(Taken from the Divine Life magazine in 1948)
Sri Swami Sivanandaji always keeps with him two bottles, one bottle containing sugar and the other containing rice – sugar for distribution to ants and rice for distribution to birds. Sometime Swamiji keeps little pots during summer for storing water for the birds.
One day in winter a wasp was shivering and struggling for life. Swamiji took it, basked it in the sunlight, patted it dry and placed a little sugar before it. After some time the wasp was able to move its wings that were wet. He had the bhava (feeling) that the wasp also was Lord Narayana. By such action he really did divine service to the Lord. One day he saw small insects struggling for life in the latrine. It was caught up amidst the faeces. He slowly and carefully removed it with a twig, washed it with a little water and basked it in the sunlight. It was gradually brought back to life. Whenever he sees any insects or worms struggling for their life in a big vessel of water, he at once removes them gently from the water.
Sri Swamiji always takes great care to see while walking if any insects are present on the way so that no injury may be caused to them. So did Raja Jadabharata. Every aspirant should follow the worthy example shown by Sri Swamiji.
Though this incident may seem to be very trifling and ordinary in the eyes of a man, it is but the simple acts of mercy and compassion that go to develop the real inner man. This is the precept by practice which Sri Swamiji imparts to humanity at large. It is because the ordinary man of the world, including even the spiritual aspirant, neglects the smaller details that they fail to achieve anything grand in the spiritual path. Had they taken notice of these seemingly simple things and actively practised them in their daily life, they would have developed compassion to a very great extent, which would have made them spiritual giants. The rational man cannot understand the subtle moulding of character brought about by the practice of kindness, charity, and one's own dharma as prescribed in the Shastras. He neglects them with an air of contempt or postpones them to old age. Drop by drop the mighty ocean is filled. Everyone has to bear this in mind and try to progress gradually in the spiritual path.
Every aspirant in the spiritual path should try to do noble, merciful acts of this description to purify the heart and render it soft. He should develop mercy and sympathy to a considerable degree. Mercy is a virtue that leads to dhyana and para bhakti. Such little acts of mercy and sympathy, however insignificant they may seem to be, go a long way in attaining the goal of life. He who does such acts only can become a practical Vedantin and feel oneness with all beings. An aspirant should be ever alert and vigilant to do such acts. No opportunity should be lost. Simply shutting oneself off from all beings and imagining that one would enter into deep meditation thereby, without developing the practical qualities of fellow feeling, compassion and universal love, is sheer hypocrisy.
Generally, rich people who run after money have prosaic and unsympathetic hearts. Their hearts are filled with reinforced concrete. They have neither sympathy nor mercy. Even when people are in a dying condition in the veranda, they will be dancing and eating in restaurants. Even if they see sick persons on the roadside, they will never care to look at them and to ask them if they want water or anything. They have no eyes to see. It is only the real thirsting aspirant who wants to realise the oneness of all that will have a different eye to look into the sufferings of others. He alone will try his level best to alleviate the sufferings of humanity. Without ethical training or moral discipline, there is no hope of even an iota of spiritual progress. Ethics and morality are the very foundation of yoga or spiritual life. Let us all emulate the noble example set by Sri Swamiji.