Recently, I have taken up a detailed study of “Moha Mudgara” otherwise known as Bhaja Govindam, of Adi Sankaracharya, one of the greatest ever Saints of India. A total of 31 Slokas in Sanskrit advises us to develop the necessary grit and determination in our mind to be free from likes and dislikes, understand the impermanence of every object that we experience through our sense and action organs and proceed with our inward journey to realise our true nature. My studies are covered in my blogs https://prabhusponder.com/category/spirituality/.
In Sloka 2, Adi Sankara talks about the impermanence of wealth. “Oh ignorant ! Win over the thirst for the inflow of wealth. In your mind develop detached noble thoughts. Rejoice your mind with that wealth which is obtained with your own efforts or karma” says Sankara. He drives home the point that wealth like our body is not eternal and is perishable. It is not an end in itself and cannot be the goal of our life. It is only a means to lead a Dharmic life to achieve our higher goal of “sorrow free permanent happiness”.
Contemplating on this, I was wondering if this message is relevant at all in today’s materialistic wealth driven world where everything conceivable is linked to wealth accumulation. As a widely traveled Senior Citizen, across the globe, I found more evidences supporting my thinking and I was craving for evidences that will be on the contrary. With social media being what it is, I didn’t want to rely on their evidences and wanted a direct experience as a true Vedantic student.
Amazingly coincidental, I found one in the city I was in (NYC), on the day I prepared my blog on Sloka 2 of Bhaja Govindam . Thanks to my daughter-in-law, no time was lost and there I was with my wife and daughter-in-law at the SACSS (South Asian Council for Social Service) at the Queens, Newyork City.
Here is my understanding of the activities there and how I relate them to my study of Bhaja Govindam.
Desire for selfless service – The Sudha Acharya way
As we entered the SACSS, we were welcomed and ushered in by a diminutive looking lady, who in an unassuming way introduced herself as Sudha, one of the team members who run the organisation.
We were seated opposite to her desk and she started her briefing about the Council and its works.
“With such amicability in her demeanor and a burning fervor for her mission, it’s hard not to feel her purpose in your own bones, too” says Nupur Bhatnagar in the December 2021 issue of SEEMA, a multidimensional platform that focuses on connecting and empowering women of Indian origin globally. No one can disagree with that and I can vouch for it.
One can coin attractive phrases like the politicians do across the globe for this kind of work; but unless the goal is seamlessly integrated at the physical and meta physical levels in oneself, one cannot provide selfless service to humanity.
In Vedanta, Mumukshutva is the intense longing or burning desire for liberation, freedom and self-realisation. In order to reach their goal, aspirants must let go of all worldly kamas or appetites for sensual pleasures, such that mumukshutva becomes their only desire. In Bhaja Govindam, Adi Sankara brings out this in several Slokas either directly or indirectly.
Mme. Sudha Acharya displayed this at every second of our interactions which went on for nearly three hours on that day.
Care & Share – SACSS way.
In Sloka 5, Adi Sankara was talking about “family and relations”. Man is a social animal and seeks security in relationships such as those of family, husband, wife, brothers, sisters or children and close friends in the hope that they will always be with him. Those who sit all around you are called parivara. You are attached to your parivara, your family, your friends and retinue and feels that the love and attachment is mutual. But, is this feeling of security/attachment/love eternal or permanent in life time? When I saw the line of underserved South Asian Immigrants and subsequently many at the Elder enrichment classes at SACSS I couldn’t help relating this with the Sloka 5 of Bhaja Govindam.
SACSS have understood this very well and digested this philosophy in their system. SACSS standby these people when they need the security in relationships.
Service as the DNA
Recalling her childhood days in Kolar in Karnataka, Mme Sudha Acharya explained how she was inspired by her grandfather’ and subsequently her mother’ selfless social works in rural villages. This is a key ingredient in the mental makeup of an individual.
Right inputs at an young age leaves indelible impressions in the mind, a point that Adi Sankara brought out in Sloka 7. The responsibility is on each one of us to bring Divinity (which is nothing but serving the needy) into our life at the earliest possible age. If this can be done before we get sucked into the worldly affairs of the Body, Mind and Intellect complex of ours, then it would save us a lot of bitter experiences in life.
Mme Sudha Acharya is a proof for this.
SACSS – A Satsang
During the discussions, Mme Sudha Acharya brought out that by identifying oneself with the needy, SACSS is able to crystallise specific action plans tailored to meet the different needs of South Asian immigrants.
Quoting the example of how a old Cancer patient’s (with Telugu as her only language of communication) specific needs for a pantry, Sudha identified the need for a culturally inclusive and varied food pantry that could serve the different needs, like rice, dal and wheat flour for South Asian immigrants in 2016.
Today this is underlying philosophy of their Pantry Service with spices added to the flavour (list) of the pantry. “When people identify you as a part of their own community and realize that you know them culturally, they begin to trust you,” she says.
This rings the bell immediately in me about Sloka 9 “Satsangatve Nisangatvam….”. The mind requires a suitable atmosphere to grow, in much the same way as a little plant does. As a sprout, it is very delicate and requires a lot of care and nurturing. Our mind is also like this sprout. It has to be taught and trained to follow certain values and priorities so that we get a proper perception of life. Satsang, or the company of those who are good and have wisdom and insight exerts a positive influence upon us. We need an inspiring atmosphere in order to maintain our enthusiasm in a conducive and positive manner.
Striving Ahead, Together
This is what SACSS seeks from the large hearted public. They have set an ambitious plan for 2023. They say
“Since SACSS opened in 2000, we have become a trusted, stalwart source for South Asian and other immigrant communities in New York City. In 2022, we have already served more than 160,000 people – our highest number to date. The pandemic hit our community particularly hard, and the aftermath is not over. Everyday, we meet community members striving to feed their families, pay their bills, stay healthy, and prosper in a daunting economic climate with severe and ongoing job losses.
This is not an advertisement or promotional material on behalf of SACSS.
In this visit to the USA, my focus was on Spirituality and Service. That took me to SACSS.
I was just amazed by the zeal, commitment and energy displayed by the entire team of 19 people, speaking 18 different languages from several countries in providing selfless service and care for the community.
I just wanted to share the inner joy that got in abundance during my three hour stay there. That’s it. God Bless