The other day I stumbled upon a YouTube video in which a young man was tying the shoelace of an old customer because he could not bend to help himself. This happened in a mall where the young man worked and discovered that the old man could not bend to fix his shoes. So he stopped near him, sat on his heels, tied his shoelaces, stood up with a big smile and helped him push his cart some distance. This video created a sensation among the viewers. They thought it an unusual, though a welcome gesture.
This created mixed response in me, both hope and despair. I despaired that such a natural human gesture should evoke surprise in any person. Extending a helping hand to someone who needs it should be a perfectly obvious and natural reaction. To consider it as unusual suggests how far we have strayed from the very basic qualities of being human. But all is not lost. Though people were surprised, no one thought it unwelcome, in fact all of them liked it. This shows that man is still capable of appreciating what is noble, and beautiful.
I got another proof of this inherent goodness embedded in the heart of man. In another YouTube video shot in the Stirling station, Perth, Australia a couple of weeks ago, I noticed a very heart-warming scene. A commuter slipped and fell while climbing into the train. One of his legs got trapped between the platform and the train, and it could not be extracted. Then most of the commuters got down from the train, pushed and tilted the compartment until the person imprisoned between the train and the platform was released.
Can you doubt the essential goodness of the human heart?
I was witness to another incident, both ugly and beautiful. I was travelling in a train which stopped for a brief few minutes at Secunderabad railway station. People scrambled to get down and get up. There was a great push near the door, and an old man fell down on the platform while alighting. He was trying to get up on his wobbling legs not to be crushed in the crowd. But he was falling down again and again. I was watching all this from a neighbouring window. No one even noticed him lying there. They were either climbing over him, or avoiding him. Suddenly my heart jumped in delight! A couple of teen age boys, one of them a tea carrier, and the other a shoe-polisher, stopped there, picked up the fallen man, made way in the crowd for him, took him to a nearby bench, put him there. The old man was panting and blessing them for saving him from being crushed to death. The tea-vender offered him a cup of tea, and left. The shoe-polish boy was sitting with him when our train started moving.
I was very sad and happy at the same time. Why is it that people who are educated, who enjoy the gifts of life, are so much less human than a tea vender and a shoe-polisher in their teens? Why does our billion-dollar education system fail to teach us natural piety, and spontaneous humanity? Yet all is not lost if we see even in a tea vender and a shoe-polisher the light of a new dawn.
Is it an overstatement to say that Love all and serve all is the new mantra of salvation? It is the most human aspect of a human being, which is also divine. Is it an understatement to insist First be human before striving towards Divinity? Didn’t we witness the highest human qualities of love, compassion, and empathy and the divine qualities of omnipresence and omnipotence inhering in Swami? They were not like the skin and the shirt, but like a honeyed drink, both enriching each other. He wore them as a child wears his smile, so effortlessly, so unconsciously. He always insisted that we look within, and manifest the human excellences embedded in our hearts and minds. Swami always pointed out that wisdom is not imported from outside; it is an awakening from inside. It is to awaken that which is waiting within us all the time to manifest itself. Kindness, love, unselfishness, empathy were never dead. Fear, hate, selfishness, greed have covered them. Just as single acts of cruelty and baseness hurts the human psyche, single acts of kindness and empathy lifts the human psyche. Swami wanted us to multiply acts that connect us to our neighbours and environment. Isn’t it re establishing Dharma, or right living?
The tea seller and the shoe polisher at the Secunderabad station, the sales boy in the mall and the people at the Stirling station, and millions elsewhere performing little acts of spontaneous goodness demonstrate how we can upgrade our consciousness in our natural journey to Divinity.