Service and Spirituality
We Are Mere Carriers of Help (Continued)
Realizing that we are just instruments in the hands of God can foster detachment while doing work, and help us become free from work-related misery. Swami Vivekananda says: “When you have trained your mind and your nerves to realize this idea of the world’s non-dependence on you or on anybody, there will then be no reaction in the form of pain resulting from work. When you give something to a man and expect nothing—do not even expect the man to be grateful—his ingratitude will not tell upon you, because you never expected anything, never thought you had any right to anything in the way of a return. You gave him what he deserved; his own Karma got it for him; your Karma made you the carrier thereof. Why should you be proud of having given away something? You are the porter that carried the money or other kind of gift, and the world deserved it by its own Karma. Where is then the reason for pride in you? There is nothing very great in what you give to the world. When you have acquired the feeling of non-attachment, there will then be neither good nor evil for you.”
Respect for the Recipient
The final important factor in spiritualizing service is respect for the recipient. Respect develops spontaneously when we do service in a spirit of worship of God dwelling in the recipient. In the Bhagavata (3.29.22,27) the God-incarnate sage Kapila underlines the futility of worshipping God in images, disregarding His presence in His creation: “If one disregards Me present in all beings as their soul and as God but ignorantly offers worship only to images, such worship is as ineffective as sacrificial offerings made in ashes. Therefore, worship Me in all beings by offering them respect, and serving them in a spirit of friendliness and with an attitude of non-separateness; for I am the one Self in all beings and have made a temple for Myself in all of them.”
In his poem “To a Friend,” Swami Vivekananda says:
From highest Brahman to the worm,
Even to the atom’s inmost core,
All things with Love are interfused.
Friend, offer body, mind, and soul
In constant service at their feet.
Thy God is here before thee now,
Revealed in all these myriad forms:
Rejecting them where seekest thou
His presence? He who freely shares
His love with every living thing
Proffers true service unto God.
Swami Vivekananda emphasizes this idea in his lecture at the Rameswaram temple in southern India: “This is the gist of all worship¾to be pure and do good to others. He who sees Shiva in the poor, in the weak, and in the diseased, really worships Shiva; and if he sees Shiva only in the image, his worship is but preliminary. He who has served and helped one poor man seeing Shiva in him, without thinking of his caste, or creed, or race, or anything, with him Shiva is more pleased than with the man who sees Him only in temples.”
In view of the above, need-based service offered with an attitude of oneness of all in God becomes a spiritual discipline and draws us closer to God. If, however, service is rendered selectively based on people’s ethnic background, it does not yield much spiritual benefit.
(To be continued) —Swami Yuktatmananda
Copyright© 2011, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York.