More On Expressions of Service Part 2
Many current or past ideas of service to others have no connection to God, are seen as direct service to God, or replace any idea that God has an existence beyond humanity. For example, the idea of some in India that "manava-seva is madhava-seva" or that "service to man is service to God." It certainly can be service to God, but that depends on one’s intention and one’s goal in life. Why we do what we do is all important and will determine the karmic or spiritual result we obtain, and the degree of benefit for others. Most every person will appreciate service or helping the poor or downtrodden, and it should be done. However, often these same people will criticize religious or spiritual people who may be focused on the spiritual solution to everyone’s problems. Both helping people materially and spiritually are important, yet from a Godly perspective, the most essential service helps awaken others to their real life. As I mentioned in the last blog, this is a sensitive topic because not everyone understands or agrees upon the purpose of life. Some people think that in the face of untold suffering of many people, spiritual pursuits are a luxury.The Bhagavad Gita would argue that the more people in general are spiritually motivated to serve Krishna and endeavor to see one another (and all living beings) as souls who are part of God, the less scarcity there will be.
A similar concept to seeing service to man as THE service to God, is that idea of the daridra-narayana, or poor Narayana—that God has manifested as the forlorn and destitute. As in many statements, there is some truth in these ideas. It is praiseworthy to stress the importance of taking care of those classes of people that are often neglected or shunned. However, such statements are like slogans to rally people around emotionally, and don’t give the whole truth about the nature of pure spiritual service and the greatness, and all-sidedness of God. Human beings are the only face of God many people know, and if He does exist, it is only an impersonal force, or vague concept. When people learn about the personal nature of God, this changes how they see others and the world. Everyone is viewed as an eternal soul, part of God, and the world is seen as His energy and property. Factually, Krishna is in the heart of the poor and rich, black and white, fat and thin, young and old, India and American. He is the supreme benefic force and friend of all, and everyone should be served with this understanding.
The Vedic literature encourages higher and higher methods of giving service, from actions motivated for material benefit like recommended fruitive activities, sacrifices, and worship of the demigods, to completely selfless actions lovingly given to Krishna. The twelfth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita gives us a short synopsis of levels of service, from the highest remembrance of Krishna in loving service to basic giving to others. Such recommended services are considered different sacrifices of money, time, etc. for a good cause. The point is, to begin to serve and to give to others. Continuing such service will create piety for religious understanding and association with saints from whom we learn of the importance of service to God. Human life is meant to be progressive through improved service, with increasingly purer motivations, to better and better causes. The ultimate and best cause is Krishna’s service, and to those who are dear to Krishna, his pure devotees. Animals and animal-like human beings only do the minimal survival service, while the self-realized devotee’s entire life is based on loving devotional service.
Material altruism is a beginning expression of the spiritual urge to serve God and should be encouraged. When our giving and serving is a natural outcome of who we are spiritually becoming, we can sustain our service without burning out from overextending ourselves, as so often happens in the helping professions. If we are blessed selfless service to others will lead us to spiritual service, which adds God to the equation by dedicating our efforts to Him. Thus, the more spiritually aware we are, the more we serve others in way that fosters their spiritual awakening, or dormant nature to be a servant of Krishna. In the course of our day of work and service, being kind, generous, and respectful to others is good for us, and encouraging to others. Being a good devotee also means being a lady or gentleman. (finished in part 3)