BE PHILANTHROPIC TO BE HAPPY
When we look at the evolution of different species, we find that the most highly evolved are those who have a spirit of cooperation. Our predecessors in species called the Homo sapiens, evolved the family unit, propelled by this spirit of gregariousness. Human species, gradually, evolved societies and nations through this very spirit of cohesiveness.
The basis of fellow-feeling is a valuable lesson of affection. It is a mark of spiritual evolution. Lack of selfishness brings about this mark of unity. The lesser the self-centredness, the higher the evolution. There are several forms of selfishness. The most selfish are the ones who cannot see beyond their physical existence. They lack love even towards their own children and families. They are stone-hearted and resemble the inanimate world.
With the reduction of selfishness, co-operation attains new heights. When cooperation is aimed at selfish ends, it is reduced to callous and gross bargaining. However, even this state is a step ahead of sheer bodily pursuits. With the development of a cooperative spirit, the desire to get returns is reduced. Subsequently, a stage comes when there is no desire for any return, whatsoever.
Real service is that which seeks no rewards. Desire to extort something is sheer selfishness. Selfishness and philanthropy cannot go together. Service-mindedness abounds in happiness. Physical or sensory pleasures are far below it in moral value. When we help someone in alleviating his sorrow, we experience ecstasy. As we learn this art of deriving fulfillment from service to others, the desire for physical pleasure loses its edge. Physical pleasures last for a short while. The pleasure diminishes with the passage of time, ultimately leading to utter aversion to object of pleasure. Compared to this, the joy derived from service has a lasting value.
When our pleasure is desire-oriented, the ultimate result is ennui. However, soon fresh desires get generated. This vicious circle continues. It can be broken if we seek inner and stable joy which grants us tranquility.
The person rendering service to others attains a chaste feeling, a sort of sanctity shorn of selfishness. His happiness is not dependent on outside factors, but comes from within himself. The serving person, becomes a “Yogi” in a certain way. The higher the dedication to service, the truer the elimination of cravings. One sacrifices all and retains nothing for himself, one becomes a Vitraga (a true ascetic). In the spirit of service, physical pleasures and selfishness taper down and ultimately disappear. Blessed with this noble approach, perks, intellect and power are harnessed to charity. Service gives us the power to renounce. Such a welfare-minded individual seeks nothing for himself. He is neither abject nor arrogant. He does not even wish to be acclaimed as a philanthropist or social servant.
In commentary of Avashyak Sutra, Acharya Hari Bhadra refers to Lord Mahavira. Haribhadra stresses that following his principle, is akin to his adoration. The person who serves the sick and distressed is truly glorious. There is spiritual progress in the path of service. Service is also good for the person who wants to practise “Sadhana” or spiritual pursuit. It has been said “Sevadharmo paramgahno Yoginamapi agamyam,” implying that service to others is indeed difficult and none-too-easy even for the Yogis.A person rendering service has to cultivate equanimity and sacrifice his pleasures. While serving the diseased, one has to get over repugnance of all kinds and attend on the patient, though he is exposed to all sorts of contagion.
It is not correct to assume that only the rich can render service and not the poor. The Jain religion prescribes service of nine types viz. through food, water, clothing, vessels, providing rest, thinking well of others, noble utterances, rendering service through body, humility and sacrifice of ego. While the first five items relate to material objects, the others relate to the mental attitude one owns. Each one of us is certainly equipped to serve according to the edict.
While an epicurean hankers after material objects, the entire world adores a true philanthropist. Real joy lies in giving and receiving love. Serving the poor and the needy is indeed service of God. Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira served the masses and thus acquired greatness. One who is moved by the sorrow of others, alone, can render service. When the sorrow of others becomes ours, our own sorrow gets relegated to the background. Love flows forth and overwhelms us with true joy.
Through a spirit of service, one’s shortcomings bid adieu. The outcome is peace, freedom and tranquility. We are prompted to serve others when we grow indifferent to our cravings. This spirit of service eliminates epicureanism and sharpens our sensitivity. Sympathy and generosity for others get generated.
Service should not be rendered for the sake of fame or honour. One has to guard against this moral shortcoming.
A generous person does not retain his wealth only for himself but distributes it for the welfare of others. Generosity, thus, gives birth to love for others. A homogeneity is created which puts an end to skirmishes. Conflicts can be resolved, through generosity of spirit. An added bonus of service is that the recipient also gets inspired to serve others.
A generous person never thinks ill of others. He cherishes the happiness of others and gets moved by their sorrow. Service can be rendered only by a person who empathizes with others. While rendering service, one brings joy to oneself. Service and generosity provide lasting happiness. Vices get rooted out and fresh desires do not crop up. Generous people are above tension, inferiority and conflict. Their hearts are full of love and compassion.
Modern psychology has given us the principle of ” Udattikarana” (sublimation). It implies sublimation of all that is base in man. The sole mode is to engage oneself in service to others. As an example (implying nothing against remarriage of widows) in the case of a child widow, a child can be given to her for bringing it up. The natural physical urges sublimate to kindness and affection. If service is directed towards the diseased, bad vibes diminish. Service in fact, dilutes them and converts them into positive vibes, like friendship and love. The moment one engages in the service of others, one’s own sorrows are forgotten.
The person rendering true service does not desire anything in return. He devotes his entire life to others. Not that it is a sheer investment with little reward : such a kind soul never suffers impoverishment nor regrets. To seek to be prosperous is to be wantless. A humanitarian is truly rich.
Through service, several things can be altered. A didactic person can please others by his utterances and thereby create love. A gourmet can share sumptuous dishes with others. An epicurean can divert his urges God-ward. Destructive tendencies can be converted into positive qualities which fructify in affability.
Service implies broadcasting one’s joy and share the sorrow of others. By sharing his joys, his addiction to pleasures gets dissolved and by serving others, his own sorrows are overcome. Material pleasures get replaced by indestructible love. The happiness of the receiver also makes the philanthropist happy. Much mutual love is generated in the process. Materialism gets eliminated and life is pervaded with love.
Bondage to senses leads us to inertia. The person seeking pleasure in the senses is unconcerned about the sorrow of others. He is heartless, devoid of humanity and leads an animal life.
Humaneness gives rise to several other qualities. It leads us to compassion, generosity and service. A life devoid of compassion and service goes against the grain of human nature.
Welfare consists in rendering service rather than receiving it. A person receiving service becomes indebted to the person rendering service to him. The way to discharge off this debt is to serve others. When beneficiaries cease to exist, even then their happy memories revisit us and grant us reprieve from our melancholy. Remorse and repentance do not trouble such philanthropists.
Freedom from bondage is “Mukti”. Bondage makes us dependent and attached. If we are able to overcome it, dependence vanishes and we acquire freedom.
Groups of individuals constitute a society. Society reflects the character of the individuals constituting it. An individual’s faults and qualities creep into the society. The jubilant spirit in any society lies in affection and service to others. In the absence of such distinguished virtues, a society becomes a group of selfish individuals. Thus service is an essential ingredient in the constitution of a good and healthy society.
In a good society, rights of everyone are protected. This is possible when there is a sense of duty, generosity and goodwill, inhering its members. When individuals with these qualities constitute a society, it reflects health endowed with character. The relationship between an individual and the society is the same as that between a gardener and a garden. The individual is the gardener and society is the grove. If the gardener neglects the garden, he punishes himself. However, a spirit of service produces benign individuals and a good society.
Selfishness goes against the grain of a healthy society. The animal world has no observable society. The basic social norms are co-operation and service. The more potent the spirit of humanity and service, the nobler the society. Service always leads to widespread welfare.
Basic religion lies is shedding our vices. Renouncing certain objects is only symbolic. Unless vice is eradicated, all endeavours are futile.
Rendering service to others gives happiness. Rendering service for fame may be permissible, but unattached service is truly triumphant. Here, no returns are expected.
The spirit of service hits at the roots of our slavery to objects of pleasure and purges out bondage. As we get rid of the slavery of pleasure, we discard all remnants of dependence and win emancipation.