She lay in the dust by the side of the road, alone and abandoned in her suffering. Her family had rejected her, and this poor widow had made her way to Brindaban, where an estimated ten thousand elderly, homeless women reside, hoping to find solace in the city blessed by the presence of Lord Krishna.
The large, malignant tumor on her back emitted such a noxious odor that no one came near her. Filled with pain, and having had no food or water for days, she prayed to God to allow her to die.
Then something unexpected happened. A man appeared before her and told her to go to one of the Paramhansa Yogananda Charitable Trust care homes. “They will help you,” he said. “But,” she replied, “I don’t know where this place is or how to get there.”
He clapped his hands, and a three-wheeler (small motorcycle rickshaw) appeared and drove her to the care home, where the poor widow was bathed and fed by the staff. When they saw the cancerous tumor on her back, they took her to the nearby Ramakrishna Mission Hospital to receive surgery and treatment.
After a period of recovery, she returned to the care home, where she received the loving attention of the staff and regained her health. A few weeks later, she came up to the director of the home holding a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi. Pointing to Yoganandaji’s picture on the cover, she said, “This is the man who found me by the side of the road and sent me here.”
We heard this story last week when we visited Brindaban to see the work of the Paramhansa Yogananda Public Charitable Trust, a part of Ananda Sangha’s service in India. Started in 2014, and led by Ananda member Manjunath Kini, the Trust is quickly becoming a model for charitable works in this sacred city. (See this recent article.)
In 2014, Manjunath began with six dedicated people from the Brindaban area who were unfamiliar with Ananda, but felt a calling to serve the homeless widows. The small staff began by going door to door to see what help they could offer.
Now in 2017 the Charitable Trust has:
* eight residential care homes where food, lodging, and loving care are provided free-of-charge to 220 widows.
* distribution centers to provide milk and vegetables to 1250 widows on a daily basis, and monthly food staples to an additional 4000.
* a staff of ninety workers who operate the care homes and several small clinics, distribute food, bring the sick to the local hospital, and make about 2400 home visits each month.
These are all wonderful accomplishments, but what inspired us the most was Yoganandaji’s growing presence in those involved with the Trust. Most of the staff practice the Energization Exercises and meditation daily now, and have taught these techniques to the widows, who practice them also. One third of the staff have taken discipleship vows.
Photos of our line of masters and of Swami Kriyananda are present everywhere, and the work is now becoming a “Paramhansa Yogananda” Charitable Trust in spirit as well as in name.
While we were visiting one of the care homes, an elderly widow came up to us with a question. She was reading Swamiji’s Essence of the Bhagavad Gita in Hindi, and wanted to know why Krishna urged Arjuna to fight. How wonderful it was to share with her (through a translator) the symbolism of this great scripture as Master explained it.
In Yoganandaji’s poem “Samadhi,” he writes: “The sparrow, each grain of sand, fall not without my sight.” Though we are often unaware of God’s loving presence in this world, His eye is ever watchful, seeking to help those in need. Blessed are they who become channels for His love and compassion to the least of His little sparrows.
In God and Guru,