Peter Singer says if we see a toddler drowning in a pool we would be morally obligated to save it and to not do so would be grotesque. He then argues that there is no difference between this and a starving African child whom you could save through donations to charity, and to not save the toddler is effectively murdering it. Even if I give 1/3 my income every time I buy something I’m choosing not to donate it so I’m allowing a child to die.
How can I ever forgive myself :(
—Kane, New Zealand
An important point to keep in mind is one that Paramhansa Yogananda emphasized: use common sense and balance in dealing with the world we live in. There will always be numerous situations that we see in our lives that tug on our hearts for us to give our support. Our “dharma” or duty in life is to tune in spiritually, and feel what our role is.
I remember seeing a documentary on Mother Theresa in which she was being interviewed and was asked how we can deal with all of the needs of so many impoverished people in the world. Her response was very revealing: She said that if you feel God is asking you to serve the poor then that is what you should do; however if you feel God is asking you to live in a palace then the important thing is to follow that guidance. She was basically saying that we all need to find our center in God first, and then act according to our inner intuition. Remember that this is coming from someone who epitomized selfless service to the poor and the starving.
It’s certainly a good thing that each of us should be instruments of support to others, but that can happen in many different ways. Mother Theresa also said that the spiritual poverty that she saw in people in “advanced” nations such as the United States, was in need of at least the amount of energy that the people in material poverty needed.
To sum up: first feel the touch of the Divine within your own self; then try to feel from your center what it is that you are drawn to do in helping others. It might be through healing prayers, or it might be in other ways, including donations to feed the poor. Be careful not to be caught by guilt or self-judgement; rather, always try to lift your consciousness and be a clear instrument in whatever you do. In this way, God is able to flow through you and be a channel of blessings to others.
Blessings on your spiritual journey,