Seeker: If I am confronted by misery and suffering and find myself identifying with it, what should be my inner attitude? How can I help without getting disturbed or losing equilibrium?
Help as much you can, within your capacity. If you are getting disturbed you are not acting in the right spirit. Then even your help will lose its efficacy. Sympathy is different than losing equilibrium or becoming identified with a person or situation. By your being miserable, the misery of someone else is not reduced or transferred to you. I believe in maintaining one’s peace and helping. Then you can be more beneficial. Let’s say in a hospital, if a surgeon would be mourning with a suffering patient, he would not be able to operate well.
If you are helping someone, the results may not come as you want; often this is the case. That is where the difficulty lies with most people: they want the person to be relieved of the pain or misery, and that is a good wish, but things do not always happen the way we want. How would you meet with this situation? The remedy is to help in whatever way you can but leave the results up to God. The person you are helping may even die.
Here lies the law of karma: each person brings his own karma but that does not mean we should not do anything about it. Whatever the results of your help and the person’s condition, do not take the responsibility on your head, unless you caused the suffering, which is different. If you do this, you will never lose your peace. To help others and lose one’s own peace is no sacrifice since they are not receiving your peace. If they could gain by your loss, it would be different. That is a sacrifice. But where you lose and the other does not gain, that is not a sacrifice. However, by your peaceful demeanor, your peaceful bearing, you can radiate peace to others.
That which is unlimited, such as peace, love and wisdom, there is no need to sacrifice. It is a fallacy if you do that. Have I sacrificed my wisdom in order to make you wise? So do not give up those things that are unlimited. Still you can help wholeheartedly and selflessly with love and sympathy, but not taking responsibility for the other person’s suffering. Then whatever results come, “God, that is your play. I did what I could do.” This is the way to maintain your peace. It is not selfish to be peaceful. Selfishness is when you are taking something away from another. Greed is when you are coveting something from another. Peace is not something you can take from someone in order to have it yourself. If you are trying to do this, you will lose your own peace.
If someone is hungry and has no food, then you can sacrifice a part of yours. But if someone is hateful you can give love. You are not losing it. On the contrary, in such things as peace, joy, freedom, love, etc., the more you give the more you open to receive. The more you are peaceful, the more your peace will grow. That does not mean you should laugh or be callous before someone who is suffering because that will hurt him. If you have caused another to suffer you should apologize, repent and humbly accept responsibility. These are time-tested spiritual laws. We might have forgotten them in our societies but these are eternal laws. You do not have to be scholarly to understand them.
Keep your balance, whatever miseries you see around you; then only can you truly help. You have to keep coolness of mind and concentration in order to help others. An imbalanced mind will not be able to concentrate. If somebody insults you, feel that he is insulting himself. The normal course is to react or take revenge, which creates further disturbance. If you do not accept an insult you have maintained your self-esteem, I assure you. We have a proverb in India: “Those who spit at the sun, it falls back on their face.” These are universal virtues; it has nothing to do with this culture or that. I believe in helping others but not losing my balance. Do not get very emotional. Give love and whatever you can in time, energy and resources. But remember within, “Lord, I am your instrument. The world is Yours.”
Is the completion of karma synonymous with peace or Self-realization?
When you attain Self-realization all karmas end. Relative peace is achieved when your burden of karmas lessens, such as excessive greed, attachments and ambitions. Reducing your burden of karmas helps you to grow into Realization where all karmas end. Then you are spontaneous, Liberated. Unless you reduce excessive karmas you cannot go into deep meditation. Many times we do not go deep in meditation not because we are disturbed but because karmas bring us out. This does not mean sacrificing your duties. When you are performing your duties truly and sincerely you will not be burdened by karmas.
It is not difficult to reduce excessive karmas. We do not want to give them up; that is what makes it difficult. In the beginning it seems difficult, but when you actually do it you will feel relieved. You will feel blessed and thank God. Before that you discuss and disagree and analyze - why should I give up these things? But at the point when you reduce your karmas you will feel better. It needs boldness and courage - Nayamatma balahinena labhyah, from the Sanskrit: “Self-Realization is not for the weak.” Only the bold can do this because they know the principle and purpose involved.
To Know Thyself is the supreme purpose of life. For that Self you are seeking satisfaction. That is why it is wise to reduce karmas. But you say it is impractical. If what we are doing is practical, it should give us peace and happiness - that is the criterion. The very satisfaction and pleasure we are seeking is for whom? For myself. And how can you know yourself when you are burdened with so many karmas? That is why we say to reduce karmas. You reduce karmas when you come back to natural living, when you avoid being overly ambitious, greedy and attached, when you avoid over-indulgence in sensual pleasures.
© 2009 by Truth Consciousness. Excerpted from the Satsang of Swami Amar Jyoti, The Yogic Life (A-49) and a Satsang given at Stanford University in March, 1976. For further information on the recorded Satsangs of Swami Amar Jyoti please see truthconsciousness.org..