Give Me All Your Money!

Mar 17, 2005

Almost out of nowhere, he says: "How much money do you have on you?" I don't know if it was serious question or not. But the chief saint of this ashram repeats the question: "How much money do you have on you?"

"Some," I say somewhat timidly. "Well, you can't find God if you have money in your pocket," he declares emphatically. "Come, put all the money on this bench."

"Are you serious?" I ask with a comical smile on my face. No one has asked me such a ridiculous question before.I walked into this ashram by myself, five minutes ago. As I walking through the back, I noticed an old man dressed in all white. "What are you doing here?" he asked me, while still sitting on a plastic patio chair. "I came to get your blessings," I said while bowing down to touch his feet.

"When I was chanting here yesterday, I cried. So as I walking by today, I thought I should come and visit the ashram," I said. "Come, let's sit there. What are you doing here?" he asked again, this time in front of four five of his disciples, as we headed to a nearby bench.

"I am in search of Good, of God," I declared in a committed way. "About twenty of us are here, on the other side of the river, and we are walking through villages trying to serve in whatever ways we can -- cleaning the streets, playing with the kids, taking the sick to hospitals, doing bhajans with them at night, and really trying to find the good in each of them and inside each of us. We sleep on the ground, we bathe in the river and we rely on the people feeding us. Without a real plan, we live wherever we are."

Without reacting to my statement, he shared a few thoughts on God and some really awesome stories from the Ramayana about Shabri, Dhruv and Ram. "God is not on the outside. You have find him on the inside," he concluded.

And then he popped his drop-all-your-money question. Ironically, I had two conversations about the same topic earlier in the day and both times, I was myself trying to convince others that ultimately, if you want truly want to be-the-change, you have to trust.

The universe was speaking to me, no doubt.

"Well," I stall as I reach into my pocket to grab my wallet. I myself didn't know how much was in there. I open up my wallet and take out the three hundred ruppee notes in there.

"Looks like I have three hundred ruppee notes," I tell him as I drop all three of those notes on the bench.

Part of me thinks this to be a silly exercise, but the larger part of me understands this as a test from the universe. And there was no way I was going to flunk this one.

"Well, actually, I have this one ruppee coin and two ruppee coin too. Should I give those too?" I ask innocently. "Yes, yes, everything," he says. I reach into my pocket, grab my wallet and turn those in too.

He smiles.

Then, all of a sudden, he turns to other side to some onlookers and disciples and speaks in an uncharacteristically loud tone: "You fools, look at this kid. You can't let go of anything but see this. And if you ask him for money, he won't give you anything. He only gave this to me, but he knows deep down inside that I don't care for this money, that I don't even touch me."

Couple of other guests come in. I request to leave his company. "Come again. Bring all your friends. You can stay here and eat here," Swamiji said while all of us were still under the influence of his pumped-up statements. "It's not in my hands, but I'll do my karma and pass on the invitation," knowing that tonight's plans were already set.

I bow down again, and he gives me three solid good-job-and-may-God-bless-you whacks on my back. :) It feels like a real blessing.

As I put my shoes on, he adds: "Don't be against money, though. If someone gives you money, nothing wrong with keeping it. But don't ask for anything. Take it all as God's prasad."

I smile and turn around. I raise both my hands up towards the sky and walk on.

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"Service doesn't start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take."

"Real privilege lies in knowing that you have enough."