Heartful village life in rural India
PUNIT LALBHAI presents some of the Heartfulness initiatives that are being done in the villages of rural India, where the simple lifestyle, hospitality and open hearts are very conducive to heart-based meditation.
Ram Trivedi will surely not fail to talk about the nights he spent at the village temple. He will not mention the discomfort of sleeping on the stone floor, but rather the long discussions he had with the temple Pujari – the discussions that paved the way to being accepted as one of the community. If you travel with Tribhuvan Singh in the villages around Jodhpur, he will ask you to follow his scooter as he leads the way to several houses situated remotely and far from one another. It will typically be late in the evening when the village folk have finished tending their fields. You will meet a family of four or five, who will probably be eagerly waiting for him to arrive and conduct group meditation. After the session, you are sure to be moved by the earnestness of the family’s request that you be their guest for the night.
Amrita Trivedi and Jyoti Goswami are also full of stories about their work in the villages around Ahmedabad. They will tell you about how the women of the villages are taking the lead to bring their communities together to meditate. When you speak to these individuals who are bringing meditation to the people living in parts of rural Gujarat and Rajasthan, you will hear story after inspiring story of simple people, simple living and the beautiful connection between human hearts.
Over a two-year period, these ‘village champions’ have introduced Heartfulness Meditation to more than 30,000 individuals, and of these more than 2,500 continue to meditate on a weekly basis. This has not been easy, as working in villages comes with a unique set of challenges. First, there is the distance. It means extensive travel. Second, there is a prerequisite to build trust. It means spending time with the locals, talking at length about village matters and agriculture, eating together, and most importantly listening. In order to do this well and build strong connections, it is important that the same people visit the same villages frequently. Third, there is the need to train locals to sustain the momentum. Here, the approach of working with the local schools, gaining the trust of the Sarpanch or lead influencers, like temple priests, and identifying locals as future coordinators has been working well.
With approximately 70% of India’s population still living in rural areas, we are developing creative models to support those villagers who want to learn meditation and lead a heartful life. The model that our four ‘village champions’ have chosen is to dedicate themselves to this cause fulltime, and their resource and travel needs are covered by corporate sponsorship through CSR funding. Of course, there are other models, and there are many programs happening in different parts of the country, but I suspect that our work is only getting started. The future of meditation in rural India is promising and immensely exciting.
Article by PUNIT LALBHAI