Penang State Sai Youth Camp 2013
By the divine grace of our beloved and ever caring and loving Bhagawan, the youths of the states of Penang and Kedah jointly organized a youth camp that was held on the 12th and 13th of January 2013. Held at the Nature Lodge – a bungalow on Penang Hill, this camp brought together many youths, many whom have never met or seen each other before. Nine jeeps had been booked to transport everyone and all the luggage from the bottom of the hill to the bungalow.
Some in the organizing committee and participants had gone up earlier to make preliminary preparations like the setting up and decorating of the alter, and readying the sound system. Things were going smoothly and as participants streamed in from the arriving jeeps, they were registered and directed to their respective rooms, which were strictly gender specific. There was ample food for breakfast by the grace of God and generosity of some of the elders and youths who had readily volunteered to cook. The camp proper was scheduled to start at 11:20a.m. and anticipation and excitement was quickly building up, with beautiful music already being played, and bhajan singers, both organizers and participants, were enlisted for the bhajan session later.
While the atmosphere was increasing in spiritual vibrance, some in the organizing committee, while happy and excited, were also on tenterhooks, as they were keenly aware of a separate drama unfolding concurrently, far away from Penang. Early that morning, it came to be known that the National Youth Coordinator, who was driving up to Penang for the camp, had met with an accident, and that his car was completely wrecked. By Divine grace, another brother from the Sai family from Kuala Lumpur who was also driving up to Penang for the camp chanced upon the wreck minutes after it happened, and stopped to assist our National Youth Coordinator. We were told that he was injured but not too seriously, and that in relation to the accident, he was not at fault. However, apart from that, we had no further information, and were anxiously making calls to find out more about the situation, which wasn’t very easy at all given the notably dismal cell-phone reception from the top of the hill.
However, at the intended time, the camp began with short speeches from the Penang and Kedah Youth Coordinators and the Organizing Chairperson, both welcoming the participants and delineating the rules of the camp. With the ending of the speeches, began the chanting of the Vedas, instantly supercharging the spiritual vibrations already present. Following the chanting of the Vedas, and short bhajans, a short video of Bhagawan speaking was played, and immediately after this, participants were divided into groups for an ice-breaking session. This involved participants coming up with ‘flags’ containing any universal message. Quite unexpectedly, the artistry and creativity apparent in the finished works was rather commendable! Right after the ice-breaking, lunch was served.
Following lunch, was the Gayatri Session. This session was an exploration of the Gayatri Mantra – the supreme mantra that our beloved Bhagawan Himself has told us to not forget, even if we forget any other mantra. The Upanishads, Rishis and many holy personages, have, throughout history extolled this great Mantra, and this session was an attempt at further promulgating a greater understanding and appreciation of this SUPREME mantra for the benefit of the chanter. Following this, there was a games session.
Here participants were divided once again into groups, and each group was divided further into 2 sub groups. The concept was for each group to build a bridge that will be tested against different weights in the end. However, the bridge was to be built in halves, each sub-group building one half. The subgroups were not allowed any form of communication except at certain closely monitored intervals. During these intervals, one participant from each sub-group was allowed to communicate with the other and discuss their progress, but the catch was that communication was only using either words with no hand motion, or hand motions but without talking, or some other imposed handicap. The desperate attempts to successfully communicate their meaning surely did liven things up. It also allowed us a brief glimpse into how monumentally challenging the lives of those challenged physically and mentally, and how grateful we ought to be for the full physical and mental capacities we have been gifted. Immediately after this was a quick game of two groups of participants balancing a long tube of connected straws on two fingers, with the objective of everyone simultaneously lowering it down to the ground. It sounded simple enough but it was quite hellish in reality, and by the end of it the level of interaction had risen up a few notches and the level of guardedness had reduced considerably.
By the end of the games, it was evening, and everyone was free to have a shower and return for dinner, or should they wish to skip a shower, they were welcome to have a little drink and food. Before dinner, one of our respected elders gave a brief, but insightful and rivetingly interesting explanation of the food mantra. While participants ate, the battle with poor network coverage continued in the repeated attempts of contacting our brother who was with the National Youth Coordinator. We had been informed that a police report had been lodged, and that they were currently in the Penang General Hospital. Whether or not they would be coming up Penang Hill was still uncertain but the Jeep provider was alerted of the potential need for additional transportation past usual working hours. All we could do is pray, have faith, and hope for the best.
After the early dinner, participants were assembled for the next activity – the Night Hunt. The concept was similar to a treasure hunt, and was built around a part of the Ramayana. This session had participants walking around the premises, and was an opportunity for them to somewhat be a part of a reenactment of the great epic – being involved, while also imbibing some of its supreme messages. While the night hunt was ongoing, it was confirmed that the National Youth Coordinator will be spending the night in hospital under observation, and that the kind brother that had been with him the whole time will be joining us on the hill. Immediately transportation was arranged, and after much suspenseful waiting, the angel of a being finally arrived. He also brought with him from the National Youth Coordinator a bag japamals with each having 22 Rudrakshas to be distributed at the end of the camp. By this time, the Night Hunt had ended and the next session – Journey to God – had commenced. Nevertheless, some of us in the organizing committee were keen on getting a better picture of the events that had transpired, while our starved brother only now ate his first meal of the day.
Firstly, this brother of ours who had been attending to our National Youth Coordinator the entire time was technically not even supposed to attend this camp. Having made a vow for Thaipusam, he was under strict rules and restrictions and had been consciously avoiding outings and even Sai activities, just sticking to attending bhajans in the Centre. However, about two weeks before the camp, he had, seemingly by pure chance, met the Penang State Youth Coordinator in the Hanuman Temple in Brickfields, who then informed and invited him for this camp. Oddly enough, he was excited and agreed to attend. Within a day or two we had even received his completed registration form by fax. If there was anything notably strange or out of character in this temple visit, it was that this brother was given a lime, by a complete stranger, who told him something to the effect of that he will need it. This lime, judging from the puncture holes in it, came from a garland of limes that was most probably placed on the Hanuman statue earlier. Adding to the mysterious divine slant to what seemed like a tragedy, this brother informed us that just a few days before the camp, he had a dream of Swami, telling him that He has a task for him. The dots finally connected when he came across the car wreck of the National Youth Coordinator.
While there was sadness and disappointment over the accident and hospitalization, now we saw that our beloved Bhagawan had overseen the whole incident, and had long before put things in motion so as to reduce the impact of this event. Swami had sent an angel to take care of, support and assist the National Youth Coordinator, and had provided them both the energy of the Great Lord Hanuman. Quoting from the book Vishwaroopa Sai by Irene Margaret Watson where Swami said of Lord Hanuman:
“Hanuman – The God – The Monkey God Hanuman.
Was he a God?
Of course, there was and is no greater than Hanuman.
Hanuman for security, Hanuman to still the Monkey Mind, Hanuman for strength. Above all – no feat was ever too great for the Mighty Hanuman.
No chore was too big or too small for Hanuman to conquer.
He was and is still – The Monkey God that many forget to give credence to.”
Upon further inquiry, we learnt that that in the accident our National Youth Coordinator had suffered a burst lip and a broken tooth, and was a little shaken by the whole thing, but thankfully had no serious injuries to his head or anything too major. The accident itself happened not with another vehicle but was a matter of him losing control as he swerved to avoid running into something. Many more significant details are being left out in this article, but in the end, we came to see and realize with gratitude in our hearts that Swami really had been overseeing the whole matter.
The whole time this conversation was taking place, the Journey to God session was in full swing. This session was relatively a very quiet and meditative session where participants sat on mats in the open air, in a guided meditation with a very soothing and rather ethereal sounding version of the Gaayatri Mantra being played in the background. During this event, we were gifted by Swami to witness a miracle. One of the elder devotees who had accompanied us for this camp was taking photographs and in one of them, clear strobes of light could be seen reaching down from above to the heads of those participating in the session. The photograph itself was sharp and clear, with no blurs that usually result from a shaky hand. This we believe, was a rare opportunity given to us by Swami’s grace, to capture in the photograph the subtle energy we’re connecting with during meditation, aided by the Gayatri Mantra. The Journey session to God continued with meditation, and after that a session where personal stories were shared which allowed us to see the many ways Swami has been present and has taken care of matters in each other’s lives. We were also gifted to see how each ‘personal relationship’ with Swami differs, and how He is there in different ways, to continually guide, support, and protect. All the stories were truly touching and heartwarming. The Journey to God session ended with each participant writing on a little piece of paper what he or she wished to say to Swami or to thank him most for, tying that paper up with string, and entering a hut with an elaborately decorated alter for Swami inside, placing it there, and spending a few quiet moments with him before exiting and heading for bed.
The next day started early – 5:30a.m. to be exact, with Yoga. This constituted of basic poses and nothing too life threatening. It is only after this that participants went to shower and perform the rest of their morning ablutions. Everyone regrouped once again to begin the Aumkar session, which was followed as usual by the Suprabatham, Sai Ashtothram and then bhajans. After this, breakfast was served. During this time, some took the opportunity to worship the newly risen Sun and even chant the Gayatri mantra.
After breakfast was a talk by a respected and revered elder. This session was highly interesting, and ranged from an explanation of the Ganapathi Prarthana, to the five elements, and Hindu philosophy and spirituality, all connected with Swami’s teachings. In this session also, it was made known to the participants how the Gayatri mantra is also a formula, and how to use it. Immediately after this was the Gratitude Session. The idea and concept was borrowed from the book The Magic by Rhonda Byrne, and was an exploration on how gratitude plays such an important part of our lives, and how we can use the energy of gratitude to neutralize negativity. This session centered around making ‘Gratitude lists’ – a simple physical activity that effectively redirects the attention of the mind to the positive, and instantly brings loads of positive energy into the person, and thus diluting and neutralizing negativity.
By this time, much sitting and listening had been done, and thus the short game of charades was a welcome break. While we’re familiar with how charades normally work, this game started similarly, but soon a spiritual twist came into play with topics being related to God, the Ramayana, and so on. After much laughter and invigoration, the next session started –a sharing session by the youths of Penang and Kedah of the activities they have performed or are currently undertaking. This was an eye opening session for many of us. Of particular note was how the youths of Kedah had performed so much seva, many of them sacrificing their own pocket money of which they do not even have that much of, for the sake of the activities they carry out. Many of them are in the medical or related fields of equally crushing academic demands, yet many of them sacrifice much of their precious time on weekends to do selfless service. This was the final session of the camp and it certainly left us with a lot to mull over and think about. Following this were the few formalities of closing, and then lunch. Soon the jeeps were once again arriving but this time to take everyone and everything down the hill. It was for many a rather melancholic and sad affair. After being in such close proximity with Swami for two days, there is a longing for the feeling to continue. Not long after arriving at the bottom, some of us who had not yet dispersed met the National Youth Coordinator, who was driven there by a Sai devotee who was a doctor in the hospital. He did look rather different from what we were used to seeing, but all the same, we were grateful that it was not any worse. He made the trip back to Kuala Lumpur with same devotee that had met him on the highway after the accident.
It did not take too long before everyone had left the place. Now, the camp was past, and remained alive in our hearts and memories, and perhaps some subtle dimension or dimensions we know not of. In fact, the past, present and future is all in Swami, so the camp remains most permanently in Swami Himself. We are so very thankful to Swami for allowing this camp to take place, for overseeing its preparation and its execution. We owe a significant degree of thanks and gratitude to those that run and help out at Nature Lodge, for making the necessary preparation and arrangements for our stay. A great deal of appreciation has to be registered with the youths of Kedah, in particular those with the Aimst Bhajan Unit for coming all the way to participate. While the camp ran smoothly, it could not have been done without the great generosity of many of our elders and their better halves and also the Sai Home who so kindly cooked and provided large and bountiful quantities of food. Not only that, one of our sisters from the Sai family worked with such dedication on the hill – cleaning the tables, sweeping the floor, washing the pots and ladles, making drinks, heating drinks, setting up the rubbish bin, and so many other things that really required a certain incredible determination of spirit to undertake such simple yet important things. We also extend our gratitude to the elders and youths who contributed to this camp both financially and otherwise, and also for the time, warmth, kindness, generosity, hospitality, and counsel and consultation that was provided before the camp, for accommodating the youths, and not just allowing this activity to be carried out but for also supporting it strongly. We thank the National Council for their support and also the State Council for their kindness and understanding. As with every activity, the budget is such a crucial matter, and really, without Swami’s direct involvement and intervention, things could not have turned out the way they did, and we really thank Him so much for this. Thank you, thank you, thank you, to God, Bhagawan Baba, and to all else, for the gift of this camp. Let us hope that the currents of spirituality will run through our veins in increasing potentials, so that our bonds in spirit may grow stronger, allowing us a greater capacity to perform and do ever more, for the Lord.