We might feel that the full experience of enlightenment – a kind of infinite bliss — is far away from us, but we experience a taste of it when we serve, love and give. It is our nature to give in response to all we receive. Sri Swamiji articulates this beautifully in his book, <em>The Golden Present</em>:
“If you think in terms of how much benefit we get just by being here on the surface of the earth, how much we get from nature, how much we get from people, how much we get from association, we receive constantly. Even the smile from a baby is a gift.
You don’t have to give it back at the same place…..if you get a smile from a baby, do something to help a poor person somewhere on the road, or a sick person. Somebody who needs a little help. That will balance it out.”
When we sincerely reflect on all that we have been given, we cannot help but feel abundance. We can reflect further on how the United States and other western countries have taken advantage of less powerful countries, and how this dominance has contributed to the imbalance of wealth and justice in the world. In a magazine article I read, the Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hahn wrote, “The pain of one part of humankind is the pain of the whole of humankind. We have to see that and wake up.”
Those of us who live with material security and abundance easily take those things for granted. I feel we have an obligation to serve those less fortunate in any way that we can. That is why we have started a new initiative here at the Institute, inviting all our students, teachers and staff to participate in selected community service projects. We see service in our community as an important aspect of our spiritual practice, and we want to model for our members the need for us to enact that understanding.
We may not be able to negotiate peace settlements or end world hunger, but we can each take concrete steps to volunteer our time right where we are. We can offer free Yoga classes, serve in a soup kitchen, tutor disadvantaged children or reach out in myriad ways to those in need.
Serving in these ways is a natural expression of gratitude and arises from the recognition of our interdependence with all of life. Actions preformed with genuine care for others are healing for our hearts, and we find joy in giving rather than looking for a reward or outcome. This is how we really bring our Yoga practice to life.