9th Pillar: Service to the Neighbour



Dear Agni Yogis,


like all religions, Agni Yoga invites us: Help a fellow human being in need – your neighbour, as the Bible calls him!


The goal and the meaning of existence is to strive upward beyond the limits of the known, and to help one another. (Leaves of Morya’s Garden II, 160)


If someone turns away a hungry man, he is near to being a murderer. Seldom is there not a bit of bread in the house. (Brotherhood 284)


Do not just hover in the higher spheres in meditation. Climb down into to the abysses of earthly life as well in order to make your contribution to improve the conditions!


From the temple let us go into the cellar. Let us contrive to retain in ourselves not only soaring flight but also compassion. (AUM 556)


The New World we want to establish is open not only to the elite of a select few. It should also enable the poor, the sick, the weak and the suffering to lead a better life.


I feel the human spirit will rise; but welcome the most unfortunate ones: “Come, ye naked, we will clothe thee; come, ye little ones, we will rear thee; come, ye dumb ones, we will give thee speech; come, ye blind ones, because with us you see the predestined realm.” (Leaves of Morya’s Garden II, 146)


As we had already said (see Broadcasting “Overview”): In addition to connecting with the higher world or meditation, serving the common good and training or self-perfection, the service to the neighbour is the second of the four spheres of life. The tasks in this area are different for everyone: one finds here a large, the other a small, and a third perhaps almost no field of activity.


One, often a woman, is constantly busy caring for his surroundings. Another, typically a man, deals primarily with the challenges of the 8th Pillar "Service to the Common Good". Ideally, we should combine both and give each of them adequate space.



1. Who is my Neighbour?

Rembrandt „The Good Samaritan“


The disciple asks: "Who is my neighbour? Whom should I help?"


The neighbour whom you are supposed to serve you may find in the circle of your family, among relatives, friends, acquaintances, work colleagues, neighbours and even complete strangers.


When the question arises, "Who is my neighbour?", the best answer is still given by Jesus in the immortal parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10, 25).


Jesus tells us of a man who fell among thieves and was left half dead. Several travellers, including a priest, passed by and did not care for him. A Samaritan, however, a stranger despised by the Jews, bound up his wounds, brought him to the nearest inn and made sure he would be taken care of. (Rembrandt "The Good Samaritan")


This means: Life itself confronts us with situations which call imperatively for help. We need to recognize these signs sensitively and must not close our hearts to the appeal that reaches us.


Rarely do people hear a cry for help and pass by without a heart tremor. Perhaps a brutalized heart will not lend a hand, but still it will be shaken. (Brotherhood 168)


The parable tells us: We should render assistance without regard to the person. Wherever there is need, we have to alleviate it.


It is necessary to help everywhere and in everything. If obstacles to assistance be encountered through political, national, or social lines, or in religious belief, such obstacles are unworthy of humanity. Help in all its aspects should be extended to the needy. One must not scrutinize the colour of hair when danger threatens. One should not interrogate as to religious belief when it is necessary to save from conflagration. (AUM 452)


These days, you are meeting five beggars per route; charitable organizations of all kinds ring at your door or write begging letters; daily television transmits pictures of hardship from Haiti via Africa to Bangladesh directly into your living room. In such a time, it is particularly difficult to decide who your neighbour is and whom you should give what.


Normally, the mission of your life is not to be fulfilled in distant, foreign regions of the world. First and foremost, you are called upon to help in your immediate surroundings, in the circumstances into which Karma has placed you.



2. Limits to granting Help


If we take a closer look, we find that the obligation to serve your neighbour is not as easy to fulfill as it may seem at first sight. In everyday life many questions arise, for example:




"The beggar in the street who is stretching out his hand – is he really my neighbour? Should I give him money?"


Does he deserve your help at all? Is he really in need? Or is his "job" a business model for making money like any other? Is he not incapable, but only unwilling to do useful work for the community? (Hans Wulz "Life")


Here your discernment and the knowledge of your heart are required. Nobody can spare you the trouble to consider afresh in each individual case: Where is help required? Where is it appropriate? What am I to do?


One should know how to conquer the illusion of contradictions. It is needful on the one hand to cultivate kindheartedness and on the other to understand austerity. For many, such a task is completely insoluble; only the heart can prompt when the two qualities will not contradict each other. The heart will prompt when it is necessary to rush to the help of one’s neighbour. It is impossible to express in a word of law just when the necessity of this or that action becomes evident. Unwritten are the laws of the heart, but only therein does justice dwell, for the heart is the bridge of the worlds. Where are the scales of self-abnegation? Where is the judge of achievement? Where is the measure of duty? The sword of knowledge flashes at the command of the heart. For the heart there will be no contradiction. (Brotherhood 121)




"Does the neighbour want my help at all?"


There are countless people who objectively are in need of help, but cannot recognize it or do not want to admit it. Even if there is suffering, beware of imposing support where it is not wanted.


The sufferer, too, must be ready!


You cannot really help a man unless he chooses to be helped. All you may do, up to that point, is "bread cast upon the waters”. (Teachings of the Temple Vol. I, Lesson 99 “The middle Point”)


Normally, the strict rule applies:


Render assistance only when you are summoned to do so!


I entrust you to offer your help to those who knock untiringly. (Agni Yoga 183)


Do not besiege the sufferers! One advice or one offer to help is enough. As soon as your support is rejected, your obligation ends.




"Am I capable of helping my neighbour at all?"


You have to ask yourself critically: Do you have the necessary skills? Many of the proverbial "helpless helpers" do not know better themselves; often, with all their good will, they are just causing chaos and making the situation even worse.




It is a well-known phenomenon: Of all others, people who are not even able to solve their own problems love to choose a social, helping or advisory profession, such as educator, nurse, psychologist, psychotherapist or even teacher. You should not enlarge these troops. Better act according to the motto:


First help yourself, before you set out to help others!


Above all, you have to gain knowledge. First of all, get familiar with the foundations of existence! It takes a lot of wisdom to be able to provide effective help.




"Is it possible at all to help the neighbour?"


One of the major  problems of today’s time is: People who are unable to cope with their own lives and in actual fact are in urgent need of help, often have the "biggest mouth" and do not want to listen to anyone who is ahead of them. Despite their obvious hardship, they know everything better, blame others for their miserable situation and are not willing or able to recognize, accept and put into practice good advice. They, too, are not yet ready for your help.


Make sure that you do not waste your valuable time and energy on a charitable project that is doomed from the start!




"What if my neighbour is himself to blame, because his own weaknesses have put him in his troublesome position?”


He nevertheless deserves your help. In such a case, however, you should not even try to clean up the situation. Rather, you must encourage your neighbour to start working on himself in order to overcome his imperfections. However, not many are willing or able to do so.


There is the well-known example of someone who won a million euros in the lottery, and then squanders them quickly. Be it because he wastes them for amusement, be it because he simply cannot handle money and has no idea how to invest such a large sum effectively so that it will yield benefits in the long term. To support such a person with money would probably be pointless.



3. How should I help? 

Käthe Kollwitz „Beggars“


"What exactly does the neighbour need?"


Sometimes you have to take a situation completely into your own hands, manage everything yourself, and dictate to your neighbour exactly what he has to do and what to avoid in order to get out of his troubles.


Another time, on the other hand, you have to give him the greatest freedom, let him decide for himself, and render only a little assistance for self-help.




It is a difficult task to find out what the needy really needs. This is not necessarily the same thing he is asking for, and not always that what you would like to give!


Does it ever occur to you that "your brother's real need" should be the measure of your helpfulness, not your own supposed need? (Teachings of the Temple Vol. II, Lesson “The World's Struggle”)


Normally, you must not release the person seeking support from the responsibility of helping himself.


Excessive help creates weaklings. (Fiery World I, 19)




"And if I am only being taken advantage of?"


This is actually a danger! Make sure that your neighbour does not exploit your selflessness and makes use of you to serve his egotism. Many people consciously or unconsciously employ their weakness in order to gain support for their basically selfish ends.




Especially within the family we often observe: Someone – typically the mother – sacrifices himself for something that is not worth the effort on closer inspection, namely for the egotism of the children or of the partner.




"Can giving help drag me down?"


This danger also exists. You can only provide effective help as long as you are acting from a superior position. Your commitment must not lead to your being drawn into the chaos in which your neighbour is stuck. Only when you stand above the situation yourself can you assist someone else to rise.


There was one of the deepest of all deep truths hidden in the command of Jesus, to the would be disciple who would fain care for a newly made bride, or bury a friend: "What is that to thee, follow thou me." And contrary to the general idea of the apparent heartlessness of the command, that command was in fact the most loving, the most necessary, for anything that would tend to draw back the disciple into the slough he was leaving, when just on the verge of attaining to power by which he could succor those he was leaving or who had left him, would be most deprecable from all points of view. (Teachings of the Temple Vol. I, Lesson 99 “The middle Point”)



4. Spiritual Help

Nicholas Roerich „Guru“


"Speaking of ‘help’, one always tends to think of money first. Is that correct? Shall we donate?"


That is not entirely wrong, but of secondary importance.


Christ advised to distribute spiritual wealth. But, as the keys to it are far away, people have applied this advice toward the distribution of pillaged money. First to steal and then to give away with a tear and become enraptured by one’s own goodness. As if in speaking of distribution the Teacher could have had in mind chairs and old coats! The Teacher meant imponderable wealth. Only the spiritual gift can move the cup of the scales. (Leaves of Morya’s Garden II, 183)


Monetary alms should be abolished, as help can be provided through labour or objects. (Leaves of Morya’s Garden II, 94)


Spiritual help is much more important because today, the greatest need of humanity is not material but spiritual.


Help in spirit is the most powerful. (Leaves of Morya’s Garden I, 359 [422])


Nothing should deter one from sharing his knowledge and encouraging the growth of consciousness. Therein lies love for one’s fellow men. (Fiery World I, 617)


Spiritual help, however, is much more difficult because only the wise are in a position to grant it.


Timely encouragement is valuable, perhaps more valuable than many other kinds of help. The one who encourages shares part of his energy, and such distribution of one’s best possession is of value. Let all those who wish to think about the Supermundane first of all experience the joy of help. Such joy is beautiful, and it belongs not only to the wealthy. Good advice can uplift and enable someone in trouble. Everyone can share valuable knowledge. (Supermundane 650)



5. Karma and Help


"In the East it is often said: Help is not appropriate. Everyone bears the blame for his suffering himself and has to pay off his Karma alone."


That is completely wrong! As we had already said (Broadcasting "Karma" of the Series "Introduction to Agni Yoga"): The knowledge of the Law of Karma must not mislead us to premature or merciless judgments or to a fatalistic attitude.


Of course, the sufferer is entitled to our compassion and help! This clearly tells us the natural feeling of our heart. Nowhere is it written that everyone has to overcome his Karma alone. On the contrary, our common Karma we can only solve together.


Help, when sincerely given, does not violate the law of karma. There is the fanatic conception that one should not help one’s neighbour because it would intrude upon his karma. This is a dangerous error. The fanatics do not wish to perceive that one who helps acts precisely in accordance with karma. Man must provide all possible help, without thinking about karma. (Supermundane 650)


It is true, there are cases where help is not intended or desired from Karma’s point of view.


It is especially difficult to help people involved in karma. It may be noticed that each good action encounters a certain counteraction from the one to whom help is sent. Thus is confirmed the ever-presence of the particular energy that is called the guardian of karma. Those who disturb karma, encounter, as it were, a repulse. Each one can recall how his useful counsels have occasioned a most inexplicable rebuff. People who were considered rational have sometimes begun to speak against their own advantage. One should then seek the reason in karmic causes. The guardian of karma is very strong. (Brotherhood 324)


Furthermore, you must not interfere with the fate of another human being by your taking over a task that Karma not without reason has imposed exactly on him. By doing so, you would destroy the work of Karma, which ultimately means well with the person concerned.


The inviolability of karma remains one of the subtlest conditions of all. To give, to assist, and even to guide, without infringing upon the personality—this is a difficult task. (Fiery World I, 135)



6. Growing greater through Helping

Gustave Moreau „St. Martin and the Beggar“


"Do not I lose strength, will I not weaken myself when I help?"


We had already said (Broadcasting "6th Pillar: Selflessness"): 


Your soul is growing greater, not when it takes, but when it gives!


Thus, when you assist people in need, you are promoting your own spiritual growth.


People should think about the quality of their radiations. Each act of good improves one’s radiations. People can help themselves by helping their neighbour. (Supermundane 812)


Putting on the earthly envelope man has to create good, thus perfecting himself—so speaks wisdom from times immemorial. (Brotherhood 261)


However, this only applies as long as you are acting completely selflessly. Make sure that you do not help out of selfish calculation. Doing good in order to gain an advantage – even if it is spiritual growth – will certainly not be the proper motivation.


Any offering of help radiates good, but, of course, the good deed must be sincere. In this, everyone must be his own judge. We value help when it is offered spontaneously, from the heart. There is no use in calculating why one should help someone. Most people would help a passing stranger in distress, without thinking what a beautiful deed they are performing. And such conduct is right, for self-congratulation undermines all good results. (Supermundane 650)


Do not fool yourself! We have seen helpers who – consciously or unconsciously – were tremendous egotists. They actually exploit the weakness of their neighbours in order to give themselves a high place, to patronize others, and to exercise power over them.


Such remnants of egotism are flashing up again and again within everyone of us. We must track them down vigilantly and overcome them immediately.