There is nothing really absolute in the world. But, for all practical purposes, absolute unselfishness can be attained in all ages. It has been demonstrated by the greatest men and women throughout history. For us absolute unselfishness is an ideal, but we are to take the next step from where we are now. If we are now mostly concerned with ourselves, it is useless to think much about absolute unselfishness. Our present task is to be a little less selfish, a little more concerned about others. Thus we move forward.
Circumstances often go against this. Swami Vivekananda said, ‘Life is the unfoldment and development of a being under circumstances tending to press it down.’ He also said, ‘It is in the nature of things that many should fall, that troubles should come, that tremendous difficulties should arise, that selfishness and all the other devils in the human heart should struggle hard when they are about to be driven out by the fire of spirituality. The road to the Good is the roughest and steepest in the universe.’
So, the difficulties posed by circumstances do not belong to the present age alone, though it may become greater or lesser at times. The greatest difficulty arises from within our own minds. Suppose a small piece of wood and another of steel are kept near a strong magnet. The piece of steel will be magnetized immediately under its influence, but nothing will happen to the wood. Swamiji said, ‘We must learn that nothing can happen to us, unless we make ourselves susceptible to it. I have just said, no disease can come to me until the body is ready; it does not depend alone on the germs, but upon a certain predisposition which is already in the body.’
However difficult the present circumstances may be, we must have the courage to conquer it. If I understand that unselfishness is the only way to make life a success and build the nation, I cannot lay all the blame on the circumstances and sit idle. I shall take it as a challenge. Listen to Swamiji: ‘The more opposition there is, the better. Does a river acquire velocity unless there is resistance?