Compassion and Rural Kids Sponsorship Program at NEEV : A Letter from a Sponsor to Kid

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I woke up this morning to see the bloody photos of people wounded in the Brussels Airport attack. Well, in my four decades of existence this is not the first time one has been exposed to such mind numbing violence. Nor is this the first time violence has erupted in five thousand years of human history. Is violence an innate aspect of human consciousness? Are we doomed to live in Earth with conflict? If we answer this question with a yes, it amounts to a fatalism. If we answer this question with a no, we awaken within ourselves a profound sense of responsibility. It becomes each individual’s responsibility to search for the roots of violence. Do we ask this question every moment in our lives? Does this question assume any proportion of significance or importance than other questions in life?

Do schools help children ask the question of how to live life without conflict? Or rather they instill values of competition, ambition and becoming successful at all costs instead of raising the enormous challenge of creating a world without conflict: a world based on compassion.

Unfortunately, we never inquire deeply, neither the schools nor we. What matters more to us are marks, degrees, success. We measure and are prone to being measured. The entire school system is nothing but the rabid cultivation of technological capacity and acquiring a degree. How much of time and energy are spent by teachers, educators and parents to question the values of society, to examine the psychological roots of conflict. We fret over the fact that our children do not study or perform poorly in exams. We spend sleepless nights worrying about getting our children admitted in expensive colleges and universities. But do we ever have even a modicum of seriousness in asking questions about life, about whether our children shall grow up to create a different world? Rather we coerce, manipulate, influence and pressurize our children to follow the very values of a culture that instills violence.

Are acts of violence separate from what is taught in schools? Are acts of violence separate from what plays out in our daily lives, in our relationships, organizations and families? Do we have terrorist within us – in our minds- or they exist only outside? Does terrorism mean only a gun wielding man or it begins its life much subtly in our consciousness when we compare, judge, evaluate and compete with the person next to us.

Where is even the space to ask such questions, leave alone go into them? At school we are busy pursuing curriculum, grades and degrees. At home we watch soaps, plan vacations and outings. At the office we plan for the next promotion, pay hike or jump to another well paying job. We discuss politics, current events, showing our erudition in matters ranging from local to national to global; some even write columns in newspapers and become prominent personalities. But beneath all this seethes a mind that is measuring, hungering for more, for power and success.

At NEEV Vidyalaya we are trying to create a space to ask these questions and go into them. We are trying to give space to the larger questions of life and to create minds that can penetrate all conflict relentlessly. What matters at NEEV Vidyalaya is not scientific knowledge, academic capacity or acquiring a degree but far more importantly to become a good human being. A good human being is an extraordinary human being. Only a compassionate human being is a being endowed with intelligence. And it does not matter even if he is not literate. What we need is compassion more than technological wizardry. And being compassionate requires extraordinary hard work and insight.

A couple of days back I received a letter from a sponsor for her sponsored kid. It was heart warming for me to read it. If we are all concerned about the spate of the world and humanity we all need to take action. We need to create a revolution in education so that schools become places where children flower in freedom and the intelligence of compassion. Such schools need educators who have themselves probed deeply into the consciousness of man and therefore can light the same fire in the children. At the least we can support such an endeavor. When sponsors join the NEEV school program, most often it is from a sense of charity, of helping the underprivileged. But after they continue being part of NEEV family, they gradually understand that NEEV Vidyalaya is not about charity. It goes much beyond all this. It is attempting a revolution in the consciousness of man. In such matters size and appearance are very deceptive. It is not about big buildings and fancy furniture or the number of children in school. In fact they are even detrimental to true inquiry. Even if one soul seeks his way to compassion, he has the power to affect the entire consciousness of humanity. Sponsors who support NEEV Vidyalaya themselves start undergoing a journey of questioning and enlarging their view of world.

I am reproducing an edited letter of such a sponsor to her sponsored kid.

Letter to Sponsored Kid

My Dear Anita,

This is your elder sister/aunty (you can choose). I met you at NEEV Vidyalaya last year November (2015). This time I may not be able to meet you in person, but I am so glad that you can read, write and speak in English (because) I can send my warm love and blessings to you in this letter.

I was really proud of you, when Anurag told me that you are quite good in studies and are attentive and sincere girl. This is what is expected of you beta, you shall reach places with dedication and hard work. Your parents are luck to have a child like you. Do give them my best wishes, especially your mother. Would love to meet them too some day. Always give your personal best to everything in life, be it studies, personal relationships or family. We have huge expectations from a bright girl as you are. The unique curriculum Anurag propagates at NEEV Vidyalaya is commendable. It shall ensure you become responsible citizen of the country and ultimately an aware global citizen.

Anita, with your perseverance (hard work and dedication) you will be a very successful human being in trying to help other fellow human beings. It means so much to me that I am associated with you. It gives us immense pleasure to be knowing you. We do have a close bond, even though we cannot meet regularly. Do believe me when I say that I think about you often and wish the choicest blessings of God to be showered upon you.

You are the destiny’s child. Do inculcate the habit of reading books and acquiring knowledge (as) it will be for the best. I wanted to give you a huge dictionary and hope you wont find it too heavy and too much  to read ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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NEEV Case Study in American University in Bulgaria & Changing Stories

A couple of days back I got an email from Eva – an effervescent youngster – graduating from her MBA degree from American University in Bulgaria. She said that she and her friends have been inspired by NEEV’s case study which came as a runner up in the Global OIKOS Case study competition , and that they would be presenting this study to their entire social entrepreneurship batch of the college.

                                               Eva Alich and American University in Bulgaria

In Ancient India education of children was mainly done through stories like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Panchtantra or Jataka Tales because stories have the power to go beyond the mere rational and intellectual mind. They appeal to a deeper consciousness that lies untapped by the modern world. Now the Ramayana and Mahabharata have been replaced by other stories, stories we call science, development, progress and modernism. We gulp these stories down, right from childhood where they are preached from pulpits as if they are the word from God. These stories form the basis of how we define our selves, our lives and our world.

However, unlike the ancient stories, the stories created by modern man suffer from grave lacunae. They talk about matter, about body and mind, but remain mute about the soul and spirit. This has created a soulless world, a world from where the spirit, the vast, the immeasurable has been banished and where we become petty, ambitious, insecure humans trying to find their wholeness in material objects.

The greatest work of NEEV has been changing this story. When I went to Eva’s facebook profile page, I saw this banner

I was quite taken in by this. Very few of us want to change the world. I am not quite sure whether we all even agree whether there is anything in this world that needs to be changed. Or even if we do entertain such a notion in some of our saner moments we are unable to figure out where to begin. Several start off and then are extinguished by the gusts of the world.

So how do we change the world? Of course this is a very complex question; not something which I would like to make a topic of this article. But one big way to change the world is to change the stories that make this world. Of course one has to live them too.

Over the past one decade of NEEV’s existence I have seen how sharing our story has created so many different stories in different parts of the world.

“We humans live by stories”, says David Korten, one of my favourite writers who has written the book, Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth and the stories that now govern our society set us on a path to certain self-destruction. In this profound book, Korten shares the results of his search for a story that reflects the fullness of human knowledge and understanding and provides a guide to action adequate to the needs of our time.

Korten calls our current story Sacred Money and Markets. Money, it tells us, is the measure of all worth and the source of all happiness. Earth is simply a source of raw materials. Inequality and environmental destruction are unfortunate but unavoidable. Although many recognize that this story promotes bad ethics, bad science, and bad economics, it will remain our guiding story until replaced by one that aligns with our deepest understanding of the universe and our relationship to it.

To guide our path to a viable human future, Korten offers a Sacred Life and Living Earth story grounded in a cosmology that affirms we are living beings born of a living Earth itself born of a living universe. Our health and well-being depend on an economy that works in partnership with the processes by which Earth’s community of life maintains the conditions of its own existence – and ours. Offering a hopeful vision, Korten lays out the transformative impact adopting this story will have on every aspect of human life and society.

Of course all this is nothing but what our ancient scriptures have always said and which I am simply putting in a ‘modern’ language.

We sincerely hope that Eva becomes another recruit in a new generation of path leaders who would surge to script a new story for our ailing societies and earth.

I would also like to thank our amazing NEEV family of friends and supporters who have played such a vital role in helping NEEV create and disseminate new stories of human destiny. I am reproducing the email by Eva below in the hope that this story may inspire some more kindred souls to take the road less travelled. And thank you Eva for being what you are and for daring to do what you want to do.

Love,

Anurag

Email from Eva

Dear Anurag and Shikha Jain,

Like sent to your NEEV Soaps Facebook page, my name is Eva, I am from Bulgaria and soon graduating from my MBA with the American University here.

For the first time this year the University is offering a Social Entrepreneurship course and as a part of it together with a group of enthused colleagues we are going to present the case of NEEVs social enterprise J

My colleagues are copied to this e-mail and their names are respectively – Ivan, Poli, Mariya and Bogdan.

This brought us to your incredible initiatives and we would like to express our humble admiration to what you have achieved!

We aspire to the same goals and dreams, and stories such as yours pose a great inspiration to us and I am sure to a great many people all over the world. So already thank you very much for that!

We thought that it would be magnificent to include you directly in our studies, to spread your inspiration among the entire group of students, to light that spark in them as well! There are so many issues here in Bulgaria that need such kind of an entrepreneurial spirit and a deep desire to help others and live a meaningful life! The case we are looking at is the one from the Oikos case writing competition in 2015. Our task is to prepare a presentation and answer the questions related to the case – so the challenges you were facing at that time concerning a potential on-line sales growth and international growth.

My group and I have been deliberating how can we make that presentation in the most engaging and inspiring way and we could think of no other way but asking you to address our Cohort directly and personally by means of maybe a short Youtube video.

If by any chance you would be interested in that I would gladly provide more details or we can even arrange a skype call between my group and you if that would be possible.

Thank you so much in advance for considering our idea!

With kindest regards from Bulgaria,

Eva, Ivan, Poli, Mariya and Bogdan