Sustaining Volunteering-Dispassionate Attachment

Once again this is a collection of my tweets in a fairly verbose manner since this doesn’t have limtations of number of characters like on Twitter

सक्ता: कर्मण्यविद्वांसो यथा कुर्वन्ति भारत |
कुर्याद्विद्वांस्तथासक्तश्चिकीर्षुर्लोकसंग्रहम् ||

saktāḥ karmaṇyavidvānso yathā kurvanti bhārata
kuryād vidvāns tathāsaktaśh chikīrṣhur loka-saṅgraham
Bhagavad Gita 3:25

As ignorant people perform their duties with attachment to the results, O scion of Bharat, so should the wise act without attachment, for the sake of leading people on the right path
Source of translation : https://www.holy-bhagavad-gita.org/

In context of Volunteering for the Fight against Covid19 Pandemic, what was initially thought as a short term battle, got extended wave after wave and as I write this we are already at the end of Year 2 and battling the 3rd wave (thankfully not so harsh like the 2nd wave). Original mobilisation was for just 2 months and it never seem to get over.

In an online talk to a collection of Civil Society, where I suggested a free-flowing Q&A model instead of a Lecture and then follow up questions. The first question I received was a interesting one. The participant wanted me to describe in a phrase (don’t know why this limit)- what can prevent Volunteering Fatigue, that would be natural due to unexpected extension of time devoted to a passionate cause, as against paid volunteering – My answer phrase was “Disapassionate Attachment” which is the essence of that particular verse from Srimad Bhagavad Gita. Everything else is subordinated to the Cause.

More often than not, especially in the current round of Volunteering, Young, energetic and passionate volunteers never needed any motivation as they are already inspired and self-fired. But those get fatigued are those who want to deliver perfection and fail.

न बुद्धिभेदं जनयेदज्ञानां कर्मसङ्गिनाम् |
जोषयेत्सर्वकर्माणि विद्वान्युक्त: समाचरन्

na buddhi-bhedaṁ janayed ajñānāṁ karma-saṅginām
joṣhayet sarva-karmāṇi vidvān yuktaḥ samācharan
Bhagavad Gita 3:25

The wise should not create discord in the intellects of ignorant people, who are attached to fruitive actions, by inducing them to stop work. Rather, by performing their duties in an enlightened manner, they should inspire the ignorant also to do their prescribed duties.

Whenever these inspirational gems talk to me about how to avoid failure in the task – I only request them not to aim for delivering perfect service, but aim to deliver acceptable service. Because what the beneficiary needs simply is unpredictable (COVID19 context)

Not all our stories ended up like in a fairy tale – but consolation is that it was not due to lack of effort. Not to let one setback paralyse because we then are letting down so many others waiting. Agreed we are not machines, but there is no choice but to move on.

Working in various verticals of my current efforts, establishing the basic framework and hand it over to the successor who can definitely do a better job than us to innovate and grow the vertical better to serve more people. Here, a mistake most leaders commit has to be discussed. Their inability to let go and trust the successor to do it better (there could be other reasons, but keeping it positive). Since it was conceptualised and executed first time by me, I always feel no one else can do that task as well as me (leave alone better). More often than not, a good capable leader is lost in the process because he/she is not available for any other task and occupied in something so mundane or routine by now, that anyone else could have done. As Chandan, one of the volunteers said, Once you weather the storm, leave it to someone to manage in calm waters. I have found some of them get fatigued in this situation. They assume they are in control of everything and get mentally tormented that in reality they are not in control of that situation. Fight against COVID19 was a cascading situation of this nature, even today. Letting go is an important achievement when you are in dispassionate attachment and helps avoid volunteering fatigue

I draw from my personal experience when I adopted this practice. Withdraw from the vertical once the assigned role of establishing framework is over (Dispassionate Attachment). In almost each Veriticals, my successor grew it in unimaginable scale (to be honest, I could not have done it at all)

The last round of volunteering was totally different model and found it was more enchanting. Zero Budget operation, Amorphous bunch of citizens coming together for a single cause – BeatTheVirus & slogan being WeWillWin, it came with horde of challenges. Navigating through unfriendly official system to deliver using the same system. Being amorphous itself brought some amount of unpredictability, with no formal organisation structure, one that emerged on its own during the course of operation (Swayambhu in action) and various pushes and pulls in different directions. But in the end DELIVERED

During the horrendous 2nd wave, it may not have ended well for some families but visible gratitude of people whom we touched, only reinforced the feeling that they did not give up on the world. When they say, Thanks for being besides us & making us realise not everything in this world is bad. It was personally very different this time. Losses were kind of certain – lost many of them known to me very well too, we were able to help some who emerged successfully from the havoc to come back and work with us.

With self fired young and enthusiastic Volunteers, only facilitative leadership works and best form in my opinion is Servant leadership. Transactional leadership is sure prescription for disenchantment. Show-how works better than know-how. Officialdom and bureacracy would well take note of the popular saying in QMS context, “Never end up having a system for documentation instead of a documented system”. One big mistake we do in the process of chasing a system it to create so much of documentation, most of them totally avoidable, that instead of working we had a team spending most of the time creating presentations and records. It is not about discipline or credit-chasing (young ones are smart they see it right away), look for method in madness especially in Unpredictable situation.

To add an important thing here- to avoid Volunteering Fatigue, consider Volunteering as a privilege not a favor we do to others. Reason why I had serious apprehensions about using the words like CoronaSainika or CoronaWarriors etc (though I plead guilty of using it many time myself)

In the context, Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankar ji in 5 words said – “We Are Not The Doers“. What a lovely way to remain detached while remaining committed to the cause. Designations, hierarchy, results, even the organisation – nothing would matter once in this mode.

Thoughts of a fellow volunteer on org: I think this is the general phase of how it happens. Be it economy or any other thing, there is a phase of really good unselfish work, followed by growth, then peaks and due to vices and ego taking over, the downfall.

Signing off saying, Letting Go is not Giving Up, it is smart way to remain objectively detached (accepting that we are not the Doers) from outcomes, but ensuring there is no lack of effort.

Happy Volunteering

Sharad Hunnime or Poornima- Night of Awakening

Hunnime or Poornima is the day of Full moon, And the full moon night of Sharad ritu (season) is Sharad Purnima. It officially marks beginning of the Winter Season and end of Monsoon (rain).

It is believed that the Pious dance, Raas by Radha and Krishna took place with Gopis on this night (and Sharad Poornima is also referred to as Raas Purnima). It is also the only day in the entire year when Moon has all the 16 Kalas

Reproducing part of talk by Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji of The Art of Living on the significance of Kala.

Kala usually refers to the extent by which the moon waxes (or wanes) in one day. Moon possesses 16 different Kalas (different phases of the Moon). You can observe this from one Amavasya(No-moon day) to the next Purnima (Full moon day). So if you count the number of days from one Amavasya to the next Purnima, it turns out to be 16. And the transition from No-Moon to the Full Moon also symbolizes moving from Zero (nothingness) to Fullness.

Kala is a unit of measure of one’s power, or by what degree one has blossomed or progressed. So, someone may be like a half-moon, someone else may have reached to three quarters of the moon and so on. This was a means of measurement in the ancient days.

In those days, it was said that the life or Prana in a stone is equal to one Kala, the water element is said to have two Kalas. Fire has three Kalas, Vayu (Air element) has four, and the Space or Akash has five. Plants and trees are said to have six Kalas. Animals have seven Kalas. Human beings have eight Kalas.

If it is an extraordinary human being then he is said to have nine Kalas. It is said that Lord Parashurama (one of the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu) had nine Kalas. They say Lord Rama has 12 Kalas. Lord Hanuman is greater than Him in this regard and is said to have 14 Kalas. That is why he could help Lord Rama. Only a person who is stronger than us can help us.

The Devi (Mother Divine) is called Shodashakala (The One with all 16 Divine qualities or attributes). It means that she possess all divine and noble qualities, and lacks nothing.

Lord Krishna too is said to have all 16 Kalas, which is why He is called as the Solah Kala sampurna or the Purna Avataar.
To have all 16 Kalas means to possess all the 16 qualities or signs attributed to the total blossoming and manifestation of Divinity.

On the day when moon has all 16 Kalas it is believed that its rays has special and healing effects on humans. Since each of the 16 Kalas signify 16 qualities, exposing ourselves after due preparation of our mind and body, makes us a perfect human being. Some also believe that it is the night when Moon emits Amrutha (Elixir). Moon is at closest distance tonight and hence will be the brightest

Typically a vrat is observed on the day preceding the Full moon night and Goddess Lakshmi comes in search of those who are awake (and hence called Kojagiri Purnima). Being awake is not just about not sleeping but being spiritually awake for which Upavasa, Meditation and Jagarane is observed. Devotees stay awake engaged in prayers, singing and dancing (Raas) so that Goddess Lakshmi finds them awake and blesses them in Abundance.

Radha Krishna
Uma Maheshwara
Laksmi Narayana

An important thing to note, though it is dedicated to Divine couples, Radha-Krishna, Lakshmi-Narayana or Shiva-Parvati – umarried ones observe this day to get a good spouse and married ones for longevity of the spouse, the first puja is offered to Bhagwan Surya early in the morning and then begin the vrata and to end the same with worship of the Moon.

On this day, all food items made as prasad is predominantly of White color – what we prepare is Coconut Rice (not the Sanjeev Kapoor types, but typical and real South Indian Coconut Rice), Milk Payasa, Curd Rice, Cobbari Mithai (Coconut Burfi) and all of us go to the terrace (weather permitting) and dine under the moon. We also wear white dress for the night, sing a few Bhajans and do what I like the most – have prasada.

Some regions leave all these overnight in the moon and have it as prasada in the morning.

Here is wishing all the readers a Happy Sharad Hunnime or Sharad Purnima. May Goddess Lakshmi bestow Her choicest blessings on you and all your near ones. Prayers that all unmarried looking for a partner to be blessed with a great one and those married for long, blissful journey of togetherness.

Thank You-from Happiest man alive

With her becoming better and better, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find words to write this tribute piece to the wonderful soul in my life. Like I said earlier, we are not celebrating her Birthday, but her presence in our lives.

To say that she is like that gift that we keep unwrapping every day of our lives – Someone who never stopped giving to all the kids (and Me). The better half whose missionary zeal to make everyone of us even better is something I never stopped admiring

I am truly at loss (otherwise over verbose) to find positive adjectives to prefix to her name, and gave up after a hour. Thought it is better to attach a thesauraus and still find there were more that could be added. That is the value she brings to the huge family – not just maternal or marital but to the huge extended family that we are so fortunate to possess.

All the DaMaKi family was unanimous in their agreement when I said “Thank you for being with us and for just being you” Personally, I am extremely proud and privileged to be a part of, the one who makes me feel like a hero, every single day for the past 43 years that we know each other (Oh yes, it is that long, and it seems like we just met a few years back for the first time).

She is my biggest fan (beesanige alla). The one who instilled all the confidence in me, when in those rare moments I lost belief in myself. I have gone through those moments and thanks to her presence in my life, those moments were so rare. She pushed, prodded along, and never allowed me to quit.

Not sure if I told this earlier but saying this nevertheless, on a trip abroad, a foreigner whom I met on the flight amidst our chat was shocked (mortified in fact) that I have been married for so many years and remain married to the same person. What is so normal in our part of the world is indeed a rarity there. He wanted to know how the journey has been. Humorously I replied (borrowing from someone more experienced) – “Yes indeed, we have been married for 30 SHORT years and it has been happiest 15 years of my life.” I was not kidding, life has not been without challenges. The co-passenger of my life never allowed me to even think it was a phase of trials and tribulations, ups and downs, elation and grief too. She navigated around all the bumps and waves to hold this vessel steady, ensuring that  we never crashed. Prouder moment for me was when he said – “this is what makes India & its tradition so different from other parts of the world” (INDEED). Thank you Aparna. You are the reason I was able to say that with a lot of conviction.

One of the significant achievement  of my life was my ability to convince Aparna to marry me (I should confess on the side that it is one of the best gifts she got *running*

She means a lot not because she is a perfect person but only because she is a perfect Aparna – That is good enough! On this special day, from all of us, a BIG thank you for being what you are. Have a wonderful day (which we are hoping to make) and a super duper year ahead (which we are hoping to make again)

I cannot sign off without a song dedicated to you. This is at the top of my mind today.

Happy Birthday

May the Divine’s and Gurudev Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji’s blessings be showered on you in abundance