All You Can Give
Clink, clink, clink, went the money into the collection box. The box was there so that worshippers could give back to God a proportion of the wages they had earned. Jesus, his apostles and other followers were sitting close to the temple and could see people depositing their coins into the box. A rich man strolled by and, making sure he was noticed, put ten silver coins into the box. A little while later, another wealthy man entered the temple and similarly, with some ceremony and pomposity, he deposited a hundred gold coins. Jesus did not remark upon their donations but continued talking to his followers, many of whom were impressed by the generosity of the rich men.
Dusk began to fall, and as Jesus and the small congregation started to gather their things to go home, a little old woman entered the temple and hobbled over to the collection box. From her bag, she took out a small, somewhat frayed purse, opened it and emptied its entire contents into her hand. Out dropped two pennies, which she deposited into the box without hesitation. Then, with the help of her walking stick, the little old lady made her way out. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.”
I first came across this parable at school, when the headmaster recounted it one morning during assembly. I was profoundly affected by its message: that it is not the quantity of giving that is important but the love and selflessness with which we give.
Over the years, as I reflected on the parable from time to time, other meanings became evident, such as the old woman’s faith in God. She was able to give away all her money because she trusted in God and so had confidence that, like the birds in the sky, she too would not go hungry. Our Master also reminds us of this. Certainly, he does not encourage us to give away all our worldly wealth, but he does highlight the futility of being anxious about our economic circumstances. After all, these have already been determined by our karma. Moreover, indulging in worry will only undermine our spiritual practice.
The parable also draws attention to the old woman’s humility. Whereas the rich men did their best to ensure that people noticed their large donations, the little old lady made hers as discreetly as possible. Again, our Master also encourages this. Most of us are familiar with the aphorism Maharaj Charan Singh often quoted from the Bible, “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing”, when donating to charity or as seva.
Until recently, I had always interpreted the parable in terms of its implications for monetary giving, oblivious of any other meaning. Then, one morning, as I struggled to sit still in meditation, the image of the old lady flashed into my mind. I was having ‘one of those sessions’, you know, when nothing seems to be going right and one becomes increasingly agitated. As I despaired at my failings, I thought about the old woman in the parable, how she had given everything she had and how much Jesus had valued her offering, which though small in a monetary sense was priceless in its generosity and the love with which it was made.
Maybe the same is true of our meditation. We ourselves may disregard those really difficult sessions, where we struggle to concentrate for a single round of simran or even to remain awake, as being worthless or pointless. But, if we have tried as hard as we can, have given everything that we have to give, it is highly possible that these moments are the ones our Master values the most.
The same might even be said of how much time we are able to give. We made a commitment to practise meditation for two and a half hours each day and should do our best to keep to this. However, our karmas may at times place us in situations where this becomes extremely difficult. Alternatively, we could be experiencing some form of mental anguish; maybe even losing interest in the path itself, so that sitting for even half an hour feels virtually impossible. Going back to the parable of the old woman, if in challenging conditions we meditate as best we can for however long we feel we can, is it not probable that our Master will recognize our efforts? As Maharaj Sawan Singh used to say, the inner Master is aware of all our difficulties and the circumstances in which he has placed us.
Let go of perfection
The present Master consistently reminds us that at our level, we tend to live by concepts. Like me, you’ve probably got a vision or an idea of the ‘perfect’ meditation session. It perhaps entails sitting cross-legged, spine straight, not moving one iota throughout the prescribed period of concentrated simran. The words of simran would be repeated naturally and easily, with the mind fully co-operative, concentrating hard with very little effort on our part.
This is an ideal that we’re trying to reach but that is all it is – an ideal based on our own individual concept of perfect meditation. So it’s silly to get upset if our practice falls short of our concept of the perfect meditation session.
If we think about this even more, by becoming upset with our efforts, aren’t we actually highlighting the strength of our ego? Many of us are in that ‘in-between’ stage, intellectually acknowledging that it will be the Master’s grace rather than our efforts that will carry us to Sach Khand, yet so far we have not evolved enough spiritually to surrender to him absolutely. This is the process that we are undergoing right now. When we reach the state of absolute surrender, we will acknowledge that we played no part in this at all. As Maharaj Charan Singh says in Die to Live:
You can say, “I am doing the meditation,” provided you are doing it. But when you really do it, then you won’t say, “I am doing it.” ‘I’ only comes in when we don’t do it. When we truly meditate, then ‘I’ just disappears. Then we realize his grace.”
Similarly, in Jap Ji we read that the absolute concentration we are seeking “is not dependent upon practice”, but that it is “through the Guru’s grace, [that] one’s mind is easily fixed in divine contemplation”. In other words, if we continue with our efforts, eventually the Master will shower his grace on us and it will be he, not we, who makes our minds absolutely still and engenders the state of effortless, deep meditation necessary to enter the tenth door.
Finally, turning once more to the advice and encouragement given by Maharaj Charan Singh in Light on Saint Matthew, we should always remember this:
If we but do our duty faithfully and carry out the instructions that we received at the time of initiation we have nothing to worry about. The Master will do the rest.