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Learning to Give

Nearly all children are quite selfish by nature. They do not want to give anything to others. I was trained to reverse this tendency.

In the mountains I used to take only one meal a day. I would have one chapati, some vegetables, and a glass of milk. One day, when it was almost one o’clock, I washed my hands, sat down, and the food was given to me. I said grace and was about to start eating when my master came in and said, “Wait!”

I asked, “What’s the matter?”

He answered, “An old swami has come. He’s hungry and you must give him your food.”

“No,” I argued, “I’m not going to, even if he is a swami. I’m also hungry and I won’t get any more food until tomorrow.”

He said, “You won’t die. Give it to him. But don’t give it just because I am ordering you. Give it as an offering of love.”

I said, “I’m hungry. How can I feel love toward someone who is eating my food?”

When he could not convince me to offer my food to the swami, he finally said, “I order you to offer your food!”

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The swami came in. He was an old man with a white beard. With only a blanket, a walking stick, and wooden sandals, he traveled all alone in the mountains.

My master said to him, “I’m so glad that you have come. Will you bless this child for me?”

But I said, “I don’t need your blessing. I need food. I am hungry.”

My master said, “If you lose control in this weak moment, you will lose the battle of life. Please offer your food to the swami. First give him water and then wash his feet.”

I did as I was told, but I did not like it, nor did I understand the meaning of it. I helped him wash his feet and then I asked him to sit down and I gave him my food. Later I found out that he had not had any food for four days.

He took the food and said, “God bless you! You will never feel hunger unless food comes before you. This is my blessing to you.”

His voice still echoes in my ears. From that very day, I have been free from that urge which had so often led me to childish cravings.

Nothing could be achieved without selfless service.

There is a narrow barrier between selfishness and selflessness, love and hatred. After crossing it one enjoys doing things for others, without seeking anything in return. This is the highest of all joys, and an essential step in the path of enlightenment. A selfish man can never imagine this state of realization, for he remains within the limited boundaries built by his ego. A selfless man trains his ego and uses it for higher purposes. Selflessness is one common characteristic that we find among all great men and women of the world. Nothing could be achieved without selfless service. All the rituals and knowledge of the scriptures are in vain if actions are performed without selflessness.

Source: Living with the Himalayan Masters by Swami Rama

About the Teacher

Swami Rama

One of the greatest adepts, teachers, writers, and humanitarians of the 20th century, Swami Rama (1925–1996) is the founder of the Himalayan Institute. Born in northern India, he was raised from early childhood by the Himalayan sage, Bengali Baba. Under the guidance of his master, he traveled from monastery to monastery and studied with a variety of Himalayan saints and sages, including his grandmaster, who was living in a remote region of Tibet. In addition to this intense spiritual training, Swami Rama received higher education in both India and Europe. From 1949 to 1952, he held the prestigious position of Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham in South India. Thereafter, he returned to his master to receive further training at his cave monastery, and finally, in 1969, came to the United States, where he founded the Himalayan Institute. His best-known work, Living with the Himalayan Masters, reveals the many facets of this singular adept and demonstrates his embodiment of the living tradition of the East.

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