Who Is Qualified to Help Others?


Swami Amritageetananda Puri: “A man at a bus stop tried to jump onto a moving bus. A passenger standing on the footboard of the bus tried to pull him onto the bus but was not strong enough, and both fell out onto the road! Similarly, there are many (like them). Those who have learnt the scriptures and have done little tapas (=austerities) try to help others, but unfortunately a time passes, they lose sight of their goal and run after name and fame… Soon, they fall from the path.” (pg. 8, Matruvani, July 2013, Vol. 24, No. 11)
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Anyone Can Preach But Only a Middling Few Can Practise What They Preached


Question: There are people who are good at giving spiritual advice to others but when their lives spiral into an abyss of pressure and turmoil or when they face crisis, they fumble, tumble and flip, not being able to practise what they preached. Why is that so?

Swami Dayananda: “Paying lip service to obligatory values is no more useful than the chorus of parrots in a tree, who were singing out, ‘Be careful of the hunter’s net!’ A wise old parrot had seen the hunter coming and had called our the warning. But the silly flock did not look at the ground to spot the hunter—to understand the fact of the situation—to establish a personal content for the words they had heard from the old bird. Instead, they continued to sit happily on the branches of the tree repeating the words which were empty of any real meaning for them: ‘Be careful of the hunter’s net!’ Even after the net had descended upon them, they wriggled and squirmed, caught in the web, screeching: ‘Be careful of the hunter’s net!’

“When I claim as my standards values in which I fail to see any personal gain for myself, I am in as risky a position, so far as expressing those values, as were the parrots in the tree, who mindlessly repeated the warning.”

(pg. 17, The Value of Values)

Who Can Help and Guide Others?


Question: Don’t you think it is a meritorious thing, or perhaps even a highly spiritual endeavour to help others. I am sure there are a lot of people I can help, especially those in spiritual field. Often, when they come to me for help, I cannot turn them away: I set aside some time for them. 

Swami Prajnanapada: “The blind should not try to lead the blind. (The person who seeks to help others) should first see light himself, and, after he HAS, it will be time enough to help…. to be able to help others, one MUST be a helper first, that is to say, one MUST acquire the ABILITY and technique to help… (If you want to help others) You MUST FIRST equip YOURSELF…. equip yourself with the ability to help… You must make sure that you are COMPETENT to help… If you are yourself in doubt, you can HARDLY dispel another man’s doubts.” (pgs. 109, 110, Talks with Swami Prajnanapada)

Question: Who then is capable of spiritually guiding others?

“(Only) a very good sadhak can…(He) can not only inspire people but also LEAD them and GUIDE along the spiritual path.” (pg. 20, Voice of the Himalayas by Swami Sivananda

Question: Who is deemed a good sadhak?
“Fully realise the IMPORTANCE of becoming a changed man ETHICALLY and MORALLY, before YOU can claim to be sadhak,” Swami Sivananda (pg. 322, Sadhana)

Question: So, there is no way for me to help change others?

Paramahansa Yogananda: “Let YOUR example be THE way to change others’ lives.” (Yoganandaji’s address on 6.3.1952: Rajarsi Janankananda, pg. 153)

Swami Sivananda: “You can BEST serve…your fellow-beings… by conscious Self-culture, by LIVING for the realisation of the self.” (pg. 109, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda)

Mata Amirtanandamayi: “Don’t try to change the world or other people before YOU are able to change YOURSELF.” (pg. 28, Awaken Children Vol. 6)

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa: “Who are YOU to help others?… This sort of too much preoccupation of helping OTHERS is also a sort of DELUSION, and egoistic DELUSION.” (pgs. 200-201, Swami Sivananda: Saint, Sage and Godman by Swami Chidananda Maharaj [A Divine Life Society Publication]).

Question: What about preaching?

Swami Sivananda: “When people who are inharmonious within themselves begin to PREACH, they can ONLY spread disharmony, even though they might avowedly strive to spread peace. The rishies have called this ‘the blind leading the blind.’ ” (Swamiji’s speech on 3.10.1950: pg. 244, Sivananda’s Lectures: All-India and Ceylon Tour).

Helping Others


Swami Prajnanapada: “We can help others only to the extent of trying to secure for them those material things we desire for ourselves. One should realise that the same desires, the same needs are common to all. We can, therefore, help only in securing those things for them. In matters of knowledge, however, there is no helping until one is enlightened oneself. Any attempt to guide others before one has become enlightened himself will only result in misleading others.

Eswar Chander Vidyasagar was once requested to tender advice to a friend in distress. He replied that he was not prepared for another thrashing, and therefore, begged to be excused. The meaning is that he was not really in a position to guide and might probably misguide, which may lead to the thrashing. The blind should not try to lead the blind. They should first see light themselves, and, after they have it will be time enough to help.

This does not mean that you must necessarily wait until you get complete enlightenment to be of help to those in need, and who deserve the help. But the man who seeks help must have felt the imperative need for assistance. He must have tried his best to solve his problems and, not having solved them, comes to you for help. You may avail of such opportunities for help, making sure to stand on your own firm ground at the same time. You should never be carried away by sweet flattering words. Under these conditions, you may tell what you know. Your advice should be based on certain knowledge, solidified by experience. For, to know is to be. Without being there is no knowing. And to be able to help others, one must be a helper first, that is to say, one must acquire the ability and technique to help.

Advice should not be wasted on people for whom the need has not arisen. One must first satisfy himself that the other is ready to receive and follow the advice. The teacher must wait until a question is asked, until a doubt has arisen in the pupil’s mind. Doubt, doubt, doubt must first make its appearance. That is the criterion for the need for help. When will the doubt come? Only after going through the experience. So, encourage everyone to go through actions. When he faces difficulties or disappointments, doubts will arise and that is the opportune time to render help. Genuine doubt must first make its appearance. A casual enquiry or mere curiosity will not do. But to help, you must first equip yourself.

How did Krishna become an engineer? He went to an engineering college to equip himself as an engineer. He leanrt both the theory and practice of engineering and came to Tatas to practise it. If one wants to dance, one must be a dancer first. If I give you a good surgical knife, can you straightaway go and operate? No, you have to become a surgeon first, that is, join a medical college, learn both the theory and practice of surgery and then you can operate safely.

Mere theory will not do. So, to be of help to another, you must be a helper first, that is you must equip yourself with the ability to help. You must learn the technique of helping. You must make sure that you are competent to help. Your mind must be clear first. If you are yourself in doubt, you can hardly dispel another man’s doubts. If you feel confident, then, you can talk.

To talk to another, you must first understand him and deal with him at his own level. Otherwise, there will be no communications. When you talk to another, the very first idea that you should hear in mind is that he is different, and so you will have to adjust your way of talking to suit him. That is what is called talking ‘to’ him. You cannot have your own way for everyone.

Different individuals need different advice. What is suitable for one may not suit the other. Your advice should also be appropriate to his need. You should never impose yourself on him or impose an ideal on him, as that will create conflict. Nor should your advice be beyond his reach. The advice given should be practical. He must not find much difficulty in implementing it. It should be slightly difficult, so that it calls forth his effort, and these efforts culminate in success. For, success breeds success, and nothing succeeds like success. This will help him to build up his self-confidence.

You should then see if the recipient is fit to receive the advice. He should be eager, sincere and receptive. Then only will the advice stick. He must put his questions in the proper manner, and be ready to serve the guru in all the ways he can. That is the proper person to whom advice may be tendered.

The pupil should,on his part, never swallow the words of the guru. He must examine them, experiment with them and satisfy himself that they are sound. He must ponder over them from all angles, and make sure that the advice is correct. Then, he must turn them over in his mind repeatedly, so that they become his own. And, finally, he must put them into practice. Practice will make him perfect in due time.

Before tendering advice, first hear him fully and patiently,. Then, if you have a clear idea about it, you may express yourself. You may, or rather, you have the right to say only when you know the truth about it. Be sure of your ground and then talk. Otherwise, lend your ear to everybody.

In guiding, one is merely to place facts before the other and not opinions or conclusions. Let him, through the facts, form his own opinions, and draw his own conclusions. You may explain as much as you like but you must leave the decision to him. If the decision is wrong, he will learn by experience. You should encourage him to walk independently. And, always remember, that advice is for action. It shiould not be treated as a pastime, nor a debate. If you are not prepared to act, you may as well save the trouble of going in for the advice.

Having got the advice, you must make it your own by turning it over in your mind repeatedly and viewing it from all angles. Then, you will be convinced of the soundness of the advice. But conviction alone is not enough. By repetition and pondering over it frequently you must develop the strength of conviction. Then, this conviction will become irresistible and it will be translated into action. That is being.

(pgs. 109-112, Talks with Swami Prajnanapada)

Note: Swami Prajnanapada (1891–1974) was a traditional Hindu swamiji who taught Advaitic Vedanta. He was a direct disciple of Niralamba Swami (1877-1930), a friend and contemporary of Swamiji Sri Aurobindo.

How to Preach? How to Reform Others? — Reform Yourself; Change Yourself; Discipline Yourself FIRST!


Swami Sivananda: “First of all, discipline yourself thoroughly. You must be a living, walking and talking example of divine life. That is the more effective way of preaching and when you preach, your words will have the weight of your own personal experience and will have the courage of your conviction.” (pg. 152, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda)

“You can best serve your nation, your Lord, your fellow-beings, and yourself by conscious self-culture, by living for the realisation of the Self. A nation’s prestige depends upon the few such self-cultured sons and daughters of the land. When time has effaced the memory of all else, it would be the man-of-God who will ever be remembered. Therefore, become a man-of-God by realisaing God here and now.

“Reform yourself. The society will reform itself. If every one of you who reads these lines makes up his mind to lead the divine life from today, from this moment, what doubt is there that the entire society of which you are the units will be reformed.

“Come, then: take a resolve today that you will live every moment of your life for the realisation of God. Selfless service to humanity, Japa, Kirtan, Dyana, Svadhyaya, Charity — all that you do every day should be directed towards this one end and aim.

“May you all shine as Jivanmuta in this very birth!” (pgs. 109-110, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda)

Self-mastery is the watchword of all self-culture. Reconstruction of society is impossible without reconstructing ourselves. So, one has to set one’s mental house in order.” (pg. 127, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda)

 “Discipline is absolutely necessary in the spiritual path. In the college, there is discipline. Is not discipline needed in the office, too? How much discipline they need in the army? If a button is missing in the uniform, the soldier is court-marshalled. To attain immortality, eternal bliss, how much more intensely should you discipline yourself! Exert, strive,endeavour to discipline the senses, mind and the body. Do Asana, Japa, meditation, regularly. Get up regularly at 4 am and practise them. Discipline the thought, speech and action. If you cultivate so, you are bound to attain that indescribable state of Brahman sooner or later. (pgs. 80-81, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda)

Change Yourself Before You Attempt to Change Others


Swami Sivananda: “First of all, discipline yourself thoroughly. You must be a living, walking and talking example of divine life. That is the more effective way of preaching, and when you preach, your words will have the weight of your own personal experience and will have the courage of your conviction.”

(pg. 152, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda)

Ethics and Morality by Swami Sivananda


Ethics are the basis of spiritual life. Without ethics, philosophy is wishful thinking and religion menanigless. Life without ethics is a living death. A character without ethics is like salt-less dish. Morality coexists with ethics or spirituality. Unintelligent seekers blunder in attempting to reach Samadhi through meditation as soon as they take to the spiritual path, without caring a bit for ethical virtues. Tolerance, absesnece of angre, greed and lust, unprovocable patience imply morality

Having sacred baths daily and worshipping at the shrine regularly, attending or conducting Ramayana or Bhagavatha may, no doubt, aid one’s spiritual aptitude. Bit, if you do not fulfil the fundamentals of ethics and morality, all the above observances would no way ensure Self-realisation. Therefore, first and foremost, please look to the rudiments of ethics and morality.

(pgs. 135-136, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda)

“…morality is the basis of spiritual life…Practice of morality leads to purity of hearty, and attainment of Self-realisation. Without morality, you will become a spiritual bankrupt.

“Without ethical perfection, there is no spiritual progress. Without spiritual progress, there is no emancipation. Ethical perfection comes through the practice of Yama and Niyama. Asanas and Pranayama form the second stage. Concentration and meditation form the third stage. Samadhi is the summum bonum. Thus, the human soul aspiring after perfection goes from stage to stage and finally merges itself in the blissful glory of the highest union. Aim, therefore, at moral perfection. Spiritual success is half achieved through strong moral foundation.

“Always bear in mind that the primary condition of success in the spiritual life is an earnest longing for purity. So, be sincere and very earnest in your Sadhana and strive for purification and sound ethical culture.” (pg. 116, Ethical Perfection)

“Right from the very beginning of your spiritual life, you must understand clearly that in true humility, sincere desire to root out  gradually pride, egoism and jealousy earnest and unceasing introspection to find out one’s own defects and improve oneself, lies your hope of progress. Witout this, all sorts of Sadhana become a delusion and a waste.” (pg. 98, Ethical Perfection)