In 1969 I wrote to KK, asking if I could send some money to Maharaji. The answer from Maharaji, delivered to me in a letter from KK, read: “We do not require any money. India is a bird of gold. We have learned ‘giving’ not ‘taking.’ We cannot attain God as long as we have got attachments for these two: Gold (wealth, Kanchan) and women (Kamini). No two swords can be put into one sheath; the more we sacrifice, the more we gain…If you have enough faith you can give up money and possessions. God will give you everything you need for your spiritual development.”

A tiny, gnarled old woman came for Maharaji’s darshan. She was, I think, from one of the local farms. Tottering up onto the porch, she touched Maharaji’s feet with her head and sat down. Then with much difficulty she unknotted the end of her sari and tok from it some crumpled rupee notes and pushed them across the tucket toward Maharaji. I had never seen anyone give Maharaji money and I watched with some discomfort, for this woman was obviously as poor as the proverbial church mouse. Maharaji pushed the money back at her and indicated that she was to take it back. With no expression she reached for the money and started to put it back into her sari. The full meaning of the situation escaped me, for I understood too little of the culture to appreciate what was happening.

But then Maharaji seemed to have a second thought and demanded the money back from the Ma. Again, with arthritic hands she untied the corner of the sari and handed him the bills. There were two one-rupee notes and one two-rupee note (four rupees were worth about forty US cents). Maharaji took them from her and immediately handed them to me.  I didn’t know what to do. Here I was a “rich Westerner” (in India even poor Westerners are “rich Westerners” because of the relative value of the economics), with a private car (a rare luxury in India) and traveler’s checks. I just couldn’t accept this money. But when I tried to hand it back to the woman, Maharaji refused to allow it. I was told to keep it.

That night I put the four rupees on my puja table and reflected on them for a long time, but no great clarity was forthcoming. Later, one Indian devotee told me that I should hold onto the money, that if I did I would never want. During that period an old Sikh couple had taken to visiting me at the hotel. They ran a tiny dried fruit store and were obviously very poor. Yet each time they came they brought me offerings of dried fruit, kneeled at my feet, and told me in great detail of their hardships in life. Why they had taken it into their heads that I could help them, spiritually or materially, I have no idea, but they kept coming. Then one day they told me that due to illness they must leave this region and move to the plains, where their financial predicament was going to be, if anything, more precarious. I felt that I wanted to give them something for their journey, but nothing came immediately to mind. Then I thought of the four rupees. I got one of the rupees and explained to them how it had come to me and that if they held onto it, everything would be all right with them. They left Nainital and I have not heard from them since. I still have three of the rupees. And thus far I’ve always had more than enough money.


– Ram Dass, excerpt from Miracle of Love: Stories about Neem Karoli Baba



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