“Bhakti is like a cataract operation. When our eyes are decorated with ointment of love, then we can see Krishna everywhere” Radhanath Maharaja said while addressing the devotees and participants of the Barsana Eye Camp, 2012. The Barsana Eye Camp started in 1991 when devotees at Radha Gopinath Temple in Mumbai visited the divine birth place of Lord Krishna’s dearest consort Srimati Radharani at Barsana in North India with Radhanath Swami. They observed a great need to treat cataract patients, and as they already had the experience of holding cataract operating camps in Maharashtra, the team organized their first camp at Barsana in 1992 January. Since then a team of devotees from Mumbai’s Bhaktivedanta Hospital and volunteers from across the globe have been joining every year to serve cataract patients from 120 villages around Barsana. The total number of patients has now surpassed 10,000. Team members hold this service particular dear to their hearts because it is a chance to serve the residents of the holiest of places, an opportunity which they consider a great privilege.
This year 850 patients were operated on in the 16 days (30th Jan to 20th Feb). All patients were provided with food, blankets, 40 days medication and first round of follow up after 4 days of surgery. The team of doctors examined total 1900 patients. 900 patients were found fit for operation at the temporary Barsana location. Other patients, with a critical case were brought to Mumbai for surgery. Around 15 doctors and 250 volunteers, that included nurses, anesthetist, sterilization team members, kitchen team members as well as kirtaniyas (devotional musicians)had volunteered. They came from different parts in India, such as Mumbai, Pune, Belgaum, Satara, Nigri, Delhi, Agra etc. There were also 20 volunteers from Europe and America. Together they served 55 patients every day.
The eye camp is supported financially by donors. The Bhaktivedanta Hospital provides doctors and the supporting staff. Other organizations, such as Help Age India, India Infotech, LIONS club also participate in this service. The Indian Government also supports the eye camp by providing a percentage of the funds for surgeries.
Since 2003 a dental camp was also started for providing services related to the removal of rotted teeth, teeth cleaning and denture making. A team of 40 volunteers goes separately for this. The dedicated volunteers worked overnight to serve people.
“The annual eye camp is highly popular with the villagers because it is more than an eye camp. It is a service festival which aims at not only providing vision to the physically blinded patients but also expanding divine vision for participants who experience tremendous spiritual surcharge post eye camp.” says Dr. V.G. Shanbhag, Dy. Director-Spiritual Care, Bhaktivedanta Hospital and Dy. Director, Barsana Eye Camp.
Radhanath Swami also volunteered for the camp along with his friend Shyam Das, a Krishna devotee, scholar of Vaisnavism and devotional singer. Swami addressed all the participants at the site. ”The goal of life is to render service to the lord that should be motivated neither by egoism or selfishness, nor should it be interrupted by any difficult conditions that come upon us. Love for the Lord is in heart of every human being. Dharma is awakening of that love in everyone’s heart. Krishna tells in Bhagvad Gita, “I am the father and mother of every human being.” Thus, rendering service to residents of Barsana, whom Krishna loves so dearly, is highest service. It’s a great blessing to have come to Radharani’s eternal home and serve the residents.
“We should not feel ourselves great for rendering service to someone in need here. We should think that these patients are great and we are in need to serve them. Then our service transforms into devotion. Also, by serving without humility or gratitude we cannot practice Bhakti. So for all the people who are visiting our camp, our spirit should be to offer service to them with all respect and honor. We are grateful that they are giving us a chance to connect with God by serving them. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu taught us that the purpose of our life is to become the servant of the servant of servant of the Lord. We can’t take credit for serving these devotees, rather we should be happy to have become an instrument of Radharani’s grace. It is a most fulfilling experience to serve people in a capacity which is beyond us. This is meaning of Seva (divine service).
Our unity for this highest purpose is so sacred. Everyone is contributing in his own way; everyone has a unique role like different limbs of a body. We have doctors, business people, and educators etc. who have sacrificed their comforts to come here and serve. While you are serving you should remember that Bhakti is also like a cataract operation. When our eyes are decorated with ointment of love, then we can see Krishna everywhere. But the cataract of false ego which has the symptoms of lust, anger, greed and envy is blocking us to see Krishna’s grace everywhere. By chanting and serving in association of devotees we can remove this cataract and can see everything with eyes of love.
Shyam Das added, “Service done to Brajabasis (residents of the holi place of Braj, including Barsana,) is very pleasing to Krishna. People who worship Krishna and his beloved Brajabasis are called Braj Upasis (worshipers of Braj). This camp is a union of Braj upasis and Brajwasis. When they come together there is a festival, a festival to celebrate Krishna’s love.”