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Engaged Buddhism: Non-profit FHSM Offers Progress Report on Free Eye Clinic Program

The Buddhist non-profit organization Foundation of His Sacred Majesty (FHSM) has provided a new update on its ongoing Samyak Drushti Project to provide free eye-care clinics and treatment for underprivileged communities in India—in particular Dalit communities in the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Telangana.

“Thousands suffer from needless cataract blindness and ocular disability in India, especially in Tamil Nadu and Telangana, owing to inadequacy and inaccessibility of services,” FHSM president Rev. Gauthama Prabu told BDG. “Amid growing demand, we are making every effort to maximize the benefit and reach of our existing services. With simplified and relatively non-invasive surgical technique for lens replacement now available, we have found medical camps to be an effective and safe strategy for treating large numbers of people in one go.”

FHSM founder and president Rev. Gauthama Prabhu. Images courtesy of FHSM

The clinics are supported by the Mumbai-headquartered company All Cargo Logistics, with medical expertise provided in cooperation with medical organizations such as Agarwal Eye Hospital and the L. V. Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad.

“Thanks to the support of All Cargo Logistics, we are able to provide affordable and accessible eye care services to poor and vulnerable people,” said Rev. Prabu. “We are able to conduct remote outreach eye camps that will screen between 3,500 and 4,000 people and restore eyesight in our project areas through cataract surgeries and distribution of free glasses.”

Headquartered in Chennai (formerly Madras) in Tamil Nadu, FHSM is founded on the principals of socially engaged Buddhism and works closely with deprived and marginalized communities. The foundation’s work is based on four broad principles: protection and conservation of ecosystems; promoting alternative health systems; social transformation through strengthening grassroots democracy and good governance; and sustainable livelihood and education and social empowerment. 

“Blindness is one of the most debilitating health disorders and avoidable blindness is a major international health problem,” Rev. Prabu explained. “The World Health Organization estimates that 180 million people suffer from severe visual impairment (legally blind, by International standards). The leading cause of blindness throughout the world is cataracts and 90 per cent of this blindness is found in the developing world. Approximately 80 per cent of blindness is avoidable and can be prevented or cured with appropriate treatment. FHSM proposes supporting 10 remote eye camps per year through the Samyak Drushti Project.”

During the first phase of the project, five free mobile eye-care camps were organized in the port city of Chennai from 13 August–9 September, treating 366, 375, 356, 349, and 356 beneficiaries, respectively. In Hyderabad, two mobile clinics were organized on 28 August and 25 September, treating 345 and 376 beneficiaries, respectively. Further clinics are planned during the remainder of 2022 and into next year.

“Cataracts are a prevalent problem for many Dalits,” Rev. Prabu noted. “With little access to education and healthcare, many Dalits’ eyesight slowly deteriorates, resulting in total blindness. FHSM has met with people from Dalit groups who have lived with needless blindness for years and the foundation has provided medical treatment and care on their behalf. There are still many Dalits and other members of Indian society who lack access to proper eye care due to poverty and low socio-economic status. It’s the goal of FHSM to eliminate cataract-induced blindness. Already, thousands of individuals  in Tamil Nadu and Telangana have had their eyesight restored through the Samyak Drushti Project.”

Samyak Drushti Project eye camps
Beneficiaries of free glasses

India’s Dalit community faces frequent social and economic exclusion as a result of the conservative Hindu social hierarchy. Dalit, which translates as “broken” in Sanskrit, is a term for the very lowest castes, which “higher” castes even today deem as “untouchable,” despite legal prohibitions of the practice in the Constitution of India.

Generally believed to date back more than 3,000 years, India’s caste system remains culturally pervasive throughout the country. Although discrimination against lower castes is illegal, segregation, discrimination, and exploitation remain a daily reality for the country’s roughly 200 million Dalits, who are not permitted to attend the same temples or schools, or even drink from the same cups or wells as “higher” castes. To escape this entrenched discrimination, many Dalits have turned to Buddhist conversion, which has given them a new community and opportunities with a renewed sense of self confidence and self worth.

Transportation support for cataract surgery beneficiaries
Beneficiaries of cataract surgery

“We are immensely grateful to our team of volunteers, who have co-operated and co-ordinated with FHSM staff to implement our relief operations,” Rev. Prabu emphasized. “We are also thankful to the government officials, local administrations, experts, and social workers who have been constantly mentoring us and facilitating our work. We rejoice in the merits of the generous contribution made by our donors—corporates, grant-making institutions, and partnership with hospitals, community leaders, healthcare workers, social workers, community organizers, volunteers, experts, and above all our beloved staff of the Foundation of His Sacred Majesty for this grand success and their immeasurable achievements!”

For international donations:

Account name: Foundation of His Sacred Majesty
Bank: State Bank of India
Account number: 31203682095
Branch: Selaiyur, Chennai
SWIFT code: SBININBB298
IFSC code: SBIN0007948

For donations within India:

Account name: Foundation of His Sacred Majesty
Bank: State Bank of India
Account number: 30522574810
Branch: Selaiyur, Chennai
IFSC code: SBIN0007948

For more information: 

Email[email protected]
Tel: +91-9791239333 / +91-8680020086 / +91-9840813935

Named in commemoration of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka (r. c. 268–c. 232 BCE), a key figure in the propagation of Buddhism across Asia, the Foundation of His Sacred Majesty was founded in 2007 with a mission to: “preserve, promote, and disseminate the principles of liberty, equality, fraternity, and social justice through non-formal education, sustainable livelihood, and conservation of ecology, alternative/preventive medicines, social empowerment, social advocacy, and social development in order for the restoration of the human dignity of the poor and marginalized.” (Facebook) FHSM is affiliated with the International Network of Engaged Buddhists.

See more

Foundation of His Sacred Majesty (Facebook)
Foundation of His Sacred Majesty India (YouTube)
Foundation of His Sacred Majesty (LinkedIn)
International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB)

Related news reports from BDG

Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Non-profit FHSM Holds Free Eye Clinic in Chennai
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FHSM Delivers Emergency Relief to Vulnerable Communities Under Lockdown in India
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