By Kirpal Singh Khalsa
During the holidays we are reminded that it is the season for giving. All over the world families and friends come together to enjoy each other’s company, to share gifts, and to experience the joys and happiness of life. Giving is fun, people love to receive gifts, and you end up feeling great. It is a beautiful celebration!
If giving results in so much joy, why limit it to a season? Why not make it a way of life? For the spiritual man or woman the season of giving is all year long. Yogi Bhajan continually taught the fundamental spiritual truth that more you give the more you receive. At Summer Solstice 1996 he said that giving invokes the wealth of the Universe.
“When there is a vacuum, God must fill it. I’m not saying that you are poor. But you could have more. Giving is the way of the rich—giving services, giving expertise, giving work, giving to others to get blessings, giving something for prayer, giving to the needy.” ~Yogi Bhajan
It may seem counter-intuitive, but giving is the key to prosperity. Yogi Bhajan lived the example. He arrived in the west literally penniless. He gave of his time, energy, and earnings to serve humanity. He built a spiritual and financial empire only to give it away. His earnings supported the 3HO Foundation for many years. While giving more than anyone could expect, he lived like a king, rich and wealthy in all aspects of his life, demonstrating that spirituality and prosperity are in harmony.
But giving is not just a means to get rich. It is a path to enlightenment and liberation. From his earliest days in the west Yogi Ji taught that there were three paths to enlightenment: the path of the saint, the path of the hero and the path of the giver. The path of the giver is the most simple—to be like God, give like God. After all, what is God but the Great Giver.
“God gives like God. Giving makes God THE God. And giving shall only make you experience God. Give like God. Give like God is giving in the Name of God; give in the feeling of God. Give in the experience of God. Give in the understanding of God. Give as just a way to give. And the best concept of giving is, "Give for the giving's sake and then feel obligated, feel obliged, and feel grateful that you got an opportunity you could give." ~Yogi Bhajan
In the 3rd pauree of Japji Sahib, Guru Nanak describes God the Great Giver:
"Daindaa de lainde thak paaeh. Jugaa jugantar khaahee khaaeh."
The Giver gives and those who take get tired of receiving, and from time immemorial to time immemorial, He is the Giver.
Giving yourself to others is God. Otherwise there is no God. Once walking in New Delhi, India, Yogiji was asked about the beggars. They are actually a caste to themselves and begging is their profession. Yogiji was asked “Sir, do we need to give to all these who ask for money?” He replied, “No, you don’t. But I do.” After hearing that, we just reached in our pockets and began the blessed and endless journey of learning how to give to those who ask.
“God is an experience of giving. Let us talk giving, all right? God gives. Follow the law. God gives, you give.” Yogi Bhajan 05/10/1987
At the ashram in New Mexico we practice Karma Yoga. It is the yoga of selfless service without thought of personal reward. Quite simply, it is giving of yourself, your time, your energy and your love. It is a way of burning off lifetimes of past karma and a recognized and honored path to union with God. It is humble and menial work: cleaning the temple, cooking and serving food, working in the garden, helping those who are sick and so many other ways of giving. It is an opportunity to serve the land, Yogiji’s mission, the people who live here, and the community. There is a great joy in serving the ashram and in this way serving God.
The beauty of karma yoga is it takes you out of you. Often we try to get high through our yoga practice. Then it is all about you. When you serve the ashram it is all about something greater than you. A second beauty of karma yoga is that it develops humility. The antidote to spiritual ego is humility, especially for a teacher. Karma Yoga is also called seva, selfless service. It is a foundation pillar of the spiritual lifestyle.
"Seva is in the name of God. Now you are doing a service, not as you now. You are doing seva in the name of God. That's the beauty of seva. In seva never ask for gratification here and now. Let God come through. Give God a chance. Therefore do it in His name.” ~Yogi Bhajan
Serving people opens the heart and brings so many blessings.
“Love is something in which you nurture... in which you serve. If you serve each other rather than control each other, rather than be at each other, the whole world will be a heaven and it's all seva. That is love.” ~Yogi Bhajan
And the blessings come. Through giving, slowly and imperceptibly your commitment will deepen, you will grow stronger, more self-assured and happier than you have ever been in your life. Karma Yoga opens the door. You will look for opportunities to give and to serve, and they will come. So in this season of giving, why limit it to just a season? Make giving your way of life. It will open every door to spiritual fulfillment.
Kirpal Singh Khalsa served as director of Guru Ram Das Ashram, Boulder, from 1972 – 1992. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Colorado and taught in the Sociology Department from 1980 to 1992. From 1992 – 2003 he served as Academic Director for Sikh Dharma Education International and helped found Miri Piri Academy in Amritsar, India. He currently lives with the Sikh community in Espanola, NM.