Universal Love

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Swami Sivananda and Paramahamsaji both say we should love. How can we be more loving and giving to each other? The feeling should be continuous, ongoing, whatever the environment or location, whatever the time and space. Only then does one experience the force, the power and the expansion of love. Swami Sivananda and Paramahamsaji have both experienced and expressed the feeling of love and compassion in their lives in a very dynamic and practical way, not only as a belief or thought. Their expression of love is not self-centred or self-oriented. It is a feeling that comes with the realization that, “I am part of everyone and everyone is a part of me. I am not the individual whom people recognize as Mr X or Mr Z.” If I identify with myself only, with my desires, passions, compulsions, needs and ambitions, at that time, there is forgetfulness of one's more expansive, global or universal role. Then the ego, ahamkara, becomes material.

The world is one family

For most of us the whole world is one little group of people – father, mother, husband, wife, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins – and those with whom we don't identify have no role or place in our lives at all. Who are you concerned about? You are not concerned about a person living in another city who is unknown to you, or not related to you and, therefore, he or she doesn't matter.

However, the saints believed, felt and expressed that the entire world, the entire community, is their family. In a family there may be healthy people as well as sick people. So you give more to those who are sick, weak, infirm or handicapped. That is the area of attention in the family. You do not pamper a person all the time who is healthy, happy, buoyant and joyful, because you know that person has the capacity to stand on his or her own two feet. There are others who deserve attention more than the healthy ones. Each one is part of the family, the beautiful and the ugly. It is with this feeling that they act.

Swami Sivananda used to do it. Paramahamsaji has told me many stories about him. Once, in Rishikesh, a wandering sadhu came to Swami Sivananda, suffering from gastritis. Swami Sivananda gave him medicine and the sadhu left the clinic and started walking to Gangotri. Four or five hours later, Swami Sivananda came across another medicine that he felt would be of more use to the sadhu than the medicine he had given him. So he called one of his disciples and said, “Take this medicine and go after the sadhu, locate him, change the medicine, and then come back.” The sannyasin had to run about thirty miles to locate the sadhu and give him the medicine. Now, what doctor would do that? A human doctor, not a commercial one.

Projects in Rikhia

Paramahamsaji gives prasad to 10,000 families, 50 in one village, 250 in another, 1,000 in another and so on. He looks after the needs of each and every one and the area of care is also increasing. He gives tricycles to the physically handicapped so that they can move about and go to work without being dragged or carried and dumped.

Paramahamsaji also looks after the school girls by giving them bicycles. The girls are only given the bicycles after they have made a sankalpa that, “I will only use the bicycle for my journey to and from school and I will not lend it to my father or brother or any other relative.” This gives them the facility to travel from remote villages to their school or college in Deoghar, otherwise they would have to walk ten kilometres across barren land and jungle.

Paramahamsaji gives sewing machines to women in different families so they can make and mend clothes, do jobs here and there, have a means of livelihood. He has houses constructed and gives them to those who have no shelter. There is free medical treatment available at the clinic at the Alakh Bara to anyone who wishes to come. On average 150 to 200 people are given free treatment daily.

Then there is the TB project. Fifty to sixty people per batch are treated for tuberculosis, with proper medicine, attention and care. Medical equipment and supplies also come during and after Sita Kalyanam. A three story, twenty-four bed clinic is now ready, which will have an operating theatre, emergency and medical facilities etc. The entire service will be provided free of cost to the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich. There will be no distinction, a millionaire and a beggar will receive the same treatment.

Paramahamsaji has started a very novel scheme. He gathers the widows who are confined to their rooms in the villages. Superstition says that the husband died because the wife brought bad luck and, therefore, she has to remain a widow for the rest of her life. Paramahamsaji also gathers all the old women who just sit at home with nothing to do, bossing their daughters-in-law, fighting with their sons, dictating terms, and who are actually a burden on their families. Paramahamsaji calls these women and they chant, write, read and sing mantras and kirtans for eight hours every day.

At the end of the day he pays them the daily rate of labour. If the women sing, chant, write or read God's name for four hours then they are paid half the daily amount; if they work the whole day they are given the full daily rate. Taking God's name is also labour. A bhakta is also a labourer just like a plumber or an electrician.

There are other projects such as agricultural and educational assistance. Young children are taught English. There are many people who go to Rikhia for two weeks, three weeks, one month, three months and teach the local children. Paramahamsaji gives dictionaries, notebooks, pens and even games such as footballs and cricket sets to different students and colleges in the neighbourhood.

Universal vision

What do all these projects indicate? You can't call it social service. It is nothing short of a cultural revolution to revive the human nature that is lying dormant in each one of us. This expression of love and compassion has a much broader range than that of any normal person. It is a reflection of the universal cosmic vision. That is love.

Love is not hugging and going gaga over someone. People in the world have distorted the concept of love. The usual concept of love revolves around the body and emotions yet actual love is not physical or emotional, rather it is spiritual. The Gopis felt it for Krishna; they all had husbands and families but they pined for Krishna. They suffered the agony of being separated from him. That is a kind of bhakti love. Seeing the oneness in everyone, seeing the presence of divinity in everyone, that is a kind of jnani love, working and striving to make everyone happy so that nobody should feel there is something missing in his or her life.

There are places where people have not entered the kitchen for three days because they have nothing to eat, not even a grain of rice. Can you imagine a society where a family has nothing to eat? Reaching out to such people is an expression of universal love, touching different people in a very practical and humble way by eradicating the feeling of absence from their lives, and giving them a sense of dignity, of being wanted, cared for, looked after and guided.

The impact of Paramahamsaji's inspirational work will be felt in the future. Such kind of love is very difficult to awaken. But the beginning of such love can give you an understanding. If you can begin to understand the needs of another, if you can begin to understand the suffering, the happiness, the pain, the isolation and the joy, then you can also express that love. Let us start gradually, let it take years to manifest fully. Even if it takes a lifetime, it does not matter. It is definitely worth it. Begin with understanding, that is the first step. Other doors will gradually open up as you begin your journey.