When this greeting emerges in unison from a million hearts on August 2, 2010, it won't just be a birthday wish - but a salutation to the guru, a humble obeisance to him, an assertion of faith, an expression of profound gratitude to God, and a jubilation of Dada's presence in our lives.
This book is an account of the pain, suffering and healing that Rev. Dada J.P. Vaswani went through - a journey of recovery which is an inspiration to all of us. Brought out especially to celebrate Dada's 92nd birthday, this book is also an outpouring of love, reverence and devotion for a guru who is indeed a mata, pita, bandhu sakha, guide, guardian, friend, mentor and a dearly beloved elder brother to everyone whose lives have been touched by hi abounding, abiding grace.
Dada is not just a mentor and teacher: he is a living saint whose life is his message. Above all, this book is a tribute to the tremendous spirit of courage, fortitude, faith and optimism with which Dada embraced pain and suffering, showing us the perfect way to tackle the problems that life is constantly throwing at us!
Happy Birthday, Dearest Dada!
Dada, for you, and for hundreds of thousands of your devotees whose hearts beat every moment by your name, as well as for thousands of friends and admirers who have always regarded you as one of the world's leading spiritual mentors, August 2, 2010, is definitely a birthday with the difference.
In all these years, it was the Mission HQ in Pune which played host to the numerous friends and admirers who came from all over India and all over the world to participate in the week-long celebrations. With due apologies, we must mention that we never, ever heeded to your request that there was no need for elaborate celebrations; each and everyone of us felt that it was our birthday, rather than yours! If a stranger had walked into the Mission campus on August 2, he surely would have been bemused to hear hundreds of devotees, volunteers and satsangis blithely calling out "Happy Birthday!" to each other, wondering how so many people born on that day, had managed to congregate in one place on their date of birth!
Who can deny that August 2 is indeed a spiritual birthday for all your devotees? Your birth has made all the difference to our lives. We cannot imagine what kind of people we would have been, what kind of lives we would have led without the grace and blessing of your presence. It is entirely fitting therefore, that August 2 is OUR Birthday.
This year, for the first time, we are celebrating our birthday with you in New York, U.S.A. There will of course be week long events, special service programmes and prayers at Pune; we also know, that you will be with the Pune sangat too, although in spirit, blessing them with the grace of your love. But your physical presence this year will be with the 'brothers and sisters of America' as Swami Vivekananda once referred to them so memorably.
The reason for this momentous decision is well known to all your friends and admirers worldwide: the fall and major fractures that you sustained on May 7,2010, during a Sadhana Camp in Panama; and your subsequent hospitalisation for two major orthopaedic surgeries at the Rush Medical Centre in Chicago, U.S.A. And just when things were beginning to look up, we (though in actuality, it was you) suffered yet another blow. Soon after the second corrective surgery, which should have been followed immediately by physiotherapy to normalise your limb movements, your body was afflicted with a mild paralytic stroke.
We use the phrase, "your body" advisedly: because it was not you, dear Dada, who were afflicted; it was only your body. As for you, you simply practised the first commandment of the Gita; you just did not identify yourself with the body; in fact, we know you never have! For over two months, we could only watch and pray, as you went through a period of grueling pain, rehabilitative therapy, and 'walked' the arduous road to recovery, each step causing you intense pain.
But through all the pain and suffering, your spirit triumphed; you never once let go of God; you never once let that million dollar smile disappear from your radiant countenance; you never once forgot to thank the Lord for the gift of pain and suffering he had bestowed on you; you never let us forget, even for a moment, that His Will is supreme in our life. The true mentor and master that you are, Dada, you taught us through your personal example, through the excruciating pain and physical suffering that you endured with tremendous fortitude, that we must never ever run away from pain.
We may not be happy to admit this, or indeed face up to this fact squarely: but life is fraught with pain for most of us. Escape, running away, giving up, resistance and struggle are of no avail, when pain strikes. But you opened up a new vista, a new option, a valid alternative to escape. You taught us how to embrace pain with patience, fortitude, acceptance and the spirit of gratitude to God: we know, Dada, that those magic words, Thank You God, Thank You God, Thank You God, were always on your lips and in your heart! We hope that we and others like us, pilgrims on the path of life, will imbibe this valuable lesson in this book which we dedicate to your wonderful spirit of acceptance.
We have heard it said in the Gita, that waters cannot wet, fire cannot burn, swords cannot cleave and wind cannot dry the immortal atman: you have shown us that here upon this earth, pain too, does not touch the realised soul. The secret of handling pain is to embrace pain, like a welcome friend! This is the secret we hope to share with all our esteemed readers in this birthday book, which is our offering to you, Dada.
You have always urged us to look at the bright side of things, dear Dada. We have struggled to put this into practice for the last three months or so. A birthday allows no space or time for sadness. So let us assert whole-heartedly, that we are happy and proud that our brothers and sisters in America are being given the blessed opportunity to have you in their midst on your 92nd birthday!
This little book which we offer to you as a special birthday gift, attempts to capture the collective responses and reactions of all your dear ones, the very mixed emotions, the shock, the sadness, the strain, the stress, the pain, the laughter and tears, the highs and lows that we have gone through in reacting to the recent events in the last three months. Today, there is no feeling of regret or disappointment; it is OUR birthday. Today, we will not permit even a shadow of depression or despair to cloud our horizon; it is OUR birthday. Suffice it, that we are celebrating this blessed day, some of us, in your physical presence and proximity, many of us in the firm belief that you are never, ever from us afar - we are never alone, because you are always with us, entwined in our heartbeats, inextricably bound with our thoughts and feelings.
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