Here by ‘heart’ we don’t mean the blood pumping machine set inside the cage of the chest. It is the heart where we have our emotions and feelings, love and affection, and the urge for service. When we love others without expecting any return, it is true love. The function of the heart is to love truly and feel others’ happiness and sorrow intensely. The heart is known through its functions. We don’t know anything about its physical existence, just as in case of the mind.
Heart is the most important element in the personality of man. It is where the quality of a man in its wholeness may be felt. Swamiji said that intellect cannot go very far. It is through the heart that inspiration comes. He said, ‘Feel, my children, feel.’ ‘Feel like Buddha and you will be a Buddha. Feel like Christ and you will be a Christ.’ The aim of life is to expand the heart, to make it as broad as the whole world of all humans, all animals, and the rest.
We need balanced development of the body, the mind, and the heart through proper nourishment and exercise. Nourishment comes from what we take from outside and assimilate. Exercise is the repeated use of one’s limbs and mind with the energy gained through nourishment.
To develop the heart, we get wonderful impetus from studying the life and teachings of Swami Vivekananda, by thinking of him, and by trying to feel his heart throbs. Exercise can be done in two ways. One is: mentally visualizing all as my own and earnestly praying for their all round wellbeing. ‘May everybody be happy and pure, may they not suffer’, etc. The other is actual work or service with an unselfish motive. When we work for the people who are in distress, we get an opportunity to feel their sufferings in real situations and learn to sacrifice little by little for them. This can be done individually in our everyday life and also in an organized manner.
If we sincerely apply these methods regularly, along with other methods for the development of the body and the mind, we shall find within a short time that our heart is really expanding, that we have started to feel deeply for others.
One word of caution. Beware of uncontrolled emotions, called emotionalism, which is superficial, transitory, and destructive. The test is: real love will always bring more strength and purity.