[In the last article, I was narrating about the Ashram in South Sainik Farm (Delhi): how it opened up a new opportunity for the Delhi devotees to grow in Gurusannidhi, how Swamiji’s Delhi-visits were assuming a new wider dimension, and also how in the course of five years some disharmonies restraining the freedom, growth and public character of the Ashram led Poojya Swamiji to announce during his message after the Pādapoojā on 9th March 1997, that he would leave the placeā]
The Fire of dispassion
It was one of the finest talks the devotees ever had heard from Swamijiā Not because of the words or exposition. But because of the direct touch of a lofty mindset. There was no blaming, condemnation or heat. Rather, each word brought with it the cooling warmth of the blazing fire of knowledge and dispassion. Everybody got a touch of the impersonal love amalgamated with the firmness of Brahmaniṣṭhā. Every listener would have experienced the meaning of non-possessiveness.
On one hand we were feeling quite sad thinking of the impact on P’s mind, the torment he must have been undergoing, notwithstanding the disharmonies created by his possessiveness. On the other hand we felt very light and free by the act of leaving. Regarding the impact on the other devotees, by and large it was greatly inspiring.
In fact, these are occasions when others get an inkling of the inner state of a Knower Saint. Because real sannyāsa, vairāgya, knowledge or Brahmaniṣṭhā are inner evolutions not perceptible to the external senses, the transcendental mindset of a Knower eludes ordinary understanding. In Swamiji’s lifestyle – in his attire, travel, food, or residential arrangements – there is no apparent poverty or tangible austerity to match our common concept of vairāgya or sannyāsa. So, the devotees around are able to get a touch of his inner state of freedom and non-possessiveness only in such special occasions. Such events often kindle vairāgya in others who seek it.
Smt. Raj Dagur, who is now one of the dedicated volunteers looking after CIRD-Delhi, had been listening to Swamiji’s discourses. She was passing through a difficult time, and had come to the South Sainik Farm Ashram that day for the first time, with the hope that by meeting a Saint her troubles would be mitigated. But, listening to Swamiji’s address after Pādapooja, a new horizon opened before her.
She thought, “Here is a Saint who has much greater problem than mine, but how lovingly and unaffectedly he is talking about it in public and taking such a drastic step with so much of ease – a step we cannot even think of!” From that day, she followed the Saint seeking no more mitigation of external problems, but to learn how to remain unaffected in any situation. It was a new discovery for her about the real purpose of spirituality and the association of a Saint. Soon after that, she started bringing her friends and colleagues to meet Swamiji. One of them followed Swamiji more and more wholesomely and finally joined the Ashram as a renunciate (Brahmachariṇi Namratā Swaroopā).
The question that troubled all the volunteers’ minds was how to hold the Jñāna Yajña scheduled in October-November. It was already mid-March, and during the past five years in South Sainik Farm, the dimension of the “Institution” around Swamiji had grown to such an extent that nobody could think of hosting Swamiji again in a devotee’s house, as was done earlier. Of course, Swamiji assured everybody that if the society needed the Jñāna Yajñas, it was for Providence to make some arrangement, and may be even better arrangement suiting the purpose.
Sri Seetaramji Sureka (late), an industrialist friend of late Sri Pritam Chand Gupta (a close disciple of Swamiji), had met Swamiji first in the residence of late Sri Balan Subramanian. Silent devotees of Lord Krishna, Surekaji and his wife (late) Parameshwariji had great respect for Saints and our spiritual heritage. They had been humbly requesting Swamiji to grace their Farmhouse near Delhi Airport. This time, after learning from Pritamji whatever had happened in South Sainik Farm, Surekaji submitted that he would feel blessed if Swamiji stayed in his Farmhouse during the November Jñāna Yajña.
A day was fixed and we all went to see the Farmhouse in West End Green Farms near Delhi Airport. It was a very clean and green, quiet locality consisting of beautifully designed farmhouses. A 3km drive from the Delhi-Gurgaon highway, along a winding road lined with evergreen trees on both sides, took us to the “Sureka Farm”. The main bungalow was in the midst of an artfully landscaped garden and lawns. It had only one bedroom and kitchen attached to a big octagonal hall. Surekaji said he would extend the main building to host Swamiji and the two Sannyāsin disciples, and also make all the additional facilities required for hosting and feeding the devotees.
Pritamji knew about our requirements. Surekaji entrusted the whole job to Pritamji, desiring that all the extensions and modifications be made as required. Pritamji assured that he would personally look after the construction, and with Poojya Swamiji’s blessings he would be able to make the place ready within six months, for hosting Swamiji during the oncoming Jñāna Yajña.
On October 31 evening, Surekaji with his family was there along with Brahmavidyā volunteers to receive Swamiji and his Sannyāsin disciples at the Airport. When we reached Sureka Farm we found that the whole place had a different look, as if ready to play the role of an Ashram. In the main building, in addition to Swamiji’s room, kitchen and the octagonal satsang hall, there were two additional bedrooms with attached bath for Mā and myself. A new long building had come up in the annexe with 5 rooms and washrooms for the devotees. A huge covered platform in the backyard was made to function as the Annakshetra for feeding all the devotees and visitors, as was the practice in South Sainik Farm Ashram.
All this was made with the devotional attitude of Surekaji and the dedicated hard work of Pritamji racing against time! It was just two days before our arrival that the place was handed over to our volunteers for setting up the interior. The volunteers, under the leadership of Smt. Meena Tiwari, somehow made the place ready just by the time Swamiji arrived. In spite of all the festive arrangements, the place looked like a serene Tapovanam.
The Great Heritage
If we think of the timely role played by Sureka Farm in the evolution of Swamiji’s Brahmavidyā dissemination in Delhi, there was nothing strange in Pritamji’s hardwork and dedication. He had been a deeply devoted and service-oriented disciple of Swamiji. But what made Seetaram Surekaji (including his wife and sons) dedicate their choicest Farmhouse in a prime location for the service of a Saint he had hardly known? That too, it was not a question of just making the place available for a few days; it involved major new construction and completely remodelling the place to suit the requirement of the Saint and his devotees!
There was no ostentation. Nor was there any interest other than serving a Saint and his mission. In fact, after the era of the noble kings of India, the great spiritual culture of this land has been preserved and upheld by the liberal support of such devotional businessmen, especially from Gujarat and Rajasthan.
Further unfoldment of Providential Design
Sureka Farm hosted Swamiji’s visits four times between November 1997 and April 1999, till we had our own Ashram near Delhi. All the programmes during November 1997 Jñāna Yajña were conducted very well, with even greater participation and sublimity. The Sārvajanika Viṣṇusahasra- nāma Yajña conducted on the Farmhouse lawn assumed a new dimension in participation, organization, and grandeur.
Our search for a piece of land to establish the Delhi Centre was going on. No decision came in November 1997. The search continued during our next visit in March 1998. I think we had seen almost a hundred plots. Most of them were in Haryana, at least 60 km away from Central Delhi. So many plots we were shown in the Aravalli hills by a number of agents!
In one case, I remember, we were taken to a remote hilltop, and from there as we were looking over the scenic mountains, the agent told us to focus on a white structure far down in the valley. He said that our proposed
plot was next to that structure. How to reach there? The answer he gave I am yet to understand.
On one hand there was no sign of progress in our search; on the other hand, the day of our departure from Delhi was nearing and we wanted to finalize a place this time before leaving. One day, as we were returning from a back-breaking trip to a few sites in the mountainous ranges of Haryana, we decided: “No more we are going to see any plot in such distant places. Our Swamiji is not a Samādhi Yogi who will sit in a cave far away from the active world. He visits Delhi only to interact with devotees and seekers, to enlighten them, to disseminate Brahmavidyā in the society. How will ordinary people reach such distant isolated places?
How will Swamiji travel to the halls for conducting discourses? So, enough of these adventurous treks into scenic Haryana!” Why it took such a long time and so many tiring expeditions for this wisdom to dawn, has been an enigma. The moment you talk about a place for an Ashram, everybody, including ourselves, will immediately
visualize at least 10 acres of green land in a serene picturesque setting.
Some of us will not lose time to add an orchard and even a go-¿āla (cowshed). Who is going to produce such a land close to the Capital ! That evening, as we entered Sureka Farm, tired and disillusioned, we found Swamiji’s close disciple Sri Rakesh Mittal (IAS) waiting for Swamiji. At that time Rakeshji was posted as the Commissioner of the Uttar Pradesh Housing & Development Board. That day he had brought the Chairperson
of the Board Sri Mahesh Dutt Sharma to meet Poojya Swamiji. Sri Sharma had heard about Swamiji and was an admirer of Swamiji’s rational presentation of our spiritual heritage as well as his religio-social reformation movements.
After the initial enquiries, the discussion naturally came up about our continuing unsuccessful search for a place to establish the Centre. Sri Sharma immediately said, “Swamiji, why are you thinking of Haryana? Uttar Pradesh is the heartland of our spiritual culture. We are developing a new planned township named “Vasundhara”, on the way to Ghaziabad. Your Spiritual Education Centre will be a great blessing and adornment to Vasundhara. We can give you a few acres of land (lease for 99 years) at a concessional rate applicable to educational institutions. “
Next morning, I along with Sri RS Tiwari, Smt. Uma Shankar (our Haryana expedition team) and a few other devotees, visited “Vasundhara”. The place was yet to develop. Even the roads were not completed. The first impression was quite discouraging. The whole place was an extended flat wheat field with only three trees visible in the horizon. Close by was the Hindon canal with foul-smelling blackish water. Dark smoke from a not too distant brewery threatened us with consequences. A few local farmers talked about the extremely bad law and order situation. Uma was literally in tears, apprehending that we might finally select a plot there. I tried to inspire her by saying: “We shall make the place a forest. Was not Indraprastha built in a desert by the Pandavas! Here, at least it is a fertile wheat field.”
Next day again, we took Swamiji and Mā to see the place. Inspite of the apparent disqualifying parameters, Poojya Swamiji thought of going ahead. After all, it was a Government land and we might be allowed to pay in instalments. Also, the place was only 20 km away from Central Secretariat, and was very well connected by broad roads. We thought of taking only one acre, but the Board officials insisted that if we could take 2 acres then it could be adjacent to a green belt on two sides. Since we did not have any money, it was for Providence to arrange for the payments. All other considerations indicated that the Centre should have at least 2 acres. So, Swamiji signed the application form asking for 2 acres from the UP Govt. for the future Knowledge Institution at Vasundhara.
After deciding about some other details, Poojya Swamiji, along with Mā and me, returned to Thrissur, entrusting the Delhi devotees to pursue the matter further.
Ātm¢ya Vaibhav Vikās Kendra
An Ashram is an Institution where universal human values are cultivated by delving deep within our personality under the loving guidance of a Realized Teacher. To make the Delhi Centre a Universal Institution for cultivating inner qualities independent of any religious connotation, Poojya Swamiji named it “Centre for Inner Resources Development” (CIRD) or “Ātm¢ya Vaibhav Vikās Kendra”.
He wrote in Vicharasethu: “… CIRD will be a full-hearted contribution from our Brahmavidyā seekers and sādhakas to the Capital of our country and thereby to the whole Nation. … It should shine with its distinct focus on imparting ‘Subject education’ in the most effective and sublime manner. … When the mind gets expanded, the heart grows purer, and the intelligence becomes sharper, the human personality verily gets poised to perform and achieve anything needed for the welfare of humanity and its advancement. It is a great Yajña for all of you.”
(to be continued)