Rikhia is the tribal area of the Santhalis. This state was once called Santhal Parganas. The Santhalis are the indigenous tribe, the original residents, and live here today. They have a great culture, greater than ours.
This land has a spiritual samskara. Rikhia was once dense forests inhabited by rishis, who, seeking isolation and serenity, flocked here to perform tapasya and sadhana. The word ‘Rikhia’ is a distortion of the Sanskrit word ‘rishi’. The strong spiritual presence of rishis in Rikhia in the past has percolated down to the present day. The place is pure, serene and radiates peace.
The inhabitants of Rikhia are innocent and simple folk. When I arrived in 1989 it was a desolate place. The people living in the neighbourhood had no hope for the future. Now the area is humming with life, and the conditions have improved remarkably.
I do not consider my work as charity, because these people are like family. When you go to a temple, they offer you prasad. Likewise, when I complete one anushthana, one round of practice, I give them some prasad.
When we started construction, the Santhalis cleaned up the entire area before building began and plastered it with mud and cow dung. They are adept at using indigenous materials. We call the masons vishwakarmas, divine architects, because they have given us so much assistance in constructing the ashram. Every building in the Alakh Bara has been constructed by the local people residing within a radius of a few kilometres. We have not called anybody from Deoghar. The electrical work, carpentry, plumbing, civil engineering, preparation of land and planting of trees has all been done by them.
The Santhalis are intelligent and skilled, honest, hardworking, and very independent. I feel in harmony with the people living around me. There is nothing superficial in their behaviour or dress. They do not eat synthetic food or wear synthetic clothes, nor do they have synthetic love. Everything about them is natural.
The humble people of the Indian rural community live in balance with nature. They do not disturb or exploit nature for their own sustenance, greed or sensuality, but live with nature. Any community that lives with nature follows a divine path. Nature is not created by divinity, but is a part of divinity. There is silence and simplicity in the lives of those who live with nature.
Village culture is an independent culture. In autumn, when the trees lose their leaves, the women collect the dry leaves early in the morning and stack them in their houses. They don’t go to the market to purchase firewood or gas cylinders. They use the dry leaves as firewood to cook with. Their needs are few. They draw water for cooking and drinking purposes from the village tank. They go to the fields to relieve themselves and their ablutions are finished by sunrise. They lead a spartan life.
Dharma is no longer the foundation of the nation. The foundation of the nation is the sanskriti, the culture which you see among the poor people here. The Indian tradition continues with the poor. You have stepped into a different culture, but don’t forget it is an artificial culture, it is a temporary phase. Real culture is independent and long lasting.
Village culture is not dependent on a king, on wealth or on any external resources. To inculcate this kind of culture sannyasins are given similar training in the guru’s ashram. Self-imposed poverty is a way of life independent of the external world. In fact, if you want to experience spirituality, live like a poor person even if you are not poor. Reduce your wants, limit your needs and restrict your temptations. One should try to be independent.
We have established a relationship with these rural people. It is not because I give them anything. Love is reciprocal. When you give love, you receive the same amount of love in return. If I ignore you, you are bound to ignore me too.