Dada Vaswani - A Life Divine
Dada speaks a tete-a-tete with dada vaswaniA small, almost diminutive frame is writing meticulously at his desk, in a suburban flat in Mumbai. Dada frequently comes to Mumbai to record his talks for Sony TV. As I walk in quietly, he looks up
Dada AnswersAn example of Dada’s simple and clear wisdom, based on extracts from his book, Dada Answers, published by Gita Publishing House.
What is the root of anger?
”It was in August 2007 in Kolkata that I met Dada for the first time, and the first thing that registered in my mind was the blissful smile across his glowing face; it was as pure as a child’s, and I could virtually feel its vibes emanating from the bottom of his heart. It is a smile of love, of compassion, of assurance, and its radiance and infectious nature engulfs you wholly. His smile is inseparable from his persona, and every time I have seen him, I have been enamoured of his million-dollar smile,” says Gautam Ghosh, a writer from Kolkata.
“Though he must be meeting hundreds of people every day, I was amazed that he still remembered my name,” says Sunil Motiani, a businessman in Dubai, recollecting the second time he met Dada Vaswani, a year after he was first introduced to him. His spiritual tutelage under Dada has left him calmer, more composed, and much more accepting of life’s vicissitudes. So much is the change, he admits, that his ‘pre-Dada’ days are just a memory. “Stress-causing habits and attitudes have just vanished without conscious effort,” he affirms joyously.
By the time this article comes to you, Dada Vaswani, the head of the Pune-based Sadhu Vaswani Mission will have turned 90. A formidable age but one that sits lightly on his radiant face, joyous smile and slight frame. Despite having undergone a bypass operation, Dada looks remarkably well preserved. A proof perhaps of the abundant life that is the promise of spirituality. It is easy to see that the lineaments of his face and frame have been honed and sculpted by the undying spirit to which he gave his allegiance at age 21. This is when he became a full-time disciple of his uncle, the late Sadhu Vaswani. Since then, he has lived a life of faultless submission to the laws of life and to his guru. Rarely do you find someone who subordinates his own achievements and accomplishments at the foot of his guru as much as Dada does. Like Vivekananda to Ramakrishna before him, his guru remains a shining star and inspiration and the source of all his own qualities. Little wonder then that he radiates humility and simplicity.
Although dearly loved by his followers, there is no evidence of the cult of personality. They relate to him one on one, as they would with a deeply loved mentor. In every interaction and meeting whether with the rich and famous or with the humble, whether with his people or with strangers, Dada remains his authentic self, so warmly loving and solicitous, so caring and kind, so giving and simple that the heart responds instantly. In Dada’s presence one cannot but be a little more open, a little more simple and a little more authentic – pretensions and false selves fall away. That is perhaps his unique offering to the world in his role of spiritual preceptor.For in his ashram there is no place for special techniques, complicated mantras or miracles. The only ‘miracle’ is that of a man leading his life as he was meant to. Spirituality to him is not a vague, abstract subject but the vital wellspring of every thought, word and action. Little wonder that he is a powerhouse of positivity for the countless lakhs who follow him through the 50 centres of the Mission distributed all over the world.
The good word “Dada has made God a reality in my life,” says Dr Prabha Sampat, a lecturer of St Mira’s college, who admits to feeling privileged to have come in close contact with him. “Repetition of the name of God is the simplest but most effective good habit that Dada has taught all of us,” she adds.“Life has changed.... completely. I have become so much more spiritual, humble, simple ... I have had a kind of awakening I could never have imagined before. I have given up many old habits that are detrimental to my body and soul. I have become calm, and I define success differently,” says Ravi Melwani, the CEO of the Bangalore-based Humanitarian Network, an organisation that helps needy people connect with people and organisations that can help alleviate their pain. “To know Dada is to know love,” says Krishna Kumari, bright-eyed and waif-like, whose devotion to Dada is exemplary. She works closely with Dada, writing, collating and administering activities of the Sadhu Vaswani mission. “One great change that I have noticed in myself is that now before I do something or utter a word, I ask myself if it will displease my God. If I get an answer in the affirmative, I do my best to desist from doing so,” says the effervescent and dynamic Gulshan Dudani, who heads the publishing wing of the Sadhu Vaswani Mission. “That the reward for service is more service is something I have realised due to my association with Dada,” says Mrs Heera Rupani from Hyderabad, who feels she has become much more compassionate and loving. She says, “I genuinely feel grateful to those I serve for helping me to add a new dimension to my personality.”
When Shakun Narain Kimatrai, the author of many books on religion, asked Dada for a principle to live by, Dada said “Dil jee dari khol” (Open the window of your heart!). A strikingly simple yet powerful statement that sums up the spiritual journey.
Carrying the torch forward
Apart from being a source of inspiration and guidance to the many millions who look up to him, one of Dada’s most striking contributions is in the field of education. “Instruction and information may be made available through technological advances but teaching in its truest sense is communicating,” Dada says in his book, Teachers are sculptors. With the highest reverence for teachers, he is passionate about ‘education’ as it is here that the future of the world lies.
His guru, Sadhu Vaswani, founded the “Mira Movement In Education” in 1933, but as they were then based in Sindh, Pakistan, the Partition crippled his efforts. Fortunately, this was not a derailment but a temporary setback. The Sadhu Vaswani Mission shifted base to Pune in 1959, and one of the first initiatives undertaken by the Mission was education. St Mira’s College for Girls was founded in 1962. The decision to start a women’s college was a conscious one, as Sadhu Vaswani firmly believed that in the unfolding of India’s destiny, women would have to play an important part. “The woman-soul will lead us upward on! Sadhu Vaswani often remarked, and Dada, at one with his master in this and everything else, has carried on the baton.
Expectedly, the college emphasises education for life, not just for a living. It is known for its strong sense of discipline, insistence on character building, reverence for all life, and the cultivation of spiritual, cultural, social and moral values. Today, the Mira movement includes no less than six educational institutions in Pune, reaching out to over 5,000 students, starting from the pre-primary level and going right up to post-graduate classes. Schools have also been established at Delhi, Baroda, Ahmedabad, Rajkot and Mumbai.
With the food crisis escalating to a serious level all over the world, it makes sense to re-examine our way of life and consumption. “To produce 1 lb of meat, it takes 40 lb of vegetation and many gallons of water,” says Dada. “As in all spiritual laws, becoming vegetarian makes sense for multiple reasons. Ecologically we save rain forests from being eradicated for livestock cultivation, in terms of personal health we become less prone to cholesterol and heart disease, and spiritually our refusal to be party to the killing of beasts for food will elevate us.”
“For me not to love birds and beasts is not to love the Lord,” exhorted Sadhu Vaswani, who strongly advocated a vegetarian diet. Today, by observing November 25, his birthday, as “Meatless Day,” the Mission slowly spreads his message, with peaceful marches, talks on benefits of vegetarianism and satsangs. Certainly there is no disputing that the world over, there is a discernable movement towards vegetarianism so perhaps Dada’s ideal of universal vegetarianism may yet prevail. Not all his followers are vegetarian, though, and neither does Dada insist upon it. “It is not the means but only a means to the end, the end of viewing the One in all,” he states and affirms that a vegetarian is no way ‘superior’ to a nonvegetarian.
Talk less, do more
“Religion? Let us talk of it less, practise more!” urged Sadhu T L Vaswani. In keeping with this tenet, daily feeding of the poor and needy, grains to birds, food to animals, distribution of fruits to poor patients at the Sassoon Hospital, service to inmates of the homes of the aged, the handicapped, the blind and leper colonies, milk and lunch to poor students, form an integral part of the Sadhu Vaswani Mission’s daily service activities in Pune. In Mumbai, open heart surgeries are performed through collaboration with Hinduja hospital, cataract operations are performed and many blood donation camps held regularly. Similarly, in all the centres worldwide, the Mission engages in helping the poor and downtrodden.
Noting this, HH the Dalai Lama, in his foreword to the biography of Dada brought out by his disciples, says, “He (Dada Vaswani) is a living example of how the spirit and practice of our ancient traditions can be purely maintained, even amidst the changes and challenges of this modern age.” Truly, a sense of universal responsibility permeates all Dada’s activities.
Transforming past bitterness into love, Dada is involved in many peace initiatives with Pakistan.Typical of Dada’s style, the initiative does not stop with mere formality and exchange of pleasantries, but has shown its concern through positive action. From 2005 onwards, the Sadhu Vaswani Mission is spearheading the treatment of poor Pakistani children with heart ailments in Nanavati Hospital, funding their passage, stay and treatment. Good begets good, hence the hospital too has reduced its charges, chipping in to help.“We have our roots in Pakistan. We hope the relations between our two countries grow stronger by the day with such gestures of love,” said Ram Mirchandani, a trustee of the Sadhu Vaswani Mission, who is overseeing the initiative. At another level, he has spoken on universal peace at the United Nations, a world without wars at the House of Commons, London, and was a keynote speaker at the Centennial Celebrations of the World Parliament of Religions in New York.
The child of doting parents, Pahalrajrai and Krishna Devi, who were both academically and spiritually inclined, Dada Vaswani was a brilliant student, who was given a number of double promotions, which resulted in him passing the BS examination when just 17. A master’s degree and fellowship at a leading college followed and Dada seemed poised on the threshold of a brilliant academic or civil services career.
However, a larger purpose awaited him. He decided to give it all up and follow his paternal uncle and guru, Sadhu TL Vaswani, on the spiritual path. Much like how Dada’s influence works on others, this just ‘happened’, unobtrusively, quietly, suddenly and yet decisively. Today, wearing the mantle of spiritual head of the Sadhu Vaswani Mission in Pune, Dada Vaswani is a standing testimony to the Mission’s statement of living for others, inspiring others through his writing, oratory, education and mere presence to come to the realisation of the fact that we all are part of the divine whole.
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