Sunday, 13 November 2016

Acting without actions - Service

We have discussed throughout this blog, some preventive measures one can take to remain in a state of happiness. These mostly involve preventing actions arising out of Egoic tendencies, mental afflictions and ignorance. Usually nothing else needs to be done in order to remain happy and free. However habits die hard. People continue to behave in old ways that cause bondage and suffering, sometimes even after made fully aware of various pitfalls. Many seekers also get entangled in the web of actions simply because of habit or partial knowledge.

It is almost impossible to not to act once you are in a body which lives in a world. Non-action would simply mean an end of human experience. In other words - death. One must act if one desires to continue in a body till its natural end. Great masters have recommended some tricks to achieve a smooth and happy ride in a body. These are - Service, Forgiveness and Donation .These can also be used as corrective measures, if one fails to choose correctly and unknowingly invites suffering. We will discuss those now.

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Any act devoid of a sense of doership and selfishness can be called as a service. Initially it may not be possible to drop the doership completely and so service is sometimes meant as acts of unselfishness. All acts of a wise man are service. This achieves two things - such a person enjoys a human experience without any burden of actions and he also stays eternally happy and free. What a nice trick. Its almost too good to be true.

But how's that possible? Wouldn't a person who is serving need food, water, shelter, internet, some money etc. for his own survival? If yes, isn't that an act of selfishness? A wise man not only serves others, he serves his own body too. Once you realize that the body is not you, and it is just an instrument for experience, you are not only freed from the body, you also disown it. It becomes a body, not my body. However you don't throw it away in trash bin, as you know it is your interface with the world. You throw it away only when you want to end your worldly experience, which is usually when the body breaks down. Its also valid to say that the body throws you away. Till it lasts and till you choose to continue the experience, you maintain it, serve its needs.

Isn't the wish to have a life aka human experience a selfish wish? From the point of view of the Self, life happens. You don't even know why it happens. There is no question of wishing for it. However, once you find yourself inside this experience of life, you have two choices - to end it now or to continue and let it end on its own. End is a necessity, not a choice, it’s a question of when. A conscious person chooses to continue, its a choice, not a wish. Why is it a good choice? You see the whole drama of the world, you see the exquisite details of the set, you see the colourful and complex co-actors and last but not the least, you see this marvellous instrument, a costume - the body, elaborate mechanisms of Ego and the extraordinary thing called Mind. When you see all this, you wonder - all this just for me? And you see the Self smile and nod. You realize that all of this is here for some reason, which you, as a person do not understand. You realize that the only way to know it is to continue.

What if I choose to end it? It should make no difference at all. You are not the only experiment of the Self. There are countless worlds with countless personalities. Time to be humble and feel small. In the grand scheme one person does not matter, he is not more important than a speck of dust, ephemeral dust. A wise man accepts the life gratefully, fully knowing that as a person he is just dust, and fully uncertain about the possibility of knowing why.

An ignorant person also serves the needs of his body, but takes the body as himself or as belonging to himself. He owns the actions he does for the body and then also owns the suffering that inevitably follows because of ignorance. Some people also pretend to serve and have some hidden motive behind the seemingly unselfish actions. They serve to gain something, which is not really a service. It is better to directly and honestly go ahead and get what you want instead of hiding behind the pretence of service. Such pretention is just cunningness, not smartness.

Once the survival is taken care of, a question arises - what else can I do? People generally find stuff to do which is usually a blind pursuit of pleasures and they inevitably fall into the dark pit of suffering. Pleasures do not last, happiness becomes elusive and the receiver of the pleasures - the body, starts dying eventually, filling the owner with terror of death and pain. Perhaps its not so bad for most, but they do live in the duality of pleasure and pain. If you act from duality, you will end up with duality as a necessity.

For a conscious man, the question of what to do never arises, he is content with not doing. He acts only when it becomes absolutely necessary and he does it as a service. He renounces the fruit of the act also. This keeps him free. Wouldn't such a life get boring quickly? As I said, consider yourself fortunate if you can stay without acting even for a day. Life throws stuff at you and you will find yourself busy dealing with it the next moment. It never gets boring in this world as far as actions are concerned. On the contrary, you will need to do effort to live peacefully. Some of the worldly experiences will be great and some won’t be so great. You have the choice to take whatever this world offers as irritations or you can take them as play. Actions end only when the life ends. We rarely get a choice to not to act, but we always have a choice to act in way that result in more freedom and happiness.

Serving others 

Some enthusiastic people have this desire to serve others. What is wrong is serving others, when I have whatever I need and I have excess time and resources? Isn’t it a good act? Sure, go ahead and serve them. But remember that you are meddling with them and most importantly you do not have much control over the consequences of your actions that you will do in the guise of service. Also remember that there are no good or bad acts, there are just consequences.

In what way is this meddling? People are in certain situations because of some reasons. These reasons are beyond our current understanding (at least my own understanding). But one thing we can understand clearly, which is - everything is perfect as it is, and if it is perfect, there is no reason you should feel a need to change it. Of course you do not feel a need to serve a man who is happy, rich and healthy, he is in a perfect situation already, you can see that. What you can't see is that a person living in a dumpster is also in a perfect situation. Its because you believe he does not deserve to be in such poor condition. Apart from beliefs, there is some guilt that a fellow human is suffering while you have an excess and there is a fear, a projection of that situation onto yourself - what if I land into a similar situation as a result of some bad luck. These are Egoic tendencies, as you must have guessed, the tribal behaviours kick in and you rush to help that poor man.

This action is anything but service. Your Ego gets a boost, the dumpster man gets some food and clothes, which extend his life and therefore suffering a bit more. Meanwhile thousands of people continue to live in dumpsters all over the world. This has been happening since millions of years and will happen for many more millions years in one world or another. In the grand scheme of things your action amounts to exactly nothing. It is just meddling. Your dumpster man could have naturally died in the usual way and that would have ended his suffering, but he lives on to suffer more. It may seem that I'm intentionally painting a negative picture here. Serving poor cannot be so bad, can it? I can understand that it is very difficult to fathom such reasoning, that everything is perfect as it is and all that BS. It took me a lot of time to understand it all. But fortunately, there is a way for those who find this BS difficult to swallow, you can serve in real way without actually meddling. But lets first check why I say that the consequences are not in your control.

Lets say you are filthy rich and you gift a new car to your friend on his wedding. An act of unselfish service and love, isn't it? Sure, you are the reason for someone's happiness, what can be better than that. Lets say he drives out in that car with his wife and meets a terrible accident that kills them both. Suddenly that car is now a reason for their death. An undesirable consequence. A dark example, but it should be shocking for many to know that our good acts do not necessarily lead to goodness. There are no good or bad acts, there are just consequences.

Another example which is not so dark goes like this. You are lost in a forest with your friend and there is one horse which can carry only one person. At night you calculate your chances of survival and escape on the horse, leaving your friend to die. A bad act indeed. In the morning, the friend, while struggling to find a road, stumbles upon a cave full of gold and treasure. When you return to the city, you find that your friend is a billionaire now. And when you rush to meet him in his mansion, you find a gang of mean looking men waiting for you with loaded guns.

Ok, you get the point, consequences of your actions are not in your control. Actions are in your control, depending on how free you are. Forget about doing good or bad for others, you cannot be even sure of your own good. How meaningful are the acts of service in the light of this realization?

So now we are in a good position to know how to serve without actually serving. The point to note here is that it is futile to serve others knowingly and intentionally. A wise man never makes serving others his life goal or even a major occupation. He does not leave his normal life behind in order to serve others. However, he does serve others whenever a suitable situation arises before him. Service happens, he does not do it. So if you find yourself in a situation where you may serve, you have a choice to act there. It is not recommended to go and hunt for an opportunity to serve. If service happens on its own and you act only as an instrument for it, then you are freed from that act. The consequences also happen, you disown them too. It is not your action now, its an act of nature. It is no more Egoic even if it arises out of Egoic tendencies, you simply acknowledge it and act. The difference is that a wise man knows why the act is happening while an ignorant man does whatever is happening.

What about those who invent and discover stuff, like cure for diseases or technology etc.? People invent and explore nature because they derive happiness from it. Knowledge is their end goal, their life, not service. It is foolishness to think that scientific discoveries will necessarily serve mankind. From an atom to a rocket, almost everything can be used to kill, to cause suffering. However, most of the inventions, most of the time, end up as beneficial. The inventor is not responsible for the good it causes, he simply throws his discovery into the world and hopes for the best. He cannot do otherwise, i.e. he cannot hide his invention and burn his papers, he knows that if he withholds it, someone else will eventually invent it, it’s a matter of delaying the inevitable. People themselves are responsible for using it wisely. People serve themselves using the invention. Businessmen and entrepreneurs bring it to the people for mutual benefit. You know the rest of the story.


The above discussion makes it clear that its not the actions but the sense of doership that is the problem. It invites trouble and suffering. So the actions must be devoid of doership in addition to being selfless. How to do that?

It is easy. You act from the Self, not from the Ego, not even from the Mind. The doership arises when one identifies with the action. From the point of view of the Self, actions just happen. The doer arises and disappears too. There is no need to keep it. To act from the Self, one needs to abide in Self, be as Self. Doesn't sound so easy. That’s why you need to cultivate. There is no free lunch.

Who makes the choice when you abide in Self? Isn't making a choice that leads to freedom a personal choice? In my experience, there is no other choice but to act in a way that leads to freedom, when one abides as the Self. Freedom is the natural ground of the Self, and you as a Self choose freedom necessarily, there is no other option. Period. The question of making a choice arises for those who are under the influence of the Mind or Ego. Their tendencies and afflictions occlude the choice of freedom and one needs to bring his attention back to the Self in order to clearly see a correct choice. This is the essence of cultivation. Once you master this, the Ego fades away and correct choices happen on their own. This has a side effect of freeing you from the burden of doership. Now there is no one to claim a doership of an action, the person or identity disappears.

When there is no doer, every act that happens via this body becomes a service. You don't need to really "do" a service.

Service as a practice 

As I said, it is somewhat artificial to go and hunt for a serving opportunity. It is Ego in action. When you abide as Self, the service happens, you don't need to do it forcibly. Anyhow, if your teacher instructs you to serve others, do it by all means.

Wouldn't that mean that the teacher knows nothing about service? Perhaps, but some teachers do prescribe service as a method to get rid of Egoic tendencies. When the Ego is too strong and fossilized, usually one needs to force his way out of it. In order to achieve this, mindlessly serving others is helpful. Service defeats the selfish tendencies of the Ego and helps to bring it under control. Whenever a selfish tendency raises its head, you cut it down with the sword of an unselfish act. The Ego starts fading and a crack opens up from which the light of the Self shines through. It can take some time.

Note that serving others as a practice has nothing to do with others. It is not to be done for the benefit of others, it is for your own benefit. It is a selfish act that takes you towards selflessness. The pitfall here is that such practices may lead to an inflation of the Ego instead of its control. The service brings appreciation and love from others. Others start seeing you as extraordinary and try to return the favour. The Ego is obviously pleased by all this attention and importance it gets. It becomes a competition about who can serve more. Who is the biggest servant of all. The one who serves more and takes more pains for others is the superior one. I’m great because I serve and you are puny selfish thing. So on and so forth.

How to avoid this mess? It depends on the teacher actually. The student under him is obviously under the influence of Egoic tendencies and is totally unaware. Else there was no need for this practice. Usually the teacher acts in tactful ways to bring the Ego back on earth from the seventh sky. This often comes as a shock for the student, but once he realizes what he has gained, he feels gratitude for the teacher. This respect lasts for a life time. Traditionally, students are required to do menial jobs like cleaning, begging for food or other services when they join a teacher or an ashram. It is effective, but then some teachers use their students for work, or to collect money under the guise of service. So it is recommended that you serve yourself and know the real meaning of service before you join a teacher. This will save hard work, disappointment and decades of time.

The discussion on forgiveness and donation will continue in next article.

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