Beginning of School Projects
Divine Life Society of South Africa has been dedicated to the moral, educational and spiritual upliftment of communities in South Africa throughout its history of six decades in this country.
The Society began its African Education Projects in 1974. Thirty five years later, after ensuring community participation in each one of the projects, it has completed the building of over 350 education, health and other projects. Our education projects include the establishment of 374 classrooms, libraries, offices and staffrooms in various parts of KwaZulu-Natal.
It will not be out of place to relate how Pujya Swamiji's relationship with the African community originated and developed all these years.
Pujya Swamiji wrote: "During my early life in the Midlands town of Estcourt, our family moved very amicably with Africans. Often on Sundays my parents and some of my brothers and sisters would go out fishing or for collecting fuel. This journey would be about 20 kilometers to and fro, all done on foot. I remember how my parents would always spend about half an hour or more at a kraal in the area we went to, to entertain and be entertained by Africans. All had to drink twala from a single clay pot. This was the custom. It was a health drink and not intoxicating. I never liked the taste of it and used to ask for mahew and ground mabella! It was so nice to see my parents sitting and chatting with their African friends."
"Later, after I took to the spiritual path and guided my parents, they changed to vegetarian diet. Because of this early interaction, it was easy for me to meet and work with Africans, when we took up education and health projects for them."
"As I said, the Divine Master ordained our work for Africans, and it is his Grace that is behind all our activities. He is teaching us in a practical manner how to see the Lord in all names and forms. It is easy to say that all beings are the forms of God, but to serve such beings with love and compassion is not easy. The heart has to expand and the power of God has to settle in it through meditation and prayer for this to happen. Then it becomes quite easy to see God in all names and forms, regardless of race, colour and creed."
Pujya Swamiji reproduces herewith the manner in which the school projects for the Africans commenced:
"The projects we started about 1974 were ordained by our Divine Master. It happened like this. I went on a pilgrimage to India around 1974. In many places, like Chennai, I saw street children begging. I would buy some eatables for them. It was a pathetic sight to see these poor children. So I decided that when I returned to South Africa, I would send money to India to feed these children."
"On returning, when I began reflecting over the matter, I felt my Master telling me from within: "God in the form of the Africans is suffering in this country. Why not do something for them first instead of sending money to India?"
"It was not a voice that I heard. It was just a strong urge I felt coming from our Divine Master. So we decided to send R25 000 to Dr M.G. Buthelezi to have a school built in Mahlabatini. We had contact with him because his daughter, Mandisi, stayed at our Ashram for several months."
"Dr Buthelezi asked us to build the school ourselves, as the school committee might not use the funds properly. That is how we started our first project. Most of the material had to be transported by us from Durban to Mahlabatini, a distance of 300km. All enjoyed the work. Often we used to spend the night at Dr Buthelezi's residence. We used to be treated with great hospitality. When Dr Buthelezi built a beautiful new home we used to spend the night there, receiving VIP treatment."
"People heard of our work and contributed funds. So, after building the first school we decided to continue our projects. It was hard work because we had to transport building material to distant centres. Often our trucks used to return at midnight. All the school committees worked enthusiastically. They were very honest and no material was wasted or stolen. The school committees had to supply the unskilled labour and pay a small amount."
"Any hard work is often tested, but the Grace of God and our Divine Master always comes to our aid. Once, we were asked to build a school in the South Coast. As we drove to the church building that the children were using, we came across large potholes. I became hesitant and resolved not to undertake this project, as our vehicles might get bogged. But when I saw the little children sitting on the bare cement floor, I immediately took a resolution that whatever happens, I will build this school. I returned and at once sent some carpets for the children."
"When the project began, the truck taking the first load of sand got bogged. The European firm got annoyed because they lost finance and refused to transport any more sand. I tried many firms, but all refused. At last, Y.C. Naidoo, father of our beloved Dhanpal Naidoo, delivered all the sand and, what is more, did not charge us anything for it. From then onwards, even after the passing of Y.C. Naidoo, our Dhanpal Naidoo, has been serving our Society by supplying sand free of charge for our building projects. That is how God tests us and comes to our rescue at the same time."
"When the Society first began its educational projects for the Africans, some individuals stated that it was a very late start. I felt: 'better late than never.' "Also some individuals were not in favour of serving the Africans because of the riots that had taken place in Inanda. But the Society did not worry about this as it felt that it was serving God by undertaking such work."
"One of the questions put to me by individuals some years after the commencement of the school building projects was whether Africans appreciated what the Society was doing. I would answer that as the Society was serving God and its work was worship of the Lord, it did not seek any kind of appreciation."