“Whenever anyone, with a pure intention, offers Me even a leaf, a flower, a piece of fruit, or water, I accept his offering.”
Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, 9:26
As a student of Swami Kriyananda, it comes quite natural to always want to do “more and better.” For the last eleven years, Swami ji has been my role model in every aspect of life, and, in everything, I strive to follow his example.
One of the most evident characteristics of his life is just how much he has done on his zeal to spread Paramhansa Yogananda’s message: writing more than 150 books, composing more than 400 pieces of music, founding several communities around the world, giving countless lectures, and serving as spiritual guide, counselor and dearest friend to tens of thousands of people. For someone looking up to him, being “up to the task” might seem daunting, to say the least.
And yet, his real genius was not so much in how much he did, but on how he did it.
It was Swami ji’s particular role in life to do a great outward work. He also encouraged his students and friends to cooperate with him in manifesting this great work. However, his first concern was never on how much was done, not even on what was done, but rather in how it was done. In other words, with which attitude it was done. Even great outward accomplishments might fail to impress him if they were done with unpure motives, but a small and simple, yet sincere, act of pure, unselfish love, could gain endless appreciation from him.
I’ve seen the above statement prove true countless times, and I would like to relate one such occasions from my own life:
The year was 2012, and I was on a visit to Ananda Village, where Swami ji was staying for three or four months. In order to support myself, I was taking odd jobs a little everywhere and from everyone; two of the people who were helping me out in this fashion were my dear friends, Nayaswami Nirmala ji and Nayaswami Dharmadas ji.
One day, Nirmala called me to help her with a special project: “Heze,” she said, “Swami ji is coming to our home for tea tomorrow, and I want to have the house looking as good as possible before then. Our garden, in particular, needs to be weeded. Will you please come over and do that work for us?” I said yes.
Shortly afterwards, I arrived to their home and to the garden in question. To my surprise, the garden consisted only of weeds! Dharmadas and Nirmala had just moved into that home a few weeks before, and hadn’t yet had the time to work on it. “Oh well,” I thought, and set myself to work.
I labored very joyfully, in full knowledge that this was a wonderful opportunity to do something, even such little thing, for the Swami ji who I loved so much, and to whom I owed so much. With every weed I rooted out, I thought of him and offered all the love of my heart at his feet, thinking myself exceedingly fortunate to have this privilege.
Yet, at the back of my mind, there was the thought, “This garden is naught but weeds. Once I’m finished with them, there will be nothing left but a huge, barren, patch of earth.”
After a few hours, when my task was done, I looked at the results and it was exactly as I feared: nothing was left standing, and the garden looked (to me) very unattractive. I had liked it better when it was full of weeds; at least it had been green! I prayed: “Swami ji, I did this job only out of love for you. Please forgive me if I have made a mess out of things, I had nothing but love in my heart while doing this work.” With that, I left.
The next day, I received a call from Nirmala ji, who told me of Swami ji’s reaction: “You know,” she said, “while Swami was our guest this afternoon, he repeatedly kept telling us ‘what a lovely garden you have!’ He said it three times!” I was very touched… and somewhat baffled! I made my way back to that garden in order to take another look: it was still nothing but a patch of barren earth… and yet, it seemed to be glowing now, as if with a subtle light of its own. Swami ji had blessed it.
The moral of this story, to me, was that it doesn’t matter what we offer to God. It doesn’t matter how big it is, or how valuable it is, or even, to some degree, how inspired it is. God watches the heart: anything that we offer up to Him with a pure intention, and with a heart full of love, He will accept as if it were the greatest treasure, and bless it, and bless us also in the process with his Bliss.