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  Volume 4 - Issue 01


After the hectic events leading to the celebration of the 80th Birthday, it was just His Grace that events in Prashanti Nilayam slowed down in its wake.

This gave the myriad staff, seva dal, devotees and students time to catch their breath and complete the more mundane chores of life (like paying the bills), chores which had been brushed aside and put on the back-burner in anticipation and preparation for the Big B-Day.

But life in the Ashram cannot remain still too long. Soon it came abuzz with a lot of devotees coming from overseas to celebrate Christmas and wind down the year-long 80th Birthday celebrations.

The Vidya Giri stadium also rang with the excited shouts of students who were participating in their intra mural games which lead up to the celebrations of the Sports Day on January 11 every year.

In this issue we bring a detailed report of the Christmas festival, one of the most joyful in the Prashanti calendar, as people from all over the world gather here for many days, living and practising together, in true brotherly love and harmony, so that they can present their best programmes in front of the Lord.

This year too devotees from overseas, estimated at 3,000 to 3,500 people, gathered here to celebrate the birth of Christ and ring out the old year and usher in the new.

Traditionally in the Western world, the nuclear families that live apart the whole year come home for a full family reunion at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

So Christmas is a cherished time of the year that everyone looks forward to, in order to see and be with their loved ones. But these devotees had come to their real home - to be with their divine Father and Mother and their brothers and sisters from all over the world.

They all come quite early and some bring their musical instruments with them. Christmas organising committees are then formed - with a decoration committee, an adult choir and a children's choir committee and so on and they even have their own seva dal to help wherever needed.


What motivates the hundreds of devotees that form part of the adult choir to come here year after year? What drives them to put up with great personal difficulties and inconvenience? What inspires them that they spend long arduous hours in practise? Let us hear a first hand account from one devotee:

"Christmas in the Divine Presence is an incredibly thrilling, learning and loving experience. Swami brings us from all parts of the world, with different languages, cultures and past experiences, and shows us how to be as one. Many come with expectations of just how Christmas must be celebrated. Others, having arrived for the first time, come with no experience of being in the Divine physical Presence of our Beloved Swami. The love energy that emanates from Him fills us all with awe and the yearning to do that which will please Him. Emotions and devotion are both very much in evidence. For many, the feeling can be one of remembering past Christmases with fondness and for others there is healing of memories that had caused pain.


With so many from differing areas of the world coming together to sing as one, one must be ready for the very real experience of practising the Human Values, as taught by dear Swami. There are challenges enough to allow all to practise patience, perseverance and, by His Grace, purity. Perhaps one of the most difficult for many from the West, is sitting for hours on the floor. Western knees and backs are not used to the floor.

Further, by necessity, the seating has to be close. Both of these challenges give the opportunity to overcome the noisy complaining of the body. Many of us are used to much space and the need to pull oneself together, as it were, is new to many. Much patience is needed. Language becomes an opportunity to overcome shyness. We learn to talk with hands, smiles, nods and singing.

The Staff at the Ashram are ready and willing to give us all the help and cooperation that one could wish for. By Swami's Grace, we are always given a venue in which to practise. These practices comprise about 4 hours a day (2 in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon) for the singers. The musicians add three more hours to this time. Beyond the time spent in actual practice, are the times spent learning the texts and melodies. It is indeed a full schedule. There are occasions when either darshan and/or bhajans must be missed due to the duty of attending practice. The attempt is made to make these times as infrequent as possible. For the musicians, however, the many hours spent rehearsing means Swami must be experienced on the inside. Fortunately, Swami makes His loving Presence felt with unmistakable clarity. These are the times when tears of joy and gratitude flow freely. His love is what makes all of this possible. For some, the combination of music and text that extol our love for Swami, bring tears of relief and healing.

Does everything move easily and without any bumps and jumps? Of course not! How could we learn to adjust and humble ourselves if all went smoothly? By Swami's Grace, we are provided with plenty of opportunities to learn and grow spiritually. There are the times when people are very tired and communication breaks down. We have the chance to use our words with loving care and if we fail, there will be another time when, by His Grace, we will listen carefully and speak lovingly. Often the program for Christmas Eve, which contains Praise and Worship songs for Swami, is worked on all year. Many people keep their ears and hearts open to the words and melodies that express their love for our Beloved Bhagavan. However, when we arrive at Prashanti Nilayam, the time line is shortened.


Many projects need to be completed in a very short period of time. It has been my experience that Swami will send the perfect person at the perfect time. For example, the choir may be working on music that cries for a flute. With no effort on our part, someone will show up and ask if we could use a flute player. The quality of the musical talent is incredible. Professional musicians from throughout the world come bringing their instruments so that they can have the blessing of playing before Swami.

It is when these challenges arise that the Human Values really come into play. Someone may come with a song that they have composed out of their love for Swami. This person will want to have their love sung for Swami. However, the music may not be appropriate, the words may not fit the theme, or, frankly, it may be beautiful to the composer, but not to others. Here is where truth, spoken with love and compassion, must be uttered. When this happens it is amazing to see how speaking with love and from a place of dharma, people are able to accept that this song might be better used as a devotional song in their Sai Centre. Anger is rarely seen or heard. The occasional grumble is voiced, heard and dealt with. So many come wanting only to sing for Swami on this Holy occasion, that the challenges are dealt with in a spirit of cooperation.

My personal experience of the Christmas Choir for these past years, is one of great joy and humility. To be allowed to participate with hundreds of brothers and sisters in singing our love for Swami is the highlight of my year. The feeling of oneness is palpable. Are there little glitches along the way? Certainly, but the Love and Grace of Swami so completely permeates the environment that they become little nothings compared to the joy of serving Him.

Also on a personal level, but one that has been expressed to me by several choir members, is that the rehearsals become the focal point of Christmas. One becomes totally involved in giving and the feeling is one of focusing completely on Swami and pleasing Him. When focused upon singing His praises, we are raised above the petty level of everyday challenges. The experience then truly becomes a Holy Christmas to remember."

This year around 564 ladies and 230 gents hailing from nearly 38 countries were part of the adult choir. Co-ordinating this choir was Ms. Silvia Olden an energetic, exuberant lady with deep devotion who was able to hold this motley crowd together and mould them into one team, one voice. As Vijay Vengetas, an Australian devotee said,

"With nearly a 1000 voices raised in 'Unity', melodious notes pouring out in absolute 'Purity', how could we not feel the Divine Presence ('Divinity') around us. Christmas 2005, is truly a fantastic experience being in the choir. I have been in the Christmas choirs previously but this time seems different. The group is not only much larger but also very enthusiastic. I think, NO - I KNOW that much of our enthusiasm comes from our Director, Sylvia, who puts so much energy and love into everything she does. The stories she tells touches our hearts and teaches so many lessons. On the day of the narration the message comes out loud and clear as though it was meant specifically for you. Attending the practice sessions have brought great joy to many of us and it is no wonder that we convey that joy in our singing. I shall take away many wonderful memories but most of all I shall remember the joy of living each day as though it were my last. Swami's message is very clear - Be Happy".


What most people do not realize is the sheer amount of work that goes in to deck up and decorate the Ashram for every festival, and Christmas 2005 was no exception. The core decoration committee members, about 30 in number, arrived in Prashanti Nilayam about 3-4 weeks prior to Christmas to do the preliminary preparation work. Devotees come from all over the world to work in harmony, unity and love. So much love! The barriers of culture and language dissolve in Shed 36 where most of the decoration prep work is done.

The first thing that the core team does is get all the stored boxes of Christmases past from the storage warehouse near the Ashram Post-Office, which requires the tractor trailer to make 5 trips to get all the boxes. Additional material (the delicate items) are in the basement of North 5 and have to be carefully moved to shed 36. All these boxes are unloaded and unpacked.

Shed 36 is divided into seven designated decoration prep areas (the Mandir, buildings in the Poornachandra complex, pillars and fences of Sai Kulwant Hall, SKH gates, the canteens and deities like Ganesha, Gayathri, Buddha, and Jesus in the Ashram).

Wires are then strung for all these designated areas in a uniform manner so that bunting preparation work can be carried out unhampered and in an unobtrusive manner and later hung from these wires, till they are ready to be installed.

The front part of the shed has 3 main work areas. On one side is the Glitter Work, where devotees put glue over cardboard and wooden stars and then dip and sprinkle gold and silver glitter over them, then hanging them up to dry.

The second area is a work bench for Hot Glue Guns. These 4 hot glue guns are operated for sticking mirrors, sequins, and other items onto cardboard, timber and cloth. The third area is for the fabrication of longer items where operations like drilling and sawing are required.

Materials are brought from overseas, whatever devotees can fit into their luggage. But a lot of items including consumables like glue, paints, timber, foam boards etc. are purchased locally.

95% of the items are made from scratch and are re-used or recycled the next year. A good example of this is the number of earth globes left over from the youth conference conducted earlier. They were covered with gold glitter and had red ribbons tied to them with small mirrors, and they became the Christmas ornaments hanging from the Poornachandra balcony.

Every year the Christmas festival has a different theme. Unity of Faith being the theme for this year, the banner that was prepared and put up on the Mandir balcony stated "There is only one Religion - The Religion of Love". Across the Poornachandra gate another banner was put up that read "King of Kings".

Devotees work 3 shifts in a day (morn/afternoon/evening) completing 6-8 hours in a day, apart from attending darshan. This goes on till the decoration preparation work is complete and it is time to put it up. Teams are formed to cover all the different areas where the decorations have to be put up. When Swami gives His blessing at the most auspicious time, the devotees work through the night, till the wee hours of the morning putting up the decorations (for that is when the Hall is vacant). Ashram seva dals also assist, especially in tasks like the hanging of large items from the ceiling of Sai Kulwant Hall.

The cynosure of all, the centre-piece of the decoration, is the manger on the gents' side with statues of Mother Mary and Joseph with the baby Jesus in a crib. On the ladies' side we have a statue of the three wise men who came to visit the Baby Jesus in the manger. These beautiful mock-ups were made and donated by devotees from Italy . We give an explanation of the importance of these statues for Christians in the box below.


The diorama of the Nativity scene is a very traditional part of the Christmas decoration, though it is now caught up in controversy in the West. However in the Ashram, where all the festivals of the world are freely celebrated, this realistic mock-up of Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus is very much appreciated by the people of all religions who come here to celebrate Christmas and all the other festivals in the Parthi calendar.

Mrs. Milena Kunz-Bijno from Italy contributed the following explanation for the origin of the importance of the Nativity scene:

It was a chilly night in the year 1203 A.D. St. Francis had invited the citizens and the peasants of Greppio, a small hamlet near Assisi, to come for the midnight mass. It was Christmas Eve and the "poor monk" as the people called him, wanted to make a real reconstruction of the event that had brought the son of God down on earth.

So, Francis decided to dress a boy and a girl as Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus, and put them along with a cow and a donkey in a cave in the hills. The people of the village came through the fields bearing candles and bringing lambs and sheep, singing carols.

They reached the cave with Joseph and Mary and St. Francis started offering the mass. And then the miracle happened: an effulgent light enveloped the cave and everybody could see the newborn Jesus in the manger. The air was full of softness and everybody felt the emotion of witnessing the birth of Christ. The devotion of St. Francis was so great that Jesus had appeared!

Since then the habit of preparing a crèche is a dear tradition for the Christians. Several items, sometimes the full scene of the birth of Christ, are arranged ahead of Christmas and on the 24th of December at midnight the figure of Jesus will be put in the manger by the smallest child of the family.


The 3 Wise men, or magi as they are called, also occupy a treasured place in Christian lore as they are intimately linked with the birth of Christ.

The traditional view of the three wise men is that they came from Persia to pay homage to the baby Jesus, guided by a star. Their names were Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar and were also reputed to be kings. They brought costly gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh.

The frankincense, an incense used in temple worship, speaks of Jesus' priesthood. The gold speaks of Jesus' kingship. The myrrh, a spice or balm used in preparing bodies for burial, speaks of Jesus' atoning death.

Swami has often asked the primary school boys (while pointing to the statues of the three wise men) if they know who these figures are and He has also spoken about them on a few occasions, such as during Christmas 1998.

When Jesus was born, three Arabian kings came to see Him. They were overjoyed on seeing the new-born babe. While returning, the first king said to Mother Mary, “Mother, you have given birth to a child who loves God.”

The second king said, “Mother, you have given birth to a child who will be loved by God.” The third king said, “Mother Mary, your child is not different from God; both are one and the same.”


Once we understand the inner meaning of these three statements, we will know the truth. The one who loves God is the Messenger of God. The one whom God loves is the Son of God. The one who understands the principle of unity becomes one with God.

- Divine Discourse Christmas 1998.

A total of 70 devotees took part in the decoration team this year from different parts of the world. But the work is not over after the programme is done. When Swami gives the command, all the decorations have to be taken down, packed and put away in storage for the next year.


This year the Children's Choir consisted of 90 children, restricted to the ages 6-l4 years from 20 countries. Eighteen adults in the roles of organizing, childcare, and musicians brought the number to 108.

By giving the opportunity to prepare their songs over a number of days, Swami allowed the children to experience the depth of His boundless love, mixed with the clear discipline and structure as maintained in the ashram. This created an enormous building of character in a very short period of time. In this way, Swami planted the seeds of understanding how Swami’s children can live as an example of His teachings.

All the children showed their love for Swami by giving 100% of their effort in learning the songs and practising steadfastly. They also meditated and put on a little piece of paper a gift they wanted to offer to Swami in the form of replacing a negative habit with a positive one. These little papers were put on the Christmas tree, which was posted in front of the Poornachandra Hall (Swami's residence).

The children's choir was guided by Ms. Alma Badings, a long-time Swami devotee from the Netherlands. Great was her patience at playing Mother Hen to all these young and eager children for 4 hours of practice every day (9:00 to 11:00 AM in the morning and 4:00 to 6:00 PM in the evening), gently coaxing and cajoling, praising and giving tough love in turn, till all the children moulded into one unit, till they all sang in unison in one voice.

And as the days rolled by, the hard work seems to have paid off, for those of us who could listen as we passed by their practice, in the ground floor of the "double-decker" building. And as Christmas day came closer and closer they were all ready, willing, able and eager to go!

The Christmas Committee had a problem to place the children who could not sing in the choir because they were either too small or came too late to learn the songs. Then they had the idea to make them Swami's greeters. About 12 girls and 20 boys were given small flower bouquets and waited close to the car path to welcome Him as Swami passed by. When Swami looked at each greeter as He went by, one little girl was so overcome with emotion that she stayed in her room the entire next day crying with happiness!

We are immensely grateful to Swami for giving this profound experience of coming close to Divinity for all the children. The memory of it will give them strength and guidance throughout their life.


There are three canteens in the Ashram catering to different tastes - a North Indian (NIC), a South Indian Canteen (SIC) and a Western or Foreigner's Canteen (FC). While the Indian canteens play a major role during the Birthday celebrations by catering to the hundreds of thousands of people coming in streams to partake of Swami's prasadam, the Western canteen now plays the major role during the Christmas Holiday season, with the traditional Christmas Eve dinner being served to the devotees.

The canteen wears a festive look decorated with holly and twinkling stars and other Christmas decorations.


A huge picture of Swami adorns the back of the Hall. A Christmas tree with all ornaments and a sleigh with a cushion seat for Swami completed the decoration. All the tables are also well laid out and ready for the candle-lit dinner.

The gents and the ladies side both have a big queue right after the evening bhajan. The myriad volunteers and the canteen staff have been toiling the entire day to get the meal ready in time for the 7 PM service.

The eclectic menu this year consisted of asparagus soup, lasagne, mashed potatoes with cheese, spinach with corn and potato, Russian salad, white rice, dhal, chocolate and walnut ice-cream for dessert and herbal tea. And all this for just 30 rupees (or 67 cents)!

The doors open at 7 PM. The crowd comes enters in an orderly fashion. The Brahmarpanam Thanksgiving prayer is first recited in front of Swami's picture and the dinner is then served. The good food and the festive ambience on Christmas Eve set the tone for the grand Christmas celebrations in the morrow.


Christmas morning dawns with a little nip in the air and more than a little excitement. All the devotees are dressed in their best and eagerly waiting for the Father who had sent Jesus to Earth, to now come and bless them also.

After Swami got down from the car, in a departure from the norm, He cut the Christmas cakes first. There were cakes by the Overseas Devotees, the Hospital Staff, the Institute and Easwaramma School students.

After cutting the cakes, Swami sat down in His customary position on the veranda after profusely blessing all the devotees with His abhaya hasta (hand raised in blessing).

Christmas morning belonged to the students of the Sri Sathya Sai Institutions, as Swami had blessed music programmes by the Primary School violin boys and the Institute Brass Band.

After Swami had taken His seat, the Primary School boys take their place for the first item of the day. They are neatly dressed in white pants and a full-arm white shirt and a red vest that lends a neat festive touch.

The Primary School Violin Boys' Orchestra is made up of 17 violin boys, one cello, and 13 recorder boys. The programme consisted of the energetic Vigoroso, Dong Dong Merrily on High, Canon in D, and a jazzy version of Jingle Bells that is very well received by the crowd and warms them up for the next item.

Swami then gave permission for the Institute Band to begin its programme. The 36 musicians joyfully raised their music stands and stood in position as its conductor returned after speaking with Swami on the portico.


The instruments in the band include 2 flutes, 1 Piccolo, 6 Clarinets, 6 Trumpets, 3 Alto Sax, 1 Tenor Sax, 1 Baritone Sax, 4 Trombones, 3 baritones, 1 Band Leader, 6 Percussion instruments, 1 Tuba and 1 Sousaphone. The varied programme opened with the Christmas Carol Ring Christmas Bells, which the band played as a rendition of the Asatoma prayer. Other works included The First Noel, Christmas Candle, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Hark the Herald Angels, O Little Town of Bethlehem , Rocking Around the Christmas Tree, and Jingle Bells.

The Institute choir accompanied by the students of the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School next presented a bouquet of 10 carols before Swami as a grand finale to the morning's programme.

Two students, one as Uncle Sam and the other as Little Jack gave an introductory commentary before the start of each carol. The instruments accompanying the singers were 4 keyboards, 2 guitars (base and rhythm) and a saxophone.

The percussion instruments consisted of the jazz drums, the digital drums and other special effects instruments. While there were some core singers to lead everyone through the microphone, the entire student body joined in the singing accompanied by the devotees to make it a full participatory and a memorable experience for everyone.

Extolling the charm, grace and joy Christmas brings, the students started with the carol Oh the joy of Christmas Day which talks of how people the world over have gathered in Parthi to offer their love and prayers. The birth of Christ was heralded next in Ding Dong merrily on high, In Heavens the bells are ringing…

A beautiful piece on the guitar lead the crowd into All Night Long I shall burn my Christmas candle, leading next to a Deck the Halls Medley consisting of 4 songs (Deck the halls with boughs of Holly Fa la la, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, You better watch out and the crowd favourite Jingle Bells).

While the strains of Jingle Bells filled the air, a student dressed as Santa Claus comes bounding in and seeks Bhagavan's blessings, and then goes around throwing chocolates into the crowd.

A beautiful piece on the saxophone was the lead to the song Let Your Glory Fall, an inspired song filled with yearning for the Lord's touch.

The students then got everyone rocking with Aye ye ye Christmas Day, followed by Hallelujah Hallelujah…..


The next carol talks of the prophecy that Jesus made of His father's coming ("…a crown of hair upon His frame, a blood red robe just like a flame…") with the carol One day before He left His frame He showed His future name.

Accompanied with a beautiful violin solo, a prayer to the Lord (Who is all goodness) to take control of our lives and pardon us our misgivings was next with the carol God is Good All The Time.

The boys ended the morning programme on a very cheery note with With Love and Joy we wish you all a Very Very Merry and Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Distribution of prasadam followed by arathi brought to a close a warm and cheery Christmas morning programme.


The afternoon was exclusively reserved for the overseas devotees and brought to a fulfilling climax the arduous preparation and the hard work of the past few weeks.

A Short Christmas Skit


A small skit both at the beginning and at the very end of the programme (after the children's and the adult choir) brought to light the commercialization rampant in the celebration of Christmas today. The small kids also brought out the true spirit and message behind the birth of Jesus. While a full length skit had been originally planned and prepared, it was scaled down at the last minute due to the exigencies of time. The young children took it very well and it was an abject lesson for everyone else in faith and love. Listen to what a 12 year old devotee, Master Dhruvan Dellibabu from Raleigh, North Carolina, USA had to say: "One important incident that happened during my play was that I had somehow damaged my arm. I wasn't able to lift my arm at all and that was the week-end of the recording so I prayed to Swami and I managed to do my part well with my hurt arm. The next day we went to the doctor to check my arm. The doctor said that it wasn't broken so I didn't need an X-Ray, but a voice in me told me to have an X-Ray and it turned out that I had a broken arm. It was one month before the final performance so I prayed to Swami with all my heart and soul and when I got to Parthi my arm was better."

The Children's Choir

Two boys and two girls from the children's choir first welcomed Swami with a rose and sought His blessings. Then Ms. Alma Badings, the children's choir conductor, sought His blessings also before the kids went into their routine. They sang a total of 13 songs before our dear Lord.

Starting first with a prayer Ganesha Ganesha to Lord Ganesha to guide their way, the children next sang a Telugu song called Antaa Okkate manamantaa okkate. The gist of the song is - 'All are one, we are all one. Living under different flags we are all one.There is only one land, one language. If you are a Hindu or Christian, all are children of Mother Sai. If you are rich or poor, you are all eligible for Sai's love. We are all citizens of universal peace, all one.'


The children then sang Jesus Christ Tender Child, followed by All my little children do come unto me. Then they sang a joyous song called Bells are ringing Christmas morn; Tidings bringing, Christ is born. This was followed by Have a Holy Christmas and Noel Noel. Then they sang the quintessential Christmas song called Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Launching next to The Little Drummer Boy which had the crowd humming along.

This was followed by 2 songs singing a paean of praise to Swami called - Ev'ryone loves Sathya Sai Baba, He is God incarnate, followed by Sai Baba Sai Baba Sathya Sai Baba jai. The children then sang All night all day angels watching over us my Lord and then the perennial favourite Jingle Bells brought their thoroughly enjoyable programme to a close.

The Adult Choir

The Adult Choir was next and like the children's choir, they also sang 13 songs. Lead by Choir conductor Sylvia, the huge choir sang a Sanskrit prayer first Om Ekadhanthaya Vidmahe, Vakrathundaya Dhimahi, Thanno Dantih Prachodayath. (An Invocation to Lord Ganesha praying: Oh Lord Ganesha! The one-tusked elephant-headed Lord! Bless us with auspiciousness)


Then they launched with gusto into their Christmas routine for which they had been practising for so long. They began first with Turn Your Eyes Upon Swami, Look Full In His Glorious Face, and next they sang two songs of praise to Swami - Dark Clouds can't O'er Take Me, Fear Dare Not Invade…and Light is Your Form, Light Is Your Being.

A Spanish song Un Solo Dios Eres Tu Eres Tu Mi Senor was next. This was followed by Deep Within My Heart and Soul I find the Being Without Form and Sri Sathya Sai Baba, He Is The Light Of The World.

The melancholy My Lord And My God, Take Away From Me All That Parts Me from Thee was followed by an equally wrenching Where Are You My Krishna, Whither Have You Gone?


Turning more joyful with What's Love? It's The Voice Of A Dear One was followed by a Sanskrit song Tvam Adidevah Purusha Purana, Tvam Asya Visvasya Param Nidhanam.

The rousing Feliz Navidad was next and Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee was the last group song for the evening.Swami then instructed Sylvia that the choir could sing bhajans. The choir sang bhajans with aplomb and lead everyone to great heights of devotional ecstasy.

While the bhajan singing was going on, prasadam was brought to be blessed by Swami and then distributed.

Swami held a peppermint candy cane and after some time called Mr. Rafael Ferrero, a saxophone player from Argentina sitting in the front row, and lovingly gave it to him. Rafael beamed at this unexpected blessing and took his seat.


After a few minutes, Swami again called Rafael and started talking to him. A personal interview in full view of the Christmas crowd! After discussing some personal matters and giving Rafael the most valuable divine guidance, Swami waved His hand and made the most beautiful pendant for him. It was a circular gold framed pendant inlaid with precious stones. More discussion and instructions followed while the crowd sat up agog with excitement. Finally after fulfilling all his wishes completely the Lord blessed Rafael again and permitted him to resume his seat.


But a visibly happy Lord had to express His happiness some more. He called Michael, a guitar and drum player from the United States sitting next to Rafael and made for him an exquisite golden chain. He lovingly undid the clasp and personally tied the chain around Michael's neck. Michael buried his face deep in Mother Sai's lap suffused with His love that flowed not only to him but also engulfed all of us sitting in the crowd. Swami then asked Michael "Are you happy?"- perhaps because Michael had been quite anxious all evening worrying if their music would please the Lord. What glorious words of assurance from the Lord - soothing and allaying fears and pouring bliss, unending bliss in everyone's heart.


But the "fireworks" were not over yet. Roger Dietrich, a flute player sitting next to these two who had already been honoured, was the next one to be called. Swami made a ring for him which He personally slipped onto a finger of Roger's right hand. Roger was overcome with emotion and speechless. Swami graciously permitted him to take the much sought padanamaskar before returning to his seat.


After that Swami signalled for the bhajan to stop and wanted that the arathi be taken.

Three of the people who had toiled hard for the past three weeks to bring Christmas 2005 to a successful conclusion were honoured by being selected to do the mangalarathi to Swami.

After the arathi was taken, Swami turned to the choir again and asked everyone in the front row "Are you happy?" and then blessed them profusely.




While there was no formal divine discourse this Christmas, by His repeated emphasis on being happy, the Christmas message was quite explicit and clear - Don't Worry, Be Happy - for on the road to happiness, happiness itself is the road!


On December 26th, two musical programmes were on offer: first was a group of Jewish singers from Australia called the Shalom Group who sang spiritual songs for Swami in Hebrew and the next programme was by a group of musicians from Southern California and Hawaii who also presented a musical programme for our beloved Swami entitled Life is a Song Sing it!

The Shalom Group

The Shalom Group is a group of Sai Jewish devotees who have come to the Lotus feet of Swami about 20 years ago, and are now living in Perth, Australia. The Shalom Group consists of a total of 21 people and 11 of them had come to Prashanti Nilayam as part of an Australian youth group to attend the Christmas celebrations. The Shalom group have been singing Jewish spiritual songs for the last 8 years. These spiritual songs praise the glory and love of God and pray for peace and love in the entire world and for all humanity.


The Shalom Group had been trying to come and sing in His divine presence for over 5 years and they were given the lifetime opportunity on Dec 26th, 2005. Auspiciously, it was also the Jewish festival of Chanukah ("The festival of Lights"), which this year coincided with Christmas and the New Year since it is celebrated over 8 days. Chanukah is celebrated to symbolise one of the great miracles of God wherein he kept filling a jar of oil that should have lasted only 1 day to light the menorah (Candlelabra) in the great Jewish temple in Jerusalem for a full 8 days!

The songs that they sang in the Hebrew language for Swami were Shalom and Adonolam. Shalom is a song to call the angels to participate in our prayers and goes on to praise the righteous man that follows in the path of God with right action. Adonolam calls on the Master of the Universe, Who is and always will be; Who ruled before any creature existed and Who with His will created everything.

The Sathya Sai Singers Group

In 2005 the devotees of Southern California were given the opportunity to travel together as a group on a pilgrimage to see Bhagavan for Christmas in December. The devotees were given the opportunity to choose one of four special sadhanas: a choir group, a bhajan group, a play group or a service group. Each of these groups met separately one or more times a week to practise their offering to Bhagavan.

The choir group, called the Sathya Sai Singers, met twice a week for six months in order to rehearse and make the final song selections that they wanted to perform for the Lord during the Christmas celebrations in Prashanti Nilayam. They performed at several of the monthly group meetings near Los Angeles as well as at the December Southern California public meeting and at a church near San Diego in order to perfect their presentation for Swami. The bhajan group and the play group also met weekly to organize and rehearse their offering for Bhagavan. Everyone prayed that Swami would allow the groups to perform in His divine presence.


On December 26th, the prayers of the Southern California devotees were answered as Bhagavan graciously consented to have the choir sing in Sai Kulwant Hall. Ms. Maryalice Jessup, the choir director, came forward to give Swami a special handcrafted programme and a red rose on a silver tray. Bhagavan (who was seated) stood up to greet her and smiled lovingly at her, saying "Very happy, very happy!"

This group of singers from Southern California and Hawaii presented a bouquet of 7 beautiful songs to bring to a finish one of the most exciting and beautiful Christmas celebrations in Prashanti Nilayam in recent times. They started with a beautiful song "For The Children" which pleaded with everyone to save the trees, the rocks, hills and valleys, the seas and the planet for the children. Moving on to a prayerful song called "Lord Of Love", they prayed to Swami that O Lord of Love, I come to You and give You my life. I Surrender all, and I make You one with my life.

The next song - "You Raise Me Up" - talked about how Swami's support helps all to get over weary and troubled times. This was followed by a song from Walt Disney's "Pocahontas" called "Colours Of The Wind", and is a song depicting the era in United States' history when England was sending people to explore this "new" land. In this song, Pocahontas, a Native American woman, is chiding John Smith, an Englishman, for his narrow views about nature.

"In This Very Room" - the next song expresses hope that in this very room there is love, joy for all of us; for Baba, Sai Baba, is in this very room. The words of the song, "How Beautiful Your Songs Of Praise" - How true and steadfast your ways. Let all that is within me rise and sing. How beautiful Your Holy name. How marvellous Your saving grace, that You would call me as Your own…how beautiful…beautiful, left everyone moved to silent tears overcome by the surging emotions of love for Swami.

The last song called "Here I Am Lord" sang of the glory of God and His promise to tend to the poor and the lame.

Swami was immensely pleased with the heart touching lyrics and the soulful music. He called the conductor, Ms. Maryalice Jessup, and manifested a beautiful gold chain with a gold cross encrusted with blue sapphires and asked her to slip it around her head.

It was a little tight and would not easily go over and the conductor turned to the audience and humorously remarked, "I have a big head". Swami was touched at this innocent and pure humour flowing spontaneously as love from the heart. Swami also blessed Maryalice with a personal audience the next day.

Swami then asked the group to sing bhajans and the group obliged magnificently singing both English and Sanskrit bhajans. Swami sat for nearly an hour enjoying the music, before arathi was offered - by one gent each from both the groups (the Shalom Singers and the group from Southern California) and likewise by two ladies together - one from each group.


An entire year has gone speedily by. We are now in the New Year - 2006, a year of new challenges and new opportunities. While we mistakenly tend to view time as discrete independent intervals, we do not always consciously realize that time is a continuum and thoughts and actions from the past (samskaras) continue to influence and shape our present circumstances and thoughts (prarabdha karma). And these samskaras are not just limited to our present lifetime but go back to many prior lifetimes also.

The Vedas also tell us that there are 8.4 million different species on earth. Though we have since time immemorial been travelling and taking birth with different bodies in all these 84 lakh species, this time around we have been blessed with a human body. Thus obtaining a human body itself is a very rare occurrence, but to obtain a human body at the same time the Avatar is also present on earth is the rarest and most fortunate of circumstances. And of the billions of people on earth, we are the most blessed to come in the divine presence of the Avatar and have His Darshan, Sparshan and Sambhashan.

This opportunity must not be missed for who knows how many millions of lives will have to go by before such a rare opportunity comes our way again. So let us resolve in this New Year to grasp this opportunity and realize the aim of our life; let us resolve to love Him, pray to Him and listen to whatever He says. And His message for 2006 seems to be "Always Be Happy!"

Jai Sai Ram.

- Heart2Heart Team


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Vol 4 Issue 01 - January 2006
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