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36. The Greatness of Service

It was the first time he met me and he was talking with great interest of many things. His manners were pleasant and his bearing cordial. His face was clear and calm. In the course of his talk he mentioned that he was employed as a car driver, which was difficult to reconcile with his poise, manners and appearance. Sensing my surprise, he explained, as if to clear my doubt, that his family had been a well-to-do one and later went bankrupt. They had owned lands, houses and two lorries. Now everything was lost, except the house where he and his elder brother lived with their families. I was sorry to learn of the family's misfortune and was contemplating whether I could offer any helpful suggestion to him that could restore him to prosperity. Unaware of my thoughts about his life, he continued to ramble on, in the course of which he said he had chosen to employ himself in a workshop of the Ashram, as it was a good place to work.

That clue gave me an idea. If he had been working for the Ashram as it was a good place to work, then it must be possible for him to regain his lost wealth. With this thought in mind, I began to scrutinise his conversations with me to discover what opinion he had of the Ashram, Mother, etc. To him, the Ashram was just an employer, nothing more. "Maybe Mother and Sri Aurobindo are great, but I have nothing to do with all that," was the attitude he took. He had reverence for them as great people, but could not understand that his indirect service to them was collecting punya in his being. The punya was only collecting in his soul, but was not showing itself on the surface of his life as prosperity.

It is my personal observation that people who directly or indirectly serve Mother with or without conscious intention rise in their level of prosperity continuously. They may not even know that ultimately the work they had done for someone would reach Mother. Still Mother's Grace reaches them. The Ashram runs more than fifty departments and the inmates live in about 400 houses all over the town. Naturally, services of all descriptions are required from almost every profession. For several years in the beginning, I missed this aspect of Mother, the aspect of Her Grace reaching everyone indirectly related to Her. In later years when I began to see more of the Ashram activities, several phenomena explained themselves to me, of which this too was one.

I would like to refer to an observation from my own work. The villagers who came to our garden for work did not even know of the Ashram in Pondy, but if any man started working there, after a week his face acquired a shine. Constantly we heard of good news to his family. After a few years LUCK was thrust upon the village by the bank and overnight field incomes quadrupled.

An engineer bought a drilling machine and was hunting for customers. He drilled a well for us. After a year I happened to meet him with his bank agent and asked how he was doing. The agent answered on his behalf that in four months the engineer had paid ten monthly installments!

A contractor leased out the pressmud of a sugar factory to be sold to the farmers as manure. He sold us a great quantity over a year's time. He used to tell me that it was not a lucrative business, as he was compelled to sell his pressmud on credit to the farmers and they always left a good bit unpaid. He showed me once a bundle of almost 200 promissory notes due for the past 17 years. After his supply to us for the year was over, he came to settle his accounts with me and said, "This is a lucky year for me. For one thing, I was able to collect all arrears outstanding for the last 17 years. During the latter part of this year, I sold only for cash. The era of credit is over for me. I purchased my own lorry for this year's work and after a few months added one more."

Another man was managing our gardens. He would never evince any curiosity as to what the Ashram was about. He would confine himself to the work in the garden. He had on his own a few acres of land and had dug a well there some years earlier. It turned out to be dry. There was no water spring inside. His was dry cultivation. His one ambition was to strike water, but that failed. After two years of working on the garden, one day he came with a beaming face and said, "Not being able to give up my well project, I once again tried to deepen the well this week. Fortunately I hit upon a big spring. It is a fulfillment of a lifetime's ambition for me. I wish you visit my fields once."

An agriculture income tax officer once levied Rs. 2,000 as tax on our lands. A sadhak went to his office to remit the amount. The officer said, "I know your institutions are working for the public. I was sorry to levy the tax, but it was my duty. Since I levied the tax, I was looking for some rule that speaks of exemption for people like you. Only yesterday I came upon that rule. Now I am happy. You do not have to remit this amount."  A few months later someone who came from his office told me that that officer had been promoted as deputy collector and transferred. He added that as the officer was old, he had been expecting no further promotion in service.

A bank agent who took personal interest in our village schemes was given three promotions in three years, whereas normally one gets one promotion in three years.

To go back to my visitor now: I told him if he would try to regain his wealth, he would succeed. He replied that as soon as they had lost it, for several years they tried to regain the lorry service. Each time they tried, they failed and each subsequent time it became harder. He had lost hope once and for all. Without touching upon spiritual things, I spoke for ten minutes and said it was worth trying again. Towards the end, his interest seemed to have been sparked, but it was not supported by hope or experience.

About ten or twelve days later, when I was just entering the Ashram, someone rushed towards me in great excitement, walking briskly on the pavement, as if he were going to physically prevent me from entering the Ashram. It was he. I was interested. Without going inside the Ashram, I moved to one side of the pavement to listen to what he had to tell me. He burst out, "You asked me to try last week. It all worked miraculously."  He explained he had been trying to meet me and convey this news for a few days, but had missed me. After leaving me the other day, he had gone home and spoken to his elder brother about taking one more effort to revive the lorry service. The brother was equally dejected and would not agree. Two days later someone who wanted to sell a lorry approached them with a request to buy. The conditions of the sale were favourable, the party was known and reliable and, particularly, the terms of the sale were such that he took over a credit on the vehicle and had to pay very little cash. The deal was closed. The lorry was on the road in another week.

A year later they had regained their original position, put two lorries on the road, and added one more wholesale business for the family.

book | by Dr. Radut