Category Archives: Yoga

Radio Interview on the Vedic View of the Mind

Aneesha Holaday
Aneesha Holaday

The following is a Radio Interview with Babaji by Aneesha Holaday for Voice America

Aneesha Holaday (Host): The chitta, or subconscious mind is our deep-seated memory and is where all our life’s impressions are stored. Chitta is the unconscious mind and can be compared to the hard-disk of a computer. We are unaware of it, constantly taking in and storing our life experiences, deep seated memories, emotions, habits, attachments and impressions which are all stored in the unconscious mind. In some cases they can be reached by hypnosis and drugs, like LSD, and reach the chitta. So people often believe that they are having a spiritual experience but they are only going to the level of the mind. Chitta is the bridge between the mind and the soul, and it is through the subconscious mind that we connect to cosmic consciousness and our inner self. The other aspect of the mind is the buddhi, or the discriminating aspect of our mind, this is our intelligence and can be compared to the processor of a computer. It is the rational part of the mind which allows us to judge, doubt and process information before it is stored in the memory. It allows us to understand and discriminate between truth and falsehood, good and bad, and it gives us values and principles and allows us to be objective in our judgement. The discriminating mind acts as a filter of information coming in to the mind and is the basis of conscience. If the discriminating mind is not developed, as in the case of in babies and young children, the subconscious mind is not protected, leaving it wide open to impressions or scars, which is why the early days especially are so important to bringing up a child. Everything is recorded in the subconsciousness even before birth, which is why pregnant women, babies and young children have to be protected from trauma. Ancient civilisations realised this, and thus in tribal communities the main role of the men is to protect the women and children. Chitta is very important to sanity and functions properly in the sattvic state of mind, but in rajas and tamas states, its functions are disturbed. Dr Satyanarayana, I wonder if you would give us a Vedic explanation of the mind.

Babaji: The basic view of the Vedas concerning the mind is that it is like a material machine. Mind is not spirit as some people think, although it is conscious, but that consciousness is not its inherent characteristic. The Vedas very clearly describe that as human beings, we have three components. We have the physical body – hands, legs, eyes, which we can perceive. Beyond that, there is a psychic body, which includes the mind with the intellect, ego and the chitta, which can be translated as the unconscious mind. Beyond, there is the atma, the true source of consciousness. The psychic body and the gross physical body are made up of matter, which is inert and devoid of consciousness – it has no inherent awareness. Atma is conscious by nature and spreads its consciousness into both, the psychic and the gross body. Just as you have a car, and that car has many parts within it, but these parts only function when there is an electric current flowing through them.

Aneesha: So it’s like a battery then, in some sense…

Babaji: It’s like a battery, but a battery that is inexhaustible. A battery which never comes to an end. So atma is the source of consciousness and this consciousness is its intrinsic property – being intrinsic property, it can never be removed from it. This consciousness then spreads into the psychic body, including the mind, and as a result the mind becomes conscious, the intelligence becomes conscious, ego becomes conscious and they start to function and do their respective work. Just as the engine of the car starts functioning when you turn it on by virtue of the key.

Aneesha: So is this consciousness what you would call eternal?

Babaji: This consciousness is eternal and therefore we have the theory of reincarnation – the process by which the atma gives up this body at death and takes another body through the conception of a mother and father, and during which the new body then develops around the atma, in the womb. In this process, when the atma goes from one body to another, it is only the gross body which is left behind, the psychic body goes along with the atma. This is how karma continues from one life to another. The psychic body has the imprints from the previous life. These impressions, which are called samskaras, are stored within the unconscious mind, which is also part of the psychic body. But we are normally not aware of them, just as you have a computer and there are many programs on the hard-disk, but you are not aware of them unless they are displayed on the screen. So the chitta is like the hard-disk.

Aneesha: So it has a lot of things in it that we are not aware of?

Babaji: It’s quite a big hard-disk with an almost unlimited capacity. Your memories from hundreds and hundreds of previous lifetimes are stored within. Therefore it is feasible for one to actually go back hundreds of lifetimes. In India there have been yogis who have remembered many of their past lives. Lord Buddha is believed to have remembered his last one hundred lives. They are collected in a very popular book book called Jataka stories. He even speaks of previous lives, which were not human. He was also an animal. In one lifestyle he tells that he was an elephant and at one point there was a forest fire, during which a rabbit came and took shelter under him. As a consequence, he didn’t want to move. That is how he died, to protect the rabbit.

The point I am making with this story is that in the unconscious mind, a lot of our memories are stored from past lives and also from this life, and that is how we are able to remember. So all the remembrance flows from the unconscious mind, and when those impressions can be moved on to the mind, then we remember. We are only conscious of those things that flash into our mind, which is like the screen of a computer. The chitta, or unconscious mind, is like the hard-disk. So whatever comes into the mind, that is all you know at that point, and what doesn’t come into the mind is what you say you have forgotten. At a particular point in time you can only be aware of one thing, but the mind works very fast, it can keep on pulling things from your chitta and it’s very busy, a lot of thoughts keep coming, one after another, into the mind.

Aneesha: And it’s also processing what’s coming in through the senses …

Babaji: Yes, it is a two way path. There are things coming into the mind from inside channels and from outside channels also. So whatever comes into the mind from outside gets filtered and stored in the unconscious mind. It’s not stored haphazardly but grouped in different files. We have sound files, taste files, tactile files, and visual files of colors and forms. We have five senses; taste, touch, smell, seeing, and hearing – so there are files relating to each one of them. All the sensations which come to us go through the mind and get stored in their respective area. So whenever we see anything, we actually recognize it on the basis of past experience. When I see a book lying on the table, I recognise it as a book because I have already seen a book in the past, and that experience was stored. When a sensation comes from outside, that sensation is just a pure message, it doesn’t say anything about what it is. So when I first see it, I only have the sensation that there is something. This is indeterminate knowledge. And then our intellect takes this indeterminate knowledge and goes and searches for matching content in the unconscious mind, like a computer does when you do a word search. In the same way, the intellect takes the stimulus of indeterminate knowledge, searches, and then comes back and tells the mind that this is a book. So you see it as a book, but sometimes you may also mistake it for a resembling object. A rope can be mistaken for a snake when there is not sufficient light in the evening. The sensation comes to the intellect, it searches, and mistakenly matches it with a snake. Then you think there is a snake, when actually it’s just a rope.

Aneesha: Is that the same as seeing a mirage? It looks like water but you are not really sure …

Babaji: Yes, it’s not real water, but because the heat rays are reflected, it gives an impression to the mind just like that of water. Therefore our senses can sometimes be mistaken.

Aneesha: Could you talk a little bit about the discriminating mind, or the buddhi?

Babaji: Buddhi, discriminatory intelligence, does the function of making decisions, which means it needs to discriminate between what is beneficial and what is not. Whenever a stimulus comes to the mind, the mind cannot make a decision, the decision is made by the buddhi. So buddhi is that which tells me what is actually beneficial for me and what is not. If we do not use our buddhi and simply follow our mind, then the mind will always fall for pleasure. If anything is painful or unpleasant, then the mind does not want it. So if I like sweets, I will want to eat them, but if I happen to be a diabetic patient, then only my buddhi will tell me not to eat sweets because they are not good for me. The mind will just say, “eat!” So the mind cannot discriminate, it only follows the principle of like and dislike, pleasure and pain. That is its criteria. Buddhi sees the effect. You may have to take some herb with a bitter taste, so the mind will say, “Don’t eat it, eat chocolate instead.” The intelligence will say, “Don’t eat the chocolate because you have diabetes and it’s not good for you, you should take this herb which is good for you.’

Aneesha: Is that the same case in terms of caution, say if you are approaching a dark street and you have the feeling that it might be dangerous. Is that the buddhi working?

Babaji: Yes, the buddhi warns you.

Host: So it’s a very important part of the mind to keep healthy and to keep working properly.

Babaji: Yes, if the buddhi is not working, then you will have bad health.

Aneesha: How do we keep it working properly? It is related to sleep isn’t it?

Babaji: It is related with sleep, it is related with doubts, and it is related with certain decisions. To keep it working, you have to keep up your awareness. If you are not aware, which is the tendency usually – not to be aware of our actions, our thoughts, or our emotions, and just follow whatever is happening – that means that the buddhi is sleeping. So most of the time people don’t use their buddhi and they make mistakes. This is called prajna aparadha in Ayurveda, which means misuse of intelligence, or offending the intelligence.

Aneesha: I remember that you said the buddhi is not truly developed in very young children, so they don’t have that protection/filter of information going into the subconscious.

Babaji: Yes, when a child is born, it doesn’t have a developed faculty of discrimination, which also means that any experiences are stored, indiscriminately. If the buddhi is working, then we can store impressions or experiences in a certain manner, avoiding certain emotions along with it, so that it will not influence us.

Buddhi is like a door keeper, it can say, “Ok, this thing I don’t want to keep.” So if you have a bad experience, you can choose to store it, and then that bad experience will keep on troubling you later on. The other option is not to store the emotion along with the experience. So then it won’t bother you. Sometimes our life is guided by traumatic experiences which we have had in our childhood, and unless we actually digest them properly, using our buddhi, then they keep on troubling us. So the buddhi is also acting like a digestive fire. If food is not digested properly, it becomes a toxin in your body, usually moving into the joins, and then your joints start to cause you pain. You get arthritis, which comes from of undigested food getting stuck in the joints.

So similarly, the experiences we are getting from the outside are also like a food. In Sanskrit, the word for food is ahara, which literally means anything that comes inside me, whether it comes through the mouth or the nose, eyes, ears, or skin – it is all food, so it all must be digested. The food that goes into the stomach must be digested by the digestive fire, and the food that goes into the mind through the senses is digested by the intelligence. If the buddhi or intellect is not very strong or not developed, then these things don’t get digested. This means you are unable to comprehend them properly and you store them as they come. As a result, these experiences keep on troubling you, becoming like toxins or scars. This is how you develop phobias. You may become claustrophobic because you had some experience in your childhood, perhaps your parents punished you and put you inside a closet and you got scared by that and felt suffocated. So when you grow up, you still carry these emotions. When you are in a closed space, then these experiences are triggered because your intelligence did not digest them properly the first time. So the same emotion becomes manifest and you become like a child. You may be grown up, but your behaviour is just like a two year or four year old child.

Aneesha: Do you get those kinds of experiences from previous lives also?

Babaji: It is possible from a previous life if it was a very strong experience, otherwise usually they are from the childhood. So that is why it is important to have a very nice, protected childhood. If you don’t receive love in childhood, then everything is perceived as a phobia, and you don’t develop a proper sense of identity. You have an identity crisis. And this is where the ego comes into the picture. The ego is very important because it gives me a sense of identity, a sense of my being as a person, what I am. So if I have not got love, and I have not had a good relationship with my parents in my childhood, then I don’t have a strong identity.

Aneesha: Is that the same as self-esteem?

Babaji: Self-esteem is related to that, yes. So when I don’t have that strong sense of identity, then I am lost in my life, then I imitate others. Therefore there is a big tendency to be a fan of somebody. Celebrities, film actors, and sports players – people follow them because they don’t have their own identity, so they identify with those people.

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Astanga and Bhakti Yoga

Question: I am wondering how this astanga-yoga is connected with bhakti-yoga, or if it is connected at all?

Answer: No, it is not connected.

Question: Then why is Krsna bothering to explain it?

Answer: He is saying that this is also a process that can be used to come to that level of realization. In general, people are not attracted to bhakti, but if they hear about meditation or pranayama, they are immediately interested. Even devotees are attracted. Because it is attractive, people are inspired to take up the practice, and claim to be following Krsna. Indeed, Krsna himself states this and incorporates it within his teachings. Furthermore, one day such souls also may become devotees.  Devotees benefit from having some knowledge of astanga-yoga and should not be completely ignorant of this field.

Question: What will a karma-yogi achieve?

Answer: Krishna has described that he will either follow the process of knowing Brahman or of Paramatma. He has to have some notion of the Absolute, of which there are only three concepts: Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan. The followers of Brahman are called jnana-yogis, those whose goal is Paramatma are called yogis, and those who follow Bhagavan are called bhaktas or devotees. Niskama-karma is not a process that leads to the Ultimate in and of itself. One has to be a jnana-yogi or a bhakti-yogi, since ultimately these are the only two processes. Karma-yoga is a process for purification, and Krishna says that a karma-yogi is either like a devotee or like a jnani. If he is like a jnani he becomes renounced and takes sannyasa. If he is like a bhakta he continues to work, although he still may be known as a karma-yogi because of the process he has followed. If he becomes devoted he will consider bhakti as his prime process, understanding that karma-yoga is secondary. This means that he is doing it only in order to set the standard for others, and no longer as a means.

Question: So at some point he has to decide what is his goal?

Answer: Generally this is there to begin with, because one starts out with a concept. Among the karma-yogis you will find two basic types: those whose concept of the Absolute is a person and those who have the concept that the Absolute is impersonal. So the concept exists in the beginning, but later on becomes more solidified as they start to realize it.

Question: If there are only two paths, where does this yoga fit in?

Answer: It is also a part of jnana because it is similar in that jnana-yogis also don’t participate in action. There are Yogi in Meditationtwo paths, pavritti marga and nirvritti marga, the path of action and the path of renunciation. One who follows the path of renunciation is called a jnana-yogi, and the one who follows the path of action, an astanga-yogi. The former places more emphasis on deliberation and the latter on meditation. Krsna prefers astanga-yoga to jnana-yoga, and specifies that astanga-yoga is superior, the reason being that astanga-yoga moves towards the personal form of the Lord.  In astanga-yoga, one meditates on Paramatma, whereas the jnana-yogis meditate on the impersonal feature of the Lord. So from that point of view, a yogi is better than a jnani. Krishna says that a yogi is better than a tapasvi, better than a karmi, and better than a jnani–he is better than all of them (tapasvibhyo ‘dhiko yogi jnanibhyo ‘pi mato ‘dhikah, BG 6.46).

Therefore it depends on one’s concept of the Absolute and one’s realization to consider one person more superior to the other.

The Meaning of the Word Yoga

The word yoga has two somewhat different meanings. One meaning is to unite, the other meaning is to be distinct from everything else, thus to disunite. Patanjali, the famous author of the “Yoga Sutras”, uses the second meaning when he speaks of  “yogas citta-vritti-nirodha“. Here yoga means to terminate all of one’s thoughts, which means not feeling anything externally. Yoga philosophy describes the mind, particularly the citta, as mutable. The word citta is usually translated as mind or heart, a very subtle object. When it perceives something it takes the shape of that object, and the object reflects into the self. The self does not directly come into contact with anything externally. Only the senses come in contact with their objects, and then the mind undergoes a transformation called vritti. Whenever we perceive something our mind undergoes transformation or modification. This is how we come to know or feel anything. This keeps our awareness focused on objects other than ourselves.

Patanjali
Patanjali

Patanjali says that we should bring an end to these modifications. When there are no modifications or citta-vrittis, we are not disturbed or carried away by anything. The soul becomes aware of itself.  The soul does not experience anything else, it has become disunited. So although yoga is considered as union, in this context it means the opposite, disunion. At present the soul is united with something external. Yoga wants us to give up this relation with external sensations. In the highest stage of yoga, samadhi, there is no sensation of the external world. You are situated in yourself, being who you are.

The word can also be used in the sense of union: Yoga is a means to unite us with our goal. There are different types of yoga, such as karma yoga, jnana yoga or bhakti yoga. When we use karma or actions for uniting or reaching our goal, it is called karma yoga. Similarly when we use jnana or knowledge of oneness with the Absolute to achieve our goal, it is called jnana yoga, and when bhakti or devotion is the process, it is called bhakti yoga. The specialty of bhakti yoga is that it is both the means as well as the end. Karma yoga is based on knowledge of karma and devotion to the deity. In the same way jnana yoga also depends on certain actions and devotion to the Absolute. Bhakti is action in devotion accompanied by the knowledge of the Supreme God. It is only by the path of bhakti that ultimate welfare is achieved.  Karma and jnana are ineffective without bhakti. Bhakti however is not dependent on either karma or jnana.

Audio excerpt: [audio:https://jivaseva.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Meaning-of-Yoga.mp3|titles=Meaning of Yoga]

The Yoga of Dejection

Arjuna’s Dejection

We all have suffered from temporary phases of dejection at some point in our lives. Dejection overwhelms us when the unexpected transpires over the expected, when the bad overcomes the good, and when the evil visits us instead of the righteous. Being human, it is very normal for us to have expectations from people and things around us. Expectation amounts to longing, yearning, desire, craving, or lust. Likewise, failure to attain the expected begets dejection, sadness, sorrow, morosity, gloom, and depression. The ancient Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita are potent forces of knowledge and philosophy that can guide us in wiping out the root cause of dejection in order to live a happy, sanctimonious and noble life. Bhagavad Gita, arguably the most concise and systematic book of religion, ethics, philosophy and metaphysics ever written, delves deeply into the vexing intricacies of sorrow and grief. In itself it is but a single part of the Mahabharata, an astonishing tapestry of ancient Vedic history and philosophy told through the lives of several generations of the great Kuru Dynasty.

The Backdrop

Sri Krishna and Arjuna
Krishna and Arjuna

Let me offer you a few drops from the huge ocean of knowledge that is Bhagavad Gita before we move on to discuss the Yoga of Dejection element ingrained in it. Bhagavad Gita is a discourse between Shri Krishna and his warrior disciple Arjuna, shortly before Arjuna takes part in the great war of Mahabharata on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Because the Gita was not written as an independent book, the characters, settings and circumstances mentioned in it are similar to the preceding episodes of the Mahabharata. The first chapter of Bhagavad Gita is called the “Yoga of Dejection”. It depicts a picture of the blind King Dhritarashtra sitting on his throne and enquiring about the latest happenings at the battleground of Kurukshetra from his charioteer Sanjaya, who has the ability to see distant objects through his divine eyes. Seated inside the palace, the King comes to know that the battle is about to begin. Warriors from both sides stand facing each other. The Kauravas are led by King Dhritarashtra’s eldest son, Duryodhana and the Pandavas are led by the eldest son of Pandu, Yudhishthira. Pandu’s other son, Arjuna, the greatest archer, too is poised to take the challenge and stands on his chariot driven by Lord Krishna.

As Arjuna sees all his kinsmen—sons, brothers-in-law, cousins, teachers (Bhishma, Dronacharya and others)—standing arrayed in battle, he says to Lord Krishna, “My limbs fail and my mouth is parched, my body quivers and my hairs stand on end; the Gandiva (his bow) too slips from my hand. I do not wish to kill them even for the sake of the kingship of the three worlds. It is a great sin to kill my teachers and relatives. If I kill them, I shall be called the slayer of the family and will go to hell”. Arjuna is overwhelmed with grief and dejection. He throws away his bow and arrows and sinks down on the seat of his chariot. He shares his predicament with Lord Krishna. The rest of Bhagavad Gita is an elucidation of Krishna’s response to Arjuna’s despondency. This is the backdrop on the basis of which we shall try to find an answer to our own dejection.

Yoga and the Cause of Despondency

There are several reasons for calling Arjuna’s despondency yoga in the first chapter of Bhagavad Gita, which is appropriately entitled Visada Yoga, or the ‘Yoga of Dejection’. Krishna says that four types of people surrender to him: the distressed, those who desire wealth, the inquisitive, and those who know the Absolute Truth. Of the four types of pious people who approach the Lord, the largest group belongs to the category of the distressed. So, in this sense, the distress which serves to bring one closer to the Lord is also considered yoga. Here, Arjuna symbolises the distressed and the desperate man. The word yoga is defined as, “a means”. Arjuna’s despair acted as a means that led him to the ultimate solution of the problems of his life and, therefore, it is rightly termed as ‘yoga’. Yoga also means “union with the Supreme Soul”. Because he approached Krishna when he was in despair, Arjuna received the Lord’s mercy and attained union with him.

This is in contrast with lesser persons taking to drugs or other diversions when overpowered by dejection. They only become weaker, more delusional and degraded, and in this way, waste their life. According to Bhagavad Gita, the cure for the debilitating plague of dejection, which is a mental affliction, lies in the ability to free oneself from material attachments by adopting the spiritual path. In the Gita, Krishna acts like a psychiatrist and guides Arjuna towards a resolution to his dilemma by teaching him how to detach himself from  maya (bodily love and affection). Those who take to the spiritual path alone can expect to live a life without fear from dejection. They, however, face many trials and afflictions as they attempt to detach themselves from material life. If one remains within the grip of material attachment, one cannot function on the spiritual path. One falters like Arjuna—he began to shiver at the thought of losing everything material, and his mind became confused and conflicted.

Krishna instructing Arjuna

He wanted peace but needed to fight and shed blood to attain it. He got torn between these two affinities, and the attachments that he held so dear presented obstacles to his progress. The same is the case with King Dhritarashtra, whose attachment for his sons had blinded him from seeing their mistakes and their ineligibility to ascend the throne.

Overcoming Duality

Bodily attachment always results in duality. Whenever there is love based on physicality there must be hatred, because liking automatically implies dislike for anything that is in discord with the object of love. Therefore, in the material world, love also implies hatred, and attachment indicates repulsion, as these two are always found together. For this reason, Krishna advised Arjuna to abandon material attachment. Although Arjuna argued that it was not proper for him to fight his elders, he was not actually worried about killing Bhisma or Dronacharya. Arjuna’s real problem was that he was faced with the prospect of killing his attachments. Even Arjuna took a long time to understand this point. For a while, Arjuna did not understand why Krishna insisted on fighting for his rights. It may appear that Arjuna was a non-violent man and that Krishna was trying to incite him to inflict violence upon his teachers. This, however, is a superficial understanding held by those who are also bound by their material attachments.

Arjuna’s material attachment was the real cause of his dejection, and one who has such attachments can not be non-violent. He will be violent towards only those who come in the way of his attachments. Therefore, non-violence in a materially-attached person will always lead to self-motivated violence somewhere in the future. That is why Lord Krishna rejected Arjuna’s seeming non-violence. Without understanding this fact, Arjuna’s arguments appear quite sensible, and Lord Krishna’s reply seems irrelevant. The same duality can be seen in the case of King Dhritarashtra as well. He was obsessed with the word, mamaka (“mine”), that signified his mentality. He had divided his sons and the Pandavas into two opposing groups although they all belonged to one family and grew up together. Because of strong attachment to his sons, he referred to his sons as “mine”. Therefore, the attitude of “mine and yours”, or “friends and enemies”, creates hatred and envy which, in turn, gives rise to duality.

Overcoming Attachment

In order to remove the material attachment that impedes the living being’s spiritual understanding, Bhagavad Gita says that matter and spirit are different. From the very beginning, Krishna told Arjuna that he was not the body, but Arjuna failed to see the relevance of that knowledge to his predicament. He thought, “Why is Krishna stressing that I am not this body? I am pointing out the impropriety of killing my kinsmen, and he responds by saying, “The soul never dies…?” Arjuna did not understand the connection between his question and Krishna’s response. Therefore, Krishna had to speak on a level that Arjuna could grasp. Only after the fifty-third verse of the second chapter, did Arjuna realise, what Krishna was actually saying. So Dhritarashtra and Arjuna were blinded by the same condition—material attachment. In our spiritual life too, we are confined by the same infirmity and we have to give it up, otherwise we will not make progress. The basic principle that must be followed in one’s pursuit of happiness is that spirit is beyond the body, and the spirit is what we really are, regardless of whether one follows bhakti marga, jnana marga or yoga marga.

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People coveting and endeavouring for peace and happiness, but attempting to grasp them materially are merely chasing a mirage, which recedes ever further as we strive to approach them. Therefore, bhakti or devotion is the surest and easiest process by which one may realise the Supreme Soul and escape the vitiating cycle of dejection. This can be followed by anyone who understands that the self is distinct from the body, and who reposes faith in the Almighty to attain lasting peace and happiness.

by Satyanarayana Dasa

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Bhakti-Yoga: The Path of Love

by Satyanarayana Dasa

In our search for happiness, we strive for materialistic gains to please our body and mental-sensual faculties. However, our desires are never exhausted, and we keep on working for more. That is why, in spite of the material comforts and good spiritual health, we remain dissatisfied. The solution lies simply in moderation.

To know what is proper for the body, mind and soul is the foundation of a happy life. Sufficient wealth is necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle; but in our greed to accumulate more wealth, we overburden the mind and are unable to find peace and happiness.

In our craving for more, we have become completely isolated, lonely and imbalanced. We have forgotten the joy of sharing. For this reason, the scriptures advise us to share with others our knowledge, our services, or our wealth.

Those who have tasted the mood of service know that to give to others brings more joy than to keep everything for one’s self. Selfless service yields immense joy and satisfaction. Especially when done with the purpose of pleasing God, it brings complete happiness.