Journey To God – Penang
Thaipusam 2012 – Penang. All of us are familiar with the huge crowds, the panthal-lined roads, the loud music, the scores of kavadi, the snacks and sweets, and the overpriced food. The fanfare is so great that the whole spiritual aspect of Thaipusam seems to get diluted. However, the spiritual backbone is never quite lost.
This year, for the 7th time the Journey to God event was carried out. Essentially, Journey to God is an event where the disabled who are not able to climb up the steps to the Murugan Temple on the hill are carried on specially made chairs, up those steps. At the same time as this was a blood and organ donation drive. Things started quite early in the morning – by 7:30a.m. some of us had gathered to set up the tents and banners for the blood donation. Not long after, the hospital staff arrived and the event kicked off smoothly. An impressive number of people came by to donate blood, and was successful to a degree that will definitely be beneficial to aid the critical shortage of blood. However, the number was still rather small when considered in proportion to the throngs of people that come for Thaipusam. Interestingly, a significant number of Indian citizens also donate blood. Apparently the notion of donating blood is much more common in India than it is here, as blood donation drives are frequently organized there to deal with the frequent shortages of blood faced there. Also, rather unfortunately, some potential donors had to be turned away as during the screening process prior to actual donation, as it was determined that the alcohol content in their blood was too high. This instantly brings to mind the various forms of improper behaviour that greatly undermine and attempt to subvert the spiritual nature of the celebrations. Nevertheless, a good amount of blood was obtained and also, over 100 people pledged their organs.
While the blood donation was going on, participants who were to be carried up the steps in the Journey to God event were being gathered and transported by van to the centre of operations at the foot of the hill on which the Murugan Temple is situated. As clearance had been given to commence only at 1.00 p.m., participants were stationed in a tent where there were provided with lunch and drink. Prior to commencement, there was a briefing and demonstration to everyone who was going to carry the disabled up the steps on the safety measures, the technical aspects of performing the task properly, and the system of rotating bearers of the specialized chairs.
Volunteers were grouped by height so as to try to establish a level plane to aid balance. A runner was also assigned to each participant to clear the path for the volunteers carrying him/her. It was certainly hard work that tired the body, but the notion of bringing some form of joy and happiness to these poor disabled people overshadowed the physical challenges of the task.
Being in the close presence of the disabled, although not for long, allowed us a closer perspective of their lives, enabling us to inspect, learn, understand and realize, to a greater degree the suffering they endure, and the multitude of challenges they cope with, to lead their lives as normally as possible. In spite of the business of preparation and ensuring all arrangements are attended to, the mind is never fully focussed on the organizational aspect of the event. It is impossible to do so when the heart fixes a constant gaze at group of disabled people sitting together. It is impossible to not feel at least a slight tinge of sadness. It is impossible to not feel pity. Thinking about the whole concept of Journey to God, one comes to have a better appreciation of the idea that we should live to serve others. Service to others is the primary function of human life. While the purpose of human life may be to realize God, let us not forget that seva is one of the paths to God. In today’s debilitating state of the world where it is sick, where billions suffer from a lack of food and water, where millions die of starvation, and sickness, how can we ignore?
The philosophy of service is one that can save this Earth from its dire predicament. Viewing the world through the prism of the philosophy of service, we see everyone else as equally important as us, as equally in need of our needs, as having the same essential desires as we do, as being able to feel as we feel, hunger as we hunger, thirst as we thirst, cry as we cry, and die as we die.
Through the prism of service we can see that our primary duty in life is to help others, and aid in the helping of others – to realize that a global network of goodwill and service should be the ultimate goal; for it alone, other than the direct intervention of God, can bring about the necessary reparation to society the world over. To reach such heights, it is impossible without the adequate resources – but we must realize that the primary resource is none other than love. Not just love to shower others with, but to develop love within us, to be connected with our higher selves as often as possible as constantly as we can and to progress thereof, to be able to be constantly in touch with Universal and spiritual love, divine love, whatever we wish to call it. Thus, in appreciating service more and in realizing the necessity of love, we come back to what Swami has said – self transformation. Without transforming ourselves, how, just how can we change anything else? How can we effect change on something else when we ourselves have not changed? Journey to God, like all other service, brought me to the realization that the most important thing, that we should do and can do, is to transform ourselves. By transforming ourselves, we change vibrationally, and as others change, the vibrational change that occurs spreads and strengthens. It is hard to overstate the necessity of practicing as one preaches. Let us all transform, change, and seek company that helps us maintain and increase our vibrational progress. Let us embrace truth, seek love, embody that love, and spread it. It is the only way to bring about goodness in the world.
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