Monday, July 11, 2011

SERVICE AND NATION BUILDING

An extract of the lecture delivered by Amirapu Natarajan at Computer Sciences Corporation India Pvt Ltd, Building 7, Raheja Mindspace IT Park, Madhapur, Hyderabad 500 081 on 21 June, 2011.

Before starting the discussion on Nation building we should know why we should think about the welfare of others and why should we try to help others at all.


To discuss this we will start with a more fundamental problem. What does Man want? Man Wants PERFECTION. He wants perfection in whatever he does. Why does man want perfection? Because PERFECTION GIVES MAN HAPPINESS. Wherever, man achieves perfection he finds happiness, that is why he is always trying to achieve perfection whether he is doing it consciously or unconsciously.

Le us take an example. We sweep a house. It becomes dirty again. We would like to have a house which would not become dirty at all.

We wear a shirt and after sometime it becomes wrinkled. We need to iron it. It would be very nice if our shirt is never wrinkled. That is why we made
wrinkle-free clothing. However, we know there can never be anything that is perfectly wrinkle-free.

Let us see an example at social level. It is about perfection in our relations. We want our relations to be perfect. In fact we spend quite a lot of time planning to make them perfect. But it does not happen. Usually perfection does not come from outside but it comes out of some adjustment which we make within ourselves.

There is a story about Einstein and an actress. I don’t know whether this is real or not but it suits our discussion well. One beautiful actress came and proposed to the great noble laureate Einstein. Among other sweet things which she told him, the most important consideration for accepting her proposal is that their children would get her beauty and his brains! But, the great scientist he was, Einstein was quick to respond, “What if they get my beauty and your brains!?”

There is one more story about James Bond proposing to Brooke Shields. But she flatly refused. We would presume that such a marriage should be perfect. But she loathes the idea of being addressed, “Ms. Brooke Bond”. Things may appear quite trivial but that is how imperfection is built into our system.

After that, the imperfection is more pronounced in its effects at mental level: A simple example is that we keep forgetting things.

We would like to remember things forever. Forgetting makes things very unhappy for us. Because we forget, we commit mistakes and we don’t want that. We want perfect remembrance of all that we see, hear and learn. Of course, there are again exceptions here. We don’t want to remember everything and we try our bit to forget things as well!

If we make a generalization, we want things to work permanently and perfectly, which would make us very happy.

IMPERMANENCE AND IMPERFECTION ARE THE GREATEST OBSTACLES TO OUR CONTINUED HAPPINESS.

Here we can make one more generalization about the goal of life. “Finding that which is permanent and unchangeable is the goal of life.”

Now it is all very easy. Just find those permanent things and you will be happy ever after. But the great dilemma is that we are not very sure, which is permanent and which is not. Our ideas about permanence are misplaced. Looking at impermanent things, we assume they are permanent. We are hypnotized and we have to de-hypnotize ourselves.

Our cell phones, clothes, shoes, houses and everything else – all are prone to change. Change symbolizes impermanence. And whenever they change, in other words, ‘get spoilt’, they produce great misery for us. It is a pity that we are never taught anything of these philosophical questions in our schools. These must be taught, because they alone can give man true happiness and peace and sustain the human society and save it from destroying itself.

People feel that a philosophical outlook takes man away from social life. But that is not true. The Puranas of India are full of stories about integrating philosophy into daily life. Learning the impermanence of life and things makes us better human beings. It frees us from our petty selfishness and allows us to lead a fuller life.

In the language of Vedanta this phenomenon of transience is called MAYA. This maya manifests itself as ‘I’ and MINE’, ‘NENU – NAADI’ (Telugu), ‘MAIN OUR MERA’ (Hindi). The world is full of this. In fact, the world runs on this very idea.

But alas, these ‘I’ and ‘Mine’ are thoroughly impermanent.

Let us see how this works. We buy things for ourselves. We want to get happiness out of them. But they give happiness only for sometime and even that is limited as the gadget would never live up to our expectation. Same is the case with the people around us. This creates a sort of vacuum, as we grow older and try to find joy in higher things.

When we see the world we always find its happiness is temporary. Because the world is imperfect. We know that only perfection can give us real happiness and not imperfection.

Hence, where is true happiness? It lies in going beyond this ‘ME’ and ‘MINE’. It is called EGO in English and AHAMKARA in Sanskrit. We have to reduce thinking about ourselves. Right now we doing it, quite out of proportion.

OK. How to go beyond this ‘ME’ and ‘MINE’?

START THINKING ABOUT OTHERS!


Swami Vivekananda says, “When we learn to work, going beyond this ‘ME’ and ‘MINE’, we will be able to work at our best. We shall be able to show so much influence on others. All the great men knew this and achieved greatness through such work.” Controlling our ego can be termed in simple terms as forgetting ourselves.

Swami Vivekananda says, “There is a great lesson we have to learn in our lives. That is to forget ourselves. Always try to serve others. Through that we will be able to forget ourselves.” Without forgetting himself a man can never achieve perfection.

There are several ways of achieving this. 1. Work (Service) (Karma Yoga) 2. Worship (Bhakti Yoga) 3. Psychic control (Raja Yoga) 4. Philosophy (Jnana Yoga). Doing service to our fellowmen is one of the ways of forgetting ourselves and achieving perfection.

Service is not something that is new to us. We are already doing it in our lives. We do service to our family members and friends. We do service in our jobs by way of helping the nation and improving the lives of our fellow-men. If it is our close relatives and friends, we do not have to give up so much of our ego as they respect us and we feel a sort of belonging to them and it makes our service to them easier. But our lives are not limited to our families. We depend on the society at large for our sustenance and the future of our children depends on the overall well-being of the society around us.

This society itself is a laboratory for us to work and perfect ourselves. We all know that in India there is a lot of scope for us to improve the condition of our poor brethren. Swami Vivekananda says, “The twin ideals of our country are renunciation and service. Improve her in those channels and the rest will take care of itself.”

Gurajada Apparao wrote in his famous poem “dEshamunu prEmincumannA” --- sontha lAbhamu konta mAnuku porugu vAriki tOdu padavOy. “Give up some of your own profit and help your neighbours.” This represents the idea of renunciation and service. Giving up a little of your own interest is ‘renunciation’ and helping your neighbour is ‘service’!

Swami Vivekananda says, “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.”

Swami Vivekananda says, “You will find at last that the easiest way to make ourselves healthy is to see that others are healthy, and the easiest way to make ourselves happy is to see that others are happy.” Swami Vivekananda further says, “No one can be truly free until all of us are.”

SERVICE


What is service? Service is that where one man who feels for the other man and tries to help him to ease his condition. We have already discussed how service to others perfects ourselves and gives us happiness.

Service can be in various ways but should always take into account the need of the beneficiary. A service, which has no use for the beneficiary is useless. “It is foolish to carry coals to the Newcastle."
Swami Vivekananda says, “Do not figure out big plans first, but begin slowly, feel your ground and proceed, up and up... Let things slowly grow.
‘Rome was not built in a day.’”

Swami Vivekananda says, “Do only what is possible under existing circumstances. Gradually the way will open for you.”

What service can we do? What can we give others?

Always think new ideas. Try to give a stamp of your own to whatever you do. Never fear that something may go wrong. Only those who try to do something new, go wrong. But it is they alone that find fabulous success and leave a mark behind.

To be able to do service, we should have something to give, first. Then only we can give! It may be academic help, monetary help, medical help or whatever.

Sit down and plan. “How can we reap the best permanent results out of the small means at our disposal.” The task is gigantic and our means, however great, would never be sufficient.

Swami Vivekananda further advises us: “Calm and study and silent work, and no newspaper humbug, no name-making, you must always remember.”

What are the qualities of a leader: “It is very difficult to take the role of a leader – one must be the servant of servants – and must accommodate a thousand minds. There must not be a shade of jealousy or selfishness, then you are a leader.”

What should be the main thrust of our work? We have to give the nation its lost individuality. We have to teach self-confidence and self-respect. Ours is a great nation and a great culture. Our ancestors are the greatest in the world by virtue of their unselfishness. They gave all their ideas freely to everybody.

Working with children gives long lasting results. The general idea is to always provide them with something to eat, for stomach comes first. Teach them the stories from our Upanishads, Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Inculcate that we have a great culture and that our ancestors are great and we have to build our own destiny. Imitating and aping other cultures like we do now is of no use. Take what is good from them and build your own character. A mango seed grows into a mango tree. It uses soil, water and air to become a mango tree but does not turn itself into any of them. And then, a mango seed produces a mango tree and a neem seed produces a neem tree.

Building character is the greatest service to the nation. In our country people in general are intelligent and talented. But there is always this crying need for developing character. It is the same the world over. A man with great talents and no character is like a Frankenstein. He will be a threat to the society.

'BE AND MAKE' is the motto. First we have to equip ourselves properly and then real work starts.

Swami Vivekananda says, “Unselfishness is more paying. Only people don't have the patience to practice it.”

Thank you!

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