Humanity: Today & Tomorrow|Feb 22, 2005 12:00 PM| by:

Humanitarianism/Philanthropy and the Malady called Man

The new religion of this age is humanitarianism. The idea in itself is not new but it has perhaps never taken hold of the mind of man as in our present age. The idealistic youth of today are attracted more by serving humanity than by offering prayers and worship to the unseen gods sitting in some remote inaccessible heaven. Even where such worship is offered to the Unseen, it is more of a concession for granting of human favours. A God who cannot perform miracles or feed our starved bellies or provide us with riches and comforts or at least cure us with a magic wand when we are sick is not God and we have no use for him. Spiritual seeking for its own right, Truth for its own sake, the deeper mysteries of life and man seen through the eye of a higher wisdom take a backseat here. Instead man for himself and the whole creation for man. While one cannot deny a certain element of truth in this new gospel yet it is a truth much exaggerated beyond its logical limits. It literally enthrones man on the seat of the Creator and puts the shoes of man on the feet of God. Not that God minds it; He even allows it sportingly as a father indulges with the fanciful demands of a child. Nevertheless this reversal of roles is alright for a while but to stretch it too far and sustain it too long may be as undesirable as it would be to a child who seeks only indulgence and does not wish to grow beyond his infancy. As we grow up the indulgent cherisher and fulfiller of every wish assumes a different and more serious role, that of the teacher and the guide. And if we can sustain this learning experience, then the teacher changes further into a counsellor and mentor, friend and support, and perhaps for a few as even the lover of our souls, the eternal playmate, the sole beloved. Such is the high state, such the delight and beatitude possible to man and to each one irrespective of any distinctions, if only man could grow up from this infant state of regarding himself as the center of the universe.

Man is not the first born upon earth nor the last. He is only a middle term and though he occupies a most important place upon the stage of this earth, yet the scenes of the play do not exist by him or for him but he because of them. It is a truth difficult to grasp or swallow but nevertheless the world and God and Truth, even Love and all the rest exist in their own right and do not need the human crutch for support.

Therefore we need to caution ourselves whether service to man is not turning into a service of the human ego and its blindness. Serve we must, for through service we grow in humility and strength and love, but the whole question is who is the object of our service, nara or Narayana, man in his ignorance or the godhead secretly dwelling in man? Did the rishi who woke up Ratnakara, the robber of infamous fame, out of his slumbering and blundering Ignorance towards God and Truth do any lesser service to man? Did the seer who conquered Ignorance with his wisdom and the avatar who gave the gospel of the Gita for man to liberate himself for all times to come do a lesser service than one who is busy distributing blankets, opening hospitals and organising weekly meals for the poor? Can we deny that much of the so-called humanitarianism is a subtle or gross, mostly ostentatious display of the ego? It is service of the ego of one man by the ego of another. That is neither sympathy nor service but a multiplication of the malady, an endless walk in the maze, or as the Upanishad puts it, the case of the blind leading the blind. When our sympathy is not backed by Wisdom or is blinded by egoistic sentiments it often leads to a dependency and much harm. True humanity needs help and urgently so. But what is its real disease? Hunger, physical and emotional deprivation, wars, petty family quarrels, legal disputes, the breaking of hearts, the fear of exams, mounting stress, broken homes, abandoned children, crime and rape and plunder and murder… these are the symptoms, not the illness proper. Would you treat the symptoms without care for the disease itself? Well, then the illness will return in another name or form. The world has never lacked men of a charitable disposition nor those of goodwill who want peace and love but the quarrels and problems remain unabated. Diseases multiply, even wear a convoluted form as hospitals multiply. The increase of the rich and their charity seems to multiply the poor as well, as if one could not exist without the other.  Why? Because outer help devoid of an inner change is like putting a nice plaster and paint to conceal the cracks of a house in shambles. And how many want an inner change? We all wish to be comfortable. We may deceive other men and even ourselves but not the eye of the gods who value a drop of sincerity and genuine sacrifice much more than an ocean of display and ostentatious charity done often for self-satisfaction.

Besides what do we understand about the ways of God in dealing with our humanity, His purpose of developing strength through difficulties and suffering, arriving at immortality through disaster and death, His teasing us to bliss through tragedy and grief, His arriving at the ultimate victory through failure and defeat? The world no doubt needs a remedy and only an imbecile can call it a perfect world but what is it that has gone wrong, what is the diagnosis of the malady, or to put it rather bluntly, what is evil and suffering doing in a world created by an omnipotent and all loving God? Let us first find out the purpose and then the solution will automatically emerge. Is the purpose of life just two square meals, or for that matter simply to eat, enjoy and fade away no better than a glorified worm? And if there is more, then what is it? That is the real issue –  what is God’s intent in creating this charming and dangerous world where beauty abides alongside with cruelty and error lies hand in hand with truth as querulous but inseparable bed-fellows?

Or is it all a game of chance or an equally ambiguous law of fate where often the good and the evil are locked together in the same prison, nay they find refuge often in the same human breast? Perhaps there is the key to man’s inner deliverance, an inner war of which the outer wars and conflicts are only a pale reflection. Perhaps all our outer difficulties, including hunger and sickness are a challenge thrown upon our souls to wake within itself a conquering might. Perhaps the stress we experience in life is an indicator of our smallness, a subtle pointer to evolve, to widen, to spread out into infinity. Perhaps the pain we experience are actually birth pangs for a greater birth, the birth of a new and more harmonious creature out of man. Perhaps humanity needs growth more than anything else – a growth out of its mind’s narrow cabin of thought into the blazing Light of an intuitive Truth, out of our ego-centric self-seeking life and its small pleasures and smaller thrills into the Delight and Peace that come by diving deep into our souls. Perhaps our mud and brick built houses are razed to the ground before the calm unmoved eye of the witness gods so that we can inhabit the whole sky and earth, even as God. Why limit ourselves to the first animal view of life that emphasises so much on our petty appetites and seeks only to satisfy these. As if this is what we are looking for and as if this is the key to man’s deliverance.  Perhaps the remedy is not outside but within us. Perhaps it is nearer than we expect it to be! But science and industry with their gospel of material perfection by outer means, whereas philanthropy and humanitarianism with their insistence on outer relief of outer suffering and by outer means stand as much in the way of finding an inner cure as an indifferent casual couldn’t-care-less attitude towards life. At any rate these two have failed as much as other methods of bringing relief to our sick and ailing humanity. Religion and spirituality will help? Perhaps but not the spirituality that teaches escape from life, the running away of world-weary souls into some cosy corner of mukti or nirvana declaring world as an irremediable evil. Nor the religion that is forever glued to the past as if hypnotized by one single point of infinity.

Something more is needed, something that can change man from within, even despite himself, something that can enter deep into the heart of the malady, where the noxious fumes of a nether world rise up in revolt and anguish mixing poison with the nectar springs of the gods. Something armed with an irresistible power and knowledge that knows God’s purpose in this enigmatic double-natured life and has the mandate of the Divine to effectuate the triumph of Truth over all that yet resists and endures. That savior power is not found in human brand of philanthropy or our blind and often ill-advised humanitarianism. These things though useful and good in their places, even beautiful and necessary at a stage of human evolution are, even at their best, in the last, no better than temporary sops that satisfy us for the moment but become the cause of our misery the very next hour or day. Nothing will change if man does not change and change he will. For the winds of change are blowing and those who can see are already witnessing the birth of a new god within the human heart. The children of today feel it in their very bones though the past thriving well in our social, political, educational and religious institutions is still trying its best to stifle the new flame-child. The battles lines are drawn within the human heart itself. Each home is becoming a witness to a strange siege, a locked and fierce combat between a miasmic past that seeks to endure under nice and respectful garbs and the future struggling to emerge like a chick coming out with the power of all its innocence to face a ruthlessly commercial world. But this new world is innocent and strong, real and ethereal, combining love and might, faith and vision, truth and force, knowledge and power. The children of tomorrow shall see it with open eyes and grow blissfully under its sun-gaze dispelling all darkness from the human scene. However, for today there is a choice to be made for all who truly wish to raise this fallen world out of its seeming chaos. This choice may not so much determine the world’s future which is already settled and bound to evolve further and change for the better, but this choice will determine the future of the individual who so chooses. The choice stands today at every doorstep waiting to be heard, the choice that is given once across many spaces of time. It is the choice of choosing Truth or the abyss, of sticking to the forms of the past or the spirit of the future, the choice of eternal freedom for all or endless bondage and vain labour.

All would change if only man changes. All would change if only man the human-animal that was or still in his outer nature is, becomes the divine-man that he inwardly is and can become. That has always been the remedy given by God to man whenever He has manifested himself from behind the human garb, to change our animal nature, to humanise it a little, to make it little more suppliant and pliable to the call of the inner divinity by learning to subordinate the ego and conquer desires. Humanitarianism, when done truly selflessly can be a preparation towards that but is not the last word or goal of our unfinished journey. There is a still further step to be taken, to divinise the human in us, to make of this vessel a perfect instrument and slave of God. That will be the perfect solution for man’s eternal quest, the fulfilment for which he has always aspired, for pure truth and unconditional peace and perfect love and unmixed bliss. That alone can satisfy and fulfil man, that the Divine consummation towards which we slowly or swiftly move. And helping each other move and grow towards this source of all Light and Love, to help unleash the hidden springs of the soul, to inspire and awaken man towards a new vision of sublime peaks where truth and love and peace and happiness dwell as permanent inhabitants is the real service. It is to serve both, God and man or shall we say serve God concealed in man – the narayana seva, worship of God in his mask of humanity.