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The Birthday season is over. The crowd at Prasanthi Nilayam has thinned. The Ashram seems to be quiet and serene, enjoying the peace and tranquility.
But there is one place here at Prasanthi, where the situation is quite the opposite. This place is a bee hive of activity. You will find people are running around, here and there, and appearing very busy. Young men can be found all over the place preparing for something that seems to be very very important. Well! Let's join them and find out what's cooking.
 SETS BOYS AT WORKFirstly, the place is the Sri Sathya Sai Hill View Stadium. The people we are talking about are the staff and the students of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning and the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School. And they are all preparing for a big, really big, event - the Annual Sports and Cultural Meet, A TEACHER REACHES FOR THE HEIGHTS 2003-04, which is to be celebrated here on the 11th of January 2004.
No wonder the place is in such a state of activity. This time of the year is always like this. You can find the students slogging it out there. And they are joined by the staff of the Institute. Irrespective of their age, you will find almost every member of the Institute and the School on the grounds. You will find the teachers encouraging their students and supervising  PREPARING THE COSTUMESand guiding them in what they are doing.
You will find the students involved in a wide array of activities. Every morning you will find them going for a regular round of jogging and exercises. This is followed by the march past training session. And then the practice session for the cultural programme that the students present every 11th of January begins.
The students are divided into groups according to the event they have chosen to participate in. So you will find someone riding a motorbike only on its rear wheel, or jumping through rings (which will be on fire on the D-day). You might have to watch out for a young boy rolling past you on a pair of roller blades. You will find a group of dedicated gymnast practicing their skills at vaulting and flipping and doing all those back bending things that gymnasts do.  BENDING THE BODYYou could watch (from a safe distance) another group of students practicing martial arts. You will find them breaking bricks with bare hands, kicking and breaking more bricks placed well above their own heights and all sorts of fantastic things. Those with dancing skills practice their art in another end of the ground. And a good number are busy preparing the colourful and, sometimes, gigantic sets (which have risen more than thirty feet from the ground on occasions) or the torch vehicle (which carries the flame lit by  PRACTISING TO BREATHE FIREBhagawan to the top of the hill).
And all these things are learnt by the students (some of them learning these things for the first time) within the space of thirty days. Students put themselves through gruelling training sessions to master their respective arts in the shortest time possible and prepare themselves to display their newly learnt skills in Bhagawan's presence.
The teachers surely inspire the students to give their best. But the greatest inspiration comes directly from the Divine Chancellor of the Institute. It is a celebration when He comes to the Hill View Stadium early morning to see how the students are faring. INSPECTING THE STAGE
First Bhagawan sees the march past. He sees and comments on a student who is not correctly swinging his arms while marching or the squad leader who does not shout out his command properly. His enthusiasm to see the various programmes prepared by the students is infectious. The students run to the centre of the performing area to show Bhagawan what they have learnt. And then rush back faster to listen to Bhagawan's views. Bhagawan with His comments raises the level of the programme very high.
The best part of Bhagawan's visits is when all the students gather around Him and He talks to some of the staff or students. Those seeing from a distance often see the entire gathering burst out with laughter on occasions. Bhagawan, with His divine wit and humour livens up the occasion and lifts the  WATCHING THE PRACTICEspirits of the students who are physically tired and mentally strained after the day's hard practices. Bhagawan's rejuvenating visit prepares them to train even harder before He sees their performance again the next time.
Even if Bhagawan does not go to the ground to see the practices, He enquires about them in the Mandir. He insists that He be kept up to date with the latest happenings on the grounds. Every evening, in the Mandir, He interacts with the students and showers them with love and joy. He lovingly enquires from some of the students about the event they are involved in. He even discusses the risk factor in some of the stunts that students perform and advices the students to take appropriate care to avoid any untoward incidents. At times He has even cut out some risky items for the safety of the students.
If you were to ask any student why he was doing what he was doing, you would get a uniform answer, "To please Swami". Well that is what sums up all that goes into the sports meet. It is this very drive that fills every student with the energy that is required to do all that they do. It is to make Swami happy that students are willing to go to any extreme. All that happens on the 11th of January, every year is with this one motive.  INSPIRING THEM TO SOAR HIGH
As with all activities linked to Bhagawan, the Sports Meet too carries with it many lessons for the students. Bhagawan often says, "Bend the body. Mend the mind. End the senses." The Sports Meet drills in this very lesson. The physical fitness that it demands does a world of good to the students' bodies. The one pointed concentration that some events require boosts the maturity of the young minds. The students give up rest and sleep during this month - a form of sense control - to give their best on the final day.
The most important lesson is that of dedicating every deed to God. The students do not take individual credit for what they do. They do everything so that they can make Swami happy. This attitude of doing things with the aim of pleasing Swami goes a long way in shaping the character of the students. Knowingly or unknowingly, the most important lessons that students learn during their stay at the Institute are learnt during the Sports Meet.
Surely the Sports Meet is the among most important events on the Institute calendar for more than one reasons.


Volume - 2 Issue - 1 Radiosai Journal - PSN 2004