Sacrifice is essential to building a good society
During my last visit to Brazil, while in the city of Belo Horizonte, a reporter of the daily newspaper Belo Horizonte Terca-Feira came to interview me. She said, "Swami, you've visited Brazil so many times. What do you think of our country?"
Lectures on Hinduism
Swami Bhaskarananda will begin a series of free lectures on "Essentials of Hinduism" at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow at the YWCA, 1040 Richards St., and continue on successive Sundays.
I replied, "It's a great country. The people here are most friendly and hospitable. There is virtually no racism here, and immigrants from all countries, races and colors are and living together in peace and harmony. Economists also predict a great economic future for Brazil considering its vast natural resources, relatively small population and the fast-growing number of scientific and technical personnel."
She said, "Yes, since our childhood we also have been hearing of our country's great economic future, and yet it remains a poor country. What do you think of our corrupt politicians?"
I replied, "For corrupt politicians, the society is responsible. Only a bad society produces bad people and bad politicians. On the other hand, a good society produces good leaders and good politicians. It's not only true for Brazil, but also for all other countries. When your society will be better, you'll see better politicians here."
One venerable, elderly swami of our monastic order used to say, "Moral and spiritual education starts at the home university. This university has two vice chancellors: the father and the mother. The chancellor of this university, however, is God. It's God who is the source of whatever is noble, elevating, good and moral in this world."
What the swami said is true. If the parents lead good and moral lives, their children will grow up as good and moral citizens. Thus, on all levels, society will have good and moral people. It will have good teachers, good doctors, good engineers, good leaders, good politicians, etc.
But it is also necessary to understand the meaning of the word "goodness." A little analysis will reveal that goodness is no other than unselfishness. For example, a good husband is he who willingly and lovingly makes self-sacrifice for his wife. The same is true for a good wife, a good parent, a good son or daughter, a good friend and so on.
Truth is always straightforward and simple. Only our convoluted, selfish minds make it complicated. All the great spiritual teachers in the world came to teach us how to be good by making willing and loving self-sacrifice for others. Buddha offered his own life to save an animal that was going to be sacrificed for a religious ritual.
Jesus also gave similar teachings. It is selfishness that causes enmity and conflict between people and nations. He taught his followers to love even their enemies. And he exemplified that teaching through his own life.
When parents in every home university will exemplify such goodness through their own lives more than through their words, their children will turn out to be good and noble citizens not only of their countries, but also of the world.
Swami Bhaskarananda is a monk of the Ramakrishna Order and head of the Vedanta Society of Western Washington in Seattle. He is the author of three books on Hindu teaching and founding editor of Global Vedanta, a quarterly journal.