Chinese people began to throng the Centre. A study circle in Mandarin was started and translations of books into that language were undertaken.
The Sai Quarterly, a newsletter, and an annual magazine, the Sai Sarathi, were also initiated in 1982. In 1985, a Youth Group was established. For the first time, Bhagawan’s Birthday was celebrated at a public venue and attracted more than 1,200 people. It became an annual celebration thereafter.
Gathering Space while Gathering Pace
In 1993, the first Teacher-Training Seminar to introduce the Sathya Sai Education in Human Values to teachers was held in an eminent local school as the Sai Centre did not have sufficient space to host all the service activities and public programmes that were being conducted. So, modification was undertaken and the space doubled!
In March 1995, the Young Adults organized their First Youth Convention in Hong Kong entitled “Stamp Your Mark on the World” for 250 delegates.
Just like a tributary joining and swelling the size of a river, a second Sathya Sai Centre was established in 2004. This tributary too began as a spring of its own when the devotees of Nepali origin set up a bhajan group in the northern district in 1999. Over time, their ranks grew exponentially into a Centre of its own! Public programmes to introduce the teachings of Bhagawan were now held in Nepali as well. Such was its social and spiritual impact that the Sathya Sai Centre spearheaded the formation of a leading inter-faith group in HK in which many religious groups felt secure and comfortable with the Sarva-Dharma spirit of the Sai Centre.
On multiple occasions Bhagawan has declared,
“Communists are come-you-next. They have sacred feelings that are enough to take them nearer to God.”
As far as Swami is concerned, there is probably only one difference between true theists and true atheists - while the former consider God as Love, the latter consider Love as God lending new perspective to the bhajan, Prem Easwar Hain, Easwar Prem Hain.
That was indeed the case in China where SSSEHV first took roots in 2004 as an initiative by the Institute of Sathya Sai Education, Hong Kong. In 2005, a Sathya Sai bhajan group was established in Guangzhou, China, in accordance with local laws. As the group grew, in January 2006, seva activities were started at an orphanage. Amidst all these, Swami clearly showed who the Doer always is when the lady who was the orphanage supervisor saw Bhagawan’s picture and stated that she often saw Him physically!
In 2012, a Sathya Sai Centre was inaugurated in the interior of the Guangdong Province at Fung Shun, about 40 kilometres from Jieyang. The instruments that Bhagawan used for the construction of this Centre were the devotees in Mainland China, Chinese devotees around Asia and the SSSIO, HK.
It its own flow
A flurry of initiatives and activities began in the 2000s at HK as more inspired hearts united in Sai’s love. Several books were authored, published and made available in Prasanthi Nilayam. In 2009 (and later in 2017), a Walk for Values was held in public venues that attracted hundreds of active participants.
In 2011, the Young Adults started the “Bees” programme to teach English to local children, incorporating SSEHV. In 2016, Sai Centre became a recognised partner of Morgan Stanley’s community partnership programme. The Covid-19 pandemic served as Swami’s nudge to find Him within for that is the true source of the Sai Springs. Now, with the pandemic almost subsiding, those springs are waiting to burst out and flow in abundance again!
The History of SSSIO Hong Kong and China at a Glance
1969 - Inaugural Sathya Sai bhajans held in Hong Kong
1972 - Bhajan group established in Hong Kong
1976 - Balvikas classes begin in Hong Kong.
1978 - Sri Sathya Sai Baba Centre of Hong Kong inaugurated on 26th April
1982 - Miracle lingam arrives at the Hong Kong Centre; The Sai Quarterly Newsletter and Sai Sarathi annual magazine inaugurated
1993 - Centre expansion; first Teacher-Training Seminar for SSEHV; Human Values Speech Festival in Hong Kong.
1995 - First Youth Convention in Hong Kong
1997 - Chinese New Year celebrated for the first time in Prasanthi Nilayam.
2004 - Second Sri Sathya Sai Centre established at Hong Kong by predominantly Nepali devotees; Teacher-training programme in Guangdong Province, China.
2005 - Bhajan and Seva groups established in China
2011 - “Bees” programme to teach English to local children, incorporating SSEHV in Hong Kong.
2012 - Sri Sathya Sai Centre inaugurated in the Guangdong Province, China with support from devotees of Chinese origin and SSSIO, Hong Kong.
2018 - “Let’s Green it Up” fair held as part of the Protect Planet initiative in Hong Kong.