At Service, in Master’s Escritoire!

Life Dipped in Blessing and Baked in Bliss!

“It began when I was doing my engineering, third semester in Mumbai, in the year 2001, there was an intro talk that was given in my college, which I did not attend and two of my very good friends attended. I heard about the course from them. I also heard that if I do the course then I have to study less (laughs out loud), and that’s how it all started! We three were to do the course. But then they both could not come and so I was the one who did the course. That’s where I met Khurshed Batliwala for the first time, and then there was no looking back!”

We always see huge crowd around H H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, but we notice only a Select few! We often wonder what it takes to be around Gurudev so up, close and in action! We chat up with one such admirable select person whose ‘life dipped in blessing and rolled in bliss’ and served to the world as the instrument connecting the Master and His devotees.Devang Vora, who says he is just a devotee, plays multiple roles, as a key member at the Secretariat of H H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Director of Dharma Stambha Yojana (DSY) and a facilitator for the YES!+.

Life: From Expression of Aggression to Dynamism!

Life before Art of Living was an expression of aggression for Devang but it did not last too long. “I would be more aggressive, which transformed into dynamism after the course. After practicing Sudarshan Kriya for some time I developed more sensitivity and subtleness blossomed. Lot of aggression, in terms of vocabulary, action, all fizzled away after 6th November 2001,” he says.

He lived an antagonistic life. He used to be a very fun person any which way, but it was more at the expense of other people!! At this he takes a hearty laugh at how the life has changed by 360 degrees! “It was quite a lot of aggression in action, fights and I would be a part of it, this was in school days. In college, I had done the Art of Living course in my second year, but on the first day of my first year in college, I had ragged my senior! He tried to rag me and there was no one in the room so, I ragged him,” Devang bursts out laughing!

Devang’s first experience of Sudarshan Kriya was awesome, but it is said change is not an overnight happening!  “At that point of time I did not realize that I was changing.But, when I looked back after a couple of years, I was surprised that the aggression has vanished. The kind of vocabulary I used to speak then and the kind of vocabulary that I use now, would jolt my school friends out of their minds, if they were to see me. At the same time for my parents, it’s a shockingly pleasant surprise. It was gradual; more and more practise brought about the transformation. I would do the same organizing activities even before the Art of Living.But now, the perception has been different. The learning here has been much more than before. Even while seeking perfection, I have become more happy and easy-going after the course. Otherwise, I used to be angry and aggressive to gain the perfection,” Devang shares!

A Teacher Who Remains a Hardcore Volunteer!

Well, the journey remains incomplete if we do not acknowledge his early days in the organization! His journey substantiates that it takes years of experience to be where he is today. For Devang, a good mentoring is equivalent to having the cheat codes of the game of Life, and it was Bawa and Dinesh Ghodke who played the role of prefect mentors! “Lot of my skills, now that I am using, have been challenged and nourished by Bawa in lot of ways. Being my mentor he knew what all I can do and then give me challenges that would be out of my reality, which I would have not done otherwise. So I was always stretched in my limits, to perform and to pull out projects,” says the Director, DSY today.

As he spoke in his office, his tone and expression still reflected his joy of playing the role of a volunteer! Interestingly, Devang finds unique similarities between the process of volunteering and a management course, “Yes, Introductory talk is like giving a presentation. Talking to a stranger is like giving viva to a professor, whom you don’t know, you don’t connect with but you need to develop a rapport with him. If you do it 100 percent then it’s as equivalent to a management course. It’s more of Management College on field rather than Management College in theory, in classroom. That’s how I see the process of being a volunteer. Here, you finish volunteering like the management course, and if you do it nice then at the end of it you become a good teacher. Then there is no problem of getting people on course, as you have done everything and you know how to do it and handle things. So it’s always a better idea to have a good mentor to teach you,” says an experienced Devang, who became a full-time volunteer first and then a full-time teacher! During the numerous introductory talks and interactions with people of all walks of life, he has always shared his strong belief that there are really only two options available in the long run - Medication or Meditation.

Catch the Mind, Catch the Master!

Devang remembers the day when he was asked to join the office! “It was a very nice incident, I remember sometime in August 2009, Gurudev was coming back from Mumbai, I asked if I can come with Him? He said yes. At that time I had very limited financial resource, and so I had the option of either booking an airline that cost Rs 7,500 or one at Rs 2,500 - but at different time then Gurudev’s flight. My first thought was that Gurudev would be in business class and I would be in economy class, I would not be anyway sitting beside Him. Only at the airport I shall meet Him, and from there He would again move into a car, so I would not have a chance to meet or be with Him anyway. I wondered why not take the later aircraft and save the money! Such thoughts were on my mind. But I was lucky to catch my mind! I thought ‘Boss, what am I doing?! All my life I am praying to be with Him, here is a chance and I am thinking about money!’ I told myself “nothing doing” and I just clicked on the button and booked myself on the same flight as Him,” he says!

It so happened that when I went near the car, I luckily sat beside Gurudev in the car, for the first time. Now, the distance from the Bangalore airport to the Ashram was almost same as the flight time of Bombay-Bangalore flight journey, so it was equivalent to sitting with Him in the business class,” he amicably shares his joy of that special day! Also, making that day the best day of my life Gurudev said, “Would you like to be the part of my office? Of course I said yes but still I was stunned for days to come.”

As we proceed in the conversation, he makes a very humbling yet strong point, that all the time that we spend with our beloved Gurudev is our privilege and not our right. “I remind this to myself every time. It has really kept me grounded. This clarity in mind is really precious,” these words fill the room with a thankful silence!

As Part of Gurudev’s Secretariat!

As modest as Devang can be, he shares that he exactly does not know how it happened, “When I started at the secretariat I realized that there is so much to it. I realized that I require much more awareness and skills to be working directly with Him and being a volunteer for so many years really helped, but most of it came just by being with Him” he shares.

Gurudev, DSY and Devang!

“It was a very funny intervention by Gurudev and I was already a part of secretariat then. I remember that Prasanna Prabhu was talking about Dharma Stambha Yojana to Gurudev and, I entered in the Kutir when they were talking.

As I entered, Gurudev just said that, “Haan ye dekh lega na DSY. (Yes, he will look after DSY).” I was like come on!! To begin with, just now I have been a part of the secretariat and not now please!! (He pauses with a smile and continues) However, I settled down and then I spoke to Gurudev, I said that if you want me to do one, then let it be secretariat; but if you want me to do both, then I take full responsibility. So, here I am in DSY! It has been a very good way to keep my Gujarati genes alive (chuckles).

I really enjoy finance. It is one of my core competences along with administration. These are things that I am blessed to do for the person whom I love the most. So nothing can be better than the job that I am doing now,” Devang exclaims with a sense of contentment!

I have never ever imagined in my life that I would be working for 14 to 16 hours, not even for my dad, one of the most loved and respected person of my life,” he exclaims emphasizing on the last few words and continues, “I would not do it for anybody except Gurudev. I am still energetic and smiling even after long hours of work,” he beams!

All his roles of a volunteer, teacher, Director - DSY, or even as the part of the secretariat drops when asked what does he do in his free time? “I miss Gurudev very much when He is not around. I have always liked being around Him. When He is not, then there is longing,” says a devotee, the first and the only role that a seeker really ever plays on the path!

Written by Monica Patel, based on inputs from Devang Vora.

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