EXPERIENCING THE GLORY OF GOD
RYDALMERE SAI CENTRE, SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
RETREAT APRIL 2004
It was just a notion “Why not go on a retreat?”. It was only a tiny drop of thought that fell into the ocean of thinking minds of Rydalmere Sai Centre. Would you ever imagine creating waves from a tiny drop? The Sai children at Rydalmere rolled in to action in various fronts. Accommodation, program, logistics, food, and other essentials fell in to place like an easy jigsaw puzzle. Thirty-Six Sai devotees (adults and children) registered their interest to join the retreat.
On a nippy Saturday morning 24 April 2004, divinity was awaiting to unveil its glory at Warragamba, to all of us.
We gathered at Rydalmere at 7.30AM and set off to Warragamba Dam Conference Centre. Cars rolled through the rural roads of the leafy suburb Wassie and reached the gates of the Warragamba Conference centre. The towering eucalyptus trees, little cottages partially hidden by grassy slopes of mother earth, chirping birds, clear blue sky and the shining water in the Warragamba dam, all welcomed us with warm heart. They all were waiting for us to have our company. The rays from the morning sun touched the water surface and danced in joy. Mother earth was happy to let her children run and play across her grassed slopes.
The devotees were quickly setting up Bhagawan’s picture, the lamps and the rest of the altar for bhajans. Retreat program & duty rosters sprung up on the walls. After light refreshments and morning tea, we sat at our Lord’s lotus feet, to praise our Lord with bhajans. Bhajans resonated through the hearts reminding us that it was our Lord’s will that was being fulfilled at Warragamba. Nothing would have materialised without Swami’s will.
Our first activity in the retreat after salutations to the supreme was “Connecting with Nature”. We gathered near the slopes on the banks of Warragamba. Sunrays beamed though the eucalyptus branches and a cool breeze caressed our faces. The trees danced in joy because they too have planned this activity with God, to have our company.
We talked about the beauty of nature and the need to connect to the surroundings. We did a few yoga routine exercises with rhythmic music in the background to energise our body & mind to spring in to action. After singing two devotional songs we sat down to connect with mother earth in meditation. With a beautiful gentle music in the background Saranya’s recorded voice filled the atmosphere. “Just ask the trees how is life, is it enjoyable? Take time to listen to them” echoed across the slopes. When we opened our eyes, the trees and the sky were asking us “How is life, is it enjoyable?”
It was divine love all around.
We became the trees and the trees became us. We became God and God became us. God showed us what he means by “oneness of all beings”.
It was time for lunch. The devotees who were on the duty roster, served the lunch with love. All stood around the lunch table and chanted the food “mantra” and offered food to our mother/farther the Lord, before laying our hands on it. The food that was served with lots of love and affection was delicious. Devotees chipped in washing up the dishes and the lunch table & kitchen were cleaned up in a flash.
The next event in the agenda was the walkabout. This was to explore more of the Warragamba nature. Old and young gathered at the slopes, on the banks of the reservoir. Some chose to stay behind, as the slopes were rugged and steep, the rest setoff through the trees, towards the water. Some without proper footwear also joined the walking party.
Mother earth kept us all intact until we reached the banks of Warragamba. The children were perched on the edges of the rocks, basking in the beauty of the divine creation. The next challenge was to climb back to base. Everyone found his or her way back to the top with consummate ease, safely. Our Lord was the shepherd and we were his flock. He brought us back safely.
By this time a few had gathered in the main hall singing some folksongs bringing the memories of the past. Slowly it gathered momentum and some of the 30year old big hits filled the room.
Programs rolled on perfectively as if it was rehearsed. Yes, the Lord had already rehearsed it and our experience was only a video recording that was being replayed.
We all gathered in the hall for a workshop on “The impact of & the progress under Swami’s teachings”. Swami spoke through Sarath who conducted the workshop.
The introduction was brilliant. Devotees revealed where they were before their devotion to Swami and where they are now. During the discussion, we walked for miles in to our past in silence and brought back only one thing in our hand; “Divine love” though mentioned in different words. For Sai seekers, Swami fills the time that has passed with His vast presence. All memories become an illusion. Finally, we will remember only the present. Our Athma is timeless.
We refreshed ourselves for the evening Bhajans. After singing to praise the Lord, we all gathered at the hall occupied by the Balvikas kids and the youth. They had practised a play on the subject “Water” and a study circle based on “Problems faced by kids growing in the modern society”
The kids, acting as teacher and students discussing the present day crisis on water, enacted the play. Although it was a short script, the acting was creative and the kids showed their prowess in creating a play on their own without any guidance or supervision. Subsequently, the kids explained the points they discussed in the study circle. The subject “Problems faced in growing in the modern western society” was well discussed. They asked serious questions (which looked serious to them at their age) from the parents. At the same time they were also diligent to find answers for the very same questions.
A small snag hit our program. One (Tong) of the two Thai students (Tong and Ni) suddenly developed an asthma attack in the night. All attended to Tong with lots of TLC. Finally, Dushy who brought the kids to the retreat sacrificed her share of happiness and drove the girls back to Sydney. Tong was treated immediately at Ryde Hospital and with Swami’s grace she recovered quickly.
Swami sent all of us to bed in peace of mind. He had prepared something special for us for the next morning.
A few of us were up and ready by 5.00AM and had gathered outside. It was cold but comfortable. We set off from our main hall, singing “Nagara Sankeerthanam”. We went around to the other cottages and sang bhajans to wake the others with divine music. Slowly people crept out of their cottages and joined the joy of singing. The east was soon lighting up for the sunrise. The experience was beyond explanation. Some of us did this for the first time in our lives and realised that God had planned this all along our life without telling us. God’s love was the unknown, now being revealed to us.
We concluded the Nagara Sankeerthanam at 6.00AM and entered the bhajan hall for further proceedings. Devotees chanted “OmKar”, then “Suprapaatham” in a fabulous rhythm and continued with Sai Asthothram (108 names) and then continued with Bhajans. Swami had brought Puttaparthi to us. The vibrations were beyond comprehension. Devotees were bathing in Swami’s bliss and it was perfect timing to enter in to meditation. Devotees were free to move as they wished (quietly) but the meditation continued for twenty to thirty minutes. The recorded meditation commentary filled the hall. God took us in to the world of light to show us our original pure form of our souls. At the end of the meditation the hall was filled with the divine energy and it was like being inside Puttaparthi Mandir, after Swami’s darshan. If it can be explained, it wouldn’t be real.
After morning refreshments, we gathered in the conference hall for a presentation on “Water and Us”. Mohan’s presentation with projector using
“power point program” was very informative. The presentation was such that even a layman could understand the causes that have created the present water crisis on earth. The devotees were so involved with the program and they had relentless questions on every issue. We all went in to the presentation feeling “Water is part of us” and when we left the presentation, the feeling was “We are part of water too”. It is now apparent that every human in the modern world (who are mainly responsible for the degradation of earth’s water resources) should go through this education. The innocent uneducated nomad from the village knows to look after the natural water resources and only the well-educated businessman need to be educated not to pollute the water resources. Mohan nailed it well.
As water was one of the focal points of the retreat, we gathered again above the banks of Warragamba reservoir to invoke Divine blessings with the powerful “Gayathri Mantra”. All sat on the grass and chanted the Mantra 108 times sending light and blessings to the water element that keeps us alive on this planet. The chanting was concluded with “Araarthi” to the water that was stored in the reservoir. Water, our lifeline, received our blessings and in return would bless the whole humanity with the free flow of its energy, for very many years to come.
Divya joined us in the main hall to present his experiences with Swami when he led a music group to Puttaparthi. His narration was full of humour that highlighted Swami’s leelas in a unique way.
Divya also paid tribute to Pushpa acca for her relentless work for the Sai movement. We the members of the Rydalmere Sai Centre always appreciate the sacrifices Pushpa acca has made. She has given her house to us for our devotion to Swami and Divya’s tribute was timely and fitting.
Children and adults joined in a game of charades that was filled with lots of fun.
To add to the fun adults joined in a short softball cricket game with the kids.
It was time to wind up, to say good-bye to the trees, the grass, and the water. Swami staged the retreat to invoke love that is hidden below the murky minds of every soul. With great hesitation to part, devotees embraced each other with pure love and affection and bid goodbye. The hugs went to the trees, the birds and all inanimate objects that shared their love with us.
We were back home in total bliss.
It was not a long vacation. It was not a flight across the oceans. It was not an expensive cruise around the continent.
Swami took us on an hour drive within a weekend, to reveal to us the glory of God’s creation. He made us to travel long distances within our mind to discover the divinity within us. We love God and God is everyone.
The question being asked now is, “When is the next retreat?”
--------------------------Brothers, Sisters & Children of the Rydalmere Sathya Sai Centre