Now it came to pass, as they went, that [Jesus] entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.”
And Jesus answered and said unto her, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:8–42.
There are certain stories, like this one of Mary and Martha, that reveal deep truths. Martha made a number of mistakes, some very human mistakes.
The attitude with which we do things
Martha was unaware that the attitude with which we do anything is much more important than the outer aspect of the activity. Or, if she was aware, in her agitated state, she had forgotten.
Martha was not joyful and happy while preparing the meal. She was upset—so upset that she went and asked Jesus, “Why haven’t you sent Mary in here?”
Our vibrations infuse everything we do. It isn’t only food we serve when we cook and offer it to others; it’s food plus the vibrations of the consciousness that go into preparing that food. This is true especially with food preparation, for what we eat is not something merely felt with the hands or appreciated with the eyes—it permeates the body.
“There’s something wrong in this food.”
A friend told us a story of a saint in India whose cook had prepared meals for him for many years. He chose her because she was very sattwic and had an uplifted consciousness.
But one day the saint could tell there was something wrong with the food. In questioning his cook, he learned that the only change was that she had hung new curtains in the house, given to her by her sister-in-law. The saint instructed her to “find out about those curtains.” She learned that they had previously been in the house of a man who was a butcher.
The saint was sensitive enough to feel that his food had the vibration of someone who killed animals as an occupation. Of course, the woman got rid of the curtains and after that, the food tasted fine again.
As an avatar, Jesus’ consciousness was much more refined than that of a normal saint, yet Martha was preparing a meal for him while in a negative mood. Jesus could feel those vibrations. Others weren’t necessarily sensitive enough to feel them, but they would nonetheless take them in.
What causes us to get upset?
Martha’s main mistake relates to those attitudes that caused her to get upset. Through attachment to “getting things done,” Martha was thinking that preparing the food was the most important thing going on.
We don’t get upset when we keep our consciousness aligned with the Divine. The divine energy flows through us and automatically uplifts our consciousness. As we work, everything goes right.
But when the direction of our energy is turned away from God and moves toward ego and attachments, our emotions get involved. We begin to think that others aren’t behaving right. And instead of getting the needle of our consciousness pointed in the right direction, we try to correct the situation by correcting the world around us.
Total immersion to the exclusion of God
In reprimanding Martha, Jesus was not putting down activity; he was putting down Martha’s total immersion in work to the exclusion of keeping her consciousness uplifted, and her mind on God, in the midst of work.
The highest service is to work in a divine flow, with an awareness of God’s presence within. If that’s not always possible, then at least try to keep your attention focused on God through the practice of japa. Inwardly chant to God as you work: “I am Thine; Be Thou mine.”
As you do that, when faced with challenges that threaten to pull your energy down, you will more easily remember what’s truly important.
A downward spiral
Now there was a third, and for us as devotees, the most important mistake, that Martha made. Here was Jesus, an avatar, speaking to his disciples with Mary sitting at his feet.
Martha didn’t quietly wink at Mary and whisper, “Come here. I need your help.” She went to Jesus and said, “Why don’t you rebuke Mary?” She was correcting Jesus.
Now imagine the same scene, except that the avatar is Paramhansa Yogananda, not Jesus. Imagine that you’re in the kitchen, that Yogananda is visiting, and your sister is supposed to be helping you in the kitchen, and she’s not.
Would you in your wildest dreams go in and start chewing out Yogananda for not sending her in? But Martha did that. She rebuked Jesus for not being aware that she needed help.
That’s what happens when we start to get deeply out of attunement. First of all, we get a little upset. Then we get angry. And then we get to thinking that we know more than God.
And that’s why this story is so important, and why it stays in our mind. It shows what happens to our consciousness as we get farther and farther out of tune.
The story on a symbolic level
To understand scripture rightly, we have to understand that it’s symbolic as well as factual. The events in this story took place in Bethany some two thousand years ago. Jesus, with some of his disciples, visited Martha and Mary.
But Jesus, Martha and Mary also represent aspects of our consciousness. Jesus represents the Christ Consciousness. Our true job is to be in attunement with the Christ Consciousness within, which was what Mary was doing.
But as we try to do that, the Martha part of our consciousness says, “That’s not important. What’s important are my projects. What’s important is what I’m trying to get done.”
The Martha part says, “Sitting here and listening to Jesus is not getting on with the task, and the Christ Consciousness isn’t even aware that I need help.” And soon we get tied in an emotional knot.
Through attunement, everything flows right
What the Christ Consciousness was saying was, “Martha, Martha, just calm down. Get back in tune with me. Through that attunement everything will begin to flow right. We’ll get the meal out. We’ll get to those projects.”
So tonight or tomorrow morning, when, in meditation, the Martha consciousness in you starts pulling away from the Christ Consciousness in meditation, just say, “Martha, Martha, settle down. Don’t rebuke this process of attunement through meditation. There will be time to get those projects done. Calm yourself, and most especially, don’t get negative.”
Because if you get in tune, when you go back into the kitchen and begin doing those tasks, the food you produce will have the right vibration. It will taste wonderful, and everyone will enjoy it.