2022! We made it through 2021 and can look toward a new and (let’s hope) better year. Now is a good time to review our goals and priorities for the year ahead.
Swami Kriyananda often told us this story: A very sincere devotee of God made a vow. “If ever You call me, Lord, I will drop everything and come to You.” As the years passed, he married and took on modest worldly responsibilities. Then tragedy struck: His wife died in childbirth, and he was left alone with a newborn babe. It was at this most delicate hour that he heard God call, “Come to Me, My child.”
He pleaded with God, “I will honor my vow and come to You, but I have a human heart, too. Please help me also fulfill my responsibility to my helpless child.” And then he heard God respond: “Place your infant in a basket on the side of the road and hide behind a tree.” Confused, but trusting, he did so.
Soon he heard the sound of horses and the murmurs of travelers. As he silently watched, the queen of the land and her entourage approached. Upon seeing the helpless baby in the basket, she stepped down from her carriage and took the babe in her arms. “What a lovely child,” she said. “I will raise it as my own.” Thus the devotee was able to fulfill both his vow to God and his worldly responsibilities.
This story is, of course, symbolic. And, as a symbol, it applies to each of us. What are the priorities, responsibilities, and habits that prevent us from answering God’s call? What are we willing to offer, and what do we hold back? Few of us are ready to pass a challenge as severe as the devotee’s in this story, but we each must face tests at our own level.
Most of us still have areas where our karma is not yet finished: Perhaps the ties that keep our souls from rising into the heavens are attachments to job, health, family, and relationships. They may even be the repeating entanglements of our “I’m right and they’re wrong” conflicts.
But we must begin our journey somewhere. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna says, “Whenever anyone, with pure intention, offers Me even a leaf, a flower, a piece of fruit, or water, I accept his offering.” These two extremes—offering anything whatsoever, and giving absolutely everything—represent the length and breadth of the spiritual path.
If we are not able to renounce everything, there is a gentler approach, which was exemplified by Swami Kriyananda’s mother. She asked God to help her in her motherly responsibilities and thus made them sacred. Swamiji writes in The New Path, “My mother told me that throughout her pregnancy she was filled with joy. ‘Lord,’ she prayed repeatedly, ‘this first child I give to Thee.’”
God is always waiting for us to make an offering. Each time we sit to meditate, the Christ consciousness at the spiritual eye calls to us, asking us to transmute the ego into light. If we find that our mind is plagued by distractions, then let us lay our preoccupations beside the road and move away from the boisterous lanes of this world.
January 5 is Paramhansa Yogananda’s birthday. He, like all great souls, had to make the journey of many lifetimes from giving nothing to giving everything. Having succeeded, he chose to incarnate in order to help set our feet on the path to our own destiny. In his poem, “God’s Boatman,” he said with love and compassion all but inconceivable to us:
I want to ply my boat, many times,
Across the gulf after death,
And return to earth’s shores
From my home in space.
I want to load my boat
With all those waiting, thirsty ones
Who have been left behind,
That I may carry them to the opalescent pool
Of iridescent joy,
There where my Father distributes
His all-desire-quenching, liquid peace.
Oh! I will come back again and again!
Crossing a million crags of suffering,
With bleeding feet, I will come,
If need be, a trillion times,
As long as I know that
One stray brother is left behind.
In divine friendship,
You can watch a video recording here of Jyotish and Devi sharing at the celebration held in honor of Paramhansa Yogananda’s birthday.
You also might enjoy a downloadable poster of the poem, “God’s Boatman.”
Listen to the weekly commentary for this blog, with special behind-the-inspiration stories and answers to common spiritual questions. Subscribe to the podcast or download the audio recording by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here (2:52):
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