The ignorance that besets man is colossal. If we do not recognize the ignorance around us, it is also due to the operation of ignorance. Sri Aurobindo speaks of the sevenfold ignorance, the ignorance to which everyone is heir.
Ask nothing; want nothing in return. Give what you have to give; it will come back to you—but do not think of that now, it will come back multiplied a thousand fold—but the attention must not be on that. Yet have the power to give: give, and there it ends. Learn that the whole of life is giving, that Nature will force you to give. So, give willingly. Sooner or later you will have to give up. You come into life to accumulate. With clenched hands you want to take. But Nature puts a hand on your throat and makes your hands open. Whether you will it or not, you have to give. The moment you say, “I will not”, the blow comes; you are hurt. None is there but will be compelled, in the long run, to give up everything. And the more one struggles against this law, the more miserable one feels. It is because we don’t give, because we are not resigned enough to accede to this grand demand of Nature that we are miserable.. the sun is taking up water from the ocean, to return it in showers. You are a machine for taking and giving: you take in order to give. Ask, therefore nothing in return; but the more you give the more will come to you…
It is very difficult, but we can overcome the difficulty by constant practice. We must learn that nothing can happen to us, unless we make ourselves susceptible to it. I have said, no disease can come to me until the body is ready; it does not depend alone in the germs but upon a certain predisposition which is already in the body. We get only that for which we are fitted. Let us give up our pride and understand this, that never is misery undeserved. There never has been a blow underserved; there never has been an evil for which I did not pave the way with my own hand. We ought to know that. Analyze yourselves and you will find that every blow you have received came to you because you prepared yourself for it. You did half, and, the external world did the other half. That is how the blow came. That will sober us down. At the same time, from this very analysis, will come a note of hope, and the note of hope is: I have no control of the external world, but that which is in me and nearer unto me, my own world is in my control. If the two together is required to make a failure, if the two together are necessary to give me a blow, I will not contribute the one which is in my keeping; and how then can the blow come? If I get real control of myself the blow will never come.
We are all the time from our childhood trying to lay the blame upon something outside ourselves. We are always standing up to set right other people and not ourselves. If we are miserable, we say ‘Oh the world is a Devil’s world.’ We curse others and say, ‘What infatuated fools!’ But why should we be in such a world if we really are so good? If this is a devil’s world, we must be devils too; why else should we be here? ‘Oh, the people of the world are so selfish!’ true enough; but why should we be found in the company if we be better? Just think of that.
We only get what we deserve. It is a lie when we say the world is bad and we are good. It can never be so. It is a terrible lie we tell ourselves.
This is the first lesson to learn: to be determined not to curse anything outside, not to lay the blame upon anyone outside, but be a man, stand up, lay the blame on yourself. You will find that is always true. Get hold of yourself.
We are to take care of ourselves—that much we can do—and give up attending to others for a time. Let us perfect the means, the end will take care of itself. For the world can be good and pure only if our lives are good and pure. It is an effect, and we are the means. Therefore, let us purify ourselves. Let us make ourselves perfect.
From Swami Vivekananda’s "Work & its Secret"
Our deepest gratitude to Swami Vivekananda