Nate Natesan had a vision & embarked on a mission to raise our consciousness to civic sense and he pursued the journey which is called Swacch Devalaya or clean temples
It was in late 2006 at the Sunday Bal-Vihar classes where he was struck by the mess of sandals thrown on floor carelessly without any concern for cleanliness, or order or safety from trip and fall.
Without a thought he started arranging sandals neatly on the floor.
Nate continued arranging footwear at various sathsanghs, social gatherings and temples
Thus Swacch Devalaya was launched in June 2014 and the name “Swacch” coined from Swacch Bharat.
Arranging the sandals with his own hands for over eight years has enabled him to stand tall at temples and manage a large throng of devotees and ensure devotees keep footwear neatly in rack or numbered bags. He still does arrange sandals neatly when necessary and offers to help people who may need help.
His journey has been long, interesting and personally rewarding as Nate decided to work at many temples in Atlanta and to promote awareness to nonresident Indians all over USA as well, using social media. Nate also attends various events in Atlanta to network and promote awareness. Nate has earned accolades from the Indian community in Atlanta and from many organizations in USA like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad America. Nate has been a one man army but is committed to the cause driven by the love & respect of the people. His views should resonate with the readers and thus it is our hope that the entire community gets involved in the effort for swacchata promotion. Nate’s compassion for his brothers and sisters inspires him to be committed to this reform movement as we revere the values of Sanatana Dharma, the heritage of our glorious culture.
We know Mahatma Gandhi made cleanliness an integral part of the Gandhian way of living. The phrase cleanliness is next to godliness is well known. On Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday i.e. 2nd October 2014, Swacch Bharat Abhiyan was launched by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The cleanliness movement is a message not only for the countrymen but is also a statement to the international non-resident Indian community. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced the launch of the ‘Swachhata Hi Seva Movement’ or “cleanliness is true service” from September 15, 2018 to honor Mahatma Gandhi and celebrate his 150th birth anniversary which falls on Oct. 2, 2019.
Swacch Devalaya is time well invested and Nate is confident that solution to the problem is in promoting awareness through social media and people volunteering to maintain cleanliness at rack area. People may come forward to manage remotely by using CCTV and walkie-talkie. Nate says the problem is not insurmountable, “together we can lift the mountain of apathy”. His vision is civic sense & cleanliness becoming a way of life among Indians all over the world, not just in India. Priority is a function of time & money, neither one is a factor and hence the only hurdle is the apathy of people.
Nate is seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Swacch Devalaya article was recently published in the Mandir vani published by Vishwa Hindu Parishad America (VHPA) on the occasion of the 14th annual Hindu Mandir Executive conference (HMEC 2019). The article is published in VHPA website and VHPA has validated and endorsed swacch to be implemented at all temples in USA. The President of VHPA believes Swacch work is worthy of emulation and has requested his team to recommend to all temples in USA to maintain Swacch Devalaya. VHP based in India is an international organization founded in 1964 by RSS and co-founded by Swami Chinmayananda and supported by many spiritual leaders and also social reformers. VHP America has completed 50 years as of 2020. Nate believes slowly but steadily the message of Swacch Devalaya will become a way of life.
The status and action taken so far are enumerated in www.Swacchdevalaya.org/success story
The photos in the gallery section of the website tells the whole story as also the video recording (in the clean temples section ) by TV Asia which was aired in their news segment in USA and Canada in Dec. 2014. In the Success Story there is a video of recognition of Nate’s efforts by Hindu Temple of Atlanta on the successful culmination of the divine eleven day AtiRudram chanting in the august presence of all the temples priests, ritwicks who participated in chanting, the spiritual pundits who came from India for the event and the dedicated management and volunteers of the temple.
Why is it necessary to address this issue? Civic sense is pretty much a way of life in the western culture. We do follow civic sense in the western society and this double standard does hurt our self-esteem even as Indian professionals & students are excelling in various fields. Non-resident Indians are ambassadors of India and we have to demonstrate our great heritage and culture. It is to a large extent lack of civic sense that creates filth in India, resulting in diseases that invariably affect the poor people. When people do not have basic civic sense we cannot expect the politicians and leaders to serve the people with higher standard of integrity.
Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice originated in India. The great sage Patanjali, considered an authority on yogic sutra, prescribed eight fold steps to finding peace. The first two being yama (abstinences), niyama (observances) for self-discipline. An international day for yoga was declared unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly and is celebrated annually on 21 June since its inception in 2015. Thus we teach yoga to the world but seem not to observe basic civic sense while many other cultures do
While there are organizations & temples that practice discipline, some under supervision and some based on the culture of the organization, what is needed is an organic change in our approach to civic sense in public places. The western society is good in this respect and the Japanese culture is one of the best. The Japanese concept of 5S (sort, straighten, shine, standardize and sustain) is widely practiced in multinationals corporations around the world to improve safety and efficiency in operation. Most of us do practice cleanliness & orderliness at our homes but fail to do so in public particularly in Indian congregations & places of worship.
We revere the values of Sanatana Dharma, the heritage of our glorious culture and the fact that we all can associate our roots to many saints & rishis, Vedas, vedanta, upanishads, puranas, Bhagavdam and epics like Ramayana & Mahabharata. We have no dearth of spiritual leaders who have led an exemplary life to inspire ourselves to higher standards. We should revive the inherent greatness in the Indian community. People look for cleanliness & order in Indian gatherings & we deserve better. People look to community leaders for solutions. Together we can achieve it, just like drops of water becoming an ocean. We can create a tsunami of awareness. Most NRI knows about Swacch Bharat. Nate wants the same awareness in every NRI all over the world for Swacch Devalaya, the first and easy step towards civic sense consciousness.