Yesterday, after finishing some programs at the Ananda center in Sacramento, California, Devi and I had a few errands to run. Later, having finished our shopping, we were pulling onto the freeway entrance when we saw a family beside the road. The wife and child were sitting on a blanket, and the husband was holding a sign saying, “Our family is homeless. Can you help us?” Though we had but a moment to act, we lowered our window and gave them a small donation. But when we got home, Devi, remembering their eyes, remarked, “I wish we had given them much more,” and I, too, had the same feeling. That evening we both prayed for them during our meditation.
In one of the more memorable chapters in Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda relates the story of a boyhood visit to the holy city of Brindaban. Yogananda’s older brother, a disbeliever at the time, had challenged Yogananda and a friend to visit the holy city having no resources except an “unreliable” faith in God’s benevolence. Soon, even after being miraculously and sumptuously fed lunch, the friend’s faith began to falter.
Yogananda said, “’You forget God quickly, now that your stomach is filled.’ My words, not bitter, were accusatory. How short is human memory for divine favors! No man lives who has not seen certain of his prayers granted.”
Many people, perhaps most, never consciously pray to God but, nevertheless, He hears their every thought, every worry, every fear, and every need. That family, sitting beside the road, had been heard by God, and He inspired us to help them. If we had listened more carefully, He could have done more for them through us.
Worldly consciousness can find a thousand reasons to withhold aid. The devotee needs only one reason to give: because Divine Mother, in that form, is asking for help. Yogananda taught that the channel is blessed by what flows through it. Isn’t it the better part of wisdom to be on the lookout for opportunities to serve as God’s channel?
If we study the lives of the saints, we see that they hold nothing back. St. Francis gave away everything he owned; the Indian sadhu, Ramdas, gave a beggar the very clothing off his back; and Yogananda’s “bank” consisted of a small box with a few dollars in it so he would have a little money to buy things for others.
In a parable by the great poet, Rabindranath Tagore, a beggar is sitting beside a road when the king of the land approaches. Expecting a generous gift, the mendicant holds out his hand. He is shocked when the king asks, “What have you to give me?” The beggar grudgingly gives him the tiniest grain of rice. When he returns home that night and empties his purse, he finds there a single grain of golden rice, and wishes he had given his all.
Subtle threads of divinity connect everyone and everything on the planet. If you see someone in need—not only of money, but of a smile, or a kind word, or a helping hand—realize that, behind the form, Divine Mother is offering you a chance to serve as a channel for Her divine favors. When we give to others we find inner freedom.
Give God your all, no matter whether He comes disguised as a king or a beggar, and you will instantly feel His blessings in your heart.