Notion of ‘Doing Good’ – an exploration

Last updated on Feb 9, 2019

Posted on Oct 14, 2005

Swami Vivekananda’s lectures after his path-breaking set of speeches at the 1893 World Parliament of Religions have been compiled in the “The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda”.  As an enlightened being and a window to his Guru Shri Ramakrishna Paramhans, Swami Vivekananda said a lot of things with great clarity and strength.

At this time of my spiritual path, Swami Vivekananda and Jiddu Krishnamurti – have been my guide.  I find their ways and their paths very different.  Yet, it seems to me that they end up in the same place.

Swami Vivekananda, at some point, considers Buddha and Jesus to be “second rate”.  Because they went out to share their knowledge.  Many went away without that obvious interaction with the world.  After all, 24 Buddhas, Gautama was the 25th, passed without anyone knowing their names.

Although harsh, but Swami Vivekananda’s point is that trying to turn around the world may be futile in overall terms.  The existence keeps moving from states of Equality to Equilibrium.  When there is a state of Equality, there is no existence, for existence occurs due to Duality.  Differentiation.  Only when there is differences and duality, does the existence come into being.  And in that state, the existence goes for equilibrium.  If there is ever a situation of disequilibrium, the existence strives for equilibrium.  That is its nature.  IN that sense, Swami Vivekananda said that you cannot “do any good”.

However, this is not a definitive take on enlightened Masters coming to help others by showing them a path and preparing them for the spiritual journey.  After all, Swami Vivekananda himself was a product of that lineage.  Before he met Shri Ramakrishna, he was like any other lost rebel.

Bhagwad Gita is not about “Doing Good”!

What Swami Vivekananda does say beyond this is something interesting – that when you try to do any good, you are not helping anyone else, but helping yourself.  Giving takes a lot out of someone.  And selfless giving, where sometimes you know that what you are giving will not be received for the purpose it is intended, is even more significant. The crux lies in getting involved in this world and in the giving – as many Gurus did – with complete involvement, even when you have the ability to walk away from it all at a moment’s notice.  Such involvement without attachment requires special preparation for a being.  That is precisely what the Spiritual journey is for.

Swami Vivekananda also suggests that you cannot do complete good or complete evil.  There is no complete extreme.  Every being does things which are mix of both.  Motives are what make one known as evil or good in a social sense.  In a more existential sense, evil is that which is not aligned to the force of life.  That, which hurts life, is evil.

In a way you can say, that the main benchmark could be standpoint of Selfish and unselfish actions. Let us look at this a bit more.  Every life, on its own physical form, looks for survival.  That is the nature of physicality.  Physicality has only known boundaries – which protect it and therefore, that is its only instinct.  But to be in a state, where you are nurturing of other life, all life, you need to let go of the instinct of survival.  Fetish for survival is selfishness and nurturing (being a parent?) to all life is the way of unselfish living.

Krishnamurti says.. time is the movement from “here” to “there”. Or from “What is” to “What should be’.  Or, in other words, from “Being” to “becoming”. The moment you are one with “what is” the time stops. In that state, where the observer and observed are same. Such that the “I” goes away. That “I” which is responsible for duality. And the moment “I” goes away, the need for selfishness or unselfishness vanishes, for you are the doer and deed.  The “urge” to “change” betrays that the person still has not really lost the “I’.  Or so it may seem.  Sometimes, you do things that lead to change, because that is how you are inherently.  Just as how existence is itself.  One consciousness knows no change.  But Duality is always in the process of change and renewal.

As we move on with our spiritual journey, we will look at this question – action and the urge of doing good, again and again.  For, it is central to the way we progress on any spiritual path.  A preconceived notion of what is good and what is bad, may actually be the most damning idea and notion that humanity may have harbored for very long.  That notion, which in the hands of ordinary men and women, quickly acquired sanction from an imagined god, became the tool of many destructive genocides and bad things.  It is, therefore important, that we look at this question again and again as we move on.

Swami Vivekananda on Equality and Equilibrium

Here is the complete quote reproduced from “The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda”

Christianity was preached just on the basis of the fascination of this fanaticism (“idea of equality”), and that is what made it so attractive to the Greek and Roman slaves. They believed that under the millenium religion there would be no slavery, that there would be plenty to eat and drink; and therefore, they flocked around Christian standard. Those who preached the idea first were of course ignorant fanatics, but very sincere. In modern times this millenial aspiration takes the form of equality – of liberty, equality, and fraternity. This is also fanaticism. True equality has never been and never can be on earth. How can we all be equal here? This impossible kind of equality implies total death. What makes the world what it is? Lost balance. In the primal state, which is called chaos, there is perfect balance. How do all the formative forces of the universe come then? By struggling, competition, conflict. Suppose that all the particles of matter were held in equilibrium, would there be then any process of creation? We know from science that it is impossible. Disturb a sheet of water, and there you find every particle of the water trying to become calm again, one rushing against the other; and in the same way all the phenomena which we call the universe – all things therein – are struggling to get back to the state of perfect balance. Again a disturbance comes, and again we have combination and creation. In equality is the very basis of creation. At the same time the forces struggling to obtain equality are as much a necessity as those which destroy it.

Absolute equality, that which means a perfect balance if all the struggling forces in all the planes, can never be in this world. Before you attain the state, the world will have become quite unfit for any kind of life, and no one will be there.

We find, therefore, that all these ideas of the millenium and of absolute equality are not only impossible but also that, if we try to carry them out, they will lead us surely enough to the day of destruction.

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