Elsie Cowan initiated the first public outreach meetings in the United States on the first Sunday of each month in 1969, following Sathya Sai Baba’s directive to open the Sathya Sai Bookstore of America in Tustin, California. Known as “First Sunday” meetings, these meetings serve as an introduction to Sathya Sai and his teachings. Though the venue has changed over the years, these meetings continue to inspire newcomers.

The latest bi-monthly First Sunday was held on Super Bowl Sunday February 5, 2017. It opened with an informative video featuring various SSIO events such as public outreach and interfaith meetings, service activities, various community engagements and the very unique Walk for Values held all over the world. The audience viewed a short video of Sai Baba's discourse, in which he spoke eloquently about the purpose of the body to perform selfless service to society.

Guest speakers for this event were Sarojini and Shyam Kanagala of Texas, the daughter and son-in-law of Prof. Anil Kumar, Sathya Sai Baba’s long-time translator. Sarojini shared her family experiences growing up under Sai Baba’s watchful guidance from their very first visit to Puttaparthi in 1972 due to her mother’s ill health. She described how He stressed upon them the importance of education, and often treated them like a stern Father and a very strict Teacher would, reminding them “I am always watching you.” He also shared invaluable advice. One, in particular, she remembers till this day: “When things are going in your favor, you will have many friends, but when things go wrong, only God will be with you. God is your best friend.” Sarojini expressed gratitude for her precious experiences with Sai Baba and reinforced the message that Avatars (Divine Messengers) like Jesus, Buddha and Sai Baba come for the higher purpose of eliciting the divinity within human beings and lifting us to a higher plane of consciousness.

After moving to Texas in 1998, Shyam and Sarojini asked Sai Baba for more opportunities to serve but He directed them to focus on keeping their hearts pure. Bewildered at first, Sarojini began to understand the deeper import of His Divine advise when she began facing many personal challenges and pleaded with Him for inner peace. Sai Baba then guided her to meditate which led her, through intense self-introspection, to become aware of her own shortcomings, to begin to let go of judgments, and gain equanimity. She was able to seek answers within herself and realized what He meant by purifying the heart.

Shyam stressed on Sai Baba’s mission of raising humanity’s consciousness to realize the fundamental Oneness of all creation. Over the years, Shyam had come to realize that there were only two purposes that sanctify human life - to serve others and to know who one really is. Shyam recounted praying and asking Sai Baba ‘how do I seek and identify You and relate to You?’ He meditated deeply on the question and found the answer in a quote in Sai Satcharita:

You need not go in search of Me. Barring your name and form, there exists in you, as in all beings, a sense of being or consciousness of existence that is Myself. Knowing this, see Me in yourself and in all others. Thus you will realize the all pervasive Divinity and become One with Me.

After being inspired by these spiritually uplifting and inspiring talks, participants were then treated to a reception where they mingled with other Sai Center members and learned more about Sai Baba, His mission, and the numerous service activities carried out in His name.