Serve Humanity, Serve God

Health, education and availability of justice are everyone’s basic rights, yet these are largely unaffordable or unavailable for many in rural and tribal areas. There is lack of education and health facilities in the tribal belt of Uttarakhand, and as a result, villagers and tribals have developed superstitions which affect their overall health and wellbeing. To eradicate superstitions and to ignite a spirit of service among medical practitioners, Anuj Singhal, himself a doctor, along with a team of medical professionals, began providing medical services to the tribals in Uttarakhand after 15 years of social work in Kerala with the Swami Vivekananda Health Mission (SVHM).

With the help of the Mission, Singhal organised health services for people in remote areas with an overwhelming urge for service to humanity. “That is my religion and I thank God that he chose me to do this,” he says, smiling. He had always wanted to serve people, even during his college days; therefore, he started attending free health camps.

“If you feel the pain of others, then you can contribute anything for their welfare. It helps you to understand not only yourself better, but also your family in a more effective way. Everyone is not fortunate to be able to help others. Even the vedas say, ‘Nar seva, Narayan seva — service to man is service to God’. God lives in everyone’s hearts and if we are able to serve and help the needy, it’s like serving Him,” he elaborates.

Help Others

With emphasis on service, Singhal points to the Bhagwad Gita, chapter 17, shloka 20: “Service which is given without consideration of anything in return, at the right place and time to one that is qualified, with the feeling that it is one’s duty, is regarded as the nature of goodness.”

The group is constructing a charitable hospital in Dharmawala, 40 km away from Dehradun. “People are coming forward for help and they are contributing money to create funds to help us and that’s a big support to us to provide more facilities,” adds Singhal.

Along with medical services, the society also educates youth, provides employment to local people and organises self-help camps. SVHM also provides free multi-specialty medical care, medical camps and mobile medical vans in the area.

Om Namah Shivay

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More Than Physical-2

Conversely, if the donor is spiritually more evolved, will the transplant work positively for the recipient? Yes. As in anything else, we must remember that the effect of an action depends on the motive with which it is done. So if the motive is concern for a fellow being, the growth of consciousness will be much more than if the person is doing it for other reasons — money, attachment for a blood relative, or to give his ego a boost by doing something that is considered noble.

What happens if the one who needs the transplant is highly evolved but the potential donor’s consciousness is way below par?  Such an evolved person (if he had the choice) might not opt for a transplant in the first place, for two reasons. One, he might not want to accept an organ from a person with a lower level of consciousness. Two, he would not want to cling to life. For him, if it’s God’s will that his journey should come to an end, he is ready.

I guess, such an evolved person might not even be willing to donate? 

He may not be as enthusiastic as an ordinary person for the same reason. So while it seems compassionate to donate, a more enlightened compassion may make the person less, rather than more, enthusiastic about donating or receiving an organ.

What should a potential recipient and the donor do to make the procedure successful?

Develop a positive and hopeful outlook and look upon the organ he is receiving from another person, who might be different from him in certain respects, as fundamentally the same because our divine essence is the same. If he is able to identify with the donor and meditate on this idea of oneness it might help his immune system react less violently to the ‘foreign’ organ. As for the donor, if he is able to purify his thoughts and meditate on the noble act as an instrument of divine will and think of the recipient with compassion, his consciousness could affect the consciousness of the recipient positively.

Would yoga and pranayama practices before surgery help?

It is important for both the donor and recipient to be in a healthy state, both physically and mentally. If there is time before the surgery, some health enhancement can be achieved through yogic practices of asanas and pranayamas. But these things often happen in a great hurry and do not allow that kind of preparation.

What would you advise recipients and donors?

The donor should purify his thoughts and feelings and rise to the highest level of consciousness so that he has the highest motive for what he is doing. The recipient should have a sense of gratitude and pray that what is being done for him through the donor is successful and be optimistic about the outcome. Once the transplant is successful, he should look upon it not merely as a prolongation of life, but as another opportunity to fulfil the purpose of life.

Om Namah Shivay

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More Than Physical-1

In organ transplantation, besides tissue compatibility,  spiritual compatibility could also make a difference,

What are the medical and ethical aspects of organ donation and transplantation?

The main thing is that of the compatibility of  donor-receiver tissues because organs have specific  proteins and antigens that are different in different people. They evoke an immune response in the recipient which may reject the transplanted organ. More and more transplants are being done after the tissues are matched. After a certain period of immuno-suppression, the organ is  able to survive in the recipient.

As for ethics, if a person can do something to prolong the life of a fellow being it is an act of compassion and so is an ethically sound practice. Besides tissue compatibility, there is spiritual compatibility, too.

Spiritual evolution of an individual implies his rising to a higher level of consciousness — both mind and body are involved but it’s something modern medicine does not usually understand or accept. But, from a spiritual perspective, this is not difficult to comprehend because all parts of the being are manifestations of the Divine and they have consciousness. When an individual is evolving, all parts of his being are evolving and changing in consciousness. The reason why it appears to be confined to the mind is because organs like the heart, liver or kidney do not have a complex mechanism like the brain to manifest that consciousness. It means that when a person is evolving in consciousness, his cellular consciousness is also changing.

How crucial is spiritual compatibility to the recipient’s body accepting the transplanted organ? Ordinarily, it does not matter so much, since most of us are more or less at the same level of spiritual evolution. But if the donor happens to be at a much lower level of consciousness than the recipient, it can create problems because in that case the consciousness of the recipient can be ‘contaminated’ by a lower consciousness. There is a documented case of a heart recipient who would have nightmares. Later, it was found that the donor was a criminal who was executed for murder. It has also been found that in some cases, the recipient seemed to have acquired some of the habits, tastes and preferences of the donor. Clearly, consciousness affects all organs and in the case of organ transplant, it affects the recipient at the level of consciousness.

Om Namah Shivay

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Gift Someone Life As You Die

It’s time for serious introspection. “Scores of people die every year waiting for organs, but nobody cares,” lamented Jack Kevorkian, the famous US pathologist. It’s typical India apathy playing out when we keep those in need (of an organ transplant) waiting forever, and in vain. There are many among them, like young Faisal from Ahmedabad, who wastes precious money and time in taking interim measures. He spends hours undergoing dialysis every week at a city hospital, when he should be at school, or better still, playing with his friends. The cure to his suffering is a kidney transplant. Alas! The situation is grim. There are too few givers for too many takers. One shudders to anticipate Faisal’s fate. More than five lakh people die every year for want of one organ or the other due lack of donors.

To give is to receive. Giving is central to all religious faiths. The value of life is not in its duration, but in its donation. It’s not important how long but in how many people you subsist.. Donating wealth is great; donating blood is greater. But greatest of all the gifts is a human organ. It is simply gifting life. In a way you play god. Organ donation is one of kindest, noblest acts of compassion and selflessness. It’s only when we give a part of ourselves that we truly give. One should not lose sleep over who gets the donated part. Will you ask questions if you or a near and dear ever needed one? That’s it.

Let me clarify: you are not giving the organs right away but, for the present, only pledging them. They get harvested only when they turn unneeded by the owner in case of a brain, accidental or natural demise. After death, our body is no more than a waste. ‘Dust thou art to dust returneth’. But it can be a treasure-trove to those moving back and forth between life and death, going through excruciating wait for an organ transplant. An angel like you can turn their gloom into hope. Do you believe in miracles. I do. There is one a dead body, that includes yours, can perform. It can give a new lease of life to eight fellow beings, long after you are gone. Imagine the prospect where a blind sees through your eye and your heart beats for a young life, literally. The sheer reflection of giving someone hope should spur you on.

Organ donation suffers for the myths we inherit and nurture. Another reason for huge demand-supply gap is our lackadaisical approach towards all things salient. We think we are here for good even as others around us take a bow through God’s, timely or otherwise, intervention. Many of our noble intentions remain on the drawing board for this one damning weakness. The thought of organ donation, like many such others, resonates continuously with us but someway remains just that, a thought. We develop amnesia when there is time for action. As an upshot, there are 1,50,000 hopefuls awaiting a kidney transplant against a measly 5,000 people who have registered to donate them. Roughly 18 patients die every cruel day due lack of organ donors. It calls for serious introspection.

An organ transplant is the only hope for a multitude of patients suffering from life threatening diseases. But there simply aren’t enough organ donors. And it is this uncertainty of finding a donor that leads to despair often greater than the illness itself. Let us put ourselves in their shoes and picture how it feels. They wait for humanity’s intercession to pull them out of death’s jaws. And we cling onto a kidney, liver, heart et al that is not entirely ours, and what is more, is redundant to us once our soul takes flight. All our possessions, body included, are a creation of ‘cause and effect’, giving all around us partnership rights over them. We are not sole owners but a trustee. Use them and pass on.

Have I been able to talk you into it. I hear a yes! Now don’t procrastinate. ”He gives twice as much good who gives quickly,” said a saint. If you are convinced, convince others. File your own registration as a donor right away. Kill the wait before it kills someone faraway.

Let me conclude with couple of beautiful lines of Henry Burton: Have you had a kindness shown? Pass it on; ‘Twas not for thee alone, pass it on.

Om Namah Shivay

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A Gift for Two

It was a beautiful day for sightseeing around downtown Portland. We were a bunch of councillors on our day off, just out for some fun. The weather was perfect for a picnic, so when lunch time came, we set our sights on a small park in town. Since we all had different cravings, we decided to split up, get what each of us wanted, and meet back on the grass in a few minutes.

When my friend Robby headed for a hot dog stand, I decided to keep her company. We watched the vendor put together a perfect hot dog, just the way Robby wanted it. But when she took out her money to pay him, the man surprised us.

It looks a little on the cool side, he said, so never mind paying me. This will be my freebie of the day.

We said our thanks, joined our friends in the park, and dug into our food. But as we talked and ate, I was distracted by a man sitting alone nearby, looking at us. I could tell that he hadn’t showered for days. Another homeless person, I thought, like all others you see in cities. I didn’t pay much more attention than that.

We finished eating and decided to head off for more sightseeing. But when Robby and I went to the garbage can to throw away my lunch bag, I heard a strong voice ask, ‘there isn’t any food in that bag, is there?’

It was the man who had been watching us. I didn’t know what to say. ‘No, I ate it already’. ‘Oh’, was his only answer, with no shame in his voice at all. He was obviously hungry, couldn’t bear to see anything thrown away, and was used to asking this question.

I felt bad for the man, but didn’t know what I could do. That’s when Robby said, I’ll be right back. Please wait for me a minute, and ran off. I watched curiously as she went across to the hot dog stand. Then I realized what she was doing. She bought a hot dog, crossed back to the trash can, and gave the hungry man the food.

When she came back to us, said simply, I was just passing on the kindness that someone gave me.

That day I learned how generosity can go farther than the person you give to. By giving, you teach others how to give also.


To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.
– Mahatma Gandhi.

Om Namah Shivay

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The Business Of Giving-2

CSR expert and author Meera Mitra thinks differently and maintains that even if good works are just business and branding efforts, these are still positives for society. Because, for a lot of corporations, philanthropy is engaging government to understand the key gap areas of development and then working strategically to fill these gaps. Corporations are also trying to ensure they meet future expectations of people by implementing social development projects and while this might be carried out in their own self-interest, the net result, is a ripple effect that does create better opportunities and living conditions.

Doubtless, some industrial houses have managed to imbibe the concept that ethics is an integral part of corporate governance. The Tatas, for instance, incorporated the idea of building economic and social infrastructure around their industries right from the outset. Jamsetji Tata did not just set up a steel plant in Jamshedpur at the turn of the 20th century; he also set up, perhaps, the first industrial township in the country. Housing, schools and hospitals were among the host of facilities provided at Jamshedpur. After independence, public sector companies set up in backward areas followed this model and set up virtual townships in remote rural areas with almost zero infrastructure.

Many business journalists have visited these townships spread across the country to find out how petroleum refineries, fertiliser factories and capital goods plants are being run by the public sector. Their achievement includes planned housing facilities, along with schools and hospitals to meet workers’ needs. In addition, the management often assists local communities in various development activities, the kind that come under the CSR banner now. Unlike public sector companies, private companies have normally not created infrastructure facilities in a big way — barring notable exceptions like the house of Tatas.

The Giving Pledge

Yet another development linked to CSR is the concept of giving away sizeable funds for charity. This is a global movement launched by the richest men in the world, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. It has now spread to India where philanthropy, in a big way, has finally become part of industry’s lexicon. Top industrialists like Azim Premji and Shiv Nadar have publicly pledged large chunks of their riches to charitable and philanthropy activities. This may not be strictly CSR but it does come under the category of industry allocating profits for social development.

The fact is that the concept of giving away a share of profits may be aimed at improving image, but it is also true that ultimately, it does help the less-privileged and uplifts the economy. Therefore, even if critics say the motivation is profit-oriented, it is indeed benevolent activity for society. Surely then we, as members of society, need to acknowledge, support and commend corporations for moving in the right direction.

Om Namah Shivay

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The Business Of Giving-1

Are projects carried out as part of corporate social responsibility a boon or bane for society,wonder many among us.

When a business house sets out to do good work for the community, most of us have an innate sense that it is probably doing something to improve its bottom line and no more. And that’s probably true in some cases. As is their corporate dharma, corporate social responsibility-related work is often viewed by business houses as an opportunity to boost their market image. Good publicity is good for business. And every bit counts. For instance, on a smaller scale, even initiatives like maintaining a public park or paying for housing colony security gates can go a long way. Hoardings publicise the work — that a certain company is maintaining the park or that it has set up a security gate. When it comes to much larger investments, there is even more scepticism among cynics about the reason for the largesse.

Many large houses have set up schools and hospitals like the Birlas, Tatas, and Ambanis. In most cases, the schools cater to affluent sections of society and there is little scope for the less-privileged. The same goes for hospitals that are run on a revenue model rather than as subsidised charity institutions directed at uplift. HCL’s Shiv Nadar Foundation and the ITC e-chaupal project are perhaps among the few that have sought to set up centres of educational excellence in rural areas for the marginalised.

Good Karma Or Branding?

Economist Surajit Mazumdar argues that ultimately, private companies are profit-oriented and their activities are all subservient to this final objective. Their CSR activities may be positive initiatives but aim at building up the image of the corporation as well as ensuring that it retains a dominant status in society. At the same time, Mazumdar is not opposed to CSR activities if they help alleviate poverty and improve quality of life. He is critical, however, of the concept of compulsory CSR as this would imply the state is trying to abdicate its responsibility to meet the economic and social requirements of the community. 

In some cases, Mazumdar concedes that much good is being done for less-privileged and disadvantaged people. Azim Premji’s Wipro Foundation, for instance, has decided to invest in improving the quality of government schools in Karnataka. But he notes these are isolated initiatives and such a welcome visionary approach is not taken in toto by industrialists across the board.

Om Namah Shivay

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