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!

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!

You are what you do

A common question asked of people in social circles, especially when people are meeting each other for the first time, is, “What do you do?” A normal answer to the question would be to say that “I am an engineer or a doctor or a lawyer or entrepreneur or musician or actor or politician.” Given the myriad new vocations available to people, it would hardly surprise anyone to receive a reply that says, “I am a movement therapist or a sound engineer or survival coach or garbage expert.”

So, is that all that people do? Work?

No. Not really. A large mass of people actually worry. A lot others fear. Several more suffer. Which explains why, there is so much suffering, so much disease, so much anxiety and so little peace, love and humanity in the world!

Think about it. How beautiful it will be if we actually heard any of the following answers to that question__what do you do?__:

  • I serve
  • I spread cheer and happiness
  • I champion peace
  • I care
  • I love

Ironically, in an increasingly, wildly, virally, connected world, while the distances between continents are shrinking, the distances between people are only growing. When people are so busy worrying and suffering, running a rat race to earn a living, where is the time they have to live, let alone serve, care and love?

But it is possible to live, serve, care and love. Mother Teresa taught the world how this was possible through her Life and her work. I remember a 1989 interview that she gave TIME magazine’s Edward Desmond. Desmond had asked Mother some unusual questions. And she answered with remarkable candor and love. Her answers serve as her key teachable points of view. Here are some excerpts relevant even today and, more so, in the context we are discussing.

TIME: Does the fact that you are a woman make your message more understandable?

Mother Teresa:I never think like that.

TIME: But don’t you think the world responds better to a mother?

Mother Teresa:People are responding not because of me, but because of what we’re doing. Before, people were speaking much about the poor, but now more and more people are speaking to the poor. That’s the great difference. The work has created this.

TIME: Humble as you are, it must be an extraordinary thing to be a vehicle of God’s grace in the world.

Mother Teresa:But it is His work. I think God wants to show His greatness by using nothingness.

TIME: You are nothingness?

Mother Teresa:I’m very sure of that.

TIME: You feel you have no special qualities?

Mother Teresa:I don’t think so. I don’t claim anything of the work. It’s His work. I’m like a little pencil in His hand. That’s all. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do with it. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used. In human terms, the success of our work should not have happened, no? That is a sign that it’s His work, and that He is using others as instruments – all our Sisters. None of us could produce this. Yet see what He has done.

TIME: Is materialism in the West a serious problem?

Mother Teresa:I don’t know. I have so many things to think about. I pray lots about that, but I am not occupied by that. Take our congregation for example, we have very little, so we have nothing to be preoccupied with. The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give. But the less you have the more free you are. Poverty for us is a freedom. It is not a mortification, a penance. It is joyful freedom. There is no television here, no this, no that. This is the only fan in the whole house. It doesn’t matter how hot it is, and it is for the guests. But we are perfectly happy.

TIME: How do you find rich people then?

Mother Teresa:I find the rich much poorer. Sometimes they are more lonely inside. They are never satisfied. They always need something more. I don’t say all of them are like that. Everybody is not the same. I find that (kind of) poverty hard to remove. The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.

TIME: What are your plans for the future?

Mother Teresa:I just take one day. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not come. We have only today to love Jesus.

Mother Teresa’s answers actually awaken us to a whole new opportunity spectrum, a new possibility. Which is, to be an instrument in Life’s hand, to serve a higher purpose, to touch another Life and make a difference. If you take stock of the amount of time you spend worrying about and berating your circumstances or fearing yet-to-be-born consequences, you will discover just how much of your Life you have wasted and continue to waste. If you are feeling an emptiness suffocate you, it is because what you do day in day out has stopped being meaningful. Being a bread-winner and provider is not the only thing you are both capable of and created on this planet for. There’s more you can do. The spirit of Mother Teresa’s Life can guide you if you want it to. You don’t always have to invest an entire lifetime serving others. But you can make your lifetime meaningful by devoting some of your time daily or weekly or even monthly, to eradicating the hunger for love and understanding in your circle of influence. Instead of being obsessed with earning, providing for and protecting your flock, you can spread your wings, embrace a few causes close to your heart and offer yourself and your time to create value among them.  

Then you will find your response to the “What do you do?” question far more answer-worthy. This is how you learn to love Life and live it fully. This was the message and spirit of Mother Teresa’s Life. This Women’s Day, celebrate that spirit. Do create value, do touch a Life, do wipe a tear, do feed a hungry soul, do educate a child, do smile at a stranger__do make a difference. Because, remember, you are what you do. If you worry, you will be worry. If you suffer, you will be the suffering. If you love, you will be the love. And if you deliver happiness, you will be happy!

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!