Tuesday, August 25, 2020

We help ourselves, not the world

Our duty to others means helping others; doing good to the world. Why should we do good to the world? Apparently to help the world, but really to help ourselves. We should always try to help the world, that should be the highest motive in us; but if we consider well, we find that the world does not require our help at all. This world was not made that you or I should come and help it. I once read a sermon in which it was said, “All this beautiful world is very good, because it gives us time and opportunity to help others.” Apparently, this is a very beautiful sentiment, but is it not a blasphemy to say that the world needs our help? We cannot deny that there is much misery in it; to go out and help others is, therefore, the best thing we can do, although in the long run, we shall find that helping others is only helping ourselves. (I, 75)

Swamiji must have tried very hard to imprint this idea that ‘we help ourselves and not the world’ on his western listeners. In his book on Karma Yoga he has utilised one entire chapter to describe this very intricate idea. As an example he narrates a very simple experiement he did as a child with some white mice. “They were kept in a little box in which there were little wheels, and when the mice tried to cross the wheels, the wheels turned and turned and the mice got anywhere. So it is with the world and our help in it. The only help is that we get moral exercise”. Continuing Swamiji reminds us that “Yet we must do good; the desire to do good is the highest motive power we have, if we know all the time that it is a privilege to help others.”

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