Home > Story of SVYM > (55) Fund raising – the Swami Achalananda way…

(55) Fund raising – the Swami Achalananda way…

September 11, 2010

As I have written earlier, Swami Achalanandaji was one of the best things that happened to me in the early years of SVYM. Swami Veetamohanandaji introduced me to him when I had gone to invite him to preside over our first anniversary celebrations. From December 1985 to December 1990 till his death, I met Swami Achalanandaji on every possible day. I used to spend at least 1-2 hours with him each day, getting exposed to the different texts of Shankara or to the practical concepts in the Bhagawad Gita and Upanishads. It would be appropriate to credit him for giving me the strength and vision to dream of what SVYM should be. It was at his biding that I chose to go to Heggadadevanakote after Mr.Baligar had suggested that I work with the tribals there.

During the early days, funds were indeed very difficult to come by. I remember two particularly distressing situations when things seemed to be testing my commitment and resolve. The hospital construction had begun and every Saturday was a nightmare. That was the day when we had to make payments to the construction workers. It was getting increasingly difficult to mobilize the resources and I was getting both fatigued and frustrated. I was recounting to Swamiji that I was reaching my breakdown point and could not continue if support was not found. In his own inimical way, he asked me why I was so perturbed when the ‘old man’ was there to help. I could not figure out what Swamiji was saying. I even thought, “My God, this man must be becoming senile! Which old man is he referring to? Is it himself or some other rich philanthropist that he knows?” Looking at my puzzled face, he told me that he was referring to Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, whom he fondly refered to as the ‘old man’. He suggested that I try appealing to him. Again, I was puzzled. What appeal and how do I send it out to a person who lived and died more than a century ago? Swamiji explained that all I needed to do was to go down to the meditation room in the cellar of the Ramakrishna Institute of Moral and Spiritual Education (RIMSE, as it is popularly known) and pray for help, and the support would come. I was unsure how to respond. The rational side of mine wanted to discard this suggestion, while the ‘faithful’ side wanted to try it out. Swamiji again suggested that it was just one more experiment in the many that I was undertaking and that i had nothing to lose. That was my first lesson in faith and the power of prayers. From then on, I have been many times to the cellar at RIMSE and prayed fervently for help. And support has always come – support just enough to take care of our immediate needs; nothing more and nothing less! With each passing day, my confidence levels rose, and for many years I was never really troubled by financial pressures. After all, I did have a ‘old man’ acting as my banker who ensured that funds were made available whenever I needed them.

The next incident pertains to the school. It was the year 1989. The school at Brahmagiri was now becoming popular and our 28 children were pretty regular in attendance, at least till lunch time. The kitchen was the most important part of the school and possibly the most expensive one too. I was beginning to experience and understand what ‘hand to mouth’ existence meant. I was unable to take the pressure of getting support for the mid-day meal program. I had now resorted to walking down Devaraj Urs Road in Mysore, asking the many grocers for support in kind. One particularly irritable grocer was quite harsh in his words and he called me a beggar. I was quite upset and did not know how to respond. Again, I turned to Achalanandaji for help. He heard me out and was quiet for a few minutes. He then asked me to join him on a visit to a popular temple at Horanadu, a few hundred kilometers away. The very next week, Achalanandaji, Swami Bargeshanandaji and the late Nagendra (a local businessman and an ardent supporter of SVYM till his death) and myself left for Horanadu. We broke our journey at Mangalore and stayed at the Ramakrishna Mutt there. At Horanadu, Achalanandaji was given a traditional welcome reserved for monks and I realized that he was much revered in these parts too. At the sanctum sanctorum, Swamiji suddenly turned to me and asked me to pray for support for our mid-day meal program. I again had this conflict of ‘reason’ and ‘faith’. More out of respect for Swamiji than out of any extraordinary faith, I prayed for help. Annapurneshwari, the Goddess worshipped in this temple, is known as the mother who provides food for all. As I started to pray, I suddenly could not see the idol and all I saw was a bright space where the idol was. I was terrified. My first thought was that I must be having a migraine with visual disturbances (I was suffering from them regularly, but had not had an attack for a long time). The next thought was ‘I must be hallucinating’. Everytime I tried to pray, the idol would disappear and a bright empty space would become visible. I was so scared that I could not stand there anymore and rushed out of the sanctum. Swami Achalanandaji followed me and sternly directed me to go back and ask the mother for help. I did go and tried to hold on and kept my eyes closed. It was then that I felt a strange sense of calmth and a voice telling me that the school would never run out of food as long as we stayed on the path of righteousness. Describing this voice is indeed difficult for me. It was not something that one hears through the ears. It was as though somebody was speaking to me within me. I was not sure how to react to this experience and was lost in confusion for the next many days. Finally, I decided not to go back to Devaraj Urs Road or directly ask anyone for support. Strangely, the school has never had a problem in feeding hundreds of children who have now gone through its doors. Food has always been available even in times when we have had no money to pay our suppliers.

Both these incidents can rightfully make any rational mind dismiss these events as silly and unsubstantiated. For a person who constantly sought explanations and reason to back my experiences, I was unable to fathom or internalize these events as they occurred. All that I have are my experiences that repeatedly gave me the proof that I was looking for. Experiences which died away as I gradually lost my faith…

More of this later…

Balu

Categories: Story of SVYM