The Ocean of Compassion|
Relief after cyclone
catastrophe in Andhra Pradesh in 1977
E-Magazine, November 15, 2003
Swami 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.
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.
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 ??.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.