By Joshika Devi Dasi
This summer, I have the good fortune to spend two months with Babaji and Jaya in Vrindavan. I took leave from my job as a psychotherapist in Florida to start writing our much anticipated book on Vedic Psychology. Babaji has been wanting to write about his pioneering work on Vedic Psychology for over 10 years, and by Krishna’s grace, we finally have the time to dig in and get started. Each morning, as many of you remember from your days here, we chant together. And then after breakfast of juicy mangos and some other refreshing Indian summer dishes that Jaya so caringly prepares, I start my work on writing about Babaji’s concepts of Vedic Psychology. I’ve been writing up case studies about my patients in the USA, whom I’ve been using Babaji’s Vedic Psychology concepts with, to great success. As the three of us have been writing the book together, we have been realizing how powerful Babaji’s concepts are – not only in theory, but also in practice. I can truly say that so many of my severely mentally sick patients improved, against all odds, thanks to Babaji’s revolutionary concepts on how to work with the mind.
So, each morning, after our quiet breakfast together, I have been delving into my work. And each morning, Babaji and Jaya have been going with Pandit to, “look at the construction.” It could be because I was too immersed in my own work, or maybe because of the overwhelming heat, or because I’m an introvert, or maybe because I have never been interested in construction work – or maybe for some other reason all together – I don’t know really exactly why. But whatever the reason, for the past 6 weeks, I never bothered to ask them about this “construction,” that they were so eagerly going to see each morning. And now I realize my great mistake.
For in learning about this “construction,” they taught me about matters of the heart – from patience to kindness to compassion. Babaji and Jaya brought me to their construction site, which turns out to be the new 24-bedroom student hostel being built directly behind Babaji’s ashram. As they gracefully navigated the wet mud piles, amidst sweaty workers, and through the hot thick air with no hint of a breeze, they both were smiling brightly, as they shared their vision and plans.
Jaya beamed, “It is exciting. When Babaji bought the land three months ago, there was an old house on it. We wanted to keep the bricks because they were strong, so it took two months to carefully remove and preserve each brick for the new hostel.” She lovingly explained her vision for the hostel as, “We want to keep the same mood as Babaji’s ashram.”
Babaji, in his calm, understated way said, “I’m planning to build a hostel for students who will reside here for the six-month Bhakti Tirtha course. My vision is that students come and live here to study. So I have to create a facility for that, because the students can’t build it themselves,” he grinned.
Babaji continued to share how, “In the olden days, the students used to live with their guru, called Gurukula. The students were like a part of the family of the teacher. So in the same vain, I want my students to live with me, if possible, although it is not compulsory, and learn not only inside the class, but also outside. How to live life – it is not only philosophy I’m teaching. I want them to learn how we eat. How we do kirtan together and chant. How we relate to each other. Otherwise people live in their own isolated cells. And they don’t get the opportunity to interact with others and learn about themselves. They may not realize about their lower nature such as anger and envy. Living here, you get an opportunity to know your nature, and then to understand and transcend it, with the help of the teacher.”
Both Babaji and Jaya empathetically told me about the construction workers’ situation. They have employed 20 workers, half of them women, who tirelessly toil in the heat. Jaya explained, “Some came from far away villages to work. We have had very hot days, so they have been working at night, sometimes until 9 or 10pm, when its cooler.” She explained how many of the laborers started losing motivation because of the heat, “So Babaji and I go and visit them every morning to motivate them. I talk to the women and encourage them, and ask them questions and listen to their stories. It makes them smile to know that we care.”
They also shared how the rains have slowed down the construction significantly, because on rainy days, it slows down their progress. Jaya said, “Our goal is that the ground floor will be ready to live in, which is six rooms, by October when the course starts. Our hope is to have twelve rooms, two floors, ready by then.” Also, some of the workers have faced health and family problems, also slowing down the construction. Babaji said, “The progress is not moving at the speed I want – the construction is moving slower than I expected. I expected the first floor to be complete by now,” as he points to an area with half-done brick walls and still dirt floors, and no doors. I was humbled by Babaji’s steadiness and patience. He did not complain, he just stated the facts briefly about how slow the construction is going compared to his expectations. And then he shared how he recently hired some more workers to expedite the progress. He did not belabor the point, as many people would start complaining about so many things that had gone wrong. He just flashed a great smile and took a shovel and began digging in the dirt to give one exhausted construction worker a break.
So, as it turns out, this summer was not just about Vedic Psychology or construction. This summer was about much more than that. For me, in these hot, steamy, unrelenting days of summer, I learned about love, service, kindness, empathy, caring, and patience. To watch Jaya, still recovering from her broken hip, climbing over the uneven surfaces of the construction site, and listening to, consoling and encouraging these women laborers beaten down by the unforgiving heat, she showed me what compassion and kindness truly is. She did not criticize them for their lack of progress, instead she took the time to hear and understand them. Listening to Jaya and Babaji discuss and care for all of their laborer and staff’s physical and emotional needs, made me understand the true meaning of compassion.
As Babaji started walking back to another day of work, he passed by a load of wood that had just been delivered to the front gate of the ashram. The planks looked very heavy, and it was very hot. So Babaji diverted his path and made one last stop to motivate a final group of workers to carry the wood, piece by piece to the construction site.
What was remarkable to me was how Babaji was not bothered by the lack of progress, nor by the endless stream of unexpected expenses mounting for this building. He just carried on with his day of work as usual. Watching the different people come to Babaji everyday, day in and day out – some pouring out their hearts in pain, some just coming to talk, or to ask for guidance, and some to criticize, threaten, or complain. And still yet many others coming to ask him for money, which out of this saint’s endless compassion, he so generously gives again and again, sometimes when he does not even have enough to support his own projects. Even when he is in the middle of writing an important passage, he stops, and listens and gives his whole self to whomever has come to his feet. He gives. Through all this, not once did I see Babaji lose his cool, or his smile. His endless patience is extraordinary. And still yet, not once have I seen even a hint of his own physical health issues effect how he engages with those seeking his refuge. For each who comes to Him, he radiates his light, as he carefully listens to their words, and patiently, kindly, caringly does his best to make them happy.
I feel very grateful to have spent these days with Babaji and Jaya, and for the ways they have embraced me and welcomed me into their lives, and for the lessons they have taught me. I did not know how to express my gratitude, but now that I see their large financial needs with this student hostel construction project, I have decided to make a donation to support these efforts. Jaya, who has been managing all the details of sourcing quality materials for the best price, gave me a detailed list of what they have spent for construction thus far, and what they still need in order to continue with construction. For any of you who are also interested in supporting their vision, I am sure they would greatly appreciate your donation.