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A Surgeon of Perfection

Oct 1, 2005

In the year 1918 King George V was the ruling monarch of the British Empire and a man named Henry Ford had been making automobiles for ten years. In this year on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month World War I came to an end. This was the year Ernest Hemingway volunteered for the Red Cross in Spain and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, after falling seriously ill, consented to drinking goat?s milk. During his convalescence he learned how to spin, and in this same year, one day before his 49th birthday, in the small South Indian village of Vadamalapuram, a child named Govindappa Venkataswamy was born...

"As long as people suffer you do not retire"
- Dr Govindappa Venkataswamy

Today, October 1st is Dr V's 87th birthday. As has been his custom for years now he will spend it at the ashram in Pondicherry, attending the morning meditation hour, and visiting Sri Aurobindo's Room before returning to work at the hospital. He isn't the sort who expects or even approves of birthday cake and candles and that sort of celebration. His birthday usually passes quietly, and unremarked by the rest of us.

This year though it seemed like it might be nice to give people an excuse to drop him a note. Many of you have met him, some of you have worked with him and Aravind in fighting the good fight against blindness, most have in some way been touched not just by the magnitude of his compassionate accomplishments but by the breadth of his vision, commitment, humility, deep spirituality, wisdom and boundless energy.

Earlier this year Dr V received the pioneers in Health and Healing Award from the Institute of Health and Healing in SF, USA. At a special screening of Infinite Vision arranged prior to the award ceremony Dr Bill Stewart, the Director of the Pacific Institue for Health and Healing and long-time friend and volunteer at Aravind spoke the following words:

The first thing I notice about Dr V, being hair challenged myself- is the beautiful head of white hair that he has, but other people often notice that here is a surgeon with gnarled fingers, and yet he is a surgeon of perfection. And where his fingers may not be aligned, where his fingers may not be perfect- his soul is perfect and his soul is a much more powerful tool for the surgeon than his hands. And soon after noticing the physical attributes of Dr V you cannot possibly but be taken by his keen vision, by his charisma by his kind of cosmic joy and wry sense of humor and by the intense commitment that he carries to fight the battle against needless blindness. And it's always felt to me that it's not a battle against just blindness as in physical seeing but a battle against our lack of vision. Because he once said that if we could cure poverty then we could cure blindness and that Ignorance may be our greatest blindness.

Dr V may not even appreciate how much the experience at Aravind with him and his wonderful extended family had on me and my wife Susy but there is no doubt in my mind that there would be no Institute of Health and Healing in SF today if it hadn't been for our transformation if you will or our experience in India. So Dr V has brought together the spirituality of India and the technology of modern science to bring healthcare to the masses and what you'll feel in him is beyond words- the present in his soul force- and I'm deeply honored and deeply humbled to have you all here tonight to meet him.

There are so many of us, all over the world, who stand in that same space of deep honour and humility when we remember the role Dr V has played in our lives.

If you'd like to send him a note today his address is:


With gratitude for the ever-widening circle of light each of you are a part of.

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