As we heard Khusroo Poacha, about his new social venture called “sewa kitchens”, which feeds meals free of cost to the relatives of indoor patients of various hospitals, through crowd-funding, the audience was uplifted and enthused with the noble deed. Each one felt happy about what Khusroo was doing and wanted to chip in one way or the other. It was like people were charged out of their lazy moods and wanting to go join him. It was not pity for the poor that was being talked about, neither was it sympathy for the down trodden. Perhaps it was empathy, it was compassion. Besides that, there was no desire of any gain or publicity but just the thought of ‘doing good to others’- feel good factor for one’s own self and soul. People like Khusroo Poacha are ‘change makers’ who spread good workable ideas and are few.
But there are hundreds like Mr. Singh who donated a good sum of two lakh rupees for the welfare of the specially-abled children. All he wanted was a plaque in the hall with his father’s name engraved. Mrs. Arora helped the poor employees of her family business and expected them to be dutiful and loyal to them in return. Mr. X constructed a few low cost homes for the poor and handed it over to them and got huge media publicity for his act time and again. He made good mileage out of it. Some people may do it for small personal gains such as earning a good name, fame, status and respect in society. No monetary benefits surely but an enlargement of the ego, a sense of pride perhaps. Such people are ‘charity givers’.
We all know about the larger than life story about Baba Amte, a rich handsome intelligent advocate who left his good practice at a prime age to crusade for the leprosy affected persons in Anandawan, Warora. He helped them rehabilitate their lives with respect and dignity. His story draws a tear from every eye when told. Such people do not work for awards or rewards which naturally keep coming in as their work gets recognised. Such people never had any other intentions, selfish or otherwise, but to serve the needy by setting aside their selfish egos. Mother Theresa, Kailash Satyarthi and Yousafzai Malala are some examples of selfless service. Such people find a noble cause to work for and make it their life and business. Such people are ‘missionaries’ and ‘live for others’.
‘Regular volunteerism’ is one such activity where a large population is engaged in on a regular basis, in ‘seva’ in the Gurudwara, temple, blind school, orphanage or any other NGO of choice. The Rama Krishna Mission has a large number of dedicated volunteers serving in different projects.
About two decades ago Martin Seligman, a Psychologist, gained fame by spearheading the movement on Positive Psychology. According to him true happiness lies in adding meaning and purpose to one’s life and that goal may be different for each person as they define themselves. He stated that sensory pleasures that people seek are material and hence transient in nature and do not give lasting happiness. Through the use of exhaustive questionnaires, Seligman found that the most satisfied, upbeat people were those who had discovered and exploited their unique combination of “signature strengths,” such as humanity, temperance and persistence.
Tal Ben Shahar the most sought after Psychologist at Harvard University opines that ‘happiness leads to success’ and not as thought of earlier that ‘success leads to happiness’. He turned the issue on its head by saying so! So if the ultimate goal of mankind is happiness we need to know what gives us meaning, purpose and happiness. Westerners begin to realise that money and wealth do not lead to happiness. People like Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffet, Bill and Melinda Gates, Oprah Winfrey give away huge chunks of their wealth for public good.
The Hindu philosophy however always believed that it is not wealth that brings happiness and peace but our attitude to possessions. We are not asked to renounce wealth but rather our sense of possession. Centuries ago the spiritual text of Hinduism named Vedanta stated that happiness can be achieved through ‘Dharma’ which can be defined in hundreds of ways but essentially means eternal law, duty, conduct, morality and righteousness. Each person has a ‘dharma’ towards family, society, the world and all living things. ‘Dharma’ also talks of detachment from material possessions and living at a spiritual level of enlightenment. It is hence the aware and realised ‘self’ that imbibes this value and transcends above ego to connect with the larger humanity. Swami Vivekananda, the monk who created the order of Rama Krishna Mission said “service to humanity is service to God”.
As the world becomes more materialistic, egocentric and callous, we need to get back to fundamental values, beliefs and truths and pursue them with a dogged purpose. Martin Seligman’s famous quote is – ‘‘Use your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are.” The people who have made ‘doing good to others’ their business are the ones who have enlightened their minds with the emotion of ‘seva’ or service and are on the path to happiness.
This is one of the best shades to live under.