by Uday Chatterjee
Babaji spoke repeatedly about karma yoga and serving humanity in a selfless way. For me it is one of the paths of achieving salvation in this life. Babaji would make his disciples do very ordinary menial work, like clean toilets and carrying stones. It helps you to lose your ego, and Babaji also taught that while you did this menial work you have to be simultaneously and constantly in contact with the higher level. That means you have to be constantly in meditation or chanting. It is not the work that makes you big or small; it is the quality of your inner spiritual practice. Baba gave a lot of respect to this idea of doing selfless service in which no ego was involved. I personally like to do things which make me humble, whatever is the work.
Each person has different inner talents. To serve humanity you have to see in what way you can contribute, in a way that it becomes maximum benefit to the maximum number of people. In Hindi: ‘Bahujan Hitai Bahujan Sukhai’ is a part of our ancient ethos which says that the objective of society should be to bring wellness and happiness to the world. It is a very egalitarian, humane and inclusive philosophy.
So each person has to find his mission based on the talent he or she has. It’s not that each person has to do the same work. Some people have a talent for cooking, so if they are in an Ashram they can cook for everybody. Some people have a talent for carpentry or painting. Other people are talented speakers, able to spread the word of Babaji. So in one form or another, in all of these small but important ways, they should take up these tasks of service.
Q: So what are your talents and service ?
A: Well, I am always looking to how I can bring diverse people together with different talents and help them contribute to Babaji’s family or to the larger society. For instance in the past few months an inspiration came to me that there are many young girls in these areas around Babaji’s Ashrams in Chilianaula and in Haidakhan, who don’t have enough money to pursue education or they are deprived of nutrition. So I spoke to a few people and they understood my vision. Through this effort the Samaj has been able to collect 80,000 US dollars. That’s a huge sum by any standard; it was donated by one of our devotees to start a fund for this philanthropic activity. So, we are starting this new “GIRL CHILD PROJECT”, and I have hopes it will become a very big project for the community around Babaji’s two major Ashrams. Later on it will go to helping set up special girl’s schools. We will also give help in nutrition and medicine, etc. to girls around this area, and at least a couple of girls will get a scholarship to start with on the inauguration of this Project. At some point in the near future it will cover as many as 200 girls in this area, and many of them will be the children of some of the poor staff working here at Babaji’s Ashram.
In the same way I have a few other projects in mind and hopefully, after we have launched this project, we will be able to take up those projects. So in my case, I put together an idea and then conceive how it can be funded and then launch it and encourage a team to implement it. Once this project is launched, it will be run entirely by some women devotees of the Ashrams, so the Samaj will help set up the funding but it will be run entirely by these women, so that we are free to take up more and new projects. I also have for many years another project that is to take fruit and vegetables which are grown in these hill regions and dehydrate and preserve them and then find more lucrative market opportunities for the people who live here.
Q: How did you get this idea for the Girl Child Project ?
A: Well, traditionally in all agrarian societies, especially including India, China, etc. which were predominantly agrarian, in them a boy had a more predominant place in the family and girls were secondary. Also because a girl was not seen as a resource whereas a boy was a resource, he went to work in the farm, he was a farm hand for the father, and the girl would eventually get married and move on. So somehow that started a chain of discrimination in parts of Indian society. Girls still suffer from malnutrition and lack of opportunity in pursuing education, because people in these areas are economically very, very poor. We honour the Divine Feminine during the nine days of Navaratri: Jagadamba. It just felt right that we give that honour to the feminine in our day to day living as well.