A beautiful pair of colourful birds came to have a bread-bite on my terrace, at the break of dawn one summer morning. Capturing the ensuing moments in the camera of my eyes, I saw the bird with a brighter plumage, possibly the male of the two, delightfully picking up a tiny bit that its beak could hold. But he was being watched not just by me but by the other bird too, perhaps the female partner, who instantly opened her mouth wide by parting the beak. Lo and behold! Sensing a heart’s call, the male bird at once hopped closer to her and put the prized possession into the waiting wide-opened mouth of his lady-love. Not just once, it happened thrice as one bird kept feeding the other leaving me utterly amused and amazed!
The act of giving is a part of cosmic drama, inherent in the whole of Nature’s creation. The act of a mother feeding the young ones is a common sight throughout the animal world. However, not all acts of giving are pure and selfless. When we give something to others, it may have a satavic, rajasic or a tamasic quality of energy. The attitude of giving a satavic gift is purely based on heart’s love and the giver experiences as much joy as the receiver of that gift. Giving someone a gift with the expectation of receiving something in return is a rajasic attitude of giving. When the act of giving does not bring any joy to the giver, it is a tamasic gift. Thus our mental temperament defines what we are giving to others as it has a direct bearing on the energy flow between the giver and receiver.
God is the Supreme Giver
The greatest gift of God, to each one of us, is our very ‘breath’ that keeps us alive. This supremely invaluable life-bestowing pranic energy flows incessantly in our whole being, allowing our various body functions besides fueling our thoughts, feelings and sensory perceptions.
It is said in the Bible that God made us in His own image and likeness. Therefore, we must cultivate the quality of selflessness to share with others what we have without egoic self-interest as it makes us cognizant of others’ feelings. More importantly, it helps us experience expanded states of consciousness that brings abundance in our own lives. P. Yogananda said, “Divine abundance follows the law of service and generosity. Give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to you.” Take for example, the striking contrast between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, the two water bodies that receive water from the same River Jordan. Lying at the North of the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee which is a freshwater lake is resplendent with life, while the Dead Sea being the lowest salt water lake in the world is devoid of any life.
When water from River Jordan flows into the Sea of Galilee, it flows out as well that keeps it beaming with life but when the same river flows into the Dead sea, there is no outlet. Continuous evaporation of water leaves the Dead Sea unfit for any life to thrive due to very high salt content. In the same way, if we do not share what we have, we lose our vibrancy due to stagnation of energy. A clear message is that we attract abundance through joyful sharing.
The question now arises is that what must we give? Of course, we can only give what we have. People who are wrathful, jealous or criticizing have these negative tendencies and that’s what they can give to others. After all, what do you get if you squeeze a lemon? It is the sour lemon juice, for sure, and not the sweet juice of grapes!
Yogananda once said, “Meditation alone is not enough. We must also serve.” The Bhagwad Gita emphasizes on doing meditation and selfless service as the keys to finding God and this could be likened to the two faces of the same coin. What as disciples of Yogananda we can do, as selfless service, is serving the cause of the Guru’s work by sharing His teachings in ways we feel empowered to.
In many religions it is said that we must give 10% of our income to the cause of charity. Also called ‘daswand’ or ‘tithing’, this act of giving acknowledges the inexhaustible higher source from whom flows the rich bounties on us. The practice of free kitchen called ‘langar’ in Gurudwaras, started by Guru Nanak, also signifies giving food to the hungry people.
Acts of Offering
Having our sole mission to find God, it is important to cultivate positive uplifting qualities that include the attitude of selfless giving. Giving our love to God and Gurus is the test before us that we must pass amidst the many downward-pulling negative thoughts and actions that are constantly pulling us into the quagmire of delusion. For spiritual progress, it is essential to withdraw our mind from the many sensory perceptions and offer this energy, just as fuel, to the higher centre of awareness at the spiritual eye. This act of devotional self-offering of all our thoughts, feelings and actions to the Divine with an attitude of humility and surrender can burn our karmic burden and help us unite with the blissful Divine presence within.
The Bhagavad Gita clearly states the nature of right action, which is to perform all works as oblations or religious rites by offerings them to the Divine as acts of selfless giving. The Vedic scriptures define these offerings to be of five types of spiritual fire rites called ‘Yajna’: Pitri Yajna (offerings to ancestors); Nri Yajna (offering food to hungry people); Bhuta Yajna (offering food to animals); Deva Yajna (offering the life force energy to the Divine within); Brahma Yajna (offering the soul to the all-pervading Spirit). Whatever the act of giving may be, it ultimately cultivates in us the quality of contentment, which has utmost significance in living with a sense of God’s adequacy.
A powerful affirmation by Yogananda that strengthens in us the quality of giving or sharing is: What I give, I give not away for in the larger realty it remains ever mine. I am happy in the happiness of all. This affirmation clearly focuses on the presence of God in everything and that nothing is actually lost by sharing with others what you have. Rather, one becomes like a flowing river resplendent with life that continues to share its bounty wherever it meanders.
Devotees on a spiritual path have the responsibility to give peace to their own families and give peace to the world, which is possible through daily practice of meditation, praying for all and spiritualizing their lives by adhering to the Yamas and Niyamas, the moral principles of yogic lifestyle. Yoganandaji said that, “One Moon gives more light than all the stars.” So a perfect devotee is like the moon which illuminates the world by transmitting the vibrations of goodness that uplift human consciousness.