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First National Theosophical Order of Service Camp in Varanasi, India
(Condensed from reports received from Bro. B. L. Bhattacharyya and Smt. Uma Bhattacharyya)

Bros. Sundaram and Bhattacharyya plant a tree at the TOS India camp held at Varanasi on 15-16 March, 2016.
This past March, for the very first time, the Theosophical Society hosted an all-India TOS gathering at its headquarters in Varanasi for representatives from most of its 21 regions. The goal of this event was for members to learn about each other’s work in alleviating suffering and to come to appreciate the difficulties at the grass roots level. The event was a great success.

Beginning the session with the TS’s traditional Universal Prayer, TOS National Director, Brother B. L. Bhattacharyya, warmly welcomed the delegates. He highlighted Dr Annie Besant’s purpose in creating the TOS: to put into action the
First Object of the Theosophical Society and underlined the fruitfulness of close collaboration between the TS and TOS. Bro. Bhattacharyya lauded the efforts of regions whose service projects are inspiring members overseas. He brought to the notice of participants that TOS activities are spreading in the Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir regions as well. Finally, Bro. Bhattacharyya emphasised that through heart to heart conversation, representatives from different regions can share their feelings, experiences and various activities which will help in working together in the service of the poor and needy.

In his inaugural address, the General Secretary of the Indian Section, Bro. S. Sundaram, welcomed the participants and pointed out that this is the first occasion in the history of the TOS that so many members from all over the country have come to the Indian Section Headquarters. He referred to the TOS’s historical work for civic reform and harmony, in education and culture, healing and hospitals and for the emancipation of women and the exploited masses. Drawing attention to the pathetic state of today's world, infested with hatred and selfishness, he emphasised the need to transform ourselves from within. Referring to Dr Annie Besant as an embodiment of love and empathy, the General Secretary maintained that we have enlightened role models in TS history from whom we can imbibe strong values in order to bring about a change in the world. He summed up by pointing out that instead of reacting, if we respond to the situation, we can render service in a real sense.

The National Secretary, Dr T.K. Nair, expressed his concern about the future of the TOS and endeavoured to inspire all representatives from the various regions to dedicate themselves to the service of the poor and needy.

Representatives from different regions presented detailed reports highlighting activities and projects undertaken at their regional and group levels. Some new and simple ideas to improve the lives of villagers came from Gujarat region and were presented by Bro. Pradeep H. Gohil. They included:

* Teaching villagers how to produce compost from village garbage and use it in their farms,
* Providing underground drainage in villages where 85% of the funding is paid by state government,
* Organising classes in sewing, mobile telephone repairing, welding, electrical repair, carpentry, plumbing,
hair dressing, and computer data entry and operation. This provides functional literacy. [See the article in our March 2016 e-newsletter “Mahendra and Shashi in Action” that relates a major new initiative of Narendra Modi, the current Prime Minister of India and includes this and other ideas to incorporate at the village level. You can find it at:],
* Addressing basic necessities in poor and tribal areas where food, clothing, inexpensive housing, clean water, solar lights, etc. can be provided,
* Providing nutritious food to kindergarten and primary school students found to be suffering from severe malnourishment,
* Starting primary schools in villages where there are none,
Installing small reverse osmosis units to provide pure drinking water to schools and villages, and
* Providing proper sanitation throughout villages

Bro. B. L. Bhattcharyya, TOS National Director, addresses the gathering at the TOS Camp, Varanasi in March, 2016.

In the concluding session the National Director announced an important teachers’ training conference to be held in Bhubaneswar in September 2016. Teachers and administrators of TOS, Besant Education Foundation schools and the Olcott Memorial Higher Secondary School will be attending this very special conference on theosophical education led by Vic Hao Chin, Jr, President of the Golden Link College in the Philippines. Its huge relevance in the modern-day education system was highlighted by Smt. Uma Bhattacharyya, Asst. Secretary of the TOS India.
Avenues to raise funds for TOS activities were also explored and the National Director drew attention to an initiative of Bro. J. N. Patowary in Assam region who is procuring funding from National Banks for their key project of mobility aids. Special mention was made by the National Director of the deep commitment of Dr Deepa Padhi from Odisha region and her compassionate service to the downtrodden and helpless people of that region.

Smt. Uma Bhattacharyya extended a vote of thanks to all who contributed to the smooth materialisation of the TOS Camp programme. She chose this occasion to thank all those representatives from the different regions who helped her in updating the membership list which was long pending. She concluded by reminding everyone that it is only through our own example that we can motivate and encourage others to render selfless service to society. The session ended with a thought that through harmony in the work environment and total commitment, we can meet the aspirations and high ideals on which the TOS was established by Dr Annie Besant.
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