A friend of ours recently told us a good joke. A man was late for an important meeting and was frantically looking for a parking place. Though an atheist, he cried out in desperation, “God, if You find me a parking place, I’ll believe in You.”
Just at that moment a spot miraculously opened up right in front of the building where his meeting was being held. As the man quickly pulled his car into the space, he said, “That’s okay, God. I’ve got this.”
Often when some opportunity unexpectedly comes our way, apparently by chance, we remain oblivious to the fact that God was pulling the strings behind the scenes. When we think, “How lucky was that,” or “I worked hard to make this happen,” we’re missing the point. “Coincidences,” it has been well said, “are God’s way of remaining anonymous.”
Coincidences present themselves in a variety of ways. Here are a few of them, each illustrated with a real-life example that directs our gaze beyond the gift to the Giver.
First, there’s practical advice that arrives just at the moment you need it. In the mid-1970s at Ananda Village, we were constructing a building for our central offices and printshop. Swami Kriyananda had a clear idea of what it should look like and had made a simple pencil drawing on a little piece of note paper.
The body of the building was easy, but the roof was complex, with a double curve moving both upward and outward like a bird in flight. With no engineering drawings to guide them, our builders were unsure how to construct the roof, but, undeterred, they proceeded day by day to take the work as far as they could.
The inevitable day arrived when they could go no further. As Swami Kriyananda related the story,
They sat down, meditated, and prayed for assistance. Finally, receiving, as they thought, no guidance, they rose and prepared to leave the job.
Just then a car drove up, and a man stepped out. Explaining that he was a building contractor from Santa Barbara, hundreds of miles away, he said, “I was wondering if you needed help.”
The men explained their predicament.
“It’s lucky for you I happened to come here,” said the contractor. “I am probably the only man in California who knows the special technique this job needs!”
Our crew got exactly the advice they needed from our contractor friend and was able to complete the project. The building stands today as a testimony to divine intervention.
Here’s an example of a “coincidence” that came in the form of protection. Swami Kriyananda had been giving some classes in Sacramento, California, and Shivani and I had come along to help. A friend of Swamiji’s offered to drive us back to the Village, so with Dr. Runnels at the wheel, Kriyanandaji in the passenger seat, and Shivani and me in the back, we set off.
Traffic on the highway was heavy and moving fast, with two crowded lanes heading in each direction. Directly in front of us was a car pulling a flatbed trailer filled with equipment.
Swamiji and his friend were amiably chatting as we drove along, when, at a certain point, Swami glanced over and saw the trailer begin to wobble. “That trailer hitch looks unstable,” he said. “Let’s get in front of the car ahead of us.”
Just as we switched lanes and pulled up alongside the other car, the trailer hitch snapped. The trailer went spinning out of control behind us, causing a huge pileup. We sat in shocked silence, realizing that we’d narrowly missed being in a terrible accident. For the rest of the way home no one spoke, absorbed as we were in thoughts of what had just happened.
Finally, there is the “coincidence” of how higher guidance and inspiration come into our lives. How many times we’ve heard people tell their story about how they found Autobiography of a Yogi. “It just appeared one day on my coffee table,” or “Out of nowhere a stranger handed it to me,” they’ll tell us. They may see “chance” rather than grace at work in these incidents, for they don’t yet realize how close God really is to us.
In his autobiography, The New Path, Swami Kriyananda writes: “People often point to the sufferings of humanity as proof either that God doesn’t exist, or that He doesn’t care for His human children. Paramhansa Yogananda’s answer to that charge was that people don’t care enough about God to tune in to His help.”
The next time some unexpected boon or protection comes into your life, rather than saying, “What a coincidence!” from your heart simply say, “Thank you, God.”
P.S. You may enjoy joining us for our upcoming event with Ananda Palo Alto: Sharing the Wisdom of Yogananda: 100 Years of Spiritual Awakening.