Self Help: Helping Others Help Themselves By Baba Shuddhaanandaa Brahmachari My heart’s first thought in serving all human beings is to release them from the crippling, self-created illusion of dependence. To my mind, no true help comes through charity, and no gift from outside can change the plight of the underprivileged. Traditional charity involves a gift from one who has more than the one who receives it, which generates lower self-esteem and a sense of inadequacy in the receiver. It leaves the receiver waiting for the next handout, more convinced than ever of his or her own powerlessness, and with the personal initiative required to move beyond poverty depleted. The poor, like all of us, are inordinately gifted, despite their circumstances. The inner richness that is their greatest resource in overcoming their poverty goes unacknowledged, untapped. Yet, they can create wealth, and they must, if they are ever to be free of poverty. To adequately serve the poor, we must support them in that process. We must work to kindle the light of awareness, to engender faith in those who are hopeless: faith in themselves and in their inherent capacity, strengths, and gifts. Health, education, and resource linkages make success practical and attainable. It is as important to work on teaching consciousness as it is to teach economic development. By acknowledging and building on the inner resources of the individual, the shared life of the village and the contribution of culture into the process of development, consciousness and awareness can be fostered. If the last 100 years of human society demonstrate anything, it is that development without consciousness of those humanizing dimensions only further impoverishes everyone on the planet. It is essential to firmly ground all attempts to “help” in the philosophy of Self Help. The “helping” organization or individual is merely a catalyst and facilitator. Programs need to provide education and health services, and the structural supports and resource linkages to develop awareness as well as personal capacity, to create solid ground for development that is both sustainable and that nourishes the individual and the social context in which he or she lives. When working with communities through the Baba Lokenath Divine Life Mission projects, the idea is to develop a wider family network that creates linkage between individual Self Help Groups (SHG) where one SHG group is connected to another SHG of another village, fostering a comprehensive, yet simple form of communication and support. As I said, working with the poor and downtrodden, I never believed that charity could bring a lasting change in their lives. Only when they are educated to understand the power of their soul and its dignity can they stand up on their own feet and proclaim to the world that they too can live life with all its dignity and happiness. In my work I have been trying to give the poor back their dignity while creating waves of consciousness at the individual and collective levels. The journey of life is a continual process, for the Mother is the ultimate continual Creativity.