• Arzu Eylül Yalçınkaya

As a symbol of the devotion of God: Selfless-service

B.  

Through the aspects of two different tradition:

Hinduism

and

Islam-I

I am taking two classes this semester. One of them is “Introduction to Sufism” and the other one is “World Religion”. There are a lot of reading and writing assingnments for both of my classes that has to be submitted until the due time.  The last assignment of my “World Religion” class was to write an essay on the importance of the “Devotion to God” in Hindu tradition. Since this was going to be a huge project; we were only required to quote and analyze one passage from any Indian text. The main purpose of this essay was to help the students employ all the terminology-that are complicated enough to make a student puzzled in such a funny way- they learned during the first three weeks period of spring term. So then I selected a passage from Mahabharata, that is one of the two sanskrit epics of Ancient India. The reason of my selecting passage was that the name of if. Having had an alluring name, the epics had attracted  me. It was “Selfless Sevice”. After writing my essay on Hindu devotional life -which was about to reach 10 pages, ıf I did’t stop myself – I now check it out again and try to discover some similarities between Islamic devotional life and that of Hindu tradition. While examine this I also would like to focus on “the meaning of servis” in Islam  precisely.

The meaning of Selfless-service in Hindu Tradition

Today I wil try to analyzie the Hindu tradition from this percpective through the passage from Bhagavad Gita, a sacret Hindu text, takes place in Mahabharata.

Selfless-Service

To He who shirks action does not attain freedom; no one can gain perfection by abstaining from work. Indeed, there is no one who rests for even an instant; every creature is driven to action by his own nature.  

Krishna empshises that no one can avoid action. If everyone of us has to work so would it be better if the intention of this work free from any expectation relates to ego.

Those who abstain from action while allowing the mind to dwell on sensual pleasure cannot be called sincere spritual aspirants. But they excel who control their senses through the mind, using them for selfless service.

Fulfill all your duities; action is better than inaction. Even to maintain your body, Arjuna, you are obligated to act. Selfish action imprisons the world. Act selflessly, without any thought of personal profit.

At the beginning mankind and the obligation of selfless servise were created together. “Through selfless service, you will always be fruitfull and find the fulfillment or your desires.”: this is the promise of the Creator.

Honor and cherish the devas as they honor and cherish you; through this honor and love you will attain the supreme good. All human desire are fulfilled by the devas, who are pleased by selfless service. But anyone who enjoys the things given by the devas without offering selfless acts in return is a thief…

Every selfless act, Arjuna, is born from Brahman, the eternal, infinite Godhead. He is present in every act of service. All life turns on this law, O Arjuna. Whoever violates it, indulging his senses for his own pleasure and ignoring the needs of others, has wasted his life. But those who realize the Self are always satisfied. Having found the source of joy and fulfillment, they no longer seek happiness from the external world. They have nothing to gain or lose by any action: neither people nor things cann affect their security.

Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work with the welfare of others always in mind. … (From Bgavad Gita, Mahabharata)

* * *

Bhagavad-Gita is basicly a song about Supreme Exalted One and it is a part of Mahabharata. Mahabharata is known to be the longest epic poem written in Sanskrit. Mahabharata’s plot concern is the struggle between the sons of a royal family for control of a kingdom in the present day’s Delhi. Its account mostly revolves around war and the importance of war as the most significant activity of one’s spritual life. Bhagavad Gita,  as a 700 verse scripture, has a reputaion for the influential and effective dialogue between prince Arjuna and his guide Lord Krishna. Krishna in Gita is refered to as a manifestation of Supreme. (Supreme Being is referred to as an ultimate reality which is ultimate principle beyond the all worldly perception and impossible to perceive through our senses)

In this epic, there are mainly two characters around which all the sacret narrative take form. Lord Krishna is respected as the 8th avatar/manifestation of Vaishu, a maintaineer deity of Hindu Trimurti, a triple deity concept in which Brahman is respected as the creator, and Vishnu as the maintaineer/preserver and Shiva as the maintainer. The second character of the story is Arjuna. Arjuna is the prince of Pandava. His very nature is to figth against evil or to protect his kingdom, or in another word he is such a men created from the soil of the wrath and the power granted by deities.

And through the conversation between the Lord and his precious friend, we come to understand the meaning of one’s fulfilling his duty without any hesitation and also any expectation. Lord Krishna tries to make Arjuna encouraged about fulfiling his duty as a warrior and  kill. He hesitates to plung into to battle, in which he is to fight with his relatives. So Krishna uses the power of Hindu teachings such as karma yoga, bhakti yoga (selfless servis) and jnana joya in order to give Arjuna faith, saying:

“Fulfill all your duities; action is better than inaction. Even to maintain your body, Arjuna, you are obligated to act. Selfish action imprisons the world. Act selflessly, without any thought of personal profit.”

Krishna reminds Arjuna to employ the teachings of Karma yoga. First he starts to glorify action. In most of the spritual ways, especialy in mystic schools, action is thought to be a kind of veil that prevent a devotee from his goal. On the other hand inaction is highly praised as a mean that helps one go into the deepness of soul where h/she can unite with the Supreme. But here we see that Krishna  presents Arjuna the importance of selfless action, which means not to have any expectation for the service as a sign of devotion to Supreme/Ultimate being.

Lord Krishna says a lot about this topic and after all his sayings Arjuna  still keeps his attitute against war so  Krishna goes on to note:

“He who shirks action does not attain freedom; no one can gain perfection by abstaining from work. Indeed, there is no one who rests for even an instant; every creature is driven to action by his own nature.”

Krisna points out the importance of disiplined action. If everyone has to act so what makes our action different from the others’ is its intention. As it is stated in the text: “If everyone of us has to work so would it be better if the intention of this work free from any expectation relates to ego.”

Arjuna, finally comes to appreciate the truth that to be free from the prison of worldly desires and aspire to the presence of Supreme, or to attain moskha/soul’s liberty he has to perform his warrior duties with absolute devotion. To achieve that, the only way is to put his all worldly desires aside, remind himself his own nature created on a warrior and go into the battle for doing his best. And then he plungs in to battle.

This battle is thought to be an allegory representing the conflict that might erase between our earthly duties and our spritual aspirations.

Here the meaning of serving God has been presented as doing the action which God has created you to do, and doing this particular action in its perfe By the way of this kind of devotion, only by selfless action a devotee may attain liberation or moshka.  Selfless action makes one forget about his own ego. So when one forget his/her own lower self/ego so he come to sense his own Supreme self in his soul. At some point of this devotional work or life, one come to sense that  there is unity between lower self/atman and Supreme Self/Brahman. Then finally the devotee perceives that he can not evaluate the action according to its fruit or income, because the action that he has done as a devotee, it is actually a fruit that could only be reach by selfless action.

#Islam #DevotiontoGod #Sufism #SelflessService #WorldReligion

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