SJA student articles

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by Divyesh N.


Click. Beep. Swami adjusts the walking speed of his treadmill and opens up another tab on his computer, all while he prepares an answer to my question. There are times when we all try our best to be expert multitaskers. Swami does not have to try; he just is.


Even as a monk, Swami’s monastic life does not stop at the temple. Along with his daily three-hour vigil, Swami partakes in a host of different activities that are all components of his work as the leader of Kauai Hindu Monastery’s maintenance team. As a result, even hobbies like walking must somehow be weaved into a fully-packed schedule—even if it means sneaking in some mileage during an interview.


Kauai Hindu Monastery is home to 19 monks who live, work, and worship on the 382-acre property. In addition to their spiritual endeavors, every monk plays his part in sustaining the property. Some manage the finances, a couple take care of the cooking, and others run the monastery’s publication department. But who cleans the grounds? Who harvests the abundance of vegetables in their garden? Who manages the building projects? This is where Swami and his Sidhidata Kulam (maintenance family) come into play. If anything goes awry on the property, all heads turn to Swami to come up with a solution. But how does a single monk manage this broad range of duties? His answer: organization and love.


“I would say the most important part is being constantly aware of what you are doing,” Swami says. 


This notion of paying attention to everything you do could not be more relevant for Swami’s role as the head of the maintenance kulam (family). As the leader of his task force, it is his responsibility to prevent team members from engaging in potentially hazardous actions with the variety of dangerous equipment at their disposal, even if it means that a task takes longer to complete. However, at the same time, Swami’s fellow monks trust him to resolve issues as quickly as he can. The responsibilities of grounds management, facility management, and project management are all under his jurisdiction. A leaky faucet? Swami is there with a wrench. Need a greenhouse? Swami is coordinating a shipment of metal framework to the harbour.


Due to the vast, all-encompassing nature of his work, Swami affirms the importance of organization to work efficiently and effectively.  


“When a monk joins the [monastic] order, he gets his robes, rudraksha mala (sacred bead string), iPhone, and MacBook Pro,” Swami quips.  Following his Satguru's wisdom of embracing technology’s utility, Swami reached out to a Toronto-based company named Fiix in its early stages and installed a cloud-based, computerized maintenance management software that schedules all of his team’s tasks. From seeding cycles to routine oil changes, this centralized task management program lies at the heart of Swami’s operations and serves as a crucial aid in his perpetual multitasking.


Currently, Swami and his team are heavily involved in the logistics behind the construction of their Iraivan Temple. This monumental building project has been in the works for approximately two decades and is in its final stages. The monks have brought over silpis (skilled temple carvers) from India to finalize the temple’s intricate stonework. Due to the complexity of this colossal undertaking, the purchase of many unique tools must be arranged. In addition to this project, Swami is also coordinating the construction of a new greenhouse, the immense frames of which he erects with his team. Swami admits that he does on occasion feel the pressure of his work, especially when deadlines are in effect. However, no matter how challenging their job may be, Swami and his team approach performing it with great joy. “The moment you take great joy in [a job], it automatically becomes more rewarding,” he says. Swami’s favourite role is finding creative ways to maximize the output of his gardens and greenhouses, and his dedication to the craft can be seen in the luscious green heads of butter lettuce that line the rows of his hydroponic greenhouse. 


It truly takes someone as spiritually awakened as a monk to have the strength to take on such a strenuous role with grace and ardor like Swami does every day. In what can only be described as a labour of love, Swami not only serves as the monastery’s primary preserver—protecting what already exists—but is also an indispensable provider. Clad in his orange robes and armed with a dual monitor display, Swami diligently performs his duty of nurturing and serving his brother monks with a smile.