First Reform Yourself
Abandoning all thoughts of reforming and redeeming the world, reform and redeem yourself in the first instance. If you get reformed yourself, then know that an important member of society has been reformed. If this is not achieved, if higher thoughts and noble impulses are not garnered within your heart, if you are not able to make your actions free from the taint of opposing impulses like attraction and repulsion, and take upon yourself the task of reforming the world, then know it for certain that the world is not going to be reformed through your efforts. Never imagine that since you are a servant of the people devotedly engaged in their service, your personal character can be safely left out of consideration. If there is any blot or blemish in your character, you can never really serve the people. Will you not employ in this service that very stuff which you actually possess ? You will place those very things before the world, will offer it only those materials that lie stored within you. You will naturally teach the world what you practise yourself. Thus if you impure yourself, the world will never be profited by your service.
So long as your mental vision is wrapped by likes and dislikes it will never be possible for you see things in their true colours. And without true knowledge of things, it will not be possible for you to determine what is conducive to the welfare of a particular individual. For that course alone will commend itself you for which you have a liking or predilection. But quite likely, that course may not not be the right course.
If you do not reform yourself and yet desire to reform the world, two things are bound to happen in that case. You will either begin to regard yourself as having reached an advance stage in spirituality- as a superior soul possessing the necessary qualifications to reform the world, and give yourself up to pride, or you will begin to play the hypocrite and practise dissimulation. In both ways you will be degrading yourself spirituality. Reformation of the world will be altogether out of the question under such circumstances.
Pride will make others appear to you as much lower than you in the scale of spiritual evolution. The result will be that you will like to lord it over them, you will seek to assume their leadership and enlist them as your followers by bringing them under your banner. They on their part will resent your presumptuous behaviour. This will create bad blood between them and yourself; parties will be formed which will be dominated by rancorous fellings. Your energy as well as their’s will be spent in trying to humiliate each other. You will thus lose your peace of mind, and forgetting in this mental unrest all about the reformation of the world you will have done a great harm to its instead.
Know it for certain that any action, any effort that is conducive to the true welfare of the world will ipso facto conduce to your own welfare. But you can never do good to the world unless you have become good yourself. Therefore, reform yourself in the first instance. When you are thus reformed, you will no longer take upon yourself the responsibility of reforming the world. For then every action of yours will contribute to the reformation of the world. Your very existence in this world, your respiration, your drinking, your going to bed and waking from sleep and your daily transactions-all these will naturally contribute to the good of the world.
So long as you entertain the idea that the world cannot be reformed without you, you will never be able to reform it. So long as you feel that you are superior, virtuous and exalted, while other are inferior, vicious and ignoble, you will never be able to do good to the world. So long as you wish that you may be able to do good to the world, the world should accept you as its leader, as the object of its worship and service, and honour and adore you, serve you and applaud you, you can never do real good to the world. For the craving in your heart for leadership, for receiving homage and service from others, will give rise to such a weakness in you as will prevent you from speaking out the truth before the world. To whatever extent it may be, you will have to say things which are agreeable to them. You will always be afraid lest people may got displeased with you and their displeasure may deprive you of the services, honour and respect they have been rendering to you.
Remember : so long as you serve the public for the sake of honour and praise, or you feel flattered when you receive honour and applause in return for your services, there is lurking within your heart a thirst for honour and glory which will gradually divert you from service and make you inclined to play to the gallery. And when the idea of tickling popular fancy takes possession of your mind-when popularly becomes your object, you will have to abandon the idea of service altogether. You will then do only that which is pleasant to the taste of the people. For that alone will bring you the desired honour and glory. You will then refrain from activities that will not directly contribute to your honour and glory. Even if they are dispensable for public good, or for your own personal good. And you will engage in activities which will bring you honour and glory even if your opinion they are injurious to public good. Thus your whole life will be transformed into a life full of hypocrisy and dissimulation.
All this does not mean that you should give up public service itself. Render such service by all means, and as much as you can; but try to make yourself a fit instrument for such service. If you proceed to dust a neighbour’s floor with a broom that is full of dirt, you will make the floor dirtier instead of cleaning it. The purer is heart you become, the fitter you will be for public service. Therefore, take particular care to purify your inner impulses, to improve and elevate your character and conduct, to give up prejudice and attachment, to renounce the insidious thirst for honour and glory. Then whatever you do will go to reform and redeem the world, even if at the time all your actions are governed by the spirit of renunciation.