The Sathya Sai Centre of Wentworthville celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. The celebrations were held in two parts. The first part consisted of a birthing kit project held in June, where approximately 50 members joined in to pack 800 birthing kits. The second part of the celebration was a devotional program held in September, which included a musical offering, video presentations, speeches and devotional singing. Below is a personal reflection on the history of Wentworthville Sai Centre by one of its members.
A brief history of Wentworthville Sai Centre and my association
In 1984 a few Sai devotees from Lautaka Centre, Fiji had migrated to Australia. They used to meet and conduct weekly bhajans at John Chand’s residence in Parramatta. In 1993 John Chand (an industrialist), along with Kannan Reddy (a talented artist and instrumentalist), Jay Singh (a lawyer and former Member of Parliament in Fiji) and Jack undertook the important initiative of starting a Sai Centre at John’s new house in Toongabbie.
On the 12th of June 1993, Toongabbie Sai Centre was officially inaugurated by the Central Coordinator at the time for the Sathya Sai Organisation of Australia, the late T. Sri Ramanthan at Guiren Place, Toongabbie. The centre had all wings and programs (Devotion, Service, and Education wings, and the Young Adults and Ladies programs) and weekly bhajans were held on Friday evenings.
My mother-in-law (sister of Dr Somasundaram, a pioneer Sai devotee in Jaffna, Sri Lanka and a dedicated Sai devotee) wanted my three sons aged 13, 10 and 6 years old to attend Bal Vikas (SSE). I enrolled my three sons in the first batch of Bal Vikas classes held on Sunday mornings at the centre. Shammi Chand, who was the Bal Vikas teacher in Fiji, conducted the classes. The children enjoyed the classes and they learned about human values at an early age, in addition to devotional singing, story-telling, acting in dramas and being involved in the group.
We were made welcome by the Centre members and gradually we started to lead devotional songs and were invited to participate in Centre activities. Within a few months, a number of Sai devotees from Sri Lanka joined in and also participated in the Centre. We had regular study circles and Ladies Program held their activities in devotees’ houses. Devotional singing at devotees’ homes were regular features of the Centre.
Very soon the Centre’s weekly sessions was moved to the public school in Fitzwilliam Road, Toongabbie to accommodate the growing number of devotees. Later the location was moved to Darcy Road Public School in Wentworthville. I had the opportunity to serve as the Service Coordinator and Devotion Co-ordinator of the Centre activities. My help in publishing, videoing and editing continue to help the Centre.
Following the rules of the Sai Organisation, the name of the Centre was changed from Toongabbie Sai Centre to Wentworthville Sai Centre to correctly reflect its location.
The service activities undertaken by the Centre in the past included feeding the homeless at Parramatta Park once a week, cleaning at the Sydney Murugan Temple once a month, collecting non-perishable food and old (good) clothes for the needy, visiting nursing homes, soup kitchen, adopting a road, tree planting, school cleaning, Telecross and blood donation.
In November 1996, on behalf of Wentworthville Sai Centre, I started to edit a monthly publication called “Sainet Journal” and later this journal was named as “Aum Sai Journal”. Being the only Sai Journal published in Australia at the time, by the request of the late T. Sri Ramanathan (Central Coordinator), the journal became a quarterly publication of the Sathya Sai Organisation of Australia & Papua New Guinea. It was renamed as the Australian Aum Sai Journal. The last issue of AASJ (No. 52) was published in Summer 2003.
Wentworthville Sai Centre played an important part in my life in Australia for the past 25 years. Wentworthville Sai Centre is helping all us to progress spiritually, independent of our differences in age and race, and to cultivate the most important human value of love in our heart. Meeting equal minded people promotes spiritual growth.
I have been fortunate to visit many Australian (Tasmania, Brisbane, Canberra, Geelong, Perth) and international Sai Centres in Singapore, New Zealand (Auckland, Christchurch), Hong Kong, Japan (Tokyo), USA (San Jose), Canada (Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary), Brazil (Recife), Fiji (Lautoka), Mexico, Chile (Santiago) and Sri Lanka (Colombo and Batticaloa. Sai Baba has helped me through his devotees from other parts of the world for my safety while travelling through unknown countries.
Although we have lost some of our dedicated Sai family over the years, I am happy to still see the steady growth of our Wentworthville Sai family. Many young adults and children are very much involved in the progress of the Sai Centre to benefit from the teachings of our beloved Sathya Sai Baba. Wentworthville Sai Centre is looking forward to another 25 years (and more) of success with committed young Sai devotees by the Grace of Sathya Sai Baba.
– Sriravindrarajah Rasiah