Paraspar Devo Bhava

Mar 24, 2005

Everyone is unloading the steamer but Ram-Tirth stands there without anything. A man comes up to him and says, "You have travelled all the way from India; don't you have any luggage?" "I don't have any luggage. I go wherever God takes me," Ram-Tirth responded boldly. "How did you get here?" "Someone gave me a ticket." "Where are you going to be?" "I don't know." "Do you know anyone here?" "Yes, I know one person. And that one person is you." Flat out stunned, that Mayor of San Francisco not only hosted Ram-Tirth but set up all his lecture and paid for his return trip, years later.

Maybe it's me but wherever we go, I seem to see the same darn message: don't ask for anything, be a true instrument of the universe and watch the magic. And Nareshwar was no exception.

After walking for eight hours through two more-than-knee-deep rivers, gorgeous farms and super friendly people, 20 of our tired bodies and inspired souls arrive in the holy land of Rangavdhut Maharaj. When we entered the town, we didn't know anyone but by the end of the trip, we had become the talk of the town.At the age of 8, young Rangavdhut met his spiritual teacher whom he never physically met again. In his late teens, he joined Gandhi as a freedom fighter and then eventually went to the Himalayas in search of the good, err, I mean God. :) By his late twenties, his search ended under a Neem tree on the bank of the Narmada river. Inspired by Ram-Tirth, Ranghavdhut Maharaj also never asked for anything; he took whatever came to him and he always had enough. After almost a dozen years in continuous meditation, people started flocking to him. Even the leaves of that Neem tree lost their bitterness and instead of growing up, the Neem branches touched the ground -- both anomalies are signs of humble reverance, devotees say.

You feel blessed to be in such a land. And when you do feel blessed, the immediate response is to serve and share the merit. Fortunately, in India, you don't have to look far to find volunteer opportunities. When we were assigned our two rooms (for twenty of us :)), we first cleaned those rooms. Next day, we cleaned the entire residential campus with our shovels and hoes that we were carrying and painted the walls with beautiful quotes and messages; we even named each of the rooms like "Non-violence," "Truth", "Service", and so on. At night, we swept the temple thoroughly and deep cleaned the dining hall floor -- first time ever, we were told -- that fed thousands of people every month. And on the third day, we whipped the monks quarters into shape and did some beach cleanup. Mark and John even cleaned up a bus stand, after inspired by a passerby who criticized this seemingly unsustainable work. Everywhere we went, we were on fire. Cleaning inside, cleaning outside, no difference.

There was such a stark contrast between the before and after that everyone started talking: "Why are you doing this?" "This is amazing. How can I help?" "We have seen millions of people walk this land, but never people like you." A politician from Ahmedabad even came up to me and said, "We politicians just talk, but you guys are the real deal."

And to think that all we did was cleanup. :)

Of course, whenever you try to share you merits, double-fold comes back your way. Couple of us experienced very intense meditations; the chief priest called Viral in and offered a small bottle of Mount Kailash water that he had preserved since his pilgrimage days; after one aarti, the priest asked for me (although I was sitting way in the left field), snuck me in front of the crowd, and offered me some grapes with a smile; the beggars on the streets all knew us and instead of putting a hand out for some change, they had conversations with us. When we wanted to share some ideas for sustaining the momentum of this work, our comments fell on deaf ears; but it just so happenned that the managing trustee -- Dhirubhai Joshi -- was visiting that night and he not only heard all our comments and visited our work, but even made time to sit with us at length and share some awesome personal life stories with Rangavdhut Maharaj. "Once Bapji asked me to read some scriptures in Marathi; since I didn't know how to read, he read one and half pages and translated in Gujarati. Then, he put the book to my head and said, 'Go you will now know Marathi.' Sure enough, I was fluent in Marathi since that moment. Just yesterday I finished translating another book," 70+ year old Dhirubhai said with an umph that can't be expressed in words.

On the last night, Jayeshbhai, Jagatbhai and I went to sleep next to the Shiva temple -- a tiny mat under us, a shawl on top of us, with a grateful heart. It is said that when Bapji first came here, he woke up to the music of celestial beings; when he later saw a peacock and a cobra playing together, he decided to stay under that neem tree. I didn't quite experience any music, unless of course, you count the loud, wake-up-entire-neighborhood 4:30AM aarti. :)

If Bapji had a message, if the ashram had a theme, it would summarized by one quote that is prominently listed everywhere: 'paraspar devo bhava'. It translates to "I bow to the divine in all living beings."

Search for the good. At every step, that seems to be the message from the universe.

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"Service doesn't start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take."

"Real privilege lies in knowing that you have enough."