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There is a beautiful story of a beggar who lived all of his life under one tree. Each day he would go out into the villages and beg for just some dry bread crumbs to sustain his life. Then, he would come back to his tree and eat his bread or whatever scraps the villagers had given him that day.  For forty years the beggar lived under the same tree, pleading with the people to give him some food. He’d walk to all the nearby villages, alternating days, begging for his nourishment. Slowly, day by day, he became weaker, and finally one day his body could no longer sustain itself and he passed quietly into death.

When the villagers found him, they decided to bury his ashes under the tree where he lived out his life. As they began to dig, in order to place his ashes deep in the ground, they found a treasure chest – full of gold, diamonds and jewels, a mere six inches below the ground.

For forty years, the beggar had lived, barely scraping by on his dry bread crumbs, sitting six inches above a treasure chest which would have rendered him as rich as a king. If only it had ever occurred to him to explore the depths of the Earth on which he sat, or to delve deeply into the recesses of his home – he would have discovered this treasure chest. But, he did not. Rather,  he sat on the surface, suffering and withering away, day by day.

Too frequently in life we are also like this beggar – running here and there searching, begging for that which we need to fulfill our lives. Perhaps we are not begging for food or basic life necessities. More likely we are searching and yearning for peace, happiness or God. We go here, we beg there. We search this place, we search that place. But that priceless and yet crucial peace and happiness still elude us.

If only we would sit still for a moment and go deeper within, we would find that treasure chest. We don’t even have to dig six inches. Just right within us, sitting in our heart, is God, and through our connection to Him, all of the riches of the world are bestowed upon us.

However, too frequently I see people running in the opposite direction in their fruitless search. They run from this workshop to that workshop, from this new trend to that new trend, all the while being frustrated in their search. Stop for a moment and look within.

The Indian youth, especially, are all incredibly blessed. Your culture, your heritage and your traditions are a true treasure chest of meaning, understanding, wisdom and insight. Through opening this box of jewels you will definitely find the happiness, contentment and peace for which you are searching.

Go back to your roots, back to your heritage, back to the temple. Listen to the stories of your parents and grandparents. Perform aarti with deep devotion. Go to have the satsang and the darshan of visiting saints. Take a trip to India rather than to the beaches or ski slopes.  Through this re-connection to your culture and your heritage you will find the key which will open the treasure chest.

But, never forget that the treasure chest is inside of you, flowing through your veins. It is not some external “thing” to be obtained or found. Rather, the divine joy is residing within you, in your heart, in your breath and in your blood.


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I heard a story once of a man who was a great devotee of God. Always throughout his life, God was his companion. He loved God more than anything else in all the world. When the man was very old, he lay in his bed one afternoon and had a dream.  In this dream, he could see his entire life stretched out before him, as though it was the coastline along the ocean.  And he could look back and see his footprints — deep impressions in the wet sand — marking the path he had walked in this life.  As he looked back further and further, he could see that, in fact, there was not one, but 2 sets of footprints, side by side, along the edge of the ocean.  He knew the other footprints were those of God, for he had felt God’s presence beside him throughout his life.

But, then he saw something that woke him immediately from his dream; his heart beat fast and he could not hold back the tears.  “God!” He cried out. “I just had a dream, and in this dream I could see the whole path of my life; I could see the footprints I left along the way.  And beside my footprints, there were yours, for You walked with me, and…” Now the man was full of tears and could barely speak. “But, God, sometimes there was only one set of footprints, and when I looked, I could see that those were the times I was really fallen, really broken, when I needed You most.  How, God, how could You leave me when I needed You most?  I thought You promised You’d be with me forever.  Why did Your footprints disappear at the times I really needed You?”

Softly, gently, God laid a hand on the man’s head, wiped away the tears.  “My child, I promised to always be with you, and I have never left you for a second, not even while you slept. Those times when you see only one set of footprints, those darkest moments of your life, it was those times that I carried you in my arms.”

There are times we feel abandoned by God, times we doubt His presence in our lives.  It is easy to have faith when all is going well, easy to believe in a plan when that plan brings us joy and fulfillment.  It is much more difficult to believe in the inherent goodness of the Planner when the plan causes agony.  Do we all not, on some level, feel that when our lives are tough, that we have been left by God?   But,  it is those times that our faith will carry us through.  It is truly those times in which we are being carried by God. Perhaps, as we get so much closer to him, as we move from walking beside Him to being in His arms, we actually feel His presence less, so we doubt it. Perhaps as the boundaries and borders between Him and us dissolve, and we simply become His children, perhaps that is when we truly lose ourselves in Him.  As the otherness is gone, perhaps we feel less aware of the presence.

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Once, a wonderful spiritual master gave a demonstration in front of a large class. He drew a horizontal line on the chalkboard and asked the class the following question: “Is there anyone in the room who can make this line appear shorter without erasing it?” The students thought and thought. They concluded that the only possible way to reduce the size of the line would be to erase part of it from either side. Thus, they told Swamiji, “No, there is no way to reduce the size of the line without erasing any of it.”

Swamiji then proceeded to draw another, much longer, horizontal line on the board, a few inches above the previously drawn line. “Now,” he asked. “Hasn’t the first line become shorter in comparison to the new, longer line? Doesn’t it appear quite short?” Everyone agreed that the line now appeared much shorter.  “One does not have to erase a piece of the first line in order to make it  appear shorter. One simply has to draw a longer line near it, and it will automatically seem shorter.”

In life, in the rush to get ahead, in the rush to prove ourselves and make a name for ourselves, we frequently resort to criticizing, condemning and badmouthing others. In order to make ourselves look better, we put other people down.  So many times we tell examples of the shortcomings of our colleagues so that we – in comparison – will appear better, or we criticize those with whom we are in competition.

However, this is not the way to get ahead or make a name for ourselves. Let us not try to diminish others in order to look good ourselves.  That is like erasing the line to make it shorter, simply so we will look bigger in comparison.  The way to get ahead in life should not be at the cost of others. Instead of bringing others down, let us raise ourselves up. Instead of cutting others, let us learn how to grow. Let us become long lines ourselves, rather than erasing others. If we focus on becoming as “long” as we can, then we will naturally shine above others.

It is very difficult in life to accept our own responsibility, our own mistakes. It is much easier for us to condemn others, criticize others, judge others and blame others.  We rarely realize how frequently our own actions contribute to a negative situation. It is so much easier to simply blame others. This is like erasing others in order to look long ourselves.

A woman once went to the doctor. She told the doctor, “My husband talks all night long in his sleep. You must give me some medicine for him to make him stop talking in his sleep.” The doctor gave the woman a prescription for medicine and told her, “If you take this medicine every day, your husband will stop talking in his sleep.”

But the woman was shocked, “Why must I take the medicine, doctor? It is my husband who has the problem. I am not sick. My husband is the sick one who talks in his sleep. It is for him you must prescribe medicine.”

The doctor explained to her as follows: “Ma’am, your husband talks in his sleep because you don’t let him talk during the day time. Every time he tries to say something you correct him, belittle him or tell him to be quiet. So, he has no choice other than to talk in the night. The medicine will make you be quiet during the day so your husband can say what’s on his mind. Then he won’t have to talk in his sleep anymore!”

Whenever we are in a difficult situation, a frustrating situation or a challenging situation, let us examine what we can do to solve the problem. Let us examine what role our own actions may have played in bringing about the current circumstances. Let us work WITH others to get ahead, rather than work AGAINST others. Let us cooperate instead of compete.

Indian culture teaches us “milaanaa not mitaanaa” and “journa not tourna” [bring together, don’t cut. Unite, don’t break].  But, don’t break what? Don’t break others’ minds, hearts and spirits with our selfishness.  When we push ourselves ahead at the expense of others, we naturally hurt them in the process. We break their spirit, their enthusiasm and their self-esteem. Heights of success must not be attained through lowering others. Rather, we must climb and climb higher and higher to fulfill our own divine potential, to live our own divine Dharma.

When Bhagwan Rama sent Angadji to Ravana in Lanka in order to bring Sitaji back, he told Angadji, “Kaaj Hamaara taasu hita hoi.” [Fulfill your mission in rescuing Sita, but do not hurt Ravana in the process. Just try to make him understand that he should peacefully return her.] This is the Divine way: do your duty, do your best, fulfill your obligations, but don’t hurt anyone in the process, either physically or emotionally.

We must dedicate our lives to growing as much as we can, to learning as much as we can, to serving as much as we can and to getting closer and closer to the ultimate goal of Union with the Almighty. We must not let competition, jealousy, complexes or petty complaints stand in the way of our great Mission.

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In the very olden times, there was once a great king. This king had many, many servants to take care of every task. One particular servant was responsible for bringing water from the well to the King’s table. However, it was a long journey from the castle to the well from which fresh, clean and pure water could be obtained. As this was the time before cars and other convenient machines, the servant carried two buckets – one attached to each end of a long stick – to transport water back to the castle. One of the buckets was new – it shone in the sunlight and it was perfect in every way. The other bucket was older and it had a small hole on one side that caused water to leak from it onto the ground, along the road back to the castle.

Thus, whenever the servant arrived back to the castle, although he had filled 2 buckets of water, he had only 1 and a half to present to the king. This caused the leaky bucket great distress. Twice a day when the servant picked up the buckets to go to the well, the older one would look longingly at the new one, “Oh, why can’t I be as shiny and flawless as the other?” the bucket would bemoan.  The leaky bucket would cast envious looks at the new bucket as not a single drop fell from its new, glistening metal.

The leaky bucket tried every possible way of shifting its weight, of rotating its sides to minimize the leakage, but all to no avail. It could retain no more than  half a  bucket of water through the long walk back to the castle.

One day, the leaking bucket was distraught and cried out to the servant, “Why don’t you just throw me away? I’m of no use to you. I can do barely half the work of your new bucket. You have to walk such a long way back and forth to the well and I leak out half of the water you fill me with. The king is such a good, noble, divine king. I want to serve him as well as your new bucket. But I can’t; I can’t even give him a full bucket of water.”

The servant was very wise (sometimes wisdom lies hidden in places where we don’t expect it). He said to the bucket, “Look down. Look below you on the path to the castle, the path upon which you leak your water.” The bucket at first was too ashamed to look and see drops of precious water scattered on the ground. When it finally looked, however, it noticed a thick row of beautiful flowers – so many lush, blossoming varieties – lining the path with vibrancy and beauty.

“Every day I pick these flowers to decorate the king’s table and his room,” the servant said. “When I noticed that you were leaking, I planted seeds all along the path on your side of the road. Then, twice a day you come and water them. Now, they have grown and blossomed into the king’s favorite centerpiece. He says their fragrance calms his mind and brings peace to his heart. So, see, you are not useless at all. Rather, you are serving two purposes – both to bring water and also to bring beautiful flowers to the king’s castle.

So many times in life we condemn ourselves for our failures, we compare ourselves unfavorably to others, we grieve over our own shortcomings, wishing that we could be different, more like someone else or some pre-conceived ideal. And as we do this, we blind ourselves to our real assets, to the flowers we are watering each day, to the real gifts we can give to the king.

God has given everyone a unique, special set of gifts and it is up to us to make the most of these. Some of us will be able to carry water without spilling a drop. Our gift to the world will be a full bucket of water. Others of us will be able to give only half a bucket of water, but we will line the world’s paths with beautiful flowers and sweet fragrance. Let us never underestimate our potential or the significance of our own gifts. Let none of us ever feel just like a “leaky bucket.”

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do your duty.


There was once a horrible drought. Year after year not a drop of rain fell on the arid ground. Crops died, and, as the land became parched, farmers gave up even planting their seeds.  As the time of planting and tilling the ground came for the fourth rainless year in a row, the farmers of the region had given up hope and they sat listless, passing their time with playing cards and other distractions.

However, one lone farmer continued patiently to plant his seeds and sow and till his land. The other farmers poked fun at him and derided him as he continued daily to take care of his fruitless, barren land.

When they asked him the reason behind his senseless tenacity, he said, “I am a farmer and it is my dharma to plant and till my land. My dharma does not change simply due to whether the clouds rain or not. My dharma is my dharma and I must follow it regardless of how fruitful or fruitless it appears to be.” The other farmers laughed at his wasteful effort, and went back to their homes to continue bemoaning the rainless sky and their fruitless land.

However, a passing rain cloud happened to be overhead when the faithful farmer was giving his answer to the others. The cloud heard the farmer’s beautiful words and realized, “He’s right. It is his dharma to plant the seeds and to till the land, and it is my dharma to release this water which I am holding in my cloud onto the ground.” At that moment, inspired by the farmer’s message, the cloud released all the water it was holding onto the farmer’s land. This rain cloud then continued to spread the message of upholding one’s dharma to the other rain clouds, and they too – upon realizing it was their dharma to rain – began to let go of the moisture in their midst. Soon, rain was pouring down upon the land, and the farmer’s harvest was bountiful.

In life, we tend to expect results from our actions. If we do something well, we want to be rewarded. If we work, we want to be paid (whether financially or in some other way). We want to work only so long as the work reaps rewards. If the fruits cease to come, we decide the work is not “meant to be,” and we abandon it.

However, that is not the message which Lord Krishna gives to Arjuna in the Gita. The message is that we must do our duty regardless of the fruits. We must live according to our dharma regardless of whether it appears to be “successful.” We must perform our duties for the simple fact that they are our duties.

Lord Krishna tells Arjuna to stand up and fight, and says that, even if he dies in the battle, he must still do his dharma. The Lord tells Arjuna that it is divine to die on the battlefield of life (meaning engaged in performing your duty). He explains that either way, Arjuna will “win.” If the Pandavas win the battle, then they will obliterate the evil influence of the Kauravas and inherit the kingdom. If, on the other hand, the Kauravas win the battle and the Pandavas are killed, then they will go straight to the Lord’s eternal abode, for they died in the service of Dharma.

Usually in life, we know what our duties are. We know our responsibilities. We can see the “right” thing to do. This is especially true if we take quiet time to meditate, reflect and contemplate. Yet, too frequently we walk away from doing the “right” thing or from performing our duty due to the uncertainty of the result. We don’t want to “waste our time” or “look like a fool.” We neglect our responsibilities by saying, “It doesn’t matter any way.” We shun our duties with words like, “Well,  no one else is doing it, so why should I?”

This is not the way to live. We must realize that there is an enormous, infinite cosmic plan at work and we must all perform our allotted tasks to the best of our ability. Whether we actually succeed or fail in the venture should not be the biggest concern. True success comes not in a financial “win,” but rather in the humble, tenacious, dedicated performance of our tasks.

Interestingly enough, when we act with righteousness and integrity, we find that others will follow. It is not that we are taken advantage of, as we frequently fear. Rather, if we set the divine example, others will follow. Just as the rain cloud followed the example of the tenacious farmer, so will those in our lives follow our own examples. If we act with honesty, we receive honesty. If we act with dedication and love, so we will receive dedication and love. If we fulfill our dharma, so will those around us learn to do the same.

Yet, even if we are the only ones acting piously, acting honestly, acting with devotion, it should not matter. Our lives, our happiness and our karma are individual entities. They are not dependent upon the response from others.

Therefore, we must all learn to stand up, have courage and keep performing our duties, regardless of whether it looks like success or failure will result. Through the fulfillment of our dharma we will achieve the greatest success in life – bliss, peace and enlightenment.

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Once there was a boat, sailing in the middle of the ocean.
On the boat, were a philosopher, a scientist, a mathematician,
and the boatman. The philosopher turned to the boatman
and asked, “Do you know the nuances of Vedanta? Do
you know the theories of Plato and Aristotle?” “No,” replied
the boatman. “I have never studied those things. I
only know to take God’s name in the morning when I wake
up and at night before I sleep, and to try to keep Him with
me all day long.” The philosopher looked at him with disdain.
“Well, then at least 30% of your life has been in vain.”

Next, the scientist asked the boatman, “Do you know
Einstein’s Theory of Relativity? Do you know Newton’s
laws?” The boatman looked out at the reflection of the
moon on the water. The light seemed to dance playfully
off of the waves, touching first here, then there. He gently
shook his head in response to the scientist’s question.

“No,” he said. “I am not learned in that way. I have only
learned to be kind, to give more than I receive, to be
humble and pious.” “Well,” the scientist exclaimed. “Then
at least 40% of your life has been in vain.”
The mathematician then turned to the boatman. “You must
at least know calculus? You must know how to compute
advanced equations?” The boatman closed his eyes and
entered a meditative trance. “No,” he said softly, a smile                                                                                 creeping across his sun-weathered face. “I do not know
those things.” “Then, your life has been at least 50% in
vain!” The mathematician retorted.

The four sat in silence for awhile, when suddenly the waves
began to rise up furiously; the sky turned dark, obscuring
the blanket of stars. The boat – thin and wooden – began
to rock back and forth, up and down, with each thrust of
the waves. The boatman fought diligently, using every
muscle in his body, every skill he had to regain control over
his boat. But the storm was winning the fight, and with
each surge of the waves, the boatman became more and
more convinced that the boat could not withstand this

As a wave lifted the boat high into the air, the
boatman asked his passengers, “Do you know how to swim?”
“NO!!!” they all cried at once. The wave dropped the boat,
upside down, back in the raging water. The boatman
watched sadly as the scientist, the philosopher and the
mathematician drowned. “Well,” he whispered “I think 100%
of your lives have been in vain.”

In this life, there are so many things to learn, so many
things people say are important. Education is, of course,
quite important. A doctor cannot operate if she doesn’t
know where the organs are, or how to sew a wound back
up again. A scientist cannot perform experiments unless
he knows which chemicals to use, and how much of each.
An architect cannot design buildings without knowing
what foundations and support are necessary.
However, in the big picture, these are not the lessons or
the education that truly liberate us. It is not this know                                                                                     edge that saves us from drowning in the ocean. Only the

knowledge of God can do that. Only love for Him, devotion
to Him, and a life-vest inflated by Him can protect us
in the raging sea of this world. For, many times in life, we
feel like we are drowning. Many times we feel like we
have swallowed so much water we can’t breathe. It may
seem as though our legs cannot possibly tread water for
another minute.

At times like this we tend to turn to what we already know
– more education, the acquisition of more possessions, the
fulfillment of more sense pleasures. However, perhaps it
is these that have caused our boat to capsize in the first
place. Perhaps the ominous waves of the ocean are actually
made up of our insatiable desires, of our purely academic
educations, of our disregard for the Supreme Power
behind and within everything.

Instead of making ourselves heavier and heavier, in which
case we will surely drown, we must turn to the light, everpresent
life vest around our bodies. It is knowledge of God,
of how to truly live that will save us. The boatman knew
how to see the stars; he knew how to watch God play in
the light; he knew how to remain calm and serene even
when challenged and insulted. He knew how to really

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Across the world there is a wonderful organization called
the Special Olympics. This foundation sponsors “Olympics”
for people who are physically and/or mentally handicapped.
These are people who may be suffering from anything
ranging from partial paralysis to brain damage to what is
just referred to as “retardation.” Participating in these
events not only trains the athletes to perform up to their
highest potential, but it also infuses them with a sense of
success, of competence, of achievement.

Recently, I heard a beautiful story about a race taking
place in the Special Olympics. The athletes were lined up
at the mark. The official yelled, “Ready, set, go!” and the
athletes took off, all running as fast as their legs would
carry them, with looks of determination, dedication and
drive on their faces. All except one, that is. A young boy
had tripped, immediately after starting, and had fallen into
the dirt. He looked forlorn as he watched his peers race
off without him.

Then, suddenly, a young girl who was running turned her
head to see what had happened to the boy. As soon as she
realized he fell, she turned around and ran back toward
him. One by one, each of the athletes turned around to go
back and look after the fallen boy. Soon all the runners
were gathered around the young boy; they helped him to                                                                       his feet as one girl brushed the dirt off his pants. Then, all
the athletes held hands as they walked together, slowly,
toward the finish line.

These are the people we refer to as “handicapped” or “retarded”
or, euphemistically, “mentally and physically challenged.”
Yet, would we who have full use of all our limbs,
whose brains function at their highest capacity, ever turn
around in the middle of a race, giving up our long soughtafter
hope of winning and go back to look after someone
who was down? Would we ever sacrifice getting to the top,
being the best, winning it all, just to lend encouragement
to another? Rarely.

We spend our lives pushing to be higher and higher, better
and better. We want to be the best, to be the top, to be
number one. But at what stake? What do we give up in the
process? They say, “The mark of a true man is not how tall
he stands, but how frequently he bends down to help those
in need.” How frequently are we willing to bend?
The goal of life is not the accumulation of more and more
possessions, or more and more degrees. The point of life is
to move toward God, to realize our oneness with Him. The
point of life is to fill every moment with compassion, with
love, with prayer and with service.

Yes, of course, we must go to work and we must do our
best in every possible arena. Of course we must attempt
to succeed; we must live up to our fullest potential. But,
too frequently, we become narrow minded in what we see
as our “potential.” Is our potential merely financial, or academic
or professional? Might we have another potential,                                                                                        a divine, compassionate, pious, devoted potential that is
just waiting to blossom?

Let us vow to live up to every potential — not just those
that confront us obviously in our daily life, but also those
which may be hidden below the surface. The athletes may
have thought, (and the audience may have thought as
well) that their success, their achievement would be
marked by how quickly they could run the 100 yards. However,
the deep potential of these athletes was even greater
than completing a “quick sprint.” They chose compassion
over competition; they chose unity over individual success;
they chose to really show us what it means to be divine

Let us take a lesson from these athletes, who are far less
“handicapped” than most of the people in the world. Let
us learn that each race in life may have two different paths
for success; let us learn that compassion, love and unity
are much more everlasting achievements than a blue ribbon.
Let us vow to turn our heads around frequently and see
whether, perhaps, there is someone who needs our help.

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we are only his tools



Several years ago the United Nations was having its 50th
Anniversary Golden Jubilee celebration. World leaders –
religious, political, social – were gathered together to commemorate
this special anniversary. Numerous renowned
people gave speeches — on the global significance of the
UN, on the importance of fostering inter-ethnic harmony,
on how to curtail the insidious trafficking of drugs, on the
necessity of preserving and protecting our rapidly diminishing
natural resources.

Each was allotted a short period of time in which to speak.
Most were given 3 minutes; some were given 5 minutes. Time
was watched carefully. Note cards were held up, alerting
the speaker that he or she had 3 minutes left, then 2 minutes,
then 1 minute.

A divine, old, revered Indian saint, clad only in scant saffron
robes, walked slowly, yet purposefully and unwavering
to the podium when it was time for his talk. As he spoke,
silence descended upon the room. While most speeches
were read from notecards, or were the product of careful
and deliberate editing, his words seemed to speak themselves.
Dadaji was given 5 minutes to speak. However, as
the organizers held up signs that read, “2 minutes left,”
then “1 minute left,” he showed no signs of winding up his
talk. The signs then read, “30 seconds left,” then “Finished!!!”

However, the saint was in such ecstasy, he was so
impassioned with the words that were effortlessly flowing
from his mouth, that he seemed not to even notice the
At first the organizers were noticeably restless and anxious.
After all, there were so many other people to speak,
so many other segments of this important function. How
to get this saint to step down from the podium? However,
as he continued, his words were like a lullaby. Even the
anxious organizers became still and peaceful, mesmerized
by the quality of his words and his tone. The hall – filled
with an audience of thousands – was as quiet as if it were
empty. Dadaji spoke for 25 minutes, an unprecedented
amount of time.

When he concluded, the silence of the auditorium broke
like thunder into a clamorous standing ovation. No one who
was present was unchanged. The saint’s words had reached
not only minds, not only hearts, but also souls. He was
flooded with accolades and tear-streaked faces as he descended
from the stage. “Oh Dadaji, your speech was incredible.
So inspiring. So uplifting. It was just wonderful.”

Everyone wanted to praise this elderly yet seemingly
ageless Indian saint. After one man took Dadaji’s hands
and gave particularly effusive praise, the saint looked
sweetly into his eyes and replied, “Yes, it was wonderful. I
was also listening.”
“I was also listening.” “I was also listening.” This should
be our mantra. For, it is not we who speak. It is He who
speaks, although we like to take the credit.

How easy it would have been for Dadaji to have simply replied, “Oh,
yes, I know my speech was good. I spent days preparing
it.” Or “Yes. I’m a very good speaker, aren’t I?” However,
he is a true man of God. He knows from where his words
come. He knows whose words flow through his mouth.
Those who are the true inspirations, who are the true teachers
of this world, are actually simply channels.

They are not the ones who spend lifetimes refining their tenaciously
held beliefs and then impose these upon others. Rather,
they simply open up the channels inside them and let God
flow into their hearts and through their mouths or their
pens. We are all here as tools for His work, as expressions
of His love. Let us realize that; let us break the dams within
us, so the river of His work and His message can flow ceaselessly
through us.

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There is a story of a farmer who had an old mule. One day
the mule fell into the farmer’s empty, dry well. As the mule
cried for help, the farmer assessed the situation. Although
the mule had served the farmer faithfully for many years,
the farmer decided that neither the mule nor the well was
worth the trouble. So, he decided that instead of bothering
to lift the heavy mule from the well, he would simply
bury him in there. The farmer called his friend and together
they began to shovel dirt into the open well.
When the first shovelful of dirt hit the mule he panicked.
“What is this?” He thought. When the second shovelful hit
him, he began to cry. “How could the farmer do this to
me?” he wondered. When the third shovelful hit him, he
realized the plan. However, the mule decided that he would
not allow himself to be buried alive. As each shovelful hit
fell upon his back, he rallied himself to “shake it off and
step up.” As shovelful after shovelful of dirt hit him on his
back, and as he felt dejected and pained, he continued to
chant to himself, “shake it off and step up.” This he did,
shovelful after shovelful, until – as the dirt reached the
top of the well – the mule triumphantly walked out of what
would have been his tomb.
If the farmer had not decided to kill the mule, the mule
would never have survived. Ironically, it was the dirt which                                                                               Fin was meant to end the mule’s life that actually ended up
saving him, simply due to the way in which the mule handled
the situation.
In life, sometimes we feel as though the world is “throwing
blows at us.” We feel shattered and broken. We feel as
though we are being “buried alive.” Perhaps someone is
actually trying to injure us; or perhaps we are simply stuck
in a difficult situation. Either way, we have two choices.
We can either succumb to the onslaught and allow ourselves
to be buried, or we can “shake it off and step up.”
The latter is surely a more difficult path. It requires resolution,
will to survive, fortitude and faith. But, in the end, it is
the path that will lead to our triumph. If we continue to
“shake off” whatever hits us in life, and we continue to
“step up” and rise above any situation, then we, too, will
always be victorious and our lives will be successful and


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There is a beautiful story of a princess who was suffering
from an undiagnosable illness. She lay in bed, listless, unable
to walk or to exert herself at all. She had lost all
appetite and her parents feared she would soon perish.
Her father, the King, called in all the top doctors and medical
specialists, but none could either diagnose or cure the
young princess.

They gave her allopathic, homeopathic, and
ayurvedic medicines. They gave her pills, compresses, powders,
massages and mineral baths. Nothing made even a
dent in the princess’s condition. She continued to lay, limp
and mute, on her bed, staring blankly at the ceiling above

Finally, in desperation, the King called a revered holy man,
a saint who was worshipped throughout the kingdom as
having divine knowledge and powers. As soon as the sage
saw the princess, he understood exactly what was wrong.
“Pick her up and place her in the carriage,” he ordered.
The King refused. “How can you take this weak, fragile
being outside in the carriage?”

Yet, the saint insisted. “If you do not follow my orders,
your daughter may not recover. Wrap her warmly if you
like and place her in the carriage. We will travel alone.”
The King had no choice; his options were exhausted and
none had borne any fruit. He could only pray that the holy                                                                                 man knew what he was doing.
So the princess was wrapped in the warmest shawls and
gingerly placed — supported by numerous feather pillows
— in the King’s carriage. The holy man got in beside her and
instructed the driver where to go.

He explained to the princess
as they traveled, “I have a few urgent jobs to take
care of on our way. You can accompany me.” They soon
stopped in a poor area on the outskirts of the Kingdom.
The sage stepped down from the carriage, carrying large
sacks filled with clothing and food. He walked house to
house, delivering bags of rice, lentils, wheat to the impoverished

Soon, he returned to the carriage to find— as he had expected
— the princess sitting up straight in her seat, peering
eagerly over the side of the carriage. They drove a
little ways, and again the sage stopped the carriage in another
poor, rural village outside the wealthy kingdom. “I
need your help in this village. There is too much for me to
carry,” he told the princess. She barely needed the help of
his hand to get down from the carriage.

The sage carried the heavy bag and gave the princess the
task of handing the food items and wool sweaters to the
grateful villagers. At the first house, she walked slowly,
delicately, and meekly put her hand in the large sack to
take out the bags of rice and lentils.

However, by the third house she was striding confidently
down the path, and by the fifth house she was picking up
the young children to hold them in her arms. As they walked
back to the carriage, she insisted on helping the saint carry                                                                            the sacks of food, and she did not need any assistance to
get back up into the carriage. Her cheeks were rosy; there
was a beautiful, radiant smile on her face and a glow in her

Upon returning to the kingdom, three short hours after
leaving, the princess nearly jumped out of the carriage and
skipped up the steps to the castle! The King was amazed!
How had the saint cured his daughter so completely, in
such a short time?

The saint explained, “Your daughter was suffering from a
lack of meaning in life. She was suffering from the disease
of being spoiled and having every whim gratified. She
was ill from a life being lived in vain. A journey to the poorest
of the poor, a few hours of giving rather than taking,
the experience of service and selflessness are the only
possible cures.”

Thereafter, the princess traveled twice each week with
the saint, back into the poor villages, distributing food,
clothing and other necessary supplies. She used her position
as princess to help improve the living conditions of all
those who lived in poverty. She dedicated herself to helping
all those in need.

And she never suffered from a day of listlessness again…
Every day people in the West go out, go to work, earn
money and become more prosperous. Yet, at the end of
the day, when they return home, they are not happy. What
is the true secret to internal peace and everlasting joy? I                                                                               always tell people, “Be God conscious, not glamour conscious.”
Have Him in the center of your lives and you will
find peace, happiness, meaning and joy.

However, it is difficult frequently to know HOW to implement
the teaching of God in daily life. Yes, we should go to
temple. Yes, we must chant His name (any name which
appeals to us — whether it is Krishna, Rama, Jesus, Allah
or Adonai). Yes, we must read from His holy words. Yes,
we must pray to Him and offer our lives to Him.

However, what else can we do, so many people ask, to
really become aware of God — full of God consciousness
— in our daily lives? We can serve His people! Through
service of the poorest of the poor we come closest to God.
It is easy to see the divine in holy people, easy to serve
those who look pious, proper and beautiful. But, the spiritual
challenge is to see the divine in all, to serve all — from
the highest King to the sickest leper — as though they are
manifestations of God.

Through this selfless service, we not only benefit those
whom we are serving, but we also benefit ourselves immeasurably.
Our hearts fill with joy, with peace and with
love. Our lives become full of meaning.