Serve to connect with the Godliness in you

During the course of a business discussion yesterday, we talked about leaders developing ‘a servant attitude’ towards their teams. A manager present at the meeting wondered aloud: Isn’t projecting a ‘servant attitude’ something negative?
The manager’s premise is symptomatic of what ails society today. We have all become so obsessed with what we get than what we can give. Let’s remember that the larger purpose of being born human is to be able to serve, to touch another Life and to be able to make a difference. But because most of us are caught in this trap of focussing on what we deserve, we rarely recognize the opportunity and potential that exists in each moment, to serve, to create value and to make this world a better place.
To serve, to give, is a blessing. It will enrich the giver immeasurably when the act of giving is selfless and spontaneous. True service is not to be done out of pity, as a charity. It cannot be done to fulfil your ego either – to  ‘feel good’. When you see people serving communities through charities or social service organizations, they are doing immense good no doubt, but much of it is also to ‘earn a good name’. Again that’s not true service. In the context of true service the giver is indebted to the receiver – for having got the opportunity to serve in the first place. This is what having a servant attitude to leadership and to Life is all about. It is being grateful for the opportunity, the experience, to give, to make a difference. In effect, serving is humbling. That’s the reason why almost every religion and scripture celebrates true service as an act of worship, as a means to ‘realize’ God.
I am not sure God exists outside of us. But if an important port of anchor for many of us is indeed God, I can, from my own experiences, share a little secret: You do connect with the Godliness resident in you __ and in all fellow beings __ when you serve, when you offer yourself to, another!

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“Do I deserve this?” – the most futile question in Life!

It doesn’t really matter to, and in, Life whether you deserve something or not. Life will simply keep happening to you. If what you get from Life meets or exceeds your expectation, you exult, celebrate, rejoice, and, often times, even vainly pride yourself for “your” achievements. And when what you get is not what you wanted or expected you lament – “Do I deserve this?” While the ideal state would be to remain unmoved by whatever happens to you, at least, over the years of growing up, it may be a good idea to learn not to grieve over what you get.
To be sure, Life has no principles of “deserving” and “undeserving”. Life operates on a “happening” principle. It just goes on happening. Judging a happening and labelling it as good or bad, or analyzing whether you deserved it or not, is a purely human activity. It is your mind at work. Life is mindless and so simply goes on, happening, from moment to moment to moment.
When you begin to analyze why you ended up with something you didn’t want, and didn’t deserve, you are sure to be consumed by depression and grief. These emotions will ruin your inner peace and drown you in sorrow. They will hold you back from living Life fully.
Laxmi – Commendable Spirit
(Picture – Shanker Chakravarty, The Hindu)
Ask 24-year-old Laxmi from New Delhi. She should know. Today’s Metro Plus in The Hindu tells Laxmi’s poignant story. Being a good singer, she was hoping to participate in the Indian Idol contest in 2005. But in February that year, a man who was twice her age, and whose proposition and overtures she rebuffed, poured acid on her face. The tragedy left her benumbed. Grieving. And lost. It took months of facing Life__feeling angry, helpless, while having to deal with the trauma everytime she looked into the mirror__to “understand” that what had happened to her was permanent and irreversible. That when she decided to battle it out. She moved the courts. The man, who in the meantime had managed to get married and father two children, got 10 years in jail. But Laxmi was not satisfied. She decided to move a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court – which she won recently, that has led to a ban on indiscriminate over-the-counter sale of acid across India. Laxmi tells The Hindu’s Sangeeta Barooah Pisaroty that she’s happy she has “found her voice finally”. And next on her agenda, apart from leading the “Stop Acid Attackers” campaign, is to hopefully get back to her “Life’s ambition” of contesting for the Indian Idol title!
Laxmi’s spirit is commendable. She too, as she admits, went through her “Do I deserve this?” moments. And as long as she was asking that question, she remained stuck. She became a recluse. She was always unhappy. But the moment she stopped asking that question, she found a new meaning to live and a purpose to her Life!
That’s our learning too. Whatever happens in Life, there’s no point asking “Why?” or “Why me?”. Because there are no answers in Life. You get what you get. And you have to accept what you get! Period.

You may have heard this or read this before. But it is pertinent to recall what ace tennis legend Arthur Ashe (1943~1993) is believed to have once said. Ashe was dying of AIDS, which he contracted due to an infected blood transfusion he received during a heart surgery in 1983. While in hospital, he would get letters from his fans, from all over the world. One of them asked him: “Why does GOD have to select you for such a horrible disease?” To this, Ashe is believed to have replied: The world over — 50 million children start playing tennis, 5 million learn to play tennis, 500,000 learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5000 reach the Grand Slam, 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 make it to the semi-finals, 2 get to the finals, and only 1 wins. When I was holding a cup I never asked ‘Why me?’. And today in pain, and dying, I should not be asking ‘Why me?’ either!
Bravo Ashe! Bravo Laxmi!

Offer this lifetime to serve Life!



There is a famous book by one of my favorite authors Robin Sharma titled, “Who will cry when you die?”. I like to ask the question differently: “How will you be remembered after you are gone?

We will all be remembered after we are gone. Make no mistake about that. Have no doubt. The “how” of it is what you__and I__have a choice with. You can either make your lifetime memorable and have people remember you as one who served, who inspired and whose Life is the message. Or you can fade away, as a friend of mine wryly says, having been “a burden on the planet” – having lived a self-obsessed Life and having been totally “un-useful”.

The other day I was, out of sheer curiosity, watching Tamil film actor Prakash Raj host the inaugural episode (his first ever) of the “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” reality show’s Tamil equivalent on Star Vijay. On the show, he celebrated a contestant who had dedicated his entire Life to support a marginalized, tribal community. Prakash Raj then went on to say what a big difference it makes when people reach out and touch the lives of people who are helpless, and in dire need. He narrated his own story of the day, years ago, when his father had passed away. He was a struggling upstart in the Kannada film industry then. He said he did not have any money that day to cremate his dead father. He recalled how, when he sat wondering what would happen, someone came by and bailed him out. Simply out of the blue. It turned out to be noted Kannada star and director Ravichandran. Ravichandran gave Prakash Raj Rs.5000/-, without him asking, and saved him, as he disclosed, “embarrassment and a lifelong burden of guilt”. “I will always be grateful to Ravichandran Sir for what he did for me and will always remember him as a great soul,” said Prakash Raj.

Veer Bhadra Mishra  – Mahant Ecologist
That’s a learning I picked up from the past week on how we can make a difference in an individual’s Life! And then there are those who touch the entire ecosystem. The Hindu this morning carries an obit titled ‘Warrior for a River,’ by Omar Rashid, of Prof.Veer Bhadra Mishra, noted environmentalist and mahant (head) of the famous Sankatmochan temple in Varanasi. Mishra inherited the position of mahant of the temple when he was barely 14, after his father’s death. But he has, since 1982, been involved in leading the Sankat Mochan Foundation, a non-profit, non-political body, that works for keeping the river Ganga clean and free of pollution. Most Indians revere the Ganga and consider it holy. But almost all Indians know that it continues to be among the most polluted and contaminated water bodies in not just India, but the whole world. Mishra’s raison d’etrewas to clean up the Ganga and restore it to its once pristine state. Rashid reports that Time magazine declared him the magazine’s “Hero of the Planet” (1999) for bringing the plight of the Ganga to the world’s attention and inspiring other river activists. “For his commitment to the river, he rightly won the epithet ‘Ganga Putra’ (Son of the Ganga). Varanasi will also remember him for his “Ganga-ethics” and his personal relationship with the river, which motivated him to say: ‘I am part of Ganga and Ganga is part of me.’”, writes Rashid, hoping that the day will come when Mishra’s dream of the Ganga being free of even a drop of sewage will be realized!

All of us have this good gene in us that inspires us to want to work outside of our own myopic view of the world and climb out of our own needs’ spectrum. Yet we are also so very caught up in the whirlpool of seeking deservance that we fail to seize the opportunity to serve. A simple way to get started is to flip the paradigm and stop wanting to be only successful and instead aim to be useful. Stop saying you deserve (more) and instead try to look for ways to serve (more). This lifetime is a gift. And you may want to be remembered for having used that gift judiciously for helping make this world a better place. Offer yourself to serve Life! There’s no other God than Life. There will be no other opportunity than NOW!

Accept what you are served in Life and you in turn serve too!


There will be times in Life when you don’t know what’s going on and simply don’t know how to deal with it. You wonder if there’s a cosmic conspiracy against you! Nothing can be more untrue. Know that Life has no fixed agenda or menu. You get served what Life has laid out for you. And, interestingly, you have no way of knowing upfront what lies in store for you!

 

 

But you__and I__view what we deserve from Life very differently. You always believe that because you are good at heart, ethical, sincere and work hard, you deserve to be treated better by Life. Life, however, has no such ideals. It just keeps on serving what what’s programmed in your design, in your Master Plan. And from Life’s point of view, that Master Plan has no flaws!

 

 

All your grief in Life, from Life, comes only when you question what’s being served to you. Don’t question Life’s design and you will be at peace, perpetually. There’s great value and beauty in not being able to decipher Life or understand its design. Osho, the “spiritually incorrect mystic”, as someone called him famously, says: “The beauty of facing Life unprepared is tremendous. Then Life has a newness, a youth; then Life has a flow and freshness. Then Life has so many surprises. And when Life has so many surprises boredom never settles in you.”

 

 

Whatever happens in Life, whatever, it only makes you stronger and better. While you may not accept this at face value__and you shouldn’t because there’s a great learning in questioning and discovering how Life works through your own journey, your personal experience__an intelligent way to respond to Life’s vicissitudes is to serve before you say you deserve.

 

 

Serving selflessly in Life may not make any change to the way Life deals with you. But it will definitely make you feel better. The problem with expecting to be treated better by Life and demanding that you deserve better is that Life is not going to give you an answer or explain your design to you. When you keep asking questions and you get no answers, indeed, you will be frustrated. Your frustration will eventually lead you to depression and you end up becoming bitter in Life. Instead, immerse yourself in serving others despite your circumstances. It may not resolve your personal situation but will greatly enhance your inner peace.

Stop asking why Life is happening to you the way it is. Instead, make your Life meaningful and purposeful. Accept what comes your way and find ways to serve, make a difference and leave the world a better place than you found it!