Leslie discusses her condition with Dr. Raja & Vishwa.
December 11, 2014 Unedited - Straight from the Heart
Dear Ones ...
What a blessing it is to be able to lift suffering from even one creature. What a blessing it is to experience the blessing of being able to do it.
Meaninglessness. Alienation. How does one make it back from total alienation?
During difficult passages if one loses all connections with life, with themselves, how does one make it back? Do they look for one thing with which they can connect? And if they can find that one thing, then thru that find other things. And on and on back into life.
But that's an illusion that you have to find one thing. And go thru doors and doors to again find meaning. There is no transition. There aren't doors and doors to go thru. In a moment, one can go from being connected with nothing to being connected with everything. It is a question of one's inner state. But what is everything? Is it everything outside oneself? People. Things. Causes...One can be totally connected outside, and yet be lost. Almost non-existent.
What is the connection that affirms? What is the search for meaning? What is the communion one seeks?...I believe the connection, the thing we yearn for, the thing that will give everything meaning, is the connection with one's own Self - one's own Heart.
Loving. Caring. Having deep compassion. Lifting suffering. These are the things in this last stage of life I'm traversing which have become all important to me. They are the natural expression of being connected with the Heart.
When first I was consumed by this endeavor that envelops me...I refer to it as being consumed because I made no decisions. I made no choices. Things just happened and I was drawn into it. There was no point at which my life as I had known it ended. It was just gone. I have no idea of when or how it happened. It was just gone. And I was drawn into this other thing. There was nothing noble about it. I had no choice... Blessing of blessings.
But I knew at the beginning that there would be much suffering. I knew that just as my Baba had taken on a lot of the parabdha karma of his disciples and burned it off for them. In the same way, not as a Great Being, but simply as a worker, a servant, I would have to take on a lot of the parabdha karma of the animals and burn thru it for them. These two beautiful beings with whom I am connected - I refer to Vishwa and Dr.Raja - a lot of what they are doing is the same.
It is such a moving experience to sit in the Shelter. Just sit and be quietly open to what's going on.
The Staff...The relaxedness of the Staff. How close they are to each other. How connected and loving they are to these voiceless creatures surrounding them. How their work flows from one thing to another. There's no structure. There's no list of things to do. It simply is a flowing. If something is happening that requires two or three of them, then in the most natural way there are two or three of them. If something is happening that needs attention somewhere else, then they immediately are somewhere else... It's amazing to see them feed the dogs. You'd expect all kinds of fights and conflicts. But there are few. I mean we're talking about several scores of dogs, running free, that are all fed together. It's a simple happening. And it goes off beautifully. There's a miraculous quality about it.
The voiceless creatures...To see the life in them. Moving. In repose. Sleeping. Eliminating. Walking. Running. Playing. Fighting. Together. Alone. What a joy to see them in their lives. They're not in captivity. They have a life. A life of engagement. A life of choices...Off alone. Sitting. Lying. Sleeping...
Together. Playing. Snuggling. Chasing... Solitary. Or social. Friendly. Or unfriendly...No sameness. Always the possibility and reality of change...Bless you dear ones. Bless you. Bless you. Bless you.
Dr.Raja. Vishwa. Supervisor Raja. The Staff...See their closeness. The intimacy and aliveness in which they pass through the day. Nothing ever seems to be the same. It, too, is so alive. And so real. So flowing. And so the day unfolds with all these interconnected relationships and happenings. And suffusing all of it. Permeating it. Is the caring and loving of these dear, dear voiceless creatures we are so blessed to have. There is no sacrifice. In the sense that's all there is. That caring. It's all that's important. There's no giving up of anything else. That's all there is......And, how these creatures love back. The warmth and quiet feeling of worthwhileness that they imbue us with. And we say, sometimes, that we are doing it for them. Well. How strongly it comes back the other way.
There was virtually no planning involved in what has manifested here as the Shelter. At the beginning I had no idea of what a shelter was. I knew that it was involved in birth control. But I really had no idea. I didn't contemplate what it was. Things just unfolded.
The motivation was pure. I knew the admonition of my Guru that the physician heals with the Heart. And so it started. I have been on the Spiritual Path for almost forty years. And amazingly enough I have little attainment. But I have gone through intense purification of unimaginable intensity. And the blessing that I have been given is spaciousness of mind. And an open Heart. It is with that spaciousness and the Heart that everything was dealt with as it arose.
So things just unfolded. And what happened is the way it is. If we look at any one thing as tho' it were planned and structured thinking that it can reproduced by doing the same "structural things".... Like you can look at how beautifully open, spontaneous, and caring the Staff is with the voiceless ones. You can see it in the dogs....
To digress for a moment. Dr.Raja and Vishwa are now running the Shelter. For a number of years they were my devoted students. But no longer. They're on their own legs now. With their own array of strengths. Not doing my bidding. Rather doing their own thing with their own Hearts. Each time I'm in the Shelter the vibration seems to be higher and higher. The happenings freer and freer. The dogs happier and happier. It's so humbling. I think it's higher than I could have brought it myself. Even in my prime. I can start getting feelings of inadequacy. Then I try to remember that it's not like that. It's all one happening. And I am a big part of it.
Back to looking at one thing as tho' it were planned and structured...So the Staff is so loving and caring with the dogs. But they aren't doing my thing. Vishwa's thing. Or Dr.Raja's thing. They, too, are doing the work as themselves with their own strengths...I mean they know that it's vitally important for the animals to feel safe, loved, and cared for. This has been stressed to them again and again. And they know that it isn't me that the voiceless ones get this love from. It isn't Vishwa. It isn't Dr.Raja...It's them. The Staff...Day after day. And no one can tell them just how to do it. It has to be an expression of their own Hearts. Everyone does it differently. I personally am a smoocher. A hugger. A kisser. A holder. But that certainly isn't The Way. It's my expression. They have to find their own way of relating.
They've been told again and again that they don't have to look busy when I come in. They should just do whatever they're doing. They can go to the kitchen and have a cup of tea. Whenever. If they look worn out or burdened. I ask them. Often they take a day or two off to replenish...But when people visit the Shelter they're often struck by how focused our guys are in the work. How hard they work. How beautiful they are with the dogs. How the dogs love them.
So then I might be explaining to someone that has asked about this. I might comment that in order for the Staff to really give caring. To really be into the work. They have to be truly valued. They can't be exploited in any way. They can't have things done just to "improve their morale". There's a dignity in being valued and doing things their own way with their own strengths. Not just following a set of instructions. Now one might hear this and set about trying to create the same thing in another facility. And think to themselves, "Oh, right. Let's value our Staff and not exploit them". But that won't work. It has to be real. They truly have to be valued.
It's a joke to call our Staff unskilled workers, doing a special thing. These, our workers, are special, special people with incredible personal qualities doing this amazing work. All you have to do is watch them for an hour to see that....I often just want to hug them. And I do. I'm so, so grateful they're with us.
Now what is the point of my going on and on about this stuff? The point is that no decisions were made to set it up the way it is. It wasn't just observing that they have to really be valued...etc., etc., etc. It's just that as each thing arose, it was handled with the Heart. The implications of the decisions weren't analyzed, and analyzed. It was just done with the Heart.
Now what does that mean? Well I'd mentioned that I've been on the Spiritual Path a long time. And tho' having no attainment, the blessing I got was spaciousness of mind and an open Heart. By spaciousness, I'm almost meaning emptiness. Not a lot of knowledge on how to do things. But...Emptiness. Emptiness. Emptiness. And in that "empty space" ideas "appear". Intuitions. Insights...Not ideas, intuitions, or insights that are the result of analyzing something. Just ideas, intuitions, and insights.
And I believe in a Supreme Being...Many of you do, too. And many of you don't...I believe that these ideas are given to me. Instructions you might say. Guidance. Knowledge.
Those of you who don't believe in a Supreme Being might say. Leslie, those are not instructions being given to you. Those are your own ideas coming from your unconscious mind. Fine. You guys believe what you want to believe. And I'll believe what I want to believe. If things are the way you say they are, then I have built an extraordinary shelter.....But that is not the way it is. It is true that I gave up everything else. And worked very, very hard. But all the important things happened magically. Through Grace. And I had nothing to do with them. So without any false modesty. I swear to you that I have no emotional connection with having put this Shelter together. Because I didn't.
Occasionally people say to me you must be very proud. And I can honestly say. No. I don't experience anything like that. I don't even know how much of a connection I feel. BUT I am very, very grateful for the way it has turned out. I'm as grateful as anyone else. I'm so thankful, that in this the last stage of my life, I have been given the chance to be involved in something that lifted so much suffering.
On the other hand, it is also true that it is supremely important to me. And if I had a choice, at any time, I would trade the rest of my life for the ongoing security of this endeavor.
Putting all this babble together. You can't create this kind of thing by trying to replicate the structure of it. First the totality of all the things that are happening is endlessly complicated. The whole, whole thing is simply an expression of the Heart. A unique expression of the Heart. So when I'm being interviewed and talking about our core policy of demonstrative love. And then go into aspects of how we are functioning. And perhaps spew out a collection of statistics, which are impressive. And talk about the effect the work has had on the community. That is not the underlying essential thing. It is all just one multi-faceted expression of the Heart. It can't be replicated by planning and organization.
If another Shelter were set up with the Heart it might not look anything like ours. It might be radically different. I don't know. But it would have Joy. Love. Spaciousness. And the energy that transforms.
That's not to say that the knowledge that we have been given here is not important. It is. It can help lift suffering from hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, across the country. Perhaps in other countries. I'll leave it for another Diary Entry to be explicit of what knowledge I'm talking about.
And now for an apology to you out there. I have been communicating little these last seven or eight months. The Shelter has been unfolding and operating beautifully. But it would be a cosmic understatement to say that I have not been especially expanded. I talked earlier about having to take on some of the parabdha karma of the animals. And burn it off for them. It's not an empty exercise. You can see it getting lighter and lighter for these beautiful, vulnerable, voiceless creatures. Thank God. They have such a heavy hand to play.....Burning it off for them has to do with inner practices I was given by my teachers. If I don't burn enough off as it's coming, I can get psychically heavy. And the darker forces don't pass right thru me.
There are a lot of negative energies these voiceless creatures have to deal with. Indifference. Outright malevolence. Political. Bureaucratic... Bless them. Protect them. Give them joy. Happiness. And Grace.
And so I wasn't able to burn it off fast enough and it accumulated. But...Yes. Yes. Yes. I'm beginning again to see Light.
The Shelter was going beautifully. And I, still going, but having to traverse a difficult inner crossing. Carrying darker energies which had not been fully burnt off. And so here I am once more...Light. Blessed light. How good it feels to have made it across. This diary entry is a sign of that.
May our beloved voiceless creatures fully benefit. May their journey be a bit easier.
To those of you out there...Thank you. Thank you. For the support. For the caring.
From me. From Dr.Raja. From Vishwa. From the Staff. But most of all...From the Voiceless Ones.
Giving Love, Getting Love - Leslie and Satya
March 25, 2014 Unedited - Straight from the Heart
Dear Ones ...
Late afternoon. At Ananda Ashram in Kerala. Doing a short retreat to replenish.
Replenish what? My Spirit. My Baba used to say, "Drishti srishti". The world is as you see it. You can be in a Heavenly Abode and be bummed out. You can be in a virtual Hell Realm and be okay ... Everything. Everything. Depends on your inner state.
Our species is so arrogant. So unfeeling towards creatures in the Animal Realm. There is so much awful, awful suffering. Please God. Give me the inner strength to engage in battle and to be okay inside. Give me the strength to be ferocious when it counts. But to be still inside, and not get lost in it. Give me the strength. The detachment. The perseverance to be a Great Warrior. To help in any way. Large. Small. Give me the Wisdom to understand the Interconnectedness. To remember that any one thing changes everything else. That there is incredible power in the smallest action, good or bad.
But most of all give me the strength to love. To love deeply and embracingly in the midst of all this.
My beloved Dr.Raja and Vishwa who protect me and take care of me. Need this from me.
My beloved Staff. Whom I love so dearly. Need this from me. They need me to be alive enough. To deeply appreciate their specialness - Sekar. Mani. Pondi. Ramesh. Raja. Jayakumar. Prakash, Suguna, Veera, and all those I've not named ... Their work is so difficult. So, so difficult. Our voiceless creatures run free ... On the veranda. So many. Regularly eliminating. Yet the floor is so clean. Hour after hour. Day after day. And they stay open and loving. And bless our beloved charges. Giving them safety, and love ... I couldn't do what they do. I don't fully understand how day after day they can do this and stay alive to the moment in a loving way ... Bless them. Bless them. Bless them ... I throw myself at their feet in gratitude ...What inner qualities do they possess to be able to do these magnificent things?
We sent the Satya newsletter out a week ago. The two photos of our beloved Satya in the suffering state she was in prominently starting the letter. So graphic. You could experience her suffering.
There are some who experienced the photos as offensive because they were so focused on suffering. But most experienced it in the way we meant it. We meant to show the incredible power of love and caring. The breathtaking transformation. From Hell to the Joyful Meadow.
It involved so much ... A compassionate person driving by and seeing Satya on the road. Stopping and bringing her to the Shelter. It's no small thing. He didn't know if she were rabid or not. Diseased or not with something catching. Potentially aggressive.But he did it.
And poor, poor Satya. She was almost certainly an "owner dog" that had been dropped off ... abandoned to die. The family who abandoned her probably had her since the time she was a puppy. And probably had children. All of whom Satya loved. And she was abandoned by them. In pain. Thirsty. Hungry. Afraid. Not understanding. Everything she had known and loved was taken away.
Then into Dr. Raja's gentle, quiet, competent hands. It's an experience to see how animals pick up his quiet, pure Heart and surrender to his touch. The beginning of the physical metamorphosis.
Then to our staff with Vishwa closely overseeing. The healing of her Heart. To help her trust again. To love. To be joyful ... Then Vishwa finding the loving home for her. It isn't easy to find a home for an adult dog.
All this was done in a sea of love and caring. Which she must have felt as soon as Dr.Raja started working on her ... And dear, dear Satya may you be protected, safe and joyful in your new life. (Vishwa checked several days ago. And she was incredibly happy. The lady of the house was home. And she adores Satya. Who follows her and gets a steady stream of love).
Dr.Raja...Vishwa...Are almost staggering under the work load. It being so heavy is truly auspicious. It's not a temporary condition. It relates to the number of emergency rescue cases we have. In January there were between 100 and 110. Almost unimaginable. In the early years we had five, six, seven a month. Slowly it increased as people became more and more involved in getting the creatures in trouble to us. Either bringing them in or calling us and we going out to get them. I'm not talking about just ailing animals. I'm talking about serious cases, mostly homeless dogs.
It's not that the number needing emergency care has increased. It's that
they're now getting to us. We're only a small group. We don't know what's
happening all over. There are over 150,000 people in Tiru. Thousands of
homeless dogs. And hundreds of monkeys, cows, goats, and other creatures
wandering around. That's not even mentioning the thousands of birds, deer,
snakes, squirrels, chickens, turkeys ... There's no way we could care for all
these creatures without the Community. We need their help ... I said it's
auspicious because it's a quantitative sign of the transformation in the
relationship between the animals and the people. Which is the only way the
quality of life of the voiceless ones can truly be uplifted.
This transformation I'm talking about has national significance. For animals and humans, alike.
In the beginning, the first year after opening, it became clear that there was no longer widespread abuse. And the number of aggressive dogs seemed to have decreased significantly. Then, after a year or two, all the animals appeared to be healthier and happier. The ones we had seen and the ones we'd not seen. All of them. It took time to realize that the relationship they had with the people amongst whom they lived was being transformed.
Then each year the relationship steadily improved. People stroking dogs. Talking nicely to them. Feeding them. The dogs responding with warmth to the humans. Swishing tails. Smiles. More approachable. Many, many people commented. They'd never, in India , seen dogs more friendly. And each year it increased. (Remember, too, that at this point we've sterilized 80 to 90 percent of the homeless dogs. And seen a lot of them in the clinic for treatment. After their exposure to us, especially the sterilized dogs who spend six days in the Shelter convalescing, they are much more open to human beings). The Westerners who are here in large number during the cooler months, November through February, are the ones who saw it most clearly. For they'd be gone for eight months, and could see the changes more dramatically upon return. And unsolicited, they'd approach us and thank us for the amazing changes that were taking place.
There were other signs ... The way people bringing "owner dogs" to the Shelter were relating to them ... The way some of the people bringing the emergency cases were involved with the creatures - and their expression of gratitude.
But an important comment that I'd heard for the first time recently from a close friend is that he felt that the people in town were being nicer with each other. And this hits on something that is super important. The nature of the Heart is that if it opens, it isn't directional. If it opens, it simply opens more in many directions. If people's Hearts open to the animals, they will also be nicer to each other ... Mahatma Gandhi's famous quote of, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated" is really a comment about the nature of the Heart. If humans are good to each
other than they'll be good to animals ... It also goes the other way ... If a
community's Heart opens to animals, then it will also open more to the humans.
It's estimated that there are from ten to twenty million homeless dogs in India . May reaching out to them. Caring for them. Learning to love them. Be a means of uplifting the community's in which this happens. It's so difficult to deal with us humans directly to get us to be nicer to each other. We're so complicated. So resistant. And this is an effective way of doing it ... May the Government recognize this and pour resources into it. Money. And good, good people. It's so important. What's happening here is beyond anything I could have ever imagined.
I'm humbled by the extraordinary power of love, commitment, and perseverance of Dr.Raja and Vishwa. I'm so deeply touched by the Staff. So little of what's going on now depends on me. At times I feel inadequate. Om
Thank you, God. Thank you. It's these young people who will take it into the Future. May the special things we learned become broadly known. May the special treatments we've come across become broadly known. May their Work lift suffering from hundreds of thousands of creatures.
Bless me so that I may be guided to raise the funds to secure their Work for the Future. Please God ... I have so little time left.
Vishwa gets his daily hug.
June 20, 2013 Unedited - Straight from the Heart
Dear Ones ...
So much has happened since last I wrote. One of the major things was a shelter money crisis. It's the first time ever we've had to deal with something like this. We actually ran out of money. Fortunately I was able to get a personal loan of $15,000 that gave us enough time to move towards our supporters to get money in. Survival itself was on the table.
The thought of us going down is almost unthinkable. Thousands, literally thousands of animals would fall into unbounded suffering. All the animals we care for through rescues, emergencies, adoptions, clinic visits, and hospital activity would come pouring onto the streets.
In the first month alone there would be 20 to 50 suffering and dying animals on the street. After a year there would be over 250, which is where it was when we first opened. The good relationship between the homeless dogs and the humans amongst whom they live that was so hard to get would collapse. When there's that much suffering it's overwhelming and people can't deal with it. They just cut the dogs out of their awareness. Rabies would re-manifest. In three or four years the population would once more be out of control and at least 7,000 more puppies would be born each year - most of whom would suffer and die.
It took us six years of focused effort, and many, many blessings, let alone an enormous amount of money to get to this point. Where all the animals—homeless, owner, domestic, wild. large, small, are cared for. Where the relationship between homeless dogs and the humans amongst whom they live has been transformed. (Tiru is probably the only sizeable municipality in the nation where this has happened). It's unlikely that this would ever again happen, It would simply be lost. There might be sterilization programs, and perhaps a clinic, but nothing like what has magically unfolded here.
The pressure was enormous.We reached out in so many directions. And thank God there were enough of you out there that responded to carry us through. Immediate survival is no longer on the table. We have a three or four month platform to get things together. But we now carry a debt in excess of $25,000.
There were two people in particular whose shakti buoyed us up. I don't know if we could have gone the distance without them. That was Sharon Callahan and Kathleen Prasad.
Sharon is a well known animal psychic, and has a foundation for the well being of animals, amongst many other things. We use her floral remedies (like Bach Flower remedies) in the Shelter. She is a longtime, strong supporter of the shelter. She has a website at http://www.anaflora.com.
Kathleen has a foundation for teaching Reiki for Animals. (She has a website at http://animalreikisource.com. I came in contact with her through my daughter, Debbi. Both have an international following. Both, in their newsletters, sent out beautiful pleas to their supporters to help. For several months a steady flow of over two hundred donations came in. Many were automatically recurring monthly donations which gives us support going into the future. Thank you dear Sharon and Kathleen.
There were many, many others. Some who were financially pressed themselves sent in modest donations. But money gets much, much more mileage here and every dollar really helps. All were sent in from the Heart and give us the energy to prevail and persevere.
There were some that were able to give enormous amounts. $1000, $2,500, $5,000. There was a bodhisattva yogi from Dubai whom I had only heard of. I was aware of his activities. That he was a yogi. And that he had a very beautiful heart. I sent him an unsolicited plea. Told him about us. And heard nothing for two weeks. Then Dr.Raja called from the post office. A check had come in the mail. He asked me to guess how much it was for. And then he told me. Five lakh. That's equivalent to $10,000. Bless you. I think that you would like to remain anonymous.
Thanks to each of you. For those who are not inclined to donate, send us your good wishes. Say a prayer for us. Tell others.
Well we had never had to ask for money like that. Solidly for three months.we must have moved in a hundred or two hundred different directions. I imagine a young actor/actress trying to get work has to the traverse the same kind of territory. Going to audition after audition. Receiving many rejections. But keeping the goal in mind, and just persevering.
Thank God for Dr. Raja and Vishwa. It's simply humbling. Their protection of me. The limitless energy and devotion that goes into their work. So much suffering is being lifted. Being inside the shelter is a deeply moving experience. All these vulnerable creatures. Feeling safe. Cared for. Resting. Playing. Chasing. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you Dr. Raja and Vishwa. My gratitude. My feelings for each of you are so vast and deep.
We could have put together a decent shelter without them. But never, never like the one we have with the two of you. It's the energy. The love. The unassuming, unpretentious commitment that is operating all the time.
To you out there. I wish you could experience it. I wish for you the blessing at some time in your life of being in a situation where the efforts you put forth are able to lift so much suffering.
Leslie takes a nap and then back to work.
October 26, 2012 Unedited - Straight from the Heart
Dear Ones ...
Morning. Sitting inside Tasty Restaurant as I write. Just finished breakfast. Cornflakes with yogurt and fresh fruit over it. The best homemade yogurt you ever tasted. You would love this place. It's on top of a two story building. A wood/coconut leafed irregular multi peaked roof overhead. Hand made in the distinct "Indian Style" that is the craft of an Indian "improvisational builder/craftsmen". All kinds of nooks and corners. And one, if it's not crowded, can find a little space to be alone.
The young woman (remember, anyone younger than 60 is young to me) who together with her husband own this place is a delight in pure loving simplicity. When I enter she greets me with special warmth and love knowing the service that we do. As I come up the stairs, as soon as someone on her staff spots me, they call out to her, "Tata"..."Tata"..."Tata" (Grandfathter ... Grandfather ... Grandfather). And I can hear the silver anklets she's wearing jingle as she hurries over to greet me. Yes ... Yes ... Yes ... We go through our ritual of ordering my regular breakfast. Then she always adds, "Water?" to remind me I have to take my ayurvedic pills. What a way to start the day!
I'm on the spiritual path. Have been for almost forty years now. I tell younger people that it's really a search for ones own Heart. It's different for everyone. Each has to find their own way back. I tell the youthful ones that it's very good to put great effort into finding a thing to do in the world. But if you lose the connection with your Heart that it all eventually becomes dust. I tell them that there is nothing on the outside that can fill them. That there's nothing on the outside that can give them that communion, that meaning, that happiness they're seeking. That it has to come from within. From their connection with their own Heart.
So the Master Game is finding the way back to themselves. My Guru said that it's not being loved that counts. The whole world can love you, but if inside you're not in a good space it doesn't help much. And at night when you go to sleep you're all alone. It's loving and caring that count. It's that nectar that gives things a deeper meaning. That gives spaciousness inside. That keeps you in contact with the Heart....May we all be blessed .... I mean all .... Our dear ones .... Our friends .... Our enemies ... May we all be blessed with understanding and happiness.
You haven't heard from me in a long time. Have just traversed a difficult inner crossing. Not out of it yet. But have made it to safer waters. It was the kind of inner territory where you have to will yourself to get out of bed. Or to brush your teeth. And here I am. I marvel. Offer endless thanks for Vishwa and Dr. Raja. How strong they have become. How ably they navigate the cross currents of the incredibly complex happenings to keep the voiceless creatures safe and cared for. How beautiful their unwavering focus on lifting suffering from the Animal Realm. Seven days a week. Twenty four hours a day. It's not a job. It's a life of Service. They're young, both age 30. It is they who will take our beloved Shelter into the future.
They are so different. Dr.Raja, deeply still inside. When he approaches an animal they instinctively pick up his Heart. How trustingly they surrender to his care. He holds nothing back. On the outside one sees quiet gentleness. Absolute purity and sincerity. People, almost without exception, respond to it. I've actually in six years never heard anyone. And I mean anyone. Verbalize a negative feeling about him.
I remember my Guru saying that, "The physician heals with the Heart". Dr. Raja can't say no to anyone. Some take advantage of his goodness. So be it. To him it seems to make no difference. His patience seems like a bottomless pool. I have seen him tested so severely. Regularly by me. But including others and those, in very trying situations. I've never seen him "lose it". Bless you Dr. Raja. There are thousands of people who love you. There are enumerable animals that are okay now because of your Heart. Your skill. And your caring.
And then there's Vishwa. Having such endless skills and knowledge that he can't possibly be an earthling. Heroic. Feerless. Energy and enthusiasm almost inexhaustible. I guess we call that unwavering perseverance. How broad and deep his knowledge of and feeling for animals. How as often as not he has done something during the night. No matter what comes up he handles it. No matter what I ask of him he's game to move strongly ahead. With all the things that happen in the running of a full blown shelter. With all the situations that need attending to. He seems to be all over the place doing. His heroic rescues.
He has personally rescued hundreds of animals over the years. Ones that he has personally become aware of. Not rescue calls that come in. Though there are many, many of those. But ones he has personally heard about or seen. He is the one each day that briefs me on the state of the Shelter. He is the one that is aware of our 125 to 175 in house animals. He is the one that picks up the unfolding problems. He is the one who has put together the most effective adoption program I have ever heard of. Bless you Vishwa. For being there.
Without these two pillars, our Shelter would not be the Shelter. The Shelter isn't something that was put together by me. And these two were hired to run it. They are the Shelter. We are the Shelter. It unfolded organically around the three of us. They are devoted to me. And I to them. When it gets real tough and I falter, they protect me and handle things. It's amazing how capably and sensitively they run things. I step further and further back. Making fewer and fewer comments. These two, who were my students, have been launched some time ago. And have an unbelievable array of talents and strengths. Way beyond what I could have done, personally.
Four years ago we would go out on three to five rescues a month. Vishwa now goes out on thirty to seventy. It's a reflection of the increased awareness of and concern for the animals amongst the human population. Ninety percent involve homeless dogs (half are puppies in trouble —l ost their mothers and too young to survive, sick or injured). The others are mostly monkeys, cows, and smaller wild creatures. The grievous injuries — horrible fractures, injuries to the head, internal injuries, broken backs.
Serious health afflictions — awful tumors, serious skin cases, parvo, distemper. We don't have anything like this in the West. It's a level of suffering we don't see. In the West we're not exposed to a continuous flow of grievous injuries/sickness and death...But there are so many moving stories always happening. Miraculous recoveries. Some unbelievable. And they are happening in a field of love and caring.
It's a struggle to get financial support. To get a base to survive into the future, I now feel that strong local support is needed. I've changed tack on the approach. The Municipality. Many of the institutions. They are not moved by the lifting of suffering from the Animal Realm. I've developed a practical, civic path to them. I mean I better have a good strategy because we're in danger of "going down"... There's a position here called the Collector. It's like a regional governor. It's the most powerful office in each vast district. When I first heard the term Collector I was thinking of a low level bureaucrat that went from village to village collecting taxes. Then when I went to see him, I was amazed.
His offices were in an enormous "parliamentary-type" complex called the Collectorate. The individuals filling these positions are IAS's , Indian Administrative Service (top 3 percent on the very difficult Indian Civil Service exam). They're usually very high quality individuals who are service minded. If I can enlist the Collector's support, and have him call in key people and indicate that he would like our endeavor to get strong local support, it would probably happen. I have strong support from a well connected, well known person to, along with me, make the presentation to him. My changed approach is straight civic.
For three to four decades the Municipality tried to control the homeless dog population by periodically culling through killing. But in spite of their attempts the population inexorably increased. With widespread suffering (as a deterent to tourists and pilgrims), a rabies presence, and aggressive dogs. For the first time the population is under control (decreasing for almost three years), suffering and overcrowding have been eliminated from the streets, and it is rabies-free. The human/homeless dog relationship has been transformed. Three years ago we had two to five rescues a month. We now have twenty to seventy. We have a busy out-patient clinic with a portion of animals being homeless dogs. And we get ten to twenty puppies a month. Street puppies in trouble — they lost their mother when too young to survive, or they're injured/sick.
If the Shelter went down the municipal impact would be felt immediately. All these creatures we are treating and rescuing would come flooding onto the streets. In the very first month there would be 25 to 40 suffering/dying animals on the streets. The municipality would be flooded with phone calls. In a year there would once again be over 250 suffering and dying creatures on the streets. Rabies would re-surface. The good homeless dog/human relationship would collapse. After three or four years the population would again be out of control. It would once more be a scene of unmitigated suffering. The Municipality would be inundated with calls. With problems, most of which, they couldn't satisfactorily resolve.
We have a dedicated staff of eighteen. Including two full-time vets. Working twenty four hours a day. Clinic. Hospital, Adoption. Hospice. Sanctuary, 24/7 rescue .... It has taken six years and $450,000US to get to this point. We are now caring proactively for all animals. Small. Large. Domestic. Homeless. Wild.
Tiruvannamalai is one of the very, very few municipalities in all of India that has "no animal problem".... No animal problem. The streets are clear. The relationship of the homeless dogs and the humans amongst whom they live has been transformed. Whenever there's a problem (24/7) they simply call us ..... Things are good and stay good only because our devoted staff is working hard day and night. But to the Municipality viewing the streets day after day, there seems to be nothing happening. Things are good ..... No problem ... Why worry ... And that has led to complacency .... The problem is that there seems to be no problem. Our operating budget is 400,000 rupees a month. (There's been high inflation, especially in salaries and building materials. We could have done the same thing three years ago for 200,000).
Was writing part of this earlier today while at the Shelter. Dr. Raja and I sitting in the large storage space we generously call the dispensary. Twenty or so puppies crowded in with us. Curled up on the floor so they can be close. Every once in a while I'd pick one up, stroke him and kiss him. Whispering, "I love you". Then I pick one up, and before I can remember who she is and to keep my mouth closed. Her 18 inch tongue darts out like an anteaters, and "frenches me". What a day.
Leslie with one of his faves. But aren't they all?
January 15, 2012 - Unedited - Straight from the Heart
Dear Ones ...
And here it is 2012, already. For those of you younger 'uns, you're going to find out how time passes in an increasing blur as you age. It's going so fast that I sometimes think that before I know it I'm going to be dead.
Clearly the indication of great blessings. My life is so full. I'm so grateful that in this, most likely the last stretch, I've karmically ended up in this configuration that involves lifting so much suffering. It isn't many times in life that you have a chance for your efforts to count so much. And it feels so good. I could have been involved in doing good feeling things, and enjoying meaningful relationships. But here I am, immersed in this endeavor.
Canadian Ken our creative genius, known as The Great One, did a short video-ette (45 seconds) of me as an Indiana Jones type character. It's not posted for general viewing. Would be too "over the top". Mostly a "for the grandchildren blurb". You have to go to a private address to view it. I can't tell you how many times I've watched it. Would be too embarrassing. " But I swear to you, I don't think it's pure ego (though 16 out of 27 times I'm usually wrong). There's something intriguing about it for me. Oh, what the hell, here it is, click here.
I think that it's the awareness of "what might have been" if we hadn't come into being.. We never really know what might have been. We can only imagine. But I remember the almost unbearable experience of seeing. Dogs. Puppies. Everywhere. Fighting amongst themselves. Many starving. Injured. Sick. So much suffering. Before we opened.
Ken just told me he has to leave for Katmandu in 10 days. A shock. I'll miss his presence. How excellent it was to have him here for almost two months. With his unending creative surges. Video-ettes. Stories. Signs. Logos. And on and on.
Relationships with the dogs is so pure and uncomplicated. The immediate return of affection. Instantaneous forgiveness. The surrendering into being protectively embraced.
I'm having a difficult time writing this diary entry. These following comments are being typed over a month after the above passages were written.
There are so many beautiful stories unfolding in this dear, dear Shelter. Truly beautiful. A number of new ones every week. Ken and Daemian (also a creative phenomenom) keep cajoling us to write them up. To let them know. We have done that a few times. But scores and scores have simply receded into the dreamlike past. Sorry. The energy doesn't move in that direction. We're just so fully engaged. We know it's important. But it doesn't happen. We'll try harder.
A friend showed up about two months ago. Sautamali. From Germany. He comes for several months each year. A true Sanskrit scholar, no less. He's a guru brother. We have the same guru. He met him in 1974. I, in 1975. I always think of him as the German Woody Allen. (For those of you who don't like Woody Allen, think of him as Clark Gable, Clark Kent, or Charlie Chaplin).
The reason I'm mentioning "Woody" is that he's a keen observer, and I tend to put significant credibility in his observations. He said, "Leslie, the difference this year in how kindly people are being with the street dogs, is stunning." He went on to say that a number of Foreigners had made similar remarks to him.
How heartwarming it is to hear that. How important. I know I've commented about this before, but I want to again. In abbreviated form. (I) If the Heart opens to the animals, it simply opens in all directions, and we'll be kinder to each other. And (2) The only way the lives of the homeless dogs can be truly uplifted is if the relationship they have with the people amongst whom they live is transformed.
My Baba is again chanting as I write. Maybe he'll inspire me to share some interesting things. I think not. So I'll say to you that in these, my final years, happiness is not one of my "goals". By that I mean I don't do anything hoping it'll make me happier. If happiness comes than that would be welcome. For sure. But if it doesn't, that's okay. Actually I'm doing very little to get to another space. I'm simply doing what unfolds before me. And it fills me. This endeavor. There is suffering. Warmth. Love, Fear. The whole mix. But most of all Love. And I am truly blessed.
Before signing off, I want to tell you about Marimoota. He's one of our staff. He's in his forties. Not much larger than Mickey Mouse. He's a simple villager. The hardest worker in the cosmos. I love Marimoota. He can't understand English. I can't understand Tamil. He takes care of the veranda, and all the wonderful creatures on the veranda. The veranda is s-o-o-o clean. And the puppies/dogs are so well cared for. That sometimes I want to leap over the separator and hug him.
I also sometimes think of buying him a blue elasticized shirt with a big M, and a flowing blue cape. I worry about him because he works so hard. "Mari, are you okay?". He looks at me. Someone translates. He smiles, thumb up. Clearly exhausted. If I were Bill Gates, or John D. Rockefeller, or Ambani, or Ratan Tata, I'd raise him and personally pay 100,000 rupees a day.