We have all had experiences that have had us question the intent of those around us and we may have asked ourselves, what is happening to people? We probably read something in the newspaper that had us asking, “Have they forgotten what it is to be human?”
So, what is it to be human and how do we conduct ourselves accordingly? The primary axiom of being human is to love all, without exception. It is a teaching that has been passed down through ages. We should be tolerant, generous and patient with others but often in trying times, people feel they can do away with these duties. Or they may feel that my suffering is bigger than someone else’s and therefore they have a right to act out of rage and anger. Other people and their well-being and happiness is the last thought on such people’s minds. They want to inflict pain because their ego tells them that the suffering they are going through, is worse than anyone else’s.
But the reality is that in times of great personal or social unrest, lies the best time to exercise our strong values, morals and harbour a love of all mankind for that is when it is needed the most. Empathy and love for others must not be conditional to our personal comfort. We are generous when we are ourselves placed well but if something undesirable happens, like we are admonished for a fault that wasn’t our own at the workplace, does that give us the right to be mean to someone else or forget that we are all humans doing the best we can?
Holding on to feelings of love and compassion when we are ourselves distressed, is not easy. It requires one to have a wider perspective of things and understand that as life’s joys ebb and flow, our love for those around us must remain constant and unwavering. Loving mankind despite where we are in life, invites a special grace from the universe and we are rewarded for our faith in the grand scheme of things.
There is a poem titled ‘Abou Ben Adem’ by Leigh Hunt. It is about a man named Abou Ben Adem, who one night, rises from a deep slumber only to see an angel in this room who is writing in a book of gold. Struck with curiosity, he asked the angel what he was writing in the book. The angel responded that he was writing the names of those who love the Lord. Abou then asked the angel if his own name was in the book. The angel replies in the negative. Disappointed but cheerfully, Abou asked the angel to write down his name as one who loves his fellowmen. The angel wrote down Abou’s name and vanished. The next night, the angel returned with a great luminescent light and revealed to Abou the names of those whom God had blessed and Abou’s name was on top of the list.
Loving all life is a message as old as time but is as relevant in the present, as it ever has been, if not more. Love is empowering and with empowerment people can change their lives. We all like to be a part of something, a team, an organization, anything that will give us a sense of community. Then what bigger community exists than one that encompasses all creation? No one should feel excluded because they are not like the others.
Various philosophies and religions propagate service of others, seeing all mankind created in the likeness of God and understanding the strength of Oneness.
Buddhism houses a central concept is nonduality, or the connectivity between all things. Once in a monastery, a monk was suffering from a contagious disease, he lay alone in his illness and there was nobody to look after him. Buddha and his disciple Ananda happened to be visiting that monastery and observed the monk in his plight. The Buddha then himself washed the monk and placed him on a new, clean bed. The Buddha then said to the other monks, “You have neither mother nor father to look after you. If you do not look after each other, who will look after you? Whoever serves the sick and suffering, serves me.”
In the Bhagwad Gita, Lord Krishna says, “He who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, never gets separated from Me (by time, space or anything intervening) nor do I get separated from him.”
The Bible teaches, “Honour thy father and thy mother: and, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
A couplet from Urdu poet Nida Fazli’s ghazal is often remembered, which translates to this – the mosque is too far away from home, let me then do this; let me give joy and laughter to a child crying in despair.
It is stated in Vedanta, “The ignorant man desires material things; the intelligent man (seeker on the path) desires enlightenment; but the wise man (knower of Oneness) just loves and receives everything.”
The Gandhian concept of Antyodaya propagates the same sense of togetherness. It means upliftment and service of the weaker sections of the society. The world we live in must be developed into an ecosystem of giving back. If that is too much, then just giving back love in return and harbouring no ill will for anyone based on personal bias or judgement is also serving those around us.
How can we contribute? The methods are unlimited to those who are willing to make a change within themselves. Find something that aligns with your values and try to incorporate that in your life. It may be something tangible or intangible like becoming more tolerant and patient to those around us but whatever we choose to do, we must genuinely try to feel connected with those who share the world with us.
To advance spiritually, it is imperative to advance as a human being. Understanding that there exists a connection between us and all life on earth is crucial. You are a part of me and I am a part of you is the knowledge that will bring greater happiness and satisfaction to life.