To Live is To Give

From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

To live is to serve. To live is to give. To live is to control the mind. To live is to strive for perfection. To live is to make others happy. To live is to share one's possessions with others. To live means to be gentle, to be pure, to be courageous. To live means to be good and do good. If you do this, you will attain peace and immortality.

If you really want God, then all these things must be done. You should have mercy. You should feel that you are only a trustee of your money. You are like a gatekeeper. God has given you money. You should share it with others. Purchase blankets in winter and distribute them to the poor lying on the roadside. What joy you will feel!

One who has not shared what he has with others has a poor heart indeed, though he may be a millionaire. Even the man who has nothing to eat is the richest man in the world if he has a large heart and shares what he has with others. Radiate thoughts of generosity and love. Forgive the faults of others. Bless the one who injures you.

Share what you have with others by disseminating spiritual knowledge to one and all. This is the secret of abundance. If you give generously, the wealth of the whole world will come to you. This is the immutable, inexorable, unrelenting law of nature. Use the material wealth, knowledge and spiritual wisdom that you possess as a divine trust. Take delight in the joys of others and in making them happy.

People have hard hearts, harder than granite, harder than a diamond, on account of wrong actions done life after life. This heart should melt. Only then can one achieve self-realization. Note well that there is no short cut to self-realization. One without mercy, love and humility cannot realize the self. You must understand this clearly. Vedantic sadhana at this immature stage will only fatten your ego and harden it. The heart needs to be purified, and this melting of the heart is done by untiring selfless service and generosity. Be generous. Give, give, give.

Apply this test: Does your heart melt at the suffering of others? Have charity and generosity become your very nature? Your money belongs to the Lord. You have no business to keep more than you need. How can you accumulate wealth when your God in the form of a poor man is starving. How can you take food four times a day when, a beggar - Lord Narayana - is starving outside the door? These are the real tests of spiritual progress. Do you rush to the poor man walking along the street and offer him food? Do you rush to the aid of the sick or injured man lying on the roadside?

Once, with some devotees, I jovially' remarked, "See, today is the first day of the New Year. If each one of you gives me something, yours will multiply like anything. Come on, who comes first?" I pointed to a devotee; "What about you?" "These are all anitya vastu, temporal, Swamiji," she replied. I asked her directly, "If you really feel that these material possessions are anitya, why don't you give them away?"

This sort of attitude is merely comfortable Vedanta. One must become a practical vedantin. See God everywhere and share what you have with all. The major portion must be given to others. Destroy your ingrained miserliness. The heart will expand. You will develop a broad outlook on life and a new wider vision. You will feel that the help received from the indweller of the heart is flowing through you. You will attain purity of the heart.

One who serves the world really serves himself. One who helps others really helps himself. Generally worldly-minded people are puffed up with pride when they render help to others. They brag about themselves too much. This world does not want the help of anybody. There is one omnipotent Lord who controls and guides this universe. He can immediately supply a thousand and one Newtons, Shakespeares, Napoleons and Yudhishthiras. When you give to another, think that God has given you an opportunity to improve, correct and mould yourself. Be grateful to the one who gives you the chance to serve.

In sharing there is joy and peace. Sharing generates cosmic love and destroys greed. Sharing removes selfishness and creates selflessness. Sharing purifies the heart and develops oneness. Share with others whatever you possess -physical, mental or spiritual. This is real sacrifice. You will expand your heart and experience the oneness and unity of life. Be on the lookout to do charitable acts daily. Do not lose any opportunity. Create new opportunities. There is no sacrifice greater than pure spontaneous charity.

Always give the best things to others, only then will your heart expand. But some people want to keep the best things for their personal use and give the worst to others. Do not close the door and take first class coffee. As soon as you close the door, you should feel that God is witnessing your action and that you should not act selfishly. The moment your stock is exhausted by giving to others, a fresh supply will come. Even if you do not desire prosperity, grace will come to you in this form. If one possesses charity, generosity and purity, these attributes automatically bring forth bhukti and mukti, prosperity and liberation. This is the unalterable law.

Although thousands of rupees came to us as donations for the divine work, I never concerned myself as to whether anything was left for the next day. Sometimes my disciples would be alarmed when they observed me giving as much as a hundred rupees to a beggar. "Let him enjoy," I would say. "He has never known what enjoyment is in life."

Although our books were printed with great difficulty, I would distribute thousands in a couple of days. Sometimes the disciples would protest and say, "Swamiji, we have no books left for sale." I would tell them, "It does not matter. It is serving the same purpose. We are selling the books to benefit humanity. By giving them free they are also being benefited. So why are you worried?"

"Swamiji, that is true," they would say, "but some of the books are being given to people who will never read them. What is the purpose of distributing books indiscriminately like this?" I would reply, "He may not read them, but he will pass them on to somebody else and that person will read them and be benefited. Someone or other will be benefited by the books. So I am just offering them. The worst that a person can do is to tear the pagers and wrap channa in it. The one purchasing the packet of channa will open it and read the matter on that piece of paper."

The essence of generosity is self-sacrifice. A generous person is always bountiful. He gives liberally or bestows favours heartily. Give freely and kindly. Have a large and magnanimous heart. Let your charity be overflowing. A generous person always gives, and gives. His heart is filled with sympathy. Sympathy and benevolence are the attendants of generosity.

A child may show himself generous by the gift of an apple, a millionaire by a liberal donation. A munificent gift is vast in amount whatever the motive of its bestower may be. A mean, miserly, petty, stingy nature is the opposite of a generous nature.

A good deed is never lost. It purifies the heart and leads to the descent of divine light and the dawn of divine grace. Every good deed is a grain of seed for immortality or eternal life. Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all people you can, in every place you can, at all times you can, with all the zeal, strength, love, heart and interest you can, as long as ever you can. Your nature must be to do good and give to others. Doing good and bringing happiness to others brings goodness and happiness to you.

Give now, not tomorrow or the day after, but now itself. The person may change their minds later on and go away. We may not then have the opportunity of rendering our service to them. This is one of the most important rules in selfless service. Opportunities come and go. A karma yogi should be ever vigilant and utilize every opportunity for seva. When a task is put off for the next day, then other tasks accumulate around it and the opportunity for service is lost. I give because I cannot help giving. Everything is His and He himself directs the gift from within to deserving persons and causes. Always glorify Him.

Through the grace of God be unified in thought, purpose and understanding and inspired to good actions for the benefit of all mankind. Rise above the grooves of selfishness. Free yourself from all forms of narrow-mindedness. Dedicate yourself to the ideals of truth, love and purity. Serve and give to your fellow beings. This is the way to supreme blessedness.