A25 Happiness Is Service: An analysis of how selfless service can be a path towards self-knowledge and happiness

We are all trying very hard to be happy. It is the main goal of every human life. Happiness has some prerequisites such as security, safety, contentment, acceptance and love among others. Thus all day long, and even during our dreams, we work hard trying to find these very illusive and rare states of mind. Do you know many people who feel enough security, contentment, acceptance and love, in order to feel really happy most of the time? What is wrong then? Why are we not able to succeed in this effort?

SOME BASIC MISCONCEPTIONS

Man has arrived at this sad state of discontentment because of some basic misconceptions about the nature of life and even his own being. Let us examine them.

1. The belief that there are not enough resources for all us to be content, is one major obstacle to human happiness. Because we believe that there is not enough for everyone, we seek to take care of ourselves, and our close circle, often at the expense of the others. This leads to competition, aggression, hoarding, selfishness, greed, accumulating food, money and possessings,while others have nothing. The truth is that there are plenty of resources on the earth for everyone to be happy, but that they are not distributed properly. They accumulate in some areas and are lacking in others. The result is similar to what would happen to a human body, if the blood started to accumulate in one part of the body, and consequently was not able to reach other parts of it. Both the oversupplied and undersupplied parts of the body would be damaged and in serious danger. That is what has happened on the Earth today. Some areas of society are suffering spiritually from having too much, and other are suffering, physically and mentally, from having not enough. In the end neither are happy.

2. Man feels like and empty vessel which needs to be filled. Because he feels empty, lacking in inner happiness, security, contentment and peace, he is motivated by the need to take, to accumulate, to fill himself in some way, with whatever he presently believes may ease the feeling of emptiness. What he believes will fulfil him gradually changes in life from dolls, games and toys to motorcycles, to the opposite sex, to marriage, children, to success in a profession, to money and plenty of objects, to social status, toΖwhat then? The common recipes for happiness have failed him. He has done it all. He should be happy now. But he is not. His body is ill, plenty of problems, no real communication, no peace, no contentment, no understanding, no love. Perhaps he has been trying to find happiness in the wrong way? Perhaps our basic assumption about the nature of man was wrong? Maybe we are not empty vessels but really empty pipes through which life is flowing. In that case we cannot expect to be able to create a static state in which we fill something and expect it to remain full. We hoped that we could put something in our empty vessel, i.e. a new job, enough money, a pleasurable experience, acceptance or love from the others; and it would remain there and we would always be happy after that. But it doesn’t work that way. Life is growth, change, evolution. Static water begins to stagnate; fungus grows; illness takes over. The empty vessel approach is a denial of the flow of life. It is living death. Holding on to the past is not trusting in life. Not allowing life to flow through us is a result of not having faith in life, in the Divine Plan, in Christ’s promise that our needs will be met if we live in harmony with the will of God. If we can imagine that we are instead an empty pipe through which life and Divine Plan are flowing, then we will understand that security, contentment, and affirmation are dynamic processes in which the causes for these feelings continually change. We can then let go of the need to hold on, to accumulate, to try to control situations and people. Just because last year we felt secure or happy with some particular experience or situation, does not mean that we must fight tooth and nail to hold on to this past source. The evolution of man requires an evolution too in the objects which give him the feeling of security and happiness. Why should we believe that now we cannot be happy with something new, which we have never even heard of, or experienced before.

Thus the object, which we allow to be the key to our happiness and contentment, continuously evolves, until it becomes our relationship with God, or with our own Higher Self. Then, our sense of security, contentment and happiness can never be extinguished, for they do not depend on any temporary or changing stimulus.

KEEPING THE FLOW GOING

Let us assume that, in fact, we are really empty pipes which are connected on one end to the cosmic source of life and on the other to physical reality, which we experience around us. Let us examine what we can do to keep this cosmic energy flowing efficiently, so that we can always be receiving abundantly from the Source of all Good and Goodness. The answer is simple, keep emptying the lower end of the pipe. The more we give, the more empty the pipe is, and the more able we are to receive even more. We create an internal vacuum by giving all we have to those around us. This vacuum then draws down more grace from the cosmic source, and we experience a continual state of abundance without anxiety, fear, worry, competition, antagonism and the feeling of separateness, which pervades society today. This may seem at first to be an illogical train of thought; that we actually can gain much more by giving than taking. We are not talking about taking only spiritually, we are also including money, security, food, safety, acceptance, knowledge, self-esteem, contentment, love and happiness. It is not a new thought though. Every religion has informed us of this truth. But few have yet succeeded to believe it. We call ourselves Christians but we believe very few, if any, of the truths which Christ gave to us. The same statement can be made for the majority of Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Moslems and all other religions. We don’t believe it. We don’t believe in the Divine Flow; in the reality that we will gain much more by giving than taking. It’s «too good to be true». Some people are turned off by such talk which reminds them of religion. They consider themselves «intellectuals», «scientists», beyond such simplistic types of thinking. I can understand those people and their way of thinking, because, as a chemical engineer, I once too thought in that way. But the true scientist experiments. He does not reject concepts and techniques, without putting them to the test. So I suggest that those who really value the truth to continue to explore, examine, research, test and prove for themselves whether the ideas they hear are valid or not. If you have not tried a concept out, the most you can say is «I don’t know, I haven’t tried it», or «I don’t want to try it». That would be truthful, scientific. For the last 200 years, we have been experimenting with the belief that affluence brings happiness. We see clearly now that this is not true. Ask our children if they believe that we have succeeded with our formulas for happiness. We have succeeded in becoming parasites on the earth, consuming inconceivable proportions of the earth’s natural resources of oil, food and minerals, only to leave tremendous amounts of pollution and waste which are destroying forests, seas and whole species of animals, endangering harmony and life on the Earth. And, in spite of all this, we are not happy. Rather we are more discontent. The family has disintegrated, marriage is a failure, love is scarce and mistrust, fear, discontent and anger are rampant in every level of society. Ask your children what they see, and wonder why they have rejected this society and its ways. Why they don’t study, why they don’t show respect to their elders and to society. What is there to respect? Where is there an example, a politician, a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a priest, a man or a woman for whom the child can say, «I want to be like him or her?» Perhaps I am getting carried away, but the time has come for drastic changes in our way of thinking and acting. Otherwise the future of man is very dim. Let us now consider what we have to gain by adopting this different concept for obtaining happiness through giving.

GAINING BY GIVING

Let us examine here some of the ways in which our lives are enrichened through our living more for others. When we say “giving to others”, we include many types and levels of giving. This might include money, clothing, food, books, furniture or other objects, or time, compassion, ideas, love, friendship, work energy, prayers, positive thoughts, joy, a smile or any other type of physical, emotional, mental or spiritual offering. The recipient of our giving may be an orphan, the poor, the rich, the elderly, the handicapped, the blind, the deaf or dumb, the seriously ill, the lonely, the distressed, or any other person, or group, which may need help from others. How do we gain by giving in this way?

1. We diminish our concentration on our ego.

The more one is a servant of his ego needs, the more unhappy he is, and also the more he is held back in his spiritual evolution. The ego must serve the soul, but in most cases the soul serves the ego. We are souls incarnated in these bodies, and our egos exist for us to communicate with the world around us. When we are forced and have to run after the various ego needs for affirmation, pleasures and security, then we are not free beings. We are imprisoned by our needs. Thus by sacrificing a few hours each week for others, we begin to put the ego in its proper place, saying, «stop being a spoiled brat and wanting all the attention, time and energy for yourself. Begin to think about others». We start to let go, and energy starts going outwards, towards others rather than always towards our personal satisfaction.

2. We overcome the power which attachments and desires have over us. Our attachments and desires rule our lives, forcing us to waste most of our hours chasing after them. We also waste other hours worrying about whether we will achieve them, or be able to hold onto them; or perhaps feeling bitter towards those who are obstacles to our fulfilling of our attachments. How much waste of time, energy, money, thought and human potential. And with no results, no happiness, no contentment. Try this new formula for happiness, and see which gives you more deep and lasting happiness, watching your television or giving a few hours to a lonely person, or orphan, who needs help with his lessons, or simply needs a little love and affection. Do you really think that going to a restaurant will bring you more happiness than giving aid to an ill person, or reading to the blind? Do you think that a new dress is more important than the money which you could give to save the lives of some of the forty thousand children, who die everyday because of lack of food and medicine? Which will give you more contentment, that new piece of clothing, or that contribution to life on the earth? We must begin to understand the difference between the means to happiness and happiness itself. We confuse them. A new dress is not happiness. Neither is food or sex, or a movie on TV, or a new job, or a love relationship. We allow these experiences to stimulate the feeling of happiness in us. We could allow other stimuli to create that feeling of happiness. Let us not get stuck on old, worn out, means of happiness, because they simply will not give us the happiness they used to.

3. We develop a feeling of oneness, brotherhood and love with others. We all want love. It makes us happy to be loved. We demand love from others and complain when they do not love us. But have we tried the most sure way of getting love? Giving it! Yes, it is a 100% sure, that those who give more love, will receive more love. That is, if they are really giving love “without strings attached”. Because if there are “strings attached”, like wanting love back, wanting favours, needing the other for security or pleasure, or wanting gratitude, or the other to fulfil certain expectations, then they may not get love back. The love is taken and we are given the strings back, so that we can see them and let go of them, and eventually give real love without strings attached. In giving we begin to learn to love, to feel close to others, to be concerned about their needs, their feelings, their happiness. We begin to feel a close relationship with them, like brothers and sisters living together on the earth helping each other. We begin to feel like cells living in the body of humanity, as parts of the whole. Our feeling of separateness gradually diminishes along with our feeling of loneliness. We begin to feel unity with others, which is a sign of advanced spiritual growth. Many lonely people sit in their homes and cry that they are alone and that no one loves them. They could easily solve that problem by seeing what they could do for all the other lonely people, who are also sitting in their homes feeling unhappy.

4. We begin to feel useful; our life has a new meaning.When we begin to serve others, we become filled with a new inspiration for life. We realize that we have something to offer, that our existence has some purpose; that we can contribute in our small way towards a better Earth. What each can do by himself is limited, but if more and more people started to offer just a few hours a week, then the whole world would be transformed, not only through the work that they would offer, but through the love that would be expressed, and the new feeling of trust, which would develop among people.All would be more relaxed, less fearful, more at peace with themselves and others. All of man’s wars thrive on fear and mistrust. With this new purpose in life, one then becomes less dependent on old roles and relationships, which he thought were absolutely necessary for his happiness and security. He begins to realize that, even if he loses all his friends and family and all his possessions, he would be able to continue, because he is a part of the family of humanity and he still has a role and purpose to play.

5. We begin to discover where we are holding on, were we are still attached.Performing selfless service helps us to understand just how selfless or selfish our service is. When most of us start out this type of activity, we do much more for ourselves than for others. Many criticise selfless service just for this reason. But the only way to learn to swim, is to jump in the water. In the same way, we will learn where we are attached, where our giving is conditional, or egotistical, by passing through the various tests of selfless service. When we are in reality giving in order to make others love us, they may treat us very badly, so that we can discover that we are giving with expectations. They will not do this consciously. Life will use them to teach us this lesson. When we are using this activity to boost our image in front of others, to gain approval and respect from others, it may backfire in our face; our goal may not be achieved. If we believe that the other should have gratitude for what we have done for him, he may show us exactly the opposite, so that we may let go of this motive. When we are attached to getting specific results from our efforts, life will teach us very quickly to let go of this attachment, and to perform this action simply because we believe that it must be done. In this way we will gradually learn to give in a truly selfless manner, seeking nothing, not even specific results or success in our effort. The apple tree does not ask for any reward for making us its apple. Neither does it have an inflated ego, because it has done so. Neither is it concerned about what will happen with the apple; whether it will become a new tree, eaten by a man or animal, become juice or vinegar or simply rotting compost on the earth. It has done its duty. It has performed its role on Earth. That is sufficient.This is the way in which we must perform our service; as a role which we have come to play. We do what we feel we must do and enjoy doing it. That is our reward, the joy of doing.

6. We get into the cosmic flow of goodness on the Earth.The more we give and let go, the more everything comes to us. Life begins to give us the money, clothes, food, pleasures, wisdom, acceptance, friendship and love that we need to be really happy. All this comes to us not through our seeking to get, but through our seeking to give to others and to be useful. We begin to feel like instruments of a higher power, which is working through us, in order to fulfil its purpose here on the earth. We begin to feel a relationship with that Higher Power, in our quiet moments of meditation, prayer and eventually even in our moments of activity. We feel it as an ever present presence, which is always supplying our needs and giving us what we need, in order to do our work, and fulfil our purpose in creating a better, more harmonious world. We become transformers of spiritual energy. A transformer changes one type of energy into another. Plants take the energy of sunlight and make it into something useful, such as the chemical bond, which makes food possible. Man can take spiritual energy and make it into ideas,thoughts, words and actions, which can bring abundance, contentment, health, happiness and harmony to all. When we dedicate more and more hours and energy towards selfless service, we get into this blissful flow of energy, in which we are continually taking from a vertical spiritual source within us, and giving out horizontally to those around us who have need. We go beyond the need for much help from other humans. Our help and sense of security start to come from higher levels. We become lights of love and peace in a society which is suffering and afraid of the darkness which is settling in all around. We begin to offer up every act and effort to that Divine Power. The results are His responsibility, not ours. We are instruments, not doers, not the planners. The screw driver and hammer are not concerned about how the building is going along. They just allow themselves to be used for the various projects which must be executed. Neither are we to worry about whether our effort will bring results. The results are dependent on many other factors beside our tiny little effort. We can only ask ourselves whether what we are doing feels right and important to do. If so, we do it and forget about the results.

7. We come into contact with the real source of happiness.Real happiness comes with the dissolution of ignorance. No person living in ignorance can experience real happiness. Ignorance is the feeling and belief that we are all separate beings. This feeling of separateness is the major source of unhappiness and tension in the world today. All religions and spiritual philosophies affirm that the truth is exactly the opposite. That we are all projections of the one Universal Being called God. That there is, in fact, only one Spirit which is projecting itself as all these beings and objects which we see around us; in the same way that the sun reflects as the thousands of different images on thousand of bodies of water. All these images seem different and separate. But there is only one sun. There is, in the same way, only one Spirit. Real happiness comes when a person starts to feel close to those around him, when his sense of separateness begins to dissolve and he feels the underlying unity between himself and others. This is why the experience of sexual orgasm is so bliss-giving to people. Because they, for a moment, lose the feeling of being separate and unite physically, emotionally and mentally, and sometimes spiritually with another being. This feeling of inner happiness begins to pervade one’s life, as he begins to feel a spiritual oneness with all beings, independent of their political, religious or social beliefs or affiliations, regardless of their appearance, age or sex, independent of their attitudes or habits. He begins to feel for the first time in his life unconditional love which is real happiness. He needs nothing else anymore. His needs have become very simple. He spends little time in satisfying his personal needs, for his needs are always satisfied by life itself. He is in the flow, enjoying always. He is a part of life, not cut off from it in his limited circle of identification. All beings belong to his family, all are his. He has found happiness at last.

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