As a small child in the 1940s, I was each year taken by my mother to buy a birthday gift for my father. She would help me make a selection, hand me a dollar to give to the cashier, later wrap the present, and, during the actual presentation, would exclaim, “look, Wally, what little Jimmy has for you!” I was probably looking at the floor in a state of acute embarrassment. My father would respond gamely with enthusiastic appreciation. Years later I learned that even the dollar had come from my father, for ours was a traditional family of the era – the man the breadwinner, the woman the homemaker. My mother negotiated with my father for the money needed to manage the household (and to pay for gifts to him). We children regarded our father with too much awe to approach directly. It was through our mother that we received from, and gave to, our father.
Our old fashioned family dynamic seems to me now a wonderful training in the devotee’s relationship to God: everything comes from Him; and when we give to Him, we are simply returning what has always been His alone. Our mother’s compassionate guidance in these birthday ceremonies prepared us to reach beyond this limited world of form, just as God as Divine Mother finds for each one ways to penetrate the fogs of delusion and rise into the pure light of Spirit, the abode of Heavenly Father.
When we wake up enough to consciously set out again on the Homeward journey, we soon ask ourselves, “what does God want of me? What can I give to Him?” And the answer comes, more and more deeply as we grow: “My child, simply give to Me what has come from Me, for in doing so you will come into My being and be free.” The more we enter into giving to God as a spiritual practice, the more we will find ourselves in the cosmic flow of Love that unites soul and spirit, disciple and guru, individual devotee and the Infinite Lord. “Although God cares deeply for all of us, individually,” Swamiji writes, “He wants nothing from us in return, and can wait for ages, if necessary, for us to return His love selflessly and merge back in Him.”
God wants us to come Home. Whatever we do to return to God is pleasing to Him. If we sincerely turn to Him for help, He will show us how to draw closer. For the disciple, His help will come through the guru. “Our job above all, then,” Swamiji writes, “is to offer our hearts and minds up to Him, that He may transform us…may enter and expand our awareness to infinity.”
Some time after Swami’s passing, a friend had a traumatic and disturbing experience that brought her to deep inner prayer for his guidance. In a dream, she found herself helping Swamiji walk up a flight of stairs, only to realize that it wasn’t she who was helping Swami, but Swami who was helping her – by allowing her to give to him in this way.
Recently I dreamt of being caught in a mudslide. I was at water’s edge of a large pond; all around the banks were caving in, sliding toward the water. I tried to cut a path through the muck, to work my way up a gradual incline to stable ground, but kept being pulled down by the downward moving mud. At the limit of my strength, starting to become desperate, I inwardly prayed to know what to do. At once I felt an energy from above. Looking up, I could see an opening, a passageway to higher ground, and could feel a compassionate presence drawing me upward. Just at my foot was a stable post, what I knew was the first step in a difficult but doable climb out of the mire.
Here then is how we can give to God – to look up, go up, raise the energy up, realizing that all the time God is there, reaching down, waiting for our call for help, wanting to show us the way to freedom. A few weeks ago we came together for a concert given by Paean and Peony Lee, who grew up in the community and had come home to play as an offering of love to their spiritual family. As I entered Hansa Temple, I felt energy rise in my spine, from the heart to the spiritual eye. All through their lovely performance – whether a classical piece, or something of Swami’s, or something fun and adventurous – the energy kept flowing upward, and continued to do so for many hours afterwards. When they would introduce a piece of Swamiji’s, they spoke of him so naturally, so comfortably that I felt they experienced him as a dear divine friend, with no sense of distance. Their gift to all of us, and to God, was the sharing of their own joy and inspiration in playing beautiful music, a joy so powerful that, as we listened, it became our own. As their spirits soared, and ours with them, words from Swamiji’s renunciate vow came into my mind: “I no longer exist as a separate entity, but offer myself unreservedly into Thy great ocean of awareness.”
In divine friendship,