Global Pricrs Council July 1977
I am giving the sixth spin in the series on profound humanness.
This one is on presence. The 12 touchstones of humanness are like
12 facets of a diamond. Seeing through one, you see through the
other 11 also. Each one lights up the others.
Working around the world through the tools of GCF and GSD,
rubbing shoulders with different cultures, different religions,
we have discovered that the awareness of humanness is a universal
fact. Universal humanness is not bound or compartmentalized by
Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, Christianity, or any other
religion. It is the awareness of experiencing yourself as a human
The touchstone of profound humanness called presence is the
presence that becomes a historical sign for all human beings.
It is the presence that enables others to become profoundly human
also. It is presence which is an awesome, revealing decision about
life visible to others. This kind of presence always comes as
an address or as an offense. It is standing in the breach of people's
consciousness. Mahatma Gandhi did exactly that. He was a historical
presence to his people and the British when he declared that India
would be a free country. That halfclad, puny insignificant
man, when he brought an untouchable by his hand into parliament,
communicated to the people that the lowest of the lowest human
being had a birthright to be human, and he put his life on the
line for that cause. He didn't need to give a speech on creating
untouchables as human beings. His presence conveyed the message.
All along, human history has been shaped by individuals and groups
who realize that the power of their mere presence can catalyze
change and release people to live a full life.
We are in a GSD in a country where the kind of poetry you
and I are familiar with is not commonly understood. In India,
where you intentionally hide your Christian front, and where you
are experimenting with a different symbolic life, you wonder what
sustains people in the projects in remote, primitive villages
day after day. You hear some of our colleagues say how it's a
sheer struggle to go day after day after day. You realize ultimatelym
when you see what it means to be a fulfilled human being, that
you are pointing to the mystery of life, and it has nothing to
do with religion or culture. In Maharashtra, at our social demonstration
village projects, we do not say ''in the name of the Father and
the Son and the Holy Ghost," and we do not. say "Amen".
Sometimes during the Sunday celebration that is our House Church,
somebody gets carried away and instead of ending the song "We
Celebrate Your Being," he continues to say "Amen, Amen."
Immediately someone starts coughing very loudly, rattling the
chair, or doing something to stifle the ''Amen" quickly.
Most of the auxiliary is of Hindu and Muslim heritage. For this
reason, we do not impose any particular religious tradition in
our .symbolic life. We stand present to the mystery of life and
therefore stand present to the knowing, doing and being. You realize
that in the intensification, awareness and engagement, there comes
a sense of fulfillment, and that is profound humanness, the presence
Another way to talk about the touchstone of presence as profound
humanness is to talk about it as faith, love and hope. Awesome
presence is revealed when you have faith beyond faith, which is
knowing, when you have the ability to love beyond love, which
is doing, and when you hope beyond hope, which is being. The presence
of being manifests itself in the midst of standing firm, in having
faith beyond faith, when in spite of odds you find life worth
living. You find yourself with a resolve to do the undoable task.
There is a man in Maliwada who is assigned to be there by
his company, the Bombay Dying and Manufacturing Co. It is a textile
enterprise. He came to Maliwada along with $10, 000 worth of equipment
about 16 months ago. Under his supervision and guidance, the village
has made extremely good use of this equipment, including a truck,
tractor and jeep you have heard us mention. The tractor and the
truck have been helpful in upgrading the economy of the village.
The truck is mainly used to enable the food manufacturing unit
of the village, which we called the Maliwada Nutri-Food. It manufactures
sucre, the dry powdered stuff. This year Maliwada was again given
the contract, and an enhanced contract at that. There was great
excitement in the village. It meant good, steady employment for
the next ten months. This year everything is planned and organized
by the villagers themselves. They chose this man from Bombay Dying
and Manufacturing Co. to be their chief advisor. Three weeks ago
we received a letter from Bombay Dying which shocked everybody.
The company said it had decided to pull out all the equipment
within a week's time. This was just at the time that the sucre
factory was to start its business. While feeling absolutely crippled,
this man -- the company representative in Maliwada --decided to
take a villager with him to Bombay along with a letter of request
from the village, signed by several hundred villagers. He took
the villager and thee letter to his company and presented to them
the request that the equipment not be pulled out at this particular
time. The company executives listened and decided to allow the
equipment to stay for another six months until December. They
returned in a jubilant mood to give the good news to the village.
Later on, when we were planning again for the sucre, Mr. Towle,
now the chief advisor, said, "When December comes, I'll see
that the truck does not leave the village. I'll lie down before
the truck and over my dead body this truck is going to leave Maliwada."
This man was only able to do this because he has become aware
that life is worth living and he has the belief that there is
faith beyond faith.
The second manifestation of the touchstone of presence is
when you love beyond love, or when you are intensely engaged on
behalf of others. In another kind of poetry we can call it "cruciform
love." Profound humanness is experienced when in the midst
of being intensely engaged you sense the presence of being. You
know that you are inadequate. You know that you have no expertise,
no skill, that you are not efficient. In spite of all that, you
go ahead to move and accomplish the task. I can think of several
instances when this happened in Maliwada, but I will talk about
two. One relates to one individual and one to the community.
There is a man from Maliwada, a short statured, stocky man.
He is a vegetable farmer. He has been helping in the community
kitchen that cooked for the school children for the last year.
This summer our community garden dried up because there was no
water. With no vegetable supply from the community garden to the
community kitchen, the kitchen found it hard to come up with lunches
for the children. A few villagers collected money and continued
with the kitchen for another week or so. Then again, there was
a problem. They knew they could not continue that arrangement
forever. There had to be some other structure for lunches. In
the meantime, because there was no lunch, school attendance dropped
considerably. This little man decided to take complete charge
of the kitchen and organize a meeting. He decided to charge a
small fee for each child and give his own money every month towards
the feeding program. Why did he do this? He said, "When I
know the value of education and nutrition, how can I let things
go down the drain? How can I not let other children, not my own,
but others, have the benefit of education and nutrition? I will
see to it that the community kitchen goes on and our children
continue to have education and nutrition." Since then, he
has taken over the community kitchen. His act of love is beyond
love. It is presence that decides you can get up and move.
The second event that stands out for me happened just a few
weeks ago when the village invited the dairy development corporation
people to talk to them in relation to the fantastic dairy scheme
that Maliwada has plans for. The village invited these men to
tell them in detail about dairy development. The meeting was set
for 8:00 P.M. The whole community center was packed. One of the
guild leaders opened the meeting with the Maliwada song, which
is "Bharat Uttam Deshai." The community really sings
this song with great gusto, and they say the Maliwada ritual with
full conviction. When these three guests heard the song and the
ritual, and when they sensed the sheer motivity coming out of
that group, the sheer resolve and determination coming from those
simple villagers, they were transformed men. They saw not one
individual, but a corporate presence in that crummy. dirty, filthy
community center filled with crummy, dirty, filthy people. They
came to talk about a dairy, but what they saw was a unique presence
of the corporate body, and they realized that these people, crummy
as they were, had decided to change history. Those three men went
back different men.
In the midst of being profoundly aware and profoundly engaged
you are caught up by the mystery of being itself. This is where
God shoves his own being with the being that he created. That
is where presence appears. At that point, your personal failures,
your horrible surroundings, don't even count. It's like getting
up in the morning. You come out of your 10 x 12 room which leaks
badly in the rainy season and which is like a furnace in the summer.
You step into the collegium room where you see your colleagues
around you, and you know they have undergone the same discomforts
you have. But what you see is not the painful hurt back of one
colleague, the malnutrition of another, or the burden of the responsibility
on someone else. What you see is a group that stands as a rock,
that has said there are no personal problems, and a group that
is presence of being itself. Presence of being is when the final
mystery of life, God himself, unveils his being into your own
being, and over that part of presence, you have no control. You
know that you have no effectivity or efficiency, and in spite
of that things get done. You know there is a power beyond your
own power over which you have no control.
In this context, I want to tell you another story. It is about
Suryabhan Devatkar. A lot of you have heard about him. He is one
of our village leaders who has emerged as a giant of the village.
He has no symbolic power. He refused to take up the servantship
which is the head of the Panchayat. He said he didn't want to
become that kind of symbol. He wanted to remain a servanthood
force. He is a simple farmer, barely educated, and he is a villager
in the real sense. Once, we were invited to speak to the India
Society of Training and Development, whose membership are the
cream of the business world in Bombay. We took Suryabhan along
without informing the people who extended the invitation. If we
had told the group that we were bringing a simple villager, probably
he would have been refused entry. So this was hidden. After our
auxiliary finished speaking, this simple villager spoke to the
group for just a few minutes in Marathi. This group meets in the
Taj Mahal Intercontinental Hotel, a five star hotel. This meeting
was held in the Crystal Room of the Taj. The crystal room is really
a crystal room. Chandeliers are shimmering all over, there are
thick red plush carpets, and so much splendor and grandeur in
that place that you could hardly believe it is India. This is
another face of India that is only meant for the chosen few. Suryabhan,
a simple villager from Maliwada, spoke in that place which only
the very rich can afford to enter, to a group in which only a
few privileged people get to speak. There Suryabhan gave his testimony
of human development. The hall was charged with electricity. After
he finished speaking, it was decided that there would be no further
business. The meeting would be closed at that point. I want to
tell you that Suryabhan was a sheer presence to them. His life
was a miracle which generated awe which was nothing but the awe
of mystery itself. That awe is presence.
Presence is also a sign. The Maliwada House, or as the villagers
call it, the ashram, is a sign of presence. People come to Maliwada,
walk through the streets of Maliwada, talk to the people, and
enter the House. When they enter the House they see that something
different is going on there. They see an international community
and corporate living, a style which is a style of servanthood.
They see that we do not have any servants, we do not employ anyone
to cook for us, wash for us, or to sweep. Our whole life style
is an offense as well as an address. The House in that community
has become a symbol of a presence which shows caring.
You have heard stories about the blue cloth. You heard how
one company decided to donate several hundred meters of blue cloth
so all of our 232 auxiliary in the Nava Gram Prayas could be blue.
What an impact it is when a room full of people wearing blue are
sitting in a little village called Maliwada. You can hear people
shouting or whispering "Maliwada, Maliwada" wherever
you go. You realize that you are a walking art form, or a walking
symbol, and you really are a walking presence.
Finally, I want to suggest when your being is filled with His glory, God's glory, that finally is the presence. When you know that the only reason for living is to become the touchstone of that universal depth awareness, you are declaring the glory of God that you are renewed, and you release people to new life.