Monday 6 August 2018

Sister Nivedita on Love and Charity

Our purpose should be to give fair treatment, encouragement and sympathy for the building up of industrial as well as agricultural activities : for the enlargement and unfoldment of inherent powers, as hitherto, their paralysed energies have proved an inseparable barrier to their material advancement. The path of superstition leads to decay and extinction, while that of evolution opens up the potentialities of a great progress. Every so-called physical condition is a correspondent of a mental state.

One of the curses of civilization is that the great majority of mankind have no chance of getting their lives into proportion, or seeing things in right relation. All their time and efforts are required in maintaining an existence, which is little else than mere physical endurance.

It is hardly credible that in this twentienth century we have still need to learn to read what even the elements of true charity mean, since we so frequently mistake the letter for the spirit, of which it does but shadow forth some fleeting form. For, in defining charity we must assume a corresponding feeling in the exciting cause, by which the notion of charity is excited—a unity which displays itself by showing the correlation of forces, namely, how we are mutually dependent and related. The perception of love is ever the perception of charity, of some identification of the giver and receiver but in order to produce the emotion of charity, this identification must be manifested, and thus the feeling of love is at once evoked.

The receiver and distributor are united in thought, and they form in their totality parts of a whole which constitute the highest relation—the Oneness of all beings. The idea of the union of many parts in one whole, in which all the parts correspond to each other, includes the idea of a mutual operation and of a united feeling exhibited by different persons, which can originate, transmit, and conduct their impressions from one to another.

Every intelligence must recognize the desirableness of this union, and occasionally see practical exemplification, more or less perfect, of it. The contemplation of this union will rouse in us the purest emotion of love and we may be assured that whatever else it is, charity is a sentiment of reciprocity, which in the language of the heart we term love; it expresses every emotion of sympathy and compassion. It should transfigure our religion, transform our social system, and have a purifying effect on mankind. The revelation of love bears the stamp of Divinity within us, and a sense of infinite happiness accompanies the perfect apprehension of its real self, of universal being. The spirit of Truth speaking through the ages, has in different climes, spoken in various tongues. We find it voiced here in the Rishis, there in the Arab, again, in Palestine in the Nazarene, and, in all, the same spirit. (Sure, you will remember Mananeeya Eknathji's view on Seva)

So we see that the body corporate of humanity is affected by an interdependence of action from root to stem, from stem to branch, from branch to twig, and leaf, and blossom, and fruit. We must feed the roots, and by their cultivation will spring forth the ramifying, wide-spreading branches. So long as there is growth, the individual growth, the race may eventually incorporate the product of its growth, in the same way as the tree forms layers of its mighty trunk, which becomes the body for the use of future generations. (And here, Watering the Roots)

Reproduced from the Prabuddha Bharata, January, 1907.

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