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Jayesh Patel: Living Service, at the Gandhi Ashram
Conversation with Jayesh Patel on Christmas Eve
"Don't live in fear. If you are walking down a dark path guided by the light of a torch, you will not be able to see the end of the path. But if you just take the next step and let the light of your torch guide you in this way, the path will illuminate itself. In order for clarity to naturally arise, you have to take that small step." Jayesh-bhai Patel
Each of us is illuminated by a shining light deep within. At times when we can't see our own light, a community of noble friends can serve as mirrors, reflecting the brightness within us. This past Christmas Eve, about a hundred friends from around the world and from all walks of life served as mirrors for each other as we shared and reflected with Jayeshbhai. He effortlessly made each of us feel like we were enveloped in an invisible hug of love that stretched from one end of the globe to the other. "I love you all. I want to hug you from my heart. My dear brothers and sisters I love you a lot," he sincerely expressed.
For all of us, the way in which he has devoted his life to service is tremendously inspiring and empowering. By operating with a steady purity of heart and spontaneous compassion, Pavi expressed how Jayeshbhai elevates everything in his orbit and when around him, there is no question of being a bystander. He literally sucks you into a beautiful flow of service and allows awareness to blossom within you. But according to Jayeshbhai, his life of service is defined by small and humble acts of kindness, what he beautifully portrays as tear drops of compassion in the ocean. For him, the true journey has always been the inner journey. "Everyone here made me seem so big, they made my "I" feel big. But I want to close this "I" in order to really open my eyes."
Along with Virenbhai and Anarbhen, Jayeshbhai is one of the co-founders of Manav Sadhna at the Gandhi Ashram. To understand the ethos of Manav Sadhna, I almost feel like you have to experience it yourself. The organization is an incubator of love where volunteers from around the world are inspired to create hundreds of projects that serve our interconnected community. In the twenty years since it was founded, Manav Sadhna has touched the lives of thousands through education, health, and women's empowerment programs among so many others.
The Legacy of Ishwar Patel
Before Manav Sadhna was founded, Jayeshbhai began his inner journey by working side by side with his father, Ishwar Patel. As a volunteer for Gandhiji's constructive movement, Ishwar Kaka was deeply impacted by the discrimination that scavengers experienced as they gathered human waste and he consciously dedicated his life to the promotion of sanitation. Becoming known as "Mr. Toilet" through the construction of more than 200,000 toilets, Ishwar Kaka's work was guided by the cosmic integrity by which he lived his life. He loved the work of sanitation and so the actions in his life were guided by his heart. While growing up, the subject of toilets and sanitation were common dinner table conversation for Jayeshbhai and the kids teased him by calling him "baby toilet" at school. It wasn't until later in life when he began to clean public toilets himself that Jayeshbhai came to understand the deeper impact of his father's work.
During a brief stint in London, Jayeshbhai wrote a letter to his father. At the time, although he was living a comfortable life with his wife, he knew that something deeper was missing and Ishwar kaka provided life changing advice. Applying the analogy of a brand new Mercedes, he explained that even this type of luxury is no good if an essential piece is missing. That essential part is the heart. "Find something small that you love and let that guide you. I get satisfaction from sanitation and toilets. You have to find a similar satisfaction," he advised. When Jayeshbhai responded that he wanted to come back to India to work with him, his father warned that service was not easy, it required patience and love. But Jayeshbhai was certain in his decision and he returned to India with Anarbhen. The first assignment he was given was to clean 125 public toilets.
Cleaning Public Toilets: Compassion in Action
It is said that public toilets are like hell on Earth. Upon returning from London, Jayeshbhai started out in the mornings with his father in his brand name clothes and Nike shoes and began the dirty work side by side. Bit by bit, he began understanding that the work his father was doing wasn't just about toilets. As he started to interact with the community and with the women, and reflect every evening with his father, Jayeshbahi learned how the work of sanitation was connected with everything else; it integrated health and hygiene, education, women's empowerment, and untouchability. Ishwar Kaka was not trying to solve all of these problems but he was connecting with the seed that would naturally blossom into solutions, the seed of compassion.
"Every time we love, we receive. Love is my spiritual practice. If you love all, you can effortlessly serve all. I try to practice love in every moment. I try to love myself first and then I try to love everyone I meet. I believe small is beautiful. As Mother Theresa said, "we can do no great thing but small things with great love." So if love is in the center, everything will naturally come together.
Live without Fear and Focus on Actions, not Activities
Many of us can become frustrated or disillusioned even when we have the best of intentions. But Jayeshbhai once told Pavi that he had never in his entire life seen his father frustrated, depressed, or angry. Ishwar Kaka was always smiling and always cheerful. This was amazing considering he was taking on one of the biggest challenges in the country, yet he was so rooted in equanimity and joy. How did he do that, Pavi wondered?
He did it through his actions and he lived without fear. Jayeshbhai explained that Ishwar kaka was joined with action, not activities, each and every day. Activities are mission oriented and burdened with targets and achievements. But actions are spontaneous, arising from compassion and that compassion connects hearts to hearts. My father would always say to me, "Put your hand on your heart and ask if you can feel the love in the work that you're doing. If you don't feel the love, then you're not going to feel joy in your life. So be connected to the heart centeredness of your work."
This past December 26 marked the one year anniversary of Ishwar Kaka's passing. Jayeshbhai described that even in his father's last few days, Ishwar Kaka emanated equanimity and compassion. At one point, there were at least 12 punctures and incisions all over his body. Tears brimmed in Jayeshbhai's eyes to see his father in so much pain. Ishwar Kaka asked his son, "Can you take my pain away? You can't. This is not the time for you to cry...this is the time for you to pray for others and to continue doing small acts of kindness for others. When I was a child, I was like an unripe coconut, my shell and my inside were all intertwined and inseparable. But now I'm a ripe coconut, able to separate my mind from my body. So you don't have to worry about me."
In fact, Ishwar Kaka was not under anesthesia during one of his operations but he didn't blink an eye. He truly lived without fear and said, "If death is to come tomorrow, let it come today. What is there to be afraid of? I am an instrument of all this work I had to do and now my time is up and I've done what I could." To the last moment, he lived his life through his heart, always thinking of others, separating himself from the tremendous amount of physical pain he was in. He even continued to brainstorm new toilet designs. And when the doctors declared him clinically dead, even after his heart had stopped beating, he opened his eyes one last time and said to his wife, "Jai Jala Ram," something they had always said to each other before parting ways.
"Don't live in fear. If you are walking down a dark path guided by the light of a torch, you will not be able to see the end of the path. But if you just take the next step and let the light of your torch guide you in this way, the path will illuminate itself. In order for clarity to naturally arise, you have to take that small step. So don't live in fear. Have noble thoughts. Continue serving other people through small acts of kindness. One teardrop of compassion, one heartfelt intention to be of service can go so far."
Occupy Love: Advice for the 100%
Pancho, an incredible individual who has been integral to bringing peace and nonviolence to the Occupy Movement, explained that there is also untouchability in this movement, untouchability of the 1 percent. He expressed that we need to embrace them and work together and asked Jayeshbhai how to create hygiene of the mind. "What would you tell the 99 percent to keep their hearts pure and clean so that action blossoms from our souls?"
Jayeshbhai shared a story about a Harvard business professor that had come to India to examine Gandhiji's gram swaraj (creating self-reliant villages at the grassroots level) program. During a meeting with a well known economist, the professor saw a picture of Gandhi hanging on his office wall and he asked the economist if he was a fan of Gandhi. The answered "Yes, he is my master." The professor also noticed pictures of other unknown people on the wall and asked who they were. These pictures were of friends and family. The economist answered, "They are my master's master." So, as Jayeshbhai explained, we can have role models that inspire us but the people we serve have to be our community. If we are guided by shruthi, we can naturally serve our community from our hearts. In Sanskrit, sidthi is achievement and shruthi is purity; if we are guided by sidthi, we become ambitious and centralized, our "I" becomes big. But if we our guided by shruthi, we naturally become decentralized and we move away from the ego to the "we"; we come together. When we unite with nature and with people, we become centralized and pure. With purity, clarity follows naturally.
Moving from Broadcasting to "Deep Casting"
The next generation will be more inner-connected than ever before to their global community. But what kinds of connections will these be? When Bhoutik asked Jayeshbhai what his advice was for this next generation, he said that there is a great need for deep casting, going deeper within ourselves and with other people in order to build authentic relationships.
"The whole world is our family. We can't be everywhere and we can't solve all the problems but if we're connected deeply to ourselves than we are interconnected with everyone else and this will lead to relationship based work instead of results based work. Results based work comes with weight, with worry. If we do work with worry, than it's not effortless or with love and we become exhausted. In relationship based work, "I" becomes small and "we" becomes large. We have to move from broadcasting to deep casting."
Jayeshbhai really spoke from his heart on this call. He explained that what he had to share wasn't right or wrong, it was just his pure love. Indeed, each of us on the call felt the power of his love. Day to day, we all have our doubts and fears and wonder if what we are doing is right. But at least for those few hours, Jayeshbhai's presence confirmed that inexplicable glow that we all feel when we serve with love. In those few hours, uncertainty disintegrated and melted into an invisible hug of love that we shared with each other from one end of the globe to the other.
Jayeshbhai used to always say, "Love all, serve all." But most recently, he's adapted that. "I've noticed that ego starts to creep in, even in service. So now I say 'Love All, Share All'." Love all. Share all.To listen to the incredibly inspiring audio clips from the actual call click here.
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