Chapter 52: Who is Your Neighbour?
Visitor: We feel it is a privilege to be visiting your country and meeting you and your friends. We like being here.
SWAMIJI: It is a privilege to please God, in whatever manner it is possible.
Bruce (New Zealand): I suppose there are many ways.
SWAMIJI: Yes, so many ways. There are millions of ways. As God has millions of facets of expression, there are millions of ways of serving Him also which, I believe, is going to satisfy God. It is not easy to satisfy Him. He is a difficult Person, but once you know the art of satisfying Him, then you are scot-free. There is no problem, afterwards.
Bruce: That is hard, not easy. For people to come here, as these people are, as well as us, does it do good for humanity that all of us should come here?
SWAMIJI: It is better for you to ask the people seated here. You ask them, "Is it good for you to sit here, instead of going to the market place and doing some service to the shopkeepers?"
Bruce: But is it good for humanity that we should come here?
SWAMIJI: The shopkeepers are also a part of humanity, so if you can make people happy in any way, it is equal to doing service to humanity. Humanity does not necessarily mean an ocean of people. Even if you serve two people, it is serving humanity, and if you can enlarge the dimension of it, quite all right. Each one's heart will know what is good, and the heart decides the destiny of the person. One person cannot instruct another person on what is good.
Each one says "it is good." The tiger thinks it is good to eat a cow. And, a dacoit thinks it is good to rob; a politician thinks it is good to make profit by the exploitation of the masses. Every person has got his own idea of goodness. The whole point is, "What is goodness?" Then, it answers every question.
It is good to do good things. It may be service of humanity; it may not be service of humanity, it may be anything. Doing the proper thing is the good thing, but what is the good thing? This decides and answers all your questions. Let anybody say what is good, and what is not good. The whole philosophy, the entire religion of mankind is summed up in this question: What is good? Everybody pursues what is good, but what is good? What are they pursuing? Let each one's heart open up and answer this question: What do you mean by "good"? And you will pursue it.
It can be service of God, service of man, service of animals, service of trees and plants, or service of anything. All these come under the question of what is good. Let anybody seated here tell me what is good. Then, you will have no problems if the answer to this question has come. Everybody has shut the mouth. The mouth cannot open because if you say something, you are likely to get caught up by some difficulty afterwards. So, it is better not to say anything, and do what you think is good. Whether it is good or not, if you think it is good, do it.
Indian Visitor: Sir, whatever the scriptures say, that is good.
SWAMIJI: Whatever your heart says, that is good, the scriptures apart. Let the scriptures say anything; what does it matter? You cannot do something against your conscience. Though the scriptures may say that, your conscience may say, "No, no. This is not for me."
If the scripture says the hand must be cut off because you have stolen a pencil; this is also one law. Do you agree with it? Or, do you bury a person neck-deep, and stone him afterwards, for some mistake he has committed? Is it all right, because it is mentioned somewhere? What do you say?
Indian Visitor: To me, it seems, those are man-made scriptures.
SWAMIJI: That is another way of saying that we should not bother about scriptures. We shall not think of them. Let the scriptures be there. What do we say? What do you say? What does your heart say?
Every government in the world has a defense ministry to protect itself from onslaught. There is no necessity for a defense ministry unless there is somebody to attack. But, that particular area, from which attack is expected, also has a defense ministry. There is no country which maintains an offense ministry. If nobody is going to offend, why do you want a defense ministry? This has some connection with the answer to your question.
Is it good to have a defense ministry because you are distrusting a neighbour? Unless you distrust your neighbour, a defense ministry is not necessary. This goes against the law, "Love thy neighbour as thyself." Where is the love for your neighbour if you are maintaining defense forces? Everybody is doing that. There is not one area of the world which is free from this difficulty. Is it good to distrust your neighbour, and always be afraid of the neighbour? If you say it is not proper, there is no one in the world who does a proper thing. Everyone is fraught with fear, not of animals, snakes, scorpions, and tigers. It is man fearing man.
You were talking of service of humanity. You are serving the very same humanity of whom you are afraid, and you have to manufacture guns, and all that, to protect yourself against people. You have to protect yourself from human beings only, not from tigers, because they do not come and attack you. It is your brother who is going to attack you, and so you want to keep police, and army.
You have fear of the very same person whom you are going to serve. There is a contradiction in the very psyche, in the thought itself. The mind says, "Be careful about this person," But, at the same time, the mind says, "Serve that person." Now, what kind of thought is this? Who is your neighbour?
Bruce: The Christian scriptures says every man is your neighbour.
SWAMIJI: "Neighbour" is a word in the English language, which grammatically means "that which is adjacent to you." That which is very near you is your neighbour. Now, the nearest thing, I think, is the very earth on which you are sitting. This earth, this floor on which you are squatting, is touching you. The earth itself is the dearest and nearest neighbour. And, this earth happens to be one of the planets, among many others revolving around the sun, who worship the sun as their soul.
Inasmuch as the nearest and dearest neighbour, which is the very earth on which we are sitting, is considering the sun as the dearest and nearest neighbour, the sun then would become our neighbour. The sun in the sky is a very good person! Without him, we would not breathe. And the sun belongs to the entire galaxies. The galaxies will have something to say about the very organisation of the solar system; and the galaxies are controlled by the vaster space-time complex. So, who is your neighbour – the entire space and time, all creation, living and non-living, visible and non-visible, that which you can understand, and that which you cannot understand.
The very centre of the cosmos becomes the nearest neighbour of yours. It may look that the centre is far away, millions and millions of light years away, but the centre is everywhere, with circumference nowhere as we are told. You are just sitting on the centre of the cosmos. That is your dearest neighbour. Then, where are we actually sitting? What is our duty in this context? These are questions, to which an answer has to come, not from me, but from the heart of each and every person.
Sometimes, when a person is about to pass away, he is breathing his last breath, he may know what is his duty much better than when he was quite all right. When the last breath is being breathed, one will know what the duty is at that time. What will you think at that time, when you are about to leave this world? You will know who your neighbour is at that time, who will come to your aid immediately.
He is your neighbour who will come to your help when you are breathing your last breath; tell me who that friend is. All other friends will desert you, but some friend is there, who will come to help you even at that moment. A friend in need is a friend indeed; but your need is this: your breath is passing away. Who will help you at that time? But, there is somebody, whom we forget completely, due to the egoism of human nature. Then, you will know what your duty is, who your neighbour is.
The good thing is that which will enable you to love that dearest neighbour of yours, who will come to your aid when you are in need. A sidelight I have thrown on this answer to what is good. It is good to love your neighbour, and you find out who your neighbour is.