There is a saying, “Variety is the spice of life.” Just imagine if some force could come and makes us all look alike. Everybody would end up six feet tall, the same color skin and hair, the same weight, and maybe even the same gender. Would you want a world like that? Probably, within a couple of minutes, you would become bored. There would be chaos. So variety is there to allow us to have some fun, to enjoy and to play. In spirit we are one; there is no difference in spirit. But in the mind and in the body we vary.

Imagine a father who has four million dollars and he divides the four million equally between his four children. He has given them an equal amount of money, the same kind of car, and the same kind of house. Within a week, do you think they will still have the same house and the same amount of money? No. One child will have run to Las Vegas and lost everything. Another will have gone to Miami Beach and bought a yacht, and maybe the third one will have built a beautiful church in Vermont. The fourth one would have started a supermarket and within a year would have made millions. The father divided the money equally, but could not divide the brain of the children equally. What I am trying to say is that material, physical, and mental equality is impossible and that’s not even the way that nature works.

The only unity is in spirit. But, how are we going to recognize that spirit? Only by first recognizing it within ourselves. By knowing our Self. The Bible says, “Love thy neighbor as thy own self.” How is it possible? To love your neighbor as yourself, you should see your neighbor as not different from you but as your own self. You see yourself in them. Only then, can you love them as you love yourself. Now, what is the requirement to see them as yourself? I will give a small analogy. Imagine that I am giving you several different types of fruit such as a  pear, a banana, and a melon. Next, I ask you to see all the fruits as apples. You will say, “How can I see them as apples. They are not apples.” The reason you say that is because you know what an apple is. If you didn’t know what an apple is you might say, “Okay, I see them all as apples,” but you would be making something up in your mind. Likewise, to see yourself in your neighbor, you should know who you are.

Know yourself first, then see yourself in your neighbor and love them as you would love yourself. The perception begins within. Your eyes should be capable of seeing that. That’s why we have this simple proverb, “Charity begins at home.” But I add on to that by saying that it’s not only charity, even understanding begins at home. You try to understand people from your standpoint. So, probably I should help you understand the word “understand.” Do you know how to under-stand? Understanding means “to stand under.” Stand under where? Under what? If you want to understand something, you should know where it stands, or at least where you stand now. That means: you stand where you are now, or you know your stand, and then you try to understand. Without knowing your stand, you’ll never understand.

Thus, even understanding begins with you. You begin from where you are. That’s why you must know yourself first. Know who you are, where you are, what you are, and then try to understand others; try to know others. Imagine that somebody is walking on the road late at night and they are a little tipsy. If you watch such a person walking a little tipsy and almost falling down, you might think, Oh, poor man. He must be really sick. He needs some treatment. I should call a doctor. Another person who sees the same man thinks, Oh, he must be a night watchman. He stayed late and he just returning home; he is sleepy. A third person says, He drank a little too much. Why should each one form a very different opinion? They see the exact same person. Who would think that he is a drunkard? Someone who know the subject very well. A person who knows sickness will see the man as sick. A watchman who works late at night, will think that this tipsy person is tired and is on his way to a night job. So, understanding begins from where you are. You judge a person from your own level. That’s why, it’s not only charity that begins at home, it is judgement too.

Everything begins at home. If you are filled with hatred in your mind, you hate everybody. If you love yourself, you love everybody. If you identify yourself as a body, forgetting that your true nature is the Divine Spirit within you, you see everybody from the physical level. You identify them according to the size and the color of the body, and you divide them accordingly. You think, so and so is white, black, short, or stout. That is your physical vision. You are a physical person, so you see the physical body of others.

Suppose you are mentally identifying yourself according to all of the ideas that are in the mind. If you are a mathematician, you will want everybody to know at least a little bit of mathematics. If you are an astrologer, you want everybody to know the zodiac signs. If you are a musician, you want everybody to know at least a little song. You see everything from your vision of the mental differences. A philosopher will want everybody to be philosophers. But if you recognize yourself to be the soul, the Self, or the Spirit, then you will see others as that; you will recognize and enjoy the Oneness in all the variations.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda