(contd from previous issue)
It was, therefore, natural that even when he renounced his hearth and home and came to the bank of the Ganga for seclusion, silence and Sadhana, he could not turn a deaf ear to the cries of agony that rent the air around his new home. Instead of looking upon it as a distraction, he took to compassionate service as a dynamic Sadhana and worship, as a practical manifestation of universal love. Amelioration of their lot by providing them food, shelter, medicine and respectable life became his predominant concern. They did not expect anything from a Sannyasin in saffron robe. But the young Sannyasin became their greatest friend and saviour.
During those days even hospitals used to be forbidden territories for the poor lepers. It was all very painful to the compassionate Swamiji, and he started giving full attention to their health and himself carried fruits and medicines to their huts. Once the lepers found that there was an angel among men bringing them love, relief and hope—a doctor of their body, mind and soul—they started coming to Sivananda Charitable Dispensary in large numbers. The eyes of Swamiji spoke of his compassion and his face radiated deep maternal love while he was engaged in dressing the open ulcers of patients in advanced stages of leprosy. Swamiji used to be available to them at a very early hour at the dispensary so that they could be free for collection of alms and also the other patients coming to the dispensary might not feel psychologically disturbed on account of their presence.
After his return from the All-India Tour in 1950, Swamiji further intensified his service of the lepers. Under the guidance of his beloved Guru Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, he contacted government officers and also organised a meeting of the local public and drew the attention of all concerned to the acute problem of the lepers. It was decided in the meeting that a Kushtha Nivarak Samiti or Leprosy Relief Association should be created. The District Magistrate was the Ex-Officio Chairman of this association; the Chairman of the town, the Health Officer, Swamiji himself, the Head of the Gita Bhavan, Secretary of Kali Kamaliwala Kshetra and a few others were elected members. Thus, due to his sincere efforts, the first Leprosy Relief Association of the district of Tehri-Garhwal was formed in 1952 and three lepers’ colonies could be constructed later by the Divine Life Society. Swamiji’s service of these unfortunate souls evoked profound admiration in a good number of foreign devotees during his global tours. His talks on selfless service created a powerful impact on some blessed souls who came forward to donate generously and liberally for this great “Yajna” of selfless service.
On hearing Swamiji’s remarkable service, Mr. Francis Harris, Director of the British Leprosy Relief Organisation, came to Rishikesh in October, 1973, and discussed with Swamiji about the best way in which the fund collected through the Organisation could be utilised. He was of the opinion that the amount collected by the British Leprosy Relief Organisation could be donated only to an institution and not a person. One of his devotees Mother Simonetta, a renowned fashion designer of Paris, who inspired by Swamiji had devoted her life to the service of the lepers, suggested that the Institution be named Swami Chidananda Leprosy Relief Fund (SCLRF) and thus in the name of Swamiji, the philanthropic institution took its birth. Today, there are no lepers in the streets of Rishikesh and the Divine Life Society Headquarters Ashram is maintaining three leper’s colony at Dhalawala, Brahmapuri and Laxmanajhula besides supporting one leper’s colony at Bhanjanagar, Odisha. Inspired by Sri Swamiji’s noble example, various DLS Branches are also rendering their services to these unfortunate brethrens in their respective areas.
Being a practical Vedantin, Sri Swamiji was also well aware of the critical problems of the society. Swamiji worked at the grassroots levels like a zealous social reformer to eradicate social evils. On 1st November 1971, he participated in the movement of picketing liquor shops initiated by renowned environmentalist Sri Sunderlal Bahuguna in Tehri. Motivated by his presence and soul-stirring lecture, thousands of villagers participated in the movement and ultimately the Government of Uttar Pradesh was obliged to enforce prohibition in that region. In 1972, Sri Swamiji undertook 2000 km Uttarakhand Yatra (Tour) for 21 days with Sri Sunderlal Bahuguna to create awareness among the villagers living in hilly areas regarding Environment Protection, Liquor prohibition, youth and women welfare. He interacted with the villagers, lovingly listened to their problems and also guided them to lead divine life. Similarly in 1977, Sri Swamiji undertook one week Himachal Pradesh Yatra at the kind request of Sri Ratan Chand Rojhe, a renowned social worker, to support him in his movement against the curse of untouchability.
To provide free medical care to the poor patients of remote areas, Sri Swamiji inspired and initiated the establishment of Swami Sivananda Centenary Charitable Hospital in 1987 at Pattamadai, Tamilnadu, the birthplace of Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. The hospital has been rendering its magnificent service to the poor patients of Pattamadai and nearby villages for the last 26 years.
Under his inspiration and guidance, the earthquake victims of three villages of Uttarkashi were provided new houses by the Headquarters Ashram during 1991 to 1993 Uttarakashi Earthquake Relief Work. Similarly, famine affected families of Odisha and Bihar received his benign support in 1993. Whether it was lepers, sick or suffering, an earthquake or flood, his appeal was to feel the suffering and the agony of the helpless people and serve them.
In January 1990, Sri Swamiji inspired all the DLS Branches to make the last decade of the 20th Century, Divine Decade, a divine entry into 21st Century by intensifying their charitable activities to promote social welfare. He recommended to work for the three vital sections of our country’s society– (a) the rural people of India who form the backbone of our country, (b) the women of India who are the real and the effective custodians of our sublime culture, and (c) the young people of India, its students and youth who are the real nation of tomorrow and verily the future India. At his behest and with his blessings, multifarious charitable projects were initiated by the DLS Branches throughout India during Divine Decade.
Sri Swamiji Maharaj was a great patriot and an ardent admirer of Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda. He would always express his blessedness to be born in Bharatavarsha and also make others realize their rare good fortune of being Indians through his articles and speeches. His deep love for his motherland and intense concern for her welfare made him prepare National Code of Conduct in 1991 wherein he made an earnest appeal to all Indians to inculcate love for the country, the spirit of patriotism and service and shine as a true citizen.
NATIONAL CODE OF CONDUCT FOR THE CITIZENS OF INDIA
1. Patriotism: Our Motherland should be our first and highest consideration. Welfare of the Nation is our own welfare. Therefore, let us willingly be ready to offer up even our own life for our country. Let us inculcate in our children and members of our family love for our country, the spirit of patriotism and service to our country and our fellow citizens.
2. Duty: Our first and foremost duty is to God and to Righteousness. Leading a righteous life is the best and most valuable service of our Nation.
3. Character: Character is the greatest wealth. A pure, incorruptible citizen is the greatest asset of our Nation. This is vital and indispensable. Therefore, good character is to be given top priority value; upon this depends our nation’s welfare and its future stability.
4. Health: Health is the basis of success. Health is wealth. Next to character, it is the greatest national asset. As citizens, building up character and safeguarding health should be our primary duty to the Nation.
5. Virtue: Let us join hand and eradicate the evils of gambling, liquor-drinking, drug-taking, tobacco-smoking and betel-chewing. Let us eradicate the evils of bribery, corruption, selfishness, immorality, dishonesty and misconduct. Disloyalty to our Nation is crime and unpardonable sin.
6. Public Property: O Citizen! We are the custodian of public property. Let us not spoil, misuse, steal or destroy National property. Let us preserve it with love and care. Let us keep our country neat and clean. This is your sacred duty.
7. One Family: All our citizens are brethren. Let us feel this fraternity. Let us all love each other and one another and be united because, we are one family.
8. Religion: We must have equal reverence for all religions, creeds and faiths. Let us love as our own brothers the followers of our faiths. Let us treat others as we wish to be treated by them.
9. Non-violence: At all costs avoid every type of violence and hatred for, this is a blot on the fair name of the Nation. It is soul-killing and cause great harm to our country’s welfare and development. It is totally opposed to our Nation’s ideal.
10. Economy: Let us adopt simple living and high thinking. Let us not be extravagant. Let us avoid waste. Let us practise frugality. Let us share what we have with our less fortunate fellow citizens. This is National virtue that our India needs today.
11. Law: Let us respect the rule of law and uphold social justice. In this lies the guarantee of our welfare and orderly progress towards better India.
12. Ahimsa: Non-injury is our highest virtue (Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah). Compassion is a divine quality. Protection of animals is our sacred duty. This is India’s special teaching. Let us be compassionate towards all creatures. Thus be a true Indian. Try to become an embodiment of kindness compassion and goodness in your everyday life.
13. Ecology: Man and Nature are inseparable. Man and his natural environment are inter-related and mutually interdependent. Everything in Nature contributes to our protection and nourishment. Let us, therefore, protect our natural environment. Helping in maintaining the ecological balance is our duty. It is indispensable for our safe living and highest welfare. Polluting of public places and polluting of air and water of the country is a national crime. We must make amends for our past lapses.
14. Unity: The more united the people of a country, the greater is their ability to withstand all obstacles and dangers. United we stand, divided we fall. (to be contd)
(contd from previous issue)