The spirit to serve, to give, is embedded in each one of us. At the core, all of us humans, are created compassionate. Yet so many of us struggle to give. Because we are worried fundamentally if we will have enough for ourselves. Or we wonder if our support will indeed reach the right hands. Or, at times, we simply don’t have the time to pause and reflect on the plight or travails of another human being, a fellow voyager who is perhaps braving a storm, having a torrid time in Life.
There’s this story of the Zen Master Ryokan, who used to live in the mountains, all by himself. He led a frugal existence – sustaining himself by begging for alms and food in the village at the foothills. One day, he returns from his evening walk, to find a robber in his barren hut. Instead of being angry with the robber and raising an alarm, Ryokan tells the robber that since he has nothing else to give him, he will be happy to give him his robe, the only piece of clothing he has on him. The brazen robber receives the robe gleefully and goes away. Ryokan sits naked that night on the floor of his hut looks up at the moon in the sky, through his open window, and wishes he could have given the robber the moon too! Ryokan personifies the pristine spirit to give, to serve without bothering about the rational consequences of such giving, without expecting anything in return.
We may not have Ryokan’s temperament in us in today’s world where we are all engaged, and entrapped, so materially! But we can raise ourselves to come up half-way, to touch a Life, to make a meaningful difference.
Yesterday, someone we only know as social acquaintances, whom we have never met, reached out and held out a helping hand, gave us a shoulder and a long-distance hug. In the context and situation we found ourselves, it made a huge difference. This gentleman and his wife live in a different continent, miles away from where we live, and yet they took the trouble, the initiative and the interest. “We are doing this with the attitude of seva. Don’t say thank you. We feel happy being useful,” they said.
Seva, in Sanskrit, means to serve without expectation. It means to be selfless while giving. I have understood giving in similar terms as the ability to give when you don’t have to be giving, but you still give, because you want to give.
Let’s be inspired by Master Ryokan’s story and this wonderful couple. Let’s pause and hear the story of a beating heart today. Maybe someone needs our time. Maybe someone needs a hug. Or someone just needs a hot meal. Let’s not wait to be asked. Let’s look around and see what people around us perhaps need – most often it is stuff that they are too shy to even ask for. And let’s give ourselves selflessly. We will find a great quality of inner peace arising within us. Because then we will have discovered that the art of living is truly about the art of giving!