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!

Get off that “ledge” and get going…

Last night I watched the 1993 Hollywood action movie Cliffhanger. In the movie, Gabe, played by Sylvester Stallone, is a mountain rescue team member. When attempting a rescue mission, across from a ledge on a mountain top called The Tower, Gabe is unable to save Sarah, whose harness breaks and she falls 4000 feet to her death. Gabe is unable to forgive himself and vows to never attempt another rescue in his Life. In fact, he gives up climbing. Eight months after Sarah’s funeral, Gabe comes to pick up his belongings from his girlfriend Jessie’s place and asks her if she too will go with him. Jessie is livid and distraught that Gabe’s gone into a shell and is grieving with guilt. She tries to talk to him, invites him to move on while explaining to him that it wasn’t his fault! But Gabe refuses to accept her point of view. In one final, desperate attempt to make him see reason, Jessie screams at him. She says: “If you don’t forgive yourself, let go and move on, you will be on that ledge forever.
Metaphorically, many of us are on our own “ledges” too. Often times, we make Life choices that backfire or even blow up on our face. It’s important we recognize that making mistakes, judgment errors, is an integral part of growing up. Almost with every wrong call, the realization that it was indeed a wrong call is instantaneous – as soon as it fails or bombs! Within ourselves, we know that it didn’t work out. And we know for sure that it was our __ the individual’s __ mistake. But we will not want to admit it, and instead prefer to grieve with guilt, pretty much like Gabe, because it “feels good” to take the “higher moral ground”. Well to sit on a perch, even if it made from a mountain of guilt and self-soothing morality, is good for a while. But how long can anyone be up there? And how long can anyone be carrying the burden of a past guilt? At one time or the other, you have to climb down, you have to set down your guilt, free yourself, and move on. If you don’t do that, you will be depressive and will suffer endlessly.
Today is Kshamavani– the Forgiveness Day, per the Jain calendar. Mahavira taught that forgiveness begins with the Self. Unless you forgive yourself for your mistakes, your transgressions, your anger and your ego, you cannot forgive others. And if you don’t forgive others you are a breeding ground of more hatred, more anger, more himsa (violence – violent thought). The Jains use a very beautiful phrase to practise and propagate forgiveness: Micchami Dukkadam. It means ‘May all the evil that may have been done be fruitless’.
Today’s a good day to make an intelligent choice. To forgive. Begin with yourself. Let go of all resentment. And let all the himsa in you, turn into ahimsanon-violent thought. Get off that “ledge”, learn to forgive, if possible forget, and move on! You, surely, will live happily ever after!

To be compassionate is being human

If there’s something you want to learn in Life, learn to be compassionate.Compassion is the purest form of love. When you have something to offer, something to give – out of a deep understanding of the other’s predicament or need, out of purely being human, without really worrying about what’s in it for you! When you pity someone, you don’t really understand that person’s situation. You merely feel an emotion that makes you feel superior than the one that you are pitying – which is, in a way, you feel subconsciously good within you that you are mercifully not in that person’s shoes. Compassion, on the other hand, helps you relate to the other person and gets you to see the world from that person’s situation and act from that reference point!
Devi, Sharma, Khan, Azmi – Being Human!
Pic Courtesy: The Indian Express
This morning’s papers in India have led with the story of two women who offered their kidneys to each other’s husbands in order to save their lives. These women are as disparate as you can find any two – age-wise, social-strata wise, education-wise, income-group-wise and religion-wise. Yet they reached out to each other and in the name of humanity offered to help each other. Fitraus Azmi, in her 20s, from Aurangabad, gave her kidney to save the Life of Uma Devi’s (in her 40s) husband, Devaki Nandan Sharma (52), who hails from Patna. And Devi, in turn, gave her kidney to Azmi’s husband, Mohammed Akhtar Khan, 29. The entire operation, in fact four of them, has been successful and has given the two men another lifeline from the acute renal failure situation that both were faced with. In a world where religion divides people, here compassion has brought them together. And how!
I am reminded of what Osho, the Master, has once said: “In compassion, you simply give. In love, you are thankful because the other has given something to you. In compassion, you are thankful because the other has taken something from you. You are thankful because the other has not rejected you. You had come with energy to give, you had come with many flowers to share, and the other allowed you, the other was receptive.”
Giving compassionately, contrary to popular sentiment, is not at all difficult. Though many will submit that getting rid of the what’s-in-it-for-me question is well impossible. To get over that limiting thought, to scale that hurdle, remember these (relevant) words from the Gita Saram (Essence of The Bhagavad Gita):
“…What did you bring with you, for you to lose it?

What did you create, for it to be wasted or destroyed?

Whatever you took, it was taken from here.

Whatever you gave, it was given from here.
Whatever is yours today, will belong to someone else tomorrow.
On another day, it will belong to yet another.
This change is the Law of the Universe.”

To be liberated, therefore, be compassionate, be human – give freely!

The art of living is truly about the art of giving…



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!