The spirit of selfless service
The fifth in a series of Swami's discourses on the Bhagavad Gita.
London, England, UK
Our secular world has many laws to regulate us, because when we are not regulated by laws we may kill ourselves, each other and everything else, we may cause awful destruction. Therefore we need to have regulations. The Rishis incorporated these laws in spiritual living for us to practise from our free will. By nature, voluntarily, we will do the right thing; that is what dharma is about. When we do the right thing we will benefit from it and, ultimately, our society will benefit as well. Another type of law is the law that is imposed on us with the police and the army to force us to follow it, but in spite of all these external forces imposed on us, we still do not live peacefully, because our nature is like that. To practise some discipline is essential.
The Vedas state that it is good to have knowledge, that we must have
knowledge, but that knowledge alone is not enough, that we have to enforce some discipline on ourselves, so
that we will become morally and ethically elevated. When we just talk all the time others will not follow, and
we have to put some pressure on so that they will follow. The nature of human beings is like that and that is
why we have so many laws. Therefore the Rishis prescribed dharma, which does not say that we
must not destroy but that all is divine and when we know that all is divine we will not destroy.
It is as simple as that.
The essential teaching of the Bhagavad Gita is to do seva. Lord Krishna said that through that spirit of selfless activities, when we have nothing to gain and nothing to lose by not doing, performing seva all the time to our family, and so on, we attain that height of realization whereby our mind becomes absorbed in God. So we do not depend on anything else. Lord Krishna advises us, therefore, always to perform – with the spirit of detachment – that action which has to be done; then, verily, we attain to the highest perfection. Lord Krishna explained that when we think only about ourselves all the time and forget everyone else, we become bound to things, and as a result of that attachment all kinds of obstacles come into our life. Therefore, this is not the way for mankind to find peace and happiness. The only way we can find happiness is through detachment, because whenever there is attachment there is suffering – attachment is the cause of suffering. And where there is detachment there is peace and harmony, there is everything because with the spirit of sacrifice comes non-attachment. And where there is sacrifice everyone gains. But when we are self-centred – thinking only about ourselves – no one likes us. No one likes selfish people. Lord Krishna said that there is no place in this world for people who do not make sacrifices, let alone a place in the next world. "Therefore," Lord Krishna said, "always perform action with the spirit of non-attachment."
Whatever great people do and accept as authority, others follow. Spirituality is not just talking; it must express itself in our actions and in our attitude. For it is through example that we can teach, not by just talking. Lord Krishna questioned that if the great people also just talk and do not do anything, what will the others be like? The great people are an example to follow, showing others the way they must walk. So we must work for our family, for our society, for our dharma, and by engaging in these types of activities all the time, our mind will become pure. When our mind becomes pure, God will help us.
Often we think that we are the people who are helping, but we are lucky that we
are able to do something. To make a sacrifice is the greatest thing that we can do. As someone said, selfless
service is like a tree – we nurture and water it, and when the tree grows we will enjoy it because we have
seen the tree from the beginning, we have cared for it, and when it blossoms we feel happy. That is real dharma.
The basis of dharma is yajna – to sacrifice. There has not been a great man who has not made a
real sacrifice. When we follow this philosophy of sacrifice, we ourselves become great.