The myth of social service

Acharya Prashant
5 min readNov 9, 2020

The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.

Question: Ramana Maharshi has said that “Till you reach the stage of gyaan (self-knowledge) and thus wake out of Maya (ignorance), you must do social service by alleviating suffering, wherever you see it. But you must do it without the feeling that ‘I am the doer’. You must help the other man as a means of worshipping God in that man.”

What is this social service that Ramana Maharshi is referring to? One who himself is suffering, can he bring relief from suffering to others?

Acharya Prashant (AP): What is the cause of one’s suffering? That one cannot look within; one cannot look at himself. If you ask Ramana Maharshi, he will say — ‘Lack of self-enquiry is the only cause of suffering’.

When you enquire into your suffering,

then you see that the sufferer is just a joke.

The words of a Saint have to be understood in great Silence, with great care and respect. Otherwise, there is a danger of bringing in some perspective from here and there. So, here is Ramana Maharshi talking to somebody and somebody is saying, “I am suffering”.

The moment he says that ‘I am suffering’, Maharshi knows that this fellow is suffering because of a lack of self-inquiry.

He is suffering because he is continuously looking outwards and not within. Otherwise, he couldn’t have suffered.

The one who is looking outwards can look only outwards; at least for the while, at least as Maharshi says, “Till you reach the stage of gyaan and thus wake out of this Maya.” He is admitting that it will take you time. Mark his words — “Till you reach the stage of gyaan and thus wake out of this Maya, you must do social service.” So, Maharshi is telling him, “You will take time”.

And till the time gyaan arises in you, you will continue to look outwards. You cannot look within.

So, when you cannot look within, then obviously you cannot look at your own suffering. You cannot really observe what is happening within.

You are looking outwards and you will continue to look outwards.

Acharya Prashant