Siva and Amar Seva Sangham

April 15, 2008 Link Amma's Grace

Dearest Friends and Family,

Back to the story with Shiva – Let it suffice to say, that by God’s grace  he is now in a school in Tamil Nadu, called Amar Seva Sangham. There is a dear devotee here, who had sponsored a child there for years.  Knowing of the place, she contacted them and they were willing to try Shiva out there for a month.   If he can adjust, they will help him to get an education and job skills training in numerous fields, enabling him to do more than daily wage work.

Amar Seva Sangham  is an institution which serves handicapped, severely handicapped,  spastic, cerebral palsied,  retarded, polio victims, the blind and deaf and others –  its amazing.  We suggest people to check out their website – www.amarseva.org  It is really an awesome place.  There are also a few non-handicapped people like Shiva, whom the kind hearts of the institution seek to help.  The founder is himself a remarkable, remarkable man. Sri Ramakrishnan. When he was a  engineering student, he tried out for the Indian Navy.  During the physical test, he fell and became a quadriplegic.  I am not certain that he can even turn his head.   He had a wonderful Dr. named Amar Singh, who encouraged him and he began tutoring handicapped people in different school subjects, despite his infirmity in the early 1980’s.  He went on and on, with determination, and very little assistance.  The people he tutored gained incredible self-confidence despite the handicaps of their bodies.  This aspect itself garnered
attention to his efforts.  Later, he was joined in 1990 by Dr. Shankar Raman,  and his sister, Smt. Sumati,  both of whom have muscular dystrophy and are wheel chair bound.  Shankar Raman does not have the use of hands or legs. We were privileged to be invited into a meeting with the leaders of the organization.  When we saw Sri Ramakrishnan, we felt we were in the presence of a deeply sincere and great soul, whose vast sympathies are for all.  In that room were the energies of hidden greats on this earth.

What these people have done, without the use of arms or legs truly shames us, who have such blessings.  Amma has said that God created those with arms and legs to help those who do not have them, those who are not retarded to help those who are, those with money to help those who do not have money.   When one sees what these Maha Giants of Human Beings, Sri. Ramakirshnan, Sri Shankar Raman and Smt. Sumati have done, without arms or legs, one is awed and humbled.  They gave us free reign in the place, and we observed Sri Shankar Raman at work….my goodness…you cannot imagine.  Without hands or legs, supporting his own dear head on the prop of his arm bone, as I imagine the neck muscles have deterioriated due to dystrophy – he was none the less a man of intense dynamic action – a phone was held to his head while he dealt with innumerable phone calls,  another person assisted with the computer, while he directed the clicks, a man stood infront of him holding letters for him to read…Others were waitng outside to
be seen by him…he was manning a full staffed, hectic office which also serves as training ground for disabled people who later will seek employment in offices.  In all the people a lightness and joy was present.

Amar Seva Sangham is really  a wonderful model for a pattern of institutional care for handicapped people with a very loving human touch.  Within the campus, it has a ‘normal school’ which serves to integrate handicapped children into the mainstream school setting.  They also take in all the spastic, retarded and disabled people living within a twenty kilometer radius for classes with an attending parent every morning, imparting hygiene, socialization and other skills to educate the parents in caring for their children as well as adapting the children to the classroom environments. There are different areas where the residents learn tailoring, print shop work,  sari painting, prosthesis making, motor repair, toy making as well as computer skills…they can complete up the post graduate level in schooling if they so wish….there is a building dedicated to the physio-therapy of the residents and those who come for other services, with trained Dr.’s and therapists who come and work with each person…they have just
started another area for quadriplegic people….We met unbelievable heroes there as well…

Their goal is to help all handicapped people become contributing members of society, as we all should want to be.   Additionally they serve over 300 villages, providing teachers, medical camps, etc., who impart education, assist in helping disabled people to gain acceptance in ‘normal life’.  They have also gone to court on behalf of handicapped people, and thanks to their untiring and ceaseless efforts there is a much greater expanded awareness in the society as to the role of handicapped people, their rights, and the duties of the ‘normal’ people towards them.    Truly, the opportunity to serve others in these ways is a great blessing….  In India, the emphasis is duty, first, before rights.  As such, handicapped people are also seeking a means to perform their duties…in the west, the emphasis is rights, without duty.  Rights that do not accrue as a result of duty are empty, and apt to be abused.  There is so much confusion about rights and duties….In the West I have seen mentally handicapped people pushed
to exercise their ‘right’ to have children, whom they are ill equipped to care for…I question the moral soundness of this approach to actualizing the potentials of life for them….

When we look out into the creation, we see each thing performing its own function  that makes up the ocean of action and movement going on around us.  Each tree has its particular duties to the rest, which it performs, fruting, air scrubbing, giving shelter…each type of tree performs a different kind of dutiful function, and trees planted in unfamiliar soils can often perform functions there as well, even if different from their ideal conditions for growth…I mean, the harmony of dutiful action in the creation is so obvious – we all see that only Man has utterly lost his way….
When I was much younger, 18 years, I worked in a convalescent hospital in California for 2 years.  It was a horrendous and nightmarish eye opening experience.  I have often felt since then, that the situation for geriatric people in the US is unconscionable….dehumanizing…I have also felt in retrospect, that probably the most useful time in my life, in terms of service to my Maker and the Creation, was then…just being kind and gentle to people, getting the right teeth in the right mouth, the right eyeglasses on the right face, washing their bodies gently, letting them swallow their food before putting in the next mouthful… respecting their small wishes…  I eventually had to quit as it was too straining for me…I dreamt about my patients, went to see them on my days off, tried to advocate for them with their negligent or blinded families and the institution…Their situation was so alarming to me, and still is…very often people working in institutions that deal with people who are disabled in some way, themselves
become somewhat dehumanized.  Its something that people working in those situations have to be on vigilant  guard against, never to lose sight of the equal humanity in those they are serving….
That brings me to another beautiful point about Amar Seva Sangham.  Perhaps it is because the leadership is also so severely handicapped physically…but, I think, more it is due to the broad minded vision of the leadership there, the gentle goodness in their hearts, and their eyes, cleansed of much of the false conditioning of ‘normal’ human society –  but one thing there really struck us.  There was very little caste or status consciousness present.  It is the only place I have been in India that is like this.  It is the only place that I have seen genuinely following Amma’s teachings so closely – their eyes are not stuck up like the rest of India – it was a heart vacation for us to be there.  There were no VIP;s there, there were only people whose inner compassion had moved them to help others…and as it is really our human duty, it is no cause of social preferencing or status to do so….

Their institution appeared to us like a beautiful flower.  At every turn we saw heros and heroines, who were transcending the limited identification of the self with the body.  Really, we felt we were among angels.  None of the people we met were self typed as ‘disabled’.  They were all first and foremost typed as ‘human being’. First and foremost, they were the soul that inhabits the body.  There were people who, without legs in wheelchairs, being pushed by those whose legs were maimed…everywhere, we saw only people helping people.  In addition, Sri. Raman’s wife, Pushpalata, has ensured that numerous flowering plants abound there…she follows the Aurobindo Mother’s views on the spiritual qualities of flowers, and the children have access to picking the ones they feel they need for their day…the place smells heavenly….The true love story of Pushpalata and Sri Raman is one of enduring, divine love….life after life…
Really, a very refreshing place – they are even growing grass, which Amma has said institutions should do, as the wind passing through the grass is beneficial for students…they have organic gardens, cultivate spirulina, etc. The grounds are spotlessly clean, all 30 acres  – no garbage tossed around…and the clean walkways are like mini boulevards, wide and accommodating for wheel chairs and cycle carts,  one can walk barefoot and not feel like you might have just stepped in somebody’s spit…  In Dec. 2006, they had brought all their residential children here to Amritapuri for darshan with Amma.  People who met the kids then remembered them out of the 100’s of thousands that came that month – for their glowing faces, their self-confidence…Amar Seva Sangham is operating under a guiding gracefilled hand – their students are beneficiaries of that self-respecting love.

So, Shiva is there, learning job skills, and getting coaching for becoming literate in Tamil medium….it is really a great grace for him.  I only hope that his mind will allow him to stick to it…his years of bus stand living  have not been of positive service to him….he is not accoustomed to stability that will prepare him for a more positive and productive life.
I believe it is possible to volunteer there –we met some lovely people from Germany who had come to work as part of their social service  degrees in their home countries,  but contact the organization first. We will try to get some photos up.

Loving you,
Kamala, Anni and Link


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