Posts Tagged ‘Charityfocus’

There was a time in my life when I thought I would never get married.  When most people make that choice, its usually because they are too afraid of commitment.  In my case, it was the opposite.  I wanted a partner in the cultivation of unconditional love, and after a few experiments in college and after, I concluded that most are not really interested in living that concept. And so I didn’t think it would be possible to find someone whose commitment ran as deeply as mine, and that marriage would be a costly distraction in the spiritual mission of making myself a more loving, happy, and serviceful person.

On May 2nd, 2009, I officially proved myself wrong and finally married my dearest, deepest friend, Asha Patel.

The planning of our marriage seemed like a protracted negotiation between the requirements of traditional culture stemming from our parents wishes, and our desire for something small, simple, and deeply meaningful. Turns out we took the middle path!  🙂

I found myself repeatedly overwhelmed with the love and beauty that was coming at us leading up to our wedding, and even more moved by everyone whose love was pouring out on the day of the wedding itself. Yogesh uncle converted his home into my surrogate home for the precursor ceremonies and starting location for the groom’s procession. I was resistant to riding a horse, so Hemin gave me 300 horses through his sportscar!  John flew in as a surprise, and was such an incredible nose-defender (don’t ask) that the priest told me to let Asha’s mom pull my nose as a freebie to make her feel better  🙂  Dinesh & Paresh uncle took charge of so many small pieces, including a major one through muscling the heavy stage around in our massive backyard tent!  Another uncle forgot a suit on the west coast, and through the heroics of the anonymous usual suspects, Raj had it on a plane to the east coast within 90 minutes!

As gifts to our guests in attendance, our friend Emmanuel from the Global Oneness Project sent a big box of DVDs of inspiring films and our dear friend Ankur offered box of his book on his personal re-tracing of Gandhi’s Dandi Yatra.  We gave every guest a DVD of stories of people who have shaped our lives, and Nipun & the HelpOthers.org crew kicked in a ton of Smile Cards (and small gifts with big love) to facilitate all the forward ripples.  Many friends not in physical attendance offered spiritual attendance by meditating during our ceremony. At least a hundred even did random acts of kindness, and through Sukh & Raju’s coordination, the stories were captured to a website so the ripples could continue!

Seema and Seth went a step further in conspiracy with Christine Bulaoro and beautifully printed out all of these acts of kindness, and spent the morning hand-folding them into tent cards to share with everyone at the reception!

Out of their own goodness, and perhaps to offset some of the paper we used (!), Uma & Sriram had a 1000 trees planted in a village near Bangalore! Anjali and some Manav Sadhna heroes cleaned an entire street in the holy town of Rishikesh. Vandana from Pune sent her daughter Keya on her behalf as the smiling emissary, though we felt like so many of our friends from India were smiling through her.  Nature also seemed to conspire: there was solid rain every day before and after our wedding, but the morning of the actual ceremony only saw very light sprinkles which quickly subsided.  The sun even came out super brightly just as Asha got carried in!


The list goes on & on… Carpools to the events were spontaneously coordinated, extra guests effortlessly accommodated, crowd-sourced marriage advice books lovingly compiled, and so many seeds (literally & figuratively) were offered and planted to bring in the day. And it was all so fitting, because when you decide to make your marriage about the cultivation of unconditional love, you implicitly understand that its a lifelong (perhaps longer!) project in changing yourself to increasingly bring more goodness in the world.  What better gift could there be than the offering of so many people’s goodness on that day?

Even before the marriage, but most definitely after, we are so deeply aware of the necessity of a harmonious community of friends and well-wishers to aid us on our lifelong partnership together. As a reminder to these co-creators of our journey as well as ourselves, each table had the vows that spontaneously coalesced late one night after reading and reflecting on sets of similar vows by people we deeply respect and trust. Our vows read as follows:

We live in a materially finite world, and have potentially unlimited material wants.  Every physical thing we consume is something that is denied another fellow human.  Do you vow to grow in simplicity, reducing your wants so that others may satisfy their needs?

Pleasure can be an intoxicating labyrinth, numbing our awareness and derailing our sense of sacred purpose in this world with its flickering satisfactions.  Pleasure can also be beautiful, and can sweeten life in big and small ways.  Do you vow to enjoy the pleasures life offers you without chasing them, while growing into more subtle, expansive and enduring joy?

Money, power and fame can become their own ends, robbing us of our sense of interconnectedness, indebtedness and obligation to serve a higher purpose.  Do you vow recognize your stewardship of whatever money/power/fame comes into your life, and to only accumulate it as a trustee for the greater good or a higher calling?

Love is a force that binds us together and makes our worlds go round.  But the attraction of love can also pull us increasingly closer into each others’ orbits, denying us its expression in other forms in every other department of life.  Do you vow to grow your love, and increasingly free it from all its conditions so that you may eventually express love unconditionally for all?

Our words have the power to inspire and to propel each other forward.  With our speech, we can build trust, elevate dialogue and create a foundation of harmony in our home.  Do you vow to grow in noble speech that uplifts & inspires, builds trust, and aligns your words with your thoughts and actions?

There is a knowing beyond the mind that is not rooted in facts or histories.  Do you vow to grow in cohesion and integrity so that your intuitions are the stuff of inspiration rather than the product of whim and fancy?  Do you vow to support one another’s intuitions, even when your own facts and perception may not agree?

There is an order and a nature to the inscrutable complexity of cause and effect converging and rippling at every moment.  Do you vow to surrender to the mysterious ways of the universe, trusting the inevitability of change, even in difficult times?  Do you vow to cultivate gratefulness for the precious moments you will share together, even at the end of your lives when it may come time to part?

As we grow into deeper fulfillment of our sacred vows, we ride on the shoulders of so many incredible friends, teachers, mentors, and guides who have made it possible for us to come this far. In turn, we offer ourselves to back to them, as well as all our yet-unknown friends that we’ll meet together on the journey. The spirit was perhaps best encapsulated by Yaniv’s gift to us in the form of a daily prayer for the continued deepening of our individual and collective unfoldment.

Oh, and those interested can check out our pictures here.


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Krishnammal Jagannathan, winner of the Right Livelihood Award for 2008, shared ancedotes and wisdom from her decades of struggle for social justice through non-violent means, including her time with Vinoba Bhave and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The video was recorded on November 12th, 2008 at the CharityFocus ‘Intergalactic Headquarters’ in Santa Clara, California.

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One thing that I’ve realized in my travels is that places don’t do a thing for me. There are few man-made
sights that blow me away (though natural beauty still stops me quite often). I don’t get excited about sight-seeing or touring. Visualizing it in my head is just as satisfying as seeing with my eyes, and its a helluva lot easier.

That being said, spending time in Madurai has been very special, and only promises to get better with each passing day.  This place is ground-zero for everything Aravind, and visiting is the fulfillment of wish born three years ago.

When I first read about Dr. V back in the February 2001 issue of Fast Company, I almost fell over in my seat. Stunned doesn’t quite capture it. This man’s story was incredible, and what he stood for presented the answer to so many problems that the world faces. His life is a challenge to every person– if he could overcome so much to accomplish the impossible, what about the rest of us who have far fewer obstacles and much more reasonable dreams? More over, his life compels you to take a hard look at
your dreams and question whether they’re worthy of your precious time on earth.

As Dr. V would say, “Intelligence and ability are not enough. There must be the joy of doing something beautiful.”

At the time I read the article, I was a peon at the California Healthcare Foundation. Though my work wasn’t stimulating, I felt as though the universe had come through for me once again by placing me there. Given my all my pre-med education and subsequent rebellion against the American medical establishment, being at the foundation felt like a second chance to use that interest and background in a new way. Dr. V’s story was the spark that blazed the trail for the path I was about to tread. Developing the complimentary and alternative medicine project was inspired by Dr. V, and his attainment of the impossible was the impetus for the dive off the deep end (which now might be a recurrent quirk of my personality) that followed.

Few know that I’ve actually carried that Fast Company article with me, literally, for over three years. First, it was a continual inspiration and my form of hero worship. Second, it was a motivator par-exellence. Third, I could easily copy it and give it to anybody and everybody for whom I thought it would be relevant. Clearly, I thought it was highly relevant to a lot of different kinds of people, as I must have copied that thing several hundred times over the years.

Back then, I thought that I must do something for this man who has done so much for so many. Didn’t know what, though honestly, I think that even if my life were spent sweeping the floor of a place like Aravind, I would die with a smile on my face.

In many ways, Dr. V also brought me to Charityfocus, though it was something I had heard about years before Aravind, and similarly wish to explore more deeply. The story goes that one day I called Nipun Mehta, whom I had only met once before, and asked him to help me guide another newly-made friend in choosing a South Asian NGO to donate over a million dollars to. Ironically, Charityfocus operates on an almost zero-dollar budget, and doesn’t want or need money, so it might seem a tad surprising that Nipun dropped his plans that day to help me and some random rich stranger out. Of course, it’s not at all surprising if you know anything about Nipun, but that’s a subject for another day. The upshot of this story is that I could only think of one South Asian NGO that I wouldn’t think twice about giving $1.5M to– Aravind,
and I told this friend as much. Nipun is of course much more knowledgeable and way more well-connected than me, so the hope was that he had more suggestions. Later that day, when I mentioned Aravind again, Nipun told me that he knows Dr. V, and though I already gave Nipun and CF a lot of credit after my first encounter, knowing Dr. V impressed me more than anything else I knew about CF to that point. I knew that any organization that was linked to Aravind would be one of uncommon and extraordinary character, and would be a place where I could develop all those wonderful qualities I saw in Dr. V which I hope to possess
some day. I knew then that I had to make CF a bigger part of my life.

Anyways, here I am in Madurai. What’s interesting is that you’d think I would want to spend tons of time with Dr. V since he’s had such an incredible impact on my life, though we had not even been in the same room until he visited CF. The reality is that I actually feel like I wouldn’t want him to waste a single moment talking to the likes of me. Not only do I wish to serve his vision in some tangible way, but also
serve by not taking up any of his precious time– time that he was so willing to generously spend with me while I was in Pondicherry.

That first day in Pondy, before “Chief” was leaving the hospital, he stopped by and said to the hospital manager, “Find out his field. He may be able to help us.” I probably can’t “help”, but I know that I can serve. And I know that my service to Dr. V’s vision won’t stop with my departure from here.

If you read this, and asked, “Who is Dr. V?”, buy a copy of Infinite Vision.

(migrated from my original Livejournal post)

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