Welcome to the Sathya Sai Baba Center of San Diego-Point Loma
The following information is intended to help you become acquainted with the programs and practices of our Center.
The purpose of a Sathya Sai Baba Center is to provide a place for individuals to learn and practice Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings.
“Sai Centers try to spread interest in prayer, meditation and other spiritual practices which lead man Godward. They must demonstrate the joy that can be derived from singing and remembering the Lord’s Name, the peace that one can draw from good company. They must render services to the helpless, the sick, the distressed, the illiterate and the needy. The service must seek no reward.” — Sathya Sai Baba
THURSDAY EVENING DEVOTIONAL MEETING
Every Thursday evening we gather to sing devotional songs (“bhajans”). The bhajans are from 7:30 to 8:15 p.m. Special programs occur following bhajans and end at 9:30 p.m. Children are welcome. The Thursday evening schedule is as follows:
7:00 p.m. Center opens. Bookstore open
7:10 p.m. Quiet time/introspection with video on Sai Baba in Devotional room.
7:20 p.m. Devotional meeting begins. Brief announcements. Short reading of Sai Baba‘s teachings.
7:30 p.m. Devotional singing (bhajans) begins.
8:05 p.m. Arathi (Invocation). Meditation Closing prayers. Passing of sacred ash (vibhuti).
8:15 p.m. Membership meeting (1st Thursday) Study circle (2nd, 3rd and 4th Thursdays)
9:30 p.m. Meeting adjourns – please leave quietly.
Study circles are held on the second, third and fourth Thursdays of each month, following devotional singing. Each study circle focuses on a selected spiritual topic. Sai Baba says that study circle means taking a point and each person discussing what is the meaning of the point to them – like a roundtable conference. Each person gives his point of view and finally values are derived.
Study is now underway on Chapter 18 of the Bhagavad Gita. The focus for subsequent Study Circles this year will be “Devotion, Duty, Discipline”. It is projected that the Study Circles will sequentially focus on the Nine Steps of Devotion. The first step is “Listening” (Shravanam), for that is how we first learn of and are drawn to Divinity. The final step is total surrender to God, i.e. merger in God (Atmanivedanam). For more specific information on upcoming study circles, please contact the Devotion Coordinator, Bill Bailey, [email protected] or Michael Barnett [email protected].
SPIRITUAL EDUCATION FOR CHILDREN
Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) is provided for children of Sai devotees ages 6 to 17. Sai Baba refers to this spiritual aspect of education as Educare, which means to bring out that which is within. The human values of Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Love, and Nonviolence are hidden within every human being. They cannot be acquired outside but have to be elicited from within and translated into action.
SSE classes are held every Sunday morning and begin promptly at 10:00 am with bhajans. After bhajans, the different SSE classes meet for about an hour. We reconvene together for final announcements and closing prayers by 11:30 AM. Following SSE, there are light snacks and beverages, provided by the parents.
There are four SSE classes this year:
Group 1 (ages 6-9);
Group 2+3 Girls (ages 9-17);
Group 2 Boys (ages 9-12);
and Group 3 Boys (ages 13-17).
There is also a Lotus Group (ages 3-5), and a Parents’ Group.
The Regional theme for SSE this year is “Duty, Devotion, Discipline”. Devotion is the central theme, and the classes this year will cover the Nine Steps of Devotion as outlined by Swami. The first of the nine steps is “Shravanam” or Listening, so the year will start off with listening to the wonderful talks and stories of different Sai devotees.
We have an excellent bhajan learning/practice class, which the different SSE classes attend on a rotating basis (including the Parent’s Group); i.e. about every 5th class. This is led by some excellent bhajan musicians, who generously donate their time and expertise.
Parents are an essential part of SSE and are strongly encouraged to attend the Parents Group, (which meets at the same time that the children are in class). The role modeling of parents for their children, as sincere spiritual seekers and Sai devotees, is a great support for the SSE Program. The Parents’ Study Group facilitates study and application of Sai Baba’s teachings.
If you are interested in enrolling your child/children in the SSE Program, or helping with the education program in any way, please contact the SSE Coordinator, Michael Barnett,[email protected] for information, SSE location and specific driving instructions.
There are many service opportunities through our Center. We regularly feed the homeless and bring food and clothing to the Center for delivery to the poor. Some of our service projects are coordinated with our sister center in Encinitas, such as our joint quilting project and the monthly ‘Sai Sunday’ public program. If you want more information on service you may contact the Service Coordinators:
YOUNG ADULT GROUP
The San Diego Center has an active group of young adults ages 18 – 35. The Young Adults are involved in a wide variety of service projects throughout San Diego County, as well as having their own study circles, bhajans and a variety of other programs geared to the interests of young people. For further information please contact our young adult coordinators, For more information on the meeting locations or to answer any questions, please contact the YA Ladies’ Coordinator, Pratibha Dembla, [email protected], or
YA Men’s Coordinator, Siddharth Kannan, [email protected].
The Center bookstore and library are open every Thursday except the first Thursday, from 7:00 to 7:20 p.m. (before bhajans) and from 8:15 to 9:00 p.m. A wide variety of books on Sai Baba’s life and teachings are available. There are also cassettes of devotional songs, recorded discourses and pictures of Sai Baba. More books, tapes and photos can be obtained from the Sathya Sai Book Center of America in Tustin, California (714-669-0522). A catalog of available items is located in the bookstore area.
We want you to feel welcome and at ease at our Center. Below you will find more information about the customs and protocols at the San Diego Sai Center. You will also find a question and answer section about Bhajans (devotional singing). If you have questions, please feel free to speak with any of our officers or Center members.
President, Gary Yoder – [email protected]
Vice President, Agnes Hughes – [email protected]
Devotion Coordinator, Bill Bailey – [email protected]
Donna Kiley – [email protected] &,
Ramesh Doraiswamy – [email protected]
Sai Spiritual Education Coordinator – Michael Barnett, [email protected]
We will be happy to help you.
CUSTOMS AND PROTOCOL
Some of the customs at the Center have their origins in India, and some may seem unusual to you at first. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have. The following information will acquaint you with some practices that are not necessarily familiar to Western culture.
REMOVE SHOES AND LEAVE THEM BY THE ENTRANCE.
This is a common custom in many countries of the world. It signifies leaving the concerns of the world behind and entering a holy place with purity.
MEN SIT ON THE LEFT, WOMEN ON THE RIGHT.
This is a spiritual practice that makes it easier for us to focus all our attention on the Divine.
MODEST ATTIRE IS REQUIRED (NO SHORTS, SLEEVELESS OR TANK TOPS, ETC.)
Sai Baba teaches us to be modest in our appearance, which will promote our inner beauty and help us to stay focused on Divinity.
PLEASE TAKE A SEAT ON THE FLOOR OR SIT IN A CHAIR.
Sitting on the floor is our customary practice. However, please do what is comfortable for you. If you sit on the floor, please avoid extending your legs toward the altar, as it is considered disrespectful.
Please speak softly while in the Sai Center and maintain silence while in the devotional hall. Practice silence, for the voice of God can be heard in the region of the heart only when the tongue is still. Silence is the speech of the spiritual seeker.”
Sacred ash – traditionally called vibhuti, is distributed after the devotional singing ends. Vibhuti is a symbol of the ultimate reality that remains when our ego is burned away. It is considered to be a sort of ‘spiritual medicine’, and giving it to devotees is a trademark of Sathya Sai Baba (and of Shirdi Sai Baba before Him). You will be given a small amount to be taken in the right hand. People commonly eat the ash, place it on the center of their foreheads or rub it on an area of the body in need of healing.
MONETARY DONATIONS ARE NOT SOLICITED
“Fund collection is as much opposed to this movement as fire is to water.”
– Sai Baba
DEVOTIONAL SONGS (BHAJANS)
Bhajan is an Indian word meaning devotional song. The songs express devotion to many different names and forms of God (Sai Baba, Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, Christ, Buddha, Allah, Jehovah, etc.) We sing songs primarily in English and Indian Sanskrit or Hindi. They are sung in call and response pattern. Song leaders generally sit in the front rows. Follow along by using the song sheet provided.
At the San Diego Center, devotional songs are led and instruments played by assigned leaders. If you wish to become a song leader or instrument player, please speak to GaryYoder, Bhajan Coordinator, who will provide you with guidelines on becoming a leader.
The following questions are commonly asked about bhajans:
WHAT KIND OF BHAJANS DOES SAI BABA SUGGEST WE SING?
Baba says, “Sing familiar bhajans so that all can share Ananda (bliss).”
WHY ARE SOME SONGS SUNG IN HINDI AND SANSKRIT?
Although Sai Baba’s message is universal, the culture in which these songs first originated is East Indian. Centers around the world sing many of these songs in the language of their respective country.
WHEN DO WE CLAP AND HOW LOUDLY?
You are encouraged to clap throughout each song. Your clapping should blend in with everyone else. Strive to be unified. If you need guidance on the tempo, follow the tempo of the assigned leaders. The clapping of hands should not be louder than the tune of the song.
WHAT TIME DO THE BHAJANS BEGIN AND END?
The meeting starts at 7:20 p.m. After announcements are made, we have a short reading. Devotional singing generally lasts about 35 minutes – from about 7:30 to 8:10 p.m. Meditation and closing songs (prayers) follow the singing and last until about 8:15 p.m.
HOW LOUDLY SHOULD I SING?
Blend in with everyone else. No one should stand out or be heard above the group.
WHAT IF I HAVE A TERRIBLE VOICE?
Sai Baba says, “The bhajans must be sweet to the ear. If your voice is not pleasant or sweet, remain silent; that is the best service you can do.” We suggest that you sing, but sing softly.
HOW DO WE PRONOUNCE “BHAJAN”?
It is pronounced “Buh (as in budge) -jun.”
Some people pronounce it “Ba (as in Baba) -jun.“
CAN ANYONE PLAY AN INSTRUMENT OR LEAD A BHAJAN?
Instrument playing and bhajan leading are done by assigned leaders only.
HOW DO I BECOME A BHAJAN (SONG) LEADER?
A good place to start is by talking with Gary Yoder, Bhajan Coordinator. The song leaders practice each Thursday before bhajans (around 6:30 p.m.). It is helpful to borrow or purchase bhajan tapes and sing along with them at home or in your car. There are bhajan learning tapes with accompanying words available in the Center Bookstore.
IS THERE ANY PARTICULAR WAY TO SIT DURING BHAJANS?
As a sign of respect, please do not sit with your feet pointed towards the altar. Otherwise, make yourself comfortable. Baba does say that during singing and meditation, it is very important to sit with a straight spine. Rocking or swaying during the singing is strongly discouraged by Baba. He says it distracts others and diminishes the benefits we receive.
WHY DO WE SING THE FIRST SONG TO GANESHA
(GANAPATI, VINAYAKI, VIGNESWARA)?
Hindu tradition reveres Ganesha as the personification of OM (AUM), the Creative Word. Within human beings, Ganesha represents buddhi, the higher aspect of mind associated with conscience and wisdom. It is believed that with Ganesha’s Grace, no undertaking can fail due to subjective or objective obstacles. No Vedic ritual or auspicious act is ever undertaken without invoking Ganesha first. For this reason, our devotional singing begins with a song to Ganesha requesting that He remove the obstacles to self-realization.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF ARATHI (CLOSING PRAYER)?
Arathi is an invocation to bring divine illumination into us.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF “LOKA SAMASTA SUKINO BHAVANTU”?
“May all the beings in all the worlds be happy.”
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF “SHANTI, SHANTI, SHANTI”?
Shanti is a sanskrit word meaning “peace”. Chanting it three times signifies your affirmation for peace on these three levels:
- Peace unhampered by other beings.
- Peace undisturbed by one’s own body and mind.
- Peace undisturbed by forces beyond human control.
Om Sai Ram!