We are intimately connected to all life and are essentially one. We are parts of the whole and are meant to live for the good of all and not only for ourselves.
We know this to be true when we look at nature. Nature never hoards but is continually giving and serving to benefit the whole.
We observe nature’s spirit of self-sacrifice and service in aspects such as the sun, the oceans, the clouds, the rain, the earth and the plants and trees.
The sun shines for the benefit of the entire world and takes nothing for itself. The ocean uses the heat of the sun to give up its waters to the atmosphere which form into clouds. The clouds don’t hold on to the waters; they release them to the earth as rain. The earth in turn, gives the water to the plants and trees. The plants and trees produce nuts, fruits and seeds which they don’t keep for themselves but are given up for the benefit of other living beings.
Thus, all of nature is participating in a grand sacrifice.
The most wonderful thing is that as one aspect of nature gives to another, it gets replenished and continues to thrive and grow. For example, even though the oceans constantly give up their waters to the atmosphere, they are never depleted. The same water returns as rain and from the rivers which merge into the oceans.
We are not separate from nature and so, we too, are meant to work in this spirit of sacrifice for the good of others.
When we look at our physical bodies, our senses, and our capacity to think, feel and act, we find that we did not create them, but these were given to us by the creator. In fact, we owe our very existence to It.
Since our life and capacities are our gifts, we dedicate our actions to the divine in a spirit of service and gratitude. This is how we become instruments for the good of all.
When we all live and work with such an attitude, we all prosper.
The advantages of giving and serving
Giving and serving others in the spirit of dedication and gratitude to the divine brings out the best in us and has many advantages.
Since there is no personal hankering to reap the results of actions and all actions are offered up for the common good, the mind remains cheerful and focused on the task at hand. The work becomes inspiring and we gain energy and efficiency in our actions.
We don’t need to wait to gain the results of our actions to be happy because the joy of performing selfless actions comes from doing those very same actions.
Depending on the results of our actions to determine our happiness is unwise because there’s no guarantee that we will get the results that we want or like. What’s more, we postpone our happiness to an uncertain, unseen future instead of experiencing it right now, as we perform the action.
From a spiritual perspective too, there are several gains. Unselfish actions dedicated to the divine…
- Dilute the ego
- Reduce selfish tendencies
- Help to erase our strong personal likes and dislikes for particular results, thereby enabling us to remain calm and equanimous.
- Advance our inner growth and spiritual unfoldment
The sorrows of self-centred actions
When we work focused on our own personal joys, desires and expectations, there is a loss of focus and efficiency and an increase in stress. The ego is strengthened, and the energy of the mind is dissipated.
Why does this happen?
This is because we become anxious to gain what we want and fearful that something or someone will hinder us from getting it. Our ego craves for validation and praise from others. When we don’t get it, we become angry; when we do get it, our ego is inflated.
All these thoughts agitate our mind, and we are unable to experience inner peace.*
Journey of the soul
Aside from these sorrows, there is a more serious repercussion on the journey of the soul. From the soul’s perspective, the attitude behind the work we do is equally, if not more important than the work itself.
Vedanta, the spiritual science of life tells us that it’s our attitude that will determine whether the work will bind us or free us.
The bondage that Vedanta is referring to is a strengthening of the ego that keeps us living as limited humans always seeking happiness and fulfillment in outer things and beings. Freedom is rediscovering our innate unlimited, blissful spiritual nature.
Our actions create impressions in our subconscious which then give rise to tendencies to repeat those same actions.
Selfless and self-centred actions lay down different impressions.
Selfless actions lay down impressions that overwrite previous self-centred tendencies. They free the subconscious mind of agitating thoughts, bring peace, and spiritual evolution.
Self-centred actions on the other hand, add more and more agitating tendencies in the mind. These tendencies prompt us to repeat similar selfish actions.
Since there are too many tendencies to be expressed in the span of one lifetime, we have to keep coming back again and again. Thus, selfish actions trap us in the bondage of birth and death.
Actions done with the attitude of generosity and service help us grow spiritually and will eventually free us from the cycle of birth and death.
Giving, serving and growth
Giving and serving others with the attitude of gratitude and dedication to the divine, brings us peace, spiritual evolution and ultimate freedom.
What’s more, we gain happiness while doing the actions and happiness after the actions are done.
It is a sure path to bring harmony, peace and growth to both our inner and outer worlds.
You can read more about selfless and selfish attitudes in The Secret to Finding Fulfillment in Your Work.
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