- FAQ / Q&A
Ananda Nagar is a unique rural development project. Located in one of the poorest and most backward areas of India, Purulia district in West Bengal, the area around Ananda Nagar is inhabited by indigent tribal villagers and exemplifies most of the problems which rural people face: lack of education and literacy, chronic disease especially leprosy, widespread nutrition verging on starvation, total absence of any source of energy life electricity, non-productive agriculture on arid and non-irrigated lands, and lack of any type of industrial development. The projects of Ananda Nagar are designed to address all of these challenges and transform a depressed area into a vibrant example of sustainable development.
As I looked over his shoulder, he wrote the name of the patient in the daily log in sequential order. This patient’s number was 539,916. That’s right: five hundred thirty nine thousand, nine hundred sixteen. The next patient (number 539,917) was sitting on the bench to the left, with a number of other patients of all ages.
The daily log book series in which he was writing was begun the day this clinic was started by a previous doctor in 1985 with patient number 1. And since he started working in this clinic in 1990, every subsequent patient has been seen by this one man who works seven days a week as an unpaid volunteer. And this is but one of three clinics that he operates.
The man is Dada Aksayananda. He is called Dadaji (“respected brother”) by his patients. He sits daily in his saffron turban and monk’s robes counseling patients, conducting exams (usually in the open, occasionally behind a curtain), diagnosing illnesses and prescribing remedies.
He works two shifts a day, from mid-morning to afternoon and then again in the evening until the very last patient has been seen (as long as it takes, irregardless of the hour).
He is a yogic monk of Ananda Marga and for monks of his order there is no sequestered monastery where they live; instead the world is their monastery and their practice (outside of their personal meditation and discipline) is to serve humanity.
Dadaji became a monk as a young man in 1965, deciding to forgo the rewards of family life and dedicate his life to the welfare of his larger human family.
Dadaji had some background in homeopathic studies prior to becoming a monk, but was surprised when, in 1967, his guru instructed him to sit for the exam to become a certified homeopath. Dadaji was one of the only examinees to pass the exam in that sitting.
Since that time he has practiced homeopathy on a service basis; sometimes part-time in addition to his duties running a school or children’s home; sometimes full-time as he has done since 1990.
The clinic is the Abha Seva Sadhan in the Tiljala district of Kolkata, India. Many medical clinics run by Ananda Marga, whether allopathic or homeopathic, use the same name.
Prior to Dadaji’s start at this clinic, it had irregular hours and minimal patients. When he started in 1990, the subsequent regular hours and good results soon made the clinic a community success.
In fact, in the early days his success was almost the clinic’s undoing. Local corrupt government officials, jealous of the clinic’s popularity, sponsored a competing free clinic down the street with the apparent intent of closing Dadaji’s clinic.
Dadaji’s attitude was, “If they want to serve humanity, let them do so. There are a great many people who need help.” He knew, however, that with such impure motives it was unlikely the other free clinic would continue. Sure enough, as the months passed the patients continued to line up at his door and the other clinic quietly closed its doors.
Dadaji sits in the one-room clinic at a small wooden table. In front of him is a box with hundreds of small vials containing liquid homeopathic dilutions. An assistant stands at his side to medicate vials of blank pellets and dispense them to the patients at Dadaji’s instruction. The back wall is covered with larger stock bottles of homeopathic dilutions, mother tinctures and some herbal salves.
Patients enter the room in the rear and wait on wooden benches until their turn comes. Overflow patients wait outside the door.
There is minimal privacy. Most problems are discussed and examined openly in full view. I notice that in India there is a different sense of privacy and personal space and this arrangement was comfortable for the patients.
Most exams consist of looking at a rash, in a throat, listening to lungs or heart, or maybe checking blood pressure. Both the history and exam take little time and Dadaji prescribes a remedy.
In fact I talked to a few Americans, who, down with the flu or “Kolkata cough”, visited Dadaji for a remedy. More than one said that Dadaji merely looked at them and started packaging their remedy before they even stated their symptoms! They reported dramatic improvement from the prescription.
Dadaji says that it costs the clinic one and a half rupees (about 7 cents) to dispense a bottle of remedy. They ask a one-rupee (about 5 cent) donation for each prescription to help offset this cost, but obviously the clinic runs at a deficit.
This deficit is met by free will donations from well-wishers. I personally have carried donations to a number of projects in India (clinics, children’s homes, schools) and find that donors appreciate that 100% of their donation goes to the project (and none to organizational overhead) and will be carrying donations to this project on a future trip.
I asked Dadaji if he had any words of advice or encouragement to the modern student of homeopathy. He said, “Tell them that homeopathy can be used to cure any disease.”
After such a lifetime of service and experience (at least 650,000 patient consultations), who can argue?
Dada Ramananda continues to hold AMURT medical, mass feeding and clothe distribution programmes at Ananda Nagar, West Bengal, on a regular basis.