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Sri Sathya Sai Baba Teachings


 (Indweller of Hearts)
By Bombai Srinivasan

Chapter 20
Bharathi Nagar

Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organizations in India were planning to celebrate Bhagavan’s 60th year of advent, on a grand scale. During the 59th Birthday celebrations itself, several proposals concerning the manner and modalities of celebrating the unique event, were discussed. It was proposed initially to select about 600 villages/slums all over the country one year in advance and start rendering seva to such villagers and offer the same at His Lotus feet on His 60th Birthday. Targets for every state were fixed. The proposals were submitted to Bhagavan on His 59th Birthday. Swami blessed the project but with a minor change in the number of villages to be adopted Swami advised that seva would be a sacred form of sadhana and directed the members of the organization to adopt 6000 villages/slums for this purpose. Swami exhorted them to move into villages and assured them of His Presence in such places even before they actually arrived. By this He was also assuring them of His constant blessing in their endeavor. Swami, thus provided a strong motivation and inspiration for "seva" promising a continuous flow of His Blessings.

The State Heads of the organizations decided to abide by His Will and implement the seva activities in the villages/slums with utmost devotion and dedication. The Divine Will prevailed which helped to exceed the target before the 60th Birthday celebrations. The Seva Dal volunteers visited the nearest villages and slums and persuaded the villagers to accept their services. The enthusiasm caught up and a total miracle was happening all over India. Over 6000 villages came to be adopted for service activities and was placed at His Lotus Feet during the inaugural functions of the World Conference of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organizations coinciding with Bhagavan’s 60th Birthday celebrations.

The Heads of various State Units addressed the gathering and narrated their experiences during the one year between 59th-60th birthdays. A particular incident narrated by a State President of a particular State, however, made a deep dent into my feelings. The volunteers were planning a Free Eye camp in an adopted village near a Forest in a dacoit-infected area. A couple of days before the scheduled Eye camp, they met in the village under a tree to discuss whether they could go ahead with the camp. The problem was they could not raise enough funds from within themselves. (It is a strict rule in the organization that the members must meet the requirements of money from within themselves and they should not seek donations.) The volunteers were planning to abandon the camp reluctantly regretting very much for their inability to raise funds. At this point of time, a dacoit riding a horse appeared near them.. In a stern tone, he asked them what they were doing there. The Sai seva Dals got frightened and explained that they were discussing the problems on a seva project to be undertaken in the nearby village. When asked further, they told him of their interest to hold a free eye camp in the village but which had to be abandoned for want of funds.

The Dacoit, reacted by throwing before them a bag containing lot of money, and asked them to use it for going ahead with the Project. The seva Dals were dumb founded. They believed that it was Swami's Leela and they pressed ahead with their project with all devotion and humility.

Numerous such events and indications have been happening in many adopted villages. It is Swami's dictum that hands that serve, are holier than the lips that pray. The selfless service is the best form of sadhana. All creations are but the manifestation of divinity. It is important that we recognize this truth and attempt to see GOD in all His creations. It is this truth, which should inform and inspire our service to the poor and needy. Set at least 4 hours a week for the service activities; that is all what Swami is asking for. Swami has allowed us to use His Divine Name for the Service Organization, providing institutional support and opportunities to the members for offering service activities.

The seva Dals and volunteers are expected to arrange for the basic needs of the residents in the adopted slums/villages. We are supposed to undertake an initial survey of the village and earmark the scope of service activities in that area. The scope of service activities is quite large including provision and arrangement of facilities in the areas of Health, Hygiene, Approach roads, and Education and BAL Vikas classes. The volunteers should endeavor to arrange for such facilities that are lacking in their areas. But Swami had cautioned that "service" should not end with mere provision of all the materials facilities/help. The aim of the volunteers should be to inculcate spiritual orientation amongst the villagers. The villagers should also be given training in spiritual activities. If the volunteers have helped or contributed only to the material facilities but if the villagers have not progressed in spiritual activities, then all our Seva would be a total waste. Swami has advised that we should catch them young and try to lead them to spiritual sadhana.

Bharathi Nagar is a small slum village in T'Nagar area in Madras. The T'Nagar Samithi of the Sai Organizations have adopted this small slum where the members have undertaken various service activities. I was most fortunate to be rewarded with chances to participate directly in seva activities in Bharathi Nagar With Divine Blessings; we hoped to transform this slum into a model village Swami was with us always in this task. In fact this village became a holy place: Bhagavan visited this slum and walked through the streets blessing the dwellers It was a pleasant experience to receive the Divine blessings from our Lord. The Divine visit made a big impact and the devotees and slum people experienced great joy having Swami amongst them.

Various innovative ideas and programmes were experimented in this slum. The central leaders of the organizations stood by us giving constant guidance. I have attempted a brief resume of the activities undertaken in Bharathi Nagar, as a study case, in the modest hope that it may provide some guidance and direction for similar activities that can be thought of and put through in the adopted villages/slums.

The very choice of Bharathi Nagar for our "service" was an interesting experience Immediately after Bhagavan’s 59th Birthday celebrations the members of T'Nagar Samithi were trying to locate a slum within their area for adoption in order to undertake service activities as per the guidelines provided to us. It was on Mother's Day, (Eswaramba Day) that we established contact with the leaders of Bharathi Nagar. We explained to them about Bhagavan Baba and our interest in service activities. They readily agreed to allow us to undertake service activities. We made it clear to them, that we did not wish to entangle ourselves with their personal problems and that we would not indulge in any political activities. They appreciated our idea, and assured us of their cooperation in our efforts. A general call to all the seva Dals in Madras city was issued by the city organization calling them to be present at Bharathi Nagar on the inaugural day and join in the combined seva. The roads around the slum, were tar coated, but it was virtually impossible for the motor vehicles to go through. Heaps of garbage, even up to 6 to 7 feet height could be seen all over. The place was stinking. The children were using the surroundings as open lavatory. Civic sense was totally absent among the residents and we felt that our initial job would be to clean up the entire area and make it livable. A massive number of volunteers were deployed on the
inaugural day and by evening the place had changed completely.

It is a custom in South India to clean the entry doorstep of every house early morning and put KOLAMS (designs made on the floor using Rice flour or any other such smooth powder). But this practice was not being followed in this slum. They were all living like rats, with no thoughts or ideas or aspirations for good or clean living. As a first step, our lady volunteers started visiting house to house, with a bucket of water and broom, cleaned the entrance, and made beautiful kolams in front of each house The impact was tremendous. The lady folks in the slum felt embarrassed and came out insisting that they would do the job. There were smiles and cheers all over. From that time onwards every hut in the slum looked good with kolams. Our lady volunteers did not get any second chance to do this job.

We thought of another idea to attract cooperation from the lady inhabitants of the slum. Every Sunday morning we started conducing Nagar Sankeertan in this area. Immediately afterwards we distributed milk to all the children. The mothers liked it. Very soon almost all the children were persuaded by the mothers to Join the Nagar Sankeertan. ‘Catch them young’; is the advice given by Swami.

Soon our interest in the children became evident to the parents. A weekly medical camp was organized in the slum, solely for the children. A child specialist Doctor residing nearby watched our enthusiasm and offered his services every week. Initially, he himself brought all the medicines needed. A systematic door-to-door survey was conducted and relevant data were collected. During a general screening of the children, it was observed that all of them were affected by ring worms.. Many of them suffered from skin disease, and they were put on medicine during the next few weeks. The children were given tonics regularly.

Mothers were provided with soaps so that they could give their children bath regularly. They were advised of the necessity of bodily cleanliness. Gradually, every evening tuition classes came to be held in the slum. When we entered the picture most children were dropouts from the school, and there was not single child who had studied beyond 3rd or 4th standard. After our coaching and inducing interest in the studies, a totally different children education scenario emerged. About 20 boys came to complete their graduation and some boys came to pursue computer-based education. The girls were also not far behind. All the youngsters who had been trained under the scheme started earning and supporting their parents.

The volunteers helped the villagers to build a small temple in their area which is a focal point for all the activities. Three years back the temple was renovated, and we prayed that Swami visit Bharathi Nagar once again during the Kumbabhishekam. Due to shortage of time, Swami directed us to bring the entire team of Pundits, Architects ( called Sthapathi) and other volunteers to Abbotsbury, where the Divine Darshan had been arranged. Swami presented clothes and gifts to Pundits and "Sathapathis", created Vibhuthi and blessed every one. It was a memorable day for all of us.

In the initial period when we started offering seva at Bharathi Nagar, the elders used to participate in all the activities with us. Some of them had accompanied us to Prashanthi Nilayam for Prashanthi service together with other seva Dals from the city. Presently the younger generation boys and girls have become full time seva Dals.

Swami had cautioned us that if the villagers did not show any inclination towards spiritual ctivities, all the efforts should be considered as waste. The desired change became however visible. Now Bharathi Nagar has a full-fledged Bhajans Mandali. They conduct their own programs, gents and mahilas (ladies) separately. They have their seva dal wing. More than anything, the most amazing fact is that all the younger generation coming up from this slum had been trained in Veda chanting. One has to see and experience it to believe how perfectly they chant Vedas like any other trained vedic chanters.

In an earlier chapter, I had narrated the experience of a small boy whose heart operation was avoided in the last minute by the Grace of Swami. This boy belongs to Bharathi Nagar.

Before concluding this chapter I would like to recount another divine incident at Bharathi Nagar. All the Sat Seva Smithies in Madras celebrate anniversary in their respective areas. Special spiritual activities such as special Bhajans, BAL Vikas children's cultural programme and some service activities including medical camps etc., are organized. During a particular year, immediately after Swami's visit to Bharathi Nagar, we had planned to celebrate our anniversary in this slum area. However, due to unavoidable reasons, we had to shift the venue to our Samithi Center itself. Meanwhile invitation cards had already been printed indicating the venue as Bharathi Nagar and the first copy submitted to Swami.

The Nagar Sankeertan on that day started from the Samithi center and was going through various streets in T'Nagar area. It also passed through the main road of Bharathi Nagar. One of the girls from this slum reported later with excitement that she saw Swami standing near the temple, with His Divine Hands blessing the participants of the Nagar Sankeertan.

This is how, Swami encourages the devotees in their endeavors, wherever selfless services are offered Swami says that the doer of service seemingly benefits others but it really results in a spiritual gain to the "doer" Swami's Grace flows to the doer of the service.

Author's statement in:

Many of you may be aware that I had authored a book with the title "Sri Sathya Sai Hrudaya Nivasi (Indweller of Hearts). This book had seen the third reprint, and is being sold in Bhagavan's Bookstall at Prashanthi Nilayam. Many of you would have purchased and many would not have got chance to go to Parthi and get the book. After the third edition, this may not go to print again. As such I wish to bring the contents of this book to each and every one of you.

Starting from today I shall post one chapter every week or if possible twice a week, depending upon the response I get from you all. I would request you to kindly read it and then re-circulate it to your other friends in the Sai Family.

The text could be transferred to your hard disk, and if possible print outs taken out.

Utilize the contents, as much as you like.

With Lots of Love and regards
Bombay Srinivasan


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