Question: How might I approach activities in my daily life to benefit the greater good, including myself?
Answer: In all things, sincerity is what matters most.
Think about it. We live in a mundane world. Most of what we do on a daily basis isn’t really all that interesting. It can be boring stuff like paying bills, shopping for groceries, gassing up the car, picking up clothing from the dry cleaners–you get the picture. There isn’t necessarily all that much joy in these activities unless we choose to experience joy while doing them. When we approach our activities in life such as yoga, eating, showering, dressing, etc. with a sense of sincerity or true devotion, then everything in life becomes Puja or worship. Each activity is like an offering. The heart is what matters most. If your heart is not in your yoga practice, your faith, your relationships, or daily life then it all has the potential to become meaningless.
I’ve learned the importance of appreciation, gratitude for all of life’s offerings even when things are not quite how I’d like them to be. In times of personal struggle I find that I have the power to flip the coin from the negative to the positive. When I complain about certain aspects in my life because this or that isn’t quite how I’d like it to be, I realize that I am begrudging my life. Doing this takes me very quickly down a dark tunnel. I realize that I have this ability to transport myself into the world of hell. So, instead of engaging in that activity, I’ve learned that when I show appreciation and choose to experience the joy in all that is, the light in my life changes and brightens. In a sense, I am liberating myself from the darkness and negativity. When I focus on making others happy, without expecting anything in return, when I serve others and help them to overcome life’s obstacles, my life brightens and becomes happier in the process. Swami Satchidananda refers to this as Karma Yoga. He says,
“It’s all for others. Then the entire life becomes Karma Yoga. If you are living for the sake of everybody, serving God and His creation every minute with every breath, you are worshipping constantly. Your work has become worship and every act is a part of that worship. Always live for others, do for others, think of others. Automatically your needs will be fulfilled.” (The Living Gita)
I hear my fellow Buddhist members talk about this phenomenon from their own experience all the time. Many people have expressed to me that their lives changed for the better once they began dedicating their practice to the happiness of others. It is the law of cause and effect. What goes around comes around. The more we give, the more we receive.