Seva becomes Sadhana
In this introspective essay veterinarian GAURISH PADUKONE describes how the loving Guidance of the Gurushakti has helped him discover that when work is done in the spirit of worship
Photo credit - Anushravas Archive March 2019
Since August 1992, I have been doing joyful seva for the welfare and care of cattle at the goshala-s of Shri Chitrapur Math. In whatever manner possible, to the best of my capacity and professional experience, I help the staff at the Math and supervisors of the goshala-s, to look after the buffaloes, bulls, bullocks, cows, and calves.
When I began visiting the goshala at the Math regularly, it had a variety of cattle which included buffaloes of Dharwadi / Pandharpuri breeds and a few cross- bred cows and bulls. Like a typical goshala , the animals were fed with all leftovers from the bhojanshala with a mixture of cattle feed. Productivity was not a major issue, nor was the reproductive performance. My focus then, was to provide practical suggestions to correct the husbandry of animals — care of animals, computing a balanced dairy ration and adopting correct breeding practices to maintain a fair reproduction rate. Whenever the need arose, I treated sick animals. and this continues to date.
From April 1997, the seva that I was rendering at the goshala transformed into something different. By then, the goshala had become a feature of my daily routine. I was already having a dairy farm of my own at home so it was not always easy for me to adjust to this new responsibility. But I ‘made’ time to visit the goshala and check on the health of the cows. I started enjoying these visits even more when the discussions regarding improving the herd’s reproductive health status became very interactive. People at the administrative levels could understand my inputs related to the goshala, but the hands-on staff would sometimes make mistakes while implementing the prescribed treatments for the sick animals. I do not know how or exactly when everything changed for the better, for after 2001, I somehow felt ‘empowered’ with a sense of belonging to offer this seva at the goshala !
In my profession I have to deal with many illiterate and ignorant animal owners, to whom I have to explain the disease, prognosis, and treatment to be followed. This requires quite a lot of patience, which I know I have developed due to Pujya Swamiji’s influence. Unconsciously, I have been able to shed some of my unwelcome personal traits. Controlling anger is the first lesson I have learnt. Instead of complaining about the inefficiency of fellow workers, I have learnt to explore various possibilities of tackling problems positively.Serving at the goshala has made me understand the higher purpose of my work. The final result of my diagnosis / treatment is only an incidental, temporary phenomenon. What is more permanent is the lesson that I have learnt, to accept both success and failure with equal magnanimity. My views on life and dharma have also changed for the better.
As a veterinarian, I am on call for any medical emergency and consultations at all times. I cannot have a fixed time-table every day. I need to keep my routine flexible and adjustable. Therefore, there are no fixed timings for my meditation/japa/worship. Instead, I offer every action as an offering to God. My work is not separate from worship for me.
For me every animal is divine. Animals are a vital part of creation. As a young vet, treatment of different breeds of buffaloes in dairy farms in and around Mumbai kept me busy. There were very few cows among the animals I treated and because these animals were part of commerce or the dairy business, I treated them as patients, period. No bonding was possible with them. Only upon leaving Mumbai and settling down at Kodsul, did cows become a major species on my patient list.
Apart from treating various animals as a profession, I started advising farmers on dairy farming. In spite of a language handicap, encouraging young dairy entrepreneurs in Bhatkal became a passionate hobby. My idea about ideal dairy farms had to be modified to suit local factors. I had to first understand the actual need of the owner to maintain the animal, suggest simple ways to improve poor housing infrastructure in which the farmer kept his cows and buffaloes and energize the poor quality of cattle feed that was fed to the animals.
Locally bred Malnad Gidda cows and cross- bred cows became a majority of my patients. Whether they are cross-breds or indigenous breeds, cows are cows.... my heart melts just by looking at them and touching them. Treating sick cows takes me to a different level all together. The very look in her eyes is enough to tell me that a cow is in distress . Thanks to a ‘ Blessing’ from our Parama Guru Parijnanshrama Swamiji III , I am able to immediately single out a sick cow from a group.
Observing our beloved Mathadhipati -Parama Pujya Sadyojat Shanakarashram Swamiji’s interest and concern about minute details of the functioning of every department in the Math, gives me the inspiration to put in that bit of ‘extra’ in my seva. It is so reassuring when Pujya Swamiji ensures that any worthy suggestion to improve the care of the animals or the day- to- day functioning of the goshala, is implemented immediately.
Visits to the goshala with Pujya Swamiji to feed bananas/ fruits to the cow may not be part of a daily routine. But it is a treat to watch and hear the cows mooing loudly at the sound of Swamiji’s khadava-s approaching the goshala after Jalabhisheka at the Math. How the cows know that Swamiji has taken a turn towards the goshala to feed and fondle them, is something that I simply cannot explain. His extremely sharp observations about certain aspects in the handling of animals never cease to astonish me.
Strong and repeated evidence indicates that the maintenance of an institution involved in regular spiritual practice has beneficial effects in nearly every aspect of social concern and policy. I believe that having a goshala at the Math reinforces the laity’s belief in certain timeless values that our ancient scriptures endorse.Having a goshala at a Math which provides many essential items to its residents and visitors, is a soulful experience. The Chitrapur Saraswat samaj is blessed to have both at its main hub at Chitrapur, Shirali and at Karla spacious, comfortable and scientifically built goshala-s to house cows , bulls and calves. The biggest blessing for the goshala-s is the Presence and Love of Pujya Swamiji.
My job as a rural vet involves, to a great extent, treating patients who have been wrongly treated by the local quacks, as well as the government appointed para- veterinary staff and doctors. Earlier, as a qualified and experienced vet , my ‘ego’ would naturally play its part when called to treat such animals. Guru-aadesha now reminds me that the knowledge and experience that I have gained is all because of His krupaprasad and I should use it for the good of the animal - without bothering about the applause or accolades.
Frequently, when I have been called to treat a animal I have come across situations and cases when these question stare at me – Is it possible ? Will I be able to solve this case ? Whenever I have found myself facing such professionally challenging, tough situations, I just leave them at my Guru’s feet. I tell Him, You have put me in this situation... so You are going to help me give the best treatment possible and guide me in the surgery. Invariably, when I decide to treat difficult cases with this bent of mind.. the patient makes an uneventful recovery.
I have started understanding the value of introspection and I realize it is a great instrument for self-improvement. Introspection has helped me correct my thinking and made me realize the positive side of life. The calmness I feel in the midst of very challenging situations is because of the suraksha kavach provided by Pujya Swamiji. So how does one express gratitude to a Master who makes my entire life meaningful, who gives direction and purpose to all my activities ? I truly cannot imagine what my life would have been without His Compassion and Guidance.
As I become more and more sensitive to life and the various things it has to offer , I start seeing my Guru’s Grace behind everything. This devotion is the shield that protects me and my family . My connect with the Gurushakti is becoming so strong, that no matter how big the obstacle, I feel assured of His Support whenever I need it....and I need it all the time...