Dr Salem Nanjundaiah Subba Rao  |  Photo Credit: BCCL
The great Gandhian Dr Salem Nanjundaiah Subba Rao seems to exemplify the verve and spirit that Mahatma Gandhi personified. A nonagenarian, he is one of the fortunate few who have met Mahatma Gandhi in flesh and blood and has been enriched by the encounter.
Invited by the Harijan Sevak Samaj to Delhi as part of the celebrations to commemorate 150 years of Gandhi, SN Subba Rao was brimming with enthusiasm and energy, maugre his 90-plus years of age, and raring to bring about a positive change in society. Lean, standing erect and dressed in simple khadi clothes, he burst into the boisterous song 'Jai Jagat', which was the clarion call of Vinoba Bhave. Even at this age, he does not hesitate to wear shorts or engage in social work with youth with the same vigour and passion. It is only befitting that a person like him founded the National Youth Project.
(Dr Salem Nanjundaiah Subba Rao | Picture Credit- BCCL)
Addressing the gathering, he started by giving a perspective, A frail lady wearing a Rs 100 saree was welcomed in the White House by the then US President. The room was full of millionaires, and the elite of US and other countries, when she said, I have come from a rich country India to your poor country of the United States. Explaining, she added, In the midst of your material world, I have experienced a total bankruptcy of spirituality in your country. The President heard all this dumbfounded and in silence, because the lady was neither a political leader nor an industrial magnet. She was Mother Teresa.
(Mother Teresa| Picture Credit- BCCL)
Subba Rao, who holds youth camps across the world, exclaimed, Traversing the length and breadth of India, I am searching - where is the great spiritual effulgence of this country? So many atrocities are taking place in the country. Even young children are getting raped, and murders are reported daily in Delhi.
Rao proclaimed that, to his understanding, Indias greatness lay not in gold or silver but in its spiritual heritage. He then cited an incident related withSwami Vivekananda to expound what he indicated.
Punjab Bhakta Mandal representatives approached Swami Vivekananda for spiritual learning. Swamiji asked them what the conditions in Punjab were as he had heard about the terrible famine. They replied in affirmative but said that they had come to receive spiritual enlightenment. Swami Vivekananda then questioned them about the condition of farmers due to the famine. The Bhakta Mandal representatives informed that things were dismal, but again pressed him for spiritual knowledge. For a third time, Swami ji asked them whether there was adequate fodder and water for cattle. The Bhakta Mandal representatives replied in the negative and then exasperatedly cried, We are asking for guidance on a spiritual path while you are talking only about the lack of rains and the consequences thereof; we are unable to understand you!
The revolutionary Swami Vivekananda had clarified, So long as even a dog is hungry in my country, my spirituality demands that we need to first find food for the dog!
(Swami Vivekananda| Picture Credit- Twitter)
Subba Rao always carries this invaluable lesson in his heart. He said, In my country, 25-30 crore people cant manage to get two square meals. Its good that you pray, it is good that you take a dip in the Holy Ganges, but spirituality also means you extend help to the poor and hungry in your neighbourhood and those desperately seeking some form of employment.
Demonstrating how Gandhi ji's life was a living example of the morals he espoused, Rao narrated, One day a priest visited Gandhi, who was busy spinning his charka. The priest said that he had heard that Mahatma was the embodiment of non-violence. The priest then questioned him, Mr Gandhi, Jesus Christ said love thy enemy like thyself. What are your comments? Gandhi ji kept spinning his wheel without answering. After a few minutes, the priest repeated the question, and then again. After a long pause, Gandhi ji responded, I had heard you the first time itself. I was thinking about it. The thing is that I dont consider anybody as my enemy in the first place.
The priest was stumped and impressed at the same time. The priest then quietly added, Mr Gandhi, you have gone a step ahead of Jesus Christ! Gandhi drew a lot of inspiration from Jesus Christ in his life, but went even beyond that thought process. This is the definition of spirituality.
(Mahatma Gandhi| Picture Credit- BCCL)
Rao, who is also a fellow of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, bemoaned that today religion has become the reason behind the conflict. Karl Marx had grown so weary of religion due to repeated instances of war that he felt that the concept of religion itself should be wiped out. And that is how Communism spread. But real spirituality has its own energy because, after merely 50 years, religion has made a comeback. There are now only four countries who continue with the same thought process China, Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea.
Subba Rao concluded by saying that India needs to put forth the correct picture of spirituality to the world: Aham Brahmasmi I am Brahma. The sages have explained. Wakeup in the morning and ponder over the element that enlivens nature, rivers and the trees, so that you too can draw energy from it. And come to realise that the same element exists within all of us.
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