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Dharma in Action: The Story of Ramana’s Garden

Dharma in Action: The Story of Ramana’s Garden

Since the Western world has come to know India and her treasures, she has long been described as a place to discover the most extreme levels of the human experience.

 

She is the womb of ancient civilization, the birthplace of the longest living spiritual traditions and has the potential to provide the deepest wealth of knowledge and resources.

 

However, these boons are served at once with the harshest realities of humankind, enveloping the entire spectrum of human experience.

 

For India is now a cradle for the largest number of at-risk and orphaned children in the world.

The Story in Numbers

Comprising 17.6% of the Earth’s population, India is home to more than 1.3 billion people. She is also home to the world’s largest number of people living in poverty.

When our basic survival needs are not met, like food, clothing, shelter and clean water, education becomes a luxury. As a result, India’s number of uneducated children, quite possibly her greatest untapped resource, is unparalleled in the world.

According to UNICEF, 42 million India children between the ages of six and 14 do not attend school and spend most of their time on the street.

These children are at risk of starvation, being murdered, forced into prostitution, used for child labor and enslaved in begging mafia circles, or total neglect unless given the love and basic living necessities to thrive as the divine beings they are.

Hope Emerges

In the late 1970’s and American woman, Prabhuvati Dwabha, traveled to India in search of a guru, a spiritual practice and the One Supreme Truth. While her original intent was to pull out of the world completely and become a sannyasan (renunciate of the material world), her true life’s work lay in serving abandoned children of the land that had given her so much.

Like many who visit India, Prabhuvati experienced a level of poverty she had never known before. However, she found that women and children suffered the most.

According to sayyesnow.org, in 1994, the state of Uttar Pradesh had the highest rate of infant mortality in the nation. What’s more is 75% of school-aged children suffered from malnutrition.

The conditions of the schools were horrific. Most children who attended schools studied in the dirt, in unsafe, derelict buildings, and without drinking water or proper food, desks or books. Sometimes only one teacher was available to teach up to 100 students.

Children belonging to the “untouchable” caste were not allowed to drink the safe drinking water and were forced to sit in separate groups. Building repairs, proper medical care  for children and village sanitation were also absent. So, Prabhuvati’s first successful task was to provide hot, healthy lunches to all the schools in the area and set up a non-profit through America called Ramana’s Seva Samiti.

Dharma in Action

Over the next 14 years, the programs she provided assisted more than 1,800 children in 68 villages with proper education. They achieved 100% literacy and 0% malnutrition in school-aged children in 22 of those villages.

Prabhuvati and her team found many women suffered from death or chronic illness due to inhaling the smoke from open fires used to cook in their homes. As a result, Ramana’s Seva built clay cooking chulas with chimneys in hundreds of homes in the area.

Women were also offered free vocational training in stitching and tailoring and then provided employment sewing school uniforms and knitting winter-proof clothing for their children.

Organic vegetable and kitchen gardens were created to provide healthy, organic sustenance to villages using poisonous pesticides and fertilizers to grow their food. From then on, children and families learned how to grow and harvest their own organic food for home and school.

Some years later, the site for Prabhuvati’s next project was chosen. Construction began for Ramana’s Garden by hand-carrying stones from the nearby river and living in canvas  domes on abandoned forest-land near one of India’s spiritual centers, Rishikesh. Not a month has passed in 15 years, where they were not consistently building and improving their foundation.

This new project was to be a school and orphanage for some of India’s most destitute and at-risk children. Prabhuvati writes:

For me a child who has seen their drunken, abusive father or mother-in-law pour kerosene over their mother and burn her is at risk in that house. A child who suffers severe malnutrition because their abusive father drinks all the food money leaving the family to starve is at risk…… There isn’t a single child living in Ramana’s Garden that hasn’t known the depths of loss and despair.

The Compassion Continues

Today, Ramana’s Garden is home to more than 60 at-risk children and a free English medium school up to 8th grade for more than 160 students.

Their mission is to support abandoned, destitute and abused children by providing them with nutritious food, proper shelter, medical care the highest education possible that they may thrive in a world that once seemed hopeless.

Ramana’s Garden is the only school of its kind in North India, honoring the highest standards of education to poor and untouchable caste children. In addition to the standard curriculum, they offer yoga, meditation, music, dance, theater, arts, crafts, and vocational training.

Their teachers are exclusively trained to use hands-on, creative teaching methods in the classroom. Most importantly, Ramana’s Garden is free for all attending students, which includes meals, uniforms, books and learning materials.

Though government regulation prevents Ramana’s Garden from providing education beyond 8th grade, they actively engage in supporting children beyond junior high school in pursuit of higher education. Currently Ramana’s Garden sponsors more than 20 students in this capacity.

Two of Ramana’s male graduates are currently documentary film producers – one is in university and the other is working for R.K. Films – while Sunita, a female graduate of is now starting medical school to become a gynecologist!

Not a day passes that Prabhuvati and Ramana’s Garden do not work toward the goal of eliminating suffering in the world and lifting children out of the viscous cycle they were born into. It is through receiving generous donations that Ramana’s Garden can continue to provide sustenance and such wonderful education to so many children in need.

Understanding the interconnectivity of all life is the root philosophy of Ramana’s Garden. Children left to die are not distant and disconnected problems, but rather lie at the very center of our own fates. We are citizens of the world and our thoughts, words and actions touch many.

What good is the prosperity we’ve inherited if we cannot use it to spread higher consciousness, joy and prosperity to the world?

To Donate Time, Energy or Financial Support Visit:

www.friendsramanasgarden.org (A 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.)

If you would like to sponsor a child, please email Prabhuvati at choosingyesnow@yahoo.com

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About The Author

Ashley Beasley

Ashley is an inspired and dedicated yogini with a background in somatic movement, martial arts, and asian philosophy. Through humble devotion, service and annual trips to India, she shares how to embody the study and practice of yoga in everyday life. You can find Ashley in Bali, Indonesia teaching Yoga Retreats and assisting in Yoga Teacher Trainings at Blooming Lotus Yoga.

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