In 1975, Swami Satchidananda was asked a question about how to avoid getting so caught up in spiritual bliss, that we forget about the social and ecological problems in our world. The person asking the question really wanted Sri Swamiji’s advice on how we best can utilize our energy to improve the material plane in which we live. The question, and the answer, seem especially timely today…

Certainly the purpose with which we come here, or with which we are sent here, is to serve others. We have no business of our own here. But to serve others, you should first prepare yourself, and that is very important. For example, when students go to college they are more or less preparing themselves to serve others. So we should know how to serve.

Recently, someone took a photograph of me. They used the flash, but then covered the entire flash with their own fingers when taking the photo. That photographer certainly was not going to get anything but a dark photo; the entire flash was useless in that case. This is just one small example of how you should know how to do things and how to use things. Having an education is very important before you go to do anything.

In the same way, our main purpose in Yoga is not just to be tranquil, peaceful, enjoy the bliss, and do nothing. If that is so, there’s no difference between us and a rock. The rock is always blissful. You can see that it’s well balanced and it doesn’t worry about pleasure or pain. Somebody can jump on it or there can be complete chaos all around but it is unaffected. However, there is a difference between the rock and a yogi!

The idea in Yoga is to first keep your mind well-balanced. Keep the mind steady and then go into the any field to serve. If you see that there are a lot of problems in the world, and your services are needed, it’s very important that you prepare yourself before you go. Otherwise you are not really going to help them much and, instead, you might also get caught in all the confusion.

The whole world is for our enjoyment, for our use and not only to possess things, but to learn from them. The world is not there for anyone to grab and then call it “mine.” The whole world is public property, like a university lab. If you are a student, you just go there, carry out all your experiments, and get experience. You try to finish your work and leave the lab without breaking any test tubes or beakers. The whole world is like that but there are also some lab supervisors. You just can’t go and pick up anything you want and do your experiment. For example, you should go to the custodian of the lab and ask, “Can I have a beaker, a few test tubes, and the blow lamp?” That person gives it to you and when the job is over you give it back and the custodian cleans it. In this analogy of a laboratory, the people who are the caretakers of the lab are like our politicians. Politicians are elected by the people to represent them and have the interests of the whole country as their focus. They should not think that they can own everything or their political party is the only thing to be concerned about and not consider the good of the whole country. If they begin to do that, than they are not fit to take care of things and you should work to change those politicians through your voice and your vote.

Politicians and our government representatives are custodians. They are elected to lead and to direct everything. We even have a custodian in our bodies and it is called the brain. The brain directs and all the limbs follow. But if an individual limb does whatever it wants, then there’s no coordination, there’s no rhythmic movement or harmony. So, there are a few people who could be called the brain of the community or the country. They are supposed to coordinate. They should see the overall picture and then they should decide who needs what. There may be a small itch at the arm and also a big wound at the toe. The brain will tell you that the itching can be taken care of later; priority should be given to the bleeding wound. That doesn’t mean that the brain is more attached to the toe and is ignoring the arm. So, the few people who are called the rulers or the politicians, are like the brain of the country. There should be neutrality on their part toward everything. They should think that they are serving everyone and that they do not possess anything.

If the rulers or the politicians think that they are serving the people things will go better. Because in one sense, nobody can possess anything in this world because no one brought anything into the world. We all came as empty-handed individuals. The body is not even ours but was created by our parents and belongs to nature. The mother can have a kind of claim over it, and that’s probably the reason that ultimately the great mother, or Mother Nature, claims us in the end. She takes the body that belongs to her, and then you leave that, and go.

So, we need good stewards in the world and self-preparation is very necessary for service later on. The best preparation is to learn to keep your mind well-balanced, steady under all conditions, so that you will have presence of mind in all circumstances. Whether you are a businessperson, a judge, a police officer, or a politician—whatever area you serve in, you should not get carried away mentally, in difficult situations. You have to keep the mind steady so that you can think well and come up with solutions quickly. That is the purpose of Yoga. Somebody may say to you that the world is an illusion, not real, and so they are not interested in getting involved. They  just want to enjoy their peace and bliss. Personally, I feel that kind of attitude is not Yoga. The world doesn’t need that kind of peace.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda