Thousand Manifestations Of Love
Posted by Joserra Gonzales on Apr 2, 2016
It's not easy to choose what to share from last 5 incredible months in India.
When I arrived to India from the West for the first time I couldn't help but observe the colors, smell the fragrances and non-fragrances, listen to the music and the noises, taste the flavors and feel the warmth of people and the vibrancy of the culture. What an abundance of stimulus!
Inequality and diversity is one of the other things I realized quickly. Many times I saw luxurious cars running around the slums where I used to work in. India's reality doesn't leave anyone indifferent.
India is an ancient land, the land of Rama, Krishnamurti or Mahatma Gandhi, the land of Sufism, Hinduism, Jainism or Buddhism.
It is the land of the thousand languages, the thousand landscapes, the infinite biodiversity and the infinite expression of art and human creativity.
It is also a land of survival. From the tough weather found in the desserts of Rajasthan and Gujarat to the rainiest places of Meghalaya. Many generations have adapted to these landscapes and weathers which shaped the bodies and the spirits. Life offers its entire splendor in this magical land.
India is also a land of permanent political and social evolution and revolution. Many groundbreaking experiments of human organizing had happened in this land for thousands of years. And still in modern times, India keeps offering amazing examples of togetherness. Examples we need today, more than ever.
One of those is the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi, that has inspired thousands of people to became someone better. In the shoulders of Gandhian inspiration, many have planted seeds of a kinder world. Last months I have enjoyed those seeds, living and listening stories that make me believe in what I do and the one I am trying to become.
Last 5 months experience has been one of the thousand manifestations of Love. Manifestations of Non-Violence, Hope, Joy and Togetherness. I like that the word manifestation can have a connotation of Non Violent protest. Because, I believe, these manifestations of love are an act of protest. Truly revolutionary acts.
In a world where news of violence, separation, anger, greed or destruction keep taking the front pages, the people and stories I met in India talk about another reality that it’s already happening and that protests constantly against all that makes us less human.
I feel blessed with what I observed, lived, served.
From retreats where there is just sharing from the heart, to serving in random ways, to meet new noble friends and re-encounter old ones, to be surprised by my soccer kids, to prepare Spanish food with love at Seva Café, to meet saints, to serve with a Sanitation Van that has saved thousands of kids indirectly, to explore what it means to startup with LOVE.
I witnessed a whole Re-LOVE-ution in display.
Like the day we inaugurated Manav Seva, yet another Manav Sadhna Community Center created to share love and presence in a slum of Ahmedabad. I could feel the love behind the whole process of creation of such space for the community.
To start with, the family living there decided to donate their home (!), so Manav Sadhna could build such center. Now the family lives within the center and are willing to share space with the thousands of kids that will come through its walls. It’s not the first time this kind of offering happens at MS… In 2012 I already met a lady who had donated her home to create a pre-school! She still lives there and shares space with so many wonderful kids.
That day at the inauguration of Manav Seva, the whole neighborhood was radiating positivity.
While the kids in the community enjoyed the lunch Manav Sadhna offered, many of us witnessed generosity overflowing around in every corner.
Few of us were sitting near the chaiwala (the tea vendor). It was hot and we were a bit tired. He randomly invited all of us for tchai! He just wouldn’t take the money! And we tried hard. After few years living in India I can say this is not very normal…
Then suddenly, out of the blue, few young ladies come and offer us a cake they just bought. They are local girls with little money, but they just wanted to offer something to us! It was so humbling.
Everyone was taking care of us, volunteers, as if we were close family.
The spirit and pure intention which is embodied in every Manav Sadhna process keeps generating such ripples of love, which go beyond the limits of projects and spaces.
In the same lines another beautiful experiment has blossomed over the last years in the ecosystem in Ahmedabad. Its name is Payavaran Mitra which means Friends of Environment. It is a process destined to uplift more than 20.000 women working as ragpickers in Ahmedabad. These women work for endless hours everyday, under the toughest conditions just to get few rupees a day which usually are not enough even to cover the basic needs of food and shelter, not to talk about medicines or transportation. The intention of Payavaran Mitra is to help these women tackle their work conditions by giving them better payment, dignity, kindness and a more proper space to work.
These women are now getting a fairer rate for their plastic since Manav Sadhna has became the direct connection with the recycling companies. The women don't have to go through various middlemen now and therefore they get a greater amount of money. But beyond that, Ashishbhai, one of the brothers who is facilitating the project, says: “we want to start transforming their livelihood and give them skills and training which allows them to became environment advocates in a more holistic way.” Ashisbhai is already giving these ladies skills to learn how to do art with recycled material and now he wants to train them as teachers so they can share about environment and create awareness in schools and other organizations.
An holistic development of our sisters is already happening. The love they are getting is already bearing fruit. And this is just the beginning.
Virenbhai is one of the hearts of MS, a true, humble and invisible servant of many. He has been planting seeds of love for more than 25 years in Ahmedabad. Wherever he goes. In whatever capacity. He is like a father for me and so many others. The love that transforms violence into smiles is what Virenbhai spreads all over.
The story of Payavaran Mitra is unfolding so beautifully, great deal because of him.
When the team was looking for a place to start one of the Parayavaran Mitra centers, Ashishbhai was looking around… He walked past by few young guys in one of the slums. Some of them started to tell him off. They were some of the middle men which are involved in the recycling business. They told him: “We know who you are, you are one of those Manav Sadhna fellows who are trying to destroy our business, just go away. We don’t want to see you here”.
Ashishbhai left the scene since he didn’t want to generate confrontation or create problems for the community.
Few days later, still on the search for a place, Virenbhai and Ashish walked down the same area again. They encountered the same fellows. But this time the reaction was totally different. One of the guys approached Virenbhai… They knew eachother! When he was a kid many years ago, Virenbhai would play with this now young man and middleman. He would invite him for ice cream or just spend time with him. That bond stayed over the years, and the kid could still remember Virenbhai and the love he received from him.
Straight away he invited them to chai. Over the conversation, he decided to offer Manav Sadhna the space he was using for his own business of plastic recollection and distribution. He put himself completely at the service of Manav Sadhna and the women. (!!!!!) Just like that???? That’s the question I asked myself too… How is that possible? How you turn a potential enemy into a friend? Martin Luther King jr. used to say: "Love is the only force capable of turning an enemy into a friend". How simple, how true, how powerful.
So many such transformations happen at Manav Sadhna day in and day out.
In the path of Sarvodaya or Welfare of all that Gandhiji talked about I feel these experiences are such a boost to our shared humanity.
In the days of ISIS, bombs, Donald Trump talking violence or politics dedicating themselves to criticize and win elections, or in the days when still many leaders are dominated by greed and negativity, we have so many people growing inside and letting the love flow from within in incredible ways. Those are my true leaders, my inspirational leaders which I choose to “follow” and learn from. This is the life I am choosing to live.
We are all potential such leaders, or ladders as we say here. It all starts with small things, with small transformations or maybe just with a story. We all have such great influence in what happens in the World. We are not separated from wars, systematic violence, hatred, greed, destruction of environment… Every thought adds to Sarvodaya or to violence. Every action, every word counts. I truly believe we are all so important, our peace of mind is so important for every being in this planet.
Another story I encountered these months is the one of Mihir. Mihir is such a great guy. We met during one of the Moved By Love retreats that happen every month in Ahmedabad. There he shared a story that talks about the connection between our inner world and the outer reality.
He was traveling by train.
He says : “I was geared up for attending my first MBL retreat in Ahmedabad, and am waiting for the train to arrive at Surat station. It’s delayed a bit, and from the looks of it, there are a lot of people who are going to get onto this train from here. Finally the train arrives, and everyone scrambles to stand outside their allocated coach, anxious to get in. I happen to be the first in queue. As the train comes to a halt, passengers start alighting the coach I’m supposed to get on. Almost the entire coach is getting off, and they have a lot of luggage. This results in the process taking a long time and the crowd waiting to get on the train is getting restless. They start shouting and urging the passengers alighting the train to hurry up. The passengers getting down start arguing back, and things get heated. I am in the middle of all this, and suddenly the realization strikes that, hey, I’m not a separate from what is going on there…”
Mihir started to reflect how that happening outside was connected to his inner world. Yes, that was happening outside, but Mihir decided to look inside too. He asked himself: “What am I doing to feed that anger and hatred within myself?, What negativities I have inside which permeate outside and affect others? How am I adding to that violence?
While he was asking himself all these questions, he came to a realization.
Why not to try to bring some positive change to the situation?
He had a “crazy” idea.
He bought tea for all the people in the couch, just as an offering of love with not much expectation.
He talked with the tea vendor and told him to offer tea to everyone without charging anyone.
The tea vendor probably looked at him thinking: "Are you crazy?" But he eventually accepted, paid for everyone’s tea and magic happened.
The whole atmosphere changed. Everyone could feel the kindness and generosity in the air.
Where do the ripples of such act go? How far do they travel in time and space? How many lives they touch?
I would love to close this writing with one story of Gandhi which manifests the beauty and power of a truly NonViolent Heart.
Gandhiji was giving one of his many multitudinous speeches. While he was talking to this big crowd, suddenly a group of protesters came to attack him. On the edge of the crowd they were already causing trouble. Gandhijis friends told him that he should leave the place. It was not safe anymore for him. Those guys were radical people and they were ready to inflict violence in Gandhiji.
Gandhi told his friends that he would not leave. Not without talking with them first.
He told his friends to connect with the violent protesters and organize a meeting with the leader of the group.
Gandhi met with this radical leader who was ready to attack him and magic happened again. The guy who came to him full of anger and hatred came out of a 30 minute conversation as Gandhi’s friend.
What kind of heart does that take??
Gandhiji went to the conversation just willing to listen to his fellow human being and empathize with his thoughts and feelings.
From that pure intention he was able to connect with the heart of the other person. No matter how much violence was covering his true self. Gandhi knew the essence of every human being is good, but over time, we lose connection with that innermost reality.
When they left the room, the radical leader had to stop his entire group from doing what they came there to do. He protected Gandhi and himself by stopping the violence which he was bringing inside.
Today in India, many heroes keep cultivating the seeds that Gandhi and so many others planted. Seeds of Sarvodaya, of the Welfare of All, the Goodness of All.
People like Nimo, Krishnabhai, Kishanji, Meghnaji, Virenbhai, Anjaliben or Udaybhai are already living in a reality where kindness, care, peace, joy and generosity are main stream. They prevail.
Thank you all for your inspiration and support in this incredible 5 months journey.
May I keep cultivating these seeds of Non Violence and Radical Love
Love you All