Karma yoga - hub to improve socio economics
Ramakrishna Mission is a philanthropic, volunteer organisation that bases its work on the principles of Karma yoga, or the discipline of action, a yoga of selfless (altruistic) service. The Mission has a presence all over the world and is headquartered at Belur Math near Kolkata.
The combined efforts of hundreds of ordered monks and thousands of householder disciples of Ramakrishna Mission have to be seen to be believed. The mission subscribes to the ancient Hindu philosophy of Vedanta and was founded by Ramakrishna’s chief disciple Swami Vivekananda on May 1 1897. It works extensively in health care, disaster relief, rural management, tribal welfare, elementary and higher education and culture.
The Monk on a John Deere
This December a few friends, my wife and I had travelled to Joyrambati the holy birth place of Ma Sarada: life partner of Sri Ramakrishna the fountainhead of the order of famed Ramakrishna Mission. Our interest in the time and life of Ramakrishna had taken us to the heart of rural Bengal. A householder disciple had mentioned to us about Beldiha, that Sri Ramakrishana had set foot. It is a remote hamlet close to Kamarpukur, the birth place of Sri Ramakrishna and nearly 110 km away from Kolkata.
Sri Ramakrishna visited Beldiha at the invitation of one of his devotees. On reaching, he immediately got immersed in intense divine chanting for seven days with frequent spells of trance. It was a beautiful sight and people congregated from nearby places in large numbers to witness the rare sight of divine intoxication. From that day, this remote hamlet attracted numerous holy personalities including some of Sri Ramakrishna's direct disciples. The little village of weavers had transformed into a holy place, a pilgrimage.
A little hermitage or Ashrama had come up here in 1995 to enable devotees to offer prayers and to spread the eternal message of love and service to mankind, the very essence of Ramakrishna order. We too wanted to offer our prayers but we were also curious to experience firsthand the working of the Ashrama at the grass root level. Thus on a nippy December morning we found ourselves at the apology of a gate of the Ashrama.
Located in a nondescript dusty hamlet in the interiors of Hooghly district of West Bengal, the tranquillity and serenity of Beldiha Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama and the village itself stuns you like pure magic. The silence of the place was broken by the noise of some agricultural machine that turned out to be a new John Deere tractor being expertly manoeuvred on a field the size of a small football pitch, by a saffron robed monk.
We were all wide eyed at the flurry of activities inside the Ashrama and outside on the field. After a while the monk, Swami Shantananda came down from his perch to welcome us. He turned out to be the Secretary of the Ashrama. Listening to him was a pleasure. He did not bother about a religious discourse. One could make out that he was deeply in love with his surroundings. We were spellbound by the vision of Beldiha Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama for transforming the fragile socio-economic condition of the area.
The main source of livelihood for the people of the area is farming and traditional handloom weaving. There is serious lack of infrastructure in education, health and economic opportunities. As a result, the young generation of the area feel hamstrung by the paucity of basic facilities. Swami Shantananda, knows he cannot change it all. There is no magic wand. But surely many things can be done.
The Ashrama is the hub for many social welfare activities, it is transforming the lives of the people, specially, the youth. Among their many activities: it provides free coaching to students from local school, operates a student hostel and provides vocational training. Periodically, it organizes medical and eye camps too. It grows its own rice, potato, vegetables and there is fish in the few water bodies that it possesses.
If you want to experience selfless service then look up at this Ashrama. Beside Swami Shantanada, there is another monk and a Brhamachari or monk on probation. About seven devotees work full time on different aspects of running the Ashrama. There is a doctor who offers his services 24 x 7 and 365 days free of cost. But life is not easy. It is sheer hard work for all of them.
Spontaneous donations from devotees and occasional visitors are not enough; more funds are needed to fast track the development process initiated by the Ashrama. The village lacks so many things. Internet connection is wobbly, electric supply, often erratic. There are many hurdles on their path to development. But what they do not lack is optimism and their faith in God. Swami Shantananda on the John Deere and his co-workers epitomises this spirit, they have found their purpose in life.
Beldiha had cast a magical spell. My wife and I returned just a few days after the New Year, eager to take part in whatever small way we could help in the activities of the Ashrama. We returned after a short stay initiating a process of connecting the Ashrama to a faster internet service which we believe will not only improve communications but will also open up new vistas of development.
To know more about Beldiha Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama please visit their website: www.beldiha.org
#Swami Vivekananda, #Yoga, #EconomicDevelopments