Sai Baba Sri Sathya Sai Baba

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Sri Sathya Sai Baba Service Activities

  The Ocean of Compassion
Relief after cyclone catastrophe in Andhra Pradesh in 1977

Source: Radio Sai E-Magazine, November 15, 2003

THE-FACE-OF-COMPASSIONSwami often says that man is a limb of society; society is a limb of mankind; mankind is a limb of Nature; and Nature is a limb of God. This is the hierarchical and organic relationship between man and God. If man forgets this, he can and does get into all kinds of problems, as in fact is presently happening.

Man today has completely forgotten that Nature does not stand alone, and that it is the Creation of God. Out of compassion, God has packed Nature with innumerable bounties, all for man to use and enjoy. However, the use of these gifts must be within reasonable bounds, going hand in hand with the expression of gratitude to God. But alas, the use [or rather the exploitation] of these bounties has become shockingly reckless, and there is no gratitude either. Under such circumstances, Nature does not remain a silent spectator. Incredibly patient she is but when aroused, her fury is unmatched. Using the law of reflection, reaction, resound, she punishes man via murderous tornadoes, terrifying typhoons, grim famines, deadly epidemics, harsh droughts, disastrous floods, fearsome avalanches, massive landslides, fiery volcanic eruptions, devastating earthquakes, and what not.

REBUILDING-LIVESMeanwhile, what should one do when disaster strikes? There are some that say, "It is all God's will. Those who suffer are destined to do so. Let us leave them alone." This is an incredibly ridiculous argument. If it were taken seriously, there would be no room for any doctors! Baba makes it very clear that we have no business to sit in judgement on others. Rather, we must rush to help - that is what the famous parable of the Good Samaritan is all about. And just so that we do not forget, Swami repeats that lesson by His own personal example any number of times. His compassionate response at the time of the Andhra cyclone in 1977, and the Gujarath earthquake in 2001 are two just two such instances.

VICTIMS-OF-THE-CYCLONEA terror-striking cyclone had hit the Andhra coast in 1977. The cyclone brought in its wake, a twenty-foot tidal wave [i.e., about seven metres high], that spread itself over a large part of the coast and penetrated about thirty miles [about fifty kilometres] inland, before spending its fury. The devastation inflicted by the combined force of wind and water was enormous. Tens of thousands died, cattle perished in large numbers, scores of villages were wiped out, and an enormous number of coconut trees were uprooted. The survivors were confronted by disease, despair, and decimation. Bhagavan directed the Seva Dal from Andhra to rush to the area. Truckload of clothes, rugs, and whatever could be gathered were speedily despatched ??. TRAGEDY-IN-GUJARATH Four relief camps were set up. Massive provisions and materials being carried by devotees as headloads. They had to wade through slush and mire, through thick clouds of stench from rotting corpses and carcass. Indeed the first task was to bury or burn these, which they found in heaps on the ground and even on trees and bushes. Kitchens worked round the clock in four strategic centres for over a month. Food was sent from there to several places, including remote ones ?.. Besides this, the Seva Dal helped to build huts. They also gave away, utensils, clothes, and rugs, as a part of the rehabilitation. When the Seva activities finally came to a close, the volunteers were happy that the faces of the masses around them were bright with gratitude and devotion for Bhagavan.

WHEN-THE-EARTH-SHOOKIt was 8.45 A.M. on 26th January, 2001, a day celebrated in India as Republic Day. In Delhi the Nation's Capital, an impressive parade is held in the morning at which the President takes the salute. Around the same time, parades and flag-hoisting ceremonies are held all over India, particularly in schools. In Gujarat, many children were marching to their schools at that hour. And then the earth shook fearsomely, like never before. Buildings crumbled and in a few quick seconds, thousands were trapped under the debris, including school children on their way to parades. Entire villages were wiped out just like that, in barely a few minutes. Death did not make any distinctions - the young, the old, the rich, and the poor, all became equal before it.

RELIEF-FROM-THE-LORDAs news trickled in from the disaster area, gloom descended over the Nation. The cry of anguish reached even far off lands, and help poured in. Baba was in Bangalore then, spending some time there after the inauguration of the big Hospital. People rushed to Him to give the news about the disaster. Quietly He listened. He of course knew much before anyone else when the disaster actually struck and also why; but He did not give any inkling of what He knew. Silently and most unobtrusively, He organised help and relief in typical Sai fashion, as soon as He returned to Prasanthi Nilayam. Trucks were lined up, loaded with food and other relief items, and given a loving send off with devotees singing Bhajans and Swami personally blessing the convoy. While Seva Dal volunteers from Gujarat and the neighbouring state of Maharashtra were already on duty at the distress spot, Baba added a sweet touch by specially sending some of the people from Prasanthi Nilayam, to go all the way to Gujarat, stay there for as many days as were required, and supervise the distribution. In many ways, this was reminiscent of His sending Mr. Kasturi to supervise Seva during the Andhra cyclone of the seventies. SEVA-IN-GUJARATH

For most volunteer organisations, service ended after the items had been distributed. With Swami it was quite different. He had given instructions that these villages [which had been reduced to ghost-towns] have to be rebuilt by Sai effort - that is the most wonderful and unusual part of the Seva rendered in Gujarat. In other words, with Sai it is not just relief but also rehabilitation. That is real concern and that is real compassion. Long after other volunteers have returned their respective bases, Sai volunteers are still in Gujarat, helping to restore normalcy.

SHARING-AND-CARINGThe Gujarat earthquake taught many lessons. The first was a reminder that Nature is not to be treated lightly. In fact, in His Discourse on the occasion of Sivarathri that followed the quake, Baba reminded devotees of this fact. Next, by His action, Swami also firmly refuted the flimsy excuse sometimes given for inaction, namely that people who suffer are destined to do so. He made it abundantly clear that we not here to analyse the Law of Karma but to render service, irrespective of the antecedents of the recipients of the service - that is what true Love and compassion are all about.

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