About 2 decades ago, I realized that I often appeared cold and distant to people. Others wouldn’t approach me easily, as I was just not open to them. Today, I realize that my cold and distant persona was a result of my deep feelings of insecurity. I did not have the confidence to show my feelings to others. I was not confident about my response to their actions and behavior towards me. Simply said, I was not confident about myself. That cold, defensive personality stopped others from coming into my life. I hid behind it and felt safe hiding in my own world. I never realized how it kept me away from the joy of being with people.
It was around this time that I heard about Swami Sukhabodhananda. Someone told me about his hugely popular and life changing three-day workshop – ‘LIFE – Living In Freedom, An Enquiry.’ Something about it lured me. Attending that workshop, changed my life for the better. Today, living has a new meaning for me.
It was not just the feeling of insecurity that I learnt to shed, I also learnt that being loving is the inherent nature of every human being. I learnt that in expressing love and warmth, we receive love and warmth. This opening to love is what enriches our life. From those initial days with Swamiji till today, the first feeling that comes forth is of love and warmth for the others, and particularly for those who are suffering.
Let me share a story from Swamiji’s book – From Frustration to Fulfilment. This story is narrated by a Jewish man who ran a bakery in a town in Germany and speaks about an incident from his childhood. The story goes –
“I was a kid, just a teenager when Nazis were mercilessly killing Jews in Germany. We were being taken to Auschwitz on the train by Nazis. As night arrived, it became deathly cold in the compartment.
The Germans sometimes stopped the train and left people on the side of the tracks overnight. They left people without any food or water. There were no blankets to keep us warm, nothing. That night, it snowed heavily, and the cold wind battered our bodies. Hundreds of us, were left alone in that state. We could feel our blood freezing.
Beside me was an elderly Jewish man from my hometown. He was shivering from head to toe and looked terrible. I quickly wrapped my arms around him to warm him up. I hugged him tightly in the hope that I could transfer some heat. I rubbed his arms, legs, face and neck. I begged him to stay alive. All night long, I spoke to him, encouraged him to live, and kept him warm. I was tired and freezing cold myself. My fingers were numb, but I didn’t stop rubbing heat into that old man’s body.
Finally, it was morning and the sun began to shine. I looked around to see how the others were. To my horror, all I could see were frozen bodies. All I could hear was deathly silence. Nobody else in that train cabin was alive. The freezing night had killed them all. Only two people survived: the old man and me. The old man survived because I kept him warm… and I survived because I was warmed as I tried to keep him alive.
And that is the secret to survival in this world. When we warm others, we remain warm ourselves. When you support, encourage and inspire others, you will discover support, encouragement and inspiration in your own life as well. My friends, that is the secret to a happy life. When you are good to others, you are good to yourself. When you make people happy, people will make you happy. Bear each other’s burdens and fulfill the law of God.”
This story made a deep impact on me. It is what Swamiji has always taught us – to love others and serve others. If we look at life deeply, we will see people suffering, in conflict, burdened with tensions, and crushed by problems. Swamiji often says that this disorder in our lives is simply because people have not learnt to love, themselves or others. In his book, ‘Managing Life Creatively,’ Swamiji reminds us that giving has much more joy than receiving. I have seen that is what makes life worth living.
Another beautiful lesson, indirectly connected to this, is the practice of looking at one’s body as God’s gift. One performs the acts of eating, bathing, exercising, etc. as though it is a service to the body. This, Swamiji reminds us, keeps the ego in check. It helps us develop humility and helps us remember, “this is God’s body I am serving.” This also sows the seeds of giving, not only to ourselves but to everyone. We slowly begin to see everyone has having God’s body.
We have to start living a self-less life and stop living a selfish life. I pray that we continue to be guided by Swamiji. May all our lives be filled with feelings of love for others and deeds of service to others.