I read ur posting on the forum and this is what i think abt it. Seva is any kind of service that enhances the cause of humantiy. As long as you are ready to help someone selflessly, for each and every small good deed of yours, MHI is going to bless you. As for the badge, there are certain sevas that can be done only if you have a badge. If that is the case, there is no harm in taking the badge. Think of it this way, a badge not only means recognition but also responsibility and duty towards serving our khaane members. It is upto us, as to what we like to asssociate with each topic(i mean the badge). Hence, don't let a title or a badge hinder your seva. Do the best you can in JamatKhana with the title or a badge and continue with all your good deeds towards others. Last but not the least, when you wear the badge, don't think of it is a burden or a symbol of recognition, but always remember your intention to serve others selflessly. Surely, you will give your best with or without the badge/title then.
Volunteers have always been the life-blood of the Aga Khan social welfare institutions. Without their support none of our institutions could function as they do. Today, when resources are so limited in relation to the demands for improvement in education and in health, self-help effort is more important than ever before.
There are times on our Journey through the huge-ness of life that we feel lost, unloved, helpless and defeated. What do we do when we find ourselves in such an unhappy state? Some of us escape into the land of danger and defeat. We "get out of ourselves" by drinking too much, or taking drugs, or feeling sorry for ourselves, or complaining, or whatever else that stops us from doing what is truly necessary...and that is taking responsibility for our own experience of life. And we look out at the world with envy imagining that everyone else out there has been given a more fulfilling and enjoyable life than we have. Not good!
There are many healthier and happier alternatives. One of these alternatives, which is simple but HUGE in its force, is to "get out of ourselves" by getting involved in the lives of others who are less fortunate. What does that look like? We help feed and clothe the poor; we help build houses for those who have no homes; we visit the homes for the aged; we read to children in hospitals...and all manner of such beautiful things.
When I was the Executive Director of The Floating Hospital, which provided all sorts of health, educational and recreational activities for the poor in New York City, I relied on the help, not only of a paid staff, but a large number of volunteers. These beautiful beings provided money, services, time, energy, love, and caring to help those less fortunate than themselves.
Understand that not all of these volunteers were the moneyed of the community. I met "poor helping poor", people giving to their community in ways that touched the Soul. They taught me so much about what makes life worth living. And what truly does make life worth living is not only finding love, caring and all good things for one’s self. No, it's also about giving love, caring and all good things to others.
It's not that getting isn't wonderful...it is. And learning how to take with gratitude is a sign of an open heart and brings us much joy. But giving has its own special rewards. It is the pathway to finding and increasing our feelings of self-confidence and worth. And in the end, it is just these feelings that we are all yearning for during those times when our lives seem so empty and unhappy.
At The Floating Hospital, I saw firemen, policemen, society women, doctors, college students and so many other segments of society all showing up to distribute lunches, play with the children, wash the dishes, sing songs, create new programs, do office work, raise money and whatever else was needed. And in so doing, they discovered the incredible feeling of well-being inherent in the act of giving. How lucky they were and how lucky were those they served!
One of the people who often volunteered was my daughter, Leslie. She began learning at the age of ten what it meant to give of herself. She stuffed envelopes, washed dishes and served coffee with the best of them. And she carried this learning into adulthood. One of her ways of getting out of herself today is to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, a wonderful organization that builds houses for people who can't afford to do it themselves. I have photographs of her happily hammering nails on the roof of a house-in-progress. She talks about her feeling of joy and healthy pride when the keys to that finally-completed house are handed over to a family who never before had a decent place in which to live. In many other ways, Leslie has never stopped her practice of getting out of herself to find more of herself.
Ely, a friend of mine who had a stroke, was able to feel blessed and abundant every time he volunteered, wheelchair and all, to help cook in a restaurant that served free meals to the homeless. He knew he counted and had much to give to the community, despite his stroke. And it was his acts of giving that always made his spirits soar. As a general rule, to know that we count is one of the greatest boosts to our morale that we can ever experience. By the way, some of us volunteer at holiday time, which is wonderful. But those who get the most out of volunteering are those who make it a regular part of their lives...not just a holiday special.
You might be wondering why volunteering makes you feel so good about yourself? As I see it, volunteering takes you out of your Lower Self, the negative part of who you are, and elevates you to your Higher Self...the best of who you are...the part of you that is loving, powerful and abundant. You can understand why, when you find your way from the Lower Self to the Higher Self, your experience of life is transformed in a magnificent way.
So here is what I suggest: Any time you feel yourself in a depressed and unhappy state, immediately get up and get out to help the world in any way you can. And as you make helping others a part of your everyday life, any feelings of depression and unhappiness will appear less and less and less...and feelings of joy, gratitude and all good things will appear more and more and more. It works every time.
See, I told you the answer was simple, but HUGE in its force.
There's a charming Zen story about a rich merchant who decided to donate a large sum of money to a Zen master who needed a larger school. The master accepted the money without a thank you, almost as if he were doing the merchant a favor. This irritated the merchant, who informed the master in no uncertain terms that he was giving him a very generous gift.
"Do you want me to thank you for it?" asked the master.
"You certainly should," replied the merchant.
"Why?" countered the master. "The giver should be thankful."
The angels love this story, for they are total givers whose thanks come in the form of our joy and newfound wisdom. They want us to give in the same spirit not expecting thanks but being grateful for the chance to exercise the virtue of generosity and to witness the joy we bring to others.
When you give, do you expect thanks? Acknowledging a gift is the decent and mannerly thing to do, of course, but our Zen master was not being boorish; he was testing the merchant to see in what spirit his gift was given. The next time you give something, detach yourself from the need to receive thanks, and give thanks instead for the opportunity to return to the universe a fraction of what it has given to you.
An Angelic Reflection: I delight in the process of giving.
Make every action of yours such that it serves another. Serving shouldn't be a thought out process...every breath that one takes take should be in service...one should be serving without one realizing one is serving.
All Souls Day is celebrated on Nov. 2 of the Christian calendar. It follows naturally from All Saints Day, which is marked on Nov. 1.
The first commemorates Christian saints, known and unknown. The second recognizes the deaths of the community's faithful during the preceding year.
Both festivals acknowledge the special endings and new beginnings to which all Christians lay claim because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a time of remembering and anticipating.
This past summer, I turned 65. Sixty-five represents a life transition in our culture -- even when I experience little change in my working routine or day-to-day activity.
My body is encountering previously unknown challenges. My mind and spirit entertain strange and subtle nudgings. Pension cheques start to arrive . . .
For more than six decades I have been heavily involved in shaping a career -- of enhancing or sometimes just trying to maintain my standard of living.
I have been climbing a mountain. Now, lodged on an adequate perch, I reflect on important things.
This is a time to think transition. Where have I been? Where am I now? Where do I go from here?
For the first time, I seriously consider my legacy. What is a legacy? What will my legacy be? Legacy is an important consideration at many tipping points in a lifetime. Yet somehow, it is different this time. I realize I am not immortal. I know my lifespan will expire.
Legacy is sometimes used synonymously with inheritance -- the material benefits we leave to people we care about. At other times we associate it with 'heritage' -- those social and cultural traditions we have received, contributed to, and now pass on to others.
Legacy is both inheritance and heritage.
At this point, however, I want to explore a less-considered aspect known as my 'spiritual legacy.' Spiritual legacy involves material aspects like wills, bequests and endowments but it also entails non-material features connecting us with others and with God. Spiritual legacies are inclusive and embrace the visible and invisible.
Material legacies by themselves are temporal. Spiritual legacies are eternal. Our best bequest is not something we create for ourselves. Nor is it the good we leave behind for those we care about. It is a spiritual gift we have freely received from God and can generously share with others. It derives from God and ultimately returns to God.
I take my cues from my Christian faith, even though people of other faiths or none may share my perspective.
Once, when Jesus was teaching the people, he told a story (Luke 12) about a rich farmer who realized one year he would be reaping an exceptional harvest. His barns were full and he didn't have any more room to store his crops.
The farmer decided to pull down his barns and build bigger structures to store his bounty. "My soul," he thought, "you have plenty of good things laid up for many years to come. It is time to take things easy: to eat, drink and enjoy the good things you did without all those years."
But God intervened. "Fool!" he declared. "This very night the demand will be made for your soul. And your collection of good things and experiences -- whose will they be then?"
So it is, Jesus concluded, when we selfishly hoard our treasure instead of becoming "rich in the sight of God."
Many people recognize a reality exists beyond this world. They live in the here and now with an awareness of that reality. They develop a different set of values that influence what really counts in their lives. I want to be numbered among such people.
I want to see things from a perspective that transcends this world. The practical and the material are important, but I do not want to be overly concerned about such things.
This is what I want my legacy to be. I want to move intentionally and creatively from maintaining and enhancing my current standard of living to celebrating a new, generous standard of life. I want to do this out of gratitude for the rich legacy I have been given. Freely I have received; freely I want to give.
I will try to have enough in my barn so that, in my more fragile years, I will not be too much of a burden for those I love. But I will not grow obsessed with having enough and accumulating more.
My spiritual legacy includes my family, friends, work and the communities from which I gain strength and identity. I will continue my vocation of teaching and writing for as long as I am able and will conduct my affairs knowing I am accountable to others and ultimately to God for all that I do.
Wayne A. Holst teaches at the University of Calgary and at St. David's United Church.
I have noticed that the concept of seva - loosely translated as "selfless, voluntary service" - is nowadays increasingly wielded as a weapon and less as what it is meant to be.
The other day, when a community volunteer was asked why she repeatedly failed to do what she had undertaken to do, why she hadn't met her obligations fully or in a timely fashion, I was flabbergasted by the response I overheard:
"I do seva, bhenji", she protested. "I'm not getting paid for this. I spend so many hours here, while I could easily be doing something else. I don't have to listen to this nonsense: if you don't want me here, say so, and I'm gone!"
It was a deft use of the very essence of seva. As a shield - a shield from criticism and from accountability.
On another occasion, I heard a fellow wield the word somewhat differently, but equally effectively.
He was addressing members of a community group. "I'm the one who can run this organization and ensure that it stays alive. I've done seva for three years ... day and night, and weekends too. And haven't taken a single cent for my time. How can you even think that another person should come over and run it. Others will simply run it to the ground.
And, you know, I'm not going to let you do this. I'm not going to let you turn all my seva into nought!"
I felt, as I watched him through this performance, that he was wielding his seva quite
deftly... as a weapon. A sword, actually. The parry and thrust was working: you could see it in the wounded look in the eyes of the audience.
Is this what seva is all about?
Am I wrong in thinking that the moment you use seva ... yes, USE it ... for any ulterior purpose, then it instantly ceases to be seva? If it loses its spiritual core, then all you're left with is ... a clumsy weapon.
The concept of seva, I feel, is simple and uncomplicated in Sikhi.
The very idea of seva begins with a metaphor: that of the milk-pot or vessel. Nanak says:
First, wash the vessel,
Next, disinfect it with incense.
Then, and only then, is it ready to receive the milk.
[GGS, M1, 728:1]
True. What good is the milk once it has been poured into a soiled receptacle? The dirt of the vessel taints everything that is poured into it.
The mind, like the vessel, first needs to be cleansed if one is to prepare it for things spiritual. Otherwise, all effort goes to waste. And this cleansing of the mind, the preparation, is done with the "soap" of humility.
So far, all of this is esoteric and philosophical. But Sikhi brings the exercise down to earth by guiding us how to do it while going about our day-to-day, ordinary lives. In seeking humility, there's no need to blindly wade through religious tomes. No penances, no fasting, no retreats, no masochism of any kind. No feeding of priests, no pilgrimages, no renunciations, no onerous abstentions.
There's a simple, direct and effective way: seva.
No grandiose projects are necessary for this inner cleansing. We don't have to build monuments, or light bonfires on top of mountains, or even go on far-flung crusades fighting for world peace.
Just serving the basic needs of those who are in need puts us on the right path. At home, with the neighbour, around the corner, in the community we live in ... the concentric circles can get as wide or remain as narrow as the situation demands.
Feed the hungry, clothe the destitute, shelter the homeless.
Or even more simple: just wash the dishes at the langar, or serve food, or look after the shoes of those who come to worship.
Anonymity helps. Not wearing a t-shirt or bandana that proclaims SEVADAR, helps.
Doing it without fan-fare, without a shabash or pat on the back, is a definite plus. Doing things that others do not want to, or cannot do, is good. Sweeping the floor, or cleaning the washrooms are therefore bound to be the most rewarding.
One of the most moving sights I have seen in my life is something I witnessed a couple of years ago in Espanola, New Mexico. Singh Sahib Harbhajan Singh Yogi had shed his mortal coil and crowds from around the globe had arrived to celebrate his life. By the thousands. The logistics required to cater to the needs of these visitors from far and wide were stupendous.
And one of them was the need for a platoon of portable toilets which were, I'm sure, leased for the occasion. It would've been terribly easy to have also bought the services of a handful of workers who could've maintained the facilities and kept them clean at all times.
What touched me deep inside was the vision of our hosts who saw it as an unprecedented opportunity to do seva. Any time of the day or night, if you walked into the facilities, you
saw a couple of the Sikhs from the Espanola sangat cleaning the toilets and water basins, or down on their hands and knees, cleaning the floor. It was arguably the cleanest spot within the endless acreage roped in for the events of the week.
And, you know, there was not a sign anywhere proclaiming, e.g., "Seva" provided by the Sangat of ....." Nothing. Not a word, not a peep. That's seva.
It's for the sheer sake of seva. It has no other goal. Even the end result is not important. You don't need a smile or a nod, a pat on the shoulder, or the gratitude of another to validate it. You simply do it, and you do it to the best of your ability, and nothing
You don't go home and note it in your diary. Or tell your family and friends. Or have it published in a newsletter in the "Acknowledgment" section.
And you don't wave it in the face if you are running for election the
next time around.
Here's what I've been taught and what I try to emulate .... though
those who know me well could easily cite many a lapse:
Don't let the right hand know what the left hand does ...
It isn't seva if it is for the purpose of getting a tax-deductible
It isn't seva if your heart and soul aren't in it.
It isn't seva if it isn't done with honesty and integrity.
It isn't seva if you believe that mediocrity is all that is expected
of you, and that you needn't do more.
It isn't seva if it's for building your resume.
It isn't seva if it is meant to be a stepping stone to bigger and
It isn't seva if you need to tell others, now or later, that you did
It isn't seva if lack of appreciation by others, or their criticism,
drives you away.
It isn't seva if you believe that it is your right to do it.
It isn't seva if you have to fight against others to do it.
It isn't seva if you snatch it away from another, to do it.
It isn't seva if you begin to believe you're the best one to do it.
And, it isn't seva if it distresses you that others take credit for
what you've done.
Not too long ago, I was blessed with an opportunity to visit the Durbar Sahib in Amritsar, after an absence of more than three decades. There were so many things that added to the joy of being there.
Not the least of it was the timeless sight at all hours of the day or night, literally - even in the cold and dark hours before dawn - of men, women and children behind the counter, tending to the shoes of pilgrims.
Quiet faces, moving in the shadows. Ever-so-slight, barely discernible quivering of the lips, silently accompanying the kirtan playing from the speakers around them. No small-talk. No name-tags. No meeting of the eyes, no searching for acquaintances. Just simple, purposeful, swift, efficient movements ... the queues were long.
There's always a hush around the shoe-stalls outside the main entrance, I've noticed. The only words you hear are "satnam, satnam..." and "waheguru, waheguru..." And a lot of "ji...ji...jee- o...ji ..."
I don't know how they do it. But I see them taking each pair of foot-wear as if it is a house-warming gift. Lovingly, gently, softly ... if you glance back for a split-second, as you turn away, you may even catch one in the shadows wiping the dirt off your shoes as they
are placed on the shelves.
I tell you, it is there, standing on the cold wet marble, looking at this scene, that I experienced the first communion with what I had come searching for, after all these years, at the doors of the Harmander.
It is the epitome of seva.
And, it is most magical when - and I borrow from the English Bard - it "is not strain'd"...
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
May we all, each one of us, be blessed with this gift.
"In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us."
"There is a wonderful mythical law of nature that the three things we crave most in life -- happiness, freedom, and peace of mind -- are always attained by giving them to someone else."
Peyton Conway March
Volunteers line up to welcome Jamati and institutional leaders at Umomi Jamatkhana at the conclusion of Volunteer Week in Afghanistan. Photo: Courtesy of the Ismaili Council for Afghanistan
Earlier this year, the Afghan Jamat observed a week-long celebration of volunteerism, a tradition that has long been central to Ismaili culture. Held at all Kabul Jamatkhanas, Volunteer Week was an opportunity to showcase the impact that volunteers have on the Jamat’s wellbeing, and increase the unity and collaboration among them, as well as within the wider Jamat.
“We were excited and happy to have this week to demonstrate the love and respect with which we carry out our voluntary duties,” said Rabia, a volunteer. All volunteers dressed in their uniforms throughout the week, which kicked off with a special cake-cutting ceremony in each Jamatkhana that was led by their respective Jamati leaders.
The week also coincided with Navroz, and in keeping with tradition volunteers took part in cleaning and sprucing up their Jamatkhanas. They planted different kinds of flowers and trees in and around Jamatkhana grounds. Recognising perhaps, the contribution that he was making to the health and beauty of the environment, junior volunteer Mahmood declared his lifelong commitment: “I planted a flower at Jamatkhana, and I will always come early to water it!”
Volunteers prepared traditional Afghan foods that were sold in the Volunteer Week food courts of each Kabul Jamatkhana. Photo: Courtesy of the Ismaili Council for Afghanistan
Adding to the celebratory atmosphere, volunteers cooked and sold traditional Afghan dishes, including bolani, aashak, manto, sambosa, palao, kabaab, as well as aft mehwa (a sweet drink) and sweets. “Many people come here to buy the food,” said Frozan, one of the volunteers responsible for selling the food. “[It is an opportunity for them] to eat dinner with their family and friends at Jamatkhana.”
In addition to food, there were handicrafts on sale and games for entertainment. Women could also apply mendhi or khina. Zuhal, a senior volunteer who is also studying to be a beautician, took some time off work to volunteer her skills: “I am supposed to be [at the beauty parlour] until 6:00 PM, but I came to Jamatkhana at 3:00 PM to design hands and use my skill to make people happy.”
Beyond the celebration, Volunteer Week also carried serious messages aimed at raising awareness of the benefits of volunteerism, including its role in cultivating greater unity and supporting the overall progress of the Jamat. It was also an opportunity to assist volunteers in becoming more effective in their work, and to invite more members of the Jamat to contribute their time and skills as volunteers.
Older volunteers help their junior counterparts to plant a tree, and teach them about the importance of caring for the environment. Photo: Courtesy of the Ismaili Council for Afghanistan
Senior Jamati leaders visited each Jamatkhana to meet volunteers and observe them as they carried out their duties. Volunteers from other Jamatkhanas also visited, so it became a point of pride for each Jamat to demonstrate the hospitality, proficiency and enthusiasm of their volunteers. But it was also a chance for networking and learning from each other.
“I am happy because throughout this week I met more friends who do the same duty we do,” said Fariha, a senior volunteer from Nukhusteen Jamatkhana. “We all have the same goal and want the same achievements but we were not familiar with each other before this occasion.”
The week also drew interest of many new volunteers, who were invited to join and serve for a few days before making a commitment. A young lady named Parinaz became a volunteer after observing the “respect, excitement and enthusiasm in the faces of [other] volunteers.” She added, “I decided to [join] as a way to serve Mawlana Hazar Imam.”
Volunteers gathered at Umomi Jamatkhana, where they watched video highlights of the past week. Photo: Courtesy of the Ismaili Council for Afghanistan
As the week concluded, volunteers and Jamati leaders gathered at Umomi Jamatkhana, where they watched video highlights captured throughout the week, and cheered as attention turned on each Jamatkhana.
“The week had many brilliant accomplishments and messages,” said the volunteer captain of one Jamatkhana. “All volunteers are looking forward to the next volunteer week!”
[Feature] On 50 years of Ismaili Volunteer Corps Gulmit
Posted on October 30, 2010 by Pamir Times| 6 Comments
Huzur Mukhi Muhammad Ghulam (right) getting a token of appreciation for lifelong voluntary services
Photographs: Asghar Khan
Volunteering for common causes has been an important feature of life for communities of the mountainous Gilgit – Baltistan region. For centuries the men and women have sacrificed their resources, time and thoughts for collective good, enabling the society to progress in economic and social domains.
The formation of Ismaili Volunteer Corps in Hunz, Gilgit and Ghizar , in my opinion, immortalized the institution of volunteerism by providing it the organizational structure hitherto unknown. One of the first such groups to be formed in Hunza Valley was the Ismaili Volunteer Corps, Gulmit.
The need for establishing the volunteer corps emerged in 1960 because His Highness the Aga Khan IV, Shah Karim Al – Hussaini, Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, was visiting the region. The volunteer corps were formed to coordinate and manage the preparations for the visit. It was a historic visit because never before had any Ismaili Imam visited the region.
The Ismailis of Hunza, Ghizar and Gilgit traditionally celebrate the first visit of their Imam to the region by holding festivals across the region from October 20 to October 26.
A recent ceremony held in this connection at Gulmit, the head quarter of Gojal Tehsil, was dedicated to the pioneers of Ismaili volunteer Corps. Speakers paid glowing tributes to the men and women who sacrificed physically and materially for common well being and established a strong social institution that has played an important in regional progress.
Many of the founding members are not alive today but their services were remembered with reverence and tokens of appreciation were awarded to their family members. Former office bearers of the Ismaili Volunteer Corps Gulmit were also presented with certificates as a token of appreciation.
For the Ismaili Muslims volunteerism is more than community participation and collective progress. It is an element of their faith.
Princess Zahra, daughter of His Highness the Aga Khan, in an address at the International Association for Volunteer Efforts (IAVE), 1998, explained volunteerism as means for actualization of the Islamic ethics of ” inclusiveness, of compassion, of sharing, of the respect for life, and of personal responsibility for sustaining a healthy physical, social and cultural environment.”
In her address Princess Zahra also counted “generosity of material resources, of time, of thought and knowledge” as fundamental aspects of the Islamic concept of volunteerism.
Princess Zahra had further said that appreciating and acknowledging volunteery services increases the level of efficiency and satisfaction obtained from work. “When volunteers are taken seriously,” said Princess Zahra, “the quality of their contribution and their own sense of satisfaction literally soar.”
In this scenario the appreciation ceremony provided an opportunity to the people to thank and praise the volunteers for a job well done and a life well spent.
Those who spend their wealth for increase in self-purification,
And have in their minds no favour from anyone for which a reward is expected in return,
But only the desire to seek for the Countenance of their Lord Most High;
And soon will they attain (complete) satisfaction.
By Alysha Javer/Zeenatara Allahrakhya – I woke up this morning with a feeling of guilt and desolation. I thought about the quality of my life and that of my family, and it struck me how much God has given us, and how well He looks after us and how much He protects us. I was struck by His awesome generosity, kindness, love and benevolence. And once again, the feeling of guilt and desolation swept through my entire being. To the loving God who has been so kind to us all — what do we do for Him in return? I felt very small this morning as it struck me forcibly that I was not doing anything much at all in gratitude and shukrana to my most generous Lord. I thought, “People do so much, they give hundreds and millions of dollars in charity every year. They give so much and do so much and here I am, taking so much from Him but not giving at all much in return.” With these thoughts, I sat down in prayer to apologize to my dear Lord, to seek His forgiveness for being a taker and not giving much at all.
It is then that a voice spoke to me that God does not expect big and exalted things from His loved ones. He does not ask for the building of big, big mosques and temples, schools and colleges etc. He is most happy with small but meaningful gestures of kindness and charity from His loved ones. This is because in small and meaningful acts of kindness and charity, there is no scope, or rather there is little scope for what is known as “dikhwaava” i.e. showing off, and as soon as I heard this voice, an instance from the life of Sant Kabir flashed in my mind:
Sant Kabir says that one time a very devout follower of the Lord Shri Krishna complained to the Lord in his prayers. He told the Lord that he had tried his best in his life to be as devout as possible. He had never missed a single time of prayer. He had never missed a single fast, he had done yagnas and had also made a lot of sacrifices, including hours of meditation and penance. And yet, his soul was still yearning for that ultimate prize, entry into the “Krishnadhaam” — the personal abode of the Lord Himself, the place of complete and true peace and happiness. He complained to the Lord in this way and begged the Lord to guide him and to show him the correct way to the Krishnadhaam. That night, in his sleep, he saw a vivid image: He saw the Krishnadhaam whose gates were closed and being guarded by an angel. He then saw a man come up to the angel and ask him to open the gates and allow him entry into the Krishnadhaam. The angel asked the man why he should open the gates for him.
“What? Have you not heard of who I am!” the man exclaimed to the angel. “Do you not know I have spent hundreds and millions of dollars for the good of mankind? All over the world, you will find temples, mosques, university buildings, hospitals with my name on them. Now open the gates and allow me entry.”
The angel shook his head and said, “No. I am sorry but for all your good deeds you have received praise and recognition from the world. In fact, you carried out all these good deeds for just that purpose. Is it not your own name that is displayed at the entrances of all these buildings? All these acts have been dedicated to for yourself and not to the Lord Krishna. So there is no place for you here. Go away.”
The dream continues with another man coming up to the angel and demanding entry. The angel asked him the same question, to which the man replied, “I have done so much for the poor in the world. I have opened shelters and food canteens and free clinics all over the world. I have ensured that the poor are well looked after.”
Once again, the angel shook his head and denied him entry for the same reason. Thereafter, a third man arrived, dressed in the robes of a hermit. He requested for entry and was asked the same question.
“I have taken my Lord’s name a million times,” he responded. “I have spent 8 to 10 hours a day just on meditation and I have even spent years, standing on one leg and chanting my Lord’s name. I have gone through austerity and penance. I have spent time in cold water during the freezing winter, praying and meditating. Surely I deserve to go in.”
The angel shook his head and said, “It is true you have done what you say but all that was for yourself and in return you accepted praise, recognition and adulation by gathering a large group of disciples who treated you as God Himself. So you have received your reward for your sacrifices and there is no place for you here.”
And with that, the hermit was turned away. At that moment, the angel saw a man dressed in ragged clothing standing some distance away and watching the gates of the Krishnadhaam. The angel called the man to come and asked him why he too did not wish to enter the Krishnadhaam like the others.
“I am but a poor carpenter and if the wealthy philanthropists and pious hermit were turned away, what hope do I have of entering this exalted abode? That is why I decided to stand afar and just lust for the abode from a distance.”
The angel asked him to describe what he did the day before.
The carpenter said that he went to work but did not manage to sell any of his carvings. He then came home with empty pockets and asked his wife to make a simple meal. He thereafter extracted a small portion of the rice his wife had cooked and carried it over to his neighbour, a poor destitute woman who had been sick and bedridden for some time. He sat by her bedside and spooned a few morsels of rice into her mouth. He then picked the Geeta and read out aloud to her a few chapters from the Holy Book.
Thereafter, noticing the dust in her room, he picked up the broom and swept the room clean. He then prayed to the Lord Krishna saying, “I have done this in your name, the little that I could. Please grant this woman health and please look after her.” With that, he returned home.
Immediately, the angel opened the gates of the Krishnadhaam and with respect and hospitality ushered the poor carpenter into the splendorous abode. “You helped the sick woman in the name of the Lord Krishna with no expectations for yourself. Now the Lord Krishna invites you into His abode.” (end of story)
Immediately, my feelings of guilt and desolation dissolved. It is not big acts of charity that are dear to the Lord. Small, small acts of kindness: giving a packet of milk to the beggar at the corner, helping a sick neighbour, giving a smile and words of encouragement to a sad child, lending a sympathetic ear to a troubled friend etc. It is all such small but meaningful acts that will bring us closer to our ultimate destiny. But as we learn from the above instance, whatever we do, dedicate it in the name of the Lord, with no expectations of rewards and recognition.
I thank God for this inspirational revelation and hope to bring a smile to someone’s lips today so that God may smile on me and my loved ones.
By Alysha Javer, with an inspiration from her maternal grandmother Zeenatara Allahrakhya. Alysha is a teacher, after completing her studies in the field of Education and Psychology in the UK, she taught English Language and Literature for a few years before joining the Writers’ Bureau, UK. Currently, she lives part of the year in the UK and part of the year in Kenya (with her grandmother) and she’s working on writing her first novel. In her own words: “I’m very interested in learning more and going deeper into the subject of faith and ethics, and my grandmother is a great source of inspiration and knowledge in this vast subject.”
Ismailis walk with the YWCA to create community awareness
September 10, 2012 by Justine Leonhardt Leave a comment
Cause We Care will be a housing complex for to single mothers and their children similar to Alder Gardens. Photo courtesy of YWCA
For 21-year-old Salina Dharamsi, a member of the Ismaili community in Vancouver, volunteering started early.
She was eight years old when she first helped out at her local mosque. It was something that anchored her, she says, and enabled her to give back to her mosque and the community at large.
Now, volunteerism is simply a part of Dharamsi’s life and has led her to countries as far away as Guatemala, India, Rwanda and Switzerland to work with organizations like the UN, World Vision and the YWCA.
The Ismailis, belonging to the Shia branch of the religion of Islam and living in over 25 different countries around the world, have a deep-seated sense of community, and it is this quality that led Dharamsi to foster her own involvement in volunteer work. Within the larger Ismaili community, it has also led to the creation of events like the Ismaili Walk which was started in 1992.
On Sept. 23, the 21st Annual Ismaili Walk will be partnering with Vancouver’s oldest non-profit organization to raise awareness and funds for the YWCA Cause for Care House.
Based on the model of previous YWCA housing, and taking off from what the YWCA Crabtree Corner Family Resource Center started, Cause for Care is slated to open
in 2015 and will be a housing community for single mothers and their children.
All of the women have different stories and a different set of experiences, according to Maia Gibb, fund development manager for the YWCA. Many are immigrants that have come to Vancouver and have become single mothers. They are forced to navigate a city where the language is foreign and the cost of shelter “limits choice in a huge way.”
Cause We Care’s hope is to create stability for those children and assist their mothers in achieving economic and personal independence through programs and facilities that will include access to child care, medical services, ESL and literacy courses and a full service library.
The principles of the Ismaili community and the YWCA are similar, according to Ali Solehdin, a Ismaili Walk volunteer. Both are dedicated to giving back to their community and giving their time, competence, and effort, he adds. It is a mutual goal of the YWCA and the Ismailis to take care of their community and Solehdin believes this begins with women.
“Healthy women create healthy families,” he says. “It is the health of these children that will make them successful and contributing members of their own communities in the future.”
In this way, the Ismailis have come full circle and are giving back to a community that once helped to welcome them. It was this camaraderie and mentoring that gave Dharamsi the sense that she could make a difference at a young age and also made her aware that volunteerism, like the Ismaili Walk itself, can be done by anyone, old or young.
Not only has volunteering deepened Dharamsi’s own faith, but it has also made her realize the importance of her actions, with faith as the base and volunteerism as the action.
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