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Volume VIII - The Art of Being

The Privilege of Being Human

Chapter XXVIII
Unselfish Actions

A person is apt to think, 'Why should I perform actions that bring me no return? Why should I be kind, where no kindness is shown to me, where there is even no appreciation?' In this way he commercializes his kindness: he gives in order to receive. This blindness comes upon man, and it makes him blind even towards God. He thinks, 'Why should I be grateful to God? There is nothing to be grateful for. If the sun shines, it is natural. If I have what I need for my living, I work for it all day;' or else, 'I belong to such a family where it is natural that everything should be provided for me.'

Man never sees how helpless he is in himself. If there were no ground, he could not stand. If there were no air, he could not breathe. If there were no parents, he could not have been brought up. All things that keep him alive are those upon which his existence depends, for which an unbounded amount of thanks is due. But he thinks, 'If I perform any kind action, God should do a thousand kindnesses to me. If I do anything for others, God should do a thousand times as much for me.' Then he wishes to give only when there is a return. He speaks a kind word in order that kind words may be spoken to him; this is flattery. He says, 'I like you because you like me. I am your friend, because you can help me. I am your enemy, because you have done me harm.'

The Sufi says, Ishq Allah Mabud Allah – God is love and Beloved. This word love we have so altered, so degraded in our ordinary life. We say, 'I love you, because you love me. I am your friend, your well-wisher, because you are my friend and well-wisher.' This friendship lasts a short time and then it is gone. It is as if we say: 'I like this flower because it is beautiful,' and when its beauty is gone, it is thrown away.

Question: What is the best way to learn not to look for appreciation and reciprocity?

Answer: To develop independence in nature. When one loves one must love for the sake of love, not for a return. When one serves one must serve for the sake of service, not for acknowledgement. In everything a person does, if he does not think of reciprocity or appreciation in any manner or form, he may perhaps seem a loser in the beginning, but in the end that person will be the gainer, for he has lived in the world and yet held himself above the world; it cannot touch him.

Furthermore the tendency to doubt, to be depressed, the tendency towards fear, suspicion and confusion, the tendency to puzzle – where does it all come from? It all comes from the thought of getting something in return: 'will another give me back what I have given him? Shall I get the just portion back, or less?' if that is the thought behind one's acts there will be fear, doubt, suspicion, puzzle and confusion. For what is doubt? Doubt is a cloud that stands before the sun, keeping its light from shining. So is doubt: gathering around the soul it keeps its light from shining out, and man becomes confused and perplexed. Once selflessness is developed, it breaks through the cloud saying, 'What do I care whether anyone appreciates it; I only know to give my service, and that is all my satisfaction. I do not look forward to get it back. I have given and it is finished; this is where my duty ends.' That person is blessed, because he has conquered, he has won.

Then it is lack of knowledge of the divine justice when man doubts whether he will get his just portion, or whether the other will get the best of him. If he looked up and saw the perfect Judge, God Himself, whose justice is so great that in the end the portions are made equal and even – there is only a question about the beginning, not about the end – if only he saw the justice of God, he would become brave, he would trust and not trouble about a return. God is responsible for returning a thousandfold what man has ever given.


checked 30-nov-2015