I wrote an article recently about Neem Karoli Baba, Ram Dass’s guru, and his teaching that we are all one (here’s the link). He’d often say to his devotees, usually apropos of nothing, “sub ek,” which in Hindi means “all one.”
But he said something else, too. It was a direct and simple teaching on what his devotees’ main function was in the world. He would say:
“Love everyone, serve everyone and remember God.”
That’s it. That really was his main teaching. To see how powerful an impact this had on Ram Dass, look no further than the name of his foundation — the Love Serve Remember Foundation. (Check it out here.)
You can live your life by those words
So, what are we to make of that? As the title states, I think one could live according to this motto and forget everything else.
And by everything else, I mean all the myriad other paths out there. We can focus our lives on getting quiet inside, by practicing meditation, mindfulness, yoga and chanting, et al.
Or we can dive into the teaching of the Vedas and the Gita and the Upanishads and the Bible and on down the line.
The monkey god livestream
Just last night I watched a livestream of Krishna Das, one of the relatively few living devotees of Maharajii, as Neem Karoli Baba was known by followers. The talk focused on Hanuman, a monkey god who was devoted to Ram, one of the main Hindu gods. Maharajii had several temples built in Northern India devoted to Hanuman. And this Hanuman god by all accounts seems to have been a wonderful deity.
But that leads to a central point here: Do we really need anything more than just ‘love, serve, remember?’ I sometimes feel like all the extras, like god worship and all the rest, divert people’s attention from the main show: Being good to people.
Needless Christianity complexity
Nowhere is this truer than in Christianity with its multiple denominations and disagreements over dogma. How about just ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’ and forget the rest? Wouldn’t it be best to put all of our focus on the ‘being good to people’ thing and not get bogged down in the weeds of all that ancient minutia?
Now if I’m you, I’m asking: Fine, we should be good to everybody, but won’t we be better at that the more we do our practices? Good question. My answer?
And that leads me to the third element in the love, serve, remember triumvirate: Remember God. I’ve always been leery of the ‘G’ word because of all the confusion, complexity and controversy it elicits. But now I get why Maharajii included it, or at least why I think he did.
The God inside you
It’s because what Maharajii really means is ‘remember the God inside you.’ Why is that distinction so important? Because realizing the God inside us makes us far better able to love everyone and serve everyone.
And what strengthens our ability to realize the God within us? Meditation. Mindfulness. Getting quiet enough inside that our egos step aside and give us access to that God-like presence in us…so we can love everyone and serve everyone.
My tendency to get bogged down
How does all this help me? I can get bogged down in what I’m working on/focusing on. Non-attachment? Nonresistance? Being present?
Well, all I really need is to practice getting quiet inside. And then as I’m going about my day, all I need to do is remember ‘love everyone, serve everyone.’ My practices are helping me remember God. And so I just go out and try to love and serve.
How does this manifest for me? In small ways and large. One thing that has been especially effective has been, when I’m talking with someone who is annoying me or setting me off in some way, I’ve trained myself to go right to saying in my head, “Love everyone, serve everyone.” Which includes that person right in front of me. This immediately puts me in a place of compassion and calm. Try this. It works.
Dealing with suffering friends
A more significant manifestation came up recently with some friends of ours who are going through an extremely tough time. Some people head for the hills when they encounter suffering in others. We have been moving toward these people.
Truthfully, it’s been challenging. Why? Because I was born with an inner architecture that can be too empathetic. In other words, others’ suffering becomes my suffering. Which isn’t good for them because I can love and serve them better when I’m not feeling terrible.
So that’s where my work is. Strengthen my connection to the God inside me. All that practicing has definitely fortified that connection. With more practice, it will get even stronger.
With that strength comes great power. Power that, when it’s all said and done, really is there to serve one purpose: To love everyone and serve everyone.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go further fortify that connection by meditating…