Some say “manava seve madhava seva“, which means “by serving the needy man, you serve God”. Let us examine this… if you feed the hungry, or clothe the naked, or try to heal the sick… will that actually help them? Sure, there is some temporary relief from the pangs of material suffering. If temporary relief is your goal, sure, but what if you want to really help them out of this mess they are in? You surely cannot feed, clothe, or shelter someone forever. Even if you did, you cannot protect them from old age, disease, and eventually death.
They are suffering primarily because they are spirit souls masquerading as material bodies. The material body gets hungry, gets sick, gets old, and dies, and this is the main cause of problems.
So yes, we can serve God by serving the souls, but how we serve them determines if we become the cause of their emancipation or the cause of their (and our own!) continued bondage.
The law of karma is very complicated, and impossible to trace out fully due to the immense complexity, but it is very very precise. It will surely pay back in just measure every single reaction to every single action.
So yes, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. Not to be administered by us, but we do become instruments of that, mostly unwittingly. What personal enmity did the soldiers from Nazi Germany have against the soldiers from America in the Second World War? Why did Guenter kill Billy? Why did Tommy kill Thorsten? They owed a debt to each other, one to kill, and one to be killed, and in that particular lifetime, one soul was born in Nazi Germany, and the other was born in America. Both were enlisted, and many souls’ karmic reactions came together and manifested as the Second World War.
Every single occurence in the world is simply an example of karmic debts… someone becomes a father, someone becomes a daughter, someone becomes the slaughtherer, someone becomes the slaughtered, and in this way, ad nauseum, someone becomes an exploiter, someone becomes the exploited.
Don’t believe me? OK, let us see, what could be the karmic reward for feeding a hungry man? To be fed yourself, maybe many times over, but being fed yourself primarily. And what does the person who was fed need to do? They need to repay their debt to you. This means that both to enjoy the benefit and to get paid back, both you and the person you fed need to take birth again. Birth again, old again, sick again, and surely death again.
Don’t forget that whatever you fed someone was also a living entity – whether seed, vegetable or animal. So, who pays the debt to that living entity. You both, benefactor and beneficiary.
Same with opening up hospitals – you will one day get free medical treatment yourself.
Opening up orphanages? You will be taken care of by benevolent strangers when you become an orphan yourself.
Any philanthropic activity on the material platform results in such karmic bondage, subtle or gross.
All this sounds depressing, no?
How to actually help someone? It is commonly understood that teaching someone to farm is far better than just feeding them a few meals. Knowing that each living entity is actually spiritual in nature wearing a material covering. It then stands to reason that teaching them to shed the material covering, or in other words, helping them be purely spiritual, that is the way to actually help someone.
Want to help someone? Help them be truly spiritual through your help, let them begin their journey back home. This starts with being purely spiritual yourself. If you cannot do this, then you can continue your philanthropy, don’t stop it, because one day you may progress further…
श्रेयो हि ज्ञानमभ्यासाज्ज्ञानाद्ध्यानं विशिष्यते ।
ध्यानात्कर्मफलत्यागस्त्यागाच्छान्तिरनन्तरम् ॥ १२ ॥
śreyo hi jñānam abhyāsāj
jñānād dhyānaṁ viśiṣyate
tyāgāc chāntir anantaram
If you cannot take to this practice, then engage yourself in the cultivation of knowledge. Better than knowledge, however, is meditation, and better than meditation is renunciation of the fruits of action, for by such renunciation one can attain peace of mind.https://vedabase.io/en/library/bg/12/12/
So if you want to renounce the fruits of action, that is OK, but know that there is more, such as cultivation of knowedge, but the real deal – realized knowledge, you need to live your knowledge. Even better than the cultivation of knowledge is meditation, and what is the highest?
And the highest?
मय्येव मन आधत्स्व मयि बुद्धिं निवेशय ।
निवसिष्यसि मय्येव अत ऊर्ध्वं न संशय: ॥ ८ ॥
mayy eva mana ādhatsva
mayi buddhiṁ niveśaya
nivasiṣyasi mayy eva
ata ūrdhvaṁ na saṁśayaḥ
Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt.https://vedabase.io/en/library/bg/12/8/
Ultimately however, this the way to please God the most…
Generally it is advised that Bhagavad-gītā be discussed amongst the devotees only, for those who are not devotees will understand neither Kṛṣṇa nor Bhagavad-gītā. Those who do not accept Kṛṣṇa as He is and Bhagavad-gītā as it is should not try to explain Bhagavad-gītā whimsically and become offenders. Bhagavad-gītā should be explained to persons who are ready to accept Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is a subject matter for the devotees only and not for philosophical speculators. Anyone, however, who tries sincerely to present Bhagavad-gītā as it is will advance in devotional activities and reach the pure devotional state of life. As a result of such pure devotion, he is sure to go back home, back to Godhead.https://vedabase.io/en/library/bg/18/68/
Want to read more? Try this.
Help others, truly help them, start by helping yourself first.
You can start by chanting this purely spiritual mantra, even if just once:
Try it out. Help me help others. Please let me know I may serve you on your spiritual journey.