To Help or Not to Help

Last evening in Meditation & Discussion there was an inquiry into the issue of helping others. This piggy-backed on the previous week’s inquiry from Dharma Talk on how to speak about the gift of Vedanta (Self knowledge) to others.

More than one teacher has shared that we need to be cautious about “helping” others.

Until we fully assimilate the teachings, that we are non-dual love, we carry both knowledge and ignorance. We have to be both humble and mindful. Humble that we have more to learn and mindful that we can make matters worse by trying to improve them.

It’s important to look at our motivation for helping, are we seeking love, respect, admiration, affirmation, trying to get to heaven or controlling others to remove their discomfort so that we won’t feel unsettled by it.

With regards to speaking about Vedanta to others, same thing. We must look at our motivation for “teaching.” Are we sharing with the karma yoga spirit – as an expression of our gratitude with no desire for anything in return? Or do we have a subconscious motivation rooted in low self-esteem, a sense of limitation or some other mis-understanding?

Of course it is best to meet others where they are and like a sutra, use the minimum amount of words to get the point across. Also realizing that the best teaching is modeling a dharmic life.

Then there’s the idea that the world is just fine the way it is, that Isvara, the creator, is driving the bus and it’s best to just sit in our passenger seat and mind our own business, unless we are directly asked to intervene or we are compelled to take action because to not intervene would be adharmic.

Sometimes we just need to let others fall so they can pick themselves up. Can we really help an addict before they hit rock bottom?

Even when people do cry out for help they often won’t take our advice. They’ll just keep stepping in the same karmic hole until they are good and ready to go around it.

As one person shared to my Vedanta teacher Ramji, “James this is my shit, it’s warm and I like it.”

From a purely Vedantic standpoint, this life in creation is all just an appearance within you, the Self, which is never enhanced or diminished by any action.

It is a wise yogi indeed, that sees action in inaction, and inaction in action – paraphrased from the Upanishads.

Our suffering results from identifying as the helper/teacher, trying to affect change on a dream. While our joy as a jiva (incarnate soul) is a function of living our svadharma (personal dharma), which serves the whole and realizing who we are as non-dual love.

Understanding the motivation for action, whether it be helping, giving or teaching can help us not only be more effective but also happier.


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