Sivananda Charitable Hospital
A Hallmark of Selfless Service
"Sivananda charitable Hospital is not merely an institution, but a glorious upward movement, a soul purifying Karma Yoga Yajna, a saga of selfless service."
The most outstanding feature of Gurudev's multifarious personality was his unstoppable zeal to help all beings, to be good and to do good to all, sincerely and wholeheartedly. He was full of love, compassion and kindness for one and all. Swami. Suddhananda Bharati, who knew him well from his childhood, used to say, "Swami Sivananda is all heart from head to feet." He rejoiced in helping others and in relieving their sorrows and sufferings. His happiness was in making others happy.
This trait of his personality was distinctly visible even from his boyhood. As a young boy Kuppuswami, he derived more pleasure in feeding the poor than eating himself. Whenever the young boy got some sweets from his mother, he distributed them liberally to his companions, poor, and even to dogs, cats, cows and birds, himself not eating a bit though he loved sweets very much.
After graduating in medical science, the young Dr. Kuppuswami wanted to put his knowledge of medical science for the use of maximum number of people, for the maximum well-being of mankind. As a young man his ambition was to invent some cure of malaria, so that sufferings of millions of poor people can be relieved. In 1909, he started a medical journal, "Ambrosia - A Journal Dedicated to Health". The emphasis of Ambrosia was more on prevention of diseases, proper diet, exercise and lifestyle, and on cheap household remedies easily available to the masses. And he used to distribute the journal free!
The young doctor joined a hospital in Malaysia in 1913. The hard-working doctor was very successful in his profession and had a very lucrative practice in no time. Hopeless cases came to him and got cured. People believed that God has endowed him with some special powers, and so he could miraculously cure even the hopeless cases. He acquired reputation as a very kind and sympathetic doctor, always eager to help even the poorest patients. He used to attend the poor in their huts without charging even visiting and consulting fees; instead he would give money to the poor patient to buy medicines, and for proper diet and other expenses.
Once a poor man came to the doctor at night. His wife was in birth pangs. In spite of heavy rains, the doctor at once rushed to her aid. After attending her, he stayed outside the hut in heavy rains and returned home next morning, only after the safe delivery of the child.
The young doctor suddenly left the lucrative medical practice, renounced everything and came to India in 1923 and ultimately reached Swargasharam after some time. He sought seclusion and very carefully avoided interactions with the world and plunged himself into very intense sadhana. He observed mouna and was absorbed in meditation for more that twelve hours every day. But even at that time of intense tapas, his selfless service continued. He served the sick going around their huts with medicines and dietetic food, and provided them milk or curd. When he received some money from insurance, he deposited the amount in a Post office and utilised the interest amount for purchasing medicines, milk, curd, butter, sago, etc., for the sick. He was massaging feet of ailing sadhus and pilgrims. He used to attend serious patients and even patients with infectious diseases.
In April 1927, he received some insurance money and he used the entire amount to start "Satya Sevashram", a charitable dispensary at Laxman Jhula, with a view to helping the pilgrims and sadhus. On 17-1-34, he came to this side of Ganga with six disciples. They found a dilapidated and abandoned cowshed. It was cleaned thoroughly and after fixing doors and window-shutters, they occupied it on 28-3-34. And from the very first day of occupying it, he opened a dispensary there.
In 1947, Sivananda Homeopathic Dispensary was started under Swami Achityanandaji ably assisted by Swami Venkatesanandaji and in 1956 another one under Dr. Brij Nandan Prasad came into being.
Meanwhile, Gurudev's bhav and spirit appealed to many doctors and they started visiting the Ashram. In 1950, the first 'Drishti Dana Yajna', a medical relief camp for eye diseases was arranged under a young enthusiastic eye surgeon. Gurudev was moved by the plight of the poor villagers who flocked the camp. And medical relief camps became a regular feature of The Divine Life society. Also, Gurudev realized the need for increasing the medical facilities, and upgraded the dispensary as Sivananda Charitable Hospital from 28-12-50. Dr. K.C. Roy, M.B.B.S. was appointed as the Medical officer and Capt. G.S.K. Iyer extended his seva as an honorary surgeon.
Gurudev wanted to give medical aid to :-
(a) Sadhus, Mahatmas, and sadhaka
(b) poor villagers
(d) the pilgrims
The Hospital was also giving preventive drugs of malaria etc. to local people. He also considered it as an effective field for preparing the aspirants through selfless service. Selfless service removes tamo-guna and impurities of the mind. It is necessary for most of the aspirants to do selfless service for a few years before launching into meditation and higher sadhana.
Highly qualified doctors started visiting the Ashram and offered their selfless services. So medical camps became a regular feature. In 1951, Dr. Lakshmi Mirchandani, M.B.B.S, M.R.C.S, L.R.C.P. (London) conducted two 9-day camps in July and September. Dr. Ram Jas of Rewari held a 'Drishti Dana Yajna' in October and Dr. Hosang, a Parsee disciple, visited 12 villages. Even in the very first year, one thousand patients were treated every month and thousands of medical packets were given to the Badri-Kedar pilgrims.
In 1952, Dr. Savitri Patel of Surat conducted two camps and performed operations as well. Mr. S. S. Shamsh used to send from U.S.A. drugs for leprosy patients. The Hospital used to arrange sumptuous meals for all the residents of leprosy colony and even monetary doles were given to them. Maj. Gen. Dr. Amar Nath Sharma, Lt. Col. Dr. Shankla, Dr. Lakshmi and Dr. Hetram Agarwala, M.D. were among the distinguished doctors to visit the Hospital and offer their services.
On 4th November 1953, Ratan X-ray clinic was opened through the donations of Justice Acharu Ram. It was the first X-ray clinic in the district. In January, a short-wave diathermy apparatus was added and soon an ultra-violet apparatus also came, and physiotherapy unit was started from 26-2-54. From 21-3-54 a clinical laboratory also started functioning. During a month-long stay of Maj. Gen. Sharma, a 'First Aid Training Course' was conducted.
Swami Sevadas (formerly col. Chopra) had started a Divine Life Society Branch in village Dadh near Kangra. Maj. Gen. Sharma, who had proposed to start Sivananda Medical Organisation to spread medical relief in rural areas throughout the country, started Sivananda Charitable Dispensary in Dadh and made available medical treatment to 30 surrounding villages. Col. Shankla started a mobile dispensary to serve the rural people.
Though Maj. Gen. Sharma's dream project was too ambitious for The Divine Life Society to implement, his utopia had a definite positive impact and changed the outlook of many doctors, charitable institutions and the Government. And systematic efforts were made to serve the poor and the rural areas by various other institutions as well. A most glorious example of this is of Dr. Bhanushankar Adhavaryoo (who changed his name as 'Sivabhanu' and later became Swami Yajnavalkyananda). He devoted his entire life for free Netra-Yajnas (eye camps), and won acclaims not only from all the corners of India, but also from many other countries as well. He has established "Sivananda Mission" which runs an Eye Hospital in Rajkot and a big Hospital in village Virnagar specifically for serving the rural poor.
Many doctors visited the Ashram and offered their selfless service to the Hospital. Dr. Devaki Kutty, M.B.B.S, D.G.O. F.R.C.O.G. (London), Dr. Vasanta Devi, Dr. E. Lakshmi Mirchandani, Dr. Amar Kaur, Dr. Saroj Shroff, Dr. Padma Mudholkar, L.R.C.P. (London), M.R.C.S. (England), F.R.C.O.G. (London), and Dr. Adhvaryoo (Ophthalmologist) held medical camps from 1950 onwards.
A Very significant visitor was Dr. Chellamma from Madras. She was an eye surgeon of repute and came on short visit for Gurudev's darshan in April 1955, and never went back! She was given sannyasa on Guru Purnima day in 1956, and became Swami. Hridayananda. She being an eye surgeon, the Eye Hospital was established on 24-12-56, as if by the Invisible Hand in a most mysterious way.
Mystery of Mysteries
Who had never met me even
Willed Rs. Twenty Thousand for the EyeHospital.
This is a great mystery.
Dr. Chellamma, the eye surgeon,
Who came for a brief stay,
Renounced family, wealth, lucrative practice,
And became the Hospital's Eye Surgeon,
This is indeed a great mystery.
from Switzerland & Bombay,
This is another Mystery.
Another great soul obtained cement.
To help us construct the Hospital,
This is yet another mystery.
What is the mystery of these mysteries?
It is faith in God.
If you have faith in God,
Help comes in time,
The impossible becomes possible.
This is the mystery of mysteries.
Such was his faith and total absence of doership that he would not claim any credit and would think that everything was arranged by God as per His Plan. He left everything on God, and God bestowed onto him everything perfectly. With so many multifarious activities and Gurudev's extraordinary generosity, The Divine Life Society was always in debt. But the resource crunch of the Society never led any cut in the budget of the medical service, and the Hospital continued to give all the treatment free. Such was his spirit. In his last days, Gurudev had such severe gout that he had to walk with support of two assistants. But whenever a patient came at some odd time, he would crawl his way to the Hospital with the support of his hands. Such was his bhav and spirit.
Dr. Krishna Rao, a radiologist offered his seva in the Hospital for a long time. Once when Dr. Rao was new to this Karma Yoga Yajna, Sri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj, returned to the Ashram after a long tour programme, on the Skanda Shasti day. Swamiji came to the Bhajan Hall for Lord Karthikeya's Darshan. He made a detailed inquiry with parental concern, about the well-being of the Ashram inmates, and about the arrangements made for the treatment of Swami Krishnapriyananda Mataji who had an accidental fall. The large gathering was silently listening, but a child was coughing repeatedly. Swamiji asked, "Whose child it is?" But there was no response. So he once again asked the same question. But still there was no response. A Cuban visitor explained to a Brazilian lady in their language what Swamiji was asking . She hurriedly said, "I, I, I child". She was perhaps expecting a scolding from Swamiji. Swamiji sized up the situation and told to Dr. Rao. "This lady does not know English. She may be coming to India for the first time. She may not be knowing that there is a hospital here. But you should not wait for the patient to be brought to you. Whenever you see someone suffering, you should immediately try to relieve his suffering by giving proper treatment promptly. You examine the child immediately. Though today is a holiday, you examine the child here itself, open the Hospital and bring the necessary medicines for the child. Visit the child in the evening also." This was Gurudev's approach; and Swamiji wants this spirit to be continued.
And this spirit was strikingly noticeable in Dr. Kutty Mataji also. Her compassion and concern for the patients were unbelievable. Once a visitor had diarrhea and she went to the Hospital and took the medicines. But the loose motions continued uncontrolled. In the evening, when Mataji was going for the evening walk, someone informed her about this. She immediately went to the visitor's room and said: "What is this? I have come here to do seva (selfless service) but you are not giving me an opportunity. Why didn't you send me a message? Why do you keep on suffering like this?" She rushed back to her residence and brought some medicines. On her returning from the walk also she saw the patient and said, "If there is any problem at night, you call me immediately without hesitation."
Whenever an inmate was sick she would go to his/her room, move her hand with motherly affection even if the patient is affected by a very contagious infection, and would give an assurance: "Don't worry I will treat you. You will be all right soon."
The Karma Yoga Yajna continues in this way in the right spirit. The number of patients is ever increasing. Patients come from long distances with faith and hope. The medical officer Dr. Swami Samatvanandaji works day and night to help them. Eminent surgeons like Dr. Kalhan and Dr. Singhal frequently visit the Hospital and perform required operations as selfless service. Poor and helpless persons are given modern treatment, medicines, food, etc., and attended with care and love, absolutely free. Even major operations are also done free.
The Hospital has a 30-bed ward, operation theatre, pharmacy, X-ray unit, laboratory, gynecological services, and outpatient and in-patient care by three senior doctors along with other attending physicians. Over 500 patients are treated on average each day.
Each week the rural wing of the Hospital visits a small village high in the hills to render medical aid. In addition, every Friday an eye specialist attends outpatients and performs surgery, and an eye camp has also been organized during which a number of cataract surgeries were done. As with all of the charitable services rendered by Sivananda Ashram, the patient care, medicines and medical treatment are all given without fee.
We wish more and more people cultivate this spirit and bhav and join in Karma Yoga Yajna for doing good to the maximum number of poor and helpless people and doing their utmost in well being of the poor.
May God bless all such karmayogis.