Without any plans, I came to this ashram and orphanage located in the desert area suddenly. I met so many Westerners here, aged from 20s to 60s, most of them came here to stay for a short period of time every year. I met a family from Belgium on the first evening I arrived, and got to know the mother and daughter. They both came for 1.5 month only, while the son was already here for 2.5 years. The mother just bought a house nearby and wanted to ask the son to help taking care of it while she was gone, but the son insisted to stay in the volunteer quarter inside the ashram. He would rather use his precious time to serve the children here than taking care of the house. I always bumped into this guy during the first 3 days of my arrival, but he was always so busy that we never got to say hello. Till yesterday, I finally managed to sit down and had a long chat with him, understanding his unique story.
Sarva is his name here, meaning “God is everywhere”. He didn’t even want to mention his Belgium name to me. Sarva is very young, 27 only, but has already been here for 2.5 years. After I explained why I was interviewing him, he was like telling his story thousand times before already, shared his story with me in a very organized and timely way.
Sarva used to be like one of the typical youth, studied in Europe, went out for movies and played video games with friends in his spare time. His mom was always interested in spirituality, and practiced meditation all the time. His dad, however, wasn’t interested in spirituality at all, only wanted to do business and earn money. Sarva always laughed at his mom, made jokes on everything she did on spirituality. One day suddenly, Sarva started thinking why he was doing that. It was really not nice to do that to his own mother.
Sarva used to have very low confidence. He had doubts, fear and was always unsure about many things. He always thought in a scientific way, didn’t have too much feelings or intuitions. He felt something was not right and he had to change something in his life. It was his final year of study, what was he going to do in the following year? Work? Study? Start a family? All seemed wrong. He had been studying for 23 years since his birth. Then he decided to spend a year traveling in India. He started looking up on the internet, he wanted to go to a spiritual place, somewhere wisdom, something useful to take with in his life, not just to have fun.
He didn’t know anything about that place, nor his mom. He later found online a website of an ashram in India, good information, good pictures, and most important it was free of charge. He believed that the pure things should be without cost. However, after settling everything, at the very last moment, the ashram asked him for a lot of money, telling him the course had been changed for Indians only, foreigners needed to pay 5000 Euros. Since he had already fixed his mind so hard on that, he agreed to pay, thought that he would work hard later to earn back the money. In the next morning he told his mom to help him pay in advance, but throughout the day he was feeling bad because it really cost a lot of money. In the evening he asked his mom again, and his mom really didn’t pay. His mom said her friend called and said she could not sleep whole night thinking of Sarva’s story, thinking the place would not be a good place to go if he had to pay so much. She shared she knew a famous Saint in India called Swami, who was the founder of this Sri Premananda Ashram.
Sarva looked it up on the internet about Swami, he watched his videos, and found that Swami wanted nothing but love from his followers. Sarva felt very good from looking at Swami’s picture, felt he looked so genuine. He read his articles, knowing that he was in prison, but he believed he was innocent. Sarva really wanted to come here. Finally, he came in 2009, and stayed for 4 months. He had a private interview with Swami, although it only lasted for 5 minutes. Swami told Sarva it was very important for him to have a spiritual life. Sarva listened to him and decided to stay for 4 months, he changed a lot since then. Was it the interview that changed him, he was also not sure.
After Sarva went home, he totally changed to a different person. He was so neat, and helped his mom to make food. He started to understand the importance of family, and helped people who were difficult. His peers were all shocked to see his changes. He no longer played video games, went to movies, he liked to do puja, meditation, and became a vegetarian. He had faith in Swami he would stay strong, and would no longer go back to the old habits. His mom, sister and grandmom slowly accepted this great Saint as well.
Sarva didn’t see his old friends anymore. His mom also started a Swami centre in Belgium. His sister met his French boyfriend in a Swami meditation course, and will be coming to the ashram for their wedding ceremony next year February.
The first time when Sarva was here, Swami told him to go back home to finish his study. His dad also wanted him to finish his phD. Sarva started his phD on pharmacy on herbal medicine in 2010, however, he quitted in 6 months because no company wanted to sponsor his research anymore. It was difficult in Europe because all companies only thought about earning money when herbal medicine cost so much in research but had so little in returns. Sarva didn’t know whether he should come back to India or not because Swami asked him to finish his studies before going back to India.
Sarva decided to head to Spain for the pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela. He spent 40 days in 2011, walked 1000km from Loundes, France to Spain. Walking became a way of life during those days. He arrived at different places everyday and met so many young people, saw other spiritual things, and got to think about things. After the pilgrimage Sarva found his answer, he had to come back to India. Time flies, he has already been here for 2.5 years since 2011. He really liked to be here.
Sarva liked to stay for some time here but didn’t want to tell how long. He liked it here. The spiritual life in ashram is easy, seva, puja, meditation. These are all easy things. Life outside ashram is too difficult, money, houses, family, too many things always have to be done. A lot of visitors come here to do seva, are all inspiring to the children. You do not need to change the whole world, but you can still do the work that need to be done.
Now Sarva mainly did seva with the children and the youth. He didn’t particularly like youth. He was only interested in the children here. He always wanted to see the children. He thought it was so important for the children to be happy. The children here inspired him to do youth work.
The children here are very special. Most of them do not have parents or never saw them before. They have to be very strong, take care of themselves and wash their own clothes. Every morning they need to get up at 4am and go to the puja hall for the abhishekam and do seva. They watch Swami’s videos, get to know this Saint, and learn more in spirituality. Sarva would lead the children and do gardening seva. Sarva said it is not about the work, but to get to know the nature, work together in a group, respect each other, how to do things, be organized, be neat. Most importantly, the children should learn to do things because love doing it, rather than prize or punishment. With this attitude they can do anything. Sarva also have morning meetings with the leaders, tell them what they did well and not well, he tells stories, shared his life, ask about their lives, and give out spiritual messages.
Sarva shared Swami’s sayings, no matters big or small person say something, one must listen and think well because they have equal value. Small children are very pure, they are not affected by the world yet. Future of the world depends on children raised today. Just like today’s world are now ruled by the children raised 30 years ago. It is important for the children today to do more selfless seva, puja, meditation to have good foundation. The world can become a better place.
Sarva said Swami also wanted to change young people today. They lost their potential, are not strong, nor taking initiatives. They only reply on the external things like computers, TV, media, short term happiness. They must learn to live happy, be together, listen and help each other, be with families, think what they want to do in life and what is good for them. Life is like a journey, everyone is on a visit. We all come with nothing and go with nothing. Think about it, do something good, don’t waste time on things. Swami encouraged people to do things, but didn’t say one must, he only said can, and asked them to make their own decisions, how to do and when to do. Study is very important, only when have freetime then they can go to youth group, be with young people, do service, meditation, get inspired, they would not feel alone in spirituality.
Sarva think this is a very special place, the physical vibration of the energy is special here, and it is easier for the mind to focus. When a person is always staying at a flower field and get used to it, unless he leave this place, then he can understand the difference. Just like people go to the downtown and come back here, then they can feel the energy difference.
Swami went to jail in 1994, Sarva thought that was because Swami was very popular. High trees get more wind, Sarva said. Newspaper, TV always reported here. Swami went to Samadhi in 2011, but this ashram kept on going well till today, many people were surprised and thought it was a miracle.
Swami encouraged people to live a normal life, have work and family, but also have spiritual life. Sarva love this Saint so much, he learnt a lot from his teachings. He would like to work on the values he gave.
Sarva used to feel he could not live fully, was not complete, felt blockage, could not use his energy and went all the way. Now, however, he feels he can live fully.
Sarva shared in order to live your dream, one must follow your heart. It may be difficult at first but after you will feel great. Use the time well. The maximum we can live is 100 years old, so how are we going to live? Since we have nothing during birth or death, we would not lose anything. Don’t be afraid too much, the only goal we should have is to be happy.
Sarva gave me a book named “Way of Life – Youth in Unity”, which was the first spiritual discourse book and was only published recently. They collected Swami’s teachings for youth, like how to be in unity with family and friends. When Swami was living he used to write letters and gave speech to the youth. Now he had gone to Samadhi, this book can give advice and inspirations to all the youth followers from all over the world.
written in Sri Premananda Ashram volunteer quarter
夢想專訪5 – 比利時藥劑師的靈修夢
於是，他決定去西班牙一趟，去那個名為Santiago de Compostela的朝聖之旅，從法國用徒步的方式走路到西班牙。在2011年他用了四十天時間，總共走了一千公里路完成朝聖之旅。在路上，每天的徒步變成了生活的一部分，每天都走到不同的地方，遇到很多年輕人，看見了不同的靈性追求，思考了不同的事情。完成壯舉後也找到了答案，他知道自己要回來這裏。時光飛逝，2011年底到現在，轉眼間原來已經待了兩年半了，他真的很喜歡這個地方。
Sarva給我送了一本名為Way of Life – Youth in Unity的書，是修道院今年才出版的。他們從Swami的教誨中收錄了給年青人的說話，好像怎樣和家人朋友和平共處等。Swami在世時會給年青人寫信、講道，但現在他已經圓寂了，所以希望把這本書送給世界各地接受Swami教誨的年青人，給他們啟發和提供意見。
寫於Sri Premananda Ashram宿舍房間