Real strength should come from within. If we are going to rely only on the external, there is no stability. Through yoga, meditation, and spiritual practice we can achieve this goal.
God’s power is not something outside. It is within us. We need to awaken that power.
– Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi
In the past, the people of India’s villages knew their inner strength. They were also completely in tune with Nature. This led to a complete harmony of being. For many millennia, a completely self-reliant village was at the centre of Indian life. By rediscovering inner strength and building on it, true self-reliance can be achieved once again.
Amrita SeRVe facilitates activities that, on the one hand, empower the individual—especially women—by opening bank accounts, availing of social-security schemes and forming Self-Help Groups (SHGs) to become financially independent. Moreover, respected members from each community are encouraged to form a Village Development Committee (VDC), thereby creating a platform to identify, discuss and implement solutions to problems faced in their respective villages. It is primarily through such Village Development Committees that government support can be secured to benefit the entire village community.
Addressing the subtle aspects of Self-Empowerment, Amrita SeRVe is facilitating regular yoga and meditation sessions, as well as encouraging the preservation of local traditions and rituals, including religious festivals, poojas and devotional singing. Such occasions allow worries to be left aside for a little while, celebrate as a community, appreciate the joyful moments of life and also to gain some peace of mind. Especially for the youth, Amrita SeRVe is organising regular sports and games sessions, as well as reaching the kids with moral stories taken from a range of material, including India’s most popular epic, the Ramayana.
Yoga & Meditation
Amrita SeRVe is reviving India’s traditional culture in the villages with yoga and meditation. The aim of the yoga and meditation activity is to get in touch with the power of the inner being and thereby realise one’s inherent strength as well as reap the health and vitality benefits resulting from a regular practice. Participants have shared that empowerment is indeed taking place, as they are gaining more confidence in themselves and in managing their day-to-day lives.
Each yoga session starts and ends with prayer and short meditation. A sequence of Surya Namaskar and simple asanas are practiced with breath awareness. Health workers and village coordinators are trained to facilitate these simple yoga asana sessions for children and SHG members. Yoga sessions are held everywhere: on rooftops and fields, at home or under the trees, in school classrooms or verandas, in playgrounds, local community centres, parks, or any other suitable place.
Local traditions and spiritual heritage
All villages have a series of traditions and beliefs dating back thousands of years forming the moral fibre that binds the community together. Instead of political unity, India has always been unified through Her culture. There are many national festivals, such as Holi, Diwali, Shivaratri, Navaratri and many more, which are celebrated across the length and breadth of this nation. The names and practices may vary from place to place, but the significance of each celebration remains the same. The values of hospitality, respecting elders, caring for nature and cultivating compassion and selflessness are known and worshipped wherever these rituals are practiced.
Amrita SeRVe is supporting a continuation of the local traditions, primarily because these are the roots of society. They bring the people together in joyful festivities and also keep alive a long tradition of preserving virtue and dharma.
The real advantage of an SHG lies in the strength of the community spirit that develops over time as these women pool their resources and get used to collective decision making on a financial level.
Thousands of SHGs mentored under the M.A. Math’s AmritaSREE project in Kerala have demonstrated clear signs of empowerment. These groups have grown into highly efficient and compassionate institutions, benefiting not only their members’ families, but their entire communities.
Village Development Committee
A Village Develoment Committee (VDC) consists of several villagers who have come together committed to developing their communities. Amrita SeRVe encourages committees of five, seven or nine members that include women. At least one meeting should be conducted every month to maintain continuity. Village coordinators explore various initiatives that could be taken up by the local VDC, make suggestions and provide support wherever needed. VDCs are essential in applying for any government scheme for the benefit of the entire village, such as construction of roads, water infrastructure projects or schools.
Amrita SeRVe also encourages VDCs to organise campaigns to get large numbers of eligible people to sign up for a range of government schemes. These can range from health insurance to land-deed applications. Availing the right government scheme can have a huge impact on a villager’s life. In some cases, there are significant financial benefits, as well as improvements to the quality of life and easing hardships. Village coordinators and health workers obtain details on a wide range of schemes and support the VDCs to get people to sign up. In some cases, our staff facilitate the entire application process, also with the help of SHGs and local government institutions.