The Zone 3 Young Adults Festival, ‘Beyond 2020’, was held over the Easter weekend from Friday 30 March to Monday 2 April 2018 in Hamilton, New Zealand. The very first Festival of its kind to be held in the Zone, saw over 200 Sai Young Adults from Australia, Fiji and New Zealand unite to reflect on how far we have come and how we can carry Sathya Sai Baba’s mission further, beyond geographical boundaries and beyond 2020.
The overarching theme throughout the Festival was IGNITE, as young adults aimed to IGNITE the flame within their hearts and journey forward as one family, to serve together with the common purpose of love. To IGNITE is to unify, inspire action, and to grow brighter as Sathya Sai Baba’s sparks in society. The Festival was centred around three key pillars: Morality ‘Change begins in us’, Spirituality ‘You and I are one’ and Humanity ‘Service to man is service to God’.
The Festival commenced with the Ember Games Phase 1, an ‘Amazing Race’ style game, where delegates were divided into four houses, (each named appropriately, based on qualities needed to IGNITE: Illumino (Illumination), Dedicatio (Dedication), Energio (Energy) and Amore (Love)), and completed a range of challenges. Delegates were shown that being present and available for Sathya Sai Baba, was the first step on this beautiful journey to IGNITE.
The IGNITE Sparkzone area consisting of exhibitions about major Zone 3 and International Projects was available for delegates to browse throughout the duration of the Festival. Some of the featured projects were: Serve the Planet (STP), the Sathya Sai International Youth Leadership Programme (SSIYLP), Love All Serve All (LASA) and Sathya Sai Schools. The creatively crafted exhibitions were both informative and interactive and added a touch of humour via the use of a fun photo booth.
The uplifting Opening Ceremony set the scene for the Festival going forward and included inspiring messages from the Zone 3 Chair Neville Fredericks, Central Coordinator Krishnan Nair, Zone 3 Young Adults Coordinator Shiva Karan and the National President of New Zealand, Murali Kruthiventy. A traditional New Zealand cultural welcome was offered by the Indigenous Maori Elders of the local Tainui Tribe. They shared the heartfelt message that, ‘together we recognize the common divine heritage that unites us all as one family’ and the Maori saying, ‘Aroha mai, aroha atu’: ‘love received is love returned’. Australian Indigenous, Native Fijian and Maori spirituality was acknowledged by narrations of creation stories from each culture.
Highly anticipated and dynamic guest speakers, Aparna Murali from Los Angeles and Amey Deshpande from Puttaparthi, graced the evening as they shared their experiences with Sathya Sai Baba and imparted beautiful messages.
The soul stirring Beyond 2020 theme song, ‘Lovelight’, echoed in the hearts of all as the first day came to an end and the flame within everyone was well and truly sparked.
“Burning brighter brighter
Burning ever brighter
Take me higher
Take me always higher”
An early morning programme of heart-warming devotional songs started day two of the festival. Amey and Aparna shared more uplifting talks on the theme of Morality. Participants then delved deeper in the ‘Ignition Sessions’; workshops facilitated by fellow young adults. Topics included ‘The Sai-tightrope of life’ and ‘Deep C Divinity: Diving deeper into your consciousness’.
As the day progressed, Phase 2 of the ‘Ember Games’ commenced with outdoor activities. ‘The Battle of SoSAIties’, a game show based on Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings and various religions, engaged all, demonstrating our oneness in a fun and exciting way. The day also included delegates from New Zealand sharing service activities they were involved with, through a comic skit.
The third day of B2020 was centred on Spirituality. Being April fool’s day, Amey shared a story about an April fool’s prank Sathya Sai Baba played on His students. He reminded all that Sai is not only our Guide and Teacher, but also our friend. Aparna highlighted that Sathya Sai Baba has so much love for us; we need only see things from His perspective and ask for His guidance. The delegates later engaged in various workshops including ‘Sacred Indigenous Spirituality’, ‘The Spiral of Life’ and ‘Golden Age Technology’.
In the afternoon the participants brainstormed service activities that could be implemented across the Zone in the IGNITE Forum. The National President of Fiji, Dr. Rajat Gyaneshwar, expressed his gratitude towards the young adults of Fiji and shared examples of Fiji service activities in a creative presentation entitled, Sai Talanoa.
The festival was joined by local leaders from New Zealand’s Maori, Islamic and Christian communities for the session ‘IGNITEing the Spirit: Sai Easter’. They shared stories and insights on the Easter message of Love. An Easter themed Ember Games Phase 3 followed with a Scavenger Hunt and Obstacle course.
In the evening a powerful and uplifting ‘Sai Symphony’ performance showcased Zone 3 talent, as young adults united to share their love for Sathya Sai Baba through music. As the day came to an end, Amey’s devotional singing workshop left all feeling inspired with the flame within everyone burning even brighter.
Zone 3 Chair, Neville Fredericks, gave his closing address early in the day, sharing in the energy and love fostered over the course of the festival. The Australia delegates then shared activities in their country through a creative multimedia presentation: Channel Sai News. The National President of Australia Singanayagam Indrapalan, made an address in which he shared his appreciation of the leadership young adults have shown in Australia and noted their unity across the zone.
The closing day events were centred on Humanity; putting Morality and Spirituality into practice. SaiX was a series of inspiring TedX style talks, delivered by fellow young adults including Dr. Shivendra Kumar, former International Young Adults Coordinator. A Q&A panel discussion with Aparna and Amey encouraged participants to seek and be good company and to never forget who they truly are – God.
During the memorable closing ceremony, Central Coordinator Krishnan Nair and the National President of New Zealand, Murali Kruthiventy, shared their sincere thanks and aspirations for the young adults of Zone 3. Shiva Karan, Zone 3 Young Adults Coordinator, then rounded off the closing remarks with an inspired speech focusing on the resolutions arising from Beyond 2020. He explained that in the coming years, the goal of Zone 3 young adults collectively would be to: ENRICH-EXPRESS-EXPAND. That is, to enrich young adults with the skills and spiritual energy required to drive the organisation forward, to express these skills through teams and projects, and to expand their love and service further into the community and all of creation. Ideas brainstormed in the IGNITE Forum contributed to these resolutions. One of the main resolutions addresses current global environmental issues. In 2020, Zone 3 will host a ‘Serve the Planet’ Environmental Forum with global communities, targeting change at the individual level. The forum will be unique in that Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings and messages will drive the forum. Fiji is highly vulnerable to climate change, and for this reason the conference will be held there.
As the final day concluded and delegates prepared to return to their everyday lives, they left enriched and ready to carry the flame forward burning ever brighter…
“May the spark of love-light reach you
Ignite the torch within me
Let it go everywhere
And bring everyone
Bathe everything in love”