This talk was given by Sri Swami Satchidananda to a gathering of members from the Lions Club and Rotarian Club organizations in Hong Kong.
The main reason behind all the world’s problems is selfishness. Living an unselfish life means that we perform our actions for the sake of others, not for our own personal gain. Yogis are not alone in recognizing the importance of service. The motto of the Lions Club is “We Serve,” and the motto of the Rotarians is “Service above Self.” As long as people live a selfish life and continue to exploit others, there will never be peace.
When we divide ourselves according to country, politics, language, or material things, it means that we do not understand the essence of whatever faith or belief system we adhere to. The purpose of any faith is to unite. When we use God’s name it should be to recognize our spiritual oneness. God is the cosmic peace that resides in every individual and in everything. Until and unless we recognize the Spirit within and around us, we will only have division because we will consider others as separate from ourselves.
We can notice all the differences among us but, at the same time, we should enjoy and respect those differences. We should see the unity in the diversity. This does not mean to look for uniformity because we need variety and this is very well-stated in the saying, “Variety is the spice of life.” But at the same time we should remember the unity. Our motto should be “unity in diversity.”
How and where do we find this ever present unity? The secret is to know your Self; to know your own True Nature. By knowing our own True Nature we can understand that individuals are not different in any way from the Cosmic Source. In the Bible, this is expressed as “Love thy neighbour as thy self” This beautiful teaching means that we should not see our neighbor as essentially different from us but we should see our neighbor as our own Self.
If you are asked to choose an apple from a basket of mixed fruits and if you don’t even know what an apple looks like it will be impossible to choose. You have to know what an apple is before you can even differentiate between an apple and the other fruit. So we have to know who we are and then we can know that, as individuals, we are all essentially the same.
Without this basic knowledge of ourselves, we cannot recognize that which unifies us all. So, the formula here is: Know your Self, see the others in yourself, and then love the others as you love yourself. Achieving this understanding should begin with you: Know your Self. Of course, we also need to recognize the many differences that have when it comes to living a life in the material world: race, ethnicity, roles, gender and so on. But to live a spiritual life, we should talk in term of spirit, and to do that one should recognize one’s own Spirit. That’s why the ancient Yoga sacred texts ask us to question, “Who am I?”
When we use various mottos like “We Serve,” or “Service above Self,” what self are we referring to? Even to serve above the self, one should know the self. That is why our spiritual practices help us to turn within in search of our True Nature or True Self. In the Tamil language, the word for God is “Kaduvul.” It is not a mere name or noun. It is comprised of two words: Go within. The Tamil language is not naming God but telling us that to know God we must go within, to seek within.
Our body, mind, and intelligence belong to us but they are not who we are. We realize our true Self, by not identifying with the little ego self. We are the pure Atman. Our essential nature is always pure, but we don’t see it. We have to have a reflector, a mirror to see. When we look in the mirror it is the reflection that we see. We misunderstand and think the reflection is who we are. But, who we are cannot be seen by the physical eye or understood by the mind; it is to be experienced within.
We have to live in this world with different names, but know that the essential you, the real you is unlimited. You really belong to the whole world, the whole universe. You are just temporarily positioned here in a physical body. And what we call rising above the identification of the limited ego-self can only happen when you don’t think of yourself too much, but instead think of the benefit of others. The minute you begin to think of yourself, you identify with your ego again.
There are many ways we can rise the above the ego-self. We bind ourselves by our the limitations we impose on ourselves, or society imposes. The expanded, universal life, is what is called the divine life. If we think in terms of the whole world, universal love, and universal peace, our understanding expands. This kind of expansion is the real spiritual life. And that helps us recognize our own Self in others. That is the only way to find the peace within and without.
To rise above your limited selfishness do not live only for yourself. Instead, dedicate your actions for the benefit of humanity. Take every opportunity to embrace the whole world as your family and wherever you are feel that everyone is your own very Self. Lead a life of dedication because that will fill your life with peace and joy. If you can do that, then at least the part of the world where you are will be peaceful. That is the way to find peace and joy all over the world.