There are many acts of charity each day around Arunachala. One part of life here is the hundreds of sadhus who gather and live around the holy mountain, Arunachala. They have no possessions (or few), and live from what they are given. Most are men, and most of these are old men. They live on the street near various shrines and temples, and around Arunachala on Pradakshina Road. Some live in sheltered places, unused temples and buildings, for example.
With a donation from a Western friend, we were able to help a few of these sadhus recently. We know of some that live in sheltered places, sleeping on the hard ground. Our friend wanted them to have more comfort and wanted to get them bedding. With the help of Dhakshinmoorthy of Quality of Life Trust (and who runs Sathya’s Café), we bought bedding and were now ready to pass it out.
We brought the sadhus away from the place they stay. We don’t have bedding for everyone, so Dhakshinamoorthy thought it is best to do it away from the others. He brought them here by rickshaw.
Here are the sadhus. There were eight sadhus who would receive bedding today.
Here is a pile of the gifts to be given. The sadhus are getting a soft pad for sleeping, a pillow, a blanket and a shirt.
Here is Dhakshinamoorthy standing by the pile. He is always so happy when we can do something to help old people and sadhus.
I start handing out bedding to the sadhus.
A village friend, Muniappan, helps.
It is a big pile of stuff.
Standing waiting for their turns.
If they were going to be “wandering” sadhus, they would not be able to carry all this stuff. But since they live in a specific place, it is OK.
As I give out the stuff, I also get to look into the eyes of each of them. Then we share “Om Namah Sivaya.”
I think he is happy to have the bedding.
Some of the sadhus seem quite old.
We load him up.
He is the last sadhu for today.
Here are some of the sadhus with their piles of bedding.
Maybe tonight they will get a good night’s sleep. I hope this is better for their old bodies.
Living in Tiruvannamalai we frequently see these acts of charity. Seva, “selfless service,” or “work performed without any thought of reward or repayment” is a high ideal. Many people do seva here, gaining punya, “spiritual merit.” For me, just being involved in acts of giving is nourishing in some deep way.
Here is a Zen koan about this:
The Giver Should Be Thankful
While Seisetsu was the master of Engaku in Kamakura he required larger quarters, since those in which he was teaching were overcrowded. Umezu Seibei, a merchant of Edo, decided to donate five hundred pieces of gold called ryo toward the construction of a more commodious school. This money he brought to the teacher.
Seisetsu said: “All right. I will take it.”
Umezu gave Seisetsu the sack of gold, but he was dissatisfied with the attitude of the teacher. One might live a whole year on three ryo, and the merchant had not even been thanked for five hundred.
“In that sack are five hundred ryo,” hinted Umezu.
“You told me that before,” replied Seisetsu.
“Even if I am a wealthy merchant, five hundred ryo is a lot of money,” said Umezu.
“Do you want me to thank you for it?” asked Seisetsu.
“You ought to,” replied Uzemu.
Why should I?” inquired Seisetsu. “The giver should be thankful.”
(quoted from http://deoxy.org/koan/53)