You have to recognise that life is meant for selfless service and not to be lived for selfish purposes. Only through such service can the oneness of mankind be experienced. Unselfish service is the sheet-anchor of Karma Yoga (the Yoga of Action). The basis of yoga is disciplining the mind an dthe body through disinterested service.
Society honours only the persons who serve society. Such persons
earn the grace of God. Every individual has to realise the paramount importance
of slefless service. The spirit of service should be coupled with readiness
for sacrifice. Only then it can be called selfless service free from any
taint of self-interest. Such service lends savour to life.
However eminent a person may be, he has to realise that the mainn purpose of life is to render dedicated service to one's fellowmen. The realtionship between mother and child, preceptor and disciple, God and devotee is based on mutual dependence. There cannot be a child without a mother, a disciple without a teacher, a devotee without God. Each is associated with the other in an inextricable bond.
One should be prepared to serve others than choose to be served by them. Moreover, there is nothing meritorious in serving those who are high above us. For one thing, they can command the services of attendants. Rendering service to those who are in the same position as ourselves is also not commendable. Service should be rendered to those who are worse than ourselves ad who are neglected by the world.
There are three levels of people in the world. At the highest level are those who may be placed in the category of Lakshmi-Narayana. Those who are in the same stage as ourselves are in the category of Aswatha-Narayana. Those who are poorer than ourselves may be described as Daridra-Narayana. There is no need to render service to one who is Lakshmi-Narayana, as there will be servants to take care of him. Aswatha-Narayana is the type of person who is filled with desires and is never contented, whatever his accomplishments or earnings. Service to such persons is unnecessary. It is the weak, the destitute and the helpless who need to be served. Even in rendering service to such persons, there should be no feeling that we are serving "others". We should feel that we are serving the Lord (Narayana) who dwells in them.
When service is rendered in a total spirit of dedication, with concentration
of thought, word and deed, the heart gets sanctified. Without purity of
heart there can be no spiritual progress.
Pre-occupation with one's own welfare and happiness is the bane of the dualistic mentality. It breeds discontent and sorrow. Feelings of attachment and aversion sully the mind and only through service can such a mind be purified. External observance like bathing several times a day and smearing Vibhuti all over and mouthing mantras mechanically will not serve to cleanse the mind of impurities. These are only outward show, with nothing spiritual about them. Transcendental knowledge that can be got through diligent enquiry and steadfast faith and which will help to raise man from the animal level is being ignored today. No effort is being made to acquire this knowledge. Perceiving untruth and treating truth as untruth, men are immersed in accumulating ephemeral objects considering them as permanent. Men must get out of this narrow groove. They must outgrow their selfish tendencies and learn to regard the whole of mankind as one family. This is true service. Few have such a large-hearted approach today.
The first requisite, therefore, is to get rid of all the bad thoughts, the selfishness, pride and other undesirable qualities from the heart so that the spirit of love can find its rightful place in it. Only a heart filled with love is pure and holy. Hence, you should take up service activities in a loving spirit. You should not be concerned about name or fame. Fame is not a commercial product or a commodity that can be got from someone. It flows spontaneously like a river, which starts in a small way, but gathers volume as it goes along. Do not go afetr name or distinction. Concentrate your mind upon achieving your objectives. Fill your heart with love and engage yourself in service. The man who cannot do service to others is no man at all.
But each should take part in service activity according to his ability, equipment and field of work. Any individual may offer worship and engage in spiritual activities according to his preferences. But, in my view, the merit to be gained through service is greater than what can be got through these religious observances. (Neither by penances nor baths in sacred waters, the study of scripture nor through meditation can the ocean of samsara be crossed without rendering service to th good.)
Whatever pligrimages we may undertake, our hearts hanker only after worldy objects and hence no cleaning of the heart occurs. The individual quest for his liberation (Mukti) is self centred. This is not right. One should strive to help others also to achieve liberation. This is true service. Few have such a large-hearted approach today.
Offer service and receive love. This is the recipe for experiencing Divinity. But today service is not offered wholeheartedly. Few render service with love and hence receive God's grace. Even their love is self-centered and is not all-embracing. Our love should not be confined to our kith and kin. It must extend beyond the family to society as a whole, then to the nation at large, and finally embrace the whole world.
This is the implication of Buddha's call: Sangham
saranam gachchaami. Starting from the intellect (Buddhi) one
should go beyond the intellect to "Sangham" society. This way,
the oneness of the individual and society is realised. But mere recognition
of membership of society is not enough. One has to recognise and discharge
through service one's obligations to society. That is the implication
of the prayer: Dharmam Saranam Gachchaami.
Doing service in the right spirit is Dharma.
There are many who claim to be rendering social service. But selfish
motives are present even in the field of service. Such selfishness should
not have any place in Sai Organisations. The individual and the society
are one. Wheatever one does for society is also good for him. When service
is done in that spirit, the individual as well as society derive benefit
from it. It may not be easy to cultivate such a sense of identity. But
through persistent effort one can get over the sense of "mine" and "thine"
and identify oneself with society at large. Once the will is there, anything
can be accomplished. The power of a person's sankalpa (resolution)
will outlast him.
It is this kind of selfless, spiritually-oriented service that is needed today. To a world riddled with conflict and chaos, this will provide a climate of serene peace.
Regard yourselves as brothers in a family. But do not stop there. Go beyond kinship to the realisation of Atmic unity. You have to march from the physical (the Annamaya) to Vijnanamaya (the Higher Wisdom) and on to the state of Divine bliss (Anandamaya). Shed completely all selfishness and self-interest and enter upon service activities as the highest purpose of life. Service must become your life-breath. You must become ideal sevaks and set an example to the world.