Have you ever stopped to think of yourself as a citizen of the world, a member of the cosmic family?
All things and beings belong to one cosmic family, intricately connected to each other in more ways than we can count.
We in the cosmic family haven’t created this beautiful world; we have merely found ourselves here. This world has come from an unseen cause whom we call by many different names: Source, God, the Creator, Nature, the Universe, the Divine, Higher Self and so on.
As individuals in this cosmos, our existence is completely dependent on an innumerable number of outer and inner natural factors that we have absolutely no control over. These factors are governed by the supreme Source that has infinite intelligence.
Some of the outer factors in nature are the presence of air, water, the earth, the sun, animals, trees, plants, and microorganisms in the soil.
The inner factors are our amazing bodies with inherently intelligent systems that all function to keep us alive and healthy.
Isn’t it a wonder that you are breathing, your heart is pumping, and your stomach is digesting the meal you just ate even as you are reading these words? How does the body know how to keep you alive?
Most of us take these things for granted. We don’t stop to think about the magnificent blessings that the creator of this world has given us.
Instead of living as a conscious member of the cosmic family, most of us live in our own little worlds and nuclear families, forgetting our connection to the world of things and beings around us.
As members of one cosmic family, we all have certain duties and responsibilities to the world from which we have gained so much.
Where can you start?
5 areas of life and your duties to them as a member of the cosmic family
Spiritual teacher, Swami Aparajitananda explains that the Creator sustains and blesses us through five different areas of life:
- Nature and natural resources
- Scriptures and spiritual knowledge
- Elders and ancestors
- Living beings
You can begin by fulfilling your responsibilities in these five areas of life in the yagna spirit. A yagna is any selfless action done for the benefit of others in an attitude of divine dedication.
When a feeling of gratitude to the Divine infuses your actions, they become a yagna or act of worship.
1. Nature and natural resources
The earth, water, air, the sun and fire are examples of natural resources and powers that sustain our lives. In Hinduism and in native cultures, they are deified and worshipped out of gratitude and love.
What is your duty to nature as a member of the cosmic family? You can help to conserve natural resources, and keep the earth, the water and the air free from pollution.
You can use less, re-use, recycle, donate or share what you have. You can help to protect the earth by eating vegetarian
or vegan food thatwill help reduce greenhouse gases, revitalize grasslands and ecosystems. There are hundreds of ways you can help nature and our natural resources.
The point is to offer your choices and actions as gratitude to the Creator. This is what will make your selfless activity into a yagna.
2. Scriptures and spiritual knowledge
Every gadget, apparatus, tool, or vehicle, etc. that you buy comes with a list of instructions or a manual on its use and care.
What are the manuals of how to live life and get the most out of it? They are the scriptural writings that form the basis of the teachings of the major religions of the world.
They reveal the secrets of the universe, God and our true nature. Scriptural knowledge as taught and preserved by spiritual masters help to guide us to our highest purpose in life and the realization of our innate divine nature.
Spiritual knowledge helps to make sense of life and gives us an understanding of our higher purpose.
Without spiritual knowledge we would never know that there is a supreme Truth underlying this world. We would never guess that this Cause is to be rediscovered within ourselves as our own true Self. And we would never learn about the characteristics of our spiritual nature.
Rediscovering our own true nature will bring us the highest happiness and fulfillment in life. Therefore, not only do we have to study and imbibe the lessons in the scriptures, but this spiritual knowledge must also be passed down and preserved for future generations.
Reading, studying, reflecting, writing, sharing and teaching others this knowledge is one of your duties as a cosmic citizen. All this is done as a yagna.
3. Elders and ancestors
Your parents and elders took care of you and brought you up. They were your first teachers in life. They sacrificed a lot to raise you, to feed and clothe you, and to keep you safe. They deserve our love and respect.
You can express your gratitude to the Divine who has brought you your parents by taking care of them when they grow old or are in need of your help.
Multi-generational families are great blessings to the community and younger generation. There is much to learn and grow from each other. When the elders are taken care of well, the community flourishes.
Fulfill your responsibilities to your parents as a yagna, an act of worship.
Every comfort or convenience that we now enjoy is a result of the dedicated efforts and time of people who have shared their ideas, skills and inventions.
Think about the hundreds of things around your own home that have come from the sacrifice of work and time of others—cutlery, crockery, gadgets, tools, appliances, flooring, roofing, clothing, furniture and so on. What about everyday things in the community such as good roads, pavements, cars, buildings, bridges and traffic lights. The list is endless.
Just as others have made our lives easier and more comfortable, we too must think about sharing our time, energy, resources and skills with others.
It is our duty to take care of people who need help. Giving to worthy causes that help to uplift members of the community and sharing your time and skills are some things that you can also do. Even small acts of kindness can contribute to the well-being of others.
Giving back to humanity for what you have received as blessings from God with a feeling of gratitude is also a yagna.
5. Living beings
As the most evolved species on the planet, we are the custodians of its natural resources which includes animals and other living beings.
An Indian saint, Sadhu Vaswani once said that animals are our younger brothers and sisters. We must take care of them and their habitats.
Animals, trees and plants give us food and materials that we can use and enjoy. Animals give us their milk, fur and eggs. In many countries they are still used in agriculture and transportation.
Animals, trees and plants don’t need us to survive, but we do need them. It is our duty as responsible citizens of the world to not abuse or harm them but to take care of them and their habitats.
Taking care of other living beings is the last area of life in which we can contribute to in the spirit of yagna.
Expand your vision as a member of the cosmic family
We all have responsibilities to take care of ourselves and our immediate families, but to be contributing members of the cosmic family, we need to expand our vision.
Let’s say there is a property developer who is facing opposition with his plans to develop and build on some conservation land. He has to choose between making large profits for himself or save the land, the flora and fauna.
As a member of the cosmic family, it is his duty to sacrifice his own selfish desires for the greater good of the world.
Personal concerns take a back seat to higher duties that impact more lives.
Perform your duties in the five areas of life mentioned in this article. Do them in the yagna spirit. Making higher choices becomes easier as you expand your vision and see yourself as a member of the cosmic family.
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