In this journey of service, where do our loyalties lie? To our local communities? To the city we live in? The country? Or to all of humanity? Conflicts like these have been quite usual for me on Independrence Day? But this time, my mind was taken to a beautiful experience we had just last week.
87 year old Gopal Dada decided to take us to visit his some of his contemporaries, who have served with him in the past. A few kilometres from a village called Pedhamli, we visited 78 year old Vasant kaka and 92 year old Kanti kaka.
These two brothers from Mumbai, who have spent the last several decades running an ashram dedicated to naturopathy. After years of experimenting on himself, Vasant kaka decided that the food most suited to our bodies and souls is raw, and grown in your own backyard. As a result, has been eating uncooked food for the last 40 years! The ashram till date runs a very capable naturopathy centre, in an effort to bring holistic nurturing care to the villages nearby.
As we sit down at night to share a few words, you can see Gopal Dada at 37kilograms joking about Vasant kaka checking in at 35kilos. Kanti kaka still maintains his weight above 40kilos. In the dim light outside their bedrooms, you could sense clarity and beauty in their every word. There was no feeling pity for their age or physical capabilities – indeed – we were in the presence of some of the happiest people in the world.
As we looked around, we could see how simple their lives really were. A compost toilet, simple rooms, not even a kitchen (no need for one!) One of us had a little rolled up piece of paper – and as we looked around for a trash can in vain, we realised how alien the paper felt in this environment connected with the soil.
We sat down, sharing a few questions with each other. Our time in the Gandhi Ashram often brings us in constant contact with heart wrenching poverty.‘What should we do about the poor in this world?’. Kanti kaka’s face lights up with a big smile, he looks around at the scarce resources and answers – ‘Whenever we work for the upliftment of those around us, it must be based on the crucial question: Is it leading to an increased awareness of those around us?. That is the most sustainable form of upliftment.’
‘For our journeys, we must use service to cultivate more beautiful and pure thoughts. As we do that on a sustained basis our purified hearts will show us the way forward. Clarity comes from the simplest things done with right intentions.‘
Vasant kaka, seated beside him tells us about how the time has come for us to leave behind our individual organizations, agendas, corporations, parties and unite in universal goodness. This will come, only when ‘hearts connect’, when we look at each other without judgement, or our selfish motives. When we have the spirit of universal goodness, and maintain a pure heart, we are bound to serve our local communities in every moment. That is how change occurs.
As we continued connecting in the comfortable silence that followed, Nimo looks towards Vasant kaka and asks him if he’s heard about the raw foods movement in the USA. He gently inquires if he would like some ‘agave’ nectar , which grows abundantly in North America and forms a significant portion of uncooked diets. Vasant kaka looks up from his bowl of raw onions, dates and groundnuts and says – ‘whatever I need, I receive from what is around me.’
He didn’t need to say it; his eyes spoke of an understanding and wisdom of all that is. This wasn’t a reply that came from an intellectual understanding of a Fukuoka manual. It came from a life dedicated to service of others. Through a complete alignment with the spirit of universal goodness, Vasant kaka’s heart was serving those around him, receiving their gifts with the deepest gratitude.
By merely living in purity in this remote part of the globe, they were in a way serving all of humanity. The next morning, as they addressed 15 British students from the Insight India group and the Nandini Van my heart resonated with the words:
"Serve Effortlessly, Share Selflessly
Learn Locally, Love Globally"
"Only from service to the self can we serve the community. Our faith in the words 'Jai Hind' must therefore lead to 'Jai Jagat' "
May Vasant and Kanti kaka live long(er) and prosper :)