Ramana Maharshi was once asked how one could most effectively start to help the world and create a more harmonious and peaceful brotherhood of man. Ramana Maharshi told him that he must first of all change himself and that this approach is the most positive step that anyone can take to contribute towards increasing world harmony. Whether the questioner accepted the answer or even understood it is uncertain. Perhaps he thought it a selfish attitude. But as far as we are concerned Ramana Maharshi’s reply was perfect. He knew what people have failed to see throughout the ages and today, that the way to improve the condition of the world as a whole is to first of all improve the condition of oneself. This is not egoism, but common sense, for how can someone really hope to positively contribute to the improvement of the world situation if he is in a sad situation himself. It is almost like a person who emanates unhappiness and who is continuously scowling trying to preach to others what the joy of happiness is all about. There is no impact and no influence, for there is total hypocrisy in the act. One can only spread peaceful vibrations in the world if one individually radiates peacefulness. This is the only way. To solve other people’s problems you must first of all solve your own.
We see the unstable world situation as a large mental problem, the sum total of the population of individual mental problems. The humanized world is unstable because most of the people in it are unstable. So by trying to solve your mental problems you are making a positive step not only to bring happiness to yourself but to the whole world. The more you harmonize yourself, the more you will act as a beacon of harmony and peace to the world. You will be giving your most valuable contribution to your environment by sorting out your own problems. This preoccupation with your own mind is neither antisocial nor escapism. It is the way to offer the most important offering you can to the world at large. There is a further factor: namely, that the more you solve your conflicts and know yourself the more you will automatically want to help others. You will have no choice – it will arise spontaneously together with love of your fellow man, no matter how grotesque he may often seem.
The following is a very apt, sharp and eloquent summary of the world situation given by Robert Linssen in the book entitled Living Zen: “Humanity could be compared to two and a half thousand million greyhounds rushing in pursuit of a mechanical hare on a racetrack. These human greyhounds are taut, overtense, avid and violent, but Zen (yoga) tries to teach them that what they think is a real hare is only a mechanical hoax. The moment man fully realizes what is implied by this truth he ‘let’s go’ and the bitterness of his struggles and violence are succeeded by relaxation, peace, harmony and love.
“The consequences of such a release are immense, not only for the physical, nervous and mental health of a man as an individual, but also for humanity as a whole.”