C.M. YOGI -- MY JOURNEY, MY FAITH
My Journey, My Faith
Founder Principal / Coordinator, Hindu Vidya Peeth-Nepal
I grew up in a traditional Hindu family in a small village in Dang, in the western part of Nepal. From the beginning of life I understood the true meaning of Pooja / Aarti. We never had dinner without first having evening prayers and receiving blessings from our elders by touching their feet. During the day each member of the household was busy with their own respective activities. Father was one of the respected elders of the community. Everyday villagers and friends would visit to seek his guidance on various problems. My mother was mostly occupied in the kitchen cooking for family and guests. When we didn’t have school, we children were assigned chores such as grazing livestock and watering the vegetable gardens. Evenings were taken up with reading books like the Ramayana and Geeta. We would listen as our parents told us moral stories and we would report the various activities of the day and share problems amongst ourselves. Our home was full of life. We didn’t have separate bedrooms and so slept beside our mother or alongside our brothers and sisters.
There wasn’t a proper school in the village and my parents always had a dream of teaching me Sanskrit. So at the tender age of seven, I left the warmth of my parents’ lap and travelled to Delhi for my education. We walked for two days barefoot followed by a further two days by train. Nobody explained to me where I was going and why. Yet part of me was eager to make this journey. It was as though some unseen force was calling me.
I joined a very traditional, old Gurukul to study Sanskrit and other ancient Hindu texts. Daily life was a challenge - getting up at 4.30 am, performing yoga, meditation, reciting the holy books, and then going to school to study the scriptures. Being a young child, I naturally longed for freedom and comfort. I missed the village and the people I had left behind. I was homesick for the beautiful rural environment. I dreamed of the pastures where we used to graze cattle, the open fields where children played and the canal where our mother would take us to bathe. However, life at the Gurukul formed the basis of my education. It instilled in me strong moral and spiritual foundations and helped mould me into the person I am today.
After eight years in Delhi, destiny drew me back to Nepal. I once again breathed in the fragrance of the fresh air and felt the love of the innocent village people. I was overjoyed to be reunited with my family. The unconditional love of my parents and relatives felt like the greatest gift in the world. Yet new challenges were waiting for me. Failing rains and problems of deforestation meant my parent’s struggled to generate sufficient production from traditional subsistence farming. Many villagers unwillingly decided to migrate elsewhere in search of opportunities. We suffered lots of hardship during these times.
Despite all these difficulties, my father taught me philosophy, stories, songs and Bhajans. It was remarkable how, although being a father to ten children, he could still lead his life as a saint. He always reminds me of Rajarshi Janak (father of Goddess Sita) since he lived amidst this material world without ever being attached to anything. Our father taught us good virtues and aimed to guide us towards a righteous path. I still remember whenever I used to leave home, he would massage his long white beard and plead “Babu, Aastik Bhayes” (“My son! Please have faith in God”). Being a young man I was always in a hurry. To keep him happy I would reply, “Yes” and then try to leave as soon as possible. But he would call me again and say, '”My son, always believe in God”. Even today, though my father passed away five years ago, I still hear his affectionate voice guiding me. I feel like he is just beside me.
Likewise, I am forever influenced by the deep spiritual character of my mother. I have not met a wiser woman in my life. From where has she obtained such wisdom? Was she naturally born with this or did she gain it through the hardships she has endured in life? She is over 75 now but her face seems to be glowing with the light of wisdom. Truly speaking she is a mother for many villagers, relatives and friends. How could one, despite being illiterate, inspire so many people so effortlessly and profoundly? Actually, there is nothing miraculous about her behaviour. She never preaches, but her motherly care and company can simply enlighten anyone. She spends most of her time singing devotional songs and entertaining people who come to meet her. I remain eternally grateful to her. She taught me to practice patience whatever the circumstances. The Bhajans she taught me give infinite pleasure. I sing them as constantly as I breathe and any tensions and pressures automatically disappear.
During my late teenage years in Dang I became involved in politics. Fighting for democracy was quite risky at that time and my serious involvement caused a lot of worry amongst my family. They feared about what could happen to me. My family persuaded me to leave Dang for Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. Having arrived in Kathmandu to pursue my further studies, once again destiny called me from another invisible corner. Actually, I believe everywhere we go, everything we do is determined by fate (Prarabdha). I enrolled in college for my Master’s Degree and started hunting for connections with various political, religious and social institutions.
It was then that I then met Dr. Bihari Lal Shrestha. It was as though we had been brought together by some invisible force and became entwined like flowing water. He was an ideal person. He refused to rest in his mission and never said, “No” to the poor people. Actually, he served God through his fellow man. Though he was a highly respected orthopaedic doctor, his smiling and gentle behaviour was so heart touching. In fact I consider him a doctor of the soul since many patients used to feel better just by meeting him.
After meeting Dr. Shrestha I immediately immersed myself in social work. Together we established a school - Hindu Vidya Peeth-Nepal (HVP), a charity-based institution that imparts modern education along with spiritual values. Although I had the zeal of selfless service I lacked any real experience of life. I was just 21 at that time. It was his amazing inspiration and his family’s trust and care that led me to social work. I was also supported and guided by Matribhoomi Sevak Sangh (Mother organisation of HVP). It was a challenging time for me. I used to work tirelessly and go to my bedroom in the school’s boarding hostel only after 9:30 pm, having fed and put the children to bed. Afterwards I used to read Swami Vivekananda. His beautiful words made me cry. The financial pressures of running a school on a shoestring budget made my life so tough at times. I often felt disheartened by others who never believed in us, who didn’t trust our vision and failed to understand what we were striving to achieve with the school and other charitable activities. Still, I never got frustrated through these difficult times. The Vedas say, “Charaiveti....”. Keep walking; keep walking, then only will you get the nectar.
At the same time, I met Sri Badrivikram Thapa. Here was another uneducated old man who was just like my father but was highly reputed in his social field. His whole life can be seen as an example of selfless service. He touched my heart so simply and added further fire to my flame. He served the public as a Commissioner for many years but never had any sense of ego or attachment to the power his position gave him. His example became an ideal for many civil servants, a true personification of Gandhi’s ‘simple living, high thinking’. At age 73 he left his earthly body so simply. It was as though death came to greet him "Hello' all of a sudden and he accepted it quite beautifully as though death were a friend. He was a great 'Karmayogi' as the Geeta says.
God was planning something more for me. In fact, He loves us through the people who are gifted or blessed by him. Therefore, he brought me into contact with Swami Prapannacharya ji, a yellow dressed saint who has dedicated his life for spiritual Sadhana. Swami ji began his long spiritual journey at the late age of 30. Until then he was uneducated and worked as a field labourer in Nepal’s rural hills where poverty means it is a daily struggle to survive. But his destiny led him to Kashi, India. Later he returned to Nepal as an intellectual complete with a Ph.D. He came from a very backward community where nobody was allowed to read Sanskrit, but when he returned to Nepal, even the Brahmins bowed to him as a great saint. It was like Buddha returning to Kapilavastu after Sambodhi or Gyan. According to the system of Hindu sects you can categorise Swami ji as a Vaishnav Sadhu. But he respects all sects and religions without any discrimination. He loves equally all Gods and Goddesses and accepts all the different religious pathways as beautifully as an ocean filled by the waters of many rivers. Nowadays he is over 84 but he works as actively as if he were just 25. He always follows the path of Niskam Sewa and says, “I want to die just by preaching and serving for the betterment of humanity'. In fact, the heart of a saint is just like butter. As Tulasidas says, “So kind, soft and bleeding for other's benefit and happiness”.
Dr. Shrestha and Sri Badrivikram passed away leaving their legacies upon my tiny shoulders. I was only 21 when I started working as a founder principal of HVP Schools. When they finally left me, I was still only around 35. Life is an endless journey. Wise are those who understand the call of time and shape their life accordingly. So I was determined to accept the challenges and continued my journey to fulfil my own mission and vision. On one hand, I was alone; on the other hand, God was with me. He endowed me with some more good friends for my mission of SEWA.
I would continually question myself: Was I working for the benefit of society or was I working just for the schools? Was I really working for the whole of humanity or just for Nepal? Actually, knowledge that comes from deep realisation is always true as He guides us only from the heart. So I listened to his voice and then began another campaign. This led to the creation of Shanti Sewa Ashram, (SSA). It’s an organisation working for the promotion of spirituality through selfless service in collaboration with 21 different social and educational organisations. Another fellowship we have developed is Youth Society for Peace (YSP). It acts as a forum for youth committed to peace and service. Mottos like ‘Think globally, act locally’, 'Peace through selfless service’, 'Education for love and peace’, 'Humanity through spirituality’ have become the main guiding principles of my life. I see beyond barriers of caste, creed, sex, sect, nationality and community. The concept of Vedant has now become crystal clear for me.
As a seeker of spirituality and as a member of Hindu society, I now clearly feel that although journeys may begin from different corners, all religious pathways lead ultimately towards the same goal. We may use different languages for our prayers but they give us the same feeling; we may live in different communities but are living on one earth under the same moon. So why not embrace each other and enjoy life by loving all? Why not feel that the same supreme consciousness exists in every being? We are all Brahman; all the variations are only illusions. Therefore, let's live in truth and understand the absolute truth; let's practice love and understand His unconditional love. Let's realise inner peace and create global peace.