Making Your Spiritual Life Whole
Swami Chidananda Saraswati
How can we grow as good individuals in human society?
We should endeavour to be a plus point, an additional enriching contribution to our contemporary social scene. By my being in society today, what do I bring to society? Am I a factor that due to my good nature – soft-spoken, friendly, kindly, smiling, helpful – I put everyone at ease and make everyone feel happy? Am I ready to do a little good turn and to bear with the foibles and plus and minus points of others – with great grace and a charitable disposition – because I know that God made them so.
All people are not alike; they cannot help being what they are. Thus understand human foibles – not merely in a psychological way through the intellect, but in a gracious, cultured spiritual way. If you try to approach and understand others in a psychological way, the knowledge you gain will not necessarily be accompanied by the spiritual qualities of sympathy, tolerance, understanding, friendliness and helpfulness: “This is an erring brother or sister; I am prone to such errors myself.” If you make your assessment in a psycho-spiritual way – psychologically accompanied by a spiritual bhava or attitude, then it is a totally different thing.
Thus making yourself an asset to your contemporary scene, you, individually, will go onwards in trying to make yourself an ideal human being, which is one of the indispensable sadhanas of spiritual life. We may progress in concentration and meditation, in japa, in prayer, God-remembrance and devotion, in the depth of our philosophical understanding, but we must also not forget that as we evolve in the spiritual dimension, we have also to simultaneously evolve in the human dimension.
Spirituality must make us into good people. Spirituality must help to make us benefactors of our own society. Spirituality must make us a centre of assistance to others, a centre of harmony, a centre of everything that contributes to human welfare – individually and collectively.
To each human individual, himself or herself is the most important person in the world. Each one lives with this axiomatic assumption of which they are not even aware, because it is not arrived at through any purposeful, conscious process. It is just there. Prakriti had made it this way – all other things are around one and one is the centre. This feeling modifies and conditions all things for that person – everything that the person does and sees relates to oneself. Therefore, it is said: ”More than anyone else, you are very considerate to yourself. So let it be towards your neighbour.”
Who is your neighbour with whom you should have this special kind of attitude, behaviour, relationship? The answer is the whole world. Any person, at any given point of time at any place is your neighbour. And to generalise, everyone in this world, living in your own times, is your neighbour. Therefore, to love your neighbour as yourself means to love all, whether in India or Japan or America or Australia or Argentina – anywhere. Anyone who is residing on planet Earth at the same time as you are is your neighbour. Time and space have no relevance to spiritual neighbourhood, spiritual kinship, spiritual fraternity.
The spiritual vision knows something even one step further. There is not even an other to be your neighbour. It sees that your neighbour is no other than your own self. Therefore, feel yourself in all beings that exist and behave towards them as you would behave towards yourself – giving special preference, forgiving little things, tolerating foibles, not minding all the little twists and turns. Have a non-differential attitude towards all, as though they are none other than yourself.
Thus, simultaneously with your spiritual activities, there has to be a constant progressive evolution of your individual nature. You should never feel that you should not bother about it. Human evolution should accompany spirituality. Progressing ever into being an ideal human individual – kind, compassionate, tolerant, good, just, fair, a principled being, a good neighbour, a friend of all, one who identifies with all – such a person you must be. This is part of sadhana. This is part of yoga. This is part of Vedanta. This is part of spiritual life.
Therefore, for your spiritual life and sadhana to be complete and whole, see clearly the need to make your own personal life and personality a thing of beauty. They should undergo a progressively evolutionary process, keeping pace with your yoga, sadhana, meditation techniques and your spiritual life as a whole.
If you cannot love your brother whom you have seen, how can you love God whom you have never seen? You cannot be selective in your forgiveness, kindness and tolerance. The best way to exercise these virtues is to choose the worst stinker; then it becomes very easy to become a good friend and neighbour. If you can extend this charitable nature to an impossible person, then you will know that it is possible to extend it towards everyone, because you have tested yourself with the worst one and found it possible.
(The Divine Life Society, Rishikesh)