For Richard’s 65th birthday, December 29, 2008, we again did a sadhu feeding. This is one activity we think very highly of, and we are pleased that here in India, a common idea for one’s birthday is to give to others, and not to just think of oneself, as is usual in the West.
This time we had several people to assist in the feeding: Carol’s son Brody was visiting from the USA, where he is on holiday break from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, USA, and Rajan’s two children, Jannani and Raam. Carol would give the breakfasts to Jannani and Raam who would give them to Richard to hand out. Brody was following on a motorbike, and took the photos posted below.
It usual to give one breakfast for each year of age. I had Dhakshinamoorthy of Sathya’s Cafe make us 108 for this day. 108 is a special number in Hinduism. This was NOT the 108th birthday!
There are three big boxes full of breakfasts – 5 idlis, 1 vada, and one bag of sambar for each person.
Rajan is loading them into the rickshaw.
Our first stop was Seshadri Swamigal Ashramam, across from Rajan’s taxi stand. Here Jannani and Raam help bring the breakfasts out of the rickshaw. They bring them to Richard who gives them out.
The sadhu feeding starts. Handing out the breakfast, Richard says, “Om namo Sivaya.” Usually the sadhu will repeat this. Sometimes he adds additional chants to it. “Arunachala” is a common addition.
Across from Seshadri Swamigal Ashramam, there was a man who could not walk, crawling on his hands, which he had in sandals, so they would not get torn up the the road. Another rickshaw driver, Gopal, made sure that we saw him and gave him a breakfast. This was a pattern that would continue through the morning, with people along the way making sure that everyone was taken care of, that everyone was able to eat.
We headed east from Seshadri Swamigal Ashramam on Bangalore Road towards Ramanasramam. We would stop each time we saw a sadhu.
Across from Ramanasramam is a location where many sadhus hang out.
Breakfasts were handed out to a long line of sadhus here.
Again and again we hear the chant, “Om namo Sivaya.”
Sadhu sitting by the road, a breakfast now in his hands.
More sadhus at a temple just west of Ramanasramam.
Another sadhu sitting by the road. Richard gets out of the rickshaw so the sadhu does not need to get up.
A sadhu walking on the other side of the road. We stopped and Richard got out and crossed the road to take breakfast to this sadhu.
We stopped at Yama Lingam, on Bangalore Road. This is another place where a number of sadhus stay.
By now, Jannani is also saying “Om namo Sivaya” as she hands the food to Richard to give out.
Among the sadhus were a number of poor women who stay at temples, begging so that they might live. We offered breakfast to them as well.
We then turned right, down Girivalam Road (Pradakshina Road). Many sadhus stay on this road.
Here a sadhu blesses Richard with his raised open hand.
Passing out another breakfast.
Richard and this sadhu recognize one another. They see each other almost daily as Richard rides his scooter.
Breakfast is handed out to a woman who stays at one small shrine. This temple is one we pass by many times when we go walk around the holy hill, Arunachala. We have learned to greet one another as we pass by. Today there is breakfast to hand out.
There are also two children who live outside this temple. Breakfasts for them, too.
This sadhu stood near this shrine. You see everything that he owns.
More breakfasts to hand out. Jannani helps.
This old man was across the road and could only move very slowly. The other sadhus made very sure that we knew that he was there and would be coming, so we would wait for him.
Another blessing for Richard.
Rajan, the rickshaw driver, thinks that these blessings are the reason that twice, when Richard’s wallet was lost or stolen, we were called by someone returning the wallet.
This old man has his begging bowl. The breakfast was to go into the bowl. There are coins in it, but only 25 and 50 paisa coins, just change from a rupee.
Three sadhus, after receiving their food.
Handing out breakfasts to sadhus at Nirudhi Lingam.
There were three sadhus sitting on this bench.
The man on the right was reading scriptures. There are two of the best sadhus smiles here, even before breakfasts were received.
Another old sadhu, grateful for the food offering.
This photo was not as good, because of the light and dark. The sadhu to the right of Richard has very nicely painted Siva stripes on his forehead. Some take much more care with this than others.
Some, like Kattu Siva, think that any of this is pretentious, so wear no vibhuti or kum kum. This is unusual, though.
Another old sadhu, crossing the street to make sure he gets a breakfast too.
Several sadhus sitting on a bench get their breakfasts.
Another old sadhu who can barely walk. The other sadhus made sure that we took him breakfast. Again, they take care of one another.
Old sadhu with breakfast. He carries all his possessions.
Sadhu by tea stand. This was the last breakfast. They go so fast, and we are only able to feed some of the maybe 400 sadhus said to live in Tiruvannamalai and near Arunachala. We have a plan for how we can feed more of those on Girivalam Road next time we do this, by starting at a different place.
After the feeding, Ramesh and Dhakshinamoorthy give Richard a flower mala for his birthday.
Richard and Carol sit, waiting for the breakfast that Dhakshinamoorty’s wife, Laxshmi, wants to give Richard and Carol and Brody.
I cannot express how moving this is for those of us who participate, and how wonderful it is to be giving rather than receiving.
A Zen Master once told a Chinese potentate, who asked for gratitude for his gifts to the Zen Master, “It is the giver who should be grateful.” These are words of deep truth and great power.
It is the giver who should be grateful.
Related Post: Sadhu feeding for Carol’s Birthday