Discussions with Steve & Chandra
Q & A with Steve
In keeping with Amma's instructions, Amma Center continues to hold Q & A discussion groups on Wednesdays in the ashram with Steve Schmidt as moderator. Please call the Amma Center of New Mexico at 982-9801 for the latest schedule.
Q: How does one perform seva selflessly?
A: Firstly, we should remember that we cannot perform any action completely selflessly or detached unless we are fully enlightened. We should try to serve Amma as purely and selflessly as we can. That said, we need to understand that all of Amma’s devotees are experiencing some negative thoughts (ie. pride, anger, jealousy, attachment, etc.) while performing their seva.
So the real goal of seva is to provide us with opportunities to purify our minds by doing actions which serve Amma and also to bring up negative tendencies that we need to face. When a worldly minded person experiences negativity, he might act on it and harm someone or suppress the negative feelings with drugs or alcohol. A spiritual seeker will hopefully witness their negativity arise and welcome it with gratitude, since he/she understands that this is a wonderful opportunity to burn up negative vasanas (mental tendencies). So rather than acting on the anger, the aspirant understands that the anger is arising from within and has nothing to do with what the other person is doing.
Also Amma always reminds us that negative feelings must come to the surface in order to get rid of them. We gradually burn up negative mental tendencies by spiritual practices (i.e., meditation, prayer, japa, archana, seva “with a smile”,etc.). Eradicating vasanas does not happen all at once but is usually a gradual process depending on the individual’s karma and his/her past.
It is important to be vigilant while doing seva so that we can enjoy spiritual blessings rather than more pain and attachment. If one is so covetous of their seva that they refuse, for example, to graciously share it with others, then is this really seva or is it just worldly action being manipulated by our vasanas? Or if one repeatedly allows himself/herself to become agitated and angry while performing seva, then what is the benefit of such so called seva?
I remember approaching Amma’s stage in Spain and being told by a lady, who was evidently guarding the entry, that “you absolutely must turn around.” I told her that I was delivering a message to a Swami on the stage, which was the truth. She did not care. So I experienced this thought arise: “how dare she say this to me.” After witnessing this egotistical thought and giving it a good hard look, I asked myself, “who do you think you are.” The answer came back: “a fool.” I meekly thanked her and turned away. What would have been accomplished by getting into a quarrel with this devotee who was only doing her seva? I did deliver the message to Swamiji, however, by simply going around to the other side of the stage.
We need to carefully witness our minds so that we can subdue our negative feelings. Amma says “that the storing up of the past exists within us.” Amma urges us to be patient as we confront these negative feelings from the past.
Q: How do we have peace of mind amidst tragic events?
A: Basically in order to experience real peace, whether we are suffering the effects of a personal tragedy or world tragedy, we must have a deep, abiding faith that all occurrences happen as a result of unfathomable, past karmas or actions. Then we can at least have the understanding that we are not victims of random events.
Also in order to be able to actually experience and benefit from this type of understanding, we must do spiritual practices. Practices such as the IAM meditation causes our energy to move up instead of its natural downward direction. Then we get in touch with our inner self and naturally become more centered and aware. We have more strength to help us accept and surrender to these unfortunate events.
If a tragic event like the Tsunami occurs, acceptance and surrender does not mean passive acceptance and doing “nothing.” Amma’s example throughout this disaster is one of profound compassion mixed with intense relief action. Amma says: “Let us lend a helping hand to those who are grieving and thus light lamps of kindness and compassion.” So we can accept the Vedantic teachings of nonduality in order to maintain the awareness of the true nature of the world, however, Amma says…”my brand of Vedanta is practical…when someone is in pain, what he or she needs is a painkiller; not a discourse on how one is the soul, and not the body, mind or intellect.” Amma is replying to why She is acting so human while consoling Tsunami victims.
The real answer to this question is explicitly given by witnessing Amma’s response to the Tsunami tragedy. What more can be said.
Q: Do spiritual principles have a place in politics?
A: Yes, because spirituality, according to Amma, is a science of life. It teaches us how to have inner peace, perform right or dharmic actions, and feel a connection and love for all people. Our love and compassion for people is not limited to only family, friends or particular nationalities. Thus, spirituality teaches oneness and unity – not differences. Rather than pass legislation which favors a specific group- the issue becomes how do we benefit the maximum amount of people or those who need help the most. Likewise, we do not purposely harm individuals or wage wars which harm foreign citizens and other nations. Spirituality teaches us to be selfless rather than selfish, truthful rather than deceitful, and kinder rather than mean-spirited. All of these spiritual qualities, if imbibed by politicians nationally and internationally, would certainly create more peace and justice in the world. Unfortunately the world today demonstrates what happens when we have unconscious leaders who are not guided by spiritual truths. Indeed spiritual principles have a proper place in politics.