Few days back, one ashramite asked the other, “Why do you smell bad?” the latter said, “I am back from my seva.” The former frowned, “I wonder when computers started stinking?” The latter said, “No! Today I got a chance to do a unique seva. You get a chance to do this seva once in 10 years.” And he started explaining. Yes! the bramacharin was referring to ashram septic tank cleaning seva.

After 10 years all the 4 huge tanks are full and they needed immediate action. First, a contractor was approached and he demanded a huge cost. He needed 10 days and 1500 dollars to do the job. Usually, his workers get fully drunk before they start the venture. They needed liquor to forget themselves while doing this most menial job. But, being in the ashram they couldn’t get intoxicated either. Unhappily, 3 men went inside the septic tank and 2 waited outside to transfer the bucket loads into the lorry. Every half an hour, they stopped the work, came out, went outside the ashram to smoke a cigar or chew tobacco. After six hours they cleared one lorry load of filth and they stopped their work.

Soon, this became talk of the ashram. During our dinner, senior ashramites recollected how Amma spearheaded septic tank seva every time. Almost 14 years ago, the night before Amma gave Sanyasa to most of her senior disciples; Amma came out her room and started emptying the septic tank. She summoned all the swamis who had taken up the vow of silence and fasting for the last 3 days. Amma asked them to clean the septic tank. As they started, a small bit fell near the mouth of one of the swamis and she remarked quickly, “Sweet pudding!” and laughed heartily. As the pit from the girl student’s hostel was removed for cleaning, Amma handed over a bucket of filth to one of the swamis and said, “Here is a girl’s beauty.” Her words were pregnant with deep meaning.
These vintage memories prompted bramacharis to undertake the venture by themselves. Next morning, when we announced our decision to the contractor, he refused to believe. He said, “We are happy to quit. But, swami! emptying 4 huge tanks is not a joke. Am sure you will have 12 or 13 lorry loads to clear.” Many bramacharis volunteered themselves for the seva. Actually, not more than dozen men are needed. But, twice the number had volunteered. So, we divided ourselves into 2 groups. One group a day was the deal. Soon, we started chanting the 1000 names and 4 ‘experienced’ bramacharins jumped inside the huge tank which contained deposits for the last 10 years.

What seemed menial for the workers became a celebration for the ashramites.
As the first round of archana ended, we heard, “Ramaha, Ramau, Ramaaha” from inside the tank. Yes! the bramacharis inside had started recollecting their Sanskrit grammar lessons. No! They recollected the most valuable lesson that Amma had taught, “A spiritual seeker needs to go beyond likes and dislikes.”
The bhajans followed sankrit lessons. Those of us who had never sung before, got a chance to show our skills now. Amidst chanting and fun lorry loads of human waste was getting removed from the tank. By the end of the day 5 lorry loads of waste from 2 tanks had been removed.
The next day, after Mandukya Upanishad class the second group started. After listening to the Supreme Upanishad truth for 90 mintues, here we get a wonderful chance to put them into practice.

As the work progressed, the contractor again appeared in the scene to check the progress. He was flabbergasted when he saw bramacharis chanting divine names and emptying the tank. When his men could empty just one lorry load a day, Amma’s children had emptied 5 lorry loads the previous day.

When his men needed to liquor to forget themselves, Amma’s children dosen’t need anything to go beyond themselves. What seemed menial to the former became worship to the latter. He said, “I accept that you guys are trained to accomplish your goals.” How true was his comment!


As we were emptying the 3 rd tank, we were surprised to see a big frog and his family living happily inside the tank. Though we wanted to take them away out of the tank and show them the free world outside, they didn’t want to come out. They reminded us of the material minds which refuse to take glimpses into higher truths that a Guru is willing to show. By the end of the day, all the 4 tanks of human waste had been emptied. So far, 14 lorry loads had been removed. As the unique seva was drawing close, Thumban the ashram dog came running. He waged his tail, lovingly peeped into the tank and said in his own language  “Well done!” to those 4 bramacharis still inside the tank. So, two days of festivities ended happily.

– Ram Kumar

Join the conversation! 21 Comments

  1. AMAZING!!! This is the true example of power of devotion. Wonderful, I donot have words for the divine hearts involved in this deed! I bow to you all.

  2. Nice and unique article…. Frog’s example was superb, our mind is exactly like that frog only… May AMMA bless all the volunteers

  3. It’s amma’s unique method of teaching..The theory (Upanishad class), and the practicality one after the other..!!

  4. Wonderful article! it clearly depicts Amma’s uniqueness and glory.

  5. You all again proved that nothing is impossible in Amma’s circle….The ‘frog example’ is really great… Amma sharanam…


  7. Wonderful story. Thanks.

  8. most moving.. Amma must be so proud of Her children!

  9. Om AMMA. No words…no thoughts…becoming empty…! i am just reading and reading with softened heart and two drops of tears.


  11. A nice spiritual article as well as the sentences are in good english language. Some of those english words which are used in this article are probably not much used by any Indian. Hats off to the author for putting new english words. It will help people like me to search the meaning in google search engine or wikipedia.

  12. Amma’s children! I bow before you all. Lord Krishna had told that He feels most happy when we worship His devotees.

  13. This is so amazing! It is proof of the great love Amma’s children have for Her. Amma makes the impossible, possible for Her children. Jai Ma!

  14. Amma is the most beautiful and unique Guru who is a Mother to Her disciples. Amma teaches Her children only by Her own example. She expects nothing more in action than what She subjects Herself to and it is Her ocean of pure love that inspires the most beautiful actions by Her children that stand as shining examples for the rest of us to follow …Om Shri Matre Namaha!

  15. Amazing devotion and faith of the 4 brahmacharis! This task was so very unusual and their love for Amma gave them strength to go beyond everything that came in their way. This shows that we can achieve anything if we do our work with devotion, & remembering Amma, and that no work is menial. Thousand pranams at Amma’s lotus feet. May the 4 brahmacharis receive many blessings. This story has definitely changed my heart!

  16. In this one article there are numereous lessons we learn. Hats off to all of you. AMMA please bestow your blessing on everyone.

  17. Ram Kumar, thank you sooooooo much for posting this beautifully narrated message. I can’t stop my tears while reading it. Indeed, it’s a BIG lesson for all devotees. I bow to all those who partaked in this unique seva. Blessed are they, undoubtedly. Amma just walks, so do Her children following her steps.

  18. Me and my family repeatedly read this article. Brother! please write regularly to fill our hearts with love and devotion.

  19. amazing… Amma is great!!

  20. Only Amma can inspire love of this visible intensity in those who are uniquely qualified.

  21. One of my most frequent reads.

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