midnight

The Radha Soami Satsang Beas, under the guidance of Charan Singh and responding to an immediate need, started a small eye clinic for the many cataract sufferers in the surrounding area of the Punjab, where the affliction is caused by silicaceous dusts in the soil. Surgeons visited from Delhi and Amritsar, performing hundreds of operations in tents or outdoors under primitive conditions, but with a high success rate. Doctors, nursing staff and helpers were all volunteers, and the service was free. Over the years the clinic grew and grew as its reputation attracted the blind from further afield. Since my 1977 trip to Beas, the Indian population has doubled and the demand for the clinic’s services is constantly increasing. Because of the gradual and cumulative nature of cataracts, the patients tend to be old, and being those who cannot afford private medical care, are by definition poor. Typically, they don’t go to the clinic until their condition is so advanced that they have reached the midnight of total or near-total blindness.

On her eleven trips to the ashram, Lesley frequently spent time at the eye clinic, observing and helping in whatever ways she could. As I see it, the eye clinic was a practical manifestation of compassion, uniting her outward and inward yearnings – the desire to address the suffering of the destitute at the same time as the desire for inner, spiritual solace, happiness and bliss. The Master, like Jesus, was bringing eyesight to the blind, lifting them from darkness into light, but by medical not miraculous means, by turning the power of the modern towards the suffering of the many, rather than the needs of the few. He was doing this by accepting the love, piety and donations of hundreds of thousands of followers, and using them to demonstrate the way of life that he commended: skillful and compassionate response to immediate needs.

There is now a large hospital at the Beas ashram that provides free medical services to the greater area, especially to the blind, and there is still an eye-camp every year.

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