I Wish You Joy of Heart Today…
… the joy that laughs and sings,
the joy that finds happiness in simple things.
May life bring her choicest gifts to you,
and may you never lack a Friend who’s honest, real and true.”
These encouraging words, printed in a simple greeting card, remind us to open our heart and recognize the many opportunities for expressing generosity and gratitude. Saints and mystics come into the world as our true friends and, out of an abundance of love and generosity, they wish to share their ‘choicest gifts’ with us. They invite us to seek the true purpose of life, which they say is to unravel the mystery of the Divine within and reunite our soul with God. With their own example they inspire us to become more loving and generous human beings.
When reflecting on the true meaning of love and generosity, both qualities become interchangeable in relation to our interactions with fellow human beings. We define generosity as freely giving of our time to help others or giving gifts of considerable value without any expectation of recognition or reward in return. Love has the same characteristics. We cannot be truly generous without being truly loving. For some, substantial acts of generosity or unconditional selfless love may still be an ideal to which we aspire, while waiting for the right time or the means to put our good intentions into practice.
Yet, extending heartfelt kindness and empathy – small gestures for us – may give the recipient renewed hope. Giving hope to someone in need is one of the most meaningful gifts we can share: connecting with another human being in need and recognizing that the recipient and giver both need each other, because at a deeper level we are indeed all connected as one human family, children of the one true Creator.
The authors of Being Generous give a hint of the power of generosity:
Generous acts beget generous responses, which means that it spreads not only the asset that is given or shared, but also the optimism that inspires it. This is not to say that generosity is easy, or that it evokes instant reciprocity. The joy, instead, comes from being connected to a sublime, ever-constant creative source that flowed through human history and carries humanity into the future.1
When we can gladden someone’s heart, the unintended consequences of even the smallest act of kindness circle back to the giver. In her book In the Heart of the World, Mother Teresa recounts an event from her visit to Australia:
Some of my sisters work in Australia. On a reservation [in a remote area of the country], there was an elderly man. I can assure you that I have never seen a situation as difficult as that poor old man’s. He was completely ignored by everyone; His home was disordered and dirty.
I told him, “Please, let me clean your house, wash your clothes and make your bed.”
He answered, “I’m okay like this. Let it be.”
I said again, “You will be still better if you allow me to do it.”
He finally agreed. So I was able to clean his house and wash his clothes. I discovered a beautiful lamp, covered with dust. Only God knows how many years had passed since he had last lit it.
I said to him, “Don’t you light your lamp? Don’t you ever use it?”
He answered, “No. No one comes to see me. I have no need to light it. Who would I light it for?”
I asked, “Would you light it every night if the sisters came?”
He replied, “Of course.”
From that day on, the sisters committed themselves to visiting him every evening.
We cleaned the lamp, and the sisters would light it every evening.
Two years passed. I had completely forgotten that man.
He sent this message: “Tell my friend that the light she lit in my life continues to shine still.”
I thought it was a very small thing. We often neglect small things!2
Even if we start out with small steps on the spiritual journey leading to our true home, here too, every step counts – small steps or long strides. Every effort we make to follow the Master’s instructions counts – easy or hard. The Master knows and sees the efforts we make. The more effort that we put in, and the more generous we become in giving time in meditation, the more the Master’s grace becomes apparent.
With the Master’s grace, we will become increasingly aware that true love and true generosity are divine, and are gifts dispensed by the Master for the ultimate generous and loving act – to liberate our soul from its bondage in the endless cycle of births and deaths and return to its divine origin. As Hazur Maharaj Ji says:
First comes the grace of God, then the kindness and mercy of the Guru who initiates us into the mysteries of Nam, and finally, our own unceasing efforts to tread the path and follow the instructions.3
All we need do is dig deeper into our pockets of ‘time’ and give generously of it to our meditation practice. More practice leads to more love. Love causes us to surrender, and it is in surrender that we can merge in the Supreme Being. As the Indian mystic Sarmad wrote:
The Ocean of his boundless generosity has no shore.
The tongue is powerless to thank,
the heart too bewildered to understand.
Though my sins are many,
his compassion is greater still –
I swim in the seas of disobedience
But I do not drown.4
- Lucinda Vardey & John Dalla Costa, Being Generous: The Art of Right Living; Knopf Canada, 2009, p. 14
- Mother Teresa, In the Heart of the World, New World Library, 1997, p. 53 (slightly edited)
- Light on Sant Mat, p. 60
- Sarmad, Martyr to Love Divine, p. 289