A profile of a joyous warrior who fights on peacefully amidst adverse and scary events in a lab for living in enlightenment!
I couldn’t help laughing whenever Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji shares the story from the Ramayan in which a stray dog asks Lord Rama to make his attacker the head of an ashram as a punishment! It’s ironical to presume that being the head of an ashram would be such as a tough job that even a dog would consider it to be a harsh enough punishment to be meted out to his tormentor!
As the story goes, the dog had been a head of an ashram in his past life and it was so tough a job that he wished that we would be better off being a stray dog rather than a head of an ashram! And he was born as one!
The moral of the story is that it’s not easy to take care of an ashram! Fortunately, one doesn’t have to take another birth to experience it. Just a posting as the head of Art of Living’s ashram located in Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh would be enough to realize this profound wisdom and become strong enough not wish to be born as a dog!
This naturally-endowed beautiful ashram has its own ways of teaching most profound wisdom in very chaotic ways! It’s like Bagavad Gita in action. Profound wisdom of life in the midst of chaos! And chaos inevitably leads to bliss! That’s why I often joke around in AOL circuit that any long-term seva in Arunachal Pradesh is like training in how to live in enlightenment. And that’s what Swami Bhavyatejji, the current head of Art of Living’s Itanagar Ashram, is going through! And in dramatic ways!
The serenity, the beauty, the remoteness, the isolation of the ashram makes for a heady mix! Just being able to be happy without the creature comforts of a city life itself is a challenging proposition if one has even a little attachment to the material realm! For the sake of clarity, WiFi is a luxury and mobile network as erratic as the human mind! The beauty of the hill on the front and cool breeze from the river behind could become irritating if that’s all what you have to live with all the time!
Swamiji has no choice. He has been tasked by Sri Sri to develop and grow this remote but virgin ashram into one of the most beautiful ashrams of the Art of Living! And if you don’t take in the spirit, that could be a harsher punishment than the dog sought from Lord Rama! In these parts of the world, sometimes even getting a skilled labourer could be tougher than getting into samadhi! The same holds true of getting any type of raw materials! The nearest functioning airport is nearly 500 km away! And until recently, the nearest railway station used to be equally far!
To Swamiji’s credit, he has handled this challenging task like an enlightened soul! The ashram has been transformed beyond recognition. Infrastructural development is visible in every corner of the ashram. The atmosphere too has changed; there is a welcoming vibe that every visitor is noticing! The ashramites breathe easy with a sense of responsibility and commitment! Like a true sevak and sadhak, Swamiji has been putting his heart, head and shoulder into it. Being available and hitting the ground himself (often shedding his attire of dhoti and angavastram and getting into soiled Ts and shorts, he has been making sure that best is being done at the lowest cost.
He also has to deal with land encroachers on all sides of the ashram and secure the boundaries of the ashram. He even had to evict a group people who have settled themselves on the ashram land. The land issues can get very emotive in a place where non-locals are not allowed to own land. One has to manage the anger and emotions of all kinds of people from those who call you a ‘pakhandi’ a gundha to those who threaten you with a dao (sword). He has also to listen with patience to those who come seeking for large donations or to those who want help in getting mega projects sanctioned by the Central government!
And this has become a comfortable routine for Swamiji! And for sure, divine doesn’t like a routine existence! Last month, a gentleman who owns a plot just behind Gurudev’s kuteer in the ashram started baying for Swamiji’s blood without any provocation. First, his younger brother came and started abusing ashramites, calling them names and threatening with dire consequences! And when Swamaji tried to figure out what’s happening, he too was verbally abused. Without being cowed down and provoked, Swamiji explained to him how we had worked out the approach road they wanted through the ashram land! He looked convinced, yet they appeared hell-bent on scaring us to conceding a significant area of land for the approach road without suitably compensating us as agreed before!
The motives became clear an hour later when the gentleman, who happens to be a local politician, came with a group of supporters and started verbally abusing Swamiji. All attempts by Swamiji to talk out the matter were foiled by flatly saying he wouldn’t talk to a “son of a bitch”. The language used was so unparliamentary that it cannot be reproduced here! Yet, Swamiji kept his cool and refused to be intimidated! Instead of apologetic of his behavour, the gentleman filed a false FIR against Swamiji another ashramite, accusing them of misbehaving with him and sheltering undergrounds elements in the ashram!
The politician returned the same evening with a gang with the intention to provoke us. They even fired a few rounds in the air just to scare us! Yet, we tried our best to reason him out that we are here for social good and a politician like him shouldn’t be fighting with us and differences, if any, can always be sorted out mutually. But to no avail. We went away warning us that if the police don’t take action on his complaint within two days, his goons will cut Swamiji into pieces, saying it is the customary way of delivering justice!
The next day a police team arrived at the ashram with a Magistrate to take cognizance of the complaint! When the truth was seen, they couldn’t but laugh at the pettiness of the politician. They all felt if actions need to be taken, then it should be against the politician for trespassing into the ashram and spoiling the tranquility of the place! And when an assessment to this effect was filed by the Magistrate, the politician reportedly tried to put political pressure on the officers to take action against Swamiji. When that didn’t happen, a portion of the compound wall of the ashram was damaged under the cover of darkness!
And by the next morning, the administration ordered the deployment of police protection in the ashram for the safety of Swamiji and ashramites. Though we didn’t feel the need of police security, they insisted on it, saying the past records of the politician cannot be taken for granted. A team of 4-5 police personnel patrolled the ashram round-the-clock for a week! They ensured the damaged portion of the compund wall was re-erected without any disturbance!
The things are quiet now, though no formal settlement has taken place! We hope with time, this gentleman will also see reasons and recognize the solace we are bringing to the people of Arunachal Pradesh through Sudarshan Kriya and other activities!
Though scary, these episodes undoubtedly instilled us the feeling of being protected all the time. It reaffirmed in us the wisdom to accept and moved on! And, if this isn’t training in living in enlightenment, and what would be! And surely that stray dog knew what it takes to head an ashram!