By An Ashram resident
In October 2008 I came to live full-time in Sri Premananda Ashram. When I arrived I asked Swamiji if I could offer service. He said it was a good idea and I was assigned a particular role. I have been carrying out that work for the last year. When I first started to serve I didn’t understand the deeper significance of what it meant to run a department. Before I started running the department I would meditate and pray to Swamiji every day and I felt close to him. However, my relationship with him was a little shallow – from my side. I wanted to feel close to God and close to my Guru but I hadn’t been ready to surrender my attachment to selfish desires, to what I wanted and to how I wanted things to be.
As the weeks passed and I settled in to life in the Ashram, I realized what a fantastic gift it is to serve others in this way. Swamiji can remove so many negative thoughts and habits from us as we work and at the same time bring us to a mature state so that we can truly evolve. I realized that in the past I wanted to experience Swamiji’s love and blessings but I wasn’t prepared to offer my life to him. Through Swamiji’s grace I have been able to understand that to give service means to forget about our selfish desires for trivial, short-lived enjoyments and to give your best at all times despite any difficulties that may arise. I have realized that in this short human life the best place to be is at the holy feet of the Guru, serving him in whatever way he needs. It’s not always easy and sometimes I feel like running back home so that I can eat chocolate croissants and put my clothes in a 60-degree wash!! But these desires are fleeting.
I used to think that following the spiritual path only meant being able to immerse yourself in deep meditation. But simply communicating with others in a loving way under all circumstances is also incredibly important on the spiritual path; it’s something that I don’t always succeed at, but Swamiji is ever ready to help me change.
Along with my regular work I started to spend time with the children, helping them in various ways. Poverty is still a huge problem here in India and many of these children would have had desperate lives had they not come to the hostel here. They are captivated by simple things like drawing, singing and spending time with you. The more time I spend with them the more I realize what materially privileged lives we really have in the West. The more time I spend with them the more I realize that, yet again, Swamiji gives the perfect example of how to serve others. He doesn’t just think of short-term solutions to problems – he started a charity that takes these children in, educates them, feeds them, loves them and helps them to create a better future for them. That is true service. It’s a privilege to serve others in this way.
There are many people in the Ashram who work incredibly hard and they work in a very genuine, conscientious way. This is not as easy as it looks. In fact I think that it is far easier to work in the West where everything generally runs smoothly! The fact that the Ashram is not only running but is flourishing is a miracle considering the difficult circumstances that Swamiji is in.
Swamiji is the perfect example of how we should face problems in this life – head on, fearlessly and with a smiling heart and face. I don’t know anyone who has gone through more setbacks and obstacles than our Guruji.
I hope that any devotees who are considering spending a prolonged period of time in the Ashram don’t hesitate to come and offer service to Swamiji from their heart. We may think that when we come we are helping him and helping his mission. The truth is however, that it is we who are helped by Swamiji – helped to come as close to God as we can in this very birth!
Jai Prema Shanti!