The Art of Giving

Swami Shankarananda Saraswati

All worlds, visible and invisible, are just grains of sand in this empire of the heart. Serve, love and give are keystones, and Rikhiapeeth is its capital. Swami Satyananda is the emperor.

History was made here during the twelfth and final year of the Rajasooya Yajna, which was conducted from the 10th to 14th of December 2007. Tens of thousands of devotees from all corners of the world and India, from all castes, creeds and religions, gathered to participate in this unique and auspicious event which marked the culmination of Swami Satyananda’s sankalpa for the peace, well-being, plenty and prosperity of all.

One of the main features of yajna is the grand scale distribution of prasad. In this final year of the Rajasooya Yajna, Swami Satyananda offered prasad to all participants, which included the multitudes of delegates from all corners of India, over sixty countries of the world and tens of thousands of families from Rikhia and neighbouring panchayats. For more then a month, a continuous flow of people, organized under the banners of their countries, states, cities and villages came to the yajnasthal to receive the prasad of Devi Ma.

Only eighteen years ago, Swami Satyananda came to Rikhia to live in solitude after renouncing the worldwide empire of yoga that he had created while fulfilling a mandate given to him by his guru, Swami Sivananda – to spread yoga from door to door and from shore to shore. At that time, Rikhia was the poorest panchayat of India’s poorest state, Jharkhand. From day one, innocent and pure-hearted villagers recognized the divine grace of having a sannyasin of the highest calibre in their midst. Regardless of the deprived and neglected conditions of their lives, from the dire poverty of their homes, villagers offered to Swami Satyananda the first rice from their crops, the best vegetables from their gardens and the purest water from their wells.

There is a cosmic law that whatever is offered with a pure heart and without expecting anything in return reverberates through the chambers of eternity and comes back to the giver multiplied a thousandfold. Shortly after arriving in Rikhia, Swami Satyananda was called once again by a divine voice commanding him to help and love his neighbours as his own self.

Initially, he adopted 24 villages of Rikhia panchayat and all the families were taken care of in all aspects through the vehicle of Sivananda Math – from providing houses, wells, quality seeds for agriculture and farming tools, to the means of employment through distribution of thelas, rickshaws, motorcycles, sewing machines and the basics of blankets, clothes, household goods, food and education.

The ever-growing family of Swami Satyananda gradually included panchayats adjoining Rikhia, and in this the twelfth and final year of the Rajasooya Yajna, more than 250 villages from 19 panchayats were recipients of the sacred yajna prasad. More than 30,000 families received generous kits consisting of: steel ghara, topia, karhai, thali, glass and katori; blanket, bedcover, towel, dari, quilt; lantern, bucket, long length of plastic rope, soap powder and soap bar, lock, calendar; shawl, cardigan, sweater, raincoat, sari, thermal underwear, shirt, dhoti, cap, muffler, shoes and socks, ribbon and comb; rice, mustard oil and coconut oil – the list is endless! All of these items were given by the hands of the Rikhia kanyas, and an army of Rikhia batuks was on alert to help the villagers carry it home. In addition, bicycles were distributed to kanyas pursuing higher education, thelas, rickshaws and motorcycles to deserving villagers, schoolbags, notebooks and stationery to thousands of students from the entire area, and wheelchairs to the disabled.

Special prasad of additional warm clothes and assorted food was given to old age pensioners and widows of Rikhia panchayat. These aged people, often living alone and struggling for bare existence, have regained their dignity through the material and moral support offered by Sivananda Math. Currently plans have been made for an old age home to further help these people who have only Sri Swamiji to look to for aid and sustenance.

During the Sat Chandi Mahayajna 2007 the generosity of Swami Satyananda was shown to the fullest extent by the many daily distributions of Devi Prasad to the 1008 kanyas and batuks of Rikhia – his adopted children.

Each day of the five day program the kanyas and batuks were presented with a new outfit which they would proudly wear the following day. They received a mixture of traditional and modern outfits from around the world. In each and every outfit they shone brightly as from these new clothes they imbibed a sense of self-confidence and worth. They flooded the yajnasthal with colour and vibrancy. The kanyas also received several sets of stunning jewellery, including gorgeous gold earrings as well as a silver and turquoise necklace set.

On the first day they wore their sporty red and yellow Spanish jogging outfit, which would have qualified them to feature in any fashion magazine! The dazzling blue traditional Gujarati outfit on the second day was covered in glittering mirrors, which seemed to illuminate the entire yajnasthal. The kanyas especially loved the floor length skirts which sparkled as they danced. On the third day the kanyas and batuks looked like princesses and princes from a fairy tale in their stunning white and gold Moroccan outfit. The ornate lace design was unlike anything they had worn before, but they were more than willing to give it a try! A complete contrast was created on the fourth day and the entire Tapowan area was flooded with vibrant colour as the kanyas and batuks sported their new green unisex corduroy suit and big bright red tie.

On the 14th of December, the final day of the yajna was the Kanya Pooja. The kanyas and batuks wore the traditional Nepali outfit for kumari kanyas, which is worn specifically during kanya worship. The majestic red tones reflected the magnificence and power of Devi and her presence was evident in each and every kanya. The kanya’s outfit was complemented by the most elaborate golden jewellery, including earrings, necklace and headpiece. As part of the pooja, Devi prasad was presented to all of the kanyas and batuks. They received a schoolbag full of grains, games, toys, clothes and stationery, jewellery and cosmetics, individually packed for over 500 kanyas.

Another feature of the Sat Chandi Mahayajna was the presentation of 108 awards each day to kanyas and batuks who had excelled in a particular area of academic development or in holistic development. They received watches and solar torches along with many other items. The categories for awards were varied, including encouragement awards for havan and worship, punctuality, neat and clean appearance, spontaneous acts of kindness and honesty. Awards were also presented for those with 100% attendance at English, computer and surya namaskara classes as well as for regular attendance at evening kirtan and chanting programs. Special awards were presented to the best of Rikhia’s dancers and a special category of the most likely to succeed in Bollywood! Kanyas and batuks of Rikhia, our children, are coming in the future to clean the mirror of our heart.

All this was made possible by the generous donations received from devotees from India and all parts of the world. Truckload after truckload of various goods, including gold and silver ornaments, medicines, games, toys, wrist watches, clothes, mountains of rice, saris and household items (to mention just a few) often made a long queue in front of the ashram gates. Each day Swami Satsangi would give instruct ions that everything must be distributed by Makar Sankranti, every single item from the shelves of Prasad Kutir must be given. We really had a very hard time fulfilling that because whenever the last round of village prasad bags was packed, another truck overflowing with offerings to Sri Swamiji and Devi Ma was waiting at the gate to be received! On her inspection of Prasad Kutir on Makar Sankranti day, Swami Satsangi commented: “I feel like the yajna has just started!” Throughout the year, prasad is continuously distributed and the shelves of ‘Bholenath Readymade Store’ never become empty.

The doors of Devi’s divine grace are wide open at Rikhiapeeth. Throughout the Rajasooya Yajna, her vibrating presence was felt by all, and her blessings will continue to shower on us for years to come. Swami Satyananda’s twelve year sankalpa has been completed and the seed of his sankalpa is firmly planted. He is now the emperor whose empire has no boundaries – he is the conqueror of our hearts.

The mantra of Swami Sivananda: ‘Serve, Love and Give’, which has been carried out by Swami Satyananda at Rikhia, is a blessing for mankind in a world where the majority of us know only how to take, and never having quite enough are always wanting more and more. We are all lucky to be touched by the presence of the guru who performed on each of us an ‘open heart surgery’. As an open heart overflows with love, Swami Satyananda has created a very unique account here at Rikhiapeeth – a bank of hearts. The mysterious alchemy of guru’s presence merges them all into One Heart, which beats in rhythm to the mantra Aim Hrim Klim.

Sri Swamiji, even our love and devotion to you are your gifts to us.