The true sevak should not expect recognition of his work from either the people or from his own organization. – Chinmaya
Who is a true sevak?
The one who serves for the purification of the mind keeping the spiritual values as the guiding principle is a true sevak.
Bhagavan Shankaracharya in his famous composition Vivekachoodamani makes clear the purpose of any action:
चित्तस्य शुद्धये कर्म न तु वस्तूपलब्धये |
(The purpose of performing any action is the purification of mind, and not anything else.)
Such selfless action is a means of liberation, says Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi in Upadesha Saram:
ईश्वरार्पितं नेच्छयाकृतं चित्तशोधकं मुक्तिसाधकम् ||
(Actions when performed as a worship of the Lord without any selfish desires purify the mind and become a means to liberation.)
Before undertaking any task, a true sevak asks himself: “Will it evolve me spiritually? Will it please my Lord? Am I truly selfless? Will others benefit from this action? Will my mind become pure? Am I heading towards liberation? Am I secretly seeking appreciation from others for my good work? Am I compromising with higher values of life? Am I becoming a slave of my mind and the senses? …”
Expecting praise and recognition is natural when we serve. The above quote says this is not the way of the wise. There are many reasons.
The result of any action is determined by an infinite number of factors. Our part is very small in deciding the result. Hence truly speaking, we don’t deserve the credit.
Pujya Gurudev was invited for bhiksha by a prosperous and pompous family. While having lunch, the lady of the house kept bragging about her culinary skills, “Swamiji, carrot halwa is my speciality… and you will love my salads… this tomato curry is prepared by me… that potato dish I made!”
Gurudev remained silent for some time, and then asked her, “And who made tomatoes and potatoes?”
The lady was humbled to silence.
Truly speaking, we don’t deserve any praise or recognition because everything belongs to Him alone.
One day, Saint Tukaram, one of the four chief saints of Varkary community of saints, was sitting in his shop. A poor man came to his shop and asked about the price of rice. When the rate was told, the poor man began to leave. Tukaram asked, “Brother! Why are you returning empty-handed?”
The poor man said, “Tukaji! I of course have to buy rice, but its price is beyond my reach. My family has been starving for the last two days. I had thought that I shall be able to buy some rice with whatever little money I have with me.” Saint Tukaram became very sad to hear this. He said, “Brother! Take as much rice you need and pay whatever you can. How can I see a single child of my village starving so long as my shop is here?”
“Tukaji! You are an angel,” saying this, the poor man stepped forward to touch his feet. Tukaram said, “No no! I am an ordinary human being. There will be no difference between an animal and a human being if one fails to understand the problems of the other. If at all you wish to touch someone’s feet, then go and touch the feet of Vittalji, who has blessed me with prosperity to run this shop.”
Many times we hear people saying, “I did so much of service for that organisation, but they did not even say a ‘Thank you.’” A person who craves for recognition remains ever at the mercy of others for happiness. Comments passed by others can make or mar his day. Hence seeking recognition is nothing but courting slavery.
A person who seeks recognition misunderstands his sycophants to be his friends, and his benefactors to be his enemies.
A saint was giving a talk on Bhagavad Geeta. During the talk, to give examples of dishonesty, along with many other examples, he also mentioned how the doctors of the modern-day make money by cheating the patients.
Within a few days, the saint received a letter saying, “Swamiji, my name is Dr So-and-so. I was really pained to hear how you criticized the doctors of modern times. You speak as though all swamijis are perfect. From now on I will never attend your talks.”
A recognition-seeker listens and thinks with a coloured mind and therefore misinterprets every situation. Due to this egoistic approach, he is never able to arrive at the actual truth of any happening. With a mind which is biased, he is unable to see things clearly and impartially. Since craving for recognition is opposed to knowledge, a seeker of knowledge should never entertain this craving.
For a seeker of liberation, the mind’s craving for recognition is a symptom of a greater disease called ego.
A sannyasi once came to the ashram of Mahatma Gandhi seeking an opportunity to serve. At this, Gandhiji said, “Ashrams are meant for people like you. But you shall have to give up your ochre robes before you decide to become an ashramite here.”
Hearing this, the sannyasi was annoyed. But restraining himself he asked, “But may I know the reason why I should do so?”
Bapuji replied, “See, the problem with the people in our country is that, the moment they see someone in ochre robe, they begin to worship him. Because of this ochre robe, that they will not accept your services. Therefore anything that causes impediments in our way must be done away with. Who will allow you to do menial jobs if you are clad in ochre rob?”
The ochre robe and spiritual knowledge – both are meant for liberation. But even these means of liberation can become a cause of bondage when adulterated with the desire for recognition.
Madhusudan Saraswathi, a Vedic scholar and an authority in scriptures, in his younger days, used to conduct debate and defeat great scholars of his times. One day, after defeating a famous opponent in the debate, he was returning back home with joy when a saint asked him, “Son, after winning, do you feel elated?”
Young Madhusudan replied, “Yes Swamiji!”
The mahatma asked, “Who is feeling elated – the Self or the ego?”
The young monk became thoughtful. He started thinking within himself, “The Self cannot feel elated because it has nothing to do with the victories and defeats of the body- mind complex. The body-mind-intellect (BMI) cannot feel elated because they are inert in nature. Then who is feeling elated?
“It is the Self identified with the BMI which feels elated. That means it is the ego which feels elated. But ego is the product of ignorance. Hence this elation is the sign of ignorance.
“What a pity that through my elation, I am glorifying my ignorance, my forgetfulness of the Self!”
The joys of honour and praise, awards and rewards are nothing but sweet poison. It is sweet because in the beginning we relish being praised. This praise boosts the ego. The bloated ego craves for greater recognition. For such a pampered ego, even a little insult or disregard becomes extremely painful. This pain is nothing but poison. Again, caught in this vicious cycle, one becomes bound to the endless cycles of births and deaths. Hence the end result of this craving is poison alone.
The choice is ours – enjoy the sweetness of recognition, boost the ego and die as a mortal; or escape the temptation, dissolve the ego, and become immortal.
O M T A T S A T