Sathya Sai organisation members across the USA conducted various service activities and deepened their spiritual practice in April 2016 in grateful observance of Bhagawan’s Mahasamadhi.
In the northeast region, Sathya Sai volunteers organised projects dedicated to Mother Nature and the protection of the environment, including cleaning up parks, river banks, and neighbourhoods, as well as volunteering at a local wildlife sanctuary, organic farming, and creating a Sai Garden at the Assisi Institute in Rochester, New York. Sai volunteers also organised a health fair in Wappinger Falls, served a lunch to the impoverished in Poughkeepsie, New York, and supplied food and provisions to the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). In addition, some members of Sathya Sai centres spent the day of Mahasamadhi in silence at a Regional Silent Retreat in Stowe, Massachusetts.
Sathya Sai centre members in South Bethesda, Maryland, embarked on several service projects on 16th April 2016, starting with the annual clean-up of the Occoquan River, which provides drinking water to residents of northern Virginia. In Baltimore, volunteers offered food to the homeless and distributed backpacks and meals to 210 needy students at a local elementary school. The following week, they donated books to disadvantaged school and college students. On 24th April, 25 Sathya Sai volunteers cleaned and packed 900 pairs of eyeglasses for overseas distribution to the indigent. Later that afternoon, many centre members viewed films about inspiring stories of transformation taking place in rural villages of India through Sathya Sai education programmes, as well as through health and rural improvement projects.
In St. Louis, Missouri, more than 30 volunteers served 300 cheese sandwiches to the homeless at the Centenary United Methodist Church. At the New Life Evangelical Center, Sathya Sai volunteers served 120 boxes of pizza along with soft drinks, fruit, granola bars, and brownies to homeless brothers and sisters, with love and humility. All Sathya Sai members worked as one unified family and were grateful for the opportunity to serve and grow spiritually through the act of service.
In Northern California, more than 400 SSIO members came together on 24th April 2016 for a Sai Reflection Day, an event filled with joyful devotional music, prayers, and a collage of seven delightful dramas presented by Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) children. The skits, some written by the children, depicted the teachings of various faiths, with a concluding play, titled Religion of Love, that emphasised the underlying unity of all faiths. The afternoon programme included inspiring talks, sports activities, and games for the SSE students, along with the assembling of first-aid kits for the patients of the Ashland Free Medical Clinic, which is operated by Sathya Sai volunteers. SSIO members were also encouraged to engage in a month-long spiritual practice and were supported in their efforts through a dial-in telephone conference line, where participants could listen daily to spiritual chants, a guided meditation, and an audio clip from one of Sathya Sai Baba’s discourses.
The Aradhana Day observances for Southern California included a month-long period of service initiatives that began in early April 2016 Volunteers from four Sathya Sai Centres joined to provide 250 destitute families with food, toiletry bags, and blankets. On 16th April, three other centres prepared and distributed hot Mexican-food lunches to 550 homeless and mentally challenged people at the Orange County Mental Health Association in Santa Ana, California. With no kitchen facilities available, 55 Sathya Sai volunteers managed to prepare the food with only a few griddles, four microwaves, and a scant number of tables. Meals of peanut butter and cheese sandwiches, apples, granola bars, and juice were also prepared for children living in homeless shelters. The volunteers demonstrated glowing faces as they lovingly organised and loaded food trays into cars and vans for delivery to eleven Southern California locations. Volunteers also prepared and distributed hot meal boxes and water to the homeless in downtown Long Beach on 1st May. Recipients thanked the volunteers as they received the food, often saying gratefully, “God bless you.”
Sathya Sai Baba Centers of Region 9 engaged in devotion and service across the Region. Keeping in mind Sathya Sai Baba’s injunction to Love All, Serve All, devotees spread out across the Region to provide service with LOVE! Projects ranged from food service projects like serving meals to homeless individuals and families to food packing, gleaning citrus trees to cleaning homes, replacing old furniture, cleaning the kitchen and grounds of a shelter, to giving hygiene kits and snack bags to a youth services organization. Finally, many devotees engaged in spiritual practice and self-reflection throughout the day, deepening their understanding of Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings on the unity of thought, word and deed.
SSIO members of Region 10, South-Central USA, commemorated Bhagawan’s Mahasamadhi by participating in daily spiritual practices of prayers, devotional singing, and reading of Sai literature over a month-long period. Special service initiatives across the region included distribution of both fresh and non-perishable food along with clothing to underprivileged residents of local communities. Many members volunteered at food banks, helping to sort, bag, and box food items. On 24th April 2016, meetings were organised with inspiring speakers, beautiful plays enacted by SSE students, musical interludes by Young Adults, and video and poster presentations by SSE students about Sathya Sai Baba’s humanitarian projects.
An initiative undertaken by the Dallas Sathya Sai Centre showcased a Sai Gardening team at the Texoma Earth Day Festival on 23rd April 2016. Fresh vegetables are grown organically in this project, started from seeds, and distributed to needy people. A Sai Garden booth provided information at the festival about community gardening and how to build a raised-bed or tower garden, as well as about composters and composting methods, and the Sai Gardening team hosted a composting workshop in the afternoon. Sathya Sai Education (SSE) children prepared planters using biodegradable cups containing soil and radish seeds, and interested visitors to the booth received freshly harvested organic kale from a Sai Garden.
Trinidad & Tobago
The SSIO of Trinidad & Tobago organised a national programme of gratitude on 24th April 2016 at Sai Nilayam, its national headquarters. About 250 SSIO members attended the devotional programme, which included addresses by two youth and a captivating drama by SSE children on the theme, “All Religions Are Different Paths to the One God Called by Many Names.”
Every year, SSIO members in Ecuador gather to plan service projects in observance of Aradhana Mahotsavam. However, an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 caused devastation in Ecuador in April 2016, bringing destruction and panic to the local areas and population. Of the two Sathya Sai Schools in Ecuador, in Bahía Caraquez and in Guayaquil, the school in Bahía Caraquez was affected due severely to its proximity to the earthquake’s epicentre. Sathya Sai volunteers immediately sprang into action and transformed the school into a temporary shelter for more than 60 displaced people. Food and medical assistance were provided to those in need with the help of volunteers and 15 doctors. About 10 members of the National Police Corps also availed themselves of the shelter and in return protected the school from miscreants. Members of the SSIO acted quickly to use both schools for the collection and distribution of food and supplies. SSIO members across the country collected and distributed much needed food, supplies, clothes, mattresses, and tents, and offered their heartfelt prayers. Months after the disaster, the SSIO volunteers continue to work as a unified team to assist people in need, in areas devastated by the earthquake.
In preparation for the Aradhana Mahotsavam, the SSIO held a meeting, titled “Active in the Depths of Silence,” at the Chalet de Chorrillos Sacred Heart School on 17th April 2016. SSIO members shared with great enthusiasm the practices of reflection, the “light meditation,” and recitation of prayers, along with Baba’s message to strengthen the inner connection to God. On 24th April 2016, the Aradhana Mahotsavam programme began with the simple recitation of Om Sri Sai Ram, followed by bhajans, practice of the “light meditation,” and sharing of experiences on the importance of developing unwavering, steady faith. The programme concluded with the screening of an inspiring video about Sathya Sai Baba. The participants experienced a sense of unity and belonging to one family.
The SSIO of Venezuela commemorated Swami’s Mahasamadhi by coordinating several activities through its Devotional and Educational Wings during April 2016. The devotional programmes included practice of the “light meditation” as taught by Sathya Sai Baba and bhajans. The Educational Wing led workshops on Bhagawan and organised conversations with children about the significance of the Mahasamadhi. The SSIO also screened educational films on the life and message of Sathya Sai Baba. In addition, members of each Centre presented programmes, including inspiring talks and videos on the Avatar. Poems were written and dedicated to Baba in an atmosphere of bliss.