Ideal of service
Upanishads and the ideal of Service
- The Upanishadic Ideal of service is based on the concepts of Truth, Dharma and Yajna. Without comprehending these three concepts we cannot understand what we have come to recognise as service today – the most appealing and popular component of modern religions.
Discovering the Satyam
- Thousands of years ago, when humanity was still in a state of slumber, the super scientists of India, the Vedic rishis, were engaged in the knotty task of uncovering the Ultimate Reality of life.
- This Reality of all realities, they soon found out, was beyond the world of pluralities, beyond whatever the senses could perceive.
- Through a step- by- step approach, breaking through the world of plurality, they looked into the very core of their inner being and discovered the Ultimate Truth as the Self (atman) within. This they called as Satyam, the Truth.
The Way of Dharma
- To realise that Eternal Truth within oneself, and feel its presence in the entire universe and adjust all our activities in such a way as to reflect that principle of Oneness in life. This is the dharma kept before every human being.
- The final aim of dharma is Self realisation. This is what constitutes the essence of Upanishadic knowledge. This was the ancient truth that the rishis presented before us. To know, the Self, again, the dharma is the way.
- This vision has been summarised in the eloquent words from the Taittiriya Upanishad, satyam vada, dharmam chara (‘speak the truth, follow the dharma)
Yajna, the Perennial Sacrifice
- The Vedic ideal of Yajna is far more comprehensive, enriching and universal than what is conveyed by the word service.
- Yajna, hence, is a symbol of the practical relationship between human beings, world and God or the Ultimate Reality (jiva, jagat and ishwara). That Yajna is an act of unification and expansion of the human spirit and is made clear by its basic tenets.
- Doing a Yajna has the following connotations:
- Deva puja:
- Yajna was a tangible, concrete action in the early part of the Vedic tradition. Later the Vedic rishis discovered its deeper meaning of worship of God by respecting parents, teachers, seniors, guests, as also the mighty powers of the five elements.
- One may recall here the famous Upanishadic teachings: ‘Worship your mother as Divine. Worship you father as Divine. Worship is not just offering some flowers, incense and fruit supply others’ needs, in a spirit of service detachment is also a form of worship.
- As Sri Ramakrishna once remarked, ‘Does God manifest only through a stone or wood image. He can manifest in human forms also. So the idea of worship of God in man through attending to their needs is also a compelling form of yajna.
- Sanghatikaranam (Forging a unity):
- As stated earlier, Yajna establishing a relationship between man, world and God.
- The practical implication of establishing this sense of connectivity lies in maintaining unity and integrity within a home or organisation.
- This is done by being in tune with the ideals and thoughts of the place or group. The following hymn expresses this ideal of harmony succinctly:
- ‘Common be your prayer;
- Common be your end;
- Common be your purpose;
- Common be your deliberation;
- Common be your desire;
- Unified be your hearts;
- United be your intentions;
- Perfect be the union amongst you.’
- When one keeps this idea of yajna in mind and does his work, he fosters unity of minds which is essential to create healthy and powerful organisations and promote a fellow feeling and righteousness.
- Dana or donation:
- Dana or ‘giving’ can be in any form – giving monetary help or respect or knowledge or service and so on. The underlying idea is that it is by giving that a man receives back and that is what leads to real happiness.
- In this magnificent, all comprehensive Upanishadic vision, in which every individual life is a part of a cosmic yajna, where does the idea of modern life style fit We must understand that living a gross physical and materialistic life, spending all our energies on our food, clothes and shelter, cannot make us happy and strong.
The Ideal of Service in Buddhism
- The “Mahaparinibbana Sutta” of the Dighanikaya describes seven conditions for the welfare, prosperity, and happiness of any community, nation or country.
- These conditions must be considered before serving the people for their gradual development and welfare. These seven conditions are:
- To assemble on occasion whenever necessary to discuss the affairs of the community.
- To do everything by consensus.
- To respect old traditions and not transgress them.
- To respect and obey elders and superiors.
- To respect women in general.
- To respect, worship and honor all religious shrines.
- To honor and respect all holy people, irrespective of their caste, creed or gender.
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