January 1, 2021, dawned bright and sunny. Eager devotees waited in anticipation at Premamrutham Hall in Muddenahalli. As Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai walked into the hall dressed in sparkling white robes, joyous devotees greeted him with folded hands. Melodious bhajans rent the Hall as Swami moved among His devotees, sharing New Year’s blessings and smiles with all even as many of them came forward to take pada namaskar. Swami then took His seat on the stage and was joined by Sri B N Narasimha Murthy and Sri C. Sreenivas on either side. 

Dr. Sai Lakshmi delivered the opening address, welcoming everyone present as also those watching the event online. She wished everyone a very happy, holy, and auspicious New Year 2021. A Vedic invocation was then offered by the final year boy students of the University for Human Excellence, who chanted the Brahmananda Valli from the Taittiriya Upanishad. Dr. Sai Lakshmi then gave a brief recap of the events that occurred in Bhagavan’s mission in 2020. The year gone by had begun with Swami’s Divine visit to Sri Lanka, followed by the Annual Sports Meet at Sathya Sai Grama and then a visit to the far east including Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Laos and Thailand. 

Even the months of lockdown were made divinely memorable by the grace of Swami. During these months beginning March, Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai benevolently shared His para vidya teachings on the Geetha Gnana Yajna, the Master the Mind series and the Upanishads

In keeping with Swami’s teaching that both sadhana and seva should go together, the Annapoorna Trust stepped forward to assist the thousands of people who had lost their livelihood due to the pandemic by distributing dry rations to them. Relief work was carried out along with the Aarogya Vahini Trust and basic amenities were provided to those affected by the cyclone in coastal Bengal. 

Swami had initiated the ‘Feed the World’ programme in 2018. Youth from around the world who are part of this programme have continued to work and serve in their respective countries.  To date, over one million meals have been served to the homeless and to those who were in need during the pandemic.

On the healthcare front, the Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Pediatric Cardiac Care Hospital catered to 118,000 outpatients in the year 2020.  Over 13,700 surgeries and interventions were performed on little hearts, giving them a new lease of life, and nearly 90,000 screenings were performed. 

The Education mission of Swami, with 24 campuses and 38 institutions spread across Karnataka, one in Telangana and one in Tamil Nadu, underwent a metamorphosis. It transitioned from the Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva Group of Institutions to the Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva Gurukulam, imparting both para and apara vidya to its students. 

The National Institute of Open Schooling Curriculum was adopted to better accommodate and enable the all-around development of the students and to bring back the joy of learning. Although students could not physically attend school, teaching and learning continued through the online Gurukulam website and through the YouTube channel that was launched in May 2020 under the direct guidance of Swami. More than 1,365 video lessons were produced and made available to not only our students, but also to any student from around the world who want to learn, all of which is completely free of cost.

During the auspicious Navaratri Celebrations, new programmes in Vedic Studies and Fine Arts, Music, and Dance, were launched by the Sri Sathya Sai University for Human Excellence. Collaborations were made with like-minded institutions such as the Benares Hindu University, Kalakshetra Foundation and many more. On the auspicious day of Vijayadashami, Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai had announced that the Athi Rudra Maha Yagna would be performed as a part of the grand 95th Birthday Celebrations of Swami! 

The World Youth Meet 2020 took place with delegates participating virtually from around the world. In the last one-and-a half months of the year, Swami visited some of the educational campuses at Mandya, Hassan, Jayapura, and Hyderabad to bless and guide His young students. 

During Swami’s recent visit to Sringeri, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the Sri Sringeri Sharada Peetham in the presence of Jagadguru Bharati Tirtha Swamiji, towards the establishment of a Veda Patashala at Sathya Sai Grama. 

The recap of the year 2020 concluded with heartfelt gratitude expressed to Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai and prayers for His continued guidance and blessings for 2021.

Sri C Sreenivas, Chairman of the Sri Sathya Health and Education Trust, was invited to address the gathering.  He began by pointing out our singular good fortune to wake up to a world where we have beloved Swami as our friend and guide and as our courage and strength in life. Whatever we go through in life, our one constant is Swami, who is ever embracing and a reservoir of strength. If our purpose in life is filled with the kind of passion Swami exhibits day in and day out for His purpose, what we just heard and saw in the recap of 2020 is the result, said Sri Sreenivas. How persistent we are in the questioning of purpose and the fuelling of passion every day defines our personal love and devotion to Swami. Swami wants us to be as persistent as He is. To whom much is given, much is expected, and we must face distractions and disruptions and be persistent in what we do. With a prayer to dear Swami to fill our lives with strength, courage and the rigor of persistence, may we begin this beautiful day, and this year with His heart with us. With these words, Sri Sreenivas concluded his talk.

 Sri B N Narasimha Murthy who spoke next, talked of the knowledge given to Arjuna by Sri Krishna on the battlefield at Kurukshetra. Arjuna describes Sri Krishna as an avatar who is the “eternal guardian of the imperishable dharma,” which is the most important purpose of human life.  An avatar takes human form to interpret dharma according to the times, circumstances, and situations in an area. Today, dharma is not limited to an area or country, but it has become the global field. It must include the whole world in this modern age. The Sai avatar is the divine manifestation in modern history which combines three manifestations spanning two centuries.  

Shirdi Sai came to remind man of the existence of God as only one God.  Sathya Sai said God is in everyone, therefore “love all and serve all.” Today, Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai brings the message of, ‘Aham Brahman, Sarvam Brahman’, I am God, everything is God. 

We, who are so fortunate to be able to hear the divine message directly from the lips of the avatar, also have a huge responsibility to practice the knowledge He has given us! 

Narasimha Murthy then shared what he felt would be most helpful based on his own experience in life. When there is gratitude, that person is destined to rise in the spiritual realms.  Therefore, look up, remember God; look behind, look to your past and thank God; look ahead, trust God; look around, serve God; look within, see God; look beyond, be God!”  

This sums up the entire teachings of Shirdi Sai, Sri Sathya Sai, and Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai, so that we can practice what Sai has taught us, until we rise to the level at which we can experience, ‘Aham Brahma, Sarvam Brahma’.

Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai then blessed the assembly and all those watching worldwide with His benedictory message. He began by stating that when Brahman is experienced, such a person knows no fear, nor is there ever any remorse because such a situation never comes to a person who has known divinity within. Swami then spoke of the opportunity we all must ask ourselves about the events of the past year and He assured us that there are no mistakes, but only lessons if we learn from them. If we fail to learn from them, then it becomes a mistake. Sharing His perspective of the last year, Bhagavan said that in the lockdown times of forced solitude, there was no choice but to deal with one’s own self and that is when people found their own true nature. 

“Humanity,” said Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai, “definitely took a giant leap forward when millions felt for the pain and suffering of others and expressed compassion and concern for their fellow beings. Therefore, the idea of living selfishly for one’s own sake has, to a great extent, been wiped away from the minds of people! “

Speaking of the experience of humanity during these times, He said that this small, invisible organism (the virus) has been a great leveler, because it spared no one, rich or poor; everyone had to go through it together. Swami said that this experience made humanity understand that in front of certain forces of nature and divine will, we all are nothing and that we are all equal. 

Swami was pleased that many of these changes translated into great acts of service. He said that this was a blessing in disguise that strengthened human race. He also stressed that we should continue to serve and not leave behind the lessons we have learnt.

At Sathya Sai Grama, much of the time was spent in deep spiritual studies to understand one’s true nature and to experience oneness within and without. Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai took this time to bring out deeper levels of Vedantic knowledge and structure the core syllabus for the Gurukulam system of education. He said that schools will open again in a few months’ time. 

Swami then explained that, “The right approach to life is that within, you should dwell in the divine self that you are and without, all that you experienced within should be expressed through your head and hands as service to fellow beings, to society, to all of creation. “This is the greatest lesson that I believe all of us have learnt in this year, the balance between the within and the without.” 

Swami then reminded everyone to do good, day and night and contemplate on the great Vedantic truths every single day. Speaking to the devotees around the world who were watching the proceedings online, Swami said, “Plenty of blessings!  May you all lead holy, noble lives, lives of selfless service and sacrifice for the rest”. That is the way one can pay tribute to Swami and to all the great masters, by practicing the knowledge they have shared.  

“As soon as the restrictions ease, I will again travel and see you all in your own countries, or you will all travel here.  That time is not far, but definitely a few more months before this can happen.  I will take one big global tour for one-and-a half or two months.  As you all miss coming here, I also miss you very much, I miss seeing your smiling faces. With technology, we may have social distancing, but spiritually we have become closer this year.  As we found each other in our own hearts, and felt each other’s love and warmth, and prayed, we have become closer as a global family of Swami.  My blessings to one and all!”  

Mangala Arati was offered to Swami. His bountiful blessings, love and grace left all filled with warmth and gratitude.