It's one thing to give, it's another to see who you are giving to

Sannyasi Ritambhara, Australia

Each morning the truck would be loaded with prasad and driven to one or two villages. These villages are Paramahamsa Satyananda's neighbours. This year I was given the job of making sure the distribution happened, under direction.

Many people who came to the program saw one of the distributions, which were a culmination of seva from well-wishers and sannyasins of all colours. One student from BYB put his feeling well, “It's one thing to give, it's another to see who you are giving to.”

Each distribution followed a similar format. First, two or three kirtans would be sung as the villagers assembled. Then the names would be called out from the village family list. The head of each family accepted a parcel, wrapped in a blanket, plus a soup pot, cooking spoons and a kyiri (a heavy wok), along with a book, some bangles and a toy, when available. The lists from which the parcels were made were compiled with the pradhan (head of the village) in advance. Before leaving, there was usually distribution of sweets for all the children. Around eighteen to twenty villages received a distribution of prasad during the 1998 Sita Kalyanam program.

The parcels were made up in Prasad Kutir, guided by the village lists. The name, age and sex of each family member provided the starting point for what went into the parcels. They included items such as dhotis, saris, Indian pyjamas, salwar kurtas, cosmetics, woollens or shawls, children's and babies' clothes, jeans, T-shirts, dresses, household items and cooking utensils.

It was one-pointed karma yoga making up the parcels, checking supplies, attending to others in the immediate environment. But it was no chore to listen to Swami Niranjanananda's song to the Divine Mother or the heartfelt music of the Islamic group, listening to the conviction of the Jain nuns, or the seven-year-old child prodigy explaining the Bhagavad Gita.

There were some funny moments in Prasad Kutir. Like the time we received a tight fitting, brown leather skirt with a split up the side, and a fake silk frilly shirt. No village woman would wear it. I asked two Indian karma yogis what to put with it. They said, “A whip!” (This set of clothes did not go out.)

This humour alongside the high volume of work made for smooth sailing overall. Somehow the people with the right skills came at the right moment. There were the karma sannyasins who were the backbone, especially in the beginning. Then the swamis from Bihar School of Yoga came and injected their energy into the environment. All the help flowed into an understanding of the broader needs. Some saw it as part of an offering to the cosmic will, so rich in the culture of the spirit. An unique experience overall!