Go With the Flow!

By Dada Maheshvarananda
One night in 1985 a huge fire broke out in a slum in Manila. Nobody was hurt, but more than 50,000 people lost their homes.

I am a monk of the international organization Ananda Marga, “The Path of Bliss”, which teaches yoga and meditation free of charge and organizes social service projects. The center where I was then living was only one kilometer from the fire. Another yoga monk, Dada Arghyananda, and I stood in our driveway watching the glowing horizon and listening to the news our local volunteers were bringing back from the streets.

He said, “We should do social service.”

Because our organization had no regular source of funding, I constantly worried about the survival of the three monks and eight brothers living in our center. I thought for a moment and said, “Altogether we only have ten kilos of rice and a total of about eight dollars. How can we do social service now?”

He replied, “Don’t argue. Just go with the flow.”

So we spent five dollars and sent the eight brothers by bus to the all-night wholesale market to ask for donations of vegetables for the fire victims. He and I walked to the site of the fire and spoke to a few people he knew.

Everyone was in shock. A nun at a Catholic convent beside the site of the fire agreed to let us distribute food there. On the way home, we stopped to buy two cans of milk and fresh ginger with the last of our money. I said, “We’re not going to feed many people with that.”

He replied, “Don’t argue. Just go with the flow.”

So we heated up a big pot of ginger milk and at 2:00 in the morning carried it back to the convent and started distributing it. Just as we started, a stranger tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Don’t go — wait here.”

I’m not going anywhere, I thought, I’m distributing milk. Just as we finished the pot, he suddenly returned in his van and said, “I was so inspired by what you two are doing that I bought $200 of bread. But I don’t know how to distribute this, so you please do it.”

So Dada and I each picked up some sacks and headed in opposite directions along South Superhighway where all the people were camped at the side of the road. As I handed the bread to everyone who was awake, some fellows joked, “What, no margarine?” But they weren’t laughing at me, they were laughing with me, clearly touched by what we were doing.

At 5:00 we returned to our center. The boys had just arrived back with a huge collection, twelve big sacks full of vegetables. Immediately we started cooking a big pot of “lugao”, Filipino rice soup mixed with vegetables.

At 6:00, as the dawn was breaking, three brothers carried it to the fire site with a tiny table and a little banner that said: “Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team (AMURT) – Service to Humanity is Service to God.” And we immediately started cooking a second pot.

I started telephoning all our members and invited them to come help. And then I started phoning everyone else we knew—sympathizers, businesspeople to whom we used to teach yoga, friends and friends of friends. I asked every one to please contribute some food for the fire victims.

At 7:30 a car arrived with a 50-kilo sack of rice. Then another car came with a case of beans, and another car with two more sacks of rice. And on it went.

Someone lent us a second burner stove and a big team of volunteers happily cut vegetables together. We never served breakfast, lunch or dinner to the fire victims — we just served lugao continuously from early morning until late at night for three days. And that’s all we ate, too, for three days.

Finally, on the morning of the fourth day the government social service department started to distribute uncooked foodstuffs to the victims, and the poor people were adjusting in new shacks they had constructed. The need for our service was over.

The front page of the “Bulletin Today”, the largest national newspaper in the Philippines, reported on their front page that, according to their reporters, AMURT had distributed milk and bread to 2,000 fire victims the first night, and fed 20,000 people over the next three days.

All those people were fed with only ten kilos of rice, eight dollars – and a lot of solidarity and grace.

Dada Maheshvarananda began working in 1976 as a volunteer for Ananda Marga in the U.S., then trained in India and Nepal as a yoga monk. For fourteen years he worked in Southeast Asia teaching yoga and meditation and supervising social service projects for AMURT. In 1992 he moved to Brazil, where he taught weekly meditation classes in prisons to help the inmates transform their lives. He is an author and has given hundreds of lectures and workshops to groups around the world about social issues, spiritual values and cooperative games. He can be reached at: maheshvarananda@prout.org
Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team (AMURT): www.amurt.net

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