Wednesday 1 May 2024

Selfless Service

  - Eknath Ranade (Yuva Bharati, Special Commemorative Volume, 1978, July)

In all human activity, including social service, there is seldom anything done without any any expectation of return. Give and take seems to be the principle governing all human endeavors. If it is not money or pleasure, it may be name or fame or power or the ego-satisfaction that the giver may be expecting in return, as in the case or many donors of charities or doers of other works of public good involving even hardships and tribulations to themselves. In short, almost invariably, the giver hopes to become the beneficiary in some way or the other, along with the one to whom service is rendered. Though such an act of service does not qualify for being called selfless service, it does cease to be service simply because the doer also stands benefited. Such service may still be regarded valuable. It is at least as good as trade where one does not mind paying the price or the charges for the commodity procured or the service rendered.

Different Categories

Then, what precisely constitutes selfless service? Before examining it, let us take into account all well-known categories of social service. To give food to the hungry, medical help to the sick, information or elementary secular knowledge to the ignorant and to help those who have been denied the primary needs of the body and mind are the acts that generally go by the name of service.

To impart education and training to people, to make them self-reliant in the fulfilment of their social needs is also considered a significant act of service. But, to give enlightenment and inward illumination to man, cleansing and strengthening the instruments of understanding and action to qualify him individually and socially to attain real happiness is the supreme act of service.

A New Social Order

There is one more field of service of still wider dimensions. It is to participate in all endeavors towards building up at some place on the face of the earth, a new social order providing abundant opportunities for each of its constituents, not only to meet all the basic needs of the body and mind but also the needs of the spirit, paving the way for progressive elevation and attainment of real happiness.

Any of the above mentioned or similar acts of service for the benefit of the fellow-beings, done without expectation whatsoever of gains in return, is alone qualified for being termed selfless. As distinct from the rule of give and take usually operating in all human affairs, absolute giving should be the principle governing selfless service.

What actuates the people, one may ask, to do selfless service. It may be said that it is the knowledge that such an act, alone gives a sense of fulfilment and elevation, helping one transcend the body-mind- ego complex that generates various desires, gross and subtle.

The Right Attitude

While trying to transform oneself into a fit instrument of selfless service, one has also to adopt a proper attitude One should not fall a victim to the notion that there is something seriously wrong with God's creation and, for the world's betterment, one has to improve upon the divine scheme of things. One should know that the so-called good and evil in the world is inextricably mixed and evenly balanced. We have, therefore, to accept both, good and evil, as if in a package deal. For example, the eradication of illiteracy may remove one kind of evil but may give place to another evil of equal magnitude. One should, therefore, get rid of the fanatical view that a certain formula, if introduced, would take the world to millennium. Good and evil are the obverse and reverse of the same coin. While working, for the public good, according to one's light, one should use one's muscles, both, physical and intellectual, give a good account of oneself, as one does while playing a game of chess or solving a mathematical problem. This is the right attitude while doing selfless service.

When service is rendered with this attitude, considering oneself as an instrument in the hands of God, it becomes virtually a worship of the divine. If one is able to do it, one's whole life becomes a yajna.

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मुक्तसंग्ङोऽनहंवादी धृत्युत्साहसमन्वित:।
सिद्ध‌‌यसिद्धयोर्निर्विकार: कर्ता सात्त्विक उच्यते ॥१८.२६॥

Freed from attachment, non-egoistic, endowed with courage and enthusiasm and unperturbed by success or failure, the worker is known as a pure (Sattvika) one. Four outstanding and essential qualities of a worker. - Bhagwad Gita : XVIII-26

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