From Sankalpa of a Sannyasi, Swami Satyananda Saraswati

I never tried evolving, moulding or developing myself. Everything has happened of its own accord, but the main reason was my guru’s entry and presence in my life. Without him stepping into my life, the transformation would never have taken place. I was a hard and heartless person, but by guru’s grace I began to soften. The association with my guru brought about this change within me.

A tender heart

Swami Sivananda would call all the sweepers and scavengers, feed and clothe them, give them tea, wash their feet, and ask me to do the same. My response was negative. I found it useless and irrelevant for spiritual evolution. However, being his disciple I cleaned, cooked and fed the scavengers. He also started a leper colony for about two hundred and fifty patients behind Kailash Ashram on the banks of the Ganga. I was given the duty of going amongst the lepers and the sick to narrate the Ramayana, but my heart was not in the work. My guru built them huts with thatched roofs and gave them goats to rear because lepers are forbidden to raise cows. He forbade them to beg in the streets and would even send them bundles of bidis.

There were thousands of incidents like this in Swami Sivananda’s life, which I saw with my own eyes. He believed that those who think well of others have soft, tender hearts. I used to accompany the doctors and distribute drugs and medicines among the lepers. I performed all the duties, but not from my heart. One who thinks ill of others has a hard heart which needs to be pounded. Prakriti breaks hard core hearts. Your heart should be so sensitive that it responds immediately to another’s pain.

Feel the tragedy

Before you are able to experience Brahman or the Lord, to see the light or experience enlightenment, you must be able to feel the tragedy in another’s life. Otherwise you cannot attain peace. A compassionate and sensitive heart attains knowledge effortlessly. The more distant you are from the suffering of others, the further Brahman will be from you. God, Shiva, Rama, Devi will all be beyond your reach.

Compassion should flow from you. You should experience other people’s pain as your own. Those who are unmoved by the sorrow of others and insensitive to their feelings are unworthy of being called human. They share the four instincts of food, sleep, sex and fear with animals and their lives rotate around them.

Now my teaching is that for a generous person the entire world is their family. ‘This is mine, this is not mine’ are the thoughts of a limited mind. The sum and substance of spiritual life, the best teaching of Vedanta, is atmabhava, which means feeling the pain and distress of others as if it were your own, feeling the poverty, sickness and calamities of others as your own.

God is here and now among human beings. Look for Him where He is most needed, not in the temples where people are pouring wealth on His idol. That God is very rich, but the God living among the poor and the down trodden in the guise of a lame or blind person is needy. Go and look for Him in destitution, hunger and starvation. Go to those houses where there are no hearths.

Jale Vishnuh thale Vishnurvishnuh parvatamastake
Jvaalaamaalaakule Vishnuh sarvam Vishnumayam jagat.

Vishnu is in the waters, in space, on the mountain tops, in the garland of flames, in every nook and corner of the world.

This is a fact, not a theory. We who have enough of everything should develop the philosophy of atmabhava in our lives. When God inspires you to serve others, you take it as His blessing.