From Conversations on the Science of Yoga – Bhakti Yoga Book 4: In the Presence of Bhakti

What is the philosophy of atmabhava?

Swami Satyananda: Those who have enough of everything should develop the philosophy of atmabhava in their lives. That is the philosophy of Vedanta: we are all the same. All of us, living or dead, are part of the universal soul which resides within everyone. It is easy to say that, but in actual practice the tenet is not followed. In practice ‘I’ is separate from ‘you’. The feeling of oneness comes when we can feel that all those who live around us have the same soul or are part of the same soul that is within, and that their sorrow and pleasure are our own sorrow and pleasure.

It may not be possible for one human being to share all the difficulties of their neighbours, but certainly one should have the quality to feel that. One person cannot wipe out the pain of everyone in the world, but there should be the feeling that if someone’s child is sick, one should feel the pain that the mother feels for the child, or for that matter the pain of friends, wife, daughters and neighbours, in the same way as one would for one’s own kith and kin. This is very important. The sayings of the Upanishads will not be true until that is practised.

This does not mean one has to pay for their education, although it would be good to do so, but at least everyone should have two square meals a day for their children. There are millions of families in this world whose children do not have two square meals a day.

I often pray to God for another birth and an early departure, because at this advanced age I am not as effective in serving people as I would be if I had a new life. When I see young people fully absorbed in their own selfish ends, I crave even more for a new life because I do not aspire for pleasure and riches, nor do I crave for a kingdom. My only craving is to serve those who are deprived and living in need. So I pray to God to bless me with a new birth, in a poor family where one feels the pangs of hunger, where one undergoes the torture of cold without adequate clothing, and where one lives and dies in sickness without proper treatment. The pangs of the illiterate mother whose son takes birth and lives in poverty is difficult to fathom. So I intend to have a life of hardship and rise from there.

Swami Sivananda used to say that most sannyasins and sadhus were wasting their time in India because they were in pursuit of their own salvation. Therefore, I pray only for the health and prosperity of everyone. Let everyone be kind and caring to one another and may no one ever experience any distress in their life.