By Life Positive October 2005 We present profiles of spiritual organizations active today in India, that are involved in working to uplift the underprivileged and provide succor to the suffering. Through serving society, we are ultimately working on ourselves, and through serving others, we are connecting with the divine that manifests in all beings, say their masters and gurus. Angels of MercyIn 1948, when Mother Teresa was a teacher at St Mary’s High School, Calcutta, her gaze would often wander to the window. Beyond the pristine world of the convent, the vicious poverty of Calcutta swarmed menacingly. Soon after, the nun bid goodbye to the security of the convent and stepped into the reality of squalor and abjection, armed only with her faith in divine providence. ‘I decided to follow Christ into the slums,’ she would later say of her calling. Her work commenced as an open-air school for slum children. Her courage of conviction drew volunteers. Financial support and encouragement poured in and extended the scope of her work. In 1950, Mother Teresa was granted permission from the Archdiocese of Calcutta to start her own order, The missionaries of Charity, whose primary task was to love and care for those persons nobody was prepared to look after. From the hovels of Calcutta, the missionaries have spread their wings today across Africa, the republics of South America, the United States, Canada, even parts of the erstwhile Soviet Union. Today, the mission has more than 4,000 nuns engaged in service of the poor. They undertake relief work in the wake of natural catastrophes such as floods, epidemics, and famine, and for refugees. The primary focus however continues to be the destitute, homeless, alcoholics, persons with leprosy, cancer and AIDS sufferers. The nuns clad in trademark blue-bordered white cotton saris go about their tasks valiantly and even when working in the pits of despair, have the Lord’s name and a cheery smile on their lips. ‘Speak tenderly to them,’ the Mother always instructed her wards. ‘Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don’t only give your care, but give your heart as well.’ To attain this level of dedication, the nuns have to undergo intensive training over a period of six years at the end of which they go home for three weeks so they can decide whether they really want to spend the rest of their life as a missionary of charity. The work is not for the faint-hearted. Those who volunteer to join the mission do so from immense faith in their own love and compassion for humanity. They have as their inspiration Jesus Christ and believe: ‘Like Jesus we belong to the world, living not for ourselves but for others. The joy of the Lord is our strength.’ Of selfless service Jesus said, ‘Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me. Give a glass of water, you give it to me. Receive a little child, you receive me.’ For Mother Teresa and the nuns devoted in service, to the succor of the sick and the outcasts, earthly sufferers are nothing less than Christ in ‘distressing disguise.’ And they go about their tasks not with the air of martyrdom, but joyfully and simply. Of the necessity to cultivate simplicity in living to be able to serve better the Mother had observed, ‘The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give. But the less you have the more free you are. Poverty for us is a freedom. It is not mortification, a penance. It is joyful freedom.’ And in their spiritual abundance, they give of themselves plentifully in the various houses of charity they run, serving and comforting those in need. ‘Unless love is among us, we can kill ourselves with work and it will only be work, not love,’ the nuns remember the Mother telling them as they carry on her torch of service with love. ‘Work without love is only slavery.’ Ph: Kolkata: (033) 2452277, 2491400,Bangalore: (080) 8460074, 5474993 Maximizing HappinessSwami Chinmayananda, while spreading the message of the ancient scriptures of Vedanta, did not stop at only theoretical lectures. Seeing and feeling the pain of the many needy people around him, he started and inspired his followers to undertake many service projects all over India. The motto of the Nursing Institute of the Mission, ‘Jana Seva is Janardana Seva’, or ‘Service to people is service to the Lord’, holds true for all the projects of the Mission. For senior citizens, a home away from home are the Pitamaha Sadans established in many parts of India. The centre provides affordable and comfortable accommodation, nourishing vegetarian food, books, televisions, video players, video tapes and medical facilities, thus taking care of their worldly needs so that the elderly can focus on their spiritual practices. Another initiative is the Central Chinmaya Vanaprastha Sansthan (CCVS) for senior citizens, that provides training and support to them, equipping them to cope with their new role in society. Bangalore houses a nursing institute and a hospital, both centers of seva-oriented training and practice. Other than their course contents, the Mission imparts value-oriented lectures and workshops to the students and professionals, enabling them to practice with an attitude of seva, rather than pursue only commercial interests. Other health programs are the Chinmaya Diagnostic Center and Clinic (CDCC) at Bansbaria, about 70 km from Kolkata and the Chinmaya diagnostic center and clinic (CDCC) at Chembur, Mumbai, that provide diagnostic services to the underprivileged. The Mission is also very active in the area of rural community development. It runs an orphanage and the Harihar School for poor children in Chinmayaranyam, Ellayapalle, Andhra Pradesh. True to its motto, ‘Receive the Light of Knowledge, bring out the heat of action,’ the school is a hive of activities. The children are given a free midday meal, food is also provided to old and crippled villagers, and the school also functions as a medical center. At the Chinmaya Seva Center, Sidhbari, Himachal Pradesh, women are given vocational training in sewing, weaving and carpet making, to empower them to live an independent life. Sidhbari also established Chinmaya Rural Health Care and Training Center to provide basic health services to remote villages. The project covers 278 villages in the Kangra district of Himachal. The program annually reaches approximately 20,000 people directly and 15,00,000 of them indirectly, in the area. Once one begins to serve, all the needs of the entire community begin to become more visible and one realizes that all issues are interrelated. This was the seed which gave birth to CORD – Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development. This organisation looks at the needs of the rural community in totality – mahila mandals for women’s empowerment, balwadis to educate the children, yuvati groups to build self-confidence in women, primary health care centers, local self-governance projects, informal legal cells, managing natural resources and education of differently abled children, yuva groups, self-help groups and income generation activities are all undertaken under CORD. CORD was first initiated in Himachal Pradesh, then replicated in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Tamil Nadu. The vision is to spread all over India, thus fulfilling the Mission’s motto, which aims, ‘To give maximum happiness to maximum number for the maximum time.’ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.chinmayamission.com Salvation Through ServiceSwami Vivekananda said, ‘Atmano mokshartham jagaddhitaya cha,’ – doing good to the world with a spirit of worship is paving the path for one’s own salvation. This is the principle underlying the various welfare activities carried out by the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission, the twin organizations working together for the cause of social development, which they firmly believe is an important dimension of spiritual growth. Health, education, social development and relief activities are the various areas addressed by the Mission. Service to the sick and ailing is provided by indoor hospitals, out-patients’ dispensaries, and mobile health units. Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratisthan- one of the leading hospitals of Kolkata- has a medical research center attached to it. The Mission also runs a TB clinic in Delhi, five nurses training centers, and a TB sanatorium at Ranchi. Besides, there are 14 other hospitals, 93 outpatients’ dispensaries and 30 mobile dispensaries conducted by the Mission. The aim is to reach out to people in the remotest parts of India. About education, Swami Vivekananda said, ‘Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man.’ Believing that given the opportunity, everybody can manifest himself or herself to a level of excellence, education is provided to students from all sections of society, grooming them for life, and not just to make a living. The Mission runs orphanages, students’ homes, a blind boys’ academy, non-formal and adult education centers, self-employment training centers, samaj sevak (social service) training centers, agricultural research institutes, cattle farming institutes, technical schools, polytechnics, community polytechnics, computer training centers, language schools, libraries, librarianship training centers, hospitals and institutes for training nurses, teachers’ training institutes, post-graduate medical research institutes, Veda Vidyalaya, and countless formal schools and colleges. The Mission also runs schools and hostels for tribal boys and girls in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Orissa and other parts of the country. F
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