Service of Others is the Best Medicine
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, 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 her.
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 travelled, “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 villagers.
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 eyes.
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 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 travelled 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 immeasureably. Our hearts fill with joy, with peace and with love. Our lives become full of meaning.