Finding spirituality within the local population…
“Touch and awaken the faith of the people and you can proceed on the path of morality and spiritual upliftment” said Prof. Jajoo about the experiential wisdom gathered from the Swadhyay Parivar. The question was how to apply these concepts to the villages around sevagram.
“We realized that the rural folk around sevagram are deeply influenced by the preaching of Saint Tukadoji Maharaj and the Varakari sect.” said Prof. Jajoo. The devotional songs and hymns composed by Tukadoji Maharaj are sung alongwith with regular reading of the scriptures, Bhagawad Gita and Ramayan, in these villages every evening and on the special occasions of Bhajan Mandals all through the night. Despite, the awe and regard for God at an individual level, it appeared that faith has stagnated to certain ceremonial rituals only and did not in any way aim to shape any a concerted community action.
“Our initial attempt was to initiate singing of hymns (kirtan) and exposition of the sermons (pravachan) woven round active social issue. We were helped by some of the devout men, women from the village as well as active members of the Tukadoji Sewa Mandal (Organisation for service by disciples of Saint Tukadoji Maharaj). The recitals were heard with all reverence. However, despite attracting large gatherings this did not translate into any meaningful community action and these recitals soon became ritualistic.” said Professor Jajoo.
As we looked for ways to spiritually uplift the rural masses, Mahatma Gandhi’s saying “My life is my message” made us take a new direction.
We asked ourselves “What if we brought in people who had taken personal vows to live virtuous lives on a regular basis to the villages. Their narration about the righteousness of their life and satisfaction they got from leading a purposeful life could be used as a springboard to discuss with the villagers issues relevant to their lives.
As these narrations began to hold the interest of the villagers, a wide range of issues came to be discussed in these forums- from topics affecting their daily life like ‘How can agricultural practice be a part of devotion?’, ‘Nurturing children’, and the “essence of householders life (Gruhastashram)” to social issues like “self help group and women’s empowerment” (Refer Self Help Groups) and philosophical questions like “The significance of acts of faith and the rituals” and “the relevance of vow taking in human life”. Gradually over time these topics began to stimulate intense discussions between the speaker and the villagers. One could sense a gradual change in culture emerging among the villagers.
The realization dawned that the right kind of community participation emerges when spiritual wisdom leads and lights! Along the lines of Mahatma Gandhi said that economics has to be infused with spiritual values. It should create social prosperity in terms of cordial relationship, among different layers of society rather than accumulation of sheer material wealth in certain pockets only. This self- realization gave birth to many social schemes in the years to come:
- 1992 - Vastra-Swavalamban-self reliance in clothing.
- 1993 - Women’s empowerment through organization of Self Help groups (Refer Self Help Groups).
- 1995 - Anti-liquor movement.
- 2000 - Anna Swavalamaban-freedom from exploitative market through organic farming for self reliance.
- 2008 - Sustainable agriculture for self reliance.