Thousand Kilometers, One Conclusion
Jun 11, 2005After a thousand kilometers of observing and serving on this pilgrimage, I've come to one conclusion: I can't help others.
In fact, it doesn't make any sense to help others.
The human heart will unfailingly respond to the ills of the world with compassion, but unfortunately, every solution will be incomplete until that human being has knowledge of the whole.I'm a technologist. I understand that nuclear energy is a kind of power that solar energy is not; genetic research is curing many lethal diseases that allopathic doctors can't grasp; privatization is an efficient delivery mechanism than working with the politics of masses; robots are removing the mundane, inhumane jobs and assisting physically challenged people; neurological technologies are quite literally giving eyesight without eyes. And I can write essay after essay on why the web is our coolest invention to date.
Yet I'm also human. I can also see that faster and faster communications has created a lot of stress that is corrupting the family fabric. Uncontrolled power of the media has commercialized our education systems and is spitting out ad-mimicking cartoons in place of evolved human beings. Cut-throat competition in our bigger, better, quicker drive has propagated unparalleled greed in our corporations. Satisfaction index of the world, if there were such a thing, hasn't progressed much despite all our material advances.
Take toothbrushes, for example. Surely, any modern dentist will tell you that you should brush your teeth everyday; and if you go to tribal villages of India, they will all think you are confused soul from outer space to pollute the environment from that plastic when you can use a branch from a Neem tree that is known to have medicinal values. If we can have a reasonable argument about something as simple as brushing your teeth, really how evolved are we?
For every single step "forward", any John Doe can easily cite twenty different problems. Einstein once said that you can't solve a problem at the same level of intelligence that created the problem. I think that's the crux of the matter: in our unrelenting search for solution, we have forgotten to evolve our Intelligence.
I want to take Einstein to the nth, though. By induction, you can't come up with any true solution unless you have intelligence of the whole. While we always like to think we have knowledge of the whole, we are typically just passing time before the next bomb explodes. :)
So the real question is -- is it possible to have knowledge of the whole? And because the "whole" is something that can't be fathomed by the intellect (or in quantum terms, it can't be observed without affecting the observed), this becomes a fundamentally spiritual question.
In looking back at my adventures in service to date, I realize one tendency I have always had -- helping others help others. I was never comfortable in helping others; what are you going to help others with? How do you know what is right for them? Yes, it's better to teach a man to fish than to give him fish, but just because someone has fish doesn't mean he's happy. What's the holistic solution? If there is one, how come no Nobel Laureate speaks about it? So, my approach was (and is) to always unconditionally support the awakening of any soul, on any path, towards any destination. Howard Thurman's quote -- do what makes you come alive because what the world needs most are people who have come alive -- has been the dictum of my service journey thus far.
Today, I realize that it's impossible for me to help others unless I have knowledge of the whole. To have knowledge of the whole, you have to expand your awareness to encompass everything. And to encompass everything, you need a heart that has no room for the ego.
Until the heart is free of the ego -- let's face it, this is not an easy thing to do -- what do we do? Serve. For sure. The only caveat is that you serve with the full understanding that this is not to help others but to open your heart wide enough so you can contain information of the whole.
Although I can't confirm this experientially, it is my belief that once you have information of the whole, you are merely an instrument of the universe. You become a channel of action for that higher intelligence to function naturally and whether you are doing the most mundane thing or the most complex development task that seems imperfect, it is for the true collective good.
For those willing to look, there is tons of evidence supporting this hypothesis. Weeks before the revolutionary Dandi Yatra, Rabindranath Tagore asked Gandhi about his future plan, to which Gandhi replied: "I don't know but you can be sure I'm constantly praying." Gandhi called it his inner voice. Mother Teresa, time and time, again said it was "God" leading her. Vinoba Bhave said that it was the universal voice that instructed him: "Go ask for land. Don't be afraid. Go ask for land. That's your work." Martin Luther King, Jr. on many occasions gave inspired talks: "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the Lord." Dalai Lama similarly was at Gandhi's grave when he felt an inspiration inside him to lead a nonviolent movement against China. Vivekananda roamed all of India, and then meditated on the rocks of Kanyakumari where he realized that his work was in the West. And so on.
Is Gandhi's work, or Mother Teresa, or Vinoba's or Dalai Lama's perfect? Far from it. But you see, they would all argue that it was never their work. They were mere instruments of the subtle-yet-real collective intelligence that functions through all of us, that guides us to true progress. It is through the hands of these that humanity progresses.
Before we started our pilgrimage, a group of kids once asked me the purpose of our trip. Rather spontaneously, I told them that my purpose is to move from the ego plan to the divine plan. I have thought up and implemented many ego plans in my short life; I could do that forever and feel really good about it, but something within myself is calling me to evolve to a higher level of intelligence. I'm satiated with this level of awareness and it's time to move on. I don't know if I have the heart to go forward, but I'm certainly ante-ing up my life behind that calling to reach "divine" plan. Whether you call it divine plan, knowledge of the whole, realization, God, Universe, Lord or whatever, the point is that it's not the ego; it's something far bigger than the ego.
My purpose in life, then, is clear: to be an instrument of nature. Until I purify my heart to become that instrument, I will be grateful if I have an opportunity to serve. But it is only after that blossoming of awareness, if what the sages say is true, "I" will truly serve.