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The Danger of Service Without Spirituality

--by Meher Baba (Sep 04, 2007)


Service, even when it is utterly selfless, ought to be guided by spiritual understanding; for selfless service, when unintelligently handled, often creates chaos and complications. It could even be the opposite of the desired effect.

The real danger in service lies more in the possibility of your rendering it from a false motive than in making a mistake about the spiritual demands of the situation. If you render service in order to oblige a person and if you feel proud of doing it, you are not only doing spiritual harm to the recipient of your service but also to yourself.

The consciousness that 'I am obliging someone' is the first to occur during the process of serving; but it can be annulled by the contrary thought, 'I am obliged by being given this opportunity of serving'. This latter thought facilitates the attitude of detachment and secures freedom from the bondage of good actions. Service based upon comprehensive understanding is not only selfless and adjusted to the spiritual demands of the recipient but is rendered with complete detachment. Such service takes the aspirant to the goal most rapidly.

For most people the idea of service is inextricably bound with securing certain definite results in the objective world. For them service consists of removal of human suffering or illiteracy or other difficulties and handicaps that thwart the flourishing of individual or social life. This is the type of service rendered by aspirants, politicians, social reformers and other good people. Though this type of service is of immense spiritual importance, it is in its very nature unending. Therefore, as long as the idea of service is tied to the idea of results, it is inevitably fraught with a sense of incompleteness.

There can be no realisation of Infinity through the pursuit of a never-ending series of consequences. On the other hand, service that comes after truth realisation is spontaneous expression of spiritual understanding of the true nature of the Self. And though it also brings about important results in the objective world, it is in no way complicated by any longing for them.

--Meher Baba


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On Sep 6, 2007 SC wrote:
MBJ: well, after all these conversations, I hope you realize that, of course Swami V, Lennon and you are not the only dreamers. At least I am dreaming about the same thing (and I know many others are wishing for that too)! Good to talk with you. Take care, -SC


On Sep 6, 2007 mbj wrote:

SC: Leave it to the ever-quotable Swami V to come up with a comment favoring religious propagation that I could get behind. This requires a little explanation. The only thing I hate more than religion is religious intolerance. I say this without the irony that gives the line its pleasing comical tenor. I mean it. It is the curse of liberalism. I would be quite happy – and I think the world would be a better place – if everyone lost interest in religion, and it all just atrophied away. This, of course, will never happen. So since there will always be religion, I am forced into a more realistic fallback position that is as principled as its core as it is pragmatic in its genesis. Mr. Jiva-is-Shiva’s one-religion-per person plan would accomplish both my ideals. It would represent the absolute obsolescence of religion as well as a manifestation of perfect tolerance and interpersonal harmony. You may say that Swami Vivekananda, John Lennon, and I are dreamers (but we’r  See full.

SC:

Leave it to the ever-quotable Swami V to come up with a comment favoring religious propagation that I could get behind.

This requires a little explanation.

The only thing I hate more than religion is religious intolerance. I say this without the irony that gives the line its pleasing comical tenor. I mean it. It is the curse of liberalism.

I would be quite happy – and I think the world would be a better place – if everyone lost interest in religion, and it all just atrophied away. This, of course, will never happen. So since there will always be religion, I am forced into a more realistic fallback position that is as principled as its core as it is pragmatic in its genesis.

Mr. Jiva-is-Shiva’s one-religion-per person plan would accomplish both my ideals. It would represent the absolute obsolescence of religion as well as a manifestation of perfect tolerance and interpersonal harmony.

You may say that Swami Vivekananda, John Lennon, and I are dreamers (but we’re not the only ones). Imagine.

MBJ

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On Sep 5, 2007 SC wrote:

MBJ: Glad that you resonate on the point of misusage of terminology. In my opinions, so many mishaps were created because of misunderstanding of words. The meanings we try to convey through words are associated with many dimensions, such as time, physical context, history, personal experience ... And yet words are not efficient to transfer all that. That is probably why the Zen masters like to use non-verbal method to teach their disciples. I am sorry that I mis-spoke about your feelings. When I see things like “craps” and “offensive”, I automatically interpret it as someone being upset. I am sorry for passing that judgment on you. I read your article on “Rejecting Spiritualitism” and I really enjoyed it! I’d like to share some of my views on this. I am one of those who believe “God is in all”. To me, my interpretation of spirituality is totally personal (The fact that I am expressing my view does not mean that I try to have others agree with me). This belief I have  See full.

MBJ: Glad that you resonate on the point of misusage of terminology. In my opinions, so many mishaps were created because of misunderstanding of words. The meanings we try to convey through words are associated with many dimensions, such as time, physical context, history, personal experience ... And yet words are not efficient to transfer all that. That is probably why the Zen masters like to use non-verbal method to teach their disciples. I am sorry that I mis-spoke about your feelings. When I see things like “craps” and “offensive”, I automatically interpret it as someone being upset. I am sorry for passing that judgment on you. I read your article on “Rejecting Spiritualitism” and I really enjoyed it! I’d like to share some of my views on this. I am one of those who believe “God is in all”. To me, my interpretation of spirituality is totally personal (The fact that I am expressing my view does not mean that I try to have others agree with me). This belief I have is a derivative of my personal, physical experience but not from a deductive logical reasoning. Let’s take the example of pizza. I am an Asian and I tasted pizza as an exotic western food first time at age 20. I almost threw up. It was disgusting to me. For that experience, no amount of logical reasoning or convincing will reverse it; nor is it an indication of disrespect for those love pizza. (After living in US for 12 years, I did develop liking for certain kinds of pizza and I periodically crave for it). I think we all have our own “taste buds” for spirituality. Your interpretation of spirituality is just as valid to you as my interpretation of spirituality is valid to me. Swami Vivekananda once said, I pray for the day to come when there are as many types of religions as the number of people in the world. May I extend that to, I pray for the day to come when there are as many types of interpretation of spirituality as the number of people in the world. So that no one is trying to convert or convince anyone else; and everyone will be thoroughly accepted and respected. – A “Bubblehead”, SC ;-))

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On Sep 5, 2007 mbj wrote:

SC: The point you make about the frequently meaningless usage of the term spiritualism is a good one. I tried to make the same argument in my short essay “Rejecting Spiritualism.” The points you make about me are less legitimate. First, please don’t mistake a well-voiced opinion with being “really upset.” When a notion like that of Meher Baba is not only narrow-minded, but also offensive, it strikes me as appropriate to say so in no uncertain terms. This is particularly important since there is some subtlety to the odiousness of Meher Babas dissertation and because it fits into a standard trope of bigotry which spiritual seekers often fail to appreciate. Don’t worry about my feelings, which I assure you are quite in tact. Second, I am reasonably well-acquainted with Meher Baba’s conceptions of spirituality, though I confess to be more troubled than he was by the apparent contradiction between his adherence to the oneness-of-god-in-everything metaphysics and his declaration  See full.

SC: The point you make about the frequently meaningless usage of the term spiritualism is a good one. I tried to make the same argument in my short essay “Rejecting Spiritualism.” The points you make about me are less legitimate. First, please don’t mistake a well-voiced opinion with being “really upset.” When a notion like that of Meher Baba is not only narrow-minded, but also offensive, it strikes me as appropriate to say so in no uncertain terms. This is particularly important since there is some subtlety to the odiousness of Meher Babas dissertation and because it fits into a standard trope of bigotry which spiritual seekers often fail to appreciate. Don’t worry about my feelings, which I assure you are quite in tact. Second, I am reasonably well-acquainted with Meher Baba’s conceptions of spirituality, though I confess to be more troubled than he was by the apparent contradiction between his adherence to the oneness-of-god-in-everything metaphysics and his declaration that he was an avatar and direct descendant of God. (I guess when you manage to convince a bunch of folks that you are The Man, little things like philosophical coherence don’t seem to matter as much. And if you aren’t talking, the faithful might assume that you could have explained stuff, had you wanted to.) MBJ

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On Sep 5, 2007 supun wrote:
I should have mentioned to that to me, volunteer work does not have to be "spiritual". I don't believe in Karma that much. But, I do acknowlege the positive energy that comes from knowing I tried to help somone and there is a feeling of gratitude that may come my way. Alot of times, it may help to just throw away the idea thamay t you have a soul that collects experience or affects future outcomes. This was a good TOW because it got me thinking.

On Sep 5, 2007 supun wrote:
I believe alot of what this article is about has validity. It's very hard to detach myself from what I'm doing. It took me a long time to learn how freeing it can be to think of my self as "doing" instead of the "doer". One of the main reasons I get involved with service is to feel good about myself. It took alot of frustration and saddness for me to figure out that obligation and expectation in helping others can be stripped away. It only complicated how I felt about what I was doing. I didn't really understand why mbj thought this was self-righteous and arrogant. Isn't the main point of the article to be aware of your self-pride when doing service and to strip it down to a neutral, middle passage? To me this was a suggestion of how to minimize the suffering that is inevitable when you become a volunteer and things don't change. To me it says to be ready to become water that can fit into any cup, tea kettle, pipe that you may fall into or have to flow through.

On Sep 5, 2007 SC wrote:
Regarding this previous comments: in this day and age, spirituality, like a lot of other terminology, can have a wide range of, sometime even opposite meanings. Before you get really upset by your interpretation of this Thought of this Week, maybe it is worthwhile to find out what the author really means by "spirituality".

On Sep 4, 2007 mbj wrote:
What insulting crap! I was tempted to write a detailed reply to this arrogant, insipid, self-righteous garbage; but it really is not worth the effort. The spiritual vacuity of a guy who suggests that spiritualism is the only effective meta-ethics is as self-evident as it is offensive and ironic.