“Imbibe the great virtue of suhradpanu (selfless affection). Suhradpanu is to help each other in the spirit of unity. Help and serve one another.
If you have suhradpanu you will develop great virtues. Swami has promised this. So definitely develop suhradpanu”
– Yogiji Maharaj, Yogi Gita
Suhradpanu, or selfless affection, is one of the key principles in satsang. In fact, Yogiji Maharaj not only placed great emphasis on the importance of developing suhradpanu in the Yogi Gita, but he also exemplified this quality in his daily life. One evening, Yogiji Maharaj received a phone call informing him that Kuberbhai, a devotee from Bhavnagar, was sick. Even though it was ten o’clock at night, without a moment’s hesitation Yogiji Maharaj left to visit him. He traveled all night, stopping only in Dholka at 4am to shower and do puja, so he could reach Bhavnagar as soon as possible. Seven days later, as Kuberbhai’s recovery was imminent, Yogiji Maharaj left for Limbdi to visit and care for another devotee who had fallen ill. This is merely one of countless instances which showcases the selfless affection Yogiji Maharaj had for Maharaj’s haribhaktas.
While Yogiji Maharaj’s love was limitless, we often struggle with this attribute. We usually reserve our affection for only those we consider to be our closest friends and family. But what about everyone else? Although at first glance we do not appear to have anything in common with the average person walking past us on the street, did you know that 99.5% of the DNA among all human beings is the same? So, even from a biological perspective, we are more closely related to the average stranger than we think! From a deeper, spiritual perspective, the Upanishads state, “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”—the whole world is a single family, as we are all God’s children and should care for each other as such. In order to develop the universal love exemplified by our guru parampara, we must first start small and learn to develop selfless affection for our family and fellow satsangis.
“Rigidity and ego will ruin the family.
Lessons of service, faith in God, and piety should be taught to children.
Parents should shed their ego and love their children.”
– Pramukh Swami Maharaj
Suhradpanu, or selfless affection, begins at home. Take a minute to reflect back on the times you felt genuinely happy. More often than not, these memories stem from moments shared with your family. Now think about the last time you felt upset or angry with someone. Again, it is most likely a memory involving someone in your family. Why is it that those we love are often the same people that upset us the most? The challenge we face is that the closer we are to someone, the more we expect from him or her. Many of us have preconceived notions of how people should behave. As a result, we are quick to perceive flaws in others. However, Yogiji Maharaj has said, “The faults of even the most junior of devotees never arises in my mind. I do not see such things! I do not allow myself to see such faults. I see them all as murtis of Brahman. Never do I feel they are worldly. I believe them to be divine.” Seeing divinity in everyone, even our family, is the first step in developing suhradpanu.
In the Yogi Gita, Yogiji Maharaj states that we must cultivate selfless affection before we can expect others to understand our opinions. When our spouses, children, parents, and siblings feel and hear our kindness, rather than our criticism, they will be more receptive to what we have to say, share, or teach. Pramukh Swami Maharaj once said in Atlanta that despite knowing what the best course of action is, he still seeks the opinions of others before proceeding in making a final decision for any important task. By so doing, Swamishri not only expresses his affection for others, but we in turn, develop affection for him. When we put aside our ego and expectations, and think of what we can do for others, we will surely be able to imbibe suhradpanu and family unity.