[Advaita-l] Question on service and our ego

Navin Rajaram navinr at moschip.com
Thu Nov 11 08:55:39 CST 2004

This is a subject I would like to touch upon briefly and find out what 
everyone thinks.

The word "charity","philanthropy" or "help","service" are used among 
people today. I would like to know what the exact nature behind help or 
service offered is. The reason or motivation behind service or charity 
to humanity is with the notion that a person needs help to get him/her 
out of their misery . However, charity also puts the giver in a position 
where he could use it as an ego booster. An act that makes him feel 
better about himself. The receiver may or may not feel obliged (ideally 
he should not feel obliged) about this help given.
So the question is whether charity/service is a misued term?

Advaita  tells us that our real nature Atman is no different from the 
true nature of reality - Brahman. However, when we offer help or even 
provide something to someone in the name of service, should our thoughts 
be such that we are helping ourselves. In the process of providing 
service, we are worshipping that real nature Brahman and helping 
ourselves in realizing that this Atman in me and the Atman in any other 
person is no different than the reality - Brahman?

Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Vivekananda say "help" is a wrong term. In fact 
it is blasphemy to use the word "help". The universe is a field where 
God plays and the sum total of good and evil in this world will not 
change - no matter what we do. This sum is a constant because for every 
high in this world, a low will occur somewhere else. Hence, help should 
be replaced with worship and offering to God/Brahman.

Do put forward your thoughts on this.


Jaldhar H. Vyas wrote:

>Here is another excerpt from vedAnta paribhAShA which addresses some of
>the other questions Girish had.
>shravaNAdiShu cha mumukShuNAmadhikAraH kAmye karmaNi phalakAmasyAdhikAritvAt |
>mumukShAyAM cha nityAnityavastuvivekasyehAmutrArthaphalabhogavirAgasya
>shamadamoparatititikShAsamAdhAnashraddhAnA~ncha viniyogaH |
>antarindrayanigraH shamaH | bahirindrayanigraho damaH | vikShepAbhAva
>uparatiH | shItoShNAdidvandvasahanaM titikShA | chittekAgrayaM samAdhAnam |
>gurUvedAntavAkyeShu vishvAsaH shraddhA |
>And those who desire liberation have the right (adhikara) for listening
>etc.[1] Only those who desire to enjoy the fruits of action have the right
>to goal-centered actions.[2] To increase the desire for liberation and
>discriminate between the eternal and finite, calmness, self-control,
>withdrawal, fortitude, concentration, and faith are the means.  Calmness
>(shama) is restraint of the inner senses [mind, ego etc.] self-control
>(dama) is restraint of the outer senses [sight, smell etc.] withdrawal
>(uparati) is absence from distractions, fortitude (titiksha) is the
>ability to withstand the pairs of opposites [such as heat and cold.]
>concentration (samadhana) is one-pointedness of the mind.  Faith
>(shraddha) is the belief in the words of the Guru and Vedanta.
>[1] shravana, manana, and nididhyasana as mentioned previously.
>[2] Action (karma) is of three types.  Note while the shastras typically
>use religious rituals as archetypes when talking of karma, everything
>concerning them applies mutatis mutandis to other forms of action.  The
>three types are nitya (those that are performed on a daily basis such as
>sandhyavandana,) naimittika (those which are performed on a certain
>occasion such as yajnopavita sanskara which is done when a Brahmana boy
>enters Vedic study, or Shivaratri which is done on the 14th day of the
>dark half of Magha,) both of these are done out of duty not to fulfill
>a particular need, and kamya which is all those actions done to get a
>particular reward (heaven, prosperity, progeny etc.) or to avoid a
>particular penalty (hell, suffering, poverty etc.)  Thus I have translated
>kamya as goal-centered even though a literal translation is "desirous" The
>text is saying those who desire liberation should avoid the kamya karmas
>and do only the nitya and naimittika ones.  This is what the Gita calls
>karma yoga.

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