Without purity, no spiritual progress is possible. The atman, spirit, is purity. Attain this ever pure atman through the practice of purity in thought, word and deed. Merely sitting in a corner and practising yogic kriyas will not help. You may be able to stand on your head for three hours. You may be able to stop the breath for ten minutes. But this is nothing if you do not have a generous heart. Psychic powers only fatten the ego and move you further away from divinity. They are hindrances on the spiritual path. Purity of heart is the gateway to divinity. Purity is the passport to the land of eternal bliss.
The clue to attaining purity of the heart lies in the three words, ‘serve’, ‘love’, ‘give’. Reflect deeply on these wonderful words. Remember that the salt of life is selfless service, the bread of life is universal love, the water of life is purity. Hence, serve, love, give and become pure.
The first step in the spiritual path is seva, selfless service of humanity. Serving others selflessly prepares the heart and mind to receive the divine light. Meditation or samadhi is not possible without preliminary training in seva. Selfless service is the yoga most suited to the Kali yuga, the present age. Seva leaves no loopholes for maya or ignorance to enter you.
What is the object of seva or selfless service? Serving others helps to develop the human personality. It is the most effective method and sadhana for cleansing the mind and purifying the heart. Negative qualities constrict the heart and leave deposits on the mind, acting as a veil that separates you from others. Selfless service removes the veil and causes expansion of the heart. You begin to feel the oneness or unity of life and develop a broad heart with a generous outlook on life. Therefore, work for the welfare of the whole world. Do all the good you can in all the ways you can, to all the people you can, in every place you can, at all the times you can, with all the strength, love and heart and interest you can, as long as ever you can.
There is so much suffering in the world. Only selfless service can bring solace and strength to those in need. Serve with the feeling that God dwells in all and receives your service as worship. Cheer up one who is in distress. Encourage one who is dispirited. Wipe the tears of the afflicted. Remove a person’s sorrow by loving words. Encourage the helpless and forlorn. Make a person smile when he is in despair. These are all different forms of seva.
Give your whole heart, mind and soul when you serve. This is very important when you practise selfless service. Some people have their hands at work, the mind at the market, the intellect in the office and the soul in their family. This is the reason why they do not make any substantial progress on the path.
Seva does not require wealth, but a willing heart. Be ever ready to serve. Serve willingly, with love, kindness and courtesy. The more energy you spend in elevating and serving others, the more divine energy will flow to you. To live life through seva is to be intimate with life’s innermost secret. At first you feel that you are doing all the work. However, in the course of time, when the heart becomes purer and purer, you will actually feel that a higher power is working through you. You will feel that your body and mind are only instruments in His hands.
He who has no love cannot know God, for God is love. Love is the greatest force in this world. Where love is, there God is. Love is light, light is wisdom and wisdom is divine life.
In the beginning, when the heart is constricted due to selfishness, you love only your spouse, children, a few friends and relatives. As you evolve, you begin to love all. You develop universal love. The heart is infinitely expanded. However, while it is easy to talk about universal love, it is difficult to put into practice. Petty-mindedness of all sorts comes in the way. Old negative impressions act as stumbling blocks. Know that you can overcome all obstacles through will, patience and perseverance. Feel that the whole world is your body, your own home. Feel that all beings are images of the divine. Feel that the one power works through all hands, sees through all eyes, hears through all ears.
One who is established in cosmic love does not shun society. He loves all. He loves the Self that pervades all creatures. Selfless service springs from him as the breath springs from all living beings. When he finds that someone is suffering, he rushes to relieve them, not because he loves that particular person, but because he has realized that his own Self pervades the other person, because the goodwill that fills his heart naturally flows toward a suffering person and endeavours to remove his affliction. This service he renders naturally; it is service for the sake of service, love for love’s sake. It is a love that does not clamour for reciprocity; it is a service that does not look back for appreciation or reward. In this love, in this service, all are equal.
The person who has developed universal love is nearer and dearer to God. He will never hate, abuse or show contempt towards anybody. This kind of love alone is the end and aim of life. Lord Buddha was an ocean of love. Your highest duty is to develop universal love to a maximum degree. If you want to attain perfection, if you wish to enjoy infinite peace and bliss, cultivate universal love by serving and loving all, for love alone will take you to the goal, love alone can purify your heart, love alone will bring you liberation, and love alone can carry you to the other shore of bliss and immortality, the shore which is beyond grief, pain, fear and darkness. Purify your thought, speech, and action in the fire of love. Bathe and plunge deep in the sacred waters of love. Taste the honey of love. Become an embodiment of love.
Apply this test. Does your heart melt at the suffering of others? Has generosity become your very nature? Do you rush to the poor man walking along the street and offer him food? Do you rush to the aid of the sick or injured person lying on the roadside? These are the real tests of spiritual progress.
Most people are very generous to themselves. They will eat the best fruits and offer rotten ones to strangers, neighbours and servants. What small, constricted hearts they have! Always give the best things, the best food, the best fruits, the best clothes to friends, neighbours, strangers, guests and servants. You will derive immense joy, strength and happiness. Put this into practice and realize the benefits yourself. Give up the practice of reserving the best of everything for yourself and giving away stale things to others. Feel that your own self is in others too. Only then will your heart expand.
If you give, the whole wealth of the world will be yours. This is the secret of abundance and divine life. Therefore, give, give, give. Use the material wealth, knowledge and spiritual wisdom that you possess as a divine trust from God to be distributed among His children. Give in plenty without expectation of reward. Take delight in making other people happy. You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give. Give in plenty, you will enjoy peace and prosperity. You will attain purity of heart. You can experience an indescribable thrill of divine ecstasy and spiritual bliss. This will give you tremendous inner strength.
Feel that you are only a trustee of your money. God has given it to you, so share it with others. One who has not shared what he has with others has a poor heart indeed, though he may be a millionaire. Even the man who has nothing to eat is the richest man in the world if he has a large heart and shares what he has. Radiate thoughts of generosity and love. Forgive the faults of others. Bless the one who injures you.
Giving should be unconditional. The donor should not bind the receiver with any condition. Such unconditional giving will greatly benefit the donor for he will have served the world through his giving. Charity is not merely an act of offering certain material goods, but it is charity of disposition, of feeling, understanding and knowledge. Charity in the highest sense is equivalent to jnana yajna, the sacrifice of wisdom. Charity is love in action. A little kindness is often worth more than a great deal of money.
You live in vain if you do not have a generous heart. If you can remove selfishness, half your spiritual sadhana is over. Through selfishness you only create a boundary wall around the members of your family. You always think, “Why should I bother about the welfare of others?” Be a little more patient, a little more forgiving, a little more loving and a little more devoted to service.
Be thirsty to do generous acts daily. Create opportunities. There is no yoga or yajna greater than pure, spontaneous charity. Help the poor, the sick and forlorn. Give to the orphans, the old and the infirm, the blind and the helpless. Give with the right mental attitude and realize God.
May you all attain purity of heart. May you radiate joy, peace and bliss everywhere. May you rejoice in the welfare of all beings. May your minds be fixed on the divine while your hands are in the service of humanity.
~ Swami Sivananada