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RELIGION > MY RELIGION SECTION FIVE : MY RELIGION IN PRACTICE > Love expressing itself in self-sacrificing service


24. Love expressing itself in self-sacrificing service


The only way to find God is to see Him in His creation and be one with it. This can only be done by service of all. I am a part and parcel of the whole, and I cannot find Him apart from the rest of humanity. My countrymen are my nearest neighbours. They have become so helpless, so resourceless, so inert that I must concentrate myself on serving them. If I could persuade myself that I should find Him in a Himalayan cave I would proceed there immediately. But I know that I cannot find Him apart from humanity.

Harijan, 29-8-'36, p. 226

God having cast my lot in midst of the people of India, I should be untrue to my Maker if I failed to serve them. If I do not know how to serve them I shall never know how to serve humanity.

Young India, 18-6-'25, p. 211

And as I know that God is found more often in the lowliest of His creatures than in the high and mighty, I am struggling to reach the status of these. I cannot do so without their service. Hence my passion for the service of the suppressed classes. And as I cannot render this service without entering politics, I find myself in them.

Young India, 11-9-'24, p. 298

If I am to identify myself with the grief of the least in India, aye, if I have the power, the least in the world,, let me identify myself with the sins of the little ones who are under my care. And so doing in all humility, I hope someday to see God—Truth—face to face.

Young India, 3-12-'25, p. 422.

I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, try the following expedient:

Recall the face of the poorest and the most helpless man whom you have seen and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he be able to gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words will it lead to Swaraj or self-rule for the hungry and also spiritually starved millions of our countrymen?

Then you will find your doubts and yourself melting away.

[From a letter to a friend]

This Was Bapu, by R. K. Prabhu, 1954, p. 48

While he was engaged with Mahatmaji, a young American missionary asked him what religion he professed and what shape the future religion of India was likely to assume.

His reply was very brief. Pointing to the two sick persons in the room, he said 'To serve is my religion. I do not worry about the future.'

This Was Bapu, by R. K. Prabhu, 1954, p. 4

Religion is service of the helpless. God manifests Him­self to us in the form of the helpless and the stricken.

I have certainly regarded spinning superior to the practice of denominational religions. But that does not mean that the latter should be given up. I only mean that a Dharma which has to be observed by the followers of all religions transcends them, and hence I say that a Brahmana is a better Brahmana, a Mussalman a better Mussalman, a Vaishnava a better Vaishnava, if he turns the (spinning) wheel in the spirit of service.

If it was possible for me to turn the wheel in my bed and if I felt that it would help me in concentrating my mind on God, I would certainly leave the rosary aside and turn the wheel. If I am strong enough to turn the wheel, and I have to make a choice between counting beads or turning the wheel, I would certainly decide in favour of the wheel, making it my rosary, so long as I found poverty and starvation stalking the land. I do look for­ward to a time when even repeating the name of Rama will become a hindrance. When I have realized that Rama transcends even speech, I shall have no need to repeat the name. The spinning wheel, the rosary and the Ramanama are the same to me. They sub serve the same end, they teach me the religion of service. I cannot practise Ahimsa without practising the religion of service, and I cannot find the truth without practising the religion of Ahimsa. And there is no religion other than truth.

Young India, 14-8-'24, p. 267

Hand-spinning does not, it is not intended that it should, compete with, in order to displace, any existing type of industry; it does not aim at withdrawing a single able-bodied person, who can otherwise find a remunerative occupation from his work. The sole claim advanced on its behalf is that it alone offers an immediate, practicable, and permanent solution of that problem of problems that confronts India, viz., the enforced idleness for nearly six months in the year of an overwhelming majority of India's population, owing to lack of a suitable supplementary occupation to agriculture and the chronic starvation of the masses that results there from.

Young India, 21-10-'26, p. 368

We should be ashamed of resting, or having a square meal, so long as there is one able-bodied man or woman without work or food.

Young India, 5-2-'25, p. 48.

Imagine, therefore, what a calamity it must be to have 300 million unemployed, several millions becoming degraded every day for want of employment, devoid of self-respect, devoid of faith in God. I may as well place before the dog over there the message of God as before those hungry millions who have no lustre in their eyes and whose only God is their bread. I can take before them a message of God only by taking the message of sacred work before them. It is good enough to talk of God whilst we are sitting here after a nice breakfast and looking forward to a nicer luncheon, but how am I to talk of God to the millions who have to go without two meals a day ? To them God can only appear as bread and butter.

Young India, 15-10-'31, p. 310

Self-realization I hold to be impossible without service of an identification with the poorest.

Young India, 21-10-'26, p. 364


The human body is meant solely for service, never for indulgence. The secret of happy life lies in renunciation. Renunciation is life. Indulgence spells death. Therefore, everyone has a right and should desire to live 125 years while performing service without an eye on result. Such life must be wholly and solely dedicated to service. Renunciation made for the sake of such service is an ineffable joy of which none can deprive one, because that nectar springs from within and sustains life. In this there can be no room for worry or impatience. Without this joy, long life is impos­sible and would not be worth-while even if possible.

Harijan, 24-2-'46, p. 19

This body, therefore, has been given us, only in order that we may serve all creation with it.

And even as a bond slave receives food, clothing and so on from the master whom he serves, so should we gratefully accept such gifts as may be assigned to us by the Lord of the universe. What we receive must be called a gift; for as debtors we are entitled to no consideration for the discharge of our obligations. Therefore we may not blame the Master, if we fail to get it. Our body is His to be cherished or cast away according to His will. This is not a matter for complaint or even pity; on the contrary, it is natural and even a pleasant and desirable state, if only we realize our proper place in God's scheme. We do ' indeed need strong faith, if we would experience this supreme bliss. "Do not worry in the least about yourself, leave all worry to God,"—this appears to be the commandment in all religions.

This need not frighten any one. He who devotes him­self to service with a clear conscience will day by day grasp the necessity for it in greater measure, £nd will continually grow richer in faith. The path of service can hardly be trodden by one, who is not prepared to renounce self-interest, and to recognize the conditions of his birth. Consciously or unconsciously every one of us does render some service or other. If we cultivate the habit of doing this service deliberately, our desire for service will steadily grow stronger, and will make not only for our own hap­piness, but that of the world at large.

*  *  *

Again, not only the good, but all of us are bound to place our resources at the disposal of humanity. And if such is the law, as evidently it is, indulgence ceases to hold a place in life and gives way to renunciation. The duty of renunciation differentiates mankind from the beast.

Some object that life thus understood becomes dull and devoid of art, and leaves no room for the householder. But renunciation here does not mean abandoning the world and retiring into the forest. The spirit of renunciation should rule all the activities of life. A householder does not cease to be one if he regards life as a duty rather than as an indulgence. A merchant, who operates in the sacrificial spirit, will have crores passing through his hands, but he will therefore not cheat or speculate, will lead a simple life, will not injure a living soul and will lose milli­ons rather than harm anybody. Let no one run away with the idea that this type of merchant exists only in my imagination. Fortunately for the world, it does exist in the West as well as i the East. It is true, such merchants may be counted on one's fingers' ends, but the type ceases to be imaginary, as soon as even one living specimen can be found to answer to it. No doubt these sacrificers obtain their livelihood by their work. But livelihood is not their objective, but only a by-product of their vocation. A life of sacrifice is the pinnacle of art, and is full of true joy.

One who would serve will not waste a thought upon his own comforts, which he leaves to be attended to or neglected by his Master on high. He will not therefore encumber himself with everything that comes his way; he will take only what he strictly needs and leave the rest. He will be calm, free from anger and unruffled in mind even if he finds himself inconvenienced. His service, like virtue, is its own reward, and he will rest content with it.

Voluntary service of others demands the best of which one is capable, and must take precedence over service of self. In fact, the pure devotee consecrates himself to the service of humanity without any reservation whatever.

From Yeravda Mandir, 1945, pp. 54-60

Sacrifices may be of many kinds. One of them may well be bread labour. If all laboured for their bread and no more, then there would be enough food and enough leisure for all. Then there would be no cry of over-population, no disease and no such misery as we see around. Such labour will be the highest form of sacrifice. Men will no doubt do many other things either through their bodies or through their minds, but all this will be labour of love for the common good. There will then be no rich and no poor, none high and none low, no touchable and no untouchable.

This may be unattainable ideal. But we need not, therefore, cease to strive for it. Even if without fulfilling the whole law of sacrifice, that is, the law of our being, we performed physical labour enough for our daily bread, we should go a long way towards the ideal.

If we did so, our wants would be minimized, our food would be simple. We should then eat to live, not live to eat. Let anyone who doubts the accuracy of this proposition try to sweat for his bread, he will derive the greatest relish from the production of his labour, improve his health and discover that many things he took were superfluities.

May not men earn their bread by intellectual labour ? No. The needs of the body must be supplied by the body. 'Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's' perhaps applies- here well.

Mere mental, that is, intellectual labour is for the soul and is its own satisfaction. It should never demand pay­ment. In the ideal state, doctors, lawyers and the like will work solely for the benefit of society, not for self. Obe­dience to law of bread labour will bring about a silent revolution in the structure of society. Men's triumph will consist in substituting the struggle for existence by the struggle for mutual service. The law of the brute will be replaced by the law of man.

Harijan, 29-6-'35 p. 156

In India there is a particular type of man who delights in having as few needs as possible. He carries with him only a little flour and a pinch of salt and chillies tied in his napkin. He has a lota and a string to draw water from the well. He needs nothing else. He walks on foot covering 10-12 miles a day. He makes the dough in his napkin, col­lects a few twigs to make a fire and bakes his dough on the embers. It is called bati. Its relish does not lie in itself but in the appetite that honest toil and contentment of mind give. Such a man has God as his companion and friend and feels richer than any king or emperor. God is not the friend of those who inwardly covet other's riches. Every­one can copy this example and enjoy ineffable peace and happiness himself and radiate it to others. On the other hand, if one hankers after riches, one has to resort to exploitation, by whatever name it may be called. Even then the crores cannot become millionaires. True happi­ness lies in contentment and companionship with God only.

Harijan, 21-7-'46, p. 232

The true connotation of humility is self-effacement. Self-effacement is moksha. (salvation). Service without humility is selfishness and egotism.

Autobiography, 1948, p. 483

When self-satisfaction creeps over a man, he has ceased to grow and therefore has become unfit for freedom. He who offers a little sacrifice from a lowly and religious spirit quickly realizes the littleness of it. Once on the path of sacrifice, we find out the measure of our selfishness and must continually wish to give more and not be satisfied till there is a complete self-surrender.

Young India, 29-9-'21, p. 306

Not until we have reduced ourselves to nothingness can we conquer the evil in Us. God demands nothing less than complete self-surrender as the price for the only real freedom that is worth having. And when a man thus loses himself he immediately finds himself in the service of ail that lives. It becomes his delight and his recreation. He is - a new man, never weary of spending himself in the service of God's creation.

Young India, 20-12-'28, p. 420