There is a hypnosis in the world that tells us we must clutch whatever life has provided, whether money or material possessions, because if we don‘t we will lose it. Most devotees know this for the hypnosis it is, but applying that understanding in our daily lives can be challenging.

A wonderful flow of sharing

We were blessed with a wonderful learning experience in the truth that “nothing is ours” the year we lived at Ananda’s Italian center, which at the time was near Lake Como. It was the early 1980s. Ananda had only recently opened this new center. We were there to support the new work, and we worked in close association with the current leaders, a husband and wife team.

What I (Devi) learned right away in living at the center was that nothing was really ours in fact! We had our own little room, and our own closet and dresser—or so we thought. That thought didn’t last long. The female director, who was also a good friend, would come bursting in on us any time, night or day, no matter what we were doing. She would say, “What can I wear today?” and start going through the closet and taking things out of the drawers.

At first I was a little taken aback, until I realized that she was also completely giving of what was “hers.” Just as she had burst in on us, she would also come rushing in to give away everything she had. For many years afterwards, nearly every article of clothing I received compliments on had come from her.

There was such a wonderful flow in that sharing. We found that nothing was ours, nothing was theirs, nothing was anyone’s. It was just a flow. Because of this flow, we would receive huge boxes of clothes from people from all over Europe. Beautiful things would come from Germany, England, and Italy, and we would pass them around and share them. We began to realize that because we didn’t think, “this is mine” or “this is theirs,” we had more clothes than we knew what to do with.

There is a flow of God’s abundance that passes through us in true sharing. The identity and power that we draw to ourselves is so much greater than the identity of just “us.”  The more we learned the lesson that nothing was “ours,” the freer we felt.

The best Easter we ever had

As time went on, God asked us to give up more and more, which produced in us a kind of a tug of war. We would ask: “Lord, are You really going to ask us for this and this?” And, of course, He did.

Many guests were coming for Easter in 1983, and we realized that we even had to give up our rooms for the guests, because there simply weren’t enough rooms for everyone. Some of our staff went to live in the little outbuildings and small sheds.

We found a room in the sub-sub-basement of the ashram house, our main building; through our room ran all the pipes for the building. The room had no windows or heat. One little light bulb hung from the ceiling. Everything was rather damp, and there was a thick layer of mildew on the walls. The moisture permeated our blankets when we slept.

As we were preparing the room, we kept thinking: “Divine Mother, You’re really not going to have us stay here, are You? When Easter weekend arrives, we’ll really get to stay in our own room, right?”

The weekend came, very cold and very rainy, and with all the guests who had said they were coming. So we did spend all of Easter in what we fondly called “Gyanamata Grotto,” after Sister Gyanamata, Paramhansa Yogananda’s foremost woman disciple, who had a wonderful spirit of renunciation.  Each morning our pajamas would be wet from the moisture condensing off the walls. But we realized that it was the best Easter we had ever had, because nothing was ours. Everything we had, we shared; and in that sharing we found great joy and freedom. We had the absolute certainty that God would take care of us and provide all we needed.

“I’m giving it to God”

We don’t have to worry about getting that extra $50 in the paycheck. We don’t have to worry about anything. It’s just the pull of the world that makes it all seem important and we become frightened.

Swami Kriyananda tells the story of the time, while traveling, he met a man who gave him a hard-luck story and asked for money. He didn’t know if the man’s story was genuine, but he gave the man most of the money he had in his wallet. As Kriyananda gave him the money, the man said, “I’ll be sure you get it back, because I don’t want you to lose faith in human nature.” Kriyananda replied, “I have faith in God. I’m not giving this to you; I’m giving it to God.”

When we share, we are affirming our faith in God, and that we are a part of everyone. This is how we all need to live. Everything we do, we should do for Him. When we live that way, we find that whatever we give comes back to us a thousand-fold.

“Nothing is mine”

In the Art and Science of Raja Yoga, ** Swami Kriyananda discusses the yamas and the niyamas, the do’s and don’ts of the spiritual path. He says that the yama “non-greed” means not to be attached to what is rightfully one’s own, and to be able to share everything you have without a sense of limitation. And interestingly enough, the power that comes with perfection of non-greed is the ability to remember one’s past lives.

What’s the connection there? When we attain “non-greed” or perfect non-attachment, we overcome any identification with our own body and can then remember our past lives — our identifications with other bodies, places, and events.

When we no longer think, “This body is who I am. This house is mine,” but start to ask, “Who am I?” What is mine?” we begin to awaken to our true reality—the soul, which in its essence is infinite and eternal. How many little dramas have we lived? How many times have we said, “This is my house; this is my wife or husband, or my children?” How many times have we died and woken up without a body and without a house, without any of those attachments?

We go through it again and again until finally one day it starts sinking in: that no matter how tightly we clutch what God has provided, we will lose it. It all has to go. Even the bodies we cherish and pamper, they go one way or another—painfully or easily, but they go.

And we begin to realize that in giving, we break through the delusion that makes us identify with our bodies and possessions. We begin to say, “God, nothing is mine. I’m just playing a little role now, but I want to wake up to my infinite, eternal reality in Thee. I know that giving freely of what I have will help me achieve this awareness.”

What we give comes back blessed

There is a beautiful poem by Tagore, which we’ll paraphrase here: God comes in the form of a prince to a beggar. The prince approaches the beggar and says, “What can you give me?” The beggar is shocked, of course, thinking that the prince should give him some alms. In his shock, the beggar gives the prince only one little grain of rice. Later, when he opens his sack in the evening, the beggar finds that just one little grain of rice has turned to gold.

That which you give away comes back to you in a more blessed form. This is especially true of love and friendship. Whenever you see someone in need, share with him, share even if you think you have nothing to give, even if you think you have no wisdom, or peace, or joy, or love. You have more than you know.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta was walking the streets of London one day and saw a very lonely, sad-looking man sitting there. She walked up to him and took his hands without comment. He said, “Your hands are so warm.” “My hands are always warm,” was her reply. Of course they were. They were warm from a lifetime of giving the vibrant energy of divine love to others. The man said, “It’s been so long since I’ve felt the warmth of a human hand.”

Being able to give the warmth of a human hand doesn’t need years of spiritual study to learn. All it takes is the understanding that we were born on this earth to give—not to see what we can acquire for ourselves, but to be a channel to give to others whatever God has given us.

Based on an article that appeared in Clarity Magazine, January 30, 1989. Nayaswami Jyotish and Nayaswami Devi are the Spiritual Directors of Ananda Worldwide. An earlier version of this article appeared in Clarity Magazine in the 1980s. Other Clarity articles by Nayaswami Jyotish and Nayaswami Devi are listed under "Jyotish and Devi Novak." *The yamas and the niyamas are the ten “do’s” and “don’ts” of the spiritual path, as described by Patanjali in his comprehensive Yoga Sutras. Patanjali also describes the particular spiritual strength or power that comes as a result of perfecting each of the yamas and niyamas. * *Crystal Clarity Publishers.

3 Comments

  1. What a beautiful illustration of renunciation. I am hoping that when I live in the Ananda community in Pune that I will be able to let go of the die hard habits of possesion. I think I have cracked it, but then…. God bless you both for sharing this deeply enspiring article. God’s love, AUM, maitreyi

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